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their virtues; plums are never ripe. Yet all these fruits are
excellent in their season. Their faults are faults which we can
forgive during a slight acquaintance, which indeed seem but
pleasant little idiosyncrasies in the stranger. But we could not
live with them.

Yet with the orange we do live year in and year out. That speaks
well for the orange. The fact is that there is an honesty about
the orange which appeals to all of us. If it is going to be bad -
for even the best of us are bad sometimes - it begins to be bad
from the outside, not from the inside. How many a pear which
presents a blooming face to the world is rotten at the core. How
many an innocent-looking apple is harbouring a worm in the bud.
But the orange has no secret faults. Its outside is a mirror of
its inside, and if you are quick you can tell the shopman so
before he slips it into the bag.






Signs of Character



Wellington is said to have chosen his officers by their noses and
chins. The standard for them in noses must have been rather high,
to judge by the portraits of the Duke, but no doubt he made
allowances. Anyhow, by this method he got the men he wanted. Some
people, however, may think that he would have done better to have
let the mouth be the deciding test. The lines of one's nose are
more or less arranged for one at birth. A baby, born with a snub
nose, would feel it hard that the decision that he would be no
use to Wellington should be come to so early. And even if he
arrived in the world with a Roman nose, he might smash it up in
childhood, and with it his chances of military fame. This, I
think you will agree with me, would be unfair.

Now the mouth is much more likely to be a true index of
character. A man may clench his teeth firmly or smile
disdainfully or sneer, or do a hundred things which will be
reflected in his mouth rather than in his nose or chin. It is
through the mouth and eyes that all emotions are expressed, and
in the mouth and eyes therefore that one would expect the marks
of such emotions to be left. I did read once of a man whose nose
quivered with rage, but it is not usual; I never heard of anyone
whose chin did anything. It would be absurd to expect it to.

But there arises now the objection that a man may conceal his
mouth, and by that his character, with a moustache. There arises,
too, the objection that a person whom you thought was a fool,
because he always went about with his mouth open, may only have
had a bad cold in the head. In fact the difficulties of telling
anyone's character by his face seem more insuperable every
moment. How, then, are we to tell whether we may safely trust a
man with our daughter, or our favourite golf club, or whatever we
hold most dear?

Fortunately a benefactor has stepped in at the right moment with
an article on the cigar-manner. Our gentleman has made the
discovery that you can tell a man's nature by the way he handles
his cigar, and he gives a dozen illustrations to explain his
theory. True, this leaves out of account the men who don't smoke
cigars; although, of course, you might sum them all up, with a
certain amount of justification, as foolish. But you do get, I am
assured, a very important index to the characters of smokers -
which is as much as to say of the people who really count.

I am not going to reveal all the clues to you now; partly because
I might be infringing the copyright of another, partly because I
have forgotten them. But the idea roughly is that if a man holds
his cigar between his finger and thumb, he is courageous and kind
to animals (or whatever it may be), and if he holds it between
his first and second fingers he is impulsive but yet considerate
to old ladies, and if he holds it upside down he is (besides
being an ass) jealous and self-assertive, and if he sticks a
knife into the stump so as to smoke it to the very end he is -
yes, you have guessed this one - he is mean. You see what a useful
thing a cigar may be.

I think now I am sorry that this theory has been given to the
world. Yes; I blame myself for giving it further publicity. In
the old days when we bought - or better, had presented to us - a
cigar, a doubt as to whether it was a good one was all that
troubled us. We bit one end and lit the other, and, the doubt
having been solved, proceeded tranquilly to enjoy ourselves. But
all this will be changed now. We shall be horribly self-
conscious. When we take our cigars from our mouths we shall feel
our neighbours' eyes rooted upon our hands, the while we try to
remember which of all the possible manipulations is the one which
represents virtue at its highest power. Speaking for myself, I
hold my cigar in a dozen different ways during an evening (though
never, of course, on the end of a knife), and I tremble to think
of the diabolically composite nature which the modern Wellingtons
of the table must attribute to me. In future I see that I must
concentrate on one method. If only I could remember the one which
shows me at my best!

