The Vision of the Three T's/Chapter II

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CHAPTER II.

A Conference with one distraught: who discourseth strangely of many things.

 

PISCATOR, VENATOR.


 

Piscator. 'Tis a marvellous pleasant ballad. But look you, another Collegian draws near. I wot not of what station he is, for indeed his apparel is new to me.

Venator. It is compounded, as I take it, of the diverse dresses of a jockey, a judge, and a North American Indian.

Enter Lunatic.

Pisc. Sir, may I make bold to ask your name?

Lun. With all my heart. Sir. It is Jeeby, at your service.

Pisc. And wherefore (if I may further trouble you, being as you see a stranger) do you wear so gaudy, but withal so ill-assorted, a garb?

Lun. Why, Sir, I'll tell you. Do you read the Morning Post?

Pisc. Alas, Sir, I do not.

Lun. 'Tis pity of your life you do not. For, look you, not to read the Post, and not to know the newest and most commended fashions, are but one and the same thing. And yet this raiment, that I wear, is not the newest fashion. No, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, the fashion.

Ven. I can well believe it.

Lun. And therefore 'tis, Sir, that I wear it. 'Tis but a badge of greatness. My deeds you see around you. Si monumentum quæris, circumspice! You know Latin?

Ven. Not I, Sir! It shames me to say it.

Lun. You are then (let me roundly tell you) monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum!

Ven. Sir, you may tell it me roundly—or, if you list, squarely—or again, triangularly. But if, as you affirm, I see your deeds around me, I would fain know which they be.

Lun. Aloft, Sir, stands the first and chiefest! That soaring minaret! That gorgeous cupola! That dreamlike effulgence of—

Ven. That wooden box?

Lun. The same. Sir! 'Tis mine!

Ven. (after a pause). Sir, it is worthy of you.

Lun. Lower now your eyes by a hairsbreadth, and straight you light upon my second deed. Oh Sir, what toil of brain, what cudgelling of forehead, what rending of locks, went to the fashioning of it!

Ven. Mean you that newly-made gap?

Lun. I do. Sir. 'Tis mine!

Ven. (after a long pause). What else, Sir? I would fain know the worst.

Lun. (wildly). It comes, it comes! My third great deed ! Lend, lend your ears—your nose—any feature you can least conveniently spare! See you those twin doorways? Tall and narrow they loom upon you—severely simple their outline—massive the masonry between—black as midnight the darkness within! Sir, of what do they mind you?

Ven. Of vaults, Sir, and of charnel-houses.

Lun. This is a goodly fancy, and yet they are not vaults. No, Sir, you see before you a Railway Tunnel!

Ven. 'Tis very strange!

Lun. But no less true than strange. Mark me. 'Tis love, 'tis love, that makes the world go round! Society goes round of itself. In circles. Military society in military circles. Circles must needs have centres. Military circles military centres.

Ven. Sir, I fail to see—

Lun. Lo you, said our Rulers, Oxford shall be a military centre! Then the chiefest of them (glad in countenance, yet stony, I wot, in heart) so ordered it by his underling (I remember me not his name, yet is he one that can play a card well, and so serveth meetly the behests of that mighty one, who played of late in Ireland a game of cribbage such as no man, who saw it, may lightly forget); and then, Sir, this great College, ever loyal and generous, gave this Quadrangle as a Railway Terminus, whereby the troops might come and go. By that Tunnel, Sir, the line will enter.

Pisc. But, Sir, I see no rails.

Lun. Patience, good Sir! For railing we look to the Public. The—College doth but furnish sleepers.

Pisc. And the design of that Tunnel is—

Lun. Is mine, Sir! Oh, the fancy! Oh, the wit! Oh, the rich vein of humour! When came the idea? I' the mirk midnight. Whence came the idea? From a cheese-scoop! How came the idea? In a wild dream. Hearken, and I will tell. Form square, and prepare to receive a canonry! All the evening long I had seen lobsters marching around the table in unbroken order. Something sputtered in the candle—something hopped among the tea-things—something pulsated, with an ineffable yearning, beneath the enraptured hearthrug! My heart told me something was coming—and something came! A voice cried 'Cheese-scoop!' and the Great Thought of my life flashed upon me! Placing an ancient Stilton cheese, to represent this venerable Quadrangle, on the chimney-piece, I retired to the further end of the room, armed only with a cheese-scoop, and with a dauntless courage awaited the word of command. Charge, Cheesetaster, charge! On, Stilton, on! With a yell and a bound I crossed the room, and plunged my scoop into the very heart of the foe! Once more! Another yell—another bound—another cavity scooped out! The deed was done!

Ven. And yet, Sir, if a cheese-scoop were your guide, these cavities must needs be circular.

Lun. They were so at the first—but, like the fickle Moon, my guardian satellite, I change as I go on. Oh, the rapture, Sir, of that wild moment! And did I reveal the Mighty Secret! Never, never! Day by day, week by week, behind a wooden screen, I wrought out that vision of beauty. The world came and went, and knew not of it. Oh, the ecstasy, when yesterday the Screen was swept away, and the Vision was a Reality! I stood by Tom-Gate, in that triumphal hour, and watched the passers by. They stopped! They stared!! They started!!! A thrill of envy paled their cheeks! Hoarse inarticulate words of delirious rapture rose to their lips! What withheld me—what, I ask you candidly, withheld me from leaping upon them, holding them in a frantic clutch, and yelling in their ears ''Tis mine, 'tis mine!'

Pisc. Perchance, the thought that——

Lun. You are right, Sir. The thought that there is a lunatic asylum in the neighbourhood, and that two medical certificates——but I will be calm. The deed is done. Let us change the subject. Even now a great musical performance is going on within. Wilt hear it? The Chapter give it——ha, ha! They give it!

Pisc. Sir, I will very gladly be their guest.

Lun. Then, guest, you have not guessed all! You shall be bled, Sir, ere you go! 'Tis love, 'tis love, that makes the hat go round! Stand and deliver! Vivat Regina! No money returned!

Pisc. How mean you, Sir?

Lun. I said, Sir, 'No money returned!'

Pisc. And I said, Sir, How mean——'

Lun. Sir, I am with you. You have heard of Bishops' Charges? Sir, what are Bishops to Chapters? Oh, it goes to my heart to see these quaint devices! First, sixpence for use of a doorscraper. Then, fivepence for right of choosing by which archway to approach the door. Then, a poor threepence for turning of the handle. Then, a shilling a head for admission, and half-a-crown for every two-headed man. Now this, Sir, is manifestly unjust: for you are to note that the double of a shilling——

Pisc. I do surmise, Sir, that the case is rare.

Lun. And then, Sir, five shillings each for care of your umbrella! Hence comes it that each visitor of ready wit hides his umbrella, ere he enter, either by swallowing it (which is perilous to the health of the inner man), or by running it down within his coat, even from the nape of the neck, which indeed is the cause of that which you may have observed in me, namely, a certain stiffness in mine outward demeanour. Farewell, gentlemen, I go to hear the music. [Exit Lunatic.