On Nothing & Kindred Subjects
by Hilaire Belloc
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For the rest I cannot detail the innumerable minor advantages of railways; the mild excitement which is an antidote to gambling; the shaking which (in moderation) is good for livers; the meeting familiarly with every kind of man and talking politics to him; the delight in rapid motion; the luncheon-baskets; the porters; the solid guard; the strenuous engine-driver (note this next time you travel—it is an accurate observation). And of what other kind of modern thing can it be said that more than half pay dividends? Thinking of these things, what sane and humorous man would ever suggest that a part of life, so fertile in manifold and human pleasure, should ever be bought by the dull clique who call themselves "the State", and should yield under such a scheme yet more, yet larger, yet securer salaries to the younger sons.


I might have added in this list I have just made of the advantages of Railways, that Railways let one mix with one's fellow-men and hear their continual conversation. Now if you will think of it, Railways are the only institutions that give us that advantage. In other places we avoid all save those who resemble us, and many men become in middle age like cabinet ministers, quite ignorant of their fellow-citizens. But in Trains, if one travels much, one hears every kind of man talking to every other and one perceives all England.

It is on this account that I have always been at pains to note what I heard in this way, especially the least expected, most startling, and therefore most revealing dialogues, and as soon as I could to write them down, for in this way one can grow to know men.

Thus I have somewhere preserved a hot discussion among some miners in Derbyshire (voters, good people, voters remember) whether the United States were bound to us as a colony "like Egypt." And I once heard also a debate as to whether the word were Horizon or Horizon; this ended in a fight; and the Horizon man pushed the Horizon man out at Skipton, and wouldn't let him get into the carriage again.

Then again I once heard two frightfully rich men near Birmingham arguing why England was the richest and the Happiest Country in the world. Neither of these men was a gentleman but they argued politely though firmly, for they differed profoundly. One of them, who was almost too rich to walk, said it was because we minded our own affairs, and respected property and were law-abiding. This (he said) was the cause of our prosperity and of the futile envy with which foreigners regarded the homes of our working men. Not so the other: he thought that it was the Plain English sense of Duty that did the trick: he showed how this was ingrained in us and appeared in our Schoolboys and our Police: he contrasted it with Ireland, and he asked what else had made our Criminal Trials the model of the world? All this also I wrote down.

Then also once on a long ride (yes, "ride". Why not?) through Lincolnshire I heard two men of the smaller commercial or salaried kind at issue. The first, who had a rather peevish face, was looking gloomily out of window and was saying, "Denmark has it: Greece has it—why shouldn't we have it? Eh? America has it and so's Germany—why shouldn't we have it?" Then after a pause he added, "Even France has it—why haven't we got it?" He spoke as though he wouldn't stand it much longer, and as though France were the last straw.

The other man was excitable and had an enormous newspaper in his hand, and he answered in a high voice, "'Cause we're too sensible, that's why! 'Cause we know what we're about, we do."

The other man said, "Ho! Do we?"

The second man answered, "Yes: we do. What made England?"

"Gord," said the first man.

This brought the second man up all standing and nearly carried away his fore-bob-stay. He answered slowly—

"Well ... yes ... in a manner of speaking. But what I meant to say was like this, that what made England was Free Trade!" Here he slapped one hand on to the other with a noise like that of a pistol, and added heavily: "And what's more, I can prove it."

The first man, who was now entrenched in his position, said again, "Ho! Can you?" and sneered.

The second man then proved it, getting more and more excited. When he had done, all the first man did was to say, "You talk foolishness."

Then there was a long silence: very strained. At last the Free Trader pulled out a pipe and filled it at leisure, with a light sort of womanish tobacco, and just as he struck a match the Protectionist shouted out, "No you don't! This ain't a smoking compartment. I object!" The Free Trader said, "O! that's how it is, is it?" The Protectionist answered in a lower voice and surly, "Yes: that's how."

They sat avoiding each other's eyes till we got to Grantham. I had no idea that feeling could run so high, yet neither of them had a real grip on the Theory of International Exchange.

But by far the most extraordinary conversation and perhaps the most illuminating I ever heard, was in a train going to the West Country and stopping first at Swindon.

It passed between two men who sat in corners facing each other.

The one was stout, tall, and dressed in a tweed suit. He had a gold watch-chain with a little ornament on it representing a pair of compasses and a square. His beard was brown and soft. His eyes were very sodden. When he got in he first wrapped a rug round and round his legs, then he took off his top hat and put on a cloth cap, then he sat down.

The other also wore a tweed suit and was also stout, but he was not so tall. His watch-chain also was of gold (but of a different pattern, paler, and with no ornament hung on it). His eyes also were sodden. He had no rug. He also took off his hat but put no cap upon his head. I noticed that he was rather bald, and in the middle of his baldness was a kind of little knob. For the purposes of this record, therefore, I shall give him the name "Bald," while I shall call the other man "Cap."

I have forgotten, by the way, to tell you that Bald had a very large nose, at the end of which a great number of little veins had congested and turned quite blue.

CAP (shuts up Levy's paper, "The Daily Telegraph," and opens Harmsworth's "Daily Mail," Shuts that up and looks fixedly at BALD): I ask your pardon ... but isn't your name Binder?

BALD (his eyes still quite sodden): That is my name. Binder's my name. (He coughs to show breeding.) Why! (his eyes getting a trifle less sodden) if you aren't Mr. Mowle! Well, Mr. Mowle, sir, how are you?

CAP (with some dignity): Very well, thank you, Mr. Binder. How, how's Mrs. Binder and the kids? All blooming?

BALD: Why, yes, thank you, Mr. Mowle, but Mrs. Binder still has those attacks (shaking his head). Abdominal (continuing to shake his head). Gastric. Something cruel.

CAP: They do suffer cruel, as you say, do women, Mr. Binder (shaking his head too—but more slightly). This indigestion—ah!

BALD (more brightly): Not married yet, Mr. Mowle?

CAP (contentedly and rather stolidly): No, Mr. Binder. Nor not inclined to neither. (Draws a great breath.) I'm a single man, Mr. Binder, and intend so to adhere. (A pause to think.) That's what I call (a further pause to get the right phrase) "single blessedness." Yes, (another deep breath) I find life worth living, Mr. Binder.

BALD (with great cunning): That depends upon the liver. (Roars with laughter.)

CAP (laughing a good deal too, but not so much as BALD): Ar! That was young Cobbler's joke in times gone by.

BALD (politely): Ever see young Cobbler now, Mr. Mowle?

CAP (with importance): Why yes, Mr. Binder; I met him at the Thersites' Lodge down Brixham way—only the other day. Wonderful brilliant he was ... well, there ... (his tone changes) he was sitting next to me—(thoughtfully)—as, might be here—(putting Harmsworth's paper down to represent Young Cobbler)—and here like, would be Lord Haltingtowres.

BALD (his manner suddenly becoming very serious): He's a fine man, he is! One of those men I respect.

CAP (with still greater seriousness): You may say that, Mr. Binder. No respecter of persons—talks to me or you or any of them just the same.

BALD (vaguely): Yes, they're a fine lot! (Suddenly) So's Charlie Beresford!

CAP (with more enthusiasm than he had yet shown): I say ditto to that, Mr. Binder! (Thinking for a few moments of the characteristics of Lord Charles Beresford.) It's pluck—that's what it is—regular British pluck (Grimly) That's the kind of man—no favouritism.

BALD: Ar! it's a case of "Well done, Condor!"

CAP: Ar! you're right there, Mr. Binder.

BALD (suddenly pulling a large flask out of his pocket and speaking very rapidly): Well, here's yours, Mr. Mowle. (He drinks out of it a quantity of neat whisky, and having drunk it rubs the top of his flask with his sleeve and hands it over politely to) CAP.

Cap (having drunk a lot of neat whisky also, rubbed his sleeve over it, screwed on the little top and giving that long gasp which the occasion demands): Yes, you're right there—"Well done. Condor."

At this point the train began to go slowly, and just as it stopped at the station I heard Cap begin again, asking Bald on what occasion and for what services Lord Charles Beresford had been given his title.

Full of the marvels of this conversation I got out, went into the waiting-room and wrote it all down. I think I have it accurately word for word.

But there happened to me what always happens after all literary effort; the enthusiasm vanished, the common day was before me. I went out to do my work in the place and to meet quite ordinary people and to forget, perhaps, (so strong is Time) the fantastic beings in the train. In a word, to quote Mr. Binyon's admirable lines:

"The world whose wrong Mocks holy beauty and our desire returned."


