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The Professor

Chapter 7
READER, perhaps you were never in Belgium? Haply you don't know the
physiognomy of the country? You have not its lineaments defined upon your
memory, as I have them on mine?
Three--nay four--pictures line the four-walled cell where are stored for me the
records of the past. First, Eton. All in that picture is in far perspective, receding,
diminutive; but freshly coloured, green, dewy, with a spring sky, piled with
glittering yet showery clouds; for my childhood was not all sunshine--it had its
overcast, its cold, its stormy hours. Second, X----, huge, dingy; the canvas
cracked and smoked; a yellow sky, sooty clouds; no sun, no azure; the verdure
of the suburbs blighted and sullied--a very dreary scene.
Third, Belgium; and I will pause before this landscape. As to the fourth, a curtain
covers it, which I may hereafter withdraw, or may not, as suits my convenience
and capacity. At any rate, for the present it must hang undisturbed. Belgium!
name unromantic and unpoetic, yet name that whenever uttered has in my ear a
sound, in my heart an echo, such as no other assemblage of syllables, however
sweet or classic, can produce. Belgium! I repeat the word, now as I sit alone near
midnight. It stirs my world of the past like a summons to resurrection; the graves
unclose, the dead are raised; thoughts, feelings, memories that slept, are seen
by me ascending from the clods--haloed most of them--but while I gaze on their
vapoury forms, and strive to ascertain definitely their outline, the sound which
wakened them dies, and they sink, each and all, like a light wreath of mist,
absorbed in the mould, recalled to urns, resealed in monuments. Farewell,
luminous phantoms!
This is Belgium, reader. Look! don't call the picture a flat or a dull one--it was
neither flat nor dull to me when I first beheld it. When I left Ostend on a mild
February morning, and found myself on the road to Brussels, nothing could look
vapid to me. My sense of enjoyment possessed an edge whetted to the finest,
untouched, keen, exquisite. I was young; I had good health; pleasure and I had
never met; no indulgence of hers had enervated or sated one faculty of my
nature. Liberty I clasped in my arms for the first time, and the influence of her
smile and embrace revived my life like the sun and the west wind. Yes, at that
epoch I felt like a morning traveller who doubts not that from the hill he is
ascending he shall behold a glorious sunrise; what if the track be strait, steep,
and stony? he sees it not; his eyes are fixed on that summit, flushed already,
flushed and gilded, and having gained it he is certain of the scene beyond. He
knows that the sun will face him, that his chariot is even now coming over the
eastern horizon, and that the herald breeze he feels on his cheek is opening for
the god's career a clear, vast path of azure, amidst clouds soft as pearl and warm
as flame. Difficulty and toil were to be my lot, but sustained by energy, drawn on
by hopes as bright as vague, I deemed such a lot no hardship. I mounted now
 
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