« AnkstesnisTęsti »
angry. "How did "How did you find out, you crawling little squirt, you?" "Ah!" breathed Hannibal Strive, happily. "It was the new yellow paint on your car. While your chauffeur was at lunch, I found an estimate for painting it in one of the leather pockets, and I saw that a new number plate had been nicely clamped on to the old one. And I went to the painters and found out that the car really belonged to Mr. Sam Rogers. It was a bright red before, and everybody knew it. I expect you went to a few other places besides Dulchester, didn't you, Mr. Rogers? Of course these bets you pretended to make were with your own firm, Mr. Rogers. Wait till I've finished, please. And the bets were right on time-after time. Your people flashed the leading horses to you as soon as a watcher on the course flashed the leader's name to them. Very neat, Mr. Willis-pardon me Mr. Rogers!"
Mr. Rogers grunted. "I was so full of bets on Galloper Gem that I had to do something. No other bookmaker would help me out with any of them. But when I got the lads switched on to Friendly Fairy here and there, Galloper Gem's price went out enough for me to cover a lot of my money, bit by bit. I'd have been ruined if I hadn't done something. Have you told anybody, you maggot?"
"You'd be ruined if I did," said Hannibal, still regretfully. "I'm not a hard man. I—”
Mr. Rogers growled with such storm that Hannibal held on to the table edge.
"You're not a man at all," he roared. "You're a little halfpenny
nuisance! Nobody would buy you for a used tram-ticket! You're " "Mr. Rogers, I'm surprised at you. I thought you ought to know-" Mr. Rogers bellowed. "Know what?"
"Know that I knew, of course," whispered Hannibal. "It isn't the sort of thing one would expect—'
"Dry up," said the other, rudely. "You interfering little sneak. I wouldn't use you for blotting-paper. How much do you want to keep your mouth shut?"
"Two thousand pounds," said Hannibal Strive, sweetly, and the big victim jumped. "You see, I'm going to Australia."
"I'll give you five hundred,” said the great Mr. Rogers, getting his check-book, and Hannibal stroked his nose and said, simply and kindly, "Two thousand."
"Five hundred, you nasty little spot of dirt. Five hundred."
"Two thousand, Mr. Willis," said Hannibal. "I want to travel firstclass. Do you know I've never traveled first in my life?"
He could not be shaken. Ther was a painful scene until at length, Hannibal Strive folded up a bearercheck for two thousand, with every appearance of gloom. He then remembered he was a little gentleman. He lingered. He said, "Mr. Willis— pardon-I mean Mr. Rogers, I thank you very much. You couldn't tell what a lot of good this will do me. I-"
"Didn't you say you were going to Australia?"
"What's the matter with your starting now?" asked big Mr. Rogers. "Don't sit there laughing at ME!"
The Social Art of Self-Esteem
ODESTY is a two-edged virtue. Like other virtues it has reference to a condition within us, but it is measured by an opinion outside. We may be honest or courageous, though other men don't think so, but we are not modest unless our neighbor feels we are. The word itself is a variant of moderation. The modest man is one who does not go too far in the value he sets upon himself. Sets publicly, that is. We may cherish great ambitions and recognize our own abilities, and yet be modest. In fact, the outward moderation supposes an inward confidence, or we are not modest but humble. Humility rises on the vision of our insignificance. Modesty is the social art of self
The difference is greater than would at first appear. The Christian era tried to substitute humility for modesty, with strange results. For one thing, the two virtues became for most people hopelessly confused, and their names fell into inaccurate employment. We now speak of dress as modest or immodest-meaning sufficient or insufficient. Truly modest dress, of course, would be reticent apparel, not too rich or showy, not beyond the average requirements of the occasion. No
doubt one might put on nakedness for immodest reasons, to overemphasize oneself, but it is significant of confusion in the ancient virtue that we now see immodesty in too little rather than in too much.
