Read THE TRAVELLING COMPANIONS of Punch‚ Volume 101‚ September 19‚ 1891, free online book, by Francis Burnand, on ReadCentral.com.

No VII.

Scene A. Second-Class Compartment on the line between Würzburg and Nuremberg. PODBURY has been dull and depressed all day, not having recovered from the parting with Miss TROTTER. CULCHARD, on the contrary, is almost ostentatiously cheerful. PODBURY is intensely anxious to find out how far his spirits are genuine, but partly from shyness, and partly because some of their fellow travellers have been English he has hesitated to introduce the subject. At last, however, they are alone, and he is determined to have it out on the very first opportunity.

Culchard. Abominably slow train, this Schnell-zug. I hope we shall get to Nuremberg before it’s too dark to see the general effect.

Podbury. We’re not likely to be in time for table d’hote not that I’m peckish. (He sighs.) Wonder whereabouts the the TROTTERS have got to by now, eh?

[He feels he is getting red, and hums the Garden Scene from “Faust."]

Culch. (indifferently). Oh, let me see just arriving at St. Moritz, I expect. Wonderful effect of colour, that is. [He indicates the West, where a bar of crimson is flaming between a belt of firs.

Podb. (absently). Oh, wonderful! where? (Hums a snatch of a waltz.) Dum-dum-diddle-um-tum-dum-dum-dum-ty-doodle; dum-dum I say, you don’t seem particularly cut up?

Culch. Cut up? Why should I be cut up, my dear fellow? about what?

[Before PODBURY can explain, two Talkative British Tourists tumble up into the compartment, and he has to control his curiosity once more.

First T.T. Well, I ’ope we’re all right now, SAM, I’m sure these German jokers have chivied us about enough for one journey! (To CULCHARD.) Not in your way, this ’at-box, Sir? Don’t give yer much space in these foreign trains. (They settle down and the train starts.) Pretty bit o’ country along ‘ere! puts me in mind o’ the best part o’ Box ’Ill and I can’t say more for it than that!

Second T.T. (a little man with a sandy fringe and boiled-looking eyes). What I notice about the country abroad is they don’t seem to ’ave no landmarks.

First T.T. (with a dash of friendly contempt). What d’yer mean no landmarks signposts?

Second T.T. (with dignity). I mean to say, they don’t ’ave nothing to indicate which is JACK’s property, and which is JOE’s.

First T.T. Go on they’ve as much as what we ’ave.

Second T.T. ’Ave they? We ’ave fences and ’edges. I don’t see none ’ere. P’raps you’ll point me out one?

First T.T. There’s precious few ‘edges or fences in the Isle o’ Thanet, as you’d know if you’ve ever been to Margit.

Second T.T. (loftily). I’m not talkin’ about Margit now. I’m talkin’ of ’ere, and I’ll trouble you to show me a landmark.

First T.T. Depend on it they’ve their own ways of knowing which is ’oo’s.

Second T.T. That’s not what I’m sayin’. I’m sayin’ there ain’t nothing to indicate it. [They argue the point at length.]

Podb. (to CULCHARD). Then you really aren’t cut up about Miss T. you know?

Culch. (with the reserve of a man who only wants to be pressed). There is no reason that I am aware of, why I should be but (lowering his voice) don’t you think we had better wait till we are alone to discuss that subject?

Podb. Oh, all right. I’m not partic at least. Well, I’m glad you aren’t, you know, that’s all.

[He becomes silent again but his face brightens visibly.

First T.T. (to Second Do.). See that field there? That’s tobacco, that is.

Second T.T. What they make their penny smokes of. (The train enters a station.) What funny engines they do ’ave ’ere! I expect the guard’ll be wanting to see our billyetts again next. It’s as bad as it used to be with the passports. I’ve ’eard mind yer, I don’t know ’ow much likeli’ood there is in the assertion that they’re going to bring ’em in again. Most intricate they were about them. (To CULCHARD.) Why, if you’ll believe me, a friend o’ mine as ’ad one well, they got ’is description down to a ioter! He’d a cast in ’is eye, they put it down, and a pimple you’d ’ardly notice but down that went!

First T.T. It’s no use ’aving such things if they don’t do it thoroughly.

Second T.T. (irrelevantly). I wish I ’adn’t ‘ad that glass o’ peach wine where we changed last. (A Guard appears at the window, and makes some guttural comments on the couple’s tickets.) Wechseln? Why, that means wash, don’t it? I’m as clean as him, anyway. “Anshteigen,” ah, I ought to know what that means by this time! SAM, my boy, we’re bundled out again. I told yer ’ow it would be!

[They tumble out, and the carriage is presently filled by an assortment of Germans, including a lively and sociable little Cripple with a new drinking-mug which he has just had filled with lager, and a Lady with pale hair and sentimental blue eyes.

