I turned away.
‘Great poet, sir,’ said the dapper man, turning away too, ’but unhappy—fate of genius, sir; I, too, am frequently unhappy.’
Hurrying down a street to the right, I encountered Francis Ardry.
‘What means the multitude yonder?’ he demanded.
’They are looking after the hearse which is carrying the remains of Byron up Tottenham Road.’
‘I have seen the man,’ said my friend, as he turned back the way he had come, ’so I can dispense with seeing the hearse—I saw the living man at Venice—ah, a great poet.’
‘Yes,’ said I, ’a great poet, it must be so, everybody says so—what a destiny! What a difference in the fate of men; but ’tis said he was unhappy; you have seen him, how did he look?’
‘But did he look happy?’
’Why, I can’t say he looked very unhappy; I saw him with two . . . very fair ladies; but what is it to you whether the man was unhappy or not? Come, where shall we go—to Joey’s? His hugest bear—’
‘Oh, I have had enough of bears, I have just been worried by one.’
’Then come to Joey’s, three dogs are to be launched at his bear: as they pin him, imagine him to be the publisher.’
‘No,’ said I, ’I am good for nothing; I think I shall stroll to London Bridge.’
‘That’s too far for me—farewell.’
London Bridge—Why not?—Every heart has its bitters—Wicked boys—Give me my book—Such a fright—Honour bright.
So I went to London Bridge, and again took my station on the spot by the booth where I had stood on the former occasion. The booth, however, was empty; neither the apple-woman nor her stall was to be seen. I looked over the balustrade upon the river; the tide was now, as before, rolling beneath the arch with frightful impetuosity. As I gazed upon the eddies of the whirlpool, I thought within myself how soon human life would become extinct there; a plunge, a convulsive flounder, and all would be over. When I last stood over that abyss I had felt a kind of impulse—a fascination; I had resisted it—I did not plunge into it. At present I felt a kind of impulse to plunge; but the impulse was of a different kind; it proceeded from a loathing of life, I looked wistfully at the eddies—what had I to live for?—what, indeed! I thought of Brandt and Struensee, and Yeoman Patch—should I yield to the impulse—why not? My eyes were fixed on the eddies. All of a sudden I shuddered; I thought I saw heads in the pool; human bodies wallowing confusedly; eyes turned up to heaven with hopeless horror; was that water or—? Where was the impulse now? I raised my eyes from the pool, I looked no more upon it—I looked forward, far down the stream in the far distance. ’Ha! what is that? I thought I saw a kind of Fata Morgana, green meadows, waving groves, a rustic home; but in the far distance—I stared—I stared—a Fata Morgana—it was gone. . . . ’