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Title: Mince Pie
Author: Morley, Christopher, 1890-1957
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mince Pie" ***

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MINCE PIE

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY

TO

F.M. AND L.J.M.

[Illustration]


INSTRUCTIONS

This book is intended to be read in bed. Please do not attempt to read
it anywhere else.

In order to obtain the best results for all concerned do not read a
borrowed copy, but buy one. If the bed is a double bed, buy two.

Do not lend a copy under any circumstances, but refer your friends to
the nearest bookshop, where they may expiate their curiosity.

Most of these sketches were first printed in the Philadelphia _Evening
Public Ledger_; others appeared in _The Bookman_, the Boston _Evening
Transcript_, _Life_, and _The Smart Set_. To all these publications I am
indebted for permission to reprint.

If one asks what excuse there can be for prolonging the existence of
these trifles, my answer is that there is no excuse. But a copy on the
bedside shelf may possibly pave the way to easy slumber. Only a mind
"debauched by learning" (in Doctor Johnson's phrase) will scrutinize
them too anxiously.

It seems to me, on reading the proofs, that the skit entitled "Trials of
a President Travelling Abroad" is a faint and subconscious echo of a
passage in a favorite of my early youth, _Happy Thoughts_, by the late
F.C. Burnand. If this acknowledgment should move anyone to read that
delicious classic of pleasantry, the innocent plunder may be pardonable.

And now a word of obeisance. I take this opportunity of thanking several
gentle overseers and magistrates who have been too generously friendly
to these eccentric gestures. These are Mr. Robert Cortes Holliday,
editor of _The Bookman_ and victim of the novelette herein entitled "Owd
Bob"; Mr. Edwin F. Edgett, literary editor of The Boston _Transcript_,
who has often permitted me to cut outrageous capers in his hospitable
columns; and Mr. Thomas L. Masson, of _Life_, who allows me to reprint
several of the shorter pieces. But most of all I thank Mr. David E.
Smiley, editor of the Philadelphia _Evening Public Ledger_, for whom
the majority of these sketches were written, and whose patience and
kindness have been a frequent amazement to

THE AUTHOR.

PHILADELPHIA _September, 1919_

[Illustration]


CONTENTS

                                         PAGE

ON FILLING AN INK-WELL                    17

OLD THOUGHTS FOR CHRISTMAS                24

CHRISTMAS CARDS                           31

ON UNANSWERING LETTERS                    35

A LETTER TO FATHER TIME                   41

WHAT MEN LIVE BY                          48

THE UNNATURAL NATURALIST                  54

SITTING IN THE BARBER'S CHAIR             60

BROWN EYES AND EQUINOXES                  64

163 INNOCENT OLD MEN                      69

A TRAGIC SMELL IN MARATHON                75

BULLIED BY THE BIRDS                      81

A MESSAGE FOR BOONVILLE                   87

MAKING MARATHON SAFE FOR THE URCHIN       92

THE SMELL OF SMELLS                       98

A JAPANESE BACHELOR                      102

TWO DAYS WE CELEBRATE                    117

THE URCHIN AT THE ZOO                    132

FELLOW CRAFTSMEN                         139

THE KEY RING                             144

"OWD BOB"                                150

THE APPLE THAT NO ONE ATE                167

AS TO RUMORS                             174

OUR MOTHERS                              181

GREETING TO AMERICAN ANGLERS             186

MRS. IZAAK WALTON WRITES A
  LETTER TO HER MOTHER                   190

TRUTH                                    193

THE TRAGEDY OF WASHINGTON SQUARE         195

IF MR. WILSON WERE THE WEATHER MAN       202

SYNTAX FOR CYNICS                        205

THE TRUTH AT LAST                        209

FIXED IDEAS                              211

TRIALS OF A PRESIDENT TRAVELLING ABROAD  215

DIARY OF A PUBLISHER'S OFFICE BOY        217

THE DOG'S COMMANDMENTS                   219

THE VALUE OF CRITICISM                   221

A MARRIAGE SERVICE FOR COMMUTERS         224

THE SUNNY SIDE OF GRUB STREET            226

BURIAL SERVICE FOR A NEWSPAPER JOKE      236

ADVICE TO THOSE VISITING A BABY          238

ABOU BEN WOODROW                         240

MY MAGNIFICENT SYSTEM                    242

LETTERS TO CYNTHIA

  1 IN PRAISE OF BOOBS                   245

  2 SIMPLIFICATION                       250

TO AN UNKNOWN DAMSEL                     256

THOUGHTS ON SETTING AN ALARM CLOCK       258

SONGS IN A SHOWER BATH                   259

ON DEDICATING A NEW TEAPOT               261

THE UNFORGIVABLE SYNTAX                  263

VISITING POETS                           264

A GOOD HOME IN THE SUBURBS               270

WALT WHITMAN MINIATURES                  272

ON DOORS                                 292



MINCE PIE


ON FILLING AN INK-WELL


Those who buy their ink in little stone jugs may prefer to do so because
the pottle reminds them of cruiskeen lawn or ginger beer (with its
wire-bound cork), but they miss a noble delight. Ink should be bought in
the tall, blue glass, quart bottle (with the ingenious non-drip spout),
and once every three weeks or so, when you fill your ink-well, it is
your privilege to elevate the flask against the brightness of a window,
and meditate (with a breath of sadness) on the joys and problems that
sacred fluid holds in solution.

How blue it shines toward the light! Blue as lupin or larkspur, or
cornflower--aye, and even so blue art thou, my scriven, to think how far
the written page falls short of the bright ecstasy of thy dream! In the
bottle, what magnificence of unpenned stuff lies cool and liquid: what
fluency of essay, what fonts of song. As the bottle glints, blue as a
squill or a hyacinth, blue as the meadows of Elysium or the eyes of
girls loved by young poets, meseems the racing pen might almost gain
upon the thoughts that are turning the bend in the road. A jolly throng,
those thoughts: I can see them talking and laughing together. But when
pen reaches the road's turning, the thoughts are gone far ahead: their
delicate figures are silhouettes against the sky.

It is a sacramental matter, this filling the ink-well. Is there a
writer, however humble, who has not poured into his writing pot, with
the ink, some wistful hopes or prayers for what may emerge from that
dark source? Is there not some particular reverence due the ink-well,
some form of propitiation to humbug the powers of evil and constraint
that devil the journalist? Satan hovers near the ink-pot. Luther solved
the matter by throwing the well itself at the apparition. That savors to
me too much of homeopathy. If Satan ever puts his face over my desk, I
shall hurl a volume of Harold Bell Wright at him.

But what becomes of the ink-pots of glory? The conduit from which
Boswell drew, for Charles Dilly in The Poultry, the great river of his
Johnson? The well (was it of blue china?) whence flowed _Dream Children:
a Revery_? (It was written on folio ledger sheets from the East India
House--I saw the manuscript only yesterday in a room at Daylesford,
Pennsylvania, where much of the richest ink of the last two centuries is
lovingly laid away.) The pot of chuckling fluid where Harry Fielding
dipped his pen to tell the history of a certain foundling; the ink-wells
of the Café de la Source on the Boul' Mich'--do they by any chance
remember which it was that R.L.S. used? One of the happiest tremors of
my life was when I went to that café and called for a bock and writing
material, just because R.L.S. had once written letters there. And the
ink-well Poe used at that boarding-house in Greenwich Street, New York
(April, 1844), when he wrote to his dear Muddy (his mother-in-law) to
describe how he and Virginia had reached a haven of square meals. That
hopeful letter, so perfect now in pathos--

    For breakfast we had excellent-flavored coffee, hot and strong--not
    very clear and no great deal of cream--veal cutlets, elegant ham
    and eggs and nice bread and butter. I never sat down to a more
    plentiful or a nicer breakfast. I wish you could have seen the
    eggs--and the great dishes of meat. Sis [his wife] is delighted, and
    we are both in excellent spirits. She has coughed hardly any and had
    no night sweat. She is now busy mending my pants, which I tore
    against a nail. I went out last night and bought a skein of silk, a
    skein of thread, two buttons, a pair of slippers, and a tin pan for
    the stove. The fire kept in all night. We have now got four dollars
    and a half left. To-morrow I am going to try and borrow three
    dollars, so that I may have a fortnight to go upon. I feel in
    excellent spirits, and haven't drank a drop--so that I hope soon to
    get out of trouble.

[Illustration]

Yes, let us clear the typewriter off the table: an ink-well is a sacred
thing.

Do you ever stop to think, when you see the grimy spattered desks of a
public post-office, how many eager or puzzled human hearts have tried,
in those dingy little ink-cups, to set themselves right with fortune?
What blissful meetings have been appointed, what scribblings of pain and
sorrow, out of those founts of common speech. And the ink-wells on hotel
counters--does not the public dipping place of the Bellevue Hotel,
Boston, win a new dignity in my memory when I know (as I learned lately)
that Rupert Brooke registered there in the spring of 1914? I remember,
too, a certain pleasant vibration when, signing my name one day in the
Bellevue's book, I found Miss Agnes Repplier's autograph a little above
on the same page.

Among our younger friends, Vachel Lindsay comes to mind as one who has
done honor to the ink-well. His _Apology for the Bottle Volcanic_ is in
his best flow of secret smiling (save an unfortunate dilution of Riley):

  Sometimes I dip my pen and find the bottle full of fire,
  The salamanders flying forth I cannot but admire....
  O sad deceiving ink, as bad as liquor in its way--
  All demons of a bottle size have pranced from you to-day,
  And seized my pen for hobby-horse as witches ride a broom,
  And left a trail of brimstone words and blots and gobs of gloom.
  And yet when I am extra good ... [_here I omit the transfusion
    of Riley_]
  My bottle spreads a rainbow mist, and from the vapor fine
  Ten thousand troops from fairyland come riding in a line.

I suppose it is the mark of a trifling mind, yet I like to hear of the
little particulars that surrounded those whose pens struck sparks. It
is Boswell that leads us into that habit of thought. I like to know what
the author wore, how he sat, what the furniture of his desk and chamber,
who cooked his meals for him, and with what appetite he approached them.
"The mind soars by an effort to the grand and lofty" (so dipped Hazlitt
in some favored ink-bottle)--"it is at home in the groveling, the
disagreeable, and the little."

I like to think, as I look along book shelves, that every one of these
favorites was born out of an ink-well. I imagine the hopes and visions
that thronged the author's mind as he filled his pot and sliced the
quill. What various fruits have flowed from those ink-wells of the past:
for some, comfort and honor, quiet homes and plenteousness; for others,
bitterness and disappointment. I have seen a copy of Poe's poems,
published in 1845 by Putnam, inscribed by the author. The volume had
been bought for $2,500. Think what that would have meant to Poe himself.

Some such thoughts as these twinkled in my head as I held up the Pierian
bottle against the light, admired the deep blue of it, and filled my
ink-well. And then I took up my pen, which wrote:

A GRACE BEFORE WRITING

On Filling an Ink-well

  This is a sacrament, I think!
    Holding the bottle toward the light,
  As blue as lupin gleams the ink:
    May Truth be with me as I write!

  That small dark cistern may afford
    Reunion with some vanished friend,--
  And with this ink I have just poured
    May none but honest words be penned!



OLD THOUGHTS FOR CHRISTMAS

[Illustration]

A new thought for Christmas? Who ever wanted a new thought for
Christmas? That man should be shot who would try to brain one. It is an
impertinence even to write about Christmas. Christmas is a matter that
humanity has taken so deeply to heart that we will not have our festival
meddled with by bungling hands. No efficiency expert would dare tell us
that Christmas is inefficient; that the clockwork toys will soon be
broken; that no one can eat a peppermint cane a yard long; that the
curves on our chart of kindness should be ironed out so that the "peak
load" of December would be evenly distributed through the year. No
sourface dare tell us that we drive postmen and shopgirls into
Bolshevism by overtaxing them with our frenzied purchasing or that it is
absurd to send to a friend in a steam-heated apartment in a prohibition
republic a bright little picture card of a gentleman in Georgian costume
drinking ale by a roaring fire of logs. None in his senses, I say, would
emit such sophistries, for Christmas is a law unto itself and is not
conducted by card-index. Even the postmen and shopgirls, severe though
their labors, would not have matters altered. There is none of us who does
not enjoy hardship and bustle that contribute to the happiness of
others.

There is an efficiency of the heart that transcends and contradicts that
of the head. Things of the spirit differ from things material in that
the more you give the more you have. The comedian has an immensely
better time than the audience. To modernize the adage, to give is more
fun than to receive. Especially if you have wit enough to give to those
who don't expect it. Surprise is the most primitive joy of humanity.
Surprise is the first reason for a baby's laughter. And at Christmas
time, when we are all a little childish I hope, surprise is the flavor
of our keenest joys. We all remember the thrill with which we once
heard, behind some closed door, the rustle and crackle of paper parcels
being tied up. We knew that we were going to be surprised--a delicious
refinement and luxuriant seasoning of the emotion!

Christmas, then, conforms to this deeper efficiency of the heart. We are
not methodical in kindness; we do not "fill orders" for consignments of
affection. We let our kindness ramble and explore; old forgotten
friendships pop up in our minds and we mail a card to Harry Hunt, of
Minneapolis (from whom we have not heard for half a dozen years), "just
to surprise him." A business man who shipped a carload of goods to a
customer, just to surprise him, would soon perish of abuse. But no one
ever refuses a shipment of kindness, because no one ever feels
overstocked with it. It is coin of the realm, current everywhere. And we
do not try to measure our kindnesses to the capacity of our friends.
Friendship is not measurable in calories. How many times this year have
you "turned" your stock of kindness?

It is the gradual approach to the Great Surprise that lends full savor
to the experience. It has been thought by some that Christmas would gain
in excitement if no one knew when it was to be; if (keeping the festival
within the winter months) some public functionary (say, Mr. Burleson)
were to announce some unexpected morning, "A week from to-day will be
Christmas!" Then what a scurrying and joyful frenzy--what a festooning
of shops and mad purchasing of presents! But it would not be half the
fun of the slow approach of the familiar date. All through November and
December we watch it drawing nearer; we see the shop windows begin to
glow with red and green and lively colors; we note the altered demeanor
of bellboys and janitors as the Date flows quietly toward us; we pass
through the haggard perplexity of "Only Four Days More" when we suddenly
realize it is too late to make our shopping the display of lucid
affectionate reasoning we had contemplated, and clutch wildly at
grotesque tokens--and then (sweetest of all) comes the quiet calmness of
Christmas Eve. Then, while we decorate the tree or carry parcels of
tissue paper and red ribbon to a carefully prepared list of aunts and
godmothers, or reckon up a little pile of bright quarters on the
dining-room table in preparation for to-morrow's largesse--then it is
that the brief, poignant and precious sweetness of the experience claims
us at the full. Then we can see that all our careful wisdom and
shrewdness were folly and stupidity; and we can understand the meaning
of that Great Surprise--that where we planned wealth we found ourselves
poor; that where we thought to be impoverished we were enriched. The
world is built upon a lovely plan if we take time to study the
blue-prints of the heart.

Humanity must be forgiven much for having invented Christmas. What does
it matter that a great poet and philosopher urges "the abandonment of
the masculine pronoun in allusions to the First or Fundamental Energy"?
Theology is not saddled upon pronouns; the best doctrine is but three
words, God is Love. Love, or kindness, is fundamental energy enough to
satisfy any brooder. And Christmas Day means the birth of a child; that
is to say, the triumph of life and hope over suffering.

Just for a few hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day the stupid,
harsh mechanism of the world runs down and we permit ourselves to live
according to untrammeled common sense, the unconquerable efficiency of
good will. We grant ourselves the complete and selfish pleasure of
loving others better than ourselves. How odd it seems, how unnaturally
happy we are! We feel there must be some mistake, and rather yearn for
the familiar frictions and distresses. Just for a few hours we "purge
out of every heart the lurking grudge." We know then that hatred is a
form of illness; that suspicion and pride are only fear; that the
rascally acts of others are perhaps, in the queer webwork of human
relations, due to some calousness of our own. Who knows? Some man may
have robbed a bank in Nashville or fired a gun in Louvain because we
looked so intolerably smug in Philadelphia!

So at Christmas we tap that vast reservoir of wisdom and strength--call
it efficiency or the fundamental energy if you will--Kindness. And our
kindness, thank heaven, is not the placid kindness of angels; it is
veined with human blood; it is full of absurdities, irritations,
frustrations. A man 100 per cent. kind would be intolerable. As a wise
teacher said, the milk of human kindness easily curdles into cheese. We
like our friends' affections because we know the tincture of mortal acid
is in them. We remember the satirist who remarked that to love one's
self is the beginning of a lifelong romance. We know this lifelong
romance will resume its sway; we shall lose our tempers, be obstinate,
peevish and crank. We shall fidget and fume while waiting our turn in
the barber's chair; we shall argue and muddle and mope. And yet, for a
few hours, what a happy vision that was! And we turn, on Christmas Eve,
to pages which those who speak our tongue immortally associate with the
season--the pages of Charles Dickens. Love of humanity endures as long
as the thing it loves, and those pages are packed as full of it as a
pound cake is full of fruit. A pound cake will keep moist three years; a
sponge cake is dry in three days.

And now humanity has its most beautiful and most appropriate Christmas
gift--Peace. The Magi of Versailles and Washington having unwound for us
the tissue paper and red ribbon (or red tape) from this greatest of all
gifts, let us in days to come measure up to what has been born through
such anguish and horror. If war is illness and peace is health, let us
remember also that health is not merely a blessing to be received intact
once and for all. It is not a substance but a condition, to be
maintained only by sound régime, self-discipline and simplicity. Let the
Wise Men not be too wise; let them remember those other Wise Men who,
after their long journey and their sage surmisings, found only a Child.
On this evening it serves us nothing to pile up filing cases and rolltop
desks toward the stars, for in our city square the Star itself has
fallen, and shines upon the Tree.



CHRISTMAS CARDS


By a stroke of good luck we found a little shop where a large overstock
of Christmas cards was selling at two for five. The original 5's and
10's were still penciled on them, and while we were debating whether to
rub them off a thought occurred to us. When will artists and printers
design us some Christmas cards that will be honest and appropriate to
the time we live in? Never was the Day of Peace and Good Will so full of
meaning as this year; and never did the little cards, charming as they
were, seem so formal, so merely pretty, so devoid of imagination, so
inadequate to the festival.

This is an age of strange and stirring beauty, of extraordinary romance
and adventure, of new joys and pains. And yet our Christmas artists have
nothing more to offer us than the old formalism of Yuletide convention.
After a considerable amount of searching in the bazaars we have found
not one Christmas card that showed even a glimmering of the true
romance, which is to see the beauty or wonder or peril that lies around
us. Most of the cards hark back to the stage-coach up to its hubs in
snow, or the blue bird, with which Maeterlinck penalized us (what has a
blue bird got to do with Christmas?), or the open fireplace and jug of
mulled claret. Now these things are merry enough in their way, or they
were once upon a time; but we plead for an honest romanticism in
Christmas cards that will express something of the entrancing color and
circumstance that surround us to-day. Is not a commuter's train, stalled
in a drift, far more lively to our hearts than the mythical stage-coach?
Or an inter-urban trolley winging its way through the dusk like a casket
of golden light? Or even a country flivver, loaded down with parcels and
holly and the Yuletide keg of root beer? Root beer may be but meager
flaggonage compared to mulled claret, but at any rate 'tis honest, 'tis
actual, 'tis tangible and potable. And where, among all the Christmas
cards, is the airplane, that most marvelous and heart-seizing of all our
triumphs? Where is the stately apartment house, looming like Gibraltar
against a sunset sky? Must we, even at Christmas time, fool ourselves
with a picturesqueness that is gone, seeing nothing of what is around
us?

It is said that man's material achievements have outrun his imagination;
that poets and painters are too puny to grapple with the world as it
is. Certainly a visitor from another sphere, looking on our fantastic
and exciting civilization, would find little reflection of it in the
Christmas card. He would find us clinging desperately to what we have
been taught to believe was picturesque and jolly, and afraid to assert
that the things of to-day are comely too. Even on the basis of
discomfort (an acknowledged criterion of picturesqueness) surely a
trolley car jammed with parcel-laden passengers is just as satisfying a
spectacle as any stage coach? Surely the steam radiator, if not so
lovely as a flame-gilded hearth, is more real to most of us? And instead
of the customary picture of shivering subjects of George III held up by
a highwayman on Hampstead Heath, why not a deftly delineated sketch of
victims in a steam-heated lobby submitting to the plunder of the
hat-check bandit? Come, let us be honest! The romance of to-day is as
good as any!

Many must have felt this same uneasiness in trying to find Christmas
cards that would really say something of what is in their hearts. The
sentiment behind the card is as lovely and as true as ever, but the
cards themselves are outmoded bottles for the new wine. It seems a cruel
thing to say, but we are impatient with the mottoes and pictures we see
in the shops because they are a conventional echo of a beauty that is
past. What could be more absurd than to send to a friend in a city
apartment a rhyme such as this:

  As round the Christmas fire you sit
    And hear the bells with frosty chime,
  Think, friendship that long love has knit
    Grows sweeter still at Christmas time!

If that is sent to the janitor or the elevator boy we have no cavil, for
these gentlemen do actually see a fire and hear bells ring; but the
apartment tenant hears naught but the hissing of the steam in the
radiator, and counts himself lucky to hear that. Why not be honest and
say to him:

  I hope the janitor has shipped
    You steam, to keep the cold away;
  And if the hallboys have been tipped,
    Then joy be thine on Christmas Day!

We had not meant to introduce this jocular note into our meditation, for
we are honestly aggrieved that so many of the Christmas cards hark back
to an old tradition that is gone, and never attempt to express any of
the romance of to-day. You may protest that Christmas is the oldest
thing in the world, which is true; yet it is also new every year, and
never newer than now.



ON UNANSWERING LETTERS


[Illustration]

There are a great many people who really believe in answering letters
the day they are received, just as there are people who go to the movies
at 9 o'clock in the morning; but these people are stunted and queer.

It is a great mistake. Such crass and breathless promptness takes away a
great deal of the pleasure of correspondence.

The psychological didoes involved in receiving letters and making up
one's mind to answer them are very complex. If the tangled process could
be clearly analyzed and its component involutions isolated for
inspection we might reach a clearer comprehension of that curious bag of
tricks, the efficient Masculine Mind.

Take Bill F., for instance, a man so delightful that even to
contemplate his existence puts us in good humor and makes us think well
of a world that can exhibit an individual equally comely in mind, body
and estate. Every now and then we get a letter from Bill, and
immediately we pass into a kind of trance, in which our mind rapidly
enunciates the ideas, thoughts, surmises and contradictions that we
would like to write to him in reply. We think what fun it would be to
sit right down and churn the ink-well, spreading speculation and
cynicism over a number of sheets of foolscap to be wafted Billward.

Sternly we repress the impulse for we know that the shock to Bill of
getting so immediate a retort would surely unhinge the well-fitted
panels of his intellect.

We add his letter to the large delta of unanswered mail on our desk,
taking occasion to turn the mass over once or twice and run through it
in a brisk, smiling mood, thinking of all the jolly letters we shall
write some day.

After Bill's letter has lain on the pile for a fortnight or so it has
been gently silted over by about twenty other pleasantly postponed
manuscripts. Coming upon it by chance, we reflect that any specific
problems raised by Bill in that manifesto will by this time have settled
themselves. And his random speculations upon household management and
human destiny will probably have taken a new slant by now, so that to
answer his letter in its own tune will not be congruent with his present
fevers. We had better bide a wee until we really have something of
circumstance to impart.

We wait a week.

By this time a certain sense of shame has begun to invade the privacy of
our brain. We feel that to answer that letter now would be an
indelicacy. Better to pretend that we never got it. By and by Bill will
write again and then we will answer promptly. We put the letter back in
the middle of the heap and think what a fine chap Bill is. But he knows
we love him, so it doesn't really matter whether we write or not.

Another week passes by, and no further communication from Bill. We
wonder whether he does love us as much as we thought. Still--we are too
proud to write and ask.

A few days later a new thought strikes us. Perhaps Bill thinks we have
died and he is annoyed because he wasn't invited to the funeral. Ought
we to wire him? No, because after all we are not dead, and even if he
thinks we are, his subsequent relief at hearing the good news of our
survival will outweigh his bitterness during the interval. One of these
days we will write him a letter that will really express our heart,
filled with all the grindings and gear-work of our mind, rich in
affection and fallacy. But we had better let it ripen and mellow for a
while. Letters, like wines, accumulate bright fumes and bubblings if
kept under cork.

Presently we turn over that pile of letters again. We find in the lees
of the heap two or three that have gone for six months and can safely be
destroyed. Bill is still on our mind, but in a pleasant, dreamy kind of
way. He does not ache or twinge us as he did a month ago. It is fine to
have old friends like that and keep in touch with them. We wonder how he
is and whether he has two children or three. Splendid old Bill!

By this time we have written Bill several letters in imagination and
enjoyed doing so, but the matter of sending him an actual letter has
begun to pall. The thought no longer has the savor and vivid sparkle it
had once. When one feels like that it is unwise to write. Letters should
be spontaneous outpourings: they should never be undertaken merely from
a sense of duty. We know that Bill wouldn't want to get a letter that
was dictated by a feeling of obligation.

Another fortnight or so elapsing, it occurs to us that we have entirely
forgotten what Bill said to us in that letter. We take it out and con it
over. Delightful fellow! It is full of his own felicitous kinks of whim,
though some of it sounds a little old-fashioned by now. It seems a bit
stale, has lost some of its freshness and surprise. Better not answer it
just yet, for Christmas will soon be here and we shall have to write
then anyway. We wonder, can Bill hold out until Christmas without a
letter?

We have been rereading some of those imaginary letters to Bill that have
been dancing in our head. They are full of all sorts of fine stuff. If
Bill ever gets them he will know how we love him. To use O. Henry's
immortal joke, we have days of Damon and Knights of Pythias writing
those uninked letters to Bill. A curious thought has come to us. Perhaps
it would be better if we never saw Bill again. It is very difficult to
talk to a man when you like him so much. It is much easier to write in
the sweet fantastic strain. We are so inarticulate when face to face. If
Bill comes to town we will leave word that we have gone away. Good old
Bill! He will always be a precious memory.

A few days later a sudden frenzy sweeps over us, and though we have many
pressing matters on hand, we mobilize pen and paper and literary shock
troops and prepare to hurl several battalions at Bill. But, strangely
enough, our utterance seems stilted and stiff. We have nothing to say.
_My dear Bill_, we begin, _it seems a long time since we heard from you.
Why don't you write? We still love you, in spite of all your
shortcomings_.

That doesn't seem very cordial. We muse over the pen and nothing comes.
Bursting with affection, we are unable to say a word.

Just then the phone rings. "Hello?" we say.

It is Bill, come to town unexpectedly.

"Good old fish!" we cry, ecstatic. "Meet you at the corner of Tenth and
Chestnut in five minutes."

We tear up the unfinished letter. Bill will never know how much we love
him. Perhaps it is just as well. It is very embarrassing to have your
friends know how you feel about them. When we meet him we will be a
little bit on our guard. It would not be well to be betrayed into any
extravagance of cordiality.

And perhaps a not altogether false little story could be written about a
man who never visited those most dear to him, because it panged him so
to say good-bye when he had to leave.



A LETTER TO FATHER TIME


(NEW YEAR'S EVE)

Dear Father Time--This is your night of triumph, and it seems only fair
to pay you a little tribute. Some people, in a noble mood of bravado,
consider New Year's Eve an occasion of festivity. Long, long in advance
they reserve a table at their favorite café; and becomingly habited in
boiled shirts or gowns of the lowest visibility, and well armed with a
commodity which is said to be synonymous with yourself--money--they seek
to outwit you by crowding a month of merriment into half a dozen hours.
Yet their victory is brief and fallacious, for if hours spin too fast by
night they will move grindingly on the axle the next morning. None of us
can beat you in the end. Even the hat-check boy grows old, becomes gray
and dies at last babbling of greenbacks.

To my own taste, old Time, it is more agreeable to make this evening a
season of gruesome brooding. Morosely I survey the faults and follies
of my last year. I am grown too canny to pour the new wine of good
resolution into the old bottles of my imperfect humors. But I get a
certain grim satisfaction in thinking how we all--every human being of
us--share alike in bondage to your oppression. There is the only true
and complete democracy, the only absolute brotherhood of man. The great
ones of the earth--Charley Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, General
Pershing and Miss Amy Lowell--all these are in service to the same
tyranny. Day after day slips or jolts past, joins the Great Majority;
suddenly we wake with a start to find that the best of it is gone by.
Surely it seems but a day ago that Stevenson set out to write a little
book that was to be called "Life at Twenty-five"--before he got it
written he was long past the delectable age--and now we rub our eyes and
see he has been dead longer than the span of life he then so
delightfully contemplated. If there is one meditation common to every
adult on this globe it is this, so variously phrased, "Well, bo, Time
sure does hustle."

Some of them have scurvily entreated you, old Time! The thief of youth,
they have called you; a highwayman, a gipsy, a grim reaper. It seems a
little unfair. For you have your kindly moods, too. Without your gentle
passage where were Memory, the sweetest of lesser pleasures? You are
the only medicine for many a woe, many a sore heart. And surely you have
a right to reap where you alone have sown? Our strength, our wit, our
comeliness, all those virtues and graces that you pilfer with such
gentle hand, did you not give them to us in the first place? Give, do I
say? Nay, we knew, even as we clutched them, they were but a loan. And
the great immortality of the race endures, for every day that we see
taken away from ourselves we see added to our children or our
grandchildren. It was Shakespeare, who thought a great deal about you,
who put it best:

  Nativity, once in the main of light,
    Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crowned,
  Crooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight
    And Time that gave doth now his gift confound--

It is to be hoped, my dear Time, that you have read Shakespeare's
sonnets, because they will teach you a deal about the dignity of your
career, and also suggest to you the only way we have of keeping up with
you. There is no way of outwitting Time, Shakespeare tells his young
friend, "Save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence." Or, as a
poor bungling parodist revamped it:

  Pep is the stuff to put Old Time on skids--
  Pep in your copy, yes, and lots of kids.

It is true that Shakespeare hints another way of doing you in, which is
to write sonnets as good as his. This way, needless to add, is open to
few.

Well, my dear Time, you are not going to fool me into making myself
ridiculous this New Year's Eve with a lot of bonny but impossible
resolutions. I know that you are playing with me just as a cat plays
with a mouse; yet even the most piteous mousekin sometimes causes his
tormentor surprise or disappointment by getting under a bureau or behind
the stove, where, for the moment, she cannot paw him. Every now and
then, with a little luck, I shall pull off just such a scurry into
temporary immortality. It may come by reading Dickens or by seeing a
sunset, or by lunching with friends, or by forgetting to wind the alarm
clock, or by contemplating the rosy little pate of my daughter, who is
still only a nine days' wonder--so young that she doesn't even know what
you are doing to her. But you are not going to have the laugh on me by
luring me into resolutions. I know my weaknesses. I know that I shall
probably continue to annoy newsdealers by reading the magazines on the
stalls instead of buying them; that I shall put off having my hair cut;
drop tobacco cinders on my waistcoat; feel bored at the idea of having
to shave and get dressed; be nervous when the gas burner pops when
turned off; buy more Liberty Bonds than I can afford and have to hock
them at a grievous loss. I shall continue to be pleasant to insurance
agents, from sheer lack of manhood; and to keep library books out over
the date and so incur a fine. My only hope, you see, is resolutely to
determine to persist in these failings. Then, by sheer perversity, I may
grow out of them.

