One of the characteristics of the Night Club is its mixed membership.
“Rummy crowd, ain’t we?” Bindle had remarked to Sallie Carruthers the first night she was present. “There ain’t a pair anywheres, except p’raps you an’ me, miss.”
And so it was, the only thing we have in common is our humanity. To see Angell Herald doing the “ladies’ man” to Sallie is a sight that gives the rest of us a peculiar joy.
“‘E do work ‘ard, an’ she bears it like a good un,” was Bindle’s comment.
Angell Herald’s views on women are those of the bon viveur of the saloon bar. When he addresses Sallie his whole manner changes, just as most people’s idiom undergoes revision when they write a letter. You can see the dear fellow pulling himself together and, metaphorically, shooting out his cuffs and straightening his tie as a preliminary to opening fire. His manners are superb, elaborate, suburban. If Sallie happen to wander near the door, Angell Herald dashes forward and opens it, attracting general attention and arresting everybody’s conversation.
“He’s got more manners than breeding,” Dare once whispered to me after a particularly elaborate demonstration of Herald’s politeness. If Sallie rises, Herald comes to his feet with a suddenness that has been known to overset his chair.
He has no humour, but many jokes—most of which are for men only. It took him some time to gauge his company, when Dick Little introduced him to our circle, and it came about thus.
One evening he had told a particularly pointless “man’s story,” and his was the only laugh that announced its conclusion. Dick Little strove to smooth over the hiatus; but Bindle, whose disgust was obvious, had thrown a bomb upon troubled waters by enquiring of Dick Little with great innocence, “Let me see, sir, I think you said you was out o’ carbolic’!” From that date Angell Herald’s stories were merely pointless without being obscene. Sallie’s presence was a good influence.
In spite of his limitations, Angell Herald is not a bad fellow, and he told us many amusing stories of the “publicity” world. He knows Fleet Street thoroughly from the “box-office” point of view, and he seems to regard the editorial aspect of the newspaper world with amused tolerance. “Where would those scribblers be,” he would enquire with fine scorn, “without adverts.? Yet would you believe it,” he had once said to Dare, “they look down upon us?”
“Most extraordinary,” Dare had responded.
“Still it’s a fact,” Angell Herald had assured him, with the air of a man who knows from a friend at the Admiralty that fifty German submarines were sunk during the previous week.
Angell Herald was always the publicity agent, even when telling his stories. Dare had once said with great truth, “There is more herald than angel about the dear chap.”
Dare was particularly interested in the following story:—
The morning had begun badly. The coffee was cold and the bacon burnt. Angell Herald spoke to Mrs. Wiggins about it, and she had promptly given notice. In Mrs. Wiggins it was nothing new for her to give notice. She generally did so twice a week; but this was the third time during the current week, and it was only Tuesday. Angell Herald had been forced to apologise. He hated apologising—except to a client. Then there was an east wind blowing He disliked east winds intensely, they affected his liver.
On the way to the office he called in and had his hat ironed. He also bought a rose. He always buys a rose when there is an east wind, and he likewise always has his hat ironed; it mitigates the pinched expression of his features.
As he entered his office, he was conscious of not replying to Pearl’s “Good morning.” Pearl is Angell Herald’s clerk, the only member of his staff. With somewhat ambiguous humour Angell Herald calls him “the pearl of great price,” as every fortnight with painful regularity he asks for a rise—he never gets it. When Pearl is not asking for a rise, he is soliciting a half-holiday in which either to marry a friend, or bury a relative. Pearl is entirely lacking in originality. That is what makes him a most admirable clerk for an advertising man.
On this particular morning, Angell Herald each had a funeral on the same day. They closed the office and met at Epsom! Neither referred to the matter subsequently.
On this particular morning Angell Herald saw that Pearl was in a state of suppressed excitement. Something had happened. Was it another friend desirous of getting married, or a double death? Pearl himself, however, settled the matter by saying:
“There’s a letter from No. 110 Downing Street, sir.”
Then, of course, his employer knew that it was merely insanity.
“Don’t be an ass, Pearl,” was the retort. Angell Herald allows Pearl a considerable amount of licence, because he is valuable to him. Furthermore, he permits his subordinate to joke sometimes, in lieu of increasing his salary.
Pearl’s reply was to produce a letter, franked with the stamp of the Prime Minister. Angell Herald tore it open, hurriedly, and read:—
To Angell Herald, Esq.,
382 Fleet Street, E.G.
Your name has been given to me as an expert in the matter of publicity. I shall be glad if you will call here at 10.30 to-morrow with regard to a matter of considerable importance.
