Sketches and Satires on The Follies of The Day
by Stephen Leacock
Many years ago when I was a boy at school, we had over
our class an ancient and spectacled schoolmaster who was
as kind at heart as he was ferocious in appearance, and
whose memory has suggested to me the title of this book.
It was his practice, on any outburst of gaiety in the
class-room, to chase us to our seats with a bamboo cane
and to shout at us in defiance:
Now, then, any further foolishness?
I find by experience that there are quite a number of
indulgent readers who are good enough to adopt the same
expectant attitude towards me now.
November 1, 1916
FOLLIES IN FICTION
I. Stories Shorter Still
II. The Snoopopaths; or Fifty Stories in One
III. Foreign Fiction in Imported Instalments. Serge the
Superman: A Russian Novel. (Translated, with a
hand pump, out of the original Russian)
MOVIES AND MOTORS, MEN AND WOMEN
IV. Madeline of the Movies: A Photoplay done back
V. The Call of the Carburettor; or, Mr. Blinks and
VI. The Two Sexes, in Fives or Sixes
A Dinner-party Study
VII. The Grass Bachelor's Guide With Sincere Apologies
to the Ladies' Periodicals
VIII. Every Man and his friends. Mr. Crunch's Portrait
Gallery (as Edited from his Private Thoughts)
IX. More than Twice-told Tales; or, Every Man his Own
X. A Study in Still Life—My Tailor
PEACE, WAR, AND POLITICS
XI. Germany from Within Out
XII. Abdul Aziz has His: An Adventure in the Yildiz
XIII. In Merry Mexico
XIV. Over the Grape Juice; or, The Peacemakers
XV. The White House from Without In
TIMID THOUGHTS ON TIMELY TOPICS
XVI. Are the Rich Happy?
XVII. Humour as I See It
Follies in Fiction
I. Stories Shorter Still
Among the latest follies in fiction is the perpetual
demand for stories shorter and shorter still. The only
thing to do is to meet this demand at the source and
check it. Any of the stories below, if left to soak
overnight in a barrel of rainwater, will swell to the
dimensions of a dollar-fifty novel.
(I) AN IRREDUCIBLE DETECTIVE STORY
HANGED BY A HAIR
OR A MURDER MYSTERY MINIMISED
The mystery had now reached its climax. First, the man
had been undoubtedly murdered. Secondly, it was absolutely
certain that no conceivable person had done it.
It was therefore time to call in the great detective.
He gave one searching glance at the corpse. In a moment
he whipped out a microscope.
"Ha! ha!" he said, as he picked a hair off the lapel of
the dead man's coat. "The mystery is now solved."
He held up the hair.
"Listen," he said, "we have only to find the man who lost
this hair and the criminal is in our hands."
The inexorable chain of logic was complete.
The detective set himself to the search.
For four days and nights he moved, unobserved, through
the streets of New York scanning closely every face he
passed, looking for a man who had lost a hair.
On the fifth day he discovered a man, disguised as a
tourist, his head enveloped in a steamer cap that reached
below his ears. The man was about to go on board the
The detective followed him on board.
"Arrest him!" he said, and then drawing himself to his
full height, he brandished aloft the hair.
"This is his," said the great detective. "It proves his
"Remove his hat," said the ship's captain sternly.
They did so.
The man was entirely bald.
"Ha!" said the great detective without a moment of
hesitation. "He has committed not one murder but about
(II) A COMPRESSED OLD ENGLISH NOVEL
SWEARWORD THE UNPRONOUNCEABLE
CHAPTER ONE AND ONLY
"Ods bodikins!" exclaimed Swearword the Saxon, wiping
his mailed brow with his iron hand, "a fair morn withal!
Methinks twert lithlier to rest me in yon glade than to
foray me forth in yon fray! Twert it not?"
But there happened to be a real Anglo-Saxon standing by.
"Where in heaven's name," he said in sudden passion, "did
you get that line of English?"
"Churl!" said Swearword, "it is Anglo-Saxon."
"You're a liar!" shouted the Saxon, "it is not. It is
Harvard College, Sophomore Year, Option No. 6."
Swearword, now in like fury, threw aside his hauberk, his
baldrick, and his needlework on the grass.
"Lay on!" said Swearword.
"Have at you!" cried the Saxon.
They laid on and had at one another.
Swearword was killed.
Thus luckily the whole story was cut off on the first
page and ended.
(III) A CONDENSED INTERMINABLE NOVEL
FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE
OR A THOUSAND PAGES FOR A DOLLAR
NOTE.-This story originally contained two hundred and
fifty thousand words. But by a marvellous feat of
condensation it is reduced, without the slightest loss,
to a hundred and six words.
Edward Endless lived during his youth
in New Hampshire,
in Rhode Island,
Then the lure of the city lured him. His fate took him to
New York, to Chicago, and to Philadelphia.
In Chicago he lived,
in a boarding-house on Lasalle Avenue,
then he boarded—
in a living-house on Michigan Avenue.
In New York he
had a room in an eating-house on Forty-first Street,
ate in a rooming-house on Forty-second Street.
In Philadelphia he
used to sleep on Chestnut Street,
slept on Maple Street.
During all this time women were calling to him. He knew
and came to be friends with—
And he also got to know pretty well,
And during this same time Art began to call him—
Pictures began to appeal to him.
Statues beckoned to him.
Music maddened him,
and any form of Recitation or Elocution drove
him beside himself.
Then, one day, he married Margaret Jones.
As soon as he had married her
He was disillusioned.
He now hated her.
Then he lived with Elizabeth Smith—
He had no sooner sat down with her than—
He hated her.
Half mad, he took his things over to Arabella Thompson's
flat to live with her.
The moment she opened the door of the apartment, he loathed
He saw her as she was.
Driven sane with despair, he then—
(Our staff here cut the story off. There are hundreds
and hundreds of pages after this. They show Edward Endless
grappling in the fight for clean politics. The last
hundred pages deal with religion. Edward finds it after
a big fight. But no one reads these pages. There are no
women in them. Our staff cut them out and merely show at
The whole story is perhaps the biggest thing ever done
on this continent. Perhaps!)
II. Snoopopaths; or, Fifty Stories in One
This particular study in the follies of literature is
not so much a story as a sort of essay. The average reader
will therefore turn from it with a shudder. The condition
of the average reader's mind is such that he can take in
nothing but fiction. And it must be thin fiction at
that—thin as gruel. Nothing else will "sit on his
Everything must come to the present-day reader in this
form. If you wish to talk to him about religion, you
must dress it up as a story and label it Beth-sheba,
or The Curse of David; if you want to improve the
reader's morals, you must write him a little thing in
dialogue called Mrs. Potiphar Dines Out. If you wish
to expostulate with him about drink, you must do so
through a narrative called Red Rum—short enough and
easy enough for him to read it, without overstraining
his mind, while he drinks cocktails.
But whatever the story is about it has got to deal—in
order to be read by the average reader—with A MAN and
A WOMAN, I put these words in capitals to indicate that
they have got to stick out of the story with the crudity
of a drawing done by a child with a burnt stick. In other
words, the story has got to be snoopopathic. This is a
word derived from the Greek—"snoopo"—or if there never
was a Greek verb snoopo, at least there ought to have
been one—and it means just what it seems to mean. Nine
out of ten short stories written in America are
In snoopopathic literature, in order to get its full
effect, the writer generally introduces his characters
simply as "the man" and "the woman." He hates to admit
that they have no names. He opens out with them something
after this fashion: "The Man lifted his head. He looked
about him at the gaily bedizzled crowd that besplotched
the midnight cabaret with riotous patches of colour. He
crushed his cigar against the brass of an Egyptian tray.
'Bah!' he murmured, 'Is it worth it?' Then he let his
head sink again."
You notice it? He lifted his head all the way up and let
it sink all the way down, and you still don't know who
he is. For The Woman the beginning is done like this:
"The Woman clenched her white hands till the diamonds
that glittered upon her fingers were buried in the soft
flesh. 'The shame of it,' she murmured. Then she took
from the table the telegram that lay crumpled upon it
and tore it into a hundred pieces. 'He dare not!' she
muttered through her closed teeth. She looked about the
hotel room with its garish furniture. 'He has no right
to follow me here,' she gasped."
All of which the reader has to take in without knowing
who the woman is, or which hotel she is staying at, or
who dare not follow her or why. But the modern reader
loves to get this sort of shadowy incomplete effect. If
he were told straight out that the woman's name was Mrs.
Edward Dangerfield of Brick City, Montana, and that she
had left her husband three days ago and that the telegram
told her that he had discovered her address and was
following her, the reader would refuse to go on.
This method of introducing the characters is bad enough.
But the new snoopopathic way of describing them is still
worse. The Man is always detailed as if he were a horse.
He is said to be "tall, well set up, with straight legs."
Great stress is always laid on his straight legs. No
magazine story is acceptable now unless The Man's legs
are absolutely straight. Why this is, I don't know. All
my friends have straight legs—and yet I never hear them
make it a subject of comment or boasting. I don't believe
I have, at present, a single friend with crooked legs.
But this is not the only requirement. Not only must The
Man's legs be straight but he must be "clean-limbed,"
whatever that is; and of course he must have a "well-tubbed
look about him." How this look is acquired, and whether
it can be got with an ordinary bath and water are things
on which I have no opinion.
The Man is of course "clean-shaven." This allows him to
do such necessary things as "turning his clean-shaven
face towards the speaker," "laying his clean-shaven cheek
in his hand," and so on. But every one is familiar with
the face of the up-to-date clean-shaven snoopopathic man.
There are pictures of him by the million on magazine
covers and book jackets, looking into the eyes of The
Woman—he does it from a distance of about six inches—with
that snoopy earnest expression of brainlessness that he
always wears. How one would enjoy seeing a man—a real
one with Nevada whiskers and long boots—land him one
solid kick from behind.
Then comes The Woman of the snoopopathic story. She is
always "beautifully groomed" (who these grooms are that
do it, and where they can be hired, I don't know), and
she is said to be "exquisitely gowned."
It is peculiar about The Woman that she never seems to
wear a dress—always a "gown." Why this is, I cannot
tell. In the good old stories that I used to read, when
I could still read for the pleasure of it, the heroines
—that was what they used to be called—always wore
dresses. But now there is no heroine, only a woman in a
gown. I wear a gown myself—at night. It is made of
flannel and reaches to my feet, and when I take my candle
and go out to the balcony where I sleep, the effect of
it on the whole is not bad. But as to its "revealing
every line of my figure"—as The Woman's gown is always
said to—and as to its "suggesting even more than it
reveals"—well, it simply does not. So when I talk of
"gowns" I speak of something that I know all about.
Yet, whatever The Woman does, her "gown" is said to
"cling" to her. Whether in the street or in a cabaret
or in the drawing-room, it "clings." If by any happy
chance she throws a lace wrap about her, then it clings;
and if she lifts her gown—as she is apt to—it shows,
not what I should have expected, but a jupon, and even
that clings. What a jupon is I don't know. With my
gown, I never wear one. These people I have described,
The Man and The Woman—The Snoopopaths—are, of course,
not husband and wife, or brother and sister, or anything
so simple and old-fashioned as that. She is some one
else's wife. She is The Wife of the Other Man. Just
what there is, for the reader, about other men's wives,
I don't understand. I know tons of them that I wouldn't
walk round a block for. But the reading public goes wild
over them. The old-fashioned heroine was unmarried. That
spoiled the whole story. You could see the end from the
beginning. But with Another Man's Wife, the way is blocked.
Something has got to happen that would seem almost obvious
The writer, therefore, at once puts the two snoopos—The
Man and The Woman—into a frightfully indelicate position.
The more indelicate it is, the better. Sometimes she gets
into his motor by accident after the theatre, or they
both engage the drawing-room of a Pullman car by mistake,
or else, best of all, he is brought accidentally into
her room at an hotel at night. There is something about
an hotel room at night, apparently, which throws the
modern reader into convulsions. It is always easy to
arrange a scene of this sort. For example, taking the
sample beginning that I gave above, The Man, whom I left
sitting at the cabaret table, above, rises unsteadily
—it is the recognised way of rising in a cabaret—and,
settling the reckoning with the waiter, staggers into
the street. For myself I never do a reckoning with the
waiter. I just pay the bill as he adds it, and take a
chance on it.
As The Man staggers into the "night air," the writer has
time—just a little time, for the modern reader is
impatient—to explain who he is and why he staggers. He
is rich. That goes without saying. All clean-limbed men
with straight legs are rich. He owns copper mines in
Montana. All well-tubbed millionaires do. But he has left
them, left everything, because of the Other Man's Wife.
It was that or madness—or worse. He had told himself so
a thousand times. (This little touch about "worse" is
used in all the stories. I don't just understand what
the "worse" means. But snoopopathic readers reach for it
with great readiness.) So The Man had come to New York
(the only place where stories are allowed to be laid)
under an assumed name, to forget, to drive her from his
mind. He had plunged into the mad round of—I never could
find it myself, but it must be there, and as they all
plunge into it, it must be as full of them as a sheet of
Tanglefoot is of flies.
"As The Man walked home to his hotel, the cool night air
steadied him, but his brain is still filled with the
fumes of the wine he had drunk." Notice these "fumes."
It must be great to float round with them in one's brain,
where they apparently lodge. I have often tried to find
them, but I never can. Again and again I have said,
"Waiter, bring me a Scotch whisky and soda with fumes."
But I can never get them.
Thus goes The Man to his hotel. Now it is in a room in
this same hotel that The Woman is sitting, and in which
she has crumpled up the telegram. It is to this hotel
that she has come when she left her husband, a week ago.
The readers know, without even being told, that she left
him "to work out her own salvation"—driven, by his cold
brutality, beyond the breaking-point. And there is laid
upon her soul, as she sits there with clenched hands,
the dust and ashes of a broken marriage and a loveless
life, and the knowledge, too late, of all that might have
And it is to this hotel that The Woman's Husband is
But The Man does not know that she is in the hotel, nor
that she has left her husband; it is only accident that
brings them together. And it is only by accident that he
has come into her room, at night, and stands there—rooted
to the threshold. Now as a matter of fact, in real life,
there is nothing at all in the simple fact of walking
into the wrong room of an hotel by accident. You merely
apologise and go out. I had this experience myself only
a few days ago. I walked right into a lady's room—next
door to my own. But I simply said, "Oh, I beg your pardon,
I thought this was No. 343."
"No," she said, "this is 341."
She did not rise and "confront" me, as they always do in
the snoopopathic stories. Neither did her eyes flash,
nor her gown cling to her as she rose. Nor was her gown
made of "rich old stuff." No, she merely went on reading
"I must apologise," I said. "I am a little short-sighted,
and very often a one and a three look so alike that
I can't tell them apart. I'm afraid—"
"Not at all," said the lady. "Good evening."
"You see," I added, "this room and my own being so alike,
and mine being 343 and this being 341, I walked in before
I realised that instead of walking into 343 I was walking
She bowed in silence, without speaking, and I felt that
it was now the part of exquisite tact to retire quietly
without further explanation, or at least with only a few
murmured words about the possibility of to-morrow being
even colder than to-day. I did so, and the affair ended
with complete savoir faire on both sides.
But the Snoopopaths, Man and Woman, can't do this sort
of thing, or, at any rate, the snoopopathic writer won't
let them. The opportunity is too good to miss. As soon
as The Man comes into The Woman's room—before he knows
who she is, for she has her back to him—he gets into a
condition dear to all snoopopathic readers.
His veins simply "surged." His brain beat against his
temples in mad pulsation. His breath "came and went in
quick, short pants." (This last might perhaps be done by
one of the hotel bellboys, but otherwise it is hard to
And The Woman—"Noiseless as his step had been, she seemed
to sense his presence. A wave seemed to sweep over her
—She turned and rose fronting him full." This doesn't
mean that he was full when she fronted him. Her gown—but
we know about that already. "It was a coward's trick,"
Now if The Man had had the kind of savoir faire that
I have, he would have said: "Oh, pardon me! I see this
room is 341. My own room is 343, and to me a one and
a three often look so alike that I seem to have walked
into 341 while looking for 343." And he could have
explained in two words that he had no idea that she was
in New York, was not following her, and not proposing to
interfere with her in any way. And she would have explained
also in two sentences why and how she came to be there.
But this wouldn't do. Instead of it, The Man and The
Woman go through the grand snoopopathic scene which is
so intense that it needs what is really a new kind of
language to convey it.
"Helene," he croaked, reaching out his arms—his voice
tensed with the infinity of his desire.
"Back," she iced. And then, "Why have you come here?"
she hoarsed. "What business have you here?"
"None," he glooped, "none. I have no business." They
stood sensing one another.
"I thought you were in Philadelphia," she said—her gown
clinging to every fibre of her as she spoke.
"I was," he wheezed.
"And you left it?" she sharped, her voice tense.
"I left it," he said, his voice glumping as he spoke.
"Need I tell you why?" He had come nearer to her. She
could hear his pants as he moved.
"No, no," she gurgled. "You left it. It is enough. I can
understand"—she looked bravely up at him—"I can
understand any man leaving it."
Then as he moved still nearer her, there was the sound
of a sudden swift step in the corridor. The door opened
and there stood before them The Other Man, the Husband
of The Woman—Edward Dangerfield.
This, of course, is the grand snoopopathic climax, when
the author gets all three of them—The Man, The Woman,
and The Woman's Husband—in an hotel room at night. But
notice what happens.
He stood in the opening of the doorway looking at them,
a slight smile upon his lips.
"Well?" he said. Then he entered the room and stood for
a moment quietly looking into The Man's face.
"So," he said, "it was you." He walked into the room and
laid the light coat that he had been carrying over his
arm upon the table. He drew a cigar-case from his waistcoat
"Try one of these Havanas," he said.
Observe the calm of it. This is what the snoopopath
loves—no rage, no blustering—calmness, cynicism. He
walked over towards the mantelpiece and laid his hat upon
it. He set his boot upon the fender.
"It was cold this evening," he said. He walked over to
the window and gazed a moment into the dark.
"This is a nice hotel," he said. (This scene is what the
author and the reader love; they hate to let it go. They'd
willingly keep the man walking up and down for hours
The Man raised his head! "Yes, it's a good hotel," he
said. Then he let his head fall again.
This kind of thing goes on until, if possible, the reader
is persuaded into thinking that there is nothing going
to happen. Then:
"He turned to The Woman. 'Go in there,' he said, pointing
to the bedroom door. Mechanically she obeyed." This, by
the way, is the first intimation that the reader has that
the room in which they were sitting was not a bedroom.
The two men were alone. Dangerfield walked over to the
chair where he had thrown his coat.
"I bought this coat in St. Louis last fall," he said.
His voice was quiet, even passionless. Then from the
pocket of the coat he took a revolver and laid it on the
table. Marsden watched him without a word.
"Do you see this pistol?" said Dangerfield.
Marsden raised his head a moment and let it sink.
Of course the ignorant reader keeps wondering why he
doesn't explain. But how can he? What is there to say?
He has been found out of his own room at night. The
penalty for this in all the snoopopathic stories is death.
It is understood that in all the New York hotels the
night porters shoot a certain number of men in the
corridors every night.
"When we married," said Dangerfield, glancing at the
closed door as he spoke, "I bought this and the mate to
it—for her—just the same, with the monogram on the
butt—see! And I said to her, 'If things ever go wrong
between you and me, there is always this way out.'"
He lifted the pistol from the table, examining its
mechanism. He rose and walked across the room till he
stood with his back against the door, the pistol in his
hand, its barrel pointing straight at Marsden's heart.
Marsden never moved. Then as the two men faced one another
thus, looking into one another's eyes, their ears caught
a sound from behind the closed door of the inner room—a
sharp, hard, metallic sound as if some one in the room
within had raised the hammer of a pistol—a jewelled
pistol like the one in Dangerfield's hand.
A loud report, and with a cry, the cry of a woman, one
shrill despairing cry—
Or no, hang it—I can't consent to end up a story in that
fashion, with the dead woman prone across the bed, the
smoking pistol, with a jewel on the hilt, still clasped
in her hand—the red blood welling over the white laces
of her gown—while the two men gaze down upon her cold
face with horror in their eyes. Not a bit. Let's end it
"A shrill despairing cry—'Ed! Charlie! Come in here
quick! Hurry! The steam coil has blown out a plug! You
two boys quit talking and come in here, for heaven's
sake, and fix it.'" And, indeed, if the reader will look
back he will see there is nothing in the dialogue to
preclude it. He was misled, that's all. I merely said
that Mrs. Dangerfield had left her husband a few days
before. So she had—to do some shopping in New York. She
thought it mean of him to follow her. And I never said
that Mrs. Dangerfield had any connection whatever with
The Woman with whom Marsden was in love. Not at all. He
knew her, of course, because he came from Brick City.
But she had thought he was in Philadelphia, and naturally
she was surprised to see him back in New York. That's
why she exclaimed "Back!" And as a matter of plain fact,
you can't pick up a revolver without its pointing somewhere.
No one said he meant to fire it.
In fact, if the reader will glance back at the dialogue—I
know he has no time to, but if he does—he will see that,
being something of a snoopopath himself, he has invented
the whole story.
III. Foreign Fiction in Imported Instalments.
Serge the Superman: A Russian Novel
(Translated, with a hand pump, out of the original Russian)
SPECIAL EDITORIAL NOTE, OR, FIT OF CONVULSIONS INTO
WHICH AN EDITOR FALLS IN INTRODUCING THIS SORT OF
STORY TO HIS READERS. We need offer no apology to
our readers in presenting to them a Russian novel.
There is no doubt that the future in literature lies
with Russia. The names of Tolstoi, of Turgan-something,
and Dostoi-what-is-it are household words in America.
We may say with certainty that Serge the Superman is
the most distinctly Russian thing produced in years.
The Russian view of life is melancholy and fatalistic.
It is dark with the gloom of the great forests of the
Volga, and saddened with the infinite silence of the
Siberian plain. Hence the Russian speech, like the
Russian thought, is direct, terse and almost crude in
its elemental power. All this appears in Serge the
Superman. It is the directest, tersest, crudest thing
we have ever seen. We showed the manuscript to a friend
of ours, a critic, a man who has a greater Command of
the language of criticism than perhaps any two men in
New York to-day. He said at once, "This is big. It is
a big thing, done by a big man, a man with big ideas,
writing at his very biggest. The whole thing has a
bigness about it that is—" and here he paused and
thought a moment and added—"big." After this he sat
back in his chair and said, "big, big, big," till we
left him. We next showed the story to an English critic
and he said without hesitation, or with very little,
"This is really not half bad." Last of all we read
the story ourselves and we rose after its perusal—itself
not an easy thing to do—and said, "Wonderful but
terrible." All through our (free) lunch that day we
As a child. Serge lived with his father—Ivan Ivanovitch
—and his mother—Katrina Katerinavitch. In the house,
too were Nitska, the serving maid. Itch, the serving man,
and Yump, the cook, his wife.
The house stood on the borders of a Russian town. It was
in the heart of Russia. All about it was the great plain
with the river running between low banks and over it the
Across the plain ran the post road, naked and bare. In
the distance one could see a moujik driving a three-horse
tarantula, or perhaps Swill, the swine-herd, herding the
swine. Far away the road dipped over the horizon and was
"Where does it go to?" asked Serge. But no one could tell
In the winter there came the great snows and the river
was frozen and Serge could walk on it.
On such days Yob, the postman, would come to the door,
stamping his feet with the cold as he gave the letters
"It is a cold day," Yob would say.
"It is God's will," said Itch. Then he would fetch a
glass of Kwas steaming hot from the great stove, built
of wood, that stood in the kitchen.
"Drink, little brother," he would say to Yob, and Yob
would answer, "Little Uncle, I drink your health," and
he would go down the road again, stamping his feet with
Then later the spring would come and all the plain was
bright with flowers and Serge could pick them. Then the
rain came and Serge could catch it in a cup. Then the
summer came and the great heat and the storms, and Serge
could watch the lightning.
"What is lightning for?" he would ask of Yump, the cook,
as she stood kneading the mush, or dough, to make
slab, or pancake, for the morrow. Yump shook her knob,
or head, with a look of perplexity on her big mugg, or
"It is God's will," she said.
Thus Serge grew up a thoughtful child.
At times he would say to his mother, "Matrinska (little
mother), why is the sky blue?" And she couldn't tell him.
Or at times he would say to his father, "Boob (Russian
for father), what is three times six?" But his father
Each year Serge grew.
Life began to perplex the boy. He couldn't understand
it. No one could tell him anything.
Sometimes he would talk with Itch, the serving man.
"Itch," he asked, "what is morality?" But Itch didn't
know. In his simple life he had never heard of it.
At times people came to the house—Snip, the schoolmaster,
who could read and write, and Cinch, the harness maker,
who made harness.
Once there came Popoff, the inspector of police, in his
blue coat with fur on it. He stood in front of the fire
writing down the names of all the people in the house.
And when he came to Itch, Serge noticed how Itch trembled
and cowered before Popoff, cringing as he brought a
three-legged stool and saying, "Sit near the fire, little
father; it is cold." Popoff laughed and said, "Cold as
Siberia, is it not, little brother?" Then he said, "Bare
me your arm to the elbow, and let me see if our mark is
on it still." And Itch raised his sleeve to the elbow
and Serge saw that there was a mark upon it burnt deep
"I thought so," said Popoff, and he laughed. But Yump,
the cook, beat the fire with a stick so that the sparks
flew into Popoff's face. "You are too near the fire,
little inspector," she said. "It burns."
All that evening Itch sat in the corner of the kitchen,
and Serge saw that there were tears on his face.
"Why does he cry?" asked Serge.
"He has been in Siberia," said Yump as she poured water
into the great iron pot to make soup for the week after
Serge grew more thoughtful each year.
All sorts of things, occurrences of daily life, set him
thinking. One day he saw some peasants drowning a tax
collector in the river. It made a deep impression on him.
He couldn't understand it. There seemed something wrong
"Why did they drown him?" he asked of Yump, the cook.
"He was collecting taxes," said Yump, and she threw a
handful of cups into the cupboard.
Then one day there was great excitement in the town, and
men in uniform went to and fro and all the people stood
at the doors talking.
"What has happened?" asked Serge.
"It is Popoff, inspector of police," answered Itch. "They
have found him beside the river."
"Is he dead?" questioned Serge.
Itch pointed reverently to the ground—"He is there!" he
All that day Serge asked questions. But no one would tell
him anything. "Popoff is dead," they said. "They have
found him beside the river with his ribs driven in on
"Why did they kill him?" asked Serge.
But no one would say.
So after this Serge was more perplexed than ever.
Every one noticed how thoughtful Serge was.
"He is a wise boy," they said. "Some day he will be a
learned man. He will read and write."
"Defend us!" exclaimed Itch. "It is a dangerous thing."
One day Liddoff, the priest, came to the house with a
great roll of paper in his hand.
"What is it?" asked Serge.
"It is the alphabet," said Liddoff.
"Give it to me," said Serge with eagerness.
"Not all of it," said Liddoff gently. "Here is part of
it," and he tore off a piece and gave it to the boy.
"Defend us!" said Yump, the cook. "It is not a wise
thing," and she shook her head as she put a new lump of
clay in the wooden stove to make it burn more brightly.
Then everybody knew that Serge was learning the alphabet,
and that when he had learned it he was to go to Moscow,
to the Teknik, and learn what else there was.
So the days passed and the months. Presently Ivan Ivanovitch
said, "Now he is ready," and he took down a bag of rubles
that was concealed on a shelf beside the wooden stove in
the kitchen and counted them out after the Russian fashion,
"Ten, ten, and yet ten, and still ten, and ten," till he
could count no further.
"Protect us!" said Yump. "Now he is rich!" and she poured
oil and fat mixed with sand into the bread and beat it
with a stick.
"He must get ready," they said. "He must buy clothes.
Soon he will go to Moscow to the Teknik and become a wise
Now it so happened that there came one day to the door
a drosky, or one-horse carriage, and in it was a man and
beside him a girl. The man stopped to ask the way from
Itch, who pointed down the post road over the plain. But
his hand trembled and his knees shook as he showed the
way. For the eyes of the man who asked the way were dark
with hate and cruel with power. And he wore a uniform
and there was brass upon his cap. But Serge looked only
at the girl. And there was no hate in her eyes, but only
a great burning, and a look that went far beyond the
plain, Serge knew not where. And as Serge looked, the
girl turned her face and their eyes met, and he knew that
he would never forget her. And he saw in her face that
she would never forget him. For that is love.
"Who is that?" he asked, as he went back again with Itch
into the house.
"It is Kwartz, chief of police," said Itch, and his knees
still trembled as he spoke.
"Where is he taking her?" said Serge.
"To Moscow, to the prison," answered Itch. "There they
will hang her and she will die."
