The Project Gutenberg EBook of Punch or the London Charivari, Vol. 147, December 9, 1914, by Various This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Punch or the London Charivari, Vol. 147, December 9, 1914 Author: Various Release Date: July 22, 2009 [EBook #29491] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PUNCH *** Produced by Neville Allen, Malcolm Farmer and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net[Pg 469]
We are told that "it is confidently believed by the advisers to the Treasury that the new issue of £1 notes cannot be successfully imitated." We think that it is a mistake to put our artists on their mettle in this way.
A black eagle, a contemporary tells us, was seen one day last week at Westgate-on-Sea. A Prussian bird, no doubt, in mourning for lost Calais.
The German Government has declared timber contraband of war owing to its alleged scarcity in Germany. Surely, as Douglas Jerrold suggested on another occasion, the German authorities could find plenty of wood in their own country if they only put their heads together?
The news that "Bantam" battalions are now being formed all over England is said to have greatly interested General Kluck.
The report that the Prime Minister spent last week-end in the country is said to have caused intense annoyance to the Kaiser, who considered that it showed a lack of respect for His War.
A map of the United Kingdom published in the Berlin Lokalanzeiger depicts the Mersey as being located in the West of Ireland. Frankly, we are surprised at the Germans showing any Mersey anywhere.
Mr. John Ward has been accused of perpetrating a mixed metaphor when he warned the Government, the other day, that "they would wake up and find the horse had bolted with the money." Is it not, however, a fact that when a horse bolts he sometimes takes a bit between the teeth?
The financial expert of The Observer, in referring to the War Loan, said:—"From all over the country the small investor rallied in his thousands." But he had just said that "the applicants were enormous." Possibly the truth is somewhere between the two—say about 11½ stone.
A football pavilion in Bromley Road, Catford, was entirely destroyed by fire last week. We are trying to bear the blow bravely.
There would seem to be no limit to the influence of the Censor. Here is the latest example of his activities:—
We must confess that we fail to see what British interest is served by withholding the General's name.
The German Imperial Chancellor has now repeated, in the presence of a full-dress meeting of the Reichstag, the old falsehood about Great Britain being responsible for the War. This, we believe, is what is known as Lying in State.
And the statement that Germany need have no fears of a food famine may be described, we take it, as a Cereal Story.
Sven Hedin has received the honorary degree of Doctor from Breslau University—as a reward, presumably, for doctoring the truth.
It sounds like a 30,000 foot cinema film.
The least that we others can do is to see that those who have joined the colours don't have too dull a time in camp during the long evenings. Messrs. John Broadwood and Sons are organizing concerts which will serve the further good purpose of helping many professional musicians whose incomes have been reduced by the war. It is hoped to give 200 of these entertainments during the winter. Each is estimated to cost about £10. The Directors of Messrs. Broadwood have privately subscribed £500 towards the carrying out of this scheme, and they would be glad to receive generous help from the public. Subscriptions should be addressed to them at Conduit Street, Bond Street, W.
Mother of the Gracchi.—If your son is under age, below the standard height, is obliged to wear coloured glasses, suffers much from face-ache, and frequently has carbuncles, we fear his chances of obtaining a commission in the Household Cavalry are nil.
Anxious to help.—The pistols used by your grandfather during the Peninsular War would not, we are afraid, be of any use to your nephew in the present campaign.
All-British Matron.—We regret that we do not quite understand from your letter whether it is your new Vicar that you suspect of pro-German proclivities, or the pew-opener. We advise you to communicate with the nearest Rural Dean or Archdeacon.
Troubled Parent.—We fear that your boy will be obliged to dispense with his hot-water bottle now that he has joined the Army, and it would be no use your writing to his commanding officer about the matter.
Aunt Alice.—Lord Kitchener hardly ever accepts invitations to tea-parties, but it was nice of you to think of asking him.
"Dans l'Est, nous avons dû refuser une suspension d'armes, probablement destinée à l'inhumation des blessés."
To judge from this extract from Le Nord Maritime the French still lack a true appreciation of German culture.
Owing to the outcry against high-placed aliens a wealthy German tries to look as little high-placed as possible.
[Suggested by an American's interview with the Crown Prince and also by Wordsworth's "We are Seven".]
A simple earnest-minded youth,
Who wore in both his eyes
A calm pellucid lake of Truth—
What should he know of lies?
I met a gentle German Prince,
His name was Truthful Will,
An honest type—and, ever since,
His candour haunts me still.
"About this War—come tell me, Sir,
If you would be so kind,
Just any notions which occur
To your exalted mind."
"Frankly, I cannot bear," said he,
"The very thought of strife;
It seems so sad; it seems to me
A wicked waste of life.
"Thank Father's God that I can say
My constant aim was Peace;
I simply lived to see the Day
(Den Tag) when wars would cease.
"But, just as I was well in train
To realise my dream,
Came England, all for lust of gain,
And spoilt my beauteous scheme.
"But tell me how the rumours run;
Be frank and tell the worst
Touching myself; you speak to one
With whom the Truth comes first."
"Prince," I replied, "the vulgar view
Pictured you on your toes
Eager for gore; they say that you
Were ever bellicose.
"'Twas you, the critics say, who led
The loud War Party's cry
For blood and iron." "Oh!" he said,
"Oh what a dreadful lie!
"'War Party'? Well, I'm Father's pet,
And, if such things had been,
He must have let me know, and yet
I can't think what you mean."
"But your Bernhardi," I replied,
"He preached the Great War Game."
"'Bernhardi'! who was he?" he cried,
"I never heard his name!
"Dear Father must be told of him;
Father, who loathes all war,
Is looking rather grey and grim,
But that should make him roar!"
So, with a smile that knew no art,
He left me well content
Thus to have communed, heart to heart,
With one so innocent.
And still I marvelled, having scanned
Those eyes so full of Truth,
"Oh why do men misunderstand
This bright and blameless youth?"
As you will see from our address, here we are among the War Correspondents. But there is a mistake somewhere; either there are not enough Germans to go round, or else they—Headquarters, you know—simply hate the idea of throwing the flower of the British Army into the full glare of the shrapnel. Anyhow, we haven't actually been engaged yet, though our Private Smithson has collected three bits of shrapnel and a German rifle; and we have all heard artillery fire (off). Which makes us think that these rumours of war aren't just a scare got up to help recruiting.
Some doubt exists among us as to our precise function out here. Here we are (as I may have mentioned) a magnificent battalion of young giants, complete with rifles—every man has at least one and Private Smithson has two—webbing equipment, cummerbunds, mufflers, cameras, sleeping caps (average, six per man) and even boots; and yet they can't decide exactly what to do with us. Mind you, we are absolute devils for a fight; we have already been reserve troops to five different divisions and thought nothing of it. We are not quite sure whether we get five medals for this or one medal with five bars. Not that we really care; such considerations do not affect us. As Edward—the mascot of the section—observed to me the other day, "I don't care two beans about medals; I want to go home."
But you ask what do we actually do? Let no man believe that we are out here on a holiday. On the contrary we give ourselves over entirely to warlike pursuits. Some days we slope arms by numbers; and other days we clean dixies and indent for new boots. Night by night we guard our approaches and prod the tyres of oncoming motors with fixed bayonets. Every morning the man who held up General French tells us about it with bated breath over our bated breakfasts. It is one of the finest traditions of the corps that General French is held up by us every night. We have our own sentries' word for it. This is especially interesting in view of the persistent reports that he is in a totally different part of France. As he gives a different name every night and varies considerably in appearance we feel that there must be something behind it all.
