"BILLINGS, BILLINGS & BILLINGS."
Gertie (Countess of Blight) looked at her husband in horror.
"Eleven!" she cried.
"Eleven," said the Earl gloomily.
Then a look of grim determination came into his eyes. With the air of one who might have been quoting Keats, but possibly wasn't, he said firmly:
"What man has done, man can do."
That evening the Countess of Blight gave orders for eleven spare bedrooms to be got ready.
On the morning after the arrival of the eleven Podbys (as they had been taught to call themselves) John, seventeenth Earl of Blight, spoke quite frankly to Algernon, the eldest.
"After all, my dear Algernon," he said, "we are cousins. There is no need for harsh words between us. All I ask is that you should forbear to make your claim until I have delivered my speech in the House of Lords on the Coast Erosion Bill, upon which I feel deeply. Once the Bill is through, I shall be prepared to retire in your favour. Meanwhile let us all enjoy together the simple pleasures of Blight Hall."
Algernon, a fair young man with a meaningless expression, replied suitably.
So for some days the eleven Podbys gave themselves up to pleasure. Percy, the youngest, though hardly of an age to appreciate the mechanism of it, was allowed to push the lawn-mower. Lancelot and Herbert, who had inherited the Podby intellect, were encouraged to browse around the revolving bookcase, from which they frequently extracted one of the works of Thackeray, replacing it again after a glance at the title page; while on one notable occasion the Earl of Blight took Algernon into the dining-room at about 11.31 in the morning and helped him to a glass of sherry and a slice of sultana cake. In this way the days passed happily, and confidence between the eleven Podbys and their cousin was established.
It was on a fair spring morning, just a week after their arrival, that the Countess of Blight came into the music-room (where Algernon was humming a tune) and said, "Ah, Algernon, my husband was looking for you. I think he has some little excursion to propose. What a charming day, is it not? You will find him in the library."
As Algernon entered the library, Lord Blight looked up from the map he was studying and nodded.
"I thought," he said, coming to the point at once, "that it might amuse you to drive over with me to Flamborough Head. The view from the top of the cliff is considered well worth a visit. I don't know if your tastes lie in that direction at all?"
Algernon was delighted at the idea, and replied that nothing would give him greater pleasure than to accompany Lord Blight.
"Excellent. Perhaps we had better take some sandwiches and make a day of it."
Greatly elated at the thought of a day by the sea, Lord Blight went out and gave instructions to the Countess for sandwiches to be cut.
"In two packets, my love," he added, "in case Algernon and I get separated."
Half an hour later they started off together in high spirits.
* * * * *
It was dark before the seventeenth Earl of Blight returned to the house and joined the others at the dinner-table. His face wore a slightly worried expression.
"The fact is, my dear," he said, in answer to a question from the Countess, "I am a little upset about Algernon. I fear we have lost him."
"Algernon?" said the Countess in surprise.
"Yes. We were standing at the top of Flamborough Head, looking down into the sea, when—" He paused and tapped his glass, "Sherry, Jenkins," he said, catching the butler's eye.
"I beg your pardon, my lord."
"—When poor Algernon stumbled and—Do any of you boys know if your brother can swim?"
Everard, the ninth, said that Algernon had floated once in the Paddington Baths, but couldn't swim.
"Ah! I was hoping—But in any case, coming into the water from that height—Well, well, we must face our troubles bravely. Another glass of sherry, Jenkins."
As they passed through the hall on their way to the drawing-room, Lord Blight stopped a moment at the aneroid barometer and gave it an encouraging tap.
"It looks like another fine day to-morrow," he said to Cuthbert, the second Podby. "The panorama from the Scalby cliffs is unrivalled. We might drive over and have a look at it."
Fortunately the weather held up. A week later the Podby family had been thinned down to five, and the seventeenth Earl of Blight was beginning to regain his usual equanimity. His health too was benefiting by the constant sea air and change; for, in order that no melancholy associations should cast a gloom over their little outings, he took care to visit a different health-resort each time, feeling that no expense or trouble should be spared in a matter of this kind. It was wonderful with what vigour and alertness of mind he sat down in the evenings to the preparation of his speech on the Coast Erosion Bill.
One night after dinner, when all the Podby family (Basil and Percy) had retired to bed, Gertie (Countess of Blight) came into her husband's library and, twirling the revolving bookcase with restless fingers, asked if she could interrupt him for a moment.
"Yes?" he said, looking up at her.
"I am anxious, Blight," she answered. "Anxious about Percy."
"So am I, my love," he responded gravely. "I fear that to-morrow"—he consulted a leather pocket-book—"no, the day after to-morrow, something may happen to him. I have an uneasy feeling. It may be that I am superstitious. Yet something tells me that in the Book of Fate the names of Percy and Bridlington"—he consulted his diary again—"yes, Bridlington; the names, as I was saying, of—"
She interrupted him with an impatient gesture.
"You misunderstand me," she said. "That is not why I am anxious. I am anxious because of something I have just learnt about Percy. I am afraid he is going to be—"
"Troublesome?" suggested Lord Blight.
"I have learnt to-day," she explained, "that he has a horror of high places."
"You mean that on the cliffs of, as it might be, Bridlington some sudden unbridled terror may cause him to hurl himself—"
"You will never get him to the cliffs of Bridlington. He can't even look out of a first-floor window. He won't walk up the gentlest slope. That is why he is always playing with the lawn-mower."
The Earl frowned and tapped on his desk with a penholder.
"This is very grave news, Gertie," he said. "How is it that the boy comes to have this unmanly weakness?"
"It seems he has always had it."
"He should have been taken in hand. Even now perhaps it is not too late. It is our duty to wean him from these womanish apprehensions."
"Too late. Unless you carried him up there in a sack—?"
"No, no," protested the Earl vigorously. "My dear, the seventeenth Earl of Blight carrying a sack! Impossible!"
For a little while there was silence while they brooded over the tragic news.
"Perhaps," said the Countess at last, "there are other ways. It may be that Percy is fond of fishing."
Lord Blight shifted uncomfortably in his seat. When he spoke it was with a curiously apologetic air.
"I am afraid, my dear," he said, "that you will think me foolish. No doubt I am. You must put it down to the artistic temperament. But I tell you quite candidly that it is as impossible for me to lose Percy in a boating accident as it would be for—shall I say?—Sargent to appear as 'Hamlet' or a violinist to wish to exhibit at the Royal Academy. One has one's art, one's medium of expression. It is at the top of the high cliff with an open view of the sea that I express myself best. Also," he added with some heat, "I feel strongly that what was good enough for Percy's father, ten brothers, three half-brothers, not to mention his cousin, should be good enough for Percy."
The Countess of Blight moved sadly from the room.
"Well," she said as she stopped for a moment at the door, "we must hope for the best. Perhaps Percy will overcome this aversion in time. You might talk seriously to him to-morrow about it."
"To-morrow," said the Earl, referring once more to his diary, "Basil and I are visiting the romantic scarps of Filey."
On the day following the unfortunate accident at Filey the Earl and Countess of Blight reclined together upon the cliffs of Bridlington.
"If we only had had Percy here!" sighed the Earl.
"It was something to have got him as far as the beach," said the Countess hopefully. "Perhaps in time—a little higher every day—"
The Earl sighed again.
"The need for self-expression comes strongly upon the artist at a time like this," he said. "It is not for me to say that I have genius—"
"It is for me to say it, dear," said his wife.
"Well, well, perhaps in my own line. And at the full height of one's powers to be baulked by the morbidity, for I can call it nothing else, of a Percy Podby! Gertie," he went on dreamily, "I wish I could make you understand something of the fascination which an artist finds in his medium. To be lying here, at the top of the world, with the lazy sea crawling beneath us so many feet below—"
"Look," said the Countess suddenly. She pointed to the beach.
The Earl rose, stretched his head over the edge and gazed down.
"Percy," he said.
"Yes. Almost exactly beneath us."
"If anything fell upon him from here," said the Earl thoughtfully, "it is quite possible that—"
Suddenly the fascination whereof he had spoken to her came irresistibly home to the Countess.
"Yes," she said, as if in a trance, "if anything fell upon him from here—" and she gave her husband a thoughtful push—"it—is—quite—possible—that—"
At the word "that" the Earl reached Percy, and simultaneously the title expired.
Poor Blight!—or perhaps, since the title was never really his, we should say "Poor Blighter!" It is difficult to withhold our sympathy from him.
HIGH JINKS AT HAPPY-THOUGHT HALL
[An inevitable article in any decent magazine at Christmas-time. Read it carefully, and then have an uproarious time in your own little house.]
It was a merry party assembled at Happy-Thought Hall for Christmas. The Squire liked company, and the friends whom he had asked down for the festive season had all stayed at Happy-Thought Hall before, and were therefore well acquainted with each other. No wonder, then, that the wit flowed fast and furious, and that the guests all agreed afterwards that they had never spent such a jolly Christmas, and that the best of all possible hosts was Squire Tregarthen!
First we must introduce some of the Squire's guests to our readers. The Reverend Arthur Manley, a clever young clergyman with a taste for gardening, was talking in one corner to Miss Phipps, a pretty girl of some twenty summers. Captain Bolsover, a smart cavalry officer, together with Professor and Mrs. Smith-Smythe from Oxford, formed a small party in another corner. Handsome Jack Ellison was, as usual, in deep conversation with the beautiful Miss Holden, who, it was agreed among the ladies of the party, was not altogether indifferent to his fine figure and remarkable prospects. There were other guests, but as they chiefly played the part of audience in the events which followed their names will not be of any special interest to our readers. Suffice it to say that they were all intelligent, well-dressed, and ready for any sort of fun.