"Who is she?" asked Serge. "What has she done?" and as
he spoke he could still see the girl's face, and the look
upon it, and a great fire went sweeping through his veins.
"She is Olga Ileyitch," answered Itch, "She made the bomb
that killed Popoff, the inspector, and now they will hang
her and she will die."
"Defend us!" murmured Yump, as she heaped more clay upon
Serge went to Moscow. He entered the Teknik. He became
a student. He learned geography from Stoj, the professor,
astrography from Fudj, the assistant, together with
giliodesy, orgastrophy and other native Russian studies.
All day he worked. His industry was unflagging. His
instructors were enthusiastic. "If he goes on like this,"
they said, "he will some day know something."
"It is marvellous," said one. "If he continues thus, he
will be a professor."
"He is too young," said Stoj, shaking his head. "He has
too much hair."
"He sees too well," said Fudj. "Let him wait till his
eyes are weaker."
But all day as Serge worked he thought. And his thoughts
were of Olga Ileyitch, the girl that he had seen with
Kwartz, inspector of police. He wondered why she had
killed Popoff, the inspector. He wondered if she was
dead. There seemed no justice in it.
One day he questioned his professor.
"Is the law just?" he said. "Is it right to kill?"
But Stoj shook his head, and would not answer.
"Let us go on with our orgastrophy," he said. And he
trembled so that the chalk shook in his hand.
So Serge questioned no further, but he thought more deeply
still. All the way from the Teknik to the house where he
lodged he was thinking. As he climbed the stair to his
attic room he was still thinking.
The house in which Serge lived was the house of Madame
Vasselitch. It was a tall dark house in a sombre street.
There were no trees upon the street and no children played
there. And opposite to the house of Madame Vasselitch
was a building of stone, with windows barred, that was
always silent. In it were no lights, and no one went in
"What is it?" Serge asked.
"It is the house of the dead," answered Madame Vasselitch,
and she shook her head and would say no more.
The husband of Madame Vasselitch was dead. No one spoke
of him. In the house were only students, Most of them
were wild fellows, as students are. At night they would
sit about the table in the great room drinking Kwas made
from sawdust fermented in syrup, or golgol, the Russian
absinth, made by dipping a gooseberry in a bucket of soda
water. Then they would play cards, laying matches on the
table and betting, "Ten, ten, and yet ten," till all the
matches were gone. Then they would say, "There are no
more matches; let us dance," and they would dance upon
the floor, till Madame Vasselitch would come to the room,
a candle in her hand, and say, "Little brothers, it is
ten o'clock. Go to bed." Then they went to bed. They were
wild fellows, as all students are.
But there were two students in the house of Madame
Vasselitch who were not wild. They were brothers. They
lived in a long room in the basement. It was so low that
it was below the street.
The brothers were pale, with long hair. They had deep-set
eyes. They had but little money. Madame Vasselitch gave
them food. "Eat, little sons," she would say. "You must
The brothers worked all day. They were real students.
One brother was Halfoff. He was taller than the other
and stronger. The other brother was Kwitoff. He was not
so tall as Halfoff and not so strong.
One day Serge went to the room of the brothers. The
brothers were at work. Halfoff sat at a table. There was
a book in front of him.
"What is it?" asked Serge.
"It is solid geometry," said Halfoff, and there was a
gleam in his eyes.
"Why do you study it?" said Serge.
"To free Russia," said Halfoff.
"And what book have you?" said Serge to Kwitoff.
"Hamblin Smith's Elementary Trigonometry," said Kwitoff,
and he quivered like a leaf.
"What does it teach?" asked Serge.
"Freedom!" said Kwitoff.
The two brothers looked at one another.
"Shall we tell him everything?" said Halfoff.
"Not yet," said Kwitoff. "Let him learn first. Later he
After that Serge often came to the room of the two brothers.
The two brothers gave him books. "Read them," they said.
"What are they?" asked Serge.
"They are in English," said Kwitoff. "They are forbidden
books. They are not allowed in Russia. But in them is
truth and freedom."
"Give me one," said Serge.
"Take this," said Kwitoff. "Carry it under your cloak.
Let no one see it."
"What is it?" asked Serge, trembling in spite of himself.
"It is Caldwell's Pragmatism," said the brothers.
"Is it forbidden?" asked Serge.
The brothers looked at him.
"It is death to read it," they said.
After that Serge came each day and got books from Halfoff
and Kwitoff. At night he read them. They fired his brain.
All of them were forbidden books. No one in Russia might
read them. Serge read Hamblin Smith's Algebra. He read
it all through from cover to cover feverishly. He read
Murray's Calculus. It set his brain on fire. "Can this
be true?" he asked.
The books opened a new world to Serge.
The brothers often watched him as he read.
"Shall we tell him everything?" said Halfoff.
"Not yet." said Kwitoff. "He is not ready."
One night Serge went to the room of the two brothers.
They were not working at their books. Littered about the
room were blacksmith's tools and wires, and pieces of
metal lying on the floor. There was a crucible and
underneath it a blue fire that burned fiercely. Beside
it the brothers worked. Serge could see their faces in
the light of the flame.
"Shall we tell him now?" said Kwitoff. The other brother
"Tell him now," he said.
"Little brother," said Kwitoff, and he rose from beside
the flame and stood erect, for he was tall, "will you
give your life?"
"What for?" asked Serge.
The brothers shook their heads.
"We cannot tell you that," they said. "That would be too
much. Will you join us?"
"In what?" asked Serge.
"We must not say," said the brothers. "We can only ask
are you willing to help our enterprise with all your
power and with your life if need be?"
"What is your enterprise?" asked Serge.
"We must not divulge it," they said. "Only this: will
you give your life to save another life, to save Russia?"
Serge paused. He thought of Olga Ileyitch. Only to save
her life would he have given his.
"I cannot," he answered.
"Good night, little brother," said Kwitoff gently, and
he turned back to his work.
Thus the months passed.
Serge studied without ceasing. "If there is truth," he
thought, "I shall find it." All the time he Thought of
Olga Ileyitch. His face grew pale. "Justice, Justice,"
he thought, "what is justice and truth?"
Now when Serge had been six months in the house of Madame
Vasselitch, Ivan Ivanovitch, his father, sent Itch, the
serving man, and Yump, the cook, his wife, to Moscow to
see how Serge fared. And Ivan first counted out rubles
into a bag, "ten, and ten and still ten," till Itch said,
"It is enough. I will carry that."
Then they made ready to go. Itch took a duck from the
pond and put a fish in his pocket, together with a fragrant
cheese and a bundle of sweet garlic. And Yump took oil
and dough and mixed it with tar and beat it with an iron
bar so as to shape it into a pudding.
So they went forth on foot, walking till they came to
"It is a large place," said Itch, and he looked about
him at the lights and the people.
"Defend us," said Yump. "It is no place for a woman."
"Fear nothing," said Itch, looking at her.
So they went on, looking for the house of Madame Vasselitch.
"How bright the lights are!" said Itch, and he stood
still and looked about him. Then he pointed at a burleski,
or theatre. "Let us go in there and rest," he said.
"No," said Yump, "let us hurry on."
"You are tired," said Itch. "Give me the pudding and
hurry forward, so that you may sleep. I will come later,
bringing the pudding and the fish."
"I am not tired," said Yump.
So they came at last to the house of Madame Vasselitch.
And when they saw Serge they said, "How tall he is and
how well grown!" But they thought, "He is pale. Ivan
Ivanoviteh must know."
And Itch said, "Here are the rubles sent by Ivan Ivanovitch.
Count them, little son, and see that they are right."
"How many should there be?" said Serge.
"I know not," said Itch. "You must count them and see."
Then Yump said, "Here is a pudding, little son, and a
fish, and a duck and a cheese and garlic."
So that night Itch and Yump stayed in the house of Madame
"You are tired," said Itch. "You must sleep."
"I am not tired," said Yump. "It is only that my head
aches and my face burns from the wind and the sun."
"I will go forth," said Itch, "and find a fisski, or
drug-store, and get something for your face."
"Stay where you are," said Yump. And Itch stayed.
Meantime Serge had gone upstairs with the fish and the
duck and the cheese and the pudding. As he went up he
thought. "It is selfish to eat alone. I will give part
of the fish to the others." And when he got a little
further up the steps he thought, "I will give them all
of the fish." And when he got higher still he thought,
"They shall have everything."
Then he opened the door and came into the big room where
the students were playing with matches at the big table
and drinking golgol out of cups. "Here is food, brothers,"
he said. "Take it. I need none."
The students took the food and they cried, "Rah, Rah,"
and beat the fish against the table. But the pudding they
would not take. "We have no axe," they said. "Keep it."
Then they poured out golgol for Serge and said, "Drink it."
But Serge would not.
"I must work," he said, and all the students laughed.
"He wants to work!" they cried. "Rah, Rah."
But Serge went up to his room and lighted his taper, made
of string dipped in fat, and set himself to study. "I
must work," he repeated.
So Serge sat at his books. It got later and the house
grew still. The noise of the students below ceased and
then everything was quiet.
Serge sat working through the night. Then presently it
grew morning and the dark changed to twilight and Serge
could see from his window the great building with the
barred windows across the street standing out in the grey
mist of the morning.
Serge had often studied thus through the night and when
it was morning he would say, "It is morning," and would
go down and help Madame Vasselitch unbar the iron shutters
and unchain the door, and remove the bolts from the window
But on this morning as Serge looked from his window his
eyes saw a figure behind the barred window opposite to
him. It was the figure of a girl, and she was kneeling
on the floor and she was in prayer, for Serge could see
that her hands were before her face. And as he looked
all his blood ran warm to his head, and his limbs trembled
even though he could not see the girl's face. Then the
girl rose from her knees and turned her face towards the
bars, and Serge knew that it was Olga Ileyitch and that
she had seen and known him.
Then he came down the stairs and Madame Vasselitch was
there undoing the shutters and removing the nails from
the window casing.
"What have you seen, little son?" she asked, and her
voice was gentle, for the face of Serge was pale and his
eyes were wide.
But Serge did not answer the question.
"What is that house?" he said. "The great building with
the bars that you call the house of the dead?"
"Shall I tell you, little son," said Madame Vasselitch,
and she looked at him, still thinking. "Yes," she said,
"he shall know.
"It is the prison of the condemned, and from there they
go forth only to die. Listen, little son," she went on,
and she gripped Serge by the wrist till he could feel
the bones of her fingers against his flesh. "There lay
my husband, Vangorod Vasselitch, waiting for his death.
Months long he was there behind the bars and no one might
see him or know when he was to die. I took this tall
house that I might at least be near him till the end.
But to those who lie there waiting for their death it is
allowed once and once only that they may look out upon
the world. And this is allowed to them the day before
they die. So I took this house and waited, and each day
I looked forth at dawn across the street and he was not
there. Then at last he came. I saw him at the window and
his face was pale and set and I could see the marks of
the iron on his wrists as he held them to the bars. But
I could see that his spirit was unbroken. There was no
power in them to break that. Then he saw me at the window,
and thus across the narrow street we said good-bye. It
was only a moment. 'Sonia Vasselitch,' he said, 'do not
forget,' and he was gone. I have not forgotten. I have
lived on here in this dark house, and I have not forgotten.
My sons—yes, little brother, my sons, I say—have not
forgotten. Now tell me, Sergius Ivanovitch, what you have
"I have seen the woman that I love," said Serge, "kneeling
behind the bars in prayer. I have seen Olga Ileyitch."
"Her name," said Madame Vasselitch, and there were no
tears in her eyes and her voice was calm, "her name is
Olga Vasselitch. She is my daughter, and to-morrow she
is to die."
Madame Vasselitch took Serge by the hand.
"Come," she said, "you shall speak to my sons," and she
led him down the stairs towards the room of Halfoff and
"They are my sons," she said. "Olga is their sister. They
are working to save her."
Then she opened the door. Halfoff and Kwitoff were working
as Serge had seen them before, beside the crucible with
the blue flame on their faces.
They had not slept.
Madame Vasselitch spoke.
"He has seen Olga," she said. "It is to-day."
"We are too late," said Halfoff, and he groaned.
"Courage, brother," said Kwitoff. "She will not die till
sunrise. It is twilight now. We have still an hour. Let
us to work."
Serge looked at the brothers.
"Tell me," he said. "I do not understand."
Halfoff turned a moment from his work and looked at Serge.
"Brother," he said, "will you give your life?"
"Is it for Olga?" asked Serge.
"It is for her."
"I give it gladly," said Serge.
"Listen then," said Halfoff. "Our sister is condemned
for the killing of Popoff, inspector of police. She is
in the prison of the condemned, the house of the dead,
across the street. Her cell is there beside us. There is
only a wall between. Look—"
Halfoff as he spoke threw aside a curtain that hung across
the end of the room. Serge looked into blackness. It was
"It leads to the wall of her cell," said Halfoff. "We
are close against the wall but we cannot shatter it. We
are working to make a bomb. No bomb that we can make is
hard enough. We can only try once. If it fails the noise
would ruin us. There is no second chance. We try our
bombs in the crucible. They crumble. They have no strength.
We are ignorant. We are only learning. We studied it in
the books, the forbidden books. It took a month to learn
to set the wires to fire the bomb. The tunnel was there.
We did not have to dig it. It was for my father, Vangorod
Vasselitch. He would not let them use it. He tapped a
message through the wall, 'Keep it for a greater need.'
Now it is his daughter that is there."
Halfoff paused. He was panting and his chest heaved.
There was perspiration on his face and his black hair
"Courage, little brother," said Kwitoff. "She shall not
"Listen," went on Halfoff. "The bomb is made. It is there
beside the crucible. It has power in it to shatter the
prison. But the wires are wrong. They do not work. There
is no current in them. Something is wrong. We cannot
explode the bomb."
"Courage, courage," said Kwitoff, and his hands were busy
among the wires before him. "I am working still."
Serge looked at the brothers.
"Is that the bomb?" he said, pointing at a great ball of
metal that lay beside the crucible.
"It is," said Halfoff.
"And the little fuse that is in the side of it fires it?
And the current from the wires lights the fuse?"
"Yes," said Halfoff.
The two brothers looked at Serge, for there was a meaning
in his voice and a strange look upon his face.
"If the bomb is placed against the wall and if the fuse
is lighted it would explode."
"Yes," said Halfoff despairingly, "but how? The fuse is
instantaneous. Without the wires we cannot light it. It
would be death."
Serge took the bomb in his hand. His face was pale.
"Let it be so!" he said. "I will give my life for hers."
He lifted the bomb in his hand. "I will go through the
tunnel and hold the bomb against the wall and fire it,"
he said. "Halfoff, light me the candle in the flame. Be
ready when the wall falls."
"No, no," said Halfoff, grasping Serge by the arm. "You
must not die!"
"My brother," said Kwitoff quietly, "let it be as he
says. It is for Russia!"
But as Halfoff turned to light the candle in the flame
there came a great knocking at the door above and the
sound of many voices in the street.
Madame Vasselitch laid her hand upon her lips.
Then there came the sound as of grounded muskets on the
pavement of the street and a sharp word of command.
"Soldiers!" said Madame Vasselitch.
Kwitoff turned to his brother.
"This is the end," he said. "Explode the bomb here and
let us die together."
Suddenly Madame Vasselitch gave a cry.
"It is Olga's voice!" she said.
She ran to the door and opened it, and a glad voice was
"It is I, Olga, and I am free!"
"Free," exclaimed the brothers.
All hastened up the stairs.
Olga was standing before them in the hall and beside her
were the officers of the police, and in the street were
the soldiers. The students from above had crowded down
the stairs and with them were Itch, the serving man, and
Yump, the cook.
"I am free," cried Olga, "liberated by the bounty of the
Czar—Russia has declared war to fight for the freedom
of the world and all the political prisoners are free."
"Rah, rah!" cried the students. "War, war, war!"
"She is set free," said the officer who stood beside
Olga. "The charge of killing Popoff is withdrawn. No one
will be punished for it now."
"I never killed him," said Olga. "I swear it," and she
raised her hand.
"You never killed him!" exclaimed Serge with joy in his
heart. "You did not kill Popoff? But who did?"
"Defend us," said Yump, the cook. "Since there is to be
no punishment for it, I killed him myself."
"You!" they cried.
"It is so," said Yump. "I killed him beside the river.
It was to defend my honour."
"It was to defend her honour," cried the brothers. "She
has done well."
They clasped her hand.
"You destroyed him with a bomb?" they said.
"No," said Yump, "I sat down on him."
"Rah, rah, rah," said the students.
There was silence for a moment. Then Kwitoff spoke.
"Friends," he said, "the new day is coming. The dawn is
breaking. The moon is rising. The stars are setting. It
is the birth of freedom. See! we need it not!"—and as
he spoke he grasped in his hands the bomb with its still
unlighted fuse—"Russia is free. We are all brothers
now. Let us cast it at our enemies. Forward! To the
frontier! Live the Czar."
Movies and Motors, Men and Women
IV. Madeline of the Movies: A Photoplay done
back into Words
In writing this I ought to explain that I am a tottering
old man of forty-six. I was born too soon to understand
moving pictures. They go too fast. I can't keep up. In
my young days we used a magic lantern. It showed Robinson
Crusoe in six scenes. It took all evening to show them.
When it was done the hall was filled full with black
smoke and the audience quite unstrung with excitement.
What I set down here represents my thoughts as I sit in
front of a moving picture photoplay and interpret it as
best I can.
Flick, flick, flick! I guess it must be going to begin
now, but it's queer the people don't stop talking: how
can they expect to hear the pictures if they go on talking?
Now it's off. PASSED BY THE BOARD OF—. Ah, this looks
interesting—passed by the board of—wait till I adjust
my spectacles and read what it—
It's gone. Never mind, here's something else, let me
see—CAST OF CHARACTERS—Oh, yes—let's see who they
are—MADELINE MEADOWLARK, a young something—EDWARD
DANGERFIELD, a—a what? Ah, yes, a roo—at least, it's
spelt r-o-u-e, that must be roo all right—but wait till
I see what that is that's written across the top—MADELINE
MEADOWLARK; OR, ALONE IN A GREAT CITY. I see, that's the
title of it. I wonder which of the characters is alone.
I guess not Madeline: she'd hardly be alone in a place
like that. I imagine it's more likely Edward Dangerous
the Roo. A roo would probably be alone a great deal, I
should think. Let's see what the other characters are—JOHN
HOLDFAST, a something. FARMER MEADOWLARK, MRS. MEADOWLARK,
Pshaw, I missed the others, but never mind; flick, flick,
it's beginning—What's this? A bedroom, eh? Looks like
a girl's bedroom—pretty poor sort of place. I wish the
picture would keep still a minute—in Robinson Crusoe it
all stayed still and one could sit and look at it, the
blue sea and the green palm trees and the black footprints
in the yellow sand—but this blamed thing keeps rippling
and flickering all the time—Ha! there's the girl
herself—come into her bedroom. My! I hope she doesn't
start to undress in it—that would be fearfully
uncomfortable with all these people here. No, she's not
undressing—she's gone and opened the cupboard. What's
that she's doing—taking out a milk jug and a glass—empty,
eh? I guess it must be, because she seemed to hold it
upside down. Now she's picked up a sugar bowl—empty,
too, eh?—and a cake tin, and that's empty—What on
earth does she take them all out for if they're empty?
Why can't she speak? I think—hullo—who's this coming
in? Pretty hard-looking sort of woman—what's she got in
her hand?—some sort of paper, I guess—she looks like
a landlady, I shouldn't wonder if—
Flick, flick! Say! Look there on the screen:
"YOU OWE ME
THREE WEEKS' RENT."
Oh, I catch on! that's what the landlady says, eh? Say!
That's a mighty smart way to indicate it isn't it? I was
on to that in a minute—flick, flick—hullo, the landlady's
vanished—what's the girl doing now—say, she's praying!
Look at her face! Doesn't she look religious, eh?
Oh, look, they've put her face, all by itself, on the
screen. My! what a big face she's got when you see it
She's in her room again—she's taking off her jacket—by
Gee! She is going to bed! Here, stop the machine; it
doesn't seem—Flick, flick!
Well, look at that! She's in bed, all in one flick, and
fast asleep! Something must have broken in the machine
and missed out a chunk. There! she's asleep all right—looks
as if she was dreaming. Now it's sort of fading. I wonder
how they make it do that? I guess they turn the wick of
the lamp down low: that was the way in Robinson
Hullo! where on earth is this—farmhouse, I guess—must
be away upstate somewhere—who on earth are these people?
Old man—white whiskers—old lady at a spinning-wheel—see
it go, eh? Just like real! And a young man—that must be
John Holdfast—and a girl with her hand in his. Why!
Say! it's the girl, the same girl, Madeline—only what's
she doing away off here at this farm—how did she get
clean back from the bedroom to this farm? Flick, flick!
"NO, JOHN, I CANNOT MARRY YOU.
I MUST DEVOTE MY LIFE
TO MY MUSIC."
Who says that? What music? Here, stop—
It's all gone. What's this new place? Flick, flick, looks
like a street. Say! see the street car coming along—well!
say! isn't that great? A street car! And here's Madeline!
How on earth did she get back from the old farm all in
a second? Got her street things on—that must be music
under her arm—I wonder where—hullo—who's this man in
a silk hat and swell coat? Gee! he's well dressed. See
him roll his eyes at Madeline! He's lifting his hat—I
guess he must be Edward Something, the Roo—only a roo
would dress as well as he does—he's going to speak to
"SIR, I DO NOT KNOW YOU.
LET ME PASS."
Oh, I see! The Roo mistook her; he thought she was somebody
that he knew! And she wasn't! I catch on! It gets easy
to understand these pictures once you're on.
Flick, flick—Oh, say, stop! I missed a piece—where is
she? Outside a street door—she's pausing a moment
outside—that was lucky her pausing like that—it just
gave me time to read EMPLOYMENT BUREAU on the door. Gee!
I read it quick.
Flick, flick! Where is it now?—oh, I see, she's gone
in—she's in there—this must be the Bureau, eh? There's
Madeline going up to the desk.
"NO, WE HAVE TOLD YOU BEFORE,
WE HAVE NOTHING …"
Pshaw! I read too slow—she's on the street again. Flick,
No, she isn't—she's back in her room—cupboard still
empty—no milk—no sugar—Flick, flick!
Kneeling down to pray—my! but she's religious—flick,
flick—now she's on the street—got a letter in her
hand—what's the address—Flick, flick!
Gee! They've put it right on the screen! The whole letter!
Flick, flick—here's Madeline again on the street with
the letter still in her hand—she's gone to a letter-box
with it—why doesn't she post it? What's stopping her?
"I CANNOT TELL THEM
OF MY FAILURE.
IT WOULD BREAK THEIR …"
Break their what? They slide these things along altogether
too quick—anyway, she won't post it—I see—she's torn
it up—Flick, flick!
Where is it now? Another street—seems like everything
—that's a restaurant, I guess—say, it looks a swell
place—see the people getting out of the motor and going
in—and another lot right after them—there's Madeline
—she's stopped outside the window—she's looking in—it's
starting to snow! Hullo! here's a man coming along! Why,
it's the Roo; he's stopping to talk to her, and pointing
in at the restaurant—Flick, flick!
"LET ME TAKE YOU IN HERE
Oh, I see! The Roo says that! My! I'm getting on to the
scheme of these things—the Roo is going to buy her some
dinner! That's decent of him. He must have heard about
her being hungry up in her room—say, I'm glad he came
along. Look, there's a waiter come out to the door to
show them in—what! she won't go! Say! I don't understand!
Didn't it say he offered to take her in? Flick, flick!
"I WOULD RATHER DIE
THAN EAT IT."
Gee! Why's that? What are all the audience applauding
for? I must have missed something! Flick, flick!
Oh, blazes! I'm getting lost! Where is she now? Back in
her room—flick, flick—praying—flick, flick! She's out
on the street!—flick, flick!—in the employment bureau
—flick, flick!—out of it—flick—darn the thing! It
changes too much—where is it all? What is it all—?
Now it's back at the old farm—I understand that all
right, anyway! Same kitchen—same old man—same old
woman—she's crying—who's this?—man in a sort of
uniform—oh, I see, rural postal delivery—oh, yes, he
brings them their letters—I see—
"NO, MR. MEADOWLARK,
I AM SORRY,
I HAVE STILL NO LETTER
Flick! It's gone! Flick, flick—it's Madeline's room
again—what's she doing?—writing a letter?—no, she's
quit writing—she's tearing it up—
"I CANNOT WRITE.
IT WOULD BREAK THEIR …"
Flick—missed it again! Break their something or other
Now it's the farm again—oh, yes, that's the young man
John Holdfast—he's got a valise in his hand—he must be
going away—they're shaking hands with him—he's saying
"I WILL FIND HER FOR YOU
IF I HAVE TO SEARCH
ALL NEW YORK."
He's off—there he goes through the gate—they're waving
good-bye—flick—it's a railway depot—flick—it's New
York—say! That's the Grand Central Depot! See the people
buying tickets! My! isn't it lifelike?—and there's
John—he's got here all right—I hope he finds her room—
The picture changed—where is it now? Oh, yes, I see
—Madeline and the Roo—outside a street entrance to some
place—he's trying to get her to come in—what's that
on the door? Oh, yes, DANCE HALL—Flick, flick!
Well, say, that must be the inside of the dance hall
—they're dancing—see, look, look, there's one of the
girls going to get up and dance on the table.
Flick! Darn it!—they've cut it off—it's outside again
—it's Madeline and the Roo—she's saying something to
him—my! doesn't she look proud—?
"I WILL DIE RATHER THAN DANCE."
Isn't she splendid! Hear the audience applaud! Flick—it's
changed—it's Madeline's room again—that's the landlady
—doesn't she look hard, eh? What's this—Flick!
"IF YOU CANNOT PAY, YOU MUST
Flick, flick—it's Madeline—she's out in the street—it's
snowing—she's sat down on a doorstep—say, see her
face, isn't it pathetic? There! They've put her face all
by itself on the screen. See her eyes move! Flick, flick!
Who's this? Where is it? Oh, yes, I get it—it's John—at
a police station—he's questioning them—how grave they
look, eh? Flick, flick!
"HAVE YOU SEEN A GIRL
IN NEW YORK?"
I guess that's what he asks them, eh? Flick, flick—
"NO, WE HAVE NOT."
Too bad—flick—it's changed again—it's Madeline on the
doorstep—she's fallen asleep—oh, say, look at that man
coming near to her on tiptoes, and peeking at her—why,
it's Edward, it's the Roo—but he doesn't waken her—what
does it mean? What's he after? Flick, flick—
Hullo—what's this?—it's night—what's this huge dark
thing all steel, with great ropes against the sky—it's
Brooklyn Bridge—at midnight—there's a woman on it!
It's Madeline—see! see! She's going to jump—stop her!
Stop her! Flick, flick—
Hullo! she didn't jump after all—there she is again on
the doorstep—asleep—how could she jump over Brooklyn
Bridge and still be asleep? I don't catch on—or, oh,
yes, I do—she dreamed it—I see now, that's a great
scheme, eh?—shows her dream—
The picture's changed—what's this place—a saloon, I
guess—yes, there's the bartender, mixing drinks—men
talking at little tables—aren't they a tough-looking
lot?—see, that one's got a revolver—why, it's Edward
the Roo—talking with two men—he's giving them
"GIVE US A HUNDRED APIECE
AND WE'LL DO IT."
It's in the street again—Edward and one of the two toughs
—they've got little black masks on—they're sneaking
up to Madeline where she sleeps—they've got a big motor
drawn up beside them—look, they've grabbed hold of
Madeline—they're lifting her into the motor—help!
Stop! Aren't there any police?—yes, yes, there's a man
who sees it—by Gee! It's John, John Holdfast—grab
them, John—pshaw! they've jumped into the motor, they're
Where is it now?—oh, yes—it's the police station again
—that's John, he's telling them about it—he's all out
of breath—look, that head man, the big fellow, he's
"INSPECTOR FORDYCE, TAKE YOUR
BIGGEST CAR AND TEN MEN.
IF YOU OVERTAKE THEM,
SHOOT AND SHOOT
Hoorah! Isn't it great—hurry! don't lose a minute—see
them all buckling on revolvers—get at it, boys, get at
it! Don't lose a second—
Look, look—it's a motor—full speed down the street—look
at the houses fly past—it's the motor with the thugs—there
it goes round the corner—it's getting smaller, it's
getting smaller, but look, here comes another—my! it's
just flying—it's full of police—there's John in
Now it's the first motor—it's going over a bridge—it's
heading for the country—say, isn't that car just flying
It's the second motor—it's crossing the bridge too—hurry,
boys, make it go!—Flick, flick!
Out in the country—a country road—early daylight—see
the wind in the trees! Notice the branches waving? Isn't
it natural?—whiz! Biff! There goes the motor—biff!
There goes the other one—right after it—hoorah!
