Concerning friends in Council.
[Footnote: Friends in Council: a Series of Readings and Discourse thereon. A. New Series. Two Volumes. London: John W. Parker and Son, West Strand, 1859.]
There is a peculiar pleasure in paying a visit to a friend whom you never saw in his own house before. Let it not be believed that in this world there is much difficulty in finding a new sensation. The genial, unaffected, hard-wrought man, who does not think it fine to appear to care nothing for anything, will find a new sensation in many quiet places, and in many simple ways. There is something fresh and pleasant in arriving at an entirely new railway station, in getting out upon a platform on which you never before stood; in finding your friend standing there looking quite at home in a place quite strange to you; in taking in at a glance the expression of the porter who takes your luggage and the clerk who receives your ticket, and reading there something of their character and their life; in going outside, and seeing for the first time your friend’s carriage, whether the stately drag or the humbler dog-cart, and beholding horses you never saw before, caparisoned in harness heretofore unseen; in taking your seat upon cushions hitherto impressed by you, in seeing your friend take the reins, and then in rolling away over a new road, under new trees, over new bridges, beside new hedges, looking upon new landscapes stretching far away, and breaking in upon that latent idea common to all people who have seen very little, that they have seen almost all the world. Then there is something fresh and pleasant in driving for the first time up the avenue, in catching the first view of the dwelling which is to your friend the centre of all the world, in walking up for the first time to your chamber (you ought always to arrive at a country house for a visit about three quarters of an hour before dinner), and then in coming down and finding yourself in the heart of his belongings; seeing his wife and children, never seen before; finding out his favourite books, and coming to know something of his friends, horses, dogs, pigs, and general way of life; and then after ten days, in going away, feeling that you have occupied a new place and seen a new phase of life, henceforward to be a possession for ever.
But it is pleasanter by a great deal to go and pay a visit to a friend visited several times (not too frequently) before: to arrive at the old railway station, quiet and country-like, with trees growing out of the very platform on which you step; to see your friend’s old face not seen for two years; to go out and discern the old drag standing just where you remember it, and to smooth down the horses’ noses as an old acquaintance; to discover a look of recognition on the man-servant’s impassive face, which at your greeting expands into a pleased smile;