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´╗┐Title: Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow
Author: Jerome, Jerome K. (Jerome Klapka), 1859-1927
Language: English
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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 "Second Thoughts of an Idle Fellow" ***

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THE SECOND THOUGHTS OF AN IDLE FELLOW

By Jerome K. Jerome


1899 Hurst and Blackett edition



Contents

   On the art of making up one's mind.
   On the disadvantage of not getting what one wants.
   On the exceptional merit attaching to the things we meant to do.
   On the preparation and employment of love philtres.
   On the delights and benefits of slavery.
   On the care and management of women.
   On the minding of other people's business.
   On the time wasted in looking before one leaps.
   On the nobility of ourselves.
   On the motherliness of man.
   On the inadvisability of following advice.
   On the playing of marches at the funerals of marionettes.



ON THE ART OF MAKING UP ONE'S MIND

"Now, which would you advise, dear? You see, with the red I shan't be
able to wear my magenta hat."

"Well then, why not have the grey?"

"Yes--yes, I think the grey will be MORE useful."

"It's a good material."

"Yes, and it's a PRETTY grey. You know what I mean, dear; not a COMMON
grey. Of course grey is always an UNINTERESTING colour."

"Its quiet."

"And then again, what I feel about the red is that it is so
warm-looking. Red makes you FEEL warm even when you're NOT warm. You
know what I mean, dear!"

"Well then, why not have the red? It suits you--red."

"No; do you really think so?"

"Well, when you've got a colour, I mean, of course!"

"Yes, that is the drawback to red. No, I think, on the whole, the grey
is SAFER."

"Then you will take the grey, madam?"

"Yes, I think I'd better; don't you, dear?"

"I like it myself very much."

"And it is good wearing stuff. I shall have it trimmed with--Oh! you
haven't cut it off, have you?"

"I was just about to, madam."

"Well, don't for a moment. Just let me have another look at the red.
You see, dear, it has just occurred to me--that chinchilla would look so
well on the red!"

"So it would, dear!"

"And, you see, I've got the chinchilla."

"Then have the red. Why not?"

"Well, there is the hat I'm thinking of."

"You haven't anything else you could wear with that?"

"Nothing at all, and it would go so BEAUTIFULLY with the grey.--Yes, I
think I'll have the grey. It's always a safe colour--grey."

"Fourteen yards I think you said, madam?"

"Yes, fourteen yards will be enough; because I shall mix it with--One
minute. You see, dear, if I take the grey I shall have nothing to wear
with my black jacket."

"Won't it go with grey?"

"Not well--not so well as with red."

"I should have the red then. You evidently fancy it yourself."

"No, personally I prefer the grey. But then one must think of
EVERYTHING, and--Good gracious! that's surely not the right time?"

"No, madam, it's ten minutes slow. We always keep our clocks a little
slow!"

"And we were too have been at Madame Jannaway's at a quarter past
twelve. How long shopping does take I--Why, whatever time did we start?"

"About eleven, wasn't it?"

"Half-past ten. I remember now; because, you know, we said we'd start at
half-past nine. We've been two hours already!"

"And we don't seem to have done much, do we?"

"Done literally nothing, and I meant to have done so much. I must go to
Madame Jannaway's. Have you got my purse, dear? Oh, it's all right, I've
got it."

"Well, now you haven't decided whether you're going to have the grey or
the red."

"I'm sure I don't know what I do want now. I had made up my mind a
minute ago, and now it's all gone again--oh yes, I remember, the red.
Yes, I'll have the red. No, I don't mean the red, I mean the grey."

"You were talking about the red last time, if you remember, dear."

"Oh, so I was, you're quite right. That's the worst of shopping. Do you
know I get quite confused sometimes."

"Then you will decide on the red, madam?"

"Yes--yes, I shan't do any better, shall I, dear? What do you think?
You haven't got any other shades of red, have you? This is such an ugly
red."

The shopman reminds her that she has seen all the other reds, and that
this is the particular shade she selected and admired.

"Oh, very well," she replies, with the air of one from whom all earthly
cares are falling, "I must take that then, I suppose. I can't be worried
about it any longer. I've wasted half the morning already."

Outside she recollects three insuperable objections to the red, and
four unanswerable arguments why she should have selected the grey. She
wonders would they change it, if she went back and asked to see the
shopwalker? Her friend, who wants her lunch, thinks not.

"That is what I hate about shopping," she says. "One never has time to
really THINK."

She says she shan't go to that shop again.

We laugh at her, but are we so very much better? Come, my superior male
friend, have you never stood, amid your wardrobe, undecided whether, in
her eyes, you would appear more imposing, clad in the rough tweed suit
that so admirably displays your broad shoulders; or in the orthodox
black frock, that, after all, is perhaps more suitable to the figure of
a man approaching--let us say, the nine-and-twenties? Or, better still,
why not riding costume? Did we not hear her say how well Jones looked
in his top-boots and breeches, and, "hang it all," we have a better leg
than Jones. What a pity riding-breeches are made so baggy nowadays. Why
is it that male fashions tend more and more to hide the male leg? As
women have become less and less ashamed of theirs, we have become more
and more reticent of ours. Why are the silken hose, the tight-fitting
pantaloons, the neat kneebreeches of our forefathers impossible to-day?
Are we grown more modest--or has there come about a falling off,
rendering concealment advisable?

I can never understand, myself, why women love us. It must be our
honest worth, our sterling merit, that attracts them--certainly not our
appearance, in a pair of tweed "dittos," black angora coat and vest,
stand-up collar, and chimney-pot hat! No, it must be our sheer force of
character that compels their admiration.

What a good time our ancestors must have had was borne in upon me when,
on one occasion, I appeared in character at a fancy dress ball. What I
represented I am unable to say, and I don't particularly care. I only
know it was something military. I also remember that the costume was two
sizes too small for me in the chest, and thereabouts; and three sizes
too large for me in the hat. I padded the hat, and dined in the middle
of the day off a chop and half a glass of soda-water. I have gained
prizes as a boy for mathematics, also for scripture history--not often,
but I have done it. A literary critic, now dead, once praised a book
of mine. I know there have been occasions when my conduct has won the
approbation of good men; but never--never in my whole life, have I felt
more proud, more satisfied with myself than on that evening when, the
last hook fastened, I gazed at my full-length Self in the cheval glass.
I was a dream. I say it who should not; but I am not the only one who
said it. I was a glittering dream. The groundwork was red, trimmed with
gold braid wherever there was room for gold braid; and where there was
no more possible room for gold braid there hung gold cords, and tassels,
and straps. Gold buttons and buckles fastened me, gold embroidered belts
and sashes caressed me, white horse-hair plumes waved o'er me. I am
not sure that everything was in its proper place, but I managed to get
everything on somehow, and I looked well. It suited me. My success was
a revelation to me of female human nature. Girls who had hitherto been
cold and distant gathered round me, timidly solicitous of notice. Girls
on whom I smiled lost their heads and gave themselves airs. Girls who
were not introduced to me sulked and were rude to girls that had been.
For one poor child, with whom I sat out two dances (at least she
sat, while I stood gracefully beside her--I had been advised, by the
costumier, NOT to sit), I was sorry. He was a worthy young fellow, the
son of a cotton broker, and he would have made her a good husband, I
feel sure. But he was foolish to come as a beer-bottle.

Perhaps, after all, it is as well those old fashions have gone out. A
week in that suit might have impaired my natural modesty.

One wonders that fancy dress balls are not more popular in this grey age
of ours. The childish instinct to "dress up," to "make believe," is
with us all. We grow so tired of being always ourselves. A tea-table
discussion, at which I once assisted, fell into this:--Would any one of
us, when it came to the point, change with anybody else, the poor man
with the millionaire, the governess with the princess--change not only
outward circumstances and surroundings, but health and temperament,
heart, brain, and soul; so that not one mental or physical particle
of one's original self one would retain, save only memory? The general
opinion was that we would not, but one lady maintained the affirmative.

"Oh no, you wouldn't really, dear," argued a friend; "you THINK you
would."

"Yes, I would," persisted the first lady; "I am tired of myself. I'd
even be you, for a change."

In my youth, the question chiefly important to me was--What sort of man
shall I decide to be? At nineteen one asks oneself this question; at
thirty-nine we say, "I wish Fate hadn't made me this sort of man."

In those days I was a reader of much well-meant advice to young men,
and I gathered that, whether I should become a Sir Lancelot, a Herr
Teufelsdrockh, or an Iago was a matter for my own individual choice.
Whether I should go through life gaily or gravely was a question the
pros and cons of which I carefully considered. For patterns I turned to
books. Byron was then still popular, and many of us made up our minds
to be gloomy, saturnine young men, weary with the world, and prone to
soliloquy. I determined to join them.

For a month I rarely smiled, or, when I did, it was with a weary, bitter
smile, concealing a broken heart--at least that was the intention.
Shallow-minded observers misunderstood.

"I know exactly how it feels," they would say, looking at me
sympathetically, "I often have it myself. It's the sudden change in the
weather, I think;" and they would press neat brandy upon me, and suggest
ginger.

Again, it is distressing to the young man, busy burying his secret
sorrow under a mound of silence, to be slapped on the back by
commonplace people and asked--"Well, how's 'the hump' this morning?"
and to hear his mood of dignified melancholy referred to, by those who
should know better, as "the sulks."

There are practical difficulties also in the way of him who would play
the Byronic young gentleman. He must be supernaturally wicked--or rather
must have been; only, alas! in the unliterary grammar of life, where
the future tense stands first, and the past is formed, not from the
indefinite, but from the present indicative, "to have been" is "to be";
and to be wicked on a small income is impossible. The ruin of even the
simplest of maidens costs money. In the Courts of Love one cannot sue in
forma pauperis; nor would it be the Byronic method.

"To drown remembrance in the cup" sounds well, but then the "cup," to be
fitting, should be of some expensive brand. To drink deep of old Tokay
or Asti is poetical; but when one's purse necessitates that the draught,
if it is to be deep enough to drown anything, should be of thin beer at
five-and-nine the four and a half gallon cask, or something similar in
price, sin is robbed of its flavour.

Possibly also--let me think it--the conviction may have been within
me that Vice, even at its daintiest, is but an ugly, sordid thing,
repulsive in the sunlight; that though--as rags and dirt to art--it
may afford picturesque material to Literature, it is an evil-smelling
garment to the wearer; one that a good man, by reason of poverty of
will, may come down to, but one to be avoided with all one's effort,
discarded with returning mental prosperity.

Be this as it may, I grew weary of training for a saturnine young man;
and, in the midst of my doubt, I chanced upon a book the hero of which
was a debonnaire young buck, own cousin to Tom and Jerry. He attended
fights, both of cocks and men, flirted with actresses, wrenched off
door-knockers, extinguished street lamps, played many a merry jest upon
many an unappreciative night watch-man. For all the which he was much
beloved by the women of the book. Why should not I flirt with actresses,
put out street lamps, play pranks on policemen, and be beloved? London
life was changed since the days of my hero, but much remained, and the
heart of woman is eternal. If no longer prizefighting was to be had, at
least there were boxing competitions, so called, in dingy back parlours
out Whitechapel way. Though cockfighting was a lost sport, were there
not damp cellars near the river where for twopence a gentleman might
back mongrel terriers to kill rats against time, and feel himself indeed
a sportsman? True, the atmosphere of reckless gaiety, always surrounding
my hero, I missed myself from these scenes, finding in its place
an atmosphere more suggestive of gin, stale tobacco, and nervous
apprehension of the police; but the essentials must have been the
same, and the next morning I could exclaim in the very words of my
prototype--"Odds crickets, but I feel as though the devil himself were
in my head. Peste take me for a fool."

But in this direction likewise my fatal lack of means opposed me. (It
affords much food to the philosophic mind, this influence of income
upon character.) Even fifth-rate "boxing competitions," organized by
"friendly leads," and ratting contests in Rotherhithe slums, become
expensive, when you happen to be the only gentleman present possessed
of a collar, and are expected to do the honours of your class in
dog's-nose. True, climbing lamp-posts and putting out the gas is
fairly cheap, providing always you are not caught in the act, but as a
recreation it lacks variety. Nor is the modern London lamp-post adapted
to sport. Anything more difficult to grip--anything with less "give"
in it--I have rarely clasped. The disgraceful amount of dirt allowed to
accumulate upon it is another drawback from the climber's point of view.
By the time you have swarmed up your third post a positive distaste for
"gaiety" steals over you. Your desire is towards arnica and a bath.

Nor in jokes at the expense of policemen is the fun entirely on your
side. Maybe I did not proceed with judgment. It occurs to me now,
looking back, that the neighbourhoods of Covent Garden and Great
Marlborough Street were ill-chosen for sport of this nature. To bonnet
a fat policeman is excellent fooling. While he is struggling with his
helmet you can ask him comic questions, and by the time he has got
his head free you are out of sight. But the game should be played in
a district where there is not an average of three constables to every
dozen square yards. When two other policemen, who have had their eye
on you for the past ten minutes, are watching the proceedings from just
round the next corner, you have little or no leisure for due enjoyment
of the situation. By the time you have run the whole length of Great
Titchfield Street and twice round Oxford Market, you are of opinion
that a joke should never be prolonged beyond the point at which there is
danger of its becoming wearisome; and that the time has now arrived
for home and friends. The "Law," on the other hand, now raised by
reinforcements to a strength of six or seven men, is just beginning to
enjoy the chase. You picture to yourself, while doing Hanover Square,
the scene in Court the next morning. You will be accused of being drunk
and disorderly. It will be idle for you to explain to the magistrate (or
to your relations afterwards) that you were only trying to live up to
a man who did this sort of thing in a book and was admired for it. You
will be fined the usual forty shillings; and on the next occasion of
your calling at the Mayfields' the girls will be out, and Mrs. Mayfield,
an excellent lady, who has always taken a motherly interest in you, will
talk seriously to you and urge you to sign the pledge.

Thanks to your youth and constitution you shake off the pursuit at
Notting Hill; and, to avoid any chance of unpleasant contretemps on
the return journey, walk home to Bloomsbury by way of Camden Town and
Islington.

I abandoned sportive tendencies as the result of a vow made by myself
to Providence, during the early hours of a certain Sunday morning, while
clinging to the waterspout of an unpretentious house situate in a side
street off Soho. I put it to Providence as man to man. "Let me only
get out of this," I think were the muttered words I used, "and no more
'sport' for me." Providence closed on the offer, and did let me get out
of it. True, it was a complicated "get out," involving a broken skylight
and three gas globes, two hours in a coal cellar, and a sovereign to
a potman for the loan of an ulster; and when at last, secure in my
chamber, I took stock of myself--what was left of me,--I could not
but reflect that Providence might have done the job neater. Yet I
experienced no desire to escape the terms of the covenant; my inclining
for the future was towards a life of simplicity.

Accordingly, I cast about for a new character, and found one to suit me.
The German professor was becoming popular as a hero about this period.
He wore his hair long and was otherwise untidy, but he had "a heart of
steel," occasionally of gold. The majority of folks in the book, judging
him from his exterior together with his conversation--in broken English,
dealing chiefly with his dead mother and his little sister Lisa,--dubbed
him uninteresting, but then they did not know about the heart. His chief
possession was a lame dog which he had rescued from a brutal mob; and
when he was not talking broken English he was nursing this dog.

But his speciality was stopping runaway horses, thereby saving the
heroine's life. This, combined with the broken English and the dog,
rendered him irresistible.

He seemed a peaceful, amiable sort of creature, and I decided to try
him. I could not of course be a German professor, but I could, and did,
wear my hair long in spite of much public advice to the contrary, voiced
chiefly by small boys. I endeavoured to obtain possession of a lame
dog, but failed. A one-eyed dealer in Seven Dials, to whom, as a last
resource, I applied, offered to lame one for me for an extra
five shillings, but this suggestion I declined. I came across an
uncanny-looking mongrel late one night. He was not lame, but he seemed
pretty sick; and, feeling I was not robbing anybody of anything
very valuable, I lured him home and nursed him. I fancy I must have
over-nursed him. He got so healthy in the end, there was no doing
anything with him. He was an ill-conditioned cur, and he was too old to
be taught. He became the curse of the neighbourhood. His idea of sport
was killing chickens and sneaking rabbits from outside poulterers'
shops. For recreation he killed cats and frightened small children by
yelping round their legs. There were times when I could have lamed him
myself, if only I could have got hold of him. I made nothing by running
that dog--nothing whatever. People, instead of admiring me for nursing
him back to life, called me a fool, and said that if I didn't drown the
brute they would. He spoilt my character utterly--I mean my character
at this period. It is difficult to pose as a young man with a heart of
gold, when discovered in the middle of the road throwing stones at your
own dog. And stones were the only things that would reach and influence
him.

I was also hampered by a scarcity in runaway horses. The horse of our
suburb was not that type of horse. Once and only once did an opportunity
offer itself for practice. It was a good opportunity, inasmuch as he was
not running away very greatly. Indeed, I doubt if he knew himself that
he was running away. It transpired afterwards that it was a habit of
his, after waiting for his driver outside the Rose and Crown for what he
considered to be a reasonable period, to trot home on his own account.
He passed me going about seven miles an hour, with the reins dragging
conveniently beside him. He was the very thing for a beginner, and I
prepared myself. At the critical moment, however, a couple of officious
policemen pushed me aside and did it themselves.

There was nothing for me to regret, as the matter turned out. I should
only have rescued a bald-headed commercial traveller, very drunk, who
swore horribly, and pelted the crowd with empty collar-boxes.

From the window of a very high flat I once watched three men, resolved
to stop a runaway horse. Each man marched deliberately into the middle
of the road and took up his stand. My window was too far away for me to
see their faces, but their attitude suggested heroism unto death. The
first man, as the horse came charging towards him, faced it with his
arms spread out. He never flinched until the horse was within about
twenty yards of him. Then, as the animal was evidently determined to
continue its wild career, there was nothing left for him to do but to
retire again to the kerb, where he stood looking after it with evident
sorrow, as though saying to himself--"Oh, well, if you are going to be
headstrong I have done with you."

The second man, on the catastrophe being thus left clear for him,
without a moment's hesitation, walked up a bye street and disappeared.
The third man stood his ground, and, as the horse passed him, yelled at
it. I could not hear what he said. I have not the slightest doubt it
was excellent advice, but the animal was apparently too excited even to
listen. The first and the third man met afterwards, and discussed the
matter sympathetically. I judged they were regretting the pig-headedness
of runaway horses in general, and hoping that nobody had been hurt.

I forget the other characters I assumed about this period. One, I know,
that got me into a good deal of trouble was that of a downright, honest,
hearty, outspoken young man who always said what he meant.

I never knew but one man who made a real success of speaking his mind. I
have heard him slap the table with his open hand and exclaim--

"You want me to flatter you--to stuff you up with a pack of lies. That's
not me, that's not Jim Compton. But if you care for my honest opinion,
all I can say is, that child is the most marvellous performer on the
piano I've ever heard. I don't say she is a genius, but I have heard
Liszt and Metzler and all the crack players, and I prefer HER. That's my
opinion. I speak my mind, and I can't help it if you're offended."

"How refreshing," the parents would say, "to come across a man who is
not afraid to say what he really thinks. Why are we not all outspoken?"

The last character I attempted I thought would be easy to assume. It was
that of a much admired and beloved young man, whose great charm lay in
the fact that he was always just--himself. Other people posed and acted.
He never made any effort to be anything but his own natural, simple
self.

I thought I also would be my own natural, simple self. But then the
question arose--What was my own natural, simple self?

That was the preliminary problem I had to solve; I have not solved it to
this day. What am I? I am a great gentleman, walking through the world
with dauntless heart and head erect, scornful of all meanness, impatient
of all littleness. I am a mean-thinking, little-daring man--the type
of man that I of the dauntless heart and the erect head despise
greatly--crawling to a poor end by devious ways, cringing to the strong,
timid of all pain. I--but, dear reader, I will not sadden your sensitive
ears with details I could give you, showing how contemptible a creature
this wretched I happens to be. Nor would you understand me. You would
only be astonished, discovering that such disreputable specimens of
humanity contrive to exist in this age. It is best, my dear sir, or
madam, you should remain ignorant of these evil persons. Let me not
trouble you with knowledge.

I am a philosopher, greeting alike the thunder and the sunshine with
frolic welcome. Only now and then, when all things do not fall exactly
as I wish them, when foolish, wicked people will persist in doing
foolish, wicked acts, affecting my comfort and happiness, I rage and
fret a goodish deal.

As Heine said of himself, I am knight, too, of the Holy Grail, valiant
for the Truth, reverent of all women, honouring all men, eager to yield
life to the service of my great Captain.

And next moment, I find myself in the enemy's lines, fighting under
the black banner. (It must be confusing to these opposing Generals, all
their soldiers being deserters from both armies.) What are women but
men's playthings! Shall there be no more cakes and ale for me because
thou art virtuous! What are men but hungry dogs, contending each against
each for a limited supply of bones! Do others lest thou be done. What is
the Truth but an unexploded lie!

I am a lover of all living things. You, my poor sister, struggling with
your heavy burden on your lonely way, I would kiss the tears from your
worn cheeks, lighten with my love the darkness around your feet. You, my
patient brother, breathing hard as round and round you tramp the
trodden path, like some poor half-blind gin-horse, stripes your only
encouragement, scanty store of dry chaff in your manger! I would jog
beside you, taking the strain a little from your aching shoulders; and
we would walk nodding, our heads side by side, and you, remembering,
should tell me of the fields where long ago you played, of the gallant
races that you ran and won. And you, little pinched brats, with
wondering eyes, looking from dirt-encrusted faces, I would take you in
my arms and tell you fairy stories. Into the sweet land of make-believe
we would wander, leaving the sad old world behind us for a time, and you
should be Princes and Princesses, and know Love.

But again, a selfish, greedy man comes often, and sits in my clothes. A
man who frets away his life, planning how to get more money--more food,
more clothes, more pleasures for himself; a man so busy thinking of the
many things he needs he has no time to dwell upon the needs of others.
He deems himself the centre of the universe. You would imagine, hearing
him grumbling, that the world had been created and got ready against the
time when he should come to take his pleasure in it. He would push and
trample, heedless, reaching towards these many desires of his; and when,
grabbing, he misses, he curses Heaven for its injustice, and men and
women for getting in his path. He is not a nice man, in any way. I wish,
as I say, he would not come so often and sit in my clothes. He persists
that he is I, and that I am only a sentimental fool, spoiling his
chances. Sometimes, for a while, I get rid of him, but he always comes
back; and then he gets rid of me and I become him. It is very confusing.
Sometimes I wonder if I really am myself.



ON THE DISADVANTAGE OF NOT GETTING WHAT ONE WANTS

Long, long ago, when you and I, dear Reader, were young, when the
fairies dwelt in the hearts of the roses, when the moonbeams bent each
night beneath the weight of angels' feet, there lived a good, wise man.
Or rather, I should say, there had lived, for at the time of which I
speak the poor old gentleman lay dying. Waiting each moment the dread
summons, he fell a-musing on the life that stretched far back behind
him. How full it seemed to him at that moment of follies and mistakes,
bringing bitter tears not to himself alone but to others also. How much
brighter a road might it have been, had he been wiser, had he known!

"Ah, me!" said the good old gentleman, "if only I could live my life
again in the light of experience."

Now as he spoke these words he felt the drawing near to him of a
Presence, and thinking it was the One whom he expected, raising himself
a little from his bed, he feebly cried,

"I am ready."

But a hand forced him gently back, a voice saying, "Not yet; I bring
life, not death. Your wish shall be granted. You shall live your life
again, and the knowledge of the past shall be with you to guide you. See
you use it. I will come again."

Then a sleep fell upon the good man, and when he awoke, he was again a
little child, lying in his mother's arms; but, locked within his brain
was the knowledge of the life that he had lived already.

So once more he lived and loved and laboured. So a second time he lay an
old, worn man with life behind him. And the angel stood again beside his
bed; and the voice said,

"Well, are you content now?"

"I am well content," said the old gentleman. "Let Death come."

"And have you understood?" asked the angel.

"I think so," was the answer; "that experience is but as of the memory
of the pathways he has trod to a traveller journeying ever onward into
an unknown land. I have been wise only to reap the reward of folly.
Knowledge has ofttimes kept me from my good. I have avoided my old
mistakes only to fall into others that I knew not of. I have reached the
old errors by new roads. Where I have escaped sorrow I have lost joy.
Where I have grasped happiness I have plucked pain also. Now let me go
with Death that I may learn.."

Which was so like the angel of that period, the giving of a gift,
bringing to a man only more trouble. Maybe I am overrating my coolness
of judgment under somewhat startling circumstances, but I am inclined to
think that, had I lived in those days, and had a fairy or an angel come
to me, wanting to give me something--my soul's desire, or the sum of my
ambition, or any trifle of that kind I should have been short with him.

"You pack up that precious bag of tricks of yours," I should have said
to him (it would have been rude, but that is how I should have felt),
"and get outside with it. I'm not taking anything in your line to-day. I
don't require any supernatural aid to get me into trouble. All the worry
I want I can get down here, so it's no good your calling. You take that
little joke of yours,--I don't know what it is, but I know enough not to
want to know,--and run it off on some other idiot. I'm not priggish.
I have no objection to an innocent game of 'catch-questions' in the
ordinary way, and when I get a turn myself. But if I've got to pay
every time, and the stakes are to be my earthly happiness plus my future
existence--why, I don't play. There was the case of Midas; a nice,
shabby trick you fellows played off upon him! making pretence you did
not understand him, twisting round the poor old fellow's words, just for
all the world as though you were a pack of Old Bailey lawyers, trying
to trip up a witness; I'm ashamed of the lot of you, and I tell you
so--coming down here, fooling poor unsuspecting mortals with your
nonsense, as though we had not enough to harry us as it was. Then there
was that other case of the poor old peasant couple to whom you promised
three wishes, the whole thing ending in a black pudding. And they never
got even that. You thought that funny, I suppose. That was your fairy
humour! A pity, I say, you have not, all of you, something better to do
with your time. As I said before, you take that celestial 'Joe Miller'
of yours and work it off on somebody else. I have read my fairy lore,
and I have read my mythology, and I don't want any of your blessings.
And what's more, I'm not going to have them. When I want blessings I
will put up with the usual sort we are accustomed to down here. You know
the ones I mean, the disguised brand--the blessings that no human being
would think were blessings, if he were not told; the blessings that
don't look like blessings, that don't feel like blessings; that, as a
matter of fact, are not blessings, practically speaking; the blessings
that other people think are blessings for us and that we don't. They've
got their drawbacks, but they are better than yours, at any rate, and
they are sooner over. I don't want your blessings at any price. If you
leave one here I shall simply throw it out after you."

I feel confident I should have answered in that strain, and I feel it
would have done good. Somebody ought to have spoken plainly, because
with fairies and angels of that sort fooling about, no one was ever safe
for a moment. Children could hardly have been allowed outside the door.
One never could have told what silly trick some would-be funny fairy
might be waiting to play off on them. The poor child would not know, and
would think it was getting something worth having. The wonder to me is
that some of those angels didn't get tarred and feathered.

I am doubtful whether even Cinderella's luck was quite as satisfying
as we are led to believe. After the carpetless kitchen and the black
beetles, how beautiful the palace must have seemed--for the first year,
perhaps for the first two. And the Prince! how loving, how gallant, how
tender--for the first year, perhaps for the first two. And after? You
see he was a Prince, brought up in a Court, the atmosphere of which is
not conducive to the development of the domestic virtues; and she--was
Cinderella. And then the marriage altogether was rather a hurried
affair. Oh yes, she is a good, loving little woman; but perhaps our
Royal Highness-ship did act too much on the impulse of the moment. It
was her dear, dainty feet that danced their way into our heart. How they
flashed and twinkled, eased in those fairy slippers. How like a lily
among tulips she moved that night amid the over-gorgeous Court dames.
She was so sweet, so fresh, so different to all the others whom we knew
so well. How happy she looked as she put her trembling little hand in
ours. What possibilities might lie behind those drooping lashes. And we
were in amorous mood that night, the music in our feet, the flash and
glitter in our eyes. And then, to pique us further, she disappeared as
suddenly and strangely as she had come. Who was she? Whence came she?
What was the mystery surrounding her? Was she only a delicious dream,
a haunting phantasy that we should never look upon again, never clasp
again within our longing arms? Was our heart to be for ever hungry,
haunted by the memory of--No, by heavens, she is real, and a woman. Here
is her dear slipper, made surely to be kissed. Of a size too that a
man may well wear within the breast of his doublet. Had any woman--nay,
fairy, angel, such dear feet! Search the whole kingdom through, but find
her, find her. The gods have heard our prayers, and given us this clue.
"Suppose she be not all she seemed. Suppose she be not of birth fit to
mate with our noble house!" Out upon thee, for an earth-bound, blind
curmudgeon of a Lord High Chancellor. How could a woman, whom such
slipper fitted, be but of the noblest and the best, as far above us,
mere Princelet that we are, as the stars in heaven are brighter than thy
dull old eyes! Go, search the kingdom, we tell thee, from east to west,
from north to south, and see to it that thou findest her, or it shall
go hard with thee. By Venus, be she a swineherd's daughter, she shall be
our Queen--an she deign to accept of us, and of our kingdom.

Ah well, of course, it was not a wise piece of business, that goes
without saying; but we were young, and Princes are only human. Poor
child, she could not help her education, or rather her lack of it.
Dear little thing, the wonder is that she has contrived to be no more
ignorant than she is, dragged up as she was, neglected and overworked.
Nor does life in a kitchen, amid the companionship of peasants and
menials, tend to foster the intellect. Who can blame her for being shy
and somewhat dull of thought? not we, generous-minded, kind-hearted
Prince that we are. And she is very affectionate. The family are trying,
certainly; father-in-law not a bad sort, though a little prosy when
upon the subject of his domestic troubles, and a little too fond of his
glass; mamma-in-law, and those two ugly, ill-mannered sisters, decidedly
a nuisance about the palace. Yet what can we do? they are our relations
now, and they do not forget to let us know it. Well, well, we had
to expect that, and things might have been worse. Anyhow she is not
jealous--thank goodness.

So the day comes when poor little Cinderella sits alone of a night in
the beautiful palace. The courtiers have gone home in their carriages.
The Lord High Chancellor has bowed himself out backwards. The
Gold-Stick-in-Waiting and the Grooms of the Chamber have gone to their
beds. The Maids of Honour have said "Good-night," and drifted out of
the door, laughing and whispering among themselves. The clock strikes
twelve--one--two, and still no footstep creaks upon the stair. Once it
followed swiftly upon the "good-night" of the maids, who did not laugh
or whisper then.

At last the door opens, and the Prince enters, none too pleased at
finding Cinderella still awake. "So sorry I'm late, my love--detained on
affairs of state. Foreign policy very complicated, dear. Have only just
this moment left the Council Chamber."

And little Cinderella, while the Prince sleeps, lies sobbing out her
poor sad heart into the beautiful royal pillow, embroidered with the
royal arms and edged with the royal monogram in lace. "Why did he ever
marry me? I should have been happier in the old kitchen. The black
beetles did frighten me a little, but there was always the dear old
cat; and sometimes, when mother and the girls were out, papa would call
softly down the kitchen stairs for me to come up, and we would have such
a merry evening together, and sup off sausages: dear old dad, I hardly
ever see him now. And then, when my work was done, how pleasant it was
to sit in front of the fire, and dream of the wonderful things that
would come to me some day. I was always going to be a Princess, even in
my dreams, and live in a palace, but it was so different to this. Oh,
how I hate it, this beastly palace where everybody sneers at me--I know
they do, though they bow and scrape, and pretend to be so polite.
And I'm not clever and smart as they are. I hate them. I hate these
bold-faced women who are always here. That is the worst of a palace,
everybody can come in. Oh, I hate everybody and everything. Oh,
god-mamma, god-mamma, come and take me away. Take me back to my old
kitchen. Give me back my old poor frock. Let me dance again with the
fire-tongs for a partner, and be happy, dreaming."

Poor little Cinderella, perhaps it would have been better had god-mamma
been less ambitious for you, dear; had you married some good, honest
yeoman, who would never have known that you were not brilliant, who
would have loved you because you were just amiable and pretty; had your
kingdom been only a farmhouse, where your knowledge of domestic economy,
gained so hardly, would have been useful; where you would have shone
instead of being overshadowed; where Papa would have dropped in of an
evening to smoke his pipe and escape from his domestic wrangles; where
you would have been REAL Queen.

But then you know, dear, you would not have been content. Ah yes, with
your present experience--now you know that Queens as well as little
drudges have their troubles; but WITHOUT that experience? You would have
looked in the glass when you were alone; you would have looked at your
shapely hands and feet, and the shadows would have crossed your pretty
face. "Yes," you would have said to yourself--"John is a dear, kind
fellow, and I love him very much, and all that, but--" and the old
dreams, dreamt in the old low-ceilinged kitchen before the dying fire,
would have come back to you, and you would have been discontented then
as now, only in a different way. Oh yes, you would, Cinderella, though
you gravely shake your gold-crowned head. And let me tell you why. It is
because you are a woman, and the fate of all us, men and women alike, is
to be for ever wanting what we have not, and to be finding, when we have
it, that it is not what we wanted. That is the law of life, dear. Do you
think as you lie upon the floor with your head upon your arms, that you
are the only woman whose tears are soaking into the hearthrug at that
moment? My dear Princess, if you could creep unseen about your City,
peeping at will through the curtain-shielded windows, you would come
to think that all the world was little else than a big nursery full of
crying children with none to comfort them. The doll is broken: no longer
it sweetly squeaks in answer to our pressure, "I love you, kiss me." The
drum lies silent with the drumstick inside; no longer do we make a brave
noise in the nursery. The box of tea-things we have clumsily put our
foot upon; there will be no more merry parties around the three-legged
stool. The tin trumpet will not play the note we want to sound; the
wooden bricks keep falling down; the toy cannon has exploded and burnt
our fingers. Never mind, little man, little woman, we will try and mend
things tomorrow.

And after all, Cinderella dear, you do live in a fine palace, and you
have jewels and grand dresses and--No, no, do not be indignant with
ME. Did not you dream of these things AS WELL AS of love? Come now,
be honest. It was always a prince, was it not, or, at the least, an
exceedingly well-to-do party, that handsome young gentleman who bowed
to you so gallantly from the red embers? He was never a virtuous young
commercial traveller, or cultured clerk, earning a salary of three
pounds a week, was he, Cinderella? Yet there are many charming
commercial travellers, many delightful clerks with limited incomes,
quite sufficient, however, to a sensible man and woman desiring but each
other's love. Why was it always a prince, Cinderella? Had the palace and
the liveried servants, and the carriages and horses, and the jewels and
the dresses, NOTHING to do with the dream?

No, Cinderella, you were human, that is all. The artist, shivering in
his conventional attic, dreaming of Fame!-do you think he is not hoping
she will come to his loving arms in the form Jove came to Danae? Do you
think he is not reckoning also upon the good dinners and the big cigars,
the fur coat and the diamond studs, that her visits will enable him to
purchase?

There is a certain picture very popular just now. You may see it,
Cinderella, in many of the shop-windows of the town. It is called "The
Dream of Love," and it represents a beautiful young girl, sleeping in a
very beautiful but somewhat disarranged bed. Indeed, one hopes, for the
sleeper's sake, that the night is warm, and that the room is fairly
free from draughts. A ladder of light streams down from the sky into the
room, and upon this ladder crowd and jostle one another a small army of
plump Cupids, each one laden with some pledge of love. Two of the Imps
are emptying a sack of jewels upon the floor. Four others are bearing,
well displayed, a magnificent dress (a "confection," I believe, is the
proper term) cut somewhat low, but making up in train what is lacking
elsewhere. Others bear bonnet boxes from which peep stylish toques and
bewitching hoods. Some, representing evidently wholesale houses,
stagger under silks and satins in the piece. Cupids are there from the
shoemakers with the daintiest of bottines. Stockings, garters, and
even less mentionable articles, are not forgotten. Caskets, mirrors,
twelve-buttoned gloves, scent-bottles and handkerchiefs, hair-pins, and
the gayest of parasols, has the God of Love piled into the arms of his
messengers. Really a most practical, up-to-date God of Love, moving with
the times! One feels that the modern Temple of Love must be a sort of
Swan and Edgar's; the god himself a kind of celestial shop-walker; while
his mother, Venus, no doubt superintends the costume department. Quite
an Olympian Whiteley, this latter-day Eros; he has forgotten nothing,
for, at the back of the picture, I notice one Cupid carrying a rather
fat heart at the end of a string.

