James Stephens, Here are Ladies (1913)

[Source: Here are Ladies [London 1913] (NY Macmillan 1914; rep. March, 1914; available at Gutenburg Project – online; accessed 11.09.2020.]


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The old gentleman entered, and was about to sit down, when a button became detached from some portion of his raiment and rolled upon the floor. He picked the button up and observed that he would keep it for his housekeeper to sew on, and, while speaking on the strangeness of housekeeping and buttons, he came slowly to the subject of matrimony—
 “Like so many other customs,” said he, “marriage is not native to the human race, nor is it altogether peculiar to it. So far as I am aware no person was ever born married, and in extreme youth bachelors and spinsters are so common as to call for no remark. Nature strives, not for duality as in the case of the Siamese Twins but for individuality. We are all born strongly separated, and I am often inclined to fancy that this ceremony of joining appears very like flying in the face of Providence. I have also thought, on the other hand, that the segregation of humanity into male and female is not an economic practice, but I fear the foundation of the sex habit is by this time so deeply trenched in our natures as to be practically ineradicable.
 “Throughout nature the male and female habit is usual: all beasts are born of one or the other gender, and this is also the case in the vegetable kingdom: but I am not aware that the ridiculous and wasteful preparations with which we encumber matrimony obtain also among plants and animals. Certainly, among some animals courtship, as we understand it, is practised—Wolves, for instance, are an extraordinarily acute people who make good husbands and fathers, and in these relations they display a tenderness and courtesy which one only acquainted with their out-of-door manners would scarcely credit them with. Their courtship is conducted under circumstances of extraordinary rigour. A he-wolf who becomes enamoured of a female from another tribe is forced, in attempting to wed her, to set his life upon the venture, and, disdaining all the fury of her numerous relatives, he must forcibly detach her from her family, kill or maim all her other suitors, sustain in a wounded and desperate condition a prolonged chase over the snow-clad Russian Steppes, and, ultimately, consummate his nuptials, if he can, with as many limbs as his lady’s family have failed to collect off him. This is a courtship admirably fitted to evolve a hardy and Spartan race strong in the virtues of reliance and self-control.
 “Spiders, on the other hand, are a people whom I despise on several counts, but must admire on others. They conduct their love affairs in an even more tragic style. In every event matrimony is a tragedy, but in the case of spiders it is a catastrophe. Spiders are a very sour and pessimistic people who live in walls, corners of hotel bedrooms and holes generally, in which places they weave very delicate webs, and sit for a long period in a state of philosophic ecstasy, contemplating the infinite. Their principal pastimes are killing flies and committing suicide—both of which games should be encouraged. Like so many other unhappy creatures they are born with a gender from which there is no escape. The male spider is very much smaller than the female, and he does not care greatly for his life. When he does not desire to live any longer he commits matrimony or suicide. He weds a large and fierce wife, who, when in expectation of progeny, kills him, and, being a thorough-going person as all females are, she also eats him, possibly at his own request, and thus she relieves her husband of the tedium of existence and herself of the necessity for seeking immediate victual. I do not know whether male spiders are very plentiful or extremely scarce, but I cite this as an example of the extravagance and economy of the female gender.
 “Of the courting habits of fish I have scanty knowledge. Fish are very ugly, dirty creatures who appear to live entirely in water, and they have been known to follow a ship for miles in the disgusting hope of garbage being thrown to them by the steward. Their chief pastime is weighing each other, for which purpose they are liberally provided with scales. They can be captured by nets, or rods and lines, or, when they are cockles, they can be captured by the human hand, but, in this latter case, they cannot be tamed, having very little intelligence. The cockle has no scale, and feels the deprivation keenly, hiding himself deep in the sea and seldom venturing forth except at night-time. He is composed of two shells and a soft piece, is chiefly useful for poisoning children and is found at Sandymount, a place where nobody but a cockle would live. Other fish may be generally described as, crabs, pinkeens, red herrings and whales. How these conduct their matrimonial adventures I do not know—the statement that whales are fond of pinkeens is true only in a food sense, for these races have never been observed to intermarry.
 “A great many creatures capture or captivate their mates by singing.—These are usually, but not always, birds, and include wily wagtails, larks, canary birds and the crested earwig. Poets, music hall comedians and cats may also be included in this category. Dogs are imperative and dashing wooers, but they seldom sing. Peacocks expand their tails before the astonished gaze of their brides, showing how the female sex is over-borne by minor, unimportant advantages. Frogs, I believe, make love in the dark, which is a wise thing for them to do—they are very witty folk, but confirmed sentimentalists. Grocers’ assistants attract their mates by exposing very tall collars and brown boots. Drapers’ assistants follow suit, with the comely addition of green socks and an umbrella—they are never known to fail. Some creatures do not marry at all. At a certain period they break in two halves, and each half, fully equipped for existence, waggles away from the other.—They are the only perfectly happy folk of whom I am aware. For myself, I was born single and I will remain so, I will never be a slave to the disgusting habit of matrimony.”
 Having said this with great firmness, the old gentleman shed two more buttons from his waistcoat, and, after sticking three nails and a piece of twine through his garments, he departed very happily. The gentleman-in-waiting sneezed three times in a loud voice, and gave a war-whoop, but I took no notice of these impertinences.

I had not seen the old gentleman for a long time, and when he entered with one foot in a boot and the other in a carpet slipper, I was overjoyed. When the bubbling tankard which I had ordered was placed before him he seized my two hands, wrung them heartily and dashed into the following subject—
 “It must be remembered,” said he, “that dancing is not an art but a pastime, and should, therefore, be freed from the too-burdensome regulations wherewith an art is encumbered. An art is a highly-specialised matter hedged in on every side by intellectual policemen, a pastime is not specialised, and never takes place in the presence of policemen, who are well known to be the sworn enemies of gaiety. For example, theology is an art but religion is a pastime: we learn the collects only under compulsion, but we sing anthems because it is pleasant to do so. Thus, eating oysters is an art by dint of the elaborate ceremonial including shell-openers, lemons, waiters and pepper, which must be grouped around your oyster before you can conveniently swallow him, but eating nuts, or blackberries, or a privily-acquired turnip—these are pastimes.
 “The practice of dancing is of an undoubted antiquity. History teems with reference to this custom, but it is difficult to discover what nationality or what era first witnessed its evolution. I myself believe that the first dance was performed by a domestic hen who found an ostrich’s egg, and bounded before Providence in gratitude for something worthy of being sat upon.
 “In all places and in all ages dancing has been utilised as a first-aid to language. The function of language is intellectual, that of dancing is emotional. It is scarcely possible to say anything of an emotional nature in words without adventuring into depths or bogs of sentimentality from which one can only emerge greasy with dishonour. When we are happy we cannot say so with any degree of intelligibility: in such a context the spoken word is miserably inadequate, and must be supplemented by some bodily antic. If we are merry we must skip to be understood. If we are happy we must dance. If we are wildly and ecstatically joyous then we will become creators, and some new and beneficent dance-movements will be added to the repertory of our neighborhood.
