Life is full of minor mysteries–conundrums of the everyday which usually centre round the problem: “Why on earth people do certain things and what on earth makes them do them?” And one of these mysteries is that of their choice in wallpapers. Of course some wallpapers are so pretty that it is not at all difficult to realise why people chose them. On the other hand, some are so extraordinarily hideous that one would really like to see, for curiosity’s sake, the artist who designed them and the purchaser whose artistic needs they satisfied. Those bunches of impossible flowers linked together by ribbons, the whole painted in horrible combinations of colour–how we all know them, and how we marvel at their creation! One imagines the mental difficulty of the purchaser as to which among the many designs most appealed to her artistic “eye.” Then one pictures how her choice wavered among several. One figures to oneself how she sat in consultation with that friend whom most people take with them when they go out to choose wallpapers, asking her opinion concerning the design which showed nightmare birds swarming about among terrible trees, and the one which illustrated brown roses with blue buds growing in regulated bunches on trellis-work of a most bilious green. One can almost hear the arguments for and against, and at last, the definite conclusion that the one with the brown roses and blue buds was the more uncommon–therefore the better of the two. And one day fate leads your steps towards the bedroom wherein that wallpaper hangs. As you throw yourself into the one easy chair you take out your cigarette case to enjoy that “just one more” which is the more enjoyable because it symbolises that feeling of being “enfin seul” which always follows conversations with landladies or several hours making yourselves agreeable to hostesses.
Then you see it!
At first you are amusedly contemptuous. “How perfectly hideous,” you say to yourself. And then, in your idleness of mind, your eye follows the roses and ribbons in horrible contortions from the skirting board to the ceiling. Realising what you are doing, and knowing that in that direction madness lies, you immediately turn your gaze towards the window. You imagine that you have gained the day. But, alas! you are wrong! Comes a moment in the early morning when you wake up two hours before you wanted to, with nothing else to do except to lie awake thinking. And all the while the brown roses with their blue buds have unconsciously stretched their tendrils to seize your wandering regard. Before you realise what they are doing, your eyes are riveted on that horrible bunch half-way up the wall which being cut in half by the sudden termination of the width of one paper roll, does not exactly fit the corresponding half of the other. How it suddenly begins to irritate you–this break in the symmetry of the design! You force your eyes from contemplating its offence, only to discover that the bunches of roses which are exposed between the sides of the picture representing “The Soul’s Awakening” and the illuminated text painted by your hostess when she was young, make an exact square. Above the pictures you perceive that these same bunches form a “diamond,” resting on one of its right angles! That there are only five of these terrible bunches between the side of “The Soul’s Awakening” and the corner of the wall, and six between that of “Trust in the Lord” and the door. And all the time you are becoming more and more irritable. You cannot close your eyes because you know that when you open them again the same illustrations from Euclid will await you. The only thing that comforts you is the determination to write immediately to your Member of Parliament insisting that he drafts a Bill creating a censor of wallpapers, with dire penalties for any “circumventors” of the law. That at least would put every seaside landlady in prison.