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A Passionate Pilgrim

A Passionate Pilgrim

Henry James

Update: 2020-04-22

Chapter 1

  • Intending to sail for America in the early part of June, I determined to spen_he interval of six weeks in England, to which country my mind's eye only ha_s yet been introduced. I had formed in Italy and France a resolute preferenc_or old inns, considering that what they sometimes cost the ungratified bod_hey repay the delighted mind. On my arrival in London, therefore, I lodged a_ certain antique hostelry, much to the east of Temple Bar, deep in th_uarter that I had inevitably figured as the Johnsonian. Here, on the firs_vening of my stay, I descended to the little coffee-room and bespoke m_inner of the genius of "attendance" in the person of the solitary waiter. N_ooner had I crossed the threshold of this retreat than I felt I had cut _olden-ripe crop of English "impressions." The coffee-room of the Red Lion, like so many other places and things I was destined to see in the motherland, seemed to have been waiting for long years, with just that sturdy sufferanc_f time written on its visage, for me to come and extract the romantic essenc_f it.
  • The latent preparedness of the American mind even for the most characteristi_eatures of English life was a matter I meanwhile failed to get to the botto_f. The roots of it are indeed so deeply buried in the soil of our earl_ulture that, without some great upheaval of feeling, we are at a loss to sa_xactly when and where and how it begins. It makes an American's enjoyment o_ngland an emotion more searching than anything Continental. I had seen th_offee-room of the Red Lion years ago, at home—at Saragossa Illinois—in books, in visions, in dreams, in Dickens, in Smollett, in Boswell. It was small an_ubdivided into six narrow compartments by a series of perpendicular screen_f mahogany, something higher than a man's stature, furnished on either sid_ith a meagre uncushioned ledge, denominated in ancient Britain a seat. I_ach of these rigid receptacles was a narrow table—a table expected unde_tress to accommodate no less than four pairs of active British elbows. Hig_ressure indeed had passed away from the Red Lion for ever. It now knew onl_hat of memories and ghosts and atmosphere. Round the room there marched, breast-high, a magnificent panelling of mahogany, so dark with time and s_olished with unremitted friction that by gazing a while into its luci_lackness I made out the dim reflexion of a party of wigged gentlemen in knee- breeches just arrived from York by the coach. On the dark yellow walls, coate_y the fumes of English coal, of English mutton, of Scotch whiskey, were _ozen melancholy prints, sallow-toned with age— the Derby favourite of th_ear 1807, the Bank of England, her Majesty the Queen. On the floor was _urkey carpet—as old as the mahogany almost, as the Bank of England, as th_ueen—into which the waiter had in his lonely revolutions trodden so man_assive soot-flakes and drops of overflowing beer that the glowing looms o_myrna would certainly not have recognised it. To say that I ordered my dinne_f this archaic type would be altogether to misrepresent the process owing t_hich, having dreamed of lamb and spinach and a salade de saison, I sat dow_n penitence to a mutton-chop and a rice pudding. Bracing my feet against th_ross-beam of my little oaken table, I opposed to the mahogany partitio_ehind me the vigorous dorsal resistance that must have expressed the old- English idea of repose. The sturdy screen refused even to creak, but my poo_ankee joints made up the deficiency.
  • While I was waiting there for my chop there came into the room a person whom, after I had looked at him a moment, I supposed to be a fellow lodger an_robably the only one. He seemed, like myself, to have submitted to proposal_or dinner; the table on the other side of my partition had been prepared t_eceive him. He walked up to the fire, exposed his back to it and, afte_onsulting his watch, looked directly out of the window and indirectly at me.
  • He was a man of something less than middle age and more than middle stature, though indeed you would have called him neither young nor tall. He was chiefl_emarkable for his emphasised leanness. His hair, very thin on the summit o_is head, was dark short and fine. His eye was of a pale turbid grey, unsuited, perhaps, to his dark hair and well-drawn brows, but not altogethe_ut of harmony with his colourless bilious complexion. His nose was aquilin_nd delicate; beneath it his moustache languished much rather than bristled.
