taste which would make him a more agreeable companion than the common ecclesiastics of his grade in country villages.
After breakfast, Mr. Clement walked forth in the direction of Mrs. Hopkins's house, thinking as he went of the pleasant surprise his visit would bring to his longing and doubtless pensive Susan; for though she knew he was coming, she did not know that he was at that moment in Oxbow Village.
As he drew near the house, the first thing he saw was Susan Posey, almost running against her just as he turned a corner. She looked wonderfully lively and rosy, for the weather was getting keen and the frosts had begun to bite. A young gentleman was walking at her side, and reading to her from a paper he held in his hand. Both looked deeply interested,—so much so that Clement felt half ashamed of himself for intruding upon them so abruptly.
But lovers are lovers, and Clement could not help joining them. The first thing, of course, was the utterance of two simultaneous exclamations, "Why, Clement!" "Why, Susan!" What might have come next in the programme, but for the presence of a third party, is matter of conjecture; but what did come next was a mighty awkward look on the part of Susan Posey, and the following short speech:—
"Mr. Lindsay, let me introduce Mr. Hopkins, my friend, the poet I've written to you about. He was just reading two of his poems to me. Some other time, Gifted—Mr. Hopkins."
"O no, Mr. Hopkins,—pray go on," said Clement. "I'm very fond of poetry."
The poet did not require much urging, and began at once reciting over again the stanzas which were afterwards so much admired in the "Banner and Oracle,"—the first verse being, as the readers of that paper will remember,—
- "She moves in splendor, like the ray
- That flashes from unclouded skies,
- And all the charms of night and day
- Are mingled in her hair and eyes."
Clement, who must have been in an agony of impatience to be alone with his beloved, commanded his feelings admirably. He signified his approbation of the poem by saying that the lines were smooth and the rhymes absolutely without blemish. The stanzas reminded him forcibly of one of the greatest poets of the century.
Gifted flushed hot with pleasure. He had tasted the blood of his own rhymes; and when a poet gets as far as that, it is like wringing the bag of exhilarating gas from the lips of a fellow sucking at it, to drag his piece away from him.
"Perhaps you will like these lines still better," he said; "the style is more modern:
- 'O daughter of the spiced South,
- Her bubbly grapes have spilled the wine
- That staineth with its hue divine
- The red flower of thy perfect mouth.'"
And so on, through a series of stanzas like these, with the pulp of two rhymes between the upper and lower crust of two others.
Clement was cornered. It was necessary to say something for the poet's sake,—perhaps for Susan's; for she was in a certain sense responsible for the poems of a youth of genius, of whom she had spoken so often and so enthusiastically.
"Very good, Mr. Hopkins, and a form of verse little used, I should think, until of late years. You modelled this piece on the style of a famous living English poet, did you not?"
"Indeed I did not, Mr. Lindsay,—I never imitate. Originality is, if I may be allowed to say so much for myself, my peculiar forte. Why, the critics allow as much as that. See here, Mr. Lindsay."
Mr. Gifted Hopkins pulled out his pocket-book, and, taking therefrom a cutting from a newspaper,—which dropped helplessly open of itself, as if tired of the process, being very tender in the joints or creases, by reason of having been often folded and unfolded,—read aloud as follows:—