Over the Teacups
The tea is sweetened.
WE have been going on very pleasantly of late, each of us pretty well occupied with his or her special business. The Counsellor has been pleading in a great case, and several of The Teacups were in the court-room. I thought, but I will not be certain, that some of his arguments were addressed to Number Five rather than to the jury, — the more eloquent passages especially.
Our young Doctor seems to me to be gradually getting known in the neighborhood and beyond it. A member of one of the more influential families, whose regular physician has gone to Europe, has sent for him to come and see her, and as the patient is a nervous lady, who has nothing in particular the matter with her, he is probably in for a good many visits and a long bill by and by. He has even had a call at a distance of some miles from home, — at least he has had to hire a conveyance frequently of late, for he has not yet set up his own horse and chaise. We do not like to ask him about who his patient may be, but he or she is probably a person of some consequence, as he is absent several hours on these out-of-town visits. He may get a good practice before his bald spot makes its appearance, for I have looked for it many times without as yet seeing a sign of it. I am sure he must feel encouraged, for he has been very bright and cheerful of late; and if he sometimes looks at our new handmaid as if he wished she were Delilah, I do not think he is breaking his heart about her absence. Perhaps he finds consolation in the company of the two Annexes, or one of them, — but which. I cannot make out. He is in consultation occasionally with Number Five, too, but whether professionally or not I have no means of knowing. I cannot for the life of me see what Number Five wants of a doctor for herself, so perhaps it. is another difficult case in which her womanly sagacity is called upon to help him.
In the mean time she and the Tutor continue their readings. In fact, it seems as if these readings were growing more frequent, and lasted longer than they did at first. There is a little arbor in the grounds connected until our place of meeting, and sometimes they have gone there for their readings. Some of The Teacups have listened outside once in a while, for the Tutor reads well, and his clear voice must be heard in the more emphatic passages, whether one is expressly listening or not. But besides the reading there is now and then some talking, and persons talking in an arbor do not always remember that latticework, no matter how closely the vines cover it, is not impenetrable to the sound of the human voice. There was a listener one day, — it was not one of The Teacups, I am happy to say, — who heard and reported some fragments of a conversation which reached his ear. Nothing but the profound intimacy which exists between myself and the individual reader whose eyes are on this page would induce me to reveal what I was told of this conversation. The first words seem to have been in reply to some question.
“ Why, my dear friend, how can you think of such a thing ? Do you know — I am — old enough to be your — [I think she must have been on the point of saying mother, but that was more than any woman could be expected to say] — old enough to be your — aunt ? ”
“ To be sure you are,” answered the Tutor, “and what of it? I have two aunts, both younger than I am. Your years may be more than mine, but your life is fuller of youthful vitality than mine is. I never feel so young as when I have been with you. I don’t believe in settling affinities by the almanac. You know what I have told you more than once ; you have n’t ‘ bared the icecold dagger’s edge ’ upon me yet; may I not cherish the ”...
What a pity that the listener did not hear the rest of the sentence and the reply to it, if there was one ! The readings went on the same as before, but I thought that Number Five was rather more silent and more pensive than she had been.
I was much pleased when the American Annex came to me one day and told me that she and the English Annex were meditating an expedition, in which they wanted the other Teacups to join. About a dozen miles from us is an educational institution of the higher grade, where a large number of young ladies are trained in literature, art, and science, very much as their brothers are trained in the colleges. Our two young ladies have already been through courses of this kind in different schools, and are now busy with those more advanced studies which are ventured upon by only a limited number of “ graduates.” They have heard a good deal about this institution, but have never visited it.
Every year, as the successive classes finish their course, there is a grand reunion of the former students, with an “ exhibition,” as it is called, in which the graduates of the year have an opportunity of showing their proficiency in the various branches taught. On that occasion prizes are awarded for excellence in different departments. It would be hard to find a more interesting ceremony. These girls, now recognized as young ladies, are going forth as missionaries of civilization among our busy people. They are many of them to be teachers, and those who have seen what opportunities they have to learn will understand their fitness for that exalted office. Many are to be the. wives and mothers of the generation next coming upon the stage. Young and beautiful, — “youth is always beautiful,” said old Samuel Rogers, — their countenances radiant with developed intelligence, their complexions, their figures, their movements, all showing that they have had plenty of outdoor as well as indoor exercise, and have lived well in all respects, one would like to read on the wall of the hall where they are assembled, —
Si uxorem requiris, circumspice !
This proposed expedition was a great event in our comparatively quiet circle. The Mistress, who was interested in the school, undertook to be the matron of the party. The young Doctor, who knew the roads better than any of us, was to be our pilot. He arranged it so that he should have the two Annexes under his more immediate charge. We were all on the lookout to see which of the two was to be the favored one, for it was pretty well settled among The Teacups that a wife he must have, whether the bald spot came or not; he was getting into business, and he could not achieve a complete success as a bachelor.
