Moonbeams From The Larger Lunacy

VIII—Truthful Oratory, or What Our Speakers Ought to Say

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen: If there is one thing I abominate more than another, it is turning out on a cold night like this to eat a huge dinner of twelve courses and know that I have to make a speech on top of it. Gentlemen, I just feel stuffed. That’s the plain truth of it. By the time we had finished that fish, I could have gone home satisfied. Honestly I could. That’s as much as I usually eat. And by the time I had finished the rest of the food, I felt simply waterlogged, and I do still. More than that. The knowledge that I had to make a speech congratulating this society of yours on its fiftieth anniversary haunted and racked me all through the meal. I am not, in plain truth, the ready and brilliant speaker you take me for. That is a pure myth. If you could see the desperate home scene that goes on in my family when I am working up a speech, your minds would be at rest on that point.

I’ll go further and be very frank with you. How this society has lived for fifty years, I don’t know. If all your dinners are like this, Heaven help you. I’ve only the vaguest idea of what this society is, anyway, and what it does. I tried to get a constitution this afternoon but failed. I am sure from some of the faces that I recognise around this table that there must be good business reasons of some sort for belonging to this society. There’s money in it,—mark my words,—for some of you or you wouldn’t be here. Of course I quite understand that the President and the officials seated here beside me come merely for the self-importance of it. That, gentlemen, is about their size. I realized that from their talk during the banquet. I don’t want to speak bitterly, but the truth is they are SMALL men and it flatters them to sit here with two or three blue ribbons pinned on their coats. But as for me, I’m done with it. It will be fifty years, please heaven, before this event comes round again. I hope, I earnestly hope, that I shall be safely under the ground.

Well, gentlemen, this Annual Fall Fair of the Skedink County Agricultural Association has come round again. I don’t mind telling you straight out that of all the disagreeable jobs that fall to me as Governor of this State, my visit to your Fall Fair is about the toughest.

I want to tell you, gentlemen, right here and now, that I don’t know anything about agriculture and I don’t want to. My parents were rich enough to bring me up in the city in a rational way. I didn’t have to do chores in order to go to the high school as some of those present have boasted that they did. My only wonder is that they ever got there at all. They show no traces of it.

This afternoon, gentlemen, you took me all round your live-stock exhibit. I walked past, and through, nearly a quarter of a mile of hogs. What was it that they were called—Tamworths—Berkshires? I don’t remember. But all I can say, gentlemen, is,—phew! Just that. Some of you will understand readily enough. That word sums up my whole idea of your agricultural show and I’m done with it.

No, let me correct myself. There was just one feature of your agricultural exposition that met my warm approval. You were good enough to take me through the section of your exposition called your Midway Pleasance. Let me tell you, sirs, that there was more real merit in that than all the rest of the show put together. You apologized, if I remember rightly, for taking me into the large tent of the Syrian Dancing Girls. Oh, believe me, gentlemen, you needn’t have. Syria is a country which commands my profoundest admiration. Some day I mean to spend a vacation there. And, believe me, gentlemen, when I do go,—and I say this with all the emphasis of which I am capable,—I should not wish to be accompanied by such a set of flatheads as the officials of your Agricultural Society.

And now, gentlemen, as I have just received a fake telegram, by arrangement, calling me back to the capital of the State, I must leave this banquet at once. One word in conclusion: if I had known as fully as I do now how it feels to drink half a bucket of sweet cider, I should certainly never have come.

Ladies: My own earnest, heartfelt conviction is that you are a pack of cats. I use the word “cats” advisedly, and I mean every letter of it. I want to go on record before this gathering as being strongly and unalterably opposed to Woman Suffrage until you get it. After that I favour it. My reasons for opposing the suffrage are of a kind that you couldn’t understand. But all men,—except the few that I see at this meeting,—understand them by instinct.

As you may, however, succeed as a result of the fuss that you are making,—in getting votes, I have thought it best to come. Also,—I am free to confess,—I wanted to see what you looked like.

On this last head I am disappointed. Personally I like women a good deal fatter than most of you are, and better looking. As I look around this gathering I see one or two of you that are not so bad, but on the whole not many. But my own strong personal predilection is and remains in favour of a woman who can cook, mend clothes, talk when I want her to, and give me the kind of admiration to which I am accustomed.

