There are many who would laugh at the idea of a novelist teaching either virtue or nobility — those, for instance, who regard the reading of novels as a sin, and those also who think it to be simply an idle pastime. They look upon the tellers of stories as among the tribe of those who pander to the wicked pleasures of a wicked world. I have regarded my art from so different a point of view that I have ever thought of myself as a preacher of sermons, and my pulpit as one which I could make both salutary and agreeable to my audience. I do believe that no girl has risen from the reading of my pages less modest than she was before, and that some may have learned from them that modesty is a charm well worth preserving. I think that no youth has been taught that in falseness and flashness is to be found the road to manliness; but some may perhaps have learned from me that it is to be found in truth and a high but gentle spirit. Such are the lessons I have striven to teach; and I have thought it might best be done by representing to my readers characters like themselves — or to which they might liken themselves.
But the experience, far from being beatific, had been terrible. They had recoiled in horror from the unspeakable facts. Servants of the light, children of the light, they had discovered that the light itself in their own eyes was but a subjective figment, like the retinal lights that a man sees in the dark, or when his eyes are closed. For a moment they had succeeded in opening their eyes, but only to discover a deeper and more formidable darkness. Or was it something worse than darkness?
Again I answered, 'Oh!'
Porterfield's benign, almost priestly countenance assumed an expression of theatrical solemnity as if he had read something really terrible in the tea leaves. "Then what happens today?" Lily clasped her hands tensely and bent her head fractionally closer to get the full impact of the news. "The old man says, 'Porterfield. A bottle of Infuriator. You understand? A full bottle!' So of course I didn't say anything but went off and brought it to him. But you mark my words, Lily"-he noticed a lifted hand down the long room and moved off-"there's something hit Sir Miles hard this morning and no mistake."
There had been no alternative. Major Smythe had to trust the Foos utterly now. They could cook up any figure, and he would just have to accept it. He went over to the Myrtle Bank and had one or two stiff drinks and a sandwich that stuck in his throat. Then he went back to the cool office of the Foos.
So, when I once asked Dora, with an eye to the cookery-book, what she would do, if we were married, and I were to say I should like a nice Irish stew, she replied that she would tell the servant to make it; and then clapped her little hands together across my arm, and laughed in such a charming manner that she was more delightful than ever.