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Title: Idle Ideas in 1905
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka), 1859-1927
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Idle Ideas in 1905" ***

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Transcribed from the 1905 Hurst and Blackett edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                                IDLE IDEAS
                                 in 1905

                                * * * * *


                             JEROME K. JEROME

                                AUTHOR OF

                          “Three Men in a Boat,”
                    “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow,”

                      [Picture: Decorative graphic]

                       HURST AND BLACKETT, LIMITED
                         182, HIGH HOLBORN, W.C.

                          _All rights reserved_


    CHAP.                                                         PAGE
       I.  ARE WE AS INTERESTING AS WE THINK WE ARE?                 1
      II.  SHOULD WOMEN BE BEAUTIFUL?                               16
     III.  WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO BE MERRY?                       29
      IV.  DO WE LIE A-BED TOO LATE?                                46
       V.  SHOULD MARRIED MEN PLAY GOLF?                            60
      VI.  ARE EARLY MARRIAGES A MISTAKE?                           74
     VII.  DO WRITERS WRITE TOO MUCH?                               89
    VIII.  SHOULD SOLDIERS BE POLITE?                              105
      IX.  OUGHT STORIES TO BE TRUE?                               122
       X.  CREATURES THAT ONE DAY SHALL BE MEN                     141
      XI.  HOW TO BE HAPPY THOUGH LITTLE                           158
      XV.  HOW MANY CHARMS HATH MUSIC, WOULD YOU SAY?              213
    XVII.  WHY DIDN’T HE MARRY THE GIRL?                           238
   XVIII.  WHAT MRS. WILKINS THOUGHT ABOUT IT                      251
      XX.  HOW TO SOLVE THE SERVANT PROBLEM                        278
     XXI.  WHY WE HATE THE FOREIGNER                               292


“CHARMED.  Very hot weather we’ve been having of late—I mean cold.  Let
me see, I did not quite catch your name just now.  Thank you so much.
Yes, it is a bit close.”  And a silence falls, neither of us being able
to think what next to say.

What has happened is this: My host has met me in the doorway, and shaken
me heartily by the hand.

“So glad you were able to come,” he has said.  “Some friends of mine
here, very anxious to meet you.”  He has bustled me across the room.
“Delightful people.  You’ll like them—have read all your books.”

He has brought me up to a stately lady, and has presented me.  We have
exchanged the customary commonplaces, and she, I feel, is waiting for me
to say something clever, original and tactful.  And I don’t know whether
she is Presbyterian or Mormon; a Protectionist or a Free Trader; whether
she is engaged to be married or has lately been divorced!

A friend of mine adopts the sensible plan of always providing you with a
short history of the person to whom he is about to lead you.

“I want to introduce you to a Mrs. Jones,” he whispers.  “Clever woman.
Wrote a book two years ago.  Forget the name of it.  Something about
twins.  Keep away from sausages.  Father ran a pork shop in the Borough.
Husband on the Stock Exchange.  Keep off coke.  Unpleasantness about a
company.  You’ll get on best by sticking to the book.  Lot in it about
platonic friendship.  Don’t seem to be looking too closely at her.  Has a
slight squint she tries to hide.”

By this time we have reached the lady, and he introduces me as a friend
of his who is simply dying to know her.

“Wants to talk about your book,” he explains.  “Disagrees with you
entirely on the subject of platonic friendship.  Sure you’ll be able to
convince him.”

It saves us both a deal of trouble.  I start at once on platonic
friendship, and ask her questions about twins, avoiding sausages and
coke.  She thinks me an unusually interesting man, and I am less bored
than otherwise I might be.

I have sometimes thought it would be a serviceable device if, in Society,
we all of us wore a neat card—pinned, say, upon our back—setting forth
such information as was necessary; our name legibly written, and how to
be pronounced; our age (not necessarily in good faith, but for purposes
of conversation.  Once I seriously hurt a German lady by demanding of her
information about the Franco-German war.  She looked to me as if she
could not object to being taken for forty.  It turned out she was
thirty-seven.  Had I not been an Englishman I might have had to fight a
duel); our religious and political beliefs; together with a list of the
subjects we were most at home upon; and a few facts concerning our
career—sufficient to save the stranger from, what is vulgarly termed
“putting his foot in it.”  Before making jokes about “Dumping,” or
discussing the question of Chinese Cheap Labour, one would glance behind
and note whether one’s companion was ticketed “Whole-hogger,” or
“Pro-Boer.”  Guests desirous of agreeable partners—an “agreeable person,”
according to the late Lord Beaconsfield’s definition, being “a person who
agrees with you”—could make their own selection.

“Excuse me.  Would you mind turning round a minute?  Ah, ‘Wagnerian
Crank!’  I am afraid we should not get on together. I prefer the Italian

Or, “How delightful.  I see you don’t believe in vaccination.  May I take
you into supper?”

Those, on the other hand, fond of argument would choose a suitable
opponent.  A master of ceremonies might be provided who would stand in
the centre of the room and call for partners: “Lady with strong views in
favour of female franchise wishes to meet gentleman holding the opinions
of St. Paul.  With view to argument.”

An American lady, a year or two ago, wrote me a letter that did me real
good: she appreciated my work with so much understanding, criticised it
with such sympathetic interest.  She added that, when in England the
summer before, she had been on the point of accepting an invitation to
meet me; but at the last moment she had changed her mind; she felt so
sure—she put it pleasantly, but this is what it came to—that in my own
proper person I should fall short of her expectations.  For my own sake I
felt sorry she had cried off; it would have been worth something to have
met so sensible a woman.  An author introduced to people who have read—or
who say that they have read—his books, feels always like a man taken for
the first time to be shown to his future wife’s relations.  They are very
pleasant.  They try to put him at his ease.  But he knows instinctively
they are disappointed with him.  I remember, when a very young man,
attending a party at which a famous American humorist was the chief
guest.  I was standing close behind a lady who was talking to her

“He doesn’t look a bit funny,” said the lady.

“Great Scott!” answered her husband.  “How did you expect him to look?
Did you think he would have a red nose and a patch over one eye?”

“Oh, well, he might look funnier than that, anyhow,” retorted the lady,
highly dissatisfied.  “It isn’t worth coming for.”

We all know the story of the hostess who, leaning across the table during
the dessert, requested of the funny man that he would kindly say
something amusing soon, because the dear children were waiting to go to
bed.  Children, I suppose, have no use for funny people who don’t choose
to be funny.  I once invited a friend down to my house for a Saturday to
Monday.  He is an entertaining man, and before he came I dilated on his
powers of humour—somewhat foolishly perhaps—in the presence of a certain
youthful person who resides with me, and who listens when she oughtn’t
to, and never when she ought.  He happened not to be in a humorous mood
that evening.  My young relation, after dinner, climbed upon my knee.
For quite five minutes she sat silent.  Then she whispered:

“Has he said anything funny?”

“Hush.  No, not yet; don’t be silly.”

Five minutes later: “Was that funny?”

“No, of course not.”

“Why not?”

“Because—can’t you hear?  We are talking about Old Age Pensions.”

“What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s—oh, never mind now.  It isn’t a subject on which one can be

“Then what’s he want to talk about it for?”

She waited for another quarter of an hour.  Then, evidently bored, and
much to my relief, suggested herself that she might as well go to bed.
She ran to me the next morning in the garden with an air of triumph.

“He said something so funny last night,” she told me.

“Oh, what was it?” I inquired.  It seemed to me I must have missed it.

“Well, I can’t exactly ’member it,” she explained, “not just at the
moment.  But it was so funny.  I dreamed it, you know.”

For folks not Lions, but closely related to Lions, introductions must be
trying ordeals.  You tell them that for years you have been yearning to
meet them.  You assure them, in a voice trembling with emotion, that this
is indeed a privilege.  You go on to add that when a boy—

At this point they have to interrupt you to explain that they are not the
Mr. So-and-So, but only his cousin or his grandfather; and all you can
think of to say is: “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

I had a nephew who was once the amateur long-distance bicycle champion.
I have him still, but he is stouter and has come down to a motor car.  In
sporting circles I was always introduced as “Shorland’s Uncle.”
Close-cropped young men would gaze at me with rapture; and then inquire:
“And do you do anything yourself, Mr. Jerome?”

But my case was not so bad as that of a friend of mine, a doctor.  He
married a leading actress, and was known ever afterwards as “Miss B—’s

At public dinners, where one takes one’s seat for the evening next to
someone that one possibly has never met before, and is never likely to
meet again, conversation is difficult and dangerous.  I remember talking
to a lady at a Vagabond Club dinner.  She asked me during the
_entree_—with a light laugh, as I afterwards recalled—what I thought,
candidly, of the last book of a certain celebrated authoress.  I told
her, and a coldness sprang up between us.  She happened to be the certain
celebrated authoress; she had changed her place at the last moment so as
to avoid sitting next to another lady novelist, whom she hated.

One has to shift oneself, sometimes, on these occasions.  A newspaper man
came up to me last Ninth of November at the Mansion House.

“Would you mind changing seats with me?” he asked.  “It’s a bit awkward.
They’ve put me next to my first wife.”

I had a troubled evening myself once long ago.  I accompanied a young
widow lady to a musical At Home, given by a lady who had more
acquaintances than she knew.  We met the butler at the top of the stairs.
My friend spoke first:

“Say Mrs. Dash and—”

The butler did not wait for more—he was a youngish man—but shouted out:

“Mr. and Mrs. Dash.”

“My dear! how very quiet you have kept!” cried our hostess delighted.
“Do let me congratulate you.”

The crush was too great and our hostess too distracted at the moment for
any explanations.  We were swept away, and both of us spent the remainder
of the evening feebly protesting our singleness.

If it had happened on the stage it would have taken us the whole play to
get out of it.  Stage people are not allowed to put things right when
mistakes are made with their identity.  If the light comedian is
expecting a plumber, the first man that comes into the drawing-room has
got to be a plumber.  He is not allowed to point out that he never was a
plumber; that he doesn’t look like a plumber; that no one not an idiot
would mistake him for a plumber.  He has got to be shut up in the
bath-room and have water poured over him, just as if he were a plumber—a
stage plumber, that is.  Not till right away at the end of the last act
is he permitted to remark that he happens to be the new curate.

I sat out a play once at which most people laughed.  It made me sad.  A
dear old lady entered towards the end of the first act.  We knew she was
the aunt.  Nobody can possibly mistake the stage aunt—except the people
on the stage.  They, of course, mistook her for a circus rider, and shut
her up in a cupboard.  It is what cupboards seem to be reserved for on
the stage.  Nothing is ever put in them excepting the hero’s relations.
When she wasn’t in the cupboard she was in a clothes basket, or tied up
in a curtain.  All she need have done was to hold on to something while
remarking to the hero:

“If you’ll stop shouting and jumping about for just ten seconds, and give
me a chance to observe that I am your maiden aunt from Devonshire, all
this tomfoolery can be avoided.”

That would have ended it.  As a matter of fact that did end it five
minutes past eleven.  It hadn’t occurred to her to say it before.

In real life I never knew but of one case where a man suffered in silence
unpleasantness he could have ended with a word; and that was the case of
the late Corney Grain.  He had been engaged to give his entertainment at
a country house.  The lady was a _nouvelle riche_ of snobbish instincts.
She left instructions that Corney Grain when he arrived was to dine with
the servants.  The butler, who knew better, apologised; but Corney was a
man not easily disconcerted.  He dined well, and after dinner rose and
addressed the assembled company.

“Well, now, my good friends,” said Corney, “if we have all finished, and
if you are all agreeable, I shall be pleased to present to you my little

The servants cheered.  The piano was dispensed with.  Corney contrived to
amuse his audience very well for half-an-hour without it.  At ten o’clock
came down a message: Would Mr. Corney Grain come up into the
drawing-room.  Corney went.  The company in the drawing-room were
waiting, seated.

“We are ready, Mr. Grain,” remarked the hostess.

“Ready for what?” demanded Corney.

“For your entertainment,” answered the hostess.

“But I have given it already,” explained Corney; “and my engagement was
for one performance only.”

“Given it!  Where?  When?”

“An hour ago, downstairs.”

“But this is nonsense,” exclaimed the hostess.

“It seemed to me somewhat unusual,” Corney replied; “but it has always
been my privilege to dine with the company I am asked to entertain.  I
took it you had arranged a little treat for the servants.”

And Corney left to catch his train.

Another entertainer told me the following story, although a joke against
himself.  He and Corney Grain were sharing a cottage on the river.  A man
called early one morning to discuss affairs, and was talking to Corney in
the parlour, which was on the ground floor.  The window was open.  The
other entertainer—the man who told me the story—was dressing in the room
above.  Thinking he recognised the voice of the visitor below, he leant
out of his bedroom window to hear better.  He leant too far, and dived
head foremost into a bed of flowers, his bare legs—and only his bare
legs—showing through the open window of the parlour.

“Good gracious!” exclaimed the visitor, turning at the moment and seeing
a pair of wriggling legs above the window sill; “who’s that?”

Corney fixed his eyeglass and strolled to the window.

“Oh, it’s only What’s-his-name,” he explained.  “Wonderful spirits.  Can
be funny in the morning.”


PRETTY women are going to have a hard time of it later on.  Hitherto,
they have had things far too much their own way.  In the future there are
going to be no pretty girls, for the simple reason there will be no plain
girls against which to contrast them.  Of late I have done some
systematic reading of ladies’ papers.  The plain girl submits to a course
of “treatment.”  In eighteen months she bursts upon Society an
acknowledged beauty.  And it is all done by kindness.  One girl writes:

“Only a little while ago I used to look at myself in the glass and cry.
Now I look at myself and laugh.”

The letter is accompanied by two photographs of the young lady.  I should
have cried myself had I seen her as she was at first.  She was a stumpy,
flat-headed, squat-nosed, cross-eyed thing.  She did not even look good.
One virtue she appears to have had, however.  It was faith.  She believed
what the label said, she did what the label told her.  She is now a tall,
ravishing young person, her only trouble being, I should say, to know
what to do with her hair—it reaches to her knees and must be a nuisance
to her.  She would do better to give some of it away.  Taking this young
lady as a text, it means that the girl who declines to be a dream of
loveliness does so out of obstinacy.  What the raw material may be does
not appear to matter.  Provided no feature is absolutely missing, the
result is one and the same.

Arrived at years of discretion, the maiden proceeds to choose the style
of beauty she prefers.  Will she be a Juno, a Venus, or a Helen?  Will
she have a Grecian nose, or one tip-tilted like the petal of a rose?  Let
her try the tip-tilted style first.  The professor has an idea it is
going to be fashionable.  If afterwards she does not like it, there will
be time to try the Grecian.  It is difficult to decide these points
without experiment.

Would the lady like a high or a low forehead?  Some ladies like to look
intelligent.  It is purely a matter of taste.  With the Grecian nose, the
low broad forehead perhaps goes better.  It is more according to
precedent.  On the other hand, the high brainy forehead would be more
original.  It is for the lady herself to select.

We come to the question of eyes.  The lady fancies a delicate blue, not
too pronounced a colour—one of those useful shades that go with almost
everything.  At the same time there should be depth and passion.  The
professor understands exactly the sort of eye the lady means.  But it
will be expensive.  There is a cheap quality; the professor does not
recommend it.  True that it passes muster by gaslight, but the sunlight
shows it up.  It lacks tenderness, and at the price you can hardly expect
it to contain much hidden meaning.  The professor advises the melting,
Oh-George-take-me-in-your-arms-and-still-my-foolish-fears brand.  It
costs a little more, but it pays for itself in the end.

Perhaps it will be best, now the eye has been fixed upon, to discuss the
question of the hair.  The professor opens his book of patterns.  Maybe
the lady is of a wilful disposition.  She loves to run laughing through
the woods during exceptionally rainy weather; or to gallop across the
downs without a hat, her fair ringlets streaming in the wind, the old
family coachman panting and expostulating in the rear.  If one may trust
the popular novel, extremely satisfactory husbands have often been
secured in this way.  You naturally look at a girl who is walking through
a wood, laughing heartily apparently for no other reason than because it
is raining—who rides at stretch gallop without a hat.  If you have
nothing else to do, you follow her.  It is always on the cards that such
a girl may do something really amusing before she gets home.  Thus things

To a girl of this kind, naturally curly hair is essential.  It must be
the sort of hair that looks better when it is soaking wet.  The bottle of
stuff that makes this particular hair to grow may be considered dear, if
you think merely of the price.  But that is not the way to look at it.
“What is it going to do for me?”  That is what the girl has got to ask
herself.  It does not do to spoil the ship for a ha’porth of tar, as the
saying is.  If you are going to be a dashing, wilful beauty, you must
have the hair for it, or the whole scheme falls to the ground.

Eyebrows and eyelashes, the professor assumes, the lady would like to
match the hair.  Too much eccentricity the professor does not agree with.
Nature, after all, is the best guide; neatness combined with taste, that
is the ideal to be aimed at.  The eyebrows should be almost straight, the
professor thinks; the eyelashes long and silky, with just the suspicion
of a curl.  The professor would also suggest a little less cheekbone.
Cheekbones are being worn low this season.

Will the lady have a dimpled chin, or does she fancy the square-cut jaw?
Maybe the square-cut jaw and the firm, sweet mouth are more suitable for
the married woman.  They go well enough with the baby and the tea-urn,
and the strong, proud man in the background.  For the unmarried girl the
dimpled chin and the rosebud mouth are, perhaps, on the whole safer.
Some gentlemen are so nervous of that firm, square jaw.  For the present,
at all events, let us keep to the rosebud and the dimple.

Complexion!  Well, there is only one complexion worth considering—a
creamy white, relieved by delicate peach pink.  It goes with everything,
and is always effective.  Rich olives, striking pallors—yes, you hear of
these things doing well.  The professor’s experience, however, is that
for all-round work you will never improve upon the plain white and pink.
It is less liable to get out of order, and is the easiest at all times to

For the figure, the professor recommends something lithe and supple.
Five foot four is a good height, but that is a point that should be
discussed first with the dressmaker.  For trains, five foot six is,
perhaps, preferable.  But for the sporting girl, who has to wear short
frocks, that height would, of course, be impossible.

The bust and the waist are also points on which the dressmaker should be
consulted.  Nothing should be done in a hurry.  What is the fashion going
to be for the next two or three seasons?  There are styles demanding that
beginning at the neck you should curve out, like a pouter pigeon.  There
is apparently no difficulty whatever in obtaining this result.  But if
crinolines, for instance, are likely to come in again!  The lady has only
to imagine it for herself: the effect might be grotesque, suggestive of a
walking hour-glass.  So, too, with the waist.  For some fashions it is
better to have it just a foot from the neck.  At other times it is more
useful lower down.  The lady will kindly think over these details and let
the professor know.  While one is about it, one may as well make a sound

It is all so simple, and, when you come to think of it, really not
expensive.  Age, apparently, makes no difference.  A woman is as old as
she looks.  In future, I take it, there will be no ladies over
five-and-twenty.  Wrinkles!  Why any lady should still persist in wearing
them is a mystery to me.  With a moderate amount of care any middle-class
woman could save enough out of the housekeeping money in a month to get
rid of every one of them.  Grey hair!  Well, of course, if you cling to
grey hair, there is no more to be said.  But to ladies who would just as
soon have rich wavy-brown or a delicate shade of gold, I would point out
that there are one hundred and forty-seven inexpensive lotions on the
market, any one of which, rubbed gently into the head with a tooth-brush
(not too hard) just before going to bed will, to use a colloquialism, do
the trick.

Are you too stout, or are you too thin?  All you have to do is to say
which, and enclose stamps.  But do not make a mistake and send for the
wrong recipe.  If you are already too thin, you might in consequence
suddenly disappear before you found out your mistake.  One very stout
lady I knew worked at herself for eighteen months and got stouter every
day.  This discouraged her so much that she gave up trying.  No doubt she
had made a muddle and had sent for the wrong bottle, but she would not
listen to further advice.  She said she was tired of the whole thing.

In future years there will be no need for a young man to look about him
for a wife; he will take the nearest girl, tell her his ideal, and, if
she really care for him, she will go to the shop and have herself fixed
up to his pattern.  In certain Eastern countries, I believe, something of
this kind is done.  A gentleman desirous of adding to his family sends
round the neighbourhood the weight and size of his favourite wife,
hinting that if another can be found of the same proportions, there is
room for her.  Fathers walk round among their daughters, choose the most
likely specimen, and have her fattened up.  That is their brutal Eastern
way.  Out West we shall be more delicate.  Match-making mothers will
probably revive the old confession book.  Eligible bachelors will be
invited to fill in a page: “Your favourite height in women,” “Your
favourite measurement round the waist,” “Do you like brunettes or

The choice will be left to the girls.

“I do think Henry William just too sweet for words,” the maiden of the
future will murmur to herself.  Gently, coyly, she will draw from him his
ideal of what a woman should be.  In from six months to a year she will
burst upon him, the perfect She; height, size, weight, right to a T.  He
will clasp her in his arms.

“At last,” he will cry, “I have found her, the woman of my dreams.”

And if he does not change his mind, and the bottles do not begin to lose
their effect, there will be every chance that they will be happy ever

Might not Science go even further?  Why rest satisfied with making a
world of merely beautiful women?  Cannot Science, while she is about it,
make them all good at the same time.  I do not apologise for the
suggestion.  I used to think all women beautiful and good.  It is their
own papers that have disillusioned me.  I used to look at this lady or at
that—shyly, when nobody seemed to be noticing me—and think how fair she
was, how stately.  Now I only wonder who is her chemist.

They used to tell me, when I was a little boy, that girls were made of
sugar and spice.  I know better now.  I have read the recipes in the
Answers to Correspondents.

When I was quite a young man I used to sit in dark corners and listen,
with swelling heart, while people at the piano told me where little girl
babies got their wonderful eyes from, of the things they did to them in
heaven that gave them dimples.  Ah me!  I wish now I had never come
across those ladies’ papers.  I know the stuff that causes those
bewitching eyes.  I know the shop where they make those dimples; I have
passed it and looked in.  I thought they were produced by angels’ kisses,
but there was not an angel about the place, that I could see.  Perhaps I
have also been deceived as regards their goodness.  Maybe all women are
not so perfect as in the popular short story they appear to be.  That is
why I suggest that Science should proceed still further, and make them
all as beautiful in mind as she is now able to make them in body.  May we
not live to see in the advertisement columns of the ladies’ paper of the
future the portrait of a young girl sulking in a corner—“Before taking
the lotion!”  The same girl dancing among her little brothers and
sisters, shedding sunlight through the home—“After the three first
bottles!”  May we not have the Caudle Mixture: One tablespoonful at
bed-time guaranteed to make the lady murmur, “Good-night, dear; hope
you’ll sleep well,” and at once to fall asleep, her lips parted in a
smile?  Maybe some specialist of the future will advertise Mind Massage:
“Warranted to remove from the most obstinate subject all traces of
hatred, envy, and malice.”

And, when Science has done everything possible for women, there might be
no harm in her turning her attention to us men.  Her idea at present
seems to be that we men are too beautiful, physically and morally, to
need improvement.  Personally, there are one or two points about which I
should like to consult her.


THERE is so much I could do to improve things generally in and about
Europe, if only I had a free hand.  I should not propose any great
fundamental changes.  These poor people have got used to their own ways;
it would be unwise to reform them all at once.  But there are many little
odds and ends that I could do for them, so many of their mistakes I could
correct for them.  They do not know this.  If they only knew there was a
man living in their midst willing to take them in hand and arrange things
for them, how glad they would be.  But the story is always the same.  One
reads it in the advertisements of the matrimonial column:

“A lady, young, said to be good-looking”—she herself is not sure on the
point; she feels that possibly she may be prejudiced; she puts before you
merely the current gossip of the neighbourhood; people say she is
beautiful; they may be right, they may be wrong: it is not for her to
decide—“well-educated, of affectionate disposition, possessed of means,
desires to meet gentleman with a view to matrimony.”

Immediately underneath one reads of a gentleman of twenty-eight, “tall,
fair, considered agreeable.”  Really the modesty of the matrimonial
advertiser teaches to us ordinary mortals quite a beautiful lesson.  I
know instinctively that were anybody to ask me suddenly:

“Do you call yourself an agreeable man?” I should answer promptly:

“An agreeable man!  Of course I’m an agreeable man.  What silly questions
you do ask!”  If he persisted in arguing the matter, saying:

“But there are people who do not consider you an agreeable man.”  I
should get angry with him.

“Oh, they think that, do they?” I should say.  “Well, you tell them from
me, with my compliments, that they are a set of blithering idiots.  Not
agreeable!  You show me the man who says I’m not agreeable.  I’ll soon
let him know whether I’m agreeable or not.”

These young men seeking a wife are silent on the subject of their own
virtues.  Such are for others to discover.  The matrimonial advertiser
confines himself to a simple statement of fact: “he is considered
agreeable.”  He is domestically inclined, and in receipt of a good
income.  He is desirous of meeting a lady of serious disposition, with
view to matrimony.  If possessed of means—well, it is a trifle hardly
worth considering one way or the other.  He does not insist upon it; on
the other hand he does not exclude ladies of means; the main idea is

It is sad to reflect upon a young lady, said to be good-looking (let us
say good-looking and be done with it: a neighbourhood does not rise up
and declare a girl good-looking if she is not good-looking, that is only
her modest way of putting it), let us say a young lady, good-looking,
well-educated, of affectionate disposition—it is undeniably sad to
reflect that such an one, matrimonially inclined, should be compelled to
have recourse to the columns of a matrimonial journal.  What are the
young men in the neighbourhood thinking of?  What more do they want?  Is
it Venus come to life again with ten thousand a year that they are
waiting for!  It makes me angry with my own sex reading these
advertisements.  And when one thinks of the girls that do get married!

But life is a mystery.  The fact remains: here is the ideal wife seeking
in vain for a husband.  And here, immediately underneath—I will not say
the ideal husband, he may have faults; none of us are perfect, but as men
go a decided acquisition to any domestic hearth, an agreeable gentleman,
fond of home life, none of your gad-abouts—calls aloud to the four winds
for a wife—any sort of a wife, provided she be of a serious disposition.
In his despair, he has grown indifferent to all other considerations.
“Is there in this world,” he has said to himself, “one unmarried woman,
willing to marry me, an agreeable man, in receipt of a good income.”
Possibly enough this twain have passed one another in the street, have
sat side by side in the same tram-car, never guessing, each one, that the
other was the very article of which they were in want to make life

Mistresses in search of a servant, not so much with the idea of getting
work out of her, rather with the object of making her happy, advertise on
one page.  On the opposite page, domestic treasures—disciples of Carlyle,
apparently, with a passionate love of work for its own sake—are seeking
situations, not so much with the desire of gain as with the hope of
finding openings where they may enjoy the luxury of feeling they are
leading useful lives.  These philanthropic mistresses, these toil-loving
hand-maidens, have lived side by side in the same town for years, never
knowing one another.

So it is with these poor European peoples.  They pass me in the street.
They do not guess that I am ready and willing to take them under my care,
to teach them common sense with a smattering of intelligence—to be, as
one might say, a father to them.  They look at me.  There is nothing
about me to tell them that I know what is good for them better than they
do themselves.  In the fairy tales the wise man wore a conical hat and a
long robe with twiddly things all round the edge.  You knew he was a
clever man.  It avoided the necessity of explanation.  Unfortunately, the
fashion has gone out.  We wise men have to wear just ordinary clothes.
Nobody knows we are wise men.  Even when we tell them so, they don’t
believe it.  This it is that makes our task the more difficult.

One of the first things I should take in hand, were European affairs
handed over to my control, would be the rearrangement of the Carnival.
As matters are, the Carnival takes place all over Europe in February.  At
Nice, in Spain, or in Italy, it may be occasionally possible to feel you
want to dance about the streets in thin costume during February.  But in
more northern countries during Carnival time I have seen only one
sensible masker; he was a man who had got himself up as a diver.  It was
in Antwerp.  The rain was pouring down in torrents; a cheery, boisterous
John Bull sort of an east wind was blustering through the streets at the
rate of fifteen miles an hour.  Pierrots, with frozen hands, were blowing
blue noses.  An elderly Cupid had borrowed an umbrella from a café and
was waiting for a tram.  A very little devil was crying with the cold,
and wiping his eyes with the end of his own tail.  Every doorway was
crowded with shivering maskers.  The diver alone walked erect, the water
streaming from him.

February is not the month for open air masquerading.  The “confetti,”
which has come to be nothing but coloured paper cut into small discs, is
a sodden mass.  When a lump of it strikes you in the eye, your instinct
is not to laugh gaily, but to find out the man who threw it and to hit
him back.  This is not the true spirit of Carnival.  The marvel is that,
in spite of the almost invariably adverse weather, these Carnivals still
continue.  In Belgium, where Romanism still remains the dominant
religion, Carnival maintains itself stronger than elsewhere in Northern

At one small town, Binche, near the French border, it holds uninterrupted
sway for three days and two nights, during which time the whole of the
population, swelled by visitors from twenty miles round, shouts, romps,
eats and drinks and dances.  After which the visitors are packed like
sardines into railway trains.  They pin their tickets to their coats and
promptly go to sleep.  At every station the railway officials stumble up
and down the trains with lanterns.  The last feeble effort of the more
wakeful reveller, before he adds himself to the heap of snoring humanity
on the floor of the railway carriage, is to change the tickets of a
couple of his unconscious companions.  In this way gentlemen for the east
are dragged out by the legs at junctions, and packed into trains going
west; while southern fathers are shot out in the chill dawn at lonely
northern stations, to find themselves greeted with enthusiasm by other
people’s families.

At Binche, they say—I have not counted them myself—that thirty thousand
maskers can be seen dancing at the same time.  When they are not dancing
they are throwing oranges at one another.  The houses board up their
windows.  The restaurants take down their mirrors and hide away the
glasses.  If I went masquerading at Binche I should go as a man in
armour, period Henry the Seventh.

“Doesn’t it hurt,” I asked a lady who had been there, “having oranges
thrown at you?  Which sort do they use, speaking generally, those fine
juicy ones—Javas I think you call them—or the little hard brand with
skins like a nutmeg-grater?  And if both sorts are used indiscriminately,
which do you personally prefer?”

“The smart people,” she answered, “they are the same everywhere—they must
be extravagant—they use the Java orange.  If it hits you in the back I
prefer the Java orange.  It is more messy than the other, but it does not
leave you with that curious sensation of having been temporarily stunned.
Most people, of course, make use of the small hard orange.  If you duck
in time, and so catch it on the top of your head, it does not hurt so
much as you would think.  If, however, it hits you on a tender
place—well, myself, I always find that a little sal volatile, with old
cognac—half and half, you understand—is about the best thing.  But it
only happens once a year,” she added.

