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Title: Unparliamentary papers and other diversions
Author: Berkeley, Reginald
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Alleged “interference” with the Heavenly Twins.

_See “The Universal Conflict.”_]

                            PAPERS AND OTHER


                           REGINALD BERKELEY

                               Author of

                   “French Leave” and “Eight O’Clock”
                  Part Author of “The Oilskin Packet”
                   and “Decorations and Absurdities”

                         _With an Introduction_
                            By J. C. SQUIRE
                           _And Drawings by_
                              BOHUN LYNCH

                              Cecil Palmer
                             Chandos Street


                       _Printed in Great Britain_

_To_ C. H. G.

    _Friend, of all friends most prized and dear,
      When times are sad, when memories smart,
    When smiles hold back the scalding tear,
      And laughter hides a breaking heart--
    Because the sleeve’s no place to wear it--
      May this poor book of mine come in
    And help brave you to grin and bear it,

Certain of the papers that make up this book have appeared, either in
this present or in some modified form, in the “Outlook.” Others have
been published in the “Nottingham Journal,” the “Yorkshire Observer,”
and other provincial dailies. Others again are hitherto unpublished. To
the Editors of those journals in which his work has appeared the author
wishes to express his gratitude and acknowledgments.


I happen to frequent Captain Berkeley’s company on the cricket field.
When he is there, and the wicket is bumpy, it might suitably be called
a stricken field. He bowls very fast and very straight.

As his publisher usually keeps wicket for him, I dare not suggest that
the crooked ones go for four byes. In any event that parallel would
not be necessary here; but the general characteristics of Captain
Berkeley’s bowling are certainly in evidence. He goes direct at his
object, and when he hits it the middle stump whirls rapidly in the air.
He is all for hitting the wicket; slip catches and cunningly arranged
chances to cover are not for him. This blunt going for the main point
it is that gives his parodies their greatest charm. I like it when
I see a reference to “Count Puffendorff Seidlitz, the Megalomanian
Minister”: if we are being funny, why not laugh aloud instead of merely
tittering? “Lord Miasma” pleases me as a coinage full of meaning in
these days; there is a refreshing lack of compromise about the name of
the Galsworthy parson, “The Rev. Hardy Heavyweight”; and how better
could one name two of Sir James Barrie’s minor characters than by
the twin appellations of McVittie and Price, who here take, as they
elsewhere give, the biscuit? This agreeable couple appear in one of the
mock plays which, to one reader at least, seem to be the very best
part of this very miscellaneous volume. Captain Berkeley is himself a
successful playwright, and dog has here very entertainingly eaten dog.
Mr. Galsworthy’s passion for abstract titles; his hostile preoccupation
with the normal sporting man; his agonised sympathy with maltreated
women; his determination to load the dice against his heroines: all
these things are made clear in language very like his own, and yet in a
way that suggests (to return to our imagery) that the bowler, however
fast and determined, has a respect for the batsman. I don’t know that
it is quite fair to ascribe “the Manchester Drama” especially to Mr.
St. John Ervine or even to Manchester; but we know the type, and if a
few more blows like this will kill it, so much the better. It is well
enough to be harrowed in the theatre, but not to be made to feel as
though we had chronic dyspepsia. The Russian Drama is beautifully apt;
and “The Slayboy of the Western World” also. They reproduce idioms and
mannerisms perfectly, and exhibit limitations unanswerably.

Perhaps the most refreshing thing about this book is its diversity. It
is an age (excluding the merely vulgarly versatile) of specialists and
specialist labels. A man is not expected to see life whole, much less
steadily; he is encouraged to describe himself as “poet,” “parodist,”
“politician,” “business man” or what not; and it is regarded as almost
improper that a person who takes an interest in Synge should so much
as admit a knowledge of Mr. Winston Churchill’s existence. Captain
Berkeley refuses to subject himself to any such limitations. He surveys
everything around him, and where he sees anything he thinks funny, he
has a go at it. This should not be regarded--any more than Canning’s
squibs were regarded--as militating against his trustworthiness as
a politician. Rather the reverse. A knowledge of humanity and the
humanities is serviceable in legislation and administration, and a
sense of humour usually goes with the sense which is called common.

                                                           J. C. SQUIRE.




  The Universal Conflict                                    3

  An Eminent Georgian                                      12

  My First Derby                                           20

  On Eternal Life                                          28

  The Next War--and Military Service                       31

  First Plays for Beginners                                39

  Hats                                                     45

  Shareholders’ Blood                                      52

  The Personal Column                                      60

  Society Sideshows                                        64


  Morality                                                 75

  Eternity and Post-Eternity                               87

  The Enchanted Island                                    101

  President Wilson                                        112

  Jemima Bloggs                                           125

  Under Eastern Skies                                     132

  The Vodka Bottle                                        144

  King David I                                            153

  The Slayboy of the Western World                        158


  A Member of Parliament                                  167

  Woes of the Whips                                       174

  Young Men and “Maidens”                                 180

  Front Benches and Back Benches                          188

  “Order, Order”                                          196

  Lords and Commons                                       203


  With Lord Balfour at the Washington Conference          211

  With Monsieur Briand after the Washington Conference    219

  With Mr. Lloyd George during his
  Premiership                                             227

  With Lord Birkenhead on the Woolsack                    235

  Old Tory                                                243

  Edward and Eustace                                      244

  The Two Wedgwoods                                       249

  Songs of a Die-Hard                                     253

  Nursery Rhyme                                           254

  The Old Member                                          255



    TWINS                                      _Frontispiece_

  “DONE DOWN ON THE DOWNS”                                 23



  “THE INFLUENCE OF THAT MAN SHAW”                         89

  “LIFE’S VERY HARD”                                      127

  “AH! LITTLE FATHERS, THIS POISON----”                   151

  “NEW MEMBER, SIR?”                                      169

  EDWARD AND EUSTACE                                      245








 More criticisms--My “interference” with the Heavenly Twins--Suggested
 operations against Venus--My memoranda on Venus and Jupiter--Detailed
 proposals--Our new super-planetary battering-ram--Lord Krusher
 baffled--Correspondence between us--Lord Krusher’s objections--My
 reply--His antagonism--Meeting of the Allied Planetary
 Council--Serious position--The Archangel Gabriel’s shortcomings--My
 plan for saving the situation--The crisis--My resignation--Reflections.

Scarcely had died away the reverberations of criticism, enhanced by
venomous personal attacks upon myself for my so-called “interference”
in the operations against the Heavenly Twins, when a new crisis of
even more momentous significance was sprung upon the Cabinet. In the
previous December, with the fullest concurrence of the First Air Lord
and the Board of Aerial Operations, I had planned a lightning raid
on the planet of Venus to be carried out by our obsolete comets. The
political situation has so important a bearing upon this project that
I must here interpolate a memorandum which, as long before as the
previous July, I had addressed to the Secretary of State for Extra
Planetary Affairs and circulated to my colleagues.


 _Mr. Chortill to the Extra Planetary Secretary._

 I can no longer preserve silence on the subject of Venus. Venusian
 hostility may quite well be fatal to the whole grand operation which
 we and our planetary allies are at present co-ordinating against
 the Central Planets. The grip of Mars upon Venus is unquestionably
 tightening; and, if no intervention is undertaken, but, on the
 contrary, the spirit of _laissez-faire_ is allowed to prevail, we
 shall not only lose a strong potential adherent, but, which is equally
 important, also forfeit considerable sympathy amongst our own people.
 The plan of the Martians is quite plain. Availing themselves of that
 well-known astronomical phenomenon--the Transit of Venus--they will
 undoubtedly utilise that period of uncertainty to detach this wavering
 planet from our cause and bind her irrevocably to themselves. That
 would be nothing short of a disaster.

At the same time, knowing his difficulties in coping with the tasks of
his office, I instructed the faithful Smashterton Jones to convey the
following message to the Prime Minister himself:

 _Mr. Chortill to the Prime Minister._

 I am seriously exercised in my mind about Jupiter. I fear that, by
 confining ourselves to the narrow requirements of tactical gain, we
 are neglecting inter-planetary strategy. Do, I beg you, consider this
 point. If Jupiter can be induced--I don’t suggest that this proposal
 is necessarily the best, but, let us say, by the offer of one or both
 of the rings of Saturn under a Mandate of the League of Planets--if
 Jupiter could in this or some other manner be induced to take an
 active part, at least in the aerial blockade to cut off from the
 Central Planets the communication which at present they enjoy outside
 the Solar System, there is no doubt but that the conflict would be
 sensibly shortened, and it might make a difference of centuries. I
 enclose a Memorandum on Venus which I have sent to the Extra Planetary
 Secretary, and upon which I should value your remarks.

  W. S. C.

Reverting now to the plan for an aerial raid on the planet of Venus.
We had the old comets, quite ineffective for operations against the
major Planets, but powerful and not at all to be despised; we had a
satisfactory surplus of meteors which could be employed in support;
and we had in addition the newly constructed, and in all respects
novel, planetary battering-ram, specially designed for jarring, or,
as the technical word is, “boosting” heavenly bodies out of their
orbits--the apple of the eye of old Lord Krusher and the Board of
Aerial Construction. This formidable engine, unique, as we were led to
believe, in the whole stellar universe, must in any case carry out her
trials somewhere, and might as well be utilised in toppling a potential
antagonist out of our path, instead of being sent to the Milky Way for
the usual two months’ test. So much for material. Of trained personnel
we had, though not an abundance, a reasonable margin. Only one thing
seemed to baffle the mighty war mind of old Lord Krusher and our
experts--a satisfactory jumping-off place. Accordingly, the day before
the Cabinet met, I dictated the following:--

 _First Lord to the First Air Lord._

 Referring to our conversation with regard to the Venus Striking Force,
 and the necessity for a jumping-off place, has it occurred to you that
 the Mountains of the Moon are in every way adapted for this purpose?
 A force of comets and meteors with the necessary reserves, L. of C.
 troops, etc., based upon this strategic point, not only dominates the
 principal airways and traffic routes, but points a spear directly at
 the heart of the enemy. Request therefore that you will examine this
 proposition, and, in conjunction with Aerial Operations, furnish me
 immediately with an estimate of the material, plant, etc., required to
 convert these natural fastnesses into a suitable base.

  W. S. C.

To this he replied in a characteristic letter:--

 Trusty and well-beloved Winsom,

 Your plan is, like yourself, marvellous! Nobody but you could have
 thought of it. I could turn the Mountains of the Moon into the base
 you require in forty-eight hours, but for one overriding difficulty,
 which your memorandum does not meet. There is no AIR on the Moon, my
 Winsom, and human beings being what they are, _air is necessary_ IF

 Only THREE things are necessary to win the war: _air_, SPEED, and
 GUTS. I have got the last, you are providing the second, but where are
 we to get the AIR?


 We had better try the Valley of the Dry Bones instead, if the
 archæologists can find it for us. Failing that, Sinbad’s cavern.

  Yours till Ginger pops,


This was the kind of thoughtless criticism to which I was occasionally
subjected by the old air-dog.[1] Magnificent in his courage, more often
right than wrong, a splendid example of British brain-power, there
were times when he made the error of estimating other people’s mental
capacity by his own. Time was pressing, so I wirelessed the following

  _First Lord to First Air Lord_:


which settled the matter. Alas! I was to discover later that this
too speedy resolution of his difficulties was merely to succeed in
antagonising the bluff old warrior against the whole project.

Meanwhile the great Council of the Allied Planets met, and it became
all too apparent that the operations, as a whole, were being pursued
with even more than our customary hesitation and delay. The Archangel
Gabriel, an excellent First Minister in times of peace, was beginning
to give unmistakable signs of being too old and slow-witted for his
work. Since his well-remembered and highly successful controversy with
Lucifer, some æons before, his powers had been steadily waning; and
it was speedily becoming apparent that he had no longer the mental
alertness and vigour of body for a prolonged campaign conducted under
the stress of modern conditions. At times--as, for instance, over the
thunderbolt shortage--he would arouse himself to prodigious efforts,
equalling, if not outstripping, his ancient prowess. And then he would
fall into always increasing periods of apathy, from which there was no
extracting him.

In these circumstances I wrote the following memorandum:--

 _Memorandum by the Rt. Hon. Winsom Stunster Chortill on the general

 We have now been at war for forty-three years and eleven days. A
 prodigious expenditure of blood and treasure has so far secured for us
 no material advantage. The essential services are suffering from lack
 of co-ordination. Much valuable energy is being wasted in duplication
 of effort.

 I have indicated in the accompanying appendices (36 in number)
 detailed plans for a change of policy on all the fronts, and I attach
 also an additional memorandum with 7 sequellæ, 41 maps and a detailed
 schedule of supplies, dealing with the political situation likely to
 arise on the Transit of Venus, and outlining a scheme of operations
 for immediate consideration and adoption.

 After all these years it becomes necessary to say that the Allied
 cause is suffering from a want of decision. As each new problem arises
 we seem to be more and more unprepared. This cannot be indefinitely
 prolonged, and only one sensible solution presents itself--namely,
 that the control of all policy, operations and forces should be
 centred under one hand. Modesty forbids the suggestion that the
 serious crisis in our national fortunes demands that I should indicate
 myself as the most suitable person to have charge of this enterprise;
 but if consulted I should be willing to express my opinion on the

  W. S. C.

On the following day, the most fateful of my life, I was unable to
resist a foreboding that things were not yet destined to go right for
the Allied cause. The careful records I had kept of my administration
satisfied me, as I looked through them, that for all I had done I could
assure myself of the approval of posterity. We had created, equipped
and maintained a gigantic aerial machine. No hostile forces had so
much as come within sight of our planet. My further schemes, to which
I had applied every existing intellectual test, made us reasonably
certain of a speedy result; and I left my room and strode across to the
Council with a conviction in my heart that I could carry through my
proposals--and yet with a haunting fear of the unexpected. On arriving
at the Council Chamber my forebodings became heavier. The proceedings
were of a most perfunctory nature. All controversial business was
adjourned to a later meeting, and we were informed that a crisis made
it necessary for the head of the Government to demand the resignations
of his entire Ministry. With a heavy heart I parted with the insignia
of my office, realising, as I did so, that the struggle must now be
indefinitely prolonged. The head of the Government, animated by that
spirit of kindliness towards myself which he had ever shown, pressed me
to accept a gilded sinecure. With every wish to avoid giving him pain I
felt myself obliged to decline. Posterity, he told me, would appreciate
my zeal in the public service.

Posterity, I felt to myself, as I left the building, would, thanks to
my diaries, at least understand.


[1] A kind of Skye terrier.--W. S. C.



During the latter part of the closing year of the nineteenth century,
an English traveller, sojourning with his wife and daughter near
the hot springs of Rotorua in New Zealand, was observed one day to
dash from the verandah of his hotel, hatless, into the street, and
accost a passing urchin. The lad was singularly unprepossessing; he
squinted, his right shoulder was strangely deformed, and his ears
were much too large for his head. Unlike most children in receipt of
flattering attentions from an elderly and distinguished stranger, he
snarled, spat on the ground, and hurried away muttering oaths. The
astonished relatives of the traveller, hurrying out in pursuit of
him--in the belief, as the wife said afterwards, that he was suddenly
demented--found their husband and parent almost beside himself with
excitement. “That boy,” he said, pointing towards the receding figure
a hand that shook with emotion--“that boy will end as Prime Minister
of England.” Convinced that his mind was wandering, they led him back
with soothing words to the hotel; but his unerring judgment was once
again to be confirmed by the verdict of time. The speaker was Dr.
Quank Brane, the eminent psychologist; the boy, soon to be known to
the greater part of the universe, equally for the profundity of his
wisdom and the variety of his gifts and achievements, was Erasmus
Galileo McCann, philosopher, scientist, theologian, naval and military
strategist, scholar, economist and some time First Minister of the

The boyhood of this monument of versatile genius, no less than his
manhood, was remarkable. At the age of one, when dropped by his nurse,
a fact which accounted for the deformity of his shoulder, he was
distinctly heard, as if in anticipation of his interjectional habits
of later life, to rip out an accusing oath; and, when the startled
slattern turned up her hands and eyes in horror, he added, “Don’t
stare like a fool, go and get the doctor!” At three years old his
father presented him with all the volumes of Buckle’s _History of
Civilisation_, which he had completely mastered before he was five.
His dissertation of _The Lesser Cists in Invertebrates_, published at
the age of seven, is still a standard work of this little known branch
of biological science. Many years later an old friend of the family
told an admiring conclave of relatives of an encounter with the young
McCann, in which he himself was considerably worsted. In the course of
a journey across the Warraboora plains, a wild and almost uninhabited
tract of country, his provisions gave out. Some friendly natives whom
he encountered contrived to spare him a few dried corn cobs, but these
could hardly last him indefinitely. Starvation stared him in the face.
One day, however, as he was making a frugal meal of a large aboriginal
lizard, that he found entangled in the undergrowth, a strange urchin
dropped on his head from out of a tree fern, uttering savage whoops,
tore the carcass from his astonished fingers, and devoured it without a
word of apology.

“That,” said the older man with resignation, “was my last morsel of
food. I must now die.”

“_Je n’en vois pas la nécessité_,” returned the youth (it was McCann),
quoting La Rochefoucauld with the nonchalance of complete familiarity;
wherewith he swung himself into the branches of a Kauri pine, and
disappeared without another word. Giving himself up for lost, the
lonely traveller prepared for death; but before nightfall the youth
returned with a wallet of provender, and accompanied by guides who
piloted them back to civilisation. The boy appeared blissfully unaware
that he had done anything remarkable. “Such astonishing sang-froid,”
the traveller used to conclude, “I never encountered before or since. I
knew he was destined for greatness.”

       *       *       *       *       *

His schooldays and college life were curiously uneventful. He secured
the uncoveted distinction of remaining at the bottom of the bottom
form of the school for three years, and of failing ignominiously in
the Cambridge Junior Local. Wiseacres shook their heads and quoted
scores of instances of infantile precocity. It began to look as
though the early promise was after all no more than a false dawn; and
then, to everyone’s astonishment, at the age of 19½ he planned,
financed and brought out _The People’s Piffle_, a daily journal
exactly corresponding to the literary appetites of the masses of the
British reading public. Among other novel features of this newspaper,
alternative opinions were presented in parallel columns on the leader
page, the appointment of the editor was subject to confirmation or
change every three months by a referendum of the readers, and, in place
of the obsolete insurances against accident, continued subscription for
a period of 25 years or longer conferred a pensionable right upon the

So momentous a development in the literary activities of the country
created a profound impression. More than one well-known actress sent
him her autograph unsolicited. A film star was heard to refer to him
as “some guy.” The Prime Minister of the day shook hands with him
in public. Lord Thundercliffe shook in his shoes, and redoubled
his fulminating denunciations of everything. But the day of Lord
Thundercliffe was over: a new era was at hand, the era of universal
genius; and McCann, its prophet and its leader, was even then poising
himself on the crest of the wave that was to sweep away the wreckage
of the old century, and sweep in the reforms of the new, and sweep him
personally into a position of eminence hitherto unknown in our annals.

       *       *       *       *       *

Just at about this time a resident at Claydamp-on-the-Wash was
astonished, in the course of a country walk, to see a tall, thin
gentleman leaning over a gate in an attitude of insupportable
dejection. The enormous brogues; the ill-fitting brown suit; the
high-domed forehead; the bushy brown spade beard; the huge spectacles
perched on the lofty sensitive nose; the dreamy eyes looking far away
into the mists, all suggested a certain literary personage. Could it
be? Was it possible? Overcoming a natural hesitation at intruding
upon the privacy of one who was obviously a recluse, he hesitatingly
ventured to approach. “I beg your pardon,” he said, “but surely I am
addressing Mr. Lytton Strachey?” and without giving the stranger time
to answer he added, “Is anything the matter? Can I help in any way?”

The solitary turned upon him eyes that were suffused with tears.
“Oh, no,” he replied, “no. Nothing. I was born too early, that is
all.” And on being pressed for a further explanation he continued,
“By the ordinary processes of Nature I must inevitably predecease
this monstrosity of talent; and I am excluded from the possibility of
writing the only Georgian biography that offers any kind of scope for
my abilities.”

       *       *       *       *       *

He was of politics; and he was not of politics. He built up abstract
theories of Government in his articles in the morning Press: and
demolished them in the evening in his speeches in the House of Commons.
He attracted the sympathies of simple folk by a life of Spartan
discipline; and disgusted them by a profuse and shameless bestowal of
peerages and honours. He angled for the votes of the mercenary and
idle by a wholesale creation of state benevolences; and threw away
what he had gained by an almost niggardly supervision and husbandry of
the national income. As Controller and chief proprietor of the great
Press Trust, he denounced the infamies and exactions of the great
profiteering combines in which he himself was the principal partner:
and as Prime Minister of a secular Government he disestablished the
Church of which he, as Cardinal Archbishop, was the protesting head.
Writing at about this time Count Puffendorff Seidlitz, the Megalomanian
Ambassador, reported to his Government that it was perfectly vain to
cherish the slightest hope of undermining the national popularity
of one who so supremely embodied in himself the qualities, and the
inconsistencies, and the portentous humbug that chiefly characterised
the nation of which he was the head. Nothing could be done at present.
Above all there must be no haste. “But I do not despair,” he added,
“for, though ignorant of music, the man has a certain coarse feeling
for the arts--and that, in a country of Philistines, must in the long
run betray him into our hands.”

Fatal self-complacency! At the very moment when those words were being
penned, McCann was--where? He was in the anteroom of the Princess
Vodkha, that luckless Ambassador’s sovereign, waiting to seal with a
courtly handclasp the Trade Agreement between Megalomania and this
country. Poor Count Puffendorff Seidlitz! Where Lord Thundercliffe and
his brother Lord Miasma has failed, it was hardly to be supposed that
he would succeed.

       *       *       *       *       *

So ended, in a thin filmy haze, a life of service and sacrament. To
the very end they thought he might be saved. The general public,
brought suddenly to the realisation of the approaching calamity, stood
dumbly in the streets, or hurried away--hoping. But the sands were
running down; the tide, long since turned, was ebbing with inexorable
swiftness; the night was indeed at hand. A greater and more terrible
accuser than Lord Thundercliffe hovered over the sick man’s bed; and a
greater and wiser Judge than public opinion was waiting to pronounce
the verdict from which there is no appeal.


“No,” I said, “as a matter of fact I’ve never been to the Derby--and to
tell you the truth----” I went on.

He winced. He did not want me to tell him the truth. If the truth was
(as it was) that I didn’t care two cassowary’s eggs whether I went to
the Derby or not, that was the very last thing he desired to hear. He
wanted to keep his opinion of me as unimpaired by such idiosyncrasies,
as I would permit. These thoughts rippled over the mild surface of his
features like gusts of wind across the waters of a pond. I allowed the
words to die away in my throat. After all, to give pain flagrantly--

“Promise me,” he urged, “p-p-promise me you’ll take a day off and go
to-morrow. It’s one of the sights of the world. The Downs black with

“Black?” I murmured, “surely not in this heat?”

“Oh, well, covered with people then, stiff with people, crowded for
miles and miles with millions and millions of all classes in the

“Dear, dear,” I said, “first, second, _and_ third!”

He ignored this miserable attempt at buffoonery.

“Yes,” he averred, “all classes in the land, thimble-rigging, cocoanut
shying, confidence tricking, eating, drinking, laughing, cheering.
Vehicles of all sorts, shapes, sizes, motive power, blocking all the
roads in the neighbourhood. And the horses, my dear boy, the horses!
Until you’ve seen those horses, trained to a hair, with coats like
satin, ready to run for their lives, why, you simply haven’t seen
anything. And the crowd in the paddock. You _must_ see the crowd in the
paddock. _And_ the bookies. No man’s lived, till he’s been done down on
the Downs. Now promise me faithfully----”

“Very well,” I said hurriedly to forestall the otherwise inevitable
repetition, “I promise....”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was rather fun, I admit. From the moment when the wheel-barrow on
which, apparently, I had made the journey in the company of a Zulu
chief, Lady Diana Manners, Mr. Justice Salter, and a dear little Eskimo
girl aged seven, drew up at Boulter’s Lock--no, no--not Boulter’s
Lock--Tattenham Corner, I knew I was in for one of the great days of my
life. There, glittering in the sunlight in all its pristine colouring,
stood the brand-new Tattenham Corner House, erected for the occasion
by Sir Joseph Lyons himself, who, with Lord Howard de Walden on one
side of him and the Prime Minister on the other, stood in the doorway
receiving his guests. A prodigious negro, with an unexpectedly small
voice, announced me (for some reason) as “Mr. Mallaby Deeley,” and I
found myself walking on a vast deep verandah, laid out with innumerable
little luncheon tables, through which a long procession of horses was
intricately manœuvring.

“The paddock,” murmured my Zulu companion. “It’s an idea of Sir
Joseph’s. The combination of a sit-down luncheon and form at a glance.
Extraordinarily convenient.”

We sat down at a table. Immediately a jockey and his horse sat down
opposite to us.

“Order us a drink each, dearie,” said the jockey, “it’s a fearful
business this perambulatin’ about; and you get nothing for it. Eh? Oh,
gin for _’er_, and I’ll take a glass o’ port.”

“And what is your young friend’s name?” enquired the judge, suddenly
putting his head from under the table.

“Ah,” said the jockey, knowingly, “that ’ud be telling, that would.” He
tapped his nose mysteriously and drank.

“But, my good sir,” complained the judge, “how can I back your horse if
I don’t know its name?”

“By the process of elimination,” said the jockey sagely.

[Illustration: “Done down on the Downs.”]

“Elimination,” said the judge, “what of?”

“Yourself,” said the jockey; and his mount choked coyly in her glass.

At this moment the King appeared, followed by Aristotle, Sir Thomas
Beecham, and others.

“The next race is about to begin,” he said severely, “and you’ve none
of you brushed your hair.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a long time before I found the bookmaker. Any number of spurious
ones rose up in my path and taunted me; but He always escaped. At last
I thought of looking under one of the thimbles; and there he was in
deep calculation.

“What price Poltergeist?” I demanded. I wanted to say Psychology, but
the word somehow refused to shape itself.

“It all depends,” he replied shrewdly, “on whether you want to buy or
to sell,” wherewith he crossed his legs, smiled on only one side of his
face, and returned to his calculations.

“Aren’t you a bookmaker?” I faltered.

“Certainly,” he cried shrilly, “and I’m making a book now, can’t you
see?” He held up a kind of primitive loose-leaf ledger, made of calico
pages bound in sheepskin.

“Very durable,” he explained, and broke into a harsh chant:

    “If I lay sevens and fours
       And you take fives and threes--
     What do they care for gaming laws,
       Who have not felt the squeeze,
     Who sacrifice the world’s applause
       And gain ignoble ease?

     With odds laid off or on,
       And prices up or down----”

He broke off abruptly and rose to his feet. The miscellany in his lap
was scattered upon the ground.

“Pick up my work-basket,” he exclaimed, “and give me the kaleidoscope,”
I handed him the strange black instrument at which he was pointing, and
began groping on my knees among the pins and needles. He turned towards
the sun, and gazed at it through the object in his hand.

“Look out,” he exclaimed suddenly, “they’re off.”

Simultaneously a voice near me said, “The King’s calling you,” and I
began to run. Immediately the hounds were slipped from the leash, and
the hunt settled down in my wake. The ship began to sway from side to
side, and the roaring grew louder and louder. Still I ran, flashing
past the booths, past upturned umbrellas with cards scattered over
them, past the stewards’ enclosure, past the Royal Box. The thundering
grew louder and more insistent. I was flying along the track with the
whole field plunging after me. Hoarse cries. I redouble my efforts. My
head is going to burst. The Royal Box whizzes past again. The winning
post. I’m falling....

       *       *       *       *       *

A long time afterwards, a voice said:

“He’s quite all right. A touch of heat-stroke is nothing, really, you
know. Quiet. Couple of days in bed.”

I opened my eyes.

“Sir Joseph Lyons----” I began.

“All right,” said the doctor, “you shut up.”

“I’ve promised to go to the Derby,” I protested.

“Next year,” replied the doctor. “Just drink this, will you?”


Somebody--a certain Dr. Friedenberg to be truthful--has thrown out
suggestions of the dreadful possibility of indefinitely prolonging
the human existence; in fact of bringing about a kind of mundane
immortality. Hair is to be made to grow upon bald heads (no, mine
is not bald); short men will increase in stature by several inches;
and fat men will become slender and graceful. The last is perhaps an
attractive prospect. Wait. Tell me this.

Who wants to live for ever? And having disposed of that pertinent
question, in the affirmative if you will, who wants his neighbour to
live for ever?

Who wants to stereotype the control of human affairs in the hands that
find it so difficult to control them? What becomes of young ideas, new
movements and general progress, in a universe of bald pates thatched,
short men grown taller and corpulence made small? For in all this one
hears nothing about recharging the brain; and bodily vigour does little
to stave off mental paralysis of the kind that usually comes on with
age. Would flowing hair and graceful figure countervail the growth of
avarice, deceit and malice; or check the relentless march of stupidity?
Would it not rather be the case, that from year to year all the more
unpleasant of human characteristics would intensify and harden?

And, by the way, think of the population of this miserable little
globe in a thousand years or so. Nobody dies. We all live and multiply
for eternity. It increases by geometric progression. To-day we are,
let us say, a paltry thousand million of people. In a year’s time, at
a conservative estimate, we should double our population. In a few
hundred years--good heavens! Life would become like the platform of
Piccadilly Circus at six o’clock in the evening.

Piccadilly! This subject is inextricably bound up in my mind with
Piccadilly. I will explain why.

Not long ago, when musing upon Dr. Friedenberg’s discoveries, I had
occasion to use the railway of that name. I boarded a crowded train,
thinking deeply. I took my place (most incautiously, I admit, but there
happened to be no other place to take) standing beside a forbidding
military gentleman, whose arms were full of brown paper parcels. In the
immediate vicinity stood a large stern woman, solidly planted near the
door, who disdained the help of the strap and supported herself, with
arms akimbo and legs wide apart.

