« PreviousContinue »
But there is a larger law which perhaps compre. nends these facts. It is this. The rapidity with which ideas grow old in our memories is in a direct ratio to the squares of their importance. Their ap. parent age runs up miraculously, like the value of diamonds, as they increase in magnitude. A great calamity, for instance, is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened. It stains backward through all the leaves we have turned over in the book of life, before its blot of tears or of blood is dry on the page we are turning. For this we seem to have lived; it was foreshadowed in dreams that we leaped out of in the cold sweat of terror; in the “ dissolving views” of dark day-visions; all omens pointed to it; all paths led to it.
After the tossing half-forgetfulness of the first sleep that follows such an event, it comes upon us afresh, as a surprise, at waking; in a few moments it is old again,-old as eternity.
[I wish I had not said all this then and there. I inight have known better. The pale schoolmistress, in her mourning dress, was looking at me, as I noticed, with a wild sort of expression. All at once the blood dropped out of her cheeks as the mercury drops from a broken barometer-tube, and she melted away from her seat like an image of snow; a slung. shot could not have brought her down better. God forgive me!
After this little episode, I continued, to some few that remained balancing teaspoons on the edges o! cups, twirling knives, or tilting upon the hind legs of their chairs until their heads reached the wall, where they left gratuitous advertisements of various popu. lar cosmetics.]
When a person is suddenly thrust into any strange, cw position of trial, he finds the place fits him as if he had been measured for it. He has committed a great crime, for instance, and is sent to the State Prison. The traditions, prescriptions, limitations, privileges, all the sharp conditions of his new life, stamp themselves upon his consciousness as the signet on soft wax ;-a single pressure is enough. Let me strengthen the image a little. Did you ever happen to see that most soft-spoken and velvethanded steam-engine at the Mint? The smooth piston slides backward and forward as a lady might slip her delicate finger in and out of a ring. The engine lays one of its fingers calmly, but firmly, upon a bit of metal ; it is a coin now, and will remember that touch, and tell a new race about it, when the date upon it is crusted over with twenty centuries. So it is that a great silent-moving misery puts a new stamp on us in an hour or a moment,—as sharp an impression as if it had taken half a lifetime to en
It is awful to be in the hands ɔf the wholesale professional dealers in misfortune; undertakers and jailers magnetize you in a moment, and you pass
AUTOCRAT OF THE BREAKFAST-TABLE
ined balancing teaspoons on the edges o! ing knives, or tilting upon the hind legs of s until their heads reached the wall, where ratuitous advertisements of various popu.
person is suddenly thrust into any strange, ion of trial, he finds the place fits him as been measured for it. He has committed ime, for instance, and is sent to the State The traditions, prescriptions, limitations, all the sharp conditions of his new life, mselves upon his consciousness as the soft wax;~a single pressure is enough. engthen the image a little. Did you ever
see that most soft-spoken and velvetam-engine at the Mint? The smooth es backward and forward as a lady might licate finger in and out of a ring. The s one of its fingers calmly, but firmly, upon etal; it is a coin now, and will remember
out of the individual life you were living into the whythmical movements of their horrible machinery Do the worst thing you can, or suffer the worst that can be thought of, you find yourself in a category of humanity that stretches back as far as Cain, and with an expert at your elbow who has studied your case all out beforehand, and is waiting for you with his implements of hemp or mahogany. I believe, if a man were to be burned in any of our cities tomorrow for heresy, there would be found a master of ceremonies that knew just how many fagots were necessary, and the best way of arranging the whole matter.
So we have not won the Goodwood cup; au contraire, we were a “bad fifth,” if not worse than that; and trying it again, and the third time, has not yet bettered the matter. Now I am as patriotic as any of my fellow-citizens,—too patriotic in fact, for I have got into hot water by loving too much of my country; in short, if any man, whose fighting weight is not more than eight stone four pounds, disputes it, I am ready to discuss the point with him. 1 should have gloried to see the stars and stripes in front at the finish. I love my country, and I love horses. Stubbs's old mezzotint of Eclipse hangs over my desk, and Herring's portrait of Plenipotentiary --whom I saw run at Epsom,-over my fireplace Did I not elope from school to see Revenge, and Prospect, and Little John, and Peacemaker run over
and tell a new race about it, when the it is crusted over with twenty centuries. at a great silent-moving misery puts a new us in an hour or a moment,-as sharp an
i as if it had taken half a lifetime to en
wful to be in the hands of the wholesale al dealers in misfortune; undertakers and ignetize you in a moment, and you pase
the race-course where now yon suburban village Aourishes, in the year eighteen hundred and ever-sofew? Though I never owned a horse, huve I not been the proprietor of six equine females, of which one was the prettiest little “ Morgin” that ever stepped? Listen, then, to an opinion I have often expressed long before this venture of ours in England. Horse-racing is not a republican institution; horse. trotting is. Only very rich persons can keep racehorses, and everybody knows they are kept mainly as gambling implements. All that matter about blood and speed we wont discuss; we understand all that; useful, very,-of course,-great obligations to the Godolphin “ Arabian,” and the rest. I say racing horses are essentially gambling implements, as much as roulette tables. Now I am not preaching at this moment; I may read you one of my sermons some other morning; but I maintain that gambling, on the great scale, is not republican. It belongs to two phases of society,—a cankered overcivilization, such as exists in rich aristocracies, and the reckless life of borderers and adventurers, or the semi-barbarism of a civilization resolved into its primitive elements. Real Republicanism is stern and severe; its essence is not in forms of govern. ment, but in the omnipotence of public opinion which grows out of it. This public opinion cannot. prevent gambling with dice or stocks, but it can and does compel it to keep comparatively quiet. But