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Title: Vanishing Roads and Other Essays
Author: Le Gallienne, Richard, 1866-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Vanishing Roads
And Other Essays


By

Richard Le Gallienne


1915



 TO

 ROBERT HOBART DAVIS

DEAR BOB: It is quite a long time now since you and I first caught
sight of each other and became fellow wayfarers on this Vanishing Road
of the world. O quite a lot of years now, Bob! Yet I control my tendency
to shiver at their number from the fact that we have travelled them,
always within hailing distance of each other, I with the comfortable
knowledge that near by I had so good a comrade, so true a friend.

For this once, by your leave, we won't "can" the sentiment,--to use an
idiom in which you are the master-artist on this continent,--but I, at
least, will luxuriate in retrospect, as I write your name by way of
dedication to this volume of essays, for some of which your quick-firing
mind is somewhat more than editorially responsible. You were one of the
first to make me welcome to a country of which, even as a boy, I used
prophetically to dream as my "promised land," little knowing that it was
indeed to be my home, the home of my spirit, as well as the final
resting-place of my household gods; and, having you so early for my
friend, is it to be wondered at if I soon came to regard the American
humourist as the noblest work of God?

There is yet, I trust, much left of the Vanishing Road for us to travel
together; and I hope that, when the time comes for us both to vanish
over the horizon line, we may exit still within hail of each other,--so
that we may have a reasonable chance of hitting the trail together on
the next route, whatever it is going to be.

Always yours,
    RICHARD LE GALLIENNE.

Rowayton, December 25, 1914.



For their discernment in giving the following essays their first
opportunity with the reader the writer desires to thank the editors of
_The North American Review_, _Harper's Magazine_, _The Century_, _The
Smart Set_, _Munsey's_, _The Out-Door World_, and _The Forum_.



CONTENTS

    CHAPTER
          I.--VANISHING ROADS
         II.--WOMAN AS A SUPERNATURAL BEING
        III.--THE LACK OF IMAGINATION AMONG MILLIONAIRES
         IV.--THE PASSING OF MRS. GRUNDY
          V.--MODERN AIDS TO ROMANCE
         VI.--THE LAST CALL
        VII.--THE PERSECUTIONS OF BEAUTY
       VIII.--THE MANY FACES--THE ONE DREAM
         IX.--THE SNOWS OF YESTER-YEAR
          X.--THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GOSSIP
         XI.--THE PASSING AWAY OF THE EDITOR
        XII.--THE SPIRIT OF THE OPEN
       XIII.--AN OLD AMERICAN TOW-PATH
        XIV.--A MODERN SAINT FRANCIS
         XV.--THE LITTLE GHOST IN THE GARDEN
        XVI.--THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE
       XVII.--LONDON--CHANGING AND UNCHANGING
      XVIII.--THE HAUNTED RESTAURANT
        XIX.--THE NEW PYRAMUS AND THISBE
         XX.--TWO WONDERFUL OLD LADIES
        XXI.--A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION
       XXII.--ON RE-READING WALTER PATER
      XXIII.--THE MYSTERY OF "FIONA MACLEOD"
       XXIV.--FORBES-ROBERTSON: AN APPRECIATION
        XXV.--A MEMORY OF FRÉDÉRIC MISTRAL
       XXVI.--IMPERISHABLE FICTION
      XXVII.--THE MAN BEHIND THE PEN
     XXVIII.--BULLS IN CHINA-SHOPS
       XXIX.--THE BIBLE AND THE BUTTERFLY



Vanishing Roads



I

VANISHING ROADS


Though actually the work of man's hands--or, more properly speaking, the
work of his travelling feet,--roads have long since come to seem so much
a part of Nature that we have grown to think of them as a feature of the
landscape no less natural than rocks and trees. Nature has adopted them
among her own works, and the road that mounts the hill to meet the
sky-line, or winds away into mystery through the woodland, seems to be
veritably her own highway leading us to the stars, luring us to her
secret places. And just as her rocks and trees, we know not how or why,
have come to have for us a strange spiritual suggestiveness, so the
vanishing road has gained a meaning for us beyond its use as the avenue
of mortal wayfaring, the link of communication between village and
village and city and city; and some roads indeed seem so lonely, and so
beautiful in their loneliness, that one feels they were meant to be
travelled only by the soul. All roads indeed lead to Rome, but theirs
also is a more mystical destination, some bourne of which no traveller
knows the name, some city, they all seem to hint, even more eternal.

Never more than when we tread some far-spreading solitude and mark the
road stretching on and on into infinite space, or the eye loses it in
some wistful curve behind the fateful foliage of lofty storm-stirred
trees, or as it merely loiters in sunny indolence through leafy copses
and ferny hollows, whatever its mood or its whim, by moonlight or at
morning; never more than thus, eagerly afoot or idly contemplative, are
we impressed by that something that Nature seems to have to tell us,
that something of solemn, lovely import behind her visible face. If we
could follow that vanishing road to its far mysterious end! Should we
find that meaning there? Should we know why it stops at no mere
market-town, nor comes to an end at any seaport? Should we come at last
to the radiant door, and know at last the purpose of all our travel?
Meanwhile the road beckons us on and on, and we walk we know not why or
whither.

Vanishing roads do actually stir such thoughts, not merely by way of
similitude, but just in the same way that everything in Nature similarly
stirs thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls; as moonlit waters stir
them, or the rising of the sun. As I have said, they have come to seem
a part of natural phenomena, and, as such, may prove as suggestive a
starting-point as any other for those speculations which Nature is all
the time provoking in us as to why she affects us thus and thus. These
mighty hills of multitudinous rock, piled confusedly against the sky--so
much granite and iron and copper and crystal, says one. But to the soul,
strangely something besides, so much more. These rolling shapes of
cloud, so fantastically massed and moulded, moving in rhythmic change
like painted music in the heaven, radiant with ineffable glories or
monstrous with inconceivable doom. This sea of silver, "hushed and
halcyon," or this sea of wrath and ravin, wild as Judgment Day. So much
vapour and sunshine and wind and water, says one.

Yet to the soul how much more!

And why? Answer me that if you can. There, truly, we set our feet on the
vanishing road.

Whatever reality, much or little, the personifications of Greek
Nature-worship had for the ancient world, there is no doubt that for a
certain modern temperament, more frequently met with every day, those
personifications are becoming increasingly significant, and one might
almost say veritably alive. Forgotten poets may, in the first instance,
have been responsible for the particular forms they took, their names
and stories, yet even so they but clothed with legend presences of wood
and water, of earth and sea and sky, which man dimly felt to have a
real existence; and these presences, forgotten or banished for a while
in prosaic periods, or under Puritanic repression, are once more being
felt as spiritual realities by a world coming more and more to evoke its
divinities by individual meditation on, and responsiveness to, the
mysterious so-called natural influences by which it feels itself
surrounded. Thus the first religion of the world seems likely to be its
last. In other words, the modern tendency, with spiritually sensitive
folk, is for us to go direct to the fountain-head of all theologies,
Nature herself, and, prostrating ourselves before her mystery, strive to
interpret it according to our individual "intimations," listening,
attent, for ourselves to her oracles, and making, to use the phrase of
one of the profoundest of modern Nature-seers, our own "reading of
earth." Such was Wordsworth's initiative, and, as some one has said, "we
are all Wordsworthians today." That pagan creed, in which Wordsworth
passionately wished himself suckled, is not "outworn." He himself, in
his own austere way, has, more than any one man, verified it for us, so
that indeed we do once more nowadays

          Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
          Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Nor have the dryads and the fauns been frighted away for good. All over
the world they are trooping back to the woods, and whoso has eyes may
catch sight, any summer day, of "the breast of the nymph in the brake."
Imagery, of course; but imagery that is coming to have a profounder
meaning, and a still greater expressive value, than it ever had for
Greece and Rome. All myths that are something more than fancies gain
rather than lose in value with time, by reason of the accretions of
human experience. The mysteries of Eleusis would mean more for a modern
man than for an ancient Greek, and in our modern groves of Dodona the
voice of the god has meanings for us stranger than ever reached his
ears. Maybe the meanings have a purport less definite, but they have at
least the suggestiveness of a nobler mystery. But surely the Greeks were
right, and we do but follow them as we listen to the murmur of the wind
in the lofty oaks, convinced as they of the near presence of the divine.

          The word by seers or sibyls told
          In groves of oak or fanes of gold,
          Still floats upon the morning wind,
          Still whispers to the willing mind.

