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answers was six and seven-tenths seconds. Thereupon the candidates were
asked to think over the question at their leisure and to hand in a
written answer sworn to before a notary public. On comparing the written
answers with the laboratory results, it appeared that only thirty-seven
out of the three hundred had tapped the wrong answer. Need I say more?

Professor Lounsbury: May I ask how the written answers showed up from
the point of view of spelling and grammar?

Professor Münsterberg: They were impressively defective.

Professor Lounsbury: I'm tickled to death. When you cut out bad spelling
and grammar, you queer the evolution of the English language. There's
nothing to it.

Professor Münsterberg: But take the case of the freshman squad whom we
kept in a hermetically sealed room for twenty-four hours at a
temperature of eighty-nine degrees -

Professor Lounsbury: May I ask what their language was when they were
released at the end of twenty-four hours?

Professor Münsterberg: Truth compels me to say it was something awful.

Professor Lounsbury: But how about the grammar?

Professor Münsterberg: There was no grammar to speak of. They used
mostly interjections.

Dr. Hutchinson: Finest thing in the world, interjections. Good for the
lungs and the heart. Rapid process of inhalation and expulsion keeps the
bellows in prime order. That's all a man is, gentlemen, a bellows on a
pair of stilts driven by a hydraulic pump. If the bellows holds out
under sudden strain, that's all you want. That's why I like to hear
people swear. It's good for the wind. Next time you walk down a step too
many in the dark or lose your hat under a motor truck, don't hold
yourself back. It's the way nature is safeguarding you against asthma.

Professor Münsterberg: Then it is the consensus of opinion here that the
psychological and cultural status of our college freshmen is everything
it ought to be?

Professor Hart: I'd rather take the opinion of a roomful of freshmen on
any subject than the opinion of the United States Supreme Court. They
don't know anything about American history, but it's the kind of history
that isn't worth knowing. I prefer them to know things as they ought to
have been rather than as they were before the Progressive party was
born. Whatever is worth preserving from the past, including the
Decalogue, will be found in the Bull Moose platform. We don't want
examination papers. We want social justice.

Professor Lounsbury: Between you and I, the English language won't get
what's coming to it until all entrance examinations have been chucked
into the discard.

Dr. Hutchinson: Spelling is demonstrably bad for the muscles of the
chest and the abdomen.

Professor Lounsbury: You've said it.




XX

THE HEAVENLY MAID


As the familiar sound fell upon our ears, we walked to the window, drew
aside the curtains, and shamelessly stared into the windows of the
apartment across the court. That usually quiet home had been in evident
agitation all that afternoon. There was the noise of hurrying feet.
Excited voices broke out now and then. Twice a woman scolded and we
distinctly heard a child cry. Now the mystery was explained.

"The new Orpheola has come," said Emmeline. "I wonder how late they will
keep it up the first night."

In the apartment across the way the family was gathered in a reverent
circle about the new talking-machine, and we heard the opening strains
of the "Song to the Evening Star."

* * * * *

"Have you ever thought," I said to Emmeline, "how infinitely superior
the music of Wagner is to that of any other composer, in its immunity
against influenza? The German Empire, you know, has a moist climate, and
the magician of Bayreuth recognised that he must write primarily for a
nation that is extremely subject to cold in the head. It was different
with the Italian composers. Bronchial troubles are virtually unknown in
Italy. When Verdi wrote, he failed to make allowance for a sudden attack
of the grippe. That is why when Caruso catches cold they must change the
bill at the Metropolitan. But if a Wagnerian tenor loses his voice, the
papers say the next morning, 'Herr Donner sang Tristan last night with
extraordinary intelligence.' Sometimes Herr Donner sings with
extraordinary intelligence; sometimes he sings with marvellous
histrionic power; sometimes he sings with an earnest vigour amounting to
frenzy. Wagner, who foresaw everything, foresaw the disastrous effect of
steam-heated rooms on the delicate organs of the throat. So he developed
a music form in which the use of the throat is not always essential."

"I know," said Emmeline, "that you'd much rather listen to the la-la,
la-la-la-la-la-lah from Traviata."

