The Certain Hour
by James Branch Cabell
A BROWN WOMAN
A PRINCESS OF
THE LADY OF ALL
(Dizain des Poetes)
"Criticism, whatever may be its
pretensions, never does more than to
define the impression which is made upon
it at a certain moment by a work wherein
the writer himself noted the impression
of the world which he received at a
ROBERT GAMBLE CABELL II
In Dedication of The Certain Hour
Sad hours and glad hours, and all hours, pass over;
One thing unshaken stays:
Life, that hath Death for spouse, hath Chance for
Each thing save one thing:—mid this strife diurnal
Of hourly change begot,
Love that is God-born, bides as God eternal,
And changes not;—
Nor means a tinseled dream pursuing lovers
Find altered by-and-bye,
When, with possession, time anon discovers
Trapped dreams must die,—
For he that visions God, of mankind gathers
One manlike trait alone,
And reverently imputes to Him a father's
Love for his son.
BALLAD OF THE DOUBLE-SOUL
"Les Dieux, qui trop aiment ses faceties cruelles"
In the beginning the Gods made man, and fashioned the
sky and the sea,
And the earth's fair face for man's dwelling-place, and
this was the Gods' decree:—
"Lo, We have given to man five wits: he discerneth
He is swift to deride all the world outside, and blind
to the world within:
"So that man may make sport and amuse Us, in battling
for phrases or pelf,
Now that each may know what forebodeth woe to his
neighbor, and not to himself."
Yet some have the Gods forgotten,—or is it that
The Gods extort of a certain sort of folk that cumber
For this is the song of the double-soul, distortedly
two in one,—
Of the wearied eyes that still behold the fruit ere
And derive affright for the nearing night from the
of the noontide sun.
For one that with hope in the morning set forth, and
knew never a fear,
They have linked with another whom omens bother; and
he whispers in one's ear.
And one is fain to be climbing where only angels have
But is fettered and tied to another's side who fears
it might look odd.
And one would worship a woman whom all perfections
But the other smiles at transparent wiles; and he
Thus two by two we wrangle and blunder about the
And that body we share we may not spare; but the Gods
have need of mirth.
So this is the song of the double-soul, distortedly
Of the wearied eyes that still behold the fruit ere
And derive affright for the nearing night from the
of the noontide sun.
"These questions, so long as they remain
with the Muses, may very well be unaccompanied
with severity, for where there is no other end
of contemplation and inquiry but that of
pastime alone, the understanding is not
oppressed; but after the Muses have given over
their riddles to Sphinx,—that is, to practise,
which urges and impels to action, choice and
determination,—then it is that they become
torturing, severe and trying."
From the dawn of the day to the dusk he toiled,
Shaping fanciful playthings, with tireless hands,—
Useless trumpery toys; and, with vaulting heart,
Gave them unto all peoples, who mocked at him,
Trampled on them, and soiled them, and went their way.
Then he toiled from the morn to the dusk again,
Gave his gimcracks to peoples who mocked at him,
Trampled on them, deriding, and went their way.
Thus he labors, and loudly they jeer at him;—
That is, when they remember he still exists.
WHO, you ask, IS THIS FELLOW?—What matter names?
He is only a scribbler who is content.
FELIX KENNASTON. The Toy-Maker .
WHICH (AFTER SOME BRIEF DISCOURSE OF FIRES AND
FRYING-PANS) ELUCIDATES THE INEXPEDIENCY OF PUBLISHING THIS BOOK, AS
WELL AS THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IT: AND THENCE PASSES TO A MODEST
DEFENSE OF MORE VITAL THEMES.
The desire to write perfectly of beautiful happenings is, as the
saying runs, old as the hills—and as immortal. Questionless, there
was many a serviceable brick wasted in Nineveh because finicky persons
must needs be deleting here and there a phrase in favor of its
cuneatic synonym; and it is not improbable that when the outworn sun
expires in clinkers its final ray will gild such zealots tinkering
with their "style." Some few there must be in every age and every land
of whom life claims nothing very insistently save that they write
perfectly of beautiful happenings.
Yet, that the work of a man of letters is almost always a
congenial product of his day and environment, is a contention as
lacking in novelty as it is in the need of any upholding here. Nor is
the rationality of that axiom far to seek; for a man of genuine
literary genius, since he possesses a temperament whose
susceptibilities are of wider area than those of any other, is
inevitably of all people the one most variously affected by his
surroundings. And it is he, in consequence, who of all people most
faithfully and compactly exhibits the impress of his times and his
times' tendencies, not merely in his writings—where it conceivably
might be just predetermined affectation— but in his personality.
Such being the assumption upon which this volume is builded, it
appears only equitable for the architect frankly to indicate his
cornerstone. Hereinafter you have an attempt to depict a special
temperament—one in essence "literary"—as very variously molded by
diverse eras and as responding in proportion with its ability to the
demands of a certain hour.
In proportion with its ability, be it repeated, since its ability
is singularly hampered. For, apart from any ticklish temporal
considerations, be it remembered, life is always claiming of this
temperament's possessor that he write perfectly of beautiful
To disregard this vital longing, and flatly to stifle the innate
striving toward artistic creation, is to become (as with Wycherley and
Sheridan) a man who waives, however laughingly, his sole apology for
existence. The proceeding is paltry enough, in all conscience; and
yet, upon the other side, there is much positive danger in giving to
the instinct a loose rein. For in that event the familiar
circumstances of sedate and wholesome living cannot but seem, like
paintings viewed too near, to lose in gusto and winsomeness. Desire,
perhaps a craving hunger, awakens for the impossible. No emotion,
whatever be its sincerity, is endured without a side-glance toward
its capabilities for being written about. The world, in short,
inclines to appear an ill-lit mine, wherein one quarries gingerly
amidst an abiding loneliness (as with Pope and Ufford and Sire
Raimbaut)—and wherein one very often is allured into unsavory alleys
(as with Herrick and Alessandro de Medici)—in search of that raw
material which loving labor will transshape into comeliness.
Such, if it be allowed to shift the metaphor, are the treacherous
by-paths of that admirably policed highway whereon the well-groomed
and well-bitted Pegasi of Vanderhoffen and Charteris (in his later
manner) trot stolidly and safely toward oblivion. And the result of
wandering afield is of necessity a tragedy, in that the deviator's
life, if not as an artist's quite certainly as a human being's, must
in the outcome be adjudged a failure.
Hereinafter, then, you have an attempt to depict a special
temperament—one in essence "literary"—as very variously molded by
diverse eras and as responding in proportion with its ability to the
demands of a certain hour.
And this much said, it is permissible to hope, at least, that here
and there some reader may be found not wholly blind to this book's
goal, whatever be his opinion as to this book's success in reaching
it. Yet many honest souls there be among us average-novel- readers
in whose eyes this volume must rest content to figure as a collection
of short stories having naught in common beyond the feature that each
deals with the affaires du coeur of a poet.
Such must always be the book's interpretation by mental indolence.
The fact is incontestable; and this fact in itself may be taken as
sufficient to establish the inexpediency of publishing The Certain
Hour. For that "people will not buy a volume of short stories" is
notorious to all publishers. To offset the axiom there are no doubt
incongruous phenomena—ranging from the continued popularity of the
Bible to the present general esteem of Mr. Kipling, and embracing the
rather unaccountable vogue of "O. Henry";—but, none the less, the
superstition has its force.
Here intervenes the multifariousness of man, pointed out somewhere
by Mr. Gilbert Chesterton, which enables the individual to be at once
a vegetarian, a golfer, a vestryman, a blond, a mammal, a Democrat,
and an immortal spirit. As a rational person, one may debonairly
consider The Certain Hour possesses as large license to look like a
volume of short stories as, say, a backgammon-board has to its
customary guise of a two-volume history; but as an
average-novel-reader, one must vote otherwise. As an
average-novel-reader, one must condemn the very book which, as a
seasoned scribbler, one was moved to write through long consideration
of the drama already suggested—that immemorial drama of the desire to
write perfectly of beautiful happenings, and the obscure martyrdom to
which this desire solicits its possessor.
Now, clearly, the struggle of a special temperament with a fixed
force does not forthwith begin another story when the locale of combat
shifts. The case is, rather, as when—with certainly an intervening
change of apparel—Pompey fights Caesar at both Dyrrachium and
Pharsalus, or as when General Grant successively encounters General
Lee at the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and Appomattox. The
combatants remain unchanged, the question at issue is the same, the
tragedy has continuity. And even so, from the time of Sire Raimbaut
to that of John Charteris has a special temperament heart-hungrily
confronted an ageless problem: at what cost now, in this fleet hour
of my vigor, may one write perfectly of beautiful happenings?
Thus logic urges, with pathetic futility, inasmuch as we
average-novel-readers are profoundly indifferent to both logic and
good writing. And always the fact remains that to the mentally
indolent this book may well seem a volume of disconnected short
stories. All of us being more or less mentally indolent, this
possibility constitutes a dire fault.
Three other damning objections will readily obtrude themselves:
The Certain Hour deals with past epochs—beginning before the
introduction of dinner- forks, and ending at that remote quaint period
when people used to waltz and two-step—dead eras in which we
average-novel-readers are not interested; The Certain Hour assumes an
appreciable amount of culture and information on its purchaser's part,
which we average-novel-readers either lack or, else, are unaccustomed
to employ in connection with reading for pastime; and—in our eyes the
crowning misdemeanor— The Certain Hour is not "vital."
Having thus candidly confessed these faults committed as the
writer of this book, it is still possible in human multifariousness to
consider their enormity, not merely in this book, but in fictional
reading-matter at large, as viewed by an average-novel- reader—by a
representative of that potent class whose preferences dictate the
nature and main trend of modern American literature. And to do this,
it may be, throws no unsalutary sidelight upon the still-existent
problem: at what cost, now, may one attempt to write perfectly of
Indisputably the most striking defect of this modern American
literature is the fact that the production of anything at all
resembling literature is scarcely anywhere apparent. Innumerable
printing- presses, instead, are turning out a vast quantity of
reading-matter, the candidly recognized purpose of which is to kill
time, and which—it has been asserted, though perhaps too
sweepingly—ought not to be vended over book-counters, but rather in
drugstores along with the other narcotics.
It is begging the question to protest that the class of people who
a generation ago read nothing now at least read novels, and to regard
this as a change for the better. By similar logic it would be more
wholesome to breakfast off laudanum than to omit the meal entirely.
The nineteenth century, in fact, by making education popular, has
produced in America the curious spectacle of a reading-public with
essentially nonliterary tastes. Formerly, better books were
published, because they were intended for persons who turned to
reading through a natural bent of mind; whereas the modern American
novel of commerce is addressed to us average people who read, when we
read at all, in violation of every innate instinct.
Such grounds as yet exist for hopefulness on the part of those who
cordially care for belles lettres are to be found elsewhere than in
the crowded market- places of fiction, where genuine intelligence
panders on all sides to ignorance and indolence. The phrase may seem
to have no very civil ring; but reflection will assure the fair-minded
that two indispensable requisites nowadays of a pecuniarily successful
novel are, really, that it make no demand upon the reader's
imagination, and that it rigorously refrain from assuming its reader
to possess any particular information on any subject whatever. The
author who writes over the head of the public is the most dangerous
enemy of his publisher—and the most insidious as well, because so
many publishers are in private life interested in literary matters,
and would readily permit this personal foible to influence the
exercise of their vocation were it possible to do so upon the
preferable side of bankruptcy.
But publishers, among innumerable other conditions, must weigh the
fact that no novel which does not deal with modern times is ever
really popular among the serious-minded. It is difficult to imagine a
tale whose action developed under the rule of the Caesars or the
Merovingians being treated as more than a literary hors d'oeuvre. We
purchasers of "vital" novels know nothing about the period, beyond a
hazy association of it with the restrictions of the schoolroom; our
sluggish imaginations instinctively rebel against the exertion of
forming any notion of such a period; and all the human nature that
exists even in serious-minded persons is stirred up to resentment
against the book's author for presuming to know more than a potential
patron. The book, in fine, simply irritates the serious-minded
person; and she—for it is only women who willingly brave the terrors
of department-stores, where most of our new books are bought
nowadays—quite naturally puts it aside in favor of some keen and
daring study of American life that is warranted to grip the reader.
So, modernity of scene is everywhere necessitated as an essential
qualification for a book's discussion at the literary evenings of the
local woman's club; and modernity of scene, of course, is almost
always fatal to the permanent worth of fictitious narrative.
It may seem banal here to recall the truism that first-class art
never reproduces its surroundings; but such banality is often
justified by our human proneness to shuffle over the fact that many
truisms are true. And this one is pre-eminently indisputable: that
what mankind has generally agreed to accept as first-class art in any
of the varied forms of fictitious narrative has never been a truthful
reproduction of the artist's era. Indeed, in the higher walks of
fiction art has never reproduced anything, but has always dealt with
the facts and laws of life as so much crude material which must be
transmuted into comeliness. When Shakespeare pronounced his
celebrated dictum about art's holding the mirror up to nature, he was
no doubt alluding to the circumstance that a mirror reverses
everything which it reflects.
Nourishment for much wildish speculation, in fact, can be got by
considering what the world's literature would be, had its authors
restricted themselves, as do we Americans so sedulously—and
unavoidably—to writing of contemporaneous happenings. In
fiction-making no author of the first class since Homer's infancy has
ever in his happier efforts concerned himself at all with the great
"problems" of his particular day; and among geniuses of the second
rank you will find such ephemeralities adroitly utilized only when
they are distorted into enduring parodies of their actual selves by
the broad humor of a Dickens or the colossal fantasy of a Balzac. In
such cases as the latter two writers, however, we have an otherwise
competent artist handicapped by a personality so marked that, whatever
he may nominally write about, the result is, above all else, an
exposure of the writer's idiosyncrasies. Then, too, the laws of any
locale wherein Mr. Pickwick achieves a competence in business, or of a
society wherein Vautrin becomes chief of police, are upon the face of
it extra-mundane. It suffices that, as a general rule, in
fiction-making the true artist finds an ample, if restricted, field
wherein the proper functions of the preacher, or the ventriloquist, or
the photographer, or of the public prosecutor, are exercised with
equal lack of grace.
Besides, in dealing with contemporary life a novelist is goaded
into too many pusillanimous concessions to plausibility. He no longer
moves with the gait of omnipotence. It was very different in the
palmy days when Dumas was free to play at ducks and drakes with
history, and Victor Hugo to reconstruct the whole system of English
government, and Scott to compel the sun to set in the east, whenever
such minor changes caused to flow more smoothly the progress of the
tale these giants had in hand. These freedoms are not tolerated in
American noveldom, and only a few futile "high-brows" sigh in vain for
Thackeray's "happy harmless Fableland, where these things are." The
majority of us are deep in "vital" novels. Nor is the reason far to
One hears a great deal nowadays concerning "vital" books. Their
authors have been widely praised on very various grounds. Oddly
enough, however, the writers of these books have rarely been commended
for the really praiseworthy charity evinced therein toward that large
long-suffering class loosely describable as the average-novel-reader.
Yet, in connection with this fact, it is worthy of more than
passing note that no great while ago the New York Times' carefully
selected committee, in picking out the hundred best books published
during a particular year, declared as to novels—"a `best' book, in
our opinion, is one that raises an important question, or recurs to a
vital theme and pronounces upon it what in some sense is a last word."
Now this definition is not likely ever to receive more praise than
it deserves. Cavilers may, of course, complain that actually to write
the last word on any subject is a feat reserved for the Recording
Angel's unique performance on judgment Day. Even setting that
objection aside, it is undeniable that no work of fiction published
of late in America corresponds quite so accurately to the terms of
this definition as do the multiplication tables. Yet the
multiplication tables are not without their claims to applause as
examples of straightforward narrative. It is, also, at least
permissible to consider that therein the numeral five, say, where it
figures as protagonist, unfolds under the stress of its varying
adventures as opulent a development of real human nature as does,
through similar ups-and-downs, the Reverend John Hodder in The Inside
of the Cup. It is equally allowable to find the less simple evolution
of the digit seven more sympathetic, upon the whole, than those of
Undine Spragg in The Custom of the Country. But, even so, this
definition of what may now, authoritatively, be ranked as a "best
novel" is an honest and noteworthy severance from misleading literary
associations such as have too long befogged our notions about reading-
matter. It points with emphasis toward the altruistic obligations of
tale-tellers to be "vital."
For we average-novel-readers—we average people, in a word—are
now, as always, rather pathetically hungry for "vital" themes, such
themes as appeal directly to our everyday observation and prejudices.
Did the decision rest with us all novelists would be put under bond
to confine themselves forevermore to themes like these.
As touches the appeal to everyday observation, it is an old story,
at least coeval with Mr. Crummles' not uncelebrated pumps and tubs, if
not with the grapes of Zeuxis, how unfailingly in art we delight to
recognize the familiar. A novel whose scene of action is explicit
will always interest the people of that locality, whatever the book's
other pretensions to consideration. Given simultaneously a photograph
of Murillo's rendering of The Virgin Crowned Queen of Heaven and a
photograph of a governor's installation in our State capital, there is
no one of us but will quite naturally look at the latter first, in
order to see if in it some familiar countenance be recognizable. And
thus, upon a larger scale, the twentieth century is, pre-eminently,
interested in the twentieth century.
It is all very well to describe our average-novel- readers'
dislike of Romanticism as "the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face
in a glass." It is even within the scope of human dunderheadedness
again to point out here that the supreme artists in literature have
precisely this in common, and this alone, that in their masterworks
they have avoided the "vital" themes of their day with such
circumspection as lesser folk reserve for the smallpox. The answer,
of course, in either case, is that the "vital" novel, the novel which
peculiarly appeals to us average-novel-readers, has nothing to do
with literature. There is between these two no more intelligent
connection than links the paint Mr. Sargent puts on canvas and the
paint Mr. Dockstader puts on his face.
Literature is made up of the re-readable books, the books which it
is possible—for the people so constituted as to care for that sort of
thing—to read again and yet again with pleasure. Therefore, in
literature a book's subject is of astonishingly minor importance, and
its style nearly everything: whereas in books intended to be read for
pastime, and forthwith to be consigned at random to the wastebasket or
to the inmates of some charitable institute, the theme is of
paramount importance, and ought to be a serious one. The modern
novelist owes it to his public to select a "vital" theme which in
itself will fix the reader's attention by reason of its familiarity in
the reader's everyday life.
Thus, a lady with whose more candid opinions the writer of this is
more frequently favored nowadays than of old, formerly confessed to
having only one set rule when it came to investment in new
reading-matter— always to buy the Williamsons' last book. Her reason
was the perfectly sensible one that the Williamsons' plots used
invariably to pivot upon motor-trips, and she is an ardent
automobilist. Since, as of late, the Williamsons have seen fit to
exercise their typewriter upon other topics, they have as a matter of
course lost her patronage.
This principle of selection, when you come to appraise it sanely,
is the sole intelligent method of dealing with reading-matter. It
seems here expedient again to state the peculiar problem that we
average— novel-readers have of necessity set the modern
novelist—namely, that his books must in the main appeal to people
who read for pastime, to people who read books only under protest and
only when they have no other employment for that particular half-hour.
Now, reading for pastime is immensely simplified when the book's
theme is some familiar matter of the reader's workaday life, because
at outset the reader is spared considerable mental effort. The
motorist above referred to, and indeed any average-novel-reader, can
without exertion conceive of the Williamsons' people in their
automobiles. Contrariwise, were these fictitious characters embarked
in palankeens or droshkies or jinrikishas, more or less intellectual
exercise would be necessitated on the reader's part to form a notion
of the conveyance. And we average-novel-readers do not open a book
with the intention of making a mental effort. The author has no right
to expect of us an act so unhabitual, we very poignantly feel. Our
prejudices he is freely chartered to stir up—if, lucky rogue, he
can!—but he ought with deliberation to recognize that it is
precisely in order to avoid mental effort that we purchase, or borrow,
his book, and afterward discuss it.
Hence arises our heartfelt gratitude toward such novels as deal
with "vital" themes, with the questions we average-novel-readers
confront or make talk about in those happier hours of our existence
wherein we are not reduced to reading. Thus, a tale, for example,
dealing either with "feminism" or "white slavery" as the handiest
makeshift of spinsterdom—or with the divorce habit and plutocratic
iniquity in general, or with the probable benefits of converting
clergymen to Christianity, or with how much more than she knows a
desirable mother will tell her children—finds the book's tentative
explorer, just now, amply equipped with prejudices, whether acquired
by second thought or second hand, concerning the book's topic. As
endurability goes, reading the book rises forthwith almost to the
level of an afternoon-call where there is gossip about the neighbors
and Germany's future. We average-novel-readers may not, in either
case, agree with the opinions advanced; but at least our prejudices
are aroused, and we are interested.
And these "vital" themes awake our prejudices at the cost of a
minimum—if not always, as when Miss Corelli guides us, with a
positively negligible— tasking of our mental faculties. For such
exemption we average-novel-readers cannot but be properly grateful.
Nay, more than this: provided the novelist contrive to rouse our
prejudices, it matters with us not at all whether afterward they be
soothed or harrowed. To implicate our prejudices somehow, to raise in
us a partizanship in the tale's progress, is our sole request.
Whether this consummation be brought about through an arraignment of
some social condition which we personally either advocate or
reprehend—the attitude weighs little—or whether this interest be
purchased with placidly driveling preachments of generally
"uplifting" tendencies—vaguely titillating that vague intention which
exists in us all of becoming immaculate as soon as it is perfectly
convenient—the personal prejudices of us average-novel-readers are
not lightly lulled again to sleep.
In fact, the jealousy of any human prejudice against hinted
encroachment may safely be depended upon to spur us through an
astonishing number of pages—for all that it has of late been
complained among us, with some show of extenuation, that our original
intent in beginning certain of the recent "vital" novels was to kill
time, rather than eternity. And so, we average— novel-readers plod
on jealously to the end, whether we advance (to cite examples already
somewhat of yesterday) under the leadership of Mr. Upton Sinclair
aspersing the integrity of modern sausages and millionaires, or of
Mr. Hall Caine saying about Roman Catholics what ordinary people would
hesitate to impute to their relatives by marriage—or whether we be
more suavely allured onward by Mrs. Florence Barclay, or Mr. Sydnor
Harrison, with ingenuous indorsements of the New Testament and the
inherent womanliness of women.
The "vital" theme, then, let it be repeated, has two inestimable
advantages which should commend it to all novelists: first, it spares
us average-novel- readers any preliminary orientation, and thereby
mitigates the mental exertion of reading; and secondly, it appeals to
our prejudices, which we naturally prefer to exercise, and are
accustomed to exercise, rather than our mental or idealistic
faculties. The novelist who conscientiously bears these two facts in
mind is reasonably sure of his reward, not merely in pecuniary form,
but in those higher fields wherein he harvests his chosen public's
honest gratitude and affection.
For we average-novel-readers are quite frequently reduced by
circumstances to self-entrustment to the resources of the novelist, as
to those of the dentist. Our latter-day conditions, as we cannot but
recognize, necessitate the employment of both artists upon occasion.
And with both, we average-novel-readers, we average people, are most
grateful when they make the process of resorting to them as easy and
unirritating as may be possible.
So much for the plea of us average-novel-readers; and our plea, we
think, is rational. We are "in the market" for a specified article;
and human ingenuity, co-operating with human nature, will inevitably
insure the manufacture of that article as long as any general demand
for it endures.
Meanwhile, it is small cause for grief that the purchaser of
American novels prefers Central Park to any "wood near Athens," and is
more at home in the Tenderloin than in Camelot. People whose tastes
happen to be literary are entirely too prone to too much long- faced
prattle about literature, which, when all is said, is never a
controlling factor in anybody's life. The automobile and the
telephone, the accomplishments of Mr. Edison and Mr. Burbank, and it
would be permissible to add of Mr. Rockefeller, influence nowadays,
in one fashion or another, every moment of every living American's
existence; whereas had America produced, instead, a second Milton or a
Dante, it would at most have caused a few of us to spend a few spare
evenings rather differently.
Besides, we know—even we average-novel-readers— that America is
in fact producing her enduring literature day by day, although, as
rarely fails to be the case, those who are contemporaneous with the
makers of this literature cannot with any certainty point them out.
To voice a hoary truism, time alone is the test of "vitality." In
our present flood of books, as in any other flood, it is the froth and
scum which shows most prominently. And the possession of "vitality,"
here as elsewhere, postulates that its possessor must ultimately
Nay, by the time these printed pages are first read as printed
pages, allusion to those modern authors whom these pages cite—the
pre-eminent literary personages of that hour wherein these pages were
written—will inevitably have come to savor somewhat of antiquity: so
that sundry references herein to the "vital" books now most in vogue
will rouse much that vague shrugging recollection as wakens, say, at a
mention of Dorothy Vernon or Three Weeks or Beverly of Graustark. And
while at first glance it might seem expedient—in revising the last
proof-sheets of these pages—somewhat to "freshen them up" by
substituting, for the books herein referred to, the "vital" and more
widely talked- of novels of the summer of 1916, the task would be but
wasted labor; since even these fascinating chronicles, one
comprehends forlornly, must needs be equally obsolete by the time
these proof-sheets have been made into a volume. With malice
aforethought, therefore, the books and authors named herein stay those
which all of three years back our reviewers and advertising pages,
with perfect gravity, acclaimed as of enduring importance. For the
quaintness of that opinion, nowadays, may profitably round the moral
that there is really nothing whereto one may fittingly compare a
successful contribution to "vital" reading- matter, as touches
And this is as it should be. Tout passe.—L'art robust seul a
l'eternite, precisely as Gautier points out, with bracing
common-sense; and it is excellent thus to comprehend that to-day, as
always, only through exercise of the auctorial virtues of distinction
and clarity, of beauty and symmetry, of tenderness and truth and
urbanity, may a man in reason attempt to insure his books against
Yet the desire to write perfectly of beautiful happenings is, as
the saying runs, old as the hills— and as immortal. Questionless,
there was many a serviceable brick wasted in Nineveh because finicky
persons must needs be deleting here and there a phrase in favor of
its cuneatic synonym; and it is not improbable that when the outworn
sun expires in clinkers its final ray will gild such zealots tinkering
with their "style." This, then, is the conclusion of the whole
matter. Some few there must be in every age and every land of whom
life claims nothing very insistently save that they write perfectly of
beautiful happenings. And even we average-novel-readers know it is
such folk who are to-day making in America that portion of our
literature which may hope for permanency.
"For this RAIMBAUT DE VAQUIERAS lived at a time when prolonged
habits of extra-mundane contemplation, combined with the decay of real
knowledge, were apt to volatilize the thoughts and aspirations of the
best and wisest into dreamy unrealities, and to lend a false air of
mysticism to love. . . . It is as if the intellect and the will had
become used to moving paralytically among visions, dreams, and mystic
terrors, weighed down with torpor."
Fair friend, since that hour I took leave of thee
I have not slept nor stirred from off my knee,
But prayed alway to God, S. Mary's Son,
To give me back my true companion;
And soon it will be Dawn.
Fair friend, at parting, thy behest to me
Was that all sloth I should eschew and flee,
And keep good Watch until the Night was done:
Now must my Song and Service pass for none?
For soon it will be Dawn.
RAIMBAUT DE VAQUIERAS. Aubade,
from F. York Powells version.
BELHS CAVALIERS You may read elsewhere of the long feud that was
between Guillaume de Baux, afterward Prince of Orange, and his
kinsman Raimbaut de Vaquieras. They were not reconciled until their
youth was dead. Then, when Messire Raimbaut returned from battling
against the Turks and the Bulgarians, in the 1,210th year from man's
salvation, the Archbishop of Rheims made peace between the two
cousins; and, attended by Makrisi, a converted Saracen who had
followed the knight's fortunes for well nigh a quarter of a century,
the Sire de Vaquieras rode homeward.
Many slain men were scattered along the highway when he came again
into Venaissin, in April, after an absence of thirty years. The crows
whom his passing disturbed were too sluggish for long flights and many
of them did not heed him at all. Guillaume de Baux was now
undisputed master of these parts, although, as this host of mute,
hacked and partially devoured witnesses attested, the contest had been
dubious for a while: but now Lovain of the Great-Tooth, Prince
Guillaume's last competitor, was captured; the forces of Lovain were
scattered; and of Lovain's lieutenants only Mahi de Vernoil was
Prince Guillaume laughed a little when he told his kinsman of the
posture of affairs, as more loudly did Guillaume's gross son, Sire
Philibert. But Madona Biatritz did not laugh. She was the widow of
Guillaume's dead brother—Prince Conrat, whom Guillaume
succeeded—and it was in her honor that Raimbaut had made those songs
which won him eminence as a practitioner of the Gay Science.
Biatritz said, "It is a long while since we two met."
He that had been her lover all his life said, "Yes."
She was no longer the most beautiful of women, no longer his
be-hymned Belhs Cavaliers—you may read elsewhere how he came to call
her that in all his canzons—but only a fine and gracious stranger.
It was uniformly gray, that soft and plentiful hair, where once such
gold had flamed as dizzied him to think of even now; there was no
crimson in these thinner lips; and candor would have found her eyes
less wonderful than those Raimbaut had dreamed of very often among an
alien and hostile people. But he lamented nothing, and to him she
was as ever Heaven's most splendid miracle.
"Yes," said this old Raimbaut,—"and even to-day we have not
reclaimed the Sepulcher as yet. Oh, I doubt if we shall ever win it,
now that your brother and my most dear lord is dead." Both thought a
while of Boniface de Montferrat, their playmate once, who yesterday
was King of Thessalonica and now was so much Macedonian dust.
She said: "This week the Prince sent envoys to my nephew. . . .
And so you have come home again——" Color had surged into her
time-worn face, and as she thought of things done long ago this
woman's eyes were like the eyes of his young Biatritz. She said:
"You never married?"
He answered: "No, I have left love alone. For Love prefers to
take rather than to give; against a single happy hour he balances a
hundred miseries, and he appraises one pleasure to be worth a thousand
pangs. Pardieu, let this immortal usurer contrive as may seem well to
him, for I desire no more of his bounty or of his penalties."
"No, we wish earnestly for nothing, either good or bad," said Dona
Biatritz—"we who have done with loving."
They sat in silence, musing over ancient happenings, and not
looking at each other, until the Prince came with his guests, who
seemed to laugh too heartily.
Guillaume's frail arm was about his kinsman, and Guillaume
chuckled over jests and by-words that had been between the cousins as
children. Raimbaut found them no food for laughter now. Guillaume
told all of Raimbaut's oath of fealty, and of how these two were
friends and their unnatural feud was forgotten. "For we grow
old,—eh, maker of songs?" he said; "and it is time we made our peace
with Heaven, since we are not long for this world."
"Yes," said the knight; "oh yes, we both grow old." He thought of
another April evening, so long ago, when this Guillaume de Baux had
stabbed him in a hedged field near Calais, and had left him under a
hawthorn bush for dead; and Raimbaut wondered that there was no anger
in his heart. "We are friends now," he said. Biatritz, whom these two
had loved, and whose vanished beauty had been the spur of their long
enmity, sat close to them, and hardly seemed to listen.
Thus the evening passed and every one was merry, because the
Prince had overcome Lovain of the Great- Tooth, and was to punish the
upstart on the morrow. But Raimbaut de Vaquieras, a spent fellow, a
derelict, barren of aim now that the Holy Wars were over, sat in this
unfamiliar place—where when he was young he had laughed as a cock
crows!—and thought how at the last he had crept home to die as a
dependent on his cousin's bounty.
Thus the evening passed, and at its end Makrisi followed the
troubadour to his regranted fief of Vaquieras. This was a chill and
brilliant night, swayed by a frozen moon so powerful that no stars
showed in the unclouded heavens, and everywhere the bogs were curdled
with thin ice. An obdurate wind swept like a knife-blade across a
world which even in its spring seemed very old.
"This night is bleak and evil," Makrisi said. He rode a coffin's
length behind his master. "It is like Prince Guillaume, I think.
What man will sorrow when dawn comes?"
Raimbaut de Vaquieras replied: "Always dawn comes at last,
"It comes the more quickly, messire, when it is prompted."
The troubadour only smiled at words which seemed so meaningless.
He did not smile when later in the night Makrisi brought Mahi de
Vernoil, disguised as a mendicant friar. This outlaw pleaded with
Sire Raimbaut to head the tatters of Lovain's army, and showed
Raimbaut how easy it would be to wrest Venaissin from Prince
Guillaume. "We cannot save Lovain," de Vemoil said, "for Guillaume
has him fast. But Venaissin is very proud of you, my tres beau sire.
Ho, maker of world-famous songs! stout champion of the faith! my men
and I will now make you Prince of Orange in place of the fiend who
rules us. You may then at your convenience wed Madona Biatritz, that
most amiable lady whom you have loved so long. And by the Cross! you
may do this before the week is out."
The old knight answered: "It is true that I have always served
Madona Biatritz, who is of matchless worth. I might not, therefore,
presume to call myself any longer her servant were my honor stained in
any particular. Oh no, Messire de Vernoil, an oath is an oath. I
have this day sworn fealty to Guillaume de Baux."
Then after other talk Raimbaut dismissed the fierce-eyed little
man. The freebooter growled curses as he went. On a sudden he
whistled, like a person considering, and he began to chuckle.
Raimbaut said, more lately: "Zoraida left no wholesome legacy in
you, Makrisi." This Zoraida was a woman the knight had known in
Constantinople—a comely outlander who had killed herself because of
Sire Raimbaut's highflown avoidance of all womankind except the
mistress of his youth.
"Nay, save only in loving you too well, messire, was Zoraida a
wise woman, notably. . . . But this is outworn talk, the prattle of
Cain's babyhood. As matters were, you did not love Zoraida. So
Zoraida died. Such is the custom in my country."
"You trouble me, Makrisi. Your eyes are like blown coals. . . .
