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This week’s poll results begin with our readers’ favorite Westerns: The Searchers, True Grit, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, High Noon, Stagecoach, Wild and Woolly, Once Upon A Time in the West, Tombstone, 3:10 to Yuma, My Darling Clementine, Rio Bravo, Bend of the River, Three Godfathers, Fort Apache, Pale Rider, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Unforgiven, For A Few Dollars More, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Star Wars: A New Hope, The Outlaw Josey Wales, High Plains Drifter, Seven Samurai, Hell or High Water, Serenity, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madres.
Our readers think standing desks are ok for those who want them. They have strong opinions on martinis; half think that a martini should contain between a third and a fifth of vermouth, some of have special recipes, and the rest (very many) seek to minimize or eliminate the vermouth content entirely in a variety of amusing rituals (a shake of the glass toward Chambéry, a bow toward Italy, a long hard glance at the vermouth bottle across the room).
This week’s poll can be found here.
• Of the hundreds of psychological tests which American judges routinely admit as evidence in their courtrooms, scientists have found that at least a quarter are based on unreliable pseudoscience, and less than half are viewed favorably by experts.
• Researchers at Duke University have found that marijuana use in male rats causes their offspring to develop brain abnormalities in the areas thought to regulate learning, memory, reward, and mood. This discovery follows on their previous study, which found that similar abnormalities develop in baby rats whose mothers use cannabis. We do not know which is the stronger indictment of our age, the fact that many fathers smoke cannabis or the universal assumption that we can learn anything meaningful about human nature from rat genitals.
• Wells Fargo is preparing to pay out three billion dollars to settle federal investigations into widespread consumer abuses at the company.
• Twenty percent of all television in this country is now watched using a streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu.
• Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the victims of a racist, murderous attack on two hookah bars in Germany.
• New Zealand’s bishops have condemned a proposed change to their country’s abortion laws, which would remove all legal restrictions on abortion up to twenty weeks.
• During a meeting with American bishops this month, Pope Francis apparently expressed his displeasure at how his decision to grant a private audience to Fr. James Martin last year had been construed by some as a sign of approval. On future occasions, eager American journalists may do well to remember that the Holy Father meets with thousands of people every year, and perhaps no particular significance should be attached to this save for the salutary desire of so many to stand at the feet of St Peter’s successor.
Lines (verse and prose):
Perle, plesaunte to prynces paye
To clanly clos in golde so clere,
Oute of Oryent, I hardyly saye,
Ne proved I never her precios pere.
So rounde, so reken in uche araye,
So smal, so smothe her sydes were,
Queresoever I jugged gemmes gaye
I sette hyr sengeley in synglure.
Allas, I leste hyr in on erbere;
Thurgh gresse to grounde hit fro me yot.
I dewyne, fordolked of luf-daungere
Of that pryvy perle withouten spot.
Geraldine, the moon is shining
With so soft, so bright a ray;
Seems it not that eve’s declining
Ushered in a fairer day?
While the wind is whispering only,
Fair across the water borne;
Let us in this silence lonely
Sit beneath the ancient thorn.
Wild the road, and rough and dreary;
Barren all the moorland round;
Rude the couch that rests us weary;
Mossy stone and heathy ground.
But when winter storms were meeting
In the moonless midnight dome,
Did we heed the tempests beating,
Howling round our spirits’ home?
No; that tree with branches riven
Whitening in the whirl of snow,
As it tossed against the heaven,
Sheltered happy hearts below.
And at Autumn’s mild returning
Shall our feet forget the way?
And in Cynthia’s silvan morning,
Geraldine, wilt thou delay?
— E. Bʀᴏɴᴛᴇ̈
There is a river called the Eure which runs between low hills often wooded, with a flat meadow floor in between. It so runs for many miles. The towns that are set upon it are for the most part small and rare, and though the river is well known by name, and though one of the chief cathedrals of Europe stands near its source, for the most part it is not visited by strangers.
In this valley one day as I was drawing a picture of the woods I found a wandering Englishman who was in the oddest way. He seemed by the slight bend at his knees and the leaning forward of his head to have no very great care how much further he might go. He was in the clothes of an English tourist, which looked odd in such a place, as, for that matter, they do anywhere. He had upon his head a pork-pie hat which was of the same colour and texture as his clothes, a speckly brown. He carried a thick stick. He was a man over fifty years of age; his face was rather hollow and worn; his eyes were very simple and pale; he was bearded with a weak beard, and in his expression there appeared a constrained but kindly weariness. This was the man who came up to me as I was drawing my picture. I had heard him scrambling in the undergrowth of the woods just behind me.
