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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter II

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"There never is an answer," explained the Philosopher. "The kernel of every sincere opinion is truth. This life contains only the questions--the solutions to be published in a future issue."

"She was a curious sort of young woman," smiled the Girton Girl; "we used to laugh at her."

"I can quite believe it," commented the Philosopher.

"It is so like shopping," said the Old Maid.

"Like shopping!" exclaimed the Girton Girl.

The Old Maid blushed. "I was merely thinking," she said. "It sounds foolish. The idea occurred to me."

"You were thinking of the difficulty of choosing?" I suggested.

"Yes," answered the Old Maid. "They will show you so many different things, one is quite unable--at least, I know it is so in my own case. I get quite angry with myself. It seems so weak-minded, but I cannot help it. This very dress I have on now--"

"It is very charming," said the Woman of the World, "in itself. I have been admiring it. Though I confess I think you look even better in dark colours."

"You are quite right," replied the Old Maid; "myself, I hate it. But you know how it is. I seemed to have been all the morning in the shop. I felt so tired. If only--"

The Old Maid stopped abruptly. "I beg your pardon," she said, "I am afraid I've interrupted."

"I am so glad you told us," said the Philosopher. "Do you know that seems to me an explanation?"

"Of what?" asked the Girton Girl.

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"Of how so many of us choose our views," returned the Philosopher; "we don't like to come out of the shop without something."

"But you were about to explain," continued the Philosopher, turning to the Woman of the World, "--to prove a point."

"That I had been talking nonsense," reminded her the Minor Poet; "if you are sure it will not weary you."

"Not at all," answered the Woman of the World; "it is quite simple. The gifts of civilisation cannot be the meaningless rubbish you advocates of barbarism would make out. I remember Uncle Paul's bringing us home a young monkey he had caught in Africa. With the aid of a few logs we fitted up a sort of stage-tree for this little brother of mine, as I suppose you would call him, in the gun-room. It was an admirable imitation of the thing to which he and his ancestors must have been for thousands of years accustomed; and for the first two nights he slept perched among its branches. On the third the little brute turned the poor cat out of its basket and slept on the eiderdown, after which no more tree for him, real or imitation. At the end of the three months, if we offered him monkey-nuts, he would snatch them from our hand and throw them at our head. He much preferred gingerbread and weak tea with plenty of sugar; and when we wanted him to leave the kitchen fire and enjoy a run in the garden, we had to carry him out swearing--I mean he was swearing, of course. I quite agree with him. I much prefer this chair on which I am sitting--this 'wooden lumber,' as you term it-- to the most comfortable lump of old red sandstone that the best furnished cave could possibly afford; and I am degenerate enough to fancy that I look very nice in this frock--much nicer than my brothers or sisters to whom it originally belonged: they didn't know how to make the best of it."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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