Lesson No. 15
The Angel and the Author – and Others
(Jerome K. Jerome)
I had a vexing dream one night, not long ago: it was about a fortnight after Christmas. I dreamt I flew out of the window in my nightshirt. I went up and up. I was glad that I was going up. “They have been noticing me,” I thought to myself. “If anything, I have been a bit too good. A little less virtue and I might have lived longer. But once cannot have everything.” The world grew smaller and smaller. The last I saw of London was the long line of electric lamps bordering the Embankment. Later nothing remained but a faint luminosity buried beneath darkness. It was at this point of my journey that I heard behind me the slow, throbbing sound if wings.
I turned my head. It was the Recoding Angel. He had a weary look; I judged him to tired.
“Yes,” he acknowledged, “it is a trying period for me, your Christmas time.”
“I am sure it must be”, I returned; “the wonder to me is how you get through it all. You see at Christmas time,” I went on, “all we men and women become generous, quite suddenly. It is really a delightful sensation.”
“You are to be envied”, he agreed.
“it is the first Christmas number that starts me off,” I told him; “those beautiful pictures – the sweet child looking so pretty in her furs, giving Bovril with her own dear little hands to the shivering street arab; the good old red-faced squire shoveling out plum pudding to the crowd of grateful villagers. It makes me yearn to borrow a collecting box and ho round doing good myself.”
:and it is not only me – I should say,” I continued; “I don’t want you to run away with the idea that I am the only good man in the world. That’s what I like about Christmas, it makes everybody good. The lovely sentiments we go about repeating! The noble deeds we do from a little before Christmas up to, say, the end of January! Why noting them down must be a comfort to you.”
“Yes,” he admitted, “noble deeds are always a great joy to me.”
“They are to all of us,” I said; “I love to think of all the good deeds I myself have done. I have often thought of keeping a diary – jotting them down each day. It would be so nice for one’s children.”
He agreed there was an idea in this.
“That book of yours,” I said “I suppose, now, it contains all the good actions that we men and women have been doing during the last six weeks.” It was a bulky looking volume.
“yes”, he answered, “they were all recorded in the book”. (The author tells of his good deeds)
It was more for the sake of talking of him than anything else that I kept up with him. I did not really doubt his care and conscientiousness, but it is always pleasant to chat about one’s self. “My five shilling subscription to the Daily Telegraph’s Sixpenny Fund for the Unemployed – got that down all right?” I asked him.
“Yes”, he replied, “it was entered”.
“As a matter of fact, now I come to think of it,” I added, “it was ten shillings altogether. They spelt my name wrong the first time.”
“Both subscriptions had been entered”. He told me.
“Then I have been to four charity dinners,” I reminded him; “I forget what the particular charity was about. I know I suffered the next morning. He interrupted me with the assurance that my attendance had been noted.
“Last week I sent a dozen photographs of myself, signed, to a charity bazaar.”
He said that he remembered my doing so.
“And, of course, you remember my performance of “Talbot Champneys in our Boys” the week before last, in aid of the Fund for poor Curates,” I went on. “I don’t know whether saw the notice in the Morning post, but-”
He again interrupted me to remark that what the Morning post man said would be entered, one way or the other, to the critic of the Morning Post, and had nothing to do with me. “Of course not,” I agreed; “and between ourselves,“ don’t think the charity got very much. Expenses, when you come to add refreshment and one thing and another, mount up. But I fancy they rather liked my Talbot Champneys.”
He replied that he had been present at the performance, and had made his own report.
I also reminded him of the four balcony seats I had taken for the monster show at His Majesty’s in aid if the Fund for the Destitute British in Johannesburg. Not all the celebrated actors and actresses announced on the posters had appeared, but all had send letters full of kindly wishes; and the others – all the celebrities one had never heard of – had turned up to a man. Still, one the whole, the show was well worth the money. There was nothing grumble at.
There were other noble deeds of mine. I could not remember them at the time in their entirety. I seemed to have done a good many. But I did remember the rummage sale to which I sent all my old clothes, including a coat that had hot mixer up with them by accident, and that I believe I could have worn again.
And also the raffle I had joined for a motor-car
The Angel said I really need not be alarmed, that everything had been noted, together with other matters I, may be, had forgotten.
(The Angel appears to have made a slight mistake).