For it is the people who are more concerned about getting money than about how they spend it who come to grief. A very acute observer once told me that the principal difference between the Scotch people and the Lancashire people was that the former thought most about how they spent, and the latter most about how much they got. And the difference, he said, was the difference between a thrifty and an unthrifty people. I think that is true. Nothing is more common than to find people worse off as they get better off. They have learned the art of getting money and lost the art of spending it wisely. They pay their way on L200 a year and get hopelessly into debt on L500. They are safe in a rowing boat, but capsize in a sailing boat.
Here is an axiom which I offer to all spendthrifts: We cannot command our incomings; but we can control outgoings.
A few days ago I went to a christening to make vows on behalf of the offspring of a gallant young officer now at the front. I conceived that the fitting thing on such an occasion was to wear a silk hat, and accordingly I took out the article, warmed it before the fire, and rubbed it with a hat pad until it was nice and shiny, put it on my head, and set out for the church. But I soon regretted the choice. It had no support from any one else present, and when later I got out of the Tube and walked down the Strand I found that I was a conspicuous person, which, above all things, I hate to be. My hat, I saw, was observed. Eyes were turned towards me with that mild curiosity with which one remarks any innocent oddity or vanity of the streets.
I became self-conscious and looked around for companionship, but as my eye travelled along the crowded pavement I could see nothing but bowlers and trilbys and occasional straws. “Ah, here at last,” said I, “is one coming.” But a nearer view only completed my discomfiture, for it was one of those greasy-shiny hats which go with frayed trousers and broken boots, and which are the symbol of “better days,” of hopes that are dead, and “drinks” that dally, of a social status that has gone and of a suburban villa that has shrunk to a cubicle in a Rowton lodging-house. I looked at greasy-hat and greasy-hat looked at me, and in that momentary glance of fellowship we agreed that we were “out of it.”
I put my silk hat away at night with the firm resolution that nothing short of an invitation to Buckingham Palace, or some similar incredible disaster, should make me drag it into the light again. For the truth is that the war has given the top-hat a knock-out blow. It had been tottering on our brows for some time. There was a very hot summer a few years ago which began the revolution. The tyranny of the top-hat became intolerable, and quite “respectable” people began to be seen in the streets with Panamas and straws. But these were only concessions to