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Title: Out and About London
Author: Burke, Thomas
Language: English
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OUT AND ABOUT LONDON


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

NIGHTS IN LONDON


"Hundreds of books have been written about London, but few are as well
worth reading as this."--_London Times._

"Thomas Burke writes of London as Kipling wrote of India."--_Baltimore
Sun._

"A real book."--_New York Sun._

4th printing, $1.50

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
PUBLISHERS    NEW YORK

      *      *      *      *      *      *


OUT AND ABOUT LONDON

by

THOMAS BURKE

Author of "Limehouse Nights"
and "Nights In London"



[Illustration: Logo]

New York
Henry Holt and Company
1919

Copyright, 1919
by
Henry Holt and Company



                          1916

     _Lady, the world is old, and we are young.
       The world is old to-night and full of tears
     And tumbled dreams, and all its songs are sung,
       And echoes rise no more from the tombed years.
     Lady, the world is old, but we are young._

     _Once only shines the mellow moon so fair;
       One speck of Time is Love's Eternity.
     Once only can the stars so light your hair,
       And the night make your eyes my psaltery.
     Lady, the world is old. Love still is young._

     _Let us take hand ere the swift moment end.
       My heart is but a lamp to light your way.
     My song your counsellor, my love your friend,
       Your soul the shrine whereat I kneel and pray.
     Lady, the world grows old. Let us be young._

     _T. B._



CONTENTS

                           PAGE
ROUND THE TOWN, 1917          3

BACK TO DOCKLAND             30

CHINATOWN REVISITED          40

SOHO CARRIES ON              58

OUT OF TOWN                  69

IN SEARCH OF A SHOW          82

VODKA AND VAGABONDS          89

THE KIDS' MAN               113

CROWDED HOURS               123

SATURDAY NIGHT              134

RENDEZVOUS                  140

TRAGEDY AND COCKNEYISM      148

MINE EASE AT MINE INN       155

RELICS                      168

ATTABOY!                    176



OUT AND ABOUT LONDON



ROUND THE TOWN, 1917


It was a lucid, rain-washed morning--one of those rare mornings when
London seems to laugh before you, disclosing her random beauties. In
every park the trees were hung with adolescent tresses, green and white
and yellow, and the sky was busy with scudding clouds. Even the solemn
bricks had caught something of the sudden colour of the day, and London
seemed to toss in its long, winter sleep and to take the heavy breaths
of the awakening sluggard.

I turned from my Fleet Street window to my desk, took my pen, found it
in good working order, and put it down. I was hoping that it would be
damaged, or that the ink had run out; I like to deceive myself with some
excuse for not working. But on this occasion none presented itself save
the call of the streets and the happy aspect of things, and I made these
serve my purpose. With me it is always thus. Let there come the first
sharp taste of Spring in the February air and I am demoralized. Away
with labour. The sun is shining. The sky is bland. There are seven
hundred square miles of London in which Adventure is shyly lurking for
those who will seek her out. What about it? So I drew five pounds from
the cash-box, stuffed it into my waistcoat-pocket, and let myself loose,
feeling, as the phrase goes, that I didn't care if it snowed. And as I
walked, there rose in my heart a silly song, with no words and no tune;
or, if any words, something like--how does it go?--


     Boys and girls, come out to play--
     Hi-ti-hiddley-hi-ti-hay!


But the fool is bent upon a twig. I found the boys preoccupied and the
girls unwearied in war-work. One good comrade of the highways and byways
had married a wife; and therefore he could not come. Another had bought
a yoke of oxen, and must needs go and prove them--as though they were a
problem of Euclid. Luckily, I ran against Caradoc Evans, disguised in a
false beard, in order to escape the fury of the London Welshmen, and
looking like the advance agent of a hard winter. Seeing my silly,
hark-halloa face, he inquired what was up. I explained that I was out
for a day's amusement--the first chance I had had since 1914.
Whereupon, he ran me into a little place round the corner, and bought me
an illicit drink at an hour when the minatory finger of Lord d'Abernon
was still wagging; and informed me with tears in the voice, and many a
"boy bach," and "old bloke," and "indeed," that this was the Year of
Grace 1917, and that London was not amusing.

It was not until the third drink that I discovered how right he was. As
a born Cockney, living close to London every minute of my life, I had
not noticed the slow change in the face and soul of London. I had long
been superficially aware that something was gone from the streets and
the skies, but the feeling was no more definite than that of the gourmet
whose palate hints that the cook has left something--it cannot say
what--out of the soup. It was left for the swift perception of the
immigrant Welshman to apprise me fully of the truth. But once it was
presented to me, I saw it too clearly. My search for amusement, I knew
then, was at an end, and what had promised to be an empurpling of the
town seemed like to degenerate into a spelling-bee. Of course, I might
have gone back to my desk; but the Spring had worked too far into my
system to allow even a moment's consideration of that alternative.
There remained nothing to do but to wander, and to pray for a glimpse of
that tempestuous petticoat of youth that deserted us in 1914. It was a
forlorn pursuit: I knew I would never touch its hem.

I never did. I wandered all day with Caradoc bach, and we did this and
we did that, while I strove to shake from my shoulders the bundle of
dismay that seemed fastened there. The young men having gone to war, the
streets were filled with middle-aged women of thirty, in short skirts,
trying to attract the aged satyrs, the only men that remained, by
pretending to be little girls. At mid-day, that hour when, throughout
London, you may hear the symphony of swinging gates and creaking bolts,
we paid hurried calls at the old haunts. They were either empty or
filled with new faces. Rule's, in Maiden Lane, was deserted. The Bodega
had been besieged by, and had capitulated to, the Colonial army.
Mooney's had become the property of the London Irish. The vociferous
rehearsal crowds had decamped from the Bedford Head, and left it to
strayed and gloomy Service men, who cared nothing for its traditions;
and Yates's Wine Lodge, the home of the blue-chinned laddies looking
for a shop, was filled with women war-workers.

Truly, London was no more herself. The word carried no more the magical
quality with which of old time it was endued. She was no more the
intellectual centre, or the political centre, or the social centre of
the world. She was not even an English city, like Leeds or Sheffield or
Birmingham. She was a large city with a population of nondescript
millions.

This I realized more clearly when, a week or so after our tour, an
American, whom I was conducting round London, asked me to show him
something typically English. I couldn't. I tried to take him to an
English restaurant. There was none. Even the old chop-houses, under
prevailing restrictions, were offering manufactured food like spaghetti
and disguised offal. I turned to the programmes of the music-halls. Here
again England was frozen out. There were comedians from France, jugglers
from Japan, conjurers from China, trick-cyclists from Belgium,
weight-lifters from Australia, buck-dancers from America, and ...
England, with all thy faults I love thee still; but do take a bit of
interest in yourself. A stranger, arriving from overseas, might suppose
that the war was over, and that London was in the hands of the
conquerors. This impression he might receive from a single glance at our
streets. The Strand at the moment of writing is blocked for pedestrian
traffic by Australians and New Zealanders; Piccadilly Circus belongs to
the Belgians and the French; and the Americans possess Belgravia.
Canadian cafeterias are doing good business round Westminster; French
coffee-bars are thriving in the Shaftesbury Avenue district; Belgian
restaurants occupy the waste corners around Kingsway; and two more
Chinese restaurants have lately been opened in the West End.

The common Cockney seemed to walk almost fearfully about his invaded
streets, hardly daring to be himself or talk his own language. Apart
from the foreign tongues, which always did annoy his ear, foul language
now assailed him from every side: "no bon," "napoo," "gadget,"
"camouflaged," "buckshee," "bonza," and so on. This is not good slang.
Good slang has a quality of its own--a bite and spit and fine
expressiveness which do not belong to dictionary words. That is its
justification--the supplying of a lacking shade of expression, not the
supplanting of adequate forms. The old Cockney slang did justify
itself, but this modern Army rubbish, besides being uncouth, is utterly
meaningless, and might have been invented by some idiot schoolboy:
probably was.

After some search, we found a quiet corner in a bar where the perverted
stuff was not being talked, and there we gave ourselves to recalling the
little joyous jags that marked the progress of other years. I was
dipping the other night into a favourite bedside book of mine--here I'd
like to put in a dozen pages on bedside books--a Social Calendar for
1909; a rich reliquary for the future historian; and was shocked on
noting the number of simple festivals which are now ruled out of our
monotonous year. Do you remember them? Chestnut Sunday at Bushey
Park--City and Suburban--Derby and Oaks--Ascot Sunday at Maidenhead--Cup
Tie at the Crystal Palace--Spring week-ends by the sea--evening taxi
jaunts to Richmond and Staines--gay nights at the Empire and the
adjoining bars--supper after the theatre--moonlight trips in the summer
season down river to the Nore--polo at Ranelagh--cricket at Lord's and
the Oval--the Boat Race--Henley week--Earl's Court and White City
Exhibitions, where one could finish the evening on the wiggle-woggle, as
a final flicker. And now they have just delivered the most brutal blow
of all. Having robbed us of our motors and our cheap railways, they have
stolen away from the working-man his (and my) chiefest delight--the
beanfeast wagonette. (How I would have loved to take Henry James on one
of these jags.) The disappearance of this delight of the summer season
is, at the moment, so acute and so personal a grief, that I cannot trust
myself to speak of it. I must withdraw, and leave F. W. Thomas (of _The
Star_) to deliver the valedictory address:--


     This spells the death of yet another old English institution. One
     cannot go beanfeasting in traps and pony carts. There would be no
     room for the cornet man, and without his distended cheeks and
     dreadful harmony the picture would be incomplete.

     That was a great day when we met at the works in the morning, all
     in our best clothes and squeaky boots, all sporting large
     buttonholes and cigars of the rifle-range brand.

     With the yellow stone jars safely stowed under the seat and the
     cornet man perched at the driver's left hand, we started off.
     Usually the route lay through Shoreditch and Hackney to Clapton,
     and so to the green fields of the Lea Bridge Road.

     For the first hour of the journey we were quiet, early-morningish,
     and a little reminiscent, recalling the glories of past beanfeasts.
     The cornet man tootled half-heartedly, with many rests and much
     licking of dry lips. Not until the "Greyhound" was passed did he
     get well under way, and then there was no stopping him. His face
     got redder and redder as he blasted his way through his repertoire;
     a feast of music covering the years between "Champagne Charlie" and
     Marie Lloyd.

     At the end of the drive the horses were put up and baited, and the
     merry beanfeasters spread themselves and their melody through the
     glades of Loughton or High Beech, with cold roast beef and pickles
     at Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge or the "Robin Hood."

     And who does not remember that joyful homeward journey, with the
     cornet man, now ruddier than the cherry, blaring "Little Brown Jug"
     from well-oiled lungs, while behind him the revellers sang "As your
     hair grows whiter," and an accordion in the back seats bleated "The
     Miner's Dream."

     As Herbert Campbell used to sing in the old days:--


         Then up I came with my little lot,
         And the air went blue for miles;
     The trees all shook and the copper took his hook,
         And down came all the tiles.


     That was the real tit-bit of the beanfeast, the rollicking homeward
     drive, with the brake embowered in branches of trees raped from the
     Forest, and lit by swaying Chinese lanterns and great bunches of
     dahlias bought from the cottagers of Loughton, and Chingford.

     One always took home a bunch of flowers from a beanfeast, and maybe
     a pint of shrimps for the missus, and some acorns for the
     youngsters, or a gilded mug.

     The defunct brake had other uses than this. Sometimes it took
     parties of solemn old ladies in beads and black to an orgy of tea
     and cake in the grounds of the "Leg of Mutton" at Chadwell Heath.
     These were prim affairs. Mothers' Meeting from the little red
     church round the corner. They had no cornet, and the smiling parson
     rode in the seat assigned to Orpheus.

     The youngsters, too, had their days--riotous days shrill with song
     and gay with coloured streamers, air-balloons and trumpets. How
     merrily they would bellow that they were "all a-going to Rye House,
     so 'Ip-ip-ip-ooray!'" though their destination was Burnham Beeches
     or Brickett Wood.

     Rubber-neck parties of American tourists occasionally saw the
     sights of London from brakes and wagonettes; solemn people, who for
     all the signs of holiday they displayed might have been driving to
     Tyburn Tree.

     But the real reason for the brake was the beanfeast with its
     attendant cornet man and its rubicund driver with his white topper
     and the little boys running behind and stealing rides on the back
     step. Until the war is over Epping will know them no more, and the
     nightingales of Fairlop Plain will sing to the moon undisturbed.


We lunched at the "Trocadero," where a friend on the staff put us in the
right place and put before us the right food and the right wine. The
rooms looked like a Service mess-room. Every guest looked like every
other guest. Men and women alike had fallen victims to that devastating
plague of uniforms, and all charm, all significance, had been
obliterated by this murrain of khaki and blue serge. The suave curves of
feminine dress had been ironed out by the harsh hand of the
standardizer, and in their place we saw only the sullen lines of the
Land Girls' rig making juts and points with the rigidities of the
Women's Army Corps and Women's Police garb. The Vorticists ought to be
thankful for the war. It accomplished in one stroke what, in 1914, they
were feverishly attempting: it turned life into a wilderness of angles.

"Clothes," said Carlyle, "gave us individuality, distinction, social
polity." He ought to see us now. Standard Bread, Standard Suits,
Standard This, and Standard That.... The very word "standard" must now
be so universally loathed by men who have managed to conceal from the
controllers some remnants of character, that I wonder the _Evening
Standard_ manages to retain its popularity without a change of title. If
standardizing really helped matters, nobody could complain; but can
Dogberry aver that it does? Does it not, in practice, rather hinder than
help? In railway carriages the bottlefed citizen girds against all this
aimless interference with his daily life; but his protests are no more
considerable than that of the victim in the melodrama: "Have a care, Sir
Aubrey, have a care. You have ruined me sister. You have murdered me
wife. You have cast me aged father into prison. You have seduced me son.
You have sold up me home. But beware, Sir Aubrey, beware. I am a man of
quick temper. _Don't go too far._"

When we looked round the Trocadero, and we remembered the bright
company it once held, and then noted the tart aspect of the place under
organization, we felt a little unwell, and dared to wonder why
efficiency cannot walk with beauty and the zeal for victory go with
grace and gladness. Had the marriage, we wondered, been tried by the
authorities, and the parties proved to be so palpably incompatible? Or
was it that they had been for ever sundered by some one who mistakes
dullness for earnestness and ugliness for strength?

However, the rich scents of well-cooked offal, mingled with those of
wine and Oriental tobacco, soothed us a little, and we achieved a brief
loosening of the prevailing restraint, and allowed our thoughts to run
without the chain. Our friend had dug from the depths of the cellar a
fragrant Southern wine, true liquid sunshine, tinct with the odour of
green seas; a rare bottle to which I made a chant-royal on the back of
the menu, and, luckily for you, mislaid the thing, or it would be
printed here. We talked freely; not brilliantly, but with just that
touch of piquancy that stimulants and narcotics, rightly used, bestow
upon the brain.

We lounged over coffee and liqueurs, and then strolled up the Avenue
and called at the establishment of "Mr. Francis Downman," that most
discriminating and charming of wine-merchants--discriminating because he
has given his life to the study of wines; charming because, away from
his wine-cellars and in his true name, he is a novelist whose books, so
lit with sparkle and espièglerie, have carried fair breezes into many a
dusty heart. If you have ever visited that old Queen Anne House in Dean
Street and glanced at "Mr. Downman's" Bulletins, you will realize at
once that here is no ordinary vendor of wines. Wine to "Mr. Downman" is
a serious matter. Opening a bottle is an exquisite ceremony; drinking is
a sacrament. I once lunched with "Mr. Downman" in his cool Dutch kitchen
"over the shop," and each course was lovingly cooked and served by his
own hands, with suitable wines and liqueurs. It was a lesson in simple
and courtly living. How pleasant the homes of England might be if our
housewives would pay a little attention to correct kitchen and table
amenities. "Mr. Downman" would be a public benefactor if he would open a
School of Kitchen Wisdom where the little suburban wife might sit at his
feet and learn of him. Yes, I know that there are many schools of
cookery and housewifery, but these places are managed by people who
only know how to cook. "Mr. Downman" would bring to the task all those
little elegancies which make a dinner not merely satisfactory, but a
refinement of joy. Feeding, like all functions of the human body, is a
vulgar business anyway, but here is a man who can raise it to the
dignity of a rite.

Further, he has shown us, in those "Bulletins," how to turn advertising
into one of the minor arts. Perhaps of all the enormities which the
nineteenth century perpetrated in its efforts to make life unbearable,
the greatest was the debasing of trade. In the eighteenth century trade
was a serene occupation, as you may see by glancing at the files of the
old _Gentleman's Magazine_, _Mirror_, _Spectator_, where announcements
of goods and merchandise were made in fine flowing English.
Advertisement was then a matter of grace, of flourish and address; for
people had leisure in which to receive gradual impressions. The
merchants of that day did not scream at you; they sat with you over the
fire, and held you in pleasant converse, sometimes, in their talk,
throwing off some persiflage or apothegm that has become immortal. There
was a Mr. George Farr, a grocer, _circa_ 1750, who issued some
excellent trade tickets from the "Beehive and Three Sugar Loaves";
little cards, embellished with dainty woodcuts that bring to mind an
Elzevir bookplate; the pictures a sheer joy to look upon, the prose a
delicate pomp of words that delights the ear. Then there were the trade
cards of the Goldsmiths' and Silversmiths' Company of the eighteenth
century, each one the production of a true artist (Hogarth did several),
as well as the tobacco advertisements of the same period. In the latter
case, not only were the cards works of art, but poetry was wooed and won
for the cause. Near the old Surrey Theatre lived one John Mackey, who
sang the praise of his wares in rhyme and issued playbills purporting to
announce new tragedies under such titles as _My Snuff-Box_, _The Indian
Weed_, _The True Friend, or Arrivals from Havannah_, _The Last Pinch_,
and so on. The cabinet-makers of the eighteenth century also found time
to indite delicious morsels of prose and prepare quaint and harmonious
pictures for the delight of their patrons. Mr. Chippendale and Mr.
Heppelwhite were most industrious in this direction, and the Society of
Upholsterers and Cabinet Makers issued, in 1765, a work now very much
sought after: _The Cabinet and Chair Makers' Real Friend and Companion_.

But then, snorting and hustling like a provincial alderman, in came the
nineteenth century, with its gospel of Speed-up; and the result was that
fair fields and stately streets scream harshly in your ears at every
turn:--


           DRINK BINGO.
         It is the Best.


          EAT DINKYDUX.
     You'll hate it at First.


This sort of thing continued for many decades, when, happily, its
potency became attenuated, and some genius discovered that people were
not always responsive to screams; that, after all, the old way was
better.

Thus literature returned and linked arms once again with trade. Partly,
the circularizing dodge was responsible for this, since, in the
circular, the bald statement was hardly good enough. It was found that
subtle means must be employed if you are striving to catch a man's
attention at the breakfast-table, when sleep still crawls like a slug
about the brain and temper is uncertain. Nothing is so riling to the
educated person as to have ungrammatical circulars dropped in his
letter-box. Their effect is that he heartily detests the article
advertised, not because he has tried it and found it wanting, but
because of the split infinitive or the infirm phrase. So the whoop and
the yell gave place to the full-flowered essay sprigged with the
considered phrase. And to my mind the best of all contemporary efforts
in this direction are "Mr. Downman's" "Bulletins," of which I have a
complete set. Here a fastidious pen is delightfully employed; and not
the pen only, but the taste of the book-lover. Indeed, they are lovable
productions, having all the gracious response to the eye and the touch
of Mr. Arthur Humphreys' anthologies of seventeenth-century poetry.
Everything--format, type, paper, and Elian style--breathes an air of
serendipity.

The first part of each "Bulletin" consists of a number of essays on
questions pertaining to wine and wine-drinking; the second half is a
catalogue of "Mr. Downman's" wines and their current prices, with
specimen labels, which are such gentle harmonies of line and colour that
one is tempted to start collecting them. "Mr. Downman" opens his
addresses in the grand manner:--


     _My Lords, Reverend Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen._


And if you love your Elia, then you must read "Mr. Downman" on Decanters
and Decanting, On Corkscrews, On How to Drink Wine, On Bottling, On
Patriotism and Wines, On the Suiting of Food to Wine, On Wines at
Picnics. His sharp-flavoured prose, full of sly nuances and coquettish
conceits, has all the tone of the best claret. Hear him on salads:--


     This is the time of salads. And a good salad means good oil. It
     also means good vinegar, or a fresh and juicy lime or lemon. Now
     the Almighty has given us better tools for salad-making than any
     wooden fork or spoon. In conditions of homely intimacy, a
     salad-maker, when all is ready, will wash his hands well and long
     as the moment approaches for serving the bowl. He will shun common
     or perfumed soaps, and will use nothing but a soap made from olive
     oil. Having dried his hands perfectly on a warm, clean towel, he
     will finally whisk the cup of dressing into homogeneity, will pour
     its contents over the salad, and will immediately proceed to wring
     the leaves in the liquid as a washerwoman wrings clothes in soapy
     water. (How horrid!) In doing this he will spoil the appearance of
     come of the leaves, but he will have a salad fit for the gods.


After sampling a noble Madeira in his cellar cool, in William and Mary
Yard, we resumed our crawl, and in the black evening made a tour of
other of the old places. At the Café de l'Europe, Mr. Jacobs, leader of
the band, played for us a few old waltzes and morceaux reeking of the
spirit of 1912; but even he did not handle the fiddle, or seem to care
to handle it, in his old happy manner. Like the rest of us, I suppose,
he felt that it wasn't worth while; it didn't matter. We called at the
"Gambrinus," now owned by a Belgian; at the old "Sceptre," for a
coupon's worth of boiled beef; and so to the Café Royal.

Here we received a touch or two from the old times. War has killed many
lovely things, but, though it maim and break, it cannot wholly kill the
things of the spirit, and in the "Royal" we found that art was still a
living thing; ideas were still being discussed as though they mattered.
Epstein and Augustus John, both in uniform, were there, and Austin
Harrison had his usual group of poets. It was reassuring to see the old
domino-playing Frenchmen, who seem part of the fixtures of the place, in
their accustomed corner. The girls seemed to have packed away their
affrighting futurist gowns, and were arrayed more soberly. That night
they seemed to be more like human creatures, and less like deliberate
Bohemians.

I am not overfond of the Café Royal, but it is one of the West End shows
which visitors feel they must see; and when any provincial visitors
wonder: "Why is the Café Royal?" I have one answer for them: "Henri
Murger."

It is certain that, but for Murger, there would be no Chelsea and no
Café Royal. That man has a lot to answer for. I doubt if any one man
(I'm not including kings) has wrought so much havoc in young lives. He
meant to warn youth of danger; he actually drove youth towards it.

Any discussion which seeks to name the most dangerous book in the world
is certain to bring mention of Rousseau's _Confessions_, of Paine's _Age
of Reason_, of Artzibashef's _Sanine_, of Baudelaire's _Fleurs du Mal_,
and other works of subversive tendency. The one book which has really
done more harm to young people than any other is seldom remembered in
this connection. That book is _Scènes de la Vie de Bohême_; and it is
dangerous, not that it contains a line of obscenity or blasphemy, not
that it teaches evil as higher than good, but because it founded a cult
and taught young people how to ruin their lives. Bohemianism has, of
course, existed since the world began; rebels have always been; but it
remained for Murger to find a name for it and make a cult of it.

