[Table of Contents]
[all the stuff is taken from Bibliomania]

WILHELM VON SCHMITZ

CHAPTER ONE

`'TWAS EVER THUS'
                                         (Old Play)

THE sultry glare of noon was already giving place to the cool of a cloudless evening, and the lulled ocean was washing against the Pier with a low murmur, suggestive to poetical minds of the kindred ideas of motion and lotion, when two travelers might have been seen, by such as chose to look that way, approaching the secluded town of Whitby by one of those headlong paths, dignified by the name of road, which serve as entrances into the place, and which were originally constructed, it is supposed, on the somewhat fantastic model of pipes running into a water-butt. The elder of the two was a sallow and careworn man; his features were adorned with what had been often at a distance mistaken for a moustache, and were shaded by a beaver hat, of doubtful age, and of appearance which, if not respectable, was at least venerable. The younger, in whom the sagacious reader already recognizes the hero of my tale, possessed a form which, once seen, could scarcely be forgotten: a slight tendency to obesity proved but a trifling drawback to the manly grace of its contour, and though the strict laws of beauty might perhaps have required a somewhat longer pair of legs to make up the proportion of his figure, and that his eyes should match rather more exactly than they chanced to do, yet to those critics who are untrammeled with any laws of taste, and there are many such, to those who could close their eyes to the faults in his shape, and single out its beauties, though few were ever found capable of the task, to those above all who knew and esteemed his personal character, and believed that the powers of his mind transcended those of the age he lived in, though alas! none such has as yet turned up -- to those he was a very Apollo.

What thought it had not been wholly false to assert that too much grease had been applied to his hair, and too little soap to his hands? that his nose turned too much up, and his shirt collars too much down? that his whiskers had borrowed all the colour from his cheeks, excepting a little that had run down into his waistcoat? Such trivial criticisms were unworthy the notice of any who laid claim to the envied title of the connoisseur.

He had been christened William, and his father's name was Smith, but though he had introduced himself to many of the higher circles in London under the imposing name of `Mr. Smith, of Yorkshire', he had unfortunately not attracted so large a share of public notice as he was confident he merited: some had asked him how far back he traced his ancestry; others had been mean enough to hint that his position in society was not entirely unique; while the sarcastic enquiries of others touching the dormant peerage in his family, to which, it was suggested, he was about to lay claim, had awakened in the breast of the noble-spirited youth an ardent longing for that high birth and connection which an adverse Fortune had denied him.

Hence he had conceived the notion of that fiction, which perhaps in his case must be considered merely as a poetical licence, whereby he passed himself off upon the world under the sounding appellation which heads this tale. This step had already occasioned a large increase in his popularity, a circumstance which his friends spoke of under the unpoetical simile of a bad sovereign fresh gilt, but which he himself more pleasantly described as, `. . . a violet pale, At length discovered in its mossy dale, And borne to sit with kings': a destiny for which, as it is generally believed, violets are not naturally fitted.

The travelers, each buried in his own thoughts, paced in silence down the steep, save when an unusually sharp stone, or an unexpected dip in the road, produced one of those involuntary exclamations of pain, which so triumphantly demonstrate the connection between Mind and Matter. At length the young traveler, rousing himself with an effort from his painful reverie, broke upon the meditations of his companion with an unexpected question, `Think you she will be much altered in feature? I trust me not.' `Think who?' testily rejoined the other: then hastily correcting himself, with an exquisite sense of grammar, he substituted the expressive phrase, `Who's the she you're after?' `Forget you then,' asked the young man, who was so intensely poetical in soul that he never spoke in ordinary prose, `forget you the subject we conversed on but now? Trust me, she hath dwelt in my thoughts ever since.' `But now!' his friend repeated, in sarcastic tone, `it is an hour good since you spoke last.' The young man nodded assent; `An hour? true, true. We were passing Lyth, as I bethink me, and lowly in thine ear was I murmuring that touching sonnet to the sea I writ of late, beginning, "Thou roaring, snoring, heaving, grieving main which --"' `For pity's sake!' interrupted the other, and there was real earnestness in that pleading tone, `don't let us have it all again! I have heard it with patience once already.'