Nor was it a vain thing to watch the flight of birds across the sky, and
augur this or that of their strange ways. We too still watch them in a
like mood, and, though we do not interpret them with a like exactitude,
we are very sure that they mean something important to our souls, as
they speed along their vanishing roads.

This modern feeling of ours is quite different from the outworn
"pathetic fallacy," which was a purely sentimental attitude. We have, of
course, long since ceased to think of Nature as the sympathetic mirror
of our moods, or to imagine that she has any concern with the temporal
affairs of man. We no longer seek to appease her in her terrible moods
with prayer and sacrifice. We know that she is not thinking of us, but
we do know that for all her moods there is in us an answering thrill of
correspondence, which is not merely fanciful or imaginative, but of the
very essence of our beings. It is not that we are reading our thoughts
into her. Rather we feel that we are receiving her thoughts into
ourselves, and that, in certain receptive hours, we are, by some avenue
simpler and profounder than reason, made aware of certitudes we cannot
formulate, but which nevertheless siderealize into a faith beyond the
reach of common doubt--a faith, indeed, unelaborate, a faith, one might
say, of one tenet: belief in the spiritual sublimity of all Nature, and,
therefore, of our own being as a part thereof.

In such hours we feel too, with a singular lucidity of conviction, that
those forces which thus give us that mystical assurance are all the time
moulding us accordingly as we give up ourselves to their influence, and
that we are literally and not fancifully what winds and waters make us;
that the poetry, for instance, of Wordsworth was literally first
somewhere in the universe, and thence transmitted to him by processes no
less natural than those which produced his bodily frame, gave him form
and feature, and coloured his eyes and hair.

It is not man that has "poetized" the world, it is the world that has
made a poet out of man, by infinite processes of evolution, precisely in
the same way that it has shaped a rose and filled it with perfume, or
shaped a nightingale and filled it with song. One has often heard it
said that man has endowed Nature with his own feelings, that the pathos
or grandeur of the evening sky, for instance, are the illusions of his
humanizing fancy, and have no real existence. The exact contrary is
probably the truth--that man has no feelings of his own that were not
Nature's first, and that all that stirs in him at such spectacles is but
a translation into his own being of cosmic emotions which he shares in
varying degrees with all created things. Into man's strange heart Nature
has distilled her essences, as elsewhere she has distilled them in
colour and perfume. He is, so to say, one of the nerve-centres of cosmic
experience. In the process of the suns he has become a veritable
microcosm of the universe. It was not man that placed that tenderness in
the evening sky. It has been the evening skies of millions of years that
have at length placed tenderness in the heart of man. It has passed into
him as that "beauty born of murmuring sound" passed into the face of
Wordsworth's maiden.

Perhaps we too seldom reflect how much the life of Nature is one with
the life of man, how unimportant or indeed merely seeming, the
difference between them. Who can set a seed in the ground, and watch it
put up a green shoot, and blossom and fructify and wither and pass,
without reflecting, not as imagery but as fact, that he has come into
existence, run his course, and is going out of existence again, by
precisely the same process? With so serious a correspondence between
their vital experience, the fact of one being a tree and the other a man
seems of comparatively small importance. The life process has but used
different material for its expression. And as man and Nature are so like
in such primal conditions, is it not to be supposed that they are alike
too in other and subtler ways, and that, at all events, as it thus
clearly appears that man is as much a natural growth as an apple-tree,
alike dependent on sun and rain, may not, or rather must not, the
thoughts that come to him strangely out of earth and sky, the sap-like
stirrings of his spirit, the sudden inner music that streams through him
before the beauty of the world, be no less authentically the working of
Nature within him than his more obviously physical processes, and, say,
a belief in God be as inevitable a blossom of the human tree as
apple-blossom of the apple?

If this oracular office of Nature be indeed a truth, our contemplation
of her beauty and marvel is seen to be a method of illumination, and her
varied spectacle actually a sacred book in picture-writing, a revelation
through the eye of the soul of the stupendous purport of the universe.
The sun and the moon are the torches by which we study its splendid
pages, turning diurnally for our perusal, and in star and flower alike
dwells the lore which we cannot formulate into thought, but can only
come indescribably to know by loving the pictures. "The meaning of all
things that are" is there, if we can only find it. It flames in the
sunset, or flits by us in the twilight moth, thunders or moans or
whispers in the sea, unveils its bosom in the moonrise, affirms itself
in mountain-range and rooted oak, sings to itself in solitary places,
dreams in still waters, nods and beckons amid sunny foliage, and laughs
its great green laugh in the wide sincerity of the grass.

As the pictures in this strange and lovely book are infinite, so
endlessly varied are the ways in which they impress us. In our highest
moments they seem to be definitely, almost consciously, sacerdotal, as
though the symbolic acts of a solemn cosmic ritual, in which the
universe is revealed visibly at worship. Were man to make a practice of
rising at dawn and contemplating in silence and alone the rising of the
sun, he would need no other religion. The rest of the day would be
hallowed for him by that morning memory and his actions would partake of
the largeness and chastity of that lustral hour. Moonlight, again, seems
to be the very holiness of Nature, welling out ecstatically from
fountains of ineffable purity and blessedness. Of some moonlight nights
we feel that if we did what our spirits prompt us, we should pass them
on our knees, as in some chapel of the Grail. To attempt to realize in
thought the rapture and purification of such a vigil is to wonder that
we so seldom pay heed to such inner promptings. So much we lose of the
best kind of joy by spiritual inertia, or plain physical sloth; and some
day it will be too late to get up and see the sunrise, or to follow the
white feet of the moon as she treads her vanishing road of silver across
the sea. This involuntary conscience that reproaches us with such laxity
in our Nature-worship witnesses how instinctive that worship is, and how
much we unconsciously depend on Nature for our impulses and our moods.

Another definitely religious operation of Nature within us is expressed
in that immense gratitude which throws open the gates of the spirit as
we contemplate some example of her loveliness or grandeur. Who that
has stood by some still lake and watched a stretch of water-lilies
opening in the dawn but has sent out somewhere into space a profound
thankfulness to "whatever gods there be" that he has been allowed to
gaze on so fair a sight. Whatever the struggle or sorrow of our lives,
we feel in such moments our great good fortune at having been born into
a world that contains such marvels. It is sufficient success in life,
whatever our minor failures, to have beheld such beauty; and mankind at
large witnesses to this feeling by the value it everywhere attaches to
scenes in Nature exceptionally noble or exquisite. Though the American
traveller does not so express it, his sentiment toward such natural
spectacles as the Grand Cañon or Niagara Falls is that of an intense
reverence. Such places are veritable holy places, and man's heart
instinctively acknowledges them as sacred. His repugnance to any
violation of them by materialistic interests is precisely the same
feeling as the horror with which Christendom regarded the Turkish
violation of the Holy Sepulchre. And this feeling will increase rather
than decrease in proportion as religion is recognized as having its
shrines and oracles not only in Jerusalem, or in St. Peter's, but
wherever Nature has erected her altars on the hills or wafted her
incense through the woodlands.

After all, are not all religions but the theological symbolization of
natural phenomena; and the sacraments, the festivals, and fasts of all
the churches have their counterparts in the mysterious processes and
manifestations of Nature? and is the contemplation of the resurrection
of Adonis or Thammuz more edifying to the soul than to meditate the
strange return of the spring which their legends but ecclesiastically
celebrate? He who has watched and waited at the white grave of winter,
and hears at last the first faint singing among the boughs, or the first
strange "peeping" of frogs in the marshes; or watches the ghost-like
return of insects, stealing, still half asleep, from one knows not
where--the first butterfly suddenly fluttering helplessly on the
window-pane, or the first mud-wasp crawling out into the sun in a dazed,
bewildered way; or comes upon the violet in the woods, shining at the
door of its wintry sepulchre: he who meditates these marvels, and all
the magic processional of the months, as they march with pomp and pathos
along their vanishing roads, will come to the end of the year with a
lofty, illuminated sense of having assisted at a solemn religious
service, and a realization that, in no mere fancy of the poets, but in
very deed, "day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night sheweth
knowledge."

