Monday, September 24, 2012

Ashley Sterne Mixed Grill January 1925

Owing to a one month delay in republishing to the Malay Tribune, Ashley Sterne's Mixed Grill for the December holiday season appeared in January 1925.  Here are four installments, including a double-length Christmas installment.

Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 3 January 1925)

By Ashley Sterne

Ere these lines are in print I am earnestly hoping that the new star found near the constellation Pegasus will have been proved to be a planet.  No new planet has been found since the discovery of Neptune, though at one time there was a persistent rumour that the eminent astronomer, Professor Starr-Studyer, had discovered another.  The facts, however, are these.

The Professor had one night been investigating some stars (three in number, in the constellation J. Hennessy and Co. [a leading cognac house]) when quite by accident his telescope became focused on a large green star; right ascension £5 14s. 6d., left ascension 3 cwt. 16 lbs. 7ozs.  While observing it the Professor saw it suddenly turn red, and, in a few minutes, green again.  In intense excitement he rang up the Astronomer Royal to acquaint him of the epoch-making discovery, only to find next morning that his lens had been directed on a railway signal just outside Willesden Junction.  "Per ardua ad astra ["through adversity to the stars," the motto of the Royal Air Force]," quoted the Professor sadly, when he saw his chances of a knighthood vanish with the dawn.

**         **          **          **

A young Bucharest gentleman, aged 23, I read, has just had his hair cut for the first time.  Twenty three years seems a long time in which to discover that one is neither a poet nor a Samson.

**         **          **          **

Statistics now to hand show that at the recent General Election no fewer than 31,986 hecklers demanded of the various candidates what Gladstone said in '86.  In no instance was any satisfactory reply given to the enquirer, and as this undoubtedly greatly influence the electorate at the polls, I have been at considerable pains to find out exactly what the venerable statesman said in that memorable year.  A diligent search of the newspapers of the period has revealed the following, which, I confidently hope, will settle this momentous matter once and for all:

"Speaking on the Irish Question, at Mimbly Magna last night, Mr. Gladstone electrified his audience by commenting his speech with the significant words:  'Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen—What did Lord Palmerston say in '62?'"

**         **          **          **

In a recently contested will case in California the costs of litigation amounted to nearly a quarter-of-a-million dollars.  I am afraid that somebody is deemed to learned by bitter experience that where there's a will there's a weigh-out.

**         **          **          **

A beauty specialist  claims to have discovered a method whereby artificial complexions can be made indelible.  Hence—

Here is joy for every maiden!
Never more need they go laden
All about their daily duty
With a box of aids to beauty!

No more will they need to stencil
Eyebrows with a lining-pencil,
Nor to make their lips look tricky
By applying grease-paint sticky.

No more powder for their noses,
No more carmine for their "roses";
For, in short, in this connection,
They've acquired a "fast" complexion!

But, when at the Ritz they're dining,
I foresee some sad repining,
Since this leaves each Flo and Mabel
Nought to do but eat at table!

**         **          **          **

I much regret to see that that hideous relic of the Later Victorian Era, the Confession Book, is once again coming into popularity.  Why I cannot say, though possible its revival may have been stimulated by the fact that many London theater-programmes are embellished every week with the "confessions" of popular stage favourites—a very disappointing feature, in my opinion.  I'm not in the least interested to know that the favourite flower of Cicely Spotlime is the lesser bladderwort not that the principal hobby of Barney Stormer is pickling walnuts.  The things I really want to know about these folks are:

How much did Diddle's Dentifrice pay you for your testimonial?

As man to man, have you ever tried Diddle's dentifrice?

Who actually wrote that article which appeared under your signature in the Daily Dither?

Is your salary really £300 a week?

If so, do you tell your Income Tax Assessor the same story as you tell your press agent?

Do you honestly attribute your luxuriant tresses to the use of "Scalpine?"

Why are you always "indisposed" when you are billed to appear at a Charity Matinee?

**         **          **          **

It has been proposed to hold a world's  congress of doctors at Washington next summer.  In the event of the scheme's materialising I would like to suggest that a fund should be started for compensating these doctors whose patients recover during their forced absence.