The train ran smoothly enough through Dover Street and Down Street, and
my line of thought, on this problem of perpetual life, developed into
a kind of saga to the rhythm of the movement over the rails. The whole
subject went before my eyes like a glorious vision. I knew just what I
was going to say in this essay....

And then the train back-jumped, and the large stern woman, in the
effort to retain her balance, planted one of her feet with relentless
precision, exactly on one of mine, and simultaneously drove her
right elbow into my ribs. In really considerable agony I recoiled,
involuntarily loosening my grip of the supporting strap. Immediately
the train swerved, and threw me into the bosom of the military
gentleman, whose armful of parcels burst from his control and smothered
the occupants of the neighbouring seats. Muttering imprecations, he
crouched on the swaying floor and began to pick them up. I stooped to
help him; and our heads met with a grinding crash....

Meanwhile the woman--the--the unspeakable monster who had caused the
calamity, stood entirely unmoved, gazing through the glass doors at the

Think of such a person going down through all eternity committing
outrages of this kind--probably one a day. Eternal life? Penal
servitude for life is more to her deserving.


[2] I except, of course, Drigg, Bootlecut, Volmer, and their
insignificant following.

[3] _The Psychology of Post-Metempsychosis._ J. Swift Leggitt. The
Mangy Press. 5s.


Russia and Germany have joined hands; France and Belgium have banded
together; Italy has made a secret treaty with the Kemalists--a fact
which can hardly afford much satisfaction to the kingdom of Serbs,
Croats, and Slovenes, leave alone the Greeks! Poland and her neighbours
are on much the same terms of cordiality as rival opera singers. There
is Bessarabia; there is (so to call it for convenience) Germania
Irridenta; there is the Burgenland; all simmering merrily away. There
are heartburnings in Transylvania. I cannot think that even the Sanjak
is really placid--it has always wallowed in grievances from time
immemorial. Indeed (so I am told), it needs but a spark to set the
whole contraption in a blaze. Only a spark!... We are sitting on a wood
pile soaked in petrol; and the boys at Paris and elsewhere are out with
their tinder-boxes.

Viewed from one point of view, this situation has arisen very
appositely to certain investigations conducted not long ago by _The
Times_, and provides a capital solution to the problems of how to find
careers for our sons, and what to do with our daughters. But there are
some of us[2] to whom even the satisfaction of starting our children in
(or rather out of) the world, would be but a poor recompense for the
physical discomfort (it’s not the danger; we none of us mind _danger_;
we rather like it) of resuming active hostilities ourselves. As Leggitt
says[3]: “Danger I scorn; but discomfort is the parent of anxiety; and
anxiety is the handmaid of despair.” That’s good enough for me.

Besides, wars are not what they were. The last war was, to a great
extent, won, and the next war will be entirely won, behind the lines.
“Lord Northcliffe,” says a military historian[4] in his article on war
in the Encyclopædia, “Lord Northcliffe dealt heavier blows than Haig.
Haig hit harder than Rawlinson, Rawlinson than Godley, and Godley
(through a long string of intermediary Blenkinsops and Chislehursts)
than Private Muggins. In fact, the whole lesson of the war was that
Muggins didn’t matter twopennyworth of gin. The further back you were,
the more you could do. If Captain Slogger, the Company Commander,
stopped one--why, anybody else could carry on. But if the R.T.O.’s
clerk at the base went down with writer’s cramp, the repercussions
might be felt all over Europe. And in the next war....” And so on.

Push this to its logical conclusion and what do you find? An entirely
new conception of the theory of national service. The duty of every
man, with love of country in his heart, is to fit himself to play a
far-reaching, noble, and adequate part in the next war--from a distance
at which brains will really tell. As Sir Cuthbert puts it, “The duty
of the soldiers of the future is to consolidate the front behind the
front.” No mawkish sentimental considerations should interfere with the
attainment of this. “If others have to fall in the front line, drop a
tear, good citizen, or if you feel so disposed, drop two tears. But for
the sake of your country, and its final victory in the struggle, _see
to it that you are not the one who falls_.”

I will. I will see to it with punctilious care. It is my duty; and I
shall discharge it with the same devotion as I displayed in the last
war, when I rose from assistant warehouse clerk (graded as bombardier)
in the E.F.C. receiving shed, via R.T.O.’s clerk at Boulavre (graded as
Staff Sergeant of Musketry), assistant press censor (graded as Squadron
Leader of Cavalry with rank of Captain) and Base Commandant (graded as
G.S.O. 2, but with rank of colonel on the staff and pay and allowances
of a Lieutenant-General) to the proud position which I occupied at the
end. I have nothing to complain of.... I cannot deny that I had all
kinds of obstacles to overcome. Ignorant prejudiced fools, blind to
the interests of their country, were constantly endeavouring to comb
me out. And so it will be in the next war. The earnest patriot will
find himself thwarted and misunderstood at every turn. Nothing but a
knowledge of the niceties of the medical board, will avail to defeat
these busybodies. Indeed, it may at times be necessary to indulge in
a little pardonable deception. Thus, a cigarette soaked in laudanum,
and smoked half an hour before the doctor’s examination, will produce
all the symptoms of general paralysis, heart failure, and abdominal
catarrh; yet, in an hour or two at most, the smoker will have recovered
most of his faculties, and the remainder will return in, at the
outside, a few days. A glass of vinegar, swallowed without deglutition,
produces the pallor of a ghost and the pulse and temperature of a
lizard; yet the effects have rarely lasted longer than a week. And
there are, of course, such well-known (but to my thinking too crude)
expedients as self-inflicted wounds and even amputations.

Perhaps it is best, indeed, to make preparations in advance. It must
never be forgotten that a large civilian population is necessary to
carry on what are called “the essential public services.” No one should
disdain to do his duty in one of these capacities. And if, as in the
last war, the only sons of widowed mothers are to be given special
consideration, we must not hesitate to take full advantage of such a
provision. A judicious use of the knife or poison cup, or possibly
a combination of the two, will place many a strapping fellow in the
necessary condition of exemption.

Promptski-Buzzoff, in his elaborate, but too little known, treatise
“_Die Vermeidung des Kriegesdienstes_”[5] lays down that “the spinal
marrow of a nation is to be found in the conscience of its citizens.”
This is profoundly and undeniably true. The pages of history are
bespattered with the fragments of empires that have disintegrated
through the decay of their moral fibre. Every good citizen, says
Buzzoff, should cultivate a conscience as inflexible as Bessemer
steel. A properly cultivated conscience will no more permit its owner
to kill, or be killed, than a vacuum brake will let a train run away.
It’s automatic. You mention the word war, and there’s an instant
inhibition. This kind of thing however, needs considerable preparation.
It is always open to misinterpretation if your conscience doesn’t
develop until the outbreak of war; although that, in itself, is not
a consideration which ought to deter a man with the interests of his
country at heart.

Many of us, again, are indispensable. Until late in 1917, I was
indispensable myself. And next time I fully intend to be indispensable
all through the war. I shall get elected to some legislative body--say
the London County Council; and my devotion to duty will do the
rest. But, of course, in case of mischance I shall be prepared with
an alternative plan, several alternative plans in fact. And, in
the last resort, I shall place my services at the disposal of the
Director-General of Lines of Communication. After all, speaking as one
who has already fought a campaign in that capacity, one has a sense of
responsibility and power, even in the humblest posts behind the line,
of which even Divisional and Corps commanders might be envious. As an
R.T.O.’s assistant, one is conscious of a control over the destinies of
others, that almost partakes of divinity. A motion of the hand, a word
on a scrap of paper, and divisions and their baggage may be separated
for ever; provisions consigned to one country may find themselves
devoured in another; and Generals waiting to begin a battle may awake
on zero day to the fact that they have no forces, except their staffs,
wherewith to fight.

It will be understood that I offer these suggestions on the
understanding that we find ourselves allied to a country in which
there will be some approximation, in the amenities offered to L. of
C., to those enjoyed in the larger cities in France during the war.
Otherwise, frankly, nothing doing! I have been studying the appendices
to Splitz’s book on the Russian Army[6]; and the feeding is hardly
up to what I might call a civilised war standard. Thus, on L. of C.,
the weekly ration allowance appears to be four gold roubles’ worth of
straw soup, three poods of lycopodium seed cake, and two samovars of
liquorice water, together with thirty-seven foot-calories of bonemeal
and a packet of spearmint--which, although it compares favourably
with the diet of Divisional and Corps Commanders in that country[7],
has but little attraction for the gourmet. And in any case what about
the residuum? After all, we can’t all of us expect _carte blanche_
to send trains backwards and forwards--passed to you, please, and to
you, please, and so on. Even on the grander scale, there’ll never be
room for more than a million or so R.T.O.’s all told (and that will
include the other side). Something’s got to be done for the rest of us.
Even the L. of C. troops will be up to full strength at last. They’ll
absorb a number of millions; but they’ll fill up eventually. Even the
essential public services at home can’t be swelled indefinitely. There
will come a time when everything useful has been filled up, and there
are still people left over.

Well, we can’t all be satisfied in this world. It was never intended
that we should. And, so far as I can see, the overplus will have to
make themselves comfortable in the trenches. It will be a galling
thought to them that they’re poked away there out of everything, with
no real work to do. But it doesn’t really matter, for we’ll win the war
all right.

We’ll win it in spite of them.


[4] Sir Cuthbert Limpitt, K.B.E., a former Director of the Ministry of

[5] Berlin, 1921. Published in an English translation under the title
_Military Service and its Avoidance_. Blottow and Windupp, 1922. 7s. 6d.

[6] _The Russian Army, its Organisations and Morale._ By Hermann
Splitz. Boonkum and Co., New York. Two vols. $4.

[7] And that is only in the larger cities such as Yekanakaterinakanaka.
In the smaller towns and villages the amount would be much less!


This is the Truth about the production of first plays.

First the author, in the secrecy of his chamber, painfully gives birth
to an idea, and clothes it in words--if possible of not more than
one syllable. Then he shows it to his best friend, who obligingly
points out that the whole conception is faulty, and that the dialogue
is beneath contempt. He then reads it to his second-best friend,
who wakes from his slumber greatly refreshed. By the end of a short
period he has no friends left: but he has learnt a few of the more
obvious imperfections of his work. In despair of ever reconciling
the conflicting criticisms to which it has been subjected, he posts
it defiantly to Grossmith and Malone, Sir Alfred Butt, Mr. Charles
Cochran, Mr. Laurillard, Mr. de Courville, and the whole gang of
impresarios. It returns from each of them accompanied by a printed
slip. He then slinks to the office of a dramatic agent.

The dramatic agent is a florid man with a super-silk hat. He receives
the author with the gracious condescension of royalty greeting an
inferior. The author, overcome at the honour which is being conferred,
gratefully deposits his precious MS. in the luxurious plush-padded
basket which is held out by an underling. The basket is reverently
placed upon the table; mutual expressions of goodwill are exchanged;
the author is bowed out.

Then the dramatic agent shakes the MS. out of the basket, as though it
were verminous; pitchforks it into the recesses of a safe; locks the
safe with a loud clang, and loses the key for two years.

At the end of two years Cyrus K. Bimetaller, the celebrated “Stunt”
King, visits the dramatic agent to throw in his teeth the forty-seven
separate scripts of forty-seven separate plays--but why go into this?
He says that all dealings between them are at an end, and demands his
account. The dramatic agent mechanically opens the safe to get out
his books--and there lies the neglected MS. As a last bid for fortune
he places it eloquently in the hands of Cyrus K. The latter grunts,
and sprawls on the sofa to “size it up.” This process occupies five
minutes. At the end of that time he remarks laconically, “This is the

The author is now summoned from Kilimanjaro, where he is growing
grape-fruit, in order to give his assistance at rehearsals. He arrives,
however, only just in time for the first night, when scores of hands
drag him on to a prodigiously vast stage to abase himself before a
jeering audience. His spasmodic efforts to speak merely confirm the
impression that he is a congenital epileptic.

Next day the newspapers, after a flattering reference to his personal
appearance, unite in denouncing the play as the work of a man with the
intelligence of a crossing-sweeper and the originality of a jackass.
These comments are judiciously edited and made up as posters. The
effect is stupendous, and the public flocks to the theatre. The author
is a made man.

At least, he hopes he is.

Letters pour in upon him from all quarters demanding more plays from
his pen. Actresses lie in wait for him at garden parties, and say,
archly, “Oh, Mr. Blotto, when are you going to write a play for
_me_?” Actor-managers call him “old boy”; and allow themselves to be
seen shaking hands with him. The gifted gods and goddesses who are
performing his play make no secret of his acquaintance. The great Cyrus
K. Bimetaller strokes a mighty stomach in silence. The dramatic agent
grunts, “I told you so,” and gives another polish to the super-silk
hat. Melisande, writing her customary column in the _Evening Quacker_,
observes: “Last night, at Mr. Blotto’s delightful play which is
charming London, I saw the Duchess of Dripp, Count Sforzando, Mr. and
Miss Mossop, and the Hon. ‘Toothy’ Badger. The house was crowded, of
course. Mr. Blotto himself looked in during the evening, but hurried
away on being recognised. He is so retiring.”

In the middle of this chorus of enthusiasm the author bashfully brings
forward another play. Everyone scrambles to read it. Each points out a
separate defect. All unite in pronouncing it “essentially undramatic.”
It finds its way into that limbo of lost manuscripts, the safe of the
silk-hatted agent. Setting his teeth, the author completes another
play. It passes from hand to hand, becoming dog-eared in the journey,
and finally returns to him, in silence and tatters. It seems hardly
worthwhile adding it to the mountains of paper on the Agent’s shelves,
so somebody tosses it behind a book-case, where it is treated with the
scorn it merits by mice and insects. By now the first play has been
supplanted by a Bessarabian allegory, and the author’s name has long
been forgotten. Still buoyed up with hope, he plans a _chef d’œuvre_--a
drama. “Something Shakespearian,” he modestly proclaims. Very few
people, however, even bother to read this, all eyes being fixed on a
genius from Kurdistan, who is taking away the breath of theatrical
London in a play written entirely in Esperanto. The author spends his
last few shillings on a ticket to the Argentine, and begins a fresh
life as a herdsman.

Years pass. The author is far from unsuccessful in his new venture.
In fact, he becomes extremely wealthy. He buys up his employer’s
_hacienda_. He buys up several other people’s _haciendas_. He buys up
the greater part of the Argentine Republic. He has serious thoughts of
buying up South America and selling it to the United States. But his
better nature prevails, and he returns to England and buys a peerage
instead. On the day appointed for him to be introduced to the House
of Lords, his eye happens to see the poster of a new play--_The Dusky
Child_. The name touches a chord. He recognises it as his own work. He
forgets his engagement with the Peers of the Realm, and hurries off
once again in pursuit of literary reputation.

His old friend the dramatic agent is comparatively unchanged. He is
a little more silk-hatted, a little more rotund, and a little more
contemptuous of every one else. He recognises the author at once,
ejaculates laconically: “I told you so,” and takes him to meet Erasmus
W. Bogg, the new impresario who is producing the play. They hurriedly
prepare for the first night. The Lord Chancellor is very annoyed. The
author snaps his fingers. At last literary fame is in his grasp. It
seems an extraordinarily cold winter, but that doesn’t really matter.
He hurries on the rehearsals, snapping his fingers.

How amazingly chilly it has become.

The House of Lords are sending the Lieutenant of the Tower to arrest
him. Ha, ha, let them. He snaps his fingers.

Really, this weather, after the climate of the Argentine, is beyond a
joke. For goodness sake hurry up with that scenery. What’s that about
the Lord Chancellor? Mr. Ramsay MacDonald--what? The who?


       *       *       *       *       *

He wakes up to find his cherished first play still unperformed--still,
indeed, uncompleted. Kilimanjaro, a dream. The Argentine, a dream. The
peerage--a dream, too. He shudders at that escape.

Brr! Why, dammit, the fire’s out!


The hat, says my copy of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, is “man’s,
woman’s outdoor headcovering, usually with brim.” Not unto me the glory
of writing about woman’s outdoor headcovering. These mysteries are
too sacred to be profaned. But man’s hats are another thing. I have a
number of my own. There is none of which I am not, in secret, ashamed.

Some men have the faculty of knowing what hats they can wear with
credit--or, if not with credit, at least without sacrifice of
self-respect. They go to the hatter, pick out a perfectly ordinary
“headcovering” (usually “with brim”), and leave the shop gorgeously
transformed. Their very discards can be reblocked and made to look,
if anything, better than new. And I? I go from one hatter to another
in an endless pilgrimage in search of something in which I shall look
less ridiculous (observe I say “less ridiculous”--I am easy to please),
and find it never. I follow my friends into the places where they hat
themselves; I allow myself to be persuaded into buying some hateful
contrivance--“a perfect fit, sir”; and in three days the damn thing
shrinks so that I can’t get it on my head. Or again, I try to allow for
this by ordering a larger size, whereafter, either I spend the whole of
my spare time stuffing the lining with paper or else it gradually but
relentlessly sinks, and settles on the bridge of my nose.

The very brims play tricks with me. I have a bowler. I bought it, I
distinctly remember, on account of the width of its brim. I have always
liked a wide brim. Not that it ever keeps off the sun or rain, but
somehow it gives confidence. There is something spacious about a wide
brim. Something suggestive of an opulence to which I have in no other
way ever pretended.

Well. Anyhow. I gave up wearing my bowler, because it insisted on
shrinking. It perched itself higher and higher on my head, until I
began to think it really wasn’t safe. It might fall off and get run
over. Nobody wants to expose even a rebellious hat to the dangers of
London traffic. I went to my hatter (why I say _my_ hatter I can’t
think. Nobody is my hatter. Many have tried, none has succeeded). I
went to _a_ hatter; bought a large brown felt hat, wore it away (like a
bride setting out for the honeymoon); and arranged for the bowler to be
safely conveyed to my home, hoping that all would be well.

Well? Not a bit of it. The brown hat swelled and swelled. All the
newspapers in London contributed in their turn to keeping us from
parting. In vain. That hat had a craving for adventure; it wanted to
make its way in the world alone; and a gust of east wind carried
it (together with so much of the “Evening News” as had enabled it
to maintain a precarious balance on my brow) under a passing bus. I
hurried home with feelings almost of friendship for my erring bowler. I
said magnanimously that forgiveness----

[Illustration: “In which I shall not look so ridiculous.”]

Somehow it didn’t look the same. I was prepared to swear that when I
handed it over to the hatter (_my_ hatter, very well) it did in some
sort cover my head. But now--it had diminished to the size of a child’s
toy. And the brim--the brim had shrunk to the merest shadow.

I have at last given up the struggle. I wear anything that comes along.
Not that it matters. People have survived their hats before now. These,
after all, are the merest idiosyncrasies of head-covering. Observe,
for instance, the hats of the great. There you find something of real

It is one of the curious things about really great men that they are
unable to resist the bizarre in hats. They don’t turn out in strange
trousers, or curiously contrived coats. You don’t see them walking
about in sandals, or veldtschoons. They don’t tie up their beards with
ribbon; or shave their eyebrows; or put caste-marks on their faces.
Right up to their head-coverings they are indistinguishable from
you and me. I don’t wish to flatter us, but very often they are less
pleasant to look at ... and then their greatness declares itself, or
their originality breaks loose, or some other eerie characteristic
finds its appropriate expression, in the form of an article of apparel
about as distinctive and ugly as Britannia’s helmet.

Not long ago I met a noble Viscount, a man who might easily become
Prime Minister--I saw him, I mean; I encountered him in the street. He
was wearing a hat that suggested a bowler, but was not a bowler--that
might have been a “Daily Mail” hat, only it was black with a dull
surface, and, if I may so put it, had soft rounded lines in place of
sharp ones--that--that in fact was indescribable. The rest of his
garments were those of a normal citizen. There were no unfamiliar
excrescences on his coat. His collar and tie were much like my own.

Later in the day I saw in front of me a tall, hurrying figure striding
towards the House of Commons. The stooping gait and sombre clothing
might easily have been those of a mere scholar or clergyman. But the
figure bore upon its head a shapeless contrivance of purple velvet; and
by that I knew it was--(well, you know who it was as well as I do).

Look at Mr. Winston Churchill. Look at Admiral Beatty. Whoever saw a
service hat quite like Admiral Beatty’s? Though I admit, in his case,
the oddity is accentuated by his way of wearing it. Look at the hats of
foreign potentates. Look at----

Look at Mr. Lloyd George. I have never actually seen him in one of his
“family” hats--but I know his hatted appearance intimately through a
picture. It is a photograph representing “the man who won the war,” as
a vigorous smiling personage in a grey tweed suit. It seems to be very
much the kind of suit that you or I might select for golf. But--here
distinction creeps in--the upper part of his body is swathed in
something that resembles a horse blanket ... and he is crowned with the
headdress of a Tyrolean brigand.

I am going to be a great man. I know it by my hats.




We are in the Wild West of Canada--a land full of mustangs and
moccasins. People with hard faces are riding about in strange clothes.
Gently nurtured maidens are scrubbing out the cowshed, or digging
up the manure heap. The hired-woman is sitting in the sunlight with
a book. It is a typical scene in a British Dominion; we know it is
Canada, however, because there’s a flick, and the screen says:

                    THIS IS THE CITY OF BISON SNOUT,
                    FED BY THE GRAND TRUNK RAILWAY,
                       CANADA’S PREMIER RAILROAD.

Then there’s another flick, and, lo! a magnificent train, racing across
the prairie, gives us a hint that we are watching Canada’s premier
railroad in operation. The screen obligingly confirms this impression

                      LUXURY, SPEED, AND SECURITY.
                     THE GRAND TRUNK MILLIONAIRES’
                     ON ITS JOURNEY TO BISON SNOUT.

The scene changes, now, to a precipitous hill overlooking the smiling
valley through which the train is thundering. Far away you can see her
plume of smoke, racing across the sky. And here, in the foreground,
are two sinister figures, mounted on the inevitable mustangs, masked
and visored, grim and silent. Oo! They look like Irish gunmen; and as
soon as they espy the train they turn simultaneously to each other and
exclaim with sinister emphasis--SNICK:

                        THERE’S BOODLE IN THIS.

CLICK--and we’re back again with our two desperadoes, galloping like
mad from their point of vantage towards their luckless prey. (_Noise
off--cloppety, cloppety, cloppety, clop._)

Next we have a close-up of the train as it speeds over the landscape.
The passengers are sitting back in their places, wreathed in smiles.
They like their train. They think it particularly safe; and behind it
all there is the feeling of immense security derived from the thought
that they are travelling in a British Dominion of the British Empire
under the waving protection of the Union Jack on which the sun never
sets. The orchestra interprets their thoughts, and ours, by playing a
selection of patriotic melodies.

Now we are shown something really out of the way. Thus: SNICK:

                           ON THE FOOTPLATE.


                      SWAYING ALONG AT HUNDREDS OF
                       MILES AN HOUR, THE JOVIAL
                           PASS THE TIME WITH
                            DANCE AND SONG.

CLICK: And there they are, swaying like dipsomaniacs, dancing like
dervishes, and opening their mouths like bullfrogs in a drought. Of
course, you can’t hear what they’re singing, but a gramophone (_off_)
obligingly strikes up at this moment:

    Sons of the sea,
    All British born,
    Sailing every ocean,
    Laughing foes to scorn--

and so on. A little inappropriate to the setting perhaps; but, oh, how
apposite to what follows!

Suddenly the face of the jovial engineer clouds over. He shades his
eyes with his hands. Rushing to the eyeholes, he peers out into the
day. His collaborators copy him. We know something is coming. We stir
uneasily in our seats. Somehow we can’t help associating this action
with the two sinister----What’s that? He’s beckoning to the chief
mate (or whatever the fellow’s called). The chief mate’s beckoning to
him. Neither dares leave the eyeholes. How can they communicate with
each other? Still the train speeds on. Oh! the engineer’s drawing his
revolver. Ah! it’s empty! So is the chief mate’s. So is everybody’s.
He flings it down with a curse. He’s going to speak to the chief mate.
He’s speaking: SNICK:

                   SAY, YOU GUYS, IT’S HELL OR HOME.
                            AND ME FOR HOME!



An underling flings open the door of the furnace. He staggers back.
Empty! He rushes with a shovel to the coal bunkers. The others rush
after him. Oh, there’s no coal! The train’s slowing down every minute.
The desperadoes are riding nearer and nearer. We can hear the thunder
of their hoofs--I mean their horses’ hoofs. (_Noise off--cloppety,
cloppety, cloppety, clop._)

Ah! what are they doing now? They’re going to throw one of the
underlings into the furnace to keep the train going. They’re going to
burn the engineer and the chief mate. They’re going to pull the engine
to pieces and burn that. Anything to escape. Anything to escape....

Suddenly the chief mate, who’s looking through the eyehole, gives a
great shout. He’s very excited and relieved. He’s speaking--listen,
look, I mean.


                    WHY IT’S ONLY THE SHERIFF’S BOYS
                         HAVING A GAME WITH US!

The others do not agree with him. They point rudely at him, and curse
him for a fool. But he only smiles and says through his smile:


                      SURE--IT’S THE SHERIFF RIGHT
                    ENOUGH. I SEEN HIS LIL’ BUTTON.
                         HIS DEPUTY’S WITH HIM.
                      I DONE SEE HIS BUTTON, TOO.

They rush to the eyeholes again. There’s no doubt this time. They throw
up their hats and cheer. They are beside themselves. They even go so
far as to pull up the train. The passengers crowd to the windows. At
first they are alarmed. They shrink back. They mutter among themselves.

                            IT’S A HOLD-UP.


and so on. But the engineer puts all that right. He descends royally
from the footplate and walks along the train reassuring them. FLICK:

                   IT’S ALL RIGHT, LADIES AND GENTS.
                      IT’S ONLY THE SHERIFF OF THE

What a joke! How they laugh! And cheer! They crowd to the window. They
swarm out on to the line. They offer expensive drinks to the engineer
and his collaborators, which are accepted. They pass round the hat.

And then the sheriff approaches. He asks them to line up. They are
delighted. Another priceless joke. Ha! Ha! Ha! What a wit the man has,
to be sure! He suggests they should produce their valuables. Only too
delighted. Their stocks and shares, jewellery--everything, in fact,
they have with them.

                      THEY’RE “OF NO VALUE” TO YOU

Ha! Ha! Ha! They’re doubled up with laughter. They’re holding their
sides. What a funny man. What a very fun----Eh? He’s speaking again.

                    GET A MOVE ON IF YOU DON’T WANT
                            A DOSE OF LEAD!

Oh, of course, very subtle. It’s all part of the joke. He’s acting so
well, isn’t he?

What’s he doing? He’s putting all their valuables into a bag. He’s
taking them away. He’s a----He’s a _robber_! Oh, no! Oh, not that! But
he _is_. Old men are weeping over the loss of their life’s savings. Old
women----Oh, this isn’t funny at all!

A handsome young woman is speaking to him. She’s pleading, she’s on her


                      IF YOU TAKE THAT IT MEANS I
                       CAN’T GET MARRIED. WE WERE
                      GOING TO START HOUSEKEEPING
                     ON MY FIRST PREFERENCE STOCK.

She’s broken down. He’s laughing, the brute! He’s roaring with
laughter. So’s his fellow desperado.

Who’s this? What a funny fat man! Oh, it’s going to end happily after
all. He’s a policeman, I suppose, but his hat looks a bit queer. Oh, an
American hat--I see. He’s very angry with the brigands--the sheriffs, I
mean. He’s speaking.


                       THIS OUTFIT’S WORTH AT PAR


                      OF ALL THE STOCK, THE VALUE
                     OF WHICH IS HERE IN ISSUE, NOT
                        LESS THAN $48,000,000.”

Oh, it’s too bad! They’re laughing at him, too.


                    GET AWAY HOME, YOU FAT OLD GUY,
                      BACK TO THE STATES WHERE YOU

He’s very angry indeed. He’s turning away in high dudgeon. He makes a
last appeal.


                       BUT AIN’T YOU THE SHERIFF?


                     WHY, YES; BUT WHAT’S THAT GOT
                             TO DO WITH IT?


                        WELL, I MEAN TO SAY----


                     A MAN’S GOTTER LIVE, AIN’T HE,
                      EVEN IF HE IS A SHERIFF? AND
                      THEY’RE ONLY DURNED ENGLISH
                             GUYS, ANYWAY.


The big events of the world, the things so remote from most of us,
float serenely down the midstream of the day’s news, little heeded, I
confess, by me; but the flotsam of life is brought to one’s very feet
by the undercurrents and eddies of the Personal Column.

The news headings of one’s morning paper deal with subjects whole
worlds away from one’s own humble existence. The movements of Marshal
Foch; the Japanese Earthquake; the Recognition of Russia. Even (long
since) when the “Date of the Peace Celebrations” was announced, it was
a comparatively lifeless statement. To vitalise it, to humanise it, one
had to go to the neighbourhood of the Personal Column. Thus:--

 principals holding stocks of the best known brands of Champagne, etc.,
 etc.... Apply to ‘Benefactor.’”

Here at last we were in the heart of things. “Stocks of the best
known brands of champagne.” This unlocked the tongue, set speculation
working. What brands? What is your favourite brand? One reviewed a
pageant of sparkling names such as Ayala, Irroy, Heidsieck, Mumm,
Moet, Pommery, Roederer and the Widow, the dainty Clicquot.... And then
arose the question what to do on Peace Night--Jazz? Theatre? Opera? Or
should it be a quiet dinner (preferably at home) with Jones, who shared
one’s last Xmas in the Salient, and Smith the Silent, who never let one
down, and Robinson?... I seem to remember that I wrote to “Benefactor.”

Actually “Benefactor” was not, so to speak, a Member of the Personal
Column, though he dwelt very near to it. His announcement abutted
on a poignant appeal for a “SUITABLE PLACE TO STOP” from a young
minesweeping lieutenant who, having exhausted his patience in
ransacking London for a bed, had lit upon the discovery that a large
part of the hotel accommodation in this city was still in the clutches
of Sir Alfred Mond and his Merry Men; but it was published (wrongly,
of course) under the heading: “Business Opportunities.” What creature
would sink so low as to make a business opportunity out of the sale
of that golden drink, of those “best brands of Champagne”--and in the
Peace season, too? Perish the thought! To the Personal Column let
“Benefactor” be admitted.

