Wilhelm von Schmitz


                                         (Old Play)

THE sultry glare of noon was already giving place to the cool of a cloudless evening, and the lulled ocean was washing against the Pier with a low murmur, suggestive to poetical minds of the kindred ideas of motion and lotion, when two travelers might have been seen, by such as chose to look that way, approaching the secluded town of Whitby by one of those headlong paths, dignified by the name of road, which serve as entrances into the place, and which were originally constructed, it is supposed, on the somewhat fantastic model of pipes running into a water-butt. The elder of the two was a sallow and careworn man; his features were adorned with what had been often at a distance mistaken for a moustache, and were shaded by a beaver hat, of doubtful age, and of appearance which, if not respectable, was at least venerable. The younger, in whom the sagacious reader already recognizes the hero of my tale, possessed a form which, once seen, could scarcely be forgotten: a slight tendency to obesity proved but a trifling drawback to the manly grace of its contour, and though the strict laws of beauty might perhaps have required a somewhat longer pair of legs to make up the proportion of his figure, and that his eyes should match rather more exactly than they chanced to do, yet to those critics who are untrammeled with any laws of taste, and there are many such, to those who could close their eyes to the faults in his shape, and single out its beauties, though few were ever found capable of the task, to those above all who knew and esteemed his personal character, and believed that the powers of his mind transcended those of the age he lived in, though alas! none such has as yet turned up -- to those he was a very Apollo.

What thought it had not been wholly false to assert that too much grease had been applied to his hair, and too little soap to his hands? that his nose turned too much up, and his shirt collars too much down? that his whiskers had borrowed all the colour from his cheeks, excepting a little that had run down into his waistcoat? Such trivial criticisms were unworthy the notice of any who laid claim to the envied title of the connoisseur.

He had been christened William, and his father's name was Smith, but though he had introduced himself to many of the higher circles in London under the imposing name of `Mr. Smith, of Yorkshire', he had unfortunately not attracted so large a share of public notice as he was confident he merited: some had asked him how far back he traced his ancestry; others had been mean enough to hint that his position in society was not entirely unique; while the sarcastic enquiries of others touching the dormant peerage in his family, to which, it was suggested, he was about to lay claim, had awakened in the breast of the noble-spirited youth an ardent longing for that high birth and connection which an adverse Fortune had denied him.

Hence he had conceived the notion of that fiction, which perhaps in his case must be considered merely as a poetical licence, whereby he passed himself off upon the world under the sounding appellation which heads this tale. This step had already occasioned a large increase in his popularity, a circumstance which his friends spoke of under the unpoetical simile of a bad sovereign fresh gilt, but which he himself more pleasantly described as, `. . . a violet pale, At length discovered in its mossy dale, And borne to sit with kings': a destiny for which, as it is generally believed, violets are not naturally fitted.

The travelers, each buried in his own thoughts, paced in silence down the steep, save when an unusually sharp stone, or an unexpected dip in the road, produced one of those involuntary exclamations of pain, which so triumphantly demonstrate the connection between Mind and Matter. At length the young traveler, rousing himself with an effort from his painful reverie, broke upon the meditations of his companion with an unexpected question, `Think you she will be much altered in feature? I trust me not.' `Think who?' testily rejoined the other: then hastily correcting himself, with an exquisite sense of grammar, he substituted the expressive phrase, `Who's the she you're after?' `Forget you then,' asked the young man, who was so intensely poetical in soul that he never spoke in ordinary prose, `forget you the subject we conversed on but now? Trust me, she hath dwelt in my thoughts ever since.' `But now!' his friend repeated, in sarcastic

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