Moreover, the practice of humility, as an end in itself, has sometimes produced effects which a modest man would deplore. The spiritual sense of insignificance, the following of a life of abnegation, have brought about for more than one saint a quite menacing popularity, a vulgar success which fosters temptations to pride. Those who renounce this world—that is, give up an active interest in their mundane careers— and let it be known that they do, find themselves objects of worldly attention. For humility, then, as for modesty, there must be a social technique. The wise Christian, to remain humble, wears a manner of worldly confidence. The wise pagan, to retain his self-esteem, is modest.
But humility is no longer one of our ideals. Like other parts of the Christian vision it has ceased to attract indeed some aspects of it, the inward spiritual state, we now consider a fault of character to be cured by a mind-doctor. The doctrine that godliness is profitable, still makes friends, but the question.
"What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" suggests nowadays an inferiority complex. To those of our friends whom we find walking humbly, with God or with any one else, we whisper a bright word, "Courage!" And if the humble man already wears that manner of confidence just referred to, we now learn to distinguish it from the real thing; it is a veneer, a nervous reaction from his low estimate of himself.
To identify the great virtue of humility with inferiority complexes would be possible only for an age which has ceased to understand the Christian interpretation of life. If, as it seems, we have returned to the pagan mood, it is all the more important that we should understand the classical virtue of modesty. Let us be children of nature, but let us be wise. If harmony with the universe, if knowledge of our own being makes us brave, there are still our neighbors to consider-we must practise a decent respect for the opinion of mankind. Oddly enough, that very instinct which urges protest against our friend's humility, urges more strongly against an overt expression of his self-esteem. He may fly across the world alone and unafraid; we know the feat is unique, and he knows it, but we like him to assume the manner of surprise that his fellows notice him. He may rise to political power through the charm of his personality joined with what we call luck, and we and he know there was never a prince in a fairy-story who owed more to a magic wand, but we don't want him to show that he is aware of his destiny. He must behave so that we remain at ease, not over-dazzled, in
the presence of his greatness. We wish him to be modest-or, since the word is now confused and needs enlarging, we wish him to be modest and unassuming.
The pagan virtue of modesty once had in mind, no doubt, man's demeanor not only before his fellows but before some higher beings. The Greeks were not the only people who were aware of the jealousy of the gods. A man might be as prosperous or as powerful as you please up to a point not easily fixed, at which the gods began to fear a rival and turned against him. If he was prudent, he would hide his success from heaven by at least an outward moderation of behavior. Perhaps he would remind himself that fortune came in cycles, and poverty would sooner or later follow his day of wealth. Perhaps he would give away a large part of his riches, that the lightning, as it were, might have less to attract it. In extreme cases his gifts might be anonymous. All this modesty had for its purpose to avoid the evil hour when heaven would reëstablish the average of things.
But the modest pagan considered, as we do, the effect of our prosperity upon our neighbors. In the end they will not entirely like it. Against any creature or organization which emerges too far above the general level, all other creatures instinctively arm themselves. It may seem unfair or cowardly, but it's nature's way, and the prudent man reckons with it. It is hard they say for one woman to admit the superior charms of another, but not harder than for a man to concede greater ability or greater industry to another man.
When a famous artist dies, a writer or a sculptor, the wolves fasten on his reputation and try to tear it. While he lived he was too strong for them. Well, modesty is the virtue of those who as little as possible rouse the wolves in advance. The modest man, confident of his merits, hides them till he is gone. He bequeathes to his critics the privilege of discovering him. They will forgive his achievements if they can believe no one else, not even he, was aware of them.
It will be seen however that the modest man is very rare.
