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HIR E L L.
JOHN RYMER CUNLIFF.
There are no dreamers like unimaginative people. With such persons dreams remain to the last pure dreams. They have no power to make the actual grow out of the ideal ; and Na ture, in a kind of divine foresight and pity, compensates them by keeping up this inner light; which, however feeble and discoloured, warms and cheers, even though there be no window in the sanctuary of the soul through which the rays may pass out to guide the benighted steps. Faithful to the last they dream, touchingly unconscious of the process. They could not tell anything, perhaps, if asked. But not the less do they dream, and dream on, of what will never be ; and thus assert their share in the profounder instincts of humanity. But they also toil on, along the roughest, the dryest, and the dustiest of roads; patient and enduring; and never think to complain that such things should be in their hearts if they may not rcalise them.
But there are men whose dreams, no matter how wide and glorious their scope, are ever monitions to duty; who see their thoughts return to them, as the messenger returned to Joshua, laden with tokens of the Promised Land, and who know they can go and take possession if they will. Not without heroic discipline of self, perhaps ; certainly not without great and protracted effort. But they can do it. They do not. Again they are tempted, and yet again. Every faculty cries out to them for leave to do its own proper work,
to grow strong, healthy, victorious. But the reluctant feet still cling to the familiar soil. The eyes, dazzled for a moment, turn away, and see all things more dubiously. The lips answer, “Yes, but not now.'
And Nature deals with these men, too-justly, not pityingly. They are the worst of traitors to her! And she so loved them! So poured upon them her choicest gifts! She leaves them to their fate. And they are, or try to believe themselves to be, happy; for they no longer dream those disturbing dreams.
She leaves them. Yes, as the sun leaves the tropical forest at eve, stifling in its own rankness, a prey to a thousand unclean things. And yet how beautiful many of them are ? One doesn't see them properly in the open, harsh, unsympathetic daylight. It hurts the eye, too, so much looking at
We see well enough here, after all. The soul, like the eye, soon accommodates itself to a soft, luxurious gloom. Who knows but it may shut out unpleasant objects, and bring nearer to us things we may like? Besides, we are modest, and prefer that some things should be veiled. Let us look around and enjoy while we can. Let us take the goods our toiling sires provide. What wealth we have ! What leisure ! What infinite opportunities for active gratification! What delicious couches for repose! And-yes, once more we can dream sweet dreams, from which it is a pain to awake.
The light streams from the little conservatory on his faceon John Cunliff's face, as it bends over his writing-desk in his luxurious bachelor apartments, overlooking one of the parks. The light, being that of the September noon-day, is strong, and shows the face more truthfully than flatteringly, thus :- A long face, with a colourless complexion, light hair, parted in the middle of the head, and falling rather long, as in the earliest Anglo-Saxon portraits ; not golden hair, or chestnut brown, but only pale, dead brown. A straight, long nose ; lips full, firm, well-shaped, flexible, expressive. A long chin, with a small, pointed beard. Surely there must be large and brilliant eyes to ennoble and glorify so seemingly commonplace a countenance ?
He looks up from his writing towards the flowers in the conservatory. The eyes are not even blue, nor dark, nor large. Grey, with green lights in them as they look towards the sun ; keen as an eagle's; bright, and, like the lips, expressive; a little darker and more tender in colour when bent again contemplatively on the writing, but not handsome eyes at any time, if studied only for themselves; and yet the face as a whole is good, original, and in some of its aspects has a certain massive and melancholy beauty, caused by no particular feature ;-unless, indeed, by the broad, smooth, finely-rounded brow—but due to the perfect harmony of all.
What is he doing ?
It is a question that apparently he would not care to have put to him even in look, for when the man-servant enters with coals, Mr. Cunliff slides his letter under the hollow of his desk-slope ; and appears to be busily engaged, with elbows propped on the desk, studying a large photograph from one of the Hampton Court cartoons that he has just purchased, and mounted straight before him beyond his desk, by the aid of a pile of books, at a suitable angle for examinations and towards which his eye had unconsciously turned at every pause in his letter-writing, as if with a true artistic love. When the servant has gone out he draws forth the letter. Then, after a pause, he rises, goes to the door, and locks it. Still dissatisfied, he unlocks it, rings the bell, and when the man comes, says
· Mind! I am at home to no one to-day.'
This time the door was not locked after the servant, and the work at the desk recommenced.
What is he doing ?