Podb. We can talk all right now, eh? They won’t understand. Look here, old fellow, I don’t mind owning I’m rather down in the mouth about you know what. I shouldn’t care so much if there was any chance of our coming across them again.

Culch. (cordially). I am very glad to hear you say so. I was rather afraid you had taken a dislike er in that quarter.

Podb. I? is it likely! I I admire her awfully, you know, only she rather seemed to snub me lately.

Culch. (with patronising reassurance). Quite a mistake on your part, I assure you, my dear fellow. I am sure she will learn to appreciate you er fully when you meet again, which, I may tell you, will be at no very distant date. I happen to know that she will be at the Italian Lakes early next month, and so shall we, if you let me manage this tour my own way.

Podb. (with surprise and gratitude). I say, old boy, I’d no notion you were such a nailing good chap! Nein, danky. (To the little Cripple, who is cheerily inviting him, in pantomime, to drink from his mug.) Cheeky little beggar. But do you really think anything will er come of it, if we do meet her again do you now?

Culch. I ah have the best reasons for feeling tolerably certain of it. [He looks out of window and smiles.

Podb. But that cousin of hers CHARLEY, you know how about him?

Culch. I put that to her, and there is nothing in it. In fact, she practically admitted (He glances round and lowers his voice.) I will tell you another time. That lady over there is looking at us, and I’m almost certain

Podb. What if she is, she don’t understand a word we’re saying. I want to hear all about Her, you know.

Culch. My dear PODBURY, we shall have ample time to talk about her while we are at Nuremberg together it will be the greatest pleasure to me to do so as long as ever you please.

Podb. Thanks, old chap! I’d no idea you were doing all this, you know. But just tell me this, what did she say about me?

Culch. (mystified). About you? I really don’t recollect that she mentioned you particularly.

Podb. (puzzled). But I thought you said you’d been speaking up for me! What did you talk about then?

Culch. Well, about myself naturally. [He settles his collar with a vague satisfaction.

Podb. (blankly). Oh! Then you haven’t been arranging to meet her again on my account?

Culch. Good Heavens, no what a very grotesque idea of yours, my dear fellow! [He laughs gently.

Podb. Is it? You always gave out that she wasn’t your style at all, and you only regarded her as a “study,” and rot like that. How could I tell you would go and cut me out?

Culch. I don’t deny that she occasionally er jarred. She is a little deficient in surface refinement but that will come, that will come. And as to “cutting you out,” why, you must allow you never had the remotest

Podb. I don’t allow anything of the sort. She liked me well enough till till you came in and set her against me, and you may think it friendly if you like, but I call it shabby confoundedly shabby.

Culch. Don’t talk so loud, I’m sure I saw that woman smile!

Podb. She may smile her head off for all I care. (The train stops; the Cripple and all but the Pale-haired Lady get out.) Here we are at Nuremberg. What hotel did you say you are going to?

Culch. The Bayrischer-Hof. Why?

[He gets his coat and sticks, &c., out of the rack.

Podb. Because I shall go to some other, that’s all.

Culch. (in dismay). My dear PODBURY. this is really too childish! There’s no sense in travelling together, if we’re going to stay at different hotels!

Podb. I’m not sure I shall go any further. Anyway, while I am here, I prefer to keep to myself.

Culch. (with a displeased laugh). Just as you please. It’s a matter of perfect indifference to me. I’m afraid you’ll be terribly bored by yourself, though.

Podb. That’s my look out. It can’t be worse than going about with you and listening while you crow and drivel about her, that’s one comfort! [The Pale-haired Lady coughs in a suspicious manner.

Culch. You don’t even know if there is another hotel.

Podb. I don’t care. I can find a pot-house somewhere, I daresay.

The Pale-haired Lady (in excellent English, to PODBURY as he passes out). Pardon me, you will find close to the Bahnhof a very goot hotel the Wurtemburger.

[PODBURY thanks her and alights in some confusion; the Lady sinks back, smiling.

Culch. (annoyed). She must have understood every word we said! Are you in earnest over this? (PODBURY nods grimly.) Well, you’ll soon get tired of your own society, I warn you.

Podb. Thanks, we shall see.

[He saunters off with his bag: CULCHARD shrugs his shoulders, and goes in search of the Bayrischer-Hof Porter, to whom he entrusts his luggage tickets, and takes his seat in the omnibus alone.

“ANGELS AND MINISTERS OF GRACE!”

["The London Correspondent of the Manchester Guardian hears that certain ungallant Members of Parliament are threatening at the beginning of next Session to make a formal protest against the wholesale admission of ladies to the precincts of the House.”]

Ungallant! Vastly fine! But when they crowd
The terrace seats, elbow us in the lobbies,
Chatter and laugh, and care no more about
(Elderly) senators than boys or bobbies;
Why then, Sir, all M.P.’s of nerve and nous
Will say that, though we love the babbling beauties,
The swarming of these “Angels in the House,”
Will simply play the devil with its duties!