I wandered on the beach on a nice September morning. I like London best in autumn. Then its many white asphalts really shine; the bold, unbroken line of its streets. I love when I see the shady lookouts in the parks in the morning; soft twilight, what empty side streets-85-lay down. In Junius, the innkeeper talks to me half-heartedly; I feel like I’m just in your way. In August, it is already spread by the window for me; he pours the wine with his own fat hands. He definitely has his eye on me; sleep my foolish jealousy. After dinner, I want to go for a stroll in the soft evening air, I get on the omnibus; I don’t have to fight for a place at the turn; I sit there with a clear conscience and an unburdened body. I don’t have to worry about taking the seat away from some sweaty, tired woman. I want a theater; there is no rude “full house” sign. During the season, London – a multi-faceted housewife – does not have time to deal with us, the boarders. His rooms are full; the servant’s hands are full of things; cooks lunches quickly, hastily; his voice is not sincere. In the spring, to tell the truth, – the lady from Nagyuri becomes a bit ordinary – she is loud, looking for a show. It will only be your own again when your guests have left; then the London we like is the children of property.
Have you ever seen this London, my dear reader? – Not the everyday, awakened London, ours is full of life, like a flower cup full of powder. You have seen London in the morning, which has thrown off all its rags; the fog-shrouded, sleeping city? Get up at dawn, at dawn, on some summer Sunday. Don’t wake anyone up; sneak quietly down to the kitchen; make your own tea.
Be careful not to run over the cat. It’s right there under your feet. He has such a habit; he does it out of friendship. Don’t even bother with the coal box. I can’t say why the kitchen coal box is always between the door and the gas stove. All I know is that it is a general law; I would like you not to come too close to him, otherwise your mood will not remain as I would like it to be on this beautiful holiday morning.
I’m afraid you’ll have to give up stirring your tea with a spoon. You can find knives and forks as much as you want; you can reach for a shoe brush in every drawer; there is enough polishing paper if you need it now; but the housewife’s secret is that the spoons are hidden in a different hiding place every night. It would be a shame to look at him if there was anyone else besides him in the morning-86-would find them. No problem; you sharpen one end of a piece of wood; excellent aptitude.
Turn off the gas when you’ve had breakfast; go down the stairs slowly; open the gate quietly and sneak out. You find yourself in an unknown part of the world. Overnight a new city grew around you.
The nice, long streets dream in deep silence in the early sunlight. No one in the world goes outside; you hear only annoying chirping from some tree; although the London sparrow does not rise early; even now he only chirps in his sleep. The soft footsteps of some invisible policeman sound towards you or in the opposite direction. Only the pounding of your own feet hurts and bothers you. You try to tread softly, as in echoing cathedrals. Around you, above you, everywhere seems to be a voice: “Hush, hush.” Is this the City of a Thousand Breasts, or some tender Artemis, who wants her little ones to sleep in silence? “Hush, carefree passenger,” he whispers; don’t disturb them. Take it easy; they are so tired; this myriad of children is so tired; he sleeps in a thousand embracing arms. They overworked themselves; they settled themselves; so many of them are sick; so many problems your concern; and unfortunately so many are full of evil. In spite of that; all very tired. Shut up! they harass you with their noise and clicking when they are up. Tread lightly; let them sleep!
Where the swollen river gently flows into the sea between the old pillars, you can also hear what the stone-faced City is saying to the restless waters: “Why have you never stayed here? Why did you come, why did you go?’
– “We do not know; we do not understand. We come from the deep sea; but only as easily as the cord, as the child caught the bird; if hiv; we have to go back there.”
– “Behold, I am one with these children of mine. They are coming: I don’t know where. I cherish them for a while; then some mysterious hand comes; takes them away. Others will take their place.”
Sounds pop into the quiet air. The sleeping City wakes up with a light sigh. A distant milk cart shatters with a thousand-fold echo; the vanguard of an alarmed army. Soon the alarm bells will be heard from every street: “Itt a te-je-jes”. Like some kind of giant child; London has awakened; sir for the milk.-87-These carts are the nanny in white; he is in a hurry with breakfast. Morning church bell. – Well; I had the milk, little London. Come now; say the prayer. A new week has begun, baby London. God knows what will happen; just say the prayer.
The little ones are hanging out from behind the curtained windows. The worried tenderness flew from City’s face. The hustle and bustle of the day has begun. His lover of the night, the silence, kisses her stone lips and continues. And you, gentle reader, return home; you bring premature satisfaction with you.
