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“Nelson indeed may be regarded as the tutelary deity of the Naval Exhibition.”
Mr. Purch, musing by moonlight hard by the model of the ever-memorable Victory, mentally quoted and approved. Mr. Purch was musing of many things. Mainly of his own Jubilee, or rather the Jubilee of his immortal Journal, the One Hundredth Half-Yearly Volume of which was in his hands.
“This Show," he reflected, “ demonstrates what colossal changes—many of the best of them owing their origin to Me!—have taken place since, Fifty Years ago, I penned the Preface to my First Volume, in the Year of Grace 1841!"
The search-light from the top of the Eddystone Lighthouse almost dazzled the Sage's upturned eyes, but for all that he could hardly be mistaken in his instant identification of a Shadowy Presence which shaped itself before him. Where is there an Englishman who would not recognise that small but striking and spirit-suffused figure, that keen, unconquerable glance, that ardent yet almost ascetic-looking face, that familiar star-decked uniform, that hanging coat-sleeve ? Mr. Punch rose and doffed his hat in respectful salutation to the Illustrious Shade, murmuring as he did so—
“For gods they are, through high Jove's counsels good,
Haunting the earth, the guardians of mankind." “ Ah," said the Shade, smiling deprecatingly, “ 'twas so Mr. Souther, in ending the story of my life, spake of the spirits of the great and the wise, which continue to live and to act after them.'. But things have indeed changed, Mr. PUNCH, since that last went into action!” And he pointed, as he spoke, to the black and yellow poop of the Victory.
“Not so far changed, that there is a single British heart which does not thrill more at the sight of the mimic scene in yon dimly-lighted cockpit
than at that of the huger Victoria of to-day, though it can hurl in one colossal shot as much iron as a broadside and a half of the Victory of yours, my Admiral.”
“ Ah! I wonder what Bexbow would have thought of • The Mimic Naval War on the Lake'?” pursued Mr. Porch's | interlocutor. “We did not play at pitched battles, or rehearse Trafalgar with toy-ships, in our belligerent but less scientifically ingenious days."
"Not much play, my Horatio, about the encounter between the Almirante Lynch and the Blanco Eucalada, the other day," said Mr. Punch, smiling. "The fact is, Admiral, a naval engagement in our Titanically-armed times must be so complicated, so sensational and so sanguinary a drama, that a little mimic rehearsal' is perhaps advisable.
“ Doubtless, doubtless ! ” murmured the Shade.
“ Nevertheless," pursued Mr. Punch, cheerily, "I will wager that the model of the Victory and the Nelson Relics will draw more British visitors to this Exhibition than all the Cyclopean wonders and Titanic marvels of the Armstrong Gallery. Vulcan has not yet superseded Neptune in the worship of the English-speaking peoples."
The Hero's ardent eyes gleamed with gratification.
“ Doleful dumps for duffers !” cried Mr. Punch. “A stout heart is never long in the doldrums. You yourself once lost hope for a little, after the loss of your dexter fin at Teneriffe. “A left-handed Admiral,' you wrote,' will never again
be considered as useful.' And that was before the Nile and the Baltic ! Aha! but right soon the radiant orb suspended in your mind's
eye which urged you onward to renown' (to quote your own vivid words), resumed its star-y-pointing sway." "You combine the dauntless pluck of Drake with the cheery optimism of Dibdin, Mr. Punch," said the Hero. the Laureate of the Victorian Navy would have other materials for his metre than Campbell or Dibdin dealt with.”
“ Three-quarters of a ton of iron, hurled by the explosion of 960 lbs. of powder from the muzzle of a 110-ton gun, with an energy equal to 55,253 foot tons, through 28 inches of iron and steel, 20 feet of the hardest oak, 5 feet of solid granite, 11 feet of concrete, and 6 feet of brick—40 feet of tough material all told ! By Thor, Admiral, that ought to afford Titanic inspiration to some lyrical Son of Thunder! We may say, indeed, parodying CAMPBELL's immortal ode“ Like leviathans afloat
“ As they hew their headlong path,
Fraught with shrieking, chattering death,
The most bold may hold his breath
For a time!"
“Good !” said the Shade. “It seems to me, Sir, considering the part the English Navy has played in the English Story, that it has hardly been adequately sung by our Bards or set forth by our Statesmen. Truly this Big Show is something—by way of a beginning. But why should there not be a permanent Naval Exhibition, always on view, and so ordered and arranged that every British boy shall, as a matter of course, become familiarised with the heroic memories of the past, the great actualities of the present, and the splendid possibilities of the future ? "
“Wly, indeed ?" echoed Mr. Punch, musingly. “Heroic HORATIO, you have accurately hit it! Of the British Boy it may be said
- The British Fleet he cannot see,
Because 'tis not in sight. That is, the Naval history of our country, and its Naval needs, are not, as they should be, forced home to his intelligence by every device of pedagogue, poet, paterfamilias, show-shaper, and statesman. When they are, we shall, perhaps, have less official fumbling, financial waste, and Naval inefficiency."
“Look to it, Mr. Punch!” murmured the Shade of the Great Admiral, in a voice faint but emphatic, his form slowly dislimning in the sheen of the search-light.
« Trust me, Mighty Sailor,” responded the Sage. “And as evidence of the patriotic spirit in which I shall play my part, I present you with my own particular (and portable) • Search-Light,'—powerful, penetrative, all-pervading. For Fifty Years now it has periodically flared forth and lustrously illuminated the Universe. It will make clear to you many things that perchance may strike you as obscure and nubibustic—in the Shades. At the end of my Fiftieth Volume I invited the World to my Jubilee this year—now arrived. May I beg the favour of your presence at my CentenaryAt Home,' on the 17th of July, 1941 ? Meanwhile, this—and its successors—may profit and please you !"
Whereupon England's favourite Sage politely proffered to England's favourite Hero his
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