16 May 2014

Headlam and the Wendy House (2)

Obliged to keep an appointment with 'Nazi' Headlam, Dix turned up punctually. Of course, the Bishop was not yet at leisure to receive him. Anglican bishops (I'm sure Catholic bishops are quite different) generally keep you waiting. This is a very old and splendid Management trick to make the point that your time is of no value whatsoever, while the Bishop is extremely grand and important. Dix, therefore, was not surprised to be kept waiting. Into the room in which he had been parked there wandered a small and very sad girl, sobbing inconsolably. After a while, Dix asked her who she was. She broke off to tell him that she was the bishop's granddaughter, and then returned to her grief. After another interval, Dix enquired why she was crying. "It's my Wendy House", he was informed. (Wendy Houses are toy houses for children to play in, scaled down to their less than adult proportions.) With bachelor reticence, Dix hesitated to invade with gross masculine insensitivity these maidenly mysteries ... until the renewed sobs drove him in exasperation to demand more precise information. "Well", said the tiny, "We were playing together in the nursery and I persuaded grandpapa to crawl into my Wendy House. It wasn't really big enough for him, but in the end I got him wedged inside. Then I shut ... ". Here the distraught female resorted again to heart-rending sobs. Dix pressed upon her the cleaner of his two monastic handkerchiefs, and tactfully asked her to continue. "Well I shut the door and then I locked it and then I went for a ride on my pony and there was nobody else in the nursery wing of the Palace so nobody heard him shouting for three hours and then when they got him out he was stiff and hoarse and all he could say was Now I've got to go and see that bloody monk ... Oh! Oh! I shouldn't have said the bad word! You won't tell them, will you? PLEASE PLEASE promise you won't tell them ... I'm already in disgrace ..."

Recounting this story afterwards to an admiring circle of friends, Dix - who liked to 'play' his audiences - paused to stuff some more tobacco into his pipe. One of his hearers pressed him: "So what, Father, did you do?". "I patted her on the head and told her what a good girl she was and gave her half a crown."

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