Thompson, who is no end of a fire-eater and wants to be invalided home with a bullet in his left shoulder—he is engaged—has invented a scheme for getting to the front by sheer initiative. Our officers have quite a pedantic veneration for orders, field-marshals and other obsolete pink apron-strings. We are thus thrown back on our sergeants, a fine body of men whose one weakness is an enthusiasm for chocolate. Acting on this knowledge certain tactful and public-spirited privates in our midst will present the sergeants with two sticks of chocolate per sergeant on the understanding that they thereafter form the battalion into fours and march them circumstantially to the trenches. There are, by all accounts, such supplies of these that a few here and there are bound to be empty. Having occupied these we will all expose our left shoulders, and, having gleaned a whole shrubbery of laurels, return to Divisional H.-Q. The sergeants, such as survive, will then be court-martialled and shot at dawn, while the rest of the regiment will be honourably exiled to England in glorious disgrace. All that remains is for Thompson to approach the sergeants with chocolate.
We notice a stray poster which advertises the thrilling romance, I Hid my Love. Is the idea that he should elude conscription? or simply Zeppelins?
Crown Prince. "THIS OUGHT TO MAKE FATHER LAUGH!"
[In an alleged interview the Crown Prince is reported to have said, "As to being a war agitator, I am truly sorry that people don't know me better. There is no 'War Party' in Germany now—nor has there ever been."]
"—— and please God make me a good girl Amen. How would it be, mother, to give the Germans cigarettes filled with gunpowder?"
On the morning of November 27th I awoke to find my chest covered with a pretty pink pattern. It blended so well with the colour of my pyjama-jacket that for some minutes I was lost in admiration of the pleasing effect. Then it occurred to me that coming diseases cast their rashes before them, and I sprang from the bed in an agony of apprehension. I rushed to the mirror and opened my mouth to look at my tongue. There it was. I took some of it out. It looked quite healthy, so I put it back again. Then I gazed long and earnestly down my throat. It was quite hollow as usual. Next I got the clinical thermometer and sucked it for quite a long time. When I removed it I saw my temperature was about 86. Then I found I was reading it upside down and that I was only normal. I felt disappointed. After that I tried my pulse. It took me some time to locate it, but it hadn't run down; it was still going quite regularly—andante ma non troppo, two beats in the bar. I whistled "Tipperary" to it, and it kept perfect time.
But still the rash remained. It would neither get out nor get under. I felt perfectly well, and yet I knew I must be ill. I could not understand the complete absence of other symptoms.
At last a bright idea struck me. It was just possible that I might refuse food. I knew that would be a symptom. At any rate I would go down to breakfast and see. I dressed rapidly; I simply tore my clothes on to me. I shaved hastily; I literally tore the whiskers out of me. Then I tore down-stairs.
On the table was an egg. I removed the lid and looked inside. It was full of evil odours. I refused it. Then I knew for certain I was ill. I tore back to my bedroom and tore off my clothes. I unshaved. I tumbled into bed and tried hard to shiver. I tried so hard that I perspired. As I was really ill I knew that I had to get hot and cold alternately ever so many times. I did my best to live up to all the symptoms I had ever heard of. I tried to get delirious and talk nonsense, but I failed ignominiously. How I cursed my public school education!
In my extremity I even endeavoured to imagine that I saw things which were not there....
And then I saw something which really was there. It was my pin-cushion. It looked unusually crowded even for a pin-cushion, and I got out of bed to investigate the matter closer. I counted forty-five—yes, forty-five—little flags, and then memory came back to me. The previous day I had bought forty-five miniature Belgian flags at one time and another during the day. Each charming but inexperienced vendor had insisted on pinning my purchase wherever there happened to be an unoccupied space on my manly (thanks to my tailor) bosom. I remembered being conscious of a prickly sensation on each occasion, but I attributed it to rapturous thrills running about the region of my heart.
To make sure that my explanation was correct I went once again to the mirror and hastily counted my rash. There were forty-five of it!
Probably he had eaten too many sausages.
I wish you knew my sister-in-law; she is probably one of the sweetest girls that ever breathed. Yet we are none of us perfect, and Grace has a drawback. She cannot forget that I am a poet. A fortnight ago she wrote to me:—
"Dear Edwin,—I am in such a fix. You remember Mary Smith? She has persuaded a young doctor friend of hers to start an album for original poems. He is such a nice fellow, though perhaps not very fond of poetry, if left to himself. But he has bought the album and has asked her to write on the first page. So she has come to me about it; and I am writing to ask if you would be a great brick and help us, because we get mixed up so with the feet, and I know it is nothing to you to write poetry. Could you possibly let me have it by return?
P.S.—Entre nous, she is rather keen on him, I think."
Somehow, when Grace's note reached me at the Local Government Board (she has a habit of addressing her communications to me there, in faintly perfumed envelopes much appreciated by the messengers), I was not in a poetical mood. For the past three weeks my branch had been engaged on the subject of Drains in the Eastern Counties, and that very morning I was completing an exhaustive minute dealing with the probable effects of an improved system of sanitation on the public health of the Borough of Ipswich. Still, I felt that something must be done. So I consulted Jones. Jones is, like myself, a poet; he is also the official whom Ministers of the Crown are accustomed, when hard pressed, to consult on the subject of Infantile Mortality amongst Suburban Undertakers; why, I cannot say, though many think it is on the strength of his having been a Philpott's Theological Prizeman at Oxford. I scribbled him a line in pencil: "Come over into number thirteen and help us; and bring your cigarettes." He came, and before leaving the office at 4.30 I was enabled to comply with my sister-in-law's request. I wrote as follows:—
"Dear Grace,—I do not remember Mary Smith. On the other hand, since in poetry, as in boxing and batting, the proper management of the feet is everything, and requires more practice than either you or your friend have apparently been able to devote to it, I have much pleasure in coming to the rescue. In dealing with members of the medical profession it is never wise to beat about the bush; superfluous subtlety merely irritates them. I have therefore endeavoured to make the poem just the artless outpouring of the innocent passion of such a girl as I imagine your friend Mary Smith to be. Here it is.
How I love you, how I love you,
Oh, you therapeutic dove, you!
How I long to snuggle coyly on your chest;
And reposing there to woo you,
Till, with soft responsive coo, you
Bid me share your warm but hygienic nest!
Though I might have oft been married,
I have tarried, I have tarried,
Hoping still that I should catch you on the hop;
For to pining, lonely Mary
To be George's own canary
Would be sweeter than the sweetest ginger pop.
"'George'—in the title and body of the poem—can of course be altered, if necessary; but something, I know not what, tells me that that is his name, and that it is probably followed by Harris. I may be mistaken, but George Harris, as I feel I know him, is a simple, muscular young man, addicted to tennis and his bicycle, fairly good at diagnosing whooping cough or a broken leg. He likes his pipe and reads the Referee on Sunday mornings. Mary, however, will change all that. She will furnish in fumed oak, art flower-pots, and the poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and so will lead him gradually to higher and better things. I wish her all success.
