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Title: Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl - Sister of that "Idle Fellow."
Author: Wren, Jenny
Language: English
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                     LAZY THOUGHTS OF A LAZY GIRL.

                    (Sister of that "IDLE FELLOW.")



                                 BY

                             JENNY WREN.



                              NEW YORK
                          HURST AND COMPANY
                             PUBLISHERS



CONTENTS.



    CHAPTER.

    I.    ON LOVE.

    II.   ON BILLS.

    III.  ON POLITICS.

    IV.   ON AFTERNOON TEA.

    V.    ON DRESS.

    VI.   ON CHRISTMAS.

    VII.  ON THE COUNTRY.

    VIII. ON TOWN.

    IX.   ON CHILDREN AND DOGS.

    X.    ON CONCERTS.

    XI.   ON DANCING.

    XII.  ON WATERING PLACES.



CHAPTER I.

ON LOVE.

    "Love is of man's life a thing apart;
    'Tis woman's whole existence."


So sings the poet, and so agrees the world. Humiliating as it is to
make the confession, it is undeniably true. "Men and Dress are all
women think about," cry the lords of creation in their unbounded
vanity. And again, we must submit--and agree--to the truth of the
accusation; at any rate, in nine cases out of ten. Fortunately I am a
tenth case; at least, I consider myself so. I don't dispute the
"dress" imputation. I am very fond of dress. Nearly as fond of it as
the twenty-year old youth, and saying that, I allow a good deal. But
very few of my thoughts are given to the creature "man"! I do not
think him worth it. As my old nurse used to say, "I never 'ad no
opinion of the sex!"

Do not conclude, however, that because of my statement that I am a
disappointed, soured old maid, for I am nothing of the sort. I am on
the right side of twenty-five, and I have never been crossed in love;
indeed, I have never even experienced the tender passion, and only
write from my observations of other people; thus taking a perfectly
neutral ground in speaking of it at all.

One never hears that Adam fell in love with Eve, or that Eve was
passionately attached to Adam. But then, poor things, they had so
little choice--it was either that or nothing. Besides, there was no
opposition to the match, so it was bound to be rather a tame affair.
For my part, I pity Eve, for Adam was, I think, the very meanest of
men. When he was turned out of the garden, what a wretch he must have
felt himself! and how he must have taunted his poor wife! Weak men are
always bullies.

But "_revenons à nos moutons_," I am wondering who was the first
person to fall in love! Cain _might_ have done so with his mysterious
wife; history does not say. But certainly there is always some
attraction in mystery, so such a thing is possible. I wonder whence
that extraordinary woman sprang!

Neither do we hear much of Noah's domestic experiences, but I should
conclude on the whole that they were not happy. No man could be
endured for forty days shut up in the house, no business to go to,
nothing to do, always hanging about, his idle hands at some mischief
or other, and last, but not least, a diabolical temper, displayed at
every turn! Why, I cannot endure one for a week! My only wonder is
that the female population of the Ark did not rise up in a body and
consign their lords and masters to the floods.

Poor men, they deserve a little of our pity too, perhaps; for if Mrs.
Noah and her daughters-in-law at all resembled their effigies in the
Noah's Arks of the present day, they were women to be avoided, _I_
think.

So that, after all, it must have been Jacob who set such a very
foolish example; because we could not count Isaac, his being so
extraordinary and isolated a case, when he fell in love with his own
wife!

Therefore I think we owe Jacob a great many grudges. He was the
inventor of the tender passion, and since his time people have begun
to follow his example long before they come to years of discretion,
simply because their parents did so before them, and they think they
are not grown up, that they are not men, unless they have some love
affair on hand.

Some get married at once, some wait a long time, and some do not marry
at all. These last are, I think, generally the happiest, for this
so-called love lasts for only a very short time, and neither husband
nor wife are long before they console themselves with someone else's
affection to make up for what is wanting on the part of the other.

Of course I am speaking generally. As far as I can see, the majority
act thus, though I am glad to say that many and various are the
exceptions. It was only the other day I came across our washerwoman
and asked her how she and her husband got on together. He used to be a
drunkard, and used her cruelly, but two years ago he took the pledge,
and, what is more, he kept it. "Lor', mum," she exclaimed fervently,
"we draws nearer every day!" I am afraid not many husbands and wives
could say the same.

People are so anxious to marry too. I cannot understand them, men
especially. They have their clubs, they are entirely independent, and
can go home as late as they please without being questioned as to
their whereabouts. And yet, as soon as they can, they saddle
themselves with a wife, who requires at least half the money--they
have never found sufficient for themselves alone--besides a great deal
of looking after!

Women, on the contrary, are different. They have to make some
provision for the future, so to speak. How do you like it, oh men! the
idea that you, with your handsome personages and fascinating ways, are
used only as a kind of insurance office? This is the case very often,
however, though you may not know it!

Yet others pursue the god Hymen merely for the sake of being married.
As soon as they leave the school-room, sometimes before, they begin
their search for a husband, and look out for him in the person of
every man they meet. No matter who it is so long as they are married
before So-and-So, and can triumph over all their friends.

It must be said for men that they are falling off in the marrying
line. This is not nearly such a proposing generation as the last. Then
they married much younger and seemed to propose after a few days'
acquaintance. No, this is a more cautious age altogether. Men look
round carefully before they make their choice. They sample it well,
they watch it in the home circle, they watch it abroad, they watch it
with other men, and finally come to the conclusion that it is worthy
to be allied to their noble selves, or they don't!

Another thing. Men of the present day are so direfully afraid of a
refusal! So fearful are they, that rather than risk one, they give up
many chances of happiness.

They expect that a girl should show her feeling toward them, before
they come to the point. But you must remember that girls also have to
be cautious, and a few--I acknowledge it is only a few--would rather
die than show they cared for a man who after all might only "love and
ride away."

Not that I altogether blame man in this respect. I always admire
pride, and am afraid I should not care for a refusal myself. I am
intolerant of it even in the smallest matters!

It is curious how men run in grooves. The same style of man nearly
always marries the opposite type of girl. I mean that the
intellectual, the clever, invariably choose the insipid brainless
girl. Pretty, she may be, but it is in a doll-like way, with not a
thought above her household. You would have imagined that such men
would require some help-meet, in the fullest sense of the word; with a
brain almost as quick as their own. But such a choice occurs very
seldom.

Again, why is it that little men always select the very tallest women
they can find? You would think that a man would hesitate to show off
his meagre inches to such bad advantage. But these pigmies appear to
enjoy the contrast. It is evidently quantity they admire, not quality.

I daresay a good deal of what I have written sounds very cynical, but
perhaps my experience has been unfortunate, therefore you must forgive
me: certainly it is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between
the real thing and its successful counterpart.

Parents are greatly at fault in the issues of the matrimonial market.
After all these centuries of experience you would give them credit for
more tact than they possess. Any match they do not desire, they oppose
at once, and thereby set alight all the contradictory elements in your
nature. If Laban had been less obstinate, and had consented to an
alliance between Jacob and Rachel from the first, provided Leah was
left behind to look after him, the latter would immediately have been
endowed with attractions innumerable to Jacob, tender eyes and all!

Nowhere is there such a fertile soil for love as opposition!

On the other hand, if parents wish to encourage a match, young people
are thrown together as much as possible. However big the gathering,
you are somehow always paired off with the eligible party until you
grow to loathe the man, and would sooner become an "old maid" than
marry him.

Parents have a bad time altogether I am afraid. Their nice little
plans are so nearly always upset by their ungrateful children, and
then they have to be continually looking after their brood. I knew one
mother who used to take her daughters on the pier and lose sight of
them at once, as they paired off with their he-acquaintances. Do what
she would she could not find them again, so many were the nooks and
crannies near at hand. Finally she had recourse to the Camera Obscura,
and, with the help of the views set before her there, she found the
missing girls! "We never can escape her now," they told me in mournful
tones, after her fatal discovery.

Girls are degenerating sadly, it is said. They are getting too
masculine, too independent, too different from man's ideal--the modest
little maid who sits at home and mends her husband's socks.

I do not dispute the fact. They _are_ degenerating. Neither, though I
dislike the ideal specimen, and have a contempt for her, do I stand up
for the other extreme. I have a horror of fast masculine girls, and
agree with all that is said against them. Nevertheless, I do not
consider men have any right to complain, as they are the chief cause
of the deterioration of our sex.

Everyone knows that a girl thinks more of a man's opinion than that of
anyone else. If he applauds, then she is satisfied. She does not
consider it ignominy to be termed "a jolly good fellow!" She gets
praise, and in a way admiration, when she caps his good stories,
smokes, and drinks brandies and sodas. Unfortunately, she does not
hear herself discussed when he is alone with his friends, or perhaps
she would be more cautious in her manners and conversation for the
future, for this is not the kind of girl who is

    "Rich in the grace all women desire,
    Strong in the power that all men adore."



CHAPTER II.

ON BILLS.


BILLS! BILLS! BILLS! Detestable sound! Obnoxious word! Why were such
things ever invented? Why are they sent to destroy our peace of mind?

They always come, too, when you are expecting some interesting letter.
You hurry to meet the postman, you get impatient at the length of time
he takes to separate his packets (I sometimes think these men find
pleasure in tantalizing you, and keep you waiting on purpose), and
when he at last presents you with your long-expected missive, behold,
it turns to dust and ashes in your hand--metaphorically speaking, of
course.

It is a pity such a metamorphosis does not occur in reality; for the
wretched oblong envelope, with the sprawly, flourishy writing, so
unmistakably suggests a bill, that you--well, I do not know what
_you_ do on such an occasion; _my_ letter, which I have been so
anxious to obtain, is flung to the other side of the room.

How is it that bills mount up so quickly? You buy a little ribbon, a
few pairs of gloves, some handkerchiefs--mere items in fact, and yet
when quarter day comes round you are presented with a bill a yard
long, which as your next instalment of money is fully mortgaged, is
calculated to fill you with anything but extreme joy.

Why are the paths leading to destruction always so much easier of
access than any other? It takes so much less time to run up a bill, it
is so much simpler to say, "Will you please enter it to my account?"
than to pay your money down. First the bill has to be added up, and,
strange as it may seem, these shop people appear to take _hours_ over
a simple addition sum. "Eight and elevenpence halfpenny if you please,
ma'am." Of course you have not enough silver, and so are obliged to
wait for change. Then someone has to be found to sign. Altogether it
takes quite five minutes longer paying ready money; and think, how
five minutes after each purchase would mount up in a day's shopping!
I should say that, on an average you might call it two important hours
regularly thrown away. "And a good job, too," perhaps our fathers,
husbands, and brothers would say. But, then, you see, they are
Philistines and do not understand.

But though we suffer somewhat at the hands of these shop people, I
think in their turn they have to endure a great deal more from their
customers. I have seen old ladies order nearly the whole shop out,
turn over the articles, and having entirely exhausted the patience of
their victims, say, "Yes--all very pretty--but I don't think I will
buy any to-day, thank you," and they move off to other counters to
enact the same scene over again. Selfish old things!

I was dreadfully hard up a short time ago, and of course my bills were
ten times as big as usual. I had no money coming in, and could not
conceive how I was to meet my debts.

It is astonishing, when you come to try it, how few paths there are
open for poverty-stricken ladies to make a little money, especially
when your object is to keep your difficulties a secret from your
mankind. I tried every imaginable way without success. What is the
good of having an expensive education, of being taught French and
German--neither of which languages, by the way, when brought to the
test, a girl can ever talk, or at any rate so as to be understood.
What is the good of it all, I say, when you want to turn your hand to
making a little money? I felt quite angry the other day when, our cook
being ill, we had a woman in to take her place. Fifteen shillings a
week she made! She, who had had little or nothing spent on her
education, could yet make more shillings in a week than I could pence!
I began to wish I had been brought up as a scullery maid.

I can paint rather well, but what are the advantages of art compared
to those of cookery? Many and many a shop I went into, carrying
specimens of my talent, and asking the owners if they would employ me
to decorate their tambourines, bellows, &c. But no, they all had their
own especial artists, and were quite suited. It is such a dreadfully
humiliating business. At the first place I could have slain the man
for his impertinence in declining, and I left the shop with a haughty
mien and my head in the air. But I grew accustomed to it in time, and
even used to try a little persuasion, which, however, proved of no
avail. One man offered to exhibit my wares (I felt quite like a
peddler going his rounds), and through him I sold two tambourines.
Then who so proud as I? though my profits only came to a few
shillings. However small, the first taste of success is always
exhilarating, though indeed my confidence did not last long, for this
was my first and last experience of money-making in the painting line.

I used to search the sale and exchange columns of the papers, and
found once that someone wanted music transposed. I wrote directly
offering my services, and charging a shilling per piece or song. For a
wonder I was successful, for the person answered, asking for a
specimen of my skill, which she was pleased to say would do very well.

How her letters used to amuse me! She must have been a rather
incapable singing mistress I think. Her letters though properly spelt
were written in an uneducated hand, and she addressed me as if I were
a servant. She used to give me very little time in which to transpose
her songs, and insisted on their being finished when she wanted them.
Sometimes I was quite tired out, for copying music is not a thing to
be done in a hurry.

Somehow, our negotiations did not last long. Whether I grew careless,
or she found others to do the work cheaper, I do not know, but she
suddenly withdrew her custom, and I have never heard from her since.

