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   Chapter 11 No.11

Winsome Winnie and other New Nonsense Novels By Stephen Leacock Characters: 6111

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


The crowd outside of No. 10 Downing Street that evening was so dense that all traffic was at a standstill. But within the historic room where the Cabinet were seated about the long table all was calm. Few could have guessed from the quiet demeanour of the group of statesmen that the fate of an Empire hung by a thread.

Seated at the head of the table, the Prime Minister was quietly looking over a book of butterflies, while waiting for the conference to begin. Beside him the Secretary for Ireland was fixing trout flies, while the Chancellor of the Exchequer kept his serene face bent over upon his needlework. At the Prime Minister's right, Sir John Elphinspoon, no longer agitated, but sustained and dignified by the responsibility of his office, was playing spillikins.

The little clock on the mantel chimed eight.

The Premier closed his book of butterflies.

"Well, gentlemen," he said, "I fear our meeting will not be a protracted one. It seems we are hopelessly at variance. You, Sir Charles," he continued, turning to the First Sea Lord, who was in attendance, "are still in favour of a naval expedition?"

"Send it up at once," said Sir Charles.

"Up where?" asked the Premier.

"Up anything," answered the Old Sea Dog, "it will get there."

Voices of dissent were raised in undertones around the table.

"I strongly deprecate any expedition," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "I favour a convention with the Shriek. Let the Shriek sign a convention recognizing the existence of a supreme being and receiving from us a million sterling in acknowledgment."

"And where will you find the Shriek?" said the Prime Minister. "Come, come, gentlemen, I fear that we can play this comedy no longer. The truth is," he added with characteristic nonchalance, "we don't know where the bally place is. We can't meet the House to-*morrow. We are hopelessly split. Our existence as a Government is at an end."

But, at that very moment, a great noise of shouting and clamour rose from the street without. The Prime Minister lifted his hand for silence. "Listen," he said. One of the Ministers went to a window and opened it, and the cries outside became audible. "A King's Messenger! Make way for the King's Messenger!"

The Premier turned quietly to Sir John.

"Perriton Powers," he said.

In another moment Perriton Powers stood before the Ministers.

Bronzed by the tropic sun, his face was recognizable only by the assured glance of his eye. An Afghan bernous was thrown back from his head and shoulders, while his commanding figure was draped in a long chibuok. A pair of pistols and a curved yasmak were in his belt.

"So you got to Wazuchistan all right," said the Premier quietly.

"I went in by way of the Barooda," said Powers. "For many days I was unable to cross it. The waters of the river were wild and swollen with rains. To cross it seemed certain death--"

"But at last you got over," said the Premier, "and then--"

"I struck out over the Fahuri desert. For days and days, blinded by the sun, and

almost buried in sand, I despaired."

"But you got through it all right. And after that?"

"My first care was to disguise myself. Staining myself from head to foot with betel nut--"

"To look like a beetle," said the Premier. "Exactly. And so you got to Wazuchistan. Where is it and what is it?"

"My lord," said Powers, drawing himself up and speaking with emphasis, "I got to where it was thought to be. There is no such place!"

The whole Cabinet gave a start of astonishment.

"No such place!" they repeated.

"What about El Boob?" asked the Chancellor.

"There is no such person."

"And the Shriek-el-Foozlum?"

Powers shook his head.

"But do you mean to say," said the Premier in astonishment, "that there are no Wazoos? There you must be wrong. True we don't just know where they are. But our despatches have shown too many signs of active trouble traced directly to the Wazoos to disbelieve in them. There are Wazoos somewhere, there-there must be."

"The Wazoos," said Powers, "are there. But they are Irish. So are the Ohul?s. They are both Irish."

"But how the devil did they get out there?" questioned the Premier. "And why did they make the trouble?"

"The Irish, my lord," interrupted the Chief Secretary for Ireland, "are everywhere, and it is their business to make trouble."

"Some years ago," continued Powers, "a few Irish families settled out there. The Ohul?s should be properly called the O'Hooleys. The word Wazoo is simply the Urdu for McGinnis. El Boob is the Urdu for the Arabic El Papa, the Pope. It was my knowledge of Urdu, itself an agglutinative language--"

"Precisely," said the Premier. Then he turned to his Cabinet. "Well, gentlemen, our task is now simplified. If they are Irish, I think we know exactly what to do. I suppose," he continued, turning to Powers, "that they want some kind of Home Rule."

"They do," said Powers.

"Separating, of course, the Ohul? counties from the Wazoo?"

"Yes," said Powers.

"Precisely; the thing is simplicity itself. And what contribution will they make to the Imperial Exchequer?"

"None."

"And will they pay their own expenses?"

"They refuse to."

"Exactly. All this is plain sailing. Of course they must have a constabulary. Lord Edward," continued the Premier, turning now to the Secretary of War, "how long will it take to send in a couple of hundred constabulary? I think they'll expect it, you know. It's their right."

"Let me see," said Lord Edward, calculating quickly, with military precision, "sending them over the Barooda in buckets and then over the mountains in baskets-I think in about two weeks."

"Good," said the Premier. "Gentlemen, we shall meet the House to-morrow. Sir John, will you meantime draft us an annexation bill? And you, young man, what you have done is really not half bad. His Majesty will see you to-morrow. I am glad that you are safe."

"On my way home," said Powers, with quiet modesty, "I was attacked by a lion--"

"But you beat it off," said the Premier. "Exactly. Good night."

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