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The Certain Hour by James Branch Cabell

Part 4 out of 4

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squirrel, now that he walked through autumn woods
toward her home.
"I wish that you were not so sensible. I wish your
mother were not even more so. The woman reeks with
common-sense, and knows that to be common is to be
unanswerable. I wish that a dispute with her were
not upon a par with remonstrance against an
He lighted a fresh cheroot. "And so you are to
marry the Brudenel title and bank account, with this
particular Heleigh thrown in as a dividend. And why
not? the estate is considerable; the man who encumbers
it is sincere in his adoration of you; and, chief of
all, Lady John Claridge has decreed it. And your
decision in any matter has always lain between the
claws of that steel-armored crocodile who, by some
miracle, is your mother. Oh, what a universe! were I
of hasty temperament I would cry out, TUT AND GO TO!"
This was the moment which the man hid in the
thicket selected as most fit for intervention through
the assistance of a dueling pistol. Paul Vanderhoffen
reeled, his face bewilderment. His hands clutched
toward the sky, as if in anguish he grasped at some
invisible support, and he coughed once or twice. It
was rather horrible. Then Vanderhoffen shivered as
though he were very cold, and tottered and collapsed in
the parched roadway.
A slinking man whose lips were gray and could not
refrain from twitching came toward the limp heap.
"So----!" said the man. One of his hands went to the
tutor's breast, and in his left hand dangled a second
dueling pistol. He had thrown away the other after
firing it.
"And so----!" observed Paul Vanderhoffen. Aft-

erward there was a momentary tussle. Now Paul
Vanderhoffen stood erect and flourished the loaded
pistol. "If you go on this way," he said, with some
severity, "you will presently be neither loved nor
respected. There was a time, though, when you were an
excellent shot, Herr Heinrich Obendorf."
"I had my orders, highness," said the other
"Oh yes, of course," Paul Vanderhoffen answered.
"You had your orders--from Augustus!" He seemed to
think of something very far away. He smiled, with
quizzically narrowed eyes such as you may yet see in
Raeburn's portrait of the man. "I was remembering,
oddly enough, that elm just back of the Canova Pa-

vilion--as it was twenty years ago. I managed to
scramble up it, but Augustus could not follow me
because he had such short fat little legs. He was so
proud of what I had done that he insisted on telling
everybody--and afterward we had oranges for luncheon, I
remember, and sucked them through bits of sugar. It is
not fair that you must always remember and always love
that boy who played with you when you were little--
after he has grown up to be another person. Eh no!
youth passes, but all its memories of unimportant
things remain with you and are less kind than any self-
respecting viper would be. Decidedly, it is not fair,
and some earnest-minded person ought to write to his
morning paper about it. . . . I think that is the
reason I am being a sentimental fool," Paul
Vanderhoffen explained.
Then his teeth clicked. "Get on, my man," he said.
"Do not remain too near to me, because there was a
time when I loved your employer quite as much as you
do. This fact is urging me to dangerous ends. Yes, it
is prompting me, even while I talk with you, to give
you a lesson in marksmanship, my inconveniently
faithful Heinrich."
He shrugged. He lighted a cheroot with hands whose
tremblings, he devoutly hoped, were not apparent, for
Prince Fribble had been ashamed to manifest a sincere
emotion of any sort, and Paul Vanderhoffen shared as
yet this foible.
"Oh Brutus! Ravaillac! Damiens!" he drawled. "O
general compendium of misguided aspirations! do be a
duck and get along with you. And I would run as hard
as I could, if I were you, for it is war now, and you
and I are not on the same side."

Paul Vanderhoffen paused a hundred yards or so from
this to shake his head. "Come, come! I have lost so
much that I cannot afford to throw my good temper into
the bargain. To endure with a grave face this
perfectly unreasonable universe wherein destiny has
locked me is undoubtedly meritorious; but to bustle
about it like a caged canary, and not ever to falter in
your hilarity, is heroic. Let us, by all means, not
consider the obdurate if gilded barriers, but rather
the lettuce and the cuttle-bone. I have my choice
between becoming a corpse or a convict--a convict? ah,
undoubtedly a convict, sentenced to serve out a life-
term in a cess-pool of castby superstitions."
He smiled now over Paul Vanderhoffen's rage.
"Since the situation is tragic, let us approach it in
an appropriate spirit of frivolity. My circumstances
bully me. And I succumb to irrationality, as rational
persons invariably end by doing. But, oh, dear me! oh,
Osiris, Termagaunt, and Zeus! to think there are at
least a dozen other ne'er-do-wells alive who would
prefer to make a mess of living as a grand-duke rather
than as a scribbler in Grub Street! Well, well! the
jest is not of my contriving, and the one concession a
sane man will never yield the universe is that of
considering it seriously."
And he strode on, resolved to be Prince Fribble to
the last.
"Frivolity," he said, "is the smoked glass through
which a civilized person views the only world he has to
live in. For, otherwise, he could not presume to look
upon such coruscations of insanity and remain
This heartened him, as a rounded phrase will do the
best of us. But by-and-bye,
"Frivolity," he groaned, "is really the cheap mask
incompetence claps on when haled before a mirror."

