Page images

but I ask him what would he do if the police or the soldiers came this evening and told him to turn out of his comfortable house into the Thames? Tell 'em he wouldn't vote for their employers at the next election, perhaps? Or, if that didn't stop them, tell 'em that he'd ask his friends to do the same? That's a pretty executive power! No, gentlemen. Don't let yourself be deceived by people that have staked their money against you. The first thing to learn is how to fight. There's no use in buying books and pictures unless you know how to keep them and your own head as well.

“If that gentleman that laughed knew how to fight, and his neighbors all knew how to fight too, he wouldn't need to fear police, nor soldiers, nor Russians, nor Prussians, nor any of the millions of men that may be let loose on him any day of the week, safe though he thinks himself. But, says you, let's have a division of labor. Let's not fight for ourselves, but pay other men to fight for us. That shows how some people, when they get hold of an idea, will work it to that foolish length that it's wearisome to listen to them. Fighting is the power of self-preservation; another man can't do it for you. You might as well divide the labor of eating your dinner, and pay one fellow to take the beef, another the beer, and a third the potatoes. But let us put it for the sake of argument that you do pay others to fight for you. Suppose some one else pays them higher, and they fight across, or turn openly against you! You'd have only yourself to blame for giving the executive power to money. And so long as the executive power is money the poor will be kept out of their corner and fouled against the ropes; whereas, by what I understand, the German professor wants them to have their rights. Therefore I say that a man's first duty is to learn to fight. If he can't do that he can't set an example; he can't stand up for his own rights or his neighbor's; he can't keep himself in bodily health; and if he sees the weak ill-used by the strong, the most he can do is to sneak away and tell the nearest policeman, who most likely won't turn up until the worst of the mischief is done.

Coming to this lady's drawing-room, and making an illustration of himself, won't make him feel like a man after that. Let me be understood, though, gentlemen: I don't intend that you should take everything I say too exactly—too literally, as it were. If you see a man beating a woman, I think you should interfere on principle. But don't expect to be thanked by her for it; and keep your eye on her; don't let hier get behind you. As for him, just give him a good one and go away. Never stay to get yourself into a street fight; for it's low, and generally turns out badly for all parties. However, that's only a bit of practical advice. It doesn't alter the great principle that you should get an executive power. When you get that, you 'll have courage in you; and, what's more, your courage will be of some use to you. For though you may have courage by nature, still, if you haven't executive power as well, your courage will only lead you to stand up to be beaten by men that have both courage and executive power; and what good does that do you? People say that you ’re a game fellow; but they won't find the stakes for you unless you can win them. You'd far better put your game in your pocket, and throw up the sponge while you can see to do it.

“Now, on this subject of game, I've something to say that will ease the professor's mind on a point that he seemed anxious about. I am no musician; but I'll just show you how a man that understands one art understands every art. I made out from the gentleman's remarks that there is a man in the musical line named Wagner, who is what you might call a game sort of composer; and that the musical fancy, though they can't deny that his tunes are first-rate, and that, so to speak, he wins his fights, yet they try to make out that he wins them in an outlandish way, and that he has no real science. Now I tell the gentleman not to mind such talk. As I have just shown you, his game wouldn't be any use to him without science. He might have beaten a few second-raters with a rush while he was young; but he wouldn't have lasted out as he has done unless he was clever as well.

“You will find that those that run him down are either jealous, or they are old stagers that are not used to his style, and think that anything new must be bad. Just wait a bit, and, take my word for it, they'll turn right round and swear that his style isn't new at all, and that he stole it from some one they saw when they were ten years old. History shows us that that is the way of such fellows in all ages, as the gentleman said; and he gave you Beethoven as an example. But an example like that don't go home to you, because there isn't one man in a million that ever heard of Beethoven. Take a man that everybody has heard of-Jack Randall! The very same things were said of him. After that, you needn't go to musicians for an example. The truth is, that there are people in the world with that degree of envy and malice in them that they can't bear to allow a good man his merits; and when they have to admit that he can do one thing, they try to make out that there's something else he can't do. Come: I'll put it to you short and business-like. This German gentleman, who knows all about music, tells you that many pretend that this Wagner has game but no science. Well, I, though I know nothing about music, will bet you twentyfive pounds that there's others that allow him to be full of science, but say that he has no game, and that all he does comes from his head, and not from his heart. I will. I'll bet twenty-five pounds on it, and let the gentleman of the house be stakeholder, and the German gentleman referee. Eh? Well, I'm glad to see that there are no takers.