The Personal Column is the quintessence of journalism, an
inexhaustible lucky-bag of strange communications and curious
announcements. Do you want a furnished caravan? Napoleon relics? Are
you a philatelist? Would you like a summer outing in Kew Gardens? Have
you a haunted house? These, after all, are things that touch one’s
daily life. Marshal Foch might go to the Sandwich Islands, and the
philatelist and I would wish him God-speed, and think of it no more;
but a haunted house (even if it be only haunted by mice) brings one
“up against it!” Are you bored with your life? The Personal Column is
a constant provocation to plunge into the whirlpool of the unknown.
Thus at random: An officer, aged 20, of cheerful artistic and musical
tastes, wishes to correspond with somebody with a view to “real
friendship.” There’s your chance. And what dark story, think you, is
concealed behind the following:

“The Black Cat is watching: green eyes. S?”

What tale of a temptation spurned lurks in:

“Scalo: I may be poor but I love truth far better than gold--Misk?”

Under the influence of what jealous pangs came this to be penned:

“Ralph--Who is BABS--Remember Olga?” (The following, in a happier vein,
tells presumably of a lovers’ quarrel made up:

“Whitewings. Darling you know really you are the only thing on earth I
love. Snowdrop.”)

The big news columns tell us what our intellectuals consider it good
for us to know, in the manner in which they consider it good for us
to be told. The Ruhr Occupation, denounced by Mr. Garvin, upheld by
Lord Rothermere--The Betrayal of the Country to Labour (in the Gospel
according to Mr. Churchill)--The League of Nations--Bootlegging and
Prohibition. But the Personal Column--ah!--the Personal Column gives us
a peep into the throbbing lives of our neighbours; we become partakers
in the bliss of Whitewings and Snowdrop, we share “S’s” apprehension of
the Black Cat, and our hearts go out to Misk and Olga--poor forgotten
Olga. Here are no world politics dished up by statesmen _manqué_,
or camouflaged by great journalists, no subjects to be discussed in
catchwords and manufactured phrases, but the myriad voices, from the
streets around, crying out at the impulse of the eternal verities.



Dined at the House last night. Ridiculous party given by “Bulgy”
Gobblespoon to celebrate his wife’s election: the first husband and
wife to sit together. To everyone’s dismay, it proved that she had only
scraped in by the Prohibitionist vote, to win which she had to pledge
herself never to allow any form of alcohol on any table at which she
sat. Very restrictive of her dining out, I should imagine, and utterly
destructive of her own dinners, which used to be rather fun. Impossible
to imagine the gloom of that gathering! Even old Bitters, who was
wheedled off the Front Bench to come down and say something amusing,
was quite unable to sparkle on Schweppes’ ginger ale. Hurried away
with little “Squeaky” Paddington (old Ponto’s new wife) to sample a
drink and a spot of foot shuffling at Sheep’s. Very stuffy and a lot of
ghastly people.

       *       *       *       *       *

Somebody, turning out their lumber-room, has presented a whole shoot
of pictures to the National Gallery; so I went to see who was looking
at them. What that place exists for I can never understand. Hardly
anyone there except a herd of frowsy old women, with paint-boxes, who
took jolly good care that nobody should come within a mile of anything
worth looking at. One rather jolly girl--but very severe. The rest
awful. A couple of anxious-looking people walking up and down, looking
intense and making speeches about Ghirlandajo or Cimabue to an audience
of yokels that doesn’t know either from cream cheese; and the remainder
of London seems to use the portico as a convenient meeting-place, and
never goes inside at all.

       *       *       *       *       *

Broke my rule against large parties last night in order to go and
stare at the women Members of Parliament, who allowed themselves to
be shown off by old Lady Paramount Nectar at Ambrosia House. Never
again. The rooms are big enough Heaven knows; but they seemed to have
invited everyone in London, who had a dress-suit. Lady Biltong, whose
figure needs to be put under restraint, was carried out fainting. Poor
Bottisford had two ribs stove in going up the staircase and didn’t know
it till he got home--kept murmuring that he must have got a touch of
pleurisy in the fog. And old Sir William Bylge trod on a lady’s train
and brought it clean away from the gathers (whatever those may be).
Needless to say, it proved to be a Royalty, but only a minor one.
Never saw so many foreign potentates and creatures gathered together in
my life before: the Duca di Corona Largo, Count Papryka da Chili, the
Prince and Princess of Asta Mañana, a woman from New York, the Gizzawd
of Abbyssinia, old Ramon Allones, looking younger than ever, and heaps
of others. Nothing to eat, of course, and sickly sherbetty stuff
masquerading as champagne. Hurried away to Stag’s with George Mossop to
wash the taste out of our mouths. If old Paramount Nectar had lived,
how different that supper would have been! As it is, if they took a
bottle out of his cellar now, and poured it on his tomb, I believe he’d
rise from the dead in very shame. Seems a bit too low to accept old
Lady P.’s hospitality, and then slang the food; but, after all, he was
my father’s cousin, and one feels it reflects on one’s own palate that
a relation by marriage should give inferior wine.

Country house parties nowadays are becoming absurd. In the old days
there was a lot to be said for country house visits. Even quite
recently they could be profitably undertaken. But now! _Nous avons
changê tout cela._ The advent of a Labour Government has put the
final kybosh on even the limited hospitality one enjoyed last year.
Three invitations this morning. One from Ditchwater Abbey--a place I
loathe; one from Hugo Hamstringer, the fellow that made a fortune
out of glue in the war, bought everything, lost the whole boiling in
multiple eggshops during the slump, and is now trying to make two ends
meet in that awful barrack of a place, Dundahead Hall, that he took
over from “Wacker” with a block of dud oil shares in payment for his
“calls” in Hamstringer, Limited, before the Company went bust--(nothing
would induce me to go near _him_); and one from dear little Phyllis
Biddiker, whose husband has lost everything in Southern Ireland, and
who is scraping along somehow by letting off apartments at the Weir
House (their place in Berkshire) to wealthy Colonials over here for the
British Empire Exhibition. None asked me for more than a week-end. All
say “Bring your own whisky if you want any.” Phyllis has had a present
of Australian Burgundy from one of her lodgers, and offers to share it.
I shall stay at home.

       *       *       *       *       *

Because my brother Henry chose to marry, why should his
almost-a-flapper daughter be motted on me to cart about London? A jade,
a sly boots and a minx, she makes my life a burden. She makes me give
her expensive meals, which I rather like; but I draw the line at being
a decoy duck. Last night, having bled me of my entire income at Mah
Jongg--a game I shall never hope to learn--she demanded to be taken
to an unintelligibly highbrow play, knowing, I suppose, that, after
the agony of listening to it, I should be as wax in her hands. Then
she led me by easy stages to Sheep’s Club, by pretending she wanted to
dance with me. There (by the merest accident, of course) we found young
Geoffrey Bannister, the one young man in London I was cautioned against
allowing her to meet--as if an uncle has any control whatever--and the
whole plot stood revealed. Before I could contort my features into a
frown, they were dancing in the middle of the room, where they seemed
to spend the remainder of the evening. I was allowed to give them
supper; they allowed me to take them away at two a.m. They were almost
too good to be true till we got home--driving back in Geoffrey’s car;
and then they suddenly insisted on starting off to “be in at the death”
at the Hunt Ball at Hillsbury, looking in at Bridget Hanover’s dance in
Brook Street on the way. Told them to go to the Hunt Ball at another
place beginning with the same initial, sent Geoffrey home, and packed
her off to bed. No more nieces for me.

       *       *       *       *       *

They call them “winter sports.” You cram yourself, with everybody you
dislike most, into the same train; stamp round the decks of the boat
in a blizzard, swearing and trying to keep warm; ruin your digestion
with the beastly food in the Train de Luxe; scrimmage with thirty
other people for the sleeping berth you all booked six months before;
turn out at the frontier to be browbeaten by hordes of _douaniers_;
and arrive in the early morning feeling and looking like the Ancient
Mariner, and discover that your rooms at the hotel have been swiped
by somebody else. You turn out the manager, who shrugs his shoulders,
and, after a fearful row, condescends to offer you sleeping room in
an attic, on terms for which you could buy a large mansion in most
countries. But your spirit is broken, and, rather than face the journey
back, you accept with resignation, and crawl into the hovel allotted
to you. You unpack your traps, and find that one of your skates is
missing, or else that the straps have disappeared from your _skis_.
But you are desperate now; you bind them on your feet with string,
and rush out into the snow. You are immediately knocked down by some
confounded beginner who has lost control and is flying down the hill
at the rate of knots. You stagger to your feet gasping, with snow down
your neck and both your _skis_ adrift. While you are readjusting them,
a bob-sleigh whizzes into you, sweeps you off your feet on top of its
crew, and obligingly overturns down an embankment. The occupants of
the sleigh are people you’ve been trying to avoid for years; and,
instead of cursing you for being in the way, they fall on your neck and
invite you to dinner. You are in such pain from broken arms and legs,
that you can’t think of an excuse, so you have to accept. After dinner
they rob you at bridge, and, as a crowning blow, the man of the party
borrows money from you. At last you break away, hurry back--and find
the interesting girl you were hoping to talk to, deeply engaged with
some wretched subaltern. And then the Lord Chancellor or some other
fearful bore insists on talking about home politics--the one thing
you were dying to forget. You mutter excuses and stumble off to turn
in--still nursing your wounds. Some idiot has left the window open, and
there are icicles hanging from the ceiling and a pile of snow in the
middle of your bed. Next day you repeat the performance, which goes on
for a fortnight at least. Winter “sports”! It must refer to the people,
and not to the pastimes.

[Illustration: “And obligingly overturns down an embankment.”]



(_In the manner of John Galsworthy._)


 SCENE: _The rectory at Swilberry. The rector, the Rev. Hardy
 Heavyweight, is going through the accounts of the village cricket club
 with Diggers, his sexton and factotum._

 DIGGERS (_adding up as he goes along_): And three and sixpence is four
 pound two and a penny ’a’penny, and five shillin’ is four seven one a
 half; and there’s that cheque from Mr. Selvidge.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_comparing each item in the bank book_): That’s not
 entered here.

 DIGGERS: Paid in later, per’aps. The cheque----

 HEAVYWEIGHT: Yes--it will be in the pocket of the book. (_He gropes
 for it._) There seem to be a lot of papers here. (_He pulls them
 out._) Why, good heavens!

 DIGGERS: What’s matter, Sir?

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_in a changed voice that belies his words_): Nothing,
 Diggers, nothing.... Here’s the cheque (_he holds it up_).... Who had
 charge of this book?

 DIGGERS (_mildly surprised_): Miss Agatha, Sir.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_mechanically--he is thinking hard of something else_):
 You’ve never seemed to get accustomed to calling her Mrs. Foxglove,

 DIGGERS (_heartily_): No, Sir, that I ’aven’t. An’ when them ’orrible
 divorce proceedings is finished an’ she’s quit o’ that thing of a
 ’usband, she _will_ be Miss Agatha again, to all intents an’ purposes.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_pained_): I think we mustn’t talk about that, Diggers.
 The club accounts are all right?

 DIGGERS (_disappointed_): Yes, Sir.

 HEAVYWEIGHT: Thank you for helping me. Would you ask Mrs. Foxglove to

 DIGGERS: Miss Agatha, Sir? Certainly. (_He goes. The rector leans
 back in his chair, with his face drawn with anxiety. He toys with the
 papers he has abstracted from the pocket of the bank book. He shakes
 his head sadly as he reads. Suddenly Agatha Foxglove, a charming and
 vital creature, bursts in on him._)

 AGATHA: Hello, papa--what’s up?

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_looking away from her_): Agatha, dear, these
 letters--(_he holds them up_)--these letters from a man called Jim,
 they’re yours, are they?

 AGATHA (_taken aback_): Ye--yes. I....

 HEAVYWEIGHT: (_appealingly_): I’m sure there’s an explanation, dear.
 Won’t you tell me?

 AGATHA (_laughing uneasily_): Well, er, I suppose ... where did you
 find them? (_He silently points to the book._) I don’t know. I suppose
 I must have put them there accidentally, from my table.... It comes of
 keeping those horrible accounts for you.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_sadly_): But the _contents_, Agatha, dear.

 AGATHA (_sharply_): You’ve read them?

 HEAVYWEIGHT: I was unable to help reading them. They were lying open
 among the cheques. (_Tenderly_): Won’t you explain?

 AGATHA (_with the modern mixture of frankness and impatience_): Of
 course, there’s an explanation, papa. You surely don’t suppose that,
 with a drunken imbecile for a husband, I could do entirely without
 sympathy and affection?

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_apprehensively_): Then--you were--unfaithful?

 AGATHA (_swiftly_): But we’re going to be married, as soon as the
 decree is made absolute.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_pitifully_): I’m sure, my dear, that that was your
 intention; but, as a clergyman----

 AGATHA (_anxious_): You won’t tell anyone----?

 HEAVYWEIGHT: My child, can’t you see? can’t you feel for me? As a
 clergyman I believe--I am bound to believe--that marriage is an
 irrevocable tie. Divorce on proper grounds I have to recognise, as a
 servant of the State; but when I see the procedure abused by those who
 have forfeited their right to invoke it, how can I, as a conscientious
 minister of God--how can I stand aside because the culprit is my own
 adopted daughter and ward? I am morally bound to inform the King’s

 AGATHA: But father--father. Oh, for God’s sake--(_she becomes

 HEAVYWEIGHT: Ah, my child, my child. Morality demands--(_His voice
 breaks. There is a terrible pause. He goes to the bookshelf._)

 AGATHA (_agonised_): Oh--what are you doing?

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_in a dead, mirthless voice_): Looking out my train to

                           THE CURTAIN FALLS.


 SCENE: _The Divorce Court._

 MR. WHASSIT (_Agatha’s Counsel_):--a temptation which, please God, I
 shall never encounter myself. And further----

 THE JUDGE (_testily_): Mr. Whassit, is it necessary to prolong this?

 MR. WHASSIT (_firmly_): My Lord, I have a duty to my client, and----

 THE JUDGE: Yes, yes, I know, Mr. Whassit. Your conduct of the case has
 been very proper; and, of course, if you wish to proceed, I shall say
 no more. But you’ve not traversed a single fact----

 MR. WHASSIT (_sitting down at last_): I will leave the matter in your
 Lordship’s hands.

 THE JUDGE: That is well.... This is an application to make absolute
 a decree nisi pronounced in October last. The King’s Proctor has
 intervened, alleging misconduct on the part of petitioner, such as
 would have invalidated her plea; and he has amply and abundantly
 proved his case. The application therefore fails, and the petitioner
 will pay the costs of the intervention.

 But that is not all. In the course of the proceedings, which were
 defended, the cross-examination of the petitioner was directed towards
 establishing these very adulteries, which have now been proved. She
 denied them with vehemence, and went so far as to comment, from the
 witness-box, upon the propriety of counsel raising issues of the
 kind. Now this is a serious matter. It is one thing to make what I
 might call a formal denial of adultery, in an undefended case, though
 technically it might be perjury, and I myself should view even that
 with gravity; it is quite another thing in a defended case, where
 the matter has definitely been put in issue, to make a denial of
 the kind; and I cannot see how the situation differs from that of a
 plaintiff who comes before the court seeking relief, let us say, on a
 Bill of Exchange, and falsely denies an allegation of fraud, or some
 other invalidating factor. In both cases there may result a serious
 miscarriage of justice, which at least cannot be so in an undefended
 divorce suit, where it is to be imagined that the respondent is
 indifferent to the consequences.

 (_Addressing Agatha at the solicitor’s table_): It has been urged
 most eloquently by your counsel that you had much to endure, and many
 temptations to the course upon which you ultimately embarked with so
 much recklessness. That may be so; or, again, it may not. It might be
 taken into account by another court, as a mitigating circumstance.
 But the Law, which I am here to administer, gives me, as I see it, no
 choice. Public morality must be vindicated; and a flagrant perjury of
 a kind that has become all too prevalent of late, is more than I can
 pass unchallenged. The papers in this case will therefore be forwarded
 to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

 AGATHA (_hysterically_): My Lord. We--I--Oh God----

 THE USHER (_sternly_): Silence.

 DIGGERS (_patting her hand_): There, there, Miss Agatha. Don’t take on.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_on the other side_): My dear--don’t let’s have a scene.

 HER SOLICITOR (_kindly_): Hush! You mustn’t interrupt his Lordship,
 you know.

 AGATHA (_wildly_): But if I don’t, they’ll prosecute me!

 THE USHER (_to the Serjeant of Police_): Get ’er solicitor to take ’er
 quietly outside. (_The Serjeant complies._)

 DIGGERS (_following and moaning as he goes_): Why did you go an’ do
 it, Mr. ’Eavyweight, Sir? (_Wringing his hands more than ever_): Oh,
 Miss Agatha, Miss Agatha.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_trying hard to be brave_): Hush, Diggers, be a man. Bear
 up. Courage.

 DIGGERS (_bursting into tears_): Oh, Mr. ’Eavyweight, Sir, ’ow could

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_who has only done his duty_): You don’t understand, my
 poor fellow.... Morality demands----(_His voice breaks. They vanish
 in the wake of the Serjeant._)

 THE REGISTRAR (_calling the next case_): Boggs versus Boggs and Boggs,
 Boggs intervening. (_He hands up a bundle of papers to the judge._)

 A COUNSEL (_rising_): This is an application for administration _de
 bonis non_, my Lord. I understand----

                           THE CURTAIN FALLS.


 SCENE: _A prison. Agatha in her cell. The doors are flung open and the
 visiting justices troop in, accompanied by the Governor of the prison,
 the doctor, the chaplain, warders, and our old friend Diggers, the

 FIRST VISITING JUSTICE: Well, what’s this one?

 THE GOVERNOR (_curtly_): Perjury. Five years’ penal servitude. Last

 THE WOMAN SUPERINTENDENT: Sulky little fiend. Won’t speak; and throws
 her food at the warders.

 SECOND VISITING JUSTICE (_addressing Agatha_): Come, come, my girl,
 you’re doing yourself no good by this kind of thing. (_Addressing the
 Governor_): Can’t your doctor do anything--or the chaplain?

 THE DOCTOR (_in a dry staccato voice_): She’s perfectly healthy--not
 losing weight--organs in good condition. I can’t do more than keep her

 FIRST JUSTICE: Well, the chaplain, then?

 THE CHAPLAIN: She’s very hard and unrepentant.

 SECOND JUSTICE: Can’t you make her repent?

 THE CHAPLAIN (_decidedly_): No. Nor can anyone else.

 BOTH JUSTICES (_uneasily_): I see. Yes. (_Addressing the Governor_):
 Can nothing be done?

 THE GOVERNOR: Nothing more. She’s under constant supervision....
 There’s a visitor for her with our party; where is he?

 DIGGERS (_coming forward_): Here, Sir?

 THE GOVERNOR: See if you can persuade her to speak to you.

 DIGGERS (_approaching her timidly_): Miss Agatha, Miss Agatha ...
 won’t you speak to me, old Diggers? (_She pays no attention._) Miss
 Agatha, I’ve brought you some cowslips from the old glebe be’ind the
 church. (_Anxiously, to the Governor_): May she ’ave them, Sir?

 THE GOVERNOR (_blowing his nose_): Of course. Of course. (_Diggers
 produces a sorry mess of yellow blossoms._)

 DIGGERS: They’re faded, but they’re from the old ’ome.... Won’t you
 ’ave them, Miss? (_She makes no sign. One of the justices breaks

 THE WOMAN SUPERINTENDENT: Now, dearie, take the nice flowers. (_But
 Agatha pays no attention._)

 THE SECOND JUSTICE: Dear, dear, how sad. (_Making a final effort_): My
 poor young woman, you mustn’t take it so to heart. Your sentence, with
 good conduct remission, which I presume you mean to earn--though you
 won’t do so by throwing good food about--your sentence is really quite
 trivial. (_She suddenly turns her eyes on him, with a baleful glare in
 them. He stumbles over his words and dries up_): Yes, er, exactly.

 THE FIRST JUSTICE (_who is bored_): Well, let’s be getting on. (_They
 troop out._) It’s a sad case; but of course, Morality--(_his voice
 dies away_.)

 AGATHA (_when they have gone_): Stupid, sentimental humbugs!
 (_Viciously_): Slugs, worms, uncomprehending BEASTS! (_In impotent
 fury she whirls round the cell like a dervish, finally throwing
 herself panting on her mattress._) Morality, indeed! (_She bites a
 large piece out of the floor._)

                           THE CURTAIN FALLS.


 SCENE: _The streets of London (many years later). Heavyweight and
 Diggers walk slowly along, searching the faces of the passers-by.
 Suddenly Heavyweight stops in front of a thin, emaciated woman._

 HEAVYWEIGHT: God! It’s you, Agatha, at last.... Have you come to this?

 AGATHA (_unsteadily_): Don’t interfere with me. I’m looking after
 myself. What I do is my affair.

 DIGGERS (_incoherently_): Oh, Miss Agatha, Miss Agatha. (_He strokes
 her hand._)

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_tenderly_): My dear. You’re worn out, thin, hungry.
 Wait. We’ll buy some food and wine and take you back. Come, Diggers.
 (_They enter a shop. She leans against a lamp-post. A detective
 appears suddenly beside her._)

 THE DETECTIVE (_addressing her sharply_): Solicitin’, you was.... You
 come along o’ me.

 AGATHA (_furiously_): I won’t, I won’t! It’s a lie.

 THE DETECTIVE: Now, then, be civil.... Ticket o’ leave, ain’t you?

 AGATHA: Oh, what’s that to do with you? I’ve served my time. You’ve no
 further claim on me.

 THE DETECTIVE (_grimly_): ’Aven’t we? You just come along. (_He takes
 her arm. Maddened, she deals him a vicious backhander in the mouth and
 escapes from his grasp, fleeing along the pavement._) That won’t do
 you no good, my girl. (_He starts in pursuit. Heavyweight reappears,
 followed by the faithful Diggers._)

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_anxiously_): Agatha, Agatha.... My God! (_Realising what
 has happened, he rushes in pursuit._)

 DIGGERS: Oh, Miss Agatha, Miss Agatha. (_He walks unsteadily after
 them, wringing his hands. There is a hoarse shout, off, then a
 horrible crash and a sharp, sickening scream. The detective and
 Heavyweight reappear, carrying a lifeless form._)

 DIGGERS (_in an agony_): What’s happened? Oh, what’s happened to Miss

 THE DETECTIVE (_huskily_): Run over. (_Addressing Heavyweight_): Not
 my fault, Sir. I couldn’t let ’er ’op it like that.

 HEAVYWEIGHT (_brokenly_): My poor fellow, I know. You only did your
 duty.... The social code must be upheld. Morality demands----(_His
 voice breaks for the last time, and the curtain descends on his

                          THE END OF THE PLAY.


(_An endless Tone-Drama in the Shavian manner._)

 _Through the skylight of the subterranean dwelling of_ COLONEL LAZYBOY
 (R.A.S.C., T.D.), _in the Chiltern Hills, an apparently endless
 procession of clouds may be seen racing across a Mediterranean-blue
 sky, a sure sign that rain will fall later. We may omit a number
 of stage directions about the history of the_ LAZYBOY _family, the
 detailed furnishing of the cavern, the mental processes of the_
 COLONEL _himself, and a stupendous preface on “Midwifery and the
 Modern Play”--it being sufficient to state that, although a spacious
 mansion stands in the grounds hard by, it is entirely given over to
 the servants, the family preferring to share the cave life of the_
 COLONEL, _who, since he commanded a Chinese Labour Battalion during
 the second battle of the Somme, has been quite unable to reaccustom
 himself to living in a house, preferring, as he says, the harder and
 more natural life of the dug-out._

 _The_ COLONEL, MRS. LAZYBOY (_a faded, bored woman_), MERCIA, _their
 daughter, and_ HARMODIUS HASHOVIT, _her husband, are at their morning
 wrangle. In the middle of the row_, NURSE ALLSOPP _hurries in. Being_
 MERCIA’S _old nurse she is virtually mistress (and master) of the

 MRS. LAZYBOY: Oh, dear! What is it now, Nursey?

 NURSE: Oh, Im sure I beg pardon, Maam, but heres Miss Mercias young
 man--(_suddenly observing_ HASHOVIT)--Oh, Im sure I beg pardon, sir, I
 didn’t see you. I meant to say----

 HASHOVIT (_heavily_): You meant that popinjay Eustace Brill. You
 needn’t make a mystery about it, Nurse. Everyone knows hes my wifes
 young man.

 NURSE (_shocked_): Oh, that Im sure they dont, sir.

 THE COLONEL (_pained_): Harmodius, my dear fellow, er----Allsopp, tell
 Mr. Brill were not at home.

 MERCIA (_bouncing up_): Certainly not! Send Youstee away because
 Harmys jealous. Ill go and let him in myself.

 HASHOVIT (_sneering_): So that you can kiss him in the passage without
 anyone seeing you----

 MERCIA (_proudly_): Ill kiss him before you all. (_A terrific crash
 and splintering of glass heralds the arrival of_ EUSTACE _by the
 skylight. He lands on the table, which collapses under him; recovers
 his feet, and smiles genially around._)

[Illustration: “The influence of that man Shaw.”]

 MERCIA (_crooning_): Yousteeee!

 THE COLONEL (_testily_): Confound it all, Brill, I wish you wouldn’t
 tear the place to pieces like that.... And you’ve shot a great fid of
 glass into my eye. Damn the thing. (_He gropes, and finally extracts
 it._) There, now itll bleed for the rest of the day!

 EUSTACE (_surprised_): I thought you prided yourself on keeping up
 active service conditions.


 EUSTACE: Then why make all this fuss about a trifling wound? You ought
 to be grateful. It adds a touch of reality to your life.

 THE COLONEL: Id rather you left me to supply the reality myself,
 Brill. However--(MERCIA, _true to her threat, embraces_ EUSTACE _with
 fervour_).... Now really, Mercia, upon my soul.... (_He clicks his
 tongue with vexation._)

 EUSTACE (_taken aback_): Mercia, dear. I know you mean it awfully
 nicely. But really, in public----

 HASHOVIT (_glowering_): You see--you degrade yourself to no purpose.

 THE COLONEL (_warmly_): Degrade? Nonsense!... I, of course, dont mean
 to imply----

 HASHOVIT: But damn it all, Colonel----

 MERCIA (_screaming_): Dont shout, Harmodius.

 _The wrangle proceeds on the familiar Shavian lines, the party being
 reinforced for no apparent reason by the arrival of_ DAN BIGBY, _an
 old sea-captain, and_ MICHAEL JOHN O’SULLIVAN.

 EUSTACE (_at long last_): Look here, Im getting sick of this. Its all
 too much like a play by Bernard Shaw.

 HASHOVIT (_growling_): Everyone is at heart a Shavian.

 THE COLONEL (_hastily_): No, really, Harmodius.... O’Sullivan, Brill,
 we cant have that----

 EUSTACE: The truth about Shaw----      }
 HASHOVIT: My idea of Shaw----          }
 MICHAEL JOHN: Sure, if you come        }
 to talk about Shaw----                 }       (_Spoken_
                                        }    _together._)
 MRS. LAZYBOY: Hes quite right. The     }
 influence of that man Shaw----         }
 CAPTAIN DAN: Who was Shaw, anyway?     }

 THE COLONEL (_in his parade voice_): Silence. Youre on parade. Behave

 CAPTAIN DAN: Avast there. Belay.

 MERCIA (_stamping_): I wont belay. I object----

 EUSTACE: But whats this to do with Shaw? And whats the use of
 objecting when cosmic forces grip people by the throat? Ive no wish
 whatever to do anything thats not A1 at Lloyds and all that. But----

 HASHOVIT: Cosmic fiddlesticks. Its lust, Brill, and you know it. You
 and Mercia want to misconduct yourselves, and its no good your trying
 to draw a red herring of formulas and psycho-analytic bosh across the
 track. It wont wash. In my young days----

 MERCIA (_icily_): I dont think were greatly interested in your young
 days, Harmodius.

 HASHOVIT: Be quiet, Mercia. I ~will~ speak my mind, so youd
 better make up your minds to listen. In my young days if a man and a
 girl wanted to behave improperly they just did so and said no more
 about it. But youve no decency. Youre not content with forbidden
 fruit, you go and flaunt your liaison in the husband’s face, and make
 a parade of it before all his and your friends. I wonder you dont
 advertise it in the papers. Upon my soul, its what were coming to----

 EUSTACE: But----

 HASHOVIT (_yelling_): Dont you interrupt me, sir. I dont care a
 swizzle stick about your stealing my wifes affections. As a matter
 of fact, she hasnt got any, as youll jolly soon discover when the
 noveltys worn off----

 MERCIA: Oh, Harmy. (_She weeps._)

 HASHOVIT: I dont care if you take her to Brighton or Nijni
 Novgorod--if youre such a blasted fool as to spend so much money on
 her. I dont care if you sit all day squeezing her hand, looking into
 her eyes till you both squint, pawing her about, and talking that
 horrible sickly twaddle I couldn’t help overhearing last night (_he
 shudders at the recollection_).... But--(_rising to his feet_)--but I
 will not have all your friends and my friends whispering and talking
 about me as though I were something to be pitied. (_His voice rising
 to a scream._) If you want to know, I think Im just about the damn
 luckiest fellow alive to have unloaded this viperish, discontented,
 addle-headed, empty-hearted baggage on the most crass and pitiable
 fool Ive ever met--and if you want to say any more--(_his poor,
 overstrained voice cracks and dies away in his throat with a mouse’s
 squeak; whereat he expresses his feelings by tearing the cushions to
 pieces and scattering the bits on the floor_.)

 THE COLONEL: Come, come, my dear fellow--pull yourself together.

 MERCIA (_crisply_): What I like about Harmodius is his obvious

 HASHOVIT (_his eyes bulging; he speaks in a hoarse whisper_): Shut up,
 you she-porcupine, you hateful female skunk, you--(_his vocal chords
 snap and his voice goes for ever_.)

 MERCIA: His manners are so perfect, too: and hes so brave.... Cry-baby!

