A Genius for Friendship

— The wholesome spirit of optiinism pervading the Club forbids one’s embracing any radically discouraged view of human life and its relations. Yet I trust that for once only an old member may be permitted to disburden a mind made heavy by the recent recital of two instances illustrating the occasional onesidedness of a certain covenant which Cicero and others have treated with great discrimination. The first of these two instances presents the case of an unsuccessful man of business virtually ending his days by the immedicable disease, chagrin. Hearing that the partner whose selfish dexterity has brought about this conclusion is pushing a magnificent architectural scheme, the dying man, with a querulous monotony, repeats these words : “ No, no, it can’t be ! One man builds a house, and another man dies without a roof to call his own ! ” The other instance is yet more poignantly relevant. An all-absorbing egotist, gifted with that facile and fatal possession, the “ artistic temperament,” has been the efficient cause of ruin to a liberal friend, a painter of no mean ability. The octopus — for to this prehensile order of predatory creature belongs the egotist in question — still recalls his old comrade in the following gracious manner : “ Poor fellow ! nobody ever pretended that he could paint, but he did have a genius for friendship ! ”

Now I do not count myself a cynic, but I leave it with the Club : Do not such blots upon the ’scutcheon of amity suggest, in these two cases at least, that the whole matter is regulated by the law of “supply and demand ” ? In other words, does it not somewhat too frequently happen that those who give all are thrown in the way of those whose nature it is to receive all and to give nothing ? Every generous and unsuspicious creature invites its fate. Hence it is that sheepfolds are decimated and the free horse goes to his death “ The genius for friendship ” likewise tempts a hard master, who will not fail to provide exhaustive employment. There is current a rough truism which is not inapplicable to this subject : “ Those who are willing to take the black end of the poker will always get if.”