It happened on a certain weekday morning at the Strand that I wanted to talk about. I was standing in front of Gatti’s restaurant; I had breakfast there. I listened with half an ear to the arguments of an indignant lady-passenger; he lived with ir landscape; his opponent with the eloquence of an omnibus guide.
“What the hell did he draw ‘Putney’ on his omnibus; when does it not take the person there?
“This car is going to Putney, yes.”
“Then why are you putting me here?”
“I didn’t put it down; he got out by himself.
“Of course; as if that gentleman in the other corner hadn’t said that every minute I was getting further from Putney?
– Well; it was; it went even further.
“Then what didn’t Rula say to God?”
“How do I know he wants to get into Putney?” He stands there on the corner, chanting ‘Putney’; I stop there, he jumps in.
“Well, why would I have said Putney if I didn’t want to go there?”
“Well, because my name is Putney, or rather the name of my car; emide is also drawn.
“How come it’s called Putney when you don’t go to Putney, you’re a bladder?”
“Aren’t you from Ireland?” answers the guide. “Of course it is.” But he doesn’t always go to Ireland, does he? We’re going to Putney too, don’t take the bus; but first to Liverpool street. Come on, Jimmy; Come on.
The omnibus starts; I was about to cross the road -88-when an introverted person comes to me. He would have run past me if I hadn’t caught him quickly. B… my friend; industrious newspaper and wallet clerk. Hallo; – he says, – who would have thought that you could be found here?
“Considering the speed with which you came to me now, one would think that the Beach is the certain place where you are least afraid of meeting people.” Have you ever dated a fiery but muscular man in your life?
“Did I go for you?” he asks in surprise.
“It’s not quite for me,” I say, “if we take the matter literally.” Only to me; if I don’t arrest you, I think you’ll run over me.
“Damn Christmas!” – says. “He always gets me out of my groove.”
“The Christmas holiday has served as an excuse for many things,” I answer, “yet it is rarely used at the beginning of September.”
– SHE; you know what I mean. We’re in the middle of the Christmas issue. I am tired day and night. Otherwise, – he continues – it’s good that I remember. We also organize a competition; it would be nice if you could take part in it. Because if it happens at Christmas… I’ll break it in half.
“My dear,” I say; – I became a penman when I was eighteen; I have been doing this craft ever since, with short interruptions. I have already written about Christmas on a sentimental basis; I analyzed the holiday from a philosophical point of view; I also painted the sarcastic side. I once did a humorous Christmas in Komikus Kcciny; I wrote sympathetically about it in Rural Weekly. I have said everything that can be said about Christmas; I said a little more. I told you the Christmas story of Ujdivatu – you know how it should be; the heroine is trying to understand herself. In vain; she runs away with the man who starts appearing as a hero at the beginning of the reggae; the tall female person becomes truly repulsive when you get to know her better; and the villain, the only decent person in the whole story, dies, right? that sounds of deep knowledge come from his lips, as if he understood something under them; but you feel sorry for yourself, you don’t want to-89- explain what. I’ve already written the old-fashioned Christmas story – you know it too; it starts with a good old blizzard; a good, old-fashioned squire, a noble gentleman occurs in it; he lives there in good old Hall; you draw good, old-fashioned murder into the thing; you end it all with a big Christmas lunch. I brought together friendly Christmas groups, so they could tell each other stories about Christmas Eve, while the orca roared outside, as it was wont to do on such occasions. I sent children up to Heaven on Christmas Eve – St. Peter can have enough to do at this time. A very popular night to die. “I raised dead lovers; I gave them back to life pretty, kind and cheerful; they arrived just in time to take a seat at the Christmas table. I feel no shame in them. At that time, I wanted good with all of this. I used to like gooseberry wine and girls with curly hair. It’s just that people’s tastes change when they get old. I have already discussed Christmas as a religious holiday. I have already mentioned it as a social driving force. If there’s anything Christmas-related in this world that I haven’t done, I’d like to hear about it. I’ve used stomach ache jokes so much that it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about them. I performed family gatherings and gift giving in a ridiculous manner. I was clamoring for the expensive stuff. I managed to tell a witty story about the father of the family and the bill, I… as a social driving force. If there’s anything Christmas-related in this world that I haven’t done, I’d like to hear about it. I’ve used stomach ache jokes so much that it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about them. I performed family gatherings and gift giving in a ridiculous manner. I was clamoring for the expensive stuff. I managed to tell a witty story about the father of the family and the bill, I… as a social driving force. If there’s anything Christmas-related in this world that I haven’t done, I’d like to hear about it. I’ve used stomach ache jokes so much that it makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about them. I performed family gatherings and gift giving in a ridiculous manner. I was clamoring for the expensive stuff. I managed to tell a witty story about the father of the family and the bill, I…
“And did you ever see,” I had to interrupt, as we crossed the Haymarket, “the little parody I made of Poe’s poem, ‘Bells;’ about the “bells”? Because it’s about to start… Now he interrupted.