(Now, thank heaven, we can begin.)
A burst of laughter from Captain Bolsover attracted general attention, and everybody turned in his direction.
"By Jove, Professor, that's good," he said, as he slapped his knee; "you must tell the others that."
"It was just a little incident that happened to me to-day as I was coming down here," said the Professor, as he beamed round on the company. "I happened to be rather late for my train, and as I bought my ticket I asked the clerk what time it was. He replied, 'If it takes six seconds for a clock to strike six, how long will it take to strike twelve?' I said twelve seconds, but it seems I was wrong."
The others all said twelve seconds too, but they were all wrong. Can you guess the right answer?
When the laughter had died down, the Reverend Arthur Manley said:
"That reminds me of an amusing experience which occurred to my housekeeper last Friday. She was ordering a little fish for my lunch, and the fishmonger, when asked the price of herrings, replied, 'Three ha'pence for one and a half,' to which my housekeeper said, 'Then I will have twelve.' How much did she pay?" He smiled happily at the company.
"One—and—sixpence, of course," said Miss Phipps.
"No, no; ninepence," cried the Squire with a hearty laugh.
Captain Bolsover made it come to Ll 3s. 2-1/2d., and the Professor thought fourpence. But once again they were all wrong. What do you make it come to?
It was now Captain Bolsover's turn for an amusing puzzle, and the others turned eagerly towards him.
"What was that one about a door?" said the Squire. "You were telling me when we were out shooting yesterday, Bolsover."
Captain Bolsover looked surprised.
"Ah, no, it was young Reggie Worlock," said the Squire with a hearty laugh.
"Oh, do tell us, Squire," said everybody.
"It was just a little riddle, my dear," said the Squire to Miss Phipps, always a favourite of his. "When is a door not a door?"
Miss Phipps said when it was a cucumber; but she was wrong. So were the others. See if you can be more successful.
"Yes, that's very good," said Captain Bolsover; "it reminds me of something which occurred during the Boer War."
Everybody listened eagerly.
"We were just going into action, and I happened to turn round to my men and say, 'Now, then, boys, give 'em beans!' To my amusement one of them replied smartly, 'How many blue beans make five?' We were all so interested in working it out that we never got into action at all."
"But that's easy," said the Professor. "Five."
"Four," said Miss Phipps. (She would. Silly kid!)
"Six," said the Squire.
Which was right?
Jack Ellison had been silent during the laughter and jollity, always such a feature of Happy-Thought Hall at Christmas-time, but now he contributed an ingenious puzzle to the amusement of the company.
"I met a man in a motor-'bus," he said in a quiet voice, "who told me that he had four sons. The eldest son, Abraham, had a dog who used to go and visit the three brothers occasionally. The dog, my informant told me, was very unwilling to go over the same ground twice, and yet being in a hurry wished to take the shortest journey possible. How did he manage it?"
For a little while the company was puzzled. Then, after deep thought, the Professor said:
"It depends on where they lived."
"Yes," said Ellison. "I forgot to say that my acquaintance drew me a map." He produced a paper from his pocket. "Here it is."
The others immediately began to puzzle over the answer, Miss Phipps being unusually foolish, even for her. It was some time before they discovered the correct route. What do you think it is?
"Well," said the Squire, with a hearty laugh, "it's time for bed."
One by one they filed off, saying what a delightful evening they had had. Jack Ellison was particularly emphatic, for the beautiful Miss Holden had promised to be his wife. He, for one, will never forget Christmas at Happy-Thought Hall.
THE ARRIVAL OF BLACKMAN'S WARBLER
I am become an Authority on Birds. It happened in this way.
The other day we heard the Cuckoo in Hampshire. (The next morning the papers announced that the Cuckoo had been heard in Devonshire—possibly a different one, but in no way superior to ours except in the matter of its Press agent.) Well, everybody in the house said, "Did you hear the Cuckoo?" to everybody else, until I began to get rather tired of it; and, having told everybody several times that I had heard it, I tried to make the conversation more interesting. So, after my tenth "Yes," I added quite casually:
"But I haven't heard the Tufted Pipit yet. It's funny why it should be so late this year."
"Is that the same as the Tree Pipit?" said my hostess, who seemed to know more about birds than I had hoped.
"Oh, no," I said quickly.
"What's the difference exactly?"
"Well, one is tufted," I said, doing my best, "and the other—er—climbs trees."
"Oh, I see."
"And of course the eggs are more speckled," I added, gradually acquiring confidence.
"I often wish I knew more about birds," she said regretfully. "You must tell us something about them now we've got you here."
And all this because of one miserable Cuckoo!
"By all means," I said, wondering how long it would take to get a book about birds down from London.
However, it was easier than I thought. We had tea in the garden that afternoon, and a bird of some kind struck up in the plane-tree.
"There, now," said my hostess, "what's that?"
I listened with my head on one side. The bird said it again.
"That's the Lesser Bunting," I said hopefully.
"The Lesser Bunting," said an earnest-looking girl; "I shall always remember that."
I hoped she wouldn't, but I could hardly say so. Fortunately the bird lesser-bunted again, and I seized the opportunity of playing for safety.
"Or is it the Sardinian White-throat?" I wondered. "They have very much the same note during the breeding season. But of course the eggs are more speckled," I added casually.
And so on for the rest of the evening. You see how easy it is.
However, the next afternoon a more unfortunate occurrence occurred. A real Bird Authority came to tea. As soon as the information leaked out, I sent up a hasty prayer for bird-silence until we had got him safely out of the place; but it was not granted. Our feathered songster in the plane-tree broke into his little piece.
"There," said my hostess—"there's that bird again." She turned to me. "What did you say it was?"
I hoped that the Authority would speak first, and that the others would then accept my assurance that they had misunderstood me the day before; but he was entangled at that moment in a watercress sandwich, the loose ends of which were still waiting to be tucked away.
I looked anxiously at the girl who had promised to remember, in case she wanted to say something, but she also was silent. Everybody was silent except that miserable bird.
Well, I had to have another go at it. "Blackman's Warbler," I said firmly.
"Oh, yes," said my hostess.
"Blackman's Warbler; I shall always remember that," lied the earnest-looking girl.
The Authority, who was free by this time, looked at me indignantly.
"Nonsense," he said; "it's the Chiff-chaff."
Everybody else looked at me reproachfully. I was about to say that "Blackman's Warbler" was the local name for the Chiff-chaff in our part of Somerset, when the Authority spoke again.
"The Chiff-chaff," he said to our hostess with an insufferable air of knowledge.
I wasn't going to stand that.
"So I thought when I heard it first," I said, giving him a gentle smile. It was now the Authority's turn to get the reproachful looks.
"Are they very much alike?" my hostess asked me, much impressed.
"Very much. Blackmail's Warbler is often mistaken for the Chiff-chaff, even by so-called experts"—and I turned to the Authority and added, "Have another sandwich, won't you?"—"particularly so, of course, during the breeding season. It is true that the eggs are more speckled, but—"
"Bless my soul," said the Authority, but it was easy to see that he was shaken, "I should think I know a Chiff-chaff when I hear one."
"Ah, but do you know a Blackman's Warbler? One doesn't often hear them in this country. Now in Algiers—"
The bird said "Chiff-chaff" again with an almost indecent plainness of speech.
"There you are!" I said triumphantly. "Listen," and I held up a finger. "You notice the difference? Obviously a Blackman's Warbler."
Everybody looked at the Authority. He was wondering how long it would take to get a book about birds down from London, and deciding that it couldn't be done that afternoon. Meanwhile he did not dare to repudiate me. For all he had caught of our mumbled introduction I might have been Blackman myself.
"Possibly you're right," he said reluctantly.
Another bird said "Chiff-chaff" from another tree and I thought it wise to be generous. "There," I said, "now that was a Chiff-chaff."
The earnest-looking girl remarked (silly creature) that it sounded just like the other one, but nobody took any notice of her. They were all busy admiring me.
Of course I mustn't meet the Authority again, because you may be pretty sure that when he got back to his books he looked up Blackman's Warbler and found that there was no such animal. But if you mix in the right society, and only see the wrong people once, it is really quite easy to be an authority on birds—or, I imagine, on anything else.
THE LAST STRAW
It was one of those summer evenings with the chill on, so after dinner we lit the smoking-room fire and wondered what to do. There were eight of us; just the right number for two bridge tables, or four picquet pairs, or eight patience singles.
"Oh, no, not cards," said Celia quickly. "They're so dull."
"Not when you get a grand slam," said our host, thinking of an accident which had happened to him the night before.
"Even then I don't suppose anybody laughed."
Peter and I, who were partners on that occasion, admitted that we hadn't laughed.
"Well, there you are," said Celia triumphantly. "Let's play proverbs."
"I don't think I know it," said Herbert. (He wouldn't.)
"Oh, it's quite easy. First you think of a proverb."
"Like 'A burnt camel spoils the moss,'" I explained.
"You mean 'A burnt child dreads the fire,'" corrected Herbert.
Celia caught my eye and went on hurriedly, "Well, then somebody goes outside, and then he asks questions—"
"From outside?" asked Mrs. Herbert.
"From inside," I assured her. "Generally from very near the fire, because he has got so cold waiting in the hall."
"Oh, yes, I see."
"And then he asks questions, and we each have to get one of the words of the proverb into our answer, without letting him know what the proverb is. It's rather fun."
Peter and his wife, who knew the game, agreed. Mrs. Herbert seemed resigned to the worst, but Herbert, though faint, was still pursuing.
"But doesn't he guess what the proverb is?" he asked.
"Sometimes," I admitted. "But sometimes, if we are very, very clever, he doesn't. That, in fact, is the game."