 “Children will dance upon the slightest provocation, so also do lambs and goats; but policemen, and puckauns, and advertisement agents, and fish do not dance at all, and this is because they have hard hearts. Worms and Members of Parliament, between whom, in addition to their high general culture, there is a singular and subtle correspondence, do not dance, because the inelastic quality of their environment forbids anything in the nature of freedom. Frogs, dogs, and very young mountains do dance.
 “A frog is a most estimable person. He has a cold body but a warm heart, and a countenance of almost parental benevolence, and the joy of life moves him to an almost ceaseless activity. I can never observe a frog on a journey without fancying that his gusto for travel is directed by a philanthropic impulse towards the bedside of a sick friend or a meeting to discuss the Housing of the Working Classes. He has danced all the way to, he will dance all the way from his objective, but the spectacle of many men dancing is provocative of pain.—To them dancing is a duty, and a melancholy one. If one danced to celebrate a toothache one might take lessons from them. They stand in the happy circle, their features are composed to an iron gravity, their hands are as rigid as those of a graven image, and then, the fatal moment having arrived, they agitate their legs with a cold fury which is distinctly unpleasant. Having finished they dash their partners from their sides and retire to blush and curse in a corner.
 “When a man dances he should laugh and crow and snap his fingers and make faces; otherwise, he is not dancing at all, he is taking exercise. No person should be allowed to dance without first swearing that he feels only six years of age. People who admit to feeling more than ten years old should be sent to hospital, and any one proved guilty of fourteen years of age should be lodged in gaol without the option.
 “It is peculiar how often opposite emotions may meet on a common plane of expression. The extremes of love and hate strive to get equally close to kiss or to bite the object of their regard. Work and play may be equally strenuous and equally enthralling. Hunger and satiety unite in a common boredom. A happy person will dance from sheer delight, and the man in whom a pin has been secreted can only by dancing express the exquisite sensibility of his cuticle. Whatever one does or refrains from doing one must be tired by bed-time—it is a law—but one may be pleasantly tired.
 “I will suspect the morals of a man who cannot dance. I will look curiously into his sugar or statecraft. I will impeach his candour or reticence, and sneer at his method of lighting a fire unless he can frolic when he goes out for a walk with a dog—that is the beginning of dancing: the end of it is the beginning of a world. A young dog is a piece of early morning disguised in an earthly fell, and the man who can resist his contagion is a sour, dour, miserable mistake, without bravery, without virtue, without music, with a cranky body and a shrivelled soul, and with eyes incapable of seeing the sunlight.
 “I have often thought that dogs are a very superior race of people. They are certainly more highly organised on the affectional plane than man. A dog will love you just for the fun of it—and that is virtue. Pat a dog on the head and he will dance around you in an ecstasy of good-fellowship. Let us, at least, be the equal of these sagacities. Let us put away our false intellectual pride. Let us learn to be unconscious. The average man trembles into a dance imagining that all eyes are rayed upon him wonderingly or admiringly, whereas, in truth, he will only be looked at if he dances very well or very badly. Both of these extremities of perfection ought to be avoided. We should exercise our very bad or very good qualities in solitude lest average people be saddened by their disabilities in either direction. Let your curses be as private as your prayers for both are purgative operations. In public we must conform to the standard, in private only may we do our best or our worst. Acting so, we will be freed from false pride and cowardly self-consciousness. Let us be brave. Let us caress the waists of our neighbours without fear. Let everybody’s chin be our toy. Let us pat one another on the hats as we pass in the melancholy streets.—Thus only shall we learn to be gay and careless who for so long have been miserable and suspicious. We will be fearless and companionable who have been so timid and solitary. A new, a better, a real police force will arrest people who don’t dance as they travel to and from their labour. The world will be happy at last, and civilisation will begin to be possible.”
 Here, in an ecstasy of good-fellowship, the old gentleman seized his pewter with his left hand and my glass with his right hand, and he emptied them both before recognising his mistake. I had, however, run out of tobacco, whereupon he became very angry, and refused to bid me good-night.

The old gentleman condescended to accept the last cigar which I had, and, having lit it with my only match, he earnestly advised me never to smoke to excess, because this indulgence brought spots before the eyes, deteriorated the moral character, and was, moreover, exceedingly expensive.—On the subject of smoking and tobacco he spoke as follows—
 “I have observed that people who do not smoke are usually of a sour and unsociable disposition. All red-haired people smoke naturally, and they almost invariably use cut-plug. Very dark-haired men smoke twist, and their natural strength and virtue is such that in the intervals of smoking they also chew tobacco. Fair-haired men generally smoke cigarettes—they do this, not for the purpose of enjoyment, but purely in imitation of their betters. However, in later life, when they become bald, as they invariably do, they also became regenerate and smoke pig-tail. Men with mouse-coloured hair do not smoke at all. They collect postage stamps and sea-shells, and are usually to be found sitting round a fire with other girls eating chocolates and seeking for replies to such questions as, when is a door not a door? and why does a chicken cross the road? They are miserable creatures whom I will not further mention.
 “The usage of tobacco, or some smokable substitute, is as old as primitive man. Almost all nations of the earth are adepts in this particular habit. It is, of course, an acquired taste, as also are washing and tomatoes. We are born with appetites which are static and unchangeable, but we are also born with a yearning for pleasure which is almost as positive as an appetite and only needs cultivation to become equally imperative. Doubtless, a traveller from some distant planet, who knew nothing of tobacco, would be astonished at the spectacle of a man exhaling smoke from his lips with splendid unconcern, and our traveller’s conjectures as to the origin of the smoke and the immunity of the smoker would be highly amusing and instructive.
 “I am often surprised on reflecting that our immediate ancestors were debarred from this pleasant indulgence, and I have wondered how they made the evenings pass. The lack of tobacco and pockets in their clothes (both of which are great civilising agents) may have been responsible for the wars, harryings, kidnappings and cattle raids which, alternating with rigorous and austere religious ceremonial, formed the bulk of their pleasures. Nowadays we leave these violent entertainments to children and the semi-literate and take our pleasures more composedly. A man who can put his hands in his pockets will seldom remove them for the purpose of slaying some one whose only fault is that he was born in the County Sligo. A man with a pipe in his teeth will be too much at peace with society to endanger its existence.
