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Reminiscences Of The Lecture Room

Reminiscences Of The Lecture Room image
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From Harper'M Easy Chair. ihurc are stones of the platform like those of tho stage told in the greenroom. üno of them which t!:e Easy Chair has hourd ws of a gentleman wlio, after niuoh enti eaty, wns persuadcd to promise to leeturo in tha well-known towu of Blank. It was very difficult to get tliere, and it was very inconvenient. There was rising at a very early and very durk hour ol a very cold moruing. There was thu umal hotel-breakfast rufreshmont oí those days, cousisting of sole-leather steaka served in a soup of groase, and muddy coffee - a refresbment vrbich was not appetizir.g Then there was the arrival in tho early ofternoon at Blank, on a dim, tbawing wiuter day Ttie streets wore mud ; there wcro pateh es of snow. and that general hoart-breakiug dreariness of acpect which, in tho mind of a homosiok wanderer, produces profound depression. The leoturer looked in viiin for the "oomroittee-man," and, finding none, gave his travelling bag to a email boy, aDd followed hiin ilong the rickety board sidewalk to the tavern, pensively rememberiup; Sheaitone's lincs, and di?ooveiing upon reaohing his quarters not only that tho traveler may sigh that he finds his waroiest welcome at an inn, but that the inn itself is so wretobedly forlnrn. With padly sinking spirits tho looturer entered the bar-room, whioh was the "offioe,r and askcd for a room and a fire. The house was evidciitly not acoustomod to travelers who wished rooms before bedtime, or who asked for other fires than the bar-room stovo. But after much indifferent and reluotant nioving about of tho host, tho guest nieekly followed him to Lis chamber. It was that familiar room which has net been aired wi'hin human memory, and which bas that appalüng email of "olosenefs" which sends the guest to the window, to discover that it is not of the kind which opens. There was that familiar bed, which ia of feuthers, with flabby pillow and the soiled covorlet - the bed at which the cuest gnzea with the horrible wonder, "Wbo slept there last ?" The firo was lighted in the email wood-stove, and the room was ful! of sinoke. The victim opened the stove door to adjust tho wood, and found that the sticks were green, aud juft too long to allow the door to be cloeed. The wiodows were not mado to open, and he was obüged to open the door into the entry to relieve thesense of suffooation. Tho house was aa chilly as the outer air, and the traveler seated himself to write in an indescribable ptnto of dejection. When the early twilight set in he went to the bar-room nnd asked for a lamp, which was at length obtained, although it was evident that tho gueyts were aceustomed to take cuds of tallow candles when they retired, so that ampio provisión of lamps was not made in the hotel - tho Jefferson Hotel, as it was patriotically cnüed. After a brief stnigglo to continue writiug by fuch fceble üght in the chilly and smoky chamber - a strupgle iuterrupted by attemüts to coas a fire out of sreen sticks - two corurnitteetnen arrived. Thcre was a soleron greeting upon both sides, and afer replying truthfully to the questioo whether it waa the first time he had ever been in Blank, and refraining from adding that it would oortainly be the last time, the lecturer tried to cnliven the ccoasion by sorae jocose romark. But the failure was so appalling that t deepened the general gloom. "What is the subject of your lecture, eir ?" asked one of the gentlemen, who had been iotroduced by the other as Mr. Hardy, and had then immediately introdueed the iotroducer as Mr. Jones. "Well," replied the ieeturer, blandly, "I have two lectures with me. Ooe is of a semi. politica! chnrnctcr, and tbc other is upon Thackeray. '' "Ah I" eaid Mr. Hardy, "lectures are a new thing in Blank. We've bad a very hard time getting them up ; and as wo depend upon tlie patronage of everybody of all parties and of all denominations, and as yours is the first leoturo, wo don't wish to offend anybod}' and politics wouldn't do.'K "Then perhaps I had better take the ono upon Thackeray V" Tliere was silenoe for a moment, broken by a question from Mr. Jones. "What il Tbackoray ?" There was sileuee again, and then ih guest answered as if Mr. Jones had misundprstood. the name. "Thaekeiay, you know - the English author." "Oh, yes, certaioly," from Messrs. Hardy and Jones. "We are not a very literary peoplo here," said Mr. Hardy, "and I'm afraid that wo don't know much about Thackeray. Ilavsn't you got sometbing else ?" Tho guest replied that unfortunatcly ie had Dot. "That's a pity," remarked Mr. Jones, iscouragiDgly. '"lis a great pity, returned the unlappy lecturer, agaio reserving the obervation tLat it was a much greater ity that he liad weakly agreed to come o Blank. "Well," said Mr. Hardy, "we will let roa know tbis eveuing wliich we will have." "Yes,'; ossenled Mr. Jones; "but it's a great pity you haveu't BOmothiDe else." Mr. Lecturer could only bow, like he trees u Clarible, "vvith an ioward agony," and the gcutlemen departed. Having taken something called tea, and preparcd himsclf for the eeaffnld. Mr. Leoturer awaited the arrival of Lis 'rienda, who preBently appcared. They were sober, but very courteous, and to the disturbed imagination of Mr. Lecturer, they had an air of the high sheriff and l.i::ul.