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“Tante Hildegard will open her eyes when she sees you," observed Gretchen as they traversed the hall.
“Ah ! you have an aunt who lives with you ? ” “My good aunt Hildegard keeps house for me. I am an orphan.”
At this sad announcement the tender-hearted Professor involuntarily pressed the little hand to his side. He echoed his companion's sigh, yet it gave him satisfaction to learn that she was alone in the world.
Now she left his side, and, going over to the west wall, she raised a piece of tapestry, discovering a low postern.
“You did not know of this door?" she asked smiling. “No; it is a surprise to me, dear lady," he replied.
When she had taken him through, and was turning the grating key, he observed :
“ That is the sound which made me think that the place was tumbling about me."
“You got a fright?”
"I was certainly startled, and still more so on seeing you. Had I seen you enter, I might have guessed that you were the lady resident in the castle, however much I might have wondered to behold a beautiful young lady in such a place at such an hour."
She blushed rosy red. “I had a fancy to see the grand old hall by moonlight,” she explained. " Auntie thinks me in bed; she will scold when she finds out what I have been doing."
Meanwhile they had threaded a gallery, passed through a quaint old dining-room, and entered an inner apartment. On the wide hearth a wood fire still smouldered.
was furnished with oak of ancient manufacture, the walls were covered with tapestry.
"I will leave you to replenish the fire,” she said, “whilst I go and fetch Tantchen. You will find logs in that basket,” and she
Like one in a blissful dream, Sonnenschein obeyed. The dry fuel was soon in a blaze, making the gigantic figures on the tapestry dance in the darting flames. Gods were they, and right merry ones. He felt like one of them, but already he heard voices and a girlish laugh, which brought him down from Olympus to a world of equal delight.
She stood before him, and was presenting a little old lady in mysterious head-gear and flowered dressing-gown, who threw up her hands and exclaimed, as she scanned the unexpected guest :
"I beg most humbly to apologise, madam,” he was beginning when she cut him short.
'Bless the man ! how could you help it? It is the strangest thing! But why you did not knock and make them let you out, I cannot understand. Well, sit down, Herr-Herr-what was the name, Gretchen?”
“ Herr Professor Sonnenschein, auntie.”
“Sit down, Herr Professor, you are starving of hunger, I am sure. Gretchen, my child
But Gretchen was gone; and soon, to the Professor's delight and confusion, was placing food and wine before him with her own hands.
Eager to do justice to the fare, he partook plentifully of both, and as though the innocent “ Drachensblut” had been nectar, it inspired him to eloquence. How he talked ! Even Tante Hildegard forgot the lateness of the hour while she listened.
At length he recollected himself, and sprang to his feet with many apologies. The ladies would have persuaded him to stay in the castle, but this he declined, only begging permission to pay his respects to them on the morrow.
On taking his leave, so great was his exhilaration that he ventured to give Gretchen's hand a fervent squeeze, and even to carry it to
What more need be said ? A straw will show how the wind blows. Not only the next day, but many subsequent ones saw our Professor mounting the private path to the castle, bearing with him offerings of flowers ; until one memorable evening—he was due in Bonn on the morrow-he ascended the familiar steep with empty hands, his genial face clouded with anxiety ; for in his waistcoat pocket lay a shining symbol that was destined either to consummate his happiness or plunge him in the depths of woe. A couple of hours later, when the setting sun was gilding the west, a pair of lovers might have been seen lingering on a certain balcony of the castle. The fair head of the lady rested confidingly on the broad shoulder of the bearded man, whose arm encircled her waist.
Since the startling news has got abroad that Sonnenschein is about to become a Benedict, and that his fair captor is endowed with the divine gift of poesy, we have no hesitation in identifying the lovers on the balcony.
ROUND THE TOWN WITH
HETHER London be a pleasant place to live in, no man
shall decide for another. Love of London, or dislike of London, is a question of temperament and not a matter of argument, except amongst those dreadful people who dispute their way through life. Many great men would not willingly have dwelt elsewhere, and of these the type, the most famous instance, has long been Dr. Johnson. None of his sayings is more quoted, in part at least, than that in which, after forty years' rough experience of London, he dispelled Boswell's doubt whether a man would not lose his zest for London if, instead of an occasional visit, he made it his residence. “Why, sir," cried Johnson, "you find no man at all intellectual who is willing to leave London. No, sir ; when a man is tired of London he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford. A country gentleman should bring his lady to visit London as soon as he can, that they may have agreeable topics of conversation when they are by themselves.” Dr. Johnson certainly visited London early, for he was only thirty months old when his mother, as he could recollect, brought him up from Lichfield to be touched by Queen Anne for the King's Evil. When about twenty-eight, Johnson commenced Londoner for life.