Apart from this generally religious influence of Nature, she seems at
times in certain of her aspects and moods specifically to illustrate or
externalize states of the human soul. Sometimes in still, moonlit
nights, standing, as it were, on the brink of the universe, we seem to
be like one standing on the edge of a pool, who, gazing in, sees his own
soul gazing back at him. Tiny creatures though we be, the whole solemn
and majestic spectacle seems to be an extension of our own reverie, and
we to enfold it all in some strange way within our own infinitesimal
consciousness. So a self-conscious dewdrop might feel that it enfolded
the morning sky, and such probably is the meaning of the Buddhist seer
when he declares that "the universe grows I."

Such are some of the more august impressions made upon us by the
pictures in the cosmic picture-book; but there are also times and
places when Nature seems to wear a look less mystic than dramatic in its
suggestiveness, as though she were a stage-setting for some portentous
human happening past or to come--the fall of kings or the tragic clash
of empires. As Whitman says, "Here a great personal deed has room." Some
landscapes seem to prophesy, some to commemorate. In some places not
marked by monuments, or otherwise definitely connected with history, we
have a curious haunted sense of prodigious far-off events once enacted
in this quiet grassy solitude--prehistoric battles or terrible
sacrifices. About others hangs a fateful atmosphere of impending
disaster, as though weighted with a gathering doom. Sometimes we seem
conscious of sinister presences, as though veritably in the abode of
evil spirits. The place seems somehow not quite friendly to humanity,
not quite good to linger in, lest its genius should cast its perilous
shadow over the heart. On the other hand, some places breathe an
ineffable sense of blessedness, of unearthly promise. We feel as though
some hushed and happy secret were about to be whispered to us out of the
air, some wonderful piece of good fortune on the edge of happening. Some
hand seems to beckon us, some voice to call, to mysterious paradises of
inconceivable green freshness and supernaturally beautiful flowers,
fairy fastnesses of fragrance and hidden castles of the dew. In such
hours the Well at the World's End seems no mere poet's dream. It awaits
us yonder in the forest glade, amid the brooding solitudes of silent
fern, and the gate of the Earthly Paradise is surely there in yonder
vale hidden among the violet hills.

Various as are these impressions, it is strange and worth thinking on
that the dominant suggestion of Nature through all her changes, whether
her mood be stormy or sunny, melancholy or jubilant, is one of presage
and promise. She seems to be ever holding out to us an immortal
invitation to follow and endure, to endure and to enjoy. She seems to
say that what she brings us is but an earnest of what she holds for us
out there along the vanishing road. There is nothing, indeed, she will
not promise us, and no promise, we feel, she cannot keep. Even in her
tragic and bodeful seasons, in her elegiac autumns and stern winters,
there is an energy of sorrow and sacrifice that elevates and inspires,
and in the darkest hours hints at immortal mornings. She may terrify,
but she never deadens, the soul. In earthquake and eclipse she seems to
be less busy with destruction than with renewed creation. She is but
wrecking the old, that

                               ... there shall be
          Beautiful things made new, for the surprise
          Of the sky-children.

As I have thus mused along with the reader, a reader I hope not too
imaginary, the manner in which the phrase with which I began has
recurred to my pen has been no mere accident, nor yet has it been a
mere literary device. It seemed to wait for one at every turn of one's
theme, inevitably presenting itself. For wherever in Nature we set our
foot, she seems to be endlessly the centre of vanishing roads, radiating
in every direction into space and time. Nature is forever arriving and
forever departing, forever approaching, forever vanishing; but in her
vanishings there seems to be ever the waving of a hand, in all her
partings a promise of meetings farther along the road. She would seem to
say not so much _Ave atque vale_, as _Vale atque ave_. In all this
rhythmic drift of things, this perpetual flux of atoms flowing on and on
into Infinity, we feel less the sense of loss than of a musical
progression of which we too are notes.

We are all treading the vanishing road of a song in the air, the
vanishing road of the spring flowers and the winter snows, the vanishing
roads of the winds and the streams, the vanishing road of beloved faces.
But in this great company of vanishing things there is a reassuring
comradeship. We feel that we are units in a vast ever-moving army, the
vanguard of which is in Eternity. The road still stretches ahead of us.
For a little while yet we shall experience all the zest and bustle of
marching feet. The swift-running seasons, like couriers bound for the
front, shall still find us on the road, and shower on us in passing
their blossoms and their snows. For a while the murmur of the running
stream of Time shall be our fellow-wayfarer--till, at last, up there
against the sky-line, we too turn and wave our hands, and know for
ourselves where the road wends as it goes to meet the stars. And others
will stand as we today and watch us reach the top of the ridge and
disappear, and wonder how it seemed to us to turn that radiant corner
and vanish with the rest along the vanishing road.



II

WOMAN AS A SUPERNATURAL BEING


The boy's first hushed enchantment, blent with a sort of religious awe,
as in his earliest love affair he awakens to the delicious mystery we
call woman, a being half fairy and half flower, made out of moonlight
and water lilies, of elfin music and thrilling fragrance, of divine
whiteness and softness and rustle as of dewy rose gardens, a being of
unearthly eyes and terribly sweet marvel of hair; such, too, through
life, and through the ages, however confused or overlaid by use and
wont, is man's perpetual attitude of astonishment before the apparition
woman.

Though she may work at his side, the comrade of his sublunary
occupations, he never, deep down, thinks of her as quite real. Though
his wife, she remains an apparition, a being of another element, an
Undine. She is never quite credible, never quite loses that first nimbus
of the supernatural.

This is true not merely for poets; it is true for all men, though, of
course, all men may not be conscious of its truth, or realize the truth
in just this way. Poets, being endowed with exceptional sensitiveness of
feeling and expression, say the wonderful thing in the wonderful way,
bring to it words more nearly adequate than others can bring; but it is
an error to suppose that any beauty of expression can exaggerate, can
indeed more than suggest, the beauty of its truth. Woman is all that
poets have said of her, and all that poets can never say:

          Always incredible hath seemed the rose,
          And inconceivable the nightingale--

and the poet's adoration of her is but the articulate voice of man's
love since the beginning, a love which is as mysterious as she herself
is a mystery.

However some may try to analyse man's love for woman, to explain it, or
explain it away, belittle it, nay, even resent and befoul it, it remains
an unaccountable phenomenon, a "mystery we make darker with a name."
Biology, cynically pointing at certain of its processes, makes the
miracle rather more miraculous than otherwise. Musical instruments are
no explanation of music. "Is it not strange that sheep's guts should
hale souls out of men's bodies?" says Benedick, in _Much Ado About
Nothing_, commenting on Balthazar's music. But they do, for all that,
though no one considers sheep's gut the explanation. To cry "sex" and to
talk of nature's mad preoccupation with the species throws no light on
the matter, and robs it of no whit of its magic. The rainbow remains a
rainbow, for all the sciences. And woman, with or without the suffrage,
stenographer or princess, is of the rainbow. She is beauty made flesh
and dwelling amongst us, and whatever the meaning and message of beauty
may be, such is the meaning of woman on the earth--her meaning, at all
events, for men. That is, she is the embodiment, more than any other
creature, of that divine something, whatever it may be, behind matter,
that spiritual element out of which all proceeds, and which mysteriously
gives its solemn, lovely and tragic significance to our mortal day.

If you tell some women this of themselves, they will smile at you. Men
are such children. They are so simple. Dear innocents, how easily they
are fooled! A little make-up, a touch of rouge, a dash of henna--and you
are an angel. Some women seem really to think this; for, naturally, they
know nothing of their own mystery, and imagine that it resides in a few
feminine tricks, the superficial cleverness with which some of them know
how to make the most of the strange something about them which they
understand even less than men understand it.

Other women indeed resent man's religious attitude toward them as
sentimental, old-fashioned. They prefer to be regarded merely as
fellow-men. To show consciousness of their sex is to risk offence, and
to busy one's eyes with their magnificent hair, instead of the
magnificent brains beneath it, is to insult them. Yet when, in that old
court of law, Phryne bared her bosom as her complete case for the
defence, she proved herself a greater lawyer than will ever be made by
law examinations and bachelor's degrees; and even when women become
judges of the Supreme Court, a development easily within sight, they
will still retain the greater importance of being merely women. Yes, and
one can easily imagine some future woman President of the United States,
for all the acknowledged brilliancy of her administration, being
esteemed even more for her superb figure.