[Illustration]

What avail, indeed, for any of us to make good resolutions when one
contemplates the grand pageant of human frailty? Observe what I noticed
the other day in the Lost and Found column of the New York _Times_:

    LOST--Hotel Imperial lavatory, set of teeth. Call or communicate
    Flint, 134 East 43d street. Reward.

Surely, if Mr. Flint could not remember to keep his teeth in his mouth,
or if any one else was so basely whimsical as to juggle them away from
him, it may well teach us to be chary of extravagant hopes for the
future. Even the League of Nations, when one contemplates the sad case
of Mr. Flint, becomes a rather anemic safeguard. We had better keep Mr.
Flint in mind through the New Year as a symbol of human error and
disappointment. And the best of it is, my dear Time, that you, too, may
be a little careless. Perhaps one of these days you may doze a little
and we shall steal a few hours of timeless bliss. Shall we see a little
ad in the papers:

    LOST--Sixty valuable minutes, said to have been stolen by the
    unworthy human race. If found, please return to Father Time, and no
    questions asked.

Well, my dear Time, we approach the Zero Hour. I hope you will have a
Happy New Year, and conduct yourself with becoming restraint. So live,
my dear fellow, that we may say, "A good Time was enjoyed by all." As
the hands of the clock go over the top and into the No Man's Land of
the New Year, good luck to you!

Your obedient servant!



WHAT MEN LIVE BY


What a delicate and rare and gracious art is the art of conversation!
With what a dexterity and skill the bubble of speech must be maneuvered
if mind is to meet and mingle with mind.

There is no sadder disappointment than to realize that a conversation
has been a complete failure. By which we mean that it has failed in
blending or isolating for contrast the ideas, opinions and surmises of
two eager minds. So often a conversation is shipwrecked by the very
eagerness of one member to contribute. There must be give and take,
parry and thrust, patience to hear and judgment to utter. How uneasy is
the qualm as one looks back on an hour's talk and sees that the
opportunity was wasted; the precious instant of intercourse gone
forever: the secrets of the heart still incommunicate! Perhaps we were
too anxious to hurry the moment, to enforce our own theory, to adduce
instance from our own experience. Perhaps we were not patient enough to
wait until our friend could express himself with ease and happiness.
Perhaps we squandered the dialogue in tangent topics, in a multitude of
irrelevances.

[Illustration]

How few, how few are those gifted for real talk! There are fine merry
fellows, full of mirth and shrewdly minted observation, who will not
abide by one topic, who must always be lashing out upon some new byroad,
snatching at every bush they pass. They are too excitable, too
ungoverned for the joys of patient intercourse. Talk is so solemn a rite
it should be approached with prayer and must be conducted with nicety
and forbearance. What steadiness and sympathy are needed if the thread
of thought is to be unwound without tangles or snapping! What
forbearance, while each of the pair, after tentative gropings here and
yonder, feels his way toward truth as he sees it. So often two in talk
are like men standing back to back, each trying to describe to the other
what he sees and disputing because their visions do not tally. It takes
a little time for minds to turn face to face.

Very often conversations are better among three than between two, for
the reason that then one of the trio is always, unconsciously, acting as
umpire, interposing fair play, recalling wandering wits to the nub of
the argument, seeing that the aggressiveness of one does no foul to the
reticence of another. Talk in twos may, alas! fall into speaker and
listener: talk in threes rarely does so.

It is little realized how slowly, how painfully, we approach the
expression of truth. We are so variable, so anxious to be polite, and
alternately swayed by caution or anger. Our mind oscillates like a
pendulum: it takes some time for it to come to rest. And then, the
proper allowance and correction has to be made for our individual
vibrations that prevent accuracy. Even the compass needle doesn't point
the true north, but only the magnetic north. Similarly our minds at best
can but indicate magnetic truth, and are distorted by many things that
act as iron filings do on the compass. The necessity of holding one's
job: what an iron filing that is on the compass card of a man's brain!

We are all afraid of truth: we keep a battalion of our pet prejudices
and precautions ready to throw into the argument as shock troops,
rather than let our fortress of Truth be stormed. We have smoke bombs
and decoy ships and all manner of cunning colorizations by which we
conceal our innards from our friends, and even from ourselves. How we
fume and fidget, how we bustle and dodge rather than commit ourselves.

In days of hurry and complication, in the incessant pressure of human
problems that thrust our days behind us, does one never dream of a way
of life in which talk would be honored and exalted to its proper place
in the sun? What a zest there is in that intimate unreserved exchange of
thought, in the pursuit of the magical blue bird of joy and human
satisfaction that may be seen flitting distantly through the branches of
life. It was a sad thing for the world when it grew so busy that men had
no time to talk. There are such treasures of knowledge and compassion in
the minds of our friends, could we only have time to talk them out of
their shy quarries. If we had our way, we would set aside one day a week
for talking. In fact, we would reorganize the week altogether. We would
have one day for Worship (let each man devote it to worship of whatever
he holds dearest); one day for Work; one day for Play (probably
fishing); one day for Talking; one day for Reading, and one day for
Smoking and Thinking. That would leave one day for Resting, and
(incidentally) interviewing employers.

The best week of our life was one in which we did nothing but talk. We
spent it with a delightful gentleman who has a little bungalow on the
shore of a lake in Pike County. He had a great many books and cigars,
both of which are conversational stimulants. We used to lie out on the
edge of the lake, in our oldest trousers, and talk. We discussed ever so
many subjects; in all of them he knew immensely more than we did. We
built up a complete philosophy of indolence and good will, according to
Food and Sleep and Swimming their proper share of homage. We rose at 10
in the morning and began talking; we talked all day and until 3 o'clock
at night. Then we went to bed and regained strength and combativeness
for the coming day. Never was a week better spent. We committed no
crimes, planned no secret treaties, devised no annexations or
indemnities. We envied no one. We examined the entire world and found it
worth while. Meanwhile our wives, who were watching (perhaps with a
little quiet indignation) from the veranda, kept on asking us, "What on
earth do you talk about?"

Bless their hearts, men don't have to have anything to talk _about_.
They just talk.

And there is only one rule for being a good talker: learn how to listen.



THE UNNATURAL NATURALIST


It gives us a great deal of pleasure to announce, officially, that
spring has arrived.

Our statement is not based on any irrelevant data as to equinoxes or
bluebirds or bock-beer signs, but is derived from the deepest authority
we know anything about, our subconscious self. We remember that some
philosopher, perhaps it was Professor James, suggested that individuals
are simply peaks of self-consciousness rising out of the vast ocean of
collective human Mind in which we all swim, and are, at bottom, one.
Whenever we have to decide any important matter, such as when to get our
hair cut and whether to pay a bill or not, and whether to call for the
check or let the other fellow do so, we don't attempt to harass our
conscious volition with these decisions. We rely on our subconscious and
instinctive person, and for better or worse we have to trust to its
righteousness and good sense. We just find ourself doing something and
we carry on and hope it is for the best.

From this deep abyss of subconsciousness we learn that it is spring.
The mottled goosebone of the Allentown prophet is no more
meteorologically accurate than our subconscience. And this is how it
works.

Once a year, about the approach of the vernal equinox or the seedsman's
catalogue, we wake up at 6 o'clock in the morning. This is an immediate
warning and apprisement that something is adrift. Three hundred and
sixty-four days in the year we wake, placidly enough, at seven-ten, ten
minutes after the alarm clock has jangled. But on this particular day,
whether it be the end of February or the middle of March, we wake with
the old recognizable nostalgia. It is the last polyp or vestige of our
anthropomorphic and primal self, trailing its pathetic little wisp of
glory for the one day of the whole calendar. All the rest of the year we
are the plodding percheron of commerce, patiently tugging our wain; but
on that morning there wambles back, for the nonce, the pang of Eden. We
wake at 6 o'clock; it is a blue and golden morning and we feel it
imperative to get outdoors as quickly as possible. Not for an instant do
we feel the customary respectable and sanctioned desire to kiss the
sheets yet an hour or so. The traipsing, trolloping humor of spring is
in our veins; we feel that we must be about felling an aurochs or a
narwhal for breakfast. We leap into our clothes and hurry downstairs and
out of the front door and skirmish round the house to see and smell and
feel.

It is spring. It is unmistakably spring, because the pewit bushes are
budding and on yonder aspen we can hear a forsythia bursting into song.
It is spring, when the feet of the floorwalker pain him and smoking-car
windows have to be pried open with chisels. We skip lightheartedly round
the house to see if those bobolink bulbs we planted are showing any
signs yet, and discover the whisk brush that fell out of the window last
November. And then the newsboy comes along the street and sees us
prancing about and we feel sheepish and ashamed and hurry indoors again.

There may still be blizzards and frozen plumbings and tumbles on icy
pavements, but when that morning of annunciation has come to us we know
that winter is truly dead, even though his ghost may walk and gibber
once or twice. The sweet urge of the new season has rippled up through
the oceanic depths of our subconsciousness, and we are aware of the
rising tide. Like Mr. Wordsworth we feel that we are wiser than we know.
(Perhaps we have misquoted that, but let it stand.)

There are other troubles that spring brings us. We are pitifully
ashamed of our ignorance Of nature, and though we try to hide it we keep
getting tripped up. About this time of year inquisitive persons are
always asking us: "Have you heard any song sparrows yet?" or "Are there
any robins out your way?" or "When do the laburnums begin to nest out in
Marathon?" Now we really can't tell these people our true feeling, which
is that we do not believe in peeking in on the privacy of the laburnums
or any other songsters. It seems to us really immodest to keep on spying
on the birds in that way. And as for the bushes and trees, what we want
to know is, How does one ever get to know them? How do you find out
which is an alder and what is an elm? Or a narcissus and a hyacinth,
does any one really know them apart? We think it's all a bluff. And
jonquils. There was a nest of them on our porch, we are told, but we
didn't think it any business of ours to bother them. Let nature alone
and she'll let you alone.

[Illustration]

But there is a pettifogging cult about that says you ought to know these
things; moreover, children keep on asking one. We always answer at
random and say it's a wagtail or a flowering shrike or a female
magnolia. We were brought up in the country and learned that first
principle of good manners, which is to let birds and flowers and animals
go on about their own affairs without pestering them by asking them
their names and addresses. Surely that's what Shakespeare meant by
saying a rose by any other name will smell as sweet. We can enjoy a rose
just as much as any one, even if we may think it's a hydrangea.

And then we are much too busy to worry about robins and bluebirds and
other poultry of that sort. Of course, if we see one hanging about the
lawn and it looks hungry we have decency enough to throw out a bone or
something for it, but after all we have a lot of troubles of our own to
bother about. We are short-sighted, too, and if we try to get near
enough to see if it is a robin or only a bandanna some one has dropped,
why either it flies away before we get there or it does turn out to be a
bandanna or a clothespin. One of our friends kept on talking about a
Baltimore oriole she had seen near our house, and described it as a
beautiful yellowish fowl. We felt quite ashamed to be so ignorant, and
when one day we thought we saw one near the front porch we left what we
were doing, which was writing a check for the coal man, and went out to
stalk it. After much maneuvering we got near, made a dash--and it was a
banana peel! The oriole had gone back to Baltimore the day before.

We love to read about the birds and flowers and shrubs and insects in
poetry, and it makes us very happy to know they are all round us,
innocent little things like mice and centipedes and goldenrods (until
hay fever time), but as for prying into their affairs we simply won't do
it.



SITTING IN THE BARBER'S CHAIR


Once every ten weeks or so we get our hair cut.

We are not generally parsimonious of our employer's time, but somehow we
do hate to squander that thirty-three minutes, which is the exact
chronicide involved in despoiling our skull of a ten weeks' garner. If
we were to have our hair cut at the end of eight weeks the shearing
would take only thirty-one minutes; but we can never bring ourselves to
rob our employer of that much time until we reckon he is really losing
prestige by our unkempt appearance. Of course, we believe in having our
hair cut during office hours. That is the only device we know to make
the hateful operation tolerable.

To the times mentioned above should be added fifteen seconds, which is
the slice of eternity needed to trim, prune and chasten our mustache,
which is not a large group of foliage.

We knew a traveling man who never got his hair cut except when he was on
the road, which permitted him to include the transaction in his expense
account; but somehow it seems to us more ethical to steal time than to
steal money.

We like to view this whole matter in a philosophical and ultra-pragmatic
way. Some observers have hazarded that our postponement of haircuts is
due to mere lethargy and inertia, but that is not so. Every time we get
our locks shorn our wife tells us that we have got them too short. She
says that our head has a very homely and bourgeois bullet shape, a sort
of pithecanthropoid contour, which is revealed by a close trim. After
five weeks' growth, however, we begin to look quite distinguished. The
difficulty then is to ascertain just when the law of diminishing returns
comes into play. When do we cease to look distinguished and begin to
appear merely slovenly? Careful study has taught us that this begins to
take place at the end of sixty-five days, in warm weather. Add five days
or so for natural procrastination and devilment, and we have seventy
days interval, which we have posited as the ideal orbit for our
tonsorial ecstasies.

When at last we have hounded ourself into robbing our employer of those
thirty-three minutes, plus fifteen seconds for you know what, we find
ourself in the barber's chair. Despairingly we gaze about at the little
blue flasks with flowers enameled on them; at the piles of clean
towels; at the bottles of mandrake essence which we shall presently
have to affirm or deny. Under any other circumstances we should deeply
enjoy a half hour spent in a comfortable chair, with nothing to do but
do nothing. Our barber is a delightful fellow; he looks benign and does
not prattle; he respects the lobes of our ears and other vulnerabilia.
But for some inscrutable reason we feel strangely ill at ease in his
chair. We can't think of anything to think about. Blankly we brood in
the hope of catching the hem of some intimation of immortality. But no,
there is nothing to do but sit there, useless as an incubator with no
eggs in it. The processes of wasting and decay are hurrying us rapidly
to a pauperish grave, every instant brings us closer to a notice in the
obit column, and yet we sit and sit without two worthy thoughts to rub
against each other.

Oh, the poverty of mortal mind, the sad meagerness of the human soul!
Here we are, a vital, breathing entity, transformed to a mere chemical
carcass by the bleak magic of the barber's chair. In our anatomy of
melancholy there are no such atrabiliar moments as those thirty-three
(and a quarter) minutes once every ten weeks. Roughly speaking, we spend
three hours of this living death every year.

And yet, perhaps it is worth it, for what a jocund and pantheistic
merriment possesses us when we escape from the shop! Bay-rummed,
powdered, shorn, brisk and perfumed, we fare down the street exhaling
the syrups of Cathay. Once more we can take our rightful place among
aggressive and well-groomed men; we can look in the face without
blenching those human leviathans who are ever creased, razored, and
white-margined as to vest. We are a man among men and our untethered
mind jostles the stars. We have had our hair cut, and no matter what
gross contours our cropped skull may display to wives or ethnologists,
we are a free man for ten dear weeks.



BROWN EYES AND EQUINOXES


"What is an equinox?" said Titania.

I pretended not to hear her and prayed fervently that the inquiry would
pass from her mind. Sometimes her questions, if ignored, are effaced by
some other thought that possesses her active brain. I rattled my paper
briskly and kept well behind it.

"Yes," I murmured husbandly, "delicious, delicious! My dear, you
certainly plan the most delightful meals." Meanwhile I was glancing
feverishly at the daily Quiz column to see if that noble cascade of
popular information might give any help. It did not.

Clear brown eyes looked across the table gravely. I could feel them
through the spring overcoat ads.

"What is an equinox?"

"I think I must have left my matches upstairs," I said, and went up to
look for them. I stayed aloft ten minutes and hoped that by that time
she would have passed on to some other topic. I did not waste my time,
however; I looked everywhere for the "Children's Book of a Million
Reasons," until I remembered it was under the dining-room table taking
the place of a missing caster.

When I slunk into the living room again I hastily suggested a game of
double Canfield, but Titania's brow was still perplexed. Looking across
at me with that direct brown gaze that would compel even a milliner to
relent, she asked:

"What is an equinox?"

I tried to pass it off flippantly.

"A kind of alarm clock," I said, "that lets the bulbs and bushes know
it's time to get up."

"No; but honestly, Bob," she said, "I want to know. It's something about
an equal day and an equal night, isn't it?"

"At the equinox," I said sternly, hoping to overawe her, "the day and
the night are of equal duration. But only for one night. On the
following day the sun, declining in perihelion, produces the customary
inequality. The usual working day is much longer than the night of
relaxation that follows it, as every toiler knows."

"Yes," she said thoughtfully, "but how does it work? It says something
in this article about the days getting longer in the Northern
Hemisphere, while they are getting shorter in the Southern."

"Of course," I agreed, "conditions are totally different south of Mason
and Dixon's line. But as far as we are concerned here, the sun,
revolving round the earth, casts a beneficent shadow, which is generally
regarded as the time to quit work. This shadow--"

"I thought the earth revolved round the sun," she said. "Wasn't that
what Galileo proved?"

"He was afterward discovered to be mistaken," I said. "That was what
caused all the trouble."

"What trouble?" she asked, much interested.

"Why, he and Socrates had to take hemlock or they were drowned in a butt
of malmsey, I really forget which."

"Well, after the equinox," said Titania, "do the days get longer?"

"They do," I said; "in order to permit the double-headers. And now that
daylight saving is to go into effect, equinoxes won't be necessary any
more. Very likely the pan-Russian Soviets, or President Wilson, or
somebody, will abolish them."

"June 21 is the longest day in the year, isn't it?"

"The day before pay-day is always the longest day."

"And the night the cook goes out is always the longest night," she
retorted, catching the spirit of the game.

"Some day," I threatened her, "the earth will stop rotating on its
orbit, or its axis, or whatever it is, and then we will be like the
moon, divided into two hostile hemispheres, one perpetual day and the
other eternal night."

She did not seem alarmed. "Yes, and I bet I know which one you'll
emigrate to," she said. "But how about the equinoctial gales? Why should
there be gales just then?"

I had forgot about the equinoctial gales, and this caught me unawares.

"That was an old tradition of the Phoenician mariners," I said, "but the
invention of latitude and longitude made them unnecessary. They have
fallen into disrepute. Dead reckoning killed them."

"And the precession of the equinoxes?" she asked, turning back to her
magazine.

This was a poser, but I rallied stoutly. "Well," I said, "you see, there
are two equinoxes a year, the vernal and the autumnal. They are well
known by coal dealers. The first one is when he delivers the coal and
the second is when he gets paid. Two of them a year, you see, in the
course of a million years or so, makes quite a majestic series. That is
why they call it a procession."

Titania looked at me and gradually her face broke up into a charming
aurora borealis of laughter.

"I don't believe you know any more about the old things than I do," she
said.

And the worst of it is, I think she was right.



163 INNOCENT OLD MEN


I found Titania looking severely at her watch, which is a queer little
gold disk about the size of a waistcoat button, swinging under her chin
by a thin golden chain. Titania's methods of winding, setting and
regulating that watch have always been a mystery to me. She frequently
knows what the right time is, but how she deduces it from the data given
by the hands of her timepiece I can't guess. It's something like this:
She looks at the watch and notes what it says. Then she deducts ten
minutes, because she remembers it is ten minutes fast. Then she performs
some complicated calculation connected with when the baby had his bath,
and how long ago she heard the church bells chime; to this result she
adds five minutes to allow for leeway. Then she goes to the phone and
asks Central the time.

"Hullo," I said; "what's wrong?"

"I'm wondering about this daylight-saving business," she said. "You
know, I think it's all a piece of Bolshevik propaganda to get us
confused and encourage anarchy. All the women in Marathon are talking
about it and neglecting their knitting. Junior's bath was half an hour
late today because Mrs. Benvenuto called me up to talk about daylight
saving. She says her cook has threatened to leave if she has to get up
an hour earlier in the morning. I was just wondering how to adjust my
watch to the new conditions."

"It's perfectly simple," I said. "Put your watch ahead one hour, and
then go through the same logarithms you always do."

"Put it ahead?" asked Titania. "Mrs. Borgia says we have to put the
clock _back_ an hour. She is fearfully worried about it. She says
suppose she has something in the oven when the clock is put back, it
will be an hour overdone and burned to a crisp when the kitchen clock
catches up again."

"Mrs. Borgia is wrong," I said. "The clocks are to be put ahead one
hour. At 2 o'clock on Easter morning they are to be turned on to 3
o'clock. Mrs. Borgia certainly won't have anything in the oven at that
time of night. You see, we are to pretend that 2 o'clock is really 3
o'clock, and when we get up at 7 o'clock it will really be 6 o'clock. We
are deliberately fooling ourselves in order to get an hour more of
daylight."

"I have an idea," she said, "that you won't get up at 7 that morning."

"It is quite possible," I said, "because I intend to stay up until 2
a.m. that morning in order to be exactly correct in changing our
timepieces. No one shall accuse me of being a time slacker."

Titania was wrinkling her brow. "But how about that lost hour?" she
said. "What happens to it? I don't see how we can just throw an hour
away like that. Time goes on just the same. How can we afford to shorten
our lives so ruthlessly? It's murder, that's what it is! I told you it
was a Bolshevik plot. Just think; there are a hundred million Americans.
Moving on the clock that way brings each of us one hour nearer our
graves. That is to say, we are throwing away 100,000,000 hours."

She seized a pencil and a sheet of paper and went through some
calculations.

"There are 8,760 hours in a year," she said. "Reckoning seventy years a
lifetime, there are 613,200 hours in each person's life. Now, will you
please divide that into a hundred million for me? I'm not good at long
division."

With docility I did so, and reported the result.

"About 163," I said.

"There you are!" she exclaimed triumphantly. "Throwing away all that
perfectly good time amounts simply to murdering 163 harmless old men of
seventy, or 326 able-bodied men of thirty-five, or 1,630 innocent little
children of seven. If that isn't atrocity, what is? I think Mr. Hoover
or Admiral Grayson, or somebody, ought to be prosecuted."

I was aghast at this awful result. Then an idea struck me, and I took
the pencil and began to figure on my own account.

"Look here, Titania," I said. "Not so fast. Moving the clock ahead
doesn't really bring those people any nearer their graves. What it does
do is bring the ratification of the Peace Treaty sooner, which is a fine
thing. By deleting a hundred million hours we shorten Senator Borah's
speeches against the League by 11,410 years. That's very encouraging."

"According to that way of reckoning," she said with sarcasm, "Mr.
Borah's term must have expired about 11,000 years ago."

"My dear Titania," I said, "the ways of the Government may seem
inscrutable, but we have got to follow them with faith. If Mr. Wilson
tells us to murder 163 fine old men in elastic-sided boots we must
simply do it, that's all. Peace is a dreadful thing. We have got to meet
the Germans on their own ground. They adopted this daylight-saving
measure years ago. They call it Sonnenuntergangverderbenpraxis, I
believe. After all, it is only a temporary measure, because in the fall,
when the daylight hours get shorter, we shall have to turn the clocks
back a couple of hours in order to compensate the gas and electric light
companies for all the money they will have lost. That will bring those
163 old gentlemen to life again and double their remaining term of years
to make up for their temporary effacement. They are patriotic hostages
to Time for the summer only. You must remember that time is only a
philosophical abstraction, with no real or tangible existence, and we
have a right to do whatever we want with it."

"I will remind you of that," she said, "at getting-up time on Sunday
morning. I still think that if we are going to monkey with the clocks at
all it would be better to turn them backward instead of forward.
Certainly that would bring you home from the club a little earlier."

"My dear," I said, "we are in the Government's hands. A little later we
may be put on time rations, just as we are on food rations. We may have
time cards to encourage thrift in saving time. Every time we save an
hour we will get a little stamp to show for it. When we fill out a whole
card we will be entitled to call ourselves a month younger than we are.
Tell that to Mrs. Borgia; it will reconcile her."

A lusty uproar made itself heard upstairs and Titania gave a little
scream. "Heavens!" she cried. "Here I am talking with you and Junior's
bottle is half an hour late. I don't care what Mr. Wilson does to the
clocks; he won't be able to fool Junior. He knows when it's, time for
meals. Won't you call up Central and find out the exact time?"



A TRAGIC SMELL IN MARATHON


Marathon, Pa., April 2.

This is a very embarrassing time of year for us. Every morning when we
get on the 8:13 train at Marathon Bill Stites or Fred Myers or Hank
Harris or some other groundsel philosopher on the Cinder and Bloodshot
begins to chivvy us about our garden. "Have you planted anything yet?"
they say. "Have you put litmus paper in the soil to test it for lime,
potash and phosphorus? Have you got a harrow?"

That sort of thing bothers us, because our ideas of cultivation are very
primitive. We did go to the newsstand at the Reading Terminal and try to
buy a Litmus paper, but the agent didn't have any. He says he doesn't
carry the Jersey papers. So we buried some old copies of the
_Philistine_ in the garden, thinking that would strengthen up the soil a
bit. This business of nourishing the soil seems grotesque. It's hard
enough to feed the family, let alone throwing away good money on feeding
the land. Our idea about soil is that it ought to feed itself.

Our garden ought to be lusty enough to raise the few beans and beets
and blisters we aspire to. We have been out looking at the soil. It
looks fairly potent and certainly it goes a long way down. There are
quite a lot of broken magnesia bottles and old shinbones scattered
through it, and they ought to help along. The topsoil and the humus may
be a little mixed, but we are not going to sort them out by hand.

Our method is to go out at twilight the first Sunday in April, about the
time the cutworms go to roost, and take a sharp-pointed stick. We draw
lines in the ground with this stick, preferably in a pleasant
geometrical pattern that will confuse the birds and other observers. It
is important not to do this until twilight, so that no robins or insects
can watch you. Then we go back in the house and put on our old trousers,
the pair that has holes in each pocket. We fill the pockets with the
seed, we want to plant and loiter slowly along the grooves we have made
in the earth. The seed sifts down the trousers legs and spreads itself
in the furrow far better than any mechanical drill could do it. The
secret of gardening is to stick to nature's old appointed ways. Then we
read a chapter of Bernard Shaw aloud, by candle light or lantern light.
As soon as they hear the voice of Shaw all the vegetables dig
themselves in. This saves going all along the rows with a shingle to
pat down the topsoil or the humus or the magnesia bottles or whatever
else is uppermost.

Fred says that certain vegetables--kohl-rabi and colanders, we
think--extract nitrogen from the air and give it back to the soil. It
may be so, but what has that to do with us? If our soil can't keep
itself supplied with nitrogen, that's its lookout. We don't need the
nitrogen in the air. The baby isn't old enough to have warts yet.

[Illustration]

Hank says it's no use watering the garden from above. He says that
watering from above lures the roots toward the surface and next day the
hot sun kills them. The answer to that is that the rain comes from
above, doesn't it? Roots have learned certain habits in the past million
years and we haven't time to teach them to duck when it rains. Hank has
some irrigation plan which involves sinking tomato cans in the ground
and filling them with water.

Bill says it's dangerous to put arsenic on the plants, because it may
kill the cook. He says nicotine or tobacco dust is far better. The
answer to that is that we never put fertilizers on our garden, anyway.
If we want to kill the cook there is a more direct method, and we
reserve the tobacco for ourself. No cutworm shall get a blighty one from
our cherished baccy pouch.

Fred says we ought to have a wheel-barrow; Hank swears by a mulching
iron; Bill is all for cold frames. All three say that hellebore is the
best thing for sucking insects. We echo the expletive, with a different
application.

You see, we have no instinct for gardening. Some fellows, like Bill
Stites, have a divinely implanted zest for the propagation of chard and
rhubarb and self-blanching celery and kohl-rabi; they are kohl-rabid, we
might say. They know, just what to do when they see a weed; they can
assassinate a weevil by just looking at it. But weevils and cabbage
worms are unterrified by us. We can't tell a weed from a young onion. We
never mulched anything in our life; we wouldn't know how to begin.

But the deuce of it is, public opinion says that we must raise a garden.
It is no use to hire a man to do it for us. However badly we may do it,
patriotism demands that we monkey around with a garden of our own. We
may get bitten by a snapping bean or routed by a rutabaga or infected by
a parsnip. But with Bill and those fellows at our heels we have just got
to face it. Hellebore!

What we want to know is, How do you ever find out all these things about
vegetables? We bought an ounce of tomato seeds in desperation, and now
Fred says "one ounce of tomato seeds will produce 3,000 plants. You
should have bought two dozen plants instead of the seed." How does he
know those things? Hank says beans are very delicate and must not be
handled while they are wet or they may get rusty. Again we ask, how does
he know? Where do they learn these matters? Bill says that stones draw
out the moisture from the soil and every stone in the garden should be
removed by hand before we plant. We offered him twenty cents an hour to
do it.

The most tragic odor in the world hangs over Marathon these days; the
smell of freshly spaded earth. It is extolled by the poets and all
those happy sons of the pavement who know nothing about it. But here are
we, who hardly know a loam from a lentil, breaking our back over seed
catalogues. Public opinion may compel us to raise vegetables, but we are
going to go about it our own way. If the stones are going to act like
werewolves and suck the moisture from our soil, let them do so. We don't
believe in thwarting nature. Maybe it will be a very wet summer and we
shall have the laugh on Bill, who has carted away all his stones.

And we should just like to see Bill Stites write a poem. We bet it
wouldn't look as much like a poem as our beans look like beans. And as
for Hank and Fred, they wouldn't even know how to begin to plant a poem!



BULLIED BY THE BIRDS


Marathon, Pa., May 2.

I insist that the place for birds is in the air or on the bushy tops of
trees or on smooth-shaven lawns. Let them twitter and strut on the
greens of golf courses and intimidate the tired business men. Let them
peck cinders along the railroad track and keep the trains waiting. But
really they have no right to take possession of a man's house as they
have mine.

The nesting season is a time of tyranny and oppression for those who
live in Marathon. The birds are upon us like Hindenburg in Belgium. We
go about on tiptoe, speaking in whispers, for fear of annoying them. It
is all the fault of the Marathon Bird Club, which has offered all sorts
of inducements to the fowls of the air to come and live in our suburb,
quite forgetting that humble commuters have to live there, too. Birds
have moved all the way from Wynnewood and Ambler and Chestnut Hill to
enjoy the congenial air of Marathon and the informing little pamphlets
of our club, telling them just what to eat and which houses offer the
best hospitality. All our dwellings are girt about with little villas
made of condensed milk boxes, but the feathered tyrants have grown too
pernickety to inhabit these. They come closer still, and make our homes
their own. They take the grossest liberties.

I am fond of birds, but I think the line must be drawn somewhere. The
clothes-line, for instance. The other day Titania sent me out to put up
a new clothesline; I found that a shrike or a barn swallow or some other
veery had built a nest in the clothespin basket. That means we won't be
able to hang out our laundry in the fresh Monday air and equally fresh
Monday sunshine until the nesting season is over.

