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The Line of Love by James Branch Cabell

Part 4 out of 4

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on," the girl declared: and she flung wide her lovely little hands, in a
despairing gesture. "I admire you, sir, when you talk of England. It
makes you handsomer--yes, even handsomer!--somehow. But all the while I
am remembering that England is just an ordinary island inhabited by a
number of ordinary persons, for the most of whom I have no particular
feeling one way or the other."

Pevensey looked down at her for a while with queer tenderness. Then he
smiled. "No, I could not quite make you understand, my dear. But, ah, why
fuddle that quaint little brain by trying to understand such matters as
lie without your realm? For a woman's kingdom is the home, my dear, and
her throne is in the heart of her husband--"

"All this is but another way of saying your lordship would have us cups
upon a shelf," she pointed out--"in readiness for your leisure."

He shrugged, said "Nonsense!" and began more lightly to talk of other
matters. Thus and thus he would do in France, such and such trinkets
he would fetch back--"as toys for the most whimsical, the loveliest,
and the most obstinate child in all the world," he phrased it. And
they would be married, Pevensey declared, in September: nor (he gaily
said) did he propose to have any further argument about it. Children
should be seen--the proverb was dusty, but it particularly applied to
pretty children.

Cynthia let him talk. She was just a little afraid of his
self-confidence, and of this tall nobleman's habit of getting what he
wanted, in the end: but she dispiritedly felt that Pevensey had failed
her. Why, George Bulmer treated her as if she were a silly infant; and
his want of her, even in that capacity, was a secondary matter: he was
going into France, for all his petting talk, and was leaving her to shift
as she best might, until he could spare the time to resume his
love-making....

2. _What Comes of Scribbling_

Now when Pevensey had gone the room seemed darkened by the withdrawal of
so much magnificence. Cynthia watched from the window as the tall earl
rode away, with three handsomely clad retainers. Yes, George was very
fine and admirable, no doubt of it: even so, there was relief in the
reflection that for a month or two she was rid of him.

Turning, she faced a lean, dishevelled man, who stood by the Magdalen
tapestry scratching his chin. He had unquiet bright eyes, this
out-at-elbows poet whom a marquis' daughter was pleased to patronize, and
his red hair was unpardonably tousled. Nor were his manners beyond
reproach, for now, without saying anything, he, too, went to the window.
He dragged one foot a little as he walked.

"So my lord Pevensey departs! Look how he rides in triumph! like lame
Tamburlaine, with Techelles and Usumcasane and Theridamas to attend him,
and with the sunset turning the dust raised by their horses' hoofs into a
sort of golden haze about them. It is a beautiful world. And truly,
Mistress Cyn," the poet said, reflectively, "that Pevensey is a very
splendid ephemera. If not a king himself, at least he goes magnificently
to settle the affairs of kings. Were modesty not my failing, Mistress
Cyn, I would acclaim you as strangely lucky, in being beloved by two fine
fellows that have not their like in England."

"Truly, you are not always thus modest, Kit Marlowe--"

"But, Lord, how seriously Pevensey takes it all! and takes himself in
particular! Why, there departs from us, in befitting state, a personage
whose opinion as to every topic in the world is written legibly in the
carriage of those fine shoulders, even when seen from behind and from so
considerable a distance. And in not one syllable do any of these opinions
differ from the opinions of his great-great-grandfathers. Oho, and hark
to Deptford! now all the oafs in the Corn-market are cheering this
bulwark of Protestant England, this rising young hero of a people with no
nonsense about them. Yes, it is a very quaint and rather splendid
ephemera."

The daughter of a marquis could not quite approve of the way in which
this shoemaker's son, however talented, railed at his betters. "Pevensey
will be the greatest man in these kingdoms some day. Indeed, Kit Marlowe,
there are those who say he is that much already."

"Oh, very probably! Still, I am puzzled by human greatness. A century
hence what will he matter, this Pevensey? His ascent and his declension
will have been completed, and his foolish battles and treaties will have
given place to other foolish battles and treaties, and oblivion will have
swallowed this glistening bluebottle, plumes and fine lace and stately
ruff and all. Why, he is but an adviser to the queen of half an island,
whereas my Tamburlaine was lord of all the golden ancient East: and what
does my Tamburlaine matter now, save that he gave Kit Marlowe the subject
of a drama? Hah, softly though! for does even that very greatly matter?
Who really cares to-day about what scratches were made upon wax by that
old Euripides, the latchet of whose sandals I am not worthy to unloose?
No, not quite worthy, as yet!"

