Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of A. A. Milne > Text of Didactic Novel

A short story by A. A. Milne

A Didactic Novel

Title:     A Didactic Novel
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by Milne]

[In humble imitation of Mr. EUSTACE MILES'S serial in _Healthward Ho!_ (Help!), and in furtherance of the great principle of self-culture]



Roger Dangerfield, the famous barrister, is passing through Gordon Square one December night when he suddenly comes across the dead body of a man of about forty years. To his horror he recognises it to be that of his friend, Sir Eustace Butt, M.P., who has been stabbed in seven places. Much perturbed by the incident, Roger goes home and decides to lead a new life. Hitherto he had been notorious in the London clubs for his luxurious habits, but now he rises at 7.30 every morning and breathes evenly through the nose for five minutes before dressing.

After three weeks of the breathing exercise, Roger adds a few simple lunges to his morning drill. Detective-Inspector Frenchard tells him that he has a clue to the death of Sir Eustace, but that the murderer is still at large. Roger sells his London house and takes a cottage in the country, where he practises the simple life. He is now lunging ten times to the right, ten times to the left and ten times backwards every morning, besides breathing lightly through the nose during his bath.

One day he meets a Yogi, who tells him that if he desires to track the murderer down he must learn concentration. He suggests that Roger should start by concentrating on the word "wardrobe," and then leaves this story and goes back to India. Roger sells his house in the country and comes back to town, where he concentrates for half an hour daily on the word "wardrobe," besides, of course, persevering with his breathing and lunging exercises. After a heavy morning's drill he is passing through Gordon Square when he comes across the body of his old friend, Sir Joshua Tubbs, M.P., who has been stabbed nine times. Roger returns home quickly, and decides to practise breathing through the ears.



The appalling death of Sir Joshua Tubbs, M.P., following so closely upon that of Sir Eustace Butt, M.P., meant the beginning of a new life for Roger. His morning drill now took the following form:--

On rising at 7.30 a.m. he sipped a glass of distilled water, at the same time concentrating on the word "wardrobe." This lasted for ten minutes, after which he stood before the open window for five minutes, breathing alternately through the right ear and the left. A vigorous series of lunges followed, together with the simple kicking exercises detailed in chapter LIV.

These over, there was a brief interval of rest, during which our hero, breathing heavily through the back of the head, concentrated on the word "dough-nut." Refreshed by the mental discipline, he rose and stood lightly on the ball of his left foot, at the same time massaging himself vigorously between the shoulders with his right. After five minutes of this he would rest again, lying motionless except for a circular movement of the ears. A cold bath, a brisk rub down and another glass of distilled water completed the morning training.

But it is time we got on with the story. The murder of Sir Joshua Tubbs, M.P. had sent a thrill of horror through England, and hundreds of people wrote indignant letters to the Press, blaming the police for their neglect to discover the assassin. Detective-Inspector Frenchard, however, was hard at work, and he was inspired by the knowledge that he could always rely upon the assistance of Roger Dangerfield, the famous barrister, who had sworn to track the murderer down.

To prepare himself for the forthcoming struggle Roger decided, one sunny day in June, to give up the meat diet upon which he had relied so long, and to devote himself entirely to a vegetable _regime_. With that thoroughness which was now becoming a characteristic of him, he left London and returned to the country, with the intention of making a study of food values.



It was a beautiful day in July and the country was looking its best. Roger rose at 7.30 a.m. and performed those gentle, health-giving exercises which have already been described in previous chapters. On this glorious morning, however, he added a simple exercise for the elbows to his customary ones, and went down to his breakfast as hungry as the proverbial hunter. A substantial meal of five dried beans and a stewed nut awaited him in the fine oak-panelled library; and as he did ample justice to the banquet his thoughts went back to the terrible days when he lived the luxurious meat-eating life of the ordinary man-about-town; to the evening when he discovered the body of Sir Eustace Butt, M.P., and swore to bring the assassin to vengeance; to the day when----

Suddenly he realised that his thoughts were wandering. With iron will he controlled them and concentrated fixedly on the word "dough-nut" for twelve minutes. Greatly refreshed, he rose and strode out into the sun.

At the door of his cottage a girl was standing. She was extremely beautiful, and Roger's heart would have jumped if he had not had that organ (thanks to Twisting Exercise 23) under perfect control.

"Is this the way to Denfield?" she asked.

"Straight on," said Roger.

He returned to his cottage, breathing heavily through his ears.



Six months went by, and the murderer of Sir Joshua Tubbs, M.P. and Sir Eustace Butt, M.P. still remained at large. Roger had sold his cottage in the country and was now in London, performing his exercises with regularity, concentrating daily upon the words "wardrobe," "dough-nut," and "wasp," and living entirely upon proteids.

One day he had the idea that he would start a restaurant in the East-End for the sale of meatless foods. This would bring him in touch with the lower classes, among whom he expected to find the assassin of his two oldest friends.

In less than three or four years the shop was a tremendous success. In spite of this, however, Roger did not neglect his exercises; taking particular care to keep the toes well turned in when lunging ten times backwards. (Exercise 17.) Once, to his joy, the girl whom he had first met outside his country cottage came in and had her simple lunch of Smilopat (ninepence the dab) at his shop. That evening he lunged twelve times to the right instead of ten.

One day business had taken Roger to the West-End. As he was returning home at midnight through Gordon Square, he suddenly stopped and staggered back.

A body lay on the ground before him!

Hastily turning it over upon its face, Roger gave a cry of horror.

It was Detective-Inspector Frenchard! Stabbed in eleven places!

Roger hurried madly home, and devised an entirely new set of exercises for his morning drill. A full description of these, however, must be reserved for another chapter.

(_And so on for ever._)

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: Didactic Novel