The Angel and the Author
[If only we had not lost our Tails!]
A friend of mine thinks it a pity that we have lost our tails. He argues it would be so
helpful if, like the dog, we possessed a tail that wagged when we were pleased, that stuck
out straight when we were feeling mad.
"Now, do come and see us again soon," says our hostess; "don't wait to be asked. Drop in
whenever you are passing."
We take her at her word. The servant who answers our knocking says she "will see."
There is a scuffling of feet, a murmur of hushed voices, a swift opening and closing of
doors. We are shown into the drawing-room, the maid, breathless from her search, one
supposes, having discovered that her mistress IS at home. We stand upon the hearthrug,
clinging to our hat and stick as to things friendly and sympathetic: the suggestion forcing
itself upon us is that of a visit to the dentist.
Our hostess enters wreathed in smiles. Is she really pleased to see us, or is she saying to
herself, "Drat the man! Why must he choose the very morning I had intended to fix up
the clean curtains?"
But she has to pretend to be delighted, and ask us to stay to lunch. It would save us hours
of anxiety could we look beyond her smiling face to her tail peeping out saucily from a
placket-hole. Is it wagging, or is it standing out rigid at right angles from her skirt?
But I fear by this time we should have taught our tails polite behaviour. We should have
schooled them to wag enthusiastically the while we were growling savagely to ourselves.
Man put on insincerity to hide his mind when he made himself a garment of fig-leaves to
hide his body.
One sometimes wonders whether he has gained so very much. A small acquaintance of
mine is being brought up on strange principles. Whether his parents are mad or not is a
matter of opinion. Their ideas are certainly peculiar. They encourage him rather than
otherwise to tell the truth on all occasions. I am watching the experiment with interest. If
you ask him what he thinks of you, he tells you. Some people don't ask him a second
time. They say:
"What a very rude little boy you are!"
"But you insisted upon it," he explains; "I told you I'd rather not say."
It does not comfort them in the least. Yet the result is, he is already an influence. People
who have braved the ordeal, and emerged successfully, go about with swelled head.