  • His mouth and chin were negative, or at the most provisional; not vulgar, doubtless, but ineffectually refined. A cold fatal gentlemanly weakness wa_xpressed indeed in his attenuated person. His eye was restless an_eprecating; his whole physiognomy, his manner of shifting his weight fro_oot to foot, the spiritless droop of his head, told of exhausted intentions, of a will relaxed. His dress was neat and "toned down"—he might have been i_ourning. I made up my mind on three points: he was a bachelor, he was out o_ealth, he was not indigenous to the soil. The waiter approached him, and the_onversed in accents barely audible. I heard the words "claret," "sherry" wit_ tentative inflexion, and finally "beer" with its last letter changed to
  • "ah." Perhaps he was a Russian in reduced circumstances; he reminded m_lightly of certain sceptical cosmopolite Russians whom I had met on th_ontinent. While in my extravagant way I followed this train—for you see I wa_nterested—there appeared a short brisk man with reddish- brown hair, with _ulgar nose, a sharp blue eye and a red beard confined to his lower jaw an_hin. My putative Russian, still in possession of the rug, let his mild gaz_tray over the dingy ornaments of the room. The other drew near, and hi_mbrella dealt a playful poke at the concave melancholy waistcoat. "A penn_a'penny for your thoughts!"
  • My friend, as I call him, uttered an exclamation, stared, then laid his tw_ands on the other's shoulders. The latter looked round at me keenly, compassing me in a momentary glance. I read in its own vague light that thi_as a transatlantic eyebeam; and with such confidence that I hardly needed t_ee its owner, as he prepared, with his companion, to seat himself at th_able adjoining my own, take from his overcoat-pocket three New Yor_ewspapers and lay them beside his plate. As my neighbours proceeded to dine _elt the crumbs of their conversation scattered pretty freely abroad. I coul_ear almost all they said, without straining to catch it, over the top of th_artition that divided us. Occasionally their voices dropped to recovery o_iscretion, but the mystery pieced itself together as if on purpose t_ntertain me. Their speech was pitched in the key that may in English air b_alled alien in spite of a few coincidences. The voices were American, however, with a difference; and I had no hesitation in assigning the softe_nd clearer sound to the pale thin gentleman, whom I decidedly preferred t_is comrade. The latter began to question him about his voyage.
  • "Horrible, horrible! I was deadly sick from the hour we left New York."
  • "Well, you do look considerably reduced," said the second-comer.
  • "Reduced! I've been on the verge of the grave. I haven't slept six hours fo_hree weeks." This was said with great gravity.
  • "Well, I've made the voyage for the last time."
  • "The plague you have! You mean to locate here permanently?"
  • "Oh it won't be so very permanent!"
  • There was a pause; after which: "You're the same merry old boy, Searle. Goin_o give up the ghost to-morrow, eh?"
  • "I almost wish I were."
  • "You're not so sweet on England then? I've heard people say at home that yo_ress and talk and act like an Englishman. But I know these people here and _now you. You're not one of this crowd, Clement Searle, not you. You'll g_nder here, sir; you'll go under as sure as my name's Simmons."
  • Following this I heard a sudden clatter as of the drop of a knife and fork.
  • "Well, you're a delicate sort of creature, if it IS your ugly name! I've bee_andering about all day in this accursed city, ready to cry with homesicknes_nd heartsickness and every possible sort of sickness, and thinking, in th_bsence of anything better, of meeting you here this evening and of you_ttering some sound of cheer and comfort and giving me some glimmer of hope.
  • Go under? Ain't I under now? I can't do more than get under the ground!"
  • Mr. Simmons's superior brightness appeared to flicker a moment in this gust o_espair, but the next it was burning steady again. "DON'T 'cry,' Searle," _eard him say. "Remember the waiter. I've grown Englishman enough for that.
  • For heaven's sake don't let's have any nerves. Nerves won't do anything fo_ou here. It's best to come to the point. Tell me in three words what yo_xpect of me."
  • I heard another movement, as if poor Searle had collapsed in his chair. "Upo_y word, sir, you're quite inconceivable. You never got my letter?"
  • "Yes, I got your letter. I was never sorrier to get anything in my life."
  • At this declaration Mr. Searle rattled out an oath, which it was well perhap_hat I but partially heard. "Abijah Simmons," he then cried, "what demon o_erversity possesses you? Are you going to betray me here in a foreign land, to turn out a false friend, a heartless rogue?"
  • "Go on, sir," said sturdy Simmons. "Pour it all out. I'll wait till you'v_one. Your beer's lovely," he observed independently to the waiter. "I'll hav_ome more."
  • "For God's sake explain yourself!" his companion appealed.
  • There was a pause, at the end of which I heard Mr. Simmons set down his empt_ankard with emphasis. "You poor morbid mooning man," he resumed, "I don'_ant to say anything to make you feel sore. I regularly pity you. But you mus_llow that you've acted more like a confirmed crank than a member of our bes_ociety— in which every one's so sensible."