 “If the blessings of tobacco should be extended to the remainder of the vertebrates (as, why should it not?) I am sure that lions, elephants, and wild boars would avail themselves of it. So, also, would kangaroos, a beautiful and agile race living in Polynesia, or thereabouts—they are beautiful hoppers, and collect large quantities of this plant. In this direction they are especially well equipped, each having a pouch in her stomach in which to carry tobacco and hops, but wherein they now ignorantly secrete their young. Serpents would smoke a pipe with considerable elegance, and might become more benevolent in consequence. Frogs would smoke, but I fancy they would expectorate too elaborately to be neighbourly. Fish, however, would not smoke at all.—They are a cowardly and corrupt people, living in water, which is a singular thing to do. Neither would many birds smoke, they have neither the stamina nor the teeth, but I am certain that crows and jackdaws would chew tobacco eagerly and with true relish. A large proportion of the insecta are too light-minded and frivolous to care for smoking. Beetles, however, a very reserved and dignified race, would smoke cigars, and so would cockroaches, a rather saturnine and cynical people; but no others.
 “As for women—I am astonished they have not smoked, by mere contagion, long ago. If they did they would certainly grow more kind-hearted and manly, and I am sure that a deputation of ladies with pipes in their mouths and hands in their pockets would only have to demand the franchise from an astounded ministry to obtain it.
 “Members of Parliament are, I believe, either a separate creation or a composite of the parrot and the magpie. I have not yet discovered their particular function in nature but have observed them with some particularity. They wear top hats and are constantly making speeches, both of which are easy things to do and quite pleasant minor accomplishments.—So far as I can gather their chief use has been to pass something called a Budget. From the fact that this Budget contains a disgraceful imposition on tobacco I must take it that Members of Parliament are among the lower animals who do not smoke—they are also uninteresting in other ways.”
 Having said this my old friend bowed to me and departed genially with my cigar case in his pocket. The shirt-sleeved Adonis behind the counter wagged his head solemnly at a fly and then clouted it with a dish-cloth.

The old gentleman took an athletic pull at his liquor, and continued his discourse. He had been discussing more to himself than to me the merits of Professor James and Monsieur Bergson, and had inquired was I aware of the nature of the Pragmatic Sanction. The gentleman behind the counter remarked, that he had one on his bicycle, but that they were no good. This statement was denounced by the Philosopher as an unnatural and clumsy falsehood, and, anathematising the ignorance of his interrupter, he came by slow degrees to the following discourse—
 “I have but little faith in any of the methods of education with which I am presently acquainted. The objective of every system of teaching should be to enable the person who is being subjected to this repulsive treatment to do something which will fit him to maintain a place in life where he will be as little liable as possible to the changes and vicissitudes of civilised existence.
 “The cumbrous and inadequate preparation which is now in vogue can scarcely be spoken of by a person of understanding without the use of language unbefitting one who is a member of (inter alia) the Reformed Church and the highest order of the vertebrates.
 “If one walks into any school in this kingdom one is certain to meet a tall, thin, anaemic youth with a draggled moustache and a worried eye who is endeavouring to coerce a mass of indigestible, inelastic and unimportant facts into the heads of divers sleepy and disgusted children. If a small boy, on being asked where Labrador is, replies that it is the most northerly point of the Berlin Archipelago, he may be wrong in quite a variety of ways, but even if he answered correctly he would still know just as little about the matter, while if he were to give the only proper reply to so ridiculous a conundrum, he would tell his tormentor that he did not care a rap where it was, that he had not put it there, and that he would tell his mother if the man did not leave him alone. What has he got to do with Labrador, Terra del Fuego, or the Isles of Greece? Give him a fistful of facts about Donnybrook, and send him away to hunt out the truth of it, with a sandwich in his pocket and the promise of a lump of toffee when he came back with his cargo of truths—that would interest him, the toffee would make the information stick, while the verification of his facts would make his head fat and fertile.
 “When we ceased to be natural creatures and put on the oppressive shrouds, wraps and disguises which we label in the villainous aggregate civilisation, we ceased to know either how to teach or how to learn. We exchanged the freedom and spaciousness of life for a cramped existence compounded of spectacles and bad grammar, this complicated still further by the multiplication tables, the dead languages and indigestion tabloids. During his school-days many a healthy boy had to parse ten square miles of dead language. Why? he does not know and he will never be told, for no one else knows any more than he. The only thing of which he is certain is, that he did not do anything to deserve it.
 “Civilisation, which is responsible for all the woes of life, such as washing, shaving and buying boots, is responsible for this also. Potatoes are more productive than Latin roots, are twice as nourishing and cannot be parsed. Teach a girl how to recognise an egg by the naked eye, and then teach her how to cook it. Teach a boy how to discover the kind of trees eggs grow on and what is the best kind of soil to plant them in. Teach a girl how to keep her hands from scratching, her tongue from telling lies, and her teeth from dropping out prematurely, and she will, maybe, turn out a healthy kind of mammal having a house filled with brightness and laughter. Teach a boy how to prevent another boy from mashing the head off him, teach him how to be good to his mother when she is old, teach him how to give two-pence to a beggar without imagining that he is investing his savings in Paradise at fifty per cent and a bonus; and then, having eliminated civilisation, education, clothes, tin whistles and soap this earth will not be such a bad old ball-alley for a man to smoke a pipe in.
 “Everything is wrong. People should rise to their feet and salute when a farmer or a teacher comes into a room. No man should be allowed into Parliament who has not engaged in one or other of these professions, but because they are the two most important professions in the world their exponents are robbed and harried into slaves and fools.”
 Having said this with great earnestness the old gentleman absent-mindedly impounded my drink, absorbed it, and strode away wrapped in thought. The gentleman-in-waiting sympathetically asked me if I would have another one, but on learning that I had no more money he said good-night.

The old gentleman was in a state of most unusual content. It might have been because the sun was shining, or it might have been because he had just finished his third glass: whatever it was, the smile upon his face was of a depth and a radiance impossible to describe. He spoke for a while upon the pleasant smell of hay passing through a city, and, remarking upon the enviable thirst of hay-makers, he swept gradually to the following weighty monologue—
 “From the earliest times,” said he, “drinking has been regarded not alone as a necessary lubricant, but also as a pastime, and the ingenuity of every race under the sun has been exercised in the attempt to give variety and distinction to its beverages.
 “We may take it that the earliest race of men drank nothing but water, and hot water to boot, for at that era the earth must have been, if not hot, at least tepid. One can easily imagine that the contemporaries of the five-toed horse might have welcomed death as a happy release from their too sultry existence.
 “I suppose man is the only brewing animal known to scientific research. All other creatures take their food and drink neat, or in a raw state. Of course, almost all mammals are enabled by a highly ingenious internal mechanism to brew milk, or some other lacteal substitute, but this is performed by a natural, instinctive impulse towards the preservation of their young and conserves none of the spirit of artifice and calculation so necessary to authentic brewing operations.
 “Brewing was possible only when the stability of the human race was, more or less, assured and permanent. Our primal ancestors existed in a state as nearly resembling chaos as well might be. They had not yet aggregated into communities, but vast hordes of families—a father, an uncertain number of mothers, and an astounding complexity of children—wandered wherever food seemed most abundant, and fought with or eluded such other families as they chanced upon. This state of existence was too precarious and haphazard to allow of the niceties of brewing being evolved.