Yet you have served me long and faithfully. You know that mine was
ever the vocation of dealing honorably in battle among emperors, and
of spreading broadcast the rumor of my valor, and of achieving good
by my sword's labors. I have lived by warfare. Long, long ago, since
I derived no benefit from love, I cried farewell to it."
"Ay," said Makrisi. "Love makes a demi-god of all—just for an
hour. Such hours as follow we devote to the concoction of
sleeping-draughts." He laughed, and very harshly.
And Raimbaut did not sleep that night because this life of ours
seemed such a piece of tangle-work as he had not the skill to unravel.
So he devoted the wakeful hours to composition of a planh, lamenting
vanished youth and that Biatritz whom the years had stolen.
Then on the ensuing morning, after some talk about the new
campaign, Prince Guillaume de Baux leaned back in his high chair and
"In perfect candor, you puzzle your liege-lord. For you loathe me
and you still worship my sister-in- law, an unattainable princess. In
these two particulars you display such wisdom as would inevitably
prompt you to make an end of me. Yet, what the devil! you, the
time-battered vagabond, decline happiness and a kingdom to boot
because of yesterday's mummery in the cathedral! because of a mere
promise given! Yes, I have my spies in every rat-hole. I am aware
that my barons hate me, and hate Philibert almost as bitterly,—and
that, in fine, a majority of my barons would prefer to see you Prince
in my unstable place, on account of your praiseworthy molestations of
heathenry. Oh, yes, I understand my barons perfectly. I flatter
myself I understand everybody in Venaissin save you."
Raimbaut answered: "You and I are not alike."
"No, praise each and every Saint!" said the Prince of Orange,
heartily. "And yet, I am not sure——" He rose, for his sight had
failed him so that he could not distinctly see you except when he
spoke with head thrown back, as though he looked at you over a wall.
"For instance, do you understand that I hold Biatritz here as a
prisoner, because her dower-lands are neces- sary to me, and that I
intend to marry her as soon as Pope Innocent grants me a
"All Venaissin knows that. Yes, you have always gained everything
which you desired in this world, Guillaume. Yet it was at a price, I
"I am no haggler. . . . But you have never comprehended me, not
even in the old days when we loved each other. For instance, do you
understand—slave of a spoken word!—what it must mean to me to know
that at this hour to-morrow there will be alive in Venaissin no
person whom I hate?"
Messire de Vaquieras reflected. His was never a rapid mind.
"Why, no, I do not know anything about hatred," he said, at last. "I
think I never hated any person."
Guillaume de Baux gave a half-frantic gesture. "Now, Heaven send
you troubadours a clearer understanding of what sort of world we live
in——!" He broke off short and growled, "And yet—sometimes I envy
They rode then into the Square of St. Michel to witness the death
of Lovain. Guillaume took with him his two new mistresses and all his
by-blows, each magnificently clothed, as if they rode to a festival.
Afterward, before the doors of Lovain's burning house, a rope was
fastened under Lovain's armpits, and he was gently lowered into a pot
of boiling oil. His feet cooked first, and then the flesh of his
legs, and so on upward, while Lovain screamed. Guillaume in a loose
robe of green powdered with innumerable silver crescents, sat
watching, under a canopy woven very long ago in Tarshish, and
cunningly embroidered with the figures of peacocks and apes and men
with eagles' heads. His hands caressed each other meditatively.
It was on the afternoon of this day, the last of April, that Sire
Raimbaut came upon Madona Biatritz about a strange employment in the
Ladies' Court. There was then a well in the midst of this enclosure,
with a granite ledge around it carven with lilies; and upon this she
leaned, looking down into the water. In her lap was a rope of pearls,
which one by one she unthreaded and dropped into the well.
Clear and warm the weather was. Without, forests were quickening,
branch by branch, as though a green flame smoldered from one bough to
another. Violets peeped about the roots of trees, and all the world
was young again. But here was only stone beneath their feet; and
about them showed the high walls and the lead-sheathed towers and the
parapets and the sunk windows of Guillaume's chateau. There was no
color anywhere save gray; and Raimbaut and Biatritz were aging people
now. It seemed to him that they were the wraiths of those persons who
had loved each other at Montferrat; and that the walls about them and
the leaden devils who grinned from every waterspout and all those
dark and narrow windows were only part of some magic picture, such as
a sorceress may momentarily summon out of smoke-wreaths, as he had
seen Zoraida do very long ago.
This woman might have been a wraith in verity, for she was clothed
throughout in white, save for the ponderous gold girdle about her
middle. A white gorget framed the face which was so pinched and
shrewd and strange; and she peered into the well, smiling craftily.
"I was thinking death was like this well," said Biatritz, without
any cessation of her singular employment—"so dark that we may see
nothing clearly save one faint gleam which shows us, or which seems to
show us, where rest is. Yes, yes, this is that chaplet which you won
in the tournament at Montferrat when we were young. Pearls are the
symbol of tears, we read. But we had no time for reading then, no time
for anything except to be quite happy. . . . You saw this morning's
work. Raimbaut, were Satan to go mad he would be such a fiend as this
Guillaume de Baux who is our master!"
"Ay, the man is as cruel as my old opponent, Mourzoufle," Sire
Raimbaut answered, with a patient shrug. "It is a great mystery why
such persons should win all which they desire of this world. We can
but recognize that it is for some sufficient reason." Then he talked
with her concerning the aforementioned infamous emperor of the East,
against whom the old knight had fought, and of Enrico Dandolo and of
King Boniface, dead brother to Madona Biatritz, and of much remote,
outlandish adventuring oversea. Of Zoraida he did not speak. And
Biatritz, in turn, told him of that one child which she had borne her
husband, Prince Conrat—a son who died in infancy; and she spoke of
this dead baby, who living would have been their monarch, with a
sweet quietude that wrung the old knight's heart.
Thus these spent people sat and talked for a long while, the talk
veering anywhither just as chance directed. Blurred gusts of song and
laughter would come to them at times from the hall where Guillaume de
Baux drank with his courtiers, and these would break the tranquil
flow of speech. Then, unvexedly, the gentle voice of the speaker,
were it his or hers, would resume.
She said: "They laugh. We are not merry."
"No," he replied; "I am not often merry. There was a time when
love and its service kept me in continuous joy, as waters invest a
fish. I woke from a high dream. . . . And then, but for the fear of
seeming cowardly, I would have extinguished my life as men blow out a
candle. Vanity preserved me, sheer vanity!" He shrugged, spreading
his hard lean hands. "Belhs Cavaliers, I grudged my enemies the
pleasure of seeing me forgetful of valor and noble enterprises. And
so, since then, I have served Heaven, in default of you."
"I would not have it otherwise," she said, half as in wonder; "I
would not have you be quite sane like other men. And I believe," she
added—still with her wise smile—"you have derived a deal of
comfort, off and on, from being heart-broken."
He replied gravely: "A man may always, if he will but take the
pains, be tolerably content and rise in worth, and yet dispense with
love. He has only to guard himself against baseness, and concentrate
his powers on doing right. Thus, therefore, when fortune failed me,
I persisted in acting to the best of my ability. Though I had lost my
lands and my loved lady, I must hold fast to my own worth. Without a
lady and without acreage, it was yet in my power to live a cleanly
and honorable life; and I did not wish to make two evils out of one."
"Assuredly, I would not have you be quite sane like other men,"
she repeated. "It would seem that you have somehow blundered through
long years, preserving always the ignorance of a child, and the
blindness of a child. I cannot understand how this is possible; nor
can I keep from smiling at your high-flown notions; and yet,—I envy
Thus the afternoon passed, and the rule of Prince Guillaume was
made secure. His supper was worthily appointed, for Guillaume loved
color and music and beauty of every kind, and was on this, the day of
his triumph, in a prodigal humor. Many lackeys in scarlet brought in
the first course, to the sound of exultant drums and pipes, with a
blast of trumpets and a waving of banners, so that all hearts were
uplifted, and Guillaume jested with harsh laughter.
But Raimbaut de Vaquieras was not mirthful, for he was remembering
a boy whom he had known of very long ago. He was swayed by an odd
fancy, as the men sat over their wine, and jongleurs sang and
performed tricks for their diversion, that this boy, so frank and
excellent, as yet existed somewhere; and that the Raimbaut who moved
these shriveled hands before him, on the table there, was only a sad
dream of what had never been. It troubled him, too, to see how
grossly these soldiers ate, for, as a person of refinement, an
associate of monarchs, Sire Raimbaut when the dishes were passed
picked up his meats between the index- and the middle-finger of his
left hand, and esteemed it infamous manners to dip any other fingers
into the gravy.
Guillaume had left the Warriors' Hall. Philibert was drunk, and
half the men-at-arms were snoring among the rushes, when at the height
of their festivity Makrisi came. He plucked his master by the sleeve.
A swarthy, bearded Angevin was singing. His song was one of old
Sire Raimbaut's famous canzons in honor of Belhs Cavaliers. The knave
was singing blithely:
Pus mos Belhs Cavaliers grazitz
E joys m'es lunhatz e faiditz,
Don no m' venra jamais conortz;
Fer qu'ees mayer l'ira e plus fortz—
The Saracen had said nothing. He showed a jeweled dagger, and the
knight arose and followed him out of that uproarious hall. Raimbaut
was bitterly perturbed, though he did not know for what reason, as
Makrisi led him through dark corridors to the dull- gleaming arras of
Prince Guillaume's apartments. In this corridor was an iron lamp
swung from the ceiling, and now, as this lamp swayed slightly and
burned low, the tiny flame leaped clear of the wick and was
extinguished, and darkness rose about them.
Raimbaut said: "What do you want of me? Whose blood is on that
"Have you forgotten it is Walburga's Eve?" Makrisi said. Raimbaut
did not regret he could not see his servant's countenance. "Time was
we named it otherwise and praised another woman than a Saxon wench,
but let the new name stand. It is Walburga's Eve, that little,
little hour of evil! and all over the world surges the full tide of
hell's desire, and mischief is a-making now, apace, apace, apace.
People moan in their sleep, and many pillows are pricked by needles
that have sewed a shroud. Cry Eman hetan now, messire! for there are
those to-night who find the big cathedrals of your red- roofed
Christian towns no more imposing than so many pimples on a butler's
chin, because they ride so high, so very high, in this brave
moonlight. Full-tide, full-tide!" Makrisi said, and his voice jangled
like a bell as he drew aside the curtain so that the old knight saw
into the room beyond.
It was a place of many lights, which, when thus suddenly
disclosed, blinded him at first. Then Raimbaut perceived Guillaume
lying a-sprawl across an oaken chest. The Prince had fallen backward
and lay in this posture, glaring at the intruders with horrible eyes
which did not move and would not ever move again. His breast was
crimson, for some one had stabbed him. A woman stood above the corpse
and lighted yet another candle while Raimbaut de Vaquieras waited
motionless. A hand meant only to bestow caresses brushed a lock of
hair from this woman's eyes while he waited. The movements of this
hand were not uncertain, but only quivered somewhat, as a taut wire
shivers in the wind, while Raimbaut de Vaquieras waited motionless.
"I must have lights, I must have a host of candles to assure me
past any questioning that he is dead. The man is of deep cunning. I
think he is not dead even now." Lightly Biatritz touched the Prince's
breast. "Strange, that this wicked heart should be so tranquil when
there is murder here to make it glad! Nay, very certainly this
Guillaume de Baux will rise and laugh in his old fashion before he
speaks, and then I shall be afraid. But I am not afraid as yet. I am
afraid of nothing save the dark, for one cannot be merry in the
Raimbaut said: "This is Belhs Cavaliers whom I have loved my
whole life through. Therefore I do not doubt. Pardieu, I do not even
doubt, who know she is of matchless worth."
"Wherein have I done wrong, Raimbaut?" She came to him with
fluttering hands. "Why, but look you, the man had laid an ambuscade
in the marsh and he meant to kill you there to-night as you rode for
Vaquieras. He told me of it, told me how it was for that end alone he
lured you into Venaissin——" Again she brushed the hair back from
her forehead. "Raimbaut, I spoke of God and knightly honor, and the
man laughed. No, I think it was a fiend who sat so long beside the
window yonder, whence one may see the marsh. There were no candles
in the room. The moonlight was upon his evil face, and I could think
of nothing, of nothing that has been since Adam's time, except our
youth, Raimbaut. And he smiled fixedly, like a white image, because my
misery amused him. Only, when I tried to go to you to warn you, he
leaped up stiffly, making a mewing noise. He caught me by the throat
so that I could not scream. Then while we struggled in the moonlight
your Makrisi came and stabbed him——"
"Nay, I but fetched this knife, messire." Makrisi seemed to love
that bloodied knife.
Biatritz proudly said: "The man lies, Raimbaut."
"What need to tell me that, Belhs Cavaliers?"
And the Saracen shrugged. "It is very true I lie," he said. "As
among friends, I may confess I killed the Prince. But for the rest,
take notice both of you, I mean to lie intrepidly."
Raimbaut remembered how his mother had given each of two lads an
apple, and he had clamored for Guillaume's, as children do, and
Guillaume had changed with him. It was a trivial happening to
remember after fifty years; but Guillaume was dead, and this hacked
flesh was Raimbaut's flesh in part, and the thought of Raimbaut would
never trouble Guillaume de Baux any more. In addition there was a
fire of juniper wood and frankincense upon the hearth, and the room
smelt too cloyingly of be-drugging sweetness. Then on the walls were
tapestries which depicted Merlin's Dream, so that everywhere recoiling
women smiled with bold eyes; and here their wantonness seemed out of
"Listen," Makrisi was saying; "listen, for the hour strikes. At
last, at last!" he cried, with a shrill whine of malice.
Raimbaut said, dully: "Oh, I do not understand——"
"And yet Zoraida loved you once! loved you as people love where I
was born!" The Saracen's voice had altered. His speech was like the
rustle of papers. "You did not love Zoraida. And so it came about
that upon Walburga's Eve, at midnight, Zoraida hanged herself beside
your doorway. Thus we love where I was born. . . . And I, I cut the
rope—with my left hand. I had my other arm about that frozen thing
which yesterday had been Zoraida, you understand, so that it might
not fall. And in the act a tear dropped from that dead woman's cheek
and wetted my forehead. Ice is not so cold as was that tear. . . .
Ho, that tear did not fall upon my forehead but on my heart, because
I loved that dancing-girl, Zoraida, as you do this princess here. I
think you will understand," Makrisi said, calmly as one who states a
The Sire de Vaquieras replied, in the same tone: "I understand.
You have contrived my death?"
"Ey, messire, would that be adequate? I could have managed that
any hour within the last score of years. Oh no! for I have studied you
carefully. Oh no! instead, I have contrived this plight. For the
Prince of Orange is manifestly murdered. Who killed him?— why,
Madona Biatritz, and none other, for I will swear to it. I, I will
swear to it, who saw it done. Afterward both you and I must be
questioned upon the rack, as possibly concerned in the affair, and
whether innocent or guilty we must die very horribly. Such is the
gentle custom of your Christian country when a prince is murdered.
That is not the point of the jest, however. For first Sire Philibert
will put this woman to the Question by Water, until she confesses her
confederates, until she confesses that every baron whom Philibert
distrusts was one of them. Oh yes, assuredly they will thrust a
hollow cane into the mouth of your Biatritz, and they will pour water
a little by a little through this cane, until she confesses what they
desire. Ha, Philibert will see to this confession! And through this
woman's torment he will rid himself of every dangerous foe he has in
Venaissin. You must stand by and wait your turn. You must stand by,
in fetters, and see this done—you, you, my master!—you, who love
this woman as I loved that dead Zoraida who was not fair enough to
Raimbaut, trapped, impotent, cried out: "This is not
possible——" And for all that, he knew the Saracen to be foretelling
Makrisi went on, quietly: "After the Question men will parade
her, naked to the middle, through all Orange, until they reach the
Marketplace, where will be four horses. One of these horses they will
harness to each arm and leg of your Biatritz. Then they will beat
these horses. These will be strong horses. They will each run in a
This infamy also was certain. Raimbaut foresaw what he must do.
He clutched the dagger which Makrisi fondled. "Belhs Cavaliers, this
fellow speaks the truth. Look now, the moon is old—is it not strange
to know it will outlive us?"
And Biatritz came close to Sire Raimbaut and said: "I understand.
If I leave this room alive it will purchase a hideous suffering for
my poor body, it will bring about the ruin of many brave and innocent
chevaliers. I know. I would perforce confess all that the masked
men bade me. I know, for in Prince Conrat's time I have seen persons
who had been put to the Question——" She shuddered; and she
re-began, without any agitation: "Give me the knife, Raimbaut."
"Pardieu! but I may not obey you for this once," he answered,
"since we are informed by those in holy orders that all such as lay
violent hands upon themselves must suffer eternally." Then, kneeling,
he cried, in an extremity of adoration: "Oh, I have served you all
my life. You may not now deny me this last service. And while I talk
they dig your grave! O blind men, making the new grave, take heed
lest that grave be too narrow, for already my heart is breaking in my
body. I have drunk too deep of sorrow. And yet I may not fail you,
now that honor and mercy and my love for you demand I kill you before
I also die—in such a fashion as this fellow speaks of."
She did not dispute this. How could she when it was an axiom in
all Courts of Love that Heaven held dominion in a lover's heart only
as an underling of the man's mistress?
And so she said, with a fond smile: "It is your demonstrable
privilege. I would not grant it, dear, were my weak hands as clean as
yours. Oh, but it is long you have loved me, and it is faithfully you
have served Heaven, and my heart too is breaking in my body now that
your service ends!"
And he demanded, wearily: "When we were boy and girl together
what had we said if any one had told us this would be the end?"
"We would have laughed. It is a long while since those children
laughed at Montferrat. . . . Not yet, not yet!" she said. "Ah, pity
me, tried champion, for even now I am almost afraid to die."
She leaned against the window yonder, shuddering, staring into the
night. Dawn had purged the east of stars. Day was at hand, the day
whose noon she might not hope to witness. She noted this incuriously.
Then Biatritz came to him, very strangely proud, and yet all
"See, now, Raimbaut! because I have loved you as I have loved
nothing else in life, I will not be unworthy of your love. Strike and
Raimbaut de Vaquieras raised an already bloodied dagger. As
emotion goes, he was bankrupt. He had no longer any dread of hell,
because he thought that, a little later, nothing its shrewdest
overseer could plan would have the power to vex him. She, waiting,
smiled. Makrisi, seated, stretched his legs, put fingertips together
with the air of an attendant amateur. This was better than he had
hoped. In such a posture they heard a bustle of armored men, and when
all turned, saw how a sword protruded through the arras.
"Come out, Guillaume!" people were shouting. "Unkennel, dog! Out,
out, and die!" To such a heralding Mahi de Vernoil came into the room
with mincing steps such as the man affected in an hour of peril. He
first saw what a grisly burden the chest sustained. "Now, by the
Face!" he cried, "if he that cheated me of quieting this filth should
prove to be of gentle birth I will demand of him a duel to the death!"
The curtains were ripped from their hangings as he spoke, and behind
him the candlelight was reflected by the armor of many followers.
Then de Vernoil perceived Raimbaut de Vaquieras, and the spruce
little man bowed ceremoniously. All were still. Composedly, like a
lieutenant before his captain, Mahi narrated how these hunted remnants
of Lovain's army had, as a last cast, that night invaded the chateau,
and had found, thanks to the festival, its men-at-arms in uniform and
inefficient drunkenness. "My tres beau sire," Messire de Vernoil
ended, "will you or nill you, Venaissin is yours this morning. My
knaves have slain Philibert and his bewildered fellow- tipplers with
less effort than is needed to drown as many kittens."
And his followers cried, as upon a signal: "Hail, Prince of
It was so like the wonder-working of a dream—this sudden and
heroic uproar—that old Raimbaut de Vaquieras stood reeling, near to
intimacy with fear for the first time. He waited thus, with both
hands pressed before his eyes. He waited thus for a long while,
because he was not used to find chance dealing kindlily with him.
Later he saw that Makrisi had vanished in the tumult, and that many
people awaited his speaking.
The lord of Venaissin began: "You have done me a great service,
Messire de Vemoil. As recompense, I give you what I may. I freely
yield you all my right in Venaissin. Oh no, kingcraft is not for me.
I daily see and hear of battles won, cities beleaguered, high towers
overthrown, and ancient citadels and new walls leveled with the dust.
I have conversed with many kings, the directors of these events, and
they were not happy people. Yes, yes, I have witnessed divers
happenings, for I am old. . . . I have found nothing which can serve
me in place of honor."
He turned to Dona Biatritz. It was as if they were alone. "Belhs
Cavaliers," he said, "I had sworn fealty to this Guillaume. He
violated his obligations; but that did not free me of mine. An oath
is an oath. I was, and am to-day, sworn to support his cause, and to
profit in any fashion by its overthrow would be an abominable action.
Nay, more, were any of his adherents alive it would be my manifest
duty to join them against our preserver, Messire de Vernoil. This
necessity is very happily spared me. I cannot, though, in honor hold
any fief under the supplanter of my liege-lord. I must, therefore,
relinquish Vaquieras and take eternal leave of Venaissin. I will not
lose the right to call myself your servant!" he cried out— "and that
which is noblest in the world must be served fittingly. And so, Belhs
Cavaliers, let us touch palms and bid farewell, and never in this life
speak face to face of trivial happenings which we two alone remember.
For naked of lands and gear I came to you—a prince's daughter—very
long ago, and as nakedly I now depart, so that I may retain the right
to say, `All my life long I served my love of her according to my
abilities, wholeheartedly and with clean hands.'"
"Yes, yes! you must depart from Venaissin," said Dona Biatritz. A
capable woman, she had no sympathy with his exquisite points of honor,
and yet loved him all the more because of what seemed to her his
surpassing folly. She smiled, somewhat as mothers do in humoring an
unreasonable boy. "We will go to my nephew's court at Montferrat,"
she said. "He will willingly provide for his old aunt and her
husband. And you may still make verses—at Montferrat, where we lived
verses, once, Raimbaut."
Now they gazed full upon each other. Thus they stayed,
transfigured, neither seeming old. Each had forgotten that
unhappiness existed anywhere in the whole world. The armored,
blood-stained men about them were of no more importance than were
those wantons in the tapestry. Without, dawn throbbed in heaven.
Without, innumerable birds were raising that glad, piercing, hurried
morning-song which very anciently caused Adam's primal waking, to
behold his mate.
"A curious preference for the artificial should be mentioned as
characteristic of ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI'S poetry. For his century was
anything but artless; the great commonplaces that form the main stock
of human thought were no longer in their first flush, and he
addressed a people no longer childish. . . . Unquestionably his
fancies were fantastic, anti- natural, bordering on hallucination, and
they betray a desire for impossible novelty; but it is allowable to
prefer them to the sickly simplicity of those so-called poems that
embroider with old faded wools upon the canvas of worn-out truisms,
trite, trivial and idiotically sentimental patterns."
Let me have dames and damsels richly clad
To feed and tend my mirth,
Singing by day and night to make me glad;
Let me have fruitful gardens of great girth
Fill'd with the strife of birds,
With water-springs, and beasts that house i' the earth.
Let me seem Solomon for lore of words,
Samson for strength, for beauty Absalom.
Knights as my serfs be given;
And as I will, let music go and come;
Till, when I will, I will to enter Heaven.
ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI. Madrigal,
from D. G. Rossetti's version.
Graciosa was Balthazar's youngest child, a white, slim girl with
violet eyes and strange pale hair which had the color and glitter of
stardust. "Some day at court," her father often thought complacently,
"she, too, will make a good match." He was a necessitous lord, a
smiling, supple man who had already marketed two daughters to his
advantage. But Graciosa's time was not yet mature in the year of
grace 1533, for the girl was not quite sixteen. So Graciosa remained
in Balthazar's big cheerless house and was tutored in all needful
accomplishments. She was proficient in the making of preserves and
unguents, could play the harpsichord and the virginals acceptably,
could embroider an altarcloth to admiration, and, in spite of a
trivial lameness in walking, could dance a coranto or a saraband
against any woman between two seas.
Now to the north of Balthazar's home stood a tall forest,
overhanging both the highway and the river whose windings the highway
followed. Graciosa was very often to be encountered upon the
outskirts of these woods. She loved the forest, whose tranquillity
bred dreams, but was already a woman in so far that she found it more
interesting to watch the highway. Sometimes it would be deserted save
for small purple butterflies which fluttered about as if in continuous
indecision, and rarely ascended more than a foot above the ground.
But people passed at intervals—as now a page, who was a notably fine
fellow, clothed in ash- colored gray, with slashed, puffed sleeves,
and having a heron's feather in his cap; or a Franciscan with his
gown tucked up so that you saw how the veins on his naked feet stood
out like the carvings on a vase; or a farmer leading a calf; or a
gentleman in a mantle of squirrel's fur riding beside a wonderful
proud lady, whose tiny hat was embroidered with pearls. It was all
very interesting to watch, it was like turning over the leaves of a
book written in an unknown tongue and guessing what the pictures
meant, because these people were intent upon their private avocations,
in which you had no part, and you would never see them any more.
Then destiny took a hand in the affair and Guido came. He reined
his gray horse at the sight of her sitting by the wayside and
deferentially inquired how far it might be to the nearest inn.
Graciosa told him. He thanked her and rode on. That was all, but the
appraising glance of this sedate and handsome burgher obscurely
troubled the girl afterward.
Next day he came again. He was a jewel-merchant, he told her, and
he thought it within the stretch of possibility that my lord
Balthazar's daughter might wish to purchase some of his wares. She
viewed them with admiration, chaffered thriftily, and finally bought
a topaz, dug from Mount Zabarca, Guido assured her, which rendered its
wearer immune to terrors of any kind.
Very often afterward these two met on the outskirts of the forest
as Guido rode between the coast and the hill-country about his
vocation. Sometimes he laughingly offered her a bargain, on other
days he paused to exhibit a notable gem which he had procured for
this or that wealthy amateur. Count Eglamore, the young Duke's
favorite yonder at court, bought most of them, it seemed. "The nobles
complain against this upstart Eglamore very bitterly," said Guido,
"but we merchants have no quarrel with him. He buys too lavishly."
"I trust I shall not see Count Eglamore when I go to court," said
Graciosa, meditatively; "and, indeed, by that time, my father assures
me, some honest gentleman will have contrived to cut the throat of
this abominable Eglamore." Her father's people, it should be
premised, had been at bitter feud with the favorite ever since he
detected and punished the conspiracy of the Marquis of Cibo, their
kinsman. Then Graciosa continued: "Nevertheless, I shall see many
beautiful sights when I am taken to court. . . . And the Duke, too,
you tell me, is an amateur of gems."
"Eh, madonna, I wish that you could see his jewels," cried Guido,
growing fervent; and he lovingly catalogued a host of lapidary
"I hope that I shall see these wonderful jewels when I go to
court," said Graciosa wistfully.
"Duke Alessandro," he returned, his dark eyes strangely mirthful,
"is, as I take it, a catholic lover of beauty in all its forms. So he
will show you his gems, very assuredly, and, worse still, he will make
verses in your honor. For it is a preposterous feature of Duke
Alessandro's character that he is always making songs."
"Oh, and such strange songs as they are, too, Guido. Who does not
"I am not the best possible judge of his verses' merit," Guido
estimated, drily. "But I shall never understand how any singer at all
came to be locked in such a prison. I fancy that at times the paradox
puzzles even Duke Alessandro."
"And is he as handsome as people report?"
Then Guido laughed a little. "Tastes differ, of course. But I
think your father will assure you, madonna, that no duke possessing
such a zealous tax- collector as Count Eglamore was ever in his
lifetime considered of repulsive person."
"And is he young?"
"Why, as to that, he is about of an age with me, and in
consequence old enough to be far more sensible than either of us is
ever likely to be," said Guido; and began to talk of other matters.
But presently Graciosa was questioning him again as to the court,
whither she was to go next year and enslave a marquis, or, at worst,
an opulent baron. Her thoughts turned toward the court's
predominating figure. "Tell me of Eglamore, Guido."
"Madonna, some say that Eglamore was a brewer's son. Others—and
your father's kinsmen in particular— insist that he was begot by a
devil in person, just as Merlin was, and Plato the philosopher, and
puissant Alexander. Nobody knows anything about his origin." Guido
was sitting upon the ground, his open pack between his knees. Between
the thumb and forefinger of each hand he held caressingly a string of
pearls which he inspected as he talked. "Nobody," he idly said,
"nobody is very eager to discuss Count Eglamore's origin now that
Eglamore has become indispensable to Duke Alessandro. Yes, it is
thanks to Eglamore that the Duke has ample leisure and needful privacy
for the pursuit of recreations which are reputed to be curious."
"I do not understand you, Guido." Graciosa was all wonder.
"It is perhaps as well," the merchant said, a trifle sadly. Then
Guido shrugged. "To be brief, madonna, business annoys the Duke. He
finds in this Eglamore an industrious person who affixes seals,
draughts proclamations, makes treaties, musters armies, devises
pageants, and collects revenues, upon the whole, quite as efficiently
as Alessandro would be capable of doing these things. So Alessandro
makes verses and amuses himself as his inclinations prompt, and
Alessandro's people are none the worse off on account of it."
"Heigho, I foresee that I shall never fall in love with the Duke,"
Graciosa declared. "It is unbefitting and it is a little cowardly for
a prince to shirk the duties of his station. Now, if I were Duke I
would grant my father a pension, and have Eglamore hanged, and
purchase a new gown of silvery green, in which I would be ravishingly
beautiful, and afterward— Why, what would you do if you were Duke,
"What would I do if I were Duke?" he echoed. "What would I do if
I were a great lord instead of a tradesman? I think you know the
"Oh, you would make me your duchess, of course. That is quite
understood," said Graciosa, with the lightest of laughs. "But I was
speaking seriously, Guido."
Guido at that considered her intently for a half- minute. His
countenance was of portentous gravity, but in his eyes she seemed to
detect a lurking impishness.
"And it is not a serious matter that a peddler of crystals should
have dared to love a nobleman's daughter? You are perfectly right.
That I worship you is an affair which does not concern any person
save myself in any way whatsoever, although I think that knowledge of
the fact would put your father to the trouble of sharpening his
dagger. . . . Indeed, I am not certain that I worship you, for in
order to adore wholeheartedly, the idolater must believe his idol to
be perfect. Now, your nails are of an ugly shape, like that of
little fans; your mouth is too large; and I have long ago perceived
that you are a trifle lame in spite of your constant care to conceal
the fact. I do not admire these faults, for faults they are
undoubtedly. Then, too, I know you are vain and self- seeking, and
look forward contentedly to the time when your father will transfer
his ownership of such physical attractions as heaven gave you to that
nobleman who offers the highest price for them. It is true you have
no choice in the matter, but you will participate in a monstrous
bargain, and I would prefer to have you exhibit distaste for it." And
with that he returned composedly to inspection of his pearls.
"And to what end, Guido?" It was the first time Graciosa had
completely waived the reticence of a superior caste. You saw that the
child's parted lips were tremulous, and you divined her childish fits
of dreading that glittering, inevitable court-life shared with an
But Guido only grumbled whimsically. "I am afraid that men do not
always love according to the strict laws of logic. I desire your
happiness above all things; yet to see you so abysmally untroubled by
anything that troubles me is another matter."
"But I am not untroubled, Guido——she began swiftly. Graciosa
broke off in speech, shrugged, flashed a smile at him. "For I cannot
fathom you, Ser Guido, and that troubles me. Yes, I am very fond of
you, and yet I do not trust you. You tell me you love me greatly.
It pleases me to have you say this. You perceive I am very candid
this morning, Messer Guido. Yes, it pleases me, and I know that for
the sake of seeing me you daily endanger your life, for if my father
heard of our meetings he would have you killed. You would not incur
such hare-brained risks unless you cared very greatly; and yet,
somehow, I do not believe it is altogether for me you care."
Then Guido was in train to protest an all-mastering and entirely
candid devotion, but he was interrupted.
"Most women have these awkward intuitions," spoke a melodious
voice, and turning, Graciosa met the eyes of the intruder. This
magnificent young man had a proud and bloodless face which contrasted
sharply with his painted lips and cheeks. In the contour of his
protruding mouth showed plainly his negroid ancestry. His scanty
beard, as well as his frizzled hair, was the color of dead grass. He
was sumptuously clothed in white satin worked with silver, and around
his cap was a gold chain hung with diamonds. Now he handed his
fringed riding-gloves to Guido to hold.
"Yes, madonna, I suspect that Eglamore here cares greatly for the
fact that you are Lord Balthazar's daughter, and cousin to the late
Marquis of Cibo. For Cibo has many kinsmen at court who still resent
the circumstance that the matching of his wits against Eglamore's
earned for Cibo a deplorably public demise. So they conspire against
Eglamore with vexatious industry, as an upstart, as a nobody thrust
over people of proven descent, and Eglamore goes about in hourly
apprehension of a knife-thrust. If he could make a match with you,
though, your father—thrifty man!— would be easily appeased. Your
cousins, those proud, grumbling Castel-Franchi, Strossi and Valori,
would not prove over-obdurate toward a kinsman who, whatever his past
indiscretions, has so many pensions and offices at his disposal. Yes,
honor would permit a truce, and Eglamore could bind them to his
interests within ten days, and be rid of the necessity of sleeping in
chain armor. . . . Have I not unraveled the scheme correctly,
"Your highness was never lacking in penetration," replied the
other in a dull voice. He stood motionless, holding the gloves, his
shoulders a little bowed as if under some physical load. His eyes
were fixed upon the ground. He divined the change in Graciosa's face
and did not care to see it.
