Puppets at Large: Scenes and Subjects from Mr Punch's Show
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CATCHING THE EARLY BOAT
In Bed; At the Highland Hotel, Oban
What an extraordinary thing is the mechanism of the human mind! Went to sleep last night impressed with vital importance of waking at six, to catch early steamer to Gairloch. And here I am – broad awake – at exactly 5.55! Is it automatic action, or what? Like setting clockwork for explosive machine. When the time comes, I blow up – I mean, get up. Think out this simile – rather a good one… Need not have been so particular in telling Boots to call me, after all. Shall I get up before he comes? He'll be rather surprised when he knocks at the door, and hears me singing inside like a lark. But, on reflection, isn't it rather petty to wish to astonish an hotel Boots? And why on earth should I get up myself, when I've tipped another fellow to get me up? But suppose he forgets to call me. I've no right, as yet, to assume that he will. To get up now would argue want of confidence in him – might hurt his feelings. I will give him another five minutes, poor fellow…
Getting up.– No actual necessity to get up yet, but, to make assurance doubly – something or other, forget what – I will … I do. Portmanteau rather refractory; retreats under bed – quite ten minutes before I can coax it out… When I have, it won't let me pack it. That's the worst of this breed of brown portmanteaus – they're always nasty-tempered. However, I am getting a few things into it now, by degrees. Very annoying – as fast as I put them in, this confounded portmanteau shoots them out again! If I've put in that pair of red and white striped pyjamas once, I've done it twenty times – and they always come twisting and rolling out of the back, somehow. Fortunate I left myself ample time.
Man next door to me is running it rather fine. He has to catch the boat, too, and he's not up yet! Hear the Boots hammering away at his door. How can a fellow, just for the sake of a few more minutes in bed – which he won't even know he's had! – go and risk losing his steamer in that way? I'll do him a good turn – knock at the wall myself. "Hi! get up, you lazy beggar. Look sharp – you'll be late!" He thanks me, in a muffled tone, through the wall. He is a remarkably quick dresser, he tells me – it won't take him thirty-five seconds to pack, dress, pay his bill, and get on board. If that's the case, I don't see why I should hurry. I've got much more than that already.
At the Quay.– People in Oban stare a good deal. Can't quite make out reason, unless they're surprised to find me up so early. Explain that I got up without having even been called. Oban populace mildly surprised, and offer me neckties —Why?
Fine steamer this; has a paddle-wheel at both ends – "because," the Captain explains, "she has not only to go to Gairloch – but come back as well."
First-rate navigator, the Captain; he has written my weight, the date of my last birthday, and the number of the house I live in, down in a sort of ledger he keeps.He does this with all his passengers, he tells me, reduces the figures to logarithms, and works out the ship's course in decimals. No idea there was so much science in modern seamanship.
On Board.– Great advantage of being so early is that you can breakfast quietly on deck before starting. Have mine on bridge of steamer, under awning; everything very good – ham-m?ringues excellent. No coffee, but, instead, a capital brand of dry, sparkling marmalade, served, sailor-fashion, in small pomatum-pots.
What a small world we live in! Of all people in the world, who should be sitting next to me but my Aunt Maria! I was always under the impression that she had died in my infancy. Don't like to mention this, because if I am wrong, she might be offended. But if she did die when I was a child, she ought to be a much older woman than she looks. I do tell her this – because it is really a compliment.
My Aunt, evidently an experienced traveller, never travels, she informs me, without a pair of globes and a lawn-mower. She offers, very kindly, to lend me the Celestial globe, if the weather is at all windy. This is behaving like an Aunt!
We are taking in live-stock; curious-looking creatures, like spotted pug-dogs (only bigger and woollier, of course) and without horns. Somebody leaning over the rail next to me (I think he is the Public Prosecutor, but am not quite sure), tells me they are "Scotch Shortbreads." Agreeable man, but rather given to staring.
Didn't observe it before, but my Aunt is really amazingly like Mr. Gladstone. Ask her to explain this. She is much distressed that I have noticed it; says she has felt it coming on for some time; it is not, as she justly complains, as if she took any interest in politics either. She has consulted every doctor in London, and they all tell her it is simply weakness, and she will outgrow it with care. Singular case – must find out (delicately) whether it's catching.
We ought to be starting soon; feel quite fresh and lively, in spite of having got up so early. Mention this to Captain. Wish he and the Public Prosecutor wouldn't stare at me so. Just as if there was something singular in my appearance!
They're embarking my portmanteau now. Knew they would have a lively time of it! It takes at least four sailors, in kilts, to manage it. Ought I to step ashore and quiet it down? Stay where I am. Don't know why, but feel a little afraid of it when it's like this. Shall exchange it for a quiet hand-bag when I get home.
