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Great-heart smiled, then answered,
"Unconsciously, darling, you have set out for me. quite a problem, from the solution of which many cleverer brains than mine have recoiled in dismay. I will, however, do what I can to make a definition of it clear to you. The season is a period of time fixed upon and decreed by the inexorable law of fashion, in the which as many of those people who can lay claim to admission within its charmed circle agree to meet, to visit and to feast together in the capital of their kingdom. The date of this reunion is supposed to be regulated during that time of meeting and separation of Parliament, the great assemblage of senators who frame our laws for well or ill. This is generally from late winter, through the entire spring, and on into the full blaze of summer. With us, that is; with other countries differently, in accordance with their tastes and customs. Of this time, the months most courted, and into which what is known as pleasure is crammed with no unstinting hand, are those of May, June and July. That is, when the country is at its best and brightest, when all nature puts forth its treasures, and tempts one to it with its smiles. Then is it ordained that the crowds shall be the thickest here, amid the bricks and mortar, the dancing in the greatest favour, the unhealthy excitement at its fever-heat."
"That does seem nonsense, truly," murmured Dot, thoughtfully.
Trixie gazing round, and no doubt picturing to herself what a loss it would be if that fine scene vanished away for ever, exclaimed,
"It seems but rational surely that people should make their arrangements for such time as the weather is likely to be warm and pleasant;" at which facetious remark Great-heart laughed quite merrily.
"Your argument carries some weight with it, Trixie; that is, granting the necessity of this sort of London season at all."
"And is it not necessary?" inquired the astonished child.
"In this form, I certainly cannot see the need of it."
"But you would not, I hope, deny these people their pleasure?"
"Most truly not, if of a healthy, natural kind, which, alas! those we see now, and others, are not always."
"Yet these men that govern your country must surely meet together at some time. No doubt, too, there are many, and they like to bring their wives and families up into the town with them?"
"True, little Trixie. Their assembling must of
necessity be urgent.
There are, as you surmise, numbers of them, and their coming brings in its train many more, not relations only, but all manner of retainers and dependents. But meeting as they business, and for the
do in so great a degree for welfare of their country, it cannot be needful to turn the period into one of senseless display and gaiety, such as we see around us now so prominently. Do not mistake me. There are plenty of these men who work well and faithfully in their country's cause; but there are, I fear, many more who do so for their own aggrandizement only, or use their power and influence but as a steppingstone to vanity. Believe me, I would not sweep away all social, lively intercourse; such as it is, there is a great deal here both delightful and healthy, without which, indeed, the world would lose much of its beauty and attraction. But is there not an awful waste, a terrible extravagance? Look around, darlings. Of course there are many who can afford it, and leave much to spare. That is not the point. What you must consider is-Ought they thus to indulge, with all the sad misery existing in this vast city, hidden so much from view truly, yet none the less there, for all that? Ponder well over this. It is not enough that many of those you see should give of their riches, then go forth as now, their
consciences quieted (vain delusion!) by having given. (What more would the world have of them? they argue.) That is not charity, darlings. No, it is by precept, example, personal aid, that these should help the others to bear their trials. By a self-denial, a restraint, the poor can see and feel, to reconcile them to their lot. It is not the giving, but the method of it, that is the charity, little ones."
The children became very thoughtful. Soon Dot said,―
"I do hope what you say does not apply to all, dear Great-heart?"
As I have told you before, and cannot repeat too earnestly, it does not. Many around you are good, far more so than you or I can ever hope to be. But of this gay crowd they make up the exceptions. Most of the true workers, of those who know what charity is and exercise it, come not here, or tell of their doings. It is of those you do not see, but will in other places, I would have you think and love, To learn your lesson from those here truly; yet of them by contrast only."
"You said just now there was much that is silly written and said about this season, as to its duration and so on. Would you tell us, dear, what that is?" Dot inquired presently.
That if you were to believe
what you read in many books and newspapers, or hear spoken by many ignorant people, about this same season, you would be greatly misled. They would make you fancy that it is everything paramount, that, without it, London is as nothing, a dreary waste; as if everything depended on it. In fact, that it is a world while it lasts. When it rolls away, with it goes all of interest, everybody. When it begins, everybody comes; when it ends, everybody goes. Therein lies the absurdity of thus talking of it.
"Why, this city you are in contains not hundreds or thousands, but millions. Think of that. What you see here, attracted for the most part by the fascination of this particular season, is but an atom of the humanity in this vast place. No. The season is a period when there are more people here than at any other time of the year. But to talk of this city as ever being 'empty' or with 'nobody in it,' as many do talk, is an absurdity."
"And as to its height?" inquired the two maidens together.
"It is difficult to ascertain it. I have seen a good many seasons come and go, yet never clearly found it out. Of course it is supposed to be the time when most are here, when more is going on than at any other time. When is that? If hundreds are here,