My next venture was tale writing. Who has not tried this most
unsatisfactory method? It is a tremendously anxious time when your
first effort is sent out. What a lot of money you expect to obtain for
it! You do not intend to be unprepared, so you spend every penny in
your mind beforehand. Then there is the honor and glory of it! You
will hear everyone talking of the cleverly written tale and wondering
who is the gifted author!

What made me more hopeful was the possession of a cousin, who was very
successful in this line. Indeed, she has reached the three-volume
stage by now, and is beginning to be quite well known. I have lost my
interest in her, however, since she took me and my family off in one
of her books. It is such an easy thing to do. You only have to find
out a person's peculiarities--and everyone has a peculiarity!--and
overdraw them a little. My sisters and I, I remember, figured as
three brainless, fast girls, which would only have amused us had she
left the rest of the family alone. It is a foolish thing to do, for
besides nearly always giving offence it is not by any means an
evidence of good taste.

It is much more difficult to write a tale than some people think; you
get in such hopeless tangles sometimes. People you kill off in the
first chapter, you sadly need in the last. Then, when you are
finishing up, there are so many people to get rid of, that you are
obliged to dispatch them in a bunch with an explosion, or something
equally probable--three or four strangers as a rule, who have never
seen each other before, but who considerately assemble in one place to
meet their doom. Then the last pages will never fit in with the first.
Your meek but lovely heroine at the beginning has been transformed
into a beautiful vixen as you near the end, and is quite
unrecognizable. The worst parts of all are the sensational ones. You
think you have worked your hero up to a pitch of fiery eloquence,
while his _fiancée_ is dying in agony close by, and when you
complacently turn to read over the passage, you find his words imply
no more sorrow than they would at the death of a relative from whom he
had expectations, or--a mother-in-law!

It is rather a difficult matter in a large family to keep your actions
a secret. Obtuse as most men are, with things going on right under
their eyes, it is not easy to baffle them when once their curiosity is
roused. And yet curiosity is always imputed exclusively to women!
Though Eve _was_ the first to taste the apple, Adam had no intention
of being behindhand. I know a man who always manages to get down to
breakfast five minutes before the rest of his family, for the purpose
of examining the correspondence all round.

Fortunately I managed to escape from these inquisitive eyes, for I met
the postman myself when he brought back my first tale. It was returned
with the Editor's "compliments and thanks," coupled with the regret
that he could not make use of my contribution.

I don't know that I ever felt such keen disappointment as when that
tale came back from its first visit. I had hoped so much from it, and
had been so confident of its success. It depressed me for some time,
and it was long before I ventured upon anything in the literary way
again. But habit is second nature, they say, so after that and other
tales had been the round of all the magazines and returned to their
ancestral home, decidedly the worse for their outings (change of air
evidently does not agree with MSS.), they affected me no more than the
receipt of a tradesman's circular. In fact I grew quite to welcome
them as old friends, and no one would have been more astonished than I
had they been converted into £ s. d.

Apparently I am not cut out for literary work. I have not sufficient
imagination, nor am I sceptical enough for this fanciful and
scientific age. The world only cares for impossible adventures and
magic stories, or stories which undermine their religion or upset it
altogether, and I am not clever enough for this.

Of course, in my pecuniary need I did not neglect to employ a
"chancellor of the exchequer," as Miss. Mathers calls her; a "wardrobe
keeper," as she terms herself. Indeed, I employed two or three, and so
had plenty of opportunities of observing the type.

These women certainly vary in the way they carry on business, but very
rarely do they vary in appearance. For the fattest, ugliest, oiliest
old creatures to be found anywhere, commend me to a Chancellor! I
pause in astonishment sometimes, and wonder how they have the strength
to carry so much flesh about with them.

The first one I engaged possessed a complexion of a glowing yellow,
like unto the petals of an alamander. She carried on the business in a
too independent way altogether. She would take up my garments, look
them over with a contemptuous sniff (what eloquence there is in a
sniff!), and then begin to talk of the "ilegant costoomes she 'ad 'ad
lately of Lady ----, of the 'ansome silks and furs purchased from the
Countess of ----," &c. It was cunningly and knowingly done.
Immediately, as was intended, my productions began to lose value in my
eyes, in contrast to her gorgeous descriptions. Finally she would
state her price, and by no art or persuasion would she give way a
penny afterwards.

I believe she was given to fits. Anyhow she fell very ill once when
she came, and had to be given brandy to support her. I was afraid she
was going to die in the house, which would have been exceedingly
unpleasant, for it is a heinous breach of gentility to be found mixed
up in any such transactions. We are so foolish, we have such little
minds, we try to hide our doings from our neighbors, who are all going
through the same experiences, and are equally desirous of concealing
them from us. If all our screens were taken away what a comedy of
errors would be disclosed. How surprised we should be to see everyone
committing follies of which we have been so ashamed and so anxious to
hide from the eyes of all!

After all the brandy had a most beneficial effect. I think it must
have flown to her head; for never before had she given such large
amounts. I was quite sorry to find her so well at her next advent. Her
sniff was even more eloquent, and her prices had returned to their
original low level. I regret now that I did not again try the brandy.

Another woman I employed was even uglier than the first. She was so
wholesomely ugly. A great red full moon represented her countenance,
radiant with the color of the Eiffel Tower. She was altogether a more
satisfactory chancellor than the other. She always insisted on your
stating your own price to begin with. "Well, what d'yer think yerself,
mum?" was her invariable ejaculation, and then, hearing your reply,
would break in on whatever you said by "It ain't worth more than
_'arf_ that to me, mum," in the most aggrieved voice. I became used to
her in time, and knowing she would halve whatever I said, used to
demand double the worth of the thing. "What d'yer think yerself, mum?"
You grow so tired of your opinion being thus asked. I wonder how many
times she says it in a day! It is a cautious way of going about it, at
any rate. If that woman ever appeared in a police court on a charge of
dishonesty, and the magistrate asked her what she had to say to the
charge, the answer would undoubtedly be, "Well, what d'yer think
yerself, sir?"

Some of those bills are still unpaid. Quarter day is coming round
again, so I expect there will be some more soon. Alas! I am an unlucky
being, born under an unlucky star.

You may think it a strange notion, but I attribute all my ill-luck to
spiders:

    "If you wish to live and thrive,
    Let a spider run alive."

I am not superstitious as a rule, but I cannot help thinking that my
wholesale massacre of this obnoxious insect has something to do with
my misfortunes by way of retribution.

I hate spiders! Nearly everybody has a pet aversion of some sort. I
have heard people shriek at the sight of a caterpillar, and turn pale
in the neighborhood of a toad. My great antipathy is a spider! Not
that I object to its treatment of flies--nasty little worries, they
deserve everything that happens to them. But it is the _appearance_ of
a spider that is so against it. There is a shifty expression about the
eye, and such a leer on the upper lip. Money spinners are not so
objectionable. I can tolerate them. It is the big, almost tarantulas,
from which I flee. Those creatures which start up suddenly, and run
across the room close by where you are sitting; creatures so large
that you can almost hear their footsteps as they pass.

A man told me once he had found a spider in his room of such enormous
dimensions that he had to open the door in order that it might get
out!

Overdrawn, you say? Well, it sounds a little improbable certainly; not
so much on account of the unusual size of the spider as for the
extraordinary consideration on the part of the man.



CHAPTER III.

ON POLITICS.


Perhaps you don't think me competent to talk about politics? "What do
women know about such things?" asks the superior masculine mind.

Well, they don't know so much as men, I admit, and I earnestly hope
they never will. A woman who is infected with politics is a positive
pest, and should be removed at once. If I do not know anything about
them, at any rate I ought to, as I have been brought up in a raging
Tory household, and so have been steeped in them from my youth up.

There is such a sameness in politicians. Whatever their opinions,
their language and feelings are all one. They are only directed at
different people. While one man is gloating over a Conservative
victory you hear a mutter from the Radical to the effect that "That
_brute_ has got in for ----" Poor man, why, because he thinks
differently to you, should he be a brute? But just the same words are
spoken if the positions be reversed. It is only the mouths that change
places.

I am afraid my views incline toward the Tory side. I cannot help it, I
was bought over long ago. You _must_ feel an interest as to the
successful candidate when the result means either a tip all round or a
thundery atmosphere for the rest of the day. Men take an adverse poll
as a personal affront and vent their feelings on their families. The
tipping was quite an understood thing when I was younger, now it is
given up, and joy is shown in a less substantial way, I regret to say.
Unfortunately the thunder storms are not events of the past as well.

Politicians have such a narrow way of looking at things. The other
side can do nothing right while they themselves are absolutely
faultless! If a Tory wishes to confer an opprobrious epithet on a
person he calls him a Radical, and _vice versâ_; the opposite faction
is capable of any enormity? This reminds me of the old Scotchman who
on being asked his opinion of a man who had first murdered and then
mutilated his victim, answered in a shocked voice, "What do I think?
Well, I think that a maun who'd do all that would whistle on the
Sawbuths!" "Such a man must be a Home Ruler," my father would have
said.

In having a guest with opposite views at your dinner table, what
agonies do you not suffer? I have gone through those dreadful meals
trembling at every word that drops from the man's lips. Try as you
may, turn the conversation how you will, there is sure to be some
allusion, some statement that sets on fire all the host's enthusiasm,
and it does not take long before the poor guest is entirely
annihilated and subdued--unless indeed he is as hot on his side as the
other is on his; then indeed all we can do is to sit and hear it out.
To attempt to stem such a torrent would be the act of a lunatic. We
only feel thankful that "pistols for two and coffee for one" is a
thing of the past.

The General Elections are dreadful times; nothing but canvassing goes
on night after night for weeks beforehand. Conversation is entirely
restricted to the coming event--if you mention a word about anything
apart from it, you are considered absolutely profane, and are treated
as a pariah for the next few days.

It is interesting, I admit, and the election day itself is positively
exciting. You cannot help catching the malady at times. I remember
once, when I was very little, and walking out with my governess,
tearing down a Liberal bill, in spite of all she said to the contrary.
True, it was on what she considered her own side, though I don't think
she knew enough to distinguish between the two; still her real
annoyance was occasioned more by the look of the thing. That a pupil
of hers should act in such a plebeian way, and in so public a place,
certainly must have been somewhat provoking? Anyhow, she gave me a bad
mark for disobedience, which affected me but little, as when I related
the story to my father later on he rewarded me with a shilling for my
prowess! Electioneering, you see, is not good for the morals!

How tired you get, too, of seeing the names of would-be members stuck
up all over the place. My brothers used to follow the Liberal
bill-sticker round, and as soon as he had turned his back pull the
placards down, or cover them up with their own. This was found out at
last, and the foe grew more cautious.

Then the extravagant promises made by the candidates, which they never
really intend to fulfil, and could not if they wished. It is like the
man in Church who, while singing--

    "Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were an offering far too small,"

was rubbing his finger along the rim of a threepenny bit to make sure
it was not a fourpenny!

On election days all mankind goes mad. Their excitement is so great
that they would scarcely know it did they forego their dinner. And
this, with men, proves an absorbing interest in the matter. Anything
placed above dinner, in their opinion, must be important indeed.

There is such a polite element abroad on polling day. Men are so
respectful and hurl such affectionate terms at one another. Even the
dogs are upset, and strut about in quite a different manner than on
ordinary days, so puffed out with vanity are they, on account of their
decorations. The members' wives and their friends are all taking part
in the scene too, bringing voters along in their carriages, and
shaking hands with everybody indiscriminately. I heard an old navvy
protesting once that "Lady ---- never troubled to shake 'ands with him
any other time, but was generally that 'orty she'd step over you as
soon as look at you."

Poor old men are dragged out _nolens volens_ to add their mite to the
public voice, and are sometimes so aged that they scarcely know what
their opinions are. I hope I shall not live to be very old. It is a
terrible thing when you make such a prolonged stay on this earth that
you have to be helped off it.

It is very curious too, how exceedingly disobliging old people are. I
know a family who have never worn anything brighter than grey for
years. "In case we have to go into mourning soon--our poor old aunt,
you know. It's so very sad!" and they squeeze a tear out from
somewhere, but whether on account of their relative's illness, or her
prolonged life, is open to opinion. The old lady is flourishing still,
and the family is as soberly clothed as ever. When she has been dead
a few months what rainbows they will become, to make up for lost time!

"A disappointing man," I have heard a dutiful nephew term his uncle.
True, he (the uncle, I mean) is ninety-four, and therefore old enough
to know better than to rally so many times. But after all, he does
nothing, runs into no danger, is tended as carefully as a new-born
baby; I should not at all wonder if he still continued "disappointing"
and took a new lease of life for seven years. But I am digressing, and
must return to politics.

I went to a Primrose meeting once and the experience was not so happy
as to make me wish to try it again.

It amused me, certainly. The conclusion I eventually arrived at, when
I left, was that the chief element in the Primrose League was
gratitude! This virtue seemed to be the point round which all the
speakers rallied.

First the secretary rose, ran off a quantity of statistics, as to what
had been done by the great League, what it was going to do, and how
many converts had been induced to join, which was exceedingly
uninteresting, I think, but which elicited loud applause from the rest
of the audience. Then some resolution was passed, at which if you
agreed you were begged "to signify the same in the usual way." After
which those who thought differently were asked to show their feelings
in the same fashion. I held my hand up here, but I suppose the ruling
councillor did not expect any opposition, for he never even looked
round to see, but gabbled off by rote, "On the contrary? carried
unanimously!" and my amiable attempt at running counter to the rest
was not even noticed!