Let me, however, say in conclusion that I am altogether in sympathy with your movement to this extent. If you ever do get votes,—and the indications are that you will (blast you),—I want your votes, and I want all of them.

IX—Our Literary Bureau[2]


We have lately been struck,—of course not dangerously,—by a new idea. A recent number of a well-known magazine contains an account of an American multimillionaire who, on account of the pressure of his brain power and the rush of his business, found it impossible to read the fiction of the day for himself. He therefore caused his secretaries to look through any new and likely novel and make a rapid report on its contents, indicating for his personal perusal the specially interesting parts.

Realizing the possibilities coiled up in this plan, we have opened a special agency or bureau for doing work of this sort. Any over-busy multimillionaire, or superman, who becomes our client may send us novels, essays, or books of any kind, and will receive a report explaining the plot and pointing out such parts as he may with propriety read. If he can once find time to send us a postcard, or a postal cablegram, night or day, we undertake to assume all the further effort of reading. Our terms for ordinary fiction are one dollar per chapter; for works of travel, 10 cents per mile; and for political or other essays, two cents per page, or ten dollars per idea, and for theological and controversial work, seven dollars and fifty cents per cubic yard extracted. Our clients are assured of prompt and immediate attention.

Through the kindness of the Editor of the Century we are enabled to insert here a sample of our work. It was done to the order of a gentleman of means engaged in silver mining in Colorado, who wrote us that he was anxious to get “a holt” on modern fiction, but that he had no time actually to read it. On our assuring him that this was now unnecessary, he caused to be sent to us the monthly parts of a serial story, on which we duly reported as follows:

Theodolite Gulch,
The Dip, Canon County,

Dear Sir:

We beg to inform you that the scene of the opening chapter of the Fortunes of Barbara Plynlimmon is laid in Wales. The scene is laid, however, very carelessly and hurriedly and we expect that it will shortly be removed. We cannot, therefore, recommend it to your perusal. As there is a very fine passage describing the Cambrian Hills by moonlight, we enclose herewith a condensed table showing the mean altitude of the moon for the month of December in the latitude of Wales. The character of Miss Plynlimmon we find to be developed in conversation with her grandmother, which we think you had better not read. Nor are we prepared to endorse your reading the speeches of the Welsh peasantry which we find in this chapter, but we forward herewith in place of them a short glossary of Welsh synonyms which may aid you in this connection.

Dear Sir:

We regret to state that we find nothing in the second chapter of the Fortunes of Barbara Plynlimmon which need be reported to you at length. We think it well, however, to apprise you of the arrival of a young Oxford student in the neighbourhood of Miss Plynlimmon’s cottage, who is apparently a young man of means and refinement. We enclose a list of the principal Oxford Colleges.

We may state that from the conversation and manner of this young gentleman there is no ground for any apprehension on your part. But if need arises we will report by cable to you instantly.

The young gentleman in question meets Miss Plynlimmon at sunrise on the slopes of Snowdon. As the description of the meeting is very fine we send you a recent photograph of the sun.

Dear Sir:

Our surmise was right. The scene of the story that we are digesting for you is changed. Miss Plynlimmon has gone to London. You will be gratified to learn that she has fallen heir to a fortune of £100,000, which we are happy to compute for you at $486,666 and 66 cents less exchange. On Miss Plynlimmon’s arrival at Charing Cross Station, she is overwhelmed with that strange feeling of isolation felt in the surging crowds of a modern city. We therefore enclose a timetable showing the arrival and departure of all trains at Charing Cross.

Dear Sir:

We beg to bring to your notice the fact that Miss Barbara Plynlimmon has by an arrangement made through her trustees become the inmate, on a pecuniary footing, in the household of a family of title. We are happy to inform you that her first appearance at dinner in evening dress was most gratifying: we can safely recommend you to read in this connection lines 4 and 5 and the first half of line 6 on page 100 of the book as enclosed. We regret to say that the Marquis of Slush and his eldest son Viscount Fitz-busé (courtesy title) are both addicted to drink. They have been drinking throughout the chapter. We are pleased to state that apparently the second son, Lord Radnor of Slush, who is away from home is not so addicted. We send you under separate cover a bottle of Radnor water.

