And Mr. Gerard passed for awhile in silence into some hidden country of his lost dreams.
Henry gazed at him with a curious wonder. Here was a man evidently of considerable gifts, a man of ideals, of humour, a man witty and gentle, who surely could have easily made his mark in the world, and yet he had thrown all away for a mechanical habit which he himself did not pretend to be a passion,—a mere abstract attraction: as though a man should say, “I care not for the joys or successes of this world. My destiny is to sit alone all day and count my fingers and toes, count them over and over and over again. There is not much pleasure in it, and I should be glad to break off the habit,—but there it is. It is imposed upon me by a will stronger than mine which I must obey. It is my destiny.”
“Yes, idealists!” said Mr. Gerard, presently coming back from his dreams to his great subject, with a laugh. “That reminds me of a story a business friend of mine told me the other day. A clerk in his office was an incorrigible drunkard. He was quite alone in the world, and had no one dependent upon him. The firm had been lenient to him, and again and again forgiven his outbreaks. But one morning they called him in and said: ’Look here, Jones, we have had a great deal of patience with you; but the time has come when you must choose between the drink and the office.’ To their surprise, Jones, instead of eagerly promising reform, looked up gravely, and replied, ’Will you give me a week to think it over, sir? It is a very serious matter.’ Drink was all the poor fellow had outside his drudgery; was it to be expected that he should thus lightly sacrifice it?—
“But, to talk about something else, your aunt, Mrs. Tipping, who has a great idea of my literary importance, has a notion that I may be of some help to you, Mr. Mesurier. Well, I’ll tell you the whole extent of my present literary engagements, and you are perfectly at liberty to laugh. At the present time I do the sporting notes for the Tyrian Daily Mail, and I write the theological reviews for The Fleet Street Review. These apparently incongruous occupations are the relics of an old taste for sport, which as a boy in the country I had ample opportunity for indulging, and of an interrupted training for the Church—’twixt then and now there is an eventful gap which, if you don’t mind, we won’t sadden each other by filling—Let us fill our glasses and our pipes instead; and, having failed so entirely myself, I will give you minute directions how to succeed in literature.”
Mr. Gerard’s discourse on how to succeed in literature was partly practical and partly ironical, and probably too technical to interest the general reader, who has no intention of being a great or a little writer, and who perhaps has already found Mr. Gerard’s previous discourse a little too special in its character. Suffice it that Henry heard much to remember, and much to laugh over, and that Mr. Gerard concluded with a practical offer of kindness.