Then the ruling councillor gave way to Mr. ---- (here a sickly smile
was directed at the great man), who had so very kindly come to speak
to us this evening, who would, he felt sure, quite enchant us with
his--er--great eloquence (another leer to his right).

The great man then came forward, and with a superior smile on his
countenance waited until the applause which greeted his entrance had
ceased, and then began. He commenced somewhat softly, detailing all
the advantages of the Primrose League: what it had done for England,
the fear it arouses in the heart of the Liberal faction, how it will
raise the country to a summit it never before has reached! No! and
never would have reached had it not been for this flourishing, this
powerful League! &c., &c., &c. His voice gradually grew louder and
louder until, with beating his hands on the table, stamping violently
over the sins of the Radicals, and perspiring vehemently in the
effort, he presented anything but a pleasing spectacle.

Of course animation like this brought down the house. The applause
nearly deafened me, and I was quite glad when he drew near the end of
his most tedious speech. He concluded by calming down very suddenly,
returned to his original tones, and thanking his audience for his
exceedingly kind reception, retired to his seat looking, as Mr.
Mantalini would say, a "dem'd damp, moist, unpleasant body."

Then up rose the ruling councillor, and called us all to pass a vote
of thanks to the "gifted orator." Someone seconded it, and the great
man came forward again to thank us for thanking him. A sort of "So
glad, I'm glad, you're glad" business, it seemed to me.

Then the ladies were thanked for being present: "Such great aids, and
such an _important_ element in the League," with a snigger, and what
he confidently hoped was a fascinating smile, but which made him
resemble a very placid cow with the corners of its mouth turned up.
Such a mouth, too! The poor man could have whispered in his own ear
had he wished. Then someone returned thanks for the ladies. The ruling
councillor was thanked, and thanked his thankers back again, and after
a few more people had exhibited their great faculty for gratitude the
meeting broke up--the only moment at which I felt inclined to applaud.

I do not wish to disparage my own "side" by the foregoing remarks, not
caring in any way to emulate Balaam. It is not only the members of the
Primrose League who are so anxious to praise each other. It is the
case at nearly every meeting you go to. It is a weakness of human
nature. We know that if we laud our friend he will sing an eulogy on
us the next minute, so it is only natural we should do it, after all.

    "The fault is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings."



CHAPTER IV.

ON AFTERNOON TEA.

    "The Muses' friend, Tea, does our fancy aid,
    Repress the vapors which the head invade,
    And keeps the palace of the soul serene."


How I do love tea! I don't deny it, it is as necessary to me as
smoking is to men.

I have heard a lady accused by her doctor of being a "tea-drunkard"!
"Tea picks you up for a little time," he said, "and you feel a great
deal better after you have had a cup. But it is a stimulant, the
effect of which does not last very long, and all the while it is
ruining your nerves and constitution. I daresay it is difficult to
give up--the poor man finds the same with his spirits. You are no
better than he!"

It is rather a come down, is it not? Somehow, when you are drinking
tea, you feel so very temperate. Well, at least, the above reflection
makes you sympathize with the inebriates, if it does nothing else;
and I am afraid it does nothing else with me. In spite of the warning,
I continue to take my favorite beverage as strong and as frequently as
ever, and so I suppose must look forward to a cranky nervous old age.

It is curious to notice how men are invading our precincts now-a-days.
They used to scoff at such a meal as afternoon tea, and now most of
them take it as regularly as they stream out of the trains on Saturday
afternoons with pink papers under their arms--such elevating
literature! Indeed there is quite a fuss if they have to go without
it--the tea I mean, not the paper.

It is strange too, because they dislike it so, if we trespass on their
preserves, _e.g._, their outcry on ladies smoking: which is
exceedingly unfair, for we have no equivalent for the fragrant weed.
Still I agree with the men in a way, for nothing looks worse than a
girl smoking in public, though a cigarette now and then with a brother
does, I think, no harm, provided it does not grow into a habit.

My brother once gave me a cigarette and bet me a shilling that I would
not smoke it through. It was so hard that if I had bent it, it would
have snapped in two. He had only just found it in a corner of a
cupboard where it had lain for years and years. But oh, the strength
of that cigarette! It took me hours to get through, for it would not
draw a bit. Nevertheless, with the incentive of a shilling to urge me
on, I continued "faint but pursuing" and eventually won the bet. I
would not do it again for ten times the amount.

But I should be talking about tea, not smoking; and tea has other
baneful influences besides destroying the digestion. I think that
afternoon tea is the time that breeds more gossip and scandal than
any other hour in the day.

As Young exclaims:--

    "Tea! How I tremble at thy fatal stream!
    As Lethe dreadful to the love of fame.
    What devastations on thy bank are seen,
    What shades of mighty names that once have been!
    A hecatomb of characters supplies
    Thy painted alters' daily sacrifice!"

Acquaintances drop in. They have all the latest doings of the
neighborhood at their fingers' ends, and in a quarter of an hour have
picked everyone of their most intimate friends to pieces, nor do they
leave them a shred of character.

Why do we feel such a relish in running down our friends and
relations--the latter especially? _I_ quite enjoy it, though I should
never do so outside my own family; thus my words never come round to
their ears. It is a necessity to relieve your feelings occasionally,
and your family is a good, safe receptacle.

For those who have a taste for speaking spitefully of their neighbors,
I can suggest an amusing game which was, I believe, started in Oxford.
It is called Photograph whist, and is played by four. Two or three
dozen photographs are dealt round, and each person plays one, he who
plays the ugliest portrait taking the trick. The more hideous the
photograph, the greater its value as a trump! I have played the game
with a man who always keeps his brother to the end, and then brings
him out with enormous success, the said brother never failing to
overtrump any other card in the pack! So you see it is a most amiable
game altogether. You must only be careful not to spread your doings
abroad, or no one will present you with their portraits ever again.

There is no sin so bad as being found out. You can say anything as
long as you are not discovered to be the originator. But if your words
against a person ever happen to get round to him or her (of course
added to, and made almost unrecognizable in their progress) you make
an enemy for life. At least, this is so as a rule. Personally, I never
care what people say against me, so long as it is not true. But if
they only keep to the truth, then it is aggravating. You cannot deny
it! You cannot "tremble with indignation, and fling the words back in
their faces," as the slandered heroine always does in the modern
novel. You must simply submit to the accusation.

A man I know was saying all round the place a little while ago, that
my sisters and I "were all good looking until we opened our mouths."
Of course we heard of it, and have never forgiven him for his "damning
praise." But it is true. We always admit the fact. We know we show our
teeth too much when we laugh and talk. It was impossible to disclaim
such a statement. If he had said that we squinted, not a syllable
would have been pronounced against him. Our eyes are all exceptionally
good, and would bear any detrimental remarks. But no, he kept to the
truth, and consequently has suffered ever since, for ways of revenge
have been found which were thoroughly successful. He is the ugliest
man I ever met too, and should therefore have been the last to offend.

In spite of the tea you are invariably given on such occasions, I
think calls--formal calls--are some of the most dreadful experiences
Mrs. Grundy obliges you to undergo. I dislike them immensely, and
always get out of them if possible. I hope servants do not afterwards
record the expression of my countenance when they tell me their
mistress is "out." It is radiant with an unholy joy!

These dreadful "at home" days, too, are so provoking. If you know a
dozen people in a neighborhood, you can only call on one at a time.
They all have different days! This may seem slightly impossible; but
it is not indeed. While one lady's house is open to visitors on the
first and third Wednesdays in the month, another is on view on the
second and fourth, and so on. Not two people agree!

Small talk, I think, is never so small as on these occasions. The poor
weather is thorougly worn out, a few mutual friends are picked to
pieces, and of course there is a discussion about dress. Sometimes you
hear some sad account of the lady's second cousin's daughter, and you
have immediately to clothe your countenance in a sober garb. You must
look grieved, and all the while not caring one straw if the cousin's
daughter has fits or gets insane, or anything else she cares to do.
You have never heard of her before, and therefore have not the
slightest interest in her eccentricities. I always feel so terribly
inclined to laugh, just because I ought to be doing the other thing.

People are so fond of talking about their troubles and griefs. The
greater the sorrow, the greater the discussion. They call up tears to
their eyes, as if the subject were too sacred to approach. But such
tears are kept for the purpose. They come at their bidding, and fall
as naturally into their place as if the exhibition had been practiced
beforehand. It is a positive enjoyment to such people to detail their
grievances.

With the lower classes, this, so to speak, gloating over your losses
is even more apparent. One comparatively well-to-do woman I know,
seems to have a monopoly of funerals. There is always some relation
dead, and off she goes with an important air, draped from head to foot
in black; the picture of "loathed melancholy" outwardly; inwardly,
glowing with pride; while all her neighbors stand outside their doors,
literally consumed with jealousy at her good fortune! And then the
terrible moment of her return, when you are obliged, whether you will
or not, to listen to the whole account, the description, the progress,
and finally the interment of "the corpse"! I hope, however dead I may
be one day, that I shall never be described as "a corpse"! There is
something so horrible in the word, I always think. It makes you even
more dead than you are. It cuts you so absolutely off from the living.

Then there are those tiresome people who talk of nothing but their
own families. The mother from whom you hear all the ailments of her
children if they are young, all the conquests of her daughters if they
are old. The sisters, to prevent the accusation of vanity, do not
praise themselves, but arrive at the same end by lauding up each
other! These "mutual admiration" families, as Wilkie Collins so aptly
terms them, are families to be shunned.

You do not very often come across men on these "at home" days. If they
are in the house, they wisely avoid the drawing-room; and if you ever
do meet one, he is sure to be a very milk-and-water young man--one who
delights in small talk and small matters; or else a curate.

I met one of the former class the other day. He was a dreadful
specimen! A large head, a bland smile, a vacant stare, and an enormous
capacity for eating!

He came and sat by me when I first arrived; but when he made a slip of
the tongue, and I brought it to his notice kindly, but firmly, he went
away and sulked for the rest of the afternoon.

He was talking about the recent muzzling order, and added, in quick
little tones, "They are talking about muzzling cats, I see."

"But cats do not bite," I objected.

"No," in mild surprise at my ignorance; "but they scratch."

"And do they intend to muzzle their paws?" I asked, smiling; adding a
suggestion that two pairs of goloshes apiece would answer the purpose
admirably, besides having the combined advantage of keeping the poor
things from rheumatism!

But he did not smile. He saw nothing funny in what he had said. He
thought I was laughing at him, and so left me at the very first
opportunity, and went and sat by himself at the tea table. I could not
very well see what he was doing, for his back was turned; howbeit it
was a very eloquent back--a back which appeared absorbed in bread and
butter and cakes! He must have cleared the table, I should think,
before he had finished!

It certainly is not nice to be caught up suddenly and made to appear
foolish. If you ever make a mistake, the best way is to confess it at
once, to tell the tale yourself. It sounds very different from your
lips than from those of your dearest friends. People laugh, but it is
a laugh that lacks the sting it would have if someone else told it at
your expense.

I remember making a woeful slip when I was taken over a cotton mill.
The man who was conducting us pointed to what looked like a heap of
dirty wool, and explained that it was the raw material. "And is that
just as it comes off the sheep's back?" I asked, unthinkingly. If a
thunderbolt had fallen in our midst the guide could not have been more
astonished. "Cotton, Miss!" he said, with grave surprise, "_Cotton_ is
a plant!" I inquired for no further information in that cotton mill,
but I told the story myself when I reached home, joining in the
laughter that followed as heartily as any of my audience.

Curates are more the rule than the exception at the five o'clock meal.
Somehow, you always connect the two. Afternoon tea without a curate
sounds an anomaly, a something incomplete.

I have had great experience in curates. Ours is a large parish, and
many clerical helps are needed. Large, small, nice, objectionable,
ugly, handsome--I have met specimens of each and all, and have come
to the conclusion that the last kind is the worst. How rarely do you
meet a good-looking man who thinks of anything but his appearance. It
is strange, for the more lovely a woman is the less apparently
conscious she is of her beauty. At any rate, she does not go about
with an expression which seems to say, "I am that which is 'a joy
forever'--admire me!"

The "pale young curate" type is perhaps the most general. This poor
thing is so depressingly shy--I say depressingly, because his shyness
affects his company. You try to draw him out. You ask question after
question, and have to supply the answers yourself, only obtaining, by
way of reward, despairing upward glances, that are by no means an
encouragement to proceed.

The most fatal effect of this shyness, however, lies in the fact that
he dare not get up to go! He sits toying with his hat, he picks up his
umbrella three or four times, and lets it drop again; finally,
starting up with a rush in the middle of a conversation, he hurries
out, shaking hands all round with everyone but his hostess!

Would it be a very heinous breach of etiquette, if after an hour and a
half of this curate's company, one should suggest diffidently that it
was time to go?

In strong contrast, there is the bold, dashing man, who only comes
when he knows all the daughters are at home, not so much because it
gives him pleasure to see them, as because he would not deprive them
of the pleasure of talking to him. He has a faith in himself that
removes mountains; no lady's heart can beat regularly in his presence,
according to his confident opinion.

So on the whole I do not think afternoon tea is so nice abroad as it
is at home. It is not so pleasant with many as with a chosen few. I am
selfish, I am afraid, but I must confess I enjoy mine most with the
sole company of a roaring fire, a very easy chair, and a novel!



CHAPTER V.

ON DRESS.


I do not know who was the originator of the remark, but it has often
been said, and is generally admitted, that women do not dress to
please the men, but to outdo one another.

