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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter III

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"I never liked her," said the Old Maid; "I always knew she was heartless."

"To my thinking," said the Minor Poet, "she has shown herself a true woman."

"Really," said the Woman of the World, laughing, "I shall have to nickname you Dr. Johnson Redivivus. I believe, were the subject under discussion, you would admire the coiffure of the Furies. It would occur to you that it must have been naturally curly."

"It is the Irish blood flowing in his veins," I told them. "He must always be 'agin the Government.'"

"We ought to be grateful to him," remarked the Philosopher. "What can be more uninteresting than an agreeable conversation I mean, a conversation--where everybody is in agreement? Disagreement, on the other hand, is stimulating."

"Maybe that is the reason," I suggested, "why modern society is so tiresome an affair. By tabooing all difference of opinion we have eliminated all zest from our intercourse. Religion, sex, politics-- any subject on which man really thinks, is scrupulously excluded from all polite gatherings. Conversation has become a chorus; or, as a writer wittily expressed it, the pursuit of the obvious to no conclusion. When not occupied with mumbling, 'I quite agree with you'--'As you say'--'That is precisely my opinion'--we sit about and ask each other riddles: 'What did the Pro-Boer?' 'Why did Julius Caesar?'"

"Fashion has succeeded where Force for centuries has failed," added the Philosopher. "One notices the tendency even in public affairs. It is bad form nowadays to belong to the Opposition. The chief aim of the Church is to bring itself into line with worldly opinion. The Nonconformist Conscience grows every day a still smaller voice."

"I believe," said the Woman of the World, "that was the reason why Emily never got on with poor dear George. He agreed with her in everything. She used to say it made her feel such a fool."

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"Man is a fighting animal," explained the Philosopher. "An officer who had been through the South African War was telling me only the other day: he was with a column, and news came in that a small commando was moving in the neighbourhood. The column set off in the highest of spirits, and after three days' trying work through a difficult country came up with, as they thought, the enemy. As a matter of fact, it was not the enemy, but a troop of Imperial Yeomanry that had lost its way. My friend informs me that the language with which his column greeted those unfortunate Yeomen-- their fellow countrymen, men of their own blood--was most unsympathetic."

"Myself, I should hate a man who agreed with me," said the Girton Girl.

"My dear," replied the Woman of the World, "I don't think any would."

"Why not?" demanded the Girton Girl.

"I was thinking more of you, dear," replied the Woman of the World.

"I am glad you all concur with me," murmured the Minor Poet. "I have always myself regarded the Devil's Advocate as the most useful officer in the Court of Truth."

"I remember being present one evening," I observed, "at a dinner- party where an eminent judge met an equally eminent K. C.; whose client the judge that very afternoon had condemned to be hanged. 'It is always a satisfaction,' remarked to him genially the judge, 'condemning any prisoner defended by you. One feels so absolutely certain he was guilty.' The K. C. responded that he should always remember the judge's words with pride."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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