You, Cinderella, could give good counsel to that sleeping child.
You would say to her--"Awake from such dreams. The contents of a
pawnbroker's store-room will not bring you happiness. Dream of love
if you will; that is a wise dream, even if it remain ever a dream. But
these coloured beads, these Manchester goods! are you then--you, heiress
of all the ages--still at heart only as some poor savage maiden but
little removed above the monkeys that share the primeval forest with
her? Will you sell your gold to the first trader that brings you THIS
barter? These things, child, will only dazzle your eyes for a few days.
Do you think the Burlington Arcade is the gate of Heaven?"

Ah, yes, I too could talk like that--I, writer of books, to the young
lad, sick of his office stool, dreaming of a literary career leading
to fame and fortune. "And do you think, lad, that by that road you will
reach Happiness sooner than by another? Do you think interviews with
yourself in penny weeklies will bring you any satisfaction after the
first halfdozen? Do you think the gushing female who has read all your
books, and who wonders what it must feel like to be so clever, will be
welcome to you the tenth time you meet her? Do you think press
cuttings will always consist of wondering admiration of your genius, of
paragraphs about your charming personal appearance under the heading,
'Our Celebrities'? Have you thought of the Uncomplimentary criticisms,
of the spiteful paragraphs, of the everlasting fear of slipping a few
inches down the greasy pole called 'popular taste,' to which you are
condemned to cling for life, as some lesser criminal to his weary
tread-mill, struggling with no hope but not to fall! Make a home, lad,
for the woman who loves you; gather one or two friends about you;
work, think, and play, that will bring you happiness. Shun this roaring
gingerbread fair that calls itself, forsooth, the 'World of art and
letters.' Let its clowns and its contortionists fight among themselves
for the plaudits and the halfpence of the mob. Let it be with its
shouting and its surging, its blare and its cheap flare. Come away, the
summer's night is just the other side of the hedge, with its silence and
its stars."

You and I, Cinderella, are experienced people, and can therefore offer
good advice, but do you think we should be listened to?

"Ah, no, my Prince is not as yours. Mine will love me always, and I am
peculiarly fitted for the life of a palace. I have the instinct and
the ability for it. I am sure I was made for a princess. Thank you,
Cinderella, for your well-meant counsel, but there is much difference
between you and me."

That is the answer you would receive, Cinderella; and my young friend
would say to me, "Yes, I can understand YOUR finding disappointment in
the literary career; but then, you see, our cases are not quite similar.
_I_ am not likely to find much trouble in keeping my position. _I_
shall not fear reading what the critics say of ME. No doubt there are
disadvantages, when you are among the ruck, but there is always plenty
of room at the top. So thank you, and goodbye."

Besides, Cinderella dear, we should not quite mean it--this excellent
advice. We have grown accustomed to these gew-gaws, and we should miss
them in spite of our knowledge of their trashiness: you, your palace and
your little gold crown; I, my mountebank's cap, and the answering laugh
that goes up from the crowd when I shake my bells. We want everything.
All the happiness that earth and heaven are capable of bestowing.
Creature comforts, and heart and soul comforts also; and, proud-spirited
beings that we are, we will not be put off with a part. Give us only
everything, and we will be content. And, after all, Cinderella, you have
had your day. Some little dogs never get theirs. You must not be greedy.
You have KNOWN happiness. The palace was Paradise for those few months,
and the Prince's arms were about you, Cinderella, the Prince's kisses on
your lips; the gods themselves cannot take THAT from you.

The cake cannot last for ever if we will eat of it so greedily. There
must come the day when we have picked hungrily the last crumb--when we
sit staring at the empty board, nothing left of the feast, Cinderella,
but the pain that comes of feasting.

It is a naive confession, poor Human Nature has made to itself, in
choosing, as it has, this story of Cinderella for its leading moral:--Be
good, little girl. Be meek under your many trials. Be gentle and kind,
in spite of your hard lot, and one day--you shall marry a prince and
ride in your own carriage. Be brave and true, little boy. Work hard and
wait with patience, and in the end, with God's blessing, you shall
earn riches enough to come back to London town and marry your master's
daughter.

You and I, gentle Reader, could teach these young folks a truer lesson,
an we would. We know, alas! that the road of all the virtues does
not lead to wealth, rather the contrary; else how explain our limited
incomes? But would it be well, think you, to tell them bluntly the
truth--that honesty is the most expensive luxury a man can indulge in;
that virtue, if persisted in, leads, generally speaking, to a six-roomed
house in an outlying suburb? Maybe the world is wise: the fiction has
its uses.

I am acquainted with a fairly intelligent young lady. She can read and
write, knows her tables up to six times, and can argue. I regard her
as representative of average Humanity in its attitude towards Fate; and
this is a dialogue I lately overheard between her and an older lady who
is good enough to occasionally impart to her the wisdom of the world--

"I've been good this morning, haven't I?"

"Yes--oh yes, fairly good, for you."

"You think Papa WILL take me to the circus to-night?"

"Yes, if you keep good. If you don't get naughty this afternoon."

A pause.

"I was good on Monday, you may remember, nurse."

"Tolerably good."

"VERY good, you said, nurse."

"Well, yes, you weren't bad."

"And I was to have gone to the pantomime, and I didn't."

"Well, that was because your aunt came up suddenly, and your Papa
couldn't get another seat. Poor auntie wouldn't have gone at all if she
hadn't gone then."

"Oh, wouldn't she?"

"No."

Another pause.

"Do you think she'll come up suddenly to-day?"

"Oh no, I don't think so."

"No, I hope she doesn't. I want to go to the circus to-night. Because,
you see, nurse, if I don't it will discourage me."

So, perhaps the world is wise in promising us the circus. We believe her
at first. But after a while, I fear, we grow discouraged.



ON THE EXCEPTIONAL MERIT ATTACHING TO THE THINGS WE MEANT TO DO

I can remember--but then I can remember a long time ago. You, gentle
Reader, just entering upon the prime of life, that age by thoughtless
youth called middle, I cannot, of course, expect to follow me--when
there was in great demand a certain periodical ycleped The Amateur. Its
aim was noble. It sought to teach the beautiful lesson of independence,
to inculcate the fine doctrine of self-help. One chapter explained to a
man how he might make flower-pots out of Australian meat cans; another
how he might turn butter-tubs into music-stools; a third how he might
utilize old bonnet boxes for Venetian blinds: that was the principle of
the whole scheme, you made everything from something not intended for
it, and as ill-suited to the purpose as possible.

Two pages, I distinctly recollect, were devoted to the encouragement of
the manufacture of umbrella stands out of old gaspiping. Anything less
adapted to the receipt of hats and umbrellas than gas-piping I cannot
myself conceive: had there been, I feel sure the author would have
thought of it, and would have recommended it.

Picture-frames you fashioned out of gingerbeer corks. You saved your
ginger-beer corks, you found a picture--and the thing was complete.
How much ginger-beer it would be necessary to drink, preparatory to
the making of each frame; and the effect of it upon the frame-maker's
physical, mental and moral well-being, did not concern The Amateur.
I calculate that for a fair-sized picture sixteen dozen bottles might
suffice. Whether, after sixteen dozen of ginger-beer, a man would take
any interest in framing a picture--whether he would retain any pride in
the picture itself, is doubtful. But this, of course, was not the point.

One young gentleman of my acquaintance--the son of the gardener of my
sister, as friend Ollendorff would have described him--did succeed in
getting through sufficient ginger-beer to frame his grandfather, but the
result was not encouraging. Indeed, the gardener's wife herself was but
ill satisfied.

"What's all them corks round father?" was her first question.

"Can't you see," was the somewhat indignant reply, "that's the frame."

"Oh! but why corks?"

"Well, the book said corks."

Still the old lady remained unimpressed.

"Somehow it don't look like father now," she sighed.

Her eldest born grew irritable: none of us appreciate criticism!

"What does it look like, then?" he growled.

"Well, I dunno. Seems to me to look like nothing but corks."

The old lady's view was correct. Certain schools of art possibly lend
themselves to this method of framing. I myself have seen a funeral
card improved by it; but, generally speaking, the consequence was a
predominance of frame at the expense of the thing framed. The more
honest and tasteful of the framemakers would admit as much themselves.

"Yes, it is ugly when you look at it," said one to me, as we stood
surveying it from the centre of the room. "But what one feels about it
is that one has done it oneself."

Which reflection, I have noticed, reconciles us to many other things
beside cork frames.

Another young gentleman friend of mine--for I am bound to admit it was
youth that profited most by the advice and counsel of The Amateur: I
suppose as one grows older one grows less daring, less industrious--made
a rocking-chair, according to the instructions of this book, out of a
couple of beer barrels. From every practical point of view it was a bad
rocking-chair. It rocked too much, and it rocked in too many directions
at one and the same time. I take it, a man sitting on a rocking-chair
does not want to be continually rocking. There comes a time when he says
to himself--"Now I have rocked sufficiently for the present; now I will
sit still for a while, lest a worse thing befall me." But this was one
of those headstrong rocking-chairs that are a danger to humanity, and
a nuisance to themselves. Its notion was that it was made to rock, and
that when it was not rocking, it was wasting its time. Once started
nothing could stop it--nothing ever did stop it, until it found itself
topsy turvy on its own occupant. That was the only thing that ever
sobered it.

I had called, and had been shown into the empty drawing-room. The
rocking-chair nodded invitingly at me. I never guessed it was an amateur
rocking-chair. I was young in those days, with faith in human nature,
and I imagined that, whatever else a man might attempt without knowledge
or experience, no one would be fool enough to experiment upon a
rocking-chair.

I threw myself into it lightly and carelessly. I immediately noticed
the ceiling. I made an instinctive movement forward. The window and
a momentary glimpse of the wooded hills beyond shot upwards and
disappeared. The carpet flashed across my eyes, and I caught sight of my
own boots vanishing beneath me at the rate of about two hundred miles an
hour. I made a convulsive effort to recover them. I suppose I over-did
it. I saw the whole of the room at once, the four walls, the ceiling,
and the floor at the same moment. It was a sort of vision. I saw the
cottage piano upside down, and I again saw my own boots flash past me,
this time over my head, soles uppermost. Never before had I been in a
position where my own boots had seemed so all-pervading. The next moment
I lost my boots, and stopped the carpet with my head just as it was
rushing past me. At the same instant something hit me violently in the
small of the back. Reason, when recovered, suggested that my assailant
must be the rocking-chair.

Investigation proved the surmise correct. Fortunately I was still alone,
and in consequence was able, a few minutes later, to meet my hostess
with calm and dignity. I said nothing about the rocking-chair. As a
matter of fact, I was hoping to have the pleasure, before I went, of
seeing some other guest arrive and sample it: I had purposely replaced
it in the most prominent and convenient position. But though I felt
capable of schooling myself to silence, I found myself unable to agree
with my hostess when she called for my admiration of the thing. My
recent experiences had too deeply embittered me.

"Willie made it himself," explained the fond mother. "Don't you think it
was very clever of him?"

"Oh yes, it was clever," I replied, "I am willing to admit that."

"He made it out of some old beer barrels," she continued; she seemed
proud of it.

My resentment, though I tried to keep it under control, was mounting
higher.

"Oh! did he?" I said; "I should have thought he might have found
something better to do with them."

"What?" she asked.

"Oh! well, many things," I retorted. "He might have filled them again
with beer."

My hostess looked at me astonished. I felt some reason for my tone was
expected.

"You see," I explained, "it is not a well-made chair. These rockers are
too short, and they are too curved, and one of them, if you notice, is
higher than the other and of a smaller radius; the back is at too obtuse
an angle. When it is occupied the centre of gravity becomes--"

My hostess interrupted me.

"You have been sitting on it," she said.

"Not for long," I assured her.

Her tone changed. She became apologetic.

"I am so sorry," she said. "It looks all right."

"It does," I agreed; "that is where the dear lad's cleverness displays
itself. Its appearance disarms suspicion. With judgment that chair might
be made to serve a really useful purpose. There are mutual
acquaintances of ours--I mention no names, you will know them--pompous,
self-satisfied, superior persons who would be improved by that chair.
If I were Willie I should disguise the mechanism with some artistic
drapery, bait the thing with a couple of exceptionally inviting
cushions, and employ it to inculcate modesty and diffidence. I defy any
human being to get out of that chair, feeling as important as when
he got into it. What the dear boy has done has been to construct an
automatic exponent of the transitory nature of human greatness. As a
moral agency that chair should prove a blessing in disguise."

My hostess smiled feebly; more, I fear, from politeness than genuine
enjoyment.

"I think you are too severe," she said. "When you remember that the boy
has never tried his hand at anything of the kind before, that he has no
knowledge and no experience, it really is not so bad."

Considering the matter from that point of view I was bound to concur.
I did not like to suggest to her that before entering upon a difficult
task it would be better for young men to ACQUIRE knowledge and
experience: that is so unpopular a theory.

But the thing that The Amateur put in the front and foremost of its
propaganda was the manufacture of household furniture out of egg-boxes.
Why egg-boxes I have never been able to understand, but egg-boxes,
according to the prescription of The Amateur, formed the foundation of
household existence. With a sufficient supply of egg-boxes, and what The
Amateur termed a "natural deftness," no young couple need hesitate to
face the furnishing problem. Three egg-boxes made a writing-table; on
another egg-box you sat to write; your books were ranged in egg-boxes
around you--and there was your study, complete.

For the dining-room two egg-boxes made an overmantel; four egg-boxes
and a piece of looking-glass a sideboard; while six egg-boxes, with
some wadding and a yard or so of cretonne, constituted a so-called "cosy
corner." About the "corner" there could be no possible doubt. You sat on
a corner, you leant against a corner; whichever way you moved you struck
a fresh corner. The "cosiness," however, I deny. Egg-boxes I admit
can be made useful; I am even prepared to imagine them ornamental; but
"cosy," no. I have sampled egg-boxes in many shapes. I speak of years
ago, when the world and we were younger, when our fortune was the
Future; secure in which, we hesitated not to set up house upon incomes
folks with lesser expectations might have deemed insufficient. Under
such circumstances, the sole alternative to the egg-box, or similar
school of furniture, would have been the strictly classical, consisting
of a doorway joined to architectural proportions.

I have from Saturday to Monday, as honoured guest, hung my clothes in
egg-boxes.

I have sat on an egg-box at an egg-box to take my dish of tea. I have
made love on egg-boxes.--Aye, and to feel again the blood running
through my veins as then it ran, I would be content to sit only on
egg-boxes till the time should come when I could be buried in an
egg-box, with an egg-box reared above me as tombstone.--I have spent
many an evening on an egg-box; I have gone to bed in egg-boxes. They
have their points--I am intending no pun--but to claim for them cosiness
would be but to deceive.

How quaint they were, those home-made rooms! They rise out of the
shadows and shape themselves again before my eyes. I see the knobbly
sofa; the easy-chairs that might have been designed by the Grand
Inquisitor himself; the dented settle that was a bed by night; the few
blue plates, purchased in the slums off Wardour Street; the enamelled
stool to which one always stuck; the mirror framed in silk; the two
Japanese fans crossed beneath each cheap engraving; the piano cloth
embroidered in peacock's feathers by Annie's sister; the tea-cloth
worked by Cousin Jenny. We dreamt, sitting on those egg-boxes--for we
were young ladies and gentlemen with artistic taste--of the days when we
would eat in Chippendale dining-rooms; sip our coffee in Louis Quatorze
drawing-rooms; and be happy. Well, we have got on, some of us, since
then, as Mr. Bumpus used to say; and I notice, when on visits, that
some of us have contrived so that we do sit on Chippendale chairs, at
Sheraton dining-tables, and are warmed from Adam's fireplaces; but, ah
me, where are the dreams, the hopes, the enthusiasms that clung like
the scent of a March morning about those gim-crack second floors? In the
dustbin, I fear, with the cretonne-covered egg-boxes and the penny fans.
Fate is so terribly even-handed. As she gives she ever takes away. She
flung us a few shillings and hope, where now she doles us out pounds and
fears. Why did not we know how happy we were, sitting crowned with sweet
conceit upon our egg-box thrones?

Yes, Dick, you have climbed well. You edit a great newspaper. You spread
abroad the message--well, the message that Sir Joseph Goldbug, your
proprietor, instructs you to spread abroad. You teach mankind the
lessons that Sir Joseph Goldbug wishes them to learn. They say he is to
have a peerage next year. I am sure he has earned it; and perhaps there
may be a knighthood for you, Dick.

Tom, you are getting on now. You have abandoned those unsaleable
allegories. What rich art patron cares to be told continually by his own
walls that Midas had ass's ears; that Lazarus sits ever at the gate? You
paint portraits now, and everybody tells me you are the coming man. That
"Impression" of old Lady Jezebel was really wonderful. The woman
looks quite handsome, and yet it is her ladyship. Your touch is truly
marvellous.

But into your success, Tom--Dick, old friend, do not there creep moments
when you would that we could fish up those old egg-boxes from the past,
refurnish with them the dingy rooms in Camden Town, and find there our
youth, our loves, and our beliefs?

An incident brought back to my mind, the other day, the thought of all
these things. I called for the first time upon a man, an actor, who had
asked me to come and see him in the little home where he lives with his
old father. To my astonishment--for the craze, I believe, has long since
died out--I found the house half furnished out of packing cases, butter
tubs, and egg-boxes. My friend earns his twenty pounds a week, but it
was the old father's hobby, so he explained to me, the making of these
monstrosities; and of them he was as proud as though they were specimen
furniture out of the South Kensington Museum.

He took me into the dining-room to show me the latest outrage--a new
book-case. A greater disfigurement to the room, which was otherwise
prettily furnished, could hardly be imagined. There was no need for
him to assure me, as he did, that it had been made out of nothing but
egg-boxes. One could see at a glance that it was made out of egg-boxes,
and badly constructed egg-boxes at that--egg-boxes that were a disgrace
to the firm that had turned them out; egg-boxes not worthy the storage
of "shop 'uns" at eighteen the shilling.

We went upstairs to my friend's bedroom. He opened the door as a man
might open the door of a museum of gems.

"The old boy," he said, as he stood with his hand upon the door-knob,
"made everything you see here, everything," and we entered. He drew my
attention to the wardrobe. "Now I will hold it up," he said, "while you
pull the door open; I think the floor must be a bit uneven, it wobbles
if you are not careful." It wobbled notwithstanding, but by coaxing and
humouring we succeeded without mishap. I was surprised to notice a very
small supply of clothes within, although my friend is a dressy man.

"You see," he explained, "I dare not use it more than I can help. I am
a clumsy chap, and as likely as not, if I happened to be in a hurry, I'd
have the whole thing over:" which seemed probable.

I asked him how he contrived. "I dress in the bath-room as a rule," he
replied; "I keep most of my things there. Of course the old boy doesn't
know."

He showed me a chest of drawers. One drawer stood half open.

"I'm bound to leave that drawer open," he said; "I keep the things I use
in that. They don't shut quite easily, these drawers; or rather, they
shut all right, but then they won't open. It is the weather, I think.
They will open and shut all right in the summer, I dare say." He is of a
hopeful disposition.

But the pride of the room was the washstand.

"What do you think of this?" cried he enthusiastically, "real marble
top--"

He did not expatiate further. In his excitement he had laid his hand
upon the thing, with the natural result that it collapsed. More by
accident than design I caught the jug in my arms. I also caught the
water it contained. The basin rolled on its edge and little damage was
done, except to me and the soap-box.

I could not pump up much admiration for this washstand; I was feeling
too wet.

"What do you do when you want to wash?" I asked, as together we reset
the trap.

There fell upon him the manner of a conspirator revealing secrets. He
glanced guiltily round the room; then, creeping on tip-toe, he opened a
cupboard behind the bed. Within was a tin basin and a small can.

"Don't tell the old boy," he said. "I keep these things here, and wash
on the floor."

That was the best thing I myself ever got out of egg-boxes--that picture
of a deceitful son stealthily washing himself upon the floor behind the
bed, trembling at every footstep lest it might be the "old boy" coming
to the door.

One wonders whether the Ten Commandments are so all-sufficient as we
good folk deem them--whether the eleventh is not worth the whole pack
of them: "that ye love one another" with just a common-place, human,
practical love. Could not the other ten be comfortably stowed away into
a corner of that! One is inclined, in one's anarchic moments, to agree
with Louis Stevenson, that to be amiable and cheerful is a good religion
for a work-a-day world. We are so busy NOT killing, NOT stealing, NOT
coveting our neighbour's wife, we have not time to be even just to
one another for the little while we are together here. Need we be so
cocksure that our present list of virtues and vices is the only possibly
correct and complete one? Is the kind, unselfish man necessarily a
villain because he does not always succeed in suppressing his natural
instincts? Is the narrow-hearted, sour-souled man, incapable of a
generous thought or act, necessarily a saint because he has none?
Have we not--we unco guid--arrived at a wrong method of estimating our
frailer brothers and sisters? We judge them, as critics judge books, not
by the good that is in them, but by their faults. Poor King David! What
would the local Vigilance Society have had to say to him?

Noah, according to our plan, would be denounced from every teetotal
platform in the country, and Ham would head the Local Vestry poll as a
reward for having exposed him. And St. Peter! weak, frail St. Peter,
how lucky for him that his fellow-disciples and their Master were not as
strict in their notions of virtue as are we to-day.

Have we not forgotten the meaning of the word "virtue"? Once it stood
for the good that was in a man, irrespective of the evil that might lie
there also, as tares among the wheat. We have abolished virtue, and for
it substituted virtues. Not the hero--he was too full of faults--but the
blameless valet; not the man who does any good, but the man who has not
been found out in any evil, is our modern ideal. The most virtuous thing
in nature, according to this new theory, should be the oyster. He is
always at home, and always sober. He is not noisy. He gives no trouble
to the police. I cannot think of a single one of the Ten Commandments
that he ever breaks. He never enjoys himself, and he never, so long as
he lives, gives a moment's pleasure to any other living thing.

I can imagine the oyster lecturing a lion on the subject of morality.

"You never hear me," the oyster might say, "howling round camps and
villages, making night hideous, frightening quiet folk out of their
lives. Why don't you go to bed early, as I do? I never prowl round
the oyster-bed, fighting other gentlemen oysters, making love to lady
oysters already married. I never kill antelopes or missionaries. Why
can't you live as I do on salt water and germs, or whatever it is that I
do live on? Why don't you try to be more like me?"

An oyster has no evil passions, therefore we say he is a virtuous fish.
We never ask ourselves--"Has he any good passions?" A lion's behaviour
is often such as no just man could condone. Has he not his good points
also?

Will the fat, sleek, "virtuous" man be as Welcome at the gate of heaven
as he supposes?

"Well," St. Peter may say to him, opening the door a little way and
looking him up and down, "what is it now?"

"It's me," the virtuous man will reply, with an oily, self-satisfied
smile; "I should say, I--I've come."

"Yes, I see you have come; but what is your claim to admittance? What
have you done with your three score years and ten?"

"Done!" the virtuous man will answer, "I have done nothing, I assure
you."

"Nothing!"

"Nothing; that is my strong point; that is why I am here. I have never
done any wrong."

"And what good have you done?"

"What good!"

"Aye, what good? Do not you even know the meaning of the word? What
human creature is the better for your having eaten and drunk and slept
these years? You have done no harm--no harm to yourself. Perhaps, if you
had you might have done some good with it; the two are generally to be
found together down below, I remember. What good have you done that you
should enter here? This is no mummy chamber; this is the place of
men and women who have lived, who have wrought good--and evil also,
alas!--for the sinners who fight for the right, not the righteous who
run with their souls from the fight."

It was not, however, to speak of these things that I remembered The
Amateur and its lessons. My intention was but to lead up to the story of
a certain small boy, who in the doing of tasks not required of him was
exceedingly clever. I wish to tell you his story, because, as do most
true tales, it possesses a moral, and stories without a moral I deem to
be but foolish literature, resembling roads that lead to nowhere, such
as sick folk tramp for exercise.

I have known this little boy to take an expensive eight-day clock to
pieces, and make of it a toy steamboat. True, it was not, when made,
very much of a steamboat; but taking into consideration all the
difficulties--the inadaptability of eight-day clock machinery to
steamboat requirements, the necessity of getting the work accomplished
quickly, before conservatively-minded people with no enthusiasm for
science could interfere--a good enough steamboat. With merely an
ironing-board and a few dozen meat-skewers, he would--provided the
ironing-board was not missed in time--turn out quite a practicable
rabbit-hutch. He could make a gun out of an umbrella and a gas-bracket,
which, if not so accurate as a Martini-Henry, was, at all events, more
deadly. With half the garden-hose, a copper scalding-pan out of
the dairy, and a few Dresden china ornaments off the drawing-room
mantelpiece, he would build a fountain for the garden. He could make
bookshelves out of kitchen tables, and crossbows out of crinolines. He
could dam you a stream so that all the water would flow over the croquet
lawn. He knew how to make red paint and oxygen gas, together with many
other suchlike commodities handy to have about a house. Among other
things he learned how to make fireworks, and after a few explosions of
an unimportant character, came to make them very well indeed. The boy
who can play a good game of cricket is liked. The boy who can fight well
is respected. The boy who can cheek a master is loved. But the boy who
can make fireworks is revered above all others as a boy belonging to a
superior order of beings. The fifth of November was at hand, and with
the consent of an indulgent mother, he determined to give to the world
a proof of his powers. A large party of friends, relatives, and
school-mates was invited, and for a fortnight beforehand the scullery
was converted into a manufactory for fireworks. The female servants
went about in hourly terror of their lives, and the villa, did we judge
exclusively by smell, one might have imagined had been taken over by
Satan, his main premises being inconveniently crowded, as an annex. By
the evening of the fourth all was in readiness, and samples were tested
to make sure that no contretemps should occur the following night. All
was found to be perfect.

The rockets rushed heavenward and descended in stars, the Roman candles
tossed their fiery balls into the darkness, the Catherine wheels
sparkled and whirled, the crackers cracked, and the squibs banged. That
night he went to bed a proud and happy boy, and dreamed of fame. He
stood surrounded by blazing fireworks, and the vast crowd cheered him.
His relations, most of whom, he knew, regarded him as the coming idiot
of the family, were there to witness his triumph; so too was Dickey
Bowles, who laughed at him because he could not throw straight. The girl
at the bun-shop, she also was there, and saw that he was clever.

The night of the festival arrived, and with it the guests. They sat,
wrapped up in shawls and cloaks, outside the hall door--uncles, cousins,
aunts, little boys and big boys, little girls and big girls, with, as
the theatre posters say, villagers and retainers, some forty of them in
all, and waited.

But the fireworks did not go off. Why they did not go off I cannot
explain; nobody ever COULD explain. The laws of nature seemed to be
suspended for that night only. The rockets fell down and died where they
stood. No human agency seemed able to ignite the squibs. The crackers
gave one bang and collapsed. The Roman candles might have been English
rushlights. The Catherine wheels became mere revolving glow-worms. The
fiery serpents could not collect among them the spirit of a tortoise.
The set piece, a ship at sea, showed one mast and the captain, and
then went out. One or two items did their duty, but this only served
to render the foolishness of the whole more striking. The little girls
giggled, the little boys chaffed, the aunts and cousins said it was
beautiful, the uncles inquired if it was all over, and talked about
supper and trains, the "villagers and retainers" dispersed laughing, the
indulgent mother said "never mind," and explained how well everything
had gone off yesterday; the clever little boy crept upstairs to his
room, and blubbered his heart out in the dark.

Hours later, when the crowd had forgotten him, he stole out again into
the garden. He sat down amid the ruins of his hope, and wondered what
could have caused the fiasco. Still puzzled, he drew from his pocket
a box of matches, and, lighting one, he held it to the seared end of a
rocket he had tried in vain to light four hours ago. It smouldered for
an instant, then shot with a swish into the air and broke into a hundred
points of fire. He tried another and another with the same result. He
made a fresh attempt to fire the set piece. Point by point the whole
picture--minus the captain and one mast--came out of the night, and
stood revealed in all the majesty of flame. Its sparks fell upon the
piled-up heap of candles, wheels, and rockets that a little while before
had obstinately refused to burn, and that, one after another, had been
thrown aside as useless. Now with the night frost upon them, they leaped
to light in one grand volcanic eruption. And in front of the gorgeous
spectacle he stood with only one consolation--his mother's hand in his.

The whole thing was a mystery to him at the time, but, as he learned to
know life better, he came to understand that it was only one example of
a solid but inexplicable fact, ruling all human affairs--YOUR FIREWORKS
WON'T GO OFF WHILE THE CROWD IS AROUND.

Our brilliant repartees do not occur to us till the door is closed upon
us and we are alone in the street, or, as the French would say, are
coming down the stairs. Our after-dinner oratory, that sounded so
telling as we delivered it before the looking-glass, falls strangely
flat amidst the clinking of the glasses. The passionate torrent of
words we meant to pour into her ear becomes a halting rigmarole, at
which--small blame to her--she only laughs.

I would, gentle Reader, you could hear the stories that I meant to
tell you. You judge me, of course, by the stories of mine that you have
read--by this sort of thing, perhaps; but that is not just to me. The
stories I have not told you, that I am going to tell you one day, I
would that you judge me by those.

They are so beautiful; you will say so; over them, you will laugh and
cry with me.

They come into my brain unbidden, they clamour to be written, yet when
I take my pen in hand they are gone. It is as though they were shy of
publicity, as though they would say to me--"You alone, you shall read
us, but you must not write us; we are too real, too true. We are like
the thoughts you cannot speak. Perhaps a little later, when you know
more of life, then you shall tell us."

Next to these in merit I would place, were I writing a critical essay
on myself, the stories I have begun to write and that remain unfinished,
why I cannot explain to myself. They are good stories, most of them;
better far than the stories I have accomplished. Another time, perhaps,
if you care to listen, I will tell you the beginning of one or two and
you shall judge. Strangely enough, for I have always regarded myself as
a practical, commonsensed man, so many of these still-born children of
my mind I find, on looking through the cupboard where their thin bodies
lie, are ghost stories. I suppose the hope of ghosts is with us all. The
world grows somewhat interesting to us heirs of all the ages. Year by
year, Science with broom and duster tears down the moth-worn tapestry,
forces the doors of the locked chambers, lets light into the
secret stairways, cleans out the dungeons, explores the hidden
passages--finding everywhere only dust. This echoing old castle, the
world, so full of mystery in the days when we were children, is losing
somewhat its charm for us as we grow older. The king sleeps no longer in
the hollow of the hills. We have tunnelled through his mountain chamber.
We have shivered his beard with our pick. We have driven the gods from
Olympus. No wanderer through the moonlit groves now fears or hopes the
sweet, death-giving gleam of Aphrodite's face. Thor's hammer echoes not
among the peaks--'tis but the thunder of the excursion train. We have
swept the woods of the fairies. We have filtered the sea of its nymphs.
Even the ghosts are leaving us, chased by the Psychical Research
Society.

Perhaps of all, they are the least, however, to be regretted. They were
dull old fellows, clanking their rusty chains and groaning and sighing.
Let them go.

And yet how interesting they might be, if only they would. The old
gentleman in the coat of mail, who lived in King John's reign, who was
murdered, so they say, on the outskirts of the very wood I can see from
my window as I write--stabbed in the back, poor gentleman, as he was
riding home, his body flung into the moat that to this day is called
Tor's tomb. Dry enough it is now, and the primroses love its steep
banks; but a gloomy enough place in those days, no doubt, with its
twenty feet of stagnant water. Why does he haunt the forest paths at
night, as they tell me he does, frightening the children out of their
wits, blanching the faces and stilling the laughter of the peasant lads
and lasses, slouching home from the village dance? Instead, why does
he not come up here and talk to me? He should have my easy-chair and
welcome, would he only be cheerful and companionable.

What brave tales could he not tell me. He fought in the first Crusade,
heard the clarion voice of Peter, met the great Godfrey face to face,
stood, hand on sword-hilt, at Runny-mede, perhaps. Better than a whole
library of historical novels would an evening's chat be with such a
ghost. What has he done with his eight hundred years of death? where has
he been? what has he seen? Maybe he has visited Mars; has spoken to the
strange spirits who can live in the liquid fires of Jupiter. What has he
learned of the great secret? Has he found the truth? or is he, even as
I, a wanderer still seeking the unknown?

You, poor, pale, grey nun--they tell me that of midnights one may see
your white face peering from the ruined belfry window, hear the clash of
sword and shield among the cedar-trees beneath.

It was very sad, I quite understand, my dear lady. Your lovers both were
killed, and you retired to a convent. Believe me, I am sincerely
sorry for you, but why waste every night renewing the whole painful
experience? Would it not be better forgotten? Good Heavens, madam,
suppose we living folk were to spend our lives wailing and wringing our
hands because of the wrongs done to us when we were children? It is all
over now. Had he lived, and had you married him, you might not have been
happy. I do not wish to say anything unkind, but marriages founded upon
the sincerest mutual love have sometimes turned out unfortunately, as
you must surely know.

Do take my advice. Talk the matter over with the young men themselves.
Persuade them to shake hands and be friends. Come in, all of you, out of
the cold, and let us have some reasonable talk.

Why seek you to trouble us, you poor pale ghosts? Are we not your
children? Be our wise friends. Tell me, how loved the young men in your
young days? how answered the maidens? Has the world changed much, do you
think? Had you not new women even then? girls who hated the everlasting
tapestry frame and spinning-wheel? Your father's servants, were they so
much worse off than the freemen who live in our East-end slums and sew
slippers for fourteen hours a day at a wage of nine shillings a week?
Do you think Society much improved during the last thousand years? Is it
worse? is it better? or is it, on the whole, about the same, save that
we call things by other names? Tell me, what have YOU learned?

Yet might not familiarity breed contempt, even for ghosts.

One has had a tiring day's shooting. One is looking forward to one's
bed. As one opens the door, however, a ghostly laugh comes from behind
the bed-curtains, and one groans inwardly, knowing what is in store for
one: a two or three hours' talk with rowdy old Sir Lanval--he of the
lance. We know all his tales by heart, and he will shout them. Suppose
our aunt, from whom we have expectations, and who sleeps in the next
room, should wake and overhear! They were fit and proper enough stories,
no doubt, for the Round Table, but we feel sure our aunt would not
appreciate them:--that story about Sir Agravain and the cooper's wife!
and he always will tell that story.

Or imagine the maid entering after dinner to say--

"Oh, if you please, sir, here is the veiled lady."

"What, again!" says your wife, looking up from her work.

"Yes, ma'am; shall I show her up into the bedroom?"

"You had better ask your master," is the reply. The tone is suggestive
of an unpleasant five minutes so soon as the girl shall have withdrawn,
but what are you to do?

"Yes, yes, show her up," you say, and the girl goes out, closing the
door.

Your wife gathers her work together, and rises.

"Where are you going?" you ask.

"To sleep with the children," is the frigid answer.

"It will look so rude," you urge. "We must be civil to the poor thing;
and you see it really is her room, as one might say. She has always
haunted it."

"It is very curious," returns the wife of your bosom, still more icily,
"that she never haunts it except when you are down here. Where she goes
when you are in town I'm sure I don't know."

This is unjust. You cannot restrain your indignation.

"What nonsense you talk, Elizabeth," you reply; "I am only barely polite
to her."

"Some men have such curious notions of politeness," returns Elizabeth.
"But pray do not let us quarrel. I am only anxious not to disturb you.
Two are company, you know. I don't choose to be the third, that's all."
With which she goes out.

And the veiled lady is still waiting for you up-stairs. You wonder how
long she will stop, also what will happen after she is gone.

I fear there is no room for you, ghosts, in this our world. You remember
how they came to Hiawatha--the ghosts of the departed loved ones. He had
prayed to them that they would come back to him to comfort him, so
one day they crept into his wigwam, sat in silence round his fireside,
chilled the air for Hiawatha, froze the smiles of Laughing Water.

