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The House of Clay

Heritage Community Foundation, Albertasource.ca and The Famous Five Foundation
Nellie McClung, Purple Springs (Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 1992) 42-44.

The old man recovered himself in a moment: "You take things too seriously, Clay," he said quickly: "be glad you are not married. A wife and children clutter up a man's affairs at a time like this—you are quite free from family ties, I believe?"

"Quite free," the young man replied, "all my relatives live in the East, all able to look after themselves. I have no person depending on me—financially, I mean."

"Marriage," began the old doctor, in his most professional tone, as one who reads from a manuscript, "is one-fourth joy and three-fourths disappointment. There is no love strong enough to stand the grind of domestic life. Marriage would be highly successful were it not for the fearful bore of living together. Two houses, and a complete set of servants would make marriage practically free from disappointments. I think Saint Paul was right when he advised men to remain single if they had serious work to do. Women, the best of them, grow tiresome and double-chinned in time."

The young doctor laughed his own big, hearty laugh, the laugh which his devoted patients said did them more good than his medicine.

"I like that," he said, "a man with a forty-two waist measure, wearing an eighteen inch collar, finding fault with a woman's double chin. You are not such a raving beauty yourself."

The old man interrupted him:

"I do not need to be. I am a doctor, a prescriber of pills, a mender of bones, a plumber of pipes . . . my work does not call for beauty. Beauty is an embarrassment to a doctor. You would be happier, young fellow, without that wavy brown hair and those big eyes of yours, with their long lashes. A man is built for work, like a truck. God and leather upholstering do not belong there. Women are different; it is their place in life to be beautiful, and when they fail in that, they fail entirely. They have no license to be fat, flabby double-chinned, flat-footed. It is not seemly, and of course you cannot tell how any of them may turn out. They are all pretty at sixteen. That is what makes marriage such a lottery."

"I don't agree with you at all," said his companion, "it is absurd to expect a woman of fifty to have the slim grace of a girl of eighteen. My mother was a big woman, and I always thought her very beautiful. I think you have a pagan way of looking at marriage. Marriage is a mutual agreement, for mutual benefit and comfort, for sympathy and companionship. Family life develops the better side of human nature, and casts out selfishness. Many a man has found himself when he gets a wife, and in the caring for his children has thrown off the shackles of selfishness. People only live when they can forget themselves, for selfishness is death. You're a great doctor, Dr. Brander, but a poor philosopher."

The older man smiled grimly,

"See here, Clay," he said, "did you ever think of how nature fools us poor dupes? Nature, old Dame Nature, has one object, and that is to people the earth—and to this end she shapes all her plans. She makes women beautiful, graceful, attractive and gives them the instinct to dress in a way that will attract men. Makes them smaller and weaker than men, too, which also makes its appeal. Why, if I hadn't watched my step, I'd been married a dozen times. These little frilled and powdered vixens have nearly got me. . . ."

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