  • Mr. Searle seemed to have made an effort to compose himself. "Be so good as t_ell me then what was the meaning of your letter."
  • "Well, you had got on MY nerves, if you want to know, when I wrote it. It cam_f my always wishing so to please folks. I had much better have let you alone.
  • To tell you the plain truth I never was so horrified in my life as when _ound that on the strength of my few kind words you had come out here to see_our fortune."
  • "What then did you expect me to do?"
  • "I expected you to wait patiently till I had made further enquiries and ha_ritten you again."
  • "And you've made further enquiries now?"
  • "Enquiries! I've committed assaults."
  • "And you find I've no claim?"
  • "No claim that one of THESE big bugs will look at. It struck me at first tha_ou had rather a neat little case. I confess the look of it took hold of me—"
  • "Thanks to your liking so to please folks!" Mr. Simmons appeared for a momen_t odds with something; it proved to be with his liquor. "I rather think you_eer's too good to be true," he said to the waiter. "I guess I'll take water.
  • Come, old man," he resumed, "don't challenge me to the arts of debate, o_ou'll have me right down on you, and then you WILL feel me. My nativ_weetness, as I say, was part of it. The idea that if I put the thing throug_t would be a very pretty feather in my cap and a very pretty penny in m_urse was part of it. And the satisfaction of seeing a horrid low America_alk right into an old English estate was a good deal of it. Upon my word, Searle, when I think of it I wish with all my heart that, extravagant vain ma_s you are, I COULD, for the charm of it, put you through! I should hardl_are what you did with the blamed place when you got it. I could leave yo_lone to turn it into Yankee notions—into ducks and drakes as they call 'e_ere. I should like to see you tearing round over it and kicking up its sacre_ust in their very faces!"
  • "You don't know me one little bit," said Mr. Searle, rather shirking, _hought, the burden of this tribute and for all response to the ambiguity o_he compliment.
  • "I should be very glad to think I didn't, sir. I've been to no small amount o_ersonal inconvenience for you. I've pushed my way right up to the headspring.
  • I've got the best opinion that's to be had. The best opinion that's to be ha_ust gives you one leer over its spectacles. I guess that look will fix you i_ou ever get it straight. I've been able to tap, indirectly," Mr. Simmons wen_n, "the solicitor of your usurping cousin, and he evidently knows somethin_o be in the wind. It seems your elder brother twenty years ago put out _eeler. So you're not to have the glory of even making them sit up."
  • "I never made any one sit up," I heard Mr. Searle plead. "I shouldn't begin a_his time of day. I should approach the subject like a gentleman."
  • "Well, if you want very much to do something like a gentleman you've got _apital chance. Take your disappointment like a gentleman."
  • I had finished my dinner and had become keenly interested in poor Mr. Searle'_nencouraging—or unencouraged—claim; so interested that I at last hated t_ear his trouble reflected in his voice without being able—al_espectfully!—to follow it in his face. I left my place, went over to th_ire, took up the evening paper and established a post of observation behin_t.
  • His cold counsellor was in the act of choosing a soft chop from the dish—a_ct accompanied by a great deal of prying and poking with that gentleman's ow_ork. My disillusioned compatriot had pushed away his plate; he sat with hi_lbows on the table, gloomily nursing his head with his hands. His companio_atched him and then seemed to wonder—to do Mr. Simmons justice—how he coul_east ungracefully give him up. "I say, Searle,"—and for my benefit, I think, taking me for a native ingenuous enough to be dazzled by his wit, he lifte_is voice a little and gave it an ironical ring—"in this country it's th_nestimable privilege of a loyal citizen, under whatsoever stress of pleasur_r of pain, to make a point of eating his dinner."
  • Mr. Searle gave his plate another push. "Anything may happen now. I don't car_ straw."
  • "You ought to care. Have another chop and you WILL care. Have some bette_ipple. Take my advice!" Mr. Simmons went on.
  • My friend—I adopt that name for him—gazed from between his two hands coldl_efore him. "I've had enough of your advice."
  • "A little more," said Simmons mildly; "I shan't trouble you again. What do yo_ean to do?"
  • "Nothing."
  • "Oh come!"
  • "Nothing, nothing, nothing!"
  • "Nothing but starve. How about meeting expenses?"
  • "Why do you ask?" said my friend. "You don't care."
  • "My dear fellow, if you want to make me offer you twenty pounds you set mos_lumsily about it. You said just now I don't know you," Mr. Simmons went on.
  • "Possibly. Come back with me then," he said kindly enough, "and let's improv_ur acquaintance."
  • "I won't go back. I shall never go back."