There is no room for you, oh you poor pale ghosts, in this our world.
Do not trouble us. Let us forget. You, stout elderly matron, your thin
locks turning grey, your eyes grown weak, your chin more ample, your
voice harsh with much scolding and complaining, needful, alas! to
household management, I pray you leave me. I loved you while you lived.
How sweet, how beautiful you were. I see you now in your white frock
among the apple-blossom. But you are dead, and your ghost disturbs my
dreams. I would it haunted me not.

You, dull old fellow, looking out at me from the glass at which I shave,
why do you haunt me? You are the ghost of a bright lad I once knew well.
He might have done much, had he lived. I always had faith in him. Why
do you haunt me? I would rather think of him as I remember him. I never
imagined he would make such a poor ghost.



ON THE PREPARATION AND EMPLOYMENT OF LOVE PHILTRES

Occasionally a friend will ask me some such question as this, Do you
prefer dark women or fair? Another will say, Do you like tall women or
short? A third, Do you think light-hearted women, or serious, the more
agreeable company? I find myself in the position that, once upon a time,
overtook a certain charming young lady of taste who was asked by an
anxious parent, the years mounting, and the 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, perhaps, in charm and
beauty as indecision of mind, when questions such as the above are put
to me. 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. Today 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 beefsteaks to caviare, I should
be nonplussed.

I like tall women and short, dark women and fair, merry women and grave.

Do not blame me, Ladies, the fault lies with you. Every right-thinking
man is an universal lover; how could it be otherwise? You are so
diverse, yet each so charming of your kind; and a man's heart is large.
You have no idea, fair Reader, how large a man's heart is: that is his
trouble--sometimes yours.

May I not admire the daring tulip, because I love also the modest lily?
May I not press a kiss upon the sweet violet, because the scent of the
queenly rose is precious to me?

"Certainly not," I hear the Rose reply. "If you can see anything in her,
you shall have nothing to do with me."

"If you care for that bold creature," says the Lily, trembling, "you are
not the man I took you for. Good-bye."

"Go to your baby-faced Violet," cries the Tulip, with a toss of her
haughty head. "You are just fitted for each other."

And when I return to the Lily, she tells me that she cannot trust me.
She has watched me with those others. She knows me for a gad-about. Her
gentle face is full of pain.

So I must live unloved merely because I love too much.

My wonder is that young men ever marry. The difficulty of selection must
be appalling. I walked the other evening in Hyde Park. The band of the
Life Guards played heart-lifting music, and the vast crowd were basking
in a sweet enjoyment such as rarely woos the English toiler. I strolled
among them, and my attention was chiefly drawn towards the women. The
great majority of them were, I suppose, shop-girls, milliners, and
others belonging to the lower middle-class. They had put on their best
frocks, their bonniest hats, their newest gloves. They sat or walked in
twos and threes, chattering and preening, as happy as young sparrows on
a clothes line. And what a handsome crowd they made! I have seen German
crowds, I have seen French crowds, I have seen Italian crowds; but
nowhere do you find such a proportion of pretty women as among the
English middle-class. Three women out of every four were worth looking
at, every other woman was pretty, while every fourth, one might say
without exaggeration, was beautiful. As I passed to and fro the idea
occurred to me: suppose I were an unprejudiced young bachelor, free
from predilection, looking for a wife; and let me suppose--it is only a
fancy--that all these girls were ready and willing to accept me. I have
only to choose! I grew bewildered. There were fair girls, to look at
whom was fatal; dark girls that set one's heart aflame; girls with red
gold hair and grave grey eyes, whom one would follow to the confines
of the universe; baby-faced girls that one longed to love and cherish;
girls with noble faces, whom a man might worship; laughing girls, with
whom one could dance through life gaily; serious girls, with whom life
would be sweet and good, domestic-looking girls--one felt such would
make delightful wives; they would cook, and sew, and make of home a
pleasant, peaceful place. Then wicked-looking girls came by, at the stab
of whose bold eyes all orthodox thoughts were put to a flight, whose
laughter turned the world into a mad carnival; girls one could mould;
girls from whom one could learn; sad girls one wanted to comfort; merry
girls who would cheer one; little girls, big girls, queenly girls,
fairy-like girls.

Suppose a young man had to select his wife in this fashion from some
twenty or thirty thousand; or that a girl were suddenly confronted with
eighteen thousand eligible young bachelors, and told to take the one
she wanted and be quick about it? Neither boy nor girl would ever marry.
Fate is kinder to us. She understands, and assists us. In the hall of a
Paris hotel I once overheard one lady asking another to recommend her a
milliner's shop.

"Go to the Maison Nouvelle," advised the questioned lady, with
enthusiasm. "They have the largest selection there of any place in
Paris."

"I know they have," replied the first lady, "that is just why I don't
mean to go there. It confuses me. If I see six bonnets I can tell the
one I want in five minutes. If I see six hundred I come away without any
bonnet at all. Don't you know a little shop?"

Fate takes the young man or the young woman aside.

"Come into this village, my dear," says Fate; "into this by-street of
this salubrious suburb, into this social circle, into this church, into
this chapel. Now, my dear boy, out of these seventeen young ladies,
which will you have?--out of these thirteen young men, which would you
like for your very own, my dear?"

"No, miss, I am sorry, but I am not able to show you our up-stairs
department to-day, the lift is not working. But I am sure we shall be
able to find something in this room to suit you. Just look round, my
dear, perhaps you will see something."

"No, sir, I cannot show you the stock in the next room, we never
take that out except for our very special customers. We keep our most
expensive goods in that room. (Draw that curtain, Miss Circumstance,
please. I have told you of that before.) Now, sir, wouldn't you like
this one? This colour is quite the rage this season; we are getting rid
of quite a lot of these."

"NO, sir! Well, of course, it would not do for every one's taste to be
the same. Perhaps something dark would suit you better. Bring out those
two brunettes, Miss Circumstance. Charming girls both of them, don't
you think so, sir? I should say the taller one for you, sir. Just one
moment, sir, allow me. Now, what do you think of that, sir? might have
been made to fit you, I'm sure. You prefer the shorter one. Certainly,
sir, no difference to us at all. Both are the same price. There's
nothing like having one's own fancy, I always say. NO, sir, I cannot
put her aside for you, we never do that. Indeed, there's rather a run
on brunettes just at present. I had a gentleman in only this morning,
looking at this particular one, and he is going to call again to-night.
Indeed, I am not at all sure--Oh, of course, sir, if you like to settle
on this one now, that ends the matter. (Put those others away, Miss
Circumstance, please, and mark this one sold.) I feel sure you'll like
her, sir, when you get her home. Thank YOU, sir. Good-morning!"

"Now, miss, have YOU seen anything you fancy? YES, miss, this is all
we have at anything near your price. (Shut those other cupboards, Miss
Circumstance; never show more stock than you are obliged to, it only
confuses customers. How often am I to tell you that?) YES, miss, you are
quite right, there IS a slight blemish. They all have some slight flaw.
The makers say they can't help it--it's in the material. It's not once
in a season we get a perfect specimen; and when we do ladies don't seem
to care for it. Most of our customers prefer a little faultiness. They
say it gives character. Now, look at this, miss. This sort of thing
wears very well, warm and quiet. You'd like one with more colour in it?
Certainly. Miss Circumstance, reach me down the art patterns. NO, miss,
we don't guarantee any of them over the year, so much depends on how you
use them. OH YES, miss, they'll stand a fair amount of wear. People do
tell you the quieter patterns last longer; but my experience is that one
is much the same as another. There's really no telling any of them until
you come to try them. We never recommend one more than another. There's
a lot of chance about these goods, it's in the nature of them. What I
always say to ladies is--'Please yourself, it's you who have got to wear
it; and it's no good having an article you start by not liking.' YES,
miss, it IS pretty and it looks well against you: it does indeed. Thank
you, miss. Put that one aside, Miss Circumstance, please. See that it
doesn't get mixed up with the unsold stock."

It is a useful philtre, the juice of that small western flower, that
Oberon drops upon our eyelids as we sleep. It solves all difficulties
in a trice. Why of course Helena is the fairer. Compare her with Hermia!
Compare the raven with the dove! How could we ever have doubted for a
moment? Bottom is an angel, Bottom is as wise as he is handsome. Oh,
Oberon, we thank you for that drug. Matilda Jane is a goddess; Matilda
Jane is a queen; no woman ever born of Eve was like Matilda Jane. The
little pimple on her nose--her little, sweet, tip-tilted nose--how
beautiful it is. Her bright eyes flash with temper now and then; how
piquant is a temper in a woman. William is a dear old stupid, how
lovable stupid men can be--especially when wise enough to love us.
William does not shine in conversation; how we hate a magpie of a man.
William's chin is what is called receding, just the sort of chin a beard
looks well on. Bless you, Oberon darling, for that drug; rub it on our
eyelids once again. Better let us have a bottle, Oberon, to keep by us.

Oberon, Oberon, what are you thinking of? You have given the bottle to
Puck. Take it away from him, quick. Lord help us all if that Imp has the
bottle. Lord save us from Puck while we sleep.

Or may we, fairy Oberon, regard your lotion as an eye-opener, rather
than as an eye-closer? You remember the story the storks told the
children, of the little girl who was a toad by day, only her sweet dark
eyes being left to her. But at night, when the Prince clasped her close
to his breast, lo! again she became the king's daughter, fairest and
fondest of women. There be many royal ladies in Marshland, with bad
complexion and thin straight hair, and the silly princes sneer and ride
away to woo some kitchen wench decked out in queen's apparel. Lucky the
prince upon whose eyelids Oberon has dropped the magic philtre.

In the gallery of a minor Continental town I have forgotten, hangs a
picture that lives with me. The painting I cannot recall, whether good
or bad; artists must forgive me for remembering only the subject. It
shows a man, crucified by the roadside. No martyr he. If ever a man
deserved hanging it was this one. So much the artist has made clear.
The face, even under its mask of agony, is an evil, treacherous face.
A peasant girl clings to the cross; she stands tip-toe upon a patient
donkey, straining her face upward for the half-dead man to stoop and
kiss her lips.

Thief, coward, blackguard, they are stamped upon his face, but UNDER the
face, under the evil outside? Is there no remnant of manhood--nothing
tender, nothing, true? A woman has crept to the cross to kiss him:
no evidence in his favour, my Lord? Love is blind-aye, to our faults.
Heaven help us all; Love's eyes would be sore indeed if it were not
so. But for the good that is in us her eyes are keen. You, crucified
blackguard, stand forth. A hundred witnesses have given their evidence
against you. Are there none to give evidence for him? A woman, great
Judge, who loved him. Let her speak.

But I am wandering far from Hyde Park and its show of girls.

They passed and re-passed me, laughing, smiling, talking. Their eyes
were bright with merry thoughts; their voices soft and musical. They
were pleased, and they wanted to please. Some were married, some had
evidently reasonable expectations of being married; the rest hoped to
be. And we, myself, and some ten thousand other young men. I repeat
it--myself and some ten thousand other young men; for who among us ever
thinks of himself but as a young man? It is the world that ages, not we.
The children cease their playing and grow grave, the lasses' eyes are
dimmer. The hills are a little steeper, the milestones, surely, further
apart. The songs the young men sing are less merry than the songs we
used to sing. The days have grown a little colder, the wind a little
keener. The wine has lost its flavour somewhat; the new humour is not
like the old. The other boys are becoming dull and prosy; but we are not
changed. It is the world that is growing old. Therefore, I brave your
thoughtless laughter, youthful Reader, and repeat that we, myself and
some ten thousand other young men, walked among these sweet girls; and,
using our boyish eyes, were fascinated, charmed, and captivated. How
delightful to spend our lives with them, to do little services for them
that would call up these bright smiles. How pleasant to jest with them,
and hear their flute-like laughter, to console them and read their
grateful eyes. Really life is a pleasant thing, and the idea of marriage
undoubtedly originated in the brain of a kindly Providence.

We smiled back at them, and we made way for them; we rose from our
chairs with a polite, "Allow me, miss," "Don't mention it, I prefer
standing." "It is a delightful evening, is it not?" And perhaps--for
what harm was there?--we dropped into conversation with these chance
fellow-passengers upon the stream of life. There were those among
us--bold daring spirits--who even went to the length of mild flirtation.
Some of us knew some of them, and in such happy case there followed
interchange of pretty pleasantries. Your English middle-class young man
and woman are not adepts at the game of flirtation. I will confess that
our methods were, perhaps, elephantine, that we may have grown a trifle
noisy as the evening wore on. But we meant no evil; we did but our best
to enjoy ourselves, to give enjoyment, to make the too brief time, pass
gaily.

And then my thoughts travelled to small homes in distant suburbs,
and these bright lads and lasses round me came to look older and more
careworn. But what of that? Are not old faces sweet when looked at by
old eyes a little dimmed by love, and are not care and toil but the
parents of peace and joy?

But as I drew nearer, I saw that many of the faces were seared with sour
and angry looks, and the voices that rose round me sounded surly and
captious. The pretty compliment and praise had changed to sneers and
scoldings. The dimpled smile had wrinkled to a frown. There seemed so
little desire to please, so great a determination not to be pleased.

And the flirtations! Ah me, they had forgotten how to flirt! Oh, the
pity of it! All the jests were bitter, all the little services were
given grudgingly. The air seemed to have grown chilly. A darkness had
come over all things.

And then I awoke to reality, and found I had been sitting in my chair
longer than I had intended. The band-stand was empty, the sun had set; I
rose and made my way home through the scattered crowd.

Nature is so callous. The Dame irritates one at times by her devotion to
her one idea, the propagation of the species.

"Multiply and be fruitful; let my world be ever more and more peopled."

For this she trains and fashions her young girls, models them with
cunning hand, paints them with her wonderful red and white, crowns them
with her glorious hair, teaches them to smile and laugh, trains their
voices into music, sends them out into the world to captivate, to
enslave us.

"See how beautiful she is, my lad," says the cunning old woman. "Take
her; build your little nest with her in your pretty suburb; work for her
and live for her; enable her to keep the little ones that I will send."

And to her, old hundred-breasted Artemis whispers, "Is he not a bonny
lad? See how he loves you, how devoted he is to you! He will work for
you and make you happy; he will build your home for you. You will be the
mother of his children."

So we take each other by the hand, full of hope and love, and from that
hour Mother Nature has done with us. Let the wrinkles come; let our
voices grow harsh; let the fire she lighted in our hearts die out; let
the foolish selfishness we both thought we had put behind us for ever
creep back to us, bringing unkindness and indifference, angry thoughts
and cruel words into our lives. What cares she? She has caught us, and
chained us to her work. She is our universal mother-in-law. She has done
the match-making; for the rest, she leaves it to ourselves. We can love
or we can fight; it is all one to her, confound her.

I wonder sometimes if good temper might not be taught. In business
we use no harsh language, say no unkind things to one another. The
shopkeeper, leaning across the counter, is all smiles and affability,
he might put up his shutters were he otherwise. The commercial gent, no
doubt, thinks the ponderous shopwalker an ass, but refrains from telling
him so. Hasty tempers are banished from the City. Can we not see that
it is just as much to our interest to banish them from Tooting and
Hampstead?

The young man who sat in the chair next to me, how carefully he wrapped
the cloak round the shoulders of the little milliner beside him. And
when she said she was tired of sitting still, how readily he sprang
from his chair to walk with her, though it was evident he was very
comfortable where he was. And she! She had laughed at his jokes; they
were not very clever jokes, they were not very new. She had probably
read them herself months before in her own particular weekly journal.
Yet the harmless humbug made him happy. I wonder if ten years hence
she will laugh at such old humour, if ten years hence he will take such
clumsy pains to put her cape about her. Experience shakes her head, and
is amused at my question.

I would have evening classes for the teaching of temper to married
couples, only I fear the institution would languish for lack of pupils.
The husbands would recommend their wives to attend, generously offering
to pay the fee as a birthday present. The wife would be indignant at the
suggestion of good money being thus wasted. "No, John, dear," she would
unselfishly reply, "you need the lessons more than I do. It would be a
shame for me to take them away from you," and they would wrangle upon
the subject for the rest of the day.

Oh! the folly of it. We pack our hamper for life's picnic with such
pains. We spend so much, we work so hard. We make choice pies, we cook
prime joints, we prepare so carefully the mayonnaise, we mix with loving
hands the salad, we cram the basket to the lid with every delicacy we
can think of. Everything to make the picnic a success is there except
the salt. Ah! woe is me, we forget the salt. We slave at our desks,
in our workshops, to make a home for those we love; we give up our
pleasures, we give up our rest. We toil in our kitchen from morning till
night, and we render the whole feast tasteless for want of a ha'porth
of salt--for want of a soupcon of amiability, for want of a handful of
kindly words, a touch of caress, a pinch of courtesy.

Who does not know that estimable housewife, working from eight till
twelve to keep the house in what she calls order? She is so good a
woman, so untiring, so unselfish, so conscientious, so irritating. Her
rooms are so clean, her servants so well managed, her children so well
dressed, her dinners so well cooked; the whole house so uninviting.
Everything about her is in apple-pie order, and everybody wretched.

My good Madam, you polish your tables, you scour your kettles, but the
most valuable piece of furniture in the whole house you are letting to
rack and ruin for want of a little pains. You will find it in your own
room, my dear Lady, in front of your own mirror. It is getting shabby
and dingy, old-looking before its time; the polish is rubbed off it,
Madam, it is losing its brightness and charm. Do you remember when he
first brought it home, how proud he was of it? Do you think you have
used it well, knowing how he valued it? A little less care of your
pots and your pans, Madam, a little more of yourself were wiser. Polish
yourself up, Madam; you had a pretty wit once, a pleasant laugh, a
conversation that was not confined exclusively to the short-comings of
servants, the wrong-doings of tradesmen. My dear Madam, we do not live
on spotless linen, and crumbless carpets. Hunt out that bundle of old
letters you keep tied up in faded ribbon at the back of your bureau
drawer--a pity you don't read them oftener. He did not enthuse about
your cuffs and collars, gush over the neatness of your darning. It was
your tangled hair he raved about, your sunny smile (we have not seen
it for some years, Madam--the fault of the Cook and the Butcher, I
presume), your little hands, your rosebud mouth--it has lost its shape,
Madam, of late. Try a little less scolding of Mary Ann, and practise
a laugh once a day: you might get back the dainty curves. It would be
worth trying. It was a pretty mouth once.

Who invented that mischievous falsehood that the way to a man's heart
was through his stomach? How many a silly woman, taking it for truth,
has let love slip out of the parlour, while she was busy in the kitchen.
Of course, if you were foolish enough to marry a pig, I suppose you must
be content to devote your life to the preparation of hog's-wash. But are
you sure that he IS a pig? If by any chance he be not?--then, Madam, you
are making a grievous mistake. My dear Lady, you are too modest. If I
may say so without making you unduly conceited, even at the dinner-table
itself, you are of much more importance than the mutton. Courage, Madam,
be not afraid to tilt a lance even with your own cook. You can be more
piquant than the sauce a la Tartare, more soothing surely than the
melted butter. There was a time when he would not have known whether
he was eating beef or pork with you the other side of the table. Whose
fault is it? Don't think so poorly of us. We are not ascetics, neither
are we all gourmets: most of us plain men, fond of our dinner, as a
healthy man should be, but fonder still of our sweethearts and wives,
let us hope. Try us. A moderately-cooked dinner--let us even say a
not-too-well-cooked dinner, with you looking your best, laughing and
talking gaily and cleverly--as you can, you know--makes a pleasanter
meal for us, after the day's work is done, than that same dinner, cooked
to perfection, with you silent, jaded, and anxious, your pretty hair
untidy, your pretty face wrinkled with care concerning the sole, with
anxiety regarding the omelette.

My poor Martha, be not troubled about so many things. YOU are the one
thing needful--if the bricks and mortar are to be a home. See to it that
YOU are well served up, that YOU are done to perfection, that YOU are
tender and satisfying, that YOU are worth sitting down to. We wanted a
wife, a comrade, a friend; not a cook and a nurse on the cheap.

But of what use is it to talk? the world will ever follow its own folly.
When I think of all the good advice that I have given it, and of the
small result achieved, I confess I grow discouraged. I was giving good
advice to a lady only the other day. I was instructing her as to the
proper treatment of aunts. She was sucking a lead-pencil, a thing I am
always telling her not to do. She took it out of her mouth to speak.

"I suppose you know how everybody ought to do everything," she said.

There are times when it is necessary to sacrifice one's modesty to one's
duty.

"Of course I do," I replied.

"And does Mama know how everybody ought to do everything?" was the
second question.

My conviction on this point was by no means so strong, but for domestic
reasons I again sacrificed myself to expediency.

"Certainly," I answered; "and take that pencil out of your mouth. I've
told you of that before. You'll swallow it one day, and then you'll get
perichondritis and die."

She appeared to be solving a problem.

"All grown-up people seem to know everything," she summarized.

There are times when I doubt if children are as simple as they look.
If it be sheer stupidity that prompts them to make remarks of this
character, one should pity them, and seek to improve them. But if it be
not stupidity? well then, one should still seek to improve them, but by
a different method.

The other morning I overheard the nurse talking to this particular
specimen. The woman is a most worthy creature, and she was imparting
to the child some really sound advice. She was in the middle of an
unexceptional exhortation concerning the virtue of silence, when
Dorothea interrupted her with--

"Oh, do be quiet, Nurse. I never get a moment's peace from your
chatter."

Such an interruption discourages a woman who is trying to do her duty.

Last Tuesday evening she was unhappy. Myself, I think that rhubarb
should never be eaten before April, and then never with lemonade. Her
mother read her a homily upon the subject of pain. It was impressed upon
her that we must be patient, that we must put up with the trouble that
God sends us. Dorothea would descend to details, as children will.

"Must we put up with the cod-liver oil that God sends us?"

"Yes, decidedly."

"And with the nurses that God sends us?"

"Certainly; and be thankful that you've got them, some little girls
haven't any nurse. And don't talk so much."

On Friday I found the mother in tears.

"What's the matter?" I asked.

"Oh, nothing," was the answer; "only Baby. She's such a strange child. I
can't make her out at all."

"What has she been up to now?"

"Oh, she will argue, you know."

She has that failing. I don't know where she gets it from, but she's got
it.

"Well?"

"Well, she made me cross; and, to punish her, I told her she shouldn't
take her doll's perambulator out with her."

"Yes?"

"Well, she didn't say anything then, but so soon as I was outside the
door, I heard her talking to herself--you know her way?"

"Yes?"

"She said--"

"Yes, she said?"

"She said, 'I must be patient. I must put up with the mother God has
sent me.'"

She lunches down-stairs on Sundays. We have her with us once a week to
give her the opportunity of studying manners and behaviour. Milson had
dropped in, and we were discussing politics. I was interested, and,
pushing my plate aside, leant forward with my elbows on the table.
Dorothea has a habit of talking to herself in a high-pitched whisper
capable of being heard above an Adelphi love scene. I heard her say--

"I must sit up straight. I mustn't sprawl with my elbows on the table.
It is only common, vulgar people behave that way."

I looked across at her; she was sitting most correctly, and appeared to
be contemplating something a thousand miles away. We had all of us been
lounging! We sat up stiffly, and conversation flagged.

Of course we made a joke of it after the child was gone. But somehow it
didn't seem to be OUR joke.

I wish I could recollect my childhood. I should so like to know if
children are as simple as they can look.



ON THE DELIGHTS AND BENEFITS OF SLAVERY

My study window looks down upon Hyde Park, and often, to quote the
familiar promise of each new magazine, it amuses and instructs me to
watch from my tower the epitome of human life that passes to and
fro beneath. At the opening of the gates, creeps in the woman of the
streets. Her pitiful work for the time being is over. Shivering in
the chill dawn, she passes to her brief rest. Poor Slave! Lured to the
galley's lowest deck, then chained there. Civilization, tricked fool,
they say has need of such. You serve as the dogs of Eastern towns. But
at least, it seems to me, we need not spit on you. Home to your kennel!
Perchance, if the Gods be kind, they may send you dreams of a cleanly
hearth, where you lie with a silver collar round your neck.

Next comes the labourer--the hewer of wood, the drawer of
water--slouching wearily to his toil; sleep clinging still about his
leaden eyes, his pittance of food carried tied up in a dish-clout. The
first stroke of the hour clangs from Big Ben. Haste thee, fellow-slave,
lest the overseer's whip, "Out, we will have no lie-a-beds here,"
descend upon thy patient back.

Later, the artisan, with his bag of tools across his shoulder. He, too,
listens fearfully to the chiming of the bells. For him also there hangs
ready the whip.

After him, the shop boy and the shop girl, making love as they walk,
not to waste time. And after these the slaves of the desk and of the
warehouse, employers and employed, clerks and tradesmen, office boys
and merchants. To your places, slaves of all ranks. Get you unto your
burdens.

Now, laughing and shouting as they run, the children, the sons and
daughters of the slaves. Be industrious, little children, and learn
your lessons, that when the time comes you may be ready to take from our
hands the creaking oar, to slip into our seat at the roaring loom. For
we shall not be slaves for ever, little children. It is the good law
of the land. So many years in the galleys, so many years in the fields;
then we can claim our freedom. Then we shall go, little children, back
to the land of our birth. And you we must leave behind us to take up the
tale of our work. So, off to your schools, little children, and learn to
be good little slaves.

Next, pompous and sleek, come the educated slaves--journalists, doctors,
judges, and poets; the attorney, the artist, the player, the priest.
They likewise scurry across the Park, looking anxiously from time
to time at their watches, lest they be late for their appointments;
thinking of the rates and taxes to be earned, of the bonnets to be paid
for, the bills to be met. The best scourged, perhaps, of all, these
slaves. The cat reserved for them has fifty tails in place of merely two
or three. Work, you higher middle-class slave, or you shall come down to
the smoking of twopenny cigars; harder yet, or you shall drink shilling
claret; harder, or you shall lose your carriage and ride in a penny bus;
your wife's frocks shall be of last year's fashion; your trousers shall
bag at the knees; from Kensington you shall be banished to Kilburn, if
the tale of your bricks run short. Oh, a many-thonged whip is yours, my
genteel brother.

The slaves of fashion are the next to pass beneath me in review. They
are dressed and curled with infinite pains. The liveried, pampered
footman these, kept more for show than use; but their senseless tasks
none the less labour to them. Here must they come every day, merry or
sad. By this gravel path and no other must they walk; these phrases
shall they use when they speak to one another. For an hour they must go
slowly up and down upon a bicycle from Hyde Park Corner to the Magazine
and back. And these clothes must they wear; their gloves of this colour,
their neck-ties of this pattern. In the afternoon they must return
again, this time in a carriage, dressed in another livery, and for an
hour they must pass slowly to and fro in foolish procession. For dinner
they must don yet another livery, and after dinner they must stand about
at dreary social functions till with weariness and boredom their heads
feel dropping from their shoulders.

With the evening come the slaves back from their work: barristers,
thinking out their eloquent appeals; school-boys, conning their
dog-eared grammars; City men, planning their schemes; the wearers of
motley, cudgelling their poor brains for fresh wit with which to please
their master; shop boys and shop girls, silent now as, together, they
plod homeward; the artisan; the labourer. Two or three hours you shall
have to yourselves, slaves, to think and love and play, if you be not
too tired to think, or love, or play. Then to your litter, that you may
be ready for the morrow's task.

The twilight deepens into dark; there comes back the woman of the
streets. As the shadows, she rounds the City's day. Work strikes its
tent. Evil creeps from its peering place.

So we labour, driven by the whip of necessity, an army of slaves. If we
do not our work, the whip descends upon us; only the pain we feel in our
stomach instead of on our back. And because of that, we call ourselves
free men.

Some few among us bravely struggle to be really free: they are our
tramps and outcasts. We well-behaved slaves shrink from them, for the
wages of freedom in this world are vermin and starvation. We can live
lives worth living only by placing the collar round our neck.

There are times when one asks oneself: Why this endless labour? Why this
building of houses, this cooking of food, this making of clothes? Is the
ant so much more to be envied than the grasshopper, because she spends
her life in grubbing and storing, and can spare no time for singing?
Why this complex instinct, driving us to a thousand labours to satisfy
a thousand desires? We have turned the world into a workshop to provide
ourselves with toys. To purchase luxury we have sold our ease.

Oh, Children of Israel! why were ye not content in your wilderness? It
seems to have been a pattern wilderness. For you, a simple wholesome
food, ready cooked, was provided. You took no thought for rent and
taxes; you had no poor among you--no poor-rate collectors. You suffered
not from indigestion, nor the hundred ills that follow over-feeding; an
omer for every man was your portion, neither more nor less. You knew
not you had a liver. Doctors wearied you not with their theories, their
physics, and their bills. You were neither landowners nor leaseholders,
neither shareholders nor debenture holders. The weather and the market
reports troubled you not. The lawyer was unknown to you; you wanted no
advice; you had nought to quarrel about with your neighbour. No riches
were yours for the moth and rust to damage. Your yearly income and
expenditure you knew would balance to a fraction. Your wife and children
were provided for. Your old age caused you no anxiety; you knew you
would always have enough to live upon in comfort. Your funeral, a simple
and tasteful affair, would be furnished by the tribe. And yet, poor,
foolish child, fresh from the Egyptian brickfield, you could not rest
satisfied. You hungered for the fleshpots, knowing well what flesh-pots
entail: the cleaning of the flesh-pots, the forging of the flesh-pots,
the hewing of wood to make the fires for the boiling of the flesh-pots,
the breeding of beasts to fill the pots, the growing of fodder to feed
the beasts to fill the pots.

All the labour of our life is centred round our flesh-pots. On the altar
of the flesh-pot we sacrifice our leisure, our peace of mind. For a mess
of pottage we sell our birthright.

Oh! Children of Israel, saw you not the long punishment you were
preparing for yourselves, when in your wilderness you set up the image
of the Calf, and fell before it, crying--"This shall be our God."

You would have veal. Thought you never of the price man pays for Veal?
The servants of the Golden Calf! I see them, stretched before my eyes, a
weary, endless throng. I see them toiling in the mines, the black sweat
on their faces. I see them in sunless cities, silent, and grimy, and
bent. I see them, ague-twisted, in the rain-soaked fields. I see them,
panting by the furnace doors. I see them, in loin-cloth and necklace,
the load upon their head. I see them in blue coats and red coats,
marching to pour their blood as an offering on the altar of the Calf. I
see them in homespun and broadcloth, I see them in smock and gaiters, I
see them in cap and apron, the servants of the Calf. They swarm on the
land and they dot the sea. They are chained to the anvil and counter;
they are chained to the bench and the desk. They make ready the soil,
they till the fields where the Golden Calf is born. They build the ship,
and they sail the ship that carries the Golden Calf. They fashion the
pots, they mould the pans, they carve the tables, they turn the chairs,
they dream of the sauces, they dig for the salt, they weave the damask,
they mould the dish to serve the Golden Calf.

The work of the world is to this end, that we eat of the Calf. War and
Commerce, Science and Law! what are they but the four pillars supporting
the Golden Calf? He is our God. It is on his back that we have journeyed
from the primeval forest, where our ancestors ate nuts and fruit. He
is our God. His temple is in every street. His blue-robed priest stands
ever at the door, calling to the people to worship. Hark! his voice
rises on the gas-tainted air--"Now's your time! Now's your time! Buy!
Buy! ye people. Bring hither the sweat of your brow, the sweat of your
brain, the ache of your heart, buy Veal with it. Bring me the best years
of your life. Bring me your thoughts, your hopes, your loves; ye shall
have Veal for them. Now's your time! Now's your time! Buy! Buy!"

Oh! Children of Israel, was Veal, even with all its trimmings, quite
worth the price?

And we! what wisdom have we learned, during the centuries? I talked
with a rich man only the other evening. He calls himself a Financier,
whatever that may mean. He leaves his beautiful house, some twenty miles
out of London, at a quarter to eight, summer and winter, after a hurried
breakfast by himself, while his guests still sleep, and he gets back
just in time to dress for an elaborate dinner he himself is too weary
or too preoccupied to more than touch. If ever he is persuaded to give
himself a holiday it is for a fortnight in Ostend, when it is most
crowded and uncomfortable. He takes his secretary with him, receives
and despatches a hundred telegrams a day, and has a private telephone,
through which he can speak direct to London, brought up into his
bedroom.

I suppose the telephone is really a useful invention. Business men tell
me they wonder how they contrived to conduct their affairs without it.
My own wonder always is, how any human being with the ordinary passions
of his race can conduct his business, or even himself, creditably,
within a hundred yards of the invention. I can imagine Job, or Griselda,
or Socrates liking to have a telephone about them as exercise. Socrates,
in particular, would have made quite a reputation for himself out of a
three months' subscription to a telephone. Myself, I am, perhaps, too
sensitive. I once lived for a month in an office with a telephone, if
one could call it life. I was told that if I had stuck to the thing for
two or three months longer, I should have got used to it. I know friends
of mine, men once fearless and high-spirited, who now stand in front
of their own telephone for a quarter of an hour at a time, and never so
much as answer it back. They tell me that at first they used to swear
and shout at it as I did; but now their spirit seems crushed. That is
what happens: you either break the telephone, or the telephone breaks
you. You want to see a man two streets off. You might put on your hat,
and be round at his office in five minutes. You are on the point of
starting when the telephone catches your eye. You think you will ring
him up to make sure he is in. You commence by ringing up some half-dozen
times before anybody takes any notice of you whatever. You are burning
with indignation at this neglect, and have left the instrument to sit
down and pen a stinging letter of complaint to the Company when the
ring-back re-calls you. You seize the ear trumpets, and shout--

"How is it that I can never get an answer when I ring? Here have I been
ringing for the last half-hour. I have rung twenty times." (This is
a falsehood. You have rung only six times, and the "half-hour" is an
absurd exaggeration; but you feel the mere truth would not be adequate
to the occasion.) "I think it disgraceful," you continue, "and I shall
complain to the Company. What is the use of my having a telephone if I
can't get any answer when I ring? Here I pay a large sum for having
this thing, and I can't get any notice taken. I've been ringing all the
morning. Why is it?"

Then you wait for the answer.

"What--what do you say? I can't hear what you say."

"I say I've been ringing here for over an hour, and I can't get any
reply," you call back. "I shall complain to the Company."

"You want what? Don't stand so near the tube. I can't hear what you say.
What number?"

"Bother the number; I say why is it I don't get an answer when I ring?"

"Eight hundred and what?"

You can't argue any more, after that. The machine would give way under
the language you want to make use of. Half of what you feel would
probably cause an explosion at some point where the wire was weak.
Indeed, mere language of any kind would fall short of the requirements
of the case. A hatchet and a gun are the only intermediaries through
which you could convey your meaning by this time. So you give up all
attempt to answer back, and meekly mention that you want to be put in
communication with four-five-seven-six.

"Four-nine-seven-six?" says the girl.

"No; four-five-seven-six."

"Did you say seven-six or six-seven?"

"Six-seven--no! I mean seven-six: no--wait a minute. I don't know what I
do mean now."

"Well, I wish you'd find out," says the young lady severely. "You are
keeping me here all the morning."

So you look up the number in the book again, and at last she tells you
that you are in connection; and then, ramming the trumpet tight against
your ear, you stand waiting.

And if there is one thing more than another likely to make a man feel
ridiculous it is standing on tip-toe in a corner, holding a machine to
his head, and listening intently to nothing. Your back aches and your
head aches, your very hair aches. You hear the door open behind you and
somebody enter the room. You can't turn your head. You swear at them,
and hear the door close with a bang. It immediately occurs to you that
in all probability it was Henrietta. She promised to call for you at
half-past twelve: you were to take her to lunch. It was twelve o'clock
when you were fool enough to mix yourself up with this infernal machine,
and it probably is half-past twelve by now. Your past life rises before
you, accompanied by dim memories of your grandmother. You are wondering
how much longer you can bear the strain of this attitude, and whether
after all you do really want to see the man in the next street but two,
when the girl in the exchange-room calls up to know if you're done.

"Done!" you retort bitterly; "why, I haven't begun yet."

"Well, be quick," she says, "because you're wasting time."

Thus admonished, you attack the thing again. "ARE you there?" you cry in
tones that ought to move the heart of a Charity Commissioner; and then,
oh joy! oh rapture! you hear a faint human voice replying--"Yes, what
is it?"