Dear Sir:

We regret to state that the affairs of Miss Barbara Plynlimmon are in a very unsatisfactory position. We enclose three pages of the novel with the urgent request that you will read them at once. The old Marquis of Slush has made approaches towards Miss Plynlimmon of such a scandalous nature that we think it best to ask you to read them in full. You will note also that young Viscount Slush who is tipsy through whole of pages 121-125, 128-133, and part of page 140, has designs upon her fortune. We are sorry to see also that the Marchioness of Busé under the guise of friendship has insured Miss Plynlimmon’s life and means to do away with her. The sister of the Marchioness, the Lady Dowager, also wishes to do away with her. The second housemaid who is tempted by her jewelery is also planning to do away with her. We feel that if this goes on she will be done away with.

Dear Sir:

We beg to advise you that Viscount Fitz-busé, inflamed by the beauty and innocence of Miss Plynlimmon, has gone so far as to lay his finger on her (read page 170, lines 6-7). She resisted his approaches. At the height of the struggle a young man, attired in the costume of a Welsh tourist, but wearing the stamp of an Oxford student, and yet carrying himself with the unmistakable hauteur (we knew it at once) of an aristocrat, burst, or bust, into the room. With one blow he felled Fitz-busé to the floor; with another he clasped the girl to his heart.

“Barbara!” he exclaimed.

“Radnor,” she murmured.

You will be pleased to learn that this is the second son of the Marquis, Viscount Radnor, just returned from a reading tour in Wales.

P. S. We do not know what he read, so we enclose a file of Welsh newspapers to date.

We regret to inform you that the Marquis of Slush has disinherited his son. We grieve to state that Viscount Radnor has sworn that he will never ask for Miss Plynlimmon’s hand till he has a fortune equal to her own. Meantime, we are sorry to say, he proposes to work.

The Viscount is seeking employment.

The Viscount is looking for work.

The Viscount is hunting for a job.

We are most happy to inform you that Miss Plynlimmon has saved the situation. Determined to be worthy of the generous love of Viscount Radnor, she has arranged to convey her entire fortune to the old family lawyer who acts as her trustee. She will thus become as poor as the Viscount and they can marry. The scene with the old lawyer who breaks into tears on receiving the fortune, swearing to hold and cherish it as his own is very touching. Meantime, as the Viscount is hunting for a job, we enclose a list of advertisements under the heading Help Wanted—Males.

You will be very gratified to learn that the fortunes of Miss Barbara Plynlimmon have come to a most pleasing termination. Her marriage with the Viscount Radnor was celebrated very quietly on page 231. (We enclose a list of the principal churches in London.) No one was present except the old family lawyer, who was moved to tears at the sight of the bright, trusting bride, and the clergyman who wept at the sight of the cheque given him by the Viscount. After the ceremony the old trustee took Lord and Lady Radnor to a small wedding breakfast at an hotel (we enclose a list). During the breakfast a sudden faintness (for which we had been watching for ten pages) overcame him. He sank back in his chair, gasping. Lord and Lady Radnor rushed to him and sought in vain to tighten his necktie. He expired under their care, having just time to indicate in his pocket a will leaving them his entire wealth.

This had hardly happened when a messenger brought news to the Viscount that his brother, Lord Fitz-busé had been killed in the hunting field, and that he (meaning him, himself) had now succeeded to the title. Lord and Lady Fitz-busé had hardly time to reach the town house of the family when they learned that owing to the sudden death of the old Marquis (also, we believe, in the hunting field), they had become the Marquis and the Marchioness of Slush.

The Marquis and the Marchioness of Slush are still living in their ancestral home in London. Their lives are an example to all their tenantry in Piccadilly, the Strand and elsewhere.

Dear Mr. Gulch:

We beg to acknowledge with many thanks your cheque for one thousand dollars.

We regret to learn that you have not been able to find time to read our digest of the serial story placed with us at your order. But we note with pleasure that you propose to have the “essential points” of our digest “boiled down” by one of the business experts of your office.

Awaiting your commands,

We remain, etc., etc.

[2] This literary bureau was started by the author in the New York Century. It leaped into such immediate prominence that it had to be closed at once.