Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: Ch. 26

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"There are few scions of royalty to whose favour that would be a likely path."

"True; and therefore the greater honour is due to the young student who could contradict, and the prince who could be contradicted."

By this time we had arrived in the great man's presence; he was sitting with a little circle round him, in the further drawing-room, and certainly I never saw a nobler specimen of humanity. I felt myself at once before a hero—not of war and bloodshed, but of peace and civilization; his portly and ample figure, fair hair and delicate complexion, and, above all, the benignant calm of his countenance, told of a character gentle and genial—at peace with himself and all the world; while the exquisite proportion of his chiselled and classic features, the lofty and ample brain, and the keen, thoughtful eye, bespoke, at the first glance, refinement and wisdom—

  The reason firm, the temperate will—
  Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill.

I am not ashamed to say, Chartist as I am, that I felt inclined to fall upon my knees, and own a master of God's own making.

He received my beautiful guide with a look of chivalrous affection, which I observed that she returned with interest; and then spoke in a voice peculiarly bland and melodious:

"So, my dear lady, this is the protégé of whom you have so often spoken?"

So she had often spoken of me! Blind fool that I was, I only took it in as food for my own self-conceit, that my enemy (for so I actually fancied her) could not help praising me.

"I have read your little book, sir," he said, in the same soft, benignant voice, "with very great pleasure. It is another proof, if I required any, of the under-current of living and healthful thought which exists even in the less-known ranks of your great nation. I shall send it to some young friends of mine in Germany, to show them that Englishmen can feel acutely and speak boldly on the social evils of their country, without indulging in that frantic and bitter revolutionary spirit, which warps so many young minds among us. You understand the German language at all?"

I had not that honour.

"Well, you must learn it. We have much to teach you in the sphere of abstract thought, as you have much to teach us in those of the practical reason and the knowledge of mankind. I should be glad to see you some day in a German university. I am anxious to encourage a truly spiritual fraternization between the two great branches of the Teutonic stock, by welcoming all brave young English spirits to their ancient fatherland. Perhaps hereafter your kind friends here will be able to lend you to me. The means are easy, thank God! You will find in the Germans true brothers, in ways even more practical than sympathy and affection."

I could not but thank the great man, with many blushes, and went home that night utterly "tête montée," as I believe the French phrase is—beside myself with gratified vanity and love; to lie sleepless under a severe fit of asthma—sent perhaps as a wholesome chastisement to cool my excited spirits down to something like a rational pitch. As I lay castle-building, Lillian's wild air rang still in my ears, and combined itself somehow with that picture of the Cheshire sands, and the story of the drowned girl, till it shaped itself into a song, which, as it is yet unpublished, and as I have hitherto obtruded little or nothing of my own composition on my readers, I may be excused for inserting it here.