They and I

Author: Jerome K. Jerome

Chapter XI

I fancy Veronica is going to be an authoress. Her mother thinks this may account for many things about her that have been troubling us. The story never got far. It was laid aside for the more alluring work of play-writing, and apparently forgotten. I came across the copy-book containing her "Rough Notes" the other day. There is decided flavour about them. I transcribe selections; the spelling, as before, being my own.

"The scene is laid in the Moon. But everything is just the same as down here. With one exception. The children rule. The grown-ups do not like it. But they cannot help it. Something has happened to them. They don’t know what. And the world is as it used to be. In the sweet old story-books. Before sin came. There are fairies that dance o’ nights. And Witches. That lure you. And then turn you into things. And a dragon who lives in a cave. And springs out at people. And eats them. So that you have to be careful. And all the animals talk. And there are giants. And lots of magic. And it is the children who know everything. And what to do for it. And they have to teach the grown-ups. And the grown-ups don’t believe half of it. And are far too fond of arguing. Which is a sore trial to the children. But they have patience, and are just.

"Of course the grown-ups have to go to school. They have much to learn. Poor things! And they hate it. They take no interest in fairy lore. And what would happen to them if they got wrecked on a Desert Island they don’t seem to care. And then there are languages. What they will need when they come to be children. And have to talk to all the animals. And magic. Which is deep. And they hate it. And say it is rot. They are full of tricks. One catches them reading trashy novels. Under the desk. All about love. Which is wasting their children’s money. And God knows it is hard enough to earn. But the children are not angry with them. Remembering how they felt themselves. When they were grown up. Only firm.

"The children give them plenty of holidays. Because holidays are good for everyone. They freshen you up. But the grown-ups are very stupid. And do not care for sensible games. Such as Indians. And Pirates. What would sharpen their faculties. And so fit them for the future. They only care to play with a ball. Which is of no help. To the stern realities of life. Or talk. Lord, how they talk!

"There is one grown-up. Who is very clever. He can talk about everything. But it leads to nothing. And spoils the party. So they send him to bed. And there are two grown-ups. A male and a female. And they talk love. All the time. Even on fine days. Which is maudlin. But the children are patient with them. Knowing it takes all sorts. To make a world. And trusting they will grow out of it. And of course there are grown-ups who are good. And a comfort to their children.

"And everything the children like is good. And wholesome. And everything the grown-ups like is bad for them. AND THEY MUSTN’T HAVE IT. They clamour for tea and coffee. What undermines their nervous system. And waste their money in the tuck shop. Upon chops. And turtle soup. And the children have to put them to bed. And give them pills. Till they feel better.

"There is a little girl named Prue. Who lives with a little boy named Simon. They mean well. But haven’t much sense. They have two grown-ups. A male and a female. Named Peter and Martha. Respectively. They are just the ordinary grown-ups. Neither better nor worse. And much might be done with them. By kindness. But Prue and Simon GO THE WRONG WAY TO WORK. It is blame blame all day long. But as for praise. Oh never!

"One summer’s day Prue and Simon take Peter for a walk. In the country. And they meet a cow. And they think this a good opportunity. To test Peter’s knowledge. Of languages. So they tell him to talk to the cow. And he talks to the cow. And the cow don’t understand him. And he don’t understand the cow. And they are mad with him. ’What is the use,’ they say. ’Of our paying expensive fees. To have you taught the language. By a first-class cow. And when you come out into the country. You can’t talk it.’ And he says he did talk it. But they will not listen to him. But go on raving. And in the end it turns out. IT WAS A JERSEY COW! What talked a dialect. So of course he couldn’t understand it. But did they apologise? Oh dear no.

"Another time. One morning at breakfast. Martha didn’t like her raspberry vinegar. So she didn’t drink it. And Simon came into the nursery. And he saw that Martha hadn’t drunk her raspberry vinegar. And he asked her why. And she said she didn’t like it. Because it was nasty. And he said it wasn’t nasty. And that she OUGHT to like it. And how it was shocking. The way grown-ups nowadays grumbled. At good wholesome food. Provided for them by their too-indulgent children. And how when HE was a grown-up. He would never have dared. And so on. All in the usual style. And to prove it wasn’t nasty. He poured himself out a cupful. And drank it off. In a gulp.