Number Five and the Tutor seemed to come together as a matter of course. I confess that I could not help regretting that our pretty Delilah was not to be one of the party. She always looked so young, so fresh, — she would have enjoyed the excursion so much, that if she had been still with us I would have told the Mistress that she must put on her best dress; and if she had n’t one nice enough, I would give her one myself. I thought, too, that our young Doctor would have liked to have had her with us ; but he appeared to be getting along very well with the Annexes, one of whom it seems likely that he will annex to himself and his fortunes, if she fancies him, which is not improbable.
The organizing of this expedition was naturally a cause of great excitement among The Teacups. The party had to be arranged in such a way as to suit all concerned, which was a delicate matter. It was finally managed in this way: The Mistress was to go with a bodyguard, consisting of myself, the Professor, and Number Seven, who was good company, with all his oddities. The young Doctor was to take the two Annexes in a wagon, and the Tutor was to drive Number Five in a good old-fashioned chaise drawn by a well-conducted family horse. As for the Musician, he had gone over early, by special invitation, to take a part in certain musical exercises which were to have a place in the exhibition. This arrangement appeared to be in every respect satisfactory. The Doctor was in high spirits, apparently delighted, and devoting himself with great gallantry to his two fair companions. The only question which intruded itself was, whether he might not have preferred the company of one to that of two. But both looked very attractive in their best dresses: the English Annex, the rosier and heartier of the two ; the American girl, more delicate in features, more mobile and excitable, but suggesting the thought that she would tire out before the other. Which of these did he most favor ? It was hard to say. He seemed to look most at the English girl, and yet he talked more with the American girl. In short, he behaved particularly well, and neither of the young ladies could complain that she was not attended to. As to the Tutor and Number Five, their going together caused no special comment. Their intimacy was accepted as an established fact, and nothing but the difference in their ages prevented the conclusion that it was love, and not mere friendship, which brought them together. There was, no doubt, a strong feeling among many people that Number Five’s affections were a kind of Gibraltar or Ehrenbreitstein, — say rather a high table-land in the region of perpetual, unmelting snow. It was hard for these people to believe that any man of mortal mould could find a foothold in that impregnable fortress, — could climb to that height and find the flower of love among its glaciers. The Tutor and Number Five were both quiet, thoughtful: he, evidently captivated ; she, — what was the meaning of her manner to him ? Say that she seemed fond of him, as she might be were he her nephew, — one for whom she had a special liking. If she had a warmer feeling than this, she could hardly know how to manage it; for she was so used to having love made to her without returning it that she would naturally be awkward in dealing with the new experience.
The Doctor drove a lively five-yearold horse, and took the lead. The Tutor followed with his quiet, steady-going nag ; if he had driven the five-year-old, l would not have answered for the necks of the pair in the chaise, for he was too much taken up with the subject they were talking of to be very careful about his driving. The Mistress and her escort brought up the rear, — I holding the reins, the Professor at my side, and Number Seven sitting with the Mistress.
We arrived at the institution a little later than we had expected to, and the students were flocking into the hall where the Commencement exercises were to take place, and the medal-scholars were to receive the tokens of their excellence in the various departments. From our seats we could see the greater part of the assembly,— not quite all, however, of the pupils. A pleasing sight, it was to look upon, this array of young ladies dressed in white, with their class badges, and with the ribbon of the shade of blue affected by the scholars of the institution. If Solomon in all his glory was not to be compared to a lily, a whole bed of lilies could not be compared to this garden-bed of youthful womanhood.
The performances were very much the same as most of us have seen at the academies and collegiate schools. Some of the graduating class read their “ compositions,” one of which was a poem, — an echo of the prevailing American echoes, of course, but prettily worded and intelligently read. Then there was a song sung by a choir of the pupils, led by their instructor, who was assisted by the Musician whom we count among The Teacups. There was something in one of the voices that reminded me of one I had heard before. Where could it have been? I am sure I cannot remember. There are some good voices in our village choir, but none so pure and bird-like as this. A sudden thought came into my head, but I kept it to myself. I heard a tremulous catching of the breath, something like a sob, close by me. It was the Mistress, — she was crying. What was she crying for ? It was impressive, certainly, to listen to these young voices, many of them blending for the last time, — for the scholars were soon to be scattered all over the country, and some of them beyond its boundaries, — but why the Mistress was so carried away I did not know. She must be more impressible than most of us; yet I thought Number Five also looked as if she were having a struggle with herself to keep down some rebellious signs of emotion.
