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The Banquet Short Story Essay

2052 words - 8 pages

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. Two things I was well aware of: that the Reverend was a man
of strict veracity, and that his judgement of men was good. Therefore
I knew, beyond doubt or question, that the world was mistaken about
this hero: he was a fool. So I meant to find out, at a convenient
moment, how the Reverend, all solitary and alone, had discovered the
secret.

Some days later the opportunity came, and this is what the Reverend
told me.

About forty years ago I was an instructor in the military academy at
Woolwich. I was present in one of the sections when young Scoresby
underwent his preliminary examination. I was touched to the quick with
pity; for the rest of the class answered up brightly and handsomely,
while he—why, dear me, he didn't know anything, so to speak. He was
evidently good, and sweet, and lovable, and guileless; and so it was
exceedingly painful to see him stand there, as serene as a graven
image, and deliver himself of answers which were veritably miraculous
for stupidity and ignorance. All the compassion in me was aroused in
his behalf. I said to myself, when he comes to be examined again, he
will be flung over, of course; so it will be simply a...

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