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(Dizain des Poetes)
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
"Criticism, whatever may be its
pretensions, never does more than to
define the impression which is made upon
it at a certain moment by a work wherein
the writer himself noted the impression
of the world which he received at a
ROBERT M. McBRIDE & COMPANY
Copyright, 1916. by Robert M. McBride &
Copyright, 1915, by McBride, Nast & Co.
Copyright, 1914, by the Sewanee Review Quarterly
Copyright, 1913, by John Adams Thayer Corporation
Copyright, 1912, by Argonaut Publishing Company
Copyright, 1911, by Red Book Corporation
Copyright, 1909, by Harper and Brothers
ROBERT GAMBLE CABELL II
In Dedication of The Certain Hour
Sad hours and glad hours, and all hours, pass over;
One thing unshaken stays:
Life, that hath Death for spouse, hath Chance for
Each thing save one thing:--mid this strife diurnal
Of hourly change begot,
Love that is God-born, bides as God eternal,
And changes not;--
Nor means a tinseled dream pursuing lovers
Find altered by-and-bye,
When, with possession, time anon discovers
Trapped dreams must die,--
For he that visions God, of mankind gathers
One manlike trait alone,
And reverently imputes to Him a father's
Love for his son.
"Ballad of the Double-Soul"
A BROWN WOMAN
THE IRRESISTIBLE OGLE
A PRINCESS OF GRUB STREET
THE LADY OF ALL OUR DREAMS
"Ballad of Plagiary"
BALLAD OF THE DOUBLE-SOUL
"Les Dieux, qui trop aiment ses faceties cruelles"
In the beginning the Gods made man, and fashioned the
sky and the sea,
And the earth's fair face for man's dwelling-place, and
this was the Gods' decree:--
"Lo, We have given to man five wits: he discerneth
He is swift to deride all the world outside, and blind
to the world within:
"So that man may make sport and amuse Us, in battling
for phrases or pelf,
Now that each may know what forebodeth woe to his
neighbor, and not to himself."
Yet some have the Gods forgotten,--or is it that
The Gods extort of a certain sort of folk that cumber
For this is the song of the double-soul, distortedly
two in one,--
Of the wearied eyes that still behold the fruit ere
And derive affright for the nearing night from the
of the noontide sun.
For one that with hope in the morning set forth, and
knew never a fear,
They have linked with another whom omens bother; and
he whispers in one's ear.
And one is fain to be climbing where only angels have
But is fettered and tied to another's side who fears
it might look odd.
And one would worship a woman whom all perfections
But the other smiles at transparent wiles; and he
Thus two by two we wrangle and blunder about the
And that body we share we may not spare; but the Gods
have need of mirth.
So this is the song of the double-soul, distortedly
Of the wearied eyes that still behold the fruit ere
And derive affright for the nearing night from the
of the noontide sun.
"These questions, so long as they remain
with the Muses, may very well be unaccompanied
with severity, for where there is no other end
of contemplation and inquiry but that of
pastime alone, the understanding is not
oppressed; but after the Muses have given over
their riddles to Sphinx,--that is, to practise,
which urges and impels to action, choice and
determination,--then it is that they become
torturing, severe and trying."
From the dawn of the day to the dusk he toiled,
Shaping fanciful playthings, with tireless hands,--
Useless trumpery toys; and, with vaulting heart,
Gave them unto all peoples, who mocked at him,
Trampled on them, and soiled them, and went their way.
Then he toiled from the morn to the dusk again,
Gave his gimcracks to peoples who mocked at him,
Trampled on them, deriding, and went their way.
Thus he labors, and loudly they jeer at him;--
That is, when they remember he still exists.
WHO, you ask, IS THIS FELLOW?--What matter names?
He is only a scribbler who is content.
FELIX KENNASTON. The Toy-Maker .
WHICH (AFTER SOME BRIEF DISCOURSE OF FIRES AND
FRYING-PANS) ELUCIDATES THE INEXPEDIENCY OF
PUBLISHING THIS BOOK, AS WELL AS THE NECESSITY
OF WRITING IT: AND THENCE PASSES TO A MODEST
DEFENSE OF MORE VITAL THEMES.
The desire to write perfectly of beautiful happenings
is, as the saying runs, old as the hills--and as
immortal. Questionless, there was many a serviceable
brick wasted in Nineveh because finicky persons must
needs be deleting here and there a phrase in favor of
its cuneatic synonym; and it is not improbable that
when the outworn sun expires in clinkers its final ray
will gild such zealots tinkering with their "style."
Some few there must be in every age and every land of
whom life claims nothing very insistently save that
they write perfectly of beautiful happenings.
Yet, that the work of a man of letters is almost
always a congenial product of his day and environment,
is a contention as lacking in novelty as it is in
the need of any upholding here. Nor is the rationality
of that axiom far to seek; for a man of genuine
literary genius, since he possesses a temperament whose
susceptibilities are of wider area than those of any
other, is inevitably of all people the one most
variously affected by his surroundings. And it is he,
in consequence, who of all people most faithfully and
compactly exhibits the impress of his times and his
times' tendencies, not merely in his writings--where it
conceivably might be just predetermined affectation--
but in his personality.
Such being the assumption upon which this volume is
builded, it appears only equitable for the architect
frankly to indicate his cornerstone. Hereinafter you
have an attempt to depict a special temperament--one in
essence "literary"--as very variously molded by diverse
eras and as responding in proportion with its ability
to the demands of a certain hour.
In proportion with its ability, be it repeated,
since its ability is singularly hampered. For, apart
from any ticklish temporal considerations, be it
remembered, life is always claiming of this
temperament's possessor that he write perfectly of
To disregard this vital longing, and flatly to
stifle the innate striving toward artistic creation, is
to become (as with Wycherley and Sheridan) a man who
waives, however laughingly, his sole apology for
existence. The proceeding is paltry enough, in all
conscience; and yet, upon the other side, there is
much positive danger in giving to the instinct a
loose rein. For in that event the familiar
circumstances of sedate and wholesome living cannot but
seem, like paintings viewed too near, to lose in gusto
and winsomeness. Desire, perhaps a craving hunger,
awakens for the impossible. No emotion, whatever be
its sincerity, is endured without a side-glance toward
its capabilities for being written about. The world,
in short, inclines to appear an ill-lit mine, wherein
one quarries gingerly amidst an abiding loneliness (as
with Pope and Ufford and Sire Raimbaut)--and wherein
one very often is allured into unsavory alleys (as with
Herrick and Alessandro de Medici)--in search of that
raw material which loving labor will transshape into
Such, if it be allowed to shift the metaphor, are
the treacherous by-paths of that admirably policed
highway whereon the well-groomed and well-bitted Pegasi
of Vanderhoffen and Charteris (in his later manner)
trot stolidly and safely toward oblivion. And the
result of wandering afield is of necessity a tragedy,
in that the deviator's life, if not as an artist's
quite certainly as a human being's, must in the outcome
be adjudged a failure.
Hereinafter, then, you have an attempt to depict a
special temperament--one in essence "literary"--as very
variously molded by diverse eras and as responding in
proportion with its ability to the demands of a certain
And this much said, it is permissible to hope, at
least, that here and there some reader may be found not
wholly blind to this book's goal, whatever be his
opinion as to this book's success in reaching it. Yet
many honest souls there be among us average-novel-
readers in whose eyes this volume must rest content to
figure as a collection of short stories having naught
in common beyond the feature that each deals with the
affaires du coeur of a poet.
Such must always be the book's interpretation by
mental indolence. The fact is incontestable; and this
fact in itself may be taken as sufficient to establish
the inexpediency of publishing The Certain Hour. For
that "people will not buy a volume of short stories" is
notorious to all publishers. To offset the axiom there
are no doubt incongruous phenomena--ranging from the
continued popularity of the Bible to the present
general esteem of Mr. Kipling, and embracing the rather
unaccountable vogue of "O. Henry";--but, none the
less, the superstition has its force.
Here intervenes the multifariousness of man,
pointed out somewhere by Mr. Gilbert Chesterton,
which enables the individual to be at once a
vegetarian, a golfer, a vestryman, a blond, a mammal, a
Democrat, and an immortal spirit. As a rational
person, one may debonairly consider The Certain Hour
possesses as large license to look like a volume of
short stories as, say, a backgammon-board has to its
customary guise of a two-volume history; but as an
average-novel-reader, one must vote otherwise. As an
average-novel-reader, one must condemn the very book
which, as a seasoned scribbler, one was moved to write
through long consideration of the drama already
suggested--that immemorial drama of the desire to write
perfectly of beautiful happenings, and the obscure
martyrdom to which this desire solicits its possessor.
Now, clearly, the struggle of a special temperament
with a fixed force does not forthwith begin another
story when the locale of combat shifts. The case is,
rather, as when--with certainly an intervening change
of apparel--Pompey fights Caesar at both Dyrrachium and
Pharsalus, or as when General Grant successively
encounters General Lee at the Wilderness,
Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and Appomattox. The
combatants remain unchanged, the question at issue is
the same, the tragedy has continuity. And even so,
from the time of Sire Raimbaut to that of John
Charteris has a special temperament heart-hungrily
confronted an ageless problem: at what cost now, in
this fleet hour of my vigor, may one write perfectly of
Thus logic urges, with pathetic futility, inasmuch
as we average-novel-readers are profoundly indifferent
to both logic and good writing. And always the fact
remains that to the mentally indolent this book may
well seem a volume of disconnected short stories. All
of us being more or less mentally indolent, this
possibility constitutes a dire fault.
