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Story of the Duke of Sussex.

From "The Path to Rome".
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Once there was a man dining by himself at the Cafe Anglais, in the days when people went there. It was a full night, and he sat alone at a small table, when there entered a very big man in a large fur coat. The big man looked round annoyed, because there was no room, and the first man very courteously offered him a seat at his little table. They sat down and ate and talked of several things; among others, of Bureacracy. The first maintained that Bureaucracy was the curse of France.

"Men are governed by it like sheep. The administrator, however humble, is a despot; most people will even run forward to meet him halfway, like the servile dogs they are," said he.

"No," answered the big man in the fur coat, "I should say men were governed just by the ordinary human sense of authority. I have no theories. I say they recognise authority and obey it. Whether it is bureaucratic or not is merely a question of form."

At this moment there came in a tall, rather stiff Englishman. He also was put out at finding no room. The two men saw the manager approach him; a few words passed, and a card; then the manager suddenly smiled, bowed, smirked, and finally went up to the table and begged that the Duke of Sussex might be allowed to share it. The Duke hoped he did not incommode these gentlemen. They assured him that, on the contrary, they esteemed his presence a favour.

"It is our prerogative," said the big man in the fur coat, "to be the host Paris entertaining her Guest."

They would take no denial; they insisted on the Duke's dining with them, and they told him what they had just been discussing. The Duke listened to their theories with some morgue, much spleen, and no little phlegm, but with perfect courtesy, and then, towards the coffee, told them in fluent French with a strong accent, his own opinion. (He had had eight excellent courses; Yquem with his fish, the best Chambertin during the dinner, and a glass of wonderful champagne with his dessert.) He spoke as follows, with a slight and rather hard smile: -

"My opinion may seem to you impertinent, but I believe nothing more subtly and powerfully affects men than the aristocratic feeling. Do not misunderstand me," he added, seeing that they would protest; "it is not my own experience alone that guides me. All history bears witness to the same truth."

The simple-minded Frenchmen put down this infatuation to the Duke's early training, little knowing that our English men of rank are the simplest fellows in the world, and are quite indifferent to their titles save in business matters.

The Frenchmen paid the bill, and they all three went out on to the Boulevard.

"Now," said the first man to his two companions, "I will give you a practical example of what I meant when I said that Bureaucracy governed mankind."

He went up to the wall of the Credit Lyonnais, put the forefinger of either hand against it, about twenty-five centimetres apart, and at a level of about a foot above his eyes. Holding his fingers thus he gazed at them, shifting them slightly from time to time and moving his glance from one to the other rapidly. A crowd gathered. In a few moments a pleasant elderly, short, and rather fat gentleman in the crowd came forward, and, taking off his hat, asked if he could do anything for him.

"Why," said our friend, "the fact is I am an engineer (section D of the Public Works Department), and I have to make an important measurement in connection with the Apothegm of the Bilateral which runs to-night precisely through this spot. My fingers now mark exactly the concentric of the secondary focus whence the Radius Vector should be drawn, but I find that (like a fool) I have left my Double Refractor in the cafe hard by. I dare not go for fear of losing the place I have marked; yet I can get no further without my Double Refractor."

"Do not let that trouble you," said the short stout stranger; "I will be delighted to keep the place exactly marked while you run for your instrument."

The crowd was now swelled to a considerable size; it blocked up the pavement, and was swelled every moment by the arrival of the curious. The little fat elderly man put his fingers exactly where the other's had been, effecting the exchange with a sharp gesture: and each watched intently to see that it was right to within a millimetre. The attitude was constrained. The elderly man smiled, and begged the engineer not to be alarmed. So they left him with his two forefingers well above his head, precisely twenty-five centimetres apart, and pressing their tips against the wall of the Credit Lyonnais. Then the three friends slipped out of the crowd, and pursued their way.

"Let us go to the theatre," said the experimenter, "and when we come back I warrant you will agree with my remarks on Bureaucracy."

They went to hear the admirable marble lines of Corneille. For three hours they were absorbed by the classics, and, when they returned, a crowd, now enormous, was surging all over the Boulevard, stopping the traffic and filled with a noise like the sea. Policemen were attacking it with the utmost energy, but still it grew and eddied; and in the centre - a little respectful space kept empty around him - still stretched the poor little fat elderly man, a pitiable sight. His knees were bent, his head wagged and dropped with extreme fatigue, he was the colour of old blotting-paper; but still he kept the tips of his two forefingers exactly twenty-five' centimetres apart, well above his head, and pressed against the wall of the Credit Lyonnais.

"You will not match that with your aristocratic sentiment!" said the author of the scene in pardonable triumph.

"I am not so sure," answered the Duke of Sussex. He pulled out his watch. "It is midnight," he said, "and I must be off; but let me tell you before we part that you have paid for a most expensive dinner., and have behaved all night with an extravagant deference under the impression that I was the Duke of Sussex. As a fact my name is Jerks, and I am a commercial traveller in the linseed oil line; and I wish you the best of good evenings."

"Wait a moment," said the Man in the Big Fur Coat; "my theory of the Simple Human Sense of Authority still holds. I am a detective officer, and you will both be good enough to follow me to the police station."

And so they did, and the Engineer was fined fifty francs in correctional, and the Duke of Sussex was imprisoned for ten days, with interdiction of domicile for six months.

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