And at Leamington Manor he found her strolling upon
the lawn. It was an ordered, lovely scene, steeped now
in the tranquillity of evening. Above, the stars were
losing diffidence. Below, and within arms' reach,
Mildred Claridge was treading the same planet on which
he fidgeted and stuttered.
Something in his heart snapped like a fiddle-
string, and he was entirely aware of this circumstance.
As to her eyes, teeth, coloring, complexion, brows,
height and hair, it is needless to expatiate. The most
painstaking inventory of these chattels would
necessarily be misleading, because the impression which
they conveyed to him was that of a bewildering, but not
distasteful, transfiguration of the universe, apt as a
fanfare at the entrance of a queen.
But he would be Prince Fribble to the last. And
so, "Wait just a moment, please," he said, "I want to
harrow up your soul and freeze your blood."
Wherewith he suavely told her everything about Paul
Vanderhoffen's origin and the alternatives now offered
him, and she listened without comment.
"Ai! ai!" young Vanderhoffen perorated; "the
situation is complete. I have not the least desire to
be Grand-Duke of Saxe-Kesselberg. It is too abominably
tedious. But, if I do not join in with Desmarets, who
has the guy-ropes of a restoration well in hand, I must
inevitably be--removed, as the knave phrases it. For
as long as I live, I will be an insuperable barrier
between Augustus and his Sophia. Otototoi!" he wailed,
with a fine tone of tragedy, "the one impossible
achievement in my life has always been to convince
anybody that it was mine to dispose of as I elected!"
"Oh, man proposes----" she began, cryptically.
Then he deliberated, and sulkily submitted: "But I may
not even propose to abdicate. Augustus has put
himself upon sworn record as an eye-witness of my
hideous death. And in consequence I might keep on
abdicating from now to the crack of doom, and the only
course left open to him would be to treat me as an
She replied, with emphasis, "I think your cousin is
a beast!"
"Ah, but the madman is in love," he pleaded. "You
should not judge poor masculinity in such a state by
any ordinary standards. Oh really, you don't know the
Princess Sophia. She is, in sober truth, the nicest
person who was ever born a princess. Why, she had
actually made a mock of even that handicap, for
ordinarily it is as disastrous to feminine appearance
as writing books. And, oh, Lord! they will be marrying
her to me, if Desmarets and I win out." Thus he
forlornly ended.
"The designing minx!" Miss Claridge said, dis-
"Now, gracious lady, do be just a cooing pigeon and
grant that when men are in love they are not any more
encumbered by abstract notions about honor than if they
had been womanly from birth. Come, let's be lyrical
and open-minded," he urged; and he added, "No, either
you are in love or else you are not in love. And
nothing else will matter either way. You see, if men
and women had been primarily designed to be rational
creatures, there would be no explanation for their
being permitted to continue in existence," he
lucidly explained. "And to have grasped this fact is
the pith of all wisdom."
"Oh, I am very wise." A glint of laughter shone in
her eyes. "I would claim to be another Pythoness if
only it did not sound so snaky and wriggling. So, from
my trident--or was it a Triton they used to stand on?--
I announce that you and your Augustus are worrying
yourselves gray-headed over an idiotically simple
problem. Now, I disposed of it offhand when I said,
`Man proposes.'"
He seemed to be aware of some one who from a
considerable distance was inquiring her reasons for
this statement.
"Because in Saxe-Kesselberg, as in all other German
states, when a prince of the reigning house marries
outside of the mediatized nobility he thereby forfeits
his right of succession. It has been done any number
of times. Why, don't you see, Mr. Vanderhoffen?
Conceding you ever do such a thing, your cousin
Augustus would become at once the legal heir. So you
must marry. It is the only way, I think, to save you
from regal incarceration and at the same time to
reassure the Prince of Lueminster--that creature's
father--that you have not, and never can have, any
claim which would hold good in law. Then Duke Augustus
could peaceably espouse his Sophia and go on reigning--
And, by the way, I have seen her picture often, and if
that is what you call beauty----" Miss Claridge did
not speak this last at least with any air of pointing
out the self-evident.
And, "I believe," he replied, "that all this is
actually happening. I might have known fate meant to
glut her taste for irony."
"But don't you see? You have only to marry anybody
outside of the higher nobility--and just as a
makeshift----" She had drawn closer in the urgency of
her desire to help him. An infinite despair and mirth
as well was kindled by her nearness. And the man was
insane and dimly knew as much.
And so, "I see," he answered. "But, as it happens,
I cannot marry any woman, because I love a particular
woman. At least, I suppose she isn't anything but just
a woman. That statement," he announced, "is a formal
tribute paid by what I call my intellect to what the
vulgar call the probabilities. The rest of me has no
patience whatever with such idiotic blasphemy."
She said, "I think I understand." And this
surprised him, coming as it did from her whom he had
always supposed to be the fiancee of Lord Brudenel's
title and bank-account.
"And, well!"--he waved his hands--"either as tutor
or as grand-duke, this woman is unattainable, because
she has been far too carefully reared"--and here he
frenziedly thought of that terrible matron whom, as you
know, he had irreverently likened to a crocodile--
"either to marry a pauper or to be contented with a