  • "Never?"
  • "Never."
  • Mr. Simmons thought it shrewdly over. "Well, you ARE sick!" he exclaime_resently. "All I can say is that if you're working out a plan for col_oison, or for any other act of desperation, you had better give it right up.
  • You can't get a dose of the commonest kind of cold poison for nothing, yo_now. Look here, Searle"—and the worthy man made what struck me as a ver_ecent appeal. "If you'll consent to return home with me by the steamer of th_wenty-third I'll pay your passage down. More than that, I'll pay for you_eer."
  • My poor gentleman met it. "I believe I never made up my mind to anythin_efore, but I think it's made up now. I shall stay here till I take m_eparture for a newer world than any patched-up newness of ours. It's an od_eeling—I rather like it! What should I do at home?"
  • "You said just now you were homesick."
  • "I meant I was sick for a home. Don't I belong here? Haven't I longed to ge_ere all my life? Haven't I counted the months and the years till I should b_ble to 'go' as we say? And now that I've 'gone,' that is that I've come, mus_ just back out? No, no, I'll move on. I'm much obliged to you for your offer.
  • I've enough money for the present. I've about my person some forty pounds'
  • worth of British gold, and the same amount, say, of the toughness of th_eaven-sent idiot. They'll see me through together! After they're gone I shal_ay my head in some English churchyard, beside some ivied tower, beneath a_ld gnarled black yew."
  • I had so far distinctly followed the dialogue; but at this point the landlor_ntered and, begging my pardon, would suggest that number 12, a most superio_partment, having now been vacated, it would give him pleasure if I would loo_n. I declined to look in, but agreed for number 12 at a venture and gav_yself again, with dissimulation, to my friends. They had got up; Simmons ha_ut on his overcoat; he stood polishing his rusty black hat with his napkin.
  • "Do you mean to go down to the place?" he asked.
  • "Possibly. I've thought of it so often that I should like to see it."
  • "Shall you call on Mr. Searle?"
  • "Heaven forbid!"
  • "Something has just occurred to me," Simmons pursued with a grin that made hi_pper lip look more than ever denuded by the razor and jerked the ugl_rnament of his chin into the air. "There's a certain Miss Searle, the ol_an's sister."
  • "Well?" my gentleman quavered.
  • "Well, sir!—you talk of moving on. You might move on the damsel."
  • Mr. Searle frowned in silence and his companion gave him a tap on the stomach.
  • "Line those ribs a bit first!" He blushed crimson; his eyes filled with tears.
  • "You ARE a coarse brute," he said. The scene quite harrowed me, but I wa_revented from seeing it through by the reappearance of the landlord on behal_f number 12. He represented to me that I ought in justice to him to come an_ee how tidy they HAD made it. Half an hour afterwards I was rattling along i_ hansom toward Covent Garden, where I heard Madame Bosio in The Barber o_eville. On my return from the opera I went into the coffee-room; it ha_ccurred to me I might catch there another glimpse of Mr. Searle. I was no_isappointed. I found him seated before the fire with his head sunk on hi_reast: he slept, dreaming perhaps of Abijah Simmons. I watched him for som_oments. His closed eyes, in the dim lamplight, looked even more helpless an_esigned, and I seemed to see the fine grain of his nature in his unconsciou_ask. They say fortune comes while we sleep, and, standing there, I fel_eally tender enough—though otherwise most unqualified—to be poor Mr. Searle'_ortune. As I walked away I noted in one of the little prandial pews I hav_escribed the melancholy waiter, whose whiskered chin also reposed on th_ulge of his shirt- front. I lingered a moment beside the old inn-yard i_hich, upon a time, the coaches and post-chaises found space to turn an_isgorge. Above the dusky shaft of the enclosing galleries, where loungin_odgers and crumpled chambermaids and all the picturesque domesticity of _attling tavern must have leaned on their elbows for many a year, I made ou_he far-off lurid twinkle of the London constellations. At the foot of th_tairs, enshrined in the glittering niche of her well-appointed bar, th_andlady sat napping like some solemn idol amid votive brass and plate.
  • The next morning, not finding the subject of my benevolent curiosity in th_offee-room, I learned from the waiter that he had ordered breakfast in bed.
  • Into this asylum I was not yet prepared to pursue him. I spent the morning i_he streets, partly under pressure of business, but catching all kinds o_omantic impressions by the way. To the searching American eye there is n_int of association with which the great grimy face of London doesn't flush.
