The other day a very kind woman, seeing that I was a soldier, gave me a bag whose name was Tacoma Kit. Kit is a slender thing, green in complexion, and contains no end of objects. She contains a pad and a fine soft pencil, a half-dozen postcards, some envelopes, a comb, a tooth-brush, a small cake of soap. She also contains a housewife, whose name is doubtless Tacoma Dorcas; and Dorcas again contains her quota. Kit contains her thousands but Dorcas contains her tens of thousands. There are safety pins, from the big blanket size down to the little shirtsleeve size, and there are needles, all arranged like organ-pipes according to height; there are threads — white and black and olive-drab; there are buttons — the kind you sew on and the kind you are told to screw on.

No doubt there are other things. For it is a bag’s nature to conceal forever another portion of its riches. Kit has this trait. I found the tooth-brush on my first exploration, but it took two or three to find the pocket-comb. Snuggled against the pencils I found a pair of shoe-laces and just this minute, when I went over her contents to see what I had left out, I found a tiny oval mirror tucked into the pocket which holds the pad — a mirror which shows its donor’s sense of humor and her genuine humanity, for on its celluloid back is a picture of a woman, probably an actress, in tights.

Who but a genius could have selected anything more congenial with a soldier’s life? As I lie in the trenches next May, — I hope, — or earlier, I shall have no use for the reflective side of a mirror, unless I can use it for a heliograph; but I can always use its back to brighten my portion of the dug-out. The good creature could not give me the picture alone — that would have wounded all her sense of propriety. But she knew that anything that the front side might reflect could not but offset anything that the back might suggest, so that she outdid Munchausen in killing two birds with one stone.

That woman in tights is quite the most useful thing I own. When I look at it I can be homesick for the theatres and lights of San Francisco: for those wonderful cafés where you can make a yellow chartreuse last an evening and not be considered an idler; for Solari’s and Jack’s and Fleix’s and, at times, perhaps, for Coppa’s; for the Liberty, where I saw a real Stenterello; for — but let me not think of San Francisco now. Those brown hills and purple trees in the canyons and the blue green bay, and the blue jays among the apricots — they too are part of San Francisco. And here in the north it rains every day and we have but a mountain whose name alone interests people, Yes, the woman in tights will bring all that back to me as I fight in the mud. But she will also serve as a reminder of the life I am glad to leave behind. I can point to her and say, ‘O naughty world, this is a sweeter place in which to live.’

It is this steady discovery of things in her that makes me enjoy Kit’s company so much. It is a quality that only bags have. In that they are like friends. From without they are cut from a universal pattern, but once begin to live with them, to open them up, to explore their depths, to poke here and there, and you find inexhaustible riches. It is never the foresight that you admire, the foresight which put the things together. As in friends, you do not seek a prudent combination of qualities: that each be valuable in itself, even though they are hopeless in relation to one another, is sufficient.

I have a friend who is both a lover of Rabelais and an industrial chemist; the one does not neutralize the other. Similarly the postcards and the toothbrush which Kit offers me are related only in so far as they are both necessities of life, yet I do not hold them in less esteem on that account. It is indeed the apparent chaos which makes a bag, of all receptacles, the most philosophical. It makes it a world in itself; a cosmos whose plan is too deep for the passing glance to comprehend; an order like that of consciousness itself.

I have a leather toilet-case which is the very antithesis of Kit. Everything in it was selected for one purpose — use in the masculine toilet. It has brushes and combs and razors and the like, but does it have a copy of the ‘Marseillaise’ ? It does not. Does it even have a twist of string? It does not. And yet, suppose amid my shaving I should want to know whether ‘Aux armes, citoyens’ comes before ‘Marchons, marchons,’would this neat leather case help me? Suppose, when I was combing my hair, the mirror fell off the wall and I wanted to tie it up again, of what use would the flat clothes-brush be to me?

But, Kit, Kit, I am sure, would help me. Though I do not intend to verify my suspicions, I am sure that Kit will rise to any occasion, like her namesake, Caterina Sforza. When Caterina held her husband’s castle for many weeks against an enemy who kept her children as hostages, she was told to surrender or see her children killed. ‘Kill them,’ she replied; ‘I can make others.’

So Kit, less vehement in deeds, poor inanimate creation, will respond when put to the test. Her great progenitrix was the bag of Mrs. Swiss Family Robinson, a woman who gets all the credit herself — wrongly to my way of thinking. Wrongly, for the bag deserves it all. Given such a receptacle, and I care not who makes the pigeon-holes of a nation; any one can win a reputation for prudence. For bags, like eternity, are all-inclusive: there is nothing that won’t go in and nothing that one is not tempted to put in. Hence, when the prim Mrs. Swiss Family went round the sinking ship, she simply dumped in everything from beeswax to Euclid. But like the Elephant’s Child, she had to.

A bag is like that most catholic of musical instruments, the comb. It is limited only by the human imagination. It is like the rainbow, without beginning or end, yet tempting one to find its beginning and its end. It is like poetry in the way it distends the fancy and like prose in the way it keeps the world concrete.