MY friend Skiapous is not a man who courts publicity, but such is his nature that it is thrust upon him. "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." This is a remark which was on one occasion made by W. Shakespeare, who has since died. Some have playfully applied S.'s remark to our friend, saying that he belongs to the first and last of these classes. Those can understand the application of this best, who are acquainted with the reasons which led to his being named Skiapous.
His learned parents had read in Pliny Major's "Natural History," of a certain race of men called Skiapodae,-so named because, when oppressed by the heat of the sun, they could, by virtue of the construction of their feet, bestowed upon them by nature, fertile in expedients, lie on their backs and intercept completely the rays of the far darter,-so copiously were they supplied with foot!
It has often been suggested to the subject of our present mythologico-biographical considerations, that, since he had such a large amount of foot to support him, he need not be at all particular about standing upon many solid principles. Now, I take it to be one of the best of proofs that our friend's natural greatness of mind is as exceptional as that of his feet, that he has never seen fit to avail himself of this good pretext for being a scamp.
Our hero's mind is of an entirely practical turn, and accordingly it need be no "matter of profound admiration" to you that, when the hotly contested point in archaeology as to whether the Greek ladies needed and used, or only needed, pocket-handkerchiefs, was brought before him, he dismissed it as unworthy of his consideration. For all this, Skiapous must by no means be set down by any one as conspicuously lacking in high aspirations. He has a great idea of handing his memory down to posterity, and he very properly thinks that all should seek to "eternize" that part of them which is pre-eminent, and which distinguishes them from their fellow-mortals. Acting upon this principle, be has engaged a leading sculptor to model "a bust of his feet."
Those who know him, while they appreciate, as far as in them lies, all these soaring thoughts and lofty aspirations in Skiapous, are none the less inclined to regard him as a failure. For they are aware that he refuses the advantages which his largeness of foot gives him, and in consequence they are inclined somewhat to murmur at the Providence which has given to one and the same man equal greatness of foot and of principle.
Indeed, some who regard themselves as his intimates, because they have once ventured farther toward him than others across the varied intricacies of his undulating extremities, report that they, on that occasion, heard the following remarkable dialogue. One of the party makes no secret of the fact that what he then heard reminded him of a passage in Heine's "Atta Troll":-
Here stand I, the shadow-footed,
Grief and friendlessness my doom:-
Loathed greatness, I ne'er sought you!
Happier far are common mortals,
Who on feet, though small, though scanty,
Tottering, trip among their fellows.
Great like me they are not truly;
Yet is friendship's boon vouchsafed them.
By extremities extending.