"I'd much rather listen to Traviata," I said, losing my temper, "than
strive painfully to be electrified by the 'Ho-yo-to-ho' of eight
Valkyrie maidens averaging one hundred and seventy-five pounds and
leaping from crag to crag at a speed of two miles an hour."

* * * * *

When a man first acquires an Orpheola, he loses interest in his
business. He leaves for home early and bolts his dinner. The first night
he sits down before the machine from 6:30 to 11, and with a rapt
expression on his face he runs off every record in his collection twice.
No one but himself is permitted to return the precious rubber disk to
its envelope. Later in the week the eldest child, as a reward of good
behaviour, may be allowed to adjust the record on the revolving base
and to pull the starting lever, while mother watches anxiously from the
dining-room. At intervals grandma puts her head in at the door to make
sure that the proper needle has been inserted. The modern musical
cabinet does not eliminate the personal factor. People can put all of
their individuality into the music by choosing between a fine needle and
one with a blunt point. Persons of temperament are particular about the
speed at which the disk revolves. When a man is in high spirits he picks
out a sharp needle and winds the spring up tight. Pessimists do just the
opposite. It is imperative to keep the fine, steel points out of the
baby's reach because irreparable harm might thereby be done to the
record.

* * * * *

"Of course," said Emmeline, "I can see why you should be so greatly
attracted by the Italian ting-a-ling stuff. It's the result of your
journalistic training. It's the most superficial business there is.
Everything in a newspaper must be perfectly obvious at the first
glance, and there's nothing like a jingle to fetch the crowd. After a
while a man gets to be like the people he writes for."

I had been called to the telephone and Emmeline had made use of the
interval to build up her little argument. It was unfair, but I
generously refrained from saying so. Besides, I, too, had not been idle
while I waited for Central to restore the connection.

"I am not denying," I said, "that Wagner gets his effects, if you give
him time enough. But how does he do it? By wearing you out and knocking
you down and running away with you. That was the way, you will recall,
the old Teutonic gods and heroes used to make love. When a Germanic
warrior was attacked with the fatal passion, he would seize the
well-beloved by the hair, throw her over his shoulder and ride away with
her. It was different with Puccini's countrymen. In their hands a
mandolin on a moonlit night under a balcony melted away all opposition.
After half an hour of solid Wagnerian brasswork you surrender; but only
the way Adrianople surrendered.

"That, too, was the case with the early Teutonic ladies. Their masters
did not always woo with a club. Now and then they interjected little
bits of kindness which were appreciated because they were so rare. That
is Wagner again. Every little while he throws you a kind word, a snatch
of golden melody that Verdi himself might have written, and, as a matter
of fact, did write all the time. With the master of Bayreuth these
little rifts in the clouds are doubly welcome. They shine out like a
good deed on a dark night."

"How any one can listen to the last act of Tristan without feeling all
the sorrow of the universe, I cannot understand," said Emmeline. "Do you
mean to say that the Liebestod does not really carry you out of
yourself?"

"It does not," I said. "But when Gadski in Aïda turns to the wicked
Amneris and sings 'Tu sei felice,' something in me begins to give way."

"It is probably your intellect," said Emmeline.

* * * * *

One popular error with regard to talking-machines is that they have
solved the hitherto irreconcilable conflict between music on the one
hand and bridge and conversation on the other. At first sight it may
seem that the religious silence which one must maintain while some one
is singing - it may be the hostess herself - is no longer compulsory. You
cannot hurt the feelings of a mahogany cabinet three feet high. If the
worst happens, you can wind up the machine and start all over again. But
actually the situation is very much what it was before. I myself, on one
occasion when Tetrazzini was singing from Lucia, ventured to lean over
to my neighbour and whisper a word or two. Whereupon there came across
the face of my host, brooding fondly over the machine, a look of pain
such as I never want to bring to any face again. As it happened, it was
the man's favourite record. On the other hand, people who play cards
tell me that as between a living tenor and Caruso on the machine there
is not much to choose. Both are a hindrance to the correct leading of
trumps.

