Friday, May 29, 2015

Ashley Sterne Sand and Seaweed

Another Ashley Sterne article, republished in The Telegraph (Brisbane, Queensland) on 24 November 1934.  Unfortunately, Sterne was only going through the motions with this article: it begins awkwardly, plods along through some modest historical drollery, and then sputters to a close without his usual concluding quip or punch line.

[Correction from June 6, 2015:  The article's last line quotes John Masefield's poem "Sea Fever."  So I suppose that it's not a bad ending to the article, although I don't think it's a particularly amusing ending.  I have included the poem below for the sake of context.] 

Sand and Seaweed

An earnest seeker after light and truth has, I see, been inquiring of his daily newspaper as to who initiated the vogue of going to the seaside for the summer holidays.  Well, I suggest that the answer to that question is simply that there was never any vogue at all.  We merely possess an ingrained tendency occasionally to come over all sand and seaweed, which we have inherited from our very remote ancestors who lived in an age when practically the whole globe, except possibly a couple of Himalayas and a Pyrenee or two, was seaside.

Medical men will tell you that this periodical seaward impulse is nothing more nor less than the human body crying out for ozone — that bracing constituent of coastal atmosphere which impels the ancient mariners of seaside resorts to behave like a Russian ballet.

But since sufficient ozone to fill a dirigible, all neatly squashed into a dinky little cast-iron cylinder, can now be purchased at the chemist's for a few shillings, there seems to be no need to pay ten guineas a week, with the prospect of sleeping on an emery pin-cushion, and subsisting on a diet of perpetual potato-pie, for the privilege of inhaling a casual whiff of irregularly moleculed oxygen blent with the less acceptable aroma of moribund crustaceae. 

Many things, however, have contributed in the course of the ages to add a romantic glamour to the seaside; and these have served to give a fillip every now and again to what might otherwise have proved a long-since subordinated habit.  I have little doubt in my own mind that the seeds of seaside holidaying were primarily sown by Father Noah, though it is only fair to stress, not that he started the ball rolling by going down to the seaside, but that the seaside precipitated the issue by coming down on him.  But it is difficult to believe that, once having tasted the delights of boating, he did not subsequently make an annual "do" of it, though naturally with a completely different passenger list.  Indeed, I have always clung to the idea that Father Noah was the original of Mr. Masefield's sea-fevered mariner.

Jonah, too, appears to have exhibited a distinct craving for the flung spray and the blown spume, albeit I can imagine far more comfortable methods of satisfying this urge than a trip in one of those deplorably managed and equipped Joppa-Tarshish liners; while Jonah's inverted notions of deep-sea angling can hardly be said to have established a system which has been very widely adopted.

Later on, Royalty seems to have had a finger in the sea-pie. There was, for example, that scandalous old rascal, H.I.M. Tiberius Caesar, who had his own private little seaside at Capri, of whom and of which perhaps the less said the better.  I need only remark that Capri's famous grotto remains blue to this day. 

Then there was King Canute.  Probably we British commoners really began to acquire the seaside habit in earnest directly after Canute had hoicked self and retinue off to the South Coast for the day, where, having successfully attained the shingle, he dismally failed to control the permanent wave.  Obviously crowds of people were eager to go and see for themselves the thing which the all-conquering Dane was unable to master, and ere long I imagine there was Baldric the Unseemly operating Belle Vue en pension for paying guests, and Osric the Unlikely inaugurating the great Plain Teas Movement.

King Harold, again, seems to have taken quite a considerable party of trippers down with him to Hastings some thirty years later, and it was not his fault that William of Normandy chose that same day of the year to ruin Hastings' reputation as a health-resort for many a long year to come.

For some time after Harold's excursion to Hastings pierrots sighed to the silvery moon in the presence of two programme-girls, one fireman, and 3,000 folded-up deck chairs; while its negroid minstrels reiterated the fervent wish to repatriate themselves in Old Kentucky into the unsympathetic ears of the bathing machine proprietor and a few stranded jelly-fish.  However, Hastings has long since lived down that bit of unpleasantness.

Subsequently came King John, whose little adventure in the Wash ended so disastrously for the Crown Jewels, which had never been taught to swim.  But what Royalty does one day, hoi polloi will ape the next, and the boatman of Hunstanton and Boston must have picked up a packet hiring out their craft and diving gear to the myriads who doubtless breezed along in the hope of salvaging the orb and sceptre, the crown and anchor, and all the other regal fallals which John had so thoughtfully carried into battle with him.

