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Title: Adventures and Enthusiasms
Author: Lucas, E. V. (Edward Verrall), 1868-1938
Language: English
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ADVENTURES AND ENTHUSIASMS

E. V. LUCAS


_Other Books of_ E. V. LUCAS


ENTERTAINMENTS

VERENA IN THE MIDST
THE VERMILION BOX
LANDMARKS
KISTENER'S LURE
MR. INGLESIDE
OVER BEMERTON'S
LONDON LAVENDER


ESSAYS

CLOUD AND SILVER
A BOSWELL OF BAGHDAD
TWIXT EAGLE AND DOVE
THE PHANTOM JOURNAL
LOITERER'S HARVEST
ONE DAY AND ANOTHER
FIRESIDE AND SUNSHINE
CHARACTER AND COMEDY
OLD LAMPS FOR NEW


TRAVEL

A WANDERER IN VENICE
A WANDERER IN PARIS
A WANDERER IN LONDON
A WANDERER IN HOLLAND
A WANDERER IN FLORENCE
MORE WANDERINGS IN LONDON
HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS IN SUSSEX


ANTHOLOGIES

THE OPEN ROAD
THE FRIENDLY TOWN
HER INFINITE VARIETY
GOOD COMPANY
THE GENTLEST ART
THE SECOND POST
THE BEST OF LAMB
REMEMBER LOUVAIN


BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

THE SLOWCOACH
ANNE'S TERRIBLE GOOD NATURE
A BOOK OF VERSES FOR CHILDREN
ANOTHER BOOK OF VERSES FOR CHILDREN
RUNAWAYS AND CASTAWAYS
FORGOTTEN STORIES OF LONG AGO
MORE FORGOTTEN STORIES
THE "ORIGINAL VERSES" OF ANN AND JANE TAYLOR


SELECTED WRITINGS

A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING
HARVEST HOME
VARIETY LANE
MIXED VINTAGE


[Illustration: LAURA'S EARLY MORNING LESSONS. _See "The Innocent's
Progress"--Plate 2_]



ADVENTURES

AND

ENTHUSIASMS

BY

E. V. LUCAS

NEW YORK
GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

COPYRIGHT, 1920,
BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



CONTENTS


                                   PAGE

THE PERFECT GUEST                    13

THE SPARROWS' FRIEND                 17

THE GOLDEN EAGLE                     20

A MORNING CALL                       26

THE TRUE WIZARD OF THE NORTH         30

INNOCENCE AND IMPULSE                42

POSSESSIONS                          45

DRAKE AND HIS GAME                   49

ADMIRALS ALL--TO BE                  56

A STUDY IN SYMMETRY                  61

DAVY JONES                           66

THE MAN OF ROSS                      71

THE INNOCENT'S PROGRESS              85

THOUGHTS AT THE FERRY                92

A LITTLE CHILD                       97

A DEVONSHIRE INN                    103

ON SHOPS AND STALLS                 107

THIRD THOUGHTS                      113

THE ITALIAN QUESTION                118

ON DISGUISE                         122

BROKEN ENGLISH                      126

ENTHUSIASTS                         136

TELEPHONICS                         141

THE WORLD REMEDIAL                  147

WHAT THE SUN DID NOT SEE            152

TWO OF MARTHA'S SONS                158

FREAKS OF MEMORY                    164

THE MORAL DRESSING-TABLE            169

THACKERAY'S SCHOOL FELLOW           173

_In re_ PHYSIOGNOMY

        I IDENTIFICATION            184

       II DR. SULLIVAN              187

THE WORLD'S DESIRE                  191

A CONQUEROR                         197

THE NEWNESS OF THE OLD              202

AUNTS                               206

ON RECITATIONS                      210

CLICQUOT WELL WON                   218

THE SUFFERER                        223

A SOUTH SEA BUBBLE                  227

ON FINDING THINGS                   231

PUNCTUALITY                         236

THE OTHER TWO                       240

ON SECRET PASSAGES                  244

LITTLE MISS BANKS                   248

GENTLEMEN BOTH                      251

ON EPITAPHS                         255


IN AND ABOUT LONDON

I A LONDON THRILL                   263

II A DOOR PLATE                     268

III ANGEL ADVOCACY                  273

IV THE SOANE HOGARTHS               277

V GREENWICH HOSPITAL                281

VI KEW IN APRIL                     285

VII ROYAL WINDSOR                   288

VIII THREE LITTLE BACKWATERS        292

IX A SELF-MADE STATUE               297

X CROWDS AND A BAD SAMARITAN        302

XI BEFORE AND AFTER                 306

XII THE GREEN AMONG THE GREY        311

XIII THE FATHERLY FORCE             318

XIV MY FRIEND FLORA                 325



ILLUSTRATIONS


LAURA'S EARLY MORNING LESSONS        _Frontispiece_

                                               PAGE

LAURA RISES FOR THE DAY                          44

LAURA COMBINES BREAKFAST AND PHILANTHROPY        84

LAURA'S MUSIC LESSON                             96

LAURA VISITS THE SICK                           140

LAURA DANCES TO HER MOTHER'S MUSIC              222



ADVENTURES AND ENTHUSIASMS



THE PERFECT GUEST


There are certain qualities that we all claim. We are probably wrong, of
course, but we deceive ourselves into believing that, short as we may
fall in other ways, we really can do this or that superlatively well.
"I'll say this for myself," we remark, with an approving glance in the
mirror, "at any rate I'm a good listener"; or, "Whatever I may not be,
I'm a good host." These are things that may be asserted of oneself, by
oneself, without undue conceit. "I pride myself on being a wit," a man
may not say; or "I am not ashamed of being the handsomest man in
London;" but no one resents the tone of those other arrogations, even if
their truth is denied.

It is less common, although also unobjectionable, to hear people
felicitate with themselves on being good guests. Indeed, I have lately
met two or three who quite impenitently asserted the reverse; and I
believe that I am of their company. Trying very hard to be good I can
never lose sight of the fact that my host's house is not mine. Fixed
customs must be surrendered, lateness must become punctuality, cigarette
ends must not burn the mantelpiece, one misses one's own China tea. The
bathroom is too far and other people use it. There is no hook for the
strop. In short, to be a really good guest and at ease under alien roofs
it is necessary, I suspect, to have no home ties of one's own; certainly
to have no very tyrannical habits.

I cut recently from the _Spectator_ this rhymed analysis of the perfect
guest:

    She answered, by return of post,
    The invitation of her host;
    She caught the train she said she would,
    And changed at junctions as she should;
    She brought a small and lightish box,
    And keys belonging to the locks.
    Food, rare and rich, she did not beg,
    But ate the boiled or scrambled egg;
    When offered lukewarm tea she drank it,
    And did not crave an extra blanket,
    Nor extra pillows for her head;
    She seemed to like the spare-room bed.
    She brought her own self-filling pen,
    And always went to bed at ten.
    She left no little things behind,
    But stories new and gossip kind.

Those verses seem to me to cover the ground, although one might want a
change here and there. For example, would a little spice of malice in
her anecdotage be so undesirable? And a little less meekness in the
lady, who comes out rather as a poor relation, might do no harm. They
also might emphasize the point that she was never indisposed, for it is
an unpardonable offence in a guest to be ill; that she spent a great
deal of time in writing letters (which all hostesses like their guests
to do); and that on returning home she sat down and composed a "roofer"
in the warmest possible terms. They might touch lightly but feelingly on
her readiness not only to eat what was offered, and not to desire
luxuries, but to refuse the rarities, such as, in recent times, bacon
and butter and sugar. ("Oh, no, I never take butter!"--what grateful
words to fall on a hostess's ear!) One would not, however, have one's
guest a vegetarian, because that way distraction lies. If vegetarians
ate vegetables all might be well, but they don't; they want made dishes
of an exotic nature, or hostesses think they do, and then the cook gives
notice. The verses might also refer to the perfect guest's easy flow of
conversation when neighbouring bores call; and last--but how far from
least!--they might note the genuine ring in her voice when she
volunteers to do a little weeding.

But the lines, as far as they go, are comprehensive; their defect is
that they deal with but one type--a woman visiting in the country. There
is also to be considered the woman from the country visiting in town,
who, to be perfect, must not insist too strongly on her own choice of
play, must not pine inordinately for dances, and must not bring more
frocks than her hostess can keep pace with. Mention of the hostess
reminds me that it is by a hostess that the verses obviously were
written, and that, as such, they leave apertures which the arrows of
censure might penetrate if we were considering the perfect hostess too.
For how could the poet, for all her epigrammatic conciseness, ever have
given her exemplary friend the opportunity of drinking lukewarm tea? In
any catalogue of the perfect hostess's virtues a very high place must be
reserved for that watchfulness over the teapot and the bell that
prevents such a possibility. And the perfect hostess is careful, by
providing extra blankets, to make craving for more unnecessary. She also
places by the bed biscuits, matches, and a volume either of O. Henry or
"Saki," or both.



THE SPARROWS' FRIEND


If you entered the Tuileries any fine morning (and surely the sun always
shines in Paris, does it not?) by the gate opposite Frémiet's golden
arrogant Joan of Arc, and turned into the gardens opposite the white
Gambetta memorial, you were certain to see a little knot of people
gathered around an old gentleman in a black slouch hat, with a deeply
furrowed melancholy face, a heavy moustache, and the big comfortable
slippers of one who (like so many a wise Frenchman) prefers comfort to
conventionality or the outraged opinion of others. All about him,
pecking among the grass of the little enclosed lawns, or in the gravel
path at his feet, or fluttering up to his hands and down again, were
sparrows--_les moineaux_: for this was M. Pol, the famous "_Charmeur
d'oiseaux_."

There is a certain attraction about Nôtre Dame, its gloom, its purple
glass and its history; Sainte Chapelle is not without a polished beauty;
the Louvre contains a picture or two and a statue or two that demand to
be seen and seen again; but this old retired civil servant with the
magic power over the _gamins_ of the Parisian roadways and
chimney-stacks was far more magnetic to many a tourist. Those other of
Baedeker's lions were permanent and would endure, but a frowsy furrowed
old man in scandalous footwear who not only charmed the sparrows but
quite clearly had confidential understandings with each was a marvel
indeed and not to be missed. Nôtre Dame's twin towers on each side of
that miracle of a rose window would be there next time; but would M.
Pol? That is how we reasoned.

We did well to see him as often as we could, for he is now no more; he
died in 1918.

For some time the old man had been missing from his accustomed haunts,
through blindness, and Death found him at his home at Chandon-Lagache,
in the midst of the composition of rhymes about his little friends,
which had long been his hobby, and took him quite peacefully.

I have stood by M. Pol for hours, hoping to acquire something of his
mystery; but these things come from within. He knew many of the birds by
name, and he used to level terrible charges against them, as facetious
uncles do with little nephews and nieces; but more French in character,
that is all. One very innocent mite--or as innocent as a Paris sparrow
can be--was branded as L'Alcoolique. Never was a bird less of an
inebriate, but no crumb or grain could it get except upon the
invitation, "_Viens, prendre ton Pernod!_" Another was Marguerite, saucy
baggage; another, La Comtesse; another, L'Anglais, who was addressed in
an approximation to our own tongue. Now and then among the pigmies a
giant pigeon would greedily stalk: welcome too. But it was with his
sparrows that M. Pol was at his best--remonstrative, minatory, caustic;
but always humorous, always tender beneath.

Latterly he sold a postcard now and then, with himself photographed on
it amid verses and birds; but that was a mere side issue. Often
strangers would engage him in conversation, and he would reply with the
ready irony of France; but he displayed little interest. His heart was
with those others. One felt that the more he saw of men the more he
liked sparrows.

The French have a genius for gay commemorative sculpture. If a statue of
M. Pol were set up on the scene of his triumphs (and many things are
less likely), with little bronze _moineaux_ all about him, I for one
should often make it an object of pilgrimage.



THE GOLDEN EAGLE


Mr. George Robey, C.B.E., our _soi-disant_ Prime Minister of Mirth, is,
in his songs, as a rule, more of a destructive than a reassuring
philosopher. Indeed, the cheerful cynicism of one whose prosperity is
invulnerable may be said to be his prevailing characteristic on the
stage. But he once sang, in the person of a landlady, a song which had
the refrain, calculated to comfort those in less happy circumstances,
"It's a blessing that you never miss the things you've never had." Upon
the respective merits of this sentiment and of Tennyson's famous dictum
"'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all"
much might be said in discussion, although the two statements are not
antagonistic; but at the moment, thinking of my poor friend the Golden
Eagle, I vote wholly for Mr. Robey's optimism. It is a blessing that we
never miss the things we've never had, and, conversely, it is a real
calamity to lose something and be unable to forget it or to cease to
regret it. In other words, it is better not to have had a treasure than,
being parted from it, to be eternally wistful. Better, that is, for
unwilling auditors of the tragedy.

So much for prelude.

It is a hard thing to be credited with power that one does not possess
and have to disappoint a simple soul who is relying on one's help. That
is a general proposition, but I was reminded of the Golden Eagle and a
particular application of it by the remark which some one dropped the
other day about Baedeker. "Shall those of us who have kept our Baedekers
have the courage to carry them?" she asked; and instantly my mind flew
to a certain Italian city and the host of the Aquila d'Oro.

Never can any guest in a hotel have received so much attention from the
host as I did in the few days of my sojourn with him before I could
bring myself to change to another. And not only from the host, but from
every one on the staff, who bent earnest glances on me from morning till
night. The Golden Eagle himself, however, did more than that: he
buttonholed me. He was always somewhere near the door when I went out
and again when I came in: a large, flabby Italian, usually in his shirt
sleeves and wearing the loose slippers that strike such dismay into
British travellers. "No foreigner," said an acute young observer to me
recently, "ever has a good dog"; not less true is it that no Latin is
ever soundly shod. But the Golden Eagle was not exactly slovenly; he
owed it to his hotel not to be that; he was merely a vigilant _padrone_
eternally concerned with his business.

Although there were other people staying under his roof, and they had
better rooms than I and drank a better wine, it was I at whom he made
this set. It was I for whom he waited and upon whom his great melancholy
eyes rested so wistfully. For he was a Golden Eagle with a grievance,
and I, in whose bedroom he had been asked to place a writing-table, I,
who never went out without a note-book and who bought so many
photographs, I, who so obviously was engaged in studying the city, no
doubt for the purposes of a book, I it was who beyond question was in a
position, by removing that grievance, to restore him to prosperity and
placidity again.

And his grievance? The melancholy stamped upon that vast white
countenance, although much of it was temperamental, and you might say
national (for the Italian features in repose suggest disillusionment and
fatalism far oftener than light-heartedness), and the dejection in the
great shoulders, were due to the same cause. Baedeker, after years of
honourable mention of the Aquila d'Oro among the hotels of the city, had
suddenly, in the last edition, removed the asterisk against the name.
The Golden Eagle had lost his star. Now you see the connection between
this pathetic innkeeper (the last man in the world to call Boniface),
our triumphant _lion comique_ and the late Lord Tennyson. But in his
case it was not better, either for him or me, that he had lost what he
had loved. It would have been better, both for him and for me, if he had
never had a star.

Why it had been taken from him he had no notion. He had always done his
best; his wife had done her best; people were satisfied and came again;
but the star had gone. Was not his hotel clean? The linen was soft, the
attendance was good. He himself--as I could perceive, could I
not?--never rested, nor did his wife. They personally superintended all.
They spared nothing for the comfort of the house. Foolish innkeepers no
doubt existed who were cheese-parers, but not he. He knew that wherever
else economy was wise, it was not in the dining-room. Were not the meals
generous and diversified? Could I name a more abundant _collazione_ at 4
_lire_ or a better _pranzo_ at 5? Or served with more despatch? Was not
his wine sound and far from dear?

And yet, four years ago, and all inexplicably, the star had gone from
his hotel. It was monstrous, an outrage. Four years ago--without
warning and for no cause.

When he had looked at the new edition of Baedeker which a visitor had
left about and saw it, he could not believe his eyes. He had called his
wife--every one: they were also incredulous. It was like a thunderbolt,
and earthquake. After all their hard work too, their desire to please,
their regular customers, so contented, who came again and again. Was not
that the test--that they came again and again? Obviously then the
guide-book was wrong, guilty of a wicked injustice.

What did he think could have happened? All he could suppose was that one
of Herr Baedeker's agents, staying there incognito, had had some piece
of bad fortune; some accident of the kitchen impossible to prevent, but
isolated, had occurred and he had taken offence. But how unfair! No one
should judge by a single lapse. So many rivals still with stars and he
without!

Thus would the Golden Eagle complain, day after day, during my sojourn,
always ending with the assurance that I would help him to get the star
back, would I not?--I who had such influence.

And now there is to be, I suppose, a new system of guide-book astronomy.
If the Golden Eagle has survived the War he may, in the eclipse of
Baedeker, be more resigned to his lot: the substitute for that
travelling companion may confer a star of his own. But I do not propose
to stay with him in order to make sure.



A MORNING CALL


The card of invitation--for which I have to confess that, like a true
social climber, I had to some extent angled--came at last, stating that
my visit would be expected on the following day at noon precisely, and
that evening dress was to be worn. As I did not receive it until late at
night, and as some medals had to be bought and a carriage and pair
hired, I was busy enough after breakfast. The medals were for
distribution afterwards among certain intimates, and the carriage and
pair was to convey my friend and me to the reception, because we wished
to enter at the gate of honour, and if you would do this you must have
two horses. A single horse, and you are deposited at the inferior door
and have a long walk.

It was to one of the most famous buildings in the world that we are
going--possibly the most famous--and the horses' hoofs had a brave
resonance (not wholly to be dissociated from thoughts of Dumas) as they
clattered swiftly over the stones, beneath archways, past sentries, and
through spacious and venerable courtyards, to the foot of the famous
stairway. After ascending to an ante-room, where colossal guards
scrutinised us and splendid lackeys took our hat, we were shown into the
reception-room, in the doorway of which an elderly gentleman in black
with a black bag was talking with such animation to a major-domo that we
had to interrupt them in order to pass.

In this reception-room, an apartment of some splendour, in which we were
to meet our host, sufficient guests had already assembled to occupy most
of the wall space--for that is how we were placed, in four lines with
our backs to the walls. There were about ninety in all, I calculated, of
whom many were priests and nuns and many were women, the rest youths, a
few girls, and a very few civilian men. It needed only the swiftest
glance to discern that my friend and I were the only ones who had
complied with the regulation about evening dress. This, naturally,
greatly increased our comfort, since we became at once the cynosure (as
the learned would say) of every eye. In the centre of the room was a
little knot of officials, including four or five soldiers, all chatting
in low tones and occasionally glancing through the door opposite that by
which we had entered, which gave upon a long corridor. So for some
twenty minutes we waited, nervous and whispering, when suddenly the
officials stiffened, the soldiers hurriedly fetched their rifles from
the far corner (a proceeding not without humour when one considers all
things), and the whole ninety of us sank on our knees as a little quick,
dark man, dressed in white, entered the room.

To be on one's knees, in evening dress, at twenty past twelve in the
day, facing a row of people, across a vast expanse of carpet, similarly
kneeling, and being also a little self-conscious and hungry, is not
conducive to minute observation; but I was able to notice that our host
was alert and bird-like in his movements and had a searching, shrewd,
and very rapid and embracive glance. Beneath his cassock one caught
sight of elaborate slippers, and he wore a large and magnificent emerald
ring.

As he was late he got briskly to work. Each person had to be noticed
individually, but some had brought a little problem on which advice was
needed; others required solace for the absent and afflicted; most, like
myself, had medals of the saints which were to be made more efficacious;
and three or four of the priests were accompanied by far from negligible
or indigent old lady parishioners, to whom such an event as this would
be the more memorable and valuable if a little conversation could be
added. Hence, there was work before our host; but he performed his task
with noticeable discretion. To me, whom at last he reached, he said
nothing; but my friend, who is of the old persuasion, put to him the
case of a dying youth and obtained sufficient assurance to be comforted.
And all the while I could see the elderly gentleman in black with the
black bag glancing round the walls from the doorway--his function, as I
afterwards learned, being that of a doctor intent upon restoring to
consciousness those (and they are numerous) who swoon under the
immensity of this ceremony.

Having come to the last of his visitors, our host retired to the middle
of the room and delivered a short address on the meaning of his blessing
and the importance of rectitude. He then blessed us once again,
collectively, and was gone, and we struggled to a vertical position, the
elderly ladies finding the assistance of their attendant priests more
than useful in this process.

My knees, too, were very sore; but what did I care? I had seen Pope
Benedict XV.



THE TRUE WIZARD OF THE NORTH


It is no disrespect to the author of the Waverley Novels to say that the
true Wizard of the North was born on a Sunday in 1805, in a cobbler's
cottage at Odense, in Denmark, when Scott was thirty-four.

Hans Christian Andersen's father, a cobbler, was a thoughtful, original,
and eccentric man--as cobblers have the chance to be. On the day that
his little Hans was born, he sat by the bed-side and read to the child
Holberg's "Comedies." It made no difference that the audience only
cried. Later the father became his son's devoted slave and companion,
reading to him the "Arabian Nights," constructing puppet theatres and
other entertaining devices, and entrusting him with his peculiar views
of the world and religion. The mother was, in the words of Mary Howitt,
Hans Andersen's first English translator, "all heart"; from her perhaps
came his instant readiness to feel with others, his overmastering sense
of pity, his smiling tears, while from his father much of his odd humour
and irony. But there was still another influence. Like a child of
genius of our own race with whom Hans Andersen has not a little in
common, Charles Lamb (who in 1805 was thirty), the boy was much with his
grandmother, his father's mother, a distressful gentlewoman who, having
come upon evil days, lived in great poverty with an insane husband, a
toy-maker, and kept the home together by acting as gardener to a lunatic
asylum. To little Hans, who was often with her, she would tell stories
of her own youth and that of her mother, who had done an extremely
Andersenian thing--had run away from a rich home to marry a comedian.

Now and then Hans would accompany her to the asylum itself. "All such
patients," he has written, in "The True Story of My Life," "as were
harmless were permitted to go freely about the Court; they often came to
us in the garden, and with curiosity and terror I listened to them and
followed them about; nay, I even ventured so far as to go with the
attendants to those who were raving mad.... Close beside the place where
the leaves were burned the poor old women had their spinning room. I
often went in there and was very soon a favourite.... I passed for a
remarkably wise child who would not live long; and they rewarded my
eloquence by telling me tales in return; and thus a world as rich as
that of the 'Thousand and One Nights' was revealed to me. The stories
told by these old ladies, and the insane figures which I saw around me
in the asylum, operated in the meantime so powerfully upon me that when
it grew dark I scarcely dared to go out of the house."

Here, given a sensitive, imaginative nature, we have material enough to
build up much of the genius of Hans Christian Andersen. How could he
have been very different from what he was, one asks, with such
companions and surroundings in the most impressionable years--an
embittered whimsical father, full of the "Arabian Nights," a mother "all
heart," a grandmother all romantic memory, a mad, toy-making
grandfather, and these wool-gathering old ladies inventing strange
histories to amuse him? And, added to all this, circumstances of poverty
to drive his thoughts inwards? Poets, it would almost seem, can be both
made as well as born.

But the boy had still more luck; for he struck up an acquaintance,
ripening into friendship, with a man who carried out play-bills, "and he
gave me one every day. With this, I seated myself in a corner and
imagined an entire play, according to the name of the piece and the
characters in it. This was my first, unconscious poetizing." A little
later a clergyman's widow gave the boy the freedom of her library (as
Samuel Salt gave his to the little Charles Lamb), and there he first
read Shakespeare: "I saw Hamlet's ghost, and lived upon the hearth with
Lear. The more persons died in a play, the more interesting I thought
it. At this time I wrote my first piece; it was nothing less than a
tragedy, wherein, as a matter of course, everybody died. The subject of
it I borrowed from an old song about Pyramus and Thisbe; but I had
increased the incidents through a hermit and his son, who both loved
Thisbe, and who both killed themselves when she died. Many speeches of
the hermit were passages from the Bible, taken out of the Little
catechism, especially from our duty to our neighbours." Later the boy
wrote a drama with a king and queen in it, and, feeling himself at fault
as to the language of courts, produced a
German-French-English-and-Danish lexicon, and took a word out of each
language to lend the royal speeches an air.

Hans Andersen's father dying when the boy was still young, the mother
married again, and Hans was left even more to himself. He read and wrote
and recited all day, so that it became generally understood that he was
to be a poet; and as nothing is so absurd to the eyes of healthy normal
boys as a poet, he was the victim of not a little ridicule. His mother's
wish to apprentice him to a tailor precipitated his fate. Rather than
that he would go, he declared, to Copenhagen and join the theatre. To
deny her son anything was beyond her power; but she was happier about it
after consulting a witch and receiving from the coffee-grounds and the
cards the assurance (afterwards realised) that he would become a great
man, and that in honour of him Odense would one day be illuminated. And
so at the age of fourteen, with thirty shillings and a bundle of
clothes, Hans Christian Andersen arrived in Copenhagen to seek his
fortune.

On that day his childhood was over. Some one has said that nothing that
really counts ever happens to us after the teens are reached, and it is
more true than not. At Copenhagen, Hans Andersen, young as he was,
forsook the world of fantasy and entered the world of fact. The dancer
to whom he had an introduction laughed at him; he was repulsed from the
theatre. For four or five years he starved and suffered. His singing and
his passion for reciting, however, gained him a few friends to set
against poverty and the ridicule which his earnest enthusiasm, uncouth
lanky figure, and long nose brought him almost everywhere that he went.
Among them were Weyse, the composer, Sibonia, the singer, and Guldborg,
the poet, through whose interests the boy was able to take lessons in
singing and dancing, and even to make his theatrical début in the
chorus. It was the composition of a tragedy that decided his fate and
made his fortune, for it came into the hands of Jonas Collin, director
of the Royal Theatre, brought him the interest of that influential man,
and led to the Royal Grant which sent the young author to the Latin
School at Skagelse for a period of three years.

In 1829 he published his first characteristic work, the "Journey on Foot
from Holm Canal to the East Point of Armager," a very youthful tissue of
grotesque humour and impudence. A desultory year or two followed, when
he wrote much and came in for a quite undue share of attack, which his
sensitive nature began to construe as a death-warrant; and then, in
1833, again through Collin, a travelling grant of £70 a year for two
years was obtained for him from Frederick VI, and he set off for Paris.
With that journey his true career began, the success of which was never
to be chequered save by occasional fits of depression following upon
hostile criticism. From Paris he went to Rome, where he met Thorwaldsen
and wrote his first and best known novel, "The Improvisatore," an
intense and fanciful story of Rome and the stage, marked by much tender
charm, and, like the writer's mother, "all heart," in which an
autobiographical thread is woven. The novel had an immediate success,
and Hans Andersen suddenly found himself one of the leading Danish
authors.

But not yet was his real work begun. His real work was the telling of
fairy tales--or "Eventyr og Historier," as he called them--the first of
which were published in a slender volume in 1835, a little after "The
Improvisatore," under the title "Fairy Tales as Told to Children." Since
in this book were "The Tinder Box," "Little Claus and Big Claus," "The
Princess and the Pea," and "Little Ida's Flowers," it will be seen that
Hans Andersen entered the arena fully armed. Next year came the second
part, containing "Thumbelina," "The Travelling Companion," and "The
Naughty Boy," and in 1837 a third part, with "The Little Mermaid" and
"The Emperor's New Clothes." Hans Andersen himself, whose constant
ambition (again like Lamb) was to write successfully for the stage,
thought but little of these stories, which presented no difficulties to
his pen. He preferred (authors often being their own worst judges) his
novels, his poems, his travels; above all, he preferred his dramatic
efforts; and yet it is by these tales that he lives and will ever live.

Hans Andersen now began to travel regularly every year and to write
little personal memoirs of his adventures in a manner which in England
to-day we associate with "Eöthen" and "An Inland Voyage." Wherever he
went he made friends, and he was always willing--more, eager--to read
his stories aloud: even in Germany, where, owing to his defective
knowledge of the language, his audiences had difficulty in maintaining
the cast of feature demanded by this most exacting of literary lions. In
1847 he was in London, much fêted, the way having been paved by Mary
Howitt's translation of his autobiography and of "The Improvisatore,"
and in 1857 he was here again, spending five weeks at Gad's Hill with
Dickens (by seven years his junior), whom he revered and almost
worshipped. Hans Andersen's Anglo-Saxon readers have always been very
numerous and very appreciative, and in return he praised England and
wrote "The Two Baronesses" in our tongue. Only a few months before his
death he was gratified to receive a gift of books from the children of
America.

His latter years were full of honour and comfort. He had many wealthy
friends, including the Danish Royal Family, a substantial pension, and a
considerable revenue from his work. In the summer he lived with the
Melchiors at Rolighet; in winter in rooms in Copenhagen, dining with a
different friend regularly each night of the week. His health was better
than he liked to think it, and he was able almost to the end to indulge
his passion for travel. He went often to the theatre, or, if unable to
do so, had the play bill brought to his rooms, where, knowing every
classic play by heart, he would follow its course in imagination,
assisted by occasional visits from the performers. He never married,
and, when once an early and not very serious attachment was forgotten,
never seemed to wish it; but he liked to be liked by women. Indeed, he
was normal enough to like to be liked by every one, and most of the
unhappiness of which he was capable--even to a kind of
self-torture--proceeded from the suspicion that he was unwelcome here
and there. For in spite of his hard experience of the world, he
continued a child to the end; a spoilt child, indeed, more than not, as
men of genius often can be.

He lived to be seventy, and died peacefully on August 4, 1875. "Take
care, above all things," he had once said when humorously discussing his
funeral, "that you drill a little hole in my coffin, so that I may have
a peep at all the pomp and ceremony, and see which of my good friends
follow me to the grave and which do not." They were there, every one.
He was followed to the grave by all Denmark.

It is, as I have said, by his fairy tales that Hans Andersen lives and
will ever live. There he stands alone, supreme. As a whole, there is
nothing like them. One man of genius or another has now and then done
something a little in this or that Hans Andersen manner. Heine here and
there in the "Reisebilder"; Lamb in "The Child Angel" and perhaps "Dream
Children"; and one sees affinities to him occasionally in Sir James
Barrie's work (the swallows in "The Little White Bird," for example,
build under the eaves to hear the stories which are told to the children
in the house, while in Hans Andersen's "Thumbelina" the swallows live
under the poet's eaves in order to tell stories to him); but Hans
Andersen remains one of the most unique and fascinating minds in all
literature. Nominally just entertainment for children, these "Eventyr og
Historier" are a profound study of the human heart and a "criticism of
life" beyond most poetry. And all the while they are stories for
children too; for though Hans Andersen addresses both audiences, he
never, save in a very few of the slighter satirical apologues, such as
"The Collar" and "Soup from a Sausage Skewer," loses the younger. He had
this double appeal in mind when, on a statue being raised in his honour
at Copenhagen just before his death, showing him in the act of telling a
tale to a cluster of children, he protested that it was not
representative enough.

I would apply to Hans Andersen rather than to Scott the term "The Wizard
of the North"; because whereas Scott took men and women as he found
them, the other, with a touch of his wand, rendered inhuman
things--furniture, toys, flowers, poultry--instinct with humanity. He
knew actually how everything would behave; he knew how a piece of coal
talked, and how a nightingale. He did not merely give speech to a pair
of scissors, he gave character too. This was one of his greatest
triumphs. He discerned instantly the relative social positions of moles
and mice, bulls and cocks, tin soldiers and china shepherdesses. He
peopled a new world, and, having done so, he made every incident in it
dramatic and unforgettable. He brought to his task of amusing and
awakening children gifts of humour and irony, fancy and charm, the
delicacy of which will probably never be surpassed. He brought also an
April blend of tears and smiles, and a very tender sympathy with all
that is beautiful and all that is oppressed. He did not preach, or, if
he did, he so quickly rectified the lapse with a laugh or a quip that
one forgets the indiscretion; but he believed that only the good are
happy, and he wanted happiness to be universal. Hence to read his tales
is an education in optimism and benevolence.



INNOCENCE AND IMPULSE


Looking the other day into Grimm, I came upon the story called "Hans in
Luck," in which a foolish fellow, having his life's savings in a bag,
gives them away for an old horse, and the old horse for a cow, and the
cow for a pig, and so on, until at last he has only a heavy stone to his
name, and, getting rid of that burden, thinks himself the most fortunate
of men--Hans in luck. It was the very ordinary metal of this folk-tale
which Hans Andersen transmuted to fine gold in the famous story
entitled, in the translation on which I was brought up, "What the old
man does is always right," which is a veritable epic in little of
simplicity and enthusiasm. No one who has read it can forget it, for its
exquisite author is there at his kindliest and sunniest, all his
sardonic melancholy forgotten.

The old man, in bitter financial straits, setting out in the morning to
sell his cow at market, makes, in his incorrigible optimism, a series of
exchanges, all for the worse, so that when he reaches home in the
evening, instead of a pocketful of money to show for his day's
dealings, he has only a sack of rotten apples. Nothing, however, has
dimmed his radiant faith in himself as a good trafficker, and nothing
can undermine his wife's belief in him as the best and financially most
sagacious of husbands: a belief which, expressed in the presence of two
gentlemen who, having had a wager on her unshakeable loyalty, had come
to the house to settle it, led to the old couple's enrichment and
assured prosperity.

It was this charming story which came to my mind in the train the other
day as I looked at the young sandy-haired and freckled soldier opposite
me on the journey to Portsmouth, for here was another example of
impulsive simplicity. On the back of his right hand was tattooed a very
red heart, emitting effulgence, across which two hands were clasped, and
beneath were the words "True Love"; and on the back of his left hand was
tattooed the head of a girl. He was perhaps twenty. Should there be no
more wars to trouble the world, I thought, as from time to time I
glanced at him, he will probably live to be seventy. Since tattoo marks
never come out and the backs of one's hands are usually visible to
oneself, he is likely to have some curious thoughts as he passes down
the years. What kind of emotions, I wondered, will be his as he views
them at thirty-one, forty-one, fifty-one? And supposing that this first
love fails, what will be the attitude of subsequent ladies to these
embellishments? For it would probably be in vain, even if he were
sophisticated enough to think of it, for him to maintain that the
decoration was purely symbolic, the right-hand device standing for
devotion and the left for woman in the abstract. That would hardly wash.
Subsequent ladies--and judging from his appearance and his early start
there are sure to be some--may give him rather a difficult time.

It all goes to prove what a dangerous thing impulse can be. And yet as I
looked at his simple face, and reflected on what safe areas of
normally-hidden epidermis he possessed for such pictorial ebullition, I
found myself envying such a lack of self-protectiveness; and I asked
myself if, after all, those who will have nothing to do with
self-protectiveness are not the salt of the earth. The gamblers, the
careless, the sippers of all the honey the moment contains: are not
these the best?

Most young ardencies are not as reckless as his--and, of course, it may
all end happily: what the young man did may turn out also to be right.
With all my heart I hope so.

[Illustration: LAURA RISES FOR THE DAY. _See "The Innocent's
Progress"--Plate 1_]



POSSESSIONS


Some one has offered me a very remarkable and beautiful and valuable
gift--and I don't know what to do. A few years ago I should have
accepted it with rapture. To-day I hesitate, because the older one grows
the less does one wish to accumulate possessions.

It is said that the reason why Jews so often become fishmongers and
fruiterers and dealers in precious stones is because in every child of
Israel there is a subconscious conviction that at any moment he may be
called upon to return to his country, and naturally wishing to lose as
little as possible by a sudden departure he chooses to traffic either in
a stock which he can carry on his person, such as diamonds, or in one
which, being perishable and renewable day by day, such as fruit and
fish, can be abandoned at any moment with almost no loss at all.
Similarly the Jews are said to favour such household things as can be
easily removed: rugs, for example, rather than carpets. I have not, so
far as I know, any Jewish blood, but in the few years that are left me I
too want to be ready to obey the impulse towards whatever Jerusalem I
hear calling me, even should it be the platonically-loved city itself,
although that is unlikely. Without possessions one would be the readier
also for the longer last journey. Naked we come into this world and
naked we should go. Nor should we wilfully add to the difficulties of
leaving it.

I was lately led by its owner, rebuilder, and renovator through the
rooms and gardens of a Tudor house which, with infinite thought and
discretion, has been reclaimed from decay and made modernly debonair. At
every step, indoors and out, was something charming or adequate, whether
furniture or porcelain, whether flower or shrub. Within were long cool
passages where through the diamond panes sunlight splashed on the white
walls, and bedrooms of the gayest daintiness; without were lawns, and
vistas, and arrangements of the loveliest colours. "Well," my hostess
asked me, "what do you think of it all?" I thought many things, but the
one which was uppermost was this: "You are making it very hard to die."

I had a grandfather who, after he had reached a certain age, used
birthdays as occasions on which to give away rather than receive
presents; and I am sure he was right. But I would go beyond that. The
presents which he distributed were bought for the purpose. I would fix a
period in life when the wise man should begin to unload his
acquisitions--accumulating only up to that point and then dispersing
among the young. Ah! but you say, why be so illogical? If possessions
are undesirable, are they not undesirable also for the young? Well,
there are answers to that. For one thing, who said anything about being
logical? And then, are we not all different? Because I choose to cease
accumulating, that is no reason why others, who like to increase their
possessions, should cease also. And again, even I, with all my talk of
renunciation, have not suggested that it should begin till a middling
period has been reached; and I am all for circulating _objets d'art_,
too. I should like a continual progression of pictures and other
beautiful things throughout the kingdom, so that the great towns could
have the chance of seeing the best as well as London.

