Of All Things - Cover

Of All Things

Public Domain

Chapter 11: the Community Masque as a Substitute for War

With War and Licker removed from the list of “What’s Going on This Week,” how will mankind spend the long summer evenings? Some advocate another war. Others recommend a piece of yeast in a glass of grape-juice. The effect is said to be equally devastating.

But there is a new school, led by Percy Mackaye, which brings forward a scheme for occupying the spare time of the world which has, at least, the savor of novelty. It presents the community masque as a substitute for war. Whenever a neighborhood, or county, feels the old craving for blood-letting and gas-bombing coming on, a town meeting is to be called and plans drawn up for the presentation of a masque entitled “Democracy” or “From Chrysalis to Butterfly.” In this simple way, one and all will be kept out in the open air and will get to know each other better, thus relieving their bellicose cravings right there on the village green among themselves, without dragging a foreign nation into the mess at all. The slogan is “Fight Your Neighbors First. Why Go Abroad for War?”

The community masque idea is all right in itself. There certainly can be no harm in dressing up to represent the Three Platoon System, or the Spirit of Machinery, and reciting free verse to the effect that:

“I am the Three Platoon System. Firemen I represent,

And the clash and clang of the Hook and Ladder Company.”

No one could find fault with that, provided that those taking part in the thing do so of their own free will and understand what they are doing.

The trouble with the community masque is not so much with the masque as with the community. For while the masque may be a five star sporting extra hot from the presses of Percy Mackaye, the community is the same old community that has been getting together for inter-Sunday School track-meets and Wig and Footlight Club Amateur Theatricals for years and years, and the result has always been the same.

Let us say, for instance, that the community of Wimblehurst begins to feel the lack of a good, rousing war to keep the Ladies’ Guild and the men over thirty-five busy. What could be more natural than to call in Mr. Mackaye, and say: “What have you got in the way of a nice masque for a suburban district containing many socially possible people and others who might do very well in ensemble work?”

Something entitled “The March of Civilization” is selected, because it calls for Boy Scout uniforms and a Goddess of Liberty costume, all of which are on hand, together with lots of Red Cross regalia, left over from the war drives. The plot of the thing concerns the adventures of the young girl Civilization who leaves her home in the Neolithic Period accompanied only by her faithful old nurse Language and Language’s little children the Vowels and the Consonants. She is followed all the way from the Neolithic Age to the Present Time by the evil spirit, Indigestion, but, thanks to the helpful offices of the Spirits of Capillary Attraction, and Indestructibility of Matter, she overcomes all obstacles and reaches her goal, The League of Nations, at last.

But during the course of her wanderings, there have been all kinds of sub-plots which bring the element of suspense into the thing. For instance, it seems that this person Indigestion has found out something about Civilization’s father which gives him the upper hand over the girl, and he, together with the two gunmen, Heat and Humidity, arrange all kinds of traps for the poor thing to fall into. But she takes counsel with the kind old lady, Self-Determination of Peoples, and is considerably helped by the low comedy character, Obesity, who always appears at just the right moment. So in the end, there is a big ensemble, involving Boy Scouts, representatives of those Allies who happen to be in good standing in that particular month, seven boys and girls personifying the twelve months of the year, Red Cross workers, the Mayor’s Committee of Welcome, a selection of Major Prophets, children typifying the ten different ways of cooking an egg, and the all-pervading Spirit of the Post-Office Department, seated on a daïs in the rear and watching over the assemblage with kindly eyes and an armful of bricks.

This, then, is in brief outline, “The March of Civilization,” selected for presentation by the Community Council of Wimblehurst. It is to be done on the edge of the woods which line the golf-course, and on paper, the thing shapes up rather well.

The source of this story is SciFi-Stories

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