**         **          **          **

As announced last week, my splendid new serial story starts to-day, and it is with very great pleasure that I present my readers with the first instalment of—

or, the Girl who took the Wrong Umbrella


Lady Burble's dinner-party had been a huge success.  Winkle-shells and banana skins strowed the floor, while the table was crowded with empty beer-bottles, fragments of potato pie, and other evidence of her lavish hospitality.  There was scarcely anything left, and Lady Burble beamed as she gazed upon her distended guests and rose from her seat.

"Shall we join the gentlemen?" she suggested; but barely had the words left her mouth before Billcocks, the butler, entered the room in great perturbation and squeaky boots.

"Pardon me, your Ladyship," he mumbled in her ear, "but something dreadful has happened."

"Not the drains again, I trust?" said Lady Burble anxiously.

"No, your Ladyship, nothing so bad as that—but—but the children's governess (certified) has been found in her bedroom lying face downwards in the soap dish—drowned."

"Dear, dear!" murmured Lady Burble.  "What a nuisance!  And little Eric so backward in his algebra, too!  Well, I must telephone for a re-fill.  Please excuse me a moment," she continued, raising her voice to her guests.  "Billcocks, push the four-ale round again."

While these dramatic events were taking place at Burble Manor, a pale, emaciated ex-governess(certified) might have been seen leaving the lost property office at Scotland Yard with a large Japanese umbrella under her arm.

(Another large instalment, weather permitting, next week)

**         **          **          **

From an account of the recent London Society Cage Bird Show I learn that the fashionable colour for canaries is no longer yellow but white.  This intelligence, I fear, will greatly perturb late purchasers of yellow canaries who were not advised of the coming change in fashion, and now find themselves stuck with unfashionable birds.  This suggest to me that a lucrative livelihood is awaiting the person who can devise a safe and speedy method of bleaching canaries, and to this end I have been consulting my learned and esteemed friend, Professor Barmion Crumpett, F.Z.S., who has for many years been experimenting to remove the ugly black stripes from zebras.  He tells me, however, that there is no bleaching agent known that can be administered to canaries without making them cough and serious impairing their voices, and suggests that a more satisfactory method would be to frighten them severely, when they would probably turn white in a single night.

He further informs me that he has tried this method with his experimental zebra with not altogether unfavourable results; but as the creature has now grown accustomed to his suddenly pouncing out from behind doors and shouting "Boo!" it now suffers his efforts without turning a hair.

**         **          **          **

A recent invention for use in the kitchen is a device for lifting down jars from the top shelves of the larder and pantry.  A lady friend of mine whose attention I directed to the matter informs me that for some years she has possessed an infallible one.  He is at present in bed with the measles.

**         **          **          **

Fair pillion-rider:  "That was a big building we just passed!"

The scorcher:  "Big building?  That was Manchester!"

**         **          **          **

An esteemed contemporary has been offering prizes to its readers for the best authenticated instances of absent-mindedness.  I have refrained from entering the competition because the idea of winning money through the unfortunate mental lesion of a friend is repugnant to me; but here are the facts.

I one day entered the American bar at Romano's and there encountered an old schoolfellow whom I hadn't seen for years.  At his urgent invitation I agreed to join him in a cocktail.  In due course the shaker handed over the invigorating fluid, when, without an instant's hesitation, my friend plunged his hand into his pocket and gave the man half-a-crown.

What! you don't see it?  Well, perhaps I ought to have mentioned before that I went to school at Aberdeen.

**         **          **          **

A fashion journal states that the winter season's costumes are to be a blend of several different materials.  Thank heaven, my office coat will be in fashion at last!

**         **          **          **

I have just heard a story of the recent Rat Week.  A man entered a tramcar bearing a closed wicker basket into which he kept taking anxious peeps at frequent intervals.  His behaviour aroused the curiosity of a passenger sitting opposite, who, at length unable to restrain his inquisitiveness, leant across and asked his fellow-traveller what the basket contained.

"It's like this," said the owner of the basket.  "I've got a brother wot's bin took bad and hadter go ter bed, and 'e's bin complainin' that 'e's overrun with rats wot come and sit on the bedposts and gnash their teeth at 'im.  This bein' Rat Week I'm takin' this 'ere mongoose along o' me to kill 'em for 'im."

"But," said the inquisitive one, with a superior smile, "those rats your brother sees aren't real rats, you know."

"Well, between ourselves," the other remarked, "nor ain't this a real mongoose."