I think just the same might be said of men in their turn. It is after
all this spirit of competition which helps to make the world go round.
It is innate in man, and woman too, to always try to outrun each
other.

With clothes it is undoubtedly the case. The ancient Briton must have
vied with his neighbor in different designs with the woad plant. An
unusual curve, an uncommon pattern, caused, I daresay, as much
excitement then as the fashions of our own day.

I often wonder how they will manage some points in the histories for
the coming generation. In most of these books you see illustrations
and descriptions of the dress of the period, the costume of the reign.
How, oh historians! can you show forth those of Victorian times? Fifty
years have passed already! There were four seasons in each of those
fifty years! Two hundred illustrations must be shown in order to give
a correct idea of the dress of the time! Perhaps it might be more
satisfactory to devote a volume exclusively to the subject.

If only we did not run on so quickly! We seem to get faster every
year. In a very little time, what we wear one day will be quite out of
date the next! When we arrive at this climax, there will be a sudden
convulsion of nature, I should think, and we shall return once more to
the more simple garb of the aborigines. What an amount of trouble it
would save us! No worrying because the dressmaker has not sent our
gowns home in time! No sending them back to be altered! No
dressmaker's or tailor's bills; or at the least, very small ones; for
"woad" could not ruin us _very_ much.

So on the whole it would be well perhaps if this revolution did occur.
Some such convulsion as geologists declare has already frequently
befallen our earth; and, as they prophesy, is shortly coming again.

I do not like talking to these scientific men. They make you feel so
infinitesimally small. They go back such a long, long way. They make
out that from the Creation (which by the way they do not admit, only
considering it another great change in the world springing from
natural causes), from the Creation until now, is the space of a moment
on the great clock of time, is a mere "parenthesis in eternity."

It is not nice to feel such a nonentity. What are our lives, our
little lives in comparison? We, who each consider ourselves the one
person upon the earth, the hero or heroine in the great drama: all the
rest mere by-characters. We do not care to be considered of such
little consequence; only puppets appearing on the stage for one moment
and taken off the next. We are like the clergyman in the small island
off the North of Scotland, who prayed for the inhabitants "of Great
Cumbray and Little Cumbray and the neighboring islands of Great
Britain and Ireland!" On our small piece of land, we yet consider
ourselves the centre of the universe.

It is to be hoped if this revolution occurs, after all, that the
climate will change likewise. We should require something more besides
blue paint in most of our English winters!

Perhaps we take too much thought for what we shall put on. They say
that nothing but the prevailing and forthcoming fashions fill the
feminine mind. It is true sometimes, I daresay, and yet I always agree
with our immortal bard in thinking that "Self-love is not so vile a
thing as self-neglect."

It is decidedly better to think too much than too little. It is a duty
to your country and your nation to look your best, no matter who is
likely to see you.

Of course it can be overdone, _e.g._, the lady who insisted on her
bonnet being trimmed on the right because that was the side presented
to the congregation! And she, I am afraid, is only a type of many.

There is no reason why this should be the rule; yet nearly everyone
seems to bring out their new clothes on Sunday, and exhibit them in
Church. I suppose it is because they meet so many friends there, and
with laudable unselfishness wish them all equally to enjoy the sight.

"What's the good of your going to church?" a man said to me once; "you
only go to show off your gown and look about to see who has a new
bonnet and who has not! Now, when _I_ go," he went on in a superior
way, "I don't notice a single thing anyone has on!"

"No," I answered quietly, "but you could tell me exactly how many
pretty girls were amongst the congregation, and describe their
features accurately!" And he not only forbore to deny the accusation,
but admitted it with pride! No girl, he assured me, with any pretence
to good looks, ever escaped _his_ notice.

Which was the worse, I wonder; he or I? At least I did not glory in my
misdeeds.

"_Il faut souffrir pour être belle_;" and I _have_ suffered sometimes.
How often I used to burn myself when I first began to curl my hair!
This is such an arduous task, too, with me, for my hair is, as my old
nurse used to call it, "like a yard o' pumpwater" (I never went to her
when I wanted a compliment). It certainly is straight, and I find it a
matter of great difficulty to give it the appearance of natural
curls. But "practice makes perfect," they say, so I still persevere,
hoping that it may come right some day. I have to be so careful in
damp and rainy weather. It is such a shock to look at yourself after a
day's outing, to find your "fringe" hanging in straight lines all down
your forehead, an arrangement that is so particularly unbecoming. You
begin to wonder at what time during the day it commenced to unbend,
and if you have had that melancholy, damp appearance many hours.
Perhaps it is as well that you did not know before, for it could not
have been rectified; you cannot bring a pair of tongs and a
spirit-lamp out of your pocket and begin operations in public! Still
it is exceedingly aggravating if you think you have been making an
impression, and you return home to confront such a dejected-looking
spectacle as you find in your mirror.

I am wandering again. Let me get back to my subject--Dress. To insure
a good fit you must have your gown so tight that it is impossible to
raise your arms. You are obliged to walk about stiffly, with all the
appearance of a trussed fowl. If you wish to put on your hat you must
first unbutton your bodice! It is particularly awkward, too, in
Church: you scarcely have the power to hold your book at seeing
distance. But what do such trifles matter? You look as if you had been
melted and poured into your gown. What are a few discomforts, more or
less, when you have procured an effect such as that?

I always like to look as tall as possible. Five feet four is not a
very great height; so, to give the appearance of another inch I have
my skirts made as long as possible; that is to say, they just don't
sweep the pavement, and that is all. But, oh! the trouble of that
extra inch! Unfortunately I have no carriage, my present pecuniary
condition does not permit me the luxury of hansoms, and I always avoid
an omnibus, where you have fat old men sitting nearly on the top of
you, wet umbrellas streaming on to your boots, squalling babies, and
disputes with the conductor continuing most of the way--not to speak
of the time you have to wait while so many roll by "full inside!" So
on muddy days, when I take my walks, the amount of distress I have to
undergo on account of the length of my gown is inconceivable. I grow
weary with holding it up, and have to stop in the middle of the street
to change hands, and when you have an umbrella as well, and sometimes
a small parcel besides, this performance is anything but a momentary
matter. You drop your gown, the umbrella changes hands, and the parcel
generally falls in the mud! While picking it up, four impatient, wet,
mackintoshed pedestrians knock against you, and go off uttering
imprecations on your head. And when you are once again comfortably
settled, your satisfaction does not last long. Your left hand tires as
soon as your right, and the scene has all to be acted over again.

There is a great deal of "_savoir faire_" in holding up. Your gown
must be high enough to quite clear the ground, but then comes the
danger of holding it too high. There has been no license yet granted
for the exhibition of ankles in the great metropolis either by Mrs.
Grundy or the County Councils; therefore "holding up" becomes a very
delicate performance.

Though we do not dress only to please the men, I always prefer their
criticisms on a costume to those of my own sex. You can never tell if
the latter speak the truth. They may be jealous, and run it down from
spite; they may want to gain something from you, and so call yours "a
perfection of a gown, and suits you admirably, my dear!" disliking it
exceedingly in their inmost hearts.

But a man never gives his approbation unless he really means what he
says, and he is not difficult to please as a rule. So long as the
costume is neat and well-fitting, he does not care about anything
else. It is the _tout ensemble_ he thinks of, not the thousand and one
details that go to make up the whole.

I wonder why so many men dislike large hats! It is a pity, for they
are so very becoming to some faces, and give a picturesque effect
altogether. Perhaps this last is a reason for their disapproval. They
never like their womankind to attract attention.

The most unpardonable sin one woman can commit against another, is to
copy her clothes and bring the style out as her own idea. It is
intensely irritating! If she admits she has copied or asks your leave
beforehand, it is a different matter. You are even gratified then,
for "imitation is the sincerest flattery." But to have your ideas
stolen and brought out in such a way as to convey the impression that
you are the imitator, to say the least, arouses murderous intentions
in your heart!

There are times, too, when you receive a shock to your vanity; times
when you are quite satisfied with your appearance, and find to your
dismay that everyone is not of the same opinion.

I remember once when I was dining out and feeling very pleased with my
_tout ensemble_, I was disillusioned in a way that not only upset my
self-confidence, but my gravity at the same time. To heighten the
general effect, I had stuck a patch near my mouth. (Oh, the minds of
the last century! From whose fertile brain did it emanate, I wonder,
the fact that a piece of black plaster on the face, should be so
eminently becoming!) Imagine my horror when the maid, an old servant I
knew very well, took me aside and whispered confidentially, "Oh, Miss!
you've got _such_ a big smut on your chin!"

Clothes are altogether a great nuisance, I think. How tired you get of
the regular routine of the morning toilet; always the same, never any
variety. Why are we not born, like dogs, with nice cosy rugs all over
us, so that we should just have to get out of bed in the morning,
shake ourselves, and be ready at once to go down to breakfast and do
the business of the day?

"Ah well! God knows what's best for us all," as an old charwoman said
to me, years ago, when she was remarking on how I had grown. I never
saw the application of the remark, and do not think I ever shall.
Whether my growth was a subject to deplore, and she tried to comfort
me, or not, I cannot say; but she was evidently proud of the remark,
for she repeated it three times!



CHAPTER VI.

ON CHRISTMAS.


It is such a prickly time. Not only everything but everybody is
positively bristling with prickles. Go where you will, you cannot
avoid these pointed, jagged edges. You come across them everywhere,
and have to suffer accordingly.

To begin with, there is the holly. Now you could not find anything
lovelier in the way of foliage than holly, only such a little
suffices. At Christmas time you are literally saturated with it. In
every house you enter, in everything you eat, at every step you take,
nothing but holly, holly, holly.

Then there are the Church decorations, begun generally a week
beforehand. All the ladies of the place assemble in the vestry,
attracted there by divers reasons. Some, by the desire to have a
finger in every pie; some, because it is an opportunity to meet the
curates; and some, but a very few, from real love of the work. I
cannot understand these latter, I must confess. It is the most
disagreeable work I have ever undertaken. Such dirty work, too! Your
hands or your gloves grow perfectly black under the operation; and it
is a curious thing, that when this stage is reached, your nose
invariably begins to itch, and you forget the condition of your
fingers, and--well, the result is anything but becoming! It is so
comfortable, too, walking about the vestry, isn't it? The holly grows
so affectionate to your ankles, and at every step squash goes a berry,
and all its middle oozes out and sticks to the sole of your boot. When
you go home, you find you are at least an inch taller by reason of the
many corpses of berries you have collected!

Yes, Christmas decorations are delightful altogether. And so the
clergymen think, when they become excited in their sermons, and bring
their fists down sharply on some charming arrangement of holly round
the pulpit. They do not actually swear then, but their faces express
sufficiently all they would like to say; it rather spoils the effect
of the discourse, especially if the text be on the virtue of patience.

As I said before, everybody is prickly at Christmas time, especially
one's relations. And so, to make the season as festive as possible,
we, in our sensible way, collect as many of these cheerful, sociable
beings together as we can; and, in short, make a delightful family
party. Holly? it is an insult to the tree to compare it in any way.
No, I think the whole gathering resembles a hedgehog more than
anything else. It is one _mass_ of prickles. Ah, these happy family
parties! Is there ever one member that agrees with another, I wonder?

There is the crabbed old maiden aunt, always on the defensive, never
without the idea that someone is waging war against her. Yet she has
to be treated civilly, and humored. Has she not that which some people
term "filthy lucre," but never really think so? Have these old ladies
ever had any youth? Have they ever danced and enjoyed themselves like
other people? What has made them so sour, so bitter? Is it
disappointment or regret? Poor old souls! In spite of their money,
they never seem happy. They are to be pitied, I think, though they do
try to make themselves as disagreeable as possible. They are so
independent, too, they will not be interfered with. They know
everything better than any one else. One old lady I used to know
declined altogether to have a lawyer, insisting on making her will
herself. It was found afterwards, fortunately not too late, that she
had appointed herself her own executor!

Then there is the maternal grandmother; to whom, of course, the host
is openly rude. This wears you out more than anything, for you have
always to be ready to smooth over and soften every sentence that is
said. And she never helps you at all, either. If she can possibly put
her foot in it, and unconsciously irritate her son-in-law more than
ever, she does it.

Then the uncle who spends his life in making the most villainous puns
you ever heard. Not a remark, not a word in any assembly, which this
witty specimen of humanity does not at once garnish with a pun of the
poorest description. It generally has to be repeated twice, too, for
it is never noticed the first time. The poor pun, indeed, has a most
melancholy existence, for it is greeted with no other applause than
that emanating from the author of its being, and stirs up a torrent of
abuse from the maiden aunt, who thinks the laughter is directed at
her.

Why were punsters ever invented, or family parties either? They are
our thorns in the flesh, I suppose, and so must be endured.

After dancing attendance upon these lively old people during the day,
the least you expect is a good night's rest to support and invigorate
you for the battles on the following day. But no, at Christmas time
any repose is denied you.

You are just off to sleep, forgetful of all troubles and strife, when
you are rudely awakened and brought back to the present by the most
awful screechings under your window. Morpheus flies, he has a musical
ear has that god, and when once, "Oh, come let us adore him," with a
concertina accompaniment, both voices and instrument woefully out of
tune; when once these harmonious strains have started, that good old
deity goes, to return no more that night.

Where does the pleasure come in, I wonder? Certainly not to us fuming
inside; and surely not to those poor deluded people squalling outside!
It must be so cold, so raw; and they never get appreciated, these
so-called "waits"--oh, if they only would _not_ wait, but go away
somewhere else, how much more satisfactory for us all!

