When William Came HTML version

The Tea Shop
Yeovil wandered down Piccadilly that afternoon in a spirit of restlessness and
expectancy. The long-awaited Aufklärung dealing with the new law of military service
had not yet appeared; at any moment he might meet the hoarse-throated newsboys
running along with their papers, announcing the special edition which would give the
terms of the edict to the public. Every sound or movement that detached itself with
isolated significance from the general whirr and scurry of the streets seemed to Yeovil to
herald the oncoming clamour and rush that he was looking for. But the long endless
succession of motors and ’buses and vans went by, hooting and grunting, and such
newsboys as were to be seen hung about listlessly, bearing no more attractive bait on
their posters than the announcement of an “earthquake shock in Hungary: feared loss of
The Green Park end of Piccadilly was a changed, and in some respects a livelier
thoroughfare to that which Yeovil remembered with affectionate regret. A great political
club had migrated from its palatial home to a shrunken habitation in a less prosperous
quarter; its place was filled by the flamboyant frontage of the Hotel Konstantinopel.
Gorgeous Turkey carpets were spread over the wide entrance steps, and boys in
Circassian and Anatolian costumes hung around the doors, or dashed forth in un-Oriental
haste to carry such messages as the telephone was unable to transmit. Picturesque sellers
of Turkish delight, attar-of-roses, and brass-work coffee services, squatted under the
portico, on terms of obvious good understanding with the hotel management. A few
doors further down a service club that had long been a Piccadilly landmark was a
landmark still, as the home of the Army Aeronaut Club, and there was a constant coming
and going of gay-hued uniforms, Saxon, Prussian, Bavarian, Hessian, and so forth,
through its portals. The mastering of the air and the creation of a scientific aerial war
fleet, second to none in the world, was an achievement of which the conquering race was
pardonably proud, and for which it had good reason to be duly thankful. Over the
gateways was blazoned the badge of the club, an elephant, whale, and eagle, typifying the
three armed forces of the State, by land and sea and air; the eagle bore in its beak a scroll
with the proud legend: “The last am I, but not the least.”
To the eastward of this gaily-humming hive the long shuttered front of a deserted ducal
mansion struck a note of protest and mourning amid the noise and whirl and colour of a
seemingly uncaring city. On the other side of the roadway, on the gravelled paths of the
Green Park, small ragged children from the back streets of Westminster looked wistfully
at the smooth trim stretches of grass on which it was now forbidden, in two languages, to
set foot. Only the pigeons, disregarding the changes of political geography, walked about
as usual, wondering perhaps, if they ever wondered at anything, at the sudden change in
the distribution of park humans.
Yeovil turned his steps out of the hot sunlight into the shade of the Burlington Arcade,
familiarly known to many of its newer frequenters as the Passage. Here the change that
new conditions and requirements had wrought was more immediately noticeable than