“If Miss Vera’s dog sees that pig—!” exclaimed the maid, and hurried off to avert such a catastrophe.
A cold suspicion was stealing over Latimer’s mind; he went to the window and drew up the blind. A light, drizzling rain was falling, but there was not the faintest trace of any inundation.
Some half-hour later he met Vera on the way to the breakfast-room.
“I should not like to think of you as a deliberate liar,” he observed coldly, “but one occasionally has to do things one does not like.”
“At any rate I kept your mind from dwelling on politics all the night,” said Vera.
Which was, of course, perfectly true.
The season of strikes seemed to have run itself to a standstill. Almost every trade and industry and calling in which a dislocation could possibly be engineered had indulged in that luxury. The last and least successful convulsion had been the strike of the World’s Union of Zoological Garden attendants, who, pending the settlement of certain demands, refused to minister further to the wants of the animals committed to their charge or to allow any other keepers to take their place. In this case the threat of the Zoological Gardens authorities that if the men “came out” the animals should come out also had intensified and precipitated the crisis. The imminent prospect of the larger carnivores, to say nothing of rhinoceroses and bull bison, roaming at large and unfed in the heart of London, was not one which permitted of prolonged conferences. The Government of the day, which from its tendency to be a few hours behind the course of events had been nicknamed the Government of the afternoon, was obliged to intervene with promptitude and decision. A strong force of Bluejackets was despatched to Regent’s Park to take over the temporarily abandoned duties of the strikers. Bluejackets were chosen in preference to land forces, partly on account of the traditional readiness of the British Navy to go anywhere and do anything, partly by reason of the familiarity of the average sailor with monkeys, parrots, and other tropical fauna, but chiefly at the urgent request of the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was keenly desirous of an opportunity for performing some personal act of unobtrusive public service within the province of his department.
“If he insists on feeding the infant jaguar himself, in defiance of its mother’s wishes, there may be another by-election in the north,” said one of his colleagues, with a hopeful inflection in his voice. “By-elections are not very desirable at present, but we must not be selfish.”
As a matter of fact the strike collapsed peacefully without any outside intervention. The majority of the keepers had become so attached to their charges that they returned to work of their own accord.