by HALLIDAY SUTHERLAND
FROM the dressing-gown, I inferred a late sitting of the House of Commons; and hoped that my telegram, if not forgotten, had become a trifle of no consequence. Vain hope. A preliminary handshake, brief as in the boxing-ring, and then—" Why didn't you let me know the result at once?"
I'm sorry, sir, but at ten past twelve I seat a telegram to this address."
Mr. Churchill glared. and in a moment I Was raked, fore and aft, by shot and shell. " Do you think I do no work?
•• Do you think I stay in my house all day? " Do you think I never go to my room at the Board of Trade? " What am I there for?
" To be told by my opponent that I've lost?
" How would you like it yourself?"
The questions were fired witn vehemence, legato e crescendo but in the last I detected an appeal to my better nature. Little did be know that he was addressing, or rather dressing dirwn a young but hardened sinner — a seasoned mariner whose trail barque had weathered many storms of righteous indignation. I remained silent, TO race-course tipsters, bell boys, and Heralds other than Pursuivant, to cite a mere fraction of the vocal professions, speech may be silver: buL to the peaceful person who finds little or no pleasure in the tempests of life, silence mote often than not will prove to be golden; for as Zachary Tomlinson has well remarked in Quiet Hours in a Parsonage, a work all too seldom read in this material age—' Even if you are 'mute of malice,' your silence, unless it be a refusal to say ' guilty ' or • not guilty ' in the dock, is likely to be mistaken for the sign of a contrite heart: and thus may you escape many evils, of which blows and buffets are the least." There is much wisdom in Zachary.
Mr. Churchill's wrath was soon over ; and I was privileged to hear a dissertation on the difference between genius and insanity. In view of the circumstances, it is perhaps advisable to add that the dissertation was quite impersonal and concerned Napoleon.
At the first opportunity I had changed the conversation. Mine enemies, raging like the heathen, may scream—" Munclaausen "; but in reality I did nothing out of the way, for in that room there were over nine hundred, histories, lives, and memoirs about the Corsican. I had read only two line of Napoleon; and mentioned the theory that be was an epileptic. From the look on Mr. Churchill's face, I realised instantly that to him this theory was in the same category as my telegram. In any case, I did not believe the theory, and said so. Bourrienne, in describing the early morning frenzy at the dressing-table, also mentions that on this occasion a hair had become stuck at the back of the Emperor's throat, In my opinion the irritation of .the foreign body had merely provoked an ungovernable outs burst of temper.
Then came Mt. Churchill's dissertation, which began :—" Genius is order: insanity is disorder." To my regret I cannot recall the rest of his brilliant antithesis, which, moreover, was impromptu, for he spoke slowly as one who searches for the right words. Finally, he asked me if I bad come alone. True to the pledge given on the doorstep, I told him of his two supporters in the street. To them, through me, he sent his thanks for the work they had done In the election.
SINCE those days 'there were times when I joined the ranks of his opponents: but one trait in his character I never forgot, nor ceased to admire; for of the few British Cabinet.ministers I had met, he was the only one who seemed quite content to be—himself.
To-day, by reason of personality, Mr.
Churchill overshadows his colleagues. He is master of the House of Commons. To all intents and purposes, he governs Britain. When Lord Haw-Haw calls Mr. Churchill a Dictator, Lord Haw-Haw is right: and when the British people laugh at Lord FlawHaw for suggesting that they should get rid of their Dictator, the British people are right.
It is ironically true that the only persons in Britain who hate Mr. Churchill are Fascists, who prior to the war were clamouring for a Leader. The nation has now not only a Leader but also the only possible
Leader. No other man could hold our hundred and one discordant groups in unison—until England is secure. Yet it is sad to reflect that nobody scans to think of Mr. Churchill as a leader during the inevitable disruption of national unity that peace will entail. Then he will be forgotten, for loyalty to leaders is not the hall-mark of a democracy. Yet future generations will be made aware of what this one man has done for England.
In Fleet Street, when some interesting news is not printed, r recently heard a rumour that if anything befell Mr Churchill, quod Deus avertat, his successor would be Mr. Anthony Eden. Now if Mr. Eden be came Prime Minister during the war, it would be a national disaster: but if he succeeded to the Premiership after the war, it would be a world catastrophe. Many readers, especially ladie devoted to good works, to bridge, or to the defunct League of Nations, will shriek their disapproval of what I have just written: and this proves Mr. Churchill to be the only Leader, whom all, except the Fascists, are glad to follow. Moreover, in equality of rights and duties, there is now more democracy in Britain than ever existed before the war: notwithstanding, mirable dktu, the suspension of some parliamentary privileges.
Next week's topic will be—Our People.