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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter III

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"The simple explanation is," expounded the Girton Girl, "woman is so immeasurably man's superior that only by weighting him more or less heavily with worldly advantages can any semblance of balance be obtained."

"Then," answered the Minor Poet, "you surely agree with me that woman is justified in demanding this 'make-weight.' The woman gives her love, if you will. It is the art treasure, the gilded vase thrown in with the pound of tea; but the tea has to be paid for."

"It all sounds very clever," commented the Old Maid; "yet I fail to see what good comes of ridiculing a thing one's heart tells one is sacred."

"Do not be so sure I am wishful to ridicule," answered the Minor Poet. "Love is a wondrous statue God carved with His own hands and placed in the Garden of Life, long ago. And man, knowing not sin, worshipped her, seeing her beautiful. Till the time came when man learnt evil; then saw that the statue was naked, and was ashamed of it. Since when he has been busy, draping it, now in the fashion of this age, now in the fashion of that. We have shod her in dainty bottines, regretting the size of her feet. We employ the best artistes to design for her cunning robes that shall disguise her shape. Each season we fix fresh millinery upon her changeless head. We hang around her robes of woven words. Only the promise of her ample breasts we cannot altogether hide, shocking us not a little; only that remains to tell us that beneath the tawdry tissues still stands the changeless statue God carved with His own hands."

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"I like you better when you talk like that," said the Old Maid; "but I never feel quite sure of you. All I mean, of course, is that money should not be her first consideration. Marriage for money--it is not marriage; one cannot speak of it. Of course, one must be reasonable."

"You mean," persisted the Minor Poet, "you would have her think also of her dinner, of her clothes, her necessities, luxuries."

"It is not only for herself," answered the Old Maid.

"For whom?" demanded the Minor Poet.

The white hands of the Old Maid fluttered on her lap, revealing her trouble; for of the old school is this sweet friend of mine.

"There are the children to be considered," I explained. "A woman feels it even without knowing. It is her instinct."

The Old Maid smiled on me her thanks.

"It is where I was leading," said the Minor Poet. "Woman has been appointed by Nature the trustee of the children. It is her duty to think of them, to plan for them. If in marriage she does not take the future into consideration, she is untrue to her trust."

"Before you go further," interrupted the Philosopher, "there is an important point to be considered. Are children better or worse for a pampered upbringing? Is not poverty often the best school?"

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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