  • As the afternoon approached, however, I began to yearn for some site mor_racefully classic than what surrounded me, and, thinking over the excursion_ecommended to the ingenuous stranger, decided to take the train to Hampto_ourt. The day was the more propitious that it yielded just that di_ubaqueous light which sleeps so fondly upon the English landscape.
  • At the end of an hour I found myself wandering through the apartments of th_reat palace. They follow each other in infinite succession, with no grea_ariety of interest or aspect, but with persistent pomp and a fine specifi_ffect. They are exactly of their various times. You pass from painted an_anelled bedchambers and closets, anterooms, drawing-rooms, council-rooms, through king's suite, queen's suite, prince's suite, until you feel yoursel_ove through the appointed hours and stages of some rigid monarchical day. O_ne side are the old monumental upholsteries, the big cold tarnished beds an_anopies, with the circumference of disapparelled royalty symbolised by _ilded balustrade, and the great carved and yawning chimney-places wher_ukes-in-waiting may have warmed their weary heels; on the other, in dee_ecesses, rise the immense windows, the framed and draped embrasures where th_overeign whispered and favourites smiled, looking out on terraced gardens an_isty park. The brown walls are dimly illumined by innumerable portraits o_ourtiers and captains, more especially with various members of the Batavia_ntourage of William of Orange, the restorer of the palace; with good stor_oo of the lily-bosomed models of Lely and Kneller. The whole tone of thi_rocessional interior is singularly stale and sad. The tints of all thing_ave both faded and darkened—you taste the chill of the place as you walk fro_oom to room. It was still early in the day and in the season, and I flattere_yself that I was the only visitor. This complacency, however, dropped a_ight of a person standing motionless before a simpering countess of Sir Pete_ely's creation. On hearing my footstep this victim of an evaporated spel_urned his head and I recognised my fellow lodger of the Red Lion. I wa_pparently recognised as well; he looked as if he could scarce wait for me t_e kind to him, and in fact didn't wait. Seeing I had a catalogue he asked th_ame of the portrait. On my satisfying him he appealed, rather timidly, as t_y opinion of the lady.
  • "Well," said I, not quite timidly enough perhaps, "I confess she strikes me a_o great matter."
  • He remained silent and was evidently a little abashed. As we strolled away h_tole a sidelong glance of farewell at his leering shepherdess. To speak wit_im face to face was to feel keenly that he was no less interesting tha_nfirm. We talked of our inn, of London, of the palace; he uttered his min_reely, but seemed to struggle with a weight of depression. It was an hones_ind enough, with no great cultivation but with a certain natural love o_xcellent things. I foresaw that I should find him quite to the manner born—t_urs; full of glimpses and responses, of deserts and desolations. Hi_erceptions would be fine and his opinions pathetic; I should moreover tak_efuge from his sense of proportion in his sense of humour, and then refug_rom THAT, ah me!—in what? On my telling him that I was a fellow citizen h_topped short, deeply touched, and, silently passing his arm into my own, suffered me to lead him through the other apartments and down into th_ardens. A large gravelled platform stretches itself before the basement o_he palace, taking the afternoon sun. Parts of the great structure ar_eserved for private use and habitation, occupied by state- pensioners, reduced gentlewomen in receipt of the Queen's bounty and other deservin_ersons. Many of the apartments have their dependent gardens, and here an_here, between the verdure-coated walls, you catch a glimpse of these somewha_tuffy bowers. My companion and I measured more than once this long expanse, looking down on the floral figures of the rest of the affair and on th_toutly-woven tapestry of creeping plants that muffle the foundations of th_uge red pile. I thought of the various images of old-world gentility which, early and late, must have strolled in front of it and felt the protection an_ecurity of the place. We peeped through an antique grating into one of th_ossy cages and saw an old lady with a black mantilla on her head, a decante_f water in one hand and a crutch in the other, come forth, followed by thre_ittle dogs and a cat, to sprinkle a plant. She would probably have had a_pinion on the virtue of Queen Caroline. Feeling these things together made u_uickly, made us extraordinarily, intimate. My companion seemed to ache wit_is impression; he scowled, all gently, as if it gave him pain. I proposed a_ast that we should dine somewhere on the spot and take a late train to town.
  • We made our way out of the gardens into the adjoining village, where w_ntered an inn which I pronounced, very sincerely, exactly what we wanted. Mr.
  • Searle had approached our board as shyly as if it had been a cold bath; but, gradually warming to his work, he declared at the end of half an hour that fo_he first time in a month he enjoyed his victuals.
  • "I'm afraid you're rather out of health," I risked.
  • "Yes, sir—I'm an incurable."
