In der Welt weit
Aus der Einsamkeit
Wollen sie Dich locken.
(In the wide world, out of the solitude, will these allure thee.)
The next morning, at breakfast, Mrs. Mervale looked as if all the wrongs of injured woman sat upon her brow. Mr. Mervale seemed the picture of remorseful guilt and avenging bile. He said little, except to complain of headache, and to request the eggs to be removed from the table. Clarence Glyndon—impervious, unconscious, unailing, impenitent—was in noisy spirits, and talked for three.
“Poor Mervale! he has lost the habit of good-fellowship, madam. Another night or two, and he will be himself again!”
“Sir,” said Mrs. Mervale, launching a premeditated sentence with more than Johnsonian dignity, “permit me to remind you that Mr. Mervale is now a married man, the destined father of a family, and the present master of a household.”
“Precisely the reasons why I envy him so much. I myself have a great mind to marry. Happiness is contagious.”
“Do you still take to painting?” asked Mervale, languidly, endeavouring to turn the tables on his guest.
“Oh, no; I have adopted your advice. No art, no ideal,—nothing loftier than Commonplace for me now. If I were to paint again, I positively think you would purchase my pictures. Make haste and finish your breakfast, man; I wish to consult you. I have come to England to see after my affairs. My ambition is to make money; your counsels and experience cannot fail to assist me here.”
“Ah, you were soon disenchanted of your Philosopher’s Stone! You must know, Sarah, that when I last left Glyndon, he was bent upon turning alchemist and magician.”
“You are witty to-day, Mr. Mervale.”
“Upon my honour it is true, I told you so before.”
Glyndon rose abruptly.
“Why revive those recollections of folly and presumption? Have I not said that I have returned to my native land to pursue the healthful avocations of my kind! Oh, yes! what so healthful, so noble, so fitted to our nature, as what you call the Practical Life? If we have faculties, what is their use, but to sell them to advantage! Buy knowledge as we do our goods; buy it at the cheapest market, sell it at the dearest. Have you not breakfasted yet?”
The friends walked into the streets, and Mervale shrank from the irony with which Glyndon complimented him on his respectability, his station, his pursuits, his happy marriage, and his eight pictures in their handsome frames. Formerly the sober Mervale had commanded an influence over his friend: His had been the sarcasm; Glyndon’s the irresolute shame at his own peculiarities. Now this position was reversed. There was a fierce earnestness in Glyndon’s altered temper which awed and silenced the quiet commonplace of his friend’s character. He seemed to take a malignant delight in persuading himself that the sober life of the world was contemptible and base.