Page images
PDF
EPUB

us making for such a world? If should like too to be able to go to we are to be deprived of all means sleep in it, and so make excursions of exercising such faculties as we from it into other regions; for, of have spent our lives in training and course, I hope there will be upper cultivating here, what is the use of regions still. And of all things I training and cultivating them at should hope to be able to be alone all? Why are these passionate sometimes, if I chose. I like the desires given us here for what seems odour of flowers. Do spirits smell? to us pure and noble, if, the moment Are we to be out of our senses, so we pass away from earth, they be- to speak? I hope not. come perfectly useless ? If to-mor- Mallett. Did you ever read row you were to deprive me of all "The Gates Ajar,' by Miss Elizathese occupations, I should be very beth Phelps? She takes up this unhappy; and how can I be happy question and develops it in a most there deprived of them—that is, peculiar way, and with much so long as I maintain my own iden- talent. tity and consciousness ?

Belton. Yes, I have read it; and Belton. At all events I hope I I hear it is very popular, as of shall have some kind of body to course it would be. inhabit and use. It seems to me notions of a future state of existence dreadful to think of wandering which are generally entertained are about a mere naked spirit, with no quite unsatisfactory. And I can house to cover one. In fact, with. easily understand that such a view out a body I should be nobody. as hers would recommend itself to The idea of being blown about by many. Her development of it to the wind, or of being open to inva- me is quite too material. sion by every other spirit, without Mallett. At all events it does, any power of secrecy of thought and after a peculiar fashion to be sure, feeling, is abhorrent to my notions. recognise that the tastes, feelings, I do not care to keep this body if thoughts, and aspirations we cultiI can find a better; but this is vate here will not be utterly obbetter than none; and I have lived literated hereafter, and will find in it so long, and had so much something hereafter to correspond happiness in it, that I have a sort of to them. But come ! our conversafondness for it. If I take a new

tion has wandered widely enough, one, I should like it fresher, bet- and it is time to break off. “Light ter, and handsomer in every way, thickens, and the

makes more quickly responsive to the wing to the rooky wood.”

Let us spirit, and not so easily tired. I go and see it on the Pincio.

The vague JOHN'S HERO.

crow

I.

The book, in which you take so a yacht in the harbour, and a stud warm an interest, is a mere work of in the stable ; pays for one theatre, fiction; and yet, as you judiciously and goes every night to another; observe, it is one without which -in short, sees life, and is as bored no gentleman's library is complete. by the sight as if he were not the You ask who wrote it. You will grandson of a jovial tapster. Henry, be surprised to hear that it was Richard, and Thomas, friends of produced by two authors. One of my youth, you

One of my youth, you have gone from me! these is a man of world - wide re- Indeed I have no time to cultivate putation. The Japanese student you farther, for I have an engrossing has adopted him with the graceful occupation too. My whole time costume of English civilisation, and and my whole attention are given his name is misspelt by the Parisian to the study and to the encouragejournalist. The other author is com- ment of John. John is the most paratively unknown: he is my friend, remarkable young man of the age. and his Cbristian name is John. Indeed he is too great for an age

Tom, Dick, Harry, John, and I in which the division of labour is were some few years ago a set at an carried to excess. Tom delights in Oxford college. Widely different law; but how could John, with exin character, we had each his friends tended vision and impatient genius, outside the little circle; but we five limit himself to the composition of were bound most closely together jargon for a conveyancer ? Dick by the memory of bright days of revels gracefully in art; but how boyhood and of comical scrapes en- should John be content with a joyed by all together. But enough reputation for painting the sunny of this. We have left Oxford, and side of sheep? And indeed it seems the old ties are loosened. Each likely that, as the great banker has found for himself an absorbing yields to the joint-stock company, occupation, and our intimacy has in so will the great artist be superseded some cases dwindled to a mere grunt by a union of the small, and a single in the street. The sagacious Tom is canvas will display Mr Hobson's already a rising lawyer, and has lost unrivalled cows reclining beneath his colour. The graceful Dick offers the world - renowned elms of Mr incense at the shrine of art, draws Thompson, while the stream duly daily longer limbs of sadder women, patented by Mr Jackson and has already painted ten thousand through the inimitable meadow of sun - flowers. Harry, our golden Mr Harrison, and Mr Robinson's youth, whose Pactolus flows foam- famous young lady in short-waisted ing from the paternal vats, walks white muslin treads the unpretendwith stiff legs in the park, and dances ing daisy of the modest Mr Dixon. with bent knees in the ball-room. So is it with other professions. If When in London he has his flowers it has been once admitted that an from the country; when in the actor can play an old Frenchman, country, from Covent Garden. He the world will have none of his plays his hockey on horseback, and young Frenchman nor of his old does his skating on wheels; keeps Englishman. He may play the

runs

sence.