 HASHOVIT (_inarticulately_): o o o o o o o b b--(_or some similar
 noise. Blood gushes from his mouth._)

 NURSE ALLSOPP: There, my poddle-poodkins, come with nursey-wursey.
 (_Addressing the others sharply_): And if you want any lunch go and
 wash your hands, all of you. (_She leads HARMODIUS out by the hand.
 The others, except EUSTACE and MERCIA, follow her meekly_.)

 EUSTACE (_uneasily_): You expect me to admire all that, I suppose.

 MERCIA (_fixing him with vampire eyes_): I expect you to admire
 nothing except me.

 EUSTACE: Admire you. I loathe you. I struggle to escape from you.
 Youre like some awful drug, the same odious intoxication, the same
 irresistible fascination, and the same deadly remorse when its all
 over. You steal away my senses, and make me a slave.

 MERCIA: I make you a priest, not a slave.

 EUSTACE: No, its slavery.

 MERCIA: Priesthood. High Priesthood to the divine desire in all of us.

 EUSTACE (_retreating_): Im afraid of that.

 MERCIA (_snaring him with her eyes_): Afraid! Afraid of worshipping

 EUSTACE: Yes. Ive no vocation.

 MERCIA (_dangerously_): Does that mean youve no inclination?

 EUSTACE: No. It means what it says.... You talk about priesthood of
 love. You seem to think no vocation is necessary, though I suppose
 youd admit it in the case of a priest of Buddhism. Religion is a
 dedication of the spirit; Love, a dedication of the heart. You cant
 dedicate your spirit till its broken; nor can you your heart; and
 hearts dont break as easily as crockery, let me tell you. (_Espying
 MICHAEL JOHN in the passage_): O’Sullivan.

 MICHAEL JOHN (_entering and curling himself up in the coal-scuttle_):

 EUSTACE: Tell her how long a mans heart must beat against that of a
 woman before it will break.

 MICHAEL JOHN: Four years and ninety minutes exactly. On the tick of
 the ninetieth minute the heart cracks, and the imprisoned soul passes
 from its bondage into the numbing bliss of everlasting heartache----

 CAPTAIN DAN (_entering unobserved and taking up the tale_): And in
 the fifth year he shall be exalted above human understanding.... In
 the dog watches and under the dog stars Ive looked upon the ways of
 mankind, and held my hand from destroying them in sheer----


 CAPTAIN DAN: Pity. No! Indifference.

 MERCIA (_fixing him with her eyes_): Danny, I make you mine. The
 priesthood of love----

 CAPTAIN DAN (_uneasily_): Avast there.

 MERCIA (_triumphantly_): There’s no avasting where Ill take you.
 (_Breaking into a chant_)

    I go by the mountains and rivers,
    I go by the seashore and fell.

 EUSTACE (_satirically_):

    While the thankless old mariner shivers


    And strives to break loose from her spell.

 MERCIA (_her voice rising to prophetic fervour_):

    But the child, still unborn, of my yearning,
    Shall go in the van as our guide,

 CAPTAIN DAN (_chuckling feebly_):

    Down the pathway of shame to the burning,

 MERCIA (_laughing horribly_):

    When Im Daniel the Mariners Bride.

 (_She sweeps him into her arms and carries him away shouting._)

 MERCIA (_disappearing_): Io. Io. Dionysos!

 CAPTAIN DAN (_in a high falsetto_): Let the skies rain joy!

 EUSTACE (_passionately_): How can you, Mercia, how can you? (_He is
 seized by uncontrollable weeping._) Im crying, O’Sullivan----

 MICHAEL JOHN: Im wantin a cry meself. (_He bursts into tears._)

 MERCIA_’s voice_ (_a long way off_): But you must let me come back and
 look after Harmodius’s clothes----

  _Many years elapse. They are still talking._

 MERCIA (_temporizing_): After all, if I leave Harmodius for Eustace,
 or Eustace for Danny----

 THE COLONEL (_who is deaf by now_): Whats that?

 MRS. LAZYBOY (_who is nearly as deaf and very feeble_): Shes talking
 about the childrens holidays.


  _A long time passes by._

 MR. FUZZLEWHITT (MERCIAS _great grandson_): After all, if she had
 deserted Harmodius Hashovit----

 MRS. FUZZLEWHITT (_who is thoroughly tired of the story_): Yes, Rejjy,
 I know....

  _Centuries roll by._

 MONSIEUR CHOSE: Bernard Shaw says in his play about Mercia and
 Harmodius Hashovit that if Mrs. Lazyboy----

  _Æons pass._

 SOMEBODY: Theres a storm coming. Its going to cleanse the world. (_The
 sky darkens._)

 SOMEBODY ELSE: It makes no difference. The human brain will survive.

 A THIRD PERSON: The human antheap will continue to surge with
 meaningless movement.

 A FOURTH: The human voice will continue to cry from nothing to nothing.

 A FIFTH: The human hand will continue to write, and posterity will
 bury the writings.

 A SIXTH: And Shaw alone shall be assured of immortality.

 _The storm breaks with prodigious force. Eternity arrives._

 A SHINING ONE: Yes, the immortals are all in their places. Dante and
 Cervantes had a squabble last night, but theyve made it up.


 THE SHINING ONE: Shakespeare has been giving trouble, too. Hes jealous
 of Shaw.

 THE ETERNAL (_apprehensively_): Im not at all easy in my own mind
 about Shaw.

  _Eternity passes._

 MR. SHAW (_on the steps of the eternal throne_): Im really very sorry.
 Its no wish of mine, you know.

 THE ETERNAL (_apologetically, and handing over the crown and sceptre
 of Heaven_): Not at all. Its a pleasure to make this trifling
 acknowledgment of your genius.



(_A Fantasy in the manner of J. M. Barrie._)


The pink and white drawing-room of Emily Jane’s house--or rather of
the house of Emily Jane’s father, Mister Balbus, is so caressingly
harmonious to the eye, so surpassingly restful, so eminently a place
of happy people, that one knows instinctively it will be visited by a
tragedy. It is just a question of time, and this gentle atmosphere will
find itself charged with the electricity of conflicting human emotions;
dear women’s hearts will break and be laid aside in pot-pourri jars;
strong sentimental men will walk their sweet, melancholy way; and we
shall all go home the cleaner, mentally, for a refreshing bath of
tears. Emily Jane is not yet in the drawing-room. The appropriate
atmosphere has first to be created, so that we may catch our breath
just a little as Miss Compton or Miss Celli trips on. Emily Jane is
really a very ordinary kind of girl, plump, pleasant-looking, and
neither very clever nor specially athletic. But to her mother she is
still a tiny toddling mite in a knitted woollen coat with pink ribbons,
and to Daddy, Mister Balbus, she is a resplendent goddess.

At last, after a preliminary conversation about stamp-collecting, or
some other harmless hobby, between McVittie and Price, two old dullards
introduced to fill in the few awkward minutes while the latecomers are
clambering into their stalls, Mister Balbus comes into the room. There
is nothing remarkable about Mister Balbus. In the eyes of his wife he
is an irresistibly lovable plexus of male weaknesses; in the eyes of
Emily Jane he is closely related to the Almighty. Actually he is nobody
in particular, an architect of sorts; but we are to see him through
their eyes, and so he appears in the play as a genial and gigantic
mixture of a demigod and a buffoon. Mr. Aynesworth is appropriately
selected to represent him.

“Good morning,” he says.

“Good morning,” reply McVittie and Price, delighted that any of the
principal characters should condescend to speak to them.

“Where’s our little Emily Jane?” he asks, tenderly.

“Here, Daddy,” replies a sweet voice.

“Where, my lovely one?”

“In the chimney, Daddy”; and the dear child clambers down and rushes
into his arms without even waiting to brush off the soot. McVittie and
Price make clucking noises of approval and delight. This is typical of
what goes on in the Balbus household every day. How can it be possible
that anything except joy should be in store for them? But ah----

 MR. BALBUS: Where is Mammy, my treasure?

 EMILY JANE: Waiting for Daddy darling, in his study.

 MR. BALBUS: Will my little heart ask her to come?

Emily Jane trips away so happily and obediently. “Well, Price,” says
Mr. Balbus, “I must go and see how they’re getting on with the wall.”

 PRICE: Haven’t you finished it yet?

 MR. BALBUS: I don’t think I ever shall. Balbus was building a wall in
 the time of the Roman Empire; and I suppose he’ll go on for the rest
 of time.

 MCVITTIE: Which wall is it this time, Balbus?

 MR. BALBUS: The Great Wall of China. They’ve retained me to go and
 inspect it. I leave to-morrow.

Mrs. Balbus hurries in and embraces her husband shamelessly. Emily Jane
follows and embraces them both. McVittie and Price, not to be outdone,
embrace each other in the corner.

“You’re going to China, my husband?” asks Mrs. Balbus, tenderly.

“Yes, wife.”

“I’ll go with you.”

 EMILY JANE: And I, Daddy.

 MCVITTIE & PRICE: We will come too, old friend.

Mr. Balbus beams at them through his tears. The audience beam at each
other through theirs.


They have been wrecked.

They are all on a deserted island which, from the stunted shrubs
and bleak outlook, is probably in the neighbourhood of Tristan da
Cunha. McVittie and Price are pretending to be tremendously brave and
contented over a meal of roasted berries.

“These are really delicious,” says McVittie.

“Capital,” says Price. “Have some more.”

“No thanks. My doctor, you know. He won’t let me enjoy myself.”

“A glass of this delicious rock-water, then. Most stimulating.”

“No, my dear fellow. I’ve done magnificently. Not another sup.”

But it is really only pretend. The brave fellows are concealing their
anxiety for fear of alarming Emily Jane and her mother who are resting
in the bivouac near by. Actually they are full of apprehension.

“Price,” says McVittie at last, leaning forward mysteriously.

“McVittie?” He leans forward too; their long noses almost touch.

“I’m uneasy.” A hoarse whisper.

“So am I. Very.” A squeak of terror.

“I’ve found out the name of this island, Price.”


McVittie sinks his voice even deeper.

“It’s called--Umborroweeboo.”

“Gracious. What ever does that mean?”

“It means....” His voice becomes blood-curdling in its intensity. “It
means The-Island-that-wants-to-be-let-alone. It’s a sinister spot,
Price. They say....”

Darkness begins to close in rapidly. Price shivers.

“What do they say?”

“They say it can vanish beneath the sea and reappear in another place,
after remaining submerged for years.”

“Good heavens.” Price is very uneasy. Emily Jane appears from the
bivouac and prostrates herself on the ground.

“I love you, dear little island,” she murmurs, kissing the shore. “I
would like to be married to a beautiful island like you.”

“I shall come to claim that promise one day,” says a deep, rich voice
from nowhere.

 EMILY JANE: Did anyone speak?

 MCVITTIE: No one. I heard nothing.

 PRICE: I thought--why, what’s that?

 MR. BALBUS (_emerging from a hollow tree_): What’s what?

 PRICE: That. There. Look.


 PRICE: There. Look. Now it’s _there_. Quick. It’s moved again. (_A
 strain of unearthly music._)

 EVERYBODY: Hark. What’s that? (_Mrs. Balbus crawls out of the bivouac
 on her hands and knees._)

 MRS. BALBUS (_fondly_): John, you’ve left off your comforter.... Why
 are you all in a ring? You’ll have the fairies out if you stand in a

 MCVITTIE (_uneasily_): In a ring? I didn’t notice. I think----(_He
 turns to move away but finds himself rooted to the ground._) Well,
 this is most extraordinary.

 EMILY JANE: What is extraordinary, dear Mr. McVittie?

 MCVITTIE: I can’t move hand or foot.

 MR. BALBUS: Good Lord. Nor can I.

 PRICE: Nor I.

 EMILY JANE: I can a little. It’s getting very difficult. Now _I_ can’t
 either. (_The strain of music is heard again._)

 MRS. BALBUS: Ugh! The horrid thing’s got hold of _me_ now. I can’t
 move either. John, make them stop it at once.

 MR. BALBUS (_feebly_): How can I, my dear? I’m quite powerless.

 EMILY JANE (_illusion suddenly stripped from her eyes--for that is
 what happens under the spell of this magic island_): Oh, Daddy, I
 thought there was nothing you couldn’t do. And now, now--you’re just
 like anybody else.

 MRS. BALBUS (_critically_): You certainly look strange, John; not at
 all your usual self.

 MR. BALBUS (_for the first time seeing his wife and daughter as they
 really are_): Please be quiet both of you and don’t talk about things
 you don’t understand. McVittie, what are we to do?

 MCVITTIE (_philosophically_): Wait for the island to disappear, I
 suppose. (_The strain of music sounds once more._)

 PRICE (_excitedly_): There it is moving about again. The thing I saw

 EMILY JANE: It’s like a tiny, tiny man.

 MR. BALBUS: I don’t fancy this at all.

 PRICE: It’s coming nearer. (_An elvish figure appears dancing towards
 them. It is puffing a stupendous pipe._)

 MR. BALBUS (_trying to be severe and failing signally_): Who are you,

 THE FIGURE (_dancing more than ever_): Macconachie.

 EMILY JANE: What do you mean by trespassing on our island?

 MACCONACHIE: I live here. It’s my home. You are the trespassers. But
 you’re very welcome. (_With goblin glee._) I’ve been waiting for you,
 for a long time.

 MR. BALBUS: Waiting for us. Nonsense. You don’t know who we are, even.

 MACCONACHIE: Oh yes I do. I’ve been watching you for a long time.
 Especially Emily Jane. I want Emily Jane.

 MRS. BALBUS: Want Emily Jane? The idea of such a thing! Go away, Sir,
 at once.

 MACCONACHIE: You think you’re her mother, I suppose? (_Addressing
 Balbus_) And you believe yourself to be her father?

 MR. BALBUS (_with dignity_): I certainly do.

 MACCONACHIE: But you’re not, you’re not. She’s mine.

 MRS. BALBUS (_indignantly_): Sir! John, don’t listen to a word he says.

 MACCONACHIE: You’re all mine. I want you all.

 MCVITTIE (_hoarsely_): Want us all? What for, may I ask?

 MACCONACHIE: To draw tears from simple hearts. You’ll see.

But they don’t understand at all, and look blankly at one another, as
he flits about like a will o’ the wisp still puffing at his gigantic


The drawing-room again. They are all, except Emily Jane, sitting there
in disconsolate melancholy.

 MR. BALBUS (_with a deep sigh_): It’s for the best of course.... But I
 miss her sadly.

 MCVITTIE & PRICE: It’s terrible, terrible. (_They sigh_).

 MRS. BALBUS: I always felt there was something unearthly about the
 child. (_She sighs very deeply._)

There is a long pause. They are thinking of their terrible experience
when Macconachie flitted over their heads like a sprite, and the solid
island sank beneath their feet, and they were left clinging to a raft.

“When the island began to submerge”--begins Mr. Balbus, and then he
checks himself with a sob.

 MCVITTIE (_for the hundredth time_): I could have sworn I had her in
 my arms on the raft. (_His voice breaks._)

 PRICE: You didn’t hear the Voice--

 MRS. BALBUS: Voice--what voice?

 PRICE: Something about claiming a promise. And she gave a little cry
 of wonder. I heard it. (_He walks gloomily over to the window._)

 MR. BALBUS (_suddenly enlightened_): That’s what Macconachie meant,
 when he said “to draw tears from simple hearts.” I begin to

 PRICE (_at the window_): How very curious.

 MRS. BALBUS: My curtains? They are certainly not.

 PRICE (_in choking tones_): Look at the lake--it’s drying up, or

They all rush to the window. An amazing thing is in progress. The
bottom of the lake seems to be rising. Stunted shrubs are pushing
themselves above the water.

“My gracious powers, it’s the island,” cries Mr. Balbus.

 PRICE (_quoting McVittie’s long-forgotten remark_): They say it can
 vanish beneath the sea, and reappear in another place after remaining
 submerged for years.

 MCVITTIE: There’s somebody moving on it. Look. Among the trees.

 MR. BALBUS: It’s Macconachie. (_He hails the island. Macconachie comes
 ashore, and flits up to the house_.)

 MR. BALBUS (_in a trembling voice_): Where is she, Sir? Tell us where
 she is?

 MACCONACHIE: Emily Jane? She’s touring in America. Making a fortune.

 MR. BALBUS: But will she come back, Sir?

 MACCONACHIE: If you need her sufficiently, and wish for her often
 enough, and believe with strength, she will assuredly come back.

 MR. BALBUS: But why should she have been taken from us, Sir? We loved
 her, cared for her. She was happy with us.

“To carry my message to the hearts of men,” replies Macconachie, with
a wistful smile. “I may need any of you in the future and then----” He
pauses. “But till then farewell.” And he flits through the window; and
the island submerges again. But the others sit in rapt silence, for
they have seen beyond the veil.


(_A Chronicle in the manner of John Drinkwater._)

 SCENE I.--_The President’s Chamber in the White House, Autumn, 1918._

 WOODROW WILSON, _lean, single-purposed, masterful, is signing State
 documents with inflexible pen_. JOSEPH TUMULTY, _a chubby little
 man, is leaning affectionately on the back of the President’s chair,
 following the movements of his pen with dog-like veneration. The
 President, still writing, breaks the silence without looking up._

 WILSON: Tumulty.

 TUMULTY: Yes, Governor.

 WILSON: I wouldn’t have you think I’m insensible to the merits of your
 proposals--but I can’t accept them. In the bargainings and shifts of
 the Allies I must be unfettered, if necessary blindly followed, by
 the American delegation. Otherwise there’ll be another Congress of
 Vienna.... It’s not that I criticise our Allies, I would be loath to
 do that; but I understand their passions and distress. Firmness on
 our part may perhaps redress the balance.... Where’s Lansing? (_The
 Secretary of State comes in._)

 LANSING: Good morning, Mr. President.

 WILSON (_wistfully_): Why--you’re mighty formal, Lansing. I’ve not to
 convince you again, I trust. Why, Lansing----

 LANSING: I hold, as you know, that with the Republicans in a majority
 in both Houses, it’s an act of, I won’t say folly, Mr. President, but
 an act of ill-judgment to have them uncommitted to the terms of peace.

 WILSON: I’m taking Hoover and White.

 LANSING: White means nothing, and Hoover is only an expert. Lodge,
 Root, Leonard Wood should all go with you as delegates.

 WILSON: No, Mr. Secretary. (TUMULTY _bows his head as if to a blow_.)
 No, a thousand times.

 LANSING: They’ll tear up your work otherwise. I speak as your friend,
 Mr. President. Myself as you know I don’t think extravagantly well of
 your plan for a League of Nations. I’ve never disguised that. Though
 a fine ideal it isn’t practical----But setting my views aside, and
 speaking as a friend to the proposal, because it’s your proposal, I
 feel bound to say that, if the Republicans aren’t pledged to it in
 advance, it will never pass Congress.

 WILSON (_affectionately_): Lansing, you’re so logical and clear there
 seems to be no escape from your reasoning. I’ve no doubt you size up
 the Republican intentions mighty well. But you’re wrong for all that;
 and where you go wrong is right at the beginning. Don’t you see the
 choice of evils before me? If I don’t take the Republicans they may
 try to wreck my work when it’s done, true; but if I do take them the
 work won’t be done at all.

 LANSING (_stiffly_): I can’t allow that, Mr. President. They’re good,
 patriotic Americans.

 WILSON: Who says they aren’t? Who suggests for one moment that they
 won’t do their best for America and the Allies? But will they do the
 best for the world? (LANSING _is silent_.) Will they tie the world
 up in a League against war; or will they inflict a vindictive peace,
 that’ll do no more than sow the seeds of another?

 LANSING: You distrust their patriotism?

 WILSON: Never. I distrust their passions. Or say I’m wrong. Say their
 conception of the peace is the proper one, and mine a delusion. How
 can we work together? The Delegation couldn’t be depended on to agree
 in the smallest particular. I should just be playing a lone hand; and
 the Allies, knowing my house to be divided against itself, would put
 me aside in the Conference like a cipher. No, Lansing. I’ll go to
 Paris with those on whom I can rely. I’ll so tie up the peace with
 the League, that the one can’t live without the other; and if, as you
 prophesy, I find myself deserted by Congress, I’ll go over their heads
 to the American people in whose ideals the thing has its roots. That
 is my final decision.

 LANSING: I hope you’ll not regret it.

 (_He takes his leave. The others follow him with their eyes. The
 President gives a half laugh._)

 WILSON: Ah, if one could only add to the good qualities one’s friends
 possess, the good qualities one would have them possess.... (_He
 sighs_). These Commissions (_holding up the papers he has signed_),
 they’re all in order now?

 TUMULTY: Yes, Governor.

 WILSON: Deliver them yourself. (_He reads out the names as he hands
 them over._) House ... Lansing ... White.


 SCENE II.--WILSON’S _house in the Place des Etats Unis, Paris, in the
 year 1919. A spring morning. The windows of the room look out upon an
 old-world square--made safe for democracy by American detectives._

 WOODROW WILSON _sits in a deep armchair by the table. His colleagues_
 CLEMENCEAU, DAVID LLOYD GEORGE _and_ ORLANDO _are grouped around him_.

 WILSON: Gentlemen, a little merriment would season our labours.
 (_Polite murmurs._) There was a man, a Confederate soldier, in our
 civil war, who soliloquised thus on a long hard march: “I love my
 country, and I’m fighting for my country; but if this war ends I’ll be
 dad-burned if I ever love another country.”

 THE OTHERS (_spiritlessly_): Ha! Ha! Ha!

 WILSON: Signor Orlando, you don’t laugh.

 ORLANDO: No, sare.

 WILSON: I’m sorry. The point of my story was somewhat directed to
 you. I feel rather like that Confederate soldier. I took the American
 people into war; but I don’t mean to have them dragged into another by
 a bad territorial settlement in the Adriatic!

 ORLANDO: Well, Fiume can be waiting.

 WILSON: All things can wait. But don’t, I beg you, fall into error. My
 view of that matter will never change. Monsieur Clemenceau, Gentlemen,
 be with me in this I entreat you. (_A brief silence._) And now, Part I
 of the Treaty. We are agreed to incorporate the Covenant of the League
 of Nations there? (_There is still silence._) Gentlemen, I can’t
 think that you hesitate----

 CLEMENCEAU: Sur cette question de la Société des Nations. Il est bien
 entendu, n’est ce pas, que la Traité de Garantie, La Pacte, entre La
 France, Les Etats Unis, et la Grande Bretagne----?

 WILSON: Why, Mr. Lloyd George will answer for England, but I guess
 there’s no doubt at all concerning America.

 LLOYD GEORGE: As the President says, I answer for Great Britain. I
 have agreed in her name that, in certain conditions, she shall be
 bound to act with France. On the fulfilment of those conditions, she
 will so act.

 CLEMENCEAU: Alors, en principe je suis d’accord.

 WILSON: In principle. Yes, Monsieur. In principle we have never
 differed. But on the concrete proposition that this Covenant as
 drafted be embodied in the Treaty----?

 CLEMENCEAU: Well, I do not object.

 WILSON: You take a weight from my mind.... I wish to be frank,
 Gentlemen. I am not happy about the voting of the British Empire
 in the Assembly of the League. I can’t disguise from you that it’s
 a difficult provision to explain to the American people. It may
 antagonise them. I make a final effort. Mr. Lloyd George, would your
 Dominions be irreconcilable to exercising their vote in one Empire

 LLOYD GEORGE: They would reject it, Mr. President. I myself would move
 the rejection. (_A brief pause._)

 WILSON: I put the question formally. That the Covenant, as drafted,
 stand embodied in the Treaty of Peace. (_Aye._) Gentlemen, I thank
 you for your forbearance. These questions of the Saar Valley and
 Danzig.... (_They pass to other business._)


 SCENE III.--_The anteroom of a public hall at Pueblo in the Western
 States, during_ PRESIDENT WILSON’S _tour on behalf of the Treaty of
 Versailles. September 25th, 1919. When the door is open, the speaker’s
 voice in the main hall is distinctly audible._

 ADMIRAL GRAYSON _is waiting anxiously_. MRS. WILSON _hurries in_.

 MRS. WILSON: The President--it’s critical. He must be persuaded
 against continuing this tour.

 GRAYSON: I have been saying that, ma’am, for a long time.

 MRS. WILSON: But it grows more urgent. I left the platform to find
 you. How he’ll finish I don’t know. He was swaying and the utterance
 seemed more difficult each minute. Nothing but his iron determination
 sustains him.

 GRAYSON: Nothing but the depth of his convictions and his devotion to
 the task he has begun, have brought him so far.

 MRS. WILSON: You must prevail on him, Admiral. If he breaks, the
 League breaks. Use that with him.

 GRAYSON: Prevail. Have you ever tried, ma’am, to prevail upon a
 monolith? (TUMULTY _enters, jubilant_). How does it go?

 TUMULTY: He’s carrying them. The old wonderful Wilson touch. Listen.

 _He throws open the door. The President’s rich, musical voice, full of
 power, is borne in upon them._

 MRS. WILSON: Why, he sounds to be quite recovered.

 GRAYSON (_reverently_): Hush, ma’am. It is the voice of a prophet.

 WILSON (_off_): Now that the mists of this great question have cleared
 away, I believe that men will see the truth, eye to eye and face to
 face. There is one thing that the American people always rise to and
 extend their hand to, and that is the truth of justice and of liberty
 and of peace. We have accepted that truth, and we are going to be led
 by it; and it is going to lead us, and through us the world, out into
 pastures of quietness and peace, such as the world never dreamed of

 _Prolonged applause. The President enters, followed by local magnates
 and his staff._

 TUMULTY: Oh, Governor, this is the best you’ve ever done.

 WILSON: Tumulty, it does me good to hear you speak so. I guess--why,
 surely this building is strangely unsteady--or--Everything’s going.
 Why, Grayson, it’s--it’s dark.

 GRAYSON: Bear up, Sir. A touch of vertigo. You’re tired.

 WILSON (_horror in his eyes_): No. My speech. Failing. I

 _He sinks into_ GRAYSON’S _arms, and is lowered into a chair_. MRS.
 WILSON _falls on her knees beside him_.

 TUMULTY: In God’s name, Admiral----?

 GRAYSON: Paralysis. The tour is over.

 _They prepare to carry the President away._


 SCENE IV.--_A room in the White House. January 16th, 1920._ WOODROW
 WILSON, _a shadow of himself, is at his desk_. TUMULTY _as usual is
 behind the President’s chair. The President is reading a telegram._

 WILSON: Tumulty, this is bitter. Bitter.

 TUMULTY: Yes, Governor.

 WILSON: They’re meeting beyond the sea in Paris. The League that
 received birth in American ideals. And the chair of America is empty,
 not by the declared wish of the people--I’d not believe it, were such
 a wish expressed--but by the strength of personal rancour in the
 Senate. It’s unbelievable.

 TUMULTY: And no one there to represent American ideals and aspirations!

 WILSON: Brazil. This telegram says the Brazilian spoke for the whole
 American continent: that was brave and far-sighted of him. But it cuts
 me to the heart to think that the duty of speaking for America should
 rest elsewhere than on us.

 TUMULTY: It’s hard.

 WILSON: Hard? It’s cynically false. Tumulty. I can’t believe that is
 the wish of the country. I will take them the Covenant with my two
 hands, reason with them, explain....

 TUMULTY (_gently_): No, dear Governor, you have done all that a man
 could do. Another effort would waste your life----

 WILSON: I would give it gladly.

 TUMULTY: To no purpose, now.


 SCENE V.--_The Presidential Room at the Capitol, Washington. Just
 before 12 noon on March 4th, 1921_.

 WOODROW WILSON, MARSHALL, _the Vice-President, and_ TUMULTY _are
 waiting for the hour to strike that will make_ WARREN HARDING
 _President of the United States of America, and_ WILSON _a free
 citizen again._

 WILSON: They have been great years to live in. I’ve tried to be worthy
 of them.

 TUMULTY: And succeeded, with Lincoln and George Washington, Governor.

 WILSON (_shyly_): You put me in mighty good company. Anyone can
 be great in great times. The events we’ve been through called for
 something superhuman. I wish I could have given that.

 MARSHALL: No man could have done more, Mr. President. Some day the
 world will see it.

 WILSON: Marshall, I’m not ambitious for the world to see any such
 thing. I want my work to prosper. That is all.

 TUMULTY: It has made a beginning.

 WILSON: A small beginning, a halting beginning, but a beginning, yes.
 Yet when I think of what the League could be doing to facilitate a
 general settling down to peace, if only America were behind it-- And
 yet again, perhaps it is well. Maybe, if things had not so fallen
 out, the weaknesses of the thing we made would not have become
 manifest, until it was too late for improvement.

 MARSHALL: You think it has weaknesses?

 WILSON: The highest product of man’s mind, the law, is full of
 weaknesses, Marshall. How can this new conception have escaped them?
 But the idea will surely triumph. I have faith.

 TUMULTY: The new administration will kill it, if they can.

 WILSON: I have faith.... It must be nearly time now.

 _A tall, spare man followed by his colleagues walks into the Chamber.
 This is_ SENATOR LODGE, _the President’s life-long political foe_.

 LODGE (_stiffly_): Mr. President, we have come, as a Committee of
 the Senate, to notify you that the Senate and the House are about to
 adjourn, and await your pleasure.

 WILSON (_rising with majesty_): Senator Lodge, I have no further
 communication to make. I thank you.... The few seconds now remaining
 no more than suffice me to lay down the authority derived from my
 office. (_The clock strikes twelve._) Gentlemen, I wish you well, and
 farewell. Come, Tumulty.

 _He goes. Simultaneously a roar of applause without, proclaims the
 accession of_ PRESIDENT HARDING.




(_A Play of Life as it is, in the Manchester manner of Mr. St. John


 SCENE: _A dingy parlour in a London Suburb. Two men in ill-fitting
 garments are sitting glumly, in comfortless chairs with shabby and
 rather soiled covers, on either side of a dismal mockery of a fire.
 The room is lit with incandescent gas, which shows a sickly yellow
 through a raw haze, offensively compounded of “London Particular” and
 the penetrating yellow fumes of cheap coal. The men are_ JOSEPH BLOGGS
 _(52), one of life’s many failures, and_ HENRY HOOKER _(49), another
 of them. Their tired white faces are resting on their hands, and
 they are staring into the smoking grate. At last_ HOOKER _breaks the
 intolerable silence_.

