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course, by the way, I expect you to do these things. Thus do we always minimise the goodness, or the greatness, or the courage of those we love! Such an one must have a little of the essence of devilry in him that makes this slow and timid old world go round. Don't
you think so yourself? That kind of a man is probably ready to have another round with the world, no matter what punches he has had in former battles, and he is always a dangerous man to bet against. Of course I am not writing about your particular Mr. B. I do not know him. I do not know his wife. I never shall know, or see, either of them, this side of a miracle. But you seem to be cudgelling him frequently and heavily, and I only see your letters. I never see his! I never see him! I never see her! I am not one of those who willingly excuse the soft luxurious flow of every idle passion. Why should not a woman stand by her plighted troth whether she likes it or not, and a man likewise? It seems to me always, when questions of this kind are brought to my notice, that the root of the trouble is never so much as touched upon. Marriage is not of divine origin, and parson though I be, I could not, without blushing, maintain such an exploded theory. As soon as you make marriage a sacrament you presuppose a state church, or at any rate, an institution with divine rights and with legal powers superior to those of the state, and we washed out that theory, that scheme of things, in blood long ago. But when a man gives his word of honour to a woman to protect her and not to run away from her, or when a woman pledges herself to keep herself for one man, and to stand by him come what may, then
when either one or the other breaks the con
tract, the divine thing, the truth, the honour, the very key to stability of character, are made as nothing. Nobody would maintain, I take it, that when one party to a contract breaks the contract, the other party is held and bound as before. To me that is the awful thing about all these questions between men and women. The weakness of character, the lack of hang-on-edness, the wateriness of the moral muscles behind these breaks and betrayals, these are the serious features. Hence it is that the making of laws on the subject is idle. What such men and women must have is a new form of moral oatmeal to eat, some new spiritual tonic to take. The newspaper notoriety, the preaching of your fancy city clerics, the exaggerated accounts on all sides, these avail nothing. Such troubles are only one of many indications of a general moral weakness. You may see other symptoms of the same disease at the opera any night; you may see it in Wall Street or State Street any day between ten and three; you may see it in the ill-mannered, uncontrolled children of flabby parents.
We know and associate with men who, they or their fathers, have come by their money by downright thievery, only it goes by another name. Our wives and daughters are often in the company of men,
if they go about much, whom we know to be dissolute, and in not a few instances downright depraved. All this points to the same thing, which is the natural tendency of every rich society to make and keep life soft and easy; and what a soft and easy life portends, what it results in, is writ large over the history of every ancient civilisation. That's the reason, I say, I like a little war, a little pugilism, a little football, a little roughing of it for men. No danger that they will be too hard, too rough, too ungentle. The danger to us all of the better classes is, that we shall prove too soft, too smooth, too mild. That is the reason I hate to think of you as entangled in one of these cushioned 'intrigues. There is nothing brave or virile about it. If you galloped off with the lady at your saddle-bow, with bullets following and sabres clanking behind, there would be some risk, some backbone there. But the only thing you have to fear is the divorce-court, and what a poor effeminate beast is that! It is not even as though you had done anything to earn this woman. You have not worked for her, won anything for her, sought the Holy Grail for her. You and she have just