Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Further Foolishness by Stephen Leacock

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

this; and we'll ask the Rev. Dr. Domb and his wife--or,
no, he's Archdeacon Domb now, I hear--and he'll invite
Bishop Sollem, so they can talk together."

"That'll be good," said Mr. Blinks. "I remember years
and years ago hearing them two--those two, talking about
religion, all about the soul and the body. Man! It was
deep. It was clean beyond me. That's what I like to listen

"And Professor Potofax from the college," went on Mrs.
Blinks. "You remember, the big stout one."

"I know," said her husband.

"And his daughter, she's musical, and Mrs. Buncomtalk,
she's a great light on woman suffrage, and Miss Scragg
and Mr. Underdone--they both write poetry, so they can
talk about that."

"It'll be a great treat to listen to them all," said Mr.

A week later, on the day of the Blinkses' reception,
there was a string of motors three deep along a line of
a hundred yards in front of the house.

Inside the reception rooms were filled.

Mr. Blinks, insignificant even in his own house, moved
to and fro among his guests.

Archdeacon Domb and Dean Sollem were standing side by
side with their heads gravely lowered, as they talked,
over the cups of tea that they held in their hands.

Mr. Blinks edged towards them.

"This'll be something pretty good," he murmured to himself
as he got within reach of their conversation.

"What do you do about your body?" the Archdeacon was
asking in his deep, solemn tones.

"Practically nothing," said the Bishop. "A little rub of
shellac now and then, but practically nothing."

"You wash it, of course?" asked Dr. Domb.

"Only now and again, but far less than you would think.
I really take very little thought for my body."

"Ah," said Dr. Domb reflectively, "I went all over mine
last summer with linseed oil."

"But didn't you find," said the Bishop, "that it got into
your pipes and choked your feed?"

"It did," said Dr. Domb, munching a bit of toast as he
spoke. "In fact, I have had a lot of trouble with my
feed ever since."

"Try flushing your pipes out with hot steam," said the
Bishop. Mr. Blinks had listened in something like dismay.

"Motor-cars!" he murmured. "Who'd have thought it?"

But at this moment a genial, hearty-looking person came
pushing towards him with a cheery greeting.

"I'm afraid I'm rather late, Blinks," he said.

"Delayed in court, eh. Judge?" said Blinks as he shook

"No, blew out a plug!" said the Judge. "Stalled me right

"Blew out a plug!" exclaimed Dr. Domb and the Bishop,
deeply interested at once.

"A cracked insulator, I think," said the Judge.

"Possibly," said the Archdeacon very gravely, "the terminal
nuts of your dry battery were loose."

Mr. Blinks moved slowly away.

"Dear me!" he mused, "how changed they are."

It was a relief to him to edge his way quietly into
another group of guests where he felt certain that the
talk would be of quite another kind.

Professor Potofax and Miss Scragg and a number of others
were evidently talking about books.

"A beautiful book," the professor was saying. "One of
the best things, to my mind at any rate, that has appeared
for years. There's a chapter on the silencing of exhaust
gas which is simply marvellous."

"Is it illustrated?" questioned one of the ladies.

"Splendidly," said the professor. "Among other things
there are sectional views of check valves and flexible
roller bearings--"

"Ah, do tell me about the flexible bearings," murmured
Miss Scragg.

Mr. Blinks moved on.

Wherever he went among his guests, they all seemed stricken
with the same mania. He caught their conversation in
little scraps.

"I ran her up to forty with the greatest of ease, then
threw in my high speed and got seventy out of her without
any trouble."--"No, I simply used a socket wrench, it
answers perfectly."--"Yes, a solution of calcium chloride
is very good, but of course the hydrochloric acid in it
has a powerful effect on the metal."

"Dear me," mused Mr. Blinks, "are they all mad?"

Meantime, around his wife, who stood receiving in state
at one end of the room, the guests surged to and fro.

"So charmed to see you again," exclaimed one. "You've
been in Europe a long time, haven't you? Oh, mostly in
the south of England? Are the roads good? Last year my
husband and I went all through Shakespeare's country.
It's just delightful. They sprinkle it so thoroughly.
And Stratford-on-Avon itself is just a treat. It's all
oiled, every bit of it, except the little road by
Shakespeare's house; but we didn't go along that. Then
later we went up to the lake district: but it's not so
good: they don't oil it."

She floated away, to give place to another lady.

"In France every summer?" she exclaimed. "Oh, how perfectly
lovely. Don't you think the French cars simply divine?
My husband thinks the French body is far better modelled
than ours. He saw ever so many of them. He thought of
bringing one over with him, but it costs such a lot to
keep them in good order."

"The theatres?" said another lady. "How you must have
enjoyed them. I just love the theatres. Last week my
husband and I were at the _Palatial_--it's moving
pictures--where they have that film with the motor
collision running. It's just wonderful. You see the
motors going at full speed, and then smash right into
one another--and all the people killed--it's really fine."

"Have they all gone insane?" said Mr. Blinks to his wife
after the guests had gone.

"Dreadful, isn't it?" she assented. "I never was so bored
in my life."

"Why, they talk of nothing else but their motor-cars!"
said Blinks. "We've got to get a car, I suppose, living
at this distance from the town, but I'm hanged if I intend
to go clean crazy over it like these people."

And the guests as they went home talked of the Blinkses.

"I fear," said Dr. Domb to Judge Ponderus, "that Blinks
has hardly profited by his time in Europe as much as he
ought to have. He seems to have observed _nothing_. I
was asking him about the new Italian touring car that
they are using so much in Rome. He said he had never
noticed it. And he was there a month!"

"Is it possible?" said the Judge. "Where were his eyes?"

All of which showed that Mr. and Mrs. Blinks were in
danger of losing their friends for ever.

But it so happened that about three weeks later Blinks
came home to his residence in an obvious state of
excitement. His face was flushed and he had on a silly
little round cap with a glazed peak.

"Why, Clarence," cried his wife, "whatever is the matter?"

"Matter!" he exclaimed. "There isn't anything the matter!
I bought a car this morning, that's all. Say, it's a
beauty, a regular peach, four thousand with ten off. I
ran it clean round the shed alone first time. The chauffeur
says he never saw anybody get on to the hang of it so
quick. Get on your hat and come right down to the garage.
I've got a man waiting there to teach you to run it.
Hurry up!"

Within a week or two after that one might see the Blinkses
any morning, in fact every morning, out in their car!

"Good morning, Judge!" calls Blinks gaily as he passes,
"how's that carburettor acting?--Good morning. Archdeacon,
is that plug trouble of yours all right again?--Hullo,
Professor, let me pick you up and ride you up to the
college; oh, it's no trouble. What do you think of the
bearings of this car? Aren't they just dandy?"

And so Mr. Blinks has got all his friends back again.

After all, the great thing about being crazy is to be
all crazy together.

VI. The Two Sexes in Fives or Sixes.
A Dinner-party Study

"But, surely," exclaimed the Hostess, looking defiantly
and searchingly through the cut flowers of the centre-piece,
so that her eye could intimidate in turn all the five
men at the table, "one must admit that women are men's
equals in every way?"

The Lady-with-the-Bust tossed her head a little and
echoed, "Oh, surely!"

The Debutante lifted her big blue eyes a little towards
the ceiling, with the upward glance that stands for
innocence. She said nothing, waiting for a cue as to what
to appear to be.

Meantime the Chief Lady Guest, known to be in suffrage
work, was pinching up her lips and getting her phrases
ready, like a harpooner waiting to strike. She knew that
the Hostess meant this as an opening for her.

But the Soft Lady Whom Men Like toyed with a bit of bread
on the tablecloth (she had a beautiful hand) and smiled
gently. The other women would have called it a simper.
To the men it stood for profound intelligence.

The five men that sat amongst and between the ladies
received the challenge of the Hostess's speech and answered
it each in his own way.

From the Heavy Host at the head of the table there came
a kind of deep grunt, nothing more. He had heard this
same talk at each of his dinners that season.

There was a similar grunt from the Heavy Business Friend
of the Host, almost as broad and thick as the Host himself.
He knew too what was coming. He proposed to stand by his
friend, man for man. He could sympathise. The
Lady-with-the-Bust was his wife.

But the Half Man with the Moon Face, who was known to
work side by side with women on committees and who called
them "Comrades," echoed:

"Oh, surely!" with deep emphasis.

The Smooth Gentleman, there for business reasons, exclaimed
with great alacrity, "Women equal! Oh, rather!"