The dangers of this cult to young people lay not in its being an evil
cult, but in its being perhaps as fine a cult as any of the world's
great creeds: the cult of human sympathy and generosity. The Bohemian
makes friends with all kinds and all creeds--sinners and saints, rich
and poor; he cares nothing so long as they be kindly. And there lay the
danger, for the blood of youth, freed from all restraint, was certain to
overdo it. It became a cult of excess. Murger died, but he left behind
him a very bitter legacy to the coming generation. As that legacy passed
through the years it gathered various adhesions--such as Wilde's "In
order to be an artist it is first necessary to ruin one's health," and
Flaubert's "Nothing succeeds like excess"; so that very soon art
colonies became things discredited, unpleasant to the nostrils of the
righteous.

Murger himself saw the life very clearly, for he described it as "Vie
gai et terrible"; and he takes no pains to present to us only the
lighter, warmer side of it. He shows us everything; yet, so diabolical
is his manner, that, even after passing the tragedy of the closing
pages, the book and the life it pictures call to every one of us with
song in his blood and the spirit of April in his heart.

It first appeared as a feuilleton in a Paris daily, and Murger, with
characteristic insouciance, wrote his instalments only a few hours
before the time when they were due for the printer; and when he was
stumped for material, he invented a little story. Hence that singularly
beautiful tale, slammed into the middle of the book--the Story of
Francine's Muff--which forms the opening scene of Puccini's opera
founded on the novel. The book has neither balance nor cohesion, and in
this it catches its note from its theme. It is a cinematographic
succession of scenes, tender and passionate and gay; swift and hectic.
He invented and employed the picture-palace manner in literature before
the picture-palace was even conceived. The very style is feverish, and
from it one visualizes the desperately merry Bohemian slaving with pen
and paper in his high garret, and whipping his flagging brain with
fierce stimulant, while the printer's boy sits on the doorstep.

It stands alone. There is no book in the literature of the world quite
like it. It is the challenge of youth and beauty to the world; and if
we--grown wise and weary in the struggle--find a note of ferocity and
extravagance in the challenge, then let us judge with understanding, and
remember that it is a case of the fine and the weak against the brutal
and the ignorant. Murger's voice is the voice of protesting youth. He is
illogical; so is youth. He is furious; so is youth. He is heroic; so is
youth. He is half-mad with indignation and half-mad with the joy of
living; so is youth. It is by its very waywardness and disregard of
values that the book captures us.

There is no other book in which the spirit of Paris breathes more
easily. Here we have the essential Paris, just as in Thomas Dekker we
have the essential London. Poets, novelists and essayists have set
themselves again and again to ensnare the elusive Paris between the
covers of a book; but Murger alone--though he writes of Paris in
1830--has succeeded. Those who have never been to Paris should first
read his book; then, when they do go, they will experience the sense of
coming back to some known place.

It was this insidious book that first tempted youth to escape from a
hidebound world; showed it the way out--a way beset by delightful
hazards. It offered to all the golden boys and girls a new Utopia, and
they were fain to visit it. That it was a false world troubled them not
at all. The green glass, the delirious midnight hours, and the pale
loveliness of Mimi and Musette were, perhaps, shackles as binding and as
fearful as those of Convention. But anything to escape from the irk and
thrall of their narrow realities; so away they went, and the end of the
story is written in the archives of the Morgue.

After seventy years, however, the middle way has been found. There are
few tragedies to-day in the Quartier Latin, and very little gaiety or
kindliness; none of the old adventurous spirit. Things are going too
well in the studio-world these days. Chelsea and Montmartre have been
invaded by the American dilettanti, whose lives are one long struggle to
be Bohemians on a thousand a year. If, however, there be those who
regard this state of things as an improvement on the old, then let it be
remembered that this way was only found after Murger had wrecked his own
life and the lives of those who followed so gaily the unkind path down
which he led them. It is a pitiful catalogue; the more pitiful since so
many of the young dead are anonymous--the young men who might, had they
lived, have given the world so much of beauty, but who were unable to
pull up short of the precipice. Some of them, of course, we know: Gerard
de Nerval, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Ernest Dowson; and
their London monument is the Café Royal.

       *       *       *       *       *

At half-past nine all fun ceased, but we had picked up a bunch from
Fleet Street, one of whom was taking home two bottles of whisky. So we
moved to "another place," and ordered black coffees which drank
tolerably well--after some swift surreptitious business with a
corkscrew. Later, we strolled across Oxford Street to what remained of
the German Quarter. We visited various coffee-bars, where our genial
comrade with the bottles again did his duty; did it beautifully, did it
splendidly, did it with Vine Street at his ear. And in a grey street off
Tottenham Court Road we found a poor man's cabaret. In the back room of
a coffee-bar an entertainment was proceeding. Two schonk boys, in straw
hats, were at a piano, assisted by an anæmic girl and a real coal-black
coon, who gave us the essential rag-times of the South. The place was
packed with the finest collection of cosmopolitan toughs I had ever seen
in one room. The air, physical and moral, was hardly breathable, and as
the boys were spoiling for a row, one misinterpreted glance would have
brought trouble--and lots of it. At different tables, voices were raised
in altercation, when not in lusty song, and the general impression the
place gave me was that it was a squalid, dirty model of the old
Criterion Long Bar. All the meaner, more desperate citizens of the
law-breaking world were gathered here; and, though we had broken a few
by-laws ourselves that night, we were not anxious to be led into any
more shattering of the Doraic tables. So at midnight we adjourned to
"another place," and drank dry gingers until three o'clock in the
morning. Then, to a Turkish Bath, and so to bed; not very merry, but as
cheered in the spirit as the humble, useless citizen is allowed to be in
a miserable, hole-and-corner way in war-time.

It had been a sorry experience, this round of visits, in 1917, to
quarters last seen in 1914; and it made me curious to know how other
familiar nooks had received the wanton assault of kings. In the
haphazard sketches that follow I have tried to catch the external
war-time atmosphere of a few of the old haunts, so far as a poor
reporter may. Later, perhaps, a better hand than mine will discover for
us the essential soul of London under siege; and these rough notes may
be of some service, since all remembrance of that time was blown away
from most minds by the maroons of Armistice Day.



BACK TO DOCKLAND


From my earliest perceiving moments, docks and railway stations have
been, for me, the most romantic spots of the city in which I was born
and bred. Quays and wharves, cuts, basins, reaches, steel tracks and
passenger trains, and all that belonged to the life of the waterside and
the railway, spoke to me of illimitable travel and distant, therefore
desirable, things.

This feeling I share, I suppose, with millions of other men and children
who have been reared in coast cities, and whose minds respond to the
large invitations offered by sooty smoke-stacks or the dim outline of a
station roof. And if these things pierced the complacence of one's days
in the past, how much deeper and more significant their message in those
four dreadful years, when men fared forth in ships and trains to new
perils unimagined in the quieter years.

That apart, I see docks and railway stations not in their economic or
historic aspect, but in the picturesque light, as, perhaps, the most
emphatic glory of London. For London's major architectural beauties I
care little. Abbeys, cathedrals, old churches, museums, leave me cold;
the fine shudder about the shoulders I suffer most sharply before those
haphazard wizardries of brick and iron flung together by the exigencies
of modern commerce. Their fortuitous ugliness achieves a new beauty. A
random eye-full of such townscapes may yield only an impression of
squalor, but many acres of squalor produce, by their very vastness,
something of the sublime. Belching chimneys, flaring furnaces, the
solemn smell of wet coal mingled with that of tar and bilge-water, and
the sight of brown sails and surly funnels and swinging cranes--in these
misshapen masses I find that delight that others receive from
contemplation of Salisbury Cathedral or a spire of Wren's.

The docks of London lie closely in a group--Wapping, Shadwell,
Rotherhithe, Poplar, Limehouse, Isle of Dogs, Blackwall, and North
Woolwich, and each possesses its own fine-flavoured character. You may
know at once, without other evidence than that afforded by the sense of
smell, whether you stand in London Docks, Surrey Commercial Docks, West
India Docks, Millwall Docks, or Victoria and Albert Docks. To me, the
West and East India Docks are soaked in the bright odour and placid
clamour of the East, with something of feminine allure in the quality of
their appeal. Victoria and Albert Docks I find gaunt and colourless.
Surrey Commercial Docks remind me of some coarse merchant from the Royal
Exchange, stupidly vulgar in speech, clothes and character.

The East and West India Docks I have treated elsewhere. Of the others,
the most exciting are Millwall and London Docks--though of the latter I
fear one must now speak in the past tense. Shadwell High Street and St.
George's, which border the London Docks, are no longer themselves. All
is now charged with gloom, broken only by the anæmic lights of a few
miserable mission-halls and coffee-bars for the use of Scandinavian
seamen. Awhile back, before this monstrous jest of war, there was a
certain raw gaiety about the place brought thither by these same blond
vikings; but, since the frenetic agitations of certain timorous people
against "all aliens"--as though none but an alien can be a spy--these
men are not now allowed to land from their boats, and Shadwell is the
poorer of a touch of colour. One might often meet them and fraternize
with them in the coffee-bars and beer-shops (there are few
"public-houses" in these streets), and hear their view of things.
Bearded giants they were, absurdly out of the picture in these tiny,
sawdusted rooms, against the hideous bedizenment of the London house of
refreshment. They would engage in rich, confused, interminable
conversations, using a language which, to the stranger, sounded like a
medley of hiccoughs and snorts; and there would be vehement arguments
and a large fanning of the breeze. In the upper rooms, on Saturday
evenings, one might have singing and dancing to a cracked piano and a
superannuated banjo, and there the girls of the quarter would appear,
and would do themselves well on seafarers' hospitality.

But the free-and-easy atmosphere is gone. You enter any bar and are at
once under a cloud. Suspicion has been bred in all these docks men by
the cheap Press. The patriotic stevedores regard you as a disguised
alien. The landlord wonders whether you are one of those blasted
newspaper men or are from the Yard. The visitors to the bars are in
every case insipid; none of the ripe character that once lit such places
to sudden life. Abrupt acquaintance and casual conversation are not to
be had. The beer is filthy. The good Burton is gone, and in its place
you have a foul concoction which has not the mellowing effect of honest
British beer or the exhilarating effect of the light continental brews.
Shadwell High Street is now a dirty lane of poor lodging-houses, foul
courts, waste tracts of land, mission halls exuding a stale air of
diseased hospitality, and those nondescript establishments, ships'
chandlers, with their miscellanies of apparently useless lumber, stored
in such a heap that it would seem impossible to find any article
immediately required. In short, social life here is as it should be,
according to the unwearied in war-work.

Still, there are some adorable morsels of domestic architecture to be
found up narrow alleys: old cottages and tumbling buildings, mellowed by
centuries of association with many weathers and with men and ships from
the green and golden seas that lie beyond the muddy waters of London
River; and these supply one touch of animation to the prevailing
moribundity.

Very different are the Millwall Docks. Little material beauty here, but
something much better--good company, and plenty of it. The docks lie at
the south of the Isle of Dogs, amid a flat stretch of dreary warehouses
and factories, and you approach them by a long curving street of poor
cottages and "general" shops. The island is a place of harsh discords,
for Cubitt's works are established here, and the ring of hammers rises
above the roar of furnaces, and the vociferous life of the canals above
the scream of the siren and the moan of the hooter, and the concerted
voices of the island seem to cry the accumulated agony of the East End.
Great arc lights, suspended from above, when cargoes are being unloaded
by night, fling into sudden illumination or shadow the faces and figures
of the groups of workers as they stagger up the gangways with their
loads, and lend to the whole scene an air of theatrical illusion. In the
bars you find sweaty engineers and grimy stokers. Here is a prolific
field of character; mostly British, though a few Lascars may be found,
drinking solitary drinks or parading the streets with their customary
air of bewilderment. Here are nut-brown toilers of the sea, whose
complexions suggest that they have been trapped by that advertiser in
the popular Press who offers his toilet wares with the oracular
pronouncement that "Handsome Men Are Slightly Sunburnt." Here are men
who have circled the seven seas. Here, calm and taciturn, is a man who
knows Pitcairn Islanders to speak to; who produces from one pocket a
carved ivory god, presented to him by some native of Java, and from the
other Old Timothy's One-Horse Snip for the Big Race.

Under the meagre daylight and the opulent shadows of these docks you may
drink beer and listen to casual chit-chat that carries you round the
world and into magical hidden places, and brings you back with a jerk to
the Isle of Dogs.

"Yerce. Two bob a pound the 'Ome an' Colonial was arstin' the missus for
the stuff. I soon went round an' told 'em where they could put it. Well,
'sI was sayin', after we left Rangoon, we----"

The land in this district consists, for the most part, of oozing marsh,
so that, when a gale sweeps from the mouth of the river, it reaches the
island with unexpended force. Then the sky seems to scream in harmony
with the rattling windows. Saloon signs swing grotesquely. The river
assumes a steely hue, heaving and rushing, sucking against staples,
wharves and barges, and rising in ineffectual splashes against the gates
of the docks, until you seek the public bar of the "Dog and
Thunderstorm" as a sanctuary. There, amid the babble of pewter and glass
and the punctuation of the cash register, you forget any London gale in
listening to stories of typhoons, cyclones, and other freaks of the
elements common to the Pacific and the meeting of the waters round the
Horn.

Many hours have I squandered on the ridiculous bridge of the Isle of
Dogs, in sunlight or twilight, grey mist or velvet darkness, building my
dreams about the boats as they dropped downstream to the oceans of the
world and their ports with honey-syllabled names--Swatow, Rangoon,
Manila, Mozambique, Amoy--returning in normal times, with fantastic
cargoes of cornelian and jade, malachite and onyx, fine shapes of ivory
and coral, sharp spices of betel-nut and bhang, and a secret tin or two
of li-un--perhaps not returning at all. There I would stand, giving to
each ship some name and destination born of my own fancy, and endowing
it with a marvellous meed of adventure.

It is an exciting experience for the landsman Cockney, strolling the
streets about the docks, to rub shoulders with other little Cockneys, in
blue serge and cotton scarves, who have accepted the non-committal
invitation offered by the funnel and the rigging over the walls of
Limehouse Basin. One remembers the story of the pale curate at the
church concert, at which one of the entertainers had sung a setting of
Kipling's "Rolling Down to Rio." "Ah, God!" he said, wringing his thin
hands, "that's what I often feel like.... Rolling down to Rio." And in
these streets one meets insignificant little men who have done it; who
have rolled down to Rio and gone back to Mandalay, and seen the dawn
come up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay.

And I am proud to have nodding acquaintance with them. I am glad they
have drunk beer with me. I am glad I have clicked the chopsticks in
Limehouse Causeway with the yellow boys who can talk of Canton and Siam
and North Borneo and San Francisco. I am glad I have salaamed noble men
of India at the Asiatics' Home, and heard their stories of odourous
villages in the hills and of the seas about India, and of strange
islands which mere Cockneys pick out on the map with an uncertain
forefinger--Andamans, Nicobars, Solomons, and so forth. I am glad from
having met men who know Java as I know London; who know the best places
in Tokio for tea and the most picturesque spots in Formosa; who can
direct me to a good hotel in Singapore, should I ever go there, and who
know where Irish whisky can be bought in Sarawak. Why study guidebooks,
or consult with the omniscient Mr. Cook, when you may find about the
great ornamental gates of the docks of London natives of all corners of
the world who can provide you with a hundred exclusive tips which will
make smooth the traveller's way over every obstacle or untoward
incident? Indeed, why travel at all, when you may travel by proxy; when,
by hanging round the docks of London, you may travel, on the lips of
these men, through jungle, ocean, white town, palm grove, desert island,
and suffer all the sharp sensations of standing silent upon a peak in
Darien, the while you are taking heartening draughts of mild and bitter
in the saloon bar of the "Star of the East"?



CHINATOWN REVISITED


"Chinatown, my Chinatown, where the lights are low"--a fragment of a
music-hall song in praise of Chinatown which sticks ironically in my
memory. The fact that the lights are low applies at the time of writing
to the whole of London; and as for the word "Chinatown," which once
carried a perfume of delight, it is now empty of meaning save as
indicating a district of London where Chinamen live. To-day Limehouse is
without salt or savour; flat and unprofitable; and of all that it once
held of colour and mystery and the macabre, one must write in the past
tense. The missionaries and the Defence of the Realm Act have together
stripped it of all that furtive adventure that formerly held such lure
for the Westerner.

It was in 1917 that I returned to it, after an absence of some years. In
that year I received an invitation that is rightly accepted as a
compliment: I was asked by Alvin Langdon Coburn to meet him at his
studio, and let him make from my face one of those ecstatic muddles of
grey and brown that have won for him the world's acknowledgment as the
first artist of the camera. Our meeting discovered a mutual enthusiasm
for Limehouse, and we arranged an excursion. There, we said to
ourselves, we shall find yet a taste of the pleasant things that the
world has forgotten: soft movement, solitude, little courtesies, as well
as wonderful things to buy. There we shall find sharp-flavoured things
to eat and drink, and josses and chaste carvings, and sharp knives. Oh,
and the tea, too--the little two-ounce packets of suey-sen at
sevenpence, that clothe the hour of five o'clock with delicate scents
and dreams.

But the suey-sen was gone, done to death by the tea-rationing order.
Gone, too, was the bland iniquity of the place. Our saunter through
Pennyfields and the Causeway was a succession of disillusions. The
spirit of the commercial and controlled West breathed on us from every
side. All the dusky delicacies were suppressed. Dora had stepped in and
khyboshed the little haunts that once invited to curious amusement.
Opium, li-un, and other essences of the white poppy, secretly hoarded,
were fetching £30 per pound. The hop-hoads had got it in the neck, and
the odour of gin-seng floated seldom upon the air. The old tong feuds
had been suppressed by stern policing, and Thames Police Court had
become almost as suave and seemly as Rumpelmayer's. Even that joyous
festival, the Feast of the Lanterns, kept at the Chinese New Year, had
fallen out of the calendar. The Asiatic seamen had been made good by an
Order in Council. All for the best, no doubt; yet how one missed the
bizarre flame and salt of the old Quarter.

We found Pennyfields and the Causeway uncomfortably crowded, for the
outward mail sailings were reduced, and the men who landed in the early
days had been unable to get away. So the streets and lodging-houses were
thronged with Arabs, Malays, Hindoos, South Sea Islanders, and East
Africans; and the Asiatics' Home for Destitute Orientals was having the
time of its life. Every cubicle in the hotel was engaged, and many
wanderers were sleeping where they could. Those with money paid for
their accommodation; for the others, a small grant from the India Office
secured them board and bed until such time as proper arrangements could
be made. The kitchens were working overtime, for each race or creed has
its own inexorable laws in the matter of food. Some eat this and some
eat that, and others will eat anything--save pork--provided that prayers
are spoken over it by an appointed priest.

At half-past nine an occasional tipsy Malay might be seen about the
streets, but the old riots and mêlées were things of the past. In the
little public-house at the corner of Pennyfields we found the usual
crowd of Chinks and white girls, and the electric piano was gurgling its
old sorry melodies, and beer and whisky were flowing; but the whole
thing was very decorous and war-timish.

We did, however, find one splash of colour. A new and very gaudy
restaurant had lately been opened in a narrow by-street, and here we
took a meal of noodle, chow-chow and awabi, and some tea that was a
mocking echo of the old suey-sen. The room was crowded with yellow boys
and a few white girls. Suddenly, from a corner table, occupied by two of
the ladies, came a sharp stir. A few heated words rattled on the air,
and then one rose, caught the other a resounding biff in the neck, and
screamed at her:--

"You dare say I'm not respectable! I _am_ respectable. I come from
Manchester."

This evidence the assaulted one refused to regard as final. She rose,
reached over the table, and clawed madly at her opponent's face and
clothes. Then they broke from the table, and fought, and fell, and
screamed, and delivered the hideous animal noises made by those who see
red. At once the place boiled. I've never been in a Chinese rebellion,
but if the clamour and the antics of the twenty or so yellow boys in
that café be taken as a faint record of such an affair, it is a good
thing for the sensitive to be out of. To the corner dashed waiters and
some customers, and there they rolled one another to the floor in their
efforts to separate the girls, while others stood about and screamed
advice in the various dialects of the Celestial Empire. At last the
girls were torn apart, and struggled insanely in half a dozen grips as
they hurled inspired thoughts at one another, or returned to the old
chorus of "Dirty prostitute." "I ain't a prostitute. I come from
Manchester. Lemme gettater."

And with a final wrench the respectable one did get at her. She broke
away, turned to a table, and with three swift gestures flung cup, saucer
and sauce-boat into the face of her traducer. That finished it. The
proprietor had stood aloof while the girls tore each other's faces and
bit at uncovered breasts. But the sight of his broken crockery acted as
a remover of gravity. He dashed down the steps, pushed aside assistants
and advisers, grabbed the nearest girl--the respectable one--round the
waist, wrestled her to the top of the marble stairs that lead from the
door to the upper restaurant, and then, with a sharp knee-kick, sent her
headlong to the bottom, where she lay quiet.

Whereupon her opponent crashed across a table in hysterics, kicking,
moaning, laughing and sobbing: "You've killed 'er--yeh beast. You've
killed 'er. She's my pal. Oo. Oo. Oooooowh!"

This lasted about a minute. Then, suddenly, she arose, pulled herself
together, ran madly down the stairs, picked up her pal, and staggered
with her to the street. At once, without a word of comment, the company
returned placidly to its eating and drinking; and this affair--an event
in the otherwise dull life of Limehouse--was over.

Years ago, such affairs were of daily occurrence, and the West India
Dock Road became a legend to frighten children with at night. But the
times change. Chinatown is a back number, and there now remains no
corner to which one may take the curious visitor thirsting for exotic
excitement--unless it be the wilds of Tottenham.

The Chinatown of New York, too, has become respectable. The founder of
that colony, Old Nick, died recently, in miserable circumstances, after
having acquired thousands of dollars by his enterprise. From the high
estate of Founder of the Chinatown he dropped to the position of
panhandler, swinging on the ears of his compatriots. About forty years
ago, when Mott Street, Pell Street, and Doyers Street were the territory
of the Whyos, the Bowery boys and the Dead Rabbits, Old Nick crept
stealthily into a small corner. He started a cigar-store in Mott Street,
making his own cigars. He was honest, thrifty, and possessed a lust for
work. The cigar-store prospered, and soon, feeling lonely, as the only
Chink among so many white boys, he passed the word to his countrymen
about the big spenders of the district. On his advice, they closed their
laundries and came to live alongside, to get their pickings from the
dollars that were flying about. Chinatown was started, and rapidly
developed, and its atmosphere was sedulously "arranged" for the benefit
of conducted tourists from uptown, and the tables rattled with the dice
and fluttered with the cards. This success was the beginning of Old
Nick's failure. At the tables he lost all: his capital, his store, his
home, and his proud position. For a time he managed to survive in fair
circumstances; but soon the hatchet men became too numerous, and their
tong feuds too deadly, and their gambling tricks too notorious. Police
raids and the firm hand of the higher Chinese merchants put a stop to
the prosperity of Chinatown, and soon it fell away to nothing, and Old
Nick passed his last days on the sporadic charity of a white woman whom
he had in happier days befriended.