Three other damning objections will readily obtrude
themselves: The Certain Hour deals with past
epochs--beginning before the introduction of dinner-
forks, and ending at that remote quaint period when
people used to waltz and two-step--dead eras in which
we average-novel-readers are not interested; The
Certain Hour assumes an appreciable amount of culture
and information on its purchaser's part, which we
average-novel-readers either lack or, else, are
unaccustomed to employ in connection with reading for
pastime; and--in our eyes the crowning misdemeanor--
The Certain Hour is not "vital."
Having thus candidly confessed these faults
committed as the writer of this book, it is still
possible in human multifariousness to consider their
enormity, not merely in this book, but in fictional
reading-matter at large, as viewed by an average-novel-
reader--by a representative of that potent class whose
preferences dictate the nature and main trend of modern
American literature. And to do this, it may be, throws
no unsalutary sidelight upon the still-existent
problem: at what cost, now, may one attempt to write
perfectly of beautiful happenings?
Indisputably the most striking defect of this
modern American literature is the fact that the
production of anything at all resembling literature is
scarcely anywhere apparent. Innumerable printing-
presses, instead, are turning out a vast quantity of
reading-matter, the candidly recognized purpose of
which is to kill time, and which--it has been asserted,
though perhaps too sweepingly--ought not to be vended
over book-counters, but rather in drugstores along with
the other narcotics.
It is begging the question to protest that the
class of people who a generation ago read nothing now
at least read novels, and to regard this as a change
for the better. By similar logic it would be more
wholesome to breakfast off laudanum than to omit the
meal entirely. The nineteenth century, in fact, by
making education popular, has produced in America the
curious spectacle of a reading-public with essentially
nonliterary tastes. Formerly, better books were
published, because they were intended for persons who
turned to reading through a natural bent of mind;
whereas the modern American novel of commerce is
addressed to us average people who read, when we read
at all, in violation of every innate instinct.
Such grounds as yet exist for hopefulness on the
part of those who cordially care for belles lettres
are to be found elsewhere than in the crowded market-
places of fiction, where genuine intelligence panders
on all sides to ignorance and indolence. The phrase
may seem to have no very civil ring; but reflection
will assure the fair-minded that two indispensable
requisites nowadays of a pecuniarily successful novel
are, really, that it make no demand upon the reader's
imagination, and that it rigorously refrain from
assuming its reader to possess any particular
information on any subject whatever. The author who
writes over the head of the public is the most
dangerous enemy of his publisher--and the most
insidious as well, because so many publishers are in
private life interested in literary matters, and would
readily permit this personal foible to influence the
exercise of their vocation were it possible to do so
upon the preferable side of bankruptcy.
But publishers, among innumerable other conditions,
must weigh the fact that no novel which does not deal
with modern times is ever really popular among the
serious-minded. It is difficult to imagine a tale
whose action developed under the rule of the Caesars or
the Merovingians being treated as more than a literary
hors d'oeuvre. We purchasers of "vital" novels know
nothing about the period, beyond a hazy association
of it with the restrictions of the schoolroom; our
sluggish imaginations instinctively rebel against the
exertion of forming any notion of such a period; and
all the human nature that exists even in serious-minded
persons is stirred up to resentment against the book's
author for presuming to know more than a potential
patron. The book, in fine, simply irritates the
serious-minded person; and she--for it is only women
who willingly brave the terrors of department-stores,
where most of our new books are bought nowadays--quite
naturally puts it aside in favor of some keen and
daring study of American life that is warranted to grip
the reader. So, modernity of scene is everywhere
necessitated as an essential qualification for a book's
discussion at the literary evenings of the local
woman's club; and modernity of scene, of course, is
almost always fatal to the permanent worth of
It may seem banal here to recall the truism that
first-class art never reproduces its surroundings; but
such banality is often justified by our human proneness
to shuffle over the fact that many truisms are true.
And this one is pre-eminently indisputable: that what
mankind has generally agreed to accept as first-class
art in any of the varied forms of fictitious narrative
has never been a truthful reproduction of the artist's
era. Indeed, in the higher walks of fiction art has
never reproduced anything, but has always dealt with
the facts and laws of life as so much crude material
which must be transmuted into comeliness. When
Shakespeare pronounced his celebrated dictum about
art's holding the mirror up to nature, he was no doubt
alluding to the circumstance that a mirror reverses
everything which it reflects.
Nourishment for much wildish speculation, in fact,
can be got by considering what the world's literature
would be, had its authors restricted themselves, as do
we Americans so sedulously--and unavoidably--to writing
of contemporaneous happenings. In fiction-making no
author of the first class since Homer's infancy has
ever in his happier efforts concerned himself at all
with the great "problems" of his particular day; and
among geniuses of the second rank you will find such
ephemeralities adroitly utilized only when they are
distorted into enduring parodies of their actual selves
by the broad humor of a Dickens or the colossal fantasy
of a Balzac. In such cases as the latter two writers,
however, we have an otherwise competent artist
handicapped by a personality so marked that, whatever
he may nominally write about, the result is, above all
else, an exposure of the writer's idiosyncrasies.
Then, too, the laws of any locale wherein Mr.
Pickwick achieves a competence in business, or of a
society wherein Vautrin becomes chief of police, are
upon the face of it extra-mundane. It suffices that,
as a general rule, in fiction-making the true artist
finds an ample, if restricted, field wherein the proper
functions of the preacher, or the ventriloquist, or the
photographer, or of the public prosecutor, are
exercised with equal lack of grace.
Besides, in dealing with contemporary life a
novelist is goaded into too many pusillanimous
concessions to plausibility. He no longer moves with
the gait of omnipotence. It was very different in the
palmy days when Dumas was free to play at ducks and
drakes with history, and Victor Hugo to reconstruct the
whole system of English government, and Scott to compel
the sun to set in the east, whenever such minor changes
caused to flow more smoothly the progress of the tale
these giants had in hand. These freedoms are not
tolerated in American noveldom, and only a few futile
"high-brows" sigh in vain for Thackeray's "happy
harmless Fableland, where these things are." The
majority of us are deep in "vital" novels. Nor is the
reason far to seek.
One hears a great deal nowadays concerning "vital"
books. Their authors have been widely praised on very
various grounds. Oddly enough, however, the writers of
these books have rarely been commended for the really
praiseworthy charity evinced therein toward that large
long-suffering class loosely describable as the
Yet, in connection with this fact, it is worthy of
more than passing note that no great while ago the New
York Times' carefully selected committee, in picking
out the hundred best books published during a
particular year, declared as to novels--"a `best' book,
in our opinion, is one that raises an important
question, or recurs to a vital theme and pronounces
upon it what in some sense is a last word." Now this
definition is not likely ever to receive more praise
than it deserves. Cavilers may, of course, complain
that actually to write the last word on any subject is
a feat reserved for the Recording Angel's unique
performance on judgment Day. Even setting that
objection aside, it is undeniable that no work of
fiction published of late in America corresponds
quite so accurately to the terms of this definition as
do the multiplication tables. Yet the multiplication
tables are not without their claims to applause as
examples of straightforward narrative. It is, also, at
least permissible to consider that therein the numeral
five, say, where it figures as protagonist, unfolds
under the stress of its varying adventures as opulent a
development of real human nature as does, through
similar ups-and-downs, the Reverend John Hodder in The
Inside of the Cup. It is equally allowable to find
the less simple evolution of the digit seven more
sympathetic, upon the whole, than those of Undine
Spragg in The Custom of the Country. But, even so,
this definition of what may now, authoritatively, be
ranked as a "best novel" is an honest and noteworthy
severance from misleading literary associations such as
have too long befogged our notions about reading-
matter. It points with emphasis toward the altruistic
obligations of tale-tellers to be "vital."
For we average-novel-readers--we average people, in
a word--are now, as always, rather pathetically hungry
for "vital" themes, such themes as appeal directly to
our everyday observation and prejudices. Did the
decision rest with us all novelists would be put under
bond to confine themselves forevermore to themes like
As touches the appeal to everyday observation, it
is an old story, at least coeval with Mr. Crummles' not
uncelebrated pumps and tubs, if not with the grapes
of Zeuxis, how unfailingly in art we delight to
recognize the familiar. A novel whose scene of action
is explicit will always interest the people of that
locality, whatever the book's other pretensions to
consideration. Given simultaneously a photograph of
Murillo's rendering of The Virgin Crowned Queen of
Heaven and a photograph of a governor's installation
in our State capital, there is no one of us but will
quite naturally look at the latter first, in order to
see if in it some familiar countenance be recognizable.
And thus, upon a larger scale, the twentieth century
is, pre-eminently, interested in the twentieth century.
It is all very well to describe our average-novel-
readers' dislike of Romanticism as "the rage of Caliban
not seeing his own face in a glass." It is even within
the scope of human dunderheadedness again to point out
here that the supreme artists in literature have
precisely this in common, and this alone, that in their
masterworks they have avoided the "vital" themes of
their day with such circumspection as lesser folk
reserve for the smallpox. The answer, of course, in
either case, is that the "vital" novel, the novel which
peculiarly appeals to us average-novel-readers, has
nothing to do with literature. There is between these
two no more intelligent connection than links the paint
Mr. Sargent puts on canvas and the paint Mr. Dockstader
puts on his face.
Literature is made up of the re-readable books, the
books which it is possible--for the people so
constituted as to care for that sort of thing--to read
again and yet again with pleasure. Therefore, in
literature a book's subject is of astonishingly minor
importance, and its style nearly everything: whereas in
books intended to be read for pastime, and forthwith to
be consigned at random to the wastebasket or to the
inmates of some charitable institute, the theme is of
paramount importance, and ought to be a serious one.