Still further impetus was assuredly lent to the seaside habit in Tudor times by the huge parties of folks who were desirous of seeing Raleigh and Frobisher and other distinguished navigators off upon their periodical Odysseys. At such times, Portsmouth and Plymouth must have been congested with relatives and friends of the adventurers, some imploring Raleigh to bring them back a parrot or a monkey from Virginia, others enjoining Frobisher to be sure to put on his thick vests when he reached the entrance to the notorious North-West Passage.

But probably what has done more than anything else to revive in us our submerged marine instinct is all this Channel-swimming racket.  Channels being normally kept at the seaside, the pursuit of this delightful and exhilarating pastime has forced us to go to the coast for it.  There is no recognised method of synthetic Channel-swimming.  It has to be the real goods or nothing.

Hence the individual who merely executes the mileage-equivalent by swimming up and down the Camberwell Baths 7,546 times will not be greeted at the conclusion of his feat by the mayor, a lot of trombones, and an illuminated address, nor even have the porpoise-oil scraped off his limbs by souvenir-hunting swimming-fans.

So many of us have fallen for the craze in the last 20 years or more that it is the exception, rather than the rule, to find a person who has not attempted the exploit, in greater or lesser degree, even though the large majority may not have got any farther to France than the hind-legs of Dover pier.

Anyway, the seaside habit, be its prime cause what it may, shows few signs to-day of being abandoned, and I for one feel more strongly than ever that the call of the running tide is one that cannot be denied.


Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Ashley Sterne Fighting the Flu

Here is a short extract of a London Opinion article by Ashley Sterne that was republished in The Sphere, vol 88, 1922.

Fighting the 'Flu

One of the chief difficulties in 'flu-fighting is that of correctly diagnosing the complaint in time, for no two cases of 'flu are exactly similar in symptoms.  I have known a man return home from the City with a frontal headache that stuck out in knobs, an unconquerable thirst, and an obliquity of vision such as one usually associations with an inmate of the Keeley Institute, and go straight off to bed with the impression that he had got the flu good and plenty, whereas the whole of his sufferings were actually attributable to his having correctly guessed the weight of the cheese at Simpson's.  On the other hand, I know another man who recently arrived home with a temperature high enough to cook an omelette or rear an orchid, and he attributed it solely to his having sat next to a lady in the train who was reading one of Mrs. Elinor Glynn's more calorescent novels, whereas he was in reality so full of active 'flu microbes that if they had all shoved simultaneously in the same direction they could have pushed him over. – Ashley Sterne in London Opinion.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ashley Sterne Just What I Want

A bit of family humor from Ashley Sterne, published in The Telegraph (Brisbane, Queensland) on March 9th 1935.

Sterne, the son of a Congregational minister, has a bit of fun with an arcane reference to nineteenth-century hymn writer Frances Ridley Havergal.  I enjoyed the joke because I grew up singing Havergal's excellent hymns, such as "Like a River Glorious", "I Gave My Life for Thee", and "Take My Life and Let It Be."

By Ashley Sterne

I am in a bit of a hole, and if anyone can lend me a ladder or a balloon I shall be more than grateful. 
It's like this.  At the beginning of December last year my eldest sister, who lives in Penzance, wrote to me as follows: —
     "My Dear Augustus,— I am rather perturbed about what to give you for a Christmas present.  Do you possess the Complete Works of Frances Ridley Havergal?  Did you like the box of figs I sent you last Christmas?  Are you still keen on hand-knitted silk ties?
Your affectionate sister,
P.S.— Would you like an autographed photo of the Bishop of Bodmin?"

To which I replied (not verbatim, but here's the spirit of it):—
     "My Dear Wilhelmina,— I am rather perturbed at your suggestions for my Christmas present.  Who's Frances Ridley Havergal, and are her works, complete or separate, quite— er— pure?  Or have you forgotten I was only sixty-four last birthday?  The figs you sent me last Christmas were forbidden fruit to me in the sense that nobody doomed to wear artificial teeth would dream of eating figs— unless he was drunk.  I was never keen on hand-knitted ties, silk or oakum.  The one you perpetrated for me in Christmas 1931, which suggested a colour-compromise between the MacGregor tartan and a rainbow cocktail, went to the vicarage rummage sale in January, 1932.
Your affectionate brother,
P.S.— I didn't even know there was a Bishop of Bodmin.  Much less that he'd had his photo taken.  Infinitely less that he had autographed it.  If you can make it Don Bradman or Henry Hall, I'm on."

