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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 7 - THE BIRD
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The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 7 - THE BIRD Post by :promarketing Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :1720

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The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England - Part Two - Chapter 7 - THE BIRD

Part Two, Chapter 7 - THE BIRD

The Grand Duke Vodkakoff was not the man to let the grass grow under
his feet. He was no lobster, no flat-fish. He did it now--swift,
secret, deadly--a typical Muscovite. By midnight his staff had their

Those orders were for the stalls at the Lobelia.

Price of entrance to the gallery and pit was served out at daybreak to
the Eighth and Fifteenth Cossacks of the Don, those fierce,
semi-civilised fighting-machines who know no fear.

Grand Duke Vodkakoff's preparations were ready.

* * * * *

Few more fortunate events have occurred in the history of English
literature than the quite accidental visit of Mr. Bart Kennedy to the
Lobelia on that historic night. He happened to turn in there casually
after dinner, and was thus enabled to see the whole thing from start to
finish. At a quarter to eleven a wild-eyed man charged in at the main
entrance of Carmelite House, and, too impatient to use the lift, dashed
up the stairs, shouting for pens, ink and paper.

Next morning the _Daily Mail was one riot of headlines. The whole
of page five was given up to the topic. The headlines were not elusive.
They flung the facts at the reader:--


There were about seventeen more, and then came Mr. Bart Kennedy's
special report.

He wrote as follows:--

"A night to remember. A marvellous night. A night such as few will see
again. A night of fear and wonder. The night of September the eleventh.
Last night.

"Nine-thirty. I had dined. I had eaten my dinner. My dinner! So
inextricably are the prose and romance of life blended. My dinner! I
had eaten my dinner on this night. This wonderful night. This night of
September the eleventh. Last night!

"I had dined at the club. A chop. A boiled potato. Mushrooms on toast.
A touch of Stilton. Half-a-bottle of Beaune. I lay back in my chair. I
debated within myself. A Hall? A theatre? A book in the library? That
night, the night of September the eleventh, I as near as a toucher
spent in the library of my club with a book. That night! The night of
September the eleventh. Last night!

"Fate took me to the Lobelia. Fate! We are its toys. Its footballs. We
are the footballs of Fate. Fate might have sent me to the Gaiety. Fate
took me to the Lobelia. This Fate which rules us.

"I sent in my card to the manager. He let me through. Ever courteous.
He let me through on my face. This manager. This genial and courteous

"I was in the Lobelia. A dead-head. I was in the Lobelia as a

Here, in the original draft of the article, there are reflections, at
some length, on the interior decorations of the Hall, and an excursus
on music-hall performances in general. It is not till he comes to
examine the audience that Mr. Kennedy returns to the main issue.

"And what manner of audience was it that had gathered together to view
the entertainment provided by the genial and courteous manager of the
Lobelia? The audience. Beyond whom there is no appeal. The Caesars of
the music-hall. The audience."

At this point the author has a few extremely interesting and thoughtful
remarks on the subject of audiences. These may be omitted. "In the
stalls I noted a solid body of Russian officers. These soldiers from
the Steppes. These bearded men. These Russians. They sat silent and
watchful. They applauded little. The programme left them cold. The
Trick Cyclist. The Dashing Soubrette and Idol of Belgravia. The
Argumentative College Chums. The Swell Comedian. The Man with the
Performing Canaries. None of these could rouse them. They were waiting.
Waiting. Waiting tensely. Every muscle taut. Husbanding their strength.
Waiting. For what?

"A man at my side told a friend that a fellow had told him that he had
been told by a commissionaire that the pit and gallery were full of
Russians. Russians. Russians everywhere. Why? Were they genuine patrons
of the Halls? Or were they there from some ulterior motive? There was
an air of suspense. We were all waiting. Waiting. For what?

"The atmosphere is summed up in a word. One word. Sinister. The
atmosphere was sinister.

