In another part of this our “forest”—it is so truly a forest in the Shakespearean sense, as all Long Island forests are (e.g., Forest Hills), where even the lioness and the green and gilded snake have their suburban analogues, which we will not be laborious to explain—we see Time standing still while Ganymede and Aliena are out foraging with the burly Touchstone (so very like that well-loved sage Mr. Don Marquis, we protest!). And, to consider, what a place for a colyumist was the Forest of Arden. See how zealous contributors hung their poems round on trees so that he could not miss them. Is it not all the very core and heartbeat of what we call “romance,” that endearing convention that submits the harsh realities and interruptions of life to a golden purge of fancy? How, we sometimes wonder, can any one grow old as long as he can still read “As You Like It,” and feel the magic of that best-loved and most magical of stage directions—The Forest of Arden.
And now, while we are still in the soft Shakespearean mood, comes “Twelfth Night”—traditionally devoted to dismantling the Christmas Tree; and indeed there is no task so replete with luxurious and gentle melancholy. For by that time the toys which erst were so splendid are battered and bashed; the cornucopias empty of candy (save one or two striped sticky shards of peppermint which elude the thrusting index, and will be found again next December); the dining-room floor is thick with fallen needles; the gay little candles are burnt down to a small gutter of wax in the tin holders. The floor sparkles here and there with the fragments of tinsel balls or popcorn chains that were injudiciously hung within leap of puppy or grasp of urchin. And so you see him, the diligent parent, brooding with a tender mournfulness and sniffing the faint whiff of that fine Christmas tree odour—balsam and burning candles and fist-warmed peppermint—as he undresses the prickly boughs. Here they go into the boxes, red, green, and golden balls, tinkling glass bells, stars, paper angels, cotton-wool Santa Claus, blue birds, celluloid goldfish, mosquito netting, counterfeit stockings, nickel-plated horns, and all the comical accumulation of oddities that gathers from year to year in the box labelled CHRISTMAS TREE THINGS, FRAGILE. The box goes up to the attic, and the parent blows a faint diminuendo, achingly prolonged, on a toy horn. Titania is almost reduced to tears as he explains it is the halloo of Santa Claus fading away into the distance.
Our subject, for the moment, is Gissing—and when we say Gissing we mean not the author of that name, but the dog. He was called Gissing because he arrived, in the furnace man’s poke, on the same day on which, after long desideration, we were united in holy booklock with a copy of “By the Ionian Sea.”