So far am I from withholding possessions from others, that as I walked
down Bond Street the other day and paused at this window and that,
filled with exquisite jewels and enamelled boxes and other voluptuous
trifles, I thought how delightful it would be to be rich enough to buy
them all--not to own them, but to give them away. To women for choice;
to one woman for choice. And a letter which I remember receiving from
France during the War had some bearing upon this aspect of the case, for
it mentioned a variety of possessions which carried with them, in the
trenches, extraordinary and constant pleasure and consolation. The
writer was a lady who worked at a canteen in the big Paris terminus for
the front, and she said that the soldiers returning from their leave
often displayed to her the mascots and other treasures which comforted
them in their vigils, and with which they were always well supplied.
Sometimes these possessions were living creatures. One soldier had
produced from a basket a small fox which he had found and brought up,
and which this lady fed with bread and milk while its owner ate his
soup. Another had a starling. A third took out of his pocket a venerable
handkerchief, which, on being unrolled, revealed the person of
Marguerite--a magpie whom he adored, and who apparently adored him. They
were inseparable. Marguerite had accompanied him into action and while
he was on _permission_, and she was now cheering him on his return to
the danger zone. She was placed on the table, where she immediately fell
asleep; at the end of the meal the poor fellow rolled her again in the
handkerchief, popped her in his pocket, and ran for his tragic train.
But for the companionship of Marguerite his heart would have been far
heavier; and she was thus a possession worth having.



DRAKE AND HIS GAME


The British Navy did not begin with Drake. On consulting the authorities
I find that the Navy proper, as an organization, may be said to have
begun in the reign of King John, and to have been put on its modern
basis by Henry VII. But Drake's is the first name to conjure with.

Any one wishing to lay a tangible tribute at the feet of Britain's
earliest naval hero of world-wide fame would have to visit either the
monument which was erected to him--not certainly in any indecent
haste--at Tavistock, in 1883, when he had been dead for nearly two
hundred and ninety years, or the replica of it, which was set up on
Plymouth Hoe in the year following. To go to the Hoe is, I think,
better; for at the Hoe you can look out on Drake's own sea.

London has no Drake monuments. But had a certain imaginative enthusiast
had his way in the year 1581 a memorial of the great seaman, more
interesting and stimulating than any statue, would have added excitement
to Ludgate Hill and to every Londoner passing that way, for it was
seriously proposed that the _Golden Hind_, the vessel in which Drake
sailed round the world, and the first English ship to make such a
voyage, should be bodily lifted to the top of St. Paul's (which had a
spire in those days) and permanently fixed there. Even had the project
been carried out we personally should be none the richer, for the Fire
of London was to intervene; but it was a fine idea. I wish something of
the kind might still be done; for if such a fascinating little model
galleon as the weathercock on Lord Astor's beautiful Embankment house by
the Essex Street steps can rejoice the eyes as it does, how would not a
real one, high over Ludgate Hill, quicken the mind and the pulse?

And we ought in London to think far more of ships than we do. By ships
we live, whether merchant ships bringing us food, or ironclads
preserving those ships; and not only should the docks be known to
Londoners, instead of being, as now, foreign parts infinitely more
remote than, say, Brighton, but the Navy should visit us too. The old
_Britannia_ ought to have been brought to the Thames when she was
superannuated. "There," the guides should have been able to say, "was
the training college of our admirals. There, in that hulk, Beatty
learned to navigate, Sturdee to tie knots, and Jellicoe to signal!" The
_Victory_ should be brought to London, as a constant and glorious
reminder of what Nelson did, before steam came in. She is wasted at
Portsmouth, which is all shipping. In London, either in the Thames or on
the top of St. Paul's, she would have noble results, and every
errand-boy would become a stowaway, as every errand-boy should.

A second proposal, to preserve the _Golden Hind_ as a ship for ever,
also fell through, and she was either allowed to decay or was broken up
(as the _Britannia_ has been); but whereas the relics from the
_Britannia_ are many, the only authentic memorial of the _Golden Hind_
is an arm-chair fashioned from her wood which is a valued possession of
the Bodleian. Why the Bodleian, I cannot explain, for Drake was neither
an Oxford graduate nor a scholar. His University was the sea.

That he was a Devonian, we know, but not much else is known. The years
1539, 1540, 1541, and 1545 all claim his birth, and the historians are
at conflict as to whether his father was a parson or not. Some say that,
having, owing to religious persecution, to flee to Kent, the elder Drake
inhabited a hulk (like Rudder Grange), and, in the intervals of reading
prayers to the sailors in the Medway, brought up his twelve sons to the
sea. But that matters little; what matters is that one of his sons
became a master mariner, a buccaneer, a circumnavigator, a knight, an
admiral, and in 1588 destroyed (under God) the Spanish Armada. This
successful and intrepid commander was a man "of small size, with reddish
beard," who treated his companions with affection, as they him with
respect, and got the last drop of energy and devotion out of all. He had
"every possible luxury, even to perfume," but remained hard as nails.
His death came to pass off Porto Rico, whither he had been sent by Queen
Elizabeth to bring back another haul of treasure from the West Indies.
Hitherto he had succeeded, returning always with more spoil, but this
time he succumbed to various disorders.

    The waves became his winding sheet, the waters were his tomb;
    But for his fame the ocean sea is not sufficient room.

Even in the six-and-thirty years that Drake has stood, in bronze, on the
Hoe, he has seen wonderful changes; but had his statue been there ever
since his death--as it should have been--what amazing naval developments
would have passed beneath his eyes: wood to iron, canvas to
paddle-wheel, paddle-wheel to screw, coal to oil, and then the
submarine!

Turning from the Hoe with the intention of descending to the town by one
of the paths through the lawns at the back of the great sailor's
statue, what should confront me but the most perfect bowling-green I
have ever seen, with little sets of phlegmatic Devonians absorbed in
their contests. Here, thought I, is, beyond praise, devotion to
tradition. Of national games we have all heard, but there is something,
in a way, even finer in a municipal game--and such a municipal game, the
most famous of all. For years I have never heard Plymouth Hoe mentioned
without thinking of Drake and the game of bowls in which he was playing,
and which he refused to interrupt, when, that July afternoon, in 1588,
news came that the Spaniards were off the Lizard. ("Plenty of time," he
said, "to finish the game and beat the Spaniards too.") But it had never
occurred to me that bowls and the Hoe were still associated. England has
commonly a shorter memory than that. And, indeed, why should they be
associated? There is, for example, no archery at Tell's Chapel on the
shore of the Lake of Lucerne, no wood-chopping at Mount Vernon. But
Devon, with excellent piety, remembers and honours its own prophet; and
I now understand how it is that the Plymouth Museum should be destitute
of relics of Drake. Why trouble about his personal trappings when this
pleasant sward is in existence, to connect the eye instantly with the
mighty admiral at one of the most engaging moments of his life?

I stood by the railings of the green for two hours watching the
latter-day Plymouth champions at their play. Only the descent of the sun
and the encroaching gloom drove me away, and even then a few enthusiasts
remained bowling and bowling; for every one who is devoted to bowls
knows that the twilight favours form, although it does not favour the
spectators. The players seemed to me to be chiefly of the mercantile
class, and I wondered if among them were any of the bearers of the odd
names which I had noticed above the Plymouth shops as I was drifting
about its streets that morning. Were any of the great Devon tribe of Yeo
there? Was Mr. Condy U'Ren winning or losing? What kind of a "wood" did
Mr. Odam project towards the "jack"? Could the admirable elderly player
who always lifted his right foot and held it poised in the air while
delivering the bowl be Mr. Jethro Ham? I judged the players to be, in
many cases, old antagonists, and these games on this sunny October
afternoon merely items in a series of battles spread over years past,
and to continue, I hope, for years to come; for the pastime of bowls,
unlike cricket and baseball and lawn tennis, has a kindly, welcoming
smile for old age. The late Sir William Osler's rule as to forty being
the culmination of man's power becomes an absurdity on the green. There,
seventy is nothing. At eighty you are not necessarily to be sneezed at.
Even nonagenarians, I believe, have earned the thrill contained in the
phrase "Good wood!" So then I confidently expect, if I am alive, and am
on Plymouth Hoe in twenty years' time, when prosperity will again be
established, with amity among the nations, to find many of the same
players at this at once the gentlest, but not the least exciting, of
games--to me, at any rate, more exciting than horse-racing with all its
speed.

They played exceedingly well, these men of Plymouth, one veteran in
particular exacting a deadly amount of work out of the last four feet of
the bowls' stealthy journey. And how serious they were--with their
india-rubber over-shoes, and a mat to start from! I doubt if Sir Francis
had it all so spick-and-span--for in his day we were very nearly as far
from lawn mowers as from turbines. And how intent they were on the
progress not only of their own bowls but of their opponents' too--but of
course with a more personal, more intimate, interest in their own, even
to following its curve with their back-bones, and to some extent
spinally reproducing it, as conscientious players involuntarily do.



ADMIRALS ALL--TO BE


It is fitting that the naval training college from which the English
midshipmen go straight to sea should be situated in Drake's county. This
means that they breathe the right air, and, through the gap made by the
rocky mouth of the Dart, look out from their commanding eminence upon a
triangle of the right blue water. Drake also gives his noble name to one
of the Terms (or companies of cadets).

I have seen Dartmouth both at work and at play, and am still not sure
which was which. Whether the boys were at football on those high
table-lands where, at the first glimpse--so many players are there--all
the games seem one; or cleaning boilers; or solving the problems of
knots; or winding accumulators; or learning to steer; or drawing
machinery sections; or poring over charts; or assembling an engine; or
sailing their cutters in the Dart; or listening to signal instructors in
the gun-rooms; or acquiring the principles of navigation; or collecting
the constituents of a variegated tea in the canteen; or singing "God
Save the King" in chapel (all three verses); or grappling with
logarithms; or swimming vociferously in the bath--whatever they are
doing, there seems to be at the back of it the same spirit and zeal.
Even the four or five offenders whom I saw expiating in punishment drill
their most recent misdeeds appeared to have a zest.

Literature and the Navy have always had their liaison; and after
studying two or three typical numbers of _The Britannia Magazine_, the
organ of the cadets, I see every chance of a new crop of Captain
Marryats and Basil Hoods; while there is promise of an excellent
caricaturist or so, too. Compared with the ordinary run of school
periodicals, this is rather striking. I fancy that I discern a fresher
and more independent outlook and a rather wider range of interest. The
natural history articles, for example, are unusually good, and some of
the experiences of war, by midshipmen, are vivid and well done; and amid
the fun and nonsense, of which there is a plentiful infusion, there is
often a sagacious irony. Among this fun I find, in prose, an account of
the Battle of St. Vincent, by a young disciple of George Ade, which
would not disgrace a seriously comic periodical and must be quoted.
Nelson, I should premise, has just defeated the Spaniards. Then--

     "Say, stranger," asked H. N., as the dons mushed around with
     their surrenders, "is this a business proposition or a
     sad-faced competition at a dime show?"

     "Gee-whizz!" said the Spanish Ad., "we reckon we're bored
     some. My name is Muckheap, and I don't seem to get gay any
     old way."

     "Bully for you, old Corpse-face," Nels replied; "hand out
     your ham-carvers and then run around and fix yourself an
     eye-wizzler!"

     And so they passed in real swift.

     And did the British Fleet push in the glad cry right away
     when Nels put in his entrance? Why, sure!

As for the verse, which is both grave and humorous, nothing gives me
more pleasure and satisfaction than the rapid but exhaustive summary of
England's blockading efforts at sea in the Great War, which begins thus:

    Observe how doth the British Navy
    Baulk the Bavarian of his gravy;
    While the fat Boche from Köln to Munich
    Cannot expand to fill his tunic....

The British Navy, we know, "does not advertise"; but there is no harm in
its nestlings saying a good word for it now and then.

Of all the things that I saw at Dartmouth, I shall retain, I think,
longest--against that comely smiling background of gay towers and
brickwork on the hill--the memory of the gymnasium and the swimming
bath. Compared with Dartmouth's physical training, with its
originality, ingenuity, thoroughness, and keenness, all other varieties
become unintelligent and savourless. This is fitness with fun--and is
there a better mixture? As for the swimming bath, it is always the abode
of high spirits, but to see it at its best you must go there directly
after morning service on Sunday. It is then that the boys really become
porpoises--or, rather, it is then that you really understand why
porpoises are always referred to as moving in "schools." I know nothing
of the doctrine that is preached normally at the College, for I heard
only a sermon by a visiting dignitary of notable earnestness and
eloquence, but I assume it to be beyond question. If, however, a heresy
should ever be propounded no harm would be done; for the waters of the
swimming bath would instantly wash it away. As one of the officers
remarked to me (of course in confidence), he always looked upon this
after-service riot of splashing and plunging as an instinctive
corrective of theological excess. On these occasions the bath becomes a
very cauldron, bubbling with boy.

It was cheering indeed, as I roamed about this great competent
establishment, to be conscious of such an undercurrent of content and
_joie de vivre_. At Dartmouth in particular is this a matter for
satisfaction, since the College is likely to be, for the boys, a last
link with the land--with solid England, the England of fields and trees
and games and friends--for many years. Of all boys who deserve a jolly
boyhood, these naval cadets, I think, come first; for the sea is a hard
mistress and they are plighted to her. Once they embark as midshipmen
responsibility is upon them; none of our sons need to grow up more
quickly. As to the glamour of the sea, one of the cadet poets becomes
lyrical about it--"I hear," he sings:

    I hear the sea a-calling,
        Calling me;
      Calling of its charms,
      Of its tempests and its calms;
    I've lived upon the mainland,
    But I'll die upon the sea!

May the fulfilment of his wish be long deferred! But, beneath the
glamour, the fact remains that, for all her pearls, the sea demands
everything that her sailors can give, often in every kind of danger,
discomfort, and dismay; and the division between herself and the
mainland is immense and profound. Let us rejoice then that the mainland
life of these boys dedicated to her service should be so blithe.



A STUDY IN SYMMETRY


Apropos of admirals, let me tell you the following story which, however
improbable it may seem to you, is true.

Once upon a time there was an artist with historical leanings not
unassociated with the desire for pelf--pelf being, even to idealists,
what gasoline is to a car. The blend brought him one day to Portsmouth,
where the _Victory_ lies, with the honourable purpose of painting a
picture of that famous ship with Nelson on board. The Admiral was of
course dying, and the meritorious intention of the artist, whose wife
wanted some new curtains, was to make the work as attractive as might be
and thus extract a little profit from the wave of naval enthusiasm which
was then passing over the country; for not only was the picture itself
to be saleable, but reproductions were to be made of it.

Permission having been obtained from the authorities, the artist boarded
the _Victory_, set up his easel on her deck, and settled down to his
task, the monotony of which was pleasantly alleviated by the chatter of
the old salts who guard the ship and act as guides to the tourists
visiting her. Since all these estimable men not only possessed views on
art, but had come by now to the firm belief that they had personally
fought with Nelson and witnessed his end, their criticisms were not too
easily combated: so that the artist had not a tedious moment. Thus,
painting, conversing, and learning (as one can learn only from a trained
imparter of information), three or four days passed quickly away and the
picture was done.

So far there has been nothing to strain credulity. But a time will
come--is, in fact, upon us.

On the evening of the last day, as the artist was sitting at early
dinner with a friend before catching the London train, his remarks
turned (as an artist's sometimes will) upon the work upon which he had
just been engaged. He expressed satisfaction with it in the main, but
could not, he said, help feeling that its chances of becoming a real
success would be sensibly increased if he could find as a model for the
central figure some one whose resemblance to Nelson was noticeable.

"It seems to be a law of nature," he went on, "that there cannot exist
at the same time--that is to say, among contemporaries--two faces
exactly alike. That is an axiom. Strange as it may sound, among all the
millions of countenances with two eyes, a nose in the middle and a mouth
below it, no two precisely resemble each other. There are differences,
however slight." (He was now beginning really to enjoy the sound of his
own voice.) "That is, as I say, among contemporaries: in the world at
the moment in which I am speaking. But," he continued, "I see no reason
why after the lapse of years Nature should not begin precisely to
reproduce physiognomies and so save herself the trouble of for ever
varying them. That being so, and surely the hypothesis is not too
far-fetched"--Here his friend said, "No, not at all--oh no!"--"that
being so, why," the artist continued, "should there not be at this
moment, more than a century later, some one whose resemblance to Nelson
is exact? He would not be necessarily a naval man--probably, indeed,
not, for Nelson's face was not characteristic of the sea--but whoever he
was, even if he were an archbishop, I," said the painter firmly, "should
not hesitate to go up to him and ask him to sit to me."

The friend agreed that this was a very proper attitude and that it
betokened true sincerity of purpose.

"Nelson's face," the painter continued, "was an uncommon one. So large
and so mobile a mouth is rare. But it is by no means impossible that a
duplicate exists, and no matter who was the owner of it, even were he an
archbishop, I should not hesitate to go up and ask him to sit to me."

(For the benefit of any feminine reader of this veracious history, I
should say that the repetition which she has just noticed is not a slip
on my part but has been carefully set down. It is an attempt to give
verisimilitude to the conversation--because men have a habit of saying
things like that twice.)

The friend again remarked that the painter's resolve did him infinite
credit, and the two started for the station, still conversing on this
theme.

On entering their carriage the first thing to take their attention was a
quiet little man in black, who was the absolute double of the hero of
Trafalgar.

"Good gracious!" whispered the painter excitedly, "do you see that?
There's the very man. The likeness to Nelson is astonishing. I never saw
anything like it. I don't care who he is, I must tackle him. It's the
most extraordinary chance that ever occurred."

Assuming his most silky and deferential manner--for, though clearly not
an archbishop, unless in mufti, this might yet be a person of
importance--the painter approached the stranger and tendered a card.

"I trust, sir, that you will excuse me," he began, "for the liberty I am
taking, but I am an artist and I happen to be engaged on a picture of
Nelson on the _Victory_. I have all the accessories and so forth, but
what I very seriously need is a brief sitting from some gentleman with a
likeness to the great Admiral. Such, sir, as yourself. It may be news to
you--it probably is--but you, sir, if I may say so, are so like the
famous and immortal warrior as almost to take one's breath away. It is
astonishing, wonderful! Might I--would it be--could you--would you, sir,
be so very kind as to allow me to paint you? I would, of course, make
every effort not to inconvenience you--I would arrange so that your time
should be mine."

"Of course I will, guvnor," said the man. "Being a professional model,
I've been sitting for Nelson for years. Why, I've been doing it for an
artist this very afternoon."



DAVY JONES


A naval gentleman of importance having asked me who the original Davy
Jones was, I was rendered mute and ashamed. The shame ought properly to
have been his, since he is in the Admiralty, where the secrets of the
sea should be known, and is covered with buttons and gold braid; but
there is caprice in these matters, and it is I (as a defaulting literary
person) who felt it.

I left with bent head, determined, directly I reached London and books
were again accessible, to find the answer. But have I found it? You
shall decide.

I began with a "Glossary of Sea Terms," which is glib enough about the
meaning of Davy Jones's locker but silent as to derivation. I passed on
to "The Oxford Dictionary," there to find the meaning more precisely
stated, after directions how to pronounce Davy's name. You or I would
assume that he should be pronounced as he is spelt: just Davy; but the
late Dr. Murray knew better. You don't say Davy; you say _Dee.vi_.
Having invented and solved these difficulties, the Dictionary proceeds:
"Nautical slang. The spirit of the sea, the sailor's devil. Davy Jones's
locker: the ocean, the deep, especially as the grave of those who perish
at sea." Among the authors cited is Smollett in "Peregrine Pickle," and
also one J. Willock, to whom I shall return later.

Still on the search for an origin of Davy Jones I went next to "The
Dictionary of National Biography" (which, if only you could get it
ashore, is, no matter what the pundits say as to the Bible and Boswell
and Plato and "The Golden Treasury," and so forth, the best book for a
desert island), and there I found no fewer than eight David Joneses, all
of course Welsh, not one of whom, however, could possibly claim any
connexion with our hero; three being hymn-writers and antiquaries, one a
revivalist, one a soldier and translator, one a barrister, one a
missionary to Madagascar (the only one who knew anything of the sea),
and one a mad preacher whose troubles caused his "coal-black hair to
turn milk-white in a night"--as mine seemed likely soon to do. However,
I then bethought me of what I should have done first, and seeking the
shelves where "Notes and Queries" reside was at once rewarded. For
"Notes and Queries" had tackled the problem and done with it as long ago
as 1851. On June 14 of that year Mr. Henry Campkin requested the little
paper (which, since Captain Cuttle provided it with its excellent motto,
should have a certain friendliness towards nautical questions) to help
him. Mr. Campkin, however, did not, as my Admiralty friend did, say, "By
the way, who the devil _was_ Davy Jones?" He asked, as a gentleman
should, in gentlemanly, if precise, terms: "Who was the important
individual whose name has become so powerful a myth? And what occasioned
the identification of the ocean itself with the locker of this
mysterious person?"

Mr. Campkin, who obviously should have occupied a seat in the House of
Commons, was answered in record time, much quicker than would be his
fortune to-day; for on June 21 Mr. Pemberton, the only reader of "Notes
and Queries" ever to take up the challenge, made his reply, and with
that reply our knowledge begins and ends. Mr. Pemberton said that being
himself a seafarer and having given much consideration to the question,
he had come at length to the conclusion that the name of Davy Jones was
derived from the prophet Jonah (who, of course, was not Welsh at all but
an Israelite). Jonah, if not exactly a sailor, had had his marine
adventures, and in his prayer thus refers to them: "The waters
compassed me about ... the depth closed me round about; the weeds were
wrapped about my head," and so forth. The sea, then, Mr. Pemberton
continued, "might not be misappropriately termed by a rude mariner
Jonah's locker"; while Jonah would naturally soon be familiarised into
Jones, and since all Joneses hail from the country from whose valleys
and mountains Mr. Lloyd George derives his moving perorations, and since
most Welshmen (Mr. Lloyd George being no exception) are named Davy, how
natural that "Davy Jones" should emerge! That was Mr. Pemberton's
theory, and the only one which I have discovered; but I am sure that
Mrs. Gamp would support him--although she might prefer to substitute for
the word "locker" the word which comic military poets always rhyme to
"réveillé."

But, indeed, the more one thinks of it, the more reasonable does the
story seem; for, as Mr. Pemberton might have gone on to say, there is
further evidence for linking up Jonah and Jones in the genus of fish
which swallowed the prophet but failed to retain him. To a dialectician
of any parts the fatal association of whales and Wales would be child's
play. Later I found that Dr. Brewer of "The Dictionary of Phrase and
Fable" supports the Jonah theory whole-heartedly; but he goes on--to my
mind very unnecessarily--to derive "Davy" from "duffy," a West Indian
spirit. Thus, says he, Davy Jones's locker is really Duffy Jonah's
locker--that is, the bottom of the sea, or the place where the sailors
intended to consign Jonah. The confusion is rather comic. First, a man
of God whom the crew throws overboard. Secondly a fish, divinely sent to
save the man of God. Thirdly, the use of the man of God's name to
signify the sailor's devil, with himself as sinister ruler of an element
which he had the best reasons for hating. Thus do myths grow.

So much for Davy Jones. J. Willock, however, another of the authorities
whom "The Oxford Dictionary" cites, plunges us into a further mystery.
In one of his _Voyages_ he says: "The great bugbear of the ocean is
Davie Jones. At the crossing of the line they call out that Davie Jones
and his wife are coming on board...."

"And his wife"!

But with the identity of Mrs. Davy Jones I refuse to concern myself--not
even though the whole Board of Admiralty command it.



THE MAN OF ROSS


I have several reasons for remembering Ross, but the first is that a
visit to that grey hillside town sent me to the authorities for more
particulars concerning John Kyrle. Others are the intensity and density
of the rain that can fall in Herefordshire; the sundial on Wilton
Bridge; and the most elementary Roman Catholic chapel I ever
saw--nothing but a bare room--made, however, when I pushed open the door
on that chill and aqueous afternoon, cheerful and smiling by its full
complement of votive candles all alight at once. In the honour of what
Saint they burned so gaily, like a little mass meeting of flames, I
cannot say, but probably the Gentle Spirit of Padua, who not only
befriends all tender young things but, it is notorious, if properly
approached, can find again whatever you have lost; and most people have
lost something. I remember Ross also because I had Dickens's Letters
(that generous feast) with me, and behold! on the wall of the hotel,
whose name I forget but which overlooks the sinuous Wye, was his
autograph and an intimation that under that very roof the novelist had
arranged with John Forster the details of his last American tour.

But these are digressions. The prime boast of Ross is that it had a Man;
and this Man is immanent. You cannot raise your eyes in Ross without
encountering a reminder of its Manhood, its Manliness; and the
uninstructed, as they wander hither and thither, naturally become more
and more curious as to his identity: how he obtained the definite
article and the capital M so definitely--The Man--and what was his
association with the place.

I cannot lay claim personally to total uninstruction. I remembered
faintly Pope's lines which made the fame of the Man, but I retained only
a general impression of them as praising a public benefactor who did
astonishing things on a very small income and thus was to put to shame
certain men of wealth in Pope's day who did for their fellow creatures
nothing at all. But nowhere could I find the lines. The guide-books
refer to them lightly as though they were in every consciousness, and
pass on. No shop had a copy of Pope; none of the picture post-cards
quoted them; they were not on the monument in the church; they were
nowhere in the hotel. And this is odd, because it was probably not until
the illustrious London poet had set the seal of his approval on their
late townsman and benefactor that the people of Ross realised not only
how very remarkable had he been, but also that to be associated with
such a personage might mean both distinction and profit. For the phrase
"The Man of Ross" is now everywhere: he who once fathered orphans and
the unfortunate now spreads his cloak over tea-shops, inns, and
countless commercial ventures.

Here, however, is the passage, from the third _Moral Epistle_. P. the
poet, it will be recalled, is moralising on riches, in metrical
conversation with B.--Lord Bathurst:--

    P. Rise, honest Muse! and sing the Man of Ross:
      Pleased Vaga echoes through her winding bounds,
      And rapid Severn hoarse applause resounds.
      Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow?
      From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?
      Not to the skies in useless columns tost,
      Or in proud falls magnificently lost,
      But clear and artless, pouring through the plain
      Health to the sick and solace to the swain.
      Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?
      Whose seats the weary traveller repose?
      Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise?
      "The Man of Ross," each lisping babe replies.
      Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread!
      The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread;
      He feeds yon almshouse, neat, but void of state,
      Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate;
      Him portioned maids, apprenticed orphans, blessed
      The young who labour, and the old who rest.
      Is any sick? The Man of Ross relieves,
      Prescribes, attends, the med'cine makes and gives.
      Is there a variance? enter but his door,
      Balk'd are the courts, and contest is no more.
      Despairing Quacks with curses fled the place,
      And vile attorneys, now an useless race.

    B. Thrice happy man! enabled to pursue
      What all so wish, but want the power to do!
      Oh say, what sums that generous hand supply?
      What mines, to swell that boundless charity?

    P. Of Debts and Taxes, Wife and Children clear,
      This man possest--five hundred pounds a year.
      Blush, Grandeur, blush! proud Courts, withdraw your blaze!
      Ye, little Stars! hide your diminished rays.

    B. And what? no monument, inscription, stone?
      His race, his form, his name almost unknown?

    P. Who builds a church to God, and not to fame,
      Will never mark the marble with his name:
      Go, search it there,[1] where to be born and die,
      Of rich and poor makes all the history;
      Enough, that Virtue filled the space between;
      Prov'd, by the ends of being, to have been.

[Footnote 1: In the Parish Register.]

If the impression conveyed by those lines is that the Man of Ross was
more of a saint than a Herefordshire squire, the fault is the poet's and
in part his medium's. The Augustan couplet tended to a heightening,
dehumanising effect. As a matter of fact, John Kyrle would seem to have
soared not at all: the plainest and most direct of men, he took to
altruism and municipal improvements very much as his neighbours took to
agriculture or cock-fighting. It was his amusement or hobby to make Ross
a more livable-in place.

But before the poem is examined more closely, let me give the outline of
John Kyrle's life. His father was Walter Kyrle of Ross, a barrister and
J.P., and M.P. for Leominster in the Long Parliament. John was born on
May 22nd, 1637, and educated at Ross Grammar School and Balliol College.
He then passed on to the Middle Temple, but on succeeding to his
father's property, worth about £600 a year, he settled down at Ross and
commenced philanthropy, and never relaxed his efforts until his death
many years later. He lived in the house opposite the very charming
Market-hall, unmarried, and cared for by a relation named Miss Judith
Bubb. He sat commonly in a huge and very solid chair, established on its
stout legs like a rock, which I saw not long since in the window of Mr.
Simmonds' old curiosity shop in Monmouth, where it serves as a show and
a lure. According to a portrait of the Man of Ross which exists, made
surreptitiously (for he would have none of your limners) as he sat at
worship, he was tall, broad-shouldered, of sanguine complexion, with a
big nose. He wore a brown suit and a short bushy wig, and he had a loud
voice. He visited a dame's school once a week, and on hearing of any
delinquency would reprimand the infant in these words: "Od's bud, Od's
bud, but I will mend you!" A burly man with a red face, big nose, and
loud voice speaking thus might, to the young, be a too terrifying
object, but we must guess that John Kyrle tempered the wind. "The
Dictionary of National Biography" says that although tradition gives
Kyrle credit for releasing poor debtors and starting them on new
careers, and that although for so long, as Pope tells us, he stood
between attorney and litigant, the law was ultimately too much for him,
and he too became involved in a suit. He lived to be eighty-seven, dying
of sheer old age on November 7th, 1724. His body lay in state in the
church of Ross for nine days and was then buried without a head-stone.

For the prose of Kyrle's life and achievements, as distinguished from
Pope's poetry, we have to go first to the diary of Thomas Hearn the
antiquary. Under the date April 9th, 1732-33, Hearn writes: "He (John
Kirle or Kyrle) was a very humble, good-natured man. He was a man of
little or no literature. He always studied to do what good charitable
offices he could, and was always pleased when an object offered. He was
reverenced and respected by all people. He used to drink and entertain
with cider, and was a sober discreet man. He would tell people when they
dined or supped with him that he could (if they pleased) let them have
wine to drink, but that his own drink was cider, and that he found it
most agreeable to him, and he did not care to be extravagant with his
small fortune. His estate was five hundred pounds per annum, and no
more, with which he did wonders. He built and endowed a hospital, and
built the spire of Ross. When any litigious suits fell out, he would
always stop them and prevent people's going to law. They would, when
differences happened, say, go to 'the great man of Ross,' or, which they
did more often, go to 'the man of Ross,' and he will decide the matter.
He left a nephew, a man good for little or nothing. He would have given
all from him, but a good deal being entailed he could not. He smoked
tobacco, and would generally smoke two pipes if in company, either at
home or elsewhere."

A year later Hearn corrected certain of these statements. Thus: "1734.
April 16. Mr. Pope had the main of his information about Mr. Kirle,
commonly called _the Man of Ross_ (whom he characterizeth in his poem of
the 'Use of Riches') from Jacob Tonson the book-seller, who hath
purchased an estate of about a thousand a year, and lives in
Herefordshire, a man that is a great, snivelling, poor-spirited whigg,
and good for nothing that I know of. Mr. Brome tells me in his letter
from Ewithington on November 23rd, 1733, that he does not think the
truth is strained in any particulars of the character, except it be in
his being founder of the church and spire of Ross ... but he was a great
benefactor; and at the re-casting of the bells gave a tenor, a large
bell. Neither does Mr. Brome find he was founder of any hospital, and he
thinks his knowledge in medicine extended no further than kitchen
physick, of which he was very liberal, and might thereby preserve many
lives.

"April 18. Yesterday Mr. Matthew Gibson, minister of Abbey Dore in
Herefordshire, just called upon me. I asked him whether he knew Mr.
Kirle, commonly called _the Man of Ross_. He said he did very well, and
that his (Mr. Matthew Gibson's) wife is his near relation; I think he
said he was her uncle. I told him the said _Man of Ross_ was an
extraordinary charitable, generous man, and did much good. He said he
did do a great deal of good, but that was all out of vanity and
ostentation, being the vainest man living, and that he always hated his
relations and would never look upon, or do anything for them, though
many of them were very poor. I know not what credit to give to Mr.
Gibson in that account, especially since this same Gibson hath more than
once, in my presence, spoke inveterately against that good honest man
Dr. Adam Ottley, late Bishop of St. David's. Besides, this Gibson is a
crazed man, and withall stingy, though he be rich, and hath no child by
his wife."

Another authority, more or less a contemporary, on the Man of Ross was
Thomas Hutcheson, barrister, a descendant who became the owner of
Kyrle's property. According to him Pope's questioning line:--

    Who hung with woods yon mountain's sultry brow?

rather too sumptuously covers the planting of a "long shady walk, of
nearly a mile and a half ... called Kyrle's Walks, on the summit of the
eminence commanding a beautiful prospect of the Wye." The poet's next
query:--

    From the dry rock who bade the waters flow?

is answered thus: "The Man of Ross promoted, and partly assisted by his
own pecuniary aid, the erection of a small water work near the river
Wye, which supplied the town of Ross with water, in which article it was
very deficient before," A further commentary was drawn from Mr.
Hutcheson by the couplet:--

    Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread!
    The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread.

"He kept open house every market-day; any person without distinction
might meet on that day at his hospitable board, which, according to the
stories related to me by some old tenants, consisted of a joint of meat
of each sort. The poor, who were always in waiting on that day, and
every other, had distributed to them, by his own superintendence, the
whole of the remains of each day, besides continual distributions of
bread, etc."

As to Pope's question:--

    Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?

it seems that the poet was desperately out. The causeway connecting the
town with the river dated from before the fourteenth century, but Kyrle
probably saw to its proper maintenance.

Finally, let us see what the Sage of Fleet Street has to say to the
statement:--

    The Man possest--five hundred pounds a year,

and its implication that everything was done on that sum. In the
critical notice of Pope in "The Lives of the Poets," Dr. Johnson
remarks: "Wonders are willingly told and willingly heard. The truth is,
that Kyrle was a man of known integrity and active benevolence, by whose
solicitation the wealthy were persuaded to pay contributions to his
charitable schemes; this influence he obtained by an example of
liberality exerted to the utmost extent of his power, and was thus
enabled to give more than he had. This account Mr. Victor received from
the Minister of the place, and I have preserved it, that the praise of a
good man being made more credible, may be more solid. Narrations of
romantic and impracticable virtue will be read with wonder, but that
which is unattainable is recommended in vain; that good may be
endeavoured, it must be shown to be practicable."

So much for all the advocates--angeli and diaboli! But I think we need
pay little attention to Mr. Gibson's testimony. Even though he were in
part right, and a tinge of self-esteem or love of applause crept into
the Man's benefactions, they remain benefactions no less, costing him as
much money, and reaching the same goals. But away with such belittlings!
Let us rather remember that the Rev. Matthew Gibson was crazed, stingy
withal, and had no child by his wife. Personally I agree with my friend
Mr. A. L. Humphreys, who has put it on record that, in his belief, it
would be a good thing if every parish had a Man of Ross in preference
to a parson. No harm necessarily in a parson as well, but the Man is
more important.

At least one more poetical tribute from genius did John Kyrle win. Among
the _Juvenile Poems_ of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is this:--

_Lines written at the King's Arms, Ross, formerly the house of the "Man
of Ross."_

    Richer than Miser o'er his countless hoards,
    Nobler than Kings, or king-polluted Lords,
    Here dwelt the Man of Ross! O, Traveller, hear!
    Departed Merit claims a reverent tear.
    Friend to the friendless, to the sick man health,
    With generous joy he viewed his modest wealth;
    He heard the widow's heaven-breathed prayer of praise,
    He marked the sheltered orphan's tearful gaze,
    Or where the sorrow-shrivelled captive lay,
    Poured the bright blaze of Freedom's noon-tide ray.
    Beneath this roof if thy cheered moments pass,
    Fill to the good man's name one grateful glass:
    To higher zest shall Memory wake thy soul,
    And Virtue mingle in the ennobled bowl.
    But if, like me, through life's distressful scene
    Lonely and sad thy pilgrimage hath been;
    And if thy breast with heart-sick anguish fraught,
    Thou journeyest onward tempest-tossed in thought;
    Here cheat thy cares! in generous visions melt,
    And dream of goodness thou hast never felt!

The sad and lonely poet, tempest-tossed in thought, who wrote those
lines, was then twenty-one, on a walking tour with his friend Hucks,
trying to construct Pantisocracy and forget Mary Evans.

For one "of little or no literature" the Man of Ross did not do so
badly.

But there was even more honour to come. When, in 1876, the late Miranda
Hill addressed a public letter to "Those who love Beautiful Things," and
called upon her readers to help in getting more sweetness and light into
the homes of the poor, and particularly the poor of London, the response
took the form of a Society to which the name of John Kyrle was (at the
suggestion of Mr. Benjamin Nattalie) given: the Kyrle Society. During
its many years of activity, the Kyrle Society has done much to realise
the idealism of its founders--for with Miranda Hill was associated her
sister, the late Octavia Hill, that indomitable fighter for all that is
good and ameliorative in life, whom, in her serene old age, a symphony
in grey and silver, I used often to see walking on that height above
Crockham Hill which her energies acquired for the nation as an open
space for ever. In a speech which she made at one of the meetings of the
Kyrle Society not long before her death, Octavia Hill thus summed up
certain of the needs which that excellent organisation strove to supply.
"Men, women, and children," she said, "want more than food, shelter,
and warmth. They want, if their lives are to be full and good, space
near their homes for exercise, quiet, good air, and sight of grass,
trees, and flowers; they want colour, which shall cheer them in the
midst of smoke and fog; they want music, which shall contrast with the
rattle of the motors and lift their hearts to praise and joy; they want
suggestion of nobler and better things than those that surround them day
by day.... I assure you that I believe these things have more influence
on the spirit than we are at all accustomed to remember. They cultivate
a sense of dignity and self-respect, as well as breaking the monotony of
life."