– Yes, Bells… Bills, bills, bills (bills) he recites.
“It’s completely fine,” I say with satisfaction. “I forgot I already showed it.”
“You didn’t even show it.”
“Then how do you know how it starts?”
“I certainly didn’t know; – he admits, – I usually get sixty-five poems in a year;-90-they all start the same way. I thought: maybe yours will start as well.
“I don’t see how I could start any other way,” I answer. It annoyed me. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter how it goes on; anyway; I don’t intend to write about Christmas now. If you ask me to make a good joke about metal workers; if you want me to come up with something very original and not too daring, what an innocent child can say about heaven, or let’s say you ask me to write a dog story that is relatively easy to believe for a simple everyday person, maybe we can agree. But as for our Christmas, I’m going to rest.
We got to Piccadilly Circus.
“I don’t take it badly,” he says, “if the topic makes me sick like it does me.” As soon as I shook off all the worries of the Christmas number, until about the following June, the chase starts all over again at home. The household costs a pound more every week. I know what that means. The dear little woman is saving up to buy me an expensive gift that I don’t need. I will receive a watercolor from Emma, which she painted herself. He always gives it. It wouldn’t be a problem in itself if you didn’t want me to hang it in the salon. Have you seen Emma’s watercolors? he asks.
“I think so,” I answer.
“You can’t believe it,” he says angrily. They are not the kind of watercolors that people forget.
In general, it refers to the large area.
“How do people do such a thing?” he asks. “Even the amateur artist must have some intelligence.” Do they not see what they have done? There’s a picture of him there that I put up in the hallway. I put it in the corridor because the light is not strong there. Aszongya: “Dreaming.” If you christen it “Influenza”, I understand. I ask him where he got the idea; he says he saw the sky like this one night in Norfolk. My God, sir; why didn’t he close his eyes then, why didn’t he go home and hide behind the bed curtain? If I see a sky like that in Norfolk, I’ll catch the first one heading to London-91-express train. I’m sure the poor girl can’t help but see things like this, but why paint them?
“I’m afraid, some natures need to paint,” I answer.
“Then why are they giving it to me?” he begs.
I am not in a position to provide an explanation.
“What stupid gifts people give you!” – He continues. “I once said I wanted Tennyson’s poems.” They asked me what I wanted. I didn’t need anything; it was the only thing I could think of; which I didn’t know with absolute certainty that I didn’t need. Well, the four of them got together; they bought me Tennyson in four volumes; beautifully illustrated with color photographs. They wanted good, of course good. If you want a snuff box, you get a blue velvet bag big enough to hold a pound of tobacco; adorned with life-size flowers. The only thing you can do is tie a strap to it and use it as a book bag. One would believe; they once gave me a velvet smoking jacket; it was embroidered with forget-me-nots and butterflies, of colored silk; God I’m not kidding. They ask why I never wear it. I’ll bring him down to the club one night, cheer him up a bit;
We reached the “Devonshire” pass.
– [**„]Just drink,” he says, “if I give you a gift. They never get what they need from me. I don’t happen to find anything that anyone needs. If I buy a chinchilla collar for Jane, you can be sure that chinchilla is the least fashionable fur for that season. “Oh,” says he, “but you are dear; this is exactly what i wanted. I’ll keep it in the closet until the chinchilla becomes fashionable again.” I give girls watch chains when no one in the world wears watch chains. If the watch chain is crazy trendy, they get pendants from me – they thank me and assume that now I will take them to a masquerade ball; being the only time one can wear such accursed whistles. I waste my money on white gloves with black laces only to find out that white gloves with black laces are worn by half-world women. I believe,-92-And why does it take twelve people to provide a man with a pair of gloves? Just last week, Jane asks; get him a pair of gloves for that Mansion House thing. I was in a friendly mood; I thought; this thing will go smoothly. I hate going to such stores though. They’re all staring at the man, as if he’s trying to force his way into the women’s section of a Turkish bath. One of the Paprikajancs figurines comes towards me and whispers: it’s a beautiful morning, mom. Do I want to talk to him about the morning? I say; I want gloves. I explain to him what they should be; as far as I can remember. I say: “I want a four-button; but it doesn’t have to be buttoned gloves; the buttons should be in the middle; reach up to the elbow; he understands what I mean.” He bows; assongya: he understands exactly, although at the time he understood more than I did. I say: three creamskins and three peacocks; Peacocks can be Swedish gloves. Fix it. Asongya: “Suede”. He may have been right, but I wondered if he would break up; I had to start the explanation all over again. He listened attentively until I finished. I think we must have stood there close to the door for about five minutes. Assongya: “Is there anything else you don’t like today, sir?” I say no.
