A.A. Milne.

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but I should indeed be surprised - I mean sorry - if it did not
come back to me at once.

There is one thing, anyhow, that I will not do. I will not give
it to a waiter or a taxi-driver or to anybody else as a tip. If
you estimate the market value of a shilling with a hole in it at
anything from ninepence to fourpence according to the owner's
chances of getting rid of it, then it might be considered
possibly a handsome, anyhow an adequate, tip for a driver; but
somehow the idea does not appeal to me at all. For if the
recipient did not see the hole, you would feel that you had been
unnecessarily generous to him, and that one last effort to have
got it off on to a shopkeeper would have been wiser; while if he
did see it - well, we know what cabmen are. He couldn't legally
object, it is a voluntary gift on your part, and even regarded as
a contribution to his watch chain worthy of thanks, but - Well, I
don't like it. I don't think it's sportsmanlike.

However, I have an idea at last. I know a small boy who owns some
lead soldiers. I propose to borrow one of these - a corporal or
perhaps a serjeant - and boil him down, and then fill up the hole
in the shilling with lead. Shillings, you know, are not solid
silver; oh no, they have alloy in them. This one will have a
little more than usual perhaps. One cannot tie oneself down to an
ounce or two.

We set out, I believe, to discuss the morals of the question. It
is a most interesting subject.

The Happiest Half-Hours of Life

Yesterday I should have gone back to school, had I been a hundred
years younger. My most frequent dream nowadays - or nowanights I
suppose I should say - is that I am back at school, and trying to
construe difficult passages from Greek authors unknown to me.
That they are unknown is my own fault, as will be pointed out to
me sternly in a moment. Meanwhile I stand up and gaze blankly at
the text, wondering how it is that I can have forgotten to
prepare it. "Er - him the - er - him the - the er many-wiled
Odysseus - h'r'm - then, him addressing, the many-wiled Odysseus -
er - addressed. Er - er - the er - " And then, sweet relief, I wake
up. That is one of my dreams; and another is that I am trying to
collect my books for the next school and that an algebra, or
whatever you like, is missing. The bell has rung, as it seems
hours ago, I am searching my shelves desperately, I am diving
under my table, behind the chair ... I shall be late, I shall be
late, late, late ...

No doubt I had these bad moments in real life a hundred years
ago. Indeed I must have had them pretty often that they should
come back to me so regularly now. But it is curious that I should
never dream that I am going back to school, for the misery of
going back must have left a deeper mark on my mind than all the
little accidental troubles of life when there. I was very happy
at school; but oh! the utter wretchedness of the last day of the

One began to be apprehensive on the Monday. Foolish visitors
would say sometimes on the Monday, "When are you going back to
school?" and make one long to kick them for their tactlessness.
As well might they have said to a condemned criminal, "When are
you going to be hanged?" or, "What kind of - er - knot do you think
they'll use?" Througout Monday and Tuesday we played the usual
games, amused ourselves in the usual way, but with heavy hearts.
In the excitement of the moment we would forget and be happy, and
then suddenly would come the thought, "We're going back on

And on Tuesday evening we would bring a moment's comfort to
ourselves by imagining that we were not going back on the morrow.
Our favourite dream was that the school was burnt down early on
Wednesday morning, and that a telegram arrived at breakfast
apologizing for the occurrence, and pointing out that it would be
several months before even temporary accommodation could be
erected. No Vandal destroyed historic buildings so light-
heartedly as we. And on Tuesday night we prayed that, if the
lightnings of Heaven failed us, at least a pestilence should be
sent in aid. Somehow, SOMEHOW, let the school be uninhabitable!

But the telegram never came. We woke on Wednesday morning as
wakes the murderer on his last day. We took a dog or two for a
walk; we pretended to play a game of croquet. After lunch we
donned the badges of our servitude. The comfortable, careless,
dirty flannels were taken off, and the black coats and stiff
white collars put on. At 3.30 an early tea was ready for us -
something rather special, a last mockery of holiday. (Dressed
crab, I remember, on one occasion, and I travelled with my back
to the engine after it - a position I have never dared to assume
since.) Then good-byes, tips, kisses, a last look, and - the 4.10
was puffing out of the station. And nothing, nothing had
happened. I can remember thinking in the train how unfair it all
was. Fifty-two weeks in the year, I said to myself, and only
fifteen of them spent at home. A child snatched from his mother
at nine, and never again given back to her for more than two
months at a time. "Is this Russia?" I said; and, getting no
answer, could only comfort myself with the thought, "This day
twelve weeks!"