The exercises went on very pleasingly until they came to the awarding of the gold medal of the year and the valedictory, which was to be delivered by the young lady to whom it was to be presented. The name was called; it was one not unfamiliar to our ears, and the bearer of it — the Delilah of our teatable, Avis as she was known in the school and elsewhere — rose in her place and came forward, so that for the first time on that day we looked upon her. It was a sensation for The Teacups. Our modest, quiet waiting-girl was the best scholar of her year. We had talked French before her, and we learned that she was the best French scholar the teacher had ever had in the school. We had never thought of her except as a pleasing and well-trained handmaiden, and here she was an accomplished young lady.
Avis went through her part very naturally and gracefully, and when it was finished, and she stood before us with the medal glittering on her breast, we did not know whether to smile or to cry, — some of us did one, and some the other. We all had an opportunity to see her and congratulate her before we left the institution. The mystery of her six weeks’ serving at our table was easily solved. She had been studying too hard and too long, and required some change of scene and occupation. She had a fancy for trying to see if she could support herself as so many young women are obliged to, and found a place with us, — the Mistress only knowing her secret.
“ She is to be our young Doctor’s wife ! ” the Mistress whispered to me, and did some more crying, — not for grief, certainly.
Whether our young Doctor’s longvisits to a neighboring town had anything to do with the fact that Avis was at that institution, whether she was the patient he visited or not, may be left in doubt. At all events, he had always driven off in the direction which would carry him to the place where she was at school.
I have attended a large number of celebrations, commencements, ban quets, soirées, and so forth, and done my best to help on a good many of them. In fact, I have become rather too well known in connection with " occasions,” and it has cost me no little trouble. I believe there is no kind of occurrence for which I have not been requested to contribute something in prose or verse. It is sometimes very hard to say no to the requests. If one is in the right mood when he or she writes an occasional poem, it seems as if nothing could have been easier. " Why, that piece run off jest like ile. I don’t bullieve,” the unlettered applicant says to himself, — “I don’t bullieve it took him ten minutes to write them verses.” The good people have no suspicion of how much a single line, a single expression, may cost its author. The wits used to say that Rogers — the poet once before referred to, old Samuel Rogers, author of the Pleasures of Memory and giver of famous breakfasts — was accustomed to have straw laid before the house whenever he had just given birth to a couplet. It is not quite so bad as that with most of us who are called upon to furnish a poem, a song, a hymn, an ode for some grand meeting, but it is safe to say that many a trifling performance has had more good honest work put into it than the minister’s sermon of that week had cost him. If a vessel glides off the ways smoothly and easily at her launching, it does not mean that no great pains have been taken to secure the result. Because a poem is an “ occasional ” one, it does not follow that it has not taken as much time and skill as if it had been written without immediate, accidental, temporary motive. Pindar’s great odes were occasional poems, just as much as our Commencement and Phi Beta Kappa poems are, and yet they have come down among the most precious bequests of antiquity to modern times.
The mystery of the young Doctor’s long visits to the neighboring town was satisfactorily explained by what we saw and heard of Ids relations with our charming ‘‘Delilah,”—for Delilah we could hardly help calling her. Our little handmaid, the Cinderella of the teacups, now the princess, or, what was better, the pride of the school to which she had belonged, fit for any position to which she might be called, was to be the wife of our young Doctor. It would not have been the right thing to proclain the fact while she was a pupil, but now that she had finished her course of instruction there was no need of making a secret of the engagement.
So we have got our romance, our lovestory, out of our Teacups, as I hoped and expected that we should, but not exactly in the quarter where it might have been looked for.
What did our two Annexes say to this unexpected turn of events ? They were good-hearted girls as ever lived, but they were human, like the rest of us, and women, like some of the rest of us. They behaved perfectly. They congratulated the Doctor, and hoped he would bring the young lady to the teatable where she had played her part so becomingly. It is safe to say that each of the Annexes would have liked to be asked the lover’s last question by the very nice young man who had been a pleasant companion at the table and elsewhere to each of them. That same question is the highest compliment a man can pay a woman, and a woman does not mind having a dozen or more such compliments to string on the rosary of her remembrances. Whether either of them was glad, on the whole, that he had not offered himself to the other in preference to herself would be a mean, shabby question, and I think altogether too well of you who are reading this paper to suppose that you would entertain the idea of asking it.
It was a very pleasant occasion when the Doctor brought Avis over to sit with us at the table where she used to stand and wait upon us. We wondered how we could for a moment have questioned that she was one to be waited upon, and not made for the humble office which nevertheless she performed so cheerfully and so well.
Commencements and other Celebrations, American and English.
The social habits of our people have undergone an immense change within the past half century, largely in consequence of the vast development of the means of intercourse between different neighborhoods.
