The Arcadia Mixture

Darkness comes, and with it the porter to light our stair gas. He

vanishes into his box. Already the inn is so quiet that the tap of a

pipe on a window-sill startles all the sparrows in the quadrangle. The

men on my stair emerged from their holes. Scrymgeour, in a

dressing-gown, pushes open the door of the boudoir on the first floor,

and climbs lazily. The sentimental face and the clay with a crack in it

are Marriot's.
Gilray, who has been rehearsing his part in the new

original comedy from the Icelandic, ceases muttering and feels his way

along his dark lobby. Jimmy pins a notice on his door, Called away on

business, and crosses to me. Soon we are all in the old room again,

Jimmy on the hearth-rug, Marriot in the cane chair; the curtains are

pinned together with a pen-nib, and the five of us are smoking the

Arcadia Mixture.

Pettigrew will be welcomed if he comes, but he is a married man, and we

seldom see him nowadays. Others will be regarded as intruders. If they

are smoking common tobaccoes, they must either be allowed to try ours

or requested to withdraw. One need only put his head in at my door to

realize that tobaccoes are of two kinds, the Arcadia and others. No

one who smokes the Arcadia would ever attempt to describe its delights,

for his pipe would be certain to go out. When he was at school, Jimmy

Moggridge smoked a cane chair, and he has since said that from cane to

ordinary mixtures was not so noticeable as the change from ordinary

mixtures to the Arcadia. I ask no one to believe this, for the confirmed

smoker in Arcadia detests arguing with anybody about anything. Were I

anxious to prove Jimmy's statement, I would merely give you the only

address at which the Arcadia is to be had. But that I will not do. It

would be as rash as proposing a man with whom I am unacquainted for

my club. You may not be worthy to smoke the Arcadia Mixture.

Even though I became attached to you, I might not like to take the

responsibility of introducing you to the Arcadia. This mixture has an

extraordinary effect upon character, and probably you want to remain as

you are. Before I discovered the Arcadia, and communicated it to the

other five--including Pettigrew--we had all distinct individualities,

but now, except in appearance--and the Arcadia even tells on that--we

are as like as holly leaves. We have the same habits, the same ways of

looking at things, the same satisfaction in each other. No doubt we are

not yet absolutely alike, indeed I intend to prove this, but in given

circumstances we would probably do the same thing, and, furthermore, it

would be what other people would not do. Thus when we are together we

are only to be distinguished by our pipes; but any one of us in the

company of persons who smoke other tobaccoes would be considered highly

original. He would be a pigtail in Europe.

If you meet in company a man who has ideas and is not shy, yet refuses

absolutely to be drawn into talk, you may set him down as one of us.

Among the first effects of the Arcadia is to put an end to jabber.

Gilray had at one time the reputation of being such a brilliant talker

that Arcadians locked their doors on him, but now he is a man that can

be invited anywhere. The Arcadia is entirely responsible for the change.

Perhaps I myself am the most silent of our company, and hostesses

usually think me shy. They ask ladies to draw me out, and when the

ladies find me as hopeless as a sulky drawer, they call me stupid. The

charge may be true, but I do not resent it, for I smoke the Arcadia

Mixture, and am consequently indifferent to abuse.

I willingly gibbet myself to show how reticent the Arcadia makes us.

It happens that I have a connection with Nottingham, and whenever a

man mentions Nottingham to me, with a certain gleam in his eye, I know

that he wants to discuss the lace trade. But it is a curious fact that

the aggressive talker constantly mixes up Nottingham and Northampton.

Oh, you know Nottingham, he says, interestedly; and how do you like

Labouchere for a member? Do you think I put him right? Do you imagine

me thirsting to tell that Mr. Labouchere is the Christian member for

Northampton? Do you suppose me swift to explain that Mr. Broadhurst

is one of the Nottingham members, and that the Nottingham lambs

are notorious in the history of political elections? Do you fancy me

explaining that he is quite right in saying that Nottingham has a large

market-place? Do you see me drawn into half an hour's talk about Robin

Hood? That is not my way. I merely reply that we like Mr. Labouchere

pretty well. It may be said that I gain nothing by this; that the talker

will be as curious about Northampton as he would have been about

Nottingham, and that Bradlaugh and Labouchere and boots will serve his

turn quite as well as Broadhurst and lace and Robin Hood. But that is

not so. Beginning on Northampton in the most confident manner, it

suddenly flashes across him that he has mistaken Northampton for

Nottingham. How foolish of me! he says. I maintain a severe silence.