P.S.—It is true that doves seldom marry canaries, nor do the latter drink ginger beer to any considerable extent. But George will not notice these discrepancies. He is not hypercritical."
Two days later I heard from Grace again.
Dear Edwin,—Thank you so much for the verses, though perhaps they are a little—well, a little outspoken, aren't they? Unfortunately, Mary's friend is not named George or Harris. He is not even English, but a very nice dark brown man from Asia, a Hindu, I think, and only trying to be a doctor at present. As soon as he is one he is going back again. I ought to have told you this before, as I feel it might have helped you. But thanks very much all the same.
When I showed this to Jones he expressed his chagrin with a freedom and resource surprising even in a Civil Servant; but, having put our hands to the plough, we felt we could hardly leave Mary Smith in the cart. So we set to again, and I posted the following poem to Grace:—
Though, O budding Inter-M.B.,
You may now perchance pro tem. be
Not indifferent to a simple English maid,
Soon the daughters dark and dingy
Of the land of Ranjitsinhji,
Will be throwing her completely in the shade.
And shall Mary thus be stranded,
When she had you almost landed
(Yes, the metaphors are mixed, but never mind)?
Oh, imagine her emotion
When the cruel Indian Ocean
Separates you from the girl you left behind.
It was nearly a week before I heard from Grace. Then she wrote:—
"Dear Edwin,—It was really too sweet of you to send the second set. We have discovered, however, that Mary's friend is a Parsee, and therefore a worshipper of the sun, and she thinks the last line in the first verse would offend his family's religious scruples. She fears, too, that he might not endorse the epithet 'dingy' as applied by you to his female compatriots. So we have decided not to write in his album. I think however that the first poem (with modifications) would do for the album of a friend of my own, whose name, as it happens, is George. So I have asked the vicar to tone it down for me. He is a Durham man. Do you mind?
I read her letter, and breathed a deep sigh. Then seizing a telegraph form, I wired: "Have no objection to Durham vicars. Am ordering salt-cellars. Do not write again. Edwin."
Peter goes to a dame's school in Armadale Gardens, round the corner.
On Tuesdays and Fridays he comes home at twelve, changes into his football things, and goes off to play soccer till one.
Yesterday, Friday, he came in as usual and, after changing, he put his head round the door of my study and shouted excitedly,
"Well, old chap," I said, "out with it. I'm busy."
"Have you heard? Italy joins Austria. Official."
"Heavens above!" I said. "Official, did you say?"
"Yes," he said. "Can't stop now."
"Hi! Peter," I shouted, "do get me a paper; it won't take you——" But the banging of the front door cut my appeal short.
I couldn't get a paper myself. I had a cold, and had been ordered to stay indoors, and I had an article to finish by three o'clock.
"Italy with Austria and Germany," I groaned. "It's monstrous."
I got up, kicked the waste-paper basket over and walked up and down the room. I knew Peter wouldn't tell a lie. Even for fun he wouldn't say anything like that if it weren't true.
I called Honor. She was in the drawing-room arranging the flowers. She came hurriedly with a bunch of them in her hand. I don't know one flower from one another, but they were big floppy red things.
"What's the matter?" she said.
"Matter? Italy's declared for the enemy," I said. "It's official."
"Is that all?" she said. "I thought at least you couldn't find some of your writing things."
"What!" I said, "you can stand there with those ridiculous red blobs in one hand and—and nothing in the other and talk like that."
"They're not blobs," said Honor, "they're peonies. And if that's all that's the matter I'm busy. I must get my flowers done before lunch."
"Bah!" I said, turning to my table again. "Hang lunch; I can't eat any. Italy, our staunch friend for years, throws in her lot with Austria, her hereditary foe, and you talk of lunch."
"It's macaroni cheese," said Honor calmly, "and you know you love it."
"Shade of Garibaldi! Macaroni! You dare," I said "to mix that miserable Italian trash with good honest English cheese on such a day, when Italy is mobilising her millions of soldiers and sailors against us and our Allies. It's rank sacrilege."
"Don't get excited," said Honor; "besides the cheese is American Cheddar."
"You trifle with me," I said. "If you send any of the wretched stuff in here I shall trample on it."
"Aren't you coming in to lunch, then?" she said.
"No, I'm not," I said. "I can't eat anything, and I doubt if I can write a word after this."
"What earthly difference would having lunch make?" said Honor.
"None to you," I said. "You can gorge yourself on macaroni cheese while the Empire totters."
I kicked the fallen waste-paper basket across the room. I don't suppose I added more than fifty or sixty words to my article in the next hour-and-three-quarters.
Then I heard Peter whistling in the hall. He had finished lunch and was just off to school again.
I called him. "Look here, old man," I said, "you might get me a paper at the station before going to school. I want to see about Italy joining Austria. It's awful."
"You don't need a paper," said Peter; "look on the map and you'll see that Italy joins Austria," and he fled. It was well for him that he fled.
"Any more of that macaroni cheese left?" I said, rushing into the dining room. "I've just swallowed the oldest joke in the world and I want to take away the taste of it."
Village Worthy (discussing possibilities of invasion). "Wull, there can't be no battle in these parts, Jarge, for there bain't no field suitable, as you may say; an' Squire 'e won't lend 'em the use of 'is park."
"During 1912 we imported 2,290,206,240 foreign eggs. It is estimated that over 60% of these are no longer available."—Advt.
Heaven preserve us from the other 40%.
At last! We are "recognised" by the War Office! Our months of toil are not to go unrewarded. Two hours every evening at the end of an ordinary civilian day's work, all Saturday afternoon and the whole of Sunday, we have given these up cheerfully, supported by the hope of ultimate recognition. And now it is come!
The terms of the War Office are generous. They are these. Provided that we buy our own rifles and equipment and continue to pay our own training expenses; provided that we use no military terms and make no attempt to wear any clothing which may look to the Germans at all like a soldier's uniform; provided that the War Office is at perfect liberty to employ upon those of us within the age limits a conscription for whole-time service which it has no intention of employing upon the more patriotic man who spends his week-ends playing golf; these provisions complied with, we—are allowed to go on living!
That startles you? I thought it would. You looked down upon us. Recognition, you told yourself, would only mean that we were immediately to be employed as waterproof sheeting for the new huts or concrete foundations for the new guns. Aha! Now you wish you had joined us. We are allowed to go on living!
But I was forgetting. The War Office is being even more generous than that. In return for our not bothering them any more, it will allow us to wear (and pay for) a small red armlet with "G.R." on it; the red colour, I suppose, informing the Germans that we have just been vaccinated, and the "G.R." ("got rash") warning them that the left arm is irritable.
James is annoyed about it. This is silly of him. As I point out, our soldiers have already earned a reputation abroad for gaiety and high spirits, and it is all to the good that the War Office should show that it has a sense of humour equally keen. When the invasion comes, and music-halls, cinemas and football matches are closed down, the amusement of the country (as the War Office has foreseen) will depend entirely upon us. Let us, then, obey rigidly the seven commandments of "recognition" and see how funny we can be.
[The Brigadier and the Adjutant—I beg pardon (don't shoot)—Father and Father's Help are discovered in conversation.]