Nearly every town gives prizes for the best group of maskers.  In some
cases the first prize amounts to as much as two hundred pounds.  The
butchers, the bakers, the candlestick makers, join together and compete.
They arrive in wagons, each group with its band.  Free trade is
encouraged.  Each neighbouring town and village “dumps” its load of
picturesque merry-makers.

It is in these smaller towns that the spirit of King Carnival finds
happiest expression.  Almost every third inhabitant takes part in the
fun.  In Brussels and the larger towns the thing appears ridiculous.  A
few hundred maskers force their way with difficulty through thousands of
dull-clad spectators, looking like a Spanish river in the summer time, a
feeble stream, dribbling through acres of muddy bank.  At Charleroi, the
centre of the Belgian Black Country, the chief feature of the Carnival is
the dancing of the children.  A space is specially roped off for them.

If by chance the sun is kind enough to shine, the sight is a pretty one.
How they love the dressing up and the acting, these small mites!  One
young hussy—she could hardly have been more than ten—was gotten up as a
haughty young lady.  Maybe some elder sister had served as a model.  She
wore a tremendous wig of flaxen hair, a hat that I guarantee would have
made its mark even at Ascot on the Cup Day, a skirt that trailed two
yards behind her, a pair of what had once been white kid gloves, and a
blue silk parasol.  Dignity!  I have seen the offended barmaid, I have
met the chorus girl—not by appointment, please don’t misunderstand me,
merely as a spectator—up the river on Sunday.  But never have I witnessed
in any human being so much hauteur to the pound _avoir-dupois_ as was
carried through the streets of Charleroi by that small brat.  Companions
of other days, mere vulgar boys and girls, claimed acquaintance with her.
She passed them with a stare of such utter disdain that it sent them
tumbling over one another backwards.  By the time they had recovered
themselves sufficiently to think of an old tin kettle lying handy in the
gutter she had turned the corner.

Two miserably clad urchins, unable to scrape together the few _sous_
necessary for the hire of a rag or two, had nevertheless determined not
to be altogether out of it.  They had managed to borrow a couple of white
blouses—not what you would understand by a white blouse, dear Madame, a
dainty thing of frills and laces, but the coarse white sack the street
sweeper wears over his clothes.  They had also borrowed a couple of
brooms.  Ridiculous little objects they looked, the tiny head of each
showing above the great white shroud as gravely they walked, the one
behind the other, sweeping the mud into the gutter.  They also were of
the Carnival, playing at being scavengers.

Another quaint sight I witnessed.  The “serpentin” is a feature of the
Belgian Carnival.  It is a strip of coloured paper, some dozen yards
long, perhaps.  You fling it as you would a lassoo, entangling the head
of some passer-by.  Naturally, the object most aimed at by the Belgian
youth is the Belgian maiden.  And, naturally also, the maiden who finds
herself most entangled is the maiden who—to use again the language of the
matrimonial advertiser—“is considered good-looking.”  The serpentin about
her head is the “feather in her cap” of the Belgian maiden on Carnival
Day.  Coming suddenly round the corner I almost ran into a girl.  Her
back was towards me.  It was a quiet street.  She had half a dozen of
these serpentins.  Hurriedly, with trembling hands, she was twisting them
round and round her own head.  I looked at her as I passed.  She flushed
scarlet.  Poor little snub-nosed pasty-faced woman!  I wish she had not
seen me.  I could have bought sixpenny-worth, followed her, and tormented
her with them; while she would have pretended indignation—sought,
discreetly, to escape from me.

Down South, where the blood flows quicker, King Carnival is, indeed, a
jolly old soul.  In Munich he reigns for six weeks, the end coming with a
mad two days revel in the streets.  During the whole of the period, folks
in ordinary, every-day costume are regarded as curiosities; people wonder
what they are up to.  From the Grafin to the Dienstmädchen, from the Herr
Professor to the “Piccolo,” as they term the small artist that answers to
our page boy, the business of Munich is dancing, somewhere, somehow, in a
fancy costume.  Every theatre clears away the stage, every café crowds
its chairs and tables into corners, the very streets are cleared for
dancing.  Munich goes mad.

Munich is always a little mad.  The maddest ball I ever danced at was in
Munich.  I went there with a Harvard University professor.  He had been
told what these balls were like.  Ever seeking knowledge of all things,
he determined to take the matter up for himself and examine it.  The
writer also must ever be learning.  I agreed to accompany him.  We had
not intended to dance.  Our idea was that we could be indulgent
spectators, regarding from some coign of vantage the antics of the
foolish crowd.  The professor was clad as became a professor.  Myself, I
wore a simply-cut frock-coat, with trousering in French grey.  The
doorkeeper explained to us that this was a costume ball; he was sorry,
but gentlemen could only be admitted in evening dress or in masquerade.

It was half past one in the morning.  We had sat up late on purpose; we
had gone without our dinner; we had walked two miles.  The professor
suggested pinning up the tails of his clerically-cut coat and turning in
his waistcoat.  The doorkeeper feared it would not be quite the same
thing.  Besides, my French grey trousers refused to adapt themselves.
The doorkeeper proposed our hiring a costume—a little speculation of his
own; gentlemen found it simpler sometimes, especially married gentlemen,
to hire a costume in this manner, changing back into sober garments
before returning home.  It reduced the volume of necessary explanation.

“Have you anything, my good man,” said the professor, “anything that
would effect a complete disguise?”

The doorkeeper had the very thing—a Chinese arrangement, with combined
mask and wig.  It fitted neatly over the head, and was provided with a
simple but ingenious piece of mechanism by means of which much could be
done with the pigtail.  Myself the doorkeeper hid from view under the
cowl of a Carmelite monk.

“I do hope nobody recognises us,” whispered my friend the professor as we

I can only hope sincerely that they did not.  I do not wish to talk about
myself.  That would be egotism.  But the mystery of the professor
troubles me to this day.  A grave, earnest gentleman, the father of a
family, I saw him with my own eyes put that ridiculous pasteboard mask
over his head.  Later on—a good deal later on—I found myself walking
again with him through silent star-lit streets.  Where he had been in the
interval, and who then was the strange creature under the Chinaman’s
mask, will always remain to me an unsolved problem.


IT was in Paris, many years ago, that I fell by chance into this habit of
early rising.  My night—by reasons that I need not enter into—had been a
troubled one.  Tired of the hot bed that gave no sleep, I rose and
dressed myself, crept down the creaking stairs, experiencing the
sensations of a burglar new to his profession, unbolted the great door of
the hotel, and passed out into an unknown, silent city, bathed in a
mysterious soft light.  Since then, this strange sweet city of the dawn
has never ceased to call to me.  It may be in London, in Paris again, in
Brussels, Berlin, Vienna, that I have gone to sleep, but if perchance I
wake before the returning tide of human life has dimmed its glories with
the mists and vapours of the noisy day, I know that beyond my window
blind the fairy city, as I saw it first so many years ago—this city that
knows no tears, no sorrow, through which there creeps no evil thing; this
city of quiet vistas, fading into hope; this city of far-off voices
whispering peace; this city of the dawn that still is young—invites me to
talk with it awhile before the waking hours drive it before them, and
with a sigh it passes whence it came.

It is the great city’s one hour of purity, of dignity.  The very
rag-picker, groping with her filthy hands among the ashes, instead of an
object of contempt, moves from door to door an accusing Figure, her thin
soiled garments, her bent body, her scarred face, hideous with the wounds
of poverty, an eloquent indictment of smug Injustice, sleeping behind its
deaf shutters.  Yet even into her dim brain has sunk the peace that fills
for this brief hour the city.  This, too, shall have its end, my sister!
Men and women were not born to live on the husks that fill the pails
outside the rich man’s door.  Courage a little while longer, you and
yours.  Your rheumy eyes once were bright, your thin locks once soft and
wavy, your poor bent back once straight; and maybe, as they tell you in
their gilded churches, this bulging sack shall be lifted from your weary
shoulders, your misshapen limbs be straight again.  You pass not
altogether unheeded through these empty streets.  Not all the eyes of the
universe are sleeping.

The little seamstress, hurrying to her early work!  A little later she
will be one of the foolish crowd, joining in the foolish laughter, in the
coarse jests of the work-room: but as yet the hot day has not claimed
her.  The work-room is far beyond, the home of mean cares and sordid
struggles far behind.  To her, also, in this moment are the sweet
thoughts of womanhood.  She puts down her bag, rests herself upon a seat.
If all the day were dawn, this city of the morning always with us!  A
neighbouring clock chimes forth the hour.  She starts up from her dream
and hurries on—to the noisy work-room.

A pair of lovers cross the park, holding each other’s hands.  They will
return later in the day, but there will be another expression in their
eyes, another meaning in the pressure of their hands.  Now the purity of
the morning is with them.

Some fat, middle-aged clerk comes puffing into view: his ridiculous
little figure very podgy.  He stops to take off his hat and mop his bald
head with his handkerchief: even to him the morning lends romance.  His
fleshy face changes almost as one looks at him.  One sees again the lad
with his vague hopes, his absurd ambitions.

There is a statue of Aphrodite in one of the smaller Paris parks.  Twice
in the same week, without particularly meaning it, I found myself early
in the morning standing in front of this statue gazing listlessly at it,
as one does when in dreamy mood; and on both occasions, turning to go, I
encountered the same man, also gazing at it with, apparently, listless
eyes.  He was an uninteresting looking man—possibly he thought the same
of me.  From his dress he might have been a well-to-do tradesman, a minor
Government official, doctor, or lawyer.  Quite ten years later I paid my
third visit to the same statue at about the same hour.  This time he was
there before me.  I was hidden from him by some bushes.  He glanced round
but did not see me; and then he did a curious thing.  Placing his hands
on the top of the pedestal, which may have been some seven feet in
height, he drew himself up, and kissed very gently, almost reverentially,
the foot of the statue, begrimed though it was with the city’s dirt.  Had
he been some long-haired student of the Latin Quarter one would not have
been so astonished.  But he was such a very commonplace, quite
respectable looking man.  Afterwards he drew a pipe from his pocket,
carefully filled and lighted it, took his umbrella from the seat where it
had been lying, and walked away.

Had it been their meeting-place long ago?  Had he been wont to tell her,
gazing at her with lover’s eyes, how like she was to the statue?  The
French sculptor has not to consider Mrs. Grundy.  Maybe, the lady,
raising her eyes, had been confused; perhaps for a moment angry—some
little milliner or governess, one supposes.  In France the _jeune fille_
of good family does not meet her lover unattended.  What had happened?
Or was it but the vagrant fancy of a middle-aged bourgeois seeking in
imagination the romance that reality so rarely gives us, weaving his love
dream round his changeless statue?

In one of Ibsen’s bitter comedies the lovers agree to part while they are
still young, never to see each other in the flesh again.  Into the future
each will bear away the image of the other, godlike, radiant with the
glory of youth and love; each will cherish the memory of a loved one who
shall be beautiful always.  That their parting may not appear such wild
nonsense as at first it strikes us, Ibsen shows us other lovers who have
married in the orthodox fashion.  She was all that a mistress should be.
They speak of her as they first knew her fifteen years ago, when every
man was at her feet.  He then was a young student, burning with fine
ideals, with enthusiasm for all the humanities.

They enter.

What did you expect?  Fifteen years have passed—fifteen years of struggle
with the grim realities.  He is fat and bald.  Eleven children have to be
provided for.  High ideals will not even pay the bootmaker.  To exist you
have to fight for mean ends with mean weapons.  And the sweet girl
heroine!  Now the worried mother of eleven brats!  One rings down the
curtain amid Satanic laughter.

That is why, for one reason among so many, I love this mystic morning
light.  It has a strange power of revealing the beauty that is hidden
from us by the coarser beams of the full day.  These worn men and women,
grown so foolish looking, so unromantic; these artisans and petty clerks
plodding to their monotonous day’s work; these dull-eyed women of the
people on their way to market to haggle over _sous_, to argue and contend
over paltry handfuls of food.  In this magic morning light the disguising
body becomes transparent.  They have grown beautiful, not ugly, with the
years of toil and hardship; these lives, lived so patiently, are
consecrated to the service of the world.  Joy, hope, pleasure—they have
done with all such, life for them is over.  Yet they labour, ceaselessly,
uncomplainingly.  It is for the children.

One morning, near Brussels, I encountered a cart of faggots, drawn by a
hound so lean that stroking him might have hurt a dainty hand.  I was
shocked—angry, till I noticed his fellow beast of burden pushing the cart
from behind.  Such a scarecrow of an old woman!  There was little to
choose between them.  I walked with them a little way.  She lived near
Waterloo.  All day she gathered wood in the great forest, and starting at
three o’clock each morning, the two lean creatures between them dragged
the cart nine miles to Brussels, returning when they had sold their load.
With luck she might reckon on a couple of francs.  I asked her if she
could not find something else to do.

Yes, it was possible, but for the little one, her grandchild.  Folks will
not employ old women burdened with grandchildren.

You fair, dainty ladies, who would never know it was morning if somebody
did not enter to pull up the blind and tell you so!  You do well not to
venture out in this magic morning light.  You would look so plain—almost
ugly, by the side of these beautiful women.

It is curious the attraction the Church has always possessed for the
marketing classes.  Christ drove them from the Temple, but still, in
every continental city, they cluster round its outer walls.  It makes a
charming picture on a sunny morning, the great cathedral with its massive
shadow forming the background; splashed about its feet, like a parterre
of gay flowers around the trunk of some old tree, the women, young girls
in their many coloured costumes, sitting before their piled-up baskets of
green vegetables, of shining fruits.

In Brussels the chief market is held on the Grande Place.  The great
gilded houses have looked down upon much the same scene every morning
these four hundred years.  In summer time it commences about half-past
four; by five o’clock it is a roaring hive, the great city round about
still sleeping.

Here comes the thrifty housewife of the poor, to whom the difference of a
tenth of a penny in the price of a cabbage is all-important, and the much
harassed keeper of the petty _pension_.  There are houses in Brussels
where they will feed you, light you, sleep you, wait on you, for two
francs a day.  Withered old ladies, ancient governesses, who will teach
you for forty centimes an hour, gather round these ricketty tables, wolf
up the thin soup, grumble at the watery coffee, help themselves with
unladylike greediness to the potato pie.  It must need careful
housewifery to keep these poor creatures on two francs a day and make a
profit for yourself.  So “Madame,” the much-grumbled-at, who has gone to
bed about twelve, rises a little before five, makes her way down with her
basket.  Thus a few _sous_ may be saved upon the day’s economies.

Sometimes it is a mere child who is the little housekeeper.  One thinks
that perhaps this early training in the art of haggling may not be good
for her.  Already there is a hard expression in the childish eyes, mean
lines about the little mouth.  The finer qualities of humanity are
expensive luxuries, not to be afforded by the poor.

They overwork their patient dogs, and underfeed them.  During the two
hours’ market the poor beasts, still fastened to their little “chariots,”
rest in the open space about the neighbouring Bourse.  They snatch at
what you throw them; they do not even thank you with a wag of the tail.
Gratitude!  Politeness!  What mean you?  We have not heard of such.  We
only work.  Some of them amid all the din lie sleeping between their
shafts.  Some are licking one another’s sores.  One would they were
better treated; alas! their owners, likewise, are overworked and
underfed, housed in kennels no better.  But if the majority in every
society were not overworked and underfed and meanly housed, why, then the
minority could not be underworked and overfed and housed luxuriously.
But this is talk to which no respectable reader can be expected to

They are one babel of bargaining, these markets.  The purchaser selects a
cauliflower.  Fortunately, cauliflowers have no feelings, or probably it
would burst into tears at the expression with which it is regarded.  It
is impossible that any lady should desire such a cauliflower.  Still, out
of mere curiosity, she would know the price—that is, if the owner of the
cauliflower is not too much ashamed of it to name a price.

The owner of the cauliflower suggests six _sous_.  The thing is too
ridiculous for argument.  The purchaser breaks into a laugh.

The owner of the cauliflower is stung.  She points out the beauties of
that cauliflower.  Apparently it is the cauliflower out of all her stock
she loves the best; a better cauliflower never lived; if there were more
cauliflowers in the world like this particular cauliflower things might
be different.  She gives a sketch of the cauliflower’s career, from its
youth upwards.  Hard enough it will be for her when the hour for parting
from it comes.  If the other lady has not sufficient knowledge of
cauliflowers to appreciate it, will she kindly not paw it about, but put
it down and go away, and never let the owner of the cauliflower see her

The other lady, more as a friend than as a purchaser, points out the
cauliflower’s defects.  She wishes well to the owner of the cauliflower,
and would like to teach her something about her business.  A lady who
thinks such a cauliflower worth six _sous_ can never hope to succeed as a
cauliflower vendor.  Has she really taken the trouble to examine the
cauliflower for herself, or has love made her blind to its shortcomings?

The owner of the cauliflower is too indignant to reply.  She snatches it
away, appears to be comforting it, replaces it in the basket.  The other
lady is grieved at human obstinacy and stupidity in general.  If the
owner of the cauliflower had had any sense she would have asked four
_sous_.  Eventually business is done at five.

It is the custom everywhere abroad—asking the price of a thing is simply
opening conversation.  A lady told me that, the first day she began
housekeeping in Florence, she handed over to a poulterer for a chicken
the price he had demanded—with protestations that he was losing on the
transaction, but wanted, for family reasons, apparently, to get rid of
the chicken.  He stood for half a minute staring at her, and then, being
an honest sort of man, threw in a pigeon.

Foreign housekeepers starting business in London appear hurt when our
tradesmen decline to accept half-a-crown for articles marked

“Then why mark it only three-and-sixpence?” is the foreign housekeeper’s


THAT we Englishmen attach too much importance to sport goes without
saying—or, rather, it has been said so often as to have become a
commonplace.  One of these days some reforming English novelist will
write a book, showing the evil effects of over-indulgence in sport: the
neglected business, the ruined home, the slow but sure sapping of the
brain—what there may have been of it in the beginning—leading to
semi-imbecility and yearly increasing obesity.

A young couple, I once heard of, went for their honeymoon to Scotland.
The poor girl did not know he was a golfer (he had wooed and won her
during a period of idleness enforced by a sprained shoulder), or maybe
she would have avoided Scotland.  The idea they started with was that of
a tour.  The second day the man went out for a stroll by himself.  At
dinner-time he observed, with a far-away look in his eyes, that it seemed
a pretty spot they had struck, and suggested their staying there another
day.  The next morning after breakfast he borrowed a club from the hotel
porter, and remarked that he would take a walk while she finished doing
her hair.  He said it amused him, swinging a club while he walked.  He
returned in time for lunch and seemed moody all the afternoon.  He said
the air suited him, and urged that they should linger yet another day.

She was young and inexperienced, and thought, maybe, it was liver.  She
had heard much about liver from her father.  The next morning he borrowed
more clubs, and went out, this time before breakfast, returning to a late
and not over sociable dinner.  That was the end of their honeymoon so far
as she was concerned.  He meant well, but the thing had gone too far.
The vice had entered into his blood, and the smell of the links drove out
all other considerations.

We are most of us familiar, I take it, with the story of the golfing
parson, who could not keep from swearing when the balls went wrong.

“Golf and the ministry don’t seem to go together,” his friend told him.
“Take my advice before it’s too late, and give it up, Tammas.”

A few months later Tammas met his friend again.

“You were right, Jamie,” cried the parson cheerily, “they didna run well
in harness; golf and the meenistry, I hae followed your advice: I hae
gi’en it oop.”

“Then what are ye doing with that sack of clubs?” inquired Jamie.

“What am I doing with them?” repeated the puzzled Tammas.  “Why I am
going to play golf with them.”  A light broke upon him.  “Great Heavens,
man!” he continued, “ye didna’ think ’twas the golf I’d gi’en oop?”

The Englishman does not understand play.  He makes a life-long labour of
his sport, and to it sacrifices mind and body.  The health resorts of
Europe—to paraphrase a famous saying that nobody appears to have
said—draw half their profits from the playing fields of Eton and
elsewhere.  In Swiss and German kurhausen enormously fat men bear down
upon you and explain to you that once they were the champion sprinters or
the high-jump representatives of their university—men who now hold on to
the bannisters and groan as they haul themselves upstairs.  Consumptive
men, between paroxysms of coughing, tell you of the goals they scored
when they were half-backs or forwards of extraordinary ability.
Ex-light-weight amateur pugilists, with the figure now of an American
roll-top desk, butt you into a corner of the billiard-room, and,
surprised they cannot get as near you as they would desire, whisper to
you the secret of avoiding the undercut by the swiftness of the backward
leap.  Broken-down tennis players, one-legged skaters, dropsical
gentlemen-riders, are to be met with hobbling on crutches along every
highway of the Engadine.

They are pitiable objects.  Never having learnt to read anything but the
sporting papers, books are of no use to them.  They never wasted much of
their youth on thought, and, apparently, have lost the knack of it.  They
don’t care for art, and Nature only suggests to them the things they can
no longer do.  The snow-clad mountain reminds them that once they were
daring tobogannists; the undulating common makes them sad because they
can no longer handle a golf-club; by the riverside they sit down and tell
you of the salmon they caught before they caught rheumatic fever; birds
only make them long for guns; music raises visions of the local
cricket-match of long ago, enlivened by the local band; a picturesque
estaminet, with little tables spread out under the vines, recalls bitter
memories of ping-pong.  One is sorry for them, but their conversation is
not exhilarating.  The man who has other interests in life beyond sport
is apt to find their reminiscences monotonous; while to one another they
do not care to talk.  One gathers that they do not altogether believe one

The foreigner is taking kindly to our sports; one hopes he will be
forewarned by our example and not overdo the thing.  At present, one is
bound to admit, he shows no sign of taking sport too seriously.  Football
is gaining favour more and more throughout Europe.  But yet the Frenchman
has not got it out of his head that the _coup_ to practise is kicking the
ball high into the air and catching it upon his head.  He would rather
catch the ball upon his head than score a goal.  If he can manœuvre the
ball away into a corner, kick it up into the air twice running, and each
time catch it on his head, he does not seem to care what happens after
that.  Anybody can have the ball; he has had his game and is happy.

They talk of introducing cricket into Belgium; I shall certainly try to
be present at the opening game.  I am afraid that, until he learns from
experience, the Belgian fielder will stop cricket balls with his head.
That the head is the proper thing with which to play ball appears to be
in his blood.  My head is round, he argues, and hard, just like the ball
itself; what part of the human frame more fit and proper with which to
meet and stop a ball.

Golf has not yet caught on, but tennis is firmly established from St.
Petersburg to Bordeaux.  The German, with the thoroughness characteristic
of him, is working hard.  University professors, stout majors, rising
early in the morning, hire boys and practise back-handers and
half-volleys.  But to the Frenchman, as yet, it is a game.  He plays it
in a happy, merry fashion, that is shocking to English eyes.

Your partner’s service rather astonishes you.  An occasional yard or so
beyond the line happens to anyone, but this man’s object appears to be to
break windows.  You feel you really must remonstrate, when the joyous
laughter and tumultuous applause of the spectators explain the puzzle to
you.  He has not been trying to serve; he has been trying to hit a man in
the next court who is stooping down to tie up his shoe-lace.  With his
last ball he has succeeded.  He has hit the man in the small of the back,
and has bowled him over.  The unanimous opinion of the surrounding
critics is that the ball could not possibly have been better placed.  A
Doherty has never won greater applause from the crowd.  Even the man who
has been hit appears pleased; it shows what a Frenchman can do when he
does take up a game.

But French honour demands revenge.  He forgets his shoe, he forgets his
game.  He gathers together all the balls that he can find; his balls,
your balls, anybody’s balls that happen to be handy.  And then commences
the return match.  At this point it is best to crouch down under shelter
of the net.  Most of the players round about adopt this plan; the more
timid make for the club-house, and, finding themselves there, order
coffee and light up cigarettes.  After a while both players appear to be
satisfied.  The other players then gather round to claim their balls.
This makes a good game by itself.  The object is to get as many balls as
you can, your own and other people’s—for preference other people’s—and
run off with them round the courts, followed by whooping claimants.

In the course of half-an-hour or so, when everybody is dead beat, the
game—the original game—is resumed.  You demand the score; your partner
promptly says it is “forty-fifteen.”  Both your opponents rush up to the
net, and apparently there is going to be a duel.  It is only a friendly
altercation; they very much doubt its being “forty-fifteen.”
“Fifteen-forty” they could believe; they suggest it as a compromise.  The
discussion is concluded by calling it deuce.  As it is rare for a game to
proceed without some such incident occurring in the middle of it, the
score generally is deuce.  This avoids heart-burning; nobody wins a set
and nobody loses.  The one game generally suffices for the afternoon.

To the earnest player, it is also confusing to miss your partner
occasionally—to turn round and find that he is talking to a man.  Nobody
but yourself takes the slightest objection to his absence.  The other
side appear to regard it as a good opportunity to score.  Five minutes
later he resumes the game.  His friend comes with him, also the dog of
his friend.  The dog is welcomed with enthusiasm; all balls are returned
to the dog.  Until the dog is tired you do not get a look in.  But all
this will no doubt soon be changed.  There are some excellent French and
Belgian players; from them their compatriots will gradually learn higher
ideals.  The Frenchman is young in the game.  As the right conception of
the game grows upon him, he will also learn to keep the balls lower.

I suppose it is the continental sky.  It is so blue, so beautiful; it
naturally attracts one.  Anyhow, the fact remains that most tennis
players on the Continent, whether English or foreign, have a tendency to
aim the ball direct at Heaven.  At an English club in Switzerland there
existed in my days a young Englishman who was really a wonderful player.
To get the ball past him was almost an impossibility.  It was his return
that was weak.  He only had one stroke; the ball went a hundred feet or
so into the air and descended in his opponent’s court.  The other man
would stand watching it, a little speck in the Heavens, growing gradually
bigger and bigger as it neared the earth.  Newcomers would chatter to
him, thinking he had detected a balloon or an eagle.  He would wave them
aside, explain to them that he would talk to them later, after the
arrival of the ball.  It would fall with a thud at his feet, rise another
twenty yards or so and again descend.  When it was at the proper height
he would hit it back over the net, and the next moment it would be
mounting the sky again.  At tournaments I have seen that young man, with
tears in his eyes, pleading to be given an umpire.  Every umpire had
fled.  They hid behind trees, borrowed silk hats and umbrellas and
pretended they were visitors—any device, however mean, to avoid the task
of umpiring for that young man.  Provided his opponent did not go to
sleep or get cramp, one game might last all day.  Anyone could return his
balls; but, as I have said, to get a ball past him was almost an
impossibility.  He invariably won; the other man, after an hour or so,
would get mad and try to lose.  It was his only chance of dinner.

It is a pretty sight, generally speaking, a tennis ground abroad.  The
women pay more attention to their costumes than do our lady players.  The
men are usually in spotless white.  The ground is often charmingly
situated, the club-house picturesque; there is always laughter and
merriment.  The play may not be so good to watch, but the picture is
delightful.  I accompanied a man a little while ago to his club on the
outskirts of Brussels.  The ground was bordered by a wood on one side,
and surrounded on the other three by _petites fermes_—allotments, as we
should call them in England, worked by the peasants themselves.

It was a glorious spring afternoon.  The courts were crowded.  The red
earth and the green grass formed a background against which the women, in
their new Parisian toilets, under their bright parasols, stood out like
wondrous bouquets of moving flowers.  The whole atmosphere was a
delightful mingling of idle gaiety, flirtation, and graceful
sensuousness.  A modern Watteau would have seized upon the scene with

Just beyond—separated by the almost invisible wire fencing—a group of
peasants were working in the field.  An old woman and a young girl, with
ropes about their shoulders, were drawing a harrow, guided by a withered
old scarecrow of a man.  They paused for a moment at the wire fencing,
and looked through.  It was an odd contrast; the two worlds divided by
that wire fencing—so slight, almost invisible.  The girl swept the sweat
from her face with her hand; the woman pushed back her grey locks
underneath the handkerchief knotted about her head; the old man
straightened himself with some difficulty.  So they stood, for perhaps a
minute, gazing with quiet, passionless faces through that slight fencing,
that a push from their work-hardened hands might have levelled.

Was there any thought, I wonder, passing through their brains?  The young
girl—she was a handsome creature in spite of her disfiguring garments.
The woman—it was a wonderfully fine face: clear, calm eyes, deep-set
under a square broad brow.  The withered old scarecrow—ever sowing the
seed in the spring of the fruit that others shall eat.

The old man bent again over the guiding ropes: gave the word.  The team
moved forward up the hill.  It is Anatole France, I think, who says:
Society is based upon the patience of the poor.


I AM chary nowadays of offering counsel in connection with subjects
concerning which I am not and cannot be an authority.  Long ago I once
took upon myself to write a paper about babies.  It did not aim to be a
textbook on the subject.  It did not even claim to exhaust the topic.  I
was willing that others, coming after me, should continue the
argument—that is if, upon reflection, they were still of opinion there
was anything more to be said.  I was pleased with the article.  I went
out of my way to obtain an early copy of the magazine in which it
appeared, on purpose to show it to a lady friend of mine.  She was the
possessor of one or two babies of her own, specimens in no way
remarkable, though she herself, as was natural enough, did her best to
boom them.  I thought it might be helpful to her: the views and
observations, not of a rival fancier, who would be prejudiced, but of an
intelligent amateur.  I put the magazine into her hands, opened at the
proper place.

“Read it through carefully and quietly,” I said; “don’t let anything
distract you.  Have a pencil and a bit of paper ready at your side, and
note down any points upon which you would like further information.  If
there is anything you think I have missed out let me know.  It may be
that here and there you will be disagreeing with me.  If so, do not
hesitate to mention it, I shall not be angry.  If a demand arises I shall
very likely issue an enlarged and improved edition of this paper in the
form of a pamphlet, in which case hints and suggestions that to you may
appear almost impertinent will be of distinct help to me.”

“I haven’t got a pencil,” she said; “what’s it all about?”

“It’s about babies,” I explained, and I lent her a pencil.

That is another thing I have learnt.  Never lend a pencil to a woman if
you ever want to see it again.  She has three answers to your request for
its return.  The first, that she gave it back to you and that you put it
in your pocket, and that it’s there now, and that if it isn’t it ought to
be.  The second, that you never lent it to her.  The third, that she
wishes people would not lend her pencils and then clamour for them back,
just when she has something else far more important to think about.

“What do you know about babies?” she demanded.

“If you will read the paper,” I replied, “you will see for yourself.
It’s all there.”

She flicked over the pages contemptuously.

“There doesn’t seem much of it?” she retorted.

“It is condensed,” I pointed out to her.

“I am glad it is short.  All right, I’ll read it,” she agreed.