Then there is a gross, fat, indiscreet robin that has taken a home in an
evergreen or mimosa or banyan tree just under our veranda railing. It is
an absurdly exposed, almost indecently exposed position, for the
confidential family business she intends to carry on. The iceman and the
butcher and the boy who brings up the Sunday ice cream from the
apothecary can't help seeing those three big blue eggs she has laid.
But, because she has nested there for the last three springs, while the
house was unoccupied, she thinks she has a perpetual lease on that
bush. She hotly resents the iceman and the butcher and the apothecary's
boy, to say nothing of me. So these worthy merchants have to trail round
a circuitous route, violating the neutral ground of a neighbor, in order
to reach the house from behind and deliver their wares through the
cellar. We none of us dare use the veranda at all for fear of
frightening her, and I have given up having the morning paper delivered
at the house because she made such shrill protest.

[Illustration]

Frightening her, do I say? Nay, it is _we_ who are frightened. I go
round to the side of the house to prune my benzine bushes or to plant a
mess of spinach and a profane starling or woodpecker bustles off her
nest with shrewish outcry and lingers nearby to rail at me. Abashed, I
stealthily scuffle back to get a spade out of the tool bin and again
that shrill scream of anger and outraged motherhood. A throstle or a
whippoorwill is raising a family in the gutter spout over the back
kitchen. I go into the bathroom to shave and Titania whispers sharply,
"You mustn't shave in there. There's a tomtit nesting in the shutter
hinge and the light from your shaving mirror will make the poor little
birds crosseyed when they're hatched." I try to shave in the dining-room
and I find a sparrow's nest on the window sill. Finally I do my toilet
in the coal bin, even though there is a young squeaking bat down there.
A bat is half mouse anyway, so Titania has less compassion for its
feelings. Even if that bat grows up bow-legged on account of premature
excitement, I have to shave somewhere.

We can't play croquet at this time of year, because the lawn must be
kept clear for the robins to quarry out worms. The sound of mallet and
ball frightens the worms and sends them underground, and then it's
harder for the robins to find them. I suppose we really ought to keep a
stringed orchestra playing in the garden to entice the worms to the
surface. We have given up frying onions because the mother robins don't
like the odor while they're raising a family. I love my toast crusts,
but Titania takes them away from me for the blackbirds. "Now," she says,
"they're raising a family. You must be generous."

If my garden doesn't amount to anything this year the birds will be my
alibi. Titania makes me do my gardening in rubber-soled shoes so as not
to disturb the birds when they are going to bed. (They begin yelping at
4 a.m. right outside the window and never think of my slumbers.) The
other evening I put on my planting trousers and was about to sow a
specially fine pea I had brought home from town when Titania made signs
from the window. "You simply mustn't wear those trousers around the
house in nesting season. Don't you know the birds are very sensitive
just now?" And we have been paying board for our cat on Long Island for
a whole year because the birds wouldn't like his society and plebeian
ways.

Marathon has come to a pretty pass, indeed, when the commuters are to be
dispossessed in this way by a lot of birds, orioles and tomtits and
yellow-bellied nuthatches. Some of these days a wren will take it into
its head to build a nest on the railroad track and we'll all have to
walk to town. Or a chicken hawk will settle in our icebox and we'll
starve to death.

As I have said before, I believe in keeping nature in its proper place.
Birds belong in trees. I don't go twittering and fluffing about in oaks
and chestnuts, perching on the birds' nest steps and getting in their
way. And why should some swarthy robin, be she never so matronly, swear
at me if I set foot on my own front porch?



A MESSAGE FOR BOONVILLE


When corncob pipes went up from a nickel to six cents, smoking
traditions tottered. That was a year or more ago, but one can still
recall the indignation written on the faces of nicotine-soaked gaffers
who had been buying cobs at a jitney ever since Washington used one to
keep warm at Valley Forge. It was the supreme test of our determination
to win the war: the price of Missouri meerschaums went up 20 per cent
and there was no insurrection.

Yesterday we went out to buy our annual corncob, and were agreeably
surprised to learn that the price is still six cents; but our friend the
tobacconist said that it may go up again soon. We took the treasure,
gleaming yellow with fresh varnish, back to our kennel, and we are
smoking it as we set down these words. A corncob is sadly hot and raw
until it is well sooted, but the ultimate flavor is worth persecution.

The corncob pipes we always buy come from Boonville, Mo., and we don't
see why we shouldn't blow a little whiff of affection and gratitude
toward that excellent town. Moreover, Boonville celebrated its
centennial recently: it was founded in 1818. If the map is to be
believed, it is on the southern bank of the Missouri River, which is
there spanned by a very fine bridge; it is reached by two railroads
(Missouri Pacific and M., K. and T.) and stands on a bluff 100 feet
above the water. According to the two works of reference nearest to our
desk, its population is either 4252 or 4377. Perhaps the former census
omits the 125 men of the town who are so benighted as to smoke briars or
clays.

Delightful town of Boonville, seat of Cooper County, you are well named.
How great a boon you have conferred upon a troubled world! Long after
more ambitious towns have faded in the memory of man your quiet and
soothing gift to humanity will make your name blessed. I like to imagine
your shady streets, drowsing in the summer sun, and the rural
philosophers sitting on the verandas of your hotels or on the benches of
Harley Park ("comprising fifteen acres"--New International
Encyclopedia), looking out across the brown river and puffing clouds of
sweet gray reek. Down by the livery stable on Main street (there must be
a livery stable on Main street) I can see the old creaky, cane-bottomed
chairs (with seats punctured by too much philosophy) tilted against the
sycamore trees, ready for the afternoon gossip and shag tobacco. I can
imagine the small boys of Boonville fishing for catfish from the piers
of the bridge or bathing down by the steamboat dock (if there is one),
and yearning for the day when they, too, will be grown up and old enough
to smoke corncobs.

[Illustration]

What is the subtle magic of a corncob pipe? It is never as sweet or as
mellow as a well-seasoned briar, and yet it has a fascination all its
own. It is equally dear to those who work hard and those who loaf with
intensity. When you put your nose to the blackened mouth of the hot cob
its odor is quite different from that fragrance of the crusted wooden
bowl. There is a faint bitterness in it, a sour, plaintive aroma. It is
a pipe that seems to call aloud for the accompaniment of beer and
earnest argument on factional political matters. It is also the pipe
for solitary vigils of hard and concentrated work. It is the pipe that a
man keeps in the drawer of his desk for savage hours of extra toil after
the stenographer has powdered her nose and gone home.

A corncob pipe is a humble badge of philosophy, an evidence of tolerance
and even humor. It requires patience and good cheer, for it is slow to
"break in." Those who meditate bestial and brutal designs against the
weak and innocent do not smoke it. Probably Hindenburg never saw one.
Missouri's reputation for incredulity may be due to the corncob habit.
One who is accustomed to consider an argument over a burning nest of
tobacco, with the smoke fuming upward in a placid haze, will not accept
any dogma too immediately.

There is a singular affinity among those who smoke corncobs. A Missouri
meerschaum whose bowl is browned and whose fiber stem is frayed and
stringy with biting betrays a meditative and reasonable owner. He will
have pondered all aspects of life and be equally ready to denounce any
of them, but without bitterness. If you see a man on a street corner
smoking a cob it will be safe to ask him to watch the baby a minute
while you slip around the corner. You would even be safe in asking him
to lend you a five. He will be safe, too, because he won't have it.

Think, therefore, of the charm of a town where corncob pipes are the
chief industry. Think of them stacked up in bright yellow piles in the
warehouse. Think of the warm sun and the wholesome sweetness of broad
acres that have grown into the pith of the cob. Think of the bright-eyed
Missouri maidens who have turned and scooped and varnished and packed
them. Think of the airy streets and wide pavements of Boonville, and the
corner drug stores with their shining soda fountains and grape-juice
bottles. Think of sitting out on that bluff on a warm evening, watching
the broad shimmer of the river slipping down from the sunset, and
smoking a serene pipe while the local flappers walk in the coolness
wearing crisp, swaying gingham dresses. That's the kind of town we like
to think about.



MAKING MARATHON SAFE FOR THE URCHIN


The Urchin and I have been strolling about Marathon on Sunday mornings
for more than a year, but not until the gasolineless Sabbaths supervened
were we really able to examine the village and see what it is like.
Previously we had been kept busy either dodging motors or admiring them
as they sped by. Their rich dazzle of burnished enamel, the purring hum
of their great tires, evokes applause from the Urchin. He is learning,
as he watches those flashing chariots, that life truly is almost as
vivid as the advertisements in the _Ladies' Home Journal_, where the
shimmer of earthly pageant first was presented to him.

Marathon is a village so genteel and comely that the Urchin and I would
like to have some pictures of it for future generations, particularly as
we see it on an autumn morning when, as I say, the motors are kenneled
and the landscape has ceased to vibrate. In the douce benignance of
equinoctial sunshine we gaze about us with eyes of inventory. Where my
observation errs by too much sentiment the Urchin checks me by his
cooler power of ratiocination.

Marathon is a suburban Xanadu gently caressed by the train service of
the Cinder and Bloodshot. It may be recognized as an aristocratic and
patrician stronghold by the fact that while luxuries are readily
obtainable (for instance, banana splits, or the latest novel by Enoch A.
Bennett), necessaries are had only by prayer and advowson. The drug
store will deliver ice cream to your very refrigerator, but it is
impossible to get your garbage collected. The cook goes off for her
Thursday evening in a taxi, but you will have to mend the roof, stanch
the plumbing and curry the furnace with your own hands. There are ten
trains to take you to town of an evening, but only two to bring you
home. Yet going to town is a luxury, coming home is a necessity. The
supply of grape juice seems almost unlimited, yet coal is to be had
catch-as-catch-can.

Another proof that Marathon is patrician at heart is that nothing is
known by its right name! The drug store is a "pharmacy," Sunday is "the
Sabbath," a house is a "residence," a debt is a "balance due on bill
rendered." A girls' school is a "young ladies' seminary," A Marathon man
is not drafted, he is "inducted into selective service." And the
railway station has a porte cochère (with the correct accent) instead of
a carriage entrance. A furnace is (how erroneously!) called a "heater."
Marathon people do not die--they "pass away." Even the cobbler, good
fellow, has caught the trick; he calls his shop the "Italo-American Shoe
Hospital."

This is an innocent masquerade! If Marathon prefers not to call a
flivver a flivver, I shall not expostulate. And yet this quaint
subterfuge should not be carried quite so far. Stone walls are made for
sunny lounging; yet stone walls in Marathon are built with uneven
vertical projections to discourage the sedentary. Nothing is more
delightful than a dog; but there are no dogs in Marathon. They are all
airedales or spaniels or mastiffs. If an ordinary dog should wag his
tail up our street the airedales would cut him dead. Bless me, Nature
herself has taken to the same insincerity. The landscape round Marathon
is lovely, but it has itself well in hand. The hills all pretend to be
gentle declivities. There is a beautiful little sheet of water,
reflecting the trailery of willows, a green salute to the eye. In a
robuster community it would be a swimming hole--but with us, an
ornamental lake. Only in one spot has Nature forgotten herself and been
so brusque and rough as to jut up a very sizable cliff. This is the
loveliest thing in Marathon: sunlight and shadow break and angle in
cubist magnificence among the oddly veined knobs and prisms of brown
stone. Yet this cliff or quarry is by common consent taboo among us. It
is our indelicacy, our indecency. Such "residences" as are near modestly
turn their kitchens toward it. Only the blacksmith and the gas tanks are
hardy enough to face this nakedness of Mother Earth--they, and excellent
Pat Lemon, Marathon's humblest and blackest citizen, who contemplates
that rugged and honest beauty as he tills his garden on the land
abandoned by squeamish burghers. That is our Aceldama, our Potter's
Field, only approached by the athletic, who keep their eyes from
Nature's indiscretion by vigorous sets of tennis in the purple shadow of
the cliff.

Life is queerly inverted in Marathon. Nature has been so bullied and
repressed that she fawns about us timidly. No well-conducted suburban
shrubbery would think of assuming autumn tints before the ladies have
got into their fall fashions. Indeed none of our chaste trees will even
shed their leaves while any one is watching; and they crouch modestly in
the shade of our massive garages. They have been taught their place. In
Marathon it is a worse sin to have your lawn uncut than to have your
books or your hair uncut. I have been aware of indignant eyes because I
let my back garden run wild. And yet I flatter myself it was not mere
sloth. No! I want the Urchin to see what this savage, tempestuous world
is like. What preparation for life is a village where Nature comes to
heel like a spaniel? When a thunderstorm disorganizes our electric
lights for an hour or so we feel it a personal affront. Let my rearward
plot be a deep-tangled wild-wood where the happy Urchin may imagine
something more ferocious lurking than a posse of radishes. Indeed, I
hardly know whether Marathon is a safe place to bring up a child. How
can he learn the horrors of drink in a village where there is no saloon?
Or the sadness of the seven deadly sins where there is no movie? Or
deference to his betters where the chauffeurs, in their withered leather
legs, drive limousines to the drug store to buy expensive cigars, while
their employers walk to the station puffing briar pipes?

I had been hoping that the war would knock some of this topsy-turvy
nonsense out of us. Maybe it has. Sometimes I see on the faces of our
commuters the unaccustomed agitation of thought. At least we still have
the grace to call ourselves a suburb, and not (what we fancy ourselves)
a superurb. But I don't like the pretense that runs like a jarring note
through the music of our life. Why is it that those who are doing the
work must pretend they are not doing it; and those not doing the work
pretend that they are? I see that the motor messenger girls who drive
high-powered cars wear Sam Browne belts and heavy-soled boots, whereas
the stalwart colored wenches who labor along the tracks of the Cinder
and Bloodshot console themselves with flimsy waists and light slippers.
(A fact!) By and by the Urchin will notice these things. And I don't
want him to grow up the kind of chap who, instead of running to catch a
train, loiters gracefully to the station and waits to be caught.



THE SMELL OF SMELLS


I Smelt it this morning--I wonder if you know the smell I mean?

It had rained hard during the night, and trees and bushes twinkled in
the sharp early sunshine like ballroom chandeliers. As soon as I stepped
out of doors I caught that faint but unmistakable musk in the air; that
dim, warm sweetness. It was the smell of summer, so wholly different
from the crisp tang of spring.

It is a drowsy, magical waft of warmth and fragrance. It comes only when
the leaves and vegetation have grown to a certain fullness and juice,
and when the sun bends in his orbit near enough to draw out all the
subtle vapors of field and woodland. It is a smell that rarely if ever
can be discerned in the city. It needs the wider air of the unhampered
earth for its circulation and play.

I don't know just why, but I associate that peculiar aroma of summer
with woodpiles and barnyards. Perhaps because in the area of a farmyard
the sunlight is caught and focused and glows with its fullest heat and
radiance. And it is in the grasp of the relentless sun that growing
things yield up their innermost vitality and emanate their fragrant
essence. I have seen fields of tobacco under a hot sun that smelt as
blithe as a room thick with blue Havana smoke. I remember a pile of
birch logs, heaped up behind a barn in Pike County, where that mellow
richness of summer flowed and quivered like a visible exhalation in the
air. It is the goodly soul of earth, rendering her health and sweetness
to her master, the sun.

[Illustration]

Every one, I suppose, who is a fancier of smells, knows this blithe
perfume of the summer air that is so pleasant to the nostril almost any
fine forenoon from mid-June until August. It steals pungently through
the blue sparkle of the morning, fading away toward noon when the
moistness is dried out. But when one first issues from the house at
breakfast time it is at its highest savor. Irresistibly it suggests
worms and a tin can with the lid jaggedly bent back and a pitchfork
turning up the earth behind the cow stable. Fishing was first invented
when Adam smelt that odor in the air.

The first fishing morning--can't you imagine it! Has no one ever
celebrated it in verse or oils? The world all young and full of
unmitigated sweetness; the Garden of Eden bespangled with the early dew;
Adam scrabbling up a fistful of worm's and hooking them on a bent thorn
and a line of twisted pampas grass; hurrying down to the branch or the
creek or the bayou or whatever it may have been; sitting down on a
brand-new stump that the devil had put there to tempt him; throwing out
his line; sitting there in the sun dreaming and brooding....

And then a tug, a twitch, a flurry in the clear water of Eden, a pull, a
splash, and the First Fish lay on the grass at Adam's foot. Can you
imagine his sensations? How he yelled to Eve to come--look--see, and,
how annoyed he was because she called out she was busy....

Probably it was in that moment that all the bickerings and back-talk of
husbands and wives originated; when Adam called to Eve to come and look
at his First Fish while it was still silver and vivid in its living
colors; and Eve answered she was busy. In that moment were born the
men's clubs and the women's clubs and the pinochle parties and being
detained at the office and Kelly pool and all the other devices and
stratagems that keep men and women from taking their amusements
together.

Well, I didn't mean to go back to the Garden of Eden; I just wanted to
say that summer is here again, even though the almanac doesn't vouch for
it until the 21st. Those of you who are fond of smells, spread your
nostrils about breakfast time tomorrow morning and see if you detect it.



A JAPANESE BACHELOR


The first obligation of one who lives by writing is to write what
editors will buy. In so doing, how often one laments that one cannot
write exactly what happens. Suppose I were to try it--for once!

I have been lying on the bed--where the landlady has put a dark blue
spread, instead of the white one, because I drop my tobacco
ashes--smoking, and thinking about a new friend I met today. His name is
Kenko, a Japanese bachelor of the fourteenth century, who wrote a little
book of musings which has been translated under the title "The
Miscellany of a Japanese Priest." His candid reflections are those of a
shrewd, learned, humane and somewhat misogynist mind. I have been lying
on the bed because his book, like all books that make one ponder deeply
on human destiny, causes that feeling of mind-sickness, that swimming
pain of the mental faculties--or is it caused by too much strong
tobacco?

My acquaintance with Kenko began only last night, when I sat in bed
reading Mr. Raymond Weaver's very pleasant article about him in a
recent _Bookman_. My last act before turning out the light was to lay
the magazine on the table, open at Mr. Weaver's essay, to remind me to
get a copy of Kenko the first thing this morning. Happily to-day was
Saturday. I don't know what I should have done if it had been Sunday. I
felt that I could not wait another day without owning that book. I
suspected it was a good deal in the mood of another bachelor, an
Anglo-American Caleb of to-day--Mr. Logan Pearsall Smith, whose
whimsical "Trivia" belongs on the same shelf.

This morning I tried to argue myself out of the decision. It may be a
very expensive book, I thought; it may cost two or three dollars; I have
been spending a lot of money lately, and I certainly ought to buy some
new undershirts. Moreover, this has been a bad week; I have never
written those paragraphs I promised a certain editor, and I haven't paid
the rent yet. Why not try to find the book at a library? But I knew the
only library where I would have any chance of finding Kenko would be the
big pile at Fifth avenue and Forty-second street, and I could not bear
the thought of having to read that book without smoking. I felt
instinctively (from what Mr. Weaver had written) that it was the kind
of book that requires a pipe.

Well, I thought, I won't decide this too hastily; I'll walk down to the
post office (four blocks) and make up my mind on the way. I knew
already, however, that if I didn't go downtown for that book it would
bother me all day and ruin my work.

I walked down to the post office (to mail to an editor a sonnet I
thought fairly well of) saying to myself: That book is imported from
England, it may be a big book, it may even cost four dollars. How much
better to exhibit the stoic tenacity of all great men, go back to my
hall bedroom (which I was temporarily occupying) and concentrate on
matters in hand. What right, I said, has a Buddhist recluse, born either
in 1281 or 1283, to harass me so? But I knew in my heart that the matter
was already decided. I walked back to the corner of Hallbedroom street,
and stood vacillating at the newsstand, pretending to glance over the
papers. But across six centuries the insistent ghost of Kenko had me in
its grip. Annoyed, and with a sense of chagrin, I hurried to the subway.

In the dimly lit vestibule of the subway car, a boy of sixteen or so sat
on an up-ended suitcase, plunged in a book. I can never resist the
temptation to try to see what books other people are reading. This
innocent curiosity has led me into many rudenesses, for I am
short-sighted and have to stare very close to make out the titles. And
usually the people who read books on trolleys, subways and ferries are
women. How often I have stalked them warily, trying to identify the
volume without seeming too intrusive. That weakness deserves an essay in
itself. It has led me into surprising adventures. But in this case my
quarry was easy. The lad--I judged him a boarding school boy going back
to school after the holidays--was so absorbed in his reading that it was
easy to thrust my face over his shoulder and see the running head on the
page--"The Light That Failed."

I left the subway at Pennsylvania Station. Just to appease my
conscience, I stopped in at the agreeable Cadmus bookshop on
Thirty-third street to see if by any chance they might have a
second-hand copy of Kenko. But I know they wouldn't; it is not the kind
of book at all likely to be found second-hand. I tarried here long
enough to smoke one cigarette and pay my devoirs to the noble profession
of second-hand bookselling. I even thought, a little wildly, of buying a
copy of "The Monk" by M.G. Lewis, which I saw there. So does the frenzy
rage when once you unleash it. But I decided to be content with paying
my devoirs to the proprietor, a friend of mine, and not go on (as the
soldier does in Hood's lovely pun) to devour my pay. I hurried off to
the office of the Oxford University Press, Kenko's publishers.

It should be stated, however, that owing to some confusion of doors I
got by mistake into the reception room of the Brunswick-Balke-Collender
Billiard Table Company, which is on the same corridor as the salesroom
of the Oxford Press. It was a pleasant reception room, not very bookish
in aspect, but in my agitation I was too eager to feel surprised by the
large billiard table in the offing. I somewhat startled a young man at
an adding machine by demanding, in a husky voice, a copy of "The
Miscellanies of a Japanese Priest." I was rather nervous by this time,
lest for some reason I should not be able to buy a copy of Kenko. I
feared the publishers might be angry with me for not having made a round
of the bookstores first. The young man saw that I was chalking the wrong
cue, and forwarded me.

In the office of the Oxford Press I met a very genial reception. I had
been, as I say, apprehensive lest they should refuse to sell me the
book; or perhaps they might not have a copy. I wondered what credentials
I could offer to override their scruples. I had made up my mind to tell
them, if they demurred, that I had once published an essay to prove that
the best book for reading in bed is the General Catalogue of the Oxford
University Press. This is quite true. It is a delightful compilation of
several thousand pages, on India paper. But to my pleasant surprise the
Oxonians seemed not at all surprised at the sudden appearance of one
asking, in a voice a little shaken with emotion, for a copy of the
"Miscellanies." Mr. Campion and Mr. Krause, who greeted me, were
kindness itself.

"Oh, yes," they said, "we have a copy." And in a minute it lay before
me. One of those little green and gold volumes in the Oxford Library of
Prose and Poetry. "How much?" I said. "A dollar forty." I paid it
joyfully. It is a good price for a book. Once I wrote a book myself that
sells (when it does sell) at that figure. When I was at Oxford I used to
buy the O.L.P.P. books for (I think) half a crown. In 1917 they were
listed at a dollar. Now $1.40. But I fear Kenko's estate doesn't get the
advantage of increased royalties.

The first thing to do was to find a place to read the book. My club was
fifteen blocks away. The smoking room of the Pennsylvania Station, where
I have done much reading, was three long blocks. But I must dip into
Kenko immediately. Down in the hallway I found a shoe-shining stand,
with a bowl of indirect light above it. The artist was busy in the
barber shop near-by. Admirable opportunity. I mounted the throne and
fell to. The first thing I saw was a quaint Japanese woodcut of a buxom
maiden washing garments in a rapidly purling stream. She was treading
out a petticoat with her bare feet, presumably on a flat stone. In a
black storm-cloud above a willow tree a bearded supernatural being, with
hands spread in humorous deprecation, gazes down half pleased, half
horrified. And the caption is, "Did not the fairy Kumé lose his
supernatural powers when he saw the white legs of a girl washing
clothes?" Yet be not dismayed. Kenko is no George Moore.

By and bye the shoeshiner came out and found me reading. He was
apologetic. "I didn't know you were here," he said. "Sorry to keep you
waiting." Fortunately my shoes needed shining, as they generally do. He
shined them, and I still sat reading. He was puzzled, and tried to make
out the title of the book. At that moment I was reading:

One morning after a beautiful snowfall I sent a letter to a friend's
house about something I wished to say, but said nothing at all about
the snow. And in his reply he wrote: "How can I listen to a man so base
that his pen in writing did not make the least reference to the snow!
Your honorable way of expressing yourself I exceedingly regret." How
amusing was this answer!

The shoeshiner was now asking me whether anything was wrong with the
polish he had put on my boots, so I thought it best to leave.

In the earlier pages of Kenko's book there are a number of allusions to
the agreeableness of intercourse with friends, so I went into a nearby
restaurant to telephone to a man whom I wished to know better. He said
that he would be happy to meet me at ten minutes after twelve. That left
over half an hour. I felt an immediate necessity to tell some one about
Kenko, so I made my way to Mr. Nichols's delightful bookshop (which has
an open fire) on Thirty-third Street. I showed the book to Mr. Nichols,
and we had a pleasant talk, in the course of which she showed me the
five facsimile volumes of Dickens's Christmas books, which he had
issued. In particular, he read aloud to me the magnificent description
of the boiling kettle in the first "Chirp" of "The Cricket on the
Hearth," and pointed out to me how Dickens fell into rhyme in describing
the song of the kettle. This passage Mr. Nichols read to me, standing
in front of his fire, in a very musical and sympathetic tone of voice
which pleased me exceedingly. I was strongly tempted to buy the five
little books, and wished I had known of them before Christmas. With a
brutal effort at last I pulled out my watch, and found it was a quarter
after twelve.

I met my friend at his office, and we walked up Fourth Avenue in a flush
of sunshine. From Twenty-fourth to Forty-second Street we discussed the
habits of English poets visiting this country. At the club we got onto
Bolshevism, and he told me how a bookseller on Lexington Avenue, whose
shop is frequented by very outspoken radicals, had told him that one of
these had said, "The time is coming, and not far away, when the gutters
in front of your shop will run with blood as they did in Petrograd." I
thought of some recent bomb outrages in Philadelphia and did not laugh.
With such current problems before us, I felt a little embarrassed about
turning the talk back to so many centuries to Kenko, but finally I got
it there. My friend ate chicken hash and tea; I had kidneys and bacon,
and cocoa with whipped cream. We both had a coffee éclair. We parted
with mutual regret, and I went back to the Hallbedroom street, intending
to do some work.

Of course you know that I didn't do it. I lit the gas stove, and sat
down to read Kenko. I wished I were a recluse, living somewhere near a
plum tree and a clear running water, leisurely penning maxims for
posterity. I read about his frugality, his love of the moon and a little
music, his somewhat embittered complaints against the folly of men who
spend their lives in rushing about swamped in petty affairs, and the sad
story of the old priest who was attacked by a goblin-cat when he came
home late at night from a pleasant evening spent in capping verses. I
read with special pleasure his seven Self-Congratulations, in which he
records seven occasions when he felt that he had really done himself
justice. The first of these was when he watched a man riding horseback
in a reckless fashion; he predicted that the man would come a cropper,
and he did so. The next four self-congratulations refer to times when
his knowledge of literary and artistic matters enabled him to place an
unfamiliar quotation or assign a painted tablet to the right artist. One
tells how he was able to find a man in a crowd when everyone else had
failed. And the last and most amusing is an anecdote of a court lady who
tried to inveigle him into a flirtation with her maid by sending the
latter, richly dressed and perfumed, to sit very close to him when he
was at the temple. Kenko congratulates himself on having been adamant.
He was no Pepys.

I thought of trying to set down a similar list of self-congratulations
for myself. Alas, the only two I could think of were having remembered a
telephone number, the memorandum of which I had lost; and having
persuaded a publisher to issue a novel which was a great success. (Not
written by me, let me add.)

I found my friend Kenko a rather disturbing companion. His condemnation
of our busy, racketing life is so damned conclusive! Having recently
added to my family, I was distressed by his section "Against Leaving Any
Descendants." He seems to be devoid of the sentiment of ancestor worship
and sacredness of family continuity which we have been taught to
associate with the Oriental. And yet there is always a current of
suspicion in one's mind that he is not really revealing his inmost
heart. When a bachelor in his late fifties tells us how glad he is never
to have had a son, we begin to taste sour grapes.

I went out about six o'clock, and was thrilled by a shaving of shining
new moon in the cold blue winter sky--"the sky with its terribly cold
clear moon, which none care to watch, is simply heart-breaking," says
Kenko. As I walked up Broadway I turned back for another look at the
moon, and found it hidden by the vast bulk of a hotel. Kenko would have
had some caustic remark for that. I went into the Milwaukee Lunch for
supper. They had just baked some of their delicious fresh bran muffins,
still hot from the oven. I had two of them, sliced and buttered, with a
pot of tea. Kenko lay on the table, and the red-headed philosopher who
runs the lunchroom spotted him. I have always noticed that "plain men"
are vastly curious about books. They seem to suspect that there is some
occult power in them, some mystery that they would like to grasp. My
friend, who has the bearing of a prizefighter, but the heart of an
amiable child, came over and picked up the book. He sat down at the
table with me and looked at it. I was a little doubtful how to explain
matters, for I felt that it was the kind of book he would not be likely
to care for. He began spelling it out loud, rather laboriously--

    Section 1. Well! Being born into this world there are, I suppose,
    many aims which we may strive to attain.

To my surprise he showed the greatest enthusiasm. So much so that I
ordered another pair of bran muffins, which I did not really want, so
that he might have more time for reading Kenko.

"Who was this fellow?" he asked.

"He was a Jap," I said, "lived a long time ago. He was mighty thick with
the Emperor, and after the Emperor died he went to live by himself in
the country, and became a priest, and wrote down his thoughts."

"I see," said my friend. "Just put down whatever came into his head,
eh?"

"That's it. All his ideas about the queer things a fellow runs into in
life, you know, little bits of philosophy."

I was a little afraid of using that word "philosophy," but I couldn't
think of anything else to say. It struck my friend very pleasantly.

"That's it," he said, "philosophy. Just as you say, now, he went off by
himself and put things down the way they come to him. Philosophy. Sure.
Say, that's a good kind of book. I like that kind of thing. I have a lot
of books at home, you know. I get home about nine o'clock, and I most
always read a bit before I go to bed."

How I yearned to know what books they were, but it seemed rude to
question him.

He dipped into Kenko again, and I wondered whether courtesy demanded
that I should order another pot of tea.

"Say, would you like to do me a favor?"

"Sure thing," I said.

"When you get through with that book, pass it over, will you? That's the
kind of thing I've been wanting. Just some little thoughts, you know,
something short. I've got a lot of books at home."

His big florid face gleamed with friendly earnestness.

"Sure thing," I said. "Just as soon as I've finished it you shall have
it." I wanted to ask whether he would reciprocate by lending me one of
his own books, which would give me some clue to his tastes; but again I
felt obscurely that he would not understand my curiosity.

As I went out he called to me again from where he stood by the shining
coffee boiler. "Don't forget, will you?" he said. "When you're through,
just pass it over."

I promised faithfully, and tomorrow evening I shall take the book in to
him. I honestly hope he'll enjoy it. I walked up the bright wintry
street, and wondered what Kenko would have said to the endless flow of
taxicabs, the elevators and subways, the telephones, and telegraph
offices, the newsstands and especially the plate-glass windows of
florists. He would have had some urbane, cynical and delightfully
disillusioning remarks to offer. And, as Mr. Weaver so shrewdly says,
how he would enjoy "The Way of All Flesh!"