And this evoked the response : —
     "... Really you are very difficult.  Look here, will you buy yourself some not too extravagant trifle you do want, then tell me how much you expended, and I'll refund ..."

Which seemed to me a very sensible idea.  I never did hold with the haphazard method of present-giving, which seems to imply that any old memento will serve to foster the spirit of peace and goodwill towards men between members of the same family.  And I really did want a new umbrella very badly.  I had seen just the one I fancied in the local hosier's.  It had been there since July, but its price had been enhanced from 15s. to 16s. 9d. in celebration of Christmas.

However. 16s. 9d. was obviously much more than Wilhelmina intended to expend upon me, for I assumed that the complete works of F R. Havergal were the customary price of 7s. 6., while I assessed the figs at 5s. and the hand-knitted tie at — well, counting cost of material, labour, packing, postage, and amusement tax, say 4s. 6d.   The Bishop of Bodmin s photo, being literally priceless, I could not take into my reckoning but on calculating the average cost of the other things it was clear that I was expected to expend something in the neighbourhood of 5s. 8d.

That apparently washed out the umbrella.  But then my second sister, Maud, who lives at Newcastle-on-Tyne, probably getting the idea from Wilhelmina in the course of their biweekly correspondence, made a precisely similar suggestion — to wit, that I should buy myself something and she would reimburse me.  And finally my youngest sister, Angela, who lives quite near met me in the street last Christmas Eve.   

"Hullo, Augustus!" she greeted me.  "I was just thinking about a Christmas present for you.  What have Wilhelmina and Maud given you?"

 I explained and Angela commented:—
     "Topping idea!  I'll do the same.  Just buy yourself . . ."

And so on.  I needn't repeat the shibboleth.  Then I went and bought the umbrella.  I even went so far as to get one of those little tie-on tabs bordered with holly and robins and inscribed, "With all Good Wishes for Christmas from... and wrote on the dotted line, Wilhelmina, Maud and Angela, with much love."

*          *          *

That was a year ago.  But do you imagine I have been able to collect the money.  What a hope!

I duly wrote to Wilhelmina explaining how I had pooled her gesture with similar gestures from Maud and Angela, and bought myself a superb umbrella, all made to roll up, her share of which amounted to 5s. 6d.  (I thought it would seem whatever-the-converse-to-cheese-paring to claim the full 5s. 7d.)   I also thanked her lavishly.

Wilhelmina wrote in reply that she was enclosing postal order for 5s. 6., but as she did nothing of the sort I had to write back and say so.  Then Wilhelmina wrote again, expressing regret at her oversight, and stating that she was now enclosing cheque for 5s. 6d.

 However, the cupboard was bare again, so to speak, and we had further correspondence, which culminated in Wilhelmina's writing to say that she would be coming up to town at Easter and would pay me then, in cash.  
Communications of a like nature passed between Maud and myself.  The only essential difference was that she was coming up to town at Whitsun.  Neither visit, however, materialised.  Wilhelmina decided to have her tonsils out over the Easter holidays, while Maud went down with 'flu at Whitsun.  After intervals of four and five months respectively, I couldn't somehow bring myself to write: "So sorry about your tonsils (attack of 'flu), but what about my 5s. 6d.?"  Moreover, it was now obvious that each had long since forgotten the obligation.

As for Angela, for the first few weeks in the New Year she used to say to me whenever we met:— 
      "I musn't forget that I still owe you 5s. 6d. You haven't change for a five-pound note, I suppose?"

Her supposition was invariably correct.  Never in my life have I possessed change for a five-pound note all at once.  But even she has now forgotten the debt.  Definitely. When I met her yesterday, she said:—
     "By the way, about your Christmas present.  We girls are going to do just as we did last year.  Such a good idea!  You buy yourself something you really want. ..."

What am I to do about it?  Between you and me, my last Christmas's umbrella has never been used.  How can I use a present that hasn't been paid for, but merely temporarily financed?  I can't bear to shelter myself from the rain on tick.  Shall I buy myself another umbrella, and trust that that will remind my sisters of their liability of last year, or shall I go bald-headed for them and write each of them to this effect:—
     "Thanks awfully for your generous proposal. After giving the matter careful consideration, I have decided that your last year's Christmas present to me shall be your this year's Christmas present to me."