Our host got up and went to the door.
"I think I see," he said; "and I want my pipe anyhow. So I'll go out first."
"Now then," said Celia, when the door was safely closed, "what shall we have?"
Of course you know this game, and you know the difficulty of thinking of a proverb which has no moss or stable-doors or glasshouses in it; all of them words which it is impossible to include naturally in an answer to an ordinary question. The proverbs which Mrs. Herbert suggested were full of moss.
"What about 'It's never too late to mend?'" said Mrs. Peter. "The only difficult word is 'mend.'"
"We mustn't have less than seven words, one for each of us."
"Can't we get something from Solomon for a change?" said Peter. "'A roaring lion is a calamity to its father, but the cautious man cometh not again.' That sort of thing."
"We might try it," said Celia doubtfully, not feeling quite sure if it were a real proverb; "but 'cometh' would be difficult."
"I don't see why," said Herbert. "One could always work it in somehow."
"Well, of course, if he asked you, 'By what train cometh thou up in the mornings?' you could answer, 'I cometh up by the ten-fifteen.' Only you don't get that sort of question as a rule."
"Oh, I see," said Herbert. "I didn't quite understand."
"After all, its really much more fun having camels and things," said Celia. "'It's the last straw that breaks the camel's back.' Who'll do 'camels'? You'd better," she added kindly to me.
Everybody but myself seemed to think that this was much more fun.
"I'll do 'straw,'" said Peter generously, whereupon Celia volunteered for "breaks." There were seven of us for nine words. We gave Mrs. Herbert the second "the," fearing to trust her with anything more alarming and in order to keep it in the family we gave the other "the" to Herbert, who was also responsible for "back." Our hostess had "last" and Mrs. Peter had "that."
All this being settled, our host was admitted into his smoking-room again.
"You begin with me," I said, and I was promptly asked, "How many blue beans make five?" When I had made a suitable answer into which "it's" came without much difficulty, our host turned to Herbert. Herbert's face had already assumed a look of strained expectancy.
"Well, Herbert, what do you think of Lloyd George?"
"Yes," said Herbert. "Yes—er—yes." He wiped the perspiration from his brow. "He—er—that is to say—er—Lloyd George, yes."
"Is that the answer?" said our host, rather surprised.
Herbert explained hastily that he hadn't really begun yet, and with the aid of an anecdote about a cousin of his who had met Winston Churchill at Dieppe once, he managed to get "the" in several times before blowing his nose vigorously and announcing that he had finished.
"I believe he's playing a different game," murmured Celia to Mrs. Peter.
The next three words were disposed of easily enough, a lucky question to Peter about the weather giving him an opportunity to refer to his straw hat. It was now Celia's turn for "breaks."
"Nervous?" I asked her.
"All of a twitter," she said.
"Well, Celia," said our host, "how long are you going to stay with us?"
"Oh, a long time yet," said Celia confidently.
"Till Wednesday, anyhow," I interrupted, thinking it a good opportunity to clinch the matter.
"We generally stay," explained Celia, "until our host breaks it to us that he can't stick us any longer."
"Not that that often happens," I added.
"Look here, which of you is answering the question?"
"I am," said Celia firmly.
"Well, have you answered it yet?"
"To tell the truth I've quite forgotten the word that—Oh, I remember now. Yes," she went on very distinctly and slowly, "I hope to remain under your roof until next Wednesday morn. Whew!" and she fanned herself with her handkerchief.
Mrs. Herbert repeated her husband's triumph with "the," and then it was my turn again for these horrible camels. My only hope was that our host would ask me if I had been to the Zoo lately, but I didn't see why he should. He didn't.
"Would it surprise you to hear," he asked, "that the President of Czecho-Slovakia has a very long beard?"
"If it had only been 'goats,'" I murmured to myself. Aloud I said, "What?" in the hope of gaining a little more time.
He repeated his question.
"No," I said slowly, "no, it wouldn't," and I telegraphed an appeal to Celia for help. She nodded back at me.
"Have you finished?" asked our host.
"Good Lord, no, I shall be half an hour yet. The fact is you've asked the wrong question. You see, I've got to get in 'moss.'"
"I thought it was 'camels,'" said Celia carelessly.
"No, 'moss.' Now if you'd only asked me a question about gardening—You see, the proverb we wanted to have first of all was 'People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones,' only 'throw' was so difficult. Almost as difficult as—" I turned to Celia. "What was it you said just now? Oh yes, camels. Or stable doors, or frying-pans. However, there it is." And I enlarged a little more on the difficulty of getting in these difficult words.
"Thank you very much," said our host faintly when I had finished.
It was the last straw which broke the camel's back, and it was Herbert who stepped forward blithely with the last straw. Our host, as he admitted afterwards, was still quite in the dark, and with his last question he presented Herbert with an absolute gift.
"When do you go back to Devonshire?" he asked.
"We—er—return next month," answered Herbert. "I should say," he added hastily, "we go back next month."
My own private opinion was that the sooner he returned to Devonshire the better.
The card was just an ordinary card, The letter just an ordinary letter. The letter simply said "Dear Mr. Brown, I'm asked by Mrs. Phipp to send you this"; The card said, "Mrs. Philby Phipp, At Home," And in a corner, "Dancing, 10 p.m.," No more—except a date, a hint in French That a reply would not be deemed offensive, And, most important, Mrs. Phipp's address.
Destiny, as the poets have observed (Or will do shortly) is a mighty thing. It takes us by the ear and lugs us firmly Down different paths towards one common goal, Paths pre-appointed, not of our own choosing; Or sometimes throws two travellers together, Marches them side by side for half a mile, Then snatches them apart and hauls them onward. Thus happened it that Mrs. Phipp and I Had never met to any great extent, Had never met, as far as I remembered, At all.... And yet there must have been a time When she and I were very near together, When some one told her, "That is Mr. Brown," Or introduced us "This is Mr. Brown," Or asked her if she'd heard of Mr. Brown; I know not what, I only know that now She stood At Home in need of Mr. Brown, And I had pledged myself to her assistance.
Behold me on the night, the latest word In all that separates the gentleman (And waiters) from the evening-dress-less mob, And graced, moreover, by the latest word In waistcoats such as mark one from the waiters. My shirt, I must not speak about my shirt; My tie, I cannot dwell upon my tie— Enough that all was neat, harmonious, And suitable to Mrs. Philby Phipp. Behold me, then, complete. A hasty search To find the card, and reassure myself That this is certainly the day—(It is)— And 10 p.m. the hour; "p.m.," not "a.m.," Not after breakfast—good; and then outside, To jump into a cab and take the winds, The cold east winds of March, with beauty. So.
Let us get on more quickly. Looms ahead Tragedy. Let us on and have it over.
I hung with men and women on the stairs And watched the tall white footman take the names, And heard him shout them out, and there I shaped My own name ready for him, "Mr. Brown." And Mrs. Philby Phipp, hearing the name, Would, I imagined, brighten suddenly And smile and say, "How are you, Mr. Brown?" And in an instant I'd remember her, And where we met, and who was Mr. Phipp, And all the jolly time at Grindelwald (If that was where it was); and she and I Would talk of Art and Politics and things As we had talked these many years ago.... So "Mr. Brown" I murmured to the man, And he—the fool!—he took a mighty breath And shouted, "Mr. BROWNIE!"—Brownie! Yes, He shouted "Mr. BROWNIE" to the roof. And Mrs. Philby Phipp, hearing the name, Brightened up suddenly and smiled and said, "How are you, Mr. Brownie?"—(Brownie! Lord!) And, while my mouth was open to protest, "How do you do?" to some one at the back. So I was passed along into the crowd As Brownie!
Who on earth is Mr. Brownie? Did he, I wonder, he and Mrs. Phipp Talk Art and Politics at Grindelwald, Or did one simply point him out to her With "That is Mr. Brownie?" Were they friends, Dear friends, or casual acquaintances? She brightened at his name, some memory Came back to her that brought a happy smile—Why surely they were friends! But I am Brown, A stranger, all unknown to Mrs. Phipp, As she to me, a common interloper—I see it now—an uninvited guest, Whose card was clearly meant for Mr. Brownie. Soft music fell, and the kaleidoscope Of lovely woman glided, swayed and turned Beneath the shaded lights; but Mr. Brownie (Ne Brown, not Brownie) stood upon one side And brooded silently. Some spoke to him; Whether to Brown or Brownie mattered not, He did not answer, did not notice them, Just stood and brooded.... Then went home to bed.
A FEW TRICKS FOR CHRISTMAS
(In the manner of many contemporaries)
Now that the "festive season" (copyright) is approaching, it behoves us all to prepare ourselves in some way to contribute to the gaiety of the Christmas house-party. A clever conjurer is welcome anywhere, and those of us whose powers of entertainment are limited to the setting of booby-traps or the arranging of apple-pie beds must view with envy the much greater tribute of laughter and applause which is the lot of the prestidigitator with some natural gift for legerdemain. Fortunately there are a few simple conjuring tricks which are within the reach of us all. With practice even the clumsiest of us can obtain sufficient dexterity in the art of illusion to puzzle the most observant of our fellow-guests. The few simple tricks which I am about to explain, if studied diligently for a few days before Christmas, will make a genuine addition to the gaiety of any gathering, and the amateur prestidigitator (if I may use that word again) will find that he is amply repaying the hospitality of his host and hostess by his contribution to the general festivity.
