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THE TWO OFFICERS.
As their stay on shore was to be only temporary, they found it necessary to lose no time in getting ready for the boats, which quickly came alongside to take them into Table Bay. There were two parties of passengers in two separate boats, which started at the same time, and both of them had great tossing about in the bay, and were tacking for at least two hours before they reached the wharf. When they landed, the beauty of the situation and the buildings of this Dutch town, the streets with the dyke running through their midst, the principal of which was the kaisergracht, the Dutch company gardens, with their menagerie and formal walks of trees, the parade grounds, the curious nature of the red sandy soil, the numbers of bullock carts drawn by oxen, sometimes fourteen in the team, the quantity of delicious fruit which was to be seen selling everywhere in the shops, and especially the waggon-loads of grapes in charge of a Hottentot with a cloth round his waist and straw hat completely conical; all these engaged the attention of the young officers, and Mrs. Green with her husband went from shop to shop looking at dresses, which she considered quite prodigies of antiquity. Mrs. Boreham and her husband met some officers on the parade, and entered into conversation with them. Each party accosted the other with most cordial greetings, and laughter long and loud followed upon their mutual recal of the names of several men of this regiment and that regiment, of Tomkins of your corps, and Jenkins of ours, a colloquy which would doubtless have excited most unmitigated disgust on the part of Mrs. Green had she stayed with the party and listened to it. The conversation first began by asking about all the ladies belonging to the 102nd, in succession, and then proceeded to the officers, each of whom was treated of in detail, as soon as every item of tittle-tattle which bore upon the fair sex, their dresses, their expenditure, their bonnets, their servants, their children, had been finished off. Williams and Clare found this conversation, which (owing to their composing the party), they had been obliged to listen to for some few minutes, one of not very engrossing interest, and took the first opportunity of withdrawing, and leaving Prose to Mrs. Boreham's mercies. They then went to one of the hotels, and having engaged for the hire of two horses, set off riding to Constantia, more for the purpose of seeing the country than for any attraction which they promised to themselves in visiting the famed vineyards. When they were out in the country Williams began
speaking to Clare about the voyage and the people they had just left, and asked him if he liked the idea of going on to live in Ceylon, and the sort of society they would have there.
Clare said, that, judging from what he saw of the military society, he did not think very favourably of it, but that perhaps there might be better specimens in Ceylon. Williams said, that his idea was that a military man must trust to his own resources for the method of passing his time; that there was no life where a man had more leisure time at his disposal than an officer, and especially in the tropics; that unless a man devoted himself to a regular course of study he would find time hang heavy on his hands, and be likely also to get into dissipated habits; that it was all very well to think that our days were only meant for pleasure or for sport, but that if a man did not wish to improve his mind, life itself became a burden to him, and especially in a country where he was necessarily obliged to pass seven or eight hours of the day within doors; he proceeded to say: "I have been myself now eight years in the army, and some of these I passed in tropical climates, and I have invariably found that the men who had no resources but sport, or whatever idle society there might be had amongst the inhabitants in the neighbourhood, were soon tired and dissatisfied with their condition, but the man who cultivated his mind found his days roll on happily."
Clare said, "I should think that this Cape of Good Hope was, from its climate, and all things relating to the country, a pleasant place to be quartered in."
Williams said, "From what I have heard the officers say of it, the principal amusement which they have here is the lion-shooting; but you must have good horses, and the means of travelling far into the country, to enjoy that sport properly."
Clare said, "There are, it seems to me, few places where, with plenty of money to procure the means of sport and enjoyment, you cannot get on, but without money it is a very up-hill sort of life in the army. Where there is no hope of active service, it is rather a dreary prospect at present. I wonder what Jones and Halstead are about now? It was very much against my grain our sailing away at that old captain's suggestion, when he obliged us to leave Madeira without them."
"But," said Williams, "there is still great hopes of the colonel's ship arriving there, and of their being then picked up; and one comfort is, although the expense is something for getting a new sea kit for board ship from Madeira to Ceylon, both of them can well afford it. I am sorry for Halstead, but I cannot say I pity Jones."
Clare said, "I am sure I do not know what I should have done had it been me."
Williams said, "You are more given to other pursuits. I fancy that you are more likely to be thinking of your absent fair one. At all events, you did not spend your time as these young men did during the whole time we were on our voyage from the trades to Madeira. They did nothing but play cards. There is nothing so ruinous to a man as a taste for gambling. Other tastes may be more debasing, but it is the most pernicious to himself and others."
Clare said, "Do you not think that drinking is worse?"
