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The Tiger And The Baby
by [?]


George Peel and Mary, his wife, sat down to breakfast. Their only son, Georgie, was already seated. George the younger showed an astounding disregard for the decencies of life, and a frankly gluttonous absorption in food which amounted to cynicism. Evidently he cared for nothing but the satisfaction of bodily desires. Yet he was twenty-two months old, and occupied a commanding situation in a high chair! His father and mother were aged thirty-two and twenty-eight respectively. They both had pale, intellectual faces; they were dressed with elegance, and their gestures were the gestures of people accustomed to be waited upon and to consider luxuries as necessaries. There was silver upon the table, and the room, though small and somewhat disordered, had in it beautiful things which had cost money. Through a doorway half-screened by a portiere could be seen a large studio peopled with heroic statuary, plaster casts, and lumps of clay veiled in wet cloths. And on the other side of the great window of the studio green trees waved their foliage. The trees were in Regent’s Park. Another detail to show that the Peels had not precisely failed in life: the time was then ten-thirty o’clock! Millions of persons in London had already been at hard work for hours.

And indeed George Peel was not merely a young sculptor of marked talent; he was also a rising young sculptor. For instance, when you mentioned his name in artistic circles the company signified that it knew whom you meant, and those members of the company who had never seen his work had to feel ashamed of themselves. Further, he had lately been awarded the Triennial Gold Medal of the International Society, an honour that no Englishman had previously achieved. His friends and himself had, by the way, celebrated this dazzling event by a noble and joyous gathering in the studio, at which famous personages had been present.

Everybody knew that George Peel, in addition to what he earned, had important “private resources.” For even rising young sculptors cannot live luxuriously on what they gain, and you cannot eat gold medals. Nor will gold medals pay a heavy rent or the cost of manual help in marble cutting. All other rising young sculptors envied George Peel, and he rather condescended to them (in his own mind) because they had to keep up appearances by means of subterfuges, whereas there was no deception about his large and ample existence.

On the table by Mary’s plate was a letter, the sole letter. It had come by the second post. The contents of the first post had been perused in bed. While Mary was scraping porridge off the younger George’s bib with a spoon, and wiping porridge out of his eyes with a serviette, George the elder gave just a glance at the letter.

“So he has written after all!” said George, in a voice that tried to be nonchalant.

“Who?” asked Mary, although she had already seen the envelope, and knew exactly what George meant. And her voice also was unnatural in its attempted casualness.

“The old cock,” said George, beginning to serve bacon.

“Oh!” said Mary, coming to her chair, and beginning to dispense tea.

She was dying to open the letter, yet she poured out the tea with superhuman leisureliness, and then indicated to Georgie exactly where to search for bits of porridge on his big plate, while George with a great appearance of calm unfolded a newspaper. Then at length she did open the letter. Having read it, she put her lips tighter together, nodded, and passed the letter to George. And George read:

“DEAR MARY,–I cannot accede to your request.–Your affectionate uncle, SAMUEL PEEL.

P.S.–The expenses connected with my County Council election will be terrible. S.P.”

George lifted his eyebrows, as if to indicate that in his opinion there was no accounting for the wild stupidity of human nature, and that he as a philosopher refused to be startled by anything whatever.