"Just come down to have a look at us, then?"
He believed he would know the best or the worst by the time day dawned once more. If Frank was there they must inevitably meet; the General had promised to do anything that lay in his power to help. If again doomed to disappointment the shock would prove most cruel.
"Not to-night, thanks." Then the boyish voice was raised in respectful apology: "So sorry, sir, but we couldn"t help it. Mrs. Coventry will explain."
. . . . . . . .
The descriptions were at first extremely inartistic and unmethodical; but the effort to make them as exact and clear as was possible led from time to time to perceptions of truth, that came unsought and lay far removed from the object originally in view. It was remarked that many of the plants which Dioscorides had described in his Materia Medica do not grow wild in Germany, France, Spain, and England, and that conversely very many plants grow in these countries, which were evidently unknown to the ancient writers; it became apparent at the same time that many plants have points of resemblance to one another, which have nothing to do with their medicinal powers or with their importance to agriculture and the arts. In the effort to promote the knowledge of plants for practical purposes by careful description of individual forms, the impression forced itself on the mind of the observer, that there are various natural groups of plants which have a distinct resemblance to one another in form and in other characteristics. It was seen that there were other natural alliances in the vegetable world, beside the three great divisions of trees, shrubs, and herbs adopted by Aristotle and Theophrastus. The first perception of natural groups is to be found in Bock, and later herbals show that the natural connection between such plants as occur together in the groups of Fungi, Mosses, Ferns, Coniferae, Umbelliferae, Compositae, Labiatae, Papilionaceae was distinctly felt, though it was by no means clearly understood how this connection was actually expressed; the fact of natural affinity presented itself unsought as an incidental and indefinite impression, to which no great value was at first attached. The recognition of these groups required no antecedent philosophic reflection or conscious attempt to classify the objects in the vegetable world; they present themselves to the unprejudiced eye as naturally as do the groups of mammals, birds, reptiles,
or raised a crop of wheat; if they do it unpropitiously and ill, they have done the world an injury. Socialism denies altogether the right of any one to beget children carelessly and promiscuously, and for the prevention of disease and evil births alike the Socialist is prepared for an insistence upon intelligence and self-restraint quite beyond the current practice. At present we deal with all that sort of thing as an infringement of private proprietary rights; the Socialist holds it is the world that is injured.
The address was heavy, obvious and dull. I was taken back twenty years to my boyhood when stern parents compelled me to go to a Wesleyan chapel one hundred and three times a year (twice every Sunday and once on Christmas Day); on most of those hundred and three occasions I used to hear exhortations to be “good,” not, so to speak, for the love of the thing, but because being “good” paid. Mr Arthur Henderson, Samuel Smiles redivivus, proved that it paid. He didn’t say: “Look at me!” but, all the same, we did look at him. The spectacle to most of his congregation was, I suppose, encouraging; me, it didn’t excite. I can well believe 177that, as I stepped out of the building, I said to myself: “No, Gerald. We will remain as we are. The penalties of virtue are much too heavy for us to pay.”
“The old men of the neighborhood manifested great sympathy for the young stranger, and predicted that Lazarus Cotton would ruin him.
His very brilliant assistant, A. A. Milne, I once interviewed for a now defunct Labour paper. I was invited to the office of Punch, and met a tall, slim, yellow-haired and blue-eyed youth, who was so inordinately shy that, after half-an-hour’s perfunctory conversation, I discovered that I had not sufficient material for a paragraph, 78whereas I had orders to make a column article of the interview. I knew instinctively that Milne must find, as I do, a good deal in W. S. Gilbert’s writings that is in deplorable taste, and I did my utmost to induce him to say something very rude about Sullivan’s collaborator. But he would not “bite.” He nodded and smiled at, and appeared to agree with, all the savage things I said of Gilbert, but he would say very little—and certainly not enough for my purpose—on his own account. I tried other subjects, but without success; finally, I got up in despair, thanked him for the time he had given me and prepared to depart.
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