And once the incredible did happen. It was through no
intervention of Providence; no, it was entirely our own doing. We
got near some measles, and for a fortnight we were kept in
quarantine. I can say truthfully that we never spent a duller two
weeks. There seemed to be nothing to do at all. The idea that we
were working had to be fostered by our remaining shut up in one
room most of the day, and within the limits of that room we found
very little in the way of amusement. We were bored extremely. And
always we carried with us the thought of Smith or Robinson taking
our place in the Junior House team and making hundreds of runs.

Because, of course, we were very happy at school really. The
trouble was that we were so much happier in the holidays. I have
had many glorious moments since I left school, but I have no
doubt as to what have been the happiest half-hours in my life.
They were the half-hours on the last day of term before we
started home. We spent them on a lunch of our own ordering. It
was the first decent meal we had had for weeks, and when it was
over there were all the holidays before us. Life may have better
half-hours than that to offer, but I have not met them.

Natural Science

It is when Parliament is not sitting that the papers are most
interesting to read. I have found an item of news to-day which
would never have been given publicity in the busy times, and it
has moved me strangely. Here it is, backed by the authority of
Dr. Chalmers Mitchell: -

"The caterpillar of the puss-moth, not satisfied with Nature's
provisions for its safety, makes faces at young birds, and is
said to alarm them considreably."

I like that "is said to." Probably the young bird would deny
indignantly that he was alarmed, and would explain that he was
only going away because he suddenly remembered that he had an
engagement on the croquet lawn, or that he had forgotten his
umbrella. But whether he alarms them or not, the fact remains
that the caterpillar of the puss-moth does make faces at young
birds; and we may be pretty sure that, even if he began the
practice in self-defence, the habit is one that has grown on him.
Indeed, I can see him actually looking out for a thrush's nest,
and then climbing up to it, popping his head over the edge
suddenly and making a face. Probably, too, the mother birds
frighten their young ones by telling them that, if they aren't
good, the puss-moth caterpillar will be after them; while the
poor caterpillar himself, never having known a mother's care, has
had no one to tell him that if he goes on making such awful faces
he will be struck like that one day.

These delvings into natural history bring back my youth very
vividly. I never kept a puss-moth, but I had a goat-moth which
ate its way out of a match-box, and as far as I remember took all
the matches with it. There were caterpillars, though, of a
gentler nature who stayed with me, and of these some were
obliging enough to turn into chrysalises. Not all by any means. A
caterpillar is too modest to care about changing in public. To
conduct his metamorphosis in some quiet corner - where he is not
poked every morning to see if he is getting stiffer - is what
your caterpillar really wants. Mine had no private life to
mention. They were as much before the world as royalty or an
actress. And even those who brought off the first event safely
never emerged into the butterfly world. Something would always
happen to them. "Have you seen my chrysalis?" we used to ask each
other. "I left him in the bathroom yesterday."

But what I kept most successfully were minerals. One is or is not
a successful mineralogist according as one is or is not allowed a
geological hammer. I had a geological hammer. To scour the cliffs
armed with a geological hammer and a bag for specimens is to be a
king among boys. The only specimen I can remember taking with my
hammer was a small piece of shin. That was enough, however, to
end my career as a successful mineralogist. As an unsuccessful
one I persevered for some months, and eventually had a collection
of eighteen units. They were put out on the bed every evening in
order of size, and ranged from a large lump of Iceland spar down
to a small dead periwinkle. In those days I could have told you
what granite was made of. In those days I had over my bed a map
of the geological strata of the district - in different colours
like a chocolate macaroon. And in those days I knew my way to the
Geological Museum.

