The fire-tender. Women are often ignorant of affairs, and, besides, they may have a notion often that a woman ought to be privileged more than a man in business matters; but I tell you, as a rule, that if men would consult their wives, they would go a deal straighter in business operations than they do go.
The Parson. We are all poor sinners. But I’ve another indictment against the women writers. We get no good old-fashioned love-stories from them. It’s either a quarrel of discordant natures one a panther, and the other a polar bear—for courtship, until one of them is crippled by a railway accident; or a long wrangle of married life between two unpleasant people, who can neither live comfortably together nor apart. I suppose, by what I see, that sweet wooing, with all its torturing and delightful uncertainty, still goes on in the world; and I have no doubt that the majority of married people live more happily than the unmarried. But it’s easier to find a dodo than a new and good love-story.
Mandeville. I suppose the old style of plot is exhausted. Everything in man and outside of him has been turned over so often that I should think the novelists would cease simply from want of material.
The Parson. Plots are no more exhausted than men are. Every man is a new creation, and combinations are simply endless. Even if we did not have new material in the daily change of society, and there were only a fixed number of incidents and characters in life, invention could not be exhausted on them. I amuse myself sometimes with my kaleidoscope, but I can never reproduce a figure. No, no. I cannot say that you may not exhaust everything else: we may get all the secrets of a nature into a book by and by, but the novel is immortal, for it deals with men.
The Parson’s vehemence came very near carrying him into a sermon; and as nobody has the privilege of replying to his sermons, so none of the circle made any reply now.
Our Next Door mumbled something about his hair standing on end, to hear a minister defending the novel; but it did not interrupt the general silence. Silence is unnoticed when people sit before a fire; it would be intolerable if they sat and looked at each other.
The wind had risen during the evening, and Mandeville remarked, as they rose to go, that it had a spring sound in it, but it was as cold as winter. The Mistress said she heard a bird that morning singing in the sun a spring song, it was a winter bird, but it sang.
We have been much interested in what is called the Gothic revival. We have spent I don’t know how many evenings in looking over Herbert’s plans for a cottage, and have been amused with his vain efforts to cover with Gothic roofs the vast number of large rooms which the Young Lady draws in her sketch of a small house.