Angell Herald was overwhelmed. Mr. Llewellyn John, who had held office for years with the Waightensea Ministry, and had just formed a Government of his own, was sending for him, Angell Herald, Publicity Agent, and furthermore had signed the letter himself. It was bewildering. What could it mean?
Angell Herald, turning to Pearl and, pulling himself together, announced casually:
“I shall probably be some time, Pearl. I have an engagement with”—and he mouthed the words—”Mr. Llewellyn John, at Downing Street, at 10.30, which will probably occupy me some time.”
The burnt bacon, the cold coffee, Mrs. Wiggins’ notice; all were forgotten in the dropping of Pearl’s jaw. It was a delight to his chief to see the clerk’s surprise.
At 10.25 sharp, Angell Herald was enquiring for Mr. Llewellyn John at 110 Downing Street. It was clear that he was expected. He was led along a corridor, through a wide hall, and eventually into a large room. From the further corner a little man, with generous grey hair or a more than conventional length and a smile of bewildering sunniness, rose and came towards him.
“Mr. Angell Herald?” he enquired.
Angell Herald bowed. He had momentarily lost the power of speech. The Prime Minister held out his hand, Angell Herald grasped it. He was prepared to grasp anything to make up for his silence.
“Pray, sit down,” said the Prime Minister. “I want to have a confidential chat with you.”
Angell Herald sat down. He twirled his hat in his hands. He was conscious of the perfume of his rose, and that he was behaving like an ass. He looked round the room. He felt he could do anything in the world save look at this great little man, who sat smiling opposite to him. It was Mr. Llewellyn John who broke the silence.
“Now, Mr. Herald. I hear you are an expert of publicity methods.”
Angell Herald bowed.
“You may be wondering why I sent for you?”
Angell Herald muttered something to the effect that he was.
“Well,” said the Prime Minister deliberately, “it is because I have decided to advertise.”
“To what, sir?” blurted out the astonished publicity agent.
“To advertise. Why should not a Government be advertised just as a pill, a concert-singer, or a rubber-tyre? Everybody advertises, and we must advertise. Those who don’t will go to the wall—or in Opposition, which is the same thing.”
Angell Herald introduced a tactful little laugh. It was a success.
“Certainly,” he replied, beginning to feel more at ease. “Quite naturally, I agree with you. Now, an inspired article, for instance, in The Age, an illustrated interview in The Briton, with pictures of yourself playing with dogs, children and things, a——”
“My dear sir, those are obsolete methods. We are living in a new age, an age that requires novelty. If you advertise in the right way, you will get your public; but you have to hit it very hard to make it look. My friend Mr. Chappledale, for instance, he advertises; but there is no originality in his methods. Sir Lomas Tipton, he advertises; but how? I might endeavour to get together a football team to ‘lift’ the English Cup; but what good would that do?”
“Quite so,” was the dazed response, “quite so.”
“Take the late Lord Range, for instance,” continued Mr. Llewellyn John. “He understood modern methods. Instead of stating, as some antiquated Minister might, that the King and country needed 300,000 high-explosive shells, he said: ‘Lord Range calls for 300,000 high-explosive shells.’ He was up to date, and he got them. A magnificent fellow Range. Didn’t care a—ahem! for anybody. Was even rude to me,” he muttered reminiscently. “I liked him for it.
“Now take the Cyrils, that famous Parliamentary family dating back for centuries. They do not know how to advertise. Ten years hence there won’t be a Cyril in the House of Commons. There may be a few in the House of Lords—that depends on democracy.
“Then there’s my old friend Waightensea. He did not advertise as the needs of the political situation demanded he should, and the result is that he has had to go. It does not matter who you are in these days—bishop or blacksmith, Prime Minister or pierrot—you’ve got to advertise—the war has brought us this!”
Hitherto Angell Herald had regarded himself as second to none in the advertising world; but Mr. Llewellyn John made him feel a child at the game.
“The most far-seeing man in Europe has been the Kaiser. He was the first who understood the true value of advertisement, and he ran it for all he was worth. We laughed at him, but we listened. Some people think he overdid it a little,” this with a smile; “but still among monarchs he certainly was the first to appreciate that you have got to run a monarchy rather as you have a patent medicine, spend ninety per cent. of your money on advertising, and the other ten per cent. on the article itself—less if possible.”
Again the Prime Minister flashed upon his visitor that bewildering smile. Angell Herald hinted that this would be a very big business, involving many thousands of pounds.
“Quite so,” remarked Mr. Llewellyn John. “Now, the point is, what can this additional expenditure be charged up against? It can’t be travelling expenses, because even a Prime Minister could not spend five figures a year on travelling. Secret Service would be difficult. Personally I rather lean to the Naval Estimates.”
“The Naval Estimates!” cried Angell Herald.
