From the 1964 “Pilot” magazine, an unusually charming and whimsical piece by G.R. Balleine. Most known for his historical interests, this little curiosity reveals quite another side of the man, warm and humorous – and I would not mind betting that the “clergyman” of the final story was G.R. Balleine himself.
By G.R. Balleine
Picture a hotel lounge full of holiday folk. They have had a strenuous day. They have eaten a good dinner. They have gathered in the lounge to listen to the news. They are comfortable and disinclined to move.
A blood-curdling shriek from outside spoke of a cat on the war-path. Somebody quoted: "My sister had a Thomas-cat that warbled like Caruso. A neighbour threw a cricket bat, and now it doesn't do so." This set them off repeating silly rhymes. They made quite a collection of parodies of Mary and her little Lamb :
"Mary had a little lamb.
Its feet were black as soot;
and into Mary's bread and milk
its sooty foot it put."
"Mary had a little lamb.
Her father killed it dead;
and now it goes to school with her
between two chunks of bread".
"Mary had a little lamb,
which she washed in kerosine.
One day it got too near the fire.
Since then it's not benzine."
"Mary had a wad of gum.
She chewed it long and slow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
that wad was sure to go.
She carried it to school one day.
That was against the rule.
So teacher took the gum away,
and chewed it after school."
And so on, each variation getting further and further from the original.
A husband and wife were present, who ragged one another unmercifully. He accused her of thinking more of her dog than of him. And she gently replied, "Well, dear, he growls less." He retorted by telling how, when their little daughter was saying her prayers, her mother suggested, "As Daddy is away, you might say, `Please watch over Daddy'." "Please watch over Daddy," she lisped, "and, since Mummie is all alone, please keep an eye on her too."
Someone told of a little girl, who had been so naughty that her father had sent her to her bedroom. When her mother later came to tell her that she might come down to tea, she found her writing a letter. I hope you are writing to Daddy to tell him you're sorry," she said. "No," the sweet young thing replied, "I'm writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury to see if I can get a divorce from both of you."
Then the men started telling stories about wives. One told how the head of a college addressed the students who had finished their course : "Many of you will marry. Be patient with your wives. Don't worry, if your wife isn't ready at the appointed time. Have a good book handy, and read it while you wait. I assure you that you will be amazed at the amount of information you will be able to acquire."
Another spoke of Mrs. Macdougal, who looks on the dark side of things. Her husband had a slight touch of influenza, and the doctor sent him to bed, and told his wife to cheer him up. She sat by his bedside wrapped in thought. "Janet, girl," said her husband, "what are you thinking about?" "I'm wondering," she said, "however we'll get your coffin down yon awkward stair."
A lady then began to illustrate the deceitfulness of men. A worried looking man in a florist's shop was asking for some potted geraniums. "I'm sorry," said the girl, "we're out of geraniums, but we've got some nice potted chrysanthemums." "They're no good," said the man, "I promised my wife I'd water her geraniums while she was away."
The clergyman in the corner sat puffing his pipe, and they challenged him to tell them some amusing experience of his own. "Well, the other night," he said, "I was called out of bed to visit a sick man. After giving what comfort I could, I said to the wife, `You don't come to my church, do you?' `Oh no, Sir, we're Baptists.' `Then why didn't you send for your own Minister?' `Oh, we couldn't let our Mr. Brown risk it, for the doctor says this fever's terribly catching.' "
But, if I go on like this, people will begin to say that the sober pages of The Pilot are getting frivolous. And that will never do, will it?