I shan't be any more out of pocket that way, at all events.  But if anyone can suggest to me a more diplomatic (if possible) solution of my present difficulty, I will greet it with a shout.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ashley Sterne Handy Craft

Here is a one of Ashley Sterne's later comic articles, from The Telegraph (Brisbane, Queensland), March 27th 1935.  The writing is graceful, concise, and witty.

By Ashley Sterne

I'm what they call a rationalist.  That is to say, I will walk under a ladder with the best of under-ladder walkers.  I will spill the salt, or any other member of the cruet, at the dinner-table, and never give a hang.  I don't regard the number thirteen as more sinister or disreputable than any other of our more popular numbers.  And I keep a horseshoe on my front door wrong way up.  There's nerve for you!  All the same —

When Mrs. Murcher — an elderly lady-friend of mine, who is fifteen stone of walking superstition — prodded me on the shirt-front with a sausage-stick at a cocktail-party the other night, and asked me if I thought of going to Divina, I replied with my best cocktail-party swank: —

"No, I usually winter at Rapello," and jingled threepence and a latchkey to register leisure and independent means.

"Divina, my dear Augustus," she explained, "is not a place.  It's— she's a seeress.  The most wonderful woman, who lives in the most marvellous flat in Park Lane you ever saw."

As I'd never entered any flat in Park Lane I accepted the latter part of her statement without question.  As regards the former:—

"What's there so wonderful about her?" I asked.

"My dear boy, the things she tells you!  They're incredible!"

"So are the things every woman tells me."

"Tcha!  Listen. I suppose Madame Divina is what some vulgar people would call a palmist "

"A detective would, for example?"

"Er — possibly. But the point is she's not. She's a cheirosophist "

"That's to say, she's a palmist spelt differently. To be bald, you can't be prosecuted if you call yourself a cheirosophist, what?"

"Really, Augustus, you musn't hint such things.  Madame Divina is a highly cultured lady.  Roedean and Newnham.  I know you're a sceptic over such matters, but some months ago she told Mr. Murcher about the coming rise in gold shares, and, to use his own expression as nearly as I can remember it, he packed up a picket."

"Picked up a packet, you mean, perhaps?"

"Something to that effect," Mrs. Murcher nodded.  "Five hundred pounds, anyway."

I pricked up my ears.  That's the kind of cheirosophy I can understand and appreciate — an innate flair for discerning wealth in the offing; like water-divining, only more lucrative.  I asked a few questions.  It transpired that Mrs. Murcher's sister's legacy had been correctly cheirosophised to three places of decimals, as also had Mrs. Murcher's nephew's engagement to Bella Pauncefort, the Silkworthy heiress.  Divina had also advised Mrs. Murcher's brother-in- law to buy Irish sweep tickets, and he had bought eight (I think) and had won £246,000 (or something).  At least, that, without the brackets, was the impression Mrs. Murcher gave me.

"You simply must go!" she urged me. "Everybody's flocking to her."

I promised I would flock.  The fact was that I had had rather a bad year financially.  My health, too, had been none of the best. And my golf had devolved into a mixture of fox-and-geese and deep-level mining.  I badly needed encouraging.  

So one afternoon I pocketed my rationalism and called on Madame Divina.

"You have a very good life-line," she said, indicating something on my palm with a little orange-stick.  

"Well, that's not much good to me now." I observed. "I've used most of it.  Have I got a wealthy wife-line, or other stimulating token?"

"I'm afraid — "

"Try the other hand," I said.  "I forgot to mention that I'm ambidextrous."  And I swopped palms uninvited.  Divina gave one glance at the new one, and drew her breath in sharply.

"Oh, dear, dear!" she murmured. "Do you speculate?"

"Mentally,'' I replied.  "Not stockily or sharily."

"Gamble, then?  Horses or cards?"

I assured her I didn't know the difference between Windsor Lad and the Curse of Scotland, and that the only gambling I ever did was to drop into a church bazaar occasionally and try to guess the weight of the cake.

"Well, that's curious," she said, prodding a slight burn I had recently sustained from the splintered head of a safety-match.  "This little 'mount,' as cheirosophists call it, indicates a serious loss of money."

"How much does the mount say it amounts to?"

"That I can't tell, but it is considerably more than you can afford."

