Part 2 out of 3
outside the library. There is talk also of a couple of evergreen woods
for the front of the house. With six gardens, two woods, and an
ornamental lake I shall be unbearable. In all the gardens of England
people will be shooting themselves in disgust, and the herbaceous
borders will flourish as never before. But that is for the future.
To-day I write only of my three gardens. I would write of them at
greater length but that my daffodil garden is sending out an
irresistible call. I go to sit on the staircase.
An Ordnance Map
Spring calls to us to be up and about. It shouts to us to stand
bareheaded upon hills and look down upon little woods and tiny red
cottages, and away up to where the pines stand straight into the sky.
Let the road, thin and white, wander on alone; we shall meet it again,
and it shall lead us if it will to some comfortable inn; but now we
are for the footpath and the stile--we are to stand in the fields and
listen to the skylark.
Must you stay and work in London? But you will have ten minutes to
spare. Look, I have an ordnance map--let us take our walk upon that.
We will start, if you please, at Buckley Cross. That is the best of
walking on the map; you may start where you like, and there are no
trains to catch. Our road goes north through the village--shall we
stop a moment to buy an apple or two? Apples go well in the open air;
we shall sit upon a gate presently and eat them before we light our
pipes and join the road again. A pound, if you will--and now with
bulging pockets for the north.
Over Buckley Common. You see by the dotted lines that it is an
unfenced road, as, indeed, it should be over gorse and heather. A mile
of it, and then it branches into two. Let us take this lane on the
left; the way seems more wooded to the west.
By now we should be passing Buckley Grove. Perhaps it is for sale. If
so, we might stop for a minute or two and buy it. We can work out how
many acres it is, because it is about three-quarters of an inch each
way, and if we could only remember how many acres went to a square
mile--well, anyhow, it is a good-sized place. But three miles from a
station, you say? Ah yes, but look at that little mark there just
round the corner. Do you know what _that_ stands for? A wind pump. How
jolly to have one at your very door. "Shall we go and look at the
wind pump?" you would say casually to your guests.
Let us leave the road. Do you see those dots going off to the right?
That is a footpath. I have an idea that that will take us to the
skylark. They do not mark skylarks on the map--I cannot say why--but
something tells me that about a mile farther on, where the dots begin
to bend.... Ah, do you hear? Up and up and up he goes into the blue,
fainter and fainter falls the music. He calls to us to follow him to
the clean morning of the world, whose magic light has shone for us in
our dreams so long, yet ever eluded us waking. Bathed in that light,
Youth is not so young as we, nor Beauty more beautiful; in that light
Happiness is ours at last, for Endeavour shall have its perfect
fulfilment, a fulfilment without regret....
Yes, let us have an apple.
Our path seems to end suddenly here. We shall have to go through this
farm. All the dogs barking, all the fowls cluttering, all the lambs
galloping--what a jolly, friendly commotion we've made! But we can get
into the road again this way. Indeed, we must get into the road soon
because it is hungry work out in the air, and two inches to the
north-west is written a word full of meaning--the most purposeful word
that can be written upon a map. "Inn," So now for a steady climb. We
have dropped down to "200" by the farmhouse, and the inn is marked
"500." But it is only two miles--well, barely that. Come along.
What shall we have? Ought it not to be bread and cheese and beer? But
if you will excuse me, I would rather not have beer. I know that it
sounds well to ask for it--as far as that goes, I will ask for it
willingly--but I have never been able to drink it in any comfort. I
think I shall have a gin and ginger. That also sounds well. More
important still, it drinks well; in fact, the only thing which I don't
like about it is the gin. "Oh, good morning. We want some bread and
cheese, please, and one pint of beer, and a gin and ginger.
And--er--you might leave out the gin." Yes, of course, I could have
asked straight off for a plain ginger beer, but that sounds so very
mild. My way I use the word "gin" twice. Let us be dashing on this
After lunch a pipe, while we consider where to go next.
It is anywhere you like, you know. To the north there is Greymoor
Wood, and we pass a windmill; and to the east there is the little
village of Colesford which has a church without a steeple; and to the
west we go quite near another wind pump; and to the south--well, we
should have to cross the line pretty soon. That brings us into touch
with civilization; we do not want that just yet. So the north again
let it be....
This is Greymoor Wood. Yes; there is a footpath marked right through
it, but footpaths are hard to see beneath such a carpet of dead
leaves. I dare say we shall lose ourselves. One false step and we are
off the line of dots. There you are, there's a dot missing. We have
lost the track. Now we must get out as best we can.
Do you know the way of telling the north by the sun? You turn the hour
hand of your watch to the sun, and half-way between that and the XII
is the south. Or else you turn the XII to the sun and take half-way
between that and the hour hand. Anyhow you do find the south
eventually after one or two experiments, and having discovered the
south it is easy enough to locate the north. With your permission then
we will push due north through Greymoor Wood.
We are through and on the road, but it is getting late. I et us hurry
on. It would be tempting to wander down to that stream and follow its
banks for a little; it would be pleasant to turn into that
"unmetalled, unfenced" road--ah, doesn't one know those roads?--and
let it carry us to the village of Milden, rich in both telegraph
office and steeple. There is also, no more than two miles from where
we stand, a contour of 600 ft.--shall we make for the view at the top
of that? But no, perhaps you are right. We had best be getting home
now. It is growing chilly; the sun has gone in; if we lost ourselves
again, we could never find the north. Let us make for the nearest
station. Widdington, isn't it? Three miles away....
There! Now we're home again. And must you really get on with your
work? Well, but it has been a jolly day, hasn't it?
The Lord Mayor
There is a story of a boy who was asked to name ten animals which
inhabit the polar regions. After a little thought he answered, "Six
penguins and four seals." In the same way I suspect that, if you were
asked to give the names of any three Lord Mayors of London, you would
say, "Dick Whittington, and--er--Dick Whittington, and of
course--er--Dick Whittington," knowing that he held that high office
three times, and being quite unable to think of anybody else. This is
where I have the advantage of you. In my youth there was a joke which
went like this: "Why does the Lord Mayor like pepper? Because without
his K.N., he'd be ill." I have an unfortunate habit of remembering
even the worst joke, and so I can tell you, all these years after,
that there was once a Lord Mayor called Knill. It is because I know
the names of four Lord Mayors that I can write with such authority
upon the subject.
To be a successful Lord Mayor demands years of training. Fortunately,
the aspiring apprentice has time for preparation. From the moment when
he is first elected a member of the Worshipful Company of Linendrapers
he can see it coming. He can say with confidence that in 1944--or '43,
if old Sir Joshua has his stroke next year, as seems probable--he will
become the first citizen of London; which gives him twenty-four years
in which to acquire the manner. It would be more interesting if this
were not so; it would be more interesting to you and me if there were
something of a struggle each year for the Lord Mayorality, so that we
could put our money on our respective fancies. If, towards the end of
October, we could read the Haberdashers' nominee had been for a
stripped gallop on Hackney Downs and had pulled up sweating badly; if
the Mayor could send a late wire from Aldgate to tell us that the
candidate from the Drysalters' stable was refusing his turtle soup; if
we could all try our luck at spotting the winner for November 9, then
it is possible that the name of the new Lord Mayor might be as
familiar in our mouths as that of this year's Derby favourite. As it
is, there is no excitement at all about the business. We are told
casually in a corner of the paper that Sir Tuttlebury Tupkins is to be
the next Lord Mayor, and we gather that it was inevitable. The name
conveys nothing to us, the face is the habitual face. He duly becomes
Lord Mayor and loses his identity. We can still only think of Dick
One cannot help wondering if it is worth it. He has his crowded year
of glorious life, but it is a year without a name. He is never
himself, he is just the Lord Mayor. He meets all the great people of
the day, soldiers, sailors, statesmen, even artists, but they would
never recognize him again. He cannot say that he knows them, even
though he has given them the freedom of the City or a jewelled sword.
He can do nothing to make his year of office memorable; nothing that
is, which his predecessor did not do before, or his successor will not
do again. If he raises a Mansion House Fund for the survivors of a
flood, his predecessor had an earthquake, and his successor is safe
for a famine. And nobody will remember whether it was in this year or
in Sir Joshua Potts' that the record was beaten.
For this one year of anonymous greatness the aspiring Lord Mayor has
to sacrifice his whole personality. He is to be the first citizen of
London, but he must be very careful that London has never heard of him
before. He has to live the life of a hermit, resolute neither to know
nor to be known. For a year he shakes hands mechanically, but in the
years before and the years afterwards, nobody, I imagine, has ever
smacked him on the back. Indeed, it is doubtful if anybody has even
seen him, so remote is his life from ours. He was dedicated to this
from birth, or anyhow from the moment when he was first elected a
member of the Worshipful Company of Linendrapers, and he has been
preparing that wooden expression ever since.
It is because he has had to spend so many years out of the world that
a City Remembrancer is provided for him. The City Remembrancer stands
at his elbow when he receives his guests and tells him who they are.
Without this aid, how should he know? Perhaps it is Mr. Thomas Hardy
who is arriving. "Mr. Thomas Hardy," says the gentleman with the
voice, and the Lord Mayor holds out his hand.
"I am very glad," he says, "to welcome such a very
well-known--h'm--such a distinguished--er----"
"Writer," says the City Remembrancer behind the hack of his hand.
"Such a distinguished writer. The author of so many famous biog----"
"Novels," breathes the City Remembrancer, gazing up at the ceiling.