It is no use. Woman, if she would, "cannot shake off the god." She must
make up her mind, whatever other distinctions she may achieve, to her
inalienable distinction of being woman; nothing she can do will change
man's eternal attitude toward her, as a being made to be worshipped and
to be loved, a being of beauty and mystery, as strange and as lovely as
the moon, the goddess and the mother of lunatics. What a wonderful
destiny is hers! In addition to being the first of human beings, all
that a man can be, to be so much else as well; to be, so to say, the
president of a railroad and yet a priestess of nature's mysteries; a
stenographer at so many dollars a week and yet a nymph of the forest
pools--woman, "and yet a spirit still." Not without meaning has myth
endowed woman with the power of metamorphosis, to change at will like
the maidens in the legend into wild white swans, or like Syrinx, fleeing
from the too ardent pursuit of Pan, into a flowering reed, or like
Lamia, into a jewelled serpent--

          Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd;
          And full of silver moons.

Modern conditions are still more favourable than antique story for the
exhibition of this protean quality of woman, providing her with
opportunities of still more startling contrasts of transformation. Will
it not be a wonderful sight in that near future to watch that woman
judge of the Supreme Court, in the midst of some learned tangle of
inter-state argument, turn aside for a moment, in response to a
plaintive cry, and, unfastening her bodice, give the little clamourer
the silver solace it demands! What a hush will fall upon the assembled
court! To think of such a genius for jurisprudence, such a legal brain,
working in harmony--with such a bosom! So august a pillar of the law,
yet so divine a mother.

As it is, how piquant the contrast between woman inside and outside her
office hours! As you take her out to dinner, and watch her there seated
before you, a perfumed radiance, a dewy dazzling vision, an evening star
swathed in gauzy convolutions of silk and lace--can it be the same
creature who an hour or two ago sat primly with notebook and pencil at
your desk side, and took down your specification for fireproofing that
new steel-constructed building on Broadway? You, except for your evening
clothes, are not changed; but she--well, your clients couldn't possibly
recognize her. As with Browning's lover, you are on the other side of
the moon, "side unseen" of office boy or of subway throng; you are in
the presence of those "silent silver lights and darks undreamed of" by
the gross members of your board of directors. By day--but ah! at evening
under the electric lights, to the delicate strains of the palm-shaded
orchestra! Man is incapable of these exquisite transformations. By day a
gruff and hurried machine--at evening, at best, a rapt and laconic poker
player. A change with no suggestion of the miraculous.

Do not let us for a moment imagine that because man is ceasing to remove
his hat at her entrance into crowded elevators, or because he hustles
her or allows her to hang by the straps in crowded cars, that he is
tending to forget this supernaturalism of woman. Such change in his
manners merely means his respect for her disguise, her disguise as a
business woman. By day she desires to be regarded as just that, and she
resents as untimely the recognition of her sex, her mystery, and her
marvel during business hours. Man's apparent impoliteness, therefore, is
actually a delicate modern form of chivalry. But of course his real
feelings are only respectfully masked, and, let her be in any danger or
real discomfort, or let any language be uttered unseemly for her ears,
and we know what promptly happens. Barring such accidents, man tacitly
understands that her incognito is to be respected--till the charming
moment comes when she chooses to put it aside and take at his hands her
immemorial tribute.

So, you see, she is able to go about the rough ways, taking part even in
the rough work of the world, literally bearing what the fairy tales call
a charmed life. And this, of course, gives her no small advantage in the
human conflict. So protected, she is enabled, when need arises, to take
the offensive, with a minimum of danger. Consider her recent campaign
for suffrage, for example. Does any one suppose that, had she been
anything but woman, a sacrosanct being, immune from clubs and bullets,
that she would have been allowed to carry matters with such high
victorious hand as in England--and more power to her!--she has of late
been doing. Let men attempt such tactics, and their shrift is
uncomplimentarily short. It may be said that woman enjoys this immunity
with children and curates, but, even so, it may be held that these
latter participate in a less degree in that divine nature with which
woman is so completely armoured.

          How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
          Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

exclaims Shakespeare.

But there is indeed the mystery, for, though its "action is no stronger
than a flower," the power wielded by beauty in this world, and therefore
by woman as its most dynamic embodiment, is as undeniable as it is
irresistible. "Terrible as an army with banners" was no mere figure of
lovesick speech. It is as plain a truth as the properties of radium,
and belongs to the same order of marvel. Such scientific discoveries are
particularly welcome as demonstrating the power of the finer, as
contrasted with the more brutally obvious, manifestations of force; for
they thus illustrate the probable nature of those spiritual forces whose
operations we can plainly see, without being able to account for them. A
foolish phrase has it that "a woman's strength is in her helplessness."
"Helplessness" is a curious term to use for a mysteriously concentrated
or super-refined form of strength. "Whose action is no stronger than a
flower." But is the action of a flower any less strong because it is not
the action of a fist? As a motive force a flower may be, and indeed has
time and again been, stronger than a thousand fists. And what then shall
we say of the action of that flower of flowers that is woman--that
flower that not only once or twice in history has

          ... launched a thousand ships
          And burned the topless towers of Ilium.

Woman's helplessness, forsooth! On the contrary, woman is the best
equipped fighting machine that ever went to battle. And she is this, not
from any sufferance on the part of man, not from any consideration on
his part toward her "weakness," but merely because he cannot help
himself, because nature has so made her.

No simple reasoning will account for her influence over man. It is not
an influence he allows. It is an influence he cannot resist, and it is
an influence which he cannot explain, though he may make believe to do
so. That "protection," for example, which he extends to her from the
common physical perils with which he is more muscularly constituted to
cope--why is it extended? Merely out of pity to a weaker being than
himself? Does other weakness always command his pity? We know that it
does not. No, this "protection" is but a part of an instinctive
reverence, for which he can give no reason, the same kind of reverence
which he has always given to divine beings, to any manifestation or
vessel of the mysteriously sacred something in human life. He respects
and protects woman from the same instinct which makes him shrink from
profaning an altar or robbing a church, or sends him on his knees before
any apparition supposedly divine. Priests and women are often classed
together, but not because the priests are regarded as effeminately
"helpless"; rather because both are recognized as ministers of sacred
mysteries, both belong to the spiritual sphere, and have commerce with
the occult holiness of things. Also be it remarked that this
"protection" is chiefly needed against the brutality and bestiality of
man's own heart, which woman and religion alike rather hold in
subjection by their mysterious influence than have to thank for any
favours of self-control. Man "protects" woman because he first worships
her, because, if she has for him not always the beauty of holiness, she
at least always suggests the holiness of beauty.

Now when has man ever suggested holiness to the most adoring woman? I do
not refer to the professional holiness of saints and ecclesiastics, but
to that sense of hallowed strangeness, of mystic purity, of spiritual
exquisiteness, which breathes from a beautiful woman and makes the touch
of her hand a religious ecstasy, and her very garments a thrilling
mystery. How impossible it is to imagine a woman writing the _Vita
Nuova_, or a girl feeling toward a boy such feelings of awe and worship
as set the boy Dante a-tremble at his first sight of the girl Beatrice.

    At that moment [he writes], I say most truly that the spirit of
    life, which hath its dwelling in the secretest chamber of the heart,
    began to tremble so violently that the least pulse of my body shook
    therewith; and in trembling it said these words: "_Ecce deus fortior
    me, qui veniens dominabitur mihi_. (Here is a deity stronger than I,
    who, coming, shall rule over me.)"

And, loverlike, he records of "this youngest of the angels" that "her
dress on that day was of a most noble colour, a subdued and goodly
crimson, girdled and adorned in such sort as best suited with her very
tender age." Ah! that "little frock," that sacred little frock we first
saw her in! Don't we all know it? And the little handkerchief, scented
like the breath of heaven, we begged as a sacred relic! And--

          Long after you are dead
          I will kiss the shoes of your feet....

Yes! anything she has worn or touched; for, as a modern writer has said:

    Everything a woman wears or touches immediately incarnates something
    of herself. A handkerchief, a glove, a flower--with a breath she
    endows them with immortal souls.

Waller with his girdle, Donne with "that subtle wreath of hair about his
arm," the mediaeval knight riding at tourney with his lady's sleeve at
his helm, and all relic-worshipping lovers through the ages bear witness
to that divine supernaturalism of woman. To touch the hem of that little
frock, to kiss the mere imprint of those little feet, is to be purified
and exalted. But when did man affect woman in that way? I am tolerably
well read in the poetry of woman's emotions, but I recall no parallel
expressions of feeling. No passionate apostrophes of his golf stockings
come to my mind, nor wistful recollections of the trousers he wore on
that never-to-be-forgotten afternoon. The immaculate collar that spanned
his muscular throat finds no Waller to sing it:

          A narrow compass--and yet there
          Dwelt all that's good, and all that's fair,

and probably the smartest negligée shirt that ever sported with the
summer winds on a clothes-line has never caused the smallest flutter in
feminine bosoms. The very suggestion is, of course, absurd--whereas with
women, in very deed, it is as with the temple in Keats's lines:

              ... even as the trees
          That whisper round a temple become soon
          Dear as the temple's self.

