“Robert has been killed in battle,” he says. How near the sound of the guns had come!
ON SHORT LEGS AND LONG LEGS
A day or two ago a soldier, returned from the front, was loudly inveighing in a railway carriage against the bumptiousness and harshness of the captain under whom he had served. “Let me git ’im over ’ere,” he said, “and I’ll lay ’im out—see if I don’t. I’ve ’ad enough of ‘is bullyin’. It ain’t even as if ’e was a decent figure of a man. ’E don’t stand more’n five-feet-two. I could knock ’im out with one ’and, and I’d ’ave done it before now only you mustn’t out there. If you did you’d get a pound o’ lead pumped into you.”
Now, I dare say little five-feet-two deserved all that was said of him, and all he will get by way of punishment; but the point about the remark that interests me is the contempt it revealed for the man of small stature. There’s no doubt that a little man starts with a grievance, with an aggravating sense of an inferiority that has nothing to do with his real merits. I know the feeling. For myself, I am just the right height—no more, no less. I am five-feet-nine-and-a-half, and I wouldn’t be a shade different either way. I dare say that is the general experience. Every one feels that his own is really the ideal standard. It is so in most things. Aristotle said that a man ought to marry at thirty-eight. I think he said it because he himself married at thirty-eight. Now, I married at twenty-three, and my opinion is that the right age at which to get married—if you are of the marrying sort—is twenty-three. In short, whatever we do or whatever we are, we have a deep-rooted conviction that we are “it.” And it is well that it should be so. Without this innocent self-satisfaction there would be a lot more misery in the world.
But though I am the perfect height of five-feet-nine-and-a-half, I always feel depressed and out-classed in the presence of a man, say of six-feet-two. He may be an ass, but still I have to look up to him in a physical sense, and the mere act of looking up seems to endow him with a moral advantage. I feel a grievance at the outrageous length of the fellow, and find I want to make him fully understand that though I am only five-feet-nine-and-a-half in stature, my intellectual measurement is about ten feet, and that I am looking down on him much more than he is looking down on me.
It is this irksome self-consciousness that is the permanent affliction of the physically small man. Indeed, it is the affliction of any one who has any physical peculiarity—a hare-lip, for example. Byron raged all his life against his club-foot, and doubtless that malformation was largely the cause of his savage contempt for a world that went about on two well-matched feet. I am sure that if I had a strawberry mark on the face I should never think about anything else. If I talked to any one I