He was very nice about it, and in returning my own umbrella took all the blame on himself. “What,” he said, “between the noble-looking gentleman who thrust a hat on my head, and the second noble-looking gentleman who handed me a coat, and the third noble-looking gentleman who put an umbrella in my hand, and the fourth noble-looking gentleman who flung me into a carriage, I hadn’t the least idea what I was taking. I was too bewildered by all the noble flunkeys to refuse anything that was offered me.”
Be it observed, it was the name on the umbrella that saved the situation in this case. That is the way to circumvent the man with an umbrella conscience. I see him eyeing his exchange with a secret joy; then he observes the name and address and his solemn conviction that he is an honest man does the rest. After my experience to-day, I think I will engrave my name on my umbrella. But not on that baggy thing standing in the corner. I do not care who relieves me of that. It is anybody’s for the taking.
I was at dinner at a well-known restaurant the other evening when I became aware that some one sitting alone at a table near by was engaged in an exciting conversation with himself. As he bent over his plate his face was contorted with emotion, apparently intense anger, and he talked with furious energy, only pausing briefly in the intervals of actual mastication. Many glances were turned covertly upon him, but he seemed wholly unconscious of them, and, so far as I could judge, he was unaware that he was doing anything abnormal. In repose his face was that of an ordinary business man, sane and self-controlled, and when he rose to go his agitation was over, and he looked like a man who had won his point.
It is probable that this habit of talking to one’s self has a less sinister meaning than it superficially suggests. It may be due simply to the energy of one’s thought and to a concentration of mind that completely shuts out the external world. In the case I have mentioned it was clear that the man was temporarily detached from all his surroundings, that he was so absorbed by his subject that his eyes had ceased to see and his ears to hear. He was alone with himself, or perhaps with his adversary, and he only came back to the present with the end of his dinner and the paying of his bill. He was like a man who had emerged from another state of consciousness, from a waking sleep filled with tumultuous dreams. Obviously he was unaware that he had been haranguing the room in quite an audible voice for half an hour, and I daresay that if he were told that he had the habit of talking to himself he would deny it as passionately as you (or I) would deny that you (or I) snore in our sleep. And he would deny it for precisely the same reason. He doesn’t know.