Bindle had on more than one occasion been urged to bring Ginger to the Night Club; but Ginger finds himself “not ‘oldin’ wiv” so many things in life, that he is very difficult to approach. One evening, however, Bindle entered with the khaki-clad Ginger. Awkward and self-conscious, Ginger strove to disguise his nervousness under the mantle of his habitual gloom.
“We been walkin’ in the Park,” Bindle announced. “I been quite worried about poor old Ging. Sunday evenin’ in the Park ain’t no place for a young chap like ‘im. It puts wrong ideas into ‘is ‘ead.”
Ginger grumbled something in his throat and with one hand took the cigar Dick Little offered whilst with the other he grasped the glass of beer that Windover had poured out for him.
“Funny place Hyde Park on a Sunday evenin’,” Bindle remarked conversationally to Sallie; “but it’s a rare responsibility with a chap like Ginger.”
“Now Mr. Bindle,” she smiled, “if you tease him I shall be cross.”
“Me tease, miss, you must be mixin’ me up wi’ Mr. ‘Erald.”
“Get along with, the yarn, J.B., tell us about the Park,” urged Carruthers, who liked nothing better than to get Bindle going.
“You should ‘ear wot them Australian boys says about the Daylight Bill,” he continued after a pause.
“The Daylight Bill?” queried Angell Herald.
“Well, you see, sir, its like this. Them poor chaps says that they gets a gal, and then, as soon as it gets dark, it’s time for ‘er to go ‘ome.”
“But why——?” began Angell Herald.
“Oh, you work it out by the square root of the primitive instinct,” said Dick Little, which left Angell Herald exactly where he was before.
“They’re an ‘ot lot, them Australians,” Bindle proceeded. “Ginger says they go off with all the gals, an’ ‘e don’t get a chance. Aint that so, ole sport?” he demanded turning to Ginger.
“I don’t ‘old wiv women,” grumbled Ginger.
“Anyway the Kangaroos don’t give yer much chance of ‘oldin’ ’em. Fine chaps they looks too. I don’t blame the gals,” Bindle added.
“Funny things gals,” continued Bindle, “they’d chuck a angel for an Australian. ‘Earty’s got a gal to ‘elp in the shop. She’s a pretty bit too, yer can always trust ‘Earty in little things like that. Well, she’s nuts on Australians. Poor Martha gets quite worried about it. Martha’s ‘Earty’s missis,” he explained, “A rare lot o’ trouble she’s ‘ad with Jenny. First of all the gal took up wi’ the milkman, wots got an ‘eart and can’t get into khaki. Then she chucks ‘im an’ starts with Australians; an’ ‘e was a fivepenny milkman too, an’ now ‘e can’t go near the ‘Earty’s ‘ouse without it ‘urtin’ ‘im, so poor ole Martha is a penny down on ‘er milk.”
Bindle paused and proceeded to pull at his pipe meditatively.
“Get ahead, man,” cried Dare impatiently. “What happened to the fickle Jenny?”
“Well,” continued Bindle, “she seemed to get a new Australian every night out, an’ poor ole Milkcans is lookin’ round for another bit o’ skirt.”
“Know this thou lov’st amiss and to love true,
Thou must begin again and love anew,”
“One day Martha asks Jenny why she’s always out with Australians instead of our chaps. She looks down, shuffles ‘er feet, nibbles the corner of ‘er apron. At last she says, ‘Oh, mum, it’s the way they ‘olds yer.’
“Yes,” continued Bindle, “they’re fine chaps them Australians, an’ they can fight too.” After a pause he continued: “Ole Spotty can’t stand ’em, though. Spotty’s got somethink wrong with ‘is lungs and the doctor says to ‘im, ‘Spotty ole card, it’s outdoors or underground. The choice is with you.’
“So instead o’ becomin’ a member o’ parliament, Spotty goes round takin’ pennies for lettin’ people sit down on the chairs in the Park. It means fourpence ‘alfpenny an ‘our now an’ rheumatism later.
