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❧ LITERARY CONTENTSPAGE
A POSTSCRIPT TO
RETALIATION . . . . Austin
Dobson . 1
THE PICTURES OF GUSTAVE MOREAU . . Gleeson White . 3
JULY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Field . 17
JULES BARGEY D’AUREVILLY . . . . . Edmund Gosse . 18
MISS PEELE’S APOTHEOSIS: A STUDY IN
EXTRA-SUBURBAN AMENITIES . . . . Victor Plarr . 32
THE SONG OF SONGS . . . Rosamund Marriott Watson . 63
BLIND LOVE . . . . . . . Laurence Housman (1877) . 64
ON THE SOUTH COAST OF CORNWALL . . . John Gray . 47
THE GODS GAVE MY DONKEY WINGS . Angus Evan Abbott . 87
TWENTY-FOUR QUATRAINS FROM OMAR . F. York Powell . 79
LIGHT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Gray . 113
GIULIO CAMPAGNOLA . . . . . . . . D. S. MacColl . 136
YAI AND THE MOON . . . . . . . . Max Beerbohm . 143
TO AN EARLY SPRING DAY . . . . . T. Sturge Moore . 156
THE SEVEN PRINCESSES . . . . Maurice Maeterlinck . 163
(Translated by Alfred Sutro)
RENEWAL . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Field . 185
VIRAGO . . . . . . . . . . W. Delaplaine Scull . 186
ANCILLA DOMINI . . . . . . . . . Selwyn Image . 196
OF PURPLE JARS . . . . . . . . Edward Purcell . 198
THE LAGGARD KNIGHT . . . . . . . . . R. Garnett . 221
QUEEN YSABEAU . . . . . Count Villiers de l’Isle-Adam . 222
(Translated by A. Teixeira de Mattos)
ON A BRETON CEMETERY . . . . . . . Ernest Dowson . 232
THE LILIES OF FRANCE . . . . . . . . Lionel Johnson . 233
A NOTE ON ORIGINAL WOOD ENGRAVING
(illustrated) . . . . . . . . . . Charles Ricketts . 253
❧ ART CONTENTS
HERCULES AND THE
HYDRA . Gustave
Moreau . Frontispiece
THE APPARITION . . . . . . . . . . Gustave Moreau . 9
THE SPHINX . . . . . . . . . . . . Gustave Moreau . 15
THE ANCIENT MARINER, from a
pen drawing . . . . . . . . . . . . Reginald Savage . 29
LA PIA . . . . . . . . . . . . Dante Gabriel Rossetti . 43
HAMLET AND OPHELIA, from a
pen drawing . . . . . . . . . . Dante Gabriel Rossetti . 57
A STUDY IN SANGUINE AND
WHITE . . . . . . . . . . Charles Hazelwood Shannon . 71
A WOUNDED AMAZON . . . . . Charles Hazelwood Shannon . 85
PERSEUS AND THE SEA-MAIDENS . . Sir Edward Burne-Jones . 99
THE CALL OF PERSEUS . . . . . . Sir Edward Burne-Jones . 111
THE INVISIBLE PRINCESS, from a
pen drawing . . . . . . . . . . . Laurence Housman . 125
THE CAPTIVE STAG, from an
engraving . . . . . . . . . . . . Giulio Campagnola . 135
THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA, from
an engraving . . . . . . . . . . . Giulio Campagnola . 139
THE FLUTE-PLAYER, from an
engraving . . . . . . . . . . . . Giulio Campagnola . 141
YOUNG GIRLS BY THE SEA . . . . . P. Puvis de Chavannes . 149
YOUNG GIRLS AND DEATH . . . . . P. Puvis de Chavannes . 161
LA PREMIER BAL, from a water-
colour . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charles Conder . 173
THE DEATH OF ABEL . . . . . George Frederick Watts, R. A. . 189
THE GENIUS OF GREEK POETRY . . George Frederick Watts, R. A. . 203
J. K. HUYSMANS . . . . . . . . . . . Will Rothenstein . 217
THE FAIRY SHIP . . . . . . . . . . . . Walter Crane . 229
THE BATHERS . . . . . . . . . . . . William Strang . 243
THE AUTUMN MUSE . . . . . . . . . Charles Ricketts . 251
THE QUEEN OF THE FISHES, a
woodcut in five blocks . . . . . . . . . Lucien Pissaro . 259
❧ A POSTSCRIPT TO ‘RETALIATION’
[After the fourth edition of Dr. Goldsmith’s Retaliation was printed, the publisher
received a supplementary epitaph on the wit and punster, Caleb Whitefoord. Though
it is found appended to the later issues of the poem, it has been suspected that
Whitefoord wrote it himself. It may be that the following, which has recently come
to light, is another forgery.]
Here JOHNSON is laid. Have a care how you walk;
If he stir in his sleep, in his sleep he will talk.
Ye gods! how he talk’d! What a torrent of sound
His hearers invaded, encompass’d, and—drown’d!
What a banquet of memory, fact, illustration,
In that innings-for-one that he call’d conversation!
Can’t you hear his sonorous ‘Why no, sir!’ and ‘Stay, sir!
Your premiss is wrong,’ or ‘You don’t see your way, sir!’
How he silenc’d a prig, or a slip-shod romancer!
How he pounc’d on a fool with a knock-me-down answer!
But peace to his slumbers! Tho’ rough in the rind,
The heart of the giant was gentle and kind:
What signifies now, if in bouts with a friend,
When his pistol miss’d fire, he would use the butt-end 1
If he trampled your flow’rs—like a bull in a garden—
What matter for that? he was sure to ask pardon;
And you felt on the whole, tho’ he’d toss’d you and gor’d you,
It was something, at least, that he had not ignor’d you.
Yes ! the outside was rugged. But test him within,
You found he had nought of the bear but the skin; 2
And for bottom and base to his ‘anfractuosity,’
A fund of fine feeling, good taste, generosity.
He was true to his conscience, his King, and his duty,
And he hated the Whigs, and he softened to beauty.
Turn now to his writings. I grant, in his tales,
That he made little fishes talk vastly like whales; 3
I grant that his language was rather emphatic,
Nay, even—to put the thing plainly—dogmatic;
❧ Read for the author, by the Master of the Temple, at the dinner of the ‘Johnson Society’
in Pembroke College, Oxford, on the 22nd June of 1896.
1. Goldsmith said this of Johnson. 2. Goldsmith also said this. 3. And this.
But read him for style, and dismiss from your thoughts
The crowd of compilers who copied his faults, 1
Say, where is there English so full and so clear,
So weighty, so dignified, manly, sincere?
So strong in expression, conviction, persuasion?
So prompt to take colour from place and occasion?
So widely removed from the doubtful, the tentative;
So truly—and in the best sense—argumentative?
You may talk of your Burkes and your Gibbons so clever
But I hark back to him with a ‘Johnson for ever!’
And I feel as I muse on his ponderous figure,
Tho’ he’s great in this age, in the next he’ll grow bigger;
And still while his Pembroke takes sunlight upon her,
New dons shall assemble, and dine in his honour!
1. These, or like rhymes, are to be found in Edwin and Angelina and in Retaliation itself.
THE PICTURES OF GUSTAVE MOREAU
WHO has not suffered under the tyranny of
an insistent phrase from the street song of
the moment? or from the reiteration of a
foolish phrase? ‘The French Burne-Jones,’
for instance, is one that will intrude when
Moreau is mentioned. Such an inept com-
parison is degrading to both painters, and its
ghost must be laid. To apply a geographical
adjective to an artist is always a fatuous
substitute for criticism. A Belgian Shakespeare or a French Burne-
Jones—how pitifully meaningless each phrase is seen to be when you
face it boldly. For the essence of Burne-Jones is that he is Northern,
and of Moreau that he is Latin.
A Frenchman looks to the East through Rome; whether his gaze be
fixed on theology or art, he sees it through the atmosphere of the eternal
city. An Englishman regards Rome as an episode, and sometimes for-
gets even whether Greece inspired the Latins, or vice versâ. For Rome
to a Briton is not the outpost of his frontier whence he emerges in quest
of the dim past; it is not the beginning of his to-day, but one of the
twilights of dead yesterdays. He may travel to the Orient, whose
frontier is Greece, by sea; or, through the haunted forests of Germany
and down the Danube. His East is linked to him not by the Caesars,
nor the Popes, but by the Crusaders. His myths of Hellas reach
him more often by way of Chaucer or William Morris. That Venus
should masquerade as Our Lady of Pain, clad in broideries of mediæval
fashion, seems to him natural enough. Not so the Frenchman, who,
Latin by race, is still Latin in heart, and regards far off Greece and
more distant Egypt as the direct artistic progenitors of his forefathers
the Romans, by whom he claims a clear pedigree through the masters
of classic times, back to the East, the birthplace of knowledge.
Recognising this sharply defined distinction, you may trace the
art of Burne-Jones and Moreau to the same fountain-head, and find in
the brooding East the mother of all the mysteries each delights to re-
edify; but the two streams only meet at the source. Over the waters
of the one still hangs the heavy-scented incense cloud of the Middle
Ages; the other flows azure and sparkling from springs fed by the dews
from the mystic rose of Persia, from lotus-pools of Ind, and from
Hellenic brooks wherein Narcissus gazed.
For Moreau is the classic ideal, which is scholarly simplicity; al-
l’Ange, St. Etienne, un Calvaire, une Déposition de Croix, Ensevelissement
du Christ, and the biblical pictures, Salomé, David, Bethsabée.
To these may be added the series of designs for the fables of La
Fontaine which were admirably described in an illustrated paper in The
Magazine of Art.1 Reproductions of these sixty-four water-colours
nominally intended to illustrate La Fontaine are not yet accessible in
volume form, but many single pictures have been admirably etched by
Bracquemond. Mr. Claude Phillips sees in them a distinctly strong trace
of Persian influence, which, unlike Japanese, does not concern itself
with the purely exterior manifestation of humanity and the outer
world, but is distinguished by supreme calm, devoid of violent action,
assisted by a severe life and tempered passions. Possibly it would be
still more accurate to call this influence Hindoo-Greek, for although
both sprang, doubtless, from the same source, it is the latter develop-
ment which Moreau feels. But in the exquisitely delicate tracery and
jewelled embroideries, that preserve a certain reticence in their splen-
dour, there is kinship to Persian fantasy. The text of La Fontaine,
with its beasts masquerading as men, its prim moralities and fossil anec-
dotes, fettered Moreau, who seems at times to have wearied of the effort.
The Head of Orpheus, which Ary Renan describes so charmingly,
has found an English critic, whose impression is so vividly expressed
that it were folly to try to put the idea in other words: ‘It is against
skies flushed by an aftermath of sun that recall for their touches of
orange and bands of brooding purple these words, Quelles violettes
frondaisons vont descendre—words so expressive of that hush in nature
become strange in expectation of some countersign pregnant for the
future—it is against a sky like this,’ he says, ‘that an all-persuasive
figure moves away; the head of Orpheus lies between her hands, and we
scarcely know if her fastidious dress, decked with so many outlandish
things, has been clasped to her waist and chaste throat in real
innocence of the burden she holds so mystically; but this hint of
sentiment is too slight, too fugitive, in the picture to become morbid.’
In The Birth of Venus, not included in M. Ary Renan’s list, we note
a curious influence of Pompeii. The figure of Venus, in the foreground,
floats in a shell, by way of boat, scarce conscious of the clamorous
worshippers on the distant beach who would fain attract her gaze;
through a cleft in the fantastic walls of rock that bound the coast you
catch a glimpse of a lovely country.
1. Vol. x. 101
❧ THE APPARITION
In the Hercules and Hydra, the central figure is, like that of the
Venus, singularly removed from the gross physical type so dear to
certain schools. It is a divine, not a fat Hercules; and the reality of the
monster terrifies one. The colouring of the picture—dark green with
blood-red in the sky and upon the ground—imparts a grim sense of
awe. The third picture illustrated, the Apparition, is strangely like
the Salome Dancing in its composition. In each the chief figure
stands to the left of the spectator; in each a silent warrior with his
mouth swathed in heavy drapery gazes mutely impassive; in each,
huge arches rise profound and mysterious; but apart from mere similarity
of composition the motif of either is utterly distinct. In the Apparition
the figure of Herod is at the side scarce noticeable. The tragedy is
but indirectly concerned with him; it is the instigator who is con-
founded by the spectral and transfigured head that rivets the attention
of one who sees the painting, no less than it appals the chief actor,
who is alone moved by the portent. In the Salome Dancing, the white
lily she holds as a sceptre seems to heighten the meaning of her
sorcery. The hanging lamps and the cathedral-like aspect of the vast
Asiatic interior, the brooding Herod who sits enthroned with grotesque
monsters in a hellish trinity above him, all assist to make the scene
suggest an impious travesty of the religion that was destined to
enshrine the incident. So stern is the purpose that not at first do you
realise the wealth of imagery which has been encrusted upon the
idea, or rather the complexity of aspect which the idea itself has
assumed in Moreau’s conception.
To describe in catalogue the works of Gustave Moreau already
mentioned would serve no purpose. If any one interested in his paint-
ing is unable to gain access to the pictures—and as they are mostly in
private hands it is extremely difficult to do so—he will find in the
various periodicals already mentioned descriptions of the most important.
In A Rebours, Huysmans has spoken at some length of the Apparition,
which was shown in England at the first Exhibition at the Grosvenor
Gallery. The story of Salomé has had a most lasting fascination for
Moreau. A third picture—a wonderful water-colour, that so far appears
to have escaped reproduction—which shows Salome returning with the
head of John the Baptist on a charger, conveys the same poetic under-
current we see in the Head of Orpheus. It is an echo of Heine’s terrible
Salomein Alta Troll.
1. A Rebours, pp. 74, 7912
Of the Young Man and Death, with its ascription to Chassériau, of
the Plainte du Poète, reproductions are given in the Gazette des Beaux
Arts, and elsewhere; but none of these do more than suggest and
then only to those familiar with the originals—the scheme of colour
which Moreau usually employs. His favourite harmony is in blues
verging on peacock, merging into dark green, with rather hot browns
and a liberal use of crimsons and old-gold colour. The flesh tones are
inclined to be cadaverous; the draperies are often polychromatic, not
‘shot’ like those of Burne-Jones, but in layers of different hues.
Bowers of clipped foliage, the lotus, the iris, and gum-cistus, lilies and
roses, branches of coral and sea-plants, are frequent accessories. As
Burne-Jones loves to depict metals, so Moreau delights in enamelled
surfaces. To attempt to convey his manner in a sentence is not easy;
perhaps to say that he is a cross between Mantegna and Delacroix
might convey some idea of his colour, but his blues are quite unlike
those of either master.
But this chance comparison with Burne-Jones is merely for explana-
tory purposes. For to appreciate one painter by linking him with
another—the eternal match-making of the elderly—is at once a failure
and an unintentional insult. The one distinct patent of nobility for an
artist is that he shall hide a superb pedigree by the still more noble
title won by his own prowess. The more you study Moreau, the more
you feel he owes his manner, his style, his entire art, to Moreau and
Moreau only. In a distinctly limited manner he is not merely
supreme, but an autocrat with no power behind the throne. The
new personality of his invention is more and more apparent as you
attempt to discover the real artist. Like all princes he may employ
the universal language of courts, but he speaks as unreservedly as a
democrat; he does not hunt like Flaubert for the exact adjective, nor
weary himself by constant self-criticism. But the language he uses,
whether polished by the master of the past or created for his own
purpose, is strangely pregnant.
THERE is a month between the swath and sheaf
When grass is gone
And corn still grassy,
When limes are massy
With hanging leaf
And pollen-coloured blooms whereon
Bees are voices we can hear,
So hugely dumb
The silent month of the attaining year.
The white-faced roses slowly disappear
From field and hedgerow, and no more flowers come:
Earth lies in strain of powers
Too terrible for flowers:
And would we know
Her burthen we must go
Forth from the vale, and, ere the sunstrokes slacken,
Stand at a moorland’s edge and gaze
Across the hush and blaze
Of the clear-burning, verdant, summer bracken;
For in that silver flame
Is writ July’s own name.
The ineffectual, numbed sweet
Of passion at its heat.
1894 MICHAEL FIELD
JULES BARBEY D’AUREVILLY
THOSE who can endure an excursion into the
backwaters of literature may contemplate,
neither too seriously nor too lengthily, the
career and writings of Barbey d’Aurevilly.
Very obscure in his youth, he lived so long,
and preserved his force so consistently, that
in his old age he became, if not quite a
celebrity, most certainly a notoriety. At
the close of his life—he reached his eighty-
first year— he was still to be seen walking the streets or haunting
the churches of Paris, his long, sparse hair flying in the wind, his
fierce eyes flashing about him, his hat poised on the side of his
head, his famous lace frills turned back over the cuff of his coat,
his attitude always erect, defiant, and formidable. Down to the
winter of 1888 he preserved the dandy dress of 1840, and never
appeared but as M. de Pontmartin has described him, in black satin
trousers, which fitted his old legs like a glove, in a flapping, brigand
wideawake, in a velvet waistcoat, which revealed diamond studs and a
lace cravat, and in a wonderful shirt that covered the most artful pair of
stays. In every action, in every glance, he seemed to be defying the
natural decay of years, and to be forcing old age to forget him by dint
of spirited and ceaseless self-assertion. He was himself the prototype
of all the Brassards and Misnilgrands of his stories, the dandy of
dandies, the mummied and immortal beau.
His intellectual condition was not unlike his physical one. He was
a survival—of the most persistent. The last, by far the last, of the
Romantiques of 1840, Barbey d’Aurevilly lived on into an age wholly
given over to other aims and ambitions, without changing his own
ideals by an iota. He was to the great men who began the revival,
to figures like Alfred de Vigny, what Shirley was to the early Eliza-
bethans. He continued the old tradition, without resigning a single
habit or prejudice, until his mind was not a whit less old-fashioned
than his garments. Victor Hugo, who hated him, is said to have
edicated an unpublished verse to his portrait:
‘Barbey d’Aurevilly, formidable imbécile.’
But ‘imbécile’ was not at all the right word. He was absurd; he was
outrageous; he had, perhaps, by dint of resisting the decrepitude of his
natural powers, become a little crazy. But imbecility is the very last
word to use of this mutinous, dogged, implacable old pirate of letters.
Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly was born near Valognes (the ‘V——’
which figures in several of his stories) on the 2nd of November 1808.
He liked to represent himself as a scion of the bluest nobility of Nor-
mandy, and he communicated to the makers of dictionaries the fact
that the name of his direct ancestor is engraved on the tomb of
William the Conqueror. But some have said that the names of his
father and mother were never known, and others (poor d’Aurevilly !)
have set him down as the son of a butcher in the village of Saint-
Sauveur-le-Vicomte. He was at college with Maurice de Guérin, and
quite early, about 1830 apparently, he became personally acquainted
with Chateaubriand. His youth seems to be wrapped up in mystery;
according to one of the best informed of his biographers, he vanished
in 1831, and was not heard of again until 1851. To these twenty
years of alleged disappearance one or two remarkable books of his
are, however, ascribed. It appears that what is perhaps the most
characteristic of all his writings, Du Dandyisme et de Georges Brummell,
was written as early as 1842; and in 1845 a very small edition of it was
printed by an admirer of the name of Trebutien, to whose affection
d’Aurevilly seems to have owed his very existence. It is strange that
so little is distinctly known about a man who, late in life, attracted
much curiosity and attention. He was a consummate romancer, and
he liked to hint that he was engaged during early life in intrigues of a
corsair description. The truth seems to be that he lived, in great
obscurity, in the neighbourhood of Caen, probably by the aid of
journalism. As early as 1825 he began to publish; but of all the pro-
ductions of his youth, the only one which can now be met with is the
prose poem of Amaïdée, written, I suppose, about 1835; this was pub-
lished by M. Paul Bourget as a curiosity immediately after Barbey
d’Aurevilly ’s death. Judged as a story, Amaïdée is puerile; it
describes how to a certain poet, called Somegod, who dwelt on a
lonely cliff, there came a young man altogether wise and stately
named Altar, and a frail daughter of passion, who gives her name to
the book. These three personages converse in magnificent language,
and, the visitors presently departing, the volume closes. But an
interest attaches to the fact that in Somegod (Quelque Dieu!) the
author was painting a portrait of Maurice de Guerin, while the majestic
Altar is himself. The conception of this book is Ossianic; but the
style is often singularly beautiful, with a marmoreal splendour founded
on a study of Chateaubriand and, perhaps, of Goethe, and not without
relation to that of Guérin himself.
The earliest surviving production of d’Aurevilly, if we except
Amaïdée is L’ Amour Impossible, a novel published in 1841, with the
object of correcting the effects of the poisonous Lélia of George Sand.
Already, in this crude book, we see something of the Barbey d’Aure-
villy of the future, the Dandy-Paladin, the Catholic Sensualist or Dia-
volist, the author of the few poor thoughts and the sonorous, paroxysmal,
abundant style. I forget whether it is here or in a slightly later novel
that, in hastily turning the pages, I detect the sentiment, ‘Our fore-
fathers were wise to cut the throats of the Huguenots, and very stupid
not to burn Luther.’ The late Master of Balliol is said to have asked
a reactionary undergraduate, ‘What, Sir! would you burn, would you
burn?’ If he had put the question to Barbey d’Aurevilly, the scented
hand would have been laid on the cambric bosom, and the answer
would have been, ‘Certainly I should.’ In the midst of the infidel
society and literature of the Second Empire, d’Aurevilly persisted in
the most noisy profession of his entire loyalty to Rome, but his methods
of proclaiming his attachment were so violent and outrageous that the
Church showed no gratitude to her volunteer defender. This was a
source of much bitterness and recrimination, but it is difficult to see
how the author of Le Prêtré Marié and Une Histoire sans nom could
expect pious Catholics to smile on his very peculiar treatment of
Barbey d’Aurevilly, none the less, deserves attention as really the
founder of that neo-catholicism which has now invaded so many
departments of French literature. At a time when no one else per-
ceived it, he was greatly impressed by the beauty of the Roman cere-
monial, and determined to express with poetic emotion the mystical
majesty of the symbol. It must be admitted that, although his work
never suggests any knowledge of or sympathy with the spiritual part
of religion, he has a genuine appreciation of its externals. It would be
difficult to point to a more delicate and full impression of the solemnity
which attends the crepuscular light of a church at vespers than is given
in the opening pages of A un Diner d’Athées. In L’Ensorcelée, too, we
find the author piously following a chanting procession round a church,
and ejaculating, ‘Rien nest beau comme cet instant solennel des cérémonies
catholiques. ’ Almost every one of his novels deals by preference with
ecclesiastical subjects, or introduces some powerful figure of a priest.
But it is very difficult to believe that his interest in it all is other
than histrionic or phenomenal. He likes the business of a priest
he likes the furniture of a church, but there, in spite of his vehemen
protestations, his piety seems to a candid reader to have begun and
For a humble and reverent child of the Catholic Church, it must
be confessed that Barbey d’Aurevilly takes strange liberties. The
mother would seem to have had little control over the caprices of her
extremely unruly son. There is scarcely one of these ultra-catholic
novels of his which it is conceivable that a pious family would like to
see lying upon its parlour table. The Devil takes a prominent part in
many of them, for d’Aurevilly’s whim is to see Satanism everywhere,
and to consider it matter of mirth; he is like a naughty boy, giggling
when a rude man breaks his mother’s crockery. He loves to play with
dangerous and forbidden notions. In Le Prêtre Marié (which, to his
lofty indignation, was forbidden to be sold in Catholic shops) the hero
is a renegade and incestuous priest, who loves his own daughter, and
makes a hypocritical confession of error in order that, by that act of
perjury, he may save her life, as she is dying of the agony of knowing
him to be an atheist. This man, the Abbé Sombreval, is bewitched, is
possessed of the Devil, and so is Ryno de Marigny in Une vieille
Maîtresse, and Lasthénie de Ferjol in Une Histoire sans nom. This is
one of Barbey d’Aurevilly’s favourite tricks, to paint an extraordinary,
an abnormal condition of spirit, and to avoid the psychological difficulty
by simply attributing it to sorcery. But he is all the time rather
amused by the wickedness than shocked at it. In Le Bonheur dans le
Crime—the moral of which is that people of a certain grandeur of
temperament can be absolutely wicked with impunity—he frankly
confesses his partiality for la plaisanterie légèrcment sacrilège, and all
the philosophy of d’Aurevilly is revealed in that rash phrase. It is
not a matter of a wounded conscience expressing itself with a brutal
fervour, but the gusto of conscious wickedness. His mind is intimately
akin with that of the Neapolitan lady, whose story he was perhaps the
first to tell, who wished that it only were a sin to drink iced sherbet.
Barbey d’Aurevilly is a devil who may or may not believe, but who
always makes a point of trembling.
The most interesting feature of Barbey d’Aurevilly’s temperament,
as revealed in his imaginative work, is, however, his preoccupation with
his own physical life. In his youth, Byron and Alfieri were the objects
of his deepest idolatry; he envied their disdainful splendour of passion;
and he fashioned his dream in poverty and obscurity so as to make
himself believe that he was of their race. He was a Disraeli—with
whom, indeed, he has certain relations of style—but with none of
Disraeli’s social advantages, and with a more inconsequent and violent
habit of imagination. Unable, from want of wealth and position, to
carry his dreams into effect, they became exasperated and intensified,
and at an age when the real dandy is settling down into a man of the
world, Barbey d’Aurevilly was spreading the wings of his fancy into
the infinite azure of imaginary experience. He had convinced himself
that he was a Lovelace, a Lauzun, a Brummell, and the philosophy of
dandyism filled his thoughts far more than if he had really been able
to spend a stormy youth among marchionesses who carried, set in
diamonds in a bracelet, the ends of the moustaches of viscounts. In
the novels of his maturity and his old age, therefore, Barbey d’Aurevilly
loved to introduce magnificent aged dandies, whose fatuity he dwelt
upon with ecstasy, and in whom there is no question that he saw
reflections of his imaginary self. No better type of this can be found
than that Vicomte de Brassard, an elaborate, almost enamoured, por-
trait of whom fills the earlier pages of what is else a rather dull story,
Le Rideau Cramoisi. The very clever, very immoral tale called Le
Plus Bel Amour de Don Juan—which relates how a superannuated but
still incredibly vigorous old beau gives a supper to the beautiful women
of quality whom he has known, and recounts to them the most piquant
adventure of his life—is redolent of this intense delight in the pro-
longation of enjoyment by sheer refusal to admit the ravages of age.
Although my space forbids quotation, I cannot resist repeating a
passage which illustrates this horrible fear of the loss of youth and the
struggle against it, more especially as it is a good example of
d’Aurevilly’s surcharged and intrepid style:
‘II n’y avail pas lk de ces jeunesses vert tendre, de ces petites damoiselles
qu’exécrait Byron, qui sentent la tartelette et qui, par la toumure, ne sent encore
que’des épluchettes, mais tons étés splendides et savoureux, plantureux automnes,
épanouissements a. plénitudes, seins éblouissants battant leur plien majestueux au
bord decouvert des corsages, et, sous les camees de 1’épaule nue, des bras de tout
galbe, mais surtout des bras puissants, de ces biceps de Sabines qui ont utté avec
les Remains, et qui seraient capables de s’entrelacer, pour l’arrêter, dans les rayons
de la roue du char de la vie.’
This obsession of vanishing youth, this intense determination to
preserve the semblance and colour of vitality, in spite of the passage of
years, is, however, seen to greatest advantage in a very curious book
of Barbey d’Aurevilly’s, in some aspects, indeed, the most curious
which he has left behind him, Du Dandyisme et de Georges Brummell.
This is really a work of his early maturity, for it was printed in a small
private ’edition so long ago as ,845. It was no, published, however,
until 1861, when it may be said to have introduced its author to the
world of France. Later on he wrote a curious study of the fascination
exercised over La Grande Mademoiselle by Lauzun, Un Dandy d’avant
les Dandys, and these two are now published in one volume, which
forms that section of the immense work of d’Aurevilly which best
rewards the curious reader.
Many writers in England, from Thomas Carlyle in Sartor Resartus
to our ingenious young forger of paradoxes, Mr. Max Beerbohm, have
dealt upon that semi-feminine passion in fatuity, that sublime attention
to costume and deportment, which marks the dandy. The type has
been, as d’Aurevilly does not fail to observe, mainly an English one.
We point to Lord Yarmouth, to Beau Nash, to Byron, to Sheridan, and,
above all, ‘à ce Dandy royal, S. M. Georges iv;’ but the star of each
of these must pale before that of Brummell. These others, as was said
in a different matter, had ‘other preoccupations,’ but Brummell was
entirely absorbed, as by a solemn mission, by the conduct of his person
and his clothes. So far, in the portraiture of such a figure, there is
nothing very singular in what the French novelist has skilfully and
nimbly done, but it is his own attitude which is so original. All other
writers on the dandies have had their tongues in their cheeks. If they
have commended, it is because to be preposterous is to be amusing.
When we read that ‘dandyism is the least selfish of all the arts,’
we smile, for we know that the author’s design is to be entertaining.
But Barbey d’Aurevilly is doggedly in earnest. He loves the great
dandies of the past as other men contemplate with ardour dead
poets and dead musicians. He is seriously enamoured of their mode
of life. He sees nothing ridiculous, nothing even limited, in their
self-concentration. It reminds him of the tiger and of the condor;
it recalls to his imagination the vast, solitary forces of Nature;
and when he contemplates Beau Brummell, his eyes fill with tears of
nostalgia. So would he have desired to live; thus, and not otherwise,
would he fain have strutted and trampled through that eighteenth
century to which he is for ever gazing back with a fond regret. ‘To
dress one’s self,’ he says, ‘should be the main business of life,’ and
with great ingenuity he dwells upon the latent but positive influence
which dress has had on men of a nature apparently furthest re-
moved from its trivialities; upon Pascal, for instance, upon Buffon,
It was natural that a writer who delighted in this patrician ideal of
conquering man should have a limited conception of life. Women to
Barbey d’Aurevilly were of two varieties — either nuns or amorous
tigresses; they were sometimes both in one. He had no idea of soft
gradations in society: there were the tempestuous marchioness and
her intriguing maid on one side; on the other, emptiness, the sordid
hovels of the bourgeoisie. This absence of observation or recognition
of life d’Aurevilly shared with the other Romantiques, but in his
sinister and contemptuous aristocracy he passed beyond them all. Had
he lived to become acquainted with the writings of Nietzsche, he would
have hailed a brother-spirit, one who loathed democracy and the
humanitarian temper as much as he did himself. But there is no
philosophy in Barbey d’Aurevilly, nothing but a prejudice fostered and
a sentiment indulged.
In referring to Nicholas Nickleby, a novel which he vainly endeavoured
to get through, d’Aurevilly remarks : ‘ I wish to write an essay on
Dickens, and at present I have only read one hundred pages of his
writings. But I consider that if one hundred pages do not give the
talent of a man, they give his spirit, and the spirit of Dickens is odious
to me.’ ‘ The vulgar Dickens,’ he calmly remarks in Journalistes et
Polémistes, and we laugh at the idea of sweeping away such a record
of genius on the strength of a chapter or two misread in Nicholas
Nickleby. But Barbey d’Aurevilly was not Dickens, and it really is
not necessary to study closely the vast body of his writings. The
same characteristics recur in them all, and the impression may easily
be weakened by vain repetition. In particular, a great part of the
later life of d’Aurevilly was occupied in writing critical notices and
studies for newspapers and reviews. He made this, I suppose, his
principal source of income; and from the moment when, in 1851, he
became literary critic to Le Pays to that of his death, nearly forty years
later, he was incessantly dogmatising about literature and art. He
never became a critical force, he was too violent and, indeed, too
empty for that; but a pen so brilliant as his is always welcome with
editors whose design is not to be true, but to be noticeable, and to
escape ‘the obvious.’ The most cruel of Barbey d’Aurevilly’s enemies
could not charge his criticism with being obvious. It is intensely
contentious and contradictory. It treats all writers and artists on the
accepted nursery principle of ‘Go and see what baby’s doing, and tell
him not to.’ This is entertaining for a moment; and if the shower of
abuse is spread broadly enough, some of it must come down on
shoulders that deserve it. But the ‘slashing’ review of yester-year is
dismal reading, and it cannot be said that the library of reprinted
criticism to which d’Aurevilly gave the general title of Les CEuvres et
les Homines is very enticing.
He had a great contempt for Goethe and for Sainte-Beuve, in whom
he saw false priests constantly leading the public away from the true
principle of literary expression, ‘le couronnement, la gloire et la force
de toute critique, que je cherche en vain. A very ingenious writer, M.
Ernest Tissot, has paid Barbey d’Aurevilly the compliment of taking
him seriously in this matter, and has written an elaborate study on
what his criterium was. But this is, perhaps, to inquire too kindly. I
doubt whether he sought with any very sincere expectation of finding;
like the Persian sage, ‘he swore, but was he sober when he swore?’
Was he not rather intoxicated with his self-encouraged romantic exas-
peration, and determined to be fierce, independent, and uncompromising
at all hazards? Such are, at all events, the doubts awakened by his
indignant diatribes, which once amused Paris so much, and now influence
no living creature. Some of his dicta, in their showy way, are forcible.
‘La critique a pour blason la croix, la balance et la gloire;’ that is a
capital phrase on the lips of a reviewer, who makes himself the appointed
Catholic censor of worldly letters, and is willing to assume at once the
cross, the scales, and the sword. More of the hoof peeps out in
this: ‘La critique, c’est une intrépidité de l’esprit et du caractère! To a
nature like that of d’Aurevilly, the distinction between intrepidity and
arrogance is never clearly defined .
It is, after all, in his novels that Barbey d’Aurevilly displays his
talent in its most interesting form. His powers developed late; and
perhaps the best constructed of all his tales is Une Histoire sans nom,
which dates from 1882, when he was quite an old man. In this, as in
all the rest, a surprising narrative is well, although extremely leisurely,
told, but without a trace of psychology. It was impossible for d’Aure-
villy to close his stories effectively; in almost every case, the futility
and extravagance of the last few pages destroys the effect of the rest.
Like the Fat Boy, he wanted to make your flesh creep, to leave you
cataleptic with horror at the end, but he had none of Poe’s skill in pro-
ducing an effect of terror. In Le Rideau Cramoisi (which is considered,
I cannot tell why, one of his successes) the heroine dies at an embarrass-
ing moment, without any disease or cause of death being suggested—
she simply dies. But he is generally much more violent than this; at
the close of A un Dîner d’Athées, which up to a certain point is an
extremely fine piece of writing, the angry parents pelt one another
with the mummied heart of their only child; in Le Dessons des Cartes,
the key of all the intrigue is discovered at last in the skeleton of an
infant buried in a box of mignonette. If it is not by a monstrous fact,
it is by an audacious feat of anti-morality, that Barbey d’Aurevilly
seeks to harrow and terrify our imaginations. In Le Bonheur dans le
Crime, Hauteclaire Stassin, the woman-fencer, and the Count of
Savigny, pursue their wild intrigue and murder the Countess slowly,
and then marry each other, and live, with youth far prolonged (d’Aure-
villy’s special idea of divine blessing), without a pang of remorse,
without a crumpled rose-leaf in their felicity, like two magnificent
plants spreading in the violent moisture of a tropical forest.
On the whole, it is as a writer, pure and simple, that Barbey
d’Aurevilly claims most attention. His style, which Paul de Saint-
Victor (quite in his own spirit) described as a mixture of tiger’s blood
and honey, is full of extravagant beauty. He has a strange intensity,
a sensual and fantastic force, in his torrent of intertwined sentences
and preposterous exclamations. The volume called Les Diaboliques,
which contains a group of his most characteristic stories, published in
1874, may be recommended to those who wish, in a single example,
compendiously to test the quality of Barbey d’Aurevilly. He has a
curious love of punning, not for purposes of humour, but to intensify
his style: ‘Quel oubli et quelle oubliette’(Le Dessous des Cartes ), ‘bou-
doir fleur de pécher ou de péché’ (Le Plus Bel Amour), ‘renoncer à
l’amour malpropre, mats jamais à l’amour propre’ (A un Dîner d’Athées).
He has audacious phrases which linger in the memory: ‘Le Profil,
c’est l’écueil de la beauté’ (Le Bonheur dans le Crime ); ‘Les verres à
champagne de France , un lotus qui faisait [les Anglais] oublier les
sombres et religieuses habitudes de la patre;’ ‘Elle avait l’air
de monter vers Dieu, les mains toutes pleines de bonnes œuvres’
That Barbey d’Aurevilly will take any prominent place in the
history of literature is improbable. He was a curiosity, a droll, obstinate
survival. We like to think of him in his incredible dress, strolling
through the streets of Paris, with his clouded cane like a sceptre in one
hand, and in the other that small mirror by which every few minutes
he adjusted the poise of his cravat, or the studious tempest of his hair.
He was a wonderful old fop or beau of the forties handed down to the
eighties in perfect preservation. As a writer he was fervid, sumptuous,
magnificently puerile; I have been told that he was a superb talker,
that his conversation was like his books, a flood of paradoxical, flam-
boyant rhetoric. He made a gallant stand against old age, he defied
❧ THE ANCIENT MARINER
it long with success, and when it conquered him at last, he retired to
his hole like a rat, and died with stoic fortitude, alone, without a friend
to close his eyelids. It was in a wretched lodging high up in a house
in the Rue Rousselet, all his finery cast aside, and three melancholy cats
the sole mourners by his body, that they found, on an April morning
of 1889, the ruins of what had once been Barbey d’Aurevilly.
MISS PEELE’S APOTHEOSIS: A STUDY IN EXTRA-SUBURBAN AMENITIES
SOME of the little residential towns which lie
just outside the great zone of the London
suburbs are, if possible, more staunchly re-
spectable than the suburbs themselves. In
the latter, as everybody knows, society is at
times apt to be a little mixed, and it is not
always safe for well-bred people with sub-
scriptions at Mudie’s to call on the occupants
of the villa next their own unless they have
been first of all specially introduced to them by other thoroughly ‘nice’
persons. But in these little country towns which dot the home counties,
gentility and refinement are not thus imperilled. In Thegnhurst, for
instance, the lordly lady of Colonel Cholmondeley-Smith knows herself
perfectly safe in the drawing-room of the new tenant next door. For
that new tenant is the pretty, plaintive little widow of a something high
up in the Civil Service, and as such she is a supporter of noblesse and
clergé, and is received with open arms by the circle of the Anglo-Indian
matron. The Hon. and Rev. Parker Cope, a light of local society, a
cricketer and a curate, need never fear a fallen ‘H’ or a gauche allusion
in the house of the new-comer opposite him. For Mr. Philpott Burlegh
is an old gentleman of unimpeachable antecedents among those
mysterious collocations of exalted persons known as the ‘county
families.’ Even Mrs. Ponsonby Baker, the lady of a Thegnhurst
professional man, who having herself risen in some forgotten past from
the bar-parlour of the ‘Horse and Groom,’ is consequently a stricter
guardian of local social proprieties than a woman of bluer blood would
be—even Mrs. Ponsonby Baker need never be outraged by the arrival
in the town of a matron whose antecedents are too similar to her own.
No newly-wedded ex-lady of the ballet has ever ventured, as a resi-
dent, among the terraces of Thegnhurst. No gentleman with wealth
derived from a Regent Street emporium has ever brought a question-
able bride into the seclusion of those pleasant country haunts.
Gentility may indeed be said to run riot in dear little towns such
as these, as though in revenge for the continued existence upon earth
of vulgarity and eccentricity, of Brummagem sectarianism, of faddist
politics, of science, scepticism, the Bohemianism of the arts, and ’Appy
’Ampstead on a Sunday. There is something very charming to the
superficial eye in the air of ci-devant dignity which pervades their
residential quarters. The very children, who all know one another,
who are all so healthy, sturdy, pretty, and well dressed, and who play
lawn tennis with big rackets in front of the gabled red-brick villas,—
the very children suggest an ancien regime full of cavalier memories
and Grandisonian traditions. The little sailor boys have the prettiest
manners towards the local ladies, albeit they occasionally thump their
nurses or one another. The little fair-haired girls are models of
wholesomeness and of grace of the healthier and less ideal kind. Mr.
Du Maurier might do worse than draw his child-types from Thegn-
hurst. Nor need his satire on their elders be anything but of
the most delicate kind; for such coarse motifs as those inspired by
the shoddy Sir Gorgius Midas, or the ambitious Mrs. Ponsonby de
Tomkyns, are unknown in the town. Society there is poor—too poor
to fall into the courses which so often bring down upon Mayfair the
charge of crude snobbishness or positive vulgarity. The snobbishness
of Thegnhurst is of a shade so subtle that it is difficult to apprehend it
with the naked eye of criticism. It is there certainly—it exists, but
so mingled with better things, with honest pride in honourable birth
and honourable tradition, that the man who in conversation tries to
satirise it is often fain to give up the attempt with a blush and the
sense of having said something stupidly ill-bred.
But if Thegnhurst is unimpeachably genteel—using the term in
all good faith, just as Miss Austen might have used it—it is also
unconquerably unidea-ed. As we have indicated above, it revenges it-
self upon vulgarity and eccentricity alike, and is inclined to class in the
latter category all the interests and achievements of Mind. Wagner,
Darwin, Browning, Renan—to jot down at haphazard sufficiently diverse
types—are as much anathema to it as the Rev. Jehoram Stiggins of
revivalist fame, or the secularist orator who was once caned by Colonel
Cholmondeley-Smith for trying to institute Sunday morning cricket on
Thegnhurst Common. It loathes genius, and it loathes isms, as frankly
and unquestionably as it loathes Demos.
Thus when, a few years ago, Mr. Hugo Peele and his daughter
Octavia came to live in a little cottage in the Mudleigh Road, an
unfashionable part of Thegnhurst, the young lady at any rate was from
the first destined to suffer social martyrdom. Mr. Hugo Peele and
daughter were not, it is true, guilty of any overt acts of intellectual
Bohemianism. They apparently neither wrote nor published books!
Nay, he was very old, feeble, and quiet: she was an inoffensive spinster.
Nevertheless, it became apparent at once to the ladies and gentlemen
of Thegnhurst that they were not ‘sound.’ In the first place, nobody
‘knew about them.’ They came to Thegnhurst like thieves in the
night, without those introductions or social relationships which usually
draw people to a particular place of residence. They had no relations
in the town, no friends, no acquaintances. They seemed even more
impecunious than the generality of Thegnhurstians. They dressed
shabbily. They kept only one servant. Many cases of books came
with them, and seemed to form the chief part of their belongings. Mr.
Peele never went to church, and when Miss Peele appeared there it
was observed that she sat down during the Creeds, and was moreover
a very plain girl. Had she been pretty, the male Thegnhurstians would
have forgiven her this little piece of heterodoxy, and even the more
severe among the ladies would have been too intent on finding fault
with her good looks to notice her theological aberrations. But, in that
she was a very plain girl, her sitting down during the Creed was voted
an enormity. Matrons began to ask one another whether they really
ought to call on Miss Peele. Orthodoxy decided against her, but
Curiosity decided against Orthodoxy, and the vicar’s wife determined
to call after a due and proper lapse of weeks.
Three months after the young lady’s first appearance in church the
visit took place. The vicar’s wife brought with her some little black
collecting books, intending, in case she should find her hostess an
undesirable acquaintance, at any rate to secure subscriptions for her
blanket society and her coal club before giving her the cold shoulder
in future. But Miss Peele did not appear wholly undesirable. She
was shy, ladylike, well educated, and explained her father’s absence
from the scene, and from church on Sundays, in the most natural way.
The vicar’s wife departed from the Peeles’ drawing-room with two or
three half-crowns and a fairly good opinion of at least one of the new
arrivals within the limits of her jurisdiction. When asked at the next
working-party in aid of the Zenana Mission whether she did not find
Miss Peele very odd, she replied almost charitably in her behalf:
‘She isn’t such an odd girl as she looks. Indeed, I rather like her!
She seems a ladylike girl, although she does sit down during the
Other ladies, notably Mrs. Cholmondeley-Smith and the sweet little
widow, her neighbour, thereupon determined to call on this winner
of the vicaress’s good opinion. The month’s end saw the stately
Anglo-Indian local dignitary slowly mounting the three steps before
the Peeles’ front door. And a fortnight later the widow paid her visit.
Other ladies, armed mostly with little black collecting books, from time
to time followed suit, and at the end of a year Octavia Peele had
attained to a nodding acquaintance with nearly all the society of the
place. Only Mrs. Ponsonby Baker held aloof, but then such a very
eclectic society lady could not be expected to come to terms under five
or six years at the very least. Such a period, by the by, is a mere
nothing in the placid etfernities of rural existence at Thegnhurst, where
social standing is as often measured by length of residence as not.
But though everybody had called upon Miss Peele, it cannot be
said that they had been all prepossessed precisely in the same way
as the vicaress. A gay young grass-widow and a frisky old maid
or two had been bored by her to the verge of openly expressed con-
tempt. She had no cricket, no lawn tennis, no dancing conversation.
She appeared never to have seen a horse or a golf club. She took no
interest in dashing young military men or brisk young curates. Having
no brothers, she never referred fascinatingly to ‘dear Jack out in
Lahore,’ or ‘that silly Tom at the Cape.’ She had no ideas on dress.
Above all, she was gravely plain, not unpleasantly or grotesquely so,
but simply gravely plain, quietly lacking in good looks. In the esti-
mation of some women, as we all know, the absence of these is as
unpardonable as their presence in a too marked degree. The gay grass-
widows and sprightly old maids of Thegnhurst were perhaps not quite
so hard to please; still, what had they to do with plain girls like Miss
Charming young married women, stately matrons, authoritative
mothers in Israel with six or seven strapping sons at the army
crammers’, in the backwoods, and elsewhere—matrons of all kinds
could make nothing of Octavia. If they talked to her of primrose
politics, they found her delicately inattentive. A tirade against servants
only served to elicit the fact that she considered Abigail in the light of
a sister woman. A general discussion on Church work found her
lamentably ignorant of distinctions of sect and party. Eulogy of the
vicar seemed to pall on her.