But the tobacco test is not the only one. We may be told by the
way we close our hands; the tilt of a walking-stick may unmask
us. It is useless to model ourselves now on the strong, silent
man of the novel whose face is a shutter to hide his emotions.
This is a pity; yes, I am convinced now that it is a pity. If my
secret fault is cheque-forging I do not want it to be revealed to
the world by the angle of my hat; still less do I wish to
discover it in a friend whom I like or whom I can beat at
billiards.

How dull the world would be if we knew every acquaintance inside
out as soon as we had offered him our cigar-case. Suppose - I put
an extreme case to you - suppose a pleasant young bachelor who
admired our bowling showed himself by his shoe laces to be a
secret wife-beater. What could we do? Cut so unique a friend? Ah
no. Let us pray to remain in ignorance of the faults of those we
like. Let us pray it as sincerely as we pray that they shall
remain in ignorance of ours.





Intellectual Snobbery



A good many years ago I had a painful experience. I was
discovered by my house-master reading in bed at the unauthorized
hour of midnight. Smith minor in the next bed (we shared a
candle) was also reading. We were both discovered. But the most
annoying part of the business, as it seemed to me then, was that
Smith minor was discovered reading Alton Locke, and that I was
discovered reading Marooned Among Cannibals. If only our house-
master had come in the night before! Then he would have found me
reading Alton Locke. Just for a moment it occurred to me to tell
him this, but after a little reflection I decided that it would
be unwise. He might have misunderstood the bearings of the
revelation.

There is hardly one of us who is proof against this sort of
intellectual snobbery. A detective story may have been a very
good friend to us, but we don't want to drag it into the
conversation; we prefer a casual reference to The Egoist, with
which we have perhaps only a bowing acquaintance; a reference
which leaves the impression that we are inseparable companions,
or at any rate inseparable until such day when we gather from our
betters that there are heights even beyond The Egoist. Dead or
alive, we would sooner be found with a copy of Marcus Aurelius
than with a copy of Marie Corelli. I used to know a man who
carried always with him a Russian novel in the original; not
because he read Russian, but because a day might come when, as
the result of some accident, the "pockets of the deceased" would
be exposed in the public Press. As he said, you never know; but
the only accident which happened to him was to be stranded for
twelve hours one August at a wayside station in the Highlands.
After this he maintained that the Russians were overrated.

I should like to pretend that I myself have grown out of these
snobbish ways by this time, but I am doubtful if it would be
true. It happened to me not so long ago to be travelling in
company of which I was very much ashamed; and to be ashamed of
one's company is to be a snob. At this period I was trying to
amuse myself (and, if it might be so, other people) by writing a
burlesque story in the manner of an imaginary collaboration by
Sir Hall Caine and Mrs. Florence Barclay. In order to do this I
had to study the works of these famous authors, and for many
week-ends in succession I might have been seen travelling to, or
returning from, the country with a couple of their books under my
arm. To keep one book beneath the arm is comparatively easy; to
keep two is much more difficult. Many was the time, while waiting
for my train to come in, that one of those books slipped from me.
Indeed, there is hardly a junction in the railway system of the
southern counties at which I have not dropped on some Saturday or
other a Caine or a Barclay; to have it restored to me a moment
later by a courteous fellow-passenger - courteous, but with a
smile of gentle pity in his eye as he glimpsed the author's name.
"Thanks very much," I would stammer, blushing guiltily, and
perhaps I would babble about a sick friend to whom I was taking
them, or that I was running out of paper-weights. But he never
believed me. He knew that he would have said something like that
himself.

Nothing is easier than to assume that other people share one's
weaknesses. No doubt Jack the Ripper excused himself on the
ground that it was human nature; possibly, indeed, he wrote an
essay like this, in which he speculated mildly as to the reasons
which made stabbing so attractive to us all. So I realize that I
may be doing you an injustice in suggesting that you who read may
also have your little snobberies. But I confess that I should
like to cross-examine you. If in conversation with you, on the
subject (let us say) of heredity, a subject to which you had
devoted a good deal of study, I took it for granted that you had
read Ommany's Approximations, would you make it quite clear to me
that you had not read it? Or would you let me carry on the
discussion on the assumption that you knew it well; would you,
even, in answer to a direct question, say shamefacedly that
though you had not - er - actually read it, you - er - knew about it,
of course, and had - er - read extracts from it? Somehow I think
that I could lead you on to this; perhaps even make you say that
you had actually ordered it from your library, before I told you
the horrid truth that Ommany's Approximations was an invention of
my own.