"And so you are Count Eglamore," said Graciosa in a sort of
whisper. "That is very strange. I had thought you were my friend,
Guido. But I forget. I must not call you Guido any longer." She
gave a little shiver here. He stayed motionless and did not look at
her. "I have often wondered what manner of man you were. So it was
you—whose hand I touched just now—you who poisoned Duke Cosmo, you
who had the good cardinal assassinated, you who betrayed the brave
lord of Faenza! Oh, yes, they openly accuse you of every imaginable
crime—this patient Eglamore, this reptile who has crept into his
power through filthy passages. It is very strange you should be
capable of so much wickedness, for to me you seem only a sullen
He winced and raised his eyes at this. His face remained
expressionless. He knew these accusations at least to be demonstrable
lies, for as it happened he had never found his advancement to hinge
upon the commission of the crimes named. But even so, the past was a
cemetery he did not care to have revivified.
"And it was you who detected the Marquis of Cibo's conspiracy.
Tebaldeo was my cousin, Count Eglamore, and I loved him. We were
reared together. We used to play here in these woods, and I remember
how Tebaldeo once fetched me a wren's nest from that maple yonder. I
stood just here. I was weeping because I was afraid he would fall.
If he had fallen and been killed, it would have been the luckier for
him," Graciosa sighed. "They say that he conspired. I do not know. I
only know that by your orders, Count Eglamore, my playmate Tebaldeo
was fastened upon a Saint Andrew's cross and his arms and legs were
each broken in two places with an iron bar. Then your servants took
Tebaldeo, still living, and laid him upon a carriage-wheel which was
hung upon a pivot. The upper edge of this wheel was cut with very
fine teeth like those of a saw, so that his agony might be complete.
Tebaldeo's poor mangled legs were folded beneath his body so that his
heels touched the back of his head, they tell me. In such a posture
he died very slowly while the wheel turned very slowly there in the
sunlit market-place, and flies buzzed greedily about him, and the
shopkeepers took holiday in order to watch Tebaldeo die—the same
Tebaldeo who once fetched me a wren's nest from yonder maple."
Eglamore spoke now. "I gave orders for the Marquis of Cibo's
execution. I did not devise the manner of his death. The punishment
for Cibo's crime was long ago fixed by our laws. Cibo plotted to kill
the Duke. Cibo confessed as much."
But the girl waved this aside. "And then you plan this
masquerade. You plan to make me care for you so greatly that even
when I know you to be Count Eglamore I must still care for you. You
plan to marry me, so as to placate Tebaldeo's kinsmen, so as to bind
them to your interests. It was a fine bold stroke of policy, I know,
to use me as a stepping-stone to safety—but was it fair to me?" Her
voice rose now a little. She seemed to plead with him. "Look you,
Count Eglamore, I was a child only yesterday. I have never loved any
man. But you have loved many women, I know, and long experience has
taught you many ways of moving a woman's heart. Oh, was it fair, was
it worth while, to match your skill against my ignorance? Think how
unhappy I would be if even now I loved you, and how I would loathe
myself. . . . But I am getting angry over nothing. Nothing has
happened except that I have dreamed in idle moments of a brave and
comely lover who held his head so high that all other women envied me,
and now I have awakened."
Meanwhile, it was with tears in his eyes that the young man in
white had listened to her quiet talk, for you could nowhere have found
a nature more readily sensitive than his to all the beauty and wonder
which life, as if it were haphazardly, produces every day. He pitied
this betrayed child quite ineffably, because in her sorrow she was so
So he spoke consolingly. "Fie, Donna Graciosa, you must not be
too harsh with Eglamore. It is his nature to scheme, and he weaves
his plots as inevitably as the spider does her web. Believe me, it is
wiser to forget the rascal—as I do—until there is need of him; and I
think you will have no more need to consider Eglamore's trickeries,
for you are very beautiful, Graciosa."
He had drawn closer to the girl, and he brought a cloying odor of
frangipani, bergamot and vervain. His nostrils quivered, his face had
taken on an odd pinched look, for all that he smiled as over some
occult jest. Graciosa was a little frightened by his bearing, which
was both furtive and predatory.
"Oh, do not be offended, for I have some rights to say what I
desire in these parts. For, Dei gratia, I am the overlord of these
parts, Graciosa—a neglected prince who wondered over the frequent
absences of his chief counselor and secretly set spies upon him.
Eglamore here will attest as much. Or if you cannot believe poor
Eglamore any longer, I shall have other witnesses within the
half-hour. Oh, yes, they are to meet me here at noon—some twenty
crop-haired stalwart cut-throats. They will come riding upon
beautiful broad-chested horses covered with red velvet trappings that
are hung with little silver bells which jingle delightfully. They
will come very soon, and then we will ride back to court."
Duke Alessandro touched his big painted mouth with his forefinger
as if in fantastic mimicry of a man imparting a confidence.
"I think that I shall take you with me, Graciosa, for you are very
beautiful. You are as slim as a lily and more white, and your eyes
are two purple mirrors in each of which I see a tiny image of Duke
Alessandro. The woman I loved yesterday was a big splendid wench with
cheeks like apples. It is not desirable that women should be so
large. All women should be little creatures that fear you. They
should have thin, plaintive voices, and in shrinking from you be as
slight to the touch as a cobweb. It is not possible to love a woman
ardently unless you comprehend how easy it would be to murder her."
"God, God!" said Count Eglamore, very softly, for he was familiar
with the look which had now come into Duke Alessandro's face. Indeed,
all persons about court were quick to notice this odd pinched look,
like that of a traveler nipped at by frosts, and people at court
became obsequious within the instant in dealing with the fortunate
woman who had aroused this look, Count Eglamore remembered.
And the girl did not speak at all, but stood motionless, staring
in bewildered, pitiable, childlike fashion, and the color had ebbed
from her countenance.
Alessandro was frankly pleased. "You fear me, do you not,
Graciosa? See, now, when I touch your hand it is soft and cold as a
serpent's skin, and you shudder. I am very tired of women who love
me, of all women with bold, hungry eyes. To you my touch will always
be a martyrdom, you will always loathe me, and therefore I shall not
weary of you for a long while. Come, Graciosa. Your father shall have
all the wealth and state that even his greedy imaginings can devise,
so long as you can contrive to loathe me. We will find you a
suitable husband. You shall have flattery and titles, gold and fine
glass, soft stuffs and superb palaces such as are your beauty's due
He glanced at the peddler's pack, and shrugged. "So Eglamore has
been wooing you with jewels! You must see mine, dear Graciosa. It is
not merely an affair of possessing, as some emperors do, all the four
kinds of sapphires, the twelve kinds of emeralds, the three kinds of
rubies, and many extraordinary pearls, diamonds, cymophanes, beryls,
green peridots, tyanos, sandrastra, and fiery cinnamon-stones"—he
enumerated them with the tender voice of their lover—"for the value
of these may at least be estimated. Oh, no, I have in my possession
gems which have not their fellows in any other collection, gems which
have not even a name and the value of which is incalculable—strange
jewels that were shot from inaccessible mountain peaks by means of
slings, jewels engendered by the thunder, jewels taken from the heart
of the Arabian deer, jewels cut from the brain of a toad and the eyes
of serpents, and even jewels that are authentically known to have
fallen from the moon. We will select the rarest, and have a pair of
slippers encrusted with them, in which you shall dance for me."
"Highness," cried Eglamore, with anger and terror at odds in his
breast, "Highness, I love this girl!"
"Ah, then you cannot ever be her husband," Duke Alessandro
returned. "You would have suited otherwise. No, no, we must seek out
some other person of discretion. It will all be very amusing, for I
think that she is now quite innocent, as pure as the high angels are.
See, Eglamore, she cannot speak, she stays still as a lark that has
been taken in a snare. It will be very marvelous to make her as I am.
. . ." He meditated, as, obscurely aware of opposition, his
shoulders twitched fretfully, and momentarily his eyes lightened like
the glare of a cannon through its smoke. "You made a beast of me, some
long-faced people say. Beware lest the beast turn and rend you."
Count Eglamore plucked aimlessly at his chin. Then he laughed as
a dog yelps. He dropped the gloves which he had held till this,
deliberately, as if the act were a rite. His shoulders straightened
and purpose seemed to flow into the man. "No," he said quietly, "I
will not have it. It was not altogether I who made a brain- sick
beast of you, my prince; but even so, I have never been too nice to
profit by your vices. I have taken my thrifty toll of abomination, I
have stood by contentedly, not urging you on, yet never trying to
stay you, as you waded deeper and ever deeper into the filth of your
debaucheries, because meanwhile you left me so much power. Yes, in
some part it is my own handiwork which is my ruin. I accept it.
Nevertheless, you shall not harm this child."
"I venture to remind you, Eglamore, that I am still the master of
this duchy." Alessandro was languidly amused, and had begun to regard
his adversary with real curiosity.
"Oh, yes, but that is nothing to me. At court you are the master.
At court I have seen mothers raise the veil from their daughters'
faces, with smiles that were more loathsome than the grimaces of a
fiend, because you happened to be passing. But here in these woods,
your highness, I see only the woman I love and the man who has
"This is very admirable fooling," the Duke considered. "So all
the world is changed and Pandarus is transformed into Hector? These
are sonorous words, Eglamore, but with what deeds do you propose to
"By killing you, your highness."
"So!" said the Duke. "The farce ascends in interest." He drew
with a flourish, with actual animation, for sottish, debauched and
power-crazed as this man was, he came of a race to whom danger was a
cordial. "Very luckily a sword forms part of your disguise, so let
us amuse ourselves. It is always diverting to kill, and if by any
chance you kill me I shall at least be rid of the intolerable
knowledge that to-morrow will be just like to-day." The Duke
descended blithely into the level road and placed himself on guard.
Then both men silently went about the business in hand. Both were
oddly calm, almost as if preoccupied by some more important matter to
be settled later. The two swords clashed, gleamed rigidly for an
instant, and then their rapid interplay, so far as vision went,
melted into a flickering snarl of silver, for the sun was high and
each man's shadow was huddled under him. Then Eglamore thrust savagely
and in the act trod the edge of a puddle, and fell ignominiously
prostrate. His sword was wrenched ten feet from him, for the Duke had
parried skilfully. Eglamore lay thus at Alessandro's mercy.
"Well, well!" the Duke cried petulantly, "and am I to be kept
waiting forever? You were a thought quicker in obeying my caprices
yesterday. Get up, you muddy lout, and let us kill each other with
some pretension of adroitness."
Eglamore rose, and, sobbing, caught up his sword and rushed toward
the Duke in an agony of shame and rage. His attack now was that of a
frenzied animal, quite careless of defense and desirous only of
murder. Twice the Duke wounded him, but it was Alessandro who drew
backward, composedly hindering the brutal onslaught he was powerless
to check. Then Eglamore ran him through the chest and gave vent to a
strangled, growling cry as Alessandro fell. Eglamore wrenched his
sword free and grasped it by the blade so that he might stab the Duke
again and again. He meant to hack the abominable flesh, to slash and
mutilate that haughty mask of infamy, but Graciosa clutched his
weapon by the hilt.
The girl panted, and her breath came thick. "He gave you your
Eglamore looked up. She leaned now upon his shoulder, her face
brushing his as he knelt over the unconscious Duke; and Eglamore found
that at her dear touch all passion had gone out of him.
"Madonna," he said equably, "the Duke is not yet dead. It is
impossible to let him live. You may think he voiced only a caprice
just now. I think so too, but I know the man, and I know that all
this madman's whims are ruthless and irresistible. Living, Duke
Alessandro's appetites are merely whetted by opposition, so much so
that he finds no pleasures sufficiently piquant unless they have God's
interdiction as a sauce. Living, he will make of you his plaything,
and a little later his broken, soiled and castby plaything. It is
therefore necessary that I kill Duke Alessandro."
She parted from him, and he too rose to his feet.
"And afterward," she said quietly, "and afterward you must die
just as Tebaldeo died."
"That is the law, madonna. But whether Alessandro enters hell
to-day or later, I am a lost man."
"Oh, that is very true," she said. "A moment since you were Count
Eglamore, whom every person feared. Now there is not a beggar in the
kingdom who would change lots with you, for you are a friendless and
hunted man in peril of dreadful death. But even so, you are not
penniless, Count Eglamore, for these jewels here which formed part of
your masquerade are of great value, and there is a world outside. The
frontier is not two miles distant. You have only to escape into the
hill-country beyond the forest, and you need not kill Duke Alessandro
after all. I would have you go hence with hands as clean as
"Perhaps I might escape." He found it quaint to note how calm she
was and how tranquilly his own thoughts ran. "But first the Duke must
die, because I dare not leave you to his mercy."
"How does that matter?" she returned. "You know very well that my
father intends to market me as best suits his interests. Here I am so
much merchandise. The Duke is as free as any other man to cry a
bargain." He would have spoken in protest, but Graciosa interrupted
wearily: "Oh, yes, it is to this end only that we daughters of Duke
Alessandro's vassals are nurtured, just as you told me—eh, how long
ago!—that such physical attractions as heaven accords us may be
marketed. And I do not see how a wedding can in any way ennoble the
transaction by causing it to profane a holy sacrament. Ah, no,
Balthazar's daughter was near attaining all that she had been taught
to desire, for a purchaser came and he bid lavishly. You know very
well that my father would have been delighted. But you must need
upset the bargain. `No, I will not have it!' Count Eglamore must cry.
It cost you very highly to speak those words. I think it would have
puzzled my father to hear those words at which so many fertile lands,
stout castles, well-timbered woodlands, herds of cattle, gilded
coaches, liveries and curious tapestries, fine clothing and spiced
foods, all vanished like a puff of smoke. Ah, yes, my father would
have thought you mad."
"I had no choice," he said, and waved a little ges- ture of
impotence. He spoke as with difficulty, almost wearily. "I love you.
It is a theme on which I do not embroider. So long as I had thought
to use you as an instrument I could woo fluently enough. To-day I saw
that you were frightened and helpless—oh, quite helpless. And
something changed in me. I knew for the first time that I loved you
and that I was not clean as you are clean. What it was of passion and
horror, of despair and adoration and yearning, which struggled in my
being then I cannot tell you. It spurred me to such action as I
took,—but it has robbed me of sugared eloquence, it has left me chary
of speech. It is necessary that I climb very high because of my love
for you, and upon the heights there is silence."
And Graciosa meditated. "Here I am so much merchandise. Heigho,
since I cannot help it, since bought and sold I must be, one day or
another, at least I will go at a noble price. Yet I do not think I am
quite worth the value of these castles and lands and other things
which you gave up because of me, so that it will be necessary to make
up the difference, dear, by loving you very much."
And at that he touched her chin, gently and masterfully, for
Graciosa would have averted her face, and it seemed to Eglamore that
he could never have his fill of gazing on the radiant, shamed
tenderness of Graciosa's face. "Oh, my girl!" he whispered. "Oh, my
wonderful, worshiped, merry girl, whom God has fashioned with such
loving care! you who had only scorn to give me when I was a kingdom's
master! and would you go with me now that I am friendless and
"But I shall always have a friend," she answered"— a friend who
showed me what Balthazar's daughter was and what love is. And I am
vain enough to believe I shall not ever be very far from home so long
as I am near to my friend's heart."
A mortal man could not but take her in his arms.
"Farewell, Duke Alessandro!" then said Eglamore; "farewell, poor
clay so plastic the least touch remodels you! I had a part in shaping
you so bestial; our age, too, had a part—our bright and cruel day,
wherein you were set too high. Yet for me it would perhaps have
proved as easy to have made a learned recluse of you, Alessandro, or a
bloodless saint, if to do that had been as patently profitable. For
you and all your kind are so much putty in the hands of circumspect
fellows such as I. But I stood by and let our poisoned age conform
that putty into the shape of a crazed beast, because it took that form
as readily as any other, and in taking it, best served my selfish
ends. Now I must pay for that sorry shaping, just as, I think, you
too must pay some day. And so, I cry farewell with loathing, but with
Then these two turned toward the hills, leaving Duke Alessandro
where he lay in the road, a very lamentable figure in much bloodied
finery. They turned toward the hills, and entered a forest whose
ordering was time's contemporary, and where there was no grandeur
save that of the trees.
But upon the summit of the nearest hill they paused and looked
over a restless welter of foliage that glittered in the sun, far down
into the highway. It bustled like an unroofed ant-hill, for the road
was alive with men who seemed from this distance very small. Duke
Alessandro's attendants had found him and were clustered in a hubbub
about their reviving master. Dwarfish Lorenzino de Medici was the most
solicitous among them.
Beyond was the broad river, seen as a ribbon of silver now, and on
its remoter bank the leaded roofs of a strong fortress glistened like
a child's new toy. Tilled fields showed here and there, no larger in
appearance than so many outspread handkerchiefs. Far down in the
east a small black smudge upon the pearl- colored and vaporous horizon
was all they could discern of a walled city filled with factories for
the working of hemp and furs and alum and silk and bitumen.
"It is a very rich and lovely land," said Eglamore—"this kingdom
which a half-hour since lay in the hollow of my hand." He viewed it
for a while, and not without pensiveness. Then he took Graciosa's
hand and looked into her face, and he laughed joyously.
"It does not appear that the age thought his works worthy of
posterity, nor that this great poet himself levied any ideal tribute
on future times, or had any further prospect than of present
popularity and present profit. So careless was he, indeed, of fame,
that, when he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet little
declined into the vale of years, and before he could be disgusted with
fatigue or disabled by infirmity, he desired only that in this rural
quiet he who had so long mazed his imagination by following phantoms
might at last be cured of his delirious ecstasies, and as a hermit
might estimate the transactions of the world."
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's my own,
Which is most faint. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE. Epilogue
to The Tempest.
He was hoping, while his fingers drummed in unison with the beat
of his verse, that this last play at least would rouse enthusiasm in
the pit. The welcome given its immediate predecessors had undeniably
been tepid. A memorandum at his elbow of the receipts at the Globe
for the last quarter showed this with disastrous bluntness; and,
after all, in 1609 a shareholder in a theater, when writing dramas for
production there, was ordinarily subject to more claims than those of
He sat in a neglected garden whose growth was in reversion to
primal habits. The season was September, the sky a uniform and
temperate blue. A peachtree, laden past its strength with fruitage,
made about him with its boughs a sort of tent. The grass around his
writing-table was largely hidden by long, crinkled peach leaves—some
brown and others gray as yet—and was dotted with a host of
brightly-colored peaches. Fidgeting bees and flies were excavating the
decayed spots in this wasting fruit, from which emanated a vinous
odor. The bees hummed drowsily, their indus- try facilitating
idleness in others. It was curious—he meditated, his thoughts
straying from "an uninhabited island"—how these insects alternated in
color between brown velvet and silver, as they blundered about a
flickering tessellation of amber and dark green . . . in search of
rottenness. . . .
He frowned. Here was an arid forenoon as imagi- nation went. A
seasoned plagiarist by this, he opened a book which lay upon the table
among several others and duly found the chapter entitled Of the
"So, so!" he said aloud. "`It is a nation,' would I answer Plato,
`that has no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters——'" And with
that he sat about reshaping Montaigne's conceptions of Utopia into
verse. He wrote—while his left hand held the book flat—as orderly
as any county-clerk might do in the recordance of a deed of sale.
Midcourse in larceny, he looked up from writing. He saw a tall,
dark lady who was regarding him half - sorrowfully and half as in the
grasp of some occult amusement. He said nothing. He released the
telltale book. His eyebrows lifted, banteringly. He rose.
He found it characteristic of her that she went silently to the
table and compared the printed page with what he had just written.
"So nowadays you have turned pickpocket? My poet, you have altered."
He said: "Why, yes. When you broke off our friendship, I paid
you the expensive compliment of falling very ill. They thought that I
would die. They tell me even to-day I did not die. I almost question
it." He shrugged. "And to-day I must continue to write plays,
because I never learned any other trade. And so, at need, I pilfer."
The topic did not seem much to concern him.
"Eh, and such plays!" the woman cried. "My poet, there was a time
when you created men and women as glibly as Heaven does. Now you make
"The last comedies were not all I could have wished," he assented.
"In fact, I got only some L30 clear profit."
"There speaks the little tradesman I most hated of all persons
living!" the woman sighed. Now, as in impatience, she thrust back her
traveling-hood and stood bare-headed.
Then she stayed silent,—tall, extraordinarily pallid, and with
dark, steady eyes. Their gaze by ordinary troubled you, as seeming to
hint some knowledge to your belittlement. The playmaker remembered
that. Now he, a reputable householder, was wondering what would be
the upshot of this intrusion. His visitor, as he was perfectly aware,
had little patience with such moments of life as could not be made
dramatic. . . . He was recollecting many trifles, now his mind ran
upon old times. . . . No, no, reflection assured him, to call her
beautiful would be, and must always have been, an exaggeration; but to
deny the exotic and somewhat sinister charm of her, even to-day,
would be an absurdity.
She said, abruptly: "I do not think I ever loved you as women
love men. You were too anxious to associate with fine folk, too eager
to secure a patron—yes, and to get your profit of him—and you were
always ill-at-ease among us. Our youth is so long past, and we two
are so altered that we, I think, may speak of its happenings now
without any bitterness. I hated those sordid, petty traits. I raged
at your incessant pretensions to gentility because I knew you to be
so much more than a gentleman. Oh, it infuriated me—how long ago it
was!—to see you cringing to the Court blockheads, and running their
errands, and smirkingly pocketing their money, and wheedling them
into helping the new play to success. You complained I treated you
like a lackey; it was not unnatural when of your own freewill you
played the lackey so assiduously."
He laughed. He had anatomized himself too frequently and with too
much dispassion to overlook whatever tang of snobbishness might be in
him; and, moreover, the charge thus tendered became in reality the
speaker's apology, and hurt nobody's self-esteem.
"Faith, I do not say you are altogether in the wrong," he
assented. "They could be very useful to me—Pembroke, and
Southampton, and those others—and so I endeavored to render my
intimacy acceptable. It was my business as a poet to make my play as
near perfect as I could; and this attended to, common-sense demanded
of the theater-manager that he derive as much money as was possible
from its representation. What would you have? The man of letters,
like the carpenter or the blacksmith, must live by the vending of his
productions, not by the eating of them." The woman waved this aside.
She paced the grass in meditation, the peach leaves brushing her
proud head—caressingly, it seemed to him. Later she came nearer in a
brand-new mood. She smiled now, and her voice was musical and
thrilled with wonder. "But what a poet Heaven had locked inside this
little parasite! It used to puzzle me." She laughed, and ever so
lightly. "Eh, and did you never understand why by preference I talked
with you at evening from my balcony? It was because I could forget
you then entirely. There was only a voice in the dark. There was a
sorcerer at whose bidding words trooped like a conclave of emperors,
and now sang like a bevy of linnets. And wit and fancy and high
aspirations and my love—because I knew then that your love for me was
splendid and divine—these also were my sorcerer's potent allies. I
understood then how glad and awed were those fabulous Greekish queens
when a god wooed them. Yes, then I understood. How long ago it
"Yes, yes," he sighed. "In that full-blooded season was Guenevere
a lass, I think, and Charlemagne was not yet in breeches."
"And when there was a new play enacted I was glad. For it was our
play that you and I had polished the last line of yesterday, and all
these people wept and laughed because of what we had done. And I was
proud——" The lady shrugged impatiently. "Proud, did I say? and
glad? That attests how woefully I fall short of you, my poet. You
would have found some magic phrase to make that ancient glory
articulate, I know. Yet,—did I ever love you? I do not know that. I
only know I sometimes fear you robbed me of the power of loving any
He raised one hand in deprecation. "I must remind you," he cried,
whimsically, "that a burnt child dreads even to talk of fire."
Her response was a friendly nod. She came yet nearer. "What,"
she demanded, and her smile was elfish, "what if I had lied to you?
What if I were hideously tired of my husband, that bluff, stolid
captain? What if I wanted you to plead with me as in the old time?"
He said: "Until now you were only a woman. Oh, and now, my dear,
you are again that resistless gipsy who so merrily beguiled me to the
very heart of loss. You are Love. You are Youth. You are
Comprehension. You are all that I have had, and lost, and vainly
hunger for. Here in this abominable village, there is no one who
understands—not even those who are more dear to me than you are. I
know. I only spoil good paper which might otherwise be profitably
used to wrap herrings in, they think. They give me ink and a pen
just as they would give toys to a child who squalled for them too
obstinately. And Poesy is a thrifty oracle with no words to waste
upon the deaf, however loudly her interpreter cry out to her. Oh, I
have hungered for you, my proud, dark lady!" the playmaker said.
Afterward they stood quite silent. She was not unmoved by his
outcry; and for this very reason was obscurely vexed by the reflection
that it would be the essay of a braver man to remedy, rather than to
lament, his circumstances. And then the moment's rapture failed him.
"I am a sorry fool," he said; and lightly he ran on: "You are a
skilful witch. Yet you have raised the ghost of an old madness to no
purpose. You seek a master-poet? You will find none here. Perhaps I
was one once. But most of us are poets of one sort or another when
we love. Do you not understand? To-day I do not love you any more
than I do Hecuba. Is it not strange that I should tell you this and
not be moved at all? Is it not laughable that we should stand here at
the last, two feet apart as things physical go, and be as profoundly
severed as if an ocean tumbled between us?"
He fell to walking to and fro, his hands behind his back. She
waited, used as she was to his unstable temperament, a trifle puzzled.
Presently he spoke:
"There was a time when a master-poet was needed. He was
found—nay,—rather made. Fate hastily caught up a man not very
different from the run of men—one with a taste for stringing phrases
and with a comedy or so to his discredit. Fate merely bid him love a
headstrong child newly released from the nursery."
"We know her well enough," she said. "The girl was faithless, and
tyrannous, and proud, and coquettish, and unworthy, and false, and
inconstant. She was black as hell and dark as night in both her
person and her living. You were not niggardly of vituperation."
And he grimaced. "Faith," he replied, "but sonnets are a more
natural form of expression than affidavits, and they are made
effective by compliance with different rules. I find no flagrant fault
with you to-day. You were a child of seventeen, the darling of a noble
house, and an actor—yes, and not even a pre-eminent actor—a gross,
poor posturing vagabond, just twice your age, presumed to love you.
What child would not amuse herself with such engaging toys? Vivacity
and prettiness and cruelty are the ordinary attributes of kittenhood.
So you amused yourself. And I submitted with clear eyes, because I
could not help it. Yes, I who am by nature not disposed to
underestimate my personal importance—I submitted, because your
mockery was more desirable than the adoration of any other woman.
And all this helped to make a master-poet of me. Eh, why not, when
such monstrous passions spoke through me—as if some implacable god
elected to play godlike music on a mountebank's lute? And I made
admirable plays. Why not, when there was no tragedy more poignant
than mine?—and where in any comedy was any figure one-half so
ludicrous as mine? Ah, yes, Fate gained her ends, as always."
He was a paunchy, inconsiderable little man. By ordinary his
elongated features and high, bald forehead loaned him an aspect of
serene and axiom-based wisdom, much as we see him in his portraits;
but now his countenance was flushed and mobile. Odd passions played
about it, as when on a sullen night in August summer lightnings
flicker and merge.
His voice had found another cadence. "But Fate was not entirely
ruthless. Fate bade the child become a woman, and so grow tired of
all her childhood's playthings. This was after a long while, as we
esti- mate happenings. . . . I suffered then. Yes, I went down to
the doors of death, as people say, in my long illness. But that
crude, corporal fever had a providential thievishness; and not content
with stripping me of health and strength,—not satisfied with
pilfering inventiveness and any strong hunger to create—why, that
insatiable fever even robbed me of my insanity. I lived. I was only
a broken instrument flung by because the god had wearied of playing.
I would give forth no more heart-wringing music, for the musician had
departed. And I still lived—I, the stout little tradesman whom you
loathed. Yes, that tradesman scrambled through these evils, somehow,
and came out still able to word adequately all such imaginings as
could be devised by his natural abilities. But he transmitted no
more heart-wringing music."
She said, "You lie!"
He said, "I thank Heaven daily that I do not." He spoke the
truth. She knew it, and her heart was all rebellion.
Indefatigable birds sang through the following hush. A wholesome
and temperate breeze caressed these silent people. Bees that would
die to-morrow hummed about them tirelessly.
Then the poet said: "I loved you; and you did not love me. It is
the most commonplace of tragedies, the heart of every man alive has
been wounded in this identical fashion. A master-poet is only that
wounded man—among so many other bleeding folk—who perversely
augments his agony, and utilizes his wound as an inkwell. Presently
time scars over the cut for him, as time does for all the others. He
does not suffer any longer. No, and such relief is a clear gain; but
none the less, he must henceforward write with ordinary ink such as
the lawyers use."
"I should have been the man," the woman cried. "Had I been sure of
fame, could I have known those raptures when you used to gabble
immortal phrases like a stammering infant, I would have paid the price
without all this whimpering."
"Faith, and I think you would have," he assented. "There is the
difference. At bottom I am a creature of the most moderate
aspirations, as you always complained; and for my part, Fate must in
reason demand her applause of posterity rather than of me. For I
regret the unlived life that I was meant for—the comfortable level
life of little happenings which all my schoolfellows have passed
through in a stolid drove. I was equipped to live that life with
relish, and that life only; and it was denied me. It was demolished
in order that a book or two be made out of its wreckage."
She said, with half-shut eyes: "There is a woman at the root of
all this." And how he laughed!
"Did I not say you were a witch? Why, most assuredly there is."
He motioned with his left hand. Some hundred yards away a young
man, who was carrying two logs toward New Place, had paused to rest.
A girl was with him. Now laughingly she was pretending to assist the
porter in lifting his burden. It was a quaintly pretty vignette, as
framed by the peach leaves, because those two young people were so
merry and so candidly in love. A symbolist might have wrung pathos
out of the girl's desire to aid, as set against her fond inadequacy;
and the attendant playwright made note of it.
"Well, well!" he said: "Young Quiney is a so-so choice, since
women must necessarily condescend to intermarrying with men. But he
is far from worthy of her. Tell me, now, was there ever a rarer piece
"The wench is not ill-favored," was the dark lady's unenthusiastic
answer. "So!—but who is she?"
He replied: "She is my daughter. Yonder you see my latter muse
for whose dear sake I spin romances. I do not mean that she takes any
lively interest in them. That is not to be expected, since she cannot
read or write. Ask her about the poet we were discussing, and I very
much fear Judith will bluntly inform you she cannot tell a B from a
bull's foot. But one must have a muse of some sort or another; and so
I write about the world now as Judith sees it. My Judith finds this
world an eminently pleasant place. It is full of laughter and
kindliness—for could Herod be unkind to her?—and it is largely
populated by ardent young fellows who are intended chiefly to be
twisted about your fingers; and it is illuminated by sunlight whose
real purpose is to show how pretty your hair is. And if affairs go
badly for a while, and you have done nothing very wrong—why, of
course, Heaven will soon straighten matters satisfactorily. For
nothing that happens to us can possibly be anything except a benefit,
because God orders all happenings, and God loves us. There you have
Judith's creed; and upon my word, I believe there is a great deal to
be said for it."
"And this is you," she cried—"you who wrote of Troilus and
"I lived all that," he replied—"I lived it, and so for a long
while I believed in the existence of wicked- ness. To-day I have lost
many illusions, madam, and that ranks among them. I never knew a
wicked person. I question if anybody ever did. Undoubtedly short-
sighted people exist who have floundered into ill- doing; but it
proves always to have been on account of either cowardice or folly,
and never because of malevolence; and, in consequence, their sorry
pickle should demand commiseration far more loudly than our blame.
In short, I find humanity to be both a weaker and a better-meaning
race than I had suspected. And so, I make what you call `sugar-candy
dolls,' because I very potently believe that all of us are sweet at
heart. Oh no! men lack an innate aptitude for sinning; and at worst,
we frenziedly attempt our misdemeanors just as a sheep retaliates on
its pursuers. This much, at least, has Judith taught me."
The woman murmured: "Eh, you are luckier than I. I had a son. He
was borne of my anguish, he was fed and tended by me, and he was
dependent on me in all things." She said, with a half-sob, "My poet,
he was so little and so helpless! Now he is dead."
"My dear, my dear!" he cried, and he took both her hands. "I also
had a son. He would have been a man by this."
They stood thus for a while. And then he smiled.
"I ask your pardon. I had forgotten that you hate to touch my
hands. I know—they are too moist and flabby. I always knew that you
thought that. Well! Hamnet died. I grieved. That is a trivial thing
to say. But you also have seen your own flesh lying in a coffin so
small that even my soft hands could lift it. So you will comprehend.
To-day I find that the roughest winds abate with time. Hatred and
self- seeking and mischance and, above all, the frailties innate in
us—these buffet us for a while, and we are puzzled, and we demand of
God, as Job did, why is this permitted? And then as the hair
dwindles, the wit grows."
"Oh, yes, with age we take a slackening hold upon events; we let
all happenings go by more lightly; and we even concede the universe
not to be under any actual bond to be intelligible. Yes, that is
true. But is it gain, my poet? for I had thought it to be loss."
"With age we gain the priceless certainty that sorrow and
injustice are ephemeral. Solvitur ambulando, my dear. I have
attested this merely by living long enough. I, like any other man of
my years, have in my day known more or less every grief which the
world breeds; and each maddened me in turn, as each was duly salved
by time; so that to-day their ravages vex me no more than do the
bee-stings I got when I was an urchin. To-day I grant the world to be
composed of muck and sunshine intermingled; but, upon the whole, I
find the sunshine more pleasant to look at, and—greedily, because my
time for sightseeing is not very long—I stare at it. And I hold
Judith's creed to be the best of all imaginable creeds—that if we do
nothing very wrong, all human imbroglios, in some irrational and
quite incomprehensible fashion, will be straightened to our
satisfaction. Meanwhile, you also voice a tonic truth—this universe
of ours, and, reverently speaking, the Maker of this universe as well,
is under no actual bond to be intelligible in dealing with us." He
laughed at this season and fell into a lighter tone. "Do I preach
like a little conventicle-attending tradesman? Faith, you must
remember that when I talk gravely Judith listens as if it were an
oracle discoursing. For Judith loves me as the wisest and the best
of men. I protest her adoration frightens me. What if she were to
find me out?"