Last of all the Interesting Man with Long Hair, known to
write for the magazines--all of them--began at once:

"I remember once saying to Mrs. Pankhurst--" but was
overwhelmed in the general conversation before he could
say what it was he remembered saying to Mrs. Pankhurst.

In other words, the dinner-party, at about course number
seven, had reached the inevitable moment of the discussion
of the two sexes.

It had begun as dinner-parties do.

Everybody had talked gloomily to his neighbour, over the
oysters, on one drink of white wine; more or less brightly
to two people, over the fish, on two drinks; quite
brilliantly to three people on three drinks; and then
the conversation had become general and the European war
had been fought through three courses with champagne.
Everybody had taken an extremely broad point of view.
The Heavy Business Friend had declared himself absolutely
impartial and had at once got wet with rage over cotton.
The Chief Lady Guest had explained that she herself was
half English on her mother's side, and the Lady-with-
the-Bust had told how a lady friend of hers had a cousin
who had travelled in Hungary. She admitted that it was
some years ago. Things might have changed since. Then
the Interesting Man, having got the table where he wanted
it, had said: "I remember when I was last in Sofia--by
the way it is pronounced Say-ah-fee-ah--talking with
Radovitch--or Radee-ah-vitch, as it should be sounded--the
foreign secretary, on what the Sobranje--it is pronounced
Soophrangee--would be likely to do"--and by the time he
had done with the Sobranje no one dared speak of the war
any more.

But the Hostess had got out of it the opening she wanted,
and she said:

"At any rate, it is wonderful what women have done in
the war--"

"And are doing," echoed the Half Man with the Moon Face.

And then it was that the Hostess had said that surely
every one must admit women are equal to men and the topic
of the sexes was started. All the women had been waiting
for it, anyway. It is the only topic that women care
about. Even men can stand it provided that fifty per cent
or more of the women present are handsome enough to
justify it.

"I hardly see how, after all that has happened, any
rational person could deny for a moment," continued the
Hostess, looking straight at her husband and his Heavy
Business Friend, "that women are equal and even superior
to men. Surely our brains are just as good?" and she gave
an almost bitter laugh.

"Don't you think perhaps--?" began the Smooth Gentleman.

"No, I don't," said the Hostess. "You're going to say
that we are inferior in things like mathematics or in
logical reasoning. We are not. But, after all, the only
reason why we are is because of training. Think of the
thousands of years that men have been trained. Answer me

"Well, might it not be--?" began the Smooth Gentleman.

"I don't think so for a moment," said the Hostess. "I
think if we'd only been trained as men have for the last
two or three thousand years our brains would be just as
well trained for the things they were trained for as they
would have been now for the things we have been trained
for and in that case wouldn't have. Don't you agree with
me," she said, turning to the Chief Lady Guest, whom she
suddenly remembered, "that, after all, we think more

Here the Interesting Man, who had been silent longer than
an Interesting Man can, without apoplexy, began:

"I remember once saying in London to Sir Charles Doosey--"

But the Chief Lady Guest refused to be checked.

"We've been gathering some rather interesting statistics,"
she said, speaking very firmly, syllable by syllable,
"on that point at our Settlement. We have measured the
heads of five hundred factory girls, making a chart of
them, you know, and the feet of five hundred domestic

"And don't you find--" began the Smooth Gentleman.

"No," said the Chief Lady Guest firmly, "we do not. But
I was going to say that when we take our measurements
and reduce them to a scale of a hundred--I think you
understand me--"

"Ah, but come, now," interrupted the Interesting man,
"there's nothing really more deceitful than anthropometric
measures. I remember once saying (in London) to Sir Robert
Bittell--_the_ Sir Robert Bittell, you know--"

Here everybody murmured, "Oh, yes," except the Heavy Host
and his Heavy Friend, who with all their sins were honest

"I said, 'Sir Robert, I want your frank opinion, your
very frank opinion--'"

But here there was a slight interruption. The Soft Lady
accidentally dropped a bangle from her wrist on to the
floor. Now all through the dinner she had hardly said
anything, but she had listened for twenty minutes (from
the grapefruit to the fish) while the Interesting Man
had told her about his life in Honduras (it is pronounced
Hondooras), and for another twenty while the Smooth
Gentleman, who was a barrister, had discussed himself as
a pleader. And when each of the men had begun to speak
in the general conversation, she had looked deep into
their faces as if hanging on to their words. So when she
dropped her bangle two of the men leaped from their chairs
to get it, and the other three made a sort of struggle
as they sat. By the time it was recovered and replaced
upon her arm (a very beautiful arm), the Interesting Man
was side-tracked and the Chief Lady Guest, who had gone
on talking during the bangle hunt, was heard saying:

"Entirely so. That seems to me the greatest difficulty
before us. So few men are willing to deal with the question
with perfect sincerity."

She laid emphasis on the word and the Half Man with the
Moon Face took his cue from it and threw a pose of almost
painful sincerity.

"Why is it," continued the Chief Lady Guest, "that men
always insist on dealing with us just as if we were
playthings, just so many dressed-up dolls?"

Here the Debutante immediately did a doll.

"If a woman is attractive and beautiful," the lady went
on, "so much the better." (She had no intention of letting
go of the doll business entirely.) "But surely you men
ought to value us as something more than mere dolls?"

She might have pursued the topic, but at this moment the
Smooth Gentleman, who made a rule of standing in all
round, and had broken into a side conversation with the
Silent Host, was overheard to say something about women's
sense of humour.

The table was in a turmoil in a moment, three of the
ladies speaking at once. To deny a woman's sense of humour
is the last form of social insult.

"I entirely disagree with you," said the Chief Lady Guest,
speaking very severely. "I know it from my own case, from
my own sense of humour and from observation. Last week,
for example, we measured no less than seventy-five factory

"Well, I'm sure," said the Lady-with-the-Bust, "I don't
know what men mean by our not having a sense of humour.
I'm sure I have. I know I went last week to a vaudeville,
and I just laughed all through. Of course I can't read
Mark Twain, or anything like that, but then I don't call
that funny, do you?" she concluded, turning to the Hostess.

But the Hostess, feeling somehow that the ground was
dangerous, had already risen, and in a moment more the
ladies had floated out of the room and upstairs to the
drawing-room, where they spread themselves about in easy
chairs in billows of pretty coloured silk.

"How charming it is," the Chief Lady Guest began, "to
find men coming so entirely to our point of view! Do you
know it was so delightful to-night: I hardly heard a word
of dissent or contradiction."

Thus they talked; except the Soft Lady, who had slipped
into a seat by herself with an album over her knees, and
with an empty chair on either side of her. There she

Meantime, down below, the men had shifted into chairs to
one end of the table and the Heavy Host was shoving cigars
at them, thick as ropes, and passing the port wine, with
his big fist round the neck of the decanter. But for his
success in life he could have had a place as a bar tender

None of them spoke till the cigars were well alight.

Then the Host said very deliberately, taking each word
at his leisure, with smoke in between:

"Of course--this--suffrage business--"

"Tommyrot!" exclaimed the Smooth Gentleman, with great
alacrity, his mask entirely laid aside.

"Damn foolishness," gurgled the Heavy Business Friend,
sipping his port.

"Of course you can't really discuss it with women,"
murmured the Host.

"Oh, no," assented all the others. Even the Half Man
sipped his wine and turned traitor, there being no one
to see.

"You see," said the Host, "if my wife likes to go to
meetings and be on committees, why, I don't stop her."

"Neither do I mine," said the Heavy Friend. "It amuses
her, so I let her do it." His wife, the Lady-with-the-Bust,
was safely out of hearing.

"I remember once," began the Interesting Man, "saying
to"--he paused a moment, for the others were looking at
him--"another man that if women did get the vote they'd
never use it, anyway. All they like is being talked about
for not getting it."

After which, having exhausted the Woman Question, the
five men turned to such bigger subjects as the fall in
sterling exchange and the President's seventeenth note
to Germany.

Then presently they went upstairs. And when they reached
the door of the drawing-room a keen observer, or, indeed,
any kind of observer, might have seen that all five of
them made an obvious advance towards the two empty seats
beside the Soft Lady.

VII. The Grass Bachelor's Guide.
With sincere Apologies to the Ladies' Periodicals

There are periods in the life of every married man when
he is turned for the time being into a grass bachelor.

This happens, for instance, in the summer time when his
wife is summering by the sea, and he himself is simmering
in the city. It happens also in the autumn when his wife
is in Virginia playing golf in order to restore her
shattered nerves after the fatigues of the seaside. It
occurs again in November when his wife is in the Adirondacks
to get the benefit of the altitude, and later on through
the winter when she is down in Florida to get the benefit
of the latitude. The breaking up of the winter being,
notoriously, a trying time on the system, any reasonable
man is apt to consent to his wife's going to California.
In the later spring, the season of the bursting flowers
and the young buds, every woman likes to be with her
mother in the country. It is not fair to stop her.