"Oh! Are you four-five-seven-six?"

"What?"

"Are you four-five-seven-six, Williamson?"

"What! who are you?"

"Eight-one-nine, Jones."

"Bones?"

"No, JONES. Are you four-five-seven-six?"

"Yes; what is it?"

"Is Mr. Williamson in?"

"Will I what--who are you?"

"Jones! Is Mr. Williamson in?"

"Who?"

"Williamson. Will-i-am-son!"

"You're the son of what? I can't hear what you say."

Then you gather yourself for one final effort, and succeed, by
superhuman patience, in getting the fool to understand that you wish to
know if Mr. Williamson is in, and he says, so it sounds to you, "Be in
all the morning."

So you snatch up your hat and run round.

"Oh, I've come to see Mr. Williamson," you say.

"Very sorry, sir," is the polite reply, "but he's out."

"Out? Why, you just now told me through the telephone that he'd be in
all the morning."

"No, I said, he 'WON'T be in all the morning.'"

You go back to the office, and sit down in front of that telephone and
look at it. There it hangs, calm and imperturbable. Were it an
ordinary instrument, that would be its last hour. You would go straight
down-stairs, get the coal-hammer and the kitchen-poker, and divide it
into sufficient pieces to give a bit to every man in London. But you
feel nervous of these electrical affairs, and there is a something about
that telephone, with its black hole and curly wires, that cows you. You
have a notion that if you don't handle it properly something may come
and shock you, and then there will be an inquest, and bother of that
sort, so you only curse it.

That is what happens when you want to use the telephone from your end.
But that is not the worst that the telephone can do. A sensible man,
after a little experience, can learn to leave the thing alone. Your
worst troubles are not of your own making. You are working against time;
you have given instructions not to be disturbed. Perhaps it is after
lunch, and you are thinking with your eyes closed, so that your thoughts
shall not be distracted by the objects about the room. In either case
you are anxious not to leave your chair, when off goes that telephone
bell and you spring from your chair, uncertain, for the moment, whether
you have been shot, or blown up with dynamite. It occurs to you in your
weakness that if you persist in taking no notice, they will get tired,
and leave you alone. But that is not their method. The bell rings
violently at ten-second intervals. You have nothing to wrap your head up
in. You think it will be better to get this business over and done with.
You go to your fate and call back savagely--

"What is it? What do you want?"

No answer, only a confused murmur, prominent out of which come the
voices of two men swearing at one another. The language they are making
use of is disgraceful. The telephone seems peculiarly adapted for the
conveyance of blasphemy. Ordinary language sounds indistinct through
it; but every word those two men are saying can be heard by all the
telephone subscribers in London.

It is useless attempting to listen till they have done. When they are
exhausted, you apply to the tube again. No answer is obtainable. You get
mad, and become sarcastic; only being sarcastic when you are not sure
that anybody is at the other end to hear you is unsatisfying.

At last, after a quarter of an hour or so of saying, "Are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here," "Well?" the young lady at the Exchange asks what you
want.

"I don't want anything," you reply.

"Then why do you keep talking?" she retorts; "you mustn't play with the
thing."

This renders you speechless with indignation for a while, upon
recovering from which you explain that somebody rang you up.

"WHO rang you up?" she asks.

"I don't know."

"I wish you did," she observes.

Generally disgusted, you slam the trumpet up and return to your chair.
The instant you are seated the bell clangs again; and you fly up and
demand to know what the thunder they want, and who the thunder they are.

"Don't speak so loud, we can't hear you. What do you want?" is the
answer.

"I don't want anything. What do you want? Why do you ring me up, and
then not answer me? Do leave me alone, if you can!"

"We can't get Hong Kongs at seventy-four."

"Well, I don't care if you can't."

"Would you like Zulus?"

"What are you talking about?" you reply; "I don't know what you mean."

"Would you like Zulus--Zulus at seventy-three and a half?"

"I wouldn't have 'em at six a penny. What are you talking about?"

"Hong Kongs--we can't get them at seventy-four. Oh, half-a-minute" (the
half-a-minute passes). "Are you there?"

"Yes, but you are talking to the wrong man."

"We can get you Hong Kongs at seventy-four and seven-eights."

"Bother Hong Kongs, and you too. I tell you, you are talking to the
wrong man. I've told you once."

"Once what?"

"Why, that I am the wrong man--I mean that you are talking to the wrong
man."

"Who are you?"

"Eight-one-nine, Jones."

"Oh, aren't you one-nine-eight?"

"No."

"Oh, good-bye."

"Good-bye."

How can a man after that sit down and write pleasantly of the European
crisis? And, if it were needed, herein lies another indictment against
the telephone. I was engaged in an argument, which, if not in itself
serious, was at least concerned with a serious enough subject, the
unsatisfactory nature of human riches; and from that highly moral
discussion have I been lured, by the accidental sight of the word
"telephone," into the writing of matter which can have the effect only
of exciting to frenzy all critics of the New Humour into whose hands,
for their sins, this book may come. Let me forget my transgression
and return to my sermon, or rather to the sermon of my millionaire
acquaintance.

It was one day after dinner, we sat together in his magnificently
furnished dining-room. We had lighted our cigars at the silver lamp. The
butler had withdrawn.

"These cigars we are smoking," my friend suddenly remarked, a propos
apparently of nothing, "they cost me five shillings apiece, taking them
by the thousand."

"I can quite believe it," I answered; "they are worth it."

"Yes, to you," he replied, almost savagely. "What do you usually pay for
your cigars?"

We had known each other years ago. When I first met him his offices
consisted of a back room up three flights of stairs in a dingy by-street
off the Strand, which has since disappeared. We occasionally dined
together, in those days, at a restaurant in Great Portland Street, for
one and nine. Our acquaintanceship was of sufficient standing to allow
of such a question.

"Threepence," I answered. "They work out at about twopence
three-farthings by the box."

"Just so," he growled; "and your twopenny-three-farthing weed gives you
precisely the same amount of satisfaction that this five shilling cigar
affords me. That means four and ninepence farthing wasted every time I
smoke. I pay my cook two hundred a year. I don't enjoy my dinner as much
as when it cost me four shillings, including a quarter flask of Chianti.
What is the difference, personally, to me whether I drive to my office
in a carriage and pair, or in an omnibus? I often do ride in a bus: it
saves trouble. It is absurd wasting time looking for one's coachman,
when the conductor of an omnibus that passes one's door is hailing one
a few yards off. Before I could afford even buses--when I used to
walk every morning to the office from Hammersmith--I was healthier. It
irritates me to think how hard I work for no earthly benefit to myself.
My money pleases a lot of people I don't care two straws about, and
who are only my friends in the hope of making something out of me. If I
could eat a hundred-guinea dinner myself every night, and enjoy it four
hundred times as much as I used to enjoy a five-shilling dinner, there
would be some sense in it. Why do I do it?"

I had never heard him talk like this before. In his excitement he rose
from the table, and commenced pacing the room.

"Why don't I invest my money in the two and a half per cents?" he
continued. "At the very worst I should be safe for five thousand a
year. What, in the name of common sense, does a man want with more? I am
always saying to myself, I'll do it; why don't I?

"Well, why not?" I echoed.

"That's what I want you to tell me," he returned. "You set up for
understanding human nature, it's a mystery to me. In my place, you
would do as I do; you know that. If somebody left you a hundred thousand
pounds to-morrow, you would start a newspaper, or build a theatre--some
damn-fool trick for getting rid of the money and giving yourself
seventeen hours' anxiety a day; you know you would."

I hung my head in shame. I felt the justice of the accusation. It has
always been my dream to run a newspaper and own a theatre.

"If we worked only for what we could spend," he went on, "the City might
put up its shutters to-morrow morning. What I want to get at the bottom
of is this instinct that drives us to work apparently for work's own
sake. What is this strange thing that gets upon our back and spurs us?"

A servant entered at that moment with a cablegram from the manager of
one of his Austrian mines, and he had to leave me for his study. But,
walking home, I fell to pondering on his words. WHY this endless work?
Why each morning do we get up and wash and dress ourselves, to undress
ourselves at night and go to bed again? Why do we work merely to earn
money to buy food; and eat food so as to gain strength that we may work?
Why do we live, merely in the end to say good-bye to one another? Why
do we labour to bring children into the world that they may die and be
buried?

Of what use our mad striving, our passionate desire? Will it matter
to the ages whether, once upon a time, the Union Jack or the Tricolour
floated over the battlements of Badajoz? Yet we poured our blood into
its ditches to decide the question. Will it matter, in the days when the
glacial period shall have come again, to clothe the earth with silence,
whose foot first trod the Pole? Yet, generation after generation, we
mile its roadway with our whitening bones. So very soon the worms come
to us; does it matter whether we love, or hate? Yet the hot blood rushes
through our veins, we wear out heart and brain for shadowy hopes that
ever fade as we press forward.

The flower struggles up from seed-pod, draws the sweet sap from the
ground, folds its petals each night, and sleeps. Then love comes to it
in a strange form, and it longs to mingle its pollen with the pollen of
some other flower. So it puts forth its gay blossoms, and the wandering
insect bears the message from seed-pod to seed-pod. And the seasons
pass, bringing with them the sunshine and the rain, till the flower
withers, never having known the real purpose for which it lived,
thinking the garden was made for it, not it for the garden. The coral
insect dreams in its small soul, which is possibly its small stomach,
of home and food. So it works and strives deep down in the dark waters,
never knowing of the continents it is fashioning.

But the question still remains: for what purpose is it all? Science
explains it to us. By ages of strife and effort we improve the race;
from ether, through the monkey, man is born. So, through the labour
of the coming ages, he will free himself still further from the brute.
Through sorrow and through struggle, by the sweat of brain and brow, he
will lift himself towards the angels. He will come into his kingdom.

But why the building? Why the passing of the countless ages? Why should
he not have been born the god he is to be, imbued at birth with all the
capabilities his ancestors have died acquiring? Why the Pict and Hun
that _I_ may be? Why _I_, that a descendant of my own, to whom I shall
seem a savage, shall come after me? Why, if the universe be ordered by a
Creator to whom all things are possible, the protoplasmic cell? Why not
the man that is to be? Shall all the generations be so much human waste
that he may live? Am I but another layer of the soil preparing for him?

Or, if our future be in other spheres, then why the need of this planet?
Are we labouring at some Work too vast for us to perceive? Are our
passions and desires mere whips and traces by the help of which we are
driven? Any theory seems more hopeful than the thought that all our
eager, fretful lives are but the turning of a useless prison crank.
Looking back the little distance that our dim eyes can penetrate the
past, what do we find? Civilizations, built up with infinite care,
swept aside and lost. Beliefs for which men lived and died, proved to be
mockeries. Greek Art crushed to the dust by Gothic bludgeons. Dreams of
fraternity, drowned in blood by a Napoleon. What is left to us, but the
hope that the work itself, not the result, is the real monument? Maybe,
we are as children, asking, "Of what use are these lessons? What good
will they ever be to us?" But there comes a day when the lad understands
why he learnt grammar and geography, when even dates have a meaning for
him. But this is not until he has left school, and gone out into the
wider world. So, perhaps, when we are a little more grown up, we too may
begin to understand the reason for our living.



ON THE CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF WOMEN

I talked to a woman once on the subject of honeymoons. I said, "Would
you recommend a long honeymoon, or a Saturday to Monday somewhere?"
A silence fell upon her. I gathered she was looking back rather than
forward to her answer.

"I would advise a long honeymoon," she replied at length, "the
old-fashioned month."

"Why," I persisted, "I thought the tendency of the age was to cut these
things shorter and shorter."

"It is the tendency of the age," she answered, "to seek escape from many
things it would be wiser to face. I think myself that, for good or evil,
the sooner it is over--the sooner both the man and the woman know--the
better."

"The sooner what is over?" I asked.

If she had a fault, this woman, about which I am not sure, it was an
inclination towards enigma.

She crossed to the window and stood there, looking out.

"Was there not a custom," she said, still gazing down into the wet,
glistening street, "among one of the ancient peoples, I forget which,
ordaining that when a man and woman, loving one another, or thinking
that they loved, had been joined together, they should go down upon
their wedding night to the temple? And into the dark recesses of the
temple, through many winding passages, the priest led them until they
came to the great chamber where dwelt the voice of their god. There the
priest left them, clanging-to the massive door behind him, and there,
alone in silence, they made their sacrifice; and in the night the Voice
spoke to them, showing them their future life--whether they had chosen
well; whether their love would live or die. And in the morning the
priest returned and led them back into the day; and they dwelt among
their fellows. But no one was permitted to question them, nor they
to answer should any do so. Well, do you know, our nineteenth-century
honeymoon at Brighton, Switzerland, or Ramsgate, as the choice or
necessity may be, always seems to me merely another form of that night
spent alone in the temple before the altar of that forgotten god. Our
young men and women marry, and we kiss them and congratulate them; and,
standing on the doorstep, throw rice and old slippers, and shout good
wishes after them; and he waves his gloved hand to us, and she flutters
her little handkerchief from the carriage window; and we watch their
smiling faces and hear their laughter until the corner hides them from
our view. Then we go about our own business, and a short time passes
by; and one day we meet them again, and their faces have grown older
and graver; and I always wonder what the Voice has told them during that
little while that they have been absent from our sight. But of course it
would not do to ask them. Nor would they answer truly if we did."

My friend laughed, and, leaving the window, took her place beside the
tea-things, and other callers dropping in, we fell to talk of pictures,
plays, and people.

But I felt it would be unwise to act on her sole advice, much as I have
always valued her opinion.

A woman takes life too seriously. It is a serious affair to most of us,
the Lord knows. That is why it is well not to take it more seriously
than need be.

Little Jack and little Jill fall down the hill, hurting their little
knees, and their little noses, spilling the hard-earned water. We are
very philosophical.

"Oh, don't cry!" we tell them, "that is babyish. Little boys and little
girls must learn to bear pain. Up you get, fill the pail again, and try
once more."

Little Jack and little Jill rub their dirty knuckles into their little
eyes, looking ruefully at their bloody little knees, and trot back with
the pail. We laugh at them, but not ill-naturedly.

"Poor little souls," we say; "how they did hullabaloo. One might have
thought they were half-killed. And it was only a broken crown, after
all. What a fuss children make!" We bear with much stoicism the fall of
little Jack and little Jill.

But when WE--grown-up Jack with moustache turning grey; grown-up Jill
with the first faint "crow's feet" showing--when WE tumble down the
hill, and OUR pail is spilt. Ye Heavens! what a tragedy has happened.
Put out the stars, turn off the sun, suspend the laws of nature. Mr.
Jack and Mrs. Jill, coming down the hill--what they were doing on the
hill we will not inquire--have slipped over a stone, placed there surely
by the evil powers of the universe. Mr. Jack and Mrs. Jill have bumped
their silly heads. Mr. Jack and Mrs. Jill have hurt their little hearts,
and stand marvelling that the world can go about its business in the
face of such disaster.

Don't take the matter quite so seriously, Jack and Jill. You have
spilled your happiness, you must toil up the hill again and refill the
pail. Carry it more carefully next time. What were you doing? Playing
some fool's trick, I'll be bound.

A laugh and a sigh, a kiss and good-bye, is our life. Is it worth so
much fretting? It is a merry life on the whole. Courage, comrade. A
campaign cannot be all drum and fife and stirrup-cup. The marching and
the fighting must come into it somewhere. There are pleasant bivouacs
among the vineyards, merry nights around the camp fires. White hands
wave a welcome to us; bright eyes dim at our going. Would you run from
the battle-music? What have you to complain of? Forward: the medal to
some, the surgeon's knife to others; to all of us, sooner or later, six
feet of mother earth. What are you afraid of? Courage, comrade.

There is a mean between basking through life with the smiling
contentment of the alligator, and shivering through it with the
aggressive sensibility of the Lama determined to die at every cross
word. To bear it as a man we must also feel it as a man. My philosophic
friend, seek not to comfort a brother standing by the coffin of his
child with the cheery suggestion that it will be all the same a hundred
years hence, because, for one thing, the observation is not true: the
man is changed for all eternity--possibly for the better, but don't add
that. A soldier with a bullet in his neck is never quite the man he was.
But he can laugh and he can talk, drink his wine and ride his horse.
Now and again, towards evening, when the weather is trying, the sickness
will come upon him. You will find him on a couch in a dark corner.

"Hallo! old fellow, anything up?"

"Oh, just a twinge, the old wound, you know. I will be better in a
little while."

Shut the door of the dark room quietly. I should not stay even to
sympathize with him if I were you. The men will be coming to screw the
coffin down soon. I think he would like to be alone with it till then.
Let us leave him. He will come back to the club later on in the season.
For a while we may have to give him another ten points or so, but he
will soon get back his old form. Now and again, when he meets the other
fellows' boys shouting on the towing-path; when Brown rushes up the
drive, paper in hand, to tell him how that young scapegrace Jim has won
his Cross; when he is congratulating Jones's eldest on having passed
with honours, the old wound may give him a nasty twinge. But the pain
will pass away. He will laugh at our stories and tell us his own; eat
his dinner, play his rubber. It is only a wound.

Tommy can never be ours, Jenny does not love us. We cannot afford
claret, so we will have to drink beer. Well, what would you have us do?
Yes, let us curse Fate by all means--some one to curse is always useful.
Let us cry and wring our hands--for how long? The dinner-bell will ring
soon, and the Smiths are coming. We shall have to talk about the opera
and the picture-galleries. Quick, where is the eau-de-Cologne? where are
the curling-tongs? Or would you we committed suicide? Is it worth while?
Only a few more years--perhaps to-morrow, by aid of a piece of orange
peel or a broken chimney-pot--and Fate will save us all that trouble.

Or shall we, as sulky children, mope day after day? We are a
broken-hearted little Jack--little Jill. We will never smile again; we
will pine away and die, and be buried in the spring. The world is sad,
and life so cruel, and heaven so cold. Oh dear! oh dear! we have hurt
ourselves.

We whimper and whine at every pain. In old strong days men faced real
dangers, real troubles every hour; they had no time to cry. Death and
disaster stood ever at the door. Men were contemptuous of them. Now
in each snug protected villa we set to work to make wounds out of
scratches. Every head-ache becomes an agony, every heart-ache a tragedy.
It took a murdered father, a drowned sweetheart, a dishonoured mother,
a ghost, and a slaughtered Prime Minister to produce the emotions in
Hamlet that a modern minor poet obtains from a chorus girl's frown, or
a temporary slump on the Stock Exchange. Like Mrs. Gummidge, we feel it
more. The lighter and easier life gets the more seriously we go out to
meet it. The boatmen of Ulysses faced the thunder and the sunshine alike
with frolic welcome. We modern sailors have grown more sensitive.
The sunshine scorches us, the rain chills us. We meet both with loud
self-pity.

Thinking these thoughts, I sought a second friend--a man whose breezy
common-sense has often helped me, and him likewise I questioned on this
subject of honeymoons.

"My dear boy," he replied; "take my advice, if ever you get married,
arrange it so that the honeymoon shall only last a week, and let it be a
bustling week into the bargain. Take a Cook's circular tour. Get married
on the Saturday morning, cut the breakfast and all that foolishness, and
catch the eleven-ten from Charing Cross to Paris. Take her up the Eiffel
Tower on Sunday. Lunch at Fontainebleau. Dine at the Maison Doree,
and show her the Moulin Rouge in the evening. Take the night train for
Lucerne. Devote Monday and Tuesday to doing Switzerland, and get into
Rome by Thursday morning, taking the Italian lakes en route. On Friday
cross to Marseilles, and from there push along to Monte Carlo. Let her
have a flutter at the tables. Start early Saturday morning for Spain,
cross the Pyrenees on mules, and rest at Bordeaux on Sunday. Get back
to Paris on Monday (Monday is always a good day for the opera), and on
Tuesday evening you will be at home, and glad to get there. Don't give
her time to criticize you until she has got used to you. No man will
bear unprotected exposure to a young girl's eyes. The honeymoon is the
matrimonial microscope. Wobble it. Confuse it with many objects. Cloud
it with other interests. Don't sit still to be examined. Besides,
remember that a man always appears at his best when active, and a woman
at her worst. Bustle her, my dear boy, bustle her: I don't care who she
may be. Give her plenty of luggage to look after; make her catch trains.
Let her see the average husband sprawling comfortably over the railway
cushions, while his wife has to sit bolt upright in the corner left
to her. Let her hear how other men swear. Let her smell other men's
tobacco. Hurry up, and get her accustomed quickly to the sight of
mankind. Then she will be less surprised and shocked as she grows to
know you. One of the best fellows I ever knew spoilt his married life
beyond repair by a long quiet honeymoon. They went off for a month to
a lonely cottage in some heaven-forsaken spot, where never a soul came
near them, and never a thing happened but morning, afternoon, and night.
There for thirty days she overhauled him. When he yawned--and he yawned
pretty often, I guess, during that month--she thought of the size of
his mouth, and when he put his heels upon the fender she sat and brooded
upon the shape of his feet. At meal-time, not feeling hungry herself,
having nothing to do to make her hungry, she would occupy herself with
watching him eat; and at night, not feeling sleepy for the same reason,
she would lie awake and listen to his snoring. After the first day or
two he grew tired of talking nonsense, and she of listening to it (it
sounded nonsense now they could speak it aloud; they had fancied it
poetry when they had had to whisper it); and having no other subject,
as yet, of common interest, they would sit and stare in front of them
in silence. One day some trifle irritated him and he swore. On a busy
railway platform, or in a crowded hotel, she would have said, 'Oh!' and
they would both have laughed. From that echoing desert the silly words
rose up in widening circles towards the sky, and that night she cried
herself to sleep. Bustle them, my dear boy, bustle them. We all like
each other better the less we think about one another, and the honeymoon
is an exceptionally critical time. Bustle her, my dear boy, bustle her."

My very worst honeymoon experience took place in the South of England in
eighteen hundred and--well, never mind the exact date, let us say a
few years ago. I was a shy young man at that time. Many complain of my
reserve to this day, but then some girls expect too much from a man. We
all have our shortcomings. Even then, however, I was not so shy as she.
We had to travel from Lyndhurst in the New Forest to Ventnor, an awkward
bit of cross-country work in those days.

"It's so fortunate you are going too," said her aunt to me on the
Tuesday; "Minnie is always nervous travelling alone. You will be able to
look after her, and I shan't be anxious."

I said it would be a pleasure, and at the time I honestly thought it. On
the Wednesday I went down to the coach office, and booked two places
for Lymington, from where we took the steamer. I had not a suspicion of
trouble.

The booking-clerk was an elderly man. He said--

"I've got the box seat, and the end place on the back bench."

I said--

"Oh, can't I have two together?"

He was a kindly-looking old fellow. He winked at me. I wondered all the
way home why he had winked at me. He said--

"I'll manage it somehow."

I said--

"It's very kind of you, I'm sure."

He laid his hand on my shoulder. He struck me as familiar, but
well-intentioned. He said--

"We have all of us been there."

I thought he was alluding to the Isle of Wight. I said--

"And this is the best time of the year for it, so I'm told." It was
early summer time.

He said--"It's all right in summer, and it's good enough in
winter--WHILE IT LASTS. You make the most of it, young 'un;" and he
slapped me on the back and laughed.

He would have irritated me in another minute. I paid for the seats and
left him.

At half-past eight the next morning Minnie and I started for the
coach-office. I call her Minnie, not with any wish to be impertinent,
but because I have forgotten her surname. It must be ten years since
I last saw her. She was a pretty girl, too, with those brown eyes that
always cloud before they laugh. Her aunt did not drive down with us as
she had intended, in consequence of a headache. She was good enough to
say she felt every confidence in me.

The old booking-clerk caught sight of us when we were about a quarter
of a mile away, and drew to us the attention of the coachman, who
communicated the fact of our approach to the gathered passengers.
Everybody left off talking, and waited for us. The boots seized his
horn, and blew--one could hardly call it a blast; it would be difficult
to say what he blew. He put his heart into it, but not sufficient wind.
I think his intention was to welcome us, but it suggested rather a
feeble curse. We learnt subsequently that he was a beginner on the
instrument.

In some mysterious way the whole affair appeared to be our party. The
booking-clerk bustled up and helped Minnie from the cart. I feared, for
a moment, he was going to kiss her. The coachman grinned when I said
good-morning to him. The passengers grinned, the boots grinned. Two
chamber-maids and a waiter came out from the hotel, and they grinned. I
drew Minnie aside, and whispered to her. I said--

"There's something funny about us. All these people are grinning."

She walked round me, and I walked round her, but we could neither of us
discover anything amusing about the other. The booking-clerk said--

"It's all right. I've got you young people two places just behind the
box-seat. We'll have to put five of you on that seat. You won't mind
sitting a bit close, will you?"

The booking-clerk winked at the coachman, the coachman winked at the
passengers, the passengers winked at one another--those of them
who could wink--and everybody laughed. The two chamber-maids became
hysterical, and had to cling to each other for support. With the
exception of Minnie and myself, it seemed to be the merriest coach party
ever assembled at Lyndhurst.

We had taken our places, and I was still busy trying to fathom the joke,
when a stout lady appeared on the scene, and demanded to know her place.

The clerk explained to her that it was in the middle behind the driver.

"We've had to put five of you on that seat," added the clerk.

The stout lady looked at the seat.

"Five of us can't squeeze into that," she said.

Five of her certainly could not. Four ordinary sized people with her
would find it tight.

"Very well then," said the clerk, "you can have the end place on the
back seat."

"Nothing of the sort," said the stout lady. "I booked my seat on Monday,
and you told me any of the front places were vacant.

"I'LL take the back place," I said, "I don't mind it.

"You stop where you are, young 'un," said the clerk, firmly, "and don't
be a fool. I'll fix HER."

I objected to his language, but his tone was kindness itself.

"Oh, let ME have the back seat," said Minnie, rising, "I'd so like it."

For answer the coachman put both his hands on her shoulders. He was a
heavy man, and she sat down again.

"Now then, mum," said the clerk, addressing the stout lady, "are you
going up there in the middle, or are you coming up here at the back?"

"But why not let one of them take the back seat?" demanded the stout
lady, pointing her reticule at Minnie and myself; "they say they'd like
it. Let them have it."

The coachman rose, and addressed his remarks generally.

"Put her up at the back, or leave her behind," he directed. "Man and
wife have never been separated on this coach since I started running it
fifteen year ago, and they ain't going to be now."

A general cheer greeted this sentiment. The stout lady, now regarded
as a would-be blighter of love's young dream, was hustled into the back
seat, the whip cracked, and away we rolled.

So here was the explanation. We were in a honeymoon district, in
June--the most popular month in the whole year for marriage. Every two
out of three couples found wandering about the New Forest in June are
honeymoon couples; the third are going to be. When they travel anywhere
it is to the Isle of Wight. We both had on new clothes. Our bags
happened to be new. By some evil chance our very umbrellas were new.
Our united ages were thirty-seven. The wonder would have been had we NOT
been mistaken for a young married couple.

A day of greater misery I have rarely passed. To Minnie, so her aunt
informed me afterwards, the journey was the most terrible experience of
her life, but then her experience, up to that time, had been limited.
She was engaged, and devotedly attached, to a young clergyman; I was
madly in love with a somewhat plump girl named Cecilia who lived with
her mother at Hampstead. I am positive as to her living at Hampstead. I
remember so distinctly my weekly walk down the hill from Church Row to
the Swiss Cottage station. When walking down a steep hill all the weight
of the body is forced into the toe of the boot, and when the boot is two
sizes too small for you, and you have been living in it since the early
afternoon, you remember a thing like that. But all my recollections of
Cecilia are painful, and it is needless to pursue them.

Our coach-load was a homely party, and some of the jokes were
broad--harmless enough in themselves, had Minnie and I really been
the married couple we were supposed to be, but even in that case
unnecessary. I can only hope that Minnie did not understand them.
Anyhow, she looked as if she didn't.

I forget where we stopped for lunch, but I remember that lamb and mint
sauce was on the table, and that the circumstance afforded the greatest
delight to all the party, with the exception of the stout lady, who was
still indignant, Minnie and myself. About my behaviour as a bridegroom
opinion appeared to be divided. "He's a bit standoffish with her,"
I overheard one lady remark to her husband; "I like to see 'em a bit
kittenish myself." A young waitress, on the other hand, I am happy to
say, showed more sense of natural reserve. "Well, I respect him for it,"
she was saying to the barmaid, as we passed through the hall; "I'd just
hate to be fuzzled over with everybody looking on." Nobody took the
trouble to drop their voices for our benefit. We might have been a pair
of prize love birds on exhibition, the way we were openly discussed. By
the majority we were clearly regarded as a sulky young couple who would
not go through their tricks.

I have often wondered since how a real married couple would have faced
the situation. Possibly, had we consented to give a short display of
marital affection, "by desire," we might have been left in peace for the
remainder of the journey.

Our reputation preceded us on to the steamboat. Minnie begged and prayed
me to let it be known we were not married. How I was to let it be known,
except by requesting the captain to summon the whole ship's company on
deck, and then making them a short speech, I could not think. Minnie
said she could not bear it any longer, and retired to the ladies' cabin.
She went off crying. Her trouble was attributed by crew and passengers
to my coldness. One fool planted himself opposite me with his legs
apart, and shook his head at me.

"Go down and comfort her," he began. "Take an old man's advice. Put your
arms around her." (He was one of those sentimental idiots.) "Tell her
that you love her."

I told him to go and hang himself, with so much vigour that he all but
fell overboard. He was saved by a poultry crate: I had no luck that day.

At Ryde the guard, by superhuman effort, contrived to keep us a carriage
to ourselves. I gave him a shilling, because I did not know what else
to do. I would have made it half-a-sovereign if he had put eight other
passengers in with us. At every station people came to the window to
look in at us.

I handed Minnie over to her father on Ventnor platform; and I took the
first train the next morning, to London. I felt I did not want to see
her again for a little while; and I felt convinced she could do without
a visit from me. Our next meeting took place the week before her
marriage.

"Where are you going to spend your honeymoon?" I asked her; "in the New
Forest?"

"No," she replied; "nor in the Isle of Wight."

To enjoy the humour of an incident one must be at some distance from it
either in time or relationship. I remember watching an amusing scene in
Whitefield Street, just off Tottenham Court Road, one winter's Saturday
night. A woman--a rather respectable looking woman, had her hat only
been on straight--had just been shot out of a public-house. She was very
dignified, and very drunk. A policeman requested her to move on. She
called him "Fellow," and demanded to know of him if he considered that
was the proper tone in which to address a lady. She threatened to report
him to her cousin, the Lord Chancellor.

"Yes; this way to the Lord Chancellor," retorted the policeman. "You
come along with me;" and he caught hold of her by the arm.

She gave a lurch, and nearly fell. To save her the man put his arm round
her waist. She clasped him round the neck, and together they spun
round two or three times; while at the very moment a piano-organ at the
opposite corner struck up a waltz.

"Choose your partners, gentlemen, for the next dance," shouted a wag,
and the crowd roared.

I was laughing myself, for the situation was undeniably comical, the
constable's expression of disgust being quite Hogarthian, when the sight
of a child's face beneath the gas-lamp stayed me. Her look was so full
of terror that I tried to comfort her.

"It's only a drunken woman," I said; "he's not going to hurt her."

"Please, sir," was the answer, "it's my mother."

Our joke is generally another's pain. The man who sits down on the
tin-tack rarely joins in the laugh.



ON THE MINDING OF OTHER PEOPLE'S BUSINESS

I walked one bright September morning in the Strand. I love London best
in the autumn. Then only can one see the gleam of its white pavements,
the bold, unbroken outline of its streets. I love the cool vistas one
comes across of mornings in the parks, the soft twilights that linger in
the empty bye-streets. In June the restaurant manager is off-hand with
me; I feel I am but in his way. In August he spreads for me the table
by the window, pours out for me my wine with his own fat hands. I cannot
doubt his regard for me: my foolish jealousies are stilled. Do I care
for a drive after dinner through the caressing night air, I can climb
the omnibus stair without a preliminary fight upon the curb, can sit
with easy conscience and unsquashed body, not feeling I have deprived
some hot, tired woman of a seat. Do I desire the play, no harsh,
forbidding "House full" board repels me from the door. During her
season, London, a harassed hostess, has no time for us, her intimates.
Her rooms are overcrowded, her servants overworked, her dinners
hurriedly cooked, her tone insincere. In the spring, to be truthful, the
great lady condescends to be somewhat vulgar--noisy and ostentatious.
Not till the guests are departed is she herself again, the London that
we, her children, love.

Have you, gentle Reader, ever seen London--not the London of the waking
day, coated with crawling life, as a blossom with blight, but the London
of the morning, freed from her rags, the patient city, clad in mists?
Get you up with the dawn one Sunday in summer time. Wake none else, but
creep down stealthily into the kitchen, and make your own tea and toast.

Be careful you stumble not over the cat. She will worm herself
insidiously between your legs. It is her way; she means it in
friendship. Neither bark your shins against the coal-box. Why the
kitchen coal-box has its fixed place in the direct line between the
kitchen door and the gas-bracket I cannot say. I merely know it as an
universal law; and I would that you escaped that coal-box, lest the
frame of mind I desire for you on this Sabbath morning be dissipated.

A spoon to stir your tea, I fear you must dispense with. Knives and
forks you will discover in plenty; blacking brushes you will put your
hand upon in every drawer; of emery paper, did one require it, there
are reams; but it is a point with every housekeeper that the spoons be
hidden in a different place each night. If anybody excepting herself can
find them in the morning, it is a slur upon her. No matter, a stick of
firewood, sharpened at one end, makes an excellent substitute.

Your breakfast done, turn out the gas, remount the stairs quietly, open
gently the front door and slip out. You will find yourself in an unknown
land. A strange city grown round you in the night.

The sweet long streets lie silent in sunlight. Not a living thing is
to be seen save some lean Tom that slinks from his gutter feast as you
approach. From some tree there will sound perhaps a fretful chirp: but
the London sparrow is no early riser; he is but talking in his sleep.
The slow tramp of unseen policeman draws near or dies away. The clatter
of your own footsteps goes with you, troubling you. You find yourself
trying to walk softly, as one does in echoing cathedrals. A voice is
everywhere about you whispering to you "Hush." Is this million-breasted
City then some tender Artemis, seeking to keep her babes asleep? "Hush,
you careless wayfarer; do not waken them. Walk lighter; they are so
tired, these myriad children of mine, sleeping in my thousand arms.
They are over-worked and over-worried; so many of them are sick, so many
fretful, many of them, alas, so full of naughtiness. But all of them
so tired. Hush! they worry me with their noise and riot when they are
awake. They are so good now they are asleep. Walk lightly, let them
rest."

Where the ebbing tide flows softly through worn arches to the sea, you
may hear the stone-faced City talking to the restless waters: "Why will
you never stay with me? Why come but to go?"

"I cannot say, I do not understand. From the deep sea I come, but only
as a bird loosed from a child's hand with a cord. When she calls I must
return."

"It is so with these children of mine. They come to me, I know not
whence. I nurse them for a little while, till a hand I do not see plucks
them back. And others take their place."

Through the still air there passes a ripple of sound. The sleeping
City stirs with a faint sigh. A distant milk-cart rattling by raises
a thousand echoes; it is the vanguard of a yoked army. Soon from every
street there rises the soothing cry, "Mee'hilk--mee'hilk."

London like some Gargantuan babe, is awake, crying for its milk. These
be the white-smocked nurses hastening with its morning nourishment. The
early church bells ring. "You have had your milk, little London. Now
come and say your prayers. Another week has just begun, baby London. God
knows what will happen, say your prayers."

One by one the little creatures creep from behind the blinds into the
streets. The brooding tenderness is vanished from the City's face. The
fretful noises of the day have come again. Silence, her lover of the
night, kisses her stone lips, and steals away. And you, gentle Reader,
return home, garlanded with the self-sufficiency of the early riser.

But it was of a certain week-day morning, in the Strand that I was
thinking. I was standing outside Gatti's Restaurant, where I had just
breakfasted, listening leisurely to an argument between an indignant
lady passenger, presumably of Irish extraction, and an omnibus
conductor.