`Thou hast, thou hast,' the baffled poet replied: `well then, she shall again be the topic of my thoughts,' and he frowned and bit his lip, muttering to himself such words as cooky, hooky, and crooky, as if he were trying to find a rhyme to something. And now the pair were passing near a bridge, and shops were on their left and water on their right; and from beneath uprose a confused hubbub of sailors' voices, and, wafted on the landward breeze, came an aroma, dimly suggestive of salt herring, and all things from the heaving waters in the harbour to the light smoke that floated gracefully above the housetops, suggested nought but poetry to the mind of the gifted youth.

CHAPTER TWO

`AND I, FOR ONE'
                                 (Old Play)

BUT about she,' resumed the man of prose, `what's her name? You never told me that yet.' A faint flush crossed the interesting features of the youth; could it be that her name was unpoetical, and did not consort with his ideas of the harmony of nature? He spoke reluctantly and indistinctly; `Her name,' he faintly gasped, `is Sukie.'

A long, low whistle was the only reply; thrusting his hands deep in his pockets, the elder speaker turned away, while the unhappy youth, whose delicate nerves were cruelly shaken by his friend's ridicule, grasped the railing near to him to steady his tottering feet. Distant sounds of melody from the cliff at this moment reached their ears, and while his unfeeling comrade wandered in the direction of the music, the distressed poet hastily sought the Bridge, to give his pent-up feelings vent, unnoticed by the passers-by.

The Sun was setting as he reached the spot, and the still surface of the waters below, as he crossed on to the Bridge, calmed his perturbed spirit, and sadly leaning his elbows on the rail, he pondered. What visions filled that noble soul, as, with features that would have beamed with intelligence, had they only possessed an expression at all, and a frown that only needed dignity to be appalling, he fixed upon the sluggish tide those fine though bloodshot eyes?

Visions of his early days; scenes from the happy time of pinafores, treacle, and innocence; through the long vista of the past came floating spectres of long-forgotten spelling-books, slates scrawled thick with dreary sums, that seldom came out at all, and never came out right; tingling and somewhat painful sensations returned to his knuckles and the roots of his hair; he was a boy once more.

`Now, young man there!' so broke a voice upon the air, `tak whether o' the two roads thou likes, but thou ca'n't stop in't middle!' The words fell idly on his ears, or served but to suggest new trains of reverie; `Roads, aye, roads,' he whispered low, and then louder, as the glorious idea burst upon him, `Aye, and am I not the Colossus of Rhodes?' he raised his manly form erect at the thought, and planted his feet with a firmer stride.

. . . Was it but a delusion of his heated brain? or stern reality? slowly, slowly yawned the bridge beneath him, and now his footing is already grown unsteady, and now the dignity of his attitude is gone: he recks not, come what may; is he not a Colossus?

. . . The stride of a Colossus is possibly equal to any emergency; the elasticity of fustian is limited; it was at this critical juncture that `the force of nature could no further go', and therefore deserted him, while the force of gravity began to operate in its stead.

In other words, he fell.

And the `Hilda' went slowly on its way, and knew not that it passed a poet under the Bridge, and guessed not whose were those two feet, that disappeared through the eddying waters, kicking with spasmodic energy; and men pulled into a boat a dripping, panting form, that resembled a drowned rat rather than a Poet; and spoke to it without awe, and even said, `young feller', and something about `greenhorn', and laughed; what knew they of Poetry?

Turn we to other scenes: a long, low room, with high-backed settees, and a sanded floor: a knot of men drinking and gossiping: a general prevalence of tobacco; a powerful conviction that spirits existed somewhere: and she, the fair Sukie herself, gliding airily through the scene, and bearing in those lily hands -- what? Some garland doubtless, wreathed of the most fragrant flowers that grow? Some cherished volume, morocco-bound and golden-clasped, the works immortal of the bard of eld, whereon she loveth oft to ponder? Possibly, `The Poems of William Smith', that idol of her affections, in two volumes quarto, published some years agone, whereof one copy only has as yet been sold, and that he bought himself -- to give to Sukie. Which of these is it that the beauteous maiden carries with such tender care? Alas none: it is those two `goes of arf-an-arf, warm without', which have just been ordered by the guests in the tap-room.