The human face is always one of the most attractive, but also one of the most perplexing, of problems. Lavater, no doubt, was right enough in his theory that the character is to be seen in the countenance. But then we need an angel to read it for us, and keep us from making the most dangerous mistakes. What, we might ask, could be clearer than the passions that express themselves in the looks and gestures of two men engaged in a deadly struggle ; deadly to life, or to reputation, or to one's dearest hopes ? Surely there, if any. where, we might hope to find the perfect outward manifestations of those inward forces which so jealously shun the light ?
Neither of the combatants forgets, for an instant, that the other's eye is upon him; and that consciousness modifies, perhaps even falsifies, all expression.
But there is a position in which the student of physiognomy may revel to his soul's content. It is that of a man who, believing himself free from observation, is writing a letter which stirs his nature to the depths, and which may affect his whole future. And such a letter, it is impossible to doubt, John Cunlife is now engaged on.
Can it be that he is in debt and serious danger? No. Men don't lock their doors, even for an instant, against a servant in order to answer a creditor. Nor do they spend half an hour over the turn of a single sentence in writing to him. Neither do they tear up sheet after sheet, and pause again and again, as if hopeless of self-satisfaction in style; and pace up and down the room with nervous irritable gestures, before sitting down once more to the apparently unconquerable task.
No, John Cunliff's difficulty is not one of debt. What then ?
Is he discovering that the beautiful fruit which was held to his lips when he entered the world eight years ago-independent in purse, radiant with youth, energy, enthusiasm, and the honours of a successful University career-this fruit of pleasure of which he has been eating ever since, with palate growing less keen, but habit growing more exacting, --is he discovering, at last, as he gets to a core, having exhausted bloom, rind, and pulp, that the essence of all is but a bitter ash? Is that his discovery? And is he sitting down in the first hours of remorse to unwind the toils that hold him fast; and beginning to tell the truth with all fit considerateness to others whose fate is involved with his own ? No. For even the most considerate of beings will, at such times of domestic revolution, think chiefly of themselves, and make short work of others' sacrifices while striving to complete their own.
But may not this still be his true position, only that there is an addition to be made ? Perhaps he intends to reward himself for his self-denial. Or rather he, perhaps prudently, won't over-estimate his own heroism; and intends, while turning from the Delilahs of life—the typical Delilahs only, let us say—to take to himself a beautiful and virtuous spouse, provided only she will consent? An
cxcellent resolve-but not in the least resembling John Cunliff's. Else why the lowering expression of that naturally frank face; the almost furtive glances towards the door of so fearless an eye; or the peculiar colouring of his cheeks, that hås partly driven off the ordinary pallor, and which seems to suggest, you hardly know how or why, the idea of a man engaged in a terrible struggle, that yet has nothing in it of the noble, or even of the self-respecting ? Never did a man sit down to write an honest and manly love-letter and bear the while an aspect like John Cunliff's.
He must have been insulted ; or, worse still, have himself given mortal offence, and he now offers or accepts a challenge. But the days of duelling are past; and men either summon or are summoned to the Divorce Court; accept or compel refuge with the pulice : cr arbitrate their rights and wrongs at Nisi Prins. They don't agree to fight. Besides, there breaks through the powerful restraint that one sees John Cunliff imposes on himself occasional glimpses of an extraordinary change of feeling. Chaos suddenly changes into creation. All his unpleasant thoughts seem to die, and pleasant ones to spring up into vivid and attractive life. And then he walks about the room with an elastic step ; glances at his favourite pictures on the walls, which always send him with new zest to his Raphael photographı; or he goes into the conservatory to see what new plants the florist has brought in the weekly exchange for those gone out of bloom ; but pauses unthinkingly, and yet full of thought, over a rose so long, that one gets the notion he has forgotten all anxieties, and is abandoning himself to some fascinating day-dream.
What, then, is he doing? Why, simply writing a short, and surely very innocent letter; if this be all :
'I hear you have half accepted Lady Sellon's invitation to go back with her into the country after her hasty visit to town; that she goes very early to-morrow morning; and that she thinks you will come to her this evening prepared to stay. If she does not see you this evening, she will conclude you refuse to go. I ventured to say you had expressed so much pleasure at the thought that I was sure you would accept. If so, may I not hope to see you later in her drawing-room, that I may explain how I have fulfilled the slight commission with which you honoured me? Or, as I must myself make a call