Infomotions, Inc.Trivia / Smith, Logan Pearsall, 1865-1949

Author: Smith, Logan Pearsall, 1865-1949
Title: Trivia
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Title: Trivia

Author: Logan Pearsall Smith

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Logan Pearsall Smith


_Bibliographical Note_

Some of these pieces were privately printed at the Chiswick
Press in 1902. Others have appeared in the "New Statesman" and
"The New Republic," and are here reprinted with the Editors'


"You must beware of thinking too much about Style," said my
kindly adviser, "or you will become like those fastidious people
who polish and polish until there is nothing left."

"Then there really are such people?" I asked, lost in the thought
of how much I should like to meet them. But the well-informed
lady could give me no precise information about them.

I often hear of them in this tantalizing manner, and perhaps one
day I shall get to know them. They sound delightful.

_The Author_

These pieces of moral prose have been written, dear Reader, by a
large Carnivorous Mammal, belonging to that suborder of the
Animal Kingdom which includes also the Orang-outang, the tusked
Gorilla, the Baboon with his bright blue and scarlet bottom, and
the long-eared Chimpanzee.

_List of Contents_



    The Author



    The Afternoon Post

    The Busy Bees

    The Wheat

    The Coming of Fate

    My Speech


    The Stars

    Silvia Doria

    Bligh House

    In Church


    The Sound of a Voice

    What Happens

    A Precaution

    The Great Work

    My Mission

    The Birds

    High Life

    Empty Shells


    A Fancy


    In the Pulpit

    Human Ends

    Lord Arden

    The Starry Heaven

    My Map

    The Snob



    The Rose

    The Vicar of Lynch

    Tu Quoque Fontium

    The Spider


    L'Oiseau Bleu

    At the Bank


    I See the World

    Social Success Apotheosis

    The Spring in London

    Fashion Plates

    Mental Vice

    The Organ of Life


    Green Ivory

    In the Park

    The Correct

    "Where Do I Come In?"


    The Quest

    The Kaleidoscope

    Oxford Street


    The Power of Words


    The Voice of the World

    And Anyhow



    The Church of England





    The Incredible




    The Poplar

    On the Doorstep Old Clothes



    Sir Eustace Carr

    The Lord Mayor

    The Burden

    Under an Umbrella



_How blest my lot, in these sweet fields assign'd Where Peace
and Leisure soothe the tuneful mind._

SCOTT, of Amwell, _Moral Eclogues_ (1773)


Cricketers on village greens, haymakers in the evening sunshine,
small boats that sail before the wind--all these create in me
the illusion of Happiness, as if a land of cloudless pleasure, a
piece of the old Golden World, were hidden, not (as poets have
imagined), in far seas or beyond inaccessible mountains, but
here close at hand, if one could find it, in some undiscovered
valley. Certain grassy lanes seem to lead between the meadows
thither; the wild pigeons talk of it behind the woods.


I woke this morning out of dreams into what we call Reality,
into the daylight, the furniture of my familiar bedroom--in fact
into the well-known, often-discussed, but, to my mind, as yet
unexplained Universe.

Then I, who came out of Eternity and seem to be on my way
thither, got up and spent the day as I usually spend it. I read,
I pottered, I talked, and took exercise; and I sat punctually
down to eat the cooked meals that appeared at stated intervals.

_The Afternoon Post_

The village Post Office, with its clock and letter-box, its
postmistress lost in tales of love-lorn Dukes and coroneted woe,
and the sallow-faced grocer watching from his window opposite,
is the scene of a daily crisis in my life, when every afternoon
I walk there through the country lanes and ask that well-read
young lady for my letters. I always expect good news and
cheques; and then, of course, there is the magical Fortune which
is coming, and word of it may reach me any day. What it is, this
strange Felicity, or whence it shall come, I have no notion; but
I hurry down in the morning to find the news on the breakfast
table, open telegrams in delighted panic, and say to myself
"Here it is!" when at night I hear wheels approaching along the
road. So, happy in the hope of Happiness, and not greatly
concerned with any other interest or ambition, I live on in my
quiet, ordered house; and so I shall live perhaps until the end.
Is it, indeed, merely the last great summons and revelation for
which I am waiting? I do not know.

_The Busy Bees_

Sitting for hours idle in the shade of an apple tree, near
the garden-hives, and under the aerial thoroughfares of those
honey-merchants--sometimes when the noonday heat is loud with
their minute industry, or when they fall in crowds out of the
late sun to their night-long labours-I have sought instruction
from the Bees, and tried to appropriate to myself the old
industrious lesson.

And yet, hang it all, who by rights should be the teachers and
who the learners? For those peevish, over-toiled, utilitarian
insects, was there no lesson to be derived from the spectacle of
Me? Gazing out at me with myriad eyes from their joyless
factories, might they not learn at last--might I not finally
teach them--a wiser and more generous-hearted way to improve the
shining hour?

_The Wheat_

The Vicar, whom I met once or twice in my walks about the
fields, told me that he was glad that I was taking an interest
in farming. Only my feeling about wheat, he said, puzzled him.

Now the feeling in regard to wheat which I had not been able to
make clear to the Vicar was simply one of amazement. Walking one
day into a field that I had watched yellowing beyond the trees,
I found myself dazzled by the glow and great expanse of gold. I
bathed myself in the intense yellow under the intense blue sky;
how dim it made the oak trees and copses and all the rest of the
English landscape seem! I had not remembered the glory of the
Wheat; nor imagined in my reading that in a country so far from
the Sun there could be anything so rich, so prodigal, so
reckless, as this opulence of ruddy gold, bursting out from the
cracked earth as from some fiery vein below. I remembered how
for thousands of years Wheat had been the staple of wealth, the
hoarded wealth of famous cities and empires; I thought of the
processes of corn-growing, the white oxen ploughing, the great
barns, the winnowing fans, the mills with the splash of their
wheels, or arms slow-turning in the wind; of cornfields at
harvest-time, with shocks and sheaves in the glow of sunset, or
under the sickle moon; what beauty it brought into the northern
landscape, the antique, passionate, Biblical beauty of the

_The Coming of Fate_

When I seek out the sources of my thoughts, I find they had
their beginning in fragile Chance; were born of little moments
that shine for me curiously in the past. Slight the impulse that
made me take this turning at the crossroads, trivial and
fortuitous the meeting, and light as gossamer the thread
that first knit me to my friend. These are full of wonder;
more mysterious are the moments that must have brushed me
with their wings and passed me by: when Fate beckoned and I
did not see it, when new Life trembled for a second on the
threshold; but the word was not spoken, the hand was not
held out, and the Might-have-been shivered and vanished, dim
as a into the waste realms of non-existence.

So I never lose a sense of the whimsical and perilous charm
of daily life, with its meetings and words and accidents. Why,
to-day, perhaps, or next week, I may hear a voice, and, packing
up my Gladstone bag, follow it to the ends of the world.

_My Speech_

"Ladies and Gentlemen," I began--The Vicar was in the chair;
Mrs. La Mountain and her daughters sat facing us; and in the
little schoolroom, with its maps and large Scripture prints,
its blackboard with the day's sums still visible on it, were
assembled the labourers of the village, the old family coachman
and his wife, the one-eyed postman, and the gardeners and
boys from the Hall. Having culled from the newspapers a few
phrases, I had composed a speech which I delivered with a
spirit and eloquence surprising even to myself, and which was
now enthusiastically received. The Vicar cried "Hear, Hear!",
the Vicar's wife pounded her umbrella with such emphasis, and
the villagers cheered so heartily, that my heart was warmed. I
began to feel the meaning of my own words; I beamed on the
audience, felt that they were all brothers, all wished well
to the Republic; and it seemed to me an occasion to express
my real ideas and hopes for the Commonwealth.

Brushing therefore to one side, and indeed quite forgetting my
safe principles, I began to refashion and new-model the State.
Most existing institutions were soon abolished; and then, on
their ruins, I proceeded to build up the bright walls and
palaces of the City within me--the City I had read of in Plato.
With enthusiasm, and, I flatter myself, with eloquence, I
described it all--the Warriors, that race of golden youth bred
from the State-ordered embraces of the brave and fair; those
philosophic Guardians, who, being ever accustomed to the highest
and most extensive views, and thence contracting an habitual
greatness, possessed the truest fortitude, looking down indeed
with a kind of disregard on human life and death. And then,
declaring that the pattern of this City was laid up in Heaven, I
sat down, amid the cheers of the uncomprehending little

And afterward, in my rides about the country, when I saw on
walls and the doors of barns, among advertisements of sales, or
regulations about birds' eggs or the movements of swine, little
weather-beaten, old-looking notices on which it was stated that
I would "address the meeting," I remembered how the walls and
towers of the City I had built up in that little schoolroom had
shone with no heavenly light in the eyes of the Vicar's party.


They sit there forever on the dim horizon of my mind, that
Stonehenge circle of elderly disapproving Faces--Faces of the
Uncles and Schoolmasters and Tutors who frowned on my youth.

In the bright centre and sunlight I leap, I caper, I dance my
dance; but when I look up, I see they are not deceived. For
nothing ever placates them, nothing ever moves to a look of
approval that ring of bleak and contemptuous Faces.

_The Stars_

Battling my way homeward one dark night against the wind and
rain, a sudden gust, stronger than the others, drove me back
into the shelter of a tree. But soon the Western sky broke open;
the illumination of the Stars poured down from behind the
dispersing clouds.

I was astonished at their brightness, to see how they filled the
night with their soft lustre. So I went my way accompanied by
them; Arcturus followed me, and becoming entangled in a leafy
tree, shone by glimpses, and then emerged triumphant, Lord of
the Western sky. Moving along the road in the silence of my own
footsteps, my thoughts were among the Constellations. I was one
of the Princes of the starry Universe; in me also there was
something that was not insignificant and mean and of no account.

