Mr Hall and Louis Moore were on their walking-tour in the Lake District. It was the summer vacation, and so Henry Sympson's lessons were put to a standstill till September: and Louis had availed himself of the opportunity to accept Mr Hall's invitation to accompany him to that scenic place. He would ordinarily have taken hi sister Margaret with him but her rheumatism dissuaded her: besides, an intimacy had sprung up between her and Hortense Moore, and she had promised to accompany Miss Moore and Miss Mann to Wormwood Wells, a watering-place. Henry would fain have gone on the walking trip, but then he had to go to Bath with his family.
They had brought little cash with them but it sufficed to make their stay comfortable. Mr Moore was still young, and Mr Hall was a hardy Yorkshireman, and rough living did not perturb their sleep. They stayed at inns along the way, and during the day, would wander to rocks high and magnificent, flowing streams and admire the milder beds of daffodils. Mr Hall professed himself to be an admirer of botany, which flowers contented him, but Louis was of the sublime school. He would move up the most unusual spots in order to sketch a particular view, which was more often than not grand or forbidding. To no avail did MR Hall protest against this strange habit. Several times they were caught in the rain, but the younger man seemed to be unaffected.
"Ah! I am not as young as I was," said Mr Hall, "when rain did not impede my steps. How is that poem coming along, Louis?"
"I have not the inspiration to finish it, Hall."
"Pity! It was quite promising."
"I cannot compose unless the mood seizes me."
"Still, many of our finest poets write infrequently," mused Mr Hall. "I supposed you intend on a poetic career in your leisure?"
"I doubt it."
"You ought not to underrate your abilities, Louis. You may not earn your bread in verse, but then you might have a reputation." Louis smiled at his friend's earnestness: his eyes widened behind his round spectacles, not unlike a child's. "Perhaps we shall see you reviewed in the Spectator or the Edinburgh Review, or the Quarterly."
"The fire for poetry does not come as quick and powerful as it ought to. I am past the age of poetic fire - that is for men in their twenties. If I am to pursue a career in literature, it would be as an essayist."
"Indeed!" and Mr Hall pushed his spectacles further up his nose. "It does not earn very much does it?"
"It does not," Louis admitted, "though my present employment is not exceedingly profitable."
"Beside, how would you go about getting employment in a periodical? I should not think it easy - for you are not within a London circle. Mind you, I am not disparaging your talents - I only wish a roof over your head."
"I must own an ulterior motive in coming with you here," said Louis, smiling. "I had written to Southey before we left Yorkshire."
"Robert Southey?" enquired Mr Hall.
"The very same. I showed him a cutting of my poem and he was encouraging about it. He has invited me to his residence should I come to the Lake District."
"He must think highly of your abilities, then. To be sure, I did not think he was one of your heroes. He is more of a Gothic poet, is he not? - vampires and emirs and such?"
"So far his major works have, unfortunately, encompassed those sensational subjects," said Louis, grimacing, "though he is known too for his nature poems."