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on In short, the disillusion is complete.
Our first feeling is one of genuine sorrow: it is a lamentable misfortune, we say to ourselves, that a fine figure of a man should have run to seed like that so early in life. Presently we proceed to impart our thoughts to some one else. We We have a cup of tea at the club with a mutual friend, a man of the same standing as ourselves and our fallen idol, but a man, be it remembered, whom we are constantly in the habit of meeting. To him we unburden our soul.
"I ran up against old J. today," we remark, "and hardly knew him; in fact, should not have known him at all if I had not been told who he was."
"Why, I always thought that you prided yourself on your memory,―never forgot a face, and all that sort of thing."
"Well, I very seldom do forget a face"-this rather hotly; "but you never in your life saw a man so altered: you would not know him yourself if you met him in the street."
"Oh yes, I should; I happen to see him pretty often, and I stay with him occasionally. Perhaps you have not met him lately?"
To that proposition we cordially assent. We admit that we have not met old J. for a long time, never, in fact, since since -how the years do fly, to be sure!—why, never since we took our degree; and how many years ago was that?
Our companion, who has, though he does not boast about
No need to say anything more. "Thou art the man. The truth has come straight home to us at once; we do not require to be told a second time that J. has observed the change in ourselves quite as readily as we noticed the deterioration in him.
"Saw old A. to-day," we seem to hear J. telling some one; "horrible old crock he looks now: quite sad to see him.'
It is, we will venture to hope, only when a rencontre of this type has temporarily disorganised our nervous system, or when a touch of liver has caused us to feel out of charity with mankind in general and ourselves in particular, that we go to bed at deadly feud with our old friend Anno Domini. For that one night at least we feel that we have a legitimate ground for complaint against him. He has been altogether too much in evidence, and has elected to bring the unpleasant fact of his existence before our eyes in an over-obtrusive and wholly unfriendly manner. Now at last we seem to have viewed him not as in a glass darkly, but face to face in all his hideous naked reality. We court sleep
in vain; our brain is preternaturally active. Morbid and unsettled, we review the past, a whole tide of recollections comes surging up and flooding our mind, here and there the recollection of honours grasped or prizes won, mere oases in the desert, a sauce piquante to give relish to a nauseous olla-podrida of baffled schemes, disappointed hopes, lost opportunities, unfulfilled purposes.
We decline to believe in the existence of a middle-aged man, to whom a night spent in thoughts like these is an absolute stranger. For even selfsatisfaction - to the possessor, at all events, most comfortable of all possessions—must have its limits.
Let us hope that the sun will be shining into our bedroom window in the morning and will dissipate the gloomy thoughts that have broken our rest; that the cheery song of the birds may charm away the evil spirit that has haunted us; that our vitality, if not our manhood, may come to our rescue and refuse to allow us to be enslaved by a mawkish and morbid sentimentality. Let us invoke the aid of our classical knowledge and take old Cato's wise advice, "We must resist old age and fight against it as a disease."
Let us make up our minds to keep with us in middle age, and further still, something of the youth, agreeing with the old Roman that "he who follows this maxim may become an old man in body, but never in heart." Or let us open the
book of Harrow song, and learn a lesson from that.
To "look back and regretfully wonder what you were like in your work or your play," is an unsatisfactory process. We cannot put back the clock or replace ourselves, except in fancy, in the scenes of our schoolboy triumphs or reverses. But there may be still left for us
"bases to guard or beleaguer, Games to play out, whether earnest or fun,
Fights for the fearless and goals for the eager,
Twenty and thirty and forty years on."
Improved medical science, and a more perfect knowledge of the laws of hygiene, seem to have made men in these modern days "so strong" that they
come to fourscore years," but it is more or less left to the octogenarian himself to decide whether he will remain to the end an active and useful member of society, or cumber the ground by playing the part of an automatic grumbling machine. As yet we hardly feel educated up to the point of being able to analyse the feelings of Maga's contemporaries.
But among men of our own generation we seem to know many who live every day of their life with the determination to take Anno Domini as he comes, and to make the best of him; not a few who waste the present either in regretting the past or moaning over the future. Men of this latter type, if taken to task on their habit of accentuating their own misery by constant grumbling, plead excuses of indifferent
health, torpid liver, or chronic indigestion.
"It's all very well for you to talk," they tell us; "but if you had to live the life that we do," &c., &c.
For the real invalid we are unfeignedly sorry. Our sympathy for the valetudinarian extends unto the third and fourth generation, whom we shall expect to be "sans hair, sans teeth, sans everything" at a very early age. Chronic indigestion and torpid livers seem to suggest self-indulgence and gluttony either personal or hereditary.