Father (explaining orders). The Battalion will advance to-morrow towards Harwich, where the enemy——
Father's Help. Excuse me, Sir, but isn't that rather too military? How would this do?—"The brethren will walk out towards Harwich to-morrow, where the Band of Hope from another parish has already assembled."
Churchwarden Jones. Advance in half-pew rushes from the right!
Sidesman Tomkins. No. 1 half-pew, advance.... At the congregation in front at a thousand yards.
Parishioner Brown (to his neighbour). I say, how many bullets have you brought with you?
Parishioner Smith. Fifteen. Fact is, I'm jolly hard up just now. Emily's been ill again, and one thing and another.... I did have twenty, but the baby swallowed two.... You might lend me some, old man. I promise to pay you back at the end of the month.
Parishioner Brown. I'll lend you a couple, but that's really all I can spare.... Look at Boko swanking away like a bally millionaire. That's his tenth shot this afternoon. Fairly chucking his money about.
Parishioner Robinson. I'll give you a hundred cartridges in exchange for your bayonet if you like. Sickening the Germans coming just now; it's my birthday next week and I'd been practically promised one by Aunt Sarah.
Elder Perks, C.B. (that is to say, "completely bald"). What the blank blanket do those blanks think they're doing?
Lay-Helper Snooks. I beg your pardon, Sir, for reminding you, but military terms are not allowed to be used.
Elder Perks. Quite right, Snooks; I forgot myself. Kindly request the organist to sound the Assemble. Those naughty lads are running in the wrong direction.
German Officer (to prisoner). You are a civilian and you are caught bearing arms. Have you anything to offer in your defence?
Prisoner. Civilian be blowed! I'm recognised by the War Office. Look at my—— Oh lor, it's come off again!
German Officer. Well?
Prisoner. I know appearances are against me, but——
German Officer. What is your rank?
Prisoner. Er—Chairman of the Committee.
German Officer. I thought so. (To Sergeant) Take him away and shoot him. (To Prisoner) Any last message you wish to leave will be delivered.
Prisoner (drawing himself up nobly). Tell my wife not to mourn me. Tell her that I die happy (his voice breaks for a moment) knowing that my death (with deep emotion) is—technically—(a happy smile illuminates his face) an illegal one.
And so I tell James not to worry. If the worst befalls him—and all the time when I was writing "prisoner" above I seemed to see James in that position—if the worst befalls him, his partner will at least be able to bring an action against somebody. For we are not "civilians." We are—well, I don't quite know what we are.
Correspondents, though banned at the Front,
Are so manfully doing their "stunt"
In searching for news
That the Limerick Muse
Thus honours their skill in the hunt.
The despatches of Mr. Elias
Are so laudably free from all bias
That their moderate strain
Has given much pain
To the shade of the late Ananias.
K. of K., who by birth is a Kerry man,
Much approves of the work of Z. Ferriman,
For it holds the just mean
That's betwixt and between
The extremes of Cassandra and Merryman.
For news that is fresh from the spot
Commend me to great Alan Bott;
The stuff that he wires
Stokes our patriot fires
Without being ever too hot.
The despatches of good Mr. Perris
Have the flavour of syrupy "sherris;"
They enrapture the mind
Of the sane and refined—
Especially Ellaline Terriss.
In Rotterdam city James Dunn
Keeps his vigilant eye on the Hun,
And fires off despatches
In generous batches,
Like a humanized 15-inch gun.
It is futile to cavil or carp
At Sir Alfred, whose surname is Sharpe;
For he soothes us or stings
As the nightingale sings,
Or as angels perform on the harp.
This is the man whose work is War;
He plans it out in a room on shore—
He and his Staff (all brainy chaps)
With miniature flags and monster maps,
And a crew whose tackle is Hydro-graphic,
With charts for steering our ocean traffic.
But the task that most engrosses him
Is to keep his Fleet in fighting trim;
To see that his airmen learn the knack
Of plomping bombs on a Zeppelin's back;
To make his sailors good at gunnery,
And so to sink each floating hunnery.
Here is the man who mans the Fleet
With jolly young tars that can't be beat;
He has them trained and taught the rules;
He looks to their hospitals, barracks, schools;
He notes what rumorous Osborne's doing,
And if it has mumps or measles brewing.
He fills each officer's vacant billet
(Provided the First Lord doesn't fill it);
And he casts a fatherly eye, betweens,
On that fine old corps, the Royal Marines.
This is the job that once was Jellicoe's,
But now he has one a bit more bellicose.
Ships are the care of the Third Sea Lord,
And all Material kept on board.
'Tis he must see that the big guns boom
And the wheels go round in the engine-room;
'Tis he must find, for cloudy forays,
Aeroplanes and Astra Torres;
And, long ere anything's sent to sea,
Tot up a bill for you and me.
The Fourth Sea Lord has a deal to plan,
For he's, chief of all, the Transport man.
He finds the Fleet in coal and victuals
(Supplying the beer—if not the skittles);
He sees to the bad'uns that get imprisoned,
And settles what uniform's worn (or isn't)....
Even the stubbornest own the sway
Of the Lord of Food and the Lord of Pay!
A long lean bar of silver spans
The ebon-rippled water-way,
And like a lost moon's errant ray
Strikes on the passing caravans—
Ghost-ships that from the desert seas
Loom silent through the steady beams,
Pale phantoms of elusive dreams
Cargoed with ancient memories.
Through the long night across the cool
Black waters to their shrouded berth,
Bearing the treasures of the earth,
Glide the fair ships to Liverpool.
"Londoner" in The Evening News:—
"Long live King Leopold, a faithful prince if ever there was one, as loyal to his brave Belgians as they, gallant souls that they are, are loyal to him. Does he, I wonder, ever take a look at his family pedigree?"
Because, if so, he would discover that his name was really Albert.
Michael (gloomily). "Mummy, I do hope I shan't die soon."
Mummy. "Darling! So do I—but why?"
Michael. "It would be too awful to die a civilian."
We were sitting in a little restaurant in the gay city—which is not a gay city any more, but a city of dejection, a city that knows there is a war going on and not so long since could hear the guns. There are, however, corners where, for the moment, contentment or, at any rate, visitations of mirth are possible, and this little restaurant is one of them. Well, we were sitting there waiting for coffee, the room (for it was late) now empty save for the table behind me, where two elderly French bourgeois and a middle-aged woman were seated, when suddenly the occupant of the chair which backed into mine and had been backing into it so often during the evening that I had punctuated my eating with comments on other people's clumsy bulkiness; suddenly, as I say, this occupant, turning completely round, forced his face against mine and, cigarette in hand, asked me for a light. I could see nothing but face—a waste of plump ruddy face set deep between vast shoulders, a face garnished with grey beard and moustache, and sparkling moist eyes behind highly magnifying spectacles. Very few teeth and no hair. But the countenance as a whole radiated benignance and enthusiasm; and one thing, at any rate, was clear, and that was that none of my resentment as to the restlessness of the chair had been telepathed.
Would I do him the honour of giving him a light? he asked, the face so close to mine that we were practically touching. I reached out for a match. Oh, no, he said, not at all; he desired the privilege of taking the light from my cigarette, because I was an Englishman and it was an honour to meet me, and—and——"Vive l'Angleterre!" This was all very strange and disturbing to me; but we live in stirring times, and nothing ever will be the same again. So I gave him the light quite calmly and with great presence of mind said, "Vive la France!" Then he grasped my hand and thanked me for the presence of the English army in his country, the credit for which I endeavoured fruitlessly to disclaim, and we all stood up and bowed to each other severally and collectively, and resumed our own lives again.
