He claimed my attention at first on a Friday night in Swanston Street.
It is eloquent of the pre-occupation of city crowds that none, save myself and few loungers took any notice of him at all; but I followed his erratic course for several hundred yards until he came to anchor against a verandah post and appeared to ponder deeply.
In one hand he carried by the scruff of the neck a small pup of nondescript breed, extremely fat and extremely woebegone. In the other hand he bore a straw envelope, such as is used for packing bottles, and from this there protruded the head and one feebly-waving claw of a small crayfish.
Finally the orator (for such he proved to be) decided to address the crowd.
"Feller cit'zens," he proclaimed to the four who deigned to pause and listen. "I am goin' to tell you that this here world of ours is on the verge of c'lapse.
"See this fella," he asked, holding aloft the crayfish in the straw envelope. "That's Bill Lang. And this," he said, exhibiting the dejected pup, "this is 'Itler. They ain't been interdooced yet, but when they do the world will be a noo man again an' ev'rything in the garden will be lovely."
The orator paused, as if arranging the sounding periods of his next passage.
"There are some things," he announced, "that a human been can't stand. Did I bring on the hot weather? Did I say let it be hot an' it was hot? I did not. I'm a pafac - I'm a packafick - I mean I'm a pacifist. Do you know who I thought brung on the hot weather an' lots of pots an' rows her wot must be obeyed - p'raps?" He examined the pup and gazed long and earnestly in his face.
"'Itler," he said, "you been sayin' things behind my back. You been bitin' the nose that spites yer face. Filler cit'zens," he said again addressing the multitude, "would you call that the ack of a officer an' a ge'man? No!" And with a gesture of supreme renunciation he flung Adolph Hitler from him and Adolph sprawled across the footpath and sat cringing against the wall.
The orator regarded his act of vengeance with some satisfaction for some time; then suddenly he remembered something.
"Come back 'ere, 'Itler," he said; "I got something more to say to you." Adolph refused to budge.
"Go an' fetch 'im, Bill," cried the orator, flinging the crayfish, envelope and all, after the cringing pup.
If Hitler was in a passive mood Bill Lang was not. He seemed to perceive a need for swift and drastic action; and, in the fraction of a second his one efficient claw fastened upon the abbreviated tail of Adolph Hitler.
With a yelp which attracted the attention of several shoppers, Hitler raised a yelp of agony and sprang to action at last; and in half a minute both were far down the street and still going.
Amazed at this sudden movement, the orator stood for a moment aghast. Then he fell to bewailing.
"Forsaken!" he wept. "Deserted and despised! Who's to look after me now?"
"I am," said a strange voice as the large hand of a policeman fell on his shoulder.
Turning, the orator gazed at him in wonder for a second, then: "You!" he gasped. "Cedric! Can it be you?" And before the policeman could resist, the orator had flung his arms around his neck and kissed him passionately.
Then a hastily-summoned taxi bore them to other scenes.
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003|