And to-day Pell Street and Mott Street are as quiet and virtuous as
Pennyfields and the Causeway. Coburn and I left the old waterside
streets with feelings of dismay, tasting ashes in the mouth. We tried to
draw from an old storekeeper, a topside good-fella chap, some expression
of his own attitude to present conditions, but with his usual
impassivity he passed it over. How could this utterly debased and
miserable one who dares to stand before noble and refined ones from
Office of Printed Leaves, who have honoured his totally inadequate
establishment with symmetrical presences, presume to offer to exalted
intelligences utterly insignificant thoughts that find lodging in
despicable breast?

Clearly he was handing us the lemon, so we took it, and departed for the
more reckless joys of Hammersmith, where Coburn has his home. On the
journey back I remembered the drabness we had just left, and then I
remembered Limehouse as it was--a pool of Eastern filth and metropolitan
squalor; a place where unhappy Lascars, discharged from ships they were
only too glad to leave, were at once the prey of rascally lodging-house
keepers, mostly English, who fleeced them over the fan-tan tables and
then slung them to the dark alleys of the docks. A wicked place; yes,
but colourful.

Listen to the following: two extracts from an East End paper of thirty
years back:--


                        THAMES POLICE COURT.

     John Lyons, who keeps a common lodging-house, which he has
     neglected to register, appeared before Mr. Ingram in answer to a
     summons taken out by Inspector Price. J. Kirby, 53A, inspector of
     common lodging-houses, stated that on Saturday night last he
     visited defendant's house, which was in a most filthy and
     dilapidated condition. In the first floor he found a Chinaman
     sleeping in a cupboard or small closet, filled with cobwebs. The
     wretched creature was without a shirt, and was covered with a few
     rags. The Chinaman was apparently in a dying state, and has since
     expired. An inquest was held on his remains, and it was proved he
     died of fever, and had been most grossly neglected. The room in
     which the Chinaman lay was without bedding or furniture. In the
     second room he found Aby Callighan, an Irishwoman, who said she
     paid 1s. 6d. a week rent. In the third room was Abdallah, a Lascar,
     who said he paid 3s. per week, and a Chinaman squatting on a chair
     smoking. In the fourth room was Dong Yoke, a Chinaman, who said he
     paid 2s. 6d. per week for the privilege of sleeping on the bare
     boards; two Lascars on bedsteads smoking opium, and the dead body
     of a Lascar lying on the floor, and covered with an old rug. In the
     fifth room was an Asiatic seaman, named Peru, who said he paid 3s.
     per week, and eleven other Lascars, six of whom were sleeping on
     bedsteads, three on the floor, and two on chairs. If the house were
     registered, only four persons would be allowed in the room. The
     effluvium, caused by smoking opium and the over-crowded state of
     the room, was most nauseous and intolerable. In the kitchen, which
     was very damp, he found Sedgoo, who said he had to pay 2s. a week,
     and eight Chinamen huddled together. The stench here was very bad.
     If the house were registered, no one would have been allowed to
     inhabit the kitchen at all. He should say the house was quite unfit
     for a human habitation. The floors of the rooms, the stairs and
     passages were in a filthy and dilapidated condition, covered with
     slime, dirt, and all kinds of odious substances.

     The men had been hung up with weights tied to their feet; flogged
     with a rope; pork, the horror of the Mohammedan, served out to them
     to eat, and the insult carried further by violently ramming the
     tail of a pig into their mouths and twisting the entrails of the
     pig round their necks; they were forced up aloft at the point of
     the bayonet, and a shirt all gory with Lascar blood was exhibited
     on the trial, and all this proved in evidence. One man leaped
     overboard to escape his tormentor; a boat was about to be lowered
     to save the drowning man, but it was prohibited, and he was left to
     perish. The captain escaped out of the country, forfeiting his bail
     and abandoning his ship, leaving his chief officer to be brought
     to trial and to undergo punishment for his share of this cruel
     transaction.


In those days you might stand in West India Dock Road, on a June
evening, in a dusk of blue and silver, the air heavy with the reek of
betel nut, chandu and fried fish; the cottages stewing themselves in
their viscid heat. Against the skyline rose Limehouse Church, one of the
architectural beauties of London. Yellow men and brown ambled about you,
and a melancholy guitar tinkled a melody of lost years. Then, were
colour and movement; the whisper of slippered feet; the adventurous
uncertainty of shadow; heavy mist, which never lifts from Poplar and
Limehouse; strange voices creeping from nowhere; and occasionally the
rasp of a gramophone delivering records of interminable Chinese dramas.
The soul of the Orient wove its spell about you, until, into this
evanescent atmosphere, came a Salvation Army chorus bawling a lot of
emphatic stuff about glory and blood, or an organ with "It ain't all
lavender!" and at once the clamour and reek of the place caught you.

Thirty years ago--that was its time of roses. Then, indeed, things did
happen: things so strong that the perfume of them lingers to this day,
and one can, remembering them, sometimes sympathize with those who say
"LIMEHOUSE" in tones of terror. One of my earliest memories is of the
West India Dock Road on a wet November afternoon. A fight was on between
a Chink and a Malay. The Chink used a knife in an upward direction,
forcefully. The Malay got the Chink down, and jumped with heavy boots on
the bleeding yellow face.

Some time ago, when my ways were cast in that district, the boys would
loaf at a kind of semi-private music-hall, attached to a public-house,
where one of the Westernized Chinks, a San Sam Phung, led the band, and
freely admitted all friends who bought him drinks. Every night he
climbed to his chair, and his yellow face rose like a November sun over
the orchestra-rail. When the conductor's tap turned on the flow of the
dozen instruments, which blared rag-tag music, we shifted to the
babbling bar and tried to be amused by the show. It was the dustiest
thing in entertainment that you can imagine. To this day the hall stinks
of snarling song. Dusty jokes we had, dusty music, dusty dresses, dusty
girls to wear them, or take them off; and only the flogging of cheap
whisky to carry us through the evening. Solemn smokes of cut plug and
indifferent cigar swirled in a haze of lilac, and over the opiate air
San's fiddle would wail, surging up to the balcony's rim and the cloud
of corpse faces that swam above it. More and more mephitic the air would
grow, and noisier would become voice and foot and glass; until, with a
burst of lights, and the roar of the chord-off from the band, the end
would come, and we would tumble out into the great road where were the
winking river, and keen air and sanity.

Later, the boys would shuffle along with San Sam Phung to his lodging
over a waterside wine-shop, crossing the crazy bridge into the Isle of
Dogs. Often, passing at midnight, you might have heard his heart-song
trickling from an open window. He cared only for the modern, Italianate
stuff, and would play it for hours at a time. Seated in the orchestra,
in his second-hand dress-suit and well-oiled hair, he looked about as
picturesque as a Bayswater boarding-house. But you should have seen him
afterwards, during the day, in his one-room establishment, radiant in
spangled dressing-gown and tempestuous hair, a cigarette at his lips,
his fiddle at his chin. It was worth sitting up late for. Then his face
would shine, if ever a Chink's can, and his bow would tear the soul
from the fiddle in a fury of lyricism.

Half his room was filled with a stove, which thrust a long neck of
piping ten feet in the wrong direction, and then swerved impulsively to
the window. In the corner was a joss. The rest of the room was littered
with fiddles and music. Over the stove hung a gaudy view of Amoy. He
never tired of talking of Amoy, his home. He longed to get back to
it--to flowers, blue waters, white towns. He lived only for the moment
when he might tuck his fiddle-case under his arm and return to Amoy,
home and beauty. Once started on the tawdry ribaldry which he had to
play at the hall, his arm and fingers following mechanically the sheet
before him, he would set his fancies free, and, like a flock of
rose-winged birds, they took flight to Amoy. Music, for him, was just
melody--the graceful surface of things; in a word Amoy. Often he
confessed to a terrible fear that he would grow old and die among our
swart streets ere he could save enough to return. And he did. Full of
the poppy one dark night, he stepped over the edge of a wharf at
Millwall. Then, at the inquiry, it was discovered that his nostalgia for
Amoy was pure fake. He had never been there. He was born on a boat that
crawled up-river one foggy morning, and had never for a day gone out of
London.

There were many other delightful creatures of Limehouse whose names lie
persistently on the memory. There was Afong, a chimpanzee who ran a
pen-yen joint. There was Chinese Emma, in whose establishment one could
go "sleigh-riding." There was Shaik Boxhoo, a gentleman who did
unpleasant things, and finally got religion and other advantages over
his less wily brothers, who got only the jug. Faults they had in plenty,
these throwbacks, but their faults were original. Every one of them was
a bit of sharp-flavoured character, individual and distinct.

In those days there was a waste patch of wan grass, called The Gardens,
near the Quarter, and something like a band performed there once a week.
O Carnival, Carnival! There the local crowd would go, and there, to the
music of dear Verdi, light feet would clatter about the asphalt walk,
and there would happen what happens every Sunday night in those parts of
London where are parks, promenades, bandstands and monkeys' parades. In
the hot spangled dusk, the groups of girls, brave with best frocks and
daring ribbons, would fling their love and their laughter to all who
would have them. Through the plaintive music--poor Verdi! how like a
wheezy music-box his crinoline melodies sounded, even then!--would swim
little ripples of laughter when the girls were caressing or being
caressed; and always the lisp of feet and the whisk of darling frocks
kissing little black shoes.

Near by was the old "Royal Sovereign," which had a skittle-alley. There
would gather the lousy Lascars, and there they would roll, bowl or
pitch. Then they would swill. Later, they would roll, bowl or pitch,
with a skinful of gin, through the reeling streets to whichever boat
might claim them.

The black Lascars, unlike their yellow mates, are mostly disagreeable
people. There was, in those days, but one of them who even approached
affability. He was something of a Limehouse Wonder, for, in a sudden
fight over spilt beer, he showed amazing aptitude not only with his
fists, but also in ringcraft. Chuck Lightfoot, a local sport, happened
to see him, and took him in hand, and for some years he stayed in
Shadwell, putting one after another of the local lads to sleep. He
finished his ring career in a dockside saloon by knocking out an
offending white man who had chipped him about his colour. It was a foul
blow, and the man died. Pennyfields Polly got twelve months, and when he
came out he started on the poppy and the snow, for he was not allowed to
fight again, and life held nothing else for him. His friends tried to
dissuade him, on the ground that he was ruining his health--a sensible
argument to put to a man who had no interest in life; they might as well
have told an Arctic explorer, who had lost the trail, that his tie was
creeping up the back of his neck.

It is curious how the boys cling to you after a brief interchange of
hospitalities. You drop into a beer-shack one evening, and you are sure
to find a friend. One makes so easily in these parts a connection,
salutations, fugitive intimacy. You are suddenly saluted, it may be by
that good old friend, Mr. Lo, the poor Indian, or John Sam Ling Lee.
Vaguely you recall the name. Yes; you stood him a drink, some ten years
ago. Where has he been? Oh, he found a boat ... went round the Horn ...
stranded at Lima ... been in Cuba some time ... got to Swatow later ...
might stay in London ... might get a boat on Saturday.

But these casual encounters are now hardly to be had. So many boys, so
many places have disappeared. Blue Gate Fields, scene of many an Asiatic
demonism, is gone. The "Royal Sovereign"--the _old_ "Royal
Sovereign"--is gone, and the Home for Asiatics reigns in its stead. The
hop-shacks about the Poplar arches and the closed courtyards and their
one-story cottages are no more. To-day--as I have said three times
already; stop me if I say it again--the glamorous shame of Chinatown has
departed. Nothing remains save tradition, which now and then is fanned
into life by such a case as that of the drugged actress. Yet you may
still find people who journey fearfully to Limehouse, and spend money in
its shops and restaurants, and suffer their self-manufactured
excitements while sojourning in its somnolent streets among the
respectable sons of Canton. The boys will not thank me for robbing them
of the soft marks who pay twenty shillings for a jade bangle, of the
kind sold in a sixpenny-halfpenny bazaar; so, anticipating their
celestial disapproval, this miserable prostrates himself and remains
bowed for their gracious pardon, and begs to be permitted to say that
the entirely inadequate benedictions of this one will be upon them until
the waning of the last moon.



SOHO CARRIES ON


Soho! Soho!

Joyous syllables, in early times expressive of the delights of the
chase, and even to-day carrying an echo of nights of festivity, though
an echo only. How many thousand of provincials, seeing London, have been
drawn to those odourous byways that thrust themselves so briskly through
the staid pleasure-land of the West End--Greek Street, Frith Street,
Dean Street, Old Compton Street: a series of interjections breaking a
dull paragraph--where they might catch the true Latin temper and bear
away to the smoking-rooms of country Conservative clubs fulsome tales
that have made Soho already a legend. Indeed, I know one cautious lad
from Yorkshire, whose creed is that You Never Know and You Can't Be Too
Careful, who always furnishes himself with a loaded revolver when dining
with a town friend in Soho. I am not one to look sourly upon the simple
pleasures of the poor; I do not begrudge him his concocted dish of
thrills. I only mention this trick of his because it proves again the
strange resurrective powers of an oft-buried lie. You may sweep, you may
garnish Soho if you will; but the scent of adventure will hang round it
still.

But to-day the scent is very faint. The streets that once rang with
laughter and prodigal talk are in A.D. 1917 charged with gloom; their
gentle noise is pitched in the minor key. These morsels of the South,
shovelled into the swart melancholies of central London, have lost their
happy summer tone. Charing Cross Road was always a streak of misery,
but, on the most leaden day, its side streets gave an impression of
light. Lord knows whence came the light. Not from the skies. Perhaps
from the indolently vivacious loungers; perhaps from the flower-boxes on
the window-sills, or the variegated shops bowered with pendant polonies,
in rainbow wrappings of tinfoil, and flasks of Chianti. One always
walked down Old Compton Street with a lilt, as to some carnival tune.
Nothing mattered. There were macaroni and spaghetti to eat, and Chianti
to drink; dishes of ravioli; cigars at a halfpenny a time and cigarettes
at six a penny; copies of frivolous comic-papers; and delicate glasses
of lire, a liqueur that carried you at the first sip to the green-hued
Mediterranean. The very smell of the place was the smell of those
lovable little towns of the Midi.

But all is now changed. Gone are the shilling tables-d'hôte and their
ravishing dishes. Gone is the pint of vin ordinaire at tenpence. Will
they ever come again, those gigantic, lamp-lit evenings, those Homeric
bob's-worths of hors-d'oeuvre, soup, omelette, chicken, cheese and
coffee? Shall we ever again cross Oxford Street to the old German
Quarter and drink their excellent Pilsener and Munchner, in heartening
steins, and eat their leber-wurst sandwiches, and smoke their long, thin
cigars? Or seat ourselves in the Schweitzerhof, where four wonderful
dishes were placed before you at a cost of tenpence by some dastard spy,
in the pay of that invisible-cloak artist, the English Bolo?--who
doubtless reported to Berlin our conversation about Phyllis Monkman's
hair and Billy Merson's technique. Nay, I think not. The blight of
civilization is upon Soho. Many once cosy and memorable cafés are
closed. Other places have altered their note and become uncomfortably
English; while those that retain their atmosphere and their customers
have considerably changed their menu and cuisine. One-and-ninepence is
the lowest charge for a table-d'hôte--and pretty poor hunting at that.
The old elaborate half-crown dinners are now less elaborate and cost
four shillings. And the wine-lists--well, wouldn't they knock poor Omar
off his perch? I don't know who bought Omar's drinks, or whether he paid
for his own, but if he lived in Soho to-day he'd have a pretty thin time
either way--unless the factory price for tents had increased in
proportion with other things.

Gone, too, is the delicious atmosphere of _laisser-faire_ that made Soho
a refreshment of the soul for the visitors from Streatham and Ealing.
Soho's patrons to-day have a furtive, guilty look about them. You see,
they are trying to be happy in war-time. No more do you see in the cafés
the cold-eyed anarchists and the petty bourgeois and artisans from the
foreign warehouses of the locality. In their place are heavy-eyed women,
placid and monosyllabic, and much khaki and horizon blue. Many of the
British soldiers, officers and privates, are men who have not yet been
out, and are experimenting with their French among the French girls who
have taken the places of the swift-footed, gestic Luigi, François or
Alphonse; others have come from France, where they have discovered the
piquancy of French cooking, and desire no more the solidities of the
"old English" chop-house.

Over all is an atmosphere of restraint. Gone are the furious argument
and the preposterous accord. Gone are the colour and the loud lights and
the evening noise. Soho is marking time, until the good days return--if
ever. Not in 1917 do you see Old Compton Street as a line of warm and
fragrant café-windows; instead, you stumble drunkenly through a dim,
murky lane, and take your chance by pushing the first black door that
exudes a smell of food. Gone, too, are those exotic foods that brought
such zest to the jaded palate. The macaroni and spaghetti now being
manufactured in London are poor substitutes for the real thing, being
served in long, flat strips instead of in the graceful pipe form of
other days. Camembert, Brie, Roquefort, Gruyère, Port Salut, Strachini
and other enchanting cheeses are unobtainable; and you may cry in vain
for edible snails and the savoury stew of frogs' legs. True, the Chinese
café in Regent Street can furnish for the adventurous stomach such
trifles as black eggs (guaranteed thirty years old), sharks' fins at
seven shillings a portion, stewed seaweed, bamboo shoots, and sweet
birds'-nests; but Regent Street is beyond the bounds of Soho.

Nevertheless, if you attend carefully, and if you are lucky, you may
still catch in Old Compton Street a faint echo of its graces and
picturesque melancholy. You may still see and hear the sombre Yid, the
furious Italian, the yodelling Swiss, and the deprecating French,
hanging about the dozen or so coffee-bars that have appeared since 1914.
A few of these places existed in certain corners of London long before
that date, but it is only lately that the Londoner has discovered them
and called for more. The Londoner--I offer this fact to all students of
national traits--must always lean when taking his refreshment. Certain
gay and festive gentlemen, who constitute an instrument of order called
the Central Control Board, forbid him to lean in those places where, of
old, he was accustomed to lean; at any rate, he is only allowed to lean
during certain defined hours. You might think that he would have gladly
availed himself of this opportunity for resting awhile by sitting at a
marble-topped table and drinking coffee or tea, or--horrid
thought!--cocoa. But no; he isn't happy unless he leans over his
refreshment; and the café-bar has supplied his demands. There is
something in leaning against a bar which entirely changes one's outlook.
You may sit at a table and drink whisky-and-soda, and yet not achieve a
tithe of the expansiveness that is yours when you are leaning against a
bar and drinking dispiriting stuff like coffee or sirop. Maybe the
physical attitude reacts on the mind, and tightens up certain cords or
sinews, or eases the blood-pressure; anyway, fears, doubts, and cautions
seem to vanish in these little corners of France, and momentarily the
old animation of Soho returns.

In these places you may perchance yet capture for a fleeting space the
will-o'-the-wisperie of other days: movement and festal colour; laughter
and quick tears; the warm jest and the darkling mystery that epitomize
the city of all cities; and the wanton, rose-winged graces that flutter
about the fair head of M'selle Lolotte, as she hands you your café
nature and an April smile for sweetening, carry to you a breath of the
glitter and spaciousness of old time. You do not know Lolotte, perhaps!
Thousand commiserations, M'sieu! What damage! Is Lolotte lovely and
delicate? But of a loveliness of the most ravishing! The shining hair
and the eyes of the most disturbing! Lolotte is in direct descent from
Mimi Pinson, half angel and half puss.

Soldiers of all the Allied armies gather about her crescent-shaped bar
after half-past nine of an evening. The floor is sawdusted. The counter
is sloppy with overflows of coffee. Lips and nose receive from the air
that bitter tang derived only from the smoke of Maryland tobacco. The
varied uniforms of the patrons make a harmony of debonair gaiety with
the many-coloured bottles of cordials and sirops.

"_Pardon, m'sieu!_" cries the poilu, as he accidentally jogs the arm by
which Sergeant Michael Cassidy is raising his coffee-cup.

"_Oh, sarner fairy hang, mossoo! Moselle, donnay mwaw urn Granny Dean._"

"_M'sieu parle français, alors?_"

"_Ah, oui. Jer parle urn purr._"

And another supporting column is added to the structure of the Entente.

Over in the corner stands a little fat fellow. That corner belongs to
him by right of three years' occupation. He is 'Ockington from a nearby
printing works. Ask 'Ockington what he thinks about these 'ere
coffee-bars.

"Ah," he'll say, "I like these Frenchified caffies. Grand idea, if you
ask me. Makes yeh feel as though you was abroad-like. Gives yeh that
Lazy-Fare feelin'. I bin abroad, y'know. Dessay you 'ave, too, shouldn't
wonder. I don't blame yeh. See what yeh can while yeh can, 'ats what I
say. My young Sid went over to Paris one Bang Koliday, 'fore the war,
an' he come back as different again. Yerce, I'm all fer the French
caffies, I am. Nicely got up, I think. Good meoggerny counter; and this
floor and the walls--all done in that what-d'ye call it--mosey-ac. What
I alwis say is this: the French is a gay nation. Gay. And you feel it
'ere, doncher? Sort of cheers you up, like, if yer know what I mean, to
drop in 'ere for a minute or two.... Year or two ago, now, after a rush
job at the Works, I used to stop at a coffee-stall on me way 'ome late
at night, an' 'ave a penny cup o' swipes--yerce, an' glad _of_ it. But
the difference in the stuff they give yer 'ere--don't it drink lovely
and smooth?"

Then his monologue is interrupted by the electric piano, which some one
has fed with pennies; and your ear is charmed or tortured by the latest
revue music or old favourites from Paris and Naples--"Marguerite," "Sous
les ponts de Paris," "Monaco," the Tripoli March. If you appear
interested in the piano, whose voice Lolotte loves, she will offer to
toss you for the next penn'orth. Never does she lose. She wins by the
simple trick of snatching your penny away the moment you lift your hand
from it, and gurgling delightedly at your discomfiture.

No wonder the coffee-bar has become such a feature of London life in
this time of war. Leaning, in Lolotte's bar, is a real and not a forced
pleasure. In the old days one could lean and absorb the drink of one's
choice; but amid what company and with what service! Who could possibly
desire to exchange fatigued inanities with the vacuous vulgarities who
administer the ordinary London bar; who seem, like telephone girls, to
have taken lessons from some insane teacher of elocution, with their
"Nooh riarly?" expressive of incredulity; and their "Is yewers a
Scartch, Mr. Iggulden?" But in Lolotte's bar, talk is bright, sometimes
distinctly clever, and one lingers over one's coffee, chaffering with
her for--well, ask 'Ockington how long he stays.