Commencements, college gatherings of all kinds, church assemblages, school anniversaries, town centennials, — all possible occasions for getting crowds together are made the most of. “ ’T is sixty years since,” — and a good many years over, — the time to which my memory extends. The great days of the year were, Election, — General Election on Wednesday, and Artillery Election on the Monday following, at which time lilacs were in bloom and ’lection buns were in order; Fourth of July, when strawberries were just going out; and Commencement, a great day of feasting, fiddling, dancing, jollity, not to mention drunkenness and fighting, on the classic green of Cambridge. This was the time of melons and peaches. That is the way our boyhood chronicles events. It was odd that the literary festival should be turned into a Donnybrook fair, but so it was when I was a boy, and the tents and the shows and the crowds on the Common were to the promiscuous many the essential parts of the great occasion. They had been so for generations, and it was only gradually that the Cambridge Saturnalia were replaced by the decencies and solemnities of the present sober anniversary.
Nowadays our celebrations smack of the Sunday-school more than of the dancing-hall. The aroma of the punchbowl has given way to the milder flavor of lemonade and the cooling virtues of ice-cream. A strawberry festival is about as far as the dissipation of our social gatherings ventures. There was much that was objectionable in those swearing, drinking, fighting times, but they had a certain excitement for us boys of the years when the century was in its teens, which comes back to us not without its fascinations. The days of total abstinence are a great improvement over those of unlicensed license, but there was a picturesque element about the rowdyism of our old Commencement days which had a charm for the eye of boyhood. My dear old friend,—bookfriend, I mean, — whom I always called Daddy Gilpin (as I find Fitzgerald called Wordsworth Daddy Wordsworth), — my old friend Gilpin, I say, considered the donkey more picturesque in a landscape than the horse. So a village fête, as depicted by Teniers is more picturesque than a teetotal picnic or a Sabbath-school strawberry festival. Let us be thankful that the vicious picturesque is only a remembrance, and the virtuous commonplace a reality of to-day.
What put all this into my head is something which the English Annex has been showing me. Most of my readers are somewhat acquainted with our own church and village celebrations. They know how they are organized ; the women always being the chief motors, and the machinery very much the same in one case as in another. Perhaps they would like to hear how such things are managed in England : and that is just wliat they may learn from the pamphlet which was shown me by the English Annex, and of which I will give them a brief account.
Some of us remember the Rev. Mr. Haweis, his lectures and his violin, which interested and amused us here in Boston a few years ago. Now Mr. Haweis, assisted by his intelligent and spirited wife, has charge of the parish of St. James, Westmoreland Street, Marylebone, London. On entering upon the twenty-fifth year of his incumbency in Marylebone, and the twenty-eighth of his ministry in the diocese of London, it was thought a good idea to have an “ Evening Conversazione and Fête.” We can imagine just how such a meeting would be organized in one of our towns. Ministers, deacons, perhaps a member of Congress, possibly a senator, and even, conceivably, his excellency the governor, and a long list of ladies lend their names to give lustre to the occasion. It is all very pleasant, unpretending, unceremonious, cheerful, well ordered, commendable, but not imposing.
Now look at our Marylebone parish celebration, and hold your breath while the procession of great names passes before you. You learn at the outset that it is held UNDER ROYAL PATRONAGE, and read the names of two royal highnesses, one highness, a prince, and a princess. Then comes a list before which if you do not turn pale, you must certainly be in the habit of rouging: three earls, seven lords, three bishops, two generals (one of them Lord Wolseley), one admiral, four baronets, nine knights, a crowd of right honorable and honorable ladies (many of them peeresses), and a mob of other personages, among whom I find Mr. Howells, Bret Harte, and myself.
Perhaps we are disposed to smile at seeing so much made of titles; but after what we have seen of Lord Timothy Dexter and the high-sounding names appropriated by many of our own compatriots, who have no more claim to them than we plain Misters and Misseses, we may feel to them something as our late friend Mr. Appleton felt to the real green turtle soup set before him, when he said that it was almost as good as mock.
The entertainment on this occasion was of the most varied character. The programme makes the following announcement : —
Friday, 4 July, 18—.
At S P. M. the Doors will Open.
Mr. Haweis will receive his Friends.
The Royal Handbell Ringers will Ring.
The Fish-pond will be Fished.
The Stalls will be Visited.
The Phonograph will Utter.
Refreshments will be called for, and they will come, — Tea, Coffee, and Cooling Drinks. Spirits will not be called for, — from the Vasty Deep or anywhere else, — nor would they come if they were.
At 9.30 Mrs. Haweis will join the assembly.