It thus happens that at various times of the year a great
number of men, unable to leave their business, are left
to their own resources as housekeepers in their deserted
houses and apartments. It is for their benefit that I
have put together these hints on housekeeping for men.
It may be that in composing them I owe something to the
current number of the leading women's magazines. If so,
I need not apologise. I am sure that in these days We
Men all feel that We Men and We Women are so much alike,
or at least those of us who call ourselves so, that we
need feel no jealousy when We Men and We Women are striving
each, or both, in the same direction if in opposite ways.
I hope that I make myself clear. I am sure I do.

So I feel that if We Men, who are left alone in our houses
and apartments in the summer-time, would only set ourselves
to it, we could make life not only a little brighter for
ourselves but also a little less bright for those about

Nothing contributes to this end so much as good
housekeeping. The first thing for the housekeeper to
realise is that it is impossible for him to attend to
his housekeeping in the stiff and unbecoming garments of
his business hours. When he begins his day he must
therefore carefully consider--


The simplest and best thing will be found to be a plain
sacque or kimono, cut very full so as to allow of the
freest movement, and buttoned either down the front or
back or both. If the sleeve is cut short at the elbow
and ruffled above the bare arm, the effect is both
serviceable and becoming. It will be better, especially
for such work as lighting the gas range and boiling water,
to girdle the kimono with a simple yet effective rope or
tasselled silk, which may be drawn in or let out according
to the amount of water one wishes to boil. A simple kimono
of this sort can be bought almost anywhere for $2.50, or
can be supplied by Messrs. Einstein & Fickelbrot (see
advertising pages) for twenty-five dollars.

Having a kimono such as this, our housekeeper can either
button himself into it with a button-hook (very good ones
are supplied by Messrs. Einstein & Fickelbrot [see ad.]
at a very reasonable price or even higher), or better
still, he can summon the janitor of the apartment, who
can button him up quite securely in a few minutes' time
--a quarter of an hour at the most. We Men cannot impress
upon ourselves too strongly that, for efficient housekeeping,
time is everything, and that much depends on quiet,
effective movement from place to place, or from any one
place to any number of other places. We are now ready to
consider the all-important question--


Our housekeeper will naturally desire something that is
simple and easily cooked, yet at the same time sustaining
and invigorating and containing a maximum of food value
with a minimum of cost. If he is wise he will realise
that the food ought to contain a proper quantity of both
proteids and amygdaloids, and, while avoiding a nitrogenous
breakfast, should see to it that he obtains sufficient
of what is albuminous and exogamous to prevent his
breakfast from becoming monotonous. Careful thought must
therefore be given to the breakfast menu.

For the purpose of thinking, a simple but very effective
costume may be devised by throwing over the kimono itself
a thin lace shawl, with a fichu carried high above the
waistline and terminating in a plain insertion. A bit of
old lace thrown over the housekeeper's head is at once
serviceable and becoming and will help to keep the dust
out of his brain while thinking what to eat for breakfast.

Very naturally our housekeeper's first choice will be
some kind of cereal. The simplest and most economical
breakfast of this kind can be secured by selecting some
cereal or grain food--such as oats, flax, split peas
that have been carefully strained in the colander, or
beans that have been fired off in a gun. Any of these
cereals may be bought for ten cents a pound at a
grocer's--or obtained from Messrs. Einstein & Fickelbrot
for a dollar a pound, or more. Supposing then that we
have decided upon a pound of split peas as our breakfast,
the next task that devolves upon our housekeeper is to--


Here our advice is simple but positive. Shopping should
never be done over the telephone or by telegraph. The
good housekeeper instead of telegraphing for his food
will insist on seeing his food himself, and will eat
nothing that he does not first see before eating. This
is a cardinal rule. For the moment, then, the range must
be turned low while our housekeeper sallies forth to
devote himself to his breakfast shopping. The best costume
for shopping is a simple but effective suit, cut in plain
lines, either square or crosswise, and buttoned wherever
there are button-holes. A simple hat of some dark material
may be worn together with plain boots drawn up well over
the socks and either laced or left unlaced. No harm is
done if a touch of colour is added by carrying a geranium
in the hand. We are now ready for the street.


Here we may say at once that the crucial test is that we
must know what we want, why we want it, where we want
it, and what it is. Time, as We Men are only too apt to
forget, is everything, and since our aim is now a pound
of split peas we must, as we sally forth, think of a
pound of split peas and only a pound. A cheery salutation
may be exchanged with other morning shoppers as we pass
along, but only exchanged. Split peas being for the moment
our prime business, we must, as rapidly and unobtrusively
as possible, visit those shops and only those shops where
split peas are to be had.

Having found the split peas, our housekeeper's next task
is to _pay_ for them. This he does with money that may
be either carried in the hand or, better, tucked into a
simple _etui_, or _dodu_, that can be carried at the
wrist or tied to the ankle. The order duly given, our
housekeeper gives his address for the delivery of the
peas, and then, as quietly and harmlessly as possible,
returns to his apartment. His next office, and a most
important one it is, is now ready to be performed. This
new but necessary duty is--


A good costume for waiting for the delivery van in, is
a simple brown suit, slashed with yellow and purple, and
sliced or gored from the hip to the feet. As time is
everything, the housekeeper, after having put on his
slashed costume for waiting for the delivery van, may
set himself to the performance of a number of light
household tasks, at the same time looking occasionally
from the window so as to detect the arrival of the van
as soon as possible after it has arrived. Among other
things, he may now feed his canary by opening its mouth
with a button-hook and dropping in coffee beans till the
little songster shows by its gratified air that it is
full. A little time may be well spent among the flowers
and bulbs of the apartment, clipping here a leaf and here
a stem, and removing the young buds and bugs. For work
among the flowers, a light pair of rather long scissors,
say a foot long, can be carried at the girdle, or attached
to the _etui_ and passed over the shoulder with a looped
cord so as to fall in an easy and graceful fold across
the back. The moment is now approaching when we may


The housekeeper will presently discover the van, drawn
up in the front of the apartment, and its driver curled
up on the seat. Now is the moment of activity. Hastily
throwing on a _peignoir_, the housekeeper descends and,
receiving his parcel, reascends to his apartment. The
whole descent and reascent is made quickly, quietly, and,
if possible, only once.


Remember that unsoaked peas are hard, forcible, and
surcharged with a nitrogenous amygdaloid that is in
reality what chemical science calls putrate of lead. On
the other hand, peas that are soaked become large, voluble,
textile, and, while extremely palatable, are none the
less rich in glycerine, starch, and other lacteroids and
bactifera. To contain the required elements of nutrition
split peas must be soaked for two hours in fresh water
and afterwards boiled for an hour and a quarter
(eighty-five minutes).

It is now but the work of a moment to lift the saucepan
of peas from the fire, strain them through a colander,
pass them thence into a net or bag, rinse them in cold
water and then spread the whole appetising mass on a
platter and carry it on a fireshovel to the dining-room.
As it is now about six o'clock in the evening, our
housekeeper can either--


_Or he can sit down and eat those d--n peas_.


VIII. Every Man and his Friends. Mr. Crunch's
Portrait Gallery (as Edited from his Private Thoughts)


A mean man. I say it, of course, without any prejudice,
and without the slightest malice. But the man is mean.
Small, I think, is the word. I am not thinking, of course,
of my own salary. It is not a matter that I would care
to refer to; though, as a matter of fact, one would think
that after fifteen years of work an application for an
increase of five hundred dollars is the kind of thing
that any man ought to be glad to meet half-way. Not that
I bear the man any malice for it. None. If he died
to-morrow, no one would regret his death as genuinely as
I would: if he fell into the river and got drowned, or
if he fell into a sewer and suffocated, or if he got
burned to death in a gas explosion (there are a lot of
things that might happen to him), I should feel genuinely
sorry to see him cut off.

But what strikes me more than the man's smallness is his
incompetence. The man is absolutely no good. It's not a
thing that I would say outside: as a matter of fact I
deny it every time I hear it, though every man in town
knows it. How that man ever got the position he has is
more than I can tell. And, as for holding it, he couldn't
hold it half a day if it weren't that the rest of us in
the office do practically everything for him.

Why, I've seen him send out letters (I wouldn't say this
to anyone outside, of course, and I wouldn't like to have
it repeated)--letters with, actually, mistakes in English.
Think of it, in English! Ask his stenographer.

