Sadder even than those well-known sad words, “It might have been,” are those equally well-known words, “I didn’t know it was loaded.”
Lord Rothermere one murky day in London last January was seen to stoop down and pick out of the gutterâ€”this was what is known as a “political” gutterâ€”what appeared to be a dirty little revolver.
Beneath its grime and rust, the great Rothermere detected a glint of genuine steel. The publisher of the London Daily Mail and other powerful newspapers throughout England likes good, clean steel. In fact, he is, in his own small way, quite a steel fancier. So he took the dirty little rod home with him.
There, in the privacy of his gunchamber, he scrubbed and polished, and polished and scrubbed, until he had a pretty, shiny little toy. It was a dashing, brave-looking piece of artillery. How it caught and reflected the light! He gloated over this gutter-find of his.
But private gloating was not sufficient to satisfy his artist’s soul. He must needs let the world share his joy in this beautiful discovery. A newspaperman is never happy unless he’s telling the world.
So one fine day last January, he upsâ€”as Jimmie Durante would tell it, and Jimmy Durante ought to tell itâ€”and spreads the news all over the Daily Mail’s front page. With pictures and all.
“See my pretty little canon,” he roared to the world.
“With this shiny little piece of steel,” he yodeled, “I shall save my darling England.
“This precious jewel that I picked out of the gutter,” he detonated, “shall make of the British lion once more a noble, spirited, feared creature instead of a yellow mongrel with a tin can tied to his tail.”
Whooie! Did the good Lord Rothermere lay it on thick about that shooting iron of his.
One of the good qualitiesâ€”good from a psychological standpointâ€”about this weapon that Rothermere was flaunting on his front pages was that it had noble blood in its veins. Englishmen must have their noble blood. And though the revolver was a political foundling, as it were, it did have fine, blue claret in its barrels.
Which made it just perfect for Lord Rothermere and England.
For a time after the elderly steel-fancier had announced his discovery everything was peaches and cream. Never was there such a love affair as this between the pretty aristocratic revolver and its owner. Damon and Pythias weren’t any closer to one another. Paola and Francesca were just a pair of calf-lovers by comparison.
But came the dawn. And with the dawn came grief. And the grief came in the guise of a Jew, a great many Jews, millions of Jews.
When the dawn broke all over the Rothermere-revolver dovecote, there were the Jews as large as life. At first they just stood there as if in mute reproach at so strange a spectacle. Then they went, but no sooner had they gone than in their place rose a great babble.
Out of the noise only one phrase was intelligible.
“Rothermere, oh, Rothermere, your pretty toy is anti-Semitic.”
But this only annoyed the great man. His beloved, he pouted, could not be anti-Semitic, He wouldn’t have it. Neverthless, deep down within him Rothermere began to have his doubts. So he put it to his toy direct.
“Are you anti-Semitic?” he asked caressingly.
Then, for the first time in their companionship, the pretty bit of steel seemed to waver.
“N-o-o-o,” it wavered.
It was enough for Rothermere. In the blindness of his passion he had not detected the wavering note. He blazoned his pal’s answer to the world and to the Jews.
“You’re suffering from delusions and hallucinations of Hitler,” the publisher blared. “My friend is not anti-Semitic. He says it is un-British to be anti-Semitic.”
Somehow this was greeted with skepticism by the public. It was noted that Jews were not being admitted to the ranks of the knighted revolver’s black-shirted followers. Why?
For a time the question remained unanswered. In the meantime, the revolver began daily to take on the proportions of a cannon. As it grew larger it grew more independent of its backer. It began to say things that seemed to annoy its protector and lover.
One day at Albert Hall in London, before a black-shirted throng of 10,000, the pretty toy got up and said, “We’ve got nothing against Jews. Race bias is un-British. But Jews had better be British first and Jews second. If they don’t adhere to that chronological order, we shall know how to deal with them.” Or words to that effect.
Hip, hip, hooray! the black shirts roared.
The dawn had gone and the sun was nearing its zenith.
Rothermere seemed a bit muffed. He couldn’t stand the strong rays of the sun. The dawn wasn’t so bad, since there wasn’t so much ultra-violet floating around then. This ultra-violet was bad for his health. It sort of atrophied the circulation, if you follow us.
But he couldn’t eat crow publicly. Not yet, at least. So he repeated his defense of the revolver pet of his.
“You see,” he bellowed, “I told you so. It’s not anti-Semitic.”
The curtain falls as the chief actor in this drammer exits left shouting. When it next rises, Rothermere is discovered in his gun chamber. He has decided to take another look at that foundling he picked out of the political gutter. So he looks. So what is his surprise, when the pretty little toy goes POP right in his face!
The POP, when translated into English, reads something like this:
“We pledged that no racial or religious persecution would occur under British Fascism, but we require that Jews should put their first interest in Great Britain. We don’t admit Jewish members into our movement because they have bitterly attacked us and because they have organized an international movement with racial interests above national.”
POP, went Sir Oswald Mosley, the “political gutter” foundling. And Rothermere’s blushes were scattered all over his own front pages.
When he scooped them up again, all the good Lord could mutter was:
“I didn’t know it was loaded.”