And he said it was delicious. And turned pale. And left the room.

"And Prue came into the nursery. And she saw that Martha hadn’t drunk her raspberry vinegar. And she asked her why. And Martha told her how she didn’t like it. Because it was nasty. And Prue told her she ought to be ashamed of herself. For not liking it. Because it was good for her. And really very nice. And anyhow she’d GOT to like it. And not get stuffing herself up with messy tea and coffee. Because she wouldn’t have it. And there was an end of it. And so on. And to prove it was all right. She poured herself out a cupful. And drank it off. In a gulp. And she said there was nothing wrong with it. Nothing whatever. And turned pale. And left the room.

"And it wasn’t raspberry vinegar. But just red ink. What had got put into the raspberry vinegar decanter. By an oversight. And they needn’t have been ill at all. If only they had listened. To poor old Martha. But no. That was their fixed idea. That grown-ups hadn’t any sense. At all. What is a mistake. As one perceives."

Other characters had been sketched, some of them to be abandoned after a few bold touches: the difficulty of avoiding too close a portraiture to the living original having apparently proved irksome. Against one such, evidently an attempt to help Dick see himself in his true colours, I find this marginal, note in pencil: "Better not. Might make him ratty." Opposite to another—obviously of Mrs. St. Leonard, and with instinct for alliteration—is scribbled; "Too terribly true. She’d twig it."

Another character is that of a gent: "With a certain gift. For telling stories. Some of them NOT BAD." A promising party, on the whole. Indeed, one might say, judging from description, a quite rational person: "WHEN NOT ON THE RANTAN. But inconsistent." He is the grown-up of a little girl: "Not beautiful. But strangely attractive. Whom we will call Enid." One gathers that if all the children had been Enids, then surely the last word in worlds had been said. She has only this one grown-up of her very own; but she makes it her business to adopt and reform all the incorrigible old folk the other children have despaired of. It is all done by kindness. "She is EVER patient. And just." Prominent among her numerous PROTEGEES is a military man, an elderly colonel; until she took him in hand, the awful example of what a grown-up might easily become, left to the care of incompetent infants. He defies his own child, a virtuous youth, but "lacking in sympathy;" is rude to his little nephews and nieces; a holy terror to his governess. He uses wicked words, picked up from retired pirates. "Of course without understanding. Their terrible significance." He steals the Indian’s fire-water. "What few can partake of. With impunity." Certainly not the Colonel. "Can this be he! This gibbering wreck!" He hides cigars in a hollow tree, and smokes on the sly. He plays truant. Lures other old gentlemen away from their lessons to join him. They are discovered in the woods, in a cave, playing whist for sixpenny points.

Does Enid storm and bullyrag; threaten that if ever she catches him so much as looking at a card again she will go straight out and tell the dragon, who will in his turn be so shocked that in all probability he will decide on coming back with her to kill and eat the Colonel on the spot? No. "Such are not her methods." Instead she smiles: "indulgently." She says it is only natural for grownups to like playing cards. She is not angry with him. And there is no need for him to run away and hide in a nasty damp cave. "SHE HERSELF WILL PLAY WHIST WITH HIM." The effect upon the Colonel is immediate: he bursts into tears. She plays whist with him in the garden: "After school hours. When he has been GOOD." Double dummy, one presumes. One leaves the Colonel, in the end, cured of his passion for whist. Whether as the consequence of her play or her influence the "Rough Notes" give no indication.

