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Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter I

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"That is where she was foolish," said the Girton Girl. "Silence in such cases is a mistake. The other party does not know what is the matter with you, and you yourself--your temper bottled up within-- become more disagreeable every day."

"She confided her trouble to a friend," I explained.

"I so dislike people who do that," said the Woman of the World. "Emily never would speak to George; she would come and complain about him to me, as if I were responsible for him: I wasn't even his mother. When she had finished, George would come along, and I had to listen to the whole thing over again from his point of view. I got so tired of it at last that I determined to stop it."

"How did you succeed?" asked the Old Maid, who appeared to be interested in the recipe.

"I knew George was coming one afternoon," explained the Woman of the World, "so I persuaded Emily to wait in the conservatory. She thought I was going to give him good advice; instead of that I sympathised with him and encouraged him to speak his mind freely, which he did. It made her so mad that she came out and told him what she thought of him. I left them at it. They were both of them the better for it; and so was I."

"In my case," I said, "it came about differently. Her friend explained to him just what was happening. She pointed out to him how his neglect and indifference were slowly alienating his wife's affections from him. He argued the subject.

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"'But a lover and a husband are not the same,' he contended; 'the situation is entirely different. You run after somebody you want to overtake; but when you have caught him up, you settle down quietly and walk beside him; you don't continue shouting and waving your handkerchief after you have gained him.'

"Their mutual friend presented the problem differently."

"'You must hold what you have won,' she said, 'or it will slip away from you. By a certain course of conduct and behaviour you gained a sweet girl's regard; show yourself other than you were, how can you expect her to think the same of you?'

"'You mean,' he inquired, 'that I should talk and act as her husband exactly as I did when her lover?'

"'Precisely,' said the friend 'why not?'

"'It seems to me a mistake,' he grumbled.

"'Try it and see,' said the friend.

"'All right,' he said, 'I will.' And he went straight home and set to work."

"Was it too late," asked the Old Maid, "or did they come together again?"

"For the next mouth," I answered, "they were together twenty-four hours of the day. And then it was the wife who suggested, like the poet in Gilbert's Fatience, the delight with which she would welcome an occasional afternoon off."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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