"For what d'ye want thin to paint Putney on ye'r bus, if ye don't GO to
Putney?" said the lady.

"We DO go to Putney," said the conductor.

"Thin why did ye put me out here?"

"I didn't put you out, yer got out."

"Shure, didn't the gintleman in the corner tell me I was comin' further
away from Putney ivery minit?"

"Wal, and so yer was."

"Thin whoy didn't you tell me?"

"How was I to know yer wanted to go to Putney? Yer sings out Putney, and
I stops and in yer jumps."

"And for what d'ye think I called out Putney thin?"

"'Cause it's my name, or rayther the bus's name. This 'ere IS a Putney."

"How can it be a Putney whin it isn't goin' to Putney, ye gomerhawk?"

"Ain't you an Hirishwoman?" retorted the conductor. "Course yer are. But
yer aren't always goin' to Ireland. We're goin' to Putney in time, only
we're a-going to Liverpool Street fust. 'Igher up, Jim."

The bus moved on, and I was about cross the road, when a man, muttering
savagely to himself, walked into me. He would have swept past me had
I not, recognizing him, arrested him. It was my friend B-----, a busy
editor of magazines and journals. It was some seconds before he appeared
able to struggle out of his abstraction, and remember himself. "Halloo,"
he then said, "who would have thought of seeing YOU here?"

"To judge by the way you were walking," I replied, "one would imagine
the Strand the last place in which you expected to see any human being.
Do you ever walk into a short-tempered, muscular man?"

"Did I walk into you?" he asked surprised.

"Well, not right in," I answered, "I if we are to be literal. You walked
on to me; if I had not stopped you, I suppose you would have walked over
me."

"It is this confounded Christmas business," he explained. "It drives me
off my head."

"I have heard Christmas advanced as an excuse for many things," I
replied, "but not early in September."

"Oh, you know what I mean," he answered, "we are in the middle of our
Christmas number. I am working day and night upon it. By the bye," he
added, "that puts me in mind. I am arranging a symposium, and I want you
to join. 'Should Christmas,'"--I interrupted him.

"My dear fellow," I said, "I commenced my journalistic career when I
was eighteen, and I have continued it at intervals ever since. I have
written about Christmas from the sentimental point of view; I have
analyzed it from the philosophical point of view; and I have scarified
it from the sarcastic standpoint. I have treated Christmas humorously
for the Comics, and sympathetically for the Provincial Weeklies. I
have said all that is worth saying on the subject of Christmas--maybe a
trifle more. I have told the new-fashioned Christmas story--you know the
sort of thing: your heroine tries to understand herself, and, failing,
runs off with the man who began as the hero; your good woman turns out
to be really bad when one comes to know her; while the villain, the only
decent person in the story, dies with an enigmatic sentence on his lips
that looks as if it meant something, but which you yourself would
be sorry to have to explain. I have also written the old-fashioned
Christmas story--you know that also: you begin with a good old-fashioned
snowstorm; you have a good old-fashioned squire, and he lives in a good
old-fashioned Hall; you work in a good old-fashioned murder; and end up
with a good old-fashioned Christmas dinner. I have gathered Christmas
guests together round the crackling logs to tell ghost stories to each
other on Christmas Eve, while without the wind howled, as it always does
on these occasions, at its proper cue. I have sent children to Heaven
on Christmas Eve--it must be quite a busy time for St. Peter, Christmas
morning, so many good children die on Christmas Eve. It has always been
a popular night with them.--I have revivified dead lovers and brought
them back well and jolly, just in time to sit down to the Christmas
dinner. I am not ashamed of having done these things. At the time I
thought them good. I once loved currant wine and girls with towzley
hair. One's views change as one grows older. I have discussed Christmas
as a religious festival. I have arraigned it as a social incubus. If
there be any joke connected with Christmas that I have not already made
I should be glad to hear it. I have trotted out the indigestion jokes
till the sight of one of them gives me indigestion myself. I have
ridiculed the family gathering. I have scoffed at the Christmas present.
I have made witty use of paterfamilias and his bills. I have--"

"Did I ever show you," I broke off to ask as we were crossing the
Haymarket, "that little parody of mine on Poe's poem of 'The Bells'? It
begins--" He interrupted me in his turn--

"Bills, bills, bills," he repeated.

"You are quite right," I admitted. "I forgot I ever showed it to you."

"You never did," he replied.

"Then how do you know how it begins?" I asked.

"I don't know for certain," he admitted, "but I get, on an average,
sixty-five a year submitted to me, and they all begin that way. I
thought, perhaps, yours did also."

"I don't see how else it could begin," I retorted. He had rather annoyed
me. "Besides, it doesn't matter how a poem begins, it is how it goes
on that is the important thing and anyhow, I'm not going to write you
anything about Christmas. Ask me to make you a new joke about a plumber;
suggest my inventing something original and not too shocking for a child
to say about heaven; propose my running you off a dog story that can be
believed by a man of average determination and we may come to terms. But
on the subject of Christmas I am taking a rest."

By this time we had reached Piccadilly Circus.

"I don't blame you," he said, "if you are as sick of the subject as I
am. So soon as these Christmas numbers are off my mind, and Christmas
is over till next June at the office, I shall begin it at home. The
housekeeping is gone up a pound a week already. I know what that means.
The dear little woman is saving up to give me an expensive present that
I don't want. I think the presents are the worst part of Christmas. Emma
will give me a water-colour that she has painted herself. She always
does. There would be no harm in that if she did not expect me to hang it
in the drawing room. Have you ever seen my cousin Emma's water-colours?"
he asked.

"I think I have," I replied.

"There's no thinking about it," he retorted angrily. "They're not the
sort of water-colours you forget."

He apostrophized the Circus generally.

"Why do people do these things?" he demanded. "Even an amateur artist
must have SOME sense. Can't they see what is happening? There's that
thing of hers hanging in the passage. I put it in the passage because
there's not much light in the passage. She's labelled it Reverie. If she
had called it Influenza I could have understood it. I asked her where
she got the idea from, and she said she saw the sky like that one
evening in Norfolk. Great Heavens! then why didn't she shut her eyes or
go home and hide behind the bed-curtains? If I had seen a sky like that
in Norfolk I should have taken the first train back to London. I suppose
the poor girl can't help seeing these things, but why paint them?"

I said, "I suppose painting is a necessity to some natures."

"But why give the things to me?" he pleaded.

I could offer him no adequate reason.

"The idiotic presents that people give you!" he continued. "I said I'd
like Tennyson's poems one year. They had worried me to know what I did
want. I didn't want anything really; that was the only thing I could
think of that I wasn't dead sure I didn't want. Well, they clubbed
together, four of them, and gave me Tennyson in twelve volumes,
illustrated with coloured photographs. They meant kindly, of course. If
you suggest a tobacco-pouch they give you a blue velvet bag capable of
holding about a pound, embroidered with flowers, life-size. The only way
one could use it would be to put a strap to it and wear it as a satchel.
Would you believe it, I have got a velvet smoking-jacket, ornamented
with forget-me-nots and butterflies in coloured silk; I'm not joking.
And they ask me why I never wear it. I'll bring it down to the Club one
of these nights and wake the place up a bit: it needs it."

We had arrived by this at the steps of the 'Devonshire.'

"And I'm just as bad," he went on, "when I give presents. I never give
them what they want. I never hit upon anything that is of any use
to anybody. If I give Jane a chinchilla tippet, you may be certain
chinchilla is the most out-of-date fur that any woman could wear. 'Oh!
that is nice of you,' she says; 'now that is just the very thing I
wanted. I will keep it by me till chinchilla comes in again.' I give
the girls watch-chains when nobody is wearing watch-chains. When
watch-chains are all the rage I give them ear-rings, and they thank me,
and suggest my taking them to a fancy-dress ball, that being their only
chance to wear the confounded things. I waste money on white gloves with
black backs, to find that white gloves with black backs stamp a woman as
suburban. I believe all the shop-keepers in London save their old stock
to palm it off on me at Christmas time. And why does it always take
half-a-dozen people to serve you with a pair of gloves, I'd like to
know? Only last week Jane asked me to get her some gloves for that last
Mansion House affair. I was feeling amiable, and I thought I would
do the thing handsomely. I hate going into a draper's shop; everybody
stares at a man as if he were forcing his way into the ladies'
department of a Turkish bath. One of those marionette sort of men came
up to me and said it was a fine morning. What the devil did I want
to talk about the morning to him for? I said I wanted some gloves. I
described them to the best of my recollection. I said, 'I want them four
buttons, but they are not to be button-gloves; the buttons are in the
middle and they reach up to the elbow, if you know what I mean.' He
bowed, and said he understood exactly what I meant, which was a damned
sight more than I did. I told him I wanted three pair cream and
three pair fawn-coloured, and the fawn-coloured were to be swedes. He
corrected me. He said I meant 'Suede.' I dare say he was right, but
the interruption put me off, and I had to begin over again. He listened
attentively until I had finished. I guess I was about five minutes
standing with him there close to the door. He said, 'Is that all you
require, sir, this morning?' I said it was.

"' Thank you, sir,' he replied. 'This way, please, sir.'

"He took me into another room, and there we met a man named Jansen, to
whom he briefly introduced me as a gentleman who 'desired gloves.' 'Yes,
sir,' said Mr. Jansen; and what sort of gloves do you desire?'

"I told him I wanted six pairs altogether--three suede, fawn-coloured,
and three cream-coloured--kids.

"He said, 'Do you mean kid gloves, sir, or gloves for children?'

"He made me angry by that. I told him I was not in the habit of using
slang. Nor am I when buying gloves. He said he was sorry. I explained to
him about the buttons, so far as I could understand it myself, and
about the length. I asked him to see to it that the buttons were sewn on
firmly, and that the stitching everywhere was perfect, adding that the
last gloves my wife had had of his firm had been most unsatisfactory.
Jane had impressed upon me to add that. She said it would make them more
careful.

"He listened to me in rapt ecstacy. I might have been music.

"'And what size, sir?' he asked.

"I had forgotten that. 'Oh, sixes,' I answered, 'unless they are
very stretchy indeed, in which case they had better be five and
three-quarter.'

"'Oh, and the stitching on the cream is to be black,' I added. That was
another thing I had forgotten.

"'Thank you very much,' said Mr. Jansen; 'is there anything else that
you require this morning?'

"'No, thank you,' I replied, 'not this morning.' I was beginning to like
the man.

"He took me for quite a walk, and wherever we went everybody left off
what they were doing to stare at me. I was getting tired when we reached
the glove department. He marched me up to a young man who was sticking
pins into himself. He said 'Gloves,' and disappeared through a curtain.
The young man left off sticking pins into himself, and leant across the
counter.

"'Ladies' gloves or gentlemen's gloves?' he said.

"Well, I was pretty mad by this time, as you can guess. It is funny
when you come to think of it afterwards, but the wonder then was that I
didn't punch his head.

"I said, 'Are you ever busy in this shop? Does there ever come a time
when you feel you would like to get your work done, instead of lingering
over it and spinning it out for pure love of the thing?'

"He did not appear to understand me. I said, 'I met a man at your door
a quarter of an hour ago, and we talked about these gloves that I want,
and I told him all my ideas on the subject. He took me to your Mr.
Jansen, and Mr. Jansen and I went over the whole business again. Now
Mr. Jansen leaves it with you--you who do not even know whether I want
ladies' or gentlemen's gloves. Before I go over this story for the third
time, I want to know whether you are the man who is going to serve me,
or whether you are merely a listener, because personally I am tired of
the subject?'

"Well, this was the right man at last, and I got my gloves from him. But
what is the explanation--what is the idea? I was in that shop from first
to last five-and-thirty minutes. And then a fool took me out the wrong
way to show me a special line in sleeping-socks. I told him I was not
requiring any. He said he didn't want me to buy, he only wanted me
to see them. No wonder the drapers have had to start luncheon and
tea-rooms. They'll fix up small furnished flats soon, where a woman can
live for a week."

I said it was very trying, shopping. I also said, as he invited me,
and as he appeared determined to go on talking, that I would have a
brandy-and-soda. We were in the smoke-room by this time.

"There ought to be an association," he continued, "a kind of
clearing-house for the collection and distribution of Christmas
presents. One would give them a list of the people from whom to collect
presents, and of the people to whom to send. Suppose they collected on
my account twenty Christmas presents, value, say, ten pounds, while on
the other hand they sent out for me thirty presents at a cost of fifteen
pounds. They would debit me with the balance of five pounds, together
with a small commission. I should pay it cheerfully, and there would be
no further trouble. Perhaps one might even make a profit. The idea might
include birthdays and weddings. A firm would do the business thoroughly.
They would see that all your friends paid up--I mean sent presents; and
they would not forget to send to your most important relative. There
is only one member of our family capable of leaving a shilling; and of
course if I forget to send to any one it is to him. When I remember him
I generally make a muddle of the business. Two years ago I gave him a
bath--I don't mean I washed him--an india-rubber thing, that he
could pack in his portmanteau. I thought he would find it useful for
travelling. Would you believe it, he took it as a personal affront, and
wouldn't speak to me for a month, the snuffy old idiot."

"I suppose the children enjoy it," I said.

"Enjoy what?" he asked.

"Why, Christmas," I explained.

"I don't believe they do," he snapped; "nobody enjoys it. We excite them
for three weeks beforehand, telling them what a good time they are going
to have, over-feed them for two or three days, take them to something
they do not want to see, but which we do, and then bully them for a
fortnight to get them back into their normal condition. I was always
taken to the Crystal Palace and Madame Tussaud's when I was a child, I
remember. How I did hate that Crystal Palace! Aunt used to superintend.
It was always a bitterly cold day, and we always got into the wrong
train, and travelled half the day before we got there. We never had any
dinner. It never occurs to a woman that anybody can want their meals
while away from home. She seems to think that nature is in suspense from
the time you leave the house till the time you get back to it. A bun and
a glass of milk was her idea of lunch for a school-boy. Half her time
was taken up in losing us, and the other half in slapping us when she
had found us. The only thing we really enjoyed was the row with the
cabman coming home."

I rose to go.

"Then you won't join that symposium?" said B-----. "It would be an easy
enough thing to knock off--'Why Christmas should be abolished.'"

"It sounds simple," I answered. "But how do you propose to abolish
it?" The lady editor of an "advanced" American magazine once set the
discussion--"Should sex be abolished?" and eleven ladies and gentlemen
seriously argued the question.

"Leave it to die of inanition," said B-----; "the first step is to
arouse public opinion. Convince the public that it should be abolished."

"But why should it be abolished?" I asked.

"Great Scott! man," he exclaimed; "don't you want it abolished?"

"I'm not sure that I do," I replied.

"Not sure," he retorted; "you call yourself a journalist, and admit
there is a subject under Heaven of which you are not sure!"

"It has come over me of late years," I replied. "It used not to be my
failing, as you know."

He glanced round to make sure we were out of earshot, then sunk his
voice to a whisper.

"Between ourselves," he said, "I'm not so sure of everything myself as I
used to be. Why is it?"

"Perhaps we are getting older," I suggested.

He said--"I started golf last year, and the first time I took the club
in my hand I sent the ball a furlong. 'It seems an easy game,' I said
to the man who was teaching me. 'Yes, most people find it easy at the
beginning,' he replied dryly. He was an old golfer himself; I thought he
was jealous. I stuck well to the game, and for about three weeks I was
immensely pleased with myself. Then, gradually, I began to find out the
difficulties. I feel I shall never make a good player. Have you ever
gone through that experience?"

"Yes," I replied; "I suppose that is the explanation. The game seems so
easy at the beginning."

I left him to his lunch, and strolled westward, musing on the time when
I should have answered that question of his about Christmas, or any
other question, off-hand. That good youth time when I knew everything,
when life presented no problems, dangled no doubts before me!

In those days, wishful to give the world the benefit of my wisdom, and
seeking for a candle-stick wherefrom my brilliancy might be visible and
helpful unto men, I arrived before a dingy portal in Chequers Street,
St. Luke's, behind which a conclave of young men, together with a
few old enough to have known better, met every Friday evening for
the purpose of discussing and arranging the affairs of the universe.
"Speaking members" were charged ten-and-sixpence per annum, which must
have worked out at an extremely moderate rate per word; and "gentlemen
whose subscriptions were more than three months in arrear," became, by
Rule seven, powerless for good or evil. We called ourselves "The Stormy
Petrels," and, under the sympathetic shadow of those wings, I laboured
two seasons towards the reformation of the human race; until, indeed,
our treasurer, an earnest young man, and a tireless foe of all that was
conventional, departed for the East, leaving behind him a balance sheet,
showing that the club owed forty-two pounds fifteen and fourpence, and
that the subscriptions for the current year, amounting to a little over
thirty-eight pounds, had been "carried forward," but as to where, the
report afforded no indication. Whereupon our landlord, a man utterly
without ideals, seized our furniture, offering to sell it back to us
for fifteen pounds. We pointed out to him that this was an extravagant
price, and tendered him five.

The negotiations terminated with ungentlemanly language on his part, and
"The Stormy Petrels" scattered, never to be foregathered together again
above the troubled waters of humanity. Now-a-days, listening to the
feeble plans of modern reformers, I cannot help but smile, remembering
what was done in Chequers Street, St. Luke's, in an age when Mrs. Grundy
still gave the law to literature, while yet the British matron was the
guide to British art. I am informed that there is abroad the question of
abolishing the House of Lords! Why, "The Stormy Petrels" abolished the
aristocracy and the Crown in one evening, and then only adjourned
for the purpose of appointing a committee to draw up and have ready a
Republican Constitution by the following Friday evening. They talk
of Empire lounges! We closed the doors of every music-hall in London
eighteen years ago by twenty-nine votes to seventeen. They had a patient
hearing, and were ably defended; but we found that the tendency of such
amusements was anti-progressive, and against the best interests of an
intellectually advancing democracy. I met the mover of the condemnatory
resolution at the old "Pav" the following evening, and we continued
the discussion over a bottle of Bass. He strengthened his argument by
persuading me to sit out the whole of the three songs sung by the "Lion
Comique"; but I subsequently retorted successfully, by bringing under
his notice the dancing of a lady in blue tights and flaxen hair. I
forget her name but never shall I cease to remember her exquisite charm
and beauty. Ah, me! how charming and how beautiful "artistes" were in
those golden days! Whence have they vanished? Ladies in blue tights and
flaxen hair dance before my eyes to-day, but move me not, unless it be
towards boredom. Where be the tripping witches of twenty years ago, whom
to see once was to dream of for a week, to touch whose white hand would
have been joy, to kiss whose red lips would have been to foretaste
Heaven. I heard only the other day that the son of an old friend of
mine had secretly married a lady from the front row of the ballet, and
involuntarily I exclaimed, "Poor devil!" There was a time when my first
thought would have been, "Lucky beggar! is he worthy of her?" For then
the ladies of the ballet were angels. How could one gaze at them--from
the shilling pit--and doubt it? They danced to keep a widowed mother in
comfort, or to send a younger brother to school. Then they were glorious
creatures a young man did well to worship; but now-a-days--

It is an old jest. The eyes of youth see through rose-tinted glasses.
The eyes of age are dim behind smoke-clouded spectacles. My flaxen
friend, you are not the angel I dreamed you, nor the exceptional sinner
some would paint you; but under your feathers, just a woman--a bundle of
follies and failings, tied up with some sweetness and strength. You keep
a brougham I am sure you cannot afford on your thirty shillings a week.
There are ladies I know, in Mayfair, who have paid an extravagant price
for theirs. You paint and you dye, I am told: it is even hinted you pad.
Don't we all of us deck ourselves out in virtues that are not our own?
When the paint and the powder, my sister, is stripped both from you and
from me, we shall know which of us is entitled to look down on the other
in scorn.

Forgive me, gentle Reader, for digressing. The lady led me astray. I was
speaking of "The Stormy Petrels," and of the reforms they accomplished,
which were many. We abolished, I remember, capital punishment and war;
we were excellent young men at heart. Christmas we reformed altogether,
along with Bank Holidays, by a majority of twelve. I never recollect any
proposal to abolish anything ever being lost when put to the vote. There
were few things that we "Stormy Petrels" did not abolish. We attacked
Christmas on grounds of expediency, and killed it by ridicule. We
exposed the hollow mockery of Christmas sentiment; we abused the
indigestible Christmas dinner, the tiresome Christmas party, the silly
Christmas pantomime. Our funny member was side-splitting on the
subject of Christmas Waits; our social reformer bitter upon Christmas
drunkenness; our economist indignant upon Christmas charities. Only one
argument of any weight with us was advanced in favour of the festival,
and that was our leading cynic's suggestion that it was worth enduring
the miseries of Christmas, to enjoy the soul-satisfying comfort of the
after reflection that it was all over, and could not occur again for
another year.

But since those days when I was prepared to put this old world of ours
to rights upon all matters, I have seen many sights and heard many
sounds, and I am not quite so sure as I once was that my particular
views are the only possibly correct ones. Christmas seems to me somewhat
meaningless; but I have looked through windows in poverty-stricken
streets, and have seen dingy parlours gay with many chains of coloured
paper. They stretched from corner to corner of the smoke-grimed ceiling,
they fell in clumsy festoons from the cheap gasalier, they framed the
fly-blown mirror and the tawdry pictures; and I know tired hands and
eyes worked many hours to fashion and fix those foolish chains, saying,
"It will please him--she will like to see the room look pretty;" and
as I have looked at them they have grown, in some mysterious manner,
beautiful to me. The gaudy-coloured child and dog irritates me, I
confess; but I have watched a grimy, inartistic personage, smoothing it
affectionately with toil-stained hand, while eager faces crowded round
to admire and wonder at its blatant crudity. It hangs to this day in its
cheap frame above the chimney-piece, the one bright spot relieving those
damp-stained walls; dull eyes stare and stare again at it, catching a
vista, through its flashy tints, of the far-off land of art. Christmas
Waits annoy me, and I yearn to throw open the window and fling coal at
them--as once from the window of a high flat in Chelsea I did. I doubted
their being genuine Waits. I was inclined to the opinion they were young
men seeking excuse for making a noise. One of them appeared to know
a hymn with a chorus, another played the concertina, while a third
accompanied with a step dance. Instinctively I felt no respect for them;
they disturbed me in my work, and the desire grew upon me to injure
them. It occurred to me it would be good sport if I turned out the
light, softly opened the window, and threw coal at them. It would be
impossible for them to tell from which window in the block the coal
came, and thus subsequent unpleasantness would be avoided. They were a
compact little group, and with average luck I was bound to hit one of
them.

I adopted the plan. I could not see them very clearly. I aimed rather
at the noise; and I had thrown about twenty choice lumps without effect,
and was feeling somewhat discouraged, when a yell, followed by language
singularly unappropriate to the season, told me that Providence had
aided my arm. The music ceased suddenly, and the party dispersed,
apparently in high glee--which struck me as curious.

One man I noticed remained behind. He stood under the lamp-post, and
shook his fist at the block generally.

"Who threw that lump of coal?" he demanded in stentorian tones.

To my horror, it was the voice of the man at Eighty-eight, an Irish
gentleman, a journalist like myself. I saw it all, as the
unfortunate hero always exclaims, too late, in the play. He--number
Eighty-eight--also disturbed by the noise, had evidently gone out to
expostulate with the rioters. Of course my lump of coal had hit him--him
the innocent, the peaceful (up till then), the virtuous. That is the
justice Fate deals out to us mortals here below. There were ten to
fourteen young men in that crowd, each one of whom fully deserved that
lump of coal; he, the one guiltless, got it--seemingly, so far as the
dim light from the gas lamp enabled me to judge, full in the eye.

As the block remained silent in answer to his demand, he crossed the
road and mounted the stairs. On each landing he stopped and shouted--

"Who threw that lump of coal? I want the man who threw that lump of
coal. Out you come."

Now a good man in my place would have waited till number Eighty-eight
arrived on his landing, and then, throwing open the door would have said
with manly candour--

"_I_ threw that lump of coal. I was-," He would not have got further,
because at that point, I feel confident, number Eighty--eight would
have punched his head. There would have been an unseemly fracas on the
staircase, to the annoyance of all the other tenants and later, there
would have issued a summons and a cross-summons. Angry passions would
have been roused, bitter feeling engendered which might have lasted for
years.

I do not pretend to be a good man. I doubt if the pretence would be of
any use were I to try: I am not a sufficiently good actor. I said to
myself, as I took off my boots in the study, preparatory to retiring to
my bedroom--"Number Eighty-eight is evidently not in a frame of mind
to listen to my story. It will be better to let him shout himself cool;
after which he will return to his own flat, bathe his eye, and obtain
some refreshing sleep. In the morning, when we shall probably meet as
usual on our way to Fleet Street, I will refer to the incident casually,
and sympathize with him. I will suggest to him the truth--that in all
probability some fellow-tenant, irritated also by the noise, had
aimed coal at the Waits, hitting him instead by a regrettable but pure
accident. With tact I may even be able to make him see the humour of the
incident. Later on, in March or April, choosing my moment with judgment,
I will, perhaps, confess that I was that fellow-tenant, and over a
friendly brandy-and-soda we will laugh the whole trouble away."

As a matter of fact, that is what happened. Said number Eighty-eight--he
was a big man, as good a fellow at heart as ever lived, but
impulsive--"Damned lucky for you, old man, you did not tell me at the
time."

"I felt," I replied, "instinctively that it was a case for delay."

There are times when one should control one's passion for candour; and
as I was saying, Christmas waits excite no emotion in my breast save
that of irritation. But I have known "Hark, the herald angels sing,"
wheezily chanted by fog-filled throats, and accompanied, hopelessly out
of tune, by a cornet and a flute, bring a great look of gladness to a
work-worn face. To her it was a message of hope and love, making
the hard life taste sweet. The mere thought of family gatherings, so
customary at Christmas time, bores us superior people; but I think of an
incident told me by a certain man, a friend of mine. One Christmas, my
friend, visiting in the country, came face to face with a woman whom in
town he had often met amid very different surroundings. The door of
the little farmhouse was open; she and an older woman were ironing at
a table, and as her soft white hands passed to and fro, folding and
smoothing the rumpled heap, she laughed and talked, concerning simple
homely things. My friend's shadow fell across her work, and she looking
up, their eyes met; but her face said plainly, "I do not know you here,
and here you do not know me. Here I am a woman loved and respected." My
friend passed in and spoke to the older woman, the wife of one of his
host's tenants, and she turned towards, and introduced the younger--"My
daughter, sir. We do not see her very often. She is in a place in
London, and cannot get away. But she always spends a few days with us at
Christmas."

"It is the season for family re-unions," answered my friend with just
the suggestion of a sneer, for which he hated himself.

"Yes, sir," said the woman, not noticing; "she has never missed her
Christmas with us, have you, Bess?"

"No, mother," replied the girl simply, and bent her head again over her
work.

So for these few days every year this woman left her furs and jewels,
her fine clothes and dainty foods, behind her, and lived for a little
space with what was clean and wholesome. It was the one anchor holding
her to womanhood; and one likes to think that it was, perhaps, in
the end strong enough to save her from the drifting waters. All which
arguments in favour of Christmas and of Christmas customs are, I admit,
purely sentimental ones, but I have lived long enough to doubt whether
sentiment has not its legitimate place in the economy of life.



ON THE TIME WASTED IN LOOKING BEFORE ONE LEAPS

Have you ever noticed the going out of a woman?

When a man goes out, he says--"I'm going out, shan't be long."

"Oh, George," cries his wife from the other end of the house, "don't go
for a moment. I want you to--" She hears a falling of hats, followed by
the slamming of the front door.

"Oh, George, you're not gone!" she wails. It is but the voice of
despair. As a matter of fact, she knows he is gone. She reaches the
hall, breathless.

"He might have waited a minute," she mutters to herself, as she picks up
the hats, "there were so many things I wanted him to do."

She does not open the door and attempt to stop him, she knows he is
already half-way down the street. It is a mean, paltry way of going out,
she thinks; so like a man.

When a woman, on the other hand, goes out, people know about it. She
does not sneak out. She says she is going out. She says it, generally,
on the afternoon of the day before; and she repeats it, at intervals,
until tea-time. At tea, she suddenly decides that she won't, that she
will leave it till the day after to-morrow instead. An hour later she
thinks she will go to-morrow, after all, and makes arrangements to wash
her hair overnight. For the next hour or so she alternates between fits
of exaltation, during which she looks forward to going out, and moments
of despondency, when a sense of foreboding falls upon her. At dinner
she persuades some other woman to go with her; the other woman, once
persuaded, is enthusiastic about going, until she recollects that she
cannot. The first woman, however, convinces her that she can.

"Yes," replies the second woman, "but then, how about you, dear? You are
forgetting the Joneses."

"So I was," answers the first woman, completely non-plussed. "How very
awkward, and I can't go on Wednesday. I shall have to leave it till
Thursday, now."

"But _I_ can't go Thursday," says the second woman.

"Well, you go without me, dear," says the first woman, in the tone of
one who is sacrificing a life's ambition.

"Oh no, dear, I should not think of it," nobly exclaims the second
woman. "We will wait and go together, Friday!"

"I'll tell you what we'll do," says the first woman. "We will start
early" (this is an inspiration), "and be back before the Joneses
arrive."

They agree to sleep together; there is a lurking suspicion in both their
minds that this may be their last sleep on earth. They retire early with
a can of hot water. At intervals, during the night, one overhears them
splashing water, and talking.

They come down very late for breakfast, and both very cross. Each seems
to have argued herself into the belief that she has been lured into this
piece of nonsense, against her better judgment, by the persistent folly
of the other one. During the meal each one asks the other, every five
minutes, if she is quite ready. Each one, it appears, has only her hat
to put on. They talk about the weather, and wonder what it is going to
do. They wish it would make up its mind, one way or the other. They are
very bitter on weather that cannot make up its mind. After breakfast it
still looks cloudy, and they decide to abandon the scheme altogether.
The first woman then remembers that it is absolutely necessary for her,
at all events, to go.

"But there is no need for you to come, dear," she says.

Up to that point the second woman was evidently not sure whether she
wished to go or whether she didn't. Now she knows.

"Oh yes, I'll come," she says, "then it will be over!"

"I am sure you don't want to go," urges the first woman, "and I shall be
quicker by myself. I am ready to start now."

The second woman bridles.

"_I_ shan't be a couple of minutes," she retorts. "You know, dear, it's
generally I who have to wait for you."

"But you've not got your boots on," the first woman reminds her.

"Well, they won't take ANY time," is the answer. "But of course, dear,
if you'd really rather I did not come, say so." By this time she is on
the verge of tears.

"Of course, I would like you to come, dear," explains the first in a
resigned tone. "I thought perhaps you were only coming to please me."

"Oh no, I'd LIKE to come," says the second woman.

"Well, we must hurry up," says the first; "I shan't be more than a
minute myself, I've merely got to change my skirt."

Half-an-hour later you hear them calling to each other, from different
parts of the house, to know if the other one is ready. It appears they
have both been ready for quite a long while, waiting only for the other
one.

"I'm afraid," calls out the one whose turn it is to be down-stairs,
"it's going to rain."

"Oh, don't say that," calls back the other one.

"Well, it looks very like it."

"What a nuisance," answers the up-stairs woman; "shall we put it off?"

"Well, what do YOU think, dear?" replies the down-stairs.

They decide they will go, only now they will have to change their boots,
and put on different hats.

For the next ten minutes they are still shouting and running about. Then
it seems as if they really were ready, nothing remaining but for them to
say "Good-bye," and go.

They begin by kissing the children. A woman never leaves her house
without secret misgivings that she will never return to it alive. One
child cannot be found. When it is found it wishes it hadn't been. It has
to be washed, preparatory to being kissed. After that, the dog has to be
found and kissed, and final instructions given to the cook.

Then they open the front door.

"Oh, George," calls out the first woman, turning round again. "Are you
there?"

"Hullo," answers a voice from the distance. "Do you want me?"

"No, dear, only to say good-bye. I'm going."

"Oh, good-bye."

"Good-bye, dear. Do you think it's going to rain?"

"Oh no, I should not say so."

"George."

"Yes."

"Have you got any money?"

Five minutes later they come running back; the one has forgotten her
parasol, the other her purse.

And speaking of purses, reminds one of another essential difference
between the male and female human animal. A man carries his money in his
pocket. When he wants to use it, he takes it out and lays it down. This
is a crude way of doing things, a woman displays more subtlety. Say she
is standing in the street, and wants fourpence to pay for a bunch of
violets she has purchased from a flower-girl. She has two parcels in one
hand, and a parasol in the other. With the remaining two fingers of the
left hand she secures the violets. The question then arises, how to
pay the girl? She flutters for a few minutes, evidently not quite
understanding why it is she cannot do it. The reason then occurs to her:
she has only two hands and both these are occupied. First she thinks
she will put the parcels and the flowers into her right hand, then she
thinks she will put the parasol into her left. Then she looks round
for a table or even a chair, but there is not such a thing in the whole
street. Her difficulty is solved by her dropping the parcels and the
flowers. The girl picks them up for her and holds them. This enables
her to feel for her pocket with her right hand, while waving her open
parasol about with her left. She knocks an old gentleman's hat off into
the gutter, and nearly blinds the flower-girl before it occurs to her to
close it. This done, she leans it up against the flower-girl's basket,
and sets to work in earnest with both hands. She seizes herself firmly
by the back, and turns the upper part of her body round till her hair is
in front and her eyes behind. Still holding herself firmly with her
left hand--did she let herself go, goodness knows where she would spin
to;--with her right she prospects herself. The purse is there, she can
feel it, the problem is how to get at it. The quickest way would, of
course, be to take off the skirt, sit down on the kerb, turn it inside
out, and work from the bottom of the pocket upwards. But this simple
idea never seems to occur to her. There are some thirty folds at the
back of the dress, between two of these folds commences the secret
passage. At last, purely by chance, she suddenly discovers it, nearly
upsetting herself in the process, and the purse is brought up to the
surface. The difficulty of opening it still remains. She knows it opens
with a spring, but the secret of that spring she has never mastered, and
she never will. Her plan is to worry it generally until it does open.
Five minutes will always do it, provided she is not flustered.

At last it does open. It would be incorrect to say that she opens it. It
opens because it is sick of being mauled about; and, as likely as not,
it opens at the moment when she is holding it upside down. If you happen
to be near enough to look over her shoulder, you will notice that the
gold and silver lies loose within it. In an inner sanctuary, carefully
secured with a second secret spring, she keeps her coppers, together
with a postage-stamp and a draper's receipt, nine months old, for
elevenpence three-farthings.

I remember the indignation of an old Bus-conductor, once. Inside we were
nine women and two men. I sat next the door, and his remarks therefore
he addressed to me. It was certainly taking him some time to collect
the fares, but I think he would have got on better had he been less
bustling; he worried them, and made them nervous.

"Look at that," he said, drawing my attention to a poor lady opposite,
who was diving in the customary manner for her purse, "they sit on their
money, women do. Blest if you wouldn't think they was trying to 'atch
it."

At length the lady drew from underneath herself an exceedingly fat
purse.

"Fancy riding in a bumpby bus, perched up on that thing," he continued.
"Think what a stamina they must have." He grew confidential. "I've seen
one woman," he said, "pull out from underneath 'er a street doorkey, a
tin box of lozengers, a pencil-case, a whopping big purse, a packet
of hair-pins, and a smelling-bottle. Why, you or me would be wretched,
sitting on a plain door-knob, and them women goes about like that all
day. I suppose they gets used to it. Drop 'em on an eider-down pillow,
and they'd scream. The time it takes me to get tuppence out of them,
why, it's 'eart-breaking. First they tries one side, then they tries the
other. Then they gets up and shakes theirselves till the bus jerks them
back again, and there they are, a more 'opeless 'eap than ever. If I 'ad
my way I'd make every bus carry a female searcher as could over'aul
'em one at a time, and take the money from 'em. Talk about the poor
pickpocket. What I say is, that a man as finds his way into a woman's
pocket--well, he deserves what he gets."

