Grumb. Oh! of course, you can say the Commissariat (if you spell it with a big C) doesn’t mean the meat, or the soup, or the puddings, or the greens, or the butter, or the coals, or the rest of it—but if it isn’t these, I should like to know what it is.
Cheer. (loftily). My good friend, it is easy for you to say this thing or the other was not to your fancy, but it was not quite so easy a matter for our landlord to provide a daily supply of meat, bread, and dairy stuff for some four hundred people; especially as it had to be organised for the occasion, without previous experience. I take it if you knew how the farmers had to be coaxed to sell us their butter, how green things couldn’t be had in the markets for love or money, and if you knew how many miles of railway those beeves travelled to and fro between pasture, slaughter-house, and kitchen, before their weary joints rested on our table, I say you would thank the commissariat that you hadn’t something worth grumbling about. I am glad we never were on famine rations. I asked to live, not to live well.
Grumb. (a trifle ashamed,
but dogged). Why, of course, I don’t
mean to say things might not have been worse. Still I stick to it,
they were not nice.
Cheer. But you’ll admit the commissariat did its work: the army was fed. After all, the proof of a pudding is not the eating of it, it is how you feel after it. Now, people are not starved who look the strong healthy fellows ours did when they went home after the first term of it. No ‘famine marks’ in those firm, brown faces, eh? And then, tell me, did the Rutland pastures ever yield such juicy mutton, or flow so abundantly with milk?
Grumb. Enough, enough; you have it. Only I won’t be told I was revelling in comfort when I was doing nothing of the kind. I’ll bear it, but I won’t grin and say I like it; I’ll say nothing against it if it’s better not, but I shan’t say what is untrue in favour of it. [Exeunt arm-in-arm.]
Our two interlocutors fairly exhaust the facts of the case between them, and the historian, who can serve no purpose by trying to think things better or worse than they were, will silence neither. We give our honest praise to the organisers of the food supply for their effectual performance of a very heavy, vexatious, and precarious task, the scale of which we have been brought by inquiry to estimate at its true magnitude. At the same time we will spare such sympathy as the dignity of the matter demands for the sufferers from tough beef, tub butter, smoked puddings, cold potatoes, and congealed gravy, and not mislead any refugee schoolmaster of the future into the belief that he can dine in the wilderness as comfortably as in Pall Mall.