 “But the natural tendency of families to lengthen, the gregarious instincts of the race, and the need of mutual protection and assistance ultimately welded these indiscriminate families into communities of ever-varying extent, and the movement of these huge troops and transportation of their baggage becoming more and more difficult (vehicles being unknown and horses, perhaps, treble-toed, wily and ferocious) and food, which until then had only been obtained in a fugitive state, becoming less easy of access, these communities were forced to select a settled habitation, scratch the earth for provender, settled down to the breeding of one-toed horses, and exercise the respectable virtues of thrift and industry for their preservation. Thus, laws were formulated, tentative and unsatisfactory at first, and ever tending, as to this day, to become more complex and less satisfactory. Villages took shape, straggled into towns, widened into cities and coalesced into kingdoms and empires: and so, the civilisation of which we are partakers crawled laboriously into being, with the brewer somewhere in the centre, active, rubicund and disputatious, as he has continued to date, with a seat on the County Council which he had swindled some thirsty statesman out of, and more property than he could deal with by himself.
 “It is a singular reflection that thirst has very little to do with the consumption of drink, nor is this appetite subject to the vagaries of climate, for the inhabitants of the coldest regions will, it is feared, drink on equal terms with those dwelling in the sun-burnt tropics. In almost all ceremonial observances drinking has had a special place, and this diversion lends itself to an infinite number of objects—we can from the same bowl quaff health to our friends and confusion to our enemies, doubtless with equal results. Here alone men meet on equal terms. There is no religion, nationality or politics in liquor: let it be but sufficiently wet and potent and it matters not if the brew has been fermented in the tub of a Christian or the vessel of a heathen Turk.
 “I understand that this latter race are forbidden, by the form of heresy which they call religion, to use liquors more potent than sherbet. Some thinkers believe that this deprivation is possibly the reason of their being Turks.—They are Turks, not from conviction, but from habit, spite, and the bile engendered by a too rigid and bigoted abstinence. In this belief, however, I do not concur, for I consider that a Turk is a Turk naturally, and without any further constraint than those imposed by the laws of geography and primogeniture.
 “Meanwhile it is interesting to speculate on the future of an abstinent nation whose politics have the misfortune to be guided by a Peerage instead of a Beerage, and whose national destiny is irrationally divorced from the interests of ‘The Trade.’ Any departure from the established customs of humanity must be criticised unsparingly, and, if necessary, destructively. To overthrow the customs of antiquity must entail its own punishment and that punishment may be an awe-inspiring and chastening Success. Therefore, this happy whisky-governed land of ours should never forsake its liquor or it may be forced by opportunity and work to become great. The foundations of our civilisation are steeped in beer—let no sacrilegious hand seek to interfere with it, for, even if the foundations were rotten, the interests of the Trade must not be disturbed, the grave and learned members of our Corporation might be horribly reduced to working for their living, and our unfortunate City might have the extraordinary misfortune to scramble out of debt in the absence of its statesmen.”
 The old gentleman, with a bright smile, said that “he did not mind if he did,” and he “did” with such gusto that I had to call a cab.

The old gentleman came in hurriedly and called for that to which he was accustomed. He fumbled in one pocket after another, and after going over all his pockets several times he remarked to me “I have forgotten my purse.” His air was so friendly and confiding that it more than repaid me for the small sum which I had to advance. He sat down close beside me, and, after touching on the difficulty of being understood in a tavern, he drew genially to these remarks—
 “Language may be described as a medium for recording one’s sensations. It is gesture translated into sound. It is noise with a meaning. Music cannot at all compare with it, for music is no more than the scientific distribution of noise, and it does not impart any meaning to the disintegrated and harried tumults. Language may be divided into several heads, which, again, may be subdivided almost indefinitely.—The primary heads are, language, talk, and speech. Speech is the particular form of noise which is made by Members of Parliament. Language is the symbols whereby one lady in a back street makes audible her impressions of the lady who lives on the same floor—it is often extremely sinewy. Talk may be described as the crime of people who make one tired.
 “It is my opinion that people talk too much. I think the world would be a healthier and better place if it were more silent. On every day that passes there is registered over all the earth a vast amount of language which, so far as I can see, has not the slightest bearing on anything anywhere.
 “I have been told of a race living in Central Africa, or elsewhere, who by an inherent culture were enabled to dispense with speech. They whistled, and by practice had attained so copious and flexible a vocabulary that they could whistle good-morning and good-night, or how-do-you-do with equal facility and distinction. This, while it is a step in the right direction, is not a sufficiently long step. To live among these people might appear very like living in a cageful of canaries or parrots. Parrots are a very superior race who usually travel with sailors. They have a whistle which can be guided or deflected into various by-ways. I once knew a parrot who was employed by a sailor-man to curse for him when his own speech was suspended by liquor. He could also whistle ballads and polkas, and had attained an astonishing proficiency in these arts; for, by long practice, he could dovetail curses and whistles in a most energetic and, indeed, astonishing manner. It would often project two whistles and a curse, sometimes two curses and a whistle, while all the time keeping faithfully to the tune of ‘The Sailor’s Grave’ or another. It was a highly cultivated and erudite person. As it advanced in learning it took naturally to chewing tobacco, but, being a person of strongly experimental habits, it tried one day to curse and whistle and chew tobacco at the one moment, with the unfortunate result that a piece of honeydew got jammed between a whistle and a curse, and the poor thing perished miserably of strangulation.
 “It is indeed singular that while every race of mankind is competent to speak, none of the other races, such as cats, cows, caterpillars, and crabs, have shown the slightest interest in the making of this ordered noise. This is the more strange when we reflect that almost all animals are provided with a throat and a mouth which are capable of making a noise certainly equal in volume and intelligibility to the sounds made by a German or a Spaniard.
 “Long ago men lived in trees and had elongated backbones which they were able to twitch. There were no shops, theatres, or churches in those times, and, consequently, no necessity for a specialized and meticulous prosody. Man barked at his fellow-man when he wanted something, and if his request was not understood he bit his fellow-man and was quit of him. When they forsook the trees and became ground-walkers they came into contact with a variety of theretofore unknown objects, the necessity for naming which so exercised their tongues that gradually their bark took on a different quality and became susceptible of more complicated sounds. Then, with the dawning of the Pastoral Age, food in a gregarious community became a matter of more especial importance. When a man barked at his wife for a cocoanut and she handed him a baby or a bowl of soup or an evening paper it became necessary, in order to minimise her alternatives, that he should elaborate his bark to meet this and an hundred other circumstances. I do not know at what period of history man was able to call his wife names with the certainty of reprisal. It was possible quite early, because I have often heard a dog bark in a dissatisfied and important manner at another dog and be perfectly comprehended.
 “A difficulty would certainly arise as to the selection of a word when forty or fifty men might at the same time label any article with as many different names, and, it is reasonable to suppose, that they would be reluctant to adopt any other expression but that of their own creation. In such a crux the strongest man of the community would be likely to clout the others to an admission that his terminology was standard.
