But at last the perfect opportunity came. I received a letter from a botanical paper asking for an article on the Flora of Trench Life.
“Horray!” said Celia. “There you are.”
I sat down and wrote the article. Working up gradually to the subject of rats, and even more gradually intertwining it, so to speak, with the subject of cats, I brought off in one perfect climax the great Joke.
“Lovely!” said Celia excitedly.
“There is one small point which has occurred to me. Rats are fauna, not flora; I’ve just remembered.”
“Oh, does it matter?”
“For a botanical paper, yes.”
And then Celia had a brilliant inspiration.
“Send it to another paper,” she said.
I did. Two days later it appeared. Considering that I hadn’t had a proof, it came out extraordinarily well. There was only one misprint. It was at the critical word of the Joke.
“That’s torn it,” I said to Celia.
“I suppose it has,” she said sadly.
“The world will never hear the Joke now. It’s had it wrong, but still it’s had it, and I can’t repeat it.”
Celia began to smile.
“It’s sickening,” she said; “but it’s really rather funny, you know.”
And then she had another brilliant inspiration.
“In fact you might write an article about it.”
And, as you see, I have.
Having read thus far, Celia says, “But you still haven’t got the Joke in.”
Oh, well, here goes.
Extract from letter: “We came back to the line to-day to find that the cat had kittened. However, as all the rats seem to have rottened we are much as we were.”
“Rottened” was misprinted “rattened,” which seems to me to spoil the Joke....
Yet I must confess that there are times now when I feel that perhaps after all I may have overrated it....
But it was a pleasant joke in its day.
THE LAST POT
Let others hymn the weariness and pain
(Or, if they will, the glory and the glamour)
Of holding fast, from Flanders to Lorraine,
The thin brown line at which the Germans hammer;
My Muse, a more domesticated maid,
Aspires to sing a song of Marmalade.
O Marmalade!—I do not mean the sort,
Sweet marrow-pulp, for babes and maidens fitter,
But that wherein the golden fishes sport
On oranges seas (with just a dash of bitter),
Not falsely coy, but eager to parade
Their Southern birth—in short, O Marmalade!
Much have I sacrificed: my happy home,
My faith in experts’ figures, half my money,
The fortnight that I meant to spend in Rome,
My weekly effort to be fairly funny;
But these are trifles, light as air when weighed
Against this other—Breakfast Marmalade.