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When he took his Doctor's degree he had opened his first chapter, or rather a chapter, for I find a note heading the few pages of MS. to this effect
Chapter to be numbered afterwards. May come in later.
Whether it was his new dignity as D.D., or a sense of duty laid upon him by his clerical character, that led him away from the main design, I do not know; but this chapter is entirely devoted to the consideration of Purprobationism, the distinguishing tenet of the Antoionians, a small heretical body which "flourished," to use my father's expression, whose account goes to show how they lived in caverns, fed themselves on roots, were hunted down wherever they appeared, and boiled in oil when captured, in the latter half of the second century.
His legacy to me, beyond a certain moderate sum, was the continuation of this work.
In his fifteenth pocket-book he had evidently entertained the idea of dropping all metaphysical questions, except incidentally, and writing an elaborate treatise on Fungi.
Three days before his decease, however, he called me to him, placed all his pocket-books and notes in my hands, and, complaining of his failing sight (he was otherwise apparently well), proposed that I should become his amanuensis.
The form of his book, he said, was not to be in volumes, though, from the exigencies of the case, it must ultimately run into many ponderous tomes.
"Order, classification, and a settled design are," he continued, impressively, "the notes of profound thought. Write, then, my dear boy, the title of the work."
I paused, pen in hand.
He lay back in his broad arm-chair, gazing tranquilly upon the gradual shadows stealing up the hills after the fleeing sunlight.
"Call it," he said, "the" Again he paused, and, leaning his chin upon his palm, looked out after the shadows as though they had robbed him of his thoughts, and were making the best of their way with them over the distant hills.
"Will you settle it to-morrow morning, father ?" I asked; "and I will begin my work before breakfast."
"No," he answered, without turning his head from the window. "This evening-now-I have decided. I was going to have called it a History; on Second Thoughts, it shall be a Dictionary."
"A dictionary!" I couldn't help exclaiming, being quite taken by
"Yes," he replied, calmly, "write this title on the first page—
A DICTIONARY OF POSSIBILITIES,
Commenced by the Rev. JOHN DAye Dreemyr, D.D., formerly Fellow of St. Henry's College; and continued by his Son THEOPHilus.
You will finish it," he said.
"I will help you to do so, father," I returned. He shook his head. "Or," I added, to cheer him, "on Second Thoughts, you may feel inclined to do it entirely yourself."
Ah, Poppy”—my father's abbreviation of Theophilus—“my, my Second Thoughts will begin." He closed his eyes, and leaned back, dreamily. I was silent, for I read his meaning, sadly.
The fifth evening after this-my father had been seriously and suddenly ill in the interval-Doctor Pincott, who had been my father's private pupil at college, came in to see him for the third time that day. "Theophilus," he said, almost in a whisper, "has got his charge" -meaning the MS. of the dictionary.
The shadows were bearing his thoughts far away up the hills some minutes earlier to-night.
"Shut the window, Poppy." I moved to obey. He altered his mind. "No, not yet."
Dr. Pincott, holding his hand, regarded him anxiously. "You are better to-night, sir," he inquired.
My father looked slowly from one to the other, lovingly at both ; then answered, at intervals, "Better. Better, thank God, to-night. Well, getting quite well."
A long, deep sigh. "Father."
Well, yes, quite well: at last.
"Richard hath other enemies than Richard's self;
I cannot read him even in the mirror.
Yet we'll have further speech with him anon."
This is how I come to be at work on such a laborious undertaking as The Dictionary of Possibilities." I follow in my father's wake, making notes for the great book. It will take a lifetime, I expect. "A" is unlimited: my desultory notes extend over the whole alphabet.
Occasional relaxation is necessary. Dr. Pincott, having made a considerable fortune, has left Chorlton-Double. Young Dick Pincott, his nephew, comes down to my cottage for fishing, and enlivens my studies with his college stories. Dick Pincott is my junior by ten years; and my "Dictionary of Possibilities" seems to add ten years on to that. By his side I feel a hoary sage Dick has no object in life except to live.
On Second Thoughts, isn't that my object ?—isn't it the object of all? This must fall under the letter "O"-Object. But in which volume of the dictionary this will come, I cannot, for the life of me, foresee.
Dick, coming to Chorlton-Double, Derbyshire, in June, asks me to spend a few days with him during term in October. I accept, and determine to earn my holiday by harder work than ever at the dictionary.
