Two Giants Clash
Churchill yawned, as the sleepy hound nearby stirred uncomfortably; dreaming dark dreams of doom?
In any case, we are dealing here with real human beings.
Real, manly men, as the hero of the piece muttered under his breath.
A tall, slender, delicate figure wafted in with the cold February breeze.
Churchill coughed and spluttered, as the last of his cigars ran down to the uttermost ashes.
The gentle, foppish gentleman stood in silence, his shoulders heaving; weeping in the utmost terror.
Churchill furrowed his brow, most displeased at this unwelcome interruption.
Still, it surely would not do to pander to such weak and weary outcasts of the earth.
Madame Bijoux’s was surprisingly lively. The April showers gone, the thoughts of old, embittered husbands turned to love...
Or at least to pleasure.
This pleasant old bordello was hardly spacious; but there was plenty of room at the inn for the dreamy Eliots and Yeatses of the future glory.
This time, however, it was mainly shrivelled old businessmen; with the odd guilt-torn cleric to make up the numbers. These, however, were normally last to receive the careful attentions of Madame Bijoux and her merry men.
Well, why not!
“Any port in a storm,” as one of their own prophets hath said.
Tuppy strode over to Churchill, and stretched out his arms to embrace his old friend.
His affection was not reciprocated. His old schoolmate stood motionless, quivering with rage.
“It’s Tuppy,” the elegant supplicant moaned in tearful tremolo.
"It’s your Tuppy, old chap. It’s Tuppy.”
Churchill waved his hand in disgust.
“Am I a dog, that you come at me with this idle stick of yours?”
Tuppy’s not entirely erstwhile Catholic conscience smote him to the very marrow.
He stared, horror-stricken, for a minute or two.
Then he fell at Churchill’s knees, sobbing in such a heart-rendingly piteous manner that only the most stony-hearted infidel in all of Christendom could have slept upon such a tearful evening’s spectacle.
“You won’t do it, will you, old chap?” Tuppy moaned, his voice ascending almost to a shriek.
“You won’t do it? Because really, dear old Winston, I am just so terribly, terribly, terribly afraid...”
Father Ignatius stood glowering at the mockery of the filthy men around him.
“I am not come to wallow in the mire, as a sow; and I shall not return to the vomit of the unjust man!”
Nobody seemed to have any idea what he was talking about.
It was quite amusing though, all the same.
“Nay, my brethren. I am come to preach repentance unto the men of unclean spirits, and every foul and pestilential birdcage will quake with the wrath of a just and mighty God!”
One of the lasses flounced over and took him by the arm.
Sally was always the forward one!
“Come over ’ere, sir, and your ’umble concubine shall quake yer all night long!”
The priest batted off the entangling arm in anger.
“By no means!” he thundered.
“The vice and wickedness and iniquity of this nation are beyond all measure. The cup is running over, and the time is short. Satan is among you all; yea, he is standing at the very gate! And he comes, as always, clothed as an angel of l...”
The bottle did the job.
“Oi!” Madame Bijoux was furious. “You have no bloody idea, do you, what will ‘appen if that stupid parson goes back, and, and, and, and, well we don’t want any trouble now, do we?’
Gumpy George spat in disgust.
“Shut it, lass! I came ’ere to have a bit of fun, not ’ave some moany cleric come ‘ere an’ sermonise! It’s not right, that! I ’ave no time...”
Sally laughed, and laughed, and laughed. George threatened her with his fist.
The madam couldn’t believe her eyes. Sally was worth a lot to her; and it wasn’t just about the money. Life was hard. You had to stick together:
“Get outa my inn! I warned you, I warned you a thousand times, yer ugly brute! This time, you are gone! You ’ear me, mate? You are well out of order with that.
“No more! Go and sing for it next time! I am not ’aving a violent parson-smasher in my place. Get ahnnn of it. Awright?!”
George flung himself upon Madame Bijoux.
The entire brothel erupted in howls and shrieks. Even the odd cynical guffaw was heard here and there.
Pandemonium had returned.
The Empire, once divided, must come together again.
But what has been put together, must one day fall apart.
Herbert Allan Giles was really rather fond of this old piece of authentic Chinese folk wisdom.
Yet God knows there were fools and frauds enough!
And if the pigeons need must be their own Sir John Seabright, so also must every Edmund Backhouse have his day.
Enraged, Churchill took the poker and waved it at Tuppy.
“Don’t hit me,” Tuppy cried. “Don’t hit me, Winston. I am just so terribly, terribly worried about what might happen if you don’t tell the Huns that we simply...”
Churchill threw the poker down on the floor.
It made a horrendous clatter!
Tuppy jumped nearly half his own height; then, lying crumpled in a heap, he dissolved into a morass of inarticulate sobs and noises. No longer was it possible to discern the Babel of raw terror, fear and sorrow. The high tower was on the verge of breaking up. The diaspora, the scattering of seeds, was already on the way.
“Now just you listen here, you miserable old faggot,” was the contemptuous smirk of Tuppy’s tormentor.
“The National Interest is my only concern. If glossy fops like you spent half the time doing some kind of patriotic service than indulging in these hideous, unnatural vices of yours, half the problems of this Empire would be solved.
“Now do be a good boy, and toddle along. I am sure we will make an honest man of you yet. But in the meantime, pray refrain from making such a horrid mess on my carpet. I do hope I shall not be indisposed. I know that you and your ilk have rather a habit of acquiring some... rather curious ailments, if you will.
“Now, if you will be so kind as to excuse me, I have some rather more important business to attend to. Rest assured that I shall always put the good of Britain first. I am entirely unsentimental on this score.
“Nay, don’t blubber there like some old woman. Show what little manliness you have left, and depart post-haste! We don’t want anyone to know our Winston has had some preening pansy coming here and making a scene.
“Why, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, you silly boy! I am not here to be an educator of the nation in the most ungodly and unnatural vices of the day. Look to yourself first. Noli me tangere!
“I regret to say I simply have no assurances whatsoever I can make you, no matter how you may seem to wish for the nihil obstat of old Winston here. The only promise I have made is to advance the Empire, and to vanquish all our enemies. Both within...”
And here, this strong leader paused for a most immaculate twist of the knife...
“And without. Now go thy way and sin no more!”
Tuppy didn’t move.
His body was no longer racked with sobs.
“Come over here, then, you lazy wench!” Churchill roared.
“Just get rid of this reprehensible sot for me, would you?”
“... Shall I let the police know?”
“No, no, no, no, no, no, you silly baggage! Dear God, imagine calling the police to a scene like this! Whatever would the neighbours think! Or worse still, half the Empire!”
As Churchill and his maid plotted the removal of the alien infiltrator of this most splendid ‘Englishman’s castle,’ Tuppy lay half-dead on the floor.
He could barely move a muscle.
“Well, give him some brandy then, if it helps us get rid of the miserable dandy!” Churchill barked.
“As you wish, sir,” the maid murmured, diligently attending to the alcohol shelf.
She chose the cheapest and most miserable item on the shelf.
Or so she thought.
“Malawian cognac?” Churchill snorted. “Nothing like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, hm?”
“Is there something less expensive, sir?” the maid replied.
“Oh, well, there’s a dram of some decent vodka over there. Give him the last dregs and bid him begone. I simply haven’t the time to deal with debauched and drunken idiots like this. I simply cannot conceive of what brought him here to make such a terrible scene. Can you?”
The maid lowered her head, embarrassed.
Did she know a little bit more than she let on?
Well, why not!
Reasons of state brook no promiscuous dissemination, as Churchill himself was fond of saying.
He always had a talent for the equivocal.