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The Ships of Tarshish

Chapter I. Mandevil

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Chapter I. Mandevil.

It was in Heidelberg, in the month of August, 1864. The scene was one of those places where they sell beer, and coffee, and horrid cigars, and Kuchen and Wurst, and other like delicacies, called, we believe, a restoratsyown, or something of the sort. There was to be seen the usual number of beer-drinking students, and of the beer-drinking public in general, and the usual variety of infantile peakless caps, of all the colours of the rainbow, stuck on three individual hairs of the head.

At one of the tables was a party of "verdammte Engländers"—as they were mutteringly designated by two or three over-patriotic sons of Fatherland in the room, to their companions—and it is with these Englishmen that the reader will presently have chiefly to do.

The students and said public in general at the tables round about, had been for some time engaged in their pastime with such good effect that discussion had become rather noisy. And in truth, these beer-house discussions at that time were invested with particular interest; for these were the days, it may be remembered, of the grand Helswig-Schlosstein campaign, and each day, a short time previously, had been bringing in fresh news of more splendid prizes conquered, that is to say—of more Yutish wares carried south wholesale, of more cigar-boxes stormed, of dangerous feats of arms successfully performed, such as blowing up railway bridges in the rear of the conquering army.

We must beg leave to state that the foregoing rather depreciatory expressions employed in describing these events, do not page 2altogether represent our own feelings. Individually we ever worship success; and words cannot picture the amount of respect which we feel for the united armies of the conquerors. And, acting up to our rule, we admire Austria—but we adore Prussia.*

The fact is, the expressions alluded to were used by a student, one of the three or four English already mentioned—in a political discussion in which he was engaged that afternoon with a German student, and which discussion was fast degenerating into mutual "chaff." But we must introduce some of the English party.

There was John Mandevil, the principal personage of the present narrative, Mr. Box, "young Norval," the English student just alluded to, whose family lay some somewhere among the Grampian hills—and one or two others. The most remarkable-looking amongst them was certainly John Mandevil. He possessed that particular kind of beauty which is perhaps more taking with men than with women,—that is with the general run of them—not those of an earnest or enthusiastic nature. He was the reverse of a mere "handsome devil". The great peculiarity and charm about this man was not a physical beauty, though his features were regular enough; but it consisted in an expression of earnestness, and intense truthfulness which pervaded his countenance. And it was a remarkable fact that he exercised a first-sight fascination, not over persons in general, for there were some who conceived a dislike for him at first sight, but over similar natures to his own. At this time he was about thirty-three years of age. His companion young Norval, had been one of his first-sight admirers, and now secretly regarded him as a model. Young Norval, himself handsome, about twenty, with dark curling hair, dark eyes, and fresh complexion, felt a pride in Mandevil's companionship. Mandevil, with his wavy chestnut hair, serene eyes, his mathematical forehead, decided but sweet mouth, and manly, good features, with just enough irregularity in them to give them expression—Mandevil, with his voice like the mellowest notes of page 3a Turkophone, with his five feet ten inches, and his straight limbs, filled young Norval with admiration.

Box was the oldest of the party. He had arrived that afternoon from Wimpfen on the Neckar, in company with Mandevil. The two had been latterly residing in Stuttgart, and being away for a week's change, they had dropped down in the steamer in order to pay Norval a visit. Box was about fifty, with a greyish long beard and grizzled hair. Usually he did not commit himself to long speeches, but he possessed the faculty of making dry, ironical remarks with a good effect, that is to say, with a perfectly grave face, only slightly belied by a twinkle of the eyes and a twitching of his shaggy moustache.

* It is unnecessary to state that since this was written our sentiments have become much modified. Now we have an utter contempt for Austria, while our veneration for Prussia verges on idolatry—such as that, for instance, displayed (though naturally in him) by the Prussian who does the Berlin correspondence of the Daily Telegraph, and who uses such unctuous terms whenever he mentions the "old drill sergeant."