Some months ago my wife said to me, “Mr Horswell, do you think we might get a telephone?”
“That’s a very good question, Mrs Horswell,” I said as I smoked my pipe. “I understand that this new technology is quite the thing, and yet I can scarcely imagine who might want to call us.”
We decided in the end to have a telephone put in our house, in order to provide some measure of satisfaction of my wife’s curiosity, notwithstanding my considerable reservations.
We received a number of calls while we had the telephone. A good proportion of those calls were from businesses I wished to have nothing to do with: mostly persons of ill repute or low character seeking to ply their unsavoury wares.
I also received a most concerning call from a foreign gentleman who tried to tell me that my typewriter was in urgent need of maintenance. I found his arrogance and insolence utterly insufferable. Imagine telephoning a man while he is in the middle of hosting a meeting of the Patriotic Temperance Committee!
You may be certain that I left that foreign gentleman in no doubt with respect to my views on being disturbed.
“You, sir, are a rogue and a scoundrel!” I said loudly (I admit that I quite lost my temper). “If you wish to discuss with me my typewriter or its condition, or any other matter of business, kindly make an appointment with my secretary. But please note that I only do business with persons from the white races. Good day, sir!”
I myself used the telephone device to make a call but once, to arrange a meeting with the chairman of the Anti-Catholic League, who also happens to be my local Member of Parliament. But my wife appeared delighted with this new intruder on our previously serene and sedate lives, and on many an evening I would return home late to find her affixed to the device, gossiping like a fishwife about various neighbourhood persons and their indiscretions and infidelities.
One day I decided I could no longer tolerate this intrusion on my life. I am a man of routine, and I expect my household to be ordered and settled. “I say, Mrs Horswell,” I said to her as I stood in the doorway and removed my coat. “I would be most grateful if you could attend to my dinner without delay. It is late, and I am most tired.”
“In a minute,” she replied, before returning to her call.
“Mrs Horswell!” I retorted. “I am outraged. Attend to your duty, good lady! I will not ask again.” I took the receiver from her hands and returned it to its holder.
Then from her mouth sprang such a torrent of vile words that I might have been forgiven for thinking I was in the company of a crew of drunken sailors. She told me, using the most scandalous language imaginable, that I was not to tell her what to do any longer, and that she was leaving me that very evening to live in infamy with another woman. I quite fainted from the shock and outrage.
When I came to I discovered that Mrs Horswell had gone, and I have not seen her since. This is all a consequence of our having that dreadful telephone put in, so I have had the accursed thing taken out. I shall not be getting another one, as I have learned my lesson.
While Mrs Horswell’s behaviour has shocked and disgraced my good name (imagine living so openly with a lady of Lesbos! How will I show my face again at church?), I hold myself entirely to blame. I allowed myself to succumb to my wife’s foolish whims with regard to that evil device, when we men of the world know all too well that the weaker sex cannot be expected to fully appreciate the consequences of their actions.
Mrs Horswell may be an excellent cook and housewife (when she is not outraging my reputation with her infamous amours), but what can a woman know of the outside world? The telephone exposed her to all its ugliness and sordidness, and now I am without a housekeeper. Who will cook for me? This is quite unacceptable!
I shall be instructing my solicitor on Monday morning to issue legal proceedings against the telephone company concerned; for their infernal contraption has sullied my reputation and made my life quite intolerable. I do not even have a clean shirt to wear, and I dare not show my face at the bridge club. How can I live like this? Confound it!