 “Thus, by slow accretions, the various languages crept into currency, and the youth of innumerable schoolboys has been embittered by having to learn to spell.
 “Grasshoppers are a fine, sturdy race of people. A great many of them live on the Hill of Howth, where I have often spent hours hearkening to their charming conversation. They do not speak with the same machinery that we use—they convey their ideas to each other by rubbing their hind-legs together, whereupon noises are produced of exceeding variety and interest. As a method of speech this is simply delightful, and I wish we could be trained to converse in so majestical a manner. Perhaps we shall live to see the day when the journals will chronicle that Mr. Redmond had rubbed his legs together for three hours at the Treasury Bench and was removed frothing at the feet, but after a little rest he was enabled to return and make more noise than ever.”
 The old gentleman smiled very genially and went out. The assistant suggested that he had a terrible lot of old “guff,” but I did not agree with him.

Between impartial sips at his own and my liquor the old gentleman perused the small volume which he had taken from my pocket. After he had read it he buttoned the book in his own pouch and addressed me with great kindness—
 “In some respects,” said he, “poets differ materially from other animals. For instance, they seldom marry, and when they do it is only under extreme compulsion.—This is the more singular when we remember that poets are almost continually singing about love. When they do marry they instantly cease to make poetry and turn to labour like the rest of the community.
 “It has been finely said that the poet is born and not made, but I fancy that this might be postulated of the rest of creation.
 “Many people believe that all poets arise from their beds in the middle of the night, and that they walk ten miles until they come to a hillside, where they remain until the dawn whistling to the little birds; but this, while it is true in some instances, is not invariably true. A proper poet would not walk ten miles for any one except a publisher.
 “The art of writing poetry is very difficult at first, but it becomes easy by practice. The best way for a beginner is to take a line from another poem; then he should construct a line to fit it; then, having won his start, he should strike out the first line (which, of course, does not belong to him) and go ahead. When the poet has written three verses of four lines each he should run out and find a girl somewhere and read it to her. Girls are always delighted when this is done. They usually clasp their hands together as though in pain, roll their eyes in an ecstasy, and shout, ‘How perfectly perfect!’ Then the poet will grip both her hands very tightly and say he loves her but will not marry her, and, in an agony of inspiration, he will tear himself away and stand drinks to himself until he is put out. This is, of course, only one way of being a poet. If he perseveres he will ultimately write lyrics for the music halls and make a fortune. He will then wear a fur coat that died of the mange, he will support a carnation in his buttonhole, wear eighteen rings on his right hand and one hundred and twenty-seven on his left. He will also be entitled to wear two breast-pins at once and yellow boots. He will live in England when he is at home, and be very friendly with duchesses.
 “Poetry is the oldest of the arts. Indeed, it may be called the parent of the arts. Poetry, music, and dancing are the only relics which have come down to us from those ancient times which are termed impartially the Golden or the Arboreal Ages. In ancient Ireland the part played by the poet was very important. Not alone was he the singer of songs, he was also the bestower of fame and the keeper of genealogies, and, therefore, he was treated with a dignity which he has since refused to forget. When a poet made a song in public, it was customary that the king and the nobility should divest themselves of their jewels, gold chains, and rings, and give this light plunder to him. They also bestowed on him goblets of gold and silver, herds of cattle, farms, and maidservants. The poets are not at all happy in these constricted times, and will proclaim their astonishment and repugnance in the roundest language.
 “A few days ago I was speaking in Grafton Street to a poet of great eminence, and, with tears in his voice, he told me that he had never been offered as much as a bracelet by any lady. Times have changed; but for the person who still wishes to enter this decayed profession there is still every opportunity, for poetry is only the art of cutting sentences into equal lengths, and then getting these sentences printed by a publisher. It is in the latter part of this formula that the real art consists.
 “There are a great many poets in Ireland, particularly in Dublin. In an evening’s walk one may meet at least a dozen of this peculiar people. They may be known by the fact that they wear large, soft hats, and that the breast-pockets of their coats have a more than noticeable bulge, due to their habit of carrying therein the twenty-seven masterpieces which they have just written. They are very ethereal creatures, composed largely of soul and thirst. Soul is a far-away, eerie thing, generally produced by eating fish.”
 The old gentleman borrowed the price of a tram home; but as he instantly stood himself a drink with it, I was forced to relend him the money when we got outside.

The old gentleman was in a very bad temper when I arrived. He had a large glass of porter in his hand—a pint, in fact—and he was gazing on this liquid with no great favour. I was a little surprised at his choice of a drink, for I had never before known him care for any other refreshment than spirits; but I did not like to make any reference to the change. Looking thus, with great disgust, upon his pint, he began to talk with some asperity about the English nation.
 “The ways of Providence,” said he, “are indeed inscrutable, else why should there be such things in the world as lobsters, gutta-percha, ballet-dancers, and Englishmen? These four objects, and some others—notably water, tram-cars, and warts—I can find no necessity for in nature; but there must be some reason for such, or else they could not have arrived at the more or less mature stage of development at which they are found.
 “If we apply the canons of the Pragmatic philosophy to these objects we will arrive at some conclusion which, although it may not justify their existence, will give a hint as to their expediency. The question to be put to any doubtful fact in nature is this—’What is your use?’ and the reality of the fact is in ratio to the degree of usefulness inhering in it. Thus treated, most of the objects to which I have referred may be able to adduce some excuse for their existence. A lobster may aver that if he were not alive his absence would be a severe blow to the lobster-pot industry, and would throw many respectable families on the already-overburdened rates. Gutta-percha might plead that it has aspired through many millions of ages to a maturity which would enable it to rub out lead-pencil marks. Ballet-dancers would have a great deal to say for themselves, possibly on moral grounds; but I really see no reason for Englishmen.
 “I have said that an object is real in ratio to its usefulness. If we examine an Englishman thus pragmatically we must discover that his usefulness is zero, and we are then forced to inquire why he exists at all, for he does undoubtedly exist, as witness this pint of porter which I hold in my hand, and which I do hold in my hand solely on account of the unexplainable existence of Englishmen.
 “I may say at once that I never indulge in this particular form of refreshment, against which I have nothing further to charge than it does not agree with my system, but I am no bigot in such matters, and can quite willingly believe that lower natures and less cultivated palates may take pleasure in secreting this inordinately lengthy liquid. I cannot avoid the belief that any liquid which may be imbibed by the imperial pint is an essentially gross drink, and one unfitted for persons of a high culture. Nor can I find in nature that any of the more specialised organisms take their drink in such extravagant quantities. Camels, who, I am informed, are a very well-behaved and moral race leading rigorous and chaste lives in a desert, do drink deeply, but their excess is more apparent than real, for Providence in an aberration endowed these folk with more stomachs than the average person possesses, and the necessity for filling these additional cisterns accounts for and justifies their liberal use of moisture. Worms, on the other hand, are a folk for whom I have very little reverence and no affection. I am not aware whether they are all stomach or all neck, but from their corner-boy expression I am inclined to fancy that worms would drink pints if they could. Happily, this disgusting exhibition is forbidden by the imperfect state of their civilisation and the inelastic quality of their environment.