It is absurd that we (I say "we," for I include you now) should
behave like this, for there is no book over which we need be
ashamed, either to have read it or not to have read it. Let us,
therefore, be frank. In order to remove the unfortunate
impression of myself which I have given you, I will confess that
I have only read three of Scott's novels, and begun, but never
finished, two of Henry James'. I will also confess - and here I
am by way of restoring that unfortunate impression - that I do
quite well in Scottish and Jacobean circles on those five books.
For, if a question arises as to which is Scott's masterpiece, it
is easy for me to suggest one of my three, with the air of one
who has chosen it, not over two others, but over twenty. Perhaps
one of my three is the acknowledged masterpiece; I do not know.
If it is, then, of course, all is well. But if it is not, then I
must appear rather a clever fellow for having rejected the
obvious. With regard to Henry James, my position is not quite so
secure; but at least I have good reason for feeling that the two
novels which I was unable to finish cannot be his best, and with
a little tact I can appear to be defending this opinion hotly
against some imaginary authority who has declared in favour of
them. One might have read the collected works of both authors,
yet make less of an impression.

Indeed, sometimes I feel that I have read their collected works,
and Ommany's Approximations, and many other books with which you
would be only too glad to assume familiarity. For in giving
others the impression that I am on terms with these masterpieces,
I have but handed on an impression which has gradually formed
itself in my own mind. So I take no advantage of them; and if it
appears afterwards that we have been deceived together, I shall
be at least as surprised and indignant about it as they.





A Question of Form



The latest invention on the market is the wasp gun. In theory it
is something like a letter clip; you pull the trigger and the
upper and lower plates snap together with a suddenness which
would surprise any insect in between. The trouble will be to get
him in the right place before firing. But I can see that a lot of
fun can be got out of a wasp drive. We shall stand on the edge of
the marmalade while the beaters go through it, and, given
sufficient guns, there will not be many insects to escape. A
loader to clean the weapon at regular intervals will be a
necessity.

Yet I am afraid that society will look down upon the wasp gun.
Anything useful and handy is always barred by the best people. I
can imagine a bounder being described as "the sort of person who
uses a wasp gun instead of a teaspoon." As we all know, a hat-
guard is the mark of a very low fellow. I suppose the idea is
that you and I, being so dashed rich, do not much mind if our
straw hat does blow off into the Serpentine; it is only the poor
wretch of a clerk, unable to afford a new one every day, who must
take precautions against losing his first. Yet how neat, how
useful, is the hat-guard. With what pride its inventor must have
given birth to it. Probably he expected a statue at the corner of
Cromwell Road, fitting reward for a public benefactor. He did not
understand that, since his invention was useful, it was probably
bad form.

Consider, again, the Richard or "dicky." Could there be anything
neater or more dressy, anything more thoroughly useful? Yet you
and I scorn to wear one. I remember a terrible situation in a
story by Mr. W. S. Jackson. The hero found himself in a foreign
hotel without his luggage. To that hotel came, with her father,
the girl whom he adored silently. An invitation was given him to
dinner with them, and he had to borrow what clothes he could from
friendly waiters. These, alas! included a dicky. Well, the dinner
began well; our hero made an excellent impression; all was
gaiety. Suddenly a candle was overturned and the flame caught the
heroine's frock. The hero knew what the emergency demanded. He
knew how heroes always whipped off their coats and wrapped them
round burning heroines. He jumped up like a bullet (or whatever
jumps up quickest) and - remembered.