The reason the Dead do not return nowadays is the boredom of it.

In the old time they would come casually, as suited them, without fuss and thinly, as it were, which is their nature; but when such visits were doubted even by those who received them and when new and false names were given them the Dead did not find it worth while. It was always a trouble; they did it really more for our sakes than for theirs and they would be recognised or stay where they were.

I am not certain that they might not have changed with the times and come frankly and positively, as some urged them to do, had it not been for Rabelais' failure towards the end of the Boer war. Rabelais (it will be remembered) appeared in London at the very beginning of the season in 1902. Everybody knows one part of the story or another, but if I put down the gist of it here I shall be of service, for very few people have got it quite right all through, and yet that story alone can explain why one cannot get the dead to come back at all now even in the old doubtful way they did in the '80's and early '90's of the last century.

There is a place in heaven where a group of writers have put up a colonnade on a little hill looking south over the plains. There are thrones there with the names of the owners on them. It is a sort of Club.

Rabelais was quarrelling with some fool who had missed fire with a medium and was saying that the modern world wanted positive unmistakable appearances: he said he ought to know, because he had begun the modern world. Lucian said it would fail just as much as any other way; Rabelais hotly said it wouldn't. He said he would come to London and lecture at the London School of Economics and establish a good solid objective relationship between the two worlds. Lucian said it would end badly. Rabelais, who had been drinking, lost his temper and did at once what he had only been boasting he would do. He materialised at some expense, and he announced his lecture. Then the trouble began, and I am honestly of opinion that if we had treated the experiment more decently we should not have this recent reluctance on the part of the Dead to pay us reasonable attention.

In the first place, when it was announced that Rabelais had returned to life and was about to deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics, Mrs. Whirtle, who was a learned woman, with a well-deserved reputation in the field of objective psychology, called it a rumour and discredited it (in a public lecture) on these three grounds:

(a) That Rabelais being dead so long ago would not come back to life now.

(b) That even if he did come back to life it was quite out of his habit to give lectures.

(c) That even if he had come back to life and did mean to lecture, he would never lecture at the London School of Economics, which was engaged upon matters principally formulated since Rabelais' day and with which, moreover, Rabelais' "essentially synthetical" mind would find a difficulty in grappling.

All Mrs. Whirtle's audience agreed with one or more of these propositions except Professor Giblet, who accepted all three saving and excepting the term "synthetical" as applied to Rabelais' mind. "For," said he, "you must not be so deceived by an early use of the Inducto-Deductive method as to believe that a sixteenth-century man could be, in any true sense, synthetical." And this judgment the Professor emphasized by raising his voice suddenly by one octave. His position and that of Mrs. Whirtle were based upon that thorough summary of Rabelais' style in Mr. Effort's book on French literature: each held a sincere position, nevertheless this cold water thrown on the very beginning of the experiment did harm.

The attitude of the governing class did harm also. Lady Jane Bird saw the announcement on the placards of the evening papers as she went out to call on a friend. At tea-time a man called Wantage-Verneyson, who was well dressed, said that he knew all about Rabelais, and a group of people began to ask questions together: Lady Jane herself did so. Mr. Wantage-Verneyson is (or rather was, alas!) the second cousin of the Duke of Durham (he is—or rather was, alas!—the son of Lord and Lady James Verneyson, now dead), and he said that Rabelais was written by Urquhart a long time ago; this was quite deplorable and did infinite harm. He also said that every educated man had read Rabelais, and that he had done so. He said it was a protest against Rome and all that sort of thing. He added that the language was difficult to understand. He further remarked that it was full of footnotes, but that he thought these had been put in later by scholars. Cross-questioned on this he admitted that he did not see what scholars could want with Rabelais. On hearing this and the rest of his information several ladies and a young man of genial expression began to doubt in their turn.

A Hack in Grub Street whom Painful Labour had driven to Despair and Mysticism read the announcement with curiosity rather than amazement, fully believing that the Great Dead, visiting as they do the souls, may also come back rarely to the material cities of men. One thing, however, troubled him, and that was how Rabelais, who had slept so long in peace beneath the Fig Tree of the Cemetery of St. Paul, could be risen now when his grave was weighed upon by No. 32 of the street of the same name. Howsoever, he would have guessed that the alchemy of that immeasurable mind had in some way got rid of the difficulty, and really the Hack must be forgiven for his faith, since one learned enough to know so much about sites, history and literature, is learned enough to doubt the senses and to accept the Impossible; unfortunately the fact was vouched for in eight newspapers of which he knew too much and was not accepted in the only sheet he trusted. So he doubted too.

John Bowles, of Lombard Street, read the placards and wrought himself up into a fury saying, "In what other country would these cursed Boers be allowed to come and lecture openly like this? It is enough to make one excuse the people who break up their meetings." He was a little consoled, however, by the thought that his country was so magnanimous, and in the calmer mood of self-satisfaction went so far as to subscribe L5 to a French newspaper which was being founded to propagate English opinions on the Continent. He may be neglected.

Peter Grierson, attorney, was so hurried and overwrought with the work he had been engaged on that morning (the lending of L1323 to a widow at 5 1/4 per cent., [which heaven knows is reasonable!] on security of a number of shares in the London and North-Western Railway) that he misread the placard and thought it ran "Rabelais lecture at the London School Economics"; disturbed for a moment at the thought of so much paper wasted in time of war for so paltry an announcement, he soon forgot about the whole business and went off to "The Holborn," where he had his lunch comfortably standing up at the buffet, and then went and worked at dominoes and cigars for two hours.

Sir Judson Pennefather, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State for Public Worship, Literature and the Fine Arts—

But what have I to do with all these; absurd people upon whom the news of Rabelais' return fell with such varied effect? What have you and I to do with men and women who do not, cannot, could not, will not, ought not, have not, did, and by all the thirsty Demons that serve the lamps of the cavern of the Sibyl, shall not count in the scheme of things as worth one little paring of Rabelais' little finger nail? What are they that they should interfere with the great mirific and most assuaging and comfortable feast of wit to which I am now about to introduce you!—for know that I take you now into the lecture-hall and put you at the feet of the past-master of all arts and divinations (not to say crafts and homologisings and integrativeness), the Teacher of wise men, the comfort of an afflicted world, the uplifter of fools, the energiser of the lethargic, the doctor of the gouty, the guide of youth, the companion of middle age, the vade mecum of the old, the pleasant introducer of inevitable death, yea, the general solace of mankind. Oh! what are you not now about to hear! If anywhere there are rivers in pleasant meadows, cool heights in summer, lovely ladies discoursing upon smooth lawns, or music skilfully befingered by dainty artists in the shade of orange groves, if there is any left of that wine of Chinon from behind the Grille at four francs a bottle (and so there is, I know, for I drank it at the last Reveillon by St. Gervais)—I say if any of these comforters of the living anywhere grace the earth, you shall find my master Rabelais giving you the very innermost and animating spirit of all these good things, their utter flavour and their saving power in the quintessential words of his incontestably regalian lips. So here, then, you may hear the old wisdom given to our wretched generation for one happy hour of just living and we shall learn, surely in this case at least, that the return of the Dead was admitted and the Great Spirits were received and honoured.

* * * * *

But alas! No. (which is not a nominativus pendens, still less an anacoluthon but a mere interjection). Contrariwise, in the place of such a sunrise of the mind, what do you think we were given? The sight of an old man in a fine red gown and with a University cap on his head hurried along by two policemen in the Strand and followed by a mob of boys and ruffians, some of whom took him for Mr. Kruger, while others thought he was but a harmless mummer. And the magistrate (who had obtained his position by a job) said these simple words: "I do not know who you are in reality nor what foreign name mask under your buffoonery, but I do know on the evidence of these intelligent officers, evidence upon which I fully rely and which you have made no attempt to contradict, you have disgraced yourself and the hall of your kind hosts and employers by the use of language which I shall not characterise save by telling you that it would be comprehensible only in a citizen of the nation to which you have the misfortune to belong. Luckily you were not allowed to proceed for more than a moment with your vile harangue which (if I understand rightly) was in praise of wine. You will go to prison for twelve months. I shall not give you the option of a fine: but I can promise you that if you prefer to serve with the gallant K. O. Fighting Scouts your request will be favourably entertained by the proper authorities."