But Lolotte is not always gay. Sometimes she will tell you stories of
Paris. There is a terrible story which she tells when she is feeling
triste. It is the story of a girl friend of hers with whom she worked
in Paris. The girl grew ill; lost her work; and earned her living by the
only possible means, until she grew too ill for that. One night Lolotte
met her wearily walking the streets. She had been without food for two
days, and had that morning been turned from her lodging. Suddenly, as
they passed a florist's, she darted through its doors and inquired the
price of some opulent blooms at the further end of the shop. The
shop-man turned towards them, and, as he turned, she dexterously
snatched a bunch of white violets from a vase on the counter. The price
of the orchids, she decided, was too high, and she came out.

Lolotte, who had seen the trick from the doorway, inquired the reason
for the theft. And the answer was:

"_Eh, bien; il faut avoir quelquechose quand on va rencontrer le bon
Dieu._"

Two days later her body, with a bunch of white violets fastened at the
neck, was recovered from the Seine.



OUT OF TOWN


It was an empty day, in the early part of the year, and I was its very
idle singer; so idle that I was beginning to wonder whether there would
be any Sunday dinner for me. I took stock of my possessions in coin, and
found one-and-ten-pence-halfpenny. Was I downhearted? Yes. But I didn't
worry, for when things are at their worst, my habit is always to fold my
hands and trust. Something always happens.

Something happened on this occasion: a double knock at the door and a
telegram. It was from the most enlightened London publisher, whose firm
has done so much in the way of encouraging young writers, and it asked
me to call at once. I did so.

"Like to go to Monte Carlo?" he asked.

When I had recovered from the swoon, I begged him to ask another.

"Here's an American millionaire," he said, "writing from Monte Carlo.
He wants to write a book, and he wants some assistance. How would it
suit you?"

I said it would suit me like a Savile Row outfit of clothes.

"When can you go?"

"Any old time."

"Right. You'd better wire him, and tell him I told you to. Don't let
yourself go cheap. Good-bye."

I didn't fall on his neck in an outburst of gratitude: he wouldn't have
liked it. But I yodelled and chirruped all the way to the nearest
post-office, having touched a friend for ten shillings on the strength
of the stunt. All that day and the next, telegrams passed between Monte
Carlo and Balham. I asked a noble salary and expenses, and a wire came
back: "Start at once." I replied: "No money." Ten pounds were delivered
at my doorstep next morning, with the repeated message "Start at once."

But starting at once, in war-time, was not so easily done. There was a
passport to get. That meant three days' lounging in a little wooden hut
in the yard of the Foreign Office. Having got the passport, I spent four
hours in a queue outside the French Consulate before I could get it
_visé_. Six days after the first telegram, I stood shivering on Victoria
Station at seven o'clock of a cadaverous January morning. Having been
well and truly searched in another little hut, and having kissed the
book, and sworn full-flavoured oaths about correspondence, and thought
of a number, and added four to it, I was allowed to board the train.

Half the British Army was on that train, and Mr. Jerome K. Jerome and
myself were the only civilians in our carriage. You will rightly guess
that it was a lively journey. I had always wondered, in peace-time, why
the jew's-harp was invented. I understand now. In the histories of this
war, the jew's-harp will take as romantic a place as the pipes of
Lucknow or the drums of Oude in the histories of other wars.

At Folkestone there were more searchings, more stamping of passports,
more papers and "permissions" to bulk one's pocket and perplex one's
mind. On the boat, standing-room only, and when a gestic stewardess
sought seats for a fond mother and five little ones in the ladies'
saloon, she found all places occupied by khaki figures stretched at full
length.

"_Seulement les dames!_" she cried, pointing to a notice over the door.

"_Aha, madame!_" said a stalwart Australian, "_mais c'est la guerre!_"
In other words "Aubrey Llewellyn Coventry Fell to you!"

Yes, it was war; and it was tactfully suggested to us by the crew, for,
when we were clear of Folkestone harbour, all boats were slung out, and
lifeboats were placed in tragic heaps on either side. It was a cold,
angry sea, and stewards and stewardesses became aggressively prophetic
about the fine crossing that we were to have. Germany had a few days
before declared her first blockade of the English coast, and every speck
on the sea became dreadfully portentous. At mid-Channel a destroyer
stood in to us and ran up a stream of signals.

"This is it," chortled a Cockney, between violent trips to the side;
"this is it! Now we're for it!"

Next moment I got a push in the back, and I thought it had come. But it
was the elbow of one of the crew who had rushed forward, and was sorting
bits of bunting from an impossibly tangled heap at my side. In about two
seconds, he found what he wanted and hauled at a rope. Up went what
looked like a patchwork counterpane, until the breeze caught it, when it
became a string of shapes and colours, straining deliriously against its
fastenings. Then down it came; then up again; then down; then up; then
down; and that was the end of that conversation. I don't know what it
signified, but half an hour later we were in Boulogne harbour.

More comic business with papers; then to the train. Yes, it was war. The
bridge over the Oise had not then been repaired; so we crawled to Paris
by an absurdly crab-like route. We left Boulogne just after twelve. We
reached Paris at ten o'clock at night. There was no food on the train,
and from six o'clock that morning, when I had had a swift cup of tea,
until nearly midnight I got nothing in the way of refreshment. But who
cared? I was going South to meet an American millionaire, and I had
money in my pocket.

I arrived at Paris too late to connect with that night's P.L.M. express,
so I had twenty-four hours to kill. I strolled idly about, and found
Paris very little changed. There was an air about the people of
irritation, of questioning, of petulant suffering; they had a manner
expressive of "_A quoi bon?_" Somebody in high quarters had brought
this thing upon them. Somebody in high quarters might rescue them from
its evils--or might not. They moved like stricken animals, their
habitual melancholy, which is often unnoticed because it is overlaid
with vivacity, now permanently in possession.

I caught the night express to Monte Carlo. Our carriage contained eight
sombre people, and the corridors were strewn with sleep-stupid soldiers.
I was one sardine among many, and, with a twenty-seven-hour journey
before me in this overheated, hermetically sealed sardine-tin, I began
to think what a fool I had been to make this absurd journey to a place
that was strange to me; to meet a millionaire about whom I knew nothing,
and who might have changed his mind, millionaire-fashion, and left Monte
Carlo by the time I got there; and to undertake a job which I might
find, on examination, was beyond me.

Then, with a French girl's head on one shoulder, and my other twisted at
an impossible angle into the window-frame, I went to sleep and awoke at
Lyons, with a horrible headache and an unbearable mouth, the result of
the boiling and over-spiced soup I had swallowed the night before. I
think we all hated each other. It was impossible to wash or arrange
oneself decently, and again there was no food on the train. But, as only
the Latin mind can, we made the best of it and pretended that it was
funny. Girls and men, complete strangers, drooped in abandonment against
one another, or reclined on unknown necks. A young married couple
behaved in a way that at other times would have meant a divorce. The
husband rested his sagging head on the bosom of a stout matron, and a
poilu stretched a rug across his knees and made a comfortable pillow for
the little wife. _N'importe. C'était la guerre._

On the platform at Lyons were groups of French Red Cross girls with
wagons of coffee. This coffee was for the soldiers, but they handed it
round impartially to civilians and soldiers alike, and those who cared
could drop a few sous into the collecting basin. That coffee was the
sweetest draught I had ever swallowed.

At Marseilles it was bright morning, and I was lucky enough to get a
pannier, at a trifling cost of seven francs. These panniers are no meal
for a hungry man. They contain a bone of chicken, a scrap of ham, a
corner of Gruyère, a stick of bread (that surely was made by the firm
that put the sand in sandwich), a half-bottle of sour white wine, a
bottle of the eternal Vichy, Old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all.

I had just finished it when we rolled into Toulon, and there I got my
first glimpse of the true, warm South. I suffered a curious sense of
"coming home." I had not known it, but all my childish dreams must have
had for their background this coloured South, for, the moment it spread
itself before me, bits of Verdi melodies ran through my heart and brain
and I danced a double-shuffle. Since I was old enough to handle a
fiddle, all music has interpreted itself to me in a visualization of
blue seas, white coasts, green palms with lemon and nectarine dancing
through them, and noisy, sun-bright towns, and swart faces and
languorous and joyfully dirty people. The keenest sense of being at home
came later, when, at Monte Carlo, I met Giacomo Puccini, the hero of my
young days, whose music had illumined so many dark moments of my City
slavery; who is in the direct line of succession from Verdi.

This first visit to Monte Carlo showed me Monte Carlo as she never was
before. Half the hotels were closed or turned into hospitals, since all
the German hotel-staffs had been packed home. In other times it would
have been "the season," but now there was everywhere a sense of
emptiness. Wounded British and French officers paraded the Terrace;
disabled blacks from Algeria were on every hotel verandah or wandering
aimlessly about the hilly streets with a sad air of being lost. The
Casino was open, but it closed at eleven, and all the cafés closed with
it; the former happy night-life had been nipped off short. At midnight
the place was dead.

I was accommodated at an Italian _pension_ in Beausoleil, which, in
peace-times, was patronized by music-hall artists working the Beausoleil
casino. The Casino had been turned into a barracks, but one or two
Italian danseuses from the cabarets of San Remo were taking a brief
rest, so that the days were less tiresome than they might have been. My
millionaire was a charming man, who used my services but a few hours
each day. Then I could dally with the sunshine and the Chianti and the
breaking seas about the Condamine.

When I next want a cheap holiday I shan't go to Brighton, or Eastbourne,
or Cromer; I shall go to Monte Carlo. The dear Italian Mama who kept the
_pension_ treated me like a prince for thirty-five francs a week. I had
a large bedroom, with four windows looking to the Alpes Maritimes, and a
huge, downy French bed; I had coffee and roll in the morning; a
four-course lunch of Italian dishes, with a bottle of Chianti or Barolo;
and a five-course dinner, again with a bottle. Those meals were the most
delightful I have ever taken. The windows of the dining-room were flung
wide to the Mediterranean, and between courses we could bask on the
verandah while one of the girls would touch the guitar, the mandolin, or
the accordion (sometimes we had all three going at once), in
effervescent Neapolitan melody. My contribution to these meal-time
entertainments was an English song of which they never tired: "The Man
that Broke the Bank at Monte Carr-rr-lo!" Sometimes it was demanded five
or six times in an evening. Immediately I arrived I was properly
embraced and kissed by Mama and the three girls, and these rapturous
kisses seemed to be part of the etiquette of the establishment, for they
happened every morning and after all meals. M'selle Lola was allotted to
me; a blonde Italian, afire with mischief and loving-kindness and little
delicacies of affection.

On the third day of my visit I met a kindred soul, the wireless
operator from the Prince of Monaco's yacht, _L'Hirondelle_, which was
lying in the harbour on loan to the French Government. He was a bright
youth; had been many times on long cruises with the yacht, and spoke
English which was as good as my French was bad. We had some delightful
"noces" together, and it was in his company that I met and had talks
with Caruso at the Café de Paris. An opera season was running at the
Casino, and on opera nights the café remained open until a little past
midnight. After the evening's work Caruso would drop into the café and
talk with everybody. His naïve gratification when I told him how I had
saved money for weeks, and had waited hours at the gallery door of
Covent Garden to hear him sing, was delightful to witness. Prince George
of Serbia was also there, recuperating; but though the Terrace at
mid-day was crowded and pleasantly bright, I was told that against the
Terrace in the old seasons it was miserably dull.

On ordinary nights, when we felt still fresh at eleven o'clock, we would
take a car to Mentone, cross the frontier into Italy (which was not then
at war), and spend a few cheery hours at Bordighera or San Remo, which
were nightless. Then back to Monte Carlo at about five, to bed, and up
again at nine, with no feeling of fatigue. It was curious to note how,
under that sharp sunshine and keen night sky, all moral values were
changed, or wholly obliterated. The first breath of the youthful company
at the _pension_ blew all London cobwebs away. It was all so abandoned,
yet so sweet and wholesome; and, by contrast, the English seaside
resort, where the girls play at "letting themselves go," was a crude and
shameful farce. Whatever happened at Monaco seemed to be right; nothing
was wrong except frigidity and unkindness.

My dear Italian Mama said to me one evening at dinner, when I had (in
the English sense) disgraced myself by a remark straight from the
heart:--

"_M'sieu Thomas, on m'a dit que les anglais ont froid. C'est pas vrai!_"

No, dear Mamina; but it was true before I stayed at the Pension Poggio
at Beausoleil.

My work with the millionaire spread itself over two months; then, with a
fat wad, I was free to return. It was not until I went to the Consulate
to get my passport _visé_ that I discovered how many war-time laws of
France I had broken. I had not registered myself on arrival; I had not
reported myself periodically; and I had not obtained a _permis de
séjour_. The Consul informed me cheerfully that heaps of trouble would
be waiting for me when I went to the Mairie to get my _laissez-passer_,
without which I could not buy a railway ticket. However, after being
stood in a corner for two hours until all other travellers had received
attention, a _laissez-passer_ was thrown at me on my undertaking to
leave Monte Carlo that night. A gendarme accompanied me to the station
to see that I did so.

At Paris, a few hours spent with the police, the military,
Hôtel-de-Ville, and the British Consulate resulted in permission to kick
my heels there for a day or so.

A few mornings later arrived the millionaire's precious MS., which I had
left behind so that he might revise it, with a message to hustle. I
hustled. I reached London the same night. Next morning I negotiated with
a publisher. In two days it was in the printer's hands and in a
fortnight it was in the bookshops; and I was again out of a job.



IN SEARCH OF A SHOW


I have been looking for a needle in a haystack, and I have not found it.
I have been looking for an hour's true entertainment in London's
theatres and music-halls during this spring season of 1918.

The tag of Mr. Gus Elen's old song, "'E dunno where 'e are," very aptly
describes the condition of the regular theatre-goer to-day. What would
the old laddies of the Bodega-cheese days have thought, had any
prophesied that at one swift step the Oxford and the Pavilion would
simultaneously move into the ranks of the "legitimate;" that His
Majesty's Theatre would be running a pantomime; that smoking would be
allowed in the Lyceum, the Comedy, the Vaudeville, and the Garrick? Many
people have lost their individuality by being merged into one or other
war-movement since 1914; many streets have entirely lost those
distinctive features which enable us to recognize them at one glance or
by sound or smell; but nowhere has the war more completely smashed
personality than in theatre-land.

In the old days (one must use that pathetic phrase in speaking of
ante-1914), the visitor to London knew precisely the type of
entertainment and the type of audience he would find at any given
establishment. To-day, one figures his bewilderment--verily, 'e dunno
where 'e are. Formerly, he could be sure that at the Garrick he would
find Mr. Bourchier playing a Bourchieresque part. At His Majesty's he
would find just what he wanted--or would want what he found--for going
to His Majesty's was not a matter of dropping in: it was a pious
function. At the Alhambra or the Empire he would be sure of finding
excellent ballet at about ten o'clock, when he could sip his drink,
stroll round the promenade, and leave when he felt like it. At the time
I write he finds Mr. Bourchier playing low comedy at a transformed
music-hall, and at the Alhambra or the Empire he finds a suburban crowd,
neatly seated in rows--father, mother and flappers--watching a quite
innocuous entertainment.

Managers were long wont to classify in their minds the "Garrick"
audience, the "Daly" audience, the "Adelphi" audience, the "Haymarket"
audience; and plays would be refused by a manager on the ground that
"our audience wouldn't stand it; try the Lyric." To-day they are all in
the melting-pot, and the poor habitué of the So-and-so Theatre has to
take what is given him, and be mighty thankful for it.

At one time I loved a show, however cheap its kind; but in these days,
after visiting a war-time show and suffering the feeling of assisting at
some forbidden rite, I always wish I had wasted the evening in some
other manner. Since 1914 the theatres have not produced one show that
any sober man would pay two pence to see. The stuff that has been
produced has paid its way because the bulk of the public is drunk--with
war or overwork. The story of the stage since 1914 may be given in one
word--"Punk." Knowing that we are all too preoccupied with solemn
affairs to examine very closely our money's-worth, and knowing that the
boys on leave are not likely to be too hypercritical, the theatrical
money-lords--with one noble exception--have taken advantage of the
situation to fub us off with any old store-room rubbish. We have dozens
of genuine music-hall comedians on the stage to-day, but they are all
slacking. Some of them get absorbed by West End shows, and at once, when
they appear on the gigantic American stages of some of our modern
theatres, surrounded by crowds of elephantine women, they lose whatever
character and spontaneity they had. Others give the bulk of their time
and brains to earning cheap notoriety by raising funds for charities or
cultivating allotments--both commendable activities, but not compatible
with the serious business of cheering the public. Gradually, the
individual is being frozen out, and the stages are loaded with crowds of
horsey, child-aping women, called by courtesy a beauty chorus; the show
being called, also by courtesy, a revue. These shows resemble a revue as
much as the short stories of popular magazines resemble a _conte_. They
dazzle the eye and blast the ear, and, instead of entertaining, exhaust.

The artists have, allowing for human nature, done their best under
trying circumstances; but playing to an audience of overseas khaki and
tired working-people, who applaud their most maladroit japes, has had
the effect of wearing them down. They no longer work. They take the
easiest way, knowing that any remark about the Kaiser, Old Bill,
meat-cards, or the Better 'Ole is sure of a laugh.

One solitary example of money's-worth in war-time I found--but that is
outside the lists of vaudeville or drama. I mean Sir Thomas Beecham's
operative enterprise. Beginning, in 1915, to develop his previous
tentative experiments--fighting against indifference, prejudice, often
against active opposition--he went steadily on; and it is he whom our
men must thank if, on returning, they find in England something besides
factories and barracks. There is no man who, amid this welter of blood
and hate, has performed work of higher national importance. While every
effort was made to stifle or stultify every movement that made towards
sanity and vision, he went doggedly forward, striving to save from the
wreckage some trifle of sweetness and loveliness for those who have ears
to hear. Had certain good people had their way, he, his ideals, his
singers, his orchestra and his band instruments would have been flung
into the general cesspool, to lie there and rot. But he won through; and
I think only that enemy of civilization, the screaming, flag-wagging
patriot, will disagree with a famous Major-General who, in full
war-paint, stood at my side in the theatre bar between the acts of
_Tristan_, and, turning upon a querulous civilian who had snorted
against Wagner, cried angrily:--

"Nonsense, sir, nonsense. War is war. And music is music."

After years of struggling, Beecham has made it possible for an English
singer to sing to English audiences under his English name, and has
proved what theatrical and music-hall managers never attempt to prove:
that England can produce her own native talent in music and drama,
without taking the fourth-rate and fifth-rate, as well as the
first-rate, material of America and the Continent. He has shown himself
at once a philanthropist and a patriot. In none of his productions do we
find signs of that cheap philosophy that "anything will do for
war-time." Before the arrival of his company, opera in London was a mere
social function which (except from the point of view of the galleryite)
had little to do with music. People went to Covent Garden not to listen
to music, but to be seen; just as they went to the Savoy or to the
Carlton to be seen, not to procure nourishment. The Beecham opera is
first and last a matter of music.

So, Sir Thomas, a few thousand of us take off our hats to you. I think
we should all like to send you every morning a little bunch of violets,
or something equally valueless, but symbolic of the fine things you have
given us, of the silver lining you have disclosed to us in these
overclouded days.



VODKA AND VAGABONDS


Last year London lost two of its quaintest characters--Robertson, of
Australia, that pathetic old man who haunted the Strand and carried in
his hat a clumsily scrawled card announcing that he was searching for
his errant daughter, and "Please Do Not Give Me Money"; and "Spring
Onions," the Thames Police Court poet.

Now the race of London freaks seems ended. Craig, the poet of the Oval
Cricket ground; Spiv Bagster; the Chiswick miser; Onions and Robertson;
all are gone. Hunnable is confined; and G. N. Curzon isn't looking any
too well. Even that prolific poet, Rowbotham, self-styled "the modern
Homer," has been keeping quiet lately. It took a universal war, though,
to make him nod.

I met "Spring" (privately, Mr. W. G. Waters) once or twice at Stepney.
He was a vagrant minstrel of the long line of Villon and Cyrano de
Bergerac. His anniversary odes were known to thousands of newspaper
readers. He was the self-appointed Laureate of the nation. He
celebrated not only himself, his struggles and successes, but the
pettier happenings of the day, such as the death of a king, the
accession of a king, or the marriage of some royal couple. You remember
his lines on the Coronation of Edward VII:--


     The King, His Majesty, and may him Heaven bless,
     He don't put no side on in his dress.
     For, though he owns castles and palaces and houses,
     He wears, just like you and me, coats and waistcoats and trousis.


The character of the genial Edward in four lines. Could it have been
better said?

Not to know Spring argues yourself unknown. He might have stepped from
the covers of Dekker's _Gull's Hornbook_. He was a child of nature. I
can't bring myself to believe that he was born of woman. I believe the
fairies must have left him under the gooseberry--no, under the laurel
bush, for he wore the laurel, the myrtle, and the bay as one born to
them. He also, on occasion, wore the vine-leaf; and surely that is now
an honour as high as the laurel, since all good fellowship and
kindliness and conviviality have been sponged from our social life. We
have been made dull and hang-dog by law. I wonder what Spring would have
said about that law in his unregenerate days--Spring, who was "in"
thirty-nine times for "D. and D." He would have written a poem about it,
I know: a poem that would have rung through the land, and have brought
to camp the numerous army of Boltists, Thresholdists, and Snortists.

Oh, Spring has been one of the boys in his time, believe me. But in his
latter years he was dull and virtuous; he kept the pledge of teetotalism
for sixteen years, teetotalism meaning abstention from alcoholic
liquors. This doesn't mean that he wasn't like all other teetotalers,
sometimes drunk. The pious sages who make our by-laws seem to forget
that it is as easy to get drunk on tea and coffee as on beer; the only
difference being that beer makes you pleasantly drunk, and tea and
coffee make you miserably drunk.

If you knew Spring in the old days, you wouldn't have known him towards
the end--and I don't suppose he would have known you. For in his old age
he was a Person. He was odd messenger at Thames Police Court. In
November, 1898 Spring, who was then the local reprobate, took to heart
the kindly admonitions of Sir John Dickinson, then magistrate at Thames,
and signed the pledge of total abstinence. Ever afterwards, on the
anniversary of that great day. Spring would hand to the magistrate a
poem in celebration of the fact that he had "kept off it" for another
year.

I visited Spring just before his death in his lodging--lodging stranger
than that of any Montmartre poet.

The Thames Police Court is in Arbour Square, Stepney, and Spring lived
near his work. Through many mean streets I tracked his dwelling, and at
last I found it. I climbed flights of broken stairs in a high forbidding
house. I stumbled over steps and unexpected turns, and at last I stood
with a puffy, red-faced, grey-whiskers, stocky old fellow, in a
candle-lit garret whose one window looked over a furtively noisy court.

It was probably his family name of Waters that drove him to drink in his
youth, since when, he has been known as the man who put the tea in
"teetotal." In his room I noticed a bed of nondescript colour and
make-up, a rickety chest of drawers (in which he kept his treasures),
two doubtful chairs, a table, a basin, and bits of food strewn
impartially everywhere. A thick, limp smell hung over all, and the place
seemed set a-jigging by the flickering light of the candle. There I
heard his tale. He sat on the safe chair while I flirted with the other.