I am particularly delighted with this last feature in the preliminary announcement. It is a proof of the high regard in which the estimable and gifted lady who shares her husband’s labors is held by the people of their congregation, and the friends who share in their feelings. It is such a master stroke of policy, too, to keep back the principal attraction until the guests must have grown eager for her appearance. I can well imagine how great a saving it must have been to the good lady’s nerves, which were probably pretty well tried as it was by the fatigues and responsibilities of the busy evening. I have a right to say this, for I myself had the honor of attending a meeting at Mr. Haweis’s house, where I was a principal guest, as I suppose, from the fact of the great number of persons who were presented to me. The minister must be very popular, for the meeting was a regular jam, — not quite so tremendous as that greater one, where but for the aid of Mr. Smalley, who kept open a breathing-space round us, my companion and myself thought we should have been asphyxiated.
The company was interested, as some of my readers may be, to know what were the attractions offered to the visitors besides that of meeting the courteous entertainers and their distinguished guests. I cannot give these at length, for each part of the show is introduced in the programme with apt quotations and pleasantries, which enlivened the catalogue. There were eleven stalls, “ conducted on the coöperative principle of division of profits and interest; they retain the profits, and you take a good deal of interest, we hope, in their success.”
Stall No. 1. Edisoniana, or the Phonograph. Alluded to by the Roman Poet as Vox. et prœterea nihil.
Stall No. 2. Money-changing.
Stall No. 8. Programmes and General Enq uiries.
Stall No. 4. Roses.
A rose by any other name, etc. Get one. You can’t expect to smell one without buying it, but you may buy one without smelling’ it.
Stall No. 5. Lasenby Liberty Stall.
(I cannot explain this. Probably articles from Liberty’s famous establishment.)
Stall No. 6. Historical Costumes and Ceramics.
Stall No. 7. The Fish-pond.
Stall No. 8. Varieties.
Stall No. 9. Bookstall.
(Books) “highly recommended for insomnia ; friends we never speak to, and always cut if we want to know them well.”
St all No. 10. Icelandic.
“ Mrs. Magnusson, who is devoted to the North Pole and all its works, will thaw your sympathies, enlighten your minds,” etc., etc.
Stall No. 11. Call office.
All you buy may be left at the stalls, ticketed. A duplicate ticket will be handed to you on leaving. Present your duplicate at the Call Office.
At 9.45, First Concert.
At 10.45, An Address of Welcome by Rev. H. R. Haweis.
At 11 P. M. at., Bird-warbling Interlude by Miss Mabel Stephenson. U. S. A.
At 11.20, Second Concert.
Three Great Pictures.
G. F. Watts, R. A.
JOHN STUART MILL
G. F. Watts, R. A.
A Famous Violin.
A world-famed Stradivarius Violin, for which Mr. Hill, of Bond Street, gave £1000, etc., etc.
Tickets for Tea, Coffee, Sandwiches, Iced Drinks, or Ices, Sixpence each, etc., etc.
I hope my American reader is pleased and interested by this glimpse of the way in which they do these things in London.
There is something very pleasant about all this, but what specially strikes me is a curious flavor of city provincialism. There are little centres in the heart of great cities, just as there are small freshwater ponds in great islands with the salt sea roaring all round them, and bays and creeks penetrating them as briny as the ocean itself. Irving has given a charming picture of such a quasiprovincial centre in one of his papers in the Sketch-Book, — the one with the title “ Little Britain.” London is a nation of itself, and contains provinces, districts, foreign communities, villages, parishes, — innumerable lesser centres, with their own distinguishing characteristics, habits, pursuits, languages, social laws, as much isolated from each other as if “mountains interposed” made the separation between them. Such a community, I should think, is that over which my friend Mr. Haweis presides as spiritual director. Chelsea has been made famous as the home of many authors and artists, — above all, as the residence of Carlyle during the greater part of his life. Its population, like that of most respectable suburbs, must belong mainly to the kind of citizens which resembles in many ways the better class — as we sometimes dare to call them — of one of our thriving New England towns. How many John Gilpins there must be among them, — citizens of “famous London town,” but living with the simplicity of the inhabitants of our inland villages! In the mighty metropolis where the wealth of the world displays itself they practice their snug economies, enjoy their simple pleasures, and look upon ice-cream as a luxury, just as if they were living on the banks of the Connecticut or the Housatonic, in regions where the summer locusts of the great cities have not yet settled on the verdure of the unsophisticated inhabitants. It is delightful to realize the fact that while the West End of London is flaunting its splendors and the East End is struggling with its miseries, these great middle-class communities are living as comfortable, unpretending lives as if they were in one of our thriving townships in the huckleberry districts. Human beings are wonderfully alike when they are placed in similar conditions.
