Now Who Shall Arbitrate?

I OWE it to myself to state that this is my first plunge into the Atlantic. I am generally content to sit on the shore and watch other people splashing about, but I know that I can trust the editor to haul me out if I prove that I cannot swim.

In bringing a difference of opinion between my wife and myself to the Club for arbitration I feel that I am submitting the question to an impartial jury. I do not apologize for the personal flavor of my grievances, for the problem is one of universal interest, and touches the antiquated controversy concerning the relative values of woman’s intuition and man’s logic.

I will call ray wife Cynthia, in order that she may not recognize herself should her eye chance to fall on words so unworthy of her notice. Cynthia and I each have but a single complaint against the other, — a pretty good record as married people go, or don’t go, nowadays. She says I have no penetration, and I in turn quote her favorite George Meredith at her, and exclaim, “ Destroyed by subtleties these women are! ”

She claims to be the unique possessor of a pair of invisible antennæ, with which she can feel impressions and touch the intangible.

Now when I meet a person for the first time I size him up by his conversation — which reveals his ideas and standards — and by his general bearing — which tells me whether he is a gentleman or a mucker. Not so Cynthia. These obvious methods are not for her.

In my business I am thrown with all sorts of men, mostly good, honest fellows, — gentlemen I call them, — and I often bring one of them home to lunch; and then when I see Cynthia at dinner I ask her what she thinks of my friend.

“ Did n’t you like Robinson ?” I ask encouragingly. “ He’s a bully chap, honest as daylight.”

She merely raises her eyebrows.

“ My dear Jack, I do not question Mr. Robinson’s integrity, — but have you never noticed how his teeth are set in his gums ? No gentleman ever has teeth like that, — they are sometimes worse, but never just like that.”

I feel myself to be a coarse clod not to have noticed Robinson’s teeth, but taking heart I next bring home my friend Brown, — a man of perfect refinement according to my gross standards, and with a set of teeth which Cynthia duly disposes of as “ too good to be true.”

“ Well, how about Brown ? ” I tentatively inquire. “ Don’t you think he is a gentlemanly fellow ? ”

“ Why yes, he is a little like a gentleman,” she replies; “but his hair, Jack! it grows just the way the hair of clerks in shoe-stores grows, — right up out of his head. It’s common.”

“ Aye, madam, it is common,” I cry with Hamlet, and without him I add, “ It is very common indeed for hair to grow right up out of one’s head ; ” and I feel myself to have been very clever, in spite of Cynthia’s pitying smile.

Jones is then brought to the bar of judgment and is banished to the limbo apparently reserved for my particular friends, because, forsooth, he answers Cynthia’s offer of salad with the words, “ Thank you, not any.”

Gray committed social suicide by saying, “ Pardon me,” instead of, “ I beg your pardon,” — apparently an unpardonable offense in itself ; and White, my trump card, proved himself, if not a knave, at least a fool, by referring casually to a man of our acquaintance as “ a gentleman whom we all know.”

In my masculine stupidity, I asked Cynthia one day to call on my partner’s wife, — a very pretty and cultivated woman; at least so I thought till Cynthia laid invisible tentacles on her.

“Why, my poor Jack,” she said after her call, “ did you never see that Mrs. Black is simply veneered ? She ’s not solid mahogany at all. Her ‘ cultyour’ as she calls it, keeps peeling off and showing the raw material underneath. Why, when her husband introduced me to her she shook hands and simply said, ‘Mrs. Green,’ and added that she was glad to see me in her home.” As I did not show due horror at this faux pas, Cynthia continued, “She has evidently been told that perfect ladies make three distinct words of ‘notatall’ instead of running them all together as most of us do, and that it is dictionary elegance to speak of one’s ‘nevew.' Perhaps you would have been imposed upon by those trademarks of acquired cultivation, but I should have liked her much better if she had remained the nice, simple little country girl nature intended her to be.”

“Well, but her husband, now,” I began. “ There’s no pretense about him.”

“ Not a bit! ” my wife rejoined with misleading heartiness. “ He wears just the kind of ring that railroad conductors always wear, and he says ‘ culch-er’ quite frankly, and swallows in the middle of the word ; besides, no one that tries to cover up his mouth with his hand when he laughs could possibly be called pretentious.”

At last in desperation I brought home a man whose business path sometimes crosses mine. He has not the strictest sense of honor, nor the highest regard for truth, nor the most refined brand of humor when he is with his own sex. In fact, he is a man whom other men call a cad, yet he is not without personal attractions, chief among which is an enviable sense of ease in whatever circle he finds himself, — particularly if that circle be largely feminine. This specimen I cautiously submitted to Cynthia’s all-seeing eye.

“ There! ” she exclaimed almost before the door had slammed after him, “ that is a gentleman! Oh Jack, don’t you feel the difference ? Don’t you see that a man like that can say things that in some people would be — well, almost questionable — and yet in him they’re all right just because he has that indefinable something — ”

But I could stand it no longer. “ He has that definable something which makes every man who knows him distrust him,” I began; but I heard her murmuring, “ Unconscious jealousy,” and I knew that my words would be wasted.

“ The truth is, my dear Cynthia,” I said in a fatherly tone, but without caring to meet her eye, “you are like all of your sex, absolutely illogical. A man knows a gentleman when he sees him even if his teeth do grow out of his gums and his hair out of his head. Men are better judges of human nature than women.”

“ Do you mean to say that you seriously place a man’s clumsy reasoning above a woman’s delicate intuitions ? ” Cynthia asked incredulously.

“ I do,” I responded heartily. We seemed to be on the edge of a bona fide quarrel.

“ ‘ Now who shall arbitrate ? ’ ” quoth Cynthia. “ ‘Ten men love what I hate.’ ” When she wishes to annoy me particularly she quotes Browning at me.

“ I have decided to submit the question to a Club I know of,” I answered grandly. “ It is composed of ladies of cultyour and gentlemen of culch-er.” Then, with a sudden stroke of genius, I added, “ You have probably never heard of the Club; your invisible antennæ don’t reach so far. It’s on the other side of the Atlantic.”