“Exactly,” was the reply. “We are always a little inclined to be penurious over the Army; but if there is one thing that an Englishman is generous about—always excepting the question of meals—it is the Naval Estimates. Yes,” he continued, as if to himself, “I think we might charge it up against the Naval Estimates.
“It is of no use making speeches, no one reads them. We don’t care for politics. We are a nation of grumblers in search of scapegoats. As you know, I broke into epigrammatic utterances. Look at their success. You will remember what a sensation I created with that clarion call of mine, ‘Now we sha’n’t be long!’ the cables and Marconi installations thrilled and stuttered it throughout the habitable globe. I followed it with ”Arf a mo’,’ which was even more popular. My greatest cry, however, was ‘Pip-pip!’ which has been translated into two hundred and eighty-seven languages and dialects.”
Angell Herald smiled sympathetically. He had never felt so much like a schoolboy undergoing instruction than as he listened to this remarkable man, who was teaching him his own business.
“And now, for the future,” continued Mr. Llewellyn John, “we are going to strike out a new line. I intend to advertise my Ministry, advertise it as no ministry has ever been advertised before. I will make the Kaiser look parochial and Mr. Moosephalt provincial. Now let us get down to brass tacks. America is wonderfully apt in her expressions. I only discovered this after she joined the Allies. Have you a notebook with you, Mr. Herald?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Angell Herald, hastily drawing one from his pocket, relieved at having something to do.
“Now listen,” the Prime Minister continued. “I propose to have pages in the principal newspapers devoted to separate subjects. One will be, for instance, ‘The Home Life of England.’ There will be pictures of myself and family enjoying the home life, entertaining my friends at home, golfing, playing hop-scotch with my children——”
“But,” interrupted Angell Herald, “isn’t the Home Life stunt a little played out?”
“Exactly, my dear Mr. Herald, exactly. That is just what I was coming to. There will also be pictures showing me entertaining guests at the Ritz-Carlton, at the Opera, at the pantomime, at the theatre, at the races, at Westminster Abbey, at boxing matches.”
“But,” interrupted Angell Herald, “how is this to be called ‘The Home Life?'”
“My dear sir, the Larger Home Life, the Larger Home Life. Get that well into your mind. I am appealing to the great public, not the relics of the early Victorian Era, the Little Home-Lifers, sitting one on either side of silly artistic fireplaces, gaping into each other’s stupid eyes, and looking and feeling unutterably bored. Let us have the Large Home-Lifers. Occasionally, when the weather is warm, I shall put in an appearance at the public swimming-baths; my figure will stand it.” norfloxacin nicotinate
“Excellent!” Angell Herald murmured. “Wonderful!” He was thrilled by this man’s genius.
“Then another would be ‘The Fleet’—Great Britain’s Love for Her Navy.’ It’s a fine call, it’s a thrilling call. I shall have myself photographed entering the train, lunching in the train, getting out of the train, being received by the local authorities. Then I shall see myself pictured with Sir Goliath Maggie on board The Aluminium Earl. I shall make a speech about the Nelson touch, dragging in the Chesapeake and Shannon, and touching lightly upon the story of the Revenge. No, on second thoughts I cannot do that. America has come in, and Spain may at any moment. No,” he added musingly, “that will not do. They say I lack statesmanship, and that would give them an admirable peg. No, we’ll let that go.”
“Then again I shall deal with the Woman Question, from a new point of view. I shall speak more or less sympathetically upon the subject of revolutionary propaganda and sedition. Here I shall bring in another famous epigram I have prepared. ‘The Hand that rocks the Empire rules the World.’ I shall be photographed receiving flowers, having my hat knocked off by an irate woman, possibly being embraced by another woman in a moment of political ecstasy. That will appeal to the public tremendously.”
“Excellent!” murmured the bewildered publicity agent, conscious of the inadequacy of the word.
“But there is one important thing. To each of these huge scale advertisements there must be a moral. There must be something that will appeal to the imagination of the Briton, and, as you and I know, nothing so appeals to him as that which touches his pocket. It is Democracy that will rule the world in future. Now in the case of the Home Life of England, for instance, I shall comment upon the unnecessary extravagance that I have observed in certain quarters, notably the gorgeous uniforms of the officials at the Ritz-Carlton. I shall pass a Bill quickly through the House taxing silk stockings for men and the wearing of calves. That will please the public.
“Then with regard to the Navy, I shall call attention to the enormous amount of brass-work. I shall incidentally refer to the fact that something like a quarter of a million per annum is spent on brass-polish for the Navy. I shall give the necessary orders through the First Lord that all brass-work shall in future be japanned, and so on.”
