OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI.
May 16, 1891.
MR. PUNCH'S PRIZE NOVELS.
(By OLPH SCHREION, Author of "Screams," "The Allegory of an Asian Ranche.")
["You will perceive," writes the Author of the following story, "that this is allegorical, but it is not by any means necessary that you should understand it. The chief charm of allegorical writing is its absolute freedom from the trammels of convention. You write something large and vague, with any amount of symbols thrown in. The words flow quite easily; you cover scores of pages. Then you read it over again next morning. If you understand it so little as to think some other fellow must have written it, you may be quite certain it is an allegory. When you print it, your public reads into it all kinds of mysterious and morbid religious emotions, and confused misinterpretations of life-problems, and everybody tacks on his own special explanation. That being so, it is quite unnecessary for you to explain things—which saves a great deal of trouble. The plan is an excellent one. Try it.—Yours, allegorically, O.S."]
TANT' SANNIE was stewing kraut in the old Dutch saucepan. The scorching rays of the African sun were beating down upon BONAPARTE BLENKINS who was doing his best to be sun-like by beating WALDO. His nose was red and disagreeable. He was something like HUCKLEBERRY FINN's Dauphin, an amusing, callous, cruel rogue, but less resourceful. TANT' SANNIE laughed; it was so pleasant to see a German boy beaten black and blue. But the Hottentot servants merely gaped. It was their custom.
But in the middle distance Life was playing marbles with the Unknown. And the Unknown said unto Life, "Give me an alley-tor." But Life replied, "Nay, for the commoneys are lying well, and the thumb of him that aimeth is seasoned unto the stroke." And the Unknown beat his sable wings together, and one black feather flitted far into the breast of the day and fell to earth. And there came a fair-haired Child plucking flowers in the desert with brows bent in thought.
And Life said unto the Child, "Play with me."
And the Unknown said, "Play with me."
But the Child raised its soft hand slowly and the tender fingers grew apart, and its thumb was poised in thought upon its nose, and it spake not at all. And the feather flitted far, far over the waste, and men came forth and gazed upon it, but it heeded them not.
Then said Life, "I am strong. Kings have need of me and earth is my dominion." But the Unknown gathered up the scattered marbles, concealing them gently, and answered only this—"I am a greater than Life."
And the Child strayed onwards and the feather flitted, and TANT' SANNIE still stewed kraut in the old Dutch saucepan. And BONAPARTE BLENKINS was glad.
Cruelty, cruelty, cruelty—all is cruelty! Boys are beaten; oxen are stabbed till the blood bursts forth; happy, industrious, dung-collecting beetles are bitten in two by careless, happy, beetle-collecting dogs—everything is wicked and cruel. The Kaffir has beautiful legs, but he will kick his wife, and TANT' SANNIE, alas! will not be there to drop a pickle-tub on his head. And over everything hangs that inscrutable charm which hovers for ever for the human intellect over the incomprehensible and shadowy. Omne ignotum pro mirifico, I might say, but I prefer the longer phrase.
And I stood at the gate of Heaven, I and TANT' SANNIE; and we spoke to everybody quite affably; and they all had time to listen to what we said, and to make suitable replies.
And I said, "Are we all here?"
And she said, "Not all."
And I said, "The absent are always in the wrong."
And she said, "I have heard that in French."
And I said, "Is not that impertinent?"
And she said, "No."
And a great Light fell across her face, as though a palm had smitten it, and the name of the palm was Hand, and its fruits were fingers five.
And again I addressed myself in terms of familiarity to the Ever-lasting, and I planted a book upon the clouds, where eight children lay prone with bees flying about their childish bonnets.
And there came a knock at my door.
"Eight o'clock!" said One. "Arise!"
"Nay," I answered; "it cannot be."
"But the water is hot within the can, and the table will be spread for them that break their fast."
"So be it. I rise." And behold it was a dream!
Far away the mother of the little nigger stood churning. Where is the mother of the little black nigger? She is churning slowly in the garden. But cannot the aunt of the good gardener churn herself? No; for she is in the orchard, plucking the apples, peaches, apricots, pears (Birnen), to give to the butler's grandmother.
And there came Life and The Ideal walking hand in hand. And behind them came Wealth and Vastness singing together. And Infinity was there, and Health, and Wisdom, and Love. And Reflection was mounted on a steed with Joy. And many other shapes followed, delicately arrayed in fine linen. And helmet-wearing Men in Blue marshalled the procession. And they spake roughly, saying, "Pass away there, pass away there!"
And I said, "Is this the Lord Mayor's Show?"
And One said, "No."
And I said, "Is it the Salvation Army?"
And again One said, "No."
And I said, "Is it SEQUAH?"
And One said again. "No."
And I said, "I have guessed enough."
And One said, "Yes."
But The Real was not there, and they passed away.
And One said, "I am Wealth," which was absurd, but No-one laughed. And they all danced a fandango on the points of their toes. And a shaft of light lay over them. And they wandered on. At last they came to a bad, wicked naughty, brimstone place. And I said to Some-one, "I like this. It seems a good place." And still No-one laughed. And Wealth touched me, and I was glad. And I said, "Give me millions, or buy a box of matches," and Law seized me and took me to the Cell. Then I said to the Beak, "Your Worship." And the Beak said unto me, "Begging again. Forty shillings." And again I woke. And it was all a striving and a striving and an ending in Nothing.
TO MLLE. JANE MAY.
"Au clair de la lune,
Mon ami PIERROT,
Prête-moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot."
Prête-moi ta plume! Could wit borrow a feather
From Cupid's own pinion, 'tis doubtfullish whether
A "mot" might be made which should happily hit
The "gold" of desert; and Love, aided by Wit,
Though equal to eloquent passion's fine glow,
Might both be struck mute by the Muse of Dumb-Show.
That "actions speak louder than words" we all knew;
But now we may add, "and more gracefully, too."
Performances fine Punch has praised in his day,
But how few take the pas of the Promise—of MAY!
"NATIVE RACES AND THE LIQUOR TRAFFIC."—An important subject strangely omitted at the recent meeting of this Society was "The Consumption of Champagne on the Derby and Oaks Days." The Duke of WESTMINSTER will take the earliest opportunity of rectifying this error.