_Silvia Doria_

Beyond the blue hills, within riding distance, there is a
country of parks and beeches, with views of the far-off sea. I
remember in one of my rides coming on the place which was the
scene of the pretty, old-fashioned story of Silvia Doria.
Through the gates, with fine gate-posts, on which heraldic
beasts, fierce and fastidious, were upholding coroneted shields,
I could see, at the end of the avenue, the facade of the House,
with its stone pilasters, and its balustrade on the steep roof.

More than one hundred years ago, in that Park, with its
Italianized house, and level gardens adorned with statues and
garden temples, there lived, they say, an old Lord with his two
handsome sons. The old Lord had never ceased mourning for his
Lady, though she had died a good many years before; there were
no neighbours he visited, and few strangers came inside the
great Park walls. One day in Spring, however, just when the
apple trees had burst into blossom, the gilded gates were thrown
open, and a London chariot with prancing horses drove up the
Avenue. And in the chariot, smiling and gay, and indeed very
beautiful in her dress of yellow silk, and her great Spanish hat
with drooping feathers, sat Silvia Doria, come on a visit to her
cousin, the old Lord.

It was her father who had sent her--that he might be more free,
some said, to pursue his own wicked courses--while others
declared that he intended her to marry the old Lord's eldest

In any case, Silvia Doria came like the Spring, like the
sunlight, into the lonely place. Even the old Lord felt himself
curiously happy when he heard her voice singing about the house;
as for Henry and Francis, it was heaven for them just to walk by
her side down the garden alleys.

And Silvia Doria, though hitherto she had been but cold toward
the London gallants who had courted her, found, little by
little, that her heart was not untouched.

But, in spite of her father, and her own girlish love of gold
and rank, it was not for Henry that she cared, not for the old
Lord, but for Francis, the younger son. Did Francis know of
this? They were secretly lovers, the old scandal reported; and
the scandal, it may be, had reached her father's ears.

For one day a coach with foaming horses, and the wicked face of
an old man at its window, galloped up the avenue; and soon
afterwards, when the coach drove away, Silvia Doria was sitting
by the old man's side, sobbing bitterly.

And after she had gone, a long time, many of the old, last-century
years, went by without any change. And then Henry, the eldest son,
was killed in hunting; and the old Lord dying a few years later,
the titles and the great house and all the land and gold came to
Francis, the younger son. But after his father's death he was but
seldom there; having, as it seemed, no love for the place, and
living for the most part abroad and alone, for he never married.

And again, many years went by. The trees grew taller and darker
about the house; the yew hedges unclipt now, hung their branches
over the moss-grown paths; ivy almost smothered the statues; and
the plaster fell away in great patches from the discoloured
garden temples.

But at last one day a chariot drove up to the gates; a footman
pulled at the crazy bell, telling the gate-keeper that his
mistress wished to visit the Park. So the gates creaked open,
the chariot glittered up the avenue to the deserted place; and a
lady stepped out, went into the garden, and walked among its
moss-grown paths and statues. As the chariot drove out again,
"Tell your Lord," the lady said, smiling, to the lodge-keeper,
"that Silvia Doria came back."

_Bligh House_

To the West, in riding past the walls of Bligh, I remembered an
incident in the well-known siege of that house, during the Civil
Wars: How, among Waller's invading Roundhead troops, there
happened to be a young scholar, a poet and lover of the Muses,
fighting for the cause, as he thought, of ancient Freedom, who,
one day, when the siege was being more hotly urged, pressing
forward and climbing a wall, suddenly found himself in a quiet
old garden by the house. And here, for a time forgetting, as it
would seem, the battle, and heedless of the bullets that now and
then flew past him like peevish wasps, the young Officer stayed,
gathering roses--old-fashioned damask roses, streaked with red
and white--which, for the sake of a Court Beauty, there besieged
with her father, he carried to the house; falling, however,
struck by a chance bullet, or shot perhaps by one of his own
party. A few of the young Officer's verses, written in the
stilted fashion of the time, and almost unreadable now, have
been preserved. The lady's portrait hangs in the white drawing
room at Bligh; a simpering, faded figure, with ringlets and
drop-pearls, and a dress of amber-coloured silk.

_In Church_

"For the Pen," said the Vicar; and in the sententious pause that
followed, I felt that I would offer any gifts of gold to avert
or postpone the solemn, inevitable, hackneyed, and yet, as it
seemed to me, perfectly appalling statement that "the Pen is
mightier than the Sword."


All the same I like Parsons; they think nobly of the Universe,
and believe in Souls and Eternal Happiness. And some of them, I
am told, believe in Angels--that there are Angels who guide our
footsteps, and flit to and fro unseen on errands in the air
about us.

_The Sound of a Voice_

As the thoughtful Baronet talked, as his voice went on sounding
in my ears, all the light of desire, and of the sun, faded from
the Earth; I saw the vast landscape of the world dim, as in an
eclipse; its populations eating their bread with tears, its rich
men sitting listless in their palaces, and aged Kings crying
"Vanity, Vanity, all is Vanity!" lugubriously from their

_What Happens_

"Yes," said Sir Thomas, speaking of a modern novel, "it
certainly does seem strange; but the novelist was right. Such
things do happen."

"But my dear Sir," I burst out, in the rudest manner, "think
what life is--just think what really happens! Why people
suddenly swell up and turn dark purple; they hang themselves on
meat-hooks; they are drowned in horse-ponds, are run over by
butchers' carts, and are burnt alive and cooked like mutton

_A Precaution_

The folio gave at length philosophic consolations for all
the ills and misfortunes said by the author to be inseparable
from human existence--Poverty, Shipwreck, Plague, Love-Deceptions,
and Inundations. Against these antique Disasters I armed my soul;
and I thought it as well to prepare myself against another
inevitable ancient calamity called "Cornutation," or by other
less learned names. How Philosophy taught that after all it was
but a pain founded on conceit, a blow that hurt not; the reply
of the Cynic philosopher to one who reproached him, "Is it my
fault or hers?"; how Nevisanus advises the sufferer to ask
himself if he have not offended; Jerome declares it impossible
to prevent; how few or none are safe, and the inhabitants of
some countries, especially parts of Africa, consider it the
usual and natural thing; How Caesar, Pompey, Augustus, Agamemnon,
Menelaus, Marcus Aurelius, and many other great Kings and Princes
had all worn Actaeon's badge; and how Philip turned it to a jest,
Pertinax the Emperor made no reckoning of it; Erasmus declared it
was best winked at, there being no remedy but patience, _Dies
dolorem minuit_; Time, Age must mend it; and how according to
the best authorities, bars, bolts, oaken doors, and towers of
brass, are all in vain. "She is a woman," as the old Pedant
wrote to a fellow Philosopher....

_The Great Work_

Sitting, pen in hand, alone in the stillness of the library,
with flies droning behind the sunny blinds, I considered in my
thoughts what should be the subject of my great Work. Should I
complain against the mutability of Fortune, and impugn Fate and
the Constellations; or should I reprehend the never-satisfied
heart of querulous Man, drawing elegant contrasts between the
unsullied snow of mountains, the serene shining of stars, and
our hot, feverish lives and foolish repinings? Or should I
confine myself to denouncing contemporary Vices, crying "Fie!"
on the Age with Hamlet, sternly unmasking its hypocrisies, and
riddling through and through its comfortable Optimisms?

Or with Job, should I question the Universe, and puzzle my sad
brains about Life--the meaning of Life on this apple-shaped

_My Mission_

But when in modern books, reviews, and thoughtful magazines I
read about the Needs of the Age, its Complex Questions. its
Dismays, Doubts, and Spiritual Agonies, I feel an impulse to go
out and comfort it, to still its cries, and speak earnest words
of Consolation to it.

_The Birds_

But how can one toil at the great task with this hurry and
tumult of birds just outside the open window? I hear the Thrush,
and the Blackbird, that romantic liar; then the delicate
cadence, the wiry descending scale of the Willow-wren, or the
Blackcap's stave of mellow music. All these are familiar--but
what is that unknown voice, that thrilling note? I hurry out;
the voice flees and I follow; and when I return and sit down
again to my task, the Yellowhammer trills his sleepy song in the
noonday heat; the drone of the Greenfinch lulls me into dreamy
meditations. Then suddenly from his tree-trunks and forest
recesses comes the Green Woodpecker, and mocks at me an impudent
voice full of liberty and laughter.

Why should all the birds of the air conspire against me? My
concern is with the sad Human Species, with lapsed and erroneous
Humanity, not with that inconsiderate, wandering, feather-headed

_High Life_

Although that immense Country House was empty and for sale, and
I had got an order to view it, I needed all my courage to walk
through the lordly gates, and up the avenue, and then to ring
the door-bell. And when I was ushered in, and the shutters were
removed to let the daylight into those vast apartments, I
sneaked through them, cursing the dishonest curiosity which had
brought me into a place where I had no business. But I was
treated with such deference, and so plainly regarded as a
possible purchaser, that I soon began to believe in the opulence
imputed to me. From all the novels describing the mysterious and
glittering life of the Great which I had read (and I had read
many), there came to me the enchanting vision of my own
existence in this Palace. I filled the vast spaces with the
shine of jewels and stir of voices; I saw a vision of ladies
sweeping in their tiaras down the splendid stairs.

But my Soul, in her swell of pride, soon outgrew these paltry
limits, O no! Never could I box up and house and localize under
that lowly roof the Magnificence and Ostentation of which I was

Then for one thing there was stabling for only forty horses; and
of course, as I told them, this would never do.