The open road again—the first motor flying along! Hullo,
what's wrong? It's slackened, it stops—hoorah! it's
broken down—there's Madeline inside—there's Edward the
Roo! Say! isn't he pale and desperate!
Hoorah! the police! the police! all ten of them in their
big car—see them jumping out—see them pile into the
thugs! Down with them! paste their heads off! Shoot them!
Kill them! isn't it great—isn't it educative—that's
the Roo—Edward—with John at his throat! Choke him,
John! Throttle him! Hullo, it's changed—they're in the
big motor—that's the Roo with the handcuffs on him.
That's Madeline—she's unbound and she's talking; say,
isn't she just real pretty when she smiles?
"YES, JOHN, I HAVE LEARNED THAT
I WAS WRONG TO PUT MY ART
BEFORE YOUR LOVE. I WILL
MARRY YOU AS SOON AS
What pretty music! Ding! Dong! Ding! Dong! Isn't it soft
and sweet!—like wedding bells. Oh, I see, the man in
the orchestra's doing it with a little triangle and a
stick—it's a little church up in the country—see all
the people lined up—oh! there's Madeline! in a long
white veil—isn't she just sweet!—and John—
Flick, flack, flick, flack.
"BULGARIAN TROOPS ON THE
What! Isn't it over? Do they all go to Bulgaria? I don't
seem to understand. Anyway, I guess it's all right to go
now. Other people are going.
V. The Call of the Carburettor, or,
Mr. Blinks and his Friends
"First get a motor in your own eye and then you will
overlook more easily the motor in your brother's
eye."—Somewhere in the Bible.
"By all means let's have a reception," said Mrs. Blinks.
"It's the quickest and nicest way to meet our old friends
again after all these years. And goodness knows this
house is big enough for it"—she gave a glance as she
spoke round the big reception-room of the Blinkses'
residence—"and these servants seem to understand things
so perfectly it's no trouble to us to give anything.
Only don't let's ask a whole lot of chattering young
people that we don't know; let's have the older people,
the ones that can talk about something really worth
"That's just what I say," answered Mr. Blinks—he was a
small man with insignificance written all over him—"let
me listen to people talk; that's what I like. I'm not
much on the social side myself, but I do enjoy hearing
good talk. That's what I liked so much over in England.
All them—all those people that we used to meet talked
so well. And in France those ladies that run saloons on
"Sallongs," corrected Mrs. Blinks. "It's sounded like it
was a G." She picked up a pencil and paper. "Well, then,"
she said, as she began to write down names, "we'll ask
"Sure!" assented Mr. Blinks, rubbing his hands. "He's a
fine talker, if he'll come!"
"They'll all come," said his wife, "to a house as big as
this; and we'll ask the Rev. Dr. Domb and his wife—or,
no, he's Archdeacon Domb now, I hear—and he'll invite
Bishop Sollem, so they can talk together."
"That'll be good," said Mr. Blinks. "I remember years
and years ago hearing them two—those two, talking about
religion, all about the soul and the body. Man! It was
deep. It was clean beyond me. That's what I like to listen
"And Professor Potofax from the college," went on Mrs.
Blinks. "You remember, the big stout one."
"I know," said her husband.
"And his daughter, she's musical, and Mrs. Buncomtalk,
she's a great light on woman suffrage, and Miss Scragg
and Mr. Underdone—they both write poetry, so they can
talk about that."
"It'll be a great treat to listen to them all," said Mr.
A week later, on the day of the Blinkses' reception,
there was a string of motors three deep along a line of
a hundred yards in front of the house.
Inside the reception rooms were filled.
Mr. Blinks, insignificant even in his own house, moved
to and fro among his guests.
Archdeacon Domb and Dean Sollem were standing side by
side with their heads gravely lowered, as they talked,
over the cups of tea that they held in their hands.
Mr. Blinks edged towards them.
"This'll be something pretty good," he murmured to himself
as he got within reach of their conversation.
"What do you do about your body?" the Archdeacon was
asking in his deep, solemn tones.
"Practically nothing," said the Bishop. "A little rub of
shellac now and then, but practically nothing."
"You wash it, of course?" asked Dr. Domb.
"Only now and again, but far less than you would think.
I really take very little thought for my body."
"Ah," said Dr. Domb reflectively, "I went all over mine
last summer with linseed oil."
"But didn't you find," said the Bishop, "that it got into
your pipes and choked your feed?"
"It did," said Dr. Domb, munching a bit of toast as he
spoke. "In fact, I have had a lot of trouble with my
feed ever since."
"Try flushing your pipes out with hot steam," said the
Bishop. Mr. Blinks had listened in something like dismay.
"Motor-cars!" he murmured. "Who'd have thought it?"
But at this moment a genial, hearty-looking person came
pushing towards him with a cheery greeting.
"I'm afraid I'm rather late, Blinks," he said.
"Delayed in court, eh, Judge?" said Blinks as he shook
"No, blew out a plug!" said the Judge. "Stalled me right
"Blew out a plug!" exclaimed Dr. Domb and the Bishop,
deeply interested at once.
"A cracked insulator, I think," said the Judge.
"Possibly," said the Archdeacon very gravely, "the terminal
nuts of your dry battery were loose."
Mr. Blinks moved slowly away.
"Dear me!" he mused, "how changed they are."
It was a relief to him to edge his way quietly into
another group of guests where he felt certain that the
talk would be of quite another kind.
Professor Potofax and Miss Scragg and a number of others
were evidently talking about books.
"A beautiful book," the professor was saying. "One of
the best things, to my mind at any rate, that has appeared
for years. There's a chapter on the silencing of exhaust
gas which is simply marvellous."
"Is it illustrated?" questioned one of the ladies.
"Splendidly," said the professor. "Among other things
there are sectional views of check valves and flexible
"Ah, do tell me about the flexible bearings," murmured
Mr. Blinks moved on.
Wherever he went among his guests, they all seemed stricken
with the same mania. He caught their conversation in
"I ran her up to forty with the greatest of ease, then
threw in my high speed and got seventy out of her without
any trouble."—"No, I simply used a socket wrench, it
answers perfectly."—"Yes, a solution of calcium chloride
is very good, but of course the hydrochloric acid in it
has a powerful effect on the metal."
"Dear me," mused Mr. Blinks, "are they all mad?"
Meantime, around his wife, who stood receiving in state
at one end of the room, the guests surged to and fro.
"So charmed to see you again," exclaimed one. "You've
been in Europe a long time, haven't you? Oh, mostly in
the south of England? Are the roads good? Last year my
husband and I went all through Shakespeare's country.
It's just delightful. They sprinkle it so thoroughly.
And Stratford-on-Avon itself is just a treat. It's all
oiled, every bit of it, except the little road by
Shakespeare's house; but we didn't go along that. Then
later we went up to the lake district: but it's not so
good: they don't oil it."
She floated away, to give place to another lady.
"In France every summer?" she exclaimed. "Oh, how perfectly
lovely. Don't you think the French cars simply divine?
My husband thinks the French body is far better modelled
than ours. He saw ever so many of them. He thought of
bringing one over with him, but it costs such a lot to
keep them in good order."
"The theatres?" said another lady. "How you must have
enjoyed them. I just love the theatres. Last week my
husband and I were at the Palatial—it's moving
pictures—where they have that film with the motor
collision running. It's just wonderful. You see the
motors going at full speed, and then smash right into
one another—and all the people killed—it's really fine."
"Have they all gone insane?" said Mr. Blinks to his wife
after the guests had gone.
"Dreadful, isn't it?" she assented. "I never was so bored
in my life."
"Why, they talk of nothing else but their motor-cars!"
said Blinks. "We've got to get a car, I suppose, living
at this distance from the town, but I'm hanged if I intend
to go clean crazy over it like these people."
And the guests as they went home talked of the Blinkses.
"I fear," said Dr. Domb to Judge Ponderus, "that Blinks
has hardly profited by his time in Europe as much as he
ought to have. He seems to have observed nothing. I
was asking him about the new Italian touring car that
they are using so much in Rome. He said he had never
noticed it. And he was there a month!"
"Is it possible?" said the Judge. "Where were his eyes?"
All of which showed that Mr. and Mrs. Blinks were in
danger of losing their friends for ever.
But it so happened that about three weeks later Blinks
came home to his residence in an obvious state of
excitement. His face was flushed and he had on a silly
little round cap with a glazed peak.
"Why, Clarence," cried his wife, "whatever is the matter?"
"Matter!" he exclaimed. "There isn't anything the matter!
I bought a car this morning, that's all. Say, it's a
beauty, a regular peach, four thousand with ten off. I
ran it clean round the shed alone first time. The chauffeur
says he never saw anybody get on to the hang of it so
quick. Get on your hat and come right down to the garage.
I've got a man waiting there to teach you to run it.
Within a week or two after that one might see the Blinkses
any morning, in fact every morning, out in their car!
"Good morning, Judge!" calls Blinks gaily as he passes,
"how's that carburettor acting?—Good morning. Archdeacon,
is that plug trouble of yours all right again?—Hullo,
Professor, let me pick you up and ride you up to the
college; oh, it's no trouble. What do you think of the
bearings of this car? Aren't they just dandy?"
And so Mr. Blinks has got all his friends back again.
After all, the great thing about being crazy is to be
all crazy together.
VI. The Two Sexes in Fives or Sixes.
A Dinner-party Study
"But, surely," exclaimed the Hostess, looking defiantly
and searchingly through the cut flowers of the centre-piece,
so that her eye could intimidate in turn all the five
men at the table, "one must admit that women are men's
equals in every way?"
The Lady-with-the-Bust tossed her head a little and
echoed, "Oh, surely!"
The Debutante lifted her big blue eyes a little towards
the ceiling, with the upward glance that stands for
innocence. She said nothing, waiting for a cue as to what
to appear to be.
Meantime the Chief Lady Guest, known to be in suffrage
work, was pinching up her lips and getting her phrases
ready, like a harpooner waiting to strike. She knew that
the Hostess meant this as an opening for her.
But the Soft Lady Whom Men Like toyed with a bit of bread
on the tablecloth (she had a beautiful hand) and smiled
gently. The other women would have called it a simper.
To the men it stood for profound intelligence.
The five men that sat amongst and between the ladies
received the challenge of the Hostess's speech and answered
it each in his own way.
From the Heavy Host at the head of the table there came
a kind of deep grunt, nothing more. He had heard this
same talk at each of his dinners that season.
There was a similar grunt from the Heavy Business Friend
of the Host, almost as broad and thick as the Host himself.
He knew too what was coming. He proposed to stand by his
friend, man for man. He could sympathise. The
Lady-with-the-Bust was his wife.
But the Half Man with the Moon Face, who was known to
work side by side with women on committees and who called
them "Comrades," echoed:
"Oh, surely!" with deep emphasis.
The Smooth Gentleman, there for business reasons, exclaimed
with great alacrity, "Women equal! Oh, rather!"
Last of all the Interesting Man with Long Hair, known to
write for the magazines—all of them—began at once:
"I remember once saying to Mrs. Pankhurst—" but was
overwhelmed in the general conversation before he could
say what it was he remembered saying to Mrs. Pankhurst.
In other words, the dinner-party, at about course number
seven, had reached the inevitable moment of the discussion
of the two sexes.
It had begun as dinner-parties do.
Everybody had talked gloomily to his neighbour, over the
oysters, on one drink of white wine; more or less brightly
to two people, over the fish, on two drinks; quite
brilliantly to three people on three drinks; and then
the conversation had become general and the European war
had been fought through three courses with champagne.
Everybody had taken an extremely broad point of view.
The Heavy Business Friend had declared himself absolutely
impartial and had at once got wet with rage over cotton.
The Chief Lady Guest had explained that she herself was
half English on her mother's side, and the Lady-with-
the-Bust had told how a lady friend of hers had a cousin
who had travelled in Hungary. She admitted that it was
some years ago. Things might have changed since. Then
the Interesting Man, having got the table where he wanted
it, had said: "I remember when I was last in Sofia—by
the way it is pronounced Say-ah-fee-ah—talking with
Radovitch—or Radee-ah-vitch, as it should be sounded—the
foreign secretary, on what the Sobranje—it is pronounced
Soophrangee—would be likely to do"—and by the time he
had done with the Sobranje no one dared speak of the war
But the Hostess had got out of it the opening she wanted,
and she said:
"At any rate, it is wonderful what women have done in
"And are doing," echoed the Half Man with the Moon Face.
And then it was that the Hostess had said that surely
every one must admit women are equal to men and the topic
of the sexes was started. All the women had been waiting
for it, anyway. It is the only topic that women care
about. Even men can stand it provided that fifty per cent
or more of the women present are handsome enough to
"I hardly see how, after all that has happened, any
rational person could deny for a moment," continued the
Hostess, looking straight at her husband and his Heavy
Business Friend, "that women are equal and even superior
to men. Surely our brains are just as good?" and she gave
an almost bitter laugh.
"Don't you think perhaps—?" began the Smooth Gentleman.
"No, I don't," said the Hostess. "You're going to say
that we are inferior in things like mathematics or in
logical reasoning. We are not. But, after all, the only
reason why we are is because of training. Think of the
thousands of years that men have been trained. Answer me
"Well, might it not be—?" began the Smooth Gentleman.
"I don't think so for a moment," said the Hostess. "I
think if we'd only been trained as men have for the last
two or three thousand years our brains would be just as
well trained for the things they were trained for as they
would have been now for the things we have been trained
for and in that case wouldn't have. Don't you agree with
me," she said, turning to the Chief Lady Guest, whom she
suddenly remembered, "that, after all, we think more
Here the Interesting Man, who had been silent longer than
an Interesting Man can, without apoplexy, began:
"I remember once saying in London to Sir Charles Doosey—"
But the Chief Lady Guest refused to be checked.
"We've been gathering some rather interesting statistics,"
she said, speaking very firmly, syllable by syllable,
"on that point at our Settlement. We have measured the
heads of five hundred factory girls, making a chart of
them, you know, and the feet of five hundred domestic
"And don't you find—" began the Smooth Gentleman.
"No," said the Chief Lady Guest firmly, "we do not. But
I was going to say that when we take our measurements
and reduce them to a scale of a hundred—I think you
"Ah, but come, now," interrupted the Interesting man,
"there's nothing really more deceitful than anthropometric
measures. I remember once saying (in London) to Sir Robert
Bittell—the Sir Robert Bittell, you know—"
Here everybody murmured, "Oh, yes," except the Heavy Host
and his Heavy Friend, who with all their sins were honest
"I said, 'Sir Robert, I want your frank opinion, your
very frank opinion—'"
But here there was a slight interruption. The Soft Lady
accidentally dropped a bangle from her wrist on to the
floor. Now all through the dinner she had hardly said
anything, but she had listened for twenty minutes (from
the grapefruit to the fish) while the Interesting Man
had told her about his life in Honduras (it is pronounced
Hondooras), and for another twenty while the Smooth
Gentleman, who was a barrister, had discussed himself as
a pleader. And when each of the men had begun to speak
in the general conversation, she had looked deep into
their faces as if hanging on to their words. So when she
dropped her bangle two of the men leaped from their chairs
to get it, and the other three made a sort of struggle
as they sat. By the time it was recovered and replaced
upon her arm (a very beautiful arm), the Interesting Man
was side-tracked and the Chief Lady Guest, who had gone
on talking during the bangle hunt, was heard saying:
"Entirely so. That seems to me the greatest difficulty
before us. So few men are willing to deal with the question
with perfect sincerity."
She laid emphasis on the word and the Half Man with the
Moon Face took his cue from it and threw a pose of almost
"Why is it," continued the Chief Lady Guest, "that men
always insist on dealing with us just as if we were
playthings, just so many dressed-up dolls?"
Here the Debutante immediately did a doll.
"If a woman is attractive and beautiful," the lady went
on, "so much the better." (She had no intention of letting
go of the doll business entirely.) "But surely you men
ought to value us as something more than mere dolls?"
She might have pursued the topic, but at this moment the
Smooth Gentleman, who made a rule of standing in all
round, and had broken into a side conversation with the
Silent Host, was overheard to say something about women's
sense of humour.
The table was in a turmoil in a moment, three of the
ladies speaking at once. To deny a woman's sense of humour
is the last form of social insult.
"I entirely disagree with you," said the Chief Lady Guest,
speaking very severely. "I know it from my own case, from
my own sense of humour and from observation. Last week,
for example, we measured no less than seventy-five factory
"Well, I'm sure," said the Lady-with-the-Bust, "I don't
know what men mean by our not having a sense of humour.
I'm sure I have. I know I went last week to a vaudeville,
and I just laughed all through. Of course I can't read
Mark Twain, or anything like that, but then I don't call
that funny, do you?" she concluded, turning to the Hostess.
But the Hostess, feeling somehow that the ground was
dangerous, had already risen, and in a moment more the
ladies had floated out of the room and upstairs to the
drawing-room, where they spread themselves about in easy
chairs in billows of pretty coloured silk.
"How charming it is," the Chief Lady Guest began, "to
find men coming so entirely to our point of view! Do you
know it was so delightful to-night: I hardly heard a word
of dissent or contradiction."
Thus they talked; except the Soft Lady, who had slipped
into a seat by herself with an album over her knees, and
with an empty chair on either side of her. There she
Meantime, down below, the men had shifted into chairs to
one end of the table and the Heavy Host was shoving cigars
at them, thick as ropes, and passing the port wine, with
his big fist round the neck of the decanter. But for his
success in life he could have had a place as a bar tender
None of them spoke till the cigars were well alight.
Then the Host said very deliberately, taking each word
at his leisure, with smoke in between:
"Of course—this—suffrage business—"
"Tommyrot!" exclaimed the Smooth Gentleman, with great
alacrity, his mask entirely laid aside.
"Damn foolishness," gurgled the Heavy Business Friend,
sipping his port.
"Of course you can't really discuss it with women,"
murmured the Host.
"Oh, no," assented all the others. Even the Half Man
sipped his wine and turned traitor, there being no one
"You see," said the Host, "if my wife likes to go to
meetings and be on committees, why, I don't stop her."
"Neither do I mine," said the Heavy Friend. "It amuses
her, so I let her do it." His wife, the Lady-with-the-Bust,
was safely out of hearing.
"I remember once," began the Interesting Man, "saying
to"—he paused a moment, for the others were looking at
him—"another man that if women did get the vote they'd
never use it, anyway. All they like is being talked about
for not getting it."
After which, having exhausted the Woman Question, the
five men turned to such bigger subjects as the fall in
sterling exchange and the President's seventeenth note
Then presently they went upstairs. And when they reached
the door of the drawing-room a keen observer, or, indeed,
any kind of observer, might have seen that all five of
them made an obvious advance towards the two empty seats
beside the Soft Lady.
VII. The Grass Bachelor's Guide.
With sincere Apologies to the Ladies' Periodicals
There are periods in the life of every married man when
he is turned for the time being into a grass bachelor.
This happens, for instance, in the summer time when his
wife is summering by the sea, and he himself is simmering
in the city. It happens also in the autumn when his wife
is in Virginia playing golf in order to restore her
shattered nerves after the fatigues of the seaside. It
occurs again in November when his wife is in the Adirondacks
to get the benefit of the altitude, and later on through
the winter when she is down in Florida to get the benefit
of the latitude. The breaking up of the winter being,
notoriously, a trying time on the system, any reasonable
man is apt to consent to his wife's going to California.
In the later spring, the season of the bursting flowers
and the young buds, every woman likes to be with her
mother in the country. It is not fair to stop her.
It thus happens that at various times of the year a great
number of men, unable to leave their business, are left
to their own resources as housekeepers in their deserted
houses and apartments. It is for their benefit that I
have put together these hints on housekeeping for men.
It may be that in composing them I owe something to the
current number of the leading women's magazines. If so,
I need not apologise. I am sure that in these days We
Men all feel that We Men and We Women are so much alike,
or at least those of us who call ourselves so, that we
need feel no jealousy when We Men and We Women are striving
each, or both, in the same direction if in opposite ways.
I hope that I make myself clear. I am sure I do.
So I feel that if We Men, who are left alone in our houses
and apartments in the summer-time, would only set ourselves
to it, we could make life not only a little brighter for
ourselves but also a little less bright for those about
Nothing contributes to this end so much as good
housekeeping. The first thing for the housekeeper to
realise is that it is impossible for him to attend to
his housekeeping in the stiff and unbecoming garments of
his business hours. When he begins his day he must
therefore carefully consider—
WHAT TO WEAR BEFORE DRESSING
The simplest and best thing will be found to be a plain
sacque or kimono, cut very full so as to allow of the
freest movement, and buttoned either down the front or
back or both. If the sleeve is cut short at the elbow
and ruffled above the bare arm, the effect is both
serviceable and becoming. It will be better, especially
for such work as lighting the gas range and boiling water,
to girdle the kimono with a simple yet effective rope or
tasselled silk, which may be drawn in or let out according
to the amount of water one wishes to boil. A simple kimono
of this sort can be bought almost anywhere for $2.50, or
can be supplied by Messrs. Einstein & Fickelbrot (see
advertising pages) for twenty-five dollars.
Having a kimono such as this, our housekeeper can either
button himself into it with a button-hook (very good ones
are supplied by Messrs. Einstein & Fickelbrot [see ad.]
at a very reasonable price or even higher), or better
still, he can summon the janitor of the apartment, who
can button him up quite securely in a few minutes' time
—a quarter of an hour at the most. We Men cannot impress
upon ourselves too strongly that, for efficient housekeeping,
time is everything, and that much depends on quiet,
effective movement from place to place, or from any one
place to any number of other places. We are now ready to
consider the all-important question—
WHAT TO SELECT FOR BREAKFAST
Our housekeeper will naturally desire something that is
simple and easily cooked, yet at the same time sustaining
and invigorating and containing a maximum of food value
with a minimum of cost. If he is wise he will realise
that the food ought to contain a proper quantity of both
proteids and amygdaloids, and, while avoiding a nitrogenous
breakfast, should see to it that he obtains sufficient
of what is albuminous and exogamous to prevent his
breakfast from becoming monotonous. Careful thought must
therefore be given to the breakfast menu.
For the purpose of thinking, a simple but very effective
costume may be devised by throwing over the kimono itself
a thin lace shawl, with a fichu carried high above the
waistline and terminating in a plain insertion. A bit of
old lace thrown over the housekeeper's head is at once
serviceable and becoming and will help to keep the dust
out of his brain while thinking what to eat for breakfast.
Very naturally our housekeeper's first choice will be
some kind of cereal. The simplest and most economical
breakfast of this kind can be secured by selecting some
cereal or grain food—such as oats, flax, split peas
that have been carefully strained in the colander, or
beans that have been fired off in a gun. Any of these
cereals may be bought for ten cents a pound at a
grocer's—or obtained from Messrs. Einstein & Fickelbrot
for a dollar a pound, or more. Supposing then that we
have decided upon a pound of split peas as our breakfast,
the next task that devolves upon our housekeeper is to—
GO OUT AND BUY IT
Here our advice is simple but positive. Shopping should
never be done over the telephone or by telegraph. The
good housekeeper instead of telegraphing for his food
will insist on seeing his food himself, and will eat
nothing that he does not first see before eating. This
is a cardinal rule. For the moment, then, the range must
be turned low while our housekeeper sallies forth to
devote himself to his breakfast shopping. The best costume
for shopping is a simple but effective suit, cut in plain
lines, either square or crosswise, and buttoned wherever
there are button-holes. A simple hat of some dark material
may be worn together with plain boots drawn up well over
the socks and either laced or left unlaced. No harm is
done if a touch of colour is added by carrying a geranium
in the hand. We are now ready for the street.
TEST OF EFFECTIVE SHOPPING
Here we may say at once that the crucial test is that we
must know what we want, why we want it, where we want
it, and what it is. Time, as We Men are only too apt to
forget, is everything, and since our aim is now a pound
of split peas we must, as we sally forth, think of a
pound of split peas and only a pound. A cheery salutation
may be exchanged with other morning shoppers as we pass
along, but only exchanged. Split peas being for the moment
our prime business, we must, as rapidly and unobtrusively
as possible, visit those shops and only those shops where
split peas are to be had.
Having found the split peas, our housekeeper's next task
is to pay for them. This he does with money that may
be either carried in the hand or, better, tucked into a
simple etui, or dodu, that can be carried at the
wrist or tied to the ankle. The order duly given, our
housekeeper gives his address for the delivery of the
peas, and then, as quietly and harmlessly as possible,
returns to his apartment. His next office, and a most
important one it is, is now ready to be performed. This
new but necessary duty is—
WAITING FOR THE DELIVERY VAN
A good costume for waiting for the delivery van in, is
a simple brown suit, slashed with yellow and purple, and
sliced or gored from the hip to the feet. As time is
everything, the housekeeper, after having put on his
slashed costume for waiting for the delivery van, may
set himself to the performance of a number of light
household tasks, at the same time looking occasionally
from the window so as to detect the arrival of the van
as soon as possible after it has arrived. Among other
things, he may now feed his canary by opening its mouth
with a button-hook and dropping in coffee beans till the
little songster shows by its gratified air that it is
full. A little time may be well spent among the flowers
and bulbs of the apartment, clipping here a leaf and here
a stem, and removing the young buds and bugs. For work
among the flowers, a light pair of rather long scissors,
say a foot long, can be carried at the girdle, or attached
to the etui and passed over the shoulder with a looped
cord so as to fall in an easy and graceful fold across
the back. The moment is now approaching when we may
THE ARRIVAL OF THE VAN
The housekeeper will presently discover the van, drawn
up in the front of the apartment, and its driver curled
up on the seat. Now is the moment of activity. Hastily
throwing on a peignoir, the housekeeper descends and,
receiving his parcel, reascends to his apartment. The
whole descent and reascent is made quickly, quietly, and,
if possible, only once.
PUTTING THE PEAS TO SOAK
Remember that unsoaked peas are hard, forcible, and
surcharged with a nitrogenous amygdaloid that is in
reality what chemical science calls putrate of lead. On
the other hand, peas that are soaked become large, voluble,
textile, and, while extremely palatable, are none the
less rich in glycerine, starch, and other lacteroids and
bactifera. To contain the required elements of nutrition
split peas must be soaked for two hours in fresh water
and afterwards boiled for an hour and a quarter
It is now but the work of a moment to lift the saucepan
of peas from the fire, strain them through a colander,
pass them thence into a net or bag, rinse them in cold
water and then spread the whole appetising mass on a
platter and carry it on a fireshovel to the dining-room.
As it is now about six o'clock in the evening, our
housekeeper can either—
TELEPHONE TO HIS CLUB
AND ORDER A THIN SOUP
WITH A BITE OF FISH,
TWO LAMB CHOPS WITH ASPARAGUS,
AND SEND WORD ALSO
FOR A PINT OF MOSELLE
TO BE LAID ON ICE
Or he can sit down and eat those d—n peas.
WE KNOW WHICH HE WILL DO
VIII. Every Man and his Friends. Mr. Crunch's
Portrait Gallery (as Edited from his Private Thoughts)
(I) HIS VIEWS ON HIS EMPLOYER
A mean man. I say it, of course, without any prejudice,
and without the slightest malice. But the man is mean.
Small, I think, is the word. I am not thinking, of course,
of my own salary. It is not a matter that I would care
to refer to; though, as a matter of fact, one would think
that after fifteen years of work an application for an
increase of five hundred dollars is the kind of thing
that any man ought to be glad to meet half-way. Not that
I bear the man any malice for it. None. If he died
to-morrow, no one would regret his death as genuinely as
I would: if he fell into the river and got drowned, or
if he fell into a sewer and suffocated, or if he got
burned to death in a gas explosion (there are a lot of
things that might happen to him), I should feel genuinely
sorry to see him cut off.
But what strikes me more than the man's smallness is his
incompetence. The man is absolutely no good. It's not a
thing that I would say outside: as a matter of fact I
deny it every time I hear it, though every man in town
knows it. How that man ever got the position he has is
more than I can tell. And, as for holding it, he couldn't
hold it half a day if it weren't that the rest of us in
the office do practically everything for him.
Why, I've seen him send out letters (I wouldn't say this
to anyone outside, of course, and I wouldn't like to have
it repeated)—letters with, actually, mistakes in English.
Think of it, in English! Ask his stenographer.
I often wonder why I go on working for him. There are
dozens of other companies that would give anything to
get me. Only the other day—it's not ten years ago—I
had an offer, or practically an offer, to go to Japan
selling Bibles. I often wish now I had taken it. I believe
I'd like the Japanese. They're gentlemen, the Japanese.
They wouldn't turn a man down after slaving away for
I often think I'll quit him. I say to my wife that that
man had better not provoke me too far; or some day I'll
just step into his office and tell him exactly what I
think of him. I'd like to. I often say it over to myself
in the street car coming home.
He'd better be careful, that's all.