Dick is a hearty, good-natured lad, who calls me, and every one, for the matter of that, with whom he is on familiar terms, " old man," and invariably alludes to himself in the third person by his initials, as "D. P."
"Well, old man!" he cries, slapping me on the back; "D. P. expects to see you in October. We'll kill the fatted thingummy for you. Don't forget. October the twenty-fifth, and D. P.'s your man."
A letter comes for Dick as he is preparing to depart. While he opens and reads, I sit down to my dictionary.
On Second Thoughts, a few words about the Pincotts, past and present.
Mind, I do not undertake to tell you the Pincotts' history, or mine, or anyone's, for the matter of that. But in my hours of relaxation, and for the sake of the dictionary, I like to prattle. Bear with me.
"... Facciolatus autem dicebat, in novo cothurno movere difficile esse."
Cassius. "Aurelia, Brutus. (They bow.)
Brutus, my Aurelia.
So to your courtesies, sweet friends.
Brutus (aside). A trying moinent. I have nought to say.”
WITHIN three weeks, in the time of a great scourge of sickness, Dr. Pincott had lost his wife, his child, and his favourite brother, Hugh,
Hugh Pincott left one son: Dick. Him you have met. We are all awkward at introductions, and you can't tell whether you like him or not.
Some men you are taken with immediately.
Some boys are so lovcable: flores martyrum.
On Second Thoughts I will finish the chapter here for to-day, and go to my dictionary, for I am struck with an idea under the letter "B."
Possibilities in Boys.
"Proceed your story interests me much."
I RECOLLECT Dr. Pincott coming to our house, and sitting with my father. I am talking of some ten years before my father's death.
He was consulting him as to the advantage of having a governess in the house for Master Dick.
"What says Miss Rachel ?" asked my father, "for that is an important point."
And on Second Thoughts, it being an important point, I will let you know as much as I do myself about Miss Rachel.
Miss Rachel Pincott had kept house for her brother, Dr. Ralph Pincott, since the first days of his late wife's illness.
She was three years younger than the Doctor, and I defy you to guess her age to a year, even with that clue-aye, and seeing them both side by side.
She had always been the housekeeper at home, from the age of twelve. Her father and mother chuckled over the business habits, and quaint, old-fashioned ways of the child.
Thus she grew into her place, and the idea of changing her condition only occurred to her to be at once rejected. Perhaps it did not occur to her.
She escaped being a brunette by as much as she escaped being handsome. It was a pleasing, good, honest face, with a thin dark line of an eyebrow-nature's painting, not hers-and a tight mouth, that meant determination; and whenever she had a will, that will was law, and the law was a just one.
Servants understood her, and loved her. So did animals after their kind.
I sometimes think that, if I could find a Miss Rachel, or if she hadn't been seven years my senior
But, on Second Thoughts, better as it is. I am devoted to "The Dictionary of Possibilities."
Rachel regulated the household strictly, yet with unvarying good humour; made preserves, and was warden of every lock, from cupboard above to wine-cellar below, throughout the establishment. Her housekeeping was a business. During the morning she went up and down stairs with a large bunch of keys at her waist, and a very small basket in her hand. Housemaids looking out of window heard the distant jingle, and, drawing in their heads, caught up duster, broom, pan, or brush incontinently. The cook below, at the sound of the keys, hurriedly dismissed the gallant baker; and John rubbed his silver, watching the open pantry-door warily.
A domestic Pope Joan with the power of the keys.
With a twist of the bunch she would imprison unoffending preserves in dark cupboards on the landing, and in the matter of curious pickles she was, and is, inflexible, sealing them up in stone jars, as Solomon did the genii.-[" Note for 'Dictionary of Possibilities.' 'S.' Spirits."]
[Note.-To remind her of her promise to me about that greengage jam. A marvellous conserve. A liking for jam in elderly men is a sign of innocence.]
I believe Miss Rachel would pickle anything-walnuts, peaches, plums, nectarines, grapes. She would exhaust the letter "P" in Possibilities of Pickles. I will tell her so, as she always smiles at the dictionary.
To make everything at home was, in her eyes, the practice of virtue, and she would condemn adulteration as the breach of an eleventh commandment.
On Second Thoughts, I should explain that I talk in the past, as circumstances have changed, and she is now living alone.