Did I know anything about machinery?
Nothing to speak of, I replied. As co-manager and proprietor of some
cotton mills employing several hundred hands for spinning and weaving, I
naturally learnt how to handle a fair number of machines - sufficiently
well, at all events, to start and stop them and tell the girls how to
avoid being scalped or having their arms torn out whenever I happened to
be passing that way. This life also gave me some experience, useful
perhaps at the Munitions, in dealing with factory-hands - -
That was not the kind of machinery he meant. Did I know anything about
Nothing at all.
"You are like everybody else," he replied with a weary sigh, as much as
to say: How am I going to run the British Empire with a collection of
imbeciles like this? "We have several thousands of applicants like
yourself," he went on. "But I will put your name down. Come again."
"You are very kind."
"Do call again," he added, in his best private-secretary manner.
I called again a couple of weeks later. It struck me, namely, that they
might have acquired a sufficient stock of bankers and mechanics by this
time, and be able possibly to discover a vacancy for a public-school man
with a fairish knowledge of the world and some other things - one who,
moreover, had himself served in a cranky and fussy Government Department
and, though working in another sphere, had been thanked officially for
certain labours - once by the Admiralty, twice by the Board of Trade; and
anyway, hang it!