Perhaps in that distant time when the tragedy of to-day is only an old chapter in the story of the human race it will be seen that Dryden, after all, was not guilty of a grim jest, but that this mighty discord was the announcement of that final harmony for which all that is best in us yearns. It may seem a hard vision to cherish to-day. But we must cherish it, or accept the hideous alternative that this is, after all, in very truth the madhouse of the universe. Can you live with that idea? Would it be worth while living with that idea? If not, then the other holds the field, and it is for all of us in our several ways, small or great, to work so that it may possess the field.
I have wandered somewhat far from the question of the beer and the porcelain, and yet I think you will find that the sequence is not lacking, and that the little window commands a large landscape.
It was raining when Victor Crummles stepped out into the street. But he did not notice the fact. True, he put his umbrella up, but that was mere force of habit. He was not aware that he had put it up. His mind was far too engaged with the ordeal before him to permit any consciousness of external things to creep into it. He was “up against it and no mistake,” he observed to himself. There was the paper in his pocket telling him the time and place at which he was to present himself for medical examination. He put his hand in his pocket. It was there all right. Kilburn. Twelve o’clock.
Yes, he was fairly up against it. Not, as he hastened to assure himself, that he objected.... Not at all.... He had always been a patriot, and always would be. He’d love to have a smack at the Huns. He’d give them what for.... He wished he’d been a bit younger—that’s what he wished. If he’d been a bit younger he’d have gone like a shot. That’s what he’d have done—he’d have gone like a shot. No fetching him—if he’d been a bit younger. But a chap at thirty-eight ... well....
Here was the “Golden Crown.” Yes, he thought he’d better have “just one.” It would pull him together and give the doctors a chance. He ought to give them a chance whatever the consequence to himself. A whisky-and-soda would just put him “in the pink.”
There, that was better. Now he could face anything. Now for Kilburn. How should he go? It was two miles at least ... a good two miles. There was No. 16—he could take that. And there was the Tube—he could take that.
Or he could walk. There was plenty of time.... Yes, on the whole he thought he ought to walk. There was that varicose vein. The doctors ought to know about that. It wouldn’t be fair to them or to the country that they shouldn’t know about it. Varicose veins were very serious affairs indeed. He knew because he’d looked the subject up in the dictionary. It had made such a deep impression on him-that he could repeat what it said:—