And he was at last in the city of the unending murmuring streets, a part of the stirring shadow, of the amber-lighted gloom.
It seemed a long time since he had knelt before his sweetheart in the lane, the moon-fire streaming upon them from the dark circle of the fort, the air and the light and his soul full of haunting, the touch of the unimaginable thrilling his heart; and now he sat in a terrible “bed-sitting-room” in a western suburb, confronted by a heap and litter of papers on the desk of a battered old bureau.
He had put his breakfast-tray out on the landing, and was thinking of the morning’s work, and of some very dubious pages that he had blackened the night before. But when he had lit his disreputable briar, he remembered there was an unopened letter waiting for him on the table; he had recognized the vague, staggering script of Miss Deacon, his cousin. There was not much news; his father was “just the same as usual,” there had been a good deal of rain, the farmers expected to make a lot of eider, and so forth. But at the close of the letter Miss Deacon became useful for reproof and admonition.
“I was at Caermaen on Tuesday,” she said, “and called on the Gervases and the Dixons. Mr. Gervase smiled when I told him you were a literary man, living in London, and said he was afraid you wouldn’t find it a very practical career. Mrs. Gervase was very proud of Henry’s success; he passed fifth for some examination, and will begin with nearly four hundred a year. I don’t wonder the Gervases are delighted. Then I went to the Dixons, and had tea. Mrs. Dixon wanted to know if you had published anything yet, and I said I thought not. She showed me a book everybody is talking about, called the Dog and the Doctor. She says it’s selling by thousands, and that one can’t take up a paper without seeing the author’s name. She told me to tell you that you ought to try to write something like it. Then Mr. Dixon came in from the study, and your name was mentioned again. He said he was afraid you had made rather a mistake in trying to take up literature as if it were a profession, and seemed to think that a place in a house of business would be more suitable and more practical. He pointed out that you had not had the advantages of a university training, and said that you would find men who had made good friends, and had the tone of the university, would be before you at every step. He said Edward was doing very well at Oxford. He writes to them that he knows several noblemen, and that young Philip Bullingham (son of Sir John Bullingham) is his most intimate friend; of course this is very satisfactory for the Dixons. I am afraid, my dear Lucian, you have rather overrated your powers. Wouldn’t it be better, even now, to look out for some real work to do, instead of wasting your time over those silly old books? I know quite well how the Gervases and the Dixons feel; they think idleness so injurious for a young man, and likely to lead to bad habits. You know, my dear Lucian, I am only writing like this because of my affection for you, so I am sure, my dear boy, you won’t be offended.”