So much by way of introduction. It is a difficult style of writing to keep up, particularly when the number of synonyms for "conjuring" is so strictly limited. Let me now get to the tricks. I call the first
HOLDING THE LEMON
For this trick you want a lemon and a pack of ordinary playing-cards. Cutting the lemon in two, you hand half to one member of your audience and half to another, asking them to hold the halves up in full view of the company. Then, taking the pack of cards in your own hands, you offer it to a third member of the party, requesting him to select a card and examine it carefully. When he has done this he puts it back in the pack, and you seize this opportunity to look hurriedly at the face of it, discovering (let us say) that it is the five of spades. Once more you shuffle the pack; and then, going through the cards one by one, you will have no difficulty in locating the five of spades, which you will hold up to the company with the words "I think this is your card, sir"—whereupon the audience will testify by its surprise and appreciation that you have guessed correctly.
It will be noticed that, strictly speaking, the lemon is not a necessary adjunct of this trick; but the employment of it certainly adds an air of mystery to the initial stages of the illusion, and this air of mystery is, after all, the chief stock-in-trade of the successful conjurer.
For my next trick, which I call
THE ILLUSORY EGG
and which is most complicated, you require a sponge, two tablecloths, a handful of nuts, a rabbit, five yards of coloured ribbon, a top-hat with a hole in it, a hard-boiled egg, two florins and a gentleman's watch. Having obtained all these things, which may take some time, you put the two tablecloths aside and separate the other articles into two heaps, the rabbit, the top-hat, the hard-boiled egg, and the handful of nuts being in one heap, and the ribbon, the sponge, the gentleman's watch and the two florins in the other. This being done, you cover each heap with a tablecloth, so that none of the objects beneath is in any way visible. Then you invite any gentleman in the audience to think of a number. Let us suppose he thinks of 38. In that case you ask any lady in the audience to think of an odd number, and she suggests (shall we say?) 29. Then, asking the company to watch you carefully, you—you—
To tell the truth, I have forgotten just what it is you do do, but I know that it is a very good trick, and never fails to create laughter and bewilderment. It is distinctly an illusion worth trying, and, if you begin it in the manner I have described, quite possibly some way of finishing it up will occur to you on the spur of the moment. By multiplying the two numbers together and passing the hard-boiled egg through the sponge and then taking the ... or is it the—Anyway, I'm certain you have to have a piece of elastic up the sleeve ... and I know one of the florins has to—No, it's no good, I can't remember it.
But mention of the two numbers reminds me of a trick which I haven't forgotten. It is a thought-reading illusion, and always creates the maximum of wonderment amongst the audience. It is called
THE THREE QUESTIONS
As before, you ask a gentleman in the company to write down a number on a piece of paper, and a lady to write down another number. These numbers they show to the other guests. You then inform the company that you will ask any one of them three questions, and by the way they are answered you will guess what the product of the two numbers is. (For instance, if the numbers were 13 and 17, then 13 multiplied by 17 is—let's see, thirteen sevens are—thirteen sevens—seven threes are twenty-one, seven times one is—well, look here, let's suppose the numbers are 10 and 17. Then the product is 170, and 170 is the number you have got to guess.)
Well, the company selects a lady to answer your questions, and the first thing you ask her is: "When was Magna Charta signed?" Probably she says that she doesn't know. Then you say, "What is the capital of Persia?" She answers Timbuctoo, or Omar Khayyam, according to how well informed she is. Then comes your last question: "What makes lightning?" She is practically certain to say, "Oh, the thunder." Then you tell her that the two numbers multiplied together come to 170.
How is this remarkable trick performed? It is quite simple. The two people whom you asked to think of the numbers are confederates, and you arranged with them beforehand that they should write down 10 and 17. Of course it would be a much better trick if they weren't confederates; but in that case I don't quite know how you would do it.
I shall end up this interesting and instructive article with a rather more difficult illusion. For the tricks I have already explained it was sufficient that the amateur prestidigitator (I shall only say this once more) should know how it was done; for my last trick he will also require a certain aptitude for legerdemain in order to do it. But a week's quiet practice at home will give him all the skill that is necessary.
THE MYSTERIOUS PUDDING
is one of the oldest and most popular illusions. You begin by borrowing a gold watch from one of your audience. Having removed the works, you wrap the empty case up in a handkerchief and hand it back to him, asking him to put it in his waistcoat pocket. The works you place in an ordinary pudding basin and proceed to pound up with a hammer. Having reduced them to powder, you cover the basin with another handkerchief, which you borrow from a member of the company, and announce that you are about to make a plum-pudding. Cutting a small hole in the top of the handkerchief, you drop a lighted match through the aperture; whereupon the handkerchief flares up. When the flames have died down you exhibit the basin, wherein (to the surprise of all) is to be seen an excellent Christmas pudding, which you may ask your audience to sample. At the same time you tell the owner of the watch that if he feels in his pockets he will find his property restored to him intact; and to his amazement he discovers that the works in some mysterious way have got back into his watch, and that the handkerchief in which it was wrapped up has gone!
Now for the explanation of this ingenious illusion. The secret of it is that you have a second basin, with a pudding in it, concealed in the palm of your right hand. At the critical moment, when the handkerchief flares up, you take advantage of the excitement produced to substitute the one basin for the other. The watch from which you extract the works is not the borrowed one, but one which you have had concealed between the third and fourth fingers of the left hand. You show the empty case of this watch to the company, before wrapping the watch in the handkerchief and handing it back to its owner. Meanwhile with the aid of a little wax you have attached an invisible hair to the handkerchief, the other end of it being fastened to the palm of your left hand. With a little practice it is not difficult to withdraw the handkerchief, by a series of trifling jerks, from, the pocket of your fellow-guest to its resting place between the first and second finger of your left hand.
One word more. I am afraid that the borrowed handkerchief to which you applied the match really did get burnt, and you will probably have to offer the owner one of your own instead. That is the only weak spot in one of the most baffling tricks ever practised by the amateur prestidigitator (to use the word for the last time). It will make a fitting climax to your evening's entertainment—an entertainment which will ensure you another warm invitation next year when the "festive season" (copyright) comes upon us once again.
VII. AND OTHERS
MY FILM SCENARIO
[Specially written for Economic Pictures, Limited, whose Manager has had the good fortune to pick up for a mere song (or, to be more accurate, for a few notes) several thousand miles of discarded cinema films from a bankrupt company. The films comprise the well-known "Baresark Basil, the Pride of the Ranch" (two miles long), "The Foiler Foiled" (one mile, three furlongs, two rods, poles or perches), "The Blood-stained Vest" (fragment—eighteen inches), "A Maniac's Revenge" (5,000 feet), "The Life of the Common Mosquito" (six legs), and so forth.]
Twenty-five years before our film opens, Andrew Bellingham, a young man just about to enter his father's business, was spending a holiday in a little fishing village in Cornwall. The daughter of the sheep-farmer with whom he lodged was a girl of singular beauty, and Andrew's youthful blood was quickly stirred to admiration. Carried away by his passion for her, he—
[MANAGER. Just a reminder that Mr. T.P. O'Connor has to pass this before it can be produced.]—he married her—
[MANAGER. Oh, I beg pardon.]—and for some weeks they lived happily together. One day he informed Jessie that he would have to go back to his work in London, and that it might be a year or more before he could acknowledge her openly as his wife to his rich and proud parents. Jessie was prostrated with grief; and late that afternoon her hat and fringe-net were discovered by the edge of the waters. Realizing at once that she must have drowned herself in her distress, Andrew took an affecting farewell of her father and the sheep, and returned to London. A year later he married a distant cousin, and soon rose to a condition of prosperity. At the time our film begins to unwind, he was respected by everybody in the City, a widower, and the father of a beautiful girl of eighteen called Hyacinth.
[MANAGER. Now we're off. What do we start with?]
On the sunny side of Fenchurch Street—
[MANAGER. Ah, then I suppose we'd better keep back the Rescue from the Alligator and the Plunge down Niagara in a Barrel.]
—Andrew Bellingham was dozing in his office. Suddenly he awoke to find a strange man standing over him.
"Who are you?" asked Mr. Bellingham. "What do you want?"
"My name is Jasper," was the answer, "and I have some information to give you." He bent down and hissed, "Your first wife is still alive!"
Andrew started up in obvious horror. "My daughter," he gasped, "my little Hyacinth! She must never know."
"Listen. Your wife is in Spain—
[MANAGER. Don't waste her. Make it somewhere where there are sharks.
AUTHOR. It's all right, she's dead really.]—and she will not trouble you. Give me a thousand pounds and you shall have these; and he held out a packet containing the marriage certificate, a photograph of Jessie's father dipping a sheep, a receipted bill for a pair of white gloves, size 9-1/2, two letters signed "Your own loving little Andy Pandy," and a peppermint with "Jess" on it in pink. Once these are locked up in your safe, no one need ever know that you were married in Cornwall twenty-five years ago."
Without a moment's hesitation Mr. Bellingham took a handful of bank notes from his pocketbook, and the exchange was made. At all costs he must preserve his little Hyacinth from shame. Now she need never know. With a forced smile he bowed Jasper out, placed the packet in his safe and returned to his desk.
But his mysterious visitor was not done with yet. As soon as the door had closed behind him Jasper re-entered softly, drugged Andrew hastily, and took possession again of the compromising documents. By the time Mr. Bellingham had regained his senses the thief was away. A hue-and-cry was raised, police whistles were blown, and Richard Harrington, Mr. Bellingham's private secretary, was smartly arrested.
At the trial things looked black against Richard. He was poor and he was in love with Hyacinth; the chain of evidence was complete. In spite of his impassioned protest from the dock, in spite of Hyacinth's dramatic swoon in front of the solicitor's table, the judge with great solemnity passed sentence of twenty years' penal servitude. A loud "Hear, hear" from the gallery rang through the court, and, looking up, Mr. Bellingham caught the sardonic eye of the mysterious Jasper.