Long before this little speech was over Rabelais had disappeared, and was once more with the immortals cursing and swearing that he would not do it again for 6,375,409,702 sequins, or thereabouts, no, nor for another half-dozen thrown in as a makeweight.

There is the whole story.

I do not say that Rabelais was not over-hasty both in his appearance and his departure, but I do say that if the Physicists (and notably Mrs. Whirtle) had shown more imagination, the governing class a wider reading, and the magistracy a trifle more sympathy with the difference of tone between the sixteenth century and our own time, the deplorable misunderstanding now separating the dead and the living would never have arisen; for I am convinced that the Failure of Rabelais' attempt has been the chief cause of it.


My dear little Anglo-Saxons, Celt-Iberians and Teutonico-Latin oddities—-The time has come to convey, impart and make known to you the dreadful conclusions and horrible prognostications that flow, happen, deduce, derive and are drawn from the truly abominable conditions of the social medium in which you and I and all poor devils are most fatally and surely bound to draw out our miserable existence.

Note, I say "existence" and not "existences." Why do I say "existence", and not "existences"? Why, with a fine handsome plural ready to hand, do I wind you up and turn you off, so to speak, with a piffling little singular not fit for a half-starved newspaper fellow, let alone a fine, full-fledged, intellectual and well-read vegetarian and teetotaller who writes in the reviews? Eh? Why do I say "existence"?—speaking of many, several and various persons as though they had but one mystic, combined and corporate personality such as Rousseau (a fig for the Genevese!) portrayed in his Contrat Social (which you have never read), and such as Hobbes, in his Leviathan (which some of you have heard of), ought to have premised but did not, having the mind of a lame, halting and ill-furnished clockmaker, and a blight on him!

Why now "existence" and not "existences"? You may wonder; you may ask yourselves one to another mutually round the tea-table putting it as a problem or riddle. You may make a game of it, or use it for gambling, or say it suddenly as a catch for your acquaintances when they come up from the suburbs. It is a very pretty question and would have been excellently debated by Thomas Aquinas in the Jacobins of St. Jacques, near the Parloir aux Bourgeois, by the gate of the University; by Albertus Magnus in the Cordeliers, hard by the College of Bourgoyne; by Pic de la Mirandole, who lived I care not a rap where and debated I know not from Adam how or when; by Lord Bacon, who took more bribes in a day than you and I could compass in a dozen years; by Spinoza, a good worker of glass lenses, but a philosopher whom I have never read nor will; by Coleridge when he was not talking about himself nor taking some filthy drug; by John Pilkington Smith, of Norwood, Drysalter, who has, I hear, been lately horribly bitten by the metaphysic; and by a crowd of others.

But that's all by the way. Let them debate that will, for it leads nowhere unless indeed there be sharp revelation, positive declaration and very certain affirmation to go upon by way of Basis or First Principle whence to deduce some sure conclusion and irrefragable truth; for thus the intellect walks, as it were, along a high road, whereas by all other ways it is lurching and stumbling and boggling and tumbling in I know not what mists and brambles of the great bare, murky twilight and marshy hillside of philosophy, where I also wandered when I was a fool and unoccupied and lacking exercise for the mind, but from whence, by the grace of St. Anthony of Miranella and other patrons of mine, I have very happily extricated myself. And here I am in the parlour of the "Bugle" at Yarmouth, by a Christian fire, having but lately come off the sea and writing this for the edification and confirmation of honest souls.

What, then, of the question, Quid de quuerendo? Quantum? Qualiter? Ubi? Cur? Quid? Quando? Quomodo? Quum? Sive an non?

Ah! There you have it. For note you, all these interrogative categories must be met, faced, resolved and answered exactly—or you have no more knowledge of the matter than the Times has of economics or the King of the Belgians of thorough-Bass. Yea, if you miss, overlook, neglect, or shirk by reason of fatigue or indolence, so much as one tittle of these several aspects of a question you might as well leave it altogether alone and give up analysis for selling stock, as did the Professor of Verbalism in the University of Adelaide to the vast solace and enrichment of his family.

For by the neglect of but one of these final and fundamental approaches to the full knowledge of a question the world has been irreparably, irretrievably and permanently robbed of the certain reply to, and left ever in the most disastrous doubt upon, this most important and necessary matter—namely, whether real existence can be predicated of matter.

For Anaxagoras of Syracuse, that was tutor to the Tyrant Machion, being in search upon this question for a matter of seventy-two years, four months, three days and a few odd hours and minutes, did, in extreme old age, as he was walking by the shore of the sea, hit, as it were in a flash, upon six of the seven answers, and was able in one moment, after so much delay and vexatious argument for and against with himself, to resolve the problem upon the points of how, why, when, where, how much, and in what, matter might or might not be real, and was upon the very nick of settling the last little point—namely, sive an non (that is, whether it were real or no)—when, as luck would have it, or rather, as his own beastly appetite and senile greed would have it, he broke off sharp at hearing the dinner-gong or bell, or horn, or whatever it was—for upon these matters the King was indifferent (de minimis non curat rex), and so am I—and was poisoned even as he sat at table by the agents of Pyrrhus.

By this accident, by this mere failure upon one of the Seven Answers, it has been since that day never properly decided whether or no this true existence was or was not predicable of matter; and some believing matter to be there have treated it pompously and given it reverence and adored it in a thousand merry ways, but others being confident it was not there have starved and fallen off edges and banged their heads against corners and come plump against high walls; nor can either party convince the other, nor can the doubts of either be laid to rest, nor shall it from now to the Day of Doom be established whether there is a Matter or is none; though many learned men have given up their lives to it, including Professor Britton, who so despaired of an issue that he drowned himself in the Cam only last Wednesday. But what care I for him or any other Don?

So there we are and an answer must be found, but upon my soul I forget to what it hangs, though I know well there was some question propounded at the beginning of this for which I cared a trifle at the time of asking it and you I hope not at all. Let it go the way of all questions, I beg of you, for I am very little inclined to seek and hunt through all the heap that I have been tearing through this last hour with Pegasus curvetting and prancing and flapping his wings to the danger of my seat and of the cities and fields below me.

Come, come, there's enough for one bout, and too much for some. No good ever came of argument and dialectic, for these breed only angry gestures and gusty disputes (de gustibus non disputandum) and the ruin of friendships and the very fruitful pullulation of Dictionaries, textbooks and wicked men, not to speak of Intellectuals, Newspapers, Libraries, Debating-clubs, bankruptcies, madness, Petitiones elenchi and ills innumerable.

I say live and let live; and now I think of it there was something at the beginning and title of this that dealt with a warning to ward you off a danger of some kind that terrified me not a little when I sat down to write, and that was, if I remember right, that a friend had told me how he had read in a book that the damnable Brute CAPITAL was about to swallow us all up and make slaves of us and that there was no way out of it, seeing that it was fixed, settled and grounded in economics, not to speak of the procession of the Equinox, the Horoscope of Trimegistus, and Old Moore's Almanack. Oh! Run, Run! The Rich are upon us! Help! Their hot breath is on our necks! What jaws! What jaws!

Well, what must be must be, and what will be will be, and if the Rich are upon us with great open jaws and having power to enslave all by the very fatal process of unalterable laws and at the bidding of Blind Fate as she is expounded by her prophets who live on milk and newspapers and do woundily talk Jew Socialism all day long; yet is it proved by the same intellectual certitude and irrefragable method that we shall not be caught before the year 1938 at the earliest and with luck we may run ten years more: why then let us make the best of the time we have, and sail, ride, travel, write, drink, sing and all be friends together; and do you go about doing good to the utmost of your power, as I heartily hope you will, though from your faces I doubt it hugely. A blessing I wish you all.


One cannot do a greater service now, when a dangerous confusion of thought threatens us with an estrangement of classes, than to distinguish in all we write between Capitalism—the result of a blind economic development—and the persons and motives of those who happen to possess the bulk of the means of Production.

Capitalism may or may not have been a Source of Evil to Modern Communities—it may have been a necessary and even a beneficent phase in that struggle upward from the Brute which marks our progress from Gospel Times until the present day—but whether it has been a good or a bad phase in Economic Evolution, it is not Scientific and it is not English to confuse the system with the living human beings attached to it, and to contrast "Rich" and "Poor," insisting on the supposed luxury and callousness of the one or the humiliations and sufferings of the other.

To expose the folly—nay, the wickedness—of that attitude I have but to take some very real and very human case of a rich man—a very rich man—who suffered and suffered deeply merely as a man: one whose suffering wealth did not and could not alleviate.