In a small parlour hard by, unknown, untended, though his Sukie was so near, wet, moody, and dishevelled, sat the youth: the fire had been kindled at his desire, and before it he was now drying himself, but as `the cherry blaze, Blithe harbinger of wintry days', to use his own powerful description, consisted at present of a feeble, spluttering faggot, whose only effect was to half-choke him with its smoke, he may be pardoned for not feeling, more keenly than he does, that `. . . fire of Soul, When gazing on the kindling coal, A Briton feels that, spite of fone, He wots his native hearth his own!' we again employ his own thrilling words on the subject.

The waiter, unconscious that a Poet sat before him, was talking confidingly; he dwelt on various themes, and still the youth sat heedless, but when at last he spoke of Sukie, those dull eyes flashed with fire, and cast upon the speaker a wild glance of scornful defiance, that was unfortunately wasted, as its object was stirring the fire at the moment and failed to notice it. `Say, oh say those words again!' he gasped. `I surely heard thee not aright!' The waiter looked astonished, but obligingly repeated his remark, `I were merely a saying, sir, that she's an uncommon clever girl, and as how I were' oping some day to hacquire her Hart, if so be that --' He said no more, for the Poet with a groan of anguish, had rushed distractedly from the room.

CHAPTER THREE

`NAY, 'TIS TOO MUCH!'
                                             (Old Play)

NIGHT, solemn night.

On the present occasion the solemnity of night's approach was rendered far more striking than it is to dwellers in ordinary towns, by that time-honoured custom observed by the people of Whitby, of leaving their streets wholly unlighted: in thus making a stand against the deplorably swift advance of the tide of progress and civilization, they displayed no small share of moral courage and independent judgment. Was it for a people of sense to adopt every new-fangled invention of the age, merely because their neighbours did? It might have been urged, in disparagement of their conduct, that they only injured themselves by it, and the remark would have been undeniably true; but it would only have served to exalt, in the eyes of an admiring nation, their well-earned character of heroic self-denial and uncompromising fixity of purpose.

Headlong and desperate, the lovelorn Poet plunged through the night; now tumbling up against a doorstep, and now half down in a gutter, but ever onward, onward, reckless where he went.

In the darkest spot of one of those dark streets (the nearest lighted shop window being about fifty yards off), chance threw into his way the very man he fled from, the man whom he hated as a successful rival, and who had driven him to this pitch of frenzy. The waiter, not knowing what was the matter, had followed him to see that he came to no harm, and to bring him back, little dreaming of the shock that awaited him.

The instant the Poet perceived who it was, all his pent-up fury broke forth: to rush upon him, to grasp him by the throat with both hands, to dash him to the ground, and there to reduce him to the extreme verge of suffocation -- all this was the work of a moment.

`Traitor! villain! malcontent! regicide!' he hissed through his closed teeth, taking any abusive epithet that came into his head, without stopping to consider its suitability. `Is it thou? Now shalt thou feel my wrath!' And doubtless the waiter did experience that singular sensation, whatever it may have been, for he struggled violently with his assailant, and bellowed `murder' the instant he recovered his breath.

`Say not so,' the Poet sternly answered, as he released him; `it is thou that murderest me.' The waiter gathered himself up, and began in great surprise, `Why, I never --' `'Tis a lie!' the Poet screamed; `she loves thee not! Me, me alone.' `Who ever said she did?' the other asked, beginning to perceive how matters stood. `Thou! thou saidst it,' was the wild reply, `what, villain? acquire her heart? thou never shalt.'

The waiter calmly explained himself: `My' ope were, Sir, to hacquire her Hart of waiting at table, which she do perdigious well, sure-ly: seeing that I were thinking of happlying for to be 'eadwaiter at the 'otel.' The Poet's wrath instantly abated, indeed, he looked rather crestfallen than otherwise; `Excuse my violence,' he gently said, `and let us take a friendly glass together.' `I agree,' was the waiter's generous answer, `but man halive, you've ruinated my coat!'