If the theory of the inferiority complex is as it were the epitaph of the virtue of humility, the art of advertising is the enemy of modesty. It is an error to suppose that advertising, as we practise it, has chiefly an economic justification; it is rather an expression of a philosophy, not new, but never before so widely held. Primitive man thought he could realize his desires by creating a simulacrum of the thing or state he aspired to. For him art and religion were almost identical; he dramatized his prayers. Our passion for advertising shows how primitive we still are. If we have a cigarette to sell we paint the picture of a man smoking our cigarette, and we display thousands of copies of the picture, that there may be many smokers. Sometimes we have recourse to literary arts. Since we hope that all the buyers will like our cigarettes and tell their friends, we ascribe to the phantom smokers in the pictures sentiments of satisfaction or even of ecstasy. These are our prayers. The savage sprinkles the ground with water to bring on rain. Sometimes it
does rain. Sometimes we do buy the cigarettes, to see if our taste agrees with that of the gentleman on the bill-board. To some extent there is a homeopathic control of destiny.
But the trouble with advertising is that once you are committed to it, you go further than perhaps you intended. It offers no room for moderation. Economically you are limited to what you can pay for, but after that you can build up publicity, which has no bounds. Here again we follow rather clumsily the incantations of the savage. If we were famous, people would talk of us or recognize our name when they heard it. Conversely, we hope, if people talk about us and know who we are, we shall be famous. But fame is related not to publicity but to modesty. To be famous you have to be known for something besides the fact that you are talked about, and the virtue of modesty begins in a well-founded sense of positive achievement. The modest cannot be accused of an inferiority complex. The merchant who is sure his wares excel is likely to advertise least and in conservative terms.
If the practice of advertising grows upon us, what sort of philosophy shall we have in another hundred years? We shall be surrounded by lovely art expressing admirable aspirations. Religion will advertise, the churches perhaps will fight off the lure of the films by rival illuminations over the door, schools and colleges may report the wisest remarks of their best educated pupils, and doctors may send us photographs of patients emerging from their office cured. But by that time our souls may be rather queer.
Perhaps we shall then depend upon so many outer props and guides of conduct that we shall have no inner life. Reality may have been displaced by suggestion. Perhaps the doctor who advertises his cures will have been educated in a medical school which advertises its training, and the training will somehow rest on previous advertisements of textbooks and drugs, and so on back to some original incantation, some magic word. In such a dream-fabric we or our descendants shall be blown like dry leaves in a wind. Our nearest approach to humility will be our fatalistic patience. Of modesty we shall have none.
Or we may save ourselves by becoming the worst kind of skeptics. We may forget that advertisements are to be interpreted as art and aspiration, and having compared the picture with the reality, we may conclude that all who advertise are liars. All, that is, except the most nearly modest. It is not a happy kind of salvation, to keep your soul through skepticism. It is not a complete conquest of reality, to deny the world of imagination and dreams. After all, the cigarette maker may be in love with his cigarette and moved like any other lover to outbursts lyrical and exaggerated. To call the lover a liar is to miss a profound truth. The lover is mad. He declares on oath that his lady is fairer than the sky with all its evening stars-which is as much as to say that the pen is mightier than the sword. You can't check up either statement. Where there is no common measure, there can be no moderation, no question of fact, no modesty.
Those of us who remain sane, however, and who prefer to keep our bearings in a complicated life by other philosophies than the skeptical, may renew our interest in that spiritual attitude which the pagans called modest. We may once more count that the highest success which is complete in ourselves and which therefore needs neither advertising nor applause. We may begin again to take thought for the manner in which we bear ourselves before our fellows, balancing the possible advantages of self-advertising with the probable loss in their esteem.
For after all, though we go through noisy phases now and then, modesty is a logical virtue for democratic people. The aristocrat will cultivate it as one of his accomplishments, a grace of the chivalric tradition, but the democrat needs it to hold his philosophy together. If you believe that human nature is in its possibilities the same, what is any success but a good use of favorable opportunity? Why be puffed up about it? The favorable opportunity does not come to everybody; if you enjoy it, you have occasion for thankfulness rather than pride. Of course, the good use of it is to your credit, but remember how many others would use it better if they had your chance. To profit by opportunity is the commonest of sense. Those who let the chance go by are blind; those who take it deserve no more applause than the hungry who have food brought before them and eat it. In other words the man who succeeds by luck, with no intelligent effort of his own, has as little to be proud of as the man who with no luck at all fails; and the man who has the luck