He came out and walked to me across the few yards of meadow. The haying was over, so he did the grass no harm. He came and stood near me, irresolutely, looking vaguely up and across the valley towards the further woods, and then gently towards what I was drawing. When he had so stood still and so looked for a moment he asked me in French the name of the great house whose roof showed above the more ordered trees beyond the river, where a park emerged from and mixed with the forest. I told him the name of the house, whereupon he shook his head and said that he had once more come to the wrong place.
I asked him what he meant, and he told me, sitting down slowly and carefully upon the grass, this adventure:
“First,” said he, “are you always quite sure whether a thing is really there or not?”
“I am always quite sure,” said I; “I am always positive.”
He sighed, and added: “Could you understand how a man might feel that things were really there when they were not?”
“Only,” said I, “in some very vivid dream, and even then I think a man knows pretty well inside his own mind that he is dreaming.” I said that it seemed to me rather like the question of the cunning of lunatics; most of them know at the bottom of their silly minds that they are cracked, as you may see by the way they plot and pretend.
“You are not sympathetic with me,” he said slowly, “but I will nevertheless tell you what I want to tell you, for it will relieve me, and it will explain to you why I have again come into this valley.” “Why do you say ‘again’?” said I.
“Because,” he answered gently, “whenever my work gives me the opportunity I do the same thing. I go up the valley of the Seine by train from Dieppe; I get out at the station at which I got out on that day, and I walk across these low hills, hoping that I may strike just the path and just the mood – but I never do.”
“What path and what mood?” said I.
“I was telling you,” he answered patiently, “only you were so brutal about reality.” And then he sighed. He put his stick across his knees as he sat there on the grass, held it with a hand on either side of his knees, and so sitting bunched up began his tale once more.
“It was ten years ago, and I was extremely tired, for you must know that I am a Government servant, and I find my work most wearisome. It was just this time of year that I took a week’s holiday. I intended to take it in Paris, but I thought on my way, as the weather was so fine, that I would do something new and that I would walk a little way off the track. I had often wondered what country lay behind the low and steep hills on the right of the railway line.
“I had crossed the Channel by night,” he continued, a little sorry for himself, “to save the expense. It was dawn when reached Rouen, and there I very well remember drinking some coffee which I did not like, and eating some good bread which I did. I changed carriages at Rouen because the express did not stop at any of the little stations beyond. I took a slower train, which came immediately behind it, and stopped at most of the stations. I took my ticket rather at random for a little station between Pont de l’Arche and Mantes. I got out at that little station, and it was still early – only midway through the morning.
“I was in an odd mixture of fatigue and exhilaration: I had not slept and I would willingly have done so, but the freshness of the new day was upon me, and I have always had a very keen curiosity to see new sights and to know what lies behind the hills.
“The day was fine and already rather hot for June. I did not stop in the village near the station for more than half an hour, just the time to take some soup and a little wine; then I set out into the woods to cross over into this parallel valley. I knew that I should come to it and to the railway line that goes down it in a very few miles. I proposed when I came to that other railway line on the far side of the hills to walk quietly down it as nearly parallel to it as I could get, and at the first station to take the next train for Chartres, and then the next day to go from Chartres to Paris. That was my plan.
“The road up into the woods was one of those great French roads which sometimes frighten me and always weary me by their length and insistence: men seem to have taken so much trouble to make them, and they make me feel as though I had to take trouble myself; I avoid them when I walk. Therefore, so soon as this great road had struck the crest of the hills and was well into the woods (cutting through them like the trench of a fortification, with the tall trees on either side) I struck out into a ride which had been cut through them many years ago and was already half overgrown, and I went along this ride for several miles.
“It did not matter to me how I went, since my design was so simple and since any direction more or less westward would enable me to fulfil it, that is, to come down upon the valley of the Eure and to find the single railway line which leads to Chartres. The woods were very pleasant on that June noon, and once or twice I was inclined to linger in their shade and sleep an hour. But – note this clearly – I did not sleep. I remember every moment of the way, though I confess my fatigue oppressed me somewhat as the miles continued.