Captain busy hammering at a hole in the funnel – dangerous place to spring a leak in – hope he is making it water-tight. The hammering reminds me of that poor devil in the bedroom next to mine at the hotel. He won't catch the boat now – he can't! My Aunt (who has left off looking like Mr. Gladstone) asks me why I am laughing. I tell her about that unfortunate man and his "thirty-five seconds." She screams with laughter. Very humorous woman, my Aunt.
Deck crowded with passengers now: all pointing and staring … at whom? Ask Aunt Maria. She declines to tell me: says, severely, that "If I don't know, I ought to."
Great Heavens! It's at me they're staring! And no wonder – in the hurry I was in, I must have packed everything up!.. I've come away just as I was! Now I understand why someone offered me a necktie. Where shall I go and hide myself? Shall I ever persuade that beast of a portmanteau to give me out one or two things to put on – because I really can't go about like this! Captain still hammering at funnel – but he can't wake that sleepy-headed idiot in the next room. "Louder – knock louder, or the boat will go without him! Tell him there isn't another for two days. He's said good-bye to everybody he knows at Oban – he will look such an ass if he doesn't go, after all!"… Not the least use! Wonder what his name is. My Aunt says she knows, only she won't tell me – she'll whisper it, as a great secret. She is just about to disclose the name, which, somehow, I am extremely curious to know – when …
Where am I? Haven't they got that unhappy fellow up yet? Why the dickens are they knocking at my door? I've been on board the steamer for hours, I tell you? Eh? what? Five minutes to eight! And the Gairloch boat? "Sailed at usual time – seven. Tried to make you hear – but couldn't."… Confound it all! Good mind not to get up all day – now!
SOCIETY'S NEXT CRAZE
(As Foreseen by Mr. Punch's Second-sighted Clairvoyant.)
It is the summer of 189-. The scene is a road skirting Victoria Park, Bethnal Green, which Society's leaders have recently discovered and appointed as the rendez-vous for the Season, and where it is now the correct thing for all really smart people to indulge, between certain prescribed hours, in sports and pastimes that have hitherto been more characteristic of the masses than the classes. The only permissible mount now is the donkey, which must be ridden close to the tail, and referred to as a "moke." A crowd of well-turned-out spectators arrives from the West End every morning about eleven to watch the brilliant parade of "Mokestrians" (as the Society journalist will already have decided to call them). Some drive slowly up and down on coster-barrows, attended by cockaded and disgusted grooms. About twelve, they break up into light luncheon parties; after which they play democratic games for half an hour or so, and drive home on drags.
Mr. Woodby-Innett (to the Donkey Proprietor). Kept a moke for me? I told you I should be wantin' one every mornin' now.
The Donkey Proprietor (after consulting engagement book). I've not got it down on my list, Sir. Very sorry, but the Countess of Cumberback has just booked the last for the 'ole of this week. Might let you 'ave one by-and-by, if Sir Hascot Goodwood brings his in punctual, but I can't promise it.
Mr. Woodby-Inn. That's no good; no point in ridin' after the right time. (To himself, as he turns away.) Nuisance! Not that I'm so keen about a moke. Not a patch on a bike! – though it don't do to say so. Only if I'd known this, I'd have turned up in a tall hat and frock coat; and then I could have taken a turn on the steam-circus. Wonder if it would be any sort of form shyin' at cocoa-nuts in tweeds and a straw hat. Must ask some chap who knows. More puzzlin' what to put on this year than ever!
Lady Ranela Hurlingham (breathlessly to Donkey Proprietor). That's mine, isn't it? Will you please put me up, and promise me you'll keep close behind and make him run. (Suppliantly.) You will, won't you?
The Donkey Proprietor (with a due sense of his own value). Well, I dessay I can come along presently, Lady 'Urlingham, and fetch 'im a whack or two; jest now I can't, having engaged to come and 'old the Marshiness of 'Ammercloth on 'er moke; but there, you orter be able to git along well enough by yourself now —you ought!
Captain Sonbyrne (just home on leave from India – to Mrs. Chesham-Lowndes). Rather an odd sort of idea this – I mean, coming all the way out here to ride a lot of donkeys, eh?
Mrs. Chesham-Lowndes. It used to be rather amusing a month ago, before they all got used to riding so near the tail; but now they're all so good at it, don't you know.
Capt. Sonb. I went down to Battersea Park yesterday to see the bicyclists. Not a soul there, give you my word!
Mrs. C. – L. No; there wouldn't be this season. You see, all sorts and conditions of people began to take it up, and it got too fearfully common. And now moke-riding has quite cut it out.