(II) THE MINISTER WHOSE CHURCH HE ATTENDS
A dull man. Dull is the only word I can think of that
exactly describes him—dull and prosy. I don't say that
he is not a good man. He may be. I don't say that he is
not. I have never seen any sign of it, if he is. But I
make it a rule never to say anything to take away a man's
And his sermons! Really that sermon he gave last Sunday
on Esau seemed to me the absolute limit. I wish you could
have heard it. I mean to say—drivel. I said to my wife
and some friends, as we walked away from the church, that
a sermon like that seemed to me to come from the dregs
of the human intellect. Mind you, I don't believe in
criticising a sermon. I always feel it a sacred obligation
never to offer a word of criticism. When I say that the
sermon was punk, I don't say it as criticism. I merely
state it as a fact. And to think that we pay that man
eighteen hundred dollars a year! And he's in debt all
the time at that. What does he do with it? He can't spend
it. It's not as if he had a large family (they've only
four children). It's just a case of sheer extravagance.
He runs about all the time. Last year it was a trip to
a Synod Meeting at New York—away four whole days; and
two years before that, dashing off to a Scripture Conference
at Boston, and away nearly a whole week, and his wife
What I say is that if a man's going to spend his time
gadding about the country like that—here to-day and
there to-morrow—how on earth can he attend to his
I'm a religious man. At least I trust I am. I believe
—and more and more as I get older—in eternal punishment.
I see the need of it when I look about me. As I say, I
trust I am a religious man, but when it comes to subscribing
fifty dollars as they want us to, to get the man out of
debt, I say "No."
True religion, as I see it, is not connected with money.
(III) HIS PARTNER AT BRIDGE
The man is a complete ass. How a man like that has the
nerve to sit down at a bridge table, I don't know. I
wouldn't mind if the man had any idea—even the faintest
idea—of how to play. But he hasn't any. Three times I
signalled to him to throw the lead into my hand and he
wouldn't: I knew that our only ghost of a chance was to
let me do all the playing. But the ass couldn't see it.
He even had the supreme nerve to ask me what I meant by
leading diamonds when he had signalled that he had none.
I couldn't help asking him, as politely as I could, why
he had disregarded my signal for spades. He had the gall
to ask in reply why I had overlooked his signal for clubs
in the second hand round; the very time, mind you, when
I had led a three spot as a sign to him to let me play
the whole game. I couldn't help saying to him, at the
end of the evening, in a tone of such evident satire that
anyone but an ass would have recognised it, that I had
seldom had as keen an evening at cards.
But he didn't see it. The irony of it was lost on him.
The jackass merely said—quite amiably and unconsciously
—that he thought I'd play a good game presently. Me!
Play a good game presently!
I gave him a look, just one look as I went out! But I
don't think he saw it. He was talking to some one else.
(IV) HIS HOSTESS AT DINNER
On what principle that woman makes up her dinner parties
is more than human brain can devise. Mind you, I like
going out to dinner. To my mind it's the very best form
of social entertainment. But I like to find myself among
people that can talk, not among a pack of numbskulls.
What I like is good general conversation, about things
worth talking about. But among a crowd of idiots like
that what can you expect? You'd think that even society
people would be interested, or pretend to be, in real
things. But not a bit. I had hardly started to talk about
the rate of exchange on the German mark in relation to
the fall of sterling bills—a thing that you would think
a whole table full of people would be glad to listen
to—when first thing I knew the whole lot of them had
ceased paying any attention and were listening to an
insufferable ass of an Englishman—I forget his name.
You'd hardly suppose that just because a man has been in
Flanders and has his arm in a sling and has to have his
food cut up by the butler, that's any reason for having
a whole table full of people listening to him. And
especially the women: they have a way of listening to a
fool like that with their elbows on the table that is
I felt that the whole thing was out of taste and tried
in vain, in one of the pauses, to give a lead to my
hostess by referring to the prospect of a shipping subsidy
bill going through to offset the register of alien ships.
But she was too utterly dense to take it up. She never
even turned her head. All through dinner that ass talked
—he and that silly young actor they're always asking
there that is perpetually doing imitations of the vaudeville
people. That kind of thing may be all right, for those
who care for it—I frankly don't—outside a theatre. But
to my mind the idea of trying to throw people into fits
of laughter at a dinner-table is simply execrable taste.
I cannot see the sense of people shrieking with laughter
at dinner. I have, I suppose, a better sense of humour
than most people. But to my mind a humourous story should
be told quietly and slowly in a way to bring out the
point of the humour and to make it quite clear by preparing
for it with proper explanations. But with people like
that I find I no sooner get well started with a story
than some fool or other breaks in. I had a most amusing
experience the other day—that is, about fifteen years
ago—at a summer hotel in the Adirondacks, that one would
think would have amused even a shallow lot of people like
those, but I had no sooner started to tell it—or had
hardly done more than to describe the Adirondacks in a
general way—than, first thing I know, my hostess, stupid
woman, had risen and all the ladies were trooping out.
As to getting in a word edgeways with the men over the
cigars—perfectly impossible! They're worse than the
women. They were all buzzing round the infernal Englishman
with questions about Flanders and the army at the front.
I tried in vain to get their attention for a minute to
give them my impressions of the Belgian peasantry (during
my visit there in 1885), but my host simply turned to me
for a second and said, "Have some more port?" and was
back again listening to the asinine Englishman.
And when we went upstairs to the drawing-room I found
myself, to my disgust, side-tracked in a corner of the
room with that supreme old jackass of a professor—their
uncle, I think, or something of the sort. In all my life
I never met a prosier man. He bored me blue with long
accounts of his visit to Serbia and his impressions of
the Serbian peasantry in 1875.
I should have left early, but it would have been too
The trouble with a woman like that is that she asks the
wrong people to her parties.
(V) HIS LITTLE SON
You haven't seen him? Why, that's incredible. You must
have. He goes past your house every day on his way to
his kindergarten. You must have seen him a thousand
times. And he's a boy you couldn't help noticing. You'd
pick that boy out among a hundred, right away. "There's
a remarkable boy," you'd say. I notice people always turn
and look at him on the street. He's just the image of
me. Everybody notices it at once.
How old? He's twelve. Twelve and two weeks yesterday.
But he's so bright you'd think he was fifteen. And the
things he says! You'd laugh! I've written a lot of them
down in a book for fear of losing them. Some day when
you come up to the house I'll read them to you. Come some
evening. Come early so that we'll have lots of time. He
said to me one day, "Dad" (he always calls me Dad), "what
makes the sky blue?" Pretty thoughtful, eh, for a little
fellow of twelve? He's always asking questions like that.
I wish I could remember half of them.
And I'm bringing him up right, I tell you. I got him a
little savings box a while ago, and have got him taught
to put all his money in it, and not give any of it away,
so that when he grows up he'll be all right.
On his last birthday I put a five dollar gold piece into
it for him and explained to him what five dollars meant,
and what a lot you could do with it if you hung on to
it. You ought to have seen him listen.
"Dad," he says, "I guess you're the kindest man in the
world, aren't you?"
Come up some time and see him.
IX. More than Twice-told Tales; or,
Every Man his Own Hero
The familiar story told about himself by the Commercial
Traveller who sold goods to the man who was regarded as
"What," they said, "you're getting off at Midgeville?
You're going to give the Jones Hardware Company a try,
eh?"—and then they all started laughing and giving me
the merry ha! ha! Well, I just got my grip packed and
didn't say a thing and when the train slowed up for
Midgeville, out I slid. "Give my love to old man Jones,"
one of the boys called after me, "and get yourself a
couple of porous plasters and a pair of splints before
you tackle him!"—and then they all gave me the ha! ha!
again, out of the window as the train pulled out.
Well, I walked uptown from the station to the Jones
Hardware Company. "Is Mr. Jones in the office?" I asked
of one of the young fellers behind the counter. "He's in
the office," he says, "all right, but I guess you can't
see him," he says—and he looked at my grip. "What name
shall I say?" says he. "Don't say any name at all," I
says. "Just open the door and let me in."
Well, there was old man Jones sitting scowling over his
desk, biting his pen in that way he has. He looked up
when I came in. "See here, young man," he says, "you
can't sell me any hardware," he says. "Mr. Jones," I
says, "I don't want to sell you any hardware. I'm not
here to sell you any hardware. I know," I says, "as
well as you do," I says, "that I couldn't sell any hardware
if I tried to. But," I says, "I guess it don't do any
harm to open up this sample case, and show you some
hardware," I says. "Young man," says he, "if you start
opening up that sample case in here, you'll lose your
time, that's all"—and he turned off sort of sideways
and began looking over some letters.
"That's all right, Mr. Jones," I says. "That's all
right. I'm here to lose my time. But I'm not going
out of this room till you take a look anyway at some of
this new cutlery I'm carrying."
So open I throws my sample case right across the end of
his desk. "Look at that knife," I says, "Mr. Jones. Just
look at it: clear Sheffield at three-thirty the dozen
and they're a knife that will last till you wear the haft
off it." "Oh, pshaw," he growled, "I don't want no knives;
there's nothing in knives—"
Well I knew he didn't want knives, see? I knew it.
But the way I opened up the sample case it showed up,
just by accident so to speak, a box of those new electric
burners—adjustable, you know—they'll take heat off any
size of socket you like and use it for any mortal thing
in the house. I saw old Jones had his eyes on them in a
minute. "What's those things you got there?" he growls,
"those in the box?" "Oh," I said, "that's just a new
line," I said, "the boss wanted me to take along: some
sort of electric rig for heating," I said, "but I don't
think there's anything to it. But here, now, Mr. Jones,
is a spoon I've got on this trip—it's the new Delphide
—you can't tell that, sir, from silver. No, sir," I
says, "I defy any man, money down, to tell that there
Delphide from genuine refined silver, and they're a spoon
"Let me see one of those burners," says old man Jones,
Well, sir, in about two minutes more, I had one of the
burners fixed on to the light socket, and old Jones, with
his coat off, boiling water in a tin cup (out of the
store) and timing it with his watch.
The next day I pulled into Toledo and went and joined
the other boys up to the Jefferson House. "Well," they
says, "have you got that plaster on?" and started in to
give me the ha! ha! again. "Oh, I don't know," I says.
"I guess this is some plaster, isn't it?" and I took
out of my pocket an order from old man Jones for two
thousand adjustable burners, at four-twenty with two off.
"Some plaster, eh?" I says.
Well, sir, the boys looked sick.
Old man Jones gets all his stuff from our house now. Oh,
he ain't bad at all when you get to know him.
The well-known story told by the man who has once had a
strange psychic experience.
…What you say about presentiments reminds me of a strange
experience that I had myself.
I was sitting by myself one night very late, reading. I
don't remember just what it was that I was reading. I
think it was—or no, I don't remember what it was.
Well, anyway, I was sitting up late reading quietly till
it got pretty late on in the night. I don't remember
just how late it was—half-past two, I think, or perhaps
three—or, no, I don't remember. But, anyway, I was
sitting up by myself very late reading. As I say, it was
late, and, after all the noises in the street had stopped,
the house somehow seemed to get awfully still and quiet.
Well, all of a sudden I became aware of a sort of strange
feeling—I hardly know how to describe it—I seemed to
become aware of something, as if something were near me.
I put down my book and looked around, but could see
nothing. I started to read again, but I hadn't read more
than a page, or say a page and a half—or no, not more
than a page, when again all of a sudden I felt an
overwhelming sense of—something. I can't explain just
what the feeling was, but a queer sense as if there was
Well, I'm not of a timorous disposition naturally—at
least I don't think I am—but absolutely I felt as if I
couldn't stay in the room. I got up out of my chair and
walked down the stairs, in the dark, to the dining-room.
I felt all the way as if some one were following me. Do
you know, I was absolutely trembling when I got into the
dining-room and got the lights turned on. I walked over
to the sideboard and poured myself out a drink of whisky
and soda. As you know, I never take anything as a rule
—or, at any rate, only when I am sitting round talking
as we are now—but I always like to keep a decanter of
whisky in the house, and a little soda, in case of my
wife or one of the children being taken ill in the night.
Well, I took a drink and then I said to myself, I said,
"See here, I'm going to see this thing through." So I
turned back and walked straight upstairs again to my
room. I fully expected something queer was going to happen
and was prepared for it. But do you know when I walked
into the room again the feeling, or presentiment, or
whatever it was I had had, was absolutely gone. There
was my book lying just where I had left it and the reading
lamp still burning on the table, just as it had been,
and my chair just where I had pushed it back. But I felt
nothing, absolutely nothing. I sat and waited awhile,
but I still felt nothing.
I went downstairs again to put out the lights in the
dining-room. I noticed as I passed the sideboard that
I was still shaking a little. So I took a small drink of
whisky—though as a rule I never care to take more than
one drink—unless when I am sitting talking as we are
Well, I had hardly taken it when I felt an odd sort of
psychic feeling—a sort of drowsiness. I remember, in a
dim way, going to bed, and then I remember nothing till
I woke up next morning.
And here's the strange part of it. I had hardly got down
to the office after breakfast when I got a wire to tell
me that my mother-in-law had broken her arm in Cincinnati.
Strange, wasn't it? No, not at half-past two during
that night—that's the inexplicable part of it. She had
broken it at half-past eleven the morning before. But
you notice it was half-past in each case. That's the
queer way these things go.
Of course, I don't pretend to explain it. I suppose it
simply means that I am telepathic—that's all. I imagine
that, if I wanted to, I could talk with the dead and all
that kind of thing. But I feel somehow that I don't want
Eh? Thank you, I will—though I seldom take more than—
thanks, thanks, that's plenty of soda in it.
The familiar narrative in which the Successful Business
Man recounts the early struggles by which he made good.
…No, sir, I had no early advantages whatever. I was brought
up plain and hard—try one of these cigars; they cost me
fifty cents each. In fact, I practically had no schooling
at all. When I left school I didn't know how to read,
not to read good. It's only since I've been in business
that I've learned to write English, that is so as to use
it right. But I'll guarantee to say there isn't a man in
the shoe business to-day can write a better letter than
I can. But all that I know is what I've learned myself.
Why, I can't do fractions even now. I don't see that a
man need. And I never learned no geography, except what
I got for myself off railroad folders. I don't believe
a man needs more than that anyway. I've got my boy at
Harvard now. His mother was set on it. But I don't see
that he learns anything, or nothing that will help him
any in business. They say they learn them character and
manners in the colleges, but, as I see it, a man can get
all that just as well in business—is that wine all right?
If not, tell me and I'll give the head waiter hell; they
charge enough for it; what you're drinking costs me
four-fifty a bottle.
But I was starting to tell you about my early start in
business. I had it good and hard all right. Why when I
struck New York—I was sixteen then—I had just eighty
cents to my name. I lived on it for nearly a week while
I was walking round hunting for a job. I used to get soup
for three cents, and roast beef with potatoes, all you
could eat, for eight cents, that tasted better than anything
I can ever get in this damn club. It was down somewhere
on Sixth Avenue, but I've forgotten the way to it.
Well, about the sixth day I got a job, down in a shoe
factory, working on a machine. I guess you've never seen
shoe-machinery, have you? No, you wouldn't likely. It's
complicated. Even in those days there were thirty-five
machines went to the making of a shoe, and now we use as
many as fifty-four. I'd never seen the machines before,
but the foreman took me on. "You look strong," he said
"I'll give you a try anyway."
So I started in. I didn't know anything. But I made good
from the first day. I got four a week at the start, and
after two months I got a raise to four-twenty-five.
Well, after I'd worked there about three months, I went
up to the floor manager of the flat I worked on, and I
said, "Say, Mr. Jones, do you want to save ten dollars
a week on expenses?" "How?" says he. "Why," I said, "that
foreman I'm working under on the machine, I've watched
him, and I can do his job; dismiss him and I'll take over
his work at half what you pay him." "Can you do the work?"
he says. "Try me out," I said. "Fire him and give me a
chance." "Well," he said, "I like your spirit anyway;
you've got the right sort of stuff in you."
So he fired the foreman and I took over the job and held
it down. It was hard at first, but I worked twelve hours
a day, and studied up a book on factory machinery at
night. Well, after I'd been on that work for about a
year, I went in one day to the general manager downstairs,
and I said, "Mr. Thompson, do you want to save about a
hundred dollars a month on your overhead costs?" "How
can I do that?" says he. "Sit down." "Why," I said, "you
dismiss Mr. Jones and give me his place as manager of
the floor, and I'll undertake to do his work, and mine
with it, at a hundred less than you're paying now." He
turned and went into the inner office, and I could hear
him talking to Mr. Evans, the managing director. "The
young fellow certainly has character," I heard him say.
Then he came out and he said, "Well, we're going to give
you a try anyway: we like to help out our employes all
we can, you know; and you've got the sort of stuff in
you that we're looking for."
So they dismissed Jones next day and I took over his job
and did it easy. It was nothing anyway. The higher up
you get in business, the easier it is if you know how.
I held that job two years, and I saved all my salary
except twenty-five dollars a month, and I lived on that.
I never spent any money anyway. I went once to see Irving
do this Macbeth for twenty-five cents, and once I went
to a concert and saw a man play the violin for fifteen
cents in the gallery. But I don't believe you get much
out of the theatre anyway; as I see it, there's nothing
Well, after a while I went one day to Mr. Evans's office
and I said, "Mr. Evans, I want you to dismiss Mr. Thompson,
the general manager." "Why, what's he done?" he says.
"Nothing," I said, "but I can take over his job on top
of mine and you can pay me the salary you give him and
save what you're paying me now." "Sounds good to me," he
So they let Thompson go and I took his place. That, of
course, is where I got my real start, because, you see,
I could control the output and run the costs up and down
just where I liked. I suppose you don't know anything
about costs and all that—they don't teach that sort of
thing in colleges—but even you would understand something
about dividends and would see that an energetic man with
lots of character and business in him, If he's general
manager can just do what he likes with the costs, especially
the overhead, and the shareholders have just got to take
what he gives them and be glad to. You see they can't
fire him—not when he's got it all in his own hands—for
fear it will all go to pieces.
Why would I want to run it that way for? Well, I'll tell
you. I had a notion by that time that the business was
getting so big that Mr. Evans, the managing director,
and most of the board had pretty well lost track of the
details and didn't understand it. There's an awful lot,
you know, in the shoe business. It's not like ordinary
things. It's complicated. And so I'd got an idea that I
would shove them clean out of it—or most of them.
So I went one night to see the president, old Guggenbaum,
up at his residence. He didn't only have this business,
but he was in a lot of other things as well, and he was
a mighty hard man to see. He wouldn't let any man see
him unless he knew first what he was going to say. But
I went up to his residence at night, and I saw him there.
I talked first with his daughter, and I said I just had
to see him. I said it so she didn't dare refuse. There's
a way in talking to women that they won't say no.
So I showed Mr. Guggenbaum what I could do with the stock.
"I can put that dividend," I says, "clean down to zero—and
they'll none of them know why. You can buy the lot of
them out at your own price, and after that I'll put the
dividend back to fifteen, or twenty, in two years."
"And where do you come in?" says the old man, with a
sort of hard look. He had a fine business head, the old
man, at least in those days.
So I explained to him where I came in. "All right," he
said. "Go ahead. But I'll put nothing in writing." "Mr.
Guggenbaum, you don't need to," I said. "You're as fair
and square as I am and that's enough for me."
His daughter let me out of the house door when I went.
I guess she'd been pretty scared that she'd done wrong
about letting me in. But I said to her it was all right,
and after that when I wanted to see the old man I'd always
ask for her and she'd see that I got in all right.
Got them squeezed out? Oh, yes, easy. There wasn't any
trouble about that. You see the old man worked up a sort
of jolt in wholesale leather on one side, and I fixed up
a strike of the hands on the other. We passed the dividend
two quarters running, and within a year we had them all
scared out and the bulk of the little shareholders, of
course, trooped out after them. They always do. The old
man picked up the stock when they dropped it, and one-half
of it he handed over to me.
That's what put me where I am now, do you see, with the
whole control of the industry in two states and more than
that now, because we have the Amalgamated Tanneries in
with us, so it's practically all one concern.
Guggenbaum? Did I squeeze him out? No, I didn't because,
you see, I didn't have to. The way it was—well, I tell
you—I used to go up to the house, see, to arrange things
with him—and the way it was—why, you see, I married
his daughter, see, so I didn't exactly need to squeeze
him out. He lives up with us now, but he's pretty old
and past business. In fact, I do it all for him now, and
pretty well everything he has is signed over to my wife.
She has no head for it, and she's sort of timid anyway
—always was—so I manage it all. Of course, if anything
happens to the old man, then we get it all. I don't think
he'll last long. I notice him each day, how weak he's
My son in the business? Well, I'd like him to be. But he
don't seem to take to it somehow—I'm afraid he takes
more after his mother; or else it's the college that's
doing it. Somehow, I don't think the colleges bring out
business character, do you?
X. A Study in Still Life—My Tailor
He always stands there—and has stood these thirty
years—in the back part of his shop, his tape woven about
his neck, a smile of welcome on his face, waiting to
"Something in a serge," he says, "or perhaps in a tweed?"
There are only these two choices open to us. We have had
no others for thirty years. It is too late to alter now.
"A serge, yes," continues my tailor, "something in a dark
blue, perhaps." He says it with all the gusto of a new
idea, as if the thought of dark blue had sprung up as an
inspiration. "Mr. Jennings" (this is his assistant),
"kindly take down some of those dark blues.
"Ah," he exclaims, "now here is an excellent thing." His
manner as he says this is such as to suggest that by
sheer good fortune and blind chance he has stumbled upon
a thing among a million.
He lifts one knee and drapes the cloth over it, standing
upon one leg. He knows that in this attitude it is hard
to resist him. Cloth to be appreciated as cloth must be
viewed over the bended knee of a tailor with one leg in
My tailor can stand in this way indefinitely, on one leg
in a sort of ecstasy, a kind of local paralysis.
"Would that make up well?" I ask him.
"Admirably," he answers.
I have no real reason to doubt it. I have never seen any
reason why cloth should not make up well. But I always
ask the question as I know that he expects it and it
pleases him. There ought to be a fair give and take in
"You don't think it at all loud?" I say. He always likes
to be asked this.
"Oh, no, very quiet indeed. In fact we always recommend
serge as extremely quiet."
I have never had a wild suit in my life. But it is well
Then he measures me—round the chest, nowhere else. All
the other measures were taken years ago. Even the chest
measure is only done—and I know it—to please me. I do
not really grow.
"A little fuller in the chest," my tailor muses. Then
he turns to his assistant. "Mr. Jennings, a little fuller
in the chest—half an inch on to the chest, please."
It is a kind fiction. Growth around the chest is flattering
even to the humblest of us.
"Yes," my tailor goes on—he uses "yes" without any
special meaning—"and shall we say a week from Tuesday?
Mr. Jennings, a week from Tuesday, please."
"And will you please," I say, "send the bill to—?" but
my tailor waves this aside. He does not care to talk
about the bill. It would only give pain to both of us
to speak of it.
The bill is a matter we deal with solely by correspondence,
and that only in a decorous and refined style never
calculated to hurt.
I am sure from the tone of my tailor's letters that he
would never send the bill, or ask for the amount, were
it not that from time to time he is himself, unfortunately,
"pressed" owing to "large consignments from Europe." But
for these heavy consignments, I am sure I should never
need to pay him. It is true that I have sometimes thought
to observe that these consignments are apt to arrive when
I pass the limit of owing for two suits and order a third.
But this can only be a mere coincidence.
Yet the bill, as I say, is a thing that we never speak
of. Instead of it my tailor passes to the weather. Ordinary
people always begin with this topic. Tailors, I notice,
end with it. It is only broached after the suit is ordered,
"Pleasant weather we are having," he says. It is never
other, so I notice, with him. Perhaps the order of a suit
itself is a little beam of sunshine.
Then we move together towards the front of the store on
the way to the outer door.
"Nothing to-day, I suppose," says my tailor, "in shirtings?"
"No, thank you."
This is again a mere form. In thirty years I have never
bought any shirtings from him. Yet he asks the question
with the same winsomeness as he did thirty years ago.
"And nothing, I suppose, in collaring or in hosiery?"
This is again futile. Collars I buy elsewhere and hosiery
I have never worn.
Thus we walk to the door, in friendly colloquy. Somehow
if he failed to speak of shirtings and hosiery, I should
feel as if a familiar cord had broken;
At the door we part.
"Good afternoon," he says. "A week from Tuesday—yes
Such is—or was—our calm unsullied intercourse, unvaried
or at least broken only by consignments from Europe.
I say it was, that is until just the other day.
And then, coming to the familiar door, for my customary
summer suit, I found that he was there no more. There
were people in the store, unloading shelves and piling
cloth and taking stock. And they told me that he was
dead. It came to me with a strange shock. I had not
thought it possible. He seemed—he should have been
They said the worry of his business had helped to kill
him. I could not have believed it. It always seemed so
still and tranquil—weaving his tape about his neck and
marking measures and holding cloth against his leg beside
the sunlight of the window in the back part of the shop.
Can a man die of that? Yet he had been "going behind,"
they said (however that is done), for years. His wife,
they told me, would be left badly off. I had never
conceived him as having a wife. But it seemed that he
had, and a daughter, too, at a conservatory of music
—yet he never spoke of her—and that he himself was
musical and played the flute, and was the sidesman of a
church—yet he never referred to it to me. In fact, in
thirty years we never spoke of religion. It was hard to
connect him with the idea of it.
As I went out I seemed to hear his voice still saying,
"And nothing to-day in shirtings?"
I was sorry I had never bought any.
There is, I am certain, a deep moral in this. But I will
not try to draw it. It might appear too obvious.
Peace, War, and Politics
XI. Germany from Within Out
The adventure which I here narrate resulted out of a
strange psychological experience of a kind that (outside
of Germany) would pass the bounds of comprehension.
To begin with, I had fallen asleep.
Of the reason for my falling asleep I have no doubt. I
had remained awake nearly the whole of the preceding
night, absorbed in the perusal of a number of recent
magazine articles and books dealing with Germany as seen
from within. I had read from cover to cover that charming
book, just written by Lady de Washaway, under the title
Ten Years as a Toady, or The Per-Hapsburgs as I Didn't
Know Them. Her account of the life of the Imperial Family
of Austria, simple, unaffected, home-like; her picture
of the good old Emperor, dining quietly off a cold potato
and sitting after dinner playing softly to himself on
the flute, while his attendants gently withdrew one by
one from his presence; her description of merry, boisterous,
large-hearted Prince Stefan Karl, who kept the whole
court in a perpetual roar all the time by asking such
riddles as "When is a sailor not a sailor?" (the answer
being, of course, when he is a German Prince)—in fact,
the whole book had thrilled me to the verge of spiritual
From Lady de Washaway's work I turned to peruse Hugo von
Halbwitz's admirable book, Easy Marks, or How the German
Government Borrows its Funds; and after that I had read
Karl von Wiggleround's Despatches and Barnstuff's
Confidential Letters to Criminals.
As a consequence I fell asleep as if poisoned.
But the amazing thing is that, whenever it was or was
not that I fell asleep, I woke up to find myself in
I cannot offer any explanation as to how this came about.
I merely state the fact.
There I was, seated on the grassy bank of a country road.
I knew it was Germany at once. There was no mistaking
it. The whole landscape had an orderliness, a method
about it that is, alas, never seen in British countries.
The trees stood in neat lines, with the name of each
nailed to it on a board. The birds sat in regular rows,
four to a branch, and sang in harmony, very simply, but
with the true German feeling.
There were two peasants working beside the road. One was
picking up fallen leaves, and putting them into neat
packets of fifty. The other was cutting off the tops of
the late thistles that still stood unwithered in the
chill winter air, and arranging them according to size
and colour. In Germany nothing is lost; nothing is wasted.
It is perhaps not generally known that from the top of
the thistle the Germans obtain picrate of ammonia, the
most deadly explosive known to modern chemistry, while
from the bulb below, butter, crude rubber and sweet cider
are extracted in large quantities.
The two peasants paused in their work a moment as they
saw me glance towards them, and each, with the simple
gentility of the German working man, quietly stood on
his head until I had finished looking at him.
I felt quite certain, of course, that it must only be a
matter of a short time before I would inevitably be
I felt doubly certain of it when I saw a motor speeding
towards me with a stout man, in military uniform and a
Prussian helmet, seated behind the chauffeur.
The motor stopped, but to my surprise the military man,
whom I perceived to be wearing the uniform of a general,
jumped out and advanced towards me with a genial cry of:
"Well, Herr Professor!"
I looked at him again.
"Why, Fritz!" I cried.
"You recognize me?" he said.
"Certainly," I answered, "you used to be one of the six
German waiters at McCluskey's restaurant in Toronto."
The General laughed.
"You really took us for waiters!" he said. "Well, well.