Properly understood, therefore, the cult of the skirt-dancer has a
religious significance, and man's preoccupation with petticoats is but
the popular recognition of the divinity of woman. All that she is and
does and wears has a ritualistic character, and she herself commands our
reverence because we feel her to be the vessel of sacred mysteries, the
earthly representative of unearthly powers, with which she enjoys an
intimacy of communication denied to man. It is not a reasonable feeling,
or one to be reasoned about; and that is why we very properly exempt
woman from the necessity of being reasonable. She is not, we say, a
reasonable being, and in so saying we pay her a profound compliment. For
she transcends reason, and on that very account is mysteriously wise,
the wisest of created things--mother-wise. When we say "mother-wit," we
mean something deeper than we realize--for what in the universe is wiser
than a mother, fed as she is through the strange channels of her being
with that lore of the infinite which seems to enter her body by means of
organs subtler than the brain?

A certain famous novelist meant well when recently he celebrated woman
as "the mother of the male," but such celebration, while ludicrously
masculine in its egotistic limitation, would have fallen short even if
he had stopped to mention that she was the mother of the female, too;
for not merely in the fact that she is the mother of the race resides
the essential mystery of her motherhood. We do not value woman merely,
if one may be permitted the expression, as a brood mare, an economic
factor controlling the census returns. Her gift of motherhood is
stranger than that, and includes spiritual affinities and significances
not entirely represented by visible babes. Her motherhood is mysterious
because it seems to be one with the universal motherhood of nature, one
with the motherhood that guards and warms to life the eggs in the nest
and the seeds in the hollows of the hills, the motherhood of the whole
strange vital process, wherever and howsoever it moves and dreams and
breaks into song and flower. And, as nature is something more than a
mother, so is woman. She is a vision, an outward and visible sign of an
inward and spiritual grace and goodness at the heart of life; and her
beauty is the sacred seal which the gods have set upon her in token of
her supernatural meaning and mission; for all beauty is the message of
the immortal to mortality. Always when man has been in doubt concerning
his gods, or in despair amid the darkness of his destiny, his heart has
been revived by some beatific vision;

          Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
          From our dark spirits.

Woman is our permanent Beatific Vision in the darkness of the world.



III

THE LACK OF IMAGINATION AMONG MILLIONAIRES


Considering the truly magical power of money, it must often have struck
the meditative mind--particularly that class of meditative mind whose
wealth consists chiefly in meditation--to what thoroughly commonplace
uses the modern millionaire applies the power that is his: in brief,
with what little originality, with what a pitiful lack of imagination,
he spends his money. One seldom hears of his doing a novel or striking
thing with it.

On the contrary, he buys precisely the same things as his
fellow-millionaires, the same stereotyped possessions--houses in Fifth
Avenue and Newport, racehorses, automobiles, boxes at the opera,
diamonds and dancing girls; and whether, as the phrase is, he makes good
use of his wealth, or squanders it on his pleasures, the so-called good
or bad uses are alike drearily devoid of individuality. Philanthropist
or profligate, the modern millionaire is one and the same in his lack of
initiative. Saint or sinner, he is one or the other in the same tame
imitative way.

The rich men of the past, the splendid spendthrifts of antiquity, seem
usually to have combined a gift of fancy with their wealth, often even
something like poetry; and their extravagances, however extreme, had
usually a saving grace of personal whim to recommend them to lovers of
the picturesque. Sardanapalus and Heliogabalus may have been whatever
else you please, but they were assuredly not commonplace; and the mere
mention of their names vibrates with mankind's perennial gratitude for
splendour and colossal display, however perverse, and even absurd. The
princes of the Italian Renaissance were, of course, notable examples of
the rich man as fantast, probably because they had the good sense to
seek the skilled advice of poets and painters as to how best to make an
artistic display of their possessions. Alas, no millionaire today asks a
poet's or painter's assistance in spending his money; yet, were the
modern millionaire to do so, the world might once more be delighted with
such spectacles as Leonardo devised for the entertainments at the Villa
Medici--those fanciful banquets, where, instead of a mere vulgar display
of Medici money--"a hundred dollars a plate," so to say--whimsical wit
and beauty entered into the creation of the very dishes. Leicester's
famous welcoming of Elizabeth to Kenilworth was perhaps the last
spectacular "revel" of its kind to strike the imagination; though we
must not fail to remember with gratitude the magnificent Beckford, with
his glorious "rich man's folly" of Fonthill Abbey, a lordly pleasure
house which naturally sprang from the same Aladdin-like fancy which
produced "Vathek."

I but mention one or two such typical examples at random to illustrate
the difference between past and present. At present the rich man's
paucity of originality is so painful that we even welcome a certain
millionaire's _penchant_ for collecting fleas--he, it is rumoured,
having paid as much as a thousand dollars for specimens of a
particularly rare species. It is a passion perhaps hard to understand,
but, at least, as we say, it is "different." Mr. Carnegie's more
comprehensible hobby for building libraries shows also no little
originality in a man of a class which is not as a rule devoted to
literature. Another millionaire I recently read of, who refused to pay
the smallest account till it had run for five years, and would then
gladly pay it, with compound interest at five per cent., has something
refreshing about him; while still another rich eccentric, who has lived
on his yacht anchored near the English coast for some fifteen years or
so in order to avoid payment of his American taxes, and who occasionally
amuses himself by having gold pieces heated white hot and thrown into
the sea for diving boys to pick them up, shows a quaint ingenuity which
deserves our gratitude. Another modern example of how to spend, or
waste, one's money picturesquely was provided by the late Marquis of
Anglesey, a young lord generally regarded as crazy by an ungrateful
England. Perhaps it was a little crazy in him to spend so much money in
the comparatively commonplace adventure of taking an amateur dramatic
company through the English provinces, he himself, I believe, playing
but minor rôles; but lovers of Gautier's _Le Capitaine Fracasse_ will
see in that but a charmingly boyish desire to translate a beloved dream
into a reality--though his creditors probably did not take that view.
Neither, one can surmise, did those gentlemen sufficiently appreciate
his passion for amassing amazing waistcoats, of which some seven hundred
were found in his wardrobe at his lamented death; or strange and
beautiful walking sticks, a like prodigious collection of which were
among the fantastic assets which represented his originally large
personal fortune on the winding up of his earthly affairs. Among these
unimaginative creditors were, doubtless, many jewellers who found it
hard to sympathize with his lordship's genial after-dinner habit,
particularly when in the society of fair women, of plunging his hand
into his trousers pocket and bringing it forth again brimming over with
uncut precious stones of many colours, at the same time begging his
companion to take her choice of the moonlit rainbowed things. The
Marquis of Anglesey died at the early age of twenty-nine, much lamented,
as I have hinted--by his creditors, but no less sincerely lamented, too,
by those for whom his flamboyant personality and bizarre whims added to
that gaiety of nations sadly in need today of such figures. A friend of
mine owns two of the wonderful waistcoats. Sometimes he wears one as we
lunch together, and on such occasions we always drink in silence to the
memory of his fantastic lordship.

These examples of rich men of our own time who have known how to spend
their money with whim and fancy and flourish are but exceptions to my
argument, lights shining, so to say, in a great darkness. As a general
rule, it is the poor or comparatively poor man, the man lacking the very
necessary material of the art, who is an artist of this kind. It is the
man with but little money who more often provides examples of the
delightful way of spending it. I trust that Mr. Richard Harding Davis
will not resent my recalling a charming feat of his in this connection.
Of course Mr. Davis is by no means a poor man, as all we who admire his
writings are glad to know. Still, successful writer as he is, he is not
yet, I presume, on a Carnegie or Rockefeller rating; and, at the time
which I am about to recall, while already famous and comparatively
prosperous, he had not attained that security of position which is
happily his today. Well, I suppose it was some twelve or fifteen years
ago--and of course I am only recalling a story well known to all the
world--that, chancing to be in London, and wishing to send a surprise
message to a lady in Chicago who afterward became his wife, he conceived
the idea of sending it by messenger boy from Charing Cross to Michigan
Avenue; and so the little lad, in the well-known uniform of hurry, sped
across the sea, as casually as though he were on an errand from Charing
Cross to Chancery Lane, raced across nearly half the continent, as
casually as though he were on an errand from Wall Street to Park Row,
and finding the proper number in Michigan Avenue, placed the far
travelled letter in the lady's hand, no doubt casually asking for a
receipt. This I consider one of the most romantic compliments ever paid
by a lover to his lady. What millionaire ever had a fancy like that?