 HOOKER (_gloomily_): The fire’s smoking.

 BLOGGS: Yes. (_He pokes it. The fire smoulders angrily. They cough.
 There is a pause._ HOOKER _looks out of the window_.)

       *       *       *       *       *

 HOOKER (_darkly_): It’s raining.

 BLOGGS (_with a deep sigh_): Yes.... Has the fog lifted?

 HOOKER: No. It’s getting thicker.

 BLOGGS (_with resignation_): Ah, well. (JEMIMA (42) _comes in,
 tiredly. She is the wife of_ BLOGGS, _a thin, prematurely grey-haired
 woman, haggard with cares. The fire welcomes her with a spiteful
 volley of lyddite._)

 JEMIMA (_wearily_): You’re here, are you?

 BLOGGS: Yes.... The fire’s smoking.

 JEMIMA (_with a sigh_): I’ll make it up. (_She makes a listless attack
 on it with the poker. The fire goes out._) The coals are so bad. (_She
 painfully rekindles it._)


 Jemima (_addressing_ BLOGGS): That kid’s very bad again. She’s
 coughing something awful.

 BLOGGS: Better have the doctor.

 JEMIMA: Perhaps Mr. Hooker would tell him on his way home?


 JEMIMA: The gas company’s going to cut off the gas to-morrow,
 unless--Joseph, couldn’t we pay something on account?

 BLOGGS: I’ll see what I can do.

 HOOKER: Life’s very hard.

 JEMIMA: Yes. (_She begins to lay the table with enamel cups and
 saucers._) You’ll stay for tea, Mr. Hooker?

 HOOKER (_drearily_): Yes. I suppose so. (_They wait in silent misery
 for the kettle to boil._)


[Illustration: HOOKER: Life’s very hard.]


 SCENE: _The same room, slightly more dingy._ JEMIMA BLOGGS, _her
 husband, and a_ DOCTOR _are standing under the gas bracket_. HOOKER,
 _as usual, is crouching over the starveling fire_.

 THE DOCTOR (_curtly_): She can’t live. It’s only a matter of days,
 perhaps hours. I must go.

 BLOGGS: Can nothing be done?

 THE DOCTOR: Can you send her to the Riviera?

 BLOGGS: No. Would that cure her?

 THE DOCTOR: It might.... I’m sorry. Good-day. (_He goes._)

 JEMIMA (_in a shaking voice_): I’ll get your tea, Joseph. (_She begins
 taking down the cups and laying the table._)

 BLOGGS (_as if in a trance_): The Riviera might save her. (_He takes
 his hat._)

 JEMIMA: Won’t you wait for tea before you go?

 BLOGGS: I don’t want any tea. (_He slouches miserably out._)

 HOOKER: The fog’s very thick.


 HOOKER: It’s still raining. (_He takes his hat and coat._)

 JEMIMA: Won’t you stay for tea, Mr. Hooker?

 HOOKER: I don’t feel equal to tea. (_He goes out unsteadily._ JEMIMA
 _sits wretchedly by the smouldering hearth. The child cries out in its
 delirium. The fog steals into the room obscuring everything._)



 SCENE: _The same room--if possible dingier than ever._ JEMIMA _is
 sitting hunched up by the fire, which is enveloping her in a yellow
 cloud_. BLOGGS _is pushed into the room by a hard-faced man_.

 THE HARD-FACED MAN (_grimly_): I’ve brought you back your husband,
 ma’am. You may as well know he’s discharged from my employment.

 JEMIMA (_tonelessly_): Oh?

 THE H.F.M.: And lucky he’s not prosecuted.

 JEMIMA (_as before_): Oh?

 THE H.F.M.: Embezzlement’s a serious thing.

 JEMIMA: Yes.... Starvation’s serious too.

 THE H.F.M.: That’s your affair.... I don’t want thanks. I don’t intend
 to prosecute, because it’s a nuisance. That’s all.


 BLOGGS (_inadvertently stepping out of the picture_): I tell you I
 did it to save my little girl. She’s dying. I must have money to save
 her--to send her abroad. Oh, Amy, Amy, my child. (_He tries in vain to

 THE H.F.M. (_chillingly_): No sentiment, please! This is not the
 Lyceum.... Now, I’m going. I hope I never see either of you again. I
 don’t care two straws whether the girl dies or not. And I won’t wish
 you luck, because I don’t specially want you to have it, and anyway
 you wouldn’t get it. (_But they are paying no attention, and he goes._)

 JEMIMA (_listlessly_): Doctor’s been again.

 BLOGGS (_the same_): Oh yes?

 JEMIMA: Says she’s getting better.

 BLOGGS: Is she? (_He sits by the fire in his hat and coat. The
 inevitable_ HOOKER _slouches in, similarly clad, and takes his place
 on the other side. A melancholy silence reigns._)

 HOOKER (_at last_): It’s raining again.

 JEMIMA (_bringing in the milk-jug_): The thunder’s turned the milk

 BLOGGS (_dismally_): I thought it would.

 HOOKER (_shivering, and hugging himself in his coat_): There’s a thick
 fog, and it’s very damp.

 BLOGGS (_gloomily_): There always is.

 HOOKER: Yes. (_The fire contributes to the general depression by a
 shower of soot, and a sudden belch of acrid yellow fumes._)

 BLOGGS: Jemima, the fire’s smoking.

 JEMIMA (_wearily_): I’ll make it up in a minute. (_She worries it
 with various implements. More soot falls and the smoke increases. She
 stirs it aimlessly with the poker. It flickers and goes out for the
 last time. They, and the audience, are too depressed to care. They sit
 staring blankly at the grate as the cold and fog gradually invade the



(_A Romantic Drama suitable for performance at His Majesty’s Theatre_.)

 FIRST SCENE.--_A street in Damascus, copied, with meticulous
 exactitude, from the Byway of Beggars in that famous city. Even the
 smells are there--thanks to an ingenious contrivance of concealed
 sprays, by means of which the appropriate odour is insinuated into the
 nostrils of the audience._

 _A party of camels, an elephant and a couple of giraffes, are
 loitering about in the charge of officials from the Zoological Gardens
 disguised as Bedouin Sheiks._ ALI BABA, SINBAD THE SAILOR, SHIBLI
 BAGARAG, _and other familiar Eastern figures are exchanging hoarse
 Oriental salutations from their houses and shops. Goats, sheep,
 goatwomen, shepherds, etc., complete the picture._

 ALI BABA (_in a wailing shriek_): Inshallah, wullahy, eywallah.

 SHIBLI BAGARAG (_lamenting_): Eywah! Traadisveribadahii! (_He beats
 his breast_).

 A PASSER-BY (_indignantly addressing a stolid camel-driver_):
 Bismillah, O Son of my Uncle, have thy camels, on whom be peace,
 acquired a _firman_ investing in them the sole use of this highway?

 THE OUTRAGED CAMEL-DRIVER (_forgetting his part and falling back on
 the language of Regent’s Park_): ’Ere. Look ’ere----

 ANOTHER PASSER-BY (_hastily interrupting, and turning upon the first
 with contumely_): Hence, brother of a baboon. Mock not dumb beasts, as
 it is written.

 A GOAT: M-a-a-a-a.

 A GOATWOMAN: Aie, little one, muzzle thy tongue ... (_resuming her
 conversation_). In sooth, O my father, as thou dost say----

 THE GOAT (_rebelliously_): M-a-a-a-a-a.

 THE GOATWOMAN: Arree, be silent, child of misfortune, or thou shalt
 see the inside of a stewpan. (_The goat thinks better of it._)

 man of enormous size, sinister appearance and awe-inspiring voice,
 appearing from a hovel_): Alms. Alms for the love of Allah. (_People
 give him money. He takes it nonchalantly and without thanks._) Alms in
 the name of the Compassionate. (_He moves majestically on, until he
 meets a disreputable-looking being who has just emerged from a side
 street. Aside to this apparition._) Is all arranged?

 HIS CONFEDERATE (_in a low tone_): Ya, holy one. (_At the top of his
 voice in order to deceive everyone except the audience._) Nay, I have
 nothing for thee, thou evil-smelling and consummate old humbug.

 OSKARASHI (_whining_): Deny not of thy plenty, O gracious benefactor,
 as it is written. (_Aside_) What is the signal?

 HIS CONFEDERATE (_giving money with bad grace_): Veialeikum a-salaam,
 O holy one. (_Aside_) Three raps on the outer postern gate: and

 OSKARASHI (_showing his teeth in a terrible smile_): And then--blood
 and much booty (_passing on_). Alms in the name of Allah.

 THE GOAT (_unable to contain itself_): M-a-a-a-a-a!


 THE ELEPHANT--_But no, we cannot describe the cry of the elephant._

 A MUEZZIN (_appearing on his minaret_): La Allah il Allah (_a bell
 tolls. The faithful prostrate themselves towards the East_).

 SECOND SCENE.--_Bagdad. The harem of Oskarashi ben Daoud, etc. We
 deduce either that alms-seeking in the East is a highly lucrative
 profession, or else that the “much booty,” referred to in the first
 scene, proved even more abundant than was expected. The harem is
 an enormous apartment, about the size of the Albert Hall, with a
 swimming pool fed by a golden fountain in the centre, and rows of
 marble colonnades receding in all directions into an apparently
 illimitable distance. A vast concourse of beautiful and, despite their
 biscuit-coloured complexions, unmistakably European young women,
 languish on cushions of every variety of texture and colouring._

 _A pair of acrobats, a jazz band of strange instruments, and some kind
 of Oriental glee party are giving a simultaneous performance. Some
 withered crones with birches are chastising certain recalcitrant wives
 in a corner. Our friends the camels, giraffes and elephants have been
 replaced by a party of leopards, duck-billed platypuses, anthropoid
 apes, okapis and tapirs._ OSKARASHI _himself, comatose after an
 enormous Eastern supper, is keeping awake with difficulty, propped up
 against a mound of cushions piled on a huge divan. Entwined around
 him, serpent-wise, is Zobeide el Okra, the Bulbul of the harem._

 THE GLEE PARTY (_bursting into the well-known Eastern ditty_):

    We sit and gobble with chopsticks and spoon
    From the midnight hour to the stroke of noon,
    Gobble at work and----

 OSKARASHI: Enough. Let them be dispatched. (_Black slaves hurl them
 into the Tigris, which obligingly flows near by._) Let the feast
 proceed. (_An obsequious conjurer appears; nobody, however, pays any
 attention, except the junior members of the audience, who are properly

 ONE OF THE ACROBATS (_drawing aside his disguise and revealing himself
 as the terrible_ ASWARAK--_whom we forgot to mention in Scene I, but
 who plays an important part in the proceedings. He addresses one of
 the attendants, who draws aside his disguise and reveals the features
 of the dreaded_ BOO BOO): All is ready?

 BOO BOO (_grimly_): Ya Aswarak. Allah hath favoured us. Every door is
 stopped and the black guards have received their price.

 ASWARAK: It is well.... Remember she is to be mine.

 BOO BOO: Whom--I mean who?

 ASWARAK (_rapturously_): The Bulbul of the night, the reward of the
 favoured of Islam.

 BOO BOO: Have a care, Holy One, we may be overheard.

 ASWARAK: And the signal?

 BOO BOO: Thy song. (_The conjurer concludes his entertainment._)

 ASWARAK: I will now sing.

 EVERYONE: Oh, Allah, must this be?

 OSKARASHI (_grimly_): Let him sing. Guards be at hand to do my bidding.

 ASWARAK (_aside_): Thy last bidding in this world, O corpulent Father
 of Obscenity. (_Aloud_) As thou sayest, O Protector of the Poor. (_He
 takes his lute and sings, gazing ardently--almost too ardently--at

             Ah, when the sun
             Gives up the ghost;
             And lovers run,
             With ardent boast,

             To woo the one
             Each fancies most--
             The stars arise
             Behind thine eyes
             O Bulbul.

    ALL:     O Bul-bul-bul.

    ASWARAK: And I thy sighs
             O Bulbul.

    ALL:     O Bul-bul-bul--

 OSKARASHI (_who has no intention of allowing this kind of thing to go
 on_): Enough! Well sung, Minstrel. (_Darkly_) Thy reward?

 ASWARAK (_throwing off his disguise_): Thy head, Father of
 Abomination. (_Tumult. He draws a sword and rushes at the divan.
 The wives scuttle wailing, pursued by the guards, who pour into
 the chamber. Everyone runs shouting after someone else._ OSKARASHI
 _strikes his assailants into a heap, and hurls himself roaring into
 the Tigris. The curtain falls upon a writhing mass of humanity._)

 THIRD SCENE.--_The action has for some reason shifted to
 China--probably in order that Mr. Gloomy Bishop, the celebrated
 producer, may be enabled to show the London public what he is really
 capable of, when he cares to extend himself. The stage, therefore,
 is a blaze of red lacquer and Chinese Lanterns, supplemented by
 pagodas, palanquins and pigtails. A forbidding archway of crumbling
 masonry--flanked on either side by a barbaric figure armed with
 crossbow, javelin, long horsehair moustache and a hideous expression
 of brutality, indicates that the action is about to continue at
 the Gateway of the Lotus--a bypath in Old Pekin._ OSKARASHI, _the
 Venerable Hajji, has lain here in honourable concealment ever
 since his escape in the Tigris. But ah! his hiding place has been
 discovered. This is made apparent by the highly suspicious conduct of
 two strolling passers-by, whose physical characteristics appear to
 correspond more or less accurately with those of_ ASWARAK _and the
 odious_ BOO BOO.

 FIRST STROLLER (_accosting the other with all the honeyed courtesy of
 the Celestial Empire_): Honourable Dweller in a foreign land, deign
 to accept of my accursed superfluity. (_Gives money and continues in
 an undertone_) The detested of Islam has been discovered.

 SECOND STROLLER (_performing the ceremonies, observances and
 obeisances prescribed in the canons of Celestial etiquette_): May the
 shadow of this undeserving one diminish and disappear, if he should
 unworthily be found wanting in gratitude to your honourable and
 beatific and excellent self. (_Pouches the coins and continues also in
 an undertone_) Where, O Father of Procrastination?

 FIRST STROLLER: As Confucius justly remarks, charity--(_dropping his
 voice_). In a certain hovel in the back street beyond the wall, he
 conceals himself, plying the disreputable calling--may his porkers
 perish--of a seller of swine’s flesh--the curse of the prophet’s beard
 be upon him. Everything is arranged. To-night we surround the house:
 rush in at the appointed hour: and nail him to the counter in the
 midst of his abominable merchandise. Bismillah.

 SECOND STROLLER (_fiercely_): Inshallah! (_Louder_) The honourable
 greeting of your illustrious Excellency has brought sunshine and hope
 into the miserable existence of this one.

 FIRST STROLLER: Your honourable praise is sweeter in the ears of this
 obsequious rubbish-heap, than the music of the Celestial stars. Peace
 be with you.

 _They depart. A bundle of rags and blankets in a neighbouring corner
 suddenly comes to life, and reveals the familiar lineaments of
 Oskarashi, as he slinks away, like an enormous anthropoid ape, to his
 hovel in the back street beyond the wall._

 FOURTH SCENE.--_We now find ourselves at night in an even more ancient
 and dilapidated part of the city--the neighbourhood of the hovel in
 the back street, beyond the wall. A number of American tourists,
 shepherded by an unsightly and bespectacled Baboo from the local
 Cook’s office, are making a tour of these rather unsavoury precincts,
 before embarking to join the P. and O. steamer at Hong Kong. Lurking
 in the background are_ ASWARAK, BOO BOO AND CO., with an arsenal of
 weapons, closing in upon their enemy.

 THE BABOO (_addressing his audience collectively_):

 A TOURIST: My, Sally. Look at here! (_To the guide_) Say, cutey, what
 you callum this? (_She points to a procession forming up among the

 THE BABOO: This--is--a very--fortunate--circumstance.

 ANOTHER TOURIST: Some guy pegged out, I guess.

 THE BABOO: We must--withdraw--to--one--side. (_They do so._)

 ASWARAK (_or_ BOO BOO): A thousand curses. We must delay the assault
 until this pig of an unbeliever has been taken away. (_They confer._)

 _The procession advances, headed by the Mourners, who are singing a
 terrible wailing melody. As they approach the words become audible._

 THE MOURNERS (_dolefully_):

    Honourable mandarin gone west,
    Welly sick belly and pain in chest,
    Silly fellow leave off winter vest,
    No can facee breeze.
    First catchee chicken-pox, then get croup,
    Double pneumonia, and off he poop:
    Chop-suey, Laichee, Birds-nest-soup,
    That’s good stage Chinese.

 (_They go out with their melancholy burden._)

 THE BABOO: We--will--now--return--in
 gentlemen--at--the--Nautical--Club. (_He takes his tribe away._)

 (_The stage darkens._ ASWARAK AND CO. _begin to emerge stealthily from
 their hiding place. Red limelight illumines the stage. Weird music.
 They rush into the hovel. Reappear raving like Bedlamites._ OSKARASHI
 _has escaped. They realise that he was in the coffin of the Manchu
 funeral. In the thick of the hubbub, the voices of the returning
 mourners are heard._)

 THE MOURNERS (_returning_):

    Chinky Chinky Chip Chip Choop,
    And any damn rot you please,
    Chop-suey, Laichee, Birds-nest-soup
    Welly good stage Chinese.

 ASWARAK (_foaming at the mouth_): Halt, evil-tongued progeny of
 obscene mothers!

 THE MOURNERS (_tearing off their disguises_): What? Offal-eating scum
 of the bazaar! (_They fall on each other. The curtain falls on the
 familiar spectacle of writhing humanity._)

The last scene we are not sure about. It depends largely on the
temperamental judgment of Mr. Gloomy Bishop. It was originally planned
to be the courtyard of the Dalai Lamasery of Thibet. Mr. Bishop,
however, leans in favour of a Patagonian village or alternatively a
street scene in Tristan d’Acunha. He thinks the latter might enable
him to introduce a talking penguin as a counterweight to Mr. Charles
Cochran’s singing duck. And he is not absolutely certain that he
wouldn’t like a Honolulu surf scene, or perhaps a salt mining camp on
the Gulf of Carpentaria. Mr. Bishop is not sure; and he must have time
to think it over.

Things, therefore, are held up until the producer and author can come
to an agreement. But on one thing the author is adamant. Oskarashi has
got to come to a sticky end. The author absolutely refuses to allow the
fellow to be perpetuated in another play.


(_A Play of Russian Life in the manner of Anton Tchekov._)

 _The study of Ivan Ivanovitch Bougárov, a wealthy landowner. Bougárov
 is alone at the desk. A vodka bottle and a measuring glass are at his

 BOUGÁROV (_sniffing the glass_): It’s strong enough, I think.... Brr,
 what a filthy stench!... Where are the directions? (_He gropes for
 a piece of paper._) Here they are. Sprinkle it on toasted cheese,
 and leave it lying about in the vicinity of their holes. (_Examining
 the bottle._) That ought to be sufficient for all the rats in Little
 Russia as the saying is. (_Enter_ STEPAN STEPANOVITCH RUMBUNKSKI.)

 RUMBUNKSKI: Good morning, honoured Ivan Ivanovitch.

 BOUGÁROV: Little Fathers, Stepan Stepanovitch, how you startled me.

 RUMBUNKSKI: Your nerves are upset, my darling. You must give up the
 vodka, and all that.

 BOUGÁROV: But my dear little Stepan Stepanovitch, you are wrong;
 because you see, my dearest little Stepan Stepanovitch, I don’t drink
 vodka now, and so it can’t be vodka.

 RUMBUNKSKI: Don’t drink vodka?

 BOUGÁROV: No, my precious, I don’t drink it any more; so you see you
 must be wrong, my little woodchuck.

 RUMBUNKSKI: But, Ivan Ivanovitch, my dear fellow, don’t try to
 stuff my head, as the French say. You must drink vodka, because
 there’s a bottle and glass on the table before you. I don’t say you
 drink to excess, my dearest little love-bird, but you must drink it
 sometimes--or you wouldn’t have it always on the table in front of
 you, and so on.

 BOUGÁROV: Stepan Stepanovitch, be careful how you contradict me,
 because I can’t stand it, my dear little flying-fish, and that’s a
 fact. You ought to know better than to come into a brother landowner’s
 house and accuse him of drunkenness to his face. It’s mean; it’s
 beastly; it’s not worthy of you, my little alligator.

 RUMBUNKSKI: I didn’t accuse you of anything of the kind. I only

 BOUGÁROV: Well, well, you withdraw. That’s all right. We’ll say no
 more about it.

 RUMBUNKSKI: But excuse me, my dear Ivan Ivanovitch, I don’t withdraw,
 because I have said nothing that calls for withdrawal. I didn’t make
 any beastly accusation and all that. All I said----

 BOUGÁROV: Oh, little God Almighty, won’t you stop talking! I can’t
 stand it, I tell you. My head’s bursting, and I’ve got a terrible pain
 in my shoulder blades. And both my ears are burning.

 RUMBUNKSKI: All I said was that vodka didn’t agree with you, and you
 know it doesn’t. Why everyone knows perfectly well that one night, at
 Roobikov’s, you----

 BOUGÁROV: Excuse me, Stepan Stepanovitch, but you’d better go. Yes,
 you had better go. I might do you a mischief, and so on; and I shall
 be sorry afterwards. That night at Roobikov’s, let me tell you, you
 were in a disgusting state yourself, and unfit to pass an opinion on

 RUMBUNKSKI: That’s a lie, Ivan Ivanovitch: you were always a liar and
 an intriguer. And as for doing me a mischief, come and try, that’s all!

 BOUGÁROV: Oh, little Mothers, help me to be patient. You’re a skunk
 and a coward, Stepan Stepanovitch. A skunk. You know you’re safe in
 threatening me, because I’m on my last legs with disease, and dying
 out, and all that, and so you think you can insult me with impunity.
 But when Dmitri Dmitriov thrashed you with a cane----

 RUMBUNKSKI: What’s this? What’s this lie about Dmitri Dmitriov. Oh,
 Little Uncles and Aunts, this is a bit too much!

 BOUGÁROV: Yes. Dmitri Dmitriov thrashed you, didn’t he? And you ran
 squealing about the room, trying to hide under the furniture----

 RUMBUNKSKI: Ivan Ivanovitch, how can you tell such falsehoods? I was
 wounded at the time and couldn’t put up a fight. But I settled him

 BOUGÁROV: Yes. By having him waylaid and thrashed by Yats, the

 RUMBUNKSKI: Ivan Ivanovitch, you impugn my honour. You insult me. If
 you weren’t an old infirm vodka drunkard I’d smash you into a jelly.
 I’d stamp on your face. But please don’t imagine I shall marry your
 daughter now. I say, please don’t. That’s finished. You don’t marry
 into a family that insults you. No. Never.

 BOUGÁROV: Now, my dear Stepan Stepanovitch, do be reasonable. Anything
 harsh that I may have said you brought on yourself, my darling. You
 shouldn’t have begun about the vodka, my dearest little duck-billed

 RUMBUNKSKI: So I’m a coward, am I? Just wait. I’ll get my breath, and
 then you’ll see.... I’m sick. I must have a drink. (_Seizes the vodka

 BOUGÁROV (_trying to take it away_): Not that, my dear fellow. Give it
 back, I implore you.

 RUMBUNKSKI: I must have a drink, I tell you... I’m seeing stars ...
 bats are flying round my head ... I’m falling--(_drinks from the
 bottle_). T’shoo! Pfui!! What disgusting liquor.

 BOUGÁROV (_protesting_): It isn’t liquor at all, honoured Stepan
 Stepanovitch. It’s poison, my dearest little frog. I told you it
 wasn’t vodka, and you wouldn’t believe me.

 RUMBUNKSKI (_in wild horror_): Poison. Where’s an emetic?... I can’t
 see.... My head’s going to burst.... Now my heart’s come to pieces.
 My nose is twitching. Both my eyes are falling out. Ah--h----(_falls
 into a chair sobbing hysterically_).

 BOUGÁROV (_yelling_): He’s poisoned. I’m a rat-catcher ... we’re all
 murderers.... Little Fathers, have pity! (_Enter_ IRENA IVANOVNA,
 _Bougárov’s daughter_.) There. Your husband to be. I’ve murdered him.
 Lock me up. Suffocate yourself. Tickle his throat. Give him mustard
 and water. A drink. I’m fainting. Quick. (_She gives him the glass
 from the desk. He drains it._) Pouagh! Now I’m poisoned too.... My
 ears have gone to sleep.... All my teeth are aching. I’m agony all
 over (_collapses on the sofa screaming_).

 IRENA IVANOVNA (_wildly_): Vodka--Champagne--Mustard and Water. (_She
 plies them with assorted liquors, which they drink gratefully. They
 are shaken by internal tempests. They recover slowly._)

 BOUGÁROV (_faintly_): Give thanks to Irena Ivanovna, my dear Stepan
 Stepanovitch. Without the presence of mind of your wife-to-be you’d be
 a dead man, my little angel-elect.

 RUMBUNKSKI (_feebly_): I say no. I’ve told you I won’t marry her.
 Impugn my honour and all that. A thousand times no.

 IRENA (_tenderly_): Nobody’s impugned your honour, illustrious Stepan
 Stepanovitch. Your mind is affected by the poison, my little darling.

 RUMBUNKSKI: No. He did (_indicates_ BOUGÁROV). He accuses me of
 waylaying Dmitri Dmitriov. Not that he has any right to talk after
 what was done to Andrey Andreyvitch.

 BOUGÁROV (_as violently as he is able_): Now I give you one chance,
 Stepan Stepanovitch. Either stop these insinuations or leave my house.
 Yes. I’m sick of you. Yes. I’ve had enough. Enough, I say.

 RUMBUNKSKI (_staggering_): I’ll go. Yes. I’d better go. I’m fainting
 with pain, and I’ve such a bilious attack I can hardly move without
 nausea; but I’d sooner suffer any torments than put up with false

 IRENA: False friends? Take care what you say, Stepan Stepanovitch.
 When you talk about false friends remember how you betrayed Nicolai
 Nicolaivitch at Moscow, and so on. Think of the Cheka and all that,
 before you talk of disloyalty, my little wood pigeon.

 BOUGÁROV (_sneering_): And remember that even if I am a dying man with
 heart disease and paralysis, I’ve got people in my house who are good
 enough to settle the hash of a lame hen like you, honoured Stepan
 Stepanovitch Rumbunkski.

 RUMBUNKSKI: Ah, you threaten, do you? Wait a bit.... Ah, Little
 Fathers, this poison. I’m dead again. (_He falls over sideways._)

 IRENA IVANOVNA (_screaming at_ BOUGÁROV): He’s dead. Unnatural father.

 BOUGÁROV (_at the top of his voice_): Don’t yell like that. You
 inflict me with the most acute palpitations.... I can’t see.... I’m a
 dead man. (_He sinks back in his chair._)

 IRENA IVANOVNA: Little Fathers and Mothers!... I must escape. (_She
 drains the vodka bottle and falls prostrate. They all lie motionless.
 You think they are dead; but they are not. Just as the light is
 failing they come to life one by one and resume their dispute. The
 fall of the curtain and the end of the play leave nothing decided._)

[Illustration: RUMBUNKSKI: Ah! Little Fathers, this poison----]


(_An Historical Drama in the manner sometimes attributed to the Lord

 SCENE: _The Welsh Hills near Criccieth. A vast concourse of people,
 Druids and Burghers among them. Flourish of trumpets. Enter_ KING

 THE KNIGHT OF SWANSEA: Gif me your attentions, I pray you, and mark
 vell dese vorts. Ve Velshman haf great traditions. Ve are proud and
 ancient peoples. Some tink perhaps ve shows too much ze pride of race,
 yes? Ze fierce Celtic patriotism? But ve are chustly proud to tink
 ourself descendant of Cadvallader, cradle of Tudors, and fine stocks
 of Owen Clendower, look you--Mark den vat vorts our leader shall tell
 you and observe dese rulings. (_He withdraws a pace._)


  Methinks his words, though seasoned with good sense
  And aptly illustrative of our merits,
  Bewray a foreign origin.


                                  Why, sir,
  The man’s as good a Welshman as e’er breathed!
  His pedigree I’ll tell you in brief space,
  Identifying in so many words
  Wales with the lost ten tribes of Israel.
  Moses begat----

 A HERALD: Peace Ho! Have silence there.

 VOICES FROM THE CROWD: Silence for David.

 OTHER VOICES: Peace for the Man of Wales.

  RIDDELL (_aside_):

  Mark, Swansea, how impregnable he looks,
  Like some proud eagle, weary of scouring the skies,
  That pauses on a lofty pinnacle
  Refashioning his pinions, whetting his beak
  Ready to swoop again.


                          Good countrymen,
  And ye, my immemorial Cymric Hills,
  I came among ye in my indecision
  To steel myself anew.
                          Good countrymen,
  I have well pondered here in Criccieth
  And now have made resolve, in which I’ll pray
  A moment hence for your support; but first
  ’Tis meet I should explain.
                         Ye well do know
  How lately has arisen from the ranks
  A party sutler, subtle enough it seems,
  Older than I, yet Younger by God’s grace,
  Who seeks to take direction by the throat,
  Sow discord where was harmony before,
  Bring ruin on the Coalition, bind
  Our fortunes, mine and yours, to Torydom,
  Vex all my policies, overthrow my plans,
  And make of our political affairs
  The kind of stew the French call _bouillabaisse_.

 THE CROWD (_murmuring_): We’ll have none of that. None of that. We’ll
 rise and storm their strongholds. We’ll burn down their castles to the


  Peace, peace, my friends, and hear me out.
                                   They say
  (Insolent curs), these Younger statesmen say,
  They’d have my leadership because they know,
  Perchance, that I have prowess in the field.
  But in the Council Chamber I’ll be nought,
  A thing, a cipher, ordered here and there....
  What? Shall we now on Unionists depend?
  Sue them for favours, fawn on them for smiles?
  Eat from the dish of infamy the food
  They’d grudge to give had they the giving of it?
  Not in these trousers, sirs!