I came back to Hallbedroom street, and set down these few meditations.
There is much more I would like to say, but the partitions in hall
bedrooms are thin, and the lady in the next room thumps on the wall if I
keep the typewriter going after ten o'clock.



TWO DAYS WE CELEBRATE


[Illustration]

If we were asked (we have not been asked) to name a day the world ought
to celebrate and does not, we would name the 16th of May. For on that
day, in the year 1763, James Boswell first met Dr. Samuel Johnson.

This great event, which enriched the world with one of the most vivid
panoramas of human nature known to man, happened in Tom Davies's
bookshop in Covent Garden. Mr. and Mrs. Davies were friends of the
Doctor, who frequently visited their shop. Of them Boswell remarks
quaintly that though they had been on the stage for many years, they
"maintained an uniform decency of character." The shop seems to have
been a charming place: one went there not merely to buy books, but also
to have a cup of tea in the back parlor. It is sad to think that though
we have been hanging round bookshops for a number of years, we have
never yet met a bookseller who invited us into the private office for a
quiet cup. Wait a moment, though, we are forgetting Dr. Rosenbach, the
famous bookseller of Philadelphia. But his collations, held in amazed
memory by many editioneers, rarely descend to anything so humble as tea.
One recalls a confused glamor of ortolans, trussed guinea-hens,
strawberries reclining in a bowl carved out of solid ice, and what used
to be known as vintages. It is a pity that Dr. Johnson died too soon to
take lunch with Dr. Rosenbach.

"At last, on Monday, the 16th of May," says Boswell, "when I was sitting
in Mr. Davies's back parlor, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs.
Davies, Johnson unexpectedly came into the shop; and Mr. Davies, having
perceived him through the glass door, announced his awful approach to
me. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him.
I was much agitated." The volatile Boswell may be forgiven his
agitation. We also would have trembled not a little. Boswell was only
twenty-two, and probably felt that his whole life and career hung upon
the great man's mood. But embarrassment is a comely emotion for a young
man in the face of greatness; and the Doctor was speedily put in a good
humor by an opportunity to utter his favorite pleasantry at the expense
of the Scotch. "I do, indeed, come from Scotland," cried Boswell, after
Davies had let the cat out of the bag; "but I cannot help it." "That,
sir," said Doctor Johnson, "is what a great many of your countrymen
cannot help."

The great book that dated from that meeting in Davies's back parlor has
become one of the most intimately cherished possessions of the race. One
finds its admirers and students scattered over the globe. No man who
loves human nature in all its quirks and pangs, seasoned with bluff
honesty and the genuineness of a cliff or a tree, can afford to step
into a hearse until he has made it his own. And it is a noteworthy
illustration of the biblical saying that whosoever will rule, let him be
a servant. Boswell made himself the servant of Johnson, and became one
of the masters of English literature.

It used to annoy us to hear Karl Rosner referred to as "the Kaiser's
Boswell." For to _boswellize_ (which is a verb that has gone into our
dictionaries) means not merely to transcribe faithfully the acts and
moods and import of a man's life; it implies also that the man so
delineated be a good man and a great. Horace Traubel was perhaps a
Boswell; but Rosner never.

It is pleasant to know that Boswell was not merely a kind of animated
note-book. He was a droll, vain, erring, bibulous, warm-hearted
creature, a good deal of a Pepys, in fact, with all the Pepysian vices
and virtues. Mr. A. Edward Newton's "Amenities of Book Collecting" makes
Boswell very human to us. How jolly it is to learn that Jamie (like many
lesser fry since) wrote press notices about himself. Here is one of his
own blurbs, which we quote from Mr. Newton's book:

    Boswell, the author, is a most excellent man: he is of an ancient
    family in the west of Scotland, upon which he values himself not a
    little. At his nativity there appeared omens of his future
    greatness. His parts are bright, and his education has been good. He
    has traveled in post chaises miles without number. He is fond of
    seeing much of the world. He eats of every good dish, especially
    apple pie. He drinks Old Hock. He has a very fine temper. He is
    somewhat of a humorist and a little tinctured with pride. He has a
    good manly countenance, and he owns himself to be amorous. He has
    infinite vivacity, yet is observed at times to have a melancholy
    cast. He is rather fat than lean, rather short than tall, rather
    young than old. His shoes are neatly made, and he never wears
    spectacles.

This brings the excellent Boswell very close to us indeed: he might
almost be a member of the Authors' League. "Especially apple pie, bless
his heart!"

When we said that Boswell was a kind of Pepys, we fell by chance into a
happy comparison. Not only by his volatile errors was he of the tribe of
Samuel, but in his outstanding character by which he becomes of
importance to posterity--that of one of the great diarists. Now there is
no human failing upon which we look with more affectionate lenience than
that of keeping a diary. All of us, in our pilgrimage through the
difficult thickets of this world, have moods and moments when we have to
fall back on ourselves for the only complete understanding and
absolution we will ever find. In such times, how pleasant it is to
record our emotions and misgivings in the sure and secret pages of some
privy notebook; and how entertaining to read them again in later years!
Dr. Johnson himself advised Bozzy to keep a journal, though he little
suspected to what use it would be put. The cynical will say that he did
so in order that Bozzy would have less time to pester him, but we
believe his advice was sincere. It must have been, for the Doctor kept
one himself, of which more in a moment.

"He recommended to me," Boswell says, "to keep a journal of my life,
full and unreserved. He said it would be a very good exercise and would
yield me great satisfaction when the particulars were faded from my
remembrance. He counselled me to keep it private, and said I might
surely have a friend who would burn it in case of my death."

Happily it was not burned. The Great Doctor never seemed so near to me
as the other day when I saw a little notebook, bound in soft brown
leather and interleaved with blotting paper, in which Bozzy's busy pen
had jotted down memoranda of his talks with his friend, while they were
still echoing in his mind. From this notebook (which must have been one
of many) the paragraphs were transferred practically unaltered into the
Life. This superb treasure, now owned by Mr. Adam of Buffalo, almost
makes one hear the Doctor's voice; and one imagines Boswell sitting up
at night with his candle, methodically recording the remarks of the day.
The first entry was dated September 22, 1777, so Bozzy must have carried
it in his pocket when Dr. Johnson and he were visiting Dr. Taylor in
Ashbourne. It was during this junket that Dr. Johnson tried to pole the
large dead cat over Dr. Taylor's dam, an incident that Boswell recorded
as part of his "Flemish picture of my friend." It was then also that
Mrs. Killingley, mistress of Ashbourne's leading inn, The Green Man,
begged Boswell "to name the house to his extensive acquaintance."
Certainly Bozzy's acquaintance was to be far more extensive than good
Mrs. Killingley ever dreamed. It was he who "named the house" to me, and
for this reason The Green Man profited in fourpence worth of cider, 134
years later.

There is another day we have vowed to commemorate, by drinking great
flaggonage of tea, and that is the 18th of September, Dr. Johnson's
birthday. The Great Cham needs no champion; his speech and person have
become part of our common heritage. Yet the extraordinary scenario in
which Boswell filmed him for us has attained that curious estate of
great literature the characteristic of which is that every man imagines
he has read it, though he may never have opened its pages. It is like
the historic landmark of one's home town, which foreigners from overseas
come to study, but which the denizen has hardly entered. It is like
Niagara Falls: we have a very fair mental picture of the spectacle and
little zeal to visit the uproar itself. And so, though we all use
Doctor Johnson's sharply stamped coinages, we generally are too lax
about visiting the mint.

But we will never cease to pray that every honest man should study
Boswell. There are many who have topped the rise of human felicity in
that book: when reading it they feel the tide of intellect brim the mind
with a unique fullness of satisfaction. It is not a mere commentary on
life: it _is_ life--it fills and floods every channel of the brain. It
is a book that men make a hobby of, as golf or billiards. To know it is
a liberal education. I could have understood Germany yearning to invade
England in order to annex Boswell's Johnson. There would have been some
sense in that.

What is the average man's conception of Doctor Johnson? We think of a
huge ungainly creature, slovenly of dress, addicted to tea, the author
of a dictionary and the center of a tavern coterie. We think of him
prefacing bluff and vehement remarks with "Sir," and having a knack for
demolishing opponents in boisterous argument. All of which is passing
true, just as is our picture of the Niagara we have never seen; but how
it misses the inner tenderness and tormented virtue of the man!

So it is refreshing sometimes to turn away from Boswell to those
passages where the good old Doctor has revealed himself with his own
hand. The letter to Chesterfield is too well known for comment. But no
less noble, and not nearly so well known, is the preface to the
Dictionary. How moving it is in its sturdy courage, its strong grasp of
the tools of expression. In every line one feels the weight and push of
a mind that had behind it the full reservoir of language, particularly
the Latin. There is the same sense of urgent pressure that one feels in
watching a strong stream backed up behind a dam:

    I look with pleasure on my book, however defective, and deliver it
    to the world with the spirit of a man that has endeavored well. That
    it will immediately become popular I have not promised to myself: a
    few wild blunders, and risible absurdities, from which no work of
    such multiplicity was ever free, may for a time furnish folly with
    laughter, and harden ignorance in contempt, but useful diligence
    will at last prevail, and there never can be wanting some who
    distinguish desert; who will consider that no dictionary of a living
    tongue ever can be perfect, since while it is hastening to
    publication, some words are budding, and some falling away; that a
    whole life cannot be spent upon syntax and etymology, and that even
    a whole life would not be sufficient; that he, whose design includes
    whatever language can express, must often speak of what he does not
    understand; that a writer will sometimes be tarried by eagerness to
    the end, and sometimes faint with weariness under a task, which
    Scaliger compares to the labors of the anvil and the mine; that what
    is obvious is not always known, and what is known is not always
    present; that sudden fits of inadvertency will surprise vigilance,
    slight avocations will seduce attention, and casual eclipses of the
    mind will darken learning; and that the writer shall often in vain
    trace his memory at the moment of need, for that which yesterday he
    knew with intuitive readiness, and which will come uncalled into his
    thoughts to-morrow.

I know no better way of celebrating Doctor Johnson's birthday than by
quoting a few passages from his "Prayers and Meditations," jotted down
during his life in small note-books and given shortly before his death
to a friend. No one understands the dear old doctor unless he remembers
that his spirit was greatly perplexed and harassed by sad and disordered
broodings. The bodily twitchings and odd gestures which attracted so
much attention as he rolled about the streets were symptoms of painful
twitchings and gestures within. A great part of his intense delight in
convivial gatherings, in conversation and the dinner table, was due to
his eagerness to be taken out of himself. One fears that his solitary
hours were very often tragic.

There were certain dates which Doctor Johnson almost always commemorated
in his private notebook--his birthday, the date of his wife's death,
the Easter season and New Year's. In these pathetic little entries one
sees the spirit that was dogmatic and proud among men abasing itself in
humility and pouring out the generous tenderness of an affectionate
nature. In these moments of contrition small peccadilloes took on tragic
importance in his mind. Rising late in the morning and the untidy state
of his papers seemed unforgivable sins. There is hardly any more moving
picture in the history of mankind than that of the rugged old doctor
pouring out his innocent petitions for greater strength in ordering his
life and bewailing his faults of sluggishness, indulgence at table and
disorderly thoughts. Let us begin with his entry on September 18, 1760,
his fifty-second birthday:

  RESOLVED, D.j.

  To combat notions of obligation.

  To apply to study.

  To reclaim imaginations.

  To consult the resolves on Tetty's [his wife's] coffin.

  To rise early.

  To study religion.

  To go to church.

  To drink less strong liquors.

  To keep a journal.

  To oppose laziness by doing what is to be done to-morrow.

  Rise as early as I can.

  Send for books for history of war.

  Put books in order.

  Scheme of life.

The very human feature of these little notes is that the same good
resolutions appear year after year. Thus, four years after the above, we
find him writing:

Sept. 18, 1764.

This is my 56th birthday, the day on which I have concluded 55 years.

I have outlived many friends, I have felt many sorrows. I have made few
improvements. Since my resolution formed last Easter, I have made no
advancement in knowledge or in goodness; nor do I recollect that I have
endeavored it. I am dejected, but not hopeless.

I resolve,

To study the Scriptures; I hope, in the original languages. Six hundred
and forty verses every Sunday will nearly comprise the Scriptures in a
year.

To read good books; to study theology.

To treasure in my mind passages for recollection.

To rise early; not later than six, if I can; I hope sooner, but as soon
as I can.

To keep a journal, both of employment and of expenses. To keep accounts.

To take care of my health by such means as I have designed.

To set down at night some plan for the morrow.

To-morrow I purpose to regulate my room.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Easter, 1765, he confesses sadly that he often lies abed until two in
the afternoon; which, after all, was not so deplorable, for he usually
went to bed very late. Boswell has spoken of "the unseasonable hour at
which he had habituated himself to expect the oblivion of repose." On
New Year's Day, 1767, he prays: "Enable me, O Lord, to use all
enjoyments with due temperance, preserve me from unseasonable and
immoderate sleep." Two years later than this he writes:

"I am not yet in a state to form many resolutions; I purpose and hope to
rise early in the morning at eight, and by degrees at six; eight being
the latest hour to which bedtime can be properly extended; and six the
earliest that the present system of life requires."

One of the most pathetic of his entries is the following, on September
18, 1768:

"This day it came into my mind to write the history of my melancholy.
On this I purpose to deliberate; I know not whether it may not too much
disturb me."

From time to time there have been stupid or malicious people who have
said that Johnson's marriage with a homely woman twenty years older than
himself was not a love match. For instance, Mr. E.W. Howe, of Atchison,
Kan., in most respects an amiable and well-conducted philosopher,
uttered in _Howe's Monthly_ (May, 1918) the following words, which (I
hope) he will forever regret:

"I have heard that when a young man he (Johnson) married an ugly and
vulgar old woman for her money, and that his taste was so bad that he
worshiped her."

Against this let us set what Johnson wrote in his notebook on March 28,
1770:

    This is the day on which, in 1752, I was deprived of poor dear
    Tetty. When I recollect the time in which we lived together, my
    grief of her departure is not abated; and I have less pleasure in
    any good that befalls me, because she does not partake it. On many
    occasions, I think what she would have said or done. When I saw the
    sea at Brighthelmstone, I wished for her to have seen it with me.
    But with respect to her, no rational wish is now left but that we
    may meet at last where the mercy of God shall make us happy, and
    perhaps make us instrumental to the happiness of each other. It is
    now 18 years.

Let us end the memorandum with a less solemn note. On Good Friday, 1779,
he and Boswell went to church together. When they returned the good old
doctor sat down to read the Bible, and he says, "I gave Boswell Les
Pensées de Pascal, that he might not interrupt me." Of this very copy
Boswell says: "I preserve the book with reverence." I wonder who has it
now?

So let us wish Doctor Johnson many happy returns of the day, sure that
as long as paper and ink and eyesight preserve their virtue he will bide
among us, real and living and endlessly loved.



THE URCHIN AT THE ZOO


I don't know just what urchins think about; neither do they, perhaps;
but presumably by the time they're twenty-eight months old they must
have formed some ideas as to what is possible and what isn't. And
therefore it seemed to the Urchin's curators sound and advisable to take
him out to the Zoo one Sunday afternoon just to suggest to his
delightful mind that nothing is impossible in this curious world.

Of course, the amusing feature of such expeditions is that it is always
the adult who is astounded, while the child takes things blandly for
granted. You or I can watch a tiger for hours and not make head or tail
of it--in a spiritual sense, that is--whereas an urchin simply smiles
with rapture, isn't the least amazed, and wants to stroke the "nice
pussy."

It was a soft spring afternoon, the garden was thronged with visitors
and all the indoor animals seemed to be wondering how soon they would be
let out into their open-air inclosures. We filed through the wicket gate
and the Urchin disdained the little green go-carts ranked for hire. He
preferred to navigate the Zoo on his own white-gaitered legs. You might
as well have expected Adam on his first tour of Eden to ride in a
palanquin.

The Urchin entered the Zoo much in the frame of mind that must have been
Adam's on that original tour of inspection. He had been told he was
going to the Zoo, but that meant nothing to him. He saw by the aspect of
his curators that he was to have a good time, and loyally he was
prepared to exult over whatever might come his way. The first thing he
saw was a large boulder--it is set up as a memorial to a former curator
of the garden. "Ah," thought the Urchin, "this is what I have been
brought here to admire." With a shout of glee he ran to it. "See stone,"
he cried. He is an enthusiast concerning stones. He has a small
cardboard box of pebbles, gathered from the walks of a city square,
which is very precious to him. And this magnificent big pebble, he
evidently thought, was the marvelous thing he had come to examine. His
custodians, far more anxious than he to feast their eyes upon lions and
tigers, had hard work to lure him away. He crouched by the boulder,
appraising its hugeness, and left it with the gratified air of one who
has extracted the heart out of a surprising and significant experience.

The next adventure was a robin, hopping on the lawn. Every child is
familiar with robins which play a leading part in so much Mother Goose
mythology, so the Urchin felt himself greeting an old friend. "See Robin
Red-breast!" he exclaimed, and tried to climb the low wire fence that
bordered the path. The robin hopped discreetly underneath a bush,
uncertain of our motives.

Now, as I have no motive but to attempt to record the truth, it is my
duty to set down quite frankly that I believe the Urchin showed more
enthusiasm over the stone and the robin than over any of the amazements
that succeeded them. I suppose the reason for that is plain. These two
objects had some understandable relation with his daily life. His small
mind--we call a child's mind "small" simply by habit; perhaps it is
larger than ours, for it can take in almost anything without
effort--possessed well-known classifications into which the big stone
and the robin fitted comfortably and naturally. But what can a child say
to an ostrich or an elephant? It simply smiles and passes on. Thereby
showing its superiority to some of our most eminent thinkers. They,
confronted by something the like of which they have never seen
before--shall we say a League of Nations or Bolshevism?--burst into
shrill screams of panic abuse and flee the precinct! How much wiser the
level-headed Urchin! Confronting the elephant, certainly an appalling
sight to so small a mortal, he looked at the curator, who was carrying
him on one shoulder, and said with an air of one seeking gently to
reassure himself, "Elphunt won't come after Junior." Which is something
of the mood to which the Senate is moving.

It was delightful to see the Urchin endeavor to bring some sense of
order into this amazing place by his classification of the strange
sights that surrounded him. He would not confess himself staggered by
anything. At his first glimpse of the emu he cried ecstatic, "Look,
there's a--," and paused, not knowing what on earth to call it. Then
rapidly to cover up his ignorance he pointed confidently to a somewhat
similar fowl and said sagely, "And there's another!" The curious
moth-eaten and shabby appearance that captive camels always exhibit was
accurately recorded in his addressing one of them as "poor old horsie."
And after watching the llamas in silence, when he saw them nibble at
some grass he was satisfied. "Moo-cow," he stated positively, and turned
away. The bears did not seem to interest him until he was reminded of
Goldylocks. Then he remembered the pictures of the bears in that story
and began to take stock of them.

The Zoo is a pleasant place to wander on a Sunday afternoon. The willow
trees, down by the brook where the otters were plunging, were a cloud of
delicate green. Shrubs everywhere were bursting into bud. The Tasmanian
devils those odd little swine that look like small pigs in a high fever,
were lying sprawled out, belly to the sun-warmed earth, in the same
whimsical posture that dogs adopt when trying to express how jolly they
feel. The Urchin's curators were at a loss to know what the Tasmanian
devils were and at first were led astray by a sign on a tree in the
devils' inclosure. "Look, they're Norway maples," cried one curator. In
the same way we thought at first that a llama was a Chinese ginkgo.
These errors lead to a decent humility.

There is something about a Zoo that always makes one hungry, so we sat
on a bench in the sun, watched the stately swans ruffling like
square-rigged ships on the sparkling pond, and ate biscuits, while the
Urchin was given a mandate over some very small morsels. He was much
entertained by the monkeys in the open-air cages. In the upper story of
one cage a lady baboon was embracing an urchin of her own, while
underneath her husband was turning over a pile of straw in a persistent
search for small deer. It was a sad day for the monkeys at the Zoo when
the rule was made that no peanuts can be brought into the park. I should
have thought that peanuts were an inalienable right for captive monkeys.
The order posted everywhere that one must not give the animals tobacco
seems almost unnecessary nowadays, with the weed at present prices. The
Urchin was greatly interested in the baboon rummaging in his straw.
"Mokey kicking the grass away," he observed thoughtfully.

Down in the grizzly-bear pit one of the bears squatted himself in the
pool and sat there, grinning complacently at the crowd. We explained
that the bear was taking a bath. This presented a familiar train of
thought to the Urchin and he watched the grizzly climb out of his tank
and scatter the water over the stone floor. As we walked away the Urchin
observed thoughtfully, "He's dying." This somewhat shocked the curators,
who did not know that their offspring had even heard of death. "What
does he mean?" we asked ourselves. "He's dying," repeated the Urchin in
a tone of happy conviction. Then the explanation struck us. "He's
drying!" "Quite right," we said. "After his bath he has to dry himself."

We went home on a crowded Girard Avenue car, thinking impatiently that
it will be some time before we can read "The Jungle Book" to the Urchin.
In the summer, when the elephants take their bath outdoors, we'll go
again. And the last thing the Urchin said that night as he fell asleep
was, "Mokey kicking the grass away."



FELLOW CRAFTSMEN


Robert Urwick, the author, was not yet so calloused by success that he
was immune from flattery. And so when he received the following letter
he was rather pleased:

Mr. Robt. Urwick, dear sir I seen your story in this weeks Saturday Evn
Cudgel, not that I can afford to buy journals of that stamp but I pick
up the copy on a bench in the park. Now Mr. Urwick I am a poor man but I
was brought up a patron of the arts and I am bound to say that story of
yours called Brass Nuckles was a fine story and I am proud to compliment
you upon it. Mr. Urwick that brings me to another matter upon which I
have been intending to write you upon for a long time but did not like
to risk an intrusion. I used to dable in literature to some little
extent myself if that will lend a fellow feeling for a craftsman in
distress. I am a poor man, out of work through no fault of mine but on
account of the illness of my wife and my sitting up with her at nights
for weeks and weeks I could not hold my job whch required mentle
concentration of a vigorous sort. Now Mr. Urwick I have a sick wife and
seven children to support, and the rent shortly due and the landlord
threatens to eject us if I don't pay what I owe. As it happens my wife
and I are hoping to be blessed again soon, with our eighth. Owing to my
love and devotion for the fine arts we have named all the earlier
children for noted authors or writers Rudyard Kipling, W.J. Bryan, Mark
Twain, Debs, Irvin Cobb, Walt Mason and Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Now Mr.
Urwick I thought that I would name the next one after you, seeing you
have done so much for literature Robert if a boy or Roberta if a girl
with Urwick for a middle name thus making you a godfather in a manner of
speaking. I was wondering whether you would not feel like making a
little godfathers gift for this innocent babe now about to come into the
world and to bare your name. Say twenty dollars, but not a check if it
can be avoided as owing to tempry ambarrassment I am not holding any
bank account, and currency would be easier for me to convert into the
necesity of life.

I wrote this letter once before but tore it up fearing to intrude, but
now my need compels me to be frank. I hope you will adorn our
literature with many more beautiful compositions similiar to Brass
Nuckles.

Yours truly

Mr Henry Phillips 454 East 34 St.

Mr. Urwick, after reading this remarkable tribute twice, laughed
heartily and looked in his bill-folder. Finding there a crisp ten-dollar
note, he folded it into an envelope and mailed it to his admirer,
inclosing with it a friendly letter wishing success to the coming infant
who was to carry his name.

A fortnight later he found on his breakfast table a very soiled postal
card with this message:

Dear and kind friend, the babe arrived and to the joy of all is a boy
and has been cristened Robert Urwick Phillips. Unfortunately he is a
sicly infant and the doctor says he must have port wine at once or he
may not survive. His mother and I were overjoyed at your munificant gift
and hope some day to tell the boy of his beanefactor, Mr. Kipling only
sent five spot to his namesake. Do you think you could spare five
dollars to help pay for port wine Yours gratefully

Henry Phillips?

Mr. Urwick was a little surprised at the thought of port wine for one so
young, but happening to be bound down town that morning he thought it
might be interesting to look in at Mr. Phillips' residence and find out
how his godchild was faring. If the child were really in distress he
might perhaps contribute a small sum to insure proper medical care.

The address proved to be a shabby tenement house hedged by saloons. A
ragged little girl (he wondered whether she were Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Phillips) pointed him to Mr. Phillips's door. Meeting no answer, he
entered.

The room was empty--a single room, with a cot bed, an oil stove and a
table littered with stationery and stamps. Of Mrs. Phillips, his
namesake or the other seven he saw no signs. He advanced to the table.

Evidently Mr. Phillips was not a ready writer and his letters cost him
some pains. Several lay open on the table in different stages of
composition. They were all exactly the same in wording as the first one
Urwick had received. They were addressed to Booth Tarkington, Don
Marquis, Ellen Glasgow, Edna Ferber, Agnes Repplier, Holworthy Hall and
Fannie Hurst. Each letter offered to name some coming child after these
Parnassians. Near by lay a pile of old magazines from which the
industrious Mr. Phillips evidently culled the names of his literary
favorites.

Urwick smiled grimly and tiptoed from the room. On the stairs he met a
fat charwoman. He asked her if Mr. Phillips were married. "Whisky is his
wife and child," she replied.

A month later Urwick put Phillips into a story which he sold to the
_Saturday Evening Cudgel_ for $500. When it was published he sent a
marked copy of the magazine to the father of Robert Urwick Phillips with
the following note:

"Dear Mr. Phillips--I owe you about $490. Come around some day and I'll
blow you to lunch."



THE KEY RING


[Illustration]

I know a man who carries in his left-leg trouser pocket a large heavy
key ring, on which there are a dozen or more keys of all shapes and
sizes. There is a latchkey, and the key of his private office, and the
key of his roll-top desk, and the key of his safe deposit box, and a key
to the little mail box at the front door of his flat (he lives in what
is known as a pushbutton apartment house), and a key that does something
to his motor car (not being an automobilist, I don't know just what),
and a key to his locker at the golf club, and keys of various traveling
bags and trunks and filing cases, and all the other keys with which a
busy man burdens himself. They make a noble clanking against his thigh
when he walks (he is usually in a hurry), and he draws them out of his
pocket with something of an imposing gesture when he approaches the
ground glass door of his office at ten past nine every morning. Yet
sometimes he takes them out and looks at them sadly. They are a mark and
symbol of servitude, just as surely as if they had been heated red-hot
and branded on his skin.

Not necessarily an unhappy servitude, I hasten to remark, for servitude
is not always an unhappy condition. It may be the happiest of
conditions, and each of those little metal strips may be regarded as a
medal of honor. In fact, my friend does so regard them. He does not
think of the key of his roll-top desk as a reminder of hateful tasks
that must be done willy-nilly, but rather as an emblem of hard work that
he enjoys and that is worth doing. He does not think of the latchkey as
a mandate that he must be home by seven o'clock, rain or shine; nor does
he think of it as a souvenir of the landlord who must be infallibly paid
on the first of the month next ensuing. No, he thinks of the latchkey as
a magic wand that admits him to a realm of kindness "whose service is
perfect freedom," as say the fine old words in the prayer book. And he
does not think of his safe deposit box as a hateful little casket of
leases and life insurance policies and contracts and wills, but rather
as the place where he has put some of his own past life into voluntary
bondage--into Liberty Bondage--at four and a quarter per cent. Yet,
however blithely he may psychologize these matters, he is wise enough to
know that he is not a free man. However content in servitude, he does
not blink the fact that it is servitude.

"Upon his will he binds a radiant chain," said Joyce Kilmer in a fine
sonnet. However radiant, it is still a chain.

So it is that sometimes, in the lulls of telephoning and signing
contracts and talking to salesmen and preparing estimates and dictating
letters "that must get off to-night" and trying to wriggle out of
serving on the golf club's house committee, my friend flings away his
cigar, gets a corncob pipe out of his desk drawer, and contemplates his
key ring a trifle wistfully. This nubby little tyrant that he carries
about with him always makes him think of a river in the far Canadian
north, a river that he visited once, long ago, before he had built up
all the barbed wire of life about his spirit. It was a green lucid river
that ran in a purposeful way between long fringes of pine trees. There
were sandy shelves where he and a fellow canoeist with the good gift of
silence built campfires and fried bacon, or fish of their own wooing.
The name of that little river (his voice is grave as he recalls it), was
the Peace; and it was not necessary to paddle if you didn't feel like
it. "The current ran" (it is pathetic to hear him say it) "from four to
seven miles an hour."

The tobacco smoke sifts and eddies into the carefully labeled
pigeonholes of his desk, and his stenographer wonders whether she dare
interrupt him to ask whether that word was "priority" or "minority" in
the second paragraph of the memo to Mr. Ebbsmith. He smells that bacon
again; he remembers stretching out on the cool sand to watch the dusk
seep up from the valley and flood the great clear arch of green-blue
sky. He remembers that there were no key rings in his pocket then, no
papers, no letters, no engagements to meet Mr. Fonseca at a luncheon of
the Rotary Club to discuss demurrage. He remembers the clear sparkle of
the Peace water in the sunshine, its downward swell and slant over many
a boulder, its milky vexation where it slid among stones. He remembers
what he had said to himself then, but had since forgotten, that no
matter what wounds and perplexities the world offers, it also offers a
cure for each one if we know where to seek it. Suddenly he gets a vision
of the whole race of men, campers out on a swinging ball, brothers in
the common motherhood of earth. Born out of the same inexplicable soil
bred to the same problems of star and wind and sun, what absurdity of
civilization is it that has robbed men of this sense of kinship? Why he
himself, he feels, could enter a Bedouin tent or an Eskimo snow-hut and
find some bond of union with the inmates. The other night, he reflects,
he saw moving pictures of some Fiji natives, and could read in their
genial grinning faces the same human impulses he knew in himself. What
have men done to cheat themselves of the enjoyment of this amazing
world? "We've been cheated!" he cries, to the stenographer's horror.

He thinks of his friends, his partners, his employees, of conductors on
trains and waiters in lunchrooms and drivers of taxicabs. He thinks, in
one amazing flash of realization, of all the men and women he has ever
seen or heard of--how each one nourishes secretly some little rebellion,
some dream of a wider, freer life, a life less hampered, less mean, less
material. He thinks how all men yearn to cross salt water, to scale
peaks, to tramp until weary under a hot sun. He hears the Peace, in its
far northern valley, brawling among stones, and his heart is very low.

"Mr. Edwards to see you," says the stenographer.

"I'm sorry, sir," says Edwards, "but I've had the offer of another job
and I think I shall accept it. It's a good thing for a chap to get a
chance----"

My friend slips the key ring back in his pocket.

"What's this?" he says. "Nonsense! When you've got a good job, the thing
to do is to keep it. Stick to it, my boy. There's a great future for you
here. Don't get any of those fool ideas about changing around from one
thing to another."



