Saturday, October 13, 2007



(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
certain hour."
Copyright, 1916. by Robert M. McBride &
Copyright, 1915, by McBride, Nast & Co.
Copyright, 1914, by the Sewanee Review Quarterly
Copyright, 1913, by John Adams Thayer Corporation
Copyright, 1912, by Argonaut Publishing Company
Copyright, 1911, by Red Book Corporation
Copyright, 1909, by Harper and Brothers
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
Whereby decays
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"
"Ballad of Plagiary"
"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
and sin;
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
the earth?
For this is the song of the double-soul, distortedly
two in one,--
Of the wearied eyes that still behold the fruit ere
the seed
be sown,
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
from Schopenhauer.
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
in one.--
Of the wearied eyes that still behold the fruit ere
the seed
be sown,
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.
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 happenings.
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
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
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-novelreaders
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 dinnerforks,
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-novelreader--
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 beautiful happenings?
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 printingpresses,
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 marketplaces
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 seek.
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
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 readingmatter.
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
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-novelreaders'
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
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-novelreaders
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
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 longfaced
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 perish.
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 talkedof
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" readingmatter,
as touches evanescence.
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 oblivion's voracity.
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
Dumbarton Grange
"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.
from F. York Powells version.
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 unsubdued.
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
He that had been her lover all his life said,
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
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
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
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, Makrisi."
"It comes the more quickly, messire, when it is
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
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
Then on the ensuing morning, after some talk about
the new campaign, Prince Guillaume de Baux leaned back
in his high chair and said, abruptly:
"In perfect candor, you puzzle your liege-lord.
For you loathe me and you still worship my sister-inlaw,
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 necessary
to me, and that I intend to marry her as soon
as Pope Innocent grants me a dispensation?"
"All Venaissin knows that. Yes, you have always
gained everything which you desired in this world,
Guillaume. Yet it was at a price, I think."
"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
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 you, Raimbaut!"
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
"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
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 you, Raimbaut."
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
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 dullgleaming
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 knife?"
"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 redroofed
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
"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
"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 maxim.
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 please you!"
Raimbaut, trapped, impotent, cried out: "This is
not possible----" And for all that, he knew the
Saracen to be foretelling the inevitable.
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 different direction."
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 tenderness.
"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 have done."
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 fellowtipplers
with less effort than is needed to drown as
many kittens."
And his followers cried, as upon a signal: "Hail,
Prince of Orange!"
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, antinatural,
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.
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 ashcolored
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
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
"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 marvels.
"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
"Oh, and such strange songs as they are, too,
Guido. Who does not know them?"
"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 taxcollector
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
"I do not understand you, Guido." Graciosa was all
"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, Messer Guido?"
"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 answer, madonna."
"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 at that considered her intently for a halfminute.
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 selfseeking,
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 unimaginable husband.
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, Eglamore?"
"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 pretty.
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 henceforward."
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 brainsick
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
"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 insulted her."
"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 back
"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 life."
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 possible."
"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 gesture
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 homeless?"
"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 compassion also!"
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 pearlcolored
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.
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 his
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 industry
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 imagination
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 Cannibals.
"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 sugar-candy
"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
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 seems!"
"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 other man."
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
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 estimate
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
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 of
"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
"And this is you," she cried--"you who wrote of
Troilus and Timon!"
"I lived all that," he replied--"I lived it, and so
for a long while I believed in the existence of wickedness.
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 shortsighted
people exist who have floundered into illdoing;
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
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 selfseeking
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
"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 divine."
"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
"Faith, but he was really a poet--or, at least, at
"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 sibilants
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
not come."
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 to say?"
"Nothing," she answered--"nothing. Not even for
you, who are a master-smith of words to-day and nothing
"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.
They Come and Part.
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 own.
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 rebuffed.
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 Alioneri's practises."
"I noticed that," said Sir Thomas. After a while
he said: "You think, then, that they must have been
"MUST is a word which intelligent people do not
outwear by too constant usage."