Some of our contemporaries are silent by nature, and seem to grow more reticent each year; and here is at once an interesting problem to be solved. It is a rejuvenating pastime to set oneself seriously to work to discover whether these silent members of society are merely men who were not only born without intelligence, but have also failed to pick up any idea in their way through the world, or whether they are those strong silent men on whose lips we hang, when they do speak, in the certainty that what they say will be well worth the hearing. Most of us probably talk too much, and that thought again sets wondering why Anno Domini, though he limits our activity and sensibly affects our eyesight and powers of hearing, allows the human tongue to wag on to the end of the chapter with undiminished vigour. If we may count the art of conversation as a virtue,
we are tempted to borrow a phrase from Aristotle and decide that the silent man approaches the mean state more nearly than he who runs into the opposite extreme. Young men are on the whole complaisant to the old fogies of our standing, and are not uncivil enough to wish to push us off our stools if we on our part are wise enough to be decently chary of our conversation. There are even occasions when it may interest them to hear of things that happened before before they they were born. But in the days when we had to struggle with our Homer, Nestor used to bore us consumedly with his longwinded narrations of his youthful experiences. Achilles and Hector, Ajax and Æneas, we were prepared to accept as real personages: they dealt in hard blows and bloody deeds, matters that commended themselves to the boyish mind; and in consideration of the fact that they knew no better, we condoned the offence of their talking an outlandish dialect. But we drew the line at the Gerenian Knight altogether, and when he told us how he had vanquished Clytomedes, overthrown Anchæus, &c., &c., we were inclined to Vow with Betsy Prigg that "we don't believe there is no sich person."
At a later period of our existence we were grievously tormented by a long-winded old party, a sort of one-man one-story individual. He too, like the Greek veteran, was
with the phrase, “And don't you mind as how?"
At last there came to our rescue a fisherman friend from London, keen on sport, dour of nature, unsympathetic to a
"The way was long, the wind was degree as an auditor of long
The minstrel was infirm and old;"
but the minstrel had a keen sense of duty, and clearly thought that his duty lay in entertaining his fare. Possibly the readers of 'Maga' would feel as much bored as we used to feel if we attempted to inflict upon them that interminable story. We will briefly say it was the tale of a youth who used to fish the Cornish streams somewhere in the dark ages, who never failed to catch the respectable total of three dozen and a half, and generally met with a series of misadventures in the course of the day. The story always commenced in an interrogative style.
"I was a-wondering, sir, if as how you was the young gen'man as used to come to these parts," &c., &c.
For three years, at the rate of some five or six times per year, we denied the imputation, and listened with resignation to the yarn. But there came a limit to our patience, and, alas! to our veracity. In an evil hour we boldly tried the experiment of asserting our identity with the mythical youth. The result was disastrous: not one jot or one tittle of the legend was suppressed, and we were furthermore pestered by a series of conundrums all commencing
yarns, wholly uneducated in the art of suffering fools gladly. We put him to sit in front of the dogcart and told him that he would find the driver a most entertaining companion. Rather to our surprise, even he, the unsympathetic man, being preoccupied in making up a cast, sat through one recitation and grunted assent at proper intervals. But the second reading he nipped in the bud in the most unfeeling
"I was a-wondering," began
"Well, I shouldn't if I was you-it's a bad habit. But if you were wondering whether I was the young gentleman and so forth, as I told you yesterday, I was nothing of the kind, and I don't want to hear anything more about him. You are paid to drive and not to talk, so just look after your horse, and don't talk to me."
The young man of the present day may be forgiven if he declines to listen with rapt attention to the lengthy tales of his seniors, and may earn the thanks of society at large if he invents a polite way of suppressing that common pest, the raconteur whose stock-in-trade consists of a fixed number of stories to be told with varia
tions. This particular type of story-teller should be condemned to bear in a future state the penalty of the evil thoughts and wicked words which he has evoked from others in this world. Kindly affectioned as we feel that the rising generation is inclined to be towards those of maturer age, let us forbear while in their company to prematurely usurp the office of Nestor and to prose of doughty deeds by others unrecorded and unsung, quorum pars magna fui."
"I wonder what the old man's handicap at golf is," we can hear them say. For they may know--as what golfer does not know?—that there is a really old man at St Andrews who can still cut the combs of many a youngster, and who, instead of talking of what he could do in the years that are past, is ready to show us what he is capable of to-day.
Let us postpone the evil day for weaving romances of our past prowess till we can tell them to our grandchildren, who may appreciate that form of fairy-tale. It will hardly enhance the satisfaction of the youngster who has done a thing well himself to be told that there was a time when we could have done it better, nor shall we gain advantage in the present by investing our past with an imaginative halo.
Rather let us take the good things that the gods have bestowed on this latter-day generation-the bicycle, the golf-club, the hammerless gun-and try to hold our own with the youngsters in the present; and in the future let us hope there may be "a something ere the end," some work not unbecoming the humblest of the contributors to the pages of the ever-vigorous, though now octogenarian, 'Maga.'