And thereupon the shabby fellow sat down in the tall leather-covered
chair which Pevensey had just vacated: and this Marlowe nodded his
flaming head portentously. "Hoh, look you, I am displeased, Mistress Cyn,
I cannot lend my approval to this over-greedy oblivion that gapes for
all. No, it is not a satisfying arrangement, that I should teeter
insecurely through the void on a gob of mud, and be expected by and by to
relinquish even that crazy foothold. Even for Kit Marlowe death lies in
wait! and it may be, not anything more after death, not even any lovely
words to play with. Yes, and this Marlowe may amount to nothing, after
all: and his one chance of amounting to that which he intends may be
taken away from him at any moment!"

He touched the breast of a weather-beaten doublet. He gave her that queer
twisted sort of smile which the girl could not but find attractive,
somehow. He said: "Why, but this heart thumping here inside me may stop
any moment like a broken clock. Here is Euripides writing better than I:
and here in my body, under my hand, is the mechanism upon which depend
all those masterpieces that are to blot the Athenian from the reckoning,
and I have no control of it!"

"Indeed, I fear that you control few things," she told him, "and that
least of all do you control your taste for taverns and bad women. Oh, I
hear tales of you!" And Cynthia raised a reproving forefinger.

"True tales, no doubt." He shrugged. "Lacking the moon he vainly cried
for, the child learns to content himself with a penny whistle."

"Ah, but the moon is far away," the girl said, smiling--"too far to hear
the sound of human crying: and besides, the moon, as I remember it, was
never a very amorous goddess--"

"Just so," he answered: "also she was called Cynthia, and she, too, was
beautiful."

"Yet is it the heart that cries to me, my poet?" she asked him, softly,
"or just the lips?"

"Oh, both of them, most beautiful and inaccessible of goddesses." Then
Marlowe leaned toward her, laughing and shaking that disreputable red
head. "Still, you are very foolish, in your latest incarnation, to be
wasting your rays upon carpet earls who will not outwear a century. Were
modesty not my failing, I repeat, I could name somebody who will last
longer. Yes, and--if but I lacked that plaguey virtue--I would advise you
to go a-gypsying with that nameless somebody, so that two manikins might
snatch their little share of the big things that are eternal, just as the
butterfly fares intrepidly and joyously, with the sun for his torchboy,
through a universe wherein thought cannot estimate the unimportance of a
butterfly, and wherein not even the chaste moon is very important. Yes,
certainly I would advise you to have done with this vanity of courts and
masques, of satins and fans and fiddles, this dallying with tinsels and
bright vapors; and very movingly I would exhort you to seek out Arcadia,
travelling hand in hand with that still nameless somebody." And of a
sudden the restless man began to sing.

Sang Kit Marlowe:

_"Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

"And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals--"_

But the girl shook her small, wise head decisively. "That is all very
fine, but, as it happens, there is no such place as this Arcadia, where
people can frolic in perpetual sunlight the year round, and find their
food and clothing miraculously provided. No, nor can you, I am afraid,
give me what all maids really, in their heart of hearts, desire far more
than any sugar-candy Arcadia. Oh, as I have so often told you, Kit, I
think you love no woman. You love words. And your seraglio is tenanted by
very beautiful words, I grant you, though there is no longer any Sestos
builded of agate and crystal, either, Kit Marlowe. For, as you may
perceive, sir, I have read all that lovely poem you left with me last
Thursday--"

She saw how interested he was, saw how he almost smirked. "Aha, so you
think it not quite bad, eh, the conclusion of my _Hero and Leander_?"

"It is your best. And your middlemost, my poet, is better than aught else
in English," she said, politely, and knowing how much he delighted to
hear such remarks.

"Come, I retract my charge of foolishness, for you are plainly a wench
of rare discrimination. And yet you say I do not love you! Cynthia, you
are beautiful, you are perfect in all things. You are that heavenly
Helen of whom I wrote, some persons say, acceptably enough. How strange
it was I did not know that Helen was dark-haired and pale! for certainly
yours is that immortal loveliness which must be served by poets in life
and death."