"I loved what was divine in you," the woman answered.
"Oddly enough, that is the perfect truth! And when what was
divine in me had burned a sufficiency of incense to your vanity, your
vanity's owner drove off in a fine coach and left me to die in a
garret. Then Judith came. Then Judith nursed and tended and
caressed me—and Judith only in all the world!—as once you did that
boy you spoke of. Ah, madam, and does not sorrow sometimes lie awake
o' nights in the low cradle of that child? and sometimes walk with you
by day and clasp your hand—much as his tiny hand did once, so
trustingly, so like the clutching of a vine—and beg you never to be
friends with anything save sorrow? And do you wholeheartedly love
those other women's boys— who did not die? Yes, I remember. Judith,
too, remembered. I was her father, for all that I had forsaken my
family to dance Jack-pudding attendance on a fine Court lady. So
Judith came. And Judith, who sees in play-writing just a very
uncertain way of making money—Judith, who cannot tell a B from a
bull's foot,—why, Judith, madam, did not ask, but gave, what was
"You are unfair," she cried. "Oh, you are cruel, you juggle
words, make knives of them. . . . You"and she spoke as with
difficulty—"you have no right to know just how I loved my boy! You
should be either man or woman!"
He said pensively: "Yes, I am cruel. But you had mirth and
beauty once, and I had only love and a vocabulary. Who then more
flagrantly abused the gifts God gave? And why should I not be cruel
to you, who made a master-poet of me for your recreation? Lord, what
a deal of ruined life it takes to make a little art! Yes, yes, I
know. Under old oaks lovers will mouth my verses, and the acorns are
not yet shaped from which those oaks will spring. My adoration and
your perfidy, all that I have suffered, all that I have failed in
even, has gone toward the building of an enduring monument. All these
will be immortal, because youth is immortal, and youth delights in
demanding explanations of infinity. And only to this end I have
suffered and have catalogued the ravings of a perverse disease which
has robbed my life of all the normal privileges of life as flame
shrivels hair from the arm—that young fools such as I was once might
be pleased to murder my rhetoric, and scribblers parody me in their
fictions, and schoolboys guess at the date of my death!" This he said
with more than ordinary animation; and then he shook his head. "There
is a leaven," he said—"there is a leaven even in your smuggest and
most inconsiderable tradesman."
She answered, with a wistful smile: "I, too, regret my poet. And
just now you are more like him——"
"Faith, but he was really a poet—or, at least, at times——?"
"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes shall outlive
this powerful rhyme——'"
"Dear, dear!" he said, in petulant vexation; "how horribly emotion
botches verse. That clash of sibi- lants is both harsh and
ungrammatical. Shall should be changed to will." And at that the
woman sighed, because, in common with all persons who never essayed
creative verbal composition, she was quite certain perdurable writing
must spring from a surcharged heart, rather than from a rearrangement
of phrases. And so,
"Very unfeignedly I regret my poet," she said, "my poet, who was
unhappy and unreasonable, because I was not always wise or kind, or
even just. And I did not know until to-day how much I loved my poet.
. . . Yes, I know now I loved him. I must go now. I would I had
Then, standing face to face, he cried, "Eh, madam, and what if I
also have lied to you—in part? Our work is done; what more is there
"Nothing," she answered—"nothing. Not even for you, who are a
master-smith of words to-day and nothing more."
"I?" he replied. "Do you so little emulate a higher example that
even for a moment you consider me?"
She did not answer.
When she had gone, the playmaker sat for a long while in
meditation; and then smilingly he took up his pen. He was bound for
"an uninhabited island" where all disasters ended in a happy climax.
"So, so!" he was declaiming, later on: "We, too, are kin To
dreams and visions; and our little life Is gilded by such faint and
cloud-wrapped suns—Only, that needs a homelier touch. Rather, let us
say, We are such stuff As dreams are made on—Oh, good, good!—Now to
pad out the line. . . . In any event, the Bermudas are a seasonable
topic. Now here, instead of thickly-templed India, suppose we write
the still-vexed Bermoothes—Good, good! It fits in well enough. . .
And so in clerkly fashion he sat about the accomplishment of his
stint of labor in time for dinner. A competent workman is not
disastrously upset by interruption; and, indeed, he found the notion
of surprising Judith with an unlooked-for trinket or so to be at
first a very efficacious spur to composition.
And presently the strong joy of creating kindled in him, and
phrase flowed abreast with thought, and the playmaker wrote fluently
and surely to an accompaniment of contented ejaculations. He
regretted nothing, he would not now have laid aside his pen to take up
a scepter. For surely—he would have said—to live untroubled, and
weave beautiful and winsome dreams is the most desirable of human
fates. But he did not consciously think of this, because he was
midcourse in the evoking of a mimic tempest which, having purged its
victims of unkindliness and error, aimed (in the end) only to sink
into an amiable calm.
"DR. HERRICK told me that, in common with all the Enlightened or
Illuminated Brothers, of which prying sect the age breeds so many, he
trusted the great lines of Nature, not in the whole, but in part, as
they believed Nature was in certain senses not true, and a betrayer,
and that she was not wholly the benevolent power to endow, as accorded
with the prevailing deceived notion of the vulgar. But he wished not
to discuss more particularly than thus, as he had drawn up to himself
a certain frontier of reticence; and so fell to petting a great black
pig, of which he made an unseemly companion, and to talking idly."
A Gyges ring they bear about them still,
To be, and not, seen when and where they will;
They tread on clouds, and though they sometimes fall,
They fall like dew, and make no noise at all:
So silently they one to th' other come
As colors steal into the pear or plum;
And air-like, leave no pression to be seen
Where'er they met, or parting place has been.
ROBERT HERRICK. My Lovers how
They Come and Part.
CONCERNING CORINNA The matter hinges entirely upon whether or not
Robert Herrick was insane. Sir Thomas Browne always preferred to
think that he was; whereas Philip Borsdale perversely considered the
answer to be optional. Perversely, Sir Thomas protested, because he
said that to believe in Herrick's sanity was not conducive to your
This much is certain: the old clergyman, a man of few friends and
no intimates, enjoyed in Devon, thanks to his time-hallowed reputation
for singularity, a certain immunity. In and about Dean Prior, for
instance, it was conceded in 1674 that it was unusual for a divine of
the Church of England to make a black pig—- and a pig of peculiarly
diabolical ugliness, at that— his ordinary associate; but Dean Prior
had come long ago to accept the grisly brute as a concomitant of Dr.
Herrick's presence almost as inevitable as his shadow. It was no crime
to be fond of dumb animals, not even of one so inordinately
unprepossessing; and you allowed for eccentricities, in any event, in
dealing with a poet.
For Totnes, Buckfastleigh, Dean Prior—all that part of Devon, in
fact—complacently basked in the reflected glory of Robert Herrick.
People came from a long distance, now that the Parliamentary Wars
were over, in order just to see the writer of the Hesperides and the
Noble Numbers. And such enthusiasts found in Robert Herrick a hideous
dreamy man, who, without ever perpetrating any actual discourtesy,
always managed to dismiss them, somehow, with a sense of having been
Sir Thomas Browne, that ardent amateur of the curious, came into
Devon, however, without the risk of incurring any such fate, inasmuch
as the knight traveled westward simply to discuss with Master Philip
Borsdale the recent doings of Cardinal Alioneri. Now, Philip
Borsdale, as Sir Thomas knew, had been employed by Herrick in various
transactions here irrelevant. In consequence, Sir Thomas Browne was
not greatly surprised when, on his arrival at Buckfastleigh,
Borsdale's body-servant told him that Master Borsdale had left
instructions for Sir Thomas to follow him to Dean Prior. Browne
complied, because his business with Borsdale was of importance.
Philip Borsdale was lounging in Dr. Herrick's chair, intent upon a
lengthy manuscript, alone and to all appearances quite at home. The
state of the room Sir Thomas found extraordinary; but he had graver
matters to discuss; and he explained the results of his mission
without extraneous comment.
"Yes, you have managed it to admiration," said Philip Borsdale,
when the knight had made an end. Borsdale leaned back and laughed,
purringly, for the outcome of this affair of the Cardinal and the Wax
Image meant much to him from a pecuniary standpoint. "Yet it is odd a
prince of any church which has done so much toward the discomfiture of
sorcery should have entertained such ideas. It is also odd to note
the series of coincidences which appears to have attended this
"I noticed that," said Sir Thomas. After a while he said: "You
think, then, that they must have been coincidences?"
"MUST is a word which intelligent people do not outwear by too
And "Oh——?" said the knight, and said that alone, because he was
familiar with the sparkle now in Borsdale's eyes, and knew it heralded
an adventure for an amateur of the curious.
"I am not committing myself, mark you, Sir Thomas, to any
statement whatever, beyond the observation that these coincidences
were noticeable. I add, with superficial irrelevance, that Dr.
Herrick disappeared last night."
"I am not surprised," said Sir Thomas, drily. "No possible antics
would astonish me on the part of that unvenerable madman. When I was
last in Totnes, he broke down in the midst of a sermon, and flung the
manuscript of it at his congregation, and cursed them roundly for not
paying closer attention. Such was never my ideal of absolute decorum
in the pulpit. Moreover, it is unusual for a minister of the Church of
England to be accompanied everywhere by a pig with whom he discusses
the affairs of the parish precisely as if the pig were a human being."
"The pig—he whimsically called the pig Corinna, sir, in honor of
that imaginary mistress to whom he addressed so many verses—why, the
pig also has dis- appeared. Oh, but of course that at least is simply
a coincidence. . . . I grant you it was an uncanny beast. And I
grant you that Dr. Herrick was a dubious ornament to his calling. Of
that I am doubly certain to-day," said Borsdale, and he waved his hand
comprehensively, "in view of the state in which—you see—he left
this room. Yes, he was quietly writing here at eleven o'clock last
night when old Prudence Baldwin, his housekeeper, last saw him.
Afterward Dr. Herrick appears to have diverted himself by taking away
the mats and chalking geometrical designs upon the floor, as well as
by burning some sort of incense in this brasier."
"But such avocations, Philip, are not necessarily indicative of
sanity. No, it is not, upon the whole, an inevitable manner for an
elderly parson to while away an evening."
"Oh, but that was only a part, sir. He also left the clothes he
was wearing—in a rather peculiarly constructed heap, as you can see.
Among them, by the way, I found this flattened and corroded bullet.
That puzzled me. I think I understand it now." Thus Borsdale, as
he composedly smoked his churchwarden. "In short, the whole affair is
Here Sir Thomas raised his hand. "Spare me the simile. I detect
a vista of curious perils such as infinitely outshines verbal
brilliancy. You need my aid in some insane attempt." He considered.
He said: "So! you have been retained?"
"I have been asked to help him. Of course I did not know of what
he meant to try. In short, Dr. Herrick left this manuscript, as well
as certain instructions for me. The last are—well! unusual."
"Ah, yes! You hearten me. I have long had my suspicions as to
this Herrick, though. . . . And what are we to do?"
"I really cannot inform you, sir. I doubt if I could explain in
any workaday English even what we will attempt to do," said Philip
Borsdale. "I do say this: You believe the business which we have
settled, involv- ing as it does the lives of thousands of men and
women, to be of importance. I swear to you that, as set against what
we will essay, all we have done is trivial. As pitted against the
business we will attempt to-night, our previous achievements are
suggestive of the evolutions of two sand-fleas beside the ocean. The
prize at which this adventure aims is so stupendous that I cannot name
"Oh, but you must, Philip. I am no more afraid of the local
constabulary than I am of the local notions as to what respectability
entails. I may confess, however, that I am afraid of wagering against
Borsdale reflected. Then he said, with deliberation: "Dr.
Herrick's was, when you come to think of it, an unusual life. He
is—or perhaps I ought to say he was—upward of eighty-three. He has
lived here for over a half-century, and during that time he has never
attempted to make either a friend or an enemy. He was—indifferent,
let us say. Talking to Dr. Herrick was, somehow, like talking to a
man in a fog. . . . Meanwhile, he wrote his verses to imaginary
women—to Corinna and Julia, to Myrha, Electra and Perilla—those
lovely, shadow women who never, in so far as we know, had any real
Sir Thomas smiled. "Of course. They are mere figments of the
poet, pegs to hang rhymes on. And yet—let us go on. I know that
Herrick never willingly so much as spoke with a woman."
"Not in so far as we know, I said." And Borsdale paused. "Then,
too, he wrote such dainty, merry poems about the fairies. Yes, it was
all of fifty years ago that Dr. Herrick first appeared in print with
his Description of the King and Queen of the Fairies. The thought
seems always to have haunted him."
The knight's face changed, a little by a little. "I have long been
an amateur of the curious," he said, strangely quiet. "I do not think
that anything you may say will surprise me inordinately."
"He had found in every country in the world tra- ditions of a race
who were human—yet more than human. That is the most exact fashion in
which I can express his beginnings. On every side he found the
notion of a race who can impinge on mortal life and partake of
it—but always without exercising the last reach of their endowments.
Oh, the tradition exists everywhere, whether you call these
occasional inter- lopers fauns, fairies, gnomes, ondines, incubi, or
demons. They could, according to these fables, tem- porarily
restrict themselves into our life, just as a swimmer may elect to use
only one arm—or, a more fitting comparison, become apparent to our
human senses in the fashion of a cube which can obtrude only one of
its six surfaces into a plane. You follow me, of course, sir?—to
the triangles and circles and hexagons this cube would seem to be an
ordinary square. Conceiving such a race to exist, we might talk with
them, might jostle them in the streets, might even intermarry with
them, sir—and always see in them only human beings, and solely
because of our senses' limitations."
"I comprehend. These are exactly the speculations that would
appeal to an unbalanced mind—is that not your thought, Philip?"
"Why, there is nothing particularly insane, Sir Thomas, in
desiring to explore in fields beyond those which our senses make
perceptible. It is very certain these fields exist; and the question
of their extent I take to be both interesting and important."
Then Sir Thomas said: "Like any other rational man, I have
occasionally thought of this endeavor at which you hint. We
exist—you and I and all the others—in what we glibly call the
universe. All that we know of it is through what we entitle our five
senses, which, when provoked to action, will cause a chemical change
in a few ounces of spongy matter packed in our skulls. There are no
grounds for believing that this particular method of communication is
adequate, or even that the agents which produce it are veracious.
Meanwhile, we are in touch with what exists through our five senses
only. It may be that they lie to us. There is, at least, no reason
for assuming them to be infallible."
"But reflection plows a deeper furrow, Sir Thomas. Even in the
exercise of any one of these five senses it is certain that we are
excelled by what we vainglo- riously call the lower forms of life. A
dog has powers of scent we cannot reach to, birds hear the crawling of
a worm, insects distinguish those rays in the spectrum which lie
beyond violet and red, and are invisible to us; and snails and fish
and ants—perhaps all other living creatures, indeed—have senses
which man does not share at all, and has no name for. Granted that we
human beings alone possess the power of reasoning, the fact remains
that we invariably start with false premises, and always pass our
judgments when biased at the best by incomplete reports of everything
in the universe, and very possibly by reports which lie flat-
You saw that Browne was troubled. Now he rose. "Nothing will come
of this. I do not touch upon the desirability of conquering those
fields at which we dare only to hint. No, I am not afraid. I dare
assist you in doing anything Dr. Herrick asks, because I know that
nothing will come of such endeavors. Much is permitted us—`but of
the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath
said, to us who are no more than human, Ye shall not eat of it.'"
"Yet Dr. Herrick, as many other men have done, thought otherwise.
I, too, will venture a quotation. `Didst thou never see a lark in a
cage? Such is the soul in the body: this world is like her little
turf of grass, and the heavens o'er our heads, like her
looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of the small
compass of our prison.' Many years ago that lamentation was familiar.
What wonder, then, that Dr. Herrick should have dared to repeat it
yesterday? And what wonder if he tried to free the prisoner?"
"Such freedom is forbidden," Sir Thomas stubbornly replied. "I
have long known that Herrick was formerly in correspondence with John
Heydon, and Robert Flood, and others of the Illuminated, as they call
themselves. There are many of this sect in England, as we all know;
and we hear much silly chatter of Elixirs and Philosopher's Stones in
connection with them. But I happen to know somewhat of their real
aims and tenets. I do not care to know any more than I do. If it be
true that all of which man is conscious is just a portion of a
curtain, and that the actual universe in nothing resembles our notion
of it, I am willing to believe this curtain was placed there for some
righteous and wise reason. They tell me the curtain may be lifted.
Whether this be true or no, I must for my own sanity's sake insist it
can never be lifted."
"But what if it were not forbidden? For Dr. Her- rick asserts he
has already demonstrated that."
Sir Thomas interrupted, with odd quickness. "True, we must bear
it in mind the man never married—Did he, by any chance, possess a
crystal of Venice glass three inches square?"
And Borsdale gaped. "I found it with his manu- script. But he
said nothing of it. . . . How could you guess?"
Sir Thomas reflectively scraped the edge of the glass with his
finger-nail. "You would be none the happier for knowing, Philip.
Yes, that is a blood- stain here. I see. And Herrick, so far as we
know, had never in his life loved any woman. He is the only poet in
history who never demonstrably loved any woman. I think you had better
read me his manuscript, Philip."
This Philip Borsdale did.
Then Sir Thomas said, as quiet epilogue: "This, if it be true,
would explain much as to that lovely land of eternal spring and
daffodils and friendly girls, of which his verses make us free. It
would even explain Corinna and Herrick's rapt living without any human
ties. For all poets since the time of AEschylus, who could not write
until he was too drunken to walk, have been most readily seduced by
whatever stimulus most tended to heighten their imaginings; so that
for the sake of a song's perfection they have freely re- sorted to
divers artificial inspirations, and very often without evincing any
undue squeamishness. . . . I spoke of AEschylus. I am sorry, Philip,
that you are not familiar with ancient Greek life. There is so much
I could tell you of, in that event, of the quaint cult of Kore, or
Pherephatta, and of the swine of Eubouleus, and of certain ambiguous
maidens, whom those old Grecians fabled—oh, very ignorantly fabled,
my lad, of course—to rule in a more quietly lit and more tranquil
world than we blunder about. I think I could explain much which now
seems mysterious—yes, and the daffodils, also, that Herrick wrote of
so constantly. But it is better not to talk of these sinister
delusions of heathenry." Sir Thomas shrugged. "For my reward would
be to have you think me mad. I prefer to iterate the verdict of all
logical people, and formally to register my opinion that Robert
Herrick was indisputably a lunatic."
Borsdale did not seem perturbed. "I think the rec- ord of his
experiments is true, in any event. You will concede that their
results were startling? And what if his deductions be the truth? what
if our limited senses have reported to us so very little of the
universe, and even that little untruthfully?" He laughed and drummed
impatiently upon the table. "At least, he tells us that the boy
returned. I fervently believe that in this matter Dr. Herrick was
capable of any crime except falsehood. Oh, no I depend on it, he also
"You imagine Herrick will break down the door between this world
and that other inconceivable world which all of us have dreamed of!
To me, my lad, it seems as if this Herrick aimed dangerously near to
repetition of the Primal Sin, for all that he handles it like a
problem in mechanical mathematics. The poet writes as if he were
instructing a dame's school as to the advisability of becoming
"Well, well! I am not defending Dr. Herrick in anything save his
desire to know the truth. In this respect at least, he has proven
himself to be both admirable and fearless. And at worst, he only
strives to do what Jacob did at Peniel," said Philip Borsdale,
lightly. "The patriarch, as I recall, was blessed for acting as he
did. The legend is not irrelevant, I think."
They passed into the adjoining room.
Thus the two men came into a high-ceiled apartment, cylindrical in
shape, with plastered walls painted green everywhere save for the
quaint embellishment of a large oval, wherein a woman, having an
eagle's beak, grasped in one hand a serpent and in the other a knife.
Sir Thomas Browne seemed to recognize this curious design, and gave
an ominous nod.
Borsdale said: "You see Dr. Herrick had prepared everything. And
much of what we are about to do is merely symbolical, of course. Most
people undervalue symbols. They do not seem to understand that there
could never have been any conceivable need of inventing a periphrasis
for what did not exist."
Sir Thomas Browne regarded Borsdale for a while intently. Then
the knight gave his habitual shrugging gesture. "You are braver than
I, Philip, because you are more ignorant than I. I have been too long
an amateur of the curious. Sometimes in over-credulous moments I
have almost believed that in sober verity there are reasoning beings
who are not human—beings that for their own dark purposes seek union
with us. Indeed, I went into Pomerania once to talk with John
Dietrick of Ramdin. He told me one of those relations whose truth we
dread, a tale which I did not dare, I tell you candidly, even to
discuss in my Vulgar Errors. Then there is Helgi Thorison's history,
and that of Leonard of Basle also. Oh, there are more recorded
stories of this nature than you dream of, Philip. We have only the
choice between believing that all these men were madmen, and believing
that ordinary human life is led by a drugged animal who drowses
through a purblind existence among merciful veils. And these female
creatures—these Corinnas, Perillas, Myrhas, and Electras—can it be
possible that they are always striving, for their own strange ends, to
rouse the sleeping animal and break the kindly veils?—and are they
permitted to use such amiable enticements as Herrick describes? Oh,
no, all this is just a madman's dream, dear lad, and we must not dare
to consider it seriously, lest we become no more sane than he."
"But you will aid me?" Borsdale said.
"Yes, I will aid you, Philip, for in Herrick's case I take it that
the mischief is consummated already; and we, I think, risk nothing
worse than death. But you will need another knife a little later—a
knife that will be clean."
"I had forgotten." Borsdale withdrew, and pres- ently returned
with a bone-handled knife. And then he made a light. "Are you quite
Sir Thomas Browne, that aging amateur of the curious, could not
resist a laugh.
And then they sat about proceedings of which, for obvious reasons,
the details are best left unrecorded. It was not an unconscionable
while before they seemed to be aware of unusual phenomena. But as Sir
Thomas always pointed out, in subsequent discussions, these were
quite possibly the fruitage of excited imag- ination.
"Now, Philip!—now, give me the knife!" cried Sir Thomas Browne.
He knew for the first time, despite many previous mischancy
happenings, what real terror was.
The room was thick with blinding smoke by this, so that Borsdale
could see nothing save his co-partner in this adventure. Both men
were shaken by what had occurred before. Borsdale incuriously
perceived that old Sir Thomas rose, tense as a cat about to pounce,
and that he caught the unstained knife from Borsdale's hand, and
flung it like a javelin into the vapor which encompassed them. This
gesture stirred the smoke so that Borsdale could see the knife quiver
and fall, and note the tiny triangle of unbared plaster it had cut in
the painted woman's breast. Within the same instant he had perceived
a naked man who staggered.
"Iz adu kronyeshnago——!" The intruder's thin, shrill wail was
that of a frightened child. The man strode forward, choked, seemed to
grope his way. His face was not good to look at. Horror gripped and
tore at every member of the cadaverous old body, as a high wind tugs
at a flag. The two witnesses of Herrick's agony did not stir during
the instant wherein the frenzied man stooped, moving stiffly like an
ill-made toy, and took up the knife.
"Oh, yes, I knew what he was about to do," said Sir Thomas Browne
afterward, in his quiet fashion. "I did not try to stop him. If
Herrick had been my dearest friend, I would not have interfered. I
had seen his face, you comprehend. Yes, it was kinder to let him
die. It was curious, though, as he stood there hacking his chest,
how at each stab he deliberately twisted the knife. I suppose the
pain distracted his mind from what he was remembering. I should have
forewarned Borsdale of this possible outcome at the very first, I
suppose. But, then, which one of us is always wise?"
So this adventure came to nothing. For its significance, if any,
hinged upon Robert Herrick's sanity, which was at best a disputable
quantity. Grant him insane, and the whole business, as Sir Thomas was
at large pains to point out, dwindles at once into the irresponsible
vagaries of a madman.
"And all the while, for what we know, he had been hiding somewhere
in the house. We never searched it. Oh, yes, there is no doubt he was
insane," said Sir Thomas, comfortably.
"Faith! what he moaned was gibberish, of course——"
"Oddly enough, his words were intelligible. They meant in Russian
`Out of the lowest hell.'"
"But, why, in God's name, Russian?"
"I am sure I do not know," Sir Thomas replied; and he did not
appear at all to regret his ignorance.
But Borsdale meditated, disappointedly. "Oh, yes, the outcome is
ambiguous, Sir Thomas, in every way. I think we may safely take it as
a warning, in any event, that this world of ours, whatever its
deficiencies, was meant to be inhabited by men and women only."
"Now I," was Sir Thomas's verdict, "prefer to take it as a warning
that insane people ought to be re- strained."
"Ah, well, insanity is only one of the many forms of being
abnormal. Yes, I think it proves that all abnormal people ought to be
restrained. Perhaps it proves that they are very potently
restrained," said Philip Borsdale, perversely.
Perversely, Sir Thomas always steadfastly protested, because he
said that to believe in Herrick's sanity was not conducive to your
So Sir Thomas shrugged, and went toward the open window. Without
the road was a dazzling gray under the noon sun, for the sky was
cloudless. The ordered trees were rustling pleasantly, very brave in
their autumnal liveries. Under a maple across the way some seven
laborers were joking lazily as they ate their dinner. A wagon
lumbered by, the driver whistling. In front of the house a woman had
stopped to rearrange the pink cap of the baby she was carrying. The
child had just reached up fat and uncertain little arms to kiss her.
Nothing that Browne saw was out of ordinary, kindly human life.
"Well, after all," said Sir Thomas, upon a sudden, "for one, I
think it is an endurable world, just as it stands."
And Borsdale looked up from a letter he had been reading. It was
from a woman who has no concern with this tale, and its contents were
of no importance to any one save Borsdale.
"Now, do you know," said Philip Borsdale, "I am beginning to think
you the most sensible man of my acquaintance! Oh, yes, beyond doubt
it is an endurable sun-nurtured world—just as it stands. It makes it
doubly odd that Dr. Herrick should have chosen always to `Write of
groves, and twilights, and to sing The court of Mab, and of the Fairy
King, And write of Hell.'"
Sir Thomas touched his arm, protestingly. "Ah, but you have
forgotten what follows, Philip— `I sing, and ever shall, Of
Heaven,—and hope to have it after all.'"
"Well! I cry Amen," said Borsdale. "But I wish I could forget the
old man's face."
"Oh, and I also," Sir Thomas said. "And I cry Amen with far more
heartiness, my lad, because I, too, once dreamed of—of Corinna, shall
Mr. Wycherley was naturally modest until King Charles' court, that
late disgrace to our times, corrupted him. He then gave himself up to
all sorts of extravagances and to the wildest frolics that a wanton
wit could devise. . . . Never was so much ill-nature in a pen as in
his, joined with so much good nature as was in himself, even to
excess; for he was bountiful, even to run himself into difficulties,
and charitable even to a fault. It was not that he was free from the
failings of humanity, but he had the tenderness of it, too, which
made everybody excuse whom everybody loved; and even the asperity of
his verses seems to have been forgiven."
I the Plain Dealer am to act to-day.
* * * * * *
Now, you shrewd judges, who the boxes sway,
Leading the ladies' hearts and sense astray,
And for their sakes, see all and hear no play;
Correct your cravats, foretops, lock behind:
The dress and breeding of the play ne'er mind;
For the coarse dauber of the coming scenes
To follow life and nature only means,
Displays you as you are, makes his fine woman
A mercenary jilt and true to no man,
Shows men of wit and pleasure of the age
Are as dull rogues as ever cumber'd stage.
WILLIAM WYCHERLEY. Prologue
to The Plain Dealer.
OLIVIA'S POTTAGE It was in the May of 1680 that Mr. William Wycherley
went into the country to marry the famed heiress, Mistress Araminta
Vining, as he had previously settled with her father, and found her to
his vast relief a very personable girl. She had in consequence a host
of admirers, pre-eminent among whom was young Robert Minifie of
Milanor. Mr. Wycherley, a noted stickler for etiquette, decorously
made bold to question Mr. Minifie's taste in a dispute concerning
waistcoats. A duel was decorously arranged and these two met upon the
narrow beach of Teviot Bay.
Theirs was a spirited encounter, lasting for ten energetic
minutes. Then Wycherley pinked Mr. Minifie in the shoulder, just as
the dramatist, a favorite pupil of Gerard's, had planned to do; and
the four gentlemen parted with every imaginable courtesy, since the
wounded man and the two seconds were to return by boat to Mr.
Minifie's house at Milanor.
More lately Wycherley walked in the direction of Ouseley Manor,
whistling Love's a Toy. Honor was satisfied, and, happily, as he
reflected, at no expense of life. He was a kindly hearted fop, and
more than once had killed his man with perfectly sincere regret. But
in putting on his coat—it was the black camlet coat with silver
buttons—he had overlooked his sleevelinks; and he did not recognize,
for twenty-four eventful hours, the full importance of his
In the heart of Figgis Wood, the incomparable Countess of
Drogheda, aunt to Mr. Wycherley's be- trothed, and a noted leader of
fashion, had presently paused at sight of him—laughing a little—and
with one tiny hand had made as though to thrust back the staghound
which accompanied her. "Your humble servant, Mr. Swashbuckler," she
said; and then: "But oh! you have not hurt the lad?" she demanded,
with a tincture of anxiety.
"Nay, after a short but brilliant engagement," Wycherley returned,
"Mr. Minifie was very harmlessly perforated; and in consequence I look
to be married on Thursday, after all."
"Let me die but Cupid never meets with anything save inhospitality
in this gross world!" cried Lady Drogheda. "For the boy is heels over
head in love with Araminta,—oh, a second Almanzor! And my niece does
not precisely hate him either, let me tell you, William, for all your
month's assault of essences and perfumed gloves and apricot paste and
other small artillery of courtship. La, my dear, was it only a month
ago we settled your future over a couple of Naples biscuit and a
bottle of Rhenish?" She walked beside him now, and the progress of
these exquisites was leisurely. There were many trees at hand so huge
as to necessitate a considerable detour.
"Egad, it is a month and three days over," Wycher- ley retorted,
"since you suggested your respected brother-in-law was ready to pay my
debts in full, upon condition I retaliated by making your adorable
niece Mistress Wycherley. Well, I stand to-day indebted to him for
an advance of L1500 and am no more afraid of bailiffs. We have
performed a very creditable stroke of business; and the day after
to-morrow you will have fairly earned your L500 for arranging the
marriage. Faith, and in earnest of this, I already begin to view you
through appropriate lenses as undoubtedly the most desirable aunt in
Nor was there any unconscionable stretching of the phrase.
Through the quiet forest, untouched as yet by any fidgeting culture,
and much as it was when John Lackland wooed Hawisa under, its
venerable oaks, old even then, the little widow moved like a light
flame. She was clothed throughout in scarlet, after her high- hearted
style of dress, and carried a tall staff of ebony; and the gold head
of it was farther from the dead leaves than was her mischievous
countenance. The big staghound lounged beside her. She pleased the
eye, at least, did this heartless, merry and selfish Olivia, whom
Wycherley had so ruthlessly depicted in his Plain Dealer. To the last
detail Wycherley found her, as he phrased it, "mignonne et piquante,"
and he told her so.
Lady Drogheda observed, "Fiddle-de-dee!" Lady Drogheda continued:
"Yes, I am a fool, of course, but then I still remember Bessington,
and the boy that went mad there——"
"Because of a surfeit of those dreams `such as the poets know when
they are young.' Sweet chuck, beat not the bones of the buried; when
he breathed he was a likely lad," Mr. Wycherley declared, with signal
"Oh, la, la!" she flouted him. "Well, in any event you were the
first gentleman in England to wear a neckcloth of Flanders lace."
"And you were the first person of quality to eat cheesecakes in
Spring Garden," he not half so mirth- fully retorted. "So we have not
entirely failed in life, it may be, after all."
She made of him a quite irrelevant demand: "D'ye fancy Esau was
"I fancy he was fond of pottage, madam; and that, as I remember,
he got his pottage. Come, now, a tangible bowl of pottage, piping
hot, is not to be despised in such a hazardous world as ours is."
She was silent for a lengthy while. "Lord, Lord, how musty all
that brave, sweet nonsense seems!" she said, and almost sighed. "Eh,
well! le vin est tire, et il faut le boire."
"My adorable aunt! Let us put it a thought less dumpishly; and
render thanks because our pottage smokes upon the table, and we are
blessed with ex- cellent appetites."
"So that in a month we will be back again in the playhouses and
Hyde Park and Mulberry Garden, or nodding to each other in the New
Exchange,—you with your debts paid, and I with my L500——?" She
paused to pat the staghound's head. "Lord Remon came this
afternoon," said Lady Drogheda, and with averted eyes.
"I do not approve of Remon," he announced. "Nay, madam, even a
Siren ought to spare her kin and show some mercy toward the more
And Lady Drogheda shrugged. "He is very wealthy, and I am
lamentably poor. One must not seek noon at fourteen o'clock or clamor
for better bread than was ever made from wheat."
Mr. Wycherley laughed, after a pregnant silence.
"By heavens, madam, you are in the right! So I shall walk no more
in Figgis Wood, for its old magic breeds too many day-dreams.
Besides, we have been serious for half-an-hour. Now, then, let us
discuss theology, dear aunt, or millinery, or metaphysics, or the
King's new statue at Windsor, or, if you will, the last Spring Garden
scandal. Or let us count the leaves upon this tree; and afterward I
will enumerate my reasons for believing yonder crescent moon to be the
paring of the Angel Gabriel's left thumb-nail."
She was a woman of eloquent silences when there was any need of
them; and thus the fop and the coquette traversed the remainder of
that solemn wood without any further speech. Modish people would have
esteemed them unwontedly glum.
