I HAD just come from Smith, the tailor's, and I sank into my comfortable easy-chair - the only chair which I never offer to a stranger - with a mingled sensation of relief and anxiety. To be sure, I had looked over a large number of stuffs, gorgeous, "prononce," "tony," and commonplace, with fair success. I flattered myself that my selection - influenced, I will confess, by the judicious taste of the salesman - would be approved by my friends as correct and even "tough," though not too marked. But nevertheless, while colors, shades, mixed goods, plain goods, and Scotch goods were dismissed from mind, there still remained the question of the cut, which I had promised to settle at some future time. A man's clothes at Harvard are somewhat like the ablative in Latin: they express manner, means, quality-and price. Hence I could not but ponder with much anxiety on the question, how long the coattails should be, if indeed it were not better to stick to the old-fashioned sack, and how large a pair of shoes the trousers should be made to admit.
I think I must have been in rather a dim, religious mood, for my fancy, taking a strange turn, conjured up the apparitions of various men familiar to my college life and asked of them the questions which troubled me.
And first my active imagination placed before me the colossal celebrity known as the Rev. Mr. Rivers. To him I stated the problem, and he began at once to "orate" with a quick and full-mouthed eloquence.
"I think we grow more and more to feel as we grow older, how trifling are all the merely external coverings with which men in all ages have tried to overlay the human body. We grow to feel more and more that we are to seek our standards, not in this man's taste, nor in that man's taste, nor in any man's taste, but simply in a quiet, trustful following of whatever light our own experience has given us. People are so willing, it seems to me, to submit themselves to one great tailor or another great tailor, and try to persuade themselves that all the good taste in the world is summed up in him. But surely this is not the deepest, the truest way of looking at things. Let me illustrate this : -
"Two men start forth in life with the same tastes, the same ambitions, the same prospects. They work together in the same office, perhaps at the same desk. At the end of five years what makes the difference between these two men? Why simply this, it seems to me, that one man has taken his clothing, as it were, ready-made, while the other - "
"Excuse me," said I, "I think I will see you again about this matter after I have had an opportunity to consult with Mr. E. W. Gur - "
The name was no sooner out of my mouth than the man appeared. At my request he laid aside his light stove-pipe hat and generally observant air, and sat down. Then, stroking his beard from underneath, he began : -
"Are there any questions?"
I explained my difficulty.
"I am glad you mentioned it, I was afraid it was not quite clear. Well, to begin with, you remember that the decuriones - But to go back a little. You remember that when the Aryan nations came from the plain of - Perhaps I had better take the pointer and point it out to you on the map."
"But I have n't any pointer nor any map."
"Very well; no matter. Perhaps I had better reserve that for another lecture. You know, at any rate, that in this century and in the preceding century we find a tendency exhibiting itself in various ways towards a centralization of fashion - I ought to say in passing that, if any of you are interested in Bibliography - "
"My dear sir," said I, "you forget yourself. This is too vague. I shall never be able to get any points. I think I must go to your successor, Mr. Buffpole." And I did.
This gentleman, on hearing my question, assumed a very judicial air, and for a time spake nothing. Not a spear of his untrimmed red hair, curled up at the extremities like a roof-gutter, trembled. Indeed, I grew impatient of his long delay, when suddenly I discovered that his lips had been moving, and he had in fact just come to the end of a sentence, expressing his opinion. I began to think that if silence was golden, speech must also be golden, since they were so nearly indistinguishable.
Despairing of help from this quarter, I rushed up to President Yardiyacht and exclaimed, -