20 DECEMBER 1940, Page 10


By W. J. TURNER THE important but not capital town of Dreksdrokh lay at some distance from any other town of size, so that it was the principal shopping centre of a very large agricultural area. The farmers, fruit-growers and other producers in this area had not been prosperous for a long time, owing to a succession of poor harvests and low prices. The shops, consequently, had been carrying on only a hand-to-mouth trade for a couple of years, and were in the trough of a depression when on November 5th, 193-, an unexpected event happened.

Early in the afternoon of that winter day, while it was still daylight, a well-dressed man alighted at the principal motor- car dealer's and asked for the proprietor. It was a time when any customer was welcome, and the proprietor was hastily sent for by the only salesman still left in the firm's employment. To him the stranger proffered his card—which bore the name of a noble family, one of whose estates was about 5o miles distant. The proprietor of the Dreksdrokh motor business had never had dealings with the great family before and he defer- entially asked the stranger what he could do for him.

The stranger replied that he wanted two of the latest model of the famous English Rolls-Royce automobile, and produced a catalogue in English showing the model and also the type of body he required. It was the most expensive limousine model made by a renowned firm. of carriage and body makers in England. The price of the car he wanted was the equivalent of £3,000 complete. Overjoyed at such a sudden piece of good fortune as a £6,000 order the proprietor cautiously reminded his customer that it would take a little time to obtain delivery of two such cars, to which the stranger replied that he wanted them as a Christmas present to his wife and his married daughter and did not require delivery until Christmas Eve, but that delivery must be absolutely guaranteed on that date.

This presented no difficulties, and the order was taken. The stranger declared that he and his chauffeur would come to take delivery of the two cars on the morning of that day, bringing his cheque with him for the total amount. After his departure the proprietor rushed to tell the good news to his wife, and in his excitement remarked that she might order herself a hand- some piece of jewellery as a Christmas box. The next day his wife went to the best jeweller's shop in the town and asked to see some necklaces. She was a very good-looking woman, and the jeweller, who knew the garage-proprietor and motor- dealer as a sound and sober business man, showed her several of his more expensive pieces. He then cunningly produced a most beautiful necklace which he had bought years previously, in prosperous times, but had given up all hope of selling. Seduced both by its price and its beauty and thinking that her husband was not likely to do such a lucky stroke of business again in any one day and be in so generous a mood, the motor- dealer's wife ordered the necklace to be delivered to her house on Christmas Eve.

Overjoyed at the profit he had made and at disposing of so expensive and unsaleable a piece in such lean times the jeweller at dinner that night said to his wife: " My dear, you have long needed a new fur coat, you may buy yourself a good one for Christmas as I have done a very nice bit of business today."

Next morning the jeweller's wife hastened to the furrier's and bought a fine mink fur coat. It was more than her husband would have expected her to spend, she knew, but she thought to herself trade is evidently improving, the bad times are perhaps over, there may be a bumper harvest next year and why should I wait for ever for a really gaod coat! The best things are always the cheapest! Exhilarated but unsatisfied—since the coat was not to be delivered until Christmas Eve, she then went on to a number of other shops and made many purchases for delivery by Christmas Eve, so as to bring her wardrobe into harmony with her magnificent new coat. The optimism of the jeweller was shared by the furrier, who badly needed a suit, shoes, socks and other things which he accordingly ordered on the following day, together with a new type of safety razor he had long coveted ; but as he was a careful man he stipulated for delivery not before the coming Christmas Eve.

The appetite for spending, like any other appetite, grows with use and a positive orgy of spending was thus set in motion in Dreksdrokh. Soon, everybody in the town was buying something and consequently everybody was selling something and a sudden prosperity surged through Dreksdrokh like a raging fire. The streets filled ; everywhere one saw cheerful faces and people going in and out buying and celebrating their purchases at lunch and tea in their favourite restaurants. In some mysterious way the inhabitants of Dreksdrokh found themselves released from the years of depression and self-suppression. They had economised for so long, they had so scraped and pared and denied themselves this, that and the other, minimising their expenditure to the barest hand-to-mouth necessities, wearing their old clothes and not daring to spend a penny without hours of anxious calculation that they now rushed into their present happiness with a positive fury of delight.

Infected by this spirit even the Town Council authorised expenditure on several improvement schemes which had been long held up and a fortnight after the Stranger's visit to the car-dealer the whole face of Dreksdrokh had changed. The town buzzed with activity and pleasurable enjoyment. It was not long before this state of things affected the entire country around and neighbours flocked into the town from far and near to enjoy its gay and festive atmosphere.

Every day as Christmas drew nearer business improved and the health and well-being of the inhabitants and of the whole countryside improved with it. A new spirit of optimism made itself felt everywhere, and even those surrounding farmers whose situation had become so bad that they had scarcely retained the energy or courage to go on cultivating their land, started ploughing up neglected fields, ordering seed and launching out on new experiments.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, the car-dealer arose cheerfully. He had done much more business than he could have anticipated a month or two earlier. Ever since the Stranger had ordered those two cars business had looked up. The two Rolls-Royce cars had arrived and had been on display in his show-window for some days. The presence of these resplendent shining monsters aglitter with glass and steel in the main street of Dreksdrokh had put the final festive touch to the town's gaiety. They had been the special admiration of all the boys in the town and everybody had said to them- selves as they passed, " Things are looking up."

Some time in the afternoon on that Christmas Eve the town's chief hardware merchant, an old friend of the car- dealer's, dropped in to see him and suggested a drink. As they were enjoying it he said to the car-dealer: " I have just had a big order for barbed wire from the lunatic asylum," mention- ing an expensive establishment for private patients. " They are fencing in the whole place with a ten-foot fence as one of their most valuable inmates escaped six weeks ago. Apparently he was one of the family of —," and he then mentioned the name the Stranger had given to the car-dealer. " He was completely mad and his family paid a very large sum for his keep. He will be a very great loss to the asylum, which is not doing too well as everybody now sends their lunatics to the county asylum."

The car-dealer looked at his watch. It was a quarter to five on Christmas Eve. It was already quite dark and snow was falling. The bells of the town were ringing, merrily. The two Rolls-Royces glittered in the darkness and the car-dea!er knew that they would not be called for that day. It did not matter. Business had been so good that he could afford to keep them. He raised his glass reflectively: " Long live the Lunatic," he proposed, and told his story. The two friends then drank cheerfully to the greatest benefactor the town of Dreksdrokh had ever known.