**         **          **          **

My readers may remember that a few weeks ago I published a little poem written in the Scots dialect, which has since caused considerable excitement, not to say alarm, in the literary world.  A prominent London critic has even gone so far as to say that it is a pity I have no French blood in me, as then I might, possibly, similarly enrich the somewhat meagre present-day output of French lyrical poetry.  But, as a matter of fact, I am of French extraction, windows on my father's side and beans on my mother's, and it is with great willingness that I bow to his implied request for a little chansonette, entitled: —


Comment vous portez-vous, Renee?
Defense dafficher, s'il vous plait,
Eh bien! je ne sais quoi.
Poulet roti!  Vive la France!
Honi soit qui mal y pense!
L'etat? L'etat c'est moi!

Quelle heure est-il?  Trois, quatre, cinq, six,
Une, deus, onze, douze, sept, huit, neuf, dix?
Oh, messieurs, faites vos jeux!
Potage a la maitre d'hotel,
Zola, Daudet, Fontenelle—
Oh, rien ne va plus!

**         **          **          **

Several table knives have lately been stolen from a certain Rowton House in the north of London.  It is rumoured that detectives are closely scrutinising the presents displayed at fashionable weddings.

**         **          **          **

If you missed the opening chapter of my splendid new serial story you can start reading it to-day.  It won't make any difference.  So masterly is its construction that you can commence reading it at any time, in any place.  You can read it backwards, sideways, upside down.  It is just as intelligible as when read in the usual manner.

**         **          **          **

or, the Girl who took the Wrong Umbrella



Lord Hammond Egg, a dishonest tapioca broker, has fallen violently in love with his ward—

Gwladwys Goop, a beautiful girl, but a secret drinker of cod-liver oil, a vice to which she has been introduced by the sinister—

Wun Long Kow, a Chinese chopstick-polisher, who runs a Mah-Jongg hell.

Gwladwys is seen leaving his premises by Percy Pilch, a dashing young athlete, who is Captain of the Y.M.C.A spelling-bee team.  He seeks to wean Gwladwys from the deadly drug by giving her a blood-orange, but in doing so is knocked down by a runaway steam-roller.

Marmaduke Mivvers made no reply, but merely laughed as he handed his aunt into the waiting motor car, though why he laughed he could not say.

(Nor can I at the moment.  The synopsis has taken up so much space that I have no room for any more this week.  But look out for a specially long and thrilling instalment next week!)


Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 8 January 1925)

By Ashley Sterne

There really seems to be some prospect at last that we shall revert ere long to that fine old British institution, the penny post.  One of the most encouraging signs is that the statue of Sir Rowland Hill, hard by the Royal Exchange, looks more cheerful to-day than for many years past.  Ever since the penny post went west—along with the sixpenny telegram and whisky that did not taste like turpentine—I have frequently noticed a look of pain on the statue's features.  Indeed, when the price of letter was advanced to twopence, I distinctly remember, when returning one night from the annual installation banquet of the Worshipful Company of Whitebait Bleachers, seeing Sir Rowland's head buried in his hands.

Which inspires me to add that, although most of our London statues regard passing events with stony indifference, some, on the other hand, at times display considerable emotion, as in Sir Rowland's case.  As a further instance, when the City Charwoman some few years ago was instructed to wash Mr. George Peabody, many people testify to the fact that at the conclusion of the ceremony the eminent philanthropist's eyes were moist.

**         **          **          **

A copy of the Morning Post printed in 1774 and another of the Times printed in 1791 were recently sold at auction for £6 a piece.  The purchaser is understood to be a newly qualified dentist.

**         **          **          **

After many years' experimenting, I read, a scientist has succeeded in persuading an oyster to produce a pink pearl.  His method of procedure has not been officially divulged, but in scientific circles it is widely assured that the result was achieved by dieting the oyster on thermometer bulbs and tomato chutney.  Some of my readers may possibly remember that that eminent expert on dietetics, Dr. Bulkley Stodger, some years ago endeavoured to induce a tame oyster named Oliver, which he owned, to produce a pear-shaped black pearl by dieting it exclusively on decanter-stoppers and coal tar; and doubtless the distinguished Dr. would have succeeded, but for his own lamentable oversight.  After feeding his pet one night he omitted to close its shell, with the result that Oliver contracted bivalvular disease of the heart.  A state of high fever supervened, and though the distracted Dr. promptly put his pet to oyster-bed, shaved its beard, and placed its head on ice, it never rallied, but passed peacefully away in its sleep.

