“Ever so many things, my girl; more than my life is long enough to tell! First, though, I want to apologize for addressing you from behind a closed door; but circumstances which I can neither explain nor overcome forbid my opening it. Next, two pails of the best cold water at your earliest convenience. Hurry, now, there’s a Hebe!”
“Very good, sir,” giggles Hebe, retreating down passage.
It is to be supposed that it was the plebeian body-servant that carried on this unideal conversation, and that the patrician soul had nothing to do with it. The ability to lay the burden of lapses from good taste, and other goods, upon the shoulders of the flesh, is sometimes convenient and comforting.
Balder Helwyse, master and man, turns away from the door, and catches sight of a white-robed, hairy-headed reflection in the looking-glass, the phantom face of which at once expands in a genial expression of mirth; an impalpable arm is outstretched, and the mouth seems thus to speak:—
“Stick to your bath, my good fellow, and the evil things of this life shall not get hold of you. Water is like truth,—purifying, transparent; a tonic to those fouled and wearied with the dust and vanity of this transitional phenomenon called the world. Patronize it! be thy acquaintance with it constant and familiar! Remember, my dear Balder, that this slave of thine is the medium through which something better than he (thyself, namely) is filtered to the world, and the world to thee. Go to, then! if the filter be foul, shall not that which is filtered become unclean also?”
Here the rhetorical phantom was interrupted by the sound of a very good violin, touched with unusual skill, in the next room. The phantom vanished, but Mr. Helwyse seated himself softly upon the bed, listening with full enjoyment to every note; his very toes seeming to partake of his appreciation. Music is the mysterious power which makes body and soul—master and man—thrill as one string. The musician played several bars, beautiful in themselves, but unconnected; and ever and anon there sounded a discordant note, like a smirch upon a fair picture. The execution, however, showed a master hand, and the themes betrayed the soul of a true musician, albeit tainted with some subtile deformity.
“Heard him last night, and fell asleep, dreaming of a man with the brain of a devil and an angel’s heart.—Drop in on him presently, and have him down to breakfast. If young, shall be our brother,—so long as there’s anything in him. If—as I partly suspect—old, and a father, marry his daughter. But no; such a fiddler as he can’t be married, unless unhappily.” Mr. Helwyse runs his hands dreamily through his tangled mane, and shakes it back. If philosophical, he seems also to be romantic and imaginative, and impressionable by other personalities. It is, to be sure, unfair to judge a man from such unconsidered words as he may let fall during the first half-hour after waking