I thought my presence might disturb her, so went out into the garden.  I
wanted her to get the full benefit of it.  I crept back now and again to
peep through the open window.  She did not seem to be making many notes.
But I heard her making little noises to herself.  When I saw she had
reached the last page, I re-entered the room.

“Well?” I said.

“Is it meant to be funny,” she demanded, “or is it intended to be taken

“There may be flashes of humour here and there—”

She did not wait for me to finish.

“Because if it’s meant to be funny,” she said, “I don’t think it is at
all funny.  And if it is intended to be serious, there’s one thing very
clear, and that is that you are not a mother.”

With the unerring instinct of the born critic she had divined my one weak
point.  Other objections raised against me I could have met.  But that
one stinging reproach was unanswerable.  It has made me, as I have
explained, chary of tendering advice on matters outside my own department
of life.  Otherwise, every year, about Valentine’s day, there is much
that I should like to say to my good friends the birds.  I want to put it
to them seriously.  Is not the month of February just a little too early?
Of course, their answer would be the same as in the case of my motherly

“Oh, what do you know about it? you are not a bird.”

I know I am not a bird, but that is the very reason why they should
listen to me.  I bring a fresh mind to bear upon the subject.  I am not
tied down by bird convention.  February, my dear friends—in these
northern climes of ours at all events—is much too early.  You have to
build in a high wind, and nothing, believe me, tries a lady’s temper more
than being blown about.  Nature is nature, and womenfolk, my dear sirs,
are the same all the world over, whether they be birds or whether they be
human.  I am an older person than most of you, and I speak with the
weight of experience.

If I were going to build a house with my wife, I should not choose a
season of the year when the bricks and planks and things were liable to
be torn out of her hand, her skirts blown over her head, and she left
clinging for dear life to a scaffolding pole.  I know the feminine biped
and, you take it from me, that is not her notion of a honeymoon.  In
April or May, the sun shining, the air balmy—when, after carrying up to
her a load or two of bricks, and a hod or two of mortar, we could knock
off work for a few minutes without fear of the whole house being swept
away into the next street—could sit side by side on the top of a wall,
our legs dangling down, and peck and morsel together; after which I could
whistle a bit to her—then housebuilding might be a pleasure.

The swallows are wisest; June is their idea, and a very good idea, too.
In a mountain village in the Tyrol, early one summer, I had the
opportunity of watching very closely the building of a swallow’s nest.
After coffee, the first morning, I stepped out from the great, cool, dark
passage of the wirtschaft into the blazing sunlight, and, for no
particular reason, pulled-to the massive door behind me.  While filling
my pipe, a swallow almost brushed by me, then wheeled round again, and
took up a position on the fence only a few yards from me.  He was
carrying what to him was an exceptionally large and heavy brick.  He put
it down beside him on the fence, and called out something which I could
not understand.  I did not move.  He got quite excited and said some
more.  It was undoubtable he was addressing me—nobody else was by.  I
judged from his tone that he was getting cross with me.  At this point my
travelling companion, his toilet unfinished, put his head out of the
window just above me.

“Such an odd thing,” he called down to me.  “I never noticed it last
night.  A pair of swallows are building a nest here in the hall.  You’ve
got to be careful you don’t mistake it for a hat-peg.  The old lady says
they have built there regularly for the last three years.”

Then it came to me what it was the gentleman had been saying to me: “I
say, sir, you with the bit of wood in your mouth, you have been and shut
the door and I can’t get in.”

Now, with the key in my possession, it was so clear and understandable, I
really forgot for the moment he was only a bird.

“I beg your pardon,” I replied, “I had no idea.  Such an extraordinary
place to build a nest.”

I opened the door for him, and, taking up his brick again, he entered,
and I followed him in.  There was a deal of talk.

“He shut the door,” I heard him say, “Chap there, sucking the bit of
wood.  Thought I was never going to get in.”

“I know,” was the answer; “it has been so dark in here, if you’ll believe
me, I’ve hardly been able to see what I’ve been doing.”

“Fine brick, isn’t it?  Where will you have it?”

Observing me sitting there, they lowered their voices.  Evidently she
wanted him to put the brick down and leave her to think.  She was not
quite sure where she would have it.  He, on the other hand, was sure he
had found the right place for it.  He pointed it out to her and explained
his views.  Other birds quarrel a good deal during nest building, but
swallows are the gentlest of little people.  She let him put it where he
wanted to, and he kissed her and ran out.  She cocked her eye after him,
watched till he was out of sight, then deftly and quickly slipped it out
and fixed it the other side of the door.

“Poor dears” (I could see it in the toss of her head); “they will think
they know best; it is just as well not to argue with them.”

Every summer I suffer much from indignation.  I love to watch the
swallows building.  They build beneath the eaves outside my study window.
Such cheerful little chatter-boxes they are.  Long after sunset, when all
the other birds are sleeping, the swallows still are chattering softly.
It sounds as if they were telling one another some pretty story, and
often I am sure there must be humour in it, for every now and then one
hears a little twittering laugh.  I delight in having them there, so
close to me.  The fancy comes to me that one day, when my brain has grown
more cunning, I, too, listening in the twilight, shall hear the stories
that they tell.

One or two phrases already I have come to understand: “Once upon a
time”—“Long, long ago”—“In a strange, far-off land.”  I hear these words
so constantly, I am sure I have them right.  I call it “Swallow Street,”
this row of six or seven nests.  Two or three, like villas in their own
grounds, stand alone, and others are semi-detached.  It makes me angry
that the sparrows will come and steal them.  The sparrows will hang about
deliberately waiting for a pair of swallows to finish their nest, and
then, with a brutal laugh that makes my blood boil, drive the swallows
away and take possession of it.  And the swallows are so wonderfully

“Never mind, old girl,” says Tommy Swallow, after the first big cry is
over, to Jenny Swallow, “let’s try again.”

And half an hour later, full of fresh plans, they are choosing another
likely site, chattering cheerfully once more.  I watched the building of
a particular nest for nearly a fortnight one year; and when, after two or
three days’ absence, I returned and found a pair of sparrows comfortably
encsonced therein, I just felt mad.  I saw Mrs. Sparrow looking out.
Maybe my anger was working upon my imagination, but it seemed to me that
she nodded to me:

“Nice little house, ain’t it?  What I call well built.”

Mr. Sparrow then flew up with a gaudy feather, dyed blue, which belonged
to me.  I recognised it.  It had come out of the brush with which the
girl breaks the china ornaments in our drawing-room.  At any other time I
should have been glad to see him flying off with the whole thing, handle
included.  But now I felt the theft of that one feather as an added
injury.  Mrs. Sparrow chirped with delight at sight of the gaudy
monstrosity.  Having got the house cheap, they were going to spend their
small amount of energy upon internal decoration.  That was their idea
clearly, a “Liberty interior.”  She looked more like a Cockney sparrow
than a country one—had been born and bred in Regent Street, no doubt.

“There is not much justice in this world,” said I to myself; “but there’s
going to be some introduced into this business—that is, if I can find a

I did find a ladder, and fortunately it was long enough.  Mr. and Mrs.
Sparrow were out when I arrived, possibly on the hunt for cheap photo
frames and Japanese fans.  I did not want to make a mess.  I removed the
house neatly into a dust-pan, and wiped the street clear of every trace
of it.  I had just put back the ladder when Mrs. Sparrow returned with a
piece of pink cotton-wool in her mouth.  That was her idea of a colour
scheme: apple-blossom pink and Reckitt’s blue side by side.  She dropped
her wool and sat on the waterspout, and tried to understand things.

“Number one, number two, number four; where the blazes”—sparrows are
essentially common, and the women are as bad as the men—“is number

Mr. Sparrow came up from behind, over the roof.  He was carrying a piece
of yellow-fluff, part of a lamp-shade, as far as I could judge.

“Move yourself,” he said, “what’s the sense of sitting there in the

“I went out just for a moment,” replied Mrs. Sparrow; “I could not have
been gone, no, not a couple of minutes.  When I came back—”

“Oh, get indoors,” said Mr. Sparrow, “talk about it there.”

“It’s what I’m telling you,” continued Mrs. Sparrow, “if you would only
listen.  There isn’t any door, there isn’t any house—”

“Isn’t any—” Mr. Sparrow, holding on to the rim of the spout, turned
himself topsy-turvy and surveyed the street.  From where I was standing
behind the laurel bushes I could see nothing but his back.

He stood up again, looking angry and flushed.

“What have you done with the house?  Can’t I turn my back a minute—”

“I ain’t done nothing with it.  As I keep on telling you, I had only just

“Oh, bother where you had gone.  Where’s the darned house gone? that’s
what I want to know.”

They looked at one another.  If ever astonishment was expressed in the
attitude of a bird it was told by the tails of those two sparrows.  They
whispered wickedly together.  The idea occurred to them that by force or
cunning they might perhaps obtain possession of one of the other nests.
But all the other nests were occupied, and even gentle Jenny Swallow,
once in her own home with the children round about her, is not to be
trifled with.  Mr. Sparrow called at number two, put his head in at the
door, and then returned to the waterspout.

“Lady says we don’t live there,” he explained to Mrs. Sparrow.  There was
silence for a while.

“Not what I call a classy street,” commented Mrs. Sparrow.

“If it were not for that terrible tired feeling of mine,” said Mr.
Sparrow, “blame if I wouldn’t build a house of my own.”

“Perhaps,” said Mrs. Sparrow, “—I have heard it said that a little bit of
work, now and then, does you good.”

“All sorts of wild ideas about in the air nowadays,” said Mr. Sparrow,
“it don’t do to listen to everybody.”

“And it don’t do to sit still and do nothing neither,” snapped Mrs.
Sparrow.  “I don’t want to have to forget I’m a lady, but—well, any man
who was a man would see things for himself.”

“Why did I every marry?” retorted Mr. Sparrow.

They flew away together, quarrelling.


ON a newspaper placard, the other day, I saw announced a new novel by a
celebrated author.  I bought a copy of the paper, and turned eagerly to
the last page.  I was disappointed to find that I had missed the first
six chapters.  The story had commenced the previous Saturday; this was
Friday.  I say I was disappointed and so I was, at first.  But my
disappointment did not last long.  The bright and intelligent sub-editor,
according to the custom now in vogue, had provided me with a short
synopsis of those first six chapters, so that without the trouble of
reading them I knew what they were all about.

“The first instalment,” I learned, “introduces the reader to a brilliant
and distinguished company, assembled in the drawing-room of Lady Mary’s
maisonette in Park Street.  Much smart talk is indulged in.”

I know that “smart talk” so well.  Had I not been lucky enough to miss
that first chapter I should have had to listen to it once again.
Possibly, here and there, it might have been new to me, but it would have
read, I know, so very like the old.  A dear, sweet white-haired lady of
my acquaintance is never surprised at anything that happens.

“Something very much of the same kind occurred,” she will remember, “one
winter when we were staying in Brighton.  Only on that occasion the man’s
name, I think, was Robinson.”

We do not live new stories—nor write them either.  The man’s name in the
old story was Robinson, we alter it to Jones.  It happened, in the old
forgotten tale, at Brighton, in the winter time; we change it to
Eastbourne, in the spring.  It is new and original—to those who have not
heard “something very like it” once before.

“Much smart talk is indulged in,” so the sub-editor has explained.  There
is absolutely no need to ask for more than that.  There is a Duchess who
says improper things.  Once she used to shock me.  But I know her now.
She is really a nice woman; she doesn’t mean them.  And when the heroine
is in trouble, towards the middle of the book, she is just as amusing on
the side of virtue.  Then there is a younger lady whose speciality is
proverbs.  Apparently whenever she hears a proverb she writes it down and
studies it with the idea of seeing into how many different forms it can
be twisted.  It looks clever; as a matter of fact, it is extremely easy.

_Be virtuous and you will be happy_.

She jots down all the possible variations: _Be virtuous and you will be

“Too simple that one,” she tells herself.  _Be virtuous and your friends
will be happy if you are not_.

“Better, but not wicked enough.  Let us think again.  _Be happy and
people will jump to the conclusion that you are virtuous_.

“That’s good, I’ll try that one at to-morrow’s party.”

She is a painstaking lady.  One feels that, better advised, she might
have been of use in the world.

There is likewise a disgraceful old Peer who tells naughty stories, but
who is good at heart; and one person so very rude that the wonder is who
invited him.

Occasionally a slangy girl is included, and a clergyman, who takes the
heroine aside and talks sense to her, flavoured with epigram.  All these
people chatter a mixture of Lord Chesterfield and Oliver Wendell Holmes,
of Heine, Voltaire, Madame de Stael, and the late lamented H. J. Byron.
“How they do it beats me,” as I once overheard at a music hall a stout
lady confess to her friend while witnessing the performance of a clever
troup, styling themselves “The Boneless Wonders of the Universe.”

The synopsis added that: “Ursula Bart, a charming and unsophisticated
young American girl possessed of an elusive expression makes her first
acquaintance with London society.”

Here you have a week’s unnecessary work on the part of the author boiled
down to its essentials.  She was young.  One hardly expects an elderly
heroine.  The “young” might have been dispensed with, especially seeing
it is told us that she was a girl.  But maybe this is carping.  There are
young girls and old girls.  Perhaps it is as well to have it in black and
white; she was young.  She was an American young girl.  There is but one
American young girl in English fiction.  We know by heart the
unconventional things that she will do, the startlingly original things
that she will say, the fresh illuminating thoughts that will come to her
as, clad in a loose robe of some soft clinging stuff, she sits before the
fire, in the solitude of her own room.

To complete her she had an “elusive expression.”  The days when we used
to catalogue the heroine’s “points” are past.  Formerly it was possible.
A man wrote perhaps some half-a-dozen novels during the whole course of
his career.  He could have a dark girl for the first, a light girl for
the second, sketch a merry little wench for the third, and draw you
something stately for the fourth.  For the remaining two he could go
abroad.  Nowadays, when a man turns out a novel and six short stories
once a year, description has to be dispensed with.  It is not the
writer’s fault.  There is not sufficient variety in the sex.  We used to
introduce her thus:

“Imagine to yourself, dear reader, an exquisite and gracious creature of
five feet three.  Her golden hair of that peculiar shade”—here would
follow directions enabling the reader to work it out for himself.  He was
to pour some particular wine into some particular sort of glass, and wave
it about before some particular sort of a light.  Or he was to get up at
five o’clock on a March morning and go into a wood.  In this way he could
satisfy himself as to the particular shade of gold the heroine’s hair
might happen to be.  If he were a careless or lazy reader he could save
himself time and trouble by taking the author’s word for it.  Many of
them did.

“Her eyes!”  They were invariably deep and liquid.  They had to be pretty
deep to hold all the odds and ends that were hidden in them; sunlight and
shadow, mischief, unsuspected possibilities, assorted emotions, strange
wild yearnings.  Anything we didn’t know where else to put we said was
hidden in her eyes.

“Her nose!”  You could have made it for yourself out of a pen’orth of
putty after reading our description of it.

“Her forehead!”  It was always “low and broad.”  I don’t know why it was
always low.  Maybe because the intellectual heroine was not then popular.
For the matter of that I doubt if she be really popular now.  The
brainless doll, one fears, will continue for many years to come to be
man’s ideal woman—and woman’s ideal of herself for precisely the same
period, one may be sure.

“Her chin!”  A less degree of variety was permissible in her chin.  It
had to be at an angle suggestive of piquancy, and it had to contain at
least the suspicion of a dimple.

To properly understand her complexion you were expected to provide
yourself with a collection of assorted fruits and flowers.  There are
seasons in the year when it must have been difficult for the
conscientious reader to have made sure of her complexion.  Possibly it
was for this purpose that wax flowers and fruit, carefully kept from the
dust under glass cases, were common objects in former times upon the
tables of the cultured.

Nowadays we content ourselves—and our readers also, I am inclined to
think—with dashing her off in a few bold strokes.  We say that whenever
she entered a room there came to one dreams of an old world garden, the
sound of far-off bells.  Or that her presence brought with it the scent
of hollyhocks and thyme.  As a matter of fact I don’t think hollyhocks do
smell.  It is a small point; about such we do not trouble ourselves.  In
the case of the homely type of girl I don’t see why we should not borrow
Mr. Pickwick’s expression, and define her by saying that in some subtle
way she always contrived to suggest an odour of chops and tomato sauce.

If we desire to be exact we mention, as this particular author seems to
have done, that she had an “elusive expression,” or a penetrating
fragrance.  Or we say that she moved, the centre of an indefinable

But it is not policy to bind oneself too closely to detail.  A wise
friend of mine, who knows his business, describes his hero invariably in
the vaguest terms.  He will not even tell you whether the man is tall or
short, clean shaven or bearded.

“Make the fellow nice,” is his advice.  “Let every woman reader picture
him to herself as her particular man.  Then everything he says and does
becomes of importance to her.  She is careful not to miss a word.”

For the same reason he sees to it that his heroine has a bit of every
girl in her.  Generally speaking, she is a cross between Romola and Dora
Copperfield.  His novels command enormous sales.  The women say he draws
a man to the life, but does not seem to know much about women.  The men
like his women, but think his men stupid.

Of another famous author no woman of my acquaintance is able to speak too
highly.  They tell me his knowledge of their sex is simply marvellous,
his insight, his understanding of them almost uncanny.  Thinking it might
prove useful, I made an exhaustive study of his books.  I noticed that
his women were without exception brilliant charming creatures possessed
of the wit of a Lady Wortlay Montagu, combined with the wisdom of a
George Eliot.  They were not all of them good women, but all of them were
clever and all of them were fascinating.  I came to the conclusion that
his lady critics were correct: he did understand women.  But to return to
our synopsis.

The second chapter, it appeared, transported us to Yorkshire where:
“Basil Longleat, a typical young Englishman, lately home from college,
resides with his widowed mother and two sisters.  They are a delightful

What a world of trouble to both writer and to reader is here saved.  “A
typical young Englishman!”  The author probably wrote five pages,
elaborating.  The five words of the sub-editor present him to me more
vividly.  I see him positively glistening from the effects of soap and
water.  I see his clear blue eye; his fair crisp locks, the natural
curliness of which annoys him personally, though alluring to everybody
else; his frank winning smile.  He is “lately home from college.”  That
tells me that he is a first-class cricketer; a first-class oar; that as a
half-back he is incomparable; that he swims like Captain Webb; is in the
first rank of tennis players; that his half-volley at ping-pong has never
been stopped.  It doesn’t tell me much about his brain power.  The
description of him as a “typical young Englishman” suggests more
information on this particular point.  One assumes that the American girl
with the elusive expression is going to have sufficient for both.

“They are a delightful family.”  The sub-editor does not say so, but I
imagine the two sisters are likewise typical young Englishwomen.  They
ride and shoot and cook and make their own dresses, have common sense and
love a joke.

The third chapter is “taken up with the humours of a local cricket

Thank you, Mr. Sub-editor.  I feel I owe you gratitude.

In the fourth, Ursula Bart (I was beginning to get anxious about her)
turns up again.  She is staying at the useful Lady Mary’s place in
Yorkshire.  She meets Basil by accident one morning while riding alone.
That is the advantage of having an American girl for your heroine.  Like
the British army: it goes anywhere and does anything.

In chapter five Basil and Ursula meet again; this time at a picnic.  The
sub-editor does not wish to repeat himself, otherwise he possibly would
have summed up chapter five by saying it was “taken up with the humours
of the usual picnic.”

In chapter six something happens:

“Basil, returning home in the twilight, comes across Ursula Bart, in a
lonely point of the moor, talking earnestly to a rough-looking stranger.
His approach over the soft turf being unnoticed, he cannot help
overhearing Ursula’s parting words to the forbidding-looking stranger: ‘I
must see you again!  To-morrow night at half-past nine!  In the gateway
of the ruined abbey!’  Who is he?  And why must Ursula see him again at
such an hour, in such a spot?”

So here, at cost of reading twenty lines, I am landed, so to speak, at
the beginning of the seventh chapter.  Why don’t I set to work to read
it?  The sub-editor has spoiled me.

“You read it,” I want to say to him.  “Tell me to-morrow morning what it
is all about.  Who was this bounder?  Why should Ursula want to see him
again?  Why choose a draughty place?  Why half-past nine o’clock at
night, which must have been an awkward time for both of them—likely to
lead to talk?  Why should I wade though this seventh chapter of three
columns and a half?  It’s your work.  What are you paid for?”

My fear is lest this sort of thing shall lead to a demand on the part of
the public for condensed novels.  What busy man is going to spend a week
of evenings reading a book when a nice kind sub-editor is prepared in
five minutes to tell him what it is all about!

Then there will come a day—I feel it—when the business-like Editor will
say to himself: “What in thunder is the sense of my paying one man to
write a story of sixty thousand words and another man to read it and tell
it again in sixteen hundred!”

We shall be expected to write our novels in chapters not exceeding twenty
words.  Our short stories will be reduced to the formula: “Little boy.
Pair of skates.  Broken ice, Heaven’s gates.”  Formerly an author,
commissioned to supply a child’s tragedy of this genre for a Christmas
number, would have spun it out into five thousand words.  Personally, I
should have commenced the previous spring—given the reader the summer and
autumn to get accustomed to the boy.  He would have been a good boy; the
sort of boy that makes a bee-line for the thinnest ice.  He would have
lived in a cottage.  I could have spread that cottage over two pages; the
things that grew in the garden, the view from the front door.  You would
have known that boy before I had done with him—felt you had known him all
your life.  His quaint sayings, his childish thoughts, his great longings
would have been impressed upon you.  The father might have had a dash of
humour in him, the mother’s early girlhood would have lent itself to
pretty writing.  For the ice we would have had a mysterious lake in the
wood, said to be haunted.  The boy would have loved o’ twilights to stand
upon its margin.  He would have heard strange voices calling to him.  You
would have felt the thing was coming.

So much might have been done.  When I think of that plot wasted in nine
words it makes me positively angry.

And what is to become of us writers if this is to be the new fashion in
literature?  We are paid by the length of our manuscript at rates from
half-a-crown a thousand words, and upwards.  In the case of fellows like
Doyle and Kipling I am told it runs into pounds.  How are we to live on
novels the serial rights of which to most of us will work out at four and

It can’t be done.  It is no good telling me you can see no reason why we
should live.  That is no answer.  I’m talking plain business.

And what about book-rights?  Who is going to buy novels of three pages?
They will have to be printed as leaflets and sold at a penny a dozen.
Marie Corelli and Hall Caine—if all I hear about them is true—will
possibly make their ten or twelve shillings a week.  But what about the
rest of us?  This thing is worrying me.


MY desire was once to pass a peaceful and pleasant winter in Brussels,
attending to my work, improving my mind.  Brussels is a bright and
cheerful town, and I think I could have succeeded had it not been for the
Belgian Army.  The Belgian Army would follow me about and worry me.
Judging of it from my own experience, I should say it was a good army.
Napoleon laid it down as an axiom that your enemy never ought to be
permitted to get away from you—never ought to be allowed to feel, even
for a moment, that he had shaken you off.  What tactics the Belgian Army
might adopt under other conditions I am unable to say, but against me
personally that was the plan of campaign it determined upon and carried
out with a success that was astonishing, even to myself.

I found it utterly impossible to escape from the Belgian Army.  I made a
point of choosing the quietest and most unlikely streets, I chose all
hours—early in the morning, in the afternoon, late in the evening.  There
were moments of wild exaltation when I imagined I had given it the slip.
I could not see it anywhere, I could not hear it.

“Now,” said I to myself, “now for five minutes’ peace and quiet.”

I had been doing it injustice: it had been working round me.  Approaching
the next corner, I would hear the tattoo of its drum.  Before I had gone
another quarter of a mile it would be in full pursuit of me.  I would
jump upon a tram, and travel for miles.  Then, thinking I had shaken it
off, I would alight and proceed upon my walk.  Five minutes later another
detachment would be upon my heels.  I would slink home, the Belgian Army
pursuing me with its exultant tattoo.  Vanquished, shamed, my insular
pride for ever vanished, I would creep up into my room and close the
door.  The victorious Belgian Army would then march back to barracks.

If only it had followed me with a band: I like a band.  I can loaf
against a post, listening to a band with anyone.  I should not have
minded so much had it come after me with a band.  But the Belgian Army,
apparently, doesn’t run to a band.  It has nothing but this drum.  It has
not even a real drum—not what I call a drum.  It is a little boy’s drum,
the sort of thing I used to play myself at one time, until people took it
away from me, and threatened that if they heard it once again that day
they would break it over my own head.  It is cowardly going up and down,
playing a drum of this sort, when there is nobody to stop you.  The man
would not dare to do it if his mother was about.  He does not even play
it.  He walks along tapping it with a little stick.  There’s no tune,
there’s no sense in it.  He does not even keep time.  I used to think at
first, hearing it in the distance, that it was the work of some young
gamin who ought to be at school, or making himself useful taking the baby
out in the perambulator: and I would draw back into dark doorways,
determined, as he came by, to dart out and pull his ear for him.  To my
astonishment—for the first week—I learnt it was the Belgian Army, getting
itself accustomed, one supposes, to the horrors of war.  It had the
effect of making me a peace-at-any-price man.

They tell me these armies are necessary to preserve the tranquility of
Europe.  For myself, I should be willing to run the risk of an occasional
row.  Cannot someone tell them they are out of date, with their bits of
feathers and their odds and ends of ironmongery—grown men that cannot be
sent out for a walk unless accompanied by a couple of nursemen, blowing a
tin whistle and tapping a drum out of a toy shop to keep them in order
and prevent their running about: one might think they were chickens.  A
herd of soldiers with their pots and pans and parcels, and all their
deadly things tied on to them, prancing about in time to a tune, makes me
think always of the White Knight that Alice met in Wonderland.  I take it
that for practical purposes—to fight for your country, or to fight for
somebody else’s country, which is, generally speaking, more popular—the
thing essential is that a certain proportion of the populace should be
able to shoot straight with a gun.  How standing in a line and turning
out your toes is going to assist you, under modern conditions of warfare,
is one of the many things my intellect is incapable of grasping.

In mediæval days, when men fought hand to hand, there must have been
advantage in combined and precise movement.  When armies were mere iron
machines, the simple endeavour of each being to push the other off the
earth, then the striking simultaneously with a thousand arms was part of
the game.  Now, when we shoot from behind cover with smokeless powder,
brain not brute force—individual sense not combined solidity is surely
the result to be aimed at.  Cannot somebody, as I have suggested, explain
to the military man that the proper place for the drill sergeant nowadays
is under a glass case in some museum of antiquities?

I lived once near the Hyde Park barracks, and saw much of the drill
sergeant’s method.  Generally speaking, he is a stout man with the walk
of an egotistical pigeon.  His voice is one of the most extraordinary
things in nature: if you can distinguish it from the bark of a dog, you
are clever.  They tell me that the privates, after a little practice,
can—which gives one a higher opinion of their intelligence than otherwise
one might form.  But myself I doubt even this statement.  I was the owner
of a fine retriever dog about the time of which I am speaking, and
sometimes he and I would amuse ourselves by watching Mr. Sergeant
exercising his squad.  One morning he had been shouting out the usual
“Whough, whough, whough!” for about ten minutes, and all had hitherto
gone well.  Suddenly, and evidently to his intense astonishment, the
squad turned their backs upon him and commenced to walk towards the

“Halt!” yelled the sergeant, the instant his amazed indignation permitted
him to speak, which fortunately happened in time to save the detachment
from a watery grave.

The squad halted.

“Who the thunder, and the blazes, and other things told you to do that?”

The squad looked bewildered, but said nothing, and were brought back to
the place where they were before.  A minute later precisely the same
thing occurred again.  I really thought the sergeant would burst.  I was
preparing to hasten to the barracks for medical aid.  But the paroxysm
passed.  Calling upon the combined forces of heaven and hell to sustain
him in his trouble, he requested his squad, as man to man, to inform him
of the reason why to all appearance they were dispensing with his
services and drilling themselves.

At this moment “Columbus” barked again, and the explanation came to him.

“Please go away, sir,” he requested me.  “How can I exercise my men with
that dog of yours interfering every five minutes?”

It was not only on that occasion.  It happened at other times.  The dog
seemed to understand and take a pleasure in it.  Sometimes meeting a
soldier, walking with his sweetheart, Columbus, from behind my legs,
would bark suddenly.  Immediately the man would let go the girl and
proceed, involuntarily, to perform military tricks.

The War Office authorities accused me of having trained the dog.  I had
not trained him: that was his natural voice.  I suggested to the War
Office authorities that instead of quarrelling with my dog for talking
his own language, they should train their sergeants to use English.

They would not see it.  Unpleasantness was in the air, and, living where
I did at the time, I thought it best to part with Columbus.  I could see
what the War Office was driving at, and I did not desire that
responsibility for the inefficiency of the British Army should be laid at
my door.

Some twenty years ago we, in London, were passing through a riotous
period, and a call was made to law-abiding citizens to enrol themselves
as special constables.  I was young, and the hope of trouble appealed to
me more than it does now.  In company with some five or six hundred other
more or less respectable citizens, I found myself one Sunday morning in
the drill yard of the Albany Barracks.  It was the opinion of the
authorities that we could guard our homes and protect our wives and
children better if first of all we learned to roll our “eyes right” or
left at the given word of command, and to walk with our thumbs stuck out.
Accordingly a drill sergeant was appointed to instruct us on these
points.  He came out of the canteen, wiping his mouth and flicking his
leg, according to rule, with the regulation cane.  But, as he approached
us, his expression changed.  We were stout, pompous-looking gentlemen,
the majority of us, in frock coats and silk hats.  The sergeant was a man
with a sense of the fitness of things.  The idea of shouting and swearing
at us fell from him: and that gone there seemed to be no happy medium
left to him.  The stiffness departed from his back.  He met us with a
defferential attitude, and spoke to us in the language of social

“Good morning, gentlemen,” said the sergeant.

“Good morning,” we replied: and there was a pause.

The sergeant fidgetted upon his feet.  We waited.

“Well, now, gentlemen,” said the sergeant, with a pleasant smile, “what
do you say to falling in?”

We agreed to fall in.  He showed us how to do it.  He cast a critical eye
along the back of our rear line.

“A little further forward, number three, if you don’t mind, sir,” he

Number three, who was an important-looking gentleman, stepped forward.

The sergeant cast his critical eye along the front of the first line.

“A little further back, if you don’t mind, sir,” he suggested, addressing
the third gentleman from the end.

“Can’t,” explained the third gentleman, “much as I can do to keep where I

The sergeant cast his critical eye between the lines.

“Ah,” said the sergeant, “a little full-chested, some of us.  We will
make the distance another foot, if you please, gentlemen.”

In pleasant manner, like to this, the drill proceeded.

