And he read forward and back in the book, and after a little he knew that he had a soul, and that the only beautiful thing in the world is beauty, and the only sad thing, and that beauty is truth.
Open at the lines to Helen he laid the book face down upon his heart, with his hands clasped over it, and shut his eyes.
“Now I know what I’ve got to do,” he said. “Now I know what I’ve got to do.”
He dreamed away hours until suddenly the need of deeds set him bolt upright in bed, and he called to Mrs. Brackett to bring him pencil and paper. From that time on he was seldom without them, and, by turns reading and writing, entered with hope and fortitude into the challenging field of literature. And from the first, however ignorant and unkempt the effort, he wrote a kind of literature, for he buckled to no work that he knew, and was forever striving after an ideal (nebulous, indescribable, and far) of his own, and that is literature. Go to those who have wrought for—forever (without, of course, knowing it) and those who have wrought earnestly for the day, and these things you will find made the god in their machine: Raphael’s sonnets and Dante’s picture! Aladdin had no message, that he knew of, for the world, but the call of one of the arts was upon him; and he knew that willy-nilly he must answer that call as long as eyes could see, or hands hold pen, or tongue call for pencil and paper, money buy them, or theft procure them. He set himself stubbornly and courageously to the bitter-sweet task of learning to write.
“It must be like learning anything else,” he said, his eyes on a sheet of seemingly uncorrectable misbalances, “and just because I’m rotten at it now doesn’t prove that if I practise and practise, and try and try, and hope and hope, I won’t be some good sometime.”
He saw very clearly the squat dark tower itself in the midst of the chin-upon-hand hills, and the world and his friends sitting about to see him fail. He saw them, and he knew them all, and yet, with Childe Roland,
Dauntless the slughorn to
his lips he set,
And incidentally, when he got well and returned to school, he entered on a period of learning his lessons, for he thought that these might one day be of use to him in his chosen line.
Senator St. John, for he was at heart democratic, and heard little of Aladdin that was not to Aladdin’s credit, derigorized the taboo which he had once placed on Aladdin’s and Margaret’s friendship, and allowed the young man to come occasionally to the house, and occasionally loaned him books. Margaret was really at the bottom of this, but she stayed comfortably at the bottom, and teased her father to do the needful, and he, wrapped up in the great issues which were threatening to divide the country, complied. In those days the senator’s interests extended far beyond his family, Margaret