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Of Some Old Dogs In Office
by [?]

Whenever the Budget comes on for discussion there are some three or four speakers, of whom Mr Williams of Lambeth is sure to be one, ready to suggest certain obvious economies by the suppression of some foreign missions, such as Dresden, Hanover, Stuttgart, etc. They have not, it is true, anything forcible or pungent to say on the subject; but as they say the same thing every year, the chances are that, on the drip-drip principle, they will at last succeed either in abolishing these appointments, or reducing the salaries of those who hold them.

Ministers of course defend them, and Opposition leaders, who hope one day to be Ministers, will also blandly say a word or two in their favour. For my own part, I don’t think the country cares much about the matter, or interests itself more deeply who drones away life at Hanover than who occupies an apartment at Hampton Court. In each case it is a sort of dowager asylum, where antiquated respectability may rest and be thankful.

The occupants of these snug berths, however far from England–at least in so far as regards any knowledge of public opinion–are sure to be greatly alarmed at these suggestions for their suppression. Poor pigeons! if you only knew what a sorry sportsman it is who fires at you, you’d never flutter a wing. Be of good heart, I say. Even if Williams’s gun go off at all, the recoil may hurt himself, but it will never damage you. Take my word for it, “the smooth-Bore of Lambeth never hit anything yet.” This assurance of mine–I have given it scores of times personally–never gives the comfort that it ought; for these timid souls, bullied by long dealings with the Office–tormented, as Mr Carlyle would say, with much First Clerk–grow to be easily panic-stricken, and have gloomy nightmares of a time when there shall be no more life-certificates nor any quarter-days.

I cannot enter into their feelings, but I suppose they are reasonable. I conclude that one would like to have a salary, and to be paid it punctually. Self-preservation is a law that we all recognise; and some of these officials may possibly feel that there is no other line of life open to them, and that, if you take away from them their mission, they will be poor indeed. You will think me perhaps as absurd as Mrs Nickleby, who connected roast-pork and canaries, if I confess to you that it is an old mastiff that my father had when I was a boy that brought these people very forcibly to my mind. Poor old Turco!–I can’t know how old he was, but he was nearly blind, exceedingly feeble, intensely stupid, and much given to sleep. Still, whenever any one of the family–he didn’t mind the servants–would go out to the stableyard, he’d rouse himself up, and, affecting to believe it was an intruder, he’d give a fierce bark or two, when, discovering his error, he’d wag his tail and go back to his den–all this being evidently done to show that he was as vigilant as ever–a sort of protest, that said, “Don’t believe one word about my being blind and toothless, still less flatter yourself that the place is secure. It requires all my activity and watchfulness to protect; but go back in peace, I’m ready for them.”

Now, this is exactly what Turco is doing at Munich and Dresden. Whenever Williams comes out with a hint that he is not wanted, Turco makes a furious noise, rushes here and there after a turkey-cock if he can find one, and thoroughly satisfies the family that he is an invaluable beast, and could not be dispensed with.

Like Turco, too, who always barked, or tried to bark, whenever he heard any noise or commotion going on outside, these people are sure to make an uproar if there be any excitement in their neighbourhood. No sooner did Schleswig-Holstein begin to trouble the world, than despatches began to pour in from places that a few weeks before even the messengers scarcely knew on the map. They related interviews with unknown princes and unheard-of ministers, and spoke of hopes, fears, wishes, and anxieties of people who had not, to our appreciation, a more palpable existence than the creatures of the heathen mythology! Much grumbling, and sore of ear, Williams goes back to his kennel.