The subsequent interment was carried out by Dr. Bulkley Stodger, attended by a bottle of Chili vinegar, and two thin slices of brown bread and butter.

**         **          **          **

A Cuban paper states that a young native girl possesses the highest soprano voice in the world.  It does not, however, say if her top notes have snow on them all the year round.

**         **          **          **

One of the bees in my bonnet has already begun its annual buzz.  In almost every shop window I pass I see printed placards advertising goods for "Xmas"—one of the most hideous abbreviations in the English language.  We don't refer to Michaelmas as "Mikemas", so why distort Christmas into "Xmas"?  One of these days the "X" horror will spread, and we shall have the Vicar announcing, "Let us sing hyms 53—'Xtians, awake! salute the happy morn'; the hero of The Pilgrim's Progress will be known as "Xtian"; the Bluecoat School will be called "X's Hospital"; the ceremony of baptism will be referred to as "Xening"; and the discoverer of America Xopher Columbus.

Sometimes I feel constrained to ask those people who employ the word "Xmas" if they know what Christmas really stands for.

**         **          **          **

A certain "little visitor" now annoying me with his annual visit has goaded me into the composition of the following verses, which I call—


Hush-a-bye, chilblain, on my big toe!
Why in the world do you irritate so?
You, who've been itching the whole of the day,
Leave me in peace for a little, I pray!

Why can't you sleep like all good chilblains do?
Must you be restless the whole night-time through?
Conduct so cruel drives me half off my thatch;
Yet you don't care a hang, though I scratch and scratch!

Never a respite you grant me.  Instead,
I have to endure you in boots and in bed.
Why can't you allow me a little allay?
Or don't chilblains have any Eight Hours Day?

Hush-a-bye, chilblain, on my big toe!
Give me a rest for a brief half-a-mo',
And if you'll be good and in slumber recline,
To-morrow I'll buy you some nice iodine!

**         **          **          **

A Thames angler, on opening a pike which he had caught, found a small spirit flask in the voracious fish's stomach.  But there is really nothing exceptional in this.  Every jack must have his gill, as the old saw saith.

**         **          **          **

As, owing to exigence of space last week, I was prevented from making very much progress with my splendid new serial story, I have decided to omit the synopsis from the present instalment.  I am anxious to get the preliminary chapters over and arrive at the part where Knora is lured into the steam laundry and forced to become a chartered accountant.  It will make your blood stand on end.

or, the Girl who took the Wrong Umbrella

CHAPTER II (cont.)

"Never!" cried Enid Mibblethwaite-Mibblethwaite, scornfully.  "What! take your money and send my peroxide-haired grandmother to a felon's cell—never!  I'll see you in Hel—in Helensburgh first!"

She raised her arm.  "There is the door," she said.

"What a jolly one!" murmured Sidney Fitz Poodle, examining the knobs with much interest.

"Never darken it again!" cried Enid.

"I haven't touched it, I swear!" said Sidney.  "In any case I should'nt darken it.  All it wants is a little—"

Enid Postlethwaite-Postlethwaite silenced him with a gesture, and rang the bell.  "Humphreys," she said to the responding menial, "show this—this person the front door!"

"But dash it all!" protested Sidney.  "I don't want to see any more doors.  I'm not a bally door collector.  I came to—"

"You came to blackmail me," Enid interposed, "and I'm not having any.   Go!  I never want to see you ugly mug again."

Baffled, Sidney McGumboil was about to take his hat from the top of the meat-safe, when a strange thing happened!

(The strange thing will be explained, with dissolving views, in next week's long and absorbing instalment.)


Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 17 January 1925)

By Ashley Sterne

I have been much interested in reading the account of the expedition which has been organised to hunt what is believed to be a dinosaur which has been seen frequenting the shores of a certain lake in South America (precise locality secret).  All too little is known of these prehistoric monsters, and should the expedition prove successful in its objective it will be the most noteworthy contribution to zoological science since my learned friend, Professor Barmion Crumpett, F.Z.S., succeeded in reconstructing the skeleton of a the pterodactyl from a single fossilized tail-feather of that interesting reptile.  Zoologists from all parts of the globe came to view it and to congratulate my friend on his remarkable achievement, and had it not subsequently transpired that the fossilized tail-feather was, in point of fact, nothing more nor less than the discarded backbone of the Professor's breakfast-haddock there is little doubt but that he would have been made honoris causa, one of the keepers in the parrot house at the Zoo.

