“You have been in Italy?” asked Waymark, with interest.
A strange look came over Julian’s features, a look at once bright and melancholy; his fine eyes gleamed as was their wont eight years ago, in the back-parlour in Boston Street, when he was telling tales from Plutarch.
“Not,” he said, in a low voice charged with feeling, “since I was three years old.—You will think it strange, but I don’t so much long for the modern Italy, for the beautiful scenery and climate, not even for the Italy of Raphael, or of Dante. I think most of classical Italy. I am no scholar, but I love the Latin writers, and can forget myself for hours, working through Livy or Tacitus. I want to see the ruins of Rome; I want to see the Tiber, the Clitumnus, the Aufidus, the Alban Hills, Lake Trasimenus,—a thousand places! It is strange how those old times have taken hold upon me. The mere names in Roman history make my blood warm.—And there is so little chance that I shall ever be able to go there; so little chance.”
Waymark had watched the glowing face with some surprise.
“Why, this is famous!” he exclaimed. “We shall suit each other splendidly. Who knows? We may see Italy together, and look back upon these times of miserable struggle. By the by, have you ever written verses?”
Julian reddened, like a girl.
“I have tried to,” he said.
“And do still?”
“I thought as much. Some day you shall let me hear them; won’t you? And I will read you some of my own. But mine are in the savage vein, a mere railing against the universe, altogether too furious to be anything like poetry; I know that well enough. I have long since made up my mind to stick to prose; it is the true medium for a polemical egotist. I want to find some new form of satire; I feel capabilities that way which shall by no means rust unused. It has pleased Heaven to give me a splenetic disposition, and some day or other I shall find the tongue.”
It was midnight before Julian rose to leave, and he was surprised when he discovered how time had flown. Waymark insisted on his guest’s having some supper before setting out on his walk home; he brought out of a cupboard a tin of Australian mutton, which, with bread and pickles, afforded a very tolerable meal after four hours’ talk. They then left the house together, and Waymark accompanied his friend as far as Westminster Bridge.
“It’s too bad to have brought you so far at this hour,” said Julian, as they parted.
“Oh, it is my hour for walking,” was the reply. “London streets at night are my element. Depend upon it, Rome was poor in comparison!”
He went off laughing and waving his hand.
BETWEEN OLD AND NEW