* * * * *

"Besides," I said, "any number of Wagnerians will tell you that the
music dramas in their unabridged form are much too long. You will recall
that Wagner himself said that many of his scores would benefit by
generous cutting. A great many eminent conductors have made a specialty
of cutting things out of Tristan. This serves a double purpose. It
permits the development of a class of post-graduate Wagnerians who can
take the whole opera without flinching, and it enables people to catch
the 11:45 for Montclair. Somewhere I have come across a story of two
great conductors who had charge of rival orchestras in one of the
principal cities of Europe. One man, when he conducted the Ring, was in
the habit of cutting out the first half of every act. The other man
played the first half, but omitted the second half of every act. For
many years there was a bitter controversy as to which of the two
conductors best brought out the real meaning of the composer."

"I don't think it is a very good story," said Emmeline, walking to the
window and closing it; for our neighbour's machine had switched without
warning from the Ride of the Valkyrs to Alexander's Band. "It's a poor
story and I am inclined to think you made it up yourself."

"As for that," I said, "that is just what Wagner did with his music."

* * * * *

When you overhear a man in the subway say to his neighbour, "Mine are
all twelve-inch, reversible, and go equally well on low or high speed,"
you will know that the new Orpheola came home last week. Next week the
children will be allowed to handle the records without special
injunctions regarding the proper needle. The week after that, the baby
will be allowed to approach quite near and hear Mother Goose come out of
the mahogany toy. Within a month the master of the house will be looking
for his hat in the cabinet. The intolerable air of superiority and
aloofness with which he has been greeting you will disappear.




XXI

SHEATH-GOWNS


From Emmeline I learned that I had been doing the fashion designers an
injustice. I had always imagined that styles were the creation of
Parisian dressmakers who worked with only two ends in view - novelty and
discomfort. But Emmeline assured me that styles are a faithful record of
the march of civilisation. When the Manchurian War was under way,
everything in the shops was Russian. When Herr Strauss produced
"Salome," half the world went in for the slim and viperous costume. The
revolution in Persia worked a revolution in blouse decoration. Later
everything was Bulgarian.

"In that case," I said, "those poor fellows at Adrianople have not died
in vain. Under a rain of shot and shell I can hear the Bulgarian
officers rallying their men: 'Forward, my children! The eyes of Fifth
Avenue are upon you! Fix bayonets! For King, for country, and for
Paquin!' The Turks, being a backward millinery nation, naturally had no
chance."

"What you say is extremely amusing, of course," remarked Emmeline. "But
I seem to remember an old suit of yours. It was about the time of the
Boer War. The coat was cut like an hour glass and there was cotton
wadding in the shoulders so that you had to enter a room sideways. The
trousers were Zouave. Yes, it must have been about the time of the Boer
War or the war with Spain."

"That was just when the feminist movement was beginning to shape our
ideals," I retorted.

Not only do the styles symbolise the process of historic evolution - I
distinctly recall toilets on Fifth Avenue which must have commemorated
the Messina earthquake and the report of the New York Tenement House
Commission - but styles actually follow an evolution of their own. They
do not change abruptly, but melt into each other. Thus the costume
which Emmeline described as Bulgarian could not have been altogether
that. The coat was military enough, with its baggy shoulders and a bold
backward sweep of the long skirts. But this coat was worn over a gown
that was unmistakably hobble, revealing the persistence of the Salome
influence. To call this outfit Bulgarian is to raise the supposition
that the Bulgarians hopped to victory at Kirk-Kilisseh.

I pointed this out to Emmeline, and at the same time took occasion to
protest against the extravagant lengths to which the languorous styles
were being carried. It was bad enough, I said, to see elderly matrons
arrayed like Oriental dancing girls. But what was worse was to see young
girls, mere children, in scant and provocative attire. I thought the law
might very well take up the question of a minimum dress for women under
the age of eighteen.

"Of course it's disgusting," said Emmeline, "but it's their right."

"I know that youth has many rights," I said, "but I didn't know that
the right to make one's self a public nuisance and offence is among
them."

