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   Chapter 10 No.10

Winsome Winnie and other New Nonsense Novels By Stephen Leacock Characters: 5590

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


In the days that followed all England was thrilled to its base as the news spread that the Wazoo might rise at any moment.

"Will the Wazoos rise?" was the question upon every lip.

In London men went to their offices with a sense of gloom. At lunch they could hardly eat. A feeling of impending disaster pervaded all ranks.

Sir John as he passed to and fro to the House was freely accosted in the streets.

"Will the Wazoos rise, sir?" asked an honest labourer. "Lord help us all, sir, if they do."

Sir John, deeply touched, dropped a shilling in the honest fellow's hat, by accident.

At No. 10 Downing Street, women of the working class, with children in their arms, stood waiting for news.

On the Exchange all was excitement. Consols fell two points in twenty-four hours. Even raising the Bank rate and shutting the door brought only a temporary relief.

Lord Glump, the greatest financial expert in London, was reported as saying that if the Wazoos rose England would be bankrupt in forty-eight hours.

Meanwhile, to the consternation of the whole nation, the Government did nothing. The Cabinet seemed to be paralysed.

On the other hand the Press became all the more clamorous. The London Times urged that an expedition should be sent at once. Twenty-five thousand household troops, it argued, should be sent up the Euphrates or up the Ganges or up something without delay. If they were taken in flat boats, carried over the mountains on mules, and lifted across the rivers in slings, they could then be carried over the desert on jackasses. They could reach Wazuchistan in two years. Other papers counselled moderation. The Manchester Guardian recalled the fact that the Wazoos were a Christian people. Their leader, El Boob, so it was said, had accepted Christianity with childlike simplicity and had asked if there was any more of it. The Spectator claimed that the Wazoos, or more properly the Wazi, were probably the descendants of an Iranic or perhaps Urgumic stock. It suggested the award of a Rhodes Scholarship. It looked forward to the days when there would be Wazoos at Oxford. Even the presence of a single Wazoo, or, more accurately, a single Wooz, would help.

With each day the news became more ominous. It was reported in the Press that a Wazoo, inflamed apparently with ghee, or perhaps with bhong, had rushed up to the hills and refused to come down. It was said that the Shriek-el-Foozlum, the religious head of the tribe, had torn off his suspenders and sent them to Mecca.

That same day the Illustrated London News published a drawing "Wazoo Warriors Crossing a River and Shouting, Ho!" and the general consternation reached its height.

Meantime, for Sir John and his colleagues, the question of the hour became, "Could the Cabinet be h

eld together?" Every effort was made. The news that the Cabinet had all been seen together at the circus, for a moment reassured the nation. But the rumour spread that the First Lord of the Admiralty had said that the clowns were a bum lot. The Radical Press claimed that if he thought so he ought to resign.

On the fatal Friday the question already referred to was scheduled for its answer. The friends of the Government counted on the answer to restore confidence. To the consternation of all, the expected answer was not forthcoming. The Colonial Secretary rose in his place, visibly nervous. Ministers, he said, had been asked where Wazuchistan was. They were not prepared, at the present delicate stage of negotiations, to say. More hung upon the answer than Ministers were entitled to divulge. They could only appeal to the patriotism of the nation. He could only say this, that wherever it was, and he used the word wherever with all the emphasis of which he was capable, the Government would accept the full responsibility for its being where it was.

The House adjourned in something like confusion.

Among those seated behind the grating of the Ladies' Gallery was Lady Elphinspoon. Her quick instinct told her the truth. Driving home, she found her husband seated, crushed, in his library.

"John," she said, falling on her knees and taking her husband's hands in hers, "is this true? Is this the dreadful truth?"

"I see you have divined it, Caroline," said the statesman sadly. "It is the truth. We don't know where Wazuchistan is."

For a moment there was silence.

"But, John, how could it have happened?"

"We thought the Colonial Office knew. We were confident that they knew. The Colonial Secretary had stated that he had been there. Later on it turned out that he meant Saskatchewan. Of course they thought we knew. And we both thought that the Exchequer must know. We understood that they had collected a hut tax for ten years."

"And hadn't they?"

"Not a penny. The Wazoos live in tents."

"But, surely," pleaded Lady Elphinspoon, "you could find out. Had you no maps?"

Sir John shook his head.

"We thought of that at once, my dear. We've looked all through the British Museum. Once we thought we had succeeded. But it turned out to be Wisconsin."

"But the map in the Times? Everybody saw it."

Again the baronet shook his head. "Lord Southcliff had it made in the office," he said. "It appears that he always does. Otherwise the physical features might not suit him."

"But could you not send some one to see?"

"We did. We sent Perriton Powers to find out where it was. We had a month to the good. It was barely time, just time. Powers has failed and we are lost. To-morrow all England will guess the truth and the Government falls."

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