Wycherley discovered in a while the absence of his sleeve-links,
and was properly vexed by the loss of these not unhandsome trinkets,
the gifts of Lady Castlemaine in the old days when Mr. Wycherley was
the King's successful rival for her favors. But Wycherley knew the
tide filled Teviot Bay and wondering fishes were at liberty to muzzle
the toys, by this, and merely shrugged at his mishap, midcourse in
Mr. Wycherley, upon mature deliberation, wore the green suit with
yellow ribbons, since there was a ball that night in honor of his
nearing marriage, and a confluence of gentry to attend it. Miss
Vining and he walked through a minuet to some applause; the two were
heartily acclaimed a striking couple, and con- gratulations beat
about their ears as thick as sugar- plums in a carnival. And at nine
you might have found the handsome dramatist alone upon the East
Terrace of Ouseley, pacing to and fro in the moonlight, and
complacently reflecting upon his quite indisputable and, past doubt,
unmerited good fortune.
There was never any night in June which nature planned the more
adroitly. Soft and warm and windless, lit by a vainglorious moon and
every star that ever shone, the beauty of this world caressed and
heartened its beholder like a gallant music. Our universe, Mr.
Wycherley conceded willingly, was excellent and kindly, and the
Arbiter of it too generous; for here was he, the wastrel, like the
third prince at the end of a fairy-tale, the master of a handsome
wife, and a fine house and fortune. Somewhere, he knew, young
Minifie, with his arm in a sling, was pleading with Mistress Araminta
for the last time; and this reflection did not greatly trouble Mr.
Wycherley, since incommunicably it tickled his vanity. He was
chuckling when he came to the open window.
Within a woman was singing, to the tinkling accompaniment of a
spinet, for the delectation of Lord Remon. She was not uncomely, and
the hard, lean, stingy countenance of the attendant nobleman was
almost genial. Wycherley understood with a great rending shock, as
though the thought were novel, that Olivia, Lady Drogheda, designed to
marry this man, who grinned within finger's reach—or, rather, to ally
herself with Remon's inordinate wealth,—and without any heralding a
brutal rage and hatred of all created things possessed the
She looked up into Remon's face and, laughing with such bright and
elfin mirth as never any other woman showed, thought Wycherley, she
broke into another song. She would have spared Mr. Wycherley that had
she but known him to be within earshot. . . . Oh, it was only Lady
Drogheda who sang, he knew,—the seasoned gamester and coquette, the
veteran of London and of Cheltenham,—but the woman had no right to
charm this haggler with a voice that was not hers. For it was the
voice of another Olivia, who was not a fine and urban lady, and who
lived nowhere any longer; it was the voice of a soft-handed, tender,
jeering girl, whom he alone remembered; and a sick, illimitable rage
grilled in each vein of him as liltingly she sang, for Remon, the old
and foolish song which Wycherley had made in her praise very long ago,
and of which he might not ever forget the most trivial word.
Men, even beaux, are strangely constituted; and so it needed only
this—the sudden stark brute jealousy of one male animal for another.
That was the clumsy hand which now unlocked the dyke; and like a
flood, tall and resistless, came the recollection of their far-off
past and of its least dear trifle, of all the aspirations and
absurdities and splendors of their common youth, and found him in its
path, a painted fellow, a spendthrift king of the mode, a most notable
authority upon the set of a peruke, a penniless, spent connoisseur of
stockings, essences and cosmetics.
He got but little rest this night.
There were too many plaintive memories which tediously plucked him
back, with feeble and innumerable hands, as often as he trod upon the
threshold of sleep. Then too, there were so many dreams, half-waking,
and not only of Olivia Chichele, naive and frank in divers rural
circumstances, but rather of Olivia, Lady Drogheda, that perfect piece
of artifice; of how exquisite she was! how swift and volatile in every
movement! how airily indomitable, and how mendacious to the tips of
her polished finger-nails! and how she always seemed to flit about
this world as joyously, alertly, and as colorfully as some ornate and
tiny bird of the tropics!
But presently parochial birds were wrangling under- neath the
dramatist's window, while he tossed and as- sured himself that he was
sleepier than any saint who ever snored in Ephesus; and presently one
hand of Moncrieff was drawing the bed-curtains, while the other
carefully balanced a mug of shaving-water.
Wycherley did not see her all that morning, for Lady Drogheda was
fatigued, or so a lackey informed him, and as yet kept her chamber.
His Araminta he found deplorably sullen. So the dramatist devoted
the better part of this day to a refitting of his wedding- suit, just
come from London; for Moncrieff, an invaluable man, had adjudged the
pockets to be placed too high; and, be the punishment deserved or no,
Mr. Wycherley had never heard that any victim of law appeared the
more admirable upon his scaffold for being slovenly in his attire.
Thus it was as late as five in the afternoon that, wearing the
peach-colored suit trimmed with scarlet ribbon, and a new French
beaver, the exquisite came upon Lady Drogheda walking in the gardens
with only an appropriate peacock for company. She was so beautiful
and brilliant and so little—so like a famous gem too suddenly
disclosed, and therefore oddly disparate in all these qualities, that
his decorous pleasant voice might quite permissibly have shaken a
trifle (as indeed it did), when Mr. Wycherley implored Lady Drogheda
to walk with him to Teviot Bay, on the off- chance of recovering his
And there they did find one of the trinkets, but the tide had
swept away the other, or else the sand had buried it. So they rested
there upon the rocks, after an unavailing search, and talked of many
trifles, amid surroundings oddly incongruous.
For this Teviot Bay is a primeval place, a deep- cut, narrow notch
in the tip of Carnrick, and is walled by cliffs so high and so
precipitous that they exclude a view of anything except the ocean.
The bay opens due west; and its white barriers were now developing a
violet tinge, for this was on a sullen afternoon, and the sea was
ruffled by spiteful gusts. Wycherley could find no color anywhere
save in this glowing, tiny and exquisite woman; and everywhere was a
gigantic peace, vexed only when high overhead a sea-fowl jeered at
these modish persons, as he flapped toward an impregnable nest.
"And by this hour to-morrow," thought Mr. Wycherley, "I shall be
chained to that good, strapping, wholesome Juno of a girl!"
So he fell presently into a silence, staring at the vacant west,
which was like a huge and sickly pearl, not thinking of anything at
all, but longing poignantly for something which was very beautiful and
strange and quite unattainable, with precisely that anguish he had
sometimes known in awaking from a dream of which he could remember
nothing save its piercing loveliness.
"And thus ends the last day of our bachelorhood!" said Lady
Drogheda, upon a sudden. "You have played long enough—La, William,
you have led the fashion for ten years, you have written four merry
comedies, and you have laughed as much as any man alive, but you have
pulled down all that nature raised in you, I think. Was it worth
"Faith, but nature's monuments are no longer the last cry in
architecture," he replied; "and I believe that The Plain Dealer and
The Country Wife will hold their own."
"And you wrote them when you were just a boy! Ah, yes, you might
have been our English Moliere, my dear. And, instead, you have elected
to become an authority upon cravats and waistcoats."
"Eh, madam"—he smiled—"there was a time when I too was foolishly
intent to divert the leisure hours of posterity. But reflection
assured me that posterity had, thus far, done very little to place me
under that or any other obligation. Ah, no! Youth, health and—
though I say it—a modicum of intelligence are loaned to most of us
for a while, and for a terribly brief while. They are but loans, and
Time is waiting greedily to snatch them from us. For the perturbed
usurer knows that he is lending us, perforce, three priceless
possessions, and that till our lease runs out we are free to dispose
of them as we elect. Now, had I jealously devoted my allotment of
these treasures toward securing for my impressions of the universe a
place in yet unprinted libraries, I would have made an investment
from which I could not possibly have derived any pleasure, and which
would have been to other people of rather dubious benefit. In
consequence, I chose a wiser and devouter course."
This statement Lady Drogheda afforded the com- mentary of a
"Why, look you," Wycherley philosophized, "have you never thought
what a vast deal of loving and painstaking labor must have gone to
make the world we inhabit so beautiful and so complete? For it was
not enough to evolve and set a glaring sun in heaven, to marshal the
big stars about the summer sky, but even in the least frequented
meadow every butterfly must have his pinions jeweled, very carefully,
and every lovely blade of grass be fashioned separately. The hand
that yesterday arranged the Himalayas found time to glaze the wings
of a midge! Now, most of us could design a striking Flood, or even a
Last judgment, since the canvas is so big and the colors used so
virulent; but to paint a snuff-box perfectly you must love the labor
for its own sake, and pursue it without even an underthought of the
performance's ultimate appraisement. People do not often consider the
simple fact that it is enough to bait, and quite superfluous to
veneer, a trap; indeed, those generally acclaimed the best of persons
insist this world is but an antechamber, full of gins and pitfalls,
which must be scurried through with shut eyes. And the more fools
they, as all we poets know! for to enjoy a sunset, or a glass of
wine, or even to admire the charms of a handsome woman, is to render
the Artificer of all at least the tribute of appreciation."
But she said, in a sharp voice: "William, Wil- liam——!" And he
saw that there was no beach now in Teviot Bay except the dwindling
crescent at its farthest indentation on which they sat.
Yet his watch, on consultation, recorded only five o'clock; and
presently Mr. Wycherley laughed, not very loudly. The two had risen,
and her face was a tiny snowdrift where every touch of rouge and
grease-pencils showed crudely.
"Look now," said Wycherley, "upon what trifles our lives hinge!
Last night I heard you singing, and the song brought back so many
things done long ago, and made me so unhappy that—ridiculous
conclusion!—I forgot to wind my watch. Well! the tide is buffeting
at either side of Carnrick; within the hour this place will be
submerged; and, in a phrase, we are as dead as Hannibal or Hector."
She said, very quiet: "Could you not gain the mainland if you
stripped and swam for it?"
"Why, possibly," the beau conceded. "Meanwhile you would have
drowned. Faith, we had as well make the best of it."
Little Lady Drogheda touched his sleeve, and her hand (as the man
noted) did not shake at all, nor did her delicious piping voice shake
either. "You cannot save me. I know it. I am not frightened. I
bid you save yourself."
"Permit me to assist you to that ledge of rock," Mr. Wycherley
answered, "which is a trifle higher than the beach; and I pray you,
Olivia, do not mar the dignity of these last passages by talking
For he had spied a ledge, not inaccessible, some four feet higher
than the sands, and it offered them at least a respite. And within
the moment they had secured this niggardly concession, intent to die,
as Wycherley observed, like hurt mice upon a pantry-shelf. The
business smacked of disproportion, he considered, although too
well-bred to say as much; for here was a big ruthless league betwixt
earth and sea, and with no loftier end than to crush a fop and a
coquette, whose speedier extinction had been dear at the expense of a
shilling's worth of arsenic!
Then the sun came out, to peep at these trapped, comely people,
and doubtless to get appropriate mirth at the spectacle. He hung low
against the misty sky, a clearly-rounded orb that did not dazzle, but
merely shone with the cold glitter of new snow upon a fair December
day; and for the rest, the rocks, and watery heavens, and all these
treacherous and lapping waves, were very like a crude draught of the
world, dashed off conceivably upon the day before creation.
These arbiters of social London did not speak at all; and the
bleak waters crowded toward them as in a fretful dispute of
Then the woman said: "Last night Lord Remon asked me to marry
him, and I declined the honor. For this place is too like
Bessington—and, I think, the past month has changed everything——"
"I thought you had forgotten Bessington," he said, "long, long
"I did not ever quite forget—Oh, the garish years," she wailed,
"since then! And how I hated you, William—and yet liked you,
too,—because you were never the boy that I remembered, and people
would not let you be! And how I hated them—the huzzies! For I had
to see you almost every day, and it was never you I saw—Ah, William,
come back for just a little, little while, and be an honest boy for
just the moment that we are dying, and not an elegant fine gentleman!"
"Nay, my dear," the dramatist composedly answered, "an hour of
naked candor is at hand. Life is a masquerade where Death, it would
appear, is master of the ceremonies. Now he sounds his whistle; and
we who went about the world so long as harlequins must unmask, and
for all time put aside our abhorrence of the disheveled. For in sober
verity, this is Death who comes, Olivia,—though I had thought that at
his advent one would be afraid."
Yet apprehension of this gross and unavoidable adventure, so soon
to be endured, thrilled him, and none too lightly. It seemed unfair
that death should draw near thus sensibly, with never a twinge or ache
to herald its arrival. Why, there were fifty years of life in this
fine, nimble body but for any contretemps like that of the deplorable
present! Thus his meditations stumbled.
"Oh, William," Lady Drogheda bewailed, "it is all so big—the
incurious west, and the sea, and these rocks that were old in Noah's
youth,—and we are so little——!"
"Yes," he returned, and took her hand, because their feet were
wetted now; "the trap and its small prey are not commensurate. The
stage is set for a Homeric death-scene, and we two profane an over-
ambitious background. For who are we that Heaven should have rived
the world before time was, to trap us, and should make of the old sea
a fowling-net?" Their eyes encountered, and he said, with a strange
gush of manliness: "Yet Heaven is kind. I am bound even in honor
now to marry Mistress Araminta; and you would marry Remon in the end,
Olivia,—ah, yes! for we are merely moths, my dear, and luxury is a
disastrously brilliant lamp. But here are only you and I and the
master of all ceremony. And yet—I would we were a little worthier,
"You have written four merry comedies and you were the first
gentleman in England to wear a neckcloth of Flanders lace," she
answered, and her smile was sadder than weeping.
"And you were the first person of quality to eat cheese-cakes in
Spring Garden. There you have our epitaphs, if we in truth have
earned an epitaph who have not ever lived."
"No, we have only laughed—Laugh now, for the last time, and
hearten me, my handsome William! And yet could I but come to God,"
the woman said, with a new voice, "and make it clear to Him just how
it all fell out, and beg for one more chance! How heartily I would
"And I would cry Amen to all that prayer must of necessity
contain," he answered. "Oh!" said Wycherley, "just for applause and
bodily comfort and the envy of innumerable other fools we two have
bartered a great heritage! I think our corner of the world will
lament us for as much as a week; but I fear lest Heaven may not
condescend to set apart the needful time wherein to frame a suitable
chastisement for such poor imbeciles. Olivia, I have loved you all my
life, and I have been faithful neither to you nor to myself! I love
you so that I am not afraid even now, since you are here, and so
entirely that I have forgotten how to plead my cause convincingly.
And I have had practice, let me tell you. . . . !" Then he shook his
head and smiled. "But candor is not a la mode. See, now, to what
outmoded and bucolic frenzies nature brings even us at last."
She answered only, as she motioned seaward, "Look!"
And what Mr. Wycherley saw was a substantial boat rowed by four of
Mr. Minifie's attendants; and in the bow of the vessel sat that
wounded gentleman himself, regarding Wycherley and Lady Drogheda with
some disfavor; and beside the younger man was Mistress Araminta
It was a perturbed Minifie who broke the silence. "This is very
awkward," he said, "because Araminta and I are eloping. We mean to be
married this same night at Milanor. And deuce take it, Mr. Wycherley!
I can't leave you there to drown, any more than in the circumstances
I can ask you to make one of the party."
"Mr. Wycherley," said his companion, with far more asperity, "the
vanity and obduracy of a cruel father have forced me to the adoption
of this desperate measure. Toward yourself I entertain no
ill-feeling, nor indeed any sentiment at all except the most profound
contempt. My aunt will, of course, accompany us; for yourself, you
will do as you please; but in any event I solemnly protest that I
spurn your odious pretensions, release myself hereby from an enforced
and hideous obligation, and in a phrase would not marry you in order
to be Queen of England."
"Miss Vining, I had hitherto admired you," the beau replied, with
fervor, "but now esteem is changed to adoration."
Then he turned to his Olivia. "Madam, you will pardon the awkward
but unavoidable publicity of my proceeding. I am a ruined man. I owe
your brother-in- law some L1500, and, oddly enough, I mean to pay him.
I must sell Jephcot and Skene Minor, but while life lasts I shall
keep Bessington and all its memories. Meanwhile there is a clergyman
waiting at Milanor. So marry me to-night, Olivia; and we will go
back to Bessington to-morrow."
"To Bessington——!" she said. It was as though she spoke of
something very sacred. Then very mu- sically Lady Drogheda laughed,
and to the eye she was all flippancy. "La, William, I can't bury
myself in the country until the end of time," she said, "and make
interminable custards," she added, "and superintend the poultry," she
said, "and for recreation play short whist with the vicar."
And it seemed to Mr. Wycherley that he had gone divinely mad.
"Don't lie to me, Olivia. You are thinking there are yet a host of
heiresses who would be glad to be a famous beau's wife at however dear
a cost. But don't lie to me. Don't even try to seem the airy and
bedizened woman I have known so long. All that is over now. Death
tapped us on the shoulder, and, if only for a moment, the masks were
dropped. And life is changed now, oh, everything is changed! Then,
come, my dear! let us be wise and very honest. Let us concede it is
still possible for me to find another heiress, and for you to marry
Remon; let us grant it the only outcome of our common-sense! and for
all that, laugh, and fling away the pottage, and be more wise than
She irresolutely said: "I cannot. Matters are al- tered now. It
would be madness——"
"It would undoubtedly be madness," Mr. Wycherley assented. "But
then I am so tired of being rational! Oh, Olivia," this former arbiter
of taste absurdly babbled, "if I lose you now it is forever! and
there is no health in me save when I am with you. Then alone I wish
to do praiseworthy things, to be all which the boy we know of should
have grown to. . . . See how profoundly shameless I am become when,
with such an audience, I take refuge in the pitiful base argument of
my own weakness! But, my dear, I want you so that nothing else in
the world means anything to me. I want you! and all my life I have
"Boy, boy——!" she answered, and her fine hands had come to
Wycherley, as white birds flutter homeward. But even then she had to
deliberate the matter—since the habits of many years are not put
aside like outworn gloves,—and for innumerable centuries, it seemed
to him, her foot tapped on that wetted ledge.
Presently her lashes lifted. "I suppose it would be lacking in
reverence to keep a clergyman waiting longer than was absolutely
necessary?" she hazarded.
A BROWN WOMAN
"A critical age called for symmetry, and exquisite finish had to
be studied as much as nobility of thought. . . . POPE aimed to take
first place as a writer of polished verse. Any knowledge he gained of
the world, or any suggestion that came to him from his intercourse
with society, was utilized to accomplish his main purpose. To put his
thoughts into choice language was not enough. Each idea had to be put
in its neatest and most epigrammatic form."
Why did I write? what sin to me unknown
Dipt me in ink, my parents', or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.
The muse but served to ease some friend, not wife,
To help me through this long disease, my life.
* * * * * *
Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb through,
He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew;
Destroy his fib or sophistry in vain,
The creature's at his foolish work again,
Throned in the centre of his thin designs,
Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines!
ALEXANDER POPE. Epistle
to Dr. Arbuthnot.
A BROWN WOMAN But I must be hurrying home now," the girl said, "for
it is high time I were back in the hayfields."
"Fair shepherdess," he implored, "for heaven's sake, let us not
cut short the pastorelle thus abruptly."
"And what manner of beast may that be, pray?"
"'Tis a conventional form of verse, my dear, which we at present
strikingly illustrate. The plan of a pastorelle is simplicity's self:
a gentleman, which I may fairly claim to be, in some fair rural
scene—such as this—comes suddenly upon a rustic maiden of sur-
passing beauty. He naturally falls in love with her, and they say
all manner of fine things to each other."
She considered him for a while before speaking. It thrilled him
to see the odd tenderness that was in her face. "You always think of
saying and writing fine things, do you not, sir?"
"My dear," he answered, gravely, "I believe that I was undoubtedly
guilty of such folly until you came. I wish I could make you
understand how your coming has changed everything."
"You can tell me some other time," the girl gaily declared, and
was about to leave him.
His hand detained her very gently. "Faith, but I fear not, for
already my old hallucinations seem to me incredible. Why, yesterday I
thought it the most desirable of human lots to be a great poet"—the
gen- tleman laughed in self-mockery. "I positively did. I labored
every day toward becoming one. I lived among books, esteemed that I
was doing something of genuine importance as I gravely tinkered with
alliteration and metaphor and antithesis and judicious paraphrases of
the ancients. I put up with life solely because it afforded material
for versification; and, in reality, believed the destruction of Troy
was providentially ordained lest Homer lack subject matter for an
epic. And as for loving, I thought people fell in love in order to
exchange witty rhymes."
His hand detained her, very gently. . . . Indeed, it seemed to
him he could never tire of noting her excellencies. Perhaps it was
that splendid light poise of her head he chiefly loved; he thought so
at least, just now. Or was it the wonder of her walk, which made all
other women he had ever known appear to mince and hobble, like rusty
toys? Something there was assuredly about this slim brown girl which
recalled an untamed and harmless woodland creature; and it was that,
he knew, which most poignantly moved him, even though he could not
name it. Perhaps it was her bright kind eyes, which seemed to mirror
the tranquillity of forests. . . .
"You gentry are always talking of love," she mar- veled.
"Oh," he said, with acerbity, "oh, I don't doubt that any number
of beef-gorging squires and leering, long-legged Oxford dandies——"
He broke off here, and laughed contemptuously. "Well, you are
beautiful, and they have eyes as keen as mine. And I do not blame
you, my dear, for believing my designs to be no more commendable than
theirs—no, not at all."
But his mood was spoiled, and his tetchy vanity hurt, by the
thought of stout well-set fellows having wooed this girl; and he
permitted her to go without protest.
Yet he sat alone for a while upon the fallen tree— trunk, humming
a contented little tune. Never in his life had he been happier. He
did not venture to suppose that any creature so adorable could love
such a sickly hunchback, such a gargoyle of a man, as he was; but
that Sarah was fond of him, he knew. There would be no trouble in
arranging with her father for their marriage, most certainly; and he
meant to attend to that matter this very morning, and within ten
minutes. So Mr. Alexander Pope was meanwhile arranging in his mind a
suitable wording for his declaration of marital aspirations.
Thus John Gay found him presently and roused him from
phrase-spinning. "And what shall we do this morning, Alexander?" Gay
was always demanding, like a spoiled child, to be amused.
Pope told him what his own plans were, speaking quite simply, but
with his countenance radiant. Gay took off his hat and wiped his
forehead, for the day was warm. He did not say anything at all.
"Well——?" Mr. Pope asked, after a pause.
Mr. Gay was dubious. "I had never thought that you would marry,"
he said. "And—why, hang it, Alexander! to grow enamored of a
milkmaid is well enough for the hero of a poem, but in a poet it hints
at injudicious composition."
Mr. Pope gesticulated with thin hands and seemed upon the verge of
eloquence. Then he spoke unan- swerably. "But I love her," he said.
John Gay's reply was a subdued whistle. He, in common with the
other guests of Lord Harcourt, at Nuneham Courtney, had wondered what
would be the outcome of Mr. Alexander Pope's intimacy with Sarah
Drew. A month earlier the poet had sprained his ankle upon Amshot
Heath, and this young woman had found him lying there, entirely
helpless, as she returned from her evening milking. Being hale of
person, she had managed to get the little hunchback to her home
unaided. And since then Pope had often been seen with her.
This much was common knowledge. That Mr. Pope proposed to marry
the heroine of his misadventure afforded a fair mark for raillery, no
doubt, but Gay, in common with the run of educated England in 1718,
did not aspire to be facetious at Pope's expense. The luxury was too
costly. Offend the dwarf in any fashion, and were you the proudest
duke at Court or the most inconsiderable rhymester in Petticoat Lane,
it made no difference; there was no crime too heinous for "the great
Mr. Pope's" next verses to charge you with, and, worst of all, there
was no misdoing so out of character that his adroit malignancy could
not make it seem plausible.
Now, after another pause, Pope said, "I must be going now. Will
you not wish me luck?"
"Why, Alexander—why, hang it!" was Mr. Gay's observation, "I
believe that you are human after all, and not just a book in
He thereby voiced a commentary patently uncalled- for, as Mr. Pope
afterward reflected. Mr. Pope was then treading toward the home of
old Frederick Drew. It was a gray morning in late July.
"I love her," Pope had said. The fact was unde- niable; yet an
expression of it necessarily halts. Pope knew, as every man must do
who dares conserve his energies to annotate the drama of life rather
than play a part in it, the nature of that loneliness which this
conservation breeds. Such persons may hope to win a posthumous
esteem in the library, but it is at the bleak cost of making life a
wistful transaction with foreigners. In such enforced aloofness Sarah
Drew had come to him—strong, beautiful, young, good and vital, all
that he was not—and had serenely befriended "the great Mr. Pope,"
whom she viewed as a queer decrepit little gentleman of whom within a
week she was unfeignedly fond.
"I love her," Pope had said. Eh, yes, no doubt; and what, he
fiercely demanded of himself, was he—a crippled scribbler, a bungling
artisan of phrases—that he should dare to love this splendid and
deep-bosomed goddess? Something of youth awoke, possessing him—
something of that high ardor which, as he cloudily remembered now,
had once controlled a boy who dreamed in Windsor Forest and with the
lightest of hearts planned to achieve the impossible. For what is
more difficult of attainment than to achieve the perfected phrase, so
worded that to alter a syllable of its wording would be little short
"What whimwhams!" decreed the great Mr. Pope, aloud.
"Verse-making is at best only the affair of idle men who write in
their closets and of idle men who read there. And as for him who
polishes phrases, whatever be his fate in poetry, it is ten to one but
he must give up all the reasonable aims of life for it."
No, he would have no more of loneliness. Hence- forward Alexander
Pope would be human—like the others. To write perfectly was much; but
it was not everything. Living was capable of furnishing even more than
the raw material of a couplet. It might, for instance, yield
For instance, if you loved, and married, and begot, and died, with
the seriousness of a person who believes he is performing an action of
real importance, and conceded that the perfection of any art, whether
it be that of verse-making or of rope-dancing, is at best a
by-product of life's conduct; at worst, you probably would not be
lonely. No; you would be at one with all other fat-witted people, and
there was no greater blessing conceivable.
Pope muttered, and produced his notebook, and wrote tentatively.
Wrote Mr. Pope: The bliss of man (could pride that blessing find)
Is not to act or think beyond mankind; No powers of body or of soul
to share But what his nature and his state can bear.
"His state!" yes, undeniably, two sibilants collided here. "His
wit?"—no, that would be flat- footed awkwardness in the management of
your vowel- sounds; the lengthened "a" was almost requisite. . . .
Pope was fretting over the imbroglio when he absent- mindedly glanced
up to perceive that his Sarah, not irrevocably offended, was being
embraced by a certain John Hughes—who was a stalwart, florid
personable individual, no doubt, but, after all, only an unlettered
The dwarf gave a hard, wringing motion of his hands. The
diamond-Lord Bolingbroke's gift—which ornamented Pope's left hand cut
into the flesh of his little finger, so cruel was the gesture; and
this little finger was bleeding as Pope tripped forward, smiling. A
gentleman does not incommode the public by obtruding the ugliness of a
"Do I intrude?" he queried. "Ah, well! I also have dwelt in
Arcadia." It was bitter to comprehend that he had never done so.
The lovers were visibly annoyed; yet, if an interruption of their
pleasant commerce was decreed to be, it could not possibly have
sprung, as they soon found, from a more sympathetic source.
These were not subtle persons. Pope had the truth from them
within ten minutes. They loved each other; but John Hughes was
penniless, and old Frederick Drew was, in consequence, obdurate.
"And, besides, he thinks you mean to marry her!" said John Hughes.
"My dear man, he pardonably forgets that the utmost reach of my
designs in common reason would be to have her as my kept mistress for
a month or two," drawled Mr. Pope. "As concerns yourself, my good
fellow, the case is somewhat different. Why, it is a veritable
romance—an affair of Daphne and Corydon—although, to be
unpardonably candid, the plot of your romance, my young Arcadians, is
not the most original conceivable. I think that the denouement need
not baffle our imaginations."
The dwarf went toward Sarah Drew. The chary sunlight had found
the gold in her hair, and its glint was brightly visible to him. "My
dear—" he said. His thin long fingers touched her capable hand. It
was a sort of caress—half-timid. "My dear, I owe my life to you.
My body is at most a flimsy abortion such as a night's exposure would
have made more tranquil than it is just now. Yes, it was you who
found a caricature of the sort of man that Mr. Hughes here is,
disabled, helpless, and—for reasons which doubtless seemed to you
sufficient—contrived that this unsightly parody continue in
existence. I am not lovable, my dear. I am only a hunchback, as you
can see. My aspirations and my sickly imaginings merit only the
derision of a candid clean-souled being such as you are." His
finger-tips touched the back of her hand again. "I think there was
never a maker of enduring verse who did not at one period or another
long to exchange an assured immortality for a sturdier pair of
shoulders. I think—I think that I am prone to speak at random,"
Pope said, with his half-drowsy smile. "Yet, none the less, an honest
man, as our kinsmen in Adam average, is bound to pay his equitable
She said, "I do not understand."
"I have perpetrated certain jingles," Pope returned. "I had not
comprehended until to-day they are the only children I shall leave
behind me. Eh, and what would you make of them, my dear, could
ingenuity contrive a torture dire enough to force you into read- ing
them! . . . Misguided people have paid me for contriving these
jingles. So that I have money enough to buy you from your father just
as I would purchase one of his heifers. Yes, at the very least I have
money, and I have earned it. I will send your big- thewed adorer—I
believe that Hughes is the name?—L500 of it this afternoon. That
sum, I gather, will be sufficient to remove your father's objection to
your marriage with Mr. Hughes."
Pope could not but admire himself tremendously. Moreover, in such
matters no woman is blind. Tears came into Sarah's huge brown eyes.
This tenderhearted girl was not thinking of John Hughes now. Pope
noted the fact with the pettiest exultation. "Oh, you—you are
good." Sarah Drew spoke as with difficulty.
"No adjective, my dear, was ever applied with less discrimination.
It is merely that you have rendered no inconsiderable service to
posterity, and merit a reward."
"Oh, and indeed, indeed, I was always fond of you——" The girl
She would have added more, no doubt, since com- passion is
garrulous, had not Pope's scratched hand dismissed a display of
emotion as not entirely in con- sonance with the rules of the game.
"My dear, therein you have signally honored me. There remains only
to offer you my appreciation of your benevolence toward a sickly
monster, and to entreat for my late intrusion—however
unintentional—that forgiveness which you would not deny, I think, to
any other impertinent insect."
"Oh, but we have no words to thank you, sir——!" Thus Hughes
"Then don't attempt it, my good fellow. For phrase-spinning, as I
can assure you, is the most profitless of all pursuits." Whereupon
Pope bowed low, wheeled, walked away. Yes, he was wounded past
sufferance; it seemed to him he must die of it. Life was a farce,
and Destiny an overseer who hiccoughed mandates. Well, all that even
Destiny could find to gloat over, he reflected, was the tranquil
figure of a smallish gentleman switching at the grass-blades with his
cane as he sauntered under darkening skies.
For a storm was coming on, and the first big drops of it were
splattering the terrace when Mr. Pope en- tered Lord Harcourt's
Pope went straight to his own rooms. As he came in there was a
vivid flash of lightning, followed instantaneously by a crashing,
splitting noise, like that of universes ripped asunder. He did not
honor the high uproar with attention. This dwarf was not afraid of
anything except the commission of an error in taste.
Then, too, there were letters for him, laid ready on the
writing-table. Nothing of much importance he found there.—Here,
though, was a rather diverting letter from Eustace Budgell, that poor
fool, abjectly thanking Mr. Pope for his advice concerning how best to
answer the atrocious calumnies on Budgell then appearing in The
Grub-Street Journal,—and reposing, drolly enough, next the
proof-sheets of an anonymous letter Pope had prepared for the
forthcoming issue of that publication, wherein he sprightlily told how
Budgell had poisoned Dr. Tindal, after forging his will. For even if
Budgell had not in point of fact been guilty of these particular
peccadilloes, he had quite certainly committed the crime of speaking
lightly of Mr. Pope, as "a little envious animal," some seven years
ago; and it was for this grave indiscretion that Pope was dexterously
goading the man into insanity, and eventually drove him to suicide. .
The storm made the room dark and reading difficult. Still, this
was an even more amusing letter, from the all-powerful Duchess of
Marlborough. In as civil terms as her sick rage could muster, the
frightened woman offered Mr. Pope L1,000 to suppress his verbal
portrait of her, in the character of Atossa, from his Moral Essays;
and Pope straightway decided to accept the bribe, and afterward to
print his verses unchanged. For the hag, as he reflected, very greatly
needed to be taught that in this world there was at least one person
who did not quail before her tantrums. There would be, moreover,
even an elementary justice in thus robbing her who had robbed England
at large. And, besides, her name was Sarah. . . .
Pope lighted four candles and set them before the long French
mirror. He stood appraising his many curious deformities while the
storm raged. He stood sidelong, peering over his left shoulder, in
order to see the outline of his crooked back. Nowhere in England, he
reflected, was there a person more pitiable and more repellent
"And, oh, it would be droll," Pope said, aloud, "if our exteriors
were ever altogether parodies. But time keeps a diary in our faces,
and writes a monstrously plain hand. Now, if you take the first
letter of Mr. Alexander Pope's Christian name, and the first and last
letters of his surname, you have A. P. E.," Pope quoted, genially. "I
begin to think that Dennis was right. What conceivable woman would
not prefer a well-set man of five-and-twenty to such a withered
abortion? And what does it matter, after all, that a hunchback has
dared to desire a shapely brown- haired woman?"
Pope came more near to the mirror. "Make answer, you who have
dared to imagine that a goddess was ever drawn to descend into
womanhood except by kisses, brawn and a clean heart."
Another peal of thunder bellowed. The storm was growing furious.