Capt. Sonb. But why ride donkeys when you can get gees?
Mrs. C. – L. Oh, well, they're democratic, and cheap, and all that, don't you know. And one really can't be seen on a horse this year – in town, at least. In the country it don't matter so much.
First Mokestrian (to second ditto). Hullo, old chap, so you've taken to a moke at last, eh? How are you gettin' on?
Second Mokestrian. Pretty well. I can sit on his tail all right now, but I can't get into the way of keepin' my heels off the ground yet, it's so beastly difficult.
Fragments from Spectators. That's rather a smart barrow Lady Barinrayne's drivin' to-day… Who's the fellow with her, with the paper feather in his pot-hat? Bad style, I call it… That's Lord Freddy Fugleman – best dressed man in London. You'll see everybody turnin' up in a paper feather in a day or two… Lot of men seem to be using a short clay as a cigarette-holder now, don't they?.. Yes, Roddie Rippingill introduced the idea last week, and it seems to have caught on. [&c., &c.]
After Luncheon; at the Steam-Circus and other Sports.
Scraps of Small-talk. No end sorry, Lady Gwendolen; been tryin' to get you a scent-squirt everywhere; but they're all gone; such a run on 'em for Ascot, don't you know… Thanks; it doesn't matter; only dear Lady Buckram has just thrown some red ochre down the back of my neck, and Algy Vere came and shot out a coloured paper thing right in my face, and I shouldn't like to seem uncivil… Suppose I shall see you at Lady Brabazon's "Kiss in the Ring" at Bethnal Green to-morrow afternoon?.. I believe she did send us cards, but we promised to look in at a friendly lead the Duchess of Dillwater is giving at such a dear little public she's discovered in Whitechapel, so we may be rather late… You'll keep a handkerchief-throw for me if you do come on, won't you?.. It will have to be an extra, then, I'm afraid… Are you goin' to Lord Balmisyde's eight o'clock breakfast to-morrow? So glad; I hear he's engaged five coffee-stalls, and we're all to stand up and eat saveloys and trotters and thick bread and butter… Oh, I wanted to ask you, my girls have got an invitation to a hoky-poky party the Vavasours are giving after the moke-ridin' next Thursday, and I'm told it's quite wrong to eat hoky-poky with a spoon – do you know how that is?.. The only correct way, Caroline, is to lick it out of the glass, which requires practice before it can be attempted in public. But I hear there's quite a pleasant boy-professor somewhere in the Mile End Road who teaches it in a single lesson; he's very moderate; his terms are only half a guinea, which includes the hoky-poky. I'll send you his address if I can find it… Thanks so much; the dear girls will be so grateful to you… I do think it's quite too bad of Lady Geraldine Grabber, she goes and sticks her card on the only decent wooden horse in the steam-circus and says she's engaged it for the whole time, though she hardly ever takes a round! And so many girls standing out who can ride without getting in the least giddy!.. Rathah a boundah, that fellow, if you ask me; I've seen him pullin' a swing boat in brown boots and ridin'-breeches!.. How wonderfully well your daughter throws the rings, dear Lady Cornelia, I hear she's won three walking-sticks and five clasp knives… You're very kind. She is quite clever at it; but then she's had some private coaching from a gipsy, don't you know… What are you going to do with yourself this afternoon?.. Oh, I'm going to the People's Palace to see the finals played off for the Skittles Championship; bound to be a closish thing; rather excitin', don't you know… Ah, Duchess, you've been in form to-day, I see, five cocoa-nuts! Can I relieve you of some of them?.. Thanks, they are rather tiresome to carry; if you could find my carriage and tell the footman to keep his eye on them. [&c., &c.]
Lady Rosehugh (to Mr. Luke Walmer, on the way home). You know I do think it's such a cheering sign of the times, Society getting simpler in its tastes, and sharing the pleasures of the Dear People, and all that; it must tend to bring all classes more together, don't you know!
Mr. Luke Walmer. Perhaps. Only I was thinking, I don't remember seeing any of the Dear People about.
Lady Rosehugh. No; somebody was telling me they had taken to playing Polo on bicycles in Hyde Park. So extraordinary of them – such a pity they haven't some higher form of amusement, you know!
AN IDEAL INTERVIEWER
Den of Latest Lion
Latest Lion (perusing card with no visible signs of gratification). Confound it! don't remember telling the Editor of Park Lane I'd let myself be interviewed. Suppose I must have, though. (Aloud to Servant, who is waiting.) You can show the Gentleman up.
Servant (returning). Mr. Walsingham Jermyn!
The L. L. (encouragingly). I presume, Mr. Jermyn, you're here to ask me some questions about the future of the British East African Company, and the duty of the Government in the matter?
