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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat Will He Do With It - Book 3 - Chapter 8
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What Will He Do With It - Book 3 - Chapter 8 Post by :dave91111 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Bulwer-lytton Date :May 2012 Read :2214

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What Will He Do With It - Book 3 - Chapter 8

BOOK III CHAPTER VIII

Mr. Waife excites the admiration, and benignly pities the infirmity, of an Oxford scholar.

"You are str-str-strangers?" said the Oxonian, after a violent exertion to express himself, caused by an impediment in his speech.

WAIFE.--"Yes, sir, travellers. I trust we are not trespassing: this is not private ground, I think?"

OXONIAN.--"And if-f-f-f--it were, my f-f-father would not war-n-n you off-ff--f."

"Is it your father's ground, then? Sir, I beg you a thousand pardons."

The apology was made in the Comedian's grandest style: it imposed greatly on the young scholar. Waife might have been a duke in disguise; but I will do the angler the justice to say that such discovery of rank would have impressed him little more in the vagrant's favour. It had been that impromptu "grace"--that thanksgiving which the scholar felt was for something more than the carnal food--which had first commanded his respect and wakened his interest. Then that innocent careless talk--part uttered to dog and child, part soliloquized, part thrown out to the ears of the lively teeming Nature--had touched a somewhat kindred chord in the angler's soul; for he was somewhat of a poet and much of a soliloquist, and could confer with Nature, nor feel that impediment in speech which obstructed his intercourse with men. Having thus far indicated that oral defect in our new acquaintance, the reader will cheerfully excuse me for not enforcing it over much. Let it be among the things _subaudita_, as the sense of it gave to a gifted and aspiring nature, thwarted in the sublime career of Preacher, an exquisite mournful pain. And I no more like to raise a laugh at his infirmity behind his back, than I should before his pale, powerful, melancholy face; therefore I suppress the infirmity in giving the reply.

OXONIAN.--"On the other side the lane, where the garden slopes downward, is my father's house. This ground is his property certainly, but he puts it to its best use, in lending it to those who so piously acknowledge that Father from whom all good comes. Your child, I presume, sir?"

"My grandchild."

"She seems delicate: I hope you have not far to go?"

"Not very far, thank you, sir. But my little girl looks more delicate than she is. You are not tired, darling?"

"Oh, not at all!" There was no mistaking the looks of real love interchanged between the old man and the child; the scholar felt much interested and somewhat puzzled.

"Who and what could they be? so unlike foot wayfarers!" On the other hand, too, Waife took a liking to the courteous young man, and conceived a sincere pity for his physical affliction. But he did not for those reasons depart from the discreet caution he had prescribed to himself in seeking new fortunes and shunning old perils, so he turned the subject.

"You are an angler, sir? I suppose the trout in the stream run small?"

"Not very: a little higher up I have caught them at four pounds weight."

WAIFE.--"There goes a fine fish yonder,--see! balancing himself between those weeds."

OXONIAN.--"Poor fellow, let him be safe to-day. After all, it is a cruel sport, and I should break myself of it. But it is strange that whatever our love for Nature we always seek some excuse for trusting ourselves alone to her. A gun, a rod, a sketch-book, a geologist's hammer, an entomologist's net, a something."

WAIFE.--"Is it not because all our ideas would run wild if not concentrated on a definite pursuit? Fortune and Nature are earnest females, though popular beauties; and they do not look upon coquettish triflers in the light of genuine wooers."

The Oxonian, who, in venting his previous remark, had thought it likely he should be above his listener's comprehension, looked surprised. What pursuits, too, had this one-eyed philosopher?

"You have a definite pursuit, sir?"

"I--alas! when a man moralizes, it is a sign that he has known error: it is because I have been a trifler that I rail against triflers. And talking of that, time flies, and we must be off and away."

Sophy re-tied the bundle. Sir Isaac, on whom, meanwhile, she had bestowed the remains of the chicken, jumped up and described a circle.

"I wish you success in your pursuit, whatever it be," stuttered out the angler.

"And I no less heartily, sir, wish you success in yours."

"Mine! Success there is beyond my power."

"How, sir? Does it rest so much with others?"

"No, my failure is in myself. My career should be the Church, my pursuit the cure of souls, and--and--this pitiful infirmity! How can I speak the Divine Word--I--I--a stutterer!"

The young man did not pause for an answer, but plunged through the brushwood that bespread the banks of the rill, and his hurried path could be traced by the wave of the foliage through which he forced his way.

"We all have our burdens," said Gentleman Waife, as Sir Isaac took up the bundle and stalked on, placid and refreshed.

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