These things has the Kyrle Society dispensed and will continue to
dispense, among its countless and noble activities; and it is pleasant
to think that that stolid old Man of Ross, in this new incarnation, has
become so imaginatively sympathetic. How little can he ever have thought
of this transmutation of his kindly busy-bodydom into something so fine
and rare! But it was a true instinct which set his ancient name on the
modern banner; and if ever a new motto is called for, the merits of
"Od's bud, Od's bud, but I will mend you!" should be considered.

[Illustration: LAURA COMBINES BREAKFAST AND PHILANTHROPY. _See "The
Innocent's Progress"--Plate 3_]



THE INNOCENT'S PROGRESS


One thing leads to another, and had I not entered Mr. Simmonds' old
curiosity shop in Monmouth to make inquiries about the Man of Ross's
arm-chair, which nearly fills the window, I might never have met with
"The Elegant Girl," and "The Elegant Girl" is one of the comeliest books
I ever coveted.

Having asked all my questions about the chair, which has much of the
stern solidity of a fortress, I went upstairs and immediately was
rejoiced by the sight of one of the engravings (Plate 2) which are
reproduced in this volume. It was one, said Mr. Simmonds, of a series,
and he showed me eight others--nine in all--each with its moral verses
underneath--and I was enchanted, so delicate is the colouring and so
distinguished the design, so naïve the educational method and so easy
the triumph. The reproductions here are absurdly small--the size of the
originals is 9-1/2 inches wide by 6 high--but though they give nothing
of the tinting they retain something of the spirit, and the very
striking composition is unimpaired by reduction.

Mr. Simmonds thought nine a complete set, but I felt that an even number
was more probable, and, in time, was proved to be right; but it was long
before I could obtain sight of the other three and discover that they
belonged to a book and had been taken from their binding to decorate a
nursery's walls. There are excitements in this form of hunt--_la chasse
au bouquin_--commensurate with those that accelerate the pulses of
wearers of pink coats, and some were mine as the scent grew hot and
hotter. My first coverts were the print shops, but they were blank; then
I drew the famous Bloomsbury spinneys, both the Reading Room and the
Print Room, but they were blank too; and then, tally ho! away to the
South Kensington gorse. It was here I had the luck to ascertain--through
a reference to Tuer's "Pages and Pictures"--that "The Elegant Girl" was
a book; and forthwith I turned to my friends the booksellers, and in
High Street, Marylebone, got directly on the trail, which took me to
Hampstead, where a copy of the work (the only one of which I have yet
heard) was run to earth. It is this copy that now lies before me--the
property of Mr. C. T. Owen, a famous collector of what the trade calls
"juveniles," who has very kindly permitted the plates to be photographed
for the present volume.

Mr. Simmonds thought the drawings the work of Adam Buck, an artist of
child life, who has lately been the mode; but London experts differ. No
doubt (they say) Buck's influence is apparent, but no more. The only
name is that of Alais, the engraver, on the title-page, and I do not
find that Alais ever worked for Buck, but there are at South Kensington
child scenes by Singleton engraved by him. "The Elegant Girl" may be
Singleton's. Equally may the designs be by a foreigner, for there is a
distinctly foreign suggestion here and there, notably in the furniture.
The plates are not aquatints but were coloured by hand: the extreme
scarcity of the volume probably being due to this circumstance, only a
small edition having been prepared and that, I should imagine, at a high
figure. To-day, of course, the value of the book is vastly higher.

All, or very nearly all, the old-fashioned writers for children had but
one purpose animating their breasts; and that purpose was to make
children better. I don't say that to-day we try to make them worse; but
their naughtiness can amuse us, as apparently it never could our
ancestors, and wild flowers can be preferred to the products of the
formal parterre. Even Miss Edgeworth came out nominally as "The Parents'
Assistant," although her native kindliness and sense of narrative were
too much for her; and even she thought of the child too much as plastic
material. Children as children excited little interest; but a child as a
progressive moral animal, susceptible of moulding, a potential adult and
citizen, was worth making books for, if in return it was responsive and
mended its ways. There were of course a few books for the young which
told an honest story--Charles and Mary Lamb's "Tales from Shakespeare"
and "Mrs. Leicester's School" are early and shining examples--but the
idea of amusement for amusement's sake was rare. And nonsense for the
young, which later was to become a cult, did not exist before Edward
Lear. Nothing can, of course, happen out of its time, and therefore the
speculation is idle; but none the less it would be entertaining to
visualise the effect of "Alice in Wonderland" on the little Fairchilds.
What would Mr. Fairchild say to it? The work of a clergyman, too! Would
not he return with renewed relish to the congenial task of repeating to
his brood Biblical verses illustrating the wickedness of man's heart?

(Incidentally--but this is not the place, for "The Elegant Girl" is
waiting--there are some interesting reflections to be recorded on the
circumstance that the entertainment of the young has never been in such
willing and safe hands as those of the celibates. All the writers I
have just glanced at (save Mrs. Sherwood) were unmarried. This need not
be taken as any aspersion upon matrimony--there must be marriage and
giving in marriage in order that little readers may exist--but it ought
to be remembered whenever the single state is under criticism. Think of
the injustice of the foreshadowed Bachelor Tax falling upon Lewis
Carroll!)

"The Elegant Girl," the date of which is 1813, sets out to improve too,
for this is the title: "The Elegant Girl, or Virtuous Principles the
True Source of Elegant Manners"; but its lessons are so unprejudiced and
persuasive that no one can object. Moreover, a very exceptional artistic
talent was employed: the best available rather than the cheapest. With
such attractive jam, who could resent the pill? Alone, the pictures do
very little in the didactic way, but to the detached artist came an ally
in the shape of a gentle--and probably, I think, female--bard. Each of
the twelve drawings has a six-lined stanza to drive home the picture and
inculcate a maxim of sound and refined behaviour.

In the first plate Laura (the elegant girl is, of course, named Laura)
is seen in her little bedroom at her morning prayers, and, thus
fortified, she then goes through the day in eleven episodes, all
tending, as the Americans say, to uplift. Washed and dressed, she
joins, in Plate No. 2, her mother at early lessons in a charming library
such as neither Vermeer nor Whistler would have disdained. According to
the verses, Laura is careless of "what becomes her best," but to the
casual male eye she seems to have chosen her trousers with no little
discretion. Having sufficiently "explored the arts and sciences," she
is, in Plate No. 3, ready for breakfast, again with her mother. Her
father was--where? Possibly he was dead; possibly (the date is 1813) at
the wars; probably still in bed. At any rate his daughter passes her day
of edification entirely without his assistance.

Breakfast affords the opportunity of a lesson in practical philanthropy,
for chance sends a beggar to the window, and Laura craves, and is
granted, permission to give him food and drink. In Plate No. 4 she has a
music lesson--a lesson that "is not thrown away," for

    By Science taught with taste to play,
    She'll charm erewhile the listening throng
    And sing with modest grace her song.

In Plate No. 5, having slipped a red smock over her dress, but still
retaining the captivating trousers, Laura practises painting. In No. 6,
substituting a purple smock for the red one, she teaches the little
villagers their A.B.C.--a form of altruistic employment which those

          can best approve
    Who virtue and religion love.

In Plate No. 7, Laura, in yellow, acquires the rudiments of obedience
and refrains from eating forbidden fruit. In Plate No. 8, in green, she
carries food to an aged dame. In Plate No. 9, in blue, she brings a cup
of broth to her mother, who, "languid and pale," reclines, like Madame
Récamier, on an exceedingly uncomfortable couch. It is thus that Laura,

                  in early days,
    Maternal tenderness repays.

The chief difficulty of any series of this kind is, artists tell me, to
preserve the likenesses throughout. In the case of "The Elegant Girl" it
has been fairly successfully overcome, but Laura, who at her orisons
looks years older than when becomingly trousered, is never again so
charming a child as in the library before breakfast; while, in the Plate
which we have now reached, her mother's severe Greek profile, so
noticeable at that frugal meal, has completely vanished. But, take it
all round, the series is maintained with credibility and a sprightly
realism.

In Plate No. 10 the mother is sufficiently recovered to play the harp
while Laura bounds light on agile feet. In No. 11 Laura visits the
impoverished sick, and, by reading the "sacred page,"

    Dries up the widow's scalding tears,
    Exalts her hopes and calms her fears.

And finally, in crimson, she is presented by her mother with the guerdon
of her day's good conduct, which consists of several boxes of odds and
ends labelled "Gifts for the Poor," including a large number of top
hats--

    Gifts for the Poor her own Reward,
    For Laura felt and understood
    The Luxury of doing Good.

Such is the pretty, unobtrusive didactic scheme of "The Elegant Girl."
That it is now all out of date I am only too well aware; but it would do
no great harm if a reprint of the book found its way into a few modern
homes.



THOUGHTS AT THE FERRY


My acquaintance among ferrymen is not extensive, but I cannot remember
any that were cheerful. Perhaps there are none. The one over there at
this moment, on the other side, for whom we are waiting and who is being
so deliberate--he certainly has no air of gaiety.

There is a wealth of reasons for this lack of mirth. To begin with, a
boat on a river is normally a vehicle of pleasure; but the ferryman's
boat is a drudge. Then, the ordinary course of a boat on a river is up
or down, between banks that can provide excitement, and around bends,
each one of which may reveal adventure; but the ferryman's boat must
constantly cross from side to side, always from the same spot to the
same spot and back again, which is subversive of joy. All that the
ferryman knows of the true purposes of a river he gains from observation
of others, who gaily pass him, pulling with the stream or against it,
and singing, perhaps, as they row. Did a ferryman ever sing? There was,
when I was a boy, a pretty song about Twickenham Ferry, but my
recollections of it are that it was the passenger who sang: not, I
fancy, in the boat, but before he entered it. If my memory is right, the
fact is significant. In the company of such taciturnity and gloom who
could carol?

The ferryman, again, must never leave his post. All the world may go
wayfaring, but not he. To cross a river is in itself nothing; but to
come, from somewhere unknown, to the bank of the river, cross it, and
pass on to unknown bournes on the other side--that is an enterprise, and
that is what every one but the ferryman is doing. I have written
elsewhere--it is a recurring theme of sympathy--of the servants of the
traveller who live by helping him on his eventful way but never
participate in any wanderings--railway porters, for example--and the
ferryman is perhaps chief, because so much of the very matter of
romance--a running stream--comes into his daily routine. There he is, in
the open air, with the breeze to fan and lure him, and the racing clouds
to lift his thoughts, and the exciting sound of water in his ears: all
the enticements to rove, but he must not be a rover. For the rest of us
(as it must seem to him), exploration; for himself, the narrow confines
of the known!

And it is a peculiarity of ferrymen that when you want them they are
(like this reluctant fellow) always on the other side. Not from any
natural desire to annoy, but through a whim of the gods; yet to have to
come over empty, how it must add fuel to their misanthropic fire! If
every journey were with a fare the ferryman might be a shade more
cheerful, even though the payment is so trifling. Was there ever a rich
ferryman? Has a whimsical millionaire ever played at being a ferryman?
Has a Carnegie ever left a ferryman a legacy?

And then the brevity of their companionships! Not that most ferrymen
seem to desire human intercourse; but perhaps they did once, before the
monotony of their task soured them. Down to the boat come the strangers
from the great world--young or old, forbidding or beautiful, ardent or
pensive--and howsoever the ferryman would like to hold them and talk
with them, no sooner does the boat touch the farther bank than they are
off again! Does not that make for a certain moroseness?

And what was the ferryman before he was a ferryman? For seldom, I should
guess, is his an hereditary post. Some kind of failure normally
precedes; and there again is cause for reticence.

Such friends as ferrymen possess are usually dumb animals. I have known
more than one who carried his dog with him; and once, on the Wye, I met
one whose companion was a goose. No matter how often the crossing had to
be made, the goose made it too. I used the ferry several times, and we
were never without this escort; and the ferryman (who, I am bound to
remark, humiliating though it be, propelled his boat from side to side,
not with honest oars, but by means of a rope) emerged sufficiently from
his apathy to praise the bird's fidelity. "Here," thought I, "is surely
the material for a pertinent apologue. 'The Ferryman and the Goose': the
very title is Æsopian. Or--to be more satirical--the title might be 'The
Ferryman and the Swan,' the point being that he thought it was a swan,
but in reality it was only a goose." But I had no further inspiration.
And yet, by a practised homilist, a good deal could be done with it with
which to score off poor human nature. "Ah! my friends"--surely it is
fittest for the pulpit, after all--"ah! my friends may not each of us be
as much in error as that poor deluded ferryman? Let us search our hearts
and answer truthfully the questions: Do we know our friends as we ought?
Does not their flattery perhaps blind us to their mediocrity? In short,
are they swans or geese?"

Ferrymen----

But here is our man at last! On close inspection how dismal he looks!

[Illustration: LAURA'S MUSIC LESSON. _See "The Innocent's
Progress"--Plate 4_]



A LITTLE CHILD


The decision that the governess-cart must be given up meant that a new
owner for Polly must be found.

Polly is a roan pony; very round in the barrel, and particularly so of
late, when there has been no food but meadow-grass. She had been with us
(this is my neighbour's story, as told to me during the War: a very
charming neighbour who keeps her temper at croquet)--Polly had been with
us so long as to become, as ponies peculiarly can, a member of the
family, so that to part with her savoured of treachery. Necessity,
however, knows no law and sanctifies no memory, and the distasteful
preparations were therefore begun. The first was the framing of the
advertisement; which is not the simple matter that it might appear to
be, because so much depends upon the choice of adjective: the selected
word must both allure and (in our case) keep within the bounds of truth.
What are the qualities most valued in a pony, we had to ask ourselves.
Celerity? Polly was fixed in her determination not to exceed the speed
limit, at any rate on outward journeys. Willingness? Polly could be
desperately stubborn. Strength? Yes, she was strong. Youth? Well, she
came to us ten years ago and she was no foal then. After much serious
deliberation, compared with which Versailles Conferences are mere
exchanges of persiflage, it was decided to describe Polly either as
"strong useful pony" or "useful strong pony." Further deliberations
fixed the phrase as "Pony, strong, useful," and the advertisement was
despatched to the local rag, as our very worthy county chronicle is too
often called.

Next came the question of what price was to be asked. Here expert
opinion was resorted to, in the shape of Mr. Edmead, the butcher. No one
knows more about ponies than butchers do, and Mr. Edmead is
exceptionally wise.

"Taking everything into consideration," he said, "I think that
twenty-five pounds would be a fair price."

We clung to each other for support. Twenty-five pounds! And we had given
only nine pounds all those years ago. Why had we not made pony-breeding
a hobby? The War, Mr. Edmead went on to explain, had rendered ponies
more valuable. Yes, taking everything into consideration, twenty-five
pounds was a fair price. We ought to get that. In fact, if he had been
in need of a pony he would have given that himself; but just then he was
well supplied, and Polly was, he feared, not quite fast enough for him.
Good morning.

Men who want to buy a pony have a strong resemblance to each other. They
are clean-shaven and wear hard round hats, and the collars of their
overcoats are carelessly treated so that they are half up and half down.
They carry sticks. Also, although they want a pony, they don't want one
at quite such a figure. All the men who came to see Polly were
furthermore alike in agreeing that she was no doubt a useful strong
pony, even a strong useful pony, but she was not for them. Day after day
Polly was examined. They opened her mouth and shook their heads, they
felt her knees and her hocks, they looked at her with narrow eyes from
near by and from far, they rattled their sticks in their hard hats, they
gave her sudden cuts and prods. But they didn't buy.

We began to get desperate. Much as we esteemed Polly, now that she was
to be sold we wanted to be rid of her. Things should be done quickly.
And then came a market gardener, a large, rubicund, genial man named
Fox. And Polly was again led forth and again subjected to every test
known to pony-buyers. All was going well, and would have gone well, but
for Vivian.

Who, you ask, is Vivian? We should be better prepared for the irruption
of new characters. True, but this is not my story, but my nice
neighbour's.

Vivian is a small boy who had known Polly all his life, and who by some
mischance wandered out from his lessons in the morning-room at the
precise moment when Mr. Fox, who obviously was attracted by Polly, was
making up his mind to pay the full money. Vivian, I should explain, is
one of those ingratiating little boys who look upon the world as a
sphere existing solely to provide them with friends, and who attach
themselves with the strongest bands to open-air manual labourers. No
sooner did Vivian see Mr. Fox's benevolent features than he added him to
his collection.

"Run away, Vivian," I said. "It's not play-time yet, and we're busy."

"Are you going to buy Polly?" Vivian asked Mr. Fox by way of a suitable
rejoinder to my command.

"I was thinking about it," said Mr. Fox, adding to me, "How old do you
call her, ma'am? She looks to me about twelve."

The figure was so low that I nodded assent, but Vivian spoilt it by
exclaiming, "Oh, mother, and Mr. Brooks says she's seventeen if she's a
day, and I'm sure she's a day."

Mr. Fox became thoughtful. "Mr. Brooks said that, did he?" he remarked.

I felt that I couldn't tell Vivian again to go in, because it would look
as though I feared his frankness; which, to be candid, I did. All I
could do was to hope for the best.

"She's quiet enough; used to traffic and all that?" Mr. Fox asked.

Then Vivian began to laugh. This trick of laughter over
retrospection--chewing the cud of old jokes--we have always rather
admired in him; his chuckles are very engaging; but now I trembled, and
not without reason.

"Don't you remember, mother," he began, "that day when she was
frightened by the traction engine and ran into the grocer's shop?"

Mr. Fox, in whose large hand my son's minute one was now reposing,
looked grave.

"That's against her in my business," he said.

"Oh, but," I explained, "that was a very long time ago. She's quite
steady now. Don't you remember, Vivian, it was on your fifth birthday?"

"No," said Vivian, "that was on my seventh birthday--something funny
always happens on my birthdays," he explained to Mr. Fox--"it was on my
fifth birthday that Polly fell down."

"She's been down, has she?" said Mr. Fox ominously.

The rest of it is too tragic. I had no intention of concealing anything;
Mr. Edmead knew the pony's whole history when he valued her; but
Vivian's presence made me nervous, painfully self-conscious; I felt my
face burning and knew that I must suggest duplicity.

Mr. Fox, I will admit, played the game. He asked Vivian no questions;
indeed he talked of other things than defective ponies; but I could see
his mind working; I could see pound after pound dropping away from the
grand total.

Well, that's the story. Mr. Fox led Polly away some ten minutes later,
leaving in her stead a cheque. But it was not for twenty-five
pounds--Vivian saw to that.

The moral? The moral is: when your husband is in Mesopotamia and the
time comes to sell the pony, lock your cherubic son in the nursery.



A DEVONSHIRE INN


To enter a strange town on foot and unencumbered--leaving one's bag at
the station or sending it on in advance--is a prudent course, for it
liberates the traveller to select his inn at his ease. A man carrying
luggage is not free; the bag in a way pledges him, at any rate proclaims
the fact that he is a traveller and will probably need a bed, and makes
it the more difficult for him to extricate himself from the hostel that
within doors has failed to come up to the promise of the exterior--as
too often is the hostel's habit.

All unburdened, then, I entered Kingsbridge at lunch-time at the top of
its steep main street, and as I walked down it I cast my glances this
side and that to see which inn seemed most promising. The woman who, at
Yealmpton, had given me some bread and cheese, had named the "Anchor" as
the best. A man who had beaten me at billiards at Devonport had
mentioned another; and, left to myself, I found myself more taken by the
façade of a third.

I did, however, nothing rash; I looked carefully at all, and then I
entered the one with the agreeable façade and asked for lunch.

Never have I done a wiser thing.

It is odd how trifling are the determining factors in some of the most
momentous decisions that face us in life. Here was I alone, and tired,
and in a strange part of the country, with the necessity before me of
finding "a home from home" for three or four days, and yet, even without
entering any of the other inns, I agreed to stay in this one. And why?
Well, a little because the landlord (a big, strong, leisurely man with a
white beard and a massive head), who himself did the waiting, was
pleasant and attentive, and a little because his daughter, who had
charge of the bar, was attentive and pleasant. But the real reason was
pickled onions. Such was the excellence of these divine roots that I let
everything else go. Nights might be bad, but lunches and dinners would
be good: for were there not these onions, pickled according to a recipe
of the host's mother, now with God, in her day famous for the best ways
of preserving and curing and, indeed, of doing everything that a good
housewife should? The enthusiasm displayed by this patriarchal Boniface
for his mother was perfectly charming, its novelty being part of its
charm. Very big landlords with white beards and footfalls that shake
the house do not, as a rule, talk about their mothers at all. Should
they, through strange martial vicissitudes, come, as this one had done,
to wait at table, they wait and go. But this one hovered, and talked
reverently of his mother's household genius, giving me the while such
delicious proofs of it that I could not have torn myself away.

To those exquisite esculents I shall be eternally grateful, for they
brought me into knowledge of one of the most interesting of inns. It is
a survival; indeed, to my great satisfaction, the word "posting"
occurred in my bill, for a journey by wagonette to a distant village was
thus ennobled. The stables are immense, and contained one horse. The
coach-house is immense, and contained seventeen carriages of various
kinds, from omnibus to dogcart, but chiefly broughams, all in a state of
mouldiness. Coming by degrees to be recognised as a member of the little
family which, by ceaseless activity, ran this unwieldy place--father,
daughter, a superb cook, a maid-servant, and an ostler--I was free to
wander as I would, and exploring the various floors and passages I came
upon a billiard table whose cushions belonged to the Stone Age, and an
assembly-room with a musicians' gallery. In the kitchen I watched at her
mysteries the admirable lady who cooked and carried on the noble
traditions of the landlord's mother as set forth in a manuscript book in
her own hand. In the bar parlour I watched the landlord, according to
the new regulations, water down his spirits, and heard instalments of
his long life, spent wholly, in this "house" and that, in ministering to
the wants of his fellow-creatures--tired, or hungry, or thirsty, but
chiefly thirsty. Then later in the evening the little cosy room would
fill, and I would quietly take my place as one of the best listeners
that its habitués had ever talked to. Listening is an old accomplishment
of mine, and here, amid the friendliest of strangers, I gave it full
play; and you would be surprised to know how much I know of Kingsbridge
life. Probably their surprise would be even greater.

And still I have not really begun to describe this most alluring inn. In
the cellar, for example, there was some '47 port....



ON SHOPS AND STALLS


Most people who do not keep shops have, I suppose, at one time or other
thought that to keep a shop might be fun; of course, keeping it their
own way, selling only what they liked, to whom they liked. No vulgar
trade notions at all! The fact that there is no nursery game so popular
as keeping shop probably proves this. And none is more popular, except,
perhaps, among French country children, who prefer the game of
market--each one presiding over a different stall, stocked with the most
ingenious miniature counterfeits of vegetables and fruit fashioned
chiefly from wild flowers and leaves, and all shouting against each
other with terrific French volubility and not a little French wit.

We seldom go so far as actually to open an establishment, but we play
with the idea. One of my friends has for years projected a London centre
for all the most interesting and vivid European pottery, and if only she
could assemble it and maintain the supply, I have little doubt of her
success. But the chances are that it will never materialize, the people
who _do_ things being so rare. Another is at this moment excitedly
planning a restaurant in a neighbourhood where one seems peculiarly to
be needed, as it is chiefly populated by dwellers in flats, the slogan
of which is to be "Where to dine when cook goes out"; but that, too,
will probably end in talk.

One would say, on the face of it, that a shop opened in a locality where
that kind of shop did not previously exist would have a better chance
than a shop opened next door to another shop of the same kind--apart
from any unpleasantness that such contiguity might produce. But the
methods of business are inscrutable, and there seem to be countless
ways, often in direct opposition to each other, of conducting it
successfully. One would, at the first blush, have called this principle
of scientific selection and segregation the soundest; and yet that of
congregation seems to be just as sensible; so that while one man
succeeds because he is the only tailor in the street, another man can be
even more successful because he is in a street where every other
establishment is a tailor's too. There are also the antagonistic
principles of ostentation and self-effacement, each again apparently
satisfactory: so that one hatter, for example, succeeds because he
inhabits a palace of light, and another because you can hardly see
through the grimy panes of his old-fashioned and obsolete windows. There
are, furthermore, the antipodal theories of singularity and plurality:
so that one draper makes as good a thing as he wants out of a single
shop, and another rises to wealth by dint of opening twenty shops at
once.

And then there are the business people who thrive by apparently doing no
business. We all know of shops which no one was ever seen to enter;
while at the opposite pole are the mandarins of trade who disdain to
disclose their identity to strangers--such as Altman and Tiffany,
serenely secure in their anonymous stores.

But to select one's line...?

There was once a man who, without any special training, decided that he
would start business in London; and he came to town to prospect and make
up his mind, which was curiously blank and receptive. In his walking
about he was struck by the number of old curiosity shops in the
neighbourhood of the British Museum and South Kensington Museum, which
led to the inference, hitherto unsuspected by him, but known to the
dealers, that there is something exciting in the air of those places, so
that the visitor, having seen many odd things, wishes to acquire some
for himself. All his plans to establish himself in London failed,
however, because he could not obtain a site for a monumental mason's
yard opposite Westminster Abbey.

My own ambition, if ever I took to keeping a shop, would be merely to be
in a congenial line of business. Some things are interesting to sell,
and some most emphatically are not. Old books would appear to be an
ideal commodity; but this is far from the case, because I should want
not to sell them but to keep them. Pictures, too--how could one part
with a good one? And, equally, how permit a customer to be so misguided
as to pay money for a bad one? A fruit-shop would be a not unpleasant
place to move about in, were it not that it is one of my profoundest
beliefs that fruit ought not to be sold at all, but given away. The
tobacconist's was once an urbane and agreeable career; but it is so no
longer. To-day the tobacconist is a mere cog in a vast piece of
machinery called a Trust; and the tobacco-shop is as remote from the old
divan, where connoisseurs of the leaf met and tested and talked, as the
modern chemist's, with its photograph frames and "seasonable gifts," is
remote from the home of Rosamund's purple jar.

That ingenious and adventurous tobacconist, Mr. Godall, revisiting the
London which he found, or made, so like Baghdad, would have to discover
a new kind of headquarters. Perhaps he would open an oyster-bar (it was
in an oyster-bar near Leicester Square that the young man proffered the
cream tarts); more likely an American bar. But if he really wanted to
observe human nature at its most vulnerable and impulsive--that is, at
night--he would take a coffee-stall. After ten o'clock, the coffee-stall
men are the truest friends that poor humanity has. There is a
coffee-stall within a few yards of my abode; and no matter at what hour
I return, the keeper of it is always brisk and jovial, with the hottest
beverages that ever were set to timid lips. His stall is surrounded by
hungry and thirsty revellers, chiefly soldiers, not infrequently
accompanied by the fair. Every one calls him by his Christian name, and
every one talks and is jolly. And no matter at what hour in the night I
wake, or from what disconcerting dream, I am always at once secure in my
mind that the old recognisable world is still about me and I have not
passed over in my sleep, because the voices and laughter about the
coffee-stall fill the air. "Good," I say, "I am still here." Now it
would be a pleasant thing, and prove one's life not to have been lived
in vain, to be able to minister in the small hours gaily to so many
heroes, and incidentally to impart to wakeful and disquieted neighbours
reassurance of stability.



THIRD THOUGHTS


It is my destiny (said my friend) to buy in the dearest markets and to
sell--if I succeed in selling at all--in the cheapest. Usually, indeed,
having tired of a picture or decorative article, I have positively to
give it away; almost to make its acceptance by another a personal favour
to me. But the other day was marked by an exception to this rule so
striking that I have been wondering if perhaps the luck has not changed
and I am, after all, destined to be that most enviable thing, a
successful dealer.

It happened thus. In drifting about the old curiosity shops of a
cathedral city I came upon a portfolio of water-colour drawings, among
which was one that to my eye would have been a possible Turner, even if
an earlier owner had not shared that opinion or hope and set the magic
name with all its initials (so often placed in the wrong order) beneath
it.

"How much is this?" I asked scornfully.

"Well," said the dealer, "if it were a genuine Turner it would be worth
anything. But let's say ten shillings. You can have it for that; but I
don't mind if you don't, because I'm going to London next week and
should take it with me to get an opinion."

I pondered.

"Mind you, I don't guarantee it," he added.

I gave him the ten shillings.

By what incredible means I found a purchaser for the drawing at fifty
pounds there is no need to tell, for the point of this narrative resides
not in bargaining with collectors, but in bargaining with my own soul.
The astonishing fact remains that I achieved a profit of forty-nine
pounds ten and was duly elated. I then began to think.

The dealer (so my thoughts ran) in that little street by the cathedral
west door, he ought to participate in this. He behaved very well to me
and I ought to behave well to him. It would be only fair to give him
half.

Thereupon I sat down and wrote a little note saying that the potential
Turner drawing, which no doubt he recollected, had turned out to be
authentic, and I had great pleasure in enclosing him half of the
proceeds, as I considered that to be the only just and decent course.

Having no stamps and the hour being late I did not post this, and went
to bed.

At about 3.30 a. m. I woke widely up and, according to custom, began to
review my life's errors, which are in no danger of ever suffering from
loneliness. From these I reached, by way of mitigation, my recent
successful piece of chaffering, and put the letter to the dealer under
both examination and cross-examination. Why (so my thoughts ran) give
him half? Why be quixotic? This is no world for quixotry. It was my eye
that detected the probability of the drawing, not his. He had indeed
failed; did not know his own business. Why put a premium on ineptitude?
No, a present of, say, ten pounds at the most would more than adequately
meet the case.

Sleep still refusing to oblige me, I took a book of short stories and
read one. Then I closed my eyes again, and again began to think about
the dealer. Why (so my thoughts ran) send him ten pounds? It will only
give him a wrong idea of his customers, none other of whom would be so
fair, so sporting, as I. He will expect similar letters every day and be
disappointed, and then he will become embittered and go down the vale of
tears a miserable creature. He looked a nice old man too; a pity, nay a
crime, to injure such a nature. No, ten pounds is absurd. Five would be
plenty. Ten would put him above himself.

While I was dressing the next morning I thought about the dealer again.
Why should I (so my thoughts ran), directly I had for the first time in
my life brought off a financial _coup_, spoil it by giving a large part
of the profit away? Was not that flying in the face of the Goddess of
Business, whoever she may be? Was it not asking her to disregard
me--only a day or so after we had at last got on terms? There is no fury
like a woman scorned; it would probably be the end of me. The
Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts have won to success and affluence
probably just because they don't do these foolish impulsive things. If I
am to make any kind of figure in this new _rôle_ of fine-art speculator
(so my thoughts continued) I must control my feelings. No, five pounds
is absurd. A _douceur_ of one pound will meet the case. It will be
nothing to me--or, at any rate, nothing serious--but a gift of quail and
manna from a clear sky to the dealer, without, however, doing him any
harm. A pound will be ample, accompanied by a brief note.

The note was to the effect that I had sold the drawing at a profit which
enabled me to make him a present, because it was an old, and perhaps
odd, belief of mine that one should do this kind of thing; good luck
should be shared.

I had the envelope in my pocket containing the note and the cheque when
I reached the club for lunch; and that afternoon I played bridge so
disastrously that I was glad I had not posted it.

After all (so my thoughts ran, as I destroyed the envelope and contents)
such bargains are all part of the game. Buying and selling are a
perfectly straightforward matter between dealer and customer. The dealer
asks as much as he thinks he can extort, and the customer, having paid
it, is under no obligation whatever to the dealer. The incident is
closed.



THE ITALIAN QUESTION


There are, no doubt, matters of importance which must always agitate the
minds of Italian senators and the souls of Italian reformers; the
country of Dante, Garibaldi, and D'Annunzio cannot for long be without
deep and vital problems, political and social: but for me, in that
otherwise delectable land, the dominant question is, What becomes of the
mosquito while you are hunting for him? (I say "him," although, of
course, there are supporters of the theory that mosquitoes are feminine.
But I know he is a he, and I know his name, too: it is, for too obvious
reasons, Macbeth.)

This is my procedure. I undress, then I put on a dressing-gown and
slippers, and, lifting the mosquito curtains, I place the candle inside
them on the bed. Then, with the closest scrutiny, I satisfy myself that
there is no mosquito inside, as indeed Eleanora, the handmaid, had done
some hours earlier, when she made the bed. "_Niente, niente_," she had
assured me, as she always does. None the less, again I go carefully
round it, examining the net for any faulty hanging which might let in
an insect ascending with malice from the floor.

This being done, I creep through, blow out the candle, and go to sleep.

I have slept perhaps an hour when a shrill bugle call, which I conceive
in my dreams to be the Last Trump, awakens me, and as I wake I realise
once again the melancholy fact that it is no Last Trump at all, but that
there is, as there always is, a mosquito inside the curtain.

Already he has probably bitten me in several places; at any cost he must
be prevented from biting me again. I sit up and feel my face all over to
discover if my beauty has been assailed; for that is the thing I most
dread. (Without beauty what are we?) I lie quite still while I do this,
straining to catch his horrid song again; and suddenly there it is, so
near that I duck my head swiftly, nearly ricking my neck in doing so.

This confirming my worst fears, there is nothing for it now but to lift
the curtains, slip out on to the cold stone floor, light the candle, and
once again go through the futile but necessary movement of locating and
expelling a mosquito.

That there will be none to expel, I know.

None the less I crawl about and peer into every corner. I shake the
clothes, I do everything that can be done short of stripping the
curtains, which I am too sleepy to do. And then I blow out the candle
for the second time and endeavour to fall asleep again.

But this time it is more difficult: Macbeth has performed his pet trick
too thoroughly. At last, however, I drowse away, again to be galvanised
suddenly into intense and dreadful vigilance by the bugle shrilling an
inch from my ear.

And so once again I get up and once again the pest vanishes into
nothing....

The next time I don't care a soldo if he is there or not, I am so tired;
and the rest of the night is passed in a half-sleep, in which real
mosquitoes and imaginary mosquitoes equally do their worst, and I turn
no hair. And then, some years later, the blessed dawn breaks and spreads
and another Italian night of misery passes into glorious day; and,
gradually recognising this bliss, I sit up in bed and begin to tear away
at the fresh poison in my poor hands and wrists, which were like enough
to a map of a volcanic island in the Pacific yesterday, but now are
poignantly more so.

And suddenly, as I thus scratch, I am conscious of a motionless black
speck on the curtain above me....

It is--yes--no--yes--it is Macbeth.

I agitate the gauze, but he takes no notice; I approach my hand, a
movement which in his saner moments he would fly from with the agility
of electricity; he remains still. He is either dead or dazed.

I examine him minutely and observe him to be alive, and the repugnant
truth is forced upon me that he is not merely drunk but drunk with my
blood. That purple tide must be intoxicating; and his intemperance has
been his ruin.

There is only one thing to be done. I have no paltry feelings of
revenge; but his death is indicated. The future must be considered. And
so I kill him. It is done with the greatest ease. He makes no resistance
at all: merely, dying, saluting me with my own blood. It is odd to have
it thus returned.

A good colour, I think, and get up, conscious of no triumph.

Then, going to the glass, I discern a red lump on my best feature....



ON DISGUISE


It was pointed out that one of the most striking novelties of the Peace
Day revels in London was the number of girls dressed as men, chiefly as
soldiers and sailors. Men who were dressed as women--at least
recognisably so--I did not observe, but then in a crowd at night they
might be more difficult to detect, whereas no woman can be a really
plausible man. The idea dominating these girls was less to deceive than
to be hilarious, and most of them, I am sure, before the evening was
over, achieved genuine male company.

For a man to pretend to be a woman is a less savoury proposition; but it
can be done without offence (as in "Charley's Aunt"), and I heard the
other day a pleasant story of such a disguise, the hero of which is a
comedian of great acceptance by the youthful every Christmas. This
popular performer laid a wager with the _maître d'hôtel_ of a famous
London restaurant that some time or other within the coming year he
would enter the restaurant dressed as an old woman, and be served with
lunch as though he were an ordinary customer. The _maître d'hôtel_, who
had been maintaining that men dressed as women were, at any rate in
broad daylight, always to be detected, accepted, and a sum was fixed
sufficient to make the enterprise worth while, the conditions being that
if the disguise were penetrated the _maître d'hôtel_ should indicate the
discovery by a somewhat idiomatic form of words, more suitable to be
applied to a sham lady than a real one; and if the actor succeeded he
should send for the manager and thank him for his lunch. Each winner
would add a request for the amount of the bet.

A few weeks ago the comedian won. But the cream of the story is that
during the year no fewer than three unoffending and genuine old ladies,
as female as God created them, were, on different occasions, more than
astonished to be accosted by the _maître d'hôtel_ in the midst of their
meals with a triumphant and not too refined catch-phrase, and to be
asked for a tenner.

People look now so little at the clothes of others that disguise must
have become easier than it was. The War brought so many strange costumes
into being that we stare hardly at all, and at uniforms never. A man
wearing a kilt, leggings, and spurs might, before the War, have
attracted attention; we now merely mutter, "Another of those Mounted
Highlanders," and pass on. In fact, we look more at members of the
no-hat brigade than at anyone else, and at them only to see if they are
authentic bare-heads or chance to have their hats in their hands.

Although the principal reasons for disguise are to assist in evading
justice (the criminal) and to assist in pursuing crime (the detective),
there are, I hope, a few whimsical humourists left who take to it for
its own sake or to make things more possible. A dull July day with a
north wind, such as in 1919 was the price of a divine May and June,
might be made quite tolerable if we masqueraded through it and pulled
the legs of our friends, like Sir Walter Scott's friend, the lady of the
"Mystifications." I am sure that it would enable us to have better
holidays. But we should have to be thorough: it is no use dressing up as
a policeman and walking fast, or assuming the mien of a Jewish financier
and taking long steps, or borrowing a scarecrow's wardrobe to beg in and
forgetting to supplant our natural assurance with a cringe. In fact, all
the real work is to come after the clothes are on. You may sit in
Clarkson's for a couple of hours having a beard attached to your face
(as I once watched a friend of mine doing), but, when it is finished,
you must look and behave not merely like a man with a beard, as he did,
but like a bearded man. He came away so painfully aware of a
transfigured chin that he collected every eye and the police began to
follow him merely on suspicion.

