We went up to the composing room just now to consult our privy counsellor, Peter Augsberger, the make-up man, and after Peter had told us about his corn—-
It is really astonishing, by the way, how many gardeners there are in a newspaper office. We once worked in a place where a horticultural magazine and a beautiful journal of rustic life were published, and the delightful people who edited those magazines were really men about town; but here in the teeming city and in the very node of urban affairs, to wit, the composing room, one hears nought but merry gossip about gardens, and the great and good men by whom we are surrounded begin their day by gazing tenderly upon jars full of white iris. And has not our friend Charley Sawyer of the dramatic department given us a lot of vegetable marrow seeds from his own garden and greatly embarrassed us by so doing, for he has put them in two packets marked “Male” and “Female,” and to tell the truth we had no idea that the matter of sex extended even as far as the apparently placid and unperturbed vegetable marrow. Mr. Sawyer explained carefully to us just how the seeds ought to be planted, the males and females in properly wedded couples, we think he said; but we are not quite sure, and we are too modest to ask him to explain again; but if we should make a mistake in planting those seeds, if we were to—- Come, we are getting away from our topic. Peter had told us about his corn, in his garden, that is, out in Nutley (and that reminds us of the difficulties of reading poetry aloud. Mr. Chesterton tells somewhere a story about a poem of Browning’s that he heard read aloud when he was a child, and understood the poem to say “John scorns ale.”
Now Mr. Chesterton–you understand, of course, we are referring to Gilbert Keith Chesterton–being from his very earliest youth an avowed partisan of malt liquor, this heresy made an impression upon his tender cortex, and he never forgot about John, in Browning’s poem, scorning ale. But many years afterward, reading Browning, he found that the words really were: “John’s corns ail,” meaning apparently that John was troubled by pedal callouses.) Peter, we repeat, and to avoid any further misunderstanding and press diligently toward our theme, having mentioned his garden, who should come up to us but Pete Corcoran, also of the composing room force, and a waggish friend of ours, and gazing on us in a manner calculated to make us feel ill at ease he said, “I suppose you are going to write something about that tie of yours.”
Now we were wearing a scarf that we are very fond of, the kind of tie, we believe, that is spoken of as “regimental stripes”; at any rate, it is designated with broad diagonal bands of colour: claret, gold, and blue. It was obvious to us that Pete Corcoran, or, to give him his proper name, Mr. Corcoran, had said what he did merely in a humorous way, or possibly satiric, implying that we are generally so hard up for something to write about that we would even undertake so trifling a subject as haberdashery; but as we went downstairs again to our kennel, au dixieme, as Mr. Wanamaker would call it, we thought seriously about this and decided that we would cause Pete’s light-hearted suggestion to recoil violently upon his friendly brow, and that we would write a little essay about this tie and tell its story, which, to be honest, is very interesting to us. And this essay we are now endeavouring to write, even if it has to run in several instalments.
It was curious, incidentally (but not really more curious than most human affairs), that Pete (or Mr. Corcoran) whether he was merely chaffing us, or whether he was really curious about a scarf of such wanton colour scheme, should have mentioned it just when he did, for as a matter of fact that tie had been on our mind all morning. You see to-day being warm (and please remember that what we call to-day, is now, when you are reading this, yesterday) we did not wear our waistcoat, or, if you prefer, our vest; but by the time we had decided not to wear our waistcoat we had already tied our scarf in the usual way we tie that particular scarf when we wear it, viz., so as to conceal a certain spot on it which got there we know not how. We do not know what kind of a spot it is; perhaps it is a soup stain, perhaps it is due to a shrimp salad we had with Endymion at that amusing place that calls itself the Crystal Palace; we will not attempt to trace the origin of that swarthy blemish on the soft silk of our tie; but we have cunningly taught ourself to knot the thing so that the spot does not show. (Good, we have made that plain: we are getting along famously.)