As a botanist I never really shone, but two of us joined an open-
air course and used to be taken expeditions into Kew Gardens and
such places, where our lecturer explained to his pupils - all
grown-up save ourselves - the less recondite mysteries. There was
one golden Saturday when we missed the rendezvous at Pinner and
had a picnic by ourselves instead; and, after that, many other
golden Saturdays when some unaccountable accident separated us
from the party. I remember particularly a day in Highgate Woods -
a good place for losing a botanical lecturer in; if you had been
there, you would have seen two little boys very content, lying
one each side of a large stone slab, racing caterpillars against
each other.

But there was one episode in my career as a natural scientist - a
career whose least details are brought back by the magic word,
caterpillar - over which I still go hot with the sense of
failure. This was an attempt to stuff a toad. I don't know to
this day if toads can be stuffed, but when our toad died he had
to be commemorated in some way, and, failing a marble statue, it
seemed good to stuff him. It was when we had got the skin off him
that we began to realize our difficulties. I don't know if you
have had the skin of a fair-sized toad in your hand; if so, you
will understand that our first feeling was one of surprise that a
whole toad could ever have got into it. There seemed to be no
shape about the thing at all. You could have carried it - no doubt
we did, I have forgotten - in the back of a watch. But it had lost
all likeness to a toad, and it was obvious that stuffing meant
nothing to it.

Of course, little boys ought not to skin toads and carry
geological hammers and deceive learned professors of botany; I
know it is wrong. And of course caterpillars of the puss-moth
variety oughtn't to make faces at timid young thrushes. But it is
just these things which make such pleasant memories afterwards -
when professors and toads are departed, when the hammers lie
rusty in the coal cellar, and when the young thrushes are grown
up to be quite big birds. There are fortunate mortals who can
always comfort themselves with a clich‚. If any question arises
as to the moral value of Racing, whether in war-time or in peace-
time, they will murmur something about "improving the breed of
horses," and sleep afterwards with an easy conscience. To one who
considers how many millions of people are engaged upon this
important work, it is surprising that nothing more notable in the
way of a super-horse has as yet emerged; one would have expected
at least by this time something which combined the flying-powers
of the hawk with the diving-powers of the seal. No doubt this is
what the followers of the Colonel's Late Wire are aiming at, and
even if they have to borrow ten shillings from the till in the
good cause, they feel that possibly by means of that very ten
shillings Nature has approximated a little more closely to the
desired animal. Supporters of Hunting, again, will tell you,
speaking from inside knowledge, that "the fox likes it," and one
is left breathless at the thought of the altruism of the human
race, which will devote so much time and money to amusing a
small, bushy-tailed four-legged friend who might otherwise be
bored. And the third member of the Triple Alliance, which has
made England what it is, is Beer, and in support of Beer there is
also a clich‚ ready. Talk to anybody about Intemperance, and he
will tell you solemnly, as if this disposed of the trouble, that
"one can just as easily be intemperate in other matters as in the
matter of alcohol." After which, it seems almost a duty to a
broad-minded man to go out and get drunk.

It is, of course, true that we can be intemperate in eating as
well as in drinking, but the results of the intemperance would
appear to be different. After a fifth help of rice-pudding one
does not become over-familiar with strangers, nor does an extra
slice of ham inspire a man to beat his wife. After five pints of
beer (or fifteen, or fifty) a man will "go anywhere in reason,
but he won't go home"; after five helps of rice-pudding, I
imagine, home would seem to him the one- desired haven. The two
intemperances may be equally blameworthy, but they are not
equally offensive to the community. Yet for some reason over-
eating is considered the mark of the beast, and over-drinking the
mark of rather a fine fellow.

The poets and other gentlemen who have written so much romantic
nonsense about "good red wine" and "good brown ale" are
responsible for this. I admit that a glass of Burgundy is a more
beautiful thing than a blancmange, but I do not think that it
follows that a surfeit of one is more heroic than a surfeit of
the other. There may be a divinity in the grape which excuses
excess, but if so, one would expect it to be there even before
the grape had been trodden on by somebody else. Yet no poet ever
hymned the man who tucked into the dessert, or told him that he
was by way of becoming a jolly good fellow. He is only by way of
becoming a pig.

