REGINALD ON WORRIES

I have (said Reginald) an aunt who worries. She’s not

really an aunt—a sort of amateur one, and they aren’t

really worries. She is a social success, and has no

domestic tragedies worth speaking of, so she adopts any

decorative sorrows that are going, myself included. In that

way she’s the antithesis, or whatever you call it, to those

sweet, uncomplaining women one knows who have seen trouble,

and worn blinkers ever since. Of course, one just loves

them for it, but I must confess they make me uncomfy; they

remind one so of a duck that goes flapping about with forced

cheerfulness long after its head’s been cut off. Ducks have

no repose. Now, my aunt has a shade of hair that suits her,

and a cook who quarrels with the other servants, which is

always a hopeful sign, and a conscience that’s absentee for

about eleven months of the year, and only turns up at Lent

to annoy her husband’s people, who are considerably Lower

than the angels, so to speak: with all these natural

advantages—she says her particular tint of bronze is a

natural advantage, and there can be no two opinions as to

the advantage—of course she has to send out for her

afflictions, like those restaurants where they haven’t got a

licence. The system has this advantage, that you can fit

your unhappinesses in with your other engagements, whereas

real worries have a way of arriving at meal-times, and when

you’re dressing, or other solemn moments. I knew a canary

once that had been trying for months and years to hatch out

a family, and every one looked upon it as a blameless

infatuation, like the sale of Delagoa Bay, which would be an

annual loss to the Press agencies if it ever came to pass;

and one day the bird really did bring it off, in the middle

of family prayers. I say the middle, but it was also the

end: you can’t go on being thankful for daily bread when you

are wondering what on earth very new canaries expect to be

fed on.

At present she’s rather in a Balkan state of mind about

the treatment of the Jews in Roumania. Personally, I think

the Jews have estimable qualities; they’re so kind to their

poor—and to our rich. I daresay in Roumania the cost of

living beyond one’s income isn’t so great. Over here the

trouble is that so many people who have money to throw about

seem to have such vague ideas where to throw it. That fund,

for instance, to relieve the victims of sudden

disasters—what is a sudden disaster? There’s Marion

Mulciber, who would think she could play bridge, just as

she would think she could ride down a hill on a bicycle; on

that occasion she went to a hospital, now shes gone into a

Sisterhood—lost all she had, you know, and gave the rest

to Heaven. Still, you can’t call it a sudden calamity;

that occurred when poor dear Marion was born. The doctors

said at the time that she couldn’t live more than a

fortnight, and she’s been trying ever since to see if she

could. Women are so opinionated.

And then there’s the Education Question—not that I can

see that there’s anything to worry about in that direction.

To my mind, education is an absurdly overrated affair. At

least, one never took it very seriously at school, where

everything was done to bring it prominently under one’s

notice. Anything that is worth knowing one practically

teaches oneself, and the rest obtrudes itself sooner or

later. The reason one’s elders know so comparatively little

is because they have to unlearn so much that they acquired

by way of education before we were born. Of course I’m a

believer in Nature-study; as I said to Lady Beauwhistle, if

you want a lesson in elaborate artificiality, just watch the

studied unconcern of a Persian cat entering a crowded salon,

and then go and practise it for a fortnight. The

Beauwhistles weren’t born in the Purple, you know, but

they’re getting there on the instalment system—so much

down, and the rest when you feel like it. They have kind

hearts, and they never forget birthdays. I forget what he

was, something in the City, where the patriotism comes from;

and she—oh, well, her frocks are built in Paris, but she

wears them with a strong English accent. So public-spirited

of her. I think she must have been very strictly brought

up, she’s so desperately anxious to do the wrong thing

correctly. Not that it really matters nowadays, as I told

her: I know some perfectly virtuous people who are received

everywhere.