“Now then, gentlemen, shall we try a little walk?  Quick march!  Thank
you, gentlemen.  Sorry to trouble you, but it may be necessary to
run—forward I mean, of course..  So if you really do not mind, we will
now do the double quick.  Halt!  And if next time you can keep a little
more in line—it has a more imposing appearance, if you understand me.
The breathing comes with practice.”

If the thing must be done at all, why should it not be done in this way?
Why should not the sergeant address the new recruits politely:

“Now then, you young chaps, are you all ready?  Don’t hurry yourselves:
no need to make hard work of what should be a pleasure to all of us.
That’s right, that’s very good indeed—considering you are only novices.
But there is still something to be desired in your attitude, Private
Bully-boy.  You will excuse my being personal, but are you knock-kneed
naturally?  Or could you, with an effort, do you think, contrive to give
yourself less the appearance of a marionette whose strings have become
loose?  Thank you, that is better.  These little things appear trivial, I
know, but, after all, we may as well try and look our best—

“Don’t you like your boots, Private Montmorency?  Oh, I beg your pardon.
I thought from the way you were bending down and looking at them that
perhaps their appearance was dissatisfying to you.  My mistake.

“Are you suffering from indigestion, my poor fellow?  Shall I get you a
little brandy?  It isn’t indigestion.  Then what’s the matter with it?
Why are you trying to hide it?  It’s nothing to be ashamed of.  We’ve all
got one.  Let it come forward man.  Let’s see it.”

Having succeeded, with a few such kindly words, in getting his line into
order, he would proceed to recommend healthy exercise.

“Shoulder arms!  Good, gentlemen, very good for a beginning.  Yet still,
if I may be critical, not perfect.  There is more in this thing than you
might imagine, gentlemen.  May I point out to Private Henry Thompson that
a musket carried across the shoulder at right angles is apt to
inconvenience the gentleman behind.  Even from the point of view of his
own comfort, I feel sure that Private Thompson would do better to follow
the usual custom in this matter.

“I would also suggest to Private St. Leonard that we are not here to
practice the art of balancing a heavy musket on the outstretched palm of
the hand.  Private St. Leonard’s performance with the musket is decidedly
clever.  But it is not war.

“Believe me, gentlemen, this thing has been carefully worked out, and no
improvement is likely to result from individual effort.  Let our idea be
uniformity.  It is monotonous, but it is safe.  Now, then, gentlemen,
once again.”

The drill yard would be converted into a source of innocent delight to
thousands.  “Officer and gentleman” would become a phrase of meaning.  I
present the idea, for what it may be worth, with my compliments, to Pall

The fault of the military man is that he studies too much, reads too much
history, is over reflective.  If, instead, he would look about him more
he would notice that things are changing.  Someone has told the British
military man that Waterloo was won upon the playing fields of Eton.  So
he goes to Eton and plays.  One of these days he will be called upon to
fight another Waterloo: and afterwards—when it is too late—they will
explain to him that it was won not upon the play field but in the class

From the mound on the old Waterloo plain one can form a notion of what
battles, under former conditions, must have been.  The other battlefields
of Europe are rapidly disappearing: useful Dutch cabbages, as Carlyle
would have pointed out with justifiable satisfaction, hiding the theatre
of man’s childish folly.  You find, generally speaking, cobblers happily
employed in cobbling shoes, women gossipping cheerfully over the washtub
on the spot where a hundred years ago, according to the guide-book, a
thousand men dressed in blue and a thousand men dressed in red rushed
together like quarrelsome fox-terriers, and worried each other to death.

But the field of Waterloo is little changed.  The guide, whose
grandfather was present at the battle—quite an extraordinary number of
grandfathers must have fought at Waterloo: there must have been whole
regiments composed of grandfathers—can point out to you the ground across
which every charge was delivered, can show you every ridge, still
existing, behind which the infantry crouched.  The whole business was
began and finished within a space little larger than a square mile.  One
can understand the advantage then to be derived from the perfect moving
of the military machine; the uses of the echelon, the purposes of the
linked battalion, the manipulation of centre, left wing and right wing.
Then it may have been worth while—if war be ever worth the while—which
grown men of sense are beginning to doubt—to waste two years of a
soldier’s training, teaching him the goose-step.  In the twentieth
century, teaching soldiers the evolutions of the Thirty Years’ War is
about as sensible as it would be loading our iron-clads with canvas.

I followed once a company of Volunteers across Blackfriars Bridge on
their way from Southwark to the Temple.  At the bottom of Ludgate Hill
the commanding officer, a young but conscientious gentleman, ordered
“Left wheel!”  At once the vanguard turned down a narrow alley—I forget
its name—which would have led the troop into the purlieus of Whitefriars,
where, in all probability, they would have been lost for ever.  The whole
company had to be halted, right-about-faced, and retired a hundred yards.
Then the order “Quick march!” was given.  The vanguard shot across
Ludgate Circus, and were making for the Meat Market.

At this point that young commanding officer gave up being a military man
and talked sense.

“Not that way,” he shouted: “up Fleet Street and through Middle Temple

Then without further trouble the army of the future went upon its way.


THERE was once upon a time a charming young lady, possessed of much
taste, who was asked by her anxious parent, the years passing and family
expenditure not decreasing, which of the numerous and eligible young men
then paying court to her she liked the best.  She replied, that was her
difficulty; she could not make up her mind which she liked the best.
They were all so nice.  She could not possibly select one to the
exclusion of all the others.  What she would have liked would have been
to marry the lot; but that, she presumed, was impracticable.

I feel I resemble that young lady, not so much in charm and beauty as in
indecision of mind, when the question is that of my favourite author or
my favourite book.  It is as if one were asked one’s favourite food.
There are times when one fancies an egg with one’s tea.  On other
occasions one dreams of a kipper.  To-day one clamours for lobsters.
To-morrow one feels one never wishes to see a lobster again.  One
determines to settle down, for a time, to a diet of bread and milk and
rice pudding.  Asked suddenly to say whether I preferred ices to soup, or
beef-steak to caviare, I should be completely nonplussed.

There may be readers who care for only one literary diet.  I am a person
of gross appetites, requiring many authors to satisfy me.  There are
moods when the savage strength of the Bronte sisters is companionable to
me.  One rejoices in the unrelieved gloom of “Wuthering Heights,” as in
the lowering skies of a stormy autumn.  Perhaps part of the marvel of the
book comes from the knowledge that the authoress was a slight, delicate
young girl.  One wonders what her future work would have been, had she
lived to gain a wider experience of life; or was it well for her fame
that nature took the pen so soon from her hand?  Her suppressed vehemence
may have been better suited to those tangled Yorkshire byways than to the
more open, cultivated fields of life.

There is not much similarity between the two books, yet when recalling
Emily Bronte my thoughts always run on to Olive Schreiner.  Here, again,
was a young girl with the voice of a strong man.  Olive Schreiner, more
fortunate, has lived; but I doubt if she will ever write a book that will
remind us of her first.  “The Story of an African Farm” is not a work to
be repeated.  We have advanced in literature of late.  I can well
remember the storm of indignation with which the “African Farm” was
received by Mrs. Grundy and her then numerous, but now happily
diminishing, school.  It was a book that was to be kept from the hands of
every young man and woman.  But the hands of the young men and women
stretched out and grasped it, to their help.  It is a curious idea, this
of Mrs. Grundy’s, that the young man and woman must never think—that all
literature that does anything more than echo the conventions must be
hidden away.

Then there are times when I love to gallop through history on Sir
Walter’s broomstick.  At other hours it is pleasant to sit in converse
with wise George Eliot.  From her garden terrace I look down on Loamshire
and its commonplace people; while in her quiet, deep voice she tells me
of the hidden hearts that beat and throb beneath these velveteen jackets
and lace falls.

Who can help loving Thackeray, wittiest, gentlest of men, in spite of the
faint suspicion of snobbishness that clings to him?  There is something
pathetic in the good man’s horror of this snobbishness, to which he
himself was a victim.  May it not have been an affectation, born
unconsciously of self-consciousness?  His heroes and heroines must needs
be all fine folk, fit company for lady and gentlemen readers.  To him the
livery was too often the man.  Under his stuffed calves even _Jeames de
la Pluche_ himself stood upon the legs of a man, but Thackeray could
never see deeper than the silk stockings.  Thackeray lived and died in
Clubland.  One feels that the world was bounded for him by Temple Bar on
the east and Park Lane on the west; but what there was good in Clubland
he showed us, and for the sake of the great gentlemen and sweet ladies
that his kindly eyes found in that narrow region, not too overpeopled
with great gentlemen and sweet women, let us honour him.

“Tom Jones,” “Peregrine Pickle,” and “Tristram Shandy” are books a man is
the better for reading, if he read them wisely.  They teach him that
literature, to be a living force, must deal with all sides of life, and
that little help comes to us from that silly pretence of ours that we are
perfect in all things, leading perfect lives, that only the villain of
the story ever deviates from the path of rectitude.

This is a point that needs to be considered by both the makers and the
buyers of stories.  If literature is to be regarded solely as the
amusement of an idle hour, then the less relationship it has to life the
better.  Looking into a truthful mirror of nature we are compelled to
think; and when thought comes in at the window self-satisfaction goes out
by the door.  Should a novel or play call us to ponder upon the problems
of existence, or lure us from the dusty high road of the world, for a
while, into the pleasant meadows of dreamland?  If only the latter, then
let our heroes and our heroines be not what men and women are, but what
they should be.  Let Angelina be always spotless and Edwin always true.
Let virtue ever triumph over villainy in the last chapter; and let us
assume that the marriage service answers all the questions of the Sphinx.

Very pleasant are these fairy tales where the prince is always brave and
handsome; where the princess is always the best and most beautiful
princess that ever lived; where one knows the wicked people at a glance
by their ugliness and ill-temper, mistakes being thus rendered
impossible; where the good fairies are, by nature, more powerful than the
bad; where gloomy paths lead ever to fair palaces; where the dragon is
ever vanquished; and where well-behaved husbands and wives can rely upon
living happily ever afterwards.  “The world is too much with us, late and
soon.”  It is wise to slip away from it at times to fairyland.  But,
alas, we cannot live in fairyland, and knowledge of its geography is of
little help to us on our return to the rugged country of reality.

Are not both branches of literature needful?  By all means let us dream,
on midsummer nights, of fond lovers led through devious paths to
happiness by Puck; of virtuous dukes—one finds such in fairyland; of fate
subdued by faith and gentleness.  But may we not also, in our more
serious humours, find satisfaction in thinking with Hamlet or Coriolanus?
May not both Dickens and Zola have their booths in Vanity Fair?  If
literature is to be a help to us, as well as a pastime, it must deal with
the ugly as well as with the beautiful; it must show us ourselves, not as
we wish to appear, but as we know ourselves to be.  Man has been
described as a animal with aspirations reaching up to Heaven and
instincts rooted—elsewhere.  Is literature to flatter him, or reveal him
to himself?

Of living writers it is not safe, I suppose, to speak except, perhaps, of
those who have been with us so long that we have come to forget they are
not of the past.  Has justice ever been done to Ouida’s undoubted genius
by our shallow school of criticism, always very clever in discovering
faults as obvious as pimples on a fine face?  Her guardsmen “toy” with
their food.  Her horses win the Derby three years running.  Her wicked
women throw guinea peaches from the windows of the Star and Garter into
the Thames at Richmond.  The distance being about three hundred and fifty
yards, it is a good throw.  Well, well, books are not made worth reading
by the absence of absurdities.  Ouida possesses strength, tenderness,
truth, passion; and these be qualities in a writer capable of carrying
many more faults than Ouida is burdened with.  But that is the method of
our little criticism.  It views an artist as Gulliver saw the Brobdingnag
ladies.  It is too small to see them in their entirety: a mole or a wart
absorbs all its vision.

Why was not George Gissing more widely read?  If faithfulness to life
were the key to literary success, Gissing’s sales would have been counted
by the million instead of by the hundred.

Have Mark Twain’s literary qualities, apart altogether from his humour,
been recognised in literary circles as they ought to have been? “Huck
Finn” would be a great work were there not a laugh in it from cover to
cover.  Among the Indians and some other savage tribes the fact that a
member of the community has lost one of his senses makes greatly to his
advantage; he is then regarded as a superior person.  So among a school
of Anglo-Saxon readers, it is necessary to a man, if he would gain
literary credit, that he should lack the sense of humour.  One or two
curious modern examples occur to me of literary success secured chiefly
by this failing.

All these authors are my favourites; but such catholic taste is held
nowadays to be no taste.  One is told that if one loves Shakespeare, one
must of necessity hate Ibsen; that one cannot appreciate Wagner and
tolerate Beethoven; that if we admit any merit in Dore, we are incapable
of understanding Whistler.  How can I say which is my favourite novel?  I
can only ask myself which lives clearest in my memory, which is the book
I run to more often than to another in that pleasant half hour before the
dinner-bell, when, with all apologies to good Mr. Smiles, it is useless
to think of work.

I find, on examination, that my “David Copperfield” is more dilapidated
than any other novel upon my shelves.  As I turn its dog-eared pages,
reading the familiar headlines “Mr. Micawber in difficulties,” “Mr.
Micawber in prison,” “I fall in love with Dora,” “Mr. Barkis goes out
with the tide,” “My child wife,” “Traddles in a nest of roses”—pages of
my own life recur to me; so many of my sorrows, so many of my joys are
woven in my mind with this chapter or the other.  That day—how well I
remember it when I read of “David’s” wooing, but Dora’s death I was
careful to skip.  Poor, pretty little Mrs. Copperfield at the gate,
holding up her baby in her arms, is always associated in my memory with a
child’s cry, long listened for.  I found the book, face downwards on a
chair, weeks afterwards, not moved from where I had hastily laid it.

Old friends, all of you, how many times have I not slipped away from my
worries into your pleasant company!  Peggotty, you dear soul, the sight
of your kind eyes is so good to me.  Our mutual friend, Mr. Charles
Dickens, is prone, we know, just ever so slightly to gush.  Good fellow
that he is, he can see no flaw in those he loves, but you, dear lady, if
you will permit me to call you by a name much abused, he has drawn in
true colours.  I know you well, with your big heart, your quick temper,
your homely, human ways of thought.  You yourself will never guess your
worth—how much the world is better for such as you!  You think of
yourself as of a commonplace person, useful only for the making of
pastry, the darning of stockings, and if a man—not a young man, with only
dim half-opened eyes, but a man whom life had made keen to see the beauty
that lies hidden beneath plain faces—were to kneel and kiss your red,
coarse hand, you would be much astonished.  But he would be a wise man,
Peggotty, knowing what things a man should take carelessly, and for what
things he should thank God, who has fashioned fairness in many forms.

Mr. Wilkins Micawber, and you, most excellent of faithful wives, Mrs.
Emma Micawber, to you I also raise my hat.  How often has the example of
your philosophy saved me, when I, likewise, have suffered under the
temporary pressure of pecuniary liabilities; when the sun of my
prosperity, too, has sunk beneath the dark horizon of the world—in short,
when I, also, have found myself in a tight corner.  I have asked myself
what would the Micawbers have done in my place.  And I have answered
myself.  They would have sat down to a dish of lamb’s fry, cooked and
breaded by the deft hands of Emma, followed by a brew of punch, concocted
by the beaming Wilkins, and have forgotten all their troubles, for the
time being.  Whereupon, seeing first that sufficient small change was in
my pocket, I have entered the nearest restaurant, and have treated myself
to a repast of such sumptuousness as the aforesaid small change would
command, emerging from that restaurant stronger and more fit for battle.
And lo! the sun of my prosperity has peeped at me from over the clouds
with a sly wink, as if to say “Cheer up; I am only round the corner.”

Cheery, elastic Mr. and Mrs. Micawber, how would half the world face
their fate but by the help of a kindly, shallow nature such as yours?  I
love to think that your sorrows can be drowned in nothing more harmful
than a bowl of punch.  Here’s to you, Emma, and to you, Wilkins, and to
the twins!

May you and such childlike folk trip lightly over the stones upon your
path!  May something ever turn up for you, my dears!  May the rain of
life ever fall as April showers upon your simple bald head, Micawber!

And you, sweet Dora, let me confess I love you, though sensible friends
deem you foolish.  Ah, silly Dora, fashioned by wise Mother Nature who
knows that weakness and helplessness are as a talisman calling forth
strength and tenderness in man, trouble yourself not unduly about the
oysters and the underdone mutton, little woman.  Good plain cooks at
twenty pounds a year will see to these things for us.  Your work is to
teach us gentleness and kindness.  Lay your foolish curls just here,
child.  It is from such as you we learn wisdom.  Foolish wise folk sneer
at you.  Foolish wise folk would pull up the laughing lilies, the
needless roses from the garden, would plant in their places only useful,
wholesome cabbage.  But the gardener, knowing better, plants the silly,
short-lived flowers, foolish wise folk asking for what purpose.

Gallant Traddles, of the strong heart and the unruly hair; Sophy, dearest
of girls; Betsy Trotwood, with your gentlemanly manners and your woman’s
heart, you have come to me in shabby rooms, making the dismal place seem
bright.  In dark hours your kindly faces have looked out at me from the
shadows, your kindly voices have cheered me.

Little Em’ly and Agnes, it may be my bad taste, but I cannot share my
friend Dickens’ enthusiasm for them.  Dickens’ good women are all too
good for human nature’s daily food.  Esther Summerson, Florence Dombey,
Little Nell—you have no faults to love you by.

Scott’s women were likewise mere illuminated texts.  Scott only drew one
live heroine—Catherine Seton.  His other women were merely the prizes the
hero had to win in the end, like the sucking pig or the leg of mutton for
which the yokel climbs the greasy pole.  That Dickens could draw a woman
to some likeness he proved by Bella Wilfer, and Estella in “Great
Expectations.”  But real women have never been popular in fiction.  Men
readers prefer the false, and women readers object to the truth.

From an artistic point of view, “David Copperfield” is undoubtedly
Dickens’ best work.  Its humour is less boisterous; its pathos less
highly coloured.

One of Leech’s pictures represents a cab-man calmly sleeping in the

“Oh, poor dear, he’s ill,” says a tender-hearted lady in the crowd.
“Ill!” retorts a male bystander indignantly, “Ill! ’E’s ’ad too much of
what I ain’t ’ad enough of.”

Dickens suffered from too little of what some of us have too much
of—criticism.  His work met with too little resistance to call forth his
powers.  Too often his pathos sinks to bathos, and this not from want of
skill, but from want of care.  It is difficult to believe that the
popular writer who allowed his sentimentality—or rather the public’s
sentimentality—to run away with him in such scenes as the death of Paul
Dombey and Little Nell was the artist who painted the death of Sidney
Carton and of Barkis, the willing.  The death of Barkis, next to the
passing of Colonel Newcome, is, to my thinking, one of the most perfect
pieces of pathos in English literature.  No very deep emotion is
concerned.  He is a commonplace old man, clinging foolishly to a
commonplace box.  His simple wife and the old boatmen stand by, waiting
calmly for the end.  There is no straining after effect.  One feels death
enter, dignifying all things; and touched by that hand, foolish old
Barkis grows great.

In Uriah Heap and Mrs. Gummidge, Dickens draws types rather than
characters.  Pecksniff, Podsnap, Dolly Varden, Mr. Bumble, Mrs. Gamp,
Mark Tapley, Turveydrop, Mrs. Jellyby—these are not characters; they are
human characteristics personified.

We have to go back to Shakespeare to find a writer who, through fiction,
has so enriched the thought of the people.  Admit all Dickens’ faults
twice over, we still have one of the greatest writers of modern times.
Such people as these creations of Dickens never lived, says your little
critic.  Nor was Prometheus, type of the spirit of man, nor was Niobe,
mother of all mothers, a truthful picture of the citizen one was likely
to meet often during a morning’s stroll through Athens.  Nor grew there
ever a wood like to the Forest of Arden, though every Rosalind and
Orlando knows the path to glades having much resemblance thereto.

Steerforth, upon whom Dickens evidently prided himself, I must confess,
never laid hold of me.  He is a melodramatic young man.  The worst I
could have wished him would have been that he should marry Rose Dartle
and live with his mother.  It would have served him right for being so
attractive.  Old Peggotty and Ham are, of course, impossible.  One must
accept them also as types.  These Brothers Cheeryble, these Kits, Joe
Gargeries, Boffins, Garlands, John Peerybingles, we will accept as types
of the goodness that is in men—though in real life the amount of virtue
that Dickens often wastes upon a single individual would by more
economically minded nature, be made to serve for fifty.

To sum up, “David Copperfield” is a plain tale, simply told; and such are
all books that live.  Eccentricities of style, artistic trickery, may
please the critic of a day, but literature is a story that interests us,
boys and girls, men and women.  It is a sad book; and that, again, gives
it an added charm in these sad later days.  Humanity is nearing its old
age, and we have come to love sadness, as the friend who has been longest
with us.  In the young days of our vigour we were merry.  With Ulysses’
boatmen, we took alike the sunshine and the thunder with frolic welcome.
The red blood flowed in our veins, and we laughed, and our tales were of
strength and hope.  Now we sit like old men, watching faces in the fire;
and the stories that we love are sad stories—like the stories we
ourselves have lived.


I OUGHT to like Russia better than I do, if only for the sake of the many
good friends I am proud to possess amongst the Russians.  A large square
photograph I keep always on my mantel-piece; it helps me to maintain my
head at that degree of distention necessary for the performance of all
literary work.  It presents in the centre a neatly-written address in
excellent English that I frankly confess I am never tired of reading,
around which are ranged some hundreds of names I am quite unable to read,
but which, in spite of their strange lettering, I know to be the names of
good Russian men and women to whom, a year or two ago, occurred the
kindly idea of sending me as a Christmas card this message of
encouragement.  The individual Russian is one of the most charming
creatures living.  If he like you he does not hesitate to let you know
it; not only by every action possible, but, by what perhaps is just as
useful in this grey old world, by generous, impulsive speech.

We Anglo-Saxons are apt to pride ourselves upon being undemonstrative.
Max Adeler tells the tale of a boy who was sent out by his father to
fetch wood.  The boy took the opportunity of disappearing and did not
show his face again beneath the paternal roof for over twenty years.
Then one evening, a smiling, well-dressed stranger entered to the old
couple, and announced himself as their long-lost child, returned at last.

“Well, you haven’t hurried yourself,” grumbled the old man, “and blarm me
if now you haven’t forgotten the wood.”

I was lunching with an Englishman in a London restaurant one day.  A man
entered and took his seat at a table near by.  Glancing round, and
meeting my friend’s eyes, he smiled and nodded.

“Excuse me a minute,” said my friend, “I must just speak to my
brother—haven’t seen him for over five years.”

He finished his soup and leisurely wiped his moustache before strolling
across and shaking hands.  They talked for a while.  Then my friend
returned to me.

“Never thought to see him again,” observed my friend, “he was one of the
garrison of that place in Africa—what’s the name of it?—that the Mahdi
attacked.  Only three of them escaped.  Always was a lucky beggar, Jim.”

“But wouldn’t you like to talk to him some more?” I suggested; “I can see
you any time about this little business of ours.”

“Oh, that’s all right,” he answered, “we have just fixed it up—shall be
seeing him again to-morrow.”

I thought of this scene one evening while dining with some Russian
friends in a St. Petersburg Hotel.  One of the party had not seen his
second cousin, a mining engineer, for nearly eighteen months.  They sat
opposite to one another, and a dozen times at least during the course of
the dinner one of them would jump up from his chair, and run round to
embrace the other.  They would throw their arms about one another,
kissing one another on both cheeks, and then sit down again, with moist
eyes.  Their behaviour among their fellow countrymen excited no
astonishment whatever.

But the Russians’s anger is as quick and vehement as his love.  On
another occasion I was supping with friends in one of the chief
restaurants on the Nevsky.  Two gentlemen at an adjoining table, who up
till the previous moment had been engaged in amicable conversation,
suddenly sprang to their feet, and “went for” one another.  One man
secured the water-bottle, which he promptly broke over the other’s head.
His opponent chose for his weapon a heavy mahogany chair, and leaping
back for the purpose of securing a good swing, lurched against my

“Do please be careful,” said the lady.

“A thousand pardons, madame,” returned the stranger, from whom blood and
water were streaming in equal copiousness; and taking the utmost care to
avoid interfering with our comfort, he succeeded adroitly in flooring his
antagonist by a well-directed blow.

A policeman appeared upon the scene.  He did not attempt to interfere,
but running out into the street communicated the glad tidings to another

“This is going to cost them a pretty penny,” observed my host, who was
calmly continuing his supper; “why couldn’t they wait?”

It did cost them a pretty penny.  Some half a dozen policemen were round
about before as many minutes had elapsed, and each one claimed his bribe.
Then they wished both combatants good-night, and trooped out evidently in
great good humour and the two gentlemen, with wet napkins round their
heads, sat down again, and laughter and amicable conversation flowed
freely as before.

They strike the stranger as a childlike people, but you are possessed
with a haunting sense of ugly traits beneath.  The workers—slaves it
would be almost more correct to call them—allow themselves to be
exploited with the uncomplaining patience of intelligent animals.  Yet
every educated Russian you talk to on the subject knows that revolution
is coming.

But he talks to you about it with the door shut, for no man in Russia can
be sure that his own servants are not police spies.  I was discussing
politics with a Russian official one evening in his study when his old
housekeeper entered the room—a soft-eyed grey-haired woman who had been
in his service over eight years, and whose position in the household was
almost that of a friend.  He stopped abruptly and changed the
conversation.  So soon as the door was closed behind her again, he
explained himself.

“It is better to chat upon such matters when one is quite alone,” he

“But surely you can trust her,” I said, “She appears to be devoted to you

“It is safer to trust no one,” he answered.  And then he continued from
the point where we had been interrupted.

“It is gathering,” he said; “there are times when I almost smell blood in
the air.  I am an old man and may escape it, but my children will have to
suffer—suffer as children must for the sins of their fathers.  We have
made brute beasts of the people, and as brute beasts they will come upon
us, cruel, and undiscriminating; right and wrong indifferently going down
before them.  But it has to be.  It is needed.”

It is a mistake to speak of the Russian classes opposing to all progress
a dead wall of selfishness.  The history of Russia will be the history of
the French Revolution over again, but with this difference: that the
educated classes, the thinkers, who are pushing forward the dumb masses
are doing so with their eyes open.  There will be no Maribeau, no Danton
to be appalled at a people’s ingratitude.  The men who are to-day working
for revolution in Russia number among their ranks statesmen, soldiers,
delicately-nurtured women, rich landowners, prosperous tradesmen,
students familiar with the lessons of history.  They have no
misconceptions concerning the blind Monster into which they are breathing
life.  He will crush them, they know it; but with them he will crush the
injustice and stupidity they have grown to hate more than they love

The Russian peasant, when he rises, will prove more terrible, more
pitiless than were the men of 1790.  He is less intelligent, more brutal.
They sing a wild, sad song, these Russian cattle, the while they work.
They sing it in chorus on the quays while hauling the cargo, they sing it
in the factory, they chant on the weary, endless steppes, reaping the
corn they may not eat.  It is of the good time their masters are having,
of the feastings and the merrymakings, of the laughter of the children,
of the kisses of the lovers.

But the last line of every verse is the same.  When you ask a Russian to
translate it for you he shrugs his shoulders.

“Oh, it means,” he says, “that their time will also come—some day.”

It is a pathetic, haunting refrain.  They sing it in the drawing-rooms of
Moscow and St. Petersburg, and somehow the light talk and laughter die
away, and a hush, like a chill breath, enters by the closed door and
passes through.  It is a curious song, like the wailing of a tired wind,
and one day it will sweep over the land heralding terror.

A Scotsman I met in Russia told me that when he first came out to act as
manager of a large factory in St. Petersburg, belonging to his Scottish
employers, he unwittingly made a mistake the first week when paying his
workpeople.  By a miscalculation of the Russian money he paid the men,
each one, nearly a rouble short.  He discovered his error before the
following Saturday, and then put the matter right.  The men accepted his
explanation with perfect composure and without any comment whatever.  The
thing astonished him.

“But you must have known I was paying you short,” he said to one of them.
“Why didn’t you tell me of it?”

“Oh,” answered the man, “we thought you were putting it in your own
pocket and then if we had complained it would have meant dismissal for
us.  No one would have taken our word against yours.”

Corruption appears to be so general throughout the whole of Russia that
all classes have come to accept it as part of the established order of
things.  A friend gave me a little dog to bring away with me.  It was a
valuable animal, and I wished to keep it with me.  It is strictly
forbidden to take dogs into railway carriages.  The list of the pains and
penalties for doing so frightened me considerably.

“Oh, that will be all right,” my friend assured me; “have a few roubles
loose in your pocket.”

I tipped the station master and I tipped the guard, and started pleased
with myself.  But I had not anticipated what was in store for me.  The
news that an Englishman with a dog in a basket and roubles in his pocket
was coming must have been telegraphed all down the line.  At almost every
stopping-place some enormous official, wearing generally a sword and a
helmet, boarded the train.  At first these fellows terrified me.  I took
them for field-marshals at least.

Visions of Siberia crossed my mind.  Anxious and trembling, I gave the
first one a gold piece.  He shook me warmly by the hand—I thought he was
going to kiss me.  If I had offered him my cheek I am sure he would have
done so.  With the next one I felt less apprehensive.  For a couple of
roubles he blessed me, so I gathered; and, commending me to the care of
the Almighty, departed.  Before I had reached the German frontier, I was
giving away the equivalent of English sixpences to men with the dress and
carriage of major-generals; and to see their faces brighten up and to
receive their heartfelt benediction was well worth the money.

But to the man without roubles in his pocket, Russian officialdom is not
so gracious.  By the expenditure of a few more coins I got my dog through
the Customs without trouble, and had leisure to look about me.  A
miserable object was being badgered by half a dozen men in uniform, and
he—his lean face puckered up into a snarl—was returning them snappish
answers; the whole scene suggested some half-starved mongrel being
worried by school-boys.  A slight informality had been discovered in his
passport, so a fellow traveller with whom I had made friends informed me.
He had no roubles in his pocket, and in consequence they were sending him
back to St. Petersburg—some eighteen hours’ journey—in a wagon that in
England would not be employed for the transport of oxen.

It seemed a good joke to Russian officialdom; they would drop in every
now and then, look at him as he sat crouched in a corner of the
waiting-room, and pass out again, laughing.  The snarl had died from his
face; a dull, listless indifference had taken its place—the look one sees
on the face of a beaten dog, after the beating is over, when it is lying
very still, its great eyes staring into nothingness, and one wonders
whether it is thinking.

The Russian worker reads no newspaper, has no club, yet all things seem
to be known to him.  There is a prison on the banks of the Neva, in St.
Petersburg.  They say such things are done with now, but up till very
recently there existed a small cell therein, below the level of the ice,
and prisoners placed there would be found missing a day or two
afterwards, nothing ever again known of them, except, perhaps, to the
fishes of the Baltic.  They talk of such like things among themselves:
the sleigh-drivers round their charcoal fire, the field-workers going and
coming in the grey dawn, the factory workers, their whispers deadened by
the rattle of the looms.