Young unmarried ladies between the ages of seventeen and thirty
found themselves even more out of touch with her than the foregoing.
By her plainness, her distance from the possibility of being admired by
the other sex, they were unconsciously estranged. Her lack of interest
in Anglicanism and athletics set her on an icy, unfashionable pinnacle,
which they certainly did not envy as one usually envies pinnacles.
Above all, her unmistakable culture was a stumbling-block to them.
Lilly Cranley, daughter of old General Cranley, late of the Bombay
Army, a thoroughly sensible girl in the estimation of the matrons, was
one day calling on Octavia—it was her first call and her last—and
happened in the course of a few remarks on her favourite novels to
make the then fashionable inquiry, ‘Have you read Pace? My
brothers think it ’s not quite the thing for girls to read, so, of course,
I’ve got it at the Railway Library.’
‘No, I am sorry to say I haven’t read it,’ said Miss Peele, with her
pleasant smile, which somehow or other always seemed insincere.
‘I’ve been making out Theocritus with the help of a lexicon this
‘Who was Theocritus?’ said bright Lilly Cranley (educated by
governesses and at Brighton).
‘Oh,’ said Octavia, her eyes—she had fine eyes—brightening ex-
tremely. ‘Do you really care to talk about him? He was a poet, a
Sicilian Greek’ And she went off at score, talking with eloquent
animation for quite ten ecstatic minutes.
‘Greek!’ ejaculated Miss Cranley, whose unmoved face had finally
chilled Octavia into silence. ‘Greek! How deep!’ And with that,
timidly, as though in dread of further appeals to that tiresome, un-
fashionable part of her, the brain, she bade our heroine farewell, and
with hastily gathered up gloves and parasol beat a precipitate retreat.
Alas, poor Octavia! In homely phrase, she had let the cat out of
the bag at last. Her attacks on the Greek language and literature
were now open to public comment. In less than a week Thegnhurst
drawing-rooms were able to add point to their vague general feeling
against Miss Peele. They had always guessed—they now knew she
was a blue-stocking, a strong-minded woman. She was a finished
Greek scholar. Nay, she knew Hebrew, Sanscrit, Arabic! What did
she not know indeed? She was an unmitigated mass of learning.
She was deep!
Her eccentric course of conduct during the Creed, long ago given
up by her in common with other passing phases, was avidly remembered.
She was undoubtedly an unbeliever as well as a blue-stocking! ‘She
is a what-you-call-’em—a—a Positivist Darwinite!’ gasped Mrs. Chol-
‘She’s a frump!’ ejaculated her neighbour, the dear little widow.
‘I know it’s not nice to say so, but she is!’
Calls, which had occurred in Miss Peele’s life like the rare detona-
tions of a dying fusillade, now ceased almost altogether. Octavia’s
Greek lexicon had achieved her isolation. She was now as much
disregarded as a fallen minister at the court of a despot.
But, though scarcely called upon, she was not actually cut. The
kind of honour, of esprit-de-corps, which actuates Thegnhurstians to a
creditable extent, forbade that. Having once made her acquaintance,
they did not cease to receive her; they did not even exclude her from
their more formal gatherings. To the squire’s yearly ball Miss Peele
was duly invited, albeit, when there, her wall-flower presence was a
delicate irritation to many. To Mrs. Cholmondeley-Smith’s annual
picnic Miss Peele, surrounded by an irksome aura of knowledge and
wisdom, also went, as well as to an ‘At Home’ at the vicarage arid a
‘Small and Early’ at the little widow lady’s, both of which entertain-
ments were biennial. But outside the pale of these, there was no social
life for Octavia in Thegnhurst. Months at a time would pass without
bringing her those little spells of polite intercourse with her kind, which,
in the country, are such a relief to all but hermits. Weeks—nay,
irregular periods, verging on three calendar months—would pass with-
out her being visited by anybody more clubbable than district visitors
in search of small donations. Time began to hang leaden on Octavia’s
hands. Her spirits began to droop fearfully. Old Hugo Peele could
give her no comfort. Absorbed as he was in the study of an abstruse
and antiquated branch of science, which he pursued with senile per-
sistence, the dull non-human atmosphere of Thegnhurst was entirely
congenial to him. When, with an old man’s feeble pace, he left his
study to walk abroad in the world, it was the fields, the common side,
the hills which he sought—not the society of his kind. He avoided
people, and they equally avoided him. To the generality of Thegn-
hurstians he was indeed a sort of superannuated necromancer,
dowered with much dark knowledge which it was just as well not to
examine too closely. And to him Thegnhurst society meant simply a
succession of masks without import of any kind.
For many months Octavia walked out every other day with her
father. The pair paced along very slowly, and talked very little as
they went, and the effect of these solemn perambulations on the young
lady’s spirits was not hopeful. At the close of one of them, when the
red December sunset was dyeing the westward heavens, and all the
landscape of winter fields looked brown and chill as some uninhabited
desert, Hugo awoke from abstraction to find his daughter in tears.
‘What’s the matter, child?’ he queried affectionately, for to him this
daughter was dearer even than his mistress Science.
‘Oh, nothing,’ said she; ‘nothing, except that ’
‘Well, dear?’ said Mr. Peele, weakly fumbling with his boots round
the rickety door-scraper at the top of the cottage steps in Mudleigh
‘Except that I wish I were anywhere but in Thegnhurst,’ she
‘Why, where else would you be, little one?’ was the half-querulous
‘Oh, anywhere,’ said ‘little one,’ who, by the by, was some five or
six-and-twenty; ‘anywhere among intelligent, sympathetic people!’
‘Nonsense,’ said the old man, with a touch of irritation in his voice.
‘ Among intelligent people, as you call them, you meet with nothing
but intellectual arrogance and literary jealousy. Do you remember
London and its crowd and smoke?’ And he cleared his old throat
energetically at the thought.
Octavia remembered the delights of the British Museum Reading-
Room—they were delights to her—enjoyed for all too short a season
years ago, and a genuine sob choked her further utterance.
At supper-time the old gentleman discoursed at some length on the
beauty of the rural life.
‘The country is always sublime,’ he said, as he peeled his orange.
‘And solitude is good, and so are books, and so is study. What I
always am saying to you, Octavia, is, “Engross yourself in some great
overmastering study,” as I do. Take up any subject you like, but
engross yourself in it when once you have taken it up! Man muss
immer etivas studiren!—you know Professor Schweinfleisch’s motto:
“One ought ever to be studying something.” Ah, there is all Germany
in that saying!’
Octavia wept silently in her bedroom at night, but her tears this
time were not for herself. They were for that dear, feeble, white-haired
father, that ineffectual, indefatigable follower after truths which men had
discredited. Her father’s lonely, ascetic life, his severity of ideal, his
practical failure, thronged her imagination like the several movements
of a romance. Her heart was wrung with infinite tenderness, infinite
pity, and in an access of soft-hearted remorse she determined never
again to sadden him with her discontents.
It was during ever drearier growing months, each day and hour of
which made Octavia feel more petrified in heart and head, that good
news reached the cottage at Thegnhurst. A cousin of Miss Peele’s, a
bright little worldly-wise woman, wrote to say that she and Tom, her
husband, were thinking of coming to live in Thegnhurst, ‘as Jimmy
and Alec are both being sent to Harrow, and we want to exist as
cheaply as possible till such time as they can shift for themselves or
Tom can get something to do.’ Further on in the same letter she men-
tioned that, as there was a good preparatory school at Thegnhurst, they
were thinking of sending Dodo there.
Dodo was the name by which these lovers of sobriquets knew
Master Eustace MacLeod Featherstonehaugh Peele, their youngest
born. And Octavia brightened up considerably at the thought of
seeing the dear little lad again. She was stirred into cheerful activity
too by the house-hunting and school-hunting expeditions she was now
called upon to undertake in her cousin’s behalf.
In another fortnight Tom Peele arrived on the scene. Tom was a
most deliberate man, whose sentences took many minutes at a time to
‘Octavia,’ he said, with sharp solemnity, as at close of day they
stood in the roadway outside Hugo Peele’s cottage. ‘Octavia, listen
to me! Pay attention, please!’
Miss Peele listened, bowing her head with the meekness which was
characteristic of her.
‘I think—that—that—urn er!—that’ (a pause, during which his wife
would have impatiently counted sixty below her breath)— ‘that the
houses you have been looking at for us won’t suit us at all!’
The last part of this rather chilling sentence came with a rush, and
after its delivery Tom drew a long breath, and rested in the manner of
a finished orator.
‘I think,’ he continued, ‘we want a cheaper house! This one’ (a
pause, during which his mind seemed to wander dreamily over the
scenes of a happy past)—‘this one—this little crib next door to yours—
will—um er—will’ (his wife would have got to sixty-five here)—‘will
exactly suit us!’
The crib in question was even smaller and less convenient than the
Peeles’, and Octavia felt a little feminine thrill of pleasure at the
thought that this mysterious and experienced Tom and his socially
brilliant wife were going to descend thereto. Together the cousins
went and looked over the house. Tom approved its every shabbiness,
and became its tenant before leaving for town by the last train.
A few days afterwards Maggie, his wife, and Dodo, his youngest
born, came and took possession. ‘You great goose,’ Maggie had said
to Tom in the tender privacy of midnight, ‘what made you take that
wretched little box next door to them ? You know, the whole thing’s
an experiment! They may be well in with the Thegnhurst set, or they
mayn’t. If they’re not, where are we?’
However, after her instalment in the said box, Maggie behaved, to
all appearances, admirably. She fell on Octavia’s neck, wept a very
little, poured out a pathetic tale of narrowed means, and ended by the
hope that in future they would be able to face the miseries of shabby
gentility shoulder to shoulder, as behoved cousins and next-door
Octavia, after listening to this confession, felt herself a new creature.
The coming into her quiet life of this brilliant, bustling lady filled her
with intimate excitement. She kissed Maggie with an effusion of
grateful sympathy, and repaid her tears with heartfelt words and many
pressures of the hand.
For some months after the arrival, Tom Peele’s wife was never out
of Hugo Peele’s house except at meal-times. But gradually very
gradually at first, then with increasing swiftness—a change began to
come over the cordial relations existing between the two households.
Octavia noticed that Maggie came seldomer and seldomer to see her.
She noticed, as she looked out of the dining-room window, that the
élite of Thegnhurst were calling on Maggie. She noticed, too, that
Maggie went out presumably to return their calls, and that in passing
Hugo Peele’s garden-gate she looked straight ahead of her, and hurried
her pace, as though not wishing to be recognised and stopped.
The little worldly woman was in fact making great social way in
Thegnhurst. People were charmed with her. They were seduced by
her bright and apparently artless allusions to her grand relations—to
my dear old grandfather General Sir Monro this, and my poor dear
friend the Countess that. They adored the particular kind of poverty
she practised. For poverty with Maggie Peele was practised as an art.
She knew how to make it pretty, almost fashionable. Her clear-cut
well-bred English was never more pleasant to listen to than when
economy, and the Civil Service Stores, and the revivification of last
year’s gowns, were under discussion. Her caustic wit was never more
mirth-provoking than when she mimicked the rustic tones of her poor
little Salvationist housemaid, or described the ejectment from her
premises of the tipsy cook. Maggie, by the by, somehow managed
to keep three servants, a very grand establishment, according to Thegn-
hurst ideas. Above all, people liked and approved her religious views,
her politics, her contemptuous attitude towards prigs, faddists, geniuses,
❧ LA PIA
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
and the socially shabby. They were indeed never more happy than
when they found themselves sitting in her aesthetic little back drawing-
room, drinking tea out of some rare old china, which Maggie sometimes
declared had been bought at ‘dear old Simla,’ and sometimes boasted
to be a present sent by the Duke of Punchestown from ‘one of those
funny tumbledown places in Italy, you know.’ In the end their
approving affection found voice through Mrs. Cholmondeley-Smith.
That lady, sitting glorious by Maggie’s fireside, where the dearest of
brass kettles reflected itself in the art tiles within the fender,—that great
lady was moved to cry out, ‘O Mrs. Peele! why don’t you come and
live among us? The Grove is such a way from this! Do come and
live in the Grove: we shall feel that you are really our neighbour then!’
The ‘Grove,’ be it said, is the Mayfair of Thegnhurst. To live in
the Grove is to be among the socially elect. It is the boast of the
‘Grovites,’ as they are enviously named, that they all call one another
by their Christian names, that they are always in and out of one
another’s houses, and that, towards the outer world of commerce and
ungentility, they oppose an impenetrable and unchanging front.
‘Your neighbours surely won’t prevent your joining us,’ said the
plaintive little widow. To which Mrs. Maggie replied with an
indescribable little grimace, delightful to the delicately humorous
sense of the company. These other Peeles were never definitely
named to Maggie by her new allies. It was tacitly felt that to ask
such a dear, clever woman whether she was any relation of that odd
girl, Octavia Peele, would be to insult her. And Maggie, on her side,
adroitly took advantage of this delicacy, and left her relationship to
her next-door neighbours a matter of the supremest doubt. She had
early guessed that the Hugo Peele element was indifferently regarded,
nay, even unpopular, in Thegnhurst, and neither by word nor deed did
she ever connect herself too irrevocably therewith. Well, the upshot of
all this was that, in no long time, the Tom Peeles left their cottage in
Mudleigh Road, and ascended into the charmed liberties of the Grove.
‘Darling Tavie,’ said Maggie to our heroine, who had been slaving
to pack up Dodo’s school-books and cricket-bats on the day of the
flitting, ‘we must see as much of one another as ever when I am
settled in the Grove!’
‘I do hope so,’ said Octavia disconsolately. ‘But I know what
going to live in the Grove means!’
‘Oh, nonsense,’ said the other.
Still, ‘darling Tavie’ was right. From the very day that her
cousins settled in the patrician quarter, in a little house standing
midway between the demesnes of the Cholmondeley-Smiths and the
Ponsonby Bakers, they began to treat her as did the rest of Thegnhurst.
So little indeed did she see of them that she grew shy at the mere
thought of walking the quarter of a mile separating her father’s house
from the terraced Grove, and contented herself with asking curly-
haired Dodo, whom she met in the fields, about his parents’ health and
doings. The child did not always respond very willingly. When he
chanced to be running about with other sailor boys he even tried to
shun cousin Tavie. The fact was that his new companions, having
often heard her rather unmercifully discussed by their elders, shouted
at the mere mention of her name in a way that chilled and puzzled his
poor little wits.
Tavie noticed that the child too was estranged from her, and her
poor heart, craving always for sympathy, was sometimes fit to break
outright. There is a nadir in the existences of those many quiet
women who are not unendowed with nerves or a critical faculty to
which men can never wholly sink. Men are always able to escape to a
certain extent at least from the gnawings of the introspective tendency
which is born of nerves. But women in Tavie’s position cannot. A
hundred bonds bind them to the rack — bonds of filial duty and
affection, bonds of helpless dependence and inexperience. Octavia,
in her wildest moments of revolt against her chilling unsocial existence,
was always sure to be pricked by a sort of conscience which spoke to
her of her father and of his foibles as of something unutterably sacred.
Her father’s chief foible was, of course, a delight in rural Thegnhurst,
lonesome Thegnhurst, and this delight was an iron law to her.
Under similar circumstances a more commonplace girl would have
turned to religion for solace. But religion, in the ordinary parochial
sense of the term, was impossible for this highly critical nature.
Octavia’s nearest approach to the religious state was a certain self-
pity, a certain constant soreness of mind and heart, a certain half-
mystical, half-pessimistic affection for failure and weakness in others.
It was while Miss Peele was deeply affected by this long-drawn,
morbid phase that Tom’s wife, who was now fashionably metamor-
phosed into Mrs. Hatherley-Peele, came down upon her with an offer.
‘O Tavie dearest,’ she said in her most émpresse manner, ‘you are
just the body who can do me a service. The vicar has asked me to
take a Sunday-school class for him. Now you know I can’t bear
children, especially poor children. It’s very wrong, but I can’t help it.
Now I know you are a dear obliging creature, and won’t mind helping
me, will you, Tavie? I want you to take the class for me—there!
They are all little boys; you can easily teach them. Just talk seriously
to them about Catholic doctrine, and try and knock Dissent out of
them. You know the kind of thing!’
Octavia loved children sentimentally, and the children of the poor
touched her above all others. But how could she undertake Sunday-
school work? However, her timid objections passed off the hard
narrow surfaces of Mrs. Hatherley-Peele’s mind like water off a duck’s
back, and at last the young lady agreed to accept the ‘offer,’ subject to
the vicar’s decision.
Maggie marched off in high feather. She felt she had done an act of
supererogation in thus offering what she did not want to her eccentric and
uncomfortable cousin. Octavia, on the other hand, feared she had half
promised where she could nowise perform. So she wrote to the vicar to
explain her scruples. It was a bold stroke, and the reverend gentleman
thought it a very odd one. The letter was of the kind a George Eliot
might have written at the age of twenty, supposing, of course, that the
great authoress had been other than evangelical at that age. It was a
clever letter, a subtle, almost a profound letter, and its every sentence
put the question whether it was not permissible for an Agnostic, touched
to the heart by the love of little helpless children, to influence them
under Christian auspices.
The vicar, good, worldly, scarcely literate man that he was, could
make nothing of it. He handed it to his wife; she discussed it with
other ladies; and the highly logical upshot of their deliberations was
that it was very ‘deep,’ but that Miss Peele ought none the less to
come and teach in the Sunday-school, as its educational staff was
always short-handed, especially during the lawn-tennis season, which
was then in full swing, and had proved up to date a tiring, flirting,
marrying affair, involving much late rising on the Day of Rest.
So Octavia began to teach in Thegnhurst Sunday-school. And we
venture to opine that during the whole history of those laudable insti-
tutions they never boasted a stranger exponent of divine truth, as it is
understood by young ladies in the country. The classes were all held
in one large parish room, and it was perplexing to notice how all the
children who did not happen to be under Octavia’s care constantly
stole envious glances in her direction. Miss Cranley’s pupils were
allowed to kiss her pretty frequently; but that privilege did not
prevent them from openly expressing their wish to join Miss Peek’s
little band of urchins. Miss Cholmondeley-Smith’s and the little
widow’s pupils were initiated into the mysteries of St. Athanasius’
Creed by means of sundry ‘bobs and nips,’ and small but sounding
slaps; and they, of course, longed to go and group themselves round
Octavia. It seemed as though she commanded a charmed circle. Her
half-dozen sturdy little disciples seemed to the other children to be
sitting in elysium. Their miniature smock frocks or velveteen jackets
appeared to excited childish imaginations in the light of heavenly
garments. Their ruddy, earnest faces, their linten curls, and solemn
eyes suggested transfigurations on a small scale.
And no wonder. These Sunday mornings with Octavia Peele were
the most charming, easy, social affairs imaginable. Fancy this! a
mention of David and the lion would lead in the most natural way
to a discussion upon lions in general.
‘Oi’ve seen a loyun!’ little Albert Edward Ockenden would shout,
in imitation of the bluff manner of his father, the ploughman.
‘So’ve us!’ the others would hasten to inform him.
‘So’ve oi!’ would pipe a minute rustic, all by himself, after the
chorus had subsided.
‘Oi’ve seen a menadgerry!’ some one would add with vanity in his
‘No, ye ha’n’t!’
‘Yes, I seen un!’
‘Yeou dunno a cammul when yeou sees un! My father’s a soldier:
he’ve rode on un in Americky!’
‘Well, but tell me about David,’ Miss Peele would gently remon-
strate. ‘What was he?’
‘He wur a bwoy, Miss! He frighted birds, he did. I’m a goin to
the bird-scarin’ when Oi be big. Then oi’m goin’ to droive ingines! My
brother Sam’l— he droives’un! Sh! Sh! Sh! ’
What did David do when he saw the lion? Now, Charles Pottin-
ger, you know the answer!’
‘Yes, Miss. He tuk a rock and fotched him one over the nose, he
did! He did’n run away! I should have! I’da gone up a tree like
a flash o’ lightnin’ if I’d a seed a loyun. Oh!’ and the youthful
aspirant to theological culture shuddered again. It was all very
irregular, and not a little profane, but the children adored Miss
Peele for it with a loyalty passing description. They brought her
in quantities of the field-flowers she loved; they smiled towards her
when they met her in the road, as though their little rustic hearts
would burst with pleasure. All this homage was warmth to Octavia’s
heart, and her sole fear—a foolish, aching, feminine fear—was that some
one should tell these masculine babes that she was not pretty, and
so really not admirable at all.
Thegnhurst was vastly nonplussed by Miss Peele’s success in her
new and undreamt-of sphere. To quote their own phrase, people
‘couldn’t make her out at all.’ She was ladylike—they had long ago
admitted that. She had seen something of the world in the ordinary
polite way; and now she was teaching in the Sunday-school, and
presumably teaching the proper thing, to judge by the children’s appro-
bation. And yet she was ‘Miss Peele,’ a name with a connotation!
What a strange puzzle she was, to be sure! Yet the very fact that she
puzzled the Thegnhurstians so began at length almost to interest them.
They made some advances to her, and Miss Cranley, without com-
mitting herself to a call, even asked her to help at a bazaar.
It was at this rather dreary function that Octavia, who felt less in
touch with the other Thegnhurst ladies than ever, was presented to Mr.
Cyril Bertram, of Trinity, Cambridge. The introduction was part of
one of those distinctly spiteful little plots which amuse the Grovites
when, as is sometimes the case even among such well-bred people,
their better feelings chance to be in abeyance. Mr. Cyril Bertram, tutor
to the vicar’s little boys, was looked upon among the governing ladies
of the Grove as a prig of the worst order. He was certainly the full-blown
product of certain kinds of academic coteries. That is to say, he wore a
wavy mane of hair and a terra-cotta-coloured tie, professed ‘earnest’
views as to politics and ethics, spoke much of ‘Economics’ and of the
‘Purpose of Life,’ and was understood to know more about Ibsen,
Hegelian thought, the exact sciences, and the inner meaning of Robert
Browning, than most other clever young men of four-and-twenty.
He was now presented to ‘that odd girl Tavie Peele’ in order that
the governing ladies might have the fun of watching two birds of one
feather flocking together.
‘I do believe the creatures will flirt,’ said the plaintive widow to Mrs.
Cholmondeley-Smith, to whom she always allowed herself the most
intimate confidences in public. And certainly poor Octavia went as
near flirting that day as she ever did in the whole course of her life.
Cyril Bertram began by professing himself quite too bored with the
‘They are awfully unintellectual!’ he sighed. Octavia echoed him
with a certain diffidence, for she was not, after all, a University man of
repute, and did not therefore venture on strong opinions of that kind.
A species of mutual forbearance for the Thegnhurst set, their ideals
and point of view, became apparent as the pair talked, and greatly
assisted the give and take of culture. It is lamentable, but true, that
people always sympathise most when they nurse some contempt or
dislike in common! Octavia, poor simple Octavia, was no exception
to the rule, and she glowed again as she listened to this modern
Crichton’s discourses on all things under the sun—the academic sun,
we should say.
‘Oh, if I could only have gone to Girton or Newnham!’ she sighed
with genuine naive regret.
The Thegnhurst ladies who watched the colloquy were delighted.
Whenever feasible they exchanged little mutual signs, and some very
young ladies even giggled! But Octavia was too excited to notice
anything; and when Mr. Bertram went home to teach his charges
Latin, she too walked off in the direction of the Mudleigh Road, feeling
as though she trod on air. Soon, however, a change came over her
thoughts, and by bedtime, in a weary fit of self-distrust, she could not
help reflecting that she was the plainest of unfashionable creatures.
‘Oh, such a plain girl! Oh, so unlike the rest of the world!’ she
ejaculated, feeling more bitterly sensitive as to her shortcomings and
defects than ever before. ‘He will never think one thought of me!
Next time we meet he’ll have forgotten!’ But this was not the case.
At the squire’s formal dance, which occurred in a few days, Mr.
Bertram singled her out from among the wall-flowers, and boldly
proposed that they should sit out the lancers. Having done so, they
sat out a valse and a polka, and two other valses; and, at last, Octavia’s
head seemed fairly turning with excited interest.
It was during one of her most ecstatic gushes of conversation that
Cyril, slightly yawning, dropped a fateful suggestion.
‘I wonder,’ he said unemotionally, ‘why you do not read more
obvious books than those you have mentioned. Spanish is very
charming of course; but literature, like charity, should begin at home.
Should it not, Miss Peele? Now why do you not go through a course
of English poetry from Chaucer onwards?’
Cyril Bertram dropped his suggestion carelessly, inattentively, as
became a professional giver of good advice. But Octavia seized on it
as on an oracular utterance. When the Thegnhurst fly had dropped
her at her father’s door that night she was ready for action, and going
into the dining-room, seized on the first book that met her eye, a
volume of Coleridge, and began furiously to read. It was very strange,
she thought, that the extreme beauty of certain lines had never struck
It was stranger still that when she took up Keats, and read through
the ‘Ode to a Nightingale,’ the words seemed to take to themselves
wings, and to soar away through a luminous haze thrilling with
unutterably melodious sound. Then a rain of many perfumes fell
around her; the walls of the room melted away; she was walking in a
gorgeous and mystical paradise.
• • • • •
The little servant, coming downstairs in the morning to shovel old
Hugo’s tobacco-ashes out of the grate, and, generally speaking, to make
pretence of dusting, was startled half out of her five wits at seeing Miss
Peele, with dishevelled hair and staring eyes, half sitting, half lying on
the hearth-rug among a heap of open books.
‘What is the matter, Miss V she gasped at length.
i Oh nothing, Mary,’ said Miss Peele, but her voice was so strange
and shaky, and she followed up her disclaimer by such a manifestly
hysterical laugh, that Mary, like a wise girl, bundled her off to bed
without asking any further questions.
Miss Peele, heir as she was to a long line of neurotic students and
eccentrics, surcharged too as she was by a tumult of novel feelings, had
simply paid a penalty to exasperated nature in the shape of an attack
of hysteria. Yet, alas! there was no one but Mary, poor ignorant
Mary, to warn her of the danger, in her instance, of such attacks. After
a day in her bedroom Octavia thought she was herself again. Indeed,
she was loth to admit that she had been anything but herself on that
strange night of poetry and ecstasy. She felt herself a woman of
balanced and rational mind; feminine weaknesses were therefore, as
she imagined, beneath her notice, if not wholly impossible in her case.
Keats, Coleridge, Rossetti, and a host of others became her daily
reading. She went through their pages with a passion of eagerness
which lacked sanity, with delight which thrilled her abnormally. At
the end of a month she had discovered and acclimatised herself in an
atmosphere hitherto unknown to her — the atmosphere of the poets of
beauty. The strange névrose excitement in which she constantly found
herself had its effect on her speech, her point of view, her very looks.
Next time Bertram saw her—it was at the widow’s ‘At Home,’ next
door to Mrs. Cholmondeley-Smith’s—she looked so strangely distin-
uished, and spoke with such wit, such brilliant sureness, that even the
accomplished apostle of things in general was startled into a sense of
Almost in a tone of admiration he cried out, ‘You should write a
book, Miss Peele!’ the writing of a book being, in his estimation, the
supreme end of all emotion and effort. Octavia thrilled and thrilled
with pleasure at his words. ‘Fancy his thinking me worthy to write a
book!’ she reflected.
And with his august image in her heart, and his approving words
ringing in her ears, she set about composing that extraordinary collec-
tion of Letters to my Lover—letters never posted, be it said—which has
since made her fame.
In societies such as that of Thegnhurst everybody is in some
sort under the surveillance of everybody else. Having thrown ‘that
conceited young Bertram and that odd creature Octavia Peele’
together, the Thegnhurst ladies watched over them with the eyes of
lynxes, if we may be permitted a metaphor so rude. They watched
over their little bouts of conversation; they saw Miss Peele waxing
excited and animated beyond the limit prescribed by the code of their
drawing-rooms. And they decided, firstly, that she was by way of
flirting in a desperate manner; and, secondly, that her flirtation must
be nipped in the bud.
‘Miss Peele trying to flirt!’—the thought shocked them; it was
abnormal. So, without consciously taking counsel together, they each
and all began to make things more uncomfortable than usual for Cyril
and Octavia. Mrs. Hatherley-Peele was foremost in this almost imper-
ceptible crusade, for her ‘dear Tavie’ was becoming unpleasantly
prominent as a subject of small talk, and she feared that in no long
time the odious word ‘cousin’ might be breathed abroad. Accordingly
she arranged for Cyril Bertram’s exclusion from two or three functions,
which was an easy matter, seeing that the ladies of the Grove always
submitted their lists of guests to her before actually issuing their invita-
tion cards. And, in the next place, she boldly, bluffly, twitted Octavia
with her odd conduct towards ‘that ridiculous young university man,’
and warned her that she was in danger of becoming a laughing-stock.
At this our heroine winced terribly; and the next time she was in
the same room with Mr. Bertram felt far too self-conscious and miser-
able to notice him. He, on his side, had been admonished by Mr.
Parker Cope, the curate, who as a rival coxcomb detested him cordially
enough. And on the occasion poor Tavie cut him he felt quite relieved.
A fortnight or so afterwards he was travelling off to higher spheres,
where young ladies, who were pretty as well as clever, would be sure to
worship him as of old, and where dons’ wives would pour out his tea.
As he had bade farewell to his tiresome charges at the vicarage, no
thought of Octavia Peele had crossed his mind beyond the vague
reflection that she had been ‘somebody to talk to.’ He had had no
time to leave cards in the Mudleigh Road; and indeed, seeing that he
professed a revolutionary code of etiquette, that did not matter in the
The final removal from the Thegnhurst scene of this superior person
plunged Octavia first into the sweet sorrow of imagined parting, and
then into an ever-deepening melancholy. Would he ever return? No.
Would he ever think of her? No. Would they ever meet in the
outer world, if ever this weary exile should cease? Again, in all
probability, No! As during sleepless nights and dawns this hopeless
catechism unrolled itself in Octavia’s mind, the image of the vanished
god defined itself ever more gloriously upon her mental retina. If she
had admired him in awestruck fashion when they were in the habit of
meeting, now that they were parted she adored and loved him with the
intense force of a pent-up heart. A ‘Letter to my Lover’ was written
in tears every night, and a new and cruelly emotional book was
devoured with heartache during the day. The little Sunday-school
children were often startled by a shower of tears, which Octavia could
no longer keep back; but in other respects their lessons were the same
as last year. Nay, they were even pleasanter than of old, for Octavia
now spoke and read with an intenser tenderness. Indeed, these chil-
dren were a great solace to her. ‘They keep me alive,’ she wrote, ‘they
love me so! Months went by, during which Octavia steadily overworked
herself, overwept herself, overwrought herself. And then the crisis arrived.
It was an autumn morning that Maggie met her cousin in the
Mudleigh Road. These chance meetings were a pleasure to the little
worldly woman, for they always brought with them their small triumphs.
On one occasion she would tell her Tavie of a grand ‘At Home’ to
which she was going. On another she would beg her to be so good
as to come and help dress Dodo for a children’s fancy ball. On
another she would discourse of the doings of the local picnic club,
tennis club, and amateur dramatic society. In proportion as her dear
Tavie expressed a simple regret that she was not about to share in
any of these gaieties would Maggie’s descriptions wax eloquent and
full of magnificent suggestion. On the present occasion her news
for Tavie was of a kind purely personal to the younger woman.
‘Have you heard the latest on dit?’ said Maggie, laughing with
‘Well, think of it! That awful Mr. Cyril Bertram is engaged to
a dowdy, aesthetic, socialistic creature, a Miss Althea Papworth! It’s
too screaming! The Grove can’t get over it!’
That evening Octavia wrote in her book of Letters to my Lover
the wonderful ‘Farewell’ which we have all been discussing of late.
Then she sat down to the piano, and sang to her father—sang sweetly,
pathetically, passionately, till the old man rose feebly from his chair
and kissed her as she sang. The dear, palpable, strangely-excited
daughter kissed him back with an anguish of gesture which he could
not understand. It was her real, not her written, good-bye to the only
man who had ever felt affection towards her, for in the grey early
hours of the morning Octavia had passed into that trance from which
she never woke.
Maggie, sitting at breakfast with Tom and Dodo, was startled,
seeing Hugo Peele tottering up the garden path in front of their
cottage in the high places of the Grove.
‘What is it, uncle?’ she almost gasped, seeing the old savant’s
grey face at the low French window, and momentarily forgetting to
address him as though he were a little child of narrowed com-
‘Come with me for God’s sake,’ he made answer hoarsely. ‘Octavia
is ill—insensible. I cannot conceive what is the matter with her.’
Now, Maggie was not lacking in a certain perverse goodness of
heart. She was shocked at the old man’s looks and words, and
without more ado made ready to accompany him. On their way to
Mudleigh Road he seemed to grow dizzy. He walked unsteadily
as one drunken with new wine, and Maggie had to pass an arm
round his shoulder and support him by main force.
Once at the Peeks’ cottage, the worldly woman, trained by long
years of parochial good works, did not allow the grass to grow under-
foot for a moment. She bustled off the weeping maid in search of the
medical man whom no one had as yet summoned. She pushed and
coaxed her old uncle back into his study, assuring him that all was,
or would be, well. She went up to the sickroom and made her patient
comfortable. She dived down to the kitchen and prepared the beef-
tea and other needments which the exigencies of the moment suggested.
In fact, minus the picturesque dress, the tender associations, and the
❧ HAMLET AND OPHELIA
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
unworldly spirit, she became for the time a most effective sister of
For a week, for a fortnight, Maggie was constantly at Octavia’s
bedside. She was a most devoted nurse, a model watcher. But a
time came, alas! when the pure enthusiasm of nursing began to fade
and give place to a mixture of motives. A ‘Retreat’ for married
ladies was to be held at the convent of an Anglican sisterhood near
Thegnhurst, and it was to be conducted by Father Alphege himself!
To miss his ministrations implied very severe self-denial, but Maggie
determined not to desert her post. She wrote, begging him not to
expect her presence among her fellow-penitents. Many of these
being Thegnhurst ladies, the Father naturally advised with them as
to the cause of Mrs. Hatherley-Peele’s absence, and was as naturally
informed of her devotion to a sick friend, ‘not quite in our set,’ as
the plaintive widow explained, forgetting whom she addressed. Father
Alphege commended Maggie’s kindness, but the Thegnhurst ladies
went further; they silently voted it the supreme of supererogation!
To a reputation for noble self-martyrdom was soon added that
spice of humiliation without which no moral triumph can be accounted
perfect. For, when Octavia had been desperately ill a week, the
Grove began to call and make kind inquiries in Mudleigh Road with
a frequency smacking of remorse for past neglects. Amongst others
came the vicaress, not this time armed with a little black collecting-
book, but carrying instead baskets of grapes, and jellies, and other
invalid necessaries, for she too was kind-hearted at extreme crises.
The greybeard at whom she had so often shaken a dubious head
received her at the front door; and in the nervous excitement peculiar
to the time, and without in the least recognising an adversary in his
visitor, poured out to her his almost certain hopes of Octavia’s recovery
under his niece’s kind and devoted care.
‘Your niece, Mr. Peele!’ cried the vicaress. ‘I had no idea Mrs.
Hatherley-Peele was related to you!’
So what had been a vague rumour among the few now became
an established fact among the many.
To think of them being related!’ cried Mrs. Cholmondeley-Smith
when, on emerging from ‘Retreat,’ she was informed of old Hugo’s
speech about his niece. ‘To think of it! Poor Mrs. Hatherley-
Meanwhile she who was the cause of all this display of Christian
virtues lay very still and white upon her bed. Only at intervals a
twitching of the pale hands showed that the body suffered a strange
reflex anguish. As to the finer essence of the mind, it suffered not
at all. Deep down, beyond the outer bulwarks of consciousness, it
was alive and at ease; for Octavia, the real Octavia, was dreaming a
beautiful dream. All day and all night it seemed that she and her
lover were walking in an enchanted land, as little children might,
confidingly. And at last it seemed to her that together they passed
into soft and sudden darkness, and that he, kissing her on the cheek,
whispered, ‘I am Death.’
And then Octavia lay even more white and still than before, and
when Maggie came back into the bedroom she knew that this was
• • • • •
Miss Peele’s funeral was an almost sensational event. In her
decent, brisk, charming way, Mrs. Hatherley-Peele went as near
performing the part of master of the ceremonies as it is possible for
a lady to do. And the result of her efforts in whipping up mourners
and marshalling the procession beforehand bore abundant fruit; for
when the day of the obsequies arrived, all the grown-up Grove and
all the pretty little sailor boys, their offspring, turned out in order
to follow the cortége to the grave. Poor old Mr. Peele, looking dimly
out of the window of his mourning coach, remarked the concourse of
amateur mourners, as, headed by General Cranley and Colonel
Cholmondeley-Smith, they wound up the road in the rear of the
carriages. And he turned to Hatherley-Peele, his nephew in the eye
of the world now, and thanked him painfully for kindness at once
so signal and so unforeseen.
‘How good they have all been to us,’ he groaned, ‘to you and
me, my child!’
That he failed, however, to include the sincerest of the day’s
mourners in this expression of gratitude is hardly to be wondered at;
for certain small children, who erewhile had discoursed about ‘loyuns,’
were walking quite out of sight, behind all the tall gentlefolks, at
the extreme tail-end of the procession, where cowslip wreaths fading
in hot little hands, corduroy habiliments, and heartfelt rustic weeping
were not likely to mar Maggie’s grand principal effects !
• • • • •
But Miss Peele’s Apotheosis was not yet! In about a year’s time,
when Hugo himself had quietly and unostentatiously dropped from
what he had deemed the fighting line of science into an obscure and
unmourned grave, certain papers came, with books and other valuables,
into the hands of his next-of-kin, the Hatherley-Peeles. Maggie,
busy, sensible, little lady that she was, voted at once that all MSS.
should be burnt as rubbish, but her husband was not entirely of her
opinion. He had heard somewhere that literary matter sometimes
sells profitably, if not in a decent place like Thegnhurst, then at
any rate in the eccentric outer world. Hence, after much slow debate,
punctured by counting, and the endurance of infinite snubs rappingly
delivered by his more intellectual half, he was allowed to select from
the pyre in the back kitchen two or three large notebooks, bound in
black leather, and adorned with decent clasps. These he submitted,
over an evening pipe and game of whist, to his ally the vicar; but
the latter could make nothing of them. A month afterwards, however,
young Mr. Cyril Bertram and his bride came to visit the vicarage at
the close of a prolonged honeymoon. Now, however odd, a bride is
a bride in Thegnhurst, and Althea found this out to her comfort. She
was feted by all the best people, and her husband shared in her
At a small, cleverly managed dinner, given in their honour at the
Hatherley-Peeles’, Maggie, talking literature for the nonce—she prided
herself on being able to parody most kinds of shop—mentioned the
MS. notebooks to her guests.
‘I am sure there must be something in them,’ she said, addressing
the incomparable Cyril, who sat on her right. ‘Dear Mr. Bertram,
perhaps you would be so good as to glance them over. The dear vicar
has them in his desk. They are lying idle in fact, and I am sure we
should all be so obliged to you if you would see whether anything can
be made of them. It would only take you ten minutes.’
The hint was negligently enough given. Indeed, Maggie only
dropped it for the sake of something to say. But Cyril was quick to
take it; for he is, as many of us know, a promising and not too scrupu-
lous editor of certain sorts of latter-day literature. He spent the desired
ten minutes, and a good many more besides, over the black notebooks,
which he found had been crammed into one of the good vicar’s largest
disused tobacco jars. And the upshot of his reading was the publica-
tion of Octavia Peele’s Letters to my Lover, a work which for long made
a noise in cultured circles, and is now famous amongst the Philistines.
The book, as we all know, is dedicated to Mrs. Hatherley-Peele
by the joint editors, Althea and Cyril Bertram, and is prefaced by a
charming notice of Miss Peele by one who ‘had often the privilege of
meeting her,’ etc., etc. It is, of course, full of Thegnhurst allusions,
which have made that pretty cynosure of villadom famous wherever
people read English. Pilgrims stream thither in the summer, and with
the exception of the mere American tourists, the Thegnhurstians are
pleased to rejoice at sight of them, for they feel that a Thegnhurstian is
being honoured. The Letters may be deep, shaky, dangerous—what
you will, but you must remember ‘they were written by one of us,’ as
the autochthonous Mrs. Ponsonby Baker is never tired of remarking.
The ‘Peele Boom,’ as her friend the cricketing curate has sometimes
jokingly called it, is as much one of the glories of Thegnhurst as the
Grove. Indeed, the last-mentioned suburb is in some danger of paling
into insignificance beside the Mudleigh Road, where rents are rising in
a manner at once fashionable and inordinate.
‘Our dear Miss Peele lived there,’ murmur the Thegnhurstians as
they pass the shabby little house where she and her father dwelt, and
with extended lawn-tennis rackets point it out to the vistors to their
garden parties. ‘Such a sweet girl! And the father so charming!
Relations of dear Mrs. Hatherley-Peele’s. Ah, dear me, how sad it all
was for Maggie! And how splendidly she bore it!’
THE SONG OF SONGS
The dawn-wind sighs through the trees, and a blackbird,
Sings in a dream to me of dreams and the dying Spring,
Calls from the darkened heart of the wood over light leaves shaking,
Calls from deep hollows of Night where the grey dews cling.
Soul of the dawn! Dear Voice—O fount pellucid and
Triumph and Hope and Despair meet in your magical flow,
Better than all things seen, and best of the unbeholden,
Song of the strange things known that we shall not know.
Yours not the silent months, the splendid burden of
Dark with the pomp of leaves, and heavy with flowers full blown.
Spring and the Dawn are your kingdoms, O Spring’s first comer;
Lordship and largesse of youth, they are all your own.
Song of songs, and Joy of joys, and Sorrow of
Now in a distant forest of dream, and now in mine ear,
Who would take thought of eld or the shadow of songless morrows?
Who would say, ‘Youth is past,’ while you keep faith with the year?
HOW shall I tell this gentle story so that
who read may not weep too much for the
sorrows that are told therein; for, indeed,
none must grieve too greatly, seeing that all
comes to a good ending.
This is how a king’s love for his wife, and
the faithful worship he kept for her, brought
great pain to them both, by the working of one fairy’s malice, which I
shall now tell you of. This king, whose name was Agwisaunce, had to wife
a queen whose beauty was to him as a veil hiding from him the fairness
of other women. No eyes drew him but hers, nor did the sweetness of
other lips seem to him a taste worth having. If I began, I could not finish
telling all the tenderness their hearts had for each other. But though
their love ripened from year to year, no fruit of it came to them.
After they had been married many years without children,
chanced, one day, into the court of that realm, a fairy possessing great
sleight of magic, and such beauty as was not safe to look upon, so
piercing were its effects. And she, being received at the Court with
much honour, was stricken presently with an uncontrollable passion
for the King’s person. Such grief falls but seldom to the finer nature
of which fairies are moulded; yet, when it comes, it strikes down
mortally into the roots of their being; nor can they rest till fate has
made accord with their desire.
So it was with this fairy whom love for King Agwisaunce
to the very dust of humbleness. Though she traced and traversed to
get the better of his heart, never once could she win him to turn on her
the amorousness of his eyes, or to pretend knowledge of that to which
she aimed. Till at last there came a day when in plain words the
fairy made known to him her wound, and Agwisaunce, for his part,
gave her a downright refusal for answer. ‘I think shame,’ said he,
‘that a great fairy, such as thou, should seek to come between the love
that two mortals bear in constancy and pure trust each to other!’ So
at that the fairy parted from him without more words; and he, believing
her gone, put thought of it away in secrecy and with a light mind.
But that same night Agwisaunce, in the barred solitude of his
chamber, and nigh upon slumber, felt lips that he deemed to be those of
his own wife coming and going over his face, and he turned to do honour
to her visit in fair amity. Yet he thought within himself, ‘Why does
she not kiss me as we always do, in the hollow under my right ear?’ For
that was the way these lovers had—a token of things since they were
Then he lifted his hands to the face that was by his, saying,
is it you, beloved?’ And at that came more kisses, but no answer.
Then the King thought, ‘Now, if I kiss her not in the hollow under
her right ear, and she ask it not of me, I shall know that there is some
estrangement come betwixt her and me.’ So then he kissed her between
the brows and in no other way; and the other made no complaint at
that, only kissing him the more.
Then Agwisaunce rose up, wondering, and made a light to
what plight he was in; yet, when he searched, all the couch was empty—
none could he see. Then he passed to his Queen’s own chamber, and
found her sleeping fast. ‘Truly, I have been deceived!’ thought he,
and returned to lie down. But so soon as he was stretched out at full
length again, he felt by his side one that kissed and caressed him
So, at that, Agwisaunce, making an end to it, pushed his
from him, saying, ‘This is not my own Queen, but some other!’ Then
softly the fairy’s voice spake to him; but he, as not hearing her, cried,
‘Go out, thou great light o’ love! Art thou not ashamed to follow me
thus?’ But she: ‘Where I have love I have secrecy, but no shame.
Lie down and do my will; thy wife shall not know. For none saw me
entering, neither will any see me return. Even as I was to thee when
thou earnest in with the light, so have I made myself invisible to
mortal gaze; and where no other can be wise, it is well for thee to be.’
Then Agwisaunce was up in great wrath; and said he, keeping
out from him at arm’s length, ‘Is not the rest enough, but thou must
take thine invisibility as a cloak to thy foulness, and come in by stealth
to play the wanton between me and my Queen!’