It was on the fortieth occasion that he yielded to Sir John Dickinson's
remonstrances and signed the pledge, and earned the respect of all
connected with that court where he had made so many appearances. All
through that Christmas and New Year he had, of course, a thin time; it
was suffocating to have to refuse the invitation: "Come on,
Spring--let's drink your health!" But what did Spring do? Did he yield?
Never. When he found he was thirsty, he sat down and wrote a poem, and
by the time he had found a rhyme for Burton, the thirst had passed.
Then, too, everybody took an interest in him and gave him work and
clothes, and so on. Oh, yes, it's a profitable job being a reformed
vagabond in Stepney.

He was employed on odd messages and errands for the staff at Thames
Police Court, and visited the police-stations round about to do similar
errands, such as buying breakfast for the unfortunates who have been
locked up all night and are about to face the magistrate. Whatever an
overnight prisoner wants in the way of food he may have (intoxicants
barred), if he cares to pay for it, and Spring was the agile fellow who
fetched it for him; and many stray coppers (money, not policemen) came
his way.

All these things he told me as I sat in his mephitic lodging. Spring,
like his brother Villon, was a man of all trades; no job was too "odd"
for him to take on. Holding horses, taking messages from court to
station, writing odes on this and that, opening and shutting doors, and
dashing about in his eightieth year just like a newsboy--Spring was
certainly a credit to Stepney. On my mentioning that I myself made songs
at times, he dashed off the following impromptu, as I was falling down
his crazy stairs at midnight:--


     Oh, how happy we all should be,
     If none of us ever drank anything stronger than tea.
     For how can a man hope to write a beautiful song
     When he is hanging round the public-houses all day long?


"Spring Onions" apart, Stepney is a home for all manner of queer
characters, full of fire and salt; from Peter the Painter, of immortal
memory, to those odd-job men who live well by being Jacks of all trades,
and masters of them, too.

There are my good friends, Johnny, the scavenger, Mr. 'Opkinson, the
cat's-meat man, 'Erb, the boney, Fat Fred, who keeps the baked-potato
can, and that lovable personality "My Uncle Toby," gate-man at one of
the docks.

There's 'Orace, too, the minder. Ever met him? Ever employed him?
Probably not, but if you live near any poor market-place, and ever have
occasion for his services, I cordially recommend him.

'Orace is the best minder east of the Pump. What does he mind? Your
business, not his. Haven't you ever seen him at it in the more homely
quarters? At a penny a time, it's good hunting; and 'Orace is the only
man I know who blesses certain recent legislation.

His profession sprang from the Children Act, which debarred parents from
taking children into public-houses. Now, there are thousands of
respectable couples who like to have a quiet--or even a noisy--drink on
market-night; and the effect of the Act was that they had to go in
singly, one taking a drink while the other stood outside and held the
baby.

There was 'Orace's opportunity, and he took it. Why not let father and
mother take their drink together, while 'Orace sang lullabies to his
Majesty?

Admirable idea. It caught on, for 'Orace has a way with babies. He can
talk baby guff by the hour, and in the whole of his professional career
he has never had to mind a baby that did not "take" to him on sight.

The fee is frequently more than a penny. If the old dad wants to stay
for a bit, he will stand 'Orace a drink (under the rose) and a pipe of
'baccy. Sundays and holidays are his best days. He selects his
public-house, on the main road always, and works it all day. Often he
has five or six kiddies at a time to protect; and he gave me a private
tip towards success as a "minder": always carry a number of bright
things in your pockets--nails, pearl buttons, bits of coloured chalk,
or, best of all, a piece of putty.

Outside his regular pitch, the public-house owns a horse-trough, but as
no horses now draw up, the trough is dry, and in this he places his
half-dozen or so protégés, out of danger and as happy as you please.

Then there's Artie, the copper's nark. What shall be said of Artie?
Shall I compare him to a summer's day? No, I think not; rather to a
cobwebbed Stepney twilight. I don't commend Artie. Indeed, I have as
little regard for him as I have for those poisonous weeds that float on
the Thames near Greenwich at flood. He is a thoroughly disagreeable
person, with none of the acid qualities of the really bad man or the
firelight glow of commonplace sinners like ourselves. He is incapable of
following any other calling. He has been, from boyhood, mixed up with
criminal gangs, but he has not the backbone necessary for following them
on their enterprises. Always he has wanted to feel safe; so he cringes
at the feet of officialism. He is hated by all--by the boys whose games
he springs and by the unscrupulous police who employ him. His rewards
are small: a few pence now and then, an occasional drink, and a tolerant
eye towards his own little misbehavings.

Often the police are puzzled as to how Artie gets his information. If
you were to ask him, he would become Orientally impassive.

"Ah, you'd like to know, wouldn't yer?"

But the truth is that he does not himself know. In a poor
district--Walworth, Hoxton, or Notting Dale--everybody talks; and it is
in these districts that Artie works. He is useless in big criminal
affairs; he can only gather and report information on the petty doings
of his associates. The moment any small burglary is planned, two or
three people know about it, for the small burglar is always maladroit
and ill-instructed in his methods, and is bound to confide in some one.
Artie is always about like a predatory bird to snatch up crumbs of other
people's business.

Are you married, and were you married at a Registry Office? If so, it's
certain that you've met my dear old friend. Stepney Syd, the
Congratulator, one of our most earnest war-workers; as "unwearied" as
Lady Dardy Dinkum.

Congratulations, spoken at the right moment, in the right way, to the
right people, are a paying proposition. The war has made no difference
in the value of those mellifluous syllables, unless it be in an upward
direction. It's a soft job, too. Syd never works after three in the
afternoon. He cannot, because his work is the concluding touch to the
marriage service. It consists in hanging about registry-offices--that in
Covent Garden is very popular with young people in a hurry--and waiting
until a cab arrives with prospective bride and bridegroom. When they
leave, Syd is there to open the door for them, and respectfully offer
felicitations; and so fatuous and helpless is man when he has taken a
woman for life that he dare not ignore this happy omen.

Thus, Syd comes home every time on a good thing, and, by careful
watching of the weekly papers in the Free Library, and putting two and
two together, he contrives, like some of our politicians, to anticipate
events, and to be where the good things are.

Strolling round Montagu Street the other night, I met, in one of the
little Russian cafés, a man who pitched me a tale of woe--a lean,
ferrety little man, with ferrety eyes and fingers that urged me to
button my overcoat and secure all pockets.

But I was shocked to discover that he was an honest man. Diamonds and
honesty seldom walk hand-in-hand, and precious stones and virtue do not
yet publicly kiss each other; and he talked so much of diamonds that my
first apprehensions were perhaps justified. I learnt, however, that his
was a sad case. He was a diamond-cutter by trade, and in those war days
one might as usefully have diamonds in Amsterdam (as Maudi Darrell's
song went) as have them in London.

I had not before met a man who so casually juggled with the symbols of
revue-girlhood, so I bought him some more vodka and tea-and-lemon, and
led him on to talk. Stones to the value of £20,000 passed through his
hands every day, but none of them stuck. This fact greatly refreshed my
dimming faith in human nature, until he qualified it by adding that it
wasn't worth a cutter's while to steal. Every worker in the trade is
known to every branch, and he would have no second chance.

Apprenticeship to the trade of diamond-cutting costs £200: and, once out
of his indentures, the apprentice must join the Union, for it would be
useless for him, however proficient in his business, to attempt to
obtain a post without his Union ticket.

The diamond-mechanic earns anything from £3 to £8 per week. The work
calls for a very considerable knowledge of the characters of stones, for
very deft fingers, and for exceptionally shrewd judgment; since every
diamond or brilliant, however minute, has sixty-four facets, each of
which has to be made and polished on a lathe.

The stones are handed out in the workshop practically haphazard, and in
the event of the loss of a stone, no disturbance is caused. The staff
simply look for it; the floor of the shop is swept up with a fine broom,
and the dust sifted until it is found. The explanation of this laxity
is the International Diamond Cutters' Union.

In the process of diamond-cutting, of course, the stone loses about 60
per cent. of its weight; and the cutter told me that the filings that
come from the stone, mixed with the oil of the lathe, make the finest
lubricant for a razor-strop. The making of his smooth cheeks was the
perfect razor sharpened with diamond filings!

Before we parted, he showed me casually a green diamond. This is the
most rare form of stone, and there are only six known examples in the
world. No, he didn't steal it. It had just been handed to him for
setting, and he was carrying it in his waistcoat-pocket in the careless
manner of all stone-dealers.

After he and a sure thousand pounds had vanished into the night, I sat
for awhile in the café listening to the chatter of the cigarette-girls
of the quarter.

It was all of war. Of Stefan, who had been repatriated; of Abramovitch,
who had evaded service by bolting to Ireland with a false green form for
which he had paid £100; of Sergius, who had been hiding in a cellar.

When one thinks of cigarette-girls one thinks at once of Marion
Crawford's _Cigarette-maker's Romance_ and of Martin Harvey's
super-sentimental performance in that play, so dear to the Streatham
flapper. But Sonia Karavitch, though soaked in the qualities of her
race--dark beauty, luxurious curls, brooding temper, and spiritual
melancholy--would, I fear, repel those who only know her under the
extravagantly refining rays of the limelight. But those who love
humanity in the raw will love her.

Sonia Karavitch is seventeen. She wears a black frock, with many sprigs
of red ribbon at her neck and in her raven hair. Her fingers are stained
brown with tobacco; but, though she has heavy eyes and lounges
languorously, like a drowsy cat in the sunshine, she works harder than
most other factory-girls.

From six o'clock in the morning until eight o'clock at night she is at
her table, rolling by the thousand those hand-made cigarettes which
command big prices in Piccadilly. When she speaks she has a lazy voice
with a curious lisp, and it is full of sadness.

Yet she is not sad. She has a pleasant little home in one of the big
tenements, where she lives with her mother and little brother, and, in
her own demonstrative way, is happy. The harder she works, the more
money there is for luxuries for the little brother. Often of an evening
her friends come home with her, and drink tea-and-lemon with her, and
make music.

Sonia Karavitch is very shy, and never mixes with the folk who are not
of her own colony. She was born in Stepney of Russian parents, and she
never goes out of Stepney. And why should she? For in the half-dozen
streets where she lives her daily life she can speak the language of her
parents, can buy clothes such as her mother wore in Odessa, and can find
all those little touches that mean home to the homeless or the exiled.

Every morning she goes straight to the factory; at noon she goes home to
dinner; and in the evening she goes straight home again. Sometimes on
Saturday afternoons--which is her Sunday, for Sonia is of Jewish
faith--she takes a walk in Whitechapel High Street, because, you see,
there is much life in Whitechapel High Street; there are her
compatriots, and there are street-organs, and violets are a penny a
bunch.

When she has had a good week she sometimes takes her mother and brother
for kvass to one of the many Russian restaurants in Osborn Street and
Little Montagu Street.

Sometimes you see Sonia Karavitch at a table, sipping her tea, and
listening to the talk, and you may wonder why that sad, far-away look in
her eyes. She is not in Stepney. Her soul has flown to her native
land--to the steppes, to the cold airs of Russia, whither a certain
Russian lad, who used to work by her side in the cigarette factory in
Osborn Street, was dispatched by a repatriation order.

But then she remembers mother and little brother, and stops her
dreamings, and hurries on to work.

Many wild folk have sat in these cafés and discoursed on the injustices
of civilization; and at one time private presses in the neighbourhood
gave forth inflammatory sheets bearing messages from international
warriors in the cause of freedom.

If ever you are tired of the solemn round of existence, don't take a
holiday at the seaside, don't go to the war. Edit an anarchist
news-sheet, and your life will be full of quick perils and alarms.

Another of my Stepney friends is Jane, the flower-girl, who tramps every
day from Stepney to Covent Garden, and sells her stock from a pitch
near Leicester Square. Here's another ardent war-worker.

Some worthy people may not think that the selling of violets comes
properly under the fine exclusive label of War Work; but these are the
neurotics whose only idea of doing their bit is that of twisting their
soiling fingers about anything that carries a message of grace; who fume
at a young man because he isn't in khaki, and, when he is in uniform,
kill him with a look because he isn't in hospital blue, and, when he is
in hospital, regard him askance because he isn't eager to go back.

"Flowers!" they snort or wheeze. "Fiddling with flowers in war-time! It
ought to be stopped. Look at the waste of labour. Look at the press on
transport. Will the people never realize," etc.

Yet, good troglodytes, because the world is at war, shall we then wipe
from the earth everything that links us, however lightly, to God--and
save Germany the trouble? Must everything be lead and steel? Old
Man--dost thou think, because thou art old, that glory and loveliness
have passed away with the corroding of thy bones? Nay, youth shall
still take or make its pleasure; fair girls shall still adorn their
limbs with silks, and flowers shall still be sweet to the nose.

Old Man--on many occasions when I could get no food--not even
war-bread--the sight and smell of bunches of violets have furnished
sustenance for mind and body. So fill thy belly, if thou wilt, with the
waxy potato; put the Army cheese where the soldier puts the pudding;
shovel into thy mouth the frozen beef and offal that may renew thy
energies for further war-work; but, if there be any grace of God still
left in thee, if there be any virtue, any charity--leave, for those who
are shielding thy senescent body, the flower-girls about Piccadilly
Circus on a May morning.

"Vi'lerts! Swee' Vi'lerts! Pennyer bunch!"

Good morning, Jane! How sweet you and your violets look in the tangle of
traffic that laces and interlaces itself about Alfred Gilbert's Mercury.

Morning by morning, fair or foggy, she stands by the fountain; and if
you give her more than a passing glance you will note that her tumbled
hair is of just the right shade of red, and in her eyes are the very
violets that she holds to your indifferent nose, and under her lucent
skin beat the imperious pulses of youth.

Jane is fourteen, and Jane is always smiling; not because she is
fourteen, but because it's such fun to be alive and to be selling
flowers. Indeed, she looks herself like a little posy, sweet and demure.
Times may be bad, but they are not reflected in Jane's appearance.

Of education she has only what the Council School gave her in the odd
hours when she choose to attend; of religion she has none, but she has a
philosophy of her own, which, in a sentence, is To Get All The Fun You
Can Out of Things.

That's why Jane's smile is a smile that certain people look for every
morning as they alight from their bus in the Circus. But you must not
imagine that Jane is good in the respectable sense of the word. Let
anyone annoy her, or try to "dish" her of one of her customers. Then,
when it comes to back-chat, Jane can more than hold her own in the
matter of language; and once I saw an artillery officer's face turn
livid during a discussion between her and a rival flower-girl.

The war has hit Jane very badly. The young bloods who frequented her
stall in the old days, and bought the most expensive buttonholes every
morning, are now in khaki, and a thoughtless Army Order forbids an
officer to decorate his tunic with a spray of carnations or a moss-rose.

There are only the old bounders remaining, and their custom depends so
much on such a number of things--the morning's news, the fact that they
are not ten years younger, the weather, and the state of their
digestions.

Jane always reads the paper before she starts work, because, as she
says, then you know what to expect. She doesn't believe in meeting
trouble halfway, but she believes in being prepared for it. When there's
good news, stout old gentlemen will buy a bunch of violets for
themselves, and perhaps a cluster of blossoms for the typist. But when
the news is bad, nobody is in the mood for flowers. They want to band
themselves together and tell one another how awful it is; which, as Jane
says, is all wrong.

"If they'd only buy a bunch of violets and stick it in their coats,
other people would feel better by looking at them, and they'd forget the
bad news in the jolly old smell in their buttonhole."

Yes, Jane's fourteen years have given her much wisdom, and she is doing
as fine war-work as any admiral or field-marshal.

While in Stepney we mustn't forget good Mrs. Joplin. Mrs. Joplin lives
up a narrow court of menacing aspect, and in her window is a printed
card, bearing the cryptic legend--"Mangling Done Here"--which, to an
American friend of mine, suggested that atrocities of a German kind were
going on downstairs. But I calmed his fears by assuring him that Mrs.
Joplin's business card was a simple indication of her willingness to
receive from her neighbours bundles of newly-washed clothes, and put
them through a machine called a mangle, from which they were discharged
neatly pressed and folded. The remuneration for this service is usually
but a few coppers--beer-money, nothing more; so to procure the decencies
of existence Mrs. Joplin lets her basement rooms for--What's that? Yes,
I daresay you've had a few pewter half-crowns and florins passed on you
lately, but what's that to do with me--or Mrs. Joplin? Do you want me to
suggest that good Mrs. Joplin is a twister; a snide-merchant? Never let
it be said. Good Mrs. Joplin, unlike so many of her neighbours, has
never seen the inside of a police-court, much less a prison.

Speaking of prisons, it was in Stepney that I was told how to carry
myself if ever I came within the grip of the law on frequent occasions.
The English prison is not an establishment to which one turns with
anticipation of happiness; but there is one prison which is as good as a
home of rest for those suffering from the pain of the world. There is
but one condition of eligibility: you must be a habitual criminal.

If you fulfilled that condition, you were dispatched to the Camp Hill
Detention Prison in the Isle of Wight.

A most comfortable affair, this Camp Hill. It stands in pleasant
grounds, near Newport; and the walls are not the grey, scowling things
that enclose Holloway, or Reading, or Wandsworth, but walls of warm
brown stone, such as any good fellow of reputable fame might build about
his mansion. Close-shaven lawns and flower-beds delight the eye, and the
cells are roomy apartments with real windows. The guests do not dine in
solitude; they are marched together to the dining-hall, and there
nourished, not with skilly or stew, with its hunk of bread and a pewter
platter, but with meat and plum-duff, sometimes fish, greenstuffs, and
cocoa. This, of course, in peace-time; the menu has no doubt suffered
variations in these latter days. The tables are covered. After the meal
the good fellows may sit for a few minutes and enjoy a pipe of tobacco,
even as the respectable citizen. A fair number of marks for good
behaviour carries with it the privilege of smoking after the night meal
as well, and one of the most severe punishments is the docking of this
smoking privilege.

Also, a canteen is provided. Not only do they wallow in luxury; they are
paid for it. Twopence a day is given to each prisoner for exceptional
conduct, and one penny of this may be spent at the canteen. This is by
way of payment for work done--the work being of a much lighter kind than
that given to ordinary "second division" prisoners. In cases where
conduct fulfils every expectation of the authorities, the good lad is
rewarded, every six months, with a stripe. Six stripes entitle the
holder to a cash reward, half of which he may spend, the other half
being banked. The canteen sells sweets, mineral waters, cigarettes,
apples, oranges, nuts etc. Those inclined to the higher forms of
nourishment may use the library. There are current magazines, novels of
popular "healthy" writers (it would be unfair to give their names; they
might not appreciate the epithet), and--uplifting thought--the works of
Spencer, Huxley, Darwin, and some French highbrows.

On special occasions bioscope shows of an educative kind are given. Oh,
I do love my virtue, but I wish I were a habitual criminal. Why wasn't I
born in Stepney, and born a vagabond?

Whether the prison is still running on the old lines I know not. Most
likely the British habitual convicts have been served with ejectment
notices to make room for German prisoners. I wouldn't wonder.



THE KIDS' MAN


"I'll learn yeh, y' little wretch!"

"Oowh! Don't--don't!"

The lady, savagely wielding a decayed carpet-beater, bent over the
shrinking form of the child--a little storm of short skirts and black
hair. Her arm ached and her face steamed, but she continued to shower
blows wherever she could get them in, until suddenly the storm limply
subsided into a small figure which doubled up and fell.

A step sounded in the doorway, and the lady looked up, frayed at the
edges and panting. A small, slight man, in semi-official dress, stood
just inside the room, which gave directly on to a byway of Homerton.

"Na then, Feet--mind yer dirty boots on my carpet, cancher? What's
the----"

"N.S.P.C.C.," replied Feet. He stooped over the child, lifted her, and
set her on a slippery sofa. "Had my eye on you for some time. Thought
there were something dicky with this child."

"'Ere, look 'ere--I mean, can't 'er muvver 'it 'er----"

"Steady, please. Let me warn you----"

The lady threatened with glances, but Kids' Man met them.

She fumed. "Ow! You waltz in, do yeh? Well, strikes me yeh'll waltz out
quicker'n yeh came in. 'Ere--Arfer!" Her raucous voice scraped up the
narrow stairway leading from the room, and in answer came a misty voice,
suggesting revelries by night. The lady roared again: "Ar-ferr! Get up
an' come daown. 'Ere's a little swab insultin' yer wife! Kids' Man
insultin' yer wife!"

Kids' Man made no move, but stood over the sofa with sober face,
ministering to the heavily breathing bundle. Overhead came bumps and a
prayer for delivery from women.

Then on the lower step of the stairway appeared a symbol of Aurora in
velveteen breeches and a shirt of indeterminate colour. His braces hung
dolefully at the rear as he bleared on the situation. His furry head
moved from side to side. "Wodyeh want me t'do?"

"Cosh 'im! Insultin' yer wife!"

He stared. Then his lip moved and he grinned. He hitched up his
trousers, belted them with braces, and expectorated on both hands with
gusto. "Git aout, else I'll split yer faice!"

No answer. "Righto!" He descended from the stair, and, hands down, fists
closed, chin protruded, advanced on the bending Inspector with that
slow, insidious movement proper to street-fighters. "Won't git aout,
woncher? Grrr--yeh!"

Kids' Man looked up and met him with a steady stare. But the stare
annoyed him, so he lifted up his fist and smote Kids' Man between the
eyes. Then things happened. He towered over the Inspector. "Want
another?" The Inspector lifted a short and apparently muscleless arm.

Bk! Aurora reeled as the fist met his jaw, and was followed by a swift
one under the ear. For a moment astonishment seemed to hold him as he
bleared at the slight figure; then he seemed about to burst with wrath;
then he became a cold sportsman. The wife screamed for aid.

"Aoutside--come on!" He shoved Kids' Man before him into the walk,
which, torpid a moment ago, now flashed with life and movement. Quickly
the auditorium was filled with a moist, unlovely crowd of sloppy rags
and towzled heads. While Kids' Man ministered to his nose, Arfer hitched
his trousers, fingered his shirt-sleeves, and talked in staccato to his
seconds, about a dozen in number. The crowd grunted and grinned. It
seemed evident that Kids' Man was about to get it in the neck. One or
two went to his side as he quietly turned back his sleeves, not for
purposes of encouragement, but merely in order to preserve the correct
niceties of the scrap.

A light tap on the body from either party, and then more things
happened. "Go it, Arfer, flatten 'im! Cosh 'im! Rip 'im back, Arfer.
Give 'im naughty-naughty, Arfer!"

But, as the crowd scraped and shuffled this way and that, they gave a
panicky clearing to a spry retreat by Kids' Man. He was done for; Arfer
was chasing him. They capered and chi-iked. Then, with a smart turn, he
landed beautifully on the point, and sent the pursuing Arfer flat to the
ground. The crowd murmured and oathfully exhorted Arfer to fink what he
was doin' of. Flatten the Kids' Man--that was his job. They met again,
and this time the Society received one on the mouth and another on the
nose. He sat heavily down, and his seconds flashed wet handkerchiefs.
The crowd cheered. "'Ad enough?"

But with a sudden spurt he came up again. His right landed on Arfer's
nose, a natty upper-cut followed it. He got in another with his right,
and pressed his man. The lady screamed, and disregarding the ethics of
the ring, splurged in and seized the Society's coat-tails. But the crowd
begged her to desist. Then the child, who, with the toughness of her
class, had found her legs again, flitted fearfully about the fringe of
the crowd.