Mr. Jermyn (gratefully). Er – yes, that's what I've come about, don't you know – that sort of thing. Fact is (with a burst of confidence), this isn't exactly my line – I've been rather let in for this. You see, I've not been by way of doin' this long – but what's a fellow to do when he's stony-broke? Got to do somethin', don't you know. So I thought I'd go in for journalism – I don't mean the drudgery of it, leader-writin' and that – but the light part of it, Society, you know. But the other day, man who does the interviews for Park Lane (that's the paper I'm on) jacked up all of a sudden, and my Editor said I'd better take on his work for a bit, and see what I made of it. I wasn't particular. You see, I've always been rather a dead hand at drawin' fellows out, leadin' them on, you know, and all that, so I knew it would come easy enough to me, for all you've got to do is to sit tight and let the other chap – I mean to say, the man you're interviewin' – do all the talking, while you – I mean to say, myself – keep, keeps – hullo, I'm getting my grammar a bit mixed; however, it don't signify —I keep quiet and use my eyes and ears like blazes. Talking of grammar, I thought when I first started that I should get in a regular hat over the grammar, and the spellin', and that —you write, don't you, when you're not travellin'? So you know what a grind it is to spell right. But I soon found they kept a Johnny at the office with nothing to do but put all your mistakes right for you, so, soon as I knew that, I went ahead gaily.
The L. L. Exactly, and now, perhaps, you will let me know what particular information you require?
Mr. J. Oh, you know the sort of thing the public likes – they'll want to know what sort of diggings you've got, how you dress when you're at home, and all that, how you write your books, now – you do write books, don't you? Thought so. Well, that's what the public likes. You see, your name's a good deal up just now – no humbug, it is though! Between ourselves, you know, I think the whole business is the balliest kind of rot, but they've got to have it, so there you are, don't you see. I don't pretend to be a well-read sort of fellow, never was particularly fond of readin' and that; no time for it, and besides, I've always said Books don't teach you knowledge of the world. I know the world fairly well – but I didn't learn it from books – ah, you agree with me there —you know what skittles all that talk is about education and that. Well, as I was sayin', I don't read much, I see the Field every week, and a clinkin' good paper it is, tells you everythin' worth knowin', and I read the Pink Un, too. Do you know any of the fellows on it? Man I know is a great friend of one of them, he's going to introduce me some day, I like knowin' literary chaps, don't you? You've been about a good deal, haven't you? I expect you must have seen a lot, travellin' as you do. I've done a little travellin' myself, been to Monte Carlo, you know, and the Channel Islands —you ever been to the Channel Islands? Oh, you ought to go, it's a very cheery place. Talkin' of Monte Carlo, I had a rattlin' good time at the tables there; took out a hundred quid, determined I would have a downright good flutter, and Jove! I made that hundred last me over five days, and came away in nothing but my lawn-tennis flannels. That's what I call a flutter, don't you know! Er – beastly weather we're havin'! You have pretty good weather where you've been? A young brother of mine has been out for a year in Texas – he said he'd very good weather – of course that's some way off where you've come from – Central Africa, isn't it? Talkin' of my brother, what do you think the young ass did? – went out there with a thousand pounds, and paid it all down to some sportsmen who took him to see some stock they said belonged to them – of course he found out after they'd off'd it that they didn't own a white mouse among 'em! But then, Dick's one of those chaps, you know, that think themselves so uncommon knowing, they can't be had. I always told him he'd be taken in some day if he let his tongue wag so much – too fond of hearing himself talk, don't you know, great mistake for a young fellow; sure to say somethin' you'd better have let alone. I suppose you're getting rather sick of all these banquets, receptions, and that? They do you very well, certainly. I went to one of these Company dinners some time ago, and they did me as well as I've ever been done in my life, but when you've got to sit still afterwards and listen to some chap who's been somewhere and done somethin' jawin' about it by the hour together without a check, why, it's not good enough, I'm hanged if it is! Well, I'm afraid I can't stay any longer – my time's valuable now, don't you know. I daresay yours is, too. I'm awfully glad to have had a chat with you, and all that. I expect you could tell me a lot more interestin' things, only of course you've got to keep the best of 'em to put in your book – you are writin' a book or somethin', ain't you? Such heaps of fellows are writin' books nowadays, the wonder is how any of 'em get read. I shall try and get a look at yours, though, if I come across it anywhere; hope you'll put some amusin' things in, – nigger stories and that, don't make it too bally scientific, you know. Directly I get back, I shall sit down, slick off, and write off all you've told me. I shan't want any notes, I can carry it all in my head, and of course I shan't put in anything you'd rather I didn't, don't you know.
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