Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ashley Sterne Punch 1915 My Consol

Here is a short comic article by Ashley Sterne from Punch (v.149, p. 62) July 21, 1915.

[Note: A Consol (short for consolidated annuity) is a British government bond first issued in 1751 that pays interest four times a year.  A residuary legatee is the person designated by a will to receive property not specially designated for others.]

My Consol

He came to me many years ago in my capacity as a residuary legatee, since when we have been very happy together, Clarence (my Consol) and I.  I have watched over his early training and education, and have done my best to influence him for good and to guide his tastes in the right direction, as every conscientious guardian should.  The days of his youth were passed in a cash-box, which reposed in my Jacobean roll-top desk, and every Saturday night I would take him out – out of his box, I mean – and talk to him like a like a residuary legatee.  But the time came when I judged it best to send him away.  He was growing up, and there was his future to consider.  For long I hesitated; but I finally made up my mind that he was best fitted to occupy a position in a bank, and in due course, after he had successfully passed the preliminary examination, I entered Clarence at Cox and Co.'s.  Never shall I forget the day upon which I handed him over to their care.  "Good-bye, Clarence," I said, with a lump in my throat ; "good-bye!  I've done the best I can for you.  I hope you 'll be industrious and grow up to be a great and good Consol, and a credit to our National Debt.  I hope – "  Here I burst into tears, and they led me gently out.

Clarence settled down comfortably and happily.  Cox's wrote to me from time to time to say that he was still there and giving no trouble, and even to this day I regularly hear from Clarence himself four times a year – on January 5th (to wish me a prosperous New Year), on April 5th (opening of the Quarter Sessions), on July 5th (anniversary of the French occupation of Algiers, 1830), and October 5th (high water at London Bridge 10.42 a.m.).

But now I hear that there is an opportunity for him to be taken over by the Government, and I am torn between affection and duty.  For, though he is no longer under my roof, he is still under my residuary legateeship, and my consent is necessary before this proposed change in his condition can he effected.  Clarence himself has no particular views of his own on the matter.  He leaves it entirely to me, and I confess that I scarcely feel equal to the responsibility of making this momentous decision for him.  I should hate to lose Clarence.  We have been in touch so long, have faced so many ups and downs together, that I feel that we should not be parted at this time of crisis in the nation's destiny.

I remember how at one period Clarence went through a dreadful time.  So bad was he that The Times published daily bulletins about him.  "Consols [and by Consols you must understand Clarence] developed a sudden weakness . . . Consols improved slightly . . . Consols dropped away throughout the day . . . Consols rallied and fell back again, closing very weak."  One day Clarence even sagged.  It was dreadful. I passed a sleepless afternoon.  I pictured the Commissioners of the National Debt sitting round poor Clarence, watching with grave faces for him to sag his last. I thought of wiring to them, imploring them to administer oxygen at my expense.  And then joy!  I read on an Evening News placard, "Sharp Recovery of Consols," and I knew then that Clarence was spared to me.

And now I am faced with the problem shall Clarence remain the bright, happy, unsophisticated Consol he always was, or be taken over by the Government and turned into a War Loan?  Personally, I feel that he will do best in the shape in which Nature designed him.  As a Consol, he has an ancestry, and I, as his guardian, naturally take a fair measure of pride in the fact, for he forms part and parcel of our world-famous British Constitution.  How often have I thought in the past of that glorious moment when I may some day meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer at a Guildhall banquet, and we can fall into an intimate discussion on Clarence and his family!  With what pride I shall deftly introduce Clarence into the conversation!  "Talking about National finance . . . May I trouble you to pass the chutney? . . Thanks very much . . . Talking about National finance, Mr. McKenna, I am sure you will be glad to hear that I take an active personal interest in the welfare of a bright and promising young Consol.  Tell me, as man to man, what are the prospects for next quarter's dividend?  I suppose it will be declared as usual, or do you think of allocating it to the reserve?" On the other hand Cox's say that as a War Loan Clarence ought to make his mark in the world ; that in ten years or, at the most, thirty, he will be able to retire at his par value paid in solid gold.  But, be that as it may, I feel that I can never take the same proprietary interest in Clarence in this new guise.  There will be no pleasure when I meet Mr. McKenna in telling him that I have at heart the welfare of a promising and democratic young Democratic!  That's it!  Why, everybody holds War Loan.  The cook, the housemaid, the scullery-maid all are investors.  I 've even bought a voucher for the cat.  No, no, Clarence, my first and only residuary legacy, you shall ever remain a fine old Conservative Consol.

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