No, Christmas is not a soothing time. It does not altogether improve
your temper. How glad I am when the festive season draws to a close,
and the last petitioner for Christmas-boxes goes on his way rejoicing.
To me it always realizes that period so often referred to by the lower
classes, "a month o' Sundays." So much church and so few posts!

It certainly is a little more interesting when the presents come in.
There is a kind of excitement about them; and it is not until the
following day, when you find yourself with a dozen letters of
gratitude to indite, that you feel that perhaps, after all, you might
have done without them.

There is nothing so annoying as being obliged to write letters when
you do not feel inclined. It is a great art, this letter writing, and
very few possess it. People often think they do, and they write for
writing's sake; but these letters are most wearying to read. Between
every line you seem to see the words, "Is not this a charming letter?"
and in reality you are so bored it is all you can do to reach the end.
Then those dreadful persons who "cross and recross" their epistles in
every direction! Paper is not so dear but that they could at least
afford a fly-leaf. They defeat their own ends, too, for their letters
are never legible, and they have to write again to explain their
meaning, thus paying another penny away in postage.

Why do we not make a stand against the old forms? Why should we always
tread in the footmarks of our ancestors, instead of making tracks of
our own? "Dear Mr. So-and-So," we write to a man almost a stranger to
us. Imagine his surprise if we addressed him so to his face! And we
end in just such a foolish and unreasonable way, "Yours obediently,
faithfully, truly!" Where is the sense? Your signature should be quite
enough. You have to be so careful, too, in saying whether you are
obedient, faithful, or affectionate to your correspondent. If you end
too warmly, by mistake, the whole letter has to be written again. It
is not a thing you can scratch out or correct. It would look so very
bad.

People have different ideas of "Christmasing." Some prefer to adopt an
unsteady gait, and to spend the night in a ditch or a police-station;
some have a taste for family parties; some like it better by
themselves, and some go right away and spend the time at a different
place every year. These last are, I think, by far the most sensible.
It is a mistake to have land-marks to remind you how time is running
on, how friends have left, how the loved ones have passed away. The
vacant place appears even more empty. The old happy times show out
even happier in contrast to the present. You cannot enjoy yourself or
forget the past, for

    "A sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things."

It is far better to go away somewhere to places which recall no
sorrows or recollections and have no associations with the years gone
by.

He is growing such a foolish old man is Father Christmas. He rarely
visits us now with hoary head, his garments sparkling with frost and
snow. He is tired of all that. He likes a change of fashion, like
everybody else. He either comes so thickly enveloped in yellow fog
that you can scarcely distinguish the old man, or else he arrives so
drenched with rain and splashed up to the beard in mud that we
scarcely like to open our doors to him.

He is growing old, I suppose, and trembling on the brink of second
childhood, so we must not blame him. But still he is not a very great
favorite of mine, and I cannot refrain from echoing the complaint in
one of the comic papers--"_Why doesn't he strike, like the rest?_"



CHAPTER VII.

ON THE COUNTRY.


At which season, I wonder, is the country most lovely, most enjoyable!
Is it in the spring, with its richly-colored carpet, its young green
leaves, its delicious perfumes, its glorious freshness? Ah, why cannot
we, like the trees, put off our old sinful world-steeped habits, and
year by year bud out in purest innocence once again? The hedges, but a
week ago barren and bare, are now clothed in brightest apparel, the
greenest of cloaks thrown over them, lifting up their heads and
sharing in the general rejoicing, in the glory of their annual
resurrection. Is it in summer, with its myriads of blooms, and its
thousand thousand happy voices, the silent torpid river, basking in
the light of the sun, and responding only to the fishes as they frisk
near the surface? Or is it in the autumn, with its many shades, with
its long avenues on which nature has lavished whole tubes of burnt
sienna and vermilion; when you tread on gorgeous paths heavy with
golden leaves? Oh, why are we not as lovely in our autumn of life as
nature is in hers? Why, when she decks herself in the gayest coloring,
do we don our soberest garb? _We_ do not gain in splendor as we grow
older. We lose our beauties and our charms one by one, till at last we
stand destitute. Oh, cruel Time to treat us so!

    "Time that doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
    And delves the parallels in Beauty's brow."

And yet "God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb." While He takes from
us our youth He also takes away the inclination to be young. We pine
for the happy days of childhood; yet, if the power were given us, who
would wish himself back in the past? We feel we should always like to
be young, but should we not get very weary of the world, should we not
wish for some kind of change?

Or is nature at her best when the year is dead and the earth puts on
her spotless white shroud, when everything around has fallen asleep,
and only robins are left to join in the wake?

Unanswerable question. There are too many opinions. Some prefer
winter, some summer; some like the heat, some like the cold. Only in
one thing do we agree, and that is, in our taste for variety, for
change. Much as we admire the country, lovely as it is, it would not
suit many to live there all the year round. The peace and quiet of our
woodland scenes make us enjoy the town life all the more, while the
unceasing turmoil of the season makes us hail with delight the idea of
once more being

    "Far from the madding crowd."

The very thought refreshes you. There is something exhilarating in our
journey country-wards, long and tiring though it may be. Few people
care about a railway journey, and yet with one or two kindred spirits
I think it most enjoyable.

Traveling alone in the midst of strangers, you do feel rather
melancholy. You try to read, and when you are tired of chasing the
words up and down the page, you look out of the window and admire the
scenery as you flit past until your eyes ache to such an extent you
are obliged to withdraw your gaze and be satisfied with the study of
human nature, as far as it can be procured from the inmates of your
compartment. Finally you go to sleep, only to wake up after a few
minutes, to find the eyes of all your fellow passengers upon you, and
this serves to make you nervous and uncomfortable. You dare not close
your eyes again. You feel sure it is the signal for everyone to turn
in your direction, and you will not gratify them.

Then comes luncheon time, when we all begin to grow fidgety, and take
surreptitious looks at our watches, and then glance round at our
companions to see if anyone is taking the first plunge. Hopeless
quest! Nobody ever _will_ be the first to begin to eat in a railway
carriage. Why is it, I wonder? Are they afraid none of the others will
follow suit, and they be left to eat all alone? It would be nervous
work, certainly. You would feel so dreadfully greedy, and yet if you
offered any of your fellow travelers even a sandwich, they would peek
up their heads, give you an astonished look, and decline shortly but
with decision. You are made to feel you have insulted them, and yet
they had such a hungry expression! Rarely indeed, though, do you
undergo such an experience. You only have to rise, and reach down your
basket, and behold! the next moment all the carriage is feeding. We
are nothing but sheep after all. One leads the way, and we all follow.

When you have once made a start, eating on a railway journey is easy
enough work; it is when you grow thirsty that the difficulty comes in.
You pour the sherry, claret, whatever you have (some take milk in a
green bottle--not a very tempting beverage to look at!) on to the
floor, over your gown, on your neighbor's foot (thereby eliciting a
most unholy frown from the recipient of your bounty), anywhere,
indeed, except in your glass. Even if you are fortunate enough to
catch a few drops, it is another Herculæan effort to take it to your
mouth. No, drinking in the train, while it is in motion, requires
years of practice.

Then again, your fellow passengers are not always all that can be
desired. Often they are neither pleasant in themselves nor interesting
as a study. I traveled with an awful old lady the other day. She had
six small packages with her in the carriage, besides her hand-bag and
umbrellas and half the contents of an extra luggage van. The
long-suffering porter who had looked after her boxes and finally put
her in the train, was crimson with his exertions. The generous lady,
having searched several pockets before finding the necessary coin,
bestowed on him a threepenny piece for his trouble! "Thank yer, mum,"
he went off muttering grimly, "I'll bore a 'ole in the middle and 'ang
it round my neck."

This good dame never ceased to worry all through the journey. She
pulled her things from under the seat and put them up in the rack, and
then reversed their locality. At each station she called frantically
to the guard to know where she was and if she ought to change.
Finally, when we reached our destination, it was proved that she had
taken her ticket to one place and had her luggage labelled to another;
and there she was, standing on the platform gesticulating violently,
while the train was steaming off with her belongings. What happened I
do not know, for I was hurried off by my friends; but I should think
it would be long before she and her luggage met again.

Fortunately she never knew how near she was to her death. If ever I
had murderous intentions in my heart, it was on that journey north.

You do not feel very affectionate toward the country on a wet day.
Indeed, it is a most mournful affair altogether, unless you have a
particularly merry house party. There is absolutely nothing to do. The
heavens weep at such inopportune moments too. There is sure to be some
large picnic, some delightful gathering on the "tapis," when they
choose to exhibit their griefs. And they never notice how unwelcome
such a display of feelings is, but go on weeping, weeping, weeping all
day long, until at last you catch the malady yourself, and are obliged
perforce to mingle a few of your own tears with theirs.

No, there is simply nothing to be done, and Satan has quite a
difficulty to find enough work for all the idle hands. Some can be
perfectly happy in spending all their time in solving the intricacies
of those many wonderful puzzles which have appeared lately as a sort
of antidote to the mischief generally supposed to be perpetrated by
the aforesaid gentleman. Unfortunately, an entirely contrary effect is
produced on me. They did not look far enough ahead when they made me.
They could not conceive the wonderful minds of this time, and so did
not endow me with a sufficient quantity of patience. If they could
have imagined those marvelous little tin saucers, with shot running in
and out of horse-shoes, &c., with _me_ in the perspective, well, I
think they would have gone about their work more carefully, and
perhaps brought about a happier result. As it is, the puzzles are
always swept away now at my approach. I have smashed so many.

It is base ingratitude, too, on my part, to bring them to so speedy an
end; for what I owe to those dear little things I am powerless to
express. Those entertaining people who sit speechless, and only answer
yes and no with an eternal smile on their faces: give them a puzzle.
There is no further effort to amuse them required on your part. They
are at once absorbed in "shot." Their only idea is to successfully get
them into their places. They never do; but being good thorough-going
characters will never give up the attempt.

You meet several of these people in the country, but they never get
very friendly. You shock them too much with your "London manners."
They vote you "fast," and turn aside, fearful of contamination for
their daughters.

Oh, the dreariness, the heaviness of a country dinner party! It seems
to last four times as long as any other--parish, horses, or crops the
only topic of conversation. How can you be interested in old Jane
Smith's rheumatism when you have never heard of her before; in the
swelling of a favorite mare's hock, when you did not know it possessed
such a thing. People's views grow so dreadfully narrow, shut up in
their small parish. Their stock of conversation is so very small. It
is wise to find out your dinner partner at once, and avoid that man as
you would a disease until the meal is announced. If not, if you
accidentally get in his neighborhood, and he talks to you, all his
conversation is at once exhausted, and you are obliged to hear it over
again at table, or submit to an interesting silence.

Dinner parties anywhere are, I think, a mistake. It is a wicked waste
of time to spend nearly three hours over eating and drinking. And you
require such a very interesting "taker-in" to make it bearable at all.

The river is the nicest way of spending a holiday, in my opinion; you
are so free and untrammeled. Mrs. Grundy even waives some of her laws
on the river. The smaller the cottage, the more primitive the place,
the more enjoyable it is. You can spend your time on the water, and
when you are tired of that, you can hire a pony and trap and drive
through some of the loveliest bits of English scenery, to your heart's
content.

Only be careful before engaging your pony to find out its previous
occupations. It is a necessary caution, I assure you. It once took me
nearly an hour to drive out of one of the smallest villages
imaginable. And why? Because my pony had formerly belonged to the
butcher, and insisted on first going his rounds! I coaxed, I
persuaded, I lashed him, but it was all of no avail. On he trotted
until he reached the familiar doors of his late customers, and then he
stopped and _would_ not go on for at least five minutes. One place
was worse than any. I could not get him away for over a
quarter-of-an-hour. This rather mystified me until I was told later
that the butcher was on "walking out" terms with the cook residing
there!



CHAPTER VIII.

ON TOWN.


There is not much difference of opinion as to when Town is at its
best. Perhaps a few misanthropists, wrapped up in their little selves
and their narrow thoughts, would shut themselves up during the season,
in order to escape the pain of witnessing us all in our ungodly
career. Shallow butterflies they call us. And what do they know about
our lives? They judge from appearances; and because we wear a cheerful
expression, shutting down our cares and struggles in our inmost
hearts, and not burdening other people with them, we are called
shallow and worldly. No, you good and godly people, what do you know
about us? You are no more capable of judging than the ephemera, which
lives but for a day, and so must consider the world all sunshine, all
light. How can it imagine the night which closes round later on, when
neither it nor any of its ancestors have ever lived to see it?

You ought to be punished for your ignorant mutterings. You complain of
the well-dressed happy throng. You should be turned out in the streets
in August and September, and if the utter destitution does not shortly
turn your brains back in the right direction I am afraid your case is
hopeless.

Does any place come up to London I wonder? Having never been out of
England I cannot give an opinion. Unfortunately I have not the gift,
like some people, of either imagining or describing places I have
never seen--descriptions generally gleaned from other books and
compiled under one authorship as original compositions. Why cannot
they be content with laying their English stories in English scenery:
places they know well and can write about. Some save up their money in
order to go abroad and visit one particular place, so as to bring new
scenes into their new books. But ah, how weary you get of this one
place! It is brought into at least three of their next novels.
Everything, past, present and future seems to happen there. Your one
prayer, as you lay down the book, is to the effect that they may soon
be able to save up a little more and visit another spot.