But it was the thought of more serious matters that lured me into
reflections concerning the over-carefulness of women. It is a theory of
mine--wrong possibly; indeed I have so been informed--that we pick our
way through life with too much care. We are for ever looking down upon
the ground. Maybe, we do avoid a stumble or two over a stone or a brier,
but also we miss the blue of the sky, the glory of the hills. These
books that good men write, telling us that what they call "success" in
life depends on our flinging aside our youth and wasting our manhood
in order that we may have the means when we are eighty of spending a
rollicking old age, annoy me. We save all our lives to invest in a
South Sea Bubble; and in skimping and scheming, we have grown mean,
and narrow, and hard. We will put off the gathering of the roses
till tomorrow, to-day it shall be all work, all bargain-driving, all
plotting. Lo, when to-morrow comes, the roses are blown; nor do we care
for roses, idle things of small marketable value; cabbages are more to
our fancy by the time to-morrow comes.

Life is a thing to be lived, not spent, to be faced, not ordered. Life
is not a game of chess, the victory to the most knowing; it is a game of
cards, one's hand by skill to be made the best of. Is it the wisest who
is always the most successful? I think not. The luckiest whist-player I
ever came across was a man who was never QUITE certain what were trumps,
and whose most frequent observation during the game was "I really
beg your pardon," addressed to his partner; a remark which generally
elicited the reply, "Oh, don't apologize. All's well that ends well."
The man I knew who made the most rapid fortune was a builder in the
outskirts of Birmingham, who could not write his name, and who, for
thirty years of his life, never went to bed sober. I do not say that
forgetfulness of trumps should be cultivated by whist-players. I think
my builder friend might have been even more successful had he learned
to write his name, and had he occasionally--not overdoing it--enjoyed a
sober evening. All I wish to impress is, that virtue is not the road to
success--of the kind we are dealing with. We must find other reasons for
being virtuous; maybe, there are some. The truth is, life is a gamble
pure and simple, and the rules we lay down for success are akin to the
infallible systems with which a certain class of idiot goes armed each
season to Monte Carlo. We can play the game with coolness and judgment,
decide when to plunge and when to stake small; but to think that wisdom
will decide it, is to imagine that we have discovered the law of chance.
Let us play the game of life as sportsmen, pocketing our winnings with
a smile, leaving our losings with a shrug. Perhaps that is why we have
been summoned to the board and the cards dealt round: that we may learn
some of the virtues of the good gambler; his self-control, his courage
under misfortune, his modesty under the strain of success, his firmness,
his alertness, his general indifference to fate. Good lessons these,
all of them. If by the game we learn some of them our time on the green
earth has not been wasted. If we rise from the table having learned only
fretfulness and self-pity I fear it has been.

The grim Hall Porter taps at the door: "Number Five hundred billion and
twenty-eight, your boatman is waiting, sir."

So! is it time already? We pick up our counters. Of what use are they?
In the country the other side of the river they are no tender. The
blood-red for gold, and the pale-green for love, to whom shall we fling
them? Here is some poor beggar longing to play, let us give them to him
as we pass out. Poor devil! the game will amuse him--for a while.

Keep your powder dry, and trust in Providence, is the motto of the wise.
Wet powder could never be of any possible use to you. Dry, it may
be, WITH the help of Providence. We will call it Providence, it is a
prettier name than Chance--perhaps also a truer.

Another mistake we make when we reason out our lives is this: we
reason as though we were planning for reasonable creatures. It is a big
mistake. Well-meaning ladies and gentlemen make it when they picture
their ideal worlds. When marriage is reformed, and the social problem
solved, when poverty and war have been abolished by acclamation, and sin
and sorrow rescinded by an overwhelming parliamentary majority! Ah, then
the world will be worthy of our living in it. You need not wait, ladies
and gentlemen, so long as you think for that time. No social revolution
is needed, no slow education of the people is necessary. It would all
come about to-morrow, IF ONLY WE WERE REASONABLE CREATURES.

Imagine a world of reasonable beings! The Ten Commandments would be
unnecessary: no reasoning being sins, no reasoning creature makes
mistakes. There would be no rich men, for what reasonable man cares for
luxury and ostentation? There would be no poor: that I should eat
enough for two while my brother in the next street, as good a man as I,
starves, is not reasonable. There would be no difference of opinion on
any two points: there is only one reason. You, dear Reader, would find,
that on all subjects you were of the same opinion as I. No novels would
be written, no plays performed; the lives of reasonable creatures do
not afford drama. No mad loves, no mad laughter, no scalding tears, no
fierce unreasoning, brief-lived joys, no sorrows, no wild dreams--only
reason, reason everywhere.

But for the present we remain unreasonable. If I eat this mayonnaise,
drink this champagne, I shall suffer in my liver. Then, why do I eat it?
Julia is a charming girl, amiable, wise, and witty; also she has a share
in a brewery. Then, why does John marry Ann? who is short-tempered,
to say the least of it, who, he feels, will not make him so good a
house-wife, who has extravagant notions, who has no little fortune.
There is something about Ann's chin that fascinates him--he could not
explain to you what. On the whole, Julia is the better-looking of the
two. But the more he thinks of Julia, the more he is drawn towards Ann.
So Tom marries Julia and the brewery fails, and Julia, on a holiday,
contracts rheumatic fever, and is a helpless invalid for life; while Ann
comes in for ten thousand pounds left to her by an Australian uncle no
one had ever heard of.

I have been told of a young man, who chose his wife with excellent
care. Said he to himself, very wisely, "In the selection of a wife a
man cannot be too circumspect." He convinced himself that the girl was
everything a helpmate should be. She had every virtue that could be
expected in a woman, no faults, but such as are inseparable from a
woman. Speaking practically, she was perfection. He married her, and
found she was all he had thought her. Only one thing could he urge
against her--that he did not like her. And that, of course, was not her
fault.

How easy life would be did we know ourselves. Could we always be sure
that tomorrow we should think as we do today. We fall in love during a
summer holiday; she is fresh, delightful, altogether charming; the blood
rushes to our head every time we think of her. Our ideal career is one
of perpetual service at her feet. It seems impossible that Fate could
bestow upon us any greater happiness than the privilege of cleaning her
boots, and kissing the hem of her garment--if the hem be a little muddy
that will please us the more. We tell her our ambition, and at that
moment every word we utter is sincere. But the summer holiday passes,
and with it the holiday mood, and winter finds us wondering how we are
going to get out of the difficulty into which we have landed ourselves.
Or worse still, perhaps, the mood lasts longer than is usual. We become
formally engaged. We marry--I wonder how many marriages are the result
of a passion that is burnt out before the altar-rails are reached?--and
three months afterwards the little lass is broken-hearted to find that
we consider the lacing of her boots a bore. Her feet seem to have grown
bigger. There is no excuse for us, save that we are silly children,
never sure of what we are crying for, hurting one another in our play,
crying very loudly when hurt ourselves.

I knew an American lady once who used to bore me with long accounts of
the brutalities exercised upon her by her husband. She had instituted
divorce proceedings against him. The trial came on, and she was highly
successful. We all congratulated her, and then for some months she
dropped out of my life. But there came a day when we again found
ourselves together. One of the problems of social life is to know what
to say to one another when we meet; every man and woman's desire is to
appear sympathetic and clever, and this makes conversation difficult,
because, taking us all round, we are neither sympathetic nor clever--but
this by the way.

Of course, I began to talk to her about her former husband. I asked
her how he was getting on. She replied that she thought he was very
comfortable.

"Married again?" I suggested.

"Yes," she answered.

"Serve him right," I exclaimed, "and his wife too." She was a pretty,
bright-eyed little woman, my American friend, and I wished to ingratiate
myself. "A woman who would marry such a man, knowing what she must have
known of him, is sure to make him wretched, and we may trust him to be a
curse to her."

My friend seemed inclined to defend him.

"I think he is greatly improved," she argued.

"Nonsense!" I returned, "a man never improves. Once a villain, always a
villain."

"Oh, hush!" she pleaded, "you mustn't call him that."

"Why not?" I answered. "I have heard you call him a villain yourself."

"It was wrong of me," she said, flushing. "I'm afraid he was not the
only one to be blamed; we were both foolish in those days, but I think
we have both learned a lesson."

I remained silent, waiting for the necessary explanation.

"You had better come and see him for yourself," she added, with a little
laugh; "to tell the truth, I am the woman who has married him. Tuesday
is my day, Number 2, K---- Mansions," and she ran off, leaving me
staring after her.

I believe an enterprising clergyman who would set up a little church
in the Strand, just outside the Law Courts, might do quite a trade,
re-marrying couples who had just been divorced. A friend of mine,
a respondent, told me he had never loved his wife more than on two
occasions--the first when she refused him, the second when she came into
the witness-box to give evidence against him.

"You are curious creatures, you men," remarked a lady once to another
man in my presence. "You never seem to know your own mind."

She was feeling annoyed with men generally. I do not blame her, I feel
annoyed with them myself sometimes. There is one man in particular I am
always feeling intensely irritated against. He says one thing, and acts
another. He will talk like a saint and behave like a fool, knows what is
right and does what is wrong. But we will not speak further of him. He
will be all he should be one day, and then we will pack him into a nice,
comfortably-lined box, and screw the lid down tight upon him, and put
him away in a quiet little spot near a church I know of, lest he should
get up and misbehave himself again.

The other man, who is a wise man as men go, looked at his fair critic
with a smile.

"My dear madam," he replied, "you are blaming the wrong person. I
confess I do not know my mind, and what little I do know of it I do not
like. I did not make it, I did not select it. I am more dissatisfied
with it than you can possibly be. It is a greater mystery to me than it
is to you, and I have to live with it. You should pity not blame me."

There are moods in which I fall to envying those old hermits who
frankly, and with courageous cowardice, shirked the problem of life.
There are days when I dream of an existence unfettered by the thousand
petty strings with which our souls lie bound to Lilliputia land. I
picture myself living in some Norwegian sater, high above the black
waters of a rockbound fiord. No other human creature disputes with me my
kingdom. I am alone with the whispering fir forests and the stars. How
I live I am not quite sure. Once a month I could journey down into the
villages and return laden. I should not need much. For the rest, my gun
and fishing-rod would supply me. I would have with me a couple of big
dogs, who would talk to me with their eyes, so full of dumb thought, and
together we would wander over the uplands, seeking our dinner, after the
old primitive fashion of the men who dreamt not of ten-course dinners
and Savoy suppers. I would cook the food myself, and sit down to the
meal with a bottle of good wine, such as starts a man's thoughts (for I
am inconsistent, as I acknowledge, and that gift of civilization I
would bear with me into my hermitage). Then in the evening, with pipe
in mouth, beside my log-wood fire, I would sit and think, until new
knowledge came to me. Strengthened by those silent voices that are
drowned in the roar of Streetland, I might, perhaps, grow into something
nearer to what it was intended that a man should be--might catch a
glimpse, perhaps, of the meaning of life.

No, no, my dear lady, into this life of renunciation I would not take a
companion, certainly not of the sex you are thinking of, even would
she care to come, which I doubt. There are times when a man is better
without the woman, when a woman is better without the man. Love drags
us from the depths, makes men and women of us, but if we would climb a
little nearer to the stars we must say good-bye to it. We men and women
do not show ourselves to each other at our best; too often, I fear, at
our worst. The woman's highest ideal of man is the lover; to a man the
woman is always the possible beloved. We see each other's hearts,
but not each other's souls. In each other's presence we never shake
ourselves free from the earth. Match-making mother Nature is always at
hand to prompt us. A woman lifts us up into manhood, but there she
would have us stay. "Climb up to me," she cries to the lad, walking with
soiled feet in muddy ways; "be a true man that you may be worthy to walk
by my side; be brave to protect me, kind and tender, and true; but climb
no higher, stay here by my side." The martyr, the prophet, the leader of
the world's forlorn hopes, she would wake from his dream. Her arms she
would fling about his neck holding him down.

To the woman the man says, "You are my wife. Here is your America,
within these walls, here is your work, your duty." True, in nine hundred
and ninety-nine cases out of every thousand, but men and women are
not made in moulds, and the world's work is various. Sometimes to her
sorrow, a woman's work lies beyond the home. The duty of Mary was not to
Joseph.

The hero in the popular novel is the young man who says, "I love you
better than my soul." Our favourite heroine in fiction is the woman who
cries to her lover, "I would go down into Hell to be with you." There
are men and women who cannot answer thus--the men who dream dreams, the
women who see visions--impracticable people from the Bayswater point
of view. But Bayswater would not be the abode of peace it is had it not
been for such.

Have we not placed sexual love on a pedestal higher than it deserves? It
is a noble passion, but it is not the noblest. There is a wider love by
the side of which it is but as the lamp illumining the cottage, to the
moonlight bathing the hills and valleys. There were two women once.
This is a play I saw acted in the daylight. They had been friends from
girlhood, till there came between them the usual trouble--a man. A weak,
pretty creature not worth a thought from either of them; but women love
the unworthy; there would be no over-population problem did they not;
and this poor specimen, ill-luck had ordained they should contend for.

Their rivalry brought out all that was worst in both of them. It is
a mistake to suppose love only elevates; it can debase. It was a
mean struggle for what to an onlooker must have appeared a remarkably
unsatisfying prize. The loser might well have left the conqueror to her
poor triumph, even granting it had been gained unfairly. But the
old, ugly, primeval passions had been stirred in these women, and the
wedding-bells closed only the first act.

The second is not difficult to guess. It would have ended in the Divorce
Court had not the deserted wife felt that a finer revenge would be
secured to her by silence.

In the third, after an interval of only eighteen months, the man
died--the first piece of good fortune that seems to have occurred to
him personally throughout the play. His position must have been
an exceedingly anxious one from the beginning. Notwithstanding his
flabbiness, one cannot but regard him with a certain amount of pity--not
unmixed with amusement. Most of life's dramas can be viewed as either
farce or tragedy according to the whim of the spectator. The actors
invariably play them as tragedy; but then that is the essence of good
farce acting.

Thus was secured the triumph of legal virtue and the punishment of
irregularity, and the play might be dismissed as uninterestingly
orthodox were it not for the fourth act, showing how the wronged wife
came to the woman she had once wronged to ask and grant forgiveness.
Strangely as it may sound, they found their love for one another
unchanged. They had been long parted: it was sweet to hold each other's
hands again. Two lonely women, they agreed to live together. Those
who knew them well in this later time say that their life was very
beautiful, filled with graciousness and nobility.

I do not say that such a story could ever be common, but it is more
probable than the world might credit. Sometimes the man is better
without the woman, the woman without the man.



ON THE NOBILITY OF OURSELVES

AN old Anglicized Frenchman, I used to meet often in my earlier
journalistic days, held a theory, concerning man's future state, that
has since come to afford me more food for reflection than, at the time,
I should have deemed possible. He was a bright-eyed, eager little man.
One felt no Lotus land could be Paradise to him. We build our heaven of
the stones of our desires: to the old, red-bearded Norseman, a foe to
fight and a cup to drain; to the artistic Greek, a grove of animated
statuary; to the Red Indian, his happy hunting ground; to the Turk,
his harem; to the Jew, his New Jerusalem, paved with gold; to others,
according to their taste, limited by the range of their imagination.

Few things had more terrors for me, when a child, than Heaven--as
pictured for me by certain of the good folks round about me. I was told
that if I were a good lad, kept my hair tidy, and did not tease the cat,
I would probably, when I died, go to a place where all day long I would
sit still and sing hymns. (Think of it! as reward to a healthy boy for
being good.) There would be no breakfast and no dinner, no tea and no
supper. One old lady cheered me a little with a hint that the monotony
might be broken by a little manna; but the idea of everlasting manna
palled upon me, and my suggestions, concerning the possibilities of
sherbet or jumbles, were scouted as irreverent. There would be no
school, but also there would be no cricket and no rounders. I should
feel no desire, so I was assured, to do another angel's "dags" by
sliding down the heavenly banisters. My only joy would be to sing.

"Shall we start singing the moment we get up in the morning?" I asked.

"There won't be any morning," was the answer. "There will be no day and
no night. It will all be one long day without end."

"And shall we always be singing?" I persisted.

"Yes, you will be so happy, you will always want to sing."

"Shan't I ever get tired?"

"No, you will never get tired, and you will never get sleepy or hungry
or thirsty."

"And does it go on like that for ever?"

"Yes, for ever and ever."

"Will it go on for a million years?"

"Yes, a million years, and then another million years, and then another
million years after that. There will never be any end to it."

I can remember to this day the agony of those nights, when I would lie
awake, thinking of this endless heaven, from which there seemed to be
no possible escape. For the other place was equally eternal, or I might
have been tempted to seek refuge there.

We grown-up folk, our brains dulled by the slowly acquired habit of
not thinking, do wrong to torture children with these awful themes.
Eternity, Heaven, Hell are meaningless words to us. We repeat them, as
we gabble our prayers, telling our smug, self-satisfied selves that we
are miserable sinners. But to the child, the "intelligent stranger" in
the land, seeking to know, they are fearful realities. If you doubt me,
Reader, stand by yourself, beneath the stars, one night, and SOLVE this
thought, Eternity. Your next address shall be the County Lunatic Asylum.

My actively inclined French friend held cheerier views than are common
of man's life beyond the grave. His belief was that we were destined to
constant change, to everlasting work. We were to pass through the older
planets, to labour in the greater suns.

But for such advanced career a more capable being was needed. No one of
us was sufficient, he argued, to be granted a future existence all to
himself. His idea was that two or three or four of us, according to
our intrinsic value, would be combined to make a new and more important
individuality, fitted for a higher existence. Man, he pointed out, was
already a collection of the beasts. "You and I," he would say, tapping
first my chest and then his own, "we have them all here--the ape, the
tiger, the pig, the motherly hen, the gamecock, the good ant; we are
all, rolled into one. So the man of the future, he will be made up of
many men--the courage of one, the wisdom of another, the kindliness of a
third."

"Take a City man," he would continue, "say the Lord Mayor; add to him a
poet, say Swinburne; mix them with a religious enthusiast, say General
Booth. There you will have the man fit for the higher life."

Garibaldi and Bismarck, he held, should make a very fine mixture,
correcting one another; if needful, extract of Ibsen might be added, as
seasoning. He thought that Irish politicians would mix admirably with
Scotch divines; that Oxford Dons would go well with lady novelists. He
was convinced that Count Tolstoi, a few Gaiety Johnnies (we called them
"mashers" in those days), together with a humourist--he was kind enough
to suggest myself--would produce something very choice. Queen Elizabeth,
he fancied, was probably being reserved to go--let us hope in the long
distant future--with Ouida. It sounds a whimsical theory, set down here
in my words, not his; but the old fellow was so much in earnest that few
of us ever thought to laugh as he talked. Indeed, there were moments
on starry nights, as walking home from the office, we would pause on
Waterloo Bridge to enjoy the witchery of the long line of the Embankment
lights, when I could almost believe, as I listened to him, in the not
impossibility of his dreams.

Even as regards this world, it would often be a gain, one thinks, and no
loss, if some half-dozen of us were rolled together, or boiled down, or
whatever the process necessary might be, and something made out of us in
that way.

Have not you, my fair Reader, sometimes thought to yourself what a
delightful husband Tom this, plus Harry that, plus Dick the other, would
make? Tom is always so cheerful and good-tempered, yet you feel that in
the serious moments of life he would be lacking. A delightful hubby
when you felt merry, yes; but you would not go to him for comfort and
strength in your troubles, now would you? No, in your hour of sorrow,
how good it would be to have near you grave, earnest Harry. He is
a "good sort," Harry. Perhaps, after all, he is the best of the
three--solid, staunch, and true. What a pity he is just a trifle
commonplace and unambitious. Your friends, not knowing his sterling
hidden qualities, would hardly envy you; and a husband that no other
girl envies you--well, that would hardly be satisfactory, would it?
Dick, on the other hand, is clever and brilliant. He will make his way;
there will come a day, you are convinced, when a woman will be proud to
bear his name. If only he were not so self-centred, if only he were more
sympathetic.

But a combination of the three, or rather of the best qualities of the
three--Tom's good temper, Harry's tender strength, Dick's brilliant
masterfulness: that is the man who would be worthy of you.

The woman David Copperfield wanted was Agnes and Dora rolled into one.
He had to take them one after the other, which was not so nice. And did
he really love Agnes, Mr. Dickens; or merely feel he ought to? Forgive
me, but I am doubtful concerning that second marriage of Copperfield's.
Come, strictly between ourselves, Mr. Dickens, was not David, good human
soul! now and again a wee bit bored by the immaculate Agnes? She made
him an excellent wife, I am sure. SHE never ordered oysters by the
barrel, unopened. It would, on any day, have been safe to ask Traddles
home to dinner; in fact, Sophie and the whole rose-garden might have
accompanied him, Agnes would have been equal to the occasion. The dinner
would have been perfectly cooked and served, and Agnes' sweet smile
would have pervaded the meal. But AFTER the dinner, when David and
Traddles sat smoking alone, while from the drawing-room drifted down the
notes of high-class, elevating music, played by the saintly Agnes, did
they never, glancing covertly towards the empty chair between them, see
the laughing, curl-framed face of a very foolish little woman--one of
those foolish little women that a wise man thanks God for making--and
wish, in spite of all, that it were flesh and blood, not shadow?

Oh, you foolish wise folk, who would remodel human nature! Cannot you
see how great is the work given unto childish hands? Think you that in
well-ordered housekeeping and high-class conversation lies the whole
making of a man? Foolish Dora, fashioned by clever old magician Nature,
who knows that weakness and helplessness are as a talisman calling forth
strength and tenderness in man, trouble yourself not unduly about those
oysters nor the underdone mutton, little woman. Good plain cooks at
twenty pounds a year will see to these things for us; and, now and
then, when a windfall comes our way, we will dine together at a
moderate-priced restaurant where these things are managed even better.
Your work, Dear, is to teach us gentleness and kindliness. Lay your
curls here, child. It is from such as you that we learn wisdom. Foolish
wise folk sneer at you; foolish wise folk would pull up the useless
lilies, the needless roses, from the garden, would plant in their places
only serviceable wholesome cabbage. But the Gardener knowing better,
plants the silly short-lived flowers; foolish wise folk, asking for what
purpose.

As for Agnes, Mr. Dickens, do you know what she always makes me think
of? You will not mind my saying?--the woman one reads about. Frankly,
I don't believe in her. I do not refer to Agnes in particular, but the
woman of whom she is a type, the faultless woman we read of. Women have
many faults, but, thank God, they have one redeeming virtue--they are
none of them faultless.

But the heroine of fiction! oh, a terrible dragon of virtue is she. May
heaven preserve us poor men, undeserving though we be, from a life with
the heroine of fiction. She is all soul, and heart, and intellect, with
never a bit of human nature to catch hold of her by. Her beauty, it
appals one, it is so painfully indescribable. Whence comes she, whither
goes she, why do we never meet her like? Of women I know a goodish few,
and I look among them for her prototype; but I find it not. They are
charming, they are beautiful, all these women that I know. It would
not be right for me to tell you, Ladies, the esteem and veneration with
which I regard you all. You yourselves, blushing, would be the first to
cheek my ardour. But yet, dear Ladies, seen even through my eyes, you
come not near the ladies that I read about. You are not--if I may be
permitted an expressive vulgarism--in the same street with them. Your
beauty I can look upon, and retain my reason--for whatever value that
may be to me. Your conversation, I admit, is clever and brilliant in the
extreme; your knowledge vast and various; your culture quite Bostonian;
yet you do not--I hardly know how to express it--you do not shine with
the sixteen full-moon-power of the heroine of fiction. You do not--and
I thank you for it--impress me with the idea that you are the only women
on earth. You, even you, possess tempers of your own. I am inclined to
think you take an interest in your clothes. I would not be sure, even,
that you do not mingle a little of "your own hair" (you know what I
mean) with the hair of your head. There is in your temperament a vein of
vanity, a suggestion of selfishness, a spice of laziness. I have known
you a trifle unreasonable, a little inconsiderate, slightly exacting.
Unlike the heroine of fiction, you have a certain number of human
appetites and instincts; a few human follies, perhaps, a human fault, or
shall we say two? In short, dear Ladies, you also, even as we men, are
the children of Adam and Eve. Tell me, if you know, where I may meet
with this supernatural sister of yours, this woman that one reads about.
She never keeps any one waiting while she does her back hair, she is
never indignant with everybody else in the house because she cannot find
her own boots, she never scolds the servants, she is never cross with
the children, she never slams the door, she is never jealous of her
younger sister, she never lingers at the gate with any cousin but the
right one.

Dear me, where DO they keep them, these women that one reads about? I
suppose where they keep the pretty girl of Art. You have seen her,
have you not, Reader, the pretty girl in the picture? She leaps the
six-barred gate with a yard and a half to spare, turning round in her
saddle the while to make some smiling remark to the comic man behind,
who, of course, is standing on his head in the ditch. She floats
gracefully off Dieppe on stormy mornings. Her baigneuse--generally of
chiffon and old point lace--has not lost a curve. The older ladies,
bathing round her, look wet. Their dress clings damply to their limbs.
But the pretty girl of Art dives, and never a curl of her hair is
disarranged. The pretty girl of Art stands lightly on tip-toe and
volleys a tennis-ball six feet above her head. The pretty girl of Art
keeps the head of the punt straight against a stiff current and a strong
wind. SHE never gets the water up her sleeve, and down her back, and
all over the cushions. HER pole never sticks in the mud, with the steam
launch ten yards off and the man looking the other way. The pretty girl
of Art skates in high-heeled French shoes at an angle of forty-five
to the surface of the ice, both hands in her muff. SHE never sits down
plump, with her feet a yard apart, and says "Ough." The pretty girl of
Art drives tandem down Piccadilly, during the height of the season, at
eighteen miles an hour. It never occurs to HER leader that the time has
now arrived for him to turn round and get into the cart. The pretty
girl of Art rides her bicycle through the town on market day, carrying
a basket of eggs, and smiling right and left. SHE never throws away
both her handles and runs into a cow. The pretty girl of Art goes trout
fishing in open-work stockings, under a blazing sun, with a bunch of
dew-bespangled primroses in her hair; and every time she gracefully
flicks her rod she hauls out a salmon. SHE never ties herself up to a
tree, or hooks the dog. SHE never comes home, soaked and disagreeable,
to tell you that she caught six, but put them all back again, because
they were merely two or three-pounders, and not worth the trouble of
carrying. The pretty girl of Art plays croquet with one hand, and looks
as if she enjoyed the game. SHE never tries to accidentally kick her
ball into position when nobody is noticing, or stands it out that she is
through a hoop that she knows she isn't.

She is a good, all-round sportswoman, is the pretty girl in the
picture. The only thing I have to say against her is that she makes one
dissatisfied with the girl out of the picture--the girl who mistakes a
punt for a teetotum, so that you land feeling as if you had had a day
in the Bay of Biscay; and who, every now and again, stuns you with the
thick end of the pole: the girl who does not skate with her hands in her
muff; but who, throwing them up to heaven, says, "I'm going," and who
goes, taking care that you go with her: the girl who, as you brush her
down, and try to comfort her, explains to you indignantly that the horse
took the corner too sharply and never noticed the mile-stone; the girl
whose hair sea water does NOT improve.

There can be no doubt about it: that is where they keep the good woman
of Fiction, where they keep the pretty girl of Art.

Does it not occur to you, Messieurs les Auteurs, that you are sadly
disturbing us? These women that are a combination of Venus, St. Cecilia,
and Elizabeth Fry! you paint them for us in your glowing pages: it is
not kind of you, knowing, as you must, the women we have to put up with.

Would we not be happier, we men and women, were we to idealize one
another less? My dear young lady, you have nothing whatever to complain
to Fate about, I assure you. Unclasp those pretty hands of yours, and
come away from the darkening window. Jack is as good a fellow as you
deserve; don't yearn so much. Sir Galahad, my dear--Sir Galahad rides
and fights in the land that lies beyond the sunset, far enough away
from this noisy little earth where you and I spend much of our time
tittle-tattling, flirting, wearing fine clothes, and going to shows. And
besides, you must remember, Sir Galahad was a bachelor: as an idealist
he was wise. Your Jack is by no means a bad sort of knight, as knights
go nowadays in this un-idyllic world. There is much solid honesty about
him, and he does not pose. He is not exceptional, I grant you; but, my
dear, have you ever tried the exceptional man? Yes, he is very nice in
a drawing-room, and it is interesting to read about him in the Society
papers: you will find most of his good qualities there: take my advice,
don't look into him too closely. You be content with Jack, and thank
heaven he is no worse. We are not saints, we men--none of us, and our
beautiful thoughts, I fear, we write in poetry not action. The White
Knight, my dear young lady, with his pure soul, his heroic heart, his
life's devotion to a noble endeavour, does not live down here to any
great extent. They have tried it, one or two of them, and the world--you
and I: the world is made up of you and I--has generally starved, and
hooted them. There are not many of them left now: do you think you would
care to be the wife of one, supposing one were to be found for you?
Would you care to live with him in two furnished rooms in Clerkenwell,
die with him on a chair bedstead? A century hence they will put up a
statue to him, and you may be honoured as the wife who shared with him
his sufferings. Do you think you are woman enough for that? If not,
thank your stars you have secured, for your own exclusive use, one of us
UNexceptional men, who knows no better than to admire you. YOU are not
exceptional.

And in us ordinary men there is some good. It wants finding, that is
all. We are not so commonplace as you think us. Even your Jack, fond of
his dinner, his conversation four-cornered by the Sporting Press--yes, I
agree he is not interesting, as he sits snoring in the easy-chair; but,
believe it or not, there are the makings of a great hero in Jack, if
Fate would but be kinder to him, and shake him out of his ease.

Dr. Jekyll contained beneath his ample waist-coat not two egos, but
three--not only Hyde but another, a greater than Jekyll--a man as near
to the angels as Hyde was to the demons. These well-fed City men, these
Gaiety Johnnies, these plough-boys, apothecaries, thieves! within each
one lies hidden the hero, did Fate, the sculptor, choose to use his
chisel. That little drab we have noticed now and then, our way taking
us often past the end of the court, there was nothing by which to
distinguish her. She was not over-clean, could use coarse language on
occasion--just the spawn of the streets: take care lest the cloak of our
child should brush her.

One morning the district Coroner, not, generally speaking, a poet
himself, but an adept at discovering poetry buried under unlikely
rubbish-heaps, tells us more about her. She earned six shillings a week,
and upon it supported a bed-ridden mother and three younger children.
She was housewife, nurse, mother, breadwinner, rolled into one. Yes,
there are heroines OUT of fiction.

So loutish Tom has won the Victoria Cross--dashed out under a storm
of bullets and rescued the riddled flag. Who would have thought it of
loutish Tom? The village alehouse one always deemed the goal of his
endeavours. Chance comes to Tom and we find him out. To Harry the Fates
were less kind. A ne'er-do-well was Harry--drank, knocked his wife
about, they say. Bury him, we are well rid of him, he was good for
nothing. Are we sure?

Let us acknowledge we are sinners. We know, those of us who dare to
examine ourselves, that we are capable of every meanness, of every
wrong under the sun. It is by the accident of circumstance, aided by the
helpful watchfulness of the policeman, that our possibilities of crime
are known only to ourselves. But having acknowledged our evil, let us
also acknowledge that we are capable of greatness. The martyrs who faced
death and torture unflinchingly for conscience' sake, were men and women
like ourselves. They had their wrong side. Before the small trials of
daily life they no doubt fell as we fall. By no means were they the pick
of humanity. Thieves many of them had been, and murderers, evil-livers,
and evil-doers. But the nobility was there also, lying dormant, and
their day came. Among them must have been men who had cheated their
neighbours over the counter; men who had been cruel to their wives and
children; selfish, scandal-mongering women. In easier times their virtue
might never have been known to any but their Maker.

In every age and in every period, when and where Fate has called upon
men and women to play the man, human nature has not been found wanting.
They were a poor lot, those French aristocrats that the Terror seized:
cowardly, selfish, greedy had been their lives. Yet there must have been
good, even in them. When the little things that in their little lives
they had thought so great were swept away from them, when they found
themselves face to face with the realities; then even they played the
man. Poor shuffling Charles the First, crusted over with weakness and
folly, deep down in him at last we find the great gentleman.

I like to hear stories of the littleness of great men. I like to think
that Shakespeare was fond of his glass. I even cling to the tale of that
disgraceful final orgie with friend Ben Jonson. Possibly the story may
not be true, but I hope it was. I like to think of him as poacher, as
village ne'er-do-well, denounced by the local grammar-school master,
preached at by the local J. P. of the period. I like to reflect that
Cromwell had a wart on his nose; the thought makes me more contented
with my own features. I like to think that he put sweets upon the
chairs, to see finely-dressed ladies spoil their frocks; to tell myself
that he roared with laughter at the silly jest, like any East End 'Arry
with his Bank Holiday squirt of dirty water. I like to read that Carlyle
threw bacon at his wife and occasionally made himself highly ridiculous
over small annoyances, that would have been smiled at by a man of
well-balanced mind. I think of the fifty foolish things a week _I_ do,
and say to myself, "I, too, am a literary man."

I like to think that even Judas had his moments of nobility, his good
hours when he would willingly have laid down his life for his Master.
Perhaps even to him there came, before the journey's end, the memory of
a voice saying--"Thy sins be forgiven thee." There must have been good,
even in Judas.

Virtue lies like the gold in quartz, there is not very much of it, and
much pains has to be spent on the extracting of it. But Nature seems
to think it worth her while to fashion these huge useless stones, if
in them she may hide away her precious metals. Perhaps, also, in
human nature, she cares little for the mass of dross, provided that by
crushing and cleansing she can extract from it a little gold, sufficient
to repay her for the labour of the world. We wonder why she troubles to
make the stone. Why cannot the gold lie in nuggets on the surface?
But her methods are secrets to us. Perchance there is a reason for the
quartz. Perchance there is a reason for the evil and folly, through
which run, unseen to the careless eye, the tiny veins of virtue.

Aye, the stone predominates, but the gold is there. We claim to have it
valued. The evil that there is in man no tongue can tell. We are vile
among the vile, a little evil people. But we are great. Pile up the
bricks of our sins till the tower knocks at Heaven's gate, calling for
vengeance, yet we are great--with a greatness and a virtue that the
untempted angels may not reach to. The written history of the human
race, it is one long record of cruelty, of falsehood, of oppression.
Think you the world would be spinning round the sun unto this day, if
that written record were all? Sodom, God would have spared had there
been found ten righteous men within its walls. The world is saved by its
just men. History sees them not; she is but the newspaper, a report of
accidents. Judge you life by that? Then you shall believe that the true
Temple of Hymen is the Divorce Court; that men are of two classes
only, the thief and the policeman; that all noble thought is but a
politician's catchword. History sees only the destroying conflagrations,
she takes no thought of the sweet fire-sides. History notes the wrong;
but the patient suffering, the heroic endeavour, that, slowly and
silently, as the soft processes of Nature re-clothing with verdure the
passion-wasted land, obliterate that wrong, she has no eyes for. In
the days of cruelty and oppression--not altogether yet of the past, one
fears--must have lived gentle-hearted men and women, healing with their
help and sympathy the wounds that else the world had died of. After the
thief, riding with jingle of sword and spur, comes, mounted on his ass,
the good Samaritan. The pyramid of the world's evil--God help us! it
rises high, shutting out almost the sun. But the record of man's good
deeds, it lies written in the laughter of the children, in the light of
lovers' eyes, in the dreams of the young men; it shall not be forgotten.
The fires of persecution served as torches to show Heaven the heroism
that was in man. From the soil of tyranny sprang self-sacrifice, and
daring for the Right. Cruelty! what is it but the vile manure, making
the ground ready for the flowers of tenderness and pity? Hate and
Anger shriek to one another across the ages, but the voices of Love and
Comfort are none the less existent that they speak in whispers, lips to
ear.

We have done wrong, oh, ye witnessing Heavens, but we have done good. We
claim justice. We have laid down our lives for our friends: greater love
hath no man than this. We have fought for the Right. We have died for
the Truth--as the Truth seemed to us. We have done noble deeds; we have
lived noble lives; we have comforted the sorrowful; we have succoured
the weak. Failing, falling, making in our blindness many a false step,
yet we have striven. For the sake of the army of just men and true, for
the sake of the myriads of patient, loving women, for the sake of the
pitiful and helpful, for the sake of the good that lies hidden within
us,--spare us, O Lord.