My dear professor! How odd! We were all generals in the
German army. My own name is not Fritz Schmidt, as you
knew it, but Count von Boobenstein. The Boobs of
Boobenstein," he added proudly, "are connected with the
Hohenzollerns. When I am commanded to dine with the
Emperor, I have the hereditary right to eat anything that
"But I don't understand!" I said. "Why were you in
"Perfectly simple. Special military service. We were
there to make a report. Each day we kept a record of the
velocity and direction of the wind, the humidity of the
air, the distance across King Street and the height of
the C.P.R. Building. All this we wired to Germany every
"For what purpose?" I asked.
"Pardon me!" said the General, and then, turning the
subject with exquisite tact: "Do you remember Max?" he
"Do you mean the tall melancholy looking waiter, who used
to eat the spare oysters and drink up what was left in
the glasses, behind the screen?"
"Ha!" exclaimed my friend. "But why did he drink them?
Why? Do you know that that man—his real name is not
Max but Ernst Niedelfein—is one of the greatest chemists
in Germany? Do you realise that he was making a report
to our War Office on the percentage of alcohol obtainable
in Toronto after closing time?"
"And Karl?" I asked.
"Karl was a topographist in the service of his High
Serenity the King Regnant of Bavaria"—here my friend
saluted himself with both hands and blinked his eyes four
times—"He made maps of all the breweries of Canada. We
know now to a bottle how many German soldiers could be
used in invading Canada without danger of death from
"How many was it?" I asked.
Boobenstein shook his head.
"Very disappointing," he said. "In fact your country is
not yet ripe for German occupation. Our experts say that
the invasion of Canada is an impossibility unless we use
Milwaukee as a base—But step into my motor," said the
Count, interrupting himself, "and come along with me.
Stop, you are cold. This morning air is very keen. Take
this," he added, picking off the fur cap from the
chauffeur's head. "It will be better than that hat you
are wearing—or, here, wait a moment—"
As he spoke, the Count unwound a woollen muffler from
the chauffeur's neck, and placed it round mine.
"Now then," he added, "this sheepskin coat—"
"My dear Count," I protested.
"Not a bit, not a bit," he cried, as he pulled off the
chauffeur's coat and shoved me into it. His face beamed
with true German generosity.
"Now," he said as we settled back into the motor and
started along the road, "I am entirely at your service.
Try one of these cigars! Got it alight? Right! You notice,
no doubt, the exquisite flavour. It is a Tannhauser.
Our chemists are making these cigars now out of the refuse
of the tanneries and glue factories."
I sighed involuntarily. Imagine trying to "blockade" a
people who could make cigars out of refuse; imagine trying
to get near them at all!
"Strong, aren't they?" said von Boobenstein, blowing a
big puff of smoke. "In fact, it is these cigars that have
given rise to the legend (a pure fiction, I need hardly
say) that our armies are using asphyxiating gas. The
truth is they are merely smoking German-made tobacco in
"But come now," he continued, "your meeting me is most
fortunate. Let me explain. I am at present on the
Intelligence Branch of the General Staff. My particular
employment is dealing with foreign visitors—the branch
of our service called, for short, the Eingewanderte
Fremden Verfullungs Bureau. How would you call that?"
"It sounds," I said, "like the Bureau for Stuffing Up
"Precisely," said the Count, "though your language lacks
the music of ours. It is my business to escort visitors
round Germany and help them with their despatches. I took
the Ford party through—in a closed cattle-car, with the
lights out. They were greatly impressed. They said that,
though they saw nothing, they got an excellent idea of
the atmosphere of Germany. It was I who introduced Lady
de Washaway to the Court of Franz Joseph. I write the
despatches from Karl von Wiggleround, and send the
necessary material to Ambassador von Barnstuff. In fact
I can take you everywhere, show you everything, and"
—here my companion's military manner suddenly seemed
to change into something obsequiously and strangely
familiar—"it won't cost you a cent; not a cent, unless
I handed him ten cents.
"Thank you, sir," he said. Then with an abrupt change
back to his military manner, "Now, then, what would you
like to see? The army? The breweries? The Royal court?
Berlin? What shall it be? My time is limited, but I shall
be delighted to put myself at your service for the rest
of the day."
"I think," I said, "I should like more than anything to
see Berlin, if it is possible."
"Possible?" answered my companion. "Nothing easier."
The motor flew ahead and in a few moments later we were
making our arrangements with a local station-master for
a special train to Berlin.
I got here my first glimpse of the wonderful perfection
of the German railway system.
"I am afraid," said the station-master, with deep apologies,
"that I must ask you to wait half an hour. I am moving
a quarter of a million troops from the east to the west
front, and this always holds up the traffic for fifteen
or twenty minutes."
I stood on the platform watching the troops trains go by
and admiring the marvellous ingenuity of the German
As each train went past at full speed, a postal train
(Feld-Post-Eisenbahn-Zug) moved on the other track in
the opposite direction, from which a shower of letters
were thrown in to the soldiers through the window.
Immediately after the postal train, a soup train (Soup-Zug)
was drawn along, from the windows of which soup was
squirted out of a hose.
Following this there came at full speed a beer train
(Bier-Zug) from which beer bombs were exploded in all
I watched till all had passed.
"Now," said the station-master, "your train is ready.
Here you are."
Away we sped through the meadows and fields, hills and
valleys, forests and plains.
And nowhere—I am forced, like all other travellers, to
admit it—did we see any signs of the existence of war.
Everything was quiet, orderly, usual. We saw peasants
digging—in an orderly way—for acorns in the frozen
ground. We saw little groups of soldiers drilling in the
open squares of villages—in their quiet German fashion
—each man chained by the leg to the man next to him;
here and there great Zeppelins sailed overhead dropping
bombs, for practice, on the less important towns; at
times in the village squares we saw clusters of haggard
women (quite quiet and orderly) waving little red flags
and calling: "Bread, bread!"
But nowhere any signs of war. Certainly not.
We reached Berlin just at nightfall. I had expected to
find it changed. To my surprise it appeared just as usual.
The streets were brilliantly lighted. Music burst in
waves from the restaurants. From the theatre signs I
saw, to my surprise, that they were playing Hamlet,
East Lynne and Potash and Perlmutter. Everywhere
was brightness, gaiety and light-heartedness.
Here and there a merry-looking fellow, with a brush and
a pail of paste and a roll of papers over his arm, would
swab up a casualty list of two or three thousand names,
amid roars of good-natured laughter.
What perplexed me most was the sight of thousands of men,
not in uniform, but in ordinary civilian dress.
"Boobenstein," I said, as we walked down the Linden
Avenue, "I don't understand it."
"The men?" he answered. "It's a perfectly simple matter.
I see you don't understand our army statistics. At the
beginning of the war we had an army of three million.
Very good. Of these, one million were in the reserve. We
called them to the colours, that made four million. Then
of these all who wished were allowed to volunteer for
special services. Half a million did so. That made four
and a half million. In the first year of the war we
suffered two million casualties, but of these seventy-five
per cent, or one and a half million, returned later on
to the colours, bringing our grand total up to six million.
This six million we use on each of six fronts, giving a
grand total of thirty six million.
"I see," I said. "In fact, I have seen these figures
before. In other words, your men are inexhaustible."
"Precisely," said the Count, "and mark you, behind these
we still have the Landsturm, made up of men between
fifty-five and sixty, and the Landslide, reputed to be
the most terrible of all the German levies, made up by
withdrawing the men from the breweries. That is the last
final act of national fury. But come," he said, "you must
be hungry. Is it not so?"
"I am," I admitted, "but I had hesitated to acknowledge
it. I feared that the food supply—"
Boobenstein broke into hearty laughter.
"Food supply!" he roared. "My dear fellow, you must have
been reading the English newspapers! Food supply! My dear
professor! Have you not heard? We have got over that
difficulty entirely and for ever. But come, here is a
restaurant. In with you and eat to your heart's content."
We entered the restaurant. It was filled to overflowing
with a laughing crowd of diners and merry-makers. Thick
clouds of blue cigar smoke filled the air. Waiters ran
to and fro with tall steins of foaming beer, and great
bundles of bread tickets, soup tickets, meat cards and
These were handed around to the guests, who sat quietly
chewing the corners of them as they sipped their beer.
"Now-then," said my host, looking over the printed menu
in front of him, "what shall it be? What do you say to
a ham certificate with a cabbage ticket on the side? Or
how would you like lobster-coupon with a receipt for
"Yes," I answered, "or perhaps, as our journey has made
me hungry, one of these beef certificates with an affidavit
for Yorkshire pudding."
"Done!" said Boobenstein.
A few moments later we were comfortably drinking our tall
glasses of beer and smoking Tannhauser cigars, with an
appetising pile of coloured tickets and certificates in
front of us.
"Admit," said von Boobenstein good-naturedly, "that we
have overcome the food difficulty for ever."
"You have," I said.
"It was a pure matter of science and efficiency," he went
on. "It has long been observed that if one sat down in
a restaurant and drank beer and smoked cigars (especially
such a brand as these Tannhausers) during the time it
took for the food to be brought (by a German waiter),
all appetite was gone. It remained for the German scientists
to organise this into system. Have you finished? Or
would you like to take another look at your beef
We rose. Von Boobenstein paid the bill by writing I.O.U.
on the back of one of the cards—not forgetting the
waiter, for whom he wrote on a piece of paper, "God bless
you"—and we left.
"Count," I said, as we took our seat on a bench in the
Sieges-Allee, or Alley of Victory, and listened to the
music of the military band, and watched the crowd, "I
begin to see that Germany is unconquerable."
"Absolutely so," he answered.
"In the first place, your men are inexhaustible. If we
kill one class you call out another; and anyway one-half
of those we kill get well again, and the net result is
that you have more than ever."
"Precisely," said the Count.
"As to food," I continued, "you are absolutely invulnerable.
What with acorns, thistles, tanbark, glue, tickets,
coupons, and certificates, you can go on for ever."
"We can," he said.
"Then for money you use I.O.U.'s. Anybody with a lead
pencil can command all the funds he wants. Moreover, your
soldiers at the front are getting dug in deeper and
deeper: last spring they were fifty feet under ground:
by 1918 they will be nearly 200 feet down. Short of mining
for them, we shall never get them out."
"Never," said von Boobenstein with great firmness.
"But there is one thing that I don't quite understand.
Your navy, your ships. There, surely, we have you: sooner
or later that whole proud fleet in the Kiel Canal will
come out under fire of our guns and be sunk to the bottom
of the sea. There, at least, we conquer."
Von Boobenstein broke into loud laughter.
"The fleet!" he roared, and his voice was almost hysterical
and overstrung, as if high living on lobster-coupons and
over-smoking of Tannhausers was undermining his nerves.
"The fleet! Is it possible you do not know? Why all
Germany knows it. Capture our fleet! Ha! Ha! It now lies
fifty miles inland. We have filled in the canal—pushed
in the banks. The canal is solid land again, and the
fleet is high and dry. The ships are boarded over and
painted to look like German inns and breweries. Prinz
Adelbert is disguised as a brewer, Admiral von Tirpitz
is made up as a head waiter, Prince Heinrich is a bar
tender, the sailors are dressed up as chambermaids. And
some day when Jellicoe and his men are coaxed ashore,
they will drop in to drink a glass of beer, and then—pouf!
we will explode them all with a single torpedo! Such is
the naval strategy of our scientists! Are we not a nation
Von Boobenstein's manner had grown still wilder and more
hysterical. There was a queer glitter in his eyes.
I thought it better to soothe him.
"I see," I said, "the Allies are beaten. One might as
well spin a coin for heads or tails to see whether we
abandon England now or wait till you come and take it."
As I spoke, I took from my pocket an English sovereign
that I carry as a lucky-piece, and prepared to spin it
in the air.
Von Boobenstein, as he saw it, broke into a sort of hoarse
"Gold! gold!" he cried. "Give it to me!"
"What?" I exclaimed.
"A piece of gold," he panted. "Give it to me, give it to
me, quick. I know a place where we can buy bread with it.
Real bread—not tickets—food—give me the gold—gold—for
bread—we can get-bread. I am starving—gold—bread."
And as he spoke his hoarse voice seemed to grow louder
and louder in my ears; the sounds of the street were
hushed; a sudden darkness fell; and a wind swept among
the trees of the Alley of Victory—moaning—and a
thousand, a myriad voices seemed to my ear to take up
"Gold! Bread! We are starving."
Then I woke up.
XII. Abdul Aziz has His:
An Adventure in the Yildiz Kiosk
"Come, come, Abdul," I said, putting my hand, not unkindly,
on his shoulder, "tell me all about it."
But he only broke out into renewed sobbing.
"There, there," I continued soothingly. "Don't cry, Abdul.
Look! Here's a lovely narghileh for you to smoke, with
a gold mouthpiece. See! Wouldn't you like a little latakia,
eh? And here's a little toy Armenian—look! See his head
come off—snick! There, it's on again, snick! now it's
off! look, Abdul!"
But still he sobbed.
His fez had fallen over his ears and his face was all
smudged with tears.
It seemed impossible to stop him.
I looked about in vain from the little alcove of the hall
of the Yildiz Kiosk where we were sitting on a Persian
bench under a lemon-tree. There was no one in sight. I
hardly knew what to do.
In the Yildiz Kiosk—I think that was the name of the
place—I scarcely as yet knew my way about. In fact, I
had only been in it a few hours. I had come there—as I
should have explained in commencing—in order to try to
pick up information as to the exact condition of things
in Turkey. For this purpose I had assumed the character
and disguise of an English governess. I had long since
remarked that an English governess is able to go anywhere,
see everything, penetrate the interior of any royal palace
and move to and fro as she pleases without hindrance and
without insult. No barrier can stop her. Every royal
court, however splendid or however exclusive, is glad to
get her. She dines with the King or the Emperor as a
matter of course. All state secrets are freely confided
to her and all military plans are submitted to her
judgment. Then, after a few weeks' residence, she leaves
the court and writes a book of disclosures.
This was now my plan.
And, up to the moment of which I speak, it had worked
I had found my way through Turkey to the royal capital
without difficulty. The poke bonnet, the spectacles and
the long black dress which I had assumed had proved an
ample protection. None of the rude Turkish soldiers
among whom I had passed had offered to lay a hand on me.
This tribute I am compelled to pay to the splendid morality
of the Turks. They wouldn't touch me.
Access to the Yildiz Kiosk and to the Sultan had proved
equally easy. I had merely to obtain an interview with
Codfish Pasha, the Secretary of War, whom I found a
charming man of great intelligence, a master of three or
four languages (as he himself informed me), and able to
count up to seventeen.
"You wish," he said, "to be appointed as English, or
rather Canadian governess to the Sultan?"
"Yes," I answered.
"And your object?"
"I propose to write a book of disclosures."
"Excellent," said Codfish.
An hour later I found myself, as I have said, in a
flag-stoned hall of the Yildiz Kiosk, with the task of
amusing and entertaining the Sultan.
Of the difficulty of this task I had formed no conception.
Here I was at the outset, with the unhappy Abdul bent
and broken with sobs which I found no power to check or
Naturally, therefore, I found myself at a loss. The little
man as he sat on his cushions, in his queer costume and
his long slippers with his fez fallen over his
lemon-coloured face, presented such a pathetic object
that I could not find the heart to be stern with him.
"Come, now, Abdul," I said, "be good!"
He paused a moment in his crying—
"Why do you call me Abdul?" he asked. "That isn't my
"Isn't it?" I said. "I thought all you Sultans were called
Abdul. Isn't the Sultan's name always Abdul?"
"Mine isn't," he whimpered, "but it doesn't matter," and
his face began to crinkle up with renewed weeping. "Call
me anything you like. It doesn't matter. Anyway I'd rather
be called Abdul than be called a W-W-War Lord and a
G-G-General when they won't let me have any say at all—"
And with that the little Sultan burst into unrestrained
"Abdul," I said firmly, "if you don't stop crying, I'll
go and fetch one of the Bashi-Bazouks to take you away."
The little Sultan found his voice again.
"There aren't any Bub-Bub-Bashi-Bazouks left," he sobbed.
"None left?" I exclaimed. "Where are they gone?"
"They've t-t-taken them all aw-w-way—"
"The G-G-G-Germans," sobbed Abdul. "And they've sent them
all to P-P-P-Poland."
"Come, come, Abdul," I said, straightening him up a little
as he sat. "Brace up! Be a Turk! Be a Mohammedan! Don't
act like a Christian."
This seemed to touch his pride. He made a great effort
to be calm. I could hear him muttering to himself, "Allah,
Illallah, Mohammed rasoul Allah!" He said this over a
good many times, while I took advantage of the pause to
get his fez a little straighter and wipe his face.
"How many times have I said it?" he asked presently.
"Twenty? That ought to be enough, shouldn't it?" said
the Sultan, regaining himself a little. "Isn't prayer
helpful, eh? Give me a smoke?"
I filled his narghileh for him, and he began to suck blue
smoke out of it with a certain contentment, while the
rose water bubbled in the bowl below.
"Now, Abdul," I said, as I straightened up his cushions
and made him a little more comfortable, "what is it? What
is the matter?"
"Why," he answered, "they've all g-g-gone—"
"Now, don't cry! Tell me properly."
"They've all gone b-b-back on me! Boo-hoo!"
"Who have? Who've gone back on you?"
"Why, everybody. The English and the French and everybody—"
"What do you mean?" I asked with increasing interest.
"Tell me exactly what you mean. Whatever you say I will
hold sacred, of course."
I saw my part already to a volume of interesting
"They used to treat me so differently," Abdul went on,
and his sobbing ceased as he continued, "They used to
call me the Bully Boy of the Bosphorus. They said I was
the Guardian of the Golden Gate. They used to let me kill
all the Armenians I liked and nobody was allowed to
collect debts from me, and every now and then they used
to send me the nicest ultimatums—Oh, you don't know,"
he broke off, "how nice it used to be here in the Yildiz
in the old days! We used all to sit round here, in this
very hall, me and the diplomats, and play games, such as
'Ultimatum, ultimatum, who's got the ultimatum.' Oh, say,
it was so nice and peaceful! And we used to have big
dinners and conferences, especially after the military
manoeuvres and the autumn massacres—me and the diplomats,
all with stars and orders, and me in my white fez with
a copper tassel—and hold discussions about how to reform
"But you spoilt it all, Abdul," I protested.
"I didn't, I didn't!" he exclaimed almost angrily. "I'd
have gone on for ever. It was all so nice. They used to
present me—the diplomats did—with what they called
their Minimum, and then we (I mean Codfish Pasha and me)
had to draft in return our Maximum—see?—and then we
all had to get together again and frame a status quo."
"But that couldn't go on for ever," I urged.
"Why not?" said Abdul. "It was a great system. We invented
it, but everybody was beginning to copy it. In fact, we
were leading the world, before all this trouble came.
Didn't you have anything of our system in your country
—what do you call it—in Canada?"
"Yes," I admitted. "Now that I come to think of it, we
were getting into it. But the war has changed it all—"
"Exactly," said Abdul. "There you are! All changed! The
good old days gone for ever!"
"But surely," I said, "you still have friends—the
The Sultan's little black eyes flashed with anger as he
withdrew his pipe for a moment from his mouth.
"The low scoundrels!" he said between his teeth. "The
"Why, they're your Allies!"
"Yes, Allah destroy them! They are. They've come over to
our side. After centuries of fighting they refuse to
play fair any longer. They're on our side! Who ever
heard of such a thing? Bah! But, of course," he added
more quietly, "we shall massacre them just the same. We
shall insist, in the terms of peace, on retaining our
rights of massacre. But then, no doubt, all the nations
"But you have the Germans—" I began.
"Hush, hush," said Abdul, laying his hand on my arm.
"Some one might hear."
"You have the Germans," I repeated.
"The Germans," said Abdul, and his voice sounded in a
queer sing-song like that of a child repeating a lesson,
"are my noble friends, the Germans are my powerful allies,
the Kaiser is my good brother, the Reichstag is my
foster-sister. I love the Germans. I hate the English.
I love the Kaiser. The Kaiser loves me—"
"Stop, stop, Abdul," I said, "who taught you all that?"
Abdul looked cautiously around.
"They did," he said in a whisper. "There's a lot more
of it. Would you like me to recite some more? Or, no,
no, what's the good? I've no heart for reciting any
longer." And at this Abdul fell to weeping again.
"But, Abdul," I said, "I don't understand. Why are you
so distressed just now? All this has been going on for
over two years. Why are you so worried just now?"
"Oh," exclaimed the little Sultan in surprise, "you
haven't heard! I see—you've only just arrived. Why,
to-day is the last day. After to-day it is all over."
"Last day for what?" I asked.
"For intervention. For the intervention of the United
States. The only thing that can save us. It was to have
come to-day, by the end of this full moon—our astrologers
had predicted it—Smith Pasha, Minister under Heaven of
the United States, had promised, if it came, to send it
to us at the earliest moment. How do they send it, do
you know, in a box, or in paper?"
"Stop," I said as my ear caught the sound of footsteps.
"There's some one coming now."
The sound of slippered feet was distinctly heard on the
stones in the outer corridor.
Abdul listened intently a moment.
"I know his slippers," he said.
"Who is it?"
"It is my chief secretary, Toomuch Koffi. Yes, here he
As the Sultan spoke, the doors swung open and there
entered an aged Turk, in a flowing gown and coloured
turban, with a melancholy yellow face, and a long white
beard that swept to his girdle.
"Who do you say he is?" I whispered to Abdul.
"My chief secretary," he whispered back. "Toomuch Koffi."
"He looks like it," I murmured.
Meantime, Toomuch Koffi had advanced across the broad
flagstones of the hall where we were sitting. With hands
lifted he salaamed four times—east, west, north, and
"What does that mean?" I whispered.
"It means," said the Sultan, with visible agitation,
"that he has a communication of the greatest importance
and urgency, which will not brook a moment's delay."
"Well, then, why doesn't he get a move on?" I whispered.
"Hush," said Abdul.
Toomuch Koffi now straightened himself from his last
salaam and spoke.
"Allah is great!" he said.
"And Mohammed is his prophet," rejoined the Sultan.
"Allah protect you! And make your face shine," said
"Allah lengthen your beard," said the Sultan, and he
added aside to me in English, which Toomuch Koffi evidently
did not understand, "I'm all eagerness to know what it
is—it's something big, for sure." The little man was
quite quivering with excitement as he spoke. "Do you know
what I think it is? I think it must be the American
Intervention. The United States is going to intervene.
Eh? What? Don't you think so?"
"Then hurry him up," I urged.
"I can't," said Abdul. "It is impossible in Turkey to do
business like that. He must have some coffee first and
then he must pray and then there must be an interchange
I groaned, for I was getting as impatient as Abdul himself.
"Do you not do public business like that in Canada?" the
"We used to. But we have got over it," I said.
Meanwhile a slippered attendant had entered and placed
a cushion for the secretary, and in front of it a little
Persian stool on which he put a quaint cup filled with
coffee black as ink.
A similar cup was placed before the Sultan.
"Drink!" said Abdul.
"Not first, until the lips of the Commander of the
"He means 'after you,'" I said. "Hurry up, Abdul."
Abdul took a sip.
"Allah is good," he said.
"And all things are of Allah," rejoined Toomuch.
Abdul unpinned a glittering jewel from his robe and threw
it to the feet of Toomuch.
"Take this poor bauble," he said.
Toomuch Koffi in return took from his wrist a solid bangle
of beaten gold.
"Accept this mean gift from your humble servant," he said.
"Right!" said Abdul, speaking in a changed voice as the
ceremonies ended. "Now, then, Toomuch, what is it? Hurry
up. Be quick. What is the matter?"
Toomuch rose to his feet, lifted his hands high in the
air with the palms facing the Sultan.
"One is without," he said.
"Without what?" I asked eagerly of the Sultan.
"Without—outside. Don't you understand Turkish? What
you call in English—a gentleman to see me."
"And did he make all that fuss and delay over that?" I
asked in disgust. "Why with us in Canada, at one of the
public departments of Ottawa, all that one would have to
do would be simply to send in a card, get it certified,
then simply wait in an anteroom, simply read a newspaper,
send in another card, wait a little, then simply send in
a third card, and then simply—"
"Pshaw!" said Abdul. "The cards might be poisoned. Our
system is best. Speak on, Toomuch. Who is without? Is it
perchance a messenger from Smith Pasha, Minister under
Heaven of the United States?"
"Alas, no!" said Toomuch. "It is HE. It is THE LARGE ONE!"
As he spoke he rolled his eyes upward with a gesture of
"HE!" cried Abdul, and a look of terror convulsed his
face. "The Large One! Shut him out! Call the Chief Eunuch
and the Major Domo of the Harem! Let him not in!"
"Alas," said Toomuch, "he threw them out of the window.
Lo! he is here, he enters."
As the secretary spoke, a double door at the end of the
hall swung noisily open, at the blow of an imperious
fist, and with a rattle of arms and accoutrements a man
of gigantic stature, wearing full military uniform and
a spiked helmet, strode into the room.
As he entered, an attendant who accompanied him, also in
a uniform and a spiked helmet, called in a loud strident
voice that resounded to the arches of the hall:
"His High Excellenz Feld Marechal von der Doppelbauch,
Spezial Representant of His Majestat William II, Deutscher
Kaiser and King of England!"
Abdul collapsed into a little heap. His fez fell over
his face. Toomuch Koffi had slunk into a corner.
Von der Doppelbauch strode noisily forward and came to
a stand in front of Abdul with a click and rattle after
the Prussian fashion.
"Majestat," he said in a deep, thunderous voice, "I greet
you. I bow low before you. Salaam! I kiss the floor at
But in reality he did nothing of the sort. He stood to
the full height of his six feet six and glowered about him.
"Salaam!" said Abdul, in a feeble voice.
"But who is this?" added the Field-Marshal, looking
angrily at me.
My costume, or rather my disguise, for, as I have said,
I was wearing a poke bonnet with a plain black dress,
seemed to puzzle him.
"My new governess," said Abdul. "She came this morning.
She is a professor—"
"Bah!" said the Field-Marshal, "a woman a professor! Bah!"
"No, no," said Abdul in protest, and it seemed decent of
the little creature to stick up for me. "She's all right,
she is interesting and knows a great deal. She's from
"What!" exclaimed Von der Doppelbauch. "From Canada!
But stop! It seems to me that Canada is a country that
we are at war with. Let me think, Canada? I must look at
my list"—he pulled out a little set of tablets as he
spoke—"let me see, Britain, Great Britain, British North
America, British Guiana, British Nigeria—ha! of course,
under K—Kandahar, Korfu. No, I don't seem to see it
—Fritz," he called to the aide-de-camp who had announced
him, "telegraph at once to the Topographical Staff at
Berlin and find out if we are at war with Canada. If we
are"—he pointed at me—"throw her into the Bosphorus.
If we are not, treat her with every consideration, with
every distinguished consideration. But see that she
doesn't get away. Keep her tight, till we are at war
with Canada, as no doubt we shall be, wherever it is,
and then throw her into the Bosphorus."
The aide clicked his heels and withdrew.
"And now, your majesty," continued the Field-Marshal,
turning abruptly to the Sultan, "I bring you good news."
"More good news," groaned Abdul miserably, winding his
clasped fingers to and fro. "Alas, good news again!"
"First," said Von der Doppelbauch, "the Kaiser has raised
you to the order of the Black Dock. Here is your feather."
"Another feather," moaned Abdul. "Here, Toomuch, take it
and put it among the feathers!"
"Secondly," went on the Field-Marshal, checking off his
items as he spoke, "your contribution, your personal
contribution to His Majesty's Twenty-third Imperial Loan,
"I didn't make any!" sobbed Abdul.
"No difference," said Von der Doppelbauch. "It is accepted
anyway. The telegram has just arrived accepting all your
money. My assistants are packing it up outside."
Abdul collapsed still further into his cushions.
"Third, and this will rejoice your Majesty's heart: Your
troops are again victorious!"
"Victorious!" moaned Abdul. "Victorious again! I knew
they would be! I suppose they are all dead as usual?"
"They are," said the Marshal. "Their souls," he added
reverently, with a military salute, "are in Heaven!"
"No, no," gasped Abdul, "not in Heaven! don't say that!
Not in Heaven! Say that they are in Nishvana, our Turkish
"I am sorry," said the Field-Marshal gravely. "This is
a Christian war. The Kaiser has insisted on their going
The Sultan bowed his head.
"Ishmillah!" he murmured. "It is the will of Allah."
"But they did not die without glory," went on the
Field-Marshal. "Their victory was complete. Set it out
to yourself," and here his eyes glittered with soldierly
passion. "There stood your troops—ten thousand! In front
of them the Russians—a hundred thousand. What did your
men do? Did they pause? No, they charged!"
"They charged!" cried the Sultan in misery. "Don't say
that! Have they charged again! Just Allah!" he added,
turning to Toomuch. "They have charged again! And we must
pay, we shall have to pay—we always do when they charge.
