READERS of Miss Sinclair’s excellent novel, The Divine Fire, will remember with pleasure the conversation between Mr. Rickman and Mr. Maddoxanent the determination of the former to wear his best trousers every day. Mr. Maddox reminded Mr. Rickman that he must be prepared for a good deal of wear and tear. Mr. Rickman replied, in effect, that rain or shine he would wear those garments and none other, —
“Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,’ — and Mr. Maddox breathed the pious wish that his friend’s “spring suitings” might last forever.
As readers know, they lasted. The wear and tear made them strong as pontiac mittens. But few, very few of us disport our best garments every day. Few do so in a literal sense; and yet there is some philosophy even in this. Who that has put. on Sunday clothes on a weekday, when nothing demanded, nothing even excused it, but knows the uplifting deviltry and scandal of doing so ? Sunday manners oft go with Sunday clothes. An air, a courtesy, an increase of self-respect, a feeling of leisure, cling like camphor to the sacred habiliments. Most women are perpetually “wearing out” some antiquated or unbecoming gown. “It’s perfectly good, and I must wear it out this fall.” Perfectly good it is, but the wearer is longing to hand it over to the ragman for a dipper. And yet the day was when it was a Sunday dress. Best clothes every day ! how many wrinkles would not this simplification of the wardrobe save! I know a lady of small income, who cannot live without two short skirts, two street suits, two house and two evening dresses. Each gown must have its understudy, or faded sister who must be married off first. “What! wearing your new dress here at home ? Have n’t you some old thing,” etc. But she who can endure to sit at home with her father and mother, grandmother and Aunt Jane, in her best raiment, has taken the first step toward wearing, like Mr. Rickman, her fine ideals every day.
The economies of our ancestors pursue us. Alas, we are economical of our ideals. We shut them up in our unsunned parlors. In a kind of fanatical way, we cherish them; but this is the kindness that kills. We cannot bear to parade them every day. “ I thought to myself, thus and so; but it seemed best not to express my opinion before,” etc., — thus we hide away our convictions. “What can you do ? They turn every tiring you say to ridicule.” “It would only have provoked them to answer them back. I let it go.” “I wish somebody would prevent the Snookses from driving that horse of theirs with the proud foot.” This person’s Sunday clothes are under lock and key; for they are very perishable. “ Why does n’t somebody speak to that girl’s mother about her goings on ? ” “ Yes, I know he sells liquor in defiance of the law; I think it’s awful; but I don’t want to get my neighbors down on me.”
The undesirable acquaintance never sees his host in his Sunday togs. “I am sorry for poor Smythe; but I simply could n’t have him coming here every few days.” “No, I could n’t ask her to lunch, with the Jenkinses coming.” Sir Willoughby Patterne, when he sent word to his waiting cousin of the Marines, that he was not at home, — how frayed and greasy were the trousers he wore then!
But let no one too harshly condemn those misers of the soul who thus display their tatters to the harsh weather. Poor and forlorn they are; and a chill blows through them to the bones, — a chill beyond that of the east wind blowing up a snowstorm in the early spring. Readers! I know that chill! I too have kept my Sunday clothes in camphor,—I too have worn these sleazy, frayed, and dowdy garments when better were to be had. At this moment they cling to me, shirts of Nessus — alas, they fit! I cannot tear them off all at once, for the threads of habit have sewed me up in them!