“At last by the steepness of a new descent I recognized that I had crossed the watershed and was coming down into the valley of this river. The ride had dwindled to a path, and I was wondering where the path would lead me when I noticed that it was getting more orderly: there were patches of sand, and here and there a man had cut and trimmed the edges of the way. Then it became more orderly still. It was all sanded, and there were artificial bushes here and there – I mean bushes not native to the forest, until at last I was aware that my ramble had taken me into some one’s own land, and that I was in a private ground.
“I saw no great harm in this, for a traveller, if he explains himself, will usually be excused; moreover, I had to continue, for I knew no other way, and this path led me westward also. Only, whether because my trespassing worried me or because I felt my own dishevelment more acutely, the lack of sleep and the strain upon me increased as I pursued those last hundred yards, until I came out suddenly from behind a screen of rosebushes upon a large lawn, and at the end of it there was a French country house with a moat round it, such as they often have, and a stone bridge over the moat.
“The château was simple and very grand. The mouldings upon it pleased me, and it was full of peace. Upon the further side of the lawn, so that I could hear it but not see it, a fountain was playing into a basin. By the sound it was one of those high French fountains which the people who built such houses as these two hundred years ago delighted in. The plash of it was very soothing, but I was so tired and drooping that at one moment it sounded much further than at the next.
“There was an iron bench at the edge of the screen of roses, and hardly knowing what I did, – for it was not the right thing to do in another person’s place – I sat down on this bench, taking pleasure in the sight of the moat and the house with its noble roof, and the noise of the fountain. I think I should have gone to sleep there and at that moment – for I felt upon me worse than ever the strain of that long hot morning and that long night journey – had not a very curious thing happened.”
Here the man looked up at me oddly, as though to see whether I disbelieved him or not; but I did not disbelieve him.
I was not even very much interested, for I was trying to make the trees to look different one from the other, which is an extremely difficult thing: I had not succeeded and I was niggling away. He continued with more assurance:
“The thing that happened was this: a young girl came out of the house dressed in white, with a blue scarf over her head and crossed round her neck. I knew her face as well as possible: it was a face I had known all my youth and early manhood – but for the life of me I could not remember her name!’
“When one is very tired,” I said, “that does happen to one: a name one knows as well as one’s own escapes one. It is especially the effect of lack of sleep.”
“It is,” said he, sighing profoundly; “but the oddness of my feeling it is impossible to describe, for there I was meeting the oldest and perhaps the dearest and certainly the most familiar of my friends, whom,” he added, hesitating a moment, “I had not seen for many years. It was a very great pleasure … it was a sort of comfort and an ending. I forgot, the moment I saw her, why I had come over the hills, and all about how I meant to get to Chartres…. And now I must tell you,” added the man a little awkwardly, “that my name is Peter.”
“No doubt,” said I gravely, for I could not see why he should not bear that name.
“My Christian name,” he continued hurriedly.
“Of course,” said I, as sympathetically as I could. He seemed relieved that I had not even smiled at it.
“Yes,” he went on rather quickly, “Peter—my name is Peter. Well, this lady came up to me and said, ‘Why, Peter, we never thought you would come!’ She did not seem very much astonished, but rather as though I had come earlier than she had expected. ‘I will get Philip,’ she said. ‘You remember Philip?’ Here I had another little trouble with my memory: I did remember that there was a Philip, but I could not place him. That was odd, you know. As for her, oh, I knew her as well as the colour of the sky: it was her name that my brain missed, as it might have missed my own name or my mother’s.
“Philip came out as she called him, and there was a familiarity between them that seemed natural to me at the time, but whether he was a brother or a lover or a husband, or what, I could not for the life of me remember.
“’You look tired,’ he said to me in a kind voice that I liked very much and remembered clearly. ‘I am,’ said I, ‘dog tired.’ ‘Come in with us,’ he said, ‘and we will give you some wine and water. When would you like to eat?’ I said I would rather sleep than eat. He said that could easily be arranged.
