“The ethics of that engrossing theme of divorce,” the Colonel went on, lighting another corpulent and very black cigar, “as decided by the Supreme Court of our contemporary women novelists suggests that justly celebrated principle of perfect equity: ’What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is my own.’ Listen,” he demanded; “listen (as the author of ‘The Gentle Art of Making Enemies’ was wont to introduce his lectures) to the story of the unfolding of a woman’s heart through marriage, as it is unfolded in the recent book of a novelist whom both the million-headed crowd and shoals of reviewers, of very uneven critical equipment, place ‘well forward among America’s novelists.’ A penniless young woman brought up amid the standards of very common people marries for money, and comes to face the collapse of her dreams. She realises that she is tied to a man for whom she cares nothing. Also he is a brute, a typical bad egg of a husband from the extensive though rather monotonous stock of this article dealt in by our women novelists. Is it right for this young woman to throw away the chances of her whole life for happiness—and so on? It certainly should not seem so to readers of the book. And it is natural enough, as her husband has totally failed to hold her, that this young woman’s mind, and heart, too, should convince her that she may make what she regards as a wiser disposition of her life.
“The inevitable strong man whom she eventually marries seems unfortunately to have a bit of a flaw in his granite character; at any rate, something is wrong with him, as the heroine fails to hold him altogether, and matters even begin to look as though she might lose him. But with her great happiness had come a new standard of honour, and a distrust of divorce as the solution of any marital problem. Would it be right for her to lose a husband who has tired of her? Not by a long shot! Marriage is the one vow we take before God. It is a contract. Is it not against all moral law to break a contract? And all the rest of it. So feminine logic disposes of what is described as one of the great problems of the day.”
Suddenly the Colonel broke into a terrifying smile. “This novelist of whom we have just been speaking,” he said, “somewhere remarked in an interview that it was too bad about poor George Gissing—where she picked up Gissing, God only knows—as, writing away all his life at stuff people didn’t care for, he was one of the tragedies of literature. Well, Gissing may be dead and gone, but his works stick on. I could tell her”—the Colonel glared as he pawed his enormous hand through his mane—“of a more profound tragedy of literature.”
THE DESSERT OF LIFE
Birds of a feather flock together, you can tell a dog by its spots, a man is known by the company he keeps—and all that sort of thing.