  • The little village of Hampton Court stands clustered about the entrance o_ushey Park, and after we had dined we lounged along into the celebrate_venue of horse-chestnuts. There is a rare emotion, familiar to ever_ntelligent traveller, in which the mind seems to swallow the sum total of it_mpressions at a gulp. You take in the whole place, whatever it be. You fee_ngland, you feel Italy, and the sensation involves for the moment a kind o_hrill. I had known it from time to time in Italy and had opened my soul to i_s to the spirit of the Lord. Since my landing in England I had been waitin_or it to arrive. A bottle of tolerable Burgundy, at dinner, had perhap_nlocked to it the gates of sense; it arrived now with irresistible force.
  • Just the scene around me was the England of one's early reveries. Over agains_s, amid the ripeness of its gardens, the dark red residence, with its forma_acings and its vacant windows, seemed to make the past definite and massive; the little village, nestling between park and palace, around a patch of turf_ommon, with its taverns of figurative names, its ivy-towered church, it_ossy roofs, looked like the property of a feudal lord. It was in this dar_omposite light that I had read the British classics; it was this mild mois_ir that had blown from the pages of the poets; while I seemed to feel th_uried generations in the dense and elastic sod. And that I must hav_estified in some form or other to what I have called my thrill I gather, remembering it, from a remark of my companion's.
  • "You've the advantage over me in coming to all this with an educated eye. Yo_lready know what old things can be. I've never known it but by report. I'v_lways fancied I should like it. In a small way at home, of course, I did tr_o stand by my idea of it. I must be a conservative by nature. People at hom_sed to call me a cockney and a fribble. But it wasn't true," he went on; "i_t had been I should have made my way over here long ago: before—before—" H_aused, and his head dropped sadly on his breast.
  • The bottle of Burgundy had loosened his tongue; I had but to choose my tim_or learning his story. Something told me that I had gained his confidence an_hat, so far as attention and attitude might go, I was "in" fo_esponsibilities. But somehow I didn't dread them. "Before you lost you_ealth," I suggested.
  • "Before I lost my health," he answered. "And my property—the little I had. An_y ambition. And any power to take myself seriously."
  • "Come!" I cried. "You shall recover everything. This tonic English climat_ill wind you up in a month. And THEN see how you'll take yourself—and how _hall take you!"
  • "Oh," he gratefully smiled, "I may turn to dust in your hands! I should like,"
  • he presently pursued, "to be an old genteel pensioner, lodged over there i_he palace and spending my days in maundering about these vistas. I should g_very morning, at the hour when it gets the sun, into that long gallery wher_ll those pretty women of Lely's are hung—I know you despise them!— and strol_p and down and say something kind to them. Poor precious forsaken creatures!
  • So flattered and courted in their day, so neglected now! Offering up thei_houlders and ringlets and smiles to that musty deadly silence!"
  • I laid my hand on my friend's shoulder. "Oh sir, you're all right!"
  • Just at this moment there came cantering down the shallow glade of the avenu_ young girl on a fine black horse—one of those little budding gentlewomen, perfectly mounted and equipped, who form to alien eyes one of the pretties_ncidents of English scenery. She had distanced her servant and, as she cam_breast of us, turned slightly in her saddle and glanced back at him. In th_ovement she dropped the hunting-crop with which she was armed; whereupon sh_eined up and looked shyly at us and at the implement. "This is somethin_etter than a Lely," I said. Searle hastened forward, picked up the crop and, with a particular courtesy that became him, handed it back to the rider.
  • Fluttered and blushing she reached forward, took it with a quick sweet sound, and the next moment was bounding over the quiet turf. Searle stood watchin_er; the servant, as he passed us, touched his hat. When my friend turne_oward me again I saw that he too was blushing. "Oh sir, you're all right," _epeated.
  • At a short distance from where we had stopped was an old stone bench. We wen_nd sat down on it and, as the sun began to sink, watched the light mis_owder itself with gold. "We ought to be thinking of the train back to London, I suppose," I at last said.
  • "Oh hang the train!" sighed my companion.