"It is the true, the blushful Hippocrene." To tell oneself this
is to pardon everything. However unpleasant a drunken man may
seem at first sight, as soon as one realizes that he has merely
been putting away a blushful Hippocrene, one ceases to be angry
with him. If Keats or somebody had said of a piece of underdone
mutton, "It is the true, the blushful Canterbury," indigestion
would carry a more romantic air, and at the third helping one
could claim to be a bit of a devil. "The beaded bubbles winking
at the brim" - this might also have been sung of a tapioca-
pudding, in which case a couple of tapioca- puddings would
certainly qualify the recipient as one of the boys. If only the
poets had praised over-eating rather than over-drinking, how much
pleasanter the streets would be on festival nights!

I suppose that I have already said enough to have written myself
down a Temperance Fanatic, a Thin-Blooded Cocoa-Drinker, and a
number of other things equally contemptible; which is all very
embarrassing to a man who is composing at the moment on port, and
who gets entangled in the skin of cocoa whenever he tries to
approach it. But if anything could make me take kindly to cocoa,
it would be the sentimental rubbish which is written about the
"manliness" of drinking alcohol. It is no more manly to drink
beer (not even if you call it good brown ale) than it is to drink
beef-tea. It may be more healthy; I know nothing about that, nor,
from the diversity of opinion expressed, do the doctors; it may
be cheaper, more thirst-quenching, anything you like. But it is a
thing the village idiot can do - and often does, without becoming
thereby the spiritual comrade of Robin Hood, King Harry the
Fifth, Drake, and all the other heroes who (if we are to believe
the Swill School) have made old England great on beer.

But to doubt the spiritual virtues of alcohol is not to be a
Prohibitionist. For my own sake I want neither England nor
America dry. Whether I want them dry for the sake of England and
America I cannot quite decide. But if I ever do come to a
decision, it will not be influenced by that other clich‚, which
is often trotted out complacently, as if it were something to
thank Heaven for. "You can't make people moral by Act of
Parliament." It is not a question of making them moral, but of
keeping them from alcohol. It may be a pity to do this, but it is
obviously possible, just as it is possible to keep them - that is
to say, the overwhelming majority of them - from opium. Nor shall
I be influenced by the argument that such prohibition is outside
the authority of a Government. For if a Government can demand a
man's life for reasons of foreign policy, it can surely demand
his whisky for reasons of domestic policy; if it can call upon
him to start fighting, it can call upon him to stop drinking.

But if opium and alcohol is prohibited, you say, why not tobacco?
When tobacco is mentioned I feel like the village Socialist, who
was quite ready to share two theoretical cows with his neighbour,
but when asked if the theory applied also to pigs, answered
indignantly, "What are you talking about - I've GOT two pigs!" I
could bear an England which "went dry," but an England which
"went out" - ! So before assenting to the right of a Government to
rob the working-man of his beer, I have to ask myself if I assent
to its right to rob me of my pipe. Well, if it were agreed by a
majority of the community (in spite of all my hymns to Nicotine)
that England would be happier without tobacco, then I think I
should agree also. But I might feel that I should be happier
without England. Just a little way without - the Isle of Man, say.

Chess has this in common with making poetry, that the desire for
it comes upon the amateur in gusts. It is very easy for him not
to make poetry; sometimes he may go for months without writing a
line of it. But when once he is delivered of an ode, then the
desire to write another ode is strong upon him. A sudden passion
for rhyme masters him, and must work itself out. It will be all
right in a few weeks; he will go back to prose or bills-of-
parcels or whatever is his natural method of expressing himself,
none the worse for his adventure. But he will have gained this
knowledge for his future guidance - that poems never come singly.