Indeed, to carry a disguise well requires unremitting concentration. The
walk comes first: one would have continually to remember it. Then the
carriage of the hands. Dressed as a curate, for example, you would give
it all away by strolling along with your hands in your pockets; just as
if you affected to be a seller of motor-cars you would fail if you had
them anywhere else. This need of unrelaxing thought is the reason why
disguise would be such a useful ally of the holiday maker. The
completest escape from one's ordinary preoccupations could be obtained
by a resolute simulation of this kind. It is not enough to go to
Brighton; that is only half a holiday. But to go to Brighton as a
bishop, say, or a taxi-driver, an American soldier or an Indian law
student, and keep it up--that would be a total change, a vacation
indeed.



BROKEN ENGLISH


Two examples of broken English have recently fallen upon my grateful
ear--both from the lips of foreign door-keepers of restaurants.

The first touched upon an untimely, although welcome, heat-wave.

"It is," I remarked with an affability equalled only by want of
originality, "almost too warm."

"Yes," the porter replied; "ze 'ot, 'e come all in one."

On the second occasion I was waiting for a guest who was late. After a
while I commented, pleasantly, to the door-keeper on the tendency of the
fair sex to be behind time.

He laughed the light, easy laugh of one who has deep intimacy with the
world we live in. "Ladies always late," he said; "always make themselves
wish and desire for."

However faulty in construction, both those phrases are epigrammatic. I
should not go so far as to say they could not be improved upon, yet it
would be difficult to make them more vivid. To endow the heat with
gender is assuredly to add to its reality: a blast from Vulcan's
furnace, for example; while the remark about the tarrying ladies
enshrines a great verity such as restaurant door-keepers are perhaps
better fitted to understand than most of us. At any rate, if a
restaurant door-keeper does not learn such things, who can? Both phrases
also show that neither speaker, after I know not how many years in
England, is yet making any effort to talk English, but is content to
clothe his own native thoughts in the most adequate English apparel that
he can collect; just as I, for one, never have done in France other than
translate more or less faithfully my English sentences into French. As
for talking French--never! No such good fortune. But I am quite sure
that, however amusing my blunders have been, no one has ever thought
them epigrammatic, because the English syntax does not automatically
tend to witty compression as the French does.

That illiteracy can get there as quickly and surely as the highest
culture, though by a different route, is proved by the following
instance.

Once upon a time there was a Little Tailor in a little shop in Soho. Not
a tailor in the ordinary sense of the word, but a ladies' tailor. He was
never seen out of shirt sleeves which might have been whiter, and he
came from one of the foreign lands where the youths seem to be under
conscription for this trade. What land it was I cannot say for certain,
but I should guess Poland.

Once upon a time--in fact, at the same time--there was also a lady
connected with the stage, and as her theatre was contiguous to the
Little Tailor's place of business, it was only natural that when one of
her gowns was suddenly torn her dresser should hasten to him to have it
put right. But the charge was so disproportionate to the slight work
done that the dresser deferred payment, and deferred it so long that the
Little Tailor had to lay down the shears and take the pen in their
place. And this is what he wrote:--

     DEAR MISS,--I don't feel like exactly to quarrel with
     somebody. But it is the first time in my life happens to me
     a thing like that. And therefore I am not going to let it
     go. I was just keeping quiet to see what you would do. But
     what I can see you think I have forgotten about it. But I
     may tell you this much. It is not the few shillings but it
     is the impudence to come in while I am away to ask the girl
     to do it as a special, and then to come in and take it away,
     and then tell the girl you would come in to-morrow to see
     me. And this is six weeks already and you have not come yet.
     The only thing I can say now, Miss, if you will kindly send
     the money by return, because I tell you candidly. I will not
     be had by you in this manner. Should you not send the money
     I shall try to get to know you personally, and will have
     something to say about it.

--If the art of letter-writing is to state clearly one's own position,
that is as good a letter as any written. Every word expresses not only
the intention of the writer but his state of mind. No one could improve
upon it except in essentials.

And here is a letter by a Pole partially Americanised. It was recently
addressed to a Chicago firm:

     DEAR GENTLEMEN,--Seaing Your Advertisement in the Daily News
     that you wanted a Agent in Chicago I am a Temperance Polish
     bachelor. I am 35 years of age, I live 30 years in Chicago
     have a clear record. I love all Nations, I am inteligent i
     worked in Metal line 10 years. I am a fine talker I lived in
     4 parts of Chicago. I have a mild disposition I have 100.
     cash. I am a Orphan. I work for a Jewish Real Estate man on
     Commission he is worth 50,000 dollars he made that in 7
     years. i want a small salary and Commission to act as
     General Agent. I have a 4 room flat and furnished for my own
     money and i have a roomer he has 5000 cash. I am a fine
     Business talker used to being in Cigar and Grocery and Candy
     Business some years agow. I will purchase a 25000 dollar
     share in your Business Dear Gentlemen if you find me a wife
     that has 50000 dollars cash or more. with best success to
     you dear gentlemen, I will take a Widow, a white woman i
     love children.

                                    Very truly, etc.



With Baboo broken English we have long been familiar. Whole books have
been devoted to its exploitation; but the supply is continuous and
something new is ever emerging from India. Here is a recent effort by a
Calcutta student in search of pleasure. Writing to a firm of job-masters
in that city, he says:--

     DEAR SIR,--It is to approach you for a kind consideration. I
     am a student. I want a carriage either a tandaum or a
     phaeton for evening drive now and then but not everyday. It
     is to know from you whether you allow your carriages to be
     engaged for part of a day say from 5 to 9 or 10 in the
     evening and if the answer be in the affirmative at what rate
     you do so. If you have no such rule will you be kind enough
     to consider the case of a young man who wants a carriage for
     joy-driving. It rests solely with you and be good and kind
     enough to grant him what he wants. As regards charges in the
     first instance let me tell you and which you perhaps know
     thoroughly well that the student is generally poor but
     merry, the best for him is to have it free of any charge and
     if such cannot be the case, be kind enough to let me know
     what least you can charge him for the same. I shall inform
     you by phone or by a letter the date and time when I shall
     require the carriage, you will send it with your syce and at
     the end of every month I shall pay off the bill. I know
     driving but not very nicely; and if you kindly grant me my
     humble prayer you may send me a nice and well trained horse
     and I shall do well with it. In a month's time I may require
     it 6 or 7 times in the evening. Now, Sir, I do not know how
     far I have been able to express fully what I wish to but I
     hope you have fully understood what I mean and I pray you,
     Sir, to give it a kind consideration and let me know of it
     at your earliest convenience. This may seem to you like a
     fancy but I am sure you have understood what I mean and
     desire, and again I request you to grant me my humble prayer
     for which act of kindness I shall remain ever obliging to
     you. Please try to give it free of any charge; this will not
     affect your huge business the least on the other hand will
     provide a student with a merriest job for which act he will
     pray to the Almighty for the prosperity and good-name of the
     firm. You have understood what I mean so kindly excuse me
     for the language used. Please keep this secret and
     confidential.

     A favourable reply is expected at the earliest possible
     convenience by--Sincerely yours,

The African supplicant has now entered the lists too, and there are few
mails from the West Coast that do not bring to a certain London
publishing firm appeals for catalogues and books. The difference between
the Baboo and the African is very striking. The Baboo approaches the
patron almost on his stomach, certainly with a cringe, whereas the
African smiles light-heartedly, baring all his white teeth with cheerful
confidence. Here is a typical letter from a student in Ashanti to the
firm in question:

     DEAR SIR,--I am with much pleasure to indite you about your
     name that has come to my hand with great joy. On the
     receipt of this letter, know that I want to be one of your
     fellow friends. You have been reported to me by a friend of
     mine of your good attention and benevolences. My openion of
     writing you is to say, I want to take you as my favourite
     friend. Everything or news that may be happened there at
     your side, I wish you to report same to me. And I also shall
     report same to you satisfaction. Will you be good enough to
     agree with me? Then I hope to get few lines of news from you
     being as you consented or disconsented. To have a friend at
     abroad is something that delights the life. I am earnestly
     requested to hear from you soon. I beg to detain, dear Sir,
     Yours truly,

Thus does another ambitious youth, also in Ashanti, in whose veins the
virus of English civilisation has begun to work, put his needs and his
hopes and his potentialities before a well-known London firm of travel
agents with out-posts all over the world:--

     DEAR SIRS,--I have the honour most respectfully to bring
     this before you to ask your favour to remit me down per the
     very first outward mail steamer to send me passenger's
     ticket so that I may run up quickly to your station and stay
     with you, because I often hear and know that you are the
     best trainer in the city of London. So I wish you will send
     me ticket. I am orphan. The object which induces me to write
     you this letter is this, I wish to be an competent educated
     fellow, but in our Africa here there exists no better school
     and tutor. I hope you will do my request, and may this my
     humble letter meet you in good condition. I am orphan.
     Awaiting your favourable reply per the next steamer coming,
     I beg to be, Sirs, Your obedient Servant,

From China comes a specimen of English as fractured with the best of
motives by a Chinese student. The Kaiser having been given as the
subject of an essay competition by the English class in whatever
celestial college it happened to be, some admirable documents resulted,
from one of which I take a few salient sentences:--

     The German Kaiser is not the Superior Man as deciphered by
     the Chinese literature; he is surely a mean fellow
     containing much fraudish cunnings in his deceited heart. The
     Superior Man is shown in the merits of excellent heart with
     much loving kindness to all peoples; the mean fellow is
     displayed in the black heart of the ungenerated devils of
     the hell with much loving kindness only to himself.... The
     German Kaiser he awfully wishing to slave the people and
     extinct the civilisations of the universe; he destroy the
     literature books, and the arts, and the ships, and mass the
     people of Allies Nations together with the intermediate
     outstanding Nations.... Thus it will be clearly seen by
     whole universal globe that the German Hun Kaiser he conceal
     much brutish iniquity in his heart, and is not fit to sit in
     the pail of the Allies Nations including the Chinese
     Republic.

There, again, the meaning of the writer could not be made more clear by
perfect prose.

And here is a Japanese jewel, which the London office of a Tokio
engineering house received not long since:

     Regarding the matter of escaping penalty for non-delivery of
     the machine, there is a way to creep round same by diplomat.
     We must make a statement of big strike occur in our factory
     (of course, big untrue). Please address my firm in enclosed
     form of letter and believe this will avoid penalty of case.

     As Mr. B. is a most religeous and competent man and also
     heavily upright and godly it fears me that useless apply for
     his signature. Please attach name by Yokahama office making
     forge, but no cause to fear prison happening as this is
     often operated by other merchants of highest integrity.

     It is highest unfortunate Mr. B. so god-like and excessive
     awkward for business purpose. I think much better add little
     serpentlike wisdom to upright manhood and so found a good
     business edifice.

From broken English to broken-hearted English is but a step, and I have
before me as pretty an example of that piteous tongue as--short of a
great and tragic poignancy--could be wished. It is a letter written by a
little American boy named Arthur Severn Mead to his parents from his
first school.

     MY MOST DEAREST FATHER AND MOTHER,--I am very sick and I
     want to come home.

     O dearest father and mother I know that you wont refuse me.
     I have a very bad headache. I dont eat anything nor I dont
     sleep any. I lay awake every night thinking of home and you
     dearest father and mother.

     O dearest father and mother wilt thou father let me come
     home.

     I cannot live here. I am crying all the time.

     I will take it out of my money and will work for you all the
     time.

     My most dearest mother I was opening my trunk today and I
     found those candys you put in and O dearest mother how I
     thank you.

     O dearest Father and Mother I pray for you every night and
     morning and I pray to Him that you will let me come home and
     I know that thou wilt say "yes."

     I cannot go to school because I am so sick. O dearest father
     and mother I will love you so much and I will never worry
     you any more and I will be a better boy if you will only say
     yes.

     Dearest father and mother I cannot live here. O do let me
     come home.

     Write now dearest father and mother and say yes.

     I send my love to all.

     Good bye.--From your loving son,

                                    ARTHUR.

     Say yes dearest Father and Mother.



ENTHUSIASTS


In turning over the pages of "Wisden's Cricketers' Almanack," best of
year-books, for 1919, I came upon the obituary notice of a monarch new
to me, who died in April of the preceding year at the age of
six-and-forty: George Tubow the Second, who reigned over Tonga and was
the last of the independent kings of the Pacific. As to the qualities of
head and heart displayed by the deceased ruler, _Wisden_ is silent; to
inquire into such matters is not that annalist's province. George Tubow
the Second won his place in _Wisden's_ pages because he was a cricket
fan and the head of a nation of cricket fans. "His subjects became so
devoted to the game that it was necessary to prohibit it on six days of
the week in order to avert famine, the plantation being entirely
neglected for the cricket-field."

To what lengths of passion for his game a baseball fan can go, I am not
sufficiently Americanised to be able even to guess; but there is
certainly something about a ball, whatever its size and consistency,
that leads to extremes of devotion. For the wildest enthusiasts we must
always go to games. But among collectors enthusiasts are numerous, too.
The courts not long since were occupied with the case of a gentleman of
leisure who had fallen into the moneylenders' hands very heavily through
a passion for adding dead butterfly to dead butterfly; while every one
knows the story of one of the Rothschilds fitting out an Arctic
expedition in the hope that it would bring back, alive, even a single
specimen of a certain boreal flea. All other fleas he possessed, but
this was lacking. On making inquiries among friends I find that the
classic example of enthusiasm is, however, not a cricketer nor a
collector, but the actor who, when cast for Othello, blacked himself all
over. Every one, of course, has heard the story, but its origin may not
be generally known, and I am wondering if it occurred anywhere in print
before Mr. Crummles confided it to Nicholas Nickleby. Was it a
commonplace of the green-room or did Dickens (who was capable of doing
so) invent it? Joseph Knight being no more, to lighten the small hours
with gossip and erudition, who shall tell?

Meanwhile I am reminded of an incident in modern stage history which
supplies a pendant to the great Othello feat. It occurred in the days
when the gramophone was in its infancy and the late Herbert Campbell
was approaching his end. That massive comedian, who was then engaged in
his annual task of personating a dame or a queen, or whatever was
monumentally feminine, in the Drury Lane pantomime--as a matter of fact,
he was at the moment a dame--had been invited by one of the gramophone
companies to visit their office in the City and make a record of one or
more of his songs and one or more of his dialogues with the other funny
man, whoever that might be. The name escapes me; all that I feel certain
of is that it was long after the golden age when Herbert Campbell served
as a foil to the irresponsible vivacity of Dan Leno--who in association
with him was like quicksilver running over the surface and about the
crevices of a rock--and still longer after those regular Christmas
partnerships with Harry Nicholls which were liberal educations in
worldly sagacity tempered by nonsense. The name of the other actor is,
however, unimportant, for Herbert Campbell is the hero of this tale, and
it was for Herbert Campbell's songs and patter that the operator was
waiting and the waxen discs had been prepared and the orchestra was in
attendance and the manager had taken his cheque book from his desk--for
"money down" is the honourable rule of the gramophone industry. The
occasion was furthermore exceptional because it was the first time that
this popular performer had been "recorded." Hitherto he had refused all
Edisonian blandishments, but to-day he was to come into line with the
other favourites.

And yet he did not come. Normally a punctual man, he was late.
Everything was ready--more than ready--and there was no dame.

Suddenly above the ground swell of the traffic was heard, amid the
strenuousness of the City Road, the unaccustomed sound of cheers and
laughter. "Hurray! Hurray!" floated up to the recording-room from the
distant street below, and every head was stretched out to see what
untoward thing could be happening. "Hurray! Hurray!" and more laughter.
And there was discerned an immense crowd, chiefly errand-boys,
surrounding a four-wheeler, from which with the greatest difficulty an
old lady of immense proportions, dressed, or rather upholstered, in the
gaily-coloured clothes of the century before last, was endeavouring to
alight, backwards. "Hurray! Hurray!" cried the boys at every new
struggle. At last the emergence was complete, when the old lady,
standing upright and shaking down her garments, revealed herself as no
other than Herbert Campbell, the idol of "The Lane," who in order to
speak a few words into the funnel of a gramophone had thought it
needful to put on every detail of his costume and to make up that
acreage of honest, genial physiognomy.

[Illustration: LAURA VISITS THE SICK. _See "The Innocent's
Progress"--Plate 11_]



TELEPHONICS


After fighting against bondage for years I am now a slave: I have a
telephone.

Although the advantages are many, it means that I have lost the purest
and rarest of life's pleasures--which was to ring up from a
three-pence-in-the-slot call-office (as I continually had to do) and not
be asked for the money. This, in many years, has happened to me twice;
and only last week I met a very rich man who is normally of a gloomy
cast, across whose features played a smile brilliant with triumph, for
it also had just happened to him.

On the other hand, through having a telephone of my own I now escape one
of the commonest and most tiresome of life's irritations--which is to
wait outside one of these call-offices while the person inside is
carrying on a conversation that is not only unnecessary and frivolous,
but unending. In London these offices are used both by men and women;
but in the suburbs by women only, who may be thought to be romantically
engaged but really are reminding their husbands not to forget the fish.
The possession of a telephone of one's own, however, does not, in an
imperfect world, put an end to the ordeal of waiting. If ever a fairy
godmother appeared to me (but after all these years of postponement I
can hardly hope for her) with the usual offer of a granted wish, I
should think long before I hit upon anything better to ask for than the
restoration of all the time I had spent with my own telephone at my ear
waiting to be answered. The ordinary delays can be long enough, but for
true foretastes of eternity you must sit at the instrument while some
one is being fetched from a distant part of the building. This is a
foretaste not only of eternity but of perdition, for there is nothing to
do; and to have nothing to do is to be damned. If you had a book by you,
you could not read it, for your thoughts are not free to wander; all
that you are mentally capable of is to speculate on the progress of the
messenger to the person who is wanted, upstairs or down, the present
occupation of the person who is wanted, and the probable stages of his
journey to the receiver. In this employment, minutes, hours, days, weeks
even, seem to drag their reluctant length along.

You can imagine also the attitude of the person who is sent for. For the
telephone, common as it now is, is still associated with ceremonial. At
any rate, I notice that men called to it by page boys in restaurants
and hotels have a special gait of importance proper to the occasion.

The possession of a telephone no doubt now and then simplifies life; but
its complications are too many, even if you adopt the sound rule to be
more rung against than ringing. One of them is the perplexity incident
to delays and misunderstandings, and, above all, as to the constitution
of Exchanges. We all, I suppose, have our own idea as to what they are
like; there must at one time or other have been photographs in the more
informing of the magazines; but I missed them, and, therefore, decline
on a vague vision of machinery and wire-eared ladies. A friend is more
definite: "A large building," he describes it, "like Olympia, the roof
lost in darkness, and pallid women moving about, spinning tops and
blowing penny trumpets." To me, as I have suggested, there is more of
Tartarus than Olympus about it. A sufficient hell, indeed, for any
misspent life, to be continually calling up numbers, and continually
being met with the saddest words that are known to men: "Number
engaged."

I want to understand the whole telephone system. I want to know how the
operators all get to speak exactly alike. Women can be very imitative, I
am aware: the chorus girl's transition from Brixton to the Savoy
restaurant can be as natural as the passage of dusk to dawn, and a
change of accent is usually a part of it; but it is astonishing how the
operators of the different Exchanges resemble each other. They cannot
all be one and the same. Miraculous as is everything connected with the
telephone--talking quietly over wires that thread the earth beneath the
busiest and noisiest of pavements in the world is sufficiently
magical--it would be a shade too marvellous for one operator to be
everywhere at once. Therefore, there must be many. Is there, then, a
school of elocution, where instruction in the most refined form of
speech ever known is imparted, together with lessons in the trilling of
the letter R? Why should they all say "No replay," when they mean "No
reply"? And how do they talk at home? It must be terrible for their
relations if they don't come down a peg or two there. The joy with which
we recognise a male voice at the Exchange is another proof that woman
does not really represent the gentler sex.

But these are by no means all the mysteries as to which I crave
enlightenment. I want to know how the odd and alarming noises are made.
There is a tapping, as of a woodpecker with delirium tremens, which at
once stuns and electrifies the ear. How do they do that, and do they
know what its effect is? And why does one sometimes hear other
conversations over other wires, and sometimes not? Rarely are they
interesting; but now and then.... My pen falters as I record the
humiliating want of perspicacity--the tragic inability to recognise a
tip--which befell me on the morning of June 4th, 1919--in other words,
on Derby Day: the day when the art or science of vaticination
experienced in England its darkest hour, for every prophet selected The
Panther. To my annoyance I had to listen to a long conversation between
what seemed to be a bookmaker and his client with regard to money to be
placed on Grand Parade. This at the time only irritated me, but
afterwards, when Grand Parade had won at 33 to 1, and I recognised the
interruption as an effort of the gods on my behalf (had I but ears to
hear), how against my folly did I rail!

Telephony, it is clear, both from one's own experience and from reading
the letters in the papers, is not yet an exact science. Not, that is, in
real life; although on the stage and in American detective novels it
seems to be perfect. The actor lifts the receiver, mentions the number,
and begins instantly to talk. If he is on the film his lips move like
burning rubber and his mouth becomes a shifting cavern. Do the rank and
file of us, I wonder, when telephoning, thus grimace? I must fix up a
mirror and see.

There are many good telephone stories. The best that I know is told of a
journalist with a somewhat hypertrophied bump of reverence for worldly
success, whose employer is a peer. We will call the employer Lord
Forthestait and the journalist Mr. Blank. A number of the staff were
talking together, in one of the rooms of the newspaper, when the
telephone rang.

"You're wanted at the 'phone, Mr. Blank," said the clerk.

Blank, who was just going out to lunch, came back impatiently and
snatched at the instrument.

"Yes, what is it?" he snapped out.

"Is that Blank?" came back the reply. "Lord Forthestait speaking."

"Yes, my lord," said Blank, with the meekest deference, removing his
hat.



THE WORLD REMEDIAL


John Stuart Mill's fear that the notes of the piano might be used up and
tunes give out is as nothing to mine that a time must come when there
will be no more whimsical literature in the old book shops for these
eyes to alight upon. Meanwhile, to renew my confidence, a friend sends
me "The Compleat English Physician, or The Druggist's Shop Opened (the
like not hitherto extant)" by William Salmon, who dates his preface
"From my house at the Blew Ball by the Ditch-side near Holborn Bridge,
London, May 5, 1693." In this exhaustive work the whole of creation,
animal, vegetable, and mineral, is levied upon for cures for human ills,
any of which are, in the dedication, offered by the author to the Most
Serene and Illustrious Princess Mary II., if she feels herself to be in
need of physic and will lay her commands upon him.

According to "The Dictionary of National Biography," which, however,
does not mention this particular book, William Salmon was born in 1644,
and was educated by a mountebank. After a certain amount of travel, he
settled in London as an irregular practitioner, with pills for
everything and horoscopes to boot. The suggestion, made in his lifetime,
that he himself did not amass the lore that is found in his many and
copious volumes, but was merely an amanuensis, has the "Dictionary's"
support; but in the preface to "The Compleat English Physician," Salmon
is very tart and coarse and emphatic about it with one of his detractors
("the nasty author of an impertinent and scurrilous pamphlet"), claiming
to have had thirty years' experience of practical pharmacy. But he must
have borrowed too, for thirty years, even with a ten-hours' day, could
not have sufficed to gather a tenth of the mysteries contained in this
astonishing work.

Although it is exclusively medical, Salmon incidentally hits upon as
deadly a formula for anti-social satire as could be imagined, beyond
even Swift. Not all the malignity of "Gulliver's Travels" is so powerful
to remove the divine from man as this empiric's simple inclusion of him
among the animals. Book V. is entitled "Of Man and Beasts," and it
begins thus: "Chapter 1. Homo, Man & Woman.... They are the general
inhabitants of the Universal Globe of the Earth and their food is made
of Grain, Pulse, Fruits, Flowers, Roots, Herbs, and the flesh of
Beasts, Fowl, Fishes, Insects, etc." Salmon then goes on to enumerate
the maladies that the various parts of man (and woman) are good for. His
hair, converted to ashes and powdered, will cure the Green Sickness and
other disorders too elementary to name. Made into an oil it will ease
pains caused by a cold and cause new hair to grow on bald places. The
rest of him and of her (I could not possibly go into details--this being
not a medical journal and the date being 1920 instead of 1693) is also,
either as powder, volatile oil, spirit, essence, salt, magistry, or
balsam, beneficial in a vast number of troubles. It is an ironical and
exasperating thought that we carry about in our bodies the cures for all
the ills that those bodies suffer from.

In most of the sciences the professors of the day know more than their
predecessors of yesterday. Knowledge accumulates. But, after dipping
into Salmon's twelve-hundred pages, one sighs with relief that the
healing art has, since 1693, become comparatively so simple; and when
next sending for a doctor we shall thank God for his modern
incompleatness. For in Salmon's day, in the pride of compleation, the
medical man might have dosed us with our nearest dead neighbour.

Having finished the examination of man as a treasury of restoratives,
Salmon passes on to Alces, the Elk; Antilopus, the Antelope; and Asinus,
the Ass. All the beasts are therapeutically useful to man, but few more
so than Asinus, the Ass. Howsoever valuable a living donkey may be, he
cannot compare with the versatility of a donkey defunct when resolved
into drugs. Equus, the Horse; Capra, the Goat; and Cercopithecus, the
Monkey, are also each a well-stocked chemist's shop. In fact, nothing
that moves, whether on four legs or two, fails to yield up a potent
elixir; but to find man among them is the shock. Right and proper enough
that the Lord of Creation should extract lotions and potions for his
ailments from his soulless inferiors; but not from himself. That is a
lowering thought.

The birds of the air too. Thus: the flesh of Alauda, the Lark, will ease
the cholick: a thing to remember at Ye Old Cheshire Cheese. Alcedo, the
Kingfisher, reduced to powder and mixed with powder made from a man's
skull, and a little salt of amber, is excellent against the epilepsy. A
number of swallows beaten to pieces in a mortar (terrible thought!)
produce a residuum that will prevent the falling sickness. For restoring
a lost memory the heart of Hirundo, the Swallow, to which the filings of
a man's skull (Mr. Pelman's for choice?) and dried peony roots are
added, is sovran. Even the nest of Hirundo, the Swallow, is of use; made
into a cataplasm it not only eases a quinsie, but will cure the bite of
a serpent. Nor are the fragile systems of Rubecula, the Robin
Red-breast, and Regulus, the Wren (shade of Blake!), without medicinal
utility. The flesh of Lucinia, the Nightingale, cures consumptives,
while its gall mixed with honey makes an excellent collyrium for the
eyes; but singing-birds surely should be exempted from active service
under druggists. "Yet" (you say) "if the nightingale cures consumption,
it might have cured Keats." True, but had Keats accepted that remedy he
would not have been Keats.

It is when writing of Lucinia, the Nightingale, that Salmon interpolates
a remark--wholly gratuitous--which gives him a place apart among
authors. He perpetrates a curiosity of literature: the most unpoetical
thing ever written. "A Mr. Wilkinson, a clergyman," is merely the least
poetical line in poetry; but to say that Lucinia, the Nightingale,
"grows fat in autumn," is positively to undo magic.



WHAT THE SUN DID NOT SEE--FOR FAR TOO LONG


"Once upon a time," said the Sun, "there was a meadow surrounded by a
flint walk, where I caused the buttercups to shine like burnished gold,
and where the grass was high and green and as long as the pony and the
donkey who inhabited the meadow would allow it to be. Here and there was
a cowslip; while near the house were hen-coops with old hens in them
whose anxious heads protruded through the bars querulously shouting
instructions to their fluffy children.

"Such," said the Sun, "was the meadow, which was interesting to me
chiefly because it was the playground of a small but very vigorous and
restless boy named Nobby, whose merry inquiring face it gave me peculiar
pleasure to tan and to freckle.

"A small boy can do," said the Sun, "a thousand things in a meadow like
this, even without the company of a donkey and a pony, and Nobby did
them all; while his collection of performing wood-lice was unique.

"But a morning came when he was absent. I was shining at my best, the
buttercups were glowing, there was even an aeroplane manoeuvring in
the blue--which is still, I notice, a certain lure to both young and
old--but no Nobby. The wood-lice crept about or rolled themselves into
balls, all unnoticed and immune.

"'This is very odd,' I heard the pony say; 'he's never neglected us
before.'

"'Passing strange,' said the donkey, who affected archaic speech. 'And
on so blithe and jocund a morn too.'

"So saying they resumed their everlasting meal, but continually turned
their eyes to the garden-gate through which Nobby would have to pass. I
also kept my eyes wide for him; but all in vain; and what made it more
perplexing was that Nobby's mother came in and fed the chickens, and
Nobby's aunt came in with a rug and a book and settled down to be
comfortable; and that meant that the boy was not absent on a visit to
the town, because one of them would have gone too.

"'That settles it,' said the donkey, who had, for an ass, quite a lot of
sense: 'Nobby is ill.'

"The donkey was right--or approximately so, as I afterwards found out.
Nobby was ill. That is to say, he was in bed, because that morning he
had sneezed--not through looking up at me, but for no reason at
all--and his mother, who was a very careful mother, had at once fetched
the clinical thermometer and taken his temperature, and behold it was a
hundred. So Nobby was not allowed to get up, but now lay there watching
my rays pouring into the room, and listening to the buzz of the
aeroplane, and longing to be out in the meadow with the donkey and the
pony and the wood-lice.

"That, however, would never do; for 'It all comes,' his mother had said,
'of sitting about in that long grass so much, and so early in the year
too'--a line of argument hardly likely to appeal to a small and vigorous
boy who does not reckon summer by dates and to whom prudence is as
remote as one-pound Treasury notes.

"Anyway," said the Sun, "he was paying for it now, for was he not in bed
and utterly sick of it, while the rest of the world was out and about
and, warmed and cheered by me, completely jolly? Moreover, he didn't
feel ill. No self-respecting boy would, of course, admit to feeling ill
ever; but Nobby was genuinely unconscious of anything wrong at all. Not,
however, until his temperature went down would he be allowed to get up;
that was the verdict. But that was not all. Until it came down he would
be allowed nothing but slops to eat.

"His mother took his temperature again before lunch, and it was still a
hundred; and then at about half-past four, when human beings, I
understand, get a little extra feverish, and it was still a hundred; and
then at last came the night, and Nobby went to sleep confident that
to-morrow would re-establish his erratic blood.

"On the morrow he woke long before any one else," said the Sun, "and sat
up and saw that I was shining again, without the vestige of a cloud to
bother me, and he felt his little body to see how hot it was, and was
quite sure that at last he was normal again, but he couldn't tell until
his mother was up and about. The weary hours went by, and at last she
came in just before breakfast with the thermometer in her hand.

"'I'm certain I'm all right to-day,' I heard Nobby say. 'I feel quite
cool everywhere.'

"But, alas and alack," said the Sun, "he was a hundred still.

"'My poor mite!' his mother exclaimed, and Nobby burst into tears.

"'Mayn't I get up? Mayn't I get up?' he moaned; 'I feel so frightfully
fit,' But his mother said no, not till the temperature had gone down.
You see," added the Orb of Day, "when Nobbies are only-sons and those
only-sons' fathers are fighting the enemy, mothers have to be more than
commonly cautious and particular. You will wonder perhaps why she
didn't send for the doctor, but it was for two reasons, both womanly
ones, and these were that (_a_) she didn't like the _locum_, her own
doctor being also at the War, and (_b_) she believed in bed and nursing
as the best cure for everything.

"And so all through another long day--and when you are vigorous and
robust, like Nobby, and accustomed to every kind of impulsive and
adventurous activity, day can be, in bed, appallingly long--Nobby was
kept a prisoner, always with his temperature at a hundred, and always
with nothing to bite, and growing steadily more and more peevish and
difficult, so much so that his mother became quite happy again, because
it is very well known that when human invalids are testy and impatient
with their nurses they are getting better.

"But when on the third morning, although Nobby's temper had become too
terrible for words, his temperature was still a hundred, his mother
began to be alarmed again. 'It's very strange,' she said to her sister,
'but he seems perfectly well and cool, and yet the thermometer makes him
still a hundred. What do you think we ought to do?'

"Nobby's aunt, who was a wise woman, although unmarried, went up and
examined her nephew for herself. 'He certainly looks all right to me,'
she said, 'and he feels all right too. Do you think that the thermometer
might he faulty? Let me try it'; and with these words Nobby's aunt shook
the thermometer down and then put it under her tongue and gave it a good
two minutes, and behold it said a hundred; and then Nobby's mother shook
it down and tried it and gave it a good two minutes, and behold it said
a hundred; and the cook was a hundred too, and the gardener was a
hundred, and the girl who came in to help was a hundred, and probably
the donkey would have been a hundred, and the pony a hundred, if they
had been tested, because a hundred was the thermometer's humorous idea
of normal; and so," added the Sun, "Nobby's mother and aunt rushed
upstairs two or three at a time, having a great sense of justice, and
pulled him out of bed and dressed him and hugged him and told him to be
happy once more.

"And a couple of seconds after this," said the Sun, bringing the story
to a close, "I saw him again."



TWO OF MARTHA'S SONS


Mr. Kipling, dividing, in that fine poem, men into the Sons of Martha
and the Sons of Mary--the Sons of Martha being the servants and the Sons
of Mary the served--characteristically lays his emphasis on those who
make machinery to move. Thus:

    The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part,
    But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and
        the troubled heart;
    And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to
        the Lord her Guest,
    Her Sons must wait upon Mary's Sons, world without end, reprieve or rest.

    It is their care, in all the ages, to take the buffet
        and cushion the shock.
    It is their care that the gear engages--it is their care that
        the switches lock.
    It is their care that the wheels run truly--it is their care
        to embark and entrain,
    Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.

Mr. Kipling, as I say, is thinking more of highly trained and efficient
operatives than of the quieter ministrants; but, after all, some of
Mary's Sons--possibly the majority of them--stay at home and refrain
from running the Empire, and these too count upon their cousins for
assistance.

A very large number of Martha's Sons, for example, become waiters; and
waiters are a race to whom insufficient justice has been done by men of
letters. There should be a Book of Waiters, as there was a Book of
Doctors and a Book of Lawyers by the late Cordy Jeaffreson, and a Book
of the Table by the late Dr. Doran. Old waiters for choice: men who have
mellowed in their calling; men who have tasted wines for themselves and
studied human nature when it eats and is vulnerable. I wish somebody
would compile it. It should be a cosmopolitan work: England's old
waiters must be there, and France's, upon whom most clubmen of any age
ought to be able to enlarge fruitily. In fact, all well-stored Bohemian
memories in London and Paris should yield much. And Ireland's old
waiters most conspicuously must be there; but whoever is to write this
book must hasten to collect the material, for in Ireland, I am told, the
old waiter is vanishing. An elderly Irish gentleman with whom I was
talking recently--or, rather, to whom I was listening as he searched his
memory for drolleries of the past--said that the disappearance, under
modern conditions, of the old humorous independent waiters of his
earlier day is the one which he personally most regretted. No longer,
said he, are to be found, except very occasionally, these worthy friends
of the traveller--Martha's Sons at their best, or, at any rate, at their
most needed. Slow they may have been, not always strictly sober, and
often despotic; but they were to be counted upon as landmarks: they
extended a welcome, they fed the hungry (in time), they slaked the
thirsty (more quickly), and they made remarks amusing enough to fortify
their good points and palliate their bad. "There was an old fellow named
Terence at Limerick," said my friend, and there followed two or three
characteristic anecdotes of old Terence at Limerick. "There was old Tim
at Tralee," and he painted old Tim for me in a few swift strokes--red
nose, creaking legs, and all. What though his nose was red and his legs
creaked, Tralee is no longer worth visiting, because Tim is not there.
That was the burden of the lament. These old fellows have passed, and
the new waiters, most of whom are foreigners or girls, can never mature
into anything comparable with them.

Two of my friend's stories I may tell. One is of old Dennis at Mallow,
who on being asked if the light in the coffee-room could not be made
brighter, said, in that charming definitive Irish way, that it could
not. "Is it always like this?" my friend then inquired. "It is not,
sorr," said old Dennis; "it is often worse." Not a great anecdote, but
you must brave the horrors of St. George's Channel to meet with these
alluring unexpectednesses of speech. Imagine an English waiter thus
surprising one! The other story is of old Florence, head waiter at a
certain Irish yacht club. Some sojourners in the neighbourhood, having
been elected honorary members for the period of their visit, asked a few
American friends to dine there, and then, even while in the boat on
their way to dinner, suddenly realised that honorary members are
entitled to no such privileges. It was decided to put the case to old
Florence. "Have you a rule against honorary members inviting guests?"
"We have, sorr," said he. "Is it very strictly enforced? I mean, would
there be any risk in breaking it?" "There would not, sorr. The only rule
in this club that is never broken, sorr, is the one which forbids
gratuities to be given to the waiters."

For those Sons of Martha who make their living--and not a bad one--by
ministering to their hungry fellow-creatures there is no call to feel
sorry. They are often not only richer but happier than their customers,
and when the time comes they retire to snug little houses (of which
they not infrequently own a row) with a competence, and pass the evening
of life with their pipe and glass, their friends and grandchildren,
moving serenely, if perhaps with a shade too plantigrade a step (the
waiters' heritage), to the grave. No call, as I say, to feel sorry for
them; but what of those other Sons of Martha, the railway porters, who
while helping us to travel and get away from home never travel or get
away from home themselves, and for ever are carrying or wheeling heavy
trunks or searching for visionary cabs?

The mere fact of never having a holiday is not in itself distressing.
Holidays often are overrated disturbances of routine, costly and
uncomfortable, and they usually need another holiday to correct their
ravages. Men who take no holidays must not, therefore, necessarily
become objects of our pity. But I confess to feeling sorry for those
servants of the public who apparently not only never take a holiday
themselves, but who spend all their lives in assisting others to get
away.