At which the fairy, seeing that she was not to prevail, cried
him with fury, ‘Ah, virtuous one, now even as thou hast reviled me
with shameful words, so will I pay it back to thee again! It is news
to thee that even now thy Queen is with child; and of that there shall
come a daughter to be a thorn in the side of her parents: for from the
hour of her birth she shall be invisible, and so shall she remain till she
also play the wanton. And when she shall have played the wanton, then
shall that spell be taken off her, and thou shalt see the face of her
shame and the shame of thy house, and be sorry at last for the scorn
of thy words this night!’
Then the fairy departed, and King Agwisaunce lay down
great trembling, and watched till it was morning.
On the morrow the Queen, beholding his mournful
and his gaze ever at her girdle, wherein he beheld sorrow now grow,
besought him by all his love to tell her wherein life ailed for him.
Then little by little she drew out from him a part of that story; but on
one part his lips stayed dumb, only said he, ‘There remains one
condition by which the spell shall be loosed and our daughter given to
our eyes; but as to that, pray that thou never have reason to behold her
face! Rather ask Heaven to keep her as she is born.’ And when the
Queen asked him what it might be, he answered, ‘If I told you so
much, straightway your pains would seize you and the child die, born
too soon for life to be in it. Never ask me to tell you that!’
So, not many months after, the Queen’s time came for her to
delivered; and she wept bitterly over the thought of the child that was
to be born like a ghost out of her womb, nor ever to bless her eyes
with its beauty for a solace to all her sorrow. Presently there was
heard in the palace the cry of a new-born babe; and those that were in
the chamber, hearing the cry but beholding nothing, knew that the
curse had fallen: for all knew that a curse had been foretold on the
birth. But none save the King and Queen knew the cause of it, and only
the King by what way to be rid of it.
The King reached out his hands and took up into them the
life that struggled and wailed sadly at being born; then the mother,
clasping her child to her breast, felt it over from head to foot, and,
even as she wept for the useless longing of her eyes, declared that no
child so perfectly formed, from the dimple of its head to the cushioned
soles of its feet, had ever before been born into the world.
After that came the christening: never was so strange a one
time began, for the priest could not see the babe he held, and had she
fallen from his arms she might have been drowned past finding. The
whole Court drew a breath of relief when she was given back safe into
her mother’s arms, bearing the name of Innygreth.
With what trouble and losings and findings again her
was passed, it would be wearisome to tell. But before long the Princess
took her life into her own hands and shaped out her own fate. For
from the moment that she could walk she became the most surprising
and perplexing of charges. Here one moment, she was gone the next,
and unless it were her royal will to let sound go forth of her where-
abouts, she was more lost to mortal reach than a needle in a load of hay.
But gradually, as babyhood wore off, she became gracious and
in her way, yet sad that she had no other children to play with. At
times they would hear her stop in her walk before one of the great
mirrors of the palace, and there stand whispering softly to herself.
But whether what her eyes saw were her own image or no she would
All that her touch rested on and warmed became invisible as
self. Her clothes and all the jewels and feathers that were put upon
her, warmed by her body, passed out of sight.
Slowly her mind grew in gentleness and grace of her own
That her presence might be known, she took to bearing always in her
hand a lighted taper. And all the taper, when her fingers closed on it,
became invisible as her dress; but the flame, since she did not touch
that, burned clear. So wherever a light went travelling about in mid-
air the courtiers knew that Princess Innygreth was in its company.
On her tenth birthday the Princess came to the Queen and
‘Beautiful mother, would it not gladden thy heart to see only a little
part of me, of whom for ten years thou hast seen nothing?’ ‘Oh, my
Beautiful, fate holds thee, and I cannot!’ replied her mother.
Then Innygreth, reaching out her hand, loosed from it
that shone as it fell into the Queen’s lap; for as soon as she loosed it
out of her hand it became visible. And the Queen saw there a great pile
of golden hair that shone like fire, which the Princess had cut off that
her mother might learn how beautiful she was.
The Queen laughed and cried with joy, as, for the first time,
eyes were blest with the sight of a small part of her daughter’s loveli-
ness. And even more did Innygreth herself cry and weep. ‘I have
given you all of it,’ she sobbed, ‘because I love you so!’
As the Princess grew older she became very wise. ‘Where do
learn all these things?’ asked the King. ‘You do not read many
‘I blow out my light,’ said the Princess, ‘and I learn things
are, and not as princesses are used to be taught them. I know many
things that you do not. Some day when I know more I will teach you
how to govern well.’ The King laughed at that; but the Princess was
grave. ‘To me,’ she said, ‘all the world is like a glass: I see it, but it
does not see me.’
Now, as soon as the Princess drew near to the age for
King began thinking that to have her roaming free, fluttering the
downy wings of her unguarded virginity, was a tempting of God’s
providence. Therefore he began scouring the world to find a fit suitor
for her hand.
Many came, indeed, to the Court, drawn by the story of her
vellous manner of life, her great wisdom, and possible beauty; but
though all were won by the charm of her voice, they dreaded that
peace with honour could not come in the possession of a wife over
whose doings only the eye of Heaven could keep watch. Some, indeed
thought that the spell under which the Princess lay was friendly to her
fortunes and a trap to the unwary, and that her invisibility concealed a
hideousness which marriage alone would reveal.
One and all the suitors retired with polite elongations of
and the King fell to breakfasting on despair; and a trepidation lest his
daughter should one day swim scandalously into view before the eyes
of the whole Court caught him in the small of his back whenever he
opened a door or turned a corner.
Now, there was then serving about the palace a youth named
Percyn, he being a lieutenant in the King’s guard, and a fellow of most
merry wit. All things he did came so gladly off his conscience they
had the apparent seeming of virtue. As for his virtues, he cloaked
them in such waywardness that men, having to laugh, forgot afterwards
to admire. Were he to do any bravery, he covered it by a wager; or a
gentleness, he did it by a jest. But the Princess, passing unseen and
unknown out and among the precincts of the court, saw Sir Percyn
when he wist little who looked at him, nor was making capers to con-
ceal his cherubimity.
It was not long before Innygreth favoured him wondrously,
with maidenly reserve blowing out the light of her presence, lingered
daily in his company, warming her regard for the one man who was the
same, whether before kings or behind them.
Now, Innygreth, being so sheltered by her birthright, at once
the assaults and the safeguards men make on womanly innocence,
whether to foul or to foster it, had great knowledge of many things
that are shuttered from the eyes of most maidens. Therefore she was
honest without confusion, and had modesty without fear; and having
had no shame for her own body since the day of her birth, had no
shame of it in others. Also rank she saw below and over; truly
between the crowns that bowed and the crowns that were bowed to, it
seemed a little space to her.
Thus she passed down through all her father’s court, from the
of state till she came to the lower grades where Sir Percyn made gay—
❧ A STUDY IN SANGUINE AND WHITE
Charles Hazelwood Shannon
a light of March-moon madness round his head; and there she stayed
and searched no further, having found the unit of her thoughts.
As one learns to love the south wind when it blows full of
breath of flowers, though one sees it not, so Sir Percyn grew in love with
the toils of her sweet voice. So much he loved her that in a while she
lost with him her power of stolen marches, and came she never so
silently and with no light, still he knew her to be there, and the colour
would run to his face to meet her as she came. All may guess how
after that she knew that her heart held its wish.
For three days she let him go sad, but after that she could
withstand the springing tenderness of her love. That time she put her
hands about his face, and let word of it go. ‘Thou loon, thou loon!’
said she; ‘why ever dost thou not speak?’ And quoth Sir Percyn, trem-
bling between great joy and sorrow : ‘Speak what, thou eclipser of mine
eyes?’ Innygreth answered, ‘Truth only, thou moon of madness!
Nay, nay! to be ashamed for loving me so well!’ And before he
knew what more not to do, her invisible heart lay knocking at his side,
as wanting to get in.
Then he, thinking of all her height above him in the world,
gulf that sovereignty and power made betwixt her and him, held her the
more closely for that, and out of hopelessness grew bold; and he cried
out in anger and exultation, ‘Nay, now 1 have thee, I will never let thee
go!’ She laughed for pure pride.
‘Between us,’ she said, ‘is a great gulf fixed that no bridge
cross.’ ‘Our love fills it,’ he answered; ‘it carries us.’ ‘To what shore?’
she asked him. ‘To thine or mine—it is all one,’ he answered.
‘Thou knowest me,’ said Innygreth; ‘wouldst thou see my
She took his hand and laid it over her unviewed features. Her knight
thrilled to feel the loveliness that lay there. ‘Tell it me,’ she murmured,
‘for till now I have heard no man praise my beauty.’
Sir Percyn, moving his hand as a blind man that reads,
‘Thine eyes drink the light as the deer drink up the brooks. Thy
lips are a rose-garden where the rocks make echoes; thy cheeks are
a land of blossoming orchards; and thy brows are the gates of heaven.
Though I have not seen thy face, now I know it, for my love has filled
the gulf and carried me through to the Invisible wherein thou
Now, none need tell what lovers say when they have once said
nor how often, if they have means, they meet. Between Innygreth and
Sir Percyn there began to be long meetings and partings, and the
Princess, being free from the bonds that hold others, was like moon-
light and sunlight about her lover’s ways.
Often at the dead of night she would come into the chamber
he lay, and sit watching him asleep, or, waking him, would hold his
hands, and, till pure darkness fell before dawn, music to him with her
sweet voice. And Sir Percyn, beholding in his lady a modesty without
fear and a trust that dreaded no shame, became afraid with the great
bliss of the love that heaven allowed, and trembled daily while she
drew him to the heights of her own nature, that, having so much love,
had no room for guile.
When he was on guard by night at the palace, he would wait
the roses that climbed to Innygreth’s chamber, and if she waved her
light to him, then he was up by flying buttress and carved moulding
among the reddest of them all, hanging across the window-sill, and
embracing Innygreth in his arms. Many and soft then were the words
by them spoken; but a sharp-eared crone that was put by the King to
be about the Princess caught some sound of them.
She came and whispered to the King how at night there was
sound of a man’s voice in his daughter’s chamber, and chirpings like
birds in the leaves about the window—so many that she trembled and
lost count of them.
Agwisaunce, when he heard that, took so large a panic that
stooped down his pride, and night by night hid himself in the arras of
Innygreth’s chamber to learn how near might be the undoing of the
honour of his house. And, surely, on the third night he heard the
Princess move out of her bed, and through the window the sound of
one climbing the wall without, and presently kisses so many and
passionate that, fearing what next might have place, he leapt forth,
crying out on his daughter for a wanton. At which word one blow
caught him and laid him down for a while prone and speechless; for
Sir Percyn, hearing the honour of his fair love slandered, and knowing
not that it was the King, fetched Agwisaunce so full a buffet that the
thing became high treason. And betwixt this and that, Sir Percyn’s head
was forfeit by the time the King had recovered consciousness.
So the next day all the Court heard how Sir Percyn was
arrest to be tried for an attempt on the King’s life and honour. Nor
through all incredulity and bewilderment did any get nearer to the
truth than that.
But now more and more the King was seized by a horrible fear
some fine morning he should find his daughter made visible before his
eyes, and her bloom and reputation flown from her like the raven out
of the ark. ‘Already she goes the way of a wanton,’ he said, ‘and that
is a short road with a quick ending. Though walls have ears, for her
they have not eyes. How shall I keep her, then, so that I be not
presently shamed in my own palace?’
Now, even while he trembled over his daughter, so
disposed towards her fate, there fell to him, like a star out of the lap
of Fortune, a suitor for the hand of Princess Innygreth. The Prince of
a neighbouring country, amorous with curiosity for the wooing of
invisible loveliness, sent word asking for the hand of the Princess in
The King showered the news with tears of gratitude, and
urgent greetings, beseeching the Prince to come in the place of his
messengers. Before a week had passed the palace was full of him.
He came in high feather, and with a great retinue, eager to behold
the unbeholdable that was to be his bride.
As for Innygreth, she kept her peace, and went her ways at
carrying ropes and files and ladders and swords and chain-armour to
her lover in prison, that by craft or courage he might make his way out
and escape ; and all this she did by the spell of invisibility which
rested on her. ‘But first,’ said Sir Percyn, ‘I will stand my trial, and
declare my innocence before my judges.’ And that, indeed, was the
wreck of his chances; for when, after long waiting, he was tried secretly
and condemned to death, he was placed at once in a narrow cell, where
the windows were so narrow that no filing could make room for a man’s
body to pass through, and the walls were too thick and the warders
too many for there to be any other means of escape. But all this was
Therefore, at the time of the Prince-suitor’s coming,
mind was at ease, and she had full confidence that her power should
work her lover’s release; and as for marriage, she knew that in the
end she was her own mistress.
So when the Prince stood before her, and fawned and bowed,
curtseyed to him with her candle and told him she liked him well. And
the wooing prospered, being pushed on by the King, till a whisper got
to the suitor that the Princess was not so discreet of blood as to make
a safe wife if none could watch over her. At that his suit also faltered,
and he talked of affairs of state requiring a postponement of the
Then the King in despair told him what he had never told to
before, and by what hard condition alone his daughter could ever escape
from her invisibility. Then the Prince-suitor, who had a fine presence
and a light heart, laughed, and said, ‘It seems to me that if the
Princess will but consent to like me well enough one day before
our marriage, I may lead a fair bride to the altar in the eyes of
When King Agwisaunce took in the discreet ingenuity of the
posal, he became perfectly shocked with joy; and thought he, hugging
his conscience into a corner, ‘Am I a father or a monster to devise this
thing for my own daughter?’ Nevertheless, despair of other salvation
so pricked him that he hurried on eagerly the preparations for the
nuptials. For all the while terror blew on him in little hot gusts lest his
daughter should forestall him and ruin all: since, were she now to appear
visible to the world, the Prince-suitor would understand the cause and
have plain grounds for breaking the matter off.
The old crone that watched over Innygreth said to her
‘Often the Princess is not in her chamber, and I know not whither she
goes.’ But the King, when he heard that, knew and trembled.
Therefore to make all sure, he caused every door to be locked on her,
meaning to keep her within, a close prisoner, till the morning of her
And now Sir Percyn being tried and condemned, the hour for
beheading had been fixed; and by the King’s will, it was to be at
midnight on the night before Innygreth’s marriage. As that day
approached, whenever the King and the Prince-suitor met, the latter
smiled, as it is said augurs do, but the King cast down his eyes.
And now, indeed, despair was eating up the heart of
she herself was behind locks, that try as she would she might not slip
by, and she heard from the talk of her women how the night before
her marriage was to be the night also of Sir Percyn’s doom.
Now the grief that the Princess had no man could see, though
face was bowed down under the foreshadow of her lover’s death. Her
light she put away, for often the shuddering in her hands might not
hold it; but her lips gave out no sound of her sorrow. Only her
mother, coming to Innygreth’s chamber, heard the soft falling of tears
upon the floor. ‘Ah, my child!’ cried the Queen, and for pity brought
the King in, and showed him where a pool had formed itself from that
pure sorrow; and she said bitterly, ‘Thou canst not behold our
daughter’s face, yet thou canst behold her tears: see the river of that
grief which is in her! Yea, I have heard her heart breaking which I
cannot see! Presently, I think, she will fall dead into our presence, and I
shall behold her beauty too late but to weep over it. Is that indeed
the end promised for her by the fairy?’ But the King said, ‘That is
not the end. Though even now he would not tell her how the end was
to be. ‘This is but a passing shower,’ said he: ‘to-morrow she shall
Every day brought in piles of presents for the bride, and
the palace was a-blaze with lights; but the King was sore at heart
over the heavy condition that lay between him and the achievement of
his daughter’s happiness, and his thoughts grew full of tenderness. He
came and felt for her head bowed all low with grief: ‘Wilt thou not
trust a loving father,’ said he, fondling it, ‘that to have thee happy and
sound before his eyes is all the desire of his heart? But thy fate makes
the way hard. Only believe that whoever I shall send unto thee, bear-
ing my signet-ring, comes for thy good; and to-morrow, if thou wilt
obey me well, thou shalt be a fair wife in the eyes of all.’
Then, when the hour drew on into night, he took her hand and
her softly to her bed-chamber; and said he, ‘See, I will myself keep the
key to thy chamber; and whatsoever cometh through to thee this night
cometh of my love. And this I swear to thee by my royal word, that
to-morrow, when I see thy face plain, then thou hast only to ask thy
will, and it shall be my wedding gift to thee, were it the half of my
He said to her waiting-woman: ‘When the Princess has put off
attire, bring it all forth from the chamber, that she may not rise up
again this night.’ For he feared yet that she might rise by stealth in
the night and give the slip to her fortune.
Therefore, when presently the Princess had unrobed herself
out the light of her presence, the waiting-woman brought forth all the
attire she had worn that day, and left Innygreth in only her bed-linen,
nor was any other garment left for her to put on.
So presently, when all the palace slept, the King gave his
ring to the Prince-suitor, and also the keys of every door, and, bidding
him God-speed, made haste and departed.
The Princess, left alone, rose up from her bed and found her
ments flown. Yet had that hindrance been to her as to other maidens
it had not kept her from her lover’s side, whose last hour on earth now
drew near. Therefore, the door being fast, she opened her window and
leaned forth, where so often before she had leaned with the touch of
Sir Percyn’s face upon hers.
The deep warm summer night shed its breath upon her lips full
the scent of roses. So, remembering him about to die, she put forth
her tender limbs and climbed down by the stems of the roses till her feet
embraced the cool herbs below.
As she went, great thorns had made wounds in hands and feet,
that ruby drops fell from them and mingled with the large tears of dew
that hung on the grass edges that she trod.
She passed by terrace and lawn and bower, till she came to
baser courts and quadrangles where the service of the castle was done.
The draw-well was at rest after its day’s labour. In the two buckets,
left standing for chance use during the night, water was wrinkling in
the light of a grey moon. As she was crossing the open, a white hound
came and lapped in one of the pails, drew out his head, and yawned
with the water dripping off his jowl. Innygreth shivered, for he had
not nosed her in passing, and she knew that this was the hound of
death waiting till midnight should strike.
By the chapel’s west front she passed down more steps, and,
the garth, saw a lantern, and two men working under its beams. She
stayed then, and saw how with pick and spade they had made room
enough in the ground for a man to lie. The mould, as they threw it out
fell over her bare feet. ‘The midnight brings rain!’ said one of the
diggers, looking up. And Innygreth turned her about and went swiftly,
having looked into a living man’s grave.
Then came she to the guard-house, passing between the two
who stood there with crossed pikes. And at the door of her knight’s cell
she halted, bidding herself have patience; for she knew that presently
the jailor must come with the wine and the last loaf which Sir Percyn
might eat ere he broke fast on the morrow in the fair house of God
amid the company of His saints.
So she leaned her ear to the door, and heard calm breathing
Then, even in her present distress, she had joy, thanking fate that had
let her hold come fast on a heart so noble as this.
Presently came the jailor, carrying the spare meal that was
Sir Percyn’s last; and he opened the door softly, and set it down by
the bed, sighing to himself that so fair a youth was presently to die,
for all that knew Sir Percyn loved him well.
Ye know well, how where he had let one in he locked in
She, indeed, sat down on the bed watching Sir Percyn’s face; and,
feeling the coldness of the prison walls striking into her, she took
up her knight’s cloak to lay over her shoulders, and covered up
her feet with the rest of his garments that he had taken off ere he
Presently she heard the blessing of her own name breathed
his sleep, and at that leaned down her face into the hollow of his palm
where it lay upon the coverlet, and kissed it as one kisses the shrines of
saints. In a while it closed softly upon her features, as a sensitive plant
over the visiting bee whose honey it would take, and a waking voice
said, ‘Is it Innygreth that is here?’
‘Even she, and sorrow!’ moaned the Princess, and laid her
‘O beloved,’ he said, ‘keep those dear eyes dry!’ For thick
traced over him from under her lids, and even then a spot of blood
from her hand showed upon his as he reached up to stroke her face.
Then he started, clasping her. ‘How art thou wounded, beloved, he
cried, ‘if this cometh from thee?’
She answered : ‘The roses, by which thou earnest to me, I
down to thee.’ ‘Oh, blessed sad chance!’ he cried, embracing her; ‘for
now mine eyes have seen the sweet colour of thy blood, shed out of
dear veins for love of me!’ And as his arms clung round her in bitter
sweet joy at that last meeting, he said, ‘Thou art cold, love, and
trembling, for thy meek body is all but naked in this house of death
where I am held captive!’ But she said, ‘What does cold or pain
matter any more? Now I am by thy side it matters not; and when
thou art gone, neither will it matter then. I have failed to win thy
freedom or mine. I have failed in all but to dig thy grave in the chapel
garth by the light of this grey moon!’ ‘But,’ said he, ‘though I had
failed in all, having gained thee I should be happier in my end than
all they who live, not knowing thy sweetness.’
Thus these lovers, each unto each, the saddest sweet things
hearts may make lips speak when parting comes to them. And the
Princess took from him a lock of his hair, to have for ever on her heart
when he was not there. And he said, ‘Beloved, hast thou it safe?’ In
my breast!’ said she; but he: ‘Now thou wearest it, it is gone from
Then she said, musing sorrowfully, ‘Though I can come and go
I will, I have found no way for thee to escape; for this window is too
narrow and these walls are too thick for thee to pass through, though
by stealth I have brought thee file and rope, seeing that what I hold
close to my own body shares my invisibility to the eyes of man.’
And even while she spake, there was heard below the tread of
feet, and the clatter and ring of steel arms; and by that the lovers knew
that herewith came the guard to take Sir Percyn forth to the place of
execution. Then, while yet the sound grew up the winding of the
stairs, Innygreth compassed the full use that she might make of her
charm : and before Sir Percyn knew what she would do, she had
slipped into the bed and folded herself about him from head to foot.
And with her lips to his face, winding her long hair over him :
‘Be quiet, thou dead man,’ spake she, ‘for now my body holds
And therewith those without, reaching the door, unlocked and
it wide. And lo! a bed empty, and a cell void, as all eyes might plainly
So straightway went out the cry that the prisoner was loose;
the guard, leaving the door wide, sped forth to search and stop all
ways of exit from the castle.
Then Sir Percyn, lying hived in the warm breast of fair
began to tremble at the very greatness of her mercy, and to be held so
close in those dear arms. And spake he, twixt fear for his own frailty
and worship for her divine charity, ‘Loose me, my heaven, and let us
go, for the door stands open!’ ‘Nay,’ said she, ‘lie down, thou dear
loon! For if we go forth together now, they will see thee, and thou
wilt be taken. To-morrow the door will still be there, and we may get
forth by some secret way, as I shall devise. But unless thou lie still, I
cannot keep thee all hid, nor wrap thee safe from men’s eyes. O, my
loon, my loon, I have taken thee up to me out of the grave; and this
night I will hold my dead man safe!’
So in the morning, when the King, dreading whether the
had indeed escaped (for the Prince-suitor after long search had found
her not), and hearing of the flight of Sir Percyn, came in great haste
and dread to that cell:—he saw, indeed, that fair youth lying asleep
and by his side a woman of most touching beauty, so sweet and pure
and lovely an image of the Queen’s youth, that he doubted not it
must be his own daughter whom he saw.
And as he gazed, in bitter wrath for all of which that sight
token, the two sleepers stirred and opened glad eyes each to each. Wit
ye well King Agwisaunce heard much sweet speech and worship pass
between the pair, ere the Princess lifted her gaze to behold the King’s
eyes fixed on her, full of fury. And first she trembled and fluttered at
the sight of his wrath, and threw her arms protectingly over her lover
to keep him hidden from the King’s eyes. But in a while, so new was
the fixedness of his gaze, that she started up crying, ‘Oh, my Father,
canst thou indeed see me with thine eyes?’
‘Yea, wanton, I do see thee!’ he answered; ‘A heavy sight it
There thou liest with thy doomed paramour beside thee!’
Then Innygreth lifted herself smiling and said, ‘O Father,
now thou seest me, my will is that for a wedding gift thou do give me
this very Sir Percyn to wed and live with in happiness and honour to
my life’s end!’
Then the King remembered how he had given her his royal
and as she had willed, so had it to be. Therefore is an end come to
Now, had the King been as other men, and let the fairy’s will
the first place, none of these sorrows had come about, nor need any
have been wise concerning that thing, nor this have been written.
Wherefore ye who like this tale be glad that the King erred not in faith
to his wife; and ye that like it not, be grieved.
ON THE SOUTH COAST OF CORNWALL
There lives a land beside the western sea
The sea-salt makes not barren, for its hills
Laugh even in winter time; the bubbly rills
Dance down their grades, and fill with melody
The fishers’ hearts; for these, where’er they be,
Sing out salt choruses; the land-breeze fills
Their sweetened lungs with wine which it distils
From emerald fat field and gorse gold lea.
Like a thrown net leans out the ample bay.
The fishers’ huddled cabins crowd and wedge,
Greedy, against the rugged treacherous edge
Of their great liquid mine renewed alway.
The fishers have no thought but of the strong
Sea, whence their food, their crisp hair, and their song.
THE GODS GAVE MY DONKEY WINGS
BY THE AUTHOR OF ‘THE GODS GAVE MY DONKEY WINGS.’
WHEN the shaggy-headed youth came
to me with the bad news, I feared the gods
had taken me at my word. For the gods
are indiscriminating folk, given to judging
by individual actions rather than by the
tendency of a whole life, which in my case
had ever been of love to my gentle ass.
A sore time it was to fly away with my donkey.
The inhabitants of this
strange Thorp which I, after twoscore days and two of wanderings, had
happened upon nestling in the foots of the snow-capped mountain,
these sturdy people were not so well disposed towards me as I, a canny
packman, could have wished, and I knew right well it is ill to drive
bargains with folk who look upon one with disfavour. Unwittingly I
had drawn suspicion upon my head by being the last one of them all
who had had dealings with their maker of gods before he buried him-
self under the mountain. Now, lying, as it did, forty-two days’ journey
from its nearest neighbour, you will readily understand that the Thorp
depended on its own resources for all things pertaining to life and
death, and that when the one whose genius had fitted him to fashion
their gods (he made them out of clay-dust, the same material of which
we are all created, so that his gods were wholly sympathetic), when he
buried himself, the good people were thrown into a great state of
nervousness, and were put to their wits’ end to find how they might
resurrect their lost creator of images. The Thorpsmen were angry
with the maker of gods for digging himself a living grave, and deter-
mined to bring him forth to his duties again. It was when all were
straining their every nerve to accomplish this that the gods gave my
A most unfortunate event happening at a most unfortunate
hor trade with the good people I could not. No one would buy so
much as a drop of my best charm against goblins and ghouls, they
were all so taken up with the pretty quarrel between Thorp and
Now I had not journeyed over the shoulders of mountains,
moraine and through long leagues of forest, over morass and bog-land,
and across wind-swept plains, merely to satisfy myself as to the out-
come of a quarrel, however entertaining in its origin and incident.
Sure am I that, ponder as I may, I cannot for the life of me make out
what in man impels him to lay up goods to leave behind him when
he dies. This is the way to make death hard, for he that is without the
comforts of life can wink at Death as he approaches. But that each
must die is a truth that everybody knows and nobody realises. And I,
packman, with not a soul to leave behind me but my quiet donkey—
the gods protect her!—and with plenty stored by to keep me in comfort
for more years than it would fit me to look forward to, still sat uneasy
when my pack stood full.
Now, the women of the Thorp (I set no store by the men, who
little from a packman, and that little invariably articles of substance
wherefrom no great profit can be made) stood arms akimbo, in the
middle of the cobble-paved street, with the goats and children playing
about the doorsteps, and the swallows skimming the eaves, and they
discussed the grievous topic over and over and over again, until they
nearly drove me daft.
The quarrel had reached its most entertaining stage when the
willed that mine hostess, a woman young and of goodly proportions,
should take it into her kind heart to prepare for me a rare mess of
onions boiled in the juice of the mountain grape, and overspread with
rich butter melted quietly in a copper kettle and spiced with the spice
of the snow-berry. A dish this is that I dearly love, but, alas! it loves
not me; so that when I should be enjoying a quiet smoke and the
fulness of my paunch, I am doubled across the back of my donkey in
the agony of a laboured digestion.
The dwellers in lands called Christian, illogical as are all
give praise to their Maker for will-power that on occasion enables them
to withstand one or two temptations, but blame a devil when, as is usually
the case, the temptation overcomes them. Of course, we of the true
faith recognise that the gods create everything, good and evil alike. I
we resist a temptation, we praise our gods for giving us the strength of
mind to do so; if the temptation overcomes us, we equally blame the
gods for creating a temptation stronger than they gave us the will-
power to conquer; and, verily, I fear at each years end we have a heavy
balance against our gods. And my account to their debit is made
large by this same dish of onions, grape-juice, and butter, which has
tempted and overcome me time and time again.
This evening of which I am telling you I had made up my mind
take but a nibble of the sweet-smelling food — only enough, mind you, to
let the taste of it overspread me like the pipings of a flute, or the musky
smell of the mountain rose—but the gods give my donkey wings if I
could resist the charms of the onions. After I had finished the last sop
of the gravy and the last morsel of the onions, and had run my
wild-rice cake round the plate to make sure that no particle had been
overlooked, I took my staff in hand, and without waiting for the first
symptom of distress to rap against my ribs, made off to a secluded spot
on the mountain-side in solitude to groan my soul to peace. In the
middle of my repentance I realised, as only one in the throes of
dyspepsia can, how foolish of me to fiddle away my time in the Thorp
listening to the quarrel, and there and then made up my mind to set
out on the morrow for around the mountain, and leave the good people
to buzz over their own little affairs.
The sun was splashing the heavens with the gold of evening
again turned my face towards the Thorp. The goats, sedate and drab,
were wending their way home, the young ones of them scrambling up the
side of every rock near the path to gaze away across the landscape, and
to float plaintive bleatings on the cool air of evening. Their tiny
bells tinkled in many a golden tone. Next to my own good donkey I
know of no such favoured beast as the goat, for it loves the lonely places
of the mountain, it seeks eminences, it breathes cool air, gazes upon great
views, and meditates among the immortal rocks and immaculate snows,
and within the sound of roaring waters. It is only to the great that the
gods have given whiskers.
Now, in the Thorp was one, a lad of by-ordinary large head
watery eyes. His lips, too, were thick, and his chin hung loose, expos-
ing, for the most part, his tongue, and his legs bent towards each other
so that they touched at the knees. Fate had given him a burly body
and a weak head. But that is neither here nor there. He was a gentle
lad, and fond of me from the first; so that much of his time was
misspent in hanging about my heels when he should have been helping
his father to beat clay. His father was the Thorp’s potter, an irritat-
ingly industrious body, who spent long hours busily beating, sometimes
the clay, and sometimes the boy.
I took pity on the lad, as one always pities the harmless,
him to follow me about and to stand gazing at me, his one bare foot
planted firmly in the dust, and his other placed on his bare knee, whilst
his arms hung loosely by his side. We seldom spoke. When he did
address a remark to me, I found that it was usually rational enough,
only with just a wee bit too much of the mystery and poetry of life in
it, a sign which all agree denotes the witless. He was wofully
unworldly. I’ll warrant the lad could not have sold a half-ell of gaudy
ribbon to a vain widow, a trick almost as easy as lying.
Well, it chanced that as I returned from my immolation on
mountain, I came upon this youth waiting for me at the outskirts of
the Thorp, near to where the bustling little river sweeps a curve like to
the shape of my ass s hoof, and together we made our way to the far
side of the Thorp to see to my donkey that she had plenty of fodder
and that she was securely tethered, for I had no wish that she should
stray far that night. The beast is much given to exploring the country-
side during the hours of darkness, having her share of the inquisitive-
ness of her sex. That evening I sat late. For sure the Thorp brewed
good honest liquor of fine body, and plenty of it; and this, I supposed,
was to be my last opportunity to swig of it.
Next morning I arose early. When I stepped into the streets
goats were still lying huddled at the feet of the god of Good Dreams,
around which, when the god had been placed in the middle of the
street, the men and women of the Thorp each evening joined hands
and sang their vesper hymn.
I had no more than filled my lungs of the snell morning air
came circling down from the snow-capped mountain, and rubbed my eyes
to gaze at the great clouds swimming midway up the rocky heights,
when I became aware of the shaggy boy standing among the goats
waiting for me. And when I placed my hand on his head he raised
his great eyes to me for a moment, and then fell behind to trot after
me as I proceeded on my journey to see to my beast. Opposite his
father s workshop I felt him lightly touch my frock, and, on turning, dis-
covered the lad gazing away to the east where the sun had just kindled
the heavens to a blaze of saffron and gold, and had thrust his sword of
flame into the heart of Night until the snows of the mountain dripped
blood. The gentle boy left me to enter upon his day’s duties, for
already his father was astir.
After giving my donkey a good rub-down, I saw her
a-stall with her nose in a generous measure of corn, for many a weary
league of rough road lay before us. Returning to the house of mine
host, I set my pack in the middle of the floor, and commenced to
re-sort the contents. This proved a tedious but not unpleasant task,
for the Fates had been not altogether unkind to me in my hagglings,
and I could palm a goodly number of quaint carvings and some few
gems that had cost me little and would bring me much.
Breakfast I ate slowly, with a clear remembrance of my last
meal to counsel frugality; and having finished, mine host and hostess
sat with me a while, struggling to get me to better understand their
tongue. I was sorry to leave them; and they, although they would not
accept even so much as my keep-cost, I verily believe were sorry for
me to go (she was a substantial, juicy woman the wife, with cheeks
as red as the breast of the fire-bird), and so it was that the sun had
swung high in heaven before I again set to work at my pack. I was in
the act of placing in a secure corner some richly carved fool-stones,
which I knew would bring me a rare price when I again had the good
chance to fall in with the simple Christians, when the latch-string was
pulled rudely, the heavy oak door bumped open by a fat knee, and into
the room bounded the potter’s lad, the wet clay still sticking to his
fingers, and his eyes and mouth wide open.
‘Thy donkey!’ he gasped.
This gave me a sore fright, but it is my way never to show
ness for news—good or bad.
‘Thy donkey!’ he shouted again, standing there upon one foot,
other slapped on his knee. I continued at my pack, never once raising
my head, for I was busy placing gewgaws of trifling value on top to
catch the eyes of sparkish maidens; ay, and the married women are
as vain as the maidens, and whiles less discriminating.
‘Thy donkey is stolen from thee! Thy donkey is taken
Thy donkey! Thy donkey!’
Now the gods know that I have loved them and all their works
are good, and why they allowed this ill turn to befall me only their
impudent little selves can say. I did not lift my head, but continued
at my work; but you may well believe that my thoughts were busy
over the sore blow that had fallen upon me. The lad stood for
a few moments, and then I saw his shadow move across my pack; I
heard the door slam after him, and he was off no doubt to alarm the
Thorp. All that now remained for me to do was to close the jaws of
my pack and pull tight the straps, so I determined to make a clean
job of it before venturing upon the next business in hand. Who could
have made away with my ass! There was not such another beast in
all the country. Indeed, much wealth could I have gathered had I
placed my donkey on show, as the Christians do with their fat women
and princes; but, to be sure, no right-thinking being would so demean
his beast. Who could have taken her? For many days’ journey, far
and near, whosoever had made away with her must be a marked man,
for all peoples round about were usually far more anxious to gaze at
my donkey than to examine my wares. However, that was but a
small thumb of comfort for me to suck at and grow fat. At the best I
could not expect to get her back other than leg-weary, gaunt, and un-
fitted for the journey on which I had set my heart.
I was in the act of pulling tight the strappings of my pack,
suddenly booming on the air, like the roar of a genie, sounded the
great drum, the Thorp’s drum, beaten only when some dire news came
to the bailiwick, and was deemed of such vital importance that the
inhabitants one and all should understand without delay. At the
ominous sound mine hostess, good woman, came rushing into the
room, crying, ‘The gods save us! some red tidings from him that is in
the mountain,’ and without more ado she suddenly seized me by the
wrist and made off with me as fast as she could leg it towards the
ambo which stood in the centre of the Thorp’s meeting-place. I cried
to her that my head was bare, having indeed but a moment before
folded my skull-cap of silk and placed it next my breast preparatory to
putting on my mountain head-gear; but pause for a moment she would
not, not she! although I noticed that she used her free hand to stick a
bit ribbon I had given her in her hair as she ran. But there, away she
ran with me, old fool packman, puffing at such a rate that I could not
come by enough breath to protest another word.
This was the second time I had seen the people of the
assembled in answer to the call of the drum. They came from all
quarters in great haste, for, as I have told you, expectation was in the
air, and the people awaited anxiously word from him who had buried
himself alive. But when the Father stood in his place on top of the
ambo, and told the honest people of the stain that had come upon the
Thorp’s reputation for honesty, and the great loss that had befallen my
heart and pouch, their expressions of anger towards the maker of gods
gave place to one of pain. At the bad news that my pretty cuddy had
been made away with I could see that the simple-minded people were
much distressed. Agitation passed over the throng like the shadow of
a cloud across a sunburnt heath, and I soon found myself the centre of
a sympathetic knot of people, most of them the buxom women of the
Thorp, an experience I took good care to appreciate, for I am fond of
sympathy. So a space of time elapsed before the Father could continue
his address to the people.
He said that as no spoken words of sorrow would restore the
stall, it behoved them to energetically set about finding the thieves,
and to prevent the taking of the donkey out of the territory dominated
by the just laws of the bailiwick. Fortunately, the gods had been to
special pains to create the ass an ambling beast, slow and sedate; and
as the robbers had obtained but a short time’s start, and as there were
only four passes by which an ass could leave the country, he called for
volunteers, fleet of foot, to make for those passes and intercept the
robbers. One or other party, he said, must find the ass, or, at the very
least, trace of the beast if she had escaped by the pass.
Mine host was the first to step forward; and before the sun
reached the shoulder of the mountain, I saw the four strong parties
legging it away towards the scars in the hills, my youth of the shaggy
head well in front of that which made for around the mountain. You
may well believe I watched the various parties focus into the horizon
with a great longing in my heart that one or other might be successful
in restoring to me my gentle ass. She had grown to meditative age in
my service; and the spot on her shoulder was a pure white where I
rested my hand as we toiled over the shoulders of the mountains for
many long days in many strange lands.
The people, in the fulness of their consideration for my
quietly urged me to the ambo, and placed me in the seat of a patriarch,
whose soul, poor man, that day fortnight had sat the lawful time upon
the peak of the mountain before fading into the blue of the sky, and I
thought at the time, and do still believe, that I became the proud
position not so ungainly. But the gods had surely turned from me their
faces; for whom should I find standing near to me, so near that I could
see the scorn in her black eyes as she surveyed me in my new position,
whom but the wife of the Father, to wit, the Termagant herself, as proud
as a Christian leech or a Jew beggar. I had only that moment taken
upon me the full dignity of my place (for a bereavement that excites
pity is wonderfully pleasant to a vain man), when, casting with con-
siderable pride a glance at the people before me, my eye caught sight
of her masculine face among the very first. Faith, it gave me a sore
turn to see her so near at hand, and willingly would I have slipped
quietly from my place and edged away into the crowd but for the fear
of the shame of it. For the Termagant had laid heavy hands upon me
once, and the bruises I then took on my skin had only as yet turned to
yellow about the edges of them. But, keep from hitching and fid-
geting in my place when her cruel glance was cast at me—the gods
give my donkey wings if I could! And she would look at the bare
spot on the top of my head, which, mind you, was not placed there by
age or natural decay, but by some deplorable cause I have never quite
been able to fathom, nor my richest salves (applied lustily and with as
good a grace as the knowledge of how much they cost me would allow)
remedy. So I placed my hands over my face as though mourning the
loss of my faithful friend, and kept my eye the while on the Termagant,
peeping between my fingers.
I have made it my sure rule since the days that I can
tell the truth when out of earshot of my pack. And this is the truth.
I firmly believed that this, the second close meeting with the Termagant,
was to pass without evil befalling from the wicked woman. As I
watched her face, it seemed to my slow brain that she had made up her
mind that the stir had nothing in it of particular interest to her, and
she commenced to cast about her disdainful glances, and occasionally to
gaze upon the Father with pitying scorn. He, poor soul, as much
unnerved as I, or more, by her proximity, continued to address the
people, nervously rubbing his fat hands up, over, and down, and
then up, over, and up, his ample stomach, until in strident tones she
told him that he was soiling his best gear, and that he had much better
put his hands in his mouth for all the use his speech was likely to
prove. Such a course, she said, would at least keep hands and tongue
out of mischief.
You who are linked to a woman will bear me out when I say
it is bad enough in all conscience to have a wife glowering up into
your face when you are disporting yourself as befits one who has the
eyes of a gathering upon him, but to have a wife shoot a verbal dart
of scorn at you so that the people may see it quiver in your breast
is past all endurance. The Father, poor soul, flushed to the fringe of
his white hair, stammered, and looked helplessly at the she-dragon, who
tossed her head contemptuously in the air and bade him proceed.
She should have been a heathen priestess—a fine figure she would have
made with a knife above her head and a human sacrifice at her feet.
There are no degrees to woman’s heart, as there are no degrees to her
virtue. If her heart be not made of rose-leaves, it is of the flint-stone
of the mountain.
For some moments the Father stuttered, and at length,
the boldness of despair, blurted out that as the good name of the
Thorp was at stake, he had decided that this was an occasion for
resorting to extraordinary measures. Since the days his great-great-
great-grandfather was Father to the Thorp, when some one disposed
to evil had cast a spell over the goats so that they all took to walking
backwards, and in so doing knocking over the gods that stood at the
street corners, to the utter destruction of all proper worship (a calamity
well remembered, for it had been crooned to the children by successive
generations of young mothers), the action which he, the Father, had
determined upon had never been taken. But he believed the people
would bear him out when he said that the present circumstances
warranted lusty measures. Therefore he bade them all return to their
homes, to put things to order, and to do what was seemly and right;
and when the sun sat upon the peak of the mountain, each man, woman,
and child was to leave home and betake him or her into the house of
the neighbour to the left, there to make a fit and proper search of the
rooms and premises for the stolen ass. Those who lived in houses at
the end of the street, so that they had no neighbours to the left of them,
were to cross over to the other side of the way, and in so doing com-
plete the circle.
No sooner were the words out of the Father’s mouth than
was a great stir among the women folk, for here was a cutting test of
housewifery to be sure, a-knocking at every door without so much as a
warning cough. Many a time it is a clean entry that leads to a dirty
hall. I could see by the expression that came upon many a coun-
tenance that certain overlooked corners at the morning’s sweeping, and
certain bundles, and certain legs off stools, and such-like, came to the
minds of the women, for they all prided themselves on their cleanliness
and order, and were loth that their neighbour should find so much as
one copper platter unpolished. Most of the good wives were for off
without more said, but I noticed that some few were not disposed to
show haste, resting easy in the knowledge that all things were to rights
at their homes. Mine hostess I was proud to see range herself with
the latter, as she well might, for she dearly loved to make herself a
slave to her household duties. Indeed, in so doing I think she was not
so far wrong, for it gave her many chances to bemoan her unhappy lot,
which always does the heart of woman great good.
The flittermouse of the Thorp, a gadabout who was the
discover anything unusual that might be taking place in the neighbour-
hood, whether it was the first sweet words between two who might
become lovers in time, or a fight on top of a rock between horned
goats, had at the words of the Father clapped her hand on top of the
lace cap she wore and scudded for her house (ill-kept, I’ll warrant,
although I had never peered inside her door, for I dislike her kind, and
can afford to have likes and dislikes, being now on the safe side of life
and gear), when even she was brought to a standstill by the shrill voice
of the Termagant. Faith, I had seen it coming, the storm conceived
in her mind, nursed in her bosom, and bursting into violent life on her
lips. She skirled the single word ‘Stay,’ and strode towards the ambo
where I and the patriarchs were sitting. The gods will bear me out
when I say that I have never in any country or clime, among the
Bedouins of the desert or the savage creatures who live in the land of
mists, laid claim to great valour. So when I saw the she-dragon
coming my way, I just gathered up the skirt of my robe and made off
as fast as fat legs and generous living would allow me to run, while the
folk set up a hearty laugh. But, thinks I, better a lamed pride than a
broken noddle, and I paid no heed to their humour, and would soon
have been out of hearing had not one (he was the father of my Shaggy-
headed youth, and had left his work only because it was compulsory to
answer the summons of the great drum—his fists beat against his hips
for want of clay) caught me by the flying cope, and when I looked
around I saw that the shrew was not pursuing me. Instead, she seemed
to have bustled one of the patriarchs out of his seat, and was standing
in his place facing the people. These were now gathering close about
her for fear of missing one of her words, for all honest folks’ ears prick
up when they hear the first sound of a scolding wife’s tongue. To see
that she was not in chase of me gave me heart, and I quietly elbowed
my way into position to hear, standing in the centre of a press of
people. The gods adorn my donkey with a peacock’s tail to spread in
the sun if she did not look a terrible sight, the anger having forced her
cheeks to a crimson and drawn tight her muscles until the nails of her
fingers stuck into her flesh!
‘Stay,’ she skirled again, although there was little need to
the invitation, for devil a one of them would have moved heel or toe
away while there was a prospect of hearing her rant. The Father had
sunk in his seat on top of the ambo, in a huddle of collapse, for right
well he knew he was in for a tongue-lashing, and, by my troth, it turned
out that he imagined no vain thing.
‘Mothers of the Thorp,’ she began after an impressive pause,
common sense must interpose to save our homes from sacrilege.
Mothers of the Thorp, what is this the anile fathers have proposed?