Alas, alas, they have charged again. Everything is
"But how nobly," rejoined the Prussian. "Imagine it to
yourself! Here, beside this stool, let us say, were your
men. There, across the cushion, were the Russians. All
the ground between was mined. We knew it. Our soldiers
knew it. Even our staff knew it. Even Prinz Tattelwitz
Halfstuff, our commander, knew it. But your soldiers did
not. What did our Prinz do? The Prinz called for volunteers
to charge over the ground. There was a great shout—from
our men, our German regiments. He called again. There
was another shout. He called still again. There was a
third shout. Think of it! And again Prinz Halfstuff called
and again they shouted."
"Who shouted?" asked the Sultan gloomily.
"Our men, our Germans."
"Did my Turks shout?" asked Abdul.
"They did not. They were too busy tightening their belts
and fixing their bayonets. But our generous fellows
shouted for them. Then Prinz Halfstuff called out, 'The
place of honour is for our Turkish brothers. Let them
charge!' And all our men shouted again."
"And they charged?"
"They did—and were all gloriously blown up. A magnificent
victory. The blowing up of the mines blocked all the
ground, checked the Russians and enabled our men, by a
prearranged rush, to advance backwards, taking up a new
"Yes, yes," said Abdul, "I know—I have read of it, alas,
only too often! And they are dead! Toomuch," he added
quietly, drawing a little pouch from his girdle, "take
this pouch of rubies and give them to the wives of the
dead general of our division—one to each. He had, I
think, but seventeen. His walk was quiet. Allah give him
"Stop," said Von der Doppelbauch. "I will take the rubies.
I myself will charge myself with the task and will myself
see that I do it myself. Give me them."
"Be it so, Toomuch," assented the Sultan humbly. "Give
them to him."
"And now," continued the Field-Marshal, "there is yet
one other thing further still more." He drew a roll of
paper from his pocket. "Toomuch," he said, "bring me
yonder little table, with ink, quills and sand. I have
here a manifesto for His Majesty to sign."
"No, no," cried Abdul in renewed alarm. "Not another
manifesto. Not that! I signed one only last week."
"This is a new one," said the Field-Marshal, as he lifted
the table that Toomuch had brought into place in front
of the Sultan, and spread out the papers on it. "This is
a better one. This is the best one yet."
"What does it say?" said Abdul, peering at it miserably,
"I can't read it. It's not in Turkish."
"It is your last word of proud defiance to all your
enemies," said the Marshal.
"No, no," whined Abdul. "Not defiance; they might not
"Here you declare," went on the Field-Marshal, with his
big finger on the text, "your irrevocable purpose. You
swear that rather than submit you will hurl yourself into
"Where does it say that?" screamed Abdul.
"Here beside my thumb."
"I can't do it, I can't do it," moaned the little Sultan.
"More than that further," went on the Prussian quite
undisturbed, "you state hereby your fixed resolve, rather
than give in, to cast yourself from the highest pinnacle
of the topmost minaret of this palace."
"Oh, not the highest; don't make it the highest," moaned
"Your purpose is fixed. Nothing can alter it. Unless the
Allied Powers withdraw from their advance on Constantinople
you swear that within one hour you will fill your mouth
with mud and burn yourself alive."
"Just Allah!" cried the Sultan. "Does it say all that?"
"All that," said Von der Doppelbauch. "All that within
an hour. It is a splendid defiance. The Kaiser himself
has seen it and admired it. 'These,' he said, 'are the
words of a man!'"
"Did he say that?" said Abdul, evidently flattered. "And
is he too about to hurl himself off his minaret?"
"For the moment, no," replied Von der Doppelbauch sternly.
"Well, well," said Abdul, and to my surprise he began
picking up the pen and making ready. "I suppose if I must
sign it, I must." Then he marked the paper and sprinkled
it with sand. "For one hour? Well, well," he murmured.
"Von der Doppelbauch Pasha," he added with dignity, "you
are permitted to withdraw. Commend me to your Imperial
Master, my brother. Tell him that, when I am gone, he
may have Constantinople, provided only"—and a certain
slyness appeared in the Sultan's eye—"that he can get
The Field-Marshal, majestic as ever, gathered up the
manifesto, clicked his heels together and withdrew.
As the door closed behind him, I had expected the little
Sultan to fall into hopeless collapse.
Not at all. On the contrary, a look of peculiar cheerfulness
spread over his features.
He refilled his narghileh and began quietly smoking at it.
"Toomuch," he said, quite cheerfully, "I see there is no
"Alas!" said the secretary.
"I have now," went on the Sultan, "apparently but sixty
minutes in front of me. I had hoped that the intervention
of the United States might have saved me. It has not.
Instead of it, I meet my fate. Well, well, it is Kismet.
I bow to it."
He smoked away quite cheerfully.
Presently he paused.
"Toomuch," he said, "kindly go and fetch me a sharp
knife, double-edged if possible, but sharp, and a stout
Up to this time I had remained a mere spectator of what
had happened. But now I feared that I was on the brink
of witnessing an awful tragedy.
"Good heavens, Abdul," I said, "what are you going to do?"
"Do? Why kill myself, of course," the Sultan answered,
pausing for a moment in an interval of his cheerful
smoking. "What else should I do? What else is there to
do? I shall first stab myself in the stomach and then
throttle myself with the bowstring. In half an hour I
shall be in paradise. Toomuch, summon hither from the
inner harem Fatima and Falloola; they shall sit beside
me and sing to me at the last hour, for I love them well,
and later they too shall voyage with me to paradise. See
to it that they are both thrown a little later into the
Bosphorus, for my heart yearns towards the two of them,"
and he added thoughtfully, "especially perhaps towards
Fatima, but I have never quite made up my mind."
The Sultan sat back with a little gurgle of contentment,
the rose water bubbling soothingly in the bowl of his pipe.
Then he turned to his secretary again.
"Toomuch," he said, "you will at the same time send a
bowstring to Codfish Pasha, my Chief of War. It is our
sign, you know," he added in explanation to me—"it gives
Codfish leave to kill himself. And, Toomuch, send a
bowstring also to Beefhash Pasha, my Vizier—good fellow,
he will expect it—and to Macpherson Effendi, my financial
adviser. Let them all have bowstrings."
"Stop, stop," I pleaded. "I don't understand."
"Why surely," said the little man, in evident astonishment,
"it is plain enough. What would you do in Canada? When
your ministers—as I think you call them—fail and no
longer enjoy your support, do you not send them bowstrings?"
"Never," I said. "They go out of office, but—"
"And they do not disembowel themselves on their retirement?
Have they not that privilege?"
"Never!" I said. "What an idea!"
"The ways of the infidel." said the little Sultan, calmly
resuming his pipe, "are beyond the compass of the true
intelligence of the Faithful. Yet I thought it was so
even as here. I had read in your newspapers that after
your last election your ministers were buried alive—buried
under a landslide, was it not? We thought it—here in
Turkey—a noble fate for them."
"They crawled out," I said.
"Ishmillah!" ejaculated Abdul. "But go, Toomuch. And
listen, thou also—for in spite of all thou hast served
me well—shalt have a bowstring."
"Oh, master, master," cried Toomuch, falling on his knees
in gratitude and clutching the sole of Abdul's slipper.
"It is too kind!"
"Nay, nay," said the Sultan. "Thou hast deserved it. And
I will go further. This stranger, too, my governess, this
professor, bring also for the professor a bowstring, and
a two-bladed knife! All Canada shall rejoice to hear of
it. The students shall leap up like young lambs at the
honour that will be done. Bring the knife, Toomuch; bring
"Abdul," I said, "Abdul, this is too much. I refuse. I
am not fit. The honour is too great."
"Not so," said Abdul. "I am still Sultan. I insist upon
it. For, listen, I have long penetrated your disguise
and your kind design. I saw it from the first. You knew
all and came to die with me. It was kindly meant. But
you shall die no common death; yours shall be the honour
of the double knife—let it be extra sharp, Toomuch—and
"Abdul," I urged, "it cannot be. You forget. I have an
appointment to be thrown into the Bosphorus."
"The death of a dog! Never!" cried Abdul. "My will is
still law. Toomuch, kill him on the spot. Hit him with
the stool, throw the coffee at him—"
But at this moment there were heard loud cries and shouting
as in tones of great gladness, in the outer hall of the
palace, doors swinging to and fro and the sound of many
running feet. One heard above all the call, "It has
come! It has come!"
The Sultan looked up quickly.
"Toomuch," he said eagerly and anxiously, "quick, see
what it is. Hurry! hurry! Haste! Do not stay on ceremony.
Drink a cup of coffee, give me five cents—fifty cents,
anything—and take leave and see what it is."
But before Toomuch could reply, a turbaned attendant had
already burst in through the door unannounced and thrown
himself at Abdul's feet.
"Master! Master!" he cried. "It is here. It has come."
As he spoke he held out in one hand a huge envelope,
heavy with seals. I could detect in great letters stamped
across it the words, WASHINGTON and OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
Abdul seized and opened the envelope with trembling hands.
"It is it!" he cried. "It is sent by Smith Pasha, Minister
under the Peace of Heaven of the United States. It is
the Intervention. I am saved."
Then there was silence among us, breathless and anxious.
Abdul glanced down the missive, reading it in silence to
"Oh noble," he murmured. "Oh generous! It is too much.
Too splendid a lot!"
"What does it say?"
"Look," said the Sultan. "The United States has used its
good offices. It has intervened! All is settled. My fate
"Yes, yes," I said, "but what is it?"
"Is it believable?" exclaimed Abdul. "It appears that
none of the belligerents cared about me at all. None
had designs upon me. The war was not made, as we
understood, Toomuch, as an attempt to seize my person.
All they wanted was Constantinople. Not me at all!"
"Powerful Allah!" murmured Toomuch. "Why was it not so
"For me," said the Sultan, still consulting the letter,
"great honours are prepared! I am to leave Constantinople
—that is the sole condition. It shall then belong to
whoever can get it. Nothing could be fairer. It always
has. I am to have a safe conduct—is it not noble?—to
the United States. No one is to attempt to poison me—is
it not generosity itself?—neither on land nor even—mark
this especially, Toomuch—on board ship. Nor is anyone
to throw me overboard or otherwise transport me to
"It passes belief!" murmured Toomuch Koffi. "Allah is
"In the United States itself," went on Abdul, "or, I
should say, themselves, Toomuch, for are they not
innumerable? I am to have a position of the highest trust,
power and responsibility."
"Is it really possible?" I said, greatly surprised.
"It is so written," said the Sultan. "I am to be placed
at the head, as the sole head or sovereign of—how is it
written?—a Turkish Bath Establishment in New York.
There I am to enjoy the same freedom and to exercise just
as much—it is so written—exactly as much political
power as I do here. Is it not glorious?"
"Allah! Illallah!" cried the secretary.
"You, Toomuch, shall come with me, for there is a post
of great importance placed at my disposal—so it is
written—under the title of Rubber Down. Toomuch, let
our preparations be made at once. Notify Fatima and
Falloola. Those two alone shall go, for it is a Christian
country and I bow to its prejudices. Two, I understand,
is the limit. But we must leave at once."
The Sultan paused a moment and then looked at me.
"And our good friend here," he added, "we must leave to
get out of this Yildiz Kiosk by whatsoever magic means
he came into it."
Which I did.
And I am assured, by those who know, that the intervention
was made good and that Abdul and Toomuch may be seen to
this day, or to any other day, moving to and fro in their
slippers and turbans in their Turkish Bath Emporium at
the corner of Broadway and—
But stop; that would be saying too much, especially as
Fatima and Falloola occupy the upstairs.
And it is said that Abdul has developed a very special
talent for heating up the temperature for his Christian
Moreover, it is the general opinion that, whether or not
the Kaiser and such people will get their deserts, Abdul
Aziz has his.
XIII. In Merry Mexico
I stood upon the platform of the little deserted railway
station of the frontier and looked around at the wide
prospect. "So this," I said to myself, "is Mexico!"
About me was the great plain rolling away to the Sierras
in the background. The railroad track traversed it in a
thin line. There were no trees—only here and there a
clump of cactus or chaparral, a tuft of dog-grass or a
few patches of dogwood. At intervals in the distance one
could see a hacienda standing in majestic solitude in a
cup of the hills. In the blue sky floated little banderillos
of white cloud, while a graceful hidalgo appeared poised
on a crag on one leg with folded wings, or floated lazily
in the sky on one wing with folded legs.
There was a drowsy buzzing of cicadas half asleep in the
cactus cups, and, from some hidden depth of the hills
far in the distance, the tinkling of a mule bell.
I had seen it all so often in moving pictures that I
recognised the scene at once.
"So this is Mexico?" I repeated.
The station building beside me was little more than a
wooden shack. Its door was closed. There was a sort of
ticket wicket opening at the side, but it too was closed.
But as I spoke thus aloud, the wicket opened. There
appeared in it the head and shoulders of a little wizened
man, swarthy and with bright eyes and pearly teeth.
He wore a black velvet suit with yellow facings, and a
tall straw hat running to a point. I seemed to have seen
him a hundred times in comic opera.
"Can you tell me when the next train—?" I began.
The little man made a gesture of Spanish politeness.
"Welcome to Mexico!" he said.
"Could you tell me—?" I continued.
"Welcome to our sunny Mexico!" he repeated—"our beautiful,
glorious Mexico. Her heart throbs at the sight of you."
"Would you mind—?" I began again.
"Our beautiful Mexico, torn and distracted as she is,
greets you. In the name of the de facto government,
thrice welcome. Su casa!" he added with a graceful
gesture indicating the interior of his little shack.
"Come in and smoke cigarettes and sleep. Su casa! You
are capable of Spanish, is it not?"
"No," I said, "it is not. But I wanted to know when the
next train for the interior—"
"Ah!" he rejoined more briskly. "You address me as a
servant of the de facto government. Momentino! One
He shut the wicket and was gone a long time. I thought
he had fallen asleep.
But he reappeared. He had a bundle of what looked like
railway time tables, very ancient and worn, in his hand.
"Did you say," he questioned, "the _in_terior or the
"The interior, please."
"Ah, good, excellent—for the interior." The little
Mexican retreated into his shack and I could hear him
murmuring, "For the interior, excellent," as he moved to
Presently he reappeared, a look of deep sorrow on his
"Alas," he said, shrugging his shoulders, "I am desolado!
It has gone! The next train has gone!"
"Alas, who can tell? Yesterday, last month? But it has
"And when will there be another one?" I asked.
"Ha!" he said, resuming a brisk official manner. "I
understand. Having missed the next, you propose to take
another one. Excellent! What business enterprise you
foreigners have! You miss your train! What do you do? Do
you abandon your journey? No. Do you sit down—do you
weep? No. Do you lose time? You do not."
"Excuse me," I said, "but when is there another train?"
"That must depend," said the little official, and as he
spoke he emerged from his house and stood beside me on
the platform fumbling among his railway guides. "The
first question is, do you propose to take a de facto
train or a de jure train?"
"When do they go?" I asked.
"There is a de jure train," continued the stationmaster,
peering into his papers, "at two p.m. A very good
train—sleepers and diners—one at four, a through
train—sleepers, observation car, dining car, corridor
compartments—that also is a de jure train—"
"But what is the difference between the de jure and
the de facto?"
"It's a distinction we generally make in Mexico. The de
jure trains are those that ought to go; that is, in
theory, they go. The de facto trains are those that
actually do go. It is a distinction clearly established
in our correspondence with Huedro Huilson."
"Do you mean Woodrow Wilson?"
"Yes, Huedro Huilson, president—de jure—of the United
"Oh," I said. "Now I understand. And when will there be
a de facto train?"
"At any moment you like," said the little official with
"But I don't see—"
"Pardon me, I have one here behind the shed on that side
track. Excuse me one moment and I will bring it."
He disappeared and I presently saw him energetically
pushing out from behind the shed a little railroad lorry
or hand truck.
"Now then," he said as he shoved his little car on to
the main track, "this is the train. Seat yourself. I
myself will take you."
"And how much shall I pay? What is the fare to the
interior?" I questioned.
The little man waved the idea aside with a polite gesture.
"The fare," he said, "let us not speak of it. Let us
forget it How much money have you?"
"I have here," I said, taking out a roll of bills, "fifty
"And that is all you have?"
"Then let that be your fare! Why should I ask more?
Were I an American, I might; but in our Mexico, no. What
you have we take; beyond that we ask nothing. Let us
forget it. Good! And, now, would you prefer to travel
first, second, or third class?"
"First class please," I said.
"Very good. Let it be so." Here the little man took from
his pocket a red label marked FIRST CLASS and tied it on
the edge of the hand car. "It is more comfortable," he
said. "Now seat yourself, seize hold of these two handles
in front of you. Move them back and forward, thus. Beyond
that you need do nothing. The working of the car, other
than the mere shoving of the handles, shall be my task.
Consider yourself, in fact, senor, as my guest."
We took our places. I applied myself, as directed, to
the handles and the little car moved forward across the
"A glorious prospect," I said, as I gazed at the broad
"Magnifico! Is it not?" said my companion. "Alas, my
poor Mexico! She want nothing but water to make her the
most fertile country of the globe! Water and soil, those
only, and she would excel all others. Give her but water,
soil, light, heat, capital and labour, and what could
she not be! And what do we see? Distraction, revolution,
destruction—pardon me, will you please stop the car a
moment? I wish to tear up a little of the track behind us."
I did as directed. My companion descended, and with a
little bar that he took from beneath the car unloosed a
few of the rails of the light track and laid them beside
"It is our custom," he explained, as he climbed on board
again. "We Mexicans, when we move to and fro, always
tear up the track behind us. But what was I saying? Ah,
yes—destruction, desolation, alas, our Mexico!"
He looked sadly up at the sky.
"You speak," I said, "like a patriot. May I ask your
"My name is Raymon," he answered, with a bow, "Raymon
Domenico y Miraflores de las Gracias."
"And may I call you simply Raymon?"
"I shall be delirious with pleasure if you will do so,"
he answered, "and dare I ask you, in return, your business
in our beautiful country?"
The car, as we were speaking, had entered upon a long
gentle down-grade across the plain, so that it ran without
great effort on my part.
"Certainly," I said. "I'm going into the interior to see
At the shock of the name, Raymon nearly fell off the car.
"Villa! General Francesco Villa! It is not possible!"
The little man was shivering with evident fear.
"See him! See Villa! Not possible. Let me show you a
picture of him instead? But approach him—it is not
possible. He shoots everybody at sight!"
"That's all right," I said. "I have a written safe conduct
that protects me."
"Here," I said, "look at them—I have two."
Raymon took the documents I gave him and read aloud:
"'The bearer is on an important mission connected with
American rights in Mexico. If anyone shoots him he will
be held to a strict accountability. W. W.' Ah! Excellent!
He will be compelled to send in an itemised account.
Excellent! And this other, let me see. 'If anybody
interferes with the bearer, I will knock his face in. T.
R.' Admirable. This is, if anything, better than the
other for use in our country. It appeals to our quick
Mexican natures. It is, as we say, simpatico. It touches
"It is meant to," I said.
"And may I ask," said Raymon, "the nature of your business
"We are old friends," I answered. "I used to know him
years ago when he kept a Mexican cigar store in Buffalo.
It occurred to me that I might be able to help the cause
of peaceful intervention. I have already had a certain
experience in Turkey. I am commissioned to make General
Villa an offer."
"I see," said Raymon. "In that case, if we are to find
Villa let us make all haste forward. And first we must
direct ourselves yonder"—he pointed in a vague way
towards the mountains—"where we must presently leave
our car and go on foot, to the camp of General Carranza."
"Carranza!" I exclaimed. "But he is fighting Villa!"
"Exactly. It is possible—not certain—but possible,
that he knows where Villa is. In our Mexico when two of
our generalistas are fighting in the mountains, they keep
coming across one another. It is hard to avoid it."
"Good," I said. "Let us go forward."
It was two days later that we reached Carranza's camp in
We found him just at dusk seated at a little table beneath
His followers were all about, picketing their horses and
The General, buried in a book before him, noticed neither
the movements of his own men nor our approach.
I must say that I was surprised beyond measure at his
The popular idea of General Carranza as a rude bandit
chief is entirely erroneous.
I saw before me a quiet, scholarly-looking man, bearing
every mark of culture and refinement. His head was bowed
over the book in front of him, which I noticed with
astonishment and admiration was Todhunter's Algebra.
Close at his hand I observed a work on Decimal Fractions,
while, from time to time, I saw the General lift his eyes
and glance keenly at a multiplication table that hung on
a bough beside him.
"You must wait a few moments," said an aide-de-camp, who
stood beside us. "The General is at work on a simultaneous
"Is it possible?" I said in astonishment.
The aide-de-camp smiled.
"Soldiering to-day, my dear Senor," he said, "is an exact
science. On this equation will depend our entire food
supply for the next week."
"When will he get it done?" I asked anxiously.
"Simultaneously," said the aide-de-camp.
The General looked up at this moment and saw us.
"Well?" he asked.
"Your Excellency," said the aide-de-camp, "there is a
stranger here on a visit of investigation to Mexico."
"Shoot him!" said the General, and turned quickly to his
The aide-de-camp saluted.
"When?" he asked.
"As soon as he likes," said the General.
"You are fortunate, indeed," said the aide-de-camp, in
a tone of animation, as he led me away, still accompanied
by Raymon. "You might have been kept waiting round for
days. Let us get ready at once. You would like to be
shot, would you not, smoking a cigarette, and standing
beside your grave? Luckily, we have one ready. Now, if
you will wait a moment, I will bring the photographer
and his machine. There is still light enough, I think.
What would you like it called? The Fate of a Spy? That's
good, isn't it? Our syndicate can always work up that
into a two-reel film. All the rest of it—the camp, the
mountains, the general, the funeral and so on—we can do
to-morrow without you."
He was all eagerness as he spoke.
"One moment," I interrupted. "I am sure there is some
mistake. I only wished to present certain papers and
get a safe conduct from the General to go and see Villa."
The aide-de-camp stopped abruptly.
"Ah!" he said. "You are not here for a picture. A thousand
pardons. Give me your papers. One moment—I will return
to the General and explain."
He vanished, and Raymon and I waited in the growing dusk.
"No doubt the General supposed," explained Raymon, as he
lighted a cigarette, "that you were here for las machinas,
the moving pictures."
In a few minutes the aide-de-camp returned.
"Come," he said, "the General will see you now."
We returned to where we had left Carranza.
The General rose to meet me with outstretched hand and
with a gesture of simple cordiality.
"You must pardon my error," he said.
"Not at all," I said.
"It appears you do not desire to be shot."
"Not at present."
"Later, perhaps," said the General. "On your return, no
doubt, provided," he added with grave courtesy that sat
well on him, "that you do return. My aide-de-camp shall
make a note of it. But at present you wish to be guided
to Francesco Villa?"
"If it is possible."
"Quite easy. He is at present near here, in fact much
nearer than he has any right to be." The General frowned.
"We found this spot first. The light is excellent and
the mountains, as you have seen, are wonderful for our
pictures. This is, by every rule of decency, our scenery.
Villa has no right to it. This is our Revolution"—the
General spoke with rising animation—"not his. When you
see the fellow, tell him from me—or tell his manager—that
he must either move his revolution further away or, by
heaven, I'll—I'll use force against him. But stop," he
checked himself. "You wish to see Villa. Good. You have
only to follow the straight track over the mountain there.
He is just beyond, at the little village in the hollow,
El Corazon de las Quertas."
The General shook hands and seated himself again at his
work. The interview was at an end. We withdrew.
The next morning we followed without difficulty the path
indicated. A few hours' walk over the mountain pass
brought us to a little straggling village of adobe houses,
sleeping drowsily in the sun.
There were but few signs of life in its one street—a
mule here and there tethered in the sun, and one or two
Mexicans drowsily smoking in the shade.
One building only, evidently newly made, and of lumber,
had a decidedly American appearance. Its doorway bore
the sign GENERAL OFFICES OF THE COMPANY, and under it
the notice KEEP OUT, while on one of its windows was
painted GENERAL MANAGER and below it the legend NO
ADMISSION, and on the other, SECRETARY'S OFFICE: GO AWAY.
We therefore entered at once.
"General Francesco Villa?" said a clerk, evidently
American. "Yes, he's here all right. At least, this is
"And where is the General?" I asked.
The clerk turned to an assistant at a desk in a corner
of the room.
"Where's Frank working this morning?" he asked.
"Over down in the gulch," said the other, turning round
for a moment. "There's an attack on American cavalry this
"Oh, yes, I forgot," said the chief clerk. "I thought it
was the Indian Massacre, but I guess that's for to-morrow.
Go straight to the end of the street and turn left about
half a mile and you'll find the boys down there."
We thanked him and withdrew.
We passed across the open plaza, and went down a narrow
side road, bordered here and there with adobe houses,
and so out into the open country. Here the hills rose
again and the road that we followed wound sharply round
a turn into a deep gorge, bordered with rocks and sage
brush. We had no sooner turned the curve of the road than
we came upon a scene of great activity. Men in Mexican
costume were running to and fro apparently arranging a
sort of barricade at the side of the road. Others seemed
to be climbing the rocks on the further side of the gorge,
as if seeking points of advantage. I noticed that all
were armed with rifles and machetes and presented a
formidable appearance. Of Villa himself I could see
nothing. But there was a grim reality about the glittering
knives, the rifles and the maxim guns that I saw concealed
in the sage brush beside the road.
"What is it?" I asked of a man who was standing idle,
watching the scene from the same side of the road as
"Attack of American cavalry," he said nonchalantly.
"Here!" I gasped.
"Yep, in about ten minutes: soon as they are ready."
"It's him they're attacking. They chase him here, see!
This is an ambush. Villa rounds on them right here, and
they fight to a finish!"
"Great heavens!" I exclaimed. "How do you know that?"
"Know it? Why because I seen it. Ain't they been trying
it out for three days? Why, I'd be in it myself only I'm
off work. Got a sore toe yesterday—horse stepped on it."
All this was, of course, quite unintelligible to me.
"But it's right here where they're going to fight?" I
"Sure," said the American, as he moved carelessly aside,
"as soon as the boss gets it all ready."
I noticed for the first time a heavy-looking man in an
American tweed suit and a white plug hat, moving to and
fro and calling out directions with an air of authority.
"Here!" he shouted, "what in h—l are you doing with that
machine gun? You've got it clean out of focus. Here,
Jose, come in closer—that's right. Steady there now,
and don't forget, at the second whistle you and Pete are
dead. Here, you, Pete, how in thunder do you think you
can die there? You're all out of the picture and hidden
by that there sage brush. That's no place to die. And,
boys, remember one thing, now, die slow. Ed"—he turned
and called apparently to some one invisible behind the
rocks—"when them two boys is killed, turn her round on
them, slew her round good and get them centre focus. Now
then, are you all set? Ready?"
At this moment the speaker turned and saw Raymon and
"Here, youse," he shouted, "get further back, you're in
the picture. Or, say, no, stay right where you are.
You," he said, pointing to me, "stay right where you are
and I'll give you a dollar to just hold that horror; you
understand, just keep on registering it. Don't do another
thing, just register that face."
His words were meaningless to me. I had never known before
that it was possible to make money by merely registering
"No, no," cried out Raymon, "my friend here is not wanting
work. He has a message, a message of great importance
for General Villa."
"Well," called back the boss, "he'll have to wait. We
can't stop now. All ready, boys? One—two—now!"
And with that he put a whistle to his lips and blew a
long shrill blast.
Then in a moment the whole scene was transformed. Rifle
shots rang out from every crag and bush that bordered
A wild scamper of horses' hoofs was heard and in a moment
there came tearing down the road a whole troop of mounted
Mexicans, evidently in flight, for they turned and fired
from their saddles as they rode. The horses that carried
them were wild with excitement and flecked with foam.
The Mexican cavalry men shouted and yelled, brandishing
their machetes and firing their revolvers. Here and there
a horse and rider fell to the ground in a great whirl of
sand and dust. In the thick of the press, a leader of
ferocious aspect, mounted upon a gigantic black horse,
waved his sombrero about his head.
"Villa—it is Villa!" cried Raymon, tense with excitement.
"Is he not magnifico? But look! Look—the Americanos!
They are coming!"
It was a glorious sight to see them as they rode madly
on the heels of the Mexicans—a whole company of American
cavalry, their horses shoulder to shoulder, the men bent
low in their saddles, their carbines gripped in their
hands. They rode in squadrons and in line, not like the
shouting, confused mass of the Mexicans—but steady,
On the right flank in front a grey-haired officer steadied
the charging line. The excitement of it was maddening.
"Go to it," I shouted in uncontrollable emotion. "Your
Mexicans are licked, Raymon, they're no good!"