left-handed alliance. And I love her. And so"--he
shrugged--"there is positively nothing left to do save
sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths
of kings."
She said, "Oh, and you mean it! You are speaking
the plain truth!" A change had come into her lovely
face which would have made him think it even lovelier
had not that contingency been beyond conception.
And Mildred Claridge said, "It is not fair for
dreamers such as you to let a woman know just how he
loves her. That is not wooing. It is bullying."
His lips were making a variety of irrational
noises. And he was near to her. Also he realized that
he had never known how close akin were fear and joy, so
close the two could mingle thus, and be quite un-
distinguishable. And then repentance smote him.
"I am contemptible!" he groaned. "I had no right
to trouble you with my insanities. Indeed I had not
ever meant to let you guess how mad I was. But always
I have evaded my responsibilities. So I remain Prince
Fribble to the last."
"Oh, but I knew, I have always known." She held
her eyes away from him. "And I wrote to Lord Brudenel
only yesterday releasing him from his engagement."
And now without uncertainty or haste Paul Van-
derhoffen touched her cheek and raised her face, so
that he saw it plainly in the rising twilight, and all
its wealth of tenderness newborn. And what he saw
there frightened him.
For the girl loved him! He felt himself to be, as
most men do, a swindler when he comprehended this
preposterous fact; and, in addition, he thought of
divers happenings, such as shipwrecks, holocausts
and earthquakes, which might conceivably have
appalled him, and understood that he would never in his
life face any sense of terror as huge as was this
present sweet and illimitable awe.
And then he said, "You know that what I hunger for
is impossible. There are so many little things, like
common-sense, to be considered. For this is just a
matter which concerns you and Paul Vanderhoffen--a
literary hack, a stuttering squeak-voiced ne'er-do--
well, with an acquired knack for scribbling verses that
are feeble-minded enough for Annuals and Keepsake
Books, and so fetch him an occasional guinea. For, my
dear, the verses I write of my own accord are not
sufficiently genteel to be vended in Paternoster Row;
they smack too dangerously of human intelligence. So I
am compelled, perforce, to scribble such jingles as I
am ashamed to read, because I must write
SOMETHING. . . ." Paul Vanderhoffen shrugged, and
continued, in tones more animated: "There will be no
talk of any grand-duke. Instead, there will be columns
of denunciation and tittle-tattle in every newspaper--
quite as if you, a baronet's daughter, had run away
with a footman. And you will very often think
wistfully of Lord Brudenel's fine house when your only
title is--well, Princess of Grub Street, and your realm
is a garret. And for a while even to-morrow's break-
fast will be a problematical affair. It is true Lord
Lansdowne has promised me a registrarship in the
Admiralty Court, and I do not think he will fail me.
But that will give us barely enough to live on--
with strict economy, which is a virtue that
neither of us knows anything about. I beg you to
remember that--you who have been used to every luxury!
you who really were devised that you might stand beside
an emperor and set tasks for him. In fine, you
And Mildred Claridge said, "I know that, quite as I
observed, man proposes--when he has been sufficiently
prodded by some one who, because she is an idiot--And
that is why I am not blushing--very much----"
"Your coloring is not--repellent." His high-
pitched pleasant voice, in spite of him, shook now with
more than its habitual suggestion of a stutter. "What
have you done to me, my dear?" he said. "Why can't I
jest at this . . . as I have always done at every-
"Boy, boy!" she said; "laughter is excellent. And
wisdom too is excellent. Only I think that you have
laughed too much, and I have been too shrewd--But now I
know that it is better to be a princess in Grub Street
than to figure at Ranelagh as a good-hearted fool's
latest purchase. For Lord Brudenel is really very
good-natured," she argued, "and I did like him, and
mother was so set upon it--and he was rich--and I
honestly thought----"
"And now?" he said.
"And now I know," she answered happily.
They looked at each other for a little while. Then
he took her hand, prepared in turn for self-
"The Household Review wants me to `do' a series
on famous English bishops," he reported, humbly. "I
had meant to refuse, because it would all have to be
dull High-Church twaddle. And the English Gentleman
wants some rather outrageous lying done in defense of
the Corn Laws. You would not despise me too much--
would you, Mildred?--if I undertook it now. I really
have no choice. And there is plenty of hackwork of
that sort available to keep us going until more solvent
days, when I shall have opportunity to write something
quite worthy of you."
"For the present, dear, it would be much more
sensible, I think, to `do' the bishops and the Corn
Laws. You see, that kind of thing pays very well, and
is read by the best people; whereas poetry, of course--
But you can always come back to the verse-making, you
"If you ever let me," he said, with a flash of
prescience. "And I don't believe you mean to let me.
You are your mother's daughter, after all! Nefarious
woman, you are planning, already, to make a responsible
member of society out of me! and you will do it,
ruthlessly! Such is to be Prince Fribble's actual
burial--in his own private carriage, with a receipted
tax-bill in his pocket!"
"What nonsense you poets talk!" the girl observed.
But to him, forebodingly, that familiar statement
seemed to lack present application.


