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The Sex Problem Again
by [?]

It was Mitchell’s habit to take an evening off now and then from yarning or reflecting, and proceed, in a most methodical manner, to wash his spare shirts and patch his pants. I was in the habit of contributing to some Sydney papers, and every man is an editor at heart, so, at other times, Mitchell would take another evening off, and root out my swag, and go through my papers in the same methodical manner, and make alterations and additions without comment or reference to me; and sometimes he’d read a little thing of my own which didn’t meet his views, and accidentally drop it into the fire; and at other times he’d get hold of some rhyme or sketch that was troubling me, and wrap it up and give it to a passing mailman unbeknown to me. The unexpected appearance of such articles in the paper, as well as the effects of the involuntary collaboration in other pieces, gave me several big surprises.

It was in camp on a fencing contract west of Bourke. We had a book which we’d borrowed from a library at Bourke for a year or two–never mind the name of it–it was in ninety-one or ninety-two, and the sex problem was booming then. I had been surreptitiously tearing some carefully-written slips of manuscript–leaves taken from an old pocket-book–into small pieces; I dropped them, with apparent carelessness, into the fire and stood with my back to it.

“I’ll bet five pounds,” said Mitchell, suddenly, “that you’ve been trying your hand on a sex-problem story.”

I shifted uneasily and brought my hands from behind me into my pockets. “Well, to tell you the truth,” I admitted, “I have.”

“I thought so,” exclaimed Mitchell. “We’ll be put to the expense of sending you to Sydney for medical treatment yet. You’ve been having too easy times lately, plenty of hard graft and no anxiety about tucker or the future. What are the symptoms?”

“Well,” I said, taking a hand out to scratch the back of my head, “the plot looked all right–at first sight.”

“So there’s a plot, is there? Well, in the first place, a plot is a problem. Well, what’s the plot? . . . Come on, you needn’t be frightened to tell an old mate like me.”

“Well,” I said, “the yarn looked all right at first sight; that article of ‘T’s’ in the Bulletin turned me off it; listen and see what you think of it: There was a young fellow, a bit of a genius—“

“Just so, it’s the geniuses that build the sex problems. It’s an autobiography. Go on.”

“Well, he married a girl.”

Mitchell (sotto voce): “God help her.”

“He loved her, and she loved him: but after they’d been married a while he found out that, although he understood her, she didn’t and couldn’t possibly ever understand him.”

“Yes,” commented Mitchell, “and if he hadn’t caught the sex problem, nor been reading about it, he would never have found that out.”

“It was a terrible disappointment,” I continued–I had got into the habit of taking Mitchell’s interruptions and comments as matters of course–“He saw that his life would be a hell with her—“

Mitchell: “Didn’t strike him that her life would be a hell with him?”

“They had no thought in common.”

Mitchell: “She was in her right mind then.”

“But he couldn’t leave her because he loved her, and because he knew that she loved him and would break her heart if he left her.”

“Must have been a pretty cocksure sort of a fellow,” remarked Mitchell, “but all geniuses are.”

“When he was with her he saw all her obstinacy, unreason, and selfishness; but when he was away he only saw her good points.”

Mitchell: “Pity such men don’t stop away.”

“He thought and thought, and brooded over it till his life was a hell—“