I drew my

Dutchman all his life and make a

With a sensation of sickfortune thereby, but people won't ness I foresaw the future, and mybe bothered by his German, how- self without an occupation. I saw ever near the border. Finally, the him in a suburban villa and the man of letters, if he have a reputa- odour of respectability, owner of a tion for the knowledge of butter, dining-room with a sideboard, a wife will have his essay on cream re- with a milliner, a coach-house with turned to him with a civil note a perambulator. Could I find infrom his publisher. In such a terest in watching him, as he bent world what place is there for John? all his great powers to the acHe cannot be content to invent quisition of a Victoria instead of a machine for fixing the wire on the chariot of fame? I sighed; corks. To make wire, cork, bottle, and John, at last conscious of my and explosive liquor, would scarce presence, seized me by the arm, be work enough for him. He is a and, drawing me hastily to the wingiant in an age of clever pigmies, dow, bade me look. I was dizzy, and should have stood by the great and could scarcely see. Leonardo wielding the chisel, the hand across my eyes, expectant of brush, and the pen, or played a the picture of a young girl watering whole orchestra of instruments her mignonette. I have read of while he planned a fort or a cathe- such things in books, and I looked dral. To the sound of music the for that air of innocent unconsciousslender arches spring to the high ness of male observation, which is point of meeting; the marble floor dear to the sentimental novelist, and spreads wide and white below; characteristic of the more charming and the great church, broad for all sex. How different a sight met my men and yearning up to God, stands eyes when they had recovered their a meet symbol for my friend. Is wonted powers ! it strange that I should find the On the second floor of the oppowork of my life in watching, en- site house was a window, of which couraging, and hoping for him ? the lower part was covered by a But I grow tedious, as I always do muslin blind : above this blind apwhen I embark on this subject. I peared a broad fat shoulder; and must to my story.

the shoulder was undoubtedly masOne evening I received a note culine. Across its ample surface a from John, who begged me to come rough towel was passing and repassto him the next morning before ing with wonderful celerity. breakfast. I am not an early riser; “That shoulder," said John, solbut I refuse my friend nothing. I emnly, “supports the best head in found him alone, in the simply- England, the head of Mr Damon.” furnished den which opens out of “But what is he doing?” I asked. his bedroom on the third floor of a “He is promoting his circulastreet, which you must forgive me tion." me for not naming. It was a cold, “ After his bath, I suppose ?”. bright morning, and yet I found my “I can't say,” answered John; friend leaning on his elbows at the “but every morning at or about this open window. A pang of fear shot hour, I observe the rub." through me : all, even the most “ And yet he is a hero in your perfect characters, have one weak eyes !" I exclaimed. point: I was certain that John • Yes," said he, and his fine eyes loved. The worst sign was that he flashed; " if I were to see his statue remained unconscious of my pre- in an aquarium, he would still be my hero. He is the man for whom “Or rubbing his back ?” I venI have been waiting-a man of the tured to suggest. most varied talents, of balanced “I cannot aspire to so much honconduct, of perfect culture. I am our,” said John. going to sit at his feet.”

We breakfasted almost in silence. “ Then I can't go on sitting at My friend was evidently nervous ; yours,” cried I, in some perturba- and I was wondering if there would tion.

be much change in him, if he “ I can teach nothing," said he; would be improved out of my reach, “but,” he added, in a tone of deep beyond my power of appreciation. feeling, “I am going to learn." At 10.30, he swallowed a powerful

“Do you know him ?” I asked. dose of sal-volatile, wrung my hand

“ No; but I shall in less than in silence, and left me. I saw him two hours. I am going to him, as cross the road. From the opposite one can to a truly great man, door-step he waved his hand, like a to tell him that I have need of young and stainless knight bound him. I will do anything for him, some great quest, and disapfrom blacking his boots to correct- peared. ing his proofs."

on

II.