                              Nay, never! Never!
  He’s been despitefully and most vilely used.


  Must I go on and watch complacently
  The fairest promise turned to rottenness
  By bigots--dull, reactionary fools?
  Why, I could form a better Government
  (With Riddell’s and my faithful Swansea’s help)
  Of certain Davieses and sundry Jones,
  Llewellyns a few, an Evans here and there,
  A sprinkle of the goodly Williams blood;
  And not a Chamberlain among the lot
  To dull our spirits with his laggard’s breath.

 THE DAVIESES (_talking among themselves_): There’s much in this.

 THE WILLIAMSES: Most true and notable.

 THE EVANSES: Not to be lightly put aside, look you.

 A DRUID: Peace, he begins again.


                              My noble friends,
  This, then, the resolution I have formed.
  I’ll back to Westminster and beard them there
  And put this Younger’s power to the test.
  If, as I think, he fall before my lance,
  Why, we’ll admit them to some sort of quarter;
  But if, as may be, they resist my terms,
  Then to the hustings with our banners high,
  Our hopes and hearts and courage higher still;
  And I, and doughty Riddell, and wise Mond,
  Fisher and Greenwood, Churchill and Monro,
  And all these gallant gentlemen of ours,
  Will armour up and lead our forces out
  ’Gainst Bonar and his liver-hearted crew
  Of purse-proud commoners and needy peers,
  And bear them down and roll them in the dust.
  Heads shall fall right and left, Curzon’s and Chamberlain’s,
  Amery’s, Baldwin’s. We’ll have Ormsby’s gore,
  Young F. E.’s Birken-head and Carson’s scowl,
  Old Devonshire’s yawning mask, and Derby’s jowl;
  And Younger on a dung heap shall be thrown
  That day when David comes into his own.

  ALL: Away. Away. We’ll to the fray, amain;
        And see Welsh David cleanse the land again.

  (_Sound a flourish._ EXEUNT.)


(_A Play in the Irish Manner._)

 SCENE I.--_A hovel by the sea at Ballycottin, near Queenstown. Eamon,
 in squalid garments and in an appropriate attitude of misery, is
 crouched over the fire. Seamus Smitha is distilling poteen by the
 door. Peadar Roabensôn and the Men of Gunn (a war-like clan) are
 lurking in the background. Caitilin ni Houlihan, Bridgeen Dick, and
 the Widow Markiewicz are watching Eamon with speechless devotion. The
 door is flung open and Sean de Browna bursts in._

 SEAN: Where’s himself?

 SEAMUS: Taking a bit of sleep, maybe, if he’s able--God help him!

 SEAN (_exultantly_): There’s fine doings on the sands this night, with
 great ships boarded and sunk and the lads making grand talk. Rifles
 and cannon we’ve taken, and munitions would be enough for a great war.

 THE MEN OF GUNN (_murmuring appreciatively_): Bully for you, Kid!

 PEADAR: It’s himself will bless these tidings. (_Addressing Eamon with
 conspicuous timidity_): Mister, honey, he’s after saying they’ve sunk
 the British Navy, and captured all the munitions in the western world.

 EAMON: The blessing of Gunn upon those words! (_Dropping his voice_):
 I say, what d’you imagine they’ve really got?

 PEADAR (_dropping his_): Oh, I don’t know--a few dozen rifles, I
 suppose, and a couple of boxes of S.A.A. One has to exaggerate a bit
 in an Irish drama.

 (_Enter Boûgus, claimant to the throne of Ulster, followed by Naisi
 and Narsti, the sons of Gunn._)

 BOÛGUS (_in bloodthirsty tones_): It’s taking the arms up to the caves
 they are, till all’s ready to strike the blow; and it’s fine gory
 heads there’ll be, and great masses of dead bodies that day in the six
 counties, and throughout the land, so you’ll not avoid to tread on
 the white upturned faces of the dead, they lying so thick. And I’ll
 be king that day in Ulster, and the black Orangemen destroyed and

 THE MEN OF GUNN (_with appreciation_): Sa-ay, kid, that’s talking.

 EAMON: Let you go down now, Boûgus, with Naisi and Narsti and the men
 of Gunn; for I’ve word that Cosgrave, or perhaps Mulcahy, do be coming
 to Castlebar or maybe Dundalk, and it’s there he must be sent away
 with scorn and laughter, and maybe a leaden bullet or two.

 THE MEN OF GUNN (_springing to their feet_): Easy money. Get right
 after it, boys.

 BOÛGUS (_bursting into song_): Oh, Alannah, Acushla, Asthore, Macree,
 Honomandhiaul!!! (_He dashes out at the head of the party. Eamon wraps
 himself complacently in his rags and nods over the fire. The women
 continue to regard him with speechless devotion._)

 SCENE II.--_A hovel by the sea at Ballyruff. The roar of breakers
 almost drowns the voices of the speakers. Enter Seamus Smitha and
 Peadar hurriedly_.

 SEAMUS: Where’s himself?

 SEAN: Asleep, God help him, and dreaming of Caitilin ni Houlihan, the
 creature, and her wedded to him in these coming days.

 PEADAR (_roughly_): It’s her he can put from his mind then, for she’s
 up there on the hillside with Cosgrave and Mulcahy, and James Craig,
 and they going on together with dancing and merriment, the way would
 surprise the stags for leppin’; and her that let on to be a decent
 woman would marry a holy man.

 BRIDGEEN DICK (_sharply_): Let yourself be holding your tongue now,
 Peadar Roabensôn, with your great noises to waken the seven sleepers,
 and he not stretched in his bed a dozen hours to be resting after his
 great labours.

 BOÛGUS (_rushing in, followed by Naisi and Narsti_): It’s destroyed we
 are, entirely.

 EAMON (_sitting up suddenly_): I beg your pardon? Did you say

 BOÛGUS: Aye, destroyed.... She’s turned against us, and joined the
 hands of Cosgrave and James in friendship--as Deirdre, in the days of
 old, did try with Conchubor and the sons of Usna.

 EAMON (_in an undertone, to one of his personal retinue_): My God,
 what are we to do now?

 THE OTHER (_whispering_): You must make a speech in Gaelic.

 EAMON (_also whispering_): I can’t. I’ve left the book at the Mansion

 THE OTHER: Well, you must think of something appropriate in English,

 BOÛGUS (_keening_): Oh, whirra, whirra, Ochone, Ochone. (_They all
 burst into tears._)

 EAMON (_as one pronouncing a curse_): If the sun could have darkened
 to hide her shame, and the waters of the great ocean given themselves
 to wash away her faithlessness, it’s a strange, black, arid world we’d
 be living in this day. O’Connell, Parnell, Redmond, she’s broken the
 heart in all of them; and now it’s mine she’s broken, too; and it’s
 not Cosgrave and James that she’ll spare in the days to come.--I will
 go out with the Men of Gunn....

 SCENE III.--_A hovel by the sea among the Balmy Stones of
 Claptrapatrick, near Ballyidiocee. Enter_ SEAMUS _as usual_.

 SEAMUS: Where’s himself?

 SEAN: Musha avick, how many more times will I be telling you in this
 play that he’s asleep, God help him, the holy man, and maybe dreaming,
 if he’s able, of the grand goings on there’ll be when they’re after
 making him Pope and King of all the world, and he a scraggy, thin,
 weakly man would put you in mind of an old hen, or maybe a worn-out
 jackass to be taken from the shafts and turned away among the roots
 and grasses to die.

 PEADAR: Sure, I’m thinking that’s not what he’d be dreaming at all,
 but the great joy of making combats and running here and there in high
 spirits, with the Men of Gunn around him.

 EAMON (_mournfully_): The heart’s broke in me, Seamus Smitha, for
 it’s all put aside and finished now, and there’s no more doings I can
 contrive; and there’s nothing left but to go back, the way we came,
 among the Bohunks and Dagoes, and die in a little dirty state in the
 hind end of America.

 THE WIDOW MARKIEWICZ (_scornfully_): And isn’t there land called
 England over across a dirty bit of water would hardly wet your boots
 to cross it; where do be fine houses, and gold ornaments, and a
 stupid uncomplaining people to govern, and a crazy Parliament over it
 all is calling for ever on the Mother of God to send an alternative

 THE MEN OF GUNN: Gee whiz!!

 THE WIDOW: How do you say, Eamon! Will you take this country and
 people and make a new Ireland there; and be leaving the North and the
 South to slit the throats on each other?

 EAMON (_in a great voice_): I’ll do it, so.... And won’t it be the
 fine adventure to hold it over the heads of Cosgrave and Mulcahy, when
 I’m sitting in the seat of Lloyd George with the Kings and Emperors
 and Presidents of the world around under my feet, and Boûgus beside
 me, and Naisi and Narsti on my either hand, and the Men of Gunn
 holding the fair land of England, and me Lord of it all?

 BRIDGEEN: And haven’t you the right, Mister honey, to be sitting in
 that place and taking your ease, and a sup of whiskey itself maybe;
 for it’s you surely is destroyed by thinking and fighting in these
 days in Ireland, and where would there be your match for craft and
 savagery in all the western islands?

 EAMON: I have so. (_To Naisi and Narsti_): Call up the Men of Gunn,
 and let Boûgus be there, and Seamus, and Sean, and Peadar Roabensôn,
 and any other man would make his future, so; and I’ll lead them out to
 England, or Russia itself if need be, and split the brainpan on Lloyd
 George and all of them, and be master of the world in their places;
 and so I will. (_They go out._)

 THE WIDOW MARKIEWICZ (_looking after them as they go_): And isn’t he
 the fine handsome lad to be riding forth on a great adventure; and he,
 God help him, nothing but a poor crazy scholar, with a great savagery
 and bitterness in his heart?



A man, or woman, who has just been elected to Parliament may be
pardoned if, in the words of Gilbert, “the compliment implied,
inflates” him (or her) “with legitimate pride.” It is rather difficult,
when the declaration of the poll is announced by the Returning Officer,
and you find yourself, by a swinging (or narrow) majority, the elected
representative of some 30,000 people, to avoid a certain feeling of
pleasurable self-congratulation. For the first time in your life you
are, suddenly, the central figure of a great demonstration. You are
astonished at your own popularity. Strangers rush up and clasp you
by the hand; bearded men kiss you on both cheeks; you are taken in
charge by the police, to save you from being torn limb from limb by
your almost too enthusiastic friends. And, if there is a fleeting
resemblance, in the triumphal march from the returning office to the
headquarters of your organisation, to the old-time procession to the
scaffold of a popular highwayman--a resemblance heightened by the
necessity for making a speech on a crazy wooden erection usually known
as “the hustings,” that air of spurious importance is, for the most
part, effaced next day, when you leave your constituency by train,
unrecognised and even unremarked. After the splendours of the previous
night, this anonymity is an almost painful contrast; but there are
lower depths of abasement to be reached. You have yet to pay your first
visit to the House of Commons.

In the interval between your election and the summoning of Parliament,
you have probably to some extent recovered your normal self-confidence.
You have doubtless secured a home near Westminster, “to be near the
House, you know.” You may even have been interviewed by a provincial
paper. It is just possible that one of the leaders of your party--a
junior one--in the first generous glow of the election results, may
have shaken you by the hand. Perhaps (but this happens very rarely)
the august personage who speaks from the Front Bench in the name of
your party, may have stared you out of countenance at Lady Broadside’s
reception. You are actually beginning to feel that you are Somebody
after all; and so you nerve yourself to make your first visit to the
scene of your future labours.

Somehow, as you slink into Old Palace Yard, the fine fervour of
enthusiasm, that accompanied you in your walk along Victoria Street,
seems to have largely abated. You cannot help secretly wondering
whether you will be required to produce credentials by the doorkeeper.
You visualise a painful moment, when a gigantic functionary will say
politely, but oh so firmly, in response to your frantic asseverations,
“Very sorry, sir, but if you can’t prove you’re a member, I can’t let
you in.” You wonder whether he will accept the evidence of the birth
certificate, and the cutting from the “Times” announcing your victory,
which you hastily stuffed into your pocket before starting out; or
whether you had better lie in wait for some senior member of your
party, and steal in, in his wake. And, whilst these fearful doubts are
invading your mind, you find yourself at the entrance, and an enormous,
genial, rubicund policeman accosts you smilingly: “Good morning, Sir!
New member, Sir?”

[Illustration: “New Member, Sir?”]

Down, swelling heart!

You try to avoid bursting with pride; acknowledge his salute; and walk
in. But ah, you think, the terrors are yet to come. Another constable
equally large, equally genial, touches his hat as you pass through
the swing doors, and says: “Cloakroom on the right, sir.” “Here at
least,” you fear, “there will be a challenge.” An attendant comes up to
you. He gives you a searching look. Your heart sinks into your boots.
“Good Heavens,” you think to yourself, “I am in the wrong part of the
building--this is probably reserved for Cabinet Ministers.” You are
about to mutter an excuse and slink away. Quite unnecessary. He was
only memorising your face. “Name, sir?” he asks. You give it; you
will never have to do so again. Like your face and appearance, it has
been indelibly recorded for future reference. “Your peg’s here, sir,”
he says; and you find, rather to your astonishment, that a peg has
already been reserved for you, and bears your name. Two or three other
members come in--old members evidently, for he knows them personally.
They exchange greetings; and you think to yourself: now where have I
seen something like this before?--Your mind, in a flash, bridges a
gulf of a quarter of a century, and takes you back to your first day
at your public school.... “New boy, sir?” said the janitor, committing
your face and name to memory. “Mr. ----’s house, sir? That’s your peg
in that corner; them’s the school notices under that shed, see? You
ought to read them every day; and that’s the tuckshop the other side
of the road opposite the gates.” ... “New member, sir?” enquires the
attendant. “There’s your peg, sir; you’ll find the Post Office at the
top of the stairs on the left of the Lobby; you ought to ask there for
the letters. Smoking-room, sir? Along the corridor, turn to the right;
and it’s on your left-hand side.”

Truly the boy is father to the man.

You leave your coat, and wander up the stairs to the inner Lobby. You
sample the thrill of receiving your first batch of letters in the House
of Commons. You peep reverentially into the empty Chamber--half afraid
to go inside for fear of inadvertently transgressing some rule of the
House. You would like to look at the Library and the smoking-room; and
yet you feel a certain unwillingness to trouble the attendants with
questions. Suddenly a stranger, noticing your irresolution, saunters up
to you. “New member?” he asks affably (as who should say “New boy?”);
and when you have admitted the soft impeachment--“Thought so,” he
continues, “I think I knew most of the last Parliament. Care to look
round? I’ve nothing to do for an hour.”

And, even as you accept, you remember how Williams (or Brown), who
afterwards grew to be your _alter ego_, took pity on you in the old
days at Greyfriars, led you round and “put you wise”; and, whilst your
new friend is explaining the mysteries of the Chamber--the Chair, the
Cross Benches, the Bar, the Galleries--leading you through the Library,
along the passages to the House of Lords, and making you acquainted
with your new public school, you think with gratitude, and some wonder,
of the eternal youth of human institutions.


The Chief Whip of a Party is a very august personage. He shares in the
councils of the Party leaders. He is one of the links that bind them
to the Headquarters organisation, and the constituencies. He holds
the party together on the lines laid down by the Leader. He keeps a
watchful eye upon recalcitrants, like a sheep-dog with wayward sheep.
He is, in fact, the Chief of Staff; and his lot is not an unenviable

The Junior Whips are another matter. Rebellious members of the party
who would, however, feel some compunction about speaking their minds
to the Chief Whip, lay bare their grievances, with embarrassing
plain-spokenness, to the juniors. The Scottish and Welsh Whips
must often find themselves like to the unfortunate victims of that
mythological giant, whose habit it was to tie the legs of his foes to
opposing fir-trees, and, releasing the trees, divide them in twain--by
reason of the rival claims of their own particular groups of members
and of the Chief Whip himself. Needless to say, in all parties, there
is the fullest opportunity for members to bring their point of view
to the notice of the leaders, both through the Whips and at party
meetings. But once a party decision has been taken, it is obvious that,
for the sake of the unity of the party, it is highly important that
its members should present a consolidated front. And it is when the
preconceived opinions of individual members, or special circumstances
in their constituencies, happen to be at variance with the general
policy of the party, that the troubles of the Junior Whips begin.
They have obviously an inclination towards those who compose their
own group, such as the Welsh members or Scottish members; they have
also their duty towards the party as a whole--not always easily to
be reconciled. Anyone who experienced the unenviable position of a
Junior Staff Officer in one of the feuds that habitually raged between
battalion and brigade, or between brigade and division, during the war,
will have a fairly accurate understanding of the trials of a Junior

But that is not all. The Whips are responsible for the social side
of the party as well. Sir Augustus and Lady Broadside, let us say,
offer to arrange a reception. For some reason, limitation of space
for instance, it is not possible to invite everybody. On the Whips
falls the invidious duty of making the selection, who shall be asked
and who not. And when this difficult task has been performed, it is
discovered that, by an oversight, there is no record of the fact that
some new member is married--consequently he is asked and his wife is
not, with inevitable heartburnings as the result. Or, again, there
are ceremonial duties to be attended to. Members wishing to attend
the King’s Levee must have their paths made smooth. The presentation
at Court of the wives and daughters of members must be arranged. The
Whips must expect to be consulted, as well, on sumptuary questions,
such, for instance, as whether a member ought to buy a levee dress, or
whether it will be considered sufficient if he avails himself of the
new regulation, and attends in evening coat and knee breeches; and what
is the most appropriate garment, other than a white sheet, in which to
make a maiden speech.

As if that was not enough, there are the speaking arrangements to be
made. It does not, of course, follow that the list will be adhered
to, but, for the convenience of the Speaker, it is usual for him to
be furnished “through the usual channels,” which means in other words
by the Whips, with a list of members of each party who would like to
speak in any Debate. Obviously some selection must be made, or in a
Parliament of active politicians, such as the present, the list of each
party would be impossibly large. More than half a dozen names for each
party would be more of a hindrance to the Speaker than a help, because
there would be no possibility of getting them all in--seeing that the
normal hours of Debate are between four in the afternoon and eleven
at night--seven hours in all--and the average duration of speeches is
twenty minutes, giving a maximum of twenty-one speakers. This process
of selection calls for tact of the highest order. On the one hand, if
the list is too full, the Whip must not put off further volunteers
in such a manner as to discourage them. On the other hand, he must
be careful not to create the impression that he wants them to speak
always, or they will never leave him in peace. Even the most sensible
and level-headed people are touchy about their speaking; and the effect
of a hasty word may easily take a whole session to efface from the mind
of the person to whom it was addressed.

Nor do the Whip’s duties end there. A question suddenly arises needing
instant determination. On the one hand, the leader may make up his mind
at once as to the party attitude; in that case the Whips must hurry
round, and communicate it to the members of the party. On the other
hand, the leader may wish to know the feelings of his party before
deciding on a course of action; there is no opportunity for holding a
party meeting, the decision must be taken probably within half an hour;
it now becomes the duty of the Whips to flit from member to member,
collecting opinions and suggestions for communication to the Leader by
the “Chief.” Or it may be necessary to “keep a house” for one of the
back-benchers who is “raising a question on the adjournment”; again the
busy Whips must hurry here and there lobbying their party to make sure
that forty members will be present, to protect their colleague against
the misfortune of being “counted out.”

And then, on top of all this, there is liaison with the other parties,
which in practice is more or less reserved for the Chief Whip
himself--for this kind of work demands the delicacy of Agag. These are
the accommodations, arrangements of business, exchange of party views,
that necessarily go on behind the scenes as a preliminary to the set
Debates--especially in connection with the procedure of the House and
the settlement of the order of public business.

There is a certain glamour in being styled a Whip. Your name and,
probably, your photograph are published in the papers; you are given
special facilities for entertaining your fellow-members; if your party
happens to be in power, you hold a junior office in the Treasury.
The Chief Whip, despite his responsibilities, has, on the whole, an
interesting job. He is largely concerned with what is sometimes called
the kitchen side of politics; but his function of linking up the
Parliamentary party with the leader, calls for high qualities; and his
weight, in the determination of the party programme in the conclave of
leaders, is considerable. The Junior Whips are devotees of a high order
to their party’s organisation. Their task is a thankless one. They
condemn themselves to well-nigh Trappist vows in the Chamber, because
they are almost always at work outside it. They place themselves
at everyone’s beck and call. They are in demand to smooth out any
difficulty that may arise.

In fact, as a man once said, who was A.D.C. to a Colonial Governor:
“It’s a spittoon of a life.”


Defer it as you may, upon one pretext or another, the fatal moment will
come at last when you must make your maiden speech. There have, it is
to be supposed, been members of Parliament of such agonising modesty
or such iron self-restraint, that they would have been willing to pass
their entire Parliamentary lives in silence. But sooner or later, and
probably sooner than later, an aggregation of pressures--duty to the
constituency, the spur of _amour propre_, green jealousy of the triumph
of X., who so impressed the House by his speech on the Protection of
Insects Bill, the subtle encouragement of some fair flatterer who, when
X.’s speech was discussed, eyed you archly and murmured, “Of course
_you_ ...” leaving your vanity to fill in the blanks--these, and other
compelling reasons, combine to persuade you to the irrevocable step of
giving in your name to the Whips, after which, feeling like a man who
has made an appointment with his dentist, you slink away and prepare
for the worst.

With becoming modesty, you select some insignificant, and relatively
trivial, subject--such as World Federation, the Solar system, or the
relations of the Almighty and the Universe, as affording you scope
for the pronouncement you feel it in you to make. You collect a whole
pantechnicon-load of authorities, which, when you have read them
through, are allowed to lie piled in the darkest passages of your house
for the servants to fall over; you take a ticket for the British Museum
Library; you apply yourself to study with all the fervour of a Bengalee
competing for an examination. And then, one or at the most two days
before the great oration is scheduled to be delivered, your Whip says
casually, “Oh, we’ve had to change the arrangements. We’re getting
you in on the Committee stage of the Impurities in Milk (Abolition)
Bill”; and all your labour is shown to be wasted and vain. There are
only three days left. You rush to the Dairy Produce Association,
the Institute of Milkmaids, and the Society for the Preservation of
Cattle and Kine, from each of which you receive an undigested mass of
propaganda, disguised in the form of scientific tracts. There is no
time to push your investigations beyond these, so you set yourself to
learn them word by word. You come down to the House on the fatal day
primed with knowledge, with lactialities on your lips and the milk of
human kindness bubbling from your heart--and you discover that, before
your arrival, a member of your own party, interested in the welfare
of subject populations of the Empire, has moved the Adjournment of
the House to draw attention to a matter of urgent and definite public
importance, namely, the refusal of the Government to issue practising
licences and a charter of incorporation to the witch-doctors in the
U-Ba-Be district of Abeokeuta.

You seek out your Whip, demanding information. He tells you that the
Government has changed its mind about the Bill on which you were to
speak, and intends, in its place, to introduce an Amending Act in
connection with the Acquisition of Mineral Royalties in Zanzibar,
Proclamation of 1872. Having no knowledge whatever of Zanzibar or
minerals, other than those in bottles, and only a nodding acquaintance
with the lesser grades of royalty, you feel bound to demur, when he
suggests that you should “give tongue” at such short notice on this
subject. Whereupon he offers you your choice between the Protection of
Herrings (Scotland) Bill, Second Reading; the Civil Service and Revenue
Departments (grants in respect of medical referees, destitute aliens,
and port and riparian sanitary authorities) Vote on Account; and the
Army and Air Force Annual Bill. Smitten with despair at the prospect
of the vigils, prayer and fasting entailed in the mastery of any one
of these three subjects, and fortified by a hazy recollection of “King
Solomon’s Mines,” you quaveringly ask whether it would not be possible
for you to speak on the Witch Doctors Adjournment. As your Whip has
been searching high and low for someone to do this very thing, he
almost invites you to dinner in his relief; and hurries away with your
name to the Speaker. In due course he seeks you out in the Library,
where you are sitting, in a cold perspiration at your own temerity,
and struggling to master a report on “Witchcraft and the Black Arts as
practised in the Continent of Africa,” furnished through the medium
of the Aborigines Suppression Society in 1850--apparently the only
standard work on the subject. He informs you that you will be called
immediately after the Government has replied. Your heart sinks into
your boots; a clammy sweat breaks out upon your forehead; and you apply
yourself assiduously to the report.

Just before 8.15 p.m. you stagger into the Chamber. To your excited
fancy it seems to have grown very large. The seat on which you are
accustomed to sit, seems an immense distance from the Speaker’s Chair.
But, as the House is practically empty, you sneak into somebody’s
corner seat, and hope for the best. The one encouraging factor in the
whole proceedings is that, in spite of the ghastly hash that the mover
of the resolution seems to be making, the patient House is attentively
listening in silence. After all, you think, remembering your own
triumphant speeches during the election, the swing of the words, the
thrill of the audience, the storm of applause--after all, it can’t be
as difficult as all that.... An Under-Secretary begins a half-hearted
defence of the Government. He says he is quite certain that in this
case the House will consider that the House ought to be extremely
careful before responding to the suggestion made by his hon. and
gallant friend that the House is at liberty to vary a former decision
of that House, as hon. members below the gangway seem to imagine.
He goes on to say, er--that the Government--er--will, of course, be
ruled--er--or perhaps he ought to say guided--er--by the view of the
House towards--er--or with regard to the matter--assuming that in that
matter or--er--as he would rather put it, in such questions--er--the
opinion of the House must be the governing consideration. Furthermore,
he would remind the House, with the permission of the House, that the
House is always reluctant to set aside a privilege won by the House in
former times and upheld on the floor of the House by statesmen like
Drigg and Bulgman with the full approval of the House--an approval, Mr.
Speaker, which, as the House is aware, is recorded in the journals of
the House, and which he is satisfied--nay, assured--that all members
of the House would pause before challenging.

With this adjuration he resumes his place. You climb tremulously to
your feet. The Speaker calls: “Mr. Wutherspoon.” And immediately
most of the people in the Chamber rise, and hurry out, with looks of
disgust and loathing. The bustle of their exit rather takes away from
the effect of your carefully prepared opening sentences; and your
biting gibe at the expense of the Minister seems in some mysterious
way to have lost the greater part of its sting. Those to whom it
is audible ejaculate a mirthless “Ha, ha,” to encourage a maiden
speaker, and vanish in the wake of those members who have already
left. You wonder to yourself, in dismay, whatever induced you to
embark upon a Parliamentary career; and at the same moment, stumbling,
quite by accident, upon some happy phrase, you are greeted, to your
astonishment, with modified cheering. This is what you were waiting
for. You feel that Parliament is not so insensible to your merits, as
you had at first supposed. You seize the lapel of your coat with your
left hand, and, throwing out your right in a generous half-circle, you
venture boldly upon the great passage in your speech, beginning, “The
witch-doctors of U-Ba-Be, a humble section of our fellow-subjects,
organised, as who shall say they have no right to be organised, in a
society, union or corporation, turn their eyes and lift up their voices
to this House of Commons imploring....” Somehow, by the malignant
intervention of unhappy chance, before you have said half a dozen
words of this moving passage, a deathly silence has fallen upon the
Chamber; all eyes are fixed upon you; you stumble and falter; and
murmured conversation at once begins. Again you blunder on a telling
phrase. Once more you find you are being listened to. This is a pity,
because it betrays you into a touch of self-confidence. Immediately,
all around you, faces, like flowers in the morning sun, expand into
smiling bloom. But you are getting into your stride: you correct that
mistake with a modest remark and a deprecating movement of the hand.
Whereupon, you are cheered. You turn with graceful assurance towards
the Chair. “Why, Mr. Speaker, the witch-doctors of U-Ba-Be,” you begin;
and you find that the Speaker, who has a legion of duties beyond
listening to the speeches, is in earnest conversation over the arm of
the Chair with one of the Whips, or perhaps is writing, or--and this is
so disconcerting as almost to petrify one with astonishment--he has
vacated the Chair to the Deputy-Speaker, who wearing neither wig nor
gown, is well-nigh invisible under the mighty canopy. In the dismay of
this paralysing discovery, your legs endeavour to collapse under you.
You nerve yourself for a prodigious effort, jettison the witch-doctors
into space, and endeavour to sweep into the peroration, so carefully
prepared on the subject of World Peace, adapted later to the Milk Bill,
and now, with suitable alterations, doing service on behalf of the
subject populations of the Empire. You get along very nicely for about
two minutes; you feel that you are taking the House into your arms;
you carefully avoid a second glance at the Chair, and look along the
benches, warming to your work. Alas! at that moment somebody laughs.
In all human probability his laughter had nothing to do with anything
you said. In a feverish effort to recall your words, for purposes of
correction, you lose the sequence of ideas, and the peroration follows
the witch-doctors into the limbo of forgotten things. You lamely thank
the House for its indulgence; and sit down covered with ignominy and

Then, to your astonishment, other members turn round, and nod to
you--nods of approval. Somebody says “Well done.” Somebody else leans
forward, and pats you on the back. One of the leaders on the Front
Bench actually turns round and looks at you. The Whip who arranged for
your call offers words of congratulation.

You congratulate yourself--on having got it over.


The Front Bench, which faces the Treasury Box, and is located on the
right of the Speaker’s Chair, is reserved for Ministers of the Crown.
The Front Opposition Bench, which is on the left of the Speaker’s
Chair and faces a similar box, is reserved for ex-Ministers and
Privy Councillors in opposition. What secrets of State these massive
brass-bound boxes contain, must be a source of anxious wonder to
everyone who attends a Debate and looks down upon them from one of the
Galleries. They look as though they are the very Holy of Holies of the
Constitution, the arcana in which repose the mystic foundations of our
greatness. You feel that, at least, they ought to contain Doomsday
Book, the original manuscript of Magna Carta, and the Declaration of
Rights. So massive and monumental is their appearance, so hallowed
their associations, that you would not be surprised to discover that
the special form of oath in the House of Commons was to swear “By the
Treasury Box!” as kings of old did swear _par le splendeur Dex_.

