As a friend jovially shook me by the hand yesterday, he confided that the selfsame hand as was now clasping mine had but two days previously shaken the hand belonging to no less a personage than our happy and glorious monarch herself. He then went on to make a remark which has been troubling me ever since, namely that it has been calculated, by someone with little better to do, that everyone in the country is connected to HM by a chain of handshake partners, a chain which never exceeds a total of six handshakes. I am thus now one of the relatively few of her subjects who can claim a link at just second hand (as it were). This raises something of a dilemma.
On the one hand (the right hand, the one that did the shaking), now that I have this qualification I feel obliged to put it to good use. Think of all those lives which I could make so much happier if only I were to greet everyone whom I meet with a firm handshake, and reveal with a flourish that, through my good offices, they are now but three handshakes away from the Queen, a full fifty per cent of the six enjoyed by the common herd. Surely I should become the most popular man in the country; everyone would be ringing my doorbell and asking me to clasp their hand in mine. And I, being a generous chap, would oblige them with cheerful good humour. In fact, I'd wager that the interest generated would be such that I could set up a hand-shaking business at £1 a go - an entrepreneurial coup which could earn me millions in a matter of weeks, a fortune, indeed, to rival Her Majesty's. After all, the overheads would be virtually non-existent.
Yet, on the other hand (the left one this time), what of that poor egghead in his laboratory or thinkery or wherever it is that such people do their ovicapitular things? Think of his anger and frustration as, after spending year upon year in dedicated, nose-to-the-grindstone toil, he sees me single-handedly (if you will forgive me that pun) going about destroying his reputation - and perhaps the laws of mathematics too, for all I know - by deliberately and systematically reducing the distance between monarch and subjects. For he would look a bit of a fool, to say the least, if his fellow-workers were to discover (in the all-too-brief intervals afforded by the calculation of such arcana as the date on which, based upon current publication trends, the British Library will require shelfspace in excess of the distance from Euston Road to Mars) that his life's work has now been proved utterly worthless because the entire population is in a position to prove that none of its number is at any more than five removes from the monarch's right hand.
I could not live with the guilt of depriving that man of his daily bread, and besides, he might find out where I live, so from now on I shall be keeping my hands to myself.
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