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  Tea-table Talk Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter VI

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"But what is her reason?" demanded the Old Maid.

"Reason! I don't believe any of them have any reason." The Woman of the World showed sign of being short of temper, a condition of affairs startlingly unusual to her. "Says she hasn't enough work to do."

"She must be an extraordinary woman," commented the Old Maid.

"The trouble I have put myself to in order to keep that woman, just because George likes her savouries, no one would believe," continued indignantly the Woman of the World. "We have had a dinner party regularly once a week for the last six months, entirely for her benefit. Now she wants me to give two. I won't do it!"

"If I could be of any service?" offered the Minor Poet. "My digestion is not what it once was, but I could make up in quality--a recherche little banquet twice a week, say on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I would make a point of eating with you. If you think that would content her!"

"It is really thoughtful of you," replied the Woman of the World, "but I cannot permit it. Why should you be dragged from the simple repast suitable to a poet merely to oblige my cook? It is not reason."

"I was thinking rather of you," continued the Minor Poet.

"I've half a mind," said the Woman of the World, "to give up housekeeping altogether and go into an hotel. I don't like the idea, but really servants are becoming impossible."

"It is very interesting," said the Minor Poet.

"I am glad you find it so!" snapped the Woman of the World.

"What is interesting?" I asked the Minor Poet.

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"That the tendency of the age," he replied, "should be slowly but surely driving us into the practical adoption of a social state that for years we have been denouncing the Socialists for merely suggesting. Everywhere the public-houses are multiplying, the private dwellings diminishing."

"Can you wonder at it?" commented the Woman of the World. "You men talk about 'the joys of home.' Some of you write poetry--generally speaking, one of you who lives in chambers, and spends two-thirds of his day at a club." We were sitting in the garden. The attention of the Minor Poet became riveted upon the sunset. "'Ethel and I by the fire.' Ethel never gets a chance of sitting by the fire. So long as you are there, comfortable, you do not notice that she has left the room to demand explanation why the drawing-room scuttle is always filled with slack, and the best coal burnt in the kitchen range. Home to us women is our place of business that we never get away from."

"I suppose," said the Girton Girl--to my surprise she spoke with entire absence of indignation. As a rule, the Girton Girl stands for what has been termed "divine discontent" with things in general. In the course of time she will outlive her surprise at finding the world so much less satisfactory an abode than she had been led to suppose--also her present firm conviction that, given a free hand, she could put the whole thing right in a quarter of an hour. There are times even now when her tone suggests less certainty of her being the first person who has ever thought seriously about the matter. "I suppose," said the Girton Girl, "it comes of education. Our grandmothers were content to fill their lives with these small household duties. They rose early, worked with their servants, saw to everything with their own eyes. Nowadays we demand time for self-development, for reading, for thinking, for pleasure. Household drudgery, instead of being the object of our life, has become an interference to it. We resent it."

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Tea-table Talk
Jerome K. Jerome

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