**         **          **          **

An ex-soldier, I see, after trying various methods of earning a livelihood, has at length set up in business as a bloater-curer.  Should he be requiring a good, sound advertising-slogan I would respectfully suggest:—

BINK'S BLOATERS:  Straight from Yarmouth to Your Mouth

**         **          **          **

Once again the question is being discussed of whether or not we should have a National Opera House wherein to produce native operas given by native artistes.  Keen student of music that I am—you really ought to hear me play "Chopsticks"—I do not think the scheme is either practical or advisable.  To being with, our stock of native operas and opera-singers is by no means large, and the chances are that, in order to keep the show going, we should be very soon compelled to revert to the more popular Italian opera—that extraordinary musical production which, though boasting an Italian name, is usually rendered by Spanish vocalists singing in French, a German orchestra playing in tonic-sol-fa, and a Russian ballet dancing in next to nothing.  A further point is that, owing to the present high prices of port and eggs and bottled stout, opera is an expensive luxury nowadays.  Hence men who want to go to sleep after dinner elect to patronise the so much cheaper Turkish bath, or else enter Parliament, where, instead of paying to go to sleep, they get paid 400 pounds a year for doing so.

**         **          **          **


A certain young lady named Cholmondeley
Remarked to a friend somewhat lolmondeley:
     "Why do men all grimace
      When they look at my face?
Are my features so very unolmondeley?

**         **          **          **

Already "carols" have begun to haunt my front garden.  Last night I distributed upwards of a ton of coal amongst fourteen Good-King-Wenceslases and twenty-three Christians-awake.  I also had a long argument through the letter-box with the First Nowell and a heart-to-heart talk with the navigator of three ships.  In glowing phrases I told them one and all that when I wanted to hear an imitation of an asthmatic goat moaning for its young I'd send them a postcard.  As matters stand at the moment I have already facilities for hearing all the al fresco music I want.  My next-door neighbor is one of those all-the-year-round gardening maniacs, and even in these dark and chilly December mornings I can hear his garden-roller in full song.

**         **          **          **

A writer in a contemporary accuses the modern girl of marrying for money and not for love.  If this be true, we shall have to remodel our drawing-room love-songs, and the passionate lyric of the near future will, I predict, run somewhat as follows:

No red, red rose I send thee, sweet,
As emblem of my passion true;
Instead of it, I send a neat
P.O. for just a bob or two.

No kiss I press upon your lip
(Such demonstration's strictly barred);
I merely hand you out a tip
In token of my fond regard.

No gleaming circlet shall defile
Your finger: set your mind at ease;
As pledge of our betrothal I'll
Fill both your hands with Bradburys.

I'll lay no incense at your feet;
I'll pay no homage at your boots;
I'll pay, instead, a cheque, my sweet,
Into your own account at Coutts'.

**         **          **          **

A reader has written asking me what the little stars are for between the paragraphs of "Mixed Grill".  Perhaps I ought to have explained before that they are inserted on "Safety First" principles.  They are to enable shipwrecked sailors to steer without a compass.

**         **          **          **

Or, The Girl who took the Wrong Umbrella


Garibaldi Gherkin, a half-witted macaroni-borer, has been induced to forge a tram-ticker by—

Sir Cato Catsmeat, an auctioneer and estate agent of depraved and brutal habits.  He has got into his clutches—

Uvula Pastille, the pretty daughter of a cash chemist.  She has entrusted to Sir Cato a secret recipe for linseed poultices invented by her father, which Sir Cato is trying to palm off on the Siamese Government as the plans of a new torpedo.  Gherkin, however, has discovered the plot, and has made an appointment with—

Det.-Insp. Baddeley-Bungle, of the C.I.D, to meet him opposite the lamp-post in the Strand.  Gherkin has arranged to wear a Brussels sprout in his button-hole so that he may recognise the Inspector, who will be disguised as a ventriloquist.


Silently the jury filed back into court.  But no shadow of emotion showed upon Ffrederck Ffolliot-Ffench's fface.  He was innocent, be the verdict what it might.  It was not his hand that had administered the poisoned doughnuts to the dead millionaire.  The silence was broken by the clerk of the court.

"Gentlemen of the jury, are you agreed upon your verdicts?