What is this egg that has been hatched by the warmth of the united
wisdom of those to whom the brainless, credulous, silly, yet conceited
men of this Thorp have intrusted the honour of the Thorp? An ass
has been stolen, the asses that represent the bailiwick bray, and the
sum-total of the bray is that we are all to be made asses of; that our
❧ PERSEUS AND THE SEA-MAIDENS
Sir Edward Burne-Jones
houses are to be looked upon as asses’ stalls, and we asses are to seek
for the stolen ass in one another’s homes, for the time being supposed
to be the stabling-place of an ass!
‘Cast your eyes on the Sire of the asses,’ she whirled round,
waved her red hand at the Father, who shrivelled up inside his robes,
until only his white head was to be seen. ‘Gaze at him! Ha, ha, ha!’
—(the gods bless me if her laugh did not send chills running up my
backbone like as if I had been gnawing at a tinker’s file!)—‘I vow you
can see nothing but his ears,’—faith, it was a fact too.
‘And, pray, let me ask who is he, the only one that is not to
made an ass of, and for whom we are all to get down on four legs and
walk? Pray you, who is he? Does one of you know? If so, speak!
Does one of you know his name? Does one of you know his people?
Does one of you know his errand? Does one of you, any one of you,
know from whence he has come? whither he goes? how long he
stays? In fact, does any one of you know anything about him except
that one evening when the sun shot its angry javelins at the peeping
stars, he and his precious ass came up our street and sought our
hospitality. Who is he, I ask, that we should creep?
‘Since he has sat down on his fat haunches in our midst, have
had cause to rejoice? Has not disaster such as this Thorp never before
met with befallen us? Has not our maker of gods buried himself alive,
and had not this proud-paunched packman a finger in the pie?
‘And now for this precious donkey of his, for which we are
to play spy-your-neighbour. I have been told by those that are
studying his outlandish tongue that most of it seems to consist of
appeals to the gods, and that one of the most frequently reiterated
prayer has been, “The gods give my donkey wings!” I repeat it, “The
gods give my donkey wings!” Now’—here the artful shrew let her
voice drop until it almost lost its harshness, although her looks were
as sour as ever—‘now, mothers of the Thorp, we know the gods, for we
have seen them formed and baked, loved and broken. And if we
prayed to one that did not heed, we soon reduced the lazy god to its
original clay by throwing it into the stream. But there stands a
packman/ her finger pointed firmly at me, and the press of people broke
away from me as she spoke, ‘there stands one who has implored his
gods to give to his donkey wings, and who, now that the ass has flown,
wishes us to sympathise with him, to flatter him by exalting him to a
patriarch’s seat, and to each one of us to cast doubt on the integrity
of his or her neighbour by paying a spying visit. No, no! The gods
are just. The ass has flown; the ass’s master’s prayers are answered;
and we say the matter, so far as we are concerned, is at an end. There
shall be no search. As he has prayed for his donkey to take flight,
let him now pray the gods to pluck his ass and restore her to him
Again she paused, and I vainly thought the vixen had done.
god of the Moods had surely never seen such a sudden change as had
come over the good Thorp folk, the men and the women. When the
virago began her tirade, all for me was sympathy and sorrow. By the
time she reached the first breathing-space of her address, the people
were scowling at me as they who say loudest they follow Christ scowl
at those who cry ‘mercy’ or ‘charity.’ And when she had reached
this stage, their murmurings swelled to a roar. Now I began to have
fears for my skin, for I saw fair chances of having to run for it, as once
upon a time I ran from the bazaars of those who search the veda for
consolation, and the gods in their kindness have been unkind to me, for
I have waxed fat—not so great, mind you, as to be noticeable in a
company of good drinkers, but still, I know myself not so fit to act the
quarry as earlier days had seen me. Once I was on the point of dash-
ing for it, seeing a fine opening towards the stream, but the thought
came to me of my pack lipping full, cracking its ribs with the good
things it had swallowed, and good things yet to be disgorged, and I
made up my mind to see what lightning the thunder-cloud carried in
its weasand. This I vow before gods and men: Every woman’s tongue
is tipped with brimstone.
A diversion here intervened. A party of searchers was
to be returning. Alas! dejected, and without my pretty donkey.
Then another, and another, and at length the last of the four, each
empty-handed. At this the looks of the people again softened for me;
and the Termagant, the shrew, the vixen, the virago (man! I could have
wrung her neck, I swear I could), began to speak kindly to me some-
thing after this fashion:
‘My poor man’ (I never could school myself to bear the
of an enemy), ‘you see the ass is gone, your wicked words the gods
have heard and heeded, your donkey has flown, as any child in this the
Thorp (it is the especial care of the true gods) could have told you she
would fly. We are sorry for you. But you have brought distress,
anxiety, ay, disaster, on our peaceable homes, and you are punished.
My good man, for your own well-being, take your pack upon your back,
your staff in your hand, turn your face to your road, and the god
of Good Speed bless your sandals, and he of Good Fare your stomach.
And when tempted lightly to address the gods, think of how they
avenge, for, as I have ever found (it has been my guide and support all
my days) in this world it is a bridled tongue or a broken back.’
(Believe me or not, as you please, but she stood there before
all with the effrontery of a policeman bearing false witness, and had
the impertinence to say this to me, who had my tongue in subjugation
before the day she was born.)
‘Go your way, fat man, and the god of the Falling Rain wash
footsteps from our land! It may be that your grey donkey is waiting
for you in the mists that swim round the waist of the mountain.’
It was high time for me to be off. I made my way through
thick of them, some of them scowling, some snivelling, some gibbering,
some giggling. The good wife, my hostess, met me at the door, her
chin puckering and twitching, for she had a big heart and it was sore,
and she came close to me when she helped me on with my pack and
pulled the straps gently. I saw more than one great tear run quickly
down her rosy cheek, hesitate, and fall to her swan-white apron. I
could not trust myself to say ‘good-bye.’ It was as well that I had
said the words as near as might be earlier in the morning before my
donkey had flown—I think I never loved my beast so much as when I
felt the weight of the pack, and realised that to lighten was to lose.
All made tight, I stepped into the street. The good folk
by his own door-cheek, and the men took off their hats and removed
their pipes from their teeth when they saw me step over the threshold.
I paused for a moment to gaze at the heavens. The great mountain
stood glittering in the sun of noon, its snow-cap immaculate against
the blue of the sky. Above my head the mountain gnats threaded a
magic dance, and a murmur of insects sang in the air. To leave this
peaceful Thorp brought many pangs to my heart. But leave I must.
When I withdrew my eyes from the sky they lighted upon
Shaggy-Head standing in the middle of the street waiting for me, a
look of helpless wonderment in his face, and his great fat foot, bare and
dust-stained, on his awkward knee. My heart, soft at the time, went
out to him, for I knew that he at least would miss me. So caring no
fig for the folk that stood mouth-agape, I went up to the lad, stuck my
staff in my girdle, placed my two hands flatly on his bushy head, and
looked at his great wondering eyes. We understood each other, the
boy and I, and although I could see consternation among the people,
who were one and all shy of the lad, for ’twas said he had dealings with
the fairies on the mountain-side—like enough—the two of us stood
there in the middle of the quaint street with all the folk pointing and
gesticulating, and goats walking between our legs, and the butterflies
floating in the sunshine like the souls of little children . . .
‘Wheee, wheeee, whzeehraw-w—whrzeee-haw-www—
haweerzee eehaw, eezee, eezee -haw eeeee, eee e——e ah, ee ahh, ah,
How clearly her beautiful voice sounded on the calm air!
good folk one and all, mother and son of them, darted in-doors at the
sound, as though a witch-bird had cast its shadow across the cobble-
paved street. But start not I! The instant I heard the first sweet
tones, and realised the direction from which they hailed, I knew it all,
ay, without giving it a second thought. I just kept my hands where
they were, but I fear me my eyes must have spoken, for the gentle lad
smiled into my face. By and by the silly people first peeped, and then
ventured out into the street, and next instant off they set pell-mell
towards the stable, where I had in the morning stalled my ass. But
catch me making a fool of myself! I turned me towards the house of
my hostess, and gave the buxom woman a sound, resounding smack of a
kiss — her husband had run off with the rest of them, so whether or no
he would have minded is no concern of mine—I took off my pack, and
put it snugly away right and safe; laid aside my travelling gear, stood
my staff in the corner, and made my way to the bin that held the corn
my donkey loved to crunch, and on which she had grown a wee bit too
gross of late. Poor beast! she had bided in patience a long, long time
for her morning meal before crying to me, for those sure of a meal are
slow to hunger.
You may be sure I held my head high when I passed among
people, who had been craning their necks for a view of the ass. They,
witless folk, could not make head or tail of the matter. But I knew.
The gentle lad had slipped away from the shop to have a squint at the
beast he knew I loved so dearly, and not knowing that I had taken her
to stall, had believed she was stolen. And I, old, foolish, addle-
headed, blockhead of a packman that I am, had let the commotion the
Thorpsmen set up steal from me the little common sense the gods had
ladled into my pate, and it never crossed my mind to go and see for
myself whether or no my ass had really flown. But, nevertheless, I
enjoyed a quiet chuckle over the head of the affair—to be sure, all to
myself, for I at once schooled my face to that look of grieved innocence,
learned from the Christians, that so well becomes one who has
managed to escape from a very tight corner into which his folly or vice
had led him, and from which some one else’s cleverness extricates him.
The folk looked upon the return of the donkey as a miracle performed,
and you may be sure I took no pains to disabuse them of this idea, for
folk bitterly resent having their eyes opened to a truth that makes them
out tomfools. As for miracles? Well, most miracles I have come
across were simply the perfection of the natural. The natural is the
one thing that surprises folk nowadays.
When at last I came out from seeing my donkey to rights, I
scarcely keep the people from pulling me to pieces, they were all so
eager to do me honour. For a mannerly while I was, I’m thinking,
cleverly reserved, but they would press upon me their best in the way
of reeming swigs, and policy and pewter urged me to relax and to
smile upon them—true, at first a whit superior-like, but after a time
right genially—and my recollections mingled with the clouds of the
mountain rather early in the evening, although, when they returned to
me next morning I was cosy enough in bed, and my sandals laid
Next evening I found the people very proud of me, for it
had decorated the Thorp’s chief Patriarchal Goat with a fine string of
coloured beads of which the goats and men were very vain. How I
came to give away such a saleable article, the gods give my donkey
wings if I could explain! But, ah, the hand is open when the
stomach’s full, which to me is one of the best proofs of the cursedness
of drink. If my wits had been about me, I could have made some
small thing go very much further, and left the people as well pleased.
ANGUS EVAN ABBOTT.
TWENTY-FOUR QUATRAINS FROM OMAR
I Khayyim that used to stitch the tents of
Into Griefs furnace dropt, was burnt to naught;
The shears of Fate his Life’s tent ropes have cut;
Yea, Hope’s sharp Broker sold him—nor got aught.
II The World gains naught that I live here
And my Departure will not mar its show;
No man has told me yet, nor do I know
Why I came here, or wherefor hence I go.
III The Day is breaking, let us welcome him
With glasses crimson-beaded to the brim;
And as for Name and Fame and Blame and Shame,
What are they all?—mere Talk and idle Whim.
IV Why at the Dawning must the cock still
It is that by his crowing he may show
That one more Night has slid from out thy Life:
And thou art lying asleep and dost not know.
V Life’s caravan speeds strangely swift, take
It is thy youth that’s fleeting, Friend, beware;
Nor vex thyself for Woe to come, in vain,
For lo, the Night rolls on, and Dawn breaks bare.
VI The Spheres that turn have brought no luck to
What matter how the Years or Seasons flee?
Two Days there are to which I pay no heed—
The Day that’s gone, the Day that is to be.
VII Above thine head looms Heaven’s Bull
Beneath thy feet a Bull bears Earth, unseen;
Open the eyes of Knowledge, and behold
This drove of Asses these two Bulls between.
VIII The Rose saith, ‘I am Joseph’s flower, for,
My Cup is full of Gold.’ ‘If this be so,
Give me another sign,’ I cried, and She
Made answer, ‘Red with gore my Garments show.’
IX Rose, thou art like unto a Face most fair;
Rose, thou art like unto a Ruby rare;
Fate, thou art ever changing shape and hue.
Yet ever hast the same familiar air.
X Though the Rose fade, yet are the Thorns our
Though the Light fail, yet is the Ember hot;
Though Robe and Priest and Presence all are gone,
The empty Mosque at least we still have got.
XI Open the Door; the Key is Thine alone!
Show me the Path, only to Thee ’tis known!
The idle Hands they reach I will not take,
Thine Everlasting Arms shall bear me on!
XII O Lord, have mercy on my enslaved Soul:
Have mercy on my Heart that Griefs control:
Have mercy on my Foot that seeks the Inn:
Have mercy on my Hand that craves the Bowl.
XIII Creeds seventy-two among Mankind there
Of all these Faiths I choose but Faith in Thee:
Law, Sin, Repentance, all are idle words:
Thou art my Hope. What’s all the rest to me?
XIV The Drop of Water wept to leave the Sea,
But the Sea laught and said, ‘We still are we.’
God is within, without, and all around,
And not a hair’s-breadth severs Me and Thee.’
XV Now Thou art hidden, unseen of all that be;
Now Thou art full display’d that all may see:
Being, as Thou art, the Player and the Play,
And playing for Thine own pleasure, carelessly.
XVI On these twin Compasses, my Soul, you see
One Body and two Heads, like You and Me,
Which wander round one centre circle-wise,
But at the end in one same point agree.
XVII The Heart wherein Love’s wick burns clear and
Whether it swing in mosque or shrine or cell,
If in the Book of Love it be enroll’d,
Is free from Hope of Heaven or Fear of Hell.
XVIII Whether in Heaven or Hell my lot be
A Cup, a Lute, a fair and frolic Maid,
Within a place of Roses please me now;
While on the chance of Heaven thy Life is laid.
XIX I lack not hope of Grace, though stain’d by
Like the poor Heathen that in idols trust,
Woman and Wine I ’ll worship while I live,
Nor flinch for Heaven or Hell, since die I must.
XX Come, friend, the cares of this brief life
Be merry in thy momentary bliss,
If God were constant in his favour, think,
Thy turn had never come for Cup or Kiss.
XXI Let not the World’s mass too much on thee
Nor grieve for those that Death has made his prey;
Lose not thine Heart save to the Fairest Fair,
Nor lack good Wine, nor fling thy Life away.
XXII ’Tis well to be of good Report and Trust;
’Tis ill to make complaint that God’s unjust;
’Tis better to be drunk with good red Wine
Than swollen with Hypocrisy’s black must.
XXIII No Shield can save thee from the Shaft of
Nor to be glorious or rich or great;
The more I ponder, still the more I see
That Truth is All, naught else has any weight.
XXIV Of Duty towards God let Preachers whine,
But do as I command, and Heaven’s thine;
Give freely, slander not, be kindly still,
That done, have thou no fear, and call for Wine!
F. YORK POWELL.
THIS is the whole story, though it range
no more than a few months. The first forty
odd years of this life are pure preliminary,
obscurely and fatally composed, to the pas-
sage which marches nobly and passionately
to an ecstatic end. Until this ecstasy broke
across its decline, the heroine’s life had so
little to be revealed, even through the medium
of most powerful lenses! She had lived her
life in a neglected mode; to her, sentiment of life was only supplemented
by knowledge of life, never supplanted by it. Like children, she derived
support from accepting things as they are; trees which she had always
remembered were to her as enduring as the sky; a fallen tree was
something tragic. When she was a child, during the night of a terrible
storm, a young man had been struck blind by lightning, and four old
trees had been blown down. The blind man still desolated to her ear a
certain stone passage with his ‘Buy of the blind!’ and she still called
the two remaining elms the Seven Sisters. Here she had a group of
impressions: on the one hand she was acquainted with the long-past
facts, like anybody else of her age; on the other hand she had a senti-
ment of the thing, not fantastic, nor in any way connected with fear of
lightning, in which it was at once ordinary and extraordinary. The
government of the country, the queen, the town council, to her senti-
ment were like facts of nature; while her intelligence knew well enough
why the sovereign reigns, that there might have been another sovereign
or no sovereign, whence the members of Parliament and the Cabinet
come, and the different applications of revenue and parochial taxes. So
also with, say, printed books and pictures. The author writes, the
printer prints, the binder binds; but in that part of her where lay the
undefined, but undisputed, convictions, a book as a determined object
had an authority beyond any combination of the elements which pro-
duce it. In like manner a certain engraving she possessed of one of the
Martin biblical subjects, while it filled her with awe and admiration,
had no value as a product of human invention, skill, and patience; the
feeblest pencil drawing of a flower stood for more on this footing;
perfect knowledge that the engraving was the result of thousands of
dexterous scratches made no difference; even if she had seen the
engraver bending over the plate with his goggle and gravers, she would
not have connected his work permanently with a picture which had
hung in the same place time out of memory. May this insistence upon
the lifelong rivalry of simple heart and simple brain tend to indulgent
appreciation of the heroine’s conception of God, comparable to her
sentimental notion of any settled fact; for though at this grave point
her attitude approached that of most uneducated people, in her case it
was in no way answerable to neglect or laziness.
Her husband was a smith; his daily work had been at the
factory ever since their marriage; his weekly wages had varied only
within familiar limits. These conditions, in conjunction with her
husband’s meek disposition, would have secured the evenness of her
married life, apart from her sanguine fatalism. The smith went to his
work at an early hour of the morning. His dressing was finished com-
pletely in the bedroom, even to his top hat. Before starting he took a
cup of coffee, which in summer was prepared by his wife, in winter by
himself. When the smell of the pipe he lighted in the doorway reached
her nostrils, his wife got up. This had been the strange signal all the
time, which she had never happened to mention to him. She only heard
him leave the house on days when he was a little poorly or the weather
was bad, when she was fully awake and listening; for, with an oiled
lock, and by holding the knocker with one hand, he left with scarcely
Until she took her breakfast she busied herself heartily with
work; after breakfast the bedroom was set in order, as also the part of
the house through which her husband passed when he returned, from
the door-handle to the kitchen stove. Next she prepared dinner, and
while this was cooking she made her first toilette, rather tidying of her
person. The smith came in at a quarter-past one, ate in silence for
half an hour, and went away. After dinner her house work for the day
was soon finished ; she made her real toilette, and settled to needle
work or reading, or went out. At a quarter-past six tea was eaten in
the sitting-room, where husband and wife passed the evening until
supper, for which meal they went to the kitchen again. Then the smith
smoked his pipe, drowsed, his wife prepared his breakfast for the morrow,
and the house was shut up for the night.
This was the outline of a typical ordinary day, as days had
for twenty years. Sunday showed an important variation; it differed
from the week-day in every one of its outward details.
On Sunday they rose later, breakfasted later; not only was
fast different in character, but different plates, cups, and forks were
used. The smith was pompous, reflective, in broadcloth and clean
shirt, in the wearing of his oiled hair and embellishments struggling to
realise the daguerreotype portrait of himself young. His wife also was
contained, formal. The pair preserved on Sunday the attitude of
courting days, stripped of tenderness. The smith left the house first,
making for the distant Lemon Street Baptist Chapel. Another chapel
of the same body was very much nearer, quite close in fact, in the
opposite direction; he was a ‘steward’ of the chapel which took tithes
of all his being. When he was gone (he banged the street-door on
Sunday) his wife cleared breakfast away, as sedately as if her husband
were still present; then she went to the poorer but more aristocratic
Bible Christian Chapel in Chapel Street, also very distant from the
house, but the only colony of the sect in the town. Returning, she had
reached home, and put the potatoes to simmer, before the smith reap-
peared; he stopped to gad on the way home; you could see it in the
grimace of recognition, which his wrinkles were slow to relinquish.
After dinner the husband went again to his chapel; while his
first did what was absolutely necessary to be done in the house, then
read a little, then laid tea long before the time. (Almost every Sunday
some one came to tea.) Lastly, with folded hands, she chaffered for her
husband’s return; real yearning for his presence possessed her. At tea,
if strangers were present, the pair called each other Mrs. and Mr. Smith.
The Sunday evening was a notable weekly event with them;
offered so much strictly ordered variety. In their religious world, by a
rough delimitation, the morning is applied to worship, the afternoon to
the instruction of children, while the evening is a forlorn crumb for the
need of the whole world outside the particular sect. (Sometimes a
week-day evening is given up to projects of enlightenment of Parsees,
Tierra del Fuegians, Buddhist monks— heathen generally.) But that
crumb, the Sunday evening service, gritty enough to the damned, is
sweet in the tooth of the judges. In the morning man speaks to God;
in the evening God, richly commented, to express it cautiously speaks
The smith’s wife adored the Sunday evening service, partly
habit and training, partly in a childlike way; for it was narrative,
anecdotal, variable. In addition it meant the occasional company of
her husband. Every third Sunday evening he was free, and the two
went together where they liked; on one of the two intervening Sundays
they went to the husband’s chapel and came back together, almost
always much edified, in a mechanical way, by the warnings to the
wicked which they had heard.
On a certain Sunday when the wife, in the order of things,
spending the evening alone, her husband said to her suddenly, not as
usual, ‘Where are you going this evening?’ but:
‘Why don’t you go to . . .’
‘Newbury Park?’ A voice inside her finished the sentence.
was very distinct, and, strangely, the reverberation seemed to come
from her chest rather than from her head. The husband’s question was:
‘Why don’t you go to Winter Street?’ They called all the
by familiar names, like ‘the iron chapel,’ or by the name of a street.
‘I was thinking of going to Newbury Park.’
‘It is so far,’ he persisted; ‘why don’t you go to Winter
Captain Stocker (an inspired engineer officer with no chin) is going to
preach. You like him . . .’
‘I am inclined to go to Newbury Park.’ He did not answer,
‘I want to go to Newbury Park.’ She was ashamed to explain
choice more narrowly.
‘Oh, very well.’ They could get no nearer to a quarrel on
subject, and to Newbury Park she went.
Not at all easy in her mind though. It was a dismal night,
distance was so great. And then to have had words with her husband
on a Sunday evening. Fatigued, and almost tearful, she came into the
hot room she thought of as Newbury Park. Preliminaries of consecra-
tion of the proceedings past, the speaker, standing behind a little
rostrum with his hands behind him, said, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto
thee: Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
She knew these words just as well as the ‘Our Father’ or
‘There is a
green hill.’ . . . She had heard sermons, discourses, upon them beyond
recollection. At another time she would have nodded the cadences of
the phrase, her lips anticipating each word. Now the words loomed
great and unfamiliar, as if memory or hearing were out of focus; in a
darkness, the negation of a stunning light, which yet seemed near. She
saw the speaker grasp the front of the rostrum with both hands, stretch
his arms stiff; she heard him repeat:
‘Our Lord speaks: Verily, verily; truth of truth,
absolute truth; He says, I say unto you! He raised his right hand
and dropped a threatening index, as a bravo might a revolver, straight
at her. ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of
A ray fell from distant heaven. Alighting in her, it exploded
soul into radiant, conscious being. In an instant, before the speaker had
punctuated the sentence, so to speak, herself and the visible and invisible
world were created anew. The flood was overpowering; a thousand
biblical reminiscences; the creation of the world, sacrifices, voices and
fire from heaven, whole psalms with every word and letter distinct in
idea, were present in a flash. She was afraid and consoled at once.
With the desire to scream came the comfortable words: I am here.
She had seen women swoon, have hysterics, in chapel. It had never
happened to herself. There was no danger now; the body had no time
to exclaim as it went down under the victory of spirit. Panorama
veiled panorama with incredible rapidity, and side issues came and went
too at the same time, scraps of conversation years and years ago, visions
of streets, forgotten faces, trivial occasions and incidents; a great
deduction emanating all the time, the life of our Lord in minute detail,
from babyhood with all its incidents (of which she had no practical
knowledge) to the terrors of Calvary. Not stopping here, for the new
creature she was for the moment knew no fear or hesitation; she
followed His being boldly from the lips of His wounded, tortured body
to the ecstatic arms of His Father.
Such was the preliminary trial of the course she had now to run.
She began immediately to foot the glorious path. She began
pray; but her prayer had no words, no known aim; she prayed for
things she had never heard of, and in a language she did not know.
The light she threw round her gave visible objects an unaccustomed,
alluring interest: a sin at the first step, which was followed instantly by
forgiveness and reconciliation. The Light within her was the object,
the object of objects.
The Light said, in words of music and light, ‘He giveth His
sleep,’ and a veil was drawn across the ecstasy.
When she reached home she had not the faintest excuse to
any confidence to her husband of what had taken place. Indeed, how
could she possibly communicate it? She had no terms in which to
express the new birth even to herself.
The Monday morning rose as pale as any other. There seemed
prospect of a return of the ecstasy. The repetition of the words which
had induced it was unavailing. Only the universe was still rational to
her, as in the moment of revelation; it stood no longer simply a fact,
dull, uniform, unexplained; the living parts of it were very much alive,
the dead not worth a thought. And the Lord of Life lived in her; she
knew that; there could be no mistake about that.
She began to pray; a long communion with the Light by faith;
it was not evident. But now her prayer was in mortal phrases of human
speech, a tempestuous, chaotic prayer, though with no movement of
the lips, no activity of the brain; it throbbed, as before, from her chest.
It was a long narrative, with supposed rejoinders, interruptions. It
often repeated itself; it was full of cross purposes. Some parts of it
were in a lower tone, parts so low as to be next to silence; at last, in a
dead hush, the request escaped her: ‘Speak to me.’ Then a full swell
ensued, gigantic soliloquy, in a small degree comparable to incidents of
the great interview, a half memory that, in the mystic prayer, the soul
to soul speech, a desperate entreaty had been made; that she might
know the bliss of faith, never again receive revelation or smallest
encouragement; that she might live like Him, die like Him, forsaken
by Him, with no sight of His face, no sound of His voice. Had He
put in her heart a prayer so exalted? She knew, with angelic percep-
tion, how great this prayer was. She framed such a prayer instantly;
she knew that He looked for courage in her: ‘Try me, test me, give me
suffering, neglect me; give me grace to love in absence, for present,
how could I do else?’
She shook through all her body like some one awakened from
saw the visible objects of the kitchen, the work which engaged her
hands; she found, with a light surprise, that she had been busy all the
The dinner was excellent. The smith almost overstayed
twenty-five minutes he had; his wife was so cheerful, so smiling, so
clean personally. He took for granted, as well he might, that this
was a favourable combination of ordinary circumstances. Not at all;
it was an ordinary aspect of a new order of things. Those who know
even a little of heaven usually know a great deal about earth; and
here was no exception. To see the world with washed eyes, everyday
matters and objects, to distinguish their classes, means to handle the
matter which concerns one with dignity and discretion.
This woman had been, let us say, from the point of view of a
standard, fairly cheerful, demure, restful to the working man, who was
nearly always tired when he saw her. But why should duty to a
husband in this sense depend upon accidents of nature and circum-
stances ? She put and answered this question. Also in the preparation
of food and the cleansing of crockery and accessories. Intention can
add something to perfect mechanical execution. An utensil cleansed
in the highest name must be abundantly clean, lavishly brilliant. To
scour potatoes as though they were all alike and little different from
other roots, to leave them in hot water so long, steam them so long,
and then fling them at the eater ; slaves for slaves might act thus.
Coming to conclusions such as these under the image of incensing the
Divine, who Himself swung the censer, an unlearned woman, who had
handled very few books in her life, was primed to confound many a doctor.
For something more than two weeks a state of being showed
variation from one day to another. Exalted faith in the Divine Presence
hourly renewed, either at the occasion of reconciliation after slips,
neglects, moments in which something stood before the Light; or by
simple, formal pact. She agreed to ask nothing but at the Divine
dictation, to expect nothing, not to be inquisitive or impatient; above
all, to keep the union a secret, to hold infinite stability as jealously as
though it were a bubble. So, while every day changed from point to
point like the colours of an opal, an infinity of differently coloured
sparks, though storm and hush succeeded, contrition and ecstasy, before
his very eyes, the smith saw not the weakest ripple in his wife’s placid
and perfect demeanour.
To return a moment to her everyday conduct of life, she
scrupulous to dress, to keep herself, as the warden of an idea, as the
shell in which it lay active and sleepless, hidden.
One morning the interminable conversation had dropped to an
mildness; the answers to her whispered confidences seemed to grow
faint—almost inaudible. An alarm came upon her, and under the
strange condition, in the language she did not know. It would not be
beaten away. Calm retreated into the depths of a distance such as she
had never before beheld, and a rough voice bellowed through all the
‘Halt!’ She held her breath, firm amidst immensity of
unknown to sand, or sea, or sky.
Doubt! added the voice, with long-drawn insistence; and a
of questions rushed vertical upon her, driving her down, down. What
was she? whence? who? where were her titles? The Light she housed,
what was it? it? it? Why it? What was its form? Was it a person?
What person? Did it really speak? Did it speak truth? Descent
must be arrested before she could answer, but that was impossible, till
faith spread arms beneath her, and in seas of down and spice, in a
world of light fluttering into song hushed at the moment of utterance,
all her being melted into those conditions, and the familiar voice said
with unfamiliar tenderness, ‘My Beloved is mine, and I am His.’
‘No, no, she cried, I am afraid.’ The sound of her voice
her within the narrow walls of the kitchen with a jar. She sat down
and wept for a long time without thought.
The paroxysm coincided with the smith’s return to dinner.
wife stared at the clock until her face was as candid as its own, and
the key sounded in the latch. She had a severe cold at this time,
hence her husband took little heed of her swollen appearance. He,
for his part, was sullen, unsympathetic. The perfection of material
surroundings had begun to prey upon him. His ideal of life was of a
balance of give and take; he knew so well in his work how a good job
foreshadows a bad; and while he relished new comfort, he already
smarted under a deprivation. Ah, man, man; the lentils of captivity
were sweet in his memory at the table of joy!
He finished his dinner and went away, but the darkness of
presence remained behind, filling all the part of the house through
which he had passed. She cleared the meal. The platters returned
noiselessly to the dresser, brighter than they had left it. ‘Give me
sorrow,’ she prayed; ‘give me desertion, longing. Ah, I have longing;
I long, I long. She went to the bedroom, dressed herself, came down,
and went out. She took no note of the direction: the invisible Guide
had all the care of that. Her way lay across the adjoining heath; then
by a turn she retraced her steps. Her eye rested here and there on
scrub and struggling growth, always in the name with which every leaf
was signed. It came into her fancy that she would like to see the sea
which He had made. Instantly, like a child to be humoured, she saw
the great expanse of the water with noble vision, shoreward and sea-
ward at once, and the delicate contact of its rim with the fringe of the
sky. Then, changing a little, the horizon was more distant; it seemed
the same sea, but there was so much more of it; it was the face of waters
clinging to the confines of a larger planet. The stars too, for these
appeared, fell into unusual patterns. Occupied with the vision, she
gradually descended into the town. She went on, absorbed in her
prayer, crestfallen and timid, delighted to take a low place before Him ;
when she turned her head, as though she had heard her name, and saw
in a stationer s window the words emblazoned: ‘Except a man be born
again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ The sight of the words
certainly awoke a profusion of memories; not so many but that she
noted clearly the position of the card, the manner in which it was
entrenched among piles of book backs. The card reminded her that
she wished to buy something of the linendraper a few shops on. It is
difficult to see how it should have reminded her, unless it was the
denial of the wish to buy this card. How can you hang up your birth?
or whilst you live in it, why should you write up in your room the
information that you were once born?
For some time communion, though tender, delicious,
took place on a lower level. It was the expression on her part of deep
contrition; ever a new wound meekly, weakly, presented for healing.
With the consciousness that the subject was less exalted than sometimes,
there was no notion in her mind of comparison, for deepest anguish
was ecstasy beyond thought. The very vagueness of her attitude was
soothing, a reward, delight that she was permitted to know the divine
union by faith. On a certain night she dreamed (it is fit to state that
she never dreamed of the Divine Lover, and little at any time). She
dreamed that she arrived in a square in a large town. A garden was
in the midst of it, and it was inclosed by large, gaudy buildings lighted
up, though it was day. She made her way to one corner of the square
where there was a book shop, over which was a poem written in gold
letters. The poem had eight lines; four which rhymed correctly, and
in continuation four others, not rhymed, which seemed to dwindle away.
In her dream this had a deep meaning, but she only retained the
… it was a wondrous thing
To be so loved.
In the window of the shop was the card she had seen in the stationer’s
window, bearing the words, ‘Except a man’ … at least so she took
for granted, for she did not distinguish them. Turning round she saw
that the square had an Oriental aspect; then the dream became stupid,
then unpleasant; a pungent smell pervaded it. She woke suddenly to
the fact that it was tobacco; she heard the soft click of the street door.
Running over the circumstances of the vivid dream, she had the
staunchness to reject it as of no consequence. She looked upon the
time it took to examine it as time wasted, and turned joyfully to
address Him who never sleeps. It was He who began:
‘If I should not be who you think I am, would you love Me?’
‘That I would,’ she answered fervently and without hesitation.
‘And if you make a mistake, and were to be damned?’
‘I should still be grateful.’
‘You do not know.’
‘You have given me knowledge above all knowledge.’ And
silent utterance of her soul grew voluble, universal, a torrent of reckless
thanks and prayer. Thanks for what she had never possessed, prayers
for what she already enjoyed. She offered thanks for her existence,
that she was her very self, that she was a woman. The Lord had been
born of a woman. She could understand a little what it must have
been to be the holy mother of God. This notion was very new to her,
quite new, but that caused her no surprise, for everything was new.
There was a peculiar bliss in the thought. She came to it
and again. When she had pursued it to the end of one set of con-
siderations it returned afresh and afresh. The morning passed with
astounding rapidity—the contrary phenomenon was commoner—but
nothing was belated. The dinner was as punctually served to the minute
as though she had watched the clock anxiously all the time.
The habit of divine communication had long since become
She was able to maintain it through the most complicated demands
upon her attention. Her ordinary life presented few alterations to
view, her ordinary manner, her ordinary appearance. A greater solici-
tude might have been noted. Her clothing was really very different
from what it had been, but the changes were so dexterous as to be
scarcely perceptible. It cannot be denied, too, that as soon as the
traces of dinner had been removed she hastened to put on the best
clothes she allowed herself to wear on a weekday.
It had become necessary that she should go to a London shop,
of those warehouses where everything is to be bought. This periodical
visit was always made in the same way. She hurried off immediately
after dinner. From Charing Cross, which she reached by rail, she
walked across Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square to Piccadilly
Circus, whence she took an omnibus to her destination. Her shopping
over, she came back by a different omnibus to the railway station. On
the present occasion she laughed to recognise in Leicester Square the
scene of her dream, in the Alhambra Theatre the Oriental colouring of
it. Sure enough, too, in the north-west corner of it, was the book-shop,
but the name of the proprietor stood where the poem had been cramped
in her dream. In the window, by a coincidence, a white card was
visible in exactly the position which the text had occupied. Rejection
of the dream gave way to this extent, that she crossed the road to find
out what it was. The back and side of a book were exposed, and before
it was a written label: ‘Just published: The Excellent Way,’ and some
further particulars. She wanted the book, though the idea was pre-
posterous; she had never in her life paid even two shillings for a book;
this one surely cost more. There was no time for dallying; her errand
❧ THE INVISIBLE PRINCESS
an illustration to the story on page 64
pressed. She went into the shop, and the book lay dazzling on the
dark counter before her. The shopman, amused at her stiyness, her
unwillingness to touch it, exposed the back, the sides, opened at the
title-page. She saw there was a picture. The desire to possess the
book grew. The shopman dropped the leaves casually through his
fingers. She saw the words: ‘Lord, if thou art not present.’ . . . ‘Ten-
and-six, said the man; ‘it is beautifully printed, beautifully got up.’
She thought that did not prove much, but she repeated with alarm:
Ten-and-six! The leaves splashed over each other. Seeing again the
words she had seen before, she hurriedly closed, gave gold and silver
for brown paper, string, and a possibility. In the omnibus she opened
the parcel and peeped into the book.
Popery! and she wrapped it up again as well as she could.
At the store, in the tea-room where she went, according to
custom, to get breath and take a little refreshment, she could not resist
taking another look at the book she carried. This time she patiently
sought out the poem which had first arrested her eye.
Lord, if thou art not present, where shall I
Seek thee the absent . . .
It was very disheartening; it did not speak to her at all. She could
not find words in which to reproach herself with her folly. After a few
moments of such reflection, ill at ease with her conclusion, she took yet
another dip and alighted on a page where a sonnet began:
Before myself I tremble, all my members quake
When lips and nose I mark, and both the hollow caves . . .
It was hopeless; she shut the book resolutely with the sudden deter-
mination to return it. With this intention she took her departure and
hurried to the book-shop, which, when she reached it, was closed.
The train had little comfort for her. Only when she was
few minutes on the road did she remember that the loved communion
had been interrupted just as long as this unfortunate book had been in
her possession. She hastened to repair the deprivation; and though
her wish did not remain entirely without response, the book beside her
was a drag by its presence. She had thoughts at one moment of
throwing it out of the window.
Reaching home, the book had to be smuggled into the house.
difficulty of this accomplishment, not to mention the danger, was
something very like a blow to the poor owner. There was no possible
question as to whether her husband could be let see it or not;
accordingly it was necessary to enter the house quickly and noiselessly’,
to deposit the book nimbly upon one of the dark stairs while she went
into the sitting-room to give an account of her journey and soothe
the anger of the smith, which she could count upon—anger at her
forced absence, though it was surely as much upon his account as upon
her own ; then she must snatch the packet dexterously as she went up
to take off her coat and bonnet, and hide it effectually before she could
be followed. It had to be done and she did it. She was very weak
next morning through lying awake devouring her tears.
To allay the agony of her doubt, the difficulty of return to
divine communion, her first determination was to put the book out of
sight and leave it there. This turned out so little satisfactory as a salve
that she changed tactic, and, withdrawing it from its lurking-place, she
cut the leaves and began to read it straight through, disregarding the
shocks to her accustomed beliefs which occurred ten times on every
page. Her determination was so strong still when she had penetrated
a few pages that she found herself spelling out the name of she did
not know whom: Blessed Jacopone da Todi, not skipping this, to her,
unnecessary preliminary to the perusal of the poem following it, which
answered her unconscious glance with better promise than any of the
preceding had vouchsafed. Ah! dear Lord, Light in dark places
indeed. The first line she read set all her doubts at rest. Joy filled all
her being, she did not know why; but such was the perfection of joy
to her, when she could not trace it to any earthly origin. She could
not have declared that she understood fifty per cent, of the words under
her eye, but she was sure in the awakened part of her that here was
something for her. What did she care now about the origin of the
book, for what petty or even wicked purpose it might have been put
together? She knew enough to be certain that He uses all things, all
means, for His good pleasure. Until she could look into His face,
follow with her own eyes the moving lines of His lips as they move in
speech, she must be content to hear His voice where it is to be heard.
O Love, all love above !
Why hast thou struck me so ?
All mv heart broke atwo,
Consumed with flames of love,
Burning and flaming cannot find solace;
It cannot fly from torment, being bound;
Like wax amid live coal it melts apace.
It languishes alive, no help being found.
And so forth. The words had no special reference to her own condition
at the time, probably none at all; yet such was the force of this
unlooked-for revelation, she knew once for all and at the first glance
that these words were meant for her. Even had she been told that
Blessed Jacopone was a minor brother, and had she been told at the
same time what a minor brother was, it would have made no difference
to her. From the afternoon when she was made free of the ancient
Italian poem, the father of so much of the best that has followed it, she
gave it her attention until she knew it all by heart, and could again
put away the book containing it, for she cut no more pages.
With no more power to define a symbol than a baby, she knew
well from the outset, and practically, that all visible nature, and more
especially the Word of God (that is the Bible) are intelligible only in
the manner of symbol; that all appearances, all divine utterances,
portray something beyond, which in turn is the emblem of some
remoter truth—reality. She was fully convinced that the various
recorded and unrecorded acts of Christ, the incidents of the life He
passed on earth, are continually re-enacted for the furtherance of His
kingdom, and the nourishment of the souls of His. This belief,
perhaps it is proper to add, was held only on the authority of Christ ;
it had no further support. She knew that the way of illumination has
either to be trod without fear or left alone. There must be courage to
meet and face Apollyon, but how much more courage does it need to
listen to the voice of the Beloved!
Let it then be stated categorically (where the smith’s wife
convinced in one point of time) that she had not shunned a conclusion
which had been forced upon her: Christ had once been born of woman
miraculously; that momentous event had had its direct value, the
physical redemption of man and fallen nature; but beyond this was
there not something else? It is a matter of vulgar knowledge that the
great sacrifice is infinitely more far-reaching in its effect. As our Lord
then was born of His mortal mother in mortal flesh, so is He conceived
mystically in every one of His chosen, and born spiritually, but not less
truly. The act too is reciprocal, and the ramifications of the mystery
extend no doubt till limitless space is filled with the glory of God.
On an afternoon, at the accustomed hour, the smith reached
house, and hearing no sound to indicate the presence of his wife within
doors, walked into the sitting-room to verify her absence. She was
sitting in the usual chair, with her head bowed and her hands crossed
in a strange attitude upon her breast. He asked her what she was
doing, but all the answer he received was a deprecating wave of her
hand. He placed himself before her, intercepting the light of the
window, and there stood stock still. Presently she lifted her hands
with the palms towards him, and then stooped the whole upper part
of her frame until her forehead almost touched her knees. Raising her
face then, her lips, which were very white, moved rapidly without
sound, presently breaking into cadences :
Against me let no blame henceforth be held
If such a love confoundeth all my wit
She brushed her hands across her eyes, shook her head, and smiled
recognition to her husband.
The following day their doctor called in the afternoon,
accidentally. He explained his visit as accident, adding some pro-
fessional jest. He stayed almost an hour, and then, a strange request,
asked fqr some tea. The smith’s wife, quietly flattered, prepared a cup
of tea, and they resumed their conversation. The doctor snatched
greedily at any seeming opportunity of talking upon religious subjects;
but she would not be enticed, and at length he went away. When the
smith returned, his wife told him of the visit; he affected surprise,
though he had just seen the doctor, and heard from him the following
opinion on the health of his wife: ‘Take care of your wife, you will not
have hei much longer; I cannot discover anything wrong with her!’
There was a great peace over life for a day or two, a rest
ecstasy as sweet or sweeter. Then, sweeter yet, suddenly the renewal,
the ‘light without pause or bound,’ of the poem. To light the world
trom one s own body, to bear the Light within one, to be the genetrix
it surpassed reason.
Not iron nor the fire can separate
Or sunder those whom love doth so unite;
Not suffering nor death can reach the state
> To which my soul is ravished; from its height
Beneath it, lo! it sees all things create;
It dominates the range of dimmest sight . . .
She gave way completely to the fact. The conviction that she truly
bore within her her august Familiar was so profound that she grew to
the pain of regret that the course of nature must obtain, and that, the
day and hour accomplished, she must part with the mystical burden
and enter into a new relationship. So jealous did she become that a
notion one would think she could not escape did not enter her thought;
that, namely, of comparing her legal husband to Saint Joseph. The
truth is that her grasp of the existing situation was on a very high
level of mystery. As to her part in it, she held it almost as a person
without sex, the necessary condition of her entering it once overpast.
Transformed in Him, almost the very Christ;
One with her God, she is almost divine;
Riches above all riches to be priced,
All that is Christ’s is hers, and she is queen.
How can I still be sad, despair-enticed,
Or ask for medicine to cure my spleen?
The fetid sweet from sin,
With sweetness overspread,
The old forgot and dead
In the new reign of Love.
The tone of complaint in the poem of Jacopone, though it had
meaning in her experience, did not raise the smallest question in her.
She knew the treasure of sense within the terms employed. The joy
was so intense that it seemed to her quite natural that another should
express it, or try to express it, in the language of pain and dismay.
In her prayers she was just as likely to pour out volumes of expostu-
lation and injury, frantic and unseemly tenderness, sheer incoherency.
In one passage the poem runs:
Thou canst not shield Thyself from love, love brought
Thee captive by the road from heaven to earth;
Love brought Thee down to lowness, to be naught,
To roam rejected from Thy humble birth.
No house nor field enhanced Thy lowly lot;
Poor, Thou hast given riches and great worth.
In life, in death, no dearth
Of love hast Thou declared;
Thy heart hath flamed and flared
With nothing else but love.
This was strong food, and it was devoured greedily. The
must be nothing but love:
‘Thou wast not flesh,’ Jacopone makes Saint Francis break out
the Divine Lover in the passion of his rebuke:
Thou wast not flesh, but love, in frame and brain;
Love made Thee man to bear our sins reward.
Thy love required the cross, the world’s disdain. . . .
All through, the phrases of the great Italian song filled her
terrible bliss, ecstatic terror. When an anxiety did not of itself come
into her mind, the poem readily suggested it. Her own temper would
have been most likely to have sucked the present sweetness, but the
untractable companion of Saint Francis would not have it thus. He
is full of apprehension. If this little love which, now, at the outset
is vouchsafed to me, so fills all my being, taxes all my strength, how
shall I possibly endure the distention when it grows great, as grow it
must? The smith’s wife saw the force of this question in a manner
outside Jacopone’s anticipation.
Disregarding dates, hours, lapses of time (she gave little
Lover dictated season to her and time of day; it was day or night for
her at His bidding, spring or autumn), the time was nigh for the
mysterious birth. It rushed upon her suddenly; there seemed only a
few minutes given her in which to prepare the setting of the astounding
miracle. The historical circumstances were present to her in a flash,
she knew not whence; but the whole incident, the actual details, had
to be animated. She moved about quietly under the sorest stress she
had ever known, while the agitated soul of her seemed to be traversing
space in all directions in the fervour of the moment; she was muttering
to herself over and over again:
In such a deadly swound,
Alas! where am I brought?