"And I wonder how much of these ardors," she thought, "is kindled by my
praise of his verses?" She bit her lip, and she regarded him with a hint
of sadness. She said, aloud: "But I did not, after all, speak to Lord
Pevensey concerning the printing of your poem. Instead, I burned your
_Hero and Leander_."

She saw him jump, as under a whip-lash. Then he smiled again, in that wry
fashion of his. "I lament the loss to letters, for it was my only copy.
But you knew that."

"Yes, Kit, I knew it was your only copy."

"Oho! and for what reason did you burn it, may one ask?"

"I thought you loved it more than you loved me. It was my rival, I
thought--" The girl was conscious of remorse, and yet it was remorse
commingled with a mounting joy.

"And so you thought a jingle scribbled upon a bit of paper could be your
rival with me!"

Then Cynthia no longer doubted, but gave a joyous little sobbing
laugh, for the love of her disreputable dear poet was sustaining the
stringent testing she had devised. She touched his freckled hand
caressingly, and her face was as no man had ever seen it, and her
voice, too, caressed him.

"Ah, you have made me the happiest of women, Kit! Kit, I am almost
disappointed in you, though, that you do not grieve more for the loss of
that beautiful poem."

His smiling did not waver; yet the lean, red-haired man stayed
motionless. "Why, but see how lightly I take the destruction of my
life-work in this, my masterpiece! For I can assure you it was a
masterpiece, the fruit of two years' toil and of much loving
repolishment--"

"Ah, but you love me better than such matters, do you not?" she asked
him, tenderly. "Kit Marlowe, I adore you! Sweetheart, do you not
understand that a woman wants to be loved utterly and entirely? She wants
no rivals, not even paper rivals. And so often when you talked of poetry
I have felt lonely and chilled and far away from you, and I have been
half envious, dear, of your Heros and Helens and your other
good-for-nothing Greek minxes. But now I do not mind them at all. And I
will make amends, quite prodigal amends, for my naughty jealousy: and my
poet shall write me some more lovely poems, so he shall--"

He said: "You fool!"

And she drew away from him, for this man was no longer smiling.

"You burned my _Hero and Leander_! You! you big-eyed fool! You lisping
idiot! you wriggling, cuddling worm! you silken bag of guts! had not even
you the wit to perceive it was immortal beauty which would have lived
long after you and I were stinking dirt? And you, a half-witted animal, a
shining, chattering parrot, lay claws to it!" Marlowe had risen in a sort
of seizure, in a condition which was really quite unreasonable when you
considered that only a poem was at stake, even a rather long poem.

And Cynthia began to smile, with tremulous hurt-looking young lips. "So
my poet's love is very much the same as Pevensey's love! And I was right,
after all."

"Oh, oh!" said Marlowe, "that ever a poet should love a woman! What jokes
does the lewd flesh contrive!" Of a sudden he was calmer; and then rage
fell away from him like a dropped cloak, and he viewed her as with
respectful wonder. "Why, but you sitting there, with goggling innocent
bright eyes, are an allegory of all that is most droll and tragic. Yes,
and indeed there is no reason to blame you. It is not your fault that
every now and then is born a man who serves an idea which is to him the
most important thing in the world. It is not your fault that this man
perforce inhabits a body to which the most important thing in the world
is a woman. Certainly it is not your fault that this compost makes yet
another jumble of his two desires, and persuades himself that the two are
somehow allied. The woman inspires, the woman uplifts, the woman
strengthens him for his high work, saith he! Well, well, perhaps there
are such women, but by land and sea I have encountered none of them."

All this was said while Marlowe shuffled about the room, with bent
shoulders, and nodding his tousled red head, and limping as he walked.
Now Marlowe turned, futile and shabby looking, just where a while ago
Lord Pevensey had loomed resplendent. Again she saw the poet's queer,
twisted, jeering smile.

"What do you care for my ideals? What do you care for the ideals of that
tall earl whom for a fortnight you have held from his proper business? or
for the ideals of any man alive? Why, not one thread of that dark hair,
not one snap of those white little fingers, except when ideals irritate
you by distracting a man's attention from Cynthia Allonby. Otherwise, he
is welcome enough to play with his incomprehensible toys."

He jerked a thumb toward the shelves behind him.