There is so much going on in May, June, and July, that it is a
difficulty to get through all your engagements and yet see everything
there is to be seen. Then there is the Park. Two or three hours of the
day must at least be spent in the Park. There we all come out to show
ourselves and to look at others. There the equestrians canter up and
down the Row. Such equestrians too! If foreigners take their ideas of
English riding from the Row, they must form a high opinion of our
horsemanship.

There are the loungers flocking around their friends or walking up and
down in the hope of admiration. And they get it too, for who could
help admiring such master-pieces of a tailor's skill? Are these really
the descendants of that Adam whose posterity had all to earn their
bread by the sweat of their brow? These automatons, whose only
business in life seems to be to look after pretty women and
themselves? Men are supposed to be bread winners, but they have a
very easy time of it, I think, though they generally try to make
themselves out so overworked. Go into that great centre of business,
the City, and you find everyone of these busy men out and about,
always apparently in a great hurry, never seeming to arrive at any
destination, running about and hustling each other, occasionally
meeting an acquaintance, which proves a good opportunity for one to
stand the other a "drink." A funny way men have of showing their
affection, have they not? "Ah! how de do, old fellow? Come and have a
drink," is their invariable salutation to an intimate friend. After
all it is better than the mutual kissing on the part of women, which
is the more emphatic the more they dislike one another. Men are less
demonstrative and therefore more sincere in their friendships. Anyhow
there cannot be many at work in their offices, or where could this
idle crowd come from?

In spite of their haste, though, they generally find time to stare at
any woman who crosses their path. Why should not a woman go to the
City? She has as much right there as man, and yet if she is in the
least degree superior to the flower girls (?) who surround the Royal
Exchange, she is looked on as a freak of nature, a positive curiosity,
and is followed by every pair of male eyes within reach!

Mrs. Grundy is inclined to rather overdo her season, I think. There is
so much she might leave undone, so many things that "never would be
missed." Imagine the gratitude that would be displayed to anyone who
would put down and demolish those dreadful crushes, so called "at
homes," where nobody ever is at home; where you have neither space nor
air from the moment you arrive until the glad time comes for
departing. Does anyone enjoy them, I wonder! Does anybody like being
literally baked with heat, which I am sure must exceed even that at
Mexico; where one of the inhabitants of that delightful climate, when
he died and went to perdition, found the contrast so striking that he
was obliged to send home for his greatcoat!

Still, I suppose such entertainments will continue to exist. They are
a good deal cheaper than balls or dinners, and you can "knock off"
ever so many people at the same time.

It is well, at any rate, to consider economy in some matters in these
wofully extravagant days. When the shops are decked out in their
gayest colors to lure us on to destruction, why is it that "just the
very thing you want" is placed so conspicuously in the front of the
window, put cunningly near a mirror too, so that you see it all the
way round, and it appears doubly precious?

How convenient it is, by the way, when they have mirrors in the shop
windows. You can look to see if your hat is straight, or your veil
nicely arranged, without being credited with vanity. You are supposed
to be admiring the bonnets displayed to view, not yourself. Girls make
a great mistake when they take little surreptitious glances at any
mirror they come across. The action is always noticed and condemned;
while if they, instead, went up boldly, ostensibly to smooth their
hair or alter a pin, it would be taken as a matter of course.

It so soon grows into a habit, this always looking about for your
reflection, and one that is very difficult to get out of. Not that the
men are at all behind us in this respect. There are not many of our
little follies that the lords of creation do not take up and
cultivate. You see them at dinner, addressing nearly all their
conversation opposite--where hangs a mirror. At dances they are
admiring and smiling at their reflections the whole evening, finding
far more satisfaction in gazing there than at their partner, even
though she be the loveliest in the land.

But to return to my subject. (I seem to be always wandering away.) You
need never be idle in town. A wet day even makes no difference, when a
place teems with picture galleries, as London does. They are such good
places to meet your friends. You always see someone you know. You
might as well be there as anywhere else. Of course you do not look at
the pictures. You glance at the few you have heard talked about, just
so as to say you have seen them. But you do not go to a picture
gallery to look at _pictures_! "We always go the wrong way round. You
avoid the crowd like that, you know," I have heard people say.
"_Avoid_ the crowd!" It is the crowd they want to see! There is less
chance of missing your friends if you go in the opposite direction!
There is one real advantage though in beginning at the other end. You
don't have the same people following you all the time, nor have to
listen to ignorant remarks. "Who's that? She don't look very happy, to
be sure," I once heard one woman ask of another as they were going
round. "That? why that's Adam and Eve, o' course, and the serpent in
the distance. I never 'eard of anyone else who went about without
their clothes on, though why they put chains on her I can't think: it
says nothing about 'em in the Bible."

I glanced at the picture. It was "Andromeda!" And they talk of the
strides education has been making of late years!



CHAPTER IX.

ON CHILDREN AND DOGS.


Are you very shocked that I should couple these two subjects? An
insult to the children, do you say? Well, do you know, I am afraid I
consider it an insult to the dogs. I am not fond of children, and I
love dogs. A man may be a superior animal to a dog, but a puppy is
decidedly more intelligent than a baby. What can you find more
helpless, more utterly incapable, than a baby? Look at a puppy in
comparison. At a month old it is trotting about, and growing quite
independent; more sensible altogether than a child aged a year.

I am afraid I shock people often by my opinions, but they are really
genuine. I am always more interested in the canine race than in the
blossoms of humanity. Very likely it is the behavior of each that
makes me so. Children never take to me, nor come near me if they can
help it. I do not understand them, or know what to talk to them about.
On the other hand, dogs will come to me at once, and, what is more,
keep to me. I have never been growled at in my life, and I have come
across a good many dogs, too.

"You were a baby yourself once!" How often has this been said to me
when I have aired the above opinions. It is put before me as an
unanswerable argument, a sort of annihilating finale to the
conversation. Yet I really don't see what it has to do with the
matter. I suppose I was a baby once. At least they say so. Which
protestation, by the way, rather leaves it open to doubt, for "on
dits" like weather forecasts are nice reliable institutions if you do
but follow the opposite of what they tell you. Still, as there is more
than one witness to the effect, I will give in and admit it; I was a
baby.

But the admission makes me no fonder of the species. If anything it
makes me admire them the less; for if I at all resembled the
photographs that were taken of me--"before my eyes were open," I was
going to say; at any rate before I could stand--I wonder a stone was
not put round my neck, and they did not drown me in the first bucket
of water they came across.

It is said that ugly babies grow up the best looking, and _vice
versa_. This is a pleasant and comforting thought for the ugly baby.
It can bear a little depreciation now, because it can look forward to
the time when it will far outdo its successful rival. And the pretty
baby's glory is soon over. It becomes only a memory which rather
irritates than soothes. For after all, retrospection is not so
pleasant as anticipation.

The above remark was said before a child about four years old, the
other day. She must have been listening intently, and having taken in
the sense she inwardly digested it; for the next time she quarrelled
with her sister, she broke in spitefully, "You must have been the
beautifullest baby that ever was born."

Children should never be seen until they are over two. Until then they
are neither pretty nor entertaining. But at this age they begin to say
funny things, and so are interesting. "You only care for them when
they amuse you!" cried a young mother once, indignant at my
selfishness. I suppose it is a selfish way of looking at it; but if
modern children were brought up as we were brought up I should not
object to them in the least. We were always kept strictly in the
nursery, only appearing down-stairs on the rarest occasions: and when
we arrived there we behaved properly--we were seen and not heard. We
did not run noisily up and down the room, taking up the whole
conversation of the party. We did not try to make the most
disagreeable personal remarks; or if we did we were sent up-stairs at
once, and not laughed at for our "sharpness."

There are no children, now-a-days; they are mimic men and women. They
dine late, they stay up until the small hours, and are altogether as
objectionable a faction as can be. They respect their father and
mother not a whit. It was only two or three days ago I heard a child
of five allude to her father as "the fat old governor," and simply get
laughed at for her remark, no one joining more heartily than the said
parent himself. Of course, with such applause, the child repeats it
again and again.

They have such dreadfully sharp eyes, too, these children. Not a
defect escapes their notice. You tremble to hear what will come out
next. They ask Mr. Jones what makes his nose so red. They want to know
why Mrs. Smith puts flour on her face. In spite of a thick veil, they
discover at once that Miss. Blank has a moustache, and inquire of her
with interest if she is a man!

There are some nice children, of course--there are exceptions to every
rule--and if they are pretty I cannot help admiring them. It is
fortunate that I have never had anything to do with children. If I
were a governess I should be so dreadfully unjust, I should always
favor the pretty ones. I love beauty in any form. There are girls I
could sit and look at all day, if they would let me. Only they are
most of them so self-conscious; they expect to be admired, and when I
see girls laying themselves out for admiration, however beautiful they
may be, however strong my inclination to gaze, I will not gratify
their vanity. For it is certainly true, that though we prefer the
praise of men, we do not disdain any like offering from our own sex.

That is the best of very young children. They do not notice you, they
are not yet awake to the power of their charms, so that you are able
to look your full. I say "very" young, because it is a knowledge that
comes to them only too soon, and a little of this knowledge is, at any
rate, "a dangerous thing."

Children sometimes set you thinking more than any philosopher who ever
existed. Their ideas are so fresh, so unsophisticated, so original.
The atmosphere of the great unknown still seems to cling to their
souls. They are not yet tainted with the world's impure air. They ask
you questions impossible to answer, but which you are obliged to parry
in an underhand manner, so as not to expose your ignorance. They solve
problems and reach conclusions after a way of their own, which, at any
rate, have plenty of reason about them. I remember being very much
struck by a little boy's idea once when his mother was remarking on
the strange appearance of a man who, while his whiskers were black as
ebony, possessed hair of a snowy white. "But why, mother, should it
seem funny?" broke in the child. "Aren't his whiskers twenty years
younger than his hair?"

Dogs certainly cannot talk or say quaint things, but they can do
nearly everything else. At any rate they can understand you and
distinguish between the words, as the following instance proves.

We have family prayers at home, and have had them ever since we were
quite little things. What an ordeal they used to be too! We used to be
watched so strictly, and the moment our eyes wavered from our books,
attention would at once be drawn to the culprits and cover them with
confusion. Woe be to him, too, who forgot to turn over the leaf of his
book with the rest! It is such an unkind thing to do to print all the
books alike. If you forget and turn over later, you are at once
detected. Being sharp children, however, we used to make this our
first care, so that whatever we were doing--laughing, pinching,
winking, our pages all went over together, so we _sounded_ attentive.

Our little dog was even more cunning than ourselves. He was never
permitted, on any plea, to lie before the fire. "It enlarged his
liver," his master said. Now this decree is a great deprivation to
dogs. They like warmth and comfort just as much as we do; indeed,
they love the fire to such an extent that if all the terrors of Hades
were put before them, they would by no means have a salutary effect.
The dogs would try to be as naughty as possible in the hopes of
getting there.

But this particular little animal was made of most obstinate
materials, and had no intention of being baulked; so directly we knelt
down for prayers, he scrambled from under the table, and stretched his
full length before the fire. He knew he would not be spoken to until
we had finished, and felt quite safe until we all joined in the Lord's
Prayer at the end, when he would immediately decamp, and thus escape
any scolding for his disobedience. It was more especially clever of
him because we all joined in the Confession as well, but he never took
any notice of that, and always put off his departure until the last
minute.

We had this dog twelve years altogether, and a sad night it was,
indeed, when he had a fit and died. The breakfast-table next morning
presented a most distressing spectacle. We were all positively
swimming in tears. The whole family was upset at his death; and when,
later on in the day, he was wrapped up in a fish basket and buried in
the garden, next door to a favorite rabbit--on whose grave a cabbage
had been planted, most unkindly reminding him of the sweets of life he
had left behind--we all lifted up our voices and wept again.

I often wonder if we shall meet our faithful dumb friends hereafter!
Sages say no; but I cannot believe they are so entirely blotted out,
and like to think they have some happy sugary existence somewhere, and
that we shall see them again some day.

Dogs are very human after all; they have a great many of our virtues
and nearly all our vices. I expect it is this that endears them to us,
for "One touch of nature makes all the world kin." They are just as
contradictory, as disappointing, as ourselves. Why will they always
show off to such bad advantage? After spending weeks in teaching them,
and fortunes on pieces of sugar, why, before an audience, will they
insist on ringing the bell when they are told to shut the door? and
when you ask them to sit up and beg, _why_ do they die for the Queen?

A little while ago we used to have grand steeplechases with our dogs.
We put up fences and water jumps, all of which--with the aid of sugar
again--they were able to master in time. I think they used to get
quite excited themselves at last. Our old gardener, who used to watch
the races with great interest, told me once that he "'ad seen one of
the little dawgs a'jumpin' backwards and forwards over that 'ere bit
of wood (the highest and most perilous jump), and a'practisin' by
hisself!" He _was_ a very clever "little dawg," but I don't think he
ever reached such a pitch of intelligence as to practice "by hisself."

We had to fill up the fences down to the ground, or, to save
themselves the trouble of getting over, they would run under or
scramble through in some extraordinary fashion, which in the end took
much the most time and pains. Humanity again! Lazy people always take
the most trouble!