The modern novelist owes it to his public to select a
"vital" theme which in itself will fix the reader's
attention by reason of its familiarity in the reader's
Thus, a lady with whose more candid opinions the
writer of this is more frequently favored nowadays than
of old, formerly confessed to having only one set rule
when it came to investment in new reading-matter--
always to buy the Williamsons' last book. Her reason
was the perfectly sensible one that the Williamsons'
plots used invariably to pivot upon motor-trips, and
she is an ardent automobilist. Since, as of late, the
Williamsons have seen fit to exercise their typewriter
upon other topics, they have as a matter of course lost
This principle of selection, when you come to
appraise it sanely, is the sole intelligent method of
dealing with reading-matter. It seems here expedient
again to state the peculiar problem that we average--
novel-readers have of necessity set the modern
novelist--namely, that his books must in the main
appeal to people who read for pastime, to people who
read books only under protest and only when they
have no other employment for that particular half-hour.
Now, reading for pastime is immensely simplified
when the book's theme is some familiar matter of the
reader's workaday life, because at outset the reader is
spared considerable mental effort. The motorist above
referred to, and indeed any average-novel-reader, can
without exertion conceive of the Williamsons' people in
their automobiles. Contrariwise, were these fictitious
characters embarked in palankeens or droshkies or
jinrikishas, more or less intellectual exercise would
be necessitated on the reader's part to form a notion
of the conveyance. And we average-novel-readers do not
open a book with the intention of making a mental
effort. The author has no right to expect of us an act
so unhabitual, we very poignantly feel. Our prejudices
he is freely chartered to stir up--if, lucky rogue, he
can!--but he ought with deliberation to recognize that
it is precisely in order to avoid mental effort that we
purchase, or borrow, his book, and afterward discuss
Hence arises our heartfelt gratitude toward such
novels as deal with "vital" themes, with the questions
we average-novel-readers confront or make talk about in
those happier hours of our existence wherein we are not
reduced to reading. Thus, a tale, for example, dealing
either with "feminism" or "white slavery" as the
handiest makeshift of spinsterdom--or with the divorce
habit and plutocratic iniquity in general, or with the
probable benefits of converting clergymen to
Christianity, or with how much more than she knows a
desirable mother will tell her children--finds the
book's tentative explorer, just now, amply equipped
with prejudices, whether acquired by second thought or
second hand, concerning the book's topic. As
endurability goes, reading the book rises forthwith
almost to the level of an afternoon-call where there is
gossip about the neighbors and Germany's future. We
average-novel-readers may not, in either case, agree
with the opinions advanced; but at least our prejudices
are aroused, and we are interested.
And these "vital" themes awake our prejudices at
the cost of a minimum--if not always, as when Miss
Corelli guides us, with a positively negligible--
tasking of our mental faculties. For such exemption we
average-novel-readers cannot but be properly grateful.
Nay, more than this: provided the novelist contrive to
rouse our prejudices, it matters with us not at all
whether afterward they be soothed or harrowed. To
implicate our prejudices somehow, to raise in us a
partizanship in the tale's progress, is our sole
request. Whether this consummation be brought about
through an arraignment of some social condition which
we personally either advocate or reprehend--the
attitude weighs little--or whether this interest be
purchased with placidly driveling preachments of
generally "uplifting" tendencies--vaguely titillating
that vague intention which exists in us all of becoming
immaculate as soon as it is perfectly convenient--the
personal prejudices of us average-novel-readers are
not lightly lulled again to sleep.
In fact, the jealousy of any human prejudice
against hinted encroachment may safely be depended upon
to spur us through an astonishing number of pages--for
all that it has of late been complained among us, with
some show of extenuation, that our original intent in
beginning certain of the recent "vital" novels was to
kill time, rather than eternity. And so, we average--
novel-readers plod on jealously to the end, whether we
advance (to cite examples already somewhat of
yesterday) under the leadership of Mr. Upton Sinclair
aspersing the integrity of modern sausages and
millionaires, or of Mr. Hall Caine saying about Roman
Catholics what ordinary people would hesitate to impute
to their relatives by marriage--or whether we be more
suavely allured onward by Mrs. Florence Barclay, or Mr.
Sydnor Harrison, with ingenuous indorsements of the New
Testament and the inherent womanliness of women.
The "vital" theme, then, let it be repeated, has
two inestimable advantages which should commend it to
all novelists: first, it spares us average-novel-
readers any preliminary orientation, and thereby
mitigates the mental exertion of reading; and secondly,
it appeals to our prejudices, which we naturally prefer
to exercise, and are accustomed to exercise, rather
than our mental or idealistic faculties. The novelist
who conscientiously bears these two facts in mind is
reasonably sure of his reward, not merely in pecuniary
form, but in those higher fields wherein he
harvests his chosen public's honest gratitude and
For we average-novel-readers are quite frequently
reduced by circumstances to self-entrustment to the
resources of the novelist, as to those of the dentist.
Our latter-day conditions, as we cannot but recognize,
necessitate the employment of both artists upon
occasion. And with both, we average-novel-readers, we
average people, are most grateful when they make the
process of resorting to them as easy and unirritating
as may be possible.
So much for the plea of us average-novel-readers;
and our plea, we think, is rational. We are "in the
market" for a specified article; and human ingenuity,
co-operating with human nature, will inevitably insure
the manufacture of that article as long as any general
demand for it endures.
Meanwhile, it is small cause for grief that the
purchaser of American novels prefers Central Park to
any "wood near Athens," and is more at home in the
Tenderloin than in Camelot. People whose tastes happen
to be literary are entirely too prone to too much long-
faced prattle about literature, which, when all is
said, is never a controlling factor in anybody's life.
The automobile and the telephone, the accomplishments
of Mr. Edison and Mr. Burbank, and it would be
permissible to add of Mr. Rockefeller, influence
nowadays, in one fashion or another, every moment of
every living American's existence; whereas had America
produced, instead, a second Milton or a Dante, it would
at most have caused a few of us to spend a few spare
evenings rather differently.
Besides, we know--even we average-novel-readers--
that America is in fact producing her enduring
literature day by day, although, as rarely fails to be
the case, those who are contemporaneous with the makers
of this literature cannot with any certainty point them
out. To voice a hoary truism, time alone is the test
of "vitality." In our present flood of books, as in
any other flood, it is the froth and scum which shows
most prominently. And the possession of "vitality,"
here as elsewhere, postulates that its possessor must
Nay, by the time these printed pages are first read
as printed pages, allusion to those modern authors whom
these pages cite--the pre-eminent literary personages
of that hour wherein these pages were written--will
inevitably have come to savor somewhat of antiquity: so
that sundry references herein to the "vital" books now
most in vogue will rouse much that vague shrugging
recollection as wakens, say, at a mention of Dorothy
Vernon or Three Weeks or Beverly of Graustark.
And while at first glance it might seem expedient--in
revising the last proof-sheets of these pages--somewhat
to "freshen them up" by substituting, for the books
herein referred to, the "vital" and more widely talked-
of novels of the summer of 1916, the task would be but
wasted labor; since even these fascinating chronicles,
one comprehends forlornly, must needs be equally
obsolete by the time these proof-sheets have been made
into a volume. With malice aforethought, therefore,
the books and authors named herein stay those which all
of three years back our reviewers and advertising
pages, with perfect gravity, acclaimed as of
enduring importance. For the quaintness of that
opinion, nowadays, may profitably round the moral that
there is really nothing whereto one may fittingly
compare a successful contribution to "vital" reading-
matter, as touches evanescence.
And this is as it should be. Tout passe.--L'art
robust seul a l'eternite, precisely as Gautier points
out, with bracing common-sense; and it is excellent
thus to comprehend that to-day, as always, only through
exercise of the auctorial virtues of distinction and
clarity, of beauty and symmetry, of tenderness and
truth and urbanity, may a man in reason attempt to
insure his books against oblivion's voracity.
Yet the desire to write perfectly of beautiful
happenings is, as the saying runs, old as the hills--
and as immortal. Questionless, there was many a
serviceable brick wasted in Nineveh because finicky
persons must needs be deleting here and there a phrase
in favor of its cuneatic synonym; and it is not
improbable that when the outworn sun expires in
clinkers its final ray will gild such zealots tinkering
with their "style." This, then, is the conclusion of
the whole matter. Some few there must be in every age
and every land of whom life claims nothing very
insistently save that they write perfectly of beautiful
happenings. And even we average-novel-readers know it
is such folk who are to-day making in America that
portion of our literature which may hope for
"For this RAIMBAUT DE VAQUIERAS lived at a time
when prolonged habits of extra-mundane contemplation,
combined with the decay of real knowledge, were apt to
volatilize the thoughts and aspirations of the best and
wisest into dreamy unrealities, and to lend a false air
of mysticism to love. . . . It is as if the
intellect and the will had become used to moving
paralytically among visions, dreams, and mystic
terrors, weighed down with torpor."
Fair friend, since that hour I took leave of thee
I have not slept nor stirred from off my knee,
But prayed alway to God, S. Mary's Son,
To give me back my true companion;
And soon it will be Dawn.
Fair friend, at parting, thy behest to me
Was that all sloth I should eschew and flee,
And keep good Watch until the Night was done:
Now must my Song and Service pass for none?
For soon it will be Dawn.
RAIMBAUT DE VAQUIERAS. Aubade,
from F. York Powells version.
You may read elsewhere of the long feud that was
between Guillaume de Baux, afterward Prince of Orange,
and his kinsman Raimbaut de Vaquieras. They were not
reconciled until their youth was dead. Then, when
Messire Raimbaut returned from battling against the
Turks and the Bulgarians, in the 1,210th year from
man's salvation, the Archbishop of Rheims made peace
between the two cousins; and, attended by Makrisi, a
converted Saracen who had followed the knight's
fortunes for well nigh a quarter of a century, the Sire
de Vaquieras rode homeward.
Many slain men were scattered along the highway
when he came again into Venaissin, in April, after an
absence of thirty years. The crows whom his passing
disturbed were too sluggish for long flights and many
of them did not heed him at all. Guillaume de Baux was
now undisputed master of these parts, although, as this
host of mute, hacked and partially devoured witnesses
attested, the contest had been dubious for a while: but
now Lovain of the Great-Tooth, Prince Guillaume's
last competitor, was captured; the forces of Lovain
were scattered; and of Lovain's lieutenants only Mahi
de Vernoil was unsubdued.
Prince Guillaume laughed a little when he told his
kinsman of the posture of affairs, as more loudly did
Guillaume's gross son, Sire Philibert. But Madona
Biatritz did not laugh. She was the widow of
Guillaume's dead brother--Prince Conrat, whom Guillaume
succeeded--and it was in her honor that Raimbaut had
made those songs which won him eminence as a
practitioner of the Gay Science.
Biatritz said, "It is a long while since we two
He that had been her lover all his life said,
She was no longer the most beautiful of women, no
longer his be-hymned Belhs Cavaliers--you may read
elsewhere how he came to call her that in all his
canzons--but only a fine and gracious stranger. It was
uniformly gray, that soft and plentiful hair, where
once such gold had flamed as dizzied him to think of
even now; there was no crimson in these thinner lips;
and candor would have found her eyes less wonderful
than those Raimbaut had dreamed of very often among an
alien and hostile people. But he lamented nothing, and
to him she was as ever Heaven's most splendid miracle.
"Yes," said this old Raimbaut,--"and even to-day we
have not reclaimed the Sepulcher as yet. Oh, I doubt
if we shall ever win it, now that your brother and my
most dear lord is dead." Both thought a while of
Boniface de Montferrat, their playmate once, who
yesterday was King of Thessalonica and now was so much
She said: "This week the Prince sent envoys to my
nephew. . . . And so you have come home again----"
Color had surged into her time-worn face, and as she
thought of things done long ago this woman's eyes were
like the eyes of his young Biatritz. She said: "You
He answered: "No, I have left love alone. For
Love prefers to take rather than to give; against a
single happy hour he balances a hundred miseries, and
he appraises one pleasure to be worth a thousand pangs.
Pardieu, let this immortal usurer contrive as may seem
well to him, for I desire no more of his bounty or of
"No, we wish earnestly for nothing, either good or
bad," said Dona Biatritz--"we who have done with
They sat in silence, musing over ancient
happenings, and not looking at each other, until the
Prince came with his guests, who seemed to laugh too
Guillaume's frail arm was about his kinsman, and
Guillaume chuckled over jests and by-words that had
been between the cousins as children. Raimbaut found
them no food for laughter now. Guillaume told all of
Raimbaut's oath of fealty, and of how these two were
friends and their unnatural feud was forgotten. "For
we grow old,--eh, maker of songs?" he said; "and it
is time we made our peace with Heaven, since we are not
long for this world."
"Yes," said the knight; "oh yes, we both grow old."
He thought of another April evening, so long ago, when
this Guillaume de Baux had stabbed him in a hedged
field near Calais, and had left him under a hawthorn
bush for dead; and Raimbaut wondered that there was no
anger in his heart. "We are friends now," he said.
Biatritz, whom these two had loved, and whose vanished
beauty had been the spur of their long enmity, sat
close to them, and hardly seemed to listen.
Thus the evening passed and every one was merry,
because the Prince had overcome Lovain of the Great-
Tooth, and was to punish the upstart on the morrow.
But Raimbaut de Vaquieras, a spent fellow, a derelict,
barren of aim now that the Holy Wars were over, sat in
this unfamiliar place--where when he was young he had
laughed as a cock crows!--and thought how at the last
he had crept home to die as a dependent on his cousin's
Thus the evening passed, and at its end Makrisi
followed the troubadour to his regranted fief of
Vaquieras. This was a chill and brilliant night,
swayed by a frozen moon so powerful that no stars
showed in the unclouded heavens, and everywhere the
bogs were curdled with thin ice. An obdurate wind
swept like a knife-blade across a world which even in
its spring seemed very old.
"This night is bleak and evil," Makrisi said.
He rode a coffin's length behind his master. "It
is like Prince Guillaume, I think. What man will
sorrow when dawn comes?"
Raimbaut de Vaquieras replied: "Always dawn comes
at last, Makrisi."
"It comes the more quickly, messire, when it is
The troubadour only smiled at words which seemed so
meaningless. He did not smile when later in the night
Makrisi brought Mahi de Vernoil, disguised as a
mendicant friar. This outlaw pleaded with Sire
Raimbaut to head the tatters of Lovain's army, and
showed Raimbaut how easy it would be to wrest Venaissin
from Prince Guillaume. "We cannot save Lovain," de
Vemoil said, "for Guillaume has him fast. But
Venaissin is very proud of you, my tres beau sire. Ho,
maker of world-famous songs! stout champion of the
faith! my men and I will now make you Prince of Orange
in place of the fiend who rules us. You may then at
your convenience wed Madona Biatritz, that most amiable
lady whom you have loved so long. And by the Cross!
you may do this before the week is out."
The old knight answered: "It is true that I have
always served Madona Biatritz, who is of matchless
worth. I might not, therefore, presume to call myself
any longer her servant were my honor stained in any
particular. Oh no, Messire de Vernoil, an oath is an
oath. I have this day sworn fealty to Guillaume de
Then after other talk Raimbaut dismissed the
fierce-eyed little man. The freebooter growled curses
as he went. On a sudden he whistled, like a person
considering, and he began to chuckle.
Raimbaut said, more lately: "Zoraida left no
wholesome legacy in you, Makrisi." This Zoraida was a
woman the knight had known in Constantinople--a comely
outlander who had killed herself because of Sire
Raimbaut's highflown avoidance of all womankind except
the mistress of his youth.
"Nay, save only in loving you too well, messire,
was Zoraida a wise woman, notably. . . . But this is
outworn talk, the prattle of Cain's babyhood. As
matters were, you did not love Zoraida. So Zoraida
died. Such is the custom in my country."
"You trouble me, Makrisi. Your eyes are like blown
coals. . . . Yet you have served me long and
faithfully. You know that mine was ever the vocation
of dealing honorably in battle among emperors, and of
spreading broadcast the rumor of my valor, and of
achieving good by my sword's labors. I have lived by
warfare. Long, long ago, since I derived no benefit
from love, I cried farewell to it."
"Ay," said Makrisi. "Love makes a demi-god of
all--just for an hour. Such hours as follow we devote
to the concoction of sleeping-draughts." He laughed,
and very harshly.
And Raimbaut did not sleep that night because this
life of ours seemed such a piece of tangle-work as he
had not the skill to unravel. So he devoted the
wakeful hours to composition of a planh, lamenting
vanished youth and that Biatritz whom the years had
Then on the ensuing morning, after some talk about
the new campaign, Prince Guillaume de Baux leaned back
in his high chair and said, abruptly:
"In perfect candor, you puzzle your liege-lord.
For you loathe me and you still worship my sister-in-
law, an unattainable princess. In these two
particulars you display such wisdom as would inevitably
prompt you to make an end of me. Yet, what the devil!
you, the time-battered vagabond, decline happiness and
a kingdom to boot because of yesterday's mummery in the
cathedral! because of a mere promise given! Yes, I
have my spies in every rat-hole. I am aware that my
barons hate me, and hate Philibert almost as
bitterly,--and that, in fine, a majority of my barons
would prefer to see you Prince in my unstable place, on
account of your praiseworthy molestations of heathenry.
Oh, yes, I understand my barons perfectly. I flatter
myself I understand everybody in Venaissin save you."
Raimbaut answered: "You and I are not alike."
"No, praise each and every Saint!" said the Prince
of Orange, heartily. "And yet, I am not sure----" He
rose, for his sight had failed him so that he could not
distinctly see you except when he spoke with head
thrown back, as though he looked at you over a wall.
"For instance, do you understand that I hold Biatritz
here as a prisoner, because her dower-lands are neces-
sary to me, and that I intend to marry her as soon
as Pope Innocent grants me a dispensation?"
"All Venaissin knows that. Yes, you have always
gained everything which you desired in this world,
Guillaume. Yet it was at a price, I think."
"I am no haggler. . . . But you have never
comprehended me, not even in the old days when we loved
each other. For instance, do you understand--slave of
a spoken word!--what it must mean to me to know that at
this hour to-morrow there will be alive in Venaissin no
person whom I hate?"
Messire de Vaquieras reflected. His was never a
rapid mind. "Why, no, I do not know anything about
hatred," he said, at last. "I think I never hated any
Guillaume de Baux gave a half-frantic gesture.
"Now, Heaven send you troubadours a clearer
understanding of what sort of world we live in----!"
He broke off short and growled, "And yet--sometimes I
envy you, Raimbaut!"
They rode then into the Square of St. Michel to
witness the death of Lovain. Guillaume took with him
his two new mistresses and all his by-blows, each
magnificently clothed, as if they rode to a festival.
Afterward, before the doors of Lovain's burning house,
a rope was fastened under Lovain's armpits, and he was
gently lowered into a pot of boiling oil. His feet
cooked first, and then the flesh of his legs, and so on
upward, while Lovain screamed. Guillaume in a loose
robe of green powdered with innumerable silver
crescents, sat watching, under a canopy woven very long
ago in Tarshish, and cunningly embroidered with the
figures of peacocks and apes and men with eagles'
heads. His hands caressed each other meditatively.
It was on the afternoon of this day, the last of
April, that Sire Raimbaut came upon Madona Biatritz
about a strange employment in the Ladies' Court. There
was then a well in the midst of this enclosure, with a
granite ledge around it carven with lilies; and upon
this she leaned, looking down into the water. In her
lap was a rope of pearls, which one by one she
unthreaded and dropped into the well.
Clear and warm the weather was. Without, forests
were quickening, branch by branch, as though a green
flame smoldered from one bough to another. Violets
peeped about the roots of trees, and all the world was
young again. But here was only stone beneath their
feet; and about them showed the high walls and the
lead-sheathed towers and the parapets and the sunk
windows of Guillaume's chateau. There was no color
anywhere save gray; and Raimbaut and Biatritz were
aging people now. It seemed to him that they were the
wraiths of those persons who had loved each other at
Montferrat; and that the walls about them and the
leaden devils who grinned from every waterspout and all
those dark and narrow windows were only part of some
magic picture, such as a sorceress may momentarily
summon out of smoke-wreaths, as he had seen Zoraida do
very long ago.
This woman might have been a wraith in verity, for
she was clothed throughout in white, save for the
ponderous gold girdle about her middle. A white gorget
framed the face which was so pinched and shrewd and
strange; and she peered into the well, smiling
"I was thinking death was like this well," said
Biatritz, without any cessation of her singular
employment--"so dark that we may see nothing clearly
save one faint gleam which shows us, or which seems to
show us, where rest is. Yes, yes, this is that chaplet
which you won in the tournament at Montferrat when we
were young. Pearls are the symbol of tears, we read.
But we had no time for reading then, no time for
anything except to be quite happy. . . . You saw this
morning's work. Raimbaut, were Satan to go mad he
would be such a fiend as this Guillaume de Baux who is
"Ay, the man is as cruel as my old opponent,
Mourzoufle," Sire Raimbaut answered, with a patient
shrug. "It is a great mystery why such persons should
win all which they desire of this world. We can but
recognize that it is for some sufficient reason." Then
he talked with her concerning the aforementioned
infamous emperor of the East, against whom the old
knight had fought, and of Enrico Dandolo and of King
Boniface, dead brother to Madona Biatritz, and of much
remote, outlandish adventuring oversea. Of Zoraida
he did not speak. And Biatritz, in turn, told him of
that one child which she had borne her husband, Prince
Conrat--a son who died in infancy; and she spoke of
this dead baby, who living would have been their
monarch, with a sweet quietude that wrung the old
Thus these spent people sat and talked for a long
while, the talk veering anywhither just as chance
directed. Blurred gusts of song and laughter would
come to them at times from the hall where Guillaume de
Baux drank with his courtiers, and these would break
the tranquil flow of speech. Then, unvexedly, the
gentle voice of the speaker, were it his or hers, would
She said: "They laugh. We are not merry."
"No," he replied; "I am not often merry. There was
a time when love and its service kept me in continuous
joy, as waters invest a fish. I woke from a high
dream. . . . And then, but for the fear of seeming
cowardly, I would have extinguished my life as men blow
out a candle. Vanity preserved me, sheer vanity!" He
shrugged, spreading his hard lean hands. "Belhs
Cavaliers, I grudged my enemies the pleasure of seeing
me forgetful of valor and noble enterprises. And so,
since then, I have served Heaven, in default of you."
"I would not have it otherwise," she said, half as
in wonder; "I would not have you be quite sane like
other men. And I believe," she added--still with
her wise smile--"you have derived a deal of
comfort, off and on, from being heart-broken."
He replied gravely: "A man may always, if he will
but take the pains, be tolerably content and rise in
worth, and yet dispense with love. He has only to
guard himself against baseness, and concentrate his
powers on doing right. Thus, therefore, when fortune
failed me, I persisted in acting to the best of my
ability. Though I had lost my lands and my loved lady,
I must hold fast to my own worth. Without a lady and
without acreage, it was yet in my power to live a
cleanly and honorable life; and I did not wish to make
two evils out of one."
"Assuredly, I would not have you be quite sane like
other men," she repeated. "It would seem that you have
somehow blundered through long years, preserving always
the ignorance of a child, and the blindness of a child.
I cannot understand how this is possible; nor can I
keep from smiling at your high-flown notions; and
yet,--I envy you, Raimbaut."
Thus the afternoon passed, and the rule of Prince
Guillaume was made secure. His supper was worthily
appointed, for Guillaume loved color and music and
beauty of every kind, and was on this, the day of his
triumph, in a prodigal humor. Many lackeys in scarlet
brought in the first course, to the sound of exultant
drums and pipes, with a blast of trumpets and a waving
of banners, so that all hearts were uplifted, and
Guillaume jested with harsh laughter.
But Raimbaut de Vaquieras was not mirthful, for he
was remembering a boy whom he had known of very long
ago. He was swayed by an odd fancy, as the men sat
over their wine, and jongleurs sang and performed
tricks for their diversion, that this boy, so frank and
excellent, as yet existed somewhere; and that the
Raimbaut who moved these shriveled hands before him, on
the table there, was only a sad dream of what had never
been. It troubled him, too, to see how grossly these
soldiers ate, for, as a person of refinement, an
associate of monarchs, Sire Raimbaut when the dishes
were passed picked up his meats between the index- and
the middle-finger of his left hand, and esteemed it
infamous manners to dip any other fingers into the
Guillaume had left the Warriors' Hall. Philibert
was drunk, and half the men-at-arms were snoring among
the rushes, when at the height of their festivity
Makrisi came. He plucked his master by the sleeve.
A swarthy, bearded Angevin was singing. His song
was one of old Sire Raimbaut's famous canzons in honor
of Belhs Cavaliers. The knave was singing blithely:
Pus mos Belhs Cavaliers grazitz
E joys m'es lunhatz e faiditz,
Don no m' venra jamais conortz;
Fer qu'ees mayer l'ira e plus fortz--
The Saracen had said nothing. He showed a jeweled
dagger, and the knight arose and followed him out
of that uproarious hall. Raimbaut was bitterly
perturbed, though he did not know for what reason, as
Makrisi led him through dark corridors to the dull-
gleaming arras of Prince Guillaume's apartments. In
this corridor was an iron lamp swung from the ceiling,
and now, as this lamp swayed slightly and burned low,
the tiny flame leaped clear of the wick and was
extinguished, and darkness rose about them.
Raimbaut said: "What do you want of me? Whose
blood is on that knife?"
"Have you forgotten it is Walburga's Eve?" Makrisi
said. Raimbaut did not regret he could not see his
servant's countenance. "Time was we named it otherwise
and praised another woman than a Saxon wench, but let
the new name stand. It is Walburga's Eve, that little,
little hour of evil! and all over the world surges the
full tide of hell's desire, and mischief is a-making
now, apace, apace, apace. People moan in their sleep,
and many pillows are pricked by needles that have sewed
a shroud. Cry Eman hetan now, messire! for there are
those to-night who find the big cathedrals of your red-
roofed Christian towns no more imposing than so many
pimples on a butler's chin, because they ride so high,
so very high, in this brave moonlight. Full-tide,
full-tide!" Makrisi said, and his voice jangled like a
bell as he drew aside the curtain so that the old
knight saw into the room beyond.
It was a place of many lights, which, when thus
suddenly disclosed, blinded him at first. Then
Raimbaut perceived Guillaume lying a-sprawl across
an oaken chest. The Prince had fallen backward and
lay in this posture, glaring at the intruders with
horrible eyes which did not move and would not ever
move again. His breast was crimson, for some one had
stabbed him. A woman stood above the corpse and
lighted yet another candle while Raimbaut de Vaquieras
waited motionless. A hand meant only to bestow
caresses brushed a lock of hair from this woman's eyes
while he waited. The movements of this hand were not
uncertain, but only quivered somewhat, as a taut wire
shivers in the wind, while Raimbaut de Vaquieras waited
"I must have lights, I must have a host of candles
to assure me past any questioning that he is dead. The
man is of deep cunning. I think he is not dead even
now." Lightly Biatritz touched the Prince's breast.
"Strange, that this wicked heart should be so tranquil
when there is murder here to make it glad! Nay, very
certainly this Guillaume de Baux will rise and laugh in
his old fashion before he speaks, and then I shall be
afraid. But I am not afraid as yet. I am afraid of
nothing save the dark, for one cannot be merry in the
Raimbaut said: "This is Belhs Cavaliers whom I
have loved my whole life through. Therefore I do not
doubt. Pardieu, I do not even doubt, who know she is
of matchless worth."
"Wherein have I done wrong, Raimbaut?" She came to
him with fluttering hands. "Why, but look you, the man
had laid an ambuscade in the marsh and he meant to
kill you there to-night as you rode for Vaquieras. He
told me of it, told me how it was for that end alone he
lured you into Venaissin----" Again she brushed the
hair back from her forehead. "Raimbaut, I spoke of God
and knightly honor, and the man laughed. No, I think
it was a fiend who sat so long beside the window
yonder, whence one may see the marsh. There were no
candles in the room. The moonlight was upon his evil
face, and I could think of nothing, of nothing that has
been since Adam's time, except our youth, Raimbaut.
And he smiled fixedly, like a white image, because my
misery amused him. Only, when I tried to go to you to
warn you, he leaped up stiffly, making a mewing noise.
He caught me by the throat so that I could not scream.
Then while we struggled in the moonlight your Makrisi
came and stabbed him----"
"Nay, I but fetched this knife, messire." Makrisi
seemed to love that bloodied knife.
Biatritz proudly said: "The man lies, Raimbaut."
"What need to tell me that, Belhs Cavaliers?"
And the Saracen shrugged. "It is very true I lie,"
he said. "As among friends, I may confess I killed the
Prince. But for the rest, take notice both of you, I
mean to lie intrepidly."
Raimbaut remembered how his mother had given each
of two lads an apple, and he had clamored for
Guillaume's, as children do, and Guillaume had changed
with him. It was a trivial happening to remember after
fifty years; but Guillaume was dead, and this
hacked flesh was Raimbaut's flesh in part, and the
thought of Raimbaut would never trouble Guillaume de
Baux any more. In addition there was a fire of juniper
wood and frankincense upon the hearth, and the room
smelt too cloyingly of be-drugging sweetness. Then on
the walls were tapestries which depicted Merlin's
Dream, so that everywhere recoiling women smiled with
bold eyes; and here their wantonness seemed out of
"Listen," Makrisi was saying; "listen, for the hour
strikes. At last, at last!" he cried, with a shrill
whine of malice.
Raimbaut said, dully: "Oh, I do not
"And yet Zoraida loved you once! loved you as
people love where I was born!" The Saracen's voice had
altered. His speech was like the rustle of papers.
"You did not love Zoraida. And so it came about that
upon Walburga's Eve, at midnight, Zoraida hanged
herself beside your doorway. Thus we love where I was
born. . . . And I, I cut the rope--with my left hand.
I had my other arm about that frozen thing which
yesterday had been Zoraida, you understand, so that it
might not fall. And in the act a tear dropped from
that dead woman's cheek and wetted my forehead. Ice is
not so cold as was that tear. . . . Ho, that tear did
not fall upon my forehead but on my heart, because I
loved that dancing-girl, Zoraida, as you do this
princess here. I think you will understand,"
Makrisi said, calmly as one who states a maxim.
The Sire de Vaquieras replied, in the same tone:
"I understand. You have contrived my death?"
"Ey, messire, would that be adequate? I could have
managed that any hour within the last score of years.
Oh no! for I have studied you carefully. Oh no!
instead, I have contrived this plight. For the Prince
of Orange is manifestly murdered. Who killed him?--
why, Madona Biatritz, and none other, for I will swear
to it. I, I will swear to it, who saw it done.
Afterward both you and I must be questioned upon the
rack, as possibly concerned in the affair, and whether
innocent or guilty we must die very horribly. Such is
the gentle custom of your Christian country when a
prince is murdered. That is not the point of the jest,
however. For first Sire Philibert will put this woman
to the Question by Water, until she confesses her
confederates, until she confesses that every baron whom
Philibert distrusts was one of them. Oh yes, assuredly
they will thrust a hollow cane into the mouth of your
Biatritz, and they will pour water a little by a little
through this cane, until she confesses what they
desire. Ha, Philibert will see to this confession!
And through this woman's torment he will rid himself of
every dangerous foe he has in Venaissin. You must
stand by and wait your turn. You must stand by, in
fetters, and see this done--you, you, my master!--you,
who love this woman as I loved that dead Zoraida who
was not fair enough to please you!"
Raimbaut, trapped, impotent, cried out: "This is
not possible----" And for all that, he knew the
Saracen to be foretelling the inevitable.
Makrisi went on, quietly: "After the Question men
will parade her, naked to the middle, through all
Orange, until they reach the Marketplace, where will be
four horses. One of these horses they will harness to
each arm and leg of your Biatritz. Then they will beat
these horses. These will be strong horses. They will
each run in a different direction."
This infamy also was certain. Raimbaut foresaw
what he must do. He clutched the dagger which Makrisi
fondled. "Belhs Cavaliers, this fellow speaks the
truth. Look now, the moon is old--is it not strange to
know it will outlive us?"
And Biatritz came close to Sire Raimbaut and said:
"I understand. If I leave this room alive it will
purchase a hideous suffering for my poor body, it will
bring about the ruin of many brave and innocent
chevaliers. I know. I would perforce confess all that
the masked men bade me. I know, for in Prince Conrat's
time I have seen persons who had been put to the
Question----" She shuddered; and she re-began, without
any agitation: "Give me the knife, Raimbaut."
"Pardieu! but I may not obey you for this once," he
answered, "since we are informed by those in holy
orders that all such as lay violent hands upon
themselves must suffer eternally." Then, kneeling, he
cried, in an extremity of adoration: "Oh, I have
served you all my life. You may not now deny me
this last service. And while I talk they dig your
grave! O blind men, making the new grave, take heed
lest that grave be too narrow, for already my heart is
breaking in my body. I have drunk too deep of sorrow.
And yet I may not fail you, now that honor and mercy
and my love for you demand I kill you before I also
die--in such a fashion as this fellow speaks of."
She did not dispute this. How could she when it
was an axiom in all Courts of Love that Heaven held
dominion in a lover's heart only as an underling of the
And so she said, with a fond smile: "It is your
demonstrable privilege. I would not grant it, dear,
were my weak hands as clean as yours. Oh, but it is
long you have loved me, and it is faithfully you have
served Heaven, and my heart too is breaking in my body
now that your service ends!"
And he demanded, wearily: "When we were boy and
girl together what had we said if any one had told us
this would be the end?"
"We would have laughed. It is a long while since
those children laughed at Montferrat. . . . Not yet,
not yet!" she said. "Ah, pity me, tried champion, for
even now I am almost afraid to die."
She leaned against the window yonder, shuddering,
staring into the night. Dawn had purged the east of
stars. Day was at hand, the day whose noon she might
not hope to witness. She noted this incuriously.
Then Biatritz came to him, very strangely proud,
and yet all tenderness.
"See, now, Raimbaut! because I have loved you as I
have loved nothing else in life, I will not be unworthy
of your love. Strike and have done."
Raimbaut de Vaquieras raised an already bloodied
dagger. As emotion goes, he was bankrupt. He had no
longer any dread of hell, because he thought that, a
little later, nothing its shrewdest overseer could plan
would have the power to vex him. She, waiting, smiled.
Makrisi, seated, stretched his legs, put fingertips
together with the air of an attendant amateur. This
was better than he had hoped. In such a posture they
heard a bustle of armored men, and when all turned, saw
how a sword protruded through the arras.
"Come out, Guillaume!" people were shouting.
"Unkennel, dog! Out, out, and die!" To such a
heralding Mahi de Vernoil came into the room with
mincing steps such as the man affected in an hour of
peril. He first saw what a grisly burden the chest
sustained. "Now, by the Face!" he cried, "if he that
cheated me of quieting this filth should prove to be of
gentle birth I will demand of him a duel to the death!"
The curtains were ripped from their hangings as he
spoke, and behind him the candlelight was reflected by
the armor of many followers.
Then de Vernoil perceived Raimbaut de Vaquieras,
and the spruce little man bowed ceremoniously. All
were still. Composedly, like a lieutenant before his
captain, Mahi narrated how these hunted remnants of
Lovain's army had, as a last cast, that night invaded
the chateau, and had found, thanks to the festival, its
men-at-arms in uniform and inefficient drunkenness.
"My tres beau sire," Messire de Vernoil ended, "will
you or nill you, Venaissin is yours this morning. My
knaves have slain Philibert and his bewildered fellow-
tipplers with less effort than is needed to drown as
And his followers cried, as upon a signal: "Hail,
Prince of Orange!"
It was so like the wonder-working of a dream--this
sudden and heroic uproar--that old Raimbaut de
Vaquieras stood reeling, near to intimacy with fear for
the first time. He waited thus, with both hands
pressed before his eyes. He waited thus for a long
while, because he was not used to find chance dealing
kindlily with him. Later he saw that Makrisi had
vanished in the tumult, and that many people awaited
The lord of Venaissin began: "You have done me a
great service, Messire de Vemoil. As recompense, I
give you what I may. I freely yield you all my right
in Venaissin. Oh no, kingcraft is not for me. I daily
see and hear of battles won, cities beleaguered, high
towers overthrown, and ancient citadels and new walls
leveled with the dust. I have conversed with many
kings, the directors of these events, and they were not
happy people. Yes, yes, I have witnessed divers
happenings, for I am old. . . . I have found nothing
which can serve me in place of honor."
He turned to Dona Biatritz. It was as if they
were alone. "Belhs Cavaliers," he said, "I had
sworn fealty to this Guillaume. He violated his
obligations; but that did not free me of mine. An oath
is an oath. I was, and am to-day, sworn to support his
cause, and to profit in any fashion by its overthrow
would be an abominable action. Nay, more, were any of
his adherents alive it would be my manifest duty to
join them against our preserver, Messire de Vernoil.
This necessity is very happily spared me. I cannot,
though, in honor hold any fief under the supplanter of
my liege-lord. I must, therefore, relinquish Vaquieras
and take eternal leave of Venaissin. I will not lose
the right to call myself your servant!" he cried out--
"and that which is noblest in the world must be served
fittingly. And so, Belhs Cavaliers, let us touch palms
and bid farewell, and never in this life speak face to
face of trivial happenings which we two alone remember.
For naked of lands and gear I came to you--a prince's
daughter--very long ago, and as nakedly I now depart,
so that I may retain the right to say, `All my life
long I served my love of her according to my abilities,
wholeheartedly and with clean hands.'"
"Yes, yes! you must depart from Venaissin," said
Dona Biatritz. A capable woman, she had no sympathy
with his exquisite points of honor, and yet loved him
all the more because of what seemed to her his
surpassing folly. She smiled, somewhat as mothers do
in humoring an unreasonable boy. "We will go to my
nephew's court at Montferrat," she said. "He will
willingly provide for his old aunt and her husband.
And you may still make verses--at Montferrat, where we
lived verses, once, Raimbaut."
Now they gazed full upon each other. Thus they
stayed, transfigured, neither seeming old. Each had
forgotten that unhappiness existed anywhere in the
whole world. The armored, blood-stained men about them
were of no more importance than were those wantons in
the tapestry. Without, dawn throbbed in heaven.
Without, innumerable birds were raising that glad,
piercing, hurried morning-song which very anciently
caused Adam's primal waking, to behold his mate.
"A curious preference for the artificial should be
mentioned as characteristic of ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI'S
poetry. For his century was anything but artless; the
great commonplaces that form the main stock of human
thought were no longer in their first flush, and he
addressed a people no longer childish. . . .
Unquestionably his fancies were fantastic, anti-
natural, bordering on hallucination, and they betray a
desire for impossible novelty; but it is allowable to
prefer them to the sickly simplicity of those so-called
poems that embroider with old faded wools upon the
canvas of worn-out truisms, trite, trivial and
idiotically sentimental patterns."
Let me have dames and damsels richly clad
To feed and tend my mirth,
Singing by day and night to make me glad;
Let me have fruitful gardens of great girth
Fill'd with the strife of birds,
With water-springs, and beasts that house i' the earth.
Let me seem Solomon for lore of words,
Samson for strength, for beauty Absalom.
Knights as my serfs be given;
And as I will, let music go and come;
Till, when I will, I will to enter Heaven.
ALESSANDRO DE MEDICI. Madrigal,
from D. G. Rossetti's version.
Graciosa was Balthazar's youngest child, a white, slim
girl with violet eyes and strange pale hair which had
the color and glitter of stardust. "Some day at
court," her father often thought complacently, "she,
too, will make a good match." He was a necessitous
lord, a smiling, supple man who had already marketed
two daughters to his advantage. But Graciosa's time
was not yet mature in the year of grace 1533, for the
girl was not quite sixteen. So Graciosa remained in
Balthazar's big cheerless house and was tutored in all
needful accomplishments. She was proficient in the
making of preserves and unguents, could play the
harpsichord and the virginals acceptably, could
embroider an altarcloth to admiration, and, in spite of
a trivial lameness in walking, could dance a coranto or
a saraband against any woman between two seas.
Now to the north of Balthazar's home stood a tall
forest, overhanging both the highway and the river
whose windings the highway followed. Graciosa was very
often to be encountered upon the outskirts of these
woods. She loved the forest, whose tranquillity
bred dreams, but was already a woman in so far that she
found it more interesting to watch the highway.
Sometimes it would be deserted save for small purple
butterflies which fluttered about as if in continuous
indecision, and rarely ascended more than a foot above
the ground. But people passed at intervals--as now a
page, who was a notably fine fellow, clothed in ash-
colored gray, with slashed, puffed sleeves, and having
a heron's feather in his cap; or a Franciscan with his
gown tucked up so that you saw how the veins on his
naked feet stood out like the carvings on a vase; or a
farmer leading a calf; or a gentleman in a mantle of
squirrel's fur riding beside a wonderful proud lady,
whose tiny hat was embroidered with pearls. It was all
very interesting to watch, it was like turning over the
leaves of a book written in an unknown tongue and
guessing what the pictures meant, because these people
were intent upon their private avocations, in which you
had no part, and you would never see them any more.
Then destiny took a hand in the affair and Guido
came. He reined his gray horse at the sight of her
sitting by the wayside and deferentially inquired how
far it might be to the nearest inn. Graciosa told him.
He thanked her and rode on. That was all, but the
appraising glance of this sedate and handsome burgher
obscurely troubled the girl afterward.
Next day he came again. He was a jewel-merchant,
he told her, and he thought it within the stretch of
possibility that my lord Balthazar's daughter might
wish to purchase some of his wares. She viewed them
with admiration, chaffered thriftily, and finally
bought a topaz, dug from Mount Zabarca, Guido assured
her, which rendered its wearer immune to terrors of any
Very often afterward these two met on the outskirts
of the forest as Guido rode between the coast and the
hill-country about his vocation. Sometimes he
laughingly offered her a bargain, on other days he
paused to exhibit a notable gem which he had procured
for this or that wealthy amateur. Count Eglamore, the
young Duke's favorite yonder at court, bought most of
them, it seemed. "The nobles complain against this
upstart Eglamore very bitterly," said Guido, "but we
merchants have no quarrel with him. He buys too
"I trust I shall not see Count Eglamore when I go
to court," said Graciosa, meditatively; "and, indeed,
by that time, my father assures me, some honest
gentleman will have contrived to cut the throat of this
abominable Eglamore." Her father's people, it should
be premised, had been at bitter feud with the favorite
ever since he detected and punished the conspiracy of
the Marquis of Cibo, their kinsman. Then Graciosa
continued: "Nevertheless, I shall see many beautiful
sights when I am taken to court. . . . And the Duke,
too, you tell me, is an amateur of gems."
"Eh, madonna, I wish that you could see his
jewels," cried Guido, growing fervent; and he lovingly
catalogued a host of lapidary marvels.
"I hope that I shall see these wonderful jewels
when I go to court," said Graciosa wistfully.
"Duke Alessandro," he returned, his dark eyes
strangely mirthful, "is, as I take it, a catholic lover
of beauty in all its forms. So he will show you his
gems, very assuredly, and, worse still, he will make
verses in your honor. For it is a preposterous feature
of Duke Alessandro's character that he is always making
"Oh, and such strange songs as they are, too,
Guido. Who does not know them?"
"I am not the best possible judge of his verses'
merit," Guido estimated, drily. "But I shall never
understand how any singer at all came to be locked in
such a prison. I fancy that at times the paradox
puzzles even Duke Alessandro."
"And is he as handsome as people report?"
Then Guido laughed a little. "Tastes differ, of
course. But I think your father will assure you,
madonna, that no duke possessing such a zealous tax-
collector as Count Eglamore was ever in his lifetime
considered of repulsive person."
"And is he young?"
"Why, as to that, he is about of an age with me,
and in consequence old enough to be far more sensible
than either of us is ever likely to be," said Guido;
and began to talk of other matters.
But presently Graciosa was questioning him again as
to the court, whither she was to go next year and
enslave a marquis, or, at worst, an opulent baron.
Her thoughts turned toward the court's
predominating figure. "Tell me of Eglamore, Guido."
"Madonna, some say that Eglamore was a brewer's
son. Others--and your father's kinsmen in particular--
insist that he was begot by a devil in person, just as
Merlin was, and Plato the philosopher, and puissant
Alexander. Nobody knows anything about his origin."
Guido was sitting upon the ground, his open pack
between his knees. Between the thumb and forefinger of
each hand he held caressingly a string of pearls which
he inspected as he talked. "Nobody," he idly said,
"nobody is very eager to discuss Count Eglamore's
origin now that Eglamore has become indispensable to
Duke Alessandro. Yes, it is thanks to Eglamore that
the Duke has ample leisure and needful privacy for the
pursuit of recreations which are reputed to be
"I do not understand you, Guido." Graciosa was all
"It is perhaps as well," the merchant said, a
trifle sadly. Then Guido shrugged. "To be brief,
madonna, business annoys the Duke. He finds in this
Eglamore an industrious person who affixes seals,
draughts proclamations, makes treaties, musters armies,
devises pageants, and collects revenues, upon the
whole, quite as efficiently as Alessandro would be
capable of doing these things. So Alessandro makes
verses and amuses himself as his inclinations prompt,
and Alessandro's people are none the worse off on
account of it."
"Heigho, I foresee that I shall never fall in love
with the Duke," Graciosa declared. "It is
unbefitting and it is a little cowardly for a prince to
shirk the duties of his station. Now, if I were Duke I
would grant my father a pension, and have Eglamore
hanged, and purchase a new gown of silvery green, in
which I would be ravishingly beautiful, and afterward--
Why, what would you do if you were Duke, Messer Guido?"
"What would I do if I were Duke?" he echoed. "What
would I do if I were a great lord instead of a
tradesman? I think you know the answer, madonna."
"Oh, you would make me your duchess, of course.
That is quite understood," said Graciosa, with the
lightest of laughs. "But I was speaking seriously,
Guido at that considered her intently for a half-
minute. His countenance was of portentous gravity, but
in his eyes she seemed to detect a lurking impishness.
"And it is not a serious matter that a peddler of
crystals should have dared to love a nobleman's
daughter? You are perfectly right. That I worship you
is an affair which does not concern any person save
myself in any way whatsoever, although I think that
knowledge of the fact would put your father to the
trouble of sharpening his dagger. . . . Indeed, I am
not certain that I worship you, for in order to adore
wholeheartedly, the idolater must believe his idol to
be perfect. Now, your nails are of an ugly shape, like
that of little fans; your mouth is too large; and I
have long ago perceived that you are a trifle lame
in spite of your constant care to conceal the fact.
I do not admire these faults, for faults they are
undoubtedly. Then, too, I know you are vain and self-
seeking, and look forward contentedly to the time when
your father will transfer his ownership of such
physical attractions as heaven gave you to that
nobleman who offers the highest price for them. It is
true you have no choice in the matter, but you will
participate in a monstrous bargain, and I would prefer
to have you exhibit distaste for it." And with that he
returned composedly to inspection of his pearls.
"And to what end, Guido?" It was the first time
Graciosa had completely waived the reticence of a
superior caste. You saw that the child's parted lips
were tremulous, and you divined her childish fits of
dreading that glittering, inevitable court-life shared
with an unimaginable husband.
But Guido only grumbled whimsically. "I am afraid
that men do not always love according to the strict
laws of logic. I desire your happiness above all
things; yet to see you so abysmally untroubled by
anything that troubles me is another matter."
"But I am not untroubled, Guido----she began
swiftly. Graciosa broke off in speech, shrugged,
flashed a smile at him. "For I cannot fathom you, Ser
Guido, and that troubles me. Yes, I am very fond of
you, and yet I do not trust you. You tell me you love
me greatly. It pleases me to have you say this. You
perceive I am very candid this morning, Messer Guido.
Yes, it pleases me, and I know that for the sake of
seeing me you daily endanger your life, for if my
father heard of our meetings he would have you killed.
You would not incur such hare-brained risks unless you
cared very greatly; and yet, somehow, I do not believe
it is altogether for me you care."
Then Guido was in train to protest an all-mastering
and entirely candid devotion, but he was interrupted.
"Most women have these awkward intuitions," spoke a
melodious voice, and turning, Graciosa met the eyes of
the intruder. This magnificent young man had a proud
and bloodless face which contrasted sharply with his
painted lips and cheeks. In the contour of his
protruding mouth showed plainly his negroid ancestry.
His scanty beard, as well as his frizzled hair, was the
color of dead grass. He was sumptuously clothed in
white satin worked with silver, and around his cap was
a gold chain hung with diamonds. Now he handed his
fringed riding-gloves to Guido to hold.
"Yes, madonna, I suspect that Eglamore here cares
greatly for the fact that you are Lord Balthazar's
daughter, and cousin to the late Marquis of Cibo. For
Cibo has many kinsmen at court who still resent the
circumstance that the matching of his wits against
Eglamore's earned for Cibo a deplorably public demise.
So they conspire against Eglamore with vexatious
industry, as an upstart, as a nobody thrust over people
of proven descent, and Eglamore goes about in hourly
apprehension of a knife-thrust. If he could make a
match with you, though, your father--thrifty man!--
would be easily appeased. Your cousins, those proud,
grumbling Castel-Franchi, Strossi and Valori, would not
prove over-obdurate toward a kinsman who, whatever his
past indiscretions, has so many pensions and offices at
his disposal. Yes, honor would permit a truce, and
Eglamore could bind them to his interests within ten
days, and be rid of the necessity of sleeping in chain
armor. . . . Have I not unraveled the scheme
"Your highness was never lacking in penetration,"
replied the other in a dull voice. He stood
motionless, holding the gloves, his shoulders a little
bowed as if under some physical load. His eyes were
fixed upon the ground. He divined the change in
Graciosa's face and did not care to see it.
"And so you are Count Eglamore," said Graciosa in a
sort of whisper. "That is very strange. I had thought
you were my friend, Guido. But I forget. I must not
call you Guido any longer." She gave a little shiver
here. He stayed motionless and did not look at her.
"I have often wondered what manner of man you were. So
it was you--whose hand I touched just now--you who
poisoned Duke Cosmo, you who had the good cardinal
assassinated, you who betrayed the brave lord of
Faenza! Oh, yes, they openly accuse you of every
imaginable crime--this patient Eglamore, this reptile
who has crept into his power through filthy passages.
It is very strange you should be capable of so much
wickedness, for to me you seem only a sullen
He winced and raised his eyes at this. His face
remained expressionless. He knew these accusations at
least to be demonstrable lies, for as it happened he
had never found his advancement to hinge upon the
commission of the crimes named. But even so, the past
was a cemetery he did not care to have revivified.
"And it was you who detected the Marquis of Cibo's
conspiracy. Tebaldeo was my cousin, Count Eglamore,
and I loved him. We were reared together. We used to
play here in these woods, and I remember how Tebaldeo
once fetched me a wren's nest from that maple yonder.
I stood just here. I was weeping because I was afraid
he would fall. If he had fallen and been killed, it
would have been the luckier for him," Graciosa sighed.
"They say that he conspired. I do not know. I only
know that by your orders, Count Eglamore, my playmate
Tebaldeo was fastened upon a Saint Andrew's cross and
his arms and legs were each broken in two places with
an iron bar. Then your servants took Tebaldeo, still
living, and laid him upon a carriage-wheel which was
hung upon a pivot. The upper edge of this wheel was
cut with very fine teeth like those of a saw, so that
his agony might be complete. Tebaldeo's poor mangled
legs were folded beneath his body so that his heels
touched the back of his head, they tell me. In such a
posture he died very slowly while the wheel turned very
slowly there in the sunlit market-place, and flies
buzzed greedily about him, and the shopkeepers took
holiday in order to watch Tebaldeo die--the same
Tebaldeo who once fetched me a wren's nest from
Eglamore spoke now. "I gave orders for the Marquis
of Cibo's execution. I did not devise the manner of
his death. The punishment for Cibo's crime was long
ago fixed by our laws. Cibo plotted to kill the Duke.
Cibo confessed as much."
But the girl waved this aside. "And then you plan
this masquerade. You plan to make me care for you so
greatly that even when I know you to be Count Eglamore
I must still care for you. You plan to marry me, so as
to placate Tebaldeo's kinsmen, so as to bind them to
your interests. It was a fine bold stroke of policy, I
know, to use me as a stepping-stone to safety--but was
it fair to me?" Her voice rose now a little. She
seemed to plead with him. "Look you, Count Eglamore, I
was a child only yesterday. I have never loved any
man. But you have loved many women, I know, and long
experience has taught you many ways of moving a woman's
heart. Oh, was it fair, was it worth while, to match
your skill against my ignorance? Think how unhappy I
would be if even now I loved you, and how I would
loathe myself. . . . But I am getting angry over
nothing. Nothing has happened except that I have
dreamed in idle moments of a brave and comely lover who
held his head so high that all other women envied me,
and now I have awakened."
Meanwhile, it was with tears in his eyes that the
young man in white had listened to her quiet talk, for
you could nowhere have found a nature more readily
sensitive than his to all the beauty and wonder which
life, as if it were haphazardly, produces every day.
He pitied this betrayed child quite ineffably, because
in her sorrow she was so pretty.
So he spoke consolingly. "Fie, Donna Graciosa, you
must not be too harsh with Eglamore. It is his nature
to scheme, and he weaves his plots as inevitably as the
spider does her web. Believe me, it is wiser to forget
the rascal--as I do--until there is need of him; and I
think you will have no more need to consider Eglamore's
trickeries, for you are very beautiful, Graciosa."
He had drawn closer to the girl, and he brought a
cloying odor of frangipani, bergamot and vervain. His
nostrils quivered, his face had taken on an odd pinched
look, for all that he smiled as over some occult jest.
Graciosa was a little frightened by his bearing, which
was both furtive and predatory.
"Oh, do not be offended, for I have some rights to
say what I desire in these parts. For, Dei gratia, I
am the overlord of these parts, Graciosa--a neglected
prince who wondered over the frequent absences of his
chief counselor and secretly set spies upon him.
Eglamore here will attest as much. Or if you cannot
believe poor Eglamore any longer, I shall have other
witnesses within the half-hour. Oh, yes, they are to
meet me here at noon--some twenty crop-haired stalwart
cut-throats. They will come riding upon beautiful
broad-chested horses covered with red velvet trappings
that are hung with little silver bells which jingle
delightfully. They will come very soon, and then we
will ride back to court."
Duke Alessandro touched his big painted mouth with
his forefinger as if in fantastic mimicry of a man
imparting a confidence.
"I think that I shall take you with me, Graciosa,
for you are very beautiful. You are as slim as a lily
and more white, and your eyes are two purple mirrors in
each of which I see a tiny image of Duke Alessandro.
The woman I loved yesterday was a big splendid wench
with cheeks like apples. It is not desirable that
women should be so large. All women should be little
creatures that fear you. They should have thin,
plaintive voices, and in shrinking from you be as
slight to the touch as a cobweb. It is not possible to
love a woman ardently unless you comprehend how easy it
would be to murder her."
"God, God!" said Count Eglamore, very softly, for
he was familiar with the look which had now come into
Duke Alessandro's face. Indeed, all persons about
court were quick to notice this odd pinched look, like
that of a traveler nipped at by frosts, and people at
court became obsequious within the instant in dealing
with the fortunate woman who had aroused this look,
Count Eglamore remembered.
And the girl did not speak at all, but stood
motionless, staring in bewildered, pitiable, childlike
fashion, and the color had ebbed from her countenance.
Alessandro was frankly pleased. "You fear me, do
you not, Graciosa? See, now, when I touch your
hand it is soft and cold as a serpent's skin, and you
shudder. I am very tired of women who love me, of all
women with bold, hungry eyes. To you my touch will
always be a martyrdom, you will always loathe me, and
therefore I shall not weary of you for a long while.
Come, Graciosa. Your father shall have all the wealth
and state that even his greedy imaginings can devise,
so long as you can contrive to loathe me. We will find
you a suitable husband. You shall have flattery and
titles, gold and fine glass, soft stuffs and superb
palaces such as are your beauty's due henceforward."
He glanced at the peddler's pack, and shrugged.
"So Eglamore has been wooing you with jewels! You must
see mine, dear Graciosa. It is not merely an affair of
possessing, as some emperors do, all the four kinds of
sapphires, the twelve kinds of emeralds, the three
kinds of rubies, and many extraordinary pearls,
diamonds, cymophanes, beryls, green peridots, tyanos,
sandrastra, and fiery cinnamon-stones"--he enumerated
them with the tender voice of their lover--"for the
value of these may at least be estimated. Oh, no, I
have in my possession gems which have not their fellows
in any other collection, gems which have not even a
name and the value of which is incalculable--strange
jewels that were shot from inaccessible mountain peaks
by means of slings, jewels engendered by the thunder,
jewels taken from the heart of the Arabian deer, jewels
cut from the brain of a toad and the eyes of serpents,
and even jewels that are authentically known to
have fallen from the moon. We will select the rarest,
and have a pair of slippers encrusted with them, in
which you shall dance for me."
"Highness," cried Eglamore, with anger and terror
at odds in his breast, "Highness, I love this girl!"
"Ah, then you cannot ever be her husband," Duke
Alessandro returned. "You would have suited otherwise.
No, no, we must seek out some other person of
discretion. It will all be very amusing, for I think
that she is now quite innocent, as pure as the high
angels are. See, Eglamore, she cannot speak, she stays
still as a lark that has been taken in a snare. It
will be very marvelous to make her as I am. . . ." He
meditated, as, obscurely aware of opposition, his
shoulders twitched fretfully, and momentarily his eyes
lightened like the glare of a cannon through its smoke.
"You made a beast of me, some long-faced people say.
Beware lest the beast turn and rend you."
Count Eglamore plucked aimlessly at his chin. Then