`Courage,' cried our hero gaily, `thou shalt have a new one anon: aye, and of the best cashmere.' `H'm,' said the other, hesitatingly, `wouldn't hany other stuff --' `I will not buy thee one of any other stuff,' returned the Poet, gently but decidedly, and the waiter gave up the point.

Arrived once more at the friendly tavern, the Poet briskly ordered a jorum of Punch, and, on its being furnished, called on his friend for a toast. `I'll give you,' said the waiter, who was of a sentimental turn, however little he looked like it, `I'll give you -- Woman! She doubles our sorrows and 'alves our joy.' The Poet drained his glass, not caring to correct his companion's mistake, and at intervals during the evening the same inspiring sentiment was repeated. And so the night wore away, and another jorum of Punch was ordered, and another.

*             *             *             *             *

`And now hallow me,' said the waiter, attempting for about the tenth time to rise on his feet and make a speech, and failing even more signally than he had yet done, `to give a toast for this 'appy hoccasion. Woman! she doubles --' but at this moment, probably in illustration of his favourite theory, he `doubled' himself up, and so effectually, that he instantly vanished under the table.

Occupying that limited sphere of observation, it is conjectured that he fell to moralizing on human ills in general, and their remedies, for a solemn voice was presently heard to issue from his retreat, proclaiming feelingly though rather indistinctly, that `when the 'art of man is hopressed with care --' here came a pause, as if he wished to leave the question open to discussion, but as no one present seemed competent to suggest the proper course to be taken in that melancholy contingency, he attempted to supply the deficiency himself with the remarkable statement `she's hall my fancy painted 'er.'

Meanwhile the Poet was sitting, smiling quietly to himself, as he sipped his punch: the only notice he took of his companion's abrupt disappearance was to help himself to a fresh glass, and say, `your health!' in a cordial tone, nodding to where the waiter ought to have been. He then cried, `hear, hear!' encouragingly, and made an attempt to thump the table with his fist, but missed it. He seemed interested in the question regarding the heart oppressed with care, and winked sagaciously with one eye two or three times, as if there were a good deal he could say on that subject, if he close; but the second quotation roused him to speech, and he at once broke into the waiter's subterranean soliloquy with an ecstatic fragment from the poem he had been just composing:

`What though the world be cross and crooky?
Of Life's fair flowers the fairest bouquet
I plucked, when I chose thee, my Sukie!

`Say, could'st thou grasp at nothing greater
Than to be wedded to a waiter?
And did'st thou deem thy Schmitz a traitor?

`Nay! the fond waiter, was rejected,
And thou, alone, with flower-bedecked head,
Sitting, did'st sing of one expected.

`And while the waiter, crazed and silly,
Dreamed he had won that precious lily,
At length he came, thy wished-for Willie.

`And then thy music took a new key,
For whether Schmitz be boor or duke, he
Is all in all to faithful Sukie!'

He paused for a reply, but a heavy snoring from beneath the table was the only one he got.

CHAPTER FOUR

`IS THIS THE HEND?'
                                     (Nicholas Nickleby)

BATHED in the radiance of the newly-risen Sun, the billows are surging and bristling below the Cliff, along which the Poet is thoughtfully wending his way. It may possibly surprise the reader that he should not ere this have obtained an interview with his beloved Sukie: he may ask the reason: he will ask in vain: to record with rigid accuracy the progress of events is the sole duty of the historian: were he to go beyond that, and attempt to dive into the hidden causes of things, the why and the wherefore, he would be trespassing on the province of the metaphysician.

Presently the Poet reached a small rising ground at the end of the gravel walk, where he found a seat commanding a view of the sea, and here he sunk down wearily.

