My Superstitions

I WAS interested in a recent contribution to the Club on pet economies. Mine is not collar buttons. They may roll under the bureau and stay there for all of me. But elastic bands — there you have me. I would not deliberately throw away an elastic band for any temporal consideration. When one comes my way in the course of life, and my title seems fairly clear to it (one must be conscientious in these matters), I carefully hoard it in my purse or twist it about my finger until I can get home and store it where it belongs, in a green box on my desk. From thence it never issues until some very important package seems fully to justify the use of the priceless treasure.

It is not, however, concerning economies that I would interview the Club to-day, but concerning another whimsical departure of the human spirit, namely, pet superstitions. How many contributors plead guilty here ?

Of course I know there is no sane person who would turn his left shoulder to the new moon or allow the figure thirteen any place in important enterprises. These precautions are so universal that they lie in the highroad of convention. We shake our heads at the poor daredevil who recklessly runs athwart them, as we shake our heads at a playing with fire, at a leap from a precipice. But the real charm of superstition lies, not in the highroad traveled by all, but in the lanes which, each for himself, we mark out for individual adventure, experiment with Fate. Of these there are perhaps as many as there are questing souls.

My binding superstition is one which I think I must have invented for myself. Not deliberately, of course, for then it would lose effect. But I have never yet met anybody who has the same belief, so that it is beginning to seem to me my special revelation. I believe, with entire confidence, that my calendar must come true. Such a calendar I have in mind as every one is pretty sure to receive for a Christmas present, with a quotation for each day, or, better, for a month at a time. It is these quotations on which I rest; they are oracles to me. Better a month at a time, I said, because I prefer a leisurely progress, with time for complete developments, to any amount of variety furnished by swiftly changing days.

But such as my calendar is, I accept it, questioning not its nature, and soberly there by the Christmas tree I sit down to inquire the outline of a twelvemonth’s destiny. It is not only lawful to anticipate thus the workings of the future, it is an incumbent duty. For what other purpose comes the Sibylline leaf, sent forth so inscrutably by Dutton, if not to warn and advise ?

My calendar this year is one quite after my heart. A merry Shakespearean affair, with a quotation for each month and a jolly picture illustrating brightly, if none too reverently, the familiar text. With its crude colors and naïve figures, it fills a cheerful, incongruous place on the wall beside the Beata Beatrix. But cheer is not the chief attribute of this calendar. It is an august creature, a seer and a prophet. For seven months it has foretold and then followed the destiny of its owner with such entire accuracy that I stand in awe of it.

The Club is nothing if not confidential. I know that, and I would reveal if I could the inner workings of the year. But the Club is also possessed of a subtle delicacy of apprehension, — particularly in cases like mine, — and when I inform it that the Muse and I had come to straits, and then proceed to quote to it some of the phrases of the first half of the year, I know it will forbear probing. Most excellent fellowship!

“Farewell, dear heart, since I must needs be gone.” That was February, and the Muse departed in the guise of a merry old gentleman riding furiously on a brown nag with streaming tail. His hat flew off, but he did not care. Would he not even come back to pick it up ? I wondered sadly. The promptly succeeding answers were, “ Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;" “The course of true love never did run smooth;” “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” What a doleful outlook! I forged ahead desperately enough through the mocking months; was there no hope anywhere ? Then, with a long breath, I alighted on June. “In maiden meditation, fancy free.” So, I was going to assert myself, was I, at last; give care to the winds, and march off, a pail of milk in either hand (symbol of life’s abiding comfort), while five geese waddled in between me and — my editors ? One of the geese was cackling at me, but four were cackling at the editors. That picture did more to restore my self-respect than any amount of philosophy. I used to run and look at it in crises of discouragement. I had such a happy, indifferent air under my gray sunbonnet, and the editors, left on the fence, were so rueful. It was a beautiful conception. I cannot, in all honesty, say that this pleasing prophecy was fulfilled, so far as the editors were concerned, but my part came perfectly true. It was too good just to be alive in the glad, sweet June days to bother about anything in the world. I dropped my pen, laughed at myself, and marched out into the open country. What a happy month!

“Oh, mistress mine, where are you roaming?” There, you see. That was July’s demand. And, duly, an editor followed me up to ask for an article. (Ask for it, fellow Contributors!) I wrote it, of course, but I did not care much. No, truly. I was spending the month on Lake George, and I had just learned to swim.

It is August now, great August, to which I have been looking forward from the year’s beginning. For it promises mighty things.

There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

What could be better than that ? I have been listening for the murmur of this tide ever since I woke up, expectant, on the morning after July thirty-first. I am bound to admit that it still delays, but Fate works slowly; my faith is strong. It shall not find me unready, at least. I stand, as it were, mentally clad in a bathing-suit, on tiptoe for the plunge. I learned to swim last month, you see. How all things work together! Surely it cannot fail me, my tide; it has been promised me; it is my right; I have put my trust in it. If the last days of August draw near unfulfilling, I shall do something about it, I know. I will have my tide. I will play moon.

September daunts me, I must confess. “I am he, that unfortunate he.” Now what does it mean by that ? What business has that word “unfortunate” on the heels, on the ebb-tide, rather, of my splendid August ? Alas! good readers, I should prefer to leave the leaf unturned. But it does no good to juggle with Fate. I shall turn the leaf, grimly determined. Perhaps I shall send the poorest manuscript I have to the Atlantic, and get it back again, and then the thing will be over. Perhaps — the thought gives me sudden pause — perhaps this very intercourse which I am so trustfully holding with the members of the Club is going to be denied me. This paper may be returned. That is a chilling notion. But swiftly another thought succeeds. One or the other of the prophecies of my calendar must be fulfilled in the destiny of this paper. Either the Atlantic will send a tide up to receive it, or else it will be left high and dry in the hands of its author, “unfortunate.” In the latter case, good reader, of course you will never know the difference.

As I am, presumably, not the only person in the world who received this calendar last Christmas, I like to please myself with the thought of a subtle fellowship linking unknown lives to mine. Perhaps some reader may even now feel the thrill of the common progress of our Fate. Have you this calendar? Has it told truth ? Some woman, I know, has a whole love-story following out these accepted lines. I think of her often, with interest. He played with her in the winter and spring, the scoundrel! But in June she sent him about his business, treated him to a fine disdain. Good! He came after her quickly enough. Now this month they are happy — bless their young hearts ! — it is their high tide. I wonder on which day they promised each other. I wish so much I could see them. She is going to coquette a little next month, I am sorry to observe, thinking to punish him, no doubt, for the bad spring he gave her. But all will come right in October, for then —

Journeys end in lovers’ meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.

November sees them married, I think; and in December they close the year happily by their fire.

Sit by my side,
And let the world slip; we shall ne’er be younger.

The calendar does exceedingly well by them. I send them each day my good wishes.

But as for us, reader, shall we meet as the lovers meet ? I know not. Good will to you, at any rate, and a prosperous calendar this next year.