It is probably no privation to a bathing-machine man never to enter the
sea; uproariously happy in that element as his clients can be, their
pleasure, in which he has no share, does not, I imagine, embitter his
existence. Similarly, since a waiter either has eaten or is soon to
eat, we need not waste sympathy on his unending task of setting
seductive dishes before others. But it is conceivable that some of those
weary and dejected men whom one sees at Victoria Station, for example,
in the summer, eternally making an effort, however unsuccessful, to cope
with the exodus of Londoners to the south coast, really would like also
to repose on Brighton beach. But they may not. Their destiny is for ever
to help others to that paradise, and remain at Victoria themselves. Just
as Moses was denied the Children of Israel's Promised Land, so are the
porters. The engine-driver can go, the stoker can go, the guard can
go,--indeed, they must go,--but the porters get no nearer than the
carriage doors and then wheel back again. And if the plight of the
porters at Victoria is unenviable, think of that of the porters at the
big termini on the other side of London and elsewhere when they read the
labels on the luggage which they handle!--labels for the west, for the
land of King Arthur; labels for the north, for delectable Highland
retreats; labels for Northumberland and Yorkshire; labels for the east
coast; labels for Kerry and Galway and Connemara.



FREAKS OF MEMORY


It was my fortune not long since to meet again, in the flesh, the most
famous of our prophets--Old Moore, whose cautious vaticination is on
sale even in the streets. To my dismay he did not recognise me. Not that
a want of recognition is so rare--very far from it--but the surprise is
that a being gifted with such preternatural vision should thus fail,
when I, who am only an ordinary person, knew him again instantly. Long
habits of fixing his penetrating gaze on the murky future have no doubt
rendered the backward look less simple to him. Anyway, there we stood, I
challenging him to remember me and he failing to do so. This momentary
superiority of my own poor wits over those of a man who (undismayed by
the refusal of events always to fall into line) foretells so much,
uplifted me; but the untrustworthiness of memory is so constant and
lands one in such embarrassments that it is foolish for anyone to boast.

Among the marvels of the human machine, memory is, indeed, strangest.
The great bewildering fact of memory at all--of the miracle of the
brain--is, of course, as far beyond our finite apprehension as the
starry heavens. Of this? I never dare to think. But the minor caprices
of memory may, fittingly enough, engage our wonder. The lawlessness of
our prehensile apparatus, for example--the absurdly unreasoning system
of selection of such things as are to be permanent--how explain these?
And why should memory be subject also to that downward tendency in life
which forces us always to fight if we would save the best? It would have
been just as easy, at the start, when the whole affair was in the
making, to have given an upward impulse. That was not done, but the
memory, at any rate, being all spirit, might have been exempted from the
general law. But no; as we grow older, not only do we remember with less
and less accuracy, but of what we retain much is inferior to that which
once we had but now have lost.

I, for example, who once had long passages not only from the great
poets, but also from the less great but often more intimate poets,--such
as Matthew Arnold and William Cory, to mention two favourites,--at the
tip of the tongue, now have to recite myself to sleep with a Bab Ballad.
That piece of nonsense never fails me, but I cannot at this moment give
the right sequence of any two of the quatrains of the "Rubáiyát" of Omar
Khayyám, although once, and for years, I had the whole poem complete
too. I would rather have been left the wistful Persian than Gilbert's
"Etiquette," but the jade Memory had other views.

Any prose that I might once have learned naturally faded first, because
there was no rhyme or metre to assist retention; but why is it that
there is one sentence which, never wholly mine, flits so often before
the inward eye? It is in that story of Mr. Kipling's of the mutinous
elephant who refused to work because his master was too long absent.
This master, one Dheesa (you will remember), having obtained leave for a
jaunt, exceeded his term; and the sentence which recurs to me, hazily
and hauntingly, often twice a day and usually once, with no apparent
reason or provocation, is this: "Dheesa had vagabonded along the roads
till he met a marriage procession of his own caste, and drinking,
dancing, and tippling, had drifted past all knowledge of the lapse of
time." Now, surely, out of all the thousands of books which I have read
and more or less dimly remember, it is very strange that this should be
almost the only sentence that is photographed on the mind.

Once I knew many psalms: I know them no longer, but I have never
forgotten a ridiculous piece of dialogue in a book called "The World of
Wit and Humour," which I was studying, on weekdays, at the same time,
how many years ago:

     "Father, I have spilt the butter. What shall I do?"

     "Rub it briskly with a woollen fabric."

     "Why?"

     "Because friction generates caloric, which volatises the
     oleaginous particles of the stearine matter."

--And once I knew many psalms.

One of the odd things about what we call loss of memory is that it is
catching. How often when one person forgets a name well known to him
does his companion, to whom it is equally well known, forget it too. Why
is that? The other day I had an excellent example of this curious
epidemic. It was necessary for the name of a certain actor--not a star,
but a versatile repertory actor of distinction--to be recalled in order
that a letter to him might quickly be despatched. I had forgotten his
name, but I described him and his methods with sufficient accuracy for
every one (there were about six of us) to recognise him. Some of us
could even say in what parts we had seen him and compare notes as to his
excellence, and yet his name absolutely eluded one and all. Why? We all
knew it; why did we unanimously fail to know it then?

We parted intent upon obtaining this necessary information, my last
sapient words being that to the best of my belief his first name was
Joseph and his second began with P. On meeting again the next day, each
of us had it pat enough, and it had broken upon each, more or less
suddenly, during the night. Since the name was Michael Sherbrooke, you
will understand why, in my case, its arrival was peculiarly gratifying.
If I am not now known to those others as Mrs. Nickleby, it is only
because they are so kind-hearted.

The great mystery is, Where, while one is forgetting them, are the
things one forgets, but suddenly will remember again? Where are they
lurking? This problem of their whereabouts, their capacity to hide and
elude, distresses me far more than one's inability to call them from the
vasty deep of the brain. Or are they, perhaps, not there at all? Do they
not, perhaps, have evenings out, times off for lunch and so forth, and
thus we sometimes miss them? Or can there perhaps be some vast
extra-mural territory of the brain from which facts have to be
fetched--as, if one would consult old newspapers at the British Museum,
one must wait until the volumes can be brought from Hendon? The fact
that they always, or nearly always, return, sooner or later, rather
supports these theories.



THE MORAL DRESSING-TABLE


The prettiest little book that ever I saw lies before me. It is called
"The Toilet," and was published by the author in 1821 and sold by Mr.
Sams, bookseller to H.R.H. the Duke of York, at No. 1 St. James's
Street; for princes in those days had their own booksellers no less than
their own wine-cellars. Times have changed, and to-day No. 1 St. James's
Street is a block of flats, and the Duke surveys London from the top of
a column of stone.

The author of "The Toilet" was "S. G." (standing for Stacey Grimaldi),
and the purpose of his book--so laudable then and how unnecessary
now!--was to make young women better. This task was to be performed by
means of a preface and a number of verses, but chiefly by a series of
copperplate engravings with movable covers. I have seen old gardening
books on this principle, by Capability Brown and others, in which the
potentialities of gentlemen's places are made evident by the same
mechanical means. Thus, by lifting up one clump of trees you see where
the house could most advantageously stand, and by lifting up another
you gaze along the lovely avenue that ought to be planted there, and so
forth; but I never saw good manners and high ideals inculcated in this
way. That they can be "The Toilet" proves.

But let me explain. The articles illustrated are those that are found in
ladies' boudoirs, such as mirrors, and jewel case, and bottles of
essence--all very charmingly designed as though by a Chippendale.
Indeed, the copy which lies before me--as pretty a little book, did I
say? as ever I saw--is known by its owner as "The Chippendale Book"; and
never could the effort to get gentleness and the best manners into an
impressionable female nature be more ingeniously or ingratiatingly made.
Imagine, now, the fair one opening at the preface, where she reads at
once these words: "I request your acceptance of a few appendages to your
toilet, of extreme beauty and value, though some of them may be at
variance with modern fashions." She then turns on and finds that the
appendages consist of an Enchanting Mirror, a Wash to Smooth Wrinkles,
some Superior Rouge, some Matchless Ear Rings, a Fine Lip Salve, a
Mixture to Sweeten the Voice, and so forth--each delicately drawn.

Before lifting the cover of the mirror she reads that it is long since
many of the gay inhabitants of the town have decorated themselves before
it, and then, lifting the cover, discovers the word "Humility" on the
glass. Fancy the shock to the frivolous and vain! But humility is not
all; Uriah Heep had that and still was a most undesirable person, and so
she must read on, all recipiency. Doing so she learns that it is
singular that although we do generally wear ear-rings similar to those
in the jewel case in the presence of a superior, we are apt to cast them
off in the company of our inferiors; and, lifting the lid of the case,
she finds the word "Attention" within. And so on through the book. The
Wash to Smooth Wrinkles turns out to be Contentment; the Universal
Beautifier is Good Humour; the Best White Paint is Innocence; the
Superior Rouge is Modesty; the Mixture giving Sweetness to the Voice is
Mildness and Truth (where is the young woman who any longer wants
mildness?), and the Finest Lip Salve is Cheerfulness.

Finally we come to a very beautiful flowered pot--I wish you could see
it--containing "The Late King's Eye Water"--the late King being George
III, the father of the Prince whose own particular bookseller put forth
this little volume. All the time, from the first moment of opening it, I
had the feeling that somewhere hovering around or over "The Toilet" was
the spirit of the courtier. Its blend of discretion and elegance is such
as a palace mentor could hardly be without, and the description of the
Late King's Eye Water settled it. "You are perhaps aware that our late
much-beloved King possessed bad sight, and, doubtless, many different
eye waters were prescribed for his use; but I can assure you, that
whatever else the good Monarch might have used, he invariably possessed
some of the accompanying description; it was by him recommended to our
present Sovereign [George the Fourth], as also to his own beloved and
illustrious Daughters; it has been by them constantly used, and their
example has diffused it throughout the British Empire." On lifting the
cover of the pot containing the Late King's Eye Water (which he
recommended to his eldest son) we find it to contain "Benevolence"; but
a certain poem by Moore, addressed to George IV after the death of
Sheridan, would suggest that the collyrium was not at any rate
"constantly" used.



THACKERAY'S SCHOOLFELLOW


If the measure of an artist is the accuracy with which the life of his
times is reflected in his work, and the width of his range, then John
Leech, the centenary of whose birth was August 29, 1917, is the greatest
artist that England has produced. But since such a claim as that would
submerge us in controversial waters, let it rather be said that Leech is
the most representative artist that England has produced. The
circumstances that he worked in black and white and was chiefly
concerned with the humorous aspect of men and manners do not affect the
position.

The outlines of Leech's life are very simple. He was born in London on
August 29, 1817, the son of John Leech, proprietor of the once very
prosperous London Coffee-House on Ludgate Hill, who was said to be
something of a draughtsman and was also a Shakespeare enthusiast. The
child took early to the pencil; and it is recorded that Flaxman, a
friend of the family, found him at a tender age, on his mother's knee,
drawing well enough to be encouraged. The great sculptor's advice was
that the boy, whom he thought to be clearly destined for an artist,
should be permitted to follow his own bent. Three years later Flaxman
seems to have repeated this counsel. At seven, Leech was sent to school
at Charterhouse, then in its old London quarters; and the story is told
that Mrs. Leech, who probably thought seven far too young, took a room
which over-looked the playground in order secretly to watch her little
son, thus displaying a sympathetic solicitude which that son inherited
and carried through life. At Charterhouse Leech remained until he was
sixteen, among his school-fellows being Thackeray; but as Thackeray was
six years his senior it is unlikely that they saw much of each other as
boys, although they were always glad later in life, when they became
very intimate colleagues on _Punch_, to recall their schooldays and
extol their school.

On leaving, Leech went to Bart.'s to learn to be a surgeon, and there by
curious and fortunate chance fell in with a congenial fellow-student
named Percival Leigh, whose interest in comic journalism was to play a
very important part in Leech's career. Leigh had two friends who shared
his literary tastes and ambitions--Albert Smith, a medical student at
the Middlesex Hospital, and Gilbert Abbott à Beckett, a young
barrister, these forming a humorous band of brothers to which Leech made
a very welcome addition. Leigh was seriously concerned also with
medicine, but there is no evidence that Leech burnt any midnight oil in
its pursuit, although he made some excellent anatomical drawings. The
popularity of the London Coffee-House on Ludgate Hill meanwhile
declining, a less expensive instructor than St. Bartholomew became
necessary; and Leech was placed with the ingenious Mr. Whittle of
Hoxton, who, under the guise of a healer, devoted most of his attention
to pigeons and boxing. Mr. Whittle of Hoxton (who is to be found under
the name of Rawkins in Albert Smith's novel, "The Adventures of Mr.
Ledbury," which Leech illustrated) may not appreciably have extended his
pupil's knowledge of therapeutics, but he is our benefactor in
quickening his interest in sport. Leech's next mentor was Dr. John
Cockle, son of the Cockle of the pills; and then, the paternal purse
being really empty, he, at the age of eighteen, flung physic to the dogs
and trusted for a living to his pencil, which, since Charterhouse had
the most indifferent of drawing-masters, was still untrained.

In those days there were many ephemeral satirical sheets, in addition to
the magazines, to offer employment to the comic draughtsman, and Leech
did not starve; his two experiences of the inside of a sponging-house
being due to his good nature rather than to financial foolishness of his
own. His first publication was a slender collection of street types
entitled "Etchings and Sketchings," by A Pen, 1835. He tried also
political caricatures and drew bruisers for "Bell's Life in London." In
1836 he was among those draughtsmen (Thackeray was another) who competed
without success for Seymour's post as illustrator of a series of
humorous papers describing the proceedings of the Pickwick Club. In 1840
appeared his parody of the Mulready envelope, which was very popular and
a real foundation-stone for the young artist, and Percival Leigh's
"Comic Latin Grammar" and "Comic English Grammar," the illustrations to
which fortified the impression which the Mulready skit had made, and
established the fact that a new pictorial humorist of resource and
vigour had appeared.

In 1841 _Punch_ was founded, with Mark Lemon as its editor and Leigh on
its staff; and for Leech to join up was merely a matter of time. His
first efforts were tentative, but by 1844, when Thackeray was also a
power on the staff, he had become the paper's strong man, and its strong
man he remained until his death twenty years after. _Punch_ had a great
personnel, courage, and sound ideas, but without Leech's sunny humanity
week after week it is unlikely to have won its way to such complete
popularity and trust. It was he, more than any other contributor, who
drove it home to the heart of the nation.

Leech's cartoons were for the most part suggested to him, the outcome of
discussion round the Mahogany Tree (which is made of pine); but to a
larger extent probably than with any of his colleagues or successors the
social drawings, by which he is now best known and by which he will
live, were the fruits of his own observation, visual and aural. That is
to say, he provided words as well as drawings. He also followed the line
of least resistance. It was enough for him to think an incident funny,
to set it down, and by the time it had passed through that filter--a
blend of humane understanding and humane fun--which he kept in his
brain, it was assured of a welcome by _Punch's_ readers too. To-day the
paper is a little more exacting, a little more complex: a consequence
possibly, in some measure, of the fertility and universality of its
earlier giant, who anticipated so many jokes. To-day, as it happens,
there is more of the Leech spirit in _Life_, where absurdity for its own
sake is to a greater extent cultivated. But for twenty years that
spirit permeated and dominated _Punch_. Leech had a great chance and he
rose to it. Never before had things been made so easy for a satirical
artist with alert eyes. Hogarth had had to plan and struggle to get his
engravings before the public; Gillray and Rowlandson had only the
print-sellers as a medium; but Leech had an editor who appreciated him
and gave him his head, and employers who paid handsomely, while his work
appeared in a paper which increased its circulation with every number.
That is to say, he knew that he had an audience: no small incentive. The
result is that "Pictures of Life and Character" is the completest survey
of the social England of his times that any artist has ever made or is
likely to make.

To-day this inexhaustible work in three immense volumes is out of print,
but there never was a book that better deserved continuous
accessibility. It is Leech's monument, and he has no other. One learns
from it, while laughing the honestest of laughter, how inveterate a
plagiarist from herself is Dame Fashion. The number of drawings which
need only the slightest modernizing change to be telling now is
extraordinary. Leech missed nothing; and the world is always coming full
circle.

The criticism has too often been made that Leech could not draw. Placed
beside Keene or Phil May he is, it is true, wanting in inevitableness;
his line is merely efficient, never splendid; yet sometimes he could
draw amazingly and get the very breath of life into a figure. In
particular was he a master of gesture, and now and then his landscapes
are a revelation. But the resplendent fact is that he could draw well
enough; he did, as Thackeray said, what he wished to do; that is proved
by his triumph. A man who cannot draw does not get all his
fellow-countrymen following his pencil in a rapture (as though it were
the Pied Piper's whistle) as Leech did for twenty years. Du Maurier, who
admired him immensely, hit on a happy comparison when he said that Leech
was "a ballad-writer among draughtsmen," or, in other words, he had
simplicity, lucidity, movement, and a story. It has to be remembered,
too, that Leech did single-handed what ever since his day it has needed
a syndicate to accomplish. He, himself and alone, was cartoonist, social
draughtsman, low-life draughtsman, and the provider of hunting scenes.
If the Volunteers were to be chaffed, Leech's was the hand; if the
priceless Mr. Briggs was to be invented and kept busy, Leech was his
impresario. And it was he also who drew the prettiest girls in what
Thackeray called "Mr. Punch's harem."

All his life, after finding himself, Leech worked too hard, being,
although well paid, in some mysterious way continually either in debt or
about to be. He was also uniformly behind time; and Mark Lemon used
humorously to bemoan half his days misspent in cabs between the _Punch_
office and the artist's various residences collecting his belated
drawings. Leech, however, when once he had made up his mind, drew very
rapidly, and his productiveness was amazing, for besides his _Punch_
work he illustrated a large number of books, including (which some
people would call his masterpiece) the sporting novels of Surtees.

In private life--but all his life was private--Leech was not less simple
than that other great Carthusian, Colonel Newcome. He loved his family,
rode his horse Red Mullet whenever there was a free moment, and as often
as possible had a day's run with the Puckeridge hounds, not only for
enjoyment, but in order that that very important section of his work,
his hunting scenes, might not languish. He was fond of dinner parties,
both as host and guest, and after them preferred conversation to cards.
He sang lugubrious songs in a deep, melancholy voice, with his eyes
fixed upwards--the favourite being Barry Cornwall's "King Death," the
words of which, Dickens averred, were inscribed on the ceiling in mystic
characters discernible only by the singer. He told stories well, but the
record of good things said by him is meagre, and his letters are
singularly free from humorous passages. Once, however, when a liberty
had been taken with him by a public man, he threatened "to _draw_ and
defend himself"; and there is a pleasant story of his retort to some
rowdy inebriated men in Kensington who excused themselves by saying that
they were Foresters: "Then, why the devil don't you go to the forest and
make a din there?" Noise was, indeed, his bane. He had double windows in
his house, but was always in danger of headaches and shattered nerves
from street sounds and, in particular, barrel organs. It is even said
that street music led to his early death; but that probably was only
indirectly. He died of overwork, aged forty-seven.

Leech's friends were devoted to him, as he to them. Thackeray came
first, and indeed once he said that he loved him more than any man,
although on another occasion it was FitzGerald and Brookfield whom he
named. Dickens and Leech were friends as well as collaborators. It is to
Dean Hole, with whom Leech took the "Little Tour in Ireland" in 1858,
that we must go for the best description of his appearance--"A slim,
elegant figure, over six feet in height, with a grand head 'on which
nature had written Gentleman,' with wonderful genius in his ample
forehead; wonderful penetration, observation, humour in his blue-grey
Irish eyes, and wonderful sweetness and sympathy and mirth about his
lips, which seemed to speak in silence."

Of Leech's genius and accomplishment no one has written better than Dr.
John Brown in "Horoe Subsecivæ," third series. Millais, who coached
Leech in oil painting for his exhibition of enlarged scenes from the
career of Mr. Briggs, also was his close friend; while Trelawny, whom
Millais painted, claimed to have loved Leech next only to Shelley.
Another artist friend was W. P. Frith, who became his biographer. All
his friends testify to the sweetness of his nature and the purity of his
character, while the two great novelists of his day, writing of his
work--Dickens of his "Rising Generation" and Thackeray of the "Pictures
of Life and Character"--used independently the phrase that he came to
his task like "a gentleman." In those days gentlemen, at any rate in
public places, were less uncommon than now; but even then Leech was
conspicuous.

It is perhaps with Dickens and Thackeray that he will be most closely
associated by posterity. He stands between them as a fellow-Victorian
colossus. All three were doing, in different ways, the same work--that
is to say, they were selecting and fixing, for all time, their time; and
all three were distinguished by that remarkable abundance which makes
the middle years of the last century so astonishing to us. Dickens,
Thackeray, Carlyle, Macaulay, Ruskin, Trollope, Leech, in England;
Dumas, Balzac, Hugo, Doré, in France. What rivulets to-day compared with
those floods!

Leech died prematurely (in his father's arms, while a children's party
was in progress in his house) on October 29, 1864, less than a year
after Thackeray. "How happy," said Miss Thackeray (afterward Lady
Ritchie), "my father will be to meet him!" _Punch's_ tribute contained
this sentence: "Society, whose every phase he has illustrated with a
truth or grace and a tenderness heretofore unknown in satiric art,
gladly and proudly takes charge of his fame." No words to-day, fifty-six
years after, can improve on it; nor has in the interim any greater
social delineator or humaner genius arisen.



_IN RE_ PHYSIOGNOMY


I. IDENTIFICATION

Many summers ago I was on one of David MacBrayne's steamers on the way
to a Scotch island. Among the few passengers was an interesting man with
whom I fell into conversation. He was vigorous, bulky, tall, with a
pointed grey beard and a mass of grey hair under a Panama, and he was
bound, he told me, for a well-known fishing-lodge, whither he went every
August. He had been a great traveller and knew Persia well; he had also
been in Parliament, and one of his sons was in the siege of Mafeking. So
much I remember of his affairs; but his name I did not learn. We talked
much about books, and I introduced him to Doughty's "Arabia Deserta."

I have often thought of him since and wondered who he was, and whenever
I have met fishermen or others likely to be acquainted with this
attractive and outstanding personality. I have asked about him; but
never with success. And then the other day I seemed really to be on the
track, for I met a man in a club who also has the annual custom of
spending a fortnight or so in the same Scotch island, and he claimed to
know every one who has ever visited that retired spot.

This is what happened.

"If you're so old an islander as that," I said, "you're the very person
to solve the problem that I have carried about for four or five years.
There's a man who fishes regularly up there"--and then I described my
fellow-passenger. "Tell me," I said, "who he is."

He considered, knitting his brows.

"You're sure you're right in saying he is unusually tall?" he inquired
at last.

"Absolutely," I replied.

"That's a pity," he said, "because otherwise it might be Sir Gerald
Orpington. Only he's short. Still, he was in Parliament right enough.
But, of course, if it was a tall man it's not Orpington."

He considered again.

"You say," he remarked, "that he had been in Persia? Now old Jack
Beresford is tall enough and has plenty of hair, but I swear he's never
been to Persia, and of course he hasn't a son at all. It's very odd.
Describe him again."

I described my man again, and he followed every point on his fingers.

"Well," he said; "I could have sworn I knew every man who ever fished at
Blank, but this fellow----Oh, wait a minute! You say he is tall and
bulky and had travelled. Why, it must be old Carstairs. And yet it can't
be. Carstairs was never married and was never in Parliament."

He pondered again.

Then he said, "You're sure it wasn't a clean-shaven bald man with a
single eyeglass?"

"Quite," I said.

"Because," he went on, "if he had been, it would have been old Peterson
to the life."

"He wasn't bald or clean-shaven," I said.

"You're sure he said Blank?" he inquired after another interval of
profound thought.

"Absolutely," I replied.

"Tell me again what he was like. Tell me exactly. I know every one up
there; I must know him."

"He was a vigorous, bulky, very tall man," I said, "with a pointed beard
and a mass of grey hair under a Panama; and he used to go to Blank every
August. He had been a great traveller and knew Persia; he had been in
Parliament, and one of his sons was in the siege of Mafeking."

"I don't know him," he said.


II. DR. SULLIVAN

It had been decided that there never was such a resemblance as is to be
traced between my homely features and those of a visitor to the same
hotel the previous year--Dr. Sullivan of Harley Street. This had become
an established fact, irrefutable like a proposition of Euclid, and one
of my new friends, and a friend also of the Harley Street physician who
had so satisfyingly and minutely anticipated my countenance, made it the
staple of his conversation. "Isn't this gentleman," he would say to this
and that habitué of the smoking-room as they dropped in from the
neighbouring farms at night, "the very image of Dr. Sullivan of Harley
Street, who was here last year?" And they would subject my physiognomy
to a searching study and agree that I was. Perhaps the nose--a little
bigger, don't you think? or a shade of dissimilarity between the chins
(he having, I suppose, only two, confound him!), but, taking it all
around, the likeness was extraordinary.

This had been going on for some time, until I was accustomed, if not
exactly inured, to it, and was really rather looking forward to the time
when, on returning to London, I could trump up a sufficient ailment to
justify me in calling upon my double in Harley Street and scrutinising
him with my own eyes. But last night my friend had something of a
set-back, which may possibly, by deflecting his conversation to other
topics, give me relief. I hope so.

It happened like this. We were as usual sitting in the smoking-room, he
and I, when another local acquaintance entered--one who, I gathered, had
been away for a few weeks and whom I had therefore not yet seen, and who
(for this was the really important thing to my friend) consequently had
not yet seen me.

In course of time the inevitable occurred. "Don't you think," my friend
asked, "that this gentleman is the very image of Dr. Sullivan of Harley
Street, who was here last summer?"

"What Dr. Sullivan's that?" the new-comer inquired.

"Dr. Sullivan of Harley Street, who was fishing here last summer. Don't
you remember him? The very image of this gentleman."

"The only Dr. Sullivan I know," replied the new-comer, "is Dr. Sullivan
of Newcastle. He's a very old man by now. A very learned man too. He has
a wonderful private museum. He----"

"No, no, the Dr. Sullivan I mean was from Harley Street--a
specialist--who took the Manor fishing last summer and stayed in the
hotel."

"Dr. Sullivan of Newcastle is a very old man--much older than this
gentleman," replied the stranger, "and not a bit like him. He's a most
interesting personality. He is the great authority on the South Sea
Islanders. You should see his collection of Fiji war clubs."

"But that's not the Dr. Sullivan I mean. You must remember him," said my
impresario; "we all used to meet evening after evening, just as we're
doing now--Dr. Sullivan of Harley Street, the specialist, a clean-shaven
man, exactly like this gentleman here. Every one has noticed the
likeness."

"Dr. Sullivan of Newcastle has a beard," said the new-comer. "And he's a
very old man by now. A great receptacle of miscellaneous learning. He
showed me once his collection of coins and medals. He's got coins back
to the Roman Emperors and stories about every one of them. His
collection----"

"Yes, but----"

"--of idols is amazing. You never saw such comic figures as those
natives worship. There's nothing he doesn't collect. He's got a mummy
covered with blue beads. He's got skulls from all over the world,
showing different formations. It's some years----"

"Yes, but----"

"--since I saw him last, and of course he may be----"

"Yes, but----"

"--dead. But if not, he's a man worth knowing. If ever you go to
Newcastle, sir,"--this was to me,--"don't forget about him. But he must
be very old by now. He----"

At this point I finished my glass and slipped away to bed. Consulting
the mirror as I undressed, I smiled at the reflection that confronted
me. "You can sleep more comfortably to-night," I said, "for there are
signs that you are about to have a rest."



THE WORLD'S DESIRE


Reading the terms of the agreement which Charlie Chaplin refused in New
York early in 1916 I had a kind of nervous collapse. For we English are
not so accustomed to great sums of money as the Americans are. Then I
bound a wet towel round my head and studied the figures as
dispassionately as it is possible to study figures when they run into
kings' ransoms. Charlie was offered ten thousand dollars a week for a
year: which came then to £104,000 and is now (1920) much more. He was
offered one hundred thousand dollars as a bonus for signing the
agreement. He was also offered 50 per cent. of any profits made by his
films after his salary had been paid. But it did not satisfy him. He
refused it.

Now here is a most remarkable state of affairs--that the popular demand
for laughter is such that a little acrobatic man with splay feet and a
funny way with a cigarette, a hat, and a cane could be offered and could
repudiate such colossal wealth as that, and for no other services than
to clown it for the cinematoscope. Nor is the oddity of the matter
decreased by the reflection that these figures which make an ordinary
person dizzy, belonged to war-time. Charlie Chaplin's rise to affluence
and power coincided with the bloodiest struggle in history.

If it is needful for so many people to hold their sides, Charlie's
career is justified. He is also the first droll to conquer the whole
world. I suppose that it is no exaggeration to say that at any moment of
the day and night--allowing for divergences of time--it would be safe to
maintain that ten million people are laughing at the Chaplin antics
somewhere or other on this planet of ours. For wherever there is a
township of more than two thousand inhabitants, there, I imagine, is a
cinema; and wherever there is a cinema there is Charlie; not always
quite up to date, of course, for managers are wily birds, but in some
film, even though an ancient one. Does the Funniest Man on Earth, as he
is called, I should like to know, realise what a rôle he fills? Does he
stand before the glass and search the recesses of his countenance--which
is now far more familiar to the world than any other--and marvel?

Charlie, by the way, has his private uses too. During a recent visit
from a young friend, I found that the ordinary gulf that is fixed
between a boy in the neighbourhood of ten and a man in the
neighbourhood of five times that number was for once easily bridgeable.
We found common ground, and very wisely stuck to it, in the circumstance
that each of us had seen Charlie, and, by great good fortune, we had
each seen him in his latest sketch. Whenever, therefore, a _longueur_
threatened, I had but to mention another aspect of Charlie's genius, and
in the discussion that followed all was well.

That Charlie is funny is beyond question. I will swear to that. His
humour is of such elemental variety that he could, and probably does,
make a Tierra del Fuegan or a Bushman of Central Australia laugh not
much less than our sophistical selves. One needs no civilised culture to
appreciate the fun of the harlequinade, and to that has Charlie, with
true instinct, returned. But it is the harlequinade accelerated,
intensified, toned up for the exacting taste of the great and growing
"picture" public. It is also farce at its busiest, most furious. Charlie
brought back that admirable form of humour which does not disdain the
co-operation of fisticuffs, and in which, by way of variety, one man is
aimed at, and another, too intrusive, is hit. However long the world may
last, it is safe to say that the spectacle of one man receiving a blow
meant for another will be popular.

What strikes one quickly is the realisation of how much harder Charlie
works than many of the more illustrious filmers. He is rarely out of the
picture, he is rarely still, and he gives full measure. There is no
physical indignity that he does not suffer--and inflict. Such
impartiality is rare in drama, where usually men are either on top or
underneath. In the ordinary way our pet comedians must be on top and
untouched. Even the clown, though he receives punishment _en route_,
eventually triumphs. But Charlie seldom wins. He remains a butt, or, at
any rate, a victim of circumstances whom nothing can discourage or
deter. His very essence is resiliency under difficulties, an unabashed
and undefeatable front. His especial fascination to me is that life
finds him always ready for it--not because he is armed by sagacity, but
because he is even better armed by folly. He is first cousin to the
village idiot, a natural child of nonsense, licensed up to the hilt, and
(like Antæus) every time he rises from a knockdown blow he is the
stronger.

It is a proof of the charter which the world has handed to this
irresistible humourist that he has been permitted to introduce such an
innovation in stage manners as the hitting of women. We only laugh the
more when, having had his ears boxed by the fair, he retaliates with
double strength. And there is one of his plays in which every audience
becomes practically helpless, as after, with great difficulty,
extricating a lady in evening dress from a fountain, he deliberately
pushes her in again. It required a Charlie Chaplin to make this
tolerable; but such is his radiant unworldliness that we accept it as
quite legitimate fun.

One of the chief causes--after the personality of the protagonist--of
the popularity of the Chaplin films is probably that in them certain
things happen which cannot happen in real life without the intervention
of the law, and which are almost always withheld from the real stage. I
mean that men so freely assault each other; physical violence has the
fullest and most abundant play. Every one longs to see kicks and blows
administered, but is usually defrauded, and Charlie is a spendthrift
with both. And so cheerfully and victoriously does he distribute them
that I wonder an epidemic of such attentions has not broken out in both
hemispheres. I know this--that a fat policeman with his back towards the
exit of a cinema at the time a Chaplin film had ended would be in great
danger from my foot were I then leaving. I should hope for enough
self-control; but I could promise nothing, and I should feel that
Charlie's example, behind the action, sanctified it. Film life and real
life would merge into each other so naturally that if the policeman
repaid me--or attempted to--in any other way but kind, I should feel
outraged. To be arrested for it would be like a stab in the back from a
friend.

How long Charlie will remain the darling of two hemispheres we must wait
to see. But of one thing I am certain, and that is that if at any time
the "The Funniest Man on Earth" ceases to compel laughter, he might by
slightly changing his methods draw tears. For while he can be as
diverting as the greatest glutton for mirth desires, he has all the
machinery of dejection too. One of his melancholy smiles is really
beautiful.



A CONQUEROR


It is proverbial that a child may lead a horse to the water, but that
not even Mr. Lloyd George, with all his persuasive gifts, can make him
drink. An even more difficult task is to induce a horse in the pink of
robust health to convey a suggestion of being seriously ill--as I chance
just to have discovered. It is not the kind of discovery that one can
anticipate; indeed, when I woke on the morning of the day on which it
happened and, as is my habit, lay for a while forecasting the possible
or probable course of events during the next four-and-twenty hours, this
example of equine limitation had no place whatever in my thoughts. To
the receptive and adventurous observer many curious things may, however,
occur; and no sooner was lunch finished than out of a clear sky fell a
friend and a taxi (the god and the machine, if you will), and jointly
they conveyed me to as odd a building as I have ever thought to find any
horse in, where, under a too searching blue glare, was an assemblage of
people as strange as their environment.

There were men in evening dress, toying with cigarettes and bending over
women in evening dress; there was an adventuress or two, one with hair
in such fluffed-out abundance as can only be a perquisite of notable
wickedness; there was a stockman, who was, I fancy, too fond of her;
there was a lady in riding boots; there was a comely youth in pyjamas;
and there were footmen and page-boys. And all seemed to me made-up to a
point of excess. Who could they be? a stranger to the marvel of science
might well ask. Strayed revellers? A lost party of masqueraders being
held here on bail and photographed for identification purposes?--for
there was no doubt about the photography, because the benignant,
masterful gentleman with a manuscript, who gave them instructions, every
now and then stood aside in order that the camera-operator might direct
his machine-gun and turn the handle; but what was said I could not hear,
such was the crackling and fizzling of the blue lights.

I cannot pretend to have learned much about the cinema on such a brief
visit, but I acquired a few facts. One is that there is no need for any
continuity to be observed by the photographer, because the various
scenes, taken in any order, can, in some wonderful way, be joined up
afterwards, in their true order, and made consecutive and natural.
Indeed, I should say that the superficially casual and piecemeal manner
in which a moving drama can be built up is the dominant impression which
I brought away from this abode of mystery. The contrast between the
magically fluid narrative as unreeled on the screen and the broken,
zigzag, and apparently negligent preparation of it in the studio is the
sharpest I can imagine. And it increases one's admiration of the man
with the scissors and the thread (or however it is done) who unites the
bits and makes them smoothly run.

Another fact which I acquired is that unless the face of the cinema
performer is painted yellow it comes out an impossible hue, so that to
see a company in broad daylight is to have the impression that one has
stumbled upon a house party in the Canary Isles. And a third fact is
that the actors, while free to say what they like to each other at many
times, must, when in a situation illustrated by words thrown on the
screen, use those identical words. One reason for this rule is, I am
told, that some time ago, in an American film, the producer of which was
rather lax, one of the characters spoke to another with an impossible
licence, and a school of deaf mutes visiting the picture palace
"lip-read" the awful result. The consequence (America being a wonderful
country, with a sufficiency of deaf-and-dumb to warrant protective
measures) was the withdrawal of the film and the punishment of the
offenders.

Meanwhile, what of the horse? I will tell you.

The camera-operator having taken as much of the fast life in the swell
hotel (with the hollow columns without backs to them) as was necessary,
including a "still" (as it is called in the movie world--meaning a
photograph in the ordinary sense of the term) of the fluffiest of the
adventuresses in an expression signifying a blend of depravity and
triumph, turned his attention to the loose-box which some attendants had
been rapidly constructing, chiefly with the assistance of a truss of
straw. Into this apartment was led (through the hotel lounge, and at
enormous risk to its plaster masonry) a horse--the horse, in fact, which
was to defeat Edison. Of the plot of the play I know nothing. (How could
I, having seen it in preparation?) But this I can tell you: that the
hero's horse had to be ill; and this also: that the horse in question
refused to be ill. In vain for the groom to shake his head, in vain for
the hero to say that it had the shivers; never was a horse so far
removed from malady, so little in need of the vet. Nor could any device
produce the desired effect. If, then, in the days to come you see on
the films a very attractive story with a horse in it, and the horse
shivers only in the words on the screen, you will know why. It is
because the movies for once met their master.



THE NEWNESS OF THE OLD


In an American paper I find this anecdote: "An old lady was being shown
the spot on which a hero fell. 'I don't wonder,' she replied. 'It's so
slippery I nearly fell there myself.'"

Now that story, which is very old in England, and is familiar here to
most adult persons, is usually told of Nelson and the _Victory_. Indeed
it is such a commonplace with facetious visitors to that vessel that the
wiser of the guides are at pains to get in with it first. But in America
it may be fresh and beginning a new lease of life; it will probably go
on forever in all English-speaking countries, on each occasion of its
recrudescence finding a few people to whom it is new.

