Interviewing His Excellency [short story by Jack Moses]

[Editor: This is a short story from Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse (1923) by Jack Moses.]

Interviewing His Excellency

In all my long and happy association with the Wattle Flat Annual Exhibition, it has never been my good fortune to fraternise at the cattle pens with a representative of Royalty. I have met ’em, dozens of ’em, at the Smoke Concert. I have rubbed shoulders with ’em at the Official Luncheon, but never yet have I fraternised with their Excellencies at the Stock Sections. In this respect my old and esteemed friend of the Lambing Ridge Advertiser was most fortunate, and I am sure he will forgive the liberty I take if I recount to-day the story of how he got his big interview for the Advertiser during the Annual Carnival of the Flat, in the yesteryears.

Bill Mumford possessed a fine personality, and a fund of newspaper knowledge; he could report anything from a wedding up to a Prime Minister’s speech in a manner to satisfy the demands of all subscribers, winded and long winded, of the Advertiser.

I travelled down to Wattle Flat from Lambing Ridge with Bill, and he was full of hope in respect to a big scoop for next day’s Advertiser in respect to the Vice-regal visit. He confidently assured me he would make his Nibs talk, and talk something worth printing.

“I’ll put it over the old codger all right. I’ll get him before he officially opens the Show.”

“Ever met him before?” I enquired, interested in the ways of journalistic scoops.

“No,” replied Bill, “but that don’t cut any ice. As a representative of the Advertiser I’ll have full opportunity of approaching his Ex.”

“Good luck, Bill!” I said. “It must he highly interesting, the interviewing business.”

“Oh, it’s all right,” said Bill. “It don’t demand much trouble; you can generally pad up a bit.”

It was just on breakfast time when Bill and I found ourselves at the Royal. Bill was returning to the Ridge that night, and it did not matter much whether he secured a room or not, so I left him a few moments to peg out my claim in the drawing-room. When I joined Bill he had just consumed his third rum-and-milk and was ready for anything that lent itself to a scoop for the Advertiser.

“They tell me his Ex. is a fine old bloke, Jack,” he remarked, as I dragged him off for breakfast, “and will talk like blazes.”

I did not see Bill after breakfast for perhaps an hour, and when I struck him, he was holding forth in the back parlour on the vices of a rotten Government. Very flushed and very loquacious he was — so flushed and talkative that I had misgivings in respect to Bill’s scoop for the Advertiser, and, being a cobber of Bill’s, the determination came to me to help Bill out if possible.

Like Bill, I had yet to make the acquaintance of Earl Guernsey.

It was nearly eleven o’clock when I had completed my arrangements on the Ground, and having a half-hour to spare, I went in search of Bill.

Down near the cattle sheds I espied my friend in close confab with a gentleman whose appearence betokened a cattle man — that is to say, a man who knew something of the breed and virtues of cattle.

Bill was apparently hard at work making the most of expert opinion in regard to the cattle, and as I approached he came across to meet me.

“The old bloke is a find, Jack. Knows all about cattle, from the hoof to the horn. I’ll give ’em some red-hot stuff about the Cattle Section,” he confided to me, as he again joined the “find,” so capable of supplying good copy.

Bill seemed quite taken with the old bloke with the red nose (as he had hastily described him to me), and standing a few yards away, I was struck with Bill’s method of obtaining news.

Suddenly he shoved the handful of papers whereon he was making notes into his pocket, and asked his new-found friend how the enemy went.

“Just on noon.” returned the “old bloke.” “I am afraid I shall have to leave you.”

“I must be getting along, too,’ said Bill. “I want to get a chance with that blanky old cow before he starts.”

“With whom?” asked the very amiable old gentleman.

“With his Nibs the Governor” replied Bill. “I’m supposed to interview the old cow, but I don’t suppose the blankety blank will have anything interesting to say.”

“You never can tell,” smiled the amiable old gentleman, as he shook hands with him and moved towards the Secretary’s office.

“Not a bad old bloke,” said Bill to me, as we walked towards the stand, from where the Governor — who, as far as we knew, had not yet arrived — would officially declare the Show open.

“I must see his Nibs somehow,” said Bill. “Come along.”

By this time the Wattle Flat Committee had gathered on a platform erected for the use of His Excellency and just as we reached the vicinity, the local band blurted out the usual tune, and the Governor’s party mounted the stand.

“Hullo!” said Bill, “the old bloke of the cattle yards has got a box seat.”

I looked over and there, sure enough, was Bill’s mentor of the cattle pens.

The notes of the Anthem died away. Bill was looking round.

“Where the ’ell is the Governor’’ he questioned.

Then the President of Wattle Flat Society stepped forth and eloquently introduced the distinguished visitor, Lord Guernsey.

As His Excellency came forward, Bill clutched my arm.

“My cripes, Jack! I’m damned if the old bloke down at the cattle pens wasn’t his Nibs. Hell! What a scoop!

“Yes,” I said, “a big scoop. Bill. But I wonder what the old cow will say when he reads the scoop.”

Jack Moses, Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse, Sydney: Austral Publishing Co., 1923, pages 113-116

Editor’s notes:
blankety blank = substitution for some swear words (such as “bloody bastard”)

blanky = substitution for a swear word (such as “bloody”)

confab = abbreviation of “confabulation”: chatting, talking in a casual manner, having a private conversation

enemy = time; an allusion to the phrase “time is the enemy”, as used in many variations (e.g. “time is the enemy of man, especially of those who are behind time”); “How goes the enemy?” was a phrase used to ask the time of day

Nibs = (commonly used in the phrase “His Nibs”) a mock title used to refer to someone in a position of authority a person in authority, or who acts as someone holding a position of authority (especially used to refer to someone who is self-important or demanding)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
’ell (hell)
’em (them)

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