Richard had been in prison a month before the opportunity for his escape occurred. For a month he had been hewing stone in Portland, black despair at his heart. Then, like lightning, he saw his chance and took it. The warders were off guard for a moment. Hastily lifting his pickaxe—
[MANAGER. Sorry, but it's a spade in the only prison film we've got.]
Hastily borrowing a spade from a comrade who was digging potatoes, he struck several of his gaolers down, and, dodging the shots of others who hurried to the scene, he climbed the prison wall and dashed for freedom.
Reaching Weymouth at nightfall, he made his way to the house which Hyacinth had taken in order to be near him, and, suitably disguised, travelled up to London with her in the powerful motor which she had kept ready. "At last, my love, we are together," he murmured as they neared Wimbledon. But he had spoken a moment too soon. An aeroplane swooped down upon them, and Hyacinth was snatched from his arms and disappeared with her captors into the clouds.
Richard's first act on arriving in London was to go to Mr. Bellingham's house. Andrew was out, but a note lying on his study carpet, "Meet me at the Old Windmill to-night," gave him a clue. On receipt of this note Andrew had gone to the rendezvous, and it was no surprise to him when Jasper stepped out and offered to sell him a packet containing a marriage certificate, a photograph of an old gentleman dipping a sheep, a peppermint lozenge with "Jess" on it, and various other documents for a thousand pounds.
"You villain," cried Andrew, "even at the trial I suspected you," and he rushed at him fiercely.
A desperate struggle ensued. Breaking free for a moment from the vice-like grip of the other, Jasper leapt with the spring of a panther at one of the sails of the windmill as it came round, and was whirled upwards; with the spring of another panther, Andrew leapt on to the next sail and was whirled after him. At that moment the wind dropped, and the combatants were suspended in mid-air.
It was upon this terrible scene that Richard arrived. Already a crowd was collecting; and, though at present it did not seem greatly alarmed, feeling convinced that it was only assisting at another cinematograph rehearsal, its suspicions might at any moment be aroused. With a shout he dashed into the mill. Seeing him coming Jasper dropped his revolver and slid down the sail into the window. In a moment he reappeared at the door of the mill with Hyacinth under his arm. "Stop him!" cried Richard from underneath a sack of flour. It was no good. Jasper had leapt with his fair burden upon the back of his mustang and was gone....
The usual pursuit followed.
It was the gala night at the Royal Circus. Ricardo Harringtoni, the wonderful new acrobat of whom everybody was talking, stood high above the crowd on his platform. His marvellous performance on the swinging horizontal bar was about to begin. Richard Harrington (for it was he) was troubled. Since he had entered on his new profession—as a disguise from the police who were still searching for him—he had had a vague suspicion that the lion-tamer was dogging him. Who was the lion-tamer? Could it be Jasper?
At that moment the band struck up and Richard leapt lightly on to the swinging bar. With a movement full of grace he let go of the bar and swung on to the opposite platform. And then, even as he was in mid-air, he realized what was happening.
Jasper had let the lion loose!
It was waiting for him.
With a gasping cry Ricardo Harringtoni fainted.
When he recovered consciousness, Richard found himself on the S.S. "Boracic," which was forging her way through the—
[MANAGER. Somewhere where there are sharks.]
—the Indian Ocean. Mr. Bellingham was bathing his forehead with cooling drinks.
"Forgive me, my boy," said Mr. Bellingham, "for the wrong I did you. It was Jasper who stole the compromising documents. He refuses to give them back unless I let him marry Hyacinth. What can I do?"
"Where is she?" asked Richard.
"Hidden away no one knows where. Find her, get back the documents for me, and she is yours."
At that moment a terrible cry rang through the ship, "Man overboard!" Pushing over Mr. Bellingham and running on deck, Richard saw that a woman and her baby were battling for life in the shark-infested waters. In an instant he had plunged in and rescued them. As they were dragged together up the ship's side he heard her murmur, "Is little Jasper safe?"
"Jasper?" cried Richard.
"Yes, called after his daddy."
"Where is daddy now?" asked Richard hoarsely.
"Can't you see the likeness?" whispered Richard to Mr. Bellingham. "It must be. The villain is married to another. But now I will pursue him and get back the papers." And he left the boat at the next port and boarded one for America.
The search through North and South America for Jasper was protracted. Accompanied sometimes by a band of cowboys, sometimes by a tribe of Indians, Richard scoured the continent for his enemy. There were hours when he would rest awhile and amuse himself by watching the antics of the common mosquito [Manager. Good!] or he would lie at full length and gaze at a bud bursting into flower. [Manager. Excellent!] Then he would leap on to his steed and pursue the trail relentlessly once more.
One night he was dozing by his camp-fire, when he was awakened roughly by strong arms around his neck and Jasper's hot breath in his ear.
"At last!" cried Jasper, and, knocking Richard heavily on the head with a boot, he picked up his unconscious enemy and carried him to a tributary of the Amazon noted for its alligators. Once there he tied him to a post in mid-stream and rode hastily off to the nearest town, where he spent the evening witnessing the first half of "The Merchant of Venice." [Manager. Splendid!] But in the morning a surprise awaited him. As he was proceeding along the top of a lonely cliff he was confronted suddenly by the enemy whom he had thought to kill.
"Richard!" he cried, "escaped again!"
"Now, Jasper, I have you."
With a triumphant cry they rushed at each other; a terrible contest ensued; and then Jasper, with one blow of his palm, hurled his adversary over the precipice.
How many times the two made an end of each other after this the pictures will show. Sometimes Jasper sealed Richard in a barrel and pushed him over Niagara; sometimes Richard tied Jasper to a stake and set light to him; sometimes they would both fall out of a balloon together. But the day of reckoning was at hand.
[Manager. We've only got the Burning House and the 1913 Derby left.
It is the evening of the 3rd of June. A cry rends the air suddenly, whistles are blowing, there is a rattling of horses' hoofs. "Fire! Fire!" Richard, who was passing Soho Square at the time, heard the cry and dashed into the burning house. In a room full of smoke he perceived a cowering woman. Hyacinth! To pick her up was the work of a moment, but how shall he save her? Stay! The telegraph wire! His training at the Royal Circus stood him in good stead. Treading lightly on the swaying wire he carried Hyacinth across to the house opposite.
"At last, my love," he breathed.
"But the papers," she cried. "You must get them, or father will not let you marry me."
Once more he treads the rocking wire; once more he re-crosses, with the papers on his back. Then the house behind him crumbles to the ground, with the wicked Jasper in its ruins....
"Excellent," said Mr. Bellingham at dinner that evening. "Not only are the papers here, but a full confession by Jasper. My first wife was drowned all the time; he stole the documents from her father. Richard, my boy, when the Home Secretary knows everything he will give you a free pardon. And then you can marry my daughter."
At these words Hyacinth and Richard were locked in a close embrace. On the next day they all went to the Derby together.
THE FATAL GIFT
People say to me sometimes, "Oh, you know Woolman, don't you?" I acknowledge that I do, and, after the silence that always ensues, I add, "If you want to say anything against him, please go on." You can almost hear the sigh of relief that goes up. "I thought he was a friend of yours," they say cheerfully. "But, of course, if—" and then they begin.
I think it is time I explained my supposed friendship for Ernest Merrowby Woolman—confound him.
The affair began in a taxicab two years ago. Andrew had been dining with me that night; we walked out to the cab-rank together; I told the driver where to go, and Andrew stepped in, waved good-bye to me from the window, and sat down suddenly upon something hard. He drew it from beneath him, and found it was an extremely massive (and quite new) silver cigar-case. He put it in his pocket with the intention of giving it to the driver when he got out, but quite naturally forgot. Next morning he found it on his dressing-table. So he put it in his pocket again, meaning to leave it at Scotland Yard on his way to the City.
Next morning it was on his dressing-table again.
This went on for some days. After a week or so Andrew saw that it was hopeless to try to get a cigar-case back to Scotland Yard in this casual sort of way; it must be taken there deliberately by somebody who had a morning to spare and was willing to devote it to this special purpose. He placed the case, therefore, prominently on a small table in the dining-room to await the occasion; calling also the attention of his family to it, as an excuse for an outing when they were not otherwise engaged.
At times he used to say, "I must really take that cigar-case to Scotland Yard to-morrow."
At other times he would say, "Somebody must really take that cigar-case to Scotland Yard to-day."
And so the weeks rolled on....
It was about a year later that I first got mixed up with the thing. I must have dined with the Andrews several times without noticing the cigar-case, but on this occasion it caught my eye as we wandered out to join the ladies, and I picked it up carelessly. Well, not exactly carelessly; it was too heavy for that.
"Why didn't you tell me," I said, "that you had stood for Parliament and that your supporters had consoled you with a large piece of plate? Hallo, they've put the wrong initials on it. How unbusiness-like."
"Oh, that?" said Andrew. "Is it still there?"
"Why not? It's quite a solid little table. But you haven't explained why your constituents, who must have seen your name on hundreds of posters, thought your initials were E.M.W."
"Then it isn't yours at all?" I said in amazement.
"Of course not."
"But, my dear man, this is theft. Stealing by finding, they call it. You could get"—I looked at him almost with admiration—"you could get two years for this"; and I weighed the cigar-case in my hand. "I believe you're the only one of my friends who could be certain of two years," I went on musingly. "Let's see, there's—"
"Nonsense," said Andrew uneasily. "But still, perhaps I'd better take it back to Scotland Yard to-morrow."
"And tell them you've kept it for a year? They'd run you in at once. No, what you want to do is to get rid of it without their knowledge. But how—that's the question. You can't give it away because of the initials."
"It's easy enough. I can leave it in another cab, or drop it in the river."