One very striking example of this human bond I am able to lay before you, because the gentleman in question has, with fine human sympathy, permitted his story to be quoted.

The only stipulation he made with me was first that I should conceal real names and secondly that I should write the whole in as journalistic and popular a method as possible, so that his very legitimate grievance in the matter I am about to describe should be as widely known as possible and also in order to spread as widely as possible the lesson it contains that the rich also are men.

To change all names etc., a purely mechanical task, I easily achieved. Whether I have been equally successful in my second object of catching the breezy and happy style of true journalism it is for my readers to judge. I can only assure them that my intentions are pure.

* * * * *

I have promised my friend to set down the whole matter as it occurred.

"The Press," he said to me, "is the only vehicle left by which one can bring pressure to bear upon public opinion. I hope you can do something for me.... You write, I believe", he added, "for the papers?"

I said I did.

"Well," he answered, "you fellows that write for the newspapers have a great advantage ...!"

At this he sighed deeply, and asked me to come and have lunch with him at his club, which is called "The Ragamuffins" for fun, and is full of jolly fellows. There I ate boiled mutton and greens, washed down with an excellent glass, or maybe a glass and a half, of Belgian wine—a wine called Chateau Bollard.

I noticed in the room Mr. Cantor, Mr. Charles, Sir John Ebbsmith, Mr. May, Mr. Ficks, "Joe" Hesketh, Matthew Fircombe, Lord Boxgrove, old Tommy Lawson, "Bill", Mr. Compton, Mr. Annerley, Jeremy (the trainer), Mr. Mannering, his son, Mr. William Mannering, and his nephew Mr. "Kite" Mannering, Lord Nore, Pilbury, little Jack Bowdon, Baxter ("Horrible" Baxter) Bayney, Mr. Claversgill, the solemn old Duke of Bascourt (a Dane), Ephraim T. Seeber, Algernon Gutt, Feverthorpe (whom that old wit Core used to call "Featherthorpe"), and many others with whose names I will not weary the reader, for he would think me too reminiscent and digressive were I to add to the list "Cocky" Billings, "Fat Harry", Mr. Muntzer, Mr. Eartham, dear, courteous, old-world Squire Howle, and that prime favourite, Lord Mann. "Sambo" Courthorpe, Ring, the Coffee-cooler, and Harry Sark, with all the Forfarshire lot, also fell under my eye, as did Maxwell, Mr. Gam——

However, such an introduction may prove overlong for the complaint I have to publish. I have said enough to show the position my friend holds. Many of my readers on reading this list will guess at once the true name of the club, and may also come near that of my distinguished friend, but I am bound in honour to disguise it under the veil of a pseudonym or nom de guerre; I will call him Mr. Quail.

Mr. Quail, then, was off to shoot grouse on a moor he had taken in Mull for the season; the house and estate are well known to all of us; I will disguise the moor under the pseudonym or nom de guerre of "Othello". He was awaited at "Othello" on the evening of the eleventh; for on the one hand there is an Act most strictly observed that not a grouse may be shot until the dawn of August 12th, and on the other a day passed at "Othello" with any other occupation but that of shooting would be hell.

Mr. Quail, therefore, proposed to travel to "Othello" by way of Glasgow, taking the 9.47 at St. Pancras on the evening of the 10th—last Monday—and engaging a bed on that train.

It is essential, if a full, Christian and sane view is to be had of this relation, that the reader should note the following details:—

Mr. Quail had engaged the bed. He had sent his cheque for it a week before and held the receipt signed "T. Macgregor, Superintendent".

True, there was a notice printed very small on the back of the receipt saying the company would not be responsible in any case of disappointment, overcrowding, accident, delay, robbery, murder, or the Act of God; but my friend Mr. Quail very properly paid no attention to that rubbish, knowing well enough (he is a J.P.) that a man cannot sign himself out of his common-law rights.

In order to leave ample time for the train, my friend Mr. Quail ordered dinner at eight—a light meal, for his wife had gone to the Engadine some weeks before. At nine precisely he was in his carriage with his coachman on the box to drive his horses, his man Mole also, and Piggy the little dog in with him. He knows it was nine, because he asked the butler what time it was as he left the dining-room, and the butler answered "Five minutes to nine, my Lord"; moreover, the clock in the dining-room, the one on the stairs and his own watch, all corroborated the butler's statement.

He arrived at St. Pancras. "If," as he sarcastically wrote to the company, "your own clocks are to be trusted," at 9.21.

So far so good. He had twenty-six minutes to spare. On his carriage driving up to the station he was annoyed to discover an enormous seething mob through which it was impossible to penetrate, swirling round the booking office and behaving with a total lack of discipline which made the confusion ten thousand times worse than it need have been.

"I wish," said Mr. Quail to me later, with some heat, "I wish I could have put some of those great hulking brutes into the ranks for a few months! Believe me, conscription would work wonders!" Mr. Quail himself holds a commission in the Yeomanry, and knows what he is talking about. But that is neither here nor there. I only mention it to show what an effect this anarchic mob produced upon a man of Mr. Quail's trained experience.

His man Mole had purchased the tickets in the course of the day; unfortunately, on being asked for them he confessed in some confusion to having mislaid them.

Mr. Quail was too well bred to make a scene. He quietly despatched his man Mole to the booking office with orders to get new tickets while he waited for him at an appointed place near the door. He had not been there five minutes, he had barely seen his man struggle through the press towards the booking office, when a hand was laid upon his shoulder and a policeman told him in an insolent and surly tone to "move out of it." Mr. Quail remonstrated, and the policeman—who, I am assured, was only a railway servant in disguise—bodily and physically forced him from the doorway.

To this piece of brutality Mr. Quail ascribes all his subsequent misfortunes. Mr. Quail was on the point of giving his card, when he found himself caught in an eddy of common people who bore him off his feet; nor did he regain them, in spite of his struggles, until he was tightly wedged against the wall at the further end of the room.

Mr. Quail glanced at his watch, and found it to be twenty minutes to ten. There were but seven minutes left before his train would start, and his appointment with his man, Mole, was hopelessly missed unless he took the most immediate steps to recover it.

Mr. Quail is a man of resource; he has served in South Africa, and is a director of several companies. He noticed that porters pushing heavy trollies and crying "By your leave" had some chance of forging through the brawling welter of people. He hailed one such; and stretching, as best he could, from his wretched fix, begged him to reach the door and tell his man Mole where he was. At the same time—as the occasion was most urgent (for it was now 9.44)—he held out half a sovereign. The porter took it respectfully enough, but to Mr. Quail's horror the menial had no sooner grasped the coin than he made off in the opposite direction, pushing his trolley indolently before him and crying "By your leave" in a tone that mingled insolence with a coarse exultation.

Mr. Quail, now desperate, fought and struggled to be free—there were but two minutes left—and he so far succeeded as to break through the human barrier immediately in front of him. It may be he used some necessary violence in this attempt; at any rate a woman of the most offensive appearance raised piercing shrieks and swore that she was being murdered.

The policeman (to whom I have before alluded) came jostling through the throng, seized Mr. Quail by the collar, and crying "What! Again?" treated him in a manner which (in the opinion of Mr. Quail's solicitor) would (had Mr. Quail retained his number) have warranted a criminal prosecution.

Meanwhile Mr. Quail's man Mole was anxiously looking for him, first at the refreshment bar, and later at the train itself. Here he was startled to hear the Guard say "Going?" and before he could reply he was (according to his own statement) thrust into the train which immediately departed, and did not stop till Peterborough; there the faithful fellow assures us he alit, returning home in the early hours of the morning.

Mr. Quail himself was released with a torn coat and collar, his eye-glasses smashed, his watch-chain broken, and smarting under a warning from the policeman not to be caught doing it again.

He went home in a cab to find every single servant out of the house, junketing at some music-hall or other, and several bottles of wine, with a dozen glasses, standing ready for them against their return, on his own study table.

The unhappy story need not be pursued. Like every misfortune it bred a crop of others, some so grievous that none would expose them to the public eye, and one consequence remote indeed but clearly traceable to that evening nearly dissolved a union of seventeen years. I do not believe that any one of those who are for ever presenting to us the miseries of the lower classes, would have met a disaster of this sort with the dignity and the manliness of my friend, and I am further confident that the recital of his suffering here given will not have been useless in the great debate now engaged as to the function of wealth in our community.


There was once a little Whig....

Ugh! The oiliness, the public theft, the cowardice, the welter of sin! One cannot conceive the product save under shelter and in the midst of an universal corruption.