"In JOHN CHARTERIS appeared a man with an inborn
sense of the supreme interest and the overwhelming
emotional and spiritual relevancy of human life as it
is actually and obscurely lived; a man with
unmistakable creative impulses and potentialities; a
man who, had he lived in a more mature and less self-
deluding community--a community that did not so
rigorously confine its interest in facts to business,
and limit its demands upon art to the supplying of
illusions--might humbly and patiently have schooled his
gifts to the service of his vision. . . . As it was,
he accepted defeat and compromised half-heartedly with

And men unborn will read of Heloise,
And Ruth, and Rosamond, and Semele,
When none remembers your name's melody
Or rhymes your name, enregistered with these.

And will my name wake moods as amorous
As that of Abelard or Launcelot
Arouses? be recalled when Pyramus
And Tristram are unrhymed of and forgot?--
Time's laughter answers, who accords to us
More gracious fields, wherein we harvest--

JOHN CHARTERIS. Torrismond's
Envoi, in Ashtaroths


"Our distinguished alumnus," after being duly presented
as such, had with vivacity delivered much the usual
sort of Commencement Address. Yet John Charteris was
in reality a trifle fagged.
The afternoon train had been vexatiously late. The
little novelist had found it tedious to interchange
inanities with the committee awaiting him at the Pull-
man steps. Nor had it amused him to huddle into
evening-dress, and hasten through a perfunctory supper
in order to reassure his audience at half-past eight
precisely as to the unmitigated delight of which he was
now conscious.
Nevertheless, he alluded with enthusiasm to the
arena of life, to the dependence of America's destiny
upon the younger generation, to the enviable part
King's College had without exception played in history,
and he depicted to Fairhaven the many glories of
Fairhaven--past, present and approaching--in
superlatives that would hardly have seemed inadequate
if applied to Paradise. His oration, in short,
was of a piece with the amiable bombast that the col-
lege students and Fairhaven at large were accustomed to
applaud at every Finals--the sort of linguistic debauch
that John Charteris himself remembered to have
applauded as an undergraduate more years ago than he
cared to acknowledge.
Pauline Romeyne had sat beside him then--yonder,
upon the fourth bench from the front, where now another
boy with painstakingly plastered hair was clapping
hands. There was a girl on the right of this boy, too.
There naturally would be. Mr. Charteris as he sat down
was wondering if Pauline was within reach of his voice?
and if she were, what was her surname nowadays?
Then presently the exercises were concluded, and
the released auditors arose with an outwelling noise of
multitudinous chatter, of shuffling feet, of rustling
programs. Many of Mr. Charteris' audience, though,
were contending against the general human outflow and
pushing toward the platform, for Fairhaven was proud of
John Charteris now that his colorful tales had risen,
from the semi-oblivion of being cherished merely by
people who cared seriously for beautiful things, to the
distinction of being purchasable in railway stations;
so that, in consequence, Fairhaven wished both to
congratulate him and to renew acquaintanceship.
He, standing there, alert and quizzical, found it
odd to note how unfamiliar beaming faces climbed out of
the hurly-burly of retreating backs, to say,
"Don't you remember me? I'm so-and-so." These
were the people whom he had lived among once, and some
of these had once been people whom he loved. Now there
was hardly any one whom at a glance he would have
Nobody guessed as much. He was adjudged to be
delightful, cordial, "and not a bit stuck-up, not
spoiled at all, you know." To appear this was the
talisman with which he banteringly encountered the
But John Charteris, as has been said, was in
reality a trifle fagged. When everybody had removed to
the Gymnasium, where the dancing was to be, and he had
been delightful there, too, for a whole half-hour, he
grasped with avidity at his first chance to slip away,
and did so under cover of a riotous two-step.
He went out upon the Campus.
He found this lawn untenanted, unless you chose to
count the marble figure of Lord Penniston, made aerial
and fantastic by the moonlight, standing as it it were
on guard over the College. Mr. Charteris chose to
count him. Whimsically, Mr. Charteris reflected that
this battered nobleman's was the one familiar face he
had exhumed in all Fairhaven. And what a deal of mirth
and folly, too, the old fellow must have witnessed
during his two hundred and odd years of sentry-duty!
On warm, clear nights like this, in particular, when by
ordinary there were only couples on the Campus, each
couple discreetly remote from any of the others.
Then Penniston would be aware of most portentous pauses
(which a delectable and lazy conference of leaves made
eloquent) because of many unfinished sentences. "Oh,
YOU know what I mean, dear!" one would say as a last
resort. And she-why, bless her heart! of course, she
always did. . . . Heigho, youth's was a pleasant
lunacy. . . .
Thus Charteris reflected, growing drowsy. She
said, "You spoke very well to-night. Is it too late
for congratulations?"