We were sitting together in a very quiet way over our teacups. The young Doctor, who was in the best of spirits, had been laughing and chatting with the two Annexes. The Tutor, who always sits next to Number Five of late, had been conversing with her in rather low tones. The rest of us had been soberly sipping our tea, and when the Doctor and the Annexes stopped talking there was one of those dead silences which are sometimes so hard to break in upon, and so awkward while they last. All at once Number Seven exploded in a loud laugh, which startled everybody at the table.
What is it that sets you laughing so ? said I.
“ I was thinking,” Number Seven replied, “ of what you said the other day about poetry being only the ashes of emotion. I believe that some people are disposed to dispute the proposition. I have been putting your doctrine to the test. In doing it I made some rhymes,— the first and only ones I ever made. I will suppose a case of very exciting emotion, and see whether it would probably take the form of poetry or prose. You are suddenly informed that your house is on fire, and have to scramble out of it, without stopping to tie your neckcloth neatly or to put a flower in your buttonhole. Do you think a poet turning out in his night-dress, and looking on while the flames were swallowing his home and all its contents, would express himself in this style ?
My house is on fire !
Bring me my lyre !
Like the flames that rise heavenward my song shall aspire!
He would n’t do any such thing, and you know he would n’t. He would yell Fire ! Fire! with all his might. Not much rhyming for him just yet! Wait until the fire is put out, and he has had time to look at the charred timbers and the ashes of his home, and in the course of a week he may possibly spin a few rhymes about it. Or suppose he was making an offer of his hand and heart, do you flunk he would declaim a versified proposal to his Amanda, or perhaps write an impromptu on the back of his hat while he knelt before her ?
My beloved, to you
I will always be true.
Oh, pray make me happy, my love, do! do! do !
What would Amanda think of a suitor who courted her with a rhyming dictionary in his pocket to help him make love ? ”
You are right, said I, — there’s nothing in the world like rhymes to cool off a man’s passion. You look at a blacksmith working on a bit of iron or steel. Bright enough it looked while it was on the hearth, in the midst of the sea-coal, the great bellows blowing away, and the rod or the horse-shoe as red or as white as the burning coals. How it fizzes as it goes into the trough of water, and how suddenly all the glow is gone ! It looks black and cold enough now. Just so with your passionate incandescence. It is all well while it burns and scintillates in your emotional centres, without articulate and connected expression ; but the minute you plunge it into the rhyme-trough it cools down, and becomes as dead and dull as the cold horse-shoe. It is true that if you lay it cold on the anvil and hammer away on it for a while it warms up somewhat. Just so with the rhyming fellow, — he pounds away on his verses, and they warm up a little. But don’t let him think that this afterglow of composition is the same thing as the original passion. That found expression in a few oh, oh’s, ả�� ả��’s, eheu, eheu’s, hélas, hélas’s, and when the passion had burned itself out you got the rhymed verses, which, as I have said, are its ashes.
I thanked Number Seven for his poetical illustration of my thesis. There is great good to be got out of a squinting brain, if one only knows how to profit by it. We see only one side of the moon, you know, but a fellow with a squinting brain seems now and then to get a peep at the other side. I speak metaphorically. He takes new and startling views of things we have always looked at in one particular aspect. There is a rule invariably to be observed with one of this class of intelligences: Never contradict a man with a squinting brain. I say a man, because I do not think that squinting brains are nearly so common in women as they are in men. The “eccentrics” are, I think, for the most part of the male sex.
That leads me to say that persons with a strong instinctive tendency to contradiction are apt to become unprofitable companions. Our thoughts are plants that never flourish in inhospitable soils or chilling atmospheres. They are all started under glass, so to speak ; that is, sheltered and fostered in our own warm and sunny consciousness. They must expect some rough treatment when we lift the sash from the frame and let the outside elements in upon them. They can bear the rain and the breezes, and be all the better for them; but perpetual contradiction is a pelting hailstorm, which spoils their growth and tends to kill them out altogether.
Now stop and consider a moment. Are not almost all brains a little wanting in bilateral symmetry ? Do you not find in persons whom you love, whom you esteem, and even admire, some marks of obliquity in mental vision ? Are there not some subjects in looking at which it seems to you impossible that they should ever see straight ? Are there not moods in which it seems to you that they are disposed to see all things out of plumb and in false relations with each other? If you answer these questions in the affirmative, then you will be glad of a hint as to the method of dealing with your friends who have a touch of cerebral strabismus, or are liable to occasional paroxysms of perversity. Let them have their head. Get them talking on subjects that interest them. As a rule, nothing is more likely to serve this purpose than letting them talk about themselves : if authors, about their writings ; if artists, about their pictures or statues ; and generally on whatever they have most pride in and think most of their own relations with.