Every two or three years I discover the game of chess. In normal
times when a man says to me, "Do you play chess?" I answer
coldly, "Well, I know the moves." "Would you like a game?" he
asks, and I say, "I don't think I will, thanks very much. I
hardly ever play." And there the business ends. But once in two
years, or it may be three, circumstances are too strong for me. I
meet a man so keen or a situation so dull that politeness or
boredom leads me to accept. The board is produced, I remind
myself that the queen stands on a square of her own colour, and
that the knight goes next to the castle; I push forward the
king's pawn two squares, and we are off. Yes, we are off; but not
for one game only. For a month at least I shall dream of chess at
night and make excuses to play it in the day. For a month chess
will be even more to me than golf or billiards - games which I
adore because I am so bad at them. For a month, starting from
yesterday when I was inveigled into a game, you must regard me,
please, as a chess maniac.

Among small boys with no head for the game I should probably be
described as a clever player. If my opponent only learnt
yesterday, and is still a little doubtful as to what a knight can
do, I know one or two rather good tricks for removing his queen.
My subtlest stroke is to wait until Her Majesty is in front of
the king, and then to place my castle in front of her, with a
pawn in support. Sometimes I forget the pawn and he takes my
castle, in which case I try to look as if the loss of my castle
was the one necessary preliminary to my plan of campaign, and
that now we were off. When he is busy on one side of the board, I
work a knight up on the other, and threaten two of his pieces
simultaneously. To the extreme novice I must seem rather

But then I am an old hand at the game. My career dates from -
well, years ago when I won my house championship at school. This
championship may have carried a belt with it; I have forgotten.
But there was certainly a prize - a prize of five solid shillings,
supposing the treasurer had managed to collect the subscriptions.
In the year when I won it I was also treasurer. I assure you that
the quickness and skill necessary for winning the competition
were as nothing to that necessary for collecting the money. If
any pride remains to me over that affair, if my name is written
in letters of fire in the annals of our house chess club, it is
because I actually obtained the five shillings.

After this the game did not trouble me for some time. But there
came a day when a friend and I lunched at a restaurant in which
chess-boards formed as permanent a part the furniture of the
dining tables as the salt and mustard. Partly in joke, because it
seemed to be the etiquette of the building, we started a game. We
stayed there two hours ... and the fever remained with me for two
months. Another year or so of normal development followed. Then I
caught influenza and spent dull days in bed. Nothing can be worse
for an influenza victim than chess, but I suppose my warders did
not realize how much I suffered under the game. Anyhow, I played
it all day and dreamed of it all night - a riot of games in which
all the people I knew moved diagonally and up and down, took each
other, and became queens.

And now I have played again, and am once more an enthusiast. You
will agree with me, will you not, that it is a splendid game?
People mock at it. They say that it is not such good exercise as
cricket or golf. How wrong they are. That it brings the same
muscles into play as does cricket I do not claim for it. Each
game develops a different set of sinews; but what chess-player
who has sat with an extended forefinger on the head of his queen
for five minutes, before observing the enemy's bishop in the
distance and bringing back his piece to safety - what chess-
player, I say, will deny that the muscles of the hand ridge up
like lumps of iron after a month at the best of games? What
chess-player who has stretched his arm out in order to open with
the Ruy Lopez gambit, who has then withdrawn it as the
possibilities of the Don Quixote occur to him, and who has
finally, after another forward and backward movement, decided to
rely upon the bishop's declined pawn - what chess-player, I ask,
will not affirm that the biceps are elevated by this noblest of
pastimes? And, finally, what chess-player, who in making too
eagerly the crowning move, has upset with his elbow the victims
of the preliminary skirmishing, so that they roll upon the floor-
-what chess-player, who has to lean down and pick them up, will
not be the better for the strain upon his diaphragm? No; say what
you will against chess, but do not mock at it for its lack of

Yet there is this against it. The courtesies of the game are few.
I think that this must be why the passion for it leaves me after
a month. When at cricket you are bowled first ball, the
wicketkeeper can comfort you by murmuring that the light is bad;
when at tennis your opponent forces for the dedans and strikes
you heavily under the eye, he can shout, "Sorry!" when at golf
you reach a bunker in 4 and take 3 to get out, your partner can
endear himself by saying, "Hard luck"; but at chess everything
that the enemy does to you is deliberate. He cannot say, "Sorry!"
as he takes your knight; he does not call it hard luck when your
king is surrounded by vultures eager for his death; and though it
would be kindly in him to attribute to the bad light the fact

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