Johann Scheffler has shown the nativity in sentences of tenderness
which human speech has poor hope ever to excel, so frail that they
cannot be stirred from the tongue in which they were first set;
Friedrich Spe has expressed physical contact with Christ in words
which swoon upon his lips; the English language holds the pomp and
glory of song in Crashaw’s poem on the circumcision. If these
three masters could be distilled into one and their concentrated sweet-
ness impinged direct upon a sensitive heart, the victim might present
a parallel to the overwhelmed blacksmith’s wife, fallen the most
pitiable heap of flesh. The lamentable workman, the words of the
doctor fresh in his brain (they had gnawed through into every fibre of
it) lifted his wife in his grimed arms; lifted her, a strange contradiction
of terms, into depths. It cannot be told from what vision he aroused her.
It was frightening to a poor man like the blacksmith to see
consent to be put to bed without a murmur of protest. Even had she
been evidently suffering he would have expected her to deny that
anything was the matter with her, and certainly to refuse to go to bed.
To every inquiry she returned the same blissful smile, of such candid
reassurance that those about her could not believe that she suffered.
The news of the mysterious ailment (which was to end in death) ran
down the street, and unaccustomed women gathered at the clean
bedside, and there remained.
She now lived in the heights. She had now, as she
transcended all; it had been a long fight to break with such clearly
justifiable habit as that which kept her the slave of the calls of her
house. But love, great love had made wreck of all; love, tyrannical,
had broken down the flesh, even in its purest strongholds :
I have no longer eyes for forms of creatures,
I cry to Him Who doth alone endure;
Though earth and heaven exhaust their varied natures,
Through love their forms are thin and nowise sure;
When I had looked upon His splendid features,
Light of the sun itself was grown obscure.
Cherubim, rare and pure
By knowledge and high thought,
The seraphin, are naught
To him who looks on love.
She no longer waked and slept; night and day alike passed in calm
ecstasy. The Beloved could not leave her any more. Seen by none
of the busybodies at her bedside, she held at will and laid aside within
easy reach the divine Presence come to her with the loving confidence
He had Himself taught her. Locality had ceased to have that vital
importance which it once had; great sense of her individuality
remained, and stronger still was the personality of the divine Lover.
She knew (for ecstasy brought with it supreme knowledge) that her
body lay in sheets, supposed to be lingering and ailing; that it was
given over to the care of hands she knew, to which she gave no heed.
She knew that her kitchen stood untended by its proper guardian; but
love was grown terrible now, she dared not deny it lest it should crush
the universe in despite. The officious woman in the room would bend
her ear to the smiling lips when they moved, to hear, low and sweet
Love, Love, how Thou hast dealt a bitter wound!
I cry for nothing now but love alone.
Love, Love, to Thee I am securely bound;
I can embrace none other than my own.
Love, Love, so strongly hast Thou wrapt me round,
My heart by love for ever overthrown,
For love I am full prone.
Love, but to be with Thee!
O Love, in mercy be
My death, my death of love!
‘She is raving!’ But no changeiof expression answered the
though it was distinctly heard and understood.
On a given day the number of people passing to and fro began
increase. The fire was kept more brisk. There was noiseless hurry
going on. She knew quite well that they were preparing for her
death. An extra pillow was put behind her, and not half-an-hou
elapsed before another was added. Then one beckoned another
outside the room, and she supposed that the smith had been sent for.
Not long afterwards, in fact, he arrived. As he came into the room
her lips began to move again.
‘She is raving!’ the leading attendant volunteered, not for
time that morning. Though the smith had not heard it before, he
rejected the hypothesis with a gesture of disdain. The fact was, that
the dignity of his wife’s appearance filled him with vanity. Not those,
he thought of the women who stood round like birds of prey, none of
those is my wife, but the serene woman propped up with pillows, who
is already half in heaven, on whom I shall set my eyes only once or
twice more. He bent to her face, and heard here and there as a
syllable was accented:
To Love for ever wed,
Love hath united both
Our hearts in perfect troth
Of everlasting love.
‘Her head is as clear as mine,’ he said scornfully; ‘she’s no
raving than you are.’
‘What’s she say?’ asked the woman, awed.
‘I can’t say it like her.’
‘Lower her head,’ whispered one. The smith looked savage,
though he would defend her from molestation with violence. The
women continued to mutter what ought to be done.
She motioned to raise her hands; the smith took one of them;
Love, Love, O Jesus, I have reached the port;
Love, Love, O Jesus, whither . . .
‘ Vix tertium ingressus lustrum ingenio et natura non est Lippo (another youth of the
writer’s acquaintance) absimilis: quin praeter litteras tum latinas tum graecas
impuber iste et lyram tractare et in ea canere, versus edere, et, —quod caecus non
potest, scribere, pingere, statuas atque signa fingere, sic per se magis ut puto duce
natura quam arte perdidicit, ut temporibus nostris omnibus illi tantis in rebus simul
possit meo judicio conferri nemo.’ —(Letter of Matteo Bosso to Girolamo, the father of
Giulio, about 1494.)
THE fond admiration of his seniors paints for
us, in a few letters and verses, the figure of
Giulio Campagnola’s prodigious youth. At
eleven or twelve a scholar, a musician, a
singer, a poet, a painter, a sculptor in the
round and in relief; at thirteen not only
conversing freely in Latin and Greek, but
reading Hebrew ‘as if he had sucked its
principles with his mother’s milk’; able to
reproduce exactly the works of the most famous painters and to
equal their creations ‘if he liked to take the pains’; skilled in
making portraits ‘so like that you could always recognise them,’
he seemed to those friends securely chartered for illimitable fame,
a wonder of inspiration and untaught genius. We can see that, far
from being this child of solitary nature or miraculous grace, he
really grew up in a hot-bed of culture. His father, an official of
the Venetian rule in the city of Padua, was a scholar and dilettante
in his tastes, delighting in Ciceronian correspondence with his friends;
author also of a translation of the Psalms, of a tract on the Jews,’
of a volume in Praise of Virginity, and other excursions of learned
curiosity. He was, moreover, the student, under Squarcione, of art
inspired by a recovered antiquity, and dedicated to a collector friend
a description, now lost, of certain works of art then to be seen in
In such a house a child of quick faculties would slip into an
plishment in the arts as readily as in other surroundings a boy becomes
a cricketer or a shot. If speech were an art practised only here and
there, all children who could chatter would be prodigies. The arts
of painting and music were themselves in the vigour of their spring,
and must have swept many a boy into their train— mere playfellows of
that contagious youth. It is clear that Giulio became at least an accom-
plished mimic in painting. Of original work we have no trace, the two
miniatures on kid, described by the Anonimo of Morelli, being after
drawings by Giorgione1 and Diana. The same authority
attributes to him
a pupil in painting, Domenico Veneziano by name, who also figures as
a copyist in that Paduan catalogue. It has been conjectured that this
Domenico was the well-known Domenico Campagnola, possibly a son,
brother, or other relative of Giulio; that some relation beyond the
name united them is certain, since two plates exist in which one and
the other had a hand. Domenico’s drawings and engravings, wrought
in free undulating lines, differ much in style from Giulio’s, but the
inspiration of his art has a common source with that of his namesake.
It is as an engraver that Giulio Campagnola survives. His
signature on a few prints has secured his identity and made him dear
to the collector as the developer of an unusual stipple-technique. It
is within these technical limits that his invention would seem chiefly
to have worked; designs he was ready to adopt from Mantegna, Durer,
John Bellini; it amused him to refit figures taken from one, with a land-
scape from another, or vice versa, but he was the virtuoso and curious
craftsman whether making miniatures on kid or breaking up the burin
line into dots. Variations in technique, however, have their significance,
and this tentative of stipple is the response of engraving in sensitive hands
to the impulse of a new kind of painting. The Tuscan art of line was
the very stuff for the severe burin of a Marcantonio; the painting of Gior-
gione, with its tenderly fused and rounded forms, its lustre and shadow,
called on the graver for a new language if its essential beauty was to
be preserved. A more adequate answer to the problem was the mezzo-
tint technique, invented much later; stipple engraving is but a bastard
form, which became none the better for being systematised. But these
first gropings for a new method with the old tools in the work of Giulio
Campagnola have no little charm. The question of absolute originality
is of small importance. Dotted work with a punch and hammer was a
device of the engravers of metal work. In the work of several contem-
poraries or predecessors of Giulio there is an occasional use of the dot;
Durer has recourse to it here and there, as when he grains the block of
stone in his Melencolia by dabbing with the burin point; but Giulio so
used the procedure as to subordinate the line, cover it up, or replace it,
so that the main effect is one of stipple. The plate of the Flute-
player, reproduced here, shows a preparation in line finished in stipple;
parts of other plates are worked in stipple only.
Consideration of these plates proves our artist no first-rate
1. The engraving of a nude woman by Campagnola may be this same design.
man; he is safest with the more easily conventionalised forms, such
as the weedy acanthoid growth of his foliage. This has a pretty
effect in the semi-heraldic stag chained to a tree; in a companion piece
of a grazing stag there is an odd mixture of more natural and more
arbitrary shapes. Stipple doubtless pleased him for this reason as
well as for others, that he could fumble for his drawing and leave
If it is interesting to see engraving arrested and groping before the
new character in painting that we associate with the name of Giorgione,
the chief interest after all in these plates lies in what they echo of the
master’s imagination. Any fragments overheard from that poet must
be welcome, even were the eavesdropper much less capable than Giulio.
The Flute-Player and the Woman at the Well, to name two, seem to
bear the authentic stamp. Not alone the greater truth of aspect in his
painting struck Giorgione’s contemporaries; they were captured or
repelled by his conception of the image, his dealings with the subject
of painting. The shock of this is measured by the puzzled vexation of
Vasari before the frescoes on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. Naturalistic
rendering or ingenious solutions of problems like that of painting all
sides of a body at once he could appreciate, but over the subjects of
the new painting he shook his head like any ordinary modern painter or
critic in like case. ‘Giorgione,’ he says, ‘ set hand to the work accordingly,
but thought only of executing fanciful subjects, calculated for the
display of his knowledge in art, and wherein there is of a truth neither
arrangement of events in consecutive order nor even single representa-
tions depicting the history of known or distinguished persons, whether
ancient or modern. I, for my part, have never been able to understand
what they mean, nor, with all the inquiries that I have made, could
I find any one who did understand or could explain them to me.
Here is a man, there a woman, in different attitudes; one has the head
of a lion beside him, near another is an angel, but which rather resembles
a cupid, so that one cannot divine what it all means.’ Cut adrift from
the histories of eminent persons, he can find no significance in the
anonymous attitudes of here a man, there a woman, or in the angel
which rather resembles a cupid. Nor, perhaps, will it ever become
common property of thought that the language of painting, possessing,
as it does, no verb, is badly handicapped for narrative statement;
possessing no conjunction save ‘and,’ is ill fitted for logical statement.
With some strain of its resources, the art may suggest Eve and Adam
instead of Adam and Eve; but thus to present the objects conjoined in
one strict order does not come natural to it, and so simple an opposition
of thought as ‘Black but comely’ is beyond its scope.‘Black’ it can
give, and the features summed up in the judgment ‘comely’ — that is all.
What the mind can take and make of the sheer presence and expression
to the eye of silent, immobile things is the characteristic field of paint-
ing, and to make a merit of this still conjunction, so that vision feeds
and broods upon it in a speculation, independent of story or argument,
is the franchise and triumph of the art.
Strung to a high pitch of this picture reverie, Giorgione peopled
his canvas with images of youth, of love-making, of music-making
in a golden air and a holiday world. Mr. Pater wrote his admirable
essay on the painter to the curious text that ‘all art constantly
aspires towards the condition of music.’ It is easy to see from his
examples what he meant by the formula, but the language is mis-
leading. The complete analogue of music exists in the arts of design
when form and colour are combined in arbitrary decoration. Painting
differs from these by employing images, and must aspire to a musical
condition at their expense. Now, there are certainly draughtsmen, the
forms of whose images do dissolve into caligraphic lines like a reflec-
tion carried away and twisted in running water; there are painters in
whose carpet of colour the image has little significance beyond a station
and a shape. But Giorgione is not one of these. If he shakes free of
‘events in consecutive order’ and ‘the history of known or distinguished
persons,’ it is that he may come at the figures dear to himself. They
and their setting are chosen with intense purpose and liking, and all
the decorative parts of painting are employed to recommend them
to our delight. Himself a musician when Venice was mad for music,
and her fiddlers, says Diirer, wept to hear themselves play, he paints
the piper and the lutanist. Beside them he paints all of the naked
beauty of women that he could compass in a romance of Arcadian
woodland. ‘Here there is a man, there a woman, in different atti-
tudes,’ the dream of an angel who rather resembles a cupid.
But if Giorgione lifted painting from the stress of definite story,
conscious of its quiet and profound appeal independent of that interest,
he none the less profited by the accumulated signs and traditions of the
art to stimulate and guide the fancy. It is his secret that those pleasure-
parties retain something of a hieratic composure, each figure rapt into a
dream and absence, as if remembering that once it was a martyr or a
saint. The effect is that of hearing church music carried through the doors
to the river-side, or of the solemn hymn melodies that first served for
dancing. And if we are to give to Giulio Campagnola a part in the
invention of these pieces, it is perhaps certain witty afterthoughts of
combination, more pointed still, that we owe to him. We find a liking in
his work for the epigram of a death’s-head, or, as in the plate given here,
an old man slipped in at the feet of piping youth. In a version by
another engraver the old man does not appear. And we might sup-
pose his the daring scene-shifting by which the pipers are banished from
the well side, and the Woman, lingering, is confronted by another figure.1
The figure intended is poorly acted by this mincing person, a fact which
goes to heighten the probability that he is an intruder; but it was an apt
trick of fancy playing upon the Giorgionesque Woman at the Well that
turned her back into religious history and hit on the most credible part
for her to play. The Prophet has put to flight the piper, and comes to
trouble that easy Samaritan mind. If the figure of the
Woman be Giulio’s own, we have done scant justice here to an artist
capable of great conceptions.
❧ Note.—For a full list and description of the plates ascribed to
Giulio Campagnola, students may be referred to an article by Galichon
in the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1st series, vol. xiii. Galichon, adding
considerably to the lists of Bartsch and Ottley, brings up the number
to fourteen. To these may be added the Grazing Stag of the British
Museum collection, which he does not catalogue. This collection, not
counting copies and different states, contains eleven plates, among them
the unique Child with Cats. Waagen states that there are drawings by
Giulio at Chatsworth. There are many by Domenico, and several that
may be Giulio’s, catalogued under other names, Italian or Flemish.
But without more knowledge of the man’s style of drawing, it is
impossible to identify these with any certainty. In the Museum of
Rennes, however, there is a drawing of two dismounted cavaliers in a
landscape, labelled ‘Campagnole’ by some collector, and very probably
Giulio’s. The delicate scratchy style differs altogether from Domenico’s.
In the same frame a drawing labelled ‘Campagnole dit le vieux’ is pro-
bably by Giulio after Mantegna. It should be possible, with a little
study, to add examples from other collections. There is said to be
one at Christ Church, Oxford.
1. In the ordinary treatment of the scene, as in the story itself, the Woman finds
at the Well.
YAI AND THE MOON
THE Bay of Yedo is all blue and yellow.
village of Haokami is pink. And Umanosuke,
who ruled the village worthily, was a widower.
And Yai, his daughter, was wayward. The
death of his wife had grieved Umanosuké.
‘She was more dear to me,’ he had cried over
her tomb, ‘than the plum-tree in my garden,
more dear than the half of all my pied chrysan-
themums. And now she is dead. The jewelled
honeycomb is taken from me. Void is the pavilion of my desire. As
an untrod island, as a little island in a sea of tears, so am I. My wife is
dead. What is left to me?’ Yai, not more then than a baby, had sidled
up to him, cooing, ‘I, O father!’ And the villagers had murmured in
reverent unison, ‘We, O sir!’ And so the widower had straightway
put from him his hempen weeds and all the thistles of his despair, had
lifted his laughing child upon his shoulder, and touched with his hand
the bowed heads of the villagers, saying, ‘Bliss, of all things most
wonderful, is fled from me. But Authority remains, and therefore will
I make no more lamentation.’ Henceforth Umanosuke lived for
Authority. Full of wisdom were his precepts, and of necessity his
decrees. Whenever the villagers quarrelled, as villagers will, among
themselves, and struck each other with their paper-fans and parasols,
at his coming they would lie flat upon the green ground, eager of his
arbitrage. With the villagers he had not any trouble. With Yai, alas!
‘Five years are gone,’ he said sternly to her, one morning,
sun glanced upon that sugared waterfall, your mother. Nor ever once
have you sought to please me, since the day when you delivered your-
self into my charge. The toys that I fashioned for your fingers you
have not heeded, and from the little pictures that I painted for your
pleasure you have idly turned your eyes. When I would awe you
to obedience, you do but flout me. When I make myself even as
a child and would be your playmate, you drive me from your pre-
sence. You will soon be eight years old. Behave, I beseech you,
Yai ran into the garden, laughing.
On the morning of her thirteenth birthday, Umanosuké resumed
warning. ‘Ten years ago,’ he said, ‘there flew from me that fair heron’s
wing that was your mother. I would she were here that she might
assuage the bitter sorrow you are always to me. You break the figured
tablets from which I would teach you wisdom. Strewn with unfingered
dust are the books you should have long learnt utterly. Your feet fly
always over the sand or through the flowers and feather-grasses. I see
you from my window bend your attentive ear to the vain music of the
seashell. I often hear you in foolish parley with the birds. Me, your
father, you do dishonour. Reflect! You are growing old. You will
never see twelve again. Behave, I beseech you, better!’
Yai ran into the garden, pouting.
On the morning of the day before her wedding-day,
called her to him and said, once and for all, ‘Since faded and fell that
fair treillage of convolvulus, than which I can find no better simile for
your mother, it is already fifteen round years. And, lo! in nothing but
dreams and errantry have you spent your girlhood. I, who begat you,
have grown sad in contemplating all your faults. Had I not, knowing
the wisdom of the philosophers, believed that in the span of every life
there is good and evil equally distributed, and that your evil girl-
hood was surely the preamble of a most perfect prime, your faults had
been intolerable. But I was comforted in my belief, and when I be-
trothed you to young Sanza, the son of Oiyaro, my heart was filled with
fair hopes. Only illusions!’
‘But, father,’ said Yai, ‘I do not love Sanza.’
‘How can you tell that you do not love him,’ her father
‘seeing that you hardly know him?’
‘He is ugly, father,’ said Yai. ‘He wears strange garments.
voice is harsh. Twice we have walked together by the side of the sea,
and when he praised my beauty and talked of all he had learnt at the
university, and of all he wished me to learn also, I knew that I did not
love him. His thoughts are not like mine.’
‘That may well be,’ Umanosuke answered, ‘seeing that he was
to be the finest student of his year, and you are a most ignorant maid.
As for his face, it is topped with the highest forehead in Haokami. As
for his garments, they are symbols of advancement. In fourteen lan-
guages he can lift his voice. I am an old man now, a man of the
former fashion, and many of Sanza’s thoughts seem strange to me, as to
you. But when I am in his presence I bow humbly before his intellect.
He is a marvellous young man, indeed. He understands all things. If
you mean that you are unworthy of him, I certainly agree with you.’
‘Then, it is that I am unworthy of him, father,’ faltered
‘Sanza does not think so,’ said her father, more gently. ‘He
me, yesterday, that he thought you were quite worthy of him. And as I
look at you, little daughter, and see how fair a maid you are, I think he
was right. It is because I love you that I would you were without
fault. I have never been able to rule you. It is therefore that I give
you gladly to Sanza, who will understand you, as he understands all
‘Perhaps,’ said Yai, ‘Sanza is too wise to understand me, and
not wise enough to love him. I do not know how it is—but, oh, father!
indulge me in one whim, and I will never be graceless nor unfilial
again ! Tell Sanza you will not let him be my bridegroom!’
‘To-morrow you will be his wife,’ said Umanosuké. ‘That you
yourself indifferent to him, is nothing to me. You are betrothed to
him. He has given to you, in due form, a robe of silken tissue, a robe
incomparably broidered with moons and lilac. When once the lover
has given to the maiden the robe of silken tissue, his betrothal is sacred
in the eyes of our God.’
‘Father,’ said Yai, ‘the robe has been given to me indeed. It
my room, and over all its tissue are moons and lilac. But lilac is said
to be the flower of unfaith, and moons are but images of him whom I
love. Ever since I was little, I have loved the Moon. As a little child
I loved him, and now my heart is not childish, but I love him still,
hrom my window, father, I watch him as he rises in silver from the
edge of the sea. I watch him as he climbs up the hollow sky. For
love of him I forgo sleep, and when he sinks into the sea he leaves me
desolate. Of no man but him can I be the bride.’
Umanosuké raised his hand. ‘The Moon,’ he said, ‘is the
lantern that our God has given us. We must not think of it but as of a
lantern. I do not know the meaning of your thoughts. There is mischief
in them and impiety. I pray you, put them from you, lest they fall as a
curse upon your nuptials. I did but send for you that I might counsel
you to bear yourself this afternoon, in Sanza’s presence, as a bride should,
with deference and love, not with unmaidenly aversion. It is not well
that the bridegroom, when he comes duly on the eve of his wedding to
kiss the hand of his bride, and to sprinkle her chamber with rose-leaves,
should be treated ungraciously and put to shame. Little daughter, I
will not argue with you. Know only that this wedding is well devised
for your happiness. If you love me but a little, try to please me with
obedience. I am older than you, and I know more. Behave, I beseech
Yai ran into the garden, weeping.
She paced up and down the long path of porcelain. She beat
hands against the bark of her father’s favourite uce-tree, whose branches
were always spangled with fandangles, and cursed the name of her
bridegroom. For hours she wandered among the flower-beds, calling
upon the name of her love.
The gardeners watched her furtively from their work, and
mured, smiling one to another, ‘This evening we need not carry forth
our water-jars, for Yai has watered all the flowers with her tears.’
When the hour came for her bridegroom’s visit, though, Yai
bathed her eyes in orange-water, and sat waiting at her window.
She saw him, a tiny puppet in the far distance, start from the pavilion
that was his home. As he came nearer, she noted his brisk tread,
and how the sun shone upon his European hat. What a complacent
smile curved his lips! How foolish he looked, for all his learning! In
one hand he swung a black umbrella, in the other a small parcel
of brown paper. ‘He will release me,’ whispered Yai; but her heart
misgave her, and she shrank away from the window.
When her nurse ushered Sanza into the room, Yai hardly
‘Well,’ he said cheerily, as he placed his hat on the floor,
‘here I am,
you see! Quite punctual, I think? Brought my rose-leaves along
with me. Really, my dear Yai,’ he said, after a pause, ‘I do think
you might rise to meet me when I come into the room. You know
I don’t stickle for sentiment—far from it,—but surely, on such an
occasion, a little display of affection wouldn’t be amiss. Personally,
you know, I object to all this rose-leaf business; but I’m not going to
offend your father’s religious views, and it’s really rather a quaint old
ceremony in its way; and I do think that you might—what shall
I say?—meet me half-way.’
Yai came forward listlessly.
‘You’ll excuse the suggestion,’ he laughed, shaking her
‘Now, I had better undo my parcel, I suppose? I expect you know
more about these little Japanese customs than I do;’ and he began to
loosen the string.
‘What have you in there?’ asked Yai.
‘Why, the rose-leaves, to be sure!’ Sanza replied, producing
that had once held cocoa.
‘Most lovers bring their rose-leaves in a bowl, I fancy,’
❧ YOUNG GIRLS BY THE SEA
P. Puvis de Chavannes
with a faint smile. ‘But it is no matter. Please do not sprinkle
‘How stupid of me!’ exclaimed Sanza, throwing back his
rose-leaves into the tin. ‘If one does a thing at all, let it be done
correctly. I have to kiss your hand first, of course.’
‘Please do not kiss my hand, Sanza,’ the girl said simply. ‘I
love you. I do not wish to be your bride.’
‘What about that silk material I sent you the other day?’
asked sharply. ‘I understood that your failure to return it was ipso
facto an acceptance of my proposal?’
‘I kept the silken robe that was broidered with moons and
Yai murmured, ‘because I wished to please my father, whom I have
often grieved. I thought then that I could be your bride. Now I
know that I cannot.’
‘Why this change of front?’ gasped her lover.
‘I have no good reason,’ she said, ‘that I can give you; only
thought I was stronger than I am—stronger than my love.’
‘If you will excuse me,’ muttered Sanza, with momentary
levance, ‘I will sit down.’ And he squatted upon the floor, disposing
the tails of his frock-coat around him. ‘May I ask,’ he said at length,
‘to what love you refer?’
‘My love for the Moon,’ Yai answered.
‘The—the what? cried Sanza.
‘The Moon,’ she repeated, adding rather foolishly, ‘I— I
perhaps you had guessed.’
Sanza laughed heartily.
‘Well, really,’ he said, ‘you quite took me in. I should
your becoming an actress, if it weren’t for native prejudices. You’d
go far. Oh, very good! Ha, ha!’
‘I am not jesting, Sanza,’ said Yai sadly. ‘I am very
since I was little, I have loved the Moon. As a little child I loved him
and now my heart is not childish, but I love him still. My heart grows
glad, as he rises in silver from the edge of the sea and climbs up the
hollow sky. When he climbs quickly, I shudder lest he fall; when he
lingers, I try to fancy it is for love of me; when he sinks at length into
the sea, I weep bitterly.’
Sanza began to humour her.
‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘the Moon’s a wonderful climber. I’ve
that. And a very good fellow, too, from all accounts. I don’t happen
to know him personally. He was senior to me at the university. I
must get you to introduce us.’
‘You jest poorly,’ said Yai.
‘Come, come,’ he resumed presently, ‘you know as well as I do
the Moon is just an extinct planet, 237,000 miles distant from the earth.
Perhaps you didn’t know? Well, selenography is rather a hobby of
mine, and I ’ll give you one or two little facts. The Moon is a subject
which has attracted a great many physiologists in all ages. Thanks to
the invention of photography, we moderns have accumulated a con-
siderable amount of knowledge regarding it. The negatives obtained
at the Lick Observatory, for example, prove conclusively that the
immense craters and mountainous ridges visible upon its surface, so far
from being surrounded with an atmosphere similar in density to our
own, are, in fact, enclosed only by a gaseous envelope, not less than 200
times thinner than the most rarefied atmosphere obtainable on the
But Yai had shut her ears.
‘Sanza,’ she said, when he ceased, ‘will you release me? If
think me mad, you cannot wish me to be your bride.’
For a moment Sanza hesitated—but for a moment.
‘Madness,’ he said, ‘is a question of degree. We are all
mad. If you were left to indulge in these absurd notions, you would
certainly become mad, in time. As it is, I fancy you have a touch of
Neuromania. And, when you speak, I have noticed a slight tendency
to Echolalia. But these are trifles, my dear. Any sudden change of
life is apt to dispel far more serious symptoms. Your very defects,
small though they are, will make me all the more watchful and tender
towards you when 1 am your husband.’
‘You are very cruel and very cowardly,’ sobbed Yai, ‘and I
‘Nonsense!’ said Sanza, snatching one of her hands and
In another minute the room had been sprinkled with
and Yai was alone.
At sunset her father came to the room and bent over her
kissed her. ‘Do not weep, little daughter,’ he said. ‘It is well that
you should be wed, though you are so unwilling. Sleep happily now,
little daughter. To-morrow, all in your honour, the way will be strewn
with anemones and golden grain. Little lanterns will waver in the
Yai spoke not a word.
But when her father had reached the threshold of her room,
swiftly to him and flung her arms around his neck, and whispered to
him through tears, ‘Forgive me for being always an evil daughter.’
Umanosuké caressed her and spoke gentle words. And when
left her, at length, he barred the door of her room. For in that land
there is an old custom, which ordains that the bride’s room be sealed
on the wedding-eve, lest the bride be stolen away in the night.
Umanosuké’s footsteps grew faint in the distance. So soon as
could hear them no more, Yai shook the door, noiselessly, if peradven-
ture it were not rightly barred. It did not yield. Noiselessly she crept
across the floor, the rose-leaves brushing her bare and tiny feet. Noise-
lessly she slid back the wickered grill from her window. She wrapped
her skirt very tightly round her, and raised herself on to the ledge.
Down a trellis that covered the outer wall she climbed lightly. No one
Darting swiftly from shadow to shadow, she passed down the
garden, and dragged from its shed the little, reeded skiff that her
father had once given to her. She did not dare drag it down the
beach, lest the noise of the rustling shingle should betray her. Easily
(for it was light as a toy) she lifted it on her shoulder, and carried
it down, so, to the darkening waters, launched it, and stepped in.
She knew at what point on the edge of the great sea her
would rise. She knew by the aspect of the stars that he would rise
before the end of another hour. Could she reach the edge of the
great sea so soon? Crouching low in the skiff, a little figure scrupu-
lously balanced, she brushed the water with her paddle. Strong and
supple was her wrist, and sure were her eyes, and swiftly the frail craft
sped on over the waters. Never once did the maid flag nor falter,
though her hands grew cold and stiff in their strenuous exercise.
Though darkness closed in around her, and the waters rushed past her,
on either side, with a shrill sound as of weeping, she had no fear, but
only love in her heart. Gazing steadfastly before her at that glimmer-
ing, white line, where the sky curves down upon the sea, and ever
whispering through her lips the name of her love, she held her swift
course over the waters.
Clearer, clearer to her gaze, grew the white line and the
purple that rested on it. Another minute, and she could hear the waves
lapping its surface, a sweet monotony of music, seeming to call her
on. A few more strokes of her paddle, swept with a final impulse, and
the boat bore her with a yet swifter speed. Soon she suffered it to
glide on obliquely, till it grazed the white line with its prow. She had
reached the tryst of her devotion. Faint and quivering, she lay back
and waited there.
After a while, she leant over the side of the boat and peered
into the sea. Far, far under the surface she seemed to descry a little
patch of silver, of silver that was moving. She clasped her hands to
her eyes and gazed down again. The silver was spreading, wider and
wider, under the water, till the water’s surface became even as a carpet
of dazzling silver.
The Moon rose through the sea, and paused under the
of the sky.
So great, so fair was he, of countenance so illustrious, that
Yai did but hide her head in the folds of her garment, daring not
to look up at him.
She heard a voice, that was softer and more melancholy than
west wind, saying to her, ‘Child of the Ruler of Haokami, why sought
you to waylay me?’ And again the voice said, ‘Why sought you to
‘Because,’ Yai answered faintly, ‘because I have long loved you.’
And as she crouched before him, the Moon covered her
silver, insomuch that she was able to look up into his eyes, being
herself radiant, even as he was. And she stretched out her arms to
him and besought him that she might sail over the sky with him
‘Nay, said the Moon, ‘but you know not what you ask.
the sky you might sail in my embrace, and love me, and be my
darling. I would bear you among the stars and lie with you in the
shadows of the clouds. The tiny world would lie outspread beneath
us, and in the wonder of our joy we would not heed it. We would
mingle the cold, silver of our lips, and in the wreath of our arms our
love-dreams would come true. But soon I should sink into the sea
yonder. On the grey surface of the sea I should leave you to drown.’
‘Take me in your arms!’ cried the girl.
And the Moon bent down to her and took her gently in his arms.
Next morning, the Sun, as he was rising from the sea, saw a
pale body floating over the waves.
‘Why!’ he exclaimed, ‘there is the child of the ruler of
kami. She was always wayward. I knew she would come to a bad
end. And this was to have been her wedding-day too! I suppose she
was really in love with me and swam to meet me. How very sad!’
And he covered her with gold.
‘After all,’ he muttered, rising a little higher, ‘it does
not do for
these human beings to have ideas above their station. It always leads
to unhappiness. The dead child down there would soon have forgotten
her unfortunate attachment to me, if she had only stayed ashore and
married that impertinent little fellow, who is always spying at me
through his confounded telescope. And there he is, to be sure! up
betimes and strutting about his garden, with a fine new suit on! Quite
TO AN EARLY SPRING DAY
O Day, thou found’st me sleeping; let me
Too many of thy brothers, too like thee,
Have waked me with such manners. Didst thou
With something of thy sisters’ smile, may be,
I, even then, would sleep; though they were gay
And called me oft in leafy flowery May.
Of banks more soft with moss than any bed,
with lush bee-peopled canopies o’erhead,
They knew, and talking led me out to play.
Ah, they were gay, thy sisters! They were
And like the flowers, half divine with dew,
Caught in their heads’ loose roughened manes or flung
Forth in their frolic. Nothing sad they knew;
But thou, thou hast the sob of many sorrows,
Gloom from a stormy night thy wet wing borrows,
Each pelting shower, like angry, sudden tears,
Answers an urgent spurring, which one hears,
Driving thee on toward disenchanted morrows.
Alas, there is but wind and rain abroad,
Fatiguing warmth that tempts the sharded buds!
I would I were a god of stone to hoard,
Like russet grange, the summer’s golden floods,
All that Greece knew of beauty in her youth—
Handless and footless, from an isle aloof
Watching a mainland near across the sea,
Since heroes on white horses, buoyantly,
Chanting rode by to meet the dawn of truth.
Like some fair marble god, who pays no heed
To any day, in comely trance elate,
While honey-laden summers circling speed,
As echoes through a stone reverberate,
Thrilling his stillness — as a song is held
Spellbound within the temple, where it swelled,
Long after all the choristers have ceased:
So would I be, and never more released
To learn how men from such fair gods rebelled.
O Day, grey habited, thou too art sad!
Thou, too, art all too conscious of the past—
Of all those leaves that thy forerunners had
To bathe in, plunge in, fall to sleep at last,
Tired out like children, in! Thou, with thy rain
Pelting wet roofs and dripping boughs, wouldst fain
Dance among flowers and make the roses bob;
Thou wouldst from dells of thyme and clover rob
Scents to make sea-nymphs sniff and sniff again.
Then let us, Day, go friendly! help thou me,
Strengthen my feet and occupy my hands,
And from all clinging yearning set me free,
To find in things the look that understands,
With mother-like alacrity, our need!
For nature is her children’s friend indeed,
Who need not then be exiles anywhere,
But, loving beauty, still find beauty there,
As thou canst find thee comfort in thy speed.
Rough minister of life, thine infant hand
May once have ushered Psyche through Love’s house.
Viewless and trembling didst thou later stand
And soothe her sleep with music? shy as mouse
Evade, but when, with many a skyey leap
From cloud-caps downward, came, with meteor sweep,
Her rosy husband? Ah, attend my prayers
Immediate as her unseen ministers,
Till hope grow real enough to clasp in sleep!
In sleep we may believe, we do attain
Full knowledge of illusive beauty, and,
In sleep, we do not know ourselves nor strain,
Like birds at sea and fainting ere the land,
To reach a joy that, ever seeming near,
Lies far beyond our strength. In sleep we hear
As echoes hear, who do not weep at songs,
And unmoved watch, like stars, unpitied wrongs.
Then, Day, storm on till sleep be doubly dear.
Press on, and shoulder up thy lagging clouds!
Invigour me! Born from thine energy
And bright from thy despair, with leaves in crowds,
The spring shall be! at last the spring shall be!
Beauty shall like a day-dream brave the light—
A day-dream likelier than the dreams of night,
Surmised among thy sisters, Summer Days,
When, mid birds singing, I will sing her praise,
Exalting her with this thy strenuous might.
THE SEVEN PRINCESSES
BY MAURICE MAETERLINCK Translated by ALFRED SUTRO
THE OLD KING.
THE OLD QUEEN.
THE SEVEN PRINCESSES.
SCENE—A large hall of marble , with laurel, lavender, and
porcelain vases. The hall is divided in all its length by seven marble
steps, which are strewn with cushions of pale silk, and on these the SEVEN
PRINCESSES he asleep. They are all clad in white robes, and their arms are
bare. A silver lamp sheds a faint light upon them. At the end of the
hall is a door furnished with massive bolts. To the right and the
left of this door are great windows, which almost reach to the ground.
Behind these windows is a terrace. The sun is setting : and in the dis-
tance is seen a black marshy country, with stagnant pools and forests of pine
and oak. Behind the palace, between huge willows, is a sombre, grim-
looking inflexible canal, along which a large war- ship is seen advancing.
[The old KING and QUEEN
and the MESSENGER move along
and watch the war-ship as she draws nearer.]
THE QUEEN. She is coming under full sail . . .
THE KING. I cannot see clearly, there is so much mist . . .
THE QUEEN. They are rowing . . . they are all rowing . . . They
must mean to come right up to the castle windows … It is as
though she had a thousand feet . . . the sails touch the branches of
the willows . . .
THE KING. The ship seems to be wider than the canal . . .
THE QUEEN. They are stopping . . .
THE KING. They will find it difficult to turn . . .
THE QUEEN. They have stopped . . . they have stopped . . . They
are dropping the anchor . . . They are mooring the ship against
the willows … Ah! ah! some one has landed . . . that must be
the Prince . . .
THE KING. Look at the swans . . . they are going towards him . . .
they want to know what it means . . .
THE QUEEN. Are the Princesses still asleep?
[They go to the windows and look into the hall.]
THE KING. Let us wake them . . . we should have done that
before . . . we must wake them at once . . .
THE QUEEN. Let us wait till he has come . . . It is too late now . . .
There he is! There he is! . . . My God! my God! what are we
to do? . . . They are so ill . . . I dare not! I dare not!
THE KING. Shall I open the door?
THE QUEEN. No, no! wait! let us wait!—Oh, how they sleep!
they do nothing but sleep! . . . They did not know that he was
coming back . . . that he would be here to-day . . . I am afraid
to wake them . . . the physician forbade it . . . Do not let us wake
them . . . Do not let us wake them yet . . . Oh ! oh ! I hear a
sound of footsteps on the bridge . . .
THE KING. He is there! He is there . . . He is at the foot of the
terrace! . . .
[They leave the window.]
THE QUEEN. Where is he? where is he?—Is it he?—I can scarcely
recognise him . . . Yes, yes, I know him now . . . Oh! how tall he
is! how tall he is! He is coming up the stairs . . . Marcellus!
Marcellus! Is it you? is it you? . . . Come to us, come; we are
so old, we cannot go down to you. . . . Come! come! come! . . .
THE KING. Be careful . . . do not fall . . . the steps are very old . . .
they are all shaking . . . Take care! . . .
[The PRINCE comes on to the
terrace and throws himself into the arms of
the KING and QUEEN.]
The Prince. My poor grandam! My poor grandsire!
[They embrace each other.]
THE QUEEN. Oh! how handsome you are!—how tall you have grown,
my child!—How tall you are, my little Marcellus!—I cannot
see you: my eyes are full of tears . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! my poor grandam, how white your hair is! . . .
Oh! my poor grandfather, how white your beard is! . . .
THE KING. We are a poor old couple; it will be our turn soon . . .
THE PRINCE. Grandsire, grandsire, why do you stoop like that?
THE KING. I always stoop now . . .
THE QUEEN. We have been expecting you so long . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! my poor grandam, how you are trembling to-night!
THE QUEEN. I always tremble like that, my child . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! my poor grandsire! Oh! my poor grandam! I
should scarcely have known you again . . .
THE KING. Nor I either, nor I either . . . My eyes are not very
good . . .
THE QUEEN. Where have you been all this time, my child? Oh!
how tall you are!—You are taller than we! . . . See! see! I am
crying as though you were dead . . .
THE PRINCE. Why do you greet me with tears in your eyes?
THE QUEEN. No, no, they are not tears, my child . . . They are very
different from tears . . . Nothing has happened . . . nothing has
happened . . .
THE PRINCE. Where are my seven cousins?
THE QUEEN. Here, here; but be careful, do not speak too loud;
they are still asleep . . . it is not good to talk of those who
sleep . . .
THE PRINCE. They are asleep? . . . Are they all with you still, all
seven? . . .
THE QUEEN. Yes, yes, yes; be careful, be careful . . . They sleep
here; they always sleep . . .
THE PRINCE. They always sleep? . . . What? what? what?
Do . . .? All the seven! . . . all the seven! . . .
THE QUEEN. Oh! oh! oh! what did you think? . . . what have you
dared to think, Marcellus, Marcellus? Hush!—They are in there
. . . come to the window . . . come and see . . . Quick! quick!
come quick ! It is time you should see them . .
[They go to the window and look into the hall. A long pause.]
THE PRINCE. Are those my seven cousins? . . . I cannot see them
very clearly . . .
THE QUEEN. Yes, yes, they are all there, lying on the steps . . . can
you see them? can you see them?
THE PRINCE. I see nothing but white shadows.
THE QUEEN. Those are your seven cousins! . . . Can you see them
in the mirrors? . . .
THE PRINCE. Are those my seven cousins? . . .
THE QUEEN. Look into the mirrors, right at the end of the hall . . .
You can see them, you can see them. . . . Come here, come here,
you will see better perhaps . . .
THE PRINCE. I see! I see! I see! I can see all the seven of them! . . .
One, two, three [he pauses a moment] four, five, six, seven … I
scarcely recognise them . . . Oh! how white they all are! . . . Oh!
how beautiful they all are … Oh! how pale they all are! . . .
But why are they all asleep?
THE QUEEN. They always sleep . . . They have been asleep since
noon . . . They are so ill! . . . It has become almost impossible
to wake them . . . They did not know of your coming . . . we
were afraid to disturb them . . . It is better they should awake
of their own accord . . . They are not happy, and it is not our
fault . . . We are too old, too old; every one is too old for them
. . . One grows too old without knowing it . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! how beautiful they are! how beautiful they
are! . . .
THE QUEEN. They came to us when their parents died . . . since then
one can scarcely say that they have been alive . . . It is too cold in
this castle . . . They come from a warm land . . . They are always
seeking the sun, but it comes so seldom . . . There was a little
sunshine on the canal this morning, but the trees are too large; there
is too much shade; there is nothing but shade . . . And the sky is
never clear: it is always hidden by the mist . . . Oh! why do you
stare like that!—Do you see anything strange?
THE PRINCE. Oh! how pale they all are!
THE QUEEN. They have eaten nothing yet . . . They could not stay
in the garden: the glare of the grass dazzled them . . They are in
a fever . . . They came in at noon, holding one another by the
hand . . . They are so weak they can scarcely walk alone . . .
They were all trembling with fever . . . What it is that ails them no
one can tell . . . They sleep here every day . . .
THE PRINCE. They look so strange! . . . Oh! oh! how strange they
look! I dare not look at them . . . Is this their bed-room, then?
THE QUEEN. No, no; it is not their bed-room . . . You can see;
there are no beds . . . their seven little beds are up higher, in the
tower. They come here, waiting for the night . . .
THE PRINCE. I am beginning to distinguish them . . .
THE QUEEN. Come nearer, come nearer; but do not touch the window
. . . You will see better when the sun has set: there is still too much
light outside . . . You will see better presently. Go close up to the
panes, but make no noise . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! how light it is in there! . . .
THE QUEEN. It will be lighter still after nightfall . . . The night is
about to fall . . .
THE KING. What is about to fall?
THE QUEEN. I am speaking of the night . . . [to the
Prince] Can you
THE PRINCE. There is a great crystal bowl on a stand . . .
THE QUEEN. That is nothing; it is filled with water; they are always
so thirsty when they awake! . . .
THE PRINCE. But why is that lamp burning? . . .
THE QUEEEN. They always light it. They knew that they would
sleep for many hours. They lit the lamp at noon so as not to awake
in darkness . . . They are afraid of the dark . . .
THE PRINCE. How tall they are! . . .
THE QUEEN. They are still growing . . . They are growing too tall
. . . Perhaps that is the secret of their sickness . . . Do you re-
cognise them? . . .
THE PRINCE. I should perhaps recognise them if I saw them by day-
light. . . .
THE QUEEN. You played with them so often when they were children
. . . Look at them! look at them!
THE PRINCE. I can see nothing clearly but their little bare feet . . .
THE KING [looking through another window] I cannot see
to-night . . .
THE PRINCE. They are too far away from us . . .
THE QUEEN. There is something on the mirrors this evening; I cannot
think what it can be . . .
THE PRINCE. There is a mist on the window-panes . . . I will brush
it away . . .
THE QUEEN. No! no! Do not touch the window! They would
wake with a start!—The mist comes from within; it is on the inside;
it is the heat of the room . . .
THE PRINCE. I can see the faces of six of them quite well; but there
is one, in the centre . . .
THE KING. They are all very much alike: I can only distinguish them
by the jewels of their necklaces . . .
THE PRINCE. There is one whose face I cannot see . . .
THE QUEEN. Which of them do you like the best . . .
THE PRINCE. The one whose face I cannot see . . .
THE QUEEN. Which one? I am a little hard of hearing . . .
THE PRINCE. The one whose face I cannot see . . .
THE KING. Which one is that? I can hardly see any of them . . .
THE PRINCE. She is in the centre . . .
THE QUEEN. I knew that you would only look at her! . . .
THE PRINCE. Who is she?
THE QUEEN. Surely you know! there is no need for me to tell you . .
THE PRINCE. Is it Ursule?
THE QUEEN. Yes, yes, yes! Who could it be but Ursule! It is
Ursule! it is Ursule, who has waited for you these seven years! by
day and by night she has been waiting for you! . . . Do you
recognise her? . . .
THE PRINCE. I cannot see her well; there is a shadow over her . . .
THE QUEEN. Yes, there is a shadow over her; I do not know what it
is . . .
THE PRINCE. I think it is the shadow of a column . . . I shall see
her better presently when the sun has quite set . . .
THE QUEEN. No, no! That shadow is not cast by the sun . . .
THE PRINCE. Let us see whether it moves . . .
THE KING. I see what it is: it is the shadow of the lamp.
The QUEEN. She is not lying like the others . . .
THE KING. She is sleeping more heavily, that is all . . .
THE PRINCE. She sleeps like a little child . . .