Or what millionaire ever had a fancy like this? There was living in New
York some ten years ago a charming actor, not unknown to the public and
much loved by his friends for, among his other qualities, his quaint
whims. Good actor as he was, like many other good actors he was usually
out of an engagement, and he was invariably poor. It was always his
poorest moment that he would choose for the indulgence of an odd, and
surely kindly, eccentricity. He would half starve himself, go without
drinks, forswear tobacco, deny himself car fares, till at last he had
saved up five dollars. This by no means easy feat accomplished, he would
have his five-dollar bill changed into five hundred pennies, filling his
pockets with which, he would sally forth from his lodging, and, seeking
neighbourhoods in which children most abound, he would scatter his
arduously accumulated largess among the scrambling boys and girls,
literally happy as a king to watch the glee on the young faces at the
miraculous windfall. We often wondered that he was not arrested for
creating a riot in the public streets, a disturber of the public
traffic. Had some millionaire passed by on one of those ecstatic
occasions, there is no question but that he would have been promptly
removed to Bellevue as a dangerous lunatic.

Or what millionaire ever had a fancy like this? Passing along
Forty-second Street one afternoon, I came upon a little crowd, and
joining it I found that it was grouped in amused curiosity, and with a
certain kindness, round an old hatless Irishman, who was leaning against
a shop front, weeping bitterly, and, of course, grotesquely. The old man
was very evidently drunk, but there was something in his weeping deeply
pitiful for all that. He was drunk, for certain; but no less certainly
he was very unhappy--unhappy over some mysterious something that one or
two kindly questioners tried in vain to discover. As we all stood
helplessly looking on and wondering, a tall, brisk young man, of the
lean, rapid, few-worded American type, pushed in among us, took a swift
look at the old man, thrust a dollar bill into his hand, said "Forget
it"--no more--and was gone like a flash on his way. The old man fumbled
the note in a daze, but what chiefly interested me was the amazed look
on the faces of the little crowd. It was almost as if something
supernatural had happened. All eyes turned quickly to catch sight of
that strange young man; but he was already far off striding swiftly up
the street. I have often regretted that I checked my impulse to catch up
with him--for it seemed to me, too, that I had never seen a stranger
thing. Pity or whim or whatever it was, did ever a millionaire do the
like with a dollar, create such a sensation or have so much fun with so
small a sum? No; millionaires never have fancies like that.

Another poor man's fancy is that of a friend of mine, a very poor young
lawyer, whose custom it is to walk uptown from his office at evening,
studying the faces of the passers-by. He is too poor to afford dollar
bills. He must work his miracles with twenty-five-cent pieces, or even
smaller coins; but it is with this art of spending money as with any
other art: the greatness of the artist is shown by his command over an
economy of material; and the amount of human happiness to be evoked by
the dispensation of a quarter into the carefully selected hand, at the
artistically chosen moment, almost passes belief. Suppose, for example,
you were a sandwich man on a bleak winter day, an old weary man, with
hope so long since faded out of your heart that you would hardly know
what the word meant if you chanced to read it in print. Thought, too, is
dead within you, and feeling even so numbed that you hardly suffer any
more. Practically you are a man who ought to be in your coffin--at peace
in Potter's field--who, by the mere mechanic habit of existence,
mournfully parades the public streets, holding up a banner with some
strange device, the scoff of the pitiless wayfarer--as like as not
supporting against an empty stomach the savoury advertisement of some
newly opened restaurant. Suppose you were that man, and suddenly through
the thick hopelessness, muffling you around as with a spiritual
deafness, there should penetrate a kind voice saying: "Try and keep up
your heart, friend; there are better days ahead"; and with the voice a
hand slipping into yours a coin, and with both a kind smile, a cheery
"Good-bye," and a tall, broad-shouldered figure, striding with long, so
to say, kindly legs up the street--gone almost before you knew he was
there. I think it would hardly matter to you whether the coin were a
quarter or a dime; but what would matter would be your amazement that
there still was any kindness left on the earth; and perhaps you might
almost be tempted to believe in God again. And then--well, what would it
matter to any one what you did with your miraculous coin? This is my
friend's favourite way of spending his money. To the extent of his poor
means he has constituted himself the Haroun Al Raschid of the sandwich
men.

After all, I suppose that most of us, if put into the possession of
great wealth, would find our greatest satisfaction in the spending of it
much after the fashion of my poor lawyer friend--that is, in the
artistic distribution of human happiness. I do not, of course, for a
moment include in that phrase those soulless systems of philanthropy by
which a solid block of money on the one side is applied to the relief of
a solid block of human misery on the other, useful and much to be
appreciated as such mechanical charity of course is. It is not, indeed,
the pious use of money that is my theme, but rather how to get the most
fun, the most personal and original fun, out of it.

The mention of the great caliph suggests a rôle which is open to any
rich man to play, the rôle of the Haroun Al Raschid of New York. What a
wonderful part to play! Instead of loitering away one's evenings at the
club, to doff one's magnificence and lose oneself in the great nightly
multitude of the great city, wandering hither and thither, watching and
listening, and, with one's cheque-book for a wand, play the magician of
human destinies--bringing unhoped-for justice to the oppressed, succour
as out of heaven to the outcast, and swift retribution, as of sudden
lightning, to the oppressor. To play Providence in some tragic crisis of
human lives; at the moment when all seemed lost to step out of the
darkness and set all right with a touch of that magic wand. To walk by
the side of lost and lonely men, an unexpected friend; to scribble a
word on a card and say, "Present this tomorrow morning at such a number
Broadway and see what will happen," and then to disappear once again
into the darkness. To talk with sad, wandering girls, and arrange that
wonderful new hats and other forms of feminine hope shall fall out of
the sky into their lonely rooms on the morrow. To be the friend of weary
workmen and all that toil by night while the world is asleep in soft
beds. To come upon the hobo as he lies asleep on the park bench and slip
a purse into his tattered coat, and perhaps be somewhere by to see him
wake up in the dawn, and watch the strange antics of his joy--all
unsuspected as its cause. To go up to the poor push-cart man, as he is
being hurried from street corner to street corner by the police, and
say: "Would you like to go back to Italy? Here is a steamer ticket. A
boat sails for Genoa tomorrow. And here is a thousand dollars. It will
buy you a vineyard in Sicily. Go home and bid the signora get ready."
And then to disappear once more, like Harlequin, to flash your wand in
some other corner of the human multitude. Oh, there would be fun for
one's money, something worth while having money for!

I offer this suggestion to any rich man who may care to take it up, free
of charge. It is a fascinating opportunity, and its rewards would be
incalculable. At the end of the year how wise one would be in the human
story--how filled to overflowing his heart with the thought of the joy
he would thus have brought to so many lives--all, too, in pure fun,
himself having had such a good time all the while!



IV

THE PASSING OF MRS. GRUNDY


"Death of Mrs. Grundy!" Imagine opening one's newspaper some morning and
finding in sensational headlines that welcome news. One recalls the
beautiful old legend of the death of Pan, and how--false report though
it happily was--there once ran echoing through the world a long
heartbroken sigh, and a mysterious voice was heard wailing three times
from land to land, "Great Pan is dead!" Similarly, on that happy morning
I have imagined, one can imagine, too, another sigh passing from land to
land, the sigh of a vast relief, of a great thankfulness for the lifting
of an ineffable burden, as though the earth stretched its limbs and drew
great draughts of a new freedom. How wildly the birds would sing that
morning! And I believe that even the church bells would ring of
themselves!

Such definite news is not mine to proclaim, but if it cannot be
announced with certitude that Mrs. Grundy is no more, it may, at all
events, be affirmed without hesitation that she is on her deathbed, and
that surely, if slowly, she is breathing her last. Yes, that poisonous
breath, which has so long pervaded like numbing miasma the free air of
the world, will soon be out of her foolish, hypocritical old body; and
though it may still linger on here and there in provincial backwoods and
suburban fastnesses, from the great air centres of civilization it will
have passed away forever.

