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Live Rounds Ian Hay

The Trivial Round

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"Not a bit, old son! That is where you fail to grasp the subtleties of British statesmanship. I tell you there are no flies on our Cabinet!"


"Yes: mouches, you know. The agility of our Cabinet Ministers is such that these little insects find it impossible to alight upon them."

"Your Ministers are athletes--yes," agreed Achille comprehendingly. "But the--"

"Only intellectually. What I mean is that they are a very downy collection of old gentlemen--"

Achille, murmuring something hazy about "Downing Street," nodded his head.

"--And when they came into power, they knew as well as anything that after three weeks or so the country would begin to grouse--"

"Grouse? A sporting bird?" interpolated Achille.

"Exactly. They knew that the country would soon start giving them the bird--"

"What bird? The grouse?"

"Oh, dry up, Wagger!" interposed Blaikie. "He means, Petitpois, that the Government, knowing that the electorate would begin to grow impatient if the War did not immediately take a favourable turn--"

Achille smiled.

"I see now," he said. "Proceed, Ouagstaffe, my old!"

"In other words," continued the officer so addressed, "the Government decided that if they gave the Opposition half a chance to get together, and find leaders, and consolidate their new trenches, they might turn them out."

"Bien," assented Achille. Every one was listening now, for Wagstaffe as a politician usually had something original to say.

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"Well," proceeded Wagstaffe, "they saw that the great thing to do was to prevent the Opposition from making an impression on the country--from being taken too seriously, in fact. So what did they do? They said: 'Let's arrange for a comic Opposition--an Opposition pour rire, you know. They will make the country either laugh or cry. Anyhow, the country will be much too busy deciding which to do to have any time to worry about us; so we shall have a splendid chance to get on with the War.' So they sent down the Strand--that's where the Variety agents foregather, I believe--what you call entrepreneurs, Achille--and booked this troupe, complete, for the run of the War. They did the thing in style; spared no expense; and got a comic newspaper proprietor to write the troupe up, and themselves down. The scheme worked beautifully--what you would call a succès fou, Achille."

"I am desolated, my good Ouagstaffe," observed Petitpois after a pregnant silence; "but I cannot believe all you say."

"I may be wrong," admitted Wagstaffe handsomely, "but that's my reading of the situation. At any rate, Achille, you will admit that my theory squares with the known facts of the case."

Petitpois bowed politely.

"Perhaps it is I who am wrong, my dear Ouagger. There is such a difference of point of view between your politics and ours."

The deep voice of Captain Blaikie broke in.

"If Lancashire," he said grimly, "were occupied by a German army, as the Lille district is to-day, I fancy there would be a considerable levelling up of political points of view all round. No limelight for a comic opposition then, Achille, old son!"

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The First Hundred Thousand
Ian Hay

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