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A DAY'S RIDE: A LIFE'S ROMANCE.

CHAPTER XX.

As between the man who achieves greatness
and him who has greatness thrust upon him
there lies a whole world of space, so is there
an immense interval between one who is the
object of his own delusions and him who forms
the subject of delusion to others.

My reader may have already noticed that
nothing was easier for me than to lend myself to
the idle current of my fancy. Most men who
build " castles in Spain," as the old adage calls
them, do so purely to astonish their friends. I
indulged in these architectural extravagances
in a very different spirit. I built my castle to
live in it; from foundation to roof-tree, I
planned every detail of it to suit my own taste,
and all my study was to make it as habitable
and comfortable as I could. Ay, and what's
more, live in it I did, though very often the
tenure was a brief one; sometimes while breaking
my egg at breakfast, sometimes as I drew
on my gloves to walk out, and yet no terror of
a short lease ever deterred me from finishing
the edifice in the most expensive manner. I
gilded my architraves and frescoed my ceilings
as though all were to endure for centuries;
and laid out the gardens and disposed the
parterres as though I were to walk in them in my
extreme old age. This faculty of lending myself
to an illusion by no means adhered to me where
the deception was supplied by another; from
the moment I entered one of their castles, I
felt myself in a strange house. I continually
forgot where the stairs were, what this gallery
opened on, where that corridor led to. No use
was it to say, " You are at home here. You are
at your own fireside." I knew and I felt that I
was not.

By this declaration, I mean my reader to
understand that, while ready for any exigency of
a story devised by myself, I was perfectly
miserable at playing a part written for me by a
friend; nor was this feeling diminished by the
thought that I really did not know the person I
was believed to represent; nor had I the very
vaguest clue to his antecedents or belongings.

As I set out in search of Miss Herbert, these
were the reflections I revolved, occasionally asking
myself, " Is the old lady at all touched in
the upper story? Is there not something Private
Asylum-ish in these wanderings?" But still,
apart from this special instance, she was a
marvel of acuteness and good sense. I found
Miss Herbert in a little arbour at her work;
the newspaper on the bench beside her.

"So," said she, without looking up, " you
have been making a long visit up-stairs. You
found Mrs. Keats very agreeable, or you were
so yourself."

"Is there anything wrong hereabouts?" said
I, touching my forehead with my finger.

"Nothing whatever."

"No fancies, no delusions about certain
people?"

"None whatever."

"None of the family suspected of anything
odd, or eccentric?"

"Not that I have ever heard of. Why do
you ask?"

"Well, it was a mere fancy, perhaps, on my
part; but her manner to-day struck me as
occasionally strangealmost flighty."

"And on what subject?"

"I am scarcely at liberty to say that; in fact,
I am not at all free to divulge it," said I, mysteriously,
and somewhat gratified to remark that
I had excited a most intense curiosity on her
part to learn the subject of our interview.

"Oh, pray do not make any imprudent
revelations to me," said she, pettishly; "which,
apart from the indiscretion, would have the
singular demerit of affording me not the slightest
pleasure. I am not afflicted with the malady of
curiosity."

"What a blessing to you! Now, I am the
most inquisitive of mankind. I feel that if I
were a clerk in a bank, I'd spend the day prying
into every one's account, and learning the exact
state of his balance-sheet. If I were employed
in the post-office, no terror of the law could
restrain me from reading the letters. Tell me
that any one has a secret in his heart, and I feel
I could cut him open to get at it!"

"I don't think you are giving a flattering
picture of yourself in all this," said she,
peevishly.

"I am aware of that, Miss Herbert; but I
am also one of those who do not trade upon
qualities they have no pretension to."

She flushed a deep crimson at this, and after
a moment said:

"Has it not occurred to you, sir, that people
who seldom meet except to exchange ungracious

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