When I was a little girl I had every morning to learn and repeat to my
governess three verses from a French Bible. I thought I had hit upon
an easy way of getting over this, and of reducing the quantity I had
to commit to memory; so I chose the cxxxvi. Psalm, in which you will
find, if you care to look it up (I have just had to do the same to
find out the number, not being by any means a living concordance to
the Psalms!)--you will find that half of each verse is composed of the
words, "For His mercy endureth for ever." Ingenuity wasted! Trouble
increased! Not one whit the better off was I. Until that Psalm was
finished I had to learn six verses instead of three. I retired
anything but satisfied, and heartily wishing I had left that Psalm
alone. It was very mean of my governess all the same. She should
better have appreciated the craftiness of her pupil. But, poor things,
they have to be very sharp and always on the look-out, or the children
will take them in; they will not let any opportunity escape them, and,
indeed, I pity anyone who has the care of these unraveled Sphinxes,
these uncut Gordian knots.



CHAPTER X.

ON CONCERTS.


I am not thinking about the Albert Hall Concerts, where the highest in
the musical world go time after time, always singing the same songs.

Neither am I thinking of "Monday Pops," and purely classical concerts,
to which at least half the audience listens with closed eyes and
thoughts somewhere in dreamland. They like to be thought musical; they
know they ought to appreciate _such_ renderings of _such_
compositions; and after all, when they describe "the treat they had!
such a perfect touch, my dear! and the execution!!--" no one knows
they have never heard a note, so what does their inattention matter.
They have been seen there, and that is all they care about.

No, my thoughts take a much lower range. They are intent on only
amateur productions, from penny readings upwards, to those
superintended by the _élite_ of the neighborhood, when the seats rise
in price to five shillings each.

They are such nice cheery entertainments, so much life, such a great
deal of energy about them! You are called on by four separate people
to take tickets. In desperation you have to yield at last; paying
extra for having your seat reserved, or else you must start
half-an-hour beforehand, and scramble in with the crowd. There is
generally a series of them too, and you are obliged to go to them all.
They are so considerate, these concert-makers, they would not allow
you to miss one for worlds.

There is a great deal of novelty and variety about the artists
themselves. All the musical members in the neighborhood are routed
out, and each is persuaded to contribute to the public pleasure--by
the way, there is never very much persuasion needed. It is such a
treat to listen to people you know, and whom you have heard perform
dozens and dozens of times before in every drawing-room in the place.
At least, you know what to expect. You recognize each song, each
piece. You wait in suspense until Miss. Brown has passed her high
A--always half a tone too flat. You take it as a matter of course that
Mr. Black--the first violinist in the place--after tuning up for ten
minutes, will break a string directly he begins to play. I should have
thought he would be pretty well used to it by now, but he never gets
in tune again for the rest of the evening. You would be quite
disappointed if Mrs. Green ever concluded her most finished and
spirited pianoforte solo on the right chord.

These concerts always begin with a pianoforte solo, and the performers
ought to feel very flattered at the way in which they are received.
We, the audience, regard them no more than we do the mounted policemen
in the Lord Mayor's Show. They are not part of the procession. They
are only meant to clear the way and let us know that the concert is
going to begin, and then we must leave off our chatter. Naturally, we
make the most of our time, and try to get all our talking done at
once. In fact, we are so taken up with what we are saying that we
actually forget to applaud when the performance is over.

After the introduction in this form, the chief moving spirit of the
entertainment comes forward, and, after bowing right and left,
stammers out (the chief moving spirit is never a good speaker) that he
much regrets that, on account of Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith, and Miss. Blank
having been prevented by illness from turning up, he is afraid there
will be a little change in the programme. Now as Mr. Jones, Mr. Smith,
and Miss. Blank are down for seven things between them there is likely
to be a very great change in the programme. Why is it that people
never know they cannot come until the last moment, I wonder? Perhaps
they think that the more often they disappoint the more they emulate
the "stars" in the musical world. Only the force of example, you see.
And, after all, what does it matter? The other performers are most
kind and sympathetic, and ready to help all they can. They are
delighted to sing four times each instead of twice. Selfish people!
they have no consideration for the audience, they only think of their
own enjoyment!

There is the youth who looks as if he were going to favor us with a
sweet treble. Lo, and behold! he opens his mouth, and out comes a
loud double bass voice that seems to spring somewhere from the region
of his boots. It is not a pretty sound by any means.

There is the smiling, simpering girl who comes forward gorgeously
arrayed in light blue satin. She chooses a song, all trills and little
scales, running up and down, shaking at last upon a high note for
nearly two minutes, and then coming down with a rush. This brings down
the house. We applaud lustily; we begin the encoring business here,
which, having once started, we do not intend to give up again. We like
to get as much as we can for our money, we Britons. She keeps us
waiting some time, too--taking a little refreshment in between,
perhaps--and then comes back beaming with smiles and, under the
impression that she is a second Patti, shrieks out in plaintive tones,
"Home, sweet home!" A cat might as well try to emulate a thrush! And
we never find it "sweet" either. Never do you dislike "Home" more than
when you hear it sung thus.

There is the sentimental man, who gets into position while the
introduction to his song is being played. He sticks his finger down
his collar (the object of which I can never understand), pulls both
cuffs out, stretches out his music a yard or two in front of him and
gazes above the audience with a hungry yearning look. His is always a
love song, an unhappy love song, that should bring tears to our eyes,
only we are so taken up with his expression, and the fear that he is
going to die or have a fit, that we have no time for weeping. True to
our instincts, he is greeted with deafening applause, and coming back,
he generously treats us to the last verse over again.

Everyone is not so fortunate in receiving an encore, though. It
depends on how well they are known, not on their desserts.
The newcomer in the neighborhood tries her hardest and does her best,
but as we have never seen her before we scarcely take the trouble to
applaud her, which must be rather disappointing, especially when her
mother is sitting among the audience with the encore song on her lap,
ready to hand it up.

The best exhibition of all is made by the flutist. He is the only one
who plays that instrument for miles round, and so the swagger with
which he steps on to the platform is perhaps excusable.

How anyone _can_ play it I do not know. It is such a singularly
unbecoming instrument. But the wretched owner never seems to think so.
When he once commences he gives us a good dose of it. We begin to
think he is going on all night. Suddenly there comes a pause, and
applause is started at once, we being only too delighted to make a
little noise on our own account. But no--it is a mistake, a delusion,
after all. The pause was only an interval between an Andante and a
Scherzo; and, with a bland smile at his ovation, on he goes again for
another quarter of an hour. We--the audience--are disappointed, we
feel we have been tricked, and we therefore sulk for a season. But the
Scherzo is so long, it gives us time to get over our ill-humor, though
we are mutually resolved that we will not have him back again. Vain
hope! From the far end of the room comes thundering applause, which
never dies away until the talented flutist appears on the platform
again. We find out afterwards that he treats the whole of his
establishment to the cheap seats; so, of course, poor things, we
cannot blame them. They are only earning their wages. Perhaps they are
presented with an extra shilling each when their master returns home.

It is a curious thing how we all like applauding and making a noise.
If you notice, at organ recitals in the Church we feel quite
uncomfortable. We think we ought to do something at the conclusion of
the pieces; so, as we may not clap our hands, we all give a little
rustle and cough. This is to show our approbation. _Every_one coughs.
It is astonishing how many people have bad colds. For my part I think
it is a pity applause is not allowed. It is infinitely preferable to
the coughing at any rate.

Of course the comic singer goes down best. He is called back three,
sometimes four times. The schoolboys behind grow excited, and greet
him with a whistle that would do credit to the "gods." This is too
much for decently-clad minds, anything so profane as that whistle. The
clergyman, who is in the chair (the proceeds are always to be devoted
to some charitable object), rises and insists "that if that most
objectionable noise does not cease, the boys will have to be turned
out."

Where the "objectionable" comes in I cannot think. The boys are very
clever to be able to do it. I have often tried it, and cannot succeed,
and so conclude it must be a difficult accomplishment. They stick
about four fingers in their mouths, and thereby make quite a different
sound to any ordinary whistle. However, it is no wonder the chairman
discourages it. When he was reading a few minutes before, reading out
some dry little tale with a moral, in which the humorous parts were
the heaviest, no encore whistle was accorded him. He was clapped
loudly, of course--is he not one of the chief men in the parish? But
no one wished to hear him read again, so we stopped our applause just
in time to prevent him from re-appearing.

We go home glad at heart, and two mornings later read an account of
the evening's performance in the local paper.

We find there a few statements which agree with our own feelings.
They say that "Mr. Jones sang in a pure and cultured manner, and
deserves special attention for his sweet tenor voice and the
refinement of the sentiment in his songs" (whatever that may mean!)
"Mr. Smith played two violin solos with remarkable precision of touch
and with the greatest ease;" while "Miss. Blank, with a good contralto,
was all that could be desired in both her songs!" They were none of
them there, but that does not matter. They were praised up more than
anyone else, which must be very discouraging to those who _did_
perform. But on account of their non-appearance alone we feel they
deserve some approbation, and so do not grudge it them. It is of no
consequence to a newspaper reporter who is there and who is not. He
takes the programme, ticks off the names, and writes his remarks and
criticisms just as he likes. It would be wiser, all the same, on his
part, if he found out the absentees, for otherwise his little hints
rather lose their effect.

He writes that this one wants a little "animation," that one "sings
out of tune." Miss So-and-So plays the piano "with faultless
manipulation, the only drawback being a slight preponderance of
pedal," and so on. He generally has as good an ear for music as a
parish priest who only knew two tunes: one of which was "God save the
Queen," and the other wasn't. And once, when a brass band was playing
a selection outside the vicarage, he went on to his balcony, hat in
hand, and waved it vigorously as he commenced to sing the first line
of "God save the Queen."

Well, it does not matter after all. The only object is to appear
learned, and to use long words. If the artists do not like being
ignorantly criticized they must forbear to appear in public, a result
which would incline us to go and shake hands with the reporters all
round in the exuberance of our gratitude.



CHAPTER XI.

ON DANCING.


I was looking through a "Querist Album" the other day; one of those
dreadful confession books in which you are required to answer the most
absurd questions. Dreadful indeed they are to write in, but not
altogether uninteresting to peruse, though the interest comes not so
much in the answers themselves as in the manner in which they are
written.

Some go in for it seriously, and describe their inmost feelings on the
pages; some take a witty strain, and put down the most ridiculous
things they can think of; while others write just what comes first.

Some are such hypocrites, too. Here is a man who describes his wife as
his ideal woman; and when we know that he scarcely ever addresses a
civil word to the poor little woman, his admission is, to say the
least of it, amusing.

"Have you ever been in love? and if so, how often?" This is one of the
questions. The answers to it are of doubtful veracity. All the single
ladies reply "Never!" underlining the word three times. "Yes, only
once," is the statement of the married ones. According to the Querist
Album, "The course of true love _always_ runs smooth." No one seems to
be attacked by Cupid but they must immediately marry the object of
their choice, and "all goes merrily as a marriage bell." The men, on
the contrary, like to appear somewhat inflammable. It is generally the
masculine writers who adopt the sprightly key. Twenty--forty--thousands
of times they admit falling in love. Such one-sided affairs they must
have been, too; for the girls, according to their own confessions, never
reciprocated any attachment until their rightful lords and masters appeared
on the scene. I am afraid we must be a very hard-hearted race!

But it is the question relating to your idea of "the greatest earthly
happiness" that struck me most. "Never being called in the morning,"
was one lazy person's reply. "To write M.P. after my name," was the
ambition of another. "Married life," wrote the bride on the completion
of her honeymoon. Ah, little bride, you have been married some years
now. Are your ideas still the same, I wonder? "A good partner, a good
floor, and good music," said a fourth, and it is this one that has my
entire sympathy. I agree with her. It is my idea also of "the greatest
earthly happiness." I do not require much, you see. These are not very
difficult things to procure now-a-days; and yet I am often taunted
with my love of dancing. If I express disapproval of a man, "I suppose
he can't dance," they say with a sneer.

Now though that accomplishment is a necessity in a ball-room, I do
_not_ consider it indispensable in a husband. Unfortunately you cannot
dance through life. I wish you could for many reasons. A continual
change of partners, for instance, would it not be refreshing? You
would scarcely have time to grow tired of them. And how much more
polite our husbands would be if they thought we were only fleeting
joys! What am I saying? I am shocking everyone I am afraid; the
little matron who advocates married life, the newly-made brides whose
ideal men are realized in their husbands--I am shocking them all! I
humbly plead forgiveness. You see, I am not married myself. I can only
give my impressions as a looker-on, and, as Thackeray says, "One is
bound to speak the truth as far as one knows it, and a deal of
disagreeable matter must come out in the course of such an
undertaking."

But dancing _is_ indispensable in a ball-room. If a man cannot dance
he should stay away, and not make an object of himself. Unfortunately,
so many think they excel in the art when they have not the least idea
of it. Again, with girls, dancing (in a ball-room only, of course)
comes before charm of manner, before wit, even before beauty. I know
girls, absolutely plain, with not a word to say for themselves, who
dance every dance, while the walls of the room are lined with pretty
faces, and dismal-looking enough they are too, which is very foolish
of them. They should have too much pride to show their discomfiture.

Men have so much the best of it at dances--so everybody says. I am
afraid I do not agree. I would not change our positions for anything.
After all, a girl can nearly always dance with anyone she likes, and
pick and choose as well as the men--provided, of course, that she is
an adept on the "light fantastic toe" herself.

And think, on the other hand, what men go through! Reverse the order
of things, as you are supposed to do at leap year dances--which
system, however, is never properly carried out. But suppose you go up
to a man and ask him for a dance, and he tells you with a smile that
"he is very sorry, but really he has not one left." Suppose that the
next minute you see him give three to another girl, would you speak to
that man ever again? _Never!_ And yet this is what they constantly
endure and, what is more, forgive.