This is all wrong, I thought to myself.  This is where, if there's anything genuine about this cheirosophy racket, she ought to say: "Invest every farthing you can raise in Baggawalla Pearl Mine" or, "Your Uncle Thomas in British Columbia will die of ingrowing gumboils in February, and will bequeath you fifty million tins of canned salmon," or, "You will marry Greta Garbo next Tuesday week, and live luxuriously ever afterwards."

"How do I lose it?" I ventured to ask.

"Well, if you don't speculate and don't gamble, it probably means that your bank will close down."

I thought of my thirty-odd pounds overdraft, and prayed devoutly it might be so.  

"Or you may be robbed in the street or burgled."

"Ah, well!" I sighed, rising.  "I think I'll be pushing along, if that's the best you can do for five shillings."  And I laid two half-crowns on the little table.

"Pardon me," said Madame, tartly, "but my consultation fee is five guineas."

I looked at her aghast.  Mrs. Murcher had distinctly said five shillings; as distinctly, that is, as a mouthful of sausage and a couple of salted gherkins would allow.  Five guineas, anyhow, was ridiculous.  I didn't compel Divina to practise in Park Lane.  I had never insisted that the consulting-room should be crowded with orchids.  I saw no reason for her wearing a pendant with a diamond the size of a poached egg.  Divina was not going to swing that "overhead charges" nonsense on me.

"Sorry!" I muttered, putting my hand into my inner breast-pocket.  "I didn't quite understand that cheirosophy was so expensive.  It's so different from palmistry, isn't it?  At our last bazaar I got an excellent palmiscope for a shilling.  Unfortunately, it wasn't true."

"My cheiroscopes are always true," announced Divina, sternly.

"So I find," I retorted.  "I must have been robbed in the street.  My note case is — look! —empty!  Those two half-crowns are all I've got.  Er — could you lend me tuppence for my bus-fare home? . . .  Well, a penny, then?  I live in Whitehall — New Scotland Ya—"

Madame Divina dropped my two half-crowns as though they had suddenly become incandescent. . . . We had a brief, non-cheiroscopic chat.  "Good afternoon," I said, making to grasp the timid, quivering hand she coyly extended to me.  Instead, I turned it over, gazed for a moment at the palm, and then tapped it with my forefinger.  

"You're going to lose some money," I said.  And I picked up my two half-crowns.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ashley Sterne Hikers Hit or the Biters Bit

Another comic sketch by Ashley Sterne.  This was published in The Telegraph (Brisbane, Queensland), 12 March 1932.  A poem by Robert Louis Stevenson was quoted in the sketch.  The poem is provided below.

Or the Biters Bit

"Come along in!" said Julia.  "Beggars can't be choosers."

"You'll pardon me," I protested, "but that's just what beggars can be.  They have a wider scope for exercising the take-it-or-leave-it alternative than any other class of the community I can think of.  Karl Marx once said -- "

"Never mind what any of the Marx Brothers said," interrupted my wife.  "Let's get in out of the rain.  Do you realise that we're at least three miles from the next nearest civilisation?"

"Mrs. Livingston, I believe?" I murmured, lifting my cap.  "Yes, I appreciate the difficulty.  But that doesn't make me love this disreputable looking pub any better.  When I undertook this week-end hike, at your instigation, I didn't anticipate being benighted -- or, to be strictly accurate, be-eveninged -- in the middle of a Surrey moor, and having to be be-bedded in a ramshackle hostelry which looks little better than a Bad Pull-Up for highwaymen."

"Well, I refuse to go any farther in this depressing drizzle," said Julia firmly.  "I'm going to chance the 'Stag' wherever you choose to go.  The trouble with you is that you're too finicky for a hiker.  Why, one of the most famous hikers of all time craved nothing better than a 'bed in the bush with stars to see.'"

"Poets license for the 'Bull and Bush' and 'Three Stars,'" I remarked.  "All right.  Let's go in.  I'm not an unreasonable man, and if I'm fated to die of rheumatism it may as well be here as anywhere."

We rose from our seat in the porch where we had been sheltering, and went in.  Yes, the Widow Cripps, licensed to sell wines, spirits, and beers to be consumed upon the premises, had a double room to let (to be slept in on the premises).  What?  Most certainly the sheets were aired.

"And the pillows?" I asked.  "I'm a martyr to stiff neck."

But mine hostess had already started upstairs with Julia.  I followed.

