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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 209 pages of information about Young Lives.
and general evidence of cultivated tastes; and on Mr. Gerard’s refined sad face, which, being shaven, and surmounted by a tuft of vigorous curly hair, once black but now curiously splashed with vivid flakes of white, retained something of boyish beauty even at forty, you looked in vain for the marks of one who was in the grip of an imperious vice.  Only by the marked dimness and weariness of his blue eyes, which gave the face a rather helpless, dreamy expression, might the experienced observer have understood.  So to speak, the ocular will had gone out of them; they no longer grasped the visible, but glided listlessly over it; nor did they seem to be looking on things invisible.  They were the eyes of the drowned.

Mr. Gerard had exceedingly gentle manners.  It was easy to understand that a landlady would worship him.  He gave little trouble, asked for the most necessary service as though it were a courtesy, and never forgot an interest in Aunt Tipping’s affairs.  On bright days he revealed a vein of quite boyish gaiety; and in his talk with Henry he flashed out a strange paradoxical humour, too often morbid in its themes, which, as usually the case with such humour, was really sadness coming to the surface in a jest.

It soon transpired that a favourite subject of his talk was that very weakness which most men would have been at pains to hide.

“So you’re going to be a poet, Mr. Mesurier,” he said.  “Well, so was I once, so was I—­but,” he continued, “all too early another Muse took hold of me, a terrible Muse—­yet a Muse who never forsakes you—­” and he laid his hand on a decanter which stood near him on the table,—­“yes, Mr. Mesurier, the terrible Muse of Drink!  You may be surprised to hear me talk so; yet were this laudanum instead of brandy, there would seem to you a certain element of the poetic in the service of such a Muse.  Drinks with Oriental or unfamiliar names have a romantic sound.  Thus Alfred de Musset as the slave to absinthe sounds much more poetic than, say, Alfred de Musset as a slave to rum or gin, or even this brandy here.  Yet this, too, is no less the stuff that dreams are made of; and the opium-eater, the absinthe-sipper, the brandy-drinker, are all members of the same great brotherhood of tragic idealists—­”

He talked deliberately; but there was a smile playing at the corners of the mouth which took from his talk the sense of a painful self-revelation, and gave it the air of a playful fantasia upon a paradox that for the moment amused him.

“Idealists!  Yes,” he continued; “for what few understand is that drink is an idealism—­and,” he presently added with a laugh, “and, of course, like all idealisms, it has its dangers.”

With a monomaniac, conversation is apt to limit itself to monologue; so, while Henry was greatly interested in this odd talk, it left him but little to say.

“I’m afraid I shock you a little, Mr. Mesurier, perhaps even—­disgust you,” said Mr. Gerard.

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