Well, then, there was once a little Tory. But stay; that is not a pleasant thought....

Well, then there was once a little boy whose name was Joseph, and now I have launched him, I beg you to follow most precisely all that he said, did and was, for it contains a moral. But I would have you bear me witness that I have withdrawn all harsh terms, and have called him neither Whig nor Tory. Nevertheless I will not deny that had he grown to maturity he would inevitably have been a politician. As you will be delighted to find at the end of his short biography, he did not reach that goal. He never sat upon either of the front benches. He never went through the bitter business of choosing his party and then ratting when he found he had made a mistake. He never so much as got his hand into the public pocket. Nevertheless read his story and mark it well. It is of immense purport to the State.

* * * * *

When little Joseph was born, his father (who could sketch remarkably well and had rowed some years before in his College boat) was congratulated very warmly by his friends. One lady wrote to him: "Your son cannot fail to add distinction to an already famous name"—for little Joseph's father's uncle had been an Under Secretary of State. Then another, the family doctor, said heartily, "Well, well, all doing excellently; another Duggleton" (for little Joseph's father's family were Duggletons) "and one that will keep the old flag flying."

Little Joseph's father's aunt whose husband had been the Under Secretary, wrote and said she was longing to see the last Duggleton, and hinted that a Duggleton the more was sheer gain to This England which Our Fathers Made. His father put his name down that very day for the Club and met there Baron Urscher, who promised every support "if God should spare him to the time when he might welcome another Duggleton to these old rooms." The baron then recalled the names of Charlie Fox and Beau Rimmel, that was to say, Brummel. He said an abusive word or two about Mr. Gladstone, who was then alive, and went away.

Little Joseph for many long weeks continued to seem much like others, and if he had then died (as some cousins hoped he would, and as, indeed, there seemed to be a good chance on the day that he swallowed the pebble at Bournemouth) I should have no more to write about. There would be an end of little Joseph so far as you and I are concerned; and as for the family of Duggleton, why any one but the man who does Society Notes in the Evening Yankee should write about them I can't conceive.

Well, but little Joseph did not die—not just then, anyhow. He lived to learn to speak, and to talk, and to put out his tongue at visitors, let alone interrupting his parents with unpleasing remarks and telling lies. It was early observed that he did all these things with a je-ne-scais-quoy and a verve quite different from the manner of his little playmates. When one day he moulded out, flattened and unshaped the waxen nose of a doll of his, it was apparent to all that it had been very skilfully done, and showed a taste for modelling, and the admiration this excited was doubled when it was discovered that he had called the doll "Aunt Garry". He took also to drawing things with a pencil as early as eight years old, and for this talent his father's house was very suitable, for Mrs. Duggleton had nice Louis XV furniture, all white and gold, and a quaint new brown-paper medium on her walls. Colour, oddly enough, little Joseph could not pretend to; but he had a remarkably fine ear, and was often heard, before he was ten years old, singing some set of words or other over and over again very loudly upon the staircase to a few single notes.

It seems incredible, but it is certainly true, that he even composed verses at the age of eleven, wherein "land" and "strand", "more" and "shore" would frequently recur, the latter being commonly associated with England, to which, his beloved country, the intelligent child would add the epithet "old".

He was, a short time after this, discovered playing upon words and would pun upon "rain" and "reign", as also upon "Wales" the country (or rather province, for no patriot would admit a Divided Crown) and "Whales"—the vast Oceanic or Thalassic mammals that swim in Arctic waters.

He asked questions that showed a surprising intelligence and at the same time betrayed a charming simplicity and purity of mind. Thus he would cross-examine upon their recent movements ladies who came to call, proving them very frequently to have lied, for he was puzzled like most children by the duplicity of the gay world. Or again, he would ask guests at the dinner table how old they were and whether they liked his father and mother, and this in a loud and shrill way that provoked at once the attention and amusement of the select coterie (for coterie it was) that gathered beneath his father's roof.

As is so often the case with highly strung natures, he was morbidly sensitive in his self-respect. Upon one occasion he had invented some boyish nickname or other for an elderly matron who was present in his mother's drawing-room, and when that lady most forcibly urged his parent to chastise him he fled to his room and wrote a short note in pencil forgiving his dear mamma her intimacy with his enemies and announcing his determination to put an end to his life. His mother on discovering this note pinned to her chair gave way to very natural alarm and rushed upstairs to her darling, with whom she remonstrated in terms deservedly severe, pointing out the folly and wickedness of self-destruction and urging that such thoughts were unfit for one of his tender years, for he was then barely thirteen.

This incident and many others I could quote made a profound impression upon the Honourable Mr. and Mrs. Duggleton, who, by the time of their son's adolescence, were convinced that Providence had entrusted them with a vessel of no ordinary fineness. They discussed the question of his schooling with the utmost care, and at the age of fifteen sent "little Joseph", as they still affectionately called him, to the care of the Rev. James Filbury, who kept a small but exceedingly expensive school upon the banks of the River Thames.

The three years that he spent at this establishment were among the happiest in the life of his father's private secretary, and are still remembered by many intimate friends of the family.

He was twice upon the point of securing the prize for Biblical studies and did indeed take that for French and arithmetic. Mr. Filbury assured his father that he had the very highest hopes of his career at the University. "Joseph," he wrote, "is a fine, highly tempered spirit, one to whom continual application is difficult, but who is capable of high flights of imagination not often reached by our sturdy English boyhood.... I regret that I cannot see my way to reducing the charge for meat at breakfast. Joseph's health is excellent, and his scholarship, though by no means ripe, shows promise of that ..." and so forth.

I have no space to give the letter in full; it betrays in every line the effect this gifted youth had produced upon one well acquainted with the marks of future greatness;—for Mr. Filbury had been the tutor and was still the friend of the Duke of Buxton, the sometime form-master of the present Bishop of Lewes and the cousin of the late Joshua Lambkin of Oxford.

Little Joseph's entry into college life abundantly fulfilled the expectations held of him. The head of his college wrote to his great-aunt (the wife of the Under Secretary of State) "... he has something in him of what men of Old called prophecy and we term genius ...", old Dr. Biddlecup the Dean asked the boy to dinner, and afterwards assured his father that little Joseph was the image of William Pitt, whom he falsely pretended to have seen in childhood, and to whom the Duggletons were related through Mrs. Duggleton's grandmother, whose sister had married the first cousin of the Saviour of Europe.

Dr. Biddlecup was an old man and may not have been accurate in his historical pretensions, but the main truth of what he said was certain, for Joseph resembled the great statesman at once in his physical appearance, for he was sallow and had a turned-up nose: in his gifts: in his oratory which was ever remarkable at the social clubs and wines—and alas! in his fondness for port.

Indeed, little Joseph had to pay the price of concentrating in himself the genius of three generations, he suffered more than one of the temptations that assault men of vigorous imagination. He kept late hours, drank—perhaps not always to excess but always over-frequently—and gambled, if not beyond his means, at least with a feverish energy that was ruinous to his health. He fell desperately ill in the fortnight before his schools, but he was granted an aegrotat, a degree equivalent in his case to a First Class in Honours, and he was asked by one or other of the Colleges to compete for a Fellowship; it was, however, given to another candidate.

After this failure he went home, and on his father's advice, attempted political work; but the hurry and noise of an election disgusted him, and it is feared that his cynical and highly epigrammatic speeches were another cause of his defeat.

Sir William Mackle, who had watched the boy with the tenderest interest and listened to his fancied experiences with a father's patience, ordered complete rest and change, and recommended the South of France; he was sent thither with a worthless friend or rather dependent, who permitted the lad to gamble and even to borrow money, and it was this friend to whom Sir William (in his letter to the Honourable Mr. Duggleton acknowledging receipt of his cheque) attributed the tragedy that followed.

"Had he not," wrote the distinguished physician, "permitted our poor Joseph to borrow money of him; had he resolutely refused to drink wine at dinner; had he locked Joseph up in his room every evening at the opening hour of the Casino, we should not have to deplore the loss of one of England's noblest." Nor did the false friend make things easier for the bereaved father by suggesting ere twelve short months had elapsed that the sums Joseph had borrowed of him should be repaid.

Joseph, one fatal night, somewhat heated by wine, had heard a Frenchman say to an Italian at his elbow certain very outrageous things about one Mazzini. The pair were discussing a local bookmaker, but the boy, whose passion for Italian unity is now well known, imagined that the Philosopher and Statesman was in question; he fell into such a passion and attacked these offensive foreigners with such violence as to bring on an attack from which he did not recover: his grave now whitens the hillside of the Monte Resorto (in French Mont-resort).