"OWD BOB"

CHAPTER I

(INTRODUCES OUR HERO)


Loitering perchance on the western pavement of Madison avenue, between
the streets numbered 38 and 39, and gazing with an observant eye upon
the pedestrians passing southward, you would be likely to see, about
8:40 o'clock of the morning, a gentleman of remarkable presence
approaching with no bird-like tread. This creature, clad in a suit of
subfuse respectable weave, bearing in his hand a cane of stout timber
with a right-angled hornblende grip, and upon his head a hat of rich
texture, would probably also carry in one hand (the left) a leather case
filled with valuable papers, and in the other hand (the right, which
also held the cane) a cigarette, lit upon leaving the Grand Central
subway station. This cigarette the person of our tale would
frequentatively apply to his lips, and then withdraw with a quick,
swooping motion. With a rapid, somewhat sidelong gait (at first somehow
clumsy, yet upon closer observation a mode of motion seen to embrace
certain elements of harmony) this gentleman would converge upon the
southwest corner of Madison avenue and 38th street; and the intent
observer, noting the menacing contours of the face, would conclude that
he was going to work.

[Illustration]

This gentleman, beneath his sober but excellently haberdashered surtout,
was plainly a man of large frame, of a Sam Johnsonian mould, but, to the
surprise of the calculating observer, it would be noted that his volume
(or mass) was not what his bony structure implied. Spiritually, in deed,
this interesting individual conveyed to the world a sensation of
stoutness, of bulk and solidity, which (upon scrutiny) was not (or would
not be) verified by measurement. Evidently, you will conclude, a stout
man grown thin; or, at any rate, grown less stout. His molded depth,
one might assess at 20 inches between the eaves; his longitude, say,
five feet eleven; his registered tonnage, 170; his cargo, literary; and
his destination, the editorial sancta of a well-known publishing house.

This gentleman, in brief, is Mr. Robert Cortes Holliday (but not the
"stout Cortes" of the poet), the editor of _The Bookman_.



CHAPTER II

(OUR HERO BEGINS A CAREER)


"It would seem that whenever Nature had a man of letters up her sleeve,
the first gift with which she has felt necessary to dower him has been a
preacher sire."

R.C.H. of N.B. Tarkington.

Mr. Holliday was born in Indianapolis on July 18, 1880. It is evident
that ink, piety and copious speech circulated in the veins of his clan,
for at least two of his grandfathers were parsons, and one of them, Dr.
Ferdinand Cortez Holliday, was the author of a volume called "Indiana
Methodism" in which he was the biographer of the Rev. Joseph Tarkington,
the grandfather of Newton B. Tarkington, sometimes heard of as Booth
Tarkington, a novelist. Thus the hand of Robert C. Holliday was linked
by the manacle of destiny to the hand of Newton B. Tarkington, and it is
a quaint satisfaction to note that Mr. Holliday's first book was that
volume "Booth Tarkington," one of the liveliest and soundest critical
memoirs it has been our fortune to enjoy.

Like all denizens of Indianapolis--"Tarkingtonapolis," Mr. Holliday
calls it--our subject will discourse at considerable volume of his youth
in that high-spirited city. His recollections, both sacred and profane,
are, however, not in our present channel. After a reputable schooling
young Robert proceeded to New York in 1899 to study art at the Art
Students' League, and later became a pupil of Twachtman. The present
commentator is not in a position to say how severely either art or Mr.
Holliday suffered in the mutual embrace. I have seen some of his black
and white posters which seemed to me robust and considerably lively. At
any rate, Mr. Holliday exhibited drawings on Fifth avenue and had
illustrative work published by _Scribner's Magazine_. He did commercial
designs and comic pictures for juvenile readers. At this time he lived
in a rural community of artists in Connecticut, and did his own cooking.
Also, he is proud of having lived in a garret on Broome street. This
phase of his career is not to be slurred over, for it is a clue to much
of his later work. His writing often displays the keen eye of the
painter, and his familiarity with the technique of pencil and brush has
much enriched his capacity to see and to make his reader see with him.
Such essays as "Going to Art Exhibitions," and the one-third dedication
of "Walking-Stick Papers" to Royal Cortissoz are due to his interest in
the world as pictures.

While we think of it, then, let us put down our first memorandum upon
the art of Mr. Holliday:

First Memo--Mr. Holliday's stuff is distilled from life!



CHAPTER III

(IN WHICH OUR HERO DARTS OFF AT A TANGENT)


It is not said why our hero abandoned bristol board and india ink, and
it is no duty of this inquirendo to offer surmise. The fact is that he
disappeared from Broome street, and after the appropriate interval might
have been observed (odd as it seems) on the campus of the University of
Kansas. This vault into the petals of the sunflower seems so quaint that
I once attempted to find out from Mr. Holliday just when it was that he
attended courses at that institution. He frankly said that he could not
remember. Now he has no memory at all for dates, I will vouch; yet it
seems odd (I say) that he did not even remember the numerals of the
class in which he was enrolled. A "queer feller," indeed, as Mr.
Tarkington has called him. So I cannot attest, with hand on Book, that
he really was at Kansas University. He may have been a footpad during
that period. I have often thought to write to the dean of the university
and check the matter up. It may be that entertaining anecdotes of our
hero's college career could be spaded up.

Just why this remote atheneum was sconce for Mr. Holliday's candle I do
not hazard. It seems I have heard him say that his cousin, Professor
Wilbur Cortez Abbott (of Yale) was then teaching at the Kansas college,
and this was the reason. It doesn't matter now; fifty years hence it may
be of considerable importance.

However, we must press on a little faster. From Kansas he returned to
New York and became a salesman in the book store of Charles Scribner's
Sons, then on Fifth avenue below Twenty-third street. Here he was
employed for about five years. From this experience may he traced three
of the most delightful of the "Walking-Stick Papers." It was while at
Scribner's that he met Joyce Kilmer, who also served as a Scribner
book-clerk for two weeks in 1909. This friendship meant more to Bob
Holliday than any other. The two men were united by intimate adhesions
of temperament and worldly situation. Those who know what friendship
means among men who have stood on the bottom rung together will ask no
further comment. Kilmer was Holliday's best man in 1913; Holliday stood
godfather to Kilmer's daughter Rose. On Aug. 22, 1918, Mrs. Kilmer
appointed Mr. Holliday her husband's literary executor. His memoir of
Joyce Kilmer is a fitting token of the manly affection that sweetens
life and enriches him who even sees it from a distance.

Just when Holliday's connection with the Scribner store ceased I do not
know. My guess is, about 1911. He did some work for the New York Public
Library (tucking away in his files the material for the essay "Human
Municipal Documents") and also dabbled in eleemosynary science for the
Russell Sage Foundation; though the details of the latter enterprise I
cannot even conjecture. Somehow or other he fell into the most richly
amusing post that a belletristic journalist ever adorned, as general
factotum of _The Fishing Gazette_, a trade journal. This is laid bare
for the world in "The Fish Reporter."

About 1911 he began to contribute humorous sketches to the Saturday
Magazine of the New York _Evening Post_. In 1912-13 he was writing
signed reviews for the New York _Times_ Review of Books. 1913-14 he was
assistant literary editor of the New York _Tribune_. His meditations on
the reviewing job are embalmed in "That Reviewer Cuss." In 1914 the wear
and tear of continual hard work on Grub Street rather got the better of
him: he packed a bag and spent the summer in England. Four charming
essays record his adventures there, where we may leave him for the
moment while we warm up to another aspect of the problem. Let us just
set down our second memorandum:

[Illustration]

Second Memo--Mr. Holliday knows the Literary Game from All Angles!



CHAPTER IV

(OUR HERO'S BOOK AND HEART SHALL NEVER PART)


Perhaps I should apologize for treating Mr. Holliday's "Walking-Stick
Papers" in this biographical fashion. And yet I cannot resist it for
this book is Mr. Holliday himself. It is mellow, odd, aromatic and
tender, just as he is. It is (as he said of something else) "saturated
with a distinguished, humane tradition of letters."

The book is exciting reading because you can trace in it the growth and
felicitous toughening of a very remarkable talent. Mr. Holliday has been
through a lively and gruelling mill. Like every sensitive journalist, he
has been mangled at Ephesus. Slight and debonair as some of his pieces
are, there is not one that is not an authentic fiber from life. That is
the beauty of this sort of writing--the personal essay--it admits us to
the very pulse of the machine. We see this man: selling books at
Scribner's, pacing New York streets at night gloating on the yellow
windows and the random ring of words, fattening his spirit on hundreds
of books, concocting his own theory of the niceties of prose. We see
that volatile humor which is native in him flickering like burning
brandy round the rich plum pudding of his theme. With all his
playfulness, when he sets out to achieve a certain effect he builds
cunningly, with sure and skillful art. See (for instance) in his "As to
People," his superbly satisfying picture (how careless it seems!) of his
scrubwoman, closing with the précis of Billy Henderson's wife, which
drives the nail through and turns it on the under side--

    Billy Henderson's wife is handsome; she is rich; she is an excellent
    cook; she loves Billy Henderson.

See "My friend the Policeman," or "On Going a Journey," or "The
Deceased"--this last is perhaps the high-water mark of the book. To vary
the figure, this essay dips its Plimsoll-mark full under. It is
freighted with far more than a dozen pages might be expected to carry
safely. So quietly, so quaintly told, what a wealth of humanity is in
it! Am I wrong in thinking that those fellow-artists who know the thrill
of a great thing greatly done will catch breath when they read this, of
the minor obits in the press--

    We go into the feature headed "Died," a department similar to that
    on the literary page headed "Books Received." ... We are set in
    small type, with lines following the name line indented. It is
    difficult for me to tell with certainty from the printed page, but I
    think we are set without leads.

In such passages, where the easy sporting-tweed fabric of Mr. Holliday's
merry and liberal style fits his theme as snugly as the burr its nut,
one feels tempted to cry joyously (as he says in some other connection),
"it seems as if it were a book you had written yourself in a dream."
And follow him, for sheer fun, in the "Going a Journey" essay. Granted
that it would never have been written but for Hazlitt and Stevenson and
Belloc. Yet it is fresh distilled, it has its own sparkle. Beginning
with an even pace, how it falls into a swinging stride, drugs you with
hilltops and blue air! Crisp, metrical, with a steady drum of feet, it
lifts, purges and sustains. "This is the religious side" of reading an
essay!

Mr. Holliday, then, gives us in generous measure the "certain jolly
humors" which R.L.S. says we voyage to find. He throws off flashes of
imaginative felicity--as where he says of canes, "They are the light to
blind men." Where he describes Mr. Oliver Herford "listing to starboard,
like a postman." Where he says of the English who use colloquially
phrases known to us only in great literature--"There are primroses in
their speech." And where he begins his "Memoirs of a Manuscript," "I was
born in Indiana."

We are now ready to let fall our third memorandum:

Third Memo--Behind his colloquial, easygoing (apparently careless)
utterance, Mr. Holliday conceals a high quality of literary art.



CHAPTER V

(FURTHER OSCILLATIONS OF OUR HERO)


Mr. Holliday was driven home from England and Police Constable
Buckington by the war, which broke out while he was living in Chelsea.
My chronology is a bit mixed here; just what he was doing from autumn,
1914, to February, 1916, I don't know. Was it then that he held the fish
reporter job? Come to think of it, I believe it was. Anyway, in
February, 1916, he turned up in Garden City, Long Island, where I first
had the excitement of clapping eyes on him. Some of the adventures of
that spring and summer may be inferred from "Memories of a Manuscript."
Others took place in the austere lunch cathedral known at the press of
Doubleday, Page & Company as the "garage," or on walks that summer
between the Country Life Press and the neighboring champaigns of
Hempstead. The full story of the Porrier's Corner Club, of which Mr.
Holliday and myself are the only members, is yet to be told. As far as I
was concerned it was love at first sight. This burly soul, rumbling
Johnsonianly upon lettered topics, puffing unending Virginia cigarettes,
gazing with shy humor through thick-paned spectacles--well, on Friday,
June 23, 1916, Bob and I decided to collaborate in writing a farcical
novel. It is still unwritten, save the first few chapters. I only
instance this to show how fast passion proceeded.

It would not surprise me if at some future time Mrs. Bedell's boarding
house, on Jackson Street in Hempstead, becomes a place of pilgrimage for
lovers of the essay. They will want to see the dark little front room on
the ground floor where Owd Bob used to scatter the sheets of his essays
as he was retyping them from a huge scrapbook and grooming them for a
canter among publishers' sanhedrim. They will want to see (but will not,
I fear) the cool barrel-room at the back of George D. Smith's tavern, an
ale-house that was blithe to our fancy because the publican bore the
same name as that of a very famous dealer in rare books. Along that
pleasant bar, with its shining brass scuppers, Bob and I consumed many
beakers of well-chilled amber during that warm summer. His urbanolatrous
soul pined for the city, and he used in those days to expound the
doctrine that the suburbanite really has to go to town in order to get
fresh air.

In September, 1916, Holliday's health broke down. He had been feeling
poorly most of the summer, and continuous hard work induced a spell of
nervous depression. Very wisely he went back to Indianapolis to rest.
After a good lay-off he tackled the Tarkington book, which was written
in Indianapolis the following winter and spring. And "Walking-Stick
Papers" began to go the rounds.

I have alluded more than once to Mr. Holliday's book on Tarkington. This
original, mellow, convivial, informal and yet soundly argued critique
has been overlooked by many who have delighted to honor Holliday as an
essayist. But it is vastly worth reading. It is a brilliant study, full
of "onion atoms" as Sydney Smith's famous salad, and we flaunt it
merrily in the face of those who are frequently crapehanging and dirging
that we have no sparkling young Chestertons and Rebecca Wests and J.C.
Squires this side of Queenstown harbor. Rarely have creator and critic
been joined in so felicitous a marriage. And indeed the union was
appointed in heaven and smiles in the blood, for (as I have noted) Mr.
Holliday's grandfather was the biographer of Tarkington's grandsire,
also a pioneer preacher of the metaphysical commonwealth of Indiana. Mr.
Holliday traces with a good deal of humor and circumstance the various
ways in which the gods gave Mr. Tarkington just the right kind of
ancestry, upbringing, boyhood and college career to produce a talented
writer. But the fates that catered to Tarkington with such generous hand
never dealt him a better run of cards than when Holliday wrote this
book.

The study is one of surpassing interest, not merely as a service to
native criticism but as a revelation of Holliday's ability to follow
through a sustained intellectual task with the same grasp and grace that
he afterward showed in the memoir of Kilmer in which his heart was so
deeply engaged. Of a truth, Mr. Holliday's success in putting himself
within Tarkington's dashing checked kuppenheimers is a fine achievement
of projected psychology. He knows Tarkington so well that if the latter
were unhappily deleted by some "wilful convulsion of brute nature" I
think it undoubtable that his biographer could reconstruct a very
plausible automaton, and would know just what ingredients to blend. A
dash of Miss Austen, Joseph Conrad, Henry James and Daudet; flavored
perhaps with coal smoke from Indianapolis, spindrift from the Maine
coast and a few twanging chords from the Princeton Glee Club.

Fourth Memo--Mr. Holliday is critic as well as essayist.



CHAPTER VI

(OUR HERO FINDS A STEADY JOB)


It was the summer of 1917 when Owd Bob came back to New York. Just at
that juncture I happened to hear that a certain publisher needed an
editorial man, and when Bob and I were at Browne's discussing the fate
of "Walking-Stick Papers" over a jug of shandygaff, I told him this
news. He hurried to the office in question through a drenching
rain-gust, and has been there ever since. The publisher performed an act
of perspicuity rare indeed. He not only accepted the manuscript, but its
author as well.

So that is the story of "Walking-Stick Papers," and it does not cause me
to droop if you say I talk of matters of not such great moment. What a
joy it would have been if some friend had jotted down memoranda of this
sort concerning some of Elia's doings. The book is a garner of some of
the most racy, vigorous and genuinely flavored essays that this country
has produced for some time. Dear to me, every one of them, as clean-cut
blazes by a sincere workman along a trail full of perplexity and
struggle, as Grub Street always will be for the man who dips an honest
pen that will not stoop to conquer. And if you should require an
accurate portrait of their author I cannot do better than quote what
Grote said of Socrates:

    Nothing could be more public, perpetual, and indiscriminate as to
    persons than his conversation. But as it was engaging, curious, and
    instructive to hear, certain persons made it their habit to attend
    him as companions and listeners.

Owd Bob has long been the object of extreme attachment and high spirits
among his intimates. The earlier books have been followed by "Broome
Street Straws" and "Peeps at People," vividly personal collections that
will arouse immediate affection and amusement among his readers. And of
these books will be said (once more in Grote's words about Socrates):

    Not only his conversation reached the minds of a much wider circle,
    but he became more abundantly known as a person.

Let us add, then, our final memorandum:

Fifth Memo--These essays are the sort of thing you cannot afford to
miss. In them you sit down to warm your wits at the glow of a droll,
delightful, unique mind.

So much (at the moment) for Bob Holliday.



THE APPLE THAT NO ONE ATE


[Illustration]

The other evening we went to dinner with a gentleman whom it pleases our
fancy to call the Caliph.

Now a Caliph, according to our notion, is a Haroun-al-Raschid kind of
person; one who governs a large empire of hearts with a genial and
whimsical sway; circulating secretly among his fellow-men, doing
kindnesses often not even suspected by their beneficiaries. He is the
sort of person of whom the trained observer may think, when he hears an
unexpected kindness-grenade exploding somewhere down the line, "I'll bet
that came from the Caliph's dugout!" A Caliph's heart is not surrounded
by barbed wire entanglements or a strip of No Man's Land. Also, and
rightly, he is stern to malefactors and fakers of all sorts.

It would have been sad if any one so un-Caliphlike as William
Hohenzollern had got his eisenbahn through to Bagdad, the city sacred to
the memory of a genial despot who spent his cabarabian nights in an
excellent fashion. That, however, has nothing to do with the story.

Mr. and Mrs. Caliph are people so delightful that they leave in one's
mind a warm afterglow of benevolent sociability. They have an infinite
interest and curiosity in the hubbub of human moods and crotchets that
surrounds us all. And when one leaves their doorsill one has a genial
momentum of the spirit that carries one on rapidly and cheerfully. One
has an irresistible impulse to give something away, to stroke the noses
of horses, to write a kind letter to the fuel administrator or do almost
anything gentle and gratuitous. The Caliphs of the world don't know it,
but that is the effect they produce on their subjects.

As we left, Mr. and Mrs. Caliph pressed upon us an apple. One of those
gorgeous apples that seem to grow wrapped up in tissue paper, and are
displayed behind plate glass windows. A huge apple, tinted with gold and
crimson and pale yellow shading off to pink. The kind of apple whose
colors are overlaid with a curious mist until you polish it on your
coat, when it gleams like a decanter of claret. An apple so large and
weighty that if it had dropped on Sir Isaac Newton it would have
fractured his skull. The kind of apple that would have made the garden
of Eden safe for democracy, because it is so beautiful no one would have
thought of eating it.

That was the kind of apple the Caliph gave us.

It was a cold night, and we walked down Chestnut street dangling that
apple, rubbing it on our sleeve, throwing it up and down and catching it
again. We stopped at a cigar store to buy some pipe tobacco. Still
running on Caliph, by which we mean still beguiled by his geniality, we
fell into talk with the tobacconist. "That's a fine apple you have
there," said he. For an instant we thought of giving it to him, but then
we reflected that a man whose days are spent surrounded by rich cigars
and smokables is dangerously felicitous already, and a sudden joy might
blast his blood vessels.

The shining of the street lamps was reflected on the polished skin of
our fruit as we went our way. As we held it in our arms it glowed like a
huge ruby. We passed a blind man selling pencils, and thought of giving
it to him. Then we reflected that a blind man would lose half the
pleasure of the adventure because he couldn't see the colors. We bought
a pencil instead. Still running on Caliph, you see.

In our excitement we did what we always do in moments of stress--went
into a restaurant and ordered a piece of hot mince pie. Then we
remembered that we had just dined. Never mind, we sat there and
contemplated the apple as it lay ruddily on the white porcelain
tabletop. Should we give it to the waitress? No, because apples were a
commonplace to her. The window of the restaurant held a great pyramid of
beauties. To her, an apple was merely something to be eaten, instead of
the symbol of a grand escapade. Instead, we gave her a little medallion
of a buffalo that happened to be in our pocket.

Already the best possible destination for that apple had come to our
mind. Hastening zealously up a long flight of stairs in a certain large
building we went to a corner where sits a friend of ours, a night
watchman. Under a drop light he sits through long and tedious hours,
beguiling his vigil with a book. He is a great reader. He eats books
alive. Lately he has become much absorbed in Saint Francis of Assisi,
and was deep in the "Little Flowers" when we found him.

"We've brought you something," we said, and held the apple where the
electric light brought out all its brilliance.

He was delighted and his gentle elderly face shone with awe at the
amazing vividness of the fruit.

"I tell you what I'll do," he said. "That apple's much too fine for me.
I'll take it home to the wife."

Of course his wife will say the same thing. She will be embarrassed by
the surpassing splendor of that apple and will give it to some friend of
hers whom she thinks more worthy than herself. And that friend will give
it to some one else, and so it will go rolling on down the ages, passing
from hand to hand, conferring delight, and never getting eaten.
Ultimately some one, trying to think of a recipient really worthy of its
deliciousness, will give it to Mr. and Mrs. Caliph. And they, blessed
innocents, will innocently exclaim, "Why we never saw such a magnificent
apple in all our lives."

And it will be true, for by that time the apple will gleam with an
unearthly brightness, enhanced and burnished by all the kind thoughts
that have surrounded it for so long.

As we walked homeward under a frosty sparkle of sky we mused upon all
the different kinds of apples we have encountered. There are big glossy
green apples and bright red apples and yellow apples and also that
particularly delicious kind (whose name we forget) that is the palest
possible cream color--almost white. We have seen apples of strange
shapes, something like a pear (sheepnoses, they call them), and the
Maiden Blush apples with their delicate shading of yellow and debutante
pink. And what a poetry in the names--Winesap, Pippin, Northern Spy,
Baldwin, Ben Davis, York Imperial, Wolf River, Jonathan, Smokehouse,
Summer Rambo, Rome Beauty, Golden Grimes, Shenango Strawberry, Benoni!

We suppose there is hardly a man who has not an apple orchard tucked
away in his heart somewhere. There must be some deep reason for the old
suspicion that the Garden of Eden was an apple orchard. Why is it that a
man can sleep and smoke better under an apple tree than in any other
kind of shade? Sir Isaac Newton was a wise man, and he chose an apple
tree to sit beneath. (We have often wondered, by the way, how it is that
no one has ever named an apple the Woolsthorpe after Newton's home in
Lincolnshire, where the famous apple incident occurred.)

An apple orchard, if it is to fill the heart of man to the full with
affectionate satisfaction, should straggle down a hillside toward a lake
and a white road where the sun shines hotly. Some of its branches should
trail over an old, lichened and weather-stained stone wall, dropping
their fruit into the highway for thirsty pedestrians. There should be a
little path running athwart it, down toward the lake and the old
flat-bottomed boat, whose bilge is scattered with the black and
shriveled remains of angleworms used for bait. In warm August afternoons
the sweet savor of ripening drifts warmly on the air, and there rises
the drowsy hum of wasps exploring the windfalls that are already rotting
on the grass. There you may lie watching the sky through the chinks of
the leaves, and imagining the cool, golden tang of this autumn's cider
vats.

You see what it is to have Caliphs in the world.



AS TO RUMORS

MADRID, Jan. 17.--Nikolai Lenine was among the Russians who landed at
Barcelona recently, according to newspapers here.--News item.


It is rather important to understand the technique of rumors. The wise
man does not scoff at them, for while they are often absurd, they are
rarely baseless. People do not go about inventing rumors, except for
purposes of hoax; and even a practical joke is never (to parody the
proverb) hoax et præterea nihil. There is always a reason for wanting to
perpetrate the hoax, or a reason for believing it will be believed.

Rumors are a kind of exhalation or intellectual perfume thrown off by
the news of the day. Some events are more aromatic than others; they can
be detected by the trained pointer long before they happen. When things
are going on that have a strong vibration--what foreign correspondents
love to call a "repercussion"--they cause a good deal of mind-quaking.
An event getting ready to happen is one of the most interesting things
to watch. By a sort of mental radiation it fills men's minds with
surmises and conjectures. Curiously enough, due perhaps to the innate
perversity of man, most of the rumors suggest the exact opposite of what
is going to happen. Yet a rumor, while it may be wholly misleading as to
fact, is always a proof that something is going to happen. For instance,
last summer when the news was full of repeated reports of Hindenburg's
death, any sane man could foresee that what these reports really meant
was not necessarily Hindenburg's death at all, but Germany's approaching
military collapse. Some German prisoners had probably said "Hindenburg
ist kaput," meaning "Hindenburg is done for," i.e., "The great offensive
has failed." This was taken to mean that he was literally dead.

In the same way, while probably no one seriously believes that Lenine is
in Barcelona, the mere fact that Madrid thinks it possible shows very
plainly that something is going on. It shows either that the Bolshevik
experiment in Petrograd has been such a gorgeous success that Lenine can
turn his attention to foreign campaigning, or that it has been such a
gorgeous failure that he has had to skip. It does not prove, since the
rumor is "unconfirmed," that Lenine has gone anywhere yet; but it
certainly does prove that he is going somewhere soon, even if only to
the fortress of Peter and Paul. There may be some very simple
explanation of the rumor. "You go to Barcelona!" may be a jocular
Muscovite catchword, similar to our old saying about going to Halifax,
and Trotzky may have said it to Lenine. At any rate it shows that the
gold dust twins are not inseparable. It shows that Bolshevism in Russia
is either very strong or very near downfall.

When we were told not long ago that Berlin was strangely gay for the
capital of a prostrate nation and that all the cafés were crowded with
dancers at night, many readers were amazed and tried to console their
sense of probability by remarking that the Germans are crazy anyway. And
yet this rumor of the dancing mania was an authentic premonition of the
bloodier dance of death led by the Spartacus group. If Berlin did dance
it was a cotillon of despair, caused by infinite war weariness, infinite
hunger to forget humiliation for a few moments, and foreboding of
troubles to come. Whether true or not, no one read the news without
thinking it an ominous whisper.

Coming events cast their rumors before. From a careful study of rumors
the discerning may learn a good deal, providing always that they never
take them at face value but try to read beneath the surface. People
sometimes criticize the newspapers for printing rumors, but it is an
essential part of their function to do so, provided they plainly mark
them as such. Shakespeare speaks of rumors as "stuffing the ears of men
with false reports," yet if so this is not the fault of the rumor
itself, but of the too credible listener. The prosperity of a rumor is
in the ear that hears it. The sagacious listener will take the trouble
to sift and winnow his rumors, set them in perspective with what he
knows of the facts and from them he will then deduce exceedingly
valuable considerations. Rumor is the living atmosphere of men's minds,
the most fascinating and significant problem with which we have to deal.
The Fact, the Truth, may shine like the sun, but after all it is the
clouds that make the sunset beautiful. Keep your eye on the rumors, for
a sufficient number of rumors can compel an event to happen, even
against its will.

No one can set down any hard and fast rules for reading the rumors. The
process is partly instinctive and partly the result of trained
observation. It is as complicated as the calculation by which a woman
tells time by her watch which she knows to be wrong--she adds seventeen
minutes, subtracts three, divides by two and then looks at the church
steeple. It is as exhilarating as trying to deduce what there is going
to be for supper by the pervasive fragrance of onions in the front hall.
And sometimes a very small event, like a very small onion, can cast its
rumors a long way. Destiny is unlike the hen in that she cackles before
she lays the egg.

The first rule to observe about rumors is that they are often exactly
opposite in tendency to the coming fact. For instance, the rumors of
secrecy at the Peace Conference were the one thing necessary to
guarantee complete publicity. Just before any important event occurs it
seems to discharge both positive and negative currents, just as a magnet
is polarized by an electric coil. Some people by mental habit catch the
negative vibrations, others the positive. Every one can remember the
military critics last March who were so certain that there would be no
German offensive. Their very certainty was to many others a proof that
the offensive was likely. They were full of the negative vibrations.

An interesting case of positive vibrations was the repeated rumor of the
Kaiser's abdication. The fact that those rumors were premature was
insignificant compared with the fact that they were current at all. The
fact that there were such rumors showed that it was only a matter of
time.

It is entertaining, if disconcerting, to watch a rumor on its travels.
A classic example of this during the recent war is exhibited by the
following clippings which were collected, I believe, by Norman Hapgood:

From the _Koelnische-Zeitung_:

"When the fall of Antwerp became known the church bells were rung."
(Meaning in Germany.)

[Illustration]

From the Paris _Matin_:

"According to the _Koelnische-Zeitung_, the clergy of Antwerp were
compelled to ring the church bells when the fortress was taken."

From the London _Times_:

"According to what the _Matin_ has heard from Cologne, the Belgian
priests, who refused to ring the church bells when Antwerp was taken,
have been driven away from their places."

From the _Corriere Della Sera_, of Milan:

"According to what the _Times_ has heard from Cologne, via Paris, the
unfortunate Belgian priests, who refused to ring the church bells when
Antwerp was taken, have been sentenced to hard labor."

From the _Matin_ again:

"According to information received by the _Corriere Della Sera_, from
Cologne, via London, it is confirmed that the barbaric conquerors of
Antwerp punished the unfortunate Belgian priests for their heroic
refusal to ring the church bells by hanging them as living clappers to
the bells with their heads down."

Be hospitable to rumors, for however grotesque they are, they always
have some reason for existence. The Sixth Sense is the sense of news,
the sense that something is going to happen. And just as every orchestra
utters queer and discordant sounds while it is tuning up its
instruments, so does the great orchestra of Human Events (in other
words, The News) offer shrill and perhaps misleading notes before the
conductor waves his baton and leads off the concerted crash of Truth.
Keep your senses alert to examine the odd scraps of hearsay that you
will often see in the news, for it is in just those eavesdroppings at
the heart of humanity that the press often fulfills its highest
function.



OUR MOTHERS


[Illustration]

When one becomes a father, then first one becomes a son. Standing by the
crib of one's own baby, with that world-old pang of compassion and
protectiveness toward this so little creature that has all its course to
run, the heart flies back in yearning and gratitude to those who felt
just so toward one's self. Then for the first time one understands the
homely succession of sacrifices and pains by which life is transmitted
and fostered down the stumbling generations of men.

Every man is privileged to believe all his life that his own mother is
the best and dearest that a child ever had. By some strange racial
instinct of taciturnity and repression most of us lack utterance to say
our thoughts in this close matter. A man's mother is so tissued and
woven into his life and brain that he can no more describe her than
describe the air and sunlight that bless his days. It is only when some
Barrie comes along that he can say for all of us what fills the eye with
instant tears of gentleness. Is there a mother, is there a son, who has
not read Barrie's "Margaret Ogilvy?" Turn to that first chapter, "How My
Mother Got Her Soft Face," and draw aside the veils that years and
perplexity weave over the inner sanctuaries of our hearts.

Our mothers understand us so well! Speech and companionship with them
are so easy, so unobstructed by the thousand teasing barriers that bar
soul from eager soul! To walk and talk with them is like slipping on an
old coat. To hear their voices is like the shake of music in a sober
evening hush.

There is a harmony and beauty in the life of mother and son that brims
the mind's cup of satisfaction. So well we remember when she was all in
all; strength, tenderness, law and life itself. Her arms were the world:
her soft cheek our sun and stars. And now it is we who are strong and
self-sufficing; it is she who leans on us. Is there anything so
precious, so complete, so that return of life's pendulum?