“Them Australians can’t understand bein’ asked a penny to sit down, and sometimes they refuses to pay, thinking it’s a do. It’s a shame not to let ’em sit down for nothink, after they come all them miles to fight. So Spotty soon learns to sort of overlook ’em.
“One day an inspector reports ‘im to the guv’nor, an’ ‘e was ‘auled up an’ asked to tell all about it. ‘E did, also ‘ow one of ’em offered to fight ‘im for the penny. Spotty’s a slip of a thing like a war sausage.
“‘I took up this ‘ere job,’ says Spotty, ‘to get well, not as a short cut to the ‘orspital,’ and he offered to resign; but they’re short o’ men an’ Spotty is still takin’ pennies, when ‘e can get ’em without scrappin’.
“Lord, the things Spotty’s told me about Hyde Park. It ain’t no place for me. I told Mrs. B. one night, leastwise I told ‘er some, an’ she says, ‘The King ought to stop it.'” Bindle grinned. “I can see ‘im goin’ round a-stoppin’ it by ‘avin’ all the chairs put two yards apart, an’ bein’ late for ‘is supper.”
“Are you a royalist, J.B.?” enquired Windover languidly.
“A wot, sir?” enquired Bindle.
“Do you believe in kings?”
“I believe in our King.” There was decision in Bindle’s voice. “‘E’s a sport, same as ‘is father was. I’m sick of all this talk about a republic.” Disgust was clearly expressed upon Bindle’s face and in his voice. “Down at the yard they’re always jawin’ about the revolution wot’s comin’.”
“I don’t ‘old wiv kings,” broke in Ginger. “There’s goin’ to be a revolution.”
“‘Ullo Ging, you woke up? Well ole son, wot’s wrong wi’ George Five?”
“Look wot ‘e corsts, an’ you an’ me ‘as to pay, an’ everything goin’ up like ‘ell.”
“‘Ush, Ginger, ‘ush, there’s a lady ‘ere.”
Ginger looked awkwardly at Sallie, who smiled her reassurance.
“‘I s’pose, Ginger, yer thinks you’re goin’ to get a republic with a pound o’ tea,” said Bindle good-humouredly.
“There’s goin’ to be a revolution,” persisted Ginger doggedly. Ginger logic is repetition. “After the war,” he added.
“An’ wot jer goin’ to revolute about?” enquired Bindle, gazing at Ginger’s face, which Windover has described as “freckled with stupidity.”
For a few minutes Ginger was silent, thinking laboriously.
“Look at the price of beer?” he at length challenged with inspiration.
“Well, Ging, ain’t you an ole ‘uggins. ‘Jer think you’ll get cheap beer if yer makes George and Mary ‘op it? Not you, ole son. Wot you’ll most likely get is no beer at all, same as in America.”
“That’s a lie!” We were all startled at the anger in Ginger’s voice, as he flashed a sullen challenge round the room.
“Don’t get ‘uffy, ole sport. Wot’s a lie?” enquired Bindle, unmoved by Ginger’s outburst.
“That they ain’t got no beer in America,” snarled Ginger.
“J.B. is quite right,” murmured Windover soothingly. “In some States there’s no drink of any sort.”
Ginger gazed from one to the other, bewilderment and alarm stamped upon his face.
“Well I’m——” began Ginger.
“Surprised,” broke in Bindle. “O’ course you are. Fancy bein’ in the army without anythink to wash it down.
“Now, Ginger,” said Bindle after a pause, “tell the General ‘ow ‘appy you are bein’ a soldier.”
“I don’t ‘old wiv the army,” was Ginger’s gloomy response.
“What!” There was the light of battle in the General’s eye. “Then why the devil did you enlist?” he demanded in his most aggressive parade manner.
“To get away,” was Ginger’s enigmatical response.
“To get away! To get away from what?” demanded the General.
