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pen's family pew, you can't stand there like sheep in a railway car; it only holds eight comfortably, and there are positively eighteen of you. Do be careful, Sir, of that pew-door just behind, it will be off its hinges presently, and we like doors on the pews here. are family pews, Sir, select family pews, made expressly for private use, and kept locked when the family make no appearance. Where are the beadles? Why all this crushing and squeezing? What do you take us for? It is not a playhouse, we assure you. Ladies and gentlemen, you are not in the pit of a theatre. Do you take us for a new sensation drama? In the name of all that's decent and orderly, some of you give way. Fie on you, Sir, fie, that poor lady next you is fainting, you'll be chargeable with manslaughter; keep your arms down, Sir; 'tis brutal, positively brutal. Shrieks! has it come to this? Let no more come there, and turn one-half of these people out, beadles. Quite right, turn them out, never mind their menaces and protests, turn them out, and close the doors.
Well, we have order and some degree of comfort at last. But really, ladies and gentle
men, your selfish jostling is not creditable to you. You have actually struggled and fought for your places as if you cared for nobody but yourselves. Not one of you now before us would budge a jot,—you are plainly, every one of you, a most egoistical dog-in-the-manger set of people.
We shall not preach the sermon we intended, you are not fit to hear it. We shall preach an extemporary discourse from a text suggested by the scene we have just witnessed, and suitable for such a congregation as you, who have contrived to sift yourselves out of the rest of society as a very disagreeable representative class. You remind us how
Wrestles with man for some slight plank, whose weight Will bear but one."
The famous Cardinal was an excellent moralist, like many another self-seeking intriguing priest of all churches. No doubt he spoke feelingly about the plank. He himself was on the plank, and, whether slight or substantial, he only intended that one should be upon it, at least in his lifetime, and it was some inconvenience to his ambitious projects that other
men would wrestle with him for a secure seat on it at the danger of upsetting it altogether. We are quite of his opinion, that it is philosophically absurd for a number of drowning people to catch hold of the same slight piece of floating timber, and especially to try to get astraddle on it; but then it is well known that drowning people will even catch at a straw, which is less hopeful than the slightest conceivable plank; and it is scarcely reasonable, although it may be eminently philosophical, to expect sinking people to be scientific with their heads hardly above water, and to scorn the straw, or to imitate the courtesies of the drawing-room, and politely say, "After you, Sir, if you please." The philosophy is unquestionable and the politeness exquisite, but there are situations in the experiences of human life, and this is one of them, when philosophy, however wise, is the extreme of foolishness, and politeness is a refinement which may be decorously dispensed with.
The Cardinal's plank is an exceptional case, and we know that exceptions are privileged, and enjoy an immunity from reason and rule. When several men are literally out of their
depth in water, a floating plank is a lawful prize, and no one will find fault with him who struggles to secure it. The man who is on it may be filled with dismay as he feels his frail raft rudely grasped and risen upon by his companions in danger, but even he can scarcely say to his unfortunate fellows, " Please let go, for the plank wont bear you." The case is an extreme one, and if the generous maxim of Number One may be justified anywhere, it may be when we are all in imminent danger of going to the bottom, and there is only one slight plank to save us.
But this maxim of number one is carried a great deal too far, and into circumstances that are by no means critical. It was not particularly critical, for example, that you should lose the opportunity of hearing us preach to-day. We intend to preach rather frequently, and hope to be often before the public eye, and therefore you might have thought about one another a little more considerately, and not wrestled with each other as if you were struggling for some frail plank or other lifepreserver. Now that you are here, however, and have squeezed yourself in at some cost to
your personal comfort and good manners, we will do our best to entertain you. Probably before we have done you may wish yourselves out again.
Number One, that's your maxim is it? What, in the name of all that's tasteful and sensible has made you fall so passionately in love with that perpendicular unit? There's nothing particularly ornamental in a post or in a row of posts. Unite them together with festoons of chains, or bring them into closer juxtaposition in the form of palings, or in some other way that shall destroy their ugly isolation, and you combine them in some form of beauty and usefulness. A solitary post is by no means pretty. The mast of a ship is not a beautiful object when it stands alone; it wants to be relieved by the combination of yards, and ropes, and sails, to hide its too naked individuality. Of all the numbers in the decade, number one is the barest and the ugliest. It is the most upstart and self-conceited of all the figures. Every other figure curves and stoops and combines, as if in mockery and disdain of its rigid and unbending disposition. It stands alone a sulky disagreeable oddity.