Turning, Mr. Charteris remarked, "As you are per-
fectly aware, all that I vented was just a deal of
skimble-scamble stuff, a verbal syllabub of balderdash.
No, upon reflection, I think I should rather describe
it as a conglomeration of piffle, patriotism and
pyrotechnics. Well, Madam Do-as-you-would-be-done-by,
what would you have? You must give people what they
It was characteristic that he faced Pauline
Romeyne--or was it still Romeyne? he wondered--
precisely as if it had been fifteen minutes, rather
than as many years, since they had last spoken
"Must one?" she asked. "Oh, yes, I know you have
always thought that, but I do not quite see the neces-
sity of it."
She sat upon the bench beside Lord Penniston's
square marble pedestal. "And all the while you spoke I
was thinking of those Saturday nights when your name
was up for an oration or a debate before the
Eclectics, and you would stay away and pay the fine
rather than brave an audience."
"The tooth of Time," he reminded her, "has since
then written wrinkles on my azure brow. The years slip
away fugacious, and Time that brings forth her children
only to devour them grins most hellishly, for Time
changes all things and cultivates even in herself an
appreciation of irony,--and, therefore, why shouldn't I
have changed a trifle? You wouldn't have me put on
exhibition as a lusus naturae?"
"Oh, but I wish you had not altered so entirely!"
Pauline sighed.
"At least, you haven't," he declared. "Of course,
I would be compelled to say so, anyhow. But in this
happy instance courtesy and veracity come skipping arm-
in-arm from my elated lips." And, indeed, it seemed to
him that Pauline was marvelously little altered. "I
wonder now," he said, and cocked his head, "I wonder
now whose wife I am talking to?"
"No, Jack, I never married," she said quietly.
"It is selfish of me," he said, in the same tone,
"but I am glad of that."
And so they sat a while, each thinking.
"I wonder," said Pauline, with that small plaintive
voice which Charteris so poignantly remembered,
"whether it is always like this? Oh, do the Overlords
of Life and Death ALWAYS provide some obstacle to
prevent what all of us have known in youth was possible
from ever coming true?"
And again there was a pause which a delectable and
lazy conference of leaves made eloquent.
"I suppose it is because they know that if it ever
did come true, we would be gods like them." The
ordinary associates of John Charteris, most certainly,
would not have suspected him to be the speaker. "So
they contrive the obstacle, or else they send false
dreams--out of the gates of horn--and make the path
smooth, very smooth, so that two dreamers may not be
hindered on their way to the divorce-courts."
"Yes, they are jealous gods! oh, and ironical gods
also! They grant the Dream, and chuckle while they
grant it, I think, because they know that later they
will be bringing their playthings face to face--each
married, fat, inclined to optimism, very careful of
decorum, and perfectly indifferent to each other. And
then they get their fore-planned mirth, these Overlords
of Life and Death. `We gave you,' they chuckle, `the
loveliest and greatest thing infinity contains. And
you bartered it because of a clerkship or a lying maxim
or perhaps a finger-ring.' I suppose that they must
laugh a great deal."
"Eh, what? But then you never married?" For
masculinity in argument starts with the word it has
found distasteful.
"Why, no."
"Nor I." And his tone implied that the two facts
conjoined proved much.
"Miss Willoughby----?" she inquired.
Now, how in heaven's name, could a cloistered Fair-
haven have surmised his intention of proposing on
the first convenient opportunity to handsome, well-to-
do Anne Willoughby? He shrugged his wonder off. "Oh,
people will talk, you know. Let any man once find a
woman has a tongue in her head, and the stage-direction
is always `Enter Rumor, painted full of tongues.'"
Pauline did not appear to have remarked his protest.
"Yes,--in the end you will marry her. And her
money will help, just as you have contrived to make
everything else help, toward making John Charteris
comfortable. She is not very clever, but she will
always worship you, and so you two will not prove
uncongenial. That is your real tragedy, if I could
make you comprehend."
"So I am going to develop into a pig," he said,
with relish,--"a lovable, contented, unambitious porcine,
who is alike indifferent to the Tariff, the importance
of Equal Suffrage and the market-price of
hams, for all that he really cares about is to have his
sty as comfortable as may be possible. That is exactly
what I am going to develop into,--now, isn't it?" And
John Charteris, sitting, as was his habitual fashion,
with one foot tucked under him, laughed cheerily. Oh,
just to be alive (he thought) was ample cause for
rejoicing! and how deliciously her eyes, alert with
slumbering fires, were peering through the moon-made
shadows of her brows!
"Well----! something of the sort." Pauline was
smiling, but restrainedly, and much as a woman
does in condoning the naughtiness of her child.
"And, oh, if only----"
"Why, precisely. `If only!' quotha. Why, there
you word the key-note, you touch the cornerstone, you
ruthlessly illuminate the mainspring, of an intractable
unfeeling universe. For instance, if only