"So many famous novels," continues the Lord Mayor quite undisturbed,
for he is used to it by this time. "The author of _East Lynne_----"
The City Remembrancer coughs and walks across to the other side of the
Lord Mayor, murmuring _Tess of the D'Urbervilles_ to the back of the
Mayoral head as he goes. The Lord Mayor then repeats that he is
delighted to welcome the author of _Death and the Door-bells_ to the
City, and holds out his hand to Mr. John Sargent.
"The painter," says the City Remembrancer, his lips, from long
practice, hardly moving.
In the sanctity of the home that evening, while removing his chains of
office, the Lord Mayor (we may suppose) tells his sleepy wife what an
interesting day he has had, and how Mr. Thomas Sargent, the famous
statesman, and Mr. John Hardy, the sculptor, both came to lunch.
And all the time the year is creeping on. Another day gone. Another
day nearer to that fatal November 8.... And here, inevitably, is
November 8, and by to-morrow he will be that most pathetic of all
living creatures, an ex-Lord Mayor of London. Where do they live, the
ex-Lord Mayors? They must have a colony of their own somewhere, a
Garden City in which they can live together as equals. Probably they
have some arrangement by which they take it in turns to be
reminiscent; Sir Tuttlebury Tupkins has "and Wednesdays" on his
card, and Sir Joshua Potts receives on "3rd Mondays"; and the other
Lord Mayors gather round and listen, nodding their heads. On their
birthdays they give each other gold caskets, and every November 10
they march in a body to the station to welcome the new arrival. Poor
fellow, the tears are streaming down his cheeks, and his paunch is
shaken with sobs, but there is a hot bowl of turtle soup waiting for
him at Lady Tupkins' house, The Mansion Cottage, and he will soon feel
more comfortable. He has been allotted the "4th Fridays," and it is
hoped that by Christmas he will have settled down quite happily at
The Holiday Problem
The time for a summer holiday is May, June. July, August, and
September--with, perhaps a fortnight in October if the weather holds
up. But it is difficult to cram all this into the few short weeks
allowed to most of us. We are faced accordingly with the business of
singling out one month from the others--a business invidious enough to
a lover of the country, but still more so to one who loves London as
well. The question for him is not only which month is most wonderful
by the sea, but also which month is most tolerable out of town.
I would wash my hands of London in May and come back brown from
cricket and golf and sailing in September with willingness. Alas I it
is impossible. But if I pick out July as the month for the open-air
life, I begin immediately to think of the superiority of July over
June as a month to spend in London. Not but what June is a delightful
month in town, and May and August for that matter. In May, for
Let us go into this question. May, of course, is hopeless for a
holiday. One must be near one's tailor in May to see about one's
summer clothes. Choosing a flannel suit in May is one of the moments
of one's life--only equalled by certain other great moments at the
hosier's and hatter's. "Ne'er cast a clout till May be out" says a
particularly idiotic saw, but as you have already disregarded it by
casting your fur coat, you may as well go through with the business
now. Socks; I ask you to think of summer socks. Have you ordered your
half-hose yet? No. Then how can you go away for your holiday?
Again, taxicabs pull down their shutters in May, and you are able to
see and be seen as you drive through London. Never forget when you
drive in a taxi that you own the car absolutely as long as the clock
is ticking; that you are a motorist, a fit member for the Royal
Automobile Club; that the driver is your chauffeur to obey your
orders; and, best of all, that, May being here, you can put your feet
upon the seat opposite in the sight of everybody. Will you miss the
glory? In June and July it will have lost something. Pay your five
shillings in May and expand, live; pay your five pounds if you like
and drive all down the Cromwell Road. Don't bury yourself in
The long light evenings of June in London! The dances, the dinners in
the warm nights of June! The window-boxes in the squares, the pretty
people in the parks; are we going to leave them? There is so much
going on. We may not be in it, but we must be in London to feel that
we are helping. They also serve who only stand and stare. Besides--I
put it to you--strawberries are ripe in June. You will never get
enough in Cumberland or wherever you are. Not good ones; not the
Is it wise to go away in July? What about the Varsity match and
Gentlemen _v._ Players? You must be at Lord's for those. Yes; July is
the month for Lord's. Drive there, I beg you, in a hansom, if indeed
there is still one left. A taxi by all means in May or when you are in
a hurry, but a day at Lord's must be taken deliberately. Drive there
at your leisure; breathe deeply. Do not he afraid of taking your seat
before play begins--you can buy a _Sportsman_ on the ground and read
how Vallingwick nearly beat Upper Finchley. It is all part of the
great game, and if you are to enjoy your day truly, then you must go
with this feeling in the back of your mind--that you ought really to
be working. That is the right condiment for a cricket match.
Yes; we must be near St. John's Wood in July, but what about August?
Everybody, you say, goes away in August; but is not that rather a
reason for staying? I don't bother to point out that the country will
be crowded, only that London will be so pleasantly empty. In August
and September you can wander about in your oldest clothes and nobody
will mind. You can get a seat for any play without difficulty--indeed,
without paying, if you know the way. It is a rare time for seeing the
old churches of the City or for exploring the South Kensington Museum.
London is not London in August and September; it is a jolly old town
that you have never seen before. You can dine at the Savoy in your
shirt sleeves--well, nearly. I mean, that gives you the idea. And,
best of all, your friends will all be enjoying themselves in the
country, and they will ask you down for week-ends. Robinson, who is
having a cricket week for his schoolboy sons, and Smith, who has hired
a yacht, will be glad to see you from Friday to Tuesday. If you had
gone to Switzerland for the month, you couldn't have accepted their
kind invitations. "How I wish," you would have said as you paid the
extra centimes on their letters, "how I wish I had taken my holiday
in June." On the other hand, in June----
Well, you see how difficult it is for you. Of course, I don't really
mind what you do. For myself I have almost decided to have a week in
each month. The advantage of this is that I shall go away four times
instead of once. There is no joy in the world to equal that of
strolling after a London porter who is looking for an empty smoker in
which to put your golf clubs. To do it four times, each time with the
knowledge of a week's holiday ahead, is almost more than man deserves.
True that by this means I shall also come back four times instead of
once, but to a lover of London that is no great matter. Indeed, I like
And another advantage is that I can take five weeks in this way while
deluding my conscience into thinking that I am only taking four. A
holiday taken in a lump is taken and over. Taken in weeks, with odd
days at each end of the weeks, it always leaves a margin for error. I
shall take care that the error is on the right side. And if anybody
grumbles, "Why, you're always going away," I shall answer with
dignity, "Confound it! I'm always coming back."
The Burlington Arcade
It is the fashion, I understand, to be late for dinner, but punctual
for lunch. What the perfect gentleman does when he accepts an
invitation to breakfast I do not know. Possibly he has to be early.
But for lunch the guests should arrive at the very stroke of the
appointed hour, even though it leads to a certain congestion on the
My engagement was for one-thirty, and for a little while my reputation
seemed to be in jeopardy. Two circumstances contributed to this. The
first one was the ever-present difficulty in these busy days of
synchronizing an arrival. A prudent man allows himself time for being
pushed off the first half-dozen omnibuses and trusts to surging up
with the seventh wave. I was so unlucky as to cleave my way on to the
first 'bus of all, with the result that when I descended from it I was
a good ten minutes early. Well, that was bad enough. But, just as I
was approaching the door, I realized that my calculations had been
made for a one o'clock lunch. It was now ten to one; I had forty
minutes in hand.
It is very difficult to know what to do with forty minutes in the
middle of Piccadilly, particularly when it is raining. Until a year
ago I had had a club there, and I had actually resigned from it (how
little one foresees the future!) on the plea that I never had occasion
to use it. I felt that I would cheerfully have paid the subscription
for the rest of my life in order to have had the loan of its roof at
that moment. My new club--like the National Gallery and the British
Museum, those refuges for the wet Londoner--was too far away. The
Academy had not yet opened.
And then a sudden inspiration drew me into the Burlington Arcade. They
say that the churches of London are ill-attended nowadays, but at
least St. James, Piccadilly, can have no cause for complaint, for I
suppose that the merchants of the Arcade, and all those dependent on
them, repair thither twice weekly to pray for wet weather. The
Burlington Arcade is indeed a beautiful place on a wet day. One can
move leisurely from window to window, passing from silk pyjamas to
bead necklaces and from bead necklaces back to silk pyjamas again; one
can look for a break in the weather from either the north or the
south; and at the south end there is a clock conveniently placed for
those who have a watch waiting its turn at the repairer's and a
luncheon engagement in forty minutes.
For a long time I hesitated between a bead necklace and a pair of
pyjamas. A few coloured stones on a chain were introduced to the
umbrella-less onlooker as "The Latest Fashion," followed by the
announcement, superfluous in the circumstances, that it was "Very
Stylish." It came as a shock to read further that one could be in the
fashion for so little a sum as six shillings. There were other
necklaces at the same price but of entirely different design, which
were equally "Stylish," and of a fashion no less up to date. In this
the merchant seemed to me to have made a mistake; for the whole glory
of wearing "The Latest Fashion" is the realization that the other
woman has just missed it by a bead or two. A fashion must be
exclusive. St. James, Piccadilly, is all very well, but one has also
to consider how to draw the umbrella-less within after one has got
their noses to the shop window.
I passed on to the pyjamas, which seemed to be mostly in regimental
colours. This war came upon us too suddenly, so that most of us rushed
into the army without a proper consideration of essentials. I doubt if
anyone who enlisted in the early days stopped to ask himself whether
the regimental colours would suit him. It will be different in the
next war. If anybody joins the infantry at all (which is doubtful), he
will at least join a regiment whose pyjamas may be worn with
self-respect in the happy peace days.
