CONVERSATION.

We were a baker's dozen in the house--six women and six men
    Besides myself; and all of us had known
Those benefits supposed to come from school and church and brush and pen,
    And opportunities of being thrown
In contact with the cultured and the gifted people of the day.
    Being the thirteenth one among six pairs
I deemed it wise to keep apart and let the others have their say:
    And from my vantage-place upon the stairs,
Or in a corner, where I seemed to read, I listened for some word
    That would make life seem sweeter, or cast light
Upon the goal toward which all footsteps wend: and this was what I heard
    Throughout each day and half of every night.
The men talked business, politics, and trade;
    They told of safe investments, and great chances
For speculation. (One man who had made
    Pleasure his art, described the newest dances
And dwelt upon each chassé, glide, and whirl
As lovers dwell upon the charms of some fair girl.)

They talked of war, and tried to find its cause,
    And quite deplored the fact that wars must come.
But since this desperate condition was,
    They carefully computed what the sum
Of profit might be to a land of peace,
And wondered if times would be harder should war cease.

They spoke of games and sports; told many a story
    That made the listeners laugh; then back from these
Always they harked to money, or the gory
    And savage drama playing over-seas.
Then there were tales from club and smoking-room--
The submarines of gossip, bringing some name doom.

The women talked of fashions and of plays,
    But more of players and their private lives;
Related tittle-tattle of their words and ways,
    Their lightning change of husbands and of wives.
And there was chat of garments and their price,
Of operas and balls and all that gives life spice.

Some talk there was of music, pictures, books,
    But of musicians, painters, authors, more.
The way they lived--their methods and their looks--
    The colour of their eyes--the clothes they wore;
And whether it was true, as had been stated,
That gifted people were quite sure to be mismated.

They talked of servants, menus, and disease,
    And operations. Each one came in line
With some astounding tale to tell of these,
    And of her surgeon's skill, which seemed divine.
But of that vast Domain where live our dead
And where we all are hurrying, no word was said.

When we know that goal awaits each one of us a little farther on,
When we know how an ever-increasing company of friends is gathered there,
Why do we not speak of it in our daily conversation?
Why do we not familiarise our minds with thoughts of worlds unseen?
There are many beautiful things to be learned of that country.
There are sacred books of great travellers, whose souls have cried, "Hail across the border";

There are truths which have been learned in visions and by revelations:
All the revelations were not given to St. John alone,
All the wise men of the world did not die two thousand years ago!
Why do we not talk of these eternal truths,
Instead of wasting all our words on the evanescent, the ever-changing, the trivial, and the unimportant?
There is but one important theme, and that is Life Immortal.

Hello, Boys! by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
London: Gay and Hancock, 1919.


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