“You see, sir,” explained Bindle, “Ginger ain’t ‘appy in ‘is ‘ome life. ‘E’s got a wife an’ three kids and——”
“Jawin’ an’ squallin’,” interrupted Ginger vindictively.
“Why don’t you like the army?” demanded the General.
“Don’t ‘old wiv orficers.”
“With officers! Why?”
“Order yer about.”
“How the devil would you know what to do if they didn’t order you about?” demanded the General rapidly losing his temper.
“Don’t ‘old wiv the army,” was the grumbled retort.
It is Ginger’s method, when faced with an awkward question, to fall back upon his inner defences by announcing that he “don’t ‘old wiv” whatever it is under discussion.
“If you don’t hold with the army, with officers, with wives and children, then what do you hold with?” demanded the General angrily.
“Beer,” was the laconic response, uttered without the vestige of a smile.
Ginger personifies gloom. He would if he could snatch the sun’s ray from a dewdrop, or the joyousness from a child’s laugh. It is constitutional.
“Poor ole Ginger’s ‘appier when ‘e’s miserable,” Bindle explained; “but ‘e’s a rare good sort at ‘eart is Ging. ‘E once bought a cock canary, wot the man told ‘im would sing like a prize bird; but when the yaller comes orf an’ there warn’t no song, and the bird started a-layin’ eggs, it sort o’ broke poor ole Ging. up. ‘E ain’t never been the same man since, ‘ave yer, ole sport?”
Ginger muttered something inaudible, the tone of which suggested blood.
“If you could catch that cove you’d be ‘oldin’ ‘im, eh Ging?”
“Blast ‘im!” exploded Ginger.
Shortly afterwards Ginger took an ungracious leave. The Night Club saw him no more.
On the Sunday following Bindle arrived early, hilarious with excitement.
“‘Old me, ‘Orace,” he cried joyously, and two of “Tims'” men supported him in the approved manner of the prize-ring, flapping handkerchiefs before his face. Presently Bindle reassumed control of his limbs.
“What’s the joke?” enquired Dick Little.
“Joke!” cried Bindle. “Joke! ‘Ere ‘old me again.”
After further ministrations he explained. On the previous day he had met one of Ginger’s mates, who had told him that Ginger was undergoing seven days C.B. for fighting in the guardroom.
“An’ wot jer think ‘e was fighting about?” enquired Bindle, his face crinkled with smiles.
We gave it up.
“Because one of ‘is mates says we’re goin’ to ‘ave a republic! The poor chap’s in ‘orspital now,” he added, “a-learnin’ to believe in kings, and poor ole Ginger’s learnin’ that it ain’t wise to believe too much in anythink.”
“Well, here’s to Private Ginger, loyalist,” cried Jim Colman, and we drank the toast in a way that brought the General hurrying up from below.
“I seem to been ‘avin’ quite a lot o’ things ‘appen last week,” remarked Bindle as he unscrewed the stopper of a beer-bottle on the sideboard, and poured the contents into the pewter tankard that Sallie had given him. After a long and refreshing drink he continued tantalisingly—
“Funny ‘ow things ‘appen to me. Cheer-o! Archie,” this to Old Archie who had just entered, his face looking more than ever like a withered apple in which were set a pair of shrewd, but kindly eyes.
“Tellin’ the tale, Joe,” he remarked. Then turning to the rest of us he added, “Suppose poor old Joe was to forget ‘ow to talk. Evenin’, m’lord,” this with an upward movement of his hand as Windover entered.
“There ain’t no fear o’ that, Archie my lad,” replied Bindle. “I’m as likely to forget ‘ow to talk as you are to remember to put the cawfee into the stuff yer sells for more’n it’s worth.”
“What’s been happening?” demanded Blint.
“I see Mr. Angell ‘Erald the other day,” Bindle remarked. “I was on the tail-board o’ the van with ole Wilkes, ‘im wot coughs to keep ‘im from swallowing flies.”
“Did he see you?” enquired Dick Little.