I often wonder why I go on working for him. There are
dozens of other companies that would give anything to
get me. Only the other day--it's not ten years ago--I
had an offer, or practically an offer, to go to Japan
selling Bibles. I often wish now I had taken it. I believe
I'd like the Japanese. They're gentlemen, the Japanese.
They wouldn't turn a man down after slaving away for
fifteen years.

I often think I'll quit him. I say to my wife that that
man had better not provoke me too far; or some day I'll
just step into his office and tell him exactly what I
think of him. I'd like to. I often say it over to myself
in the street car coming home.

He'd better be careful, that's all.


A dull man. Dull is the only word I can think of that
exactly describes him--dull and prosy. I don't say that
he is not a good man. He may be. I don't say that he is
not. I have never seen any sign of it, if he is. But I
make it a rule never to say anything to take away a man's

And his sermons! Really that sermon he gave last Sunday
on Esau seemed to me the absolute limit. I wish you could
have heard it. I mean to say--drivel. I said to my wife
and some friends, as we walked away from the church, that
a sermon like that seemed to me to come from the dregs
of the human intellect. Mind you, I don't believe in
criticising a sermon. I always feel it a sacred obligation
never to offer a word of criticism. When I say that the
sermon was _punk_, I don't say it as criticism. I merely
state it as a fact. And to think that we pay that man
eighteen hundred dollars a year! And he's in debt all
the time at that. What does he do with it? He can't spend
it. It's not as if he had a large family (they've only
four children). It's just a case of sheer extravagance.
He runs about all the time. Last year it was a trip to
a Synod Meeting at New York--away four whole days; and
two years before that, dashing off to a Scripture Conference
at Boston, and away nearly a whole week, and his wife
with him!

What I say is that if a man's going to spend his time
gadding about the country like that--here to-day and
there to-morrow--how on earth can he attend to his
parochial duties?

I'm a religious man. At least I trust I am. I believe
--and more and more as I get older--in eternal punishment.
I see the need of it when I look about me. As I say, I
trust I am a religious man, but when it comes to subscribing
fifty dollars as they want us to, to get the man out of
debt, I say "No."

True religion, as I see it, is not connected with money.


The man is a complete ass. How a man like that has the
nerve to sit down at a bridge table, I don't know. I
wouldn't mind if the man had any idea--even the faintest
idea--of how to play. But he hasn't any. Three times I
signalled to him to throw the lead into my hand and he
wouldn't: I knew that our only ghost of a chance was to
let me do all the playing. But the ass couldn't see it.
He even had the supreme nerve to ask me what I meant by
leading diamonds when he had signalled that he had none.
I couldn't help asking him, as politely as I could, why
he had disregarded my signal for spades. He had the gall
to ask in reply why I had overlooked his signal for clubs
in the second hand round; the very time, mind you, when
I had led a three spot as a sign to him to let me play
the whole game. I couldn't help saying to him, at the
end of the evening, in a tone of such evident satire that
anyone but an ass would have recognised it, that I had
seldom had as keen an evening at cards.

But he didn't see it. The irony of it was lost on him.
The jackass merely said--quite amiably and unconsciously
--that he thought I'd play a good game presently. Me!
Play a good game presently!

I gave him a look, just one look as I went out! But I
don't think he saw it. He was talking to some one else.


On what principle that woman makes up her dinner parties
is more than human brain can devise. Mind you, I like
going out to dinner. To my mind it's the very best form
of social entertainment. But I like to find myself among
people that can talk, not among a pack of numbskulls.
What I like is good general conversation, about things
worth talking about. But among a crowd of idiots like
that what can you expect? You'd think that even society
people would be interested, or pretend to be, in real
things. But not a bit. I had hardly started to talk about
the rate of exchange on the German mark in relation to
the fall of sterling bills--a thing that you would think
a whole table full of people would be glad to listen
to--when first thing I knew the whole lot of them had
ceased paying any attention and were listening to an
insufferable ass of an Englishman--I forget his name.
You'd hardly suppose that just because a man has been in
Flanders and has his arm in a sling and has to have his
food cut up by the butler, that's any reason for having
a whole table full of people listening to him. And
especially the women: they have a way of listening to a
fool like that with their elbows on the table that is
positively sickening.

I felt that the whole thing was out of taste and tried
in vain, in one of the pauses, to give a lead to my
hostess by referring to the prospect of a shipping subsidy
bill going through to offset the register of alien ships.
But she was too utterly dense to take it up. She never
even turned her head. All through dinner that ass talked
--he and that silly young actor they're always asking
there that is perpetually doing imitations of the vaudeville
people. That kind of thing may be all right, for those
who care for it--I frankly don't--outside a theatre. But
to my mind the idea of trying to throw people into fits
of laughter at a dinner-table is simply execrable taste.
I cannot see the sense of people shrieking with laughter
at dinner. I have, I suppose, a better sense of humour
than most people. But to my mind a humourous story should
be told quietly and slowly in a way to bring out the
point of the humour and to make it quite clear by preparing
for it with proper explanations. But with people like
that I find I no sooner get well started with a story
than some fool or other breaks in. I had a most amusing
experience the other day--that is, about fifteen years
ago--at a summer hotel in the Adirondacks, that one would
think would have amused even a shallow lot of people like
those, but I had no sooner started to tell it--or had
hardly done more than to describe the Adirondacks in a
general way--than, first thing I know, my hostess, stupid
woman, had risen and all the ladies were trooping out.

As to getting in a word edgeways with the men over the
cigars--perfectly impossible! They're worse than the
women. They were all buzzing round the infernal Englishman
with questions about Flanders and the army at the front.
I tried in vain to get their attention for a minute to
give them my impressions of the Belgian peasantry (during
my visit there in 1885), but my host simply turned to me
for a second and said, "Have some more port?" and was
back again listening to the asinine Englishman.

And when we went upstairs to the drawing-room I found
myself, to my disgust, side-tracked in a corner of the
room with that supreme old jackass of a professor--their
uncle, I think, or something of the sort. In all my life
I never met a prosier man. He bored me blue with long
accounts of his visit to Serbia and his impressions of
the Serbian peasantry in 1875.

I should have left early, but it would have been too

The trouble with a woman like that is that she asks the
wrong people to her parties.



You haven't seen him? Why, that's incredible. You must
have. He goes past your house every day on his way to
his kindergarten. You must have seen him a thousand
times. And he's a boy you couldn't help noticing. You'd
pick that boy out among a hundred, right away. "There's
a remarkable boy," you'd say. I notice people always turn
and look at him on the street. He's just the image of
me. Everybody notices it at once.

How old? He's twelve. Twelve and two weeks yesterday.
But he's so bright you'd think he was fifteen. And the
things he says! You'd laugh! I've written a lot of them
down in a book for fear of losing them. Some day when
you come up to the house I'll read them to you. Come some
evening. Come early so that we'll have lots of time. He
said to me one day, "Dad" (he always calls me Dad), "what
makes the sky blue?" Pretty thoughtful, eh, for a little
fellow of twelve? He's always asking questions like that.
I wish I could remember half of them.

And I'm bringing him up right, I tell you. I got him a
little savings box a while ago, and have got him taught
to put all his money in it, and not give any of it away,
so that when he grows up he'll be all right.

On his last birthday I put a five dollar gold piece into
it for him and explained to him what five dollars meant,
and what a lot you could do with it if you hung on to
it. You ought to have seen him listen.

"Dad," he says, "I guess you're the kindest man in the
world, aren't you?"

Come up some time and see him.

IX. More than Twice-told Tales; or,
Every Man his Own Hero


The familiar story told about himself by the Commercial
Traveller who sold goods to the man who was regarded as

"What," they said, "you're getting off at Midgeville?
You're going to give the Jones Hardware Company a try,
eh?"--and then they all started laughing and giving me
the merry ha! ha! Well, I just got my grip packed and
didn't say a thing and when the train slowed up for
Midgeville, out I slid. "Give my love to old man Jones,"
one of the boys called after me, "and get yourself a
couple of porous plasters and a pair of splints before
you tackle him!"--and then they all gave me the ha! ha!
again, out of the window as the train pulled out.

Well, I walked uptown from the station to the Jones
Hardware Company. "Is Mr. Jones in the office?" I asked
of one of the young fellers behind the counter. "He's in
the office," he says, "all right, but I guess you can't
see him," he says--and he looked at my grip. "What name
shall I say?" says he. "Don't say any name at all," I
says. "Just open the door and let me in."