But the incident had been so unexpected that I, at any rate, could not be quite normal just yet, for I could not understand why, out of four of us, all English, and one a member of the other sex, so magnetic to Frenchmen, I should have been selected either as the most typical or the most likely to be cordial—I who only a week or so ago was told reflectively by a student of men, gazing steadfastly upon me, that my destiny must be to be more amused by other people than to amuse them. Especially, too, as earlier in the evening there had been two of our men —real men—in khaki in the room. Yet there it was: I, a dreary civilian, had been carefully selected as the truest representative of Angleterre and all its bravery and chivalry, even to the risk of dislocation of the perilously short neck of the speaker.
It was therefore my turn to behave, and I whispered to the waiter to fill[Pg 482] three more glasses with his excellent Fine de la maison (not the least remarkable in Paris) and place them on the next table, with our compliments. This he did, and the explosion of courtesy and felicitations that followed was terrific. It flung us all to our feet, bowing and smiling. We clinked glasses, each of us clinking six others; we said "Vive la France!" and "Vive l'Angleterre." We tried to assume expressions consonant with the finest types of our respective nations. I felt everything that was noblest in the English character rushing to my cheeks; everything that was most gallant and spirited in the French temperament suffused the face of my friend until I saw nothing for him but instant apoplexy. Meanwhile he grasped my hand in his, which was very puffy and warm, and again thanked me for all that ces braves Anglais had done to save Paris and la belle France.
Down we all sat again, and I whispered to our party that perhaps this was enough and we had better creep away. But there was more in store. Before the bill could be made out—never a very swift matter at this house—I caught sight of a portent and knew the worst. I saw a waiter entering the room with a tray on which was a bottle of champagne and seven glasses. My heart sank, for if there is one thing I cannot do, it is to drink the sweet champagne so dear to the bourgeois palate. And after the old fine, not before it! To the French mind these irregularities are nothing; but to me, to us....
There however it was, and, in a moment, the genial enthusiast was again on his feet. Would we not join them, he asked, in drinking to the good health and success of the Allies in a glass of champagne? Of course we would. We were all on our feet again, all clinking glasses again, all crying "Vive la France!" "Vive l'Angleterre!" to which we added, "À bas les Allemands!" all shaking hands and looking our best, exactly as before. But this time there was no following national segregation, but we sat down in three animated groups and talked as though a ban against social intercourse in operation for years had suddenly been lifted. The room buzzed. We were introduced one by one to Madame, who not only was my friend's wife, but, he told us proudly, helped in his business, whatever that might be; and Madame, on closer inspection, turned out to be one of the capable but somewhat hard French women of her class, with a suggestion somewhere about the mouth that she had doubts as to whether the champagne had been quite a necessary expense—whether things had not gone well enough without it, and my contribution of fine the fitting conclusion. Still she made a brave show at cordiality. Then we were introduced to the other gentleman, who was Madame's cousin and had a son at the Front, and, on hearing this, we shook hands with him again, and so gradually we disentangled and at last got into our coats and made our adieux.
When I had shaken his feather-bed hand for the last time my new friend gave me his card. It lies before me now as I write and I do not mean to part with it:—
Well, if ever I come to die in Paris I know who shall bury me. I would not let any one else do it for the world. Warm hearts are not so common as all that!
It has been discovered by a Berlin research student that "Germany" is a mere corruption of "Cyrmania," and that the Kaiser is descended from Cyrus, King of Persia.
We are inclined to agree as to the "mania" part, and we think the "corruption" must be that of the modern representatives of the ancient Orientals, whose education consisted in riding, shooting—and telling the truth.
The Almanach de Bouverie Street, however, informs us that the ever-frowning War Lord derives from the monarch of the rocky brow, who counted his men by nations at break of day, and when the sun set where were they? If the Hohenxerxes family are still on the look-out for places in the sun, they will find their ancestral homes for the most part unoccupied in the sufficiently arid regions around Ecbatana and Persepolis, now crying aloud for Kultur and Kraut.
We are still waiting to hear that von Hafiz and Omar zu Khayyam, as well as Shakspeare, have been proved to be Germans, and that the Herr Wolff of the Berlin Lie Bureau traces back to the foster-mother of Romulus—and Romance.
Mr. Punch begs to remind the 1,793 correspondents who have lately sent him delightful plays upon the word "wet" [De Wet the man and "de wet" the rain (ha-ha)] that the same idea had already occurred to 15,825 correspondents during the Boer War. Time is a great healer, but twelve years is not long enough.
Mr. C. G. Grey writes in The Daily Express on the Freidrichshafen air-raid:—
"The raid itself was one of those simple affairs which might have been done by any aviator possessing skill and pluck, only fortunately for these three officers nobody else did it."
And the disparaging comment was one of those simple affairs which might have been done by any journalist possessing —— and ——, only fortunately nobody else did it.
Waking at six, I lie and wait
Until the papers come at eight.
I skim them with an anxious eye
Ere duly to my bath I hie,
Postponing till I'm fully dressed
My study of the daily pest.
Then, seated at my frugal board,
My rasher served, my tea outpoured,
I disentangle news official
From reams of comment unjudicial,
Until at half-past nine I rise
Bemused by all this "wild surmise,"
And for my daily treadmill bound
Fare eastward on the underground.
But, whether in the train or when
I reach my dim official den,
Placards designed to thrill and scare
Affront my vision everywhere,
And double windows can't keep out
The newsboy's penetrating shout.
For when the morning papers fail
The evening press takes up the tale,
And, fired by furious competition,
Edition following on edition,
The headline demons strain and strive
Without a check from ten till five,
Extracting from stale news some phrase
To shock, to startle or amaze,
Or found a daring innuendo—
All swelling in one long crescendo,
Till, shortly after five o'clock,
When business people homeward flock,
From all superfluous verbiage freed
Comes Joffre's calm laconic screed,
And all the bellowings of the town
Quelled by the voice of Truth die down,
Enabling you and me to win
Twelve hours' release from Rumour's din.
A few days ago, when sitting in Committee on ways and means in the matter of Christmas presents, Joan and I made out that the extra taxes which we should be called upon to disgorge this year would amount to £3 16s. 1d.
"That's curious!" Joan remarked, comparing our calculation with some figures on another slip of paper before her. "Isn't three pounds sixteen and a penny half of seven pounds twelve and twopence?"
"It is," I admitted. "But why?"
"Because last year," said Joan, "our Christmas presents cost us exactly seven pounds twelve and twopence. In other words it means that we can only afford—owing to the extra taxes—to spend half that sum on presents this year."
"Well," continued Joan, "I have a splendid idea. Our folk, I know, won't expect proper presents this year. How would it be if we——"
"I know what you mean," I chimed in. "Give them half-presents! Half a lace scarf to your mother, one fur glove only to your father, afternoon-tea saucers to Aunt Emma, a Keats Calendar for 182½ days to Uncle Peter, kilt-lengths instead of dress-lengths to Cook and Phœbe, and so on, all with promissory notes for the balance attached."