"No!" said the foreman, in a steady voice.

"Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?

"We do!" came the reply, unfalteringly.

Solemnly the judge put on his black hat and gloves, and turned to the dock.  "Prisoner at the bar," he began, "the jury have found you guilty and not guilty of the crime of mur—"

A thickly-veiled woman rose in the court.  "No! no!  I did it!  I did it!"

Ffrederick Ffolliot-Ffrench started as if struck by a pole-axe, for the voice was the voice of Mildred Mildow!

(To be continued—if I can think how)


Mixed Grill  (Malaya Tribune, 31 January 1925)

By Ashley Sterne

This, my friends, is a Special Christmas Number of "Mixed Grill", in which I propose to deal solely with Christmas topics.  For once I shall cease to discuss the vital problems of the day and devote myself exclusively to a consideration of Yuletide matters.  By a happy co-incidence, even this week's instalment of my splendid new serial story deals with Christmas Day; while my colleague, the artist who supplies the scenery, has agreed still further to sustain the Christmas atmosphere by introducing, wherever possible, mistletoe, holly, robins, Yule-logs, lumps of pudding, and other addenda of the Festive Season.  First of all, let me present every reader with my private greeting-card.

and begs to announce
that he gives the highest possible prices
for old or disused false teeth.
Payments made in convenient instalments.
N.B.—No Business Transacted with minors.

**          **          **          **          **

Talking of Christmas cards, what a bald and unconvincing document the modern card is!  It is about as sentimental and artistic as a jury summons or a soup ticket.  Time was when Christmas cards really reflected the spirit of the season: ye olde, snow-covered village church, with coloured gelatine windows; a sky studded with lovely tinsel starts the size of spiders, and possible the figure of a herald angel blowing a long golden trombone hovering in mid-air; a foreground showing the Oldest Inhabitant, apparently in the throes of lumbago, carrying a young forest on his back; the whole lavishly sprinkled with baking-powder.  But see what takes its place to-day, a plain rectangle of paste-board bearing the inspiring and beautiful legend, "Mr. and Mrs. Dithering Dogsbody, X'mas "24"—or something equally abrupt.  If things continue to evolve in this manner, the Christmas card of the near future will probably be a luggage-label with nothing on it at all.

**          **          **          **          **

Have you heard the story of the Scotsman who inadvertently swallowed the six-pence in the Christmas pudding?  The chemist charged him a shilling for the mustard-and-water.

Which reminds me that a correspondent has written to ask me if I can give a reliable recipe for a wholesome Christmas pudding.  I can; and if you conscientiously carry out the following instructions, you will unhesitatingly agree with me that my pudding cannot possibly be beaten.

Take a pound of re-inforced concrete, a pint-and-a-half of tar, a dozen dog-biscuits reduced to powder, the rind of a football finely shredded, a lump of suet the size of a bit of coal, and 463 currants.  Mix thoroughly in a hip-bath, then add a quart of cod-liver oil, and beat to a stiff paste with an old umbrella.  Leave for three weeks to rise, then turn it, taking care to tuck in the selvedge.  When fully risen in all directions, tie up the mixture in a pudding-cloth, lashing together the loose ends with a mohair bootlace.  Thump into circular shape with a pudding-thumper, then boil till red-hot in a slow oven.  Remove the cloth, sandpaper the pudding to remove rough edges, stick a spray of holly in its North Pole, pour over it a rich sauce made by melting a tallow candle in a bucket of boiling glue, and serve with a fret-saw.  The above quantities will be more than sufficient for six persons. 

I may add that this pudding is perfectly wholesome so long as you don't eat it.  When cold it makes a useful paperweight or door-stopper.

**          **          **          **          **

[Missing lines] ...imitation of hoar-frost, and, at the foot, a chunk of solid poetry all about peace and goodwill.  That was the real Christmas stuff.  It gave one chilblains to look at it.

I have been trying hard to compose an original little Christmas poem for this column, but unfortunately there are no authentic rhymes to "Christmas" and the task has been almost beyond my powers.  Of course, I know that I might have worked "Christmas" into the middle of a line or used the word "Yule" instead, and thus escaped my difficulty.  But such a device, I think, would have been cowardly.  Besides, the poem would have lost its "punch."  Just imagine how "The Lady of Shalott" would sound if there had been no rhymes to "Shalott" and Tennyson had had to refer to her as Eliza, or Mrs. Higginbottom, or whatever her real names were.