In the play, I am inclined to think, Veronica received assistance. The house had got itself finished early in September. Young Bute has certainly done wonders. We performed it in the empty billiard-room, followed by a one-act piece of my own. The occasion did duty as a house-warming. We had quite a crowd, and ended up with a dance. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, except young Bertie St. Leonard, who played the Prince, and could not get out of his helmet in time for supper. It was a good helmet, but had been fastened clumsily; and inexperienced people trying to help had only succeeded in jambing all the screws. Not only wouldn’t it come off, it would not even open for a drink. All thought it an excellent joke, with the exception of young Herbert St. Leonard. Our Mayor, a cheerful little man and very popular, said that it ought to be sent to PUNCH. The local reporter reminded him that the late John Leech had already made use of precisely the same incident for a comic illustration, afterwards remembering that it was not Leech, but the late Phil May. He seemed to think this ended the matter. St. Leonard and the Vicar, who are rival authorities upon the subject, fell into an argument upon armour in general, with special reference to the fourteenth century. Each used the boy’s head to confirm his own theory, passing it triumphantly from one to the other. We had to send off young Hopkins in the donkey-cart for the blacksmith. I have found out, by the way, how it is young Hopkins makes our donkey go. Young Hopkins argues it is far less brutal than whacking him, especially after experience has proved that he evidently does not know why you are whacking him. I am not at all sure the boy is not right.

Janie played the Fairy Godmamma in a white wig and panniers. She will make a beautiful old lady. The white hair gives her the one thing that she lacks: distinction. I found myself glancing apprehensively round the room, wishing we had not invited so many eligible bachelors. Dick is making me anxious. The sense of his own unworthiness, which has come to him quite suddenly, and apparently with all the shock of a new discovery, has completely unnerved him. It is a healthy sentiment, and does him good. But I do not want it carried to the length of losing her. The thought of what he might one day bring home has been a nightmare to me ever since he left school. I suppose it is to most fathers. Especially if one thinks of the women one loved oneself when in the early twenties. A large pale-faced girl, who served in a bun-shop in the Strand, is the first I can recollect. How I trembled when by chance her hand touched mine! I cannot recall a single attraction about her except her size, yet for nearly six months I lunched off pastry and mineral waters merely to be near her. To this very day an attack of indigestion will always recreate her image in my mind. Another was a thin, sallow girl, but with magnificent eyes, I met one afternoon in the South Kensington Museum. She was a brainless, vixenish girl, but the memory of her eyes would always draw me back to her. More than twothirds of our time together we spent in violent quarrels; and all my hopes of eternity I would have given to make her my companion for life. But for Luck, in the shape of a well-to-do cab proprietor, as great an idiot as myself I might have done it. The third was a chorus girl: on the whole, the best of the bunch. Her father was a coachman, and she had ten brothers and sisters, most of them doing well in service. And she was succeeded—if I have the order correct- -by the ex-wife of a solicitor, a sprightly lady; according to her own account the victim of complicated injustice. I daresay there were others, if I took the time to think; but not one of them can I remember without returning thanks to Providence for having lost her. What is one to do? There are days in springtime when a young man ought not to be allowed outside the house. Thank Heaven and Convention it is not the girls who propose! Few women, who would choose the right moment to put their hands upon a young man’s shoulders, and, looking into his eyes, ask him to marry them next week, would receive No for an answer. It is only our shyness that saves us. A wise friend of mine, who has observed much, would have all those marrying under five-and-twenty divorced by automatic effluxion of time at forty, leaving the few who had chosen satisfactorily to be reunited if they wished: his argument being that to condemn grown men and women to abide by the choice of inexperienced boys and girls is unjust and absurd. There were nice girls I could have fallen in love with. They never occurred to me. It would seem as if a man had to learn taste in women as in all other things, namely, by education. Here and there may exist the born connoisseur. But with most of us our first instincts are towards vulgarity. It is Barrie, I think, who says that if only there were silly women enough to go round, good women would never get a look in. It is certainly remarkable, the number of sweet old maids one meets. Almost as remarkable as the number of stupid, cross-grained wives. As I tell Dick, I have no desire for a daughter-in-law of whom he feels himself worthy. If he can’t do better than that he had best remain single. Janie and he, if I know anything of life, are just suited for one another. Helpful people take their happiness in helping. I knew just such another, once: a sweet, industrious, sensible girl. She made the mistake of marrying a thoroughly good man. There was nothing for her to do. She ended by losing all interest in him, devoting herself to a Home in the East End for the reformation of newsboys. It was a pitiful waste: so many women would have been glad of him; while to the ordinary sinful man she would have been a life-long comfort. I must have a serious talk to Dick. I shall point out what a good thing it will be for her. I can see Dick keeping her busy and contented for the rest of her days.