"I don't mean anything of the sort," said Joan. "We shall give no half-presents. We shall give one whole present where it will be needed far more than by our relations. It will have a face-value of three pounds sixteen and a penny, but virtually it will represent a sum of seven pounds twelve and twopence."
I coughed a sceptic's cough.
"You don't believe me," said Joan. "Now, will you be content to give me, here and now, a cheque for three pounds sixteen and a penny, and credit your conscience with double that sum? Will you be willing to leave its disposal to me if I guarantee that that shall be the full extent of your liability?"
"Absolutely!" I replied with enthusiasm. "Can't you arrange to settle the rates, the electric-light bill and the coal bill on the same terms?"
"No," said Joan gravely, "my principle only applies to presents. Here's your cheque-book and here's my fountain-pen."
"What is your principle?" I asked as I meekly complied with her demand.
"What did Mr. Asquith say in 1912?" was all the answer Joan vouchsafed, so I decided to follow that eminent statesman's advice and wait and see.
When I came down to breakfast two days later Joan passed me The Times. "Read that," she said, indicating a paragraph in the "Personal" column marked in pencil.
"The Chancellor of the Exchequer," I read out, "acknowledges the receipt[Pg 484] of two pounds and three shillings conscience-money from——"
"Oh! I've marked the wrong paragraph," exclaimed Joan. "It's the one underneath." Then I saw—
"The Hon. Treasurer of the Queen's 'Work for Women' Fund, 33, Portland Place, W., gratefully acknowledges the receipt of Treasury notes and postal orders to the value of £3 16s. 1d. forwarded by an anonymous donor."
When I looked up Joan was smiling significantly.
"Very nice," I commented, "but I see they've only acknowledged the original amount I gave you. I thought you were going to double it."
"And so I have," said Joan. "He (or she) gives twice who gives quickly."
Edwin Clayhanger strolled dully down the Square. A squat dirty boy shrieked: "Sentinel. Result of Bursley Match. War News—Official." Edwin snatched a pink paper and under an anti-Zeppelin gas-lamp read that Knipe had defeated Bursley Rovers by four goals to none. He crumpled the paper in his hand and threw it disgustedly into the gutter, outside Bates the cheesemonger's. Sam Bates emerged, picked up the paper and confided to his assistant that "Young Edwin's brain is going, like old Mr. Clayhanger's."
Chill mists enveloped the pot-banks. The glare of the Hanbridge furnaces was subdued to a faint glimmer. The shout of a laughing crowd outside the Blood Tub drew Edwin closer. He perceived in the midst of the throng an elephant covered with Union Jacks. On its back stood Denry Machin, the famous Card of the Five Towns, thrice Mayor of Bursley.
"Boys," cried the Card, "you can see the circus elephant free. You can listen to me free. Hanbridge is going to raise a Pot-bank Company for Kitchener's Army. They want us to raise one to match it. We're going one better. Bursley will raise a Pot-bank Regiment. I just want a thousand men to be going along with. Don't all speak at once."
The crowd shrieked with laughter at Bursley's only humorist.
Edwin Clayhanger thought deeply. For three years he had been waiting to marry Hilda Lessways. Now the thought of 528 pages of married life with her overwhelmed him. Up went his hand.
"We're doing fine," cried the Card. "Nine hundred and ninety-nine more and off we march to Potsdam in the morning."
I shrank down into a corner of the reserve trench. The fifteen inches of half-frozen mud caused my old wound from an Afghan bullet to ache viciously. I longed for some wounded to arrive—anything to end this chilly inactivity. A tall officer in staff uniform jumped into the trench beside me.
"You are wishing yourself back in Baker Street," he remarked.
"How did you know?" I exclaimed. "Why, Holmes, what are you doing here?"
"Business, my dear Watson, business. Moriarty is becoming troublesome again."
"But he was drowned."
"Far too clever to be drowned in that pool. Merely stranded on the edge like myself. But I had made England too hot for him. You can guess his name."
"Not the K——!"
"Watson, Watson, Moriarty was my mental equal. Now he calls himself von Kluck."
I was overwhelmed.
Just then a little group of the staff arrived. I recognised amongst them the figures of General J—— and Field-Marshal F——, and saluted.
"The spy in staff uniform is the third on your left, Sir," said Holmes casually.
The Field-Marshal beckoned a firing party.
As the shots rang out I whispered, "How did you know he wasn't English?"
"Watson, Watson, did you not see that he had no handkerchief in his sleeve?"
"It is all-important, Captain Holmes," said the British Commander, "that we should ascertain what army is opposing our right wing. Our airmen are useless in this fog. I detail you for this duty."
Holmes saluted. "Come, Watson," he said, and led me through the fog towards the enemy's lines. We had not walked a mile when we reached a fine chateau.
"You are cold, Watson," said Holmes. "Light a fire in the front room whilst I scout for Uhlans."
In a moment he returned to me after having looked round the house. It was, I think, the first time the Chateau had known the scent of shag tobacco. A glow of heat rushed through me. I felt another man.
"Better than the trenches," said Holmes, penetrating to my inmost thought. We sat for an hour and then I said, "Holmes, your mission."
"Ah, I forgot. Come on."
He led me into the thickening fog, and in a few minutes I was surprised to find myself in the British lines. The General emerged as we approached. Holmes saluted. "The Crown Prince's army is on the enemy's left, Sir. It is now in rapid retreat."
The General shook him warmly by the hand.
"But, Holmes," I said, as we went away, "we have done nothing. The lives of thousands of our men may depend on this."
"My dear Watson," said Holmes, tapping the dottel of his pipe into his hand. "I used my eyes. In the house we visited the silver had almost all vanished. Inference—Crown Prince. But two solid silver spoons had been left on the table. Inference—Crown Prince in a hurry. Really, I am ashamed to explain a deduction which an intelligent child could have made."
Karl has emerged from the obscurity in which for years he has been wrapped and has become a topic of conversation, a link with the past, a popular alien enemy and a common nuisance.
Once upon a time, when we were first told about Karl, those of us who didn't say that it was an extraordinary coincidence observed that the world is a small place after all; but now, when the narrator reaches that part of the story where he tells us that we "can imagine his surprise when"—I usually interrupt him to say that he must forgive me, but really I cannot.
Karl was a German waiter at all the restaurants where my friends and my friends' friends were in the habit of dining. In time of peace not one of our mutual friends ever mentioned Karl to me, nobody ever wrote excitedly to tell me that they had seen him getting into a bus in the Strand; but now——
My sister-in-law's brother has the distinction of being the first among us to meet Karl since the outbreak of war. He was at Waterloo Station one morning when some German prisoners were being brought through from——, and as he passed them someone, speaking with a familiar voice and a strong German accent, addressed him by name. You can imagine his surprise when——
Karl, my sister-in-law said her brother told her, had spoken of being pleased to be among us once more, but this was apparently only another[Pg 485] German lie, for when next I heard of him he was back in the trenches again. A friend of my brother's fiancée, who was superintending the removal of some German wounded to Paris, was surprised to find himself addressed by name by a young German whose face seemed vaguely familiar. You can imagine his astonishment when, etc. Karl, my brother said the friend of his fiancée told her, was only too glad to have fallen into English hands.
