Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ashley Sterne Punch 1915 Flying Colours

A little Joan and Oswald story from Ashley Sterne about collecting for the Red Cross during The Great War.

Punch, v149, p. 366
November 3, 1915

Flying Colours

It was Red Cross Day, and as I was preparing to go to the City Joan came into the hall with Rip.

Rip is a new acquisition. He had formerly been our doctor's property, but his wife had declared that she wouldn't have a large dog in the same house with the small baby that had just joined the home circle, and the doctor, after much anxious thought, had decided to keep the small baby and get rid of the large dog.  Thereupon we offered a refined home, full board, freedom of the hearth-rug, and occasional use of rat in tool-shed, with the result that, a few weeks ago, Rip came to us with a completely new outfit (collar with our address engraved upon it — the doctor's parting gift), and is now one of the family.  For the past week he had been rigidly trained every day with a view to assisting the Red Cross funds.

"I want Rip to have a rehearsal," Joan said, "to see if he knows his part.  Now try and look as much like a stranger as possible, and then advance and buy a flag."

I walked to the hall door, while Joan, with Rip at her side, stood at the threshold of the breakfast-room.  Assuming what Stevenson (I think) calls "a glad morning face," I strolled up.

"Will you buy a flag, Sir?" said Joan, stepping forward.

"With pleasure," I replied.  "How much?"

"As much as you like to give."  (The above dialogue is taken from life.)

"Will five shillings —"

"Oh, how splendid!"

"Then lend it to me, will you?" I remarked.  "I've left all my money on my dressing-table.  Ever since you gave me that trouser-press on my last birthday I've —"

"Oh, you mustn't talk like that!" cried Joan in dismay  "Remember you're a stranger."

"That doesn't ease the financial pressure a bit," I said as I ran upstairs.  And a minute later I had discharged my liability by placing two half-crowns in the box which hung round Rip's neck, while Joan took a flag from the pincushion which she had fastened saddlewise to his back.

"Now he has to bark a 'Thank you,' hasn't he, and offer me the right paw of good-fellowship?"

A sharp bark sounded as I spoke and a paw was timidly lifted for me to grasp.  I took it.  We made a pretty, though not original, picture — the intelligent well-trained hound and the stern yet kindly-looking man.  The coloured Christmas Supplements have made fortunes out of it.  "Oh, you dear!" Joan exclaimed, clapping her hands.

"Not at all," I said, wiping my hand on my trouser-leg.

"I meant the dog," observed Joan.  "He knows his part perfectly.  I only hope it won't rain.  People won't want to shake hands with him if his paws are wet and muddy."

"Well, take my old gloves," I suggested.  Patrons can put them on for the ceremony and then hand them back.  Heavens! I must run.  Good luck!"

"Don't forget you're coming home to lunch," called out Joan as I reached the gate, "and you are to fetch me from my pitch outside our bank."

"Which bank?" I inquired loftily.  (We have a small sum in the custody of the Postmaster-General.)

"The one where our account is always overdrawn," Joan cried back.

*          *          *          *          *

It as on the stroke of one that I reached the bank.  "How have you got on?" I asked, as Joan, having successfully negotiated a sale with a tall stout gentleman, was anxiously watching the united efforts of her customer and our faithful and highly-trained dog to bridge the gap of physical disability that parted them, and seal the bargain in the prescribed manner.  "Splendidly!" she replied.  "I've just emptied my box for the third time.  On sovereign, three half-sovereigns, and any amount of silver.  Poor old Rip's neck must ache dreadfully.  I wish everyone did as that stout man did.  He put in a five-pound note; and, just before, a nice old lady and her daughter put in two one-pounders... Hallo!  Here comes the doctor.  He must buy a flag from Rip.  There, he's gone past!"

The doctor, obviously in a hurry, had whizzed by in his care and was already up a side-turning.  And so too was Rip.  The sight of his old master was too much for him.  With a yelp of joy he was off like an arrow, and the air round us simply rained little red-and-white flags.  In response to Joan's piteous appeal I started in pursuit of our richly-endowed dog, but I was hopelessly outclassed from the very start.  No sign of car or dog could I see when I reached the corner, and I dejectedly retraced my steps.  For a quarter of an hour we waited in melancholy silence.  The Rip reappeared.  His collecting-box had fallen off, and the flagless pincushion had slipped round under his tummy.  "It's all my fault, Rip," Joan said; "I ought to have provided against such a contingency.  But our duty is clear," she added, turning to me.  I looked into her face and read there what was already in my own mind.  Then together we entered the bank and increased our overdraft by seven pounds.

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