I was searching for a house in Brussels some winters ago, and there was
one I was sent to in a small street leading out of the Avenue Louise.  It
was poorly furnished, but rich in pictures, large and small.  They
covered the walls of every room.

“These pictures,” explained to me the landlady, an old, haggard-looking
woman, “will not be left, I am taking them with me to London.  They are
all the work of my husband.  He is arranging an exhibition.”

The friend who had sent me had told me the woman was a widow, who had
been living in Brussels eking out a precarious existence as a
lodging-house keeper for the last ten years.

“You have married again?” I questioned her.

The woman smiled.

“Not again.  I was married eighteen years ago in Russia.  My husband was
transported to Siberia a few days after we were married, and I have never
seen him since.”

“I should have followed him,” she added, “only every year we thought he
was going to be set free.”

“He is really free now?” I asked.

“Yes,” she answered.  “They set him free last week.  He will join me in
London.  We shall be able to finish our honeymoon.”

She smiled, revealing to me that once she had been a girl.

I read in the English papers of the exhibition in London.  It was said
the artist showed much promise.  So possibly a career may at last be
opening out for him.

Nature has made life hard to Russian rich and poor alike.  To the banks
of the Neva, with its ague and influenza-bestowing fogs and mists, one
imagines that the Devil himself must have guided Peter the Great.

“Show me in all my dominions the most hopelessly unattractive site on
which to build a city,” Peter must have prayed; and the Devil having
discovered the site on which St. Petersburg now stands, must have
returned to his master in high good feather.

“I think, my dear Peter, I have found you something really unique.  It is
a pestilent swamp to which a mighty river brings bitter blasts and
marrow-chilling fogs, while during the brief summer time the wind will
bring you sand.  In this way you will combine the disadvantages of the
North Pole with those of the desert of Sahara.”

In the winter time the Russians light their great stoves, and doubly
barricade their doors and windows; and in this atmosphere, like to that
of a greenhouse, many of their women will pass six months, never
venturing out of doors.  Even the men only go out at intervals.  Every
office, every shop is an oven.  Men of forty have white hair and
parchment faces; and the women are old at thirty.  The farm labourers,
during the few summer months, work almost entirely without sleep.  They
leave that for the winter, when they shut themselves up like dormice in
their hovels, their store of food and vodka buried underneath the floor.
For days together they sleep, then wake and dig, then sleep again.

The Russian party lasts all night.  In an adjoining room are beds and
couches; half a dozen guests are always sleeping.  An hour contents them,
then they rejoin the company, and other guests take their places.  The
Russian eats when he feels so disposed; the table is always spread, the
guests come and go.  Once a year there is a great feast in Moscow.  The
Russian merchant and his friends sit down early in the day, and a sort of
thick, sweet pancake is served up hot.  The feast continues for many
hours, and the ambition of the Russian merchant is to eat more than his
neighbour.  Fifty or sixty of these hot cakes a man will consume at a
sitting, and a dozen funerals in Moscow is often the result.

An uncivilised people, we call them in our lordly way, but they are
young.  Russian history is not yet three hundred years old.  They will
see us out, I am inclined to think.  Their energy, their
intelligence—when these show above the groundwork—are monstrous.  I have
known a Russian learn Chinese within six months.  English! they learn it
while you are talking to them.  The children play at chess and study the
violin for their own amusement.

The world will be glad of Russia—when she has put her house in order.


FOLKS suffering from Jingoism, Spreadeagleism, Chauvinism—all such like
isms, to whatever country they belong—would be well advised to take a
tour in Holland.  It is the idea of the moment that size spells
happiness.  The bigger the country the better one is for living there.
The happiest Frenchman cannot possibly be as happy as the most wretched
Britisher, for the reason that Britain owns many more thousands of square
miles than France possesses.  The Swiss peasant, compared with the
Russian serf, must, when he looks at the map of Europe and Asia, feel
himself to be a miserable creature.  The reason that everybody in America
is happy and good is to be explained by the fact that America has an area
equal to that of the entire moon.  The American citizen who has backed
the wrong horse, missed his train and lost his bag, remembers this and
feels bucked up again.

According to this argument, fishes should be the happiest of mortals, the
sea consisting—at least, so says my atlas: I have not measured it
myself—of a hundred and forty-four millions of square miles.  But, maybe,
the sea is also divided in ways we wot not of.  Possibly the sardine who
lives near the Brittainy coast is sad and discontented because the
Norwegian sardine is the proud inhabitant of a larger sea.  Perhaps that
is why he has left the Brittainy coast.  Ashamed of being a Brittainy
sardine, he has emigrated to Norway, has become a naturalized Norwegian
sardine, and is himself again.

The happy Londoner on foggy days can warm himself with the reflection
that the sun never sets on the British Empire.  He does not often see the
sun, but that is a mere detail.  He regards himself as the owner of the
sun; the sun begins his little day in the British Empire, ends his little
day in the British Empire: for all practical purposes the sun is part of
the British Empire.  Foolish people in other countries sit underneath it
and feel warm, but that is only their ignorance.  They do not know it is
a British possession; if they did they would feel cold.

My views on this subject are, I know, heretical.  I cannot get it into my
unpatriotic head that size is the only thing worth worrying about.  In
England, when I venture to express my out-of-date opinions, I am called a
Little Englander.  It fretted me at first; I was becoming a mere shadow.
But by now I have got used to it.  It would be the same, I feel, wherever
I went.  In New York I should be a Little American; in Constantinople a
Little Turk.  But I wanted to talk about Holland.  A holiday in Holland
serves as a corrective to exaggerated Imperialistic notions.

There are no poor in Holland.  They may be an unhappy people, knowing
what a little country it is they live in; but, if so, they hide the fact.
To all seeming, the Dutch peasant, smoking his great pipe, is as much a
man as the Whitechapel hawker or the moocher of the Paris boulevard.  I
saw a beggar once in Holland—in the townlet of Enkhuisen.  Crowds were
hurrying up from the side streets to have a look at him; the idea at
first seemed to be that he was doing it for a bet.  He turned out to be a
Portuguese.  They offered him work in the docks—until he could get
something better to do—at wages equal in English money to about ten
shillings a day.  I inquired about him on my way back, and was told he
had borrowed a couple of forms from the foreman and had left by the
evening train.  It is not the country for the loafer.

In Holland work is easily found; this takes away the charm of looking for
it.  A farm labourer in Holland lives in a brick-built house of six
rooms, which generally belongs to him, with an acre or so of ground, and
only eats meat once a day.  The rest of his time he fills up on eggs and
chicken and cheese and beer.  But you rarely hear him grumble.  His wife
and daughter may be seen on Sundays wearing gold and silver jewellery
worth from fifty to one hundred pounds, and there is generally enough old
delft and pewter in the house to start a local museum anywhere outside
Holland.  On high days and holidays, of which in Holland there are
plenty, the average Dutch _vrouw_ would be well worth running away with.
The Dutch peasant girl has no need of an illustrated journal once a week
to tell her what the fashion is; she has it in the portrait of her
mother, or of her grandmother, hanging over the glittering chimney-piece.

When the Dutchwoman builds a dress she builds it to last; it descends
from mother to daughter, but it is made of sound material in the
beginning.  A lady friend of mine thought the Dutch costume would serve
well for a fancy-dress ball, so set about buying one, but abandoned the
notion on learning what it would cost her.  A Dutch girl in her Sunday
clothes must be worth fifty pounds before you come to ornaments.  In
certain provinces she wears a close-fitting helmet, made either of solid
silver or of solid gold.  The Dutch gallant, before making himself known,
walks on tiptoe a little while behind the Loved One, and looks at himself
in her head-dress just to make sure that his hat is on straight and his
front curl just where it ought to be.

In most other European countries national costume is dying out.  The
slop-shop is year by year extending its hideous trade.  But the country
of Rubens and Rembrandt, of Teniers and Gerard Dow, remains still true to
art.  The picture post-card does not exaggerate.  The men in those
wondrous baggy knickerbockers, from the pockets of which you sometimes
see a couple of chicken’s heads protruding; in gaudy coloured shirts, in
worsted hose and mighty sabots, smoking their great pipes—the women in
their petticoats of many hues, in gorgeously embroidered vest, in
chemisette of dazzling white, crowned with a halo of many frills,
glittering in gold and silver—are not the creatures of an artist’s fancy.
You meet them in their thousands on holiday afternoons, walking gravely
arm in arm, flirting with sober Dutch stolidity.

On colder days the women wear bright-coloured capes made of fine spun
silk, from underneath the ample folds of which you sometimes hear a
little cry; and sometimes a little hooded head peeps out, regards with
preternatural thoughtfulness the toy-like world without, then dives back
into shelter.  As for the children—women in miniature, the single
difference in dress being the gay pinafore—you can only say of them that
they look like Dutch dolls.  But such plump, contented, cheerful little
dolls!  You remember the hollow-eyed, pale-faced dolls you see swarming
in the great, big and therefore should be happy countries, and wish that
mere land surface were of less importance to our statesmen and our able
editors, and the happiness and well-being of the mere human items worth a
little more of their thought.

The Dutch peasant lives surrounded by canals, and reaches his cottage
across a drawbridge.  I suppose it is in the blood of the Dutch child not
to tumble into a canal, and the Dutch mother never appears to anticipate
such possibility.  One can imagine the average English mother trying to
bring up a family in a house surrounded by canals.  She would never have
a minute’s peace until the children were in bed.  But then the mere sight
of a canal to the English child suggests the delights of a sudden and
unexpected bath.  I put it to a Dutchman once.  Did the Dutch child by
any chance ever fall into a canal?

“Yes,” he replied, “cases have been known.”

“Don’t you do anything for it?” I enquired.

“Oh, yes,” he answered, “we haul them out again.”

“But what I mean is,” I explained, “don’t you do anything to prevent
their falling in—to save them from falling in again?”

“Yes,” he answered, “we spank ’em.”

There is always a wind in Holland; it comes from over the sea.  There is
nothing to stay its progress.  It leaps the low dykes and sweeps with a
shriek across the sad, soft dunes, and thinks it is going to have a good
time and play havoc in the land.  But the Dutchman laughs behind his
great pipe as it comes to him shouting and roaring.  “Welcome, my hearty,
welcome,” he chuckles, “come blustering and bragging; the bigger you are
the better I like you.”  And when it is once in the land, behind the
long, straight dykes, behind the waving line of sandy dunes, he seizes
hold of it, and will not let it go till it has done its tale of work.

The wind is the Dutchman’s; servant before he lets it loose again it has
turned ten thousand mills, has pumped the water and sawn the wood, has
lighted the town and worked the loom, and forged the iron, and driven the
great, slow, silent wherry, and played with the children in the garden.
It is a sober wind when it gets back to sea, worn and weary, leaving the
Dutchman laughing behind his everlasting pipe.  There are canals in
Holland down which you pass as though a field of wind-blown corn; a soft,
low, rustling murmur ever in your ears.  It is the ceaseless whirl of the
great mill sails.  Far out at sea the winds are as foolish savages,
fighting, shrieking, tearing—purposeless.  Here, in the street of mills,
it is a civilized wind, crooning softly while it labours.

What charms one in Holland is the neatness and cleanliness of all about
one.  Maybe to the Dutchman there are drawbacks.  In a Dutch household
life must be one long spring-cleaning.  No milk-pail is considered fit
that cannot just as well be used for a looking-glass.  The great brass
pans, hanging under the pent house roof outside the cottage door, flash
like burnished gold.  You could eat your dinner off the red-tiled floor,
but that the deal table, scrubbed to the colour of cream cheese, is more
convenient.  By each threshold stands a row of empty sabots, and
woe-betide the Dutchman who would dream of crossing it in anything but
his stockinged feet.

There is a fashion in sabots.  Every spring they are freshly painted.
One district fancies an orange yellow, another a red, a third white,
suggesting purity and innocence.  Members of the Smart Set indulge in
ornamentation; a frieze in pink, a star upon the toe.  Walking in sabots
is not as easy as it looks.  Attempting to run in sabots I do not
recommend to the beginner.

“How do you run in sabots?” I asked a Dutchman once.  I had been
experimenting, and had hurt myself.

“We don’t run,” answered the Dutchman.

And observation has proved to me he was right.  The Dutch boy, when he
runs, puts them for preference on his hands, and hits other Dutch boys
over the head with them as he passes.

The roads in Holland, straight and level, and shaded all the way with
trees, look, from the railway-carriage window, as if they would be good
for cycling; but this is a delusion.  I crossed in the boat from Harwich
once, with a well-known black and white artist, and an equally well-known
and highly respected humorist.  They had their bicycles with them,
intending to tour Holland.  I met them a fortnight later in Delft, or,
rather, I met their remains.  I was horrified at first.  I thought it was
drink.  They could not stand still, they could not sit still, they
trembled and shook in every limb, their teeth chattered when they tried
to talk.  The humorist hadn’t a joke left in him.  The artist could not
have drawn his own salary; he would have dropped it on the way to his
pocket.  The Dutch roads are paved their entire length with cobbles—big,
round cobbles, over which your bicycle leaps and springs and plunges.

If you would see Holland outside the big towns a smattering of Dutch is
necessary.  If you know German there is not much difficulty.  Dutch—I
speak as an amateur—appears to be very bad German mis-pronounced.
Myself, I find my German goes well in Holland, even better than in
Germany.  The Anglo-Saxon should not attempt the Dutch G.  It is hopeless
to think of succeeding, and the attempt has been known to produce
internal rupture.  The Dutchman appears to keep his G in his stomach, and
to haul it up when wanted.  Myself, I find the ordinary G, preceded by a
hiccough and followed by a sob, the nearest I can get to it.  But they
tell me it is not quite right, yet.

One needs to save up beforehand if one desires to spend any length of
time in Holland.  One talks of dear old England, but the dearest land in
all the world is little Holland.  The florin there is equal to the franc
in France and to the shilling in England.  They tell you that cigars are
cheap in Holland.  A cheap Dutch cigar will last you a day.  It is not
until you have forgotten the taste of it that you feel you ever want to
smoke again.  I knew a man who reckoned that he had saved hundreds of
pounds by smoking Dutch cigars for a month steadily.  It was years before
he again ventured on tobacco.

Watching building operations in Holland brings home to you forcibly, what
previously you have regarded as a meaningless formula—namely, that the
country is built upon piles.  A dozen feet below the level of the street
one sees the labourers working in fishermen’s boots up to their knees in
water, driving the great wooden blocks into the mud.  Many of the older
houses slope forward at such an angle that you almost fear to pass
beneath them.  I should be as nervous as a kitten, living in one of the
upper storeys.  But the Dutchman leans out of a window that is hanging
above the street six feet beyond the perpendicular, and smokes

They have a merry custom in Holland of keeping the railway time twenty
minutes ahead of the town time—or is it twenty minutes behind?  I never
can remember when I’m there, and I am not sure now.  The Dutchman himself
never knows.

“You’ve plenty of time,” he says

“But the train goes at ten,” you say; “the station is a mile away, and it
is now half-past nine.”

“Yes, but that means ten-twenty,” he answers, “you have nearly an hour.”

Five minutes later he taps you on the shoulder.

“My mistake, it’s twenty to ten.  I was thinking it was the other way

Another argues with him that his first idea was right.  They work it out
by scientific methods.  Meanwhile you have dived into a cab.  The result
is always the same: you are either forty minutes too soon, or you have
missed the train by twenty minutes.  A Dutch platform is always crowded
with women explaining volubly to their husbands either that there was not
any need to have hurried, or else that the thing would have been to have
started half an hour before they did, the man in both cases being, of
course, to blame.  The men walk up and down and swear.

The idea has been suggested that the railway time and the town time
should be made to conform.  The argument against the idea is that if it
were carried out there would be nothing left to put the Dutchman out and
worry him.


A MAD friend of mine will have it that the characteristic of the age is
Make-Believe.  He argues that all social intercourse is founded on
make-believe.  A servant enters to say that Mr. and Mrs. Bore are in the

“Oh, damn!” says the man.

“Hush!” says the woman.  “Shut the door, Susan.  How often am I to tell
you never to leave the door open?”

The man creeps upstairs on tiptoe and shuts himself in his study.  The
woman does things before a looking-glass, waits till she feels she is
sufficiently mistress of herself not to show her feelings, and then
enters the drawing-room with outstretched hands and the look of one
welcoming an angel’s visit.  She says how delighted she is to see the
Bores—how good it was of them to come.  Why did they not bring more Bores
with them?  Where is naughty Bore junior?  Why does he never come to see
her now?  She will have to be really angry with him.  And sweet little
Flossie Bore?  Too young to pay calls!  Nonsense.  An “At Home” day is
not worth having where all the Bores are not.

The Bores, who had hoped that she was out—who have only called because
the etiquette book told them that they must call at least four times in
the season, explain how they have been trying and trying to come.

“This afternoon,” recounts Mrs. Bore, “we were determined to come.
‘John, dear,’ I said this morning, ‘I shall go and see dear Mrs. Bounder
this afternoon, no matter what happens.’”

The idea conveyed is that the Prince of Wales, on calling at the Bores,
was told that he could not come in.  He might call again in the evening
or come some other day.

That afternoon the Bores were going to enjoy themselves in their own way;
they were going to see Mrs. Bounder.

“And how is Mr. Bounder?” demands Mrs. Bore.

Mrs. Bounder remains mute for a moment, straining her ears.  She can hear
him creeping past the door on his way downstairs.  She hears the front
door softly opened and closed-to.  She wakes, as from a dream.  She has
been thinking of the sorrow that will fall on Bounder when he returns
home later and learns what he has missed.

And thus it is, not only with the Bores and Bounders, but even with us
who are not Bores or Bounders.  Society in all ranks is founded on the
make-believe that everybody is charming; that we are delighted to see
everybody; that everybody is delighted to see us; that it is so good of
everybody to come; that we are desolate at the thought that they really
must go now.

Which would we rather do—stop and finish our cigar or hasten into the
drawing-room to hear Miss Screecher sing?  Can you ask us?  We tumble
over each other in our hurry.  Miss Screecher would really rather not
sing; but if we insist—We do insist.  Miss Screecher, with pretty
reluctance, consents.  We are careful not to look at one another.  We sit
with our eyes fixed on the ceiling.  Miss Screecher finishes, and rises.

“But it was so short,” we say, so soon as we can be heard above the
applause.  Is Miss Screecher quite sure that was the whole of it?  Or has
she been playing tricks upon us, the naughty lady, defrauding us of a
verse?  Miss Screecher assures us that the fault is the composer’s.  But
she knows another.  At this hint, our faces lighten again with gladness.
We clamour for more.

Our host’s wine is always the most extraordinary we have ever tasted.
No, not another glass; we dare not—doctor’s orders, very strict.  Our
host’s cigar!  We did not know they made such cigars in this workaday
world.  No, we really could not smoke another.  Well, if he will be so
pressing, may we put it in our pocket?  The truth is, we are not used to
high smoking.  Our hostess’s coffee!  Would she confide to us her secret?
The baby!  We hardly trust ourselves to speak.  The usual baby—we have
seen it.  As a rule, to be candid, we never could detect much beauty in
babies—have always held the usual gush about them to be insincere.  But
this baby!  We are almost on the point of asking them where they got it.
It is just the kind we wanted for ourselves.  Little Janet’s recitation:
“A Visit to the Dentist!”  Hitherto the amateur reciter has not appealed
to us.  But this is genius, surely.  She ought to be trained for the
stage.  Her mother does not altogether approve of the stage.  We plead
for the stage—that it may not be deprived of such talent.

Every bride is beautiful.  Every bride looks charming in a simple costume
of—for further particulars see local papers.  Every marriage is a cause
for universal rejoicing.  With our wine-glass in our hand we picture the
ideal life we know to be in store for them.  How can it be otherwise?
She, the daughter of her mother.  (Cheers.)  He—well, we all know him.
(More cheers.)  Also involuntary guffaw from ill-regulated young man at
end of table, promptly suppressed.

We carry our make-believe even into our religion.  We sit in church, and
in voices swelling with pride, mention to the Almighty, at stated
intervals, that we are miserable worms—that there is no good in us.  This
sort of thing, we gather, is expected of us; it does us no harm, and is
supposed to please.

We make-believe that every woman is good, that every man is honest—until
they insist on forcing us, against our will, to observe that they are
not.  Then we become very angry with them, and explain to them that they,
being sinners, are not folk fit to mix with us perfect people.  Our
grief, when our rich aunt dies, is hardly to be borne.  Drapers make
fortunes, helping us to express feebly our desolation.  Our only
consolation is that she has gone to a better world.

Everybody goes to a better world when they have got all they can out of
this one.

We stand around the open grave and tell each other so.  The clergyman is
so assured of it that, to save time, they have written out the formula
for him and had it printed in a little book.  As a child it used to
surprise me—this fact that everybody went to heaven.  Thinking of all the
people that had died, I pictured the place overcrowded.  Almost I felt
sorry for the Devil, nobody ever coming his way, so to speak.  I saw him
in imagination, a lonely old gentleman, sitting at his gate day after
day, hoping against hope, muttering to himself maybe that it hardly
seemed worth while, from his point of view, keeping the show open.  An
old nurse whom I once took into my confidence was sure, if I continued
talking in this sort of way, that he would get me anyhow.  I must have
been an evil-hearted youngster.  The thought of how he would welcome me,
the only human being that he had seen for years, had a certain
fascination for me; for once in my existence I should be made a fuss

At every public meeting the chief speaker is always “a jolly good
fellow.”  The man from Mars, reading our newspapers, would be convinced
that every Member of Parliament was a jovial, kindly, high-hearted,
generous-souled saint, with just sufficient humanity in him to prevent
the angels from carrying him off bodily.  Do not the entire audience,
moved by one common impulse, declare him three times running, and in
stentorian voice, to be this “jolly good fellow”?  So say all of them.
We have always listened with the most intense pleasure to the brilliant
speech of our friend who has just sat down.  When you thought we were
yawning, we were drinking in his eloquence, open-mouthed.

The higher one ascends in the social scale, the wider becomes this
necessary base of make-believe.  When anything sad happens to a very big
person, the lesser people round about him hardly care to go on living.
Seeing that the world is somewhat overstocked with persons of importance,
and that something or another generally is happening to them, one wonders
sometimes how it is the world continues to exist.

Once upon a time there occurred an illness to a certain good and great
man.  I read in my daily paper that the whole nation was plunged in
grief.  People dining in public restaurants, on being told the news by
the waiter, dropped their heads upon the table and sobbed.  Strangers,
meeting in the street, flung their arms about one another and cried like
little children.  I was abroad at the time, but on the point of returning
home.  I almost felt ashamed to go.  I looked at myself in the glass, and
was shocked at my own appearance: it was that of a man who had not been
in trouble for weeks.  I felt that to burst upon this grief-stricken
nation with a countenance such as mine would be to add to their sorrow.
It was borne in upon me that I must have a shallow, egotistical nature.
I had had luck with a play in America, and for the life of me I could not
look grief-stricken.  There were moments when, if I was not keeping a
watch over myself, I found myself whistling.

Had it been possible I would have remained abroad till some stroke of
ill-fortune had rendered me more in tune with my fellow-countrymen.  But
business was pressing.  The first man I talked to on Dover pier was a
Customs House official.  You might have thought sorrow would have made
him indifferent to a mere matter of forty-eight cigars.  Instead of
which, he appeared quite pleased when he found them.  He demanded
three-and-fourpence, and chuckled when he got it.  On Dover platform a
little girl laughed because a lady dropped a handbox on a dog; but then
children are always callous—or, perhaps, she had not heard the news.

What astonished me most, however, was to find in the railway carriage a
respectable looking man reading a comic journal.  True, he did not laugh
much: he had got decency enough for that; but what was a grief-stricken
citizen doing with a comic journal, anyhow?  Before I had been in London
an hour I had come to the conclusion that we English must be a people of
wonderful self-control.  The day before, according to the newspapers, the
whole country was in serious danger of pining away and dying of a broken
heart.  In one day the nation had pulled itself together.  “We have cried
all day,” they had said to themselves, “we have cried all night.  It does
not seem to have done much good.  Now let us once again take up the
burden of life.”  Some of them—I noticed it in the hotel dining-room that
evening—were taking quite kindly to their food again.

We make believe about quite serious things.  In war, each country’s
soldiers are always the most courageous in the world.  The other
country’s soldiers are always treacherous and tricky; that is why they
sometimes win.  Literature is the art of make-believe.

“Now all of you sit round and throw your pennies in the cap,” says the
author, “and I will pretend that there lives in Bayswater a young lady
named Angelina, who is the most beautiful young lady that ever existed.
And in Notting Hill, we will pretend, there resides a young man named
Edwin, who is in love with Angelina.”

And then, there being sufficient pennies in the cap, the author starts
away, and pretends that Angelina thought this and said that, and that
Edwin did all sorts of wonderful things.  We know he is making it all up
as he goes along.  We know he is making up just what he thinks will
please us.  He, on the other hand, has to make-believe that he is doing
it because he cannot help it, he being an artist.  But we know well
enough that, were we to stop throwing the pennies into the cap, he would
find out precious soon that he could.

The theatrical manager bangs his drum.

“Walk up! walk up!” he cries, “we are going to pretend that Mrs. Johnson
is a princess, and old man Johnson is going to pretend to be a pirate.
Walk up, walk up, and be in time!”

So Mrs. Johnson, pretending to be a princess, comes out of a wobbly thing
that we agree to pretend is a castle; and old man Johnson, pretending to
be a pirate, is pushed up and down on another wobbly thing that we agree
to pretend is the ocean.  Mrs. Johnson pretends to be in love with him,
which we know she is not.  And Johnson pretends to be a very terrible
person; and Mrs. Johnson pretends, till eleven o’clock, to believe it.
And we pay prices, varying from a shilling to half-a-sovereign, to sit
for two hours and listen to them.

But as I explained at the beginning, my friend is a mad sort of person.


I AM glad I am not an American husband.  At first sight this may appear a
remark uncomplimentary to the American wife.  It is nothing of the sort.
It is the other way about.  We, in Europe, have plenty of opportunity of
judging the American wife.  In America you hear of the American wife, you
are told stories about the American wife, you see her portrait in the
illustrated journals.  By searching under the heading “Foreign
Intelligence,” you can find out what she is doing.  But here in Europe we
know her, meet her face to face, talk to her, flirt with her.  She is
charming, delightful.  That is why I say I am glad I am not an American
husband.  If the American husband only knew how nice was the American
wife, he would sell his business and come over here, where now and then
he could see her.

Years ago, when I first began to travel about Europe, I argued to myself
that America must be a deadly place to live in.  How sad it is, I thought
to myself, to meet thus, wherever one goes, American widows by the
thousand.  In one narrow by-street of Dresden I calculated fourteen
American mothers, possessing nine-and-twenty American children, and not a
father among them—not a single husband among the whole fourteen.  I
pictured fourteen lonely graves, scattered over the United States.  I saw
as in a vision those fourteen head-stones of best material, hand-carved,
recording the virtues of those fourteen dead and buried husbands.

Odd, thought I to myself, decidedly odd.  These American husbands, they
must be a delicate type of humanity.  The wonder is their mothers ever
reared them.  They marry fine girls, the majority of them; two or three
sweet children are born to them, and after that there appears to be no
further use for them, as far as this world is concerned.  Can nothing be
done to strengthen their constitutions?  Would a tonic be of any help to
them?  Not the customary tonic, I don’t mean, the sort of tonic merely
intended to make gouty old gentlemen feel they want to buy a hoop, but
the sort of tonic for which it was claimed that three drops poured upon a
ham sandwich and the thing would begin to squeak.

It struck me as pathetic, the picture of these American widows leaving
their native land, coming over in shiploads to spend the rest of their
blighted lives in exile.  The mere thought of America, I took it, had for
ever become to them distasteful.  The ground that once his feet had
pressed!  The old familiar places once lighted by his smile!  Everything
in America would remind them of him.  Snatching their babes to their
heaving bosoms they would leave the country where lay buried all the joy
of their lives, seek in the retirement of Paris, Florence or Vienna,
oblivion of the past.

Also, it struck me as beautiful, the noble resignation with which they
bore their grief, hiding their sorrow from the indifferent stranger.
Some widows make a fuss, go about for weeks looking gloomy and depressed,
making not the slightest effort to be merry.  These fourteen widows—I
knew them personally, all of them, I lived in the same street—what a
brave show of cheerfulness they put on!  What a lesson to the common or
European widow, the humpy type of widow!  One could spend whole days in
their company—I had done it—commencing quite early in the morning with a
sleighing excursion, finishing up quite late in the evening with a little
supper party, followed by an impromptu dance; and never detect from their
outward manner that they were not thoroughly enjoying themselves.

From the mothers I turned my admiring eyes towards the children.  This is
the secret of American success, said I to myself; this high-spirited
courage, this Spartan contempt for suffering.  Look at them! the gallant
little men and women.  Who would think that they had lost a father?  Why,
I have seen a British child more upset at losing sixpence.

Talking to a little girl one day, I enquired of her concerning the health
of her father.  The next moment I could have bitten my tongue out,
remembering that there wasn’t such a thing as a father—not an American
father—in the whole street.  She did not burst into tears as they do in
the story-books.  She said:

“He is quite well, thank you,” simply, pathetically, just like that.

“I am sure of it,” I replied with fervour, “well and happy as he deserves
to be, and one day you will find him again; you will go to him.”

“Ah, yes,” she answered, a shining light, it seemed to me, upon her fair
young face.  “Momma says she is getting just a bit tired of this
one-horse sort of place.  She is quite looking forward to seeing him

It touched me very deeply: this weary woman, tired of her long
bereavement, actually looking forward to the fearsome passage leading to
where her loved one waited for her in a better land.

For one bright breezy creature I grew to feel a real regard.  All the
months that I had known her, seen her almost daily, never once had I
heard a single cry of pain escape her lips, never once had I heard her
cursing fate.  Of the many who called upon her in her charming flat, not
one had ever, to my knowledge, offered her consolation or condolence.  It
seemed to me cruel, callous.  The over-burdened heart, finding no outlet
for its imprisoned grief, finding no sympathetic ear into which to pour
its tale of woe, breaks, we are told; anyhow, it isn’t good for it.  I
decided—no one else seeming keen—that I would supply that sympathetic
ear.  The very next time I found myself alone with her I introduced the

“You have been living here in Dresden a long time, have you not?” I

“About five years,” she answered, “on and off.”

“And all alone,” I commented, with a sigh intended to invite to

“Well, hardly alone,” she corrected me, while a look of patient
resignation added dignity to her piquant features.  “You see, there are
the dear children always round about me, during the holidays.”

