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Very few of the patients where what could be called ordinary people. Those whose “partickler wanity," as Mr. Weller would say, was not theological, had some other distinctive characteristic, either of opinion, manner, or costume. One gentleman, while disavowing Mormonism and professing the most rigid orthodoxy, believed that a sort of christian polygamy would prove a panacea for all social and domestic evils ; a little man with a preternaturally white face, often startled strangers by suddenly fixing his eyes, opening his mouth, staring into vacancy as if he were seeing a vision, and celebrating his return to consciousness by some remark as appropriate to the occasion as the statement of Mr. F.'s aunt concerning the milestones on the Dover road; a maiden lady, who was getting into the sere and yellow leaf, used to astonish the natives of the neighbourhood by appearing in the lanes at twilight, robed entirely in most ghostly white ; while a middle-aged 'married couple occupied all their spare time in publicly exchanging little conjugal tendernesses, - with an apparent and most embarrassing unconsciousness of the presence of unsympathetic spectators.
Many of the visitors (I will not say patients again, the word is so suggestive of hospitals, fever-wards, cancers, and operations) had pet subjects of conversation upon which they enlarged whenever an opportunity presented itself, and very often when it didn't. There
a Mr. Grigley, who had a craze concerning the iniquities of the Church of England, and also a number of very choice and astounding—not to say improbable-anecdotes of the misdeeds of clergymen. He related them with great glee; indeed the intense joyousness which overspread his countenance when he told us of the intoxicated rector who fell into a grave while reading the burial service, I have never seen surpassed. To bring us all into a proper state of mind with regard to what he called the absurd fiction of the rotundity of the earth-or sometimes, by an happy slip, “the rotundity of the GLOBE"—was the mission of a Mr. Tinkerton, a gentleman who, like Mrs. Winifred Pryce in the Ingoldsby Legend,
was not over young,
and who, whenever he was the presiding genius of the hour, which was far too often for our peace, reduced us to a state of bewilderment bordering upon the imbecility which he attributed to Copernicus, Sir Isaac Newton, and the members of the Royal Society. As a sort of last straw on the camel's back, we had a man who was even more persistent and less edifying than Mr. Tinkerton,—the Reverend Silas Cram, who had just returned from a missionary expedition to India with impaired health but unimpaired eloquence, and who bored us to such an extent that the very words caste, brahmin, and bungalow have been abominations to me from that day to this.
Among this heterogeneous party there was of course considerable amusement to be found at times; but on the whole it resembled those German bands in whose music noise and harmony exist in such painfully unequal proportions. I separated myself as much as possible from the “senior wranglers,” the name Stainton had given to the contending sectaries, and attached myself to him and to one or two even more congenial souls who came and made the moral atmosphere cooler and sweeter.
As outside the house the spring grew apace, these new comers made a new spring within. The life at last became not only bearable but pleasant, and would have been delightful but for the watery horrors. When the strife of tongues grew very loud, it only drove me out to have an hour with Nature, who will, if she can find a listener, talk unceasingly, but never wrangle. Many of my aqueous assbciates seemed to“ regard me as an enemy; but even at Avondale I found a few people whom to this day I can call friends. Last, not least to me, I found myself gaining strength with almost every hour; and I do not think it, extravagant to say that good health, good spirits, and good friends, are not dearly purchased even by running the gauntlet of society under water.
RESCUED the sketch given in the foregoing
chapter from a bundle of papers to which Pelican was about to impart additional brilliancy by pushing them into the centre of a glowing fire. He was ashamed of his pen-and-ink picture of hydropathic society, true as it was, with just as much truth as can be infused into a satire, or any account of persons or things having a decided satirical bent. He called it flippant nonsense ; and there is undoubtedly a certain flippant vein running through it which prevents it from being fully characteristic; for all Pelican's flippancy was a surface deposit, a fungus called into life by unwholesome atmospheric influences : not a growth from the centre, a product of the soil. Still I preserve it and print it here, partly as a relief to graver matters, but mainly because it exhibits with considerable definiteness one characteristic which was really central,-his hatred of, and contempt for, the dogmatic assertiveness which is dissociated from loving enthusiasm. "I will listen to any man's dogmatism,” he would say, “and love him for it, if he is trying with all his heart to make me right; but I will not listen with anything but loathing if he is only trying with all his skill to show that I am wrong.”
The whole sketch is evidently intentionally one-sided, and perhaps, with a view to vividness, the angles of character are drawn with some of the sharpness of caricature; but from what I heard of the sayings and doings at Avondale, I am inclined to think that the personages in the picture are taken from life. All such institutions are social republics where individuality has its full fling and every man is a law to himself. The one advantage of this unrestrained outcome of personal idiosyncrasies is that people become really known to each other much more rapidly than they can under ordinary social conditions ; the law of like to like operates unchecked; and a friendship, born in an hour, grows to full stature in a week. Pelican's letters, from which the following paragraphs are taken, give a much pleasanter, and really more truthful account of what he met with in the inner world of Avondale and what he brought away with him as a permanent possession.
Cave of the Water Demons. April, 186This week has been wet, and having been unable to get out of doors, I have been compelled to go back to my reading, and have made one noteworthy discovery; for I now find that I never knew before how much delight may be got out of a book. When I come home I shall advise all my friends to do voluntarily what I have been compelled to do of necessity—to give up