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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)

Castles Out Of The Air

Castles Out Of The Air.

It has been optimistically stated that an Englishman's home is his castle; but, in reality, all he has charge of is the keep. But he is more or less content. To him, a house is a place designed to keep the rain out and the warmth in. To his wife it is an excuse for shifting furniture about. She contends, strangely enough, that she “has to live in it.” For this reason she often itches to get out of it. If Harold had his way the house that he entered in his wedding suit would be the house he'd leave in a bath-chair. Certainly the chimneys smoke, the roof leaks over the bed, and even a land agent would jib at putting it into prose, much less poetry; but living in it saves the bother of shifting out of it; and, anyway, Harold has grown so used to it that he would probably stray back to it if he left, and would have to have butter put on his feet to remind him where he lived.

However, just when he is complimenting himself on the comfort of the old homestead his wife says: “Harold, I've been thinking.” Immediately, he sees the furniture on a cart and himself next to the driver holding
Love's Labour Lost.

Love's Labour Lost.

“Probably stray back to it.”

“Probably stray back to it.”

the marble clock. A shudder shakes him to the suspenders. He flinches as though struck over the face with a draper's bill.

“This house—–,” continues the shatterer of his dreams. Harold tries a pitiful bluff, “Yes; cosy old dump, isn't it?” he croaks.

His wife treats his pathetic feint with the contempt it deserves. “The Woozles have just shifted into their new bungalow,” she murmurs dreamily.

“Pah! Those new places,” says Harold, game to the last. “Haven't got the timber in ‘em that the good old places have got. Now this little crib! Sound as a bell! Heart timber every bit—–”

Of course, it's touchingly pitiful. Like a cornered guinea-pig he yelps, “Now look here!”

“Inset bath, glass all down one side, every conceivable convenience!” she breathes with her eyes half-closed and trance-like. Even brave men know when the last ditch is reached and the last bullet fired. Harold knows that he is a beaten man. He sees himself looking at sections that resemble upended slabs of the Great Gobi Desert. He sees plans and builders. He sees his Saturday afternoons spent chopping the whiskers off a particularly noisome chunk of hillside. He sees liberty curtailed, life reduced to blue prints and grey days. He visions himself in a new house that smells of varnish, red lead and new wall-paper. He knows that he'll have to buy a new pair of slippers because the comfortable old ones will never harmonise with the modernistic aesthetics of the new house. He knows the mantelpieces will all be too high or too low for foot comfort.

His wife has said practically nothing, so far. But he knows, he knows. The writing is on the wall, all over it— six feet high. Harold remembers a little hymn he used to sing at Sunday school that began, “We want but little here below.”

He mentions it to his wife in the dim mad hope that she may see the light. But, if he reads the message in her eyes aright, they say, “Sez you!”