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6. London
The next day was the first of March, and when I awoke, rose and opened my curtain, I
saw the risen sun struggling through fog. Above my head, above the house-tops, co-
elevate almost with the clouds, I saw a solemn, orbed mass, dark-blue and dim - THE
DOME. While I looked, my inner self moved: my spirit shook its always-fettered wings
half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who never yet truly lived, were at last about to
taste life: in that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah's gourd.
'I did well to come', I said, proceeding to dress with speed and care. 'I like the spirit of
this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in
hamlets, and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?'
Being dressed, I went down; not travel-worn and exhausted, but tidy and refreshed. When
the waiter came in with my breakfast, I managed to accost him sedately, yet cheerfully;
we had ten minutes discourse, in the course of which we became usefully known to each
He was a grey-haired elderly man; and, it seemed, had lived in his present place twenty
years. Having ascertained this, I was sure he must remember my two uncles, Charles and
Wilmot, who, fifteen years ago, were frequent visitors here. I mentioned their names; he
recalled them perfectly and with respect. Having intimated my connection, my position in
his eyes was henceforth clear, and on a right footing. He said I was like my uncle
Charles: I suppose he spoke truth, because Mrs. Barrett was accustomed to say the same
thing. A ready and obliging courtesy now replaced his former uncomfortably doubtful
manner: henceforth I need no longer be at a loss for a civil answer to a sensible question.
The street on which my little sitting-room window looked was narrow, perfectly quiet,
and not dirty: the few passengers were just such as one sees in provincial towns: here was
nothing formidable; I felt sure I might venture out alone.
Having breakfasted, out I went. Elation and pleasure were in my heart: to walk alone in
London seemed of itself an adventure. Presently I found myself in Paternoster Row -
classic ground this. I entered a bookseller's shop, kept by one Jones; I bought a little book
- a piece of extravagance I could ill afford; but I thought I would one day give or send it
to Mrs. Barrett. Mr. Jones, a dried-in man of business, stood behind his desk; he seemed
one of the greatest, and I one of the happiest, of beings.
Prodigious was the amount of life I lived that morning. Finding myself before St. Paul's, I
went in; I mounted to the dome: I saw thence London, with its river, and its bridges, and
its churches; I saw antique Westminster, and the green Temple Gardens, with sun upon
them, and a glad, blue sky, of early spring above; and, between them and it, not too dense
a cloud of haze.