Perhaps you will not at first sight agree with me in thinking that slight mental obliquity is as common as I suppose. An analogy may have some influence on your belief in this matter. Will you take the trouble to ask your tailor how many persons have their two shoulders of the same height ? I think he will tell you that the majority of his customers show a distinct difference of height on the two sides. Will you ask a portrait-painter how many of those who sit to him have both sides of their faces exactly alike ? I believe he will tell you that one side is always a little better than the other. What will your hatter say about the two sides of the head? Do you see equally well with both eyes, and hear equally well with both ears? Few persons past middle age will pretend that they do. Why should the two halves of a brain not show a natural difference, leading to confusion of thought, and very possibly to that instinct of contradiction of which I was speaking? A great deal of time is lost in profitless conversation, and a good deal of ill temper frequently caused, by not considering these organic and practically insuperable conditions. In dealing with them, acquiescence is the best of palliations and silence the sovereign specific.
I have been the reporter, as you have seen, of my own conversation and that of the other Teacups. I have told some of the circumstances of their personal history, and interested, as I hope, here and there a reader in the fate of different members of our company. Here are our pretty Delilah and our Doctor provided for. We may take it for granted that it will not be very long that the young couple will have to wait; for, as I have told you all, the Doctor is certainly getting into business, and bids fair to have a thriving practice before he saddles his nose with an eyeglass and begins to think of a pair of spectacles. So that part of our little domestic drama is over, and we can only wish the pair that is to be all manner of blessings consistent with a reasonable amount of health in the community on whose ailings must depend their prosperity.
All our thoughts are now concentrated on the relation existing between Number Five and the Tutor. That there is some profound instinctive impulse which is drawing them closer together no one who watches them can for a moment doubt. There are two principles of attraction which bring different natures together: that in which the two natures closely resemble each other, and that in which one is complementary of the other. In the first case, they coalesce as do two drops of water or of mercury, and become intimately blended as soon as they touch ; in the other, they rush together as an acid and alkali unite, — predestined from eternity to find all they most needed in each other. What is the condition of things in the growing intimacy of Number Five and the Tutor ? He is many years her junior, as we know. Both of them look that fact squarely in the face. The presumption is against the union of two persons under these circumstances. Presumptions are strong obstacles against any result we wish to attain, but half our work in life is to overcome them. A great many presumptions look in the distance like six-foot walls, and when we get nearer prove to be only five-foot hurdles, to be leaped over or knocked down. Twenty years from now she may be a vigorous and active old woman, and he a middleaged, half-worn-out invalid, like so many overworked scholars. Everything depends on the number of drops of the elixir vitæ which Nature mingled in the nourishment she administered to the embryo before it tasted its mother’s milk. Think of Cleopatra, the bewitching old mischief-maker; think of Ninon de L ’Enclos, whose own son fell desperately in love with her, not knowing the relation in which she stood to him ; think of Dr. Johnson’s friend, Mrs. Thrale, afterwards Mrs. Piozzi, who at the age of eighty was full enough of life to be making love ardently and persistently to Conway, the handsome young actor. I can readily believe that Number Five will outlive the Tutor, even if he is fortunate enough to succeed in storming that Ehrenbreitstein, — say rather in winning his way into the fortress through gates that open to him of their own accord. If he fails in his siege, I do really believe he will die early ; not of a broken heart, exactly, but of a heart starved, with the food it was craving close to it, but unattainable. I have, therefore, a deep interest in knowing how Number Five and the Tutor are getting along together. Is there any danger of one or the other growing tired of the intimacy, and becoming willing to get rid of it. like a garment which has shrunk and grown too tight? Is it likely that some other attraction may come in to disturb the existing relation ? The problem is to my mind not only interesting, but exceptionally curious. You remember the story of Cymon and Iphigenia as Dry den tells it. The poor youth has the capacity of loving, but it lies hidden in his undeveloped nature. All at once he comes upon the sleeping beauty, and is awakened by her charms to a hitherto unfelt consciousness. With the advent of the new passion all his dormant faculties start into life, and the seeming simpleton becomes the bright and intelligent lover. The case of Number Five is as different from that of Cymon as it could well be. All her faculties are wide awake, but one emotional side of her nature has never been called into active exercise. Why has she never been in love with any one of her suitors ? Because she liked too many of them. Do you happen to remember a poem printed among these papers, entitled “ I Like You and I Love You” ? No one of the poems which have been placed in the urn — that is, the silver sugar - bowl — has had any name attached to it; but you could guess pretty nearly who was the author of some of them, certainly of the one just referred to. Number Five was attracted to the Tutor from the first time he spoke to her. She dreamed about him that night, and nothing idealizes and renders fascinating one in whom we have already an interest like dreaming of him or of her. Many a calm suitor has been made passionate by a dream ; many a passionate lover has been made wild and half beside himself by a dream; and now and then an infatuated but hapless lover, waking from a dream of bliss to a cold reality of wretchedness, has helped himself to eternity before he was summoned to the table.
