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Lavengro by George Henry Borrow

'He was as ignorant of German as of Hebrew


'He

was as ignorant of German as of Hebrew,' said the youth; 'on which account he was soon glad, I suppose, to transfer his pupil to some one else.'

'He told me,' said the elder individual, 'that he intended to leave a town where he did not find sufficient encouragement; and, at the same time, expressed regret at being obliged to abandon a certain extraordinary pupil, for whom he had a particular regard. Now I, who have taught many people German from the love which I bear to it, and the desire which I feel that it should be generally diffused, instantly said that I should be happy to take his pupil off his hands, and afford him what instruction I could in German, for, as to Hebrew, I have never taken much interest in it. Such was the origin of our acquaintance. You have been an apt scholar. Of late, however, I have seen little of you--what is the reason?'

The youth made no answer.

'You think, probably, that you have learned all I can teach you? Well, perhaps you are right.'

'Not so, not so,' said the young man eagerly; 'before I knew you I knew nothing, and am still very ignorant; but of late my father's health has been very much broken, and he requires attention; his spirits also have become low, which, to tell you the truth, he attributes to my misconduct. He says that I have imbibed all kinds of strange notions and doctrines, which will,

in all probability, prove my ruin, both here and hereafter; which--which--'

'Ah! I understand,' said the elder, with another calm whiff. 'I have always had a kind of respect for your father, for there is something remarkable in his appearance, something heroic, and I would fain have cultivated his acquaintance; the feeling, however, has not been reciprocated. I met him, the other day, up the road, with his cane and dog, and saluted him; he did not return my salutation.'

'He has certain opinions of his own,' said the youth, 'which are widely different from those which he has heard that you profess.'

'I respect a man for entertaining an opinion of his own,' said the elderly individual. 'I hold certain opinions; but I should not respect an individual the more for adopting them. All I wish for is tolerance, which I myself endeavour to practise. I have always loved the truth, and sought it; if I have not found it, the greater my misfortune.'

'Are you happy?' said the young man.

'Why, no! And, between ourselves, it is that which induces me to doubt sometimes the truth of my opinions. My life, upon the whole, I consider a failure; on which account, I would not counsel you, or any one, to follow my example too closely. It is getting late, and you had better be going, especially as your father, you say, is anxious about you. But, as we may never meet again, I think there are three things which I may safely venture to press upon you. The first is, that the decencies and gentlenesses should never be lost sight of, as the practice of the decencies and gentlenesses is at all times compatible with independence of thought and action. The second thing which I would wish to impress upon you is, that there is always some eye upon us; and that it is impossible to keep anything we do from the world, as it will assuredly be divulged by somebody as soon as it is his interest to do so. The third thing which I would wish to press upon you--'

'Yes,' said the youth, eagerly bending forward.

'Is--' and here the elderly individual laid down his pipe upon the table--'that it will be as well to go on improving yourself in German!'


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