"Yet I have had a marvelous dream. Now I awaken. I must go on in the
old round. As long as my wits preserve their agility I must be able
to amuse, to flatter and, at need, to intimidate the patrons of that
ape in the mirror, so that they will not dare refuse me the
market-value of my antics. And Sarah Drew has declined an alliance
such as this in favor of a fresh-colored complexion and a pair of
Pope thought a while. "And a clean heart! She bargained royally,
giving love for nothing less than love. The man is rustic,
illiterate; he never heard of Aristotle, he would be at a loss to
distinguish between a trochee and a Titian, and if you mentioned
Boileau to him would probably imagine you were talking of cookery.
But he loves her. He would forfeit eternity to save her a toothache.
And, chief of all, she can make this robust baby happy, and she alone
can make him happy. And so, she gives, gives royally—she gives, God
Rain, sullen rain, was battering the window. "And you—you
hunchback in the mirror, you maker of neat rhymes—pray, what had you
to offer? A coach-and-six, of course, and pin-money and furbelows and
in the end a mausoleum with unimpeachable Latin on it! And—pate sur
pate—an unswerving devotion which she would share on almost equal
terms with the Collected Works of Alexander Pope. And so she
chose—chose brawn and a clean heart."
The dwarf turned, staggered, fell upon his bed. "God, make a man
of me, make me a good brave man. I loved her—oh, such as I am, You
know that I loved her! You know that I desire her happiness above all
things. Ah, no, for You know that I do not at bottom. I want to
hurt, to wound all living creatures, because they know how to be
happy, and I do not know how. Ah, God, and why did You decree that I
should never be an obtuse and comely animal such as this John Hughes
is? I am so tired of being `the great Mr. Pope,' and I want only the
common joys of life."
The hunchback wept. It would be too curious to anatomize the
writhings of his proud little spirit.
Now some one tapped upon the door. It was John Gay. He was
bidden to enter, and, complying, found Mr. Pope yawning over the
latest of Tonson's publications.
Gay's face was singularly portentous. "My friend," Gay blurted
out, "I bring news which will horrify you. Believe me, I would never
have mustered the pluck to bring it did I not love you. I cannot let
you hear it first in public and unprepared, as, otherwise, you would
have to do."
"Do I not know you have the kindest heart in all the world? Why,
so outrageous are your amiable defects that they would be the public
derision of your enemies if you had any," Pope returned.
The other poet evinced an awkward comminglement of consternation
and pity. "It appears that when this storm arose—why, Mistress Drew
was with a young man of the neighborhood—a John Hewet———" Gay was
speaking with unaccustomed rapidity.
"Hughes, I think," Pope interrupted, equably.
"Perhaps—I am not sure. They sought shelter under a haycock.
You will remember that first crash of thunder, as if the heavens were
in demolishment? My friend, the reapers who had been laboring in the
fields—who had been driven to such protection as the trees or hedges
"Get on!" a shrill voice cried; "for God's love, man, get on!"
Mr. Pope had risen. This pallid shaken wisp was not in appearance
the great Mr. Pope whose ingenuity had enabled Homeric warriors to
excel in the genteel.
"They first saw a little smoke. . . . They found this Hughes with
one arm about the neck of Mistress Drew, and the other held over her
face, as if to screen her from the lightning. They were both"—and
here Gay hesitated. "They were both dead," he amended.
Pope turned abruptly. Nakedness is of necessity uncouth, he held,
whether it be the body or the soul that is unveiled. Mr. Pope went
toward a window which he opened, and he stood thus looking out for a
"So she is dead," he said. "It is very strange. So many rare
felicities of curve and color, so much of purity and kindliness and
valor and mirth, extinguished as one snuffs a candle! Well! I am
sorry she is dead, for the child had a talent for living and got such
joy out of it. . . . Hers was a lovely happy life, but it was
sterile. Already nothing remains of her but dead flesh which must be
huddled out of sight. I shall not perish thus entirely, I believe.
Men will remember me. Truly a mighty foundation for pride! when the
utmost I can hope for is but to be read in one island, and to be
thrown aside at the end of one age. Indeed, I am not even sure of
that much. I print, and print, and print. And when I collect my
verses into books, I am altogether uncertain whether to took upon
myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead. It
sometimes seems to me that each publication is but a solemn funeral
of many wasted years. For I have given all to the verse-making.
Granted that the sacrifice avails to rescue my name from oblivion,
what will it profit me when I am dead and care no more for men's
opinions than Sarah Drew cares now for what I say of her? But then
she never cared. She loved John Hughes. And she was right."
He made an end of speaking, still peering out of the window with
considerate narrowed eyes.
The storm was over. In the beech-tree opposite a wren was raising
optimistic outcry. The sun had won his way through a black-bellied
shred of cloud; upon the terrace below, a dripping Venus and a Perseus
were glistening as with white fire. Past these, drenched gardens,
the natural wildness of which was judiciously restrained with walks,
ponds, grottoes, statuary and other rural elegancies, displayed the
intermingled brilliancies of diamonds and emeralds, and glittered as
with pearls and rubies where tempest-battered roses were reviving in
"I think the storm is over," Mr. Pope remarked. "It is strange how
violent are these convulsions of nature. . . . But nature is a
treacherous blowsy jade, who respects nobody. A gentleman can but
shrug under her onslaughts, and henceforward civilly avoid them. It
is a consolation to reflect that they pass quickly."
He turned as in defiance. "Yes, yes! It hurts. But I envy them.
Yes, even I, that ugly spiteful hornet of a man! `the great Mr.
Pope,' who will be dining with the proudest people in England within
the hour and gloating over their deference! For they presume to make
a little free with God occasionally, John, but never with me. And _I_
envy these dead young fools. . . . You see, they loved each other,
John. I left them, not an hour ago, the happiest of living
creatures. I looked back once. I pretended to have dropped my
handkerchief. I imagine they were talking of their wedding-clothes,
for this broad-shouldered Hughes was matching poppies and
field-flowers to her complexion. It was a scene out of Theocritus. I
think Heaven was so well pleased by the tableau that Heaven hastily
resumed possession of its enactors in order to prevent any
after-happenings from belittling that perfect instant."
"Egad, and matrimony might easily have proved an anti-climax," Gay
"Yes; oh, it is only Love that is blind, and not the lover
necessarily. I know. I suppose I always knew at the bottom of my
heart. This hamadryad was destined in the outcome to dwindle into a
village housewife, she would have taken a lively interest in the
number of eggs the hens were laying, she would even have assured her
children, precisely in the way her father spoke of John Hughes, that
young people ordinarily have foolish fancies which their rational
elders agree to disregard. But as it is, no Eastern queen—not
Semele herself—left earth more nobly—"
Pope broke off short. He produced his notebook, which he never
went without, and wrote frowningly, with many erasures. "H'm, yes,"
he said; and he read aloud: "When Eastern lovers feed the funeral
fire, On the same pile the faithful fair expire; Here pitying heaven
that virtue mutual found, And blasted both that it might neither
wound. Hearts so sincere the Almighty saw well pleased, Sent His own
lightning and the victims seized."
Then Pope made a grimace. "No; the analogy is trim enough, but
the lines lack fervor. It is deplorable how much easier it is to
express any emotion other than that of which one is actually
conscious." Pope had torn the paper half-through before he reflected
that it would help to fill a printed page. He put it in his pocket.
"But, come now, I am writing to Lady Mary this afternoon. You know
how she loves oddities. Between us—with prose as the medium, of
course, since verse should, after all, confine itself to the
commemoration of heroes and royal persons—I believe we might make of
this occurrence a neat and moving pastorelle—I should say, pastoral,
of course, but my wits are wool- gathering."
Mr. Gay had the kindest heart in the universe. Yet he, also, had
dreamed of the perfected phrase, so worded that to alter a syllable of
its wording would be little short of sacrilege. Eyes kindling, he
took up a pen. "Yes, yes, I understand. Egad, it is an admirable
subject. But, then, I don't believe I ever saw these lovers——?"
"John was a well-set man of about five-and-twenty," replied Mr.
Pope; "and Sarah was a brown woman of eighteen years, three months and
Then these two dipped their pens and set about a moving
composition, which has to-day its proper rating among Mr. Pope's
"But that sense of negation, of theoretic insecurity, which was in
the air, conspiring with what was of like tendency in himself, made of
Lord UFFORD a central type of disillusion. . . . He had been amiable
because the general betise of humanity did not in his opinion greatly
matter, after all; and in reading these `SATIRES' it is well-nigh
painful to witness the blind and naked forces of nature and
circumstance surprising him in the uncontrollable movements of his
own so carefully guarded heart."
Why is a handsome wife adored
By every coxcomb but her lord?
From yonder puppet-man inquire
Who wisely hides his wood and wire;
Shows Sheba's queen completely dress'd
And Solomon in royal vest;
But view them litter'd on the floor,
Or strung on pegs behind the door,
Punch is exactly of a piece
With Lorrain's duke, and prince of Greece.
HORACE CALVERLEY. Petition
to the Duke of Ormskirk.
PRO HONORIA In the early winter of 1761 the Earl of Bute, then
Secretary of State, gave vent to an outburst of unaccustomed
profanity. Mr. Robert Calverley, who represented England at the Court
of St. Petersburg, had resigned his office without prelude or any word
of explanation. This infuriated Bute, since his pet scheme was to
make peace with Russia and thereby end the Continental War. Now all
was to do again; the minister raged, shrugged, furnished a new
emissary with credentials, and marked Calverley's name for
As much, indeed, was written to Calverley by Lord Ufford, the
poet, diarist, musician and virtuoso:
Our Scottish Mortimer, it appears, is unwilling to have the map of
Europe altered because Mr. Robert Calverley has taken a whim to go
into Italy. He is angrier than I have ever known him to be. He
swears that with a pen's flourish you have imperiled the well- being
of England, and raves in the same breath of the preferment he had
designed for you. Beware of him. For my own part, I shrug and
acquiesce, because I am familiar with your pranks. I merely venture
to counsel that you do not crown the Pelion of abuse, which our
statesmen are heaping upon you, with the Ossa of physical as well as
political suicide. Hasten on your Italian jaunt, for Umfraville, who
is now with me at Carberry Hill, has publicly declared that if you
dare re-appear in England he will have you horsewhipped by his
footmen. In consequence, I would most earnestly advise——
Mr. Calverley read no further, but came straightway into England.
He had not been in England since his elopement, three years before
that spring, with the Marquis of Umfraville's betrothed, Lord Radnor's
daughter, whom Calverley had married at Calais. Mr. Calverley and
his wife were presently at Carberry Hill, Lord Ufford's home, where,
arriving about moon-rise, they found a ball in progress.
Their advent caused a momentary check to merriment. The fiddlers
ceased, because Lord Ufford had signaled them. The fine guests paused
in their stately dance. Lord Ufford, in a richly figured suit, came
hastily to Lady Honoria Calverley, his high heels tapping audibly
upon the floor, and with gallantry lifted her hand toward his lips.
Her husband he embraced, and the two men kissed each other, as was
the custom of the age. Chatter and laughter rose on every side as pert
and merry as the noises of a brook in springtime.
"I fear that as Lord Umfraville's host," young Calverley at once
began, "you cannot with decorum convey to the ignoramus my opinion as
to his ability to conjugate the verb TO DARE."
"Why, but no! you naturally demand a duel," the poet-earl
returned. "It is very like you. I lament your decision, but I will
attempt to arrange the meeting for to-morrow morning."
Lord Ufford smiled and nodded to the musicians. He finished the
dance to admiration, as this lean dan- dified young man did
everything—"assiduous to win each fool's applause," as his own verses
scornfully phrase it. Then Ufford went about his errand of death and
conversed for a long while with Umfraville.
Afterward Lord Ufford beckoned to Calverley, who shrugged and
returned Mr. Erwyn's snuff-box, which Calverley had been admiring. He
followed the earl into a side-room opening upon the Venetian Chamber
wherein the fete was. Ufford closed the door. You saw that he had
put away the exterior of mirth that hospitality demanded of him, and
perturbation showed in the lean countenance which was by ordinary so
proud and so amiably peevish.
"Robin, you have performed many mad actions in your life!" he
said; "but this return into the three kingdoms out-Herods all! Did I
not warn you against Umfraville!"
"Why, certainly you did," returned Mr. Calverley. "You informed
me—which was your duty as a friend—of this curmudgeon's boast that
he would have me horsewhipped if I dared venture into England. You
will readily conceive that any gentleman of self- respect cannot
permit such farcical utterances to be delivered without appending a
gladiatorial epilogue. Well! what are the conditions of this duel?"
"Oh, fool that I have been!" cried Ufford, who was enabled now by
virtue of their seclusion to manifest his emotion. "I, who have known
you all your life——!"
He paced the room. Pleading music tinged the silence almost
"Heh, Fate has an imperial taste in humor!" the poet said.
"Robin, we have been more than brothers. And it is I, I, of all
persons living, who have drawn you into this imbroglio!"
"My danger is not very apparent as yet," said Cal- verley, "if
Umfraville controls his sword no better than his tongue."
My lord of Ufford went on: "There is no question of a duel. It
is as well to spare you what Lord Um- fraville replied to my
challenge. Let it suffice that we do not get sugar from the snake.
Besides, the man has his grievance. Robin, have you forgot that
neck- lace you and Pevensey took from Umfraville some three years
ago—before you went into Russia?"
Calverley laughed. The question recalled an old hot-headed time
when, exalted to a frolicsome zone by the discovery of Lady Honoria
Pomfret's love for him, he planned the famous jest which he and the
mad Earl of Pevensey perpetrated upon Umfraville. This masquerade
won quick applause. Persons of ton guffawed like ploughboys over the
discomfiture of an old hunks thus divertingly stripped of his bride,
all his betrothal gifts, and of the very clothes he wore. An
anonymous scribbler had detected in the occurrence a denouement
suited to the stage and had constructed a comedy around it, which,
when produced by the Duke's company, had won acclaim from hilarious
So Calverley laughed heartily. "Gad, what a jest that was! This
Umfraville comes to marry Honoria. And highwaymen attack his coach!
I would give L50 to have witnessed this usurer's arrival at Denton
Honor in his underclothes! and to have seen his monkey-like grimaces
when he learned that Honoria and I were already across the Channel!"
"You robbed him, though——"
"Indeed, for beginners at peculation we did not do so badly. We
robbed him and his valet of everything in the coach, including their
breeches. You do not mean that Pevensey has detained the poor man's
wedding trousers? If so, it is unfortunate, because this loud-
mouthed miser has need of them in order that he may be handsomely
"Lord Umfraville's wedding-suit was stuffed with straw, hung on a
pole and paraded through London by Pevensey, March, Selwyn and some
dozen other madcaps, while six musicians marched before them. The
clothes were thus conveyed to Umfraville's house. I think none of us
would have relished a joke like that were he the butt of it."
Now the poet's lean countenance was turned upon young Calverley,
and as always, Ufford evoked that nobility in Calverley which follies
veiled but had not ever killed.
"Egad," said Robert Calverley; "I grant you that all this was
infamously done. I never authorized it. I shall kill Pevensey.
Indeed, I will do more," he added, with a flourish. "For I will
apologize to Umfraville, and this very night."
But Ufford was not disposed to levity. "Let us come to the
point," he sadly said. "Pevensey returned everything except the
necklace which Umfraville had intended to be his bridal gift.
Pevensey conceded the jest, in fine; and denied all knowledge of any
It was an age of accommodating morality. Calverley sketched a
whistle, and showed no other trace of astonishment.
"I see. The fool confided in the spendthrift. My dear, I
understand. In nature Pevensey gave the gems to some nymph of
Sadler's Wells or Covent Garden. For I was out of England. And so he
capped his knavery with insolence. It is an additional reason why
Pevensey should not live to scratch a gray head. It is, however, an
affront to me that Umfraville should have believed him. I doubt if I
may overlook that, Horace?"
"I question if he did believe. But, then, what help had he? This
Pevensey is an earl. His person as a peer of England is inviolable.
No statute touches him directly, because he may not be confined
except by the King's personal order. And it is tolerably notorious
that Pevensey is in Lord Bute's pay, and that our Scottish Mortimer,
to do him justice, does not permit his spies to be injured."
Now Mr. Calverley took snuff. The music without was now more
audible, and it had shifted to a merrier tune.
"I think I comprehend. Pevensey and I—whatever were our
motives—have committed a robbery. Pevensey, as the law runs, is
safe. I, too, was safe as long as I kept out of England. As matters
stand, Lord Umfraville intends to press a charge of theft against me.
And I am in disgrace with Bute, who is quite content to beat
offenders with a crooked stick. This confluence of two-penny
accidents is annoying."
"It is worse than you know," my lord of Ufford returned. He
opened the door which led to the Venetian Chamber. A surge of music,
of laughter, and of many lights invaded the room wherein they stood.
"D'ye see those persons, just past Umfraville, so inadequately
disguised as gentlemen? They are from Bow Street. Lord Umfraville
intends to apprehend you here to- night."
"He has an eye for the picturesque," drawled Cal- verley. "My
tragedy, to do him justice, could not be staged more strikingly.
Those additional alcoves have improved the room beyond belief. I
must apologize for not having rendered my compliments a trifle
Internally he outstormed Termagaunt. It was in- famous enough, in
all conscience, to be arrested, but to have half the world of fashion
as witnessess of ones discomfiture was perfectly intolerable. He
recognized the excellent chance he had of being the most prominent
figure upon some scaffold before long, but that contingency did not
greatly trouble Calverley, as set against the certainty of being made
ridiculous within the next five minutes.
In consequence, he frowned and rearranged the fall of his
shirt-frill a whit the more becomingly.
"Yes, for hate sharpens every faculty," the earl went on. "Even
Umfraville understands that you do not fear death. So he means to
have you tried like any common thief while all your quondam friends
sit and snigger. And you will be convicted——"
"Why, necessarily, since I am not as Pevensey. Of course, I must
confess I took the necklace."
"And Pevensey must stick to the tale that he knows nothing of any
necklace. Dear Robin, this means Newgate. Accident deals very hardly
with us, Robin, for this means Tyburn Hill."
"Yes; I suppose it means my death," young Calverley assented.
"Well! I have feasted with the world and found its viands excellent.
The banquet ended, I must not grumble with my host because I find his
choice of cordials not altogether to my liking." Thus speaking, he
was aware of nothing save that the fiddlers were now about an air to
which he had often danced with his dear wife.
"I have a trick yet left to save our honor,——" Lord Ufford
turned to a table where wine and glasses were set ready. "I propose a
toast. Let us drink—for the last time—to the honor of the
"It is an invitation I may not decorously refuse. And yet—it may
be that I do not understand you?"
My lord of Ufford poured wine into two glasses. These glasses were
from among the curios he collected so industriously—tall, fragile
things, of seventeenth century make, very intricately cut with roses
and thistles, and in the bottom of each glass a three-penny piece was
embedded. Lord Ufford took a tiny vial from his pocket and emptied
its contents into the glass which stood the nearer to Mr. Calverley.
"This is Florence water. We dabblers in science are experimenting
with it at Gresham College. A taste of it means death—a painless,
quick and honorable death. You will have died of a heart seizure.
Come, Robin, let us drink to the honor of the Calverleys."
The poet-earl paused for a little while. Now he was like some
seer of supernal things.
"For look you," said Lord Ufford, "we come of honorable blood. We
two are gentlemen. We have our code, and we may not infringe upon it.
Our code does not invariably square with reason, and I doubt if
Scripture would afford a dependable foundation. So be it! We have
our code and we may not infringe upon it. There have been many
Calverleys who did not fear their God, but there was never any one of
them who did not fear dishonor. I am the head of no less proud a
house. As such, I counsel you to drink and die within the moment.
It is not possible a Calverley survive dishonor. Oh, God!" the poet
cried, and his voice broke; "and what is honor to this clamor within
me! Robin, I love you better than I do this talk of honor! For,
Robin, I have loved you long! so long that what we do to-night will
always make life hideous to me!"
Calverley was not unmoved, but he replied in the tone of daily
intercourse. "It is undoubtedly absurd to perish here, like some
unreasonable adversary of the Borgias. Your device is rather
outrageously horrific, Horace, like a bit out of your own
romance—yes, egad, it is pre-eminently worthy of the author of The
Vassal of Spalatro. Still I can understand that it is preferable to
having fat and greasy fellows squander a shilling for the privilege of
perching upon a box while I am being hanged. And I think I shall
accept your toast—
"You will be avenged," Ufford said, simply.
"My dear, as if I ever questioned that! Of course, you will kill
Pevensey first and Umfraville afterward. Only I want to live. For I
was meant to play a joyous role wholeheartedly in the big comedy of
life. So many people find the world a dreary residence," Mr.
Calverley sighed, "that it is really a pity some one of these
long-faced stolidities cannot die now instead of me. For I have found
life wonderful throughout."
The brows of Ufford knit. "Would you consent to live as a
transported felon? I have much money. I need not tell you the last
penny is at your disposal. It might be possible to bribe. Indeed,
Lord Bute is all-powerful to-day and he would perhaps procure a
pardon for you at my entreaty. He is so kind as to admire my
scribblings. . . Or you might live among your fellow-convicts
somewhere over sea for a while longer. I had not thought that such
would be your choice——" Here Ufford shrugged, restrained by
courtesy. "Besides, Lord Bute is greatly angered with you, because
you have endangered his Russian alliance. However, if you wish it, I
"Oh, for that matter, I do not much fear Lord Bute, because I
bring him the most welcome news he has had in many a day. I may tell
you since it will be public to- morrow. The Tzaritza Elizabeth, our
implacable enemy, died very suddenly three weeks ago. Peter of
Holstein- Gottrop reigns to-day in Russia, and I have made terms with
him. I came to tell Lord Bute the Cossack troops have been recalled
from Prussia. The war is at an end." Young Calverley meditated and
gave his customary boyish smile. "Yes, I discharged my Russian
mission after all—even after I had formally relinquished it—
because I was so opportunely aided by the accident of the Tzaritza's
death. And Bute cares only for results. So I would explain to him
that I resigned my mission simply because in Russia my wife could not
have lived out another year——"
The earl exclaimed, "Then Honoria is ill!" Mr. Calverley did not
attend, but stood looking out into the Venetian Chamber.
"See, Horace, she is dancing with Anchester while I wait here so
near to death. She dances well. But Honoria does everything
adorably. I cannot tell you— oh, not even you!—how happy these
three years have been with her. Eh, well! the gods are jealous of
such happiness. You will remember how her mother died? It appears
that Honoria is threatened with a slow consumption, and a death such
as her mother's was. She does not know. There was no need to
frighten her. For although the rigors of another Russian winter, as
all physicians tell me, would inevitably prove fatal to her, there is
no reason why my dearest dear should not continue to laugh just as she
always does—for a long, bright and happy while in some warm climate
such as Italy's. In nature I resigned my appointment. I did not
consider England, or my own trivial future, or anything of that sort.
I considered only Honoria."
He gazed for many moments upon the woman whom he loved. His
speech took on an odd simplicity.
"Oh, yes, I think that in the end Bute would pro- cure a pardon
for me. But not even Bute can override the laws of England. I would
have to be tried first, and have ballads made concerning me, and be
condemned, and so on. That would detain Honoria in England, because
she is sufficiently misguided to love me. I could never persuade her
to leave me with my life in peril. She could not possibly survive an
English winter." Here Calverley evinced unbridled mirth. "The irony
of events is magnificent. There is probably no question of hanging or
even of transportation. It is merely certain that if I venture from
this room I bring about Honoria's death as incontestably as if I
strangled her with these two hands. So I choose my own death in
preference. It will grieve Honoria——" His voice was not completely
steady. "But she is young. She will forget me, for she forgets
easily, and she will be happy. I look to you to see—even before you
have killed Pevensey—that Honoria goes into Italy. For she admires
and loves you, almost as much as I do, Horace, and she will readily be
guided by you——"
He cried my lord of Ufford's given name some two or three times,
for young Calverley had turned, and he had seen Ufford's face.
The earl moistened his lips. "You are a fool," he said, with a
thin voice. "Why do you trouble me by being better than I? Or do you
only posture for my benefit? Do you deal honestly with me, Robert
Cal- verley?—then swear it——" He laughed here, very horribly.
"Ah, no, when did you ever lie! You do not lie—not you!"
He waited for a while. "But I am otherwise. I dare to lie when
the occasion promises. I have desired Honoria since the first moment
wherein I saw her. I may tell you now. I think that you do not
remember. We gathered cherries. I ate two of them which had just
lain upon her knee——"
His hands had clenched each other, and his lips were drawn back so
that you saw his exquisite teeth, which were ground together. He
stood thus for a little, silent.
Then Ufford began again: "I planned all this. I plotted this
with Umfraville. I wrote you such a let- ter as would inevitably draw
you to your death. I wished your death. For Honoria would then be
freed of you. I would condole with her. She is readily comforted,
impatient of sorrow, incapable of it, I dare say. She would have
married me. . . . Why must I tell you this? Oh, I am Fate's buffoon!
For I have won, I have won! and there is that in me which will not
accept the stake I cheated for."
"And you," said Calverley—"this thing is you!"
"A helpless reptile now," said Ufford. "I have not the power to
check Lord Umfraville in his vengeance. You must be publicly
disgraced, and must, I think, be hanged even now when it will not
benefit me at all. It may be I shall weep for that some day! Or else
Honoria must die, because an archangel could not persuade her to
desert you in your peril. For she loves you—loves you to the full
extent of her merry and shallow nature. Oh, I know that, as you will
never know it. I shall have killed Honoria! I shall not weep when
Honoria dies. Harkee, Robin! they are dancing yonder. It is odd to
think that I shall never dance again."
"Horace—!" the younger man said, like a person of two minds. He
seemed to choke. He gave a frantic gesture. "Oh, I have loved you.
I have loved nothing as I have loved you."
"And yet you chatter of your passion for Honoria!" Lord Ufford
returned, with a snarl. "I ask what proof is there of this?—Why,
that you have surrendered your well-being in this world through love
of her. But I gave what is vital. I was an honorable gentleman
without any act in all my life for which I had need to blush. I
loved you as I loved no other being in the universe." He spread his
hands, which now twitched horribly. "You will never understand. It
does not matter. I desired Honoria. To-day through my desire of
her, I am that monstrous thing which you alone know me to be. I think
I gave up much. Pro honoria!" he chuckled. "The Latin halts, but,
none the less, the jest is excellent."
"You have given more than I would dare to give," said Calverley.
"And to no end!" cried Ufford. "Ah, fate, the devil and that code
I mocked are all in league to cheat me!"
Said Calverley: "The man whom I loved most is dead. Oh, had the
world been searched between the sunrise and the sunsetting there had
not been found his equal. And now, poor fool, I know that there was
never any man like this!"
"Nay, there was such a man," the poet said, "in an old time which
I almost forget. To-day he is quite dead. There is only a poor
wretch who has been faithless in all things, who has not even served
the devil faithfully."
"Why, then, you lackey with a lackey's soul, attend to what I say.
Can you make any terms with Umfraville?"
"I can do nothing," Ufford replied. "You have robbed him—as
me—of what he most desired. You have made him the laughing-stock of
England. He does not pardon any more than I would pardon."
"And as God lives and reigns, I do not greatly blame him," said
young Calverley. "This man at least was wronged. Concerning you I do
not speak, because of a false dream I had once very long ago. Yet
Umfraville was treated infamously. I dare concede what I could not
permit another man to say and live, now that I drink a toast which I
must drink alone. For I drink to the honor of the Calverleys. I have
not ever lied to any person in this world, and so I may not drink with
"Oh, but you drink because you know your death to be the one event
which can insure her happiness," cried Ufford. "We are not much
unlike. And I dare say it is only an imaginary Honoria we love, after
all. Yet, look, my fellow-Ixion! for to the eye at least is she not
The two men gazed for a long while. Amid that coterie of
exquisites, wherein allusion to whatever might he ugly in the world
was tacitly allowed to be unmentionable, Lady Honoria glitteringly
went about the moment's mirthful business with lovely ardor. You saw
now unmistakably that "Light Queen of Elfdom, dead Titania's heir" of
whom Ufford writes in the fourth Satire. Honoria's prettiness,
rouged, frail, and modishly enhanced, allured the eye from all less
elfin brilliancies; and as she laughed among so many other relishers
of life her charms became the more instant, just as a painting
quickens in every tint when set in an appropriate frame.
"There is no other way," her husband said. He drank and toasted
what was dearest in the world, smiling to think how death came to him
in that wine's familiar taste. "I drink to the most lovely of created
ladies! and to her happiness!"
He snapped the stem of the glass and tossed it joy- ously aside.
"Assuredly, there is no other way," said Ufford. "And armored by
that knowledge, even I may drink as honorable people do. Pro
honoria!" Then this man also broke his emptied glass.
"How long have I to live?" said Calverley, and took snuff.
"Why, thirty years, I think, unless you duel too immoderately,"
replied Lord Ufford,—"since while you looked at Honoria I changed our
glasses. No! no! a thing done has an end. Besides, it is not
unworthy of me. So go boldly to the Earl of Bute and tell him all.
You are my cousin and my successor. Yes, very soon you, too, will be
a peer of England and as safe from molestation as is Lord Pevensey. I
am the first to tender my congratulations. Now I make certain that
they are not premature."
The poet laughed at this moment as a man may laugh in hell. He
reeled. His lean face momentarily contorted, and afterward the poet
"I am Lord Ufford," said Calverley aloud. "The person of a peer
is inviolable——" He presently looked downward from rapt gazing at
Fresh from this horrible half-hour, he faced a fu- ture so
alluring as by its beauty to intimidate him. Youth, love, long years
of happiness, and (by this capricious turn) now even opulence, were
the in- gredients of a captivating vista. And yet he needs must
pause a while to think of the dear comrade he had lost—of that loved
boy, his pattern in the time of their common youthfulness which
gleamed in memory as bright and misty as a legend, and of the perfect
chevalier who had been like a touchstone to Robert Cal- verley a bare
half-hour ago. He knelt, touched lightly the fallen jaw, and lightly
kissed the cheek of this poor wreckage; and was aware that the caress
was given with more tenderness than Robert Calverley had shown in the
same act a bare half-hour ago.
Meanwhile the music of a country dance urged the new Earl of
Ufford to come and frolic where every one was laughing; and to partake
with gusto of the benefits which chance had provided; and to be
forthwith as merry as was decorous in a peer of England. THE
"But after SHERIDAN had risen to a commanding position in the gay
life of London, he rather disliked to be known as a playwright or a
poet, and preferred to be regarded as a statesman and a man of fashion
who `set the pace' in all pastimes of the opulent and idle. Yet,
whatever he really thought of his own writings, and whether or not he
did them, as Stevenson used to say, `just for fun,' the fact remains
that he was easily the most distinguished and brilliant dramatist of
an age which produced in SHERIDAN'S solemn vagaries one of its most
characteristic products." Look on this form,—where humor, quaint and
sly, Dimples the cheek, and points the beaming eye; Where gay
invention seems to boast its wiles In amorous hint, and
half-triumphant smiles. Look on her well—does she seem form'd to
teach? Should you expect to hear this lady preach? Is gray
experience suited to her youth? Do solemn sentiments become that
mouth? Bid her be grave, those lips should rebel prove To every theme
that slanders mirth or love. RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. Second
Prologue to The Rivals. THE IRRESISTIBLE OGLE The devotion of Mr.
Sheridan to the Dean of Winchester's daughter, Miss Esther Jane
Ogle—or "the irresistible Ogle," as she was toasted at the Kit-cat—
was now a circumstance to be assumed in the polite world of London.
As a result, when the parliamentarian followed her into Scotland, in
the spring of 1795, people only shrugged.
"Because it proves that misery loves company," was Mr. Fox's
observation at Wattier's, hard upon two in the morning. "Poor Sherry,
as an inconsolable widower, must naturally have some one to share his
grief. He perfectly comprehends that no one will lament the death of
his wife more fervently than her successor."
In London Mr. Fox thus worded his interpretation of the matter;
and spoke, oddly enough, at the very moment that in Edinburgh Mr.
Sheridan returned to his lodgings in Abercromby Place, deep in the
reminiscences of a fortunate evening at cards. In consequence, Mr.
Sheridan entered the room so quietly that the young man who was
employed in turning over the contents of the top bureau-drawer was
But in the marauder's nature, as far as resolution went, was
little lacking. "Silence!" he ordered, and with the mandate a pistol
was leveled upon the rep- resentative for the borough of Stafford.
"One cry for help, and you perish like a dog. I warn you that I am
a desperate man."
"Now, even at a hazard of discourtesy, I must make bold to
question your statement," said Mr. Sheridan, "although, indeed, it is
not so much the recklessness as the masculinity which I dare call into
He continued, in his best parliamentary manner, a happy blending
of reproach, omniscience and pardon. "Only two months ago," said Mr.
Sheridan, "I was so fortunate as to encounter a lady who, alike
through the attractions of her person and the sprightliness of her
conversation, convinced me I was on the road to fall in love after
the high fashion of a popular romance. I accordingly make her a
declaration. I am rejected. I besiege her with the customary
artillery of sonnets, bouquets, serenades, bonbons, theater-tickets
and threats of suicide. In fine, I contract the habit of proposing
to Miss Ogle on every Wednesday; and so strong is my infatuation that
I follow her as far into the north as Edinburgh in order to secure my
eleventh rejection at half-past ten last evening."
"I fail to understand," remarked the burglar, "how all this prolix
account of your amours can possibly concern me."
"You are at least somewhat involved in the deplor- able climax,"
Mr. Sheridan returned. "For behold! at two in the morning I discover
the object of my adoration and the daughter of an estimable prelate,
most calumniously clad and busily employed in rumpling my supply of
cravats. If ever any lover was thrust into a more ambiguous position,
madam, historians have touched on his dilemma with marked reticence."
He saw—and he admired—the flush which mounted to his visitor's
brow. And then, "I must concede that appearances are against me, Mr,
Sheridan," the beau- tiful intruder said. "And I hasten to protest
that my presence in your apartments at this hour is prompted by no
unworthy motive. I merely came to steal the famous diamond which you
brought from London—the Honor of Eiran."