ON THE MOTHERLINESS OF MAN

It was only a piece of broken glass. From its shape and colour, I should
say it had, in its happier days, formed portion of a cheap scent-bottle.
Lying isolated on the grass, shone upon by the early morning sun, it
certainly appeared at its best. It attracted him.

He cocked his head, and looked at it with his right eye. Then he hopped
round to the other side, and looked at it with his left eye. With either
optic it seemed equally desirable.

That he was an inexperienced young rook goes without saying. An older
bird would not have given a second glance to the thing. Indeed, one
would have thought his own instinct might have told him that broken
glass would be a mistake in a bird's nest. But its glitter drew him too
strongly for resistance. I am inclined to suspect that at some time,
during the growth of his family tree, there must have occurred a
mesalliance, perhaps worse. Possibly a strain of magpie blood?--one
knows the character of magpies, or rather their lack of character--and
such things have happened. But I will not pursue further so painful a
train: I throw out the suggestion as a possible explanation, that is
all.

He hopped nearer. Was it a sweet illusion, this flashing fragment of
rainbow; a beautiful vision to fade upon approach, typical of so much
that is un-understandable in rook life? He made a dart forward and
tapped it with his beak. No, it was real--as fine a lump of jagged green
glass as any newly-married rook could desire, and to be had for the
taking. SHE would be pleased with it. He was a well-meaning bird; the
mere upward inclination of his tail suggested earnest though possibly
ill-directed endeavour.

He turned it over. It was an awkward thing to carry; it had so very many
corners. But he succeeded at last in getting it firmly between his beak,
and in haste, lest some other bird should seek to dispute with him its
possession, at once flew off with it.

A second rook who had been watching the proceedings from the lime tree,
called to a third who was passing. Even with my limited knowledge of the
language I found it easy to follow the conversation: it was so obvious.

"Issachar!"

"Hallo!"

"What do you think? Zebulan's found a piece of broken bottle. He's going
to line his nest with it."

"No!"

"God's truth. Look at him. There he goes, he's got it in his beak."

"Well, I'm ----!"

And they both burst into a laugh.

But Zebulan heeded them not. If he overheard, he probably put down the
whole dialogue to jealousy. He made straight for his tree. By standing
with my left cheek pressed close against the window-pane, I was able to
follow him. He is building in what we call the Paddock elms--a suburb
commenced only last season, but rapidly growing. I wanted to see what
his wife would say.

At first she said nothing. He laid it carefully down on the branch near
the half-finished nest, and she stretched up her head and looked at it.

Then she looked at him. For about a minute neither spoke. I could see
that the situation was becoming strained. When she did open her beak,
it was with a subdued tone, that had a vein of weariness running through
it.

"What is it?" she asked.

He was evidently chilled by her manner. As I have explained, he is an
inexperienced young rook. This is clearly his first wife, and he stands
somewhat in awe of her.

"Well, I don't exactly know what it's CALLED," he answered.

"Oh."

"No. But it's pretty, isn't it?" he added. He moved it, trying to get it
where the sun might reach it. It was evident he was admitting to himself
that, seen in the shade, it lost much of its charm.

"Oh, yes; very pretty," was the rejoinder; "perhaps you'll tell me what
you're going to do with it."

The question further discomforted him. It was growing upon him that this
thing was not going to be the success he had anticipated. It would be
necessary to proceed warily.

"Of course, it's not a twig," he began.

"I see it isn't."

"No. You see, the nest is nearly all twigs as it is, and I thought--"

"Oh, you did think."

"Yes, my dear. I thought--unless you are of opinion that it's too
showy--I thought we might work it in somewhere."

Then she flared out.

"Oh, did you? You thought that a good idea. An A1 prize idiot I seem to
have married, I do. You've been gone twenty minutes, and you bring me
back an eight-cornered piece of broken glass, which you think we might
'work into' the nest. You'd like to see me sitting on it for a month,
you would. You think it would make a nice bed for the children to lie
on. You don't think you could manage to find a packet of mixed pins
if you went down again, I suppose. They'd look pretty 'worked in'
somewhere, don't you think?--Here, get out of my way. I'll finish this
nest by myself." She always had been short with him.

She caught up the offending object--it was a fairly heavy lump of
glass--and flung it out of the tree with all her force. I heard it crash
through the cucumber frame. That makes the seventh pane of glass broken
in that cucumber frame this week. The couple in the branch above are the
worst. Their plan of building is the most extravagant, the most absurd
I ever heard of. They hoist up ten times as much material as they can
possibly use; you might think they were going to build a block, and let
it out in flats to the other rooks. Then what they don't want they
fling down again. Suppose we built on such a principle? Suppose a
human husband and wife were to start erecting their house in Piccadilly
Circus, let us say; and suppose the man spent all the day steadily
carrying bricks up the ladder while his wife laid them, never asking
her how many she wanted, whether she didn't think he had brought
up sufficient, but just accumulating bricks in a senseless fashion,
bringing up every brick he could find. And then suppose, when evening
came, and looking round, they found they had some twenty cart-loads of
bricks lying unused upon the scaffold, they were to commence flinging
them down into Waterloo Place. They would get themselves into trouble;
somebody would be sure to speak to them about it. Yet that is precisely
what those birds do, and nobody says a word to them. They are supposed
to have a President. He lives by himself in the yew tree outside the
morning-room window. What I want to know is what he is supposed to be
good for. This is the sort of thing I want him to look into. I would
like him to be worming underneath one evening when those two birds are
tidying up: perhaps he would do something then. I have done all I can. I
have thrown stones at them, that, in the course of nature, have returned
to earth again, breaking more glass. I have blazed at them with a
revolver; but they have come to regard this proceeding as a mere
expression of light-heartedness on my part, possibly confusing me with
the Arab of the Desert, who, I am given to understand, expresses himself
thus in moments of deep emotion. They merely retire to a safe distance
to watch me; no doubt regarding me as a poor performer, inasmuch as I do
not also dance and shout between each shot. I have no objection to their
building there, if they only would build sensibly. I want somebody to
speak to them to whom they will pay attention.

You can hear them in the evening, discussing the matter of this surplus
stock.

"Don't you work any more," he says, as he comes up with the last load,
"you'll tire yourself."

"Well, I am feeling a bit done up," she answers, as she hops out of the
nest and straightens her back.

"You're a bit peckish, too, I expect," he adds sympathetically. "I know
I am. We will have a scratch down, and be off."

"What about all this stuff?" she asks, while titivating herself; "we'd
better not leave it about, it looks so untidy."

"Oh, we'll soon get rid of that," he answers. "I'll have that down in a
jiffy."

To help him, she seizes a stick and is about to drop it. He darts
forward and snatches it from her.

"Don't you waste that one," he cries, "that's a rare one, that is. You
see me hit the old man with it."

And he does. What the gardener says, I will leave you to imagine.

Judged from its structure, the rook family is supposed to come next in
intelligence to man himself. Judging from the intelligence displayed by
members of certain human families with whom I have come in contact, I
can quite believe it. That rooks talk I am positive. No one can spend
half-an-hour watching a rookery without being convinced of this. Whether
the talk be always wise and witty, I am not prepared to maintain; but
that there is a good deal of it is certain. A young French gentleman of
my acquaintance, who visited England to study the language, told me that
the impression made upon him by his first social evening in London was
that of a parrot-house. Later on, when he came to comprehend, he,
of course, recognized the brilliancy and depth of the average London
drawing-room talk; but that is how, not comprehending, it impressed
him at first. Listening to the riot of a rookery is much the same
experience. The conversation to us sounds meaningless; the rooks
themselves would probably describe it as sparkling.

There is a Misanthrope I know who hardly ever goes into Society. I
argued the question with him one day. "Why should I?" he replied; "I
know, say, a dozen men and women with whom intercourse is a pleasure;
they have ideas of their own which they are not afraid to voice. To
rub brains with such is a rare and goodly thing, and I thank Heaven for
their friendship; but they are sufficient for my leisure. What more do
I require? What is this 'Society' of which you all make so much ado?
I have sampled it, and I find it unsatisfying. Analyze it into its
elements, what is it? Some person I know very slightly, who knows me
very slightly, asks me to what you call an 'At Home.' The evening comes,
I have done my day's work and I have dined. I have been to a theatre or
concert, or I have spent a pleasant hour or so with a friend. I am more
inclined for bed than anything else, but I pull myself together, dress,
and drive to the house. While I am taking off my hat and coat in the
hall, a man enters I met a few hours ago at the Club. He is a man I have
very little opinion of, and he, probably, takes a similar view of me.
Our minds have no thought in common, but as it is necessary to talk, I
tell him it is a warm evening. Perhaps it is a warm evening, perhaps
it isn't; in either case he agrees with me. I ask him if he is going
to Ascot. I do not care a straw whether he is going to Ascot or not. He
says he is not quite sure, but asks me what chance Passion Flower has
for the Thousand Guineas. I know he doesn't value my opinion on the
subject at a brass farthing--he would be a fool if he did, but I cudgel
my brains to reply to him, as though he were going to stake his shirt on
my advice. We reach the first floor, and are mutually glad to get rid of
one another. I catch my hostess' eye. She looks tired and worried; she
would be happier in bed, only she doesn't know it. She smiles sweetly,
but it is clear she has not the slightest idea who I am, and is waiting
to catch my name from the butler. I whisper it to him. Perhaps he will
get it right, perhaps he won't; it is quite immaterial. They have asked
two hundred and forty guests, some seventy-five of whom they know by
sight, for the rest, any chance passer-by, able, as the theatrical
advertisements say, 'to dress and behave as a gentleman,' would do every
bit as well. Indeed, I sometimes wonder why people go to the trouble
and expense of invitation cards at all. A sandwich-man outside the door
would answer the purpose. 'Lady Tompkins, At Home, this afternoon
from three to seven; Tea and Music. Ladies and Gentlemen admitted on
presentation of visiting card. Afternoon dress indispensable.' The
crowd is the thing wanted; as for the items, well, tell me, what is the
difference, from the Society point of view, between one man in a black
frock-coat and another?

"I remember being once invited to a party at a house in Lancaster Gate.
I had met the woman at a picnic. In the same green frock and parasol I
might have recognized her the next time I saw her. In any other clothes
I did not expect to. My cabman took me to the house opposite, where
they were also giving a party. It made no difference to any of us. The
hostess--I never learnt her name--said it was very good of me to come,
and then shunted me off on to a Colonial Premier (I did not catch his
name, and he did not catch mine, which was not extraordinary, seeing
that my hostess did not know it) who, she whispered to me, had
come over, from wherever it was (she did not seem to be very sure)
principally to make my acquaintance. Half through the evening, and
by accident, I discovered my mistake, but judged it too late to say
anything then. I met a couple of people I knew, had a little supper with
them, and came away. The next afternoon I met my right hostess--the lady
who should have been my hostess. She thanked me effusively for having
sacrificed the previous evening to her and her friends; she said she
knew how seldom I went out: that made her feel my kindness all the more.
She told me that the Brazilian Minister's wife had told her that I was
the cleverest man she had ever met. I often think I should like to meet
that man, whoever he may be, and thank him.

"But perhaps the butler does pronounce my name rightly, and perhaps
my hostess actually does recognize me. She smiles, and says she was so
afraid I was not coming. She implies that all the other guests are
but as a feather in her scales of joy compared with myself. I smile in
return, wondering to myself how I look when I do smile. I have never
had the courage to face my own smile in the looking-glass. I notice the
Society smile of other men, and it is not reassuring. I murmur something
about my not having been likely to forget this evening; in my turn,
seeking to imply that I have been looking forward to it for weeks. A few
men shine at this sort of thing, but they are a small percentage, and
without conceit I regard myself as no bigger a fool than the average
male. Not knowing what else to say, I tell her also that it is a warm
evening. She smiles archly as though there were some hidden witticism in
the remark, and I drift away, feeling ashamed of myself. To talk as an
idiot when you ARE an idiot brings no discomfort; to behave as an idiot
when you have sufficient sense to know it, is painful. I hide myself in
the crowd, and perhaps I'll meet a woman I was introduced to three weeks
ago at a picture gallery. We don't know each other's names, but, both
of us feeling lonesome, we converse, as it is called. If she be the
ordinary type of woman, she asks me if I am going on to the Johnsons'.
I tell her no. We stand silent for a moment, both thinking what next to
say. She asks me if I was at the Thompsons' the day before yesterday. I
again tell her no. I begin to feel dissatisfied with myself that I was
not at the Thompsons'. Trying to get even with her, I ask her if she is
going to the Browns' next Monday. (There are no Browns, she will have to
say, No.) She is not, and her tone suggests that a social stigma rests
upon the Browns. I ask her if she has been to Barnum's Circus; she
hasn't, but is going. I give her my impressions of Barnum's Circus,
which are precisely the impressions of everybody else who has seen the
show.

"Or if luck be against me, she is possibly a smart woman, that is to
say, her conversation is a running fire of spiteful remarks at the
expense of every one she knows, and of sneers at the expense of every
one she doesn't. I always feel I could make a better woman myself, out
of a bottle of vinegar and a penn'orth of mixed pins. Yet it usually
takes one about ten minutes to get away from her.

"Even when, by chance, one meets a flesh-and-blood man or woman at such
gatherings, it is not the time or place for real conversation; and as
for the shadows, what person in their senses would exhaust a single
brain cell upon such? I remember a discussion once concerning Tennyson,
considered as a social item. The dullest and most densely-stupid bore I
ever came across was telling how he had sat next to Tennyson at dinner.
'I found him a most uninteresting man,' so he confided to us; 'he
had nothing to say for himself--absolutely nothing.' I should like to
resuscitate Dr. Samuel Johnson for an evening, and throw him into one of
these 'At Homes' of yours."

My friend is an admitted misanthrope, as I have explained; but one
cannot dismiss him as altogether unjust. That there is a certain mystery
about Society's craving for Society must be admitted. I stood one
evening trying to force my way into the supper room of a house in
Berkeley Square. A lady, hot and weary, a few yards in front of me was
struggling to the same goal.

"Why," remarked she to her companion, "why do we come to these places,
and fight like a Bank Holiday crowd for eighteenpenny-worth of food?"

"We come here," replied the man, whom I judged to be a philosopher, "to
say we've been here."

I met A----- the other evening, and asked him to dine with me on Monday.
I don't know why I ask A----- to dine with me, but about once a month I
do. He is an uninteresting man.

"I can't," he said, "I've got to go to the B-----s'; confounded
nuisance, it will be infernally dull."

"Why go?" I asked.

"I really don't know," he replied.

A little later B----- met me, and asked me to dine with him on Monday.

"I can't," I answered, "some friends are coming to us that evening. It's
a duty dinner, you know the sort of thing."

"I wish you could have managed it," he said, "I shall have no one to
talk to. The A-----s are coming, and they bore me to death."

"Why do you ask him?" I suggested.

"Upon my word, I really don't know," he replied.

But to return to our rooks. We were speaking of their social instincts.
Some dozen of them--the "scallywags" and bachelors of the community,
I judge them to be--have started a Club. For a month past I have been
trying to understand what the affair was. Now I know: it is a Club.

And for their Club House they have chosen, of course, the tree nearest
my bedroom window. I can guess how that came about; it was my own fault,
I never thought of it. About two months ago, a single rook--suffering
from indigestion or an unhappy marriage, I know not--chose this tree one
night for purposes of reflection. He woke me up: I felt angry. I opened
the window, and threw an empty soda-water bottle at him. Of course it
did not hit him, and finding nothing else to throw, I shouted at him,
thinking to frighten him away. He took no notice, but went on talking
to himself. I shouted louder, and woke up my own dog. The dog barked
furiously, and woke up most things within a quarter of a mile. I had to
go down with a boot-jack--the only thing I could find handy--to soothe
the dog. Two hours later I fell asleep from exhaustion. I left the rook
still cawing.

The next night he came again. I should say he was a bird with a sense of
humour. Thinking this might happen, I had, however, taken the precaution
to have a few stones ready. I opened the window wide, and fired them one
after another into the tree. After I had closed the window, he hopped
down nearer, and cawed louder than ever. I think he wanted me to throw
more stones at him: he appeared to regard the whole proceeding as a
game. On the third night, as I heard nothing of him, I flattered myself
that, in spite of his bravado, I had discouraged him. I might have known
rooks better.

What happened when the Club was being formed, I take it, was this:

"Where shall we fix upon for our Club House?" said the secretary, all
other points having been disposed of. One suggested this tree, another
suggested that. Then up spoke this particular rook:

"I'll tell you where," said he, "in the yew tree opposite the porch. And
I'll tell you for why. Just about an hour before dawn a man comes to the
window over the porch, dressed in the most comical costume you ever set
eyes upon. I'll tell you what he reminds me of--those little statues
that men use for decorating fields. He opens the window, and throws
a lot of things out upon the lawn, and then he dances and sings. It's
awfully interesting, and you can see it all from the yew tree."

That, I am convinced, is how the Club came to fix upon the tree next my
window. I have had the satisfaction of denying them the exhibition they
anticipated, and I cheer myself with the hope that they have visited
their disappointment upon their misleader.

There is a difference between Rook Clubs and ours. In our clubs the
respectable members arrive early, and leave at a reasonable hour; in
Rook Clubs, it would appear, this principle is reversed. The Mad Hatter
would have liked this Club--it would have been a club after his own
heart. It opens at half-past two in the morning, and the first to
arrive are the most disreputable members. In Rook-land the rowdy-dowdy,
randy-dandy, rollicky-ranky boys get up very early in the morning and go
to bed in the afternoon. Towards dawn, the older, more orderly members
drop in for reasonable talk, and the Club becomes more respectable. The
tree closes about six. For the first two hours, however, the goings-on
are disgraceful. The proceedings, as often as not, open with a fight. If
no two gentlemen can be found to oblige with a fight, the next noisiest
thing to fall back upon is held to be a song. It is no satisfaction to
me to be told that rooks cannot sing. _I_ know that, without the trouble
of referring to the natural history book. It is the rook who does not
know it; HE thinks he can; and as a matter of fact, he does. You can
criticize his singing, you can call it what you like, but you can't stop
it--at least, that is my experience. The song selected is sure to be
one with a chorus. Towards the end it becomes mainly chorus, unless the
soloist be an extra powerful bird, determined to insist upon his rights.

The President knows nothing of this Club. He gets up himself about
seven--three hours after all the others have finished breakfast--and
then fusses round under the impression that he is waking up the colony,
the fat-headed old fool. He is the poorest thing in Presidents I have
ever heard of. A South American Republic would supply a better article.
The rooks themselves, the married majority, fathers of families,
respectable nestholders, are as indignant as I am. I hear complaints
from all quarters.

Reflection comes to one as, towards the close of these chill afternoons
in early spring, one leans upon the paddock gate watching the noisy
bustling in the bare elms.

So the earth is growing green again, and love is come again unto the
hearts of us old sober-coated fellows. Oh, Madam, your feathers gleam
wondrous black, and your bonnie bright eye stabs deep. Come, sit by our
side, and we'll tell you a tale such as rook never told before. It's
the tale of a nest in a topmost bough, that sways in the good west wind.
It's strong without, but it's soft within, where the little green eggs
lie safe. And there sits in that nest a lady sweet, and she caws with
joy, for, afar, she sees the rook she loves the best. Oh, he has been
east, and he has been west, and his crop it is full of worms and slugs,
and they are all for her.

We are old, old rooks, so many of us. The white is mingling with the
purple black upon our breasts. We have seen these tall elms grow from
saplings; we have seen the old trees fall and die. Yet each season come
to us again the young thoughts. So we mate and build and gather that
again our old, old hearts may quiver to the thin cry of our newborn.

Mother Nature has but one care, the children. We talk of Love as the
Lord of Life: it is but the Minister. Our novels end where Nature's tale
begins. The drama that our curtain falls upon, is but the prologue to
her play. How the ancient Dame must laugh as she listens to the prattle
of her children. "Is Marriage a Failure?" "Is Life worth Living?"
"The New Woman versus the Old." So, perhaps, the waves of the Atlantic
discuss vehemently whether they shall flow east or west.

Motherhood is the law of the Universe. The whole duty of man is to be a
mother. We labour: to what end? the children--the woman in the home, the
man in the community. The nation takes thought for its future: why? In a
few years its statesmen, its soldiers, its merchants, its toilers,
will be gathered unto their fathers. Why trouble we ourselves about the
future? The country pours its blood and treasure into the earth that the
children may reap. Foolish Jacques Bonhomie, his addled brain full
of dreams, rushes with bloody hands to give his blood for Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity. He will not live to see, except in vision, the new
world he gives his bones to build--even his spinning word-whipped head
knows that. But the children! they shall live sweeter lives. The peasant
leaves his fireside to die upon the battle-field. What is it to him,
a grain in the human sand, that Russia should conquer the East, that
Germany should be united, that the English flag should wave above new
lands? the heritage his fathers left him shall be greater for his sons.
Patriotism! what is it but the mother instinct of a people?

Take it that the decree has gone forth from Heaven: There shall be
no more generations, with this life the world shall die. Think you we
should move another hand? The ships would rot in the harbours, the grain
would rot in the ground. Should we paint pictures, write books, make
music? hemmed in by that onward creeping sea of silence. Think you with
what eyes husband and wife would look on one another. Think you of the
wooing--the spring of Love dried up; love only a pool of stagnant water.

How little we seem to realize this foundation of our life. Herein, if
nowhere else, lies our eternity. This Ego shall never die--unless the
human race from beginning to end be but a passing jest of the Gods, to
be swept aside when wearied of, leaving room for new experiments. These
features of mine--we will not discuss their aesthetic value--shall
never disappear; modified, varied, but in essential the same, they shall
continue in ever increasing circles to the end of Time. This temperament
of mine--this good and evil that is in me, it shall grow with every age,
spreading ever wider, combining, amalgamating. I go into my children and
my children's children, I am eternal. I am they, they are I. The tree
withers and you clear the ground, thankful if out of its dead limbs you
can make good firewood; but its spirit, its life, is in fifty saplings.
The tree dies not, it changes.

These men and women that pass me in the street, this one hurrying to his
office, this one to his club, another to his love, they are the mothers
of the world to come.

This greedy trickster in stocks and shares, he cheats, he lies, he
wrongs all men--for what? Follow him to his luxurious home in the
suburbs: what do you find? A man with children on his knee, telling them
stories, promising them toys. His anxious, sordid life, for what object
is it lived? That these children may possess the things that he thinks
good for them. Our very vices, side by side with our virtues, spring
from this one root, Motherhood. It is the one seed of the Universe. The
planets are but children of the sun, the moon but an offspring of the
earth, stone of her stone, iron of her iron. What is the Great Centre
of us all, life animate and inanimate--if any life be inanimate? Is the
eternal universe one dim figure, Motherhood, filling all space?

This scheming Mother of Mayfair, angling for a rich son-in-law! Not a
pleasing portrait to look upon, from one point of view. Let us look at
it, for a moment, from another. How weary she must be! This is her third
"function" to-night; the paint is running off her poor face. She has
been snubbed a dozen times by her social superiors, openly insulted by
a Duchess; yet she bears it with a patient smile. It is a pitiful
ambition, hers: it is that her child shall marry money, shall have
carriages and many servants, live in Park Lane, wear diamonds, see her
name in the Society Papers. At whatever cost to herself, her daughter
shall, if possible, enjoy these things. She could so much more
comfortably go to bed, and leave the child to marry some well-to-do
commercial traveller. Justice, Reader, even for such. Her sordid
scheming is but the deformed child of Motherhood.

Motherhood! it is the gamut of God's orchestra, savageness and cruelty
at the one end, tenderness and self-sacrifice at the other.

The sparrow-hawk fights the hen: he seeking food for his brood, she
defending hers with her life. The spider sucks the fly to feed its
myriad young; the cat tortures the mouse to give its still throbbing
carcase to her kittens, and man wrongs man for children's sake. Perhaps
when the riot of the world reaches us whole, not broken, we shall learn
it is a harmony, each jangling discord fallen into its place around the
central theme, Motherhood.



ON THE INADVISABILITY OF FOLLOWING ADVICE

I was pacing the Euston platform late one winter's night, waiting for
the last train to Watford, when I noticed a man cursing an automatic
machine. Twice he shook his fist at it. I expected every moment to see
him strike it. Naturally curious, I drew near softly. I wanted to catch
what he was saying. However, he heard my approaching footsteps, and
turned on me. "Are you the man," said he, "who was here just now?"

"Just where?" I replied. I had been pacing up and down the platform for
about five minutes.

"Why here, where we are standing," he snapped out. "Where do you think
'here' is--over there?" He seemed irritable.

"I may have passed this spot in the course of my peregrinations, if that
is what you mean," I replied. I spoke with studied politeness; my idea
was to rebuke his rudeness.

"I mean," he answered, "are you the man that spoke to me, just a minute
ago?"

"I am not that man," I said; "good-night."

"Are you sure?" he persisted.

"One is not likely to forget talking to you," I retorted.

His tone had been most offensive. "I beg your pardon," he replied
grudgingly. "I thought you looked like the man who spoke to me a minute
or so ago."

I felt mollified; he was the only other man on the platform, and I had
a quarter of an hour to wait. "No, it certainly wasn't me," I returned
genially, but ungrammatically. "Why, did you want him?"

"Yes, I did," he answered. "I put a penny in the slot here," he
continued, feeling apparently the need of unburdening himself: "wanted
a box of matches. I couldn't get anything put, and I was shaking the
machine, and swearing at it, as one does, when there came along a man,
about your size, and--you're SURE it wasn't you?"

"Positive," I again ungrammatically replied; "I would tell you if it had
been. What did he do?"

"Well, he saw what had happened, or guessed it. He said, 'They are
troublesome things, those machines; they want understanding.' I said,
'They want taking up and flinging into the sea, that's what they want!'
I was feeling mad because I hadn't a match about me, and I use a lot. He
said, 'They stick sometimes; the thing to do is to put another penny in;
the weight of the first penny is not always sufficient. The second penny
loosens the drawer and tumbles out itself; so that you get your purchase
together with your first penny back again. I have often succeeded that
way.' Well, it seemed a silly explanation, but he talked as if he had
been weaned by an automatic machine, and I was sawney enough to listen
to him. I dropped in what I thought was another penny. I have just
discovered it was a two-shilling piece. The fool was right to a certain
extent; I have got something out. I have got this."

He held it towards me; I looked at it. It was a packet of Everton
toffee.

"Two and a penny," he remarked, bitterly. "I'll sell it for a third of
what it cost me."

"You have put your money into the wrong machine," I suggested.

"Well, I know that!" he answered, a little crossly, as it seemed to
me--he was not a nice man: had there been any one else to talk to I
should have left him. "It isn't losing the money I mind so much; it's
getting this damn thing, that annoys me. If I could find that idiot Id
ram it down his throat."

We walked to the end of the platform, side by side, in silence.

"There are people like that," he broke out, as we turned, "people who
will go about, giving advice. I'll be getting six months over one of
them, I'm always afraid. I remember a pony I had once." (I judged the
man to be a small farmer; he talked in a wurzelly tone. I don't know if
you understand what I mean, but an atmosphere of wurzels was the thing
that somehow he suggested.) "It was a thoroughbred Welsh pony, as sound
a little beast as ever stepped. I'd had him out to grass all the winter,
and one day in the early spring I thought I'd take him for a run. I had
to go to Amersham on business. I put him into the cart, and drove him
across; it is just ten miles from my place. He was a bit uppish, and had
lathered himself pretty freely by the time we reached the town.

"A man was at the door of the hotel. He says, 'That's a good pony of
yours.'

"'Pretty middling,' I says.

"'It doesn't do to over-drive 'em, when they're young,' he says.

"I says, 'He's done ten miles, and I've done most of the pulling. I
reckon I'm a jolly sight more exhausted than he is.

"I went inside and did my business, and when I came out the man was
still there. 'Going back up the hill?' he says to me.

"Somehow, I didn't cotton to him from the beginning. 'Well, I've got to
get the other side of it,' I says, 'and unless you know any patent way
of getting over a hill without going up it, I reckon I am.'

"He says, 'You take my advice: give him a pint of old ale before you
start.'

"'Old ale,' I says; 'why he's a teetotaler.'

"'Never you mind that,' he answers; 'you give him a pint of old ale. I
know these ponies; he's a good 'un, but he ain't set. A pint of old
ale, and he'll take you up that hill like a cable tramway, and not hurt
himself.'

"I don't know what it is about this class of man. One asks oneself
afterwards why one didn't knock his hat over his eyes and run his head
into the nearest horse-trough. But at the time one listens to them.
I got a pint of old ale in a hand-bowl, and brought it out. About
half-a-dozen chaps were standing round, and of course there was a good
deal of chaff.

"'You're starting him on the downward course, Jim,' says one of them.
'He'll take to gambling, rob a bank, and murder his mother. That's
always the result of a glass of ale, 'cording to the tracts.'

"'He won't drink it like that,' says another; 'it's as flat as ditch
water. Put a head on it for him.'

"'Ain't you got a cigar for him?' says a third.

"'A cup of coffee and a round of buttered toast would do him a sight
more good, a cold day like this,' says a fourth.

"I'd half a mind then to throw the stuff away, or drink it myself; it
seemed a piece of bally nonsense, giving good ale to a four-year-old
pony; but the moment the beggar smelt the bowl he reached out his head,
and lapped it up as though he'd been a Christian; and I jumped into the
cart and started off, amid cheers. We got up the hill pretty steady.
Then the liquor began to work into his head. I've taken home a drunken
man more than once and there's pleasanter jobs than that. I've seen a
drunken woman, and they're worse. But a drunken Welsh pony I never want
to have anything more to do with so long as I live. Having four legs he
managed to hold himself up; but as to guiding himself, he couldn't;
and as for letting me do it, he wouldn't. First we were one side of the
road, and then we were the other. When we were not either side, we were
crossways in the middle. I heard a bicycle bell behind me, but I dared
not turn my head. All I could do was to shout to the fellow to keep
where he was.

"'I want to pass you,' he sang out, so soon as he was near enough.

"'Well, you can't do it,' I called back.

"'Why can't I?' he answered. 'How much of the road do YOU want?'

"'All of it and a bit over,' I answered him, 'for this job, and nothing
in the way.'

"He followed me for half-a-mile, abusing me; and every time he thought
he saw a chance he tried to pass me. But the pony was always a bit too
smart for him. You might have thought the brute was doing it on purpose.

"'You're not fit to be driving,' he shouted. He was quite right; I
wasn't. I was feeling just about dead beat.

"'What do you think you are?' he continued, 'the charge of the Light
Brigade?' (He was a common sort of fellow.) 'Who sent YOU home with the
washing?'

"Well, he was making me wild by this time. 'What's the good of talking
to me?' I shouted back. 'Come and blackguard the pony if you want to
blackguard anybody. I've got all I can do without the help of that alarm
clock of yours. Go away, you're only making him worse.'

"'What's the matter with the pony?' he called out.

"'Can't you see?' I answered. 'He's drunk.'

"Well, of course it sounded foolish; the truth often does.

"'One of you's drunk,' he retorted; 'for two pins I'd come and haul you
out of the cart.'

"I wish to goodness he had; I'd have given something to be out of that
cart. But he didn't have the chance. At that moment the pony gave a
sudden swerve; and I take it he must have been a bit too close. I heard
a yell and a curse, and at the same instant I was splashed from head to
foot with ditch water. Then the brute bolted. A man was coming along,
asleep on the top of a cart-load of windsor chairs. It's disgraceful the
way those wagoners go to sleep; I wonder there are not more accidents. I
don't think he ever knew what had happened to him. I couldn't look round
to see what became of him; I only saw him start. Half-way down the hill
a policeman holla'd to me to stop. I heard him shouting out something
about furious driving. Half-a-mile this side of Chesham we came upon a
girls' school walking two and two--a 'crocodile' they call it, I think.
I bet you those girls are still talking about it. It must have taken the
old woman a good hour to collect them together again.

"It was market-day in Chesham; and I guess there has not been a busier
market-day in Chesham before or since. We went through the town at about
thirty miles an hour. I've never seen Chesham so lively--it's a sleepy
hole as a rule. A mile outside the town I sighted the High Wycombe
coach. I didn't feel I minded much; I had got to that pass when it
didn't seem to matter to me what happened; I only felt curious. A dozen
yards off the coach the pony stopped dead; that jerked me off the seat
to the bottom of the cart. I couldn't get up, because the seat was on
top of me. I could see nothing but the sky, and occasionally the head
of the pony, when he stood upon his hind legs. But I could hear what the
driver of the coach said, and I judged he was having trouble also.

"'Take that damn circus out of the road,' he shouted. If he'd had
any sense he'd have seen how helpless I was. I could hear his cattle
plunging about; they are like that, horses--if they see one fool, then
they all want to be fools.

"'Take it home, and tie it up to its organ,' shouted the guard.

"Then an old woman went into hysterics, and began laughing like an
hyena. That started the pony off again, and, as far as I could calculate
by watching the clouds, we did about another four miles at the gallop.
Then he thought he'd try to jump a gate, and finding, I suppose, that
the cart hampered him, he started kicking it to pieces. I'd never have
thought a cart could have been separated into so many pieces, if I
hadn't seen it done. When he had got rid of everything but half a wheel
and the splashboard he bolted again. I remained behind with the other
ruins, and glad I was to get a little rest. He came back later in
the afternoon, and I was pleased to sell him the next week for a
five-pound-note: it cost me about another ten to repair myself.

"To this day I am chaffed about that pony, and the local temperance
society made a lecture out of me. That's what comes of following
advice."

I sympathized with him. I have suffered from advice myself. I have a
friend, a City man, whom I meet occasionally. One of his most
ardent passions in life is to make my fortune. He button-holes me in
Threadneedle Street. "The very man I wanted to see," he says; "I'm going
to let you in for a good thing. We are getting up a little syndicate."
He is for ever "getting up" a little syndicate, and for every hundred
pounds you put into it you take a thousand out. Had I gone into all
his little syndicates, I could have been worth at the present moment,
I reckon, two million five hundred thousand pounds. But I have not gone
into all his little syndicates. I went into one, years ago, when I was
younger. I am still in it; my friend is confident that my holding, later
on, will yield me thousands. Being, however, hard-up for ready money,
I am willing to part with my share to any deserving person at a genuine
reduction, upon a cash basis. Another friend of mine knows another man
who is "in the know" as regards racing matters. I suppose most people
possess a friend of this type. He is generally very popular just
before a race, and extremely unpopular immediately afterwards. A third
benefactor of mine is an enthusiast upon the subject of diet. One day he
brought me something in a packet, and pressed it into my hand with the
air of a man who is relieving you of all your troubles.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Open it and see," he answered, in the tone of a pantomime fairy.

I opened it and looked, but I was no wiser.

"It's tea," he explained.

"Oh!" I replied; "I was wondering if it could be snuff."

"Well, it's not exactly tea," he continued, "it's a sort of tea. You
take one cup of that--one cup, and you will never care for any other
kind of tea again."

He was quite right, I took one cup. After drinking it I felt I didn't
care for any other tea. I felt I didn't care for anything, except to die
quietly and inoffensively. He called on me a week later.

"You remember that tea I gave you?" he said.

"Distinctly," I answered; "I've got the taste of it in my mouth now."

"Did it upset you?" he asked.

"It annoyed me at the time," I answered; "but that's all over now."

He seemed thoughtful. "You were quite correct," he answered; "it WAS
snuff, a very special snuff, sent me all the way from India."

"I can't say I liked it," I replied.

"A stupid mistake of mine," he went on--"I must have mixed up the
packets!"

"Oh, accidents will happen," I said, "and you won't make another
mistake, I feel sure; so far as I am concerned."

We can all give advice. I had the honour once of serving an old
gentleman whose profession it was to give legal advice, and excellent
legal advice he always gave. In common with most men who know the
law, he had little respect for it. I have heard him say to a would-be
litigant--

"My dear sir, if a villain stopped me in the street and demanded of me
my watch and chain, I should refuse to give it to him. If he thereupon
said, 'Then I shall take it from you by brute force,' I should, old as
I am, I feel convinced, reply to him, 'Come on.' But if, on the other
hand, he were to say to me, 'Very well, then I shall take proceedings
against you in the Court of Queen's Bench to compel you to give it up
to me,' I should at once take it from my pocket, press it into his hand,
and beg of him to say no more about the matter. And I should consider I
was getting off cheaply."

