Read CHAPTER I of The Book-Bills of Narcissus, free online book, by Le Gallienne‚ Richard, on



‘Ah! old men’s boots don’t go there, sir!’ said the bootmaker to me one day, as he pointed to the toes of a pair I had just brought him for mending. It was a significant observation, I thought; and as I went on my way home, writing another such chronicle with every springing step, it filled me with much reflection largely of the nature of platitude, I have little doubt: such reflection, Reader, as is even already, I doubt less, rippling the surface of your mind with ever-widening circles. Yes! you sigh with an air, it is in the unconscious autobiographies we are every moment writing not those we publish in two volumes and a supplement where the truth about us is hid. Truly it is a thought that has ‘thrilled dead bosoms,’ I agree, but why be afraid of it for that, Reader? Truth is not become a platitude only in our day. ‘The Preacher’ knew it for such some considerable time ago, and yet he did not fear to ‘write and set in order many proverbs.’

You have kept a diary for how many years? Thirty? dear me! But have you kept your wine-bills? If you ever engage me to write that life, which, of course, must some day be written I wouldn’t write it myself don’t trouble about your diary. Lend me your private ledger. ’There the action lies in his true nature.’

Yet I should hardly, perhaps, have evoked this particular corollary from that man of leather’s observation, if I had not chanced one evening to come across those old book-bills of my friend Narcissus, about which I have undertaken to write here, and been struck well-nigh awe-struck by the wonderful manner in which there lay revealed in them the story of the years over which they ran. To a stranger, I am sure, they would be full of meaning; but to me, who lived so near him through so much of the time, how truly pregnant does each briefest entry seem.

To Messrs. Oldbuck and Sons they, alas! often came to be but so many accounts rendered; to you, being a philosopher, they would, as I have said, mean more; but to me they mean all that great sunrise, the youth of Narcissus.

Many modern poets, still young enough, are fond of telling us where their youth lies buried. That of Narcissus would ye know rests among these old accounts. Lo! I would perform an incantation. I throw these old leaves into the elixir vitae of sweet memory, as Dr. Heidegger that old rose into his wonderful crystal water. Have I power to make Narcissus’ rose to bloom again, so that you may know something of the beauty it wore for us? I wonder. I would I had. I must try.