"Incomparable Esther Jane," ran Mr. Sheridan's answer, "that stone
is now part of a brooch which was this afternoon returned to my
cousin's, the Earl of Eiran's, hunting-lodge near Melrose. He intends
the gem which you are vainly seeking among my haberdashery to be the
adornment of his promised bride in the ensuing June. I confess to no
overwhelming admiration as concerns this raucous if meritorious young
person; and will even concede that the thought of her becoming my
kinswoman rouses in me an inevitable distaste, no less attributable to
the discord of her features than to the source of her eligibility to
disfigure the peerage—that being her father's lucrative transactions
in Pork, which I find indigestible in any form."
"A truce to paltering!" Miss Ogle cried. "That jewel was stolen
from the temple at Moorshedabad, by the Earl of Eiran's grandfather,
during the confusion necessarily attendant on the glorious battle of
Plassy." She laid down the pistol, and resumed in milder tones:
"From an age-long existence as the left eye of Ganesh it was thus
converted into the loot of an invader. To restore this diamond to its
lawful, although no doubt polygamous and inefficiently-attired
proprietors is at this date impossible. But, oh! what claim have you
to its possession?"
"Why, none whatever," said the parliamentarian; "and to contend as
much would be the apex of unreason. For this diamond belongs, of
course, to my cousin the Earl of Eiran——"
"As a thief's legacy!" She spoke with signs of irritation.
"Eh, eh, you go too fast! Eiran, to do him justice, is not a
graduate in peculation. At worst, he is only the sort of fool one's
cousins ordinarily are."
The trousered lady walked to and fro for a while, with the
impatience of a caged lioness. "I perceive I must go more deeply into
matters," Miss Ogle remarked, and, with that habitual gesture which he
fondly recognized, brushed back a straying lock of hair. "In any
event," she continued, "you cannot with reason deny that the world's
wealth is inequitably distributed?"
"Madam," Mr. Sheridan returned, "as a member of Parliament, I have
necessarily made it a rule never to understand political economy. It
is as apt as not to prove you are selling your vote to the wrong side
of the House, and that hurts one's conscience."
"Ah, that is because you are a man. Men are not practical. None
of you has ever dared to insist on his opinion about anything until he
had secured the cowardly corroboration of a fact or so to endorse him.
It is a pity. Yet, since through no fault of yours your sex is
invariably misled by its hallucinations as to the importance of being
rational, I will refrain from logic and statistics. In a word, I
simply inform you that I am a member of the League of Philanthropic
"I had not previously heard of this organization," said Mr.
Sheridan, and not without suspecting his response to be a masterpiece
in the inadequate.
"Our object is the benefit of society at large," Miss Ogle
explained; "and our obstacles so far have been, in chief, the fetish
of proprietary rights and the ubiquity of the police."
And with that she seated herself and told him of the league's
inception by a handful of reflective persons, admirers of Rousseau and
converts to his tenets, who were resolved to better the circumstances
of the indigent. With amiable ardor Miss Ogle explained how from the
petit larcenies of charity-balls and personally solicited
subscriptions the league had mounted to an ampler field of
depredation; and through what means it now took toll from every form
of wealth unrighteously acquired. Divertingly she described her
personal experiences in the separation of usurers, thieves,
financiers, hereditary noblemen, popular authors, and other social
parasites, from the ill-got profits of their disreputable vocations.
And her account of how, on the preceding Tuesday, she,
single-handed, had robbed Sir Alexander McRae—who then enjoyed a
fortune and an enviable reputation for philanthropy, thanks to the
combination of glucose, vitriol and other chemicals which he prepared
under the humorous pretext of manufacturing beer—wrung high
encomiums from Mr. Sheridan.
"The proceeds of these endeavors," Miss Ogle added, "are
conscientiously devoted to ameliorating the condition of meritorious
paupers. I would be happy to submit to you our annual report. Then
you may judge for yourself how many families we have snatched from
the depths of poverty and habitual intoxication to the comparative
comfort of a vine-embowered cottage."
Mr. Sheridan replied: "I have not ever known of any case where
adoration needed an affidavit for foundation. Oh, no, incomparable
Esther Jane! I am not in a position to be solaced by the reports of a
corresponding secretary. I gave my heart long since; to-night I
fling my confidence into the bargain; and am resolved to serve
wholeheartedly the cause to which you are devoted. In consequence, I
venture to propose my name for membership in the enterprise you
advocate and indescribably adorn."
Miss Ogle was all one blush, such was the fervor of his utterance.
"But first you must win your spurs, Mr. Sheridan. I confess you are
not abhorrent to me," she hurried on, "for you are the most
fascinatingly hideous man I have ever seen; and it was always the
apprehension that you might look on burglary as an unmaidenly
avocation which has compelled me to discourage your addresses. Now
all is plain; and should you happen to distinguish yourself in robbery
of the criminally opulent, you will have, I believe, no reason to
complain of a twelfth refusal. I cannot modestly say more."
He laughed. "It is a bargain. We will agree that I bereave some
person of either stolen or unearned property, say, to the value of
L10,000——" And with his usual carefulness in such matters, Mr.
Sheridan entered the wager in his notebook.
She yielded him her hand in token of assent. And he, depend upon
it, kissed that velvet trifle fondly.
"And now," said Mr. Sheridan, "to-morrow we will visit Bemerside
and obtain possession of that crystal which is in train to render me
the happiest of men. The task will be an easy one, as Eiran is now in
England, and his servants for the most part are my familiars."
"I agree to your proposal," she answered. "But this diamond is my
allotted quarry; and any assistance you may render me in procuring it
will not, of course, affect in any way our bargain. On this
point"—she spoke with a break of laughter—"I am as headstrong as an
allegory on the banks of the Nile."
"To quote an author to his face," lamented Mr. Sheridan, "is
bribery as gross as it is efficacious. I must unwillingly consent to
your exorbitant demands, for you are, as always, the irresistible
Miss Ogle bowed her gratitude; and, declining Mr. Sheridan's
escort, for fear of arousing gossip by being seen upon the street with
him at this late hour, pre- ferred to avoid any appearance of
indecorum by climbing down the kitchen roof.
When she had gone, Mr. Sheridan very gallantly attempted a set of
verses. But the Muse was not to be wooed to-night, and stayed
Mr. Sheridan reflected, rather forlornly, that he wrote nothing
nowadays. There was, of course, his great comedy, Affectation, his
masterpiece which he meant to finish at one time or another; yet, at
the bottom of his heart, he knew that he would never finish it. But,
then, deuce take posterity! for to have written the best comedy, the
best farce, and the best burlesque as well, that England had ever
known, was a very prodigal wiping-out of every obligation toward
posterity. Boys thought a deal about posterity, as he remembered;
but a sensible man would bear in mind that all this world's
delicacies—its merry diversions, its venison and old wines, its
handsomely-bound books and fiery-hearted jewels and sumptuous
clothings, all its lovely things that can be touched and handled, and
more especially its ear-tickling applause—were to be won, if ever,
from one's contemporaries. And people were generous toward social,
rather than literary, talents for the sensible reason that they
derived more pleasure from an agreeable companion at dinner than from
having a rainy afternoon rendered endurable by some book or another.
So the parliamentarian sensibly went to bed.
Miss, Ogle during this Scottish trip was accom- panied by her
father, the venerable Dean of Winchester. The Dean, although in all
things worthy of implicit confidence, was not next day informed of the
intended expedition, in deference to public opinion, which, as Miss
Ogle pointed out, regards a clergyman's participation in a technical
felony with disapproval.
Miss Ogle, therefore, radiant in a becoming gown of pink
lute-string, left Edinburgh the following morning under cover of a
subterfuge, and with Mr. Sheridan as her only escort. He was at pains
to adorn this role with so many happy touches of courtesy and
amiability that their confinement in the postchaise appeared to both
of incredible brevity.
When they had reached Melrose another chaise was ordered to convey
them to Bemerside; and pending its forthcoming Mr. Sheridan and Miss
Ogle strolled among the famous ruins of Melrose Abbey. The
parliamentarian had caused his hair to be exuberantly curled that
morning, and figured to advantage in a plum-colored coat and a
saffron waistcoat sprigged with forget-me- nots. He chatted
entertainingly concerning the Second Pointed style of architecture;
translated many of the epitaphs; and was abundant in interesting
information as to Robert Bruce, and Michael Scott, and the rencounter
of Chevy Chase.
"Oh, but observe," said Mr. Sheridan, more lately, "our only
covering is the dome of heaven. Yet in their time these aisles were
populous, and here a score of generations have besought what earth
does not afford— now where the banners of crusaders waved the ivy
flutters, and there is no incense in this consecrated house except
the breath of the wild rose."
"The moral is an old one," she returned. "Mummy is become
merchandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams."
"You are a reader, madam?" he observed, with some surprise; and he
continued: "Indeed, my thoughts were on another trail. I was
considering that the demolishers of this place—those English armies,
those followers of John Knox—were actuated by the highest and most
laudable of motives. As a result we find the house of Heaven
converted into a dustheap."
"I believe you attempt an apologue," she said, indignantly. "Upon
my word, I think you would in- sinuate that philanthropy, when forced
to manifest itself through embezzlement, is a less womanly em-
ployment than the darning of stockings!"
"Whom the cap fits——" he answered, with a bow. "Indeed,
incomparable Esther Jane, I had said nothing whatever touching
hosiery; and it was equally remote from my intentions to set up as a
They lunched at Bemerside, where Mr. Sheridan was cordially
received by the steward, and a well-chosen repast was placed at their
"Fergus," Mr. Sheridan observed, as they chatted over their
dessert concerning famous gems—in which direction talk had been
adroitly steered"—Fergus, since we are on the topic, I would like to
show Miss Ogle the Honor of Eiran."
The Honor of Eiran was accordingly produced from a blue velvet
case, and was properly admired. Then, when the steward had been
dismissed to fetch a rare liqueur, Mr. Sheridan laughed, and tossed
and caught the jewel, as though he handled a cricket-ball. It was the
size of a pigeon's egg, and was set among eight gems of lesser
magnitude; and in transit through the sunlight the trinket flashed and
glittered with diabolical beauty. The parliamentarian placed three
bits of sugar in the velvet case and handed the gem to his companion.
"The bulk is much the same," he observed; "and whether the carbon
be crystallized or no, is the re- sponsibility of stratigraphic
geology. Fergus, per- haps, must go to jail. That is unfortunate.
But true philanthropy works toward the benefit of the greatest
number possible; and this resplendent pebble will purchase you
innumerable pounds of tea and a warehouseful of blankets."
"But, Mr. Sheridan," Miss Ogle cried, in horror, "to take this
brooch would not be honest!"
"Oh, as to that——!" he shrugged.
"——because Lord Eiran purchased all these lesser diamonds, and
very possibly paid for them."
Then Mr. Sheridan reflected, stood abashed, and said:
"Incomparable Esther Jane, I confess I am only a man. You are
entirely right. To purloin any of these little diamonds would be an
abominable action, whereas to make off with the only valuable one is
simply a stroke of retribution. I will, therefore, attempt to prise
it out with a nutpick."
Three constables came suddenly into the room. "We hae been tauld
this missy is a suspectit thieving body," their leader cried. "Esther
Jane Ogle, ye maun gae with us i' the law's name. Ou ay, lass, ye ken
weel eneugh wha robbit auld Sir Aleexander McRae, sae dinna ye say
naething tae your ain preejudice, lest ye hae tae account for it a'."
Mr. Sheridan rose to the occasion. "My exceedingly good friend,
Angus Howden! I am unwilling to concede that yeomen can excel in
gentlemanly accomplishments, but it is only charity to suppose all
three of you as drunk as any duke that ever honored me with his
acquaintance." This he drawled, and appeared magisterially to await
"Hout, Mr. Sheridan," commenced the leading representative of
justice, "let that flee stick i' the wa'— ye dinna mean tae tell me,
Sir, that ye are acquaintit wi' this—ou ay, tae pleasure ye, I micht
e'en say wi' this——"
"This lady, probably?" Mr. Sheridan hazarded.
"'Tis an unco thing," the constable declared, "but that wad be the
word was amaist at my tongue's tip."
"Why, undoubtedly," Mr. Sheridan assented. "I rejoice that, being
of French extraction, and uncon- versant with your somewhat cryptic
patois, the lady in question is the less likely to have been sickened
by your extravagances in the way of misapprehension. I candidly
confess such imbecility annoys me. What!" he cried out, "what if I
marry! is matrimony to be ranked with arson? And what if my cousin,
Eiran, affords me a hiding-place wherein to sneak through our
honeymoon after the cowardly fashion of all modern married couples!
Am I in consequence compelled to submit to the invasions of an
intoxicated constabulary?" His rage was terrific.
"Voila la seule devise. Ils me connaissent, ils ont confidence
dans moi. Si, taisez-vous! Si non, vous serez arretee et mise dans
la prison, comme une caractere suspicieuse!" Mr. Sheridan exhorted
Miss Ogle to this intent with more of earnestness than linguistic
perfection; and he rejoiced to see that in- stantly she caught at her
one chance of plausibly ac- counting for her presence at Bemerside,
and of effect- ing a rescue from this horrid situation.
"But I also spik the English," she sprightlily announced. "I am
appleed myself at to learn its by heart. Certainly you look for a
needle in a hay bundle, my gentlemans. I am no stealer of the grand
road, but the wife of Mistaire Sheridan, and her presence will say to
you the remains."
"You see!" cried Mr. Sheridan, in modest triumph. "In short, I am
a bridegroom unwarrantably interrupted in his first tete-a-tete, I am
responsible for this lady and all her past and its appurtenances; and,
in a phrase, for everything except the course of conduct I will
undoubtedly pursue should you be visible at the conclusion of the next
His emphasis was such that the police withdrew with a concomitant
"And now I claim my bond," said Mr. Sheridan, when they were once
again free from intrusion. "For we two are in Scotland, where the
common declaration of a man and woman that they are married
constitutes a marriage."
"Oh——!" she exclaimed, and stood encrimsoned.
"Indeed, I must confess that the day's work has been a trick
throughout. The diamond was pawned years ago. This trinket here is a
copy in paste and worth perhaps some seven shillings sixpence. And
those fellows were not constables, but just my cousin Eiran and two
footmen in disguise. Nay, madam, you will learn with experience that
to display unfailing candor is not without exception the price of
"But this, I think, evades our bargain, Mr. Sheridan. For you
were committed to pilfer property to the value of L10,000——"
"And to fulfil the obligation I have stolen your hand in marriage.
What, madam! do you indeed pretend that any person outside of Bedlam
would value you at less? Believe me, your perfections are of far more
worth. All persons recognize that save yourself, incomparable Esther
Jane; and yet, so patent is the proof of my contention, I dare to
leave the verdict to your sense of justice."
Miss Ogle did not speak. Her lashes fell as, with some ceremony,
he led her to the long French mirror which was in the breakfast room.
"See now!" said Mr. Sheridan. "You, who endanger life and fame in
order to provide a mendicant with gruel, tracts and blankets! You,
who deny a sop to the one hunger which is vital! Oh, madam, I am
tempted glibly to compare your eyes to sapphires, and your hair to
thin-spun gold, and the color of your flesh to the arbutus-flower—for
that, as you can see, would be within the truth, and it would please
most women, and afterward they would not be so obdurate. But you are
not like other women," Mr. Sheridan observed, with admirable
dexterity. "And I aspire to you, the irresistible Ogle! you, who so
great-heartedly befriend the beggar! you, who with such industry
contrive alleviation for the discomforts of poverty. Eh, eh! what
will you grant to any beggar such as I? Will you deny a sop to the
one hunger which is vital?" He spoke with unaccustomed vigor, even
in a sort of terror, because he knew that he was speaking with
"To the one hunger which is vital!" he repeated. "Ah, where lies
the secret which makes one face the dearest in the world, and entrusts
to one little hand a life's happiness as a plaything? All Aristotle's
learning could not unriddle the mystery, and Samson's thews were
impotent to break that spell. Love vanquishes all. . . . You would
remind me of some previous skirmishings with Venus's unconquerable
brat? Nay, madam, to the contrary, the fact that I have loved many
other women is my strongest plea for toleration. Were there nothing
else, it is indisputable we perform all actions better for having
rehearsed them. No, we do not of necessity perform them the more
thoughtlessly as well; for, indeed, I find that with experience a man
becomes increasingly difficult to please in affairs of the heart.
The woman one loves then is granted that pre-eminence not merely by
virtue of having outshone any particular one of her predecessors; oh,
no! instead, her qualities have been compared with all the charms of
all her fair forerunners, and they have endured that stringent
testing. The winning of an often-bartered heart is in reality the
only conquest which entitles a woman to complacency, for she has
received a real compliment; whereas to be selected as the target of a
lad's first declaration is a tribute of no more value than a man's
opinion upon vintages who has never tasted wine."
He took a turn about the breakfast room, then came near to her.
"I love you. Were there any way to parade the circumstance and
bedeck it with pleasing adornments of filed phrases, tropes and
far-fetched similes, I would not grudge you a deal of verbal
pageantry. But three words say all. I love you. There is no act in
my past life but appears trivial and strange to me, and to the man who
performed it I seem no more akin than to Mark Antony or
Nebuchadnezzar. I love you. The skies are bluer since you came, the
beauty of this world we live in oppresses me with a fearful joy, and
in my heart there is always the thought of you and such yearning as I
may not word. For I love you."
"You—but you have frightened me." Miss Ogle did not seem so
terrified as to make any effort to recede from him; and yet he saw
that she was frightened in sober earnest. Her face showed pale, and
soft, and glad, and awed, and desirable above all things; and it
remained so near him as to engender riotous aspirations.
"I love you," he said again. You would never have suspected this
man could speak, upon occasion, flu- ently. "I think—I think that
Heaven was prodigal when Heaven made you. To think of you is as if I
listened to an exalted music; and to be with you is to understand
that all imaginable sorrows are just the figments of a dream which I
had very long ago."
She laid one hand on each of his shoulders, facing him. "Do not
let me be too much afraid! I have not ever been afraid before. Oh,
everything is in a mist of gold, and I am afraid of you, and of the
big universe which I was born into, and I am helpless, and I would
have nothing changed! Only, I cannot believe I am worth L10,000, and
I do so want to be persuaded I am. It is a great pity," she sighed,
"that you who convicted Warren Hastings of stealing such enormous
wealth cannot be quite as eloquent to-day as you were in the Oudh
speech, and convince me his arraigner has been equally rapacious!"
"I mean to prove as much—with time," said Mr. Sheridan. His
breathing was yet perfunctory.
Miss Ogle murmured, "And how long would you require?"
"Why, I intend, with your permission, to devote the remainder of
my existence to the task. Eh, I concede that space too brief for any
adequate discussion of the topic; but I will try to be concise and
very prac- tical——"
She laughed. They were content. "Try, then——" Miss Ogle said.
She was able to get no farther in the sentence, for reasons which
to particularize would be indiscreet. A PRINCESS OF GRUB STREET
"Though—or, rather, because—VANDERHOFFEN was a child of the
French Revolution, and inherited his social, political and
religious—or, rather, anti- religious—views from the French writers
of the eighteenth century, England was not ready for him and the
unshackled individualism for which he at first contended. Recognizing
this fact, he turned to an order of writing begotten of the deepest
popular needs and addressed to the best intelligence of the great
middle classes of the community."
A PRINCESS OF GRUB STREET
Now emperors bide their times' rebuff
I would not be a king—enough
Of woe it is to love;
The paths of power are steep and rough,
And tempests reign above.
I would not climb the imperial throne;
'Tis built on ice which fortune's sun
Thaws in the height of noon.
Then farewell, kings, that squeak `Ha' done!'
To time's full-throated tune.
PAUL VANDERHOFFEN. Emma
A PRINCESS OF GRUB STREET It is questionable if the announcement of
the death of their Crown Prince, Hilary, upon the verge of his
accession to the throne, aroused more than genteel regret among the
inhabitants of Saxe-Kesselberg. It is indisputable that in diplomatic
circles news of this horrible occurrence was indirectly conceded in
1803 to smack of a direct intervention of Providence. For to
consider all the havoc dead Prince Fribble—such had been his
sobriquet—would have created, Dei gratia, through his pilotage of an
important grand-duchy (with an area of no less than eighty-nine square
miles) was less discomfortable now prediction was an academic matter.
And so the editors of divers papers were the victims of a decorous
anguish, court-mourning was decreed, and that wreckage which passed
for the mutilated body of Prince Hilary was buried with every
appropriate honor. Within the week most people had forgotten him,
for everybody was discussing the execution of the Duc d'Enghein. And
the aged unvenerable Grand-Duke of Saxe-Kesselberg died too in the
same March; and afterward his other grandson, Prince Augustus, reigned
in the merry old debauchee's stead.
Prince Hilary was vastly pleased. His scheme for evading the
tedious responsibilities of sovereignty had been executed without a
hitch; he was officially dead; and, on the whole, standing bareheaded
between a miller and laundress, he had found his funeral ceremonies to
be unimpeachably conducted. He assumed the name of Paul
Vanderhoffen, selected at random from the novel he was reading when
his postchaise conveyed him past the frontier of Saxe-Kesselberg.
Freed, penniless, and thoroughly content, he set about amusing
himself— having a world to frisk in—and incidentally about the
furnishing of his new friend Paul Vanderhoffen with life's
It was a little more than two years later that the good-natured
Earl of Brudenel suggested to Lady John Claridge that she could
nowhere find a more eligible tutor for her son than young
"Hasn't a shilling, ma'am, but one of the most popular men in
London. His poetry book was subscribed for by the Prince Regent and
half the notables of the kingdom. Capital company at a
dinner-table—stutters, begad, like a What-you-may-call-'em, and keeps
everybody in a roar—and when he's had his whack of claret, he sings
his own songs to the piano, you know, and all that sort of thing, and
has quite put Tommy Moore's nose out of joint. Nobody knows much
about him, but that don't matter with these literary chaps, does it
now? Goes everywhere, ma'am—quite a favorite at Carlton House—a
highly agreeable, well- informed man, I can assure you—and probably
hasn't a shilling to pay the cabman. Deuced odd, ain't it? But Lord
Lansdowne is trying to get him a place—spoke to me about a tutorship,
ma'am, in fact, just to keep Vanderhoffen going, until some
registrarship or other falls vacant. Now, I ain't clever and that
sort of thing, but I quite agree with Lansdowne that we practical men
ought to look out for these clever fellows—see that they don't starve
in a garret, like poor What's-his-name, don't you know?"
Lady Claridge sweetly agreed with her future son— in-law. So it
befell that shortly after this conversa- tion Paul Vanderhoffen came
to Leamington Manor, and through an entire summer goaded young
Percival Claridge, then on the point of entering Cambridge, but
pedagogically branded as "deficient in mathematics," through many
elaborate combinations of x and y and cosines and hyperbolas.
Lady John Claridge, mother to the pupil, approved of the new
tutor. True, he talked much and wildishly; but literary men had a
name for eccentricity, and, besides, Lady Claridge always dealt with
the opinions of other people as matters of illimitable unimportance.
This baronet's lady, in short, was in these days vouchsafing to the
universe at large a fine and new benevolence, now that her daughter
was safely engaged to Lord Brudenel, who, whatever his other virtues,
was certainly a peer of England and very rich. It seems irrelevant,
and yet for the tale's sake is noteworthy, that any room which
harbored Lady John Claridge was through this fact converted into an
And so, by the favor of Lady Claridge and destiny, the tutor
stayed at Leamington Manor all summer.
There was nothing in either the appearance or demeanor of the
fiancee of Lord Brudenel's title and superabundant wealth which any
honest gentleman could, hand upon his heart, describe as blatantly
It may not be denied the tutor noted this. In fine, he fell in
love with Mildred Claridge after a thorough-going fashion such as
Prince Fribble would have found amusing. Prince Fribble would have
smiled, shrugged, drawled, "Eh, after all, the girl is handsome and
deplorably cold-blooded!" Paul Vanderhoffen said, "I am not fit to
live in the same world with her," and wrote many verses in the
prevailing Oriental style rich in allusions to roses, and bulbuls, and
gazelles, and peris, and minarets—which he sold rather profitably.
Meanwhile, far oversea, the reigning Duke of Saxe- Kesselberg had
been unwise enough to quarrel with his Chancellor, Georges Desmarets,
an invaluable man whose only faults were dishonesty and a too intimate
acquaintance with the circumstances of Prince Hilary's demise. As
fruit of this indiscretion, an in- considerable tutor at Leamington
Manor—whom Lady John Claridge regarded as a sort of upper servant-was
talking with a visitor.
The tutor, it appeared, preferred to talk with the former
Chancellor of Saxe-Kesselberg in the middle of an open field. The
time was afternoon, the season September, and the west was
vaingloriously justifying the younger man's analogy of a gigantic
Spanish omelette. Meanwhile, the younger man declaimed in a
high-pitched pleasant voice, wherein there was, as al- ways, the
elusive suggestion of a stutter.
"I repeat to you," the tutor observed, "that no consideration will
ever make a grand-duke of me ex- cepting over my dead body. Why don't
you recommend some not quite obsolete vocation, such as making
papyrus, or writing an interesting novel, or teaching people how to
dance a saraband? For after all, what is a monarch nowadays—oh, even
a monarch of the first class?" he argued, with what came near being a
squeak of indignation. "The poor man is a rather pitiable and
perfectly useless relic of barbarism, now that 1789 has opened our
eyes; and his main business in life is to ride in open carriages and
bow to an applauding public who are applauding at so much per head.
He must expect to be aspersed with calumny, and once in a while with
bullets. He may at the utmost aspire to introduce an innovation in
evening dress,—the Prince Regent, for instance, has invented a really
very creditable shoe- buckle. Tradition obligates him to devote his
unofficial hours to sheer depravity——"
Paul Vanderhoffen paused to meditate.
"Why, there you are! another obstacle! I have in an inquiring
spirit and without prejudice sampled all the Seven Deadly Sins, and
the common increment was an inability to enjoy my breakfast. A
grand-duke I take it, if he have any sense of the responsibilities of
his position, will piously remember the adage about the voice of the
people and hasten to be steeped in vice— and thus conform to every
popular notion concerning a grand-duke. Why, common intelligence
demands that a grand-duke should brazenly misbehave himself upon the
more conspicuous high-places of Chemosh! and personally, I have no
talents such as would qualify me for a life of cynical and brutal
immorality. I lack the necessary aptitude, I would not ever afford
any spicy gossip concerning the Duke of Saxe-Kesselberg, and the
editors of the society papers would unanimously conspire to dethrone
Thus he argued, with his high-pitched pleasant voice, wherein
there was, as always, the elusive sug- gestion of a stutter. And here
the other interrupted.
"There is no need of names, your highness." Georges Desmarets was
diminutive, black-haired and corpulent. He was of dapper appearance,
point-device in everything, and he reminded you of a perky robin.
The tutor flung out an "Ouf! I must recall to you that, thank
heaven, I am not anybody's highness any longer. I am Paul
"He says that he is not Prince Fribble!"—the little man addressed
the zenith—"as if any other person ever succeeded in talking a
half-hour without being betrayed into at least one sensible remark.
Oh, how do you manage without fail to be so consistently and
"It is, like all other desirable traits, either innate or else
just unattainable," the other answered. "I am so hopelessly
light-minded that I cannot refrain from being rational even in matters
which concern me personally—and this, of course, no normal being ever
thinks of doing. I really cannot help it."
The Frenchman groaned whole-heartedly.
"But we were speaking—well, of foreign countries. Now, Paul
Vanderhoffen has read that in one of these countries there was once a
prince who very narrowly escaped figuring as a self-conscious
absurdity, as an anachronism, as a life-long prisoner of etiquette.
However, with the assistance of his cousin—who, incidentally, was
also his heir—the prince most op- portunely died. Oh, pedant that
you are! in any event he was interred. And so, the prince was
gathered to his fathers, and his cousin Augustus reigned in his
stead. Until a certain politician who had been privy to this pious
fraud——" The tutor shrugged. "How can I word it without seeming
Georges Desmarets stretched out appealing hands. "But, I protest,
it was the narrow-mindedness of that pernicious prig, your cousin—who
firmly believes himself to be an improved and augmented edition of
the Four Evangelists——"
"Well, in any event, the proverb was attested that birds of a
feather make strange bedfellows. There was a dispute concerning some
petit larceny—some slight discrepancy, we will imagine, since all
this is pure romance, in the politician's accounts——"
"Now you belie me——" said the black-haired man, and warmly.
"Oh, Desmarets, you are as vain as ever! Let us say, then, of
grand larceny. In any event, the poli- tician was dismissed. And
what, my dears, do you suppose this bold and bad and unprincipled
Machiavelli went and did? Why, he made straight for the father of
the princess the usurping duke was going to marry, and surprised
everybody by showing that, at a pinch, even this Guy Fawkes—who was
stuffed with all manner of guile and wickedness where youthful
patriotism would ordinarily incline to straw—was capable of telling
the truth. And so the father broke off the match. And the enamored,
if usurping, duke wept bitterly and tore his hair to such an extent he
totally destroyed his best toupet. And privily the Guy Fawkes came
into the presence of the exiled duke and prated of a restoration to
ancestral dignities. And he was spurned by a certain highly
intelligent person who considered it both tedious and ridiculous to
play at being emperor of a backyard. And then—I really don't recall
what happened. But there was a general and unqualified deuce to pay
with no pitch at a really satisfying temperature."
The stouter man said quietly: "It is a thrilling tale which you
narrate. Only, I do recall what hap- pened then. The usurping duke
was very much in earnest, desirous of retaining his little kingdom,
and particularly desirous of the woman whom he loved. In
consequence, he had Monsieur the Runaway obliterated while the latter
was talking nonsense——"
The tutor's brows had mounted.
"I scorn to think it even of anybody who is con- trolled in every
action by a sense of duty," Georges Desmarets explained, "that Duke
Augustus would cause you to be murdered in your sleep."
"A hit!" The younger man unsmilingly gesticulated like one who
has been touched in sword-play. "Behold now, as the populace in their
blunt way would phrase it, I am squelched."
"And so the usurping duke was married and lived happily ever
afterward." Georges Desmarets continued: "I repeat to you there is
only the choice between declaring yourself and being—we will say,
removed. Your cousin is deeply in love with the Princess Sophia, and
thanks to me, has now no chance of marrying her until his title has
been secured by your—removal. Do not deceive yourself. High
interests are involved. You are the grain of sand between big wheels.
I iterate that the footpad who attacked you last night was merely a
prologue. I happen to know your cousin has entrusted the affair to
Heinrich Obendorf, his foster-brother, who, as you will remember, is
not particularly squeamish."
Paul Vanderhoffen thought a while. "Desmarets," he said at last,
"it is no use. I scorn your pribbles and your prabbles. I bargained
with Augustus. I traded a duchy for my personal liberty. Frankly, I
would be sorry to connect a sharer of my blood with the assault of
yesterday. To be unpardonably candid, I have not ever found that your
assertion of an event quite proved it had gone through the formality
of occurring. And so I shall hold to my bargain."
"The night brings counsel," Desmarets returned. "It hardly needs a
night, I think, to demonstrate that all I say is true."
And so they parted.
Having thus dismissed such trifles as statecraft and the
well-being of empires, Paul Vanderhoffen turned toward consideration
of the one really serious subject in the universe, which was of course
the bright, mir- aculous and incredible perfection of Mildred
"I wonder what you think of me? I wonder if you ever think of
me?" The thought careered like a caged squirrel, now that he walked
through autumn woods toward her home.
"I wish that you were not so sensible. I wish your mother were
not even more so. The woman reeks with common-sense, and knows that
to be common is to be unanswerable. I wish that a dispute with her
were not upon a par with remonstrance against an earthquake."
He lighted a fresh cheroot. "And so you are to marry the Brudenel
title and bank account, with this particular Heleigh thrown in as a
dividend. And why not? the estate is considerable; the man who
encumbers it is sincere in his adoration of you; and, chief of all,
Lady John Claridge has decreed it. And your decision in any matter
has always lain between the claws of that steel-armored crocodile who,
by some miracle, is your mother. Oh, what a universe! were I of
hasty temperament I would cry out, TUT AND GO TO!"
This was the moment which the man hid in the thicket selected as
most fit for intervention through the assistance of a dueling pistol.
Paul Vanderhoffen reeled, his face bewilderment. His hands clutched
toward the sky, as if in anguish he grasped at some invisible
support, and he coughed once or twice. It was rather horrible. Then
Vanderhoffen shivered as though he were very cold, and tottered and
collapsed in the parched roadway.
A slinking man whose lips were gray and could not refrain from
twitching came toward the limp heap. "So——!" said the man. One of
his hands went to the tutor's breast, and in his left hand dangled a
second dueling pistol. He had thrown away the other after firing it.
"And so——!" observed Paul Vanderhoffen. Aft- erward there was a
momentary tussle. Now Paul Vanderhoffen stood erect and flourished
the loaded pistol. "If you go on this way," he said, with some
severity, "you will presently be neither loved nor respected. There
was a time, though, when you were an excellent shot, Herr Heinrich
"I had my orders, highness," said the other stolidly.
"Oh yes, of course," Paul Vanderhoffen answered. "You had your
orders—from Augustus!" He seemed to think of something very far
away. He smiled, with quizzically narrowed eyes such as you may yet
see in Raeburn's portrait of the man. "I was remembering, oddly
enough, that elm just back of the Canova Pa- vilion—as it was twenty
years ago. I managed to scramble up it, but Augustus could not follow
me because he had such short fat little legs. He was so proud of
what I had done that he insisted on telling everybody—and afterward
we had oranges for luncheon, I remember, and sucked them through bits
of sugar. It is not fair that you must always remember and always
love that boy who played with you when you were little— after he has
grown up to be another person. Eh no! youth passes, but all its
memories of unimportant things remain with you and are less kind than
any self- respecting viper would be. Decidedly, it is not fair, and
some earnest-minded person ought to write to his morning paper about
it. . . . I think that is the reason I am being a sentimental fool,"
Paul Vanderhoffen explained.