"But look!" said Raymon. "See—the ambush, the ambuscada!"
For as they reached the centre of the gorge in front of
us the Mexicans suddenly checked their horses, bringing
them plunging on their haunches in the dust, and then
swung round upon their pursuers, while from every crag
and bush at the side of the gorge the concealed riflemen
sprang into view—and the sputtering of the machine guns
swept the advancing column with a volley.
We could see the American line checked as with the buffet
of a great wave, men and horses rolling in the road.
Through the smoke one saw the grey-haired leader
—dismounted, his uniform torn, his hat gone, but still
brandishing his sword and calling his orders to his men,
his face as one caught in a flash of sunlight, steady
and fearless. His words I could not hear, but one saw
the American cavalry, still unbroken, dismount, throw
themselves behind their horses, and fire with steady aim
into the mass of the Mexicans. We could see the Mexicans
in front of where we stood falling thick and fast, in
little huddled bundles of colour, kicking the sand. The
man Pete had gone down right in the foreground and was
breathing out his soul before our eyes.
"Well done," I shouted. "Go to it, boys! You can lick
'em yet! Hurrah for the United States. Look, Raymon,
look! They've shot down the crew of the machine guns.
See, see, the Mexicans are turning to run. At 'em, boys!
They're waving the American flag! There it is in all the
thick of the smoke! Hark! There's the bugle call to
mount again! They're going to charge again! Here they
As the American cavalry came tearing forward, the Mexicans
leaped from their places with gestures of mingled rage
and terror as if about to break and run.
The battle, had it continued, could have but one end.
But at this moment we heard from the town behind us the
long sustained note of a steam whistle blowing the hour
In an instant the firing ceased.
The battle stopped. The Mexicans picked themselves up
off the ground and began brushing off the dust from their
black velvet jackets. The American cavalry reined in
their horses. Dead Pete came to life. General Villa and
the American leader and a number of others strolled over
towards the boss, who stood beside the fence vociferating
"That won't do!" he was shouting. "That won't do! Where
in blazes was that infernal Sister of Mercy? Miss
Jenkinson!" and he called to a tall girl, whom I now
noticed for the first time among the crowd, wearing a
sort of khaki costume and a short skirt and carrying a
water bottle in a strap. "You never got into the picture
at all. I want you right in there among the horses, under
"Land sakes!" said the Sister of Mercy. "You ain't no
right to ask me to go in there among them horses and be
"Ain't you paid to be trampled?" said the manager
angrily. Then as he caught sight of Villa he broke off
and said: "Frank, you boys done fine. It's going to be
a good act, all right. But it ain't just got the right
amount of ginger in it yet. We'll try her over once
"Now, boys," he continued, calling out to the crowd with
a voice like a megaphone, "this afternoon at three-thirty
—Hospital scene. I only want the wounded, the doctors
and the Sisters of Mercy. All the rest of youse is free
till ten to-morrow—for the Indian Massacre. Everybody
up for that."
It was an hour or two later that I had my interview with
Villa in a back room of the little posada, or inn, of
the town. The General had removed his ferocious wig of
straight black hair, and substituted a check suit for
his warlike costume. He had washed the darker part of
the paint off his face—in fact, he looked once again
the same Frank Villa that I used to know when he kept
his Mexican cigar store in Buffalo.
"Well, Frank," I said, "I'm afraid I came down here under
"Looks like it," said the General, as he rolled a cigarette.
"And you wouldn't care to go back even for the offer that
I am commissioned to make—your old job back again, and
half the profits on a new cigar to be called the Francesco
The General shook his head.
"It sounds good, all right," he said, "but this
moving-picture business is better."
"I see," I said, "I hadn't understood. I thought there
really was a revolution here in Mexico."
"No," said Villa, shaking his head, "been no revolution
down here for years—not since Diaz. The picture companies
came in and took the whole thing over; they made us a
fair offer—so much a reel straight out, and a royalty,
and let us divide up the territory as we liked. The first
film we done was the bombardment of Vera Cruz. Say, that
was a dandy; did you see it?"
"No," I said.
"They had us all in that," he continued. "I done an
American Marine. Lots of people think it all real when
they see it."
"Why," I said, "nearly everybody does. Even the President—"
"Oh, I guess he knows," said Villa, "but, you see, there's
tons of money in it and it's good for business, and he's
too decent a man to give It away. Say, I heard the boy
saying there's a war in Europe. I wonder what company
got that up, eh? But I don't believe it'll draw. There
ain't the scenery for it that we have in Mexico."
"Alas!" murmured Raymon. "Our beautiful Mexico. To what
is she fallen! Needing only water, air, light and soil
to make her—"
"Come on, Raymon," I said, "let's go home."
XIV. Over the Grape Juice; or, The Peacemakers
MR. W. JENNINGS BRYAN.
DR. DAVID STARR JORDAN.
MR. NORMAN ANGELL.
A LADY PACIFIST.
A NEGRO PRESIDENT.
AN EMINENT DIVINE.
THE MAN ON THE STREET.
THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
And many others.
"War," said the Negro President of Haiti, "is a sad
spectacle. It shames our polite civilisation."
As he spoke, he looked about him at the assembled company
around the huge dinner table, glittering with cut glass
and white linen, and brilliant with hot-house flowers.
"A sad spectacle," he repeated, rolling his big eyes in
his black and yellow face that was melancholy with the
broken pathos of the African race.
The occasion was a notable one. It was the banquet of
the Peacemakers' Conference of 1917 and the company
gathered about the board was as notable as it was numerous.
At the head of the table the genial Mr. Jennings Bryan
presided as host, his broad countenance beaming with
amiability, and a tall flagon of grape juice standing
beside his hand. A little further down the table one saw
the benevolent head and placid physiognomy of Mr. Norman
Angell, bowed forward as if in deep calculation. Within
earshot of Mr. Bryan, but not listening to him, one
recognised without the slightest difficulty Dr. David
Starr Jordan, the distinguished ichthyologist and director
in chief of the World's Peace Foundation, while the bland
features of a gentleman from China, and the presence of
a yellow delegate from the Mosquito Coast, gave ample
evidence that the company had been gathered together
without reference to colour, race, religion, education,
or other prejudices whatsoever.
But it would be out of the question to indicate by name
the whole of the notable assemblage. Indeed, certain of
the guests, while carrying in their faces and attitudes
something strangely and elusively familiar, seemed in a
sense to be nameless, and to represent rather types and
abstractions than actual personalities. Such was the
case, for instance, with a female member of the company,
seated in a place of honour near the host, whose demure
garb and gentle countenance seemed to indicate her as a
Lady Pacifist, but denied all further identification.
The mild, ecclesiastical features of a second guest, so
entirely Christian in its expression as to be almost
devoid of expression altogether, marked him at once as
An Eminent Divine, but, while puzzlingly suggestive of
an actual and well-known person, seemed to elude exact
recognition. His accent, when he presently spoke, stamped
him as British and his garb was that of the Established
Church. Another guest appeared to answer to the general
designation of Capitalist or Philanthropist, and seemed
from his prehensile grasp upon his knife and fork to
typify the Money Power. In front of this guest, doubtless
with a view of indicating his extreme wealth and the
consideration in which he stood, was placed a floral
decoration representing a broken bank, with the figure
of a ruined depositor entwined among the debris.
Of these nameless guests, two individuals alone, from
the very significance of their appearance, from their
plain dress, unsuited to the occasion, and from the
puzzled expression of their faces, seemed out of harmony
with the galaxy of distinction which surrounded them.
They seemed to speak only to one another, and even that
somewhat after the fashion of an appreciative chorus to
what the rest of the company was saying; while the manner
in which they rubbed their hands together and hung upon
the words of the other speakers in humble expectancy
seemed to imply that they were present in the hope of
gathering rather than shedding light. To these two humble
and obsequious guests no attention whatever was paid,
though it was understood, by those who knew, that their
names were The General Public and the Man on the Street.
"A sad spectacle," said the Negro President, and he sighed
as he spoke. "One wonders if our civilisation, if our
moral standards themselves, are slipping from us." Then
half in reverie, or as if overcome by the melancholy of
his own thought, he lifted a spoon from the table and
slid it gently into the bosom of his faded uniform.
"Put back that spoon!" called The Lady Pacifist sharply.
"Pardon!" said the Negro President humbly, as he put it
back. The humiliation of generations of servitude was
in his voice.
"Come, come," exclaimed Mr. Jennings Bryan cheerfully,
"try a little more of the grape juice?"
"Does it intoxicate?" asked the President.
"Never," answered Mr. Bryan. "Rest assured of that. I
can guarantee it. The grape is picked in the dark. It is
then carried, still in the dark, to the testing room.
There every particle of alcohol is removed. Try it."
"Thank you," said the President. "I am no longer thirsty."
"Will anybody have some more of the grape juice?" asked
Mr. Bryan, running his eye along the ranks of the guests.
No one spoke.
"Will anybody have some more ground peanuts?"
No one moved.
"Or does anybody want any more of the shredded tan bark?
No? Or will somebody have another spoonful of sunflower
There was still no sign of assent.
"Very well, then," said Mr. Bryan, "the banquet, as such,
is over, and we now come to the more serious part of our
business. I need hardly tell you that we are here for
a serious purpose. We are here to do good. That I know
is enough to enlist the ardent sympathy of everybody
There was a murmur of assent.
"Personally," said The Lady Pacifist, "I do nothing else."
"Neither do I," said the guest who has been designated
The Philanthropist, "whether I am producing oil, or making
steel, or building motor-cars."
"Does he build motor-cars?" whispered the humble person
called The Man in the Street to his fellow, The General
"All great philanthropists do things like that," answered
his friend. "They do it as a social service so as to
benefit humanity; any money they make is just an accident.
They don't really care about it a bit. Listen to him.
He's going to say so."
"Indeed, our business itself," The Philanthropist continued,
while his face lighted up with unselfish enthusiasm, "our
"Hush, hush!" said Mr. Bryan gently. "We know—"
"Our business itself," persisted The Philanthropist, "is
one great piece of philanthropy."
Tears gathered in his eyes.
"Come, come," said Mr. Bryan firmly, "we must get to
business. Our friend here," he continued, turning to
the company at large and indicating the Negro President
on his right, "has come to us in great distress. His
beautiful island of Haiti is and has been for many years
overwhelmed in civil war. Now he learns that not only
Haiti, but also Europe is engulfed in conflict. He has
heard that we are making proposals for ending the war
—indeed, I may say are about to declare that the war in
Europe must stop—I think I am right, am I not, my
There was a general chorus of assent.
"Naturally then," continued Mr. Bryan, "our friend the
President of Haiti, who is overwhelmed with grief at what
has been happening in his island, has come to us for
help. That is correct, is it not?"
"That's it, gentlemen," said the Negro President, in a
voice of some emotion, wiping the sleeve of his faded
uniform across his eyes. "The situation is quite beyond
my control. In fact," he added, shaking his head
pathetically as he relapsed into more natural speech,
"dis hyah chile, gen'l'n, is clean done beat with it.
Dey ain't doin' nuffin' on the island but shootin',
burnin', and killin' somethin' awful. Lawd a massy! it's
just like a real civilised country, all right, now. Down
in our island we coloured people is feeling just as bad
as youse did when all them poor white folks was murdered
on the Lusitania!"
But the Negro President had no sooner used the words
"Murdered on the Lusitania," than a chorus of dissent
and disapproval broke out all down the table.
"My dear sir, my dear sir," protested Mr. Bryan, "pray
moderate your language a little, if you please. Murdered?
Oh, dear, dear me, how can we hope to advance the cause
of peace if you insist on using such terms?"
"Ain't it that? Wasn't it murder?" asked the President,
"We are all agreed here," said The Lady Pacifist, "that
it is far better to call it an incident. We speak of the
'Lusitania Incident,'" she added didactically, "just
as one speaks of the Arabic Incident, and the Cavell
Incident, and other episodes of the sort. It makes it so
much easier to forget."
"True, quite true," murmured The Eminent Divine, "and
then one must remember that there are always two sides
to everything. There are two sides to murder. We must
not let ourselves forget that there is always the murderer's
point of view to consider."
But by this time the Negro President was obviously confused
and out of his depth. The conversation had reached a
plane of civilisation which was beyond his reach.
The genial Mr. Bryan saw fit to come to his rescue.
"Never mind," said Mr. Bryan soothingly. "Our friends
here, will soon settle all your difficulties for you.
I'm going to ask them, one after the other, to advise
you. They will tell you the various means that they are
about to apply to stop the war in Europe, and you may
select any that you like for your use in Haiti. We charge
you nothing for it, except of course your fair share of
the price of this grape juice and the shredded nuts."
The President nodded.
"I am going to ask our friend on my right"—and here Mr.
Bryan indicated The Lady Pacifist—"to speak first."
There was a movement of general expectancy and the two
obsequious guests at the foot of the table, of whom
mention has been made, were seen to nudge one another
and whisper, "Isn't this splendid?"
"You are not asking me to speak first merely because I
am a woman?" asked The Lady Pacifist.
"Oh no," said Mr. Bryon, with charming tact.
"Very good," said the lady, adjusting her glasses. "As
for stopping the war, I warn you, as I have warned the
whole world, that it may be too late. They should have
called me in sooner. That was the mistake. If they had
sent for me at once and had put my picture in the papers
both in England and Germany, with the inscription 'The
True Woman of To-day,' I doubt if any of the men who
looked at it would have felt that it was worth while to
fight. But, as things are, the only advice I can give is
this. Everybody is wrong (except me). The Germans are a
very naughty people. But the Belgians are worse. It was
very, very wicked of the Germans to bombard the houses
of the Belgians. But how naughty of the Belgians to go
and sit in their houses while they were bombarded. It is
to that that I attribute—with my infallible sense of
justice—the dreadful loss of life. So you see the only
conclusion that I can reach is that everybody is very
naughty and that the only remedy would be to appoint me
a committee—me and a few others, though the others don't
really matter—to make a proper settlement. I hope I make
The Negro President shook his head and looked mystified.
"Us coloured folks," he said, "wouldn't quite understand
that. We done got the idea that sometimes there's such
a thing as a quarrel that is right and just." The
President's melancholy face lit up with animation and
his voice rose to the sonorous vibration of the negro
preacher. "We learn that out of the Bible, we coloured
folks—we learn to smite the ungodly—"
"Pray, pray," said Mr. Bryan soothingly, "don't introduce
religion, let me beg of you. That would be fatal. We
peacemakers are all agreed that there must be no question
of religion raised."
"Exactly so," murmured The Eminent Divine, "my own feelings
exactly. The name of—of—the Deity should never be
brought in. It inflames people. Only a few weeks ago I
was pained and grieved to the heart to hear a woman in
one of our London streets raving that the German Emperor
was a murderer. Her child had been killed that night by
a bomb from a Zeppelin; she had its body in a cloth hugged
to her breast as she talked—thank heaven, they keep
these things out of the newspapers—and she was calling
down God's vengeance on the Emperor. Most deplorable!
Poor creature, unable, I suppose, to realise the Emperor's
exalted situation, his splendid lineage, the wonderful
talent with which he can draw pictures of the apostles
with one hand while he writes an appeal to his Mohammedan
comrades with the other. I dined with him once," he added,
in modest afterthought.
"I dined with him, too," said Dr. Jordan. "I shall never
forget the impression he made. As he entered the room
accompanied by his staff, the Emperor looked straight at
me and said to one of his aides, 'Who is this?' 'This is
Dr. Jordan,' said the officer. The Emperor put out his
hand. 'So this is Dr. Jordan,' he said. I never witnessed
such an exhibition of brain power in my life. He had
seized my name in a moment and held it for three seconds
with all the tenaciousness of a Hohenzollern.
"But may I," continued the Director of the World's Peace,
"add a word to what has been said to make it still clearer
to our friend? I will try to make it as simple as one of
my lectures in Ichthyology. I know of nothing simpler
Everybody murmured assent. The Negro President put his
hand to his ear.
"Theology?" he said.
"Ichthyology," said Dr. Jordan. "It is better. But just
listen to this. War is waste. It destroys the tissues.
It is exhausting and fatiguing and may in extreme cases
lead to death."
The learned gentleman sat back in his seat and took a
refreshing drink of rain water from a glass beside him,
while a murmur of applause ran round the table. It was
known and recognised that the speaker had done more than
any living man to establish the fact that war is dangerous,
that gunpowder, if heated, explodes, that fire burns,
that fish swim, and other great truths without which the
work of the peace endowment would appear futile.
"And now," said Mr. Bryan, looking about him with the
air of a successful toastmaster, "I am going to ask our
friend here to give us his views."
Renewed applause bore witness to the popularity of The
Philanthropist, whom Mr. Bryan had indicated with a wave
of his hand.
The Philanthropist cleared his throat.
"In our business—" he began.
Mr. Bryan plucked him gently by the sleeve.
"Never mind your business just now," he whispered.
The Philanthropist bowed in assent and continued:
"I will come at once to the subject. My own feeling is
that the true way to end war is to try to spread abroad
in all directions goodwill and brotherly love."
"Hear, hear!" cried the assembled company.
"And the great way to inspire brotherly love all round
is to keep on getting richer and richer till you have so
much money that every one loves you. Money, gentlemen,
is a glorious thing."
At this point, Mr. Norman Angell, who had remained silent
hitherto, raised his head from his chest and murmured
"Money, money, there isn't anything but money. Money is
the only thing there is. Money and property, property
and money. If you destroy it, it is gone; if you smash
it, it isn't there. All the rest is a great illus—"
And with this he dozed off again into silence.
"Our poor Angell is asleep again," said The Lady Pacifist.
Mr. Bryan shook his head.
"He's been that way ever since the war began—sleeps all
the time, and keeps muttering that there isn't any war,
that people only imagine it, in fact that it is all an
illusion. But I fear we are interrupting you," he added,
turning to The Philanthropist.
"I was just saying," continued that gentleman, "that you
can do anything with money. You can stop a war with it
if you have enough of it, in ten minutes. I don't care
what kind of war it is, or what the people are fighting
for, whether they are fighting for conquest or fighting
for their homes and their children. I can stop it, stop
it absolutely by my grip on money, without firing a shot
or incurring the slightest personal danger."
The Philanthropist spoke with the greatest emphasis,
reaching out his hand and clutching his fingers in the
"Yes, gentlemen," he went on, "I am speaking here not of
theories but of facts. This is what I am doing and what
I mean to do. You've no idea how amenable people are,
especially poor people, struggling people, those with
ties and responsibilities, to the grip of money. I went
the other day to a man I know, the head of a bank, where
I keep a little money—just a fraction of what I make,
gentlemen, a mere nothing to me but everything to this
man because he is still not rich and is only fighting
his way up. 'Now,' I said to him, 'you are English, are
you not?' 'Yes, sir,' he answered. 'And I understand you
mean to help along the loan to England with all the power
of your bank.' 'Yes,' he said, 'I mean it and I'll do
it.' 'Then I'll tell you what,' I said, 'you lend one
penny, or help to lend one penny, to the people of England
or the people of France, and I'll break you, I'll grind
you into poverty—you and your wife and children and all
that belongs to you.'"
The Philanthropist had spoken with so great an intensity
that there was a deep stillness over the assembled company.
The Negro President had straightened up in his seat, and
as he looked at the speaker there was something in his
erect back and his stern face and the set of his faded
uniform that somehow turned him, African though he was,
into a soldier.
"Sir," he said, with his eye riveted on the speaker's
face, "what happened to that banker man?"
"The fool!" said The Philanthropist. "He wouldn't hear
—he defied me—he said that there wasn't money enough
in all my business to buy the soul of a single Englishman.
I had his directors turn him from his bank that day, and
he's enlisted, the scoundrel, and is gone to the war.
But his wife and family are left behind; they shall learn
what the grip of the money power is—learn it in misery
"My good sir," said the Negro President slowly and
impressively, "do you know why your plan of stopping war
wouldn't work in Haiti?"
"No," said The Philanthropist.
"Because our black people there would kill you. Whichever
side they were on, whatever they thought of the war, they
would take a man like you and lead you out into the town
square, and stand you up against the side of an adobe
house, and they'd shoot you. Come down to Haiti, if you
doubt my words, and try it."
"Thank you," said The Philanthropist, resuming his
customary manner of undisturbed gentleness, "I don't
think I will. I don't think somehow that I could do
business in Haiti."
The passage at arms between the Negro President and The
Philanthropist had thrown a certain confusion into the
hitherto agreeable gathering. Even The Eminent Divine
was seen to be slowly shaking his head from side to side,
an extreme mark of excitement which he never permitted
himself except under stress of passion. The two humble
guests at the foot of the table were visibly perturbed.
"Say, I don't like that about the banker," squeaked one
of them. "That ain't right, eh what? I don't like it."
Mr. Bryan was aware that the meeting was in danger of
serious disorder. He rapped loudly on the table for
attention. When he had at last obtained silence, he
"I have kept my own views to the last," he said, "because
I cannot but feel that they possess a peculiar importance.
There is, my dear friends, every prospect that within a
measurable distance of time I shall be able to put them
into practice. I am glad to be able to announce to you
the practical certainty that four years from now I shall
be President of the United States."
At this announcement the entire company broke into
spontaneous and heartfelt applause. It had long been felt
by all present that Mr. Bryan was certain to be President
of the United States if only he ran for the office often
enough, but that the glad moment had actually arrived
seemed almost too good for belief.
"Yes, my friends," continued the genial host, "I have
just had a communication from my dear friend Wilson, in
which he tells me that he, himself, will never contest
the office again. The Presidency, he says, interfered
too much with his private life. In fact, I am authorised
to state in confidence that his wife forbids him to run."
"But, my dear Jennings," interposed Dr. Jordan thoughtfully,
"what about Mr. Hughes and Colonel Roosevelt?"
"In that quarter my certainty in the matter is absolute.
I have calculated it out mathematically that I am bound
to obtain, in view of my known principles, the entire
German vote—which carries with it all the great breweries
of the country—the whole Austrian vote, all the Hungarians
of the sugar refineries, the Turks; in fact, my friends,
I am positive that Roosevelt, if he dares to run, will
carry nothing but the American vote!"
Loud applause greeted this announcement.
"And now let me explain my plan, which I believe is shared
by a great number of sane, and other, pacifists in the
country. All the great nations of the world will be
invited to form a single international force consisting
of a fleet so powerful and so well equipped that no single
nation will dare to bid it defiance."
Mr. Bryan looked about him with a glance of something
like triumph. The whole company, and especially the Negro
President, were now evidently interested. "Say," whispered
The General Public to his companion, "this sounds like
the real thing? Eh, what? Isn't he a peach of a thinker?"
"What flag will your fleet fly?" asked the Negro President.
"The flags of all nations," said Mr. Bryan.
"Where will you get your sailors?"
"From all the nations," said Mr. Bryan, "but the uniform
will be all the same, a plain white blouse with blue
insertions, and white duck trousers with the word PEACE
stamped across the back of them in big letters. This will
help to impress the sailors with the almost sacred
character of their functions."
"But what will the fleet's functions be?" asked the
"Whenever a quarrel arises," explained Mr. Bryan, "it
will be submitted to a Board. Who will be on this Board,
in addition to myself, I cannot as yet say. But it's of
no consequence. Whenever a case is submitted to the
Board it will think it over for three years. It will then
announce its decision—if any. After that, if any one
nation refuses to submit, its ports will be bombarded by
the Peace Fleet."
Rapturous expressions of approval greeted Mr. Bryan's
"But I don't understand," said the Negro President,
turning his puzzled face to Mr. Bryan. "Would some of
these ships be British ships?"
"Oh, certainly. In view of the dominant size of the
British Navy about one-quarter of all the ships would be
"And the sailors British sailors?"
"Oh, yes," said Mr. Bryan, "except that they would be
wearing international breeches—a most important point."
"And if the Board, made up of all sorts of people, were
to give a decision against England, then these
ships—British ships with British sailors—would be sent
to bombard England itself."
"Exactly," said Mr. Bryan. "Isn't it beautifully simple?
And to guarantee its working properly," he continued,
"just in case we have to use the fleet against England,
we're going to ask Admiral Jellicoe himself to take
The Negro President slowly shook his head.
"Marse Bryan," he said, "you notice what I say. I know
Marse Jellicoe. I done seen him lots of times when he
was just a lieutenant, down in the harbour of Port au
Prince. If youse folks put up this proposition to Marse
Jellicoe, he'll just tell the whole lot of you to go
But the close of the sentence was lost by a sudden
interruption. A servant entered with a folded telegram
in his hand.
"For me?" said Mr. Bryan, with a winning smile.
"For the President of Haiti, sir," said the man.
The President took the telegram and opened it clumsily
with his finger and thumb amid a general silence. Then
he took from his pocket and adjusted a huge pair of
spectacles with a horn rim and began to read.
"Well, I 'clare to goodness!" he said.
"Who is it from ?" said Mr. Bryan. "Is it anything about
The Negro President shook his head.
"It's from Haiti," he said, "from my military secretary."
"Read it, read it," cried the company.
"Come back home right away," read out the Negro President,
word by word. "Everything is all right again. Joint
British and American Naval Squadron came into harbour
yesterday, landed fifty bluejackets and one midshipman.
Perfect order. Banks open. Bars open. Mule cars all
running again. Things fine. Going to have big dance at
your palace. Come right back."
The Negro President paused.
"Gentlemen," he said, in a voice of great and deep relief,
"this lets me out. I guess I won't stay for the rest of
the discussion. I'll start for Haiti. I reckon there's
something in this Armed Force business after all."
XV. The White House from Without In
Being Extracts from the Diary of a President of the United
MONDAY. Rose early. Swept out the White House. Cooked
breakfast. Prayers. Sat in the garden reading my book
on Congressional Government. What a wonderful thing it
is! Why doesn't Congress live up to it? Certainly a lovely
morning. Sat for some time thinking how beautiful the
world is. I defy anyone to make a better. Afterwards
determined to utter this defiance publicly and fearlessly.
Shall put in list of fearless defiances for July speeches.
Shall probably use it in Oklahoma.
9.30 a.m. Bad news. British ship Torpid torpedoed by
a torpedo. Tense atmosphere all over Washington. Retreated
instantly to the pigeon-house and shut the door. I must
think. At all costs. And no one shall hurry me.
10 a.m. Have thought. Came out of pigeon-house. It is
all right. I wonder I didn't think of it sooner. The
point is perfectly simple. If Admiral Tirpitz torpedoed
the Torpid with a torpedo, where's the torpedo Admiral
Tirpitz torped? In other words, how do they know it's a
torpedo? The idea seems absolutely overwhelming. Wrote
notes at once to England and to Germany.
11 a.m. Gave out my idea to the Ass Press. Tense feeling
at Washington vanished instantly and utterly. Feeling
now loose. In fact everything splendid. Money became
easy at once. Marks rose. Exports jumped. Gold reserve
3 p.m. Slightly bad news. Appears there is trouble in
the Island of Piccolo Domingo. Looked it up on map. Is
one of the smaller West Indies. We don't own it. I imagine
Roosevelt must have overlooked it. An American has been
in trouble there: was refused a drink after closing time
and burnt down saloon. Is now in jail. Shall send at once
our latest battleship—the Woodrow—new design, both
ends alike, escorted by double-ended coal barges the
Wilson, the President, the Professor and the
Thinker. Shall take firm stand on American rights.
Piccolo Domingo must either surrender the American alive,
or give him to us dead.
TUESDAY. A lovely day. Rose early. Put flowers in all
the vases. Laid a wreath of early japonica beside my
egg-cup on the breakfast table. Cabinet to morning prayers
and breakfast. Prayed for better guidance.
9 a.m. Trouble, bad trouble. First of all Roosevelt has
an interview in the morning papers in which he asks why
I don't treat Germany as I treat Piccolo Domingo. Now,
what a fool question! Can't he see why? Roosevelt never
could see reason. Bryan also has an interview: wants to
know why I don't treat Piccolo Domingo as I treat Germany?
Doesn't he know why?
Result: strained feeling in Washington. Morning mail bad.
10 a.m. British Admiralty communication. To the pigeon-house
at once. They offer to send piece of torpedo, fragment
of ship and selected portions of dead American citizens.
Have come out of pigeon-house. Have cabled back: How do
they know it is a torpedo, how do they know it is a
fragment, how do they know he was an American who said
he was dead?
My answer has helped. Feeling in Washington easier at
once. General buoyancy. Loans and discounts doubled.
As I expected—a note from Germany. Chancellor very
explicit. Says not only did they not torpedo the Torpid,
but that on the day (whenever it was) that the steamer
was torpedoed they had no submarines at sea, no torpedoes
in their submarines, and nothing really explosive in
their torpedoes. Offers, very kindly, to fill in the date
of sworn statement as soon as we furnish accurate date
of incident. Adds that his own theory is that the Torpid
was sunk by somebody throwing rocks at it from the shore.
