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to do, to think! I know all those suits of clothes well enough. I know the creases, the wrinkles, the patches, the shiny parts, all about them in fact,
or so I flatter myself. I have my philosophy of life, into which these suits of clothes fit; I can deal with them; I can guess what they will do When the wind is from the east, they will swing toward the west; when the wind is from the north, they will swing toward the south. The whole clothes-line of them is simple enough, and I am accustomed to their ways and mannerisms. But what becomes of my opinions, of my prejudices, my principles, even, when these tame suits of clothes become possessed of devils or angels, as the case may be, begin to act according to laws of which I know nothing, propelled by impulses and passions not to
be found in any book on social haberdash
You must not think me flippant, my dear Douglas, in writing thus to you. I am writing to myself really. I am puzzled, and trying to write my thoughts upon a blackboard, so that I may see how they look a few paces off. Here we are, an old and dear friend of mine suddenly assuming a principal and dangerous—and to me equivocal part in a drama. It is all very well for other spectators to applaud or hiss or remain silent; with me it is different. When your own boy is brought home with a bullet through his lungs, war becomes a very different matter from the lazy reading of the head-lines of a morning paper.
I am no great hand at devouring the newspaper-told tales of scandal and domestic trouble. It all seems far away from me, and interests me almost not at all. Now, , without warning, I am personally involved, — sympathetically, at any rate, — in what seems to me to be a very dreadful affair. I could not stand by and see a woman pummelled in the face, even though the aggressor were her husband, and I perhaps the cause of the trouble. Yet I fear I do you harm in seconding you in any of the details of the affair. That it is all wrong, I have not a shadow of doubt. That is easy enough to settle with my conscience. I hope some day to settle it so with yours; but when I come to go into details, I find it hard to lay down hard and fast rules. I am like a surgeon who lacks confidence when he comes to deal with his own child, and must needs turn the case over to some one else. If I did not know you, if I did not care for you, if I had not invited these very confidences that now overwhelm me, I should cut and cauterise and sew up without a tremble of the hand. To be quite frank with you, I do not wish to lose you, you or your friendship. We do not make many new friends after forty. We get stiff and self-engrossed and much employed with our own business, and somewhat suspicious, too, perhaps. I would rather remain your physician than pack you off to those who care very little whether you are well or ill, and nothing at all whether you are happy or unhappy, wise or foolish. I believe that the very best thing that one man can do for another in this world is to believe in him. I propose to believe in you, my dear boy, till you go mad or die. There are better things in you than those things that occupy you now. You will scoff now, but there are nobler things to love than what you now love. Mercy and sympathy and chivalry have somehow combined to cheat you. It is always so, I suppose, in life. A man finds himself tempted by the very virtues he worships. Life is not the simple thing, then, of clothes on a line. You are in that evil case now. You are asked to be merciful, but to the wrong person.
You are asked to be courageous, but in the wrong quarrel. Your sympathies are excited, but toward the wrong object. You are drawn into loving what you ought not to love. The Devil isn't dead yet. I see that clearly enough. He has been more than a match for you, and he puzzles me greatly.
You write that you are on your way to Washington. Can you not interest yourself in the life there? Write me about it. It will interest me greatly. Or why not come North altogether? I will go back to West