Veronica played the Princess,—with little boy Foy—"Sir Robert of the Curse"—as her page. Anything more dignified has, I should say, rarely been seen upon the English stage. Among her wedding presents were: Two Votes for Women, presented by the local Fire Brigade; a Flying Machine of "proved stability. Might be used as a bathing tent;" a National Theatre, "with Cold Water Douche in Basement for reception of English Dramatists;" Recipe for building a Navy, without paying for it, "Gift of that great Financial Expert, Sir Hocus Pocus;" one Conscientious Income Taxpayer, "has been driven by a Lady;" two Socialists in agreement as to what it means, "smaller one slightly damaged;" one Contented Farmer, "Babylonian Period;" and one extra-sized bottle, "Solution of the Servant Problem."

Dick played the "Dragon without a Tail." We had to make him without a tail owing to the smallness of the stage. He had once had a tail. But that was a long story: added to which there was not time to tell it. Little Sally St. Leonard played his wife, and Robina was his mother-in-law. So much depends upon one’s mood. What an ocean of boredom might be saved if science could but give us a barometer foretelling us our changes of temperament! How much more to our comfort we could plan our lives, knowing that on Monday, say, we should be feeling frivolous; on Saturday "dull to bad-tempered."

I took a man once to see The Private Secretary. I began by enjoying myself, and ended by feeling ashamed of myself and vexed with the scheme of creation. That authors should write such plays, that actors should be willing to degrade our common nature by appearing in them was explainable, he supposed, by the law of supply and demand. What he could not understand was how the public could contrive to extract amusement from them. What was there funny in seeing a poor gentleman shut up in a box? Why should everybody roar with laughter when he asked for a bun? People asked for buns every day—people in railway refreshment rooms, in aerated bread shops. Where was the joke? A month later I found myself by chance occupying the seat just behind him at the pantomime. The low comedian was bathing a baby, and tears of merriment were rolling down his cheeks. To me the whole business seemed painful and revolting. We were being asked to find delight in the spectacle of a father—scouring down an infant of tender years with a scrubbing-brush. How women—many of them mothers—could remain through such an exhibition without rising in protest appeared to me an argument against female suffrage. A lady entered, the wife, so the programme informed me, of a Baron! All I can say is that a more vulgar, less prepossessing female I never wish to meet. I even doubted her sobriety. She sat down plump upon the baby. She must have been a woman rising sixteen stone, and for one minute fifteen seconds by my watch the whole house rocked with laughter. That the thing was only a stage property I felt was no excuse. The humour—heaven save the mark—lay in the supposition that what we were witnessing was the agony and death—for no child could have survived that woman’s weight—of a real baby. Had I been able to tap myself beforehand I should have learned that on that particular Saturday I was going to be "set-serious." Instead of booking a seat for the pantomime I should have gone to a lecture on Egyptian pottery which was being given by a friend of mine at the London Library, and have had a good time.

Children could tap their parents, warn each other that father was "going down;" that mother next week was likely to be "gusty." Children themselves might hang out their little barometers. I remember a rainy day in a country house during the Christmas holidays. We had among us a Member of Parliament: a man of sunny disposition, extremely fond of children. He said it was awfully hard lines on the little beggars cooped up in a nursery; and borrowing his host’s motor-coat, pretended he was a bear. He plodded round on his hands and knees and growled a good deal, and the children sat on the sofa and watched him. But they didn’t seem to be enjoying it, not much; and after a quarter of an hour or so he noticed this himself. He thought it was, maybe, that they were tired of bears, and fancied that a whale might rouse them. He turned the table upside down and placed the children in it on three chairs, explaining to them that they were ship-wrecked sailors on a raft, and that they must be careful the whale did not get underneath it and upset them. He draped a sheet over the towel-horse to represent an iceberg, and rolled himself up in a mackintosh and flopped about the floor on his stomach, butting his head occasionally against the table in order to suggest to them their danger. The attitude of the children still remained that of polite spectators. True, the youngest boy did make the suggestion of borrowing the kitchen toasting-fork, and employing it as a harpoon; but even this appeared to be the outcome rather of a desire to please than of any warmer interest; and, the whale objecting, the idea fell through. After that he climbed up on the dresser and announced to them that he was an ourang-outang. They watched him break a soup-tureen, and then the eldest boy, stepping out into the middle of the room, held up his arm, and the Member of Parliament, somewhat surprised, sat down on the dresser and listened.

