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“I want to be something!” said the eldest of five brothers. “I want to do something in the world. I don’t care how humble my position may be in society, if I only effect some good, for that will really be something. I’ll make bricks, for they are quite indispensable things, and then I shall truly have done something.”

“But that something will not be enough!” quoth the second brother. “What you intend doing is just as much as nothing at all. It is journeyman’s work, and can be done by a machine. No, I would rather be a bricklayer at once, for that is something real; and that’s what I will be. That brings rank; as a bricklayer one belongs to a guild, and is a citizen, and has one’s own flag and one’s own house of call. Yes, and if all goes well, I will keep journeymen. I shall become a master bricklayer, and my wife will be a master’s wife–that is what I call something.”

“That’s nothing at all!” said the third. “That is beyond the pale of the guild, and there are many of those in a town that stand far above the mere master artizan. You may be an honest man; but as a ‘master’ you will after all only belong to those who are ranked among common men. I know something better than that. I will be an architect, and will thus enter into the territory of art and speculation. I shall be reckoned among those who stand high in point of intellect. I shall certainly have to serve up from the pickaxe, so to speak; so I must begin as a carpenter’s apprentice, and must go about as an assistant, in a cap, though I am accustomed to wear a silk hat. I shall have to fetch beer and spirits for the common journeymen, and they will call me ‘thou,’ and that is insulting! But I shall imagine to myself that the whole thing is only acting, and a kind of masquerade. To-morrow–that is to say, when I have served my time–I shall go my own way, and the others will be nothing to me. I shall go to the academy, and get instructions in drawing, and shall be called an architect. That’s something! I may get to be called ‘sir,’ and even ‘worshipful sir,’ or even get a handle at the front or at the back of my name, and shall go on building and building, just as those before me have built. That will always be a thing to remember, and that’s what I call something!”

“But I don’t care at all for that something,” said the fourth. “I won’t sail in the wake of others, and be a copyist. I will be a genius; and will stand up greater than all the rest of you together. I shall be the creator of a new style, and will give the plan of a building suitable to the climate and the material of the country, for the nationality of the people, for the development of the age–and an additional storey for my own genius.”

“But supposing the climate and the material are bad,” said the fifth, “that would be a disastrous circumstance, for these two exert a great influence! Nationality, moreover, may expand itself until it becomes affectation, and the development of the century may run wild with your work, as youth often runs wild. I quite realise the fact that none of you will be anything real, however much you may believe in yourselves. But, do what you like, I will not resemble you: I shall keep on the outside of things, and criticise whatever you produce. To every work there is attached something that is not right–something that has gone wrong; and I will ferret that out and find fault with it; and that will be doing something!”