“Now we'll go to another little point that the gentleman forgot. He recommended you to learn—to make yourselves better and wiser from day to day. But he didn't tell you why it is that you won't learn, in spite of his advice. I suppose that, being a foreigner, he was afraid of hurting your feelings by talking too freely to you. But you ’re not so thin-skinned as to take offense at a little plain speaking, I'll be bound; so I tell you straight out that the reason you won't learn is not that you don't want to be clever, or that you are lazier than many that have learned a great deal, but just because you 'd like people to think that you know everything already_because you 're ashamed to be seen going to school; and you calculate that if you only hold your tongue and look wise you 'll get through life without your ignorance being found out. But where's the good of lies and pretense? What does it matter if you get laughed at by a cheeky brat or two for your awkward beginnings? What's the use of always thinking of how you 're looking, when your sense might tell you that other people are thinking about their own looks and not about yours? A big boy doesn't look well on a lower form, certainly, but when he works his way up he'll be glad he began. I speak to you more particularly because you 're Londoners; and Londoners beat all creation for thinking about themselves.

“However, I don't go with the gentleman in everything he said. All this struggling and striving to make the world better is a great mistake; not because it isn't a good thing to improve the world if you know how to do it, but because striving and struggling is the worst way you could set about doing anything. It gives a man a bad style, and weakens him. It shows that he don't believe in himself much. When I heard the professor striving and strug. gling so earnestly to set you to work reforming this, that, and the other. I said to myself, ‘ He's got himself to persuade as well as his audience. That isn't the language of conviction. Whose"

“Really, sir,” said Lucian Webber, who had made his way to the table, “I think, as you have now addressed us at considerable length, and as there are other persons present whose opinions probably excite as much curiosity as yours—” He was interrupted by a “ Hear, hear,” followed by “ No, no,” and “Go on," uttered in more subdued tones than are customary at public meetings, but with more animation than is usually displayed in drawing-rooms. Cashel, who had been for a moment somewhat put out, turned to Lucian and said, in a tone intended to repress, but at the same time humor his impatience, “Don't you be in a hurry, sir. You shall have your turn presently. Perhaps I may tell you something you don't know, before I stop.” Then he turned again to the company, and resumed,

“ We were talking about effort when this young gentleman took it upon himself to break the ring. Now, nothing · can be what you might call artistically done if it's done with an effort. If a thing can't be done light and easy, steady and certain, let it not be done at all. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But I'll tell you a stranger thing. The more effort you make, the less effect you produce. A would-be artist is no artist at all. I see that in my own profession (never mind what that profession is just at present, as the ladies might think the worse of me for it). But in all professions, any work that shows signs of labor, straining, yearning—as the German gentleman said -or effort of any kind, is work beyond the man's strength that does it, and therefore not well done. Perhaps it's beyond his natural strength; but it is more likely that he was badly taught. Many teachers set their pupils on to strain and stretch, so that they get used up, body and mind, in a few months. Depend upon it, the same thing is true in other arts. I once taught a fiddler that used to get a hundred guineas for playing two or three tunes; and he told me that it was just the same thing with the fiddle —that when you laid a tight hold on your fiddle-stick, or even set your teeth hard together, you could do nothing but rasp like the fellows that play in bands for a few shil. lings a night.”

“ How much more of this nonsense must we endure? said Lucian, audibly, as Cashel stopped for breath. Cashel turned and looked at him.

“By Jove!” whispered Lord Worthington to his companion, “ that fellow had better be careful. I wish he would hold his tongue.”

“You think it's nonsense, do you?” said Cashel, after a pause.

Then he raised one of the candles, and illuminated a picture that hung on the wall. “Look at that picture,” he said. “ You see that fellow in armor-St. George and the dragon, or whatever he may be. He's jumped down from his horse to fight the other fellowthat one with his head in a big helmet, whose horse has tumbled. The lady in the gallery is half crazy with anxiety for St. George; and well she may be. There's a posture for a man to fight in! His weight isn't resting on his legs; one touch of a child's finger would upset him. Look at his neck craned out in front of him, and his face as flat as a full moon towards his man, as if he was inviting him to shut up both his eyes with one blow. You can all see that he's as weak and nervous as a cat, and that he doesn't know how to fight. And why does he give you that idea? Just because he's all strain and stretch; because he isn't at his ease; because he carries the weight of his body as foolishly as one of the ladies here would carry a hod of bricks; because he isn't safe, steady, and light on his pins, as he would be if he could forget himself for a minute, and

« PreviousContinue »