Well, there was old man Jones sitting scowling over his
desk, biting his pen in that way he has. He looked up
when I came in. "See here, young man," he says, "you
can't sell me any hardware," he says. "Mr. Jones," I
says, "I don't _want_ to sell you any hardware. I'm not
_here_ to sell you any hardware. I know," I says, "as
well as you do," I says, "that I couldn't sell any hardware
if I tried to. But," I says, "I guess it don't do any
harm to open up this sample case, and show you some
hardware," I says. "Young man," says he, "if you start
opening up that sample case in here, you'll lose your
time, that's all"--and he turned off sort of sideways
and began looking over some letters.

"That's _all right_, Mr. Jones," I says. "That's _all
right_. I'm _here_ to lose my time. But I'm not going
out of this room till you take a look anyway at some of
this new cutlery I'm carrying."

So open I throws my sample case right across the end of
his desk. "Look at that knife," I says, "Mr. Jones. Just
look at it: clear Sheffield at three-thirty the dozen
and they're a knife that will last till you wear the haft
off it." "Oh, pshaw," he growled, "I don't want no knives;
there's nothing in knives--"

Well I _knew_ he didn't want knives, see? I _knew_ it.
But the way I opened up the sample case it showed up,
just by accident so to speak, a box of those new electric
burners--adjustable, you know--they'll take heat off any
size of socket you like and use it for any mortal thing
in the house. I saw old Jones had his eyes on them in a
minute. "What's those things you got there?" he growls,
"those in the box?" "Oh," I said, "that's just a new
line," I said, "the boss wanted me to take along: some
sort of electric rig for heating," I said, "but I don't
think there's anything to it. But here, now, Mr. Jones,
is a spoon I've got on this trip--it's the new Delphide
--you can't tell that, sir, from silver. No, sir," I
says, "I defy any man, money down, to tell that there
Delphide from genuine refined silver, and they're a spoon
that'll last--"

"Let me see one of those burners," says old man Jones,
breaking in.

Well, sir, in about two minutes more, I had one of the
burners fixed on to the light socket, and old Jones, with
his coat off, boiling water in a tin cup (out of the
store) and timing it with his watch.

The next day I pulled into Toledo and went and joined
the other boys up to the Jefferson House. "Well," they
says, "have you got that plaster on?" and started in to
give me the ha! ha! again. "Oh, I don't know," I says.
"I guess _this_ is some plaster, isn't it?" and I took
out of my pocket an order from old man Jones for two
thousand adjustable burners, at four-twenty with two off.
"Some plaster, eh?" I says.

Well, sir, the boys looked sick.

Old man Jones gets all his stuff from our house now. Oh,
he ain't bad at all when you get to know him.


The well-known story told by the man who has once had a
strange psychic experience.

...What you say about presentiments reminds me of a strange
experience that I had myself.

I was sitting by myself one night very late, reading. I
don't remember just what it was that I was reading. I
think it was--or no, I don't remember _what_ it was.
Well, anyway, I was sitting up late reading quietly till
it got pretty late on in the night. I don't remember
just how late it was--half-past two, I think, or perhaps
three--or, no, I don't remember. But, anyway, I was
sitting up by myself very late reading. As I say, it was
late, and, after all the noises in the street had stopped,
the house somehow seemed to get awfully still and quiet.
Well, all of a sudden I became aware of a sort of strange
feeling--I hardly know how to describe it--I seemed to
become aware of something, as if something were near me.
I put down my book and looked around, but could see
nothing. I started to read again, but I hadn't read more
than a page, or say a page and a half--or no, not more
than a page, when again all of a sudden I felt an
overwhelming sense of--something. I can't explain just
what the feeling was, but a queer sense as if there was
something somewhere.

Well, I'm not of a timorous disposition naturally--at
least I don't think I am--but absolutely I felt as if I
couldn't stay in the room. I got up out of my chair and
walked down the stairs, in the dark, to the dining-room.
I felt all the way as if some one were following me. Do
you know, I was absolutely trembling when I got into the
dining-room and got the lights turned on. I walked over
to the sideboard and poured myself out a drink of whisky
and soda. As you know, I never take anything as a rule
--or, at any rate, only when I am sitting round talking
as we are now--but I always like to keep a decanter of
whisky in the house, and a little soda, in case of my
wife or one of the children being taken ill in the night.

Well, I took a drink and then I said to myself, I said,
"See here, I'm going to see this thing through." So I
turned back and walked straight upstairs again to my
room. I fully expected something queer was going to happen
and was prepared for it. But do you know when I walked
into the room again the feeling, or presentiment, or
whatever it was I had had, was absolutely gone. There
was my book lying just where I had left it and the reading
lamp still burning on the table, just as it had been,
and my chair just where I had pushed it back. But I felt
nothing, absolutely nothing. I sat and waited awhile,
but I still felt _nothing_.

I went downstairs again to put out the lights in the
dining-room. I noticed as I passed the sideboard that
I was still shaking a little. So I took a small drink of
whisky--though as a rule I never care to take more than
one drink--unless when I am sitting talking as we are

Well, I had hardly taken it when I felt an odd sort of
psychic feeling--a sort of drowsiness. I remember, in a
dim way, going to bed, and then I remember nothing till
I woke up next morning.

And here's the strange part of it. I had hardly got down
to the office after breakfast when I got a wire to tell
me that my mother-in-law had broken her arm in Cincinnati.
Strange, wasn't it? No, _not_ at half-past two during
that night--that's the inexplicable part of it. She had
broken it at half-past eleven the morning before. But
you notice it was _half-past_ in each case. That's the
queer way these things go.

Of course, I don't pretend to _explain it_. I suppose it
simply means that I am telepathic--that's all. I imagine
that, if I wanted to, I could talk with the dead and all
that kind of thing. But I feel somehow that I don't want

Eh? Thank you, I will--though I seldom take more than--
thanks, thanks, that's plenty of soda in it.


The familiar narrative in which the Successful Business
Man recounts the early struggles by which he made good.

...No, sir, I had no early advantages whatever. I was brought
up plain and hard--try one of these cigars; they cost me
fifty cents each. In fact, I practically had no schooling
at all. When I left school I didn't know how to read,
not to read good. It's only since I've been in business
that I've learned to write English, that is so as to use
it right. But I'll guarantee to say there isn't a man in
the shoe business to-day can write a better letter than
I can. But all that I know is what I've learned myself.
Why, I can't do fractions even now. I don't see that a
man need. And I never learned no geography, except what
I got for myself off railroad folders. I don't believe
a man _needs_ more than that anyway. I've got my boy at
Harvard now. His mother was set on it. But I don't see
that he learns anything, or nothing that will help him
any in business. They say they learn them character and
manners in the colleges, but, as I see it, a man can get
all that just as well in business--is that wine all right?
If not, tell me and I'll give the head waiter hell; they
charge enough for it; what you're drinking costs me
four-fifty a bottle.

But I was starting to tell you about my early start in
business. I had it good and hard all right. Why when I
struck New York--I was sixteen then--I had just eighty
cents to my name. I lived on it for nearly a week while
I was walking round hunting for a job. I used to get soup
for three cents, and roast beef with potatoes, all you
could eat, for eight cents, that tasted better than anything
I can ever get in this damn club. It was down somewhere
on Sixth Avenue, but I've forgotten the way to it.

Well, about the sixth day I got a job, down in a shoe
factory, working on a machine. I guess you've never seen
shoe-machinery, have you? No, you wouldn't likely. It's
complicated. Even in those days there were thirty-five
machines went to the making of a shoe, and now we use as
many as fifty-four. I'd never seen the machines before,
but the foreman took me on. "You look strong," he said
"I'll give you a try anyway."

So I started in. I didn't know anything. But I made good
from the first day. I got four a week at the start, and
after two months I got a raise to four-twenty-five.

Well, after I'd worked there about three months, I went
up to the floor manager of the flat I worked on, and I
said, "Say, Mr. Jones, do you want to save ten dollars
a week on expenses?" "How?" says he. "Why," I said, "that
foreman I'm working under on the machine, I've watched
him, and I can do his job; dismiss him and I'll take over
his work at half what you pay him." "Can you do the work?"
he says. "Try me out," I said. "Fire him and give me a
chance." "Well," he said, "I like your spirit anyway;
you've got the right sort of stuff in you."

