The hazards of talking too much…… a parable IV

And I was reciting a parable, in which a young quiet, unassuming gentleman picks up the habit of talking at such length and force that he manages to accomplish several things he had only dreamt of – a raise at work, the acquiescence of a girl and the adulation and admiration of his peers. Does that mean the story is ended with the words “He lived happily afterwards”? Well, perhaps you should read on…..

~~ He gave a laugh which turned my blood cold.

“Golf!” he said. “After all, what is golf? Just pushing a small ball into a hole. A child could do it. Indeed, children have done it with great success. I see an infant of fourteen has just won some sort of championship. Could that stripling convulse a roomful of banqueters? I think not! To sway your fellow-men with a word, to hold them with a gesture … that is the real salt of life. I don’t suppose I shall play much more golf now. I’m making arrangements for a lecturing-tour, and I’m booked up for fifteen lunches already.”

Those were his words. A man who had once done the lake-hole in one. A man whom the committee were grooming for the amateur championship. I am no weakling, but I confess they sent a chill shiver down my spine.

George Mackintosh did not, I am glad to say, carry out his mad project to the letter. He did not altogether sever himself from golf. He was still to be seen occasionally on the links. But now—and I know of nothing more tragic that can befall a man—he found himself gradually shunned, he who in the days of his sanity had been besieged with more offers of games than he could manage to accept. Men simply would not stand his incessant flow of talk. One by one they dropped off, until the only person he could find to go round with him was old Major Moseby, whose hearing completely petered out as long ago as the year ’98. And, of course, Celia Tennant would play with him occasionally; but it seemed to me that even she, greatly as no doubt she loved him, was beginning to crack under the strain.

So surely had I read the pallor of her face and the wild look of dumb agony in her eyes that I was not surprised when, as I sat one morning in my garden reading Ray on Taking Turf, my man announced her name. I had been half expecting her to come to me for advice and consolation, for I had known her ever since she was a child. It was I who had given her her first driver and taught her infant lips to lisp “Fore!” It is not easy to lisp the word “Fore!” but I had taught her to do it, and this constituted a bond between us which had been strengthened rather than weakened by the passage of time.

She sat down on the grass beside my chair, and looked up at my face in silent pain. We had known each other so long that I know that it was not my face that pained her, but rather some unspoken malaise of the soul. I waited for her to speak, and suddenly she burst out impetuously as though she could hold back her sorrow no longer.

“Oh, I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it!”

“You mean…?” I said, though I knew only too well.

“This horrible obsession of poor George’s,” she cried passionately. “I don’t think he has stopped talking once since we have been engaged.”

“He is chatty,” I agreed. “Has he told you the story about the Irishman?”

“Half a dozen times. And the one about the Swede oftener than that. But I would not mind an occasional anecdote. Women have to learn to bear anecdotes from the men they love. It is the curse of Eve. It is his incessant easy flow of chatter on all topics that is undermining even my devotion.”

“But surely, when he proposed to you, he must have given you an inkling of the truth. He only hinted at it when he spoke to me, but I gather that he was eloquent.”

“When he proposed,” said Celia dreamily, “he was wonderful. He spoke for twenty minutes without stopping. He said I was the essence of his every hope, the tree on which the fruit of his life grew; his Present, his Future, his Past … oh, and all that sort of thing. If he would only confine his conversation now to remarks of a similar nature, I could listen to him all day long. But he doesn’t. He talks politics and statistics and philosophy and … oh, and everything. He makes my head ache.”

“And your heart also, I fear,” I said gravely.

To be continued….


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