Lovers of Stevenson will recall how, during his stay on the Island of
Apemama, having been afflicted by influenza, and when all Western
medicines had failed, he put himself in the hands of Tembinok’s Chief
Magician, who, by invoking the deity Chench, effected a miraculous
cure--so shaking the scepticism of Stevenson that he pursued
investigations with the magician, which culminated in the discovery
that Chench occupied a small wooden box in the Warlock’s house.
Insatiable in his desire to extend his theological knowledge, he
succeeded, after protracted bargaining, in acquiring the tenement of
the god, bore it home in triumph, found himself, like one of his own
characters in the story of the Bottle Imp, unable to resist the pangs
of curiosity, and, with who can guess what delicious anticipations of
the unknown, removed the lid--only to discover three cowrie shells
and a little piece of matting. Such are the disappointments of the
seeker after truth who should bring himself to open the Treasury boxes,
for one is empty and the other contains a cheaply bound and quite
unremarkable copy of the Bible and a couple of pieces of cardboard
bearing a certain family resemblance to that part of the paraphernalia
of the optician that he hangs on the wall to test your sight by--which
are, in fact, copies in large letters of the oath, the Scotch oath and
the Affirmation, required by law to be taken on signing the roll of
Parliament, and embodied in this form for the convenience of the Clerk
who administers them.

But this is a digression from the Front and Back Benches. The two
members for the City of London, by some curious old survival, are
entitled to sit on the Front Bench of their party; but in practice,
since both Front Benches are notoriously insufficient to accommodate
all claimants to seats, this traditional right of the City members
is only exercised on the first day of a new Session, as who should
put a barrier once a year across a private road, to prevent the right
from lapsing. Nowadays with three large parties in the House, the
third headed by two ex-Prime Ministers and a number of distinguished
ex-Ministers and Privy Councillors, the front bench below the gangway,
on the right of the Speaker’s Chair, has, by the Speaker’s ruling,
become a Front Bench. Its opposite number on the left of the Chair
has no special status. By virtue of their office, the Whips sit on
the front benches of their respective parties. All the remainder of
the House constitutes the back benches, with the exception of the
Cross-benches--which, however, though actually within the Chamber, are,
by a fiction, outside the House, being behind the Bar. It follows that
a member may not address the House from the Cross-benches; but since,
by way of compensation, the Members’ Galleries on either side of the
House, though outside the Chamber, are, in fact, by a similar fiction,
inside the House, a member may, and in Mr. Pemberton Billing’s time
did, address the House from these lofty altitudes above it (if he is
so fortunate as to catch the Speaker’s eye), giving himself, in the
exercise of this privilege, the appearance of a contemplative passenger
leaning over the side of a ship.

So much for the physical difference between the Front and Back Benches.
What of the Front and Back Benchers? The Front Bencher is the finished
product of the Parliamentary machine. He is, to the humble majority of
his fellows, what the members of those august and mystic societies,
like “Pop” at Eton, are reputed to be, to their less distinguished
brethren. A Front Bencher is, by tradition of the House, entitled to
catch the Speaker’s eye in preference to any Back Bencher. He need not
attend prayers: indeed, if he values the privileges of his order, he
will be careful never to attend prayers, but will saunter in to take
his place whilst the Speaker’s Chaplain is bowing his way backwards
down the floor of the House. He has the privilege of putting his feet
on the Table, a practice which he not infrequently carries into his
own home--to the mingled pride of his family and astonishment of his
friends. But if the position has these privileges to give, it has also
its responsibilities. Front Benchers must behave with decorum, and
that is more than is expected of anyone else. They are the Sixth Form
boys, and must set an example.

The successful Back Bencher should approach his work in the spirit
of the Lower Third. Whilst he should not actually permit himself the
relaxation of practical joking, and would perhaps be called to order
if he shook a mouse out of his trouser leg, like “Pater” Winton in
Kipling’s story, he has within reasonable limits of good humour, an
ample licence to make sport. One well-known member of the House spends
the greater part of his Parliamentary time twisting order papers into
something between a spill and a spear, which he then ostentatiously
throws upon the floor, as though he feared to encounter the temptation
of continuing to hold them. Another is assiduous in the manufacture of
paper darts, which as yet have never been thrown.

The experiences of other deliberative Assemblies have taught the House
of Commons that Back Benchers are not to be trusted with inkwells.
This is probably the reason why there is no provision for making
notes, except upon one’s knee. But a lot of quiet fun can be had out
of raising points of order that are not points of order, and by the
judicious organisation of a hum of conversation to drown an opponent’s
speech. Isolated interjections, if possible foreign to the subject of
the Debate, and Supplementary Questions bearing no relation whatever
to the original question, are also amongst the legitimate weapons
of the Back Benchers. And finally, there is the great Parliamentary
instrument, the use of which is almost entirely confined to Back
Benchers, of moving the Adjournment of the House. Where some luckless
Minister can be tripped up in answering a question, and it can be
made to appear that the answer reveals a state of affairs definite,
urgent and of public importance, the Speaker may be asked for leave to
move the adjournment. If leave be granted, the motion is made, and,
if supported by 40 members, is set down for discussion at 8.15 on the
same evening, irrespective of what business has been allotted to that
hour. This, in the hands of senior Back Benchers, can be turned to very
effective account. Junior Back Benchers are well advised to master the
use of the lesser Parliamentary weapons to begin with.

In all seriousness, there is a noticeable difference between Front
and Back Benchers, noticeable whether you put Back Benchers on the
front benches or Front Benchers on the back benches. Thus, in the last
Parliament, Mr. Austen Chamberlain and Mr. Lloyd George, addressing
the House from back bench corner seats, contrived to present the
appearance of Gullivers amid Lilliputian surroundings--a phenomenon
largely attributable to the Front Bench manner. Some members of the
new Government (and one or two members of the last Government) who
have not yet attained to Front Bench dimensions, present an equally
astonishing contrast of the opposite kind. Their painfully unsuccessful
efforts to command attention are a source of dismay to their friends
and discomfort to their foes. The secret of successful Front Benchery
is heavy thinking, and a heavier form of expression. His chief weapon
is the polysyllable. A Back Bencher does best to study plain speech,
the simpler the better. He may enliven his argument with jest and
flippancy. He may controvert his opponent with a plain denial.

Woe to the leader who makes a joke. “Pas de plaisanteries, Madame,”
observed a scandalised European monarch, to his jesting spouse: and
that is a safe rule for Front Benchers in Debate. If a man is dull
enough he can get almost anywhere, once he has reached the Front
Bench; but ah, how difficult are the demands upon those behind him!
The speeches which the House would fill to hear from the Front Bench,
would, with equal certainty, denude it of all occupants, if delivered
from behind. A Front Bench speech may run half an hour, three-quarters
of an hour, and even, in the case of the leaders, an hour. No Back
Bencher should speak for more than twenty minutes, and fifteen is
better. The Front Bench speech should be sonorous, well documented,
weighty, responsible--in fact, a pronouncement. The Back Bench speech
should be pithy, strictly to the point, not too serious, and, above
all, modest--in the nature of a tentative expression of opinion.

Fortunately Front Benchers are not always dull--though they do their
best. And Back Benchers as a rule are far from modest.

For a consequence the proceedings often provide such a feast of good
fun, that successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have only narrowly
resisted the imposition of an Entertainment Tax. This would be fair
enough, if substantial compensation were payable for enduring the
agonies of devastating boredom entailed by sitting through, for
instance, some of the Scot----

Hush! There are too many Members of that virile race, for such remarks
to be altogether wise.


In other lands they manage things differently. The President of the
Lower House is enthroned on a majestic dais, at the head of a steep
flight of steps; the Tribune, from which speeches are made, is beneath
him; and he could, if he wished, bring the orator to reason, or, if
need be, to the conclusion of his discourse, by a few steadying taps on
the head with the ivory mallet which (auctioneer-wise) is his normal
instrument for obtaining order. The mallet is reinforced by a large
muffin bell, which, in times of distress, the President rings. And his
final means of expressing disapproval is to put on his hat--a custom
which perhaps furnishes us with the source of the jolly old folk tale,
recorded in _Grimm_, of the King who used to suppress insurrections by
pulling down his hat over his eyes, whereby cannons were fired off in
all directions. This picturesque ceremonial, far more imposing than
the procedure of the House of Commons, is also less effective for
the maintenance of order. In the course of really closely reasoned
arguments, in those less reticent assemblies, inkwells have been known
to fly, the members have been kept from each other’s throats only by
the intervention of the sabre-girt attendants, and the very citadel of
the President himself has been beset; whereat, jangling his bell with
one hand, and repulsing his assailants with a ruler in the other, he
has resolutely maintained his hat upon his head, in testimony of the
fact that, legally speaking and despite “the tumult and the shouting,”
the _séance_ has long been at an end.

But in the House of Commons the powers of the Speaker are
satisfactorily real; not only has he temporary jurisdiction over all
persons within the precincts of the Palace, he has also unassailable
power to deal with the members. He is himself both a member and
something more than a member. He is chosen by the vote of the House;
and, once approved by the King, is vested with supreme authority in
the management of the Commons. Should a point of procedure arise, his
decision is final. Should a question be put of which he disapproves
he may disallow it. Should a member say that which, in the Speaker’s
opinion, should not have been said, he may order the member to
withdraw. Should his ruling be disobeyed he may send a member out of
the Chamber. Should the defiance be persisted in, he may suspend the
member from the service of the House, whereafter that member may not be
admitted to the precincts, until, by resolution, the House itself has
terminated his suspension. Yet the Speaker, omnipotent though he seems,
is also the servant of the House. It was instructive not long ago
to hear Speaker Whitley define his powers, in relation to the Crown,
almost in the very words used by Speaker Lenthall, well-nigh three
hundred years before: “For myself I think my reply must be that I have
no tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct

It must not, however, be supposed that the Speaker exercises his
functions of authority harshly. His principal weapon, in fact, is
a kind of awful benignity. It is doubtful if there has ever been
a Speaker of the House of Commons who maintained his position by
severity; indeed, the House of Commons, which is far from being the
unintelligent assembly one might suppose, if one judged by the Press,
would never choose a person with whom there was the slightest risk
of friction; for the House is very jealous of the rights of members.
An indication of the kind of results that might be produced by an
assumption of too pedagogic a heaviness, on the part of the Chair, was
given in the Debate on the Army and Air Force Annual Bill in the last
Parliament. In the early hours of the morning, after a trying all-night
sitting, Sir Frederick Banbury, who was temporarily in the Chair,
raised his voice a little beyond the pitch of good humour in calling
to order Mr. Lansbury, who was addressing the House, whereat the
latter bluffly retorted: “You must not shout at me. Order yourself.”
Strictly speaking, Mr. Lansbury was out of order in making this retort.
He should have deferred to the ruling of the temporary Chairman, and,
if necessary, raised the matter with the Speaker after questions on
the following day. But there has never been in modern times a member
so jealous of the privileges of the House as Sir Frederick Banbury.
He realised that tempers, his own perhaps included, had worn a little
frayed during the sitting; and therefore, contenting himself by
reminding the offender that he must not challenge the decisions of the
Chair, he dexterously shepherded the discussion into safer channels.

Speaker Whitley keeps order by an unbroken suavity of manner, a great
sense of fair play and a wise lenience towards faults committed in
error, from which it will be seen that his hold upon the House is very
largely due to the feelings of personal affection, in addition to
natural respect and loyalty, with which he is regarded by all members,
even the most junior. He is quite capable of administering a rebuke,
but he prefers to conquer by gentleness: that is his peculiar quality.
With Speaker Lowther it was a keen sense of humour and, if necessary,
a blasting and ironic wit, that gave him his ascendancy. This is not
to say that Speaker Whitley is always grave; far from it. His rulings
are most often touched with humour. But it is a quiet, gentle humour,
like the man himself--the humour of a serious man, not the _esprit_ of
a wit. With Mr. Speaker Peel the governing factor was a tremendous,
awe-inspiring dignity--something of the same kind as that traditionally
ascribed to Dr. Arnold of Rugby School.

It must not, indeed, be imagined that the House of Commons never gets
out of hand: nor must it be imagined that the House of Commons has
only got out of hand since the Labour Party grew large. The House of
Commons must always have been a troublesome body. “Scenes” in the House
have taken place right back to the days of Oliver Cromwell; indeed,
Mr. Drinkwater in his play gave a vivid representation of a scene in
the House in those days. The very carpets on the floor are eloquent of
what took place in former times; for the red line, down the outer edge
of the strip that borders the front benches, is no less than a warning
to members that, in speaking, they must not put their feet beyond it,
on pain of being “out of order”: and the purpose of this rule is to
keep them from engaging each other with their swords instead of their
tongues in the heat of Debate! There were scenes in the House, constant
scenes, in the old Reform Bill days and in the old Irish days. Mr.
T. P. O’Connor still tells the dramatic story of the expulsion of
Bradlaugh, and equally dramatic stories of the bodily removal of
Irish members. Mr. Lloyd George himself has stories of suspension to
tell. There were scenes in Parliament just before the war--when, for
instance, Mr. McNeill threw a book at Mr. Churchill. There were scenes
in the last Parliament, as when the four Labour members were suspended,
and on other occasions. There will inevitably be scenes in the present
Parliament; and it is safe to say that scenes will take place so long
as the Commons shall survive.

But whereas in other countries, despite the muffin bell and the
top hat, the President cannot avoid being drawn in, in the Mother
of Parliaments the Speaker is something more than a restraining
influence, he is the embodiment of law and order. He has behind him
for the suppression of disorder the whole power of the State. He could
fill the House of Commons with police, and suppress disorder of any
magnitude; and if such an occasion arose, and threatened, as it would,
our whole Parliamentary institution, the Speaker for the time being
would unhesitatingly do so. But that situation will hardly arise. We
do most things in this country in the spirit in which we play our
games. Members know that, if they transgress the rules beyond a
certain point, they will be suspended. They know that when suspended
the Speaker will sign to the Sergeant-at-Arms and the Sergeant-at-Arms,
advancing up the floor of the House, will require them to leave the
Chamber. And because it is part of the rules of the game that they must
do so, they will do so, in the same spirit as they would accept the
decision of the umpire in a cricket match. So much for individuals. And
if a party--which happened once in the last Parliament--as an organised
whole, were to make business impossible by concerted noise, the Speaker
has yet another weapon in his armoury. Under Standing Order he may, “in
view of grave disorder,” adjourn the House “without question put,” and
give the forces of reason time to reassert themselves.

How undramatic! Yes. But the whole point about the Speaker is that he
is not a Loud-Speaker.


Though housed in the same building, though separated by a mere matter
of yards of stone-flagged corridor and lobby, no two assemblies more
essentially different in character, than the House of Commons and the
House of Peers, could easily be imagined. They exist, it is true, for
legislative purposes, the one being complementary to the other; but
when that has been said not many points of similarity remain. The
Speaker of the Commons is enthroned in a majestic canopied chair,
dominating the Assembly over which he rules; the Lord Chancellor,
who presides over the proceedings of the House of Lords, squats on a
monstrous crimson cushion, like a feather-bed gone mad, facing a yet
more monstrous crimson cushion upon which, on occasions of State,
His Majesty’s Judges sit back to back, reproducing that obsolete
formation, the hollow square, with which we won the battle of
Waterloo. The Speaker of the Commons is so called because he so seldom
speaks--because, indeed, he is the only member of the House who may
not speak, except as the House directs him. The Lord Chancellor, on
the other hand, may, and habitually does, indulge in any flights of
dithyrambic eloquence that happen to surge out of his teeming brain;
and, though, unlike the Speaker, it does not lie with him to determine
the order in which Noble Lords shall address the House, he might, if he
chose, monopolise the whole time with his own speeches. Indeed, when
Lord Birkenhead was Chancellor such a happening was not regarded as....

Fortunately, no such proceeding is possible in the House of Commons,
or, with a series of stunning reports, Mr. Pringle, Commander Kenworthy
and Mr. David Kirkwood would explode from suppressed mortification;
and there are others whose peace of mind would be seriously impaired.
But in the House of Lords they are only too anxious to avoid speaking;
indeed, the difficulty usually seems to be, to overcome the natural
reluctance of Noble Lords to allow their voices to be heard, in that
rarefied atmosphere, before they have reached the years of threescore
and ten, laid down by the Psalmist as the normal span of mankind.

In such circumstances of difference what wonder that each House regards
the other as a sort of _lusus naturæ_, a freak, a giant pumpkin? This
sense of strangeness finds the extreme of its expression, in the House
of Commons, in such outbursts as Mr. Jack Jones’s bitter expostulation
against “those marionettes,” on the occasion when the Commons were
sent for by the Lords to hear a Commission read, and found in the
Gilded Chamber five Lords Commissioners resplendent in robes, seated in
line; a solitary Back Bench Bishop, and one very junior Peer, probably
a mere Baron, who, having wandered in by mistake, sought to efface
himself under the lee of Black Rod’s box. “That,” said Mr. Jack Jones
bitterly, “is what they think of _Us_.” Indeed, a chilling disdain is
the chief characteristic of the public attitude of the Upper towards
the Lower House--as for instance when the latter, in a new Parliament,
are haughtily bidden to “repair to the place where you are to sit,”
as though they were fowls, “and proceed to the choice of some proper
person to be your Speaker,” as though, without that admonition, they
would choose somebody from the neighbourhood of Leicester Square. This
well-bred contempt is repaid, in the Commons, by veiled references to
“another place.” On this exchange of courtesies, the Peers seem to
come off best; though, when it comes to practicalities, the positions
are reversed, as any student of the Parliament Act knows only too
well--little now remaining to the Peers of their former legislative

They get it back upon the faithful Commons, in virtue of their position
in the Constitution as the Supreme Judicial Tribunal of the kingdom,
whereby it follows that, if, under the Parliament Act, they cannot
oppose indefinitely the legislative will of the Commons, they can to
some small extent indemnify themselves, in their capacity of final
interpretative authority, after the legislation has been passed. In
practice they delegate this function to the Law Lords, five of whom,
seated on the red benches with rickety desks in front of them, spend
interminable mornings appraising subtle and circumlocutory arguments
addressed to them from the Bar of the House by learned Counsel,
standing at a kind of lectern, and surrounded by their fellows eager
to propound distinctions. There is, however, nothing to prevent any
Noble Lord so minded from partaking in this intellectual feast. Indeed,
a legend obtains of a sturdy independent Peer, jealous of what would
be called in the House of Commons “private members’ rights,” who,
for years, insisted on attending, on these occasions, and delivering
himself of ponderous allocutions of which no one present, himself
least of all, understood one word of the meaning. It says much for the
self-restraint of our Hereditary Nobles that his example has not been
followed in modern times--though with Sir Frederick Banbury elevated to
the Peerage one can never be quite sure.

The House of Lords, in short, is a living example of the utility of the
unworkable, the practicality of the impracticable, and the incredible
sanity of the British Constitution. By all the rules of the game, in
a Chamber composed of more than 600 people, fully half of whom have
no serious political interests, governed apparently by no rules of
procedure, and held in check, in fact, by nothing except tradition, the
proceedings might be expected to be those of a disorderly rabble. In
fact, 80 members is a good attendance, and 50 is nearer the average.
The speeches are as a rule so closely reasoned, so admirably informed
and of such excellence of style, as to be a source of never-ending envy
to members of the Commons. Such a thing as a “constituency” speech is,
of course, unknown. There are no “dockyard” members. Nothing need be
said with a view to a general election. Nor can a member of the Upper
Chamber be imagined making a speech, for the sake of speaking. It is
not exactly an inviting atmosphere for such an undertaking. Imagine
yourself standing up to address a huge and almost empty chamber,
furnished with crimson benches, and tenanted by a smattering of elderly
gentlemen all staring with polite fixity at their boots. It really
looks as though this undemocratic and almost atavistic body, despite
all its anomalies, was in practice something of an example to its
elective fellow-House, both in the expeditious transaction of business
and in the orderliness of its proceedings. Their very method of voting
is indicative of their critical keenness, their impatience with the
institutions of this world, their determination to be satisfied with
nothing less than perfection. The form of the vote is not, as in the
Commons, “Aye” and “No,” but “Content” and “Not Content.”

Usually they are not content.



He received me with exquisite courtesy, waved me into a chair, sank
into another himself, and sat, with folded hands and an expression
compounded of saintly refinement and dignified composure, regarding me
gravely through limpid, untroubled eyes, protected from the tarnishing
realities of the world by horn-rimmed spectacles. His silky, white hair
gleamed softly in the half-light. His moustache reposed over a mouth
touched with wistful sadness, but serene and courageous. Rarely have
I seen anything more placid and self-possessed. But he had his small
irritations. I was one of them.

“Yes,” he began, with the faintest air of hesitation, “yes. It’s
good of you to have come--er. Er--most obliging, I’m sure. It’s a
pity they didn’t tell me about it. You see, I’d already arranged....
Yes--(_really troubled_)--most unfortunate! (_Brightening._) We might
walk a little way together. (_Troubled again._) But perhaps that
wouldn’t suit you--no. It would? That’s very lucky. Shall we go now?...
They’ll give me a hat, I suppose?...”

We found ourselves walking down a prodigious staircase, and I heard
him say, “Extraordinary buildings these American hotels! I always
wonder on what principle they’re constructed. The groining of the roof,
for instance....” Well, to be truthful, I’m not really sure that he
said “groining,” for my mind (I confess it with shame) was wandering
speculatively among the mysterious “them” by whom all great men are
surrounded. “They” are always lurking in the background. “They” do all
the interesting things; but when some really unpleasant job comes along
“they” always work it off on “him.” You can picture “them” planning out
the day. “Now,” they say, “there’s your speech on the Irish question,
your report for the League of Nations, the article you promised to
write for the _Hibbert Journal_, new socks and ties, another hat, and
that awful check waistcoat you bought to be exchanged for something
quieter. We’ll do all that. Then there’s the christening of the Infant
Princess Vodkha, and General Thing’s funeral. You’d better take those.
They’re very important. Oh, and there’s the Pilgrims’ dinner in the
evening. You can go to that, too. Mind you say nothing in your speech
that we shall be sorry for afterwards.” I should like to be one of
“them,” and feel that I was really pulling my weight in the country.

That, roughly, was the train of my thoughts, when I remembered that
an interviewer’s business is to interview and not to acquiesce in
excursions into the by-paths of architecture. “They” would never allow

“--and I’ve wondered sometimes,” he was saying, “whether the cantilever
had anything to do with it. But--but, no doubt, you can tell me that.”

“I can,” I said, “but it would take too long to explain. Besides, the
public expects me to put my few moments with you to a better purpose
than discussing mechanics. The world is expecting a new era to date
from the Washington Conference; and, as the chief British delegate----”

“The trouble with the world,” he replied, “is that it is perpetually
expecting the millennium. They expected it after the Congress of
Berlin. They expected it to emerge from the Hague Peace Conference,
and they got the Great War! They expected a new Heaven and a new Earth
out of the Peace Treaty; they got the League of Nations, which was an
enormous step forward. And because the League hasn’t revolutionised
humanity, because in the space of two years it hasn’t yet effectively
counter-checked all the instincts and passions which man has inherited
from the anthropoid ape, they brand it as a failure--or, at best, a
half success--and turn their eyes to Washington; and if we should not
be able (and who can predict that we shall be able?) to realise all the
passionate hopes and aspirations in their hearts, they’ll turn away
from our work in despair (however useful and practical it may be),
and they’ll go on staring into the future, straining their sight in
search of changes, that, by their very nature, are not to be perceived;
and, because they cannot watch a kind of sensational picture-drama
of evolution unfolding before their eyes, they will condemn each
progressive step as a futility.”

“Now, in this particular case,” I began, for he had paused dreamily.

“I have always had warm feelings for America,” he continued,
inconsequently as it seemed; “indeed, some of my earliest public
speeches were devoted--Yes? Were you about to say anything?--were
devoted to pleading for what one might call a Pax Anglo-Americana, as
something wider than the Pax Britannica, and as a step towards--a step
towards some better understanding between the various states of the

I sought to pin him down. “And is that your expectation of the outcome
of this Conference?”

“I see no reason why one should not hope, and ... and, indeed, there
seems to me every reason for believing, that our ... our discussions
and conversations will reveal sufficient of our respective points of
view to serve as a basis for future negotiations, and possibly to give
a broad indication of the lines upon which a general agreement might
ultimately be reached.”

I changed front swiftly. “You were in the United States in 1917?”

“In 1917, yes.”

“Do you notice many changes?”

“I can’t help feeling that there is a certain popular aridity which, I
should have said, was conspicuously absent on the occasion of my last
visit. Naturally, during a war, public opinion tends to be exuberant
and ... and, indeed, at times fluid----”

“Then you think the political atmosphere of America has become
noticeably drier?”

“I think you must not ask me to discuss the politics of a friendly
Power within ... within the confines of that Power. Or, indeed, you may
ask, of course, but I feel it would be improper to answer.”

I flung myself upon him from another angle.

“People in England cannot help wondering what effect Mr. Hara’s
assassination will have on the Conference.”

“I have always thought,” he replied, after a pause, “that in a society
so constituted as ours, it is impossible that such an incident--or, or,
indeed, any incident--should be devoid of effect and significance.”

“It might prejudice the issue?”

“Conceivably. Or, on the other hand, in certain circumstances, by
drawing attention to what is called the War Party in Japan--if such a
party exists, as to which I say nothing--it might, in the long run,
exercise quite the opposite influence.”

I tried a more direct approach. “Might I ask what will be the policy of
the British Delegation?”

“Certainly. The policy of the British Delegation, subject to the
approval of His Majesty’s Government, will be that decided upon, after
due deliberation, by the Chief Delegate in consultation with his

We walked on a few yards in silence--I struggling to frame a question
that he could not evade, he with his eyes on the horizon and his
thoughts (I imagine) in another planet. To relieve my evident distress,
he said at last, “Would you like me to say anything further?”

I threw diplomacy to the winds and faced him with savage determination.
I said to myself that I would not be trifled with.

“Sir,” I cried, “we have talked for half an hour. I think I know less
of your thoughts on this subject now than before we began. In the name
of the publicity for which I have heard you appeal in the League of
Nations, say something specific of your hopes and fears, something to
which posterity may point a finger, saying, ‘Here was a statesman with
vision. He _knew_.’”

“That,” he replied with gentle gravity, “is a little difficult.
Er--as ... as you know, I am always unwilling to assume the _rôle_ of
prophet. Indeed, I am not prepared to say that in the scheme of things
as I understand it--and using ... using the word in the sense that is
customary to me--that such a thing as a prophecy has any existence at
all. But I feel--yes, I feel the necessity which you have urged upon me
with--er--with--er ... so eloquently; and I am above all things--and at
all times--desirous of affording such proper information as the public
ought to receive, upon such a topic as our present Conference, to those
whose ... whose work it is to--to disseminate--er--such information.
I see no harm, therefore, in acceding to your request, at the same
time making it clear that, since these issues are momentous and easily
imperilled, you must observe the ... the greatest discretion in any
use--er--in any use to which you may put my words.”

Overpowered at the apparent success of my appeal to his better
feelings, I could only bow my thanks. The veteran statesman veiled his
eyes with their tired lids and seemed to ponder.

“Well,” he said at last, “subject to what I have already stated, I see
no reason why I should not say that the Outlook is not ... is not as
bad as it might be. And now--yes, this is where I must leave you. It
has been a great pleasure to speak so frankly; and I know you will be
discreet. Good-bye.”

And then he left me and strolled on his way with serene detachment. But
whether the “Outlook” to which he referred was the paper of that name,
or the prospect before the Washington Conference, those who have read
so far are as well able to judge as I.


The great liner warped into the quay. Hushed expectation poised itself
over the multitude. A dumpy figure, almost incredibly small against the
vastness of the ship, appeared at the head of the accommodation ladder,
and waddled slowly down the side, followed, at a respectful distance,
by obsequious midgets. It approached nearer, resolving itself into
a small round-shouldered man with a heavy, pale face, distinguished
eyebrows and prodigious moustaches. His eyes were grey and meditative;
his hair a shaggy, black mane, bursting irrepressibly from under his
hat. He strode ashore, and prostrated himself on the soil of his
beloved country.

“_Ah, la patrie_,” he cried in his thrilling, resonant voice, rising
from his knees as he spoke, and lifting his right hand in solemn
invocation. “Ah, my country, thy faithful Aristide, thy humble servitor
salutes thee. He returns, inflated with no Imperialism, but none the
less from the depths of his heart proud to have upheld, in thy name,
before all the assembled conscience of mankind, those principles of
liberty, those imperishable ideals of justice, of international comity
and brotherhood, that fine spirit of self-abnegation in which it has
ever been the boast of France to lead the world. Oh, liberty, what
sacrifice would we not willingly offer in thy behalf? Oh, freedom,
where is thy source if not in France? Oh, humanity----”

I tapped him on the shoulder.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” I said.

“_Vous dites, M’sieur?_” he asked indignantly.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” I repeated sternly. “What do I hear
that you’ve been saying in Washington about British warships and
sardine-hunting, French submarines and botanical expeditions, and the
unknown X?”

He showed his teeth in a grim smile.

“The unknown X? _Qu’est-ce que c’est ça? M’sieur veut dire peut-être
‘La femme X’?_”

“No evasions,” I warned him. “I am here in the interests of the British
public. They are pained, Monsieur, pained! They know nothing of
international politics, and very little about politicians--even their
own. But they know that, in their quiet way, they’ve grown to be fond
of your people. They see that you misunderstand them. And it hurts them
to think that the Entente Cordiale----”

He flicked his fingers impatiently.

“_L’entente cordiale! Ah, M’sieu, l’entente cordiale!_ ... Are you
understanding French?”

“Not noticeably,” I confessed.

“_Alors!_ Well, I shall tell you in English.... What is it, this
Entente Cordiale? _Hein?_ An understanding of friends, _n’est ce pas_?
What the Americans call a ‘gentleman’s agreement.’ You make it because
you trust so much, that you will not care to have a Treaty. Well,
then, but you must trust your _vis-à-vis_. You must not put all the
bad construction on his doing. Not even a Treaty will stand that. You
cannot have Entente, and then go on nag, nag, nag, like an old peasant
woman with the toothache. Oh, it is impossible, _M’sieu_, impossible!”

