“You’re on your own, mind,” he said. “No facts; what they want is ginger. Yes, Mr. Japes?”
And seeing that the Minister was looking over his tortoiseshell. spectacles at somebody behind him, Mr. Lavender turned and went out. In the corridor he thought, “What terseness! How different from the days when Dickens wrote his ‘Circumlocution Office’! Punch!” And opening the wrong door, he found himself in the presence of six little girls in brown frocks, sitting against the walls with their thumbs in their mouths.
“Oh!” he said, “I’m afraid I’ve lost my way.”
The eldest of the little girls withdrew a thumb.
“What d’yer want?”
“The door,” said Mr. Lavender.
“Second on the right.”
“Goodbye,” said Mr. Lavender.
The little girls did not answer. And he went out thinking, “These children are really wonderful! What devotion one sees! And yet the country is not yet fully roused!”
Joe Petty stood contemplating the car which, purchased some fifteen years before had not been used since the war began. Birds had nested in its hair. It smelled of mould inside; it creaked from rust. “The Guv’nor must be cracked,” he thought, “to think we can get anywhere in this old geyser. Well, well, it’s summer; if we break down it won’t break my ‘eart. Government job—better than diggin’ or drillin’. Good old Guv!” So musing, he lit his pipe and examined the recesses beneath the driver’s seat. “A bottle or three,” he thought, “in case our patriotism should get us stuck a bit off the beaten; a loaf or two, some ’oney in a pot, and a good old ’am.
“A life on the rollin’ road——’ ’Ow they can give ’im the job I can’t think!” His soliloquy was here interrupted by the approach of his wife, bearing a valise.
“Don’t you wish you was comin’, old girl?” he remarked to her lightly.
“I do not; I’m glad to be shut of you. Keep his feet dry. What have you got under there?”
Joe Petty winked.
“What a lumbering great thing it looks!” said Mrs. Petty, gazing upwards.
“Ah!” returned her husband thoughtfully, we’ll ’ave the population round us without advertisement. And taking the heads of two small boys who had come up, he knocked them together in an absent-minded fashion.
“Well,” said Mrs. Petty, “I can’t waste time. Here’s his extra set of teeth. Don’t lose them. Have you got your own toothbrush? Use it, and behave yourself. Let me have a line. And don’t let him get excited.” She tapped her forehead.
“Go away, you boys; shoo!”
The boys, now six in number, raised a slight cheer; for at that moment Mr. Lavender, in a broad-brimmed grey felt hat and a holland dust-coat, came out through his garden-gate carrying a pile of newspapers and pamphlets so large that his feet, legs, and hat alone were visible.