You were the Empress of Ayre and Skye,
And I were Ahkond of Kong,
We could dine every day on apple-pie,
And peddle potatoes, and sleep in a sty,
And people would say when we came to die,
`They NEVER did anything wrong.'

But, as it is, our epitaphs will probably be nothing of
the sort. So that there lurks, you see, much virtue in
this `if only.'"
Impervious to nonsense, she asked, "And have I not
earned the right to lament that you are changed?"
"I haven't robbed more than six churches up to
date," he grumbled. "What would you have?"
The answer came, downright, and, as he knew,
entirely truthful: "I would have had you do all that
you might have done."
But he must needs refine. "Why, no--you would have
made me do it, wrung out the last drop. You would have
bullied me and shamed me into being all that I might
have been. I see that now." He spoke as if in wonder,
with quickening speech. "Pauline, I haven't been
entirely not worth while. Oh, yes, I know! I
know I haven't written five-act tragedies which would
be immortal, as you probably expected me to do. My
books are not quite the books I was to write when you
and I were young. But I have made at worst some neat,
precise and joyous little tales which prevaricate
tenderly about the universe and veil the pettiness of
human nature with screens of verbal jewelwork. It is
not the actual world they tell about, but a vastly
superior place where the Dream is realized and
everything which in youth we knew was possible comes
true. It is a world we have all glimpsed, just once,
and have not ever entered, and have not ever forgotten.
So people like my little tales. . . . Do they induce
delusions? Oh, well, you must give people what they
want, and literature is a vast bazaar where customers
come to purchase everything except mirrors."
She said soberly, "You need not make a jest of it.
It is not ridiculous that you write of beautiful and
joyous things because there was a time when living was
really all one wonderful adventure, and you remember
"But, oh, my dear, my dear! such glum discussions
are so sadly out-of-place on such a night as this," he
lamented. "For it is a night of pearl-like radiancies
and velvet shadows and delicate odors and big friendly
stars that promise not to gossip, whatever happens. It
is a night that hungers, and all its undistinguishable
little sounds are voicing the night's hunger for masks
and mandolins, for rope-ladders and balconies and
serenades. It is a night . . . a night wherein I
gratefully remember so many beautiful sad things that
never happened . . . to John Charteris, yet surely
happened once upon a time to me . . ."
"I think that I know what it is to remember--better
than you do, Jack. But what do you remember?"
"In faith, my dear, the most Bedlamitish occur-

rences! It is a night that breeds deplorable
insanities, I warn you. For I seem to remember how I
sat somewhere, under a peach-tree, in clear autumn
weather, and was content; but the importance had all
gone out of things; and even you did not seem very
important, hardly worth lying to, as I spoke lightly of
my wasted love for you, half in hatred, and--yes, still
half in adoration. For you were there, of course. And
I remember how I came to you, in a sinister and
brightly lighted place, where a horrible, staring frail
old man lay dead at your feet; and you had murdered
him; and heaven did not care, and we were old, and all
our lives seemed just to end in futile tangle-work.
And, again, I remember how we stood alone, with visible
death crawling lazily toward us, as a big sullen sea
rose higher and higher; and we little tinseled
creatures waited, helpless, trapped and
yearning. . . . There is a boat in that picture; I
suppose it was deeply laden with pirates coming to slit
our throats from ear to ear. I have forgotten that
part, but I remember the tiny spot of courtplaster just
above your painted lips. . . . Such are the jumbled
pictures. They are bred of brain-fag, no doubt; yet,
whatever be their lineage," said Charteris,
happily, "they render glum discussion and platitudinous
moralizing quite out of the question. So, let's
pretend, Pauline, that we are not a bit more worldly-
wise than those youngsters who are frisking yonder in
the Gymnasium--for, upon my word, I dispute if we have
ever done anything to suggest that we are. Don't let's
be cowed a moment longer by those bits of paper with
figures on them which our too-credulous fellow-idiots
consider to be the only almanacs. Let's have back
yesterday, let's tweak the nose of Time intrepidly."
Then Charteris caroled:

"For Yesterday! for Yesterday!
I cry a reward for a Yesterday
Now lost or stolen or gone astray,
With all the laughter of Yesterday!"

"And how slight a loss was laughter," she mur-

mured--still with the vague and gentle eyes of a day--

dreamer--"as set against all that we never earned in
youth, and so will never earn."
He inadequately answered "Bosh!" and later, "Do
you remember----?" he began.
"Yes, she remembered that, it developed. And "Do
you remember----?" she in turn was asking later. It
was to seem to him in retrospection that neither for
the next half-hour began a sentence without this for-

mula. It was as if they sought to use it as a master-
word wherewith to reanimate the happinesses and sorrows
of their common past, and as if they found the
charm was potent to awaken the thin, powerless ghosts
of emotions that were once despotic. For it was as if
frail shadows and half-caught echoes were all they
could evoke, it seemed to Charteris; and yet these
shadows trooped with a wild grace, and the echoes
thrilled him with the sweet and piercing surprise of a
bird's call at midnight or of a bugle heard in prison.
Then twelve o'clock was heralded by the College
bell, and Pauline arose as though this equable deep-
throated interruption of the music's levity had been a
signal. John Charteris saw her clearly now; and she
was beautiful.
"I must go. You will not ever quite forget me,
Jack. Such is my sorry comfort." It seemed to Char-
teris that she smiled as in mockery, and yet it was a
very tender sort of derision. "Yes, you have made your
books. You have done what you most desired to do. You
have got all from life that you have asked of life.
Oh, yes, you have got much from life. One prize,
though, Jack, you missed."
He, too, had risen, quiet and perfectly sure of
himself. "I haven't missed it. For you love me."
This widened her eyes. "Did I not always love you,
Jack? Yes, even when you went away forever, and there
were no letters, and the days were long. Yes, even
knowing you, I loved you, John Charteris."
"Oh, I was wrong, all wrong," he cried; "and yet
there is something to be said upon the other side, as
always. . . ." Now Charteris was still for a
while. The little man's chin was uplifted so that
it was toward the stars he looked rather than at
Pauline Romeyne, and when he spoke he seemed to
meditate aloud. "I was born, I think, with the desire
to make beautiful books--brave books that would
preserve the glories of the Dream untarnished, and
would re-create them for battered people, and re-awaken
joy and magnanimity." Here he laughed, a little
ruefully. "No, I do not think I can explain this
obsession to any one who has never suffered from it.
But I have never in my life permitted anything to stand
in the way of my fulfilling this desire to serve the
Dream by re-creating it for others with picked words,
and that has cost me something. Yes, the Dream is an
exacting master. My books, such as they are, have been
made what they are at the dear price of never
permitting myself to care seriously for anything else.
I might not dare to dissipate my energies by taking any
part in the drama I was attempting to re-write, because
I must so jealously conserve all the force that was in
me for the perfection of my lovelier version. That may
not be the best way of making books, but it is the only
one that was possible for me. I had so little natural
talent, you see," said Charteris, wistfully, "and I was
anxious to do so much with it. So I had always to be
careful. It has been rather lonely, my dear. Now,
looking back, it seems to me that the part I have
played in all other people's lives has been the role of
a tourist who enters a cafe chantant, a fortress, or a
cathedral, with much the same forlorn sense of
detachment, and observes what there is to see that may
be worth remembering, and takes a note or two, perhaps,
and then leaves the place forever. Yes, that is how I
served the Dream and that is how I got my books. They
are very beautiful books, I think, but they cost me
fifteen years of human living and human intimacy, and
they are hardly worth so much."
He turned to her, and his voice changed. "Oh, I
was wrong, all wrong, and chance is kindlier than I
deserve. For I have wandered after unprofitable gods,
like a man blundering through a day of mist and fog,
and I win home now in its golden sunset. I have
laughed very much, my dear, but I was never happy until
to-night. The Dream, as I now know, is not best served
by making parodies of it, and it does not greatly
matter after all whether a book be an epic or a
directory. What really matters is that there is so
much faith and love and kindliness which we can share
with and provoke in others, and that by cleanly,
simple, generous living we approach perfection in the
highest and most lovely of all arts. . . . But you, I
think, have always comprehended this. My dear, if I
were worthy to kneel and kiss the dust you tread in I
would do it. As it happens, I am not worthy. Pauline,
there was a time when you and I were young together,
when we aspired, when life passed as if it were to the
measures of a noble music--a heart-wringing, an
obdurate, an intolerable music, it might be, but always
a lofty music. One strutted, no doubt--it was because
one knew oneself to be indomitable. Eh, it is
true I have won all I asked of life, very horribly
true. All that I asked, poor fool! oh, I am weary of
loneliness, and I know now that all the phantoms I have
raised are only colorless shadows which belie the
Dream, and they are hateful to me. I want just to
recapture that old time we know of, and we two alone.
I want to know the Dream again, Pauline,--the Dream
which I had lost, had half forgotten, and have so
pitifully parodied. I want to know the Dream again,
Pauline, and you alone can help me."
"Oh, if I could! if even I could now, my dear!"
Pauline Romeyne left him upon a sudden, crying this.
And "So!" said Mr. Charteris.
He had been deeply shaken and very much in earnest;
but he was never the man to give for any lengthy while
too slack a rein to emotion; and so he now sat down
upon the bench and lighted a cigarette and smiled. Yet
he fully recognized himself to be the most enviable of
men and an inhabitant of the most glorious world
imaginable--a world wherein he very assuredly meant to
marry Pauline Romeyne say, in the ensuing September.
Yes, that would fit in well enough, although, of
course, he would have to cancel the engagement to
lecture in Milwaukee. . . . How lucky, too, it was
that he had never actually committed himself with Anne
Willoughby! for while money was an excellent thing to
have, how infinitely less desirable it was to live
perked up in golden sorrow than to feed flocks upon the
Grampian Hills, where Freedom from the mountain height
cried, "I go on forever, a prince can make a
belted knight, and let who will be clever. . . ."