  • "Willingly. There could be no better spot than this to feel the Englis_vening stand still." So we lingered, and the twilight hung about us, strangely clear in spite of the thickness of the air. As we sat there cam_nto view an apparition unmistakeable from afar as an immemorial vagrant—th_isowned, in his own rich way, of all the English ages. As he approached us h_lackened pace and finally halted, touching his cap. He was a man of middl_ge, clad in a greasy bonnet with false-looking ear-locks depending from it_ides. Round his neck was a grimy red scarf, tucked into his waistcoat; hi_oat and trousers had a remote affinity with those of a reduced hostler. I_ne hand he had a stick; on his arm he bore a tattered basket, with a handfu_f withered vegetables at the bottom. His face was pale haggard and degrade_eyond description—as base as a counterfeit coin, yet as modelled somehow as _ragic mask. He too, like everything else, had a history. From what height ha_e fallen, from what depth had he risen? He was the perfect symbol o_enerated constituted baseness; and I felt before him in presence of a grea_rtist or actor.
  • "For God's sake, gentlemen," he said in the raucous tone of weather-beate_overty, the tone of chronic sore-throat exacerbated by perpetual gin, "fo_od's sake, gentlemen, have pity on a poor fern-collector!"—turning up hi_tale daisies. "Food hasn't passed my lips, gentlemen, for the last thre_ays." We gaped at him and at each other, and to our imagination his appea_ad almost the force of a command. "I wonder if half-a- crown would help?" _rivately wailed. And our fasting botanist went limping away through the par_ith the grace of controlled stupefaction still further enriching his outline.
  • "I feel as if I had seen my Doppelganger" said Searle. "He reminds me o_yself. What am I but a mere figure in the landscape, a wandering minstrel o_icker of daisies?"
  • "What are you 'anyway,' my friend?" I thereupon took occasion to ask. "Who ar_ou? kindly tell me."
  • The colour rose again to his pale face and I feared I had offended him. H_oked a moment at the sod with the point of his umbrella before answering.
  • "Who am I?" he said at last. "My name is Clement Searle. I was born in Ne_ork, and that's the beginning and the end of me."
  • "Ah not the end!" I made bold to plead.
  • "Then it's because I HAVE no end—any more than an ill-written book. I jus_top anywhere; which means I'm a failure," the poor man all lucidly an_nreservedly pursued: "a failure, as hopeless and helpless, sir, as any tha_ver swallowed up the slender investments of the widow and the orphan. I don'_ay five cents on the dollar. What I might have been—once!—there's nothin_eft to show. I was rotten before I was ripe. To begin with, certainly, _asn't a fountain of wisdom. All the more reason for a definite channel—fo_aving a little character and purpose. But I hadn't even a little. I ha_othing but nice tastes, as they call them, and fine sympathies an_entiments. Take a turn through New York to-day and you'll find the tattere_emnants of these things dangling on every bush and fluttering in ever_reeze; the men to whom I lent money, the women to whom I made love, th_riends I trusted, the follies I invented, the poisonous fumes of pleasur_mid which nothing was worth a thought but the manhood they stifled! It was m_ault that I believed in pleasure here below. I believe in it still, but as _elieve in the immortality of the soul. The soul is immortal, certainly—i_ou've got one; but most people haven't. Pleasure would be right if it wer_leasure straight through; but it never is. My taste was to be the best in th_orld; well, perhaps it was. I had a little money; it went the way of m_ittle wit. Here in my pocket I have the scant dregs of it. I should tell yo_ was the biggest kind of ass. Just now that description would flatter me; i_ould assume there's something left of me. But the ghost of a donkey—what'_hat? I think," he went on with a charming turn and as if striking off hi_eal explanation, "I should have been all right in a world arranged o_ifferent lines. Before heaven, sir—whoever you are—I'm in practice s_bsurdly tender-hearted that I can afford to say it: I entered upon life _erfect gentleman. I had the love of old forms and pleasant rites, and I foun_hem nowhere—found a world all hard lines and harsh lights, without shade, without composition, as they say of pictures, without the lovely mystery o_olour. To furnish colour I melted down the very substance of my own soul. _ent about with my brush, touching up and toning down; a very prett_hiaroscuro you'll find in my track! Sitting here in this old park, in thi_ld country, I feel that I hover on the misty verge of what might have been! _hould have been born here and not there; here my makeshift distinctions woul_ave found things they'd have been true of. How it was I never got free i_ore than I can say. It might have cut the knot, but the knot was too tight. _as always out of health or in debt or somehow desperately dangling. Besides, I had a horror of the great black sickening sea. A year ago I was reminded o_he existence of an old claim to an English estate, which has danced befor_he eyes of my family, at odd moments, any time these eighty years. I confes_t's a bit of a muddle and a tangle, and am by no means sure that to this hou_'ve got the hang of it. You look as if you had a clear head: some other time, if you consent, we'll have a go at it, such as it is, together. Poverty wa_taring me in the face; I sat down and tried to commit the 'points' of ou_ase to memory, as I used to get nine-times-nine by heart as a boy. I dreame_f it for six months, half-expecting to wake up some fine morning and hea_hrough a latticed casement the cawing of an English rookery. A couple o_onths ago there came out to England on business of his own a man who once go_e out of a dreadful mess (not that I had hurt anyone but myself), a lega_ractitioner in our courts, a very rough diamond, but with a great deal o_LAIR, as they say in New York. It was with him yesterday you saw me dining.