“Besides,” she added, “the people here are real kind to me; they hardly
ever let me feel myself alone.  We make up little parties, you know,
picnics and excursions.  And then, of course, there is the Opera and the
Symphony Concerts, and the subscription dances.  The dear old king has
been doing a good deal this winter, too; and I must say the Embassy folks
have been most thoughtful, so far as I am concerned.  No, it would not be
right for me to complain of loneliness, not now that I have got to know a
few people, as it were.”

“But don’t you miss your husband?” I suggested.

A cloud passed over her usually sunny face.  “Oh, please don’t talk of
him,” she said, “it makes me feel real sad, thinking about him.”

But having commenced, I was determined that my sympathy should not be
left to waste.

“What did he die of?” I asked.

She gave me a look the pathos of which I shall never forget.

“Say, young man,” she cried, “are you trying to break it to me gently?
Because if so, I’d rather you told me straight out.  What did he die of?”

“Then isn’t he dead?” I asked, “I mean so far as you know.”

“Never heard a word about his being dead till you started the idea,” she
retorted.  “So far as I know he’s alive and well.”

I said that I was sorry.  I went on to explain that I did not mean I was
sorry to hear that in all probability he was alive and well.  What I
meant was I was sorry I had introduced a painful subject.

“What’s a painful subject?”

“Why, your husband,” I replied.

“But why should you call him a painful subject?”

I had an idea she was getting angry with me.  She did not say so.  I
gathered it.  But I had to explain myself somehow.

“Well,” I answered, “I take it, you didn’t get on well together, and I am
sure it must have been his fault.”

“Now look here,” she said, “don’t you breathe a word against my husband
or we shall quarrel.  A nicer, dearer fellow never lived.”

“Then what did you divorce him for?” I asked.  It was impertinent, it was
unjustifiable.  My excuse is that the mystery surrounding the American
husband had been worrying me for months.  Here had I stumbled upon the
opportunity of solving it.  Instinctively I clung to my advantage.

“There hasn’t been any divorce,” she said.  “There isn’t going to be any
divorce.  You’ll make me cross in another minute.”

But I was becoming reckless.  “He is not dead.  You are not divorced from
him.  Where is he?” I demanded with some heat.

“Where is he?” she replied, astonished.  “Where should he be?  At home,
of course.”

I looked around the luxuriously-furnished room with its air of cosy
comfort, of substantial restfulness.

“What home?” I asked.

“What home!  Why, our home, in Detroit.”

“What is he doing there?”  I had become so much in earnest that my voice
had assumed unconsciously an authoritative tone.  Presumably, it
hypnotised her, for she answered my questions as though she had been in
the witness-box.

“How do I know?  How can I possibly tell you what he is doing?  What do
people usually do at home?”

“Answer the questions, madam, don’t ask them.  What are you doing here?
Quite truthfully, if you please.”  My eyes were fixed upon her.

“Enjoying myself.  He likes me to enjoy myself.  Besides, I am educating
the children.”

“You mean they are here at boarding-school while you are gadding about.
What is wrong with American education?  When did you see your husband

“Last?  Let me see.  No, last Christmas I was in Berlin.  It must have
been the Christmas before, I think.”

“If he is the dear kind fellow you say he is, how is it you haven’t seen
him for two years?”

“Because, as I tell you, he is at home, in Detroit.  How can I see him
when I am here in Dresden and he is in Detroit?  You do ask foolish
questions.  He means to try and come over in the summer, if he can spare
the time, and then, of course—

“Answer my questions, please.  I’ve spoken to you once about it.  Do you
think you are performing your duty as a wife, enjoying yourself in
Dresden and Berlin while your husband is working hard in Detroit?”

“He was quite willing for me to come.  The American husband is a good
fellow who likes his wife to enjoy herself.”

“I am not asking for your views on the American husband.  I am asking
your views on the American wife—on yourself.  The American husband
appears to be a sort of stained-glass saint, and you American wives are
imposing upon him.  It is doing you no good, and it won’t go on for ever.
There will come a day when the American husband will wake up to the fact
he is making a fool of himself, and by over-indulgence, over-devotion,
turning the American woman into a heartless, selfish creature.  What sort
of a home do you think it is in Detroit, with you and the children over
here?  Tell me, is the American husband made entirely of driven snow,
with blood distilled from moonbeams, or is he composed of the ordinary
ingredients?  Because, if the latter, you take my advice and get back
home.  I take it that in America, proper, there are millions of real
homes where the woman does her duty and plays the game.  But also it is
quite clear there are thousands of homes in America, mere echoing rooms,
where the man walks by himself, his wife and children scattered over
Europe.  It isn’t going to work, it isn’t right that it should work.”

“You take the advice of a sincere friend.  Pack up—you and the
children—and get home.”

I left.  It was growing late.  I felt it was time to leave.  Whether she
took my counsel I cannot say.  I only know that there still remain in
Europe a goodly number of American wives to whom it is applicable.


I AM told that American professors are “mourning the lack of ideals” at
Columbia University—possibly also at other universities scattered through
the United States.  If it be any consolation to these mourning American
professors, I can assure them that they do not mourn alone.  I live not
far from Oxford, and enjoy the advantage of occasionally listening to the
jeremiads of English University professors.  More than once a German
professor has done me the honour to employ me as an object on which to
sharpen his English.  He also has mourned similar lack of ideals at
Heidelberg, at Bonn.  Youth is youth all the world over; it has its own
ideals; they are not those of the University professor.  The explanation
is tolerably simple.  Youth is young, and the University professor,
generally speaking, is middle-aged.

I can sympathise with the mourning professor.  I, in my time, have
suffered like despair.  I remember the day so well; it was my twelfth
birthday.  I recall the unholy joy with which I reflected that for the
future my unfortunate parents would be called upon to pay for me full
railway fare; it marked a decided step towards manhood.  I was now in my
teens.  That very afternoon there came to visit us a relative of ours.
She brought with her three small children: a girl, aged six; a precious,
golden-haired thing in a lace collar that called itself a boy, aged five;
and a third still smaller creature, it might have been male, it might
have been female; I could not have told you at the time, I cannot tell
you now.  This collection of atoms was handed over to me.

“Now, show yourself a man,” said my dear mother, “remember you are in
your teens.  Take them out for a walk and amuse them; and mind nothing
happens to them.”

To the children themselves their own mother gave instructions that they
were to do everything that I told them, and not to tear their clothes or
make themselves untidy.  These directions, even to myself, at the time,
appeared contradictory.  But I said nothing.  And out into the wilds the
four of us departed.

I was an only child.  My own infancy had passed from my memory.  To me,
at twelve, the ideas of six were as incomprehensible as are those of
twenty to the University professor of forty.  I wanted to be a pirate.
Round the corner and across the road building operations were in
progress.  Planks and poles lay ready to one’s hand.  Nature, in the
neighbourhood, had placed conveniently a shallow pond.  It was Saturday
afternoon.  The nearest public-house was a mile away.  Immunity from
interference by the British workman was thus assured.  It occurred to me
that by placing my three depressed looking relatives on one raft,
attacking them myself from another, taking the eldest girl’s sixpence
away from her, disabling their raft, and leaving them to drift without a
rudder, innocent amusement would be provided for half an hour at least.

They did not want to play at pirates.  At first sight of the pond the
thing that called itself a boy began to cry.  The six-year-old lady said
she did not like the smell of it.  Not even after I had explained the
game to them were they any the more enthusiastic for it.

I proposed Red Indians.  They could go to sleep in the unfinished
building upon a sack of lime, I would creep up through the grass, set
fire to the house, and dance round it, whooping and waving my tomahawk,
watching with fiendish delight the frantic but futile efforts of the
palefaces to escape their doom.

It did not “catch on”—not even that.  The precious thing in the lace
collar began to cry again.  The creature concerning whom I could not have
told you whether it was male or female made no attempt at argument, but
started to run; it seemed to have taken a dislike to this particular
field.  It stumbled over a scaffolding pole, and then it also began to
cry.  What could one do to amuse such people?  I left it to them to
propose something.  They thought they would like to play at “Mothers”—not
in this field, but in some other field.

The eldest girl would be mother.  The other two would represent her
children.  They had been taken suddenly ill.  “Waterworks,” as I had
christened him, was to hold his hands to his middle and groan.  His face
brightened up at the suggestion.  The nondescript had the toothache.  It
took up its part without a moment’s hesitation, and set to work to
scream.  I could be the doctor and look at their tongues.

That was their “ideal” game.  As I have said, remembering that afternoon,
I can sympathise with the University professor mourning the absence of
University ideals in youth.  Possibly at six my own ideal game may have
been “Mothers.”  Looking back from the pile of birthdays upon which I now
stand, it occurs to me that very probably it was.  But from the
perspective of twelve, the reflection that there were beings in the world
who could find recreation in such fooling saddened me.

Eight years later, his father not being able to afford the time, I
conducted Master “Waterworks,” now a healthy, uninteresting, gawky lad,
to a school in Switzerland.  It was my first Continental trip.  I should
have enjoyed it better had he not been with me.  He thought Paris a
“beastly hole.”  He did not share my admiration for the Frenchwoman; he
even thought her badly dressed.

“Why she’s so tied up, she can’t walk straight,” was the only impression
she left upon him.

We changed the subject; it irritated me to hear him talk.  The beautiful
Juno-like creatures we came across further on in Germany, he said were
too fat.  He wanted to see them run.  I found him utterly soulless.

To expect a boy to love learning and culture is like expecting him to
prefer old vintage claret to gooseberry wine.  Culture for the majority
is an acquired taste.  Speaking personally, I am entirely in agreement
with the University professor.  I find knowledge, prompting to
observation and leading to reflection, the most satisfactory luggage with
which a traveller through life can provide himself.  I would that I had
more of it.  To be able to enjoy a picture is of more advantage than to
be able to buy it.

All that the University professor can urge in favour of idealism I am
prepared to endorse.  But then I am—let us say, thirty-nine.  At fourteen
my candid opinion was that he was talking “rot.”  I looked at the old
gentleman himself—a narrow-chested, spectacled old gentleman, who lived
up a by street.  He did not seem to have much fun of any sort.  It was
not my ideal.  He told me things had been written in a language called
Greek that I should enjoy reading, but I had not even read all Captain
Marryat.  There were tales by Sir Walter Scott and “Jack Harkaway’s
Schooldays!”  I felt I could wait a while.  There was a chap called
Aristophanes who had written comedies, satirising the political
institutions of a country that had disappeared two thousand years ago.  I
say, without shame, Drury Lane pantomime and Barnum’s Circus called to me
more strongly.

Wishing to give the old gentleman a chance, I dipped into translations.
Some of these old fellows were not as bad as I had imagined them.  A
party named Homer had written some really interesting stuff.  Here and
there, maybe, he was a bit long-winded, but, taking him as a whole, there
was “go” in him.  There was another of them—Ovid was his name.  He could
tell a story, Ovid could.  He had imagination.  He was almost as good as
“Robinson Crusoe.”  I thought it would please my professor, telling him
that I was reading these, his favourite authors.

“Reading them!” he cried, “but you don’t know Greek or Latin.”

“But I know English,” I answered; “they have all been translated into
English.  You never told me that!”

It appeared it was not the same thing.  There were subtle delicacies of
diction bound to escape even the best translator.  These subtle
delicacies of diction I could enjoy only by devoting the next seven or
eight years of my life to the study of Greek and Latin.  It will grieve
the University professor to hear it, but the enjoyment of those subtle
delicacies of diction did not appear to me—I was only fourteen at the
time, please remember—to be worth the time and trouble.

The boy is materially inclined—the mourning American professor has
discovered it.  I did not want to be an idealist living up a back street.
I wanted to live in the biggest house in the best street of the town.  I
wanted to ride a horse, wear a fur coat, and have as much to eat and
drink as ever I liked.  I wanted to marry the most beautiful woman in the
world, to have my name in the newspaper, and to know that everybody was
envying me.

Mourn over it, my dear professor, as you will—that is the ideal of youth;
and, so long as human nature remains what it is, will continue to be so.
It is a materialistic ideal—a sordid ideal.  Maybe it is necessary.
Maybe the world would not move much if the young men started thinking too
early.  They want to be rich, so they fling themselves frenziedly into
the struggle.  They build the towns, and make the railway tracks, hew
down the forests, dig the ore out of the ground.  There comes a day when
it is borne in upon them that trying to get rich is a poor sort of
game—that there is only one thing more tiresome than being a millionaire,
and that is trying to be a millionaire.  But, meanwhile, the world has
got its work done.

The American professor fears that the artistic development of America
leaves much to be desired.  I fear the artistic development of most
countries leaves much to be desired.  Why the Athenians themselves
sandwiched their drama between wrestling competitions and boxing bouts.
The plays of Sophocles, or Euripides, were given as “side shows.”  The
chief items of the fair were the games and races.  Besides, America is
still a young man.  It has been busy “getting on in the world.”  It has
not yet quite finished.  Yet there are signs that young America is
approaching the thirty-nines.  He is finding a little time, a little
money to spare for art.  One can almost hear young America—not quite so
young as he was—saying to Mrs. Europe as he enters and closes the shop

“Well, ma’am, here I am, and maybe you’ll be glad to hear I’ve a little
money to spend.  Yes, ma’am, I’ve fixed things all right across the
water; we shan’t starve.  So now, ma’am, you and I can have a chat
concerning this art I’ve been hearing so much about.  Let’s have a look
at it, ma’am, trot it out, and don’t you be afraid of putting a fair
price upon it.”

I am inclined to think that Mrs. Europe has not hesitated to put a good
price upon the art she has sold to Uncle Sam.  I am afraid Mrs. Europe
has occasionally “unloaded” on Uncle Sam.  I talked to a certain dealer
one afternoon, now many years ago, at the Uwantit Club.

“What is the next picture likely to be missing?” I asked him in the
course of general conversation.

“Thome little thing of Hoppner’th, if it mutht be,” he replied with

“Hoppner,” I murmured, “I seem to have heard the name.”

“Yeth; you’ll hear it a bit oftener during the next eighteen month or
tho.  You take care you don’t get tired of hearing it, thath all,” he
laughed.  “Yeth,” he continued, thoughtfully, “Reynoldth ith played out.
Nothing much to be made of Gainthborough, either.  Dealing in that lot
now, why, it’th like keeping a potht offith.  Hoppner’th the coming man.”

“You’ve been buying Hoppners up cheap,” I suggested.

“Between uth,” he answered, “yeth, I think we’ve got them all.  Maybe a
few more.  I don’t think we’ve mithed any.”

“You will sell them for more than you gave for them,” I hinted.

“You’re thmart,” he answered, regarding me admiringly, “you thee through
everything you do.”

“How do you work it?” I asked him.  There is a time in the day when he is
confidential.  “Here is this man, Hoppner.  I take it that you have
bought him up at an average of a hundred pounds a picture, and that at
that price most owners were fairly glad to sell.  Few folks outside the
art schools have ever heard of him.  I bet that at the present moment
there isn’t one art critic who could spell his name without reference to
a dictionary.  In eighteen months you will be selling him for anything
from one thousand to ten thousand pounds.  How is it done?”

“How ith everything done that’th done well?” he answered.  “By earnetht
effort.”  He hitched his chair nearer to me, “I get a chap—one of your
thort of chapth—he writ’th an article about Hoppner.  I get another to
anthwer him.  Before I’ve done there’ll be a hundred articleth about
Hoppner—hith life, hith early thruggie, anecdo’th about hith wife.  Then
a Hoppner will be thold at public auchtion for a thouthand guineath.”

“But how can you be certain it will fetch a thousand guineas?” I

“I happen to know the man whoth going to buy it.”  He winked, and I

“A fortnight later there will be a thale of half-a-dothen, and the prithe
will be gone up by that time.”

“And after that?” I said.

“After that,” he replied, rising, “the American millionaire!  He’ll jutht
be waiting on the door-thtep for the thale-room to open.”

“If by any chance I come across a Hoppner?” I said, laughing, as I turned
to go.

“Don’t you hold on to it too long, that’th all,” was his advice.


THE argument of the late Herr Wagner was that grand opera—the music
drama, as he called it—included, and therefore did away with the
necessity for—all other arts.  Music in all its branches, of course, it
provides: so much I will concede to the late Herr Wagner.  There are
times, I confess, when my musical yearnings might shock the late Herr
Wagner—times when I feel unequal to following three distinct themes at
one and the same instant.

“Listen,” whispers the Wagnerian enthusiast to me, “the cornet has now
the Brunnhilda motive.”  It seems to me, in my then state of depravity,
as if the cornet had even more than this the matter with him.

“The second violins,” continues the Wagnerian enthusiast, “are carrying
on the Wotan theme.”  That they are carrying on goes without saying: the
players’ faces are streaming with perspiration.

“The brass,” explains my friend—his object is to cultivate my ear—“is
accompanying the singers.”  I should have said drowning them.  There are
occasions when I can rave about Wagner with the best of them.  High class
moods come to all of us.  The difference between the really high-class
man and us commonplace, workaday men is the difference between, say, the
eagle and the barnyard chicken.  I am the barnyard chicken.  I have my
wings.  There are ecstatic moments when I feel I want to spurn the sordid
earth and soar into the realms of art.  I do fly a little, but my body is
heavy, and I only get as far as the fence.  After a while I find it
lonesome on the fence, and I hop down again among my fellows.

Listening to Wagner, during such temporary Philistinic mood, my sense of
fair play is outraged.  A lone, lorn woman stands upon the stage trying
to make herself heard.  She has to do this sort of thing for her living;
maybe an invalid mother, younger brothers and sisters are dependent upon
her.  One hundred and forty men, all armed with powerful instruments,
well-organised, and most of them looking well-fed, combine to make it
impossible for a single note of that poor woman’s voice to be heard above
their din.  I see her standing there, opening and shutting her mouth,
getting redder and redder in the face.  She is singing, one feels sure of
it; one could hear her if only those one hundred and forty men would ease
up for a minute.  She makes one mighty, supreme effort; above the banging
of the drums, the blare of the trumpets, the shrieking of the strings,
that last despairing note is distinctly heard.

She has won, but the victory has cost her dear.  She sinks down fainting
on the stage and is carried off by supers.  Chivalrous indignation has
made it difficult for me to keep my seat watching the unequal contest.
My instinct was to leap the barrier, hurl the bald-headed chief of her
enemies from his high chair, and lay about me with the trombone or the
clarionet—whichever might have come the easier to my snatch.

“You cowardly lot of bullies,” I have wanted to cry, “are you not ashamed
of yourselves?  A hundred and forty of you against one, and that one a
still beautiful and, comparatively speaking, young lady.  Be quiet for a
minute—can’t you?  Give the poor girl a chance.”

A lady of my acquaintance says that sitting out a Wagnerian opera seems
to her like listening to a singer accompanied by four orchestras playing
different tunes at the same time.  As I have said, there are times when
Wagner carries me along with him, when I exult in the crash and whirl of
his contending harmonies.  But, alas! there are those other moods—those
after dinner moods—when my desire is for something distinctly resembling
a tune.  Still, there are other composers of grand opera besides Wagner.
I grant to the late Herr Wagner, that, in so far as music is concerned,
opera can supply us with all we can need.

But it was also Wagner’s argument that grand opera could supply us with
acting, and there I am compelled to disagree with him.  Wagner thought
that the arts of acting and singing could be combined.  I have seen
artists the great man has trained himself.  As singers they left nothing
to be desired, but the acting in grand opera has never yet impressed me.
Wagner never succeeded in avoiding the operatic convention and nobody
else ever will.  When the operatic lover meets his sweetheart he puts her
in a corner and, turning his back upon her, comes down to the footlights
and tells the audience how he adores her.  When he has finished, he, in
his turn, retires into the corner, and she comes down and tells the
audience that she is simply mad about him.

Overcome with joy at finding she really cares for him, he comes down
right and says that this is the happiest moment of his life; and she
stands left, twelve feet away from him, and has the presentiment that all
this sort of thing is much too good to last.  They go off together,
backwards, side by side.  If there is any love-making, such as I
understand by the term, it is done “off.”  This is not my idea of acting.
But I do not see how you are going to substitute for it anything more
natural.  When you are singing at the top of your voice, you don’t want a
heavy woman hanging round your neck.  When you are killing a man and
warbling about it at the same time, you don’t want him fooling around you
defending himself.  You want him to have a little reasonable patience,
and to wait in his proper place till you have finished, telling him, or
rather telling the crowd, how much you hate and despise him.

When the proper time comes, and if he is where you expect to find him
while thinking of your upper C, you will hit him lightly on the shoulder
with your sword, and then he can die to his own particular tune.  If you
have been severely wounded in battle, or in any other sort of row, and
have got to sing a long ballad before you finally expire, you don’t want
to have to think how a man would really behave who knew he had only got a
few minutes to live and was feeling bad about it.  The chances are that
he would not want to sing at all.  The woman who really loved him would
not encourage him to sing.  She would want him to keep quiet while she
moved herself about a bit, in case there was anything that could be done
for him.

If a mob is climbing the stairs thirsting for your blood, you do not want
to stand upright with your arms stretched out, a good eighteen inches
from the door, while you go over at some length the varied incidents
leading up to the annoyance.  If your desire were to act naturally you
would push against that door for all you were worth, and yell for
somebody to bring you a chest of drawers and a bedstead, and things like
that, to pile up against it.  If you were a king, and were giving a
party, you would not want your guests to fix you up at the other end of
the room and leave you there, with nobody to talk to but your own wife,
while they turned their backs upon you, and had a long and complicated
dance all to themselves.  You would want to be in it; you would want to
let them know that you were king.

In acting, all these little points have to be considered.  In opera,
everything is rightly sacrificed to musical necessity.  I have seen the
young, enthusiastic opera-singer who thought that he or she could act and
sing at the same time.  The experienced artist takes the centre of the
stage and husbands his resources.  Whether he is supposed to be indignant
because somebody has killed his mother, or cheerful because he is going
out to fight his country’s foes, who are only waiting until he has
finished singing to attack the town, he leaves it to the composer to make

Also it was Herr Wagner’s idea that the back cloth would leave the
opera-goer indifferent to the picture gallery.  The castle on the rock,
accessible only by balloon, in which every window lights up
simultaneously and instantaneously, one minute after sunset, while the
full moon is rushing up the sky at the pace of a champion comet—that
wonderful sea that suddenly opens and swallows up the ship—those
snow-clad mountains, over which the shadow of the hero passes like a
threatening cloud—the grand old chateau, trembling in the wind—what need,
will ask the opera-goer of the future, of your Turners and your Corots,
when, for prices ranging from a shilling upwards, we can have a dozen
pictures such as these rolled up and down before us every evening?

But perhaps the most daring hope of all was the dream that came to Herr
Wagner that his opera singers, his grouped choruses, would eventually
satisfy the craving of the public for high class statuary.  I am not
quite sure the general public does care for statuary.  I do not know
whether the idea has ever occurred to the Anarchist, but, were I myself
organising secret committee meetings for unholy purposes, I should invite
my comrades to meet in that section of the local museum devoted to
statuary.  I can conceive of no place where we should be freer from
prying eyes and listening ears.  A select few, however, do appreciate
statuary; and such, I am inclined to think, will not be weaned from their
passion by the contemplation of the opera singer in his or her various
quaint costumes.

And even if the tenor always satisfied our ideal of Apollo, and the
soprano were always as sylph-like as she is described in the libretto,
even then I should doubt the average operatic chorus being regarded by
the _connoisseur_ as a cheap and pleasant substitute for a bas relief
from the Elgin marbles.  The great thing required of that operatic chorus
is experience.  The young and giddy-pated the chorus master has no use
for.  The sober, honest, industrious lady or gentleman, with a knowledge
of music is very properly his ideal.

What I admire about the chorus chiefly is its unity.  The whole village
dresses exactly alike.  In wicked, worldly villages there is rivalry,
leading to heartburn and jealously.  One lady comes out suddenly, on,
say, a Bank Holiday, in a fetching blue that conquers every male heart.
Next holiday her rival cuts her out with a green hat.  In the operatic
village it must be that the girls gather together beforehand to arrange
this thing.  There is probably a meeting called.

“The dear Count’s wedding,” announces the chairwoman, “you will all be
pleased to hear, has been fixed for the fourteenth, at eleven o’clock in
the morning.  The entire village will be assembled at ten-thirty to await
the return of the bridal _cortège_ from the church, and offer its
felicitations.  Married ladies, will, of course, come accompanied by
their husbands.  Unmarried ladies must each bring a male partner as near
their own height as possible.  Fortunately, in this village the number of
males is exactly equal to that of females, so that the picture need not
be spoiled.  The children will organise themselves into an independent
body and will group themselves picturesquely.  It has been thought
advisable,” continues the chairwoman, “that the village should meet the
dear Count and his bride at some spot not too far removed from the local
alehouse.  The costume to be worn by the ladies will consist of a short
pink skirt terminating at the knees and ornamented with festoons of
flowers; above will be worn a bolero in mauve silk without sleeves and
cut _décolleté_.  The shoes should be of yellow satin over flesh-coloured
stockings.  Ladies who are ‘out’ will wear pearl necklaces, and a simple
device in emeralds to decorate the hair.  Thank God, we can all of us
afford it, and provided the weather holds up and nothing unexpected
happens—he is not what I call a lucky man, our Count, and it is always as
well to be prepared for possibilities—well, I think we may look forward
to a really pleasant day.”

It cannot be done, Herr Wagner, believe me.  You cannot substitute the
music drama for all the arts combined.  The object to be aimed at by the
wise composer should be to make us, while listening to his music,
forgetful of all remaining artistic considerations.


IT is a delightful stroll on a sunny summer morning from the Hague to the
Huis ten Bosch, the little “house in the wood,” built for Princess
Amalia, widow of Stadtholter Frederick Henry, under whom Holland escaped
finally from the bondage of her foes and entered into the promised land
of Liberty.  Leaving the quiet streets, the tree-bordered canals, with
their creeping barges, you pass through a pleasant park, where the
soft-eyed deer press round you, hurt and indignant if you have brought
nothing in your pocket—not even a piece of sugar—to offer them.  It is
not that they are grasping—it is the want of attention that wounds them.

“I thought he was a gentleman,” they seem to be saying to one another, if
you glance back, “he looked like a gentleman.”

Their mild eyes haunt you; on the next occasion you do not forget.  The
Park merges into the forest; you go by winding ways till you reach the
trim Dutch garden, moat-encircled, in the centre of which stands the prim
old-fashioned villa, which, to the simple Dutchman, appears a palace.
The _concierge_, an old soldier, bows low to you and introduces you to
his wife—a stately, white-haired dame, who talks most languages a little,
so far as relates to all things within and appertaining to this tiny
palace of the wood.  To things without, beyond the wood, her powers of
conversation do not extend: apparently such matters do not interest her.

She conducts you to the Chinese Room; the sun streams through the
windows, illuminating the wondrous golden dragons standing out in bold
relief from the burnished lacquer work, decorating still further with
light and shade the delicate silk embroideries thin taper hands have
woven with infinite pains.  The walls are hung with rice paper, depicting
the conventional scenes of the conventional Chinese life.

You find your thoughts wandering.  These grotesque figures, these
caricatures of humanity!  A comical creature, surely, this Chinaman, the
pantaloon of civilization.  How useful he has been to us for our farces,
our comic operas!  This yellow baby, in his ample pinafore, who lived
thousands of years ago, who has now passed into this strange second

But is he dying—or does the life of a nation wake again, as after sleep?
Is he this droll, harmless thing he here depicts himself?  And if not?
Suppose fresh sap be stirring through his three hundred millions?  We
thought he was so very dead; we thought the time had come to cut him up
and divide him, the only danger being lest we should quarrel over his
carcase among ourselves.

Suppose it turns out as the fable of the woodcutter and the bear?  The
woodcutter found the bear lying in the forest.  At first he was much
frightened, but the bear lay remarkably still.  So the woodman crept
nearer, ventured to kick the bear—very gently, ready to run if need be.
Surely the bear was dead!  And parts of a bear are good to eat, and
bearskin to poor woodfolk on cold winter nights is grateful.  So the
woodman drew his knife and commenced the necessary preliminaries.  But
the bear was not dead.

If the Chinaman be not dead?  If the cutting-up process has only served
to waken him?  In a little time from now we shall know.

From the Chinese Room the white-haired dame leads us to the Japanese
Room.  Had gentle-looking Princess Amalia some vague foreshadowing of the
future in her mind when she planned these two rooms leading into one
another?  The Japanese decorations are more grotesque, the designs less
cheerfully comical than those of cousin Chinaman.  These monstrous,
mis-shapen wrestlers, these patient-looking gods, with their inscrutable
eyes!  Was it always there, or is it only by the light of present events
that one reads into the fantastic fancies of the artist working long ago
in the doorway of his paper house, a meaning that has hitherto escaped

But the chief attraction of the Huis ten Bosch is the gorgeous Orange
Saloon, lighted by a cupola, fifty feet above the floor, the walls one
blaze of pictures, chiefly of the gorgeous Jordaen school—“The Defeat of
the Vices,” “Time Vanquishing Slander”—mostly allegorical, in praise of
all the virtues, in praise of enlightenment and progress.  Aptly enough
in a room so decorated, here was held the famous Peace Congress that
closed the last century.  One can hardly avoid smiling as one thinks of
the solemn conclave of grandees assembled to proclaim the popularity of

It was in the autumn of the same year that Europe decided upon the
dividing-up of China, that soldiers were instructed by Christian monarchs
to massacre men, women and children, the idea being to impress upon the
Heathen Chinee the superior civilization of the white man.  The Boer war
followed almost immediately.  Since when the white man has been pretty
busy all over the world with his “expeditions” and his “missions.”  The
world is undoubtedly growing more refined.  We do not care for ugly
words.  Even the burglar refers airily to the “little job” he has on
hand.  You would think he had found work in the country.  I should not be
surprised to learn that he says a prayer before starting, telegraphs home
to his anxious wife the next morning that his task has been crowned with

Until the far-off date of Universal Brotherhood war will continue.
Matters considered unimportant by both parties will—with a mighty
flourish of trumpets—be referred to arbitration.  I was talking of a
famous financier a while ago with a man who had been his secretary.
Amongst other anecdotes, he told me of a certain agreement about which
dispute had arisen.  The famous financier took the paper into his own
hands and made a few swift calculations.

“Let it go,” he concluded, “it is only a thousand pounds at the outside.
May as well be honest.”