He left some fifty short poems in the manner of Shelley, Rossetti and Swinburne, and a few in an individual style that would surely have developed with age. These have since been gathered into a volume and go far to prove the truth of his father's despairing cry: "Joseph," the poor man sobbed as he knelt by the insanitary curtained bed on which the body lay, "Joseph would have done for the name of Duggleton in literature what my Uncle did for it in politics."

His portrait may be found in Annals of the Rutlandshire Gentry, a book recently published privately by subscriptions of two guineas, payable to the gentleman who produced that handsome volume.


If this page does not appal you, nothing will.

If these first words do not fill you with an uneasy presentiment of doom, indeed, indeed you have been hitherto blessed in an ignorance of woe.

It is lost! What is lost? The revelation this page was to afford. The essay which was to have stood here upon page 127 of my book: the noblest of them all.

The words you so eagerly expected, the full exposition which was to have brought you such relief, is not here.

It was lost just after I wrote it. It can never be re-written; it is gone.

Much depended upon it; it would have led you to a great and to a rapidly acquired fortune; but you must not ask for it. You must turn your mind away. It cannot be re-written, and all that can take its place is a sort of dirge for departed and irrecoverable things.

"Lugete o Veneres Cupidinesque," which signifies "Mourn oh! you pleasant people, you spirits that attend the happiness of mankind": "et quantum est hominum venustiorum," which signifies "and you such mortals as are chiefly attached to delightful things." Passer, etc., which signifies my little, careful, tidy bit of writing, mortuus est, is lost. I lost it in a cab.

It was a noble and accomplished thing. Pliny would have loved it who said: "Ea est stomachi mei natura ut nil nisi merum atque totum velit," which signifies "such is the character of my taste that it will tolerate nothing but what is absolute and full." ... It is no use grumbling about the Latin. The nature of great disasters calls out for that foundational tongue. They roll as it were (do the great disasters of our time) right down the emptiness of the centuries until they strike the walls of Rome and provoke these sonorous echoes worthy of mighty things.

It was to have stood here instead of this, its poor apologist. It was to have filled these lines, this space, this very page. It is not here. You all know how, coming eagerly to a house to see someone dearly loved, you find in their place on entering a sister or a friend who makes excuses for them; you all know how the mind grows blank at the news and all nature around one shrivels. It is a worse emptiness than to be alone. So it is with me when I consider this as I write it, and then think of That Other which should have taken its place; for what I am writing now is like a little wizened figure dressed in mourning and weeping before a deserted shrine, but That Other which I have lost would have been like an Emperor returned from a triumph and seated upon a throne.

Indeed, indeed it was admirable! If you ask me where I wrote it, it was in Constantine, upon the Rock of Cirta, where the storms come bowling at you from Mount Atlas and where you feel yourself part of the sky. At least it was there in Cirta that I blocked out the thing, for efforts of that magnitude are not completed in one place or day. It was in Cirta that I carved it into form and gave it a general life, upon the 17th of January, 1905, sitting where long ago Massinissa had come riding in through the only gate of the city, sitting his horse without stirrups or bridle. Beside me, as I wrote, an Arab looked carefully at every word and shook his head because he could not understand the language; but the Muses understood and Apollo, which were its authors almost as much as I. How graceful it was and yet how firm! How generous and yet how particular! How easy, how superb, and yet how stuffed with dignity! There ran through it, half-perceived and essential, a sort of broken rhythm that never descended to rhetoric, but seemed to enliven and lift up the order of the words until they were filled with something approaching music; and with all this the meaning was fixed and new, the order lucid, the adjectives choice, the verbs strong, the substantives meaty and full of sap. It combined (if I may say so with modesty) all that Milton desired to achieve, with all that Bacon did in the modelling of English.... And it is gone. It will never be seen or read or known at all. It has utterly disappeared nor is it even preserved in any human memory—no, not in my own.

I kept it for a year, closely filing, polishing, and emending it until one would have thought it final, and even then I continued to develop and to mould it. It grew like a young tree in the corner of a fruitful field and gave an enduring pleasure. It never left me by night or by day; it crossed the Pyrenees with me seven times and the Mediterranean twice. It rode horses with me and was become a part of my habit everywhere. In trying to ford the Sousseyou I held it high out of the water, saving it alone, and once by a camp fire I woke and read it in the mountains before dawn. My companions slept on either side of me. The great brands of pine glowed and gave me light; there was a complete silence in the forest except for the noise of water, and in the midst of such spells I was so entranced by the beauty of the thing that when I had done my reading I took a dead coal from the fire and wrote at the foot of the paper: "There is not a word which the most exuberant could presume to add, nor one which the most fastidious would dare to erase." All that glory has vanished.

I know very well what the cabman did. He looked through the trap-door in the top of the roof to see if I had left anything behind. It was in Vigo Street, at the corner, that the fate struck. He looked and saw a sheet or two of paper—something of no value. He crumpled it up and threw it away, and it joined the company which men have not been thought worthy to know. It went to join Calvus and the dreadful books of the Sibyl, and those charred leaves which were found on the floor where Chatterton lay dead.

I went three times to Scotland Yard, allowing long intervals and torturing myself with hope. Three times my hands thought to hold it, and three times they closed on nothingness. A policeman then told me that cabmen very rarely brought him written things, but rather sticks, gloves, rings, purses, parcels, umbrellas, and the crushed hats of drunken men, not often verse or prose; and I abandoned my quest.

There are some reading this who may think me a trifle too fond and may doubt the great glory to which I testify here. They will remember how singularly the things we no longer possess rise upon the imagination and enlarge themselves, and they will quote that pathetic error whereby the dead become much dearer to us when we can no longer smile into their faces or do them the good we desire. They will suggest (most tenderly) that loss and the enchantment of memory have lent a thought too much of radiance and of harmony to what was certainly a noble creation of the mind, but still human and shot with error.

To such a criticism I cannot reply, I have no longer, alas! the best of replies, the Thing Itself, the Achievement: and not having that I have nothing. I am without weapons. Who shall convince of personality, of beauty, or of holiness, unless they be seen and felt? So it is with letters, and if I am not believed—or even if I am—it is of little moment, for the beloved object is rapt away.

Its matter—if one can say that anything so manifold and exalted had a mere subject—its matter was the effect of the piercing of the Suez Canal upon coastwise trade in the Mediterranean, but it is profane to bring before the general gaze a title which can tell the world nothing of the iridescence and vitality it has lost.

I will not console myself with the uncertain guess that things perished are in some way recoverable beyond the stars, nor hope to see and read again the artistry and the result whose loss I have mourned in these lines; but if, as the wisest men imagine, there is a place of repose for whatever most deserves it among the shades, there either I or others worthier may read what will never be read by living eyes or praised by living lips again. It may be so. But the loss alone is certain.


There was once a man called Mahmoud. He had other names, such as Ali, Akbar, and Shmaeil, and so forth, with which I will not trouble you, because in very short stories it is important not to confuse the mind. I have been assured of this by many authorities, some of whom make a great deal of money by short stories, and all of whom know a great deal about the way in which they ought to be written.

Now I come to think of it, I very much doubt whether this is a short story at all, for it has no plot so far and I do not see any plot developing. No matter. The thing is to say what one has to say humbly but fully. Providence will look after the rest.

So, as I was saying, there was a man called Mahmoud. He lived in a country entirely made of sand. There were hills which on the maps were called mountains, but when you came to look at them they were only a lot more sand, and there was nothing about them except an aspect of sand heaped up. You may say, "How, then, did Mahmoud build a house?" He did not. He lived in a tent. "But," you continue, "what did he do about drinking?" Well, it was Mahmoud's habit to go to a place where he knew that by scratching a little he would find bad water, and there he would scratch a little and find it, and, being an abstemious man, he needed but a drop.

The sun in Mahmoud's country was extremely hot. It stood right up above one's head and looked like the little thing that you get in the focus of a burning glass. The sun made it almost impossible to move, except in the early morning or at evening, and even during the night it was not particularly cool. It never rained in this place.