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 disappeared.
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 as mysterious----"
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, involving
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 it."
"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
unknown odds."
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 existence----"
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 traditions
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 interlopers
fauns, fairies, gnomes, ondines, incubi, or
demons. They could, according to these fables, temporarily
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'
"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
"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 vaingloriously
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 flatfootedly."
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. Herrick
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 manuscript.
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 bloodstain
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 resorted
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 record
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 will
"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 omnipotent."
"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
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 presently
returned with a bone-handled knife. And then he
made a light. "Are you quite ready, sir?"
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 imagination.
"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
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
"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 restrained."
"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 own.
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
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
`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 we say?"
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
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.
to The Plain Dealer.
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 carelessness.
In the heart of Figgis Wood, the incomparable
Countess of Drogheda, aunt to Mr. Wycherley's betrothed,
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," Wycherley
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 the universe."
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 highhearted
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 mirthfully
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 contented, William?"
"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 excellent
"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 stagnant-blooded fish."
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 toilet.
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 congratulations
beat about their ears as thick as sugarplums
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 involuntary eavesdropper.
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 underneath
the dramatist's window, while he tossed and assured
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 weddingsuit,
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 offchance
of recovering his sleeve-links.
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 deepcut,
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 while?"
"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 commentary
of a grimace.
"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, William----!"
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 nonsense."
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 precedence.
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 ago."
"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
"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 overambitious
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, Olivia!"
"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 pray then!"
"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 Vining.
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
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-inlaw
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 musically
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 altered
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 wanted you."
"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
"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
To help me through this long disease, my life.
* * * * * *
Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb
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!
to Dr. Arbuthnot.
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
"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 surpassing
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 gentleman
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 marveled.
"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
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
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
Mr. Pope gesticulated with thin hands and seemed
upon the verge of eloquence. Then he spoke unanswerably.
"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
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 breeches."
He thereby voiced a commentary patently uncalledfor,
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 undeniable;
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 of sacrilege?
"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. Henceforward
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
Wrote Mr. Pope:
The bliss of man (could pride that blessing
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 flatfooted
awkwardness in the management of your vowelsounds;
the lengthened "a" was almost requisite. . . .
Pope was fretting over the imbroglio when he absentmindedly
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 farmer.
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 personal wound.
"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
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 debts."
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 reading
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 bigthewed
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
"Oh, and indeed, indeed, I was always fond of
you----" The girl sobbed this.
She would have added more, no doubt, since compassion
is garrulous, had not Pope's scratched hand
dismissed a display of emotion as not entirely in consonance
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 began.
"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 entered
Lord Harcourt's mansion.
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 outwardly.
"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 brownhaired
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
straight shoulders!"
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 bless her!"
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
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 afforded----"
"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 brief
"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 assertiveness.
"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 considered.
"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
"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
Sent His own lightning and the victims
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 woolgathering."
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 fourteen days."
Then these two dipped their pens and set about a
moving composition, which has to-day its proper rating
among Mr. Pope's Complete Works.
"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.
to the Duke of Ormskirk.
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 wellbeing
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
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 dandified
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
"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 selfrespect
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
He paced the room. Pleading music tinged the
silence almost insensibly.
"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 Calverley,
"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 Umfraville
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 necklace
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 auditors.
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 loudmouthed
miser has need of them in order that he may be
handsomely interred."
"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
"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,
"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
"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 tonight."
"He has an eye for the picturesque," drawled Calverley.
"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 infamous
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
"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 Calverleys."
"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
"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 will try----"
"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 tomorrow.
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 procure
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 Calverley?--
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 letter
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. He shuddered.
"And to no end!" cried Ufford. "Ah, fate, the
devil and that code I mocked are all in league to cheat
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
"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 perfect?"
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 joyously
"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
"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 died.
"I am Lord Ufford," said Calverley aloud. "The
person of a peer is inviolable----" He presently
looked downward from rapt gazing at his wife.