 “But this is beside the point. My grievance is, that in my old age I am forced to drink porter which disagrees with my liver, and am compelled to abstain from spirits which have a sustaining and medicinal effect on that organ, and this deprivation is solely due to the unnatural and inexplicable existence of Englishmen. It may be that nature grew Englishmen for the sole purpose of interfering with my organs, and so, by modifying my teaching in accordance with my diseased interior, nature may be striving to evolve a new culture wherein bile will have a rare ability. If this is so, then I am not at all obliged to nature for singling me out as the instrument of her changes; if it is not so I can only confess my ignorance and wash my hands of the matter.
 “Mark you, it was only during my lifetime that an exorbitant tax was placed on whisky. Before my era the interference with this refreshment was of the most tentative and apologetic description.
 “I can remember, and I do remember with dismay, the time when whisky was purchaseable at two bronze pennies for the naggin, but now one may discharge a ruinous impost for the privilege of imbibing one poor fourth of that happy measure.
 “This has been brought about by the continuous interference of Englishmen with my liquor. Time and again they have added additional difficulties to my obtaining this medicinal refreshment, and, while I am compelled to bow my head to the ideas of nature for the improvement of our race, I am often inclined, having bowed it, to charge goat-like at these intolerable people and butt them off the face of the earth into the nowhere for which their villainous and ungenial habits have fitted them. Otherwise, by their future exactions I may be brought to the drinking of benzene or printer’s ink for lack of a fortune wherewith to purchase fitter refreshment.”
 Having said this with great fury, the old gentleman laid down his untasted pint and stalked out. The acolyte behind the counter made a sympathetic clicking noise with his tongue and sold the pint to another man.—He probably did this thoughtlessly, and I did not care to embarrass him by remarking on it.

I met the old gentleman marching solemnly across Cork Hill. There was a tramcar in his immediate rear, a cab in front of him, an outside-car and a bicycle on his right hand, and a dray laden with barrels on his left. The drivers of all these vehicles were entreating him in one voice to stroll elsewhere. He looked around and, observing that matters were complicated, he opened his umbrella, held it over his head, and awaited events with the most admirable fortitude. When I had escorted him to the pavement, and further to his own hostelry, he seized the third button of my waistcoat and spake as follows:—
 “It is an admirable example of the wisdom of nature that she has refrained in every case from equipping her creatures with wheels instead of legs, and she might easily have done this. So far as I am aware there are but four methods of progression in nature—these are, flying, swimming, walking and crawling. None of these are performed with a rotary motion, and all are admirably adapted to the people using them, and are sufficiently expeditious to suit their needs.
 “There is no doubt that the most primitive of movements is that of crawling, and by this method of progression, one is brought into an intimate contact with the earth which cannot fail to be beneficial. I do not see any real difficulty in the way of our again becoming a race of happy and crawling people. The initial essay towards this end is to shed our arms and legs as useless incumbrances, and then to aim at a stronger growth of jaw and cranium. Among certain organisms it will be found that the jaws are the most immediately useful parts of the body, performing the most varied and delicate functions with the greatest ease. A dog, for example, will, with the one organ, play with a ball, kill a cat, or nip the calf of a Christian, and, when the moon is high, he can make a noise with his mouth which is as loud and quite as melodious as the professional clamour of a ballad-vocalist.
 “One of the greatest evils of civilisation is the longing for speed, which, within the past hundred years, has developed from a simple vice to a complicated mania. Long ago men were accustomed to use their legs in order to propel themselves forward, and, when greater speed was necessary, they assisted their legs with their hands—this was coeval with, or shortly after, the arboreal age. Next came the hunting epoch, when some person, probably a commercial traveller, dropped off a tree on to a horse’s back, and finding the movement pleasant he informed his companions of his adventure and demonstrated to them how it had been performed. It is from this occurrence we may date the degradation of the human race and the industry of horse-stealing. There followed the pastoral age, when nuts were, more or less, abandoned as a food and tillage became general. The necessity for conveying the crops from the field to the camp excited some lazy individual to invent a cart, and, thus, wheels came into use and the doom of humanity as an instinctive and natural race was sealed.
 “While we walked on our own legs we were natural and instinctive creatures, open to every impression of nature and able to tell the time without clocks, but when we adopted mechanical methods of progression we became unnatural and mechanical people, whizzing restlessly and recklessly from here to yonder, for no purpose save the mere sensual pleasure of movement, and we are at this date simply debauched by travel and have shortened the world to less than one-tenth of its actual size as well as destroying our abilities for simple and rational enjoyment.
 “If we continue using these artificial means of locomotion there is no doubt that the race will become atrophied in the legs but with extraordinary results. The spectacle of an egg-shaped humanity squatting painfully on engines is not a pleasant one to contemplate, nor is the prospect of a world wherein there will be neither breeches nor boots good for the moralist or economist to dwell upon.
 “In order to conserve the happiness of the world every inventor should be squashed in the egg, more particularly those having anything to do with wheels, cogs or levers. The wheel has no counterpart in nature, and is unthinkable to any but a diseased and curious mind. Man will never more be happy until he has broken all the machinery he can find with a hammer, and has then thrown the hammer into the sea; and then he can, by experiment, become almost as rooted in the earth as a tree or an artesian well. It is a bad thing to have an indefinite horizon. It is a good thing to grow knowing one part of the world as thoroughly as one knows the inside of one’s boots. Legs make for nationality, patriotism, and all the virtues which centre in locality. Wheels make for diffuseness, imperialisms, cosmopolitanisms. By the use of legs humanity has stalked into manhood. By the use of wheels we are rapidly rolling into a race of commercial travellers, touts, gad-abouts, and members of parliament, folk with the hanging jaws of astonishment, avid for curios, and with mental, moral and optical indigestion.
 “I believe that the Spanyols and Mandibaloes, two Mongol races inhabiting the countries at the rear of the Great Chow Desert, were the first people to deal largely with wheels. The men of these nations were used, when travelling, to affix two small wheels upon their shoulder blades, and on coming to any slight incline in their path they would curl up their legs, lie on their backs and free-wheel as distantly as the slant of the ground permitted, greatly, no doubt, to the astonishment of less sophisticated people. But, knowing their habits, their enemies were wont to lie in wait at the bottoms of hills and slopes, and when a Spanyol or Mandibaloe came wheeling down a hill with his legs up he was killed before he could regain a less complicated position, or one more fitted for defence or offence. Thus, these races became rapidly extinct, and are now only remembered by the tracks as wide as a man’s shoulderblades which are occasionally found in parts of the post-tertiary formation.”