"Andrew, Andrew," I cried, "you're determined to go to prison! Don't you know from all the humorous articles you've ever read that, if you try to lose anything, then you never can? It's one of the stock remarks one makes to women in the endeavour to keep them amused. No, you must think of some more subtle way of disposing of it."
"I'll pretend it's yours," said Andrew more subtly, and he placed it in my pocket.
"No, you don't," I said. "But I tell you what I will do. I'll take it for a week and see if I can get rid of it. If I can't, I shall give it you back and wash my hands of the whole business—except, of course, for the monthly letter or whatever it is they allow you at the Scrubbs. You may still count on me for that."
And then the extraordinary thing happened. The next morning I received a letter from a stranger, asking for some simple information which I could have given him on a post-card. And so I should have done—or possibly, I am afraid, have forgotten to answer at all—but for the way that the letter ended up.
"Yours very truly, ERNEST M. WOOLMAN."
The magic initials! It was a chance not to be missed. I wrote enthusiastically back and asked him to lunch.
He came. I gave him all the information he wanted, and more. Whether he was a pleasant sort of person or not I hardly noticed; I was so very pleasant myself.
He returned my enthusiasm. He asked me to dine with him the following week. A little party at the Savoy—his birthday, you know.
I accepted gladly. I rolled up at the party with my little present...a massive silver cigar-case...suitably engraved.
* * * * *
So there you are. He clings to me. He seems to have formed the absurd idea that I am fond of him. A few months after that evening at the Savoy he was married. I was invited to the wedding—confound him. Of course I had to live up to my birthday present; the least I could do was an enormous silver cigar-box (not engraved), which bound me to him still more strongly.
By that time I realized that I hated him. He was pushing, familiar, everything that I disliked. All my friends wondered how I had become so intimate with him....
Well, now they know. And the original E.M.W., if he has the sense to read this, also knows. If he cares to prosecute Ernest Merrowby Woolman for being in possession of stolen goods, I shall be glad to give him any information. Woolman is generally to be found leaving my rooms at about 6.30 in the evening, and a smart detective could easily nab him as he steps out.
A MIDSUMMER MADNESS
The girl who shared Herbert's meringue at dinner (a brittle one, which exploded just as he was getting into it) was kind and tactful.
"It doesn't matter a bit," she said, removing fragments of shell from her lap; and, to put him at his ease again, went on "Are you interested in little problems at all?"
Herbert, who would have been interested even in a photograph album just then, emerged from his apologies and swore that he was.
"We're all worrying about one which Father saw in a paper. I do wish you could solve it for us. It goes like this." And she proceeded to explain it. Herbert decided that the small piece of meringue still in her hair was not worth mentioning, and he listened to her with interest.
On the next morning I happened to drop in at Herbert's office.... And that, in short, is how I was entangled in the business.
"Look here," said Herbert, "you used to be mathematical; here's something for you."
"Let the dead past bury its dead," I implored. "I am now quite respectable."
"It goes like this," he said, ignoring my appeal.
He then gave me the problem, which I hand on to you.
"A subaltern riding at the rear of a column of soldiers trotted up to the captain in front and challenged him to a game of billiards for half a crown a side, the loser to pay for the table. Having lost, he played another hundred, double or quits, and then rode back, the column by this time having travelled twice its own length, and a distance equal to the distance it would have travelled if it had been going in the other direction. What was the captain's name?"
Perhaps I have not got it quite right, for I have had an eventful week since then; or perhaps Herbert didn't get it quite right; or perhaps the girl with the meringue in her hair didn't get it quite right; but anyhow, that was the idea of it.
"And the answer," said Herbert, "ought to be 'four cows,' but I keep on making it 'eight and tuppence.' Just have a shot at it, there's a good fellow. I promised the girl, you know."
I sat down, worked it out hastily on the back of an envelope, and made it a yard and a half.
"No," said Herbert; "I know it's 'four cows,' but I can't get it."
"Sorry," I said, "how stupid of me; I left out the table-money."
I did it hastily again and made it three minutes twenty-five seconds.
"It is difficult, isn't it?" said Herbert. "I thought, as you used to be mathematical and as I'd promised the girl—"
"Wait a moment," I said, still busy with my envelope. "I forgot the subaltern. Ah, that's right. The answer is a hundred and twenty-five men.... No, that's wrong—I never doubled the half-crown. Er—oh, look here, Herbert, I'm rather busy this morning. I'll send it to you."
"Right," said Herbert. "I know I can depend on you, because you're mathematical." And he opened the door for me.
I had meant to do a very important piece of work that day, but I couldn't get my mind off Herbert's wretched problem. Happening to see Carey at teatime, I mentioned it to him.
"Ah," said Carey profoundly. "H'm. Have you tried it with an 'x'?"
"Yes, it looks as though it wants a bit of an 'x' somewhere. You stick to it with an 'x' and you ought to do it. Let 'x' be the subaltern—that's the way. I say, I didn't know you were interested in problems."
"Because I've got rather a tricky chess problem here I can't do." He produced his pocket chess-board. "White mates in four moves."
I looked at it carelessly. Black had only left himself with a Pawn and a King, while White had a Queen and a couple of Knights about. Now, I know very little about chess, but I do understand the theory of chess problems.
"Have you tried letting the Queen be taken by Black's pawn, then sacrificing the Knights, and finally mating him with the King alone?"
"Yes," said Carey.
Then I was baffled. If one can't solve a chess problem by starting off with the most unlikely-looking thing on the board, one can't solve it at all. However, I copied down the position and said I'd glance at it.... At eleven that night I rose from my glance, decided that Herbert's problem was the more immediately pressing, and took it to bed with me.
I was lunching with William next day, and I told him about the subaltern. He dashed at it lightheartedly and made the answer seventeen.
"Seventeen what?" I said.
"Well, whatever we're talking about. I think you'll find it's seventeen all right. But look here, my son, here's a golf problem for you. A is playing B. At the fifth hole A falls off the tee into a pond—"
I forget how it went on.
When I got home to dinner, after a hard day with the subaltern, I found a letter from Norah waiting for me.
"I hear from Mr. Carey," she wrote, "that you're keen on problems. Here's one I have cut out of our local paper. Do have a shot at it. The answer ought to be eight miles an hour."
Luckily, however, she forgot to enclose the problem. For by this time, what with Herbert's subaltern, Carey's pawn, and a cistern left me by an uncle who was dining with us that night, I had more than enough to distract me.
And so the business has gone on. The news that I am preparing a collection of interesting and tricky problems for a new "Encyclopaedia" has got about among my friends. Everybody who writes to me tells me of a relation of his who has been shearing sheep or rowing against the stream or dealing himself four aces. People who come to tea borrow a box of wooden matches and beg me to remove one match and leave a perfect square. I am asked to do absurd things with pennies....
Meanwhile Herbert has forgotten both the problem and the girl. Three evenings later he shared his Hollandaise sauce with somebody in yellow (as luck would have it) and she changed the subject by wondering if he read Dickens. He is now going manfully through "Bleak House"—a chapter a night—and when he came to visit me to-day he asked me if I had ever heard of the man.
However, I was not angry with him, for I had just made it come to "three cows." It is a cow short, but it is nearer than I have ever been before, and I think I shall leave it at that. Indeed, both the doctor and the nurse say that I had better leave it at that.
TO THE DEATH
(In the Twentieth Century manner)
"Cauliflower!" shrieked Gaspard Volauvent across the little table in the estaminet. His face bristled with rage.
"Serpent!" replied Jacques Rissole, bristling with equal dexterity.
The two stout little men glared ferociously at each other. Then Jacques picked up his glass and poured the wine of the country over his friend's head.
"Drown, serpent!" he said magnificently. He beckoned to the waiter. "Another bottle," he said. "My friend has drunk all this."
Gaspard removed the wine from his whiskers with the local paper and leant over the table towards Jacques.
"This must be wiped out in blood," he said slowly. "You understand?"
"Perfectly," replied the other. "The only question is whose."
"Name your weapons," said Gaspard Volauvent grandly.
"Aeroplanes," replied Jacques Rissole after a moment's thought.
"Bah! I cannot fly."
"Then I win," said Jacques simply.
The other looked at him in astonishment.
"What! You fly?"
"No; but I can learn."
"Then I will learn too," said Gaspard with dignity. "We meet—in six months?"
"Good." Jacques pointed to the ceiling. "Say three thousand feet up."
"Three thousand four hundred," said Gaspard for the sake of disagreeing.
"After all, that is for our seconds to arrange. My friend Epinard of the Roullens Aerodrome will act for me. He will also instruct me how to bring serpents to the ground."
"With the idea of cleansing the sky of cauliflowers," said Gaspard, "I shall proceed to the flying-ground at Dormancourt; Blanchaille, the instructor there, will receive your friend."
He bowed and walked out.
Details were soon settled. On a date six months ahead the two combatants would meet three thousand two hundred feet above the little town in which they lived, and fight to the death. In the event of both crashing, the one who crashed last would be deemed the victor. It was Gaspard's second who insisted on this clause; Gaspard himself felt that it did not matter greatly.
The first month of instruction went by. At the end of it Jacques Rissole had only one hope. It was that when he crashed he should crash on some of Gaspard's family. Gaspard had no hope, but one consolation. It was that no crash could involve his stomach, which he invariably left behind him as soon as the aeroplane rose.
At the end of the second month Gaspard wrote to Jacques.
"My friend," he wrote, "the hatred of you which I nurse in my bosom, and which fills me with the desire to purge you from the sky, is in danger of being transferred to my instructor. Let us therefore meet and renew our enmity."
Jacques Rissole wrote back to Gaspard.