Concerning a dead fisherman or two, concerning boundaries through
unproductive mountain ranges we shall arbitrate and feel virtuous.  For
gold mines and good pasture lands, mixed up with a little honour to give
respectability to the business, we shall fight it out, as previously.
War being thus inevitable, the humane man will rejoice that by one of
those brilliant discoveries, so simple when they are explained, war in
the future is going to be rendered equally satisfactory to victor and to

In by-elections, as a witty writer has pointed out, there are no
defeats—only victories and moral victories.  The idea seems to have
caught on.  War in the future is evidently going to be conducted on the
same understanding.  Once upon a time, from a far-off land, a certain
general telegraphed home congratulating his Government that the enemy had
shown no inclination whatever to prevent his running away.  The whole
country rejoiced.

“Why, they never even tried to stop him,” citizens, meeting other
citizens in the street, told each other.  “Ah, they’ve had enough of him.
I bet they are only too glad to get rid of him.  Why, they say he ran for
miles without seeing a trace of the foe.”

The enemy’s general, on the other hand, also wrote home congratulating
his Government.  In this way the same battle can be mafficked over by
both parties.  Contentment is the great secret of happiness.  Everything
happens for the best, if only you look at it the right way.  That is
going to be the argument.  The general of the future will telegraph to
headquarters that he is pleased to be able to inform His Majesty that the
enemy, having broken down all opposition, has succeeded in crossing the
frontier and is now well on his way to His Majesty’s capital.

“I am luring him on,” he will add, “as fast as I can.  At our present
rate of progress, I am in hopes of bringing him home by the tenth.”

Lest foolish civilian sort of people should wonder whereabouts lies the
cause for rejoicing, the military man will condescend to explain.  The
enemy is being enticed farther and farther from his base.  The defeated
general—who is not really defeated, who is only artful, and who appears
to be running away, is not really running away at all.  On the contrary,
he is running home—bringing, as he explains, the enemy with him.

If I remember rightly—it is long since I played it—there is a parlour
game entitled “Puss in the Corner.”  You beckon another player to you
with your finger.  “Puss, puss!” you cry.  Thereupon he has to leave his
chair—his “base,” as the military man would term it—and try to get to you
without anything happening to him.

War in the future is going to be Puss in the Corner on a bigger scale.
You lure your enemy away from his base.  If all goes well—if he does not
see the trap that is being laid for him—why, then, almost before he knows
it, he finds himself in your capital.  That finishes the game.  You find
out what it is he really wants.  Provided it is something within reason,
and you happen to have it handy, you give it to him.  He goes home
crowing, and you, on your side, laugh when you think how cleverly you
succeeded in luring him away from his base.

There is a bright side to all things.  The gentleman charged with the
defence of a fortress will meet the other gentleman who has captured it
and shake hands with him mid the ruins.

“So here you are at last!” he will explain.  “Why didn’t you come before?
We have been waiting for you.”

And he will send off dispatches felicitating his chief on having got that
fortress off their hands, together with all the worry and expense it has
been to them.  When prisoners are taken you will console yourself with
the reflection that the cost of feeding them for the future will have to
be borne by the enemy.  Captured cannon you will watch being trailed away
with a sigh of relief.

“Confounded heavy things!” you will say to yourself.  “Thank goodness
I’ve got rid of them.  Let him have the fun of dragging them about these
ghastly roads.  See how he likes the job!”

War is a ridiculous method of settling disputes.  Anything that can tend
to make its ridiculous aspect more apparent is to be welcomed.  The new
school of military dispatch-writers may succeed in turning even the
laughter of the mob against it.

The present trouble in the East would never have occurred but for the
white man’s enthusiasm for bearing other people’s burdens.  What we call
the yellow danger is the fear that the yellow man may before long request
us, so far as he is concerned, to put his particular burden down.  It may
occur to him that, seeing it is his property, he would just as soon carry
it himself.  A London policeman told me a story the other day that struck
him as an example of Cockney humour under trying circumstances.  But it
may also serve as a fable.  From a lonely street in the neighbourhood of
Covent Garden, early one morning, the constable heard cries of “Stop
thief!” shouted in a childish treble.  He arrived on the scene just in
time to collar a young hooligan, who, having snatched a basket of fruit
from a small lad—a greengrocer’s errand boy, as it turned out—was, with
it, making tracks.  The greengrocer’s boy, between panting and tears,
delivered his accusation.  The hooligan regarded him with an expression
of amazed indignation.

“What d’yer mean, stealing it?” exclaimed Mr. Hooligan.  “Why, I was
carrying it for yer!”

The white man has got into the way of “carrying” other people’s burdens,
and now it looks as if the yellow man were going to object to our
carrying his any further.  Maybe he is going to get nasty, and insist on
carrying it himself.  We call this “the yellow danger.”

A friend of mine—he is a man who in the street walks into lamp-posts, and
apologises—sees rising from the East the dawn of a new day in the world’s
history.  The yellow danger is to him a golden hope.  He sees a race long
stagnant, stretching its giant limbs with the first vague movements of
returning life.  He is a poor sort of patriot; he calls himself, I
suppose, a white man, yet he shamelessly confesses he would rather see
Asia’s millions rise from the ruins of their ancient civilization to take
their part in the future of humanity, than that half the population of
the globe should remain bound in savagery for the pleasure and the profit
of his own particular species.

He even goes so far as to think that the white man may have something to
learn.  The world has belonged to him now for some thousands of years.
Has he done all with it that could have been done?  Are his ideals the
last word?

Not what the yellow man has absorbed from Europe, but what he is going to
give Europe it is that interests my friend.  He is watching the birth of
a new force—an influence as yet unknown.  He clings to the fond belief
that new ideas, new formulæ, to replace the old worn shibboleths, may,
during these thousands of years, have been developing in those keen
brains that behind the impressive yellow mask have been working so long
in silence and in mystery.


WHAT is wrong with marriage, anyhow?  I find myself pondering this
question so often, when reading high-class literature.  I put it to
myself again the other evening, during a performance of Faust.  Why could
not Faust have married the girl?  I would not have married her myself for
any consideration whatsoever; but that is not the argument.  Faust,
apparently, could not see anything amiss with her.  Both of them were mad
about each other.  Yet the idea of a quiet, unostentatious marriage with
a week’s honeymoon, say, in Vienna, followed by a neat little cottage
_orné_, not too far from Nürnberg, so that their friends could have come
out to them, never seems to have occurred to either of them.

There could have been a garden.  Marguerite might have kept chickens and
a cow.  That sort of girl, brought up to hard work and by no means too
well educated, is all the better for having something to do.  Later, with
the gradual arrival of the family, a good, all-round woman might have
been hired in to assist.  Faust, of course, would have had his study and
got to work again; that would have kept him out of further mischief.  The
idea that a brainy man, his age, was going to be happy with nothing to do
all day but fool round a petticoat was ridiculous from the beginning.
Valentine—a good fellow, Valentine, with nice ideas—would have spent his
Saturdays to Monday with them.  Over a pipe and a glass of wine, he and
Faust would have discussed the local politics.

He would have danced the children on his knee, have told them tales about
the war—taught the eldest boy to shoot.  Faust, with a practical man like
Valentine to help him, would probably have invented a new gun.  Valentine
would have got it taken up.

Things might have come of it.  Sybil, in course of time, would have
married and settled down—perhaps have taken a little house near to them.
He and Marguerite would have joked—when Mrs. Sybil was not around—about
his early infatuation.  The old mother would have toddled over from
Nürnberg—not too often, just for the day.

The picture grows upon one the more one thinks of it.  Why did it never
occur to them?  There would have been a bit of a bother with the Old Man.
I can imagine Mephistopheles being upset about it, thinking himself
swindled.  Of course, if that was the reason—if Faust said to himself:

“I should like to marry the girl, but I won’t do it; it would not be fair
to the Old Man; he has been to a lot of trouble working this thing up; in
common gratitude I cannot turn round now and behave like a decent,
sensible man; it would not be playing the game”—if this was the way Faust
looked at the matter there is nothing more to be said.  Indeed, it shows
him in rather a fine light—noble, if quixotic.

If, on the other hand, he looked at the question from the point of view
of himself and the girl, I think the thing might have been managed.  All
one had to do in those days when one wanted to get rid of the Devil was
to show him a sword hilt.  Faust and Marguerite could have slipped into a
church one morning, and have kept him out of the way with a sword hilt
till the ceremony was through.  They might have hired a small boy:

“You see the gentleman in red?  Well, he wants us and we don’t want him.
That is the only difference between us.  Now, you take this sword, and
when you see him coming show him the hilt.  Don’t hurt him; just show him
the sword and shake your head.  He will understand.”

The old gentleman’s expression, when subsequently Faust presented him to
Marguerite, would have been interesting:

“Allow me, my wife.  My dear, a—a friend of mine.  You may remember
meeting him that night at your aunt’s.”

As I have said, there would have been ructions; but I do not myself see
what could have been done.  There was nothing in the bond to the effect
that Faust should not marry, so far as we are told.  The Old Man had a
sense of humour.  My own opinion is that, after getting over the first
annoyance, he himself would have seen the joke.  I can even picture him
looking in now and again on Mr. and Mrs. Faust.  The children would be
hurried off to bed.  There would be, for a while, an atmosphere of

But the Old Man had a way with him.  He would have told one or two
stories at which Marguerite would have blushed, at which Faust would have
grinned.  I can see the old fellow occasionally joining the homely social
board.  The children, awed at first, would have sat silent, with staring
eyes.  But, as I have said, the Old Man had a way with him.  Why should
he not have reformed?  The good woman’s unconsciously exerted
influence—the sweet childish prattle!  One hears of such things.  Might
he not have come to be known as “Nunkie”?

Myself—I believe I have already mentioned it—I would not have married
Marguerite.  She is not my ideal of a good girl.  I never liked the way
she deceived her mother.  And that aunt of hers!  Well, a nice girl would
not have been friends with such a woman.  She did not behave at all too
well to Sybil, either.  It is clear to me that she led the boy on.  And
what was she doing with that box of jewels, anyhow?  She was not a fool.
She could not have gone every day to that fountain, chatted with those
girl friends of hers, and learnt nothing.  She must have known that
people don’t go leaving twenty thousand pounds’ worth of jewels about on
doorsteps as part of a round game.  Her own instinct, if she had been a
good girl, would have told her to leave the thing alone.

I don’t believe in these innocent people who do not know what they are
doing half their time.  Ask any London magistrate what he thinks of the
lady who explains that she picked up the diamond brooch:—

“Not meaning, of course, your Worship, to take it.  I would not do such a
thing.  It just happened this way, your Worship.  I was standing as you
might say here, and not seeing anyone about in the shop I opened the case
and took it out, thinking as perhaps it might belong to someone; and then
this gentleman here, as I had not noticed before, comes up quite suddenly
and says; ‘You come along with me,’ he says.  ‘What for,’ I says, ‘when I
don’t even know you?’ I says.  ‘For stealing,’ he says.  ‘Well, that’s a
hard word to use to a lady,’ I says; ‘I don’t know what you mean, I’m

And if she had put them all on, not thinking, what would a really nice
girl have done when the gentleman came up and assured her they were hers?
She would have been thirty seconds taking them off and flinging them back
into the box.

“Thank you,” she would have said, “I’ll trouble you to leave this garden
as quickly as you entered it and take them with you.  I’m not that sort
of girl.”

Marguerite clings to the jewels, and accepts the young man’s arm for a
moonlight promenade.  And when it does enter into her innocent head that
he and she have walked that shady garden long enough, what does she do
when she has said good-bye and shut the door?  She opens the ground-floor
window and begins to sing!

Maybe I am not poetical, but I do like justice.  When other girls do
these sort of things they get called names.  I cannot see why this
particular girl should be held up as an ideal.  She kills her mother.
According to her own account this was an accident.  It is not an original
line of defence, and we are not allowed to hear the evidence for the
prosecution.  She also kills her baby.  You are not to blame her for
that, because at the time she was feeling poorly.  I don’t see why this
girl should have a special line of angels to take her up to heaven.
There must have been decent, hard-working women in Nürnburg more entitled
to the ticket.

Why is it that all these years we have been content to accept Marguerite
as a type of innocence and virtue?  The explanation is, I suppose, that
Goethe wrote at a time when it was the convention to regard all women as
good.  Anything in petticoats was virtuous.  If she did wrong it was
always somebody else’s fault.  _Cherchez la femme_ was a later notion.
In the days of Goethe it was always _Cherchez l’homme_.  It was the man’s
fault.  It was the devil’s fault.  It was anybody’s fault you liked, but
not her’s.

The convention has not yet died out.  I was reading the other day a most
interesting book by a brilliant American authoress.  Seeing I live far
away from the lady’s haunts, I venture to mention names.  I am speaking
of “Patience Sparhawk,” by Gertrude Atherton.  I take this book because
it is typical of a large body of fiction.  Miss Sparhawk lives a troubled
life: it puzzles her.  She asks herself what is wrong.  Her own idea is
that it is civilisation.

If it is not civilisation, then it is the American man or Nature—or
Democracy.  Miss Sparhawk marries the wrong man.  Later on she gets
engaged to another wrong man.  In the end we are left to believe she is
about to be married to the right man.  I should be better satisfied if I
could hear Miss Sparhawk talking six months after that last marriage.
But if a mistake has again been made I am confident that, in Miss
Sparhawk’s opinion, the fault will not be Miss Sparhawk’s.  The argument
is always the same: Miss Sparhawk, being a lady, can do no wrong.

If Miss Sparhawk cared to listen to me for five minutes, I feel I could
put her right on this point.

“It is quite true, my dear girl,” I should say to her, “something is
wrong—very wrong.  But it is not the American man.  Never you mind the
American man: you leave him to worry out his own salvation.  You are not
the girl to put him right, even where he is wrong.  And it is not
civilisation.  Civilisation has a deal to answer for, I admit: don’t you
load it up with this additional trouble.  The thing that is wrong in this
case of yours—if you will forgive my saying so—is you.  You make a fool
of yourself; you marry a man who is a mere animal because he appeals to
your animal instincts.  Then, like the lady who cried out ‘Alack, I’ve
married a black,’ you appeal to heaven against the injustice of being
mated with a clown.  You are not a nice girl, either in your ideas or in
your behaviour.  I don’t blame you for it; you did not make yourself.
But when you set to work to attract all that is lowest in man, why be so
astonished at your own success?  There are plenty of shocking American
men, I agree.  One meets the class even outside America.  But nice
American girls will tell you that there are also nice American men.
There is an old proverb about birds of a feather.  Next time you find
yourself in the company of a shocking American man, you just ask yourself
how he got there, and how it is he seems to be feeling at home.  You
learn self-control.  Get it out of your head that you are the centre of
the universe, and grasp the idea that a petticoat is not a halo, and you
will find civilisation not half as wrong as you thought it.”

I know what Miss Sparhawk’s reply would be.

“You say all this to me—to me, a lady?  Great Heavens!  What has become
of chivalry?”

A Frenchman was once put on trial for murdering his father and mother.
He confessed his guilt, but begged for mercy on the plea that he was an
orphan.  Chivalry was founded on the assumption that woman was worthy to
be worshipped.  The modern woman’s notion is that when she does wrong she
ought to be excused by chivalrous man because she is a lady.

I like the naughty heroine; we all of us do.  The early Victorian
heroine—the angel in a white frock, was a bore.  We knew exactly what she
was going to do—the right thing.  We did not even have to ask ourselves,
“What will she think is the right thing to do under the circumstances?”
It was always the conventional right thing.  You could have put it to a
Sunday school and have got the answer every time.  The heroine with
passions, instincts, emotions, is to be welcomed.  But I want her to
grasp the fact that after all she is only one of us.  I should like her
better if, instead of demanding:

“What is wrong in civilisation?  What is the world coming to?” and so
forth, she would occasionally say to herself:

“Guess I’ve made a fool of myself this time.  I do feel that ’shamed of

She would not lose by it.  We should respect her all the more.


LAST year, travelling on the Underground Railway, I met a man; he was one
of the saddest-looking men I had seen for years.  I used to know him well
in the old days when we were journalists together.  I asked him, in a
sympathetic tone, how things were going with him.  I expected his
response would be a flood of tears, and that in the end I should have to
fork out a fiver.  To my astonishment, his answer was that things were
going exceedingly well with him.  I did not want to say to him bluntly:

“Then what has happened to you to make you look like a mute at a
temperance funeral?” I said:

“And how are all at home?”

I thought that if the trouble lay there he would take the opportunity.
It brightened him somewhat, the necessity of replying to the question.
It appeared that his wife was in the best of health.

“You remember her,” he continued with a smile; “wonderful spirits, always
cheerful, nothing seems to put her out, not even—”

He ended the sentence abruptly with a sigh.

His mother-in-law, I learned from further talk with him, had died since I
had last met him, and had left them a comfortable addition to their
income.  His eldest daughter was engaged to be married.

“It is entirely a love match,” he explained, “and he is such a dear, good
fellow, that I should not have made any objection even had he been poor.
But, of course, as it is, I am naturally all the more content.”

His eldest boy, having won the Mottle Scholarship, was going up to
Cambridge in the Autumn.  His own health, he told me, had greatly
improved; and a novel he had written in his leisure time promised to be
one of the successes of the season.  Then it was that I spoke plainly.

“If I am opening a wound too painful to be touched,” I said, “tell me.
If, on the contrary, it is an ordinary sort of trouble upon which the
sympathy of a fellow worker may fall as balm, let me hear it.”

“So far as I am concerned,” he replied, “I should be glad to tell you.
Speaking about it does me good, and may lead—so I am always in hopes—to
an idea.  But, for your own sake, if you take my advice, you will not
press me.”

“How can it affect me?” I asked, “it is nothing to do with me, is it?”

“It need have nothing to do with you,” he answered, “if you are sensible
enough to keep out of it.  If I tell you: from this time onward it will
be your trouble also.  Anyhow, that is what has happened in four other
separate cases.  If you like to be the fifth and complete the half dozen
of us, you are welcome.  But remember I have warned you.”

“What has it done to the other five?” I demanded.

“It has changed them from cheerful, companionable persons into gloomy
one-idead bores,” he told me.  “They think of but one thing, they talk of
but one thing, they dream of but one thing.  Instead of getting over it,
as time goes on, it takes possession of them more and more.  There are
men, of course, who would be unaffected by it—who could shake it off.  I
warn you in particular against it, because, in spite of all that is said,
I am convinced you have a sense of humour; and that being so, it will lay
hold of you.  It will plague you night and day.  You see what it has made
of me!  Three months ago a lady interviewer described me as of a sunny
temperament.  If you know your own business you will get out at the next

I wish now I had followed his advice.  As it was, I allowed my curiosity
to take possession of me, and begged him to explain.  And he did so.

“It was just about Christmas time,” he said.  “We were discussing the
Drury Lane Pantomime—some three or four of us—in the smoking room of the
Devonshire Club, and young Gold said he thought it would prove a mistake,
the introduction of a subject like the Fiscal question into the story of
Humpty Dumpty.  The two things, so far as he could see, had nothing to do
with one another.  He added that he entertained a real regard for Mr. Dan
Leno, whom he had once met on a steamboat, but that there were other
topics upon which he would prefer to seek that gentleman’s guidance.
Nettleship, on the other hand, declared that he had no sympathy with the
argument that artists should never intrude upon public affairs.  The
actor was a fellow citizen with the rest of us.  He said that, whether
one agreed with their conclusions or not, one must admit that the nation
owed a debt of gratitude to Mrs. Brown Potter and to Miss Olga Nethersole
for giving to it the benefit of their convictions.  He had talked to both
ladies in private on the subject and was convinced they knew as much
about it as did most people.

“Burnside, who was one of the party, contended that if sides were to be
taken, a pantomime should surely advocate the Free-Food Cause, seeing it
was a form of entertainment supposed to appeal primarily to the tastes of
the Little Englander.  Then I came into the discussion.

“‘The Fiscal question,’ I said, ‘is on everybody’s tongue.  Such being
the case, it is fit and proper it should be referred to in our annual
pantomime, which has come to be regarded as a review of the year’s
doings.  But it should not have been dealt with from the political
standpoint.  The proper attitude to have assumed towards it was that of
innocent raillery, free from all trace of partisanship.’

“Old Johnson had strolled up and was standing behind us.

“‘The very thing I have been trying to get hold of for weeks,’ he said—‘a
bright, amusing _resumé_ of the whole problem that should give offence to
neither side.  You know our paper,’ he continued; ‘we steer clear of
politics, but, at the same time, try to be up-to-date; it is not always
easy.  The treatment of the subject, on the lines you suggest, is just
what we require.  I do wish you would write me something.’

“He is a good old sort, Johnson; it seemed an easy thing.  I said I
would.  Since that time I have been thinking how to do it.  As a matter
of fact, I have not thought of much else.  Maybe you can suggest

I was feeling in a good working mood the next morning.

“Pilson,” said I to myself, “shall have the benefit of this.  He does not
need anything boisterously funny.  A few playfully witty remarks on the
subject will be the ideal.”

I lit a pipe and sat down to think.  At half-past twelve, having to write
some letters before going out to lunch, I dismissed the Fiscal question
from my mind.

But not for long.  It worried me all the afternoon.  I thought, maybe,
something would come to me in the evening.  I wasted all that evening,
and I wasted all the following morning.  Everything has its amusing side,
I told myself.  One turns out comic stories about funerals, about
weddings.  Hardly a misfortune that can happen to mankind but has
produced its comic literature.  An American friend of mine once took a
contract from the Editor of an Insurance Journal to write four humorous
stories; one was to deal with an earthquake, the second with a cyclone,
the third with a flood, and the fourth with a thunderstorm.  And more
amusing stories I have never read.  What is the matter with the Fiscal

I myself have written lightly on Bime-metallism.  Home Rule we used to be
merry over in the eighties.  I remember one delightful evening at the
Codgers’ Hall.  It would have been more delightful still, but for a
raw-boned Irishman, who rose towards eleven o’clock and requested to be
informed if any other speaker was wishful to make any more jokes on the
subject of Ould Ireland; because, if so, the raw-boned gentleman was
prepared to save time by waiting and dealing with them altogether.  But
if not, then—so the raw-boned gentleman announced—his intention was to go
for the last speaker and the last speaker but two at once and without
further warning.

No other humourist rising, the raw-boned gentleman proceeded to make good
his threat, with the result that the fun degenerated somewhat.  Even on
the Boer War we used to whisper jokes to one another in quiet places.  In
this Fiscal question there must be fun.  Where is it?

For days I thought of little else.  My laundress—as we call them in the
Temple—noticed my trouble.

“Mrs. Wilkins,” I confessed, “I am trying to think of something
innocently amusing to say on the Fiscal question.”

“I’ve ’eard about it,” she said, “but I don’t ’ave much time to read the
papers.  They want to make us pay more for our food, don’t they?”

“For some of it,” I explained.  “But, then, we shall pay less for other
things, so that really we shan’t be paying more at all.”

“There don’t seem much in it, either way,” was Mrs. Wilkins’ opinion.

“Just so,” I agreed, “that is the advantage of the system.  It will cost
nobody anything, and will result in everybody being better off.”

“The pity is,” said Mrs. Wilkins “that pity nobody ever thought of it

“The whole trouble hitherto,” I explained, “has been the foreigner.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “I never ’eard much good of ’em, though they do
say the Almighty ’as a use for almost everything.”

“These foreigners,” I continued, “these Germans and Americans, they dump
things on us, you know.”

“What’s that?” demanded Mrs. Wilkins.

“What’s dump?  Well, it’s dumping, you know.  You take things, and you
dump them down.”

“But what things?  ’Ow do they do it?” asked Mrs. Wilkins.

“Why, all sorts of things: pig iron, bacon, door-mats—everything.  They
bring them over here—in ships, you understand—and then, if you please,
just dump them down upon our shores.”

“You don’t mean surely to tell me that they just throw them out and leave
them there?” queried Mrs. Wilkins.

“Of course not,” I replied; “when I say they dump these things upon our
shores, that is a figure of speech.  What I mean is they sell them to

“But why do we buy them if we don’t want them?” asked Mrs. Wilkins;
“we’re not bound to buy them, are we?”

“It is their artfulness,” I explained, “these Germans and Americans, and
the others; they are all just as bad as one another—they insist on
selling us these things at less price than they cost to make.”

“It seems a bit silly of them, don’t it?” thought Mrs. Wilkins.  “I
suppose being foreigners, poor things, they ain’t naturally got much

“It does seem silly of them, if you look at it that way,” I admitted,
“but what we have got to consider is, the injury it is doing us.”

“Don’t see ’ow it can do us much ’arm,” argued Mrs. Wilkins; “seems a bit
of luck so far as we are concerned.  There’s a few more things they’d be
welcome to dump round my way.”

“I don’t seem to be putting this thing quite in the right light to you,
Mrs. Wilkins,” I confessed.  “It is a long argument, and you might not be
able to follow it; but you must take it as a fact now generally admitted
that the cheaper you buy things the sooner your money goes.  By allowing
the foreigner to sell us all these things at about half the cost price,
he is getting richer every day, and we are getting poorer.  Unless we, as
a country, insist on paying at least twenty per cent. more for everything
we want, it is calculated that in a very few years England won’t have a
penny left.”

“Sounds a bit topsy turvy,” suggested Mrs. Wilkins.

“It may sound so,” I answered, “but I fear there can be no doubt of it.
The Board of Trade Returns would seem to prove it conclusively.”

“Well, God be praised, we’ve found it out in time,” ejaculated Mrs.
Wilkins piously.

“It is a matter of congratulation,” I agreed; “the difficulty is that a
good many other people say that far from being ruined, we are doing very
well indeed, and are growing richer every year.”

“But ’ow can they say that,” argued Mrs. Wilkins, “when, as you tell me,
those Trade Returns prove just the opposite?”

“Well, they say the same, Mrs. Wilkins, that the Board of Trade Returns
prove just the opposite.”

“Well, they can’t both be right,” said Mrs. Wilkins.

“You would be surprised, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “how many things can be
proved from Board of Trade Returns!”

But I have not yet thought of that article for Pilson.


“WHAT is all this talk I ’ear about the Chinese?” said Mrs. Wilkins to me
the other morning.  We generally indulge in a little chat while Mrs.
Wilkins is laying the breakfast-table.  Letters and newspapers do not
arrive in my part of the Temple much before nine.  From half-past eight
to nine I am rather glad of Mrs. Wilkins.  “They ’ave been up to some of
their tricks again, ’aven’t they?”

“The foreigner, Mrs. Wilkins,” I replied, “whether he be Chinee or any
other he, is always up to tricks.  Was not England specially prepared by
an all-wise Providence to frustrate these knavish tricks?  Which of such
particular tricks may you be referring to at the moment, Mrs. Wilkins?”

“Well, ’e’s comin’ over ’ere—isn’t he, sir? to take the work out of our
mouths, as it were.”

“Well, not exactly over here, to England, Mrs. Wilkins,” I explained.
“He has been introduced into Africa to work in the mines there.”

“It’s a funny thing,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “but to ’ear the way some of
them talk in our block, you might run away with the notion—that is, if
you didn’t know ’em—that work was their only joy.  I said to one of ’em,
the other evening—a man as calls ’isself a brass finisher, though, Lord
knows, the only brass ’e ever finishes is what ’is poor wife earns and
isn’t quick enough to ’ide away from ’im—well, whatever ’appens, I says,
it will be clever of ’em if they take away much work from you.  It made
them all laugh, that did,” added Mrs. Wilkins, with a touch of pardonable

“Ah,” continued the good lady, “it’s surprising ’ow contented they can be
with a little, some of ’em.  Give ’em a ’ard-working woman to look after
them, and a day out once a week with a procession of the unemployed, they
don’t ask for nothing more.  There’s that beauty my poor sister Jane was
fool enough to marry.  Serves ’er right, as I used to tell ’er at first,
till there didn’t seem any more need to rub it into ’er.  She’d ’ad one
good ’usband.  It wouldn’t ’ave been fair for ’er to ’ave ’ad another,
even if there’d been a chance of it, seeing the few of ’em there is to go
round among so many.  But it’s always the same with us widows: if we
’appen to ’ave been lucky the first time, we put it down to our own
judgment—think we can’t ever make a mistake; and if we draw a wrong ’un,
as the saying is, we argue as if it was the duty of Providence to make it
up to us the second time.  Why, I’d a been making a fool of myself three
years ago if ’e ’adn’t been good-natured enough to call one afternoon
when I was out, and ’ook it off with two pounds eight in the best teapot
that I ’ad been soft enough to talk to ’im about: and never let me set
eyes on ’im again.  God bless ’im!  ’E’s one of the born-tireds, ’e is,
as poor Jane might ’ave seen for ’erself, if she ’ad only looked at ’im,
instead of listening to ’im.

“But that’s courtship all the world over—old and young alike, so far as
I’ve been able to see it,” was the opinion of Mrs. Wilkins.  “The man’s
all eyes and the woman all ears.  They don’t seem to ’ave any other
senses left ’em.  I ran against ’im the other night, on my way ’ome, at
the corner of Gray’s Inn Road.  There was the usual crowd watching a pack
of them Italians laying down the asphalt in ’Olborn, and ’e was among
’em.  ’E ’ad secured the only lamp-post, and was leaning agen it.

“’Ullo,’ I says, ‘glad to see you ’aven’t lost your job.  Nothin’ like
stickin’ to it, when you’ve dropped into somethin’ that really suits

“‘What do you mean, Martha?’ ’e says.  ’E’s not one of what I call your
smart sort.  It takes a bit of sarcasm to get through ’is ’ead.

“‘Well,’ I says, ‘you’re still on the old track, I see, looking for work.
Take care you don’t ’ave an accident one of these days and run up agen it
before you’ve got time to get out of its way.’

“‘It’s these miserable foreigners,’ ’e says.  ‘Look at ’em,’ ’e says.

“‘There’s enough of you doing that,’ I says.  ‘I’ve got my room to put
straight and three hours needlework to do before I can get to bed.  But
don’t let me ’inder you.  You might forget what work was like, if you
didn’t take an opportunity of watching it now and then.’

“‘They come over ’ere,’ ’e says, ‘and take the work away from us chaps.’

“‘Ah,’ I says, ‘poor things, perhaps they ain’t married.’

“‘Lazy devils! ’e says.  ‘Look at ’em, smoking cigarettes.  I could do
that sort of work.  There’s nothing in it.  It don’t take ’eathen
foreigners to dab a bit of tar about a road.’

“‘Yes,’ I says, ‘you always could do anybody else’s work but your own.’

“‘I can’t find it, Martha,’ ’e says.

“‘No,’ I says, ‘and you never will in the sort of places you go looking
for it.  They don’t ’ang it out on lamp-posts, and they don’t leave it
about at the street corners.  Go ’ome,’ I says, ‘and turn the mangle for
your poor wife.  That’s big enough for you to find, even in the dark.’

“Looking for work!” snorted Mrs. Wilkins with contempt; “we women never
’ave much difficulty in finding it, I’ve noticed.  There are times when I
feel I could do with losing it for a day.”