_Empty Shells_

They lie like empty seashells on the shores of Time, the old
worlds which the spirit of man once built for his habitation,
and then abandoned. Those little earth-centred, heaven-encrusted
universes of the Greeks and Hebrews seem quaint enough to us,
who have formed, thought by thought from within, the immense
modern Cosmos in which we live--the great Creation of granite,
planned in such immeasurable proportions, and moved by so
pitiless a mechanism, that it sometimes appals even its own
creators. The rush of the great rotating Sun daunts us; to think
to the distance of the fixed stars cracks our brain.

But if the ephemeral Being who has imagined these eternal
spheres and spaces, must dwell almost as an alien in their icy
vastness, yet what a splendour lights up for him and dazzles in
those great halls! Anything less limitless would be now a
prison; and he even dares to think beyond their boundaries, to
surmise that he may one day outgrow this vast Mausoleum, and
cast from him the material Creation as an integument too narrow
for his insolent Mind.


For one thing I hate Spiders--I dislike all kinds of Insects.
Their cold intelligence, their empty, stereotyped, unremitted
industry repel me. And I am not altogether happy about the
future of the Human Race; when I think of the slow refrigeration
of the Earth, the Sun's waning, and the ultimate, inevitable
collapse of the Solar System, I have grave misgivings. And all
the books I have read and forgotten-the thought that my mind is
really nothing but a sieve--this, too, at times disheartens me.

_A Fancy_

More than once, though, I have pleased myself with the notion
that somewhere there is good Company which will like this little
Book--these Thoughts (if I may call them so) dipped up from that
phantasmagoria or phosphorescence which, by some unexplained
process of combustion, flickers over the large lump of soft gray
matter in the bowl of my skull.


Their taste is exquisite; They live in Georgian houses, in
a world of ivory and precious china, of old brickwork and
stone pilasters. In white drawing rooms I see Them, or on
blue, bird-haunted lawns. They talk pleasantly of me, and
their eyes watch me. From the diminished, ridiculous picture
of myself which the glass of the world gives me, I turn for
comfort, for happiness, to my image in the kindly mirror of
those eyes.

Who are They? Where, in what paradise or palace, shall I ever
find Them? I may walk all the streets, ring all the door-bells
of the World, but I shall never find them. Yet nothing has
value for me save In the crown of Their approval; for Their
coming--which will never be--I build and plant, and for Them
alone I secretly write this little Book, which They will never

_In the Pulpit_

The Vicar had certain literary tastes; in his youth he had
written an _Ode to the Moon_; and he would speak of the
difficulty he found in composing his sermons, week after week.

Now I felt that if I composed and preached sermons, I should by
no means confine myself to the Vicar's threadbare subjects--
should preach the Wrath of God, and sound the Last Trump in
the ears of my Hell-doomed congregation, cracking the heavens
and dissolving the earth with the eclipses and thunders and
earthquakes of the Day of Judgment. Then I might refresh them
with high and incomprehensible Doctrines, beyond the reach
of Reason--Predestination, Election, the Co-existences and
Co-eternities of the incomprehensible Triad. And with what a
holy vehemence would I exclaim and cry out against all forms
of doctrinal Error--all the execrable hypotheses of the great
Heresiarchs! Then there would be many ancient and learned and
out-of-the-way Iniquities to denounce, and splendid, neglected
Virtues to inculcate--Apostolic Poverty, and Virginity, that
precious jewel, that fair garland, so prized in Heaven, but so
rare on earth.

For in the range of creeds and morals it is the highest peaks
that shine for me with a certain splendour: it is toward those
radiant Alps that, if I were a Clergyman, I would lead my flock
to pasture.

_Human Ends_

I really was impressed, as we paced up and down the avenue, by
the Vicar's words and weighty, weighed advice. He spoke of the
various professions; mentioned contemporaries of his own who had
achieved success: how one had a Seat in Parliament, would be
given a Seat in the Cabinet when his party next came in; another
was a Bishop with a Seat in the House of Lords; a third was a
Barrister who was soon, it was said, to be raised to the Bench.

But in spite of my good intentions, my real wish to find,
before it is too late, some career or other for myself (and
the question is getting serious), I am far too much at the
mercy of ludicrous images. Front Seats, Episcopal, Judicial,
Parliamentary Benches--were all the ends then, I asked my self,
of serious, middle-aged ambition only things to sit on?

_Lord Arden_

"If I were Lord Arden," said the Vicar, "I should shut up that
great House; it's too big--what can a young unmarried man...?"

"If I were Lord Arden," said the Vicar's wife (and Mrs. La
Mountain's tone showed how much she disapproved of that young
Nobleman), "if I were Lord Arden, I should live there, and do my
duty to my tenants and neighbours."

"If I were Lord Arden," I said; but then it flashed vividly
into my mind, suppose I really were this opulent young Lord?
I quite forgot to whom I was talking; my memory was occupied
with the names of people who had been famous for their enormous
pleasures; who had filled their Palaces with guilty revels, and
built Pyramids, Obelisks, and half-acre Tombs, to soothe their
Pride. My mind kindled at the thought of these Audacities. "If
I were Lord Arden!" I cried....

_The Starry Heaven_

"But what are they really? What do they say they are?" the small
young lady asked me. We were looking up at the Stars, which were
quivering that night in splendid hosts above the lawns and

So I tried to explain some of the views that have been held
about them. How people first of all had thought them mere
candles set in the sky, to guide their own footsteps when the
Sun was gone; till wise men, sitting on the Chaldean plains, and
watching them with aged eyes, became impressed with the solemn
view that those still and shining lights were the executioners
of God's decrees, and irresistible instruments of His Wrath; and
that they moved fatally among their celestial Houses to ordain
and set out the fortunes and misfortunes of each race of newborn
mortals. And so it was believed that every man or woman had,
from the cradle, fighting for or against him or her, some great
Star, Formalhaut, perhaps, Aldebaran, Altair: while great Heroes
and Princes were more splendidly attended, and marched out to
their forgotten battles with troops and armies of heavenly

But this noble old view was not believed in now; the Stars were
no longer regarded as malignant or beneficent Powers; and I
explained how most serious people thought that somewhere--though
just where they did not know--above the vault of Sky, was to be
found the final home of earnest men and women; where, as a
reward for their right views and conduct, they were to rejoice
forever, wearing those diamonds of the starry night arranged in
glorious crowns. This notion, however, had been disputed by
Poets and Lovers: it was Love, according to these young
astronomers, that moved the Sun and other Stars; the
Constellations being heavenly palaces, where people who had
adored each other were to meet and live always together after

Then I spoke of the modern and real immensity of the unfathomed
Skies. But suddenly the vast meaning of my words rushed into my
mind; I felt myself dwindling, falling through the blue. And
yet, in these silent seconds, there thrilled through me in the
cool sweet air and night no chill of death or nothingness; but
the taste and joy of this Earth, this orchard-plot of earth,
floating unknown, far away in unfathomed space, with its Moon
and meadows.

_My Map_

The "Known World" I called the map which I amused myself making
for the children's schoolroom. It included France, England,
Italy, Greece, and all the old shores of the Mediterranean; but
the rest I marked "Unknown"; sketching into the East the
doubtful realms of Ninus and Semiramis; changing back Germany
into the Hyrcanian Forest; and drawing pictures of the supposed
inhabitants of these unexplored regions, Dog-Apes, Satyrs,
Cannibals, and Misanthropes, Cimmerians involved in darkness,
Amazons, and Headless Men. And all around the Map I coiled the
coils, and curled the curling waves of the great Sea _Oceanum_,
with the bursting cheeks of the four Winds, blowing from the
four imagined hinges of the Universe.

_The Snob_

As I paced in fine company on that Terrace, I felt chosen,
exempt, and curiously happy. There was a glamour in the air, a
something in the special flavour of that moment that was like
the consciousness of Salvation, or the smell of ripe peaches on
a sunny wall.

I know what you're going to call me, Reader. But I am not to be
bullied and abashed by words. And after all, why not let oneself
be dazzled and enchanted? Are not Illusions pleasant, and is
this a world in which Romance hangs on every tree?

And how about your own life? Is that, then, so full of golden


Dearest, prettiest, and sweetest of my retinue, who gather
with delicate industry bits of silk and down from the bleak
world to make the soft nest of my fatuous repose; who ever
whisper honied words in my ear, or trip before me holding up
deceiving mirrors--is it Hope, or is it not rather Vanity,
that I love the best?


"I must really improve my Mind," I tell myself, and once more
begin to patch and repair that crazy structure. So I toil and
toil on at the vain task of edification, though the wind tears
off the tiles, the floors give way, the ceilings fall, strange
birds build untidy nests in the rafters, and owls hoot and laugh
in the tumbling chimneys.

_The Rose_

The old lady had always been proud of the great rose-tree in her
garden, and was fond of telling how it had grown from a cutting
she had brought years before from Italy, when she was first
married. She and her husband had been travelling back in their
carriage from Rome (it was before the time of railways), and on
a bad piece of road south of Siena they had broken down, and had
been forced to pass the night in a little house by the roadside.
The accommodation was wretched of course; she had spent a
sleepless night, and rising early had stood, wrapped up, at her
window, with the cool air blowing on her face, to watch the
dawn. She could still, after all these years, remember the blue
mountains with the bright moon above them, and how a far-off
town on one of the peaks had gradually grown whiter and whiter,
till the moon faded, the mountains were touched with the pink
of the rising sun, and suddenly the town was lit as by an
illumination, one window after another catching and reflecting
the sun's beams, till at last the whole little city twinkled and
sparkled up in the sky like a nest of stars.

