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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter III

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"Who was it," asked the Philosopher, "who said: 'Before you can attack a lie, you must strip it of its truth'?"

"It sounds like Emerson," I ventured.

"Very possibly," assented the Philosopher; "very possibly not. There is much in reputation. Most poetry gets attributed to Shakespeare."

"I entered a certain drawing-room about a week ago," I said. "'We were just speaking about you,' exclaimed my hostess. 'Is not this yours?' She pointed to an article in a certain magazine lying open on the table. 'No,' I replied; 'one or two people have asked me that same question. It seems to me rather an absurd article,' I added. 'I cannot say I thought very much of it,' agreed my hostess."

"I can't help it," said the Old Maid. "I shall always dislike a girl who deliberately sells herself for money."

"But what else is there to sell herself for?" asked the Minor Poet.

"She should not sell herself at all," retorted the Old Maid, with warmth. "She should give herself, for love."

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"Are we not in danger of drifting into a difference of opinion concerning the meaning of words merely?" replied the Minor Poet. "We have all of us, I suppose, heard the story of the Jew clothier remonstrated with by the Rabbi for doing business on the Sabbath. 'Doing bithness!' retorted the accused with indignation; 'you call thelling a thuit like that for eighteen shillings doing bithness! By, ith's tharity!' This 'love' for which the maiden gives herself- -let us be a little more exact--does it not include, as a matter of course, material more tangible? Would not the adored one look somewhat astonished on discovering that, having given herself for 'love,' love was all that her lover proposed to give for her. Would she not naturally exclaim: 'But where's the house, to say nothing of the fittings? And what are we to live on'?"

"It is you now who are playing with words," asserted the Old Maid. "The greater includes the less. Loving her, he would naturally desire--"

"With all his worldly goods her to endow," completed for her the Minor Poet. "In other words, he pays a price for her. So far as love is concerned, they are quits. In marriage, the man gives himself to the woman as the woman gives herself to the man. Man has claimed, I am aware, greater liberty for himself; but the claim has always been vehemently repudiated by woman. She has won her case. Legally and morally now husband and wife are bound by the same laws. This being so, her contention that she gives herself falls to the ground. She exchanges herself. Over and above, she alone of the twain claims a price."

"Say a living wage," corrected the Philosopher. "Lazy rubbish lolls in petticoats, and idle stupidity struts in trousers. But, class for class, woman does her share of the world's work. Among the poor, of the two it is she who labours the longer. There is a many- versed ballad popular in country districts. Often I have heard it sung in shrill, piping voice at harvest supper or barn dance. The chorus runs -

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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