‘Thy Lord spoke by inspiration to the Bee.’
I have, to my grief and loss, suppressed several notable stories of my friend, the Hon. A.M. Penfentenyou, once Minister of Woods and Waysides in De Thouar’s first administration; later, Premier in all but name of one of Our great and growing Dominions; and now, as always, the idol of his own Province, which is two and one-half the size of England.
[Footnote 8: See 'The Puzzler,' Actions and Reactions.]
For this reason I hold myself at liberty to deal with some portion of the truth concerning Penfentenyou’s latest visit to Our shores. He arrived at my house by car, on a hot summer day, in a white waistcoat and spats, sweeping black frock-coat and glistening top-hat–a little rounded, perhaps, at the edges, but agile as ever in mind and body.
‘What is the trouble now?’ I asked, for the last time we had met, Penfentenyou was floating a three-million pound loan for his beloved but unscrupulous Province, and I did not wish to entertain any more of his financial friends.
‘We,’ Penfentenyou replied ambassadorially, ‘have come to have a Voice in Your Councils. By the way, the Voice is coming down on the evening train with my Agent-General. I thought you wouldn’t mind if I invited ‘em. You know We’re going to share Your burdens henceforward. You’d better get into training.’
‘Certainly,’ I replied. ‘What’s the Voice like?’
‘He’s in earnest,’ said Penfentenyou. ‘He’s got It, and he’s got It bad. He’ll give It to you,’ he said.
‘What’s his name?’
‘We call him all sorts of names, but I think you’d better call him Mr. Lingnam. You won’t have to do it more than once.’
‘What’s he suffering from?’
‘The Empire. He’s pretty nearly cured us all of Imperialism at home. P’raps he’ll cure you.’
‘Very good. What am I to do with him?’
‘Don’t you worry,’ said Penfentenyou. ‘He’ll do it.’
And when Mr. Lingnam appeared half-an-hour later with the Agent-General for Penfentenyou’s Dominion, he did just that.
He advanced across the lawn eloquent as all the tides. He said he had been observing to the Agent-General that it was both politically immoral and strategically unsound that forty-four million people should bear the entire weight of the defences of Our mighty Empire, but, as he had observed (here the Agent-General evaporated), we stood now upon the threshold of a new era in which the self-governing and self-respecting (bis) Dominions would rightly and righteously, as co-partners in Empery, shoulder their share of any burden which the Pan-Imperial Council of the Future should allot. The Agent-General was already arranging for drinks with Penfentenyou at the other end of the garden. Mr. Lingnam swept me on to the most remote bench and settled to his theme.
We dined at eight. At nine Mr. Lingnam was only drawing abreast of things Imperial. At ten the Agent-General, who earns his salary, was shamelessly dozing on the sofa. At eleven he and Penfentenyou went to bed. At midnight Mr. Lingnam brought down his big-bellied despatch box with the newspaper clippings and set to federating the Empire in earnest. I remember that he had three alternative plans. As a dealer in words, I plumped for the resonant third–’Reciprocally co-ordinated Senatorial Hegemony’–which he then elaborated in detail for three-quarters of an hour. At half-past one he urged me to have faith and to remember that nothing mattered except the Idea. Then he retired to his room, accompanied by one glass of cold water, and I went into the dawn-lit garden and prayed to any Power that might be off duty for the blood of Mr. Lingnam, Penfentenyou, and the Agent-General.
To me, as I have often observed elsewhere, the hour of earliest dawn is fortunate, and the wind that runs before it has ever been my most comfortable counsellor.
‘Wait!’ it said, all among the night’s expectant rosebuds. ‘To-morrow is also a day. Wait upon the Event!’