The Banquet- Short Story

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The Banquet- Short Story

It was at a banquet in London in honor of one of the two or three

conspicuously illustrious English military names of this generation.

For reasons which will presently appear, I will withhold his real name

and titles, and call him Lieutenant General Lord Arthur Scoresby,

V.C., K.C.B., etc., etc., etc. What a fascination there is in a

renowned name! There sat the man, in actual flesh, whom I had heard of

so many thousands of times since that day, thirty years before, when

his name shot suddenly to the zenith from a Crimean battlefield, to

remain forever celebrated. It was food and drink to me to look, and

look, and look at that demigod; scanning, searching, noting: the

quietness, the reserve, the noble gravity of his countenance; the

simple honesty that expressed itself all over him; the sweet

unconsciousness of his greatness—unconsciousness of the hundreds of

admiring eyes fastened upon him, unconsciousness of the deep, loving,

sincere worship welling out of the breasts of those people and flowing

toward him.

The clergyman at my left was an old acquaintance of mine—clergyman

now, but had spent the first half of his life in the camp and field,

and as an instructor in the military school at Woolwich. Just at the

moment I have been talking about, a veiled and singular light

glimmered in his eyes, and he leaned down and muttered confidentially

to me—indicating the hero of the banquet with a gesture:

"Privately—he's an absolute fool."

This verdict was a great surprise to me. If its subject had been

Napoleon, or Socrates, or Solomon, my astonishment could not have been

greater. T...

... middle of paper ...

...enough to come in when it rains. Now that is

absolutely true. He is the supremest ass in the universe; and until

half an hour ago nobody knew it but himself and me. He has been

pursued, day by day and year by year, by a most phenomenal and

astonishing luckiness. He has been a shining soldier in all our wars

for a generation; he has littered his whole military life with

blunders, and yet has never committed one that didn't make him a

knight or a baronet or a lord or something. Look at his breast; why,

he is just clothed in domestic and foreign decorations. Well, sir,

every one of them is the record of some shouting stupidity or other;

and taken together, they are proof that the very best thing in all

this world that can befall a man is to be born lucky. I say again, as

I said at the banquet, Scoresby's an absolute fool.

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