Since Number Five had dreamed about the Tutor, he had been more in her waking thoughts than she was willing to acknowledge. These thoughts were vague, it is true, — emotions, perhaps. rather than worded trains of ideas ; but she was conscious of a pleasing excitement as his name or his image floated across her consciousness ; she sometimes sighed as she looked over the last passage they had read from the same book, and sometimes when they were together they were silent too long, — too long! What were they thinking of?
And so it was all as plain sailing for Number Five and the young Tutor as it. had been for Delilah and the young Doctor, was it ? Do you think so ? Then you do not understand Number Five. Many a woman has as many atmospheric rings about her as the planet Saturn. Three are easily to be recognized. First, there is the wide ring of attraction which draws into itself all that once cross its outer border. These revolve about her without ever coming any nearer. Next is the inner ring of attraction. Those who come within its irresistible influence are drawn so close that it seems as if they must become one with her sooner or later. But within this ring is another, — an atmospheric girdle, one of repulsion, which love, no matter how enterprising, no matter how prevailing or how insinuating, has never passed, and, if we judge of what is to be by what has been, never will. Perhaps Nature loved Number Five so well that she grudged her to any mortal man, and gave her this inner girdle of repulsion to guard her from all who would know her too nearly and love her too well. Sometimes two vessels at sea keep each other company for a long distance, it may be during a whole voyage. Very pleasant it is to each to have a companion to exchange signals with from time to time ; to come near enough, when the winds are light, to hold converse in ordinary tones from deck to deck ; to know that, in case of need, there is help at hand. It is good for them to be near each other, but not good to be too near. Woe is to them if they touch ! The wreck of one or both is likely to be the consequence. And so two well - equipped and heavily freighted natures may be the best of companions to each other, and yet must never attempt to come into closer union. Is this the condition of affairs between Number Five and the Tutor? I hope not, for I want them to be joined together in that dearest of intimacies, which, if founded in true affinity, is the nearest approach to happiness to be looked for in our mortal experience. We must wait. The Teacups will meet once more before the circle is broken, and we may, perhaps, find the solution of the question we have raised.
In the mean time, our young Doctor is playing truant oftener than ever. He has brought Avis — if we must call her so, and not Delilah — several times to take tea with us. It means something, in these days, to graduate from one of our first-class academies or collegiate schools. I shall never forget my first visit to one of these institutions. How much its pupils know, I said, which I was never taught, and have never learned! I was fairly frightened to see what a teaching apparatus was provided for them. I should think the first thing to be done with most of the husbands they are likely to get would be to put them through a course of instruction. The young wives must find their lords wofully ignorant, in a large proportion of cases. When the wife has educated the husband to such a point that she can invite him to work out a problem in the higher mathematics or to perform a difficult chemical analysis with her as his collaborator, as less instructed dames ask their husbands to play a game of checkers or backgammon, they can have delightful and instructive evenings together. I hope our young Doctor will take kindly to his wife’s (that is to be) teachings.
When the following verses were taken out of the urn, the Mistress asked me to hand the manuscript to the young Doctor to read. I noticed that he did not keep his eyes very closely fixed on the paper. It seemed as if he could have recited the lines without referring to the manuscript at all.
AT THE TURN OF THE ROAD.
The purple-hued asters still linger in bloom ;
The birch is bright yellow, the sumachs are red,
The maples like torches aflame overhead.
And winter’s wild herald is blowing his blast ?
For me dull November is sweeter than May,
For my Love is its sunshine, — she meets me to-day!
Will the needle swing back from the east or the west ?
At the stroke of the hour she will be at her gate ;
A friend may prove laggard, — love never comes late.
Too early! Too early! She could not for-
When I cross the old bridge where the brook overflowed,
She will flash full in sight at the turn of the road.
I tread the brown pathway that leads through the pines;
I haste by the boulder that lies in the field.
Where her promise at parting was lovingly sealed.
Will she wear her brown dress or her mantle and hood ?
The minute draws near, — but her watch may go wrong ;
My heart will be asking, What keeps her so long’ ?
Why question ? Why tremble ? Are angels more true ?
She would come to the lover who calls her his
Though she trod in the track of a whirling cyclone !
I looked : lo! my Love stood before me at last.
Her eyes, how they sparkled, her cheeks, how they glowed,
As we met, face to face, at the turn of the road!
Oliver Wendell Holmes.