"Please, sir," said the eldest boy, "we’re awfully sorry. It’s awfully good of you, sir. But somehow we’re not feeling in the mood for wild beasts this afternoon."

The Member of Parliament brought them down into the drawing-room, where we had music; and the children, at their own request, were allowed to sing hymns. The next day they came of their own accord, and asked the Member of Parliament to play at beasts with them; but it seemed he had letters to write.

There are times when jokes about mothers-in-law strike me as lacking both in taste and freshness. On this particular evening they came to me bringing with them all the fragrance of the days that are no more. The first play I ever saw dealt with the subject of the mother-inlaw—the "Problem" I think it was called in those days. The occasion was an amateur performance given in aid of the local Ragged School. A cousin of mine, lately married, played the wife; and my aunt, I remember, got up and walked out in the middle of the second act. Robina, in spectacles and an early Victorian bonnet, reminded me of her. Young Bute played a comic cabman. It was at the old Haymarket, in Buckstone’s time, that I first met the cabman of art and literature. Dear bibulous, becoated creature, with ever-wrathful outstretched palm and husky "’Ere! Wot’s this?" How good it was to see him once again! I felt I wanted to climb over the foot-lights and shake him by the hand. The twins played a couple of Young Turks, much concerned about their constitutions; and made quite a hit with a topical duet to the refrain: "And so you see The reason he Is not the Boss for us." We all agreed it was a pun worthy of Tom Hood himself. The Vicar thought he had heard it before, but this seemed improbable. There was a unanimous call for Author, giving rise to sounds of discussion behind the curtain. Eventually the whole company appeared, with Veronica in the centre. I had noticed throughout that the centre of the stage appeared to be Veronica’s favourite spot. I can see the makings of a leading actress in Veronica.

In my own piece, which followed, Robina and Bute played a young married couple who do not know how to quarrel. It has always struck me how much more satisfactorily people quarrel on the stage than in real life. On the stage the man, having made up his mind—to have it out, enters and closes the door. He lights a cigarette; if not a teetotaller mixes himself a brandy-and-soda. His wife all this time is careful to remain silent. Quite evident it is that he is preparing for her benefit something unpleasant, and chatter might disturb him. To fill up the time she toys with a novel or touches softly the keys of the piano until he is quite comfortable and ready to begin. He glides into his subject with the studied calm of one with all the afternoon before him. She listens to him in rapt attention. She does not dream of interrupting him; would scorn the suggestion of chipping in with any little notion of her own likely to disarrange his train of thought. All she does when he pauses, as occasionally he has to for the purpose of taking breath, is to come to his assistance with short encouraging remarks, such, for instance, as: "Well." "You think that." "And if I did?" Her object seems to be to help him on. "Go on," she says from time to time, bitterly. And he goes on. Towards the end, when he shows signs of easing up, she puts it to him as one sportsman to another: Is he quite finished? Is that all? Sometimes it isn’t. As often as not he has been saving the pick of the basket for the last.

"No," he says, "that is not all. There is something else!"

That is quite enough for her. That is all she wanted to know. She merely asked in case there might be. As it appears there is, she resettles herself in her chair and is again all ears.

When it does come—when he is quite sure there is nothing he has forgotten, no little point that he has overlooked, she rises.

"I have listened patiently," she begins, "to all that you have said." (The devil himself could not deny this. "Patience" hardly seems the word. "Enthusiastically" she might almost have said). "Now"—with rising inflection—"you listen to me."

