By Ray Stannard Baker

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Shouldn’t a man make the most of the talents given him? ” “Now you are shifting your ground,” I said, “from the question of personal satisfaction to that of duty. That concerns me, too. ” “That is a problem, of course,” I said. “I tried money-making once—in a city—and I was unsuccessful and unhappy; here I am both successful and happy. ” (I was cutting close, and I didn’t venture to look at him). “No doubt he had his houses and yachts and went to Europe when he liked. I know I lived upstairs—back—where there wasn’t a tree to be seen, or a spear of green grass, or a hill, or a brook: only smoke and chimneys and littered roofs.

He came to the table uncertain, blinking, apologetic. His forehead, I saw, was really impressive—high, narrow and thin-skinned. His face gave one somehow the impression of a carving once full of significant lines, now blurred and worn as though Time, having first marked it with the lines of character, had grown discouraged and brushed the hand of forgetfulness over her work. He had peculiar thin, silky hair of no particular colour, with a certain almost childish pathetic waviness around the ears and at the back of the neck.

A week or two it flourishes and then most of it perishes miserably. So many of us come to be like that: so much of our civilization is like that. Men and women there are—the pity of it—who, eating plentifully, have never themselves taken a mouthful from the earth. They have never known a moment’s real life of their own. Lying up to the sun in warmth and comfort—but leafless—they do not think of the hosts under them, smothered, strangled, starved. They take nothing at first hand. They experience described emotion, and think prepared thoughts.

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