The origin of Mrs. Grundy is shrouded in mystery. In fact, though one
thus speaks of her as so potent a personification, she has of course
never had any real existence. For that very reason she has been so hard
to kill. Nothing is so long-lived as a chimera, nothing so difficult to
lay as a ghost. From her first appearance, or rather mention, in
literature, Mrs. Grundy has been a mere hearsay, a bugaboo being
invented to frighten society, as "black men" and other goblins have been
wickedly invented by nurses to frighten children. In the old play itself
where we first find her mentioned by name, she herself never comes on
the stage. She is only referred to in frightened whispers. "_What will
Mrs. Grundy say?_" is the nervous catchword of one of the characters,
much in the same way as Mrs. Gamp was wont to defer to the censorious
standards of her invisible friend "Mrs. Harris." In the case of the last
named chimera, it will be recalled that the awful moment came when Mrs.
Gamp's boon companion, Batsey Prig, was sacrilegious enough to declare
her belief that no such person as "Mrs. Harris" was, or ever had been,
in existence. So the awful atheistic moment has come for Mrs. Grundy,
too, and an oppressed world at last takes courage to say that no such
being as Mrs. Grundy has ever really existed, or that, even if she has,
she shall exist no more. _What will Mrs. Grundy say?_ Who cares
nowadays--and so long as nobody cares, the good lady is as dead as need
be.

Mrs. Grundy, of course, is man's embodied fear of his neighbour, the
creation of timid souls who are afraid of being themselves, and who,
instead of living their lives after their own fashion and desires,
choose to live them in hypocritical discomfort according to the
standards of others, standards which in their turn may be held
insincerely enough from fear of someone else, and so on without end--a
vicious circle of insincere living being thus created, in which no man
is or does anything real, or as he himself would naturally prefer to be
and to do. It is evident that such a state of mutual intimidation can
exist only in small communities, economically interdependent, and among
people with narrow boundaries and no horizons. If you live in a village,
for example, and are dependent on the good opinion of your neighbours
for your means of existence, your morals and your religious belief must
be those of the village, or you are liable to starve. It is only the
rich man in a village who can do as he pleases. The only thing for the
dependent individualist in a village to do is to go somewhere else, to
some place where a man may at the same time hold his job and his
opinions, a place too big to keep track of its units, too busy to ask
irrelevant questions, and so diverse in its constituents as to have
generated tolerance and free operation for all.

Now, in spite of its bigness, the world was till quite recently little
more than a village, curiously held in subjection by village
superstitions and village ethics, narrow conceptions of life and
conduct; but the last twenty years have seen a remarkable enlargement of
the human spirit, a reassertion of the natural rights of man as against
the figments of prurient and emasculate conventions, to which there is
no parallel since the Renaissance. Voices have been heard and truths
told, and multitudes have listened gladly that aforetime must take
shelter either in overawed silence or in utterance so private that they
exerted no influence; and the literature of the day alone, literature of
wide and greedy acceptance, is sufficient warrant for the obituary
announcement which, if not yet, as I said, officially made, is already
writing in the hearts, and even in the actions, of society. The
popularity of such writers as Meredith and Hardy, Ibsen and Nietzsche,
Maeterlinck and Walt Whitman, constitutes a writing on the wall the
significance of which cannot be gainsaid. The vogue alone of Mr. Bernard
Shaw, apostle to the Philistines, is a portent sufficiently conclusive.
To regard Mr. Shaw either as a great dramatist or an original
philosopher is, of course, absurd. He, of all men, must surely be the
last to imagine such a vain thing about himself; but even should he be
so self-deluded, his immense coarse usefulness to his day and generation
remains, and the value of it can hardly be overestimated. What others
have said for years as in a glass darkly, with noble seriousness of
utterance, he proclaims again through his brazen megaphone, with all the
imperturbable _aplomb_ of an impudent showman, having as little
self-respect as he has respect for his public; and, as a consequence,
that vast herd of middle-class minds to whom finer spirits appeal in
vain hear for the first time truths as old as philosophy, and answer to
them with assenting instincts as old as humanity. Truth, like many
another excellent commodity, needs a vulgar advertisement, if it is
to become operative in the masses. Mr. Shaw is truth's vulgar
advertisement. He is a brilliant, carrying noise on behalf of freedom of
thought; and his special equipment for his peculiar revivalist mission
comes of his gift for revealing to the common mind not merely the
untruth of hypocrisy, but the laughableness of hypocrisy, first of all.
He takes some popular convention, that of medicine or marriage or what
you will, and shows you not merely how false it is but how ludicrously
false. He purges the soul, not with the terror and pity of tragedy, but
with the irresistible laughter of rough-and-tumble farce. To think
wrongly is, first of all, so absurd. He proves it by putting wrong
thinking on the stage, where you see it for yourself in action, and
laugh immoderately. Perhaps you had never thought how droll wrong
thinking or no thinking was before; and while you laugh with Shaw
at your side-splitting discovery, the serious message glides in
unostentatiously--wrong thinking is not merely laughable; it is also
dangerous, and very uncomfortable. And so the showman has done his work,
the advertiser has sold his goods, and there is so much more truth in
circulation in unfamiliar areas of society.

That word "society" naturally claims some attention at the hands of one
who would speak of Mrs. Grundy, particularly as she has owed her long
existence to a general misconception as to what constitutes "society,"
and to a superstitious terror as to its powers over the individual.
Society--using the word in its broad sense--has heretofore been regarded
as a vague tremendous entity imposing a uniformity of opinion and action
on the individual, under penalty of a like vague tremendous disapproval
for insubordination. Independent minds, however, have from time to time,
and in ever increasing numbers, ventured to do their own will and
pleasure in disregard of this vague tremendous disapproval, and have,
strange to say, found no sign of the terrible consequences threatened
them, with the result that they, and the onlookers, have come to the
conclusion that this fear of society is just one more bugaboo of
timorous minds, with no power over the courageous spirit. From a
multitude of such observations men and women have come more and more to
draw the conclusion that the solidarity of society is nothing but a
myth, and that so-called society is merely a loosely connected series of
independent societies, formed by natural selection among their members,
each with its own codes and satisfactions; and that a man not welcome in
one society may readily find a home for himself in another, or indeed,
if necessary, and if he be strong enough, rest content with his own
society of one.

There was a time when a doubt as to the credibility of the book of
Genesis or a belief in the book of Darwin made the heretic a lonely man,
but nowadays he is hardly likely to go without friends. Besides, men and
women of strong personal character are not usually indiscriminately
gregarious. On the contrary, they are apt to welcome any disparity
between them and their neighbours which tends to safeguard their leisure
and protect them against the social inroads of irrelevant persons. I
recall the case of a famous novelist, who, himself jealous of his own
proper seclusion, permitted the amenities of his neighbours to pleasure
his wife who was more sociably inclined, and smilingly allowed himself
to be sacrificed once a week on the altar of a domestic "at home" day.
It was amusing to see him in his drawing-room on Fridays, surrounded by
every possible form of human irrelevancy--men and women well enough in
their way, of course, but absolutely unrelated, if not antipathetic to
him and all he stood for--heroically doing his best to seem really "at
home." But there came a time when he published a book of decidedly
"dangerous" tendencies, if not worse, and then it was a delight to see
how those various nobodies fled his contact as they would the plague.
His drawing-room suddenly became a desert, and when you dropped in on
Fridays you found there--only the people he wanted. "Is not this," he
would laughingly say, "a triumph of natural selection? See how simply,
by one honest action, I have cut off the bores!"

To cut off the bores! Yes, that is the desperate attempt that any man or
woman who would live their own lives rather than the lives of others is
constantly engaged in making; and more and more all men and women are
realizing that there is only one society that really counts, the society
of people we want, rather than the people who want us or don't want us
or whom we don't want. And nowadays the man or woman must be
uncomfortable or undesirable, indeed, who cannot find all the society he
or she can profitably or conveniently handle, be their opinions and
actions never so anti-Grundy. Thus the one great fear that more than any
other has kept Mrs. Grundy alive, the fear of being alone in the world,
cut off from such intercourse with our fellows as most of us feel the
need of at times, has been put an end to by the ever increasing
subdivision of "society" into friendly seclusions and self-dependent
communities of men and women with like ways and points of view, however
disapproved in alien circles. What "shocks" one circle will seem
perfectly natural in another; and one great truth should always be held
firmly in mind--that the approval of one's neighbours has never yet paid
a man's bills. So long as he can go on paying those, and retain the
regard of the only society he values--that of himself and a few
friends--he can tell Mrs. Grundy to go--where she belongs. And this
happily is--almost--as true nowadays for woman as for man; which is the
main consideration, for, it need hardly be said, that it has been on her
own sex that the tyranny of Mrs. Grundy has weighed peculiarly hard.