There were no rivers and no trees. There was no grass, and the only animal was a camel. The camel was content to eat a kind of scrub that grew here and there on the sand, and it drank the little water Mahmoud could afford it, and was permanently happy. So was Mahmoud. Beneath him the sand sloped down until it met the sea, which was tepid on account of the great heat, and in which were a lot of fish, pearls, and other things. Every now and then Mahmoud would force a son or domestic of his to go down and hoick out a pearl, and this pearl he would exchange for something that he absolutely needed, such as a new tent or a new camel, and then he went on living the way he had been living before.

Now, one day there came to this part of the world a man called Smith. He was dressed as you and I are, in trousers and a coat and boots, and he had a billycock hat on. He had a foolish, anxious face. He did not keep his word particularly; and he was exceedingly fond of money. He had spent most of his life accumulating all sorts of wealth in a great bag, and he landed with this bag in Mahmoud's country, and Mahmoud was as polite to him as the heat would allow. Then Mahmoud said to him:

"You appear to be a very rich man."

And Smith said:

"I am," and opened his bag and showed a great quantity of things. So Mahmoud was pleased and astonished, and fussed a good deal considering the climate, and got quite a quantity of pearls out of the sea, and gave them to Smith, who let him have a gun, but a bad one; and he, Smith, retained a good rifle. Then Smith sat down and waited for about six months, living on the provisions he had brought in his bag, until Mahmoud said to him:

"What have you come to do here?"

And Smith said:

"Why, to tell you the honest truth, I have come to protect you."

So Mahmoud thought a long time, smoking a pipe, because he did not understand a word of what Smith had said. Then Mahmoud said:

"All right, protect away," and after that there was a silence for about another six months, and nothing had happened.

Mahmoud did not mind being protected, because it made no difference to him, and after a certain time he had got all he wanted out of Smith, and was tired of bothering about the pearls. So he and Smith just lived side by side doing nothing in particular, except that Smith went on protecting and that Mahmoud went on being protected. But while Mahmoud was perfectly content to be protected till Doomsday, being an easy-going kind of fellow, Smith was more and more put out. He was a trifle irritable by nature. The climate did not suit him. He drank beer and whisky and other things quite dangerous under such a sun, and he came out all over like the measles. He tried to pass the time riding on a camel. At first he thought it great sport, but after a little he got tired of that also. He began to write poetry, all about Mahmoud, and as Mahmoud could not read it did not much matter. Then he wrote poetry about himself, making out Mahmoud to be excessively fond of him, and this poetry he read to himself, and it calmed him; but as Mahmoud did not know about this poetry, Smith got bored with it, and, his irritation increasing, he wrote more poetry, showing Mahmoud to be a villain and a serf, and showing himself, Smith, to be under a divine mission.

Now, just when things had come to this unpleasant state Mahmoud got up and shook himself and began skipping and dancing outside the door of his tent and running round and round it very fast, and waving his hands in the air, and shouting incongruous things.

Smith was exceedingly annoyed by this. He had never gone on like that himself, and he did not see why Mahmoud should. But Mahmoud had lived there a good deal longer than Smith had, and he knew that it was absolutely necessary. There were stories of people in the past who had felt inclined to go on like this and had restrained themselves with terrible consequences. So Mahmoud went on worse than ever, running as fast as he could out into the sand, shouting, leaping into the air, and then running back again as fast as he could, and firing off his gun and calling upon his god.

Smith, whose nerves were at the last stretch, asked Mahmoud savagely what he was about. To this Mahmoud gave no reply, save to twirl round rapidly upon one foot and to fall down foaming at the mouth. Smith, therefore, losing all patience, said to Mahmoud:

"If you do not stop I will shoot you by way of protecting you against yourself."

Mahmoud did not know what the word protected meant, but he understood the word shoot, and shouting with joy, he blew off Smith's hat with his gun, and said:

"A fight! a fight!"

For he loved fighting when he was in this mood, while Smith detested it.

Smith, however, remembered that he had come there to protect Mahmoud; he set his teeth, aimed with his rifle, fired at Mahmoud, and missed.

Mahmoud was so surprised at this that he ran at Smith, and rolled him over and over on the ground. Then they unclenched, both very much out of breath, and Smith said:

"Will you or will you not be protected?"

Mahmoud said he should be delighted. Moreover, he said that he had given his word that he would be protected, and that he was not a man to break his word.

After that he took Smith by the hand and shook it up and down for about five minutes, until Smith was grievously put out.

When they were friends again. Smith said to Mahmoud:

"Will you not go down into the sea and get me some more pearls?"

"No," said Mahmoud, "I am always very exhausted after these attacks."

Then Smith sat down by the seashore and began to cry, thinking of his home and of the green trees and of the North, and he wrote another poem about the burden that he had borne, and of what a great man he was and how he went all over the world protecting people, and how brave he was, and how Mahmoud also was very brave, but how he was much braver than Mahmoud. Then he said:

"Mahmoud, I am going away back to my distant home, unless you will get me more pearls."

But Mahmoud said:

"I cannot get you any more pearls because it is too hot, and if only you will stop you can go on doing some protecting, which, upon my soul, I do like better than anything in the world."

And even as he said this he began jumping about and shouting strange things and waving his gun, and Smith at once went away.

Then Mahmoud sat down sadly by the sea, and thought of how Smith had protected him, and how now all that was passed and the old monotonous life would begin again. But Smith went home, and all his neighbours asked how it was that he protected so well, and he wrote a book to enlighten them, called How I Protected Mahmoud. Then all his neighbours read this book and went out in a great boat to do something of the same kind. And Smith could not refrain from smiling.

Mahmoud, however, by his lonely shore, regretted more and more this episode in his dull life, and he wept when he remembered the fantastic Smith, who had such an enormous number of things in his bag and who had protected him; and he also wrote a poem, which is rather difficult to understand in connection with the business, but which to him exactly described it. And the poem went like this; having no metre and no rhyming, and being sung to three notes and a quarter in a kind of wail:

"When the jackal and the lion meet it is full moon; it is full moon and the gazelles are abroad."

"Why are the gazelles abroad when the jackal and the lion meet: when it is full moon in the desert and there is no wind?"

"There is no wind because the gazelles are abroad, the moon is at the full, and the lion and the jackal are together."

"Where is he that protected me and where is the great battle and the shouts and the feasting afterwards, and where is that bag?"

"But we dwell in the desert always, and men do not visit us, and the lion and the jackal have met, and it is full moon, O gazelles!"

Mahmoud was so pleased with this song that he wrote it down, a thing he only did with one song out of several thousands, for he wrote with difficulty, but I think it a most ridiculous song, and I far prefer Smith's, though you would never know it had to do with the same business.


One day Peter and Paul—I knew them both, the dear fellows: Peter perhaps a trifle wild, Paul a little priggish, but that is no matter —one day, I say, Peter and Paul (who lived together in rooms off Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, a very delightful spot) were talking over their mutual affairs.

"My dear Paul," said Peter, "I wish I could persuade you to this expenditure. It will be to our mutual advantage. Come now, you have ten thousand a year of your own and I with great difficulty earn a hundred; it is surprising that you should make the fuss you do. Besides which you well know that this feeding off packing-cases is irksome; we really need a table and it will but cost ten pounds."

To all this Paul listened doubtfully, pursing up his lips, joining the tips of his fingers, crossing his legs and playing the solemn fool generally.

"Peter," said he, "I mislike this scheme of yours. It is a heavy outlay for a single moment. It would disturb our credit, and yours especially, for your share would come to five pounds and you would have to put off paying the Press-Cutting agency to which you foolishly subscribe. No; there is an infinitely better way than this crude idea of paying cash down in common. I will lend the whole sum of ten pounds to our common stock and we will each pay one pound a year as interest to myself for the loan. I for my part will not shirk my duty in the matter of this interest and I sincerely trust you will not shirk yours."

Peter was so delighted with this arrangement that his gratitude knew no bounds. He would frequently compliment himself in private on the advantage of living with Paul, and when he went out to see his friends it was with the jovial air of the Man with the Bottomless Purse, for he did not feel the pound a year he had to pay, and Paul always seemed willing to undertake similar expenses on similar terms. He purchased a bronze over-mantel, he fitted the rooms with electric light, he bought (for the common use) a large prize dog for L56, and he was for ever bringing in made dishes, bottles of wine and what not, all paid for by this lending of his. The interest increased to L20 and then to L30 a year, but Paul was so rigorously honest, prompt and exact in paying himself the interest that Peter could not bear to be behindhand or to seem less punctual and upright than his friend. But so high a proportion of his small income going in interest left poor Peter but a meagre margin for himself and he had to dine at Lockhart's and get his clothes ready made, which (to a refined and sensitive soul such as his) was a grievous trial.