“Mr. Llewellyn John,” Angell Herald burst out, “what a loss you are to the advertising world!”
The Prime Minister smiled, and continued:
“Then there comes the personal question. There must be little paragraphs about myself constantly in the papers. For instance, as I am leaving this place I slip in getting into my car, and have to be led back into the house. There will be photographs of the policeman who rushes up, the look of solicitude on his face. There will also be photographs of the policeman’s wife and the policeman’s daughter—possibly a son or nephew serving at the front. My family will be photographed at the windows, looking out anxiously to see what has happened. There can also be a few personal particulars about my chauffeur.
“Later I shall be photographed limping out of the house and being helped into the car by three secretaries, four policemen and my chauffeur. In the press there will be comments upon my stoicism. How, in spite of being in obvious pain, I put the affairs of the Empire before those of my own person. Later, possibly there may be an attempt to abduct my daughter. Another time there can be an attempt on my life.”
“On your life, sir?”
“Oh, yes, yes,” he continued airily. “These things can always be arranged. You see, I can be walking in some lonely place, and you can come up and—well, knock me down.”
“Me!” gasped Angell Herald in ungrammatical horror.
“Exactly,” he replied, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world for a publicity-agent to knock down a Prime Minister. “A great sensation would be created, and it would extend to the ends of the earth. We could suggest that the Kaiser was deeply involved in the plot.
“Again, I can slip on a banana skin, and run a shirt Bill through the House providing that everyone who eats bananas must carry about the skins until he gets home, where they must be put in the dust-bin. This would gain for me the vote of every human being who has ever slipped on a banana skin.
“Finally we come to the epigrammatic phrases. There is one I have in mind that should create a sensation. It is: ‘One of these days you’ll see what you won’t wait for.’ I got it from one of the furniture men who assisted when I moved into No. 110; a droll fellow, an exceedingly droll fellow. His name was—let me see, yes, Joseph Bindle. I thought of asking him to join my Ministry, but I remembered the prejudice that one has to fight in this country in all matters affecting innovation. Another phrase that may be useful to us is: ‘All is not cult that kulturs.’
“Oh! by the way, couldn’t we run ‘The Twenty-three Gentlemen who are always too late’ on the lines of ‘Ten Little Nigger Boys?’ I think there’s something in that.
“But we must first have some refreshment. Ah! here it is.”
A maid entered with a tray on which were two glasses of milk and three small oatmeal biscuits. Angell Herald took the milk, but refused the biscuits. Mr. Llewellyn John took the other glass and a biscuit, which he put on the table beside him. When the maid had retired he explained with a laugh:
“My official lunch, the photographer and cinema operator will be here in a minute. We expect great things from both the photograph and the film. ‘An Ascetic Premier’ we are calling it. Now drink your milk.”
Angell Herald gulped down a mouthful of the unaccustomed fluid, and put down the glass well out of reach.
“Yes,” continued Mr. Llewellyn John, “there is a vast field before us. Now, Mr. Herald, will you or will you not throw yourself wholeheartedly into this project? It is a chance of a lifetime. Will you become the first Head of my Publicity Bureau? You can name your own terms. I want you to do the thing thoroughly, and no expense will be spared.”
For some reason or other Angell Herald found himself dumb. He could do nothing but gaze at Mr. Llewellyn John in bewilderment. He strove to speak. His tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of his mouth. Mr. Llewellyn John looked at him in surprise.
“Do you hear me, sir? Do you hear me, sir?” he vociferated, banging his hand on the table. “Do you hear me, sir?”
Then something seemed to happen. The scene faded, and Angell Herald found that it was not Mr. Llewellyn John’s voice, but that of Mrs. Wiggins; and he was in bed, and somebody was knocking outside his door, obviously Mrs. Wiggins.
“Do you hear me, sir?” she repeated. “It is eight o’clock, and I’ve knocked three times.”
“An’ you dreamt all that, sir?” enquired Bindle of Angell Herald.
“Every word of it,” Herald replied as if scorning to lay claim to imagination.
“Wonderful!” was all Bindle said, and the eye that looked over the brim of his pewter caught mine and the lid slowly drooped and then raised itself again. There is a world of expression in Bindle’s eyes—when taken singly.
The story had really been a “rag” planned by Dick Little and Dare, whom Angell Herald had told that he dreamed he had been asked by Mr. Llewellyn John to become Minister of Publicity, and we had looked forward with some interest to see how he would take the yarn. He had accepted it, without comment.
“That chap would accept anything that he thought increased his own importance,” said Carruthers after Angell Herald’s departure.
“Fancy them a-knowin’ all about me at Downin’ Street,” remarked Bindle as he rose to go.
One of the characteristics of the Night Club is its mixed membership.