“If ‘e didn’t see me, there wasn’t no excuse for ‘im not ‘earin’ Wilkie’s cough. They wouldn’t ‘ave ‘im as a special constable. Rude to ‘im they was. Poor ole Wilkie ain’t forgot it, ‘e’s a bit sensitive like, not bein’ married.”
“Never mind about Wilkes,” broke in Tom Little. “Get oh with the story, J.B.”
At times Bindle has a tendency to wander into by-paths of reminiscence.
“It was in the Strand,” he continued, “an’ to make sure of Mr. Angell ‘Erald not bein’ disappointed I cheero’d ‘im. ‘E sort o’ looked round frightened-like, then ‘e disappeared into a teashop like a rabbit in an ‘ole. S’pose ‘e suddenly remembered ‘e was tea-thirsty,” and Bindle looked round solemnly.
“Perhaps he didn’t hear you,” ventured Dick Little.
“When I cheero a cove, an’ Wilkie coughs at ‘im, well if ‘e don’t ‘ear then ‘e ought to be seen to, because it’s serious. Why the cop on point mentioned it to me. Said we’d set the motor-busses shyin’ if we didn’t stop. ‘E was quite ‘urt about it. Seemed upset-like about poor ole Wilkie’s cough. No: ‘e ‘eard us right enough.”
“He may not have recognised you,” the Boy ventured, knowing full well that Angell Herald would not be seen exchanging salutations with a man on the tail-board of a pantechnicon.
But Bindle merely closed his left eye and placed the forefinger of his right hand at the side of his nose.
At that moment Angell Herald entered the room. He glanced, a little anxiously I thought, at Bindle who, however, greeted him with unaffected good-humour.
“When you come in, sir,” he explained cheerily, “I was jest tellin’ ‘ow me an’ Wilkie ran across ‘is Lordship last week. Me an’ Wilkie was on the tail-board o’ the van; but ‘is Lordship come up an’—wot jer think?”
Bindle gazed round the room triumphantly. Angell Herald looked extremely unhappy. Windover, on the contrary, seemed unusually interested. Having centred upon himself the attention of the whole room Bindle proceeded,
“‘E took us into a swell place an’ stood us a dinner. Lord, ‘ow they did look to see us, me an’ Wilkie in our aprons, ‘is Lordship in ‘is red tabs an’ a gold rim to ‘is cap, an’ a red band round it.”
Bindle was enjoying himself hugely, especially as he saw that Angell Herald was becoming more and more uncomfortable.
“We ‘ad champagne an’ oysters, an’ soup an’—— Well I thought Wilkie ‘ud never stop.” He broke off to light his pipe, when it was in full blast he continued.
“Presently a cove in an ‘igh collar comes up an’ says polite like to ‘is lordship—
“‘Would you kindly ask that gentleman to ‘urry with ‘is soup, sir,’ meanin’ Wilkie, ‘there’s a gentleman over there wot says ‘e can’t ‘ear the band, an’ this is ‘is favourite tune.'”
“Mr. Bindle!” cried Sallie, who is very sensitive upon the subject of table manners.
“I’m sorry, miss, but you see poor ole Wilkie never ‘ad no mother to teach ‘im. Yes,” he continued, “we ‘ad a rare ole time, me an’ Wilkie.”
Angell Herald looked from Bindle to Windover. His veneer of self-complacency had been badly punctured.
“By the way, J.B.,” said Windover, “I want you to come to lunch with me again on Saturday. You’ll come, Little and you, Boy.”
It was Bindle’s turn to look surprised. That is how he got a real “dinner” with a lord, and Angell Herald had a lesson by which he probably failed to profit. To this day he believes Bindle’s story of the mythical lunch. Bindle has never forgiven Angell Herald his “men’s stories,” and he unites with the Boy in scoring off him whenever possible. Sometimes Dick Little and I have to take a strong line with both delinquents. Fortunately Angell Herald is more often than not oblivious of what is taking place.