"Oho, you virtuous pretty ladies! what all you value is such matters as
those cups: they please the eye, they are worth sound money, and people
envy you the possession of them. So you cherish your shiny mud cups, and
you burn my _Hero and Leander_: and I declaim all this dull nonsense over
the ashes of my ruined dreams, thinking at bottom of how pretty you are,
and of how much I would like to kiss you. That is the real tragedy, the
immemorial tragedy, that I should still hanker after you, my Cynthia--"

His voice dwelt tenderly upon her name. His fever-haunted eyes were
tender, too, for just a moment. Then he grimaced.

"No, I was wrong--the tragedy strikes deeper. The root of it is that
there is in you and in all your glittering kind no malice, no will to do
harm nor to hurt anything, but just a bland and invincible and, upon the
whole, a well-meaning stupidity, informing a bright and soft and
delicately scented animal. So you work ruin among those men who serve
ideals, not foreplanning ruin, not desiring to ruin anything, not even
having sufficient wit to perceive the ruin when it is accomplished. You
are, when all is done, not even detestable, not even a worthy peg whereon
to hang denunciatory sonnets, you shallow-pated pretty creatures whom
poets--oh, and in youth all men are poets!--whom poets, now and always,
are doomed to hanker after to the detriment of their poesy. No, I concede
it: you kill without pre-meditation, and without ever suspecting your
hands to be anything but stainless. So in logic I must retract all my
harsh words; and I must, without any hint of reproach, endeavor to bid
you a somewhat more civil farewell."

She had regarded him, throughout this preposterous and uncalled-for
harangue, with sad composure, with a forgiving pity. Now she asked him,
very quietly, "Where are you going, Kit?"

"To the Golden Hind, O gentle, patient and unjustly persecuted virgin
martyr!" he answered, with an exaggerated bow--"since that is the part in
which you now elect to posture."

"Not to that low, vile place again!"

"But certainly I intend in that tavern to get tipsy as quickly as
possible: for then the first woman I see will for the time become the
woman whom I desire, and who exists nowhere." And with that the
red-haired man departed, limping and singing as he went to look for a
trull in a pot-house.

Sang Kit Marlowe:

_"And I will make her beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.

"A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold--"_

3. _Economics of Egeria_

She sat quite still when Marlowe had gone.

"He will get drunk again," she thought despondently. "Well, and why
should it matter to me if he does, after all that outrageous ranting? He
has been unforgivably insulting--Oh, but none the less, I do not want to
have him babbling of the roses and gold of that impossible fairy world
which the poor, frantic child really believes in, to some painted woman
of the town who will laugh at him. I loathe the thought of her laughing
at him--and kissing him! His notions are wild foolishness; but I at least
wish that they were not foolishness, and that hateful woman will not care
one way or the other."

So Cynthia sighed, and to comfort her forlorn condition fetched a
hand-mirror from the shelves whereon glowed her green cups. She touched
each cup caressingly in passing; and that which she found in the mirror,
too, she regarded not unappreciatively, from varying angles.... Yes,
after all, dark hair and a pale skin had their advantages at a court
where pink and yellow women were so much the fashion as to be common. Men
remembered you more distinctively.

Though nobody cared for men, in view of their unreasonable behavior, and
their absolute self-centeredness.... Oh, it was pitiable, it was
grotesque, she reflected sadly, how Pevensey and Kit Marlowe had both
failed her, after so many pretty speeches.

Still, there was a queer pleasure in being wooed by Kit: his insane
notions went to one's head like wine. She would send Meg for him again
to-morrow. And Pevensey was, of course, the best match imaginable.... No,
it would be too heartless to dismiss George Buhner outright. It was
unreasonable of him to desert her because a Gascon threatened to go to
mass: but, after all, she would probably marry George, in the end. He
was really almost unendurably silly, though, about England and freedom
and religion and right and wrong and things like that. Yes, it would be
tedious to have a husband who often talked to you as though he were
addressing a public assemblage.... Yet, he was very handsome,
particularly in his highflown and most tedious moments; that year-old son
of his was sickly, and would probably die soon, the sweet forlorn little
pet, and not be a bother to anybody: and her dear old father would be
profoundly delighted by the marriage of his daughter to a man whose wife
could have at will a dozen celadon cups, and anything else she chose to
ask for....

