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A Sheaf

A Sheaf
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Title: A Sheaf
Release Date: 2018-08-26
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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A SHEAF

 

 

BY

JOHN GALSWORTHY

 

 

 

 

LONDON

WILLIAM HEINEMANN


London: William Heinemann. 1916.


 

 

 

To

WILLIAM ARCHER

 

 


AUTHOR’S NOTE

This volume is but a garnering of non-creativewritings; mostly pleas of some sort or other—wildoats of a novelist, which he has been asked tobind up. He cannot say that he had any wantonpleasure in sowing any of them; and lest there beothers of the same opinion as the anonymous gentlemanwho thus joyously addressed him last July:“But there—I suppose you are getting a bit out ofit. Men of your calibre will do anything for filthylucre—you old and cunning reptile!”—he mentionsthat he has not, personally, profited a penny by anythingin this volume, and that the future proceedstherefrom will be given to St. Dunstan’s, and theNational Institute for the Blind, London.

In these days of manifold human misery, many willbe impatient reading some of the pleas written beforethe war; but the war will not last for ever, and in thepeace that follows life will be rougher, the need forthose pleas even more insistent than it was.

The writings have been pruned a little, and a fewhave not yet met the public eye.

To the many Editors of Journals and Reviewswherein the others have appeared—cordial thanks.

J. G.

August, 1916.


CONTENTS

PAGE
MUCH CRY—LITTLE WOOL
  
ON THE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS3
CONCERNING LAWS77
ON PRISONS AND PUNISHMENT95
ON THE POSITION OF WOMEN130
ON SOCIAL UNREST148
ON PEACE160
  
  
THE WAR
  
VALLEY OF THE SHADOW169
CREDO169
FRANCE171
REVEILLE173
FIRST THOUGHTS ON THIS WAR175
THE HOPE OF LASTING PEACE188
DIAGNOSIS OF THE ENGLISHMAN194
OUR LITERATURE AND THE WAR204
ART AND THE WAR210
TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO219
SECOND THOUGHTS ON THIS WAR223
TOTALLY DISABLED243
CARTOON247
HARVEST249
  
AND—AFTER?
  
PRELUDE255
FREEDOM AND PRIVILEGE260
THE NATION AND TRAINING266
HEALTH, HUMANITY, AND PROCEDURE276
A LAST WORD283
THE ISLANDS OF THE BLESSED289

 

 

 

MUCH CRY—LITTLE WOOL

 

 

 


ON THE TREATMENT OF ANIMALS

I

For Love of Beasts

(A Paper in the Pall Mall Gazette, 1912.)

§ 1.

We had left my rooms, and were walking brisklydown the street towards the river, when my friendstopped before the window of a small shop and said:

“Gold-fish!”

I[1] looked at him very doubtfully; one had knownhim so long that one never looked at him in anyother way.

“Can you imagine,” he went on, “how any saneperson can find pleasure in the sight of those swiftthings swimming for ever and ever in a bowl abouttwice the length of their own tails?”

“No,” I said, “I cannot—though, of course,they’re very pretty.”

“That is, no doubt, the reason why they are keptin misery.”

Again I looked at him; there is nothing in the worldI distrust so much as irony.

“People don’t think about these things,” I said.

“You are right,” he answered, “they do not. Letme give you some evidence of that. . . . I was travellinglast spring in a far country, and made an expeditionto a certain woodland spot. Outside the littleforest inn I noticed a ring of people and dogs gatheredround a gray animal rather larger than a cat. It hada sharp-nosed head too small for its body, and brightblack eyes, and was moving restlessly round and rounda pole to which it was tethered by a chain. If a dogcame near, it hunched its bushy back and made arush at him. Except for that it seemed a shy-souled,timid little thing. In fact, by its eyes, and the wayit shrank into itself, you could tell it was scared ofeverything around. Now, there was a small, thin-facedman in a white jacket holding up a tub on endand explaining to the people that this was the littlecreature’s habitat, and that it wanted to get backunderneath; and, sure enough, when he held the tubwithin its reach, the little animal stood up at once onits hind legs and pawed, evidently trying to get thetub to fall down and cover it. The people all laughedat this; the man laughed too, and the little creaturewent on pawing. At last the man said: ‘Mind yourback-legs, Patsy!’ and let the tub fall. The show wasover. But presently another lot came up; the white-coatedman lifted the tub, and it began all over again.

“ ‘What is that animal?’ I asked him.

“ ‘A ’coon.’

“ ‘How old?’

“ ‘Three years—too old to tame.’

“ ‘Where did you catch it?’

“ ‘In the forest—lots of ’coons in the forest.’

“ ‘Do they live in the open, or in holes?’

“ ‘Up in the trees, sure; they only gits in thehollows when it rains.’

“ ‘Oh! they live in the open? Then isn’t it queershe should be so fond of her tub?’

“ ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘she do that to git away frompeople!’ and he laughed—a genial little man. ‘Shenot like people and dogs. She too old to tame. Sheknow me, though.’

