Page:Instead of a Book, Tucker.djvu/111

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story of the elephant seemed germane to the issue, but it was nipped in the bud. I went home, swallowed my dinner not without appetite, and set forth in search of entertainment.

There was a good deal of choice. There always is in London, except on Sundays; and even then there is the choice between the church, the public-house, and the knocking-shop. There were the brothers Goliah, and the infant Samuel on the high rope, and Miss Lottie Luzone, the teetotautomaton, and John Ball the Stentor Comique, and the Sisters Delilah, and Signor Farini with his wonderful pigeons, and the Tiger- tamer of Bengal, and the Pearl family with their unequalled aquatic feats, and I don't know what else. While I was dwelling on the merits of these rival attractions, I heard a familiar voice at the door: "Come on, old fellow; come to the National Liberal; Stewart Headlam is going to open a debate on the County Council and the Music-halls. We will have a high old time. Come and speak." As a rule, I fear the Trocadero or the Aquarium would have prevailed over the great Liberal Club as a place of after-dinner entertainment; but on this occasion I had a newly-aroused interest in all such questions as the one about to be discussed. So I put on my hat and jumped into the hansom which Jack had left at the door. En passant, you may have noticed that this is the second time I have recorded the fact that "I put on my hat." English novelists are very careful about this precaution. "He put on his hat and walked out of the room." "He wished her goodbye, and, putting on his hat, he went out as he had come in." There is never a word said about the hero's top-coat or his gloves, no matter how cold the weather may be, but the putting on of the hat is always carefully chronicled. Now, there is a reason for this. It is a well-established principle of English common law that, whenever a public disturbance or street mêlếe or other shindy takes place, the representative of order shall single out a suitable scapegoat from among the crowd. In case of a mutiny in the Austrian army, I am told, it is usual to shoot every tenth man who is chosen by lot. But here in merry England the instructions are to look round for a man without a hat. When found, he is marched off to the police station with the approval of all concerned. It is part of our unwritten law. Some few months since the principle was actually applied in a cause célèbre by the magistrate himself. A journalist summoned no less a personage than the Duke of Cambridge for assault. The facts were not denied, and the witnesses were all agreed, when succor came from an unexpected quarter. "Is it a fact, as I have seen it stated in the papers," asked the worthy stipendiary, "is it a fact, I ask, that the plaintiff was without a hat ? " There was no gainsaying this. The prosecutor was hatless at the time of the alleged assault. That settled the matter; and the Commander-in-chief of the British Army left the court (metaphorically speaking) without a stain on his character.

However, as I have said, I put on my hat, and off we drove to the conference-room of the big club with the odd name. "National" was first used as a political term by the late Benjamin Disraeli to signify the patriotic as opposed to the cosmopolitan and anti-national. "Liberal" was first used in a political sense about 1815, to denote the advocates of liberty as opposed to the "serviles" who believed in State-control. And yet the members of the club avowedly uphold State-interference in all things, and dub the doctrine of laissez faire the creed of selfishness. Still the building is a fine and commodious one, and what's in a name, after all?

When we reached the political arena, Mr. Headlam, who is a Socialist,

was in the middle of a very able individualistic harangue. Indeed, 1