Page:Household Words - Volume 12.djvu/117

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Charles Dickens.]
[Sept. 1, 1335.] 107

the meanings attached to the three colours. There is a book of general signals, belonging to the Royal Navy, containing about a thousand of the most general orders relating to action, sailing, maneuvering, and other sea movements; and yet there are seldom more than three flags used to express any one signal. Some signals depend more on the colours of the flags than on their number or form; some more especially on their number; while distant signals are often made with square and triangular flags, without reference to their colours. Another book of signals contains the vocabulary signals, each indicated by a combination of three flags. The signals conveyed, or symbols represented comprise the letters of the alphabet, and useful words and sentences relating to military terms, geographical terms, and the names of ships.

Captain Marryat, many years ago, devised a set of symbols available for merchant ships, which has been adopted by Lloyd's, the Shipowners' Society, and other bodies. There are ten flags, to indicate the ten numerals, and containing certain definite arrangements of the bright colours. Combinations of three or four of these indicate numbers up to ten thousand. There is a code of signals, containing the names of British men-of-war, those of French men-of-war, those of American men-of war, those of British merchant ships; the names of lighthouses, headlands, ports, and harbours; a vocabulary of single words; and a list of sentences useful to seamen. The number altogether is prodigious, amounting, in one of the editions of the code, to more than forty thousand distinct signals; and all due to the red, white (or yellow), and blue, taken in relation to number, and sizes, and shapes, and positions!


As evidence of the pitiable ignorance in which a large number of the inhabitants of this intelligent country are at present languishing respecting the most essential branch of the social duties of life, the following harrowing cases have recently come to light:

A. B. is a married lady; age not given. Has been married five years. Her husband has been in the habit, during that time, of giving dinner parties, to strengthen, as he says, his professional connections. Doesn't believe, for her part, that they ever did any good, and thinks balls much more likely. (Here the witness began to wander, and was brought back with difficulty to the matter of investigation). During the whole of her married life has been compelled to carve at table in consequence of Mr. B.'s deplorable ignorance. Is in delicate health, and is advised by her medical attendant to breakfast in her own apartment; but is compelled to descend every morning, to protect the symmetry of the ham from his all-maiming hands. Mr. B. is considered a well-informed man, but cannot carve a fowl. Took what they call honours, she believes, at college, but doesn't know the difference between a mayonnaise and a marinade. Is of opinion that the government ought to do something in the matter, and is satisfied that the evil is of wide growth.

C. D. is a young gentleman, aged twenty-four. Goes to dinner-parties sometimes, but often er to balls. Can carve, of course; has done so frequently. Don't mean to say he is a good carver. (This witness gave his evidence with considerable hesitation.) Can carve fowls at supper. Of course he can; he's sure he can; has done so hundreds of times. Admits that they had been previously cut up and tied together with white satin ribbon. Well, then! carved them, in fact, by untying the ribbon. Has offered, at a dinner party, to relieve his hostess of a partridge. Hasn't done so often. On her declining, upon the plea of not wishing to trouble him, has not repeated the offer. Doesn't think he was bound to have done so. Can help potatoes, of course, but admits doubts about asparagus. Would use a spoon for both purposes. Thinks carving a bore, and ought always to be done at the sideboard. (Here the witness became so restless, that any further examination was found impracticable.)

In order to remedy the deplorable state of social ignorance evinced by these and other equally distressing cases it is proposed that a carver's college, supported by donations and annual subscriptions, be founded in a central situation, and select classes opened for the instruction of adult pupils.

The course will commence with instruction in the art of cutting bread, and will proceed, by easy stages, until the removal of the backbone of a hare shall be to him, as Butler has it,

No more difficult
Than to a blackbird 'tis to whistle.

Arrangements might be made for securing a supply of jointed wooden fowls, practicable raised pies, and other culinary dummies upon which the first essays of the uninitiated might be made, at a trifling pecuniary outlay. It might also be desirable to engage the services of some eminent comparative anatomist, to deliver a course of lectures on the structure of the lower orders of the animal world.

As soon as the students shall have become theoretically acquainted with the ordinary duties of the table, arrangements might be made for apprenticing them, for limited periods, to some dining-room keeper of eminence, with a view to afford them an opportunity of acquiring a practical knowledge of the subject by experimentalising upon real rounds of beef and genuine