 The old gentleman released the third button of my waistcoat which he had held for so long and stepped with me out of the hostel. As it had begun to rain he carefully folded up his umbrella, tucked it under his arm, and strode rapidly down the street. Some small boys followed him for a little time singing, “We are the boys of Wexford who fought with heart and hand,” but I drove these away.

He wiped his face with a large, red pocket-handkerchief, pursed his lips, shut one eye, and, with the other, he critically observed the remnant of his liquor. After a moment of deep consideration he smiled delightfully and said he thought it was all right. The apothecary behind the counter smiled also as one gratified and suggested that there was not much of that at the North Pole, and, after a little discussion on this point, the old gentleman addressed me in the following words:—
 “I do not understand what necessity impels people to the discovery of something, which, if it has any existence at all, has only an idealistic existence, and which, when it is discovered, cannot be utilised in any possible direction. Utility is the first attribute of all terrestrial bodies. A stone, for instance, is a useful inorganic substance—it can be built into a house, or thrown at a duck, or, when ground into sand, it can be, and is, sold as sugar by a grocer. It is constantly being utilised in one or other of these directions; and so with all other objects. But the necessity for a North or a South Pole has yet to be demonstrated.
 “The statement that the North Pole was put there by the Castle authorities is one which I do not believe, for I am assured that at every period of the world’s history there has been a North and a South Pole, which, surrounded as they were by snow-clad countries, icebergs, cold water and whales, were too remote and inhospitable to tempt the average civilian to journey there.
 “The only thing which grows in the Polar regions is ice, and this is generally found in almost tropical profusion and rankness, growing sometimes to the height of several hundred feet, none of which wear boots. Polar bears and Esquimos are also found there, but in scattered and inconsiderable quantities. These two races spend most of their time chasing each other in order to keep themselves warm, which they do by degrees which are often registered on a barometer. They also eat each other and get scurvy. Outside of these relaxations their existence is stagnant and unexciting. I sometimes fancy that if I had the misfortune to be born a polar bear or an Esquimo I would not have been a patriot.
 “I have no esteem for ice in other than easily portable quantities. Some small pieces to pack around fish, a particle to drop into a glass of lager beer—that is all the ice which I can regard patiently or leniently; but a continent composed entirely of ice and polar bears tempts me to believe that Providence is subject to aberrations.
 “It is supposed to redound to the credit of a nation when one of its citizens resolves to discover some inaccessible and futile place, and proceeds to do so in the most fantastic manner. The inhabitants of that country who remain at their work and continue to pay their rates are expected to be in a condition of wild enthusiasm and delight at the adventure.—My own impression is, that the majority of people take no more than a tepid interest in these forlorn adventures, and are but imperfectly convinced of the sanity of the adventurers; and this is the more particularly noticeable when the quest is for something so intangible and unmarketable as a North Pole. Why need they go so far afield for their excitement? Every discoverer is a detective. He traces missing places, and there are cartloads of Poles in their own countries waiting for explorers.
 “The habit of seeking for a North Pole is one of only comparative antiquity. Its conception is well within the historic era, and must, therefore, be classed as an acquired habit and one not inherent in man. I have not observed that any other animals are addicted to this peculiar expeditionary craze. It is true that many species of birds migrate annually from these shores, and, although their departures are usually chronicled in the newspapers, it must not without further evidence be inferred that these birds have gone to look for the North Pole. They may, as a matter of fact, have left this country to avoid being arrested, for here one is continually being arrested. The evidence in favour of the North Pole theory as regards birds is, that nobody knows where they have gone to, and that as the rest of the earth is round and densely populated their arrival would be noted somewhere as their departure was, but their arrival not being so noted, and as they must be somewhere, the process of eliminating all possible places leaves nowhere but the North Pole as their objective. Now birds are a very intelligent and strenuous race of people who build nests in trees and have often five eggs at a time, and I believe that they leave these countries because their nests are full of broken egg-shells, and because the winter is setting in, and because they dislike cold weather; and, thus disliking cold weather, it is unlikely that they would fly to the North Pole where the cold is very intense, and where, moreover, there is little food to be found, saving polar bears and Esquimos, a form of victual for which birds have only the scantiest relish. My own impression is, that these birds when out of sight of land are enabled by a mechanism with which we are not yet familiar, to convert themselves into fishes, or, alternatively, that they know the whereabouts of Tir na n-Og and go there, or else that they do not go anywhere at all but are simply translated into the Fourth Dimension of Space, and are, thus, flying, nesting and mating all around us in a medium which our eyes are too gross to penetrate.
 “From a perusal of the evening papers I observe that the discoverer of the North Pole is an American citizen with a complicated pedigree, a long beard and a red shirt, all of which he hoisted to the top of the Pole and left there for subsequent identification. I fear this was a thoughtless action on his part because the Esquimos who live habitually at the North Pole, but have not discovered it, will, while his back is turned, take to wearing his shirt in turn. They are a communistic people, I fancy, and no shirt will survive communism. Also, seeing the fuss which is being made of their Pole, they may either hide it or sell pieces of it to tourists as remembrancers.
 “The explorer should have cached his shirt and other memorials at the foot of the Pole, built a cairn upon it, and shook cayenne pepper on top of all to keep bears away—but it is useless to advise explorers.”
 The ancient hereupon made a significant gesture to the curate, who misinterpreted it, and brought more than he had required. He was very much perturbed, for, as he explained, he had forgotten to bring his purse with him. He consented, however, to use my purse for his needs, and, after paying his shot, he, in an abstracted and melancholy manner, put the change in his trouser pocket. There was only one shilling in the purse so I did not like to draw his attention to the mistake. He very genially returned my purse, and said he had conceived a great liking for me.

When the old gentleman came in I noticed at once that he was out of humour. He had a large scar on his chin, and three pieces of newspaper on his cheeks. He discharged the contents of my tobacco pouch into a pipe which had a holding capacity of one and a half ounces, and then he became more cheerful—
 “I dislike extremely,” said he, “the impertinent interference with nature which men are nowadays guilty of. Not content with clamping our feet in leathern boxes, our legs in cloth cylinders, our trunks in a variety of wrappings of complex inutility, and then inserting our heads into monstrous felt pots, we even approach ourselves more minutely and scrape the very hair from our faces which nature has sown there for purposes of ornament and protection; with the result, that it is difficult for a short-sighted person to distinguish rapidly the sex of the people with whom he comes in contact saving by a minute and tedious examination of their clothing.
 “This habit of shaving is one which is entirely confined to man. It is the one particular habit that he holds apart from all other animals, and, indeed, it is not an accomplishment upon which he need pride himself, for in parting with his beard he has sacrificed the only pleasant-looking portion of his face.