And it is as grandmothers that our mothers come into the fullness of
their grace. When a man's mother holds his child in her gladdened arms
he is aware (with some instinctive sense of propriety) of the roundness
of life's cycle; of the mystic harmony of life's ways. There speaks
humanity in its chord of three notes: its little capture of completeness
and joy, sounding for a moment against the silent flux of time. Then the
perfect span is shredded away and is but a holy memory.

The world, as we tread its puzzling paths, shows many profiles and
glimpses of wonder and loveliness; many shapes and symbols to entrance
and astound. Yet it will offer us nothing more beautiful than our
mother's face; no memory more dear than her encircling tenderness. The
mountain tops of her love rise as high in ether as any sun-stained alp.
Lakes are no deeper and no purer blue than her bottomless charity. We
need not fare further than her immortal eyes to know that life is good.

How strangely fragmentary our memories of her are, and yet (when we
piece them together) how they erect a comfortable background for all we
are and dream. She built the earth about us and arched us over with sky.
She created our world, taught us to dwell therein. The passion of her
love compelled the rude laws of life to stand back while we were soft
and helpless. She defied gravity that we might not fall. She set aside
hunger, sleep and fear that we might have plenty. She tamed her own
spirit and crushed her own weakness that we might be strong. And when we
passed down the laughing street of childhood and turned that corner that
all must pass, it was her hand that waved good-bye. Then, smothering the
ache, with one look into the secret corner where the old keepsakes lie
hid, she set about waiting the day when the long-lost baby would come
back anew. The grandchild--is he not her own boy returned to her arms?

Who can lean over a crib at night, marveling upon that infinite
innocence and candor swathed in the silk cocoon of childish sleep,
without guessing the throb of fierce gentleness that runs in maternal
blood? The earth is none too rich in compassion these days: let us be
grateful to the mothers for what remains. It was not they who filled the
world with spies and quakings. It was not a cabal of mothers that met to
decree blood and anguish for the races of men. They know that life is
built at too dear a price to be so lathered in corruption and woe. Those
who create life, who know its humility, its tender fabric and its
infinite price, who have cherished and warmed and fed it, do not lightly
cast it into the pit.

Mothers are great in the eyes of their sons because they are knit in
our minds with all the littlenesses of life, the unspeakably dear
trifles and odds of existence. The other day I found in my desk a little
strip of tape on which my name was marked a dozen times in drawing ink,
in my mother's familiar script. My mind ran back to the time when that
little band of humble linen was a kind of passport into manhood. It was
when I went away from home and she could no longer mark my garments with
my name, for the confusion of rapacious laundries. I was to cut off the
autographed sections of this tape and sew them on such new vestments as
came my way. Of course I did not do so; what boy would be faithful to so
feminine a trust? But now the little tape, soiled by a dozen years of
wandering, lies in my desk drawer as a symbol and souvenir of that
endless forethought and loving kindness.

They love us not wisely but too well, it is sometimes said. Ah, in a
world where so many love us not well but too wisely, how tremulously our
hearts turn back to bathe in that running river of their love and
ceaseless charm!



GREETING TO AMERICAN ANGLERS

_From Master Isaak Walton_


My Good Friends--As I have said afore time, sitting by a river's side is
the quietest and fittest place for contemplation, and being out and
along the bank of Styx with my tackle this sweet April morning, it came
into my humor to send a word of greeting to you American anglers. Some
of your fellows, who have come by this way these past years, tell me
notable tales of the sport that may he had in your bright streams,
whereof the name of Pocono lingers in my memory. Sad it is to me to
recall that when writing my little book on the recreation of a
contemplative man I had made no mention of your rivers as delightsome
places where our noble art might be carried to a brave perfection, but
indeed in that day when I wrote--more years ago than I like to think
on--your far country was esteemed a wild and wanton land. Some worthy
Pennsylvania anglers with whom I have fished this water of Styx have
even told me of thirty and forty-inch trouts they have brought to
basket in that same Pocono stream, from the which fables I know that the
manners of our ancient sport have altered not a whit. I myself could
tell you of a notable catch I had the other morning, when I took some
half dozen brace of trouts before breakfast, not one less than
twenty-two inches, with bellies as yellow as marigold and as white as a
lily in parts. That I account quite excellent taking for these times,
when this stream hath been so roiled and troubled by the passage of
Master Charon's barges, he having been so pressed with traffic that he
hath discarded his ancient vessel as incommodious and hasteneth to and
fro with a fleet of ferryboats.

[Illustration]

My Good Friends, I wish you all the comely sport that may be found along
those crystal rivers whereof your fellows have told me, and a good
honest alehouse wherein to take your civil cup of barley wine when there
ariseth too violent a shower of rain. I have ever believed that a pipe
of tobacco sweeteneth sport, and I was never above hiding a bottle of
somewhat in the hollow root of a sycamore against chilly seizures. But
come, what is this I hear that you honest anglers shall no longer pledge
fortune in a cup of mild beverage? Meseemeth this is an odd thing and
contrary to our tradition. I look for some explanation of the matter.
Mayhap I have been misled by some waggishness. In my days along my
beloved little river Dove, where my friend Mr. Cotton erected his
fishing house, we were wont to take our pleasure on the bowling green of
an evening, with a cup of ale handy. And our sheets used to smell
passing sweet of lavender, which is a pleasant fragrance, indeed.

One matter lies somewhat heavy on my heart and damps my mirth, that in
my little book I said of our noble fish the trout that his name was of a
German offspring. I am happy to confess to you that I was at fault, for
my good friend Master Charon (who doth sometimes lighten his labors with
a little casting and trolling from the poop of his vessel) hath
explained to me that the name trout deriveth from the antique Latin word
_tructa_, signifying a gnawer. This is a gladsome thing for me to know,
and moreover I am bounden to tell you that the house committee of our
little angling club along Styx hath blackballed all German members
henceforward. These riparian pleasures are justly to be reserved for
gentles of the true sportsman blood, and not such as have defiled the
fair rivers of France.

And so, good friends, my love and blessing upon all such as love
quietness and go angling.

IZAAK WALTON.



MRS. IZAAK WALTON WRITES A LETTER TO HER MOTHER


CHANCERY LANE, LONDON, April 28, 1639.

My Dearest Mother: Matters indeed pass from badd to worse, and I fear
mee that with Izaak spending all hys tyme angling along riversydes and
neglecting the millinery shoppe (wych is our onlie supporte, for can
bodye and soule be keppt in one by a few paltrie brace of trouts a
weeke?) wee shall soone come to a sorrye ende. How many tymes, deare
Mother, have I bewailed my follye in wedding this creature who seemeth
to mee more a fysh than a man, not mearly by reason of hys madnesse for
the gracelesse practice of water-dabbling, but eke for hys passion for
swimming in barley wine, ale, malmsey and other infuriatyng liquours.
What manner of companye doth this dotard keepe on his fyshing pastimes,
God wot! Lo he is wonte to come home at some grievous houre of ye
nyghte, bearing but a smalle catche but plentyful aroma of drinke, and
ofttimes alsoe hys rybalde freinds do accompany hym. Nothing will serve
but they must arouse our kytchen-maide and have some paltry chubb or
gudgeon fryed in greese, filling ye house wyth nauseous odoures, and
wyth their ill prattle of fyshing tackle, not to say the comely
milke-maides they have seen along some wanton meadowside, soe that I am
moste distraught. You knowe, my deare, I never colde abyde fyssche being
colde clammy cretures, and loe onlye last nyghte this Monster dyd come
to my beddside where I laye asleepyng and wake me fromm a sweet drowse
by dangling a string of loathsome queasy trouts, still dryppinge,
against my nose. Lo, says he, are these not beuties? And his reek of
barley wine did fille the chamber. Worste of alle, deare Mother, this
all-advised wretche doth spend alle his vacant houres in compiling a
booke on the art (as he calleth it) of angling, surely a trifling petty
wanton taske that will

[Illustration]

make hym the laughing-stocke of all sober men. God forbidd that oure
littel son sholde be brought uppe in this nastye squanderinge of tyme,
wych doth breede nought (meseems) but ale-bibbing and ye disregarde of
truth. Oure house, wych is but small as thou knowest, is all cluttered
wyth his slimye tackle, and loe but yesterdaye I loste a customer fromm
ye millinery shoppe, shee averring (and I trow ryghtly) that ye shoppe
dyd stinke of fysshe. Ande soe if thys thyng do continue longer I shall
ripp uppe and leave, for I thoght to wed a man and not a paddler of
dytches. O howe I longe for those happy dayes with thee, before I ever
knew such a thyng as a fysshe existed! Sad too it is that he doth
justifye his vain idle wanton pasttyme by misquoting scriptures. Saint
Peter, and soe on. Three kytchen maides have lefte us latelye for
barbyng themselves upon hydden hookes that doe scatter our shelves and
drawers.

Thy persecuted daughter, ANNE WALTON.



TRUTH


Our mind is dreadfully active sometimes, and the other day we began to
speculate on Truth.

Our friends are still avoiding us.

Every man knows what Truth is, but it is impossible to utter it. The
face of your listener, his eyes mirthful or sorry, his eager expectance
or his churlish disdain insensibly distort your message. You find
yourself saying what you know he expects you to say, or (more often)
what he expects you not to say. You may not be aware of this, but that
is what happens. In order that the world may go on and human beings
thrive, nature has contrived that the Truth may not often be uttered.

And how is one to know what is Truth? He thinks one thing before lunch;
after a stirring bout with corned beef and onions the shining vision is
strangely altered. Which is Truth?

Truth can only be attained by those whose systems are untainted by
secret influences, such as love, envy, ambition, food, college education
and moonlight in spring.

If a man lived in a desert for six months without food, drink or
companionship he would be reasonably free from prejudice and would be in
a condition to enunciate great truths.

But even then his vision of reality would have been warped by so much
sand and so many sunsets.

Even if he survived and brought us his Truth with all the gravity and
long night-gown of a Hindu faker, as soon as any one listened to him his
message would no longer be Truth. The complexion of his audience, the
very shape of their noses, would subtly undermine his magnificent
aloofness.

Women have learned the secret. Truth must never be uttered, and never be
listened to.

Truth is the ricochet of a prejudice bouncing off a fact.

Truth is what every man sees lurking at the bottom of his own soul, like
the oyster shell housewives put in the kitchen kettle to collect the
lime from the water. By and by each man's iridescent oyster shell of
Truth becomes coated with the lime of prejudice and hearsay.

All the above is probably untrue.



THE TRAGEDY OF WASHINGTON SQUARE


One of our favorite amusements at lunch-time is to walk down to Henry
Rosa's pastry shop, and buy a slab of cinnamon bun. Then we walk round
Washington Square, musing, and gradually walking round and engulfing the
cinnamon bun at the same time. It is surprising what a large
circumference those buns of Henry's have. By the time we have gnashed
our way through one of those warm and mystic phenomena we don't want to
eat again for a month.

The real reason for the cinnamon bun is to fortify us for the
contemplation and onslaught upon a tragic problem that Washington Square
presents to our pondering soul.

Washington Square is a delightful place. There are trees there, and
publishing houses and warm green grass and a fire engine station. There
are children playing about on the broad pavements that criss-cross the
sward; there is a fine roof of blue sky, kept from falling down by the
enormous building at the north side of the Square. But these things
present no problems. To our simple philosophy a tree is a vegetable, a
child is an animal, a building is a mineral and this classification
needs no further scrutiny or analysis. But there is one thing in
Washington Square that embodies an intellectual problem, a grappling of
the soul, a matter for continual anguish and decision.

On the west side of the Square is the Swiss consulate, and, it is this
that weighs upon our brooding spirit. How many times we have paused
before that quiet little house and gazed upon the little red cross, a
Maltese Cross, or a Cross of St. Hieronymus; or whatever the heraldic
term is, that represents and symbolizes the diplomatic and spiritual
presence of the Swiss republic. We have stood there and thought about
William Tell and the Berne Convention and the St. Gothard Tunnel and St.
Bernard dogs and winter sports and alpenstocks and edelweiss and the
Jungfrau and all the other trappings and trappists that make Switzerland
notable. We have mused upon the Swiss military system, which is so
perfect that it has never had to be tested by war; and we have wondered
what is the name of the President of Switzerland and how he keeps it out
of the papers so successfully. One day we lugged an encyclopedia and the
Statesman's Year Book out to the Square with us and sat down on a bench
facing the consulate and read up about the Swiss cabinet and the
national bank of Switzerland and her child labor problems. Accidentally
we discovered the name of the Swiss President, but as he has kept it so
dark we are not going to give away his secret.

Our dilemma is quite simple. Where there is a consulate there must be a
consul, and it seems to us a dreadful thing that inside that building
there lurks a Swiss envoy who does not know that we, here, we who are
walking round the Square with our mouth full of Henry Rosa's bun, once
spent a night in Switzerland. We want him to know that; we think he
ought to know it; we think it is part of his diplomatic duty to know it.
And yet how can we burst in on him and tell him that apparently
irrelevant piece of information?

We have thought of various ways of breaking it to him, or should we say
breaking him to it?

Should we rush in and say the Swiss national debt is $----, or ----
kopecks, and then lead on to other topics such as the comparative
heights of mountain peaks, letting the consul gradually grasp the fact
that we have been in Switzerland? Or should we call him up on the
telephone and make a mysterious appointment with him, when we could
blurt it out brutally?

We are a modest and diffident man, and this little problem, which would
be so trifling to many, presents inscrutable hardships to us.

Another aspect of the matter is this. We think the consul ought to know
that we spent one night in Switzerland once; we think he ought to know
what we were doing that night; but we also think he ought to know just
why it was that we spent only one night in his beautiful country. We
don't want him to think we hurried away because we were annoyed by
anything, or because the national debt was so many rupees or piasters,
or because child labor in Switzerland is----. It is the thought that the
consul and all his staff are in total ignorance of our existence that
galls us. Here we are, walking round and round the Square, bursting with
information and enthusiasm about Swiss republicanism, and the consul
never heard of us. How can we summon up courage enough to tell him the
truth? That is the tragedy of Washington Square.

It was a dark, rainy night when we bicycled into Basel. We hid been
riding all day long, coming down from the dark clefts of the Black
Forest, and we and our knapsack were wet through. We had been bicycling
for six weeks with no more luggage than a rucksack could hold. We never
saw such rain as fell that day we slithered and sloshed on the rugged
slopes that tumble down to the Rhine at Basel. (The annual rainfall in
Switzerland is----.) When we got to the little hotel at Basel we sat in
the dining room with water running off us in trickles, until the head
waiter glared. And so all we saw of Switzerland was the interior of the
tobacconist's where we tried, unsuccessfully, to get some English baccy.
Then he went to bed while our garments were dried. We stayed in bed for
ten hours, reading, fairy tales and smoking and answering modestly
through the transom when any one asked us questions.

The next morning we overhauled our wardrobe. We will not particularize,
but we decided that one change of duds, after six weeks' bicycling, was
not enough of a wardrobe to face the Jungfrau and the national debt and
the child-labor problenm, not to speak of the anonymous President and
the other sights that matter (such as the Matterhorn). Also, our stock
of tobacco had run out, and German or French tobacco we simply cannot
smoke. Even if we could get along on substitute fumigants the issue of
garments was imperative. The nearest place where we could get any
clothes of the kind that we are accustomed to, the kind of clothes that
are familiarly symbolized by three well-known initials, was London. And
the only way we had to get to London was on our bicycle. We thought we
had better get busy. It's a long bike ride from Basel to London. So we
just went as far as the Basel Cathedral, so as not to seem too
unappreciative of all the treasures that Switzerland had been saving for
us for countless centuries; then we got on board our patient steed and
trundled off through Alsace.

That was in August, 1912, and we firmly intended to go back to
Switzerland the next year to have another look at, the rainfall and the
rest of the statistics and status quos. But the opportunity has not
come.

So that is why we wander disconsolately about Washington Square, trying
to make up our mind to unburden our bosom to the Swiss consul and tell
him the worst. But how can one go and interrupt a consul to tell him
that sort of thing? Perhaps he wouldn't understand it at all; he would
misunderstand our pathetic little story and be angry that we took up his
time. He wouldn't think that a shortage of tobacco and clothing was a
sufficient excuse for slighting William Tell and the Jungfrau. He
wouldn't appreciate the frustrated emotion and longing with which we
watch the little red cross at his front door, and think of all it means
to us and all it might have meant.

We took another turn around Washington Square, trying to embolden
ourself enough to go in and tell the consul all this. And then our heart
failed us. We decided to write a piece for the paper about it, and if
the consul ever sees it he will be generous and understand. He will know
why, behind the humble façade of his consulate on Washington Square, we
see the heaven-piercing summits of Switzerland rising like a dream, blue
and silvery and tantalizing.

P.S. Since the above we have definitely decided not to go to call on the
Swiss consul. Suppose he were only a vice-consul, a Philadelphia Swiss,
who had never been to Switzerland in his life!



IF MR. WILSON WERE THE WEATHER MAN


My Fellow Citizens: It is very delightful to be here, if I may be
permitted to say so, and I consider it a distinguished privilege to open
the discussion as to the probable weather to-morrow not only, but during
the days to come. I can easily conceive that many of our forecasts will
need subsequent reconsideration, for if I may judge by my own study of
these matters, the climate is not susceptible of confident judgments at
present.

An overwhelming majority of the American people is in favor of fine
weather. This underlying community of purpose warms my heart. If we do
not guarantee them fine weather, cannot you see the picture of what
would come to pass? Your hearts have instructed you where the rain
falls. It falls upon senators and congressmen not only--and for that we
need not feel so much chagrin--it falls upon humble homes everywhere,
upon plain men, and women, and children. If I were to disappoint the
united expectation of my fellow citizens for fine weather to-morrow I
would incur their merited scorn.

I suppose no more delicate task is given any man than to interpret the
feelings and purposes of a great climate. It is not a task in which any
man can find much exhilaration, and I confess I have been puzzled by
some of the criticisms leveled at my office. But they do not make any
impression on me, because I know that the sentiment of the country at
large will be more generous. I call my fellow countrymen to witness that
at no stage of the recent period of low barometric pressure have I
judged the purposes of the climate intemperately. I should be ashamed to
use the weak language of vindictive protest.

I have tried once and again, my fellow citizens, to say to you in all
frankness what seems to be the prospect of fine weather. There is a
compulsion upon one in my position to exercise every effort to see that
as little as possible of the hope of mankind is disappointed. Yet this
is a hope which cannot, in the very nature of things, be realized in its
perfection. The utmost that can be done by way of accommodation and
compromise has been performed without stint or limit. I am sure it will
not be necessary to remind you that you cannot throw off the habits of
the climate immediately, any more than you can throw off the habits of
the individual immediately. But however unpromising the immediate
outlook may be, I am the more happy to offer my observations on the
state of the weather for to-morrow because this is not a party issue.
What a delightful thought that is! Whatever the condition of sunshine or
precipitation vouchsafed to us, may I not hope that we shall all meet it
with quickened temper and purpose, happy in the thought that it is our
common fortune?

For to-morrow there is every prospect of heavy and continuous rain.



SYNTAX FOR CYNICS

A GRAMMAR OF THE FEMININE LANGUAGE


The feminine language consists of words placed one after another with
extreme rapidity, with intervals for matinees. The purpose of this
language is (1) to conceal, and (2) to induce, thought. Very often,
after the use of a deal of language, a thought will appear in the
speaker's mind. This, while desirable, is by no means necessary.

[Illustration]

THOUGHT cannot be defined, but it is instinctively recognized even by
those unaccustomed to it.

PARTS OF SPEECH: There are five parts of feminine speech--noun,
pronoun, adjective, verb and interjection.

THE NOUN is the name of something to wear, or somebody who furnishes
something to wear, or a place where something is to be worn. E.g., _hat,
husband, opera_. Feminine nouns are always singular.

THE PRONOUN is _I_.

ADJECTIVES: There are only four feminine adjectives--_adorable, cute,
sweet, horrid_. These are all modified on occasion by the adverb
_perfectly_.

THE VERBS are of two kinds--active and passive. Active verbs express
action; passive verbs express passion. All feminine verbs are irregular
and imperative.

INTERJECTIONS: There are two interjections--_Heavens_! and _Gracious_!
The masculine language is much richer in interjections.

DECLENSION: There are three ways of feminine declining, (1) to say No;
(2) to say Yes and mean No; (3) to say nothing.

CONJUGATION: This is what happens to a verb in the course of
conversation or shopping. A verb begins the day quite innocently, as the
verb _go_ in the phrase _to go to town_. When it gets to the city this
verb becomes _look_, as, for instance, to _look at the shop windows._
Thereafter its descent is rapid into the form _purchase_ or _charge_.
This conjugation is often assisted by the auxiliary expression _a
bargain_. About the first of the following month the verb reappears in
the masculine vocabulary in a parallel or perverted form, modified by an
interjection.

CONVERSATION in the feminine language consists of language rapidly
vibrating or oscillating between two persons. The object of any
conversation is always accusative, e.g., "_Mrs. Edwards has no taste in
hats_." Most conversations consist of an indeterminate number of
sentences, but sometimes it is difficult to tell where one sentence ends
and the next begins. It is even possible for two sentences to overlap.
When this occurs the conversation is known as a dialogue. A sentence may
be of any length, and is concluded only by the physiological necessity
of taking breath.

SENTENCES: A sentence may be defined as a group of words, uttered in
sequence, but without logical connection, to express an opinion or an
emotion. A number of sentences if emitted without interruption becomes a
conversation. A conversation prolonged over an hour or more becomes a
gossip. A gossip, when shared by several persons, is known as a secret.
A secret is anything known by a large and constantly increasing number
of persons.

LETTERS: The feminine language, when committed to paper, with a stub pen
and backhanded chirography, is known as a letter. A letter should if
possible, be written on rose or lemon colored paper of a rough and
flannely texture, with scalloped edges and initials embossed in gilt. It
should be written with great rapidity, containing not less than ten
exclamation points per page and three underlined adjectives per
paragraph. The verb may be reserved until the postscript.

Generally speaking, students of the feminine language are agreed that
rules of grammar and syntax are subject to individual caprice and whim,
and it is very difficult to lay down fixed canons. The extreme rapidity
with which the language is used and the charm and personal magnetism of
its users have disconcerted even the most careful and scientific
observers. A glossary of technical terms and idioms in the feminine
language would be a work of great value to the whole husband world, but
it is doubtful if any such volume will ever be published.



THE TRUTH AT LAST

AN EXTRACT FROM MARTHA WASHINGTON'S DIARY


[Illustration]

Feb. 22, 1772. A grate Company of Guests assembled at Mt Vernon to
celebrate Gen'l Washington's Birthdaye. In the Morning the Gentlemenn
went a Fox hunting, but their Sport was marred by the Pertinacity of
some Motion Picture menn who persewd them to take Fillums and catchd the
General falling off his Horse at a Ditch. In the Evening some of the
Companye tooke Occasion to rally the General upon the old Fable of the
Cherrye Tree, w'ch hath ever been imputed an Evidence of hys exceeding
Veracity, though to saye sooth I never did believe the legend my self.
"Well," sayes the General with a Twinkle, "it wolde not be Politick to
denye a Romance w'ch is soe profitable to my Reputation, but to be
Candid, Gentlemenn, I have no certain recollection of the Affaire. My
Brother Lawrence was wont to say that the Tree or Shrubb in question was
no Cherrye but a Bitter Persimmon; moreover he told me that I stoutly
denyed any Attacke upon it; but being caught with the Goods (as Tully
saith) I was soundly Flogged, and walked stiffly for three dayes."

I was glad to heare the Truth in this matter as I have never seen any
Corroboration of this surpassing Virtue in George's private Life. The
evening broke up in some Disorder as Col Fairfax and others hadd Drunk
too freely of the Cock's Taile as they dub the new and very biting Toddy
introduced by the military. Wee hadd to call a chirurgeon to lett Blood
for some of the Guests before they coulde be gott to Bedd, whither they
were conveyed on stretchers.



FIXED IDEAS


It is said that a Fixed Idea is the beginning of madness.

Yet we are often worried because we have so few Fixed Ideas. We do not
seem to have any really definite Theory about Life.

       *       *       *       *       *

We find, on the other hand, that a great many of those we know have some
Guiding Principle that excuses and explains all their conduct.

       *       *       *       *       *

If you have some Theory about Life, and are thoroughly devoted to it,
you may come to a bad end, but you will enjoy yourself heartily.

       *       *       *       *       *

These theories may be of many different kinds. One of our friends rests
his career and hope of salvation on the doctrine that eating plenty of
fish and going without an overcoat whenever possible constitute supreme
happiness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another prides himself on not being able to roll a cigarette. If he were
forced, at the point of the bayonet, to roll a fag, it would wreck his
life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another is convinced that the Lost and Found ads in the papers all
contain anarchist code messages, and sits up late at night trying to
unriddle them.

       *       *       *       *       *

How delightful it must be to be possessed by one of these Theories! All
the experiences of the theorist's life tend to confirm his Theory. This
is always so. Did you ever hear of a Theory being confuted?

       *       *       *       *       *

Facts are quite helpless in the face of Theories. For after all, most
Facts are insufficiently encouraged with applause. When a Fact comes
along, the people in charge are generally looking the other way. This is
what is meant by Not Facing the Facts.

       *       *       *       *       *

Therefore all argument is quite useless, for it only results in
stiffening your friend's belief in his (presumably wrong) Theory.

       *       *       *       *       *

When any one tries to argue with you, say, "You are nothing if not
accurate, and you are not accurate." Then escape from the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

When we hear our friends diligently expounding the ideas which Explain
Everything, we are wistful. We go off and say to ourself, We really must
dig up some kind of Theory about Life.

       *       *       *       *       *

We read once of a great man that he never said, "Well, possibly so."
This gave us an uneasy pang.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a mistake to be Open to Conviction on so many topics, because all
one's friends try to convince one. This is very painful.

       *       *       *       *       *

And it is embarrassing if, for the sake of a quiet life, one pretends to
be convinced. At the corner of Tenth and Chestnut we allowed ourself to
agree with A.B., who said that the German colonies should be
internationalized. Then we had to turn down Ninth Street because we saw
C.D. coming, with whom we had previously agreed that Great Britain
should have German Africa. And in a moment we had to dodge into Sansom
Street to avoid E.F., having already assented to his proposition that
the German colonies should have self-determination. This kind of thing
makes it impossible to see one's friends more than one at a time.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps our Fixed Idea is that we have no Fixed Ideas.

Well, possibly so.



TRIALS OF A PRESIDENT TRAVELING ABROAD


10 a.m.--Arrive at railway station. Welcomed by King and Queen. Hat on
head. Umbrella left hand. Gloves on.

10:01--Right glove off (hastily) into left hand. Hat off (right hand).
Umbrella hanging on left arm.

10:02--Right glove into left pocket. Hat to left hand. Shake hands with
King.

10:03--Shake hands with Queen. Left glove off to receive flowers.
Umbrella to right hand.

10:04--Shake hands with Prime Minister. Left glove in left hand.
Umbrella back to left hand. Flowers in left hand. Hat in left hand.

10:05--Enter King's carriage. Try to drop flowers under carriage
unobserved. Foreign Minister picks them up with gallant remark.

10:06--Shake hands with Foreign Minister. In his emotional foreign
manner he insists on taking both hands. Quick work: Umbrella to right
elbow, gloves left pocket, hat under right arm, flowers to right pocket.

10:08--Received by Lord Mayor, who offers freedom of the city in golden
casket. Casket in left hand, Lord Mayor in right hand Queen on left arm,
umbrella on right arm flowers and gloves bursting from pockets hat
(momentarily) on head.

10:10--Delegation of statesmen. Statesmen in right hand. Hat, umbrella,
gloves, King, flowers, casket in left hand. Situation getting
complicated.

10:15--Ceremonial reception by Queen Mother. Getting confused. Queen
Mother in left pocket, umbrella on head, gloves on right hand, hat in
left hand, King on head, flowers in trousers pocket. Casket under left
arm.

10:17--Complete collapse. Failure of the League of Nations.



DIARY OF A PUBLISHER'S OFFICE BOY


Jan. 7, 1600. Thys daye ye Bosse bade mee remaine in ye Outer Office to
keepe Callers from Hinderyng Hym in Hys affaires. There came an olde
Bumme (ye same wch hath beene heare before) wth ye Scrypte of a Playe,
dubbed Roumio ande Julia. Hys name was Shake a Speare or somethynge lyke
thatt. Ye Bosse bade mee reade ye maunuscripp myselfe, as hee was Bussy.
I dyd. Ande of alle foulishnesse, thys playe dyd beare away ye prize.
Conceive ye Absuerditye of laying ye Sceane in Italy, it ys welle knowne
that Awdiences will not abear nothyng that is not sett neare at Home.
Butt woarse stille, thys fellowe presumes to kille offe Boath Heroe ande
Heroine in ye Laste Acte, wch is Intolerabble toe ye Publicke. Suerley
noe chaunce of Success in thys. Ye awthour dyd reappeare in ye
aufternoone, and dyd seeke to borrowe a crowne from mee, but I sente hym
packing. Ye Bosse hath heartilye given me Styx forr admitting such
Vagabones to ye Office. I tolde maister Shake a Speare that unlesse hee
colde learne to wryte Beste Sellers such as Master Spenser's Faerye
Quene (wch wee have put through six editions) there was suerly noe Hope
for hym. Hee tooke thys advyse in goode parte, and wente. Hys jerkin
wolde have beene ye better for a patchinge.



THE DOG'S COMMANDMENTS


[Illustration]

From a witless puppy I brought thee up: gave thee fire and food, and
taught thee the self-respect of an honest dog. Hear, then, my
commandments:

I am thy master: thou shalt have no other masters before me. Where I go,
shalt thou follow; where I abide, tarry thou also.

My house is thy castle; thou shalt honor it; guard it with thy life if
need be.

By daylight, suffer all that approach peaceably to enter without
protest. But after nightfall thou shalt give tongue when men draw near.

Use not thy teeth on any man without good cause and intolerable
provocation; and never on women or children.

Honor thy master and thy mistress, that thy days may be long in the
land.

Thou shalt not consort with mongrels, nor with dogs that are common or
unclean.

Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not feed upon refuse or stray bits: thy
meat waits thee regularly in the kitchen.

Thou shalt not bury bones in the flower beds.

Cats are to be chased, but in sport only; seek not to devour them: their
teeth and claws are deadly.

Thou shalt not snap at my neighbor, nor at his wife, nor his child, nor
his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor do
harm to aught that is his.

The drawing-room rug is not for thee, nor the sofa, nor the best
armchair. Thou hast the porch and thy own kennel. But for the love I
bear thee, there is always a corner for thee by the winter fire.

Meditate on these commandments day and night; so shalt thou be a dog of
good breeding and an honor to thy master.



THE VALUE OF CRITICISM


Our friend Dove Dulcet, the well-known sub-caliber poet, has recently
issued a slender volume of verses called _Peanut Butter_. He thinks we
may be interested to see the comment of the press on his book. We don't
know why he should think so, but anyway here are some of the reviews:

Buffalo _Lens_: Mr. Dulcet is a sweet singer, and we could only wish
there were twice as many of these delicately rhymed fancies. There is
not a poem in the book that does not exhibit a tender grasp of the
beautiful homely emotions. Perhaps the least successful, however, is
that entitled "On Losing a Latchkey."