Thenceforward Johnson might, indeed, lodge occasionally at Greenwich, or at Hampstead, or he might visit the Thrales at Streatham, or take country holidays when his pension permitted, but he remained a Londoner, an incurable Londoner, and his love of London never left him. He mentally returned to it as he gazed on beautiful scenes. He compared his favourite Fleet Street to Tempe; and, on the visit to Greenwich Park, he readily assented to Bosweli's preference for Fleet Street. On his first quitting England, which was in 1773, and for the tour in the Hebrides, we find Johnson, after two months, declaring that, “ by seeing London I have seen as
Read at the Johnson Club, London, on 13th December, 1892,
much life as the world can show." When Boswell thereupon rashly reminded Johnson that he had not seen Pekin, Johnson thundered out, “What is Pekin? Ten thousand Londoners would drive all the people of Pekin; they would drive them like deer.” And when, four years later, Boswell, melancholy, and in Scotland, had to be consoled, it was by a letter in which Johnson said that happiness might be had “in other places as well as London.” Yet Johnson would not “debauch” Boswell's mind. He adds, “I do not blame your preference of London to other places, for it is really to be preferred if the choice is free.” And, in spite of all temptations, Johnson remained a Londoner. More than once he was offered country preferment if he would take orders ; but, as he told his old friend, the Rev. Dr. Maxwell, "he could not leave the improved society of the capital.” Mrs. Thrale rightly said that Johnson would " rather be sick in London than well in the country.”
In London, then, Johnson would live. To London, in the last months of his life, he returned to die. Who shall contend against such a choice as this? Philosophers may say, as of old, that they are never less alone than when alone. Travellers may go to Pekin, or elsewhere. Poets may sing with Cowley of a small house and a large garden, or with Mr. Andrew Lang of a “house full of books and a garden of flowers,” but they must at least pityingly admit that we are all happy if but well deceived, and that Johnson was happy in his London. It was not for the society of the obscure great, for he had little of it; it was not for riches, for he never over-valued them. Life, in truth, was to him more than a livelihood. He lived, like the true artist in life, for a frame of mind. It was for the freedom, for the intellectual activity, and for the social opportunities which are indeed life, that Johnson loved London.
It is fit, therefore, for us to consider what manner of place was this London of Johnson's day. We cannot now go all round the town even with Dr. Johnson. We cannot deal with all the aspects of London life then, but, whatever else we omit, we must pause to consider what London was then in size and population.
London is a word which has had in various centuries very different meanings. Once it meant the City of London as contrasted with the other city of Westminster. In our time it generally means what is called the “Metropolis,” a forest of houses occupying over 75,000 acres, and containing four and a quarter millions of people. In Johnson's time it may, by an “extensive view," be taken to include the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark, and a few then half-rural parishes, such as Hackney on the north, and Lambeth on the south, which were included in the bills of mortality. This was an area of 21 587 acres, with a population, when Johnson came up to be “ touchi d” by Queen Anne, of a little over half a million, and, when he died, still under three-quarters of a million. This smaller London hardly grew at all in the first half of the eighteenth century ; and, in the latter half, although the predecessors of the modern speculative builder tried to make the best of this world, they experienced some disappointments. The American War of Independence gave George III. and the builder a severe check, and only when the Bastille had fallen did the builder again lift up his head. But Johnson was dead then, and Johnson's London is now our concern.
It was said of old time that grass grew where Troy had been. The converse is true of London. The country is always struggling with the town, and the country has lost much ground since Johnson's day. No part of London was then situated more than a quarter of an hour's walk from fields and hedgerows. Look at the maps of London then. There is, for example, one published in the “Environs of London,” by J. Roque, 1763. The mansions of Kensington and of Fitzjohn's Avenue, the closely packed dwellings, north and south, east and west, from Hornsey to Penge, and from Putney and Hammersmith, to Woolwich and West Ham-where are they on this map? Here and there is seen a house or little group of houses; but, for the most part, there are only fields and commons. Chelsea, Kensington, and Paddington were rural places. The groves of St. John's Wood were unknown; and in another map, dated 1773, Hackney, Stepney, Paddington and Chelsea are the country outskirts of the town. Until the middle of the century Rotherhithe was isolated, and until the end of the century Marylebone and St. Pancras had much less than a fourth of their present population.
Johnson's friend, General Oglethorpe, had shot woodcock in a solitude where Regent Street now stands. Johnson's acquaintance, Mrs. “Blue Stocking " Montague, lived in Portman Square, called it the “Montpellier of England," and died aged eighty. Johnson's physician, the “ virtuous and faithful Heberden," is celebrated by Cowper since he "sends the patient into purer air.” Yet Heberden sent his patients to South Lambeth, because it was on the banks of a tidal river with a south-west wind "fresh from the country, and a north-east wind softened by blowing over the town.” A public-house, just beyond Whitfield's Tabernacle, Tottenham Court Road, had the reputation of being the last house in London, and that reputation was, with others, only lost under the Regency. So scattered were