He is annoyed. My experience of talkers tells me that nothing annoys

them so much as a blunder of this kind. From the coldly polite way in

which I have taken the talker's remarks, he discovers the value I put

upon them, and after that, if he has a neighbor on the other side, he

leaves me alone.

Enough has been said to show that the Arcadian's golden rule is to

be careful about what he says. This does not mean that he is to say

nothing. As society is at present constituted you are bound to make an

occasional remark. But you need not make it rashly. It has been said

somewhere that it would be well for talkative persons to count twenty,

or to go over the alphabet, before they let fall the observation that

trembles on their lips. The non-talker has no taste for such an

unintellectual exercise. At the same time he must not hesitate too

long, for, of course, it is to his advantage to introduce the subject.

He ought to think out a topic of which his neighbor will not be able

to make very much. To begin on the fall of snow, or the number of

tons of turkeys consumed on Christmas Day, as stated in the _Daily

Telegraph_, is to deserve your fate. If you are at a dinner-party

of men only, take your host aside, and in a few well-considered

sentences find out from him what kind of men you are to sit between

during dinner. Perhaps one of them is an African traveller. A knowledge

of this prevents your playing into his hands, by remarking that the

papers are full of the relief of Emin Pasha. These private inquiries

will also save you from talking about Mr. Chamberlain to a neighbor who

turns out to be the son of a Birmingham elector. Allow that man his

chance, and he will not only give you the Birmingham gossip, but what

individual electors said about Mr. Chamberlain to the banker or the

tailor, and what the grocer did the moment the poll was declared, with

particulars about the antiquity of Birmingham and the fishing to be had

in the neighborhood. What you ought to do is to talk about Emin Pasha

to this man, and to the traveller about Mr. Chamberlain, taking care, of

course, to speak in a low voice. In that way you may have comparative

peace. Everything, however, depends on the calibre of your neighbors. If

they agree to look upon you as an honorable antagonist, and so to fight

fair, the victory will be to him who deserves it; that is to say, to the

craftier man of the two. But talkers, as a rule, do not fight fair. They

consider silent men their prey. It will thus be seen that I distinguish

between talkers, admitting that some of them are worse than others. The

lowest in the social scale is he who stabs you in the back, as it were,

instead of crossing swords. If one of the gentlemen introduced to you is

of that type, he will not be ashamed to say, Speaking of Emin Pasha,

I wonder if Mr. Chamberlain is interested in the relief expedition.

I don't know if I told you that my father---- and there he is, fairly

on horseback. It is seldom of any use to tempt him into other channels.

Better turn to your traveller and let him describe the different routes

to Egyptian Equatorial Provinces, with his own views thereon. Allow him

even to draw a map of Africa with a fork on the table-cloth. A talker of

this kind is too full of his subject to insist upon answering questions,

so that he does not trouble you much. It is his own dinner that is

spoiled rather than yours. Treat in the same way as the Chamberlain

talker the man who sits down beside you and begins, Remarkable man,

Mr. Gladstone.

There was a ventilator in my room, which sometimes said Crik-crik!

reminding us that no one had spoken for an hour. Occasionally, however,

we had lapses of speech, when Gilray might tell over again--though not

quite as I mean to tell it--the story of his first pipeful of the

Arcadia, or Scrymgeour, the travelled man, would give us the list of

famous places in Europe where he had smoked. But, as a rule, none of us

paid much attention to what the others said, and after the last pipe the

room emptied--unless Marriot insisted on staying behind to bore me with

his scruples--by first one and then another putting his pipe into his

pocket and walking silently out of the room.