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The misunderstandings which surround huffy
people are wonderfully many. Touchy people;
people with a spirit that won't be put upon;
people who let you know their mind, and who
have no idea of knocking under or knuckling
down to any one in the world; people who
rather pride themselves, than not, on their
"sensitiveness," and who never can be made to
see the fraternal relationship of sensitiveness and
ill temper; people who fire up, and blaze out,
and have it over, and who think it better
to blaze out and have it over, than to restrain
and refrainall these are breeders of
misunderstandings passing into strife, not to be
controlled by any ordinary pressure. Good friends,
perhaps, many of them are; devoted and
affectionate and honest and trusty; but with their
inflammable tendencies sadly warring against
their neighbours' peace, and productive of infinite
mistakes in the matter of mutual good
understanding. These are the people who resent your
counsel as an insult, who will have none of
your warnings, who scorn your most loving
exhortations; these are the people who must be
let to go down to destruction, because they
misapprehend the hand that would pluck them
back to safety, and treat as an assassin the
friend who seeks to guide them home. As
mothers, they must destroy their children for
time and eternity, because they will not be
interfered with, and are too high-spirited to take
advice; as wives and husbands, they are always
on the high horse, dismally capering through
their matrimonial estate of peace, because they
will not be told their faults, as must needs be in
all vocal homes; as friends, they spar and jangle
and quarrel and make up, and at last quarrel and
do not make up, for just the same reasons; as
men of business, they enter into ruinous speculations,
because they resent your warnings and
misinterpret your intentions; as politicians and
party men, they are mischievous or inefficient,
according to the breadth of skull above the
eye-bones, because they can never rightly estimate
the tactics of their opponents. All this, not so
much from intellectual incapacity to comprehend,
as from that evil temper of self-assertion, which
is the worst misunderstanding of all.

There is yet another class even more to be
dreaded than the huffy people who misunderstand
wilfully what is said and done to them;
and these are the people who misunderstand
wilfully all that others say and do, without
personal reference at all. If you are shy and nervous,
and with an awkward manner of expressing
yourself, one of these people will take up your
words and distort them, and declare you said
the very contrary of what you wished to convey
to your hearers. Or, they will make nonsense
or impertinence of your most innocent phrases,
and coolly ridicule you to your face, no matter
how shameless the falsification. They are hideous
people to consort with: a kind of moral gorilla-hood
animating them: spiritual Thugs, who
pounce upon you unawares and strangle you
with your own cravat. They are disagreeable
enough to the mature and seasoned, but to the
young they are simply assassins, not to be
forgiven or reprieved; costing more anguish and
dismay, than can ever be healed up again. The
wilful misinterpreters of honest speech are folks
with whom no terms ought to be held. Those
who fall within their lines had better return their
fire with double-shotted guns, and then retreat
beyond their aim henceforth and for ever.


I HAD parted from the small bird at
somewhere about four o'clock in the morning, when
he had got out at Arras, and had been received
by two shovel-hats in waiting at the station,
who presented an appropriately ornithological
and crow-like appearance. My compatriot and
I had gone on to Paris; my compatriot enlightening
me occasionally with a long list of the
enormous grievances of French railway travelling:
every one of which, as I am a sinner, was
perfectly new to me, though I have as much
experience of French railways as most uncommercials,
I had left him at the terminus (through his
conviction, against all explanation and remonstrance,
that his baggage-ticket was his passenger-ticket),
insisting in a very high temper to the functionary
on duty, that in his own personal identity he was
four packages weighing so many kilogrammes
as if he had been Cassim Baba! I had bathed
and breakfasted, and was strolling on the bright
quays. The subject of my meditations was the
question whether it is positively in the essence
and nature of things, as a certain school of
Britons would seem to think it, that a Capital
must be ensnared and enslaved before it can be
made beautiful: when I lifted up my eyes and
found that my feet, straying like my mind, had
brought me to Notre-Dame.

That is to say, Notre-Dame was before me,
but there was a large open space between us.
A very little while gone, I had left that space
covered with buildings densely crowded; and
now it was cleared for some new wonder in the
way of public Street, Place, Garden, Fountain,
or all four. Only the obscene little Morgue,
slinking on the brink of the river and soon to
come down, was left there, looking mortally,
ashamed of itself, and supremely wicked. I had
but glanced at this old acquaintance, when I
beheld an airy procession, coming round in front
of Notre-Dame, past the great hospital. It had
something of a Masaniello look, with fluttering
striped curtains in the midst of it, and it came
dancing round the cathedral in the liveliest

I was speculating on a marriage in Blouse-life,
or a Christening, or some other domestic festivity
which I would see out, when I found, from the talk
of a quick rush of Blouses past me, that it was a
Body coming to the Morgue. Having never
before chanced upon this initiation, I constituted
myself a Blouse likewise, and ran into the Morgue
with the rest. It was a very muddy day, and
we took in a quantity of mire with us, and the
procession coming in upon our heels brought a