It is not everybody who, in times of mental stress, can find ready to
hand among his or her personal acquaintances an expert counsellor,
prepared at a moment's notice to listen with sympathy and advise with
tact and skill. Everyone's world is full of friends, relatives, and
others, who will give advice on any subject that may be presented to
them; but there are crises in life which cannot be left to the amateur.
It is the aim of a certain widely read class of paper to fill this
Of this class Fireside Chat was one of the best-known
representatives. In exchange for one penny its five hundred thousand
readers received every week a serial story about life in highest
circles, a short story packed with heart-interest, articles on the
removal of stains and the best method of coping with the cold mutton,
anecdotes of Royalty, photographs of peeresses, hints on dress, chats
about baby, brief but pointed dialogues between Blogson and Snogson,
poems, Great Thoughts from the Dead and Brainy, half-hours in the
editor's cosy sanctum, a slab of brown paper, and--the journal's
leading feature--Advice on Matters of the Heart. The weekly
contribution of the advice specialist of Fireside Chat, entitled
'In the Consulting Room, by Dr Cupid', was made up mainly of Answers to
Correspondents. He affected the bedside manner of the kind, breezy old
physician; and probably gave a good deal of comfort. At any rate, he
always seemed to have plenty of cases on his hands.
It was to this expert that Maud took her trouble. She had been a
regular reader of the paper for several years; and had, indeed,
consulted the great man once before, when he had replied favourably to
her query as to whether it would be right for her to accept caramels
from Arthur, then almost a stranger. It was only natural that she
should go to him now, in an even greater dilemma. The letter was not
easy to write, but she finished it at last; and, after an anxious
interval, judgement was delivered as follows:
'Well, well, well! Bless my soul, what is all this? M. P. writes me:
'I am a young lady, and until recently was very, very happy, except
that my fiance, though truly loving me, was of a very jealous
disposition, though I am sure I gave him no cause. He would scowl when
I spoke to any other man, and this used to make me unhappy. But for
some time now he has quite changed, and does not seem to mind at all,
and though at first this made me feel happy, to think that he had got
over his jealousy, I now feel unhappy because I am beginning to be
afraid that he no longer cares for me. Do you think this is so, and
what ought I to do?'
'My dear young lady, I should like to be able to reassure you; but it
is kindest sometimes, you know, to be candid, however it may hurt. It
has been my experience that, when jealousy flies out of the window,
indifference comes in at the door. In the old days a knight would joust
for the love of a ladye, risking physical injury rather than permit
others to rival him in her affections. I think, M. P., that you should
endeavour to discover the true state of your fiance's feelings. I do
not, of course, advocate anything in the shape of unwomanly behaviour,
of which I am sure, my dear young lady, you are incapable; but I think
that you should certainly try to pique your fiance, to test him. At
your next ball, for instance, refuse him a certain number of dances, on
the plea that your programme is full. At garden-parties, at-homes, and
so on, exhibit pleasure in the society and conversation of other
gentlemen, and mark his demeanour as you do so. These little tests
should serve either to relieve your apprehensions, provided they are
groundless, or to show you the truth. And, after all, if it is the
truth, it must be faced, must it not, M. P.?'
Before the end of the day Maud knew the whole passage by heart. The
more her mind dwelt on it, the more clearly did it seem to express what
she had felt but could not put into words. The point about jousting
struck her as particularly well taken. She had looked up 'joust' in the
dictionary, and it seemed to her that in these few words was contained
the kernel of her trouble. In the old days, if any man had attempted to
rival him in her affections (outside business hours), Arthur would
undoubtedly have jousted--and jousted with the vigour of one who means
to make his presence felt. Now, in similar circumstances, he would
probably step aside politely, as who should say, 'After you, my dear
There was no time to lose. An hour after her first perusal of Dr
Cupid's advice, Maud had begun to act upon it. By the time the first
lull in the morning's work had come, and there was a chance for private
conversation, she had invented an imaginary young man, a shadowy
Lothario, who, being introduced into her home on the previous Sunday by
her brother Horace, had carried on in a way you wouldn't believe,
paying all manner of compliments.
'He said I had such white hands,' said Maud.
Arthur nodded, stropping a razor the while. He appeared to be bearing
the revelations with complete fortitude. Yet, only a few weeks before,
a customer's comment on this same whiteness had stirred him to his
'And this morning--what do you think? Why, he meets me as bold as you
please, and gives me a cake of toilet soap. Like his impudence!'
She paused, hopefully.
'Always useful, soap,' said Arthur, politely sententious.
'Lovely it was,' went on Maud, dully conscious of failure, but
stippling in like an artist the little touches which give atmosphere
and verisimilitude to a story. 'All scented. Horace will tease me about
it, I can tell you.'
She paused. Surely he must--Why, a sea-anemone would be torn with
jealousy at such a tale.
Arthur did not even wince. He was charming about it. Thought it very
kind of the young fellow. Didn't blame him for being struck by the
whiteness of her hands. Touched on the history of soap, which he
happened to have been reading up in the encyclopedia at the free
library. And behaved altogether in such a thoroughly gentlemanly
fashion that Maud stayed awake half the night, crying.
- Ash-tray Girl
- Шеля Машинцева
- Второпях Впопыхаевич Невтерпеж