"My enemy," he wrote, "there is nobody in the whole of the Roullens Aerodrome whom I do not detest with a detestation beside which my hatred for you seems as maudlin adoration. This is notwithstanding the fact that I make the most marvellous progress in the art of flying. It is merely something in their faces which annoys me. Let me therefore see yours again, in the hope that it will make me think more kindly of theirs."
They met, poured wine over each other and parted. After another month the need of a further stimulant was felt. They met again, and agreed to insult each other weekly.
On the last day of his training Gaspard spoke seriously to his instructor.
"You see that I make nothing of it," he said. "My thoughts are ever with the stomach that I leave behind. Not once have I been in a position to take control. How then can I fight? My friend, I arrange it all. You shall take my place."
"Is that quite fair to Rissole?" asked Blanchaille doubtfully.
"Do not think that I want you to hurt him. That is not necessary. He will hurt himself. Keep out of his way until he has finished with himself, and then fly back here. It is easy."
It seemed the best way; indeed the only way. Gaspard Volauvent could never get to the rendezvous alone, and it would be fatal to his honour if Jacques arrived there and found nobody to meet him. Reluctantly Blanchaille agreed.
At the appointed hour Gaspard put his head cautiously out of his bedroom window and gazed up into the heavens. He saw two aeroplanes straight above him. At the thought that he might have been in one of them he shuddered violently. Indeed, he felt so unwell that the need for some slight restorative became pressing. He tripped off to the estaminet.
It was empty save for one table. Gaspard walked towards it, hoping for a little conversation. The occupant lowered the newspaper from in front of his face and looked up.
It was too much for Gaspard.
"Coward!" he shrieked.
Jacques, who had been going to say the same thing, hastily substituted "Serpent!"
"I know you," cried Gaspard. "You send your instructor up in your place. Poltroon!"
Jacques picked up his glass and poured the wine of the country over his friend's head.
"Drown, serpent," he said magnificently. He beckoned to the waiter. "Another bottle," he said. "My friend has drunk all this."
Gaspard removed the wine from his whiskers with Jacques' paper, and leant over him.
"This must be wiped out in blood," he said slowly. "Name your weapons."
"Submarines," said Jacques after a moment's thought.
THE HANDICAP OF SEX
I found myself in the same drawing-room with Anne the other day, so I offered her one of my favourite sandwiches. (I hadn't seen her for some time, and there were plenty in the plate.)
"If you are coming to talk to me," she said, "I think I had better warn you that I am a Bolshevist."
"Then you won't want a sandwich," I said gladly, and I withdrew the plate.
"I suppose," said Anne, "that what I really want is a vote."
"Haven't you got one? Sorry; I mean, of course you haven't got one."
"But it isn't only that. I want to see the whole position of women altered. I want to see—"
I looked round for her mother.
"Tell me," I said gently; "when did this come over you?"
"In the last few weeks," said Anne. "And I don't wonder."
I settled down with the sandwiches to listen.
Anne first noted symptoms of it at a luncheon-party at the beginning of the month. She had asked the young man on her right if she could have some of his salt, and as he passed it to her he covered up any embarrassment she might be feeling by saying genially, "Well, and how long is this coal strike going to last?"
"I don't know," said Anne truthfully.
"I suppose you're ready for the Revolution? The billiard-room and all the spare bedrooms well stocked?"
Anne saw that this was meant humorously, and she laughed.
"I expect we shall be all right," she said.
"You'll have to give a coal-party, and invite all your friends. 'Fire, 9—12.'"
"What a lovely idea!" said Anne, smiling from sheer habit. "Mind you come." She got her face straight again with a jerk and turned to the solemn old gentleman on her other side.
He was ready for her.
"This is a terrible disaster for the country, this coal strike," he said.
"Isn't it?" said Anne; and feeling that that was inadequate, added, "Terrible!"
"I don't know what's happening to the country."
Anne crumbled her bread, and having reviewed a succession of possible replies, each more fatuous than the last, decided to remain silent.
"Everything will be at a standstill directly," her companion went on. "Already trade is leaving the country. America—"
"I suppose so," said Anne gloomily.
"Once stop the supplies of coal, you see, and you drain the life-blood of the country."
"Of course," said Anne, and looked very serious.
After lunch an extremely brisk little man took her in hand.
"Have you been studying this coal strike question at all?" he began.
"I read the papers," said Anne.
"Ah, but you don't get it there. They don't tell you—they don't tell you. Now I know a man who is actually in it, and he says—and he knows this for a fact—that from the moment when the first man downed tools—from the very moment when he downed tools..."
Anne edged away from him nervously. Her face had assumed an expression of wild interest which she was certain couldn't last much longer.
"Now, take coal at the pit's mouth," he went on—"at the pit's mouth"—he shook a forefinger at her—"at the pit's mouth—and I know this for a fact—the royalties, the royalties are—"
"It's awful," said Anne. "I know."
She went home feeling a little disturbed. There was something in her mind, a dim sense of foreboding, which kept casting its shadow across her pleasanter thoughts; "Just as you feel," she said, "when you know you've got to go to the dentist." But they had a big dinner-party that evening, and Anne, full of the joy of life, was not going to let anything stand in the way of her enjoyment of it.
Her man began on the stairs.
"Well," he said, "what about the coal strike? When are you going to start your coal-parties? 'Fire, 10—2.' They say that that's going to be the new rage." He smiled reassuringly at her. He was giving the impression that he could have been very, very serious over this terrible business, but that for her sake he was wearing the mask. In the presence of women a man must make light of danger.
Anne understood then what was troubling her; and as, half-way through dinner, the man on her other side turned to talk to her, she shot an urgent question at him. At any cost she must know the worst.
"How long will the strike last?" she said earnestly. "That's just what I was going to ask you," he said. "I fear it may be months."
Anne sighed deeply.
* * * * *
I took the last sandwich and put down the plate.
"And that," said Anne, "was three weeks ago."
"It has been the same ever since?" I asked, beginning on a new plate.
"Every day. I'm tired of it. I shrink from every new man I meet. I wait nervously for the word 'coal,' feeling that I shall scream when it comes. Oh, I want a vote or something. I don't know what I want, but I hate men! Why should they think that everything they say to us is funny or clever or important? Why should they talk to us as if we were children? Why should they take it for granted that it's our duty to listen always?"
I rose with dignity. Dash it all, who had been doing the listening for the last half-hour?
"You are run down," I said. "What you want is a tonic."
Quite between ourselves, though, I really think—
But no. We men must stick together.
THE LEGEND OF HI-YOU
In the days of Good King Carraway (dead now, poor fellow, but he had a pleasant time while he lasted) there lived a certain swineherd commonly called Hi-You. It was the duty of Hi-You to bring up one hundred and forty-one pigs for his master, and this he did with as much enthusiasm as the work permitted. But there were times when his profession failed him. In the blue days of summer Princes and Princesses, Lords and Ladies, Chamberlains and Enchanters would ride past him and leave him vaguely dissatisfied with his company, so that he would remove the straw from his mouth and gaze after them, wondering what it would be like to have as little regard for a swineherd as they. But when they were out of sight, he would replace the straw in his mouth and fall with great diligence to the counting of his herd and such other duties as are required of the expert pigtender, assuring himself that, if a man could not be lively with one hundred and forty-one companions, he must indeed be a poor-spirited sort of fellow.
Now there was one little black pig for whom Hi-You had a special tenderness. Just so, he often used to think, would he have felt towards a brother if this had been granted to him. It was not the colour of the little pig nor the curliness of his tail (endearing though this was), nor even the melting expression in his eyes which warmed the swineherd's heart, but the feeling that intellectually this pig was as solitary among the hundred and forty others as Hi-You himself. Frederick (for this was the name which he had given to it) shared their food, their sleeping apartments, much indeed as did Hi-You, but he lived, or so it seemed to the other, an inner life of his own. In short, Frederick was a soulful pig.
There could be only one reason for this: Frederick was a Prince in disguise. Some enchanter—it was a common enough happening in those days—annoyed by Frederick's father, or his uncle, or even by Frederick himself, had turned him into a small black pig until such time as the feeling between them had passed away. There was a Prince Frederick of Milvania who had disappeared suddenly; probably this was he. His complexion was darker now, his tail more curly, but the royal bearing was unmistakable.
It was natural then that, having little in common with his other hundred and forty charges, Hi-You should find himself drawn into ever closer companionship with Frederick. They would talk together in the intervals of acorn-hunting, Frederick's share of the conversation limited to "Humphs," unintelligible at first, but, as the days went on, seeming more and more charged with an inner meaning to Hi-You, until at last he could interpret every variation of grunt with which his small black friend responded. And indeed it was a pretty sight to see them sitting together on the top of a hill, the world at their feet, discussing at one time the political situation of Milvania, at another the latest ballad of the countryside, or even in their more hopeful moments planning what they should do when Frederick at last was restored to public life.
Now it chanced that one morning when Frederick and Hi-You were arguing together in a friendly manner over the new uniforms of the Town Guard (to the colours of which Frederick took exception) King Carraway himself passed that way, and being in a good humour stood for a moment listening to them.
"Well, well," he said at last, "well, well, well."
In great surprise Hi-You looked up, and then, seeing that it was the King, jumped to his feet and bowed several times.
"Pardon, Your Majesty," he stammered, "I did not see Your Majesty. I was—I was talking."
"To a pig," laughed the King.
"To His Royal Highness Prince Frederick of Milvania," said Hi-You proudly.
"I beg your pardon," said the King; "could I trouble you to say that again?"
"His Royal Highness Prince Frederick of Milvania."
"Yes, that was what it sounded like last time."