– Thank you sir. This way, sir.
It leads to another room, where we met a gentleman named Jansen. He is briefly introduced as a gentleman who needs “gloves”. “It is all right, sir; – answers Mr. Jansen; – then what kind of gloves would they need?
I say: I would need a total of six pairs, – three “suede” peacock strings; – three cream strings; – but I want that for good skin.
Assongya: – He wants leather gloves, sir; or do you want to buy gloves for “good skin”?
Well, it pissed me off. I say; I’m not in the habit of talking nonsense. Especially when I buy gloves. Asongya; yes sorry I explained to him the buttons; as far as I understood; I also told you the length. I said: make sure the buttons are sewn on very tightly; so that the stitch is perfect everywhere. I even added that the last hand, what my wife-93-got it from here, they were very lousy. Jane asked me to make a statement. Aszongya: then they will be more careful.
A quick flare-up takes over. As if it were some kind of music.
“What size, sir?” he asks.
I must have forgotten that. “Well, it’s six”, I say; – as long as it doesn’t stretch too much. Because if it stretches, then five-three-quarters fits.
– Ah, yes; and the seam on the cream gloves should be black, I add. Because I forgot about that too.
“Thank you very much; answers Mr. Jansen; – is there anything else you would like today, sir?
– No thank you; today there is no more; I answer. I was starting to like this man.
He took me on a smaller tour; wherever we went, everyone stopped their work and opened their mouths at us. I was getting a little tired by the time we got to the glove department. He stands in front of a young man, who poked his buttons into him. Aszongya: “Gloves” and disappears behind a curtain. The young man does not stick more pins in himself; he leaned across the table.
“For a gentleman or a lady?” he asks.
Woman; I was not in my right mind then; you can guess. If you think about it, maybe you don’t understand, but I’m surprised that I didn’t hit you in the head right away.
I tell him: – Tell me, are you used to working diligently here? Are there times when you think you’d like to be done with your work instead of thinking, explaining, arguing? Instead of spreading your stuff all over the place, just out of love for the cause?
“But apparently he didn’t understand.” To this I enlighten: “A quarter of an hour ago I was talking to a man outside the door; we talked about what I need; I told him everything I knew about it. He then took me to your Mr. Jansen and Mr. Jansen and I discussed the matter again. Now Mr. Jansen has given me over to you—to you! who doesn’t even know if I need men’s or women’s hands. Before -94-for the third time I would begin my rhyme, I would like to know whether you are the man who will serve me; or am I just a simple listener as well; because it’s nice to know, I’m already tired of this subject.”
– Well; this was the real thing; that’s how I got my gloves. I was in that shop with them for a total of thirty-five minutes; some fool led me out the wrong way to show me the new hosiery warehouse. I say; I don’t need one. Asongya, she doesn’t want me to buy; he just wants me to see it.
The uridivat dealer also offered dining and tea room set; soon you will have small furnished suites, where any lady can feel comfortable “for a few weeks.”
I told him that I think shopping is a very bitter thing. I also told him, when I saw that he just kept talking, that I would like a brandy soda right now. He was pointing to a smoking room.
– There should be some kind of association, – he insists, – a “clearing-house” where Christmas gifts are collected exclusively. Christmas presents should be collected and distributed there.
