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The Unkindest Blow
THE season of strikes seemed to have run itself to a standstill. Almost every trade and
industry and calling in which a dislocation could possibly be engineered had indulged in
that luxury. The last and least successful convulsion had been the strike of the World's
Union of Zoological Garden attendants, who, pending the settlement of certain demands,
refused to minister further to the wants of the animals committed to their charge or to
allow any other keepers to take their place. In this case the threat of the Zoological
Gardens authorities that if the men "came out" the animals should come out also had
intensified and precipitated the crisis. The imminent prospect of the larger carnivores, to
say nothing of rhinoceroses and bull bison, roaming at large and unfed in the heart of
London, was not one which permitted of prolonged conferences. The Government of the
day, which from its tendency to be a few hours behind the course of events had been
nicknamed the Government of the afternoon, was obliged to intervene with promptitude
and decision. A strong force of Bluejackets was despatched to Regent's Park to take over
the temporarily abandoned duties of the strikers. Bluejackets were chosen in preference
to land forces, partly on account of the traditional readiness of the British Navy to go
anywhere and do anything, partly by reason of the familiarity of the average sailor with
monkeys, parrots, and other tropical fauna, but chiefly at the urgent request of the First
Lord of the Admiralty, who was keenly desirous of an opportunity for performing some
personal act of unobtrusive public service within the province of his department.
"If he insists on feeding the infant jaguar himself, in defiance of its mother's wishes, there
may be another by-election in the north," said one of his colleagues, with a hopeful
inflection in his voice. "By-elections are not very desirable at present, but we must not be
As a matter of fact the strike collapsed peacefully without any outside intervention. The
majority of the keepers had become so attached to their charges that they returned to
work of their own accord.
And then the nation and the newspapers turned with a sense of relief to happier things. It
seemed as if a new era of contentment was about to dawn. Everybody had struck who
could possibly want to strike or who could possibly be cajoled or bullied into striking,
whether they wanted to or not. The lighter and brighter side of life might now claim some
attention. And conspicuous among the other topics that sprang into sudden prominence
was the pending Falvertoon divorce suit.
The Duke of Falvertoon was one of those human HORS D'OEUVRES that stimulate the
public appetite for sensation without giving it much to feed on. As a mere child he had
been precociously brilliant; he had declined the editorship of the ANGLIAN REVIEW at
an age when most boys are content to have declined MENSA, a table, and though he
could not claim to have originated the Futurist movement in literature, his "Letters to a
possible Grandson," written at the age of fourteen, had attracted considerable notice. In
later days his brilliancy had been less conspicuously displayed. During a debate in the