It was

If you wish to hear my account “Hollo! oh! eh!" and Mr Damon of my friend's intercourse with Mr turned slowly in his chair. Damon, I must first warn you that My friend found himself much some of the details, in which I embarrassed.

“ I took the liberty,” delight, are inferred from others he began. which John has given me, and from “Oh ! ah ! precisely! but I am my knowledge of my friend's char- afraid I must ask you to call again. acter, which I have studied so long. The fact is, that I don't happen to But you care nothing for this. And have it by me.” so let me to my story.

“I beg your pardon,” said John. John explained to the maid-ser- “ You can leave the bill, you vant who admitted him that he know." would introduce himself. As he

an unlucky beginning. walked slowly but firmly up-stairs As the two men looked at each he thought of Boswell's first inter- other it became gradually clear to view with Johnson, and of that the elder that the gallant young happy day when Eckermann first fellow before him was neither his saw the great Goethe “ dressed in slavey nor an unreasonable shopa blue frock-coat, and with shoes.” boy. John did not know what to “ What a sublime form !” was the say, confounded partly by the difficomment of the German youth; but culty of explaining his purpose, the more taciturn Englishman made partly by the confusion which was no such observation on entering the painfully apparent on the large face room of Mr Damon. Opposite to before him. Mr Damon rolled his him, as he entered, was a large big head, and then had nothing back still slouching over the break- better to say than, “Would not fast-table. “Some more toast,” said you like-in fact—to take a chair ?” the sage.

John took a chair, and a pause “I beg your pardon,” said John. ensued. But he felt that he could not sit silent. He was just on the Such, briefly, was the talk of John, point of speaking of the weather, who, I confess, was at times no when he was moved to make a bold wiser than other clever youths, who plunge, and said abruptly, “I want are apt to be intoxicated by the to thank you for all the good which sudden consciousness of their own I have got from your writings." cleverness, and by the nimbleness The great man looked at him sus- of their tongues. Only he is unlike piciously : he thought that he was them all. He is so truly enthusigoing to be asked for an autograph. astic and warm-hearted. He is such

His guest went on earnestly- a really fine fellow.

“I hope that I have not been As Mr Damon listened to his wrong in coming to you; but won't guest's speech, his attention became you tell me what to do?"

by degrees more and more closely “What to do!" repeated the other, fixed.

fixed. He had heard a good deal on whose open countenance was a which was very like it. Indeed, as strange mixture of embarrassment he listened, there dawned again for and dawning gratification.

him a day in his own youth when, “I mean, what to do with my with a crust of bread and an apple life."

in his pocket, he had roamed from "Live it," said Mr Damon, on morning till nightfall among the the spur of the moment, and with Westmoreland hills, sometimes rava happy reminiscence of one of his ing in verse, and sometimes wonearly sayings. It sounded well, dering why nobody had come to set and he repeated in a deeper tone, the clumsy world to rights before. “ Live it." Nor did it fail to make Yet he felt a stir about his heart an impression on my friend. He which he had not experienced since thought it over. Then, as he saw he tried his first electric bath ten his host grow calm after his in- years before. The tones of the spired utterance, and settle himself brave young voice were like wine in his chair, he felt that he had to him. Gradually one thought established his footing, and pre- became predominant in his mind. pared to enlarge on his difficulties. He forgot that the boy was asking As he warmed with the subject, he for help, as he wondered whether grew almost eloquent. He spoke he could get help from the boy. of his strong desire to do some- Was it possible that his old faith, thing which should add in some which he had never abandoned, but way to the public good; and said which had so long been a dead how hard it was to find the right heap on which criticisms might be thing to do. Philanthropy, even founded—was it possible that the when harmless, could but cleanse mass could glow again ? If he could one house in a city of corruption. but get regular doses of this fresh Statesmanship seemed little more enthusiasm, what might he not ac than the science of getting place. complish even now? The solemı Business was a mere race for com- criticisms, with which he occupied forts, or a substitute for the gaming- himself daily, seemed to him in his house. The mission of art was to unwonted mood heavy as dough tickle the fat ribs of the stall-fed He remembered the works of his financier; that of literature, to youth, and of his prime ; and hear charm away those idle hours of the echo of old praises. He remem the hectic matron which were not bered plans long since abandoned devoted to millinery or flirtation. for compressing all life into a wor]

« PreviousContinue »