Having raked together from the sodden debris beneath his window some disfigured remains of his poor treasures, Ned Hazell had left the house in the early hours of the morning, in good earnest for ever.
When he confided the excitements of the night to Henry at lunch next day, and heard in return his friend’s news, nothing could be more plain than that they should set up lodgings together; and it was, therefore, to the rooms of which Ned was already in possession that Henry’s cab had toppled with his various belongings, after those tearful farewells at his father’s door. Esther followed presently to help make the place straight and dainty for the two boys, and having left them, late that evening, with flowers in all the jars, and the curtains as they should be, they were fairly launched on their new life together.
In Mike Henry had a stanch friend and an admirer against all comers, and in Henry Mike had a friend and admirer no less loyal; but their friendship was one for which an on-looker might have found it less easy to give reasons than for that of Henry and Ned. Mike and Henry loved each other, it would appear, less for any correspondence in dispositions or tastes, as just because they were Mike and Henry. Right away down in their natures there was evidently some central affinity which operated even in spite of surface contradictions. There was much of this intrinsic quality in the affection of Henry and Ned also, but it was much more to be accounted for by evident mutual sympathies. It was largely the impassioned fellowship of two craftsmen in love with the same art. Both had their literary ambitions; but, irrespective of those, they both loved poetry. Yes, how they loved it! Ned was perhaps particularly a born appreciator; and it was worth seeing how the tears would come into his fine eyes, as his voice shook with tenderness over a fine phrase or a noble passage. They had discovered some of the most thrilling things in English literature together, at that impressionable age when such things mean most to us. Together they had read Keats for the first wonderful time; together learned Shakespeare’s Sonnets by heart; together rolled out over tavern-tables the sumptuous cadences of De Quincey. Wonderful indeed, and never to be forgotten, were those evenings when, the day at last over, they would leave their offices behind them, and, while the sunset was turning the buildings of Tyre into enchanted towers, and a clemency of release breathed upon its streets, steal to the quiet corner of their favourite tavern; to drink port and share their last new author, or their own latest rhymes, and then to emerge again, with high calm hearts and eloquent eyes, beneath the splendid stars.
All the arts within their reach they thus shared together,—pictures, music, theatres,—in a fine comradeship. Together they had bravoed the great tragedians, and together hopelessly worshipped the beautiful faces, enskied and sainted, of famous actresses. In fact, they were the Damon and Pythias of Tyre.