“ ‘I see,’ I said. ‘You take the tub off her, andshow her to the people, and put it back again. Yes,she would know you!’

“ ‘Yes,’ he repeated, rather proudly, ‘she knowme—Patsy, Patsy! Presently, you bet, we catchlot more, and make a cage, and put them in.’

“He was gazing very kindly at the little creature,who on her gray hind legs was anxiously begging forthe tub to come down and hide her, and I said:‘But isn’t it rather a miserable life for this poor littledevil?’

“He gave me a very queer look. ‘There’s lots ofpeople,’ he said—and his voice sounded as if I’d hurthim—‘never gits a chance to see a ’coon’—and hedropped the tub over the racoon. . . .

“Well! Can you conceive anything more pitifulthan that poor little wild creature of the open, beggingand begging for a tub to fall over it and shut out allthe light and air? Doesn’t it show what misery cagedthings have to go through?”

“But, surely,” I said, “those other people wouldfeel the same as you. The little white-coated man wasonly a servant.”

He seemed to run them over in his memory. “Notone!” he answered slowly. “Not a single one! Iam sure it never even occurred to them—why shouldit? They were there to enjoy themselves.”

We walked in silence till I said:

“I can’t help feeling that your little white-coatedman was acting good-heartedly according to his lights.”

“Quite! And after all what are the sufferings ofa racoon compared with the enlargement of the humanmind?”

“Don’t be extravagant! You know he didn’tmean to be cruel.”

“Does a man ever mean to be cruel? He merelymakes or keeps his living; but to make or keep hisliving he will do anything that does not absolutelyprick to his heart through the skin of his indolence orhis obtuseness.”

“I think,” I said, “that you might have expressedthat less cynically, even if it’s true.”

“Nothing that’s true is cynical, and nothing that iscynical is true. Indifference to the suffering of beastsalways comes from over-absorption in our own comfort.”

“Absorption, not over-absorption, perhaps.”

“Ha! Let us see that! Very soon after seeing theracoon I was staying at the most celebrated healthresort of that country, and, walking in its grounds,I came on an aviary. In the upper cages were canaries,and in the lower cage a splendid hawk. It was as largeas our buzzard hawk, brown-backed and winged, lightunderneath, and with the finest dark-brown eyes ofany bird I ever saw. The cage was quite ten feet eachway—a noble allowance for the very soul of freedom!The bird had every luxury. There was water, and alarge piece of raw meat that hadn’t been touched.Yet it was never still for a moment, flying from perchto perch, and dropping to the ground again and againso lightly, to run, literally run, up to the bars to seeif perhaps—they were not there. Its face was asintelligent as any dog’s——”

My friend muttered something I couldn’t catch,and then went on:

“That afternoon I took the drive for which one visitsthat hotel, and it occurred to me to ask my chauffeurwhat kind of hawk it was. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I ain’tjust too sure what it is they’ve got caged up now;they changes ’em so often.’

“ ‘Do you mean,’ I said, ‘that they die in captivity?’

“ ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘them big birds soon gitsmoulty and go off.’ Well, when I paid my bill I wentup to the semblance of proprietor—it was one of thoseestablishments where the only creature responsibleis ‘Co.’—and I said:

“ ‘I see you keep a hawk out there?’

“ ‘Yes. Fine bird. Quite an attraction!’

“ ‘People like to look at it?’

“ ‘Just so. They’re uncommon—that sort.’

“ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I call it cruel to keep a hawk shutup like that.’

“ ‘Cruel? Why? What’s a hawk, anyway—crueldevils enough!’

“ ‘My dear sir,’ I said, ‘they earn their living justlike men, without caring for other creatures’ sufferings.You are not shut up, apparently, for doing that.Good-bye.’ ”

As he said this, my friend looked at me, andadded:

“You think that was a lapse of taste. What wouldyou have said to a man who cloaked the cruelty of hiscommercial instincts by blaming a hawk for beingwhat Nature had made him?”

There was such feeling in his voice that I hesitatedlong before answering.

“Well,” I said, at last, “in England, anyway, weonly keep such creatures in captivity for scientificpurposes. I doubt if you could find a single instancenowadays of its being done just as a commercialattraction.”

He stared at me.

“Yes,” he said, “we do it publicly and scientifically,to enlarge the mind. But let me put to you this question.Which do you consider has the larger mind—theman who has satisfied his idle curiosity by staring atall the caged animals of the earth, or the man who hasbeen brought up to feel that to keep such indomitablecreatures as hawks and eagles, wolves and panthers,shut up, to gratify mere curiosity, is a dreadful thing?”

To that singular question I knew not what to answer.At last I said:

“I think you underrate the pleasure they give. WeEnglish are so awfully fond of animals!”


For “I” read “almost anyone.”—J. G.

§ 2.

We had entered Battersea Park by now, and sincemy remark about our love of beasts we had not spoken.A wood-pigeon which had been strutting before usjust then flew up into a tree and began puffing outits breast. Seeking to break the silence, I said:

“Pigeons are so complacent.”

My friend smiled in his dubious way, and

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