It is a problem why we tend to be so resentful when an editor or a
comedian offers us a jest that has done service before. It is, I
suppose, in part at any rate, because we have paid our money, either for
the paper or the seat, and we experience the sense of having been
defrauded. We have been done, we feel, because the bargain, as we
understood it, was that we were purchasing novelty. So that when
suddenly an old, old jape, which perhaps we have ourselves related--and
that of course is an aggravation of the grievance--confronts us, we are
indignant. But what, one wonders, would a comic paper or a revue that
had nothing old in it be like. We can never know.

The odd thing is that we not only resent the age of the joke, even
though it is in our own repertory, but we resent the laughter of those
to whom it is new--perhaps three-quarters of the audience. How dare they
also not have heard it before? is our unspoken question. Not long ago,
seated in a theatre next a candid and normally benignant and tolerant
friend, I found myself laughing at what struck me as a distinctly
humorous remark made by one of London's nonsensical funny men. Engaged
in a competition with another as to which had the longer memory, he
clinched the discussion by saying that he personally could remember
London Bridge when it was a cornfield. To me that was as new as it was
idiotic, and I behaved accordingly; but my friend was furious with me.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed with the click of the tongue that usually
accompanies such criticism, "fancy digging that up again! It's as old as
the hills." And his face grew dark and stern.

What we have to remember, and what might have softened my friend's
granite anger had he remembered it, is that a new audience is always
coming along to whom nothing is a chestnut. It is not the most
reassuring of thoughts to those who are a little fastidious about
ancientry in humour; but it is nature and therefore a fact. Just as
every moment (so I used to be told by a solemn nurse) a child is born
(she added also that every moment some one dies, and she used to hold up
her finger and hush! for me to realise that happy thought), so nearly
every moment (allowing for a certain amount of infant mortality) an
older child attains an age when it can understand and relish a funny
story. To those children every story is original. With this new public,
clamorous and appreciative, why do humourists try so hard to be novel?
(But perhaps they don't).

I suppose that there are theories as to what is the oldest story, but I
am not acquainted with them. That people are, however, quite prepared
for every story to be old is proved by the readiness with which, when
Mark Twain's "Jumping Frog" was translated into Greek for a School
Reader, a number of persons remarked upon the circumstance that the
humourist had gone to ancient literature for his jest. For by a curious
twist we are all anxious that stories should not be new. Much as we like
a new story, we like better to be able to say that to us it was
familiar.

Many stories come rhythmically round again. Such, for example, during
the Great War, as those with a martial background. I remember during the
Boer War hearing of a young man who was endeavouring to enlist, and was
rejected because his teeth were defective. "But I want to fight the
Boers," he said, "not eat them." Between 1914 and 1918 this excellent
retort turned up again, only this time the young man said that he did
not want to eat the Germans. I have no doubt that in the Crimean War a
similar applicant declared that he did not want to eat the Russians, and
a hundred years ago another was vowing that he did not want to eat the
French. Probably one could trace it through every war that ever was.
Probably a young Hittite with indifferent teeth proclaimed that his
desire was to fight the Amalekites and not to eat them. The story was
equally good each time; and there has always been a vast new audience
for it. And so long as war continues and teeth exist in the human head,
which I am told will not be for ever, so long will this anecdote enjoy
popularity. After that it will enter upon a new phase of existence based
upon defects in the applicant's râtelier, and so on until universal
peace descends upon the world, or, the sun turning cold, life ceases.



AUNTS


The story is told that an English soldier, questioned as to his belief
in the angels of Mons, replied how could he doubt it, when they came so
close to him that he recognised his aunt among them? People, hearing
this, laugh; but had the soldier said that among the heavenly visitants
he had recognised his mother or his sister, it would not be funny at
all. Suggestions of beautiful affection and touching deathbeds would
then have been evoked, and our sentimental chords played upon. But the
word aunt at once turns it all to comedy. Why is this?

I cannot answer this question. The reasons go back too far for me; but
the fact remains that it has been decided that when not tragic, and even
sometimes when tragic, aunts are comic. Not so comic as mothers-in-law,
of course; not invariably and irremediably comic; but provocative of
mirth and irreverence. Again I say, why? For taken one by one, aunts are
sensible, affectionate creatures; and our own experience of them is
usually serious enough; they are often very like their sisters our
mothers, or their brothers our fathers, and often, too, they are
mothers themselves. Yet the status of aunt is always fair game to the
humourist; and especially so when she is the aunt of somebody else.

That the word uncle has frivolous associations is natural, for slang has
employed it to comic ends. But an aunt advances nothing on personal
property, an aunt is not the public resort of the temporarily
financially embarrassed. No nephew Tommy was ever exhorted to make room
for his aunt, a lady, indeed, who figures in comic songs far more rarely
than grandparents do, and is not prominent on the farcical stage. One
cannot, therefore, blame the dramatists for the great aunt joke, nor
does it seem, on recalling what novels I can with aunts prominently in
them, to be the creation of the novelists. Dickens has very few aunts,
and these are not notorious. Betsy Trotwood, David Copperfield's aunt,
though brusque and eccentric, was otherwise eminently sane and
practical. Mr. F.'s aunt was more according to pattern and Miss Rachel
Wardle even more so; but the comic aunt idea did not commend itself to
Dickens whole-heartedly. Fiction as a rule has supported the theory that
aunts are sinister. Usually they adopt the children of their dead
sisters and are merciless to them. Often they tyrannise over a
household. The weight of the novelists is in favour of aunts as anything
but comic. There are exceptions, of course, and that fine vivid figure,
the "Aunt Anne" of Mrs. W. K. Clifford, stands forth triumphant among
the charming; while Sir Willoughby Patterne's twittering choruses are
nearer the aunts of daily life. But even they were nigher pathos than
ridicule.

I believe that that wicked military wag, Captain Harry Graham, has done
more than most to keep the poor lady the aunt in the pillory. This kind
of thing from his "Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes" does a lot of
mischief:

    In the drinking well,
    Which the plumber built her,
    Aunt Eliza fell--
    We must buy a filter.

How can aunts possibly survive such subtle attacks as that? And again:--

    I had written to Aunt Maud,
    Who was travelling abroad,
    When I heard she'd died from cramp:
    Just too late to save the stamp.

Supposing that the verse had begun

    I had written Cousin Maud

it would have lost enormously. There must be something comic in aunts
after all.

No child ever quite gets over the feeling of strangeness at hearing his
mother called aunt by his cousins. A mother is so completely his own
possession, and she so obviously exists for no other purpose than to be
his mother, that for her also to be an aunt is preposterous. And then
there is the shock of hearing her name, for most children never realise
their mother's name at all, their father, the only person in the house
who knows it intimately and has the right to use it, usually preferring
"Hi" or any loud cry. To Hamlet the situation must have been peculiarly
strange, for his mother, after the little trouble with his father's ear,
became his aunt too. If it were not that, since our aunts are of an
older generation than ourselves, proper respect compels us to address
them as aunts, they would not be comic. The prefix aunt does it. If we
could call Aunt Eliza, Eliza, without ceremony, as if she were a
contemporary, she would be no more joke to us than to her
contemporaries, even though she did fall in the well and necessitate
that sanitary outlay. Just plain Eliza falling in a well is nothing; but
for Aunt Eliza to do so is a scream. It is having to say Aunt Eliza that
causes the trouble, for it takes her from the realms of fact and
deposits her in those of humour. If aunts really want to acquire a new
character they must forbid the prefix.



ON RECITATIONS


Although none of us know what, when the time comes, we can do, to what
unsuspected heights we can rise, we are fairly well acquainted with what
we cannot do. We may not know, for example, what kind of figure we
should cut in a burning house, and even less in a burning ship: to what
extent the suddenness and dreadfulness of the danger would paralyse our
best impulses, or even so bring out our worst as to make us wild beasts
for self-protection. Terrible emotional emergencies are rare, and, since
rehearsals are of no use, all that is possible is to hope that one would
behave rightly in them. But most of us know with certainty what our
limitations are. I, for instance, know that I cannot recite in public
and that no circumstances could make me. There is no peril I would not
more cheerfully face than an audience, even of friends, met together to
hear me, and, worse, see me, on such an occasion. And by recite I do not
mean the placid repetition of an epigram, but the downright translation
of dramatic verse into gesture and grimace. The bare idea of such a
performance fills me with creeping terror.

The spectacle of any real reciter, however self-possessed and decent, at
his work, suffuses me with shame. I myself have in my brief experience
of them blushed more for reciters than the whole army of them could ever
have blushed for themselves. Even the great humane Brandram when he
adopted the falsetto which he deemed appropriate to Shakespeare's women
sent the hot tide of misery to my face, while over his squeaking in
"Boots at the Holly Tree Inn" I had to close my eyes. Brandram, however,
was not strictly a reciter in the way that I mean: rather was he an
actor who chose to do a whole play by himself without costumes or
scenery. The reciters that I mean are addicted to single pieces, and are
often amateurs (undeterred and undismayed by the grape-shot of Mr.
Anstey's "Burglar Bill") who oblige at parties or smoking concerts.
Their leading poet when I was younger was the versatile Dagonet, who had
a humble but terribly effective derivative in the late Mr. Eaton, the
author of "The Fireman's Wedding," and their leading humourist was the
writer of a book called "T Leaves." Then came "Kissing Cup's Race"
(which Mr. Lewis Sydney on the stage and "Q" in literature toiled so
manfully to render impossible), and now I have no notion what the
favourite recitations are, for I have heard none for a long time.

But from those old days when escape was more difficult comes the memory
of the worst and the best that I ever heard. The worst was "Papa's
Letter," a popular poem of sickly and irresistible sentimentality, which
used to call out the handkerchiefs in battalions. The nominal narrator
is a young widow whose golden-haired boy wishes to join her in writing a
letter to his father. This was at a time before Sir Oliver Lodge had
established wireless telephony between heaven and earth. Since the child
cannot write she turns him into a letter himself by fancifully sticking
a stamp on his forehead. He then (as I remember it) runs out to play, is
knocked down by a runaway horse, and--

    "Papa's letter is with God."

Who wrote this saccharine tragedy I cannot say, but I once found the
name of W. S. Gilbert against it on a programme. Could he possibly have
been the author? The psychology of humour is so curious....

So much for the worst recitations. The best that I can recall I heard
twenty-five years ago, and have only just succeeded in tracking to
print. It was recited at a Bohemian gathering of which I made one in a
Fleet Street tavern, the reciter being a huge Scottish painter with a
Falstaffian head. His face was red and truculently jovial, his hair and
beard were white and vigorous. I had never seen him before, nor did I
see him after; but I can see him now, through much tobacco smoke, and
hear him too. Called upon to oblige the company, this giant unfolded
himself and said he would give us James Boswell's real opinion of Dr.
Johnson. A thrill of expectation ran through the room, for it appeared
that the artist was famous for this effort. For me, who knew nothing,
the title was good enough. With profundities of humour, such as it is
almost necessary to cross the border to find, he performed the piece;
sitting tipsily on the side of an imaginary bed as he did so. Every word
told, and at the end the greatness of the Great Cham was a myth. For
years I tried to find this poem; but no one could tell me anything about
it. Here and there was a man who had heard it, but as to authorship he
knew nothing. The Scotsman was no more, I discovered. Then last year
appeared one who actually knew the author's name: Godfrey Turner, a
famous Fleet Street figure in the 'sixties and 'seventies, and in time I
met his son, and through him was piloted to certain humorous
anthologies, in one of which, H. S. Leigh's "Jeux d'Esprit," I found the
poem. Like many of the best recitations, it does not read famously in
cold blood, but as delivered by my Scottish painter it carried big guns.
Here it is; but there seems to be an error in the beginning of the third
stanza, unless Bozzy's muzziness is being indicated:--

    "Bid the ruddy nectar flow!"
    I say, old fellow, don't you go.
    You know me--Boswell--and you know
      I wrote a life of Johnson.

    Punch they've here, a splendid brew;
    Let's order up a bowl for two,
    And then I'll tell you something new
      Concerning Doctor Johnson.

    A great man that, and no mistake,
    To ev'ry subject wide awake;
    A toughish job you'd have, to make
      A fool of Doctor Johnson;
    But everybody worth a straw
    Has got some little kind of flaw
    (My own's a tendency to jaw
     About my poor friend Johnson).

    And even that immortal man,
    When he to speechify began,
    No greater nuisance could be than
      The late lamented Johnson.
    Enough he was to drive you mad,
    Such endless length of tongue he had,
    Which caused in me a habit bad
      Of cursing Doctor Johnson.

    We once were at the famous "Gate"
    In Clerkenwell; 'twas getting late;
    Between ourselves I ought to state
        That Doctor Samuel Johnson
    Had stowed away six pints of port,
    The strong, full-bodied, fruity sort,
    And I had had my whack--in short
        As much as Doctor Johnson.

    Just as I'd made a brilliant joke
    The doctor gave a grunt and woke;
    He looked all round, and then he spoke
        These words, did Doctor Johnson:
    "The man who'd make a pun," said he,
    "Would perpetrate a larceny,
    And punished equally should be,
        Or my name isn't Johnson!"

    I on the instant did reply
    To that old humbug (by the bye,
    You'll understand, of course, that I
        Refer to Doctor Johnson),
    "You've made the same remark before.
    It's perfect bosh; and, what is more,
    I look on you, sir, as a bore!"
        Says I to Doctor Johnson.

    My much-respected friend, alas!
    Was only flesh, and flesh is grass.
    At certain times the greatest ass
        Alive was Doctor Johnson.
    I shan't go home until I choose,
    Let's all lie down and take a snooze.
    I always sleep best in my shoes,
        All right! I'm--Doctor Johnson.

Good as that piece was as done by the Scotch artist, I should not care
to hear it again. Nor, indeed, do I want to hear any recitation again,
unless it is given in mimicry of some one else. Under those conditions I
could listen to anything, so powerful is the attraction of the mimic's
art. Possibly part of this fascination may be due to one's own inability
to imitate too; be that as it may, no mimic who is at all capable ever
bores me, and all fill me with wonder. Of course I am conscious that
many of the imitators who throng the stage are nothing but pickpockets:
too lazy and too mean to acquire novelties of their own, they annex
snatches of the best songs of the moment under the plea of burlesquing
the original singers. But even so, I often find myself immorally glad
that they figure in the programme.

Not the least remarkable thing about good mimics is their capacity not
only to reproduce the tones of a voice but the actual style of
conversation. I remember hearing someone thus qualified giving a
spontaneous impression of a famous scholar whom he had just met, and the
curious part of it was that the imitator, though a man of little
education, for the moment, under the influence of the concentration
which possessed him, employed words proper to his victim which I am
certain he had no knowledge of in cold blood and had never used before.
It was almost as if, for a brief interval, the mimic was the scholar,
though always with the drop of ridicule or mischief added. It would be
interesting to know if, when anyone is being impersonated as intensely
as this, any virtue departs from him--whether he is, for the moment, by
so much the less himself.



CLICQUOT WELL WON


My hostess and her daughter met me at the station in the little
pony-cart and we set off at a gentle trot, conversing as we went. That
is to say, they asked questions about London and the great wicked world,
and I endeavoured to answer them.

It was high if premature summer; the sky was blue, the hedges and the
grass were growing almost audibly, the birds sang, the sun blazed, and,
to lighten the burden, I walked up two or three hills without the
faintest enthusiasm.

Just after the top of the last hill, when I had again resumed my seat
(at the risk once more of lifting the pony into the zenith), the ladies
simultaneously uttered a shrill cry of dismay.

"Look!" they exclaimed; "there's Bunty!"

I looked, and beheld in the road before us a small West Highland
terrier, as white as a recent ratting foray in a wet ditch would allow.

"Bunty! Bunty! you wicked dog!" they cried; "how dare you go hunting?"

To this question Bunty made no other reply than to subside under the
hedge, where a little shade was to be had, in an attitude of exhaustion
tempered by wariness.

"How very naughty!" said my hostess. "I left her in the house."

"Yes," said the daughter, "and if she's going to go off hunting like
this what on earth shall we do? There'll be complaints from every one.
She's never done it before."

"Come, Bunty!" said my hostess, in the wheedling tones of dog-owners
whose dogs notoriously obey their slightest word. But Bunty sat tight.

"If we drive on perhaps she'll follow," said the daughter, and we drove
on a few yards; but Bunty did not move.

We stopped again, while coaxing noises were made, calculated to soften
the hearts of rocks; but Bunty refused to stir.

"She'll come on later," I suggested.

"Oh, no," said her elderly mistress, "we couldn't risk leaving her here,
when she's never gone off alone before. Bunty! Bunty! don't be so
naughty. Come along, there's a dear little Bunty."

But Bunty merely glittered at us through her white-hair entanglement and
remained perfectly still.

Strange dogs are not much in my line; but since my hostess was no longer
very active, and the daughter was driving, and no one else was present,
there seemed to be a certain inevitableness about the proposition which
I then made that I should get out and bring the miscreant in.

"Oh, would you mind?" my hostess said. "She won't bite, I promise you.
She's a perfect dear."

Trying hard to forget how painful to legs or hands can be the smart
closing of the snappy jaws of dogs that won't bite, I advanced
stealthily towards Bunty, murmuring ingratiating words.

When I was quite close she turned over on her back, lifted her paws, and
obviously commended her soul to Heaven; and I had therefore no
difficulty in lifting her up and carrying her to the trap.

Her mistresses received her with rapture, disguised, but by no means
successfully, by reproach and reproof, and we were beginning to drive on
again when an excited voice called upon us to stop, and a strange lady,
of the formidable unmarried kind, with a very red face beneath a purple
parasol, confronted us.

"What," she panted, "is the meaning of this outrage? How dare you steal
my dog?"

"Your dog, madam?" I began.

"It's no use denying it," she burst in, "I saw you do it. I saw you pick
it up and carry it to the trap. It's--it's monstrous. I shall go to the
police about it."

Meanwhile, it cannot be denied, the dog was showing signs of delight and
recognition such as had previously been lacking.

"But----" began my hostess, who is anything but quarrelsome.

"We ought to know our own dog when we see it," said the daughter, who
does not disdain a fight.

"Certainly," said the angry lady, "if you _have_ a dog of your own."

"Of course we have," said the daughter; "we have a West Highland named
Bunty."

"This happens to be my West Highland, named Wendy," said the lady, "as
you will see if you look on the collar. My name is there too--Miss
Morrison, 14 Park Terrace, W. I am staying at Well House Farm."

And it was so.

It was on the tip of my tongue to point out that collars, being easily
exchangeable, are not evidence; but I thought it better that any such
suggestion should come from elsewhere.

"It is certainly very curious," said the daughter, submitting the
features of the dog to the minutest scrutiny; "if it is not Bunty it is
her absolute double."

"It is not Bunty, but Wendy," said Miss Morrison coldly; "and I shall
be glad if you will give her to me."

"But----" the daughter began.

"Yes, give the lady the dog," said the mother.

In the regrettable absence of Solomon, who would, of course, have cut
the little devil in two, there was nothing for it but to surrender; and
the couple went off together, the dog exhibiting every sign of pleasure.

Meanwhile the daughter whipped up the pony, and we soon entered the
gates.

In the drive, awaiting us, was a West Highland terrier named Bunty.

"There!" cried the ladies, as they scrambled out and flung themselves on
her.

"Of course she's not a bit like that Wendy thing really," said the
mother.

"Now that I come to look at her I can see heaps of difference," said the
daughter.

"None the less," I interjected, "you turned a very honest man into a
thief, and a dog-thief at that; and he insists on reparation."

"Yes, indeed," said the mother, "it is really too bad. What reparation
can we make?"

I don't pretend that my feelings are completely soothed, but the
Clicquot 1904 which took the place of claret at dinner that evening was
certainly very good.

[Illustration: LAURA DANCES TO HER MOTHER'S MUSIC. _See "The Innocent's
Progress"--Plate 10_]



THE SUFFERER


Having engaged a sleeping-berth I naturally hurried, coin in hand, to
the conductor, as all wise travellers do (usually to their discomfiture)
to see if I could be accommodated with a compartment to myself and be
guaranteed against invasion.

I couldn't.

I then sought my compartment, to learn the worst as to my position,
whether above or below the necessarily offensive person who was to be my
companion.

He was already there, and we exchanged the hard implacable glare that is
reserved among the English for the other fellow in a wagon-lit.

When I discovered that to him had fallen the dreaded upper berth I
relaxed a little, and later we were full of courtesies to each
other--renunciations of hatpegs, racks, and so forth, and charming
mutual concessions as to the light, which I controlled from below--so
that by morning we were so friendly that he deemed me a fit recipient of
his Great Paris Grievance.

This grievance, which he considered that every one should know about,
bore upon the prevalence of spurious coins in the so-called Gay City
and the tendency of Parisians to work them off on foreigners. As he
said, a more inhospitable course one cannot conceive. Foreigners in
Paris should be treated as guests, the English especially. But it is the
English who are the first victims of the possessor of francs that are
out of date, five-franc pieces guiltless of their country's silver, and
ten-franc pieces into whose composition no gold has entered.

He had been in Paris but an hour or so when--but let me tell the story
as my travelling companion told it to me.

"I don't know what your experience in Paris has been," he said, "but I
have been victimised right and left."

He was now getting up, while I lay at comparative ease in my berth and
watched his difficulties in the congested room and disliked his under
vest.

"I had been in Paris but a few hours," he continued, "when it was
necessary to pay a cabman. I handed him a franc. He examined it, laughed
and returned it. I handed him another. He went through the same
performance. Having found some good money to get rid of him, I sat down
outside a café to try and remember where I had received the change in
which these useless coins had been inserted. During a week in Paris much
of my time was spent in that way."

He sighed and drew on his trousers. His braces were red.

"I showed the bad francs to a waiter," he went on, "and he, like the
cabman, laughed. In fact, next to nudity, there is no theme so certain
to provoke Parisian mirth as a bad coin. The first thought of every one
to whom I showed my collection was to be amused." His face blackened
with rage. "This cheerful callousness in a matter involving a total want
of principle and straight-dealing as between man and man," he said,
"denotes to what a point of cynicism the Parisians have attained."

I agreed with him.

"The waiter," he continued, "went through my money and pointed out what
was good and what either bad or out of currency. He called other waiters
to enjoy the joke. It seemed that in about four hours I had acquired
three bad francs, one bad two-franc piece and two bad five-franc pieces.
I put them away in another pocket and got fresh change from him, which,
as I subsequently discovered, contained one obsolete five-franc piece
and two discredited francs. And so it went on. I was a continual target
for them."

Here he began to wash, and the story was interrupted.

When he re-emerged I asked him why he didn't always examine his change.

"It's very difficult to remember to do so," he said, "and, besides, I am
not an expert. Anyway, it got worse and worse, and when a bad gold piece
came along I realised that I must do something; so I wrote to the Chief
of the Police."

"In French?" I asked.

"No, in English--the language of honesty. I told him my own experiences.
I said that other English people whom I had met had testified to similar
trouble; and I put it to him that as a matter of civic pride--_esprit de
pays_--he should do his utmost to cleanse Paris of this evil. I added
that in my opinion the waiters were the worst offenders."

"Have you had a reply?" I asked.

"Not yet," he said, and having completed his toilet he made room for me.

Later, meeting him in the restaurant-car, I asked him to show me his
store of bad money. I wanted to see for myself what these coins were
like.

"I haven't got them," he said.

"You sent them to the Chief of the Police with your letter, I suppose?"
I said.

"No, I didn't," he replied. "The fact is--well--as a matter of fact I
managed to work them all off again."



A SOUTH SEA BUBBLE


"I want you," said my hostess, "to take in Mrs. Blank. She is charming.
All through the War she has been with her husband in the South Seas.
London is a new place to her."

Mrs. Blank did not look too promising. She was pretty in her
way--"elegant" an American would have called her--but she lacked
animation. However, the South Seas...! Any one fresh from the Pacific
must have enough to tell to see soup, fish, and _entrée_ safely through.

I began by remarking that she must find London a very complete change
after the sun and serenity that she had come from.

"It's certainly noisier," she said; "but we had our share of rain."

"I thought it was always fine there," I remarked; but she laughed a
denial and relapsed into silence.

She was one of those women who don't take soup, and this made the
economy of her utterances the more unfair.

Racking my brain for a new start, I fell back on those useful fellows,
the authors. Presuming that any one who had lived in that fascinating
region--the promised land of so many of us who are weary of English
climatic treacheries--would be familiar with the literature of it, I
went boldy to work.

"The first book about the South Seas that I ever read," I said, "was
Ballantyne's 'Coral Island'."

"Indeed!" she replied.

I asked her if she too had not been brought up on Ballantyne, and she
said no. She did not even know his name.

"He wrote for boys," I explained, rather lamely.

"I read poetry chiefly as a girl," she said.

"But surely you know Stevenson's 'Island Nights' Entertainments'?" I
said.

No, she did not. Was it nice?

"It's extraordinary," I said. "It gives you more of the atmosphere of
the South Seas than any other work. And Louis Becke--you must have read
him?" I continued.

No, she had not. She read very little. The last book she had read was on
spiritualism.

"Not even Conrad?" I pursued. "No one has so described the calms and
storms of the Pacific."

No, she remembered no story called Conrad.

I was about to explain that Conrad was the writer, not the written; but
it seemed a waste of words, and we fell into a stillness broken only by
the sound of knife and fork.

"I wonder," I ventured next, "if you came across anyone who had met
Ganguin."

"Go--what?" she asked.

"That amazing Peruvian-Frenchman," I went on, with a certain foolish
desperation. "Ganguin. He Lived in Tahiti."

"How comically geographical you are!" was all she replied, and again a
silence brooded over our plates.

"Hang it! you shall talk," I said to myself; and then aloud, "Tell me
all about copra. I have longed to know what copra is; how it grows, what
it looks like, what it is for."

"You have come to the wrong person," she replied, with very wide eyes.
"I never heard of it. Or did you say 'cobra'? Of course I know what a
cobra is--it's a snake. I've seen them at the Zoo."

I put her right. "Copra, the stuff that the traders in the South Seas
deal in."

"I never heard of it," she said, "but then why should I? I know nothing
about the South Seas."

My stock fell thirty points and I crumbled bread nervously, hoping for
something sensible to say; but at this moment "half-time" mercifully set
in. My partner on the other side turned to me suavely and asked if I
thought the verses in "Abraham Lincoln" were a beauty or a blemish; and
with the assistance of the Russian ballet, some new novels, and the
universal unrest I sailed serenely into port. She was as easy and
agreeable a woman as that other was difficult, and before she left for
the drawing-room she had invited me to lunch and I had accepted.

As I said good night to my hostess I asked why she had told me that my
first partner had been in the South Seas. She said that she had said
nothing of the sort; what she had said was that during the War she had
been stationed with her husband, Colonel Blank, at Southsea.



ON FINDING THINGS


After the passage of several years since I had picked up anything, last
week I found successively a carriage key (in Royal Hospital Road), a
brooch (in Church Street, Kensington), and sixpence in a third-class
compartment. It was as I stooped to pick up the sixpence, which had
suddenly gleamed at me under the seat of the now empty carriage, that I
said to myself that finding things is one of the purest of earthly joys.

And how rare!

I have, in a lifetime that now and then appals me by its length, found
almost nothing. These three things this week; a brown-paper packet when
I was about seven, containing eight pennies and one halfpenny; on the
grass in the New Forest, when I was about twenty, a half-dollar piece;
and at Brighton, not long after, a gold brooch of just sufficient value
to make it decent to take it to the police station, from which, a year
later, no one having claimed it, it was returned to me: these constitute
nearly half a century's haul. I might add--now and then, perhaps, a
safety-pin, pencil, some other trifle, which, however well supplied with
such articles one may be, cannot be acquired from a clear sky without a
thrill. Even Mr. Rockefeller, I take it, would not have been unmoved had
he, instead of myself, stumbled on that treasure between Stony Cross and
Boldrewood.

To be given such things is not a comparable experience. With a
gift--intention, consciousness, preparation, come in; to say nothing of
obligation later. The event is also complicated (and therefore shorn of
its glory) by the second person, since the gift must be given. But,
suddenly dropping one's eyes, to be aware of a coin--that is sheer
rapture. Other things can be exciting too, but a coin is best, because a
coin is rarely identifiable by a previous owner; and I am naturally
confining myself to those things the ownership of which could not
possibly be traced. To find things which have to be surrendered is as
impure a joy as the world contains, and no theme for this pen.

The special quality of the act of finding something, with its consequent
exhilaration, is half unexpectedness and half separateness. There being
no warning, and the article coming to you by chance, no one is to be
thanked, no one to be owed anything. In short, you have achieved the
greatest human triumph--you have got something for nothing. That is the
true idea: the "nothing" must be absolute; one must never have looked,
never have had any finding intention, or even hope. To look for things
is to change the whole theory--to rob it of its divine suddenness; to
become anxious, even avaricious; to partake of the nature of the
rag-picker, the _chiffonier_, or those strange men that one notices
walking, with bent heads, along the shore after a storm. (None the less
that was a great moment, once, in the island of Coll, when after two
hours' systematic searching I found the plover's nest.)

Finding things is at once so rare and pure a joy that to trifle with it
is peculiarly heartless. Yet are there people so wantonly in need of
sport as to do so. Every one knows of the purse laid on the path or
pavement beside a fence, which, as the excited passer-by stoops to pick
it up, is twitched through the palings by its adherent string. There is
also the coin attached to a thread which can be dropped in the street
and instantly pulled up again, setting every eye at a pavement scrutiny.
Could there be lower tricks? I fear so, because some years ago, in the
great days of a rendezvous of Bohemians in the Strand known as the
Marble Halls, a wicked wag (I have been told) once nailed a bad but
plausible sovereign to the floor and waited events. In the case of the
purse and string the butts are few and far between and there is usually
only a small audience to rejoice in their discomfiture, but the
_dénouement_ of the cruel comedy of which acquisitiveness and cunning
were the warp and woof at the Marble Halls was only too bitterly public.
I am told, such is human resourcefulness in guile, that very few of
those who saw the coin and marked it down as their own went for it right
away, because had they done so the action might have been noticed and
the booty claimed. Instead, the discoverer would look swiftly and
stealthily round, and then gradually and with every affectation of
nonchalance (which to those in the secret, watching from the corners of
their wicked eyes, was so funny as to be an agony) he would get nearer
and nearer until he was able at last to place one foot on it.

This accomplished, he would relax into something like real naturalness,
and, practically certain of his prey, take things easily for a moment or
so. Often, I am told, the poor dupe would, at this point, whistle the
latest tune. Even now, however, he dared not abandon subterfuge, or his
prize, were he seen to pick it up, might have to be surrendered or
shared; so the next move was to drop his handkerchief, the idea being to
pick up both it and the sovereign together. Such explosions of laughter
as followed upon his failure to do so can (I am informed) rarely have
been heard.

--Such was the conspiracy of the nailed sovereign, which, now and then,
the victim, shaking the chagrin from him, would without shame himself
join, and become a delighted spectator of his successor's humiliation.

Can you conceive of a more impish hoax? But I should like to have
witnessed it.



PUNCTUALITY


Among my good resolutions for the New Year I very nearly included the
determination never to be punctual again. I held my hand, just in time;
but it was a near thing.

For a long while it had been, with me, a point of honour to be on time,
and, possibly, I had become a little self-righteous on the matter,
rebuking too caustically those with a laxer standard. But towards the
close of 1919 doubts began to creep in. For one thing, modern conditions
were making it very hard to keep engagements to the letter; taxis were
scarce and trains and omnibuses crowded, so that in order to be punctual
one had to walk and thus lose many precious minutes; for another, I had
such a number of appointments which were not kept by the other parties
that I had to take the matter into serious consideration, for they all
meant disorganisation of a rather exacting time-table at a period when I
was unusually busy. Moreover, while waiting for a late friend, it is
impossible to do anything--one is too impatient or unsettled.

Why, I began to ask myself, should I do all the waiting and get hungry
and cross, and why should they do all the
arriving-when-everything-is-ready? Why should not the rôles be reversed?

When conscription came in and martial habits became the rule, I had
hoped and believed that punctuality was really likely to be established.
I thought this because one had always heard so much about Army
precision, and also because my most punctual friend for many years had
been a soldier and we had engaged in a rivalry in the matter. But I was
wrong. During the War the soldiers home on leave took every advantage of
one's gratitude to them, while the first demobilised one whom I
entertained kept me waiting forty minutes for dinner.

The pity of it is that this particular tarrying guest is a man of
eminence and capacity. Were he a failure, as according to our own Samuel
Smiles or the author of that famous American book "From Princeton
College to Colonel House," he ought to be, all would be well; but he is
not; he has never been punctual in his life and he has had an
exceptionally successful career. The books tell us that the unpunctual
man is disqualified in the race for fortune; that no one will employ
him, no one will trust him. They say that the keeping of appointments is
a test both of character and quality. Business men interviewing
applicants for posts, they tell us, will engage no one, no matter what
his attainments, who does not arrive promptly. But these hard and fast
schemes of appraisement can, as I have shown, be all wrong. Wisdom,
after all, is an element in business success; and what wise man would
ever be punctual at his dentist's? What kind of respect a dentist has
for his first appointment of the day, I cannot tell. I have avoided
these early séances; but every one knows that he is never ready for a
patient at the covenanted hour after that. Editors usually keep their
visitors waiting. No theatrical manager has ever been on time; but then
time does not exist for the stage, because, apart from their profession,
actors have nothing to do. Rehearsals are one immense distracting
outrage upon the routine of an ordered existence; and yet actors are a
very happy folk.

Until late in 1919, as I have said, I had loved Punctualia with a true
ardour; but I now found myself sufficiently free from passion to be able
to examine her critically and to discern faults. For there is a good
deal to be said against her.

To be always correct is a dangerous thing. I have noticed that the
people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have
to wait for them. Looking deeply into the matter, I realised that
Punctualia, for all her complacency and air of rectitude, has lost a
great many lives. The logic of the thing is inexorable. If you are late
for the train, you miss it; and if you are not in it and it is wrecked,
you live on--to miss others. I recalled one very remarkable case in
point which happened in my own family circle. A relation of mine, with
her daughter, had arranged to spend a holiday in the Channel Islands. A
cabman promised and failed, arriving in time only to whip his horse all
the way across London and miss the train by a minute. When, the next
day, it was learned that the Channel Islands boat had struck the
Casquettes and had gone down the ladies were so excited by their escape
that they sought the cabman and by way of gratitude adopted one of his
numerous children. That is a true story, and it is surely a very
eloquent supporter of an anti-punctual policy. Had the ladies caught the
train they would have been drowned, and the cabman's bantling would have
lacked any but the most elementary education.

Can you wonder, then, that I nearly included a determination never to be
punctual again among my New Year resolutions? But I did not go so far. I
left it at the decision not to be so particular about punctuality as I
used to be.



THE OTHER TWO


It is my good or ill fortune to have taken a furnished flat at a dizzy
altitude in the neighbourhood of that London terminus which is at once
nearest the sea and the Promised Land. Immediately above the flat is a
spacious roof, which affords a pleasant retreat in the cool of the
evening and commands what the agents call an extensive prospect, and
where, at most hours, toy dogs may be met. The flat itself consists of a
number of rooms the walls of which are covered with photographs of men,
women, and children, almost as thickly as the pages of a schoolboy's
album are covered with stamps. There are more men than women, and more
women than children. The men have obsolete beards; several of the women
seem to be sisters, and have been taken together with their heads
inclining towards each other at an affectionate angle, which, although
affectionate, does not render the thought impossible that each sister
secretly is convinced that she is the handsomer. There are also sets of
children graduated like organ pipes. These photographs not only hang on
the walls but they swarm in frames about the mantelpieces and the
occasional tables. The occasional tables are so numerous and varied in
size that one might imagine this their stud farm.

The beginning of my tenancy was marked by a tragedy. The larder window
having been left open by the previous occupants, a large slate-coloured
pigeon, with schemes for a family, had made a nest and laid an egg in
it, and, at the very moment when I suddenly opened the door, was
preparing to lay another. To this achievement I personally should have
had no objection; but the porter, who was showing me round, and who has
a sense of decorum more proper to such apartments, had other views, and
before I could interfere he had removed the egg, brushed away the nest,
and closed the window. That ended his share of the drama; but mine was
to begin, for ever since that day the pigeon, with a depth of
reproachfulness in its eyes that is extremely distressing, has sat on
the kitchen window-sill making desperate efforts to get in, so that I
creep about feeling like Herod. During Baby Week it was almost
unbearable. Even when I am far from the kitchen I can hear its plaintive
injured cooing.

The flat is conspicuous in possessing, in addition to numerous other
advantages, such as a night porter to work the lift, who is never
visible, and a day porter who, having been forbidden by the powers that
be to use the lift before two o'clock in the afternoon, scrupulously
obeys the new regulation, except when he has to ascend to an upper floor
himself: the flat has, in addition to these advantages, windows that
refuse to be lifted by any but a Hercules, and doors (ten in all) not
one of which will remain open except by artificial means. Whether or not
this is a peculiarity of Westminster architecture I cannot say, but all
the doors are alike. They each quickly but remorselessly close, yet so
gently that the latch does not catch, and every breath of draught (and
we by no means stop at breaths) sways them noisily to and fro with a
sound that is excessively irritating to the nerves. I have therefore
either to go to the door and fasten it or find something with which to
fix it open. Normally, I use a chair or a weight from the kitchen
scales; but two of the rooms--the drawing-room, where the occasional
tables are most fecund, and the dining-room, where I do everything but
dine--are supplied with door-stops of their own, consisting each of an
elephant's foot mounted with brass. Picture me then, the most Occidental
of men and so long a devotee of the study and the shelf as to be less of
a big-game hunter than any one you could imagine, moving about this
intensely sophisticated flat carrying from room to room the foot of a
mammoth of the Indian jungle or the African forest (I don't know which)
in order to prevent a London door from banging. Imperial Cæsar's destiny
was not less exalted or more incongruous.

