How the Armydillo Lost Its Wool
You would like to know, Best Beloved, how the Doubtless Well-meaning Armydillo lost its wool.
The Doubtless Well-meaning but somewhat stereotyped Armydillo1 lived in a perfect and past-definite system of pigeon-holes and shrank from observation,2 especially such observations as the Beech-Marten3
was addicted to making.
“The Old Guard retires, but it never stops talking,” said the Armydillo angrily.4
There was a Whip once that became a perfect Scourge, but that has nothing to do with the story.5
No self-respecting Armydillo is ever to blame for the time being; but there have been Armydillos in the past that have been simply scandalous.
So when the superfluous Beech-Marten came round talking about waste and extravagance and extraneous influences and other things that aren’t funny but only rude, the Doubtless Well-meaning Armydillo became virtuously indignant and tore its hair, and remembered a State of Things a quarter of a Century6 ago that would have sent it pallid and chattering into the Chiltern Hundreds.7 That is how all Armydilloes talk, and no doubt they mean it at the time; it is not so hard to be resigned at a distance of twenty-five years.8
The Beech-Marten didn’t care how angry the Armydillo got, because he had squeezed him so when they lived in the same burrow. No Beech-Marten likes being squeezed, it upsets their balance.
And that, Best Beloved, is how the Armydillo lost its wool.
- William St John Fremantle Brodrick, 1st Earl of Midleton, (1856–1942), Secretary of State for War 1900–1903.↩
- Brodrick was both touchy and tactless.↩
- Sir Michael Hicks Beach, (1837-1916), Chancellor of the Exchequer 1885-1886 and 1895-1902). He clashed with Brodrick over the costs of the latter’s planned army reforms. After his resignation from the front bench, Hicks Beach made a speech in his constituency on 29 September 1902 in which he criticised the way the War Office had conducted the Boer War and the influence “outside influences” wielded on it (although he specifically said he did not blame Brodrick)↩
- Parodying “The Old Guard dies; it never surrenders” (attributed to General Pierre Cambronne, 1770-1842, at the Battle of Waterloo).↩
- Probably referring to Rowland Winn, 1st Baron St Oswald (1820–1893), Conservative Party Chief Whip from 1880 to 1885. He was caricatured as “the lash” by ‘Ape’ in Vanity Fair in 1874; the reason remains unclear.↩
- Capitalised in the original.↩
- Being appointed “Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds” (an “office of profit under The Crown”, referring to management of this ancient administrative area) disqualifies an M.P. from sitting in the House of Commons, and thus allows him to resign his seat (which is otherwise legally impossible).↩
- Possibly referring to the time between the previous two sets of major army reforms (Cardwell Reforms, 1868–1872, and Childers Reforms, early 1880s).↩
‘How the Armydillo Lost Its Wool’ by Saki (H.H. Munro), taken from The Westminster Gazette, 9 October 1902. Illustration by Francis Carruthers Gould. Notes © 2020-21 Bruce Gaston. No reproduction without permission.