Then his teeth clicked. "Get on, my man," he said. "Do not remain
too near to me, because there was a time when I loved your employer
quite as much as you do. This fact is urging me to dangerous ends.
Yes, it is prompting me, even while I talk with you, to give you a
lesson in marksmanship, my inconveniently faithful Heinrich."
He shrugged. He lighted a cheroot with hands whose tremblings, he
devoutly hoped, were not apparent, for Prince Fribble had been ashamed
to manifest a sincere emotion of any sort, and Paul Vanderhoffen
shared as yet this foible.
"Oh Brutus! Ravaillac! Damiens!" he drawled. "O general
compendium of misguided aspirations! do be a duck and get along with
you. And I would run as hard as I could, if I were you, for it is war
now, and you and I are not on the same side."
Paul Vanderhoffen paused a hundred yards or so from this to shake
his head. "Come, come! I have lost so much that I cannot afford to
throw my good temper into the bargain. To endure with a grave face
this perfectly unreasonable universe wherein destiny has locked me is
undoubtedly meritorious; but to bustle about it like a caged canary,
and not ever to falter in your hilarity, is heroic. Let us, by all
means, not consider the obdurate if gilded barriers, but rather the
lettuce and the cuttle-bone. I have my choice between becoming a
corpse or a convict—a convict? ah, undoubtedly a convict, sentenced
to serve out a life- term in a cess-pool of castby superstitions."
He smiled now over Paul Vanderhoffen's rage. "Since the situation
is tragic, let us approach it in an appropriate spirit of frivolity.
My circumstances bully me. And I succumb to irrationality, as
rational persons invariably end by doing. But, oh, dear me! oh,
Osiris, Termagaunt, and Zeus! to think there are at least a dozen
other ne'er-do-wells alive who would prefer to make a mess of living
as a grand-duke rather than as a scribbler in Grub Street! Well,
well! the jest is not of my contriving, and the one concession a sane
man will never yield the universe is that of considering it
And he strode on, resolved to be Prince Fribble to the last.
"Frivolity," he said, "is the smoked glass through which a
civilized person views the only world he has to live in. For,
otherwise, he could not presume to look upon such coruscations of
insanity and remain unblinded."
This heartened him, as a rounded phrase will do the best of us.
"Frivolity," he groaned, "is really the cheap mask incompetence
claps on when haled before a mirror."
And at Leamington Manor he found her strolling upon the lawn. It
was an ordered, lovely scene, steeped now in the tranquillity of
evening. Above, the stars were losing diffidence. Below, and within
arms' reach, Mildred Claridge was treading the same planet on which
he fidgeted and stuttered.
Something in his heart snapped like a fiddle- string, and he was
entirely aware of this circumstance. As to her eyes, teeth, coloring,
complexion, brows, height and hair, it is needless to expatiate. The
most painstaking inventory of these chattels would necessarily be
misleading, because the impression which they conveyed to him was that
of a bewildering, but not distasteful, transfiguration of the
universe, apt as a fanfare at the entrance of a queen.
But he would be Prince Fribble to the last. And so, "Wait just a
moment, please," he said, "I want to harrow up your soul and freeze
Wherewith he suavely told her everything about Paul Vanderhoffen's
origin and the alternatives now offered him, and she listened without
"Ai! ai!" young Vanderhoffen perorated; "the situation is
complete. I have not the least desire to be Grand-Duke of
Saxe-Kesselberg. It is too abominably tedious. But, if I do not join
in with Desmarets, who has the guy-ropes of a restoration well in
hand, I must inevitably be—removed, as the knave phrases it. For as
long as I live, I will be an insuperable barrier between Augustus and
his Sophia. Otototoi!" he wailed, with a fine tone of tragedy, "the
one impossible achievement in my life has always been to convince
anybody that it was mine to dispose of as I elected!"
"Oh, man proposes——" she began, cryptically. Then he
deliberated, and sulkily submitted: "But I may not even propose to
abdicate. Augustus has put himself upon sworn record as an
eye-witness of my hideous death. And in consequence I might keep on
abdicating from now to the crack of doom, and the only course left
open to him would be to treat me as an impostor."
She replied, with emphasis, "I think your cousin is a beast!"
"Ah, but the madman is in love," he pleaded. "You should not
judge poor masculinity in such a state by any ordinary standards. Oh
really, you don't know the Princess Sophia. She is, in sober truth,
the nicest person who was ever born a princess. Why, she had
actually made a mock of even that handicap, for ordinarily it is as
disastrous to feminine appearance as writing books. And, oh, Lord!
they will be marrying her to me, if Desmarets and I win out." Thus he
"The designing minx!" Miss Claridge said, dis- tinctly.
"Now, gracious lady, do be just a cooing pigeon and grant that
when men are in love they are not any more encumbered by abstract
notions about honor than if they had been womanly from birth. Come,
let's be lyrical and open-minded," he urged; and he added, "No, either
you are in love or else you are not in love. And nothing else will
matter either way. You see, if men and women had been primarily
designed to be rational creatures, there would be no explanation for
their being permitted to continue in existence," he lucidly
explained. "And to have grasped this fact is the pith of all wisdom."
"Oh, I am very wise." A glint of laughter shone in her eyes. "I
would claim to be another Pythoness if only it did not sound so snaky
and wriggling. So, from my trident—or was it a Triton they used to
stand on?— I announce that you and your Augustus are worrying
yourselves gray-headed over an idiotically simple problem. Now, I
disposed of it offhand when I said, `Man proposes.'"
He seemed to be aware of some one who from a considerable distance
was inquiring her reasons for this statement.
"Because in Saxe-Kesselberg, as in all other German states, when a
prince of the reigning house marries outside of the mediatized
nobility he thereby forfeits his right of succession. It has been
done any number of times. Why, don't you see, Mr. Vanderhoffen?
Conceding you ever do such a thing, your cousin Augustus would become
at once the legal heir. So you must marry. It is the only way, I
think, to save you from regal incarceration and at the same time to
reassure the Prince of Lueminster—that creature's father—that you
have not, and never can have, any claim which would hold good in law.
Then Duke Augustus could peaceably espouse his Sophia and go on
reigning— And, by the way, I have seen her picture often, and if
that is what you call beauty——" Miss Claridge did not speak this
last at least with any air of pointing out the self-evident.
And, "I believe," he replied, "that all this is actually
happening. I might have known fate meant to glut her taste for
"But don't you see? You have only to marry anybody outside of the
higher nobility—and just as a makeshift——" She had drawn closer in
the urgency of her desire to help him. An infinite despair and mirth
as well was kindled by her nearness. And the man was insane and
dimly knew as much.
And so, "I see," he answered. "But, as it happens, I cannot marry
any woman, because I love a particular woman. At least, I suppose she
isn't anything but just a woman. That statement," he announced, "is a
formal tribute paid by what I call my intellect to what the vulgar
call the probabilities. The rest of me has no patience whatever with
such idiotic blasphemy."
She said, "I think I understand." And this surprised him, coming
as it did from her whom he had always supposed to be the fiancee of
Lord Brudenel's title and bank-account.
"And, well!"—he waved his hands—"either as tutor or as
grand-duke, this woman is unattainable, because she has been far too
carefully reared"—and here he frenziedly thought of that terrible
matron whom, as you know, he had irreverently likened to a crocodile—
"either to marry a pauper or to be contented with a left-handed
alliance. And I love her. And so"—he shrugged—"there is positively
nothing left to do save sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of
the deaths of kings."
She said, "Oh, and you mean it! You are speaking the plain
truth!" A change had come into her lovely face which would have made
him think it even lovelier had not that contingency been beyond
And Mildred Claridge said, "It is not fair for dreamers such as
you to let a woman know just how he loves her. That is not wooing.
It is bullying."
His lips were making a variety of irrational noises. And he was
near to her. Also he realized that he had never known how close akin
were fear and joy, so close the two could mingle thus, and be quite
un- distinguishable. And then repentance smote him.
"I am contemptible!" he groaned. "I had no right to trouble you
with my insanities. Indeed I had not ever meant to let you guess how
mad I was. But always I have evaded my responsibilities. So I remain
Prince Fribble to the last."
"Oh, but I knew, I have always known." She held her eyes away
from him. "And I wrote to Lord Brudenel only yesterday releasing him
from his engagement."
And now without uncertainty or haste Paul Van- derhoffen touched
her cheek and raised her face, so that he saw it plainly in the rising
twilight, and all its wealth of tenderness newborn. And what he saw
there frightened him.
For the girl loved him! He felt himself to be, as most men do, a
swindler when he comprehended this preposterous fact; and, in
addition, he thought of divers happenings, such as shipwrecks,
holocausts and earthquakes, which might conceivably have appalled
him, and understood that he would never in his life face any sense of
terror as huge as was this present sweet and illimitable awe.
And then he said, "You know that what I hunger for is impossible.
There are so many little things, like common-sense, to be considered.
For this is just a matter which concerns you and Paul Vanderhoffen—a
literary hack, a stuttering squeak-voiced ne'er-do— well, with an
acquired knack for scribbling verses that are feeble-minded enough for
Annuals and Keepsake Books, and so fetch him an occasional guinea.
For, my dear, the verses I write of my own accord are not
sufficiently genteel to be vended in Paternoster Row; they smack too
dangerously of human intelligence. So I am compelled, perforce, to
scribble such jingles as I am ashamed to read, because I must write
SOMETHING. . . ." Paul Vanderhoffen shrugged, and continued, in
tones more animated: "There will be no talk of any grand-duke.
Instead, there will be columns of denunciation and tittle-tattle in
every newspaper— quite as if you, a baronet's daughter, had run away
with a footman. And you will very often think wistfully of Lord
Brudenel's fine house when your only title is—well, Princess of Grub
Street, and your realm is a garret. And for a while even to-morrow's
break- fast will be a problematical affair. It is true Lord
Lansdowne has promised me a registrarship in the Admiralty Court, and
I do not think he will fail me. But that will give us barely enough to
live on— with strict economy, which is a virtue that neither of us
knows anything about. I beg you to remember that—you who have been
used to every luxury! you who really were devised that you might stand
beside an emperor and set tasks for him. In fine, you know——"
And Mildred Claridge said, "I know that, quite as I observed, man
proposes—when he has been sufficiently prodded by some one who,
because she is an idiot—And that is why I am not blushing—very
"Your coloring is not—repellent." His high- pitched pleasant
voice, in spite of him, shook now with more than its habitual
suggestion of a stutter. "What have you done to me, my dear?" he
said. "Why can't I jest at this . . . as I have always done at every-
"Boy, boy!" she said; "laughter is excellent. And wisdom too is
excellent. Only I think that you have laughed too much, and I have
been too shrewd—But now I know that it is better to be a princess in
Grub Street than to figure at Ranelagh as a good-hearted fool's
latest purchase. For Lord Brudenel is really very good-natured," she
argued, "and I did like him, and mother was so set upon it—and he was
rich—and I honestly thought——"
"And now?" he said.
"And now I know," she answered happily.
They looked at each other for a little while. Then he took her
hand, prepared in turn for self- denial.
"The Household Review wants me to `do' a series on famous English
bishops," he reported, humbly. "I had meant to refuse, because it
would all have to be dull High-Church twaddle. And the English
Gentleman wants some rather outrageous lying done in defense of the
Corn Laws. You would not despise me too much— would you,
Mildred?—if I undertook it now. I really have no choice. And there
is plenty of hackwork of that sort available to keep us going until
more solvent days, when I shall have opportunity to write something
quite worthy of you."
"For the present, dear, it would be much more sensible, I think,
to `do' the bishops and the Corn Laws. You see, that kind of thing
pays very well, and is read by the best people; whereas poetry, of
course— But you can always come back to the verse-making, you
"If you ever let me," he said, with a flash of prescience. "And I
don't believe you mean to let me. You are your mother's daughter,
after all! Nefarious woman, you are planning, already, to make a
responsible member of society out of me! and you will do it,
ruthlessly! Such is to be Prince Fribble's actual burial—in his own
private carriage, with a receipted tax-bill in his pocket!"
"What nonsense you poets talk!" the girl observed. But to him,
forebodingly, that familiar statement seemed to lack present
application. THE LADY OF ALL OUR DREAMS
"In JOHN CHARTERIS appeared a man with an inborn sense of the
supreme interest and the overwhelming emotional and spiritual
relevancy of human life as it is actually and obscurely lived; a man
with unmistakable creative impulses and potentialities; a man who,
had he lived in a more mature and less self- deluding community—a
community that did not so rigorously confine its interest in facts to
business, and limit its demands upon art to the supplying of
illusions—might humbly and patiently have schooled his gifts to the
service of his vision. . . . As it was, he accepted defeat and
compromised half-heartedly with commercialism."
THE LADY OF ALL OUR DREAMS
And men unborn will read of Heloise,
And Ruth, and Rosamond, and Semele,
When none remembers your name's melody
Or rhymes your name, enregistered with these.
And will my name wake moods as amorous
As that of Abelard or Launcelot
Arouses? be recalled when Pyramus
And Tristram are unrhymed of and forgot?—
Time's laughter answers, who accords to us
More gracious fields, wherein we harvest—what?
JOHN CHARTERIS. Torrismond's
Envoi, in Ashtaroths Lackey.
THE LADY OF ALL OUR DREAMS "Our distinguished alumnus," after being
duly presented as such, had with vivacity delivered much the usual
sort of Commencement Address. Yet John Charteris was in reality a
The afternoon train had been vexatiously late. The little
novelist had found it tedious to interchange inanities with the
committee awaiting him at the Pull- man steps. Nor had it amused him
to huddle into evening-dress, and hasten through a perfunctory supper
in order to reassure his audience at half-past eight precisely as to
the unmitigated delight of which he was now conscious.
Nevertheless, he alluded with enthusiasm to the arena of life, to
the dependence of America's destiny upon the younger generation, to
the enviable part King's College had without exception played in
history, and he depicted to Fairhaven the many glories of
Fairhaven—past, present and approaching—in superlatives that would
hardly have seemed inadequate if applied to Paradise. His oration, in
short, was of a piece with the amiable bombast that the col- lege
students and Fairhaven at large were accustomed to applaud at every
Finals—the sort of linguistic debauch that John Charteris himself
remembered to have applauded as an undergraduate more years ago than
he cared to acknowledge.
Pauline Romeyne had sat beside him then—yonder, upon the fourth
bench from the front, where now another boy with painstakingly
plastered hair was clapping hands. There was a girl on the right of
this boy, too. There naturally would be. Mr. Charteris as he sat down
was wondering if Pauline was within reach of his voice? and if she
were, what was her surname nowadays?
Then presently the exercises were concluded, and the released
auditors arose with an outwelling noise of multitudinous chatter, of
shuffling feet, of rustling programs. Many of Mr. Charteris'
audience, though, were contending against the general human outflow
and pushing toward the platform, for Fairhaven was proud of John
Charteris now that his colorful tales had risen, from the
semi-oblivion of being cherished merely by people who cared seriously
for beautiful things, to the distinction of being purchasable in
railway stations; so that, in consequence, Fairhaven wished both to
congratulate him and to renew acquaintanceship.
He, standing there, alert and quizzical, found it odd to note how
unfamiliar beaming faces climbed out of the hurly-burly of retreating
backs, to say, "Don't you remember me? I'm so-and-so." These were
the people whom he had lived among once, and some of these had once
been people whom he loved. Now there was hardly any one whom at a
glance he would have recognized.
Nobody guessed as much. He was adjudged to be delightful,
cordial, "and not a bit stuck-up, not spoiled at all, you know." To
appear this was the talisman with which he banteringly encountered the
But John Charteris, as has been said, was in reality a trifle
fagged. When everybody had removed to the Gymnasium, where the
dancing was to be, and he had been delightful there, too, for a whole
half-hour, he grasped with avidity at his first chance to slip away,
and did so under cover of a riotous two-step.
He went out upon the Campus.
He found this lawn untenanted, unless you chose to count the
marble figure of Lord Penniston, made aerial and fantastic by the
moonlight, standing as it it were on guard over the College. Mr.
Charteris chose to count him. Whimsically, Mr. Charteris reflected
that this battered nobleman's was the one familiar face he had
exhumed in all Fairhaven. And what a deal of mirth and folly, too,
the old fellow must have witnessed during his two hundred and odd
years of sentry-duty! On warm, clear nights like this, in particular,
when by ordinary there were only couples on the Campus, each couple
discreetly remote from any of the others. Then Penniston would be
aware of most portentous pauses (which a delectable and lazy
conference of leaves made eloquent) because of many unfinished
sentences. "Oh, YOU know what I mean, dear!" one would say as a last
resort. And she-why, bless her heart! of course, she always did. . .
. Heigho, youth's was a pleasant lunacy. . . .
Thus Charteris reflected, growing drowsy. She said, "You spoke
very well to-night. Is it too late for congratulations?"
Turning, Mr. Charteris remarked, "As you are per- fectly aware,
all that I vented was just a deal of skimble-scamble stuff, a verbal
syllabub of balderdash. No, upon reflection, I think I should rather
describe it as a conglomeration of piffle, patriotism and
pyrotechnics. Well, Madam Do-as-you-would-be-done-by, what would you
have? You must give people what they want."
It was characteristic that he faced Pauline Romeyne—or was it
still Romeyne? he wondered— precisely as if it had been fifteen
minutes, rather than as many years, since they had last spoken
"Must one?" she asked. "Oh, yes, I know you have always thought
that, but I do not quite see the neces- sity of it."
She sat upon the bench beside Lord Penniston's square marble
pedestal. "And all the while you spoke I was thinking of those
Saturday nights when your name was up for an oration or a debate
before the Eclectics, and you would stay away and pay the fine rather
than brave an audience."
"The tooth of Time," he reminded her, "has since then written
wrinkles on my azure brow. The years slip away fugacious, and Time
that brings forth her children only to devour them grins most
hellishly, for Time changes all things and cultivates even in herself
an appreciation of irony,—and, therefore, why shouldn't I have
changed a trifle? You wouldn't have me put on exhibition as a lusus
"Oh, but I wish you had not altered so entirely!" Pauline sighed.
"At least, you haven't," he declared. "Of course, I would be
compelled to say so, anyhow. But in this happy instance courtesy and
veracity come skipping arm- in-arm from my elated lips." And, indeed,
it seemed to him that Pauline was marvelously little altered. "I
wonder now," he said, and cocked his head, "I wonder now whose wife I
am talking to?"
"No, Jack, I never married," she said quietly.
"It is selfish of me," he said, in the same tone, "but I am glad
And so they sat a while, each thinking.
"I wonder," said Pauline, with that small plaintive voice which
Charteris so poignantly remembered, "whether it is always like this?
Oh, do the Overlords of Life and Death ALWAYS provide some obstacle
to prevent what all of us have known in youth was possible from ever
And again there was a pause which a delectable and lazy conference
of leaves made eloquent.
"I suppose it is because they know that if it ever did come true,
we would be gods like them." The ordinary associates of John
Charteris, most certainly, would not have suspected him to be the
speaker. "So they contrive the obstacle, or else they send false
dreams—out of the gates of horn—and make the path smooth, very
smooth, so that two dreamers may not be hindered on their way to the
"Yes, they are jealous gods! oh, and ironical gods also! They
grant the Dream, and chuckle while they grant it, I think, because
they know that later they will be bringing their playthings face to
face—each married, fat, inclined to optimism, very careful of
decorum, and perfectly indifferent to each other. And then they get
their fore-planned mirth, these Overlords of Life and Death. `We gave
you,' they chuckle, `the loveliest and greatest thing infinity
contains. And you bartered it because of a clerkship or a lying maxim
or perhaps a finger-ring.' I suppose that they must laugh a great
"Eh, what? But then you never married?" For masculinity in
argument starts with the word it has found distasteful.
"Nor I." And his tone implied that the two facts conjoined proved
"Miss Willoughby——?" she inquired.
Now, how in heaven's name, could a cloistered Fair- haven have
surmised his intention of proposing on the first convenient
opportunity to handsome, well-to- do Anne Willoughby? He shrugged his
wonder off. "Oh, people will talk, you know. Let any man once find a
woman has a tongue in her head, and the stage-direction is always
`Enter Rumor, painted full of tongues.'"
Pauline did not appear to have remarked his protest. "Yes,—in the
end you will marry her. And her money will help, just as you have
contrived to make everything else help, toward making John Charteris
comfortable. She is not very clever, but she will always worship
you, and so you two will not prove uncongenial. That is your real
tragedy, if I could make you comprehend."
"So I am going to develop into a pig," he said, with relish,—"a
lovable, contented, unambitious porcine, who is alike indifferent to
the Tariff, the importance of Equal Suffrage and the market-price of
hams, for all that he really cares about is to have his sty as
comfortable as may be possible. That is exactly what I am going to
develop into,—now, isn't it?" And John Charteris, sitting, as was
his habitual fashion, with one foot tucked under him, laughed
cheerily. Oh, just to be alive (he thought) was ample cause for
rejoicing! and how deliciously her eyes, alert with slumbering fires,
were peering through the moon-made shadows of her brows!
"Well——! something of the sort." Pauline was smiling, but
restrainedly, and much as a woman does in condoning the naughtiness of
her child. "And, oh, if only——"
"Why, precisely. `If only!' quotha. Why, there you word the
key-note, you touch the cornerstone, you ruthlessly illuminate the
mainspring, of an intractable unfeeling universe. For instance, if
You were the Empress of Ayre and Skye,
And I were Ahkond of Kong,
We could dine every day on apple-pie,
And peddle potatoes, and sleep in a sty,
And people would say when we came to die,
`They NEVER did anything wrong.'
But, as it is, our epitaphs will probably be nothing of the sort. So
that there lurks, you see, much virtue in this `if only.'"
Impervious to nonsense, she asked, "And have I not earned the
right to lament that you are changed?"
"I haven't robbed more than six churches up to date," he grumbled.
"What would you have?"
The answer came, downright, and, as he knew, entirely truthful:
"I would have had you do all that you might have done."
But he must needs refine. "Why, no—you would have made me do it,
wrung out the last drop. You would have bullied me and shamed me into
being all that I might have been. I see that now." He spoke as if in
wonder, with quickening speech. "Pauline, I haven't been entirely
not worth while. Oh, yes, I know! I know I haven't written five-act
tragedies which would be immortal, as you probably expected me to do.
My books are not quite the books I was to write when you and I were
young. But I have made at worst some neat, precise and joyous little
tales which prevaricate tenderly about the universe and veil the
pettiness of human nature with screens of verbal jewelwork. It is
not the actual world they tell about, but a vastly superior place
where the Dream is realized and everything which in youth we knew was
possible comes true. It is a world we have all glimpsed, just once,
and have not ever entered, and have not ever forgotten. So people
like my little tales. . . . Do they induce delusions? Oh, well, you
must give people what they want, and literature is a vast bazaar where
customers come to purchase everything except mirrors."
She said soberly, "You need not make a jest of it. It is not
ridiculous that you write of beautiful and joyous things because there
was a time when living was really all one wonderful adventure, and you
"But, oh, my dear, my dear! such glum discussions are so sadly
out-of-place on such a night as this," he lamented. "For it is a
night of pearl-like radiancies and velvet shadows and delicate odors
and big friendly stars that promise not to gossip, whatever happens.
It is a night that hungers, and all its undistinguishable little
sounds are voicing the night's hunger for masks and mandolins, for
rope-ladders and balconies and serenades. It is a night . . . a night
wherein I gratefully remember so many beautiful sad things that never
happened . . . to John Charteris, yet surely happened once upon a time
to me . . ."
"I think that I know what it is to remember—better than you do,
Jack. But what do you remember?"
"In faith, my dear, the most Bedlamitish occur- rences! It is a
night that breeds deplorable insanities, I warn you. For I seem to
remember how I sat somewhere, under a peach-tree, in clear autumn
weather, and was content; but the importance had all gone out of
things; and even you did not seem very important, hardly worth lying
to, as I spoke lightly of my wasted love for you, half in hatred,
and—yes, still half in adoration. For you were there, of course.
And I remember how I came to you, in a sinister and brightly lighted
place, where a horrible, staring frail old man lay dead at your feet;
and you had murdered him; and heaven did not care, and we were old,
and all our lives seemed just to end in futile tangle-work. And,
again, I remember how we stood alone, with visible death crawling
lazily toward us, as a big sullen sea rose higher and higher; and we
little tinseled creatures waited, helpless, trapped and yearning. . .
. There is a boat in that picture; I suppose it was deeply laden with
pirates coming to slit our throats from ear to ear. I have forgotten
that part, but I remember the tiny spot of courtplaster just above
your painted lips. . . . Such are the jumbled pictures. They are
bred of brain-fag, no doubt; yet, whatever be their lineage," said
Charteris, happily, "they render glum discussion and platitudinous
moralizing quite out of the question. So, let's pretend, Pauline,
that we are not a bit more worldly- wise than those youngsters who are
frisking yonder in the Gymnasium—for, upon my word, I dispute if we
have ever done anything to suggest that we are. Don't let's be cowed
a moment longer by those bits of paper with figures on them which our
too-credulous fellow-idiots consider to be the only almanacs. Let's
have back yesterday, let's tweak the nose of Time intrepidly." Then
Charteris caroled: "For Yesterday! for Yesterday! I cry a reward for
a Yesterday Now lost or stolen or gone astray, With all the laughter
"And how slight a loss was laughter," she mur- mured—still with
the vague and gentle eyes of a day— dreamer—"as set against all that
we never earned in youth, and so will never earn."
He inadequately answered "Bosh!" and later, "Do you remember——?"
"Yes, she remembered that, it developed. And "Do you
remember——?" she in turn was asking later. It was to seem to him in
retrospection that neither for the next half-hour began a sentence
without this formula. It was as if they sought to use it as a
master- word wherewith to reanimate the happinesses and sorrows of
their common past, and as if they found the charm was potent to awaken
the thin, powerless ghosts of emotions that were once despotic. For
it was as if frail shadows and half-caught echoes were all they could
evoke, it seemed to Charteris; and yet these shadows trooped with a
wild grace, and the echoes thrilled him with the sweet and piercing
surprise of a bird's call at midnight or of a bugle heard in prison.
Then twelve o'clock was heralded by the College bell, and Pauline
arose as though this equable deep- throated interruption of the
music's levity had been a signal. John Charteris saw her clearly now;
and she was beautiful.
"I must go. You will not ever quite forget me, Jack. Such is my
sorry comfort." It seemed to Char- teris that she smiled as in
mockery, and yet it was a very tender sort of derision. "Yes, you
have made your books. You have done what you most desired to do. You
have got all from life that you have asked of life. Oh, yes, you have
got much from life. One prize, though, Jack, you missed."
He, too, had risen, quiet and perfectly sure of himself. "I
haven't missed it. For you love me."
This widened her eyes. "Did I not always love you, Jack? Yes,
even when you went away forever, and there were no letters, and the
days were long. Yes, even knowing you, I loved you, John Charteris."
"Oh, I was wrong, all wrong," he cried; "and yet there is
something to be said upon the other side, as always. . . ." Now
Charteris was still for a while. The little man's chin was uplifted
so that it was toward the stars he looked rather than at Pauline
Romeyne, and when he spoke he seemed to meditate aloud. "I was born,
I think, with the desire to make beautiful books—brave books that
would preserve the glories of the Dream untarnished, and would
re-create them for battered people, and re-awaken joy and
magnanimity." Here he laughed, a little ruefully. "No, I do not
think I can explain this obsession to any one who has never suffered
from it. But I have never in my life permitted anything to stand in
the way of my fulfilling this desire to serve the Dream by re-creating
it for others with picked words, and that has cost me something. Yes,
the Dream is an exacting master. My books, such as they are, have
been made what they are at the dear price of never permitting myself
to care seriously for anything else. I might not dare to dissipate my
energies by taking any part in the drama I was attempting to re-write,
because I must so jealously conserve all the force that was in me for
the perfection of my lovelier version. That may not be the best way
of making books, but it is the only one that was possible for me. I
had so little natural talent, you see," said Charteris, wistfully,
"and I was anxious to do so much with it. So I had always to be
careful. It has been rather lonely, my dear. Now, looking back, it
seems to me that the part I have played in all other people's lives
has been the role of a tourist who enters a cafe chantant, a fortress,
or a cathedral, with much the same forlorn sense of detachment, and
observes what there is to see that may be worth remembering, and takes
a note or two, perhaps, and then leaves the place forever. Yes, that
is how I served the Dream and that is how I got my books. They are
very beautiful books, I think, but they cost me fifteen years of human
living and human intimacy, and they are hardly worth so much."
He turned to her, and his voice changed. "Oh, I was wrong, all
wrong, and chance is kindlier than I deserve. For I have wandered
after unprofitable gods, like a man blundering through a day of mist
and fog, and I win home now in its golden sunset. I have laughed
very much, my dear, but I was never happy until to-night. The Dream,
as I now know, is not best served by making parodies of it, and it
does not greatly matter after all whether a book be an epic or a
directory. What really matters is that there is so much faith and
love and kindliness which we can share with and provoke in others, and
that by cleanly, simple, generous living we approach perfection in the
highest and most lovely of all arts. . . . But you, I think, have
always comprehended this. My dear, if I were worthy to kneel and kiss
the dust you tread in I would do it. As it happens, I am not worthy.
Pauline, there was a time when you and I were young together, when
we aspired, when life passed as if it were to the measures of a noble
music—a heart-wringing, an obdurate, an intolerable music, it might
be, but always a lofty music. One strutted, no doubt—it was because
one knew oneself to be indomitable. Eh, it is true I have won all I
asked of life, very horribly true. All that I asked, poor fool! oh, I
am weary of loneliness, and I know now that all the phantoms I have
raised are only colorless shadows which belie the Dream, and they are
hateful to me. I want just to recapture that old time we know of, and
we two alone. I want to know the Dream again, Pauline,—the Dream
which I had lost, had half forgotten, and have so pitifully parodied.
I want to know the Dream again, Pauline, and you alone can help me."
"Oh, if I could! if even I could now, my dear!" Pauline Romeyne
left him upon a sudden, crying this. And "So!" said Mr. Charteris.
He had been deeply shaken and very much in earnest; but he was
never the man to give for any lengthy while too slack a rein to
emotion; and so he now sat down upon the bench and lighted a cigarette
and smiled. Yet he fully recognized himself to be the most enviable
of men and an inhabitant of the most glorious world imaginable—a
world wherein he very assuredly meant to marry Pauline Romeyne say, in
the ensuing September. Yes, that would fit in well enough, although,
of course, he would have to cancel the engagement to lecture in
Milwaukee. . . . How lucky, too, it was that he had never actually
committed himself with Anne Willoughby! for while money was an
excellent thing to have, how infinitely less desirable it was to live
perked up in golden sorrow than to feed flocks upon the Grampian
Hills, where Freedom from the mountain height cried, "I go on forever,
a prince can make a belted knight, and let who will be clever. . . ."
"—and besides, you'll catch your death of cold," lamented Rudolph
Musgrave, who was now shaking Mr. Charteris' shoulder.
"Eh, what? Oh, yes, I daresay I was napping," the other mumbled.
He stood and stretched himself luxuriously. "Well, anyhow, don't be
such an un- mitigated grandmother. You see, I have a bit of rather
important business to attend to. Which way is Miss Romeyne?"
"Pauline Romeyne? why, but she married old General Ashmeade, you
know. She was the gray-haired woman in purple who carried out her
squalling brat when Taylor was introducing you, if you remember. She
told me, while the General was getting the horses around, how sorry
she was to miss your address, but they live three miles out, and Mrs.
Ashmeade is simply a slave to the children. . . . Why, what in the
world have you been dreaming about?"
"Eh, what? Oh, yes, I daresay I was only napping," Mr. Charteris
observed. He was aware that within they were still playing a riotous
BALLAD OF PLAGIARY
"Freres et matres, vous qui cultivez"
Hey, my masters, lords and brothers, ye that till the fields of
Are ye deaf ye will not hearken to the clamor of your time?
Still ye blot and change and polish—vary, heighten and
Old sonorous metres marching grandly to their tranquil close.
Ye have toiled and ye have fretted; ye attain perfected speech:
Ye have nothing new to utter and but platitudes to preach.
And your rhymes are all of loving, as within the old days when
Love was lord of the ascendant in the horoscopes of men.
Still ye make of love the utmost end and scope of all your art;
And, more blind than he you write of, note not what a modest part
Loving now may claim in living, when we have scant time to spare,
Who are plundering the sea-depths, taking tribute of the air,—
Whilst the sun makes pictures for us; since to-day, for good or
Earth and sky and sea are harnessed, and the lightnings work our
Hey, my masters, all these love-songs by dust-hidden mouths were
That ye mimic and re-echo with an artful-artless tongue,—
Sung by poets close to nature, free to touch her garments' hem
Whom to-day ye know not truly; for ye only copy them.
Them ye copy—copy always, with your backs turned to the sun,
Caring not what man is doing, noting that which man has done.
We are talking over telephones, as Shakespeare could not talk;
We are riding out in motor-cars where Homer had to walk;
And pictures Dante labored on of mediaeval Hell
The nearest cinematograph paints quicker, and as well.
But ye copy, copy always;—and ye marvel when ye find
This new beauty, that new meaning,—while a model stands behind,
Waiting, young and fair as ever, till some singer turn and trace
Something of the deathless wonder of life lived in any place.
Hey, my masters, turn from piddling to the turmoil and the
Cease from sonneting, my brothers; let us fashion songs from
Thus I wrote ere Percie passed me. . . . Then did I epitomize
All life's beauty in one poem, and make haste to eulogize
Quite the fairest thing life boasts of, for I wrote of Percie's
EXPLICIT DECAS POETARUM