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Flashley?' said old Dalton, with a good-
natured smile.

'I can't say I do, uncle,' answered the youth,
frankly. 'As to merriment, that is all very
well at the present moment, in front of that
great family bonfire; but all the rest of the
day' and here Flashley laughed with easy
impudence and no small fun; 'the house
and garden are in a state of dingy mourning,
so are all the roads, and lanes, and hedges,—
in fact, the passage of lines of little black
waggons to and fro, rumbling full of coals, or
rattling by, empty, seems like the chief
business of life, and the main purpose for which
men came into the world.'

'And so they be!' ejaculated old Dalton,
jocosely; 'so far as these parts are concerned.
You know, Flashley, the world is made up of
many parts, and this be the coal part. We be
the men born to do the world's work of this
sort; and we can't very handsomely pass all
our time a-sitting before a shiny fire, and
drinking ale,—though, that's good o' nights,
after the work's done.'

With this laconic homily, old Billy-Pitt
Dalton rose smiling from his chair, emptied his
mug of ale, and, shaking the young man kindly
by the hand, trudged off to bed. With much
the same sort of smiling 'good night,' the sons
all trudged after him. The good dame and
her daughter went last. Flashley remained
sitting alone in front of the great fire.

He sat in silence for a long time, watching
the fire decline into great dark chasms, black
holes, and rugged red precipices, with grim
smouldering chaotic heaps below.

A word or two about this young man.
Flashley Dalton had some education, which he
fancied was quite enough, and was very
ambitious without any definite object. His father
had proposed several professions to him, but
none of them suited him, chiefly because, to
acquire eminence in any of them, so long a
time was needed. Besides, none seemed
adequate to satisfy his craving for distinction.
He looked down rather contemptuously on all
ordinary pursuits. The fact was, he ardently
desired fame and fortune, but did not like to
work for either. One of the greatest injuries
his mind had sustained, was from a certain
species of 'fast literature,' which the evil
spirit of town-life has squirted into the brains
of our young men during the last three or
four years, whereby he had been taught and
encouraged to laugh at everything of serious
interest, and to seek to find something
ridiculous in all ennobling efforts. If a great
thing was done, he endeavoured to prove it a
little one; if a profound truth was enunciated,
he sought to make it out a lie; to him a new
discovery in science was a humbug; a generous
effort, a job. If he went to see an exhibition
of pictures, it was to sneer at the most original
designs; if to see a new tragedy, it was only
in the hope of its being damned. If a new
work of fiction were admirable, he talked
spitefully of it, or with supercilious patronage;
and as to a noble poem, he scoffed at all such
things with some slang joke at 'high art;'
besides, he wrote himself, as many a young
blade now attempts to do, instead of beginning
with a little study and some decent reading.
To Flashley all knowledge was a sort of
absurdity; his own arrogant folly seemed so
much better a thing. He therefore only read
books that were like himself, and encouraged
him to grow worse. The literature of
indiscriminate and reckless ridicule and burlesque
had taught him to have no faith in any sincere
thing, no respect for true knowledge; and this
had well-nigh destroyed all good in his mind
and nature, as it unfortunately has done with
too many others of his age at the present day.

After sitting silently in front of the fire for
some half an hour, Flashley gradually fell into
a sort of soliloquy, partaking in about equal
degrees of the grumbling, the self-conceited,
the humorous, and the drowsy.

'So, they 're all snoring soundly by this
timeall the clodpole Billy Pittites. Uncle's
a fine old fellow. Very fond of him. As for
all the rest!—Wonder why the mine was
called the William Pitt? Because it is so
black and deep, I suppose. Before my time.
Who cares for him now, or for any of the
bygones! Why should we care for anybody
who went before us? The past ones give
place to the fast ones. That's my feather.

'But a pretty mess I've made of my affairs
in London! My father does not know of
half my debts. Hardly know of half of them
myself. Incontinent contractions. Tavern
bills, sixty or seventy poundsmay be a
hundred. Tailors? can't calculate. Saloons and
night-larks, owing fordon't know how much,
besides money paid. Money borrowed, eighty
or ninety pounds. Booksforgetsay
sixpence. Like Falstaff's ha'pennyworth of
bread to all that quantity of sack! Think
I paid ready money for all the light reading,
and young gent's books.'

The fire sank lower and lower, and so did
the candles, one of which had just gone out,
and began to send up a curdling stream of
yellow smoke.

'What a place this is for coals. What a
smutty face Nature wears! From the house
upwards, all alike,—dull, dusky, and detestable.
Pfeu! Smell of fried mutton fat!
Now, then, old Coal-fire, hold up your head.
I 'm sleepy myself. This house is more like
a hearse than a dwelling-place for live stock.
The roadway in front of the house is all of
coal-dust; the front of the house is like a
sweep's, it only wants the dangling sign of
his "brush." The window-ledges have a
constant layer of black dust over them; so
has the top of the porch; so have the chimneypieces
inside the house, where all the little
china cups and gimcracks have a round black
circle of coal-dust at the bottom. There is
always a dark scum over the water of the
jug in my bedroom. How I detest this life
among the coals! Where's the great need