So he fired the foreman and I took over the job and held
it down. It was hard at first, but I worked twelve hours
a day, and studied up a book on factory machinery at
night. Well, after I'd been on that work for about a
year, I went in one day to the general manager downstairs,
and I said, "Mr. Thompson, do you want to save about a
hundred dollars a month on your overhead costs?" "How
can I do that?" says he. "Sit down." "Why," I said, "you
dismiss Mr. Jones and give me his place as manager of
the floor, and I'll undertake to do his work, and mine
with it, at a hundred less than you're paying now." He
turned and went into the inner office, and I could hear
him talking to Mr. Evans, the managing director. "The
young fellow certainly has character," I heard him say.
Then he came out and he said, "Well, we're going to give
you a try anyway: we like to help out our employes all
we can, you know; and you've got the sort of stuff in
you that we're looking for."

So they dismissed Jones next day and I took over his job
and did it easy. It was nothing anyway. The higher up
you get in business, the easier it is if you know how.
I held that job two years, and I saved all my salary
except twenty-five dollars a month, and I lived on that.
I never spent any money anyway. I went once to see Irving
do this Macbeth for twenty-five cents, and once I went
to a concert and saw a man play the violin for fifteen
cents in the gallery. But I don't believe you get much
out of the theatre anyway; as I see it, there's nothing
to it.

Well, after a while I went one day to Mr. Evans's office
and I said, "Mr. Evans, I want you to dismiss Mr. Thompson,
the general manager." "Why, what's he done?" he says.
"Nothing," I said, "but I can take over his job on top
of mine and you can pay me the salary you give him and
save what you're paying me now." "Sounds good to me," he

So they let Thompson go and I took his place. That, of
course, is where I got my real start, because, you see,
I could control the output and run the costs up and down
just where I liked. I suppose you don't know anything
about costs and all that--they don't teach that sort of
thing in colleges--but even you would understand something
about dividends and would see that an energetic man with
lots of character and business in him, If he's general
manager can just do what he likes with the costs, especially
the overhead, and the shareholders have just got to take
what he gives them and be glad to. You see they can't
fire him--not when he's got it all in his own hands--for
fear it will all go to pieces.

Why would I want to run it that way for? Well, I'll tell
you. I had a notion by that time that the business was
getting so big that Mr. Evans, the managing director,
and most of the board had pretty well lost track of the
details and didn't understand it. There's an awful lot,
you know, in the shoe business. It's not like ordinary
things. It's complicated. And so I'd got an idea that I
would shove them clean out of it--or most of them.

So I went one night to see the president, old Guggenbaum,
up at his residence. He didn't only have this business,
but he was in a lot of other things as well, and he was
a mighty hard man to see. He wouldn't let any man see
him unless he knew first what he was going to say. But
I went up to his residence at night, and I saw him there.
I talked first with his daughter, and I said I just had
to see him. I said it so she didn't dare refuse. There's
a way in talking to women that they won't say no.

So I showed Mr. Guggenbaum what I could do with the stock.
"I can put that dividend," I says, "clean down to zero--and
they'll none of them know why. You can buy the lot of
them out at your own price, and after that I'll put the
dividend back to fifteen, or twenty, in two years."

"And where do _you_ come in?" says the old man, with a
sort of hard look. He had a fine business head, the old
man, at least in those days.

So I explained to him where I came in. "All right," he
said. "Go ahead. But I'll put nothing in writing." "Mr.
Guggenbaum, you don't need to," I said. "You're as fair
and square as I am and that's enough for me."

His daughter let me out of the house door when I went.
I guess she'd been pretty scared that she'd done wrong
about letting me in. But I said to her it was all right,
and after that when I wanted to see the old man I'd always
ask for her and she'd see that I got in all right.

Got them squeezed out? Oh, yes, easy. There wasn't any
trouble about that. You see the old man worked up a sort
of jolt in wholesale leather on one side, and I fixed up
a strike of the hands on the other. We passed the dividend
two quarters running, and within a year we had them all
scared out and the bulk of the little shareholders, of
course, trooped out after them. They always do. The old
man picked up the stock when they dropped it, and one-half
of it he handed over to me.

That's what put me where I am now, do you see, with the
whole control of the industry in two states and more than
that now, because we have the Amalgamated Tanneries in
with us, so it's practically all one concern.

Guggenbaum? Did I squeeze him out? No, I didn't because,
you see, I didn't have to. The way it was--well, I tell
you--I used to go up to the house, see, to arrange things
with him--and the way it was--why, you see, I married
his daughter, see, so I didn't exactly _need_ to squeeze
him out. He lives up with us now, but he's pretty old
and past business. In fact, I do it all for him now, and
pretty well everything he has is signed over to my wife.
She has no head for it, and she's sort of timid anyway
--always was--so I manage it all. Of course, if anything
happens to the old man, then we get it all. I don't think
he'll last long. I notice him each day, how weak he's

My son in the business? Well, I'd like him to be. But he
don't seem to take to it somehow--I'm afraid he takes
more after his mother; or else it's the college that's
doing it. Somehow, I don't think the colleges bring out
business character, do you?

X. A Study in Still Life--My Tailor

He always stands there--and has stood these thirty
years--in the back part of his shop, his tape woven about
his neck, a smile of welcome on his face, waiting to
greet me.

"Something in a serge," he says, "or perhaps in a tweed?"

There are only these two choices open to us. We have had
no others for thirty years. It is too late to alter now.

"A serge, yes," continues my tailor, "something in a dark
blue, perhaps." He says it with all the gusto of a new
idea, as if the thought of dark blue had sprung up as an
inspiration. "Mr. Jennings" (this is his assistant),
"kindly take down some of those dark blues.

"Ah," he exclaims, "now here is an excellent thing." His
manner as he says this is such as to suggest that by
sheer good fortune and blind chance he has stumbled upon
a thing among a million.

He lifts one knee and drapes the cloth over it, standing
upon one leg. He knows that in this attitude it is hard
to resist him. Cloth to be appreciated as cloth must be
viewed over the bended knee of a tailor with one leg in
the air.

My tailor can stand in this way indefinitely, on one leg
in a sort of ecstasy, a kind of local paralysis.

"Would that make up well?" I ask him.

"Admirably," he answers.

I have no real reason to doubt it. I have never seen any
reason why cloth should not make up well. But I always
ask the question as I know that he expects it and it
pleases him. There ought to be a fair give and take in
such things.

"You don't think it at all loud?" I say. He always likes
to be asked this.

"Oh, no, very quiet indeed. In fact we always recommend
serge as extremely quiet."

I have never had a wild suit in my life. But it is well
to ask.

Then he measures me--round the chest, nowhere else. All
the other measures were taken years ago. Even the chest
measure is only done--and I know it--to please me. I do
not really grow.

"A _little_ fuller in the chest," my tailor muses. Then
he turns to his assistant. "Mr. Jennings, a little fuller
in the chest--half an inch on to the chest, please."

It is a kind fiction. Growth around the chest is flattering
even to the humblest of us.

"Yes," my tailor goes on--he uses "yes" without any
special meaning--"and shall we say a week from Tuesday?
Mr. Jennings, a week from Tuesday, please."

"And will you please," I say, "send the bill to--?" but
my tailor waves this aside. He does not care to talk
about the bill. It would only give pain to both of us
to speak of it.

The bill is a matter we deal with solely by correspondence,
and that only in a decorous and refined style never
calculated to hurt.

I am sure from the tone of my tailor's letters that he
would never send the bill, or ask for the amount, were
it not that from time to time he is himself, unfortunately,
"pressed" owing to "large consignments from Europe." But
for these heavy consignments, I am sure I should never
need to pay him. It is true that I have sometimes thought
to observe that these consignments are apt to arrive when
I pass the limit of owing for two suits and order a third.
But this can only be a mere coincidence.

Yet the bill, as I say, is a thing that we never speak
of. Instead of it my tailor passes to the weather. Ordinary
people always begin with this topic. Tailors, I notice,
end with it. It is only broached after the suit is ordered,
never before.

"Pleasant weather we are having," he says. It is never
other, so I notice, with him. Perhaps the order of a suit
itself is a little beam of sunshine.

Then we move together towards the front of the store on
the way to the outer door.

"Nothing to-day, I suppose," says my tailor, "in shirtings?"

"No, thank you."

This is again a mere form. In thirty years I have never
bought any shirtings from him. Yet he asks the question
with the same winsomeness as he did thirty years ago.

"And nothing, I suppose, in collaring or in hosiery?"

This is again futile. Collars I buy elsewhere and hosiery
I have never worn.

Thus we walk to the door, in friendly colloquy. Somehow
if he failed to speak of shirtings and hosiery, I should
feel as if a familiar cord had broken;

At the door we part.

"Good afternoon," he says. "A week from Tuesday--yes
--good afternoon."

Such is--or was--our calm unsullied intercourse, unvaried
or at least broken only by consignments from Europe.