But say!  Why should I not employ my handicap as the theme of my poem?  Here goes, anyway!

I've long cherished the ambition to contribute an addition
To our somewhat scanty poetry on Yule-tide;
But though the task is feasible it's certainly not easy,
For I find myself by rigid rhyming rule tied.
I feel as badly stranded as some steamer that has landed
On the sticky mud of Suez's fair isthmus;
And my heart is rent and raw that orthography's strict law
Prohibits me from spelling Christmas "Christhmus."
Tho' I'm sure no one can question Yule-tides claim to indigestion
(And its sequel—sodium carbonate and bismuth);
Yet I know 'twould count as treason if I gave this as a reason
For distorting its orthography to "Christmuth."
As one word I cannot mate it; but if I abbreviate it
And divide it (as a chemist a complex mass
Analyses into units), well that's quite another tune; it's
An awf'lly easy job to rhyme with "Xmas."
Yet, when with courtly low bow underneath the mistletoe bough,
I've saluted sundry aunts and also kissed mass,
Even such intense excitement cannot crush the sad indictment
That I've failed to find one single rhyme to "Christmas"!

**          **          **          **          **

A dear old lady has confided to me that she is going to buy no more jewelled crackers.  She tells me that last year she bought a box of them, only to find on opening them that, much to her annoyance, the jewels were only sham ones.

**          **          **          **          **

or, The Girl who took the Wrong Umbrella


Once again Christmas had come round as it had so often done before, and it was to the music of the merry Christmas chimes that Asphyxia rose from her bed, took her teeth from the soap dish, her hair from the chair-back, her complexion from three china jars and a bottle, and arrayed herself for the coming festivities.

But though her lips wore a brave smile her heart was heavy as a sack of coal, for her memory went back to that Christmas three years ago when Asmodeus Gumph had poured his soul out into her ear and confessed his love for her.  And she had spurned him!  Not only that, but she had turned the dogs, two footmen, and the fire-hose on to him, and forbidden him the house, grounds, stabling, garage, kennels, vinery, cucumbery, and all the other modern improvements.

And all for a misunderstanding!  Well she knew in her heart of hearts that it was not her lover who had sand-bagged the Prime Minister and stolen his braces; but her pride, her cursed pride, had forbad her to speak, and Asmodeus had passed out of her life for ever.

For ever?  Little did Asphyxia know that even as her tears thudded on to the Drage dressing-table Asmodeus, wearing two monocles and one spat, was at that moment at the lodge gates inquiring the way to the front door.

Rapidly she completed her toilet, and repaired to the breakfast-room.  The room was empty save for a dish of sausages, and Asphyxia, who had had no food since her last meal, sniffed them hungrily.  She was about to select one when a loud knock at the front door caused her to start.  Her heart began to beat violently—bump-biff-bump—and the sausages began to cool off.  Something was about to happen.  She sensed it in every fibre of her being.

And then the door opened!

(To be concluded at the first opportunity.)

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Within a very few days, I suppose, we shall be going through the quaint annual ceremony of making a lot of good resolutions for the New Year.  Why we go to all this trouble every year I cannot imagine, because it is a well-known fact that the only person who ever kept faith with himself was the man who resolved to make no New Year's resolutions.  The truth is, the resolutions we make are far too drastic to be carried through successfully.  I resolve, for instance, to abandon smoking cigarettes, of which I usually smoke 7,000 a year—a resolution impossible of execution, as any cigarette-smoker will confirm.  But did I resolve to smoke fewer cigarettes per annum—say, 6999 instead of 7,000—I should get home with flying colours.  Then, if I continue thus to discipline myself year after year, I should be completely cured of the habit by A.D. 8925.  There is much to be said for resolutions made on the Instalment System.

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"And did you have a very merry Christmas, Tommy?"

"Rather, Auntie!  I was sick three times."

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Purveyors of cosmetics are asserting that ere long the fashionable complexion for ladies will be the one with which Nature endowed them.  In support of this I hear that several prominent Society ladies have already begun to revert to the skin-deep type of beauty, but are not finding the job an easy one owing to many years accretion of powder and cream.  Take the case of Lady Ratafia Dogfish.  With the help of a spokeshave and some sandpaper she at length succeeded in removing her 1924 complexion, only, however, to find 1923's lurking underneath.  This she eventually managed to dispose of with a charge of blasting-powder, merely to reveal a fresco of 1922 in a very fine state of preservation.  This she contrived to dissolve by liberal applications of strong hydraulic [hydrochloric?] acid, and at present she is employed in delving by means of a rock-drill into a particularly stubborn 1921 complexion, but hope to strike the reef early next month.