It was in a hospital ship in the North Sea that my cousin met him. The situation remained unchanged. He addressed my cousin by name and said he was longing to be back in England again.
Two days afterwards I heard that a friend of mine had seen him in Holland, where the unlucky fellow was interned, having deserted with the intention of returning to us.
I made it my business to let my friends know—those friends of mine who had not already heard from someone who had met him—that he was securely interned in Holland, and we should know no more of him until the war was over, and after that I had for some time the pleasure of forgetting his existence. Unfortunately, however, I had overlooked Stephen.
Stephen and I were talking of the war (and incidentally having dinner together) when he told me that a man he knew had told him of a strange coincidence of which his nephew had told him. A friend of his who was at the Front had been in the habit of dining at a certain restaurant where a German waiter——
"Karl," I said.
"You've heard about it?" he asked.
"Only yesterday," I said, "I met a friend who knew someone who was present at the inquest."
"Yes," I said. "He shot himself through the heart with one of the seven hundred and twenty-five rifles which were found in her dress-basket."
I didn't allow him to interrupt me.
"He had only recently become engaged to her, I believe. She had been a trusted nurse and governess in many English families for many years, etc., etc. Some day I will tell you all about her. It's a long, long story and rather depressing. But about Karl. His mind had undoubtedly become unhinged and, after escaping from Holland, he found his way to the house where she was employed, learnt that she had been arrested (you see, the red stitches on her handkerchief, which everyone had supposed were laundry marks, turned out to be plans of Hampton Court Maze and the most direct route to Swan and Selfinsons), and, seizing the rifle, he rushed from the house (it was the night the Russians passed through Aberdeen and Upper Norwood) and——"
Stephen apologised to me.
"Karl shall be no more," he said. "Karl the ubiquitous is dead."
"Evening papers please copy," I added.
Old Sportsman. "Well, Tom, back into harness again?"
Tom (retired Huntsman). "Yes, Sir; only second whip now. Didn't think to see you huntin' again, Sir."
Old Sportsman. "Just trying to keep things going till the lads come back again."
I do not say that the expedition I propose to describe was accompanied by any very great risk. The streets, of course, were dark and the taxis and motor-buses were quite up to the usual average in number and well above it in speed. Still, when your mind is full of stories of shrapnel and Black Marias, you feel able to affront motor vehicles, even in darkened streets, with a feeling of comparative security. It is not so much danger as mystery that makes this story remarkable.
There were two of us, and we found ourselves taking tea in the N.W. district, that is to say in one of those parts (there are millions of them) which lie about the Abbey Road. One of us had knitted belts for soldiers; another knew a hero who had received the D.S.O., and all of us had been brought into close connection with Belgian refugees whose cheerful courage under terrible suffering formed the burden of our talk. Not to know a Belgian in these days is a mark of social outlawry, and you cannot know them without admiring them. The fire was warm, the room was comfortable, and the minutes ticked themselves away in the usual place on the mantelpiece.
"How long," said one of us, "will it take us to walk from here to Paddington?"
"To walk?" said our hostess in a tone of mild surprise.
"Yes," I said, "to walk. We are the ones for adventure. We are country folk, and we don't get a chance of a walk in St. John's Wood every day."
"I don't want to hurry you," said our hostess, "but if you really want to walk you must start at once."
We did. We went out, turned to the right, and plunged head-first towards the brooding darkness of Maida Vale.
"Are you sure," said my companion, "that you know the way?"
"No," I said, "I am not sure. Is one sure of anything in this life? But Paddington is a big place. We can't miss it. Think of its immense glass roof and take courage. We are bound to get there sooner or later."
"Yes," she said, "but we want to get there for the 5.50."
"True," I said. "We must limit our wanderings. I will ask this gentleman. He is standing at a corner. He has leisure and must know the way to Paddington."
I approached the gentleman and addressed him. "Sir," I said, "can you tell me the best way to get to Paddington?"
He looked at me suspiciously. "The station?" he said.
"Yes," I said, "Paddington station."
"Are you going to walk?"
I said we were.
"Ah," he said, "that makes a difference. If you wanted a bus now I might help you; but I'm lame, you see—only got one real leg. Run over by a van a matter of ten years ago, and I don't do much hard walking myself. Still you can't go far wrong if you take the first on the left."
We tore ourselves away, took the first on the left and walked on, ever on, through a wilderness of silent and unfamiliar houses. At last we came upon a baker's cart. "Ask him," said my fellow-traveller, pointing to the baker's man. I asked him.
"Are we right," I said, "for Paddington?"
"Oh yes," he said, "you're right enough. You'll get there in time, but you'll have to walk round the world first. My advice is to go in the opposite direction and take the second on the right, close to the dairy; you can't miss it."
Again we fled into the blackness. Paddington had shrunk to the size of a needle and we were in a huge bottle of hay, an oriental bottle full of weird surprises in the shape of sultans, genie, princesses, mosques, one-eyed porters, but never a hint of a railway station. How, indeed, could there be a railway station in Bagdad five hundred years ago?
"Ask again," said the other one.
I addressed a gentleman who was hurrying over a bridge. "Can you," I said, "direct me to Paddington station?"
He murmured something unintelligible and pointed to his ears.
I repeated my question loudly and again he murmured. At last I made out his words: "Stone deaf, stone deaf."
"Great heavens," I said, "all the infirmities of the world are come out against us. The man with one leg—the stone-deaf man. What next, what next?"
The second wayfarer seized my arm. "Look," she said, pointing to the sky. There, before our eyes, merging into the foggy infinity of the heavens, was the glass roof of our dreams. We ran like hares. We collided with everybody. Both of us had our feet trodden on by soldiers. We shouted at porters and they shouted back at us, and at last we flung ourselves into a train.
"You don't often come by this train," said a friendly fellow-passenger.
"No," I said, "I generally come by the 6.50."
"This is the 6.50," he said.
In this war of the civilised nations
That extends from the East to the West,
Have arisen full many occasions
For a man to put forth of his best;
When the battle was raging its roughest,
Men have spared themselves never a jot,
But, gentlemen, yours is the toughest
Affair of the lot.
Your countrymen's road through the trenches
Has not proved too easy a course,
For they seem to be hindered by French's
No longer contemptible force,
But their work with the gun and the sabre,
Their frenzied attempts to break through,
Are child's play compared with the labour
Allotted to you.
One fears that your gallant intentions
Will meet with a general scorn,
For I doubt if all history mentions
A hope so extremely forlorn;
But, should you succeed in acquitting
The Huns and their bellicose boss,
All the world will unite in admitting
You merit your Cross.
From the catalogue of a G. W. R. salvage sale:—
"696. 2 bags tares and 1 grass seed."
We have bought the grass seed and are planting it in our garden. If anybody hears of another for sale we shall be glad to know.
We always keep a cork tip on ours in case of accidents.
"See 'im? Well, when 'e sez ''Oo goes there?' if you're a Englishman you 'as to say 'Friend!' and if you're a German you 'as to say 'Foe!'"
