it, and finds one of the proportions an eighth of an inch wrong. You are disposed of as a critic! 'Did
you say he draws well?' your friends enquire sarcastically, while you hang your head and blush. No.
The only safe course, if any one says 'draws well,' is to shrug your shoulders. 'Draws well?' you repeat
thoughtfully. 'Draws well? Humph!' That's the way to become a great critic!"
Thus airily chatting, after a pleasant drive through a few miles of beautiful scenery, we reached the rendezvous----
a ruined castle----where the rest of the picnic-party were already assembled. We spent an hour or two
in sauntering about the ruins: gathering at last, by common consent, into a few random groups, seated
on the side of a mound, which commanded a good view of the old castle and its surroundings.
The momentary silence, that ensued, was promptly taken possession of or, more correctly, taken into
custody----by a Voice; a voice so smooth, so monotonous, so sonorous, that one felt, with a shudder,
that any other conversation was precluded, and that, unless some desperate remedy were adopted, we
were fated to listen to a Lecture, of which no man could foresee the end!
The speaker was a broadly-built man, whose large, flat, pale face was bounded on the North by a fringe
of hair, on the East and West by a fringe of whisker, and on the South by a fringe of beard----the whole
constituting a uniform halo of stubbly whitey-brown bristles. His features were so entirely destitute of
expression that I could not help saying to myself----helplessly, as if in the clutches of a night-mare----
"they are only penciled in: no final touches as yet!" And he had a way of ending every sentence with
a sudden smile, which spread like a ripple over that vast blank surface, and was gone in a moment,
leaving behind it such absolute solemnity that I felt impelled to murmur "it was not he: it was somebody
else that smiled!"
"Do you observe?" (such was the phrase with which the wretch began each sentence) "Do you observe
the way in which that broken arch, at the very top of the ruin, stands out against the clear sky? It is
placed exactly right: and there is exactly enough of it. A little more, or a little less, and all would be utterly
- "Oh gifted architect!" murmured Arthur, inaudibly to all but Lady Muriel and myself. "Foreseeing the
exact effect his work would have, when in ruins, centuries after his death!"
"And do you observe, where those trees slope down the hill, (indicating them with a sweep of the hand,
and with all the patronising air of the man who has himself arranged the landscape), "how the mists
rising from the river fill up exactly those intervals where we need indistinctness, for artistic effect? Here,
in the foreground, a few clear touches are not amiss: but a back-ground without mist, you know! It is
simply barbarous! Yes, we need indistinctness!"
The orator looked so pointedly at me as he uttered these words, that I felt bound to reply, by murmuring
something to the effect that I hardly felt the need myself----and that I enjoyed looking at a thing, better,
when I could see it.
"Quite so!" the great man sharply took me up. "From your point of view, that is correctly put. But for
anyone who has a soul for Art, such a view is preposterous. Nature is one thing. Art is another. Nature
shows us the world as it is. But Art----as a Latin author tells us----Art, you know the words have escaped
my memory "Ars est celare Naturam," Arthur interposed with a delightful promptitude.
"Quite so!" the orator replied with an air of relief. "I thank you! Ars est celare Naturam but that isn't it." And,
for a few peaceful moments, the orator brooded, frowningly, over the quotation. The welcome opportunity
was seized, and another voice struck into the silence.
"What a lovely old ruin it is!" cried a young lady in spectacles, the very embodiment of the March of Mind,
looking at Lady Muriel, as the proper recipient of all really original remarks. "And don't you admire those
autumn-tints on the trees? I do, intensely!"