The stage husband—always the gentleman—bows;—stiffly maybe, but quite politely; and prepares in his turn to occupy the role of dumb but dignified defendant. To emphasise the coming change in their positions, the lady most probably crosses over to what has hitherto been his side of the stage; while he, starting at the same moment, and passing her about the centre, settles himself down in what must be regarded as the listener’s end of the room. We then have the whole story over again from her point of view; and this time it is the gentleman who would bite off his tongue rather than make a retort calculated to put the lady off.

In the end it is the party who is in the right that conquers. Off the stage this is more or less of a toss-up; on the stage, never. If justice be with the husband, then it is his voice that, gradually growing louder and louder, rings at last triumphant through the house. The lady sees herself that she has been to blame, and wonders why it did not occur to her before—is grateful for the revelation, and asks to be forgiven. If, on the other hand, it was the husband who was at fault, then it is the lady who will be found eventually occupying the centre of the stage; the miserable husband who, morally speaking, will be trying to get under the table.

Now, in real life things don’t happen quite like this. What the quarrel in real life suffers from is want of system. There is no order, no settled plan. There is much too much go-as-you-please about the quarrel in real life, and the result is naturally pure muddle. The man, turning things over in the morning while shaving, makes up his mind to have this matter out and have done with it. He knows exactly what he is going to say. He repeats it to himself at intervals during the day. He will first say This, and then he will go on to That; while he is about it he will perhaps mention the Other. He reckons it will take him a quarter of an hour. Which will just give him time to dress for dinner.

After it is over, and he looks at his watch, he finds it has taken him longer than that. Added to which he has said next to nothing— next to nothing, that is, of what he meant to say. It went wrong from the very start. As a matter of fact there wasn’t any start. He entered the room and closed the door. That is as far as he got. The cigarette he never even lighted. There ought to have been a box of matches on the mantelpiece behind the photo-frame. And of course there were none there. For her to fly into a temper merely because he reminded her that he had spoken about this very matter at least a hundred times before, and accuse him of going about his own house "stealing" his own matches was positively laughable. They had quarrelled for about five minutes over those wretched matches, and then for another ten because he said that women had no sense of humour, and she wanted to know how he knew. After that there had cropped up the last quarter’s gas-bill, and that by a process still mysterious to him had led them into the subject of his behaviour on the night of the Hockey Club dance. By an effort of almost supernatural self-control he had contrived at length to introduce the subject he had come home half an hour earlier than usual on purpose to discuss. It didn’t interest her in the least. What she was full of by this time was a girl named Arabella Jones. She got in quite a lot while he was vainly trying to remember where he had last seen the damned girl. He had just succeeded in getting back to his own topic when the Cuddiford girl from next door dashed in without a hat to borrow a tuning-fork. It had been quite a business finding the tuning-fork, and when she was gone they had to begin all over again. They had quarrelled about the drawing-room carpet; about her sister Florrie’s birthday present; and the way he drove the motor-car. It had taken them over an hour and a half, and rather than waste the tickets for the theatre, they had gone without their dinner. The matter of the cold chisel still remained to be thrashed out.

It had occurred to me that through the medium of the drama I might show how the domestic quarrel could so easily be improved. Adolphus Goodbody, a worthy young man deeply attached to his wife, feels nevertheless that the dinners she is inflicting upon him are threatening with permanent damage his digestive system. He determines, come what may, to insist upon a change. Elvira Goodbody, a charming girl, admiring and devoted to her husband, is notwithstanding a trifle en tete, especially when her domestic arrangements happen to be the theme of discussion. Adolphus, his courage screwed to the sticking-point, broaches the difficult subject; and for the first half of the act my aim was to picture the progress of the human quarrel, not as it should be, but as it is. They never reach the cook. The first mention of the word "dinner" reminds Elvira (quick to perceive that argument is brewing, and alive to the advantage of getting in first) that twice the month before he had dined out, not returning till the small hours of the morning. What she wants to know is where this sort of thing is going to end? If the purpose of Freemasonry is the ruin of the home and the desertion of women, then all she has to say—it turns out to be quite a good deal. Adolphus, when able to get in a word, suggests that eleven o’clock at the latest can hardly be described as the "small hours of the morning": the fault with women is that they never will confine themselves to the simple truth. From that point onwards, as can be imagined, the scene almost wrote itself. They have passed through all the customary stages, and are planning, with exaggerated calm, arrangements for the separation which each now feels to be inevitable, when a knock comes to the front-door, and there enters a mutual friend.