He had a dicky on! Without his coat, he would discover the dicky
to the one person of all from whom he wished to hide it. Yet if
he kept his coat on, she might die. A truly horrible dilemma. I
forget which horn he impaled himself upon, but I expect you and I
would have kept the secret of the Richard at all costs. And what
really is wrong with a false shirt-front? Nothing except that it
betrays the poverty of the wearer. Laundry bills don't worry us,
bless you, who have a new straw hat every day; but how terrible
if it was suspected that they did.

Our gentlemanly objection to the made-up tie seems to rest on a
different foundation; I am doubtful as to the psychology of that.
Of course it is a deception, but a deception is only serious when
it passes itself off as something which really matters. Nobody
thinks that a self-tied tie matters; nobody is really proud of
being able to make a cravat out of a length of silk. I suppose it
is simply the fact that a made-up tie saves time which condemns
it; the safety razor was nearly condemned for a like reason. We
of the leisured classes can spend hours over our toilet; by all
means let us despise those who cannot.

As far as dress goes, a man only knows the things which a man
mustn't do. It would be interesting if women would tell us what
no real lady ever does. I have heard a woman classified
contemptuously as one who does her hair up with two hair-pins,
and no doubt bad feminine form can be observed in other shocking
directions. But again it seems to be that the semblance of
poverty, whether of means or of leisure, is the one thing which
must be avoided.

Why, then, should the wasp gun be considered bad form? I don't
know, but I have an instinctive feeling that it will be. Perhaps
a wasp gun indicates a lack of silver spoons suitable for lethal
uses. Perhaps it shows too careful a consideration of the
marmalade. A man of money drowns his wasp in the jar with his
spoon, and carelessly calls for another pot to be opened. The
poor man waits on the outskirts with his gun, and the marmalade,
void of corpses, can still be passed round. Your gun proclaims
your poverty; then let it be avoided.

All the same I think I shall have one. I have kept clear of hat-
guards and Richards and made-up ties without quite knowing why,
but honestly I have not felt the loss of them. The wasp gun is
different; having seen it, I feel that I should be miserable
without it. It is going to be excellent sport, wasp-shooting; a
steady hand, a good eye, and a certain amount of courage will be
called for. When the season opens I shall be there, good form or
bad form. We shall shoot the apple-quince coverts first. "Hornet
over!"






A Slice of Fiction



This is a jolly world, and delightful things go on in it. For
instance, I had a picture post card only yesterday from William
Benson, who is staying at Ilfracombe. He wrote to say that he had
gone down to Ilfracombe for a short holiday, and had been much
struck by the beauty of the place. On one of his walks he
happened to notice that there was to be a sale of several plots
of land occupying a quite unique position in front of the sea. He
had immediately thought of me in connection with it. My readiness
to consider a good investment had long been known to him, and in
addition he had heard rumours that I might be coming down to
Ilfracombe in order to recruit my health. If so, here was a
chance which should be brought to my knowledge. Further
particulars ... and so on. Which was extremely friendly of
William Benson. In fact, my only complaint of William is that he
has his letters lithographed - a nasty habit in a friend. But I
have allowed myself to be carried away. It was not really of Mr.
Benson that I was thinking when I said that delightful things go
on in this world, but of a certain pair of lovers, the tragedy of
whose story has been revealed to me in a two-line "agony" in a
morning paper. When anything particularly attractive happens in
real life, we express our appreciation by saying that it is the
sort of thing which one reads about in books - perhaps the
highest compliment we can pay to Nature. Well, the story
underlying this advertisement reeks of the feuilleton and the
stage.

"PAT, I was alone when you called. You heard me talking to the
dog. PLEASE make appointment. - DAISY."

You will agree with me when you read this that it is almost too
good to be true. There is a freshness and a naivetвАЪ about it
which is only to be found in American melodrama. Let us
reconstruct the situation, and we shall see at once how
delightfully true to fiction real life can be.

Pat was in love with Daisy - engaged to her we may say with
confidence (for a reason which will appear in a moment). But even
though she had plighted her troth to him, he was jealous,
miserably jealous, of every male being who approached her. One
day last week he called on her at the house in Netting Hill. The
parlour-maid opened the door and smiled brightly at him. "Miss
Daisy is upstairs in the drawing-room," she said. "Thank you," he
replied, "I will announce myself." (Now you see how we know that
they were engaged. He must have announced himself in order to
have reached the situation implied in the "agony," and he would
not have been allowed to do so if he had not had the standing of
a fiance.)