THE KING. Come to this window c perhaps you will see better from
The PRINCE [goes to another window]. No, I see her no
cannot see her face . . .
THE QUEEN. Come to this window: perhaps you will see better from
here . . .
THE PRINCE [goes to another window]. No, I see her no
better . . . It
is very difficult to see her . . . One would think she were hiding her
face . . .
THE QUEEN. Her face is hardly visible . . .
THE PRINCE. I can see all but her face . . . It seems to be turned
quite up, to the sky . . .
THE QUEEN. But you only look at her! . . .
THE PRINCE [still looking]. She is taller than the others . . .
THE QUEEN. Why have you eyes only for the one whom you cannot
see? . . . There are six others! . . .
THE PRINCE. I am looking at them too . . . Oh, how well one can
see the others! . . .
THE QUEEN. Do you remember them? Genevieve, Helene, and Christa-
belle . . . on the other side Madeleine, Claire, and Claribelle, with
the emeralds . . . See how they hold one another by the hand,
all the seven . . . They have fallen asleep hand in hand … Oh!
oh! the little sisters! . . . They are afraid they may get lost while
they sleep! . . . My God! my God! if they would only wake! . . .
THE PRINCE. Yes, yes: let us wake them . . . Shall I wake them?
The Queen. No, no: not yet, not yet . . . And we must not look at
them any more: come away, do not look at them any more; they
will have bad dreams . . . I will not look at them any more; I will
not look at them any more! . . . I should break the windows! . . .
Let us not look any more . . . we shall be afraid! . . . Come . . .
let us go on the terrace; we will talk of other things; we have so
much to say to each other . . . Come, come! it would frighten them
if they were to turn round; it would frighten them to see us all at
the windows . . . [To the KING.] And you too, you too; come, do
not press that white beard of yours against the glass; you do not
know how frightful you look! . . . For the love of God, come away,
both of you! . . . Come, come, I tell you! . . . You do not know
what is before us . . . Come here, come here, turn away, turn away!
look the other way! look the other way for a moment! . . . They are
so ill, they are so ill! . . . let us leave them . . . let them sleep! . . .
THE PRINCE. [turning round Why, what is it?—Oh! how
dark it is
out here! . . . where are you? . . . I cannot see you . . .
THE KING. Wait a little: the light of the room has dazzled you . .
I cannot see either . . . come. We are here . . .
[They leave the windows].
THE PRINCE. Oh! how dark the country is! . . . where are we?
THE KING. The sun has set . . .
THE QUEEN. Marcellus, why did you not come sooner, Marcellus?
THE PRINCE. The messenger told you: I have long wanted to
come . . .
THE QUEEN. They have been waiting for you these many years!
They were always in this room, watching the canal, night and day.
. . . When the sun shone, they would go to the opposite bank . . .
there is a hill with a wide view over the cliffs, though the sea is
hidden . . .
THE PRINCE. What is that glimmer under the trees?
THE KING. It is the canal through which you came; there is always a
glimmer on the water . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! how dark it is to-night!—I scarcely know where I
am: I feel like a stranger . . .
THE KING. The sky has become suddenly clouded . . .
THE PRINCE. The wind is in the willows . . .
THE KING. There is always wind there, day and night . . . We are
not far from the sea.—Listen; it is raining . . .
THE PRINCE. It sounds to me like tears dropping round the castle . . .
THE KING. It is the rain falling on the water: a soft, gentle rain . . .
THE QUEEN. To me it is like weeping in Heaven . . .
THE PRINCE. Oh! how the water sleeps, between those walls!
THE QUEEN. It always sleeps like that: the water is very old,
too . . .
THE PRINCE. The swans have taken shelter under the bridge . . .
THE KING. See, the peasants are driving home their flocks
THE PRINCE. They look very old and very poor . . .
THE KING. They are very poor; I am the king of a very poor people
. . . It is growing cold . . .
THE PRINCE. What is on the other side of the water?
THE KING. There?—They were flowers: the cold has killed them.
[At this moment a monotonous chant is faintly heard, coming
away. Only the refrain is audible; this seems to be repeated in chorus,
at regular intervals.]
THE DISTANT VOICES. Atlantic! Atlantic!
THE KING. Hark!
THE PRINCE. Those are the sailors:—they must be turning the ship;
they are getting ready to leave . . .
THE DISTANT VOICES. We shall never come back!
We shall never come back!
THE QUEEN. All the sails are set . . .
THE PRINCE. They leave to-night . . .
THE DISTANT VOICES. Atlantic! Atlantic!
THE KING. Is it true that they will not come back?
THE PRINCE. I don’t know; perhaps not the same ones . . .
THE DISTANT VOICES. We shall never come back!
We shall never come back!
THE QUEEN. You seem unhappy, my child . . .
THE PRINCE. I?—Why should I be unhappy?—I came to see her and
I have seen her . . . I can see her closer if I wish . . . I can sit by
her side if I wish . . . Can I not open the door and take her hand?
I can clasp her in my arms whenever I wish: I have only to wake
her . . . Why should I be unhappy?
THE QUEEN. And still you do not look happy! . . . I am nearly
seventy-five years old . . . and I have done nothing but wait for
you! … It is not you! no! … It is not you, after all! . . . [She
turns her head away and sobs.]
THE KING. Why, what is the matter? Why are you crying?
THE QUEEN. It is nothing; it is nothing;—it is not I who am crying
. . . Do not mind me—one often cries without a reason;—I am so
old to-day.—It is over now . . .
THE PRINCE. I shall look happier presently . . .
THE QUEEN. Come, come; they may have opened their eyes and be
waiting for us . . . give me your hand; lead me to the windows; let
us go and look at the windows . . .
THE DISTANT VOICES. Atlantic! Atlantic!
[They all go back to the windows, and look through again.]
THE PRINCE. I cannot see yet . . . it is too light . . .
THE QUEEN. Something has changed in there! . . .
THE KING. I can see nothing at all.
THE PRINCE. There is more light than there was before . . .
THE QUEEN. It is not as it was; something has changed in there . . .
THE PRINCE. The light still dazzles my eyes . . .
THE QUEEN. They are not as we left them . . .
THE PRINCE. Yes, yes; I think they have moved a little . . .
THE QUEEN. Oh! oh! Christabelle and Claribelle! . . . Look, look!
. . . They were holding Ursule’s hands in theirs . . . They no longer
hold their sister’s hands . . . They have let her hands fall . . .
They have turned to the other side . . .
THE PRINCE. They have been on the point of waking . . .
THE QUEEN. We have come too late! We have come too late! . . .
THE KING. I can see nothing but the lilies by the windows;—they are
closed . . .
THE PRINCE. They know that it is evening . . .
THE KING. There is a light, however.
THE PRINCE. How strangely she holds her hand . . .
THE QUEEN. Who?
THE PRINCE. Ursule . . .
THE QUEEN. What hand is that? . . . I did not notice it before . . .
THE PRINCE. It was hidden in the others . . .
THE KING. I do not know what you mean: I cannot see as far as the
mirrors . . .
THE QUEEN. She must be in pain! . . . She must be in pain! . . .
She cannot sleep like that; it is not natural . . . If she would only
let her hand fall!—My God, my God, make her drop that little
hand! . . . Her little arm must hurt all this time!
THE PRINCE. I cannot see on what it is resting . . .
THE QUEEN. I will not have her sleep like that . . . I have never seen
her sleep like that . . . It is not a good sign . . . It is not a good
sign! . . . She will not be able to move that hand . . .
THE KING. There is no cause for such alarm . . .
THE PRINCE. The others are sleeping more quietly . . .
The QUEEN. How firmly their eyes are closed! How firmly their
eyes are closed! Oh! oh! the little sisters! the little sisters! . . .
What can we do? . . . Is there anything we can do? . . .
THE KING. Hush! hush! do not talk so near the window . . .
THE QUEEN. I am not so near as you think . . .
THE KING. Your lips are pressed against the glass . . .
THE PRINCE. I can see something in there—I don’t know what it is . . .
THE QUEEN. Yes, yes, so can I. I am beginning to see something
. . . It stretches right up to the door . . .
THE PRINCE. There is something on the steps . . . It is not a shadow
. . . it cannot be a shadow . . . I cannot think what it is . . . It might
be her hair . . .
THE QUEEN. But why should her hair be hanging down? . . . Look
at the others . . . Theirs is all fastened up . . . Look . . .
THE PRINCE. I tell you it is her hair! . . . It is moving . . . Oh! how
beautiful her hair is! . . . Can she be ill, with hair like that! . . .
THE QUEEN. She never sleeps with her hair down . . . One would say
she was thinking of going out . . .
THE PRINCE. Did she say nothing to you? . . .
THE QUEEN. At noon, as she shut the door, she cried, ‘Pray do not
wake us any more.’ And I kissed her so as not to see how sad
she was . . .
THE PRINCE. How cold they must be, with their little feet almost
bare upon the flags! . . .
THE QUEEN. Yes, yes: they must be cold!—Oh do not look at them
so greedily! [To the KING.] Nor you either! nor you either!
Do not look at them every moment! Do not keep looking at them!
—Do not let us all look together! . . . They are not happy! . . .
They are not happy! . . .
THE KING. Why, what now!—Are you the only one who may look at
them?—What ails you to-night?—You are unreasonable . . . I do not
understand you . . . You want all the others to look away; you want
all the others to look away . . . Is this not our concern as much as
THE QUEEN. Yes, yes, it is, it is . . . For the love of God, do not say
such things again! . . . Oh ! oh ! . . . do not look at me! Do not
❧ LE PREMIER BAL
look at me just now! . . . My God! my God! how motionless they
are! . . .
THE KING. They will not wake to-night . . . we had better go and
sleep ourselves . . .
THE QUEEN. We must wait a little! we must wait a little! . . . We
shall perhaps know what this means . . .
THE KING. We cannot stop at these windows for ever: we must do
something . . .
THE PRINCE. Perhaps we can wake them from here . . .
THE KING. I will knock softly at the door.
THE QUEEN. No, no! Never! Never! . . . Oh! No, not you! not
you! You would knock too loud. . . . Be careful! Oh, be careful!
They are afraid of everything . . . I will knock at the window my-
self, if it must be . . . It is better that they should know who knocks
. . . Wait, wait . . .
[She knocks very softly at the window.]
THE PRINCE. They do not wake . . .
THE KING. I can see nothing at all . . .
THE QUEEN. I will knock a little louder . . . [She knocks at
again.] They do not stir yet . . . [She knocks again.] . . . The
room might be full of cotton wool . . . Are you sure it is sleep?—
They may have fainted … I cannot see them breathe . . . [She
knocks at another window.] Knock a little louder . . . Knock at
the other windows. Oh! oh! how thick this glass is! [The Queen
and the PRINCE knock nervously with both hands.] How still they
are! how still they are!—It is the deep sleep of sickness. . . . It is
the sleep of fever that will not go . . . I want to see them close!
I want to see them close! . . . They do not hear the noise we make
. . . Their sleep is not natural . . . It can do them no good . . . I
dare not knock louder . . .
The Prince [listening eagerly], I cannot hear the slightest sound . . .
[A long pause.]
The Queen [suddenly bursting into tears , her face pressed
window]. Oh! How they sleep! How they sleep! … My God! My
God! Deliver them! Deliver them! How those little hearts of
theirs sleep!—One can no longer hear their hearts beat! . . . How
awful is this sleep of theirs!—Oh! There is always dread around
sleep! . . . In their dormitory I am always afraid! . . . I can no longer
see their little souls! . . . Where are their little souls! . . . They
frighten me! They frighten me! . . . Ah! Now I know what it
is! . . . How they sleep, the little sisters! . . . Oh! how they sleep,
how they sleep! . . . I feel they will sleep for ever! . . . My God,
my God, I pity them! . . . They are not happy! they are not
happy! . . . Now I can see it all! . . . Seven little souls all the
night! . . . Seven little defenceless souls! . . . Seven little friend-
less souls! . . . Their mouths are wide open . . . Seven little open
mouths! . . . Oh! I am sure they are thirsty! . . . I am sure they
are terribly thirsty! . . . And all those closed eyes! . . . Oh! how
lonely all the seven are! all the seven! all the seven! . . . And
how they sleep! How they sleep! . . . How they sleep, the little
queens! . . . I am sure they are not sleeping! . . . But what a
sleep! What a great sleep! . . . Oh, wake the poor hearts!
Wake the little queens! . . . Wake the little sisters! All the seven!
all the seven! . . . I can bear it no longer! My God! my God!
I pity them! I pity them! and I dare not wake them! … Oh!
the light is growing dim! . . . quite dim! . . . quite dim! . . . And
I no longer dare wake them! . . .
[She sobs piteously by the window.]
THE KING. What is the matter?—But, tell me, what is the matter?—
Come, come, do not look at them any more; it is better not to
see them . . . Come away, come away, come away . . .
[He tries to draw her away.]
THE PRINCE. Grandam! grandam! . . . What have you seen? . . . I
have not seen anything . . . There is nothing, there is nothing . . .
THE KING [to the PRINCE]. It is nothing, it is
nothing; do not mind
her: she is very old, and it is late. . . . She is overstrung.—It does
women good to cry. She often cries during the night . . . [To the
Queen.] Come, come, come here . . . Be careful . . . You nearly
fell! Lean on me . . . Do not cry; do not cry any more, come . . .
[He embraces her tenderly.] It is nothing; they are asleep . . . We
sleep too . . . We all sleep like that . . . Have you never seen
people asleep before? . . .
THE QUEEN. Never! Never like this evening!—Open the door!
Open the door! . . . We do not love them enough! . . . We cannot
love them!—Open the door! Open the door! . . .
THE KING. Yes, yes, we shall open the door . . . Calm yourself, calm
yourself—do not think of it, we shall open it, we shall open it. That
is what I have been wanting to do all the time; you would not let
me . . . Come, come, do not cry any more . . . Be reasonable . . . I
am old too, but I am reasonable . . . Come, come, do not cry . . .
THE QUEEN. There, there, it is over . . . I am not crying now, I am
not crying now . . . They must not hear me cry when they awake
THE KING. Come with me; I will open very gently: we will go
in together . . . [He tries to open the door; the handle creaks, and
the latch is seen to rise and fall inside the room.] Oh! oh! what is
the matter with the lock? — I cannot open the door . . . We must
push . . . I don’t know what it is . . . I did not know it was so
difficult to get into this room . . . Will you try? [The QUEEN tries,
but in vain.] I never go in there . . . The door will not open
They must have drawn the bolt . . . Yes, yes; the door is locked
we cannot open it . . .
THE QUEEN. They always lock it . . Oh! oh! we cannot leave them
like this! . . . They have been asleep so long!
THE PRINCE. We might open a window.
THE KING. The windows do not open
THE PRINCE. It seems to me that it is less light in the room
THE KING. It is not less light; but the sky is clearing.—Do you see
THE PRINCE. What can we do?
THE KING. I do not know . . . There is another entrance
THE PRINCE. Another entrance! Where?
THE QUEEN. No! no! I know what you mean! . . . Not that way!
Not that way! I will not go down there! . . .
THE KING. We need not go down; we will stay here; Marcellus shall
go alone . . .
THE QUEEN. Oh! no, no, no! . . . Let us wait
THE KING. But, really, what do you want us to do?—We cannot get
in any other way . . . it is the simplest plan . . .
THE PRINCE. Is there another entrance?
THE KING. Yes; there is another little entrance . . . you cannot see
it from here . . . but you will find it easily, you must go down
THE PRINCE. Down where?
THE KING. Come with me. [He draws him aside.] It is
not a door
it can scarcely be called a door . . . it is rather a trap-door . . . it
is a stone that lifts up . . . It is at the far end of the room . . .
You must go through the vaults . . . you know . . . Then you must
come up again . . . You will want a lamp . . . you might lose your
way . . . or knock against the . . marbles . . . you know what I
mean? . . . Be careful: there are chains between . . . the little
gangways . . . But you should know the way . . . You have been
down there more than once in your time . . .
THE PRINCE. I have been down there more than once in my time?
THE KING. Yes, yes: when your mother . . .
THE PRINCE. When my mother? . . . Ah! is that the way I have to
go? . . .
THE KING [nodding]. Just so!—And . . . your father too . . .
THE PRINCE. Yes, yes, I remember . . . and others besides . . .
THE KING. You see! . . . The stone is not sealed down; you have
only to push . . . But be careful . . . The flags are not very regular
. . . The head of one of the busts leans across the path . . . it is
of marble . . . And there is a cross with very long arms . . . take
care . . . do not hurry: you have ample time . . .
THE PRINCE. And it is down there that I must . . . ? . . .
THE KING. Yes! . . . You will want a lamp . . . [He goes
terrace and shouts.] A lamp! a lamp! a little lamp! . . . [To the
PRINCE.] We will wait here, at the windows . . . We are too old to
go down . . . We could never come up again . . . [A lighted lamp is
brought.] Ah! here is the lamp; take the little lamp. . . .
THE PRINCE. Yes, yes; the little lamp . . .
[At this moment, suddenly from the far distance , are heard
loud shouts of
joy from the sailors. The masts, bulwarks, and sails of the ship are
lit up, and stand out against the night, where the canal meets the sky,
between the willows.]
THE KING. Oh! oh! what is that?
THE PRINCE. It is the sailors . . . They are dancing on the deck; they
have been drinking . . .
THE KING. They have illuminated the ship . . .
THE PRINCE. They are glad to leave . . . They are about to set sail . . .
THE KING. Well, will you go down? . . . This is the way . . .
THE QUEEN. No, no, do not go! . . . Do not go that way! . . . do
not wake them! do not wake them! . . . you know how they need
rest! . . . I am frightened! . . .
THE PRINCE. If you wish it, I will not wake the others . . . I will only
wake one . . .
THE QUEEN. Oh! oh! oh!
THE KING. Do not make a noise as you enter . . .
THE PRINCE. I am afraid they may not recognise me . . .
THE KING. They are sure to . . . Eh! eh! be careful with the little
lamp! . . . There is a strong wind . . . the wind is trying to blow it
out . . .
THE PRINCE. I hope they will not all wake together.
THE KING. What does that matter? . . . Do not wake them abruptly
that is all . . .
THE PRINCE. I shall be alone among them . . . It will look as though
. . . They will be frightened . . .
THE KING. You must replace the stone before you wake them
They will not notice it . . . They do not know what is beneath the
room they sleep in . . .
THE PRINCE. They will take me for a stranger . .
THE KING. We shall be at the windows . . . Go, go!—Be careful with
the lamp; and above all, do not lose your way in the vaults; they
stretch very far . . . and take care to replace the stone . . . Come
up as quickly as you can . . . We shall be waiting at the windows.
. . . Go, go . . . and be careful! be careful ! . . .
[The PRINCE leaves the terrace.
The old King and Queen stand at the
windows, their faces pressed against the glass. A long pause.]
THE DISTANT VOICE. Atlantic! Atlantic!
THE KING [turning his head and looking towards the
canal]. Ah! ah!
They are going . . . They will have a good wind to-night.
THE DISTANT VOICES. We shall never come back!
We shall never come back!
THE KING [looking towards the canal]. They will be in
the open sea
before midnight . . .
THE VOICES [further and further away]. Atlantic! Atlantic!
THE KING [looking into the room]. If only he do not
lose his way in
the darkness . . .
THE VOICES [now scarcely audible]. We shall never come back!
We shall never come back!
[A silence. The ship disappears between the willows.]
THE KING [looking towards the canal]. She is out of
into the room]. Has he not come in yet?—[Turning towards the canal].
The ship has gone! . . . [To the QUEEN.] Don’t you hear me?—Why
don’t you answer?— Where are you? Look at the canal.—They are
gone; they will be in the open sea before midnight . . .
THE QUEEN [mechanically]. They will be in the open sea
night . . .
THE KING [looking into the room]. Can you see the
stone he has to
raise?—It is covered over with inscriptions; it must be hidden
beneath the laurels. How tall Marcellus has grown, has he not?
—We should have done better to awake them before he landed.—
I wanted you to wake them.—We should have avoided all these
scenes. I do not know why he looked so unhappy this evening. It
is wrong of them to draw the bolts; I will have them taken away.
If only his lamp do not go out!—Where are you?—Can you see
anything?— Why do you not answer?—If only he do not lose his way
in the darkness.—Can you hear me?
THE QUEEN. If only he do not lose his way in the darkness . .
THE KING. You are right.—Don’t you think it is growing cold?—
How cold they must be, on the marble!—He seems to be taking a
long time.—If only his little lamp do not go out.—Why do you
not answer? What are you thinking of?
THE QUEEN. If only his little lamp . . . The stone! the stone! the
stone! . . .
THE KING. Is he there?—Is he coming in?—I cannot see so far . . .
THE QUEEN. It is rising! . . . It is rising! . . . There is a light! . . .
look! . . . listen! listen! . . . How it creaks on its hinges! . . .
THE KING. I told him to go in very gently . .
THE QUEEN. Oh! He is going very gently . . . see, see, there is his
hand, with the lamp . . .
THE KING. Yes, yes, I see the little lamp . . . Why does he not go
in? . . .
THE QUEEN. He cannot . . . He is lifting the stone very slowly . . .
Yes, yes; very slowly . . . Oh! how it creaks! How it creaks! How
it creaks! . . . They will wake in a start! . . .
THE KING. I cannot see what is happening . . . I know the stone is
very heavy . . .
THE QUEEN. He is coming in . . . He is coming up . . . He is coming
up slower and slower . . . How the stone creaks now! . . . oh! oh!
how it creaks! how it creaks! It seems to cry like a child! . . .
He is half in the room . . . three steps more, three steps more!
[clapping her hands]. He is there now, he is there! . . . Look,
look! . . . They are waking up! . . . They are all waking up with a
start! . . .
THE KING. Has he replaced the stone?
[The PRINCE, leaving the grave-
stone that he has just raised, stops at the
foot of the marble staircase, his lamp still in his hand. At the last
creaking of the hinges, six PRINCESSES open their eyes, and hesitate
for an instant on the threshold of sleep; then, with one common move-
ment, they rise as he approaches them, their arms outstretched in
gestures of azvakening. One only, URSULE, still lies at full length
on the marble steps, motionless in the midst of her sisters, while these
exchange with the Prince a long look, full of amazement, be-
wilderment, and silence.]
THE QUEEN [at window]. Ursule! Ursule! Ursule! . . .
not awake! . . .
THE KING. Patience! patience!—She is sleeping a little heavily . . .
THE QUEEN [shouting, her face against the glass].
Wake her! [She knocks at the window.] Marcellus! Marcellus! Wake
her! Wake her too! Ursule! Ursule! . . . Marcellus! Marcellus! . . .
She has not heard! . . . Ursule! Ursule! rise! He is there! He is
there! . . . It is time! It is time!—[She knocks at another window.]
Marcellus! Marcellus! look in front of you! look! She is still
asleep! . . . [She knocks at another window.] Oh! oh!—Christabelle!
Christabelle! Claribelle! Claribelle! Clairs! Claire! You, Claire!
She has not heard! . . . [going from window to window, knocking
violently at them all]. Ursule! Ursule! He has come back! He is
there! He is there! . . . It is time! It is time! . . .
THE KING [knocking at the window]. Yes, yes, wake her!
. . . Why do
you not wake her! . . . We are waiting . . .
[The PRINCE, heedless of the
noises from without, silently approaches the one
PRINCESS who has not risen. He looks at her for a moment—hesitates
then kneels before her and touches one of her arms, bare and motion-
less, that lie on the silken cushions. At the touch of her flesh he starts
to his feet with a long look of horror in his eyes, and slowly turns his
gaze upon the six PRINCESSES, all silent and extremely pale. These
seem to be hesitating, and trembling with a desire to fly; but at length,
with one common movement, they bend over their prostrate sister, raise
her in their arms, and, amid the profoundest silence, bear her to the
topmost of the seven marble steps. Her body is already rigid, and
her face cold and stark. While this is taking place, the KING, the
QUEEN, and the people of the castle, who have hastened to the spot, are
shouting and knocking violently at all the windows of the room.
The two scenes take place simultaneously.]
THE QUEEN. She is not asleep! She is not asleep!—That is not
sleep! That is not sleep! That is no longer sleep! [She rushes
wildly from window to window, she knocks, she shakes the iron bars:
she trembles in every limb, and her straggling white hair beats against
the glass.] I tell you she is no longer asleep! [To the KING.] Oh!
oh! oh! You are a man of stone! . . . Shout! shout! shout! For
God’s sake, I tell you, shout! I am screaming my heart out and he
doesn’t understand!— Run! run! scream! scream! He has seen
nothing! nothing! nothing! nothing! never! never! never!
THE KING. What? what? What has happened? what has happened?
Where shall I shout?
THE QUEEN. There! There! Everywhere! everywhere! On the
terrace! on the water! in the meadows! Shout! shout! shout! . . .
THE KING [at the end of the terrace]. Oh! . . . oh! .
. Come here!
Come here! Ursule! Ursule!. . . Something has happened! . . .
The Queen [at the window]. Ursule! Ursule! . . . Sprinkle water
on her. Yes, yes, do that, my child! . . . Perhaps it is not
Oh! oh! oh! . . . her little head! . . .
[Servants, soldiers, peasants, women rush on to the terrace
Ursule! Ursule! . . . Perhaps it is not that . . . Perhaps it is
nothing at all! . . . Eh! eh! Claribelle, Claribelle! take care! . . .
She is falling! . . . Do not tread on her hair! . . . Open the door!
open the door!—She will wake! she will wake! . . . water! water!
water!—Open! open! the door! the door! the door! . . . We cannot
get in! All is closed! all is closed! . . . You areas deaf as the dead !
. . Help me! [To the people about her] You are horrible people!
My hands! . . . my hands! . . . Do not you see my hands? . . .
Help me! help me! Oh! oh! It is late! . . . It is too late! . . . It
is too late! . . . locked! locked! locked! . . .
All [shaking the door and knocking at the windows].
open! open! . . .
[A black curtain falls suddenly.]
As the young phoenix, duteous to his sire,
Lifts in his beak the creature he has been,
And, laying o’er the corse broad vans for screen,
Bears it to solitudes, erects a pyre,
And, soon as it is wasted by the fire,
Grides with disdainful claw the ashes clean,
Then spreading unencumbered wings serene,
Mounts to the æther with renewed desire:
So joyously I lift myself above
The life I buried in hot flames to-day;
The flames themselves are dead—and I can range
Alone through the untarnished sky I love,
And trust myself, as from the grave one may,
To the enchanting miracles of change
1895 MICHAEL FIELD
FOR several days the blur of streaming
waved across the prospect, and on the last
two wakeful nights she had lain tossing and
listening to the wet rustle outside, hearing it
whisper ominous tidings sometimes. But
before she could distinctly hear what the full
tidings might be, again the wind would
recover from its lull and suther wildly around
the tower and mouldering bastions. Mayhap
a fragment of the tiled roof would raise a flake in that searching blast
and then it would be caught, ripped off, and tinkle downwards like a
castanet,—or some loose beam would be creaking back with a reaction
from the strain it had borne. Once a stone on the parapet, undermined
and tilted by many former storms, and never attended to by the few
dwellers in this lonely place, lost the little balance remaining to it and
plunged into the court with a heavy bound, making her heart close
inward for an instant. She laughed next minute as she heard its roll
upon the rock, knowing what the unusual noise meant. So there was
always some interruption to the fancied meaning in the whisper out-
side, and at dawn she slept without a single dream of portent.
‘Why does he not come?’ she said, when the grey day had
her with a watery gleam of sunshine. She had not asked the question
before, because none of those few could know her lover as she herself
did, and she had been the last to bid him farewell, a farewell but for a
little while, he said. But she asked it now, although she knew that
they could give her no answer. And as they dared not invent such
answer, none came to her question; indeed, she did not expect one from
them, but gave it to herself.
‘He has met them, conquered them, and chased them far, until
a long journey back even to that distant place where we parted. To
travel up into this highland with heavy spoil is a different thing from
coming as I did. Still, the plains are not so wide as others I have known.’
The rain thinned as the hours passed, then ceased.
She had been weary of these dark chambers of hewn stone after
day of living in them, and had borne the succeeding days with a more
and more mighty impatience.
Now she went out into the courtyard with a quick breath, and
by the broken piece of parapet and gazed upwards as the clouds sailed
across, peeping through the rifts, which gave her small glimpses of the
❧ THE DEATH OF ABEL
George Frederick Watts, R.A.
blue infinite outside their mantle. And then in a lull of the gale she
heard a far stream, that came roaring down from the hills to swell its
It was a call not to be resisted by the amazon, now that her
had nearly healed. She still wore the mailed sark of that day of their
first victory, and the crooked blade hung at her girdle. At her command
the serving woman brought the light steel cap and woollen mantle; and
as they watched her, uncertain whether or not to anger her by obeying
their chief and restrain her, she stepped through the gateway and ran
gleefully along the mountain side, hoping at each turn of the washed
path to see his lances and plumes somewhere below.
Once she thought, after two or three disappointments, that
heard the sound of his voice amidst the murmur of his men. But no, it
was only the voice of the torrent tumbling down the rocks and booming
on the steps of the range.
After a while she came to this, her hair flying about in the
and watched it as she twined up her locks again under the casque.
This must be that river by whose bank she had once come from the red
field to the stronghold, by which he too would come before long. She
wandered downward through the thickets and through the trees, and at
last reached the level across which the stream was plunging. Here
she looked for his appearing, but no one was to be seen upon the
As these swathes of mist rose higher, the breeze caught them
twisted them into fantastic shapes ere they dispersed. She saw in them
whatever her fancy chose, and that was nothing else than a man on a
grey charger at the head of other riders; skirting the edges of the glades,
she saw again and again the vision of what she longed for in reality,
and at last she found a causeway and crossed to those forest openings
on the other side, hoping and expecting to see him at every turn, or to
hear the plash of a troop through the shallow pools. But the hope
which sprang up anew at every vista vanished continually.
At last she was on the point of returning, and breaking the
this desire for search, as the vanity of it became more plain to her, when
she spied a human being sitting wearily under a tree at one of the turns
in the woodland. Its head was bowed forward on its knees, and it had
clasped itself together as if to keep itself warm from the chill of the
She went up to it and laid a hand upon its shoulder, and when
was no upturn of head, shook it strongly. At this the man turned
aside and rolled into the lush grass as if he had been knotted together,
and she saw him to be dead. Accustomed herself to deal death to her
foes whenever possible, this did not chill her veins as it would those of
a slave woman. But the chill came on her when she saw the face of her
husband’s foster-brother, whose post was at the left hand of his chieftain
in all that might betide.
When she saw him there dead and alone, with the marks of
fighting and fasting upon him, she knew that her lord would not come
to her in the stronghold, however many days she waited. And at first
she cried out loudly, and waved her hands in the air. Then she turned
and hurried back to the slope of the high land, full of angry amazement
at this strange ill chance, which had overwhelmed the bravest man that
ever bore a woman on his saddlebow or clove a foe’s crown.
But the mist was thick and hid the way, and at last she came
the bank of the river, and stood, watching it foam and pour past, with a
mind as seething as that flood, wishing that she had never left him, but
let her wound take its chance of healing, as she had done in the fierce
days before she had met him and been conquered and loved him. At
any rate she now would have been with him instead of here, and would
not have had the wearisome and ignoble waiting of the last seven days.
Maybe at this very moment he had his back to a wall and a half-circle
of foes writhing on the ground in front of him, while the crowd of armed
curs huddled together for a moment before they could revive enough
courage to make another rush on the lion standing at bay. She saw it
and stamped her foot and clenched her hands with longing. . . .
Oh! to be there, just as she was, with her crooked heavy
asked no more of Fate. Only to be able to place her back against his
and then to swiftly wrap the wool round her left arm, scream his name
at the waverers, and complete the other half of that red circle. No need
then of any wall. They would whirl round like dragon-flies, now this
way, now that, with their steel edges whistling and sweeping; or like
reapers in corn-time, and always the circle wherever they went.
She had done it before with him, and the memory of that
hour tantalised her now, so that she would have wept bitterly, had such
a thing been possible to her nature. As it was, she could but trample
the sand with a furious foot, and eat her heart with vain longing.
Then came down the torrent a something vast and bristly,
across the wide stream, and at last clearly appearing to be a tree, hurled
prone by some furious gust of the gale, washed out of its root-hold, and
drifting down to the plains below this level country. Sometimes its
submerged branches caught upon the bottom and gripped the boulders
there. Then the whole mass paused and heaved ponderously, until the
water wrestled with it and pushed it off again. So it sailed past her
very swiftly, rocking like a war-galley under a press of sail, with some
small animal shrieking in its branches like a mariner watching for shoals.
Presently it caught again lower down from the spot where she stood,
and again the water boiled and hissed around the mass of its roots and
the dome of its branches, vainly pushing as it poured past. A mighty
tree was that, even in its fall. It must have been king of the crags and
mountain-side when it stood, sheltering beast and bird with royal
impartiality. But the outburst of waters had joined forces with the
furious press of the storm-wind, until the tree yielded to the many shocks
above and the continual sapping below, and fell, and rolled, and went
down where the stream might choose to drag it.
As she looked at it heaving there, perhaps to be free again
instant, a thought flashed through her, and she ran along the bank
until she came opposite to the swaying branches and the chattering
animal. Then she gave a great bound forward, and the current seized
her and carried her against the outermost fringe of twigs, which she
grasped instantly. By and by, as she made her way through the
tangle and came to the trunk, along which she walked as on a cause-
way, the tree ceased its heaving and began to glide, slowly, then faster,
faster, until the stream widened, and then the pace became less swift but
steadier, and she sat down among the roots and waited, while the animal
chattered and ran about in the branches at the other end.
She did not think now, for that was not her habit, and her
having been made, there was no need for any more brain-beating. She
would stay there until the tree had come down to where the towns
began, and then she would leap off and swim to the right bank and
make her way to her chieftain somehow, knowing that side of the
There were stones of various shapes among the roots, along
the torn-up mould and mosses, and choosing one of these, long and
thin, she passed the time in sharpening the edge of her crooked
blade and fingering its point, until this was like a razor and that was like
a needle. Then she carefully sheathed it again and gazed around.
The mist was white and thick on the water, and she was not
whether she had seen a watch-tower or a clump of trees before it passed
behind her and was lost entirely. The river was in full flood, and went
fast onward with much twisting and gurgle, so that the air all round
her was murmuring with the thousands of small current-voices, and no
human sounds came to her ear from the distant shores; so that she
could not tell where she might be, and the day was now nearing sunset-
time. She sat and waited the first opportunity to get away and begin
her quest of revenge. There were many other things in the water,
pieces of soil half submerged, trees of a lesser size than hers, and by
degrees had appeared a few bodies of cattle and some wild beasts, the
latter alive, some of them fighting feebly, and yielding their lives
reluctantly, though they had come from afar. Most had gripped a
tree, and cowered among the branches, taking no notice of each other,
whether they were friend or foe by race.
An hour passed, and more, and there came no chance of
ashore, nor was any shore sign visible as the mist thickened and the
dusk came. But now she saw that some human bodies had come
floating into the strange company of voyagers, and tried hard to see if
they wore the dress of her chieftain, any of them, not recognising it in
the coarse clothes of the men nor deceived by the gold embroidery on
one of them, for she saw that one to be a woman of some consequence,
and this looked as if a town had been passed.
After a while the stream was crowded with dead folk,
silently along, now turning up white faces, now showing only their
backs. And at last she saw a dress she knew, and on that she fixed
her eyes for a long while, until the face of the wearer slowly turned
upward, and she recognised another man of her chieftain’s troop.
It angered her greatly, yet gave her a sure tiding of the
which had overwhelmed the man she sought; for the hands and feet of
that corpse were bound, and the face was distorted with torture-marks,
and there was no sign lacking of the things she herself had delighted to
inflict on her lord’s captives in merry days now gone never to return.
She sat there in the dusk, hoping always for some opportunity, some
tongue of land, so that she might get away and give burial as well as
revenge. But no land showed, and at last came night, and she lay
down and slept, with red dreams flowing through her.
She awoke at dawn, and the yellow mist had become white
and the crowd around her was greater, but there was no sign of shore.
A glance showed her many of her chieftain’s men, who had joined the
silent procession during the night hours, so many that now they out-
numbered the others. Then she stood up on her tree and raised her
hands and sang a lamentation for them, wild and shrill, with a voice
tuned to the murmurous note of the river which bore them all along
unresting. The animal chattered and ran about the tangle of boughs
in front, but she paid no heed to it at all, only waved her hands and
sang verse upon verse for her lost chieftain, who, perchance, might be
there in the water with the rest.
At last came a sound which was not the river, and she ceased
song and listened to that mightier one. She knew it. The chant of
sea-waves breaking upon the coast, rising and falling regularly on either
side, as there came a sense of saltness in the air. They had come
a long way, she and her men together, but the storm had been long and
violent up there in the mountains, and had sent a vast tide down to
meet the tides of ocean.
Another sound came to her for a little while also. A bell
on the coast, far, far away, ringing the news of victory and peace. It
died presently as the current bore the silent company, and the voice
of the sea grew louder in her ears.
At last the tree tossed and heaved as it had done far up
the higher levels, but there was no catch below. All the bodies tossed
likewise, and surged around her upon the waves, and so they plunged
onward through the sea, and the gulls flew screaming across and settled,
and again arose and wheeled.
Then at last came a dragging of the under branches, and the
was pushed forward into the breakers and rolled over, and the wife of the
chieftain was in the water, fighting her way to the beach of the islet
where they had stranded. She rose and sank and rose again, and at
last came upon the sand and stones. There came also many bodies with
her, and she stood and watched them for a while.
Then she threw off her mail and her helmet and went inward to
sand-dunes and found a hollow place, fit for the grave of a strong
warrior, and prepared a deep furrow with stones and long grass,
after which she returned and waited on the shore, and as each of her
men arrived she drew him upon the shingle and laid him to wait his
turn. At last came the body she desired, slowly floating inward with
hands and feet unbound. She was glad then, and yet more glad to
find the hilt of a broken blade clenched in the stiff fingers. And him
she carried to the couch she had prepared, and poured sand over him
from her helmet, until he was covered cleanly; and all the remainder
of that day she spent in placing his men round him in order of their
following, and at evening, her task done, she herself lay down to rest by
the centre mound she had made.
W. DELAPLAINE SCULL.
Sleep, dearest One,
Oh! sleep awhile
Securely on Thy mother’s breast!
To-night no evil shall Thy peace molest:
Brave angels guard Thee, faithful shepherds run
To kneel in quiet watch. Ah! my own Son,
My helpless Babe, let slumbers deep beguile
Thy sense into forgetfulness! My Jesu, sleep!
How still the night!
The virgin snow
Hushes to silence every sound.
The awestruck cattle even, that surround
Thy cradle, scarcely stir. The soft moon’s light
Lies quiet o’er the world, enrobed in white
For its Redeemer’s birthday. Clear and low
Thy lullaby, my Jesu, all creation breathes!
Sleep, Dearest, sleep!
Thy mother’s arm
Is round Thee, and Thy mother’s eyes
Watch o’er Thy yielding to the new surprise
Of that strange spell Thy love itself doth keep
For Thy beloved. All Thy being steep
This Thy first mortal night in slumber’s calm!
Refuse not, O my Jesu, Thine own anodyne!
See, His eyes close,
He yields at length,
As any infant! Warm and flushed,
My Darling nestles closer! All is hushed:
With one faint sigh He sinks into repose
Complete! But, ah! no mortal prescience knows
What presences of beauty and of strength
Encompass Thy pure soul, my Jesu, in its home!
And must it be
Foretold upon the awful morn,
When Gabriel spake, and on my soul was borne
God’s grace unutterable, o’ershadowing me?
Oh! is there naught can save the agony,
The shame, that here my spotless Babe await?
Is there no price save this, my Jesu, may prevail?
Nay, but, O Lord,
I yield my being
Obedient to Thy purpose. Shake
My soul in very fragments, only take
My uttermost oblation! Be Thy word
Wholly accomplished, though the bitter sword
Drive through my quivering heart its anguish, seeing
My Child, my Love, my God, my Jesus, crucified!
Thus in her soul
Our Lady prayed
On that first Christmas night:
Whereon the Eternal sped from realms of light
To us, that sat beneath the dire control
Of hell and darkness. O great God, Thy whole
Creation cried to Thee, and Love delayed
No longer, nor withheld its priceless sacrifice!
OF PURPLE JARS
IT is against Infallible Parents, and
Perfect Mother, that I would fain take up
my parable, albeit their ways are too won-
derful for me, and past my finding out.
Wisdom is bound up in the heart of a child
together with foolishness. The free, fearless
mind of his fathers he inherits: their prejudices
he has to be taught. Few and weak are the links of his reasoning, scanty,
his facts, absurd his logic; yet when he takes his first mental flights,
he often swoops right down into the very heart of the truth, and that
chiefly because such truth as he has espied is one which lies quite bare
and on the surface, but which mature sapience has long ago decreed to
be invisible. For this he is invariably reproved. He has posed his
elders—children need not be argued with—they should be seen and not
heard. So, believing not one syllable of imperious denial or disclaimer,
he holds his peace, and forthwith looks out for such other secrets of
this queer world as he may pry into—a watchful critic, obstinately
storing up every new fact to confirm his tacit revolt, till the time comes,
sooner or later, when by force or fraud the young rebel is subdued, or
reconciled, to the wisdom of the majority. Then, learning with a new
arrogance more suited to his growing years that his eyes are at last
really opened to know good and evil, he embraces the consoling faith
that all is for the best in this worst possible of worlds. Not till long
afterwards, if ever at all, from such snug perch in the cage of life as he
has managed to secure, does he look back and try to understand those
childish beatings of the wings against the golden wires, then so
strangely invisible to the fledgling in his eager gaze across the far, free
world beyond—now, alas, so plain, so firm, so impassable. But all he
can do now is to peck at the bars, not indeed with much hope of
breaking them, but at least to spoil their gilding; nor in these days
can the most perverse Irreconcilable, who from first to last has always
been wholly on the children’s side, hope to do much more. Fellow-
prisoner! if you too have defied Conversion, and are in heart still
blessedly Unregenerate, read on—we are friends!
Of all the pitfalls in the way of youth fra le vane speranze e’l van
dolore, the Moral Tale would be the most dangerous, but that, except
by stupid children, it is always profoundly suspect. Excellent Parents,
Kind Aunts, Judicious Friends, commanded at least our guarded
acquiescence, but the Moral Fabulist we rejected as a bare-faced,
deliberate cheat. We knew—that is, we felt—it was all wrong and
unjust and silly; and what right-feeling child could feel it otherwise?
With superb disdain he ignores the maxims of grown-up morality as
clumsy plots to cajole him into a noiseless, manageable submission.
But, after all, the despised Moralist does not go quite unavenged; for
in the inmost soul of the young enthusiast there will linger a shadowy,
haunting suspicion of the great world as of a place all Aunts and
Uncles and Schoolmasters, wherein it were well for a wise child not to
be too candid, but rather to hold his peace. From that moment he
becomes a true-born Englishman, jealously concealing his feelings,
whether in self-respecting reserve or in hypocrisy, he least of all knows.
One of these well-meant Moralities has always strangely
me. On it I am going to dwell, and that, I fear, mostly in the first
person, because so much of it is only my own imagining. Who wrote
this dismal apologue of The Purple Jar I know not, nor care. Not, I
trust, Sancta Maria Edgeworth, than whom few hold higher place in
my last-revised Calendar. Nor need I go hunt in the Bodleian, for,
though I dare say I shall tell the story all wrong, the only version
which concerns me is that which has grown in my memory through
long years, from the days when we gathered it with much painful
poring and spelling from an obsolete sheepskin volume—the ‘Third
Class Reader,’ I think it was called, but to us irreverent urchins known
familiarly as the ‘Silly Book.’ There it was printed as a parable of
Youth s folly and Age’s wisdom: we, alas! read it as a true tale of
outraged innocence and cold-blooded treachery.
The first scene is a street. Rosamond and her admirable
are on their way to the shoemaker’s. Our little heroine is sadly down
at heel, and Mamma with her usual beneficence is going to buy her a
nice, strong pair of boots. But as Rosamond trips along, prattling
of boots and gratitude as inoffensively as any utilitarian parent could
wish, suddenly there flashes on her a strange, glorious, entrancing
radiance—the veritable purple light of youth itself. I suppose the
chemist had just lit his gas, or more likely his candles, and there it
stood proudly, the beautiful Purple Jar—its ample body one great disc
of imperial splendour, its shoulders curving so graciously up to the pale
lilac delicacy of its neck, and crowned with its tiara of pure, glittering
crystal. Among its fellows of azure, gules and vert it shone forth, the
queen of all—the fairest, because the rarest. For remember, in our
day there was no blazing, acrid aniline; our old indigo and madder
violets were dull and sombre, in fact what we called elderly colours.
Even among our sweatmeats the violet specimens were by far the
fewest, and therefore the most highly prized. So to poor Rosamond
this shapely pyramid of ruddy purple, its translucent gleam, its
plenteous mass, was something entirely novel. What can she do but
gaze, and gaze, and long with all a child’s yearning for instant posses-
sion ? A yearning of pure, admiring love; for already her very heart-
strings are twining about it, and if only it shall be hers, be sure that
when Mamma and Laura have gone up to dress, the little arms will
creep round it with a passionate hug, and the warm cheek be pressed
against its poor, cold, insensible sides, and breathless lips shower
kisses and murmured caresses as of a young mother, mingled with a
lover’s triumph—‘And now, Purple Jar, you are all my very own!’
What though Mr. Pestle is frowning through the tooth-brushes, and
Mamma warning her that she has dropped her muff, and commencing
that old, old lecture on the vulgarity of staring—Rosamond’s thoughts
are other where; she pants for the blissful days in store glorified by this
talisman of felicity she shudders to think what life must be without it.