There are objections to turning up to lunch (however warmly invited)
with a pair of pyjamas under the arm. It looks as though you might
stay too long. I moved on to another row of bead necklaces. They
offered themselves for two shillings, and all that the owner could
find to say for them was that they were "Quite New." If he meant
that nobody had ever worn such a necklace before, he was probably
right, but I feel that he could have done better for them than this,
and that, "As supplied to the Queen of Denmark," or something of the
sort, would have justified an increase to two and threepence.
By this time nearly everybody was lunching except myself, and my clock
said one twenty-five. If I were to arrive with that exact punctuality
upon which I so credit myself, I must buy my bead necklace upon some
other day. I said good-bye to the Burlington Arcade, and stepped out
of it with the air of a man who has done a successful morning's
shopping. A clock in the hall was striking one-thirty as I entered.
Then I remembered. It was Tuesday's lunch which was to be at
one-thirty. To-day's was at one o'clock... However, I had discovered
the Burlington Arcade.
The popular argument against the State Lottery is an assertion that it
will encourage the gambling spirit. The popular argument in favour of
the State Lottery is an assertion that it is hypocritical to say that
it will encourage the gambling spirit, because the gambling spirit is
already amongst us. Having listened to a good deal of this sort of
argument on both sides, I thought it would be well to look up the word
"gamble" in my dictionary. I found it next to "gamboge," and I can
now tell you all about it.
To gamble, says my dictionary, is "to play for money in games of
skill or chance," and it adds the information that the word is
derived from the Anglo-Saxon _gamen_, which means "a game". Now, to
me this definition is particularly interesting, because it justifies
all that I have been thinking about the gambling spirit in connexion
with Premium Bonds. I am against Premium Bonds, but not for the
popular reason. I am against them because (as it seems to me) there is
so very little of the gamble about them. And now that I have looked up
"gamble" in the dictionary, I see that I was right. The "chance"
element in a state lottery is obvious enough, but the "game" element
is entirely absent. It is nothing so harmless and so human as the
gambling spirit which Premium Bonds would encourage.
We play for money in games of skill or chance--bridge, for instance.
But it isn't only of the money we are thinking. We get pleasure out of
the game. Probably we prefer it to a game of greater chance, such as
_vingt-et-un_. But even at _vingt-et-un_ or baccarat there is
something more than chance which is taking a hand in the game; not
skill, perhaps, but at least personality. If you are only throwing
dice, you are engaged in a personal struggle with another man, and you
are directing the struggle to this extent, that you can call the value
of the stakes, and decide whether to go on or to stop. And is there
any man who, having made a fortune at Monte Carlo, will admit that he
owes it entirely to chance? Will he not rather attribute it to his
wonderful system, or if not to that, at any rate to his wonderful
nerve, his perseverance, or his recklessness?
The "game" element, then, comes into all these forms of gambling,
and still more strongly does it pervade that most common form of
gambling, betting on horses. I do not suggest that the street-corner
boy who puts a shilling both ways on Bronchitis knows anything
whatever about horses, but at least he thinks he does; and if he wins
five shillings on that happy afternoon when Bronchitis proves himself
to be the 2.30 winner, his pleasure will not be solely in the money.
The thought that he is such a skilful follower of form, that he has
something of the national eye for a horse, will give him as much
pleasure as can be extracted from the five shillings itself.
This, then, is the gambling spirit. It has its dangers, certainly, hut
it is not entirely an evil spirit. It is possible that the State
should not encourage it, but it is not called upon to exorcise it with
bell, and book, and candle. I am not sure that I should favour a State
gamble, but my arguments against it would be much the same as my
arguments against State cricket or the solemn official endowment and
recognition of any other jolly game. However, I need not trouble you
with those arguments now, for nothing so harmless as a State gamble
has ever been suggested. Instead, we have from time to time a State
lottery offered to us, and that is a very different proposition.
For in a State lottery--with daily prizes of L50,000--the game
(or gambling) element does not exist. Buy your L100 bond, as a
thousand placards will urge you to do, and you simply take part in a
cold-blooded attempt to acquire money without working for it. You can
take no personal interest whatever in the manner of acquiring it.
Somebody turns a handle, and perhaps your number comes out. More
probably it doesn't. If it doesn't, you can call yourself a fool for
having thrown away your savings; if it does--well, you have got the
money. May you be happy with it! But you have considerably less on
which to congratulate yourself than had the street-corner boy who
backed Bronchitis. He had an eye for a horse. Probably you hadn't even
an eye for a row of figures.
Moreover, the State would be giving its official approval to the
unearned fortune. In these days, when the worker is asking for a week
of so many less hours and so many more shillings, the State would
answer: "I can show you a better way than that. What do you say to no
work at all, and L20 a week for it?" At a time when the one cry
is "Production!" the State adds (behind its hand), "Buy a Premium
Bond, and let the other man produce for you." After all these years
in which we have been slowly progressing towards the idea of a more
equitable distribution of wealth, the Government would show us the
really equitable way; it would collect the savings of the many, and
re-distribute them among the few. Instead of a million ten-pound
citizens, we should have a thousand ten-thousand-pounders and 999,000
with nothing. That would be the official way of making the country
happy and contented. But, in fact, our social and political
controversies are not kept alive by such arguments as these, nor by
the answers which can legitimately be made to such arguments. The case
of the average man in favour of State lotteries is, quite simply, that
he does not like Dr. Clifford. The case of the average man against
State lotteries is equally simple; he cannot bear to be on the same
side as Mr. Bottomley.
The Record Lie
I have just seen it quoted again. Yes, it appears solemnly in print,
even now, at the end of the greatest war in history. _Si vis pacem,
para bellum._ And the writer goes on to say that the League of Nations
is all very well, but unfortunately we are "not angels." Dear, dear!
Being separated for the moment from my book of quotations, I cannot
say who was the Roman thinker who first gave this brilliant paradox to
the world, but I imagine him a fat, easy-going gentleman, who
occasionally threw off good things after dinner. He never thought very
much of _Si vis pacem, para bellum;_ it was not one of his best; but
it seemed to please some of his political friends, one of whom asked
if he might use it in his next speech in the Senate. Our fat gentleman
said: "Certainly, if you like," and added, with unusual frankness:
"I don't quite know what it means." But the other did not think that
that would matter very much. So he quoted it, and it had a
considerable vogue... and by and by they returned to the place from
which they had come, leaving behind them the record of the ages, the
lie which has caused more suffering than anything the Devil could have
invented for himself. Two thousand years from now people will still be
quoting it, and killing each other on the strength of it. Or perhaps I
am wrong. Perhaps two thousand years from now, if the English language
is sufficiently dead by then, the world will have some casual paradox
of Bernard Shaw's or Oscar Wilde's on its lips, passing it reverently
from mouth to mouth as if it were Holy Writ, and dropping bombs on
Mars to show that they know what it means. For a quotation is a handy
thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself,
always a laborious business.
_Si vis pacem, para bellum._ Yes, it sounds well. It has a conclusive
ring about it, particularly if the speaker stops there for a moment
and drinks a glass of water. "If you want peace, prepare for war,"
is not quite so convincing; that might have been his own idea, evolved
while running after a motor-bus in the morning; we should not be so
ready to accept it as Gospel. But _Si vis pacem_----! It is almost
blasphemous to doubt it.
Suppose for a moment that it is true. Well, but this certainly is
true: _Si vis bellum, para bellum._ So it follows that preparation for
war means nothing; it does not necessarily mean that you want war, it
does not necessarily mean that you want peace; it is an action which
is as likely to have been inspired by an evil motive as by a good
motive. When a gentleman with a van calls for your furniture you have
means of ascertaining whether he is the furniture-remover whom you
ordered or the burglar whom you didn't order, but there is no way of
discovering which of two Latin tags is inspiring a nation's armaments.
_Si vis pacem, para bellum_--it is a delightful excuse. Germany was
using it up to the last moment.
However, I can produce a third tag in the same language, which is
worth consideration. _Si vis amare bellum, para bellum_--said by
Quintus Balbus the Younger five minutes before he was called a
pro-Carthaginian. There seems to be something in it. I have been told
by women that it is great fun putting on a new frock, but I understand
that they like going out in it afterwards. After years in the schools
a painter does want to show the public what he has learnt. Soldiers
who have given their lives to preparing for war may be different; they
may be quite content to play about at manoeuvres and answer
examination papers. I learnt my golf (such as it is) by driving into a
net. Perhaps, if I had had the soldier's temperament, I should still
be driving into a net quite happily. On the other hand, soldiers may
be just like other people, and having prepared for a thing may want to
No; it is a pity, but Universal Peace will hardly come as the result
of universal preparedness for war, as these dear people seem to hope.
It will only come as the result of a universal feeling that war is the
most babyish and laughably idiotic thing that this poor world has
evolved. Our writer says sadly that there is no hope of doing without
armies--we are not angels. It is not a question of "not being
angels," it is a question of not being childish lunatics. Possibly
there is no hope of this either, but I think we might make an effort.
For opinions do spread, if one holds them firmly oneself and is not
afraid of confessing them. A _si-vis-pacem_ gentleman said to me once,
with a sneer: "How are you going to do it? Speeches and pamphlets?"
Well, that was how Christianity got about, even though Paul's letters
did not appear in a daily paper with a circulation of a million and a
telegraphic service to every part of the world.