I say it _was_, that is until just the other day.

And then, coming to the familiar door, for my customary
summer suit, I found that he was there no more. There
were people in the store, unloading shelves and piling
cloth and taking stock. And they told me that he was
dead. It came to me with a strange shock. I had not
thought it possible. He seemed--he should have been

They said the worry of his business had helped to kill
him. I could not have believed it. It always seemed so
still and tranquil--weaving his tape about his neck and
marking measures and holding cloth against his leg beside
the sunlight of the window in the back part of the shop.
Can a man die of that? Yet he had been "going behind,"
they said (however that is done), for years. His wife,
they told me, would be left badly off. I had never
conceived him as having a wife. But it seemed that he
had, and a daughter, too, at a conservatory of music
--yet he never spoke of her--and that he himself was
musical and played the flute, and was the sidesman of a
church--yet he never referred to it to me. In fact, in
thirty years we never spoke of religion. It was hard to
connect him with the idea of it.

As I went out I seemed to hear his voice still saying,
"And nothing to-day in shirtings?"

I was sorry I had never bought any.

There is, I am certain, a deep moral in this. But I will
not try to draw it. It might appear too obvious.

Peace, War, and Politics

XI. Germany from Within Out

The adventure which I here narrate resulted out of a
strange psychological experience of a kind that (outside
of Germany) would pass the bounds of comprehension.

To begin with, I had fallen asleep.

Of the reason for my falling asleep I have no doubt. I
had remained awake nearly the whole of the preceding
night, absorbed in the perusal of a number of recent
magazine articles and books dealing with Germany as seen
from within. I had read from cover to cover that charming
book, just written by Lady de Washaway, under the title
_Ten Years as a Toady, or The Per-Hapsburgs as I Didn't
Know Them_. Her account of the life of the Imperial Family
of Austria, simple, unaffected, home-like; her picture
of the good old Emperor, dining quietly off a cold potato
and sitting after dinner playing softly to himself on
the flute, while his attendants gently withdrew one by
one from his presence; her description of merry, boisterous,
large-hearted Prince Stefan Karl, who kept the whole
court in a perpetual roar all the time by asking such
riddles as "When is a sailor not a sailor?" (the answer
being, of course, when he is a German Prince)--in fact,
the whole book had thrilled me to the verge of spiritual

From Lady de Washaway's work I turned to peruse Hugo von
Halbwitz's admirable book, _Easy Marks, or How the German
Government Borrows its Funds_; and after that I had read
Karl von Wiggleround's _Despatches_ and Barnstuff's
_Confidential Letters to Criminals_.

As a consequence I fell asleep as if poisoned.

But the amazing thing is that, whenever it was or was
not that I fell asleep, I woke up to find myself in

I cannot offer any explanation as to how this came about.
I merely state the fact.

There I was, seated on the grassy bank of a country road.

I knew it was Germany at once. There was no mistaking
it. The whole landscape had an orderliness, a method
about it that is, alas, never seen in British countries.
The trees stood in neat lines, with the name of each
nailed to it on a board. The birds sat in regular rows,
four to a branch, and sang in harmony, very simply, but
with the true German feeling.

There were two peasants working beside the road. One was
picking up fallen leaves, and putting them into neat
packets of fifty. The other was cutting off the tops of
the late thistles that still stood unwithered in the
chill winter air, and arranging them according to size
and colour. In Germany nothing is lost; nothing is wasted.
It is perhaps not generally known that from the top of
the thistle the Germans obtain picrate of ammonia, the
most deadly explosive known to modern chemistry, while
from the bulb below, butter, crude rubber and sweet cider
are extracted in large quantities.

The two peasants paused in their work a moment as they
saw me glance towards them, and each, with the simple
gentility of the German working man, quietly stood on
his head until I had finished looking at him.

I felt quite certain, of course, that it must only be a
matter of a short time before I would inevitably be

I felt doubly certain of it when I saw a motor speeding
towards me with a stout man, in military uniform and a
Prussian helmet, seated behind the chauffeur.

The motor stopped, but to my surprise the military man,
whom I perceived to be wearing the uniform of a general,
jumped out and advanced towards me with a genial cry of:

"Well, Herr Professor!"

I looked at him again.

"Why, Fritz!" I cried.

"You recognize me?" he said.

"Certainly," I answered, "you used to be one of the six
German waiters at McCluskey's restaurant in Toronto."

The General laughed.

"You really took us for waiters!" he said. "Well, well.
My dear professor! How odd! We were all generals in the
German army. My own name is not Fritz Schmidt, as you
knew it, but Count von Boobenstein. The Boobs of
Boobenstein," he added proudly, "are connected with the
Hohenzollerns. When I am commanded to dine with the
Emperor, I have the hereditary right to eat anything that
he leaves."

"But I don't understand!" I said. "Why were you in

"Perfectly simple. Special military service. We were
there to make a report. Each day we kept a record of the
velocity and direction of the wind, the humidity of the
air, the distance across King Street and the height of
the C.P.R. Building. All this we wired to Germany every

"For what purpose?" I asked.

"Pardon me!" said the General, and then, turning the
subject with exquisite tact: "Do you remember Max?" he

"Do you mean the tall melancholy looking waiter, who used
to eat the spare oysters and drink up what was left in
the glasses, behind the screen?"

"Ha!" exclaimed my friend. "But _why_ did he drink them?
_Why?_ Do you know that that man--his real name is not
Max but Ernst Niedelfein--is one of the greatest chemists
in Germany? Do you realise that he was making a report
to our War Office on the percentage of alcohol obtainable
in Toronto after closing time?"

"And Karl?" I asked.

"Karl was a topographist in the service of his High
Serenity the King Regnant of Bavaria"--here my friend
saluted himself with both hands and blinked his eyes four
times--"He made maps of all the breweries of Canada. We
know now to a bottle how many German soldiers could be
used in invading Canada without danger of death from

"How many was it?" I asked.

Boobenstein shook his head.

"Very disappointing," he said. "In fact your country is
not yet ripe for German occupation. Our experts say that
the invasion of Canada is an impossibility unless we use
Milwaukee as a base--But step into my motor," said the
Count, interrupting himself, "and come along with me.
Stop, you are cold. This morning air is very keen. Take
this," he added, picking off the fur cap from the
chauffeur's head. "It will be better than that hat you
are wearing--or, here, wait a moment--"

As he spoke, the Count unwound a woollen muffler from
the chauffeur's neck, and placed it round mine.

"Now then," he added, "this sheepskin coat--"

"My dear Count," I protested.

"Not a bit, not a bit," he cried, as he pulled off the
chauffeur's coat and shoved me into it. His face beamed
with true German generosity.

"Now," he said as we settled back into the motor and
started along the road, "I am entirely at your service.
Try one of these cigars! Got it alight? Right! You notice,
no doubt, the exquisite flavour. It is a _Tannhauser_.
Our chemists are making these cigars now out of the refuse
of the tanneries and glue factories."

I sighed involuntarily. Imagine trying to "blockade" a
people who could make cigars out of refuse; imagine trying
to get near them at all!

"Strong, aren't they?" said von Boobenstein, blowing a
big puff of smoke. "In fact, it is these cigars that have
given rise to the legend (a pure fiction, I need hardly
say) that our armies are using asphyxiating gas. The
truth is they are merely smoking German-made tobacco in
their trenches."

"But come now," he continued, "your meeting me is most
fortunate. Let me explain. I am at present on the
Intelligence Branch of the General Staff. My particular
employment is dealing with foreign visitors--the branch
of our service called, for short, the Eingewanderte
Fremden Verfullungs Bureau. How would you call that?"

"It sounds," I said, "like the Bureau for Stuffing Up
Incidental Foreigners."

"Precisely," said the Count, "though your language lacks
the music of ours. It is my business to escort visitors
round Germany and help them with their despatches. I took
the Ford party through--in a closed cattle-car, with the
lights out. They were greatly impressed. They said that,
though they saw nothing, they got an excellent idea of
the atmosphere of Germany. It was I who introduced Lady
de Washaway to the Court of Franz Joseph. I write the
despatches from Karl von Wiggleround, and send the
necessary material to Ambassador von Barnstuff. In fact
I can take you everywhere, show you everything, and"
--here my companion's military manner suddenly seemed
to change into something obsequiously and strangely
familiar--"it won't cost you a cent; not a cent, unless
you care--"

I understood.

I handed him ten cents.

"Thank you, sir," he said. Then with an abrupt change
back to his military manner, "Now, then, what would you
like to see? The army? The breweries? The Royal court?
Berlin? What shall it be? My time is limited, but I shall
be delighted to put myself at your service for the rest
of the day."

