For Charles

…if you get to know them closer, they are very kind and gentle; they never speak much because they never speak about themselves. They enjoy themselves like children, but with the most solemn, leathery expression; they have lots of ingrained etiquette, but at the same time they are as free and easy as young whelps. They are hard as flint, incapable of adapting themselves, conservative, loyal, rather shallow and always incommunicative; they cannot get out of their skin, but it is a solid, and in every respect excellent skin. You cannot speak to them without being invited to lunch or dinner; they are as hospitable as St. Julian, but they can never overstep the distance between man and man. Sometimes you have a sense of uneasiness at feeling so solitary in the midst of these kind and courteous people; but if you were a little boy, you would know that you could trust them more than yourself, and you would be free and respected here more than anywhere else in the world; the policeman would puff out his cheeks to make you laugh, an old gentleman would play at ball with you, and a white haired lady would lay aside her four hundred-page novel to gaze at you winsomely with her grey and still youthful eyes.

Karel Čapek (1925)


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