If there were four of these feet I should be more at ease. But there are
only two of them, and I have been to the Zoo often enough to know that
elephants are quadrupeds. Where then are the other two? That is the
question which is wearing me out. I lie awake at night, wondering, and
then, falling into an uneasy sleep, hear a heavy stumbling tread on the
stairs and wake in terror expecting the door to burst open and the other
half of the elephant to advance upon me demanding its lost feet. It is
always a dreadful nightmare, but never more so than when the mammoth not
only towers up grey and threatening, but coos like an exiled pigeon.



ON SECRET PASSAGES


I was hearing the other day of an old house in Sussex where, while doing
some repairs, the builders' men chanced on the mouth of an underground
passage which they traced for two miles. Why should that discovery be
interesting? Why is everything to do with underground passages so
interesting? It is, I suppose, because they are usually secret, and the
very word secret, no matter how applied (except perhaps to treaties) is
alluring: secret drawers, secret cupboards, secret chambers; but the
secret passage is best, because it leads from one place to another, and
either war or love called it into being: war or love, or, as in the case
of priests' hiding holes, religious persecution, which is a branch of
war.

Nothing can deprive the secret passage of its glamour: not all the
Tubes, or subways, or river tunnelling, through which we pass so
naturally day after day. Any private excavation is exciting; to enter a
dark cellar, even, carries a certain emotion. How mysterious are crypts!
How awesome are the catacombs of Rome! How it brings back the lawless,
turbulent past of Florence merely to walk through that long passage
(not underground but overground, yet no less dramatic for that) which,
passing above the Ponte Vecchio, unites the Pitti and the Uffizi and
made it possible, unseen by the Florentines, to transfer bodies of armed
men from one side of the Arno to the other!

It was the underground passage idea which gave the Druce Case such
possibilities of mystery and romance. That a duke should masquerade as
an upholsterer was in itself an engaging idea; but without the
underground passage connecting Baker Street with Cavendish Square the
story was no more than an ordinary feuilleton. I shall always regret
that it was not true; and even now some one ought to take it in hand and
make a real romance of it, with the double-lived nobleman leaving his
own home so regularly every morning (by the trap door), doffing his
coronet and robes and changing _en route_ somewhere under Wigmore
Street, and appearing unseen (by another trap door) in the Bazaar, all
smug and punctual and rubbing his hands. It would be not only thrilling,
but such a satire on ducal dulness. And then the great Law Court scenes,
the rival heirs, the impassioned counsel, the vast sums at stake, the
sanction of the judge to open the grave, and finally the discovery that
there was no body there after all--nothing but bricks--and the fantastic
story really was fact! There has been no better plot since "Monte
Cristo," and that, you remember, would be nothing had not the Abbé Faria
excavated the secret passage from his cell through which Edmond was able
to re-enter the world and start upon his career of symmetrical
vengeance.

What, of course, gave such likelihood to the Druce allegations was the
circumstance that the Duke of Portland spent so much of his life at
Welbeck underground. A man who is known to do that must expect to be the
subject of romantic exaggerations.

Another reason for wishing the Druce story to be true is that, if it
were true, if one aristocrat thus duplicated and enriched his life,
others also would do so; for there are no single instances; and this
means that London would be honey-combed by secret underground passages
constructed to promote these entertaining deceptions, and shopping would
become an absorbing pastime, for we should never know with whom we were
chaffering. But alas...!

Just as an ordinary desk takes on a new character directly one is told
that it has a secret drawer, so does even a whisper of a secret passage
transfigure the most commonplace house. Arriving in Gloucester not so
very long ago, and needing a resting-place for the night, I
automatically chose the hotel which claimed, in the advertisement, to
date from the fourteenth century and possess an underground passage to
the cathedral. The fact that, as the young lady in the office assured
me, the passage, if it ever existed, no longer is accessible, made very
little difference: the idea of it was the attraction and determined the
choice of the inn. The Y. M. C. A. headquarters at Brighton on the Old
Steyne ceases to be under the dominion of those initials--four letters
which, for all their earnest of usefulness, are as far removed from the
suggestion of clandestine intrigue as any could be--and becomes a
totally different structure when one is told that when, long before its
conversion, Mrs. Fitzherbert lived there, an underground passage existed
between it and the Pavilion for the use of the First Gentleman in
Europe. Whether it is fact or fancy I cannot say, but that the Pavilion
has a hidden staircase and an underground passage to the Dome I happen
to know. A hidden staircase has hardly fewer adventurous potentialities
than a secret passage. I was told of one at Greenwich Hospital: in the
wing built by Charles II. is a secret staircase in the wall leading to
the apartments set apart for (need I say?) Mistress Eleanor Gwynne?
These rooms, such is the deteriorating effect of modernity, are now
offices.



LITTLE MISS BANKS


To many people wholly free from superstition, except that, after
spilling the salt, they are careful to throw a little over the left
shoulder, and do not walk under ladders unless with crossed thumbs, and
refuse to sit thirteen at table, and never bring May blossoms into the
house--to these people, otherwise so free from superstition, it would
perhaps be surprising to know what great numbers of their
fellow-creatures resort daily to such a black art as fortune-telling by
the cards.

Yet quite respectable, God-fearing, church-going old ladies, and
probably old gentlemen too, treasure this practice, to say nothing of
younger and therefore naturally more frivolous folk; and many make the
consultation of the two-and-fifty oracles a morning habit.

Particularly women. Those well-thumbed packs of cards that we know so
well are not wholly dedicated to "Patience," I can assure you.

All want to be told the same thing: what the day will bring forth. But
each searcher into the dim and dangerous future has, of course,
individual methods--some shuffling seven times and some ten, and so
forth, and all intent upon placating the elfish goddess, Caprice.

There is little Miss Banks, for example.

Nothing would induce little Miss Banks to leave the house in the morning
without seeing what the cards promised her, and so open and
impressionable are her mind and heart that she is still interested in
the colour of the romantic fellow whom the day, if kind, is to fling
across her path. The cards, as you know, are great on colours, all men
being divided into three groups; dark (which has the preference), fair,
and middling. Similarly for you, if you can get little Miss Banks to
read your fate (but you must of course shuffle the pack yourself), there
are but three kinds of charmers: dark (again the most fascinating and to
be desired), fair, and middling.

It is great fun to watch little Miss Banks at her necromancy. She takes
it so earnestly, literally wrenching the future's secrets from their
lair.

"A letter is coming to you from some one," she says. "An important
letter."

And again, "I see a voyage over water."

Or very seriously, "There's a death."

You gasp.

"No, it's not yours. A fair woman's."

You laugh. "Only a fair woman's!" you say. "Go on."

But the cards have not only ambiguities, but strange reticences.

"Oh," little Miss Banks will say, her eyes large with excitement,
"there's a payment of money and a dark man."

"Good," you say.

"But I can't tell," she goes on, "whether you pay it to him or he pays
it to you."

"That's a nice state of things," you say, becoming indignant. "Surely
you can tell."

"No, I can't."

You begin to go over your dark acquaintances who might owe you money,
and can think of none.

You then think of your dark acquaintances to whom you owe money and are
horrified by their number.

"Oh, well," you say, "the whole thing's rubbish, anyway."

Little Miss Banks's eyes dilate with pained astonishment.
"Rubbish!"--and she begins to shuffle again.



GENTLEMEN BOTH


Not all of us have the best manners always about us. The fortunate are
they whose reaction is instant; but those also are fortunate who, after
the first failure--during the conflict between, say, natural and
acquired feelings--can recapture their best, too.

At a certain country house where a shooting party was assembled a
picture stood on an easel in a corner of the dining-room. It was a
noticeable picture by reason of its beauty and also by reason of a gash
in the canvas. Coffee was on the table when one of the guests, looking
round the walls, observed it for the first time, and, drawing his host's
attention to its excellence, asked who was the painter; and the host,
who was an impulsive, hearty fellow, full of money, after supplying the
information and corroborating the justice of the criticism, remarked to
the whole company, "Now here's a sporting offer. You see that cut across
the paint in the middle"--pointing it out as he spoke--"well, I'll give
any one a thousand pounds who can guess how it was done."

They all rose and clustered before the easel; for a thousand pounds are
worth having a try for, even when one is rich--as most of them were.

"It was done only last week," the host continued, "and it was such a
queer business that I don't intend to have it repaired. Now then, all of
you, a thousand of the best for the correct answer."

He rubbed his hands and chuckled. It was a sure thing for him, and there
would be a lot of fun in the suggestions.

The guests having re-examined the cut with minuteness, one by one,
seated themselves again, and pencils and paper were provided so that the
various possible solutions might be written down. The real business then
began--no sound but pencils writing and the host chuckling.

Now it happened that one of the party, a year or so before, had seen
somewhere in Yorkshire a picture with a not dissimilar rent, caused, he
had been told, by a panic-stricken bird which had blundered into the
room and couldn't get out again. Remembering this, and remembering also
that history sometimes repeats itself, he wrote on his piece of paper
that, according to his guess, the canvas was torn by a bird which had
flown into the room and lost its head.

All the suggestions having been written down, the host called on their
writers to read them, a jolly, confident smile lighting up his features,
which grew more jolly and more confident as one after another incorrect
solution was tendered.

And then came the turn of the man who had remembered about the bird, and
who happened to be the last of all. "My guess is," he read out, "that
the picture was damaged by a bird."

There was a roar of laughter, which gradually subsided when it was
observed that the host was very far from joining in it. In fact, his
face not only had lost all its good humour, but was white and tense.

When there was silence he said, with a certain biting shortness:
"Somebody must have told you."

"Nobody told me," was the reply. "But you don't really mean to say I've
guessed right?"

"If you call it a guess--yes," said the host, whose mortification had
become painful to witness.

"Well," said the other quickly and pleasantly, "'guess' perhaps isn't
the right word, and, of course, I shouldn't therefore claim the reward.
You see----," and he then explained how he had remembered the odd
experience in Yorkshire, and in default of any inventiveness of his own
had used it. "So, of course," he added, rising and moving towards the
window, "the offer is off. Remembering isn't guessing; quite the
reverse. What a gorgeous moon!"

The others also rose, only too willingly, for the situation had become
trying; the matter dropped, at any rate as a theme of general
conversation; and gradually and uncomfortably bed-time was reached.

Several of the party were at breakfast the next morning when their host
made his first appearance; and they noticed that he had regained his
customary gay serenity. Walking up to the guest whose memory had been so
embarrassing, he handed him a slip of paper.

"I'm sorry, old man," he said, "to have been in such a muddle last
night, but the accuracy of that shot of yours dazed me. Of course the
offer stands. All this cheque needs is for you to fill in the name of
whatever hospital or charity you prefer."

"Thanks," said the other as he put it in his pocket-book.



ON EPITAPHS


Not long ago I was staying in a village where the shortest cut to the
inn lay through the churchyard, and passing and repassing so often I
came to know the dead inhabitants of the place almost better than the
living. Not with the penetrating knowledge of the author of "Spoon River
Anthology"--that very extraordinary and understanding book,--but in a
kindly superficial way. Indeed, considering that they were total
strangers and their acquaintance not now to be made by any but the
followers of those doughty knights of the round (or square) séance
table, Sir Oliver and Sir Conan, some of these dead people were absurdly
often in my thoughts; but that was because of their names. Such names!
Many of course were no longer legible, for Father Time had either
obliterated them with his patient finger, dipped now in lichen and now
in moss, or upon them his tears had fallen too steadily. But many
remained and some of them were wonderful. Has it ever been explained why
the dead have more remarkable names than the living? Did any one ever
meet "in the form" a Lavender Wiseways? Yet there was a Lavender
Wiseways lying beneath one of those stones. There was her sister too,
lying close beside--Lavinia Wiseways. Neither had married; but then how
could they have performed a deed which would have lost them such
distinction! And who now exchanges market greetings, with a gaitered
gentleman named Paradine Ebb? Yet once there was a Paradine Ebb, farmer,
not such a great distance from London, to shake by the hand, and chat
to, and buy fat stock from, and, I hope, share a cordial glass with. And
who--but if I continue I shall betray the village's name, and that is
against good manners. Too many real names get into print in these
inquisitive days.

It was not however of strange dead names that I was thinking when I took
up my pen, but of the epitaphs on the tombstones, sometimes so brief and
simple, sometimes so long and pompous, and almost always withholding
everything of real importance about the occupants of the narrow cells
beneath and almost always affecting to despise the precious gift of
life. Why should not some one, greatly daring, go so far as to bid the
mason engrave a tribute to the world that is being left behind? Would
that be so impious? There is no indication that any of these dead ever
enjoyed a moment.

Something like this, for instance--

          HERE LIES

        HENRY ROBINSON

    WHO LIVED IN THE BELIEF--AND,
    WITH MANY FAILURES, DID HIS
    BEST TO ACT OF TO IT--THAT IF
    YOU SPEND YOUR TIME IN TRYING
    TO MAKE THINGS A LITTLE EASIER
    AND MERRIER IN THIS WORLD, THE
    NEXT CAN TAKE CARE OF ITSELF.

The whole insincere suggestion of most churchyards now is that life has
been spent in a vale of tears: a long tribulation, merely a preparation
for another and better world. But we know that that is not usually the
case, and we know that many lives, although unrelated to graveyard ideas
of decorum and insurance, are happier than not. There is in the God's
Acre of which I am writing more than one appeal to the living to be wary
of earthly serenity: surely a very unfair line for the dead to take and
not unremindful of the fable of the fox and his tail. An elaborate stone
close by the lych gate has a series of dreary couplets warning the
passer-by that the next grave to be dug may be his; and on the
assumption that he is being too happy he is adjured to a morbid
thoughtfulness. The dead might be kinder than that, more generous, more
altruistic! I should like a headstone to bear some such motto as

    "DIE AND LET LIVE."

But not only do the epitaphs suggest that life below is a snare; they
are by no means too encouraging about the life above. The spirit they
proclaim is a very poor one. Nothing can make death attractive; but even
if some golden-mouthed advocate should arise whose eloquence half
persuaded, the churchyard would beat him: the damp of it, the gloom of
it, the mouldiness of it, the pathetic unconvincing efforts at
resignation which the slabs record! We ought to be braver; more
heartening to others. A rector who allowed none but cheerful epitaphs
would be worth his tithes.

Would there be any very impossible impropriety in such an inscription as
this--

            HERE LIES

            JOHN SMITH

      WHO FOUND EARTH PLEASANT AND
    REJOICED IN ITS BEAUTIES AND ENJOYED
      ITS SAVOURS; WHO LOVED
    AND WAS LOVED; AND WHO WOULD
      FAIN GO ON LIVING. HE DIED
    RELUCTANTLY, BUT WISHES WELL TO
      ALL WHO SURVIVE HIM.

            CARPE DIEM.

Reading that, the stranger would not necessarily (I hope) be transformed
into a detrimental Hedonist.

And now and then a human foible might be recorded by the stonemason
without risk of undermining society's foundations. When our friends are
dead why should we not disclose a little? Some secrets are better out.
Here for example--

        HERE LIES

    (in no expectation of immortality)

        THOMAS BROWN

    HE WAS NO FRIEND OF THE
    CHURCH, BUT HE PAID HIS WAY,
    INTERFERED WITH NONE OF HIS
    NEIGHBOURS, AND HIS WORD WAS
        HIS BOND.

What would happen if Thomas Brown's friends paid for such lapidary style
as that? Would the world totter? Again--

        HERE LIES

        MARY JONES

    THE WIFE OF WILLIAM JONES.
    HONOUR HER MEMORY, FOR SHE
    WAS LENIENT WHEN HER HUSBAND
        WAS IN LIQUOR.

I should also like to see memorial verses beginning:

    Physicians sore
    Long time I bore.



IN AND ABOUT LONDON



I

A LONDON THRILL


The scene was Gerrard Street: a rather curious thoroughfare notable for
possessing three or four restaurants dear to Bohemia, the great West End
telephone exchange, the homes of Dryden and Edmund Burke, a number of
cinema offices, and many foreign inhabitants.

The time was three o'clock in the afternoon.

In the middle were two or three big vans, loading or unloading and
filling the roadway, thus cutting the street into two so effectively
that I, approaching from the east, had no knowledge of anything
happening in the western half. I therefore attached no significance to
the hurrying steps of a policeman in front of me, but was a little
surprised to see him pick his way almost on tiptoe between the vans--yet
not sufficiently surprised to anticipate drama.

But the drama was there, awaiting me, on the other side of the vans, and
the policeman--this being London drama--was naturally one of the
performers. For there never was a street play yet--comedy, tragedy, or
farce--without a policeman in the cast. It is a convention to say--as
every one has in his time said and will say again--that a policeman is
never there when he is wanted; but that is true only in the dull sense:
what we mean is that the policeman is never there before the curtain
rises, or, in other words, in time to prevent the performance
altogether. How tame if he were! As a matter of fact, by delaying his
arrival until the affair is in good train he takes his proper part as a
London entertainer; that is to say, he is there when he is
wanted--wanted to complete the show.

It was thus on the present occasion.

On passing the vans I was suddenly aware that the curtain had risen; for
on the south pavement were some fifteen or twenty people watching two
women at the house opposite, one of whom, a young one in a long brown
overcoat, was trying to get past the half-opened door, while the other,
an older one, in black, repulsed her from within. Just as I arrived the
policeman darted from between the vans, seized the young woman's arm,
and said, "That's enough of that. You come along with me." Her
reluctance was intense, but she did not resist; in fact, she had about
her a suggestion of having expected it.

One of the spectators remarked, "Quite time, too"; another added, "She
was arstin' for it." The other woman disappeared into the house, and we
all began to move in a westward direction.

Had this young woman, the nature of whose offence I did not learn, been
a malefactor of any importance she would have been hustled into a cab
and lost to sight. Happily, however, she was only a common brawler or
disturber of the peace, and therefore there was no cab. I say happily,
because it is rarely that one sees people so cheered up on a dull cold
day as every one seemed to be who caught sight of her between Gerrard
Street, where the policeman put that deadly grip upon her, and Vine
Street, where she vanished into the station. Watching the effect of her
impact on the street, "Captured to make a London holiday" is the form of
words that ran through my mind.

When we turned from Gerrard Street into Wardour Street we were about
thirty strong. When we turned from Wardour Street into Shaftesbury
Avenue we were forty-five strong, for as the glad news spread we
increased amazingly. It is a point of honour with Londoners to accompany
the fallen on their way. Not to jeer at them, although our absence
would be kinder, nor to sympathize with them; merely to be in whatever
is going on. If our prevalent expression is one of amusement, that is
because we are being entertained, and entertained free. No malice.

And so we proceeded. Every now and then the young woman, who had one of
those thin white faces that often mark the excitable and even the not
quite sane, and who, I fancy, had been drinking, would have stopped, to
enlarge upon her grievance; but the policeman urged her ever onward,
always with those terrible official fingers encircling her arm.

The retinue became alarming, like a food queue on the march. Little boys
who a moment ago had no hopes of any such luck screamed the tidings to
other little boys in the by-ways and these, in their turn, shrieked out
to others, so that reinforcements scampered down Rupert Street and Great
Windmill Street to swell the concourse. In one little boy I watched
horror struggle with joy. "They've pinched a lady!" he exclaimed in
shocked tones, and then hurried to the head of the line to miss nothing
of the outrage. The people on the tops of motor-buses stood up. At
Piccadilly Circus the traffic was suspended.

A pathetic young woman in a long brown overcoat having tried for just a
few moments too long to enter a house in Gerrard Street (to which, for
all I know, she had a perfect right), all London was disorganised!

And so she crossed Regent Street, passed the Piccadilly Hotel, and at
the alley leading to Vine Street was swallowed up. The most eager of the
adults and all the small boys penetrated the alley too, but the rest,
with one last longing look, melted away and resumed the ordinary tedium
of life. The thrill was over....

But the squalor of that march! What she had done I have no notion, but
she was well punished for it long before Vine Street was reached. I hope
that magistrates sometimes take these distances into consideration.



II

A DOOR-PLATE


But for having lived in London long enough to know the rules, or, in
other words, to be aware that nothing is out of place there, I might
have thought of the door-plate which, in Fetter Lane, suddenly caught my
eye as an incongruity. But no; I am inured, and therefore I merely
looked at it twice instead of only once, and passed on with a head full
of mental and intensely uncivic pictures of undauntable men, identical
in patience and hopefulness, standing hour after hour at the ends of
piers all round ours coasts, watching their lines. For the words on the
door-plate were these: "British Sea Anglers' Society."

I shall continue to deny that the notice was out of place, but a certain
oddity (not uncommon in London) may be conceded, for Fetter Lane
otherwise has less marine association than any street that one could
name; and angling is too placid, too philosophic, too reclusive a sport
to be represented by an office absolutely on the fringe of that
half-square mile of the largest city in the world given over to fierce,
feverish activity; where printing presses are at their thickest, busy
and clattering, day and night, in the task of providing Britons with
all--and a little more--of the news, and a fresh sensation for every
breakfast table. Except that upon the breakfast table is often to be
found the herring in one or other of its posthumous metamorphoses, there
is no connecting link whatever. And why one has to belong to a society
with a door-plate in Fetter Lane before drawing mackerel from Pevensey
Bay, or whiting from the Solent, is a question to answer which is beside
the mark; although that fish can be caught from the sea without
membership of this fraternity I myself can testify--for was I not once
in the English Channel in a small boat in the company of two conger eels
and a dogfish, whose noisy and acrobatic reluctance to die turned what
ought to have been a party of pleasure into misery and shame; and shall
I ever forget the look of dismay (a little touched by triumph) on the
face of a humane English girl visiting Ireland, when, after she had
pulled in an unresisting pollock at the end of a trawl line and the
boatman had taken it from the hook and beaten it sickeningly to death
with an iron thole pin, she heard him say, as later, he handed the fish
to a colleague on the landing-stage, "The young lady killed it"?

But this is not London--far, indeed, from it!--although an excellent
example of London's peculiar and precious gift of starting the mind on
extra-mural adventures. The sea, however, is, in reality too, very near
the city, and the closeness of London's relations with it can be tested
in many delightful ways. Although, for example, the natural
meeting-place of those two old cronies, Father Thames and Neptune, is
somewhere about Gravesend, Neptune, as a matter of fact, comes for a
friendly glass with Gog (I almost wrote Grog) and Magog right up to
town. If you lean over the eastern parapet of London Bridge, just under
the clock which has letters instead of numerals, you will see the
stevedores unloading all kinds of wonderful sea-borne exotic
merchandise. The other morning I was the guest of a skipper of one of
these vessels, and sat in his cabin (which smelt, authentically, of
tobacco smoke as only a cabin can,) with his first engineer, and ate
ship's biscuits and heard first-hand stories of the sinking of the
_Titanic_, together with details of a romance in the European quarter of
a certain African port all ready to the magic hand of Mr. Conrad. Twelve
minutes later I was in a club in Pall Mall!

But there is no need to enter a cabin, although that is, of course, the
pleasantest way, for if you wander down to the Tower you can sit on an
old cannon on the quay and have the music of cordage in your ears, and
if you climb to the top of the Tower Bridge the scene below you has the
elements of a thousand yarns. And there are streets near the docks which
might have been cut out of Plymouth or Bristol. Now and then, indeed,
London may be said to be actually on the sea.

Such excursions are for the hours of light. In the hours of darkness I
used to have, years ago, a favourite river-side refuge. In those days,
when cabmen asked for custom instead of repulsing it, and public-houses
remained open until half-past 12 a. m., I had for fine summer nights,
after a dull play or dinner, a diversion that never failed; and this was
to make my way--if possible with a stranger to such sights and scenes,
and an impressionable one--to the Angel at Rotherhithe and watch the
shipping for an hour. The Angel is difficult of access, but once there
you might be at Valparaiso. It is a quarter of a mile below the Tower
Bridge on the south bank, with a wooden balcony overhanging the water,
and a mass of dark creaking barges moored below. Here on the balcony we
used to sit, while the great ships stole by at quarter speed, groping
for their moorings, and strange lights appeared and disappeared, and
voices hailed each other and were answered, and little sinister rowing
boats moved here and there on unknown missions, and perhaps an excursion
steamer, back very late from Margate, with its saloon all lighted and a
banjo bravely making merry to the bitter end, would glide past towards
London Bridge; and such is the enchantment of ships and shipping that
not even she could break the spell.

May the Angel survive the deluge! If not, I must carry out the dream of
my life, and make friends with the captain of a Thames tug.



III

ANGEL ADVOCACY


For more than half a century the humourist gravelled for matter has
found the ugliness of the Albert Memorial an easy escape from his
difficulties. To mention it is to raise a laugh.

But is it so ugly?

Conceiving that the time was ripe to put my own authentic impressions
above hearsay, I have made a pilgrimage to this shrine and subjected it
to the most careful examination.

I was amply repaid. Alike when resting on the comfortable seats around
its enclosure, taking in the structure as a whole, or when scrutinising
its sculptures at close range, I was pleasantly entertained, and I came
to the decision that the Albert Memorial not only has more in it to
attract than to repel, but is a very remarkable summary of the triumphs
of Science and Art: as good a lesson book as bronze and stone could
compile.

But even if this judgment is wrong, and the Albert Memorial really
deserves the facile execration by you and me which so long has been its
portion, that is not all. The subject is by no means closed. For you and
I are not everybody; we are getting old and tired and exacting, and we
are more disposed to complain of what we miss than to be happy with what
we find. There are, in the world, others whose attitude is simpler than
ours, whose views quite possibly are more important, to whose by no
means foolish eyes the Albert Memorial is beyond praise--adequate,
stimulating, splendid. I mean children.

Sir Gilbert Scott, the designer of the Albert Memorial, knowing, either
consciously or subconsciously--but the result is the same--that the
principal frequenters of Kensington Gardens are children, behaved
accordingly.

Those coloured pinnacles, those queens and angels high up in the sky
under the golden cross, those gay mosaics against the blue, fill
children with wondering delight. The emblematical groups of
statuary--America with its buffalo and Red Indian, Asia with its
elephant, Africa with its giant negro--must be thrilling, too; and when
it comes to the great men around the base--the musicians (Gluck's head
is really masterly), the poets, with Homer between Shakespeare and
Milton, the painters, with Turner transformed to elegance, the
architects, the sculptors, all so capable and calm and bland, and all
exactly the same height--I am with the children in their admiration.

This mass meeting of the intelligentsia is a reminder of all that is
best in literature and art, but most noticeably does it bring back the
memory of great buildings--an unusual emphasis being laid upon those
commonly anonymous and taken-for-granted masters, the architects.
Indeed, such is this emphasis that Giotto and Michael Angelo each comes
into the scheme twice, once as painter and again for structural genius.

The Albert Memorial contains all the materials for a pageant; it is, in
fact, a pageant crystallised; and if the myriad figures in the frieze
and in the groups were one moonlight night released by the magician who
turned them to stone and, coming to life, were to march through
Kensington Gardens, they would make, not only an impressive sight, as
they wound among the trees, with Asia's elephant leading, but as
representative a procession of the shining ones of the earth as Mr.
Louis Napoleon Parker could invent.

It is my belief that if only a few jackdaws could be persuaded to make
their home in its higher crevices, the Albert Memorial would
automatically take its place among the worshipful structures and be
mocked at no more. For that is what is needed. Beneath the jackdaw's
wing, where so many of our cathedrals repose, sanctity and authority
would be conferred upon it. As one looks up to the golden summit, one is
conscious of the absence of this discriminating and aloof yet humanizing
bird, black against the sky, critical if not actually censorious in his
speech, and an unmistakable indication that the building is noteworthy.



IV

THE SOANE HOGARTHS


No sooner was Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields open
again, after its long closure, than I hastened there to renew
acquaintance with that remarkable, almost incredible, pictorial
document, Hogarth's "Election" series. Modern elections are frequent
enough to add piquancy to the comparison, but apart from that it is
instructive to see in what spirit our not very remote ancestors
approached the ordeal of being returned to Parliament. The world may not
have advanced very perceptibly in many directions, but, if Hogarth is
trust-worthy, only a master of paradox could successfully maintain that
no progress is to be noted in the manufacture of legislators.

Not, however, that everything here depicted is obsolete. Far from it.
The groundwork is the same, and probably will always be so, but there is
now less coarseness. There is also more order, more method. And one has,
furthermore, to remember that Hogarth was a synthetic satirist, and a
rather wicked wit to boot. He assembled his puppets rather than found
them all together, and it amused him to heighten effects and to score
off his pet butts when he could. All these allowances, however, being
made, I fancy that the "Election" series has a good deal of old England
in it.

The series begins with the entertainment given by the two candidates of
the Court Party to their supporters, and even among Hogarth's works this
scene is remarkable for the number of things that are occurring at once.
No one excelled our English master in this crowding of incident, not
even Breughel or Teniers. While one of the candidates is, doubtless for
strictly political reasons, permitting himself to be caressed by an old
woman, a small girl abstracts his gold ring, and a man singes his wig
with a clay pipe. In the street outside the room is a procession of the
rival party, throwing through the window half-bricks, one of which is
seen to have just smashed a gentleman's head, while another gentleman,
injured at a slightly more remote period of the campaign, is being
anointed with spirits without, while he consumes spirits within. At the
end of the table the mayor of the independent borough, having been
reduced by too many oysters and too much liquor to a state of collapse,
is being bled by a surgeon. An orchestra, including a left-handed
fiddleress and the bagpipes, plays throughout; and a small boy, in
spite of the mayor's condition, continues to mix punch in a mash tub.
All this at once!

That was overnight. The next day the canvassing begins, and it is
superfluous to state that bribery and corruption are rife. Here, again,
is a wealth of synchronous occurrence. On the left are seen two gay
ladies persuading one of the candidates to buy trinkets for them from a
pedlar. That could hardly be done to-day, at any rate so openly; but
another of the incidents is of all time: a conversation between two men,
a barber and a cobbler, in which the barber explains how a certain naval
engagement was won, symbolising the ships by pieces of a broken clay
pipe, very much as tap-room tacticians for many years to come will be
reconstructing the battle of Jutland or the retreat from Mons.

Then the polling. Here is more simultaneous confusion. In a panic the
agent has collected every possible voter, including the maimed, the
blind, and even the idiotic, and they are attesting before the officer,
while protests against their validity as voters are being urged by the
opposite party's lawyer. The candidates themselves are on the hustings,
and in the distance Britannia's coach has broken down!

Finally, we see the Chairing of the Members--one of whom is depicted in
the foreground, very insecure on his crazy throne, while the shadow of
the other's approach is visible on a wall. That chairing has gone out
should be a source of extraordinary relief at Westminster. Indeed, were
it still the custom, many a modern man--and certainly all the fat
ones--would decide to seek fame elsewhere than in Parliament. Hogarth's
candidate was peculiarly unfortunate in his bearers, one of whom has
just been hit on the head by a flail, and another has collided with an
old woman who was thrown down by a runaway litter of pigs. Meanwhile,
the man with the flail fights a sailor with a cudgel, the cause of the
combat being apparently the presence of a performing bear and a monkey;
and, overcome by the fracas, a lady faints. Elsewhere, in the inn on the
left, the defeated party are consoling themselves with a banquet, a
practice that has by no means died out.

Only those who have been through the agonies and excitements of an
election can say how far Hogarth has ceased to be a faithful delineator
of his fellow-countrymen; but one thing is certain, and that is that
time has done nothing to impair the liveliness of his record.



V

GREENWICH HOSPITAL


After being shut for some years--to protect it from certain dissatisfied
ladies who in the dim and distant past took it out of pictures if they
did not get the vote--the Painted Hall at Greenwich was again opened in
1919, not, I hope, to close its doors to the public any more. All people
interested in our naval history and the men who made it must acquire the
Greenwich habit (although whitebait and turtle soup are no longer
available to sustain them at the adjacent "Ship"), but in particular
should the Nelson devotees be happy, for the Painted Hall is rich in
portraits of him, portraits of his friends, pictures of scenes in his
life, pictures of his death, and personal relics. Indeed this Hall is to
Nelson what the Invalides is to Napoleon. Sir John Thornhill (with whose
daughter Hogarth ran away) may have covered its walls and its ceiling
with Stuarts and allegory--at three pounds the square yard for the
ceiling work and one pound for the walls--but it is not of Stuarts and
allegory that one thinks, it is of the most fascinating and romantic and
sympathetic of British heroes and the greatest of our admirals.

Nelson is brought very near us. Among the personal relics are the very
clothes he was wearing when he died on the _Victory_, the codicil to his
will, written in his big left-hand characters and witnessed by the
friend, Captain Hardy, in whose arms he sank. On a neighbouring wall is
Turner's great lurid painting of the _Victory_ in action, while
elsewhere in the Museum will be found a model of the whole battle, with
the _Victory_ closely engaged with the _Redoubtable_, from whose
mizzen-top the fatal bullet is supposed to have been fired.

There are many other intimate souvenirs; and once there were more, but
thieves intervened. From those stolen in a burglary many years ago (the
windows have since had bars put to them) the only one to be regained was
Nelson's gold watch; and this was found--where do you think? Hidden in a
concertina somewhere in Australia. But after those wanderings and
vicissitudes it now reposes again in safety in the Painted Hall, for all
hero-worshippers to covet.

Complete as the Nelson collection appears to be, one realises, on
reflection, that only as a sailor is he celebrated here. We see him in
every aspect of his fighting career; we see his friends: sturdy old
William Locker, who was a governor of this Hospital, and others; we see
his admirals and captains. But of Emma Hamilton no trace!

The Painted Hall, from Wren's design, was built by William and Mary. The
Museum fills several rooms in an adjacent building which was to have
been a riverside palace for Charles II. It is notable chiefly for its
relics of the other hero of Greenwich Hospital, Sir John Franklin. It is
also rich in models of ships, but of models of ships I personally can
very quickly have a surfeit; rather would I sit beside the Thames and
watch the real vessels go by--the big tramp steamers homing laden from
abroad or leaving in ballast for the open sea; the little busy tugs,
with their retinue of lighters; and the brown-sailed barges moving
swiftly with the stream. The other day there was a merry breeze under a
cloudless sky, and the air was filled with the music of the Greenwich
symphony, which is played by an orchestra entirely composed of foghorns
and hooters.

But Greenwich is amphibious. The river may not be for all tastes; there
is the park too, with its avenues climbing to the heights of Blackheath.
The deer have gone; but the Observatory remains, for the accurate
adjustment of watches, and there is the distant prospect of London of
which the great landscape painters used to be so fond, from the corner
of the terrace. It is much the same as when Turner and others limned it,
save that to-day the dome of St. Paul's seems to rise from the very
middle of the Tower Bridge.



VI

KEW IN APRIL


Kew Gardens in the old days used to be largely a German paradise, for
the Teutons in our midst found them more like their own pleasaunces,
although wanting in beer, than any other London resort. But when I was
last there, in 1919, I heard no German tones. A few French voices
mingled with the thrushes and blackbirds; and a number of American
soldiers, not unaccompanied by British beauty, sat on secluded seats.
The rest of us were natives, promenading with true national decorum,
carefully obeying all the laws concerning birds'-nesting, throwing paper
about, smoking, and (in the glass-houses) keeping to the right, without
the observance of which scientific botany cannot prosper. And for some
reason or other (connected no doubt with the universal advance in the
cost of life which has been agreed upon as necessary or salutary) we
were all forced to pay a penny for admission.

It annoys me to think that not until the Germans vacated the gardens was
this entrance fee charged. To them (as to us for generations) Kew was
free; now that they have disappeared, one of the results of their
provocative belligerence is that it is free no longer!

Although early yet both for flower and leaf, the daffodils were already
millions strong, and would be stronger; in the rock garden the
saxifrage's tender mauve clusters were to be seen, and there was a patch
of the lovely _Antennaria Plantagenia_ at its best. But the most
beautiful object at the moment--and that which I went especially to
see--was the Yulan, the Chinese magnolia, _Magnolia conspicua_, in
nearly full bloom. Imagine a great tree with black boughs and twigs
exquisitely disposed, from which burst ten thousand lilies of a dazzling
purity. No buds, no leaves; nothing but these myriad serene white
flowers springing from the hard wood. The position of the tree adds to
the strangeness and beauty of it, for it is remote from anything formal,
between the biggest glass-house and the edge of the arboretum. On
Saturday, seen against an indigo thunderbank, it was unearthly in its
luminosity.

I have to thank the rain for driving me into the Royal Palace, which,
though I have known Kew for so many years, I had never entered before.
In this pleasant mansion, red brick without and white panelling within,
and smaller than would satisfy the requirements of any war profiteer
to-day, poor old George III. passed part of the clouded evening of his
long reign. The rooms retain certain of their pictures--chiefly Dutch
flower and bird subjects, very gloomy and congested, and a large
portrait of "Farmer George," done by the famous Miss Linwood in
woolwork--and there are a few pieces of dreadful ancient furniture in
one of the Queen's apartments; but otherwise they are empty.

In spite of the associations of the palace--the deranged old monarch and
his stuffy Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (recollections of Fanny
Burney's "Diary" and of Peter Pindar's "Lousiad" kept chasing each other
through my mind)--the general feeling in it is one of cheerfulness, the
result, I fancy, as much of the proportions and whiteness of the rooms
as of its situation in the green sanctuary.



VII

ROYAL WINDSOR


On a Saturday in March, when the sky was of dazzling brilliance and a
wind of devilish malignancy blew from the Arctic regions, I went to
Windsor, in order to compare the castle as it is with the castle as
Turner saw it, and to see if it is true, as a landscape expert assures
me, that the heightening of the towers has ruined it. Studying the
castle from various points of view, I was consistently impressed by its
adequacy, its mediæval dominance, and its satisfying solidity.