-nri!j, and he became to himself a vile prieoner in tho Towcr, about to isaue thruugh the Traitor's Gate to cxpiato his iunumerable crimes at the blook. "Wc have chosen Thackeray," said Mr. lleadstnan Jones, with an air of depressed rcsignation. "Yes," said the high sheriff, gloomi"I am afraid it's rather literary," said the prisonsr, with a sickly emile. ïhere ï7Q8 no answer ; and as the gentlemen romnined istaoding, it wss evident tbat the hour had como. lr, Leeturer put on his coat and hat, aod tbo threo descended imo the tree. It was an aniaeingly dark night. "It's rather ruuddy," said Mr. Ilardy, "and we'va no stroet lampa ; but if you'll take my arm veo can perhaps piek our way. Wo've got to got aeross the stri'et." ' Tho ball is not very far off, I suppose V" said Mr. Leoturer. "We haven't any buil. We've only the old courthotise. Tho wbole thing is unw." replied Mr. Jones. Wben you oan't pee, t ia usaless to pink y our way ; and Mr. Leeturer walked on, occasionally einking in the mud for some ilistauoe ; and wtieu it oame to crossin the Btreet, lie was dotiblful wliether overshoes and boots would not be lüft behiod. At lengtb the aolcmn party reached the building, and eutered a dim passage in whioh wero two or thrco spectres - onc at a email tablo, ovidontly rcady to sell tickets if any body wishcd to buy. The party weut up stairs, and Mr. Jones oponiog a door, they passed ioto a court room. A few persona siit in the seuts allotted lo speotatora ol judicial procoedings, "Follow me, if you piense," said Mr. Hardy ; and ho walkod across the spaoe in uiiioh were the lawyers' chaira and tables, and whieh geparated by a huge gulf the a'.iiiienoo f rom the judgeV bench. The hall was very duaky; but Mr. Leeturer could soe with the nsikcd oye that there wero several pooplo in the dim dietanoe. The siluueu was profound. "Are you ready ?" askod the high sheriff. "Eutirely." Looking lnto the darknesa, and fel ing with his eyes, as it were, for the audienoe, Mr. Leoturer read his dis(3oure. Notbing but his own voice diaturbed the awlul sileoce and gloom. He ended and sat down, and there was no further sound. The audienoo were either asleep, er they had left, or they were leaving now on ludia rubbers, uoisolessTho High Sheriff pullod on h8 ooat ; Mr. Locturer did tho same. Not one word was spoken. A figure was seeo croseing the lawyers' spaee - the bar. "Ah !" aaid Mr. Hardy, with an air of relief, "here comes Mr. Pen, the sohool-master." Mr. Leeturer supposod that this was probably ex officia, the chief liternry man of Blank, and he awaited tho interview with pleaeant antiqipation. Wheu tho ceremony of presentation was finished, Mr. Pen said abruptly, and with solem nity : "There is one question which we hsve been discussing in this town, Mr. Leeturer, which you can probably answer." Mr. Leeturer mcdeatly deprecated his ability to answer anyjquestion to whieh the Blank intellect was unequul, and asked what it was. "The questiou is," said Mr. Pen, with the same solemnity, "whether the poot, Longfellow is dead." "lio," replied Mr. Leeturer, "Ithink not. I should cortainly havo seen some notioe of so sad an event." "Are you quite sure ?" asked Mr. Pen with an air of disappoiDtment, wbich revealed whioh side of the question he had supportcd ia the discussion. "Yes, I am ver}' sure,"answered Mr. Lecturcr, smiling. But Mr. Pen assurned an aspect of Buch deep dejeotion that Mr. Lecturer considered what poseible coneolation might be offered, and presently he rein arked : "Perhaps yon are thinking of Longfellow's friend, Hawthorne, wbo, you know, died some timo ogo." A light of inexpressible relief shone upon the faee of Mr. Pen, and be exclaimed, in n triuniphuut tone, as if the eubstanoe of the victory wore hie, aftcr all: "Ah ! well, well, I knew wmelody wa6 dead." And smiling to himself, he dcpnrted. So did Mr. Lecturer, by the night train which left at iniduight. It was, he says inany and many years ago, and he assures tho Easy Chair that nobody will be discovered nor pained by the story. "And I wonder," he Bays, contemplativety - "I wonder if they have ever discovered in Blank what Thaokeray is I"


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