+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

but one big workshop? You never insist
that the daisy and the daffodil should be pot-
herbs; and why are there not to be wild flowers
in humanity as in the fields? Is it not a great
pride to you who live under a bell-glass,
nurtured and cared for, and with your name
attached to a cleft-stick at your side, is it
not a great pride to know that you are not like
one of us poor dog-roses? Be satisfied, then,
with that glory; we only ask to live! Shame
on me for that "only!" As if there could be
anything more delightful than life. Life, with
all its capacities for love, and friendship, and
heroism, and self-devotion, for generous actions
and noble aspirations! Life to feel life, to
know that we are in a sphere specially
constructed for the exercise of our senses and the
play of our faculties, free to choose the road
we would take, and with a glorious reward if
our choice be the right one!

" 'Vagabonds!' Yes," thought I, "there was
once on a time such a vagabond, and he strolled
along from village to village making of his flute
a livelihood; a poor performer, too, he tells us
he was, but he could touch the hearts of these
simple villagers with his tones as he could move
the hearts of thousands more learned than they
with his marvellous pathos, and this vagabond
was called Oliver Goldsmith." I have no words
to say the ecstasy this thought gave me. Many
a proud traveller doubtless swept past the poor
wayfarer as he went, dusty and footsore, and
who was, nevertheless, journeying onward to a
great immortality; to be a name remembered
with blessings by generations when the haughty
man that scorned him was forgotten for ever.
"And so now," thought I, "some splendid
Russian or some Saxon Croesus will crash by
and not be conscious that the thin and weary-
looking youth, with the girl's bundle on his
stick and the red umbrella under his arm, that
this is Potts! Ay, sir, you fancy that to be
threadbare and footsore is to be vulgar-minded
and ignoble, and you never so much as suspect
that the heart inside that poor plaid waistcoat
is throbbing with ambitions high as a Kaiser's,
and that the brain within that battered Jim
Crow is the realm of thoughts profound as
Bacon's and high-soaring as Milton's."

If I make my reader a sharer in these
musings of mine, it is because they occupied
me for some miles of the way. Vaterchen was
not talkative, and loved to smoke on
uninterruptedly. I fancy that, in his way, he was as
great a dreamer as myself. Catinka would
have talked incessantly if any one had listened,
or could understand her. As it was, she recited
legends and sang songs for herself, as happy as
ever a blackbird was to listen to his own
melody; and though I paid no especial attention
to her music, still did the sounds float
through all my thoughts, bathing them with a
soothing flood; just as the air we breathe is
often loaded with a sweet and perfumed breath,
that steals into our blood ere we know it. On
the whole, we journeyed along very pleasantly,
and what between the fresh morning air, the
brisk exercise, and the novelty of the situation,
I felt in a train of spirits that made me
delighted with everything. "This, after all,"
thought I, "is more like the original plan I
sketched out for myself. This is the true mode
to see life and the world. The student of
Nature never begins his studies with the more
complicated organisations; he sets out with
what is simplest in structure, and least intricate
in function; he begins with the extreme
link of the chain: so, too, I start with the
investigation of those whose lives of petty cares
and small ambitions must render them easy of
appreciation. This poor Mollusca Vaterchen, for
instanceto see is to know him; and the girl,
how absurd to connect such a guileless child of
nature as that with those stereotyped notions
of feminine craft and subtlety!" I then went
on to imagine some future biographer of mine
engaged on this portion of my life, puzzled for
materials, puzzled, still more, to catch the clue
to my meaning in it. "At this time," will he
say, "Potts, by one of those strange caprices
which often were the mainspring of his actions,
resolved to lead a gipsy life. His ardent love
of nature, his heartfelt enjoyment of scenery,
and, more than even these, a certain breadth
and generosity of character, disposed him to
sympathise with those who have few to pity and
fewer to succour them. With these wild
children of the roadside he lived for months,
joyfully sharing the burdens they carried, and
taking his part in their privations. It was here
he first met Catinka." I stopped at this
sentence, and slowly repeated to myself, '' 'It was
here he first met Catinka!' What will he have
next to record?" thought I. "Is Potts now
to claim sympathy as the victim of a passion
that regarded not station, nor class, nor fortune;
that despised the cold conventionalities of a
selfish world, and asked only a heart for a heart?
Is he to be remembered as the faithful believer
in his own theoryLove, above all? Are we to
hear of him clasping rapturously to his bosom
the poor forlorn girl?" So intensely were my
feelings engaged in my speculations, that, at
this critical pass, I threw my arms around
Catinka's neck, and kissed her. A rebuke, not
very cruel, not in the least angry or peevish,
brought me quickly to myself, and as Vaterchen
was fortunately in front and saw nothing of
what passed, I speedily made my peace. I do not
know how it happened, but in that same peace-
making I had passed my arm round her waist
and there it remainedan army of occupation
after the treaty was signedand we went along,
side by side, very amicablyvery happily.

We are often told that a small competence
the just enough to live onis the bane of all
enterprise; that men thus placed are removed
from the stimulus of necessity, and yet not
lifted into the higher atmosphere of ambitions.
Exactly in the same way do I believe that
equality is the grave of love. The passion
thrives on difficulty, and requires sacrifice. You
must bid defiance to mankind in your choice, or
you are a mere fortune-hunter. Show the world