"Frederick," murmured Hi-You in his friend's ear, "this is His Majesty King Carraway. He lets me call him Frederick," he added to the King.
"You don't mean to tell me," said His Majesty, pointing to the pig, "that this is Prince Frederick?"
"It is indeed, Sire. Such distressing incidents must often have occurred within Your Majesty's recollection."
"They have, yes. Dear me, dear me."
"Humph," remarked Frederick, feeling it was time he said something.
"His Royal Highness says that he is very proud to meet so distinguished a monarch as Your Majesty."
"Did he say that?" asked the King, surprised.
"Undoubtedly, Your Majesty."
"Very good of him, I'm sure."
"Humph," said Frederick again.
"He adds," explained Hi-You, "that Your Majesty's great valour is only excelled by the distinction of Your Majesty's appearance."
"Dear me," said the King, "I thought he was merely repeating himself. It seems to me very clever of you to understand so exactly what he is saying."
"Humph," said Frederick, feeling that it was about acorn time again.
"His Royal Highness is kind enough to say that we are very old friends."
"Yes, of course, that must make a difference. One soon picks it up, no doubt. But we must not be inhospitable to so distinguished a visitor. Certainly he must stay with us at the Palace. And you had better come along too, my man, for it may well be that without your aid some of His Royal Highness's conversation would escape us. Prince Frederick of Milvania—dear me, dear me. This will be news for Her Royal Highness."
So, leaving the rest of the herd to look after itself, as it was quite capable of doing, Frederick and Hi-You went to the Palace.
Now Her Royal Highness Princess Amaril was of an age to be married. Many Princes had sought her hand, but in vain, for she was as proud as she was beautiful. Indeed, her beauty was so great that those who looked upon it were blinded, as if they had gazed upon the sun at noonday—or so the Court Poet said, and he would not be likely to exaggerate. Wherefore Hi-You was filled with a great apprehension as he walked to the Palace, and Frederick, to whom the matter had been explained, was, it may be presumed, equally stirred within, although outwardly impassive. And, as they went, Hi-You murmured to his companion that it was quite all right, for that in any event she could not eat them, the which assurance Frederick, no doubt, was peculiarly glad to receive.
"Ah," said the King, as they were shown into the Royal Library, "that's right." He turned to the Princess. "My dear, prepare for a surprise."
"Yes, Father," said Amaril dutifully.
"This," said His Majesty dramatically, throwing out a hand, "is a Prince in disguise."
"Which one, Father?" said Amaril.
"The small black one, of course," said the King crossly; "the other is merely his attendant. Hi, you, what's your name?"
The swineherd hastened to explain that His Majesty, with His Majesty's unfailing memory for names, had graciously mentioned it.
"You don't say anything," said the King to his daughter.
Princess Amaril sighed.
"He is very handsome, Father," she said, looking at Hi-You.
"Y-yes," said the King, regarding Frederick (who was combing himself thoughtfully behind the left ear) with considerable doubt. "But the real beauty of Prince Frederick's character does not lie upon the surface, or anyhow—er—not at the moment."
"No, Father," sighed Amaril, and she looked at Hi-You again.
Now the swineherd, who with instinctive good breeding had taken the straw from his mouth on entering the Palace, was a well-set-up young fellow, such as might please even a Princess.
For a little while there was silence in the Royal Library, until Frederick realized that it was his turn to speak.
"Humph!" said Frederick.
"There!" said the King in great good humour. "Now, my dear, let me tell you what that means. That means that His Royal Highness is delighted to meet so beautiful and distinguished a Princess." He turned to Hi-You. "Isn't that right, my man?"
"Perfectly correct, Your Majesty."
"You see, my dear," said the King complacently, "one soon picks it up. Now in a few days—"
"Humph!" said Frederick again.
"What did that one mean, Father?" asked Amaril.
"That meant—er—that meant—well, it's a little hard to put it colloquially, but roughly it means"—he made a gesture with his hand—"that we have—er—been having very charming weather lately." He frowned vigorously at the swineherd.
"Exactly, Your Majesty," said Hi-You.
"Charming weather for the time of year."
"For the time of year, of course," said the King hastily. "One naturally assumes that. Well, my dear," he went on to his daughter, "I'm sure you will be glad to know that Prince Frederick has consented to stay with us for a little. You will give orders that suitable apartments are to be prepared."
"Yes, Father. What are suitable apartments?"
The King pulled at his beard and regarded Frederick doubtfully.
"Perhaps it would be better," the Princess went on, looking at Hi-You, "if this gentleman—"
"Of course, my dear, of course. Naturally His Royal Highness would wish to retain his suite."
"Humph!" said Frederick, meaning, I imagine, that things were looking up.
Of all the Princes who from time to time had visited the Court none endeared himself so rapidly to the people as did Frederick of Milvania. His complete lack of vanity, his thoughtfulness, the intense reserve which so obviously indicated a strong character, his power of listening placidly to even the most tedious of local dignitaries, all these were virtues of which previous royal visitors had given no sign. Moreover on set occasions Prince Frederick could make a very pretty speech. True, this was read for him, owing to a slight affection of the throat from which, as the Chancellor pointed out, His Royal Highness was temporarily suffering, but it would be couched in the most perfect taste and seasoned at suitable functions (such, for instance, as the opening of the first Public Baths) with a pleasantly restrained humour. Nor was there any doubt that the words were indeed the Prince's own, as dictated to Hi-You and by him put on paper for the Chancellor. But Hi-You himself never left the Palace.
"My dear," said the King to his daughter one day, "have you ever thought of marriage?"
"Often, Father," said Amaril.
"I understand from the Chancellor that the people are expecting an announcement on the subject shortly."
"We haven't got anything to announce, have we?"
"It's a pity that you were so hasty with your other suitors," said the King thoughtfully. "There is hardly a Prince left who is in any way eligible."
"Except Prince Frederick," said Amaril gently.
The King looked at her suspiciously and then looked away again, pulling at his beard.
"Of course," went on Amaril, "I don't know what your loving subjects would say about it."
"My loving subjects," said the King grimly, "have been properly brought up. They believe—they have my authority for believing—that they are suffering from a disability of the eyesight laid upon them by a wicked enchanter, under which they see Princes as—er—pigs. That, if you remember, was this fellow Hi-You's suggestion. And a very sensible one."
"But do you want Frederick as a son-in-law?"
"Well, that's the question. In his present shape he is perhaps not quite—not quite—well, how shall I put it?"
"Not quite," suggested Amaril.
"Exactly. At the same time I think that there could be no harm in the announcement of a betrothal. The marriage, of course, would not be announced until—"
"Until the enchanter had removed his spell from the eyes of the people?"
"Quite so. You have no objection to that, my dear?"
"I am His Majesty's subject," said Amaril dutifully.
"That's a good girl." He patted the top of her head and dismissed her.
So the betrothal of His Royal Highness Frederick of Milvania to the Princess Amaril was announced, to the great joy of the people. And in the depths of the Palace Hi-You the swineherd was hard at work compounding a potion which, he assured the King, would restore Frederick to his own princely form. And sometimes the Princess Amaril would help him at his work.
A month went by, and then Hi-You came to the King with news. He had compounded the magic potion. A few drops sprinkled discriminately on Frederick would restore him to his earlier shape, and the wedding could then be announced.
"Well, my man," said His Majesty genially, "this is indeed pleasant hearing. We will sprinkle Frederick to-morrow. Really, I am very much in your debt; remind me after the ceremony to speak to the Lord Treasurer about the matter."
"Say no more," begged Hi-You. "All I ask is to be allowed to depart in peace. Let me have a few hours alone with His Royal Highness in the form in which I have known him so long, and then, when he is himself again, let me go. For it is not meet that I should remain here as a perpetual reminder to His Royal Highness of what he would fain forget."
"Well, that's very handsome of you, very handsome indeed. I see your point. Yes, it is better that you should go. But, before you go, there is just one thing. The people are under the impression that—er—an enchanter has—er—well, you remember what you yourself suggested."
"I have thought of that," said Hi-You, who seemed to have thought of everything. "And I venture to propose that Your Majesty should announce that a great alchemist has been compounding a potion to relieve their blindness. A few drops of this will be introduced into the water of the Public Baths, and all those bathing therein will be healed."
"A striking notion," said the King. "Indeed it was just about to occur to me. I will proclaim to-morrow a public holiday, and give orders that it be celebrated in the baths. Then in the evening, when they are all clean—I should say 'cured'—we will present their Prince to them."
So it happened even as Hi-You had said, and in the evening the Prince, a model now of manly beauty, was presented to them, and they acclaimed him with cheers. And all noticed how lovingly the Princess regarded him, and how he smiled upon her.
But the King gazed upon the Prince as one fascinated. Seven times he cleared his throat and seven times he failed to speak. And the eighth time he said, "Your face is strangely familiar to me."
"Perchance we met in Milvania," said the Prince pleasantly.
Now the King had never been in Milvania. Wherefore he still gazed at the Prince, and at length he said, "What has happened to that Hi-You fellow?"
"You will never hear of him again," said the Prince pleasantly.
"Oh!" said the King. And after that they feasted.
And some say that they feasted upon roast pig, but I say not. And some say that Hi-You had planned it all from the beginning, but I say not. And some say that it was the Princess Amaril who planned it, from the day when first she saw Hi-You, and with them I agree. For indeed I am very sure that when Hi-You was a swineherd upon the hills he believed truly that the little black pig with the curly tail was a Prince. And, though events in the end were too much for him, I like to think that Hi-You remained loyal to his friend, and that in his plush-lined sty in a quiet corner of the Palace grounds Frederick passed a gentle old age, cheered from time to time by the visits of Amaril's children.