One aspect of the present problem (as this sounds a little too like a leading article, I should explain that I mean the Christmas present problem) has this year been very satisfactorily settled. Everybody buys some books at this time; and when you know that for two shillings and sixpence you can now purchase the best and most characteristic work of two-score famous writers and artists, and, moreover, that the said half-crown will go to one of the most sensible and practical of all the Funds, naturally Princess Mary's Gift Book (Hodder and Stoughton) is going to figure large in this year's list of things-not-to-forget. Honestly and without hyperbole, I question if a better collection has ever been brought together. From the first page (on which you will find a charming portrait by Mr. J. J. Shannon of the gracious young lady to whose timely inspiration the volume is due) to the last, everyone seems to have given his or her best. Not only this, but the precise kind of best that we most like to have from them. To take a few examples at random, here is a song of Big Steamers by Mr. Rudyard Kipling, with the jolliest ship-pictures by Mr. Norman Wilkinson; a Zulu tale by Sir Rider Haggard; a Pimpernel story by the Baroness Orczy; and a comic upside-down dream of a little London child by Mr. Pett Ridge. This last has drawings by Mr. Lewis Baumer that are fully worthy of it; indeed it cannot but be a proud sensation for the peculiarly gallant heart of Mr. Punch to find that he is represented by so many of his knights of the pencil in this worthy cause. It is satisfactory to learn that the originals of the drawings in the book will shortly be on sale at the Leicester Galleries in aid of the Queen's Work for Women Fund. Upon the assured success of a delightful book the reviewer begs to offer to its only begetter his most respectful congratulations.
The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, published by Murray, is the third volume of the work, the two earlier ones having been edited by the late Mr. Moneypenny. Mr. George Buckle now "takes up the wondrous tale," and maintains at a high level its historic interest and literary charm. He finds Disraeli, after the fantastic flights of early manhood, in an assured position. He was within measurable distance of assuming the Leadership of a Party which, long dallying with the harsh appellation Protectionist, now decided to be known as Conservative, a compromise hotly resented by good Tories. A flash of the old vanity flickers over a letter written from the Carlton Club to his wife: "The Ministry have resigned. All Coningsby and Young England the general exclamation here." Alone he did it, partly by writing a novel, incidentally by forming a Party of which Lord John Manners was a representative member. On the opening of the Session, January 19th, 1847, Disraeli took his seat on the Front Opposition Bench in embarrassing contiguity to Peel, acutely suffering, it may be supposed, from the combined influence of Coningsby and Young England. One of those Parliamentary descriptive writers held in light esteem in their day, but to whom historians turn for light and colour, notes a significant change in Disraeli's attire. "The motley coloured garments he wore at the close of the previous Session were exchanged for a suit of black unapproachably perfect." Also "he appeared to have[Pg 488] doffed the vanity of the coxcomb with the plumage of the peacock." Evidently he felt that his carefully-designed sartorial extravagances had played their appointed part in attracting notice. In manner of speech as in fashion of clothing he assumed ways more compatible with the position of a responsible statesman.
At last, after long struggle, he stood on safe ground. But the fight was not over yet. The personal antipathy and distrust with which he was regarded in Tory circles were unabated. He had proved an invaluable auxiliary in the battle against Free Trade; but having defeated Peel the Protectionists did not want any more of Disraeli. His old friend, Sir George Bentinck, whose patronage had been invaluable as investing him with an air of respectability, stood by him to the last. Resigning the post of Leader of the Protectionists, he nominated Disraeli as his successor. The Tory rank and file would have none of him. Lord Stanley, acknowledged leader of the Party in the House of Lords and the country, hesitated and chaffered, in the end reluctantly giving in. Something of the same thing happened when, six years later, Stanley, now succeeded to the earldom of Derby, formed an Administration and proposed to make Dizzy Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. Among the most strenuous objectors to the proposal was Queen Victoria. But Disraeli was invincible because he was indispensable. How courageously and with what matchless skill he fought against overwhelming odds, and won the day, is a fascinating story that in the skilled hands of Mr. Buckle loses no point of interest.
Captain Harry Graham is one of the authors whose work I never argue about. If, as has happened occasionally, I meet those who do not find him amusing, I conceal my own personal opinion that, with the possible exception of Mr. Stephen Leacock, he is the most rollickingly funny person at present writing the King's English; but now, being in a position to air my private views without fear of contradiction, I make the statement boldly, and put, in as Exhibit A of my evidence, The Complete Sportsman (Arnold). Like other earlier volumes from the same source it is compiled from the occasional papers of Reginald Drake Biffin, and the sportsman who tries to get on without it is positively courting disaster. The first thing he knows, he will be talking to well-informed people about a flock of sparrows or a covey of weasels, and their quiet smiles will show him that he has been guilty of a ludicrous blunder. If he had read his Biffin he would have known that the correct terms are a "susurration of sparrows" and a "pop of weasels." These are small matters, perhaps, but your sportsman cannot be too accurate. Mr. Biffin treats of practically every branch of sport, from elephant-snaring to Sunday bridge, in the easy chatty style which made The Perfect Gentleman the inseparable companion of all who desire to comport themselves correctly in Society. Nor is the usual complement of anecdotes lacking. The practical value of these cannot be over-estimated. A careful perusal of the tragic story of the late Lord Bloxham, to take but one instance, will certainly save the lives of many deep-sea fishermen who have fallen into the foolish habit of angling for sharks with a line fastened to one of their waistcoat buttons to save the trouble of holding it.
Mr. William Caine has a very nice and persistent sense of humour, and his last book, But She Meant Well (Lane), shows him in his most natural and therefore best vein. His lady of the good intentions was one Hannah Neighbour, an incorrigible infant whose eminently virtuous resolves produced the most vicious results without the adventitious aid of any extraordinary circumstances. There is generally about people who mean well something pathetic and something else which is worse, and these characteristics are apt to become so exaggerated in fiction as to be almost offensive. Mr. Caine's young person is not of that sort; she is no prig, and her fault is not weakness but irrepressible activity. To whatever extent she annoyed me, I was always possessed with the morbid desire to see some even worse result attending her efforts; and all the while I had to give her credit for infecting the other characters of the story with a remarkable vitality. I congratulate the author upon his presentation of the problem, how can you deal with such a misguided child so that you may at the same time check dangerous proclivities and yet do justice to her excellent motives? Still more was I pleased with his frank, if abominable, admission that in order properly to inculcate discipline it is necessary for the most part to ignore motives and let justice be blowed.
The reappearance of Dorothea as a volume in the new collected edition (Constable) of the works of Mr. Maarten Maartens has at this moment a strange aptness. For you may remember that Dorothea, herself of Dutch-English extraction, married into a Prussian family. Nay, more, into the family of a Prussian general. A very obvious interest attaches to the impression made by these people upon the mind of the author. Of the old General we find him writing that "his lofty soul had accepted the theory of the unity on earth of the good, the true and the beautiful." Who, I ask you, would have supposed it? But throughout the book these Von Rodens stand as the perfect family, gently chivalrous, cultured and altogether charming. Then one remembers in explanation that Dorothea was written some time ago, and that this was the old-fashioned Kultur. There you have the German tragedy in a nutshell. Of Dorothea herself I will say little. Probably you already know her, and may agree with me in considering her an unattractive prig, whose place in the list of Mr. Maartens' heroines is decidedly at the wrong end. But those amazing pathetic Prussians! and the conflicting emotions they stir in your heart as you read!
He. "I'm just about fed-up with all this talk about recruitin'. Who's goin' to carry on the work of the country if all the people of brains go to the front?"