A list should be compiled of those from whom the person collects and those to whom the gifts are distributed. Let me assume that in my case they collect twenty Christmas presents, say ten pounds worth. This I would give; on the other hand, they would take thirty Christmas presents to the value of fifteen pounds for my share. Then they charge me with five pounds of difference; they would deduct some percentage from the whole. I will pay that easily; and no more hassle with the whole thing. You can even come out well. The idea also applies to birthdays and weddings. A skilled company does it all easily. They check whether all acquaintances pay properly, I mean, send the gift regularly; they don’t forget the most important relationship either. Ordinarily there is only one member of the family, from whom a shilling or two inheritance appears; if there’s anyone in the world you forget about when giving gifts, it’s definitely this one. If-95-yet it occurs to me that I must be committing a great deal of stupidity in front of him. Two years ago I gave one of these a thorough bath, understand that I didn’t want to bathe him, but bought a real Indian bath sponge; so much so that he could easily carry it with him anywhere; it was particularly suitable for travel. Would you believe it please; took it as a personal insult; he didn’t speak to me for a month afterwards; the grumpy old fool.
“Perhaps the children are happy about it; – I asked.
– I would be glad; what are they happy about?
“Well, for Christmas.”
“I don’t think they’re happy about it; cut it down sharply, because no one is happy about it. We excite them three weeks before; we will tell you what a great thing it will be; we give them tulsi to eat for two or three days; we take the poor somewhere, where they didn’t wish to go, what we wanted to see. After that, we fight with them for two weeks to get them back to normal. When I was a child, I was always taken to the Crystal Palace and Madame Tussaud’s. God, how I hated that Crystal Palace! The aunt used to supervise us at that time. Quite a bitterly cold day; we almost always got on a fake car and traveled for half a day before we got to our destination. We never got lunch then. It never occurs to the woman that someone who is not at home should also have lunch. He believes that nature suspends its laws from the moment that you leave the house until you return. A piece of cake, a glass of milk: this is the morning snack for schoolchildren. Half the time was spent before he lost us; or backstabbed if he got stuck. The only thing that made me happy in the whole thing was the drive home.
I got up; I was about to go.
“So you don’t want to participate in the competition?” – asks B. – my friend. – However, the topic would be quite easy: “Why should Christmas be eliminated?”
“Sounds pretty; I answer. “But how do you think we’ll eliminate it?” The lady editor of a distinguished American “magazine” (monthly magazine) once asked the question:-96-“How do we eliminate gender?” Eleven gentlemen and ladies discussed the question very seriously.
– Die of exhaustion; says B… the first thing is to get the public interested. Convince the audience that it needs to be eliminated, that’s all.
“How much should be eliminated?” I ask.
“Heavenly God!” he shouts; – so maybe you don’t want to eliminate it?
“I’m not quite sure.”
“You’re not sure; – you say you’re a penman and there’s an object in the world you’re not sure about?!
“This sort of thing has happened to me in recent years,” I answer. “You know I didn’t suffer from it before.”
He looked around; he makes sure we’re out of earshot. His voice becomes a whisper:
“Speaking between us,” he whispers; – now sometimes I’m not as sure about some things as I used to be. How is this?
– Maybe because we are getting older; – I assume.
– I started playing golf last year; – continues, – as I first take the hook in my hand; I continue the ball quite far. “It looks easy; – I say to the one who taught me. – Yes; he answers dryly; – everyone finds it easy at first. “This man was an old champion golfer; I thought; jealous. I was making good progress; after three or four weeks I was quite satisfied with myself. Slowly, I began to experience the difficulties. Now I know that I will never be a good player. Have you had a similar experience?
– I did; I answer. – Apparently, the explanation is that every game seems very easy at the beginning.
