There is a knock at the door, and Mr. Helwyse calls out, “Hullo? Ah! the cold water, emblem of truth. Thank you, Hebe; and scamper away as fast as you can, for I’m going to open the door!”
We also will retire, fastidious reader, and employ the leisure interval in packing an imaginary carpet-bag for a short journey. Our main business, during the next few days, is with Mr. Helwyse, and since there will be no telling what becomes of him after that, he must be followed up pretty closely. A few days does not seem much for the getting a satisfactory knowledge of a man; nevertheless, an hour, rightly used, may be ample. If he will continue his habit of thinking aloud, will affect situations tending to bring out his leading traits of character; if we may intrude upon him, note-book in hand, in all his moods and crises,—with all this in addition to discretionary use of the magic mirror,—it will be our own fault if Mr. Helwyse be not turned inside out. Properly speaking, there is no mystery about men, but only a great dulness and lethargy in our perceptions of them. The secret of the universe is no more a secret than is the answer to a school-boy’s problem. A mathematician will draw you a triangle and a circle, and show you the trigonometrical science latent therein. But a profounder mathematician would do as much with the equation man!
While Mr. Helwyse is still lingering over his toilet, his neighbor the fiddler, whom he had meant to ask to breakfast, comes out of his room, violin-box in hand, walks along the passage-way, and is off down stairs. An odd-looking figure; those stylish clothes become him as little as they would a long-limbed, angular Egyptian statue. Fashion, in some men, is an eccentricity, or rather a violence done to their essential selves. A born fop would have looked as little at home in a toga and sandals, as did this swarthy musician, doctor, priest, or whatever he was, in his fashion-plate costume. Then why did he wear it?
There are other things to be followed up before attending to that question. But the man is gone, and Balder Helwyse has missed this opportunity of making his acquaintance. Had he been an hour earlier,—had any one of us, for that matter, ever been an hour earlier or later,—who can tell how the destinies of the world would be affected! Luckily for our peace of mind, the hypothesis involves an impossibility.