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Two backward young ladies named Beauchamp
Engaged a professor to teauchamp;
     But so learned was he—
     (LL.D., and B.Sc)—
That his meaning failed wholly to reauchamp!

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Ladies' spring hats (my Paris correspondent informs me) are to be trimmed with artificial fruit.  Not, mark you, just an odd grape or cherry stuck haphazardly on the brim, as heretofore, but lavish clusters liberally distributed over the whole edifice.  The models exhibited, however, are very expensive, and few ladies, unless they are fortunate enough to be the wives of bricklayers or plumbers, will be able to afford them.  Why not, then, O women of Mumbles Head (and elsewhere), go one better and dozen cheaper by wearing the real thing?  Scrape the works out of a melon and you have your foundation.  Decorate with a pound of prunes or a tin of pineapple slices, and you have a genuine fruit hat at the cost of eighteenpence as against as many guineas for the artificial variety.

Of course, the fruit would need to be renewed from time to time, but consider how you would score.  Mrs. Gloop, with her Paris model, will be doomed for months on end to wear nothing but apricots.  You will have the whole of Covent Garden to choose from, and will be able to keep your hat seasonable with rhubarb, pomegranates, pumpkins, goosegogs, bananas, cocoanuts, and so forth. You will even be at  liberty to adopt vegetables.  I have often wondered why no hat architect has yet explored the decorative possibilities of the cauliflower or the Brussels sprout.

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A West Country farmer, whose family have recently been increased by sons in triplicate, has decided to call them, respectively, Stanley, David, and Ramsay, after the three political leaders.  One can only admired his self-restraint.  Most fathers would have called them something unprintable.

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"Welcome the coming, speed the parting guest!"
Has ever been the burthen of our lay,
What time the crippled year has limped away.
To join its rude forefathers in the west.
Yet, as we hail you, we would make behest
Ere precedent should grasp you by the hand,
And lead you to ignore the just demand
Which strives for utt'rance in a nation's breast:
Grant us, we beg, a summer full of sun;
Wipe out the ghastly toll of unemployed;
Ease, too, the lot of all who're out and down;
And, Twenty-Five, if, when your course is run,
You'd have us mourn you with grief  unalloyed,
Reduce the Income-Tax to half-a-crown!

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Start reading my splendid new serial to-day, or you will miss it altogether.  The present instalment is the last (by general request).  Let me, however, just explain for the benefit of the many readers who have written asking when Knock-kneed Knora is coming into the story, that I am afraid she never will.  Just after completing the first chapter I heard from her sister, Bandy-legged Bertha, that poor Knora has died of ingrowing wisdom teeth, and it seemed to me both heartless and unnecessary to drag the girl's antecedents before the public.  So there.

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Or, The Girl who took the Wrong Umbrella

Chapter XCIV

Slowly, slowly the great liner moved away from its anchor.  The voyage had begun.  But the fair, frail girl seated in the richly decorated dining saloon eating cold beef and pickles had no regrets at leaving England.  Ever since the day, ten years before, when she had been thrown on the world with a thump that had shaken St. Paul's Cathedral to its foundations, she had known there nothing but misery and a little conversational French, and it was with a sigh of relief that she eventually rose from the table and left the saloon.

A sudden loud plop as she reached the deck startled her, but she was reassured on learning that its cause was only the dropping of the pilot.  She took up a position between the starboard binnacles and the port mainbrace, and let her eyes wander wistfully over the waste of white waters which lay between her and the man waiting for her on the pier at Chicago.  Soon—very soon—the new life would begin; that strange new life on the molasses ranch with Basil Balderdash, where she would awake to the glad notes of the bottle-nosed clam and fall asleep to the lullaby of the laughing jackasses on the prairie...

Her revery was broken by the harsh clang of the dinner-gong.

"More cold beef and pickles," said Clarice, starting up eagerly; and with a happy sigh she went below.

And there, gentle reader, it would be tactful to leave her.  For the sea is getting up, and Clarice is a rotten bad sailor.

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