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0105_001E Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter IV

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"I think I know the man you mean," said the Philosopher. "I had forgotten his name."

"I thought it possible you might have met him," I replied. "Well, my cousin Edith was arranging a dinner-party the other day, and, as usual, she did me the honour to ask my advice. Generally speaking, I do not give advice nowadays. As a very young man I was generous with it. I have since come to the conclusion that responsibility for my own muddles and mistakes is sufficient. However, I make an exception in Edith's case, knowing that never by any chance will she follow it."

"Speaking of editors," said the Philosopher, "Bates told me at the club the other night that he had given up writing the 'Answers to Correspondents' personally, since discovery of the fact that he had been discussing at some length the attractive topic, 'Duties of a Father,' with his own wife, who is somewhat of a humorist."

"There was the wife of a clergyman my mother used to tell of," said the Woman of the World, "who kept copies of her husband's sermons. She would read him extracts from them in bed, in place of curtain lectures. She explained it saved her trouble. Everything she felt she wanted to say to him he had said himself so much more forcibly."

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"The argument always appears to me weak," said the Philosopher. "If only the perfect may preach, our pulpits would remain empty. Am I to ignore the peace that slips into my soul when perusing the Psalms, to deny myself all benefit from the wisdom of the Proverbs, because neither David nor Solomon was a worthy casket of the jewels that God had placed in them? Is a temperance lecturer never to quote the self-reproaches of poor Cassio because Master Will Shakespeare, there is evidence to prove, was a gentleman, alas! much too fond of the bottle? The man that beats the drum may be himself a coward. It is the drum that is the important thing to us, not the drummer."

"Of all my friends," said the Woman of the World, "the one who has the most trouble with her servants is poor Jane Meredith."

"I am exceedingly sorry to hear it," observed the Philosopher, after a slight pause. "But forgive me, I really do not see--"

"I beg your pardon," answered the Woman of the World. "I thought everybody knew 'Jane Meredith.' She writes 'The Perfect Home' column for The Woman's World."

"It will always remain a riddle, one supposes," said the Minor Poet. "Which is the real ego--I, the author of 'The Simple Life,' fourteenth edition, three and sixpence net--"

"Don't," pleaded the Old Maid, with a smile; "please don't."

"Don't what?" demanded the Minor Poet.

"Don't ridicule it--make fun of it, even though it may happen to be your own. There are parts of it I know by heart. I say them over to myself when-- Don't spoil it for me." The Old Maid laughed, but nervously.

"My dear lady," reassured her the Minor Poet, "do not be afraid. No one regards that poem with more reverence than do I. You can have but small conception what a help it is to me also. I, too, so often read it to myself; and when-- We understand. As one who turns his back on scenes of riot to drink the moonlight in quiet ways, I go to it for sweetness and for peace. So much do I admire the poem, I naturally feel desire and curiosity to meet its author, to know him. I should delight, drawing him aside from the crowded room, to grasp him by the hand, to say to him: 'My dear--my very dear Mr. Minor Poet, I am so glad to meet you! I would I could tell you how much your beautiful work has helped me. This, my dear sir--this is indeed privilege!' But I can picture so vividly the bored look with which he would receive my gush. I can imagine the contempt with which he, the pure liver, would regard me did he know me--me, the liver of the fool's hot days."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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