For a while he gazed dreamily upon the expanse of ocean, then, struck by a sudden thought, he opened a small pocket book, and proceeded to correct and complete his last poem. Slowly to himself he muttered the words `death -- saith -- breath', impatiently tapping the ground with his foot. `Ah, that'll do,' he said at last, with an air of relief, `breath':

`His barque had perished in the storm,
   Whirled by its fiery breath
On sunken rocks, his stalwart form
   Was doomed to watery death.'

`That last line's good,' he continued exaltingly, `and on Coleridge's principle of alliteration, too -- W. D., W. D. -- was doomed to watery death.'

`Take care,' growled a deep voice in his ear, `what you say will be used in evidence against you -- now it's no use trying that, we've got you tight,' this last remark being caused by the struggles of the Poet, naturally indignant at being unexpectedly collared by two men from behind.

`He's confessed to it, constable? you heard him?' said the first speaker (who rejoiced in the euphonious title of Muggle, and whom it is almost superfluous to introduce to the reader as the elder traveler of Chapter One!) `it's as much as his life is worth.'

`I say, stow that --' warmly responded the other; `seems to me the gen'leman was a spouting potry.'

`What -- what's the matter?' here gasped our unfortunate hero, who had recovered his breath; `you -- Muggle -- what do you mean by it?'

`Mean by it!' blustered his quondam friend, `what do you mean by it, if it comes to that? You're an assassin, that's what you are! Where's the waiter you had with you last night? answer me that!'

`The -- the waiter?' slowly repeated the Poet, still stunned by the suddenness of his capture, `why, he's dr --'

`I knew it!' cried his friend, who was at him in a moment, and choked up the unfinished word in his throat, `drowned, Constable! I told you so -- and who did it?' he continued, loosing his grip a moment to obtain an answer.

The Poet's answer, so far as it could be gathered (for it came out in a very fragmentary state, and as it were by crumbs, in intervals of choking), was the following: `It was my -- my -- you'll kill me -- fault -- I say, fault -- I -- I -- gave him -- you -- you're suffoca -- I say -- I gave him --' `a push I suppose,' concluded the other, who here `shut off' the slender supply of breath he had hitherto allowed his victim `and he fell in: no doubt. I heard some one had fallen off the Bridge last night,' turning to the Constable;`no doubt this unfortunate waiter. Now mark my words! from this moment I renounce this man as my friend: don't pity him, constable! don't think of letting him go to spare my feelings!'

Some convulsive sounds were heard at this moment from the Poet, which, on attentive consideration, were found to be `the punch -- was -- was too much -- for him -- quite --' `Miserable man!' sternly interposed Muggle; `can you jest about it? You gave him a punch, did you? and what then?'

`It quite -- quite -- upset him,' continued the unhappy Schmitz, in a sort of rambling soliloquy, which was here cut short by the impatience of the Constable, and the party set forth on their return to the town.

But an unexpected character burst upon the scene and broke into a speech far more remarkable for energetic delivery than for grammatical accuracy: `I've only just 'erd of it -- I were hasleep under table --'avin' taken more punch than I could stand -- he's as hinnocent as I am -- dead indeed! I'm more alive than you, a precious sight.'

This speech produced various effects on its hearers: the Constable calmly released his man, the bewildered Muggle muttered `Impossible! conspiracy -- perjury -- have it tried at assizes': while the happy Poet rushed into the arms of his deliverer crying in a broken voice: `No, never from this hour to part. We'll live and love so true!' a sentiment which the waiter did not echo with the cordiality that might have been expected.

Later in the day, Wilhelm and Sukie were sitting conversing with the waiter and a few friends, when the penitent Muggle suddenly entered the room placed a folded paper on the knees of Schmitz, pronounced in a hollow tone the affecting words `be happy!' vanished, and was seen no more.

After perusing the paper, Wilhelm rose to his feet; in the excitement of the moment he was roused into unconscious and extempore verse:

`My Sukie! He hath bought, yea, Muggle's self,
Convinced at last of deeds unjust and foul,
The licence of a vacant public-house.
We are licensed here to sell to all,
Spirits, porter, snuff, and ale!'

So we leave him: his after happiness who dare to doubt? has he not Sukie? and having her, he is content.