Yet that same old gentleman went to law himself with his next-door
neighbour over a dead poll parrot that wasn't worth sixpence to anybody,
and spent from first to last a hundred pounds, if he spent a penny.

"I know I'm a fool," he confessed. "I have no positive proof that it WAS
his cat; but I'll make him pay for calling me an Old Bailey Attorney,
hanged if I don't!"

We all know how the pudding OUGHT to be made. We do not profess to be
able to make it: that is not our business. Our business is to criticize
the cook. It seems our business to criticize so many things that it is
not our business to do. We are all critics nowadays. I have my opinion
of you, Reader, and you possibly have your own opinion of me. I do not
seek to know it; personally, I prefer the man who says what he has to
say of me behind my back. I remember, when on a lecturing tour, the
ground-plan of the hall often necessitated my mingling with the audience
as they streamed out. This never happened but I would overhear somebody
in front of me whisper to his or her companion--"Take care, he's just
behind you." I always felt so grateful to that whisperer.

At a Bohemian Club, I was once drinking coffee with a Novelist, who
happened to be a broad-shouldered, athletic man. A fellow-member,
joining us, said to the Novelist, "I have just finished that last book
of yours; I'll tell you my candid opinion of it." Promptly replied the
Novelist, "I give you fair warning--if you do, I shall punch your head."
We never heard that candid opinion.

Most of our leisure time we spend sneering at one another. It is a
wonder, going about as we do with our noses so high in the air, we do
not walk off this little round world into space, all of us. The Masses
sneer at the Classes. The morals of the Classes are shocking. If
only the Classes would consent as a body to be taught behaviour by a
Committee of the Masses, how very much better it would be for them. If
only the Classes would neglect their own interests and devote themselves
to the welfare of the Masses, the Masses would be more pleased with
them.

The Classes sneer at the Masses. If only the Masses would follow the
advice given them by the Classes; if only they would be thrifty on their
ten shillings a week; if only they would all be teetotalers, or drink
old claret, which is not intoxicating; if only all the girls would be
domestic servants on five pounds a year, and not waste their money on
feathers; if only the men would be content to work for fourteen hours a
day, and to sing in tune, "God bless the Squire and his relations," and
would consent to be kept in their proper stations, all things would go
swimmingly--for the Classes.

The New Woman pooh-poohs the Old; the Old Woman is indignant with the
New. The Chapel denounces the Stage; the Stage ridicules Little Bethel;
the Minor Poet sneers at the world; the world laughs at the Minor Poet.

Man criticizes Woman. We are not altogether pleased with woman. We
discuss her shortcomings, we advise her for her good. If only English
wives would dress as French wives, talk as American wives, cook as
German wives! if only women would be precisely what we want them
to be--patient and hard-working, brilliantly witty and exhaustively
domestic, bewitching, amenable, and less suspicious; how very much
better it would be for them--also for us. We work so hard to teach
them, but they will not listen. Instead of paying attention to our wise
counsel, the tiresome creatures are wasting their time criticizing us.
It is a popular game, this game of school. All that is needful is a
doorstep, a cane, and six other children. The difficulty is the six
other children. Every child wants to be the schoolmaster; they will keep
jumping up, saying it is their turn.

Woman wants to take the stick now, and put man on the doorstep. There
are one or two things she has got to say to him. He is not at all the
man she approves of. He must begin by getting rid of all his natural
desires and propensities; that done, she will take him in hand and make
of him--not a man, but something very much superior.

It would be the best of all possible worlds if everybody would only
follow our advice. I wonder, would Jerusalem have been the cleanly city
it is reported, if, instead of troubling himself concerning his own
twopenny-halfpenny doorstep, each citizen had gone out into the road and
given eloquent lectures to all the other inhabitants on the subject of
sanitation?

We have taken to criticizing the Creator Himself of late. The world is
wrong, we are wrong. If only He had taken our advice, during those first
six days!

Why do I seem to have been scooped out and filled up with lead? Why do
I hate the smell of bacon, and feel that nobody cares for me? It is
because champagne and lobsters have been made wrong.

Why do Edwin and Angelina quarrel? It is because Edwin has been given
a fine, high-spirited nature that will not brook contradiction; while
Angelina, poor girl, has been cursed with contradictory instincts.

Why is excellent Mr. Jones brought down next door to beggary? Mr. Jones
had an income of a thousand a year, secured by the Funds. But there
came along a wicked Company promoter (why are wicked Company promoters
permitted?) with a prospectus, telling good Mr. Jones how to obtain a
hundred per cent. for his money by investing it in some scheme for the
swindling of Mr. Jones's fellow-citizens.

The scheme does not succeed; the people swindled turn out, contrary to
the promise of the prospectus, to be Mr. Jones and his fellow-investors.
Why does Heaven allow these wrongs?

Why does Mrs. Brown leave her husband and children, to run off with the
New Doctor? It is because an ill-advised Creator has given Mrs. Brown
and the New Doctor unduly strong emotions. Neither Mrs. Brown nor the
New Doctor are to be blamed. If any human being be answerable it is,
probably, Mrs. Brown's grandfather, or some early ancestor of the New
Doctor's.

We shall criticize Heaven when we get there. I doubt if any of us will
be pleased with the arrangements; we have grown so exceedingly critical.

It was once said of a very superior young man that he seemed to be under
the impression that God Almighty had made the universe chiefly to hear
what he would say about it. Consciously or unconsciously, most of us are
of this way of thinking. It is an age of mutual improvement societies--a
delightful idea, everybody's business being to improve everybody else;
of amateur parliaments, of literary councils, of playgoers' clubs.

First Night criticism seems to have died out of late, the Student of the
Drama having come to the conclusion, possibly, that plays are not worth
criticizing. But in my young days we were very earnest at this work. We
went to the play, less with the selfish desire of enjoying our evening,
than with the noble aim of elevating the Stage. Maybe we did good,
maybe we were needed--let us think so. Certain it is, many of the old
absurdities have disappeared from the Theatre, and our rough-and-ready
criticism may have helped the happy dispatch. A folly is often served by
an unwise remedy.

The dramatist in those days had to reckon with his audience. Gallery and
Pit took an interest in his work such as Galleries and Pits no longer
take. I recollect witnessing the production of a very blood-curdling
melodrama at, I think, the old Queen's Theatre. The heroine had been
given by the author a quite unnecessary amount of conversation, so we
considered. The woman, whenever she appeared on the stage, talked by the
yard; she could not do a simple little thing like cursing the Villain
under about twenty lines. When the hero asked her if she loved him she
stood up and made a speech about it that lasted three minutes by the
watch. One dreaded to see her open her mouth. In the Third Act, somebody
got hold of her and shut her up in a dungeon. He was not a nice man,
speaking generally, but we felt he was the man for the situation, and
the house cheered him to the echo. We flattered ourselves we had got
rid of her for the rest of the evening. Then some fool of a turnkey came
along, and she appealed to him, through the grating, to let her out for
a few minutes. The turnkey, a good but soft-hearted man, hesitated.

"Don't you do it," shouted one earnest Student of the Drama, from the
Gallery; "she's all right. Keep her there!"

The old idiot paid no attention to our advice; he argued the matter to
himself. "'Tis but a trifling request," he remarked; "and it will make
her happy."

"Yes, but what about us?" replied the same voice from the Gallery. "You
don't know her. You've only just come on; we've been listening to her
all the evening. She's quiet now, you let her be."

"Oh, let me out, if only for one moment!" shrieked the poor woman. "I
have something that I must say to my child."

"Write it on a bit of paper, and pass it out," suggested a voice from
the Pit. "We'll see that he gets it."

"Shall I keep a mother from her dying child?" mused the turnkey. "No, it
would be inhuman."

"No, it wouldn't," persisted the voice of the Pit; "not in this
instance. It's too much talk that has made the poor child ill."

The turnkey would not be guided by us. He opened the cell door amidst
the execrations of the whole house. She talked to her child for about
five minutes, at the end of which time it died.

"Ah, he is dead!" shrieked the distressed parent.

"Lucky beggar!" was the unsympathetic rejoinder of the house.

Sometimes the criticism of the audience would take the form of remarks,
addressed by one gentleman to another. We had been listening one night
to a play in which action seemed to be unnecessarily subordinated to
dialogue, and somewhat poor dialogue at that. Suddenly, across the
wearying talk from the stage, came the stentorian whisper--

"Jim!"

"Hallo!"

"Wake me up when the play begins."

This was followed by an ostentatious sound as of snoring. Then the voice
of the second speaker was heard--

"Sammy!"

His friend appeared to awake.

"Eh? Yes? What's up? Has anything happened?"

"Wake you up at half-past eleven in any event, I suppose?"

"Thanks, do, sonny." And the critic slept again.

Yes, we took an interest in our plays then. I wonder shall I ever enjoy
the British Drama again as I enjoyed it in those days? Shall I ever
enjoy a supper again as I enjoyed the tripe and onions washed down with
bitter beer at the bar of the old Albion? I have tried many suppers
after the theatre since then, and some, when friends have been in
generous mood, have been expensive and elaborate. The cook may have come
from Paris, his portrait may be in the illustrated papers, his salary
may be reckoned by hundreds; but there is something wrong with his art,
for all that, I miss a flavour in his meats. There is a sauce lacking.

Nature has her coinage, and demands payment in her own currency. At
Nature's shop it is you yourself must pay. Your unearned increment, your
inherited fortune, your luck, are not legal tenders across her counter.

You want a good appetite. Nature is quite willing to supply you.
"Certainly, sir," she replies, "I can do you a very excellent article
indeed. I have here a real genuine hunger and thirst that will make your
meal a delight to you. You shall eat heartily and with zest, and you
shall rise from the table refreshed, invigorated, and cheerful."

"Just the very thing I want," exclaims the gourmet delightedly. "Tell me
the price."

"The price," answers Mrs. Nature, "is one long day's hard work."

The customer's face falls; he handles nervously his heavy purse.

"Cannot I pay for it in money?" he asks. "I don't like work, but I am a
rich man, I can afford to keep French cooks, to purchase old wines."

Nature shakes her head.

"I cannot take your cheques, tissue and nerve are my charges. For these
I can give you an appetite that will make a rump-steak and a tankard
of ale more delicious to you than any dinner that the greatest chef in
Europe could put before you. I can even promise you that a hunk of bread
and cheese shall be a banquet to you; but you must pay my price in my
money; I do not deal in yours."

And next the Dilettante enters, demanding a taste for Art and
Literature, and this also Nature is quite prepared to supply.

"I can give you true delight in all these things," she answers. "Music
shall be as wings to you, lifting you above the turmoil of the world.
Through Art you shall catch a glimpse of Truth. Along the pleasant paths
of Literature you shall walk as beside still waters."

"And your charge?" cries the delighted customer.

"These things are somewhat expensive," replies Nature. "I want from you
a life lived simply, free from all desire of worldly success, a life
from which passion has been lived out; a life to which appetite has been
subdued."

"But you mistake, my dear lady," replies the Dilettante; "I have many
friends, possessed of taste, and they are men who do not pay this price
for it. Their houses are full of beautiful pictures, they rave about
'nocturnes' and 'symphonies,' their shelves are packed with first
editions. Yet they are men of luxury and wealth and fashion. They
trouble much concerning the making of money, and Society is their
heaven. Cannot I be as one of these?"

"I do not deal in the tricks of apes," answers Nature coldly; "the
culture of these friends of yours is a mere pose, a fashion of the hour,
their talk mere parrot chatter. Yes, you can purchase such culture as
this, and pretty cheaply, but a passion for skittles would be of more
service to you, and bring you more genuine enjoyment. My goods are of a
different class. I fear we waste each other's time."

And next comes the boy, asking with a blush for love, and Nature's
motherly old heart goes out to him, for it is an article she loves to
sell, and she loves those who come to purchase it of her. So she leans
across the counter, smiling, and tells him that she has the very thing
he wants, and he, trembling with excitement, likewise asks the figure.

"It costs a good deal," explains Nature, but in no discouraging tone;
"it is the most expensive thing in all my shop."

"I am rich," replies the lad. "My father worked hard and saved, and
he has left me all his wealth. I have stocks and shares, and lands and
factories; and will pay any price in reason for this thing."

But Nature, looking graver, lays her hand upon his arm.

"Put by your purse, boy," she says, "my price is not a price in reason,
nor is gold the metal that I deal in. There are many shops in various
streets where your bank-notes will be accepted. But if you will take an
old woman's advice, you will not go to them. The thing they will sell
you will bring sorrow and do evil to you. It is cheap enough, but, like
all things cheap, it is not worth the buying. No man purchases it, only
the fool."

"And what is the cost of the thing YOU sell then?" asks the lad.

"Self-forgetfulness, tenderness, strength," answers the old Dame; "the
love of all things that are of good repute, the hate of all things
evil--courage, sympathy, self-respect, these things purchase love. Put
by your purse, lad, it will serve you in other ways, but it will not buy
for you the goods upon my shelves."

"Then am I no better off than the poor man?" demands the lad.

"I know not wealth or poverty as you understand it," answers Nature.
"Here I exchange realities only for realities. You ask for my treasures,
I ask for your brain and heart in exchange--yours, boy, not your
father's, not another's."

"And this price," he argues, "how shall I obtain it?"

"Go about the world," replies the great Lady. "Labour, suffer, help.
Come back to me when you have earned your wages, and according to how
much you bring me so we will do business."

Is real wealth so unevenly distributed as we think? Is not Fate the true
Socialist? Who is the rich man, who the poor? Do we know? Does even
the man himself know? Are we not striving for the shadow, missing the
substance? Take life at its highest; which was the happier man, rich
Solomon or poor Socrates? Solomon seems to have had most things that
most men most desire--maybe too much of some for his own comfort.
Socrates had little beyond what he carried about with him, but that was
a good deal. According to our scales, Solomon should have been one of
the happiest men that ever lived, Socrates one of the most wretched. But
was it so?

Or taking life at its lowest, with pleasure its only goal. Is my
lord Tom Noddy, in the stalls, so very much jollier than 'Arry in the
gallery? Were beer ten shillings the bottle, and champagne fourpence a
quart, which, think you, we should clamour for? If every West End Club
had its skittle alley, and billiards could only be played in East End
pubs, which game, my lord, would you select? Is the air of Berkeley
Square so much more joy-giving than the atmosphere of Seven Dials? I
find myself a piquancy in the air of Seven Dials, missing from Berkeley
Square. Is there so vast a difference between horse-hair and straw, when
you are tired? Is happiness multiplied by the number of rooms in one's
house? Are Lady Ermintrude's lips so very much sweeter than Sally's of
the Alley? What IS success in life?



ON THE PLAYING OF MARCHES AT THE FUNERALS OF MARIONETTES

He began the day badly. He took me out and lost me. It would be so much
better, would he consent to the usual arrangement, and allow me to take
him out. I am far the abler leader: I say it without conceit. I am older
than he is, and I am less excitable. I do not stop and talk with every
person I meet, and then forget where I am. I do less to distract myself:
I rarely fight, I never feel I want to run after cats, I take but little
pleasure in frightening children. I have nothing to think about but the
walk, and the getting home again. If, as I say, he would give up taking
me out, and let me take him out, there would be less trouble all round.
But into this I have never been able to persuade him.

He had mislaid me once or twice, but in Sloane Square he lost me
entirely. When he loses me, he stands and barks for me. If only he would
remain where he first barked, I might find my way to him; but, before
I can cross the road, he is barking half-way down the next street. I am
not so young as I was and I sometimes think he exercises me more than
is good for me. I could see him from where I was standing in the King's
Road. Evidently he was most indignant. I was too far off to distinguish
the barks, but I could guess what he was saying--

"Damn that man, he's off again."

He made inquiries of a passing dog--

"You haven't smelt my man about anywhere, have you?"

(A dog, of course, would never speak of SEEING anybody or anything,
smell being his leading sense. Reaching the top of a hill, he would say
to his companion--"Lovely smell from here, I always think; I could
sit and sniff here all the afternoon." Or, proposing a walk, he would
say--"I like the road by the canal, don't you? There's something
interesting to catch your nose at every turn.")

"No, I haven't smelt any man in particular," answered the other dog.
"What sort of a smelling man is yours?"

"Oh, an egg-and-bacony sort of a man, with a dash of soap about him."

"That's nothing to go by," retorted the other; "most men would answer to
that description, this time of the morning. Where were you when you last
noticed him?"

At this moment he caught sight of me, and came up, pleased to find me,
but vexed with me for having got lost.

"Oh, here you are," he barked; "didn't you see me go round the corner?
Do keep closer. Bothered if half my time isn't taken up, finding you and
losing you again."

The incident appeared to have made him bad-tempered; he was just in
the humour for a row of any sort. At the top of Sloane Street a stout
military-looking gentleman started running after the Chelsea bus. With
a "Hooroo" William Smith was after him. Had the old gentleman taken no
notice, all would have been well. A butcher boy, driving just behind,
would--I could read it in his eye--have caught Smith a flick as he
darted into the road, which would have served him right; the old
gentleman would have captured his bus; and the affair would have been
ended. Unfortunately, he was that type of retired military man all gout
and curry and no sense. He stopped to swear at the dog. That, of course,
was what Smith wanted. It is not often he gets a scrimmage with a
full-grown man. "They're a poor-spirited lot, most of them," he thinks;
"they won't even answer you back. I like a man who shows a bit of
pluck." He was frenzied with delight at his success. He flew round
his victim, weaving whooping circles and curves that paralyzed the old
gentleman as though they had been the mystic figures of a Merlin. The
colonel clubbed his umbrella, and attempted to defend himself. I called
to the dog, I gave good advice to the colonel (I judged him to be a
colonel; the louder he spoke, the less one could understand him), but
both were too excited to listen to me. A sympathetic bus driver leaned
over, and whispered hoarse counsel.

"Ketch 'im by the tail, sir," he advised the old gentleman; "don't you
be afraid of him; you ketch 'im firmly by the tail."

A milkman, on the other hand, sought rather to encourage Smith, shouting
as he passed--

"Good dog, kill him!"

A child, brained within an inch by the old gentleman's umbrella, began
to cry. The nurse told the old gentleman he was a fool--a remark
which struck me as singularly apt The old gentleman gasped back that
perambulators were illegal on the pavement; and, between his exercises,
inquired after myself. A crowd began to collect; and a policeman
strolled up.

It was not the right thing: I do not defend myself; but, at this point,
the temptation came to me to desert William Smith. He likes a street
row, I don't. These things are matters of temperament. I have also
noticed that he has the happy instinct of knowing when to disappear from
a crisis, and the ability to do so; mysteriously turning up, quarter
of a mile off, clad in a peaceful and pre-occupied air, and to all
appearances another and a better dog.

Consoling myself with the reflection that I could be of no practical
assistance to him and remembering with some satisfaction that, by a
fortunate accident, he was without his collar, which bears my name
and address, I slipped round the off side of a Vauxhall bus, making no
attempt at ostentation, and worked my way home through Lowndes Square
and the Park.

Five minutes after I had sat down to lunch, he flung open the
dining-room door, and marched in. It is his customary "entrance." In
a previous state of existence, his soul was probably that of an
Actor-Manager.

From his exuberant self-satisfaction, I was inclined to think he must
have succeeded in following the milkman's advice; at all events, I have
not seen the colonel since. His bad temper had disappeared, but his
"uppishness" had, if possible, increased. Previous to his return, I had
given The O'Shannon a biscuit. The O'Shannon had been insulted; he did
not want a dog biscuit; if he could not have a grilled kidney he did not
want anything. He had thrown the biscuit on the floor. Smith saw it and
made for it. Now Smith never eats biscuits. I give him one occasionally,
and he at once proceeds to hide it. He is a thrifty dog; he thinks of
the future. "You never know what may happen," he says; "suppose the
Guv'nor dies, or goes mad, or bankrupt, I may be glad even of this
biscuit; I'll put it under the door-mat--no, I won't, somebody will find
it there. I'll scratch a hole in the tennis lawn, and bury it there.
That's a good idea; perhaps it'll grow!" Once I caught him hiding it in
my study, behind the shelf devoted to my own books. It offended me, his
doing that; the argument was so palpable. Generally, wherever he hides
it somebody finds it. We find it under our pillows--inside our boots;
no place seems safe. This time he had said to himself--"By Jove! a whole
row of the Guv'nor's books. Nobody will ever want to take these out;
I'll hide it here." One feels a thing like that from one's own dog.

But The O'Shannon's biscuit was another matter. Honesty is the best
policy; but dishonesty is the better fun. He made a dash for it, and
commenced to devour it greedily; you might have thought he had not
tasted food for a week.

The indignation of The O'Shannon was a sight for the gods. He has the
good-nature of his race: had Smith asked him for the biscuit he would
probably have given it to him; it was the insult--the immorality of the
proceeding, that maddened The O'Shannon.

For a moment he was paralyzed.

"Well, of all the--Did ye see that now?" he said to me with his eyes.
Then he made a rush and snatched the biscuit out of Smith's very jaws.
"Ye onprincipled black Saxon thief," growled The O'Shannon; "how dare ye
take my biscuit?"

"You miserable Irish cur," growled Smith; "how was I to know it was your
biscuit? Does everything on the floor belong to you? Perhaps you think I
belong to you, I'm on the floor. I don't believe it is your biscuit, you
long-eared, snubbed-nosed bog-trotter; give it me back."

"I don't require any of your argument, you flop-eared son of a tramp
with half a tail," replied The O'Shannon. "You come and take it, if you
think you are dog enough."

He did think he was dog enough. He is half the size of The O'Shannon,
but such considerations weigh not with him. His argument is, if a dog is
too big for you to fight the whole of him, take a bit of him and fight
that. He generally gets licked, but what is left of him invariably
swaggers about afterwards under the impression it is the victor. When
he is dead, he will say to himself, as he settles himself in his
grave--"Well, I flatter myself I've laid out that old world at last. It
won't trouble ME any more, I'm thinking."

On this occasion, _I_ took a hand in the fight. It becomes necessary
at intervals to remind Master Smith that the man, as the useful and
faithful friend of dog, has his rights. I deemed such interval had
arrived. He flung himself on to the sofa, muttering. It sounded
like--"Wish I'd never got up this morning. Nobody understands me."

Nothing, however, sobers him for long. Half-an-hour later, he was
killing the next-door cat. He will never learn sense; he has been
killing that cat for the last three months. Why the next morning his
nose is invariably twice its natural size, while for the next week he
can see objects on one side of his head only, he never seems to grasp; I
suppose he attributes it to change in the weather.

He ended up the afternoon with what he no doubt regarded as a complete
and satisfying success. Dorothea had invited a lady to take tea with her
that day. I heard the sound of laughter, and, being near the nursery,
I looked in to see what was the joke. Smith was worrying a doll. I
have rarely seen a more worried-looking doll. Its head was off, and its
sawdust strewed the floor. Both the children were crowing with delight;
Dorothea, in particular, was in an ecstasy of amusement.

"Whose doll is it?" I asked.

"Eva's," answered Dorothea, between her peals of laughter.

"Oh no, it isn't," explained Eva, in a tone of sweet content; "here's
my doll." She had been sitting on it, and now drew it forth, warm but
whole. "That's Dorry's doll."

The change from joy to grief on the part of Dorothea was distinctly
dramatic. Even Smith, accustomed to storm, was nonplussed at the
suddenness of the attack upon him.

Dorothea's sorrow lasted longer than I had expected. I promised her
another doll. But it seemed she did not want another; that was the only
doll she would ever care for so long as life lasted; no other doll could
ever take its place; no other doll would be to her what that doll had
been. These little people are so absurd: as if it could matter whether
you loved one doll or another, when all are so much alike! They have
curly hair, and pink-and-white complexions, big eyes that open and shut,
a little red mouth, two little hands. Yet these foolish little people!
they will love one, while another they will not look upon. I find the
best plan is not to reason with them, but to sympathize. Later on--but
not too soon--introduce to them another doll. They will not care for
it at first, but in time they will come to take an interest in it. Of
course, it cannot make them forget the first doll; no doll ever born in
Lowther Arcadia could be as that, but still---- It is many weeks before
they forget entirely the first love.

We buried Dolly in the country under the yew tree. A friend of mine who
plays the fiddle came down on purpose to assist. We buried her in the
hot spring sunshine, while the birds from shady nooks sang joyously of
life and love. And our chief mourner cried real tears, just for all the
world as though it were not the fate of dolls, sooner or later, to get
broken--the little fragile things, made for an hour, to be dressed and
kissed; then, paintless and stript, to be thrown aside on the nursery
floor. Poor little dolls! I wonder do they take themselves seriously,
not knowing the springs that stir their sawdust bosoms are but
clockwork, not seeing the wires to which they dance? Poor little
marionettes! do they talk together, I wonder, when the lights of the
booth are out?

You, little sister doll, were the heroine. You lived in the white-washed
cottage, all honeysuckle and clematis without--earwiggy and damp within,
maybe. How pretty you always looked in your simple, neatly-fitting print
dress. How good you were! How nobly you bore your poverty. How patient
you were under your many wrongs. You never harboured an evil thought, a
revengeful wish--never, little doll? Were there never moments when you
longed to play the wicked woman's part, live in a room with many doors,
be-clad in furs and jewels, with lovers galore at your feet? In those
long winter evenings? the household work is done--the greasy dishes
washed, the floor scrubbed; the excellent child is asleep in the corner;
the one-and-elevenpenny lamp sheds its dismal light on the darned
table-cloth; you sit, busy at your coarse sewing, waiting for Hero Dick,
knowing--guessing, at least, where he is--! Yes, dear, I remember your
fine speeches, when you told her, in stirring language the gallery
cheered to the echo, what you thought of her and of such women as she;
when, lifting your hand to heaven, you declared you were happier in your
attic, working your fingers to the bone, than she in her gilded salon--I
think "gilded salon" was the term, was it not?--furnished by sin.
But speaking of yourself, weak little sister doll, not of your fine
speeches, the gallery listening, did you not, in your secret heart,
envy her? Did you never, before blowing out the one candle, stand for
a minute in front of the cracked glass, and think to yourself that
you, too, would look well in low-cut dresses from Paris, the diamonds
flashing on your white smooth skin? Did you never, toiling home through
the mud, bearing your bundle of needlework, feel bitter with the wages
of virtue, as she splashed you, passing by in her carriage? Alone, over
your cup of weak tea, did you never feel tempted to pay the price for
champagne suppers, and gaiety, and admiration? Ah, yes, it is easy
for folks who have had their good time, to prepare copybooks for weary
little inkstained fingers, longing for play. The fine maxims sound such
cant when we are in that mood, do they not? You, too, were young and
handsome: did the author of the play think you were never hungry for the
good things of life? Did he think that reading tracts to crotchety old
women was joy to a full-blooded girl in her twenties? Why should SHE
have all the love, and all the laughter? How fortunate that the villain,
the Wicked Baronet, never opened the cottage door at that moment, eh,
dear! He always came when you were strong, when you felt that you could
denounce him, and scorn his temptations. Would that the villain came
to all of us at such time; then we would all, perhaps, be heroes and
heroines.

Ah well, it was only a play: it is over now. You and I, little tired
dolls, lying here side by side, waiting to know our next part, we can
look back and laugh. Where is she, this wicked dolly, that made such a
stir on our tiny stage? Ah, here you are, Madam; I thought you could
not be far; they have thrown us all into this corner together. But how
changed you are, Dolly: your paint rubbed off, your golden hair worn to
a wisp. No wonder; it was a trying part you had to play. How tired you
must have grown of the glare and the glitter! And even hope was denied
you. The peace you so longed for you knew you had lost the power to
enjoy. Like the girl bewitched in the fairy tale, you knew you must
dance ever faster and faster, with limbs growing palsied, with face
growing ashen, and hair growing grey, till Death should come to release
you; and your only prayer was he might come ere your dancing grew comic.

Like the smell of the roses to Nancy, hawking them through the hot
streets, must the stifling atmosphere of love have been to you. The song
of passion, how monotonous in your ears, sung now by the young and now
by the old; now shouted, now whined, now shrieked; but ever the one
strident tune. Do you remember when first you heard it? You dreamt it
the morning hymn of Heaven. You came to think it the dance music of
Hell, ground from a cracked hurdy-gurdy, lent out by the Devil on hire.

An evil race we must have seemed to you, Dolly Faustine, as to some Old
Bailey lawyer. You saw but one side of us. You lived in a world upside
down, where the leaves and the blossoms were hidden, and only the roots
saw your day. You imagined the worm-beslimed fibres the plant, and
all things beautiful you deemed cant. Chivalry, love, honour! how you
laughed at the lying words. You knew the truth--as you thought: aye,
half the truth. We were swine while your spell was upon us, Daughter of
Circe, and you, not knowing your island secret, deemed it our natural
shape.

No wonder, Dolly, your battered waxen face is stamped with an angry
sneer. The Hero, who eventually came into his estates amid the plaudits
of the Pit, while you were left to die in the streets! you remembered,
but the house had forgotten those earlier scenes in always wicked Paris.
The good friend of the family, the breezy man of the world, the Deus ex
Machina of the play, who was so good to everybody, whom everybody loved!
aye, YOU loved him once--but that was in the Prologue. In the Play
proper, he was respectable. (How you loathed that word, that meant to
you all you vainly longed for!) To him the Prologue was a period past
and dead; a memory, giving flavour to his life. To you, it was the
First Act of the Play, shaping all the others. His sins the house had
forgotten: at yours, they held up their hands in horror. No wonder the
sneer lies on your waxen lips.

Never mind, Dolly; it was a stupid house. Next time, perhaps, you will
play a better part; and then they will cheer, instead of hissing you.
You were wasted, I am inclined to think, on modern comedy. You should
have been cast for the heroine of some old-world tragedy. The strength
of character, the courage, the power of self-forgetfulness, the
enthusiasm were yours: it was the part that was lacking. You might have
worn the mantle of a Judith, a Boadicea, or a Jeanne d'Arc, had such
plays been popular in your time. Perhaps they, had they played in your
day, might have had to be content with such a part as yours. They could
not have played the meek heroine, and what else would there have been
for them in modern drama? Catherine of Russia! had she been a waiter's
daughter in the days of the Second Empire, should we have called
her Great? The Magdalene! had her lodging in those days been in some
bye-street of Rome instead of in Jerusalem, should we mention her name
in our churches?

You were necessary, you see, Dolly, to the piece. We cannot all play
heroes and heroines. There must be wicked people in the play, or it
would not interest. Think of it, Dolly, a play where all the women were
virtuous, all the men honest! We might close the booth; the world would
be as dull as an oyster-bed. Without you wicked folk there would be no
good. How should we have known and honoured the heroine's worth, but
by contrast with your worthlessness? Where would have been her fine
speeches, but for you to listen to them? Where lay the hero's strength,
but in resisting temptation of you? Had not you and the Wicked Baronet
between you robbed him of his estates, falsely accused him of crime, he
would have lived to the end of the play an idle, unheroic, incomplete
existence. You brought him down to poverty; you made him earn his own
bread--a most excellent thing for him; gave him the opportunity to play
the man. But for your conduct in the Prologue, of what value would have
been that fine scene at the end of the Third Act, that stirred the house
to tears and laughter? You and your accomplice, the Wicked Baronet,
made the play possible. How would Pit and Gallery have known they were
virtuous, but for the indignation that came to them, watching your
misdeeds? Pity, sympathy, excitement, all that goes to the making of
a play, you were necessary for. It was ungrateful of the house to hiss
you.

And you, Mr. Merryman, the painted grin worn from your pale lips, you
too were dissatisfied, if I remember rightly, with your part. You wanted
to make the people cry, not laugh. Was it a higher ambition? The poor
tired people! so much happens in their life to make them weep, is it not
good sport to make them merry for awhile? Do you remember that old soul
in the front row of the Pit? How she laughed when you sat down on the
pie! I thought she would have to be carried out. I heard her talking to
her companion as they passed the stage-door on their way home. "I have
not laughed, my dear, till to-night," she was saying, the good, gay
tears still in her eyes, "since the day poor Sally died." Was not
that alone worth the old stale tricks you so hated? Aye, they were
commonplace and conventional, those antics of yours that made us laugh;
are not the antics that make us weep commonplace and conventional also?
Are not all the plays, played since the booth was opened, but of one
pattern, the plot old-fashioned now, the scenes now commonplace? Hero,
villain, cynic--are their parts so much the fresher? The love duets,
are they so very new? The death-bed scenes, would you call them
UNcommonplace? Hate, and Evil, and Wrong--are THEIR voices new to the
booth? What are you waiting for, people? a play with a plot that is
novel, with characters that have never strutted before? It will be ready
for you, perhaps, when you are ready for it, with new tears and new
laughter.

You, Mr. Merryman, were the true philosopher. You saved us from
forgetting the reality when the fiction grew somewhat strenuous. How we
all applauded your gag in answer to the hero, when, bewailing his
sad fate, he demanded of Heaven how much longer he was to suffer evil
fortune. "Well, there cannot be much more of it in store for you," you
answered him; "it's nearly nine o'clock already, and the show closes at
ten." And true to your prophecy the curtain fell at the time appointed,
and his troubles were of the past. You showed us the truth behind the
mask. When pompous Lord Shallow, in ermine and wig, went to take his
seat amid the fawning crowd, you pulled the chair from under him, and
down he sat plump on the floor. His robe flew open, his wig flew off.
No longer he awed us. His aped dignity fell from him; we saw him a
stupid-eyed, bald little man; he imposed no longer upon us. It is your
fool who is the only true wise man.

Yours was the best part in the play, Brother Merryman, had you and the
audience but known it. But you dreamt of a showier part, where you loved
and fought. I have heard you now and again, when you did not know I was
near, shouting with sword in hand before your looking-glass. You had
thrown your motley aside to don a dingy red coat; you were the hero of
the play, you performed the gallant deeds, you made the noble speeches.
I wonder what the play would be like, were we all to write our own
parts. There would be no clowns, no singing chambermaids. We would
all be playing lead in the centre of the stage, with the lime-light
exclusively devoted to ourselves. Would it not be so?

What grand acting parts they are, these characters we write for
ourselves alone in our dressing-rooms. We are always brave and
noble--wicked sometimes, but if so, in a great, high-minded way; never
in a mean or little way. What wondrous deeds we do, while the house
looks on and marvels. Now we are soldiers, leading armies to victory.
What if we die: it is in the hour of triumph, and a nation is left to
mourn. Not in some forgotten skirmish do we ever fall; not for some
"affair of outposts" do we give our blood, our very name unmentioned in
the dispatches home. Now we are passionate lovers, well losing a
world for love--a very different thing to being a laughter-provoking
co-respondent in a sordid divorce case.

And the house is always crowded when we play. Our fine speeches always
fall on sympathetic ears, our brave deeds are noted and applauded. It
is so different in the real performance. So often we play our parts to
empty benches, or if a thin house be present, they misunderstand, and
laugh at the pathetic passages. And when our finest opportunity comes,
the royal box, in which HE or SHE should be present to watch us, is
vacant.

Poor little dolls, how seriously we take ourselves, not knowing the
springs that stir our bosoms are but clockwork, not seeing the wires
to which we dance. Poor little marionettes, shall we talk together, I
wonder, when the lights of the booth are out?

We are little wax dollies with hearts. We are little tin soldiers with
souls. Oh, King of many toys, are you merely playing with us? IS it only
clockwork within us, this thing that throbs and aches? Have you wound us
up but to let us run down? Will you wind us again to-morrow, or leave us
here to rust? IS it only clockwork to which we respond and quiver? Now
we laugh, now we cry, now we dance; our little arms go out to clasp
one another, our little lips kiss, then say good-bye. We strive, and we
strain, and we struggle. We reach now for gold, now for laurel. We call
it desire and ambition: are they only wires that you play? Will you
throw the clockwork aside, or use it again, O Master?

The lights of the booth grow dim. The springs are broken that kept our
eyes awake. The wire that held us erect is snapped, and helpless we fall
in a heap on the stage. Oh, brother and sister dollies we played beside,
where are you? Why is it so dark and silent? Why are we being put into
this black box? And hark! the little doll orchestra--how far away the
music sounds! what is it they are playing:--

[Start of Gounod's Funeral March of a Marionette]





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