On the Decay of the Art of Lying 357
truth-teller is simply an impossible creature; he does not exist; he never has existed. Of course there are people who think they never lie, but it is not so — and this ignorance is one of the very things that shame our so-called civilization. Everybody lies — every day; every hour; awake; asleep ; in his dreams ; in his joy; in his mourning; if he keeps his tongue still, his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude, will convey deception—and purposely. Even in sermons — but that is a platitude.
In a far country where I once lived the ladies used to go around paying calls, under the humane and kindly pretense of wanting to see each other; and when they returned home, they would cry out with a glad voice, saying, " We made sixteen calls and found fourteen of them out"—not meaning that they found out anything against the fourteen — no, that was only a colloquial phrase to signify that they were not at home — and their manner of saying it expressed their lively satisfaction in that fact. Now their pretense of wanting to see the fourteen — and the other two whom they had been less lucky with — was that commonest and mildest form of lying which is sufficiently described as a deflection from the truth. Is it justifiable? Most certainly. It is beautiful, it is noble; for its object is, not to reap profit, but to convey a pleasure to the sixteen. The iron-souled truth-monger would plainly manifest, or even utter the fact that he didn't want to see those people — and he would be an ass, and inflict a totally unnecessary pain. And next, those ladies in that far country — but never mind, they had a thousand pleasant ways of lying, that grew out of gentle impulses, and were a credit to their intelligence and an honor to their hearts. Let the particulars go.
The men in that far country were liars, every one. Their mere howdy-do was a lie, because they didn't care how you did, except they were undertakers. To