Of the Household Cavalry Of the King Of Sweden and Norway, What Came to Its Best Regiment



'Tis true, 'tis no pity, that the folk of bard or talespinner should rise ever in revolt against him; for that's the sign of life in them. But where Porphyria Poppoea (of all people) deliberately interrupts my scandalous stories of her – 'tis but natural, though in another sense devilish unnatural, by the word of some. But I respect them not; Nature's mantle is wide and blue as the sky herself; and she enfoldeth all. However, this is what Porphyria Poppoea did: she woke me just as I was ready to dream this chapter, and bade me wait while she conversed with her friend Edward. 'Tis a brave boy and a belov'd; he will not deal in aught but sacred merchandise. Robes for the priests, albs, amices, dalmatics, chasubles, rochets, copes, birettas, all things canonical and lovely these doth he buy and sell, and his whole soul is ornamented by his love for the figurative mystery of these holy vestments. For it seemeth (as I dream) that the priest is to the Most High God as is a woman to her lover, that his raiment and apparel are even as the silks and fine linens and laces of a courtesan, which she adorns herself withal, that she may make her lover mad with love. And the incense? Oh a surety it is so. Then he, being made God by the passion of God that floodeth him, transmitteth God to bread and wine, transmuteth them again to God. Then eateth and drinketh he that God, even (again) as a woman receiveth of the lover the fluid and solid substance of his being; and thus being made God once more, ex infero, he transmitteth upward that godhead by the transmutation of those received Elements into strength of body and spirit that exulting poureth out its new divinity in praise and thanksgiving to the All-Father. I would also that ye take not how bread and wine be adorned for the priest, in golden paten and chased chalice. Behold then how complete and perfect is this – true image of true Life! And is not our Father, the Sun, the giver of all Life, adorned with glory of rays? Now, brethren, let me counsel ye not to take this mystery away, unseemly twining blue ribbons in your crisp fine short bushy hair. Fie, lads! Never think of such a thing; there's glory and beauty to spare so long as the damned thing stands to attention at the word of command, obeys the “Ready – present – fire” – $UM$UM$UM$UM – $UM$UM$UM$UM – and never lets fly before the proper moment. “Reserve your fire until you can see the whites of the enemy's eyes” is a good a rule in love as in war. Talking of love, you know the difference between a lady and a diplomat? If a diplomat says 'perhaps', he means 'no'; if he says 'no', he's no diplomat. If a lady says 'perhaps' she means 'yes'; if she says 'yes', she's no lady. (Not mine, the gibe, by Mercury the thief; but by Mercury the scribe, I gave it for posterity, damn 'em!)

Now Sir Roger Bloxam was destined to serve his country by this intellectual thimble-rigging; so of course he must make the Grand Tour, tra-la-la, and off he goes in his first Christmas vacation from – no less than the Only Place I ever saw worth living in, the Only Place I ever loved, in That Particular Way. France I love, and Africa, and Asia, and may it please Allah el-Latifu that I may live and die between Djelfa and Nefta on the South, and between Auteuil and Belleville on the North; but these are loves of my conscious being. The Only Place is in my blood; I've three — four centuries of atavism that curl round its ivied stones; I hate everything in its traditions from Henry the Eighth to Alfred Teeenyson with the whole of my conscious mind; and I love it with my soul, and the soul of my soul, as I love No Place Else. It's a royal residence; none of your vulgar Buckingham Palace, the stuck-up stuccoed Hanoverian hausfrauhaus; none of your flaunting Windsor, your suburban Osborne, your tourist Balmoral; but a Cloister, a college, a sanctuary, sacred and central, the garden of youth, the meadow of wit, the midden of learning, the South Wall of Poesy. I hereby vow a sovereign to the Head Porter – its Patron Saint – next time I see the fountain in the Great Court. And I hereby give warning that I shall roll on the grass for sheer delight, and probably jump into the river with my clothes on. Now will somebody tell me why in the name of all that's inappropriate they built a thieves' kitchen, a beggar's boozing-ken, a cads' cradle, a dumping-ground for all the lousy, spavined, ring- wormed, scrofulous, soapless, paper-collared, dicky-wearing, frayed-trousered, dusty-bowlered, toothbrushless, frowsty, fuggy, onanizing, cheesy, onion-smelling, lantern-jawed, pi-inclined, lecture-keeping, hockey-playing, tub-pushing, beer-squiffy, syphilophobic, landlady's-daughtercuddling, pseudo-blood, Union-haunting, Ciccu-jawing, mongrelbreeding, Math-Trip-mugging, oak-sporting, penny-nap-playing, Fabian, don-frequenting, stinks-stewing, proggings-fearing, touts next door? The educated reader will not hesitate to conclude that I refer to St. John's College, Cambridge, for the Hall is a dear little neighbour, and the Only Place I ever loved in the ancestral matter already described is of course the College of the Holy Trinity, where Sir Roger Bloxam spent the happy years of adolescence.

What a long time it has taken to get him away from it, even on that Christmas Vacation! It's not my fault, 'honest to God it isn't'; it's this affair of Porphyria Poppoea and Edward. My idea was to give a succinct account of the facts; but she made such a fuss of her religious-furniture-fellow that I got quite ecclesiastical, and that drove out of my mind the desire to describe her early exploits with the 'millingtery'. This was to have been a staccato chapter, a martinet chapter, a Halt-whogoes-there – friend – advance-friend-and-give-the-countersign chapter; and instead we have had a polite, learned, spiritual, academic chapter. However, it ought to go splendidly with the Cloth and the Gown – the Blue Gown über alles – so lets leave it at that, – and draw a thick line.

Damn everything! all this time I've been far away in the clouds – wondering when Edward will come back for another evening with Porphyria Poppoea! Is that a proper frame of mind for a popular novelist? By the impediment in the speech of William Somerset Maugham, by the Street-Arab accent of H. G. Wells, by the Black-Country-Twang that jerks from the Ruined Graveyard of Arnold Bennett, by the obese snobbishness of Marie Corelli, by the blue toe-nails of Victoria Cross, I deem it is not so. But what is a proper frame of mind? I had as lief have a cucumber-frame as a mind like any o' these; for cucumber is pretty good with salmon, and your popular novelist is good only with calomel, for those who react but with difficulty to twenty grains or so of that mild medicine.

So let's call it a day; we'll start off, very stiff and sturdy and new-manual-of-infantry-drill, with Sir Roger Bloxam already in Sweden.

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