“Yes, it makes you think, doesn’t it?”
But what it made Sabre think was entirely different from what it made Mabel think.
“Puzzlehead” they had called him at his preparatory school,—Old Puzzlehead Sabre, the chap who always wrinkled up his nut over things and came out with the most extraordinary ideas. He had remained, and increasingly become, the puzzler. And precisely as he ceased to share a room with Mabel and carried himself with satisfaction to his own apartment, so, by this fifth year of his married life, he had come to know well that he shared no thoughts with her: he carried them, with increasing absorption in their interest, to the processes of his own mind.
An incident of those early school days had always remained with him, in its exact words. The exact words of a selectly famous professor of philosophy who, living the few years of his retirement in the neighbourhood of the preparatory school, had given—for pure love of seeing young things and feeling the freshness of young minds—a weekly “talk on things” to the small schoolboys. And whatever the subject of his talk, he almost invariably would work off his familiar counsel:
“And a very good thing (he used to say), an excellent thing, the very best of practices, is to write a little every day. Just a little scrap, but cultivate the habit of doing it every day. I don’t mean what is called keeping a diary, you know. Don’t write what you do. There’s no benefit in that. We do things for all kinds of reasons and it’s the reasons, not the things, that matter. Let your little daily scrap be something you’ve thought. What you’ve done belongs partly to some one else; often you’re made to do it. But what you think is you yourself: you write it down and there it is, a tiny little bit of you that you can look at and say, ‘Well, really!’ You see, a little bit like that, written every day, is a mirror in which you can see your real self and correct your real self. A looking-glass shows you your face is dirty or your hair rumpled, and you go and polish up. But it’s ever so much more important to have a mirror that shows you how your real self, your mind, your spirit, is looking. Just see if you can’t do it. A little scrap. It’s very steadying; very steadying....”
And his small hearers, desiring, like young colts in a field, nothing so little as anything steadying, paid as much attention to this “jaw” as to any precept not supported by cane or imposition. They made of it, indeed, a popular school joke, “Oh, go and write a little every day and boil yourself, you ass!” But it appealed, dimly, to the reflective quality in the child Sabre’s mind. He contracted the habit of writing, in a “bagged” exercise book, sentences beginning laboriously with “I thought to-day—.” It remained with him, as he grew up, in the practice of writing sometimes ideas that occurred to him, as in the case of his feelings about his books and—much more strongly—in deliberately thinking out ideas.