But perhaps Christianity is an unfortunate example to give in an
argument about war; one begins to ask oneself if Christianity has
spread as much as one thought. There are dear people, of course, to
whom it has been revealed in the night that God is really much more
interested in nations than in persons; it is not your soul or my soul
that He is concerned about, but the British Empire's. Germany He
dislikes (although the Germans were under a silly misapprehension
about this once), and though the Japanese do not worship Him, yet they
are such active little fellows, not to say Allies of England, that
they too are under His special protection. And when He deprecated
lying and stealing and murder and bearing false witness, and all those
things, He meant that if they were done in a really wholesale way--by
nations, not by individuals--then it did not matter; for He can
forgive a nation anything, having so much more interest in it. All of
which may be true, but it is not Christianity.
However, as our writer says, "we are not angels," and apparently he
thinks that it would be rather wicked of us to try to be. Perhaps he
Champagne is often pleasant at lunch, it is always delightful at
dinner, and it is an absolute necessity, if one is to talk freely
about oneself afterwards, at a dance supper. But champagne for tea is
horrible. Perhaps this is why a wedding always finds me melancholy
next morning. "She has married the wrong man," I say to myself. "I
wonder if it is too late to tell her."
The trouble of answering the invitation and of thinking of something
to give more original than a toast rack should, one feels, have its
compensations. From each wedding that I attend I expect an afternoon's
enjoyment in return for my egg stand. For one thing I have my best
clothes on. Few people have seen me in them (and these few won't
believe it), so that from the very beginning the day has a certain
freshness. It is not an ordinary day. It starts with this advantage,
that in my best clothes I am not difficult to please. The world smiles
Once I am in church, however, my calm begins to leave me. As time
wears on, and the organist invents more and more tunes, I tremble lest
the bride has forgotten the day. The choir is waiting for her; the
bridegroom is waiting for her. I--I also--wait. What if she has
changed her mind at the last minute? But no. The organist has sailed
into his set piece; the choir advances; follows the bride looking so
lonely that I long to comfort her and remind her of my egg stand; and,
last of all, the pretty bridesmaids. The clergyman begins his drone.
You would think that, reassured by the presence of the bride, I could
be happy now. But there is still much to bother me. The bridegroom is
showing signs of having forgotten his part, the bride can't get her
glove off, one of the bridesmaids is treading on my hat. Worse than
all this, there is a painful want of unanimity among the congregation
as to when we stand up and when we sit down. Sometimes I am alone and
sitting when everybody else is standing, and that is easy to bear; but
sometimes I find myself standing when everybody else is sitting, and
that is very hard.
They have gone to the vestry. The choir sings an anthem to while away
the kissing-time, and, right or wrong, I am sitting down, comforting
my poor hat. There was a time when I, too, used to go into the vestry;
when I was something of an authority on weddings, and would attend
weekly in some minor official capacity. Any odd jobs that were going
seemed to devolve on me. If somebody was wanted suddenly to sign the
register, or kiss the bride's mother, or wind up the going-away car,
it used to be taken for granted that I was the man to do it. I wore a
white flower in my button-hole to show that I was available. I served,
I may say, in an entirely honorary capacity, except in so far as I was
expected to give the happy pair a slightly larger present than the
others. One day I happened to suggest to an intending groom that he
had other friends more ornamental, and therefore more suitable for
this sort of work, than I; to which he replied that they were all
married, and that etiquette demanded a bachelor for the business. Of
course, as soon as I heard this I got married too.
Here they come. "Doesn't she look sweet?" We hurry after them and
rush for the carriages. I am only a friend of the bridegroom's;
perhaps I had better walk.
It must be very easy to be a guest at a wedding reception, where each
of the two clans takes it for granted that all the extraordinary
strangers belong to the other clan. Indeed, nobody with one good suit,
and a stomach for champagne and sandwiches, need starve in London. He
or she can wander safely in wherever a red carpet beckons. I suppose I
must put in an appearance at this reception, but if I happen to pass
another piece of carpet on the way to the house, and the people going
in seem more attractive than our lot, I shall be tempted to join them.
This is, perhaps, the worst part of the ceremony, this three hundred
yards or so from the hymn-sheets to the champagne. All London is now
gazing at my old top-hat. When the war went on and on and on, and it
seemed as though it were going on for ever, I looked back on peace
much as those old retired warriors at the end of last century looked
back on their happy Crimean days; and in the same spirit as that in
which they hung their swords over the baronial fireplace, I decided to
suspend my old top-hat above the mantel-piece in the drawing-room. In
the years to come I would take my grandchildren on my knee and tell
them stories of the old days when grandfather was a civilian, of
desperate charges by church-wardens and organists, and warm
receptions; and sometimes I would hold the old top-hat reverently in
my hands, and a sudden gleam would come into my eyes, so that those
watching me would say to each other, "He is thinking of that
tea-fight at Rutland Gate in 1912." So I pictured the future for my
top-hat, never dreaming that in 1920 it would take the air again.
For I went into the war in order to make the world safe for democracy,
which I understood to mean (and was distinctly informed so by the
press) a world safe for those of us who prefer soft hats with a dent
in the middle. "The war," said the press, "has killed the
top-hat." Apparently it failed to do this, as it failed to do so many
of the things which we hoped from it. So the old veteran of 1912 dares
the sunlight again. We are arrived, and I am greeted warmly by the
bride's parents. I look at the mother closely so that I shall know her
again when I come to say good-bye, and give her a smile which tells
her that I was determined to come down to this wedding although I had
a good deal of work to do. I linger with the idea of pursuing this
point, for I want them to know that they nearly missed me, but I am
pushed on by the crowd behind me. The bride and bridegroom salute me
cordially but show no desire for intimate gossip. A horrible feeling
goes through me that my absence would not have been commented upon by
them at any inordinate length. It would not have spoilt the honeymoon,
I move on and look at the presents. The presents are numerous and
costly. Having discovered my own I stand a little way back and listen
to the opinions of my neighbours upon it. On the whole the reception
is favourable. The detective, I am horrified to discover, is on the
other side of the room, apparently callous as to the fate of my egg
stand. I cannot help feeling that if he knew his business he would be
standing where I am standing now; or else there should be two
detectives. It is a question now whether it is safe for me to leave my
post and search for food... Now he is coming round; I can trust it to
On my way to the refreshments I have met an old friend. I like to meet
my friends at weddings, but I wish I had not met this one. She has
sowed the seeds of disquiet in my mind by telling me that it is not
etiquette to begin to eat until the bride has cut the cake. I answer,
"Then why doesn't somebody tell the bride to cut the cake?" but the
bride, it seems, is busy. I wish now that I had not met my friend. Who
but a woman would know the etiquette of these things, and who but a
woman would bother about it?
The bride is cutting the cake. The bridegroom has lent her his sword,
or his fountain-pen, whatever is the emblem of his trade--he is a
stockbroker--and as she cuts, we buzz round her, hoping for one of the
marzipan pieces. I wish to leave now, before I am sorry, but my friend
tells me that it is not etiquette to leave until the bride and
bridegroom have gone. Besides, I must drink the bride's health. I
drink her health; hers, not mine.
Time rolls on. I was wrong to have had champagne. It doesn't suit me
at tea. However, for the moment life is bright enough. I have looked
at the presents and my own is still there. And I have been given a
bagful of confetti. The weary weeks one lives through without a
handful of anything to throw at anybody. How good to be young again. I
take up a strong position in the hall.
They come... Got him--got him! Now a long shot--got him! I feel
slightly better, and begin the search for my hostess....
I have shaken hands with all the bride's aunts and all the
bridegroom's aunts, and in fact all the aunts of everybody here. Each
one seems to me more like my hostess than the last. "Good-bye!"
Fool--of course--there she is. "Good-Bye!"
My hat and I take the air again. A pleasant afternoon; and yet
to-morrow morning I shall see things more clearly, and I shall know
that the bridegroom has married the wrong girl. But it will be too
late then to save him.
At the beginning of the last strike the papers announced that Public
Opinion was firmly opposed to dictation by a minority. Towards the end
of the strike the papers said that Public Opinion was strongly in
favour of a settlement which would leave neither side with a sense of
defeat. I do not complain of either of these statements, but I have
been wondering, as I have often wondered before, how a leader-writer
discovers what the Public Opinion is.
When one reads about Public Opinion in the press (and one reads a good
deal about it one way and another), it is a little difficult to
realize, particularly if the printer has used capital letters, that
this much-advertised Public Opinion is simply You and Me and the
Others. Now, since it is impossible for any man to get at the opinions
of all of us, it is necessary that he should content himself with a
sample half-dozen or so. But from where does he get his sample?
Possibly from his own club, limited perhaps to men of his own
political opinions; almost certainly from his own class. Public
Opinion in this case is simply what he thinks. Even if he takes the
opinion of strangers--the waiter who serves him at lunch, the
tobacconist, the policeman at the corner--the opinion may be one
specially prepared for his personal consumption, one inspired by tact,
boredom, or even a sense of humour. If, for instance, the process were
to be reversed, and my tobacconist were to ask me what I thought of
the strike, I should grunt and go out of his shop; but he would be
wrong to attribute "a dour grimness" to the nation in consequence.
Nor is the investigator likely to be more correct if he judges Public
Opinion from the evidence of his eyes rather than his ears. Thus one
reporter noticed on the faces of his companions in the omnibus "a
look of stern determination to see this thing through." If they were
all really looking like that, it must have been an impressive sight.
