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“THREE WISE MEN OF
HE Three Wise Men sat together in their
club smoking-room. They were met there for a purpose—a solemnly resolved purposethough that fact was not to be discovered in the expression of their faces or their attitudes. The casual observer, glancing at them in that ignorant yet opiniated fashion which casual observers generally affect, would have sternly pronounced them to be idle loafers and loungers without a purpose of any sort, and only fit to be classified with the "drones" or do-nothings of the social hive. Three stalwart bodies reclined at ease in the soft depths of three roomy saddle-bag chairs; and from three cigars of the finest flavour three little spiral wreaths of pale blue smoke mounted steadily towards the ceiling. It was a fine day: the window was open, and outside roared the surging sea of human life in Piccadilly. Rays of sunshine danced round the Wise Men, polishing up the bald spot on head number one, malignly bringing into prominence the grey
hairs on head number two, and shining a warm approval on the curly brown locks of head number three. The screech of the wild newsboy echoed up and down the street—" Hextra speshul! Evening piper! Evening pepper! Piper! Westymin-ister speshul! Hall the winners!" A spruce dandy alighting from a hansom commenced a lively altercation with the cabby thereof, creating intense excitement in the breasts of four Christian brethren—to wit, a dirty crossing-sweeper, a match-seller, a District Messenger-boy and a man carrying a leaden water-pipe. “Call yerself a masher !” cried cabby vociferously. “Git along with yer, an' hask one of the club blokes to lend yer 'arf a crown!" Here the man carrying the leaden water-pipe became convulsed with mirth, and observed, “Bully, aint it?" confidentially to the messenger-boy, who grinningly agreed, the smartly dressed young dandy growing scarlet with rage and insulted dignity. The dispute was noisy, and some minutes elapsed before it was settledyet through it all the mystic Three Wise Men never stirred to see what was the matter, but smoked on in tranquil silence with closed eyes.
At last one of them moved, yawned, and broke the spell. He was fair, stoutish and florid; and when he opened his eyes they proved to be of a good clear blue_honest in expression, and evidently meant for fun; so much so, indeed, that though their owner was by no means in a laughing humour at the moment, he was powerless to repress their comic twinkle. His name was George - George Fairfax—and he was a “gentleman at ease," with nothing to do but to look after his estates, which, as he was not addicted to either betting, drinking, or gambling, brought him in a considerably substantial yearly income.
“Fact is," he said, addressing himself to his two companions, whose eyelids were still fast shut,
the world's a mistake. It ought never to have been created. Things go wrong in it from morning till night. Fellows who write books tell you how wrong it is; they ought to know." Here he knocked off the end of his cigar into the ash-tray. “Then read the newspapers: by the Lord Harry! they'll soon prove to you how wrong everything is everywhere!"
Man number two, in the chair next to Fairfax, happened to be the individual with the hair approved of by the sunshine-a long-limbed, wellbuilt fellow with a rather handsome face. Unclosing his eyes, which were dark and languid, he sighed wearily.
"No world in it!” he murmured in brief sleepy accents, “Social institutions—civilisation—wrong. Man meant for free life
savage forest; no houses-no clubs-raw meat-suits digestion-no dyspepsia-tear with fingers; polygamy. Read
Woman Who Did'--female polygamist-live with anybody, noble; marriage, base degradation white rose in hair-polygamous purity-died.”
Exhausted by this speech, he closed his eyes again, and would no doubt have relapsed into an easy slumber, had not Man number three suddenly waked up in earnest, disclosing a pair of very keen bright grey eyes, sparkling under brows that, by their shelving form, would have seemed to denote a fair depth of intelligence.
"Look here, you fellows,” he said sharply, “it's no use mincing matters. Things have come to a
crisis. We must take the law into our own hands and see what can be done. Life as we live it-married life-has become impossible. You said so yourself, Adair"—this with head reproachfully turned towards the languid being with the shut eyes"you
said no man of sense or spirit would stand it !" Adair rolled his head feebly to and fro on the saddle-bag chair-pillow.
“Sense-spirit-all up in me!" he replied dolefully. “Pioneers !"
As this word escaped him, more in the way of a groan than an utterance, Man number three, otherwise known as John Dennison, gave a gesture of contempt. Dennison was a particularly lucky individual, who had managed to make a large fortune while he was yet young, through successful land speculations; and now at his present age of forty-eight he bore scarcely any traces of the passing of time, save the small bald spot on the top of his head which the sunlight had discovered, but which few less probing searchers would have perceived. He was of an energetic, determined temperament, and the listless attitude and confessed helplessness of Adair excited him to action. Shaking himself out of his reclining posture, and sitting bolt upright, he said sternly
“Look here, Adair, you're too lazy to go through with this thing. If you don't show a little more character and firmness, Fairfax and I will have to slope it without you.”
At this Adair opened his eyes wide, and also sat up, wearing an extremely astonished and injured expression.