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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter II

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"What middleman?" demanded the Girton Girl.

"The artist," explained the Minor Poet; "the man who has turned the whole thing into a business, the shopman who sells emotions over the counter. A Corot, a Turner is, after all, but a poor apology compared with a walk in spring through the Black Forest or the view from Hampstead Heath on a November afternoon. Had we been less occupied acquiring 'the advantages of civilisation,' working upward through the weary centuries to the city slum, the corrugated-iron- roofed farm, we might have found time to learn to love the beauty of the world. As it is, we have been so busy 'civilising' ourselves that we have forgotten to live. We are like an old lady I once shared a carriage with across the Simplon Pass."

"By the way," I remarked, "one is going to be saved all that bother in the future. They have nearly completed the new railway line. One will be able to go from Domo d'Orsola to Brieg in a little over the two hours. They tell me the tunnelling is wonderful."

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"It will be very charming," sighed the Minor Poet. "I am looking forward to a future when, thanks to 'civilisation,' travel will be done away with altogether. We shall be sewn up in a sack and shot there. At the time I speak of we still had to be content with the road winding through some of the most magnificent scenery in Switzerland. I rather enjoyed the drive myself, but my companion was quite unable to appreciate it. Not because she did not care for scenery. As she explained to me, she was passionately fond of it. But her luggage claimed all her attention. There were seventeen pieces of it altogether, and every time the ancient vehicle lurched or swayed, which on an average was once every thirty seconds, she was in terror lest one or more of them should be jerked out. Half her day was taken up in counting them and re-arranging them, and the only view in which she was interested was the cloud of dust behind us. One bonnet-box did contrive during the course of the journey to make its escape, after which she sat with her arms round as many of the remaining sixteen articles as she could encompass, and sighed."

"I knew an Italian countess," said the Woman of the World; "she had been at school with mamma. She never would go half a mile out of her way for scenery. 'Why should I?' she would say. 'What are the painters for? If there is anything good, let them bring it to me and I will look at it. She said she preferred the picture to the real thing, it was so much more artistic. In the landscape itself, she complained, there was sure to be a chimney in the distance, or a restaurant in the foreground, that spoilt the whole effect. The artist left it out. If necessary, he could put in a cow or a pretty girl to help the thing. The actual cow, if it happened to be there at all, would probably be standing the wrong way round; the girl, in all likelihood, would be fat and plain, or be wearing the wrong hat. The artist knew precisely the sort of girl that ought to be there, and saw to it that she was there, with just the right sort of hat. She said she had found it so all through life--the poster was always an improvement on the play."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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