After all, if you analyze it, what an absurd thing dancing is. Close
your ears to the music and look around you when a ball is at its
height. What motive, you foolishly wonder, could induce all these
people--who are supposed to possess an average amount of brains--to
assemble together to clasp each other round the waist, twirl round
and round up and down the room, suddenly stop, and hurry one after
another outside the dancing hall, seeking dark corners, secret
retreats, anywhere away from the eyes of other men? "Ah, what a mad
world it is, my masters!"

How our grandmothers exclaim at the present mode of dancing!--they who
used to consider round dances almost improper. How the programmes must
astonish them, too; those engagement cards that did not exist fifty
years ago, and in their infancy were quite content to bear only two or
three names on their paper countenances. But now times have changed,
and as they grow older they become most greedy little cards. They are
not only not content with being scribbled all over, but require two
names on the top of one another, and thus causing dissensions to
ensue.

There is a great deal of art in making up a programme. It is a mistake
to be full up before you arrive. Someone may come whom you did not
expect, and then you have no dance to give him. Arrangement of a
programme requires two or three seasons' practice. There are the duty
dances to be got through first; put them up early, so that they shall
be soon over, and then you have the good ones at the end to look
forward to.

Everyone has duty dances. There are your father's constituents,
clients, patients, someone you are obliged to ingratiate, and these
are generally the worst dancers in the room! One is so fat he shakes
the hall as he walks, and yet is just as eager to join the giddy
throng, and alas! to take you with him! Another resembles the little
tin soldiers which schoolboys have such an affection for, in that he
has been gifted with large flat stands, twice the length of himself,
instead of feet. And oh, _how_ he kicks! Then there is the
complimentary man, a creature who never opens his mouth without making
or implying a compliment. Does he ever find anyone whom this system
pleases, I wonder! The only antidote I can find is to take no notice,
and pretend not to understand that the pretty speeches are directed at
you. This discourages him after a time.

It is amusing to get hold of a man's programme, and find out how you
are represented there. They do not put down names, but describe
costumes, hoping thus to find their partners easier, but in reality
plunging themselves into most hopeless perplexities. They scribble
down "pearl necklace," and find later that there are at least sixteen
in the room, and so are worse off than if they had written the name.

Some describe the personal appearance, but this is a very risky thing
to do. A man the other day wrote down his partner as "Miss blue dress,
with the nose," and subsequently dropped his programme, which, of
course, was picked up by the lady mentioned. Now I do not know why you
should dislike being told that you have a nose--you would feel very
much worse without one--but when your nasal organ takes up double its
share of room in your face, and is, moreover, prettily tinted with
scarlet, which you try to conceal under a little pearl powder, and
only succeed in making it purple--well, perhaps you would not like to
be told you have a nose. At any rate, this lady did not, and hers very
much resembled this description, I believe. But she was a wise woman.
Not a word did she say on the subject, and he went home happily
unconscious of her fatal discovery, until a few days later he
received his programme back as a Christmas card, with "Miss blue dress
with the nose's compliments." How very comfortable he must have felt
when he met her next!

What a great many different styles of dancing there are! You have to
change your step with nearly every partner. The girl should always
suit hers to the man's, he has quite enough to do with the steering.
You require about five good partners altogether, and can then spend an
enjoyable evening. A different man for every dance is tiring. You
never get beyond the theatres and the weather; you have not time to
say much more, and grow quite weary of the same style of conversation.
I always think I must be a most uninteresting partner when I am asked
what theatres I have been to lately, or what is my opinion of the
Academy, &c., &c. I never begin this kind of talk myself except as a
last resource, when I can get nothing else out of a man. Someone says,
I forget who, that "a woman can always know in what opinion she is
held by the conversation addressed to her," and is it not true? The
foolish compliments paid to the pretty, but silly little _débutante_;
the small talk to the fools; the sparring with the witty; the _risqué_
tales enjoyed by those of a more rapid style. Men find out first what
are our tastes, and then dish up their conversation accordingly, and
they do not often make mistakes.

Some girls dance with one man the whole evening. How weary they must
get of each other! Engaged people invariably pass the evening
together, and sometimes do not dance at all, but sit out in some
secluded corner. They have to endure one another for years to come, I
wonder they do not get as much variety as possible now. At any rate,
they might just as well stop at home.

Like everything else, dancing is hurrying along, and growing faster
every year. The _deux-temps_, they say is coming back. May the day be
far ahead when that step reigns once more! Perhaps before then I shall
be converted into a chaperone, and shall sit watching others dance,
not being able to do so myself; or, perhaps worse, not being _asked_
myself. I am afraid I should not make a nice chaperone. I should look
very cross, and should hurry away as early as possible. Ah, sad indeed
will the day be when I give up dancing, when only the remembrance of
my past enjoyments will be brought back to me through the scent of
gardenias and tube-roses, dear dissipated-smelling flowers!



CHAPTER XII.

ON WATERING PLACES.


What a great deal of trouble and time it takes to choose a
watering-place! And yet there are many and various kinds of resorts,
some for one season, some for another.

If you could be carried sufficiently high above the earth so as to
have a bird's-eye view of the whole of Great Britain, what a strange
sight it would present during the months of August and September! The
county would appear surrounded with a human fringe, the outer edge
more resembling a disturbed ants' hill than anything else. I don't
suppose we should appear more significant than ants at that distance.

There are those places teeming with shop-keepers and children, when
you can scarcely see the beach so covered is it with those who are
making the most of their one holiday in the year.

There is the primitive little village, discovered by few, which is
welcomed by the city man who wants rest and entire seclusion from
business matters and the world for a month or two. And oh, what
language he uses! and how annoyed he is to find absolutely nothing to
do--one post a day, and, worst of all, no newspaper until late in the
afternoon! And this is the man who wishes to be shut out from the
world and from his acquaintances! There is no pier, there are no
amusements. The esplanade is composed of nothing more than a plank of
wood, on which, in walking you have to observe much caution in order
to keep your balance; and sometimes the butcher from the neighboring
village forgets to call! In desperation, the unfortunate creature digs
sand-castles with his children, and, after a few days of his
banishment, grows quite excited as the waves wash up and undermine
their foundations. He picks acquaintance with anybody he comes across,
be he peer or peasant--anything to make the time pass a little quicker
until he can return to the stir of his business life again.

Someone remarks somewhere that "a man works one-half of his life in
order that he may rest the other." I wonder if those who are
successful ever appreciate their rest when they get it! I wonder if it
comes up to their expectations! if the goal toward which they have
been looking almost since they began to exist is worth the trouble and
energy spent on it! Ah, I am afraid they very rarely find it so! They
have become so immured in their busy lives, that it is difficult to
grow accustomed to any other. Unless one is brought up to it, the
_Dolce far niente_ is not an existence we enjoy. We are made the wrong
way about somehow. We ought to be born old and gradually grow younger
as the years roll on. Still, I daresay there would be something to
complain of even then, and perhaps it would not be very dignified to
go off the stage as a baby!

To go to the opposite extreme, there are the fashionable water-places;
little Londons, or rather little imitations of London; for beside that
great capital itself they are like pieces of glass to a diamond. And
yet fashion and folly are all here, sunning themselves by the sea
instead of in the park; driving up and down in the same way, in
equally charming toilets. But still there seems to be something
lacking, something wanting. They are too small, these towns; you so
soon know everyone by sight, and grow tired both of them and their
costumes. There is a good deal of stir and life about all the same.
There are bands, niggers, clairvoyantes, fire-eaters; plenty indeed
for you to see and hear when you are weary of strutting up and down
and nodding to your friends. And yet, in spite of all, you grow tired
of "London by the sea," after a few weeks, even in that dead season of
the year--November.

Have you ever visited one of these places in the midst of a tennis
week, when the grand tournaments take place? Lawn tennis is a
delightful recreation for a time, provided you have a good partner and
good antagonists, and you are playing under a moderately warm sun; but
when you hear, see, and play nothing else for a week, when the
conversation is "tennis," when no one appears without a racquet in his
hand, when all you have to listen to are criticisms on the courts and
balls, grumblings against the handicapping, imprecations on
"bisques"--well, you begin to hate the very name, and wish you could
injure the man who invented it. You grow tired of watching the same
thing day after day, the men who spend their lives in tossing balls
across to each other, the sea of faces; turning backwards and forwards
at each stroke with the regulation of a pendulum.

Yes, it takes a long time to decide on a watering place, and when at
last you do make up your mind you have to change it again very soon
because you find all your "sisters, cousins, and aunts" have chosen
the same resort; and really you have quite enough of your relations in
town without their following you wherever you go. You require a little
variety when you go away. An old lady I used to know always kept it a
profound secret where she intended spending her summer holiday,
"otherwise, my dear," she said, "I should have the whole family at my
heels!" A most disagreeable old lady she was; and I know for a fact
that her relatives always avoided her when possible (she was not
blessed with very great possessions!) so that her caution was quite
unnecessary. Oh, vanity of vanities, how little we know of the world's
true opinion of us!

When you have fixed on your locality, there is even a greater
difficulty to go through. You have to choose your residence; and this
takes up even more thought and time.

There are the lodging-houses, monotonous in their similarity. The same
gilt-edged mirrors protected from the dust by green perforated paper;
the same jar of wax flowers, standing on a mat which is composed of
floral designs in Berlin wool--designs to which you can give any name
you like--"You pays your money and you takes your choice." They
represent anything, the whole concern hiding its modest head under a
glass case; the same shavings in the grate, with long trails of roses
gently slumbering on the top; yes, and the same voluble landlady, the
whole of whose private concerns you are in possession of five minutes
after you have taken the apartments.

There is the boarding-house, advertised as "Directly facing the sea;"
and when you have engaged your rooms, and arrive with all your
luggage, you find the establishment is at the far end of a side
street; and "Directly facing the sea" is interpreted by the fact that
by hanging half-way out of the sitting-room widow, and screwing your
head round violently to the left, you can see the place where that
watery monarch ought to be.

"A boarding-house is so much nicer than an hotel, because you get to
know the people so much easier," I heard a girl remark once. This is
my chief objection to a boarding-house. Because you are staying under
the same roof, all the inhabitants consider they have a right to
address you, and, what is more, they will not be repulsed, which, as
most of them by no means move in the best society, is not at all
palatable. The women you can tolerate, but the men are not to be
endured. You are always coming across them, too. On whatever drive,
excursion, or trip you take you invariably meet "boarding-houseites,"
who are only too ready to recognize you. You can never get away from
them; there is only the public drawing-room, and there they come in
and out, talking to you, interrupting you, or else causing your ears
to ache by their attempts at music.(?)

The meals are somewhat amusing, as you can watch all your
fellow-boarders without being disturbed. They cannot talk and eat at
the same time, and so philosophically devote all their energies to
their dinner.

There is the girl who scrapes up acquaintances with everybody. She has
had the good luck to be placed near a man, and the demure way in which
she prattles and smiles at him convinces you that she is trying to
make the best use of her time. Sometimes he is absent, and then the
smiles give way to the gloomiest expression. Finally, on the arrival
of new-comers, when there is a sort of general post all round, she is
placed at the farthest extreme to her late partner, and oh! the
wistful little glances she passes up the table to the gourmand who,
oblivious to all but his dinner, scarcely notices her departure.

There are the three old maids, intent on capturing a husband. They
have come here as a last resource. But with the usual fickleness of
fortune, they seem to be more shunned by the male sex than attracted
to it.

There is the newly-married couple, looking very conscious and silly,
as if they were the only people in the world who had ever committed
matrimony.

There is one old lady grumbling, and objecting to the back of a
chicken. Poor birds, they have only two wings each, and really cannot
provide everybody with them! There is another furious, because on
asking for a favorite dish, that is down in the _menu_, is told that
"it is all served!" The best things always are, unless you manage to
get into the good graces of the waiter or waitress.

Young men and maidens, old men and children, all here, offering plenty
of material for students of human nature!

Hotel life is very different. Even if you find the _parvenu_ and
_nouveau riche_ as equally objectionable as the boarding-house
species, at least they do not force their acquaintance upon
you. The _table d'hote_ is much more entertaining, and you are
altogether more independent. Characters you come across occasionally
that are most interesting to study. There are the girls who are taking
the round of hotels by their mothers, in the hopes of getting them
"off." There are the men who astonish everybody by their generosity
and apparent display of riches, and finally decamp without paying
their bill.

A man was telling me the other day of a certain "black sheep" who had
run into difficulty; how his family after a great deal of trouble
managed to raise £200 between them, and sent him off to America with
the money to start afresh in a new country. In a month's time he was
back again, penniless as ever, and cursing his luck and bad fortune.
It was only by accident they discovered the bills of the best hotels
in New York in his pocket, and found that he had been living like a
prince while his £200 lasted, nor had tried at all to obtain any
occupation.

With such consummate cheek, a man ought to get on in the world, I
think, for after all it is self-confidence and "bluffing" that seems
to succeed most. However down in the world you are, however bad your
"hand," you only have to "bluff" a little to make it all right. There
are many foolish people in the world ready to be your dupes, and
luckily they never think of asking to "see" you. Even the best of us
try it on a little; we strive to hide our skeletons under the cloak of
cheerfulness, and entirely disguise our real feelings--

    "Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we;
    For, such as we are made of, such we be."


THE END.





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