Fresh from this horrible half-hour, he faced a future
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 ingredients
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 Calverley
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.
"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
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
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.
Prologue to The Rivals.
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 taken unprepared.
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 representative
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 dispute."
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 deplorable
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 beautiful
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 Ogle."
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, preferred
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 obstinately coy.
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 accompanied
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-menots.
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 insinuate
that philanthropy, when forced to manifest
itself through embezzlement, is a less womanly employment
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 milliner."
They lunched at Bemerside, where Mr. Sheridan was
cordially received by the steward, and a well-chosen
repast was placed at their disposal.
"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 responsibility
of stratigraphic geology. Fergus, perhaps,
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 an explanation.
"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 unconversant
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 instantly
she caught at her one chance of plausibly accounting
for her presence at Bemerside, and of effecting
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 five minutes."
His emphasis was such that the police withdrew with
a concomitant of apologies.
"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
"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 happiness."
"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 sincerity.
"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
"I love you," he said again. You would never have
suspected this man could speak, upon occasion, fluently.
"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
"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 practical----"
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.
"Though--or, rather, because--VANDERHOFFEN was a
child of the French Revolution, and inherited his
social, political and religious--or, rather, antireligious--
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."
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.
and Caroline.
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
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
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 necessaries.
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 Vanderhoffen.
"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, wellinformed
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 conversation
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
absolute monarchy.
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 repulsive.
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 inconsiderable
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 always,
the elusive suggestion of a stutter.
"I repeat to you," the tutor observed, "that no
consideration will ever make a grand-duke of me excepting
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 shoebuckle.
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 me----"
Thus he argued, with his high-pitched pleasant
voice, wherein there was, as always, the elusive suggestion
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 Vanderhoffen."
"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 stupendously idiotic?"
"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 opportunely
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 hypercritical?"
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 politician
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
The stouter man said quietly: "It is a thrilling
tale which you narrate. Only, I do recall what happened
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 controlled
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, miraculous
and incredible perfection of Mildred Claridge.
"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
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. Afterward
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 Obendorf."
"I had my orders, highness," said the other
"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 Pavilion--
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 selfrespecting
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 lifeterm
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 seriously."
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
This heartened him, as a rounded phrase will do the
best of us. But by-and-bye,
"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 fiddlestring,
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 your blood."
Wherewith he suavely told her everything about Paul
Vanderhoffen's origin and the alternatives now offered
him, and she listened without comment.
"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
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
forlornly ended.
"The designing minx!" Miss Claridge said, distinctly.
"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 irony."
"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 conception.
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 undistinguishable.
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 Vanderhoffen
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 breakfast
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
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 much----"
"Your coloring is not--repellent." His highpitched
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 everything----?"
"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 selfdenial.
"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.
"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 selfdeluding
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
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--
JOHN CHARTERIS. Torrismond's
Envoi, in Ashtaroths
"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 trifle fagged.
The afternoon train had been vexatiously late. The
little novelist had found it tedious to interchange
inanities with the committee awaiting him at the Pullman
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 college
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
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 perfectly
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
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 necessity
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 naturae?"
"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 armin-
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 of that."
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 coming true?"
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 divorce-courts."
"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 deal."
"Eh, what? But then you never married?" For
masculinity in argument starts with the word it has
found distasteful.
"Why, no."
"Nor I." And his tone implied that the two facts
conjoined proved much.
"Miss Willoughby----?" she inquired.
Now, how in heaven's name, could a cloistered Fairhaven
have surmised his intention of proposing on
the first convenient opportunity to handsome, well-todo
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 only
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 remember
"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 occurrences!
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 worldlywise
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 of Yesterday!"
"And how slight a loss was laughter," she murmured--
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----?" he began.
"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 masterword
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 deepthroated
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 Charteris
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 unmitigated
grandmother. You see, I have a bit of rather
important business to attend to. Which way is Miss
"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 two-step.
"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

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