Their hasty attempts to cover up the traces of mental disorder with which the atmosphere is strewed do not deceive him. There has been, let us say, a ripple on the waters of perfect agreement. Come! What was it all about?

"About!" They look from one to the other. Surely it would be simpler to tell him what it had NOT been about. It had been about the parrot, about her want of punctuality, about his using the butter-knife for the marmalade, about a pair of slippers he had lost at Christmas, about the education question, and her dressmaker’s bill, and his friend George, and the next-door dog -

The mutual friend cuts short the catalogue. Clearly there is nothing for it but to begin the quarrel all over again; and this time, if they will put themselves into his hands, he feels sure he can promise victory to whichever one is in the right.

Elvira—she has a sweet, impulsive nature—throws her arms around him: that is all she wants. If only Adolphus could be brought to see! Adolphus grips him by the hand. If only Elvira would listen to sense!

The mutual friend—he is an old stage-manager—arranges the scene: Elvira in easy-chair by fire with crochet. Enter Adolphus. He lights a cigarette; flings the match on the floor; with his hands in his pockets paces up and down the room; kicks a footstool out of his way.

"Tell me when I am to begin," says Elvira.

The mutual friend promises to give her the right cue.

Adolphus comes to a halt in the centre of the room.

"I am sorry, my dear," he says, "but there is something I must say to you—something that may not be altogether pleasant for you to hear."

To which Elvira, still crocheting, replies, "Oh, indeed. And pray what may that be?"

This was not Elvira’s own idea. Springing from her chair, she had got as far as: "Look here. If you have come home early merely for the purpose of making a row—" before the mutual friend could stop her. The mutual friend was firm. Only by exacting strict obedience could he guarantee a successful issue. What she had got to say was, "Oh, indeed. Etcetera." The mutual friend had need of all his tact to prevent its becoming a quarrel of three.

Adolphus, allowed to proceed, explained that the subject about which he wished to speak was the subject of dinner. The mutual friend this time was beforehand. Elvira’s retort to that was: "Dinner! You complain of the dinners I provide for you?" enabling him to reply, "Yes, madam, I do complain," and to give reasons. It seemed to Elvira that the mutual friend had lost his senses. To tell her to "wait"; that "her time would come"; of what use was that! Half of what she wanted to say would be gone out of her head. Adolphus brought to a conclusion his criticism of Elvira’s kitchen; and then Elvira, incapable of restraining herself further, rose majestically.

The mutual friend was saved the trouble of suppressing Adolphus. Until Elvira had finished Adolphus never got an opening. He grumbled at their dinners. He! who can dine night after night with his precious Freemasons. Does he think she likes them any better? She, doomed to stay at home and eat them. What does he take her for? An ostrich? Whose fault is it that they keep an incompetent cook too old to learn and too obstinate to want to? Whose old family servant was she? Not Elvira’s. It has been to please Adolphus that she has suffered the woman. And this is her reward. This! She breaks down. Adolphus is astonished and troubled. Personally he never liked the woman. Faithful she may have been, but a cook never. His own idea, had he been consulted, would have been a small pension. Elvira falls upon his neck. Why did he not say so before? Adolphus presses her to his bosom. If only he had known! They promise the mutual friend never to quarrel again without his assistance.

The acting all round was quite good. Our curate, who is a bachelor, said it taught a lesson. Veronica had tears in her eyes. She whispered to me that she thought it beautiful. There is more in Veronica than people think.


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Chicago: Jerome K. Jerome, "Chapter XI," They and I, ed. Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915 and trans. Evans, Sebastian in They and I Original Sources, accessed March 25, 2023,

MLA: Jerome, Jerome K. "Chapter XI." They and I, edited by Macaulay, G. C. (George Campbell), 1852-1915, and translated by Evans, Sebastian, in They and I, Original Sources. 25 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Jerome, JK, 'Chapter XI' in They and I, ed. and trans. . cited in , They and I. Original Sources, retrieved 25 March 2023, from