He went to church on Sunday morning, because it was quaint and old-fashioned to do so, and because he loved to see the women of his acquaintance in their devotional moods and attitudes. There was hardly any mood or attitude in which he did not love to see a woman, partly because he was full of human sympathy and tenderness, and partly for other reasons. I suppose he was a student of human nature, though he always repudiated the notion of being a student of anything. He said that life was too short for serious study, and that every kind of pursuit should be tempered with fooling; while to prevent fooling becoming wearisome it should always be dashed with something earnest, as the sodawater is dashed with brandy, or the Government of India with Mr. Whitley Stokes.
dum licet, ignium,
Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem:
Dulce est desipere in loco.
But besides being a man of pleasure and a capital billiard player, he was a Collector in the North-Western Provinces—a man who sat at the receipt of custom under a punkah, and read his Pioneer. The Lord High Cockalorum at Nynee Tal, Sir Somebody Thingmajig,—I am speaking of years ago—did not like him, I believe; but nobody thought any the worse of him for this; and although he continued to be a Collector until the shades of evening, when all his contemporaries had retired into the Dreamland of Commissionerships, he still loved and was loved; and to the very last he read his French novels and quoted Horace, sitting peacefully on the bank while the stream of promotion rolled on, knowing well that it would roll on in omne aevum, and not caring a jot whether it did, or did not. What was a seat at the Sadr Board[BB] to him, a seat among the solemn mummies of the service? He would not object to lie in the same graveyard with them; but to sit at the same board while this sensible warm motion of life still continued was too much; this could never be. He belonged to a higher order of spirits. As a boy he had not bartered the music of his soul for Eastern languages and the Rent Law; and as an old man he would not sit in state with corpses faintly animated by rupees.
To the last he mocked promotion; he mocked, till the dread mocker laid mocking fingers on his liver, and till gibe and laughter were silenced for evermore. So the Collector died, the merry Collector; and “where shall we bury the merry Collector?” became the last problem for his friends to deal with. I was in far away lands at the time with another friend of his—we mourned for the Collector.
We would have buried him in soft summer weather under sweet arbute trees, near the shore of some murmuring Italian sea. The west wind should whisper its grief over his grave for ever:—
didst waken from his summer-dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay
Lull’d by the coil of his crystalline streams,
Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,
All overgrown with azure moss and flowers.”