Those who have forgotten the quick sensations of childhood may call
this exaggerated. I did not feel it so then; I cannot think it so now.
I know how heroic was the resolve with which in her imperious need
the child conquered the supreme delicacy which bars a foolish petition,
and boldly faced her Mamma with a request for the purchase of the
Now this Mamma was not only an admirable, but a good—a
good woman. She loved her child, but somewhat, I fear, as her child
loved the Jar, with an inward whisper now and then. ‘She is all my
own, my very own.’ In all her life Mrs. Barlow—for so I have always
somehow named her—had never wished for anything that was not
clearly and lawfully obtainable, or which was not also wished for by the
other Mrs. Bensons and Goodchilds of story; or if once she too had
longed for the improper, she had very properly forgotten all about it.
Really most untoward! to think that any child of hers! such pre-
posterous inclinations! this must be nipped in the bud. So turning
with her sweet, wise smile to the flushing suppliant, she speaks—
à propos des bottes. The Useful she will munificently bestow, but the
Beautiful ‘she cannot possibly afford.’ Not that I have ever doubted
that she had been very genteelly left by Mr. Barlow, or that she had
always felt it her duty to live well within her income, but of course,
if once the children suspect your means, they will hardly worship you
❧ THE GENIUS OF GREEK POETRY
George Frederick Watts, R.A.
for taking them to the Polytechnic, and you lose a precious opportunity
of inculcating gratitude. So Rosamond, with a vague sense of
Mamma’s financial embarrassments and of the vast, ungrudging sacri-
fice involved in those long-promised and much-talked-of boots, is
penetrated by a great shame. But, alas! is there no escape? can she
let it go? If Mamma can only afford one will she please buy the jar
—it is so big and all of such lovely purple glass. ‘Purple glass!’
repeats Mamma with a flash of inspiration. She sees her way now,
this Excellent Parent! Has not a beautiful Providence expressly
placed ignorance as a bit between the teeth of youth, whereby we may
drive them as we will? Does it not lay a thousand snares and pitfalls,
whereby their little hopes and joys may be turned back upon them as
suicidal weapons, and all things work mightily together for the incul-
cation of Moral Lessons? And shall she, wise in the example of poor
dear Mr. Barlow, and in the lore of Mme. de Genlis and the Parent’s
Instructor, be wanting to this Providential opportunity? Surely no!
she is an Admirable Mamma—she loves her child—she knows her duty
—she will lay a trap.
So they step into the shop, and by a transparent collusion
Mr. Pestle and Mamma it appears that the price of the Jar is just that
of the boots. And now Rosamond may choose the good and eschew
the evil as best seemeth her; but first, from a scrupulous respect for
fair dealing and possibly also to barb the stings of future remorse,
Mamma will place the issue clearly before her. Preluding briefly on
parental infallibility and passive obedience she points out how lasting
and substantial are the pleasures of boots as compared to those of the
Jar. Observe that she does not call it the Purple Jar; that would be a
story, for she knows that it is not purple at all, but of course she is not
bound to mention this. She merely advises; she wishes Rosamond to
choose freely; only, if she choose the Jar, she must make her old
boots last another month; for till then Mamma will not be able to
afford new ones. Rosamond is a little frightened by these solemn
judicial proceedings, but she is very brave. Seeing all the sacrifice,
she accepts it gladly. In vain does Mamma goad her with the
thought of walks to Rose Hill and Primrose Wood, for mark her
answer—‘I shall not mind that at all; for when you are gone, I can set
my Jar on the table, and put flowers in it, and look at it, and then I
shall never be lonely; besides a month will soon be over, but I shall
have my beautiful Jar always.’ O most unaccountable and discon-
certing of children! O poor, poor Mrs. Barlow of the soft, flaxen
braids and sweet wise smile, well may you wonder, you dear, dull,
English matron! and would wonder more if you knew all! For what
your child sees is no mere paltry chemist’s bottle but the divine illusions
of Art and Beauty; that eager, quivering voice is more than childish
petulance,—it is the faint birth-cry of the very spirit of the archangels,
of Michael and of Raphael. Well, well! smile on sweetly and wisely
—thou hast thy trap.
So the die is cast, the Jar is to be sent home, and as
pure gratitude nestles for a moment in the big sable boa, whose
mingled odour of preservative camphor and natural vermin she will
associate to her dying day with maternal goodness, be sure that no
qualm flutters the well-regulated heart beneath it. I am not so sure
that Mr. Pestle, sneering sarcastic therapeutist as he was, did not feel a
little uneasy, for perhaps he had a little Frederick of his own, who came
in sometimes to help Papa roll the pills, and who, though he scorned
the secret of the Purple Jar, held other pretty delusions which Pestle
would not for all the world destroy.
I cannot paint the walk home, its terrible slowness, the
sickening longing when Mamma would stop to look into those tiresome
toy and picture shops—O cunning, didactic Mamma!—and all the
time the prolonged savour of the coming certainty. Good Heavens!
how the child ran on, and what nonsense! how she clung to Mamma’s
hand, and how hard it was for her not to jump up and kiss her again
and again before the whole street in a perfect riot of love and trust-
And, lo! the Jar already arrived and on the table, and in
front of it
Laura, impassive as ever—is she of flesh and blood? calmly drawing.
Of course she was drawing—they were always drawing, these terrible
Lauras. Why, I can see the very picture, the tottering column and
broken arch on the left crowned with vague twiggery, the glossy black-
ness in the mouldings and capital—with what furtive and ladylike
discretion used Laura to moisten the pencil tip—the deformed traveller
and two trees on the right—they are beeches, so the pencil goes, jog,
jog—had they been chestnuts it would have gone jag, jag, scrape,
according to the rules of that black art called ‘tree-touches.’ And when
Laura has shaded and stippled and finicked, and smudged it all over
except the salivated shadows with the leather stump, she will have
done her worst, and then it will be for Mr. Touchup to spend a inauvais
quart d’heure over it, and lay on those bold masses of Chinese white
and bathe the thing in isinglass. And at last, tastily framed in seaweed
Laura will preserve it with just pride, and I dare say if you ask her
next time you are at Clapham, the old lady will show it you in the
spare bedroom, and tell you how she had been considered to have a
very remarkable talent for drawing, ‘but that of course, my dear, was
before my marriage.’
Need I say that Rosamond was never suspected of such talent,
so was not allowed to learn, though she pleaded hard enough, and was
always scrawling in her rough, ridiculous way. For, you see, she had
no patience, and as Touchup said, ‘Patience is so ab-so-lute-ly essential.’
So she can only loyally admire Laura’s masterpieces, and plan what
pretty things she would draw if only she knew how. As for working
out her own way, please, remember that in those far-off days it was
læsa majestas to attempt anything without ‘proper instruction,’ and that
our infallible guardians settled among themselves what we were, and
what we could, or could not do. John chopped the frog’s leg off and
so must make a good surgeon, and Joseph a parson, because he was
shocked and told Papa. Jane was destined for literature, because in her
dull apathy she liked the playground no better than the schoolroom,
and Clara doomed to the harp, because her taste was really so beautiful,
and her arm—this in a whisper—as elegant as Mamma firmly believed
her own to have once been. Had Rosamond cultivated a talent which
she had been ‘distinctly told’ she did not possess, Mrs. Barlow would
have been all aghast at her presumption, and Laura’s laughing, ‘O you
dear, ridiculous, clumsy, little thing!’ would have smothered the
kindling spark of genius. For a genius I am afraid she was in her
childish way, this little sister, as even Laura may have been too before
she left off frilled trousers. But now, since among the objects which
young ladies may and should admire, druggists’ bottles were certainly
never even so much as mentioned at Acacia Lodge, she draws on
I wish my story were done, for the little tragedy which that
horse-hair couch, and the false, blear-eyed mirror, and the gaunt piano,
with its flaring red silk stomacher gathered up by the big brass brooch,
must so keenly have relished that day, I like not to tell. Just a few
whose real, grown-up sorrows have not quite effaced the scars of their
first disillusions, may sigh to read, but the many will only laugh, and
well perhaps for them that they can. They have no patience with
children’s fancies—if the girl begins to cry, let her be sent to bed at
once. Even Mrs. Barlow herself could say no more. As she watched
Rosamond’s delight, I think she was exquisitely happy. Her trap is
about to spring, and the joyous chirping of the little bird to be turned
into piteous cries of despair. O! that demure cruelty of the Woman
and the Ecclesiastic! where in ah this wicked world is there anything
And whereunto shall I liken it? If you are a Barlow, you
wonder how I can have forgotten what all the best Barlows have settled
long ago, that the proper illustration of cruelty is a cat playing with a
mouse, and not an Admirable Mamma tormenting her child. But I
fancy that when Mrs. Barlow watched—as I dare say she often did with
a certain scandalised fascination—poor Tabby’s barbarous antics the
caressing pats, the guileless complacency, the fatal springs—she entered
unconsciously into the sport, and constructed out of her own instincts a
pretty intelligible set of feelings, which having transferred to the
account of Puss, she could safely call cruelty. My own notion—per-
haps it is wrong—is that Puss is debarred by Providence, not only from
the luxury of cruelty, but even from the high human zest of sport, and
that she is merely practising those exercises of vigilance and dexterity
on which her livelihood depends, profoundly unconscious that mice can
feel. It is we alone, to whom it is given to probe and realise the feel-
ings of our fellows, who can really enjoy their sufferings—who can per-
versely delight to trouble the repose, to lacerate the heart, to reopen the
old wounds, and all in pure, selfish love. I hold very cheap my first
forefather, the old, arboreal, anthropoid Nondescript, and would shoot
and stuff him without remorse if I found him surviving in some desert
island, but all the same I see that his children have not escaped the
curses of over-domestication—perversion of instinct and morbidity of
But Mrs. Barlow’s mind at that moment offers a problem so
plicated, that I dare only glance at its most obvious feature—that
quintessential savour, that unalloyed delight—the triumph of the
inferior over the superior mind. Mediocrity is intensely jealous. As
my dear old Voltairean friend used to say of our Cur£ in her grand First-
Empire tones, ‘C’est un homme tres borne. Il hait partout la supériorité.
Voilà pourquoi il me déteste!’ Not indeed that poor Rosamond boasted
a superior mind, nor, I fear, as yet much mind at all, but only some
vague, instinctive yearnings for higher things, which Mrs. Barlow either
did not feel or did not cultivate, and which therefore she pronounced
to be wholly improper. Among all the strange dealings of old and
young which I see going on around me, this crass, maternal jealousy
puzzles me most. I often hear the man in his big, self-depreciatory
tone, as of one whose sins after all sit not so badly upon him, hope that
Jack will make a better man than his father, but I never heard Mamma
breathe a similar prayer over dear Louisa. The better a woman is, the
more gigantic and more sincere is her self-admiration and self-belief ;
and the more subtly does she veil in devotion to her husband, her
children, this supreme devotion to self. The Excellent Mamma—and
truly excellent she is—has but one type of excellence—herself. Her
child must parody her virtues, think her thoughts, wear her chains, live
her life, and, losing all individuality, be gradually absorbed into the
Nirvana of Mamma. Alas! that we cannot all be excellent in the same
way! Every aspiration to perfections which are not hers is a tacit
insult to the mother’s infallibility. Nay, I sometimes fancy that in the
obedient, responsive machinery of Mrs. Barlow’s conscience there
must have lurked a distressing suspicion that all this high-flown Jar
nonsense somehow took the bloom off her prosaic Boot-theory, and
thrust the moralist down to lower ground. Heroism—the very shadow
of heroism—is an exasperation to the unheroic.
So there was probably just a touch of benevolent spite to
the zest of her Spartan morality. Rosamond shall see what comes of
knowing better than Mamma, when she discovers how finely she has
been deceived. Deceived? but by whom? Hem! well, we need not
go into that, but smoothe our lappets, and fumble in the reticule, and
practise our best smile, for already the child is calling out, ‘Oh, it is
full of nasty, black stuff! May I not pour this away?’ Jane shall
fetch a bucket. In grave silence (Jane has her cue) she tilts the Jar—
Laura kisses her pencil in knowing amusement—Mamma fixes the
chosen vessel with a mysterious stare—what can they all mean?—and
with gurgling sobs the doctor’s stuff is pouring, pouring forth, and with
it all the child’s delight. Amazement—dismay—the numbness of first
grief—desolation complete—then the fiery pang of outraged justice and
the shrill, resentful cry—‘But, Mamma, you never told me of this!’
What kind, improving things Mrs. Barlow said I cannot repeat,
this was just the part of the story I never remembered. Nor do I think
that Rosamond was as submissively attentive as she seemed, so absorbed
was she in weeping and self-pity. Dear, amiable Laura of course cried
too, susceptible to the infection of tears, but Mamma, gravely jubilant,
did not cry, nor did Jane, for in her eyes her kind, just mistress could
do no wrong; but when she was safe back in her kitchen, I dare say
she sighed hugely over her kneading trough, and owned that perhaps
Madam was just a bit hard sometimes, though to be sure Miss Rosy
was fearful aggravating and not a bit like the other young ladies, but
always such a one for anything pretty. So Jane—God speed her loving,
clumsy hands! falls to work to fashion a dough pig with currant eyes
and caraway bristles, and when she goes to tuck up her darling, she
will carry it up hot in her apron, and Rosamond shall munch the tooth-
some statuary, and be comforted.
The rest of the tale has faded quite away, except how the
gloated like a ghoul over the tribulations of that weary month; how
during the next morning walk Rosamond was always lagging behind to’
pull up her slipshod shoes, and was forthwith interned in the house as
altogether too disreputable for public view; sentenced for one calendar
month—no Primrose Wood, no going to tea at Mrs. Goodchild’s, or to
hear Harriet Benson’s new bird organ, but to sit always, always at home
O impatient little feet and fingers that drum the window pane!
alone, with no company but the poor, pale, colourless Jar. Let us
fervently hope that the dancing bears always came round just at those
very times, and the fantoccini, and the courtly old signor with his
poodles, and Punch’s show, and the little Auvergnat with a waxen
Solomon’s Judgment in his box and the white mice peeping out of his
sleeve his flashing smile and kind eyes such a vision of ragged felicity
that even Jane relents, and against all rules permits bread, nay even
cake, to be carried out to him, and Rosamond, flighty little puss! feels
that if he really were the Marquis of Carabas in disguise, she would
gladly trudge with him, slipshod or barefoot, and carry Solomon through
the wide world till they reached his father’s kingdom. All these brave
shows, I trust, passed before the prison window, and that Laura missed
them every one.
Whether Mrs. Barlow relented I know not, nor how the tale
nor even how long it was. If, when you have searched the archives of
the nursery, it should turn out to be after all no more than three or four
pages of big print, believe that I have but told a part of the full
version as I held it, and hold it still. Its whole import has grown
upon me gradually, but from the very first there was never a doubt that
Rosamond was entirely right, and her Mother entirely wrong, or that a
black deed of stupidity and injustice had been done. Dear lady, best
of Moral Fabulists, your tale has in spite of you told some truths to
which you yourself were stone-blind—the child’s barbaric, untrained, yet
holy admiration of beauty such as he sees it; his vast yearning for
possession—no mere sordid acquisitiveness, but the thirst for realising,
for identifying his soul with the thing admired by the nearness of secure
ownership; his faith in the universal Utopia; his choice—sadly wrong
no doubt, but for all that truly heroic—of the Beautiful before the
Useful; all those childish things which seem ever pleading to us, ‘Ne
brutalisez pas la machine!’—which we parents and pedagogues, calling
them delusions, trample in our dust.
Can all this, it will be said, refer to the sordid,
animals one meets in the holidays? No indeed! nor yet to those
effeminate manikins in slashed velvet and Florentine barrets who early
learn to lisp the Correggiosity of Correggio. I am only speaking of the
average English child of gentle birth, pure blood and healthy instinct,
before we have made him ashamed of his better feelings, and equipped
him for the coarse, great world by the far coarser world of school. Such
children do of their own free will betray a genuine love of beautiful
things and an honest readiness to sacrifice to them their grosser desires.
The elements of this childish sense of beauty need not here be analysed;
enough that it rests mainly on three grounds. First, smallness; partly
connected with delicacy and fineness, but much more with the patron-
ising, piotecting love of pets. That the child has any true sense of the
grandiose is a common error—bigness he admires partly as a sign of
force in sympathy with his own ebullient energies, partly from mere
greedy preference of what is largest and most for the money. The
other elements are bright colour, and, most important of all, rarity.
Given these most inadequate grounds, the child does undoubtedly
discriminate, appreciate and admire; and these active feelings do, or
rather might, form a large and wholesome element in his early life.
But our good parents, and we too I fear in our own day, must have
it otherwise. The children admire the wrong things—their taste is
really deplorable—what on earth can they know about it? Hush, dear !
Papa does not like to be teased about such rubbish! He has risen
above Purple Jars.
Well, I am no Parent’s Instructor to give advice, but only
and wonder and scolding. Por of all the moon-rakers and sand-rope-
weavers on this foolish planet the most pitiful and the most hopeless to
my thinking are the Judicious Parents. How they love their little
dolls! how they tyrannise over them! how careful they are not
to spoil them! how entirely they do spoil and mar them for
any aim in life higher than their own! How patiently do they
mould and smoothe and pat and thump the rebellious little clay
models, investing them with some strange merit of incongruous age
and sobriety! what rejoicing over the neat, easily managed automata
when quite finished! what woe unspeakable when at times the young
Adam breaks out! Strangest of all, that blind confidence in the child’s
credulity, a confidence undisturbed by the faintest recollection of the
parents’ own infant scepticism. Beautiful it is, this parental affection,
because it rests on instinct; grotesque, because that instinct is per-
verted—a veritable chinoiserie of love. Such, too, are its masterpieces—
nature so overlaid with minutest art that the nature is well nigh lost;
all beauty of material jealously effaced by cunning handicraft. And
then all is well; the artificer happily unconscious that under his strenu-
ous hand are being crushed the purest charms and the sweetest graces—
that the child’s sensuous instinct buds forth in exuberant welcome to
the wealth of Nature, as a young fig-tree which, pruned unkindly, bleeds
to death. But why not indeed? Let it die, this rank, useless growth,
and plant we our leeks and onions in its place, dear to mature palates !
And so it comes about that only the poor réfractaire, who in his intense
Conservatism is always finding himself on the Extreme Left with
impracticables and irreconcilables, remains to cherish in silence the
supreme reproof of all pedagogy, the watchword of all goodly nurture,
‘Suffer little children to come, and forbid them not.’
As children they come, with a child’s sweet, foolish wisdom,
dreams, supremely foolish longings—come to us standing outside the
doors of a poor pantomime Paradise, where we too once were happy,
which never more shall we re-enter; into our woeful world we drag
them to make them even as ourselves. I know well that in this hard,
ugly world are weaving epics and tragedies and idylls of love and
sacrifice, beside which all fairyland and the grand transformation scene
itself are as shabby tinsel; but these, alas, the child cannot see. For
him the lust of the eye and the pride of life are no Satanic snares, but
the unspeakable gift of God. We may blindfold the eager gaze, if we
like, but it will never brighten again at our bidding; cramp and fetter
the wayward life, and yet it shall never be as ours. Why then forbid
young eyes to see their full in all beauty—even beauty to us poor and
false? lest peradventure the very desire of seeing should fade out ere the
sight wax dim. Mr. Ruskin indeed has said that Art is not for children,
but rather fresh air and food and nature. But then by Art, we usually
mean so much that is really Nature, so much that can best rouse
and warm a child’s soul, which is capable of no higher passion
than loving admiration. The whole domain of child-land is swayed
by this beneficent lust of the eye, this exquisite delight of the young
stranger in a world so full of beautiful surprises. Yet which of us has
the loving courage to take him by the hand, and lead him all through
the raree show, and stop to stare at all the pitiful, make-believe marvels,
and not by one sneer or yawn poison his delight, or turn his joy to shame?
But unless we can stoop to this, we shall hardly train his eye to any
power of eager sight with all our Art Schools and Museums and
Academies, but rather, I fear, dim and extinguish it. What such
wholesome training should be, what are the sweet uses of Purple Jars,
so far as I know them, must here be left unsaid, but, believe me, they
are many and potent.
More and worse remains. For the story tells not only of a
darkening of the seeing eye, but of deliberate and treacherous mis-
leading of the blindfolded. Of such sort is much of our home discipline.
It seems so much easier to the Excellent Parent to convince by
deception than by argument or persuasion or authority. The end is
no doubt gained—the tiresome child silenced, the tired parent at ease.
But meanwhile a wrong, a calamity, a crime has been perpetrated, so
irreparable that the Infallible herself would stand aghast thereat, were
she not infallible. For, little as she knows it, the smooth, pure ice of
moral rectitude and maternal perfection on which hitherto she has
glided so superbly before the eyes of her young admirers, has broken
under her, and, alas! by her own fault. No longer will she steer her
calm, majestic course, but rather flounder dismally and shamefully—
strange object of wonderment and misgiving and heart searching to
the disillusioned worshipper. Once for all she has been found out. The
child no longer believes her mother—whom then will she believe? For
the scepticism of children is a disbelief, not in God, but in the Parent;
the religion of love once discarded, the young infidel loves henceforth,
if at all, with mere brute instinct. Is this a light harm? With the
loftiest professions the superior, in pretending to raise the inferior mind,
has stooped to fraud, treachery and cruelty. From that instant the
whole conspiracy of education is seen through as a bungling plot to
inveigle children into paths which are not those of peace and pleasant-
ness for themselves, but of ease and self-seeking for their instructors.
To us the end may justify the means; in their eyes the means damns
the end. The bubble has burst; the Purple Jar is drained of its fairy
splendour. Virtue becomes the monster which, to be hated, needs but
to be seen through the pedagogic camera—hated because it is uncon-
sciously felt to war against the soul, and rob life of its just delights—
hated as only hypocrisy, cant, and pretence can be hated by the pure-
hearted and hot-headed. Mournful as it seems, this, more or less, is
the burden of the cry from many a model English nursery. To such
a pass have all our long-suffering, deeply planned strivings brought us—
the parents utilitarian morality inculcated by trickery, enforced by
oppression, and therefore never cordially adopted—the child’s uncon-
scious love of right and hate of wrong, his simple enthusiasm, his
sensitive honour, his shrinking delicacy, all crushed and wounded
O kind Papas and Mammas of story! I fear me that after all
little kindness in you. If yours be love, I know not what is this I feel for
your victims. Crabbed Age and Youth cannot dwell together—their joys
and griefs are too far apart, nay often clean opposed—yet from time to
time a sweet and wholesome converse may hold them a while together
on the same path. There is in all of us a retour de jeunesse, or rather a
survival of childhood, a relighting of smouldering fires, which accords not
ill with simple, youthful gladness; the sweet, momentary seriousness of
the child is strangely attuned to our habitual gravity. It is when at
their best, most simple, most earnest, most sequestered from the shame-
ful world, that the child and the man are really at one, that they can
interchange their gifts, that mirth may be given for wisdom, gladness
for guidance, peace for strength. In this hopeless impasse, this uni-
versal loss of human contentment to which we have brought the world,
this strange medley of luxury and woe, it seems almost as if the children
alone have kept the power of pure enjoyment. For us it remains mostly
to share their pleasure as best we may, or at least not to spoil it.
Ah, Rosamunda! little wild rose, opening so pure and fresh to
thee in the boon air and merry sun, let other hands than mine, more stern,
more self-certain, dash the dew from thy bright cheek and mangle thy
pretty vesture, and train thee to the prim perfection of my lady’s garden.
For I too have been young—have laughed and played and sighed, and
have not forgotten. As my comrades, trooping to death along the
high road of success and fame, leave me behind, fain would I linger
yet awhile among the young and brave, mingling with the merry crew
to cheer on their games and faintly echo their glee, consoling little
griefs and laughing away transient pains, nor seek, as fond fools may,
some measured return of gratitude. But thou, little dream-child, I
know, art not ungrateful, nor ungracious. What though they are all
against us? we are brave; we are strong; we are two against the
world! Has Mamma taken Laura to Primrose Wood and left thee to
disenchantment and the Purple Jar? Then together we will revive the
broken spell. Let us away from the town beyond the last ugly villa,
❧ PORTRAIT OF J. K. HUYSMANS
and roam the fair river-meads, where you shall ask a thousand eager
questions, and I, a very Solomon in your eyes, will tell of all trees and
flowers and glad living things we see, till the gleam of the waters and
the rush of the breeze and the green glorious growth beneath us shall
call laughing music to your lips, and to mine some echo of long silent
harmonies. Then back we will trudge, spoil-laden; for the poor, forlorn
old Jar shall have his share in our festivity. And when we have crowned
him with reeds and poppies and meadow-sweet and tall golden flags,
and girdled his gleaming bosom with ivy and bindweed, he shall stand
transfigured—no longer a poor Purple Jar, foolishly worshipped for an
hour, then wantonly despised, but the selfsame Crystal Vase that
eternally droops its sprays over the couch of the Sleeping Beauty.
And thou, dear child, to whom all fairyland and its wonders are
familiar, wilt know it again at once, and clap thy hands in returning
pride and admiration, and, half-believing, thank the old magician for
But already Mamma has returned, not at all put out by our
indeed vastly complaisant, and as usual quite delighted—guileless
Rosy can never make out why—that Uncle John should take so much
notice of her little girl, and invite her to tea, and—of course she may go
if he is quite sure she will not be too troublesome. So off we march to
hold high banquet on sweet forbidden dainties from dishes which have
each a history, and Rosamond shall marvel for the hundredth time at
my pots and pans and graven images many and outlandish, and shall
even handle my chiefest treasure, which no mortal housemaid may
touch and live, the vase of old emerald crackle smothered with gouts
and tears of foaming enamel. And then, after due pressing, I consent
to unlock the old corner cupboard where sleep Aunt Cynthia’s dolls—so
tenderly used, so carefully laid by, poor soul! for the children she never
lived to bear; and beside them the tiny pink jockey cap and miniature
spurs in which the Archdeacon won on Beelzebub; and on the top shelf
all that survive of the Chinese toys, Indian gods, and other dear-bought
rubbish which the poor Admiral used to bring home for Susan’s brats.
Perhaps we shall play a little at one of the stupid, obsolete games we find
in the drawer, which are not such bad fun after all, at least for Rosamond
who always wins, or reconstruct one or two old picture-puzzles, or read
some more about the robins in Dame Trimmer’s incomparable story.
And when we have put everything away neatly in its proper place
for Mamma’s golden maxims must not be openly discredited—we fall
to talk, and that neither patronising monologue nor vacant chatter, for
the subject changes so suddenly, arguments so illogical and novel,
questions so startling and insoluble are sprung upon the Oracle, that
he feels he is on his mettle and his reputation at stake. Our discourse
is no doubt absurdly serious, for small skill have I and still less heart to
parry or wound young questioners by banter and mockery; likely
enough we shall get all wrong and talk sad nonsense. But old Fatima
will not mind that, as she poses on her tiger-rug—a motionless, vaguely
outlined form blurred in a nimbus of fluffy whiteness, with tasselled
ears and eyes unfathomable, the embodied Spirit of Discretion—for
she was brought up on the knees of an Ambassador, has sat in Con-
gresses, and smeared with indolent tail the signatures of a Great Treaty;
to her after a youth of protocols and pourparlers all speech is but a
human purr. And after all what care we if cat or king be listening ?
For in perfect simplicity we will talk only of beautiful and joyous
things, the child weaving her wildest, silliest fancies, and because we
both believe in all goodness and fairyland, I would not for the world
check her, but, so far as I may, gently lead her bright enthusiasm to
dwell on such sweet verities of life and nature as she can best under-
stand, and I most revere.
Ah me! how fast the time has flown! Hark! it is Jane, with
and lantern, come to fetch home her charge. Good-night, Rosamond!
little dream-guest of my failing hearth! good-night! brave, trustful
English children, all of you! To your dreams! to your dreams! and
may they every one come true!
THE LAGGARD KNIGHT
TOO late! The mighty dragon’s crest of gold
Lies cloven on the cavern’s sparry floor;
And flameless now the throat whence never more
Shall blighting fume on blast of fire be rolled.
But he, my Friend, lies lifeless—in his hold
The venomed tongue his dying valour tore
For triumph’s token—with the monster’s gore
Sanguine, and stifled in its scaly fold.
And diamond and emerald lie blent
The ruby and the amethyst amid;
And treasury is mine more opulent
Than catacomb e’er stored, or pyramid;
But, ah! the deed illustrious I meant
Rebukes the deed inglorious I did.
BY COUNT VILLIERS DE L’ISLE-ADAM (Translated by A. Teixeira
The Keeper of the Palace of Books said: ‘Queen Nitocris, the Fair One with the
Rosy Cheeks, widow of Papi I. of the Tenth Dynasty, to avenge the murder of
her brother, invited the conspirators to sup with her in an underground hall of her
Palace of Aznac. Then, leaving the hall, she suddenly caused it to be flooded with
the waters of the Nile.’—MANTHON.
IN or about the year 1404—I go back so
lest I should distress my contemporaries—
Ysabeau, wife to King Charles VI. and Regent
of France, abode in Paris at the old Hôtel
Montagu, a royal residence better known as
the Hotel Barbette.
There they planned the famous torchlight jousting-parties on the
Seine—gala nights, concerts, banquets, made marvellous by the beauty of
the women and the young nobles, and by the unequalled luxury displayed
by the Court.
The Queen had introduced those gowns à la
gore in which the
bosom glanced through a network of ribands enriched with precious
stones, and those tall head-dresses which required that the centre-pieces
of the feudal gates should be raised by several cubits. In the daytime
the meeting-place of the courtiers was near the Louvre, in the great
hall and upon the terrace of orange-trees of Messire Escabala, the
King’s steward. Play ran high there, and at times the dice were cast
for stakes large enough to starve a province. They dissipated the
wealth of treasure which the thrifty Charles v. had been at such pains
to amass. As the coffers diminished, the tithes, tolls, statute-tasks, aids,
subsidies, seizures, exactions, and gabels were increased at will. Joy
reigned in every heart.
It was in those days, also, that John of Nevers, sullen,
making ready to abolish all those hateful taxes in his own States—John
of Nevers, Knight, Lord of Salines, Count of Flanders and Artois,
Count of Nevers, Baron of Réthel, Palatine of Mechlin, twice Peer of
France and Premier Peer, cousin to the King, a soldier destined to be
named by the Council of Constance the sole leader of armies who might
be obeyed blindly without fear of excommunication, Premier Grand
Feudatory of the Realm, first subject of the King (who himself is but
the first subject of the nation), Hereditary Duke of Burgundy, the
future hero of Nicopolis and of the victory of Hesbaie, in which,
deserted by the Flemings, he gained the heroic title of The Fearless in
presence of the whole army by delivering France from her principal
enemy—it was in those days, I was saying, that the son of Philip the
Bold and Margaret II., that John the Fearless, in a word, first began to
think of saving the country and of defying with fire and sword Henry
of Derby, Earl of Hereford and Lancaster, fifth of the name, King of
England—he who, when a price was put upon his head by that King,
was declared a traitor by France, by way of all thanks.
Awkward attempts were for the first time made to play at
which had since a few days been imported by Odette de Champ-
d’Hiver. Wagers of all kinds were made. They drank wines that
came from the finest slopes of the Duchy of Burgundy. The ring was
heard of the Tenzons, the Virelays of the Duke of Orleans, one of the
Knights of the Fleurs-de-Lys who doted most upon beautiful rhymes.
They discussed fashions and armour; often sang dissolute couplets.
Bérénice Escabala, the daughter of that man of wealth, was
charming child, and exceeding fair to look upon. Her virgin smile
attracted the most brilliant of the swarm of noblemen. It was notori-
ous that she extended to all indifferently the same gracious reception.
One day it happened that a young lord, the Vidame of Maulle,
was then Queen Ysabeau’s favourite, rashly pledged his word (after
drinking, assuredly!) that he would triumph over the inflexible inno-
cence of this daughter of Master Escabala; in short, that she should be
his within an approximate time.
This boast was hazarded in the midst of a group of
Around them stirred the laughter and the refrains of the time; but the
hubbub did not drown the young man’s reckless phrase. The wager
was accepted to the clinking of wine-cups, and came to the ears of
Louis of Orleans.
Louis of Orleans, brother-in-law to the Queen, had been
guished by her, in the early days of the Regency, with a passionate
affection. He was a brilliant and frivolous prince, but of most evil
omen. Between him and Ysabeau of Bavaria were certain parities of
nature which likened their adultery to incest. Beside the capricious
aftermath of a withered love, he was still able to command in the
Queen’s heart a sort of bastard attachment more of the nature of a
compact than of sympathy.
The Duke kept a watch upon the favourites of his
When the lovers’ intimacy seemed to threaten the influence which
he was determined to retain over the Queen, he showed little scruple in
the means he employed to produce between them a rupture which
was nearly always tragic. He would even stoop to play the informer.
And thus he took care that the observation aforesaid was
the Vidame of Maulle’s royal paramour.
Ysabeau smiled, jested at the remark, and seemed to give it
The Queen had her seers, who sold her the secrets of the
potent to feed the flame of the desires she inspired. A new Cleopatra,
she was a tall, listless woman, fashioned to preside over courts of love
in some remote manor, or to set the mode to a province, rather than to
plan how to free the soil of the country from the English. On this
occasion, however, she consulted none of her seers—not even Arnaut
Guilhem, her alchemist.
One night, not long after, the Lord of Maulle was with the
at the Hôtel Barbette. The hour was late; the fatigue of their pleasure
was lulling the two lovers to sleep.
Suddenly Monsieur de Maulle seemed to hear, within Paris,
sound of bells tolled with infrequent and solemn strokes.
‘What is that?’ he asked.
‘Nothing. . . . Let it be! . . .’ replied Ysabeau playfully,
out opening her eyes.
‘Nothing, my fair Queen? . . . Is it not the tocsin?’
‘Yes . . . perhaps. . . . Well, my love, and then?’
‘There must be a house on fire.’
‘I was just dreaming of it,’ said Ysabeau.
The fair sleeper’s lips parted in a smile of pearls.
‘And more,’ she continued; ‘in my dream, it was you who had
it. I saw you fling a torch into the oil and fodder cellars, sweet heart.’
‘Yes! . . .’ (She drawled the syllables languidly.) ‘You
burning the house of Messire Escabala, my steward, you know, to win
your wager of the other day.’
The Lord of Maulle half opened his eyes, seized with vague distrust.
‘What wager? Are you not asleep yet, beautiful angel mine?’
‘Why, your wager that you would be the lover of his
little Berenice, who has such beautiful eyes! . . . Oh! what a sweet
and pretty child, is she not?’
‘What are you saying, dear Ysabeau?’
‘Do you not understand me, my lord? I was dreaming, I said,
you had set fire to my steward’s house to carry off his daughter during
the conflagration, and make her your mistress, and win your wager.’
The Vidame looked about him in silence.
The glare from a lowering distance lighted up the
the chamber; purple reflections tinged with blood the ermine of the
royal bed; the lilies on the escutcheons and those breathing their
last in vases of enamel blushed red! And red, also, were the two
goblets, upon a credence-table laden with wines and fruits.
‘Ah! I remember . . .’ murmured the young man. ‘It is true;
wished to draw the attention of the courtiers towards that little one in
order to divert them from our happiness! . . . But see, Ysabeau; it
is really a great fire . . . and the flames rise from the direction of the
At these words the Queen raised herself upon her elbow,
and very fixedly contemplated the Vidame of Maulle, shook her head;
then, lazily smiling, pressed a long kiss upon the young man’s lips.
‘You shall tell these things to Master Cappeluche when
breaks you upon the wheel on the Place de Grève! . . . You are a
wicked incendiary, my love!’
And as the perfumes which issued from her eastern body
and scorched the senses till the power to think had fled, she nestled up
The tocsin continued; they distinguished afar the shouts of
He replied, jesting:
‘They would first have to prove the crime.’
And he returned the kiss.
‘Prove it, naughty one?’
‘Could you prove the number of kisses I have given you? As
try to count the butterflies that flit on a summer’s night!’
He contemplated this fiery mistress—and yet how pale!—who
just lavished upon him delights and raptures of most marvellous
He took her hand.
‘Besides, it will be very easy,’ continued she. ‘To whose
was it to profit by a fire in order to carry off the daughter of Messire
Escabala? Yours alone. Your word is pledged in the wager!
And as you would never be able to say where you were when the
broke out! . . . You see, that is quite sufficient, at the Chatelet, to put
you upon your trial. The inquiry comes first, and then . . . (she
gently yawned) the torture does the rest.’
‘I should not be able to say where I was?’ asked Monsieur
‘Of course not; for, King Charles VI. then living, in that
lay in the arms of the Queen of France, child that you are!’
Death, in fact, arose stark and erect on either side of the charge.
‘That is true,’ said the Lord of Maulle, under the
the gentle gaze of his love.
He grew drunk with joy; he threw his arm about the young
enfolded in her lukewarm hair, red as burnt gold.
‘These are dreams,’ said he. ‘Oh, my sweet life! . . .’
They had made music that evening; his dulcimer lay flung upon
cushion ; a cord snapped all alone.
‘Sleep, sleep, my angel! You need sleep!’ said Ysabeau,
drawing the young man’s forehead upon her bosom.
The sound of the instrument had made him start; the
On the morrow the Vidame of Maulle was arrested and thrown
a dungeon of the Grand Châtelet. The trial commenced on the charge
foretold. All happened exactly as predicted by the august enchantress,
‘ whose beauty was so great that it was destined to outlive her passions.’
It was impossible for the Vidame of Maulle to find what
call an alibi.
After the preliminary investigation, ordinary and
was cross-examined and sentenced to be broken on the wheel.
The punishment of incendiaries, the black veil, and so forth
nothing was omitted.
Only, a strange incident took place at the Grand Châtelet.
The young man’s counsel had become deeply attached to him;
his client had confessed everything to him.
Knowing the innocence of Monsieur de Maulle, his defender
guilty of an act of heroism.
On the eve of the execution, he came to the condemned
dungeon and helped him to escape beneath the shelter of his gown.
In short, he put himself in his place.
Was his the noblest of hearts? Or was he an ambitious
playing a terrible part? Who shall ever tell?
❧ THE FAIRY SHIP
Broken and burnt by the torture, the Vidame of Maulle crossed
frontier and died in exile.
But the counsel was detained in his place.
The paramour of the Vidame of Maulle, when she learnt of
young man’s escape, experienced only a feeling of exceeding vexation.
She refused to recognise the defender of her lover.
So that the name of Monsieur de Maulle might be erased from
list of the living, she ordered the execution of the sentence even so.
Whence came that the counsel was broken on the wheel upon
Place de Greve, in the place and instead of the Lord of Maulle.
Pray for their souls.
ON A BRETON CEMETERY
They sleep well here,
These fisher-folk who passed their stormy days
In fierce Atlantic ways;
And found not there
Beneath the long, curled wave
So quiet a grave.
And they sleep well,
These peasant-folk who told their life away
From day to market-day;
As one should tell
Some poor, sad rosary.
And now night falls;
Me, passion-tossed and driven from pillar to post,
A poor worn ghost,
This sleepy pasture calls,
And dear dead people with wan hands
Beckon me to their lands.
PONT-AVEN, FINISTÈRE, 1896
THE LILIES OF FRANCE
FRIEND Léon,’ said the Cardinal,‘I dreamed
dream last night. I found myself standing
alone, out there upon the plain, and looking
back at our cathedral: you know, how moun-
tainous it looks, from out there upon the
plain.’ The Cardinal and his old friend, the
Canon Laval, sitting tranquilly upon the high
terrace of the archiepiscopal garden, gazed
out in silence over the vast plain, which stretched away from the little
city beneath them: away, so it seemed,into infinity and for ever.
‘Yes! a strange dream!’ resumed His Eminence. ‘A kind
golden mist, or radiant cloud, drew down over the cathedral: and then,
from the open great west gates, came a procession of three shining
persons, who descended slowly into the city, and passed out through
the poplar avenue, and across the bridge, on to the plain. As they came
near, there was a vague sense of music about them, of incense clouds
and palm branches: a vague sense, just that, for I neither heard, nor
saw, any such things. And, as they came closer to me, I fell on my
knees: Saint Genevieve, Saint Denys, Saint Clotilde! But when they
came quite close, I saw that I was wrong. She, whom I took for Saint
Clotilde, was in armour, and did not wear the crown of France: he,
whom I took for Saint Denys, was in armour, and wore the crown of
France. Ah, I knew well: Saint Louis and the Maid of Orleans,
blessed warriors! The king stood between Saint Genevieve and the
Maid : for though, as Saints reigning together in Heaven, the three were
equals, yet here, come down to French earth, the holy Ladies observed
their ancient reverence for the Royalty of France. Each of the three
carried a lily in each hand: in the right hand, a lily of white; in the
left, a lily of red: so they stood before me, as I knelt with clasped
hands and outstretched arms. It seemed an eternity, that unmoving
vision: when, at last, Saint Louis held out to me his lilies, saying,
“The Lilies of France!” So did and said the Sacred Maidens:
then the golden gloom covered all again for a while, till it slowly
lifted, and I found myself still kneeling there, but alone; and I was
ho ding, not three lilies of white, and three of red, but one lily, the
colour . . . ah, the colour of Heaven, not white, not red, not partly
both, but … ah, the colour of Heaven, that is enough! And
presently I awoke: the Lily of France seemed fragrant in the room,
‘The interpretation?’ said Canon Laval. ‘We are old men,
men,’ answered the Cardinal; ‘you will understand, and not laugh at
me. God forgive me the proud phrase, but I think that I shall give my
blood for France and for His Church! Ah, my poor, great France! If
I might dye my purple a deeper red for her! And in these times it
is possible. The Church is growing, succeeding, triumphing; the
people are coming back, yes! and the politicians. They know it, these
infidels to God and to France, with their Freemasonry, their Catéchisme
du Libre-Penseur! They see their bestial Utopia of free vice vanishing,
just when they had caught a glimpse of it: Qui habitat in coelis, irride-
bit eos! And they know it; they know it, and love us but little, we
u r ho have been His instruments.’ There was a flash of young fire in the
Cardinal’s eyes, a militant ring in his voice; but the Canon looked gently
sad, and said nothing; he seemed to dream. ‘You know it,’ cried the
Cardinal, you have seen it, how France is honeycombed with their
societies, their brotherhoods: what brotherhood, my God! a brother-
hood of swine! Even here, in our drowsy city, so quiet and contented
and old-fashioned, they have their agents: a cathedral is a magnet to
them, it attracts their especial malice, it is a “stronghold of supersti-
tion!” And a cathedral, where the throne is not an archbishop’s only,
but a cardinal’s; and he, loved, I may say it, loved by his people, and
upon good terms with the Government, with the officials! I have not
been cursed and threatened in the streets for nothing. You heard that
voice in the crowd on Corpus Christi, as I carried the Blessed Sacra-
ment, Down with your Christ and you!” It was one of our victories,
that procession: forbidden for nine years, and now … the city would
have stormed the prefecture, the town-hall, had it been prohibited.
“Down with your Christ!” But He is going forth to battle : He is win-
ning, and they hate Him the more. Peccator videbit et irascetur; dentibus
suis fremet et tabescet: desiderium peccatorum peribit!’
But if the Cardinal, in his righteous impetuosity, seemed a
Eagle of Meaux, the Canon looked another Dove of Cambrai, calm
resigned, of a mild pensiveness. ‘You say nothing,’ said the Cardinal.
‘Your Eminence will forgive me: I was thinking . . . thinking. I
cannot tell you why, but you recalled to me a long time ago, fifty years
ago. I was in Paris, studying science: ah, the brave word, the fine
word, science! And then, she died: and I could not work, I was in
despair, I went wandering away by myself. And one evening, in
Brittany by the sea, I came to a crucifix, old and black and weathered,
upon the edge of the cliff. I threw myself down, with my arms round
it, and prayed for death. . . . But you know, I have told you . . .’
‘Never too often, Léon,’ said the Cardinal, touching his friend’s hand :
such thin and bloodless hands, both! ‘And presently I felt a hand
upon my shoulder: turning round, I saw an old, old, Breton woman,
her good face wrinkled and bronzed with long years in the sea-winds.
She spoke in her strange Breton French, something kind and gentle, all
the courtesy of the poor in her sympathy. I could only say, “She is dead!”
The woman stretched out her hand and touched the Feet, the wounded
Feet, with an infinitely gracious reverence: “Lui aussi: et II vit tou-
Yes, said the Cardinal, after a silence, and with a sigh,
lesson: so simple, we find it hard to learn, hard for our pride. And I
thank you, Léon: you do not know why you spoke of this now, but I
know. To labour for God’s France, yes, that is but our duty; but to
take pride in success, to be mortified by failure, to think of ourselves,
no! Which is the proudest nation upon earth? Spain: and she has
the humblest Saints, who endured the agony, and the darkness, and the
dereliction. I . . . but yes, it is true, yes . . . I am full of myself.
I do anything for France, it is because I am a Frenchman; if for the
Church, because I am a cardinal, bishop, priest; never anything for the
pure love of God our Life.’
His lips quivered, and he ground his hands together in an
of the nervous fingers. Early twilight began to fall over the great
melancholy plain, and the last flushes of the afterglow faded from the
gray-green roofs beneath the terrace; there was no silvery gleam upon
the poplars and the dim river. The peace of evening, the vesperal
peace and pause, lay delicately over all.
‘Come,’ he said, ‘it is growing late. And forgive me: that
mine, forget it, I pray you.’ With a last gaze across the deep, the
immense tranquillity of that darkling world, the old men rose, and
passed through a low doorway into the sacristy of the palace chapel.
