« ПредишнаНапред »
that, when he happens to cast his eyes upon a looking-glass, he beholds nobody reflected there. Several other guests now made their appearance ;
among them, chattering with immense volubility, a brisk little gentleman of universal vogue in private society, and not unknown in the public journals under the title of Monsieur On-Dit. The name would seem to indicate a Frenchman; but, whatever be his country, he is thoroughly versed in all the languages of the day, and can express himself quite as much to the purpose in English as in any other tongue. No sooner were the ceremonies of salutation over than this talkative little person put his mouth to the host's ear, and whispered three secrets of state, an important piece of commercial intelligence, and a rich item of fashionable scandal. He then assured the Man of Fancy that he would not fail to circulate in the society of the lower world a minute description of this magnificent castle in the air, and of the festivities at which he had the honor to be a guest. So saying, Monsieur On-Dit made his bow, and hurried from one to another of the company, with all of whom he seemed to be acquainted, and to possess some topic of interest or amusement for every individual. Coming at last to the Oldest Inhabitant, who was slumbering comfortably in the easy-chair, he applied his mouth to that venerable ear.
“What do you say?" cried the old gentleman, starting from his nap, and putting up his hand to serve the purpose of an eartrumpet.
Monsieur On-Dit went forward again, and repeated his communication.
“Never within my memory,” exclaimed the Oldest Inhabitant, lifting his hands in astonishment, “has so remarkable an incident been heard of."
Now came in the Clerk of the Weather, who had been invited out of deference to his official station; although the host was well aware that his conversation was likely to contribute but little to the general enjoyment. He soon, indeed, got into a corner with his acquaintance of long ago, the Oldest Inhabitant, and began to compare notes with him in reference to the great storms, gales of wind, and other atmospherical facts, that had occurred during a century past. It rejoiced the Man of Fancy that his venerable and much-respected guest had met with so congenial an associate. Entreating them both to make themselves perfectly at home, he now turned to receive the Wandering Jew. This personage, however, had latterly grown so common, by mingling in all sorts of society, and appearing at the heck of every entertainer, that he could hardly be deemed a proper guest in a very exclusive circle. Besides, being covered with dust from his continual wander
ings along the highways of the world, he really looked out of place in a dress-party : so that the host felt relieved of an incommodity when the restless individual in question, after a brief stay, took his departure on a ramble toward Oregon.
The portal was now thronged by a crowd of shadowy people with whom the Man of Fancy had been acquainted in his visionary youth. He had invited them hither for the sake of observing how they would compare, whether advantageously or otherwise, with the real characters to whom his maturer life had introduced him. They were beings of crude imagination, such as glide before a young man's eye, and pretend to be actual inhabitants of the earth, — the wise and witty with whom he would hereafter hold intercourse; the
and heroic friends whose devotion would be requited with his own; the beautiful dream-woman who would become the helpmate of his human toils and sorrows, and at once the source and partaker of his happiness. Alas! it is not good for the full-grown man to look too closely at these old acquaintances, but rather to reverence them at a distance through the medium of years that have gathered duskily between. There was something laughably untrue in their pompous stride and exaggerated sentiment: they were neither human, nor tolerable likenesses of humanity, but fantastic maskers, rendering heroisin and nature alike ridiculous by the grave absurdity of their pretensions to such attributes. And as for the peerless Dream-Lady, behold ! there advanced up the saloon, with a movement like a jointed doll, a sort of wax figure of an angel, a creature as cold as moonshine; an artifice in petticoats, with an intellect of pretty phrases, and only the semblance of a heart, yet in all these particulars the true type of a young man's imaginary mistress. Hardly could the host's punctilious courtesy restrain a smile as he paid his respects to this unreality, and met the sentimental glance with which the Dream sought to remind him of their former love-passages.
'No, no, fair lady,” murmured he betwixt sighing and smiling: “my taste is changed. I have learned to love what Nature makes, better than my own creations in the guise of womanhood.”
“Ah, false one!” shrieked the Dream-Lady, pretending to faint, but dissolving into thin air, out of which came the deplorable murmur of her voice, “ your inconstancy has annihilated me.”
“ So be it,” said the cruel Man of Fancy to himself; “and a good riddance too."
Together with these shadows, and from the same region, there came an uninvited multitude of shapes, which at any time during his life had tormented the Man of Fancy in his mools of morbid melancholy, or had haunted himn in the delirium of fever. The
walls of his castle in the air were not dense enough to keep them out; nor would the strongest of earthly architecture have availed to their exclusion. Here were those forms of dim terror which had beset him at the entrance of life, waging warfare with his hopes; here were strange uglinesses of earlier date, such as haunt children in the nightmare. He was particularly startled by the vision of a deformed old black woman, whom he imagined as lurking in the garret of his native home, and who, when he was an infant, had once come to his bedside and grinned at him in the crisis of a scarlet-fever. This same black shadow, with others almost as hideous, now glided among the pillars of the magnificent saloon, grinning recognition, until the man shuddered anew at the forgotten terrors of his childhood. It amused him, however, to observe the black woman, with the mischievous caprice peculiar to such beings, steal up to the chair of the Oldest Inhabitant, and peep into his half-dreamy mind.
“Never within my memory,” muttered that venerable personage, aghast, “ did I see such a face.”