But now the sun had set, and the room was growing quite dark. So Cynthia
stood a-tiptoe, and replaced the mirror upon the shelves, setting it
upright behind those wonderful green cups which had anew reminded her of
Pevensey's wealth and generosity. She smiled a little, to think of what
fun it had been to hold George back, for two whole weeks, from
discharging that horrible old queen's stupid errands.

4. _Treats Philosophically of Breakage_

The door opened. Stalwart young Captain Edward Musgrave came with a
lighted candle, which he placed carefully upon the table in the
room's centre.

He said: "They told me you were here. I come from London. I bring
news for you."

"You bring no pleasant tidings, I fear--"

"As Lord Pevensey rode through the Strand this afternoon, on his way
home, the Plague smote him. That is my sad news. I grieve to bring such
news, for your cousin was a worthy gentleman and universally respected."

"Ah," Cynthia said, very quiet, "so Pevensey is dead. But the Plague
kills quickly!"

"Yes, yes, that is a comfort, certainly. Yes, he turned quite black in
the face, they report, and before his men could reach him had fallen from
his horse. It was all over almost instantly. I saw him afterward, hardly
a pleasant sight. I came to you as soon as I could. I was vexatiously
detained--"

"So George Bulmer is dead, in a London gutter! It seems strange,
because he was here, befriended by monarchs, and very strong and
handsome and self-confident, hardly two hours ago. Is that his blood
upon your sleeve?"

"But of course not! I told you I was vexatiously detained, almost at your
gates. Yes, I had the ill luck to blunder into a disgusting business. The
two rapscallions tumbled out of a doorway under my horse's very nose,
egad! It was a near thing I did not ride them down. So I stopped,
naturally. I regretted stopping, afterward, for I was too late to be of
help. It was at the Golden Hind, of course. Something really ought to be
done about that place. Yes, and that rogue Marler bled all over a new
doublet, as you see. And the Deptford constables held me with their
foolish interrogatories--"

"So one of the fighting men was named Marlowe! Is he dead, too, dead in
another gutter?"

"Marlowe or Marler, or something of the sort--wrote plays and sonnets and
such stuff, they tell me. I do not know anything about him--though, I
give you my word, now, those greasy constables treated me as though I
were a noted frequenter of pot-houses. That sort of thing is most
annoying. At all events, he was drunk as David's sow, and squabbling
over, saving your presence, a woman of the sort one looks to find in that
abominable hole. And so, as I was saying, this other drunken rascal dug a
knife into him--"

But now, to Captain Musgrave's discomfort, Cynthia Allonby had begun to
weep heartbrokenly.

So he cleared his throat, and he patted the back of her hand. "It is a
great shock to you, naturally--oh, most naturally, and does you great
credit. But come now, Pevensey is gone, as we must all go some day, and
our tears cannot bring him back, my dear. We can but hope he is better
off, poor fellow, and look on it as a mysterious dispensation and that
sort of thing, my dear--"

"Oh, Ned, but people are so cruel! People will be saying that it was I
who kept poor Cousin George in London this past two weeks, and that but
for me he would have been in France long ago! And then the Queen,
Ned!--why, that pig-headed old woman will be blaming it on me, that
there is nobody to prevent that detestable French King from turning
Catholic and dragging England into new wars, and I shall not be able to
go to any of the Court dances! nor to the masques!" sobbed Cynthia, "nor
anywhere!"

"Now you talk tender-hearted and angelic nonsense. It is noble of you to
feel that way, of course. But Pevensey did not take proper care of
himself, and that is all there is to it. Now I have remained in London
since the Plague's outbreak. I stayed with my regiment, naturally. We
have had a few deaths, of course. People die everywhere. But the Plague
has never bothered me. And why has it never bothered me? Simply because I
was sensible, took the pains to consult an astrologer, and by his advice
wear about my neck, night and day, a bag containing tablets of toads'
blood and arsenic. It is an infallible specific for men born in February.
No, not for a moment do I wish to speak harshly of the dead, but sensible
persons cannot but consider Lord Pevensey's death to have been caused by
his own carelessness."