Syracuse _Hammer and Tongs_: This little book of savage satires will
rather dismay the simple-minded reader. Into the acid vials of his song
Mr. Dulcet has poured a bitter cynicism. He seems to us to be an
irremediable pessimist, a man of brutal and embittered life. In one
poem, however, he does soar to a very fine imaginative height. This is
the ode "On Losing a Latchkey," which is worth all the rest of the
pieces put together.

New York _Reaping Hook_: It is odd that Mr. Dove Dulcet, of Philadelphia
we believe should have been able to find a publisher for this volume.
These queer little doggerels have an instinctive affinity for oblivion,
and they will soon coalesce with the driftwood of the literary Sargasso
Sea. Among many bad things we can hardly remember ever to have seen
anything worse than "On Losing a Latchkey."

Philadelphia _Prism_: Our gifted fellow townsman, Mr. Dove Dulcet, has
once more demonstrated his ability to set humble themes in entrancing
measures. He calls his book _Peanut Butter_. A title chosen with rare
discernment, for the little volume has all the savor and nourishing
properties of that palatable delicacy. We wish there were space to quote
"On Losing a Latchkey," for it expresses a common human experience in
language of haunting melody and witty brevity. How rare it is to find a
poet with such metrical skill who is content to handle the minor themes
of life in this mood of delicious pleasantry. The only failure in the
book is the banal sonnet entitled "On Raiding the Ice Box." This we
would be content to forego.

Pittsburgh _Cylinder_: It is a relief to meet one poet who deals with
really exalted themes. We are profoundly weary of the myriad versifiers
who strum the so-called lowly and domestic themes. Mr. Dulcet, however,
in his superb free verse, has scaled olympian heights, disdaining the
customary twaddling topics of the rhymesters. Such an amazing allegory
as "On Raiding the Ice Box," which deals, of course, with the experience
of a man who attempts to explore the mind of an elderly Boston spinster,
marks this powerful poet as a man of unusual satirical and philosophical
depth.

Boston _Penseroso_: We find Mr. Dove Dulcet's new book rather baffling.
We take his poem "On Raiding the Ice Box" to be a pæan in honor of the
discovery of the North Pole; but such a poem as "On Losing a Latchkey,"
is quite inscrutable. Our guess is that it is an intricate
psycho-analysis of a pathological case of amnesia. Our own taste is more
for the verse that deals with the gentler emotions of every day, but
there can be no doubt that Mr. Dulcet is an artist to be reckoned with.



A MARRIAGE SERVICE FOR COMMUTERS

(_Fill in railroad as required_)


[Illustration]

Wilt thou, Jack, have this woman to be thy wedded wife, to live together
in so far as the ---- Railroad will allow? Wilt thou love her, comfort
her, honor and keep her, take her to the movies, prevent the furnace
from going out, and come home regularly on the 5:42 train?"

"I will."

"Wilt thou, Jill, have this commuter to thy wedded husband, bearing in
mind snowdrifts, washouts, lack of servants and all other penalties of
suburban life? Wilt thou obey him and serve him, love, honor and keep
him, and let him smoke a corncob pipe in the house?"

"I will."

"I, Jack, take thee, Jill, to my wedded wife, from 6 P.M. until 8 A.M.,
as far as permitted by the ---- Railroad, schedule subject to change
without notice, for better, for worse, for later, for earlier, to love
and to cherish, and I promise to telephone you when I miss the train."

"I, Jill, take thee, Jack, to my wedded husband, subject to the
mutability of the suburban service, changing trains at----, to have and
to hold, save when the card club meets on Wednesday evenings, and
thereto I give thee my troth."



THE SUNNY SIDE OF GRUB STREET


[Illustration]

I often wonder how many present-day writers keep diaries. I wish _The
Bookman_ would conduct a questionnaire on the subject. I have a
suspicion that Charley Towne keeps one--probably a grim, tragic
parchment wherein that waggish soul sets down its secret musings. I dare
say Louis Untermeyer has one (morocco, tooled and goffered, with gilt
edges), and looks over its nipping paragraphs now and then with a
certain relish. It undoubtedly has a large portmanteau pocket with it,
to contain clippings of Mr. Untermeyer's letters to the papers taking
issue with the reviews of his books. There is no way for the reviewer to
escape that backfire. I knew one critic who was determined to review
one of Louis's books in such a way that the author would have no excuse
for writing to the _Times_ about it. He was overwhelmingly
complimentary. But along came the usual letter by return of post. Mr.
Untermeyer asked for enough space to "diverge from the critique at one
point." He said the review was too fulsome.

I wish Don Marquis kept a diary, but I am quite sure he doesn't. Don is
too--well, I was going to say he is too--but after all he has a perfect
right to be that way.

It's rather an important thing. Every one knows the fascination exerted
by personal details of authors' lives. Every one has hustled to the Café
de la Source in Paris because R.L.S. once frequented it, or to Allaire's
in New York because O. Henry wrote it up in one of his tales, and that
sort of thing. People like to know all the minutiæ concerning their
favorite author. It is not sufficient to know (let us say) that Murray
Hill or some one of that sort, once belonged to the Porrier's Corner
Club. One wants to know where the Porrier's Corner Club was, and who
were the members, and how he got there, and what he got there, and so
forth. One wants to know where Murray Hill (I take his name only as a
symbol) buys his cigars, and where he eats lunch, and what he eats,
whether pigeon potpie with iced tea or hamburg steak and "coffee with
plenty." It is all these intimate details that the public has thirst
for.

Now the point I want to make is this. Here, all around us, is fine
doings (as Murray Hill would put it), the jolliest literary hullabaloo
going. Some of the writers round about--Arthur Guiterman or Tom Masson
or Witter Bynner or Tom Daly, or some of these chaps now sitting down to
combination-plate luncheons and getting off all manner of merry quips
and confidential matters--some of these chaps may be famous some day
(posterity is so undiscriminating) and all that savory personal stuff
will have evaporated from our memories. The world of bookmen is in great
need of a new crop of intimists, or whatever you call them. Barbellion
chaps. Henry Ryecrofts. We need a chiel taking notes somewhere.

Now if you really jot down the merry gossip, and make bright little pen
portraits, and tell just what happens, it will not only afford you a
deal of discreet amusement, but the diary you keep will reciprocate. In
your older years it will keep you. _Harper's Magazine_ will undoubtedly
want to publish it, forty years from now. If that is too late to keep
you, it will help to keep your descendants. So I wish some of the
authors would confess and let us know which of them are doing it. It
would be jolly to know to whom we might confide the genial little items
of what-not and don't-let-this-go-farther that come the rounds. The
inside story of the literature of any epoch is best told in the diaries.
I'll bet Brander Matthews kept one, and James Huneker. It's a pity
Professor Matthews's was a bit tedious. Crabb Robinson was the man for
my money.

The diarists I would choose for the present generation on Grub Street
would be Heywood Broun, Franklin Adams, Bob Holliday, William McFee, and
maybe Ben De Casseres (if he would promise not to mention Don Marquis
and Walt Whitman more than once per page). McFee might be let off the
job by reason of his ambrosial letters. But it just occurs to me that of
course one must not know who is keeping the diary. If it were known, he
would be deluged with letters from people wanting to get their names
into it. And the really worthwhile folks would be on their guard.

But if all the writers wait until they are eighty years old and can
write their memoirs with the beautifully gnarled and chalky old hands
Joyce Kilmer loved to contemplate, they will have forgotten the comical
pith of a lot of it. If you want to reproduce the colors and collisions
along the sunny side of Grub Street, you've got to jot down your data
before they fade. I wish I had time to be diarist of such matters. How
candid I'd be! I'd put down all about the two young novelists who used
to meet every day in City Hall Park to compare notes while they were
hunting for jobs, and make wagers as to whose pair of trousers would
last longer. (Quite a desirable essay could he written, by the way, on
the influence of trousers on the fortunes of Grub Street, with the three
stages of the Grub Street trouser, viz.: 1, baggy; 2, shiny; 3, trousers
that must not be stooped in on any account.) There is an uproarious tale
about a pair of trousers and a very well-known writer and a lecture at
Vassar College, but these things have to be reserved for posterity, the
legatee of all really amusing matters.

But then there are other topics, too, such as the question whether
Ibáñez always wears a polo shirt, as the photos lead one to believe. The
secret Philip Gibbs told me about the kind of typewriter he used on the
western front. I would be enormously candid (if I were a diarist). I'd
put down that I never can remember whether Vida Scudder is a man or a
woman. I'd tell what A. Edward Newton said when he came rushing into the
office to show me the Severn death-bed portrait of Keats, which he had
just bought from Rosenbach. I'd tell the story of the unpublished letter
of R.L.S. which a young man sold to buy a wedding present, which has
since vanished (the R.L.S. letter). I'd tell the amazing story of how a
piece of Walt Whitman manuscript was lost in Philadelphia on the
memorable night of June 30, 1919. I'd tell just how Vachel Lindsay
behaves when he's off duty. I'd even forsake everything to travel over
to England with Vachel on his forthcoming lecture tour, as I'm convinced
that England's comments on Vachel will be worth listening to.

The ideal man to keep the sort of diary I have in mind would be Hilaire
Belloc. It was an ancestor of Mr. Belloc, Dr. Joseph Priestley (who died
in Pennsylvania, by the way) who discovered oxygen; and it is Mr. Belloc
himself who has discovered how to put oxygen into the modern English
essay. The gift, together with his love of good eating, probably came to
him from his mother, Bessie Rayner Parkes, who once partook of Samuel
Rogers's famous literary breakfasts. And this brings us back to our old
friend Crabb Robinson, another of the Rogers breakfast clan. Robinson is
never wildly exciting, but he gives a perfect panorama of his day. It is
not often that one finds a man who associated with such figures as
Goethe, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Blake, and Lamb. He had the true gift
for diarizing. What could be better, for instance, than this little
miniature picture of the rise and fall of teetotalism in one well-loved
person?--

    Mary Lamb, I am glad to say, is just now very comfortable. She has
    put herself under Doctor Tuthill, who has prescribed water. Charles,
    in consequence, resolved to accommodate himself to her, and since
    Lord-Mayor's day has abstained from all other liquor, as well as
    from smoking. We shall all rejoice if this experiment succeeds....
    His change of habit, though it, on the whole, improves his health,
    yet when he is low-spirited, leaves him without a remedy or relief.

    --LETTER OF HENRY CRABB ROBINSON To Miss WORDSWORTH, December 23,
    1810.


    Spent part of the evening with Charles Lamb (unwell) and his sister.

    --ROBINSON'S DIARY, January 8, 1811.


    Late in the evening Lamb called, to sit with me while he smoked his
    pipe.

    --ROBINSON'S DIARY, December 20, 1814.


    Lamb was in a happy frame, and I can still recall to my mind the
    look and tone with which he addressed Moore, when he could not
    articulate very distinctly: "Mister Moore, will you drink a glass of
    wine with me?"--suiting the action to the word, and hobnobbing.

    --ROBINSON'S DIARY, April 4, 1823.

Now that, I maintain, is just the kind of stuff we need in a diary of
today. How fascinating that old book Peyrat's "Pastors of the Desert"
became when we learned that R.L.S. had a copy of the second volume of it
in his sleeping sack when he camped out with Modestine. Even so it may
be a matter of delicious interest to our grandsons to know what book Joe
Hergesheimer was reading when he came in town on the local from West
Chester recently, and who taught him to shoot craps. It is interesting
to know what Will and Stephen Benét (those skiey fraternals) eat when
they visit a Hartford Lunch; to know whether Gilbert Chesterton is
really fond of dogs (as "The Flying Inn" implies, if you remember
Quoodle), and whether Edwin Meade Robinson and Edwin Arlington Robinson,
_arcades ambo_, ever write to each other. It would be
interesting--indeed it would be highly entertaining--to compile a list
of the free meals Vachel Lindsay has received, and to ascertain the
number of times Harry Kemp has been "discovered." It would be
interesting to know how many people shudder with faint nausea (as I do)
when they pick up a Dowson playlet and find it beginning with a list of
characters including "A Moon Maiden" and "Pierrot," scene set in "a
glade in the Parc du Petit Trianon--a statue of Cupid--Pierrot enters
with his hands full of lilies." It would be interesting to resume the
number of brazen imitations of McCrae's "In Flanders Fields"--here is
the most striking, put out on a highly illuminated card by a New York
publishing firm:

  Rest in peace, ye Flanders's dead,
  The poppies still blow overhead,
    The larks ye heard, still singing fly.
    They sing of the cause which made thee die.

  And they are heard far down below,
  Our fight is ended with the foe.
    The fight for right, which ye begun
    And which ye died for, we have won.
      Rest in peace.

The man who wrote that ought to be the first man mobilized for the next
war.

All such matters, with a plentiful bastinado for stupidity and swank,
are the privilege of the diarist. He may indulge himself in the
delightful luxury of making post-mortem enemies. He may wonder what the
average reviewer thinks he means by always referring to single
publishers in the plural. A note which we often see in the papers runs
like this: "Soon to be issued by the Dorans (or Knopfs or Huebsches),"
etc., etc. This is an echo of the old custom when there really were two
or more Harpers. But as long as there is only one Doran, one Huebsch,
one Knopf, it is simply idiotic.

Well, as we go sauntering along the sunny side of Grub Street,
meditating an essay on the Mustache in Literature (we have shaved off
our own since that man Murray Hill referred to it in the public prints
as "a young hay-wagon"), we are wondering whether any of the writing men
are keeping the kind of diary we should like our son to read, say in
1950. Perhaps Miss Daisy Ashford is keeping one. She has the seeing eye.
Alas that Miss Daisy at nine years old was a _puella unius libri_.



BURIAL SERVICE FOR A NEWSPAPER JOKE


_After the remains have been decently interred, the following remarks
shall be uttered by the presiding humorist:_

This joke has been our refuge from one generation to another:

Before the mountains were brought forth this joke was lusty and of good
repute:

In the life of this joke a thousand years are but as yesterday.

Blessed, therefore, is this joke, which now resteth from its labors.

But most of our jokes are of little continuance: though there be some so
strong that they come to fourscore years, yet is their humor then but
labor and sorrow:

For a joke that is born of a humorist hath but a short time to live and
is full of misery. It cometh up and is cut down like a flower. It fleeth
as if it were a shadow and abideth but one edition.

It is sown in quotation, it is raised in misquotation: We therefore
commit this joke to the files of the country newspapers, where it shall
circulate forever, world without end.



ADVICE TO THOSE VISITING A BABY


Interview the baby alone if possible. If, however, both parents are
present, say, "It looks like its mother." And, as an afterthought, "I
think it has its father's elbows."

If uncertain as to the infant's sex, try some such formula as, "He looks
like her grandparents," or "She has his aunt's sweet disposition."

When the mother only is present, your situation is critical. Sigh deeply
and admiringly, to imply that you wish _you_ had a child like that.
Don't commit yourself at all until she gives a lead.

When the father only is present, you may be a little reckless. Give the
father a cigar and venture, "Good luck, old man; it looks like your
mother-in-law."

If possible, find out beforehand how old the child is. Call up the
Bureau of Vital Statistics. If it is two months old, say to the mother,
"Rather large for six months, isn't he?"

If the worst has happened and the child really does look like its
father, the most tactful thing is to say, "Children change as they grow
older." Or you may suggest that some mistake has been made at the
hospital and they have brought home the wrong baby.

If left alone in the room with the baby, throw a sound-proof rug over it
and escape.



ABOU BEN WOODROW

(IN PARIS)


[Illustration]

  Abou Ben Woodrow (may his tribe increase!)
  Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
  And saw, among the gifts piled on the floor
  (Making the room look like a department store),
  An Angel writing in a book of gold.
  Now much applause had made Ben Woodrow bold
  And to the Presence in the room said he,
  "_Qu'est-ce que c'est que ça que tu ecris?"_
  Or, in plain English, "May I not inquire
  What writest thou?" The Angel did not tire
  But kept on scribing. Then it turned its head
  (All Europe could not turn Ben Woodrow's head!)
  And with a voice almost as sweet as Creel's
  Answered: "The names of those who grease the wheels
  Of progress and have never, never blundered."
  Ben Woodrow lay quite still, and sadly wondered.
  "And is mine one?" he queried. "Nay, not so,"
  Replied the Angel. Woodrow spoke more low
  But cheerly still, and in his May I notting
  Fashion he said: "Of course you may be rotting,
  But even if you are, may I not then
  Be writ as one that loves his fellow men?
  Do that for me, old chap; just that; that merely
  And I am yours, cordially and sincerely."
  The Angel wrote, and vanished like a mouse.
  Next night returned (accompanied by House)
  And showed the names whom love of Peace had blest.
  And lo! Ben Woodrow's name led all the rest!



MY MAGNIFICENT SYSTEM


In these days when the streets are so perilous, every man who goes about
the city ought to be sure that his pockets are in good order, so that
when he is run down by a roaring motor-truck the police will have no
trouble in identifying him and communicating with his creditors.

I have always been very proud of my pocket system. As others may wish to
install it, I will describe it briefly. If I am found prostrate and
lifeless on the paving, I can quickly be identified by the following
arrangement of my private affairs:

In my right-hand trouser leg is a large hole, partially surrounded by
pocket.

In my left-hand trouser pocket is a complicated bunch of keys. I am not
quite sure what they all belong to, as I rarely lock anything. They are
very useful, however, as when I walk rapidly they evolve a shrill
jingling which often conveys the impression of minted coinage. One of
them, I think, unlocks the coffer where I secretly preserve the pair of
spats I bought when I became engaged.

My right-hand hip pocket is used, in summer, for the handkerchief
reserves (hayfever sufferers, please notice); and, in winter, for
stamps. It is tapestried with a sheet of three-cent engravings that got
in there by mistake last July, and adhered.

My left-hand hip pocket holds my memorandum book, which contains only
one entry: _Remember not to forget anything_.

The left-hand upper waistcoat pocket holds a pencil, a commutation
ticket and a pipe cleaner.

The left-hand lower waistcoat pocket contains what the ignorant will
esteem scraps of paper. This, however, is the hub and nerve center of my
mnemonic system. When I want to remember anything I write it down on a
small slip of paper and stick it in that pocket. Before going to bed I
clean out the pocket and see how many things I have forgotten during the
day. This promotes tranquil rest.

The right-hand upper waistcoat pocket is used for wall-paper samples.
Here I keep clippings of all the wallpapers at home, so that when buying
shirts, ties, socks or books I can be sure to get something that will
harmonize. My taste in these matters has sometimes been aspersed, so I
am playing safe.

The right-hand lower waistcoat pocket is used for small change. This is
a one-way pocket; exit only.

The inner pocket of my coat is used for railroad timetables, most of
which have since been changed. Also a selected assortment of unanswered
letters and slips of paper saying, "Call Mr. So-and-so before noon." The
first thing to be done by my heirs after collecting the remains must be
to communicate with the writers of those letters, to assure them that I
was struck down in the fullness of my powers while on the way to the
post office to mail an answer.

My right-hand coat pocket is for pipes.

Left-hand coat pocket for tobacco and matches.

The little tin cup strapped in my left armpit is for Swedish matches
that failed to ignite. It is an invention of my own.

I once intended to allocate a pocket especially for greenbacks, but
found it unnecessary.



LETTERS TO CYNTHIA


I. IN PRAISE OF BOOBS

    _Dear Sir--What is a Boob? Will you please discuss the subject a
    little? Perhaps I'm a boob for asking--but I'd like to know_.

    CYNTHIA.


[Illustration]

BE FRIENDLY WITH BOOBS

The Boob, my dear Cynthia, is Nature's device for mitigating the
quaintly blended infelicities of existence. Never be too bitter about
the Boob. The Boob is you and me and the man in the elevator.

THE BOOB IS HUMANITY'S HOPE

As long as the Boob ratio remains high, humanity is safe. The Boob is
the last repository of the stalwart virtues. The Boob is faith, hope and
charity. The Boob is the hope of conservatives, the terror of radicals
and the meal check of cynics. If you are run over on Market Street and
left groaning under the mailed fist of a flivver, the Bolsheviki and
I.W.W. will be watching the shop windows. It will be the Boob who will
come to your aid, even before the cop gets there.

1653 BOOBS

If you were to dig a deep and terrible pit in the middle of Chestnut
Street, and illuminate it with signs and red lights and placards
reading, _DO NOT WALK INTO THIS PIT_, 1653 Boobs would tumble into it
during the course of the day. Boobs have faith. They are eager to plunge
in where an angel wouldn't even show his periscope.

THE BOOB RATIO

But that does not prove anything creditable to human nature. For though
1653 people would fall into our pit (which any Rapid Transit Company
will dig for us free of charge) 26,448 would cautiously and
suspiciously and contemptuously avoid it. The Boob ratio is just about 1
to 16.

HE LOOKS FOR ANGELS

It does not pay to make fun of the Boob. There is no malice in him, no
insolence, no passion to thrive at the expense of his fellows. If he
sees some one on a street corner gazing open-mouthed at the sky, he will
do likewise, and stand there for half hour with his apple of Adam
expectantly vibrating. But is that a shameful trait? May not a Boob
expect to see angels in the shimmering blue of heaven? Is he more
disreputable than the knave who frisks his watch meanwhile? And suppose
he does see an angel, or even only a blue acre of sky--is that not worth
as much as the dial in his poke?

HE SEES THEM

It is the Boob who is always willing to look hopefully for angels who
will see them ultimately. And the man who is only looking for the Boob's
timepiece will do time of his own by and by.

HE BEARS NO MALICE

The Boob is convinced that the world is conducted on genteel and
friendly principles. He feels in his heart that even the law of gravity
will do him no harm. That is why he steps unabashed into our pit on
Chestnut Street; and finding himself sprawling in the bottom of it, he
bears no ill will to Sir Isaac Newton. He simply knows that the law of
gravity took him for some one else--a street-cleaning contractor,
perhaps.

A DEFINITION

A small boy once defined a Boob as one who always treats other people
better than he does himself.

HE IS UNSUSPICIOUS

The Boob is hopeful, cheery, more concerned over other people's troubles
than his own. He goes serenely unsuspicious of the brick under the silk
hat, even when the silk hat is on the head of a Mayor or City
Councilman. He will pull every trigger he meets, regardless that the
whole world is loaded and aimed at him. He will keep on running for the
5:42 train, even though the timetable was changed the day before
yesterday. He goes through the revolving doors the wrong way. He forgets
that the banks close at noon on Saturdays. He asks for oysters on the
first of June. He will wait for hours at the Chestnut Street door, even
though his wife told him to meet her at the ribbon counter.

HIS WIFE

Yes, he has a wife. But if he was not a Boob before marriage he will
never become so after. Women are the natural antidotes of Boobs.

RECEPTIVE

The Boob is not quarrelsome. He is willing to believe that you know more
about it than he does. He is always at home for ideas.

HE IS HAPPY

Of course, what bothers other people is that the Boob is so happy. He
enjoys himself. He falls into that Rapid Transit pit of ours and has
more fun out of the tumble than the sneering 26,448 who stand above
untumbled. The happy simp prefers a 4 per cent that pays to a 15 per
cent investment that returns only engraved prospectuses. He stands on
that street corner looking for an imaginary angel parachuting down, and
enjoys himself more than the Mephistopheles who is laughing up his
sleeve.

NATURE'S DARLING

Nature must love the Boob, because she is a good deal of a Boob herself.
How she has squandered herself upon mountain peaks that are useless
except for the Alpenstock Trust; upon violets that can't be eaten; upon
giraffes whose backs slope too steeply to carry a pack! Can it be that
the Boob is Nature's darling, that she intends him to outlive all the
rest?

A BRIEF MAXIM

Be sure you're a Boob, and then go ahead.

IN CONCLUSION

But never, dear Cynthia, confuse the Boob with the Poor Fish. The Poor
Fish, as an Emersonian thinker has observed, is the Boob gone wrong. The
Poor Fish is the cynical, sneering simpleton who, if he did see an
angel, would think it was only some one dressed up for the movies. The
Poor Fish is Why Boobs Leave Home.


II. SIMPLIFICATION

    _Dear Sir--How can life be simplified? In the office where I work
    the pressure of affairs is very exacting. Often I do not have a
    moment to think over my own affairs before 4 p.m. There are a great
    many matters that puzzle me, and I am afraid that if I go on working
    so hard the sweetest hours of my youth may pass before I have given
    them proper consideration. It is very irassible. Can you help me?_

    CYNTHIA.

SALUTATION TO CYNTHIA

Cynthia, my child: How are you? It is very delightful to hear from you
again. During the recent months I have been very lonely indeed without
your comradeship and counsel with regard to the great matters which were
under consideration.

THINKING IT OVER

Well, Cynthia, when your inquiry reached me I propped my feet on the
desk, got out the corncob pipe and thought things over. How to simplify
life? How, indeed! It is a subject that interests me strangely. Of
course, the easiest method is to let one's ancestors do it for one. If
you have been lucky enough to choose a simple-minded, quiet-natured
quartet of grandparents, frugal, thrifty and foresighted, who had the
good sense to buy property in an improving neighborhood and keep their
money compounding at a fair rate of interest, the problem is greatly
clarified. If they have hung on to the old farmstead, with its
huckleberry pasture and cowbells tankling homeward at sunset and a
bright brown brook cascading down over ledges of rock into a swimming
hole, then again your problem has possible solutions. Just go out to the
farm, with a copy of Matthew Arnold's "Scholar Gipsy" (you remember the
poem, in which he praises the guy who had sense enough to leave town and
live in the suburbs where the Bolsheviki wouldn't bother him), and don't
leave any forwarding address with the postoffice. But if, as I fear from
an examination of your pink-scalloped notepaper with its exhalation of
lilac essence, the vortex of modern jazz life has swept you in, the
crisis is far more intricate.

TAKE THE MATTER IN YOUR OWN HANDS

Of course, my dear Cynthia, it is better to simplify your own life than
to have some one else do it for you. The Kaiser, for instance, has had
his career greatly simplified, but hardly in a way he himself would have
chosen. The first thing to do is to come to a clear understanding of
(and to let your employer know you understand) the two principles that
underlie modern business. There are only two kinds of affairs that are
attended to in an office. First, things that absolutely must be done.
These are often numerous; but remember, that since they _have_ to be
done, if you don't do them some one else will. Second, things that don't
have to be done. And since they don't have to be done, why do them? This
will simplify matters a great deal.

FURTHER SUGGESTIONS

The next thing to do is to stop answering letters. Even the firm's most
persistent customers will cease troubling you by and bye if you persist.
Then, stop answering the telephone. A pair of office shears can sever a
telephone wire much faster than any mechanician can keep it repaired. If
the matter is really urgent, let the other people telegraph. While you
are perfecting this scheme look about, in a dignified way, for another
job. Don't take the first thing that offers itself, but wait until
something really congenial appears. It is a good thing to choose some
occupation that will keep you a great deal in the open air, preferably
something that involves looking at shop windows and frequent visits to
the receiving teller at the bank. It is nice to have a job in a tall
building overlooking the sea, with office hours from 3 to 5 p.m.

HOW EASY, AFTER ALL!

Many people, dear Cynthia, are harassed because they do not realize how
easy it is to get out of a job which involves severe and concentrated
effort. My child, you must not allow yourself to become discouraged.
Almost any job can be shaken off in time and with perseverance. Looking
out of the window is a great help. There are very few businesses where
what goes on in the office is half as interesting as what is happening
on the street outside. If your desk does not happen to be near a window,
so much the better. You can watch the sunset admirably from the window
of the advertising manager's office. Call his attention to the rosy
tints in the afterglow or the glorious pallor of the clouds. Advertising
managers are apt to be insufficiently appreciative of these things.
Sometimes, when they are closeted with the Boss in conference, open the
ground-glass door and say, "I think it is going to rain shortly." Carry
your love of the beautiful into your office life. This will inevitably
pave the way to simplification.

ENVELOPES WITH LOOP HOLES

And never open envelopes with little transparent panes of isinglass in
their fronts. Never keep copies of your correspondence. For, if your
letters are correct, no copy will be necessary. And, if incorrect, it is
far better not to have a copy. If you were to tell me the exact nature
of your work I could offer many more specific hints.

YOUR INQUIRY, CHILD, TOUCHES MY HEART

I am intimately interested in your problem, my child, for I am a great
believer in simplification. It is hard to follow out one's own precepts;
but the root of happiness is never to contradict any one and never agree
with any one. For if you contradict people, they will try to convince
you; and if you agree with them, they will enlarge upon their views
until they say something you will feel bound to contradict. Let me hear
from you again.



TO AN UNKNOWN DAMSEL


  On Fifth Street, in a small café,
    Upstairs (our tables were adjacent),
  I saw you lunching yesterday,
    And felt a secret thrill complacent.

  You sat, and, waiting for your meal,
    You read a book. As I was eating,
  Dear me, how keen you made me feel
    To give you just a word of greeting!

  And as your hand the pages turned,
    I watched you, dumbly contemplating--
  O how exceedingly I yearned
    To ask the girl to keep you waiting.

  I wished that I could be the maid
    To serve your meal or crumb your cloth, or
  Beguile some hazard to my aid
    To know your verdict on that author!

  And still you read. You dropped your purse,
    And yet, adorably unheeding,
  You turned the pages, verse by verse,--
    I watched, and worshiped you for reading!

  You know not what restraint it took
    To mind my etiquette, nor flout it
  By telling you I know that book,
    And asking what you thought about it.

  I cursed myself for being shy--
    I longed to make polite advances;
  Alas! I let the time go by,
    And Fortune gives no second chances.

  You read, but still your face was calm--
    (I scanned it closely, wretched sinner!)
  You showed no sign---I felt a qualm--
    And then the waitress brought your dinner.

  Those modest rhymes, you thought them fair?
    And will you sometimes praise or quote them?
  And do you ask why I should care?
    Oh, Lady, it was I who wrote them!



THOUGHTS ON SETTING AN ALARM CLOCK


  Mark the monitory dial,
    Set the gong for six a.m.--
  Then, until the hour of trial,
    Clock a little sleep, pro tem.

  As I crank the dread alarum
    Stern resolve I try to fix:
  My ideals, shall I mar 'em
    When the awful moment ticks?

  Heaven strengthen my intention,
    Grant me grace my vow to keep:
  Would the law enforced Prevention
    Of such Cruelty to Sleep!



SONGS IN A SHOWER BATH


[Illustration]


HOT WATER

  Gently, while the drenching dribble
    Courses down my sweltered form,
  I am basking like a sybil,
    Lazy, languorous and warm.
  I am unambitious, flaccid,
    Well content to drowse and dream:
  How I hate life's bitter acid--
    Leave me here to stew and steam.
  Underneath this jet so torrid
    I forget the world's sad wrath:
  O activity is horrid!
    Leave me in my shower-bath!

COLD WATER

  But when I turn the crank
  O Zeus!
  A silver ecstasy thrills me!
  I caper and slap my chilled thighs,
  I plan to make a card index of all my ideas
  And feel like an efficiency expert.
  I tweak Fate by the nose
  And know I could succeed in _anything_.
  I throw up my head
  And glut myself with icy splatter...
  To-day I will really
  Begin my career!

