Sir Roger Really Does Go to Switzerland

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Sir Roger Really Does Go to Switzerland.

This adding on a hundred doesn't work at all; I am merely in despair that after so many chapters I am so little advanced with Our Story. (Yes, Our Story, Lionel, sweet boy! never forget; this is Our Story.)

You may well ask why this insistence on Sir Roger's visit to Switzerland. As you point out, he had been there already, and to France too, as a mere boy; and he had been all over Wales and Scotland even to Skye — and what they did tell him in Glasgie, I'd be ashamed to tell you — and in the English Lakes, and climbed all the mountains, and broke all the records — Direct Climb of Mickledoor, first solitary Descent of the North Face of the Pillar Rock, first solitary ascent of Kenn Knotts Chimney, Twyll-Du, and dozens of other; yet I never said a word about it.

(Well, never mind that, says you: let's hear about the Glasgow business.)

Well, it came indirectly only on Sir Roger; the foot of the trouble was Cardinal Mentula. For that most learned and most subtle prelate had not yet found how to spend his evenings. When he got up every morning, he was still content to leave himself (in a manner of speaking) in the hollow of Sir Roger's hand as far as amusement was concerned. Happy indeed were the hours that he spent! But 'o nights, no! He was of the secret service, may be; he loved to seek out things usually hidden — the Good, the Beautiful, and the Trou, as he never wittily observed. For he never spoke — 'twas against his vow of silence — though paradoxically, he was easily brought to con-fesses. (I abhor these Ente;'nte puns, don't you?) So in Glasgow his idea was to relieve the necessities of the poor, and he would go out slumming with Sir Roger and the rest of the gang. I can see them now, the good knight as almoner with two shillings extracted from an indulgent mother and his purse full to bursting (that reads funnily, but it's quite all right), the Cardinal leaping and dancing and thumping before him all down the street, brave Coglio and gay Cojone as eager as you wish, and Porphyria Poppoea following discontentedly in the background, sulking, hidden in her cushions, and probably muttering to herself. Damn it! she was right always, that girl! If Sir Roger had only taken her advice all through, this would not have been so tragic a story. She was a good friend, if ever a man had one! But that pugnacious little devil of a dwarf, he was for ever getting his ward into trouble. His only idea seems to have been to spend, and spend, and spend; bad for him, and worse for Sir Roger, who lost wealth and health in humouring his caprices, and had nothing much but a hell of a good time to show for it. Well, down Sauciehall Street they go, the crowd of them, and the devil patron Saint of Glasgow) knows where else. And the result is that poor God-damned Cardinal Mentula — wished. What did poor God- damned Cardinal Mentula wish? Poor God-damned Cardinal Mentula wished that he could say with Saint Peter that he had toiled all night and had caught nothing. Oh yes! He was converted to the doctrine of Heraclitus πάντα ῥεῖ. When somebody said “Das Ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan” his unspoken comment was “More German Schrecklichkeit!” He would deliberately mistranslate “Ab ovo usque ad mala” and “Mulier desinit in piscem”. To him “Nemo sapit omnibus horis” seemed like an Accusing Voice. Every morning he awoke to the battle-cry of Sursum Chordee (have I got that Latin right?) and if he was a dwarf before, he was now twisted and deformed to excite the pity of a pirate or an evangelical clergyman. By the Fallopian Tubes of Saint Theresa, God bless her, the dainty little mystic! I tell you honestly as man to man, he could hardly read a poem without feeling that the bard was laughing at him. “Men may come and men may go, But I flow on for ever” sounded like sarcasm. He hated the very name of Rupert Brooke. You see the whole catastrophe came on him like a thunder clap; and bless my psyche! if I haven't forgotten to tell you what it was. (Loud applause.)


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