Sometimes we have a night devoted to Bindle’s views on life. His philosophy is a thing devoid of broideries and frills. It is the essence of his own experience. Once when Dare had been talking upon the subject of ideals, Bindle had remarked:
“Very pretty to talk about, but they ain’t much use in the furniture-movin’ line. One in the eye is more likely to make a man be’ave than a month’s jawin’ about wot ‘Earty calls ‘brotherly love.'”
Bindle’s good-nature makes it possible for him to say without offence what another man could not even hint at.
Windover once remarked that Bindle would go through life saying and doing things impossible to any but a prize-fighter.
“An’ why a bruiser, sir?” Bindle had enquired. NORFLOXACIN
“Well, few men care to punch the head of a professional boxer,” was the retort.
“It ain’t wot yer say, sir,” Bindle had remarked, obviously pleased at the compliment. “It’s wot’s be’ind the words. I ain’t got time to look for angels in trousers, or saints in skirts. There ain’t many of us wot ain’t got a tear or an ‘ole somewhere, but it ain’t ‘elpin’ things to put it in the papers.”
“But,” Jim Dare, one of “Tims'” men, broke in wickedly, “without criticism there’d be no progress.”
Bindle was on him like a flash.
“If an angel’s lost ‘is tail feathers,” he retorted, “you bet the other angels ain’t goin’ to make a song about it. If they was the right sort of angels they’d pull their own out, to show that tail-feathers ain’t everythink.”
We made many attempts to get at Bindle’s views upon the Hereafter: but although by nature as open as the day, there are some things about which he is extremely reticent. One evening in answer to a direct challenge he replied,
“Well, I don’t rightly know, I ain’t been taught things; but I got a sort of idea that Gawd’s a sight better man than Joe Bindle, an’ that’s why I can’t stick ‘Earty’s Gawd. ‘E ain’t Gawd no more’n I’m the Kayser.” Then after a pause he had added, “If Gawd’s goin’ to be Gawd ‘E’s got to be a mystery. Why there’s some coves wot seem to know more about wot Gawd’s goin’ to do than wot they’ve ‘ad for dinner.”
Dick Little never lost an opportunity of getting Bindle started upon his favourite subject—marriage. One night he announced that his brother Tom had become engaged to be married.
“‘E’s wot?” interrogated Bindle.
“He’s done it, J.B.,” Dick Little had replied with a laugh.
Bindle said nothing; but we awaited Tom Little’s arrival with no little eagerness. When he entered, Bindle fixed him with a remorseless eye.
“Wot’s this I ‘ear, sir?” he enquired.
“What’s what?” Tom Little enquired, becoming very pink, and casting a furious glance in his brother’s direction.
Tom Little’s demeanour left no doubt as to his guilt. For some moments Bindle regarded him gravely. Tom Little proceeded to light a cigarette; but he was obviously ill at ease.
“Wot’s the use o’ me tellin’ yer all about women,” Bindle demanded, “when, as soon as my back’s turned yer goes an’ does it. Silly sort of thing to do, I call it.”
“Don’t be an ass, J.B.” Tom Little strove to carry off the affair lightly; but Bindle was Rhadamanthine.
“I told yer not to,” he continued, then after a pause, “Course she’s got pretty ‘air an’ eyes, an’ made yer feel funny an’ all that; but you jest wait. Mrs. B. ‘ad all them things, an’ look at ‘er now. She’s about as soft-‘earted as a cop is to a cove wot’s ‘carryin’ the banner.'”*
* Walking the streets through the night
“Shut up, J.B.,” said Tom Little, looking round as if seeking some loophole of escape.
“Well, sir,” said Bindle with an air of resignation, “it’s your funeral, but I’m sorry, I ‘ope Gawd’ll ‘elp yer; but I know ‘e won’t.”
Another evening Bindle had opened the proceedings by his customary “Miss an’ gentlemen, I got a warnin’ to give yer. There’s only two things wot a cove ‘as got to fight against, one is a wife in ‘is bosom, an’ the other is various veins in ‘is legs. An’ now I’ll call for the story.”