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On The Time Wasted In Looking Before One Leaps
by [?]

At last it does open. It would be incorrect to say that she opens it. It opens because it is sick of being mauled about; and, as likely as not, it opens at the moment when she is holding it upside down. If you happen to be near enough to look over her shoulder, you will notice that the gold and silver lies loose within it. In an inner sanctuary, carefully secured with a second secret spring, she keeps her coppers, together with a postage-stamp and a draper’s receipt, nine months old, for elevenpence three-farthings.

I remember the indignation of an old Bus-conductor, once. Inside we were nine women and two men. I sat next the door, and his remarks therefore he addressed to me. It was certainly taking him some time to collect the fares, but I think he would have got on better had he been less bustling; he worried them, and made them nervous.

“Look at that,” he said, drawing my attention to a poor lady opposite, who was diving in the customary manner for her purse, “they sit on their money, women do. Blest if you wouldn’t think they was trying to ‘atch it.”

At length the lady drew from underneath herself an exceedingly fat purse.

“Fancy riding in a bumpby bus, perched up on that thing,” he continued. “Think what a stamina they must have.” He grew confidential. “I’ve seen one woman,” he said, “pull out from underneath ‘er a street doorkey, a tin box of lozengers, a pencil-case, a whopping big purse, a packet of hair-pins, and a smelling-bottle. Why, you or me would be wretched, sitting on a plain door-knob, and them women goes about like that all day. I suppose they gets used to it. Drop ’em on an eider-down pillow, and they’d scream. The time it takes me to get tuppence out of them, why, it’s ‘eart-breaking. First they tries one side, then they tries the other. Then they gets up and shakes theirselves till the bus jerks them back again, and there they are, a more ‘opeless ‘eap than ever. If I ‘ad my way I’d make every bus carry a female searcher as could over’aul ’em one at a time, and take the money from ’em. Talk about the poor pickpocket. What I say is, that a man as finds his way into a woman’s pocket–well, he deserves what he gets.”

But it was the thought of more serious matters that lured me into reflections concerning the over-carefulness of women. It is a theory of mine–wrong possibly; indeed I have so been informed–that we pick our way through life with too much care. We are for ever looking down upon the ground. Maybe, we do avoid a stumble or two over a stone or a brier, but also we miss the blue of the sky, the glory of the hills. These books that good men write, telling us that what they call “success” in life depends on our flinging aside our youth and wasting our manhood in order that we may have the means when we are eighty of spending a rollicking old age, annoy me. We save all our lives to invest in a South Sea Bubble; and in skimping and scheming, we have grown mean, and narrow, and hard. We will put off the gathering of the roses till tomorrow, to-day it shall be all work, all bargain-driving, all plotting. Lo, when to-morrow comes, the roses are blown; nor do we care for roses, idle things of small marketable value; cabbages are more to our fancy by the time to-morrow comes.

Life is a thing to be lived, not spent, to be faced, not ordered. Life is not a game of chess, the victory to the most knowing; it is a game of cards, one’s hand by skill to be made the best of. Is it the wisest who is always the most successful? I think not. The luckiest whist-player I ever came across was a man who was never QUITE certain what were trumps, and whose most frequent observation during the game was “I really beg your pardon,” addressed to his partner; a remark which generally elicited the reply, “Oh, don’t apologize. All’s well that ends well.” The man I knew who made the most rapid fortune was a builder in the outskirts of Birmingham, who could not write his name, and who, for thirty years of his life, never went to bed sober. I do not say that forgetfulness of trumps should be cultivated by whist-players. I think my builder friend might have been even more successful had he learned to write his name, and had he occasionally–not overdoing it–enjoyed a sober evening. All I wish to impress is, that virtue is not the road to success–of the kind we are dealing with. We must find other reasons for being virtuous; maybe, there are some. The truth is, life is a gamble pure and simple, and the rules we lay down for success are akin to the infallible systems with which a certain class of idiot goes armed each season to Monte Carlo. We can play the game with coolness and judgment, decide when to plunge and when to stake small; but to think that wisdom will decide it, is to imagine that we have discovered the law of chance. Let us play the game of life as sportsmen, pocketing our winnings with a smile, leaving our losings with a shrug. Perhaps that is why we have been summoned to the board and the cards dealt round: that we may learn some of the virtues of the good gambler; his self-control, his courage under misfortune, his modesty under the strain of success, his firmness, his alertness, his general indifference to fate. Good lessons these, all of them. If by the game we learn some of them our time on the green earth has not been wasted. If we rise from the table having learned only fretfulness and self-pity I fear it has been.