“God bless me, yes, certainly,” said the editor; “you’re welcome to the lot, if you care to bring a hand-cart. Good-bye, good-bye.”
And Henry slipped his poor little neglected volume into his pocket. On how many dusty tables, he wondered, was it then lying ignominiously disregarded. Well, the day would come! Meanwhile, he had his first batch of books for review.
There now remained the gathering of wits fixed for the evening. His publisher had asked him to dinner, but he had declined, from a secret and absurd desire to dine at “The Cock.” This he gratified, and with his mind full of the spacious times of the early Victorians, he turned into the publisher’s little room about nine o’clock to meet some of the later.
There was no great muster as yet. Some half-a-dozen rather shy young men spasmodically picked up strange drawings or odd-looking books, lying about on the publisher’s tables, struggled maidenly with cigars, sipped a little whisky and soda; but little was said.
Among them a pale-faced lad of about fifteen, miraculously self-possessed, stood with his back to the chimney-piece. But soon others began to turn in, and by ten the room was as full of chatter and smoke as it could hold. Not least conspicuous among the talkers was the pale-faced boy of fifteen. Henry had been sitting near to him, and had been suddenly startled by his unexpectedly breaking out into a volley of learning, delivered in a voice impressively deliberate and sententious.
“What a remarkable boy that is!” said Henry, innocently, to the publisher.
“Yes; but he’s not quite a boy,—though he’s young enough. A curious little creature, morbidly learned. A friend of mine says that he would like to catch him and keep him in a bottle, and label it ’the learned homunculus.’”
“What dialect is it he is talking in?” said Henry; “I don’t remember to have heard it before.”
The publisher smiled: “My dear fellow, you must be careful what you say. That is what we call ‘the Oxford voice.’”
“How remarkable!” said Henry, his attention called off by a being with a face that half suggested a faun, and half suggested a flower,—a small, olive-skinned face crowned with purply black hair, that kept falling in an elflock over his forehead, and violet eyes set slant-wise. He was talking earnestly of fairies, in a beautiful Irish accent, and Henry liked him. The attraction seemed mutual, and Henry found himself drawn into a remarkable relation about a fairy-hill in Connemara, and fairy lights that for several nights had been seen glimmering about it; and how at last he—that is, the narrator—and a particularly hard-headed friend of his had kept watch one moonlit night, with the result that they had actually seen and talked with the queen of the fairies and learned many secrets of the ——. The narrator here made use of a long, unpronounceable Irish word, which Henry could not catch.