TO HIS FRIEND
WHO PRINTED SOME OF THESE TRIVIALITIES
IN THAT "ANGLO-ITALIAN REVIEW"
WHICH DESERVED A BETTER FATE
SANT' AGATA, SORRENTO
What ages ago it seems, that "Great War"!
And what enthusiasts we were! What visionaries, to imagine that in such
an hour of emergency a man might discover himself to be fitted for some
work of national utility without that preliminary wire-pulling which was
essential in humdrum times of peace! How we lingered in long queues, and
stamped up and down, and sat about crowded, stuffy halls, waiting, only
waiting, to be asked to do something for our country by any little
guttersnipe who happened to have been jockeyed into the requisite
position of authority! What innocents....
I have memories of several afternoons spent at a pleasant place near St.
James's Park station, whither I went in search of patriotic employment.
It was called, I think, Board of Trade Labour Emergency Bureau (or
something equally lucid and concise), and professed to find work for
everybody. Here, in a fixed number of rooms, sat an uncertain number of
chubby young gentlemen, all of whom seemed to be of military age, or
possibly below it; the Emergency Bureau was then plainly - for it may
have changed later on - a hastily improvised shelter for privileged
sucklings, a kind of nursery on advanced Montessori methods. Well, that
was not my concern. One must trust the Government to know its own
During my second or third visit to this hygienic and well-lighted
establishment I was introduced, most fortunately, into the sanctuary of
Mr. R - - , whose name was familiar to me. Was he not his brother's
brother? He was. A real stroke of luck!
Mr. R - - , a pink little thing, laid down the pen he had snatched up as
I entered the room, and began gazing at me quizzically through enormous
tortoise-shell-rimmed goggles, after the fashion of a precocious infant
who tries to look like daddy. What might he do for me?
We had a short talk, during which various forms were conscientiously
filled up as to my qualifications, such as they were. Of course, there
was nothing doing just then; but one never knows, does one? Would I mind
Would I mind? I should think not. I should like nothing better. It did
one good to be in contact with this youthful optimist and listen to his
blithe and pleasing prattle; he was so hopeful, so philosophic, so
cheery; his whole nature seemed to exhale the golden words: "Never say
die." And no wonder. He ought to have been at the front, but some
guardian angel in the haute finance had dumped him into this soft and
safe job: it was enough to make anybody cheerful. One should be
cautious, none the less, how one criticises the action of the