"Wade in, mister! 'It the old woman--fetch 'er a swipe across the
snitch!"

Now Kids' Man began to take an interest in the affair. Dodging a
swinging blow of his lumbering opponent, he got in a half-arm jab. They
closed, and embraced each other, and swayed, and the crowd chanted "Dear
Old Pals." For a moment they strained; then Kids' Man lifted his enemy
bodily held him, and with a peculiar twist dropped him. He lay still....

A murmur of wonder swelled quickly to a broad roar. The crowd surged in,
squirming and hustling. For a moment it seemed that Kids' Man would get
torn. It was just a hair's-breadth question between lynching and
triumphal chairing. The sporting spirit prevailed, and: "Raaay! Good on
yeh, mate! Well done th' S'ciety!" The lads swung in and gathered
admiringly around the victor, who tenderly caressed a damaged beetroot
of a face, while half a dozen helpers impeded each other's efforts to
render first aid to the prostrate Arfer.

"Where's the blankey twicer? Lemme git 'old of 'im. Lemme git 'old of
'im!" implored the lady. But she was no longer popular, and they hustled
her aside, so that in impotent rage she smote her prostrate husband with
her foot for failing to uphold her honour before a measly little Kids'
Man what she could have torn in two wiv one hand.

"Well, 'e's gotter nerve, ain't 'e?"

"Firs' chap ever I knew stand up t'old Arfer. Fac'!"

"Yerce--'e's--e's gotter nerve!"

"Tell yeh what I say, boys--three cheers for th' Kids' Man!"

And as the bruised and discoloured Kids' Man gripped the hand of Orphan
Dora and led her, brave with new importance, from the Walk to
headquarters, a round of beery cheering made sweet music in their rear.

"Well, fancy a little chap like that.... Well, 'e's gotter blasted
nerve!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Kids' Man. That is his title--used sometimes affectionately and
sometimes bitterly. He is the children's champion, and often he is met
with curses, and that plea of parenthood which is supposed to justify
all manner of gross and unnameable abominations: "Can't a farver do what
he likes wiv his own child?"

The Society employs two hundred and fifty Inspectors, whose work is to
watch over the welfare of the children in their allotted district. But,
since most ill-treatment takes place behind closed doors, it is
difficult for an outsider to obtain direct evidence, and neighbours,
even when they know that children are being starved and daily tortured,
are shy of lodging information, lest it may lead to the publicity of the
police-court and the newspapers, and subsequently to open permanent
enmity from the people next whom they have to live.

The Kids' Man is usually an old Army or Navy man, accustomed to making
himself heard, and able to hold his own. The chief qualities for such a
post are: a real love of children; tact and knowledge of men; and
ability to deal with a hostile reception. It is by no means pleasant, as
you have seen, to pay a warning visit to a house up a narrow alley,
whose inhabitants form something of a clan or freemasonry lodge.

The motto of the Society, however, is persuasion. Prosecutions are
extremely distasteful, and are only used when all other means have
failed. In any case that comes to the Inspector's knowledge, his first
thought is the children's well-being. If they are being starved, he
provides them with food, clothes, bedding and baths, or sees that the
parish does so without any of the delays incident to parish charity.
Then he has a quiet talk with the parents, and gives a warning. Usually
this is enough. In cases where the neglect is due to lack of work, he is
sometimes an employment agency, and finds work for the father. But, if
necessary, there are more warnings, and then, with great reluctance, an
appearance in court is called for.

Cruelty is of two kinds--active and passive. The passive cruelty is the
cruelty of neglect--lack of proper food, clothing, sanitation, etc. The
other kind--the active cruelty of a diabolical nature--comes curiously
enough, not so much from the lower, but from the upper classes. It is
seldom that the rough navvy is deliberately cruel to his children; but
Inspectors can tell you some appalling stories of torture inflicted on
children by leisured people of means and breeding. Among their
convictions are doctors, lawyers, clergymen, and many women of position.

There was one terrible case of a woman in county society--you will
remember her Cornish name--who had been guilty of atrocious cruelty to a
little girl of twelve. The Kids' Man called. The woman maintained that a
mother had a perfect right to correct her own child. She called the
child and fondled it to prove that rumour of tortures was wrong. But the
Kids' Man knows children; and the look in the child's eyes told him of
terrorizing. He demanded a medical examination.

The case was proved in court. A verdict of "Guilty" was given. And the
punishment for this fair degenerate--£50 fine! The punishment for the
Kids' Man was a kind of social ostracism. There lies the difficulty of
the work. The woman's position had saved her.

The Kids' Man needs to have his eyes open everywhere and at every time
for signs of suffering among the little ones. And often, where a father
won't listen to advice from him, he is found amenable to suggestions
from Mrs. Inspector.

In every big town in this country you will find the N.S.P.C.C. bureau,
but, in spite of their efforts, too much cruelty is going on that might
be stopped if the British people, as a race, were not too fond of
"minding their own business" and shutting their eyes to everyday evils.

If you still think England a Christian and enlightened country, you had
better accompany an N.S.P.C.C. man on his daily round. Before you do so,
inspect the record at their offices. Read the verbatim reports of some
of their cases. Look at their "museum" which Mr. Parr, the secretary,
will show you; a museum more hideous than any collection of inquisition
relics or than anything in the Tower. You will then know something of
the hideous conditions of child-life in "this England of ours," and you
will be prepared for what you shall see on your tour with the Kids' Man.



CROWDED HOURS


What does the Cockney's mind first register when, far from home, he
visualizes the London that he loves with the casual devotion of his
type? To the serious tourist London is the shrine of England's history;
to the ordinary artist, who sees life in line and colour, it is a city
of noble or delicate "bits"; to the provincial it is a playground; to
the business man a market; but to the Cockney it is one big club,
odourous of the goodly fellowship that blossoms from contact with
human-kind.

"Far from the madding crowd" may express the longings of the modern
Simeon Stylites, but your Cockney is no Simeon. He doesn't pray to be
put upon an island where the crowds are few. The thicker the crowd, the
more elbows that delve into his ribs, the hotter the steam of
human-kind, the happier he is. Far from the madding crowd be blowed!
Man's place, he holds, is among his fellows; and he sniffs with contempt
at this widespread desire to escape from other people. To him it is a
sign of an unhealthy mind, if not pure blasphemy.

So, when he thinks of London, he does not think of a city of palaces, or
serene architectural triumphs; of a huckster's mart or a playground. At
the word "London" he sees people: the crowds in the Strand, in Walworth
Road, Lavender Hill, Whitechapel Road, Camden Town High Street.

Your moods may be various, and London will respond. You may work, you
may idly dream away the hours, or you may actively enjoy yourself in
play; but if you wish that supreme enjoyment--the enjoyment of other
people--then London affords opportunities in larger measure than any
city that I know.

I discovered the magic and allure of crowds when I was fourteen years
old and worked as office-boy in those filthy alleys marked in the Postal
Directory as "E.C." Streets and crowds became my refreshment and
entertainment then, and my palate is not yet blunted to their savour. I
do not want the flowery mead or the tree-covered lane or the
insect-ridden glade--at least, not for long; and I hate that dreadful
hollow behind the little wood. Give me six o'clock in the evening and a
walk from the City to Oxford Circus, through the soft Spring or the
darkling Autumn, with festive feet whispering all around you, and your
heart filled with that grey-green romance which is London.

Once out of Newgate Street and across Holborn Viaduct I was happy, for I
was, so to speak, in a foreign country; so wholly different were the
people of Holborn from the people of Cheapside. The crowds of the City
had always to me, a mean, craven air about them. They walked homeward
with lagging steps and worn faces. They seemed always preoccupied with
paltry problems. They carried the stamp of their environment: a dusty
market-place, in which things made by more adept hands and brains are
passed from wholesale place to wholesale place with sorry bargaining on
the odd halfpenny.

But West and West Central were a pleasuance of the finer essences, and
involuntarily body and soul assumed there a transient felicity of gait.
One walked and thought suavely. There were noble shops, brilliant
theatres, dainty restaurants, highways whose sole business was pleasure,
rent with gay lights and oh! so many delightful people. At restaurant
and theatre doors one might pause pensively and touch finger-tips, as it
were, with rose-leaf grace and beauty and fine comradeship; a refreshing
exercise after encounters with the sordid and the uncouth in Gracechurch
Street. Then, when the hoofs clattered and the motors hooted and the
whistles blew, and streets were drenched with festal light and festal
folk, I was, I felt, abroad. Figure to yourself that you are walking
through the streets of Teheran, or Stamboul, or Moscow, surrounded by
strange bazaars and people who seem to have stepped from some book of
magic so far removed are they from your daily interests. So did I feel
as I walked down Piccadilly. It was suffocating to think that there were
so many streets to explore, so many types to meet and to know. I wanted
then to make heaps and heaps of friends--not, I must confess, for
friendship--but just for the sake of meeting people who did interesting
and gracious things, and for the sake of knowing that I _had_ a host of
friends. The plashing of the fountains in Trafalgar Square, the lights
of the Alhambra and Empire seen through the green trees of Leicester
Square, the procession of 'buses along Holborn and Oxford Streets, the
alluring teashops of Piccadilly and the scornful opulence of the
hotels--these things sank into me and became part of me.

My way to the City lay through Leicester Square, and the morning crowd
in that quarter bears for me still the same charm. On a bright Spring
day it might be Paris. There is a sense of space and sparkle about it.
The little milliners' girls, in piquant frocks, evoke memories of
Louise, and the crowding curls on their cheeks waft a perfume of
youth-time lyrics, chiming softly against the more strident and
repulsively military garb of the girl porters and doorkeepers. The
cleaners, bustling about the steps of the music-halls, throw
adumbrations of entertainment on the morning streets. People are
leisurely busy in an agreeable way--not the huckstering E.C. way.

In Piccadilly Circus there is the same sense of light and song among the
crowds emerging from the Tube. The shops are decked in all the colours
of the Maytime, and not one little workgirl but pauses to throw a mute
appeal to the posturing silks and laces and pray that the lily-wristed,
wanton damsel of Fortune will turn a hand in her direction.

But in the City, as I have said, there is little of this delight to be
found, either at morning, noon or night. The typical crowd of this
district may be seen at London Bridge, where, from eight to half-past
ten in the morning and from half-past five to half-past seven in the
evening, the dispirited toilers swarm to or from work. Indeed, it is not
a crowd: it is a _cortège_, marching to the obsequies of hope and fear.
It is a funeral march of marionettes. Here are no gay colours; no
smiles; no persiflage. All is sombre. Even the typists and the little
workgirls make no effort towards bright raiment; all is dingy and
soiled, not with the clean dirt that hangs about the barges and wharves
on the river, but with the mustiness of old ledgers and letter-files.
Listless in the morning and taciturn in the evening are these people;
and to watch them for an hour from the windows of the Bridge House Hotel
is to suffer an attack of spiritual dyspepsia. For, among them, are men
who have crossed that bridge twice daily for thirty years, walking
always on the same side, always at the same pace, and arriving at the
other end at precisely the same minute. There are men who began that
daily journey with bright boyish faces, clean collars, and their first
bowler hats, brave with the importance of working in the City. Their
hearts were fired with dreams and ambition. They had heard tales of
office-boys who, by industry, had been taken eventually into
partnership. They received their first rise. Later, they achieved the
romantic riches of thirty shillings a week. They made the acquaintance
of a girl in their suburban High Street. They married. And now, at
forty-five, all ambition gone, they are working in the same murky corner
of the same office, and maintaining wife and child on three pounds a
week. Their trousers are frayed and bag at the knees. Their coats are
without nap or grace. Two collars a week suffice. Gone are the shining
dreams. They have "settled down," without being conscious of the fact,
and will make that miserable journey, with other sombre and silent
phantoms, until the end. Verily, the London Bridge crowd of respectables
is the most tragic of all London crowds, and the bridge itself a _via
dolorosa_.

I do not know why work in the City should produce a more deadening
effect on the souls of the workers than work in other quarters, but the
fact that it does is recognized by all students of Labour conditions. I
have worked in all quarters, and have noticed a curious change of
outlook when I moved from the City to Fleet Street, or from Fleet
Street to Piccadilly. You shall notice it, too, in the faces of the
lunch-time crowds. East of St. Paul's, the note is apathy. Coming
westward, just to Fleet Street, you perceive a change. Here boys and
girls, men and women, seem to take an interest in things; one
understands that they like their work. They do not regard it as a mere
routine, to be dragged through somehow until the clock releases them.

A similar study in crowd psychology awaits you at the Tube stations in
the early hours of the evening, when the rush is on. With elbows wedged
into your ribs, and strange hot breaths pouring down your neck, you need
all the serenity you have stored against such contingencies; and the
attitude of the other people about you can mitigate your distress or
enhance it. The City and South London crowd is not the kind of crowd
that can bear its own troubles cheerfully, or help others to bear
theirs. I would never wish to go on a day's holiday with any of its
people. Their composite frame of mind is one of weak anger, expressive
of "Why isn't Something Done? What's the use of going on like this?"

More comely is the St. James's Park or Westminster crowd. From five to
half-past six these stations receive a steady stream of sweet and merry
little girls from the mushroom Government Departments that have spawned
all about this quarter. It is girls, girls, girls, all the way, with the
feeble and the aged of the male species toiling behind.

On the Bakerloo you find a crowd that is--well, "rorty" is the only
word. The people here are mostly southbound for the Elephant and Castle;
and you know the Elephant and Castle and its warm, impetuous life. There
are bold youths who have not fallen, like their fathers, to the cajolery
of a collar-and-cuff job in the City, but have taken up the work that
offers the best pecuniary reward. Grimy youths they are, but full of
vitality, and they pour down the staircase in a Niagara of humanity.

An excellent centre for observing the varying moods of the evening crowd
is Villiers Street, that gentle slope from which you may reach Charing
Cross Station, the Hampstead Tube, the District Railway, or the
Embankment trams. It is a finely mixed company, for, as any Londoner
will tell you, the residents of the hundred suburbs differ from one
another in manner, accent and appearance, even as the natives of
different continents. Those who are using the Hampstead Tube are
sharply marked from those who are taking the Embankment car to Clapham
Junction; while those who are journeying on the South-Eastern to Croydon
have probably never heard of Upton Park, whither the District will carry
others. There are well-dressed people and ill-dressed people; some who
are going home to soup, fish, a _soufflé_ and coffee, with wine and
liqueurs; and some who are going home to "tea," at about eight
o'clock--bread-and-margarine and bloater paste, with a pint of tea, or,
occasionally, a bit of tripe and onions. There are people in a mad
hurry, and others who move in aloof idleness. And above them all stand
the stalwart Colonials, waiting until 6.30, when the bars shall open,
airily inspecting the troops of girls and comparing notes.

"Say now, jes' watch here. Here comes a real Fanny."

"Ah, gwan. I ain' got no time for Fannies. I finished wid 'em. Gimme
beer, every time."

I have often wanted to make a song of Villiers Street, but I have never
been able to catch just the essence of its atmosphere. I am sure,
though, that the modern orchestra offers opportunities for one of our
new composers to embrace it in an overture. No effort has been made, so
far as I know, to interpret in music the noisy soul of the London
crowds. Elgar's "Cockaigne" overture and Percy Grainger's "Handel in the
Strand" were both retrospective in spirit, and the real thing yet
remains to be done. It has been done on the Continent by Suppé
("Morning, Noon and Night in Vienna"), by Sibelius in his "Finlandia,"
by Massenet in his "Southern Town," and by Dvorák in "Carneval Roman." I
await with eagerness a "Morning, Noon and Night at Charing Cross,"
scored by a born Cockney.



SATURDAY NIGHT


The origins of Saturday night, as a social institution, are obscure. No
doubt a little research would discover them to the earnest seeker, but I
am temperamentally averse from anything like research. It is tedious in
process and disappointing in result. Successful research means grasping
at the reality and dropping the romance.

The outstanding fact about Saturday night is that it is an exclusively
British institution. Neither America nor the Continent knows its
precious joys. It is one of the few British institutions that reconcile
me to being an islander. It is a festival that is observed with the same
casual ritual in the London slums and in Northumberland mining villages;
in Scottish hills and in the byways of the Black Country; in Camden Town
High Street and in the hamlets of the Welsh marches. Certainly, so long
as my aged elders can carry their memories, and the memories of their
fathers before them, Saturday night has been a festival recognized in
all homely homes. Strange that it has only once been celebrated in
literature.

It is, as it were, a short grace before the meal of leisure offered by
the Sabbath; a side-dish before the ample banquet; a trifling with the
olives of sweet idleness. On Saturday night the cares of the week are,
for a space, laid aside, and men and women gather with their kind for
amiable chatter and such mild conviviality as the times may afford. Then
the bonds of preoccupation are loosed, and men escape for dalliance with
the lighter things of life. Then the good gossips in town and country
take their sober indulgence in the social amenities. In village street,
or raucous town highway, they will pause between shops to greet this or
that neighbour and discuss affairs of mutual concern.

On Saturday night is kept the festival of the String Bag, one of those
many rigid feasts of the people that find no place in the Kalendar of
the Prayer Book. Go where you will about the country on this night, and
you will witness the celebration of this good domestic saint by the
cheerful and fully choral service of Shopping. Go to East Street
(Walworth Road); to St. John's Road (Battersea); to Putney High Street;
to Stratford Broadway; to Newington Butts; to Caledonian Road; to Upper
Street (Islington); to Norton-Folgate; to Kingsland Road; to Salmon
Lane (Limehouse); to Mare Street (Hackney); to the Electric Avenue
(Brixton); to Powis Street (Woolwich); to the great shopping centres of
provincial cities or to the easier market-places of the rural district,
and you will find this service lustily in progress; the shops lit with a
fresh glamour for this their special occasion. You will taste a
something in the air--a sense of well-being, almost of carnival--that
marks this night from other nights of the week. You will see Mother
hovering about the shops and stalls, her eye peeled for the elusive
bargain, while Father, or one of the children, stands away off with the
bag; and when the goodwife has achieved all that she set out to do, and
the string bag is distended like an overfed baby, then comes the
crowning joy of the feast, when the shoppers slip together into the
private bar of the "Green Dragon" or the "White Horse," and compare
notes with other Saturday-nighters and condemn the beer.

Saturday night is also, in millions of homes, Bath Night; another of the
pious functions of this festival; and for this ceremony the attendance
of the heads of the household is compulsory. Then the youngsters,
according to their natures, howl with delight or alarm as their turn
for the tub approaches. They will be scrubbed by Mother and dried by
Father; and when the whole brood is well and truly bathed and packed off
to bed, the elders will depart with the string bag, and perchance, if
shopping be expeditiously accomplished, take it, well-filled, to the
second house of the local Empire or Palace.

Do you not remember--unless you were so unfortunate as to be brought up
in what are called well-to-do surroundings--do you not remember the
tingling delight that was yours when, to ensure correct behaviour during
the week, the prospect was dangled before you of going shopping on
Saturday night? Many Saturday nights do I recall, chiefly by association
with these shopping expeditions, when I was permitted to carry the
string bag; and the shopping expeditions again are recalled through the
agency of smell. Never does my memory work so swiftly as when assisted
by the nose; I am a bit of a dog in that way. When I catch the hearty
smell of a provision shop, I leap back twenty-five years and I see the
tempestuous Saturday-evening lights of Lavender Hill from the altitude
of three-foot-six; and I remember how I would catalogue shop smells in
my mind. There were the solemn smell of the furniture shop; the
wholesome smell of the oilshop; the pungent smell of the chemist's; the
potent smell of the "Dog and Duck", where I received my weekly
heart-cake; the stiff smell of the linen-drapers'; the overpowering
odour of the boot-shop, and the aromatic perfume of the grocer's; all of
which, in one grand combination, present the smell of Saturday night: a
smell as sharp and individual as the smell of Sunday morning or the
smell of early-closing afternoon in the suburbs. If Rip van Winkle were
to awake in any town or village on Saturday night, he would need no
calendar to name for him the day of the week: the smell, the aspect, and
the temper of the streets would surely inform him.

But lately Saturday night has come under control, and the severe hand of
authority has wrenched away the most of its delight. Not now may the
String Baggers express their individuality in shopping. Having
registered for necessary comestibles at a given shop, they enjoy no more
the sport of bargain-hunting, or of setting rival tradesmen in cheerful
competition. Not now may the villagers crowd the wayside station for
their single weekly railway trip to the neighbouring town, where was
larger scope for the perfect shopper than the native village could
afford. No more may the earnest London Saturday-nighter journey by tram
or bus to outlying markets because the quality of the meat was better in
that district than in his own, or the price of eggs a penny
lower--though, if the truth be known, these facts were mostly proffered
as excuse for the excursion. No more do residents of Brixton travel to
Clapham Junction for their Sunday stores, or the elegant ones of
Streatham slink guiltily to Walworth Road. No more is Hampstead seen
chaffering at the stalls of Camden Town, or Bayswater struggling
gallantly about the shops of the Edgware Road and Kilburn.

The main function of Saturday night has died a dismal death. Still, the
social side remains. Shopping of a sort still has to be done. One may
still meet one's cronies in the market streets, and compare the bulk and
quality of one's ration of this and that, and take a draught of insipid
ale at the "Blue Pigeon", and talk of the untowardness of the times. But
half of the savour is gone out of the week's event; and it is well that
the Scots peasant made his song about it before it was controlled.



RENDEZVOUS


Although London possesses a thousand central points suitable for a
street rendezvous, Londoners seem to have decided by tacit agreement to
use only five of these for their outdoor appointments. They are: Charing
Cross Post Office, Leicester Square Tube, Piccadilly Tube, under the
Clock at Victoria, and Oxford Circus Tube; and I have never known my
friends telephone me for a meeting and fix a rendezvous outside this
list. Indeed, I can now, by long experience, place the habits and
character of casual acquaintances who wish to meet me, from their choice
among these places.

Thus, a Charing Cross Post Office appointment means a pleasure
appointment. Here, at one o'clock on Saturday afternoon, wait the bright
girls and golden boys, their faces, like living lamps, shining through
the cloud of pedestrians as a signal for that one for whom they wait.
And, though you be late in keeping the appointment, you may be certain
that the waiting party will be in placid mood. There is so much to
distract and delight you on this small corner. There are the bustle of
the Strand and the stopping buses; the busy sweep of Trafalgar Square,
so spacious that its swift stream of traffic suggests leisure; the hot
smell of savouries rising from the kitchens of Morley's Hotel; and the
cynical amusement to be drawn from a study of the meetings and
encounters of other waiting folk. Hundreds of appointments have I kept
at Charing Cross Post Office. I have met soldier-friends there, after an
absence of three years. I have met cousins and sisters and aunts, and
damsels who stood not in any of these relations. And I have met the Only
One there, many, many times; often happily; often in trepidation; and
sometimes in lyrical ecstasy, as when a quarrel and a long parting have
received the benison of reconciliation. Now, I can never pass the Post
Office without a tremor, for its swart, squat exterior is, for me,
bowered with delicious thrills.