“Angora?” I hinted.

“Angora....” He shrugged bluffly. “Well, yes, Angora. That is, perhaps,
a pity. We are--we are in the soup with Angora.” He passed it off with
a disarming grin. “But, _après tout_, what can you expect of Bouillon?
We shall settle all that.... And it is not Angora that threaten our
Entente, M’sieu. Ah, no! That is a small thing. A few Kemalist do not
imperil Anglo-French relations. Pouf!...”

His face grew troubled and sad.

“M’sieu, you know perfectly. It is Germany. Yes. You talk a lot of
the separate peace with Turkey. In the letter that is so; but in the
spirit you make a separate peace with Germany. Oh, yes. This is not
epigram--it is truth. Germany, she does not intend to pay. Perhaps
she cannot pay. I do not know. It is possible she cannot; but you in
England pretend to her that she _cannot_ pay and to us that she _will_
pay. _Ménager la chèvre et le chou!_ Is that entente cordiale?...”

“You see,” I endeavoured to explain, “this is a subject on which
there are two views in England. One side holds that Germany can pay
something--the precise sum varies according to the knowledge and
dispassion of the thinker. The other party contends that she can pay
nothing at all--that it would be wiser in the general interest of
Europe to cancel the whole debt; and that view, not widely held, is
gaining ground----”

“At the expense of France,” he interjected sharply. “Yes. Not at your
expense, my generous friend, but at the expense of France.”

“That,” I answered, “is partly true; but not entirely true. Viewed in
its immediate context, it may be so; but taken in perspective, the
trade revival in Germany----”

“Ah,” he cried, “_Ah, ça, M’sieu!_ The trade revival in Germany.
And then, _M’sieu_, and then? The political revival of Germany. The
military revival of Germany. The German hegemony. Mittel Europa.
_Merci, M’sieu!_ And France, what of France?”

“France,” I began, “is a member of the League of Nations.”

“And Germany,” he replied, “is not. And America is not. And Russia,
with her army of two millions, is not. Thank you for your League of
Nations, _M’sieu_. What will it be in ten years? Perhaps the great
co-ordinating harmoniser of the whole world. Perhaps not. What is
America wishing since I leave Washington. They will have a new League,
with no Covenant. _C’est à dire_ nothing that binds--nothing that give
security to such as France. Just a lot of amiable pleasantry, that
you interpret as you please. Much of your Press are support them. Do
that give confidence to France?... First we are to have the Tripartite
Treaty--England, America, France. Then that is not ratify. And our
English friends say, ‘Never mind. You have it all in Article 10. The
League of Nations will protect you.’ Now, perhaps, the League will
follow the Tripartite Treaty. Oh, yes, I know they say the Association
will be side by side with the League. But how can you have that? It is
a rival system. They say it will be found upon The Hague Tribunal. Then
what comes to the International Court? It is to make of international
politics a kind of _bouillabaisse_.... _Non, M’sieu!_ I am head of a
Government. I am responsible to a nation. Do you seriously advise me to
trust in the League of Nations?”

“I advise you,” I answered, “to trust more in ideas, and less in
things. Ideas let loose in the world cannot be destroyed. The League of
Nations is an idea--not an office at Geneva. Civilisation is an idea;
religion is an idea. What banded the nations together for the Great
War? The strength of an idea.”

“Self-preservation,” he muttered, cynically.

“_Monsieur le Président_, that is unworthy.” (He bowed ironically at
the rebuke.) “It is the contemptible argument of the materialist. What
drew our young men to fight in 1914? Self-preservation. Never! I doubt
if half of them knew the meaning of it. It was the conviction that an
evil thing was being done, and the belief that it was their duty to
prevent it.”

“Some of your Statesmen,” he continued, as if my remark had not
been made, “are so kind as to teach my Government his business.
They stand up in public and lecture us, warn us. Italy go wild with
rage, because some lying journalist attribute to me what I have not
said. England and America link arms and get drunk on formulas of
disarmament, that perhaps mean nothing in the light of science to-day.
Japan disguise herself as a mandarin and go behind the scenes in
China ... and Germany and Russia look on with sardonic satisfaction
to see the isolation of France, and prepare for the next ‘Day’!
That give one great encouragement to disarm. And all the time to be
uncertain--uncertain of one’s friends.... You say your people, they
have love for France. _Ma foi_, they take a strange method to show
it!... I do not understand. No, I do not understand.”

“Must one,” I asked him, “must one always understand? Cannot one have
faith in a friendship, tried and proved?”

“You say to have faith,” he mused. “Yes, but that is not so easy. For
every belief there must be a foundation--the rock on which the Church
is build. Where is my rock?”

“The English dead,” I murmured.

His voice suddenly softened.

“_Ah, M’sieu_, those dead. I was forgetting.... We have all lived
at so much pressure since the Peace, that we forget too often the
fundamentals. We live for so many such strenuous years steeped in
sentiment, that now we have a reaction.... Those dead in their quiet
graves in the North of France--sleeping there till the end of time.

“Yes. We have been too impatient, and we say things that we do not
mean. It is not only here in France; your Ministers, too, have been at
fault. But, _au fond_, it means nothing.

“Listen. I shall tell you. Let us speak no more of _L’Entente
Cordiale_. It is a phrase of politicians and tradesmen. We shall say
in future _La Grande Amitié_. It shall be--it is--a great love between
two peoples, sanctified in a bitter struggle for a common aim.... I am
glad to have talked with you, _M’sieu_. Perhaps our conversation can be
having good results.

“Do not be too hasty with us. Remember, France have much to fear on the
Continent. If we do what seem to you wrong, then be patient. It is not
perversity, always.”

He clambered into the car that waited, and drove away through the
cheering ranks of his fellow-countrymen....

And I wondered.


“... And which of us,” he said, smiling at me over the breakfast table,
“which of us do you wish to see?”

I murmured that I did not understand--er....

“A friend of yours writing in the press,” he explained drily, “has been
good enough to find in me a second Jekyll and Hyde. Very well. With
which of us do you wish to talk--Lloyd Jekyll or Hyde George?”

“Which,” I asked cautiously, “is which?”

“Both,” he replied, “are Me. Your friend misconceives the situation.
He attributes all my political mistakes and failures to Hyde; and the
successes I attain to Jekyll. But the truth is that between them they
have always pulled me this way and that; and most of my actions are a
compromise between their conflicting injunctions. Hyde is still the
shrewd Welsh solicitor, who sharpened his wits from morning to night,
that Jekyll might have his opportunity. Jekyll is still the idealist
who dreamt in his youth of Welsh Home Rule; who upheld the Boers in
his middle age because of the nobility of their struggle against
overwhelming odds; and now in the fullness of maturity has conferred
upon Ireland the freedom she has sought for centuries.”

“But----” I interjected.

He waved me aside. An inspiration had mastered him.

“The clouds of despair,” he chanted, “were gathered over our heads.
They menaced our security, they threatened our national safety. No
avenue of peace has been left unexplored.... The helmsman stands stark
and firm, on the crosstrees. The ship of State lurches perilously on
the ocean. The captain cons the passage with anxious eyes, the binnacle
clasped in his hand, his belaying-pin beside him. Mountainous billows
tower above us. The hour is dark. The time is nigh. Shipwreck, despite
all our efforts, appears inevitable.... But faith, like a little child,
steals in with the dawn; and the splendour of the sunlight, bursting
upon the immemorial hills, floods the valleys with limpid rapture,
and bathes all nature in joy unspeakable. The sheep frolic around the
homestead. The housewife plies her needle with diligent care. And
the ship of State, with its lonely pilot, worn but triumphant on the
forecastle, glides in safety into the appointed harbour----”

“This,” I protested, “is not an Eisteddfodd,” but he ignored me.

“The tempest,” he continued, “the tempest will abate; the watchers will
come down upon the shore with gladness in their hearts; and the golden
glory of my native hills will shine in the souls of men, leading them
upward, and ever toward the light.”

A galvanic sweep of the arms brought this whirlwind of speech to a
conclusion. A dish of eggs and bacon abruptly clattered on the floor.
He pushed the muffins towards me, and refilled his teacup.

“Hyde has been trying to persuade me for some time,” he began, leaning
forward confidentially, “to go to the country on the Irish issue. A
far stronger rallying cry than ‘Hang the Kaiser!’ and ‘Search their
pockets!’ Better even than the ‘Land fit for heroes’ and the ‘Bulging
corn-bins.’ It would have been quite easy, you know, to break off
negotiations on the question of allegiance. From the point of view of
expediency there was a lot to be said for it. It might have swept the
country. But Jekyll refused. I think he was right.

“All the same, Hyde’s a shrewd fellow. He sees in a flash what can
be turned to good account. He prides himself on knowing what the
public wants; and he makes me give it to them. My speech just now,
for instance, would have been immensely successful in the House of
Commons.... It--er--it didn’t seem to appeal to you.”

“It reminded me,” I replied, “if I may say so without offence, of your
Christmas message to the _Lloyd George Liberal Magazine_.”

“Ah!” he exclaimed, “another of Hyde’s activities. You read the
magazine, then?”

“Not often,” I answered.

“I am afraid,” he said, “I am afraid you found my message wanting in
literary flavour.”

“On the contrary, I should say its flavour was almost too pronounced.”

He smiled ruefully.

“Well,” he said, “you may be right--though personally I thought one or
two passages rather fine. But, of course, Hyde ... the truth is, the
fellow has an unerring flair for political situations; and he’s always
bringing forward these highly flavoured sentiments and fathering them
on to me, on the plea that they’re what the public wants. And the worst
of it is, he’s right. The public likes that kind of thing.”

“Not the intelligent public,” I remonstrated.

“I don’t know what you mean by that. If you mean the _intelligentsia_,
they don’t count politically.... Suppose my Government fell, what would
happen? There’d be a General Election--in which I’m afraid Hyde George
would come to the front--which I might lose. Another Government would
replace me--perhaps Edward Grey and Bob Cecil. And then? One of two
things. Either they’d carry on in the same quiet, undistinguished and
often shifty manner, as I do, balancing one interest against another,
and being satisfied with the occasional inch of progress that one makes
from time to time; or they’d launch out in an ambitious way, and the
conflicting interests of modern society would crush them in six months.”

“Surely,” I said, “government in accordance with principle----”

“The fundamental principle of Government,” he interrupted, “is
reputed to be the consent of the governed. But one is not always
dealing with first principles; and for practical purposes one of the
most indispensable things is the goodwill of the Press. The Press
is controlled by capital interests. That is a consideration. The
organisation of Labour is another consideration--powerful, though less
powerful than formerly. There is the Entente with France to maintain,
without going so far to maintain it as will offend large numbers of
people here. There is an understanding to keep with America, and
an Alliance to modify with Japan. There is a part to be played in
the League of Nations, and that must often inevitably conflict with
the cordiality of this country’s relations with certain countries,
that are doing us no harm but are misconducting their relations with
other countries--instances abound. There is the question of raising
revenue--who is to contribute; in what proportions; how? Every
decision you make on any detail of these subjects, is going to hit
somebody hard in the pocket, perhaps turn him out of employment.... And
you talk of principles like a professor of mathematics considering the
functions of π. I get so tired of this unpractical nonsense. That’s
why I can’t get on with Bob Cecil. It’s a thousand pities; for if only
he’d recognise these things and take his head out of the clouds, he’d
be invaluable at the Foreign Office.... But to hear him talk, anyone
would think, not only that my Government was a set of ill-balanced,
self-seeking opportunists, inaccessible to any consideration except
their own profit, but that what he calls honest government was as
simple as beggar-my-neighbour.”

“You know, sir,” I interjected deferentially, “some people can’t help
feeling that a little more adherence to principle in dealing with
Ireland would have saved----”

“My dear young friend,” he said in a pitying tone, “have you ever
studied the Irish question divorced from the rhodomontade of Ulster,
and the hysteria of the South? If you have, you’ll see that there’s
right--a lot of it--on both sides. It would have been easy enough to
apply a catchpenny solution to Ireland--that’s what we’ve been doing
for generations, as each successive crisis occurred. Any twopenny
Tory demagogue can denounce me for not giving Ireland another taste
of Cromwell. But can you see British troops engaged in the process?
Any paltry crank can storm at my want of faith in not giving them a
Republic long ago; but can you see this country acquiescing in the
Balkanisation of the British Isles? And can you see the outside world
welcoming the creation of another small State in Europe?... You’ve got
to come to solutions slowly in these matters; and the only principle
that counts, is the preservation of the Commonwealth of Nations to
which we belong.”

“And have you preserved that by your settlement?” I asked him.

“It depends,” he said gravely, “on the spirit in which it is carried
out. If neither party in Ireland can agree, and if they will not be
reconciled to us, then we have achieved nothing. But if,” his voice
grew in volume, “if there is a purpose in life; and if great trust
breeds great trust, as I believe; and if faith and hope are more than
words to humanity, and direct our thoughts and inspire our bravest
acts; then, surely, this work will endure.”

He raised his hand, solemnly.

“Sir,” I said, “I have travelled much in our Empire. The Dominions are
my second home. Are they to be Dominions still? Or, if they claim it,
are they to become Free States also?”

“It is a Dominion status,” he replied. “The name does not matter.”

“Are you sure?”

“The real tie,” he answered, “must be one of loyalty and love. It is a
small matter how the thing is called: and if those qualities are absent
you will not better it by the name of Dominion....

“And now,” he said, “I’ve talked long enough. I’ve a Cabinet Council
and an interview with the Foreign Secretary to get through before
lunch; and there are three confounded deputations which Hyde insists on
my seeing personally. So you must go.”

Wherewith he disappeared through one of the multitude of doors
surrounding his breakfast-room.


He had thrown himself negligently into a formidable wooden armchair.
Lace ruffles of the eighteenth century clung round his wrists, and
partly concealed his hands. Crossed over its fellow-knee, he displayed
with pardonable ostentation a powerful calf, set on a shapely ankle,
and set off by the silken hose of his high office. A prodigious
cigar--Flor Monumento--protruded from the corner of his mouth.
Intellectual intolerance was the distinguishing characteristic of his

The gentlemen ushers, marshals, petty bag keepers, javelin men and
other menials, who had heralded me into the presence, bowed themselves
obsequiously out. I sat down nervously on the edge of a chair. He eyed
me with a freezing compound of disdainful curiosity and disfavour.
Abashed out of countenance, I slipped out of my hands and fell on
the floor with a faint thud. It seemed that it would only add to the
solecism if I began groping about on the floor for myself--I made up my
mind that I would let myself lie where I had fallen, until he wasn’t
looking; but, somewhat to my surprise, he picked me up in the most
courtly manner, dusted me, and restored me to my chair.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said reassuringly. “It’s the look that does it.
No witness has ever resisted it yet. They used to curl up, and go limp,
and lean over the side of the box, when I began my cross-examination;
and it has not lost its power.”

“Have you ever tried it on Mr. Lloyd George?” I gasped.

“Once,” he replied, “only once, and that long ago--for, you understand,
it would hardly be fitting in me to hamper and embarrass His Majesty’s

“Was it effective?”

“I think I may claim that it impaired his digestion seriously for a few
days. He tried to resist it, you see, and the after-effects in such a
case become cumulatively more powerful.... As a matter of fact, his
visit to Gairloch--well, perhaps I’d better say nothing further. Of
course, the remainder of the Cabinet are the merest children. I can
quell Fisher or Horne with comparative ease; I have even succeeded in
making Curzon blush; and, as you know, on a recent occasion I overthrew
poor Carson so severely that for several days they despaired of his
reason. My castigations are notorious. Let me warn you to take great

“Would it,” I began nervously, “would it fall under the heading of
incurring a castigation, if I were so presumptuous as to inquire about
your hobbies?”

“By no means. A very proper question. I am devoted to all sports.
Football, cricket, tennis, water polo, lion hunting, kiss-in-the-ring
and spillikins are among my favourites; but I think that most of all
I enjoy a quiet game of pogo with the Cabinet.... Sing? Yes, I sing
frequently. My favourite song? I think my favourite is that fine old
ditty, ‘Rendle, My Son.’ You are unacquainted with it?” He broke into a
prodigious baritone:

    “Where have you been all the night, Rendle, my son?
     Where have you been all the night, my pretty one?
       _At the O.P. Club, dear mother.
       Make my bed soon,
       For F. E. was there, and I fain would lie down._”

“Indeed,” he continued, “I am devoted to simple old songs of all
kinds--‘Weel May the Dail Row,’ for instance, and ‘Solly in Our Alley.’”

“And now,” I ventured to say, “... I was instructed to ask you for a
Christmas message to the public.”

“If you will write something of the necessary degree of sickliness,
I’ve no objection to signing it,” he replied. “Or wait.... It happens
that I have to deliver a judgment in the House this afternoon, in the
case of a curious old man named Klaus against the Attorney-General
for detinue, wrongful imprisonment, and a declaration of nationality.
He has been excluded from the country under some of the numerous
regulations of the Defence of the Realm Act, and his sack, which
appears to contain an astonishing miscellany of objects, has been
confiscated by the Customs authorities.... Would that serve your
purpose? It will figure in the next edition of my judgments.”

“If I might hear it, perhaps....”

“Certainly.” He drew a formidable case-book from the shelf behind him,
adjusted a pair of horn spectacles, and read as follows:

“In this case your lordships have been moved to set aside a decision
by the Court of Appeal, affirming the decision of the King’s Bench,
whereby the Attorney-General, the Sheriff, and the Justices of Lower
Mudhaven were upheld in refusing admission into this country to the
appellant, S. Klaus, a person of indubitable ex-enemy origin, but
widely esteemed in this country, who carries on an old-established
business in many parts of the world.

“It has been claimed on behalf of the appellant that, by long use, he
has acquired a prescriptive domicile amounting to British nationality,
which, since it has been enjoyed without interruption for more than
ninety years, is to be taken, by irrebuttable presumption, as having
arisen in time immemorial, which, as we are all aware, means from the
time of Richard I. It was contended for the Crown, that, by reason
of the various statutes and regulations prohibiting the presence of
enemies in this country during the war of 1914-1918, this user was in
law interrupted, and therefore is bad as a plea. The appellant replies
that, despite the prohibitions, he did, in fact, continue to ply his
calling here during the four years in question; and in the Court below
he called a number of witnesses, whose credit is in no way impeached,
to depose that, to their knowledge, at a certain season in each year,
he visited this country in order to keep his business afloat. This is
certainly a matter to which the attention of the proper authorities
ought to be drawn, for clearly at that time the appropriate person to
have carried on his affairs was the Controller of Enemy Businesses
under the supervision of the Public Trustee; and some inquiry seems to
me to be called for, into the neglect of that official to carry out his
duties. This, however, by the way.

“Passing over the testimony of Elsie Biggers and John Marmaduke
Baxter-Cunliffe, also known by the alias of ‘Tweety,’ both of whom
depose to having seen the appellant descend through the chimney in
their respective houses a year ago, but whose tender years--three in
the first case and two and a-half, as I believe, in the second--raise
a doubt in my mind as to their understanding of the nature of an oath,
there is unquestionable and unimpeachable evidence of some person or
persons unknown having placed a variety of articles in the houses, and,
indeed, in the stockings, of a number of the deponents in this cause,
which were not there before. The appellant avers that it was he who
placed them there; and, as no alternative hypothesis has been advanced
by the Crown, I should, I think, be disposed to accept the appellant’s
word as conclusive, were it necessary for me, in advising your
lordships as to the judgment which your lordships will shortly deliver,
to pronounce either upon one side or upon the other in this conflict of
testimony--so far as it can be so called.

“But is it necessary to go into these questions? Mr. Attorney-General,
_arguendo_, has urged upon us that, where a person performs an act of
which he is legally incapable, then it is as if the act in question had
not been performed; and he cites the cases of a child under seven, who
is _doli incapax_, and of a child between seven and fourteen, who is
_prima facie doli incapax_, and the case of a minor incurring a debt
other than for necessaries, and of a person who makes a will, not in
due form of law. From these premises, he contends that, since it was
illegal for the appellant to come to, or be in, this country, it must
be taken, for our purposes, that he was never there; and the plea of
prescriptive domicile must fall to the ground.

“My lords, I am unable to resist this argument. Where a person, whether
wilfully or not, steps outside the ambit of the law, it is clearly
established that he does so at his own risk; and ignorance will not
thereafter avail him as an excuse. I must advise your lordships to
pronounce, that, despite the evidence, the appellant was not in this
country during the war, that the user upon which he bases his title was
interrupted during that time, and, consequently, that his first plea
must fail----”

He broke off, and looked at me, quizzically.

“What do you think of that reasoning?” he asked. “Ingenious, isn’t it?”

“Hardly ingenuous though,” I murmured; “and it seems to me----”

He drew himself to his full height, and glared. One corner of his mouth
went down, and the other rose to the level of his lower eyelid. It was
the celebrated sneer.

“No doubt,” he said icily, “no doubt in the purlieus of Tooting Bec or
Brockley, whichever you inhabit, remarks of that kind pass current as
wit. I daresay, among cannibals and anthropoid apes, there is to be
found a rough sense of coarse buffoonery that is tickled by such vulgar
exuberance; but, among the aristocracy of an old civilisation, your
behaviour would provoke pity, rather than mirth, were it not that, with
us, the impudence of a scavenger is accounted a more noxious thing than
his trade----”

“Really,” I began, “I must protest----”

“What? Argument?” he cried harshly. He smote a bell. An old and
trembling man doddered into the room. He pointed dramatically.

“Remove it,” he ordered.... I judged it best to remove myself.

And as I walked away along the corridor the notes of “Rendle, My Son”
floated after me. Only at that distance I could not be quite sure that
the name was Rendle.


    Spurn the Liberals: do not love them,
                                Son o’ mine.
    We are very much above them,
                                Son o’ mine.
    But we want to rule the nation;
    So, for mere self-preservation,
    We will steal their legislation,
                                Son o’ mine.

    Never trust the Labour Party,
                                Son o’ mine.
    They’re as wicked as Astarte,
                                Son o’ mine.
    And the voter is a noodle;
    So we’ll win on _this_ flapdoodle--
    “They will strip you of your boodle,”
                                Son o’ mine.

    When we’ve carried all before us,
                                Son o’ mine.
    We will praise ourselves in chorus,
                                Son o’ mine.
    We’ll acclaim ourselves as sages,
    We’ll do all our jobs by stages,
    And we’ll hang things up for ages,
                                Son o’ mine.


_A Tale with a Moral._

    Oh, uncle, why is Mister Wood
    So unequivocally good?
    And, in the name of mercy,
    Why does his comrade look so riled,
    So rigid and unreconciled,
    So stern of purpose?
                          Hush, my child,
        _That_ is Lord Eustace Percy.

    A most exemplary young man,
    A blameless Sabbatarian--
        By happy dispensation,
    They used to rule, E. Wood and he,
    In absolute authority,
    That singular corroboree,
        The Board of Education.

    Far otherwise it might have been
    But for Lord Younger’s dread machine.
        A Premier, less discerning,
    Might have set up, in Fisher’s chair,
    Some pedagogue or doctrinaire,
    Instead of that illustrious pair,
        To supervise our learning.

    But Providence, both wise and kind,
    To British interests never blind,
        The choice adroitly guided;
    Giving “effective preference”
    Over mere expert eminence,
    To men of large experience
        And virtues many-sided.

    [Illustration: Edward and Eustace.]

    For Edward, who, in early days
    (Screened from the prying public’s gaze),
    Studied John Keble’s holy ways
        And theologic fever,
    Rose to be foremost underling
    In Winston’s Great Imperial Ring;
    And later had beneath his wing
        The Council of Geneva.

    While Eustace, hardy sciolist,
    Was firstly a diplomatist;
    And later tried his noble fist
        At something in the City;
    And later still enlarged his view,
    As Honorary Chairman to
    That product of the Irish stew
        The Claims and Grants Committee.

    So both must be presumed to know
    The habits of the Esquimaux,
    The properties of indigo,
        The ways of the Equator,
    The secret hopes of the Malay,
    The mysteries of settling-day--
    Essentials to an educa-
        Tional administrator.

    It is unnecessary to
    Remind so wise a child as you,
    No such arrangement could pursue
        Its course, undislocated.
    People began to make a fuss;
    They said: “Two men so virtuous
    Are rarer than the platypus,
        And better separated.”

    So Edward, calm, detached, serene,
    Remained on that exalted scene,
    Quaffing scholastic Hippocrene,
        In learned pastures browsing;
    While Eustace bent his nimble brains
    To joists, light-castings, sumps and drains,
    In Mr. Neville Chamberlain’s
        Belated scheme of Housing.


    And if, my nephew, like E. Wood
    And Eustace, you are always good,
    You’ll study from your babyhood
        To merit estimation.
    You’ll put aside that bowie knife,
    You will eschew all forms of strife,
    And earn, and keep throughout your life,
        The plaudits of the nation.


    On the Front Opposition Bench (which great statesmen adorn)
    Cheek by jowl with Mr. Asquith; J. R. Clynes and George Thorne;
    Dark Ramsay of Aberavon; the learned member for Spen,
    Sat jovial Josiah Wedgwood and bold Wedgwood Benn.

    The toughness of salamander, and a monkey-gland vim,
    The endurance and determination, both of Cromwell and Pym,
    The persistence of twenty members, and the lung power of ten
    Distinguished Josiah Wedgwood and stern Wedgwood Benn.

    Did a foeman pause or stumble, or to error succumb
    (What though Pringle were exhausted, and e’en Kenworthy dumb),
    Swift as the summer swallow, or the fleet prairie hen,
    Out popped Josiah Wedgwood, or else Wedgwood Benn.

    From the bora of the Arctic to the rainfall of Spain,
    From the theories of Einstein to the “talks” of Frank Crane,
    There exists no place or subject, not embraced in the ken
    Of omniscient Josiah Wedgwood and wise Wedgwood Benn.

    Were they harsh?--They could be tender. Were they gay?--They could
                                                               be grave.
    Did they thunder in anger?--They could also be suave.
    They could bruise like Joseph Beckett: they could sting like cayenne,
    Multifarious Josiah Wedgwood and slick Wedgwood Benn.

    Which explains my sense of outrage, that this sternest of men,
    Who comes (via Mr. Asquith) from a wild Highland Glen,
    Should have torn from one another, by a stroke of the pen,
    Jolly old Josiah Wedgwood and sad Wedgwood Benn.

[Illustration: Jovial Josiah Wedgwood and bold Wedgwood Benn.]



    A Die-Hard is a man who only cares
    To serve his land, in speechless self-denying,
    Yea, even to the Death!--provided there’s
    Some other idiot to do the dying.


(Suitable to be sung at Anti-Proletarian Sunday Schools.)

    Far away in sunny Alabamma,
    Where the pickaninny cotton-bushes grow,
    You can flatten out a nigger with a hammer
    Or put it well across him with your toe.
    That’s the way to deal with subject races
    (Subject populations kindly note!),
    Tie them up, and flog them with your braces,
    Probably they haven’t got a vote.
    Keep inferiors in their proper station,
    Don’t allow the brutes to make a fuss.
    In the many marvels of creation
    Nothing’s fit to kiss the boots of US.


(For little Die-Hards.)

    Reduction of Force
    Makes Banbury _cross_!
    He’s sick of our Parliament’s vapid discourse.
    He’ll lead the Coldstreamers
    Against those blasphemers
    Who dare to treat Labour as other than schemers.
    Guns in his fingers and bombs in his clo’es,
    There shall be ructions wherever he goes.
            Shout yourselves hoarse
            His views to endorse:



    I will go down to the House again
    And sit--in the smoking room,
    And brood, with a friend with a first-class brain,
    In a state of abysmal gloom:
    And all I’ll ask is a tall glass,
    A pipe and a game of chess;
    For the country’s gone to the dogs, my lass,
    And who’s to clean up the mess?
      _The country’s simply going to blazes.
      Who’s to swab up the mess?_

    I will go down to the House once more
    And there--in the smoking room,
    I’ll wait (with old boon-fellows three or four)
    For the sound of the bell of doom:
    And all I’ll ask is a tall Whip
    To meet me on Charon’s boat,
    And hurriedly whisper “We’re Ayes” (or “Noes”)
    That I may know how to vote.
    (_Sotto voce_)
      _I just can’t follow this modern craze
      For understanding your vote!_

           *       *       *       *       *

    I shall come back to the House one night
    From a somewhere neighbouring tomb,
    Peep in on the scene of the age-long fight,
    And pass--to the smoking room:
    And all I’ll ask is a tall ghost
    In the corridor’s darkling gloam,
    Crying “Hats off, Strangers,” “Make way for the Speaker,”
    And (mournfully) “Who goes Home?”
      _The Dead troop back to the Abbey each night,
      To the sound of that “Who goes Home?”_

W. H. Smith & Son, The Arden Press Stamford Street, London, S.E.I

Transcriber’s Note

In this file, text in _italics_ is indicated by underscores, text in
~gesperrt~ is indicated by tildes, and text in SMALL CAPITALS is all

The cover image was created by the transcriber and placed in the public

The following changes were made to the text as printed:

Page ix: “twin appellations of McVitie and Price” changed to “twin
appellations of McVittie and Price”

4: “coordinating against the Central Planets” changed to
“co-ordinating against the Central Planets”

17: “inevitably predecease this montrosity” changed to “inevitably
predecease this monstrosity”

18: “Poor Count Puffendorf Seidlitz” changed to “Poor Count Puffendorff

85: ““Solicitin’, you was” changed to “Solicitin’, you was”

88: “A terriffic crash and splintering” changed to “A terrific crash
and splintering”

118: “ante-room of a public hall at Pueblo” changed to “anteroom of a
public hall at Pueblo”

125: “ACT I” added

136: “The conjuror concludes” changed to “The conjurer concludes”

161: “She’s turned again us” changed to “She’s turned against us”

175: “the uneviable position of a Junior Staff Officer” changed to “the
unenviable position of a Junior Staff Officer”

178: “The Chief Whip, despite his reponsibilities” changed to “The
Chief Whip, despite his responsibilities”

196: “ink-wells have been known to fly” changed to “inkwells have been
known to fly”

203: “the same building though separated by a mere matter” changed to
“the same building, though separated by a mere matter”

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