He went to lunch; I then wandered towards the West; and I reflected on the time when I used to answer such Christmas questions, or any other questions, easily and half-heartedly. Dear youth, when I knew everything in the world; when there were no problems in life; when doubts did not torment me!-97-
At that time, I also wanted to share some of my wisdom with the world and I was looking for brightness, in which world my brilliant quality would become visible and useful to humanity – I used to appear at one of the dirty gates of Chequers Street, St. Luke’s every Friday evening. Behind the gate, a group of young people, along with some older ones – the older ones really could have had more sense – were fighting. The purpose of the meetings was to arrange and discuss the affairs of the universe. “Oratory” members were charged sixteen pence per annum; – if we take the bare word, then this means an extremely low amount; According to the Seventh Rule, “a gentleman whose subscription shows three months in arrears” can no longer exercise influence, either for good or for bad. We called ourselves “Stormbirds”; under the protection of the wings of this sympathetic bird, I labored for two seasons at the repair of the human race, until at last our treasurer—an earnest young man, an indefatigable knight fighting against all conventions—migrated to the East; he left only the statement, according to which the club was left with a debt of forty-two pounds fifteen shillings and four pence. Furthermore, the current year’s subscriptions – about thirty-eight pounds – were “carried over”; but where, the report did not mention. At this, our host – a man without any ideals – put his hand on our stool; he even offered to return the whole thing to us for fifteen pounds. We were informed that the incredible price; for our part, we offered him five. every indefatigable knight fighting against convention – Wandered East; he left only the statement, according to which the club was left with a debt of forty-two pounds fifteen shillings and four pence. Furthermore, the current year’s subscriptions – about thirty-eight pounds – were “carried over”; but where, the report did not mention. At this, our host – a man without any ideals – put his hand on our stool; he even offered to return the whole thing to us for fifteen pounds. We were informed that the incredible price; for our part, we offered him five. every indefatigable knight fighting against convention – Wandered East; he left only the statement, according to which the club was left with a debt of forty-two pounds fifteen shillings and four pence. Furthermore, the current year’s subscriptions – about thirty-eight pounds – were “carried over”; but where, the report did not mention. At this, our host – a man without any ideals – put his hand on our stool; he even offered to return the whole thing to us for fifteen pounds. We were informed that the incredible price; for our part, we offered him five. the report did not mention that. At this, our host – a man without any ideals – put his hand on our stool; he even offered to return the whole thing to us for fifteen pounds. We were informed that the incredible price; for our part, we offered him five. the report did not mention that. At this, our host – a man without any ideals – put his hand on our stool; he even offered to return the whole thing to us for fifteen pounds. We were informed that the incredible price; for our part, we offered him five.
These negotiations elicited from him expressions unbefitting a gentleman; the “Stormbirds” scattered: never again did they gather above the troubled waters of Humanity. Nowadays, when I hear the mule schemes of modern reformers, I smile; it reminds me of what we did in Checkers Street by St. Luke’s. I hear; they are everywhere to eliminate the House of Lords; woman; the “Stormbirds” eliminated the entire aristocracy together with the crown in a single evening; the case was postponed only so that we could elect a board and form the Republic State Structure the following Friday evening.-98- They mention useless rulers! Eighteen years ago we closed all the Music Halls in an instant with twenty-nine words against seventeen. Although they were very good little institutions and they were led correctly, only we found that this kind of entertainment was anti-progressive and against the most urgent interests of an intellectual democracy in development. The next evening at the “Macskaköröm” party, I met the initiator of the militant movement and we continued the discussion over a bottle of “twice burned”; to strengthen our arguments forced me to listen to “Comic Lions” three times. But I was always able to successfully contradict myself, referring to the dance of a blonde lady in a light blue leotard who was present. I have forgotten her name, but I will never forget her charm and beauty. Oh, my God; so cute, charming “artists” lived at that time! Where did they go? Blonde ladies in light blue leotards dance even today, but they can’t get started unless they’re bored. Where are the witchy little dancers from twenty years ago? Once we saw it, we dreamed about it for a week; to touch his white hand would have been a delight; the kiss of her red lips is a foreboding of Heaven. One day I hear that the son of an old friend of mine secretly married a ballerina from the “front row”; I involuntarily exclaim: “Poor devil!” but there was a time when my first thought would have been: “Lucky bastard! so does it deserve such a woman?” Because then the ladies of the ballet were angels. How could a human eye look at them – from that cock’s perch – doubtingly! They danced, of course, perhaps to comfortably support some widowed sweet mother; the school fees of one of the younger brothers had to be covered. They were truly divine creations then; any young man might justly adore them; but today…
It’s an old joke. The youth sees the world through rose-colored glasses. Aged eyes are hazy behind smoky glasses. My yellow-haired friend, you are not the angel I dreamed you to be; you are not the sinful creature that some paint you to be; you are a woman under all your feathers – mistakes, frailties, weaknesses, what little strength and charm hold you together. You have a car; you barely keep your thirty shillings a week.-99-There are ladies in Mayfair, I know, who pay a good sum for their car. Paint yourself; however, they also say that you ride. My God; so don’t we all cover ourselves in foreign virtues? When the paint and dust come off us, my brother, – from me, from you – we will see which one has the right to look down on the other.
