The Toys of Peace, and other papers eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 168 pages of information about The Toys of Peace, and other papers.
If a rabid dog or a rattlesnake had suddenly thrust its companionship on him he could scarcely have displayed a greater access of terror.  His air of authority and assertiveness had gone, his masterful stride had given way to a furtive pacing to and fro, as of an animal seeking an outlet for escape.  In a dazed perfunctory manner, always with his eyes turning to watch the shop entrance, he gave a few random orders, which the grocer made a show of entering in his book.  Now and then he walked out into the street, looked anxiously in all directions, and hurried back to keep up his pretence of shopping.  From one of these sorties he did not return; he had dashed away into the dusk, and neither he nor the dark-faced boy nor the veiled lady were seen again by the expectant crowds that continued to throng the Scarrick establishment for days to come.

* * * * *

“I can never thank you and your sister sufficiently,” said the grocer.

“We enjoyed the fun of it,” said the artist modestly, “and as for the model, it was a welcome variation on posing for hours for ’The Lost Hylas’.”

“At any rate,” said the grocer, “I insist on paying for the hire of the black beard.”

CANOSSA

Demosthenes Platterbaff, the eminent Unrest Inducer, stood on his trial for a serious offence, and the eyes of the political world were focussed on the jury.  The offence, it should be stated, was serious for the Government rather than for the prisoner.  He had blown up the Albert Hall on the eve of the great Liberal Federation Tango Tea, the occasion on which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was expected to propound his new theory:  “Do partridges spread infectious diseases?” Platterbaff had chosen his time well; the Tango Tea had been hurriedly postponed, but there were other political fixtures which could not be put off under any circumstances.  The day after the trial there was to be a by-election at Nemesis-on-Hand, and it had been openly announced in the division that if Platterbaff were languishing in gaol on polling day the Government candidate would be “outed” to a certainty.  Unfortunately, there could be no doubt or misconception as to Platterbaff’s guilt.  He had not only pleaded guilty, but had expressed his intention of repeating his escapade in other directions as soon as circumstances permitted; throughout the trial he was busy examining a small model of the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.  The jury could not possibly find that the prisoner had not deliberately and intentionally blown up the Albert Hall; the question was:  Could they find any extenuating circumstances which would permit of an acquittal?  Of course any sentence which the law might feel compelled to inflict would be followed by an immediate pardon, but it was highly desirable, from the Government’s point of view, that the necessity for such an exercise of clemency should not arise.  A headlong pardon, on the eve of a bye-election, with threats of a heavy voting defection if it were withheld or even delayed, would not necessarily be a surrender, but it would look like one.  Opponents would be only too ready to attribute ungenerous motives.  Hence the anxiety in the crowded Court, and in the little groups gathered round the tape-machines in Whitehall and Downing Street and other affected centres.

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The Toys of Peace, and other papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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