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Worldly Color-Blindness
by [?]

Myriads of people have no ear for music and derive but little pleasure from sweet sounds. Strange as it may appear, many gifted and sensitive mortals have been unable to distinguish one note from another, Apollo’s harmonious art remaining for them, as for the elder Dumas, only an “expensive noise.”

Another large class find it impossible to discriminate between colors. Men afflicted in this way have even become painters of reputation. I knew one of the latter, who, when a friend complimented him on having caught the exact shade of a pink toilet in one of his portraits, answered, “Does that dress look pink to you? I thought it was green!” and yet he had copied what he saw correctly.

Both these classes are to be pitied, but are not the cause of much suffering to others. It is annoying, I grant you, to be torn asunder in a collision, because red and green lights on the switches combined into a pleasing harmony before the brakeman’s eyes. The tone-deaf gentleman who insists on whistling a popular melody is almost as trying as the lady suffering from the same weakness, who shouts, “Ninon, Ninon, que fais-tu de la vie!” until you feel impelled to cry, “Que faites-vous, madame, with the key?”

Examinations now keep daltonic gentlemen out of locomotives, and ladies who have lost their “keys” are apt to find their friends’ pianos closed. What we cannot guard against is a variety of the genus homo which suffers from “social color-blindness.” These well-meaning mortals form one of the hardest trials that society is heir to; for the disease is incurable, and as it is almost impossible to escape from them, they continue to spread dismay and confusion along their path to the bitter end.

This malady, which, as far as I know, has not been diagnosed, invades all circles, and is, curiously enough, rampant among well-born and apparently well-bred people.

Why is it that the entertainments at certain houses are always dull failures, while across the way one enjoys such agreeable evenings? Both hosts are gentlemen, enjoying about the same amount of “unearned increment,” yet the atmosphere of their houses is radically different. This contrast cannot be traced to the dulness or brilliancy of the entertainer and his wife. Neither can it be laid at the door of inexperience, for the worst offenders are often old hands at the game.

The only explanation possible is that the owners of houses where one is bored are socially color-blind, as cheerfully unconscious of their weakness as the keyless lady and the whistling abomination.

Since increasing wealth has made entertaining general and lavish, this malady has become more and more apparent, until one is tempted to parody Mme. Roland’s dying exclamation and cry, “Hospitality! hospitility! what crimes are committed in thy name!”

Entertaining is for many people but an excuse for ostentation. For others it is a means to an end; while a third variety apparently keep a debit and credit account with their acquaintances-in books of double entry, so that no errors may occur-and issue invitations like receipts, only in return for value received.

We can rarely tell what is passing in the minds of people about us. Some of those mentioned above may feel a vague pleasure when their rooms are filled with a chattering crowd of more or less well-assorted guests; if that is denied them, can find consolation for the outlay in an indefinite sensation of having performed a duty,-what duty, or to whom, they would, however, find it difficult to define.

Let the novice flee from the allurements of such a host. Old hands know him and have got him on their list, escaping when escape is possible; for he will mate the green youth with the red frump, or like a premature millennium force the lion and the lamb to lie down together, and imagine he has given unmixed pleasure to both.