"What I mean," said Emmeline, "is that we have outgrown the days when
young ladies fainted and wives fetched their husbands' slippers. We have
broken the shackles of mid-Victorian propriety and are working out a new
conception of free womanhood. Our ideas of modesty are changing. You
might as well make up your mind to be shocked quite frequently before
the process is completed."

"Oh, I see," said I. "Enslaved within the iron circle of the home,
crushed by the tyranny of convention, of custom, of man-made laws, woman
lifts up her head and declares she will be free by inserting herself
into a skirt thirteen inches in diameter. Where's the sense of it?"

"It's all very simple," said Emmeline. "It means that we are having an
awful time trying to escape from the degradation into which you have
forced us. We struggle forward, and then the habits of the harem
civilisation which you have imposed on us assert themselves. Do you
think we women love to dress? Every time we try on a pretty gown we know
that we are riveting on the chains of our own servitude."

"But why make the chains so tight?" I said.

She now turned to face me.

"The reason for the sheath-gown is quite plain," said Emmeline. "Men
have always shown such a decided preference for actresses and dancing
girls that we others have taken to imitating actresses and dancing girls
in self-defence."

"But that isn't so at all," I said. "Look at your trained nurses in
their simple white caps and aprons. They are bewitching. It is
universally conceded that the most dangerous thing in the world is for
an unmarried man to be operated on for appendicitis. That was the way,
you'll recall, Adam obtained his wife - after a surgical operation. The
case of the hospital nurse alone disposes of your entire argument about
our predilection for dancing girls."

"That I do not admit," said Emmeline. "It is true that a man finds
himself longing for what is simple and wholesome whenever there is
something the matter with him."

"When I spoke of the immodesty of present-day fashions," I said,
adroitly turning the subject, "I am afraid I gave you the wrong
impression. It isn't the viciousness of the thing that I object to, it's
the stupid, sheeplike spirit of imitation behind it. If the passion for
tight gowns indicated a kind of spiritual development, I shouldn't mind
it even if it was development in the wrong direction. There might be an
erring soul in the hobble, but still a soul. If the young girl of good
family who strives to look like a lady of the chorus did so out of sheer
perversity, there would be some comfort. One must think and feel to be
perverse. What appals me is the dreadful, unquestioning innocence with
which the thing is done. If we males are indeed responsible for what you
are, then we have a real burden on our souls. We have done more than
degrade you; we have made automata out of you. The little girl behind
the soda counter who paints her face and hangs jet spangles from her
ears will just as readily comply with fashion by putting on a military
cape and boots, or a pony coat, or calico and a sunbonnet, or an
admiral's uniform, or a _yashmak_."

"A what?" said Emmeline, frowning slightly.

"A _yashmak_," I replied, meeting her gaze steadily. "I use the word
with confidence because I have just looked it up in the dictionary. At
first I confused it with _sanjak_, which, on examination, turns out to
be a district in the Balkan Peninsula bounded on the east by Servia and
on the north by Bosnia-Herzegovina. A _yashmak_ is the long veil worn by
Moslem women to conceal the face and the outlines of the upper part of
the body."

"You seem to have prepared pretty thoroughly for this discussion," said
Emmeline.

"I have always considered it prudent before entering into debate with a
woman to have a few facts on my side," I said.

"As if that made any difference," she replied scornfully.

"As to the sheeplike way in which women follow the fashions of the
moment," continued Emmeline, "it simply isn't true." I could see she was
terribly in earnest now. "There are tens of thousands of women who dress
to please themselves; independent, courageous, self-reliant women who
face life seriously and rationally. We are going in more and more for
loose and comfortable things to wear."

"Not the typical woman of to-day, I assure you."

"Of course not the typical woman," said Emmeline. "Any Exhibition of
common-sense by a woman at once makes her a freak. You prefer the other
kind for your ideal of the eternal womanly. Take her and welcome. I
suppose it is necessary for a man to have something worthless to work
for."




XXII

WITH THE EDITOR'S REGRETS


Talk of post-office-reform brings to my mind a conversation I had with
Williams, who is a poet. It was about the time, some two years ago, when
a Postmaster-General of the United States proposed the abolition of the
second-class mail privilege for magazines.