Spring being so bitterly cold, I left the streets, where there is no
central heating, and where I could catch no glimpse of any one in the
least like Mistress Anne Page, and took refuge first in St. George's
Chapel and then in the State Apartments. The chapel as a whole grows in
beauty, even though new monuments interrupt its lines. The light, coming
from a sky scoured by the northern breeze, was of the most lucid, so
that every detail of the lovely ceiling was unusually visible, while
even in the sombre choir, with its dark stalls and hanging banners and
memorials of the Knights of the Garter, one could see almost distinctly.
It is interesting to have as near London as this a sacred building so
like those which we normally do not enter until we have crossed the
Channel.

I was alone in the chapel, but in the State Apartments made one of a
party of thirty to forty, chiefly soldiers, led round by a guide.
Anything less like Harrison Ainsworth than this guide I cannot imagine;
or, indeed, the inside of any castle less like the fateful and romantic
fortress of that storyteller's dream. Henry VIII's suit of armour we
certainly saw, but the guide's hero is a later king, George IV., who
subjected every room to his altering hand. Of Herne the Hunter there was
not a sign. The most sinister thing there was the bed in the Council
Chamber where visiting monarchs (referred to by the guide as "The
Royals") sleep, one of whom not so very long ago was the Kaiser. "I wish
he was in it now," a bloodthirsty tripper muttered darkly in my ear.

The King's furniture struck me as too ornate, but he has some wonderful
pictures. The guide seemed to dwell with most affection upon a landscape
by Benjamin West, but I remember with more vividness and pleasure a
series of portraits of Henrietta, queen of Charles I., by Van Dyck: one
by the door, and two others flanking the fire-place of the superb Van
Dyck room. There is also a Rubens room containing, among many more
pretentious things, a fascinating portrait of the painter's second wife
and a family group devised on what was, to me, a new principle. The
parents are here seen in the company of their ten children; but, if the
guide is to be believed, on the original canvas only the parents and a
small proportion of this brood were depicted, space being left for the
insertion of the others as year by year they made their appearance. The
scheme offers problems. Since the eldest child looks ten or eleven and
the youngest is a baby, we must suppose (always if the guide is not
misinformed) that the painter added ageing touches to the whole group at
each new sitting.

When one hunts in packs there is little opportunity to examine crowded
walls, and there were many pictures of which I should like to see more
at leisure. Among them was a Rembrandt, a Correggio, a Titian, a
Honthorst, and two Canalettos. There are the punctual carvings by
Grinling Gibbons in Charles II.'s dining-room and elsewhere. Other
outstanding articles are the jewelled throne once belonging to the King
of Candy; the armour of the King's Champion, that obsolete but
picturesque functionary; and the portraits of all the winners of
Waterloo, at home and in the field, except any private soldiers.

On leaving the castle I walked an incredible number of miles down an
impeccably straight road to the equestrian statue that stands out so
bravely against the sky on the hill that closes the vista: Snow Hill.
The statue is of George III., and it is a fine bold thing. Not in the
same class with Verrocchio's bronze horseman in Venice, or Donatello's
bronze horseman in Padua, but impressive by its bigness and superior to
either of those masterpieces in its site, which is not, however, so
commanding as that eminence at Valley Forge which is dominated by
Anthony Wayne on his metal steed. And then I found a really good
confectioner's, whose first two initials correspond startlingly to my
own, and, in the company of frozen Etonians not less greedy than I, ate
little pots of jam until it was time to catch the train.



VIII

THREE LITTLE BACKWATERS


I was saying just now something in praise of the museum of London's
streets: how much entertainment it offered to the eyes of soldiers on
leave. But whether or not soldiers valued it, there is no such
inveterate or more curious wanderer in that museum than myself, and I
wish I had more time to spend in it. So many discoveries to make! I
have, for example, but now stumbled upon Meard Street. I was passing
through Wardour Street, and noting how the old curiosity shops are
giving way to cinema companies (in the window of one of which a waxen
Charlie Chaplin in regal robes is being for ever photographed by a waxen
operator whose hand turns the wheel from dawn to dusk--a symbol of
perpetual "motion"), when suddenly I noticed, running eastwards, a
little row of pure eighteenth-century façades. It was Meard Street, and,
passing along it, I examined these survivals of the London of Johnson
and Sterne with delight, so well preserved are they, with their
decorated portals intact, and in two or three cases the old pretty
numbers still remaining. Why I mention Sterne is for the reason that it
was in Meard Street (according to the invaluable Wheatley and
Cunningham's "London, Past and Present," which sadly needs expanding)
that Kitty Fourmantel, the fair friend of the author of "Tristram
Shandy," lived; and it does not decrease the pleasure of dallying here
to see, in fancy, the lean figure of that most unclerical of clerks in
Holy Orders hurrying along to pay her his respects. Wheatley and
Cunningham can tell us only of two old Meard Streetians, the other being
an architect, new to me, named Batty Langley, and even then their house
numbers are not given. It would be no unamusing task for an antiquary
with human instincts to dig and delve until he had re-peopled every
residence.

My second little street--disregarded by Wheatley and Cunningham
altogether--has only just come into my own consciousness: Goodwin's
Court, which runs from St. Martin his lane to Bedfordbury. It is not a
street at all, merely an alley, one side of which, the south, is the
least Londonish row of dwellings you ever saw, and the other side is the
back doors of the houses on the south of New Street--that busiest and
cheerfullest of old-world shopping centres, where Hogarth's ghost still
walks. New Street is famous in literature by reason of the "Pine Apple"
eating-house where Dr. Johnson in his penury dined regularly for
eightpence: six-pennyworth of meat, one pennyworth of bread, and a penny
for the waiter, receiving better attention than most of the clients
because the penny for the waiter was omitted by them. Take it all round,
New Street (which has not been new these many decades) is not so
different now, the small tradesman being the last thing in the world to
change.

But it was of Goodwin's Court that I was going to write, and of its odd
houses--for each one is like the last, not only architecturally but
through the whim of the tenants too, each one having a vast bow window,
and each window being decorated with a muslin curtain, in front of which
is a row of pots containing a flowerless variety of large-leaved plant,
created obviously for the garnishing of such unusual spaces. Where these
strange plants have their indigenous homes I cannot say--I am the least
of botanists--nor do I particularly care; but what I do want to know is
when their beauty, or lack of it, first attracted a dweller in Goodwin's
Court and why his taste so imposed itself on his neighbours. But for
this depressing foliage I should not mind living in Goodwin's Court
myself, for it is quiet and central--not more than a few yards both from
the Westminster County Court and several theatres. But it would be
necessary for peace of mind first to find out who Goodwin was.

My third little street, which also is an alley untrodden by the foot of
horse, is not a new discovery but an old resort: Nevill's Court, running
eastwards off Fetter Lane, the Nevill (if Wheatley and Cunningham tell
the truth) being Ralph Nevill, Bishop of Chichester, in the thirteenth
century: much of the property about here, it seems, being still in the
possession of that see. The great charm of Nevill's Court is that it
has, right in the midst of the printing world, gardens; within sound of
countless printing presses, the Nevill Courtiers can grow their own
vegetables. Each house has its garden, while the centre house, a stately
double-fronted Jacobean mansion, has quite a big one. The Court has also
a fruiterer's shop, presided over by one of the most genial and
corpulent fruiterers--I almost wrote the fruitiest fruiterers--in the
world (what a wonderful word "fruiterer" is!), and a Moravian chapel.
But these things are as nothing. The most precious treasures of Nevill's
Court that I observed as I walked through it one day in late February
were its buds. On each shrub in each garden were authentic green buds:
trustworthy promises that some day or other another spring was really
coming. And they were the first buds I had seen. It is an exciting
experience, worthy of London, that one's first earnest of the
renaissance should be given by a court off Fetter Lane.



IX

A SELF-MADE STATUE


Not the least of the Zoological Gardens' many attractions is their
inexhaustibility. There is always something new, and--what is not less
satisfactory--there is always something old that you had previously
missed. How is that? How is it that one may go to the Zoo a thousand
times and consistently overlook one of its most ingratiating denizens,
and then on the thousand-and-first visit come upon this creature as
though he were the latest arrival?

There the quaint little absurdity was, all that long while, as ready to
be seen as to-day, but you never saw him, or, at any rate, you never
noticed him. The time was not yet.

Yesterday, for me, the hour of the Prairie Marmot struck.

I had been watching a group of wounded soldiers drifting round the Zoo.
It was very hot, and they were bored. They stopped at each cage, it is
true, but with only a perfunctory interest in most; but when suddenly
one of the little free squirrels made his appearance in the middle of a
path, a galvanic current ran through them, and their visit to the Zoo
became an event. Every member of the company made an individual effort
to coax and conciliate the little scamp; but in vain. The squirrel had
the time of its life. It went through its whole repertory of rapidities
and evasions. It approached, and then, with lightning swiftness,
retreated. It sat up and it crouched; it waved its tail and was waved by
it. It looked a thousand ways at once. It was shy and it was bold, but
it was never bold enough; no soldier, with whatever outstretched bribe,
could ever quite get it. There is, however, caprice in these matters,
for when a lieutenant who had been looking on stooped down and held out
a nut, the squirrel instantly took it and sat perfectly still beside him
while eating it.

No doubt the squirrel takes a pleasure in its capricious flirtations
with danger, but certain it is that it would lose very little fun and no
food at all if it were always friendly; while the joy and excitement--I
am sure excitement is the word--of the lords of creation and their
families who visit the Zoo would be enormously greater.

Moving on, I was conscious, for the first time, of the Prairie Marmot.

Countless are the times that I have passed the enclosure which, though
the Prairie Marmot shares it with the grey squirrel, its North American
compatriot, really belongs to neither of them, but to pigeons and
sparrows. No doubt you know this enclosure; it has on one side of it the
aquarium where the diving-birds pursue their live prey with such
merciless zest and punctuality every day at 12 and 5, and on the other
is the sculptured group of the giant negro in conflict with the angry
mother of cubs.

Coming unconsciously upon this enclosure, I was suddenly aware of the
oddest statuette. Pigeons, squirrels, and sparrows were moving
restlessly about in the eternal quest for food, and in their midst,
obviously made of stone, although coloured to resemble fur, was the
rigid effigy, some ten inches high, of as comic a creature as a human
artist ever designed. There this figure stood, without a flicker. And
then, a small girl with a bag approaching the railings, he came to life
in a flash, the perpendicular suddenly gave way to the horizontal, and
he trotted down to meet her much as any other rodent would do.

The Prairie Marmot is a rat-like creature, but blunter, stockier, twice
as big, and light brown in colour. The learned, of course, after their
wont, know him by a lengthier and more imposing name. Dr. Chalmers
Mitchell, for example, who controls the Zoo so ably and with such
imagination, would never say Prairie Marmot on those occasions when he
has questions to ask as to its well-being in captivity. Nothing so
commonplace. "And, by the way," he would add, having been satisfied as
to the good health of the elephants and the water-beetles, the avadavats
and the hartebeests,--"and, by the way, how is the _Cynomys
Ludovicianus_? Does he seem to thrive? Does he prosper and multiply, or
is the competition of the _Columba Londiniensis_" (meaning the
Metropolitan pigeon) "too much for him?" But, whatever you call him, the
Prairie Marmot remains a most ingratiating creature, and when you see
him with his two tiny hands holding a monkey-nut and consuming it with
eager bites you feel that it must have been for him that the well-worn
phrase, "to sit up and take nourishment," was coined.

In the unimportant intervals between these two actions--this vertical
eating and the sudden transformation of himself into stone, which is his
greatest gift and which he does so often that he has worn his poor tail
into a threadbare stump--the Prairie Marmot is of no particular
interest. He just creeps about or disappears into his crater in the
bank. But as his own statue--so perfect as not only to be the despair
but the bankruptcy of sculptors--he is terrific. And the change is so
swift. One moment he is on all fours, and the next he is a rock, as
though a magician had waved his wand.

Henceforth no visit to the Zoo will be, to me, complete without a few
minutes' contemplation of the _Cynomys Ludovicianus_ in his quick-change
turn.



X

CROWDS--AND A BAD SAMARITAN


Practical jokers wishing to collect a crowd--and this has always been
one of their choicest efforts--stand still and intent, gazing upwards.
Even before the aeroplane was invented no lure was so powerful as this.
In a few minutes hundreds of people will assemble, all looking up, while
the humorist melts away. Probably were London a city of the blind there
would be no concourses at all, for it is to see that brings us together.
Crowds are always looking.

I came upon two little compact knots of people the other day, in both of
which I was struck by the unanimity with which every eye was, literally,
fixed on the same object. Both crowds consisted wholly of men:
twenty-five perhaps, watching, in Aldwych, a girl motor-mechanic at work
on a broken car; while close by, another knot surrounded a Human
Marvel--a red-headed boy who, lacking arms, had trained his feet to
inscribe moral sentiments in coloured chalks on a slate; which, for
feet, is a marvellous thing.

As I watched all these people with hungry eyes and time to spare, I
reflected on the generosity of this great London of ours in the matter
of side-shows, so that there is always something for the loiterer to
look at. During the War the soldier on leave, with too much time on his
hands and no British Museum to beguile him (for it was then closed),
having to find his own British Museum in the streets, was rarely
disappointed of entertainment. Armless Wonders may be rare, but there
was certain to be a road-mender at work in one spot and a horse down in
another, so all was well! As for me, I like to become a member of a
crowd as much as anybody, but the Armless Wonder's poor toes looked so
desperately cold on this particular nipping day that sheer personal
discomfort urged me onwards. But for that I might be there still.

The temper of crowds indicates that mankind in the lump is genial stuff.
When standing among our fellows, watching whatever "cynosure" has been
provided by the Mother of Cities, even the worst of us become innocent:
very children for inquisitiveness. Our community of curiosity leads to
such an extreme as the exchange of remarks. The mere fact that two
strangers are looking at the same thing, though it be only an
asphalt-boilers' cauldron, brings them into harmony, and for the moment
(or hour and a half) they are not strangers but friends. Then, at last
tearing themselves away, they freeze again. Alas, for this tearing away!
The saddest thing about every crowd is that it has, some time, some day,
to dissolve. Roads are mended, horses get on their legs again, men
recover from fits. Hence eyes that arrived expectant sooner or later
will be satiated. That is our tragedy.

But crowds, although normally amiable, can be ugly too, and very
changeable. A friend of mine, who is of a high adventurous impulsiveness
and brimming with humanity, had a taste of the mob's caprice, when from
sheer kind-heartedness he assumed one evening, in Piccadilly Circus, the
care of a homing Scotch soldier who, in an expressive idiom, had become
by reason of too much conviviality "lost to the wide."

Never was a brave warrior more in need of a helper, and my friend threw
himself into the task with a zest and thoroughness that should place him
high in any decently-constructed Honours List. With infinite difficulty
the journey to Euston was performed, by lift and tube, by pullings and
pushings, by shakings and holdings-up, by entreaty and threat.

But a point was reached, in the station itself, where the man lay down
with a supernatural solidity that no outside effort could affect. Such
efforts as had to be made were the signal for the crowd to arrive, and
arrive it did. So far, however, from giving my friend any assistance or
sympathy, let alone admiration for his quixotry and public spirit, this
particular crowd instantly took hold of the situation by the wrong
handle and assumed an attitude of hostility and censure. "Hitting him
when he's down!" said one. "I call it disgusting," said another, "giving
soldiers drink like that." "That's a nice thing, to make the poor fellow
drunk!" said a third. "Ought to be ashamed of himself," said a fourth,
"giving drink to our brave lads!"--and the chorus grew.

My friend tells me that he was never so astonished in his life; and
truly it is a comic situation--to give up one's time and strength in
order to act the Good Samaritan to an unfortunate victim, and then be
accused of being the victimizer. He was angry then, but he laughs now,
and I wish you could hear him tell the story.



XI

BEFORE AND AFTER


To my astonishment I could find no trace of the old publishing house
which I had so often visited; nothing but scaffolding and boardings.
Like so many London premises it had "come down" almost in a night. But
my resentment was a little softened when looking through the chinks
between the boards I discovered that the supplanting building was to be
a theatre. I could see the bare bones of an auditorium, the deep
foundations for the stage and so forth. And as I stood peering there I
tried to realise some of the excitement and fun which were to be
engendered among those girders and stones, so soon to be animated by
that blend of mirth and thrills which makes a theatrical night's
entertainment? To-day the place was a wilderness; to-morrow crowds would
be gathered there. How bright would be the lights, how gay the music,
how the walls, now mere skeletons, would echo and re-echo to laughter
and applause!

All new building is exciting, but there was something peculiarly
attractive in the thought that this great hole in the ground was, when
ultimately enclosed by its bricks and mortar and decoration, to be a
friendly playhouse.

What so cheerless as iron girders and scaffold poles? What so enkindling
as the overture to a play in a crowded, anticipatory theatre?

As I stood at the opening in the hoarding, thinking these thoughts and
becoming every moment an object of deeper suspicion to a watchful
constable, it was borne in upon me that I had not so very long ago
witnessed the very antithesis of the present scene. I say not so very
long ago, meaning distance in time; only three or four years. But in
history a distance vast indeed; for that was before the War, in the
spacious days when travellers could leave England on an impulse, as they
can no more, and passports were seldom needed, and France was gay, and
Italy was careless, and Louvain had a library, and sovereigns were made
not of paper but of gold. Strange, remote Utopian period! At that time
when I had so different a spectacle before my eyes, I was in that
beautiful land where decay is lovely too--I mean, of course, Italy--and
the particular part of Italy was the brown city of Verona, at which I
was stopping for a few hours on the way from Venice, to see the ruins of
the Roman theatre.

These ruins can for several reasons very easily be overlooked by
travellers. One is that the lure of the Coliseum is so powerful;
another, that the wonderful church of S. Zeno must first be visited, and
there is then often little time for anything else but the tombs of the
Scaligers and poor Juliet's reputed last earthly tabernacle. The Roman
theatre, moreover, is rather out of the way; and, well, is not the
Coliseum Roman theatre enough? So you see how easy it is not to do
Verona full justice. And a further obstacle to the examination of the
theatre's ruins is that they demand agility and endurance in no meagre
supply, for one has to climb to great heights, and leap chasms and
descend perilously, like a mountain goat. And Verona is usually
exceedingly hot.

Yet no one visiting Verona should miss this ghost of a playhouse, for,
having seen it, another gap in one's mental picture of Roman
civilisation is filled. It is there possible to visualize the audience
arriving, traversing the long passages in search of their seats,
recognising their friends, jesting in their saturnine way, and then
sitting down to the joys of the performance. Terence and Plautus at
Westminster thereafter should become twice as interesting.

Ruined as it is, the theatre yet retains enough for the imagination to
build upon, and it illustrates, too, the stationary character of
dramatic architecture. Upon the ancient scheme our modern erectors of
theatres have grafted only trifling inessential modifications; the main
lines are the same. Possibly if anything, there has been a decline, for
one thinks of a Roman architect as being thorough enough to test the
view of the stage from every point of the house, whereas in England
there are, I am sure, architects who have never thought it worth while
to visit the gallery.

Given the opportunity of mingling in some supernatural way with a crowd
of the past there would be many selections as to the most thrilling
moment. This one would choose the occasion of Marc Antony's oration over
Cæsar's body, that the execution of Robespierre; a third would vote for
a general's triumph at Athens; a fourth for Nelson's funeral at St.
Paul's; and still another, greatly daring, might name a certain trial
scene in Jerusalem. These, however, represent the choice of the
specialists in human emotions and historic _frissons_. Many of the more
ordinary of us would, I conjecture, elect to join the crowd of the past
at the play; for what, they would hold, could be more interesting than
to make one of the audience at the first night of "Hamlet," or "Le
Bourgeois," or "Cato" or "She Stoops to Conquer," or "The School for
Scandal"? Whether the differences or resemblances to ourselves would be
the more striking is a question; but I fancy the resemblances. And I
fancy that such would still be the case could one be spirited back
across the centuries and be set down in this Verona theatre at some gala
performance. For human nature's reluctance to change is never more
manifest than in the homes of the drama, and the audience in this
embryonic playhouse in the London street whose name escapes me and the
audience in that crumbling abode of lizards beneath the burning sun of
Verona would probably be astonishingly alike.



XII

THE GREEN AMONG THE GREY


The London plane has a special advantage over other trees in growing
where it is most wanted. The maimed elms of Kensington Gardens, for
example, grow where already there is a waste of greenery, but the plane
trees which I have particularly in my mind at this moment grow among
bricks and brush the sides of houses with their branches. From a balloon
the leaves of these trees, making--from that altitude, immediately
above--verdant pools among the red and grey of the roofs, must strike
the eye very soothingly. In no balloon have I ever set foot, and hope
not to, but having ascended St. Paul's and other eminences I am familiar
with something of the same effect.

Looking down on London from a great height in the City--from the
Monument, say--the impression received is a waste of blackened grey with
infrequent and surprising spots of herbage to lighten it. Looking down
on London from a great height in the West-end--from the campanile of
the Westminster Cathedral, for instance--the impression is of greenness
first and dark grey after, for almost immediately below are St. James's
Park and Green Park and the gardens of Buckingham Palace, and, quite
near, the rolling acres of the Hyde. That is in summer. In winter the
City prospect changes, for since most of its green is the green of the
leaf, little but the blackened grey is left through the smoke. The
western prospect, however, remains much the same, although more sombre,
for most of its green is the green of grass. If one would see both
scenes at their smilingest, but particularly the City, climb the
Monument (it has only 345 of the steepest steps) in mid May. For
London's green in mid May is the country's green in mid June, such a
hurry is the Old Lady in.

I am not sure that the occasional glimpses of her trees are not the
best. The parks can be perhaps a shade too monotonously green: they are
too big; they might be in the country; but the delicate branches that
feel for the light among the masonry have a quality all their own, given
to them largely by contrast.

How soon this forest city of ours would revert to the wild, if only her
citizens ceased to fret her and keep Nature under, we had a chance of
learning when the Aldwych site was laid bare some few years since.
Instantly from the ruins sprang a tangle of vegetation, with patches of
flowers among it, rooting themselves in a mysterious way in nothing more
nutritious than mortar, to the bewilderment and despair of all passing
gardeners who with such pains and patience coax blossoms to flourish in
prepared soil. Perhaps an even more striking instance of the fertility
of London stone was observable when the Stamford Bridge ground was
reopened towards the end of the War for the American baseball matches,
and we found that, left to their own devices, the raised platforms, all
of solid concrete, had become terraced lawns.

But the plane tree, who is my hero at the moment, awaits his eulogy. It
is as though Nature, taking pity on commercial man, had given him this
steady companion on his lonely money-making way: "Go," said she to the
plane tree, "and befriend this sordid duffer. No matter how hard the
ground, how high the surrounding houses, how smoke-covered the sun, how
shattering the traffic, how neglectful the passers-by, I will see that
you flourish. It is your mission to alleviate the stones. You shall put
forth your leaves early and hold them late to remind the money-maker
that life is sweet somewhere, and to cheer him with the thought that
some day, when he has made enough, and come to his senses, he may
breathe sweet air again."[2]

[Footnote 2: Honour where honour is due; and Nature, it must be
admitted, has very valuable allies in the Metropolitan Public Gardens
Associations.]

Nature's choice was very wise, for the plane tree, above all others,
seems to have the gift of distributing a pervading greenness. As well as
being green itself, it tinges the circumambient atmosphere with green.
If one doubts this, let him visit Pump Court in the Temple, where two
trees absolutely flood with leaves a parallelogram of masonry. But if
Pump Court is more than lit by two plane trees, Cheapside in the summer
takes heart from one only--that famous tree which springs from a tiny
courtyard at the corner of Wood Street, and, although lopped back almost
to a sign-post some few years ago, is again a brave portent of the open
world to all the merchants of Chepe and their customers. It has been
suggested that it was the greenness of this tree, a century and more
earlier, that at this same Wood Street corner set Wordsworth's Poor
Susan upon her dream of rural joys. Whether it is old enough for that, I
know not; but I like the idea.

Such is the value of her ground that London City proper has necessarily
to be content with minute oases, and travelling eastwards one must go a
long way before one comes to a real expanse comparable with the
pleasures of the west. The cemetery of Bunhill Fields is the largest
until Victoria Park is reached--that really necessary park which has
such hard usage that there are acres of it without a blade of grass
left. Here the East both apes the West and instructs it. There is one
lake here on which rowing boats incessantly ply, and a motor launch used
to make continual trips round an island with a Japanese temple on it for
a penny a voyage; and there is another lake where thousands of little
East-end boys bathe in the summer all day long. Now, the Serpentine in
Hyde Park never had a motor launch, and bathing is allowed in it only
before breakfast and at eve.

The best known of London's parks come where they are not wanted
exceedingly. Hyde and St. James's and the Green Park and Kensington
Gardens are all open spaces in areas where the streets are wide and the
rooms large and light, and the poor can use and enjoy them only by
walking some distance to do so and then would probably rather be on
Hampstead Heath with its absence of restrictions. But Victoria Park is
emphatically the right park in the right place. The West-enders, even
without their parks, would still be healthy and moderately happy; but
Victoria Park must literally have kept thousands upon thousands of
children alive. So, to a smaller extent, must Battersea Park. And not
long ago there was a movement afoot--now perhaps only suspended--to make
yet another park where it is wanted: at Shadwell, on the site of a
disused fish market adjoining the river and the docks, where the
curiously squalid homes of Wapping may send forth their children for sun
and air. The idea was to link the park with the memory of King Edward
VII., and there could not be a wiser or more beneficent scheme. It is
one, moreover, which he with his practical sympathy would have been the
first to support. This park, if it becomes a reality, will be in one way
the best of them all, for it will have a frontage on the busy part of
the Thames, below the Pool, to give the children the sight of the great
ships going by and thus unlock the world for them.

Victoria Park's very special attraction, to me, is its bathing lake: one
of the wonderful sights of London which very few central Londoners and
no Americans have even seen. Here boys rollick and frolic in their
thousands, all stark and all more than happy, with the happiness that
has to be expressed by action--in shouts and leaps and pursuit. On the
hot August afternoon that I was last there, the sun, sinking through a
haze, turned these ragamuffins to merboys and their skin to glory. The
water is surrounded by trees; so that the mean and grimy streets which
gave these urchins forth and were waiting to reclaim them again might
have been as remote as Japan.

It was not only the most surprising spectacle--there, in the
East-end--but the completest triumph of nakedness I ever dreamed of, for
with nakedness had come not only beauty, but an ecstasy and
irresponsibility as of the faun. "Time has run back and fetched the Age
of Gold," I murmured as I watched them in their joy, gleaming and
glistening. And then, half an hour after, as I sat by the path outside
this enchanted pool and watched them returning home, with their so
lately radiant bodies covered with dirty clothes, and their little
sleek, round heads shapeless with half-dried hair, and the horse-play of
the arid park taking the place of the primeval gaieties and raptures of
the water, I knew that the Age of Gold had passed.



XIII

THE FATHERLY FORCE


London may be "the stony-hearted step-mother" that De Quincey called her
but Londoners are not necessarily neglected orphans because of that. So
long as one policeman remains, we shall never be fatherless.

If I were Miss Jane Taylor of Ongar I should put the following questions
into melodious and easily-memorised verse; but instead they are in
prose. Who is it, when we are lost, that tells us the way, always
extending an arm as he does so? The policeman. Who is it that knows
where the nearest chemist's is? The policeman. Who, when we are in
danger of being run over if we cross the road, lifts a hand like a York
ham and cleaves a path for us? The policeman. At night, when we have
lost the latch-key, who is it that effects an entrance (I borrow his own
terminology) through a window? The policeman. The tale of his
benefactions is endless.

Two American girls recently in London spent much of their time in
pretending to an ignorance of the city, entirely (they confessed) in
order to experience the delight of conversing with constables; and a
lady once told me that the nicest men she had ever met (and she saw them
every week) were the policemen in the Lost Umbrella Office on the
Embankment. I believe it. I have the same feeling when I go there, and
it bewilders me, remembering these fascinating officials, to think that
the Foreign Office ever has any difficulty in appointing Ambassadors.
Yet these too, with all their sympathy and suavity and sweet
reasonableness, are policemen _au fond_. For the dark blue uniform is
very powerful and every man who dons the white worsted glove finds his
hand turning to iron beneath it. Whatever he may have been before the
Force absorbed him, he will henceforward side with order against
disorder, with respectability against Bohemianism, with sobriety against
vinous jollity. And yet the policemen make their allowances. I watched
four of them the other day frog-marching a very "voilent" (as they
always say in their evidence the next morning) reprobate from Burleigh
Street to Bow Street. During the struggle he distributed some vicious
kicks, but I could not determine by the constables' attitude, though
they would, no doubt, have preferred a more tractable captive, that they
felt any grudge towards him or thought him any worse than a meeker
delinquent.

Although in real life the policeman is so monumentally respectable and
solid, on the stage he is never anything but comic. _A kiss for
Cinderella_ to some extent qualifies this; for the constable there with
the "infalliable" system was romantical as well. But, generally
speaking, a policeman's part is a comic part, and must be so. Tradition
is too strong for anything else. Too many clowns in too many
harlequinades have wreaked their mischievous will on him. Hence,
whatever the play, directly we see him we begin to laugh; for we know
that though the uniform is honourable the voice will be funny. But in
real life the police are serious creatures, while during the first three
days of Armistice week, when they had to stand by and watch all kinds of
goings-on for which no one was to be whopped, they were pathetic, too.
Seldom can they have been so unhappy as when the bonfire was burning in
the middle of Cockspur Street, and nothing could be done, or was
permitted to be done.

London, I maintain, has few sublimer sights than a policeman doing his
duty. I saw one yesterday. The window of the room which is principally
devoted to my deeds of inkshed looks upon a point where four roads meet,
on three of which are omnibus routes. This means that there is never
any lack of moving incident whenever I look out. Sometimes there is a
moving accident, too. Yesterday, for example, hearing a warning call and
a crash, I was at the window in time to see an omnibus and a small wagon
inextricably mixed, and to watch with what celerity a crowd can
assemble. But it was not that which drew the eye; it was the steady
advance from a distant point of one of our helmeted fathers. He did not
hurry: nothing but pursuit of the wicked fleeing makes a policeman run;
but his onset was irresistible. Traffic rolled back from him like the
waters of the Red Sea. When he reached the scene of trouble, where the
motor-driver and the driver of the wagon were in ecstasies of _tu
quoque_, while the conductor was examining the bonnet for damage and the
passengers were wondering whether it was better to wait and work out
their fares or change to another bus--when he reached the scene of
trouble, he performed an action which never fails to fascinate me: he
drew forth his pocket-book. There is something very interesting in the
way in which a policeman does this. The gesture is mainly pride, but
there is misgiving in it, too: the knowledge that the pen is not as
mighty as the truncheon. But the pride is very evident: the satisfaction
of Matter being seen in association with Mind, like a voter whose hand
has been shaken in public by a titled candidate. Policemen as a rule are
laborious writers, and this one was true to type, but there is none that
comes nearer the author of the Book of Fate. What a policeman writes,
goes.

One of the best stories of the fatherliness of the Fatherly Force that I
ever heard was told to me by that elvish commentator on life, and most
tireless of modern Quixotes, the late Robert Ross, Oscar Wilde's devoted
friend. He brought it, oddly enough, from Russia, and, when I urged him
to write it, with characteristic open-handedness he presented it to me.

The heroine was a famous member of the Russian Imperial Ballet who,
though she had not then danced in London--her genius being too precious
in her own country--had been here unprofessionally as a sightseer; and
it was here that the adventure which is the foundation of this narrative
befell. From her own lips, at a supper party in St. Petersburg or
Moscow, Ross had the tale, which now, but lacking all his personal
enrichments, I tell again.

The dancer when in London had witnessed one of our processions: the
opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayor's Show--I can't say what--and she
had found herself at a disadvantage in the crowd. It is unusual for
_premières danseuses_ to be tall, even when they are poised on the very
tips of their conquering toes; and this lady was no exception. The
result was that she could not see, and not to be able to see is for any
woman a calamity, but for a foreign woman a tragedy: particularly so
when she is in her own country a queen, accustomed to every kind of
homage and attention. The _ballerina_ was at the height of her despair
when one of the policemen on duty took pity on her, and lifting her in
his arms held her up long enough to enjoy the principal moments of the
pageant. From that day onwards, she said, the London policeman was, for
her, the symbol of strength and comfort and power. Gigantic Cossacks
might parade before her all day, but her true god out of the machine was
from Scotland Yard....

A time came when, to the grief of her vast public, she fell ill. The
Tsar's own physicians attended her, but she became no better, and at
last it was realised that an operation was inevitable. Now, an operation
is an ordeal which a _première danseuse_ can dread with as much
intensity as any one else, and this poor little lady was terrified.
Empresses of the ballet should be exempted from such trials. No, she
vowed, she could never go through with it. The idea was too
frightening.

"But," said the first physician, "you must. It will only be a slight
affair; you will come out of your convalescence better than before."

"Yes," said the second physician, "and more beautiful than before."

"And," urged the third physician, "more popular than before."

"And," added the surgeon, "you will live for ever."

But she still trembled and refused.... It was impossible,
unthinkable....

What then?

Well, let me say at once that, as a matter of fact, she underwent the
operation with perfect fortitude, and it was a great success. But how do
you think she brought herself to face it? Only by tightly holding the
white gloved hand of a specially constructed doll of massive, even
colossal, proportions, dressed in the uniform of a London policeman.



XIV

MY FRIEND FLORA


"How much is this bunch?" I asked of the flower-woman at the corner.

"A shilling," she replied, "but you can have it for sixpence. I hate the
sight of it."

Now here was an oddity in a world of self-centred, acquisitive
tradespeople: a dealer who decried her own wares. Obviously flower-women
can have temperaments.

I asked her what there was about palm, as we call those branches of
willow with the fluffy, downy buds on them, that so annoyed her.

"It's such stupid stuff," she explained. "I can understand people buying
daffodils or tulips or violets, because they're pretty or sweet, but not
this dried-up stuff with the little kittens."

The remark set me wondering to what extent dealers in other articles are
perplexed by their customers' preferences. (Some milliners, I hope.) For
the most part we are encouraged by the shopkeeper to follow our own
inclinations. His taste may be utterly different, but he doesn't impose
it on us; he ventures to suggest only when there are varying prices and
we seem unduly inclined to the lowest. But this old lady was prepared,
long before the bargaining stage had set in, to knock off fifty per
cent. and traduce the goods as well. Surely a character.

"And that's not all," she added. "What do you think a lady--calls
herself a lady--said to me just now when she bought threepenny worth?
She said it lasted a year. Fancy telling a poor flower-woman that!"

We went on to talk of her calling. I found her an "agreeable blend" (as
the tobacconists say) of humour and resignation; and very practical.

"Why are your flowers," I asked her, "so much better than the flowers of
the man the other side of the road?"

"Because he takes his home at night," she said. "You should never do
that. If I've got any unsold I leave them at the fire-station and then
they're fresh in the morning. But I don't often have any left over."

This was, I should say, a day of acute discomfort: it had been bitterly
raining since early morning, and yet there was no bitterness in the
flower-woman. She was merely resigned. Very damp, but cheerfully
apathetic. "When it's cold and wet like this," I asked, "is life worth
living?"

"Of course," was her splendid answer; "aren't there the nights?"

Rather fine that--even if as a commentary on the wakeful hours a little
acid. And for those who can sleep, how true! "Aren't there the nights?"
I must remember the solace when next the cynic or the misanthrope girds
at sunless noons.

Of her philosophy she then gave me another taste, for, observing a great
mass of loose coins, many of them silver, lying in the basket, I asked
if she were not afraid of a thief snatching at it. "Oh, no," she said.
"But I don't always have it there. It's because it's so wet to-day.
Counting helps."

My guess would have been that although the life of flower-women calls
for philosophy, for philosophy to respond is by no means the rule; and
her consolation and cheerfulness made me very happy. Yet what a penance
much of their lives must be! First of all, there is the weather. Wet or
fine, hot or cold, they must be out in it, and stationary at that. What
to place second and third I do not know, but there is the perishable
character of the stock-in-trade to be considered, and, when fogs and
frosts interfere, the chance of being unable to collect any
stock-in-trade at all. But exposure must be the crucial strain.

The whole question of this motionless, receptive attitude to the
elements is interesting to me, who catch cold several times a day. How
these people can stand it is a constant mystery. That blind man, for
instance, at the little door of the Temple just below the Essex Street
archway--ever since I can remember London he has been there, with his
matches, always placid, no matter what new buffetings Heaven has for
him.

The blind in particular seem to become indifferent to climatic extremes;
and there must be in every one's cognizance two or three immovable
sightless mendicants defying rain and chill. Every town in the country
has such landmarks, and all seem to retain their health. But I recollect
that the blind man who used to sit in front of the Grand Hotel at
Brighton forty years ago spelling out Holy Writ, while the dog at his
feet collected coppers in a little box, always in winter wore mittens
and a cap with ear-flaps, and had fingers red and swollen. Still, he
endured. Whether with those red and swollen fingers he really deciphered
the Evangel or merely repeated from memory, we never knew, but I can
still hear the droning voice, "And Jesus said----"

This insensitiveness to January blasts and February drenchings may be
one of the compensations that the blind enjoy. Whatever else happens to
them they never, perhaps, catch cold. And that is more than something.

But how odd that these stolid, shabby, and often rather battered old
florists should be the middle-men and middle-women between the country
and the city, but for whose indifference to pitiless skies so many
town-dwellers would never see a blossom at all! There is nothing of the
country about them, nothing of the garden--almost no Londoner less
suggests the riot of a herbaceous border--and yet it is they who form
the link between flower-bed and street.

"Well," I said, grasping the bunch of palm that the old flower-woman had
sold me at such a sacrifice, "good-bye; I hope you'll empty your
basket."

"And I hope you'll empty yours," she replied.

"Mine?" I said, "I haven't got one."

"Oh, yes, you have," said Flora; "every one's got a basket, only they
don't always know where to take it."


THE END





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