Thursday, March 1, 2012

missing from his mental warehouse

Bradley Headstone, in his decent black coat and waistcoat, and decent
white shirt, and decent formal black tie, and decent pantaloons of
pepper and salt, with his decent silver watch in his pocket and its
decent hair-guard round his neck, looked a thoroughly decent young man
of six-and-twenty. He was never seen in any other dress, and yet there
was a certain stiffness in his manner of wearing this, as if there were
a want of adaptation between him and it, recalling some mechanics in
their holiday clothes. He had acquired mechanically a great store of
teacher's knowledge. He could do mental arithmetic mechanically, sing
at sight mechanically, blow various wind instruments mechanically, even
play the great church organ mechanically. From his early childhood up,
his mind had been a place of mechanical stowage. The arrangement of
his wholesale warehouse, so that it might be always ready to meet the
demands of retail dealers history here, geography there, astronomy to
the right, political economy to the left--natural history, the physical
sciences, figures, music, the lower mathematics, and what not, all in
their several places--this care had imparted to his countenance a look
of care; while the habit of questioning and being questioned had given
him a suspicious manner, or a manner that would be better described as
one of lying in wait. There was a kind of settled trouble in the face.
It was the face belonging to a naturally slow or inattentive intellect
that had toiled hard to get what it had won, and that had to hold it now
that it was gotten. He always seemed to be uneasy lest anything should
be missing from his mental warehouse, and taking stock to assure
himself.

Suppression of so much to make room for so much, had given him a
constrained manner, over and above. Yet there was enough of what was
animal, and of what was fiery (though smouldering), still visible in
him, to suggest that if young Bradley Headstone, when a pauper lad, had
chanced to be told off for the sea, he would not have been the last man
in a ship's crew. Regarding that origin of his, he was proud, moody, and
sullen, desiring it to be forgotten. And few people knew of it.

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