Never keep an appointment under the Clock at Victoria. A meeting here is
fatal to the sweetness of the intercourse that is to follow. Always he
or she who arrives first will be peevish or irate by the time the second
party turns up; for Victoria Station, with its lowering roof, affects
you with a frightful sense of being shut in and smothered. Turn how you
will, sharply or gently, and you cannon with some petulant human, and,
retiring apologetically from him, you impale your kidney region on some
fool's walking-stick or umbrella. That fool asks you to look where
you're going, and then he gets his from a truck-load of luggage. You
laugh--bitterly. After three minutes of waiting in that violet-tinted
beehive, you loathe your fellow-man; you loathe the entire animal
kingdom. You "come over in one of them prickly 'eats." Your nerves flap
about you like bits of bunting, and the new spring suit that set in such
fine lines seems fit only for scaring birds. Then your friend arrives,
and God help him if he's late!

I have watched these Victoria appointments many times while waiting for
my train. The first party to the contract arrives, glances at the clock,
and strolls to the bookstall, cheerfully swinging stick or umbrella. He
strolls back to the clock, glances, compares it with his watch. Hums a
bar or two. Coughs. A flicker of dismay shades his face. Then a
handicapped runner for the 6.15 crashes violently against him in
avoiding a platoon of soldiers, and knocks his hat over his eyes and
his stick ten yards away. When the great big world ceases turning and he
finds a voice, the offender has gone. The next glance he shoots at the
clock is choleric. A slight prod from an old lady who wishes to find the
main booking-office produces a spout of fury; and the comedy ends with a
gestic departure, in the course of which he gets a little of his own
back on other of his species. His final glance at the clock is charged
with the pure essence of malevolence.

How much more gracious is an appointment in the great resounding hall of
Euston, though this is mainly a travellers' rendezvous and is seldom
used for general appointments. Here, cloistered from the rush and roar
of the station proper, yet always with a cheerful sense of loud
neighbourhood, the cathedral mood is induced. You become benign, Gothic.
There are pleasant straw seats. There are writing-tables with real ink.
There are noble photographs of English beauty-spots, and--oh, heaps of
dinky little models of railway trains and Irish Channel steamers which
light up when you drop pennies in the slots. Vast, serene and episcopal
is this rendezvous--it always reminds me of the Athenæum Club; and,
however protracted your vigil, it showers upon you something of its
quality; so that, though your friend be twenty minutes late, you still
receive him affably, and talk in conversational tones of this and of
that, instead of roaring the obvious like a baseball fan, as Victoria's
hall demands. You may even make subtle epigrams at Euston, and your
friend will take their point. I'd like to hear someone try to convey a
fine shade of meaning in Victoria.

Oxford Circus Tube I register as the meeting-ground of the suburban
flapper and the suburban shopping mamma. Its note is little swinging
skirts, and artful silk stockings, and shining curls, that dance to the
sober music of the matron's rustling satin. The waiting dames carry
those dinky little brown-paper bags, stamped with the name of some
Oxford Street draper, at whose contents the idler may amuse himself by
guessing--a ribbon, a camisole, a flower-spray for a hat, gloves, or
those odd lengths of cloth and linen which women will buy--though Lord
knows to what esoteric use they put them. Hither come, too, those lonely
people who, through the medium of "Companionship" columns or
Correspondence Circles, have found a congenial soul. Why they choose
Oxford Circus I don't know, but they are always to be seen there. You
may recognize the type at first glance. They peer and scan closely every
arrival, for, though correspondence has introduced them to the other
soul, they have not yet seen the body, and they are searching for
someone to fit the description that has been supplied; as thus: "I am of
medium height and shall be wearing a black hat, trimmed with Michaelmas
daisies, and a fawn macintosh," or "I am tall, and shall be wearing a
grey suit and black soft hat and spectacles, and will carry a copy of
the _Buff Review_ in my hand." One is pleased to speculate on the result
of the meeting. Is it horrible disillusion, or does the flint find its
fellow-flint and produce the true spark? Do they thereafter look happily
upon Oxford Circus Tube, or pass it with a shudder?

The crowd that hovers about the Leicester Square Tube entrances affords
little matter for reflection. It is so obvious. It is so Leicester
Square. It alternately snarls and leers. It never truly smiles; it is so
tired of the smiling business. The loud garb of the women tells its own
tale. For the rest, there are bejewelled black men, a few Australian and
Belgian soldiers, and a few disgruntled and "shopless" actors. I never
accept an appointment at Leicester Square Tube. It puts me off the lunch
or dinner or whatever business is the object of the meeting. It is
ignoble, squalid, with an air of sickly decency about it.

A few yards further Westward, at Piccadilly Tube, the atmosphere
changes. One tastes the ampler ether and diviner air. It does not, like
Charing Cross Post Office, sing April and May, but rather the mellowness
of August and September. Good solid people meet here; people
"comfortably off," as the phrase goes; people who have lived largely,
but have not lost their capacity for deliberate enjoyment. At meal-times
they gather thickly; quiet, dainty women; obese majors; Government
officials; and that nondescript type that wears shabby, well-cut clothes
with an air of prosperity and breeding. You may almost name the first
words that will be spoken when a couple meet: "Well, where shall we go?
Trocadero, Criterion--or Soho?" There is little hilarity; people don't
"let themselves go" at this rendezvous. They are out for entertainment,
but it is mild, well-ordered entertainment. The note of the crowd is,
"If a thing is worth doing at all, it's worth doing well," even if the
thing is only a hurried lunch or a curfew-rationed theatre.

Classifying London's meeting-places by their moral atmospheres, I would
mark Charing Cross Post Office as juvenile; Oxford Circus Tube as youth;
Leicester Square Tube as senility; Piccadilly Tube as middle-age; the
Great Hall at Euston as reverend seniority; and Victoria Station--well,
Victoria Station should get a total-rejection certificate.



TRAGEDY AND COCKNEYISM


The Cockney is popularly supposed to stand for the fixed type of the
blasphemous and the cynical in his speech and attitude to life. He is
supposed to jump with hobnailed boots on all things and institutions
that are, to others, sacred. He is supposed to admit no solemnities, no
traditional rites or services, to the big moments of life.

This is wrong. The Cockney's attitude to life is perhaps more solemn
than that of any other social type, save when he is one of a crowd of
his fellows; and then arises some primitive desire to mock and destroy.
He will say "sir" to people who maintain their carriages or cars in his
own district; but on Bank Holidays, when he visits territories remote
from his home, he will roar and chi-ike at the pompous and the rich
wherever he sees it.

But the popular theory of the Cockney is most effectively exploded when
he is seen in a dramatic situation or in some moment of emotional
stress. He does not then cry "Gorblimey" or "Comartovit" or some
current persiflage of the day; or stand reticent and monosyllabic, as
some superior writers depict him; but, from some atavistic cause, harks
back to the speech of forgotten Saxon forefathers.

This trick you will find reflected in the melodrama and the cheap serial
story that are made for his entertainment. It is hostile to superior
opinion, but it is none the less true to say that melodrama does
endeavour to reflect life as it is. When the wronged squire says to his
erring son: "Get you gone; never darken my doors again," he is not
talking a particular language of melodrama. He may be a little out of
his part as a squire; that is not what a father of long social position
and good education would say to a scapegrace son; but it is what an
untaught town labourer would say in such a circumstance; and, as these
plays are written for him, the writers draw their inspiration from his
speech and manners. The programme allure of the Duke of Bentborough,
Lord Ernest Swaddling, Lady Gwendoline Flummery, and so on, is used
simply to bring him to the theatre. The scenes he witnesses, and the
scenes he pays to witness, show himself banishing his son, himself
forgiving his prodigal daughter, with his own attitudes and his own
speech. The illiterate do not quote melodrama; melodrama quotes them.

Again and again this has been proved in London police-courts. When the
emotions are roused, the Cockney does not pick his words and alight
carefully on something he heard at the theatre last week; nor does he
become sullen and abashed. He becomes violently vocal. He speaks out of
himself. Although he seldom enters a church, the grip of the church is
so tightly upon him that you may, as it were, see its knuckles standing
in white relief when he speaks of solemn affairs. If you ask him about
his sick Uncle John, he will not tell you that Uncle John is dead, or
has "pegged out" or "snuffed it"; such phrases he reserves for reporting
the passing of Prime Ministers, Dukes and millionaires. He will tell you
that Uncle John has "passed away" or "gone home"; that it is a "happy
release"; and, between swigs at his beer, he will give you intimate, but
carefully veiled, details of his passing. He will never speak of the
elementary, universal facts of life without the use of euphemism. A
young unmarried mother is always spoken of as having "got into trouble."
It is never said that she is about to have a baby; she is "expecting."
He never reports that an acquaintance has committed suicide; he has
"done away with himself" or "made a hole in the water."

At an inquest on a young girl in the Bermondsey district, the mother was
asked when last she saw her daughter.

"A'Monday. And that was the last time I ever clapped eyes on her, as
Gawd is my witness."

At another inquest on a Hoxton girl, a young railwayman was called as
witness. Having given his evidence, he suddenly rushed to the body, and
bent over it, and cried loudly:--

"Oh, my dove, my dear! My little blossom's been plucked away!"

In a police-court maternity case, I heard the following from the mother
of the deserted girl, who had lost her case; "Ah, God! an' shall this
villain escape from his crime scot-free?" And in the early days of the
war a bereaved woman created a scene at an evening service in a South
London Church with this audible prayer: "Oh, Gawd, take away this Day of
Judgment from the people, fer the sake of Thy Son Jesus. Amen."

Again, at Thames Police Court, during a case of theft against a boy of
seventeen, the father was called, and admitted to turning his son from
home when he was fifteen, because of his criminal ways.

"Yerce, I did send 'im orf. An' never shall 'is foot cross my threshold
until 'e's mended 'is evil ways."

The same reversion to passionate language may be found in many of the
unreported incidents of battle. I have heard of Cockneys, whose pals
were killed at their side, and of their comment on the affair in the
stress of the moment:--

"Old George! I loved old George better'n I loved anything in the world.
I'd 'ave give my 'eart's blood fer George."

And the cry of a mother at the Old Bailey, when her son was sentenced to
death:--

"Oh, take me. Take my old grey 'airs. Let me die in 'is stead."--

And here is the extraordinary statement of a girl of fourteen, who,
tired of factory hours and home, ran away for a few days, and then would
not go back for fear of being whipped by her father. At the end of her
holiday she gave herself up to the police on the other side of London
from her home, and this was her statement to them:--

"Why can't I go where I want to? I don't do anybody any harm. I knew the
world was good. I got tired of all the monotony, an' the same old thing
every day, an' I wanted to get out. I am. Why bother me? I wonder why I
can't go out and do as I like, so long as I don't do no harm. I thought
the world was so big an' good, but in reality living in it is like being
in a cage. You can't do nothing in this world unless somebody else
consents."

Strange wisdom from a child of fourteen, spoken in moments of terror
before uniformed policemen in that last fear of the respectable--the
police-station. But it is in such official places that the Cockney loses
the part he is for ever playing--though, like most of us, he is playing
it unconsciously--and becomes something strangely lifted from the airy,
confident materialist of his common moments. The educated man, on the
other hand, brought into court or into other dramatic surroundings,
ceases to be himself and begins to act. The Cockney, normally without
dignity, achieves it in dramatic moments, where the man of position and
dignity usually crumbles away to rubbish or ineptitude.

Hence, only the wide-eyed writers of melodrama have successfully
produced the Cockney on the stage. True, they dress him in evening
clothes, and surround him with impossible butlers and footmen, but if
you want to probe the Cockney's soul, and cannot probe it at first-hand,
it is to melodrama and the cheap serial that you must turn; not to the
slum stories of novelists who live in Kensington or to the "low-life"
plays of condescending dramatists.



MINE EASE AT MINE INN


When everything in your little world goes wrong; when you can do nothing
right; when you have cut yourself while shaving, and it has rained all
day, and the taxis have splashed your collar with mud, and you receive
an Army notice, post-marked on the outer covering _Buy National War
Bonds Now_--in short, when you are fed up, what do you do?

To each man his own remedy. I know one man who, in such circumstances,
goes to bed and reads Ecclesiastes; another who goes on an evening jag;
another who goes for a ten-mile walk in desolate country; another who
digs up his garden; another who reads school stories. But my own cure is
to board a London tram-car bound for the outer suburbs, and take mine
ease at a storied sixteenth-century inn.

Where is this harbour of refuge? No, thank you; I am not giving it away.
I am too fearful that it may become popular and thereby spoiled. I will
only tell you that its sign is "The Chequers"; that it is a
low-pitched, rambling post-house, with cobbled coach-yard, and
ridiculous staircases that twist and wind in all directions, and rooms
where apparently no rooms could be; that it was for a while the G.H.Q.
of Charles the First; and that it is soaked in that ripe, substantial
atmosphere that belongs to places where companies of men have for
centuries eaten and drunken and quarrelled and loved and rejoiced.

You talk of your galleried inns of Chester and Shrewsbury and Ludlow and
Salisbury, and your thousand belauded old-world villages of the West....
Here, within a brief tram-ride of London, so close to the centre of
things that you may see the mantle of metropolitan smoke draping the
spires and steeples, is a place as rich in the historic thrill as any of
these show-places.

But its main charm for me is the goodly fellowship and comfortable talk
to be had in the little smoking-room, decorated with original sketches
by famous black-and-white men who make it their week-end rendezvous. You
may be a newcomer at "The Chequers," but you will not long be lonely
unless your manner cries a desire for solitude. Its rooms are aglow with
all those little delights of the true inn that are now almost
legendary. One reads in old fiction and drama of noble inns and
prodigally hospitable landlords; but I have always found it difficult to
accept these pictures as truth. I have sojourned in so many old inns
about the country, and found little welcome, unless I arrived in a car
and ordered expensive accommodation. It was not until I spent a night at
"The Chequers" that I discovered an inn that might have been invented by
Fielding, and a landlord who is and who looks the true Boniface.

I had missed the last car and the last train back to town. I wandered
down the not very tidy High Street, and called at one or two of the
hundred taverns that jostle one another in the street's brief length.
The external appearance of "The Chequers" promised at least a
comfortable bed, and I booked a room, and then wandered to the bar. I
felt dispirited, as I always do in inns and hotels; as though I were an
intruder with no friend in the world. I ordered a drink and looked round
the little bar. My company were a police-sergeant in uniform, a
horsey-looking man in brown gaiters, an elderly, saturnine fellow in
easy tweeds, a young fellow in blue overall--obviously an electrician's
mechanic--and a little, merry-faced chap with a long flowing moustache.
I scrutinized faces, and sniffed the spiritual atmosphere of each man.
It was the usual suburban bar crowd, and I assumed that I was in for a
dull time. The talk was all saloon-bar platitudes--_This was a Terrible
War. The rain was coming down, wasn't it? Yes, but the farmers could do
with it. Yes, but you could have too much of a good thing, couldn't you?
Ah, you could never rely on the English climate.... Three shillings a
pound they were. Scandalous. Robbery. Somebody was making some money out
of this war. Ah, there was a lot going on in Whitehall that the public
never heard about...._ So, clutching at a straw, I opened the local
paper, and read about A Pretty Wedding at St. Matthew's, and a
Presentation to Mr. Gubbins, and a Runaway Horse in the High Street, and
a----

Then came the felicitous shock. From the horsey man came words that
rattled on my ears like the welcome hoofs of a relief-party.

"No, it wasn't Euripides, I keep telling you. It was Sophocles," he
insisted. "I know it was Sophocles. I got the book at home--in a
translation. And I see it played some time ago in town. Ask Mr.
Connaught here if I'm not right." He grew flushed as he argued his
rightness. I followed the direction of his nod. Mr. Connaught was the
disgruntled-looking man in tweeds. And Mr. Connaught set down his
whisky, fished in a huge well of a side-pocket, and produced--_OEdipus
Rex_ in the original Greek, and began to talk of it.

I sank back, abashed at my too previous judgment. Here was a man who,
during the half-hour that I had been sitting there, had talked like a
grocer or a solicitor's clerk--of the obvious and in the obvious way. It
was he who had made the illuminating remarks that there was a lot going
on in Whitehall that we didn't know anything about, and that you could
never rely on the English climate. And now he was raving about
Sophocles, and chanting fragments to the assembled whisky-drinkers.
Tiring of Sophocles, he dived again into the pocket and produced
Aristophanes.

The talk then became general. The constable, apparently annoyed at so
much Latin and Greek, thrust into the chatter a loud contention that
when a man had finished with English authors, then was time enough to go
to the classics. Give him Boswell's _Johnson_ and _Pepys' Diary_ and a
set of Dickens written in the language of his fathers, to keep on the
dressing-table, within easy reach of the bed, like. The electrician's
mechanic couldn't bother with novels; he was up to the neck just now in
Spencer and Häckel and Bergson, and if we hadn't read Bergson, then we
ought to: we were missing something. Then somehow the talk switched to
music, and there followed a dissertation by the police-sergeant on
ancient church music and the futility of grand opera, and names like
Palestrina and Purcell and Corelli were thrown about, with a cross-fire
of "Bitter, please, Miss Fortescue"--"Martell, please; just a splash of
soda--don't drown it"--"Have you tried the beer at the
'Hole-in-the-Wall?'--horrible muck"--"Come on--drink up, there, Fred;
you're very slow to-night."

"D'you know this little thing by Sibelius?" asked the merry fellow; and
hummed a few bars from the _Thousand Seas_.

"Ah, get away with yer moderns!" snapped the police-sergeant. "This
Debussy, Scriabine, Schonberg and that gang. Keep to the simplicities, I
say--Handel, Bach, Haydn and Gluck. Listen to this;" and he suddenly
drew back from the bar, lifted a mellow voice at full strength, and
delivered "Che Faro" from _Orfeo_; and then took a mighty swig at a pint
tankard and said that it had just that bite that you only get when it's
drawn from the wood.

It took me some time to pull myself together and sort things out. I
wondered what I had stumbled upon: whether other pubs in this suburb
offered similar intellectual refreshment; whether all the local
tradesmen were bookmen and music-lovers; and how to reconcile the dreary
talk that I had first heard with the enthusiastic and individual
discourse that was now proceeding. I wondered whether it were a dream,
and how soon I should wake up. If it were real, I wondered if people
would believe me if I told them of it.

But soon I dismissed all speculation, for by a happy chance I was drawn
into the circle. Some discussion having arisen on beer and its varying
quality, a member of the company produced a once-popular American
pamphlet, entitled _Ten Nights in a Bar-Room_; whereupon I handed round
a little brochure of my own, compiled, for private circulation, from
contributions by members of that London rambling Club, "The Blueskin
Gang," and entitled _Ten Bar-Rooms in a Night_. This pleased the
company, and I at once became popular and had to take my part in the
gigantic beer-drinking. Then the merry-faced little fellow slipped away,
and quickly returned to counter my move with an old calf-bound
seventeenth-century book, _The Malt-Worm's Guide_: a description of the
principal London taverns of the period, with notes as to the
representative patrons and the quality of the entertainment, material
and moral, offered by each establishment; every page adorned with
preposterous but captivating woodcuts.

On my suggesting that "The Blueskin Gang" might compile a similar guide
on the London bars of to-day, each member of the company burst in with
material for such a work. We decided that it would be impossible to
follow the model of _The Malt-Worm's Guide_ for such a work, since the
London taverns of to-day are fast shedding their individual character.
Formerly, one might know certain houses as a printers' bar, a
journalists' bar, a lawyers', and so on. The "Cock," in Fleet Street,
remains a rendezvous for legal gentry, and the taverns between
Piccadilly and Curzon Street are still "used" by grooms and butlers; and
two Oxford Street bars are the unregistered headquarters of the
furniture trade. And do you know the "Steam Engine" in Bermondsey, the
haunt of the South-Eastern Railway men, where gather engine-drivers,
firemen, guards and other mighty travellers? A pleasant house, with just
that touch of uncleanliness that goes with what some people call low
company, and produces a harmony of rough living that is so attractive to
matey men. And the Burton they used to sell in old times--oh, boy--as my
American friends say--even to think of it gives you that gr-rand and
gl-lor-ious feelin'.

But these places make the full list. The war has largely obliterated
fine distinctions. The taverns of the Strand and its side streets, once
the clubs of the lower Thespians, have become the rendezvous of Colonial
soldiers. The jewellers who once foregathered at the Monico, have been
driven out by French and Belgian military; and Hummum's, in Covent
Garden, into which you hardly dared enter unless you were a market-man,
has become anybody's property.

While I named the taverns of central London and their pre-war character,
others of the company threw in details of obscure but highly-flavoured
houses in outlying quarters of the city to which their business had at
times occasioned them, with much inside information as to the special
drinks of each establishment and its regular frequenters. I saw at once
that such a work, if produced, would exceed the bulk of Kelly's Post
Office Directory, but the discussion, though of no practical value, gave
me a closer view of the idiosyncrasies of the company. The lover of
Sophocles liked loud, jostling bars, reeking with the odour of crowded
and violent humanity, where you truly fought for your drink; where no
voice could be heard unless your ear were close upon it, and where you
had barely room to crook your elbow: such bars as you find in the poorer
quarters, as seem, at first acquaintance, to be under the management of
the Sicilian Players. The electrician preferred a nice quiet house where
he could sit down--no doubt to think about Bergsonism. The musical
police-sergeant had no preferences in the matter of company or
surroundings; the quality of the beer was all his concern. The
horsey-looking man liked those large, well-kept, isolated suburban bars
where you might find but two or three customers with whom you could have
what he called a Good Old Talk About Things.

At closing time I discovered that the little merry-faced fellow was the
host; indeed, I had placed him in some such capacity, for his face might
have been preserved on canvas as the universal type of the jovial
landlord.

"You're staying here, aren't you? Come through to my room for a bit.
Unless you want to get off to bye-bye."

I didn't want to get off to bye-bye. I wanted to know more of this
comic-opera inn. So I followed him to his private room, and I found it
walled with books--real books, such as were loved by Lamb--_The Anatomy
of Melancholy_, Walker's _Original_, _The Compleat Angler,_ an
Elizabethan Song-book, Descartes, Leopardi, Montaigne, and so on. The
piano in the corner bore an open volume of Mozart's Sonatas; and this
extraordinary Boniface, having "put the bar up," seated himself and
played Mozart and Beethoven and Schumann and Isolde's "Liebestod," and
morsels of Grieg, until three o'clock in the morning, when I climbed to
my room.

On the way he showed me the King Charles room and the delightful
eighteenth-century mezzotints on the stair-case walls, and the secret
way from the first floor to the yard. From that night our friendship
began. I stayed there the following day and for two days more, and
pulled his books about, and roamed over the many rooms, and met the
company of my first night in the bar.

I was charmed by the air of intimacy that belongs to that bar, deriving,
I think, from the sweet nature of the host. You may stay at popular inns
or resplendent hotels, and make casual acquaintance in the lounges, and
exchange talk; but it is impossible, in the huge cubic space of such
establishments, to come near to other spirits. You do not meet a man in
town and say: "What? You've stayed at the 'Royal York'? I've stayed
there too," and straightway develop a friendship. But you can meet a
stranger, and say: "What? You know 'The Chequers?' D'you know Jimmy?"
and you fall at once to discussing old Jimmy, the landlord, and you
admit the stranger to the secrets of your heart.

