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but I cannot help feeling that the black leather-covered box, crammed to the top with written expressions of himself,—the box which I have known so long, and which lies before me as I write,—is the most valuable because the most characteristic legacy he has left behind him. I am conscious how partial must be my estimate of these papers which seem the very essence of himself; and yet, as I read them again and again, I cannot help thinking that there may be some for whom these tracings of a vanished hand, and these utterances of a voice that is still, may not be wholly empty and vain.
The year 186— was drawing to a close when I first met with Paul Pelican. I had gone to reside in a small suburb of one of our great overgrown towns, a suburb which at that time was much more rural than urban; and in the course of a search for winter evening entertainment, I chanced to hit upon a little knot of men, young and old, who had formed themselves into a sort of literary society or club, which met weekly in the only available public building in the place--the schoolroom of a little dissenting chapel. I have seen and belonged to many associations professedly of the same order, but they have all seemed wearisome and vexatious when compared with that little coterie at Brookfield. It did not boast of many men of high powers, but there was a certain freshness about the atmosphere which was wonderfully stimulating. From the High Church dissenting
minister, who wrote an eloquent essay on the necessity for appealing to the senses in religious worship, down to the thriving young iron-founder, who held all sorts of revolutionary heresies concerning the rights of property, and the parish schoolmaster, who had a crazy aversion to poetry, fiction, and all imaginative literature, there was scarcely one of its members who was not in some way noteworthy. In many cases, of course, this noteworthiness consisted only in some exceptional development of stupidity. But at Brookfield even stupidity was made amusing ; and if any meeting passed without the utterance of any profound thought, we were never left without the memory of more than one wholesome laugh.
I have not forgotten, nor am I likely to forget, my first evening among the little community which considered itself-perhaps not without some show of reason—the representative of the culture of the neighbourhood. There was a hot discussion on one of those well-worn subjects which seem to have been by universal consent handed over to such societies to be property of them and their heirs for ever ; but the triteness of the theme, so far from daunting the orators, seemed to incite them to make the most of it and of themselves.
It was a characteristic occasion, and as I listened I felt I could not have chosen a better evening for a visit. The debate was opened by the oratorical member who, in the approved fashion, quoted a great deal of poetry, and worked himself up to a wonderful pitch of excitement in
impassioned climaxes, informing us in thrilling accents that he paused for a reply. He was followed by the practical and sensible member, who sneered ferociously at the poetry, pulled the climaxes to pieces, and inmany ways intimated that the pause of which we had heard need not be of long duration. Then we had the inevitable silly member who—as the manner of such men is-ingeniously misunderstood everything that had been said, and laboriously answered all the arguments that had not been advanced. The philosophical member then announced his intention of taking us back to first principles; but he, unfortunately, met with a metaphysical fog on the way, and was soon lost to sight. This was the description of his performance given by the speaker who succeeded him, a young man who looked about twenty-two years of age, and who had been sitting near me, apparently concentrating all his attention on some caricature with which he was illustrating a page in his note-book. He was tall and very slender, with a thin face, thoughtful and observant, not without certain indications of humour (active or passive, I could not tell which) lurking about the lines of his mouth. His straight light hair was worn somewhat longer than was usual, but there was nothing very striking in his appearance except his look of extreme delicacy, which perhaps heightened the effect of the one noticeable feature in his face, a pair of large dark-gray eyes, of great beauty, having a curious sympathetic expression,
which I do not think I noticed until some time afterwards. Indeed I am sure I did not, for I remember I was first struck by his voice, the tones of which affected me in a manner I have never been able fully to account for. He had not been speaking for more than two minutes when all at once there darted into my mind the conviction that here was one of whom I could make a friend, and with whom I should before very long enter into intimate personal relations. I am not a fanciful person, and I never had such a presentiment before or since; but I think the explanation may be found in the fact that there are persons whose voices are in every tone the full expression of their nature, and therefore the moment they speak you feel what they are though you cannot know it.
The speech was not remarkable, though I remember I thought it interesting; for it gave one the impression of an enthusiastic fearless nature, fond of the sledgehammer style of hitting; having no respect of persons ; hating intolerance, yet not without a quaint and humorous intolerance of its own-laughable rather than grievous to most sensible people; full of mental vitality; impatient of many things, especially of superficial or conventional speech; yet with hearty beliefs and the reverence which necessarily comes of such, and more than counteracts surface scepticisms and rebellions. When the speaker sat down I asked the friend by whom I had been taken to the meeting who he was, and in his whispered reply I heard for the first time the name of Paul Pelican.
The meeting was soon over, and being introduced to each other we soon discovered that we were neighbours. We walked from the schoolroom together, and were in the middle of an animated talk when we reached the garden gate of my domicile. We both seemed inclined to prolong the chat, and Pelican was easily persuaded to come in and take a share of my bread and cheese and beer. These luxuries being despatched, we drew our chairs round to the fire, and lighted fragrant fires of our own, Pelican having—as a sort of preliminary exercisebegged leave to inspect my two or three book-shelves.
"I always like looking at a library,” said he with amusing frankness, “partly because it is a pleasant sight in itself, and partly because it is such a capital indication of character. Judging a man by his friends seems to me absurd, for our friends are often thrown at us by circumstances, so all we can do is to make the best of themand a very poor best it often is. But a man chooses his own books, and if anything about him is characteristic his library ought to be so."
This sounded alarming, but it was no use exclaiming against the application of the test. The examination began, and Pelican fired off a regular fusilade of comments as his eyes travelled over the titles.
“The Soul,' by Francis William Newman; “The Eclipse of Faith ;' rather curious to see them both on