But it is at least possible that this distinctive look was one of
stern determination to get a more comfortable seat on the 'bus which
took them home again.
It must be very easy (and would certainly be extremely interesting) to
go about forming Public Opinion, I should like to initiate an
L.F.P.O., or League for Forming Public Opinion, and not only for
forming it, but for putting it, when formed, into direct action. Such
a League, even if limited to two hundred members, could by its
concerted action exercise a very remarkable effect. Suppose we decided
to attack profiteering. We should choose our shop--a hosier's, let us
say. Beginning on Monday morning, a member of the League would go in
and ask to be shown some ties. Having spent some time in looking
through the stock and selecting a couple, he would ask the price.
"Oh, but that's ridiculous," he would say. "I couldn't think of
paying that. If I can't get them cheaper somewhere else, I'll do
without them altogether." The shopman shrugs his shoulders and puts
his ties back again. Perhaps he tells himself contemptuously that he
doesn't cater for that sort of customer. The customer goes out, and
half an hour later the second member of the League arrives. This one
asks for collars. He is equally indignant at the price, and is equally
determined not to wear a collar at all rather than submit to such
extortion. Half an hour later the third member comes in. He wants
socks.... The fourth member wants ties again... The fifth wants
Now this is going on, not only all through the day, but all through
the week, and for another week after that. Can you not imagine that,
after a fortnight of it, the haberdasher begins to feel that "Public
Opinion is strongly aroused against profiteering in the hosiery
trade"? Is it not possible that the loss of two hundred customers in
a fortnight would make him wonder whether a lower price might not
bring him in a greater profit? I think it is possible. I do not think
he could withstand a Public Opinion so well organized and so
But such a League would have enormous power in many ways. If you were
to write to the editor of a paper complaining that So-and-So's
contributions (mine, if you like) were beneath contempt, the editor
would not be seriously concerned about it. Possibly he had a letter
the day before saying that So-and-So was beyond all other writers
delightful. But if twenty members of the League wrote every week for
ten weeks in succession, from two hundred different addresses, saying
that So-and-So's articles were beneath contempt, the editor would be
more than human if he did not tell himself that So-and-So had fallen
off a little and was obviously losing his hold on the popular
imagination. In a little while he would decide that it would be wiser
to make a change....
Of course, the League would not attack a writer or any other public
man from sheer wilfulness, but it would probably have no difficulty in
bringing down over-praised mediocrity to its proper level or in giving
a helping hand to unrecognized talent. But unless its president were a
man of unerring judgment and remarkable restraint, its sense of power
would probably be too much for it, and it would lose its head
altogether. Looking round for a suitable president, I can think of
nobody but myself. And I am too busy just now.
The Honour of Your Country
We were resting after the first battle of the Somme. Naturally all the
talk in the Mess was of after-the-war. Ours was the H.Q. Mess, and I
was the only subaltern; the youngest of us was well over thirty. With
a gravity befitting our years and (except for myself) our rank, we
discussed not only restaurants and revues, but also Reconstruction.
The Colonel's idea of Reconstruction included a large army of
conscripts. He did not call them conscripts. The fact that he had
chosen to be a soldier himself, out of all the professions open to
him, made it difficult for him to understand why a million others
should not do the same without compulsion. At any rate, we must have
the men. The one thing the war had taught us was that we must have a
real Continental army.
I asked why. "Theirs not to reason why" on parade, but in the H.Q.
Mess on active service the Colonel is a fellow human being. So I asked
him why we wanted a large army after the war.
For the moment he was at a loss. Of course, he might have said
"Germany," had it not been decided already that there would be no
Germany after the war. He did not like to say "France," seeing that
we were even then enjoying the hospitality of the most delightful
French villages. So, after a little hesitation, he said "Spain."
At least he put it like this:--
"Of course, we must have an army, a large army."
"But why?" I said again.
"How else can you--can you defend the honour of your country?"
"The Navy! Pooh! The Navy isn't a weapon of attack; it's a weapon of
"But you said `defend'."
"Attack," put in the Major oracularly, "is the best defence."
I hinted at the possibilities of blockade. The Colonel was scornful.
"Sitting down under an insult for months and months," he called it,
until you starved the enemy into surrender. He wanted something much
more picturesque, more immediately effective than that. (Something,
presumably, more like the Somme.)
"But give me an example," I said, "of what you mean by `insults'
Whereupon he gave me this extraordinary example of the need for a
"Well, supposing," he said, "that fifty English women in Madrid
were suddenly murdered, what would you do?"
I thought for a moment, and then said that I should probably decide
not to take my wife to Madrid until things had settled down a bit.
"I'm supposing that you're Prime Minister," said the Colonel, a
little annoyed. "What is England going to do?"
"Ah!... Well, one might do nothing. After all, what is one to do? One
can't restore them to life."
The Colonel, the Major, even the Adjutant, expressed his contempt for
such a cowardly policy. So I tried again.
"Well," I said, "I might decide to murder fifty Spanish women in
London, just to even things up."
The Adjutant laughed. But the Colonel was taking it too seriously for
"Do you mean it?" he asked.
"Well, what would you do, sir?"
"Land an army in Spain," he said promptly, "and show them what it
meant to treat English women like that."
"I see. They would resist of course?"
"Yes. But equally without doubt we should win in the end?"
"And so re-establish England's honour."
"I see. Well, sir, I really think my way is the better. To avenge the
fifty murdered English women, you are going to kill (say) 100,000
Spaniards who have had no connexion with the murders, and 50,000
Englishmen who are even less concerned. Indirectly also you will cause
the death of hundreds of guiltless Spanish women and children, besides
destroying the happiness of thousands of English wives and mothers.
Surely my way--of murdering only fifty innocents--is just as effective
and much more humane."
"That's nonsense," said the Colonel shortly.
"And the other is war."
We were silent for a little, and then the Colonel poured himself out a
"All the same," he said, as he went back to his seat, "you haven't
answered my question."
"What was that, sir?"
"What you would do in the case I mentioned. Seriously."
"Oh! Well, I stick to my first answer. I would do nothing--except, of
course, ask for an explanation and an apology. If you can apologize
for that sort of thing."
"And if they were refused?"
"Have no more official relations with Spain."
"That's all you would do?"
"And you think that that is consistent with the honour of a great
nation like England?"
"Oh! Well, I don't."
An indignant silence followed.
"May I ask you a question now, sir?" I said at last.
"Suppose this time England begins. Suppose we murder all the Spanish
women in London first. What are you going to do--as Spanish Premier?"
"Er--I don't quite----"
"Are you going to order the Spanish Fleet to sail for the mouth of
the Thames, and hurl itself upon the British fleet?"
"Of course not, She has no fleet."
"Then do you agree with the--er Spanish Colonel, who goes about
saying that Spain's honour will never be safe until she has a fleet as
big as England's?"
"That's ridiculous. They couldn't possibly."
"Then what could Spain do in the circumstances?"
"Well, she--er--she could--er--protest."
"And would that be consistent with the honour of a small nation like
"In the circumstances," said the Colonel unwillingly, "er--yes."
"So that what it comes to is this. Honour only demands that you
should attack the other man if you are much bigger than he is. When a
man insults my wife, I look him carefully over; if he is a stone
heavier than I, then I satisfy my honour by a mild protest. But if he
only has one leg, and is three stone lighter, honour demands that I
should jump on him."
"We're talking of nations," said the Colonel gruffly, "not of men,
It's a question of prestige."
"Which would be increased by a victory over Spain?"
The Major began to get nervous. After all, I was only a subaltern. He
tried to cool the atmosphere a little.
"I don't know why poor old Spain should be dragged into it like
this," he said, with a laugh. "I had a very jolly time in Madrid
"O, I only gave Spain as an example," said the Colonel casually.
"It might just as well have been Switzerland?" I suggested.
There was silence for a little.
"Talking of Switzerland----" I said, as I knocked out my pipe.
"Oh, go on," said the Colonel, with a good-humoured shrug. "I've
brought this on myself."
"Well, sir, what I was wondering was--What would happen to the honour
of England if fifty English women were murdered at Interlaken?"
The Colonel was silent.
"However large an army we had----" I went on.
The Colonel struck a match.
"It's a funny thing, honour," I said. "And prestige."
The Colonel pulled at his pipe.
"Just fancy," I murmured, "the Swiss can do what they like to
British subjects in Switzerland, and we can't get at them. Yet
England's honour does not suffer, the world is no worse a place to
live in, and one can spend quite a safe holiday at Interlaken."
"I remember being there in '94," began the Major hastily....
A Village Celebration
Although our village is a very small one, we had fifteen men serving
in the Forces before the war was over. Fortunately, as the Vicar well
said, "we were wonderfully blessed in that none of us was called upon
to make the great sacrifice." Indeed, with the exception of Charlie
Rudd, of the Army Service Corps, who was called upon to be kicked by a
horse, the village did not even suffer any casualties. Our rejoicings
at the conclusion of Peace were whole-hearted.
Naturally, when we met to discuss the best way in which to give
expression to our joy, our first thoughts were with our returned
heroes. Miss Travers, who plays the organ with considerable expression
on Sundays, suggested that a drinking fountain erected on the village
green would be a pleasing memorial of their valour, if suitably
inscribed. For instance, it might say, "In gratitude to our brave
defenders who leaped to answer their country's call," followed by
their names. Embury, the cobbler, who is always a wet blanket on these
occasions, asked if "leaping" was the exact word for a young fellow
who got into khaki in 1918, and then only in answer to his country's
police. The meeting was more lively after this, and Mr. Bates, of Hill
Farm, had to be personally assured by the Vicar that for his part he
quite understood how it was that young Robert Bates had been unable to
leave the farm before, and he was sure that our good friend Embury
meant nothing personal by his, if he might say so, perhaps somewhat
untimely observation. He would suggest himself that some such phrase
as "who gallantly answered" would be more in keeping with Miss
Travers' beautiful idea. He would venture to put it to the meeting
that the inscription should be amended in this sense.