“I strolled with them towards the house across that great lawn, hearing the noise of the fountain, now dimmer, now nearer; sometimes it seemed miles away and sometimes right in my ears. Whether it was their conversation or my familiarity with them or my fatigue, at any rate, as I crossed the moat I could no longer recall anything save their presence. I was not even troubled by the desire to recall anything; I was full of a complete contentment, and this surging up of familiar things, this surging up of it in a foreign place, without excuse or possible connexion or any explanation whatsoever, seemed to me as natural as breathing.
“As I crossed the bridge I wholly forgot whence I came or whither I was going, but I knew myself better than ever I had known myself, and every detail of the place was familiar to me.
“Here I had passed (I thought) many hours of my childhood and my boyhood and my early manhood also. I ceased considering the names and the relation of Philip and the girl.
“They gave me cold meat and bread and excellent wine, and water to mix with it, and as they continued to speak even the last adumbrations of care fell off me altogether, and my spirit seemed entirely released and free. My approaching sleep beckoned to me like an easy entrance into Paradise. I should wake from it quite simply into the perpetual enjoyment of this place and its companionship. Oh, it was an absolute repose!
“Philip took me to a little room on the ground floor fitted with the exquisite care and the simplicity of the French: there was a curtained bed, a thing I love. He lent me night clothes, though it was broad day, because he said that if I undressed and got into the bed I should be much more rested; they would keep everything quiet at that end of the house, and the gentle fall of the water into the moat outside would not disturb me. I said on the contrary it would soothe me, and I felt the benignity of the place possess me like a spell. Remember that I was very tired and had not slept for now thirty hours.
“I remember handling the white counterpane and noting the delicate French pattern upon it, and seeing at one corner the little red silk coronet embroidered, which made me smile. I remember putting my hand upon the cool linen of the pillow-case and smoothing it; then I got into that bed and fell asleep. It was broad noon, with the stillness that comes of a summer noon upon the woods; the air was cool and delicious above the water of the moat, and my windows were open to it.
“The last thing I heard as I dropped asleep was her voice calling to Philip in the corridor. I could have told the very place. I knew that corridor so well. We used to play there when we were children. We used to play at travelling, and we used to invent the names of railway stations for the various doors. Remembering this and smiling at the memory, I fell at once into a blessed sleep.
“…I do not want to annoy you,” said the man apologetically, “but I really had to tell you this story, and I hardly know how to tell you the end of it.”
“Go on,” said I hurriedly, for I had gone and made two trees one exactly like the other (which in nature was never seen) and I was annoyed with myself.
“Well,” said he, still hesitating and sighing with real sadness, “when I woke up I was in a third-class carriage; the light was that of late afternoon, and a man had woken me by tapping my shoulder and telling me that the next station was Chartres…. That’s all.”
He sighed again. He expected me to say something. So I did. I said without much originality: “You must have dreamed it.”
“No,” said he, very considerably put out, “that is the point! I didn’t! I tell you I can remember exactly every stage from when I left the railway train in the Seine Valley until I got into that bed.”
“It’s all very odd,” said I.
“Yes,” said he, “and so was my mood; but it was real enough. It was the second or third most real thing that has ever happened to me. I am quite certain that it happened to me.”
I remained silent, and rubbed out the top of one of my trees so as to invent a new top for it, since I could not draw it as it was. Then, as he wanted me to say something more, I said: “Well, you must have got into the train somehow.”
“Of course,” said he.
“Well, where did you get into the train?”
“I don’t know.”
“Your ticket would have told you that.”
“I think I must have given it up to the man,” he answered doubtfully, “the guard who told me that the next station was Chartres.”
“Well, it’s all very mysterious,” I said.
“Yes,” he said, getting up rather weakly to go on again, “it is.” And he sighed again. “I come here every year. I hope,” he added a little wistfully, “I hope, you see, that it may happen to me again … but it never does.”
“It will at last,” said I to comfort him.
And, will you believe it, that simple sentence made him in a moment radiantly happy; his face beamed, and he positively thanked me, thanked me warmly.
“You speak like one inspired,” he said. (I confess I did not feel like it at all.) “I shall go much lighter on my way after that sentence of yours.”
He bade me good-bye with some ceremony and slouched off, with his eyes set towards the west and the more distant hills.
We ask readers to pray for all miscarried and stillborn children, especially Winifred Flosshilde Walther; for all expectant mothers; for those suffering from illness; for women religious; for enslaved women callously referred to as “sex workers”; and for the intentions of the Holy Father.
— W.B., M.W.