 “It could easily be proved that hair and innocence have a subtle relationship. No very hairy person is really vicious, as witness the caterpillar, of whom I have not heard that he ever bit any one: while, on the other hand, the frog, who is born bald, would doubtless be very savage were it not for the fact that nature has benevolently curtailed his teeth. Fishes, also, an uncleanly race, and who I fancy are shaved before birth, are all monsters of cold-blooded ferocity, and they will devour their parents and even their own offspring with equal and indiscriminate enjoyment.
 “The habit of shaving is not of a very ancient origin. When humanity lived a quiet, rural and unambitious life, men did not shave: their hair was their glory, and if they had occasion to swear, which must have been infrequent, their hardiest and readiest oath was, ‘by the beard of my father,’ showing clearly that this texture was held in veneration in early times and was probably accorded divine honours upon suitable occasions.
 “With the advent of war came the habit of shaving. A beard offered too handy a grip to a foeman who had gotten to close quarters, therefore, warriors who had no true hardihood of soul preferred cutting off their beards to the honourable labour of defending their chins. Many ancient races effected a compromise in order to retain a fitting military appearance, for a bare-faced warrior has but little of terror in his aspect. The ancient Egyptians, for example, who had cut off, or could not cultivate, or had been forcibly deprived of their beards, were wont to go into battle clad in heavy false whiskers, which, when an enemy seized hold of them, came off instantly in his hand, and the ancient Egyptian was enabled to despatch him while in a trance of stupefaction and horror. Clean-shaved men became, by this cowardly stratagem, very much prized as fighting men, and thus the foundation of the shaving habit was laid.
 “It is a remarkable fact that, save for an inconsiderable number who live in circuses, women have no beards. I am unable at present to trace the reason for this singular omission, but the advantages of beards for women are too patent for explanation. They would improve her personal appearance, and their advantages as air-purifiers or respirators I need not dwell upon. I am certain that a persistent application of goose-grease and electricity to the chin of a woman would at last enable her to become as bearded and virtuous as her husband, besides entitling her to the political franchise. They are perverse creatures, however, and it is possible that this deprivation is responsible for many of their ill-humours and crankinesses. Their scarcity of beard is the more remarkable when we observe that the female cat is as magnificently whiskered as her male companion. The wisdom of cats is proverbial, and I have never heard of a cat who has hired another cat to bite out, tear off, scrape or otherwise demolish his or her whiskers. When I do hear of some such occurrence I shall be prepared to reconsider my position on this subject.
 “In some ways a clean-shaved face is desirable. A pig’s cheek should not have whiskers, neither should oysters nor the face of a clock, but a man’s face should never be seen out of doors without a decent and honourable covering.”
 Having said this, the old gentleman, with remarkable presence of mind, drank my whisky, and then apologised with dignified and touching humility. As we departed the youth behind the counter corrugated his features in a remarkable manner, and said, “bow-wow” by way of valediction.

He helped himself absently to two water biscuits and a piece of cheese and sank to a profound reverie. The eating of this light refreshment was probably a manifestation of subconscious thought, for, when he had finished, he spoke to me as follows—
 “There are a great many things which I dislike immensely but the necessity for which I must perforce acquiesce in: these are water, easterly winds and actresses: but there are other habits cultivated by humanity for which I can find no apology, and some of these have grown to so great an extent that they now bulk as evils of terrific magnitude.”
 “Foremost among these reprehensible customs I will mention that of eating. Of all the evils under which civilisation staggers helplessly the most ponderous and merciless is hunger, and it is the evil which will ultimately decimate all existing forms of life.
 “All forms of organic life have now for millions of years been slaves to this filthy habit of eating, and have superimposed upon their original singleness of form a variety of weighty and unattractive organs to keep pace with the satisfaction of this oppressive appetite, until to-day the entire organic world stands upon the imminent brink of destruction if food should be withheld from it for one entire week.
 “Every living being should be self-supporting and self-sufficient. It should be inherent in the economy of a man to produce for himself not alone food but also shelter and raiment from his own internal resources. A man should be able to build a house or evolve a loaf of bread out of his own body with ease and assurance.
 “Look for a moment at spiders. Every spider carries within himself the materials for his own home. His stomach, instead of being, as is vulgarly supposed, a cemetery for smaller organisms, is in reality his brick-field and rope-walk, and out of this minute sack he will produce endless miles of cordage and web which he weaves into the most beautiful and mathematical harmonies. This is a self-contained utility which might be imitated by men with advantage, and that which is done with ease by a spider can scarcely offer insuperable difficulty to the chief of the vertebrates. Of course, each man’s production will be more or less guided and limited by his capacity.—Thus, fat men will spin forth cathedrals, opera-houses and railway stations. Thin men will devote themselves to obelisks, church spires, factory chimneys, and artistic bric-a-brac. Short men will willingly produce artisans’ dwellings, busts of famous men and, perhaps, now and then, pyramids or villa residences. Constant work of this description will not alone render us independent of landlords, but, by atrophy of the digestive organs, will inaugurate a brighter era for long-suffering, food-fed humanity.
 “Suppose it is advanced that man cannot keep up his strength and usefulness without some kind of exterior nourishment—I will then proceed to demonstrate how this can be most easily accomplished. Our first cousins, the trees and bushes, do not sit down at stated hours to a heterogeneous mess of steak, tea and onions: they stand firm in the ground unhurried by the sound of the dinner-bell and careless of the state of the American market. As the spider is sufficient in itself in house-building, so are the trees, the grass and all inorganic life self-supporting so far as food is concerned. The reason is, that trees, grass and flowers are bedded in the earth, the source of all nourishment. Let this fact be but properly understood, and the last and greatest bar to human progress will be removed, and ‘the millenniums which so furiously chase us’ will have a chance of catching us up.
 “If, once a week, men would bury themselves to the chin in good fertile clay, and allow the nurture of the earth to permeate their bodies there would be an end to this gross and unfortunate digestive activity. I have myself experimented in this direction with the most encouraging results. A rich, loamy soil is very good—it is rather cold at the bottom, but invigorating. Light, sandy clay would suit sedentary persons such as parsons, artists, judges. In poor ground some superphosphates, or a light compost could be strewn by each person around himself. Families would take turns in pruning each other, and so forth; but all these incidental matters would rapidly adjust themselves. After a time we might succeed in propagating ourselves by seeds or slips, and this would lead to a radical readjustment of our sex relations and put an end to many of the problems wherewith we are eternally badgered and perplexed.
 “In some ways I will admit that food is valuable. As a means of killing a rich uncle by gout, or of attaining wealth by judicious adulteration it can be recommended, and looked at in the light of a gentle morning exercise to be taken immediately after rising it is useful, but as a method of obtaining nourishment it is obsolete and disgustingly vulgar.”
 At this point the gentleman-in-waiting snorted in a most unbecoming manner, and dived under the counter, from beneath which he alternately mewed like a cat and crowed like a cock. It was a clear attack of hysteria. While the poor man was recovering from his seizure the old gentleman absent-mindedly departed without paying his shot.


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