A crucifix hung there; and the Cardinal kissed the Wounded Feet:
‘Lui aussi, Leon: et II vit toujours!’
EVENING wore on, and the last Angelas rang out, solemn and sweet
from the cathedral bell-tower. The familiar, daily sound fell unnoted
upon many ears in the ancient little town: but it fell plainly and fully
upon one pair of ears, always keen to take in ecclesiastical voices. ‘I
tell you,’ said Jean Dubois, ‘when I hear that accursed tinkling, I could
spit at them all, from Monseigneur in the purple down to the youngest
choir-boy.’ He spat, and scowled up at the cathedral.
He and his companion were sitting outside a poor caft in the
side part of the town: Dubois with an absinthe, incessantly rolling and
smoking cigarettes; the other with a bock and a rank cigar. Dubois was
thin and waspish; he had very small, brilliant, black eyes, an olive
complexion, an irritable intensity in the muscles of his face, in his rat-
trap mouth. But a man, clearly, of a certain intellectual energy; that
was plain in the alertness of his bearing, an impressive vivacity of
presence and person. ‘Quousque Domine?, he chanted, with a mocking
nasal twang and drawl. ‘If I knew the Collect against Plague and
Pestilence, I would sing that; these pests of the soutane are gaining
ground every day; the country reeks of incense and wax candles. And
this is France of the Revolution, scientific France, the Holy Land of
Light! Voltaire, Diderot, Darwin, Haeckel, Renan, did they never live,
then? Tiens, I shall sell my library and buy a Paroissien or the Summa.
But we shall see, my friend, see in Gods good time/ His companion,
a man of less interesting make, laughed approvingly: ‘And our friend,
Dubois, our friend in this sleepy hole, His Eminence the Cardinal Arch-
bishop: is he still busy for the good God and the Pope?’ Dubois
drank off his absinthe and shook with passion. ‘Ah, the red Cardinal,
the boiled lobster of a Cardinal! His purple wants another dyeing.
When he is curious about the colour of his blood, let him come to me!
You can see for yourself: can you look into a bookshop, but you find
Pastorals in piles? Can you open a newspaper, but you read a letter
from the palace, with an infernal cross to its signature? Can you go
down the street, but an absurd cornette flaps you in the face, or a big swing-
ing rosary hits you on the legs? Is there a school, a hospital, that he
has not tried to poison with his Christianity? And, so please you, ever
a loyal citizen of the Republic, and who so obedient to the law! ‘His
voice rose shrill and cracked, and the little table rocked upon its rickety
iron legs, under the violence of his emphatic fist. Recovering himself
with an effort, he proceeded quietly: ‘The Church! No, it is not the
Church, the clergy at large, that we hate. For myself, I do not meddle
with your country curé, if he do not meddle with me. A good
enough fellow sometimes; ignorant, harmless, no ambition in him.
But your prelates, your very reverend professors, your Lenten preachers,
your clerical deputies, your go-betweens with Rome, your dabblers in
social questions, your cassocked economists, your Catholics of progress
and co-operation! Ah, all went well when they held aloof and mumbled
their masses to old women; what did the churches matter, when the
lecture rooms and the laboratories were all ours, the platform, and the
press? The faithful used to be aborigines, slowly and painlessly suffer-
ing extinction from the pressure of the civilised. But now, it is an
insurrection of the barbarians, that we have to face. And this Cardinal
is a generalissimo of barbarians, with the Tricolorin one hand, the
Fleur-de-lys in the other! “Pax vobiscum!” says he: my God, he shall
find a sword.’
They left their seats, and strolled forth upon the rough
by the riverside. There was little noise or stir of any sort; lights shone
out from the windows of the low houses, and ripples of reflection
quivered across the water. High above the steep slopes of housetops,
whence more lights gleamed from attic rooms, rose the huge cathedral,
a darkness and a vastness of stone, a mountainous petrifaction of lower-
ing cloud. Dubois preferred another image: ‘The great black vulture,’
he muttered, ‘brooding over its prey.’ Presently he broke out into
fragments of talk: ‘And this is France, our France! Had it been any
other country now … but France, is it possible? Lourdes, Mont-
martre, mountebank superstition everywhere! . . . and they die, our
men of science, our critics, our statesmen and journalists, they die fortified
by all the rites of the Church . . .!’ His friend ventured to interrupt him:
Yet we are not doing so badly, oh, not so badly! If they are gaining
strength, so are we.’ It was well intended, but infelicitous. ‘Bah! it
is natural for us to increase; we teach that two and two make four, and
that man makes God. They teach that two and two make five, because
God made man; and the number of believers in that nonsense is
increasing. Spare me your consolations! Tell me that orthodox
Comtists, or any other scientific sect, which nicknames philosophy
religion, are increasing, and I will thank you; they are sane men with
a weakness. But those canaille of the intellect! Here comes one.’ A
priest passed with an attendant: a sick call, evidently, and the Last
Sacraments. ‘That . . . Patagonian mummery on the increase! You
will be asking for it yourself, one of these days.’ But they had reached
their goal: a small house toward the outskirts of the town, with the
look of a merchant’s office, or of some municipal business place. Dubois
stopped upon the threshold, and sneered: ‘Are we increasing here?
Does the youth of this enlightened city flock to our classes? Are the
confessionals as empty as our benches? And we have truth to teach,
exact truth, verified truth, instead of Jewish fables. Well! magna
est veritas; and there’s no Latin so comforting as that, in their
They entered, M. Jean Dubois and his colleague; students and
fessors of physics, an excellent thing; students and professors of atheism
less . . . dignified and profitable a thing. Their labour of love, these
private evening classes for the instruction of youth in scientific know-
ledge—not, indeed, in anarchist chemistry—was yielding but meagre
blossom. Nevertheless, it was almost pathetic to note the ardour with
which Dubois threw himself into the task of inspiring an enthusiasm, an
emotional element, into his pupils’ pursuit of sensible truth; he was sacer-
dotal, a fanatic tremulous with zeal, as he expounded to his score of
youths the consolations of ‘experimental phenomena,’ and the delights
of his favourite ‘psycho-physiology.’ When he cried, in that shrill
voice, ‘Mind is a demonstrable function of matter,’ he might have been
a fervent missioner, crying to his stricken penitents and converts,
‘Ecce Agnus Dei!’ And as he discoursed, the thought of Christianity
spreading its revised plagues over France, the thought of the Cardinal
in his cathedral fortress, worked through his veins and pulses, a very
fever and fire. ‘Ah, the old days, when we thought all that done with,
and used contempt where extirpation was required: fools that we were!’
M. Dubois ground his teeth, and plunged vehemently into a disserta-
tion upon the brain.
HIS EMINENCE pontificated at the High Mass of the Sunday following,
and was announced to preach at Vespers and Benediction. He was
outwardly a prelate of a frequent French type: courtly, with a touch of
haughtiness in his elaborate manner, an air of treading the stage with
state; tall and strong, happily gracious of gesture and intonation.
Within, he was a man of very simple and fresh piety, with which his
secular ability could not quite agree; statesman and saint had little
wars with each other, and made truces or compromises, entirely legiti-
mate, yet satisfying neither. The Holy See, the Republic, modern
science and criticism and philosophy, social problems and theories: had
he indeed taken a straight course, played a direct part, in these tangles
and jungles of difficulty? Scruples tortured his sensitive conscience;
and sometimes he fell to wondering whether it were the fault of his
proper temperament, or a vice of these intricate latter times, that it was
so hard for him to see black or white, such a necessity always to see
gray. So far as might be, he put his perplexities and refinements from
him, finding oblivious comfort in those labours, which are prayer. Of
late, he had been haunted by a presentiment of some conclusive fortune
in store for him, by his own act or by another’s, something definite and
final in wait for him; and, as in his talk with the Canon, that old
seminarist friend, the companion of his long career, he was troubled at
the thought of a human pride mingled with his dependence upon the
Will of God, whatever that might bring about for him. But Léon Laval,
wise and winning soul, was always his refreshment; the old priest of
so crystalline an innocence, so serene a faith, bathed his harassed spirit
in spring water, and set all things in the sunlight of a pure simplicity.
The Cardinal felt very peaceful upon this Sunday evening; his heart
was light, and his faith joyous.
The austere cathedral church, little spoiled by changes from
beautiful severity, was almost full when Jean Dubois entered it, with a
passing repugnance upon his face, as he tasted the memories of immemorial
incense on its cool and stilly air. The organ thundered, and sang, and
sighed, sending a tremor along his nerves: emotional jugglery! he
thought, and the mystcriousness of glooms, lights, colours, was nothing
else. Vespers had already begun, and he followed them in a prayer-
book, which he held with a kind of contemptuous hatred. Once only
his features relaxed their despiteful impatience, as the choir chaunted,
Coelum coeli Domino: terrain autem dedit filiis hominum. ‘Ah, that is
a Lucretian god worth having,’ he murmured, smiling. ‘Let him keep
to his heaven of heavens, and leave our earth to us.’ The next verse
pleased him yet more: Non mortui laudabunt te, Domine: neque omnes
qui descendant in infernum. ‘True enough: a scientific fact!’ But
then came: Sed nos qui vivimus, benedicimus Domino: ex hoc nunc et
usque in saeculum. ‘We shall see, we shall see, you and your Dominus
He sat in his dark corner, fixing his bright eyes upon the great altar
candles, and the enormous crucifix in the centre, presently shrouded in
a fragrant mist, at the incense of the Magnificat; that odour of intolerable
sanctity, to which he preferred the disinfectant and other savours of the
dissecting-room, or the sharp smell of chemicals. At length the Cardinal,
vested in that glorious apparel which makes a prince of Rome so com-
manding a figure, ascended into the spacious, grandiosely carven pulpit,
and stood erect in silence, the very embodiment or representative of an
hierarchy, which has upon it the strength and splendour of two thousand
years. Dubois leaned forward, concentrating his strained gaze upon
this superb tyrant, imperious in purple and fine linen, raised high above
the heads of a subservient people, and prepared, doubtless, to proclaim
dogmas that should long have been obsolete, and anathemas that
should long have been impotent. But His Eminence was disappointing.
It was, yes, positively! it was the simplest of discourses, caressing
and pleading; a praise of golden charity, of smiling patience, of valiant
faith and hope; spoken in tones strangely softened and sweetened, as
by some sense of solemn urgency and ultimate need. It renounced the
old French oratorical unction of the pulpit, with long, modulated
sentences and ornate periods, in favour of an exquisite simplicity He
spoke of essentials, fundamentals, life, death, love, sorrow; at first
almost as Marcus Aurelius might have spoken, with a plangent stern-
ness, just telling the ancient tale of all humanity. The awfulness and
majesty of the vast cathedral deepened, and a cold breath seemed to
sweep through its glooms and shadows, as the strong, melancholy voice
repeated the burden of the world; the sad wisdom, which is all that
itself can reach; the wisdom of So it is, and we must bear it. ‘Ah gray
world, dreary life, if that be all!’ thought his unlearned listeners; but
Dubois was nettled at finding his enemy able to appreciate with accu-
racy the facts of existence, and able even to rehearse them, sadly
indeed, yet without flinching or palliation. It was a brief chagrin.
After a pause, in which plaintive echoes of his grieving voice died
away in the ample darkness, the Cardinal, as though teaching little
children, and in tones tremulous for all their firmness, told the tale of
Christ, there were no sickly-sweet embellishments, no skilful raptures
and ravishments; it was the story of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Dubois heard a neighbour sob suddenly, and saw tears upon another’s
face; they were both men, working men; the very class, that he longed
to win from the Galilean folly. Lost in his own exasperated thoughts,
he no longer listened to the clear and clarion voice, that flowed and
rang above him, until, as it fell into a slow and yet slower cadence, he
felt again its fascination, and heard the words, joyous and triumphant:
For He was dead once; and behold, He is alive for evermore!’
Benediction followed: and as the hushed multitude bowed themselves
to the earth before the Blessing of the Host, Dubois held himself
defiantly erect, his angry eyes full upon the crystal of the monstrance
and upon its Inhabitant. ‘The Christ-myth, as this man told it, is
enough folly, but that it should have developed into the worship of
That!’ It was within the octave of Corpus Christi, and a procession of
the Blessed Sacrament formed itself. The long line passed down into
the nave, chaunting the Pange Lingua; roses were strewn before the
Rose of Sharon, and Eastern spices poured clouds of fragrant glory
round Him. Dubois rose from his obscure place, and stood in the
❧ THE BATHERS
gloom of the huge porches; through their open doors came the gleams
and rumours of the city. For once, his faith in scientific progress, in
mechanical democracy, in the Revolution principles, felt feeble and ill at
ease; an anarchist, now, with one gesture of ferocity and of revenge
. . . where were your fine procession, then? ‘Martyrs, is that what the
cause wants, for lack of which it flags? Well, courage! there are more
ways than one.’ The procession passed by the great doors, where he
stood hidden in a recess under the arches. Of a sudden, as if without
willing it, he cried shrilly and fiercely to the Cardinal and to the Host
in his hands, ‘Down with the Christ and you!’ Turning, and thrusting
his hasty way through the worshippers in the porches, he rushed down
the steps, vanishing into the darkness and the safety of the narrow
NIGHT-PRAYERS were over, and most of the Cardinal’s household had
retired. The Cardinal himself and Canon Laval talked long, as their
manner was, upon events of the day, duties of the morrow, and upon
things more intimate and reserved. The Cardinal’s private study
was a large, gaunt, airy room, with three tall windows looking over the
terrace, the garden, the city roofs and spires, and far away to the great
desolate plain. Prelatical pomps were wholly wanting to this pl easant,
but somewhat naked chamber of study and of business; books were
the best part of its furniture, with here and there a good engraving. The
Cardinal’s writing-table, half covered with papers, had upon it beside an
ivory crucifix, a breviary, a rosary, and a little silver bell. The room
bore rather the aspect of a monastic superior’s than of a secular digni-
tary’s, in its freedom from any approach to luxury, and in its evident
use for practical affairs. One window was open, and there streamed
through the soft balm-wind of early night in summer.
‘He is very good,’ said the Canon. He sat by the open window,
the cool wind played with the white hair upon his temples. ‘God is
very good. That was true devotion to-night.’ The Cardinal stood by
his friend’s chair, looking up at a sky full of rich stars.
‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘yes. France is learning her lesson:
rather, she is
beginning to remember it, thanks be to the Saints, her teachers, and to
our Lady of France! But these poor men in our own city here, with
their infidel propaganda: men like that poor wretch to-night, God
pardon him! How to reach them, dear Canon! Et alias oves habeoz; it
has been in my heart all day.’
The Canon mused: ‘It will come right in the end; either that,
new chaos, for society is not possible upon their principles. Pagan man
was not happy, though he had not modern science to prove unhappi-
ness his proper state; but man without belief and with that knowledge
… it would be an universal misery, he could not live! Ah! the
illogical arrogance of modern science, claiming that name for itself
alone, and trampling upon philosophy, let alone theology! But have
no fear: disguise it as they may, not one man in fifty, in twenty, can
do without religion. For the few . . . their fanaticism is religion; they
are high priests and missionaries, and they alone are dangerous.’
‘Et alias oves habeo’ murmured the
Cardinal; ‘et alias. Have we,
have I, been too harsh, too denunciatory? Would personal influence
be of any use? They hate us, I know it well; but may it not be in
part because they think we hate them? And not without some reason :
there’s the sting. I know but the names of a few here, though I
have met some of the leaders in Paris; were I to search them out,
would they . . .’ He broke off; there was a knocking at the door. A
servant entered, and told His Eminence that a man, one Gustave Vanier,
had asked to see him; the man knew, it was very late, but he begged
the Cardinal for a few minutes’ interview.
‘I will see him,’ said the Cardinal; then to the Canon,
imagine; they sometimes come to me, at all hours, when their own curés
cannot, or will not, do more for them.’ The servant entered, followed
by Jean Dubois. ‘You are not tired, Canon?’ asked the Cardinal.
‘No? then I will ring my bell for you, when I am free; I feel as if I
had much to say to-night.’ Canon Laval and the servant departed,
and the Cardinal turned to Dubois. He was, as always, decently, if
roughly dressed; in manner and face, he did not look like the common
applicant for alms. But one could not tell. The Cardinal seated
himself at the writing-table, motioned Dubois to a chair, and said, ‘Is
it upon a matter of charity, my son, that you wish to see me? If so,
I will call for my almoner, the Canon Laval,’ and he laid his hand upon
the little bell.
‘No, your Eminence,’ said Dubois, in a voice that he tried
make respectful; ‘I have not come upon charity.’ He stopped abruptly;
and the Cardinal, thinking him embarrassed, said encouragingly, ‘Tell
me, then, my son, what it is that I can do for you.’ Dubois muttered
under his breath, ‘Your son! faith, it would be news to my father.’
After a slight hesitation and fumbling for words, he contrived to speak.
Against his will, in spite of everything, the Cardinal somewhat awed
him; unnerved him too, here, face to face with the purple tyrant in his
own room, and treated by him kindly. ‘I am not one of your people,’
he began. ‘Not a Catholic, do you mean,’ said the Cardinal, ‘or not a
Christian at all? Or, perhaps, I mistake you: you mean that you are
not of my diocese?’ Dubois kindled at the infamous word Christian.
‘I am not a Christian at all, and it is about that I am here.’ His pre-
pared story began to flow: ‘I am an artisan here, come from Paris
with my wife and children. I have no religious belief, and I will not
have my children brought up in any. The priests left us alone in
Paris, but here they are in and out of the house every day, when I am
away at work; taking the children on their knees, and giving them
medals, and teaching them Hail Maries. My wife doesn’t believe
anything either, but she thinks it’s pleasant for the children, and
they’ll forget it all in time. They’ve been baptized, taken to Sunday
school and to church. I could forbid it if I chose; but I’ve come here
first to ask, if your Eminence has any justice for a Freethinker.’ He
was growing excited and voluble; the Cardinal was not his superior
after all; not even his intellectual equal. And his little fiction was
surely to the point; here was a chance for the Cardinal to show toler-
ance and practise equity, to disprove himself a priestly pirate of souls.
‘And what is it, my friend, that you would have me do?’ the Cardinal
asked quietly. ‘Tell your priests to leave my children alone, and look
after their own, if they have any!’ ‘I will hear you with patience,’
said the Cardinal, ‘but I cannot listen to ribaldry. Hear me now. I
cannot, as an honest man and a priest of God, do what you wish. My
priests have broken no law: when they do that, I will reprimand them,
and you can obtain redress. Even now, you can exert your authority
and forbid them your door; you can keep your children from Sunday
school and church. Believe me, I am not reproaching you, I understand
you perfectly; yes, in a sense, I can sympathise with you. But I have
a duty to my Divine Master; if He is to be robbed of His little ones,
it is you that must do it, for I will not! You have your rights, as I
have said, your parental rights; we do not steal souls for God. . . .
But will you not let me talk with you a little upon these questions of
belief. . . . ’ ‘I was educated by priests,’ said Dubois with a jeering
smile, ‘and that is my answer.’ The Cardinal sighed, murmured a
prayer, and rose. Dubois rose also. ‘You will not care for my bless-
ing, my son; you will take my hand?’ ‘I will not!’ cried Dubois;
‘but you will take this!’ With his own rapidity, say rather, rapacity
of action, he snatched a knife from his pocket, and plunged it into the
Cardinal’s breast, beating down his proffered hand. Without more
than a long suspiration, the Cardinal fell back into his chair and lay
there, after a brief quivering of his whole frame, peaceful and still in
Dubois bent over him; ‘Beati
mortui! Here is an end of His
Eminence: Gustave Vanier is dead after an hour’s life, regretted by all
who knew him: and Jean Dubois . . . well, what of Jean Dubois?’
The little bell upon the table caught his glance. ‘Ah, that will fetch
the Canon, will it? Yes, that is the best way.’ He rang it; the silver
sound broke the silence delicately. The Canon entered, and saw Dubois
standing by the table; the Cardinal was . . . not sleeping, surely,
overcome by the labours of the day . . . not . . . he came closer.
Dubois flung up his knife into the air, caught it, pointed with it at the
Cardinal, and said gently: ‘You see, my Father?’
THEY are living still, both Léon Laval and Jean Dubois. The Canon
lives to say daily Mass for him, whom he calls ‘my martyr’; his
thoughts and memories are all of him, and of one other. Now, when
he murmurs to himself, looking out over the great plain, ‘Lui aussi:
et Il vit toujours’ it is of two that he thinks. Dubois lives, in virtue
of an impassioned advocate, an enlightened jury, and circonstances
A NOTE ON ORIGINAL WOOD ENGRAVING
REVIEWING the tendencies of wood
it is well not to overlook those accidents of
origin that have sometimes thrust the art out
of its proper course, so that great technical
efforts have dwindled in the value of their
output. From the first, one of these evils
was the detached draughtsman, from whom
sprang an insistence upon the fashions in out-
line; the other element of failure at the root
was the interpreter, with his callousness, his lack of responsibility,
hence the great suggestive value of those few master-craftsmen who
were designers and engravers at once. The early makers of block-
prints were perhaps original engravers; with a rough sense of the
material to hand, they made good use of solid masses of wood, uncut
save for patterns in white of rude flower and leaf. But the ambi-
tion to emulate the drawn line was hard upon them; and early in
the development of the art the magnificent illustrations to The
Canticles show a conscious use of a flowing line, but so controlled by
the use of the engraver’s knife that the aspect remains cut, and cut
Notably in Italy, many woodcuts so called were perhaps
on some kind of type metal, or pewter; that they were cast from
the wood for convenience in printing is however most probable. In
Florence an intelligent use of fretted black surfaces, even in the early
years of the sixteenth century, should be contrasted with the more
celebrated and earlier Venetian work, in which the wish to imitate a
drawn line, more or less successfully, tends in intention to the sacrifice
of the medium to purposes of the draughtsman. It may be doubted,
for many reasons, if such work was due to original craftsmen; but
relief engraving in Italy remained always a minor art, inferior to
the contemporary burin work, anonymous, eclectic, a pirate among
the inventions and achievements of others. The fruitful evidence of the
original craftsman, his range from the strong to the exquisite, belongs to
the northern arts, with which engraving had begun.
With the great German draughtsmen, who have made for us
inheritance of magnificent prints, all so various, the manner of drawing
became somewhat modified, to meet the requirements of the engraver.
But, unlike the delicate French cuts published and perhaps executed
by Simon Vostre, unlike the still earlier blocks of the Netherlands, the
draughtsman’s flourish and cross-line play a dangerous role (the solid
masses had vanished long since), and we can trace out the moment at
which the pen-work became in part transformed by the processes of the
knife-man. Under the influence of Durer the professional knife-work
reached that pitch of manipulative excellence we all admire; with
good reasons on the whole, it is imagined that he executed himself
(though an advocate of engraving) not the mass of royal prints
signed by him, but only the little Agony in the Garden, in which
an inexperienced hand makes havoc of the intricacy and ‘colour’ of
As if in repentance for the neglect of the mass drawn upon
white incised line, the development of the Chiaroscuro method, first
matured in Germany, brings about a set of masterpieces, both there
and in Italy, in which interpreters’ work rises to the level of an art
indeed, and a transforming sense surpassed only by the colour prints
of Japan in the eighteenth century. With these masterpieces, however
the resources of the medium were not exhausted ; in the work of a
minor master, destined shortly to a front rank as an artist, as an en-
graver to the first and greatest place of all, namely Altdorfer, a new
charm of daintiness and light will be added to the vigour in handling
engraving had hitherto acquired. One may wonder that this delicate
artist should have been overshadowed not only by the great Durer, but
by a host of designers, such as Burgkmair and Aldergraver, to whom
Altdorfer’s graceful facility and sense of romance had been denied.
Nothing can surpass the handling of Lutzelburger in
Dance of Death, if his knife-work elsewhere is not of that exceptional
quality. The bound and recoil of the reed-pen upon a hard surface,
partly replaced with Altdorfer by delicate cut lines, tends here perhaps
towards, greyness, but how precise and tender at once, how delicate,
next to the cold unequal work of Tory!
In the twilight of the art, Jegher, the interpreter of
evolve a new method, admirable and forcible enough; but once more
❧ A WOODCUT IN FIVE BLOCKS
we are indebted for ‘intimate’ methods to Livens, a man of slight
reputation as a painter, remarkable only for his woodcuts. In his rare
prints we find no evidence of a trade trace in workmanship, though done
at a moment when professional expediency had prevailed. In the use
of line freely conceived and the quest of its resources he has merited
the hasty attribution of his few proofs in the past, and in perfect good
faith, to the great Rembrandt, also an experimentalist upon wood, but
occasionally, casually perhaps, without that subtlety and energy that a
mention of his line-work would conjure up. With Livens the handling
is full of poise and dignity, recalling in temper some of the fine portrait
studies by Mr. A. Legros. In the art of wood engraving they stand
Not to pause over the vignette designer and engraver
whose quaint bright work, still done with the knife, does not rise to
past levels of art and design, we must overlook the origins of the graver
and its use, to come to the two Bewicks, or rather to William Bewick
and the new aspect of engraving in his hands. In landscape this
artist’s sense of mass in composition is not great, if in sentiment or aim
he sometimes claims attention; minute, detailed, without, however, a
very keen or vital sense of detail, his designs obtain by a merit of
cheerful patience, and something local in feeling, parochial perhaps.
His celebrated birds cannot be compared for life-likeness to the winged
creatures drawn by the old Italian Pisanello. They seem imitated too
carefully from stuffed specimens, never rising to the instantaneities of
motion that we will find even in unimportant Japanese prints. His
influence on trade methods in this country was very great, linger-
ing on with Clennel and Harvey, and declining in merit till pre-
Raphaelitism revived the use of line-work, interpreted, or rather copied,
by the engraver. Among Bewick’s followers, S. Williams had design-
ing powers beyond the merely entertaining trace of a fashion in illus-
tration. But, before the exhaustion of the Bewick fashion, wood
engraving in the hands of William Blake once more touched past
levels of attainment, and the stimulus of his little designs cut upon wood
should count in the revival of a bolder spirit in the art, apart from their
influence upon the exquisite prints by Calvert, made known to the
public only some few years ago. Tender yet incisive, these speci-
mens of original work may be compared to the most beautiful
proofs of the past, to the lovely and romantic cuts of Altdorfer, to
the noble portraits by Livens. With W. J. Linton, sometimes
a designer, the author of a valuable but arbitrary book on the
masters of wood engraving, himself an influence upon the practice,
we find a survival of the old professional spirit at a time of artistic
transition. To his advocacy of the white line, however, more than to
his example, may be traced the efforts many years later to give new
life in America to interpretative engraving; but the fate of all such
work depends too much upon the matter to hand for its value to be
appraised. The transformation of the design by the medium, as with
Lutzelburger under the guidance of Holbein, or the German and Italian
chiaroscurists, or a Jegher, is replaced by a competition with fine
If the book illustrators of the sixties did not attempt to
their work, they had interpreters whose value is at last being felt,
even abroad, where the revival of facsimile under Menzel’s direction has
seemed hitherto the last word in exquisite mimicry. In the waning of
the pre-Raphaelite wave over illustration, Mr. William Morris and some
friends made experiments to handle, with true engravers’ style, a set
of still unpublished designs by Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The three
little musicians on the title-page of The Earthly Paradise is in earlier
editions due to the cutting of Mr. Morris; the frontispiece by Rossetti
to the Goblin Market may pass for a fortunate specimen of such work.
How different in their curious blend of tentativeness with decision
are these racy little prints to the trace elsewhere of steel engraving
mannerisms it has been Mr. Linton’s purpose to praise!
Before the year 1889, with the exception of J. F. Millet’s
ments, too soon forgotten, the interest now so common in France to
revive forgotten mediums lay very far indeed from most artists, both
there and in England. With Mr. Lucien Pissarro we have the forerunner
of modern French efforts in line and colour, and an influence upon the
contemporary manner, very frankly admitted by M. Lepere himself,
who may stand as the most accomplished of original French painter-
engravers. Unlike the young Englishmen included in this note, Mr.
Pissarro has done work in colour, both for Japanese water methods of
printing and for the oil method. An engraver in the modern sense, he
has also cut with the knife as a mediaeval or Japanese artist cut in
The output of Mr. T. Sturge Moore during the last seven years
been considerable. Not to praise work whose ultimate purposes are
not fixed, I would point out that the style of original wood engraving
is not here merely accidental, as of a trade engraver who is artist at
his leisure, but in aim they show that directness of all work understood
within the peculiar conditions of a medium. They aim at effect brought
about by white cutting into black, or by black lines showing the work
of the tool in their shaping, and we have here no imitation of chalk or
wash drawing, or of steel engraving, or of photography.
In France no artist of greater distinction than M. Jeanniot
made recent experiment in wood engraving. It is also good news
to hear that one English school at least (that of Birmingham) has
become conscious of the desirability of a revival. We may expect
shortly to see these first attempts in the pages of contemporary
❧ A SELECTION FROM MESSRS HENRY AND COS PUBLICATIONS
THE PARADE, 1897
A Gift-Book for the Young.
Edited by GLEESON WHITE.
Nearly 300 Pages; 35 Full-page Illustrations; 3 Coloured Plates;
10 Head- and Tail-pieces. Crown 4to , cloth extra, 6s. net.
Binding and End-Papers by PAUL WOODROFFE. Title-Page by
AUBREY BEARDSLEY. Illustrated Initials by Miss DE MONTMORENCY.
Devices by W. J. OVERNELL. Head-pieces by ALAN WRIGHT, HAROLD
NELSON, and Miss DE MONTMORENCY. The Reproductions by Messrs.
CARL HENTSCHEL and CO. and Mr. JAMES HYATT. The Colour Print-
ing by MR. EDMUND EVANS. The Letterpress and Black and White
Illustrations by Messrs. T. and A. CONSTABLE, Edinburgh. The Bind-
ing by Messrs. ORROCK and SON, Edinburgh.
CONTENTS.—FAIRY TALES: by John Oliver Hobbes, illustrated
by Leslie Brooke; by Laurence Housman, illustrated by himself; by
Sir Richard Burton, illustrated by Miss De Montmorency; by Alfred
Jones, illustrated by himself; by E. F. Strange, illustrated by Leon
Solon. A BOYS’ STORY: by Barry Pain. A GIRLS’ STORY: by Mrs.
M. E. Mann, illustrated by Alan Wright. MILITARY STORIES AND
STORIES OF ADVENTURE: by F. Norreys Connell, illustrated by A. R.
Van Anrooy; by Paul Creswick, illustrated by G. A. Gordon; by Capt.
H. B. Strange, R.A., illustrated by Starr Wood. SONG: by Robert
Herrick, illustrated by Paul Woodroffe. Children’s STORIES: by
Mrs. Molesvvorth, illustrated by Miss De Montmorency; by Mrs.
Percy Dearmer, illustrated (in colour) by herself; by Edgar Jepson,
illustrated by Alan Wright; by Max Beerbohm, illustrated by himself.
VERSES: by Richard Le Gallienne, illustrated by Charles Robinson;
by Paul Rubens, illustrated by Charles Robinson; by Victor Plarr,
illustrated by Starr Wood. NONSENSE VERSES: by Starr Wood,
illustrated by himself. A CHRISTMAS MASQUE, WITH MUSIC: by
Francis Bate, illustrated by N. Jungman. STORIES TO BE TOLD IN
THE NURSERY : Undine, illustrated by Marie Miles; Rip Van Winkle,
illustrated by W. Shackleton. COLOURED PLATES by Mrs. Percy
Dearmer, N. Jungman, and H. Teixeira de Mattos.
❧THE PAGEANT, 1896
Edited by CHARLES HAZELWOOD SHANNON and GLEESON WHITE.
0ver 250 pages, 20 Full-page Illustrations and 17 Illustrations in the Text.
Crown 4to, cloth extra, 6s. net. Large-Paper Edition (limited to 150
copies), £1, 1s. net. A few remain, and are now offered at £1, 5s. net.
Half-tone reproductions by the Swan Electric Engraving Co.
Penwork reproductions by Messrs. WALKER and BOUTALL and Mr
JAMES HYATT. The Lithograph printed by Mr. T. WAY. The Book
printed by Messrs. T. and A. CONSTABLE, Edinburgh, produced under
the supervision of Mr. C. H. SHANNON, and bound in cloth by Messrs.
Leighton and Hodge, after a design by Mr. CHARLES RICKETTS.
CONTRIBUTORS.—ART—James M’Neill Whistler, Dante
Gabriel Rossetti, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, G. F. Watts, R.A., Sir
John Everett Millais, P.R.A., Sandro Botticelli, Charles Ricketts,
Reginald Savage, Will Rothenstein, Charles Conder, Laurence Hous-
man, Charles Hazelwood Shannon, Selwyn Image, Lucien Pissarro.
In the Large-Paper Edition, Mr. CHARLES RICKETTS’S ‘CEdipus’ is
specially reproduced in Photogravure.
LITERATURE — Algernon Charles Swinburne, Paul Verlaine,
W. B. Yeats, John Gray, Dr. Richard Garnett, Maurice Maeterlinck!
W. Delaplaine Scull, Theodore Watts, Gleeson White, T. Sturge
Moore, Margaret L. Woods, L. Simons, L. Housman, W. E. Henley,
F. York Powell, Percy Hemingway, Lionel Johnson, Alfred Pollard,
Frederick Wedmore, Michael Field, Max Beerbohm, Robert Cunning-
hame Graham, Robert Bridges.
❧THE HISTORY OF MODERN PAINTING.
By Prof. RICHARD MUTHER.
Translated by ARTHUR CECIL HILLIER.
Now complete, in Three Stout Volumes, from 600 to 800 pages each,
fully illustrated with 1300 reproductions of celebrated pictures.
Bound in cloth, with gilt lettering and top, £2. 15s. net.
Library Edition, half-morocco, Roxburghe style, £3. 15s. net.
Also in Sixteen Parts at 2s. 6d. net, or Thirty-six at 1s. net.
❧OPINIONS OF THE PRESS.
The Times.—‘There need be no hesitation in pronouncing this work
of Muther the most authoritative that exists on the subject, the most
complete, the best informed of all the general histories of Modern Art.’
The Times (second notice).—‘Not only the best, but the only history
of Modern Painting which has any pretension to cover the whole
The Daily News.—‘A monumental work . . . of cyclopaedic
value. . . . This author is distinctly cheering. He has no slavish
and indiscriminate admiration for the old masters, and his enthusiasm
and his hopes are with the art of his time. . . . There are many
illustrations, a copious bibliography, and a good index. . . . It is in-
comparably the best work of its kind; in some respects, the only one
of its kind.’
The Standard.—‘A writer with something of a writer’s charm.’
The Speaker.—‘Professor Muther has a pleasant faculty of rapid
and telling characterisation, hitting off the salient features of the various
artists and schools of art in a few deft strokes.’
The Scotsman.—‘A book of substantial value, both as a work of
reference and as a large and clearly outlined review of the century’s
The Saturday Review.—‘A history as crowded and as stirring as
The Graphic.—‘A great book on a great subject.’
The Magazine of Art.—‘Thoroughly popular in tone—popular in
the best sense, to the point of attracting by its inherent interest the
The Studio.—‘Not merely readable, but at times fascinating. . . .
The book, although not an exhaustive record, is indispensable for one’s
shelves of reference and worth careful reading.’
The Glasgow Herald.—‘The text is profusely illustrated with
portraits and reproductions of pictures. They deserve, as a rule, high
praise. The book is handsomely got up.’
A Specimen will be sent on application to the Publishers.
❧TWO ADMIRABLE BOOKS OF MEMOIRS.
THE RECOLLECTIONS OF ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE.
Edited by the COMTE DE TOCQUEVILLE, and translated by ALEX-
ANDER TEIXEIKA de MATTOS. With a Portrait in Heliogravure.
Demy 8vo, cloth extra, adorned with the Author’s arms, gilt top,
10 copies on Japanese vellum, £2. 12s. 6d. net.
❧MEMOIRS OF MARSHAL OUDINOT, DUC DE REGGIO.
Compiled from the hitherto unpublished Souvenirs of the DUCHESSE
de REGGIO by GASTON STEIGLER, and translated by ALEXANDER
TEIXEIRA DE MATTOS. With Two Portraits in Heliogravure.
Demy 8vo, cloth extra, gilt top, adorned with the Marshal’s arms, 17s. net.
10 copies on Japanese vellum, £3. 3s. net.
AN IMPORTANT POLITICAL WORK.
❧FEDERATION AND EMPIRE: A STUDY IN POLITICS.
By Thomas Alfred Spalding, LL.B., Author of ‘The House of
Lords: A Retrospect and a Forecast.’
Demy 8vo, buckram extra, 10s. 6d. net.
❧SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK: His Life and Work.
Translated by William Alison from the French of Jules Guiffrey.
Folio, buckram extra, 250 copies on superfine calendered paper
£4. 4s. net.
10 copies on Japanese vellum (of which 3 remain unsold), £12. 12s. net.
The work is illustrated with 19 Etchings, 8 Heliogravures, and over 100
Illustrations in the Text. It is printed in the best manner by Messrs.
Hazell, Watson, and Viney, of Aylesbury.
❧ The St. James’s Gazette.—‘A great book on a great painter.’
The Westminster Gazette.—‘A sumptuous book. Print and paper are
beyond reproach, binding is in severely good taste, and the illustrations excellent.’
The Daily Telegraph.—‘A vast and magnificent volume.’
The Spectator.—‘rich collection of the master’s drawings and
❧THE COLLECTED WORKS OF FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE.
Edited by ALEXANDER TILLE, Ph.D., and issued under the supervision
of the NIETZSCHE ARCHIV at NAUMBURG.
❧Vol. XI. THE CASE OF WAGNER; NIETZSCHE CONTRA WAGNER;
THE TWILIGHT OF THE IDOLS; THE ANTICHRIST. Translated
by THOMAS COMMON. Medium 8vo, buckram extra, 10s. 6d. net.
Vol. VIII. THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA. Translated by ALEXANDER
TILLE, Ph.D. Medium 8vo, buckram extra, 17s. net.
Vol. X. A GENEALOGY OF MORALS. Translated by WILLIAM A.
HAUSSMANN, Ph.D. Poems. Translated by JOHN GRAY. Medium
8vo, buckram extra, 8s. 6d. net.
❧BY EVELYN L. FARRAR.
❧STORIES FROM THE BIBLE.
By EVELYN L. FARRAR. With an Introduction by her father, the
Very Rev. Dean F. W. FARRAR, and Twelve Illustrations in colour by
REGINALD HALLWARD. Crown 4to, cloth extra, 3s. 6d.
A VERY ARTISTIC WORK.
❧THE HAPPY OWLS.
An Auto-lithographic Picture-Book, by TH. VAN HOYTEMA. Crown
4to, picture-boards, 2s. 6d.
❧SIX NEW AND IMPORTANT NOVELS.
THE PASSION FOR ROMANCE.
By Edgar Jepson, Author of Sybil Falcon. Large crown 8vo, art
❧The Academy.—‘The novel of the season.’
The Mormng Post.—‘It comes as a relief, in a long experience of
novel-reading, to be able to say of a book that it is from beginning to
end clever. . . . Never did an author create a more fantastic
mixture of wit, malice, subtlety, and tenderness than in the sketch of
this delightful child [Althea Flodden]. Mr, Jepson’s dialogues are
usually above the average, neat, well turned, and incisive. He wages a
bitter but amusing war with the purity or prudery crusaders, typified in
the neglectful mother, Lady Hammersmith, and her not steadfastly
❧THE TIDES EBB OUT TO THE NIGHT.
Being the Journal of a Young Man, Basil Brooke. Edited by his
Friend, HUGH LANGLEY. Large crown 8vo, art canvas, 6s.
❧WHEN ARNOLD COMES HOME.
By MARY E. MANN, Author of Susannah. With a Frontispiece by
ALAN WRIGHT. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, 3s. 6d.
By GEORGE WIDDRINGTON. Crown 8vo, cloth elegant, 5s.
❧THE TYRANTS OF KOOL-SIM.
By J. McLAREN COBBAN, Author of The Red Sultan. New and
Cheaper Edition. With a Frontispiece by ALAN WRIGHT. Crown
8vo, cloth extra, 3s. 6d.
❧THERE WAS ONCE A PRINCE.
By MARY E. MANN, Author of When Arnold Comes Home. New
and Cheaper Edition. With a Frontispiece by ALAN WRIGHT.
Crown 8vo, cloth, 3s. 6d.
❧MARCUS WARD & CO., LTD.
❧London, Belfast, New York, and Sydney.
UNDER THE MISTLETOE.—Christmas Number of Marcus Ward’s
Magazine. Price 6d. Post free 9d. The best and cheapest Christmas
Annual published. Three Coloured Plates. The Literary contents
are of high merit, and include contributions by Frankfort Moore,
Richard Le Gallienne, Dollie Radford, Neil Munro, May
Bateman, Clinton Peters, W. M. Knox, and J. H. Bacon.
£500 Literary and Artistic Prize Competition.
Particulars given in above or on application to the Publishers.
❧MARCUS WARD’S PUBLICATIONS IN BELLES LETTRES:
ECHOES OF HELLAS: The Tale of Troy and the Story of Orestes.
Translated by Professor WARR, with an Introduction on the Poetry
of Homer and Æschylus, and a Pianoforte arrangement of the
Music, vocal and instrumental, specially composed by Messrs. OTTO
GOLDSCHMIDT, MALCOLM LAWSON, WALTER PARRATT, and
Professor MONK, Mus.D. Illustrated and Decorated by WALTER
CRANE. Folio, hand-made paper, handsomely bound. £2, 2s.
❧A few copies remain on hand of the Subscription Edition in two
volumes. Large paper, rough edges. £4, 4s.
ROMEO AND JULIET. With Nine Photogravure Plates from designs
by F. BINDLEY. Royal 4to. Art linen binding, with Cover design,
by THOMAS CRANE, blocked in real gold. Gilt top. Text printed
on antique paper, from English old style type. £1, 1s.
An Édition de luxe, consisting of 60 copies, printed on Whatman’s
handmade paper, with the illustrations on India paper. Bound in
vellum. Gilt top. £1, 11s. 6d.
IN MEMORY OF ROBERT BURNS. SELECTED POEMS AND
SONGS. With an Introduction by RICHARD LE GALLIENNE.
Photogravure Portrait and Illustrations. Irish Linen Binding, with a
cover design in silver. Price 2s.6d.net. French Morocco, padded, 4s. 6d
PANSIES FOR THOUGHTS, culled from the Garden of Literature.
Pansy designs, by MARIE LOW, lithographed in natural colours on
each leaf, with poetical and prose quotations from various authors.
Cover design, by Thomas Crane, blocked in gold. 4to, padded
cloth. 2s. 6d. French Morocco, padded, 5s.
PRECIOUS THOUGHTS FROM KEBLE. Hymns from Keble’s
‘Christian Year,’ with Texts. Pansies lithographed in natural
colours. Cover design, by THOMAS CRANE, blocked in gold. 4to,
padded cloth. 2s. 6d. French Morocco, padded, 5s.
MARCUS WARD & CO., LTD., Oriel House, Farringdon St., London, E.C.
❧ THE LIST OF BOOKS PUBLISHED BY MESSRS. HACON
AND RICKETTS, AT THE SIGN OF THE DIAL, 52 WAR-
WICK STREET, REGENT STREET.
❧In offering the following books to the attention of book-lovers, to
collectors of shapely books and sound editions, we would urge that
all of them have been carefully edited and printed in the spelling in
which they were written; in many instances for the first time since
they originally appeared. The decorations and woodcuts they con-
tain have been engraved throughout by the designer; the type in
which they are printed has also been designed by the maker of the
decorations and the builder of the pages.
❧THE EARLY POEMS OF JOHN MILTON.—Printed in the
Vale type, with a frontispiece, border, and initial letters, designed
and cut on the wood by CHARLES RICKETTS. Crown 4to. 30s. net.
THE POEMS OF SIR JOHN SUCKLING.—Printed in the Vale
type. With honeysuckle border and initial letters designed and cut
on the wood by CHARLES RICKETTS. Demy 8vo. 21s. net.
SPIRITUAL POEMS by JOHN GRAY.—Printed in the Vale type.
With border (combining the Symbols of the Passion) and a frontis-
piece, both designed and cut on the wood by CHARLES RICKETTS.
Crown 8vo. 12s. 6d. net.
THE BOOK OF RUTH AND THE BOOK OF ESTHER.—
Printed in the Vale type. With initial letters and five illustrations
designed and cut on the wood by LUCIEN PISSARO, printed with his
own hand and issued from his press at Epping. 15s. net.
THE PASSIONATE PILGRIM AND THE SONGS IN
SHAKESPEARE’S PLAYS. — Printed in the Vale type. With
an illustration and decorations designed and cut on the wood by
CHARLES RICKETTS. Crown 8vo. 10s. 6d. net.
THE NYMPHIDIA AND THE MUSES ELIZIUM.—By
MICHAEL DRAYTON, Esq. Edited by JOHN GRAY. Printed, in
the original spelling, in the Vale type. With frontispiece, border,
and initial letters designed and cut on the wood by CHARLES
RICKETTS. Demy 8vo. 21s. net
FIFTY SONGS BY THOMAS CAMPION.— Edited by JOHN
GRAY. Printed, in the original spelling, in the Vale type. With
border of violets designed and cut on the wood by CHARLES
RICKETTS. Demy 8vo. 15s. 6d. net
EMPEDOCLES ON ETNA. — A dramatic poem by MATTHEW
ARNOLD. Printed in the Vale type. With laurel border designed
and cut on the wood by CHARLES RICKETTS. Crown 8vo.
10s. 6d. net.
The Pageant, 1897. Pageant Digital Edition, edited by Frederick King and Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021. https://1890s.ca/pag2-all/