If it hadn't been for the chickcharneys, there might never have been a war at all and peace in our time might actually have been achieved at Munich. But the chickcharneys, who live on trees in the Bahamas' Andros Island, are fierce little men for all their 18 inches of height (see cut). They hate to be disturbed, and they're not likely to forget a man who chops down their favorite tree. Neville Chamberlain should have realized that, when he was a young man managing his father's sisal plantation in Andros.
But Chamberlain was no appeaser in those days; besides, there are few on Andros, even today, who have actually seen a chickcharney (first cousin to a leprechaun). Some time ago a native awoke in a thicket at sunrise, after a rum-soaked night, and saw them by the thousands at their morning ritualcarrying snakes to hundreds of tiny cauldrons on the beach, anointing their supple bodies with snake oil, dressing themselves each with an almond leaf in front and an almond leaf behind, and swinging off through the trees like tiny Tarzans to hunt game with bows & arrows.
But most Andros natives, although they know well the little men with their pink, staring eyes, toothless mouths and flame-red beards, avert their eyes when they feel a chickcharney near by, for if you bump into one face to face your only hope is to press thumb and little finger into your palm and hold up the other three fingers. Then the chickcharney may take you for a comrade; he himself has only three fingers or three toes on each limb.
But there is no chance whatever for a man who destroys a chickcharney's home; so when young Chamberlain insisted on cutting down a certain tree to build a railroad across his farm, the wise Andros natives refused to do it. "Boss man, he lookin' for trouble," they said. Chamberlain hired a crew from Nassau and cut down the tree anyhow. Soon after, of course, his farm failed.
Neville Chamberlain went back to England then, and many years later an Andros native, who had been on hand at the chopping, dropped over to Nassau and learned that Britain was at war and Chamberlain Prime Minister. "We gwine lost dat war," said Old Mose. "Chickcharneys doan lak dat man." And for a while it seemed he was right.
Then Churchill took over. "Now," said Mose, "we gwine win. Chickcharneys got no grudge dere." And with Chamberlain's abandoned railroad track melted down and sent to Britain for scrap, Mose's prediction proved entirely correct.