“That is scarcely likely. In all probability I shall not be able to get it printed at all.”
“Then what’s the good of it?” repeated Harriet, still suspicious, and a little contemptuous.
“It has given me pleasure, that’s all.”
Julian was glad when at length he could take his leave. Waymark received him with a pleased smile, and much questioning.
“Why did you keep it such a secret? I shall try my hand at a play some day or other, but, as you can guess, the material will scarcely be sought in Gibbon. It will be desperately modern, and possibly not altogether in accordance with the views of the Lord Chamberlain. What’s the time? Four o’clock. We’ll have a cup of coffee and then fall to. I’m eager to hear your ‘deep-chested music,’ your ’hollow oes and aes.’”
The reading took some three hours; Waymark smoked a vast number of pipes the while, and was silent till the close. Then he got up from his easy-chair, took a step forward, and held out his hand. His face shone with the frankest enthusiasm. He could not express himself with sufficient vehemence. Julian sat with the manuscript rolled up in his hands, on his face a glow of delight.
“It’s very kind of you to speak in this way,” he faltered at length.
“Kind! How the deuce should I speak? But come, we will have this off to a publisher’s forth with. Have you any ideas for the next work?”
“Yes; but so daring that they hardly bear putting into words.”
“Try the effect on me.”
“I have thought,” said Julian, with embarrassment, “of a long poem —an Epic. Virgil wrote of the founding of Rome; her dissolution is as grand a subject. It would mean years of preparation, and again years in the writing. The siege and capture of Rome by Alaric— what do you think?”
“A work not to be raised from the heat of youth, or the vapours of wine. But who knows?”
There was high talk in Walcot Square that evening. All unknown to its other inhabitants, the poor lodging-house was converted into a temple of the Muses, and harmonies as from Apollo’s lyre throbbed in the hearts of the two friends. The future was their inexhaustible subject, the seed-plot of strange hopes and desires. They talked the night into morning, hardly daunted when perforce they remembered the day’s work.
THE WAY OUT
The ruling spirit of the Academy was Mrs. Tootle. Her husband’s constitutional headache, and yet more constitutional laziness, left to her almost exclusively the congenial task of guiding the household, and even of disciplining the school. In lesson-time she would even flit about the classrooms, and not scruple to administer sharp rebukes to a teacher whose pupils were disorderly, the effect of this naturally being to make confusion worse confounded. The boys of course hated her with the hatred of which schoolboys