I knew that Williams hates magazine editors with all the ardour of an
unsuccessful poet's soul. Consequently, when he sat down and lighted one
of my cigarettes and said that the magazines in their quarrel with the
post office had overlooked the strongest argument on their side, I
suspected irony. It is Williams's boast that he has one of the largest
collections of rejected manuscripts in existence, the greater part being
in an absolutely new and unread condition. Placed end to end, Williams
once estimated, his unpublished verses would reach from Battery Park to
the Hispanic Museum, at Broadway and One Hundred and Fifty-Sixth Street.
Every poem in his collection has been declined at least once by every
editor in the United States, and many of the longer poems have been
declined two or three times by the same editor, and for totally opposite
reasons.

It is not mere brute persistence on Williams's part that is responsible
for this unparalleled literary accumulation. As a matter of fact he is
easily discouraged, although, of course, like all poets he has his
moments of exaltation. The trouble, he complains, is that with every
printed rejection slip there comes a word of sincere encouragement from
the editor. The editors are constantly telling Williams that his verse
is among the very best that is now being produced, but that a sense of
duty to their readers prevents them from printing it. They regret to
find his poems unavailable, and earnestly advise him to keep on writing.

"You will recall," said Williams, "the principal point made by the
periodical publishers. Conceding that their publications, as
second-class mail matter, are carried at a loss, they argue that the
post office is more than compensated by the volume of first-class mail
sent out in response to magazine advertisements. The argument is sound,
as I can testify from personal experience. Not long ago I came across a
five-line 'ad' in agate which said, 'Are you earning less than you
should? Write us.' Well, the question seemed to fit my case and I wrote.
That was two cents to the credit of the post office. The post office
sold another stamp when I received a reply asking me to send fifty cents
in postage for instructions on how to double my income in three months.
I was somewhat disappointed. With my income merely doubled I should
still find it difficult to pay my landlady, but it was better than
nothing. So I sent the fifty cents in stamps. You will recall the
half-dollar."

"Oh, don't mention it," I said.

"Well, after a day or two I received in a penny envelope a paper-bound
copy of 'How to Succeed,' being a baccalaureate address delivered by the
Rev. Josiah K. Pebbles, who showed that honesty, thrift, and
perseverance were the secrets underlying the career of Hannibal, Joan of
Arc, John D. Rockefeller, and Theodore Roosevelt. So you see, by the
time the secret had been conveyed to me the post office had sold stamps
to the amount of fifty-five cents. Now assume that there are in the
United States between forty and fifty thousand poets and other literary
workers who would like to double their income, and it is plain that the
United States Government made a very handsome profit on that five-line
'ad.'"

"But that is not what I started out to show," said Williams. "What the
magazines have omitted to point out is that by rejecting every
contribution at least once, the editors are doing more for Uncle Sam's
first-class mail business than through their advertising pages. And the
difference is this: While there must be a limit to the number of people
who will answer an advertisement, there need be no limit to the number
of times a manuscript is sent back. I can't see why the publishers and
the Postmaster-General should be flying at each other's throat, when
there's such a simple solution at hand. It is evident that there is no
postal deficit, however large, which cannot be wiped out by a sharp
increase in the average number of rejections per manuscript. Editors
will only have to augment by, say, fifty per cent. the number of reasons
why a contribution of exceptional merit is unavailable. My 'Echoes from
Parnassus' was sent back thirty-seven times before it found a publisher.
It would have been a simple matter to send the poem back a dozen times
more either absolutely or with a word of hearty encouragement."

By this time I had made up my mind that it was indeed irony, and I was
sorry. I don't mind when Williams gets quite angry and lashes out; but I
hate to have a poet laugh at himself.

"Not that I can help feeling sorry for the editor chaps," he went on.
"You couldn't help feeling sorry, could you, for a man who has been
trained to recognise the very best in literature, and to send it back on
the spot? And the more he likes it the quicker he sends it back.
Frequently I have been on the point of writing to the man and telling
him that if it is really such a wrench to return my poem to please not
consider my feelings in the matter, but to go ahead and print it. What
saves the editor, I imagine, is that after a while he does learn how to
detect some real fault in a contribution which just enables him to send


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