For a moment before knocking Patrick stood outside the drawing-
room door, and in that moment the tragedy occurred; he heard his
lady's voice. "DARLING!" it said, "she SHALL kiss her sweetest,
ownest, little pupsy-wupsy."

Patrick's brow grew black. His strong jaw clenched (just like the
jaws of those people on the stage), and he staggered back from
the door. "This is the end," he muttered. Then he strode down the
stairs and out into the stifling streets. And up in the drawing-
room of the house in Netting Hill Daisy and the toy pom sat and
wondered why their lord and master was so late.

Now we come to the letter which Patrick wrote to Daisy, telling
her that it was all over. He would explain to her how he had
"accidentally"(he would dwell upon that) accidentally overheard
her and her - - (probably he was rather coarse here) exchanging
terms of endearment; he would accuse her of betraying one whose
only fault was that he loved her not wisely but too well; he
would announce gloomily that he had lost his faith in women. All
this is certain. But it would appear also that he made some such
threat as this - most likely in a postscript: "It is no good your
writing. There can be no explanation. Your letters will be
destroyed unopened." It is a question, however, if even this
would have prevented Daisy from trying an appeal by post, for
though one may talk about destroying letters unopened, it is an
extremely difficult thing to do. I feel, therefore, that
Patrick's letter almost certainly contained a P.P.S. also - to
this effect: "I cannot remain in London where we have spent so
many happy hours together. I am probably leaving for the Rocky
Mountains to-night. Letters will not be forwarded. Do not attempt
to follow me."

And so Daisy was left with only the one means of communication
and explanation - the agony columns of the morning newspapers. "I
was alone when you called. You heard me talking to the dog.
PLEASE make appointment." In the last sentence there is just a
hint of irony which I find very attractive. It seems to me to
say, "Don't for heaven's sake come rushing back to Notting Hill
(all love and remorse) without warning, or you might hear me
talking to the cat or the canary. Make an appointment, and I'll
take care that there's NOTHING in the room when you come." We may
tell ourselves, I think, that Daisy understands her Patrick. In
fact, I am beginning to understand Patrick myself, and I see now
that the real reason why Daisy chose the agony column as the
medium of communication was that she knew Patrick would prefer
it. Patrick is distinctly the sort of man who likes agony
columns. I am sure it was the first thing he turned to on
Wednesday morning.

It occurs to me to wonder if the honeymoon will be spent at
Ilfracombe. Patrick must have received William Benson's picture
post card too. We have all had one. Just fancy if he HAD gone to
the Rocky Mountains; almost certainly Mr. Benson's letters would
not have been forwarded.





The Label



On those rare occasions when I put on my best clothes and venture
into society, I am always astonished at the number of people in
it whom I do not know. I have stood in a crowded ball-room, or
sat in a crowded restaurant, and reflected that, of all the
hundreds of souls present, there was not one of whose existence I
had previously had any suspicion. Yet they all live tremendously
important lives, lives not only important to themselves but to
numbers of friends and relations; every day they cross some sort
of Rubicon; and to each one of them there comes a time when the
whole of the rest of the world (including - confound it! - me)
seems absolutely of no account whatever. That I had lived all
these years in contented ignorance of their existence makes me a
little ashamed.

To-day in my oldest clothes I have wandered through the index of
The Times Literary Supplement, and I am now feeling a little
ashamed of my ignorance of so many books. Of novels alone there
seem to be about 900. To write even a thoroughly futile novel is,
to my thinking, a work of extraordinary endurance; yet in, say,
600 houses this work has been going on, and I (and you, and all
of us) have remained utterly unmoved. Well, I have been making up
for my indifference this morning. I have been reading the titles
of the books. That is not so good (or bad) as reading the books
themselves, but it enables me to say that I have heard of such
and such a novel, and in some cases it does give me a slight clue
to what goes on inside.

I should imagine that the best part of writing a novel was the


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