“But what did he reply, Mrs. Wilkins,” I asked; “your brass-finishing
friend, who was holding forth on the subject of Chinese cheap labour.”
Mrs. Wilkins as a conversationalist is not easily kept to the point.  I
was curious to know what the working classes were thinking on the

“Oh, that,” replied Mrs. Wilkins, “’e did not say nothing.  ’E ain’t the
sort that’s got much to say in an argument.  ’E belongs to the crowd that
’angs about at the back, and does the shouting.  But there was another of
’em, a young fellow as I feels sorry for, with a wife and three small
children, who ’asn’t ’ad much luck for the last six months; and that
through no fault of ’is own, I should say, from the look of ’im.  ‘I was
a fool,’ says ’e, ‘when I chucked a good situation and went out to the
war.  They told me I was going to fight for equal rights for all white
men.  I thought they meant that all of us were going to ’ave a better
chance, and it seemed worth making a bit of sacrifice for, that did.  I
should be glad if they would give me a job in their mines that would
enable me to feed my wife and children.  That’s all I ask them for!’”

“It is a difficult problem, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said.  “According to the
mine owners—”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Wilkins.  “They don’t seem to be exactly what you’d call
popular, them mine owners, do they?  Daresay they’re not as bad as
they’re painted.”

“Some people, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “paint them very black.  There are
those who hold that the South African mine-owner is not a man at all, but
a kind of pantomime demon.  You take Goliath, the whale that swallowed
Jonah, a selection from the least respectable citizens of Sodom and
Gomorrah at their worst, Bluebeard, Bloody Queen Mary, Guy Fawkes, and
the sea-serpent—or, rather, you take the most objectionable attributes of
all these various personages, and mix them up together.  The result is
the South African mine-owner, a monster who would willingly promote a
company for the putting on the market of a new meat extract, prepared
exclusively from new-born infants, provided the scheme promised a fair
and reasonable opportunity of fleecing the widow and orphan.”

“I’ve ’eard they’re a bad lot,” said Mrs. Wilkins.  “But we’re most of us
that, if we listen to what other people say about us.”

“Quite so, Mrs. Wilkins,” I agreed.  “One never arrives at the truth by
listening to one side only.  On the other hand, for example, there are
those who stoutly maintain that the South African mine-owner is a kind of
spiritual creature, all heart and sentiment, who, against his own will,
has been, so to speak, dumped down upon this earth as the result of
over-production up above of the higher class of archangel.  The stock of
archangels of superior finish exceeds the heavenly demand; the surplus
has been dropped down into South Africa and has taken to mine owning.  It
is not that these celestial visitors of German sounding nomenclature care
themselves about the gold.  Their only desire is, during this earthly
pilgrimage of theirs, to benefit the human race.  Nothing can be obtained
in this world without money—”

“That’s true,” said Mrs. Wilkins, with a sigh.

“For gold, everything can be obtained.  The aim of the mine-owning
archangel is to provide the world with gold.  Why should the world
trouble to grow things and make things?  ‘Let us,’ say these archangels,
temporarily dwelling in South Africa, ‘dig up and distribute to the world
plenty of gold, then the world can buy whatever it wants, and be happy.’

“There may be a flaw in the argument, Mrs. Wilkins,” I allowed.  “I am
not presenting it to you as the last word upon the subject.  I am merely
quoting the view of the South African mine-owner, feeling himself a much
misunderstood benefactor of mankind.”

“I expect,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “they are just the ordinary sort of
Christian, like the rest of us, anxious to do the best they can for
themselves, and not too particular as to doing other people in the

“I am inclined to think, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “that you are not very
far from the truth.  A friend of mine, a year ago, was very bitter on
this subject of Chinese cheap labour.  A little later there died a
distant relative of his who left him twenty thousand South African mining
shares.  He thinks now that to object to the Chinese is narrow-minded,
illiberal, and against all religious teaching.  He has bought an abridged
edition of Confucius, and tells me that there is much that is ennobling
in Chinese morality.  Indeed, I gather from him that the introduction of
the Chinese into South Africa will be the saving of that country.  The
noble Chinese will afford an object lesson to the poor white man,
displaying to him the virtues of sobriety, thrift, and humility.  I also
gather that it will be of inestimable benefit to the noble Chinee
himself.  The Christian missionary will get hold of him in bulk, so to
speak, and imbue him with the higher theology.  It appears to be one of
those rare cases where everybody is benefited at the expense of nobody.
It is always a pity to let these rare opportunities slip by.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “I’ve nothin’ to say agen the Chinaman, as a
Chinaman.  As to ’is being a ’eathen, well, throwin’ stones at a church,
as the sayin’ is, don’t make a Christian of you.  There’s Christians I’ve
met as couldn’t do themselves much ’arm by changing their religion; and
as to cleanliness, well, I’ve never met but one, and ’e was a
washerwoman, and I’d rather ’ave sat next to ’im in a third-class
carriage on a Bank ’Oliday than next to some of ’em.

“Seems to me,” continued Mrs. Wilkins, “we’ve got into the ’abit of
talkin’ a bit too much about other people’s dirt.  The London atmosphere
ain’t nat’rally a dry-cleanin’ process in itself, but there’s a goodish
few as seem to think it is.  One comes across Freeborn Britons ’ere and
there as I’d be sorry to scrub clean for a shillin’ and find my own

“It is a universal failing, Mrs. Wilkins,” I explained.  “If you talk to
a travelled Frenchman, he contrasts to his own satisfaction the Paris
_ouvrier_ in his blue blouse with the appearance of the London labourer.”

“I daresay they’re all right according to their lights,” said Mrs.
Wilkins, “but it does seem a bit wrong that if our own chaps are willin’
and anxious to work, after all they’ve done, too, in the way of getting
the mines for us, they shouldn’t be allowed the job.”

“Again, Mrs. Wilkins, it is difficult to arrive at a just conclusion,” I
said.  “The mine-owner, according to his enemies, hates the British
workman with the natural instinct that evil creatures feel towards the
noble and virtuous.  He will go to trouble and expense merely to spite
the British workman, to keep him out of South Africa.  According to his
friends, the mine-owner sets his face against the idea of white labour
for two reasons.  First and foremost, it is not nice work; the mine-owner
hates the thought of his beloved white brother toiling in the mines.  It
is not right that the noble white man should demean himself by such work.
Secondly, white labour is too expensive.  If for digging gold men had to
be paid anything like the same prices they are paid for digging coal, the
mines could not be worked.  The world would lose the gold that the
mine-owner is anxious to bestow upon it.

“The mine-owner, following his own inclinations, would take a little
farm, grow potatoes, and live a beautiful life—perhaps write a little
poetry.  A slave to sense of duty, he is chained to the philanthropic
work of gold-mining.  If we hamper him and worry him the danger is that
he will get angry with us—possibly he will order his fiery chariot and
return to where he came from.”

“Well, ’e can’t take the gold with him, wherever ’e goes to?” argued Mrs.

“You talk, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “as if the gold were of more value to
the world than is the mine-owner.”

“Well, isn’t it?” demanded Mrs. Wilkins.

“It’s a new idea, Mrs. Wilkins,” I answered; “it wants thinking out.”


“I AM glad to see, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “that the Women’s Domestic
Guild of America has succeeded in solving the servant girl problem—none
too soon, one might almost say.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Wilkins, as she took the cover off the bacon and gave an
extra polish to the mustard-pot with her apron, “they are clever people
over there; leastways, so I’ve always ’eard.”

“This, their latest, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “I am inclined to regard as
their greatest triumph.  My hope is that the Women’s Domestic Guild of
America, when it has finished with the United States and Canada, will,
perhaps, see its way to establishing a branch in England.  There are
ladies of my acquaintance who would welcome, I feel sure, any really
satisfactory solution of the problem.”

“Well, good luck to it, is all I say,” responded Mrs. Wilkins, “and if it
makes all the gals contented with their places, and all the mistresses
satisfied with what they’ve got and ’appy in their minds, why, God bless
it, say I.”

“The mistake hitherto,” I said, “from what I read, appears to have been
that the right servant was not sent to the right place.  What the Women’s
Domestic Guild of America proposes to do is to find the right servant for
the right place.  You see the difference, don’t you, Mrs. Wilkins?”

“That’s the secret,” agreed Mrs. Wilkins.  “They don’t anticipate any
difficulty in getting the right sort of gal, I take it?”

“I gather not, Mrs. Wilkins,” I replied.

Mrs. Wilkins is of a pessimistic turn of mind.

“I am not so sure about it,” she said; “the Almighty don’t seem to ’ave
made too many of that sort.  Unless these American ladies that you speak
of are going to start a factory of their own.  I am afraid there is
disappointment in store for them.”

“Don’t throw cold water on the idea before it is fairly started, Mrs.
Wilkins,” I pleaded.

“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “I ’ave been a gal myself in service; and
in my time I‘ve ’ad a few mistresses of my own, and I’ve ’eard a good
deal about others.  There are ladies and ladies, as you may know, sir,
and some of them, if they aren’t exactly angels, are about as near to it
as can be looked for in this climate, and they are not the ones that do
most of the complaining.  But, as for the average mistress—well it ain’t
a gal she wants, it’s a plaster image, without any natural innards—a sort
of thing as ain’t ’uman, and ain’t to be found in ’uman nature.  And then
she’d grumble at it, if it didn’t ’appen to be able to be in two places
at once.”

“You fear that the standard for that ‘right girl’ is likely to be set a
trifle too high Mrs. Wilkins,” I suggested.

“That ‘right gal,’ according to the notions of some of ’em,” retorted
Mrs. Wilkins, “’er place ain’t down ’ere among us mere mortals; ’er place
is up in ’eaven with a ’arp and a golden crown.  There’s my niece, Emma,
I don’t say she is a saint, but a better ’earted, ’arder working gal, at
twenty pounds a year, you don’t expect to find, unless maybe you’re a
natural born fool that can’t ’elp yourself.  She wanted a place.  She ’ad
been ’ome for nearly six months, nursing ’er old father, as ’ad been down
all the winter with rheumatic fever; and ’ard-put to it she was for a few
clothes.  You ’ear ’em talk about gals as insists on an hour a day for
practising the piano, and the right to invite their young man to spend
the evening with them in the drawing-room.  Perhaps it is meant to be
funny; I ain’t come across that type of gal myself, outside the pictures
in the comic papers; and I’ll never believe, till I see ’er myself, that
anybody else ’as.  They sent ’er from the registry office to a lady at

“‘I ’ope you are good at getting up early in the morning?’ says the lady,
‘I like a gal as rises cheerfully to ’er work.’

“‘Well, ma’am,’ says Emma, ‘I can’t say as I’ve got a passion for it.
But it’s one of those things that ’as to be done, and I guess I’ve learnt
the trick.’

“‘I’m a great believer in early rising,’ says my lady; ‘in the morning,
one is always fresher for one’s work; my ’usband and the younger children
breakfast at ’arf past seven; myself and my eldest daughter ’ave our
breakfest in bed at eight.’

“‘That’ll be all right, ma’am,’ says Emma.

“‘And I ’ope,’ says the lady, ‘you are of an amiable disposition.  Some
gals when you ring the bell come up looking so disagreeable, one almost
wishes one didn’t want them.’

“‘Well, it ain’t a thing,’ explains Emma, ‘as makes you want to burst out
laughing, ’earing the bell go off for the twentieth time, and ’aving
suddenly to put down your work at, perhaps, a critical moment.  Some
ladies don’t seem able to reach down their ’at for themselves.’

“‘I ’ope you are not impertinent,’ says the lady; ‘if there’s one thing
that I object to in a servant it is impertinence.’

“‘We none of us like being answered back,’ says Emma, ‘more particularly
when we are in the wrong.  But I know my place ma’am, and I shan’t give
you no lip.  It always leads to less trouble, I find, keeping your mouth
shut, rather than opening it.’

“‘Are you fond of children,’ asks my lady.

“‘It depends upon the children,’ says Emma; ‘there are some I ’ave ’ad to
do with as made the day seem pleasanter, and I’ve come across others as I
could ’ave parted from at any moment without tears.’

“‘I like a gal,’ says the lady, ‘who is naturally fond of children, it
shows a good character.’

“‘How many of them are there?’ says Emma.

“‘Four of them,’ answers my lady, ‘but you won’t ’ave much to do except
with the two youngest.  The great thing with young children is to
surround them with good examples.  Are you a Christian?’ asks my lady.

“‘That’s what I’m generally called,’ says Emma.

“‘Every other Sunday evening out is my rule,’ says the lady, ‘but of
course I shall expect you to go to church.’

“‘Do you mean in my time, ma’am,’ says Emma, ‘or in yours.’

“‘I mean on your evening of course,’ says my lady.  ‘’Ow else could you

“‘Well, ma’am,’ says Emma, ‘I like to see my people now and then.’

“‘There are better things,’ says my lady, ‘than seeing what you call your
people, and I should not care to take a girl into my ’ouse as put ’er
pleasure before ’er religion.  You are not engaged, I ’ope?’

“‘Walking out, ma’am, do you mean?’ says Emma.  ‘No, ma’am, there is
nobody I’ve got in my mind—not just at present.’

“‘I never will take a gal,’ explains my lady, ‘who is engaged.  I find it
distracts ’er attention from ’er work.  And I must insist if you come to
me,’ continues my lady, ‘that you get yourself another ’at and jacket.
If there is one thing I object to in a servant it is a disposition to
cheap finery.’

“’Er own daughter was sitting there beside ’er with ’alf a dozen silver
bangles on ’er wrist, and a sort of thing ’anging around ’er neck, as,
’ad it been real, would ’ave been worth perhaps a thousand pounds.  But
Emma wanted a job, so she kept ’er thoughts to ’erself.

“‘I can put these things by and get myself something else,’ she says, ‘if
you don’t mind, ma’am, advancing me something out of my first three
months’ wages.  I’m afraid my account at the bank is a bit overdrawn.’

“The lady whispered something to ’er daughter.  ‘I am afraid, on thinking
it over,’ she says, ‘that you won’t suit, after all.  You don’t look
serious enough.  I feel sure, from the way you do your ’air,’ says my
lady, ‘there’s a frivolous side to your nature.’

“So Emma came away, and was not, on the whole, too sorry.”

“But do they get servants to come to them, this type of mistress, do you
think, Mrs. Wilkins?” I asked.

“They get them all right,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “and if it’s a decent gal,
it makes a bad gal of ’er, that ever afterwards looks upon every mistress
as ’er enemy, and acts accordingly.  And if she ain’t a naturally good
gal, it makes ’er worse, and then you ’ear what awful things gals are.  I
don’t say it’s an easy problem,” continued Mrs. Wilkins, “it’s just like
marriages.  The good mistress gets ’old of the bad servant, and the bad
mistress, as often as not is lucky.”

“But how is it,” I argued, “that in hotels, for instance, the service is
excellent, and the girls, generally speaking, seem contented?  The work
is hard, and the wages not much better, if as good.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “you ’ave ’it the right nail on the ’ead, there,
sir.  They go into the ’otels and work like niggers, knowing that if a
single thing goes wrong they will be bully-ragged and sworn at till they
don’t know whether they are standing on their ’ead or their ’eels.  But
they ’ave their hours; the gal knows when ’er work is done, and when the
clock strikes she is a ’uman being once again.  She ’as got that moment
to look forward to all day, and it keeps ’er going.  In private service
there’s no moment in the day to ’ope for.  If the lady is reasonable she
ain’t overworked; but no ’ow can she ever feel she is her own mistress,
free to come and go, to wear ’er bit of finery, to ’ave ’er bit of fun.
She works from six in the morning till eleven or twelve at night, and
then she only goes to bed provided she ain’t wanted.  She don’t belong to
’erself at all; it’s that that irritates them.”

“I see your point, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said, “and, of course, in a house
where two or three servants were kept some such plan might easily be
arranged.  The girl who commenced work at six o’clock in the morning
might consider herself free at six o’clock in the evening.  What she did
with herself, how she dressed herself in her own time, would be her
affair.  What church the clerk or the workman belongs to, what company he
keeps, is no concern of the firm.  In such matters, mistresses, I am
inclined to think, saddle themselves with a responsibility for which
there is no need.  If the girl behaves herself while in the house, and
does her work, there the contract ends.  The mistress who thinks it her
duty to combine the _rôles_ of employer and of maiden aunt is naturally
resented.  The next month the girl might change her hours from twelve to
twelve, and her fellow-servant could enjoy the six a.m. to six p.m.
shift.  But how do you propose to deal, Mrs. Wilkins, with the smaller
_menage_, that employs only one servant?”

“Well, sir,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “it seems to me simple enough.  Ladies
talk pretty about the dignity of labour, and are never tired of pointing
out why gals should prefer domestic service to all other kinds of work.
Suppose they practise what they preach.  In the ’ouse, where there’s only
the master and the mistress, and, say a couple of small children, let the
lady take her turn.  After all, it’s only her duty, same as the office or
the shop is the man’s.  Where, on the other ’and, there are biggish boys
and gals about the place, well it wouldn’t do them any ’arm to be taught
to play a little less, and to look after themselves a little more.  It’s
just arranging things—that’s all that’s wanted.”

“You remind me of a family I once knew, Mrs. Wilkins,” I said; “it
consisted of the usual father and mother, and of five sad, healthy girls.
They kept two servants—or, rather, they never kept any servants; they
lived always looking for servants, breaking their hearts over servants,
packing servants off at a moment’s notice, standing disconsolately
looking after servants who had packed themselves off at a moment’s
notice, wondering generally what the world was coming too.  It occurred
to me at the time, that without much trouble, they could have lived a
peaceful life without servants.  The eldest girl was learning
painting—and seemed unable to learn anything else.  It was poor sort of
painting; she noticed it herself.  But she seemed to think that, if she
talked a lot about it, and thought of nothing else, that somehow it would
all come right.  The second girl played the violin.  She played it from
early morning till late evening, and friends fell away from them.  There
wasn’t a spark of talent in the family, but they all had a notion that a
vague longing to be admired was just the same as genius.

“Another daughter fancied she would like to be an actress, and screamed
all day in the attic.  The fourth wrote poetry on a typewriter, and
wondered why nobody seemed to want it; while the fifth one suffered from
a weird belief that smearing wood with a red-hot sort of poker was a
thing worth doing for its own sake.  All of them seemed willing enough to
work, provided only that it was work of no use to any living soul.  With
a little sense, and the occasional assistance of a charwoman, they could
have led a merrier life.”

“If I was giving away secrets,” said Mrs. Wilkins, “I’d say to the
mistresses: ‘Show yourselves able to be independent.’  It’s because the
gals know that the mistresses can’t do without them that they sometimes
gives themselves airs.”


The advantage that the foreigner possesses over the Englishman is that he
is born good.  He does not have to try to be good, as we do.  He does not
have to start the New Year with the resolution to be good, and succeed,
bar accidents, in being so till the middle of January.  He is just good
all the year round.  When a foreigner is told to mount or descend from a
tram on the near side, it does not occur to him that it would be humanly
possible to secure egress from or ingress to that tram from the off side.

In Brussels once I witnessed a daring attempt by a lawless foreigner to
enter a tram from the wrong side.  The gate was open: he was standing
close beside it.  A line of traffic was in his way: to have got round to
the right side of that tram would have meant missing it.  He entered when
the conductor was not looking, and took his seat.  The astonishment of
the conductor on finding him there was immense.  How did he get there?
The conductor had been watching the proper entrance, and the man had not
passed him.  Later, the true explanation suggested itself to the
conductor, but for a while he hesitated to accuse a fellow human being of
such crime.

He appealed to the passenger himself.  Was his presence to be accounted
for by miracle or by sin?  The passenger confessed.  It was more in
sorrow than in anger that the conductor requested him at once to leave.
This tram was going to be kept respectable.  The passenger proved
refractory, a halt was called, and the gendarmerie appealed to.  After
the manner of policemen, they sprang, as it were, from the ground, and
formed up behind an imposing officer, whom I took to be the sergeant.  At
first the sergeant could hardly believe the conductor’s statement.  Even
then, had the passenger asserted that he had entered by the proper
entrance, his word would have been taken.  Much easier to the foreign
official mind would it have been to believe that the conductor had been
stricken with temporary blindness, than that man born of woman would have
deliberately done anything expressly forbidden by a printed notice.

Myself, in his case, I should have lied and got the trouble over.  But he
was a proud man, or had not much sense—one of the two, and so held fast
to the truth.  It was pointed out to him that he must descend immediately
and wait for the next tram.  Other gendarmes were arriving from every
quarter: resistance in the circumstances seemed hopeless.  He said he
would get down.  He made to descend this time by the proper gate, but
that was not justice.  He had mounted the wrong side, he must alight on
the wrong side.  Accordingly, he was put out amongst the traffic, after
which the conductor preached a sermon from the centre of the tram on the
danger of ascents and descents conducted from the wrong quarter.

There is a law throughout Germany—an excellent law it is: I would we had
it in England—that nobody may scatter paper about the street.  An English
military friend told me that, one day in Dresden, unacquainted with this
rule, he tore a long letter he had been reading into some fifty fragments
and threw them behind him.  A policeman stopped him and explained to him
quite politely the law upon the subject.  My military friend agreed that
it was a very good law, thanked the man for his information, and said
that for the future he would bear it in mind.  That, as the policeman
pointed out, would make things right enough for the future, but meanwhile
it was necessary to deal with the past—with the fifty or so pieces of
paper lying scattered about the road and pavement.

My military friend, with a pleasant laugh, confessed he did not see what
was to be done.  The policeman, more imaginative, saw a way out.  It was
that my military friend should set to work and pick up those fifty scraps
of paper.  He is an English General on the Retired List, and of imposing
appearance: his manner on occasion is haughty.  He did not see himself on
his hands and knees in the chief street of Dresden, in the middle of the
afternoon, picking up paper.

The German policeman himself admitted that the situation was awkward.  If
the English General could not accept it there happened to be an
alternative.  It was that the English General should accompany the
policeman through the streets, followed by the usual crowd, to the
nearest prison, some three miles off.  It being now four o’clock in the
afternoon, they would probably find the judge departed.  But the most
comfortable thing possible in prison cells should be allotted to him, and
the policeman had little doubt that the General, having paid his fine of
forty marks, would find himself a free man again in time for lunch the
following day.  The general suggested hiring a boy to pick up the paper.
The policeman referred to the wording of the law, and found that this
would not be permitted.

“I thought the matter out,” my friend told me, “imagining all the
possible alternatives, including that of knocking the fellow down and
making a bolt, and came to the conclusion that his first suggestion
would, on the whole, result in the least discomfort.  But I had no idea
that picking up small scraps of thin paper off greasy stones was the
business that I found it!  It took me nearly ten minutes, and afforded
amusement, I calculate, to over a thousand people.  But it is a good law,
mind you: all I wish is that I had known it beforehand.”

On one occasion I accompanied an American lady to a German Opera House.
The taking-off of hats in the German Schausspielhaus is obligatory, and
again I would it were so in England.  But the American lady is accustomed
to disregard rules made by mere man.  She explained to the doorkeeper
that she was going to wear her hat.  He, on his side, explained to her
that she was not: they were both a bit short with one another.  I took
the opportunity to turn aside and buy a programme: the fewer people there
are mixed up in an argument, I always think, the better.

My companion explained quite frankly to the doorkeeper that it did not
matter what he said, she was not going to take any notice of him.  He did
not look a talkative man at any time, and, maybe, this announcement
further discouraged him.  In any case, he made no attempt to answer.  All
he did was to stand in the centre of the doorway with a far-away look in
his eyes.  The doorway was some four feet wide: he was about three feet
six across, and weighed about twenty stone.  As I explained, I was busy
buying a programme, and when I returned my friend had her hat in her
hand, and was digging pins into it: I think she was trying to make
believe it was the heart of the doorkeeper.  She did not want to listen
to the opera, she wanted to talk all the time about that doorkeeper, but
the people round us would not even let her do that.

She has spent three winters in Germany since then.  Now when she feels
like passing through a door that is standing wide open just in front of
her, and which leads to just the place she wants to get to, and an
official shakes his head at her, and explains that she must not, but must
go up two flights of stairs and along a corridor and down another flight
of stairs, and so get to her place that way, she apologises for her error
and trots off looking ashamed of herself.

Continental Governments have trained their citizens to perfection.
Obedience is the Continent’s first law.  The story that is told of a
Spanish king who was nearly drowned because the particular official whose
duty it was to dive in after Spanish kings when they tumbled out of boats
happened to be dead, and his successor had not yet been appointed, I can
quite believe.  On the Continental railways if you ride second class with
a first-class ticket you render yourself liable to imprisonment.  What
the penalty is for riding first with a second-class ticket I cannot
say—probably death, though a friend of mine came very near on one
occasion to finding out.

All would have gone well with him if he had not been so darned honest.
He is one of those men who pride themselves on being honest.  I believe
he takes a positive pleasure in being honest.  He had purchased a
second-class ticket for a station up a mountain, but meeting, by chance
on the platform, a lady acquaintance, had gone with her into a
first-class apartment.  On arriving at the journey’s end he explained to
the collector what he had done, and, with his purse in his hand, demanded
to know the difference.  They took him into a room and locked the door.
They wrote out his confession and read it over to him, and made him sign
it, and then they sent for a policeman.

The policeman cross-examined him for about a quarter of an hour.  They
did not believe the story about the lady.  Where was the lady?  He did
not know.  They searched the neighbourhood for her, but could not find
her.  He suggested—what turned out to be the truth—that, tired of
loitering about the station, she had gone up the mountain.  An Anarchist
outrage had occurred in the neighbouring town some months before.  The
policeman suggested searching for bombs.  Fortunately, a Cook’s agent,
returning with a party of tourists, arrived upon the scene, and took it
upon himself to explain in delicate language that my friend was a bit of
an ass and could not tell first class from second.  It was the red
cushions that had deceived my friend: he thought it was first class, as a
matter of fact it was second class.

Everybody breathed again.  The confession was torn up amid universal joy:
and then the fool of a ticket collector wanted to know about the lady—who
must have travelled in a second-class compartment with a first-class
ticket.  It looked as if a bad time were in store for her on her return
to the station.

But the admirable representative of Cook was again equal to the occasion.
He explained that my friend was also a bit of a liar.  When he said he
had travelled with this lady he was merely boasting.  He would like to
have travelled with her, that was all he meant, only his German was
shaky.  Joy once more entered upon the scene.  My friend’s character
appeared to be re-established.  He was not the abandoned wretch for whom
they had taken him—only, apparently, a wandering idiot.  Such an one the
German official could respect.  At the expense of such an one the German
official even consented to drink beer.

Not only the foreign man, woman and child, but the foreign dog is born
good.  In England, if you happen to be the possessor of a dog, much of
your time is taken up dragging him out of fights, quarrelling with the
possessor of the other dog as to which began it, explaining to irate
elderly ladies that he did not kill the cat, that the cat must have died
of heart disease while running across the road, assuring disbelieving
game-keepers that he is not your dog, that you have not the faintest
notion whose dog he is.  With the foreign dog, life is a peaceful
proceeding.  When the foreign dog sees a row, tears spring to his eyes:
he hastens on and tries to find a policeman.  When the foreign dog sees a
cat in a hurry, he stands aside to allow her to pass.  They dress the
foreign dog—some of them—in a little coat, with a pocket for his
handkerchief, and put shoes on his feet.  They have not given him a
hat—not yet.  When they do, he will contrive by some means or another to
raise it politely when he meets a cat he thinks he knows.

One morning, in a Continental city, I came across a disturbance—it might
be more correct to say the disturbance came across me: it swept down upon
me, enveloped me before I knew that I was in it.  A fox-terrier it was,
belonging to a very young lady—it was when the disturbance was to a
certain extent over that we discovered he belonged to this young lady.
She arrived towards the end of the disturbance, very much out of breath:
she had been running for a mile, poor girl, and shouting most of the way.
When she looked round and saw all the things that had happened, and had
had other things that she had missed explained to her, she burst into
tears.  An English owner of that fox-terrier would have given one look
round and then have jumped upon the nearest tram going anywhere.  But, as
I have said, the foreigner is born good.  I left her giving her name and
address to seven different people.

But it was about the dog I wished to speak more particularly.  He had
commenced innocently enough, trying to catch a sparrow.  Nothing delights
a sparrow more than being chased by a dog.  A dozen times he thought he
had the sparrow.  Then another dog had got in his way.  I don’t know what
they call this breed of dog, but abroad it is popular: it has no tail and
looks like a pig—when things are going well with it.  This particular
specimen, when I saw him, looked more like part of a doormat.  The
fox-terrier had seized it by the scruff of the neck and had rolled it
over into the gutter just in front of a motor cycle.  Its owner, a large
lady, had darted out to save it, and had collided with the motor cyclist.
The large lady had been thrown some half a dozen yards against an Italian
boy carrying a tray load of plaster images.

I have seen a good deal of trouble in my life, but never one yet that did
not have an Italian image-vendor somehow or other mixed up in it.  Where
these boys hide in times of peace is a mystery.  The chance of being
upset brings them out as sunshine brings out flies.  The motor cycle had
dashed into a little milk-cart and had spread it out neatly in the middle
of the tram lines.  The tram traffic looked like being stopped for a
quarter of an hour; but the idea of every approaching tram driver
appeared to be that if he rang his bell with sufficient vigor this
seeming obstruction would fade away and disappear.

In an English town all this would not have attracted much attention.
Somebody would have explained that a dog was the original cause, and the
whole series of events would have appeared ordinary and natural.  Upon
these foreigners the fear descended that the Almighty, for some reason,
was angry with them.  A policeman ran to catch the dog.

The delighted dog rushed backwards, barking furiously, and tried to throw
up paving stones with its hind legs.  That frightened a nursemaid who was
wheeling a perambulator, and then it was that I entered into the
proceedings.  Seated on the edge of the pavement, with a perambulator on
one side of me and a howling baby on the other, I told that dog what I
thought of him.

Forgetful that I was in a foreign land—that he might not understand me—I
told it him in English, I told it him at length, I told it very loud and
clear.  He stood a yard in front of me, listening to me with an
expression of ecstatic joy I have never before or since seen equalled on
any face, human or canine.  He drank it in as though it had been music
from Paradise.

“Where have I heard that song before?” he seemed to be saying to himself,
“the old familiar language they used to talk to me when I was young?”

He approached nearer to me; there were almost tears in his eyes when I
had finished.

“Say it again!” he seemed to be asking of me.  “Oh! say it all over
again, the dear old English oaths and curses that in this God-forsaken
land I never hoped to hear again.”

I learnt from the young lady that he was an English-born fox-terrier.
That explained everything.  The foreign dog does not do this sort of
thing.  The foreigner is born good: that is why we hate him.

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