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ONE of the first real summer days had come to London. The leaves were still bright and fresh from spring showers, and their green showed the more delicate for the blackness of old trunks and branches, which had known many fogs and ceaseless smoke. The turf was young and springy, the air soft and fitful. The Row was full of people tempted by the beauty of the evening. There were many maidens, fresh as the leaves, not yet wearied by close rooms and late hours; and fairest among the maidens, glad as a young huntress in the morning of the world, was Katharine Adare. Tolerant of the girls about her, pleased and amused by the young men of fashion, deeply attached to the noble animal who carried her so well, she moved as if to music, and the eyes of the crowd followed her in wonder. Irvine Dale, on his way from the station, leaned back in the corner of his hansom, and abandoned hiinself to the same sweet influence of the time. His restless eyes were half closed, and he made a pleasure of breathing. Ever quick to catch the spirit of his surroundings, joyous or sad, he felt the dawning summer in his blood and brain. Formless poetry seemed to rise unbidden to his lips. He was beginning to live once more. Surely he had been dead or sleeping through the damp Oxford winter. He awoke to life and light, and warmth and comfort. Comfort demands no ecstasy nor passion. She soothes the senses, lulls the conscience, blurs past evils into a mere vague background which throws into relief the pleasures of the present. Comfort is a solid fact in a world of shadows. The London of to-day takes great pains to be comfortable. Our landscapes must be soft as our sofas, our comedies mildly agreeable as our claret. The drama must be fitted to the properties. Art and Literature are the handmaids of refined upholstery. Wood-pavement changes clangour to murmur, and the city roars as gently as a suckingdove. Once in twenty-four hours occurs the great event. The day is adapted to the dinner. For this our senses are educated and doctored. They
must not be put out of tune by unpleasant shocks. There are grim places in this ancient city, as there are dust - bins in old palaces; but they are kept out of sight. Some such thoughts as these flitted through the mind of Irvine Dale as he was whirled down Park Lane on his way from Paddington, but disturbed him not. He was in a mood of easy philosophy, to which a spice of cynicism imparted a sharper flavour. He enjoyed the curl of his lip. His thoughts of comfort were not so deep and serious that he ceased to be comfortable. He was in the modern romantic mood. So as he passed the Park and caught a glimpse of golden hair above the dark habit, he pleased himself with the dream that it was the girl whom he held loveliest. He dressed himself at his hotel and went forth to his club. It was pleasant to be once more in a dress-coat, and to see his neat shoes gleaming on the pavement. It was pleasant to sit before his white table-cloth in the room of fair proportions which even many dinners did not make too hot; to nod to a man who, for a wonder, had not forgotten him ; to feel his opera ticket in his breastpocket. He murmured that pregnant line of Clough
“How pleasant it is to have money, heigh-ho !”
The sigh was a comfortable sigh. He called for the best claret. Having tasted no wine for some six months, he felt it in his veins like life. His heart grew hot, his eye bright, and his extreme placidity was endangered. His was no longer the mood of one who sighs that such is life as he unpins his napkin, and to whom moonlight is the fitting complement of toothpick and cigarette. Comfort gave place to restless gaiety. He sent for a hansom, and was borne away to the opera, with his head full of half-forgotten melodies. To eyes weary of darkness and squalor, the house was a glow of splendour; to ears accustomed to snuffled Gregorians, the great sound of the overture was overwhelming as the sea. He floated away on the tidal music joyous, passionate, and young. It was the fulness of life after scant measure. The people all about him gave him a warm feeling of fellowship without intruding upon him. His delight was exalted and intensified by their share in it; and he would not disturb his joy by scanning their faces or considering their characters. If he looked, he might see many commonplace persons : his fancy filled the place with people swayed by music, as he himself was. The curtain rose. It was a lucky night, and all went well. All things were in harmony. The scenes were beautiful, and fit for the story. The story was of the South, full of tumultuous passion, but the passion was controlled by the artist. Intense feeling everywhere, but everywhere the instinct of form. It was the work of a man who was not afraid of passion, because he knew his strength-who was not afraid of melody, because he was master of his melody. Here was no sliding down from sentiment to sentiment, no abandonment to continuous sighs, no stream running on and on to nothing in the sand. It was not the work of a musical Narcissus enraptured by his own sweetness; but of a master-mind inspiring a great dramatic poem, and appealing to men who hear and see and think.
Irvine Dale, who knew a little of most things, knew a little about music, and enjoyed it much. In his strange mood he was brought easily under the spell. He was so far carried away, that the story on the stage seemed real to him. He did not struggle with the belief that it was real. · He was outside among shadows; and life, ennobled by great action, passion, and music, was lived before his eyes. In such a world nothing is strange. Irvine sat still in his place, with wide-open eyes and parted lips, as there rose sweet and clear the