Almost immediately after the unrealities just described, arrived a number of guests whom incredulous readers may be inclined to rank equally among creatures of imagination. The most noteworthy were an incorruptible patriot, a scholar without pedantry, a priest without worldly ambition, and a beautiful woman without pride or coquetry, a married pair whose life had never been disturbed by incongruity of feeling, a reformer untrammeled by his theories, and a poet who felt no jealousy toward other votaries of the lyre. In truth, however, the host was not one of the cynics who consider these patterns of excellence without the fatal flaw such rarities in the world; and he had invited them to his select party chiefly out of humble deference to the judgment of society, which pronounces them almost impossible to be met with.
“In my younger days,” observed the oldest Inhabitant, “such characters might be seen at the corner of every street."
Be that as it might, these specimens of perfection proved to be not half so entertaining companions as people with the ordinary allowance of faults.
But now appeared a stranger, whom the host had no recognized, than, with an abundance of courtesy unlavished on any other, he hastened down the whole length of the saloon in order to pay him emphatic honor. Yet he was a young man, in poor attire, with no insignia of rank or acknowledged eminence, nor any thing to distinguish him among the crowd, except a high, white forehead, beneath which a pair of deepest eyes were glowing with warm light. It was such a light as never illuminates the earth save when a great heart burns as the household fire of a grand intellect. And who was he? — who but the Master
Genius, for whom our country is looking anxiously into the mist of Time, as destined to fulfil the great mission of creating an American literature, hewing it, as it were, out of the unwrought granite of our intellectual quarries? From him, whether molded in the form of an epic poem, or assuming a guise altogether new, as the spirit itself may determine, we are to receive our first great original work, which shall do all that remains to be achieved for our glory among the nations. How this child of a mighty destiny had been discovered by the Man of Fancy, it is of little consequence to mention. Suffice it that he dwells as yet unhonored among men, unrecognized by those who have known him from his cradle. The noble countenance, which should be distinguished by a halo diffused around it, passes daily amid the throng of people, toiling, and troubling themselves about the trifles of a moment; and none pay reverence to the worker of immortality. Nor does it matter much to him, in his triumph over all the ages, though a generation or two of his own times shall do themselves the wrong to disregard him.
By this time, Monsieur On-Dit had caught up the stranger's name and destiny, and was busily whispering the intelligence among the other guests. « Pshaw !” said one :
66 there can
never be an American genius.
“ Pish!” cried another: “ we have already as good poets as any in the world. For my part, I desire to see no better."
And the Oldest Inhabitant, when it was proposed to introduce him to the Master Genius, begged to be excused; observing, that a man who had been honored with the acquaintance of Dwight and Freneau and Joel Barlow might be allowed a little austerity of taste.
The saloon was now fast filling up by the arrival of other remarkable characters, among whom were noticed Davy Jones, the distinguished nautical personage, and a rude, carelesslyúressed, harum-scarum sort of elderly fellow, known by the nickname of Old Harry. The latter, however, after being shown to a dressing-room, re-appeared with his gray hair nicely combed, his clothes brushed, a clean dicky on his neck, and altogether so changed in aspect as to merit the more respectful appellation of Venerable Henry. John Doe and Richard Roe came arm in arm, accompanied by a man of straw, a fictitious indorser, and several persons who had no existence except as voters in closely-contested elections. The celebrated Seatsfield, who now entered, was at first supposed to belong to the same brotherhood, until he made it apparent that he was a real man of flesh and blood, and had his earthly domicile in Germany. Among the latest comers, as might reasonably be expected, arrived a guest from the Far Future.
know him ? do you know him ? ” whispered Monsieur On-Dit, who seemed to be acquainted with everybody. “He is the representative of posterity, the man of an age to come.”
6 And how came he here?” asked a figure who was evidently the prototype of the fashion-plate in a magazine, and might be taken to represent the vanities of the passing moment.
“ The fellow infringes upon our rights by coming before his time.”
“But you forget where we are," answered the Man of Fancy, who overheard the remark. “ The lower earth, it is true, will be forbidden ground to him for many long years hence; but a castlo in the air is a sort of No Man's Land, where posterity may make acquaintance with us on equal terms."
No sooner was his identity known than a throng of guests gathered about Posterity, all expressing the most generous interest in his welfare, and many boasting of the sacrifices which they had made, or were willing to make, in his behalf. Some, with as much secrecy as possible, desired his judgment upon certain copies of verses or great manuscript rolls of prose; others accosted him with the familiarity of old friends, taking it for granted that he was perfectly cognizant of their names and characters. At length, finding himself thus beset, Posterity was put quite beside his patience.
“Gentlemen, my good friends,” cried he, breaking loose from a misty poet who strove to hold him by the button, “ I pray you to attend to your own business, and leave me to take care of mine! I expect to owe you nothing, unless it be certain national debts, and other encumbrances and impediments, physical and moral, which I shall find it troublesome enough to remove from my path. As to your verses, pray send them to your contemporaries. Your names are as strange to me as your faces; and, even were it otherwise, — let me whisper you a secret, — the cold, icy memory which one generation may retain of another is but a poor recompense to barter life for. Yet, if your heart is set on being known to me, the surest, the only method is to live truly and wisely for your own age, whereby, if the native force be in you, you may likewise live for posterity.”
“It is nonsense,” murmured the Oldest Inhabitant, who, as a man of the past, felt jealous that all notice should be withdrawn from himself to be lavished on the future,
6 sheer nonsense, to waste so much thought on what only is to be.”
To divert the minds of his guests, who were considerably abashed by this little incident, the Man of Fancy led them through several apartments of the castle, receiving their compliments upon the taste and varied magnificence that were displayed in each. One of these rooms was filled with moonlight, which