Of the "Boys of 'Twenty-nine."
"How much?" I said to the gar?on in his native tongue, or what I supposed to be that language. "Cinq sous," was his answer. By the laws of sentiment, I ought to have made the ignoble sum five francs, at least. But if I had done so, the waiter would undoubtedly have thought that I had just come from Charenton. Besides, why should I violate the simple habits and traditions of the place, where generation after generation of poor students and threadbare Bohemians had taken their morning coffee and pocketed their two lumps of sugar? It was with a feeling of virile sanity and Roman self-conquest that I paid my five sous, with the small additional fraction which I supposed the waiter to expect, and no more.
If I had a long future before me, I should like above all things to study London with a dark lantern, so to speak, myself in deepest shadow and all I wanted to see in clearest light. Then I should want time, time, time. For it is a sad fact that sight-seeing as commonly done is one of the most wearying things in the world, and takes the life out of any but the sturdiest or the most elastic natures more efficiently than would a reasonable amount of daily exercise on a treadmill. In my younger days I used to find that a visit to the gallery of the Louvre was followed by more fatigue and exhaustion than the same amount of time spent in walking the wards of a hospital.
A breakfast, a lunch, a tea, is a circumstance, an occurrence, in social life, but a dinner is an event. It is the full-blown flower of that cultivated growth of which those lesser products are the buds. I will not try to enumerate, still less to describe, the various entertainments to which we were invited, and many of which we attended. Among the professional friends I found or made during this visit to London, none were more kindly attentive than Dr. Priestley, who, with his charming wife, the daughter of the late Robert Chambers, took more pains to carry out our wishes than we could have asked or hoped for. At his house I first met Sir James Paget and Sir William Gull, long well known to me, as to the medical profession everywhere, as pre?minent in their several departments. If I were an interviewer or a newspaper reporter, I should be tempted to give the impression which the men and women of distinction I met made upon me; but where all were cordial, where all made me feel as nearly as they could that I belonged where I found myself, whether the ceiling were a low or a lofty one, I do not care to differentiate my hosts and my other friends. Fortemque Gyan fortemque Cloanthum, --I left my microscope and my test-papers at home.
I made but two brief visits to the British Museum, and I can easily instruct my reader so that he will have no difficulty, if he will follow my teaching, in learning how not to see it. When he has a spare hour at his disposal, let him drop in at the Museum, and wander among its books and its various collections. He will know as much about it as the fly that buzzes in at one window and out at another. If I were asked whether I brought away anything from my two visits, I should say, Certainly I did. The fly sees some things, not very intelligently, but he cannot help seeing them. The great round reading-room, with its silent students, impressed me very much. I looked at once for the Elgin Marbles, but casts and photographs and engravings had made me familiar with their chief features. I thought I knew something of the sculptures brought from Nineveh, but I was astonished, almost awe-struck, at the sight of those mighty images which mingled with the visions of the Hebrew prophets. I did not marvel more at the skill and labor expended upon them by the Assyrian artists than I did at the enterprise and audacity which had brought them safely from the mounds under which they were buried to the light of day and the heart of a great modern city. I never thought that I should live to see the Birs Nimroud laid open, and the tablets in which the history of Nebuchadnezzar was recorded spread before me. The Empire of the Spade in the world of history was founded at Nineveh by Layard, a great province added to it by Schliemann, and its boundary extended by numerous explorers, some of whom are diligently at work at the present day. I feel very grateful that many of its revelations have been made since I have been a tenant of the travelling residence which holds so many secrets in its recesses.
"Deep as has hitherto been my reverence for Plenipotentiary, Bay Middleton, and Queen of Trumps from hearsay, and for Don John, Crucifix, etc., etc., from my own personal knowledge, I am inclined to award the palm to Ormonde as the best three-year-old I have ever seen during close upon half a century's connection with the turf."