"It's nice and roomy," said the landlady, flinging wide the door.

"It's the function of a room to be roomy," I observed.  "If a noun can't live up to its own adjective – "

But Julia looked broadswords at me, and I subsided.  "The bedding looks very rumpled," she said, turning to Mrs. Cripps.

"Well, o' course, airin' 'em rumples 'em, as I dessay you know, ma'am."

"Are you quite sure they're clean?" pursued Julia, doubtfully.

"Clean?" echoed the landlady.  "You could eat off 'em."

"It looks as if somebody has already," I whispered.

"Shall you be wantin' supper?" asked the landlady, as though anxious to change the topic.

"Yes," I replied.  "Two.  That is to say, one each.  And as soon as possible, please."

The landlady bustled off.  When she had gone, Julia whipped off the counterpane and examined the bed closely.

"These bed clothes are not clean!" she cried.  "If those aren't lipstick or rouge marks on the pillow, you can eat your hat.  And look!  Here's a large cigarette burn on the undersheet.  I'm going to raise Cain!"  And she strode to the door.

"No, don't summon him, he could not help us." I said.  "I've a better idea.  Look!"

I had peered into the door of the wardrobe and spotted upon the top shelf a complete set of fresh bed linen.  "They seem quite dry," I said, feeling them.

"Good!  Now for a quick change act!" Julia exclaimed; and in something under five minutes the bed had been stripped and reclothed, and the suspected linen refolded and deposited in the wardrobe.

"What a paltry try-on!" said Julia, making a rapid toilet.  "But it's all right now, and we've saved a possible row."

"Quite!" I agreed.  "It doesn't do to quarrel with your bread and butter -- I mean bed and bolster -- on a dirty night like this when the nearest competitor for your custom dwells a good league hence."

"Buck up!" urged Julia, two minutes later.  "I'm as hungry as a hawk.  What on earth d'you want to part your hair again for?  Saturday's not Gala Night at the 'Stag.'  I'm going down to rattle that supper along."

I followed a few moments later, my hastily-completed parting resembling Romeo and Juliet's -- a sweet sorrow.

The supper proved excellent -- cold roast goose, apple pie, and cream galore.  I was glad it hadn't been necessary to make trouble about the bedding.  That would probably have produced nothing better than a weary and superannuated ham and the rind of a patriarchal cheddar.  At ten o'clock Julia yawned, beating me by a short lip, and we decided to retire.

The first thing we noticed on reaching our room was that somebody had changed the bedclothes back again.  A quick scrutiny revealed all the blemishes we had previously noted.  Julia again expressed her intention of seeing what Cain could do for us when there was a rap on the door.

"Excuse me, ma'am," came the landlady's voice, "but I thought I'd tell you I've had the gel change your sheets, as I remembered they wasn't changed after my last party left this mornin', them not bein' sure whether they was comin' back or not to-night."

"Thank you," Julia managed to gurgle.  "Good-night."

"Don't worry," I said, confidently moving to the wardrobe.  "There is no linen-basket in the room, and you know what the instinct of a kitchen wench would be in the circumstances -- to put 'em in the first convenient place."

But the cupboard was bare.  So was the chest of drawers.

"We can't ring and explain now without giving ourselves away," said Julia; and I nodded in dismal agreement.  "We shall have to lump it."

"Let me see – how many lumps to you like -- three or four?" I asked, carefully feeling the bed all over.

*          *          *

"I've charged you ten shillin' extra for the bed-clo'es you sp'iled," announced the landlady severely as she handed me our bill after breakfast the next morning.  "Those marks on the pillow may or may not wash out.  I'll risk that.  But that sheet with the big 'ole burnt in it -- ruined it is, and the blankit scorched besides.  I can't afford to..."

We went quietly. 

The Vagabond

From Songs of Travel
(To an air to Shubert)

Give to me the life I love,
  Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
  And the byway night me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
  Bread I dip in the river --
There's the life for a man like me,
  There's the life for ever.

Let the blow fall soon or late,
  Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around
  And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
  Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
  And the road below me.

Or let autumn fall on me
  Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
  Biting the blue finger;
White as meal the frosty field --
  Warm the fireside haven --
Not to autumn will I yield,
  Not to winter even!

Let the blow fall soon or late,
  Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around,
  And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope, nor love,
  Nor a friend to know me.
All I ask, the heaven above
  And the road below me.