"Now, certainly that is true," the girl said, brightening. "It was really
his own carelessness and his dear lovable rashness. And somebody could
explain it to the Queen. Besides, I often think that wars are good for
the public spirit of a nation, and bring out its true manhood. But then
it upset me, too, a little, Ned, to hear about this Marlowe--for I must
tell you that I knew the poor man, very slightly. So I happen to know
that to-day he flung off in a rage, and began drinking, because somebody,
almost by pure chance, had burned a packet of his verses--"

Thereupon Captain Musgrave raised heavy eyebrows, and guffawed so
heartily that the candle flickered. "To think of the fellow's putting it
on that plea! when he could so easily have written some more verses. That
is the trouble with these poets, if you ask me: they are not practical
even in their ordinary everyday lying. No, no, the truth of it was that
the rogue wanted a pretext for making a beast of himself, and seized the
first that came to hand. Egad, my dear, it is a daily practise with these
poets. They hardly draw a sober breath. Everybody knows that."

Cynthia was looking at him in the half-lit room with very flattering
admiration.... Seen thus, with her scarlet lips a little
parted--disclosing pearls,--and with her naive dark eyes aglow, she was
quite incredibly pretty and caressable. She had almost forgotten until
now that this stalwart soldier, too, was in love with her. But now her
spirits were rising venturously, and she knew that she liked Ned
Musgrave. He had sensible notions; he saw things as they really were, and
with him there would never be any nonsense about toplofty ideas. Then,
too, her dear old white-haired father would be pleased, because there was
a very fair estate....

So Cynthia said: "I believe you are right, Ned. I often wonder how they
can be so lacking in self-respect. Oh, I am certain you must be right,
for it is just what I felt without being able quite to express it. You
will stay for supper with us, of course. Yes, but you must, because it is
always a great comfort for me to talk with really sensible persons. I do
not wonder that you are not very eager to stay, though, for I am probably
a fright, with my eyes red, and with my hair all tumbling down, like an
old witch's. Well, let us see what can be done about it, sir! There was a
hand-mirror--"

And thus speaking, she tripped, with very much the reputed grace of a
fairy, toward the far end of the room, and standing a-tiptoe, groped at
the obscure shelves, with a resultant crash of falling china.

"Oh, but my lovely cups!" said Cynthia, in dismay. "I had forgotten they
were up there: and now I have smashed both of them, in looking for my
mirror, sir, and trying to prettify myself for you. And I had so fancied
them, because they had not their like in England!"

She looked at the fragments, and then at Musgrave, with wide, innocent
hurt eyes. She was really grieved by the loss of her quaint toys. But
Musgrave, in his sturdy, common-sense way, only laughed at her
seriousness over such kickshaws.

"I am for an honest earthenware tankard myself!" he said, jovially, as
the two went in to supper.

* * * * *

1905-1919

_"Tell me where is fancy bred Or in the heart or in the head? How begot,
how nourished?... Then let us all ring fancy's knell."_

CHAPTER X

_The Envoi Called Semper Idem_

1. _Which Baulks at an Estranging Sea_

Here, then, let us end the lovers' comedy, after a good precedent, with
supper as the denouement. _Chacun ira souper: la comedie ne peut pas
mieux finir._

For epilogue, Cynthia Allonby was duly married to Edward Musgrave, and he
made her a fair husband, as husbands go. That was the upshot of
Pevensey's death and Marlowe's murder: as indeed, it was the outcome of
all the earlier-recorded heart-burnings and endeavors and spoiled dreams.
Through generation by generation, traversing just three centuries, I have
explained to you, my dear Mrs. Grundy, how divers weddings came about:
and each marriage appears, upon the whole, to have resulted
satisfactorily. Dame Melicent and Dame Adelaide, not Florian, touched the
root of the matter as they talked together at Storisende: and the trio's
descendants could probe no deeper.

But now we reach the annals of the house of Musgrave: and further
adventuring is blocked by R. V. Musgrave's monumental work _The Musgraves
of Matocton_. The critical may differ as to the plausibility of the
family tradition (ably defended by Colonel Musgrave, pp. 33-41) that
Mistress Cynthia Musgrave was the dark lady of Shakespeare's Sonnets, and
that this poet, also, in the end, absolved her of intentional malice.
There is none, at any event, but may find in this genealogical classic a
full record of the highly improbable happenings which led to the
emigration of Captain Edward Musgrave, and later of Cynthia Musgrave, to
the Colony of Virginia; and none but must admire Colonel Musgrave's
painstaking and accurate tracing of the American Musgraves who descended
from this couple, down to the eve of the twentieth century.