That morning, finding they would have to wait while their
carriage was being repaired, they had driven in a local
conveyance up to the city on the mountain, where they had been
told they would find better quarters; and there they had stayed
two or three days. It was one of the miniature Italian cities
with a high church, a pretentious piazza, a few narrow streets
and little palaces, perched all compact and complete, on the top
of a mountain, within an enclosure of walls hardly larger than
an English kitchen garden. But it was full of life and noise,
echoing all day and all night with the sounds of feet and

The Cafe of the simple inn where they stayed was the meeting-place
of the notabilities of the little city; the _Sindaco_, the
_avvocato_, the doctor, and a few others; and among them they
noticed a beautiful, slim, talkative old man, with bright black
eyes and snow-white hair--tail and straight and still with
the figure of a youth, although the waiter told them with
pride that the _Conte_ was _molto vecchio_--would in fact be
eighty in the following year. He was the last of his family, the
waiter added--they had once been great and rich people--but he
had no descendants; in fact the waiter mentioned with complacency,
as if it were a story on which the locality prided itself, that
the _Conte_ had been unfortunate in love, and had never married.

The old gentleman, however, seemed cheerful enough; and it was
plain that he took an interest in the strangers, and wished to
make their acquaintance. This was soon effected by the friendly
waiter; and after a little talk the old man invited them to
visit his villa and garden which were just outside the walls of
the town. So the next afternoon, when the sun began to descend,
and they saw in glimpses through doorways and windows blue
shadows beginning to spread over the brown mountains, they went
to pay their visit. It was not much of a place, a small,
modernized stucco villa, with a hot pebbly garden, and in it a
stone basin with torpid gold fish, and a statue of Diana and her
hounds against the wall. But what gave a glory to it was a
gigantic rose-tree which clambered over the house, almost
smothering the windows, and filling the air with the perfume
of its sweetness. Yes, it was a fine rose, the _Conte_ said
proudly when they praised it, and he would tell the Signora
about it. And as they sat there, drinking the wine he offered
them, he alluded with the cheerful indifference of old age to
his love-affair, as though he took for granted that they had
heard of it already.

"The lady lived across the valley there beyond that hill. I was
a young man then, for it was many years ago. I used to ride over
to see her; it was a long way, but I rode fast, for young men,
as no doubt the Signora knows, are impatient. But the lady was
not kind, she would keep me waiting, oh, for hours; and one day
when I had waited very long I grew very angry, and as I walked
up and down in the garden where she had told me she would see
me, I broke one of her roses, broke a branch from it; and when I
saw what I had done, I hid it inside my coat--so--and when I
came home I planted it, and the Signora sees how it has grown.
If the Signora admires it, I must give her a cutting to plant
also in her garden; I am told the English have beautiful gardens
that are green, and not burnt with the sun like ours."

The next day, when their mended carriage had come up to fetch
them, and they were just starting to drive away from the inn,
the _Conte's_ old servant appeared with the rose-cutting neatly
wrapped up, and the compliments and wishes for a _buon viaggio_
from her master. The town collected to see them depart, and the
children ran after their carriage through the gate of the little
city. They heard a rush of feet behind them for a few moments,
but soon they were far down toward the valley; the little town
with all its noise and life was high above them on its mountain

She had planted the rose at home, where it had grown and
flourished in a wonderful manner, and every June the great mass
of leaves and shoots still broke out into a passionate splendour
of scent and scarlet colour, as if in its root and fibres there
still burnt the anger and thwarted desire of that Italian lover.
Of course the old _Conte_ must have died many years ago; she had
forgotten his name, and had even forgotten the name of the
mountain city that she had stayed in, after first seeing it
twinkling at dawn in the sky, like a nest of stars.

_The Vicar of Lynch_

When I heard through country gossip of the strange happening at
Lynch which had caused so great a scandal, and led to the
disappearance of the deaf old Vicar of that remote village, I
collected all the reports I could about it, for I felt that at
the centre of this uncomprehending talk and wild anecdote there
was something with more meaning than a mere sudden outbreak of
blasphemy and madness.

It appeared that the old Vicar, after some years spent in the
quiet discharge of his parochial duties, had been noticed to
become more and more odd in his appearance and behaviour; and
it was also said that he had gradually introduced certain
alterations into the Church services. These had been vaguely
supposed at the time to be of a High Church character, but
afterwards they were put down to a growing mental derangement,
which had finally culminated at that notorious Harvest Festival,
when his career as a clergyman of the Church of England had
ended. On this painful occasion the old man had come into church
outlandishly dressed, and had gone through a service with
chanted gibberish and unaccustomed gestures, and prayers which
were unfamiliar to his congregation. There was also talk of a
woman's figure on the altar, which the Vicar had unveiled at a
solemn moment in this performance; and I also heard echo of
other gossip--gossip that was, however, authoritatively
contradicted and suppressed as much as possible--about the use
of certain other symbols of a most unsuitable kind. Then a few
days after the old man had disappeared--some of the neighbours
believed that he was dead; some, that he was now shut up in an
asylum for the insane.

Such was the fantastic and almost incredible talk I listened to,
but in which, as I say, I found much more meaning than my
neighbours. For one thing, although they knew that the Vicar had
come from Oxford to this remote College living, they knew
nothing of his work and scholarly reputation in that University,
and none of them had probably ever heard of--much less read--an
important book which he had written, and which was the standard
work on his special subject. To them he was simply a deaf,
eccentric, and solitary clergyman; and I think I was the only
person in the neighbourhood who had conversed with him on the
subject concerning which he was the greatest living authority in

For I had seen the old man once--curiously enough at the time of
a Harvest Festival, though it was some years before the one
which had led to his disappearance. Bicycling one day over the
hills, I had ridden down into a valley of cornfields, and then,
passing along an unfenced road that ran across a wide expanse of
stubble, I came, after getting off to open three or four gates,
upon a group of thatched cottages, with a little, unrestored
Norman church standing among great elms, I left my bicycle and
walked through the churchyard, and as I went into the church,
through its deeply-recessed Norman doorway, a surprisingly
pretty sight met my eyes. The dim, cool, little interior was
set out and richly adorned with an abundance of fruit and
vegetables, yellow gourds, apples and plums and golden wheat
sheaves, great loaves of bread, and garlands of September
flowers. A shabby-looking old clergyman was standing on the top
of a step-ladder, finishing the decorations, when I entered. As
soon as he saw me he came down, and I spoke to him, praising the
decorations, and raising my voice a little, for I noticed that
he was somewhat deaf. We talked of the Harvest Festival, and as
I soon perceived that I was talking with a man of books and
University education, I ventured to hint at what had vividly
impressed me in that old, gaudily-decorated church--its pagan
character, as if it were a rude archaic temple in some corner of
the antique world, which had been adorned, two thousand years
ago, by pious country folk for some local festival. The old
clergyman was not in the least shocked by my remark; it seemed
indeed rather to please him; there was, he agreed, something of
a pagan character in the modern Harvest Festival--it was no
doubt a bit of the old primitive Vegetation Ritual, the old
Religion of the soil; a Festival, which, like so many others,
had not been destroyed by Christianity, but absorbed into it,
and given a new meaning. "Indeed," he added, talking on as if
the subject interested him, and expressing himself with a
certain donnish carefulness of speech that I found pleasant to
listen to, "the Harvest Festival is undoubtedly a survival of
the prehistoric worship of that Corn Goddess who, in classical
times, was called Demeter and Ioulo and Ceres, but whose cult as
an Earth-Mother and Corn-Spirit is of much greater antiquity.
For there is no doubt that this Vegetation Spirit has been
worshipped from the earliest times by agricultural peoples; the
wheat fields and ripe harvests being naturally suggestive of the
presence amid the corn of a kindly Being, who, in return for due
rites and offerings, will vouchsafe nourishing rains and golden
harvests." He mentioned the references in Virgil, and the
description in Theocritus of a Sicilian Harvest Festival--these
were no doubt familiar to me; but if I was interested in the
subject, I should find, he said, much more information collected
in a book which he had written, but of which I had probably
never heard, about the Vegetation Deities in Greek Religion. As
it happened I knew the book, and felt now much interested in my
chance meeting with the distinguished author; and after
expressing this as best I could, I rode off, promising to visit
him again. This promise I was never able to fulfil; but when
afterwards, on my return to the neighbourhood, I heard of that
unhappy scandal, my memory of this meeting and our talk enabled
me to form a theory as to what had really happened.

It seemed plain to me that the change had been too violent for
this elderly scholar, taken from his books and college rooms and
set down in the solitude of this remote valley, amid the
richness and living sap of Nature. The gay spectacle, right
under his old eyes, of growing shoots and budding foliage, of
blossoming and flowering, and the ripening of fruits and crops,
had little by little (such was my theory) unhinged his brains.
More and more his thoughts had come to dwell, not on the
doctrines of the Church in which he had long ago taken orders,
but on the pagan rites which had formed his life-long study,
and which had been the expression of a life not unlike the
agricultural life amid which he now found himself living. So as
his derangement grew upon him in his solitude, he had gradually
transformed, with a maniac's cunning, the Christian services,
and led his little congregation, all unknown to themselves, back
toward their ancestral worship of the Corn-Goddess. At last he
had thrown away all disguise, and had appeared as a hierophant
of Demeter, dressed in a fawn skin, with a crown of poplar
leaves, and pedantically carrying the mystic basket and the
winnowing fan appropriate to these mysteries. The wheaten posset
he offered the shocked communicants belonged to these also, and
the figure of a woman on the altar was of course the holy
Wheatsheaf, whose unveiling was the culminating point in that
famous ritual.

It is much to be regretted that I could not recover full and
more exact details of that celebration in which this great
scholar had probably embodied his mature knowledge concerning a
subject which has puzzled generations of students. But what
powers of careful observation could one expect from a group of
labourers and small farmers? Some of the things that reached my
ears I refused to believe--the mention of pig's blood for
instance, and especially the talk of certain grosser symbols,
which the choir boys, it was whispered, had carried about the
church in ceremonious procession. Village people have strange
imaginations; and to this event, growing more and more monstrous
as they talked it over, they must themselves have added this
grotesque detail. However, I have written to consult an Oxford
authority on this interesting point, and he has been kind enough
to explain at length that although at the _Haloa_, or winter
festival of the Corn-Goddess, and also at the _Chloeia_, or
festival in early spring, some symbolization of the reproductive
powers of Nature would be proper and appropriate, it would have
been quite out of place at the _Thalysia_, or autumn festival of
thanksgiving. I feel certain that a solecism of this nature--the
introduction into a particular rite of features not sanctioned
by the texts--would have seemed a shocking thing, even to the
unhinged mind of one who had always been so careful a scholar.

_Tu Quoque Fontium_

Just to sit in the Sun, to bask like an animal in its heat--this
is one of my country recreations. And often I reflect what a
thing after all it is still to be alive and sitting here, above
all the buried people of the world, in the kind and famous

Beyond the orchard there is a place where the stream, hurrying out
from under a bridge, makes for itself a quiet pool. A beech-tree
upholds its green light over the blue water; and there, when I
have grown weary of the sun, the great glaring indiscriminating
Sun, I can shade myself and read my book. And listening to this
water's pretty voices I invent for it exquisite epithets, calling
it _silver-clean_ or _moss-margined_ or _nymph-frequented_, and
idly promise to place it among the learned fountains and pools
of the world, making of it a cool green thought for English exiles
in the dust and glare of Eastern deserts.

_The Spider_

What shall I compare it to, this fantastic thing I call my Mind?
To a waste-paper basket, to a sieve choked with sediment, or to
a barrel full of floating froth and refuse?

No, what it is really most like is a spider's web, insecurely hung
on leaves and twigs, quivering in every wind, and sprinkled with
dewdrops and dead flies. And at its centre, pondering forever the
Problem of Existence, sits motionless the spider-like and uncanny


_"Thou, Trivia, goddess, aid my song: Through spacious streets
conduct thy bard along."_

Gay's _Trivia, or New Art of Walking Streets of London._

_L'oiseau Bleu_

What is it, I have more than once asked myself, what is it that
I am looking for in my walks about London? Sometimes it seems to
me as if I were following a Bird, a bright Bird that sings
sweetly as it floats about from one place to another.

When I find myself however among persons of middle age and settled
principles, see them moving regularly to their offices--what keeps
them going? I ask myself. And I feel ashamed of myself and my Bird.

There is though a Philosophic Doctrine--I studied it at College,
and I know that many serious people believe it--which maintains
that all men, in spite of appearances and pretensions, all live
alike for Pleasure. This theory certainly brings portly,
respected persons very near to me. Indeed with a sense of low
complicity I have sometimes followed and watched a Bishop. Was
he too on the hunt for Pleasure, solemnly pursuing his Bird?

_At The Bank_

Entering the Bank in a composed manner, I drew a cheque and
handed it to the cashier through the grating. Then I eyed him
narrowly. Would not that astute official see that I was only
posing as a Real Person? No; he calmly opened a little drawer,
took out some real sovereigns, counted them carefully, and
handed them to me in a brass-tipped shovel. I went away feeling
I had perpetrated a delightful fraud. I had got some of the gold
of the actual world!

Yet now and then, at the sight of my name on a visiting card, or
of my face photographed in a group among other faces, or when I
see a letter addressed in my hand, or catch the sound of my own
voice, I grow shy in the presence of a mysterious Person who is
myself, is known by my name, and who apparently does exist. Can
it be possible that I am as real as any one else, and that all
of us--the cashier and banker at the Bank, the King on his
throne--all feel ourselves like ghosts and goblins in this
authentic world?


Moralists and Church Fathers have named it the root of all Evil,
the begetter of hate and bloodshed, the sure cause of the soul's
damnation. It has been called "trash," "muck," "dunghill
excrement," by grave authors. The love of it is denounced in all
Sacred Writings; we find it reprehended on Chaldean bricks, and
in the earliest papyri. Buddha, Confucius, Christ, set their
faces against it; and they have been followed in more modern
times by beneficed Clergymen, Sunday School Teachers, and the
leaders of the Higher Thought. But have the condemnations of all
the ages done anything to tarnish that bright lustre? Men dig
for it ever deeper into the earth's intestines, travel in search
of it farther and farther to arctic and unpleasant regions.

In spite of all my moral reading, I must confess that I like to
have some of this gaudy substance in my pocket. Its presence
cheers and comforts me, diffuses a genial warmth through my
body. My eyes rejoice in the shine of it; its clinquant sound is
music in my ears. Since I then am in his paid service, and
reject none of the doles of his bounty, I too dwell in the House
of Mammon. I bow before the Idol, and taste the unhallowed

How many Altars have been overthrown, and how many Theologies
and heavenly Dreams have had their bottoms knocked out of them,
while He has sat there, a great God, golden and adorned, and
secure on His unmoved throne?

_I See the World_

"But you go nowhere, see nothing of the world," my cousins said.
Now though I do go sometimes to the parties to which I am now
and then invited, I find, as a matter of fact, that I get really
much more pleasure by looking in at windows, and have a way of
my own of seeing the World. And of summer evenings, when motors
hurry through the late twilight, and the great houses take on
airs of inscrutable expectation, I go owling out through the
dusk; and wandering toward the West, lose my way in unknown
streets--an unknown City of revels. And when a door opens and a
bediamonded Lady moves to her motor over carpets unrolled by
powdered footmen, I can easily think her some great Courtezan,
or some half-believed Duchess, hurrying to card-tables and lit
candles and strange scenes of joy. I like to see that there are
still splendid people on this flat earth; and at dances,
standing in the street with the crowd, and stirred by the music,
the lights, the rushing sound of voices, I think the Ladies as
beautiful as Stars who move up those lanes of light past our
rows of vagabond faces; the young men look like Lords in novels;
and if (it has once or twice happened) people I know go by me,
they strike me as changed and rapt beyond my sphere. And when on
hot nights windows are left open, and I can look in at Dinner
Parties, as I peer through lace curtains and window-flowers at
the silver, the women's shoulders, the shimmer of their jewels,
and the divine attitudes of their heads as they lean and listen,
I imagine extraordinary intrigues and unheard of wines and

_Social Success_

The servant gave me my coat and hat, and in a glow of self-satisfaction
I walked out into the night. "A delightful evening," I reflected,
"the nicest kind of people. What I said about finance and French
philosophy impressed them; and how they laughed when I imitated a
pig squealing."

But soon after, "God, it's awful," I muttered, "I wish I were dead."


But Oh, those heavenly moments when I feel this trivial universe
too small to contain my Attributes; when a sense of the divine
Ipseity invades me; when I know that my voice is the voice of
Truth, and my umbrella God's umbrella!

_The Spring in London_

London seemed last winter like an underground city; as if its
low sky were the roof of a cave, and its murky day a light such
as one reads of in countries beneath the earth.

And yet the natural sunlight sometimes shone there; white clouds
voyaged in the blue sky; the interminable multitudes of roofs
were washed with silver by the Moon, or cloaked with a mantle of
new-fallen snow. And the coming of Spring to London was to me
not unlike the descent of the maiden-goddess into Death's
Kingdoms, when pink almond blossoms blew about her in the gloom,
and those shadowy people were stirred with faint longings for
meadows and the shepherd's life. Nor was there anything more
virginal and fresh in wood or orchard than the shimmer of young
foliage, which, in May, dimmed with delicate green all the
smoke-blackened London trees.

_Fashion Plates_

I like loitering at the bookstalls, looking in at the windows of
printshops, and romancing over the pictures I see of shepherdesses
and old-fashioned Beauties. Tall and slim and crowned with plumes
in one period, in another these Ladies become as wide-winged as
butterflies, or float, large, balloon-like visions, down summer
streets. And yet in all shapes they have always (I tell myself)
created thrilling effects of beauty, and waked in the breasts of
modish young men ever the same charming Emotion.

But then I have questioned this. Is the emotion always precisely
the same? Is it true to say that the human heart remains quite
unchanged beneath all the changing fashions of frills and
ruffles? In this elegant and cruel Sentiment, I rather fancy
that colour and shape do make a difference. I have a notion that
about 1840 was the Zenith, the Meridian Hour, the Golden Age of
the Passion. Those tight-waisted, whiskered Beaux, those
crinolined Beauties, adored one another, I believe, with a
leisure, a refinement, and dismay not quite attainable at other

_Mental Vice_

There are certain hackneyed Thoughts that will force them-selves
on me; I find my mind, especially in hot weather, infested and
buzzed about by moral Platitudes. "That shows--" I say to
myself, or, "How true it is--" or, "I really ought to have
known!" The sight of a large clock sets me off into musings on
the flight of Time; a steamer on the Thames or lines of
telegraph inevitably suggest the benefits of Civilization, man's
triumph over Nature, the heroism of Inventors, the courage, amid
ridicule and poverty, of Stephenson and Watt. Like faint, rather
unpleasant smells, these thoughts lurk about railway stations. I
can hardly post a letter without marvelling at the excellence
and accuracy of the Postal System.

Then the pride in the British Constitution and British Freedom,
which comes over me when I see, even in the distance, the Towers
of Westminster Palace--that Mother of Parliaments--it is not
much comfort that this should be chastened, as I walk down the
Embankment, by the sight of Cleopatra's Needle, and the Thought
that it will no doubt witness the Fall of the British, as it has
that of other Empires, remaining to point its Moral, as old as
Egypt, to Antipodeans musing on the dilapidated bridges.

I am sometimes afraid of finding that there is a moral for
everything; that the whole great frame of the Universe has a key,
like a box; has been contrived and set going by a well-meaning
but humdrum Eighteenth-century Creator. It would be a kind of
Hell, surely, a world in which everything could be at once
explained, shown to be obvious and useful. I am sated with
Lesson and Allegory, weary of monitory ants, industrious bees,
and preaching animals. The benefits of Civilization cloy me. I
have seen enough shining of the didactic Sun.

So gazing up on hot summer nights at the London stars, I cool my
thoughts with a vision of the giddy, infinite, meaningless waste
of Creation, the blazing Suns, the Planets and frozen Moons, all
crashing blindly forever across the void of space.

_The Organ of Life_

Almost always In London--in the congregated uproar of streets,
or in the noise that drifts through wails and windows--you can
hear the hackneyed melancholy of street music; a music which
sounds like the actual voice of the human Heart, singing the
lost joys, the regrets, the loveless lives of the people who
blacken the pavements, or jolt along on the busses.

"Speak to me kindly," the hand-organ implores; "I'm all alone!"
it screams amid the throng; "thy Vows are all broken," it
laments in dingy courtyards, "And light is thy Fame." And of hot
summer afternoons, the Cry for Courage to Remember, or Calmness
to Forget, floats in with the smell of paint and asphalt--faint
and sad--through open office windows.


"My own view is," I began, but no one listened. At the next
pause, "I always say," I remarked, but again the loud talk went
on. Someone told a story. When the laughter had ended, "I often
think--"; but looking round the table I could catch no friendly
or attentive eye. It was humiliating, but more humiliating the
thought that Sophocles and Goethe would have always commanded
attention, while the lack of it would not have troubled Spinoza
or Abraham Lincoln.

_Green Ivory_

What a bore it is, waking up in the morning always the same
person. I wish I were unflinching and emphatic, and had big,
bushy eyebrows and a Message for the Age. I wish I were a deep
Thinker, or a great Ventriloquist.

I should like to be refined and melancholy, the victim of a
hopeless passion; to love in the old, stilted way, with
impossible Adoration and Despair under the pale-faced Moon.

I wish I could get up; I wish I were the world's greatest
Violinist. I wish I had lots of silver, and first Editions, and
green ivory.

_In The Park_

"Yes," I said one afternoon in the Park, as I looked rather
contemptuously at the people of Fashion, moving slow and
well-dressed in the sunshine, "but how about the others, the
Courtiers and Beauties and Dandies of the past? They wore
fine costumes, and glittered for their hour in the summer
air. What has become of them?" I somewhat rhetorically asked.
They were all dead now. Their day was over. They were cold
in their graves.

And I thought of those severe spirits who, in garrets far from
the Park and Fashion, had scorned the fumes and tinsel of the
noisy World.

But, good Heavens! these severe spirits were, it occurred to me,
all, as a matter of fact, quite as dead as the others.

_The Correct_

I am sometimes visited by a suspicion that everything isn't
quite all right with the Righteous; that the Moral Law speaks in
muffled and dubious tones to those who listen most scrupulously
for its dictates. I feel sure I have detected a look of doubt
and misgiving in the eyes of its earnest upholders.

But there is no such shadow or cloud on the faces in Club
windows, or in the eyes of drivers of four-in-hands, or of
fashionable young men walking down Piccadilly. For these live
by a Rule which has not been drawn down from far-off and
questionable skies, and needs no sanction; what they do is
Correct, and that is all. Correctly dressed from head to foot,
they pass, with correct speech and thoughts and gestures,
correctly across the roundness of the Earth.

_"Where Do I Come In?"_

When I read in the _Times_ about India and all its problems and
populations; when I look at the letters in large type of
important personages, and find myself face to face with the
Questions, Movements, and great Activities of the Age, "Where do
I come in?" I ask myself uneasily.

Then in the great _Times_-reflected world I find the corner
where I play my humble but necessary part. For I am one of the
unpraised, unrewarded millions without whom Statistics would be
a bankrupt science. It is we who are born, who marry, who die,
in constant ratios; who regularly lose so many umbrellas, post
just so many unaddressed letters every year. And there are
enthusiasts among us who, without the least thought of their own
convenience, allow omnibuses to run over them; or throw
themselves month by month, in fixed numbers, from the London


But how Is one to keep free from those mental microbes that
worm-eat people's brains--those Theories and Diets and Enthusiasms
and infectious Doctrines that we are always liable to catch from
what seem the most innocuous contacts? People go about laden with
germs; they breathe creeds and convictions on you whenever they
open their mouths. Books and newspapers are simply creeping with
them--the monthly Reviews seem to have room for nothing else.
Wherewithal then shall a young man cleanse his way; and how shall
he keep his mind immune to Theosophical speculations, and novel
schemes of Salvation?

Can he ever be sure that he won't be suddenly struck down by the
fever of Funeral, or of Spelling Reform, or take to his bed with
a new Sex Theory?

But is this struggle for a healthy mind in a maggoty universe
really after all worth it? Are there not soporific dreams and
sweet deliriums more soothing than Reason? If Transmigration can
make clear the dark Problem of Evil; if Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy can
free us from the dominion of Death; if the belief that Bacon
wrote Shakespeare gives a peace that the world cannot give, why
pedantically reject such kindly solace? Why not be led with the
others by still waters, and be made to lie down in green

_The Quest_

"We walk alone in the world," the Moralist, at the end of his
essay on Ideal Friendship, writes somewhat sadly, "Friends such
as we desire are dreams and fables," Yet we never quite give up
the hope of finding them. But what awful things happen to us?
what snubs, what set-downs we experience, what shames and
disillusions. We can never really tell what these new unknown
persons may do to us. Sometimes they seem nice, and then begin
to talk like gramophones. Sometimes they grab at us with moist
hands, or breathe hotly on our necks, or make awful confidences,
or drench us from sentimental slop-pails. And too often, among
the thoughts in the loveliest heads, we come on nests of woolly

And yet we brush our hats, pull on our gloves, and go out and
ring door-bells.

_The Kaleidoscope_

I find in my mind, in its miscellany of ideas and musings, a
curious collection of little landscapes and pictures, shining
and fading for no reason. Sometimes they are views in no way
remarkable-the corner of a road, a heap of stones, an old gate.
But there are many charming pictures, too: as I read, between my
eyes and book, the Moon sheds down on harvest fields her chill
of silver; I see autumnal avenues, with the leaves falling, or
swept in heaps; and storms blow among my thoughts, with the rain
beating forever on the fields. Then Winter's upward glare of
snow appears; or the pink and delicate green of Spring in the
windy sunshine; or cornfields and green waters, and youths
bathing in Summer's golden heats.

And as I walk about, certain places haunt me: a cathedral rises
above a dark blue foreign town, the colour of ivory in the
sunset light; now I find myself in a French garden full of
lilacs and bees, and shut-in sunshine, with the Mediterranean
lounging and washing outside its walls; now in a little college
library, with busts, and the green reflected light of Oxford
lawns--and again I hear the bells, reminding me of the familiar
Oxford hours.

_Oxford Street_

One late winter afternoon in Oxford Street, amid the noise of
vehicles and voices that filled that dusky thoroughfare, as I
was borne onward with the crowd past the great electric-lighted
shops, a holy Indifference filled my thoughts. Illusion had
faded from me; I was not touched by any desire for the goods
displayed in those golden windows, nor had I the smallest share
in the appetites and fears of all those moving and anxious
faces. And as I listened with Asiatic detachment to the London
traffic, its sound changed into something ancient and dissonant
and sad--into the turbid flow of that stream of Craving which
sweeps men onward through the meaningless cycles of Existence,
blind and enslaved forever. But I had reached the farther shore,
the Harbour of Deliverance, the Holy City; the Great Peace
beyond all this turmoil and fret compassed me around. _Om Mani
padme hum_--I murmured the sacred syllables, smiling with the
pitying smile of the Enlightened One on his heavenly lotus.

Then, in a shop-window, I saw a neatly fitted suit-case. I liked
that suit-case; I desired to possess it. Immediately I was
enveloped by the mists of Illusion, chained once more to the
Wheel of Existence, whirled onward along Oxford Street in that
turbid stream of wrong-belief, and lust, and sorrow, and anger.


Among all the ugly mugs of the world we see now and then a face
made after the divine pattern. Then, a wonderful thing happens
to us; the Blue Bird sings, the golden Splendour shines, and for
a queer moment everything seems meaningless save our impulse to
follow those fair forms, to follow them to the clear Paradises
they promise.

Plato assures us that these moments are not (as we are apt to
think them) mere blurs and delusions of the senses, but divine
revelations; that in a lovely face we see imaged, as in a
mirror, the Absolute Beauty--; it is Reality, flashing on us in
the cave where we dwell amid shadows and darkness. Therefore we
should follow these fair forms, and their shining footsteps will
lead us upward to the highest heaven of Wisdom. The Poets, too,
keep chanting this great doctrine of Beauty in grave notes to
their golden strings. Its music floats up through the skies so
sweet, so strange, that the very Angels seem to lean from their
stars to listen.

But, O Plato, O Shelley, O Angels of Heaven, what scrapes you do
get us into!

_The Power of Words_

I thanked the club porter who helped me into my coat, and
stepped out lightly into the vastness and freshness of the
Night. And as I walked along my eyes were dazzling with the
glare I had left; I still seemed to hear the sound of my speech,
and the applause and laughter.

And when I looked up at the Stars, the great Stars that bore
me company, streaming over the dark houses as I moved, I felt
that I was the Lord of Life; the mystery and disquieting
meaninglessness of existence--the existence of other people,
and of my own, were solved for me now. As for the Earth,
hurrying beneath my feet, how bright was its journey; how
shining the goal toward which it went swinging--you might
really say leaping--through the sky.

"I must tell the Human Race of this!" I heard my voice; saw my
prophetic gestures, as I expounded the ultimate meaning of
existence to the white, rapt faces of Humanity. Only to find the
words--that troubled me; were there then no words to describe
this Vision--divine--intoxicating?

And then the Word struck me; the Word people would use. I
stopped in the street; my Soul was silenced like a bell that
snarls at a jarring touch. I stood there awhile and meditated on
language, its perfidious meanness, the inadequacy, the ignominy
of our vocabulary, and how Moralists have spoiled our words by
distilling into them, as into little vials of poison, all their
hatred of human joy. Away with that police-force of brutal words
which bursts in on our best moments and arrests our finest
feelings! This music within me, large, like the song of the
stars--like a Glory of Angels singing--"No one has any right to
say I am drunk!" I shouted.


"Yes, aren't they odd, the thoughts that float through one's
mind for no reason? But why not be frank--I suppose the best of
us are shocked at times by the things we find ourselves
thinking. Don't you agree," I went on, not noticing (until it
was too late) that all other conversation had ceased, and the
whole dinner-party was listening, "don't you agree that the
oddest of all are the improper thoughts that come into one's
head--the unspeakable words I mean, and Obscenities?" When I
remember that remark, I hasten to enlarge my mind with ampler
considerations. I think of Space, and the unimportance in its
unmeasured vastness, of our toy solar system; I lose myself in
speculations on the lapse of Time, reflecting how at the best
our human life on this minute and perishing planet is as brief
as a dream.

_The Voice of the World_

"And what are you doing now?" The question of these school
contemporaries of mine, and their greeting the other day in
Piccadilly (I remember how shabby I felt as I stood talking
to them)--for a day or two that question haunted me. And
behind their well-bred voices I seemed to hear the voice of
Schoolmasters and Tutors, of the Professional Classes, and
indeed of all the world. What, as a plain matter of fact, was I
doing, how did I spend my days? The life-days which I knew were
numbered, and which were described in sermons and on tombstones
as so irrevocable, so melancholy-brief.

I decided to change my life. I too would be somebody in my time
and age; my contemporaries should treat me as an important person.
I began thinking of my endeavours, my studies by the midnight
lamp, my risings at dawn for stolen hours of self-improvement.

But alas, the day, the little day, was enough just then. It
somehow seemed enough, just to be alive in the Spring, with the
young green of the trees, the smell of smoke in the sunshine; I
loved the old shops and books, the uproar darkening and
brightening in the shabby daylight. Just a run of good-looking
faces--and I was always looking for faces--would keep me amused.
And London was but a dim-lit stage on which I could play in
fancy any part I liked. I woke up in the morning like Byron to
find myself famous; I was drawn like Chatham to St. Paul's, amid
the cheers of the Nation, and sternly exclaimed with Cromwell,
"Take away that bauble," as I sauntered past the Houses of

_And Anyhow_

And anyhow, soon, so soon (in only seven million years or
thereabouts the Encyclopaedia said) this Earth would grow cold,
all human activities end, and the last wretched mortals freeze
to death in the dim rays of the dying Sun.


I should be all right.... If it weren't for these sudden
visitations of Happiness, these downpourings of Heaven's blue,
little invasions of Paradise, or waftings to the Happy Islands,
or whatever you may call these disconcerting Moments, I should
be like everybody else, and as blameless a rate-payer as any in
our Row.


Once in a while, when doors are closed and curtains drawn on a
group of free spirits, the miracle happens, and Good Talk
begins. 'Tis a sudden illumination--the glow, it may be of
sanctified candles, or, more likely, the blaze around a cauldron
of gossip.

Is there an ecstasy or any intoxication like it? Oh? to talk, to
talk people into monsters, to talk one's self out of one's
clothes, to talk God from His heaven, and turn everything in the
world into a bright tissue of phrases!

These Pentecosts and outpourings of the spirit can only occur
very rarely, or the Universe itself would be soon talked out of

_The Church of England_

I have my Anglican moments; and as I sat there that Sunday
afternoon, in the Palladian interior of the London Church, and
listened to the unexpressive voices chanting the correct service,
I felt a comfortable assurance that we were in no danger of
being betrayed into any unseemly manifestations of religious
fervour. We had not gathered together at that performance
to abase ourselves with furious hosannas before any dark
Creator of an untamed Universe, no Deity of freaks and miracles
and sinister hocus-pocus; but to pay our duty to a highly
respected Anglican First Cause--undemonstrative, gentlemanly
and conscientious--whom, without loss of self-respect, we
could sincerely and decorously praise.


We were talking of people, and a name familiar to us all was
mentioned. We paused and looked at each other; then soon, by
means of anecdotes and clever touches, that personality was
reconstructed, and seemed to appear before us, large, pink, and
life-like, and gave a comic sketch of itself with appropriate

"Of course," I said to myself, "this sort of thing never happens
to me." For the notion was quite unthinkable, the notion I mean
of my own dear image, called up like this without my knowledge,
to turn my discreet way of life into a cake-walk.


She said, "How small the world is after all!"

I thought of China, of a holy mountain in the West of China,
full of legends and sacred trees and demon-haunted caves. It
is always enveloped in mountain mists; and in that white thick
air I heard the faint sound of bells, and the muffled footsteps
of innumerable pilgrims, and the reiterated mantra, _Nam-Mo,
O-mi-to-Fo_, which they murmur as they climb its slopes. High
up among its temples and monasteries marched processions of
monks, with intoned services, and many prostrations, and lighted
candles that glimmer through the fog. There in their solemn
shrines stood the statues of the Arahats, and there, seated
on his white elephant, loomed immense and dim, the image of
Amitabha, the Lord of the Western Heavens.

She said "Life is so complicated!" Climbing inaccessible cliffs
of rock and ice, I shut myself within a Tibetan monastery beyond
the Himalayan ramparts. I join with choirs of monks, intoning
their deep sonorous dirges and unintelligible prayers; I beat
drums, I clash cymbals, and blow at dawn from the Lamasery roofs
conches, and loud discordant trumpets. And wandering through
those vast and shadowy halls, as I tend the butter-lamps of the
golden Buddhas, and watch the storms that blow across the barren
mountains, I taste an imaginary bliss, and then pass on to other
scenes and incarnations along the endless road that leads me to

"But I do wish you would tell me what you really think?"

I fled to Africa, into the depths of the dark Ashanti forest.
There, in its gloomiest recesses, where the soil is stained with
the blood of the negroes He has eaten, dwells that monstrous
Deity of human shape and red colour, the great Fetish God,
Sasabonsum. I like Sasabonsum: other Gods are sometimes moved to
pity and forgiveness, but to Him such weakness is unknown. He is
utterly and absolutely implacable; no gifts or prayers, no
holocausts of human victims can appease, or ever, for one
moment, propitiate Him.


"But there are certain people I simply cannot stand. A
dreariness and sense of death come over me when I meet them--I
really find it difficult to breathe when they are in the room,
as if they had pumped all the air out of it. Wouldn't it
be dreadful to produce that effect on people! But they never
seem to be aware of it. I remember once meeting a famous
Bore; I really must tell you about it, it shows the unbelievable
obtuseness of such people."

I told this and another story or two with great gusto, and talked
on of my experiences and sensations, till suddenly I noticed, in
the appearance of my charming neighbour, something--a slightly
glazed look in her eyes, a just perceptible irregularity in her
breathing--which turned that occasion for me into a kind of


I sometimes feel a little uneasy about that imagined self of
mine--the Me of my daydreams--who leads a melodramatic life of
his own, quite unrelated to my real existence. So one day I
shadowed him down the street. He loitered along for a while, and
then stood at a shop-window and dressed himself out in a gaudy
tie and yellow waistcoat. Then he bought a great sponge and two
stuffed birds and took them to lodgings, where he led for a
while a shady existence. Next he moved to a big house in
Mayfair, and gave grand dinner-parties, with splendid service
and costly wines. His amorous adventures in this region I pass
over. He soon sold his house and horses, gave up his motors,
dismissed his retinue of servants, and went--saving two young
ladies from being run over on the way--to live a life of heroic
self-sacrifice among the poor.

I was beginning to feel encouraged about him, when in passing a
fishmonger's, he pointed at a great salmon and said, "I caught
that fish."

_The Incredible_

"Yes, but they were rather afraid of you."

"Afraid of _me_?"

"Yes, so one of them told me afterwards."

I was fairly jiggered. If my personality can inspire fear or
respect the world must be a simpler place than I had thought it.
Afraid of a shadow, a poor make-believe like me? Are children
more absurdly terrified by a candle in a hollow turnip? Was
Bedlam at full moon ever scared by anything half so silly?


A pause suddenly fell on our conversation--one of those
uncomfortable lapses when we sit with fixed smiles, searching
our minds for some remark with which to fill up the unseasonable
silence. It was only a moment--"But suppose," I said to myself
with horrible curiosity, "suppose none of us had found a word to
say, and we had gone on sitting in silence?"

It is the dread of Something happening, Something unknown and
awful, that makes us do anything to keep the flicker of talk
from dying out. So travellers at night in an unknown forest keep
their fires ablaze, in fear of Wild Beasts lurking ready in the
darkness to leap upon them.


When winter twilight falls on my street with the rain, a sense
of the horrible sadness of life descends upon me. I think of
drunken old women who drown themselves because nobody loves
them; I think of Napoleon at St. Helena, and of Byron growing
morose and fat in the enervating climate of Italy.


The rose that one wears and throws away, the friend one forgets,
the music that passes--out of the well-known transitoriness of
mortal things I have made myself a maxim or precept to the
effect that it is foolish to look for one face, or to listen
long for one voice, in a world that is after all, as I know,
full of enchanting voices.

But all the same, I can never quite forget the enthusiasm with
which, as a boy, I read the praises of Constancy and True Love,
and the unchanged Northern Star.

_The Poplar_

There is a great tree in Sussex, whose cloud of thin foliage
floats high in the summer air. The thrush sings in it, and
blackbirds, who fill the late, decorative sunshine with a
shimmer of golden sound. There the nightingale finds her green
cloister; and on those branches sometimes, like a great fruit,
hangs the lemon-coloured Moon. In the glare of August, when all
the world is faint with heat, there is always a breeze in those
cool recesses, always a noise, like the noise of water, among
its lightly hung leaves.

But the owner of this Tree lives in London, reading books.

_On the Doorstep_

I rang the bell as of old; as of old I gazed at the great
shining Door and waited. But, alas! that flutter and beat of the
wild heart, that delicious doorstep Terror--it was gone; and
with it dear, fantastic, panic-stricken Youth had rung the bell,
flitted round the corner and vanished for ever.

_Old Clothes_

Shabby old waistcoat, what made the heart beat that you used to
cover? Funny-shaped hat, where are the thoughts that once nested
beneath you? Old shoes, hurrying along what dim paths of the
Past did I wear out your sole-leather?


Oh dear, this living and eating and growing old; these doubts
and aches in the back, and want of interest in the Moon and

Am I the person who used to wake in the middle of the night and
laugh with the joy of living? Who worried about the existence of
God, and danced with young ladies till long after daybreak? Who
sang "Auld Lang Syne" and howled with sentiment, and more than
once gazed at the summer stars through a blur of great, romantic


The other day, depressed on the Underground, I tried to cheer
myself by thinking over the joys of our human lot. But there
wasn't one of them for which I seemed to care a hang--not
Wine, nor Friendship, nor Eating, nor Making Love, nor the
Consciousness of Virtue. Was it worth while then going up in
a lift into a world that had nothing less trite to offer?

Then I thought of reading--the nice and subtle happiness of
reading. This was enough, this joy not dulled by Age, this
polite and unpunished vice, this selfish, serene, life-long

_Sir Eustace Carr_

When I read the news about Sir Eustace Carr in the morning
paper, I was startled, like everyone else who knew, if only by
name this young man, whose wealth and good looks, whose
adventurous travels and whose brilliant and happy marriage, had
made of him an almost romantic figure.

Every now and then one hears of some strange happening of this
kind. But they are acts so anomalous, in such startling
contradiction to all our usual ways and accepted notions of life
and its value, that most of us are willing enough to accept the
familiar explanation of insanity, or any other commonplace cause
which may be alleged--financial trouble, or some passionate
entanglement, and the fear of scandal and exposure. And then the
Suicide is forgotten as soon as possible, and his memory
shuffled out of the way as something unpleasant to think of. But
with a curiosity that is perhaps a little morbid, I sometimes
let my thoughts dwell on these cases, wondering whether the dead
man may not have carried to the grave with him the secret of
some strange perplexity, some passion or craving or irresistible
impulse, of which perhaps his intimates, and certainly the
coroner's jury, can have had no inkling.

I had never met or spoken to Sir Eustace Carr--the worlds we
lived in were very different--but I had read of his explorations
in the East, and of the curious tombs he had discovered--somewhere,
was it not?--in the Nile Valley. Then too it happened (and this
was the main cause of my interest) that at one time I had seen
him more than once, under circumstances that were rather unusual.
And now I began to think of this incident. In away it was nothing,
and yet the impression haunted me that it was somehow connected
with this final act, for which no explanation, beyond that of
sudden mental derangement, had been offered. This explanation did
not seem to me wholly adequate, although it had been accepted,
I believe, both by his friends and the general public--and with
the more apparent reason on account of a strain of eccentricity,
amounting in some cases almost to insanity, which could be traced,
it was said, in his mother's family.

I found it not difficult to revive with a certain vividness the
memory of those cold and rainy November weeks that I had
happened to spend alone, some years ago, in Venice, and of the
churches which I had so frequently haunted. Especially I
remembered the great dreary church in the piazza near my
lodgings, into which I would often go on my way to my rooms in
the twilight. It was the season when all the Venice churches are
draped in black, and services for the dead are held in them at
dawn and twilight; and when I entered this Baroque interior,
with its twisted columns and volutes and high-piled, hideous
tombs, adorned with skeletons and allegorical figures and angels
blowing trumpets--all so agitated, and yet all so dead and empty
and frigid--I would find the fantastic darkness filled with
glimmering candles, and kneeling figures, and the discordant
noise of chanting. There I would sit, while outside night fell
with the rain on Venice; the palaces and green canals faded into
darkness, and the great bells, swinging against the low sky,
sent the melancholy sound of their voices far over the lagoons.

It was here, in this church, that I used to see Sir Eustace Carr;
would generally find him in the same corner when I entered, and
would sometimes watch his face, until the ceremonious extinguishing
of the candles, one by one, left us in shadowy night. It was a
handsome and thoughtful face, and I remember more than once
wondering what had brought him to Venice in that unseasonable
month, and why he came so regularly to this monotonous service.
It was as if some spell had drawn him; and now, with my curiosity
newly wakened, I asked myself what had been that spell? I also
must have been affected by it, for I had been there also in his
uncommunicating company. Here, I felt, was perhaps the answer to
my question, the secret of the enigma that puzzled me; and as I
went over my memories of that time, and revived its sombre and
almost sinister fascination, I seemed to see an answer looming
before my imagination. But it was an answer, an hypothesis or
supposition, so fantastic, that my common sense could hardly
accept it.

For I now saw that the spell which had been on us both at that
time in Venice had been nothing but the spell and tremendous
incantation of the Thought of Death. The dreary city with its
decaying palaces and great tomb-encumbered churches had really
seemed, in those dark and desolate weeks, to be the home and
metropolis of the great King of Terrors; and the services at
dawn and twilight, with their prayers for the Dead, and funereal
candles, had been the chanted ritual of his worship. Now suppose
(such was the notion that held my imagination) suppose this
spell, which I had felt but for a time and dimly, should become to
someone a real obsession, casting its shadow more and more completely
over a life otherwise prosperous and happy, might not this be the
clue to a history like that of Sir Eustace Carr's--not only his
interest in the buried East, his presence at that time in Venice,
but also his unexplained and mysterious end?

Musing on this half-believed notion, I thought of the great
personages and great nations we read of in ancient history, who
have seemed to live with a kind of morbid pleasure in the shadow
of this great Thought; who have surrounded themselves with
mementoes of Death, and hideous symbols of its power, and who,
like the Egyptians, have found their main interest, not in the
present, but in imaginary explorations of the unknown future;
not on the sunlit surface of this earth, but in the vaults and
dwelling-places of the Dead beneath it.

Since this preoccupation, this curiosity, this nostalgia, has
exercised so enormous a fascination in the past, I found it not
impossible to imagine some modern favourite of fortune falling a
victim to this malady of the soul; until at last, growing weary
of other satisfactions, he might be drawn to open for himself
the dark portal and join the inhabitants of that dim region,
"Kings and Counsellors of the earth, Princes that had gold, who
filled their houses with silver." This, as I say, was the notion
that haunted me, the link my imagination forged between Sir
Eustace Carr's presence in that dark Venetian church, and his
self-caused death some years later. But whether it is really a
clue to that unexplained mystery, or whether it is nothing more
than a somewhat sinister fancy, of course, I cannot say.

_The Lord Mayor_

An arctic wind was blowing; it cut through me as I stood there.
The boot-black was finishing his work and complaints.

"But I should be 'appy, sir, if only I could make four bob a
day," he said.

I looked down at him; it seemed absurd, the belief of this
crippled, half-frozen creature, that four-shillings would make
him happy. Happiness! the fabled treasure of some far-away
heaven I thought it that afternoon; not to be bought with gold,
not of this earth!

I said something to this effect. But four shillings a day was
enough for the boot-black.

"Why," he said, "I should be as 'appy as the Lord Mayor!"

_The Burden_

I know too much; I have stuffed too many of the facts of History
and Science into my intellectuals. My eyes have grown dim over
books; believing in geological periods, cave-dwellers, Chinese
Dynasties, and the fixed stars has prematurely aged me.

Why am I to blame for all that is wrong in the world? I didn't
invent Sin and Hate and Slaughter. Who made it my duty anyhow
to administer the Universe, and keep the planets to their
Copernican courses? My shoulders are bent beneath the weight
of the firmament; I grow weary of propping up, like Atlas,
this vast and erroneous Cosmos.

_Under An Umbrella_

From under the roof of my umbrella I saw the washed pavement
lapsing beneath my feet, the news-posters lying smeared with
dirt at the crossings, the tracks of the busses in the liquid
mud. On I went through this dreary world of wetness. And
through how many rains and years shall I still hurry down
wet streets--middle-aged, and then, perhaps, very old? And
on what errands?

Asking myself this cheerless question I fade from your vision,
Reader, into the distance, sloping my umbrella against the wind.


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