It is so curious after a full life to be alone on Christmas Eve. But of course it was my own choice, and not necessary. I could have gone away, but I love these winter afternoons and the long evenings at home. It is also, I think, essential wisdom that the old should learn to live alone without depression, and above all without that far more deadly thing - ennui. I have no doubt that training for old age, to avoid being a bore and a burden to others, is as desirable as any other form of education. The changes brought about by circumstances mean, in a sort of way, a new birth, and one has to discover for oneself the best methods of readjusting the details of one's life. I find this poem written in one of my notebooks many years ago by a man whom I had known from childhood. Though he was not the author, the poem represented his feelings rather than mine. It has truth in it, but it also has a touch of bitterness, which appealed no doubt to a man who had reaped nothing but life's failure. He had always lived up in balloons of his own imaginings, believing in ultimate wealth, and having the power to draw forth money from others, merely to lose it. He died in old age and poverty in a garret at Venice. Do we reap as we sow? Very often; not always. I am sure that up to now I have never got back in mushrooms what I have spent in spawn. Of course the fault is mine, I know that.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
Weep, and you weep alone, For this brave old earth must borrow its mirth It has sorrows enough of its own. Sing, and the hills will answer;
Sigh, it is lost in air, For the echoes bound to a joyous sound They shrink from the voice of care.
Rejoice, and men will seek you;
Grieve, and they all will go, For they want full measure of all your pleasure They do not heed your woe. Be glad, and your friends are many;
Be sad, and you lose them all, For none will decline your nectared wine Alone, you must drink life's gall.
Feast, and your halls are crowded;
Fast, and the world goes by; Succeed and give; it will help you live No man can help you die. There is room in the halls of pleasure
For a long and lordly train, But one by one we must all pass on
Through the narrow aisles of pain.
I like 'Bethia Hardacre's' song better, and to me the spirit is truer:
Bring me the book whose pages teach The fortitude the Stoics preach, Bring me the tome within whose scope There lies the quickening of dead hope; Bring me the comfort of a mind That good in every ill can find, And of a heart that is content With its desire's relinquishment.
Receipts A kind friend sent me to-night half a pumpkin - a real French pumpkin. (See Vilmorin's 'Vegetable Garden,' Potiron jaune gros.) It was grown near here, and had kept perfectly. It was moist, and a beautiful apricot colour inside. I wonder always why the only pumpkin grown in England is the vegetable marrow. Sutton feebly recommends others in his book, but hardly makes enough of them as useful winter vegetables. Here is a true French receipt for Pumpkin Soup. Cut up the slices of pumpkin (say, about half a large one), and boil them in water. When well cooked, strain off the water and pass the pulp through a sieve. Boil half a pint of milk, add a piece of butter, very little salt, and a good tablespoonful of castor sugar. Pour this boiling milk on to the pumpkin pulp. Let it boil a few minutes. The soup must be thick, and small fried crusts should be sent up with it. This receipt is enough for two people. Dried vegetable marrow is not supposed to be so good, but I had some soup to-night prepared exactly in the same way from a large dried vegetable marrow, and it was excellent, though it had not quite so much flavour.
All through the last month my salads have been nearly as good as in summer, from tarragon and chive tops being forced in the greenhouse. Parsley and chervil are still good out of doors. When once one has become used to the herbs in salad, it does seem so tasteless without them.