Wish, somehow, that he had not added this argument.
More bad news: Further trouble in Mexico. Appears General
Villa is not dead. He has again crossed the border, shot
up a saloon and retreated to the mountains of
Huahuapaxtapetl. Have issued instructions to have the
place looked up on the map and send the whole army to
it, but without in any way violating the neutrality of
Late cables from England. Two more ships torpedoed.
American passenger lost. Name of Roosevelt. Christian
name not Theodore but William. Cabled expression of
WEDNESDAY. Rose sad at heart. Did not work in garden.
Tried to weed a little grass along the paths but simply
couldn't. This is a cruel job. How was it that Roosevelt
grew stout on it? His nature must be different from mine.
What a miserable nature he must have.
Received delegations. From Kansas, on the prospect of
the corn crop: they said the number of hogs in Kansas
will double. Congratulated them. From Idaho, on the
blight on the root crop: they say there will soon not be
a hog left in Idaho. Expressed my sorrow. From Michigan,
beet sugar growers urging a higher percentage of sugar
in beets. Took firm stand: said I stand where I stood
and I stood where I stand. They went away dazzled,
Mail and telegrams. British Admiralty. Torpid Incident.
Send further samples. Fragment of valise, parts of cow-hide
trunk (dead passenger's luggage) which, they say, could
not have been made except in Nevada.
Cabled that the incident is closed and that I stand where
I stood and that I am what I am. Situation in Washington
relieved at once. General feeling that I shall not make
Second Cable from England. The Two New Cases. Claim both
ships torpedoed. Offer proofs. Situation very grave.
Feeling in Washington very tense. Roosevelt out with a
signed statement, What will the President Do? Surely
he knows what I will do.
Cables from Germany. Chancellor now positive as to
Torpid. Sworn evidence that she was sunk by some one
throwing a rock. Sample of rock to follow. Communication
also from Germany regarding the New Cases. Draws attention
to fact that all of the crews who were not drowned were
saved. An important point. Assures this government that
everything ascertainable will be ascertained, but that
pending juridical verification any imperial exemplification
must be held categorically allegorical. How well these
THURSDAY. A dull morning. Up early and read Congressional
Government. Breakfast. Prayers. We prayed for the United
States, for the citizens, for the Congress (both houses,
especially the Senate), and for the Cabinet. Is there
any one else?
Trouble. Accident to naval flotilla en route to Piccolo
Domingo. The new battleship the Woodrow has broken
down. Fault in structure. Tried to go with both ends
first. Appeared impossible. Went sideways a little and
is sinking. Wireless from the barges the Wilson, the
Thinker and others. They are standing by. They wire
that they will continue to stand by. Why on earth do they
do that? Shall cable them to act.
Feeling in Washington gloomy.
FRIDAY. Rose early and tried to sweep out the White House.
Had little heart for it. The dust gathers in the corners.
How did Roosevelt manage to keep it so clean? An idea!
I must get a vacuum cleaner! But where can I get a vacuum?
Took my head in my hands and thought: problem solved.
Can get the vacuum all right.
Good news. Villa dead again. Feeling in Washington
Trouble. Ship torpedoed. News just came from the French
Government. Full-rigged ship, the Ping-Yan, sailing
out of Ping Pong, French Cochin China, and cleared for
Hoo-Ra, Indo-Arabia. No American citizens on board, but
one American citizen with ticket left behind on wharf at
Ping Pong. Claims damages. Complicated case. Feeling in
Washington much disturbed. Sterling exchange fell and
wouldn't get up. French Admiralty urge treaty of 1778.
German Chancellor admits torpedoing ship but denies that
it was full-rigged. Captain of submarine drew picture of
ship as it sank. His picture unlike any known ship of
SATURDAY. A day of trouble. Villa came to life and crossed
the border. Our army looking for him in Mexico: inquiry
by wire, are they authorised to come back? General Carranza
asks leave to invade Canada. Piccolo Domingo expedition
has failed. The Woodrow is still sinking. The President
and the Thinker cable that they are still standing by
and will continue to stand where they have stood. British
Admiralty sending shipload of fragments. German Admiralty
sending shipload of affidavits. Feeling in Washington
depressed to the lowest depths. Sterling sinking. Marks
falling. Exports dwindling.
An idea: Is this job worth while? I wonder if Billy Sunday
would take it?
Spent the evening watering the crocuses. Whoever is here
a year from now is welcome to them. They tell me that
Hughes hates crocuses. Watered them very carefully.
SUNDAY. Good news! Just heard from Princeton University.
I am to come back, and everything will be forgiven and
Timid Thoughts on Timely Topics
XVI. Are the Rich Happy?
Let me admit at the outset that I write this essay without
adequate material. I have never known, I have never seen,
any rich people. Very often I have thought that I had
found them. But it turned out that it was not so. They
were not rich at all. They were quite poor. They were
hard up. They were pushed for money. They didn't know
where to turn for ten thousand dollars.
In all the cases that I have examined this same error
has crept in. I had often imagined, from the fact of
people keeping fifteen servants, that they were rich. I
had supposed that because a woman rode down town in a
limousine to buy a fifty-dollar hat, she must be well to
do. Not at all. All these people turn out on examination
to be not rich. They are cramped. They say it themselves.
Pinched, I think, is the word they use. When I see a
glittering group of eight people in a stage box at the
opera, I know that they are all pinched. The fact that
they ride home in a limousine has nothing to do with it.
A friend of mine who has ten thousand dollars a year told
me the other day with a sigh that he found it quite
impossible to keep up with the rich. On his income he
couldn't do it. A family that I know who have twenty
thousand a year have told me the same thing. They can't
keep up with the rich. There is no use trying. A man that
I respect very much who has an income of fifty thousand
dollars a year from his law practice has told me with
the greatest frankness that he finds it absolutely
impossible to keep up with the rich. He says it is better
to face the brutal fact of being poor. He says he can
only give me a plain meal, what he calls a home dinner
—it takes three men and two women to serve it—and he
begs me to put up with it.
As far as I remember, I have never met Mr. Carnegie. But
I know that if I did he would tell me that he found it
quite impossible to keep up with Mr. Rockefeller. No
doubt Mr. Rockefeller has the same feeling.
On the other hand there are, and there must be rich
people, somewhere. I run across traces of them all the
time. The janitor in the building where I work has told
me that he has a rich cousin in England who is in the
South-Western Railway and gets ten pounds a week. He says
the railway wouldn't know what to do without him. In the
same way the lady who washes at my house has a rich uncle.
He lives in Winnipeg and owns his own house, clear, and
has two girls at the high school.
But these are only reported cases of richness. I cannot
vouch for them myself.
When I speak therefore of rich people and discuss whether
they are happy, it is understood that I am merely drawing
my conclusions from the people whom I see and know.
My judgment is that the rich undergo cruel trials and
bitter tragedies of which the poor know nothing.
In the first place I find that the rich suffer perpetually
from money troubles. The poor sit snugly at home while
sterling exchange falls ten points in a day. Do they
care? Not a bit. An adverse balance of trade washes over
the nation like a flood. Who have to mop it up? The
rich. Call money rushes up to a hundred per cent, and
the poor can still sit and laugh at a ten cent moving
picture show and forget it.
But the rich are troubled by money all the time.
I know a man, for example—his name is Spugg—whose
private bank account was overdrawn last month twenty
thousand dollars. He told me so at dinner at his club,
with apologies for feeling out of sorts. He said it was
bothering him. He said he thought it rather unfair of
his bank to have called his attention to it. I could
sympathise, in a sort of way, with his feelings. My own
account was overdrawn twenty cents at the time. I knew
that if the bank began calling in overdrafts it might be
my turn next. Spugg said he supposed he'd have to telephone
his secretary in the morning to sell some bonds and cover
it. It seemed an awful thing to have to do. Poor people
are never driven to this sort of thing. I have known
cases of their having to sell a little furniture, perhaps,
but imagine having to sell the very bonds out of one's
desk. There's a bitterness about it that the poor man
can never know.
With this same man, Mr. Spugg, I have often talked of
the problem of wealth. He is a self-made man and he has
told me again and again that the wealth he has accumulated
is a mere burden to him. He says that he was much happier
when he had only the plain, simple things of life. Often
as I sit at dinner with him over a meal of nine courses,
he tells me how much he would prefer a plain bit of boiled
pork with a little mashed turnip. He says that if he had
his way he would make his dinner out of a couple of
sausages, fried with a bit of bread. I forgot what it is
that stands in his way. I have seen Spugg put aside his
glass of champagne—or his glass after he had drunk his
champagne—with an expression of something like contempt.
He says that he remembers a running creek at the back of
his father's farm where he used to lie at full length
upon the grass and drink his fill. Champagne, he says,
never tasted like that. I have suggested that he should
lie on his stomach on the floor of the club and drink a
saucerful of soda water. But he won't.
I know well that my friend Spugg would be glad to be rid
of his wealth altogether, if such a thing were possible.
Till I understood about these things, I always imagined
that wealth could be given away. It appears that it
cannot. It is a burden that one must carry. Wealth, if
one has enough of it, becomes a form of social service.
One regards it as a means of doing good to the world, of
helping to brighten the lives of others—in a word, a
solemn trust. Spugg has often talked with me so long and
so late on this topic—the duty of brightening the lives
of others—that the waiter who held blue flames for his
cigarettes fell asleep against a door post, and the
chauffeur outside froze to the seat of his motor.
Spugg's wealth, I say, he regards as a solemn trust. I
have often asked him why he didn't give it, for example,
to a college. But he tells me that unfortunately he is
not a college man. I have called his attention to the
need of further pensions for college professors; after
all that Mr. Carnegie and others have done, there are
still thousands and thousands of old professors of
thirty-five and even forty, working away day after day
and getting nothing but what they earn themselves, and
with no provision beyond the age of eighty-five. But Mr.
Spugg says that these men are the nation's heroes. Their
work is its own reward.
But, after all, Mr. Spugg's troubles—for he is a single
man with no ties—are in a sense selfish. It is perhaps
in the homes, or more properly in the residences, of the
rich that the great silent tragedies are being enacted
every day—tragedies of which the fortunate poor know
and can know nothing.
I saw such a case only a few nights ago at the house of
the Ashcroft-Fowlers, where I was dining. As we went in
to dinner, Mrs. Ashcroft-Fowler said in a quiet aside to
her husband, "Has Meadows spoken?" He shook his head
rather gloomily and answered, "No, he has said nothing
yet." I saw them exchange a glance of quiet sympathy and
mutual help, like people in trouble, who love one another.
They were old friends and my heart beat for them. All
through the dinner as Meadows—he was their butler—poured
out the wine with each course, I could feel that some
great trouble was impending over my friends.
After Mrs. Ashcroft-Fowler had risen and left us, and we
were alone over our port wine, I drew my chair near to
Fowler's and I said, "My dear Fowler, I'm an old friend
and you'll excuse me if I seem to be taking a liberty.
But I can see that you and your wife are in trouble."
"Yes," he said very sadly and quietly, "we are."
"Excuse me," I said. "Tell me—for it makes a thing easier
if one talks about it—is it anything about Meadows?"
"Yes," he said, "it is about Meadows."
There was silence for a moment, but I knew already what
Fowler was going to say. I could feel it coming.
"Meadows," he said presently, constraining himself to
speak with as little emotion as possible, "is leaving
"Poor old chap!" I said, taking his hand.
"It's hard, isn't it?" he said. "Franklin left last
winter—no fault of ours; we did everything we could
—and now Meadows."
There was almost a sob in his voice.
"He hasn't spoken definitely as yet," Fowler went on,
"but we know there's hardly any chance of his staying."
"Does he give any reason?" I asked.
"Nothing specific," said Fowler. "It's just a sheer case
of incompatibility. Meadows doesn't like us."
He put his hand over his face and was silent.
I left very quietly a little later, without going up to
the drawing-room. A few days afterwards I heard that
Meadows had gone. The Ashcroft-Fowlers, I am told, are
giving up in despair. They are going to take a little
suite of ten rooms and four baths in the Grand Palaver
Hotel, and rough it there for the winter.
Yet one must not draw a picture of the rich in colours
altogether gloomy. There are cases among them of genuine,
I have observed this is especially the case among those
of the rich who have the good fortune to get ruined,
absolutely and completely ruined. They may do this on
the Stock Exchange or by banking or in a dozen other
ways. The business side of getting ruined is not difficult.
Once the rich are ruined, they are, as far as my observation
goes, all right. They can then have anything they want.
I saw this point illustrated again just recently. I was
walking with a friend of mine and a motor passed bearing
a neatly dressed young man, chatting gaily with a pretty
woman. My friend raised his hat and gave it a jaunty and
cheery swing in the air as if to wave goodwill and
"Poor old Edward Overjoy!" he said, as the motor moved
out of sight.
"What's wrong with him?" I asked.
"Hadn't you heard?" said my friend. "He's ruined—absolutely
cleaned out—not a cent left."
"Dear me!" I said. "That's awfully hard. I suppose he'll
have to sell that beautiful motor?"
My friend shook his head.
"Oh, no," he said. "He'll hardly do that. I don't think
his wife would care to sell that."
My friend was right. The Overjoys have not sold their
motor. Neither have they sold their magnificent sandstone
residence. They are too much attached to it, I believe,
to sell it. Some people thought they would have given up
their box at the opera. But it appears not. They are too
musical to care to do that. Meantime it is a matter of
general notoriety that the Overjoys are absolutely ruined;
in fact, they haven't a single cent. You could buy
Overjoy—so I am informed—for ten dollars.
But I observe that he still wears a seal-lined coat worth
at least five hundred.
XVII. Humour as I See It
It is only fair that at the back of this book I should
be allowed a few pages to myself to put down some things
that I really think.
Until two weeks ago I might have taken my pen in hand to
write about humour with the confident air of an acknowledged
But that time is past. Such claim as I had has been taken
from me. In fact I stand unmasked. An English reviewer
writing in a literary journal, the very name of which is
enough to put contradiction to sleep, has said of my
writing, "What is there, after all, in Professor Leacock's
humour but a rather ingenious mixture of hyperbole and
The man was right. How he stumbled upon this trade secret
I do not know. But I am willing to admit, since the truth
is out, that it has long been my custom in preparing an
article of a humorous nature to go down to the cellar
and mix up half a gallon of myosis with a pint of hyperbole.
If I want to give the article a decidedly literary
character, I find it well to put in about half a pint of
paresis. The whole thing is amazingly simple.
But I only mention this by way of introduction and to
dispel any idea that I am conceited enough to write about
humour, with the professional authority of Ella Wheeler
Wilcox writing about love, or Eva Tanguay talking about
All that I dare claim is that I have as much sense of
humour as other people. And, oddly enough, I notice that
everybody else makes this same claim. Any man will admit,
if need be, that his sight is not good, or that he cannot
swim, or shoots badly with a rifle, but to touch upon
his sense of humour is to give him a mortal affront.
"No," said a friend of mine the other day, "I never go
to Grand Opera," and then he added with an air of pride,
"You see, I have absolutely no ear for music."
"You don't say so!" I exclaimed.
"None!" he went on. "I can't tell one tune from another.
I don't know Home, Sweet Home from God Save the King.
I can't tell whether a man is tuning a violin or playing
He seemed to get prouder and prouder over each item of
his own deficiency. He ended by saying that he had a dog
at his house that had a far better ear for music than he
had. As soon as his wife or any visitor started to play
the piano the dog always began to howl—plaintively, he
said—as if it were hurt. He himself never did this.
When he had finished I made what I thought a harmless
"I suppose," I said, "that you find your sense of humour
deficient in the same way: the two generally go together."
My friend was livid with rage in a moment.
"Sense of humour!" he said. "My sense of humour! Me
without a sense of humour! Why, I suppose I've a keener
sense of humour than any man, or any two men, in this
From that he turned to bitter personal attack. He said
that my sense of humour seemed to have withered
He left me, still quivering with indignation.
Personally, however, I do not mind making the admission,
however damaging it may be, that there are certain forms
of so-called humour, or, at least, fun, which I am quite
unable to appreciate. Chief among these is that ancient
thing called the Practical Joke.
"You never knew McGann, did you?" a friend of mine asked
me the other day.
When I said I had never known McGann, he shook his head
with a sigh, and said:
"Ah, you should have known McGann. He had the greatest
sense of humour of any man I ever knew—always full of
jokes. I remember one night at the boarding-house where
we were, he stretched a string across the passage-way
and then rang the dinner bell. One of the boarders broke
his leg. We nearly died laughing."
"Dear me!" I said. "What a humorist! Did he often do
things like that?"
"Oh, yes, he was at them all the time. He used to put
tar in the tomato soup, and beeswax and tin-tacks on the
chairs. He was full of ideas. They seemed to come to him
without any trouble."
McGann, I understand, is dead. I am not sorry for it.
Indeed, I think that for most of us the time has gone by
when we can see the fun of putting tacks on chairs, or
thistles in beds, or live snakes in people's boots.
To me it has always seemed that the very essence of good
humour is that it must be without harm and without malice.
I admit that there is in all of us a certain vein of the
old original demoniacal humour or joy in the misfortune
of another which sticks to us like our original sin. It
ought not to be funny to see a man, especially a fat and
pompous man, slip suddenly on a banana skin. But it is.
When a skater on a pond who is describing graceful circles,
and showing off before the crowd, breaks through the ice
and gets a ducking, everybody shouts with joy. To the
original savage, the cream of the joke in such cases was
found if the man who slipped broke his neck, or the man
who went through the ice never came up again. I can
imagine a group of prehistoric men standing round the
ice-hole where he had disappeared and laughing till their
sides split. If there had been such a thing as a prehistoric
newspaper, the affair would have headed up: "Amusing
Incident. Unknown Gentleman Breaks Through Ice and Is
But our sense of humour under civilisation has been
weakened. Much of the fun of this sort of thing has been
lost on us.
Children, however, still retain a large share of this
primitive sense of enjoyment.
I remember once watching two little boys making snow-balls
at the side of the street and getting ready a little
store of them to use. As they worked, there came along
an old man wearing a silk hat, and belonging by appearance
to the class of "jolly old gentlemen." When he saw the
boys his gold spectacles gleamed with kindly enjoyment.
He began waving his arms and calling, "Now, then, boys,
free shot at me! free shot!" In his gaiety he had, without
noticing it, edged himself over the sidewalk on to the
street. An express cart collided with him and knocked
him over on his back in a heap of snow. He lay there
gasping and trying to get the snow off his face and
spectacles. The boys gathered up their snow-balls and
took a run toward him. "Free shot!" they yelled. "Soak
him! Soak him!"
I repeat, however, that for me, as I suppose for most of
us, it is a prime condition of humour that it must be
without harm or malice, nor should it convey incidentally
any real picture of sorrow or suffering or death. There
is a great deal in the humour of Scotland (I admit its
general merit) which seems to me not being a Scotchman,
to sin in this respect. Take this familiar story (I quote
it as something already known and not for the sake of
A Scotchman had a sister-in-law—his wife's sister—with
whom he could never agree. He always objected to going
anywhere with her, and in spite of his wife's entreaties
always refused to do so. The wife was taken mortally ill
and as she lay dying, she whispered, "John, ye'll drive
Janet with you to the funeral, will ye no?" The Scotchman,
after an internal struggle, answered, "Margaret, I'll do
it for ye, but it'll spoil my day."
Whatever humour there may be in this is lost for me by
the actual and vivid picture that it conjures up—the
dying wife, the darkened room and the last whispered
No doubt the Scotch see things differently. That wonderful
people—whom personally I cannot too much admire—always
seem to me to prefer adversity to sunshine, to welcome
the prospect of a pretty general damnation, and to live
with grim cheerfulness within the very shadow of death.
Alone among the nations they have converted the devil
—under such names as Old Horny—into a familiar
acquaintance not without a certain grim charm of his own.
No doubt also there enters into their humour something
of the original barbaric attitude towards things. For a
primitive people who saw death often and at first hand,
and for whom the future world was a vivid reality that
could be felt, as it were, in the midnight forest and
heard in the roaring storm, it was no doubt natural to
turn the flank of terror by forcing a merry and jovial
acquaintance with the unseen world. Such a practice as
a wake, and the merry-making about the corpse, carry us
back to the twilight of the world, with the poor savage
in his bewildered misery, pretending that his dead still
lived. Our funeral with its black trappings and its
elaborate ceremonies is the lineal descendant of a
merry-making. Our undertaker is, by evolution, a genial
master of ceremonies, keeping things lively at the
death-dance. Thus have the ceremonies and the trappings
of death been transformed in the course of ages till the
forced gaiety is gone, and the black hearse and the gloomy
mutes betoken the cold dignity of our despair.
But I fear this article is getting serious. I must
I was about to say, when I wandered from the point, that
there is another form of humour which I am also quite
unable to appreciate. This is that particular form of
story which may be called, par excellence, the English
Anecdote. It always deals with persons of rank and birth,
and, except for the exalted nature of the subject itself,
is, as far as I can see, absolutely pointless.
This is the kind of thing that I mean.
"His Grace the Fourth Duke of Marlborough was noted for
the open-handed hospitality which reigned at Blenheim,
the family seat, during his regime. One day on going in
to luncheon it was discovered that there were thirty
guests present, whereas the table only held covers for
twenty-one. 'Oh, well,' said the Duke, not a whit abashed,
'some of us will have to eat standing up.' Everybody, of
course, roared with laughter."
My only wonder is that they didn't kill themselves with
it. A mere roar doesn't seem enough to do justice to such
a story as this.
The Duke of Wellington has been made the storm-centre of
three generations of wit of this sort. In fact the typical
Duke of Wellington story has been reduced to a thin
skeleton such as this:
"A young subaltern once met the Duke of Wellington coming
out of Westminster Abbey. 'Good morning, your Grace,' he
said, 'rather a wet morning.' 'Yes' said the Duke, with
a very rigid bow, 'but it was a damn sight wetter, sir,
on the morning of Waterloo.' The young subaltern, rightly
rebuked, hung his head."
Nor is it only the English who sin in regard to anecdotes.
One can indeed make the sweeping assertion that the
telling of stories as a mode of amusing others ought to
be kept within strict limits. Few people realise how
extremely difficult it is to tell a story so as to
reproduce the real fun of it—to "get it over" as the
actors say. The mere "facts" of a story seldom make it
funny. It needs the right words, with every word in its
proper place. Here and there, perhaps once in a hundred
times, a story turns up which needs no telling. The humour
of it turns so completely on a sudden twist or incongruity
in the denouement of it that no narrator, however
clumsy, can altogether fumble it.
Take, for example, this well-known instance—a story
which, in one form or other, everybody has heard.
"George Grossmith, the famous comedian, was once badly
run down and went to consult a doctor. It happened that
the doctor, though, like everybody else, he had often
seen Grossmith on the stage, had never seen him without
his make-up and did not know him by sight. He examined
his patient, looked at his tongue, felt his pulse and
tapped his lungs. Then he shook his head. 'There's nothing
wrong with you, sir,' he said, 'except that you're run
down from overwork and worry. You need rest and amusement.
Take a night off and go and see George Grossmith at the
Savoy.' 'Thank you,' said the patient, 'I am George
Let the reader please observe that I have purposely told
this story all wrongly, just as wrongly as could be, and
yet there is something left of it. Will the reader kindly
look back to the beginning of it and see for himself just
how it ought to be narrated and what obvious error has
been made? If he has any particle of the artist in his
make-up, he will see at once that the story ought to
"One day a very haggard and nervous-looking patient called
at the house of a fashionable doctor, etc. etc."
In other words, the chief point of the joke lies in
keeping it concealed till the moment when the patient
says, "Thank you, I am George Grossmith." But the story
is such a good one that it cannot be completely spoiled
even when told wrongly. This particular anecdote has been
variously told of George Grossmith, Coquelin, Joe Jefferson,
John Hare, Cyril Maude, and about sixty others. And I
have noticed that there is a certain type of man who, on
hearing this story about Grossmith, immediately tells it
all back again, putting in the name of somebody else,
and goes into new fits of laughter over it, as if the
change of name made it brand new.
But few people, I repeat, realise the difficulty of
reproducing a humorous or comic effect in its original
"I saw Harry Lauder last night," said Griggs, a Stock
Exchange friend of mine, as we walked up town together
the other day. "He came on to the stage in kilts" (here
Grigg started to chuckle) "and he had a slate under his
arm" (here Griggs began to laugh quite heartily), "and
he said, 'I always like to carry a slate with me' (of
course he said it in Scotch but I can't do the Scotch
the way he does it) 'just in case there might be any
figures I'd be wanting to put down'" (by this time,
Griggs was almost suffocated with laughter)—"and he took
a little bit-of chalk out of his pocket, and he said"
(Griggs was now almost hysterical), "'I like to carry a
wee bit chalk along because I find the slate is'" (Griggs
was now faint with laughter) "'the slate is—is—not
much good without the chalk.'"
Griggs had to stop, with his hand to his side, and lean
against a lamp-post. "I can't, of course, do the Scotch
the way Harry Lauder does it," he repeated.
Exactly. He couldn't do the Scotch and he couldn't do
the rich mellow voice of Mr. Lauder and the face beaming
with merriment, and the spectacles glittering with
amusement, and he couldn't do the slate, nor the "wee
bit chalk"—in fact he couldn't do any of it. He ought
merely to have said, "Harry Lauder," and leaned up against
a post and laughed till he had got over it.
Yet in spite of everything, people insist on spoiling
conversation by telling stories. I know nothing more
dreadful at a dinner table than one of these amateur
raconteurs—except perhaps, two of them. After about
three stories have been told, there falls on the dinner
table an uncomfortable silence, in which everybody is
aware that everybody else is trying hard to think of
another story, and is failing to find it. There is no
peace in the gathering again till some man of firm and
quiet mind turns to his neighbour and says, "But after
all there is no doubt that whether we like it or not
prohibition is coming." Then everybody in his heart says,
"Thank heaven!" and the whole tableful are happy and
contented again, till one of the story-tellers "thinks
of another," and breaks loose.
Worst of all perhaps is the modest story-teller who is
haunted by the idea that one has heard this story before.
He attacks you after this fashion:
"I heard a very good story the other day on the steamer
going to Bermuda"—then he pauses with a certain doubt
in his face—"but perhaps you've heard this?"
"No, no, I've never been to Bermuda. Go ahead."
"Well, this is a story that they tell about a man who
went down to Bermuda one winter to get cured of rheumatism
—but you've heard this?"
"Well he had rheumatism pretty bad and he went to Bermuda
to get cured of it. And so when he went into the hotel
he said to the clerk at the desk—but, perhaps you know
"No, no, go right ahead."
"Well, he said to the clerk, 'I want a room that looks
out over the sea'—but perhaps—"
Now the sensible thing to do is to stop the narrator
right at this point. Say to him quietly and firmly, "Yes,
I have heard that story. I always liked it ever since it
came out in Tit Bits in 1878, and I read it every time
I see it. Go on and tell it to me and I'll sit back with
my eyes closed and enjoy it."
No doubt the story-telling habit owes much to the fact
that ordinary people, quite unconsciously, rate humour
very low: I mean, they underestimate the difficulty of
"making humour." It would never occur to them that the
thing is hard, meritorious and dignified. Because the
result is gay and light, they think the process must be.
Few people would realise that it is much harder to write
one of Owen Seaman's "funny" poems in Punch than to
write one of the Archbishop of Canterbury's sermons. Mark
Twain's Huckleberry Finn is a greater work than Kant's
Critique of Pure Reason, and Charles Dickens's creation
of Mr. Pickwick did more for the elevation of the human
race—I say it in all seriousness—than Cardinal Newman's
Lead, Kindly Light, Amid the Encircling Gloom. Newman
only cried out for light in the gloom of a sad world.
Dickens gave it.
But the deep background that lies behind and beyond what
we call humour is revealed only to the few who, by instinct
or by effort, have given thought to it. The world's
humour, in its best and greatest sense, is perhaps the
highest product of our civilisation. One thinks here not
of the mere spasmodic effects of the comic artist or the
blackface expert of the vaudeville show, but of the really
great humour which, once or twice in a generation at
best, illuminates and elevates our literature. It is no
longer dependent upon the mere trick and quibble of words,
or the odd and meaningless incongruities in things that
strike us as "funny." Its basis lies in the deeper
contrasts offered by life itself: the strange incongruity
between our aspiration and our achievement, the eager
and fretful anxieties of to-day that fade into nothingness
to-morrow, the burning pain and the sharp sorrow that
are softened in the gentle retrospect of time, till as
we look back upon the course that has been traversed we
pass in view the panorama of our lives, as people in old
age may recall, with mingled tears and smiles, the angry
quarrels of their childhood. And here, in its larger
aspect, humour is blended with pathos till the two are
one, and represent, as they have in every age, the mingled
heritage of tears and laughter that is our lot on earth.