  • He undertook, as he called it, to 'nose round' and see if anything could b_ade of our questionable but possible show. The matter had never seriousl_een taken up. A month later I got a letter from Simmons assuring me that i_eemed a very good show indeed and that he should be greatly surprised if _ere unable to do something. This was the greatest push I had ever got in m_ife; I took a deliberate step, for the first time; I sailed for England. I'v_een here three days: they've seemed three months. After keeping me waitin_or thirty-six hours my legal adviser makes his appearance last night an_tates to me, with his mouth full of mutton, that I haven't a leg to stand on, that my claim is moonshine, and that I must do penance and take a ticket fo_ix more days of purgatory with his presence thrown in. My friend, m_riend—shall I say I was disappointed? I'm already resigned. I didn't reall_elieve I had any case. I felt in my deeper consciousness that it was th_rowning illusion of a life of illusions. Well, it was a pretty one. Poo_egal adviser!—I forgive him with all my heart. But for him I shouldn't b_itting in this place, in this air, under these impressions. This is a world _ould have got on with beautifully. There's an immense charm in its havin_een kept for the last. After it nothing else would have been tolerable. _hall now have a month of it, I hope, which won't be long enough for it to "g_ack on me. There's one thing!"—and here, pausing, he laid his hand on mine; _ose and stood before him— "I wish it were possible you should be with me t_he end."
  • "I promise you to leave you only when you kick me downstairs." But I suggeste_y terms. "It must be on condition of your omitting from your conversatio_his intolerable flavour of mortality. I know nothing of 'ends.' I'm all fo_eginnings."
  • He kept on me his sad weak eyes. Then with a faint smile: "Don't cut down _an you find hanging. He has had a reason for it. I'm bankrupt."
  • "Oh health's money!" I said. "Get well, and the rest will take care of itself.
  • I'm interested in your questionable claim—it's the question that's the charm; and pretenders, to anything big enough, have always been, for me, a_ttractive class. Only their first duty's to be gallant."
  • "Their first duty's to understand their own points and to know their ow_ind," he returned with hopeless lucidity. "Don't ask me to climb our famil_ree now," he added; "I fear I haven't the head for it. I'll try some day—i_t will bear my weight; or yours added to mine. There's no doubt, however, that we, as they say, go back. But I know nothing of business. If I were t_ake the matter in hand I should break in two the poor little silken threa_rom which everything hangs. In a better world than this I think I should b_istened to. But the wind doesn't set to ideal justice. There's no doubt tha_ hundred years ago we suffered a palpable wrong. Yet we made no appeal at th_ime, and the dust of a century now lies heaped upon our silence. Let i_est!"
  • "What then," I asked, "is the estimated value of your interest?"
  • "We were instructed from the first to accept a compromise. Compared with th_hole property our ideas have been small. We were once advised in the sense o_ hundred and thirty thousand dollars. Why a hundred and thirty I'm sure _on't know. Don't beguile me into figures."
  • "Allow me one more question," I said. "Who's actually in possession?"
  • "A certain Mr. Richard Searle. I know nothing about him."
  • "He's in some way related to you?"
  • "Our great-grandfathers were half-brothers. What does that make us?"
  • "Twentieth cousins, say. And where does your twentieth cousin live?"
  • "At a place called Lackley—in Middleshire."
  • I thought it over. "Well, suppose we look up Lackley in Middleshire!"
  • He got straight up. "Go and see it?"
  • "Go and see it."
  • "Well," he said, "with you I'll go anywhere."
  • On our return to town we determined to spend three days there together an_hen proceed to our errand. We were as conscious one as the other of tha_eeper mystic appeal made by London to those superstitious pilgrims who fee_t the mother-city of their race, the distributing heart of their traditiona_ife. Certain characteristics of the dusky Babylon, certain aspects, phases, features, "say" more to the American spiritual ear than anything else i_urope. The influence of these things on Searle it charmed me to note. Hi_bservation I soon saw to be, as I pronounced it to him, searching an_aressing. His almost morbid appetite for any over-scoring of time, well-nig_xtinct from long inanition, threw the flush of its revival into his face an_is talk.