Page:The Yellow Book - 06.djvu/96

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Long Odds

you with my uninteresting story. And even yet there s the whole evening to come! Oh, I had lots of leeway to make up when I came over here; but I think I shall manage it yet—in Venice!"

I could not help thinking, as I parted from him at the Piazzetta steps, that (despite a certain incident in the Underground Rail way) here was one of the sanest creatures I had ever yet happened upon.

But examples such as this (as I said) are rare; the happy-starred ones who know when to cut their losses. The most of us prefer to fight on—mainly, perhaps, from cowardice, and the dread of a plunge into a new element, new conditions, new surroundings—a fiery trial for any humble, mistrustful creature of use-and-wont. And yet it is not all merely a matter of funk. For a grim love grows up for the sword-play itself, for the push and the hurtle of battle, for the grips and the give-and-take—in fine, for the fight itself, whatever the cause. In this exaltation, far from ignoble, we push and worry along until a certain day of a mist and a choke, and we are ticked off and done with.

This is the better way; and the history of our race is ready to justify us. With the tooth-and-claw business we began, and we mastered it thoroughly ere we learnt any other trade. Since that time we may have achieved a thing or two besides—evolved an art, even, here and there, though the most of us bungled it. But from first to last fighting was the art we were always handiest at; and we are generally safe if we stick to it, what ever the foe, whatever the weapons—most of all, whatever the cause.