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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 155 pages of information about Backlog Studies.

I confess that this little picture of a fire on the hearth so many centuries ago helps to make real and interesting to me that somewhat misty past.  No doubt the lotus and the acanthus from the Nile grew in that winter-house, and perhaps Jehoiakim attempted—­the most difficult thing in the world the cultivation of the wild flowers from Lebanon.  Perhaps Jehoiakim was interested also, as I am through this ancient fireplace,—­which is a sort of domestic window into the ancient world,—­in the loves of Bernice and Abaces at the court of the Pharaohs.  I see that it is the same thing as the sentiment —­perhaps it is the shrinking which every soul that is a soul has, sooner or later, from isolation—­which grew up between Herbert and the Young Lady Staying With Us.  Jeremiah used to come in to that fireside very much as the Parson does to ours.  The Parson, to be sure, never prophesies, but he grumbles, and is the chorus in the play that sings the everlasting ai ai of “I told you so!” Yet we like the Parson.  He is the sprig of bitter herb that makes the pottage wholesome.  I should rather, ten times over, dispense with the flatterers and the smooth-sayers than the grumblers.  But the grumblers are of two sorts,—­the healthful-toned and the whiners.  There are makers of beer who substitute for the clean bitter of the hops some deleterious drug, and then seek to hide the fraud by some cloying sweet.  There is nothing of this sickish drug in the Parson’s talk, nor was there in that of Jeremiah, I sometimes think there is scarcely enough of this wholesome tonic in modern society.  The Parson says he never would give a child sugar-coated pills.  Mandeville says he never would give them any.  After all, you cannot help liking Mandeville.

II

We were talking of this late news from Jerusalem.  The Fire-Tender was saying that it is astonishing how much is telegraphed us from the East that is not half so interesting.  He was at a loss philosophically to account for the fact that the world is so eager to know the news of yesterday which is unimportant, and so indifferent to that of the day before which is of some moment.

Mandeville.  I suspect that it arises from the want of imagination.  People need to touch the facts, and nearness in time is contiguity.  It would excite no interest to bulletin the last siege of Jerusalem in a village where the event was unknown, if the date was appended; and yet the account of it is incomparably more exciting than that of the siege of Metz.

Our next door.  The daily news is a necessity.  I cannot get along without my morning paper.  The other morning I took it up, and was absorbed in the telegraphic columns for an hour nearly.  I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling of immediate contact with all the world of yesterday, until I read among the minor items that Patrick Donahue, of the city of New York, died of a sunstroke.  If he had frozen to death, I should have enjoyed that; but to die of sunstroke in February seemed inappropriate, and I turned to the date of the paper.  When I found it was printed in July, I need not say that I lost all interest in it, though why the trivialities and crimes and accidents, relating to people I never knew, were not as good six months after date as twelve hours, I cannot say.

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