Some little time after a Fishmonger who had attained to Cabinet rank was married to the daughter of a Levantine and London was in consequence illuminated. Paul said to Peter in his jovial way, "It is imperative that we should show no meanness upon this occasion. We are known for the most flourishing and well-to-do pair of bachelors in the neighbourhood, and I have not hesitated (for I know I had your consent beforehand) to go to Messrs. Brock and order an immense quantity of fireworks for the balcony on this auspicious occasion. Not a word. The loan is mine and very freely do I make it to our Mutual Position."

So that night there was an illumination at their flat, and the centre-piece was a vast combination of roses, thistles, shamrocks, leeks, kangaroos, beavers, schamboks, and other national emblems, and beneath it the motto, "United we stand, divided we fall: Peter and Paul," in flaming letters two feet high.

Peter was after this permanently reduced to living upon rice and to mending his own clothes; but he could easily see how fair the arrangement was, and he was not the man to grumble at a free contract. Moreover, he was expecting a rise in salary from the editor of the Hoot, in which paper he wrote "Woman's World", and signed it "Emily".

At the close of the year Peter had some difficulty in meeting the interest, though Paul had, with true business probity, paid his on the very day it fell due. Peter therefore approached Paul with some little diffidence and hesitation, saying:

"Paul: I trust you will excuse me, but I beg you will be so very good as to see your way, if possible, to granting me an extension of time in the matter of paying my interest."

Paul, who was above everything regular and methodical, replied:

"Hum, chrm, chrum, chrm. Well, my dear Peter, it would not be generous to press you, but I trust you will remember that this money has not been spent upon my private enjoyment. It has gone for the glory of our Mutual Position; pray do not forget that, Peter; and remember also that if you have to pay interest, so have I, so have I. We are all in the same boat, Peter, sink or swim; sink or swim...." Then his face brightened, he patted Peter genially on the shoulder and added: "Do not think me harsh, Peter. It is necessary that I should keep to a strict, business-like way of doing things, for I have a large property to manage; but you may be sure that my friendship for you is of more value to me than a few paltry sovereigns. I will lend you the sum you owe to the interest on the Common Debt, and though in strict right you alone should pay the interest on this new loan I will call half of it my own and you shall pay but L1 a year on it for ever."

Peter's eyes swam with tears at Paul's generosity, and he thanked his stars that his lot had been cast with such a man. But when Paul came again with a grave face and said to him, "Peter, my boy, we must insure at once against burglars: the underwriters demand a hundred pounds," his heart broke, and he could not endure the thought of further payments. Paul, however, with the quiet good sense that characterised him, pointed out the necessity of the payment and, eyeing Peter with compassion for a moment, told him that he had long been feeling that he (Peter) had been unfairly taxed. "It is a principle" (said Paul) "that taxation should fall upon men in proportion to their ability to pay it. I am determined that, whatever happens, you shall in future pay but a third of the interest that may accrue upon further loans." It was in vain that Peter pointed out that, in his case, even a thirtieth would mean starvation; Paul was firm and carried his point.

The wretched Peter was now but skin and bone, and his earning power, small as it had ever been, was considerably lessened. Paul began to fear very seriously for his invested funds: he therefore kept up Peter's spirits as best he could with such advice as the following:—

"Dear Peter, do not repine; your lot is indeed hard, but it has its silver lining. You are the member of a partnership famous among all other bachelor-residences for its display of fireworks and its fine furniture. So valuable is the room in which you live that the insurance alone is the wonder and envy of our neighbours. Consider also how firm and stable these loans make our comradeship. They give me a stake in the rooms and furnish a ready market for the spare capital of our little community. The interest WE pay upon the fund is an evidence of our social rank, and all London stares with astonishment at the flat of Peter and Paul, which can without an effort buy such gorgeous furniture at a moment's notice."

But, alas! these well-meant words were of no avail. On a beautiful spring day, when all the world seemed to be holding him to the joys of living, Peter passed quietly away in his little truckle bed, unattended even by a doctor, whose fees would have necessitated a loan the interest of which he could never have paid.

Paul, on the death of Peter, gave way at first to bitter recrimination. "Is this the way," he said, "that you repay years of unstinted generosity? Nay, is this the way you meet your sacred obligations? You promised upon a thousand occasions to pay your share of the interest for ever, and now like a defaulter you abandon your post and destroy half the revenue of our firm by one intempestive and thoughtless act! Had you but possessed a little property which, properly secured, would continue to meet the claims you had incurred, I had not blamed you. But a man who earns all that he possesses has no right to pledge himself to perpetual payment unless he is prepared to live for ever!"

Nobler thoughts, however, succeeded this outburst, and Paul threw himself upon the bed of his Departed Friend and moaned. "Who now will pay me an income in return for my investments? All my fortune is sunk in this flat, though I myself pay the interest never so regularly, it will not increase my fortune by one farthing! I shall as I live consume a fund which will never be replenished, and within a short time I shall be compelled to work for my living!"

Maddened by this last reflection, he dashed into the street, hurried northward through-the-now-rapidly-gathering-darkness, and drowned himself in the Regent's Canal, just where it runs by the Zoological Gardens, under the bridge that leads to the cages of the larger pachyderms.

Thus miserably perished Peter and Paul, the one in the thirtieth, the other in the forty-seventh year of his age, both victims to their ignorance of Mrs. Fawcett's Political Economy for the Young, the Nicomachean Ethics, Bastiat's Economic Harmonies, The Fourth Council of Lateran on Unfruitful Loans and Usury, The Speeches of Sir Michael Hicks-Beach and Mr. Brodrick (now Lord Midleton), The Sermons of St. Thomas Aquinas, under the head "Usuria," Mr. W. S. Lilly's First Principles in Politics, and other works too numerous to mention.


"Saepe miratus sum," I have often wondered why men were blamed for seeking to know men of title. That a man should be blamed for the acceptance of, or uniformity with, ideals not his own is right enough; but a man who simply reveres a Lord does nothing so grave: and why he should not revere such a being passes my comprehension.

The institution of Lords has for its object the creation of a high and reverend class; well, a man looks up to them with awe or expresses his reverence and forthwith finds himself accused! Get rid of Lords by all means, if you think there should be none, but do not come pestering me with a rule that no Lord shall be considered while you are making them by the bushel for the special purpose of being considered—ad considerandum as Quintillian has it in his highly Quintillianarian essay on I forget what.

I have heard it said that what is blamed in snobs, snobinibus quid reatumst, is not the matter but the manner of their worship. Those who will have it so maintain that we should pay to rank a certain discreet respect which must not be marred by crude expression. They compare snobbishness to immodesty, and profess that the pleasure of acquaintance with the great should be so enjoyed that the great themselves are but half-conscious of the homage offered them: this is rather a subtle and finicky critique of what is in honest minds a natural restraint.

I knew a man once—Chatterley was his name, Shropshire his county, and racing his occupation—who said that a snob was blamed for the offence he gave to Lords themselves. Thus we do well (said this man Chatterley) to admire beautiful women, but who would rush into a room and exclaim loudly at the ladies it contained? So (said this man Chatterley) is it with Lords, whom we should never forget, but whom we should not disturb by violent affection or by too persistent a pursuit.

Then there was a nasty drunken chap down Wapping way who had seen better days; he had views on dozens of things and they were often worth listening to, and one of his fads was to be for ever preaching that the whole social position of an aristocracy resided in a veil of illusion, and that hands laid too violently on this veil would tear it. It was only by a sort of hypnotism, he said, that we regarded Lords as separate from ourselves. It was a dream, and a rough movement would wake one out of it. Snobbishness (he said) did violence to this sacred film of faith and might shatter it, and hence (he pointed out) was especially hated by Lords themselves. It was interesting to hear as a theory and delivered in those surroundings, but it is exploded at once by the first experience of High Life and its solid realities.

There is yet another view that to seek after acquaintance with men of position in some way hurts one's own soul, and that to strain towards our superiors, to mingle our society with their own, is unworthy, because it is destructive of something peculiar to ourselves. But surely there is implanted in man an instinct which leads him to all his noblest efforts and which is, indeed, the motive force of religion, the instinct by which he will ever seek to attain what he sees to be superior to him and more worthy than the things of his common experience. It seems to be proper, therefore, that no man should struggle against the very natural attraction which radiates from superior rank, and I will boldly affirm that he does his country a good service who submits to this force.

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