"I think," I said, "I should like more than anything to
see Berlin, if it is possible."

"Possible?" answered my companion. "Nothing easier."

The motor flew ahead and in a few moments later we were
making our arrangements with a local station-master for
a special train to Berlin.

I got here my first glimpse of the wonderful perfection
of the German railway system.

"I am afraid," said the station-master, with deep apologies,
"that I must ask you to wait half an hour. I am moving
a quarter of a million troops from the east to the west
front, and this always holds up the traffic for fifteen
or twenty minutes."

I stood on the platform watching the troops trains go by
and admiring the marvellous ingenuity of the German

As each train went past at full speed, a postal train
(Feld-Post-Eisenbahn-Zug) moved on the other track in
the opposite direction, from which a shower of letters
were thrown in to the soldiers through the window.
Immediately after the postal train, a soup train (Soup-Zug)
was drawn along, from the windows of which soup was
squirted out of a hose.

Following this there came at full speed a beer train
(Bier-Zug) from which beer bombs were exploded in all

I watched till all had passed.

"Now," said the station-master, "your train is ready.
Here you are."

Away we sped through the meadows and fields, hills and
valleys, forests and plains.

And nowhere--I am forced, like all other travellers, to
admit it--did we see any signs of the existence of war.
Everything was quiet, orderly, usual. We saw peasants
digging--in an orderly way--for acorns in the frozen
ground. We saw little groups of soldiers drilling in the
open squares of villages--in their quiet German fashion
--each man chained by the leg to the man next to him;
here and there great Zeppelins sailed overhead dropping
bombs, for practice, on the less important towns; at
times in the village squares we saw clusters of haggard
women (quite quiet and orderly) waving little red flags
and calling: "Bread, bread!"

But nowhere any signs of war. Certainly not.

We reached Berlin just at nightfall. I had expected to
find it changed. To my surprise it appeared just as usual.
The streets were brilliantly lighted. Music burst in
waves from the restaurants. From the theatre signs I
saw, to my surprise, that they were playing _Hamlet_,
_East Lynne_ and _Potash and Perlmutter_. Everywhere
was brightness, gaiety and light-heartedness.

Here and there a merry-looking fellow, with a brush and
a pail of paste and a roll of papers over his arm, would
swab up a casualty list of two or three thousand names,
amid roars of good-natured laughter.

What perplexed me most was the sight of thousands of men,
not in uniform, but in ordinary civilian dress.

"Boobenstein," I said, as we walked down the Linden
Avenue, "I don't understand it."

"The men?" he answered. "It's a perfectly simple matter.
I see you don't understand our army statistics. At the
beginning of the war we had an army of three million.
Very good. Of these, one million were in the reserve. We
called them to the colours, that made four million. Then
of these all who wished were allowed to volunteer for
special services. Half a million did so. That made four
and a half million. In the first year of the war we
suffered two million casualties, but of these seventy-five
per cent, or one and a half million, returned later on
to the colours, bringing our grand total up to six million.
This six million we use on each of six fronts, giving a
grand total of thirty six million.

"I see," I said. "In fact, I have seen these figures
before. In other words, your men are inexhaustible."

"Precisely," said the Count, "and mark you, behind these
we still have the Landsturm, made up of men between
fifty-five and sixty, and the Landslide, reputed to be
the most terrible of all the German levies, made up by
withdrawing the men from the breweries. That is the last
final act of national fury. But come," he said, "you must
be hungry. Is it not so?"

"I am," I admitted, "but I had hesitated to acknowledge
it. I feared that the food supply--"

Boobenstein broke into hearty laughter.

"Food supply!" he roared. "My dear fellow, you must have
been reading the English newspapers! Food supply! My dear
professor! Have you not heard? We have got over that
difficulty entirely and for ever. But come, here is a
restaurant. In with you and eat to your heart's content."

We entered the restaurant. It was filled to overflowing
with a laughing crowd of diners and merry-makers. Thick
clouds of blue cigar smoke filled the air. Waiters ran
to and fro with tall steins of foaming beer, and great
bundles of bread tickets, soup tickets, meat cards and
butter coupons.

These were handed around to the guests, who sat quietly
chewing the corners of them as they sipped their beer.

"Now-then," said my host, looking over the printed menu
in front of him, "what shall it be? What do you say to
a ham certificate with a cabbage ticket on the side? Or
how would you like lobster-coupon with a receipt for

"Yes," I answered, "or perhaps, as our journey has made
me hungry, one of these beef certificates with an affidavit
for Yorkshire pudding."

"Done!" said Boobenstein.

A few moments later we were comfortably drinking our tall
glasses of beer and smoking _Tannhauser_ cigars, with an
appetising pile of coloured tickets and certificates in
front of us.

"Admit," said von Boobenstein good-naturedly, "that we
have overcome the food difficulty for ever."

"You have," I said.

"It was a pure matter of science and efficiency," he went
on. "It has long been observed that if one sat down in
a restaurant and drank beer and smoked cigars (especially
such a brand as these _Tannhausers_) during the time it
took for the food to be brought (by a German waiter),
all appetite was gone. It remained for the German scientists
to organise this into system. Have you finished? Or
would you like to take another look at your beef

We rose. Von Boobenstein paid the bill by writing I.O.U.
on the back of one of the cards--not forgetting the
waiter, for whom he wrote on a piece of paper, "God bless
you"--and we left.

"Count," I said, as we took our seat on a bench in the
Sieges-Allee, or Alley of Victory, and listened to the
music of the military band, and watched the crowd, "I
begin to see that Germany is unconquerable."

"Absolutely so," he answered.

"In the first place, your men are inexhaustible. If we
kill one class you call out another; and anyway one-half
of those we kill get well again, and the net result is
that you have more than ever."

"Precisely," said the Count.

"As to food," I continued, "you are absolutely invulnerable.
What with acorns, thistles, tanbark, glue, tickets,
coupons, and certificates, you can go on for ever."

"We can," he said.

"Then for money you use I.O.U.'s. Anybody with a lead
pencil can command all the funds he wants. Moreover, your
soldiers at the front are getting dug in deeper and
deeper: last spring they were fifty feet under ground:
by 1918 they will be nearly 200 feet down. Short of mining
for them, we shall never get them out."

"Never," said von Boobenstein with great firmness.

"But there is one thing that I don't quite understand.
Your navy, your ships. There, surely, we have you: sooner
or later that whole proud fleet in the Kiel Canal will
come out under fire of our guns and be sunk to the bottom
of the sea. There, at least, we conquer."

Von Boobenstein broke into loud laughter.

"The fleet!" he roared, and his voice was almost hysterical
and overstrung, as if high living on lobster-coupons and
over-smoking of _Tannhausers_ was undermining his nerves.
"The fleet! Is it possible you do not know? Why all
Germany knows it. Capture our fleet! Ha! Ha! It now lies
fifty miles inland. _We have filled in the canal_--pushed
in the banks. The canal is solid land again, and the
fleet is high and dry. The ships are boarded over and
painted to look like German inns and breweries. Prinz
Adelbert is disguised as a brewer, Admiral von Tirpitz
is made up as a head waiter, Prince Heinrich is a bar
tender, the sailors are dressed up as chambermaids. And
some day when Jellicoe and his men are coaxed ashore,
they will drop in to drink a glass of beer, and then--pouf!
we will explode them all with a single torpedo! Such is
the naval strategy of our scientists! Are we not a nation
of sailors?"

Von Boobenstein's manner had grown still wilder and more
hysterical. There was a queer glitter in his eyes.

I thought it better to soothe him.

"I see," I said, "the Allies are beaten. One might as
well spin a coin for heads or tails to see whether we
abandon England now or wait till you come and take it."

As I spoke, I took from my pocket an English sovereign
that I carry as a lucky-piece, and prepared to spin it
in the air.

Von Boobenstein, as he saw it, broke into a sort of hoarse

"Gold! gold!" he cried. "Give it to me!"

"What?" I exclaimed.

"A piece of gold," he panted. "Give it to me, give it to
me, quick. I know a place where we can buy bread with it.
Real bread--not tickets--food--give me the gold--gold--for
bread--we can get-bread. I am starving--gold--bread."

And as he spoke his hoarse voice seemed to grow louder
and louder in my ears; the sounds of the street were
hushed; a sudden darkness fell; and a wind swept among
the trees of the _Alley of Victory_--moaning--and a
thousand, a myriad voices seemed to my ear to take up
the cry:

"Gold! Bread! We are starving."

Then I woke up.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest