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The Certain Hour by James Branch Cabell

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he laughed as a dog yelps. He dropped the gloves which
he had held till this, deliberately, as if the act were
a rite. His shoulders straightened and purpose seemed
to flow into the man. "No," he said quietly, "I will
not have it. It was not altogether I who made a brain-
sick beast of you, my prince; but even so, I have never
been too nice to profit by your vices. I have taken my
thrifty toll of abomination, I have stood by
contentedly, not urging you on, yet never trying to
stay you, as you waded deeper and ever deeper into the
filth of your debaucheries, because meanwhile you
left me so much power. Yes, in some part it is my own
handiwork which is my ruin. I accept it.
Nevertheless, you shall not harm this child."
"I venture to remind you, Eglamore, that I am still
the master of this duchy." Alessandro was languidly
amused, and had begun to regard his adversary with real
"Oh, yes, but that is nothing to me. At court you
are the master. At court I have seen mothers raise the
veil from their daughters' faces, with smiles that were
more loathsome than the grimaces of a fiend, because
you happened to be passing. But here in these woods,
your highness, I see only the woman I love and the man
who has insulted her."
"This is very admirable fooling," the Duke
considered. "So all the world is changed and Pandarus
is transformed into Hector? These are sonorous words,
Eglamore, but with what deeds do you propose to back
"By killing you, your highness."
"So!" said the Duke. "The farce ascends in
interest." He drew with a flourish, with actual
animation, for sottish, debauched and power-crazed as
this man was, he came of a race to whom danger was a
cordial. "Very luckily a sword forms part of your
disguise, so let us amuse ourselves. It is always
diverting to kill, and if by any chance you kill me I
shall at least be rid of the intolerable knowledge that
to-morrow will be just like to-day." The Duke
descended blithely into the level road and placed
himself on guard.
Then both men silently went about the business in
hand. Both were oddly calm, almost as if preoccupied
by some more important matter to be settled later. The
two swords clashed, gleamed rigidly for an instant, and
then their rapid interplay, so far as vision went,
melted into a flickering snarl of silver, for the sun
was high and each man's shadow was huddled under him.
Then Eglamore thrust savagely and in the act trod the
edge of a puddle, and fell ignominiously prostrate.
His sword was wrenched ten feet from him, for the Duke
had parried skilfully. Eglamore lay thus at
Alessandro's mercy.
"Well, well!" the Duke cried petulantly, "and am I
to be kept waiting forever? You were a thought quicker
in obeying my caprices yesterday. Get up, you muddy
lout, and let us kill each other with some pretension
of adroitness."
Eglamore rose, and, sobbing, caught up his sword
and rushed toward the Duke in an agony of shame and
rage. His attack now was that of a frenzied animal,
quite careless of defense and desirous only of murder.
Twice the Duke wounded him, but it was Alessandro who
drew backward, composedly hindering the brutal
onslaught he was powerless to check. Then Eglamore ran
him through the chest and gave vent to a strangled,
growling cry as Alessandro fell. Eglamore wrenched his
sword free and grasped it by the blade so that he might
stab the Duke again and again. He meant to hack
the abominable flesh, to slash and mutilate that
haughty mask of infamy, but Graciosa clutched his
weapon by the hilt.
The girl panted, and her breath came thick. "He
gave you your life."
Eglamore looked up. She leaned now upon his
shoulder, her face brushing his as he knelt over the
unconscious Duke; and Eglamore found that at her dear
touch all passion had gone out of him.
"Madonna," he said equably, "the Duke is not yet
dead. It is impossible to let him live. You may think
he voiced only a caprice just now. I think so too, but
I know the man, and I know that all this madman's whims
are ruthless and irresistible. Living, Duke
Alessandro's appetites are merely whetted by
opposition, so much so that he finds no pleasures
sufficiently piquant unless they have God's
interdiction as a sauce. Living, he will make of you
his plaything, and a little later his broken, soiled
and castby plaything. It is therefore necessary that I
kill Duke Alessandro."
She parted from him, and he too rose to his feet.
"And afterward," she said quietly, "and afterward
you must die just as Tebaldeo died."
"That is the law, madonna. But whether Alessandro
enters hell to-day or later, I am a lost man."
"Oh, that is very true," she said. "A moment since
you were Count Eglamore, whom every person feared. Now
there is not a beggar in the kingdom who would change
lots with you, for you are a friendless and hunted man
in peril of dreadful death. But even so, you are
not penniless, Count Eglamore, for these jewels here
which formed part of your masquerade are of great
value, and there is a world outside. The frontier is
not two miles distant. You have only to escape into
the hill-country beyond the forest, and you need not
kill Duke Alessandro after all. I would have you go
hence with hands as clean as possible."
"Perhaps I might escape." He found it quaint to
note how calm she was and how tranquilly his own
thoughts ran. "But first the Duke must die, because I
dare not leave you to his mercy."
"How does that matter?" she returned. "You know
very well that my father intends to market me as best
suits his interests. Here I am so much merchandise.
The Duke is as free as any other man to cry a bargain."
He would have spoken in protest, but Graciosa
interrupted wearily: "Oh, yes, it is to this end only
that we daughters of Duke Alessandro's vassals are
nurtured, just as you told me--eh, how long ago!--that
such physical attractions as heaven accords us may be
marketed. And I do not see how a wedding can in any
way ennoble the transaction by causing it to profane a
holy sacrament. Ah, no, Balthazar's daughter was near
attaining all that she had been taught to desire, for a
purchaser came and he bid lavishly. You know very well
that my father would have been delighted. But you must
need upset the bargain. `No, I will not have it!'
Count Eglamore must cry. It cost you very highly to
speak those words. I think it would have puzzled my
father to hear those words at which so many fertile
lands, stout castles, well-timbered woodlands, herds of
cattle, gilded coaches, liveries and curious
tapestries, fine clothing and spiced foods, all
vanished like a puff of smoke. Ah, yes, my father
would have thought you mad."
"I had no choice," he said, and waved a little ges-
ture of impotence. He spoke as with difficulty, almost
wearily. "I love you. It is a theme on which I do not
embroider. So long as I had thought to use you as an
instrument I could woo fluently enough. To-day I saw
that you were frightened and helpless--oh, quite
helpless. And something changed in me. I knew for the
first time that I loved you and that I was not clean as
you are clean. What it was of passion and horror, of
despair and adoration and yearning, which struggled in
my being then I cannot tell you. It spurred me to such
action as I took,--but it has robbed me of sugared
eloquence, it has left me chary of speech. It is
necessary that I climb very high because of my love for
you, and upon the heights there is silence."
And Graciosa meditated. "Here I am so much
merchandise. Heigho, since I cannot help it, since
bought and sold I must be, one day or another, at least
I will go at a noble price. Yet I do not think I am
quite worth the value of these castles and lands and
other things which you gave up because of me, so that
it will be necessary to make up the difference, dear,
by loving you very much."
And at that he touched her chin, gently and
masterfully, for Graciosa would have averted her face,
and it seemed to Eglamore that he could never have
his fill of gazing on the radiant, shamed tenderness of
Graciosa's face. "Oh, my girl!" he whispered. "Oh, my
wonderful, worshiped, merry girl, whom God has
fashioned with such loving care! you who had only scorn
to give me when I was a kingdom's master! and would you
go with me now that I am friendless and homeless?"
"But I shall always have a friend," she answered"--
a friend who showed me what Balthazar's daughter was
and what love is. And I am vain enough to believe I
shall not ever be very far from home so long as I am
near to my friend's heart."
A mortal man could not but take her in his arms.
"Farewell, Duke Alessandro!" then said Eglamore;
"farewell, poor clay so plastic the least touch
remodels you! I had a part in shaping you so bestial;
our age, too, had a part--our bright and cruel day,
wherein you were set too high. Yet for me it would
perhaps have proved as easy to have made a learned
recluse of you, Alessandro, or a bloodless saint, if to
do that had been as patently profitable. For you and
all your kind are so much putty in the hands of
circumspect fellows such as I. But I stood by and let
our poisoned age conform that putty into the shape of a
crazed beast, because it took that form as readily as
any other, and in taking it, best served my selfish
ends. Now I must pay for that sorry shaping, just as,
I think, you too must pay some day. And so, I cry
farewell with loathing, but with compassion also!"
Then these two turned toward the hills, leaving
Duke Alessandro where he lay in the road, a very
lamentable figure in much bloodied finery. They turned
toward the hills, and entered a forest whose ordering
was time's contemporary, and where there was no
grandeur save that of the trees.
But upon the summit of the nearest hill they paused
and looked over a restless welter of foliage that
glittered in the sun, far down into the highway. It
bustled like an unroofed ant-hill, for the road was
alive with men who seemed from this distance very
small. Duke Alessandro's attendants had found him and
were clustered in a hubbub about their reviving master.
Dwarfish Lorenzino de Medici was the most solicitous
among them.
Beyond was the broad river, seen as a ribbon of
silver now, and on its remoter bank the leaded roofs of
a strong fortress glistened like a child's new toy.
Tilled fields showed here and there, no larger in
appearance than so many outspread handkerchiefs. Far
down in the east a small black smudge upon the pearl-
colored and vaporous horizon was all they could discern
of a walled city filled with factories for the working
of hemp and furs and alum and silk and bitumen.
"It is a very rich and lovely land," said
Eglamore--"this kingdom which a half-hour since lay in
the hollow of my hand." He viewed it for a while, and
not without pensiveness. Then he took Graciosa's hand
and looked into her face, and he laughed joyously.


"It does not appear that the age thought his works
worthy of posterity, nor that this great poet himself
levied any ideal tribute on future times, or had any
further prospect than of present popularity and present
profit. So careless was he, indeed, of fame, that,
when he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet
little declined into the vale of years, and before he
could be disgusted with fatigue or disabled by
infirmity, he desired only that in this rural quiet he
who had so long mazed his imagination by following
phantoms might at last be cured of his delirious
ecstasies, and as a hermit might estimate the
transactions of the world."

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's my own,
Which is most faint.

Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

to The Tempest.

He was hoping, while his fingers drummed in unison with
the beat of his verse, that this last play at least
would rouse enthusiasm in the pit. The welcome given
its immediate predecessors had undeniably been tepid.
A memorandum at his elbow of the receipts at the Globe
for the last quarter showed this with disastrous
bluntness; and, after all, in 1609 a shareholder in a
theater, when writing dramas for production there, was
ordinarily subject to more claims than those of his
He sat in a neglected garden whose growth was in
reversion to primal habits. The season was September,
the sky a uniform and temperate blue. A peachtree,
laden past its strength with fruitage, made about him
with its boughs a sort of tent. The grass around his
writing-table was largely hidden by long, crinkled
peach leaves--some brown and others gray as yet--and
was dotted with a host of brightly-colored peaches.
Fidgeting bees and flies were excavating the decayed
spots in this wasting fruit, from which emanated a
vinous odor. The bees hummed drowsily, their indus-
try facilitating idleness in others. It was
curious--he meditated, his thoughts straying from "an
uninhabited island"--how these insects alternated in
color between brown velvet and silver, as they
blundered about a flickering tessellation of amber and
dark green . . . in search of rottenness. . . .
He frowned. Here was an arid forenoon as imagi-
nation went. A seasoned plagiarist by this, he opened
a book which lay upon the table among several others
and duly found the chapter entitled Of the Cannibals.
"So, so!" he said aloud. "`It is a nation,' would
I answer Plato, `that has no kind of traffic, no
knowledge of letters----'" And with that he sat about
reshaping Montaigne's conceptions of Utopia into verse.
He wrote--while his left hand held the book flat--as
orderly as any county-clerk might do in the recordance
of a deed of sale.
Midcourse in larceny, he looked up from writing.
He saw a tall, dark lady who was regarding him half -
sorrowfully and half as in the grasp of some occult
amusement. He said nothing. He released the telltale
book. His eyebrows lifted, banteringly. He rose.
He found it characteristic of her that she went
silently to the table and compared the printed page
with what he had just written. "So nowadays you have
turned pickpocket? My poet, you have altered."
He said: "Why, yes. When you broke off our
friendship, I paid you the expensive compliment of
falling very ill. They thought that I would die.
They tell me even to-day I did not die. I almost
question it." He shrugged. "And to-day I must
continue to write plays, because I never learned any
other trade. And so, at need, I pilfer." The topic
did not seem much to concern him.
"Eh, and such plays!" the woman cried. "My poet,
there was a time when you created men and women as
glibly as Heaven does. Now you make sugar-candy
"The last comedies were not all I could have
wished," he assented. "In fact, I got only some L30
clear profit."
"There speaks the little tradesman I most hated of
all persons living!" the woman sighed. Now, as in
impatience, she thrust back her traveling-hood and
stood bare-headed.
Then she stayed silent,--tall, extraordinarily
pallid, and with dark, steady eyes. Their gaze by
ordinary troubled you, as seeming to hint some
knowledge to your belittlement. The playmaker
remembered that. Now he, a reputable householder, was
wondering what would be the upshot of this intrusion.
His visitor, as he was perfectly aware, had little
patience with such moments of life as could not be made
dramatic. . . . He was recollecting many trifles, now
his mind ran upon old times. . . . No, no, reflection
assured him, to call her beautiful would be, and must
always have been, an exaggeration; but to deny the
exotic and somewhat sinister charm of her, even to-day,
would be an absurdity.
She said, abruptly: "I do not think I ever loved
you as women love men. You were too anxious to
associate with fine folk, too eager to secure a
patron--yes, and to get your profit of him--and you
were always ill-at-ease among us. Our youth is so long
past, and we two are so altered that we, I think, may
speak of its happenings now without any bitterness. I
hated those sordid, petty traits. I raged at your
incessant pretensions to gentility because I knew you
to be so much more than a gentleman. Oh, it infuriated
me--how long ago it was!--to see you cringing to the
Court blockheads, and running their errands, and
smirkingly pocketing their money, and wheedling them
into helping the new play to success. You complained I
treated you like a lackey; it was not unnatural when of
your own freewill you played the lackey so
He laughed. He had anatomized himself too frequently
and with too much dispassion to overlook
whatever tang of snobbishness might be in him; and,
moreover, the charge thus tendered became in reality
the speaker's apology, and hurt nobody's self-esteem.
"Faith, I do not say you are altogether in the
wrong," he assented. "They could be very useful to
me--Pembroke, and Southampton, and those others--and so
I endeavored to render my intimacy acceptable. It was
my business as a poet to make my play as near perfect
as I could; and this attended to, common-sense demanded
of the theater-manager that he derive as much money as
was possible from its representation. What would
you have? The man of letters, like the carpenter or
the blacksmith, must live by the vending of his
productions, not by the eating of them."
The woman waved this aside.
She paced the grass in meditation, the peach leaves
brushing her proud head--caressingly, it seemed to him.
Later she came nearer in a brand-new mood. She smiled
now, and her voice was musical and thrilled with
wonder. "But what a poet Heaven had locked inside this
little parasite! It used to puzzle me." She laughed,
and ever so lightly. "Eh, and did you never understand
why by preference I talked with you at evening from my
balcony? It was because I could forget you then
entirely. There was only a voice in the dark. There
was a sorcerer at whose bidding words trooped like a
conclave of emperors, and now sang like a bevy of
linnets. And wit and fancy and high aspirations and my
love--because I knew then that your love for me was
splendid and divine--these also were my sorcerer's
potent allies. I understood then how glad and awed
were those fabulous Greekish queens when a god wooed
them. Yes, then I understood. How long ago it seems!"
"Yes, yes," he sighed. "In that full-blooded
season was Guenevere a lass, I think, and Charlemagne
was not yet in breeches."
"And when there was a new play enacted I was glad.
For it was our play that you and I had polished the
last line of yesterday, and all these people wept
and laughed because of what we had done. And I was
proud----" The lady shrugged impatiently. "Proud, did
I say? and glad? That attests how woefully I fall
short of you, my poet. You would have found some magic
phrase to make that ancient glory articulate, I know.
Yet,--did I ever love you? I do not know that. I only
know I sometimes fear you robbed me of the power of
loving any other man."
He raised one hand in deprecation. "I must remind
you," he cried, whimsically, "that a burnt child dreads
even to talk of fire."
Her response was a friendly nod. She came yet
nearer. "What," she demanded, and her smile was
elfish, "what if I had lied to you? What if I were
hideously tired of my husband, that bluff, stolid
captain? What if I wanted you to plead with me as in
the old time?"
He said: "Until now you were only a woman. Oh,
and now, my dear, you are again that resistless gipsy
who so merrily beguiled me to the very heart of loss.
You are Love. You are Youth. You are Comprehension.
You are all that I have had, and lost, and vainly
hunger for. Here in this abominable village, there is
no one who understands--not even those who are more
dear to me than you are. I know. I only spoil good
paper which might otherwise be profitably used to wrap
herrings in, they think. They give me ink and a pen
just as they would give toys to a child who squalled
for them too obstinately. And Poesy is a thrifty
oracle with no words to waste upon the deaf,
however loudly her interpreter cry out to her. Oh, I
have hungered for you, my proud, dark lady!" the
playmaker said.
Afterward they stood quite silent. She was not
unmoved by his outcry; and for this very reason was
obscurely vexed by the reflection that it would be the
essay of a braver man to remedy, rather than to lament,
his circumstances. And then the moment's rapture
failed him.
"I am a sorry fool," he said; and lightly he ran
on: "You are a skilful witch. Yet you have raised the
ghost of an old madness to no purpose. You seek a
master-poet? You will find none here. Perhaps I was
one once. But most of us are poets of one sort or
another when we love. Do you not understand? To-day I
do not love you any more than I do Hecuba. Is it not
strange that I should tell you this and not be moved at
all? Is it not laughable that we should stand here at
the last, two feet apart as things physical go, and be
as profoundly severed as if an ocean tumbled between
He fell to walking to and fro, his hands behind his
back. She waited, used as she was to his unstable
temperament, a trifle puzzled. Presently he spoke:
"There was a time when a master-poet was needed.
He was found--nay,--rather made. Fate hastily caught
up a man not very different from the run of men--one
with a taste for stringing phrases and with a comedy or
so to his discredit. Fate merely bid him love a
headstrong child newly released from the nursery."
"We know her well enough," she said. "The girl was
faithless, and tyrannous, and proud, and coquettish,
and unworthy, and false, and inconstant. She was black
as hell and dark as night in both her person and her
living. You were not niggardly of vituperation."
And he grimaced. "Faith," he replied, "but sonnets
are a more natural form of expression than affidavits,
and they are made effective by compliance with differ-

ent rules. I find no flagrant fault with you to-day.
You were a child of seventeen, the darling of a noble
house, and an actor--yes, and not even a pre-eminent
actor--a gross, poor posturing vagabond, just twice
your age, presumed to love you. What child would not
amuse herself with such engaging toys? Vivacity and
prettiness and cruelty are the ordinary attributes of
kittenhood. So you amused yourself. And I submitted
with clear eyes, because I could not help it. Yes, I
who am by nature not disposed to underestimate my
personal importance--I submitted, because your mockery
was more desirable than the adoration of any other
woman. And all this helped to make a master-poet of
me. Eh, why not, when such monstrous passions spoke
through me--as if some implacable god elected to play
godlike music on a mountebank's lute? And I made
admirable plays. Why not, when there was no tragedy
more poignant than mine?--and where in any comedy was
any figure one-half so ludicrous as mine? Ah, yes,
Fate gained her ends, as always."
He was a paunchy, inconsiderable little man. By
ordinary his elongated features and high, bald forehead
loaned him an aspect of serene and axiom-based wisdom,
much as we see him in his portraits; but now his
countenance was flushed and mobile. Odd passions
played about it, as when on a sullen night in August
summer lightnings flicker and merge.
His voice had found another cadence. "But Fate was
not entirely ruthless. Fate bade the child become a
woman, and so grow tired of all her childhood's
playthings. This was after a long while, as we esti-

mate happenings. . . . I suffered then. Yes, I went
down to the doors of death, as people say, in my long
illness. But that crude, corporal fever had a
providential thievishness; and not content with stripping
me of health and strength,--not satisfied with pilfering
inventiveness and any strong hunger to create--why,
that insatiable fever even robbed me of my insanity. I
lived. I was only a broken instrument flung by because
the god had wearied of playing. I would give forth no
more heart-wringing music, for the musician had
departed. And I still lived--I, the stout little
tradesman whom you loathed. Yes, that tradesman
scrambled through these evils, somehow, and came out
still able to word adequately all such imaginings as
could be devised by his natural abilities. But he
transmitted no more heart-wringing music."
She said, "You lie!"
He said, "I thank Heaven daily that I do not." He
spoke the truth. She knew it, and her heart was all
Indefatigable birds sang through the following
hush. A wholesome and temperate breeze caressed these
silent people. Bees that would die to-morrow hummed
about them tirelessly.
Then the poet said: "I loved you; and you did not
love me. It is the most commonplace of tragedies, the
heart of every man alive has been wounded in this
identical fashion. A master-poet is only that wounded
man--among so many other bleeding folk--who perversely
augments his agony, and utilizes his wound as an
inkwell. Presently time scars over the cut for him, as
time does for all the others. He does not suffer any
longer. No, and such relief is a clear gain; but none
the less, he must henceforward write with ordinary ink
such as the lawyers use."
"I should have been the man," the woman cried.
"Had I been sure of fame, could I have known those
raptures when you used to gabble immortal phrases like
a stammering infant, I would have paid the price
without all this whimpering."
"Faith, and I think you would have," he assented.
"There is the difference. At bottom I am a creature of
the most moderate aspirations, as you always complained;
and for my part, Fate must in reason demand
her applause of posterity rather than of me. For I
regret the unlived life that I was meant for--the
comfortable level life of little happenings which
all my schoolfellows have passed through in a
stolid drove. I was equipped to live that life with
relish, and that life only; and it was denied me. It
was demolished in order that a book or two be made out
of its wreckage."
She said, with half-shut eyes: "There is a woman
at the root of all this." And how he laughed!
"Did I not say you were a witch? Why, most
assuredly there is."
He motioned with his left hand. Some hundred yards
away a young man, who was carrying two logs toward New
Place, had paused to rest. A girl was with him. Now
laughingly she was pretending to assist the porter in
lifting his burden. It was a quaintly pretty vignette,
as framed by the peach leaves, because those two young
people were so merry and so candidly in love. A
symbolist might have wrung pathos out of the girl's
desire to aid, as set against her fond inadequacy; and
the attendant playwright made note of it.
"Well, well!" he said: "Young Quiney is a so-so
choice, since women must necessarily condescend to
intermarrying with men. But he is far from worthy of
her. Tell me, now, was there ever a rarer piece of
"The wench is not ill-favored," was the dark lady's
unenthusiastic answer. "So!--but who is she?"
He replied: "She is my daughter. Yonder you see
my latter muse for whose dear sake I spin romances. I
do not mean that she takes any lively interest in
them. That is not to be expected, since she cannot
read or write. Ask her about the poet we were
discussing, and I very much fear Judith will bluntly
inform you she cannot tell a B from a bull's foot. But
one must have a muse of some sort or another; and so I
write about the world now as Judith sees it. My Judith
finds this world an eminently pleasant place. It is
full of laughter and kindliness--for could Herod be
unkind to her?--and it is largely populated by ardent
young fellows who are intended chiefly to be twisted
about your fingers; and it is illuminated by sunlight
whose real purpose is to show how pretty your hair is.
And if affairs go badly for a while, and you have done
nothing very wrong--why, of course, Heaven will soon
straighten matters satisfactorily. For nothing that
happens to us can possibly be anything except a
benefit, because God orders all happenings, and God
loves us. There you have Judith's creed; and upon my
word, I believe there is a great deal to be said for
"And this is you," she cried--"you who wrote of
Troilus and Timon!"
"I lived all that," he replied--"I lived it, and so
for a long while I believed in the existence of wicked-
ness. To-day I have lost many illusions, madam, and
that ranks among them. I never knew a wicked person.
I question if anybody ever did. Undoubtedly short-
sighted people exist who have floundered into ill-
doing; but it proves always to have been on account of
either cowardice or folly, and never because of
malevolence; and, in consequence, their sorry pickle
should demand commiseration far more loudly than our
blame. In short, I find humanity to be both a weaker
and a better-meaning race than I had suspected. And
so, I make what you call `sugar-candy dolls,' because I
very potently believe that all of us are sweet at
heart. Oh no! men lack an innate aptitude for sinning;
and at worst, we frenziedly attempt our misdemeanors
just as a sheep retaliates on its pursuers. This much,
at least, has Judith taught me."
The woman murmured: "Eh, you are luckier than I.
I had a son. He was borne of my anguish, he was fed
and tended by me, and he was dependent on me in all
things." She said, with a half-sob, "My poet, he was
so little and so helpless! Now he is dead."
"My dear, my dear!" he cried, and he took both her
hands. "I also had a son. He would have been a man by
They stood thus for a while. And then he smiled.
"I ask your pardon. I had forgotten that you hate
to touch my hands. I know--they are too moist and
flabby. I always knew that you thought that. Well!
Hamnet died. I grieved. That is a trivial thing to
say. But you also have seen your own flesh lying in a
coffin so small that even my soft hands could lift it.
So you will comprehend. To-day I find that the
roughest winds abate with time. Hatred and self-
seeking and mischance and, above all, the frailties
innate in us--these buffet us for a while, and we are
puzzled, and we demand of God, as Job did, why is
this permitted? And then as the hair dwindles, the
wit grows."
"Oh, yes, with age we take a slackening hold upon
events; we let all happenings go by more lightly; and
we even concede the universe not to be under any actual
bond to be intelligible. Yes, that is true. But is it
gain, my poet? for I had thought it to be loss."
"With age we gain the priceless certainty that
sorrow and injustice are ephemeral. Solvitur ambulando,
my dear. I have attested this merely by living long
enough. I, like any other man of my years, have in my
day known more or less every grief which the world
breeds; and each maddened me in turn, as each was duly
salved by time; so that to-day their ravages vex me no
more than do the bee-stings I got when I was an urchin.
To-day I grant the world to be composed of muck and
sunshine intermingled; but, upon the whole, I find the
sunshine more pleasant to look at, and--greedily,
because my time for sightseeing is not very long--I
stare at it. And I hold Judith's creed to be the best
of all imaginable creeds--that if we do nothing very
wrong, all human imbroglios, in some irrational and
quite incomprehensible fashion, will be straightened to
our satisfaction. Meanwhile, you also voice a tonic
truth--this universe of ours, and, reverently speaking,
the Maker of this universe as well, is under no actual
bond to be intelligible in dealing with us." He
laughed at this season and fell into a lighter tone.
"Do I preach like a little conventicle-attending
tradesman? Faith, you must remember that when I
talk gravely Judith listens as if it were an oracle
discoursing. For Judith loves me as the wisest and the
best of men. I protest her adoration frightens me.
What if she were to find me out?"
"I loved what was divine in you," the woman
"Oddly enough, that is the perfect truth! And when
what was divine in me had burned a sufficiency of
incense to your vanity, your vanity's owner drove off
in a fine coach and left me to die in a garret. Then
Judith came. Then Judith nursed and tended and
caressed me--and Judith only in all the world!--as once
you did that boy you spoke of. Ah, madam, and does not
sorrow sometimes lie awake o' nights in the low cradle
of that child? and sometimes walk with you by day and
clasp your hand--much as his tiny hand did once, so
trustingly, so like the clutching of a vine--and beg
you never to be friends with anything save sorrow? And
do you wholeheartedly love those other women's boys--
who did not die? Yes, I remember. Judith, too,
remembered. I was her father, for all that I had
forsaken my family to dance Jack-pudding attendance on
a fine Court lady. So Judith came. And Judith, who
sees in play-writing just a very uncertain way of
making money--Judith, who cannot tell a B from a bull's
foot,--why, Judith, madam, did not ask, but gave, what
was divine."
"You are unfair," she cried. "Oh, you are cruel,
you juggle words, make knives of them. . . . You"and
she spoke as with difficulty--"you have no right
to know just how I loved my boy! You should be
either man or woman!"
He said pensively: "Yes, I am cruel. But you had
mirth and beauty once, and I had only love and a
vocabulary. Who then more flagrantly abused the gifts
God gave? And why should I not be cruel to you, who
made a master-poet of me for your recreation? Lord,
what a deal of ruined life it takes to make a little
art! Yes, yes, I know. Under old oaks lovers will
mouth my verses, and the acorns are not yet shaped from
which those oaks will spring. My adoration and your
perfidy, all that I have suffered, all that I have
failed in even, has gone toward the building of an
enduring monument. All these will be immortal, because
youth is immortal, and youth delights in demanding
explanations of infinity. And only to this end I have
suffered and have catalogued the ravings of a perverse
disease which has robbed my life of all the normal
privileges of life as flame shrivels hair from the
arm--that young fools such as I was once might be
pleased to murder my rhetoric, and scribblers parody me
in their fictions, and schoolboys guess at the date of
my death!" This he said with more than ordinary
animation; and then he shook his head. "There is a
leaven," he said--"there is a leaven even in your
smuggest and most inconsiderable tradesman."
She answered, with a wistful smile: "I, too,
regret my poet. And just now you are more like
"Faith, but he was really a poet--or, at least, at
"Not marble, nor the gilded monuments of princes
shall outlive this powerful rhyme----'"
"Dear, dear!" he said, in petulant vexation; "how
horribly emotion botches verse. That clash of sibi-
lants is both harsh and ungrammatical. Shall should be
changed to will." And at that the woman sighed,
because, in common with all persons who never essayed
creative verbal composition, she was quite certain
perdurable writing must spring from a surcharged heart,
rather than from a rearrangement of phrases. And so,
"Very unfeignedly I regret my poet," she said, "my
poet, who was unhappy and unreasonable, because I was
not always wise or kind, or even just. And I did not
know until to-day how much I loved my poet. . . . Yes,
I know now I loved him. I must go now. I would I had
not come."
Then, standing face to face, he cried, "Eh, madam,
and what if I also have lied to you--in part? Our work
is done; what more is there to say?"
"Nothing," she answered--"nothing. Not even for
you, who are a master-smith of words to-day and nothing
"I?" he replied. "Do you so little emulate a
higher example that even for a moment you consider me?"
She did not answer.

When she had gone, the playmaker sat for a long
while in meditation; and then smilingly he took up
his pen. He was bound for "an uninhabited island"
where all disasters ended in a happy climax.
"So, so!" he was declaiming, later on: "We, too,
are kin To dreams and visions; and our little life Is
gilded by such faint and cloud-wrapped suns--Only,
that needs a homelier touch. Rather, let us say, We
are such stuff As dreams are made on--Oh, good,
good!--Now to pad out the line. . . . In any event,
the Bermudas are a seasonable topic. Now here, instead
of thickly-templed India, suppose we write the
still-vexed Bermoothes--Good, good! It fits in well
enough. . . ."
And so in clerkly fashion he sat about the
accomplishment of his stint of labor in time for
dinner. A competent workman is not disastrously upset
by interruption; and, indeed, he found the notion of
surprising Judith with an unlooked-for trinket or so to
be at first a very efficacious spur to composition.
And presently the strong joy of creating kindled in
him, and phrase flowed abreast with thought, and the
playmaker wrote fluently and surely to an accompaniment
of contented ejaculations. He regretted nothing, he
would not now have laid aside his pen to take up a
scepter. For surely--he would have said--to live
untroubled, and weave beautiful and winsome dreams is
the most desirable of human fates. But he did not
consciously think of this, because he was midcourse in
the evoking of a mimic tempest which, having purged its
victims of unkindliness and error, aimed (in the end)
only to sink into an amiable calm.


"DR. HERRICK told me that, in common with all the
Enlightened or Illuminated Brothers, of which prying
sect the age breeds so many, he trusted the great lines
of Nature, not in the whole, but in part, as they
believed Nature was in certain senses not true, and a
betrayer, and that she was not wholly the benevolent
power to endow, as accorded with the prevailing
deceived notion of the vulgar. But he wished not to
discuss more particularly than thus, as he had drawn up
to himself a certain frontier of reticence; and so fell
to petting a great black pig, of which he made an
unseemly companion, and to talking idly."

A Gyges ring they bear about them still,
To be, and not, seen when and where they will;

They tread on clouds, and though they sometimes fall,
They fall like dew, and make no noise at all:

So silently they one to th' other come
As colors steal into the pear or plum;

And air-like, leave no pression to be seen
Where'er they met, or parting place has been.

They Come and Part.


The matter hinges entirely upon whether or not Robert
Herrick was insane. Sir Thomas Browne always preferred
to think that he was; whereas Philip Borsdale
perversely considered the answer to be optional.
Perversely, Sir Thomas protested, because he said that
to believe in Herrick's sanity was not conducive to
your own.
This much is certain: the old clergyman, a man of
few friends and no intimates, enjoyed in Devon, thanks
to his time-hallowed reputation for singularity, a
certain immunity. In and about Dean Prior, for
instance, it was conceded in 1674 that it was unusual
for a divine of the Church of England to make a black
pig--- and a pig of peculiarly diabolical ugliness, at
that-- his ordinary associate; but Dean Prior had come
long ago to accept the grisly brute as a concomitant of
Dr. Herrick's presence almost as inevitable as his
shadow. It was no crime to be fond of dumb animals, not
even of one so inordinately unprepossessing; and you
allowed for eccentricities, in any event, in dealing
with a poet.
For Totnes, Buckfastleigh, Dean Prior--all that
part of Devon, in fact--complacently basked in the
reflected glory of Robert Herrick. People came from a
long distance, now that the Parliamentary Wars were
over, in order just to see the writer of the
Hesperides and the Noble Numbers. And such
enthusiasts found in Robert Herrick a hideous dreamy
man, who, without ever perpetrating any actual
discourtesy, always managed to dismiss them, somehow,
with a sense of having been rebuffed.
Sir Thomas Browne, that ardent amateur of the
curious, came into Devon, however, without the risk of
incurring any such fate, inasmuch as the knight
traveled westward simply to discuss with Master Philip
Borsdale the recent doings of Cardinal Alioneri. Now,
Philip Borsdale, as Sir Thomas knew, had been employed
by Herrick in various transactions here irrelevant. In
consequence, Sir Thomas Browne was not greatly
surprised when, on his arrival at Buckfastleigh,
Borsdale's body-servant told him that Master Borsdale
had left instructions for Sir Thomas to follow him to
Dean Prior. Browne complied, because his business with
Borsdale was of importance.
Philip Borsdale was lounging in Dr. Herrick's
chair, intent upon a lengthy manuscript, alone and to
all appearances quite at home. The state of the room
Sir Thomas found extraordinary; but he had graver
matters to discuss; and he explained the results of his
mission without extraneous comment.
"Yes, you have managed it to admiration," said
Philip Borsdale, when the knight had made an end.
Borsdale leaned back and laughed, purringly, for the
outcome of this affair of the Cardinal and the Wax
Image meant much to him from a pecuniary standpoint.
"Yet it is odd a prince of any church which has done so
much toward the discomfiture of sorcery should have
entertained such ideas. It is also odd to note the
series of coincidences which appears to have attended
this Alioneri's practises."
"I noticed that," said Sir Thomas. After a while
he said: "You think, then, that they must have been
"MUST is a word which intelligent people do not
outwear by too constant usage."
And "Oh----?" said the knight, and said that alone,
because he was familiar with the sparkle now in
Borsdale's eyes, and knew it heralded an adventure for
an amateur of the curious.
"I am not committing myself, mark you, Sir Thomas,
to any statement whatever, beyond the observation that
these coincidences were noticeable. I add, with
superficial irrelevance, that Dr. Herrick disappeared
last night."
"I am not surprised," said Sir Thomas, drily. "No
possible antics would astonish me on the part of that
unvenerable madman. When I was last in Totnes, he
broke down in the midst of a sermon, and flung the
manuscript of it at his congregation, and cursed them
roundly for not paying closer attention. Such was
never my ideal of absolute decorum in the pulpit.
Moreover, it is unusual for a minister of the Church of
England to be accompanied everywhere by a pig with whom
he discusses the affairs of the parish precisely as if
the pig were a human being."
"The pig--he whimsically called the pig Corinna,
sir, in honor of that imaginary mistress to whom he
addressed so many verses--why, the pig also has dis-

appeared. Oh, but of course that at least is simply a
coincidence. . . . I grant you it was an uncanny
beast. And I grant you that Dr. Herrick was a dubious
ornament to his calling. Of that I am doubly certain
to-day," said Borsdale, and he waved his hand
comprehensively, "in view of the state in which--you
see--he left this room. Yes, he was quietly writing
here at eleven o'clock last night when old Prudence
Baldwin, his housekeeper, last saw him. Afterward Dr.
Herrick appears to have diverted himself by taking away
the mats and chalking geometrical designs upon the
floor, as well as by burning some sort of incense in
this brasier."
"But such avocations, Philip, are not necessarily
indicative of sanity. No, it is not, upon the whole,
an inevitable manner for an elderly parson to while
away an evening."
"Oh, but that was only a part, sir. He also left
the clothes he was wearing--in a rather peculiarly
constructed heap, as you can see. Among them, by the
way, I found this flattened and corroded bullet. That
puzzled me. I think I understand it now." Thus
Borsdale, as he composedly smoked his churchwarden.
"In short, the whole affair is as mysterious----"
Here Sir Thomas raised his hand. "Spare me the
simile. I detect a vista of curious perils such as
infinitely outshines verbal brilliancy. You need my
aid in some insane attempt." He considered. He said:
"So! you have been retained?"
"I have been asked to help him. Of course I did
not know of what he meant to try. In short, Dr.
Herrick left this manuscript, as well as certain
instructions for me. The last are--well! unusual."
"Ah, yes! You hearten me. I have long had my
suspicions as to this Herrick, though. . . . And what
are we to do?"
"I really cannot inform you, sir. I doubt if I
could explain in any workaday English even what we will
attempt to do," said Philip Borsdale. "I do say this:
You believe the business which we have settled, involv-
ing as it does the lives of thousands of men and women,
to be of importance. I swear to you that, as set
against what we will essay, all we have done is
trivial. As pitted against the business we will
attempt to-night, our previous achievements are
suggestive of the evolutions of two sand-fleas beside
the ocean. The prize at which this adventure aims is
so stupendous that I cannot name it."
"Oh, but you must, Philip. I am no more afraid of
the local constabulary than I am of the local notions
as to what respectability entails. I may confess,
however, that I am afraid of wagering against
unknown odds."
Borsdale reflected. Then he said, with
deliberation: "Dr. Herrick's was, when you come to
think of it, an unusual life. He is--or perhaps I
ought to say he was--upward of eighty-three. He has
lived here for over a half-century, and during that
time he has never attempted to make either a friend or
an enemy. He was--indifferent, let us say. Talking to
Dr. Herrick was, somehow, like talking to a man in a
fog. . . . Meanwhile, he wrote his verses to imaginary
women--to Corinna and Julia, to Myrha, Electra and
Perilla--those lovely, shadow women who never, in so
far as we know, had any real existence----"
Sir Thomas smiled. "Of course. They are mere
figments of the poet, pegs to hang rhymes on. And
yet--let us go on. I know that Herrick never willingly
so much as spoke with a woman."
"Not in so far as we know, I said." And Borsdale
paused. "Then, too, he wrote such dainty, merry poems
about the fairies. Yes, it was all of fifty years ago
that Dr. Herrick first appeared in print with his
Description of the King and Queen of the Fairies.
The thought seems always to have haunted him."
The knight's face changed, a little by a little.
"I have long been an amateur of the curious," he said,
strangely quiet. "I do not think that anything you may
say will surprise me inordinately."
"He had found in every country in the world tra-
ditions of a race who were human--yet more than human.
That is the most exact fashion in which I can
express his beginnings. On every side he found the
notion of a race who can impinge on mortal life and
partake of it--but always without exercising the last
reach of their endowments. Oh, the tradition exists
everywhere, whether you call these occasional inter-
lopers fauns, fairies, gnomes, ondines, incubi, or
demons. They could, according to these fables, tem-
porarily restrict themselves into our life, just as a
swimmer may elect to use only one arm--or, a more
fitting comparison, become apparent to our human senses
in the fashion of a cube which can obtrude only one of
its six surfaces into a plane. You follow me, of
course, sir?--to the triangles and circles and hexagons
this cube would seem to be an ordinary square.
Conceiving such a race to exist, we might talk with
them, might jostle them in the streets, might even
intermarry with them, sir--and always see in them only
human beings, and solely because of our senses'
"I comprehend. These are exactly the speculations
that would appeal to an unbalanced mind--is that not
your thought, Philip?"
"Why, there is nothing particularly insane, Sir
Thomas, in desiring to explore in fields beyond those
which our senses make perceptible. It is very certain
these fields exist; and the question of their extent I
take to be both interesting and important."
Then Sir Thomas said: "Like any other rational
man, I have occasionally thought of this endeavor
at which you hint. We exist--you and I and all
the others--in what we glibly call the universe. All
that we know of it is through what we entitle our five
senses, which, when provoked to action, will cause a
chemical change in a few ounces of spongy matter packed
in our skulls. There are no grounds for believing that
this particular method of communication is adequate, or
even that the agents which produce it are veracious.
Meanwhile, we are in touch with what exists through our
five senses only. It may be that they lie to us.
There is, at least, no reason for assuming them to be
"But reflection plows a deeper furrow, Sir Thomas.
Even in the exercise of any one of these five senses it
is certain that we are excelled by what we vainglo-
riously call the lower forms of life. A dog has powers
of scent we cannot reach to, birds hear the crawling of
a worm, insects distinguish those rays in the spectrum
which lie beyond violet and red, and are invisible to
us; and snails and fish and ants--perhaps all other
living creatures, indeed--have senses which man does
not share at all, and has no name for. Granted that we
human beings alone possess the power of reasoning, the
fact remains that we invariably start with false
premises, and always pass our judgments when biased at
the best by incomplete reports of everything in the
universe, and very possibly by reports which lie flat-
You saw that Browne was troubled. Now he rose.
"Nothing will come of this. I do not touch upon
the desirability of conquering those fields at
which we dare only to hint. No, I am not afraid. I
dare assist you in doing anything Dr. Herrick asks,
because I know that nothing will come of such
endeavors. Much is permitted us--`but of the fruit of
the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath
said, to us who are no more than human, Ye shall not
eat of it.'"
"Yet Dr. Herrick, as many other men have done,
thought otherwise. I, too, will venture a quotation.
`Didst thou never see a lark in a cage? Such is the
soul in the body: this world is like her little turf of
grass, and the heavens o'er our heads, like her
looking-glass, only gives us a miserable knowledge of
the small compass of our prison.' Many years ago that
lamentation was familiar. What wonder, then, that Dr.
Herrick should have dared to repeat it yesterday? And
what wonder if he tried to free the prisoner?"
"Such freedom is forbidden," Sir Thomas stubbornly
replied. "I have long known that Herrick was formerly
in correspondence with John Heydon, and Robert Flood,
and others of the Illuminated, as they call themselves.
There are many of this sect in England, as we all know;
and we hear much silly chatter of Elixirs and
Philosopher's Stones in connection with them. But I
happen to know somewhat of their real aims and tenets.
I do not care to know any more than I do. If it be
true that all of which man is conscious is just a
portion of a curtain, and that the actual universe in
nothing resembles our notion of it, I am willing
to believe this curtain was placed there for some
righteous and wise reason. They tell me the curtain
may be lifted. Whether this be true or no, I must for
my own sanity's sake insist it can never be lifted."
"But what if it were not forbidden? For Dr. Her-
rick asserts he has already demonstrated that."
Sir Thomas interrupted, with odd quickness. "True,
we must bear it in mind the man never married--Did he,
by any chance, possess a crystal of Venice glass three
inches square?"
And Borsdale gaped. "I found it with his manu-
script. But he said nothing of it. . . . How could
you guess?"
Sir Thomas reflectively scraped the edge of the
glass with his finger-nail. "You would be none the
happier for knowing, Philip. Yes, that is a blood-
stain here. I see. And Herrick, so far as we know,
had never in his life loved any woman. He is the only
poet in history who never demonstrably loved any woman.
I think you had better read me his manuscript, Philip."
This Philip Borsdale did.

Then Sir Thomas said, as quiet epilogue: "This, if
it be true, would explain much as to that lovely land
of eternal spring and daffodils and friendly girls, of
which his verses make us free. It would even explain
Corinna and Herrick's rapt living without any human
ties. For all poets since the time of AEschylus,
who could not write until he was too drunken to walk,
have been most readily seduced by whatever stimulus
most tended to heighten their imaginings; so that for
the sake of a song's perfection they have freely re-

sorted to divers artificial inspirations, and very
often without evincing any undue squeamishness. . . .
I spoke of AEschylus. I am sorry, Philip, that you are
not familiar with ancient Greek life. There is so much
I could tell you of, in that event, of the quaint cult
of Kore, or Pherephatta, and of the swine of Eubouleus,
and of certain ambiguous maidens, whom those old
Grecians fabled--oh, very ignorantly fabled, my lad, of
course--to rule in a more quietly lit and more tranquil
world than we blunder about. I think I could explain
much which now seems mysterious--yes, and the
daffodils, also, that Herrick wrote of so constantly.
But it is better not to talk of these sinister
delusions of heathenry." Sir Thomas shrugged. "For my
reward would be to have you think me mad. I prefer to
iterate the verdict of all logical people, and formally
to register my opinion that Robert Herrick was
indisputably a lunatic."
Borsdale did not seem perturbed. "I think the rec-
ord of his experiments is true, in any event. You will
concede that their results were startling? And what if
his deductions be the truth? what if our limited senses
have reported to us so very little of the universe, and
even that little untruthfully?" He laughed and drummed
impatiently upon the table. "At least, he tells us
that the boy returned. I fervently believe that
in this matter Dr. Herrick was capable of any crime
except falsehood. Oh, no I depend on it, he also will
"You imagine Herrick will break down the door
between this world and that other inconceivable world
which all of us have dreamed of! To me, my lad, it
seems as if this Herrick aimed dangerously near to
repetition of the Primal Sin, for all that he handles
it like a problem in mechanical mathematics. The poet
writes as if he were instructing a dame's school as to
the advisability of becoming omnipotent."
"Well, well! I am not defending Dr. Herrick in
anything save his desire to know the truth. In this
respect at least, he has proven himself to be both
admirable and fearless. And at worst, he only strives
to do what Jacob did at Peniel," said Philip Borsdale,
lightly. "The patriarch, as I recall, was blessed for
acting as he did. The legend is not irrelevant, I
They passed into the adjoining room.

Thus the two men came into a high-ceiled apartment,
cylindrical in shape, with plastered walls painted
green everywhere save for the quaint embellishment of a
large oval, wherein a woman, having an eagle's beak,
grasped in one hand a serpent and in the other a knife.
Sir Thomas Browne seemed to recognize this curious
design, and gave an ominous nod.
Borsdale said: "You see Dr. Herrick had prepared
everything. And much of what we are about to do is
merely symbolical, of course. Most people
undervalue symbols. They do not seem to understand
that there could never have been any conceivable need
of inventing a periphrasis for what did not exist."
Sir Thomas Browne regarded Borsdale for a while
intently. Then the knight gave his habitual shrugging
gesture. "You are braver than I, Philip, because you
are more ignorant than I. I have been too long an
amateur of the curious. Sometimes in over-credulous
moments I have almost believed that in sober verity
there are reasoning beings who are not human--beings
that for their own dark purposes seek union with us.
Indeed, I went into Pomerania once to talk with John
Dietrick of Ramdin. He told me one of those relations
whose truth we dread, a tale which I did not dare, I
tell you candidly, even to discuss in my Vulgar
Errors. Then there is Helgi Thorison's history, and
that of Leonard of Basle also. Oh, there are more
recorded stories of this nature than you dream of,
Philip. We have only the choice between believing that
all these men were madmen, and believing that ordinary
human life is led by a drugged animal who drowses
through a purblind existence among merciful veils. And
these female creatures--these Corinnas, Perillas,
Myrhas, and Electras--can it be possible that they are
always striving, for their own strange ends, to rouse
the sleeping animal and break the kindly veils?--and
are they permitted to use such amiable enticements as
Herrick describes? Oh, no, all this is just a madman's
dream, dear lad, and we must not dare to consider
it seriously, lest we become no more sane than he."
"But you will aid me?" Borsdale said.
"Yes, I will aid you, Philip, for in Herrick's case
I take it that the mischief is consummated already; and
we, I think, risk nothing worse than death. But you
will need another knife a little later--a knife that
will be clean."
"I had forgotten." Borsdale withdrew, and pres-
ently returned with a bone-handled knife. And then he
made a light. "Are you quite ready, sir?"
Sir Thomas Browne, that aging amateur of the
curious, could not resist a laugh.
And then they sat about proceedings of which, for
obvious reasons, the details are best left unrecorded.
It was not an unconscionable while before they seemed
to be aware of unusual phenomena. But as Sir Thomas
always pointed out, in subsequent discussions, these
were quite possibly the fruitage of excited imag-
"Now, Philip!--now, give me the knife!" cried Sir
Thomas Browne. He knew for the first time, despite
many previous mischancy happenings, what real terror
The room was thick with blinding smoke by this, so
that Borsdale could see nothing save his co-partner in
this adventure. Both men were shaken by what had
occurred before. Borsdale incuriously perceived that
old Sir Thomas rose, tense as a cat about to pounce,
and that he caught the unstained knife from Borsdale's
hand, and flung it like a javelin into the
vapor which encompassed them. This gesture stirred the
smoke so that Borsdale could see the knife quiver and
fall, and note the tiny triangle of unbared plaster it
had cut in the painted woman's breast. Within the same
instant he had perceived a naked man who staggered.
"Iz adu kronyeshnago----!" The intruder's thin,
shrill wail was that of a frightened child. The man
strode forward, choked, seemed to grope his way. His
face was not good to look at. Horror gripped and tore
at every member of the cadaverous old body, as a high
wind tugs at a flag. The two witnesses of Herrick's
agony did not stir during the instant wherein the
frenzied man stooped, moving stiffly like an ill-made
toy, and took up the knife.
"Oh, yes, I knew what he was about to do," said Sir
Thomas Browne afterward, in his quiet fashion. "I did
not try to stop him. If Herrick had been my dearest
friend, I would not have interfered. I had seen his
face, you comprehend. Yes, it was kinder to let him
die. It was curious, though, as he stood there hacking
his chest, how at each stab he deliberately twisted the
knife. I suppose the pain distracted his mind from
what he was remembering. I should have forewarned
Borsdale of this possible outcome at the very first, I
suppose. But, then, which one of us is always wise?"

So this adventure came to nothing. For its
significance, if any, hinged upon Robert Herrick's
sanity, which was at best a disputable quantity.
Grant him insane, and the whole business, as Sir Thomas
was at large pains to point out, dwindles at once into
the irresponsible vagaries of a madman.
"And all the while, for what we know, he had been
hiding somewhere in the house. We never searched it.
Oh, yes, there is no doubt he was insane," said Sir
Thomas, comfortably.
"Faith! what he moaned was gibberish, of
"Oddly enough, his words were intelligible. They
meant in Russian `Out of the lowest hell.'"
"But, why, in God's name, Russian?"
"I am sure I do not know," Sir Thomas replied; and
he did not appear at all to regret his ignorance.
But Borsdale meditated, disappointedly. "Oh, yes,
the outcome is ambiguous, Sir Thomas, in every way. I
think we may safely take it as a warning, in any event,
that this world of ours, whatever its deficiencies, was
meant to be inhabited by men and women only."

"Now I," was Sir Thomas's verdict, "prefer to take
it as a warning that insane people ought to be re-
"Ah, well, insanity is only one of the many forms
of being abnormal. Yes, I think it proves that all
abnormal people ought to be restrained. Perhaps it
proves that they are very potently restrained," said
Philip Borsdale, perversely.
Perversely, Sir Thomas always steadfastly
protested, because he said that to believe in
Herrick's sanity was not conducive to your own.
So Sir Thomas shrugged, and went toward the open
window. Without the road was a dazzling gray under the
noon sun, for the sky was cloudless. The ordered trees
were rustling pleasantly, very brave in their autumnal
liveries. Under a maple across the way some seven
laborers were joking lazily as they ate their dinner.
A wagon lumbered by, the driver whistling. In front of
the house a woman had stopped to rearrange the pink cap
of the baby she was carrying. The child had just
reached up fat and uncertain little arms to kiss her.
Nothing that Browne saw was out of ordinary, kindly
human life.
"Well, after all," said Sir Thomas, upon a sudden,
"for one, I think it is an endurable world, just as it
And Borsdale looked up from a letter he had been
reading. It was from a woman who has no concern with
this tale, and its contents were of no importance to
any one save Borsdale.
"Now, do you know," said Philip Borsdale, "I am
beginning to think you the most sensible man of my
acquaintance! Oh, yes, beyond doubt it is an endurable
sun-nurtured world--just as it stands. It makes it
doubly odd that Dr. Herrick should have chosen always

`Write of groves, and twilights, and to sing
The court of Mab, and of the Fairy King,
And write of Hell.'"

Sir Thomas touched his arm, protestingly. "Ah, but
you have forgotten what follows, Philip--

`I sing, and ever shall,
Of Heaven,--and hope to have it after all.'"

"Well! I cry Amen," said Borsdale. "But I wish I
could forget the old man's face."
"Oh, and I also," Sir Thomas said. "And I cry Amen
with far more heartiness, my lad, because I, too, once
dreamed of--of Corinna, shall we say?"


Mr. Wycherley was naturally modest until King
Charles' court, that late disgrace to our times,
corrupted him. He then gave himself up to all sorts of
extravagances and to the wildest frolics that a wanton
wit could devise. . . . Never was so much ill-nature
in a pen as in his, joined with so much good nature as
was in himself, even to excess; for he was bountiful,
even to run himself into difficulties, and charitable
even to a fault. It was not that he was free from the
failings of humanity, but he had the tenderness of it,
too, which made everybody excuse whom everybody loved;
and even the asperity of his verses seems to have been

I the Plain Dealer am to act to-day.
* * * * * *

Now, you shrewd judges, who the boxes sway,
Leading the ladies' hearts and sense astray,
And for their sakes, see all and hear no play;
Correct your cravats, foretops, lock behind:
The dress and breeding of the play ne'er mind;
For the coarse dauber of the coming scenes
To follow life and nature only means,
Displays you as you are, makes his fine woman
A mercenary jilt and true to no man,
Shows men of wit and pleasure of the age
Are as dull rogues as ever cumber'd stage.

to The Plain Dealer.


It was in the May of 1680 that Mr. William Wycherley
went into the country to marry the famed heiress,
Mistress Araminta Vining, as he had previously settled
with her father, and found her to his vast relief a
very personable girl. She had in consequence a host of
admirers, pre-eminent among whom was young Robert
Minifie of Milanor. Mr. Wycherley, a noted stickler
for etiquette, decorously made bold to question Mr.
Minifie's taste in a dispute concerning waistcoats. A
duel was decorously arranged and these two met upon the
narrow beach of Teviot Bay.
Theirs was a spirited encounter, lasting for ten
energetic minutes. Then Wycherley pinked Mr. Minifie
in the shoulder, just as the dramatist, a favorite
pupil of Gerard's, had planned to do; and the four
gentlemen parted with every imaginable courtesy, since
the wounded man and the two seconds were to return by
boat to Mr. Minifie's house at Milanor.
More lately Wycherley walked in the direction of
Ouseley Manor, whistling Love's a Toy. Honor
was satisfied, and, happily, as he reflected, at
no expense of life. He was a kindly hearted fop, and
more than once had killed his man with perfectly
sincere regret. But in putting on his coat--it was the
black camlet coat with silver buttons--he had
overlooked his sleevelinks; and he did not recognize,
for twenty-four eventful hours, the full importance of
his carelessness.

In the heart of Figgis Wood, the incomparable
Countess of Drogheda, aunt to Mr. Wycherley's be-

trothed, and a noted leader of fashion, had presently
paused at sight of him--laughing a little--and with one
tiny hand had made as though to thrust back the
staghound which accompanied her. "Your humble servant,
Mr. Swashbuckler," she said; and then: "But oh! you
have not hurt the lad?" she demanded, with a tincture
of anxiety.
"Nay, after a short but brilliant engagement,"
Wycherley returned, "Mr. Minifie was very harmlessly
perforated; and in consequence I look to be married on
Thursday, after all."
"Let me die but Cupid never meets with anything
save inhospitality in this gross world!" cried Lady
Drogheda. "For the boy is heels over head in love with
Araminta,--oh, a second Almanzor! And my niece does
not precisely hate him either, let me tell you,
William, for all your month's assault of essences and
perfumed gloves and apricot paste and other small
artillery of courtship. La, my dear, was it only a
month ago we settled your future over a couple of
Naples biscuit and a bottle of Rhenish?" She walked
beside him now, and the progress of these exquisites
was leisurely. There were many trees at hand so huge
as to necessitate a considerable detour.
"Egad, it is a month and three days over," Wycher-

ley retorted, "since you suggested your respected
brother-in-law was ready to pay my debts in full, upon
condition I retaliated by making your adorable niece
Mistress Wycherley. Well, I stand to-day indebted to
him for an advance of L1500 and am no more afraid of
bailiffs. We have performed a very creditable stroke
of business; and the day after to-morrow you will have
fairly earned your L500 for arranging the marriage.
Faith, and in earnest of this, I already begin to view
you through appropriate lenses as undoubtedly the most
desirable aunt in the universe."
Nor was there any unconscionable stretching of the
phrase. Through the quiet forest, untouched as yet by
any fidgeting culture, and much as it was when John
Lackland wooed Hawisa under, its venerable oaks, old
even then, the little widow moved like a light flame.
She was clothed throughout in scarlet, after her high-
hearted style of dress, and carried a tall staff of
ebony; and the gold head of it was farther from the
dead leaves than was her mischievous countenance. The
big staghound lounged beside her. She pleased the eye,
at least, did this heartless, merry and selfish Olivia,
whom Wycherley had so ruthlessly depicted in his Plain
Dealer. To the last detail Wycherley found her,
as he phrased it, "mignonne et piquante," and he told
her so.
Lady Drogheda observed, "Fiddle-de-dee!" Lady
Drogheda continued: "Yes, I am a fool, of course, but
then I still remember Bessington, and the boy that went
mad there----"
"Because of a surfeit of those dreams `such as the
poets know when they are young.' Sweet chuck, beat not
the bones of the buried; when he breathed he was a
likely lad," Mr. Wycherley declared, with signal
"Oh, la, la!" she flouted him. "Well, in any event
you were the first gentleman in England to wear a
neckcloth of Flanders lace."
"And you were the first person of quality to eat
cheesecakes in Spring Garden," he not half so mirth-
fully retorted. "So we have not entirely failed in
life, it may be, after all."
She made of him a quite irrelevant demand: "D'ye
fancy Esau was contented, William?"
"I fancy he was fond of pottage, madam; and that,
as I remember, he got his pottage. Come, now, a
tangible bowl of pottage, piping hot, is not to be
despised in such a hazardous world as ours is."
She was silent for a lengthy while. "Lord, Lord,
how musty all that brave, sweet nonsense seems!" she
said, and almost sighed. "Eh, well! le vin est tire,
et il faut le boire."
"My adorable aunt! Let us put it a thought less
dumpishly; and render thanks because our pottage
smokes upon the table, and we are blessed with ex-
cellent appetites."
"So that in a month we will be back again in the
playhouses and Hyde Park and Mulberry Garden, or
nodding to each other in the New Exchange,--you with
your debts paid, and I with my L500----?" She paused
to pat the staghound's head. "Lord Remon came this
afternoon," said Lady Drogheda, and with averted eyes.
"I do not approve of Remon," he announced. "Nay,
madam, even a Siren ought to spare her kin and show
some mercy toward the more stagnant-blooded fish."
And Lady Drogheda shrugged. "He is very wealthy,
and I am lamentably poor. One must not seek noon at
fourteen o'clock or clamor for better bread than was
ever made from wheat."
Mr. Wycherley laughed, after a pregnant silence.
"By heavens, madam, you are in the right! So I
shall walk no more in Figgis Wood, for its old magic
breeds too many day-dreams. Besides, we have been
serious for half-an-hour. Now, then, let us discuss
theology, dear aunt, or millinery, or metaphysics, or
the King's new statue at Windsor, or, if you will, the
last Spring Garden scandal. Or let us count the leaves
upon this tree; and afterward I will enumerate my
reasons for believing yonder crescent moon to be the
paring of the Angel Gabriel's left thumb-nail."
She was a woman of eloquent silences when there was
any need of them; and thus the fop and the
coquette traversed the remainder of that solemn wood
without any further speech. Modish people would have
esteemed them unwontedly glum.

Wycherley discovered in a while the absence of his
sleeve-links, and was properly vexed by the loss of
these not unhandsome trinkets, the gifts of Lady
Castlemaine in the old days when Mr. Wycherley was the
King's successful rival for her favors. But Wycherley
knew the tide filled Teviot Bay and wondering fishes
were at liberty to muzzle the toys, by this, and merely
shrugged at his mishap, midcourse in toilet.
Mr. Wycherley, upon mature deliberation, wore the
green suit with yellow ribbons, since there was a ball
that night in honor of his nearing marriage, and a
confluence of gentry to attend it. Miss Vining and he
walked through a minuet to some applause; the two were
heartily acclaimed a striking couple, and con-
gratulations beat about their ears as thick as sugar-
plums in a carnival. And at nine you might have found
the handsome dramatist alone upon the East Terrace of
Ouseley, pacing to and fro in the moonlight, and
complacently reflecting upon his quite indisputable
and, past doubt, unmerited good fortune.
There was never any night in June which nature
planned the more adroitly. Soft and warm and windless,
lit by a vainglorious moon and every star that ever
shone, the beauty of this world caressed and heartened
its beholder like a gallant music. Our universe,
Mr. Wycherley conceded willingly, was excellent and
kindly, and the Arbiter of it too generous; for here
was he, the wastrel, like the third prince at the end
of a fairy-tale, the master of a handsome wife, and a
fine house and fortune. Somewhere, he knew, young
Minifie, with his arm in a sling, was pleading with
Mistress Araminta for the last time; and this
reflection did not greatly trouble Mr. Wycherley, since
incommunicably it tickled his vanity. He was chuckling
when he came to the open window.
Within a woman was singing, to the tinkling
accompaniment of a spinet, for the delectation of Lord
Remon. She was not uncomely, and the hard, lean,
stingy countenance of the attendant nobleman was almost
genial. Wycherley understood with a great rending
shock, as though the thought were novel, that Olivia,
Lady Drogheda, designed to marry this man, who grinned
within finger's reach--or, rather, to ally herself with
Remon's inordinate wealth,--and without any heralding a
brutal rage and hatred of all created things possessed
the involuntary eavesdropper.
She looked up into Remon's face and, laughing with
such bright and elfin mirth as never any other woman
showed, thought Wycherley, she broke into another song.
She would have spared Mr. Wycherley that had she but
known him to be within earshot. . . . Oh, it was only
Lady Drogheda who sang, he knew,--the seasoned gamester
and coquette, the veteran of London and of
Cheltenham,--but the woman had no right to charm this
haggler with a voice that was not hers. For it
was the voice of another Olivia, who was not a fine and
urban lady, and who lived nowhere any longer; it was
the voice of a soft-handed, tender, jeering girl, whom
he alone remembered; and a sick, illimitable rage
grilled in each vein of him as liltingly she sang, for
Remon, the old and foolish song which Wycherley had
made in her praise very long ago, and of which he might
not ever forget the most trivial word.
Men, even beaux, are strangely constituted; and so
it needed only this--the sudden stark brute jealousy of
one male animal for another. That was the clumsy hand
which now unlocked the dyke; and like a flood, tall and
resistless, came the recollection of their far-off past
and of its least dear trifle, of all the aspirations
and absurdities and splendors of their common youth,
and found him in its path, a painted fellow, a
spendthrift king of the mode, a most notable authority
upon the set of a peruke, a penniless, spent
connoisseur of stockings, essences and cosmetics.

He got but little rest this night.
There were too many plaintive memories which
tediously plucked him back, with feeble and innumerable
hands, as often as he trod upon the threshold of sleep.
Then too, there were so many dreams, half-waking, and
not only of Olivia Chichele, naive and frank in divers
rural circumstances, but rather of Olivia, Lady
Drogheda, that perfect piece of artifice; of how
exquisite she was! how swift and volatile in every
movement! how airily indomitable, and how mendacious to
the tips of her polished finger-nails! and how she
always seemed to flit about this world as joyously,
alertly, and as colorfully as some ornate and tiny bird
of the tropics!
But presently parochial birds were wrangling under-

neath the dramatist's window, while he tossed and as-

sured himself that he was sleepier than any saint who
ever snored in Ephesus; and presently one hand of
Moncrieff was drawing the bed-curtains, while the other
carefully balanced a mug of shaving-water.

Wycherley did not see her all that morning, for
Lady Drogheda was fatigued, or so a lackey informed
him, and as yet kept her chamber. His Araminta he
found deplorably sullen. So the dramatist devoted the
better part of this day to a refitting of his wedding-
suit, just come from London; for Moncrieff, an
invaluable man, had adjudged the pockets to be placed
too high; and, be the punishment deserved or no, Mr.
Wycherley had never heard that any victim of law
appeared the more admirable upon his scaffold for being
slovenly in his attire.
Thus it was as late as five in the afternoon that,
wearing the peach-colored suit trimmed with scarlet
ribbon, and a new French beaver, the exquisite came
upon Lady Drogheda walking in the gardens with only an
appropriate peacock for company. She was so beautiful
and brilliant and so little--so like a famous gem too
suddenly disclosed, and therefore oddly disparate
in all these qualities, that his decorous pleasant
voice might quite permissibly have shaken a trifle (as
indeed it did), when Mr. Wycherley implored Lady
Drogheda to walk with him to Teviot Bay, on the off-
chance of recovering his sleeve-links.
And there they did find one of the trinkets, but
the tide had swept away the other, or else the sand had
buried it. So they rested there upon the rocks, after
an unavailing search, and talked of many trifles, amid
surroundings oddly incongruous.
For this Teviot Bay is a primeval place, a deep-
cut, narrow notch in the tip of Carnrick, and is walled
by cliffs so high and so precipitous that they exclude
a view of anything except the ocean. The bay opens due
west; and its white barriers were now developing a
violet tinge, for this was on a sullen afternoon, and
the sea was ruffled by spiteful gusts. Wycherley could
find no color anywhere save in this glowing, tiny and
exquisite woman; and everywhere was a gigantic peace,
vexed only when high overhead a sea-fowl jeered at
these modish persons, as he flapped toward an
impregnable nest.
"And by this hour to-morrow," thought Mr.
Wycherley, "I shall be chained to that good, strapping,
wholesome Juno of a girl!"
So he fell presently into a silence, staring at the
vacant west, which was like a huge and sickly pearl,
not thinking of anything at all, but longing poignantly
for something which was very beautiful and strange and
quite unattainable, with precisely that anguish he
had sometimes known in awaking from a dream of which he
could remember nothing save its piercing loveliness.
"And thus ends the last day of our bachelorhood!"
said Lady Drogheda, upon a sudden. "You have played
long enough--La, William, you have led the fashion for
ten years, you have written four merry comedies, and
you have laughed as much as any man alive, but you have
pulled down all that nature raised in you, I think.
Was it worth while?"
"Faith, but nature's monuments are no longer the
last cry in architecture," he replied; "and I believe
that The Plain Dealer and The Country Wife will
hold their own."
"And you wrote them when you were just a boy! Ah,
yes, you might have been our English Moliere, my dear.
And, instead, you have elected to become an authority
upon cravats and waistcoats."
"Eh, madam"--he smiled--"there was a time when I
too was foolishly intent to divert the leisure hours of
posterity. But reflection assured me that posterity
had, thus far, done very little to place me under that
or any other obligation. Ah, no! Youth, health and--
though I say it--a modicum of intelligence are loaned
to most of us for a while, and for a terribly brief
while. They are but loans, and Time is waiting
greedily to snatch them from us. For the perturbed
usurer knows that he is lending us, perforce, three
priceless possessions, and that till our lease runs out
we are free to dispose of them as we elect. Now,
had I jealously devoted my allotment of these treasures
toward securing for my impressions of the universe a
place in yet unprinted libraries, I would have made an
investment from which I could not possibly have derived
any pleasure, and which would have been to other people
of rather dubious benefit. In consequence, I chose a
wiser and devouter course."
This statement Lady Drogheda afforded the com-
mentary of a grimace.
"Why, look you," Wycherley philosophized, "have you
never thought what a vast deal of loving and
painstaking labor must have gone to make the world we
inhabit so beautiful and so complete? For it was not
enough to evolve and set a glaring sun in heaven, to
marshal the big stars about the summer sky, but even in
the least frequented meadow every butterfly must have
his pinions jeweled, very carefully, and every lovely
blade of grass be fashioned separately. The hand that
yesterday arranged the Himalayas found time to glaze
the wings of a midge! Now, most of us could design a
striking Flood, or even a Last judgment, since the
canvas is so big and the colors used so virulent; but
to paint a snuff-box perfectly you must love the labor
for its own sake, and pursue it without even an
underthought of the performance's ultimate
appraisement. People do not often consider the simple
fact that it is enough to bait, and quite superfluous
to veneer, a trap; indeed, those generally acclaimed
the best of persons insist this world is but an
antechamber, full of gins and pitfalls, which must
be scurried through with shut eyes. And the more fools
they, as all we poets know! for to enjoy a sunset, or a
glass of wine, or even to admire the charms of a
handsome woman, is to render the Artificer of all at
least the tribute of appreciation."
But she said, in a sharp voice: "William, Wil-
liam----!" And he saw that there was no beach now in
Teviot Bay except the dwindling crescent at its
farthest indentation on which they sat.
Yet his watch, on consultation, recorded only five
o'clock; and presently Mr. Wycherley laughed, not very
loudly. The two had risen, and her face was a tiny
snowdrift where every touch of rouge and grease-pencils
showed crudely.
"Look now," said Wycherley, "upon what trifles our
lives hinge! Last night I heard you singing, and the
song brought back so many things done long ago, and
made me so unhappy that--ridiculous conclusion!--I
forgot to wind my watch. Well! the tide is buffeting
at either side of Carnrick; within the hour this place
will be submerged; and, in a phrase, we are as dead as
Hannibal or Hector."
She said, very quiet: "Could you not gain the
mainland if you stripped and swam for it?"
"Why, possibly," the beau conceded. "Meanwhile you
would have drowned. Faith, we had as well make the
best of it."
Little Lady Drogheda touched his sleeve, and her
hand (as the man noted) did not shake at all, nor did
her delicious piping voice shake either. "You
cannot save me. I know it. I am not frightened. I
bid you save yourself."
"Permit me to assist you to that ledge of rock,"
Mr. Wycherley answered, "which is a trifle higher than
the beach; and I pray you, Olivia, do not mar the
dignity of these last passages by talking nonsense."
For he had spied a ledge, not inaccessible, some
four feet higher than the sands, and it offered them at
least a respite. And within the moment they had
secured this niggardly concession, intent to die, as
Wycherley observed, like hurt mice upon a pantry-shelf.
The business smacked of disproportion, he considered,
although too well-bred to say as much; for here was a
big ruthless league betwixt earth and sea, and with no
loftier end than to crush a fop and a coquette, whose
speedier extinction had been dear at the expense of a
shilling's worth of arsenic!
Then the sun came out, to peep at these trapped,
comely people, and doubtless to get appropriate mirth
at the spectacle. He hung low against the misty sky, a
clearly-rounded orb that did not dazzle, but merely
shone with the cold glitter of new snow upon a fair
December day; and for the rest, the rocks, and watery
heavens, and all these treacherous and lapping waves,
were very like a crude draught of the world, dashed off
conceivably upon the day before creation.
These arbiters of social London did not speak at
all; and the bleak waters crowded toward them as in a
fretful dispute of precedence.
Then the woman said: "Last night Lord Remon
asked me to marry him, and I declined the honor. For
this place is too like Bessington--and, I think, the
past month has changed everything----"
"I thought you had forgotten Bessington," he said,
"long, long ago."
"I did not ever quite forget--Oh, the garish
years," she wailed, "since then! And how I hated you,
William--and yet liked you, too,--because you were
never the boy that I remembered, and people would not
let you be! And how I hated them--the huzzies! For I
had to see you almost every day, and it was never you I
saw--Ah, William, come back for just a little, little
while, and be an honest boy for just the moment that we
are dying, and not an elegant fine gentleman!"
"Nay, my dear," the dramatist composedly answered,
"an hour of naked candor is at hand. Life is a
masquerade where Death, it would appear, is master of
the ceremonies. Now he sounds his whistle; and we who
went about the world so long as harlequins must unmask,
and for all time put aside our abhorrence of the
disheveled. For in sober verity, this is Death who
comes, Olivia,--though I had thought that at his advent
one would be afraid."
Yet apprehension of this gross and unavoidable
adventure, so soon to be endured, thrilled him, and
none too lightly. It seemed unfair that death should
draw near thus sensibly, with never a twinge or ache to
herald its arrival. Why, there were fifty years of
life in this fine, nimble body but for any contretemps
like that of the deplorable present! Thus his
meditations stumbled.
"Oh, William," Lady Drogheda bewailed, "it is all
so big--the incurious west, and the sea, and these
rocks that were old in Noah's youth,--and we are so
"Yes," he returned, and took her hand, because
their feet were wetted now; "the trap and its small
prey are not commensurate. The stage is set for a
Homeric death-scene, and we two profane an over-
ambitious background. For who are we that Heaven
should have rived the world before time was, to trap
us, and should make of the old sea a fowling-net?"
Their eyes encountered, and he said, with a strange
gush of manliness: "Yet Heaven is kind. I am bound
even in honor now to marry Mistress Araminta; and you
would marry Remon in the end, Olivia,--ah, yes! for we
are merely moths, my dear, and luxury is a disastrously
brilliant lamp. But here are only you and I and the
master of all ceremony. And yet--I would we were a
little worthier, Olivia!"
"You have written four merry comedies and you were
the first gentleman in England to wear a neckcloth of
Flanders lace," she answered, and her smile was sadder
than weeping.
"And you were the first person of quality to eat
cheese-cakes in Spring Garden. There you have our
epitaphs, if we in truth have earned an epitaph who
have not ever lived."
"No, we have only laughed--Laugh now, for the
last time, and hearten me, my handsome William! And
yet could I but come to God," the woman said, with a
new voice, "and make it clear to Him just how it all
fell out, and beg for one more chance! How heartily I
would pray then!"
"And I would cry Amen to all that prayer must of
necessity contain," he answered. "Oh!" said Wycherley,
"just for applause and bodily comfort and the envy of
innumerable other fools we two have bartered a great
heritage! I think our corner of the world will lament
us for as much as a week; but I fear lest Heaven may
not condescend to set apart the needful time wherein to
frame a suitable chastisement for such poor imbeciles.
Olivia, I have loved you all my life, and I have been
faithful neither to you nor to myself! I love you so
that I am not afraid even now, since you are here, and
so entirely that I have forgotten how to plead my cause
convincingly. And I have had practice, let me tell
you. . . . !" Then he shook his head and smiled. "But
candor is not a la mode. See, now, to what outmoded
and bucolic frenzies nature brings even us at last."
She answered only, as she motioned seaward, "Look!"

And what Mr. Wycherley saw was a substantial boat
rowed by four of Mr. Minifie's attendants; and in the
bow of the vessel sat that wounded gentleman himself,
regarding Wycherley and Lady Drogheda with some
disfavor; and beside the younger man was Mistress
Araminta Vining.
It was a perturbed Minifie who broke the silence.
"This is very awkward," he said, "because Araminta and
I are eloping. We mean to be married this same night
at Milanor. And deuce take it, Mr. Wycherley! I can't
leave you there to drown, any more than in the
circumstances I can ask you to make one of the party."
"Mr. Wycherley," said his companion, with far more
asperity, "the vanity and obduracy of a cruel father
have forced me to the adoption of this desperate
measure. Toward yourself I entertain no ill-feeling,
nor indeed any sentiment at all except the most
profound contempt. My aunt will, of course, accompany
us; for yourself, you will do as you please; but in any
event I solemnly protest that I spurn your odious
pretensions, release myself hereby from an enforced and
hideous obligation, and in a phrase would not marry you
in order to be Queen of England."
"Miss Vining, I had hitherto admired you," the beau
replied, with fervor, "but now esteem is changed to
Then he turned to his Olivia. "Madam, you will
pardon the awkward but unavoidable publicity of my
proceeding. I am a ruined man. I owe your brother-in-
law some L1500, and, oddly enough, I mean to pay him.
I must sell Jephcot and Skene Minor, but while life
lasts I shall keep Bessington and all its
memories. Meanwhile there is a clergyman waiting
at Milanor. So marry me to-night, Olivia; and we will
go back to Bessington to-morrow."
"To Bessington----!" she said. It was as though
she spoke of something very sacred. Then very mu-
sically Lady Drogheda laughed, and to the eye she was
all flippancy. "La, William, I can't bury myself in
the country until the end of time," she said, "and make
interminable custards," she added, "and superintend the
poultry," she said, "and for recreation play short
whist with the vicar."
And it seemed to Mr. Wycherley that he had gone
divinely mad. "Don't lie to me, Olivia. You are
thinking there are yet a host of heiresses who would be
glad to be a famous beau's wife at however dear a cost.
But don't lie to me. Don't even try to seem the airy
and bedizened woman I have known so long. All that is
over now. Death tapped us on the shoulder, and, if
only for a moment, the masks were dropped. And life is
changed now, oh, everything is changed! Then, come, my
dear! let us be wise and very honest. Let us concede
it is still possible for me to find another heiress,
and for you to marry Remon; let us grant it the only
outcome of our common-sense! and for all that, laugh,
and fling away the pottage, and be more wise than
She irresolutely said: "I cannot. Matters are al-
tered now. It would be madness----"
"It would undoubtedly be madness," Mr. Wycherley
assented. "But then I am so tired of being rational!
Oh, Olivia," this former arbiter of taste
absurdly babbled, "if I lose you now it is forever! and
there is no health in me save when I am with you. Then
alone I wish to do praiseworthy things, to be all which
the boy we know of should have grown to. . . . See how
profoundly shameless I am become when, with such an
audience, I take refuge in the pitiful base argument of
my own weakness! But, my dear, I want you so that
nothing else in the world means anything to me. I want
you! and all my life I have wanted you."
"Boy, boy----!" she answered, and her fine hands
had come to Wycherley, as white birds flutter homeward.
But even then she had to deliberate the matter--since
the habits of many years are not put aside like outworn
gloves,--and for innumerable centuries, it seemed to
him, her foot tapped on that wetted ledge.
Presently her lashes lifted. "I suppose it would
be lacking in reverence to keep a clergyman waiting
longer than was absolutely necessary?" she


"A critical age called for symmetry, and exquisite
finish had to be studied as much as nobility of
thought. . . . POPE aimed to take first place as a
writer of polished verse. Any knowledge he gained of
the world, or any suggestion that came to him from his
intercourse with society, was utilized to accomplish
his main purpose. To put his thoughts into choice
language was not enough. Each idea had to be put in
its neatest and most epigrammatic form."

Why did I write? what sin to me unknown
Dipt me in ink, my parents', or my own?
As yet a child, nor yet a fool to fame,
I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.
The muse but served to ease some friend, not
To help me through this long disease, my life.
* * * * * *

Who shames a scribbler? break one cobweb
He spins the slight, self-pleasing thread anew;
Destroy his fib or sophistry in vain,
The creature's at his foolish work again,
Throned in the centre of his thin designs,
Proud of a vast extent of flimsy lines!

to Dr. Arbuthnot.


But I must be hurrying home now," the girl said, "for
it is high time I were back in the hayfields."
"Fair shepherdess," he implored, "for heaven's
sake, let us not cut short the pastorelle thus
"And what manner of beast may that be, pray?"
"'Tis a conventional form of verse, my dear, which
we at present strikingly illustrate. The plan of a

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