Williams said, "No. Worse it is for the man himself to drink, and it is commonly said of a drunken man, he is no man's enemy but his own; but a man that plays as Jones does, and leads of necessity others on, as he does Halstead, is a sort of curse to society a person whose vile appetite for gain is only satisfied by the destruction of the prospects of his fellow-men-a perfect intellectual cannibal. You hear such men say perpetually, 'I cannot live without the excitement of play.' Analyse this saying, and what is it? I am not content with my own. I must have a chance of gaining from another, When I have selfishly gained all that my brother officer possesses, I then shall be satisfied.' There is nothing but the most intense and unpardonable selfishness at the bottom of such a nature, let him disguise it in as fine words as he chooses."
Yet," said Clare, "how many there are that only play for the sake of passing away the time, as it were."
"So it seems," said Williams; "but the greatest number of these are men who are victimised by other more crafty and worse characters. And some also amongst them, when they have lost considerably, become in their turn harpies, who pounce upon any unsuspecting victims whom they may chance to meet with."
Clare said, "You say that a man should give a few hours of the day to the improvement of his mind, what do you say he should study, for instance, to begin with?"
Williams said, "I should recommend his reading the classics: the study of the Greek poetry and dramatists is the very best school for the improvement of a man's style. He would there go to the fountain from whose source the most beautiful specimens are taken, and not trust to those who have written afterwards and borrowed most of their beauties from the original riches of the ancient writers. If you were to take any of the most admired poems of the present day to pieces, you would be struck with astonishment at seeing the wonderful number of ideas which are taken even literally from the Greek writers, or the Latin."
Clare said, "You are well versed in those things, can you give me an example or two?"
Williams said, "That famous apostrophe of Sir W. Scott's to Scotland, beginning with Breathes there a man,' has lines
which are in the mouth of almost every man who makes a speech relative to patriotism, and which one sees so frequently either partly quoted or adverted to. It ends with a line which is a literal translation from the Antigone of Sophocles:
Byron's song of the Albanians, where it speaks of
ἄκλαυτος ἄφιδος ανυμεναίος,
Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.
what is it but the line so common in Homer's 'Iliad,'
ενθαδ αμ οιμωγε και ευχωλὴ πελεν ανδρων ολλυντων και ολλυμενων. And Grey's Elegy, which is a sort of model specimen of modern English poetry, is full of plagiarisms from the ancient writers; for instance,
The moping owl doth to the moon complain,
ευ αγγέλου φανεντος ορφνάινου πυρος
And in the beautiful address, in which Byron speaks of the evening and its star, and says,
The heavenliest hour of heaven is worthiest thee; we are reminded of
έσπερος καλλιστος ενουρανου εσσεται ασερ.
It would fill a volume if one were to collect all the instances in which the most remarkable plagiarisms from ancient writers were
imported into modern books. Thus Swift, the most original writer perhaps (according to Johnson) of the modern school, has taken many of his thoughts from Aristophanes and Lucian; the exact words, of course, are not transposed, but a cursory reading of the original, and comparison with the modern work, would soon show that the latter was suggested by the former."
Clare said, "I think that more men would like the classics if it were not that they are drilled and dosed and disgusted with them at school, and that in after life they revert to thoughts of them with reminiscences of punishment and school-hours of pain."
William said, "I took to the great study of them in after life, after I had entered on my profession, and I had only learned the elements at school, and their beauties to me came fresh and vivid when I was capable of judging of them. They are not associated in my recollection with any of the horrors of a dull daily task, which is drummed into one's ears by tiresome ritual, but the beauty of the different compositions gained upon me as I perused them by myself."
The young men thus continued conversing till they came to the vineyards and the buildings of Constantia, and, after a short survey of these, they got on their horses again, and remembering the captain's impatience, as also the fate of their two brother officers at Madeira, they galloped back to Cape Town, and were in time to reach the place where they got their horses, and having paid for their hire they took a boat, and reached the Black Joke just about an hour before the captain had determined to set sail.
The other passengers were all on board, and on this occasion there was no one left behind. Then they left the harbour and steered the ship into the wide expanse of the broad and peaceful Indian Ocean. The nights were clear, lovely, and calm. The bright Southern Cross, an irregular four-sided figure, shone over the horizon. The myriads of phosphoric pulpy spawn of some marine embryo existence were at each side of the head of the vessel seen frequently shining like coruscations issuing from the deep. The porpoises huge, in masses like the multitudes of the men who crowd in concourse on the plains near an Eastern city of a festive holiday, had their throngs cloven through by the ship's bow as they sported in their native element, many of them jumping up to the ship's side as if to gaze on the new wondrous monster that came on with the wings of the wind to disturb their gambols. The lovers of nature's grand and beauteous handiwork— which who does not learn to love when on the deep?-were sure to be on deck before the morning star was up to taste of the mild freshness of morning air, breathing its exhalations untainted by city smoke or country vapour. When lo! glowing like a distant globe of fire, the beautiful orb of day rose lone and lovely, cloudless and unobscured, in gorgeous majesty, the lord supreme of the