Jimmy--I hope he won't mind my writing him down as Jimmy; you have only
to look at him to know that he cannot be James or Jim--Jimmy radiates
cheer; whether in his own inn or in other people's. Among his
well-smoked furniture and walls men talk freely and listen keenly. There
is no obscene reticence, no cunning reserve. Unpleasant men would be
miserable at "The Chequers"; they would seek some other biding-place
where self-revelation is kept within diplomatic bounds.

Believe me, "The Mermaid" was not the end of the great taverns. What
things have we seen done and heard said at the bar of "The Chequers."
What famous company has gathered there on Sunday evenings, artists,
literary men, musicians, philosophers, entering into fierce argument and
vociferous agreement with the local stalwarts. In these troubled times
people are mentally slack. They readily accept mob opinion, to save
themselves the added strain of thinking; and eagerly adopt the attitude
that it is idle to concern oneself with intellectual affairs in these
days; so that there is now no sensible talk to be had in bar or club.
Wherefore, it is a relief to possess one place--and that an inn--where
one may be sure of finding company that will join with relish in serious
talk and put their whole lives in a jest. Such delight and refreshment
do I find at this inn, that scarcely a Saturday passes but I board the
car and glide to "The Chequers" in--well, just beyond the London Postal
District.



RELICS


The turning-out of the crowded drawers of an old bureau or cabinet is
universally known as the prime pastime of the faded spinster; a pastime
in which the starved spirit may exercise itself among delicious
melancholies and wraiths of spent joys. Well, I am not yet faded, and I
am not a spinster; but I have fallen to the lure of "turning out." I
have lately "turned out"--not the musty souvenirs of fifty years ago,
love, fifty years ago, but the still warm fragments of A.D. 1912.

The other day, while searching irately in my fumed-oak rolltop desk for
a publisher's royalty statement which he had not sent me, I opened at
random a little devil of a drawer who conceals his being in the
right-hand lower corner. And lo! out stepped, airily, that well-polished
gentleman, Mr. Nineteen-Twelve. My anger over the missing accounts was
at once soothed. In certain chapters of this book I have harked back to
the years before 1914, and it may be that you conceive me as a doddering
old bore: a praiser of times past. But what would you have? You have
not surely the face to ask me to praise times present?

So I took a long look at Mr. Nineteen-Twelve, and went thoroughly
through him. My first discovery was an old menu. My second discovery was
a bunch of menus. You won't get exasperated--will you?--if I print here
the menu of a one-and-sixpenny dinner, eaten on a hot June night in
Greek Street:--


      Hors-d'oeuvre varié.

       Consommé Henri IV.
        Crème Parmentier.

       Saumon bouillé.
         Concombre.

        Filet mignon.
        Pommes sautés.
       Haricots verts.

     Poulet en casserole.
        Salade saison.

     Fraises aux liqueurs.
        Glace vanille.

           Fromages.

           Dessert.

            Café.


I dug my hand deeper into the pockets of Mr. Nineteen-Twelve, and menu
after menu and relic after relic came forth. There was a menu of a Lotus
Club supper. I'm hanged if I can remember the Lotus Club, or its idea,
or even its situation. There were old hotel bills, which, thrown
together in groups, might suggest itineraries for some very good walking
tours; for there were bills from Stratford-on-Avon and Goring-on-Thames
and High Wycombe and Oxford and Banbury; there were bills from Bognor
and Arundel and Chichester and the Isle of Wight; there were bills from
Tintern and Chepstow and Dean Forest and Monmouth; there were bills from
Kendal and Appleby and Windermere and Grasmere. Another clutching hand
gave up old menus from the Great Western, the North-Western, and the
Great Northern dining-cars. In a corner I found an assortment of fancy
cigarette tins and boxes, specially designed and engraved for various
restaurants and hotels. Now the cigarette tins are no more, and the
boxes are made from flimsy card and are none too well printed, and many
of the restaurants from which they came have disappeared, these
elaborate productions are treasurable, not only as echoes of the good
days, but as _objets d'art_.

Further search produced a flat aluminium match-case containing twelve
vestas, and crested "With compliments--Criterion Restaurant"; and a tin
waistcoat-pocket match box, also full, containing, on the inside of the
lid, a charming glimpse of the interior of the Boulogne Restaurant--a
man and woman at table, in 1912 fashions, lifting champagne glasses and
crying, through a loop that begins and finishes at their mouths:
"_Evviva noi_!" The sight of this streak of matches spurred me to
further prospecting, and the pan, after careful washing, yielded boxes
from Paris, with gaudy dancing-girls on either cover; insanely decorated
boxes from Italy, filled with red-stemmed, yellow-headed matches; plain
boxes from Monaco; and from Ostend, very choice boxes, decorated inside
and outside with examples of the Old Masters.

Packets of toothpicks, with wrappers advertising various English and
Continental bars, came from another corner, where they were buried under
a torn page from an old _Tatler_, showing, in various phases, Portraits
of a Well-Dressed Man. This species being now extinct, I hope the plate
of that page has been destroyed, so that my relic may possess some
value. Two tickets for the Phyllis Court enclosure at Henley lay
neglected under a printed invitation to have "A Breath of Fresh Air with
the 'Old Mitre' Christmas Club, Leaving the 'Old Mitre' by four-horse
brake at 10.30, to arrive at 'The Green Man,' Richmond, at 12 noon. A
Whacking Good Dinner and a Meat Tea. Dancing on the Lawn at Dusk." An
old programme of the Covent Garden Grand Season recalled that
magnificent band of Wagnerians, Knupfer, Dittmar, van Rooy and the rest.
Where are they now--these bull-voiced Rhinelanders? Within the programme
covers I found a ticket for admission to the fight between young Ahearn
and Carpentier which was abandoned; a printed card inviting me to a
Tango Tea at the Savoy; a request for the pleasure of my company at the
Empress Rooms to dance to the costive cacophony of a Pink Bavarian Band;
and half a dozen newspaper cuttings, with scare-heads and cross-heads,
dealing at much length with Debussy's tennis-court ballet, "Jeux,"
danced by Nijinsky, Schollar and Karsavina. Turning over one of these
cuttings, I found a long report of the burning of a pillar-box by a
Suffragette, and a list of recent window-breakings.

A little packet at the bottom caught my eye, and I dived for it. It was
a small box of liqueur chocolates from Rumpelmayer's--unopened, old boy!
unopened. I am a devil for sweets, and I was beginning to tear the
wrapper, when conscience bade me pause. Ought I to eat them? Ought I not
first to ascertain whether there were not others whose need was greater
than mine? Think of the number of girls who would give their last
hairpin for but one of the luscious little umber cubes. What right had I
to liqueur chocolates of 1912 vintage? Conscience won. The packet is
still unopened; and if, within seven days from the appearance of these
lines, the ugliest girl in the W.A.A.C. will let me have her name and
address and photograph, it will be sent to her. Failing receipt of any
application by the specified date, I shall feel free to eat 'em.

Two others relics yet remained. One was a small gold coin, none too
common, even in those days, and now, I believe, obsolete. I fancy we
called it a half-sovereign, or half-quid, or half-thick-un or
half-Jimmy, according to the current jargon of our set. The other was a
throw-away leaflet, advertising on one side the programme of a London
County Council concert in Embankment Gardens, and on the other the cheap
Sunday and Monday excursions arranged by the National Sunday League.

This was the most heart-breaking of all the mementoes. How many Sundays,
that otherwise might have been masses of melancholy, were shattered into
glowing fragments by these inexpensive peeps at the heart of England? I
can remember now these fugitive glimpses, with every little incident of
each glad journey; and I am impelled to breathe a prayer from the soul
for the well-being of the Sunday League, since it was only by the
enterprise of the kindly N.S.L. that I was able to see my own country.
Here I give you the list of trips, with return fares, advertised on the
leaflet before me:--


                             s. d.

     Brighton                2  6

     Hastings                3  0

     Eastbourne              4  0

     Sheffield               5  0

     Leeds                   5  0

     Weston-super-Mare       4  0

     Tintern Abbey           4  6

     Stratford-on-Avon       4  0

     Warwick                 4  0

     Bournemouth             5  0

     Isle of Wight           6  0

     Cardiff                 5  0

     Shrewsbury              4  6

     Margate                 3  6

     Herne Bay               3  0

     Cromer                  5  0

     Durham                  6  0

     York                    5  0


Sacred name of an Albert Stanley!

Uttering this ejaculation, I restored my treasures to their hiding-place
with the fumbling fingers of the dew-eyed, ruminative spinster, and
locked the drawer against careless hands; hoping that, some day, some
keen collector of the rare and curious might come along and offer me a
blank cheque for this collection of Nineteen-Twelviana. Looking it over,
I consider it a very good Lot--well-assorted; each item in mint state
and scarce; one or two, indeed, unique.

What offers?



ATTABOY!


On a bright afternoon of last summer I suffered all the thrills
described in the sestet of Keats's sonnet, "On First Looking Into
Chapman's Homer." I discovered a new art-form. I felt like that watcher
of the skies. I stood upon a peak in Darien. But I was not silent, for
what I had discovered was the game of baseball, and--incidentally--the
soul of America.

That match between the American Army and Navy teams was my first glimpse
of a pastime that has captivated a continent. I can well understand its
appeal to the modern temperament; for it is more than a game: it is a
sequence of studied, grotesque poses through which the players express
all the zest of the New World. You should see Williams at the top of his
pitch. You should see the sweep of Mimms' shoulders at the finish of a
wild strike. You should see Fuller preparing to catch. What profusion of
vorticist rhythms! With what ease and finish they were executed! I know
of no keener pleasure than that of watching a man do something that he
fully knows how to do--whether it be Caruso singing, Maskelyne juggling,
Balfour making an impromptu speech, a doctor tending a patient, Brangwyn
etching, an engineer at his engines, Pachmann at the piano, Inman at the
billiard-table, a captain bringing his ship alongside, roadmen driving
in a staple, or Swanneck Rube pitching. Oh, pretty to watch, sir, pretty
to watch! No hesitation here; no feeling his way towards a method; no
fortuitous hair's-breadth triumph over the nice difficulty; but cold
facility and swift, clear answers to the multiple demands of the
situation. Oh, attaboy, Rube!

I was received in the Army's dressing-room by Mimms, their captain, who
said he was mighty glad to know me, and would put me wise to anything in
the game that had me beat. The whole thing had me beat. I was down and
out before the Umpire had cried his first "Play Ball!" which he
delivered as one syllable: "Pl'barl!" The players in their hybrid
costumes--a mixture of the jockey and the fencer--the catcher in his gas
mask and stomach protector and gigantic mitt, and the wild grace of the
artists as they "warmed up," threw me into ecstasy, and the new thrill
that I had sought so long surged over my jaded spirit.

Then the game began, and the rooting began. In past years I attended
various Test Matches and a few football matches in Northern mining
districts, when the players came in for a certain amount of barracking;
but these affairs were church services compared with the furious abuse
and hazing handed to any unfortunate who made an error. Such screams and
eldritch noises I never thought to hear from the human voice. No
Englishman could achieve them: his vocal cords are not made that way.
There was, for example, an explosive, reverberating "_Ah-h-h-h-h-h_!"
which I now practise in my backgarden in order to scare the sparrows
from my early peas. But my attempts are no more like the real thing than
Australian Burgundy is like wine. I can achieve the noise, but some
subtle quality is ever lacking.

The whole scene was barbaric pandemonium: the grandstand bristling with
megaphones and tossing arms and dancing hats and demoniac faces offered
a superb subject for an artist of the Nevinson or Nash school. A Chinese
theatre is but a faint reflection of a ball game. I had never imagined
that this hard, shell-covered, business people could break into such a
debauch of frenzy. You should have heard the sedate Admiral Sims, when
the Navy made a homer, with his: "Attaboy! Oh, attaway to play ball!
Zaaaa. Zaaa. Zaaa!" and when his men made a wild throw he sure handed
them theirs.

Here are a few of the phrases hurled at offending players:--

"Aw, well, well, well, well, well!"

"Ah, you pikers, where was you raised?"

"Hey, pitcher, is this the ball game or a corner-lot game?"

"Say, bo, you _can_ play ball--maybe."

"Hey, catcher, quit the diamond, and lemme li'l brudder teach yeh."

"Say, who's that at bat? What's the good of sending in a dead man?"

"Aw, dear, dear, dear! Gimme some barb' wire. I wanter knit a sweater
for the barnacle on second."

"Oh, watch this, watch this! He's a bad actor. Kill the bad actor!"

"More ivory--more ivory! Oh, boy, I love every bone in yer head."

"Get a step-ladder to it. Take orf that pitcher. He's pitching over a
plate in heaven."

"Aw, you quitter. Oh. Oh. Oh. Bonehead, bonehead, bonehead. _Ahhhh._"

"Now show 'em where you live, boy. Let's have something with a bit of
class to it."

"Give him the axe, the axe, the axe."

"What's the matter with the man on third? 'Tisn't bed-time yet."

An everlasting chorus, with reference to the scoring-board, chanted like
an anthem:--

"Go-ing up! Go-ing up! Go-ing up!"

At the end of the game--the Navy's game all the way--the fury and
abandon increased, though, during the game, it had not seemed possible
that it could. But it did. And when, limp and worn, I shuffled out to
Walham Green, and Mimms asked me whether the game had got me, I could
only reply, with a diminuendo:--

"Well, well, well, well, well!"


I shall never again be able to watch with interest a cricket or football
match; it would be like a tortoise-race after the ball game. Such speed
and fury, such physical and mental zest, I had never before seen brought
to the playing of a simple game. It might have been a life-or-death
struggle, and the balls might have been Mills bombs, and the bats
rifles. If the Americans at play give any idea of their qualities at
battle, then Heaven help the fresh guys who are up against them.

When the boys had dressed I joined up with a party of them, and we
adjourned to the Clarendon; where one of us, a Chicago journalist, not
trusting the delicacy of the bartender's hand, obtained permission to
sling his own; and a Bronx was passed to each of us for necessary
action. This made a fitting kick to the ball game, for a Bronx is
concentrated essence of baseball; full of quips and tricks and sharp
twists of flavour; inducing that gr-r-rand and ger-l-lorious feelin'. It
took only two of these to make the journalist break into song, and he
gave us some excellent numbers of American marching-songs. He started
with the American "Tipperary," sung to an air of Sullivan's:--


     Hail, hail, the gang's all here!
       What th'ell do we care?
       What th'ell do we care?
     Hail, hail, the gang's all here,
     So what th'ell do we care now?


Then "Happy-land":--


     I wish I was in Happy-land,
       Where rivers of beer abound;
     With sloe-gin rickies hanging on the trees
       And high-balls rolling on the ground.
               What?
       High-balls rolling on the ground?
               Sure!
       High-balls rolling on the ground.


Then the anthem of the "dry" States:--


     Nobody knows how dry I am,
         How dry I am,
         How dry I am,
     You don't know how dry I am,
         How dry I am,
         How dry I am.
     Nobody knows how dry I am,
     And nobody cares a damn.


After this service of song, brief, bright and brotherly, we moved slowly
Eastward, and in Kensington Gardens I learned something about college
yells. For suddenly, without warning, one of the party bent forward,
with arms outstretched, and yelled the following at a pensive sheep:--

"Alle ge reu, ge reu, ge reu. War-who-bar-za. Hi ix, hi ip; hi capica,
doma nica. Hong pong. Lita pica. Halleka, balakah, ba."

At first I conjectured that the Bronx was running its course, but when
he had spoken his piece the rest of the gang let themselves go, and I
then understood that we were having a round of college yells.
Respectable strangers might have mistaken the performance for the war
march of the priests, or the entry of the gladiators, or the battle-song
of the hairy Ainus; for such monstrous perversions of sense and sound
surely have never before disturbed the serenity of the Gardens.

I understand that the essential of a good college yell is that it be
utterly meaningless, barbaric and larynx-racking. It should seem to be
the work of some philologist who had suddenly gone mad under the strain
of his studies and had attempted to converse with an aborigine. I think
Augustana's yell pretty well fills that condition:--

"Rocky-eye, rocky-eye. Zip, zum, zie. Shingerata, shingerata, bim, bum,
bie. Zip-zum, zip-zum, rah, rah, rah. Karaborra, karaborra,
Augus-_tana_."

At the conclusion of this choral service we caught a bus to Piccadilly
Circus and I left them at the Tube entrance singing "Bob up serenely,"
and went home to dream of the ball game and of millions of fans
screaming abstruse advice into my deaf ear.

Oh, attaboy!

       *       *       *       *       *

Since that merry meeting I have had many opportunities of getting next
to the American Army and Navy, and hearing their views of us and British
views of them, and the experience has done me a lot of good. Until then,
the only Americans I had met were the leisured, over-moneyed tourists,
mostly disagreeable, and, as I have found since, by no means
representative of their country. You know them. They came to England in
the autumn, and stayed at opulent hotels, and made a lot of noise around
ancient shrines, and sent local prices sky-rocketing wherever they
stayed, and threw their weight and fifty-dollar tips about, and "Say'd"
and "My'd" and "Gee'd" up and down the Strand; that kind of American.
These people did their country a lot of harm, because I and thousands of
other people received them as Americans and disliked them; just as
wealthy trippers to and from other countries leave bad impressions of
their people. I made up my mind on America from my meetings with these
parvenus. I had forgotten that the best and typical people of a country
are the hard-working, stay-at-home people, whose labours just enable
them to feed and clothe their children and provide nothing for gadding
about to other countries. To-day, the solid middle-class people of
England and America are meeting and mixing, and all political history is
washed out by the waters of social intercourse between them. High
officials and diplomats are for ever telling one another over official
luncheon tables that the friendship of this and that nation is sealed,
but such remarks are valueless until the common people of either country
have met and made their own decision; and the cost of living does not
permit such meetings. Thus we have wars and unholy alliances. If only
the common people of all countries could meet and exchange views in a
common language, without the prejudice inspired by Press and politician,
international amity would be for ever established, as Anglo-American
amity is now established by the free-and-easy meeting of hard-working,
middle-class Americans and the same social type of Englishman.

After meeting hundreds of Americans of a class and position similar to
my own, I have changed all my views of America. We have everything in
common and nothing to differ about. I don't care a damn on whose side
was right or wrong in 1773. I have taken the boys round London. I have
played their games. I have eaten their food. I have talked their slang
and taught them mine. They have eaten my food, and we have sported
joyfully together, and discussed music and books and theatres, and
amiably amused ourselves at the expense of each other's social
institutions and ceremonies. As they are guests in England, I have
played host, and, among other entertainment that I have offered, I have
been able to give them what they most needed; namely, evenings and odd
hours in real middle-class English homes, where they could see an
Englishwoman pour out tea and see an English baby put to bed. I found
that they were sick of the solemn "functions" arranged for their
entertainment. They didn't want high-brow receptions or musical
entertainments in Mayfair. They preferred the spontaneous entertainment
arising from a casual encounter in the street, as by asking the way to
this or that place, leading to an invitation to a suburban home and a
suburban meal. From such a visit they get an insight into our ways, our
ideals, our outlook on life, better than they ever could from a Pall
Mall club or a Government official's drawing-room. They get the real
thing, which is something to write home about. In the "arranged" affairs
they are "guests"; in the others, they are treated with the rude,
haphazard fellowship which we extend to friends.

In these troubled days there is little room for the exercise of the
graces of life. Our ears are deaf to the gentle voice of urbanity. The
delicacies of intercourse have been trodden underfoot, and lie withered
and broken. Even the quality of mercy has been standardized and put into
uniform. Throughout the world to-day, everything is organized, and to
organize a beautiful movement or emotion is to brutalize it: while
lubricating its mechanism you ossify its soul. Thank God, there is still
left a little spontaneity. Human impulse may be bruised and broken, but
it is a fiery thing, and hard to train to harness or to destroy; and I
can assure you that the Americans are grateful for it wherever it finds
expression.

One evening, just before curfew--it was night according to the
Government, but the sky said quite clearly that it was evening--I was
standing at my favourite coffee-stall near King's Cross, eating
hard-boiled eggs and drinking introspective coffee, and chatting with
the boss on the joy of life.

"Met any of the Americans?" I asked, anxious to get his opinion of
them.

"Met any? Crowds of 'em."

"What do you think of 'em?"

"Oh, I dunno. Bit of a change after all these other foreigners.
'Strewth--d'yeh know, when a Cockney like yesself comes along to the
stall I feel like dropping down dead--'strewth, I do. Never get none o'
the usual 'appy crowd along now," he went on, mopping the sloppy
counter.

"But how do the Americans strike you?"

"The Americans? Well...." He folded his arms, which with him is the
flourish preliminary to an oration. Here is his opinion, which I think
sums up the American character pretty aptly:--

"The Americans. Well, nice, likeable fellers I've alwis found 'em. Don't
'alf make for my stall when they come out o' the station. Like it
better, they say, than Lady Dardy Dinkum's canteen inside. And eat....
Fair clear me out every time they come. I get on with 'em top-'ole.
There's something about 'em--I dunno what, some kind o' kiddishness--but
not that exac'ly--a sort of----"

"Fresh delight in simple things," I suggested, drawing on my Pelmanized
Bartlett.

"That's jest it. Mad about London, y'know. Why, I bin in London yers an'
yers, and it don't worry me. Wants to know which is the oldest building
in London, and where that bloke put 'is cloak in the mud for some Queen,
an' where Cromwell was executed, and 'ow many generals is buried in
Westminster Abbey. 'Ow should I know anything about Westminster Abbey? I
live in Camden Town. I got me business t'attend to.

"There's a friend of mine, Mr. 'Ankin, the gentleman what takes the
tickets at Baker Street--'e met two of 'em t'other day. Navy boys--from
the country, I should think. D'you know, they spent the 'ole mornin'
ridin' up and down the movin' staircase--yerce, and would 'ave spent the
afternoon, too, on'y one of 'em tried to run up the staircase what was
comin' down an'.... Well, I dessay it was good practice for 'em, but, as
Mr. 'Ankin told 'em, it's safer to monkey with a U-boat than with a
movin' staircase. And anyway, 'e'll be out of hospital before 'is ship's
moved.

"Yerce, I like the Americans--what I've seen of 'em. No swank about
'em, y'know--officers an' men, just alike, all pals together.
Confidence. That's what they got. Talks to yeh matey-like--know what I
mean--man to man kind o' thing. Funny the way they looks at England,
though. I s'pose they seen it on the map and it looked smallish. One
feller come round the stall t'other night, an' 'e'd got two days' leave
an' thought 'e could do Stratford-on-Avon, Salisbury Cathedral, Chester,
Brighton, Edinburgh Castle, an' the spot o' blood where that American
gel, Marry Queener Scots, murdered 'er boy--all in two days. 'Ustle, I
believe they calls it over there. So I told 'im to start 'ustlin' right
away, else, when 'e got back, 'e'd find 'imself waiting on the carpet,
waiting for the good old C.B. Likeable boys, though. 'Ere's to 'em. No,
I'll 'ave a ginger-ale. I don't drink me own coffee--not when I'm
drinkin' anyone's 'ealth, like. Well, _Attaboy_, as they say over
there."



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