Forgive me, gentle reader, for this digression. The lady took it. It was about “Stormbirds”; about the reforms they plan; and the reforms were numerous. I remember; we eliminated monetary punishment and war; we were excellent good-hearted young men. We have all reformed Christmas and holidays; a majority of twelve is definite. I do not remember that there was a single elimination proposal that did not receive a majority vote. There’s very little left that we stormbirds haven’t eliminated. Christmas was easily done; we caught him on the ridiculous side. We have spread out the empty fluff of Christmas sentiment; we stopped the indigestible Christmas lunches, the boring Christmas gatherings, the boho Christmas performances. Our funny bird picked Christmas carolers; our social drinker found bitter words against Christmas drunkenness; our economics member was outraged by the Christmas mercy. There was only one argument, which was not against the holiday; the statement of the chief cynic, according to which it is worth suffering through the horrors of Christmas Eve for the sake of the outstanding good feeling caused by the fact that it is already over and there will be no more trouble within a whole year.
From the time I wanted to enlighten this old world of ours about all kinds of things, I listened to many other opinions. I understood many foreign worldviews; I am no longer as sure as I was then that my particular worldview is the only correct one. Christmas is somewhat insignificant to me; but I peered through the windows of poverty-stricken regions; and I saw how the worn den brightened, how the painted paper took on a golden hue. The light of the candles illuminates the rarely bright corners above, disappears in the ceiling; the paper chain, gold glitter encases the cheap gas pipeline; frames the fly-stained mirror. Tired-100-hands and eyes spend hours trying to arrange and shape the silly paper chain, thinking: “I think he will like it”. “You will be glad that the room is in order.” As I looked at them, they became sympathetic in some miraculous way. The clutter is a child’s toy, a dog, a picture, it irritates, it annoys, but then I catch a glimpse of the harsh, unartistic personality, as he smooths the toy with his crusty hands from work; greedy faces lurk around him, staring at his rickety rawness. The picture still hangs there above the fireplace in a cheap frame; a single wedge of smoky walls; the look of tired eyes falls on him again and again – through the dim colors they glimpse into the distant land of art. Christmas carolers are also annoying; I want to open the window and throw coal on them – I once did this from the window of a high tenement in Chelsea. I felt, they are not great enough singers. I was leaning towards the opinion that they were simple young people who found a reason to make a fuss. One of them knew the Carbel hymn; played another instrument; he ended it all with the third dance. Instinctively I felt no respect for them; they interfered with my work; I wanted to hurt them. I thought; it will be a good thing if I extinguish the light; I open the door slowly and pour coal on them. It would have been impossible to guess from which window of the block the blessing fell upon them; I could avoid the inconvenience. They were quite a small group, and if I’m lucky, I’ll find one of them. he ended it all with the third dance. Instinctively I felt no respect for them; they interfered with my work; I wanted to hurt them. I thought; it will be a good thing if I extinguish the light; I open the door slowly and pour coal on them. It would have been impossible to guess from which window of the block the blessing fell upon them; I could avoid the inconvenience. They were quite a small group, and if I’m lucky, I’ll find one of them. he ended it all with the third dance. Instinctively I felt no respect for them; they interfered with my work; I wanted to hurt them. I thought; it will be a good thing if I extinguish the light; I open the door slowly and pour coal on them. It would have been impossible to guess from which window of the block the blessing fell upon them; I could avoid the inconvenience. They were quite a small group, and if I’m lucky, I’ll find one of them.
I decided to go through with the plan. I couldn’t see them clearly. I just adjusted according to the noise. I dropped about thirty selected pieces of coal without success; I was a little discouraged. Then I heard some sort of barking; this was followed by remarks that did not suit the occasion in any way. It seems that providence directed my arm in the right direction; the music suddenly stopped, the band burst into loud laughter, which I found strange.
I only noticed one person who stayed behind. He stood under a lamp; he shook his fist at the house.
“Who dropped that coal?” he asks in a stentorian voice.
To my astonishment, resident number eighty-eight-101- I recognized him; – penman like myself. I quickly saw through the whole situation – only too late – like the hapless heroes of novels. Apparently the Eighty-Nine – he too was disturbed by the commotion – went out to negotiate with the rioters. Of course, my lump of coal hit him. Him, the innocent, the peaceful! The waist, virtuous! Fate judges us mortals with such justice! There were ten or fourteen young men in the group; there is not one of them who did not deserve a piece of coal and he is the only innocent victim. I managed to take him out in the light of the foggy lamp, his eye was just injured.
The building block remained silent at the question; he came across the street and went up the stairs. He stopped at every floor; he yelled.
“Who dropped that piece of coal?” Where is the man who dropped that coal? Out with him!
In my place, the distinguished man waits until the Eighty-Eight reaches the corridor where he lives. He would open the door; would mean with masculine determination:
“I threw the piece of coal away.” I did, yes. – He couldn’t have said any more, because at this point the Eighty-Eight is hitting his head, that’s for sure. There is a scandal in the corridor; a large camp would surround him, all the inhabitants of the house would be annoyed; later questioning, explaining, law. Evil passions would have arisen in men; bitter anger would have arisen, perhaps lasting for years.
