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FIFTEENTH LETTER

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Boston, Mass. You have had the sensation, my dear Douglas, of wishing to awake and throw off the amorphous incubus of a bad dream. I read your letter, and still feel as though it were a dream or a tale, — something I shall awake from and find unreal. All this, the moral side as well as the physical side, is so far away from me. It is like sitting in the gentle sunshine of a spring day, and seeing a hurricane uprooting, tearing, and smashing among the homes of your neighbours.

I am somewhat shaky, morally, to find myself, in a sense, the confessor, shut up in a box in the cathedral of my infirmities,

you,

listening to cruelties and passions of which I know so little, and over which I have so little control. I was a man once myself, to be sure, but I was professionally sheltered from the storm and stress of such experiences as these. I try to think what I would do in a like predicament, or what I would have another do for me were I and I only know that I would wish to be trusted still, and to be cared for the more, the more I found my feet in miry places. Let me do that for you! Perhaps if I were stronger physically, I should be harsher spiritually than I now find I can be. The pride of bone and blood and muscle is no longer mine.

Perhaps I have a sympathy for weakness, born of weakness. What a poor creature is man even in his best state that he should in a moment be dashed from physical prowess to invalidism by a horse,

like me; or picked up and whirled into a vortex of adventures, over which he has little control, by a woman, like you!

We walk about like“ forked radishes," as Swift says, knowing one another largely by the clothes we wear, until of a sudden this one or that one is galvanised into a display of passion, or knavery, as the case may be, and lo, we are surprised! We know not what to do, what to prescribe, what attitude to take. We call this good, the other bad, and stumble about in our hobnailed boots amongst broken hearts and damaged reputations and homes in pieces and shattered hopes, like so many clodhoppers in a picture gallery. We gape, stare, and do not understand. There is a Fortuny, there a Rousseau, there a Diaz, and here again a Vibert; but, so far as Hans and the other yokels are concerned, they might as well never have been painted. I feel that way now, hence I have a deal of sympathy for those who look upon the men about them as so many suits of clothes. There they hang on the line. A workingman's blouse, an admiral's uniform, an Anglo-dandiacal frock coat, innumerable "business suits,” so called, of dull browns and grays, here and there a dash of colour, a line of red or check of purple or yellow. There they hang and swing, according as the wind blows soft or hard. Of a sudden the frock coat bulges out, capers about, swings its arms, takes possession of some female baggage with another's tag upon it, and is off the line in a jiffy.

There is a boom of cannon, a yelling, rattling, tramping, and the admiral's uniform fills out, becomes imposing, waves commands with dignity and purpose, and off the line it slips, and we have a hero that we scarcely know what to do with. We weep and laugh and dance over this uniform, and then in no time there it is on the line again, bedraggled, soiled, shopworn, as empty as ever.

A business suit” spruces up, the pockets bulge with notes and gold; there is a chink and a tinkle as it moves, and lo, that plain brown suit with the red lines is a millionaire!

The workingman's blouse grows tremulous as to the sleeves, the bosom part heaves and falls, there is unwonted and excited motion, and bless my soul, here is a socialist upon us without warning, fencing with conservative journals, trying a fall with Mallock, or any other champion of the old order.

Now what is a plain simpleton like me

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