It would be supererogatory, therefore, for me to tell you of the various
Musgrave marriages, and to re-dish such data as is readily accessible on
the reference shelves of the nearest public library, as well as in the
archives of the Colonial Dames, of the Society of the Cincinnati, and of
the Sons and Daughters of various wars. It suffices that from the
marriage of Edward Musgrave and Cynthia Allonby sprang this well-known
American family, prolific of brave gentlemen and gracious ladies who in
due course, and in new lands, achieved their allotted portion of laughter
and anguish and compromise, very much as their European fathers and
mothers had done aforetime.

So I desist to follow the line of love across the Atlantic; and, for the
while at least, make an end of these chronicles. My pen flags, my ink
runs low, and (since Florian wedded twice) the Dizain of Marriages is
completed.

2. _Which Defers to Various Illusions_

I have bound up my gleanings from the fields of old years into a modest
sheaf; and if it be so fortunate as to please you, my dear Mrs.
Grundy,--if it so come about that your ladyship be moved in time to
desire another sheaf such as this,--why, assuredly, my surprise will be
untempered with obduracy. The legends of Allonby have been but lightly
touched upon: and apart from the _Aventures d'Adhelmar_, Nicolas de Caen
is thus far represented in English only by the _Roi Atnaury_ (which, to
be sure, is Nicolas' masterpiece) and the mutilated _Dizain des Reines_
and the fragmentary _Roman de Lusignan_.

But since you, madam, are not Schahriah, to give respite for the sake of
an unnarrated tale, I must now without further peroration make an end.
Through the monstrous tapestry I have traced out for you the windings of
a single thread, and I entreat you, dear lady, to accept it with
assurances of my most distinguished regard.

And if the offering be no great gift, this lack of greatness, believe me,
is due to the errors and limitations of the transcriber alone.

For they loved greatly, these men and women of the past, in that rapt
hour wherein Nature tricked them to noble ends, and lured them to skyey
heights of adoration and sacrifice. At bottom they were, perhaps, no more
heroical than you or I. Indeed, neither Florian nor Adhelmar was at
strict pains to act as common-sense dictated, and Falstaff is scarcely
describable as immaculate: Villon thieved, Kit Marlowe left a wake of
emptied bottles, and Will Sommers was notoriously a fool; Matthiette was
vain, and Adelais self-seeking, and the tenth Marquis of Falmouth, if you
press me, rather a stupid and pompous ass: and yet to each in turn it was
granted to love greatly, to know at least one hour of magnanimity when
each was young in the world's annually recaptured youth.

And if that hour did not ever have its sequel in precisely the
anticipated life-long rapture, nor always in a wedding with the person
preferred, yet since at any rate it resulted in a marriage that turned
out well enough, in a world wherein people have to consider expediency,
one may rationally assert that each of these romances ended happily.
Besides, there had been the hour.

Ah, yes, this love is an illusion, if you will. Wise men have protested
that vehemently enough in all conscience. But there are two ends to every
stickler for his opinion here. Whether you see, in this fleet hour's
abandonment to love, the man's spark of divinity flaring in momentary
splendor,--a tragic candle, with divinity guttering and half-choked among
the drossier particles, and with momentary splendor lighting man's
similitude to Him in Whose likeness man was created,--or whether you,
more modernly, detect as prompting this surrender coarse-fibred Nature,
in the Prince of Lycia's role (with all mankind her Troiluses to be
cajoled into perpetuation of mankind), you have, in either event,
conceded that to live unbefooled by love is at best a shuffling and
debt-dodging business, and you have granted this unreasoned, transitory
surrender to be the most high and, indeed, the one requisite action which
living affords.

Beyond that is silence. If you succeed in proving love a species of
madness, you have but demonstrated that there is something more
profoundly pivotal than sanity, and for the sanest logician this is a
disastrous gambit: whereas if, in well-nigh obsolete fashion, you confess
the universe to be a weightier matter than the contents of your skull,
and your wits a somewhat slender instrument wherewith to plumb
infinity,--why, then you will recall that it is written _God is love_,
and this recollection, too, is conducive to a fine taciturnity.

EXPLICIT LINEA AMORIS

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