Mr. Clayton, the grocer and draper, interrupted to say that they were
getting on too fast. Supposing they agreed upon a drinking fountain,
who was going to do it? Was it going to be done in the village, or
were they going to get sculptors and architects and such-like people
from London? And if so The Vicar caught the eye of Miss
Travers, and signalled to her to proceed; whereupon she explained
that, as she had already told the Vicar in private, her nephew was
studying art in London, and she was sure he would be only too glad to
get Augustus James or one of those Academy artists to think of
something really beautiful.
At this moment Embury said that he would like to ask two questions.
First question--In what order were the names of our gallant defenders
to be inscribed? The Vicar said that, speaking entirely without
preparation and on the spur of the moment, he would imagine that an
alphabetical order would be the most satisfactory. There was a general
"Hear, hear," led by the Squire, who thus made his first
contribution to the debate. "That's what I thought," said Embury.
"Well, then, second question--What's coming out of the fountain?"
The Vicar, a little surprised, said that presumably, my dear Embury,
the fountain would give forth water. "Ah!" said Embury with great
significance, and sat down.
Our village is a little slow at getting on to things; "leaping" is
not the exact word for our movements at any time, either of brain or
body. It is not surprising, therefore, that even Bates failed to
realize for a moment that his son's name was to have precedence on a
water-fountain. But when once he realized it, he refused to be
pacified by the cobbler's explanation that he had only said "Ah!"
Let those who had anything to say, he observed, speak out openly, and
then we should know where we were. Embury's answer, that one could
generally guess where some people were, and not be far wrong, was
drowned in the ecclesiastical applause which greeted the rising of the
The Squire said that he--er--hadn't--er--intended--er--to say
anything. But he thought--er--if he might--er--intervene--to--er--say
something on the matter of--er--a matter which--er--well, they all
knew what it was--in short--er--money. Because until they knew how
they--er--stood, it was obvious that--it was obvious--quite
obvious--well it was a question of how they stood. Whereupon he sat
The Vicar said that as had often happened before, the sound
common-sense of Sir John had saved them from undue rashness and
precipitancy. They were getting on a little too fast. Their valued
friend Miss Travers had made what he was not ashamed to call a
suggestion both rare and beautiful, but alas! in these prosaic modern
days the sordid question of pounds, shillings and pence could not be
wholly disregarded. How much money would they have?
Everybody looked at Sir John. There was an awkward silence, in which
the Squire joined....
Amid pushings and whisperings from his corner of the room, Charlie
Rudd said that he would just like to say a few words for the boys, if
all were willing. The Vicar said that certainly, certainly he might,
my dear Rudd. So Charlie said that he would just like to say that with
all respect to Miss Travers, who was a real lady, and many was the
packet of fags he'd had from her out there, and all the other boys
could say the same, and if some of them joined up sooner than others,
well perhaps they did, but they all tried to do their bit, just like
those who stayed at home, and they'd thrashed Jerry, and glad of it,
fountains or no fountains, and pleased to be back again and see them
all, just the same as ever, Mr. Bates and Mr. Embury and all of them,
which was all he wanted to say, and the other boys would say the same,
hoping no offence was meant, and that was all he wanted to say.
When the applause had died down, Mr. Clayton said that, in his
opinion, as he had said before, they were getting on too fast. Did
they want a fountain, that was the question. Who wanted it? The Vicar
replied that it would be a beautiful memento for their children of the
stirring times through which their country had passed. Embury asked if
Mr. Bates' child wanted a memento of----"This is a general question,
my dear Embury," said the Vicar.
There rose slowly to his feet the landlord of the Dog and Duck.
Celebrations, he said. We were celebrating this here peace. Now, as
man to man, what did celebrations mean? He asked any of them. What did
it mean? Celebrations meant celebrating, and celebrating meant sitting
down hearty-like, sitting down like Englishmen and--and celebrating.
First, find how much money they'd got, same as Sir John said; that was
right and proper. Then if so be as they wanted to leave the rest to
him, well he'd be proud to do his best for them. They knew him. Do
fair by him and he'd do fair by them. Soon as he knew how much money
they'd got, and how many were going to sit down, then he could get to
work. That was all _he'd_ got to say about celebrations.
The enthusiasm was tremendous. Rut the Vicar looked anxious, and
whispered to the Squire. The Squire shrugged his shoulders and
murmured something, and the Vicar rose. They would be all glad to
hear, he said, glad but not surprised, that with his customary
generosity the Squire had decided to throw open his own beautiful
gardens and pleasure-grounds to them on Peace Day and to take upon his
own shoulders the burden of entertaining them. He would suggest that
they now give Sir John three hearty cheers. This was done, and the
A Train of Thought
On the same day I saw two unsettling announcements in the papers. The
first said simply, underneath a suitable photograph, that the ski-ing
season was now in full swing in Switzerland; the second explained
elaborately why it cost more to go from London to the Riviera and back
than from the Riviera to London and back. Both announcements unsettled
me considerably. They would upset anybody for whom the umbrella season
in London was just opening, and who was wondering what was the cost of
a return ticket to Manchester.
At first I amused myself with trying to decide whether I should prefer
it to be the Riviera or Switzerland this Christmas. Switzerland won;
not because it is more invigorating, but because I had just discovered
a woollen helmet and a pair of ski-ing boots, relics of an earlier
visit. I am thus equipped for Switzerland already, whereas for the
Riviera I should want several new suits. One of the chief beauties of
Switzerland (other than the mountains) is that it is so uncritical of
the visitor's wardrobe. So long as he has a black coat for the
evenings, it demands nothing more. In the day-time he may fall about
in whatever he pleases. Indeed, it is almost an economy to go there
now and work off some of one's moth-collecting khaki on it. The socks
which are impossible with our civilian clothes could renew their youth
as the middle pair of three, inside a pair of ski-ing boots.
Yet to whichever I went this year, Switzerland or the Riviera, I think
it would be money wasted. I am one of those obvious people who detest
an uncomfortable railway journey, and the journey this year will
certainly be uncomfortable. But I am something more than this; I am
one of those uncommon people who enjoy a comfortable railway journey.
I mean that I enjoy it as an entertainment in itself, not only as a
relief from the hair-shirts of previous journeys. I would much sooner
go by _wagonlit_ from Calais to Monte Carlo in twenty hours, than by
magic carpet in twenty seconds. I am even looking forward to my
journey to Manchester, supposing that there is no great rush for the
place on my chosen day. The scenery as one approaches Manchester may
not be beautiful, but I shall be quite happy in my corner facing the
Nowhere can I think so happily as in a train. I am not inspired;
nothing so uncomfortable as that. I am never seized with a sudden idea
for a masterpiece, nor form a sudden plan for some new enterprise. My
thoughts are just pleasantly reflective. I think of all the good deeds
I have done, and (when these give out) of all the good deeds I am
going to do. I look out of the window and say lazily to myself, "How
jolly to live there"; and a little farther on, "How jolly not to
live there." I see a cow, and I wonder what it is like to be a cow,
and I wonder whether the cow wonders what it is to be like me; and
perhaps, by this time, we have passed on to a sheep, and I wonder if
it is more fun being a sheep. My mind wanders on in a way which would
annoy Pelman a good deal, but it wanders on quite happily, and the
"clankety-clank" of the train adds a very soothing accompaniment. So
soothing, indeed, that at any moment I can close my eyes and pass into
a pleasant state of sleep.
But this entertainment which my train provides for me is doubly
entertaining if it be but the overture to greater delights. If some
magic property which the train possesses--whether it be the motion or
the clankety-clank--makes me happy even when I am only thinking about
a cow, is it any wonder that I am happy in thinking about the
delightful new life to which I am travelling? We are going to the
Riviera, but I have had no time as yet in which to meditate properly
upon that delightful fact. I have been too busy saving up for it,
doing work in advance for it, buying cloth for it. Between London and
Dover I have been worrying, perhaps, about the crossing; between Dover
and Calais my worries have come to a head; but when I step into the
train at Calais, then at last I can give myself up with a whole mind
to the contemplation of the happy future. So long as the train does
not stop, so long as nobody goes in or out of my carriage, I care not
how many hours the journey takes. I have enough happy thoughts to fill
All this, as I said, is not at all Pelman's idea of success in life;
one should be counting cows instead of thinking of them; although
presumably a train journey would seem in any case a waste of time to
The Man Who Succeeds. But to those of us to whom it is no more a waste
of time than any other pleasant form of entertainment, the
train-service to which we have had to submit lately has been doubly
distressing. The bliss of travelling from London to Manchester was
torn from us and we were given purgatory instead. Things are a little
better now in England; if one chooses the right day one can still come
sometimes upon the old happiness. But not yet on the Continent. In the
happy days before the war the journey out was almost the best part of
Switzerland on the Riviera. I must wait until those days come back
The most characteristic thing about a melodrama is that it always
begins at 7.30. The idea, no doubt, is that one is more in the mood
for this sort of entertainment after a high tea than after a late
dinner. Plain living leads to plain thinking, and a solid foundation
of eggs and potted meat leaves no room for appreciation of the finer
shades of conduct; Right is obviously Right, and Wrong is Wrong. Or it
may be also that the management wishes to allow us time for recovery
afterwards from the emotions of the evening; the play ends at 10.30,
so that we can build up the ravaged tissues again with a hearty
supper. But whatever the reason for the early start, the result is the
same. We arrive at 7.45 to find that we alone of the whole audience
have been left out of the secret as to why Lord Algernon is to be
pushed off the pier.
