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The Young Visionary.
But here there was sad commotion. Mr. Goodchild was ill: and his illness arose from a little history, which must here be introduced by way of episode. Mr. Goodchild had an only daughter named Ida. Now Miss Ida had begun, like other young ladies of her age, to think of marriage: nature had put it into her head to consider all at once that she was seventeen years of age. And it sometimes occurred to her that Mr. Tempest, the young barrister, who occupied the first floor over the way, was just the very she would like in the character of lover. Thoughts of the same tendency appeared to have occurred also to Mr. Tempest. Ida seemed to him remarkably well fitted to play the part of a wife; and when he pretended to be reading the Pandects at his window, too often (it must be acknowledged) his eyes were settled all the while upon Ida's blooming face. The glances of these eyes did certainly cause some derangement occasionally in Ida's sewing and netting. What if they did ?
Let her drop as many stitches as she would, the next day was long enough to take them up again.
This young man, then, was clearly pointed out by Providence as the partner of her future life. Ah ! that her father would think so too! But he called him always the young visionary. And whenever she took a critical review of all their opposite neighbors, and fell as if by accident upon the domestic habits, respectable practice, and other favorable points about Mr. Tempest, her father never failed to close the conversation by saying, - “Ay, but he's a mere young visionary.” And why, Mr. Goodchild? Simply for these two reasons: first, because once at a party
where they had met, Mr. Tempest had happened to say a few words very displeasing to his prejudices on the “golden age” of German poetry, to which Mr. Goodchild was much attached, and on which he could bear no opposition. Secondly, and chiefly, because, at the same time, he had unfortunately talked of the King of Hayti as a true crowned head, a monarch whom Mr. Goodchild was determined never to acknowledge.
At last, Ida and Mr. Tempest had come to form a regular correspondence together in the following way. The young advocate had conducted a commerce of looks with the lovely girl for a long time, and hardly knowing how it began, he had satisfied himself that she looked like an angel; and he grew very anxious to know whether she also talked like one ? To ascertain this point, he followed her many a time, and up and down many a street; and he bore patiently, for her sake, all the angry looks of his clients, which seemed to say that he would do more wisely to stay at home and study their causes, than to roam about in chase of a pretty girl. Mr. Tempest differed from his clients on this matter : suits at law, said he, have learned to wait; they are used to it; but hearts have not learned to wait, and never will be used to it. However, all was in vain. Ida was attended constantly either by her father, or by an old governess; and in either case his scheme was knocked on the head.
At length, chance did for him more than he could ever do for himself, and placed him one night at her elbow in the theatre. True it was that her father, whose dislike to him ever since his fatal acknowledgment of the King of Hayti he had not failed to remark, sat on the other side
of her; but the devil is in it, thought he, if I cannot steal a march on him the whole night through. As the overture to his scheme, therefore, he asked, in the most respectful manner, for the play-bill which Ida held in her hand. On returning it, he said, — what a pity that the vanity of the manager should disturb so many excellent parts; the part allotted to himself would have been far better played by several others in the company.
Mr. Tempest was not much delighted on observing that Mr. Goodchild did not receive this remark very propitiously, but looked still gloomier than before. The fact was, that the manager constantly attended all Mr. Goodchild's literary parties, professed great deference for his opinions, and was in return pronounced by Mr. Goodchild a man of “exceedingly good taste and accurate judgment.” His first shot, Mr. Tempest saw clearly, had missed fire ; and he would have been very glad to have had it back again; for he was thrown into a hideous fright when he saw the deep darkness which was gathering on Mr. Goodchild's face. Meantime, it was some little support to him under his panic, that, in returning the play-bill to Ida, he had ventured to press her hand, and fancied (but it could only be fancy) that she slightly returned the pressure. His
enemy, whose thunder now began to break, insisted on giving an importance to his remark which the unfortunate young man himself had never contemplated, — having meant it only as an introduction to further conversation, and not at all valuing himself upon it. “A pity, my good sir,” said Mr. Goodchild: “why so, my good sir ? On the contrary, my good sir, on the contrary, I believe it is pretty generally admitted that there is no part whatsoever in which this manager fails to outshine all competitors.”
“Very true, sir; as you observe, sir, he outshines all his competitors; and, in fact, that was just the very remark I wished to make.”
“It was, was it? Well, then, upon my word, my good sir, you took a very odd way to express it. The fact is, young and visionary people of this day are very rash in their judgments. But it is not to be supposed that so admirable a performer as this can be at all injured by such light and capricious opinions."
Mr. Tempest was confounded by this utter discomfiture of his inaugural effort, and sank dejected into silence. But his victorious foe looked abroad in all directions with a smiling and triumphant expression on his face, as if asking whether anybody had witnessed the ability with which he had taken down the conceit of the young rattle-brain.
However, Mr. Tempest was not so utterly dejected, but he consoled himself with thinking that every dog has his day: his turn would come; and he might yet perhaps succeed in laying the old dragon asleep.
With a view to do this as soon as possible, at the end of the first act he begged a friend who stood next to him to take his place by the side of Ida for a few minutes, and then hastened out. Under one of the lamps on the outside of the theatre, he took out from his pocket the envelope of a letter he had lately received, and with a pencil wrote upon it a formal declaration of love. His project was, to ask Ida a second time for the play-bill, and on returning it, to crush up the little note and put both together into her hand. But lord ! how the wisest schemes are baffled! On returning to the pit, he found the whole condition of things changed. His faithless representative met him with an apology at the very door. The fact was, that, seeing a pretty young lady standing close by him, the devil of gallantry had led him to cede to her use in perpetuity what
had been committed to his own care in trust only for a few minutes. Nor was this all; for the lady being much admired and followed, and (like comets or Highland chieftains) having her “tail” on for this night, there was no possibility of reaching the neighborhood of Ida for the pressure of the lady's tail of followers.
In his whole life had Mr. Tempest never witnessed a more stupid performance, worse actors, or more disgusting people about him, than during the time that he was separated from Ida. With the eye of an experienced tactician, he had calculated to a hair the course he must steer, on the termination of the play, to rejoin the object of his anxious regard. But alas ! when the curtain dropped, he found his road quite blocked up. No remedy was left but to press right on, and without respect of persons. But he gained nothing by the indefatigable labor of his elbows except a great number of scowling looks. His attention was just called to this, when Ida, who had now reached the door, looked back for a moment, and then disappeared in company with her father. Two minutes after, he had himself reached the door; but, looking round, he exclaimed pretty loudly, “Ah, good lord ! it's of no use;" — and then through the moonlight and the crowd of people he shot like an arrow, leaving them all to wonder what madness had seized the young advocate, who was usually so rational and composed. However, he overtook the object of his pursuit in the street in which he lived. For, upon his turning rapidly round the corner, Mr. Goodchild, alarmed at his noise and his speed, turned round upon him suddenly, and said, “ Is this a man or a horse ?”