Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/404

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388
A Bundle of Life.
 

a smile like the sun's on a March morning, and surveyed the company with the feverish gaiety of one who is too seriously bored to risk showing languor. He was of all men the last to entertain a table, yet few attempted the task so often, and no one could have been more ignorant of his failures. He started a conversation on the Early Marriages Bill, and quoted, with inspired inaccuracy, a speech recently made on that subject by his friend, Sidney Wiche. Wiche, who happened to be present, endured his host's recital with the air of one accustomed to suffering; at its close his countenance had something humorous, pathetic, and sublime—St. Lawrence on the gridiron saying, "Turn me! This side is done!' must have looked just so. The editor of The Watchman was a man of slender frame and with fewer inches than the ordinary; a small mortal whose boundless spirit—imprisoned yet not impatient for release—gazed through his eyes. His pale face, dull brown hair and duller beard, and the absence in his manner of all that marks the creature of many fashions and one epoch, had made him more famous for his insignificance than any of his contemporaries for their distinction. He was about seven-and-thirty, and hard work had made him look much older.

Two men who sat at the far end of the table seized the advantage of their position, and, talking in undertones, studied him with lively interest.

"Of course, he is clever," said the elder of the two; "or, at least, he is a great man for the mob. There is a distinction between greatness and being great in the eyes of a certain class." The speaker,