I’m not saying I’m an outstanding person. I don’t know if there’s any point in trying to say that I am. I’m not a good enough actor. I say to myself when I take off my shoes in my study to go to the bedroom. This Eighty-Eight is certainly not in the mood to be interested in my story. Let him roar; then it calms down. He returns to his apartment, washes his eyes; falls into a refreshing sleep. In the morning, as usual, we meet in Fleet Street, I occasionally mention the incident; I express my regret. I have also learned the truth, that perhaps some neighbor, who was also annoyed by the matter, threw coal at the singers, and then, due to an unfortunate accident, just -102-he became the victim. With tact, I might even be able to see the humor in the incident. Later, in March or April, carefully choosing the most opportune moment, I might confess that it was me; we laugh about the case over a friendly glass of brandy.
Indeed; it happened too. The aforementioned Eighty-Eighter is a big man; – a better son has never lived on earth than him, he’s just a little hot-tempered, – he said himself: – “Well, you were lucky, old man, that you didn’t say it then.”
“Because I felt,” I answer, “instinctively, that this matter is of such a nature that it is better to postpone it until later.”
It is true that it is better to overcome passion, so that one can be manfully determined. The Christmas carolers provoke nothing but irritation from my bosom; however, I saw that when she heard the “Angel from Heaven” – no matter how hazy the throat that sang, no matter how false the accompanying flute and trumpet – a ray of joy lit up on the woman’s face, furrowed from work. That song is a harbinger of hope and love; it will make the hard taste of life sweeter. When we, higher-order people, just think about the familial Christmas gift collection, we shudder. I remember what one of my friends said about a village Christmas visit. He came face to face with a lady he knew in the city in a completely opposite environment. The door of the little farmhouse stood wide open; that certain woman and an older woman were ironing at a table; the like younger soft, his white hands lifted the iron to and fro, the way he was folding and smoothing the white linen knot, laughing and chatting; well, it’s all homey, nice things he says. My friend’s shadow falls on his work; the woman looks up; their eyes meet: the woman’s face simply says: “I don’t know you here; you don’t know me either. Here I am a woman who is loved and respected.” My friend enters; he mingles with the older woman – one of his host’s guests is his wife. The woman turns and introduces the younger man: “My daughter, sir. We don’t have much luck here. He has a job in London; you can only visit us rarely. He usually only spends a few days with us at Christmas.” My friend’s shadow falls on his work; the woman looks up; their eyes meet: the woman’s face simply says: “I don’t know you here; you don’t know me either. Here I am a woman who is loved and respected.” My friend enters; he mingles with the older woman – one of his host’s guests is his wife. The woman turns and introduces the younger man: “My daughter, sir. We don’t have much luck here. He has a job in London; you can only visit us rarely. He usually only spends a few days with us at Christmas.” My friend’s shadow falls on his work; the woman looks up; their eyes meet: the woman’s face simply says: “I don’t know you here; you don’t know me either. Here I am a woman who is loved and respected.” My friend enters; he mingles with the older woman – one of his host’s guests is his wife. The woman turns and introduces the younger man: “My daughter, sir. We don’t have much luck here. He has a job in London; you can only visit us rarely. He usually only spends a few days with us at Christmas.” The woman turns and introduces the younger man: “My daughter, sir. We don’t have much luck here. He has a job in London; you can only visit us rarely. He usually only spends a few days with us at Christmas.” The woman turns and introduces the younger man: “My daughter, sir. We don’t have much luck here. He has a job in London; you can only visit us rarely. He usually only spends a few days with us at Christmas.”
“That’s the best time for a family reunion,” my friend replies -103-with a suppressed grin, why does he hate himself.
“It is, sir; – replies the woman, who doesn’t notice the grin. He still spent Christmas with us so far; isn’t that right, Bess?
“Always, mother,” the woman answers simply and leans over her work.
He leaves his furs and jewelry for these few days of the year; beautiful clothes, delicious food – for a while he lives where there is cleanliness and health. It is the anchor that binds you to femininity; one fondly thinks that he will be strong enough to save him from complete submersion. All of the deep arguments I have made in defense of Christmas and in praise of Christmas customs are of a sentimental nature; but I have lived long enough to doubt whether emotion has not its proper, legitimate place in the economy of life.