The Angel and the Author, and others

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Excerpt CHAPTER I I had a vexing dream one night, not long ago: it was about a fortnight after Christmas.  I dreamt I flew out of the window in my nightshirt.  I went up and up.  I was glad that I was going up.  “They have been noticing me,” I thought to myself.  “If anything, I have been a bit too good.  A little less virtue and I might have lived longer.  But one cannot have everything.”  The world grew smaller and smaller.  The last I saw of London was the long line of electric lamps bordering the Embankment; later nothing remained but a faint luminosity buried beneath darkness.  It was at this point of my journey that I heard behind me the slow, throbbing sound of wings. I turned my head.  It was the Recording Angel.  He had a weary look; I judged him to be tired. “Yes,” he acknowledged, “it is a trying period for me, your Christmas time.” “I am sure it must be,” I returned; “the wonder to me is how you get through it all.  You see at Christmas time,” I went on, “all we men and women become generous, quite suddenly.  It is really a delightful sensation.” “You are to be envied,” he agreed. “It is the first Christmas number that starts me off,” I told him; “those beautiful pictures—the sweet child looking so pretty in her furs, giving Bovril with her own dear little hands to the shivering street arab; the good old red-faced squire shovelling out plum pudding to the crowd of grateful villagers.  It makes me yearn to borrow a collecting box and go round doing good myself. “And it is not only me—I should say I,” I continued; “I don’t want you to run away with the idea that I am the only good man in the world.  That’s what I like about Christmas, it makes everybody good.  The lovely sentiments we go about repeating! the noble deeds we do! from a little before Christmas up to, say, the end of January! why noting them down must be a comfort to you.” “Yes,” he admitted, “noble deeds are always a great joy to me.” “They are to all of us,” I said; “I love to think of all the good deeds I myself have done.  I have often thought of keeping a diary—jotting them down each day.  It would be so nice for one’s children.” He agreed there was an idea in this. “That book of yours,” I said, “I suppose, now, it contains all the good actions that we men and women have been doing during the last six weeks?”  It was a bulky looking volume. Yes, he answered, they were all recorded in the book. The Author tells of his Good Deeds. It was more for the sake of talking of his than anything else that I kept up with him.  I did not really doubt his care and conscientiousness, but it is always pleasant to chat about one’s self.  “My five shillings subscription to the Daily Telegraph’s Sixpenny Fund for the Unemployed—got that down all right?” I asked him. Yes, he replied, it was entered. “As a matter of fact, now I come to think of it,” I added, “it was ten shillings altogether.  They spelt my name wrong the first time.” Both subscriptions had been entered, he told me....
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