I would sooner live with an immoral man or woman than a bad-tempered one. An immoral person can often be a very charming companion, quite easy to live with–if you take the various excuses for sudden absences at their face value, and don’t probe too deeply into the business; in fact, if you are not in love with the absentee. A bad-tempered person in the house may have the morality of the angels–but life with him is a daily “hell,” like always living with strangers, or a mad dog, or in a room full of those ornaments which belong, almost exclusively, to lodging-houses everywhere. Briefly, he is always there–ready to burst into flames at any moment, ready to misunderstand everything anybody does or says, a perpetual bugbear; and not even the emotional repentances, which are often the only partially saving grace of bad-tempered people, can atone for the atmosphere of disturbance which they always inflict. And the man or woman who loses his temper whenever anything goes in the slightest bit wrong–well, from them may the Lord deliver me for ever, Amen! They carry their ill-nature about with them all day and under all circumstances. Sometimes they seem to imagine that their spirit of disagreeableness is a sign of the super-man, or of that dominating personality of which Caesar and Napoleon are historical examples. They frequent restaurants and harry the already over-harried waiters. It is such a very easy victory–the victory over a paid servant. But the conquerors stamp themselves for ever and for ever among Nature’s “cads” nevertheless. Anybody who is rude enough can give a quelling performance of “God Almighty” before menials. Some people delight to do so, apparently. They possess everything except an instinctive respect for a man and woman, however lowly, who are earning their own living. And the lack of it places them among the inglorious army of the “bounders” for all time. When there is no “inferior” upon whom to vent the outbursts of their own supreme egoism, they find their wives extremely useful. In the days when the divorce laws are “sensible,” freedom will be granted for perpetual bad temper sooner than for occasional unfaithfulness.
Of course, we all have our days when we are like nothing so much as gunpowder looking for a match. We can’t be perfect and serene all the time. And if ever, as I have just hinted, we do wake up in the morning feeling as if we could get up and quarrel with a bee because it buzzes, a Beecham pill will probably soon put us in a regular “click” of a humour. (“Mr. Carter” never offered me anything; nor did Sir Thomas Beecham. But being fond of grand opera, I mention the pills “worth a guinea a box” for preference. Besides, they tell us a “Beecham at night makes you sing with delight!” So there!) That is one of the reasons why I always advocate a “silence room” in every household which otherwise is large enough to put the biggest room aside to play billiards in. I would have it quite small, and decorated in restful, neutral tints, with the finest view from the window thereof that the house could supply. I would also have a little window cut out of the door, through which food could be pushed in to the sufferer without him having to tell the domestic that it is a fine day and that he hopes her bunion’s better. This little room would be devoted to those inmates of the house who got up on the wrong side of the bed because both sides were “wrong sides” that morning. There he, or she, would stay until the world seemed to be bright again. And they would come forth in their new and serener state of mind, blessing the idea with all their hearts. For if, as they have to do now, they had come downstairs in the mood in which they woke up, the whole house would have known of it to curse it, and most of its members would not be on polite speaking terms for days afterwards. Of course, the idea could be recommended also for those people whose temper is always in a state of uproar. The only difficulty, however, would be, then–they might live in the silence room all their lives and die there–beloved, because unseen. But that is the only thing to do with an habitually disagreeable person–lock him up, and, if you be wise, take away the key of the dungeon with you!