As for politics, well, it all seemed reasonable enough. When the Conservatives got in anywhere, [Judge] Pepperleigh laughed and enjoyed it, simply because it does one good to see a straight, fine, honest fight where the best man wins. When a Liberal got in, it made him mad, and he said so,-not, mind you; from any political bias, for his office forbid it,-but simply because one can't bear to see the country go absolutely to the devil.
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The writing of solid, instructive stuff fortified by facts and figures is easy enough. There is no trouble in writing a scientific treatise on the folk-lore of Central China, or a statistical enquiry into the declining population of Prince Edward Island. But to write something out of one's own mind, worth reading for its own sake, is an arduous contrivance only to be achieved in fortunate moments, few and far in between. Personally, I would sooner have written Alice in Wonderland than the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.
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A barber is by nature and inclination a sport. He can tell you at what exact hour the ball game is to begin, can foretell its issue without losing a stroke of the razor, and can explain the points of inferiority of all the players, as compared with the better men that he has personally seen elsewhere, with the nicety of a professional.
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Modern critics, who refuse to let a plain thing alone, have now started a theory that Cervantes's work is a vast piece of "symbolism." If so, Cervantes didn't know it himself and nobody thought of it for three hundred years. He meant it as a satire upon the silly romances of chivalry.
How can you shorten the subject? That stern struggle with the multiplication table, for many people not yet ended in victory, how can you make it less? Square root, as obdurate as a hardwood stump in a pasturenothing but years of effort can extract it. You can't hurry the process. Or pass from arithmetic to algebra; you can't shoulder your way past quadratic equations or ripple through the binomial theorem. Instead, the other way; your feet are impeded in the tangled growth, your pace slackens, you sink and fall somewhere near the binomial theorem with the calculus in sight on the horizon.
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A lone maple leaf resting on sand Have you ever been out for a late autumn walk in the closing part of the afternoon, and suddenly looked up to realize that the leaves have practically all gone? And the sun has set and the day gone before you knew it, and with that a cold wind blows across the landscape? That's retirement.
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How strange it is, our little procession of life! The child says, "When I am a big boy." But what is that? The big boy says, "When I grow up." And then, grown up, he says, "When I get married." But to be married, what is that after all? The thought changes to "When I'm able to retire." And then, when retirement comes, he looks back over the landscape traversed; a cold wind seems to sweep over it; somehow he has missed it all, and it is gone.
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