Works in the Herald 1934

Vaguely do the great ones of the earth realise, when they make some sudden change in their habits or their plans, to what far limits the concentric ripples extend before they lap the furthest edges of the social pool. Is it not safe to say that no denizen of that delectable water remains entirely unaffected by the disturbance at the hub.

To venture further, I have little doubt that, if one bright morning a Prince appeared on Piccadilly with the cuff of one trouser-leg turned down, in the fullness of time a million sartorially loyal young men in the remote Antipodes would bend to emulation. And a watchful tailor in far Tahiti eventually would persuade some colored customer to have his breeches built just so, "all same white fella."

This weighty surmise recurred to me the other day when, following his rather too frequent habit, my very brainy friend, Percy Podgrass, invited himself to lunch with me.

Percy's method of effecting this is now an old and, for me, a profitless tale. A long time ago, before I knew Percy very well, I invited him to lunch and something happened (conceivably the prospect of a better lunch elsewhere) to prevent his coming. He oozed fervent apologies later, and promised earnestly to make amends. He has been making and remaking them ever since.

His method is naively simple. Catching my unwary eye across a public dining-room, and, lacking any other host, Percy comes across, dripping affability, to remind me that he once disappointed me over a luncheon invitation and proposes to remedy the omission. Then he sits down and applies the remedy. I have never known a man so repeatedly punctilious about one ancient lapse, nor an appetite so omnivorously vast.

On this, the latest occasion, I seemed to detect something vaguely unfamiliar about Percy. On closer inspection, I was enlightened. Some weeks ago Percy had sacrificed what might loosely be described as a small moustache.

I had begun to get accustomed to his slightly balder aspect and now, peering intently, I noticed a slight smudge or smear upon his upper lip which seemed to indicate the faint beginning of another hirsute attachment like, yet vaguely unlike, the diminutive daub of which he had lately been bereft.

At the risk of being a little too personal I ventured to mention the matter, and, pausing in his unhurried absorption of gratuitous nutriment, Percy regarded me with an eye of gentle pity.

"My dear old dodderer," said he, politely, "even you must have heard or read somewhere - I mean it couldn't have escaped even your somnolent sentience that a certain very eminent and clean-shaven personage proposed recently to visit our shores. Hence the barefaced appearance of myself and certain of my friends.

"Later, without any notification to us - I mean my particular set - a change was made and, in place of the clean-shaven personage, another - whose tonsorial adornment is, to say the leats of it, rather a trick one to reproduce - is to take his place. Hence the feverish efforts of myself and friends to produce the best possible copies in the least possible time.

"Such little social observances, dear old out-of-date, may be far beyond your ambit; but I assure you that, in the best of circles, they are done."

"Quite so, Percy," I lied unscrupulously; "but even I, out-of-date as I may be, seem to have had later news that yourself. Just as I came in I met, by chance, a friend of mine. He tells me that a cable has just come through announcing yet another change. For the second eminent personage you mention has decided he would rather stay in England and see the Test matches. His uncle, I understand, in now coming in his stead."

"His uncle!" gasped Percy. "Do you mean the Duke of -?"

"Exactly," said I. "You have probably seen his photograph. His moustache is -."

"But this is terrible!" moaned Percy. "Terrible! Why none of us could possibly -. What ghastly news! I must dodge along and see some of the other fellows." And with widely anxious eyes he rushed from the room.

"Is your friend not coming back, sir?" asked George, the table waiter. "I've ordered both sweets and savory, as he usually takes both."

"Have you ever thought, George," I asked, "how vaguely the great ones of the earth may realise, when they make some sudden change, how far the concentric ripples may extend before they reach to utmost edges of the social pool?"

"Can't say I have, sir," said George. "Not in that way exactly."

"And do you think," I asked again, "if I decide to break a rule and get my friend's savory that London and the Palace will ever know the remote origin of such an unusual act?"

"I doubt it very much, sir," said George.

Herald, 8 May 1934, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003