ON DEDICATING A NEW TEAPOT

  Boiling water now is poured,
    Pouches filled with fresh tobacco,
  Round the hospitable board
    Fragrant steams Ceylon or Pekoe.

  Bread and butter is cut thin,
    Cream and sugar, yes, bring them on;
  Ginger cookies in their tin,
    And the dainty slice of lemon.

  Let the marmalade be brought,
    Buns of cinnamon adhesive;
  And, to catch the leaves, you ought
    To be sure to have the tea-sieve.

  But, before the cups be filled--
    Cups that cause no ebriation--
  Let a genial wish be willed
    Just by way of dedication.

  Here's your fortune, gentle pot:
    To our thirst you offer slakeage;
  Bright blue china, may I not
    Hope no maid will cause you breakage.

  Kindest ministrant to man,
    Long be jocund years before you,
  And no meaner fortune than
    Helen's gracious hand to pour you!

THE UNFORGIVABLE SYNTAX

  A certain young man never knew
  Just when to say _whom_ and when _who_;
    "The question of choosing,"
    He said, "is confusing;
  I wonder if _which_ wouldn't do?"

  Nothing is so illegitimate
  As a noun when his verbs do not fit him; it
    Makes him disturbed
    If not properly verbed--
  If he asks for the plural, why git him it!

  _Lie_ and _lay_ offer slips to the pen
  That have bothered most excellent men:
    You can say that you lay
    In bed--yesterday;
  If you do it to-day, you're a hen!

  A person we met at a play
  Was cruel to pronouns all day:
    She would frequently cry
    "Between you and I,
  If only us girls had our way--!"



VISITING POETS


We were giving a young English poet a taste of Philadelphia, trying to
show him one or two of the simple beauties that make life agreeable to
us. Having just been photographed, he was in high good humor.

"What a pity," he said, "that you in America have no literature that
reflects the amazing energy, the humor, the raciness of your life! I
woke up last night at the hotel and heard a motor fire engine thunder
by. There's a symbol of the extraordinary vitality of America! My, if I
could only live over here a couple of years, how I'd like to try my hand
at it. It's a pity that no one over here is putting down the humor of
your life."

"Have you read O. Henry?" we suggested.

"Extraordinary country," he went on. "Somebody turned me loose on Mr.
Morgan's library in New York. There was a librarian there, but I didn't
let her bother me. I wanted to see that manuscript of 'Endymion' they
have there. I supposed they would take me up to a glass case and let me
gaze at it. Not at all. They put it right in my hands and I spent three
quarters of an hour over it. Wonderful stuff. You know, the first
edition of my book is selling at a double premium in London. It's been
out only eighteen months."

"How do you fellows get away with it?" we asked humbly.

"I hope Pond isn't going to book me up for too many lectures," he said.
"I've got to get back to England in the spring. There's a painter over
there waiting to do my portrait. But there are so many places I've got
to lecture--everybody seems to want to hear about the young English
poets."

"I hear Philip Gibbs is just arriving in New York," we said.

"Is that so? Dear me, he'll quite take the wind out of my sails, won't
he? Nice chap, Gibbs. He sent me an awfully cheery note when I went out
to the front as a war correspondent. Said he liked my stuff about the
sodgers. He'll make a pot of money over here, won't he?"

We skipped across City Hall Square abreast of some trolley cars.

"I say, these trams keep one moving, don't they?" he said. "You know, I
was tremendously bucked by that department store you took me to see.
That's the sort of place one has to go to see the real art of America.
Those paintings in there, by the elevators, they were done by a young
English girl. Friend of mine--in fact, she did the pictures for my first
book. Pity you have so few poets over here. You mustn't make me lose my
train; I've got a date with Vachel Lindsay and Edgar Lee Masters in New
York to-night. Vachel's an amusing bird. I must get him over to England
and get him started. I've written to Edmund Gosse about him, and I'm
going to write again. What a pity Irvin Cobb doesn't write poetry! He's
a great writer. What vivacity, what a rich vocabulary!"

"Have you read Mark Twain?" we quavered.

"Oh, Mark's grand when he's serious; but when he tries to be funny, you
know, it's too obvious. I can always see him feeling for the joke. No,
it doesn't come off. You know an artist simply doesn't exist for me
unless he has something to say. That's what makes me so annoyed with
R.L.S. In 'Weir of Hermiston' and the 'New Arabian Nights' he really had
something to say; the rest of the time he was playing the fool on some
one else's instrument. You know style isn't something you can borrow
from some one else; it's the unconscious revelation of a man's own
personality."

We agreed.


"I wonder if there aren't some clubs around here that would like to hear
me talk?" he said. "You know, I'd like to come back to Philadelphia if I
could get some dates of that sort. Just put me wise, old man, if you
hear of anything. I was telling some of your poets in New York about the
lectures I've been giving. Those chaps are fearfully rough with one. You
know, they'll just ride over one roughshod if you give them a chance.
They hate to see a fellow a success. Awful tripe some of them are
writing. They don't seem to be expressing the spirit, the fine
exhilaration, of American life at all. If I had my way, I'd make every
one in America read Rabelais and Madame Bovary. Then they ought to study
some of the old English poets, like Marvell, to give them precision.
It's lots of fun telling them these things. They respond famously. Now
over in my country we poets are all so reserved, so shy, so taciturn.


"You know Pond, the lecture man in New York, was telling me a quaint
story about Masefield. Great friend of mine, old Jan Masefield. He
turned up in New York to talk at some show Pond was running. Had on some
horrible old trench boots. There was only about twenty minutes before
the show began. 'Well,' says Pond, hoping Jan was going to change his
clothes, 'are you all ready?' 'Oh, yes,' says Jan. Pond was graveled;
didn't know just what to do. So he says, hoping to give Jan a hint,
'Well, I've just got to get my boots polished.' Of course, they didn't
need it--Americans' boots never do--but Pond sits down on a
boot-polishing stand and the boy begins to polish for dear life. Jan
sits down by him, deep in some little book or other, paying no
attention. Pond whispers to the boy, 'Quick, polish his boots while he's
reading.' Jan was deep in his book, never knew what was going on. Then
they went off to the lecture, Jan in his jolly old sack suit."


We went up to a private gallery on Walnut Street, where some of the most
remarkable literary treasures in the world are stored, such as the
original copy of Elia given by Charles Lamb to the lady he wanted to
marry, Fanny Kelly. There we also saw some remarkable first editions of
Shelley.

"You know," he said, "Mrs. L---- in New York--I had an introduction to
her from Jan--wanted to give me a first edition of Shelley, but I
wouldn't let her."

"How do you fellows get away with it?" we said again humbly.

"Well, old man," he said, "I must be going. Mustn't keep Vachel waiting.
Is this where I train? What a ripping station! Some day I must write a
poem about all this. What a pity you have so few poets ..."



A GOOD HOME IN THE SUBURBS


There are a number of empty apartments in the suburbs of our mind that
we shall be glad to rent to any well-behaved ideas.

These apartments (unfurnished) all have southern exposure and are
reasonably well lighted. They have emergency exits.

We prefer middle-aged, reasonable ideas that have outgrown the diseases
of infancy. No ideas need apply that will lie awake at night and disturb
the neighbors, or will come home very late and wake the other tenants.
This is an orderly mind, and no gambling, loud laughter and carnival or
Pomeranian dogs will be admitted.

If necessary, the premises can be improved to suit high-class tenants.

No lease longer than six months can be given to any one idea, unless it
can furnish positive guarantees of good conduct, no bolshevik
affiliations and no children.

We have an orphanage annex where homeless juvenile ideas may be
accommodated until they grow up.

The southwestern section of our mind, where these apartments are
available, is some distance from the bustle and traffic, but all the
central points can be reached without difficulty. Middle-aged,
unsophisticated ideas of domestic tastes will find the surroundings
almost ideal.

For terms and blue prints apply janitor on the premises.



WALT WHITMAN MINIATURES


I

A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that one should
have some excuse for being away from the office on a working afternoon.
September sunshine and trembling blue air are not sufficient reasons, it
seems. Therefore, if any one should brutally ask what I was doing the
other day dangling down Chestnut Street toward the river, I should have
to reply, "Looking for the _Wenonah_." The _Wenonah_, you will
immediately conclude, is a moving picture theater. But be patient a
moment.

Lower Chestnut Street is a delightful place for one who does not get
down there very often. The face of wholesale trade, dingier than the
glitter of uptown shops, is far more exciting and romantic. Pavements
are cumbered with vast packing cases; whiffs of tea and spice well up
from cool cellars. Below Second Street I found a row of enormous sacks
across the curb, with bright red and green wool pushing through holes
in the burlap. Such signs as WOOL, NOILS AND WASTE are frequent. I
wonder what noils are? A big sign on Front Street proclaims TEA CADDIES,
which has a pleasant grandmotherly flavor. A little brass plate,
gleamingly polished, says HONORARY CONSULATE OF JAPAN. Beside immense
motor trucks stood a shabby little horse and buggy, restored to service,
perhaps, by the war-time shortage of gasoline. It was a typical
one-horse shay of thirty years ago.

I crossed over to Camden on the ferryboat _Wildwood_, observing in the
course of the voyage her sisters, _Bridgeton, Camden, Salem_ and
_Hammonton_. It is curious that no matter where one goes, one will
always meet people who are traveling there for the first time. A small
boy next to me was gazing in awe at the stalwart tower of the Victor
Company, and snuffing with pleasure the fragrance of cooking tomatoes
that makes Camden savory at this time of year. Wagonloads of ripe Jersey
tomatoes making their way to the soup factory are a jocund sight across
the river just now.

Every ferry passenger is familiar with the rapid tinkling of the ratchet
wheel that warps the landing stage up to the level of the boat's deck. I
asked the man who was running the wheel where I would find the
_Wenonah_. "She lays over in the old Market Street slip," he replied,
and cheerfully showed me just where to find her. "Is she still used?" I
asked. "Mostly on Saturday nights and holidays," he said, "when there's
a big crowd going across."

The _Wenonah_, as all Camden seafarers know, is a ferryboat, one of the
old-timers, and I was interested in her because she and her sister, the
_Beverly_, were Walt Whitman's favorite ferries. He crossed back and
forth on them hundreds of times and has celebrated them in several
paragraphs in _Specimen Days_. Perhaps this is the place to quote his
memorandum dated January 12, 1882, which ought to interest all lovers of
the Camden ferry:

"Such a show as the Delaware presented an hour before sundown yesterday
evening, all along between Philadelphia and Camden, is worth weaving
into an item. It was full tide, a fair breeze from the southwest, the
water of a pale tawny color, and just enough motion to make things
frolicsome and lively. Add to these an approaching sunset of unusual
splendor, a broad tumble of clouds, with much golden haze and profusion
of beaming shaft and dazzle. In the midst of all, in the clear drab of
the afternoon light, there steamed up the river the large new boat, the
_Wenonah_, as pretty an object as you could wish to see, lightly and
swiftly skimming along, all trim and white, covered with flags,
transparent red and blue streaming out in the breeze. Only a new
ferryboat, and yet in its fitness comparable with the prettiest product
of Nature's cunning, and rivaling it. High up in the transparent ether
gracefully balanced and circled four or five great sea hawks, while here
below, mid the pomp and picturesqueness of sky and river, swam this
creature of artificial beauty and motion and power, in its way no less
perfect."

You will notice that Walt Whitman describes the _Wenonah_ as being
white. The Pennsylvania ferryboats, as we know them, are all the
brick-red color that is familiar to the present generation. Perhaps
older navigators of the Camden crossing can tell us whether the boats
were all painted white in a less smoky era?

The _Wenonah_ and the _Beverly_ were lying in the now unused ferry slip
at the foot of Market Street, alongside the great Victor Talking Machine
works. Picking my way through an empty yard where some carpentering was
going on, I found a deserted pier that overlooked the two old vessels
and gave a fair prospect on to the river and the profile of
Philadelphia. Sitting there on a pile of pebbles, I lit a pipe and
watched the busy panorama of the river. I made no effort to disturb the
normal and congenial lassitude that is the highest function of the human
being: no Hindoo philosopher could have been more pleasantly at ease.
(O. Henry, one remembers, used to insist that what some of his friends
called laziness was really "dignified repose.") Two elderly colored men
were loading gravel onto a cart not far away. I was a little worried as
to what I could say if they asked what I was doing. In these days casual
loungers along docksides may be suspected of depth bombs and high
treason. The only truthful reply to any question would have been that I
was thinking about Walt Whitman. Such a remark, if uttered in
Philadelphia, would undoubtedly have been answered by a direction to the
chocolate factory on Race Street. But in Camden every one knows about
Walt. Still, the colored men said nothing beyond returning my greeting.
Their race, wise in simplicity, knows that loafing needs no explanation
and is its own excuse.

If Walt could revisit the ferries he loved so well, in New York and
Philadelphia, he would find the former strangely altered in aspect. The
New York skyline wears a very different silhouette against the sky,
with its marvelous peaks and summits drawing the eye aloft. But
Philadelphia's profile is (I imagine) not much changed. I do not know
just when the City Hall tower was finished: Walt speaks of it as
"three-fifths built" in 1879. That, of course, is the dominant unit in
the view from Camden. Otherwise there are few outstanding elements. The
gradual rise in height of the buildings, from Front Street gently
ascending up to Broad, gives no startling contrast of elevation to catch
the gaze. The spires of the older churches stand up like soft blue
pencils, and the massive cornices of the Curtis and Drexel buildings
catch the sunlight. Otherwise the outline is even and well-massed in a
smooth ascending curve.

It is curious how a man can stamp his personality upon earthly things.
There will always be pilgrims to whom Camden and the Delaware ferries
are full of excitement and meaning because of Walt Whitman. Just as
Stratford is Shakespeare, so is Camden Whitman. Some supercilious
observers, flashing through on the way to Atlantic City, may only see a
town in which there is no delirious and seizing beauty. Let us remind
them of Walt's own words:

  A great city is that which has the greatest men and women,
  If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole
  world.

And as I came back across the river, and an airplane hovered over us at
a great height, I thought how much we need a Whitman to-day, a poet who
can catch the heart and meaning of these grievous bitter years, who can
make plain the surging hopes that throb in the breasts of men. The world
has not flung itself into agony without some unexpressed vision that
lights the sacrifice. If Walt Whitman were here he would look on this
new world of moving pictures and gasoline engines and U-boats and tell
us what it means. His great heart, which with all its garrulous fumbling
had caught the deep music of human service and fellowship, would have
had true and fine words for us. And yet he would have found it a hard
world for one of his strolling meditative observancy. A speeding motor
truck would have run him down long ago!

As I left the ferry at Market Street I saw that the Norwegian steamer
_Taunton_ was unloading bananas at the Ericsson pier. Less than a month
ago she picked up the survivors of the schooner _Madrugada_, torpedoed
by a U-boat off Winter Bottom Shoal. On the _Madrugada_ was a young
friend of mine, a Dutch sailor, who told me of the disaster after he was
landed in New York. To come unexpectedly on the ship that had rescued
him seemed a great adventure. What a poem Walt Whitman could have made
of it!


II

It is a weakness of mine--not a sinful one, I hope--that whenever I see
any one reading a book in public I am agog to find out what it is.
Crossing over to Camden this morning a young woman on the ferry was
absorbed in a volume, and I couldn't resist peeping over her shoulder.
It was "Hans Brinker." On the same boat were several schoolboys carrying
copies of Myers' "History of Greece." Quaint, isn't it, how our schools
keep up the same old bunk! What earthly use will a smattering of Greek
history be to those boys? Surely to our citizens of the coming
generation the battles of the Marne will be more important than the
scuffle at Salamis.

My errand in Camden was to visit the house on Mickle Street where Walt
Whitman lived his last years. It is now occupied by Mrs. Thomas Skymer,
a friendly Italian woman, and her family. Mrs. Skymer graciously
allowed me to go through the downstairs rooms.

I don't suppose any literary shrine on earth is of more humble and
disregarded aspect than Mickle Street. It is a little cobbled byway,
grimed with drifting smoke from the railway yards, littered with
wind-blown papers and lined with small wooden and brick houses sooted
almost to blackness. It is curious to think, as one walks along that
bumpy brick pavement, that many pilgrims from afar have looked forward
to visiting Mickle Street as one of the world's most significant altars.
As Chesterton wrote once, "We have not yet begun to get to the beginning
of Whitman." But the wayfarer of to-day will find Mickle Street far from
impressive.

The little house, a two-story frame cottage, painted dark brown, is
numbered 330. (In Whitman's day it was 328.) On the pavement in front
stands a white marble stepping-block with the carved initials
W.W.--given to the poet, I dare say, by the same friends who bought him
a horse and carriage. A small sign, in English and Italian, says:
_Thomas A. Skymer, Automobiles to Hire on Occasions_. It was with
something of a thrill that I entered the little front parlor where Walt
used to sit, surrounded by his litter of papers and holding forth to
faithful listeners. One may safely say that his was a happy old age,
for there were those who never jibbed at protracted audience.

A description of that room as it was in the last days of Whitman's life
may not be uninteresting. I quote from the article published by the
Philadelphia _Press_ of March 27, 1892, the day after the poet's death:

    Below the windowsill a four-inch pine shelf is swung, on which rests
    a bottle of ink, two or three pens and a much-rubbed spectacle case.

(The shelf, I am sorry to say, is no longer there.)

    The table--between which and the wall is the poet's rocker covered
    with a worsted afghan, presented to him one Christmas by a bevy of
    college girls who admired his work--is so thickly piled with books
    and magazines, letters and the raffle of a literary desk that there
    is scarcely an inch of room upon which he may rest his paper as he
    writes. A volume of Shakespeare lies on top of a heaping full waste
    basket that was once used to bring peaches to market, and an ancient
    copy of Worcester's Dictionary shares places in an adjacent chair
    with the poet's old and familiar soft gray hat, a newly darned blue
    woolen sock and a shoe-blacking brush. There is a paste bottle and
    brush on the table and a pair of scissors, much used by the poet,
    who writes, for the most part, on small bits of paper and parts of
    old envelopes and pastes them together in patchwork fashion.

In spite of a careful examination, I could find nothing in the parlor at
all reminiscent of Whitman's tenancy, except the hole for the stovepipe
under the mantel. One of Mrs. Skymer's small boys told me that "He" died
in that room. Evidently small Louis Skymer didn't in the least know who
"He" was, but realized that his home was in some vague way connected
with a mysterious person whose memory occasionally attracts inquirers to
the house.

Behind the parlor is a dark little bedroom, and then the kitchen. In a
corner of the back yard is a curious thing: a large stone or terra cotta
bust of a bearded man, very much like Whitman himself, but the face is
battered and the nose broken so it would be hard to assert this
definitely. One of the boys told me that it was in the yard when they
moved in a year or so ago. The house is a little dark, standing between
two taller brick neighbors. At the head of the stairs I noticed a window
with colored panes, which lets in spots of red, blue and yellow light. I
imagine that this patch of vivid color was a keen satisfaction to Walt's
acute senses. Such is the simple cottage that one associates with
America's literary declaration of independence.

The other Whitman shrine in Camden is the tomb in Harleigh Cemetery,
reached by the Haddonfield trolley. Doctor Oberholtzer, in his "Literary
History of Philadelphia," calls it "tawdry," to which I fear I must
demur. Built into a quiet hillside in that beautiful cemetery, of
enormous slabs of rough-hewn granite with a vast stone door standing
symbolically ajar, it seemed to me grotesque, but greatly impressive. It
is a weird pagan cromlech, with a huge triangular boulder above the door
bearing only the words WALT WHITMAN. Palms and rubber plants grow in
pots on the little curved path leading up to the tomb; above it is an
uncombed hillside and trees flickering in the air. At this tomb,
designed (it is said) by Whitman himself, was held that remarkable
funeral ceremony on March 30, 1892, when a circus tent was not large
enough to roof the crowd, and peanut venders did business on the
outskirts of the gathering. Perhaps it is not amiss to recall what Bob
Ingersoll said on that occasion:

"He walked among verbal varnishers and veneerers, among literary
milliners and tailors, with the unconscious dignity of an antique god.
He was the poet of that divine democracy that gives equal rights to all
the sons and daughters of men. He uttered the great American voice."

And though one finds in the words of the naïve Ingersoll the squeaking
timber of the soapbox, yet even a soapbox does lift a man a few inches
above the level of the clay.

Well, the Whitman battle is not over yet, nor ever will be. Though
neither Philadelphia nor Camden has recognized 330 Mickle Street as one
of the authentic shrines of our history (Lord, how trimly dight it would
be if it were in New England!), Camden has made a certain amend in
putting Walt into the gay mosaic that adorns the portico of the new
public library in Cooper Park. There, absurdly represented in an austere
black cassock, he stands in the following frieze of great figures:
Dante, Whitman, Molière, Gutenberg, Tyndale, Washington, Penn, Columbus,
Moses, Raphael, Michael Angelo, Shakespeare, Longfellow and Palestrina.
I believe that there was some rumpus as to whether Walt should be
included; but, anyway, there he is.

You will make a great mistake if you don't ramble over to Camden some
day and fleet the golden hours in an observant stroll. Himself the
prince of loafers, Walt taught the town to loaf. When they built the new
postoffice over there they put round it a ledge for philosophic
lounging, one of the most delightful architectural features I have ever
seen. And on Third Street, just around the corner from 330 Mickle
Street, is the oddest plumber's shop in the world. Mr. George F.
Hammond, a Civil War veteran, who knew Whitman and also Lincoln, came to
Camden in '69. In 1888 he determined to build a shop that would be
different from anything on earth, and well he succeeded. Perhaps it is
symbolic of the shy and harassed soul of the plumber, fleeing from the
unreasonable demands of his customers, for it is a kind of Gothic
fortress. Leaded windows, gargoyles, masculine medusa heads, a
sallyport, loopholes and a little spire. I stopped in to talk to Mr.
Hammond, and he greeted me graciously. He says that people have come all
the way from California to see his shop, and I can believe it. It is the
work of a delightful and original spirit who does not care to live in a
demure hutch like all the rest of us, and has really had some fun out of
his whimsical little castle. He says he would rather live in Camden than
in Philadelphia, and I daresay he's right.


III

Something in his aspect as he leaned over the railing near me drew me on
to speak to him. I don't know just how to describe it except by saying
that he had an understanding look. He gave me the impression of a man
who had spent his life in thinking and would understand me, whatever I
might say. He looked like the kind of man to whom one would find one's
self saying wise and thoughtful things. There are some people, you know,
to whom it is impossible to speak wisdom even if you should wish to. No
spirit of kindly philosophy speaks out of their eyes. You find yourself
automatically saying peevish or futile things that you do not in the
least believe.

The mood and the place were irresistible for communion. The sun was warm
along the river front and my pipe was trailing a thin whiff of blue
vapor out over the gently fluctuating water, which clucked and sagged
along the slimy pilings. Behind us the crash and banging of heavy
traffic died away into a dreamy undertone in the mild golden shimmer of
the noon hour.

The old man was apparently lost in revery, looking out over the river
toward Camden. He was plainly dressed in coat and trousers of some
coarse weave. His shirt, partly unbuttoned under the great white sweep
of his beard, was of gray flannel. His boots were those of a man much
accustomed to walking. A weather-stained sombrero was on his head.
Beneath it his thick white hair and whiskers wavered in the soft breeze.
Just then a boy came out from the near-by ferry house carrying a big
crate of daffodils, perhaps on their way from some Jersey farm to an
uptown florist. We watched them shining and trembling across the street,
where he loaded them onto a truck. The old gentleman's eyes, which were
a keen gray blue, caught mine as we both turned from admiring the
flowers.

I don't know just why I said it, but they were the first words that
popped into my head. "And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances
with the daffodils," I quoted.

He looked at me a little quizzically.

"You imported those words on a ship," he said. "Why don't you use some
of your own instead?"

I was considerably taken aback. "Why, I don't know," I hesitated. "They
just came into my head."

"Well, I call that bad luck," he said, "when some one else's words come
into a man's head instead of words of his own."

He looked about him, watching the scene with rich satisfaction. "It's
good to see all this again," he said. "I haven't loafed around here for
going on thirty years."

"You've been out of town?" I asked.

He looked at me with a steady blue eye in which there was something of
humor and something of sadness.

"Yes, a long way out. I've just come back to see how the Great Idea is
getting along. I thought maybe I could help a little."

"The Great Idea?" I queried, puzzled.

"The value of the individual," he said. "The necessity for every human
being to be able to live, think, act, dream, pray for himself. Nowadays
I believe you call it the League of Nations. It's the same thing. Are
men to be free to decide their fate for themselves or are they to be in
the grasp of irresponsible tyrants, the hell of war, the cruelties of
creeds, executive deeds just or unjust, the power of personality just or
unjust? What are your poets, your young Libertads, doing to bring About
the Great Idea of perfect and free individuals?"

I was rather at a loss, but happily he did not stay for an answer. Above
us an American flag was fluttering on a staff, showing its bright ribs
of scarlet clear and vivid against the sky.

"You see that flag of stars," he said, "that thick-sprinkled bunting? I
have seen that flag stagger in the agony of threatened dissolution, in
years that trembled and reeled beneath us. You have only seen it in the
days of its easy, sure triumphs. I tell you, now is the day for America
to show herself, to prove her dreams for the race. But who is chanting
the poem that comes from the soul of America, the carol of victory? Who
strikes up the marches of Libertad that shall free this tortured ship of
earth? Democracy is the destined conqueror, yet I see treacherous
lip-smiles everywhere and death and infidelity at every step. I tell
you, now is the time of battle, now the time of striving. I am he who
tauntingly compels men, women, nations, crying, 'Leap from your seats
and contend for your lives!' I tell you, produce great Persons; the rest
follows."

"What do you think about the covenant of the League of Nations?" I
asked. He looked out over the river for some moments before replying and
then spoke slowly, with halting utterance that seemed to suffer anguish
in putting itself into words.

"America will be great only if she builds for all mankind," he said.
"This plan of the great Libertad leads the present with friendly hand
toward the future. But to hold men together by paper and seal or by
compulsion is no account. That only holds men together which aggregates
all in a living principle, as the hold of the limbs of the body or the
fibers of plants. Does this plan answer universal needs? Can it face the
open fields and the seaside? Will it absorb into me as I absorb food,
air, to appear again in my strength, gait, face? Have real employments
contributed to it--original makers, not mere amanuenses? I think so,
and therefore I say to you, now is the day to fight for it."

"Well," he said, checking himself, "there's the ferry coming in. I'm
going over to Camden to have a look around on my way back to Harleigh."

"I'm afraid you'll find Mickle street somewhat changed," I said, for by
this time I knew him.

"I love changes," he said.

"Your centennial comes on May 31," I said, "I hope you won't be annoyed
if Philadelphia doesn't pay much attention to it. You know how things
are around here."

"My dear boy," he said, "I am patient. The proof of a poet shall be
sternly deferred till his country absorbs him as affectionately as he
has absorbed it. I have sung the songs of the Great Idea and that is
reward in itself. I have loved the earth, sun, animals, I have despised
riches, I have given alms to every one that asked, stood up for the
stupid and crazy, devoted my income and labor to others, hated tyrants,
argued not concerning God, had patience and indulgence toward the
people, taken off my hat to nothing known or unknown, gone freely with
powerful uneducated persons and I swear I begin to see the meaning of
these things--"

"All aboard!" cried the man at the gate of the ferry house.

He waved his hand with a benign patriarchal gesture and was gone.



ON DOORS


The opening and closing of doors are the most significant actions of
man's life. What a mystery lies in doors!

No man knows what awaits him when he opens a door. Even the most
familiar room, where the clock ticks and the hearth glows red at dusk,
may harbor surprises. The plumber may actually have called (while you
were out) and fixed that leaking faucet. The cook may have had a fit of
the vapors and demanded her passports. The wise man opens his front door
with humility and a spirit of acceptance.

Which one of us has not sat in some ante-room and watched the
inscrutable panels of a door that was full of meaning? Perhaps you were
waiting to apply for a job; perhaps you had some "deal" you were
ambitious to put over. You watched the confidential stenographer flit in
and out, carelessly turning that mystic portal which, to you, revolved
on hinges of fate. And then the young woman said, "Mr. Cranberry will
see you now." As you grasped the knob the thought flashed, "When I open
this door again, what will have happened?"

There are many kinds of doors. Revolving doors for hotels, shops and
public buildings. These are typical of the brisk, bustling ways of
modern life. Can you imagine John Milton or William Penn skipping
through a revolving door? Then there are the curious little slatted
doors that still swing outside denatured bar-rooms and extend only from
shoulder to knee. There are trapdoors, sliding doors, double doors,
stage doors, prison doors, glass doors. But the symbol and mystery of a
door resides in its quality of concealment. A glass door is not a door
at all, but a window. The meaning of a door is to hide what lies inside;
to keep the heart in suspense.

Also, there are many ways of opening doors. There is the cheery push of
elbow with which the waiter shoves open the kitchen door when he bears
in your tray of supper. There is the suspicious and tentative withdrawal
of a door before the unhappy book agent or peddler. There is the genteel
and carefully modulated recession with which footmen swing wide the
oaken barriers of the great. There is the sympathetic and awful silence
of the dentist's maid who opens the door into the operating room and,
without speaking, implies that the doctor is ready for you. There is the
brisk cataclysmic opening of a door when the nurse comes in, very early
in the morning--"It's a boy!"

Doors are the symbol of privacy, of retreat, of the mind's escape into
blissful quietude or sad secret struggle. A room without doors is not a
room, but a hallway. No matter where he is, a man can make himself at
home behind a closed door. The mind works best behind closed doors. Men
are not horses to be herded together. Dogs know the meaning and anguish
of doors. Have you ever noticed a puppy yearning at a shut portal? It is
a symbol of human life.

The opening of doors is a mystic act: it has in it some flavor of the
unknown, some sense of moving into a new moment, a new pattern of the
human rigmarole. It includes the highest glimpses of mortal gladness:
reunions, reconciliations, the bliss of lovers long parted. Even in
sadness, the opening of a door may bring relief: it changes and
redistributes human forces. But the closing of doors is far more
terrible. It is a confession of finality. Every door closed brings
something to an end. And there are degrees of sadness in the closing of
doors. A door slammed is a confession of weakness. A door gently shut
is often the most tragic gesture in life. Every one knows the seizure of
anguish that comes just after the closing of a door, when the loved one
is still near, within sound of voice, and yet already far away.

The opening and closing of doors is a part of the stern fluency of life.
Life will not stay still and let us alone. We are continually opening
doors with hope, closing them with despair. Life lasts not much longer
than a pipe of tobacco, and destiny knocks us out like the ashes.

The closing of a door is irrevocable. It snaps the packthread of the
heart. It is no avail to reopen, to go back. Pinero spoke nonsense when
he made Paula Tanqueray say, "The future is only the past entered
through another gate." Alas, there is no other gate. When the door is
shut, it is shut forever. There is no other entrance to that vanished
pulse of time. "The moving finger writes, and having writ"--

There is a certain kind of door-shutting that will come to us all. The
kind of door-shutting that is done very quietly, with the sharp click of
the latch to break the stillness. They will think then, one hopes, of
our unfulfilled decencies rather than of our pluperfected misdemeanors.
Then they will go out and close the door.

[Illustration]





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