"--and besides, you'll catch your death of cold,"
lamented Rudolph Musgrave, who was now shaking Mr.
Charteris' shoulder.
"Eh, what? Oh, yes, I daresay I was napping," the
other mumbled. He stood and stretched himself
luxuriously. "Well, anyhow, don't be such an un-
mitigated grandmother. You see, I have a bit of rather
important business to attend to. Which way is Miss
"Pauline Romeyne? why, but she married old General
Ashmeade, you know. She was the gray-haired woman in
purple who carried out her squalling brat when Taylor
was introducing you, if you remember. She told me,
while the General was getting the horses around, how
sorry she was to miss your address, but they live three
miles out, and Mrs. Ashmeade is simply a slave to the
children. . . . Why, what in the world have you been
dreaming about?"
"Eh, what? Oh, yes, I daresay I was only napping,"
Mr. Charteris observed. He was aware that within they
were still playing a riotous two-step.


"Freres et matres, vous qui cultivez"


Hey, my masters, lords and brothers, ye that till the fields of
Are ye deaf ye will not hearken to the clamor of your time?

Still ye blot and change and polish--vary, heighten and
Old sonorous metres marching grandly to their tranquil close.

Ye have toiled and ye have fretted; ye attain perfected speech:
Ye have nothing new to utter and but platitudes to preach.

And your rhymes are all of loving, as within the old days when
Love was lord of the ascendant in the horoscopes of men.

Still ye make of love the utmost end and scope of all your art;
And, more blind than he you write of, note not what a modest part

Loving now may claim in living, when we have scant time to spare,
Who are plundering the sea-depths, taking tribute of the air,--

Whilst the sun makes pictures for us; since to-day, for good or
Earth and sky and sea are harnessed, and the lightnings work our

Hey, my masters, all these love-songs by dust-hidden mouths were
That ye mimic and re-echo with an artful-artless tongue,--

Sung by poets close to nature, free to touch her garments' hem
Whom to-day ye know not truly; for ye only copy them.

Them ye copy--copy always, with your backs turned to the sun,
Caring not what man is doing, noting that which man has done.

We are talking over telephones, as Shakespeare could not talk;
We are riding out in motor-cars where Homer had to walk;
And pictures Dante labored on of mediaeval Hell
The nearest cinematograph paints quicker, and as well.

But ye copy, copy always;--and ye marvel when ye find
This new beauty, that new meaning,--while a model stands behind,

Waiting, young and fair as ever, till some singer turn and trace
Something of the deathless wonder of life lived in any place.

Hey, my masters, turn from piddling to the turmoil and the
Cease from sonneting, my brothers; let us fashion songs from

Thus I wrote ere Percie passed me. . . . Then did I epitomize
All life's beauty in one poem, and make haste to eulogize
Quite the fairest thing life boasts of, for I wrote of Percie's


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