For melodrama, unlike the more fashionable comedy, gets to grips at
once. It is well understood by every dramatist that a late-dining
audience needs several minutes of dialogue before it recovers from its
bewilderment at finding itself in a theatre at all. Even the expedient
of printing the names of the characters on the programme in the order
in which they appear, and of letting them address each other frankly
by name as soon as they come on the stage, fails to dispel the mists.
The stalls still wear that vague, flustered look, as if they had
expected a concert or a prize-fight and have just remembered that the
concert, of course, is to-morrow. For this reason a wise dramatist
keeps back his story until the brain of the more expensive seats
begins to clear, and he is careful not to waste his jokes on the first
five pages of his dialogue.
But melodrama plays to cheap seats, and the purchaser of the cheap
seat has come there to have his money's worth. Directly the curtain
goes up he is ready to collaborate. It is perfectly safe for the
Villain to come on at once and reveal his dastardly plans; the
audience is alert for his confidences.
"Curse that young cub, Dick Vereker, what ill-fortune has sent him
across my path? Already he has established himself in the affections
of Lady Alicia, and if she consents to wed him my plans are foiled.
Fortunately she does not know as yet that, by the will of her late
Uncle Gregory, the ironmaster, two million pounds are settled upon the
man who wins her hand. With two million pounds I could pay back my
betting losses and prevent myself from being turned out of the
Constitutional Club. And now to put the marked ace of spades in young
Vereker's coat-tail pocket. Ha!"
No doubt the audience is the more ready to assimilate this because it
knew it was coming. As soon as the Villain steps on to the stage he is
obviously the Villain; one does not need to peer at one's programme
and murmur, "Who is this, dear?" It is known beforehand that the
Hero will be falsely accused, and that not until the last act will he
and his true love come together again. All that we are waiting to be
told is whether it is to be a marked card, a forged cheque, or a
bloodstain this time; and (if, as is probable, the Heroine is forced
into a marriage with the Villain) whether the Villain's first wife,
whom he had deserted, will turn up during the ceremony or immediately
afterwards. For the whole charm of a melodrama is that it is in
essentials just like every other melodrama that has gone before. The
author may indulge his own fancies to the extent of calling the
Villain Jasper or Eustace, of letting the Hero be ruined on the
battle-field or the Stock Exchange, but we are keeping an eye on him
to see that he plays no tricks with our national drama. It is our play
as well as his, and we have laid down the rules for it. Let the author
stick to them.
It is strange how unconvincing the Hero is to his fellows on the
stage, and how very convincing to us. That ringing voice, those
gleaming eyes--how is it that none of his companions seems able to
recognize Innocence when it is shining forth so obviously? "I feel
that I never want to see your face again," says the Heroine, when the
diamond necklace is found in his hat-box, and we feel that she has
never really seen it at all yet. "Good Heavens, madam," we long to
cry, "have you never been to a melodrama that you can be so deceived?
Look again! Is it not the face of the Falsely Accused?" But probably
she has not been to a melodrama. She moves in the best society, and
the thought of a high tea at 6.30 would appal her.
But let me confess that we in the audience are carried away sometimes
by that ringing voice, those gleaming eyes. He has us, this Hero, in
the hollow of his hand (to borrow a phrase from the Villain). When the
limelight is playing round his brow, and he stands in the centre of
the stage with clenched fists, oh! then he has us. "What! Betray my
aged mother for filthy gold!" he cries, looking at us scornfully as
if it was our suggestion. "Never, while yet breath remains in my
body!" What a cheer we give him then; a cheer which seems to imply
that, having often betrayed our own mothers for half a crown or so, we
are able to realize the heroic nature of his abstention on this
occasion. For in the presence of the Hero we lose our sense of values.
If he were to scorn an offer to sell his father for vivisectional
purposes, we should applaud enthusiastically his altruism.
But it is only the Hero who wins our cheers, only the Villain who wins
our hisses. The minor characters are necessary, but we are not greatly
interested in them. The Villain must have a confederate to whom he can
reveal his wicked thoughts when he is tired of soliloquizing; the Hero
must have friends who can tell each other all those things which a
modest man cannot say for himself; there must be characters of lower
birth, competent to relieve the tension by sitting down on their hats
or pulling chairs from beneath their acquaintances. We could not do
without them, but we do not give them our hearts. Even the Heroine
leaves us calm. However beautiful she be, she is not more than the
Hero deserves. It is the Hero whom we have come out to see, and it is
painful to reflect that in a little while he will he struggling to get
on the 'bus for Walham Green, and be pushed off again just like the
rest of us.
A Lost Masterpiece
The short essay on "The Improbability of the Infinite" which I was
planning for you yesterday will now never be written. Last night my
brain was crammed with lofty thoughts on the subject--and for that
matter, on every other subject. My mind was never so fertile. Ten
thousand words on any theme from Tin-tacks to Tomatoes would have been
easy to me. That was last night. This morning I have only one word in
my brain, and I cannot get rid of it. The word is "Teralbay."
Teralbay is not a word which one uses much in ordinary life. Rearrange
the letters, however, and it becomes such a word. A friend--no, I can
call him a friend no longer--a person gave me this collection of
letters as I was going to bed and challenged me to make a proper word
of it. He added that Lord Melbourne--this, he alleged, is a well-known
historical fact--Lord Melbourne had given this word to Queen Victoria
once, and it had kept her awake the whole night. After this, one could
not be so disloyal as to solve it at once. For two hours or so,
therefore, I merely toyed with it. Whenever I seemed to be getting
warm I hurriedly thought of something else. This quixotic loyalty has
been the undoing of me; my chances of a solution have slipped by, and
I am beginning to fear that they will never return. While this is the
case, the only word I can write about is Teralbay.
Teralbay--what does it make? There are two ways of solving a problem
of this sort. The first is to waggle your eyes and see what you get.
If you do this, words like "alterably" and "laboratory" emerge,
which a little thought shows you to be wrong. You may then waggle your
eyes again, look at it upside down or sideways, or stalk it carefully
from the southwest and plunge upon it suddenly when it is not ready
for you. In this way it may be surprised into giving up its secret.
But if you find that it cannot be captured by strategy or assault,
then there is only one way of taking it. It must be starved into
surrender. This will take a long time, but victory is certain.
There are eight letters in Teralbay and two of them are the same, so
that there must be 181,440 ways of writing the letters out. This may
not be obvious to you at once; you may have thought that it was only
181,439; but you may take my word for it that I am right. (Wait a
moment while I work it out again.... Yes, that's it.) Well, now
suppose that you put down a new order of letters--such as
"raytable"--every six seconds, which is very easy going, and suppose
that you can spare an hour a day for it; then by the 303rd day--a year
hence, if you rest on Sundays--you are bound to have reached a
But perhaps this is not playing the game. This, I am sure, is not what
Queen Victoria did. And now I think of it, history does not tell us
what she did do, beyond that she passed a sleepless night. (And that
she still liked Melbourne afterwards--which is surprising.) Did she
ever guess it? Or did Lord Melbourne have to tell her in the morning,
and did she say, "Why, of _course_!" I expect so. Or did Lord
Melbourne say, "I'm awfully sorry, madam, but I find I put a `y' in
too many?" But no--history could not have remained silent over
such a tragedy as that. Besides, she went on liking him.
When I die "Teralbay" will be written on my heart. While I live it
shall be my telegraphic address. I shall patent a breakfast food
called "Teralbay"; I shall say "Teralbay!" when I miss a 2-ft.
putt; the Teralbay carnation will catch your eye at the Temple show. I
shall write anonymous letters over the name. "Fly at once; all is
discovered--Teralbay." Yes, that would look rather well.
I wish I knew more about Lord Melbourne. What sort of words did he
think of? The thing couldn't he "aeroplane" or "telephone" or
"googly," because these weren't invented in his time. That gives us
three words less. Nor, probably, would it be anything to eat; a Prime
Minister would hardly discuss such subjects with his Sovereign. I have
no doubt that after hours of immense labour you will triumphantly
suggest "rateably." I suggested that myself, but it is wrong. There
is no such word in the dictionary. The same objection applies to
"bat-early"--it ought to mean something, but it doesn't.
So I hand the word over to you. Please do not send the solution to me,
for by the time you read this I shall either have found it out or else
I shall be in a nursing home. In either case it will be of no use to
me. Send it to the Postmaster-General or one of the Geddeses or Mary
Pickford. You will want to get it off your mind.
As for myself I shall write to my fr----, to the person who first said
"Teralbay" to me, and ask him to make something of "sabet" and
"donureb." When he has worked out the corrections--which, in case he
gets the wrong ones, I may tell him here are "beast" and
"bounder"--I shall search the dictionary for some long word like
"intellectual." I shall alter the order of the letters and throw in
a couple of "g's" and a "k". And then I shall tell them to keep a
spare bed for him in my nursing home.