"AA! A stir in the crowded house. The ruffling of the face of the sea
before a storm. The Sisters Sigsbee, Coon Delineators and Unrivalled
Burlesque Artists, have finished their dance, smiled, blown kisses,
skipped off, skipped on again, smiled, blown more kisses, and
disappeared. A long chord from the orchestra. A chord that is almost a
wail. A wail of regret for that which is past. Two liveried menials
appear. They carry sheets of cardboard. These menials carry sheets of
cardboard. But not blank sheets. On each sheet is a number.

"The number 15.

"Who is number 15?

"Prince Otto of Saxe-Pfennig. Prince Otto, General of the German Army.
Prince Otto is Number 15.

"A burst of applause from the house. But not from the Russians. They
are silent. They are waiting. For what?

"The orchestra plays a lively air. The massive curtains part. A tall,
handsome military figure strides on to the stage. He bows. This tall,
handsome, military man bows. He is Prince Otto of Saxe-Pfennig, General
of the Army of Germany. One of our conquerors.

"He begins to speak. 'Ladies and gentlemen.' This man, this general,
says, 'Ladies and gentlemen.'

"But no more. No more. No more. Nothing more. No more. He says, 'Ladies
and Gentlemen,' but no more.

"And why does he say no more? Has he finished his turn? Is that all he
does? Are his eight hundred and seventy-five pounds a week paid him for
saying, 'Ladies and Gentlemen'?


"He would say more. He has more to say. This is only the beginning.
This tall, handsome man has all his music still within him.

"Why, then, does he say no more? Why does he say 'Ladies and
Gentlemen,' but no more? No more. Only that. No more. Nothing more. No

"Because from the stalls a solid, vast, crushing 'Boo!' is hurled at
him. From the Russians in the stalls comes this vast, crushing 'Boo!'
It is for this that they have been waiting. It is for this that they
have been waiting so tensely. For this. They have been waiting for this
colossal 'Boo!'

"The General retreats a step. He is amazed. Startled. Perhaps
frightened. He waves his hands.

"From gallery and pit comes a hideous whistling and howling. The noise
of wild beasts. The noise of exploding boilers. The noise of a
music-hall audience giving a performer the bird.

"Everyone is standing on his feet. Some on mine. Everyone is shouting.
This vast audience is shouting.

"Words begin to emerge from the babel.

"'Get offski! Rotten turnovitch!' These bearded Russians, these stern
critics, shout, 'Rotten turnovitch!'

"Fire shoots from the eyes of the German. This strong man's eyes.

"'Get offski! Swankietoff! Rotten turnovitch!'

"The fury of this audience is terrible. This audience. This last court
of appeal. This audience in its fury is terrible.

"What will happen? The German stands his ground. This man of blood and
iron stands his ground. He means to go on. This strong man. He means to
go on if it snows.

"The audience is pulling up the benches. A tomato shatters itself on
the Prince's right eye. An over-ripe tomato.

"'Get offski!' Three eggs and a cat sail through the air. Falling
short, they drop on to the orchestra. These eggs! This cat! They fall
on the conductor and the second trombone. They fall like the gentle dew
from Heaven upon the place beneath. That cat! Those eggs!

"AA! At last the stage-manager--keen, alert, resourceful--saves the
situation. This man. This stage-manager. This man with the big brain.
Slowly, inevitably, the fireproof curtain falls. It is half-way down.
It is down. Before it, the audience. The audience. Behind it, the
Prince. The Prince. That general. That man of iron. That performer who
has just got the bird.

"The Russian National Anthem rings through the hall. Thunderous!
Triumphant! The Russian National Anthem. A paean of joy.

"The menials reappear. Those calm, passionless menials. They remove the
number fifteen. They insert the number sixteen. They are like Destiny--
Pitiless, Unmoved, Purposeful, Silent. Those menials.

"A crash from the orchestra. Turn number sixteen has begun...."

Content of Part Two Chapter 7 - THE BIRD (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Swoop! or How Clarence Saved England)

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