Well, I have got "Teralbay" a little off my mind. I feel better able
now to think of other things. Indeed, I might almost begin my famous
essay on "The Improbability of the Infinite." It would be a pity for
the country to lose such a masterpiece--she has had quite enough
trouble already what with one thing and another. For my view of the
Infinite is this: that although beyond the Finite, or, as one might
say, the Commensurate, there may or may not be a----
Just a moment. I think I have it now. T--R--A----No....
A Hint for Next Christmas
There has been some talk lately of the standardization of golf balls,
but a more urgent reform is the standardization of Christmas presents.
It is no good putting this matter off; let us take it in hand now, so
that we shall be in time for next Christmas.
My crusade is on behalf of those who spend their Christmas away from
home. Last year I returned (with great difficulty) from such an
adventure and I am more convinced than ever that Christmas presents
should conform to a certain standard of size. My own little offerings
were thoughtfully chosen. A match-box, a lace handkerchief or two, a
cigarette-holder, a pencil and note-book, _Gems from Wilcox_, and so
on; such gifts not only bring pleasure (let us hope) to the recipient,
but take up a negligible amount of room in one's bag, and add hardly
anything to the weight of it. Of course, if your fellow-visitor says
to you, "How sweet of you to give me such a darling little
handkerchief--it's just what I wanted--how ever did you think of it?"
you do not reply, "Well, it was a choice between that and a
hundredweight of coal, and I'll give you two guesses why I chose the
handkerchief." No; you smile modestly and say, "As soon as I saw it,
I felt somehow that it was yours"; after which you are almost in a
position to ask your host casually where he keeps the mistletoe.
But it is almost a certainty that the presents you receive will not
have been chosen with such care. Probably the young son of the house
has been going in for carpentry lately, and in return for your tie-pin
he gives you a wardrobe of his own manufacture. You thank him
heartily, you praise its figure, but all the time you are wishing that
it had chosen some other occasion. Your host gives you a statuette or
a large engraving; somebody else turns up with a large brass
candle-stick. It is all very gratifying, but you have got to get back
to London somehow, and, thankful though you are not to have received
the boar-hound or parrot-in-cage which seemed at one time to be
threatening, you cannot help wishing that the limits of size for a
Christmas present had been decreed by some authority who was familiar
with the look of your dressing-case.
Obviously, too, there should be a standard value for a certain type of
Christmas present. One may give what one will to one's own family or
particular friends; that is all right. But in a Christmas house-party
there is a pleasant interchange of parcels, of which the string and
the brown paper and the kindly thought are the really important
ingredients, and the gift inside is nothing more than an excuse for
these things. It is embarrassing for you if Jones has apologized for
his brown paper with a hundred cigars, and you have only excused
yourself with twenty-five cigarettes; perhaps still more embarrassing
if it is you who have lost so heavily on the exchange. An
understanding that the contents were to be worth five shillings
exactly would avoid this embarassment.
And now I am reminded of the ingenuity of a friend of mine, William by
name, who arrived at a large country house for Christmas without any
present in his bag. He had expected neither to give nor to receive
anything, but to his horror he discovered on the 24th that everybody
was preparing a Christmas present for him, and that it was taken for
granted that he would require a little privacy and brown paper on
Christmas Eve for the purpose of addressing his own offerings to
others. He had wild thoughts of telegraphing to London for something
to be sent down, and spoke to other members of the house-party in
order to discover what sort of presents would be suitable.
"What are you giving our host P" he asked one of them.
"Mary and I are giving him a book," said John, referring to his
William then approached the youngest son of the house, and discovered
that he and his next brother Dick were sharing in this, that, and the
other. When he had heard this, William retired to his room and thought
profoundly. He was the first down to breakfast on Christmas morning.
All the places at the table were piled high with presents. He looked
at John's place. The top parcel said, "To John and Mary from
Charles." William took out his fountain-pen and added a couple of
words to the inscription. It then read, "To John and Mary from
Charles and William," and in William's opinion looked just as
effective as before. He moved on to the next place. "To Angela from
Father," said the top parcel. "And William," wrote William. At his
hostess' place he hesitated for a moment. The first present there was
for "Darling Mother, from her loving children." It did not seem that
an "and William" was quite suitable. But his hostess was not to be
deprived of William's kindly thought; twenty seconds later the
handkerchiefs "from John and Mary and William" expressed all the
nice things which he was feeling for her. He passed on to the next
It is, of course, impossible to thank every donor of a joint gift; one
simply thanks the first person whose eye one happens to catch.
Sometimes William's eye was caught, sometimes not. But he was spared
all embarrassment; and I can recommend his solution of the problem
with perfect confidence to those who may be in a similar predicament
There is a minor sort of Christmas present about which also a few
words must be said; I refer to the Christmas card.
The Christmas card habit is a very pleasant one, but it, too, needs to
be disciplined. I doubt if many people understand its proper function.
This is partly the result of our bringing up; as children we were
allowed (quite rightly) to run wild in the Christmas card shop, with
one of two results. Either we still run wild, or else the reaction has
set in and we avoid the Christmas card shop altogether. We convey our
printed wishes for a happy Christmas to everybody or to nobody. This
is a mistake. In our middle-age we should discriminate.
The child does not need to discriminate. It has two shillings in the
hand and about twenty-four relations. Even in my time two shillings
did not go far among twenty-four people. But though presents were out
of the question, one could get twenty-four really beautiful Christmas
cards for the money, and if some of them were ha'penny ones, then one
could afford real snow on a threepenny one for the most important
uncle, meaning by "most important," perhaps (but I have forgotten
now), the one most likely to be generous in return. Of the fun of
choosing those twenty-four cards I need not now speak, nor of the best
method of seeing to it that somebody else paid for the necessary
twenty-four stamps. But certainly one took more trouble in suiting the
tastes of those who were to receive the cards than the richest and
most leisured grown-up would take in selecting a diamond necklace for
his wife's stocking or motor-cars for his sons-in-law. It was not only
a question of snow, but also of the words in which the old, old wish
was expressed. If the aunt who was known to be fond of poetry did not
get something suitable from Eliza Cook, one might regard her Christmas
as ruined. How could one grudge the trouble necessary to make her
Christmas really happy for her? One might even explore the fourpenny
But in middle-age--by which I mean anything over twenty and under
ninety--one knows too many people. One cannot give them a Christmas
card each; there is not enough powdered glass to go round. One has to
discriminate, and the way in which most of us discriminate is either
to send no cards to anybody or else to send them to the first twenty
or fifty or hundred of our friends (according to our income and
energy) whose names come into our minds. Such cards are meaningless;
but if we sent our Christmas cards to the right people, we could make
the simple words upon them mean something very much more than a mere
wish that the recipient's Christmas shall be "merry" (which it will
be anyhow, if he likes merriness) and his New Year "bright" (which,
let us hope, it will not be).
"A merry Christmas," with an old church in the background and a
robin in the foreground, surrounded by a wreath of holly-leaves. It
might mean so much. What I feel that it ought to mean is something
"You live at Potters Bar and I live at Petersham. Of course, if we
did happen to meet at the Marble Arch one day, it would be awfully
jolly, and we could go and have lunch together somewhere, and talk
about old times. But our lives have drifted apart since those old
days. It is partly the fault of the train-service, no doubt. Glad as I
should be to see you, I don't like to ask you to come all the way to
Petersham to dinner, and if you asked me to Potters Bar--well, I
should come, but it would be something of a struggle, and I thank you
for not asking me. Besides, we have made different friends now, and
our tastes are different. After we had talked about the old days, I
doubt if we should have much to say to each other. Each of us would
think the other a bit of a bore, and our wives would wonder why we had
ever been friends at Liverpool. But don't think I have forgotten you.
I just send this card to let you know that I am still alive, still at
the same address, and that I still remember you. No need, if we ever
do meet, or if we ever want each other's help, to begin by saying: `I
suppose you have quite forgotten those old days at Liverpool.' We have
neither of us forgotten; and so let us send to each other, once a
year, a sign that we have not forgotten, and that once upon a time we
were friends. 'A merry Christmas to you.'"
That is what a Christmas card should say. It is absurd to say this to
a man or woman whom one is perpetually ringing up on the telephone; to
somebody whom one met last week or with whom one is dining the week
after; to a man whom one may run across at the club on almost any day,
or a woman whom one knows to shop daily at the same stores as oneself.
It is absurd to say it to a correspondent to whom one often writes.
Let us reserve our cards for the old friends who have dropped out of
our lives, and let them reserve their cards for us.
But, of course, we must have kept their addresses; otherwise we have
to print our cards publicly--as I am doing now. "Old friends will
please accept this, the only intimation."
The recent decision that, if a fortune-teller honestly believes what
she is saying, she is not defrauding her client, may be good law, but
it does not sound like good sense. To a layman like myself it would
seem more sensible to say that, if the client honestly believes what
the fortune-teller is saying, then the client is not being defrauded.
For instance, a fortune-teller may inform you, having pocketed your
two guineas, that a rich uncle in Australia is going to leave you a
million pounds next year. She doesn't promise you the million pounds
herself; obviously that is coming to you anyhow, fortune-teller or no
fortune-teller. There is no suggestion on her part that she is
arranging your future for you. All that she promises to do for two
guineas is to give you a little advance information. She tells you
that you are coming into a million pounds next year, and if you
believe it, I should say that it was well worth the money. You have a
year's happiness (if that sort of thing makes you happy), a year in
which to tell yourself in every trouble, "Never mind, there's a good
time coming"; a year in which to make glorious plans for the future,
to build castles in the air, or (if your taste is not for castles)
country cottages and Mayfair flats. And all this for two guineas; it
is amazingly cheap.