Had that tyranny been based on a genuine moral ideal, one would have
some respect for it, but, as the world has always known, it has been
nothing of the sort. On the contrary, it has all along been an organized
hypocrisy which condoned all it professed to censure on condition that
it was done in unhealthy secrecy, behind the closed doors of a lying
"respectability." All manner of uncleanness had been sanctioned so long
as it wore a mask of "propriety," whereas essentially clean and
wholesome expressions of human nature, undisguised manifestations of the
joy and romance of life, have been suppressed and confounded with their
base counterfeits merely because they have sought the sunlight of
sincerity rather than the shade where evil does well to hide. Man's
proper delight in the senses, the natural joy of men and women in each
other, the love of beauty, naked and unashamed, the romantic emotions,
and all that passionate vitality that dreams and builds and glorifies
the human story: all this, forsooth, it has been deemed wrong even to
speak of, save in colourless euphemisms, and their various drama has had
to be carried on by evasion and subterfuge pitiably silly indeed in this
robustly procreative world. Silly, but how preposterous, too, and no
longer to be endured.

It was a gain indeed to drag these vital human interests into the arena
of undaunted discussion, but things are clearly seen to have already
passed beyond that stage. Discussion has already set free in the world
braver and truer ideals, ideals no longer afraid of life, but, in the
courage of their joyousness, feasibly close to all its breathing facts.
Men and women refuse any longer to allow their most vital instincts to
be branded with obloquy, and the fulness of their lives to be thwarted
at the bidding of an impure and irrational fiction of propriety. On
every hand we find the right to happiness asserted in deeds as well as
words. The essential purity of actions and relations to which a merely
technical or superstitious irregularity attaches is being more and more
acknowledged, and the fanciful barriers to human happiness are
everywhere giving way before the daylight of common sense. Love and
youth and pleasure are asserting their sacred natural rights, rights as
elemental as those forces of the universe by which the stars are
preserved from wrong, and the merely legal and ecclesiastical fictions
which have so long overawed them are fleeing like phantoms at cockcrow.
It is no longer sinful to be happy--even in one's own way; and the
extravagances of passion, the ebullitions of youth, and the vagaries of
pleasure are no longer frowned down by a sour-visaged public opinion,
but encouraged, or, if necessary, condoned, as the dramatic play of
natural forces, and as welcome additions to the gaiety of nations. The
true sins against humanity are, on the other hand, being exposed and
pilloried with a scientific eye for their essential qualities.

          ... The cold heart, and the murderous tongue,
          The wintry soul that hates to hear a song,
          The close-shut fist, the mean and measuring eye,
          And all the little poisoned ways of wrong.

Man's virtues and vices are being subjected to a re-classification, in
the course of which they are entertainingly seen, in no few instances,
to be changing places. The standards of punishment applied by Dante to
his inferno of lost souls is being, every year, more closely
approximated; warm-blooded sins of instinct and impulse, as having
usually some "relish of salvation" in them, are being judged lightly,
when they are accounted sins at all, and the cold-hearted sins of
essential selfishness, the sins of cruelty and calculation and
cowardice, are being nailed up as the real crimes against God and man.
The individual is being allowed more and more to be the judge of his own
actions, and all actions are being estimated more in regard to their
special relation and environment, as the relativity of right and wrong,
that most just of modern conceptions, is becoming understood. The hidden
sins of the pious and respectable are coming disastrously into the
light, and it no longer avails for a man to be a pillar of orthodoxy on
Sundays if he be a pillar of oppression all the rest of the week; while
the negative virtues of abstinence from the common human pleasures go
for less than nothing in a world that no longer regards the theatre, the
race course, and the card table, or even a beautiful woman, as under the
especial wrath of God. No, the Grundy "virtues" are fast disappearing,
and piano legs are once more being worn in their natural nudity. The
general trend is unmistakable and irresistible, and such apparent
contradictions of it as occasionally get into the newspapers are of no
general significance; as when, for example, some exquisitely refined
Irish police officer suppresses a play of genius, or blushingly covers
up the nakedness of a beautiful statue, or comes out strong on the
question of woman's bathing dress when some sensible girl has the
courage to go into the water with somewhat less than her entire walking
costume; or, again, when some crank invokes the blue laws against Sunday
golf or tennis; or some spinster association puts itself on record
against woman's smoking: all these are merely provincial or parochial
exceptions to the onward movement of morals and manners, mere spasmodic
twitchings, so to say, of the poor old lady on her deathbed. We know
well enough that she who would so sternly set her face against the
feminine cigarette would have no objection to one of her votaries
carrying on an affair with another woman's husband--not the least in the
world, so long as she was careful to keep it out of the courts. And such
is a sample of her morality in all her dealings. Humanity will lose no
real sanctity or safeguard by her demise; only false shame and false
morality will go--but true modesty, "the modesty of nature," true
propriety, true religion--and incidentally true love and true
marriage--will all be immeasurably the gainers by the death of this
hypocritical, nasty-minded old lady.



V

MODERN AIDS TO ROMANCE


There have, of course, in all ages been those who made a business of
running down the times in which they lived--tiresome people for whom
everything had gone to the dogs--or was rapidly going--uncomfortable
critics who could never make themselves at home in their own century,
and whose weary shibboleth was that of some legendary perfect past.

In Rome this particular kind of bore went by the name of _laudator
temporis acti_; and, if we have no such concise Anglo-Saxon phrase for
the type, we still have the type no less ubiquitously with us. The
bugbear of such is "modern science," or "modern thought," a monster
which, we are frequently assured, is fast devouring all the beautiful
and good in human life, a Moloch fed on the dreams and ideals and noble
faiths of man. Modernity! For such "modernity" has taken the place of
"Anti-Christ." These sad, nervous people have no eye for the beautiful
patterns and fantasies of change, none of that faith which rejoices to
watch "the roaring loom of time" weaving ever new garments for the
unchanging eternal gods. In new temples, strangely enough, they see
only atheism, instead of the vitality of spiritual evolution; in new
affirmations they scent only dangerous denials. With the more grave
misgivings of these folk of little faith this is not the place to deal,
though actually, if there were any ground for belief in a modern decay
of religion, we might seriously begin to believe in the alleged decay of
romance.

Yes, romance, we not infrequently hear, is dead. Modern science has
killed it. It is essentially a "thing of the past"--an affair presumably
of stage-coaches, powdered wigs, and lace ruffles. It cannot breathe in
what is spoken of as "this materialistic age."

The dullards who repeat these platitudes of the muddle-headed multitude
are surely the only people for whom they are true. It is they alone who
are the materialists, confusing as they do the spirit of romance with
its worn-out garments of bygone fashions. Such people are so clearly out
of court as not to be worth controverting, except for the opportunity
they give one of confidently making the joyous affirmation that, far
from romance being dead in our day, there never was a more romantic age
than ours, and that never since the world began has it offered so many
opportunities, so many facilities for romance as at the present time.

In fact, a very little thinking will show that of all those benefited by
"the blessings of modern science," it is the lovers of the community
who as a body have most to be thankful for. Indeed, so true is this that
it might almost seem as though the modern laboratory has been run
primarily from romantic motives, to the end that the old reproach should
be removed and the course of true love run magically smooth. Valuable as
the telephone may be in business affairs, it is simply invaluable in the
affairs of love; and mechanicians the world over are absorbed in the
problem of aerial flight, whether they know it or not, chiefly to
provide Love with wings as swift as his desire.

Distance may lend enchantment to those whom we prefer to appreciate from
afar, but nearness is the real enchantment to your true lover, and
distance is his natural enemy. Distance and the slow-footedness of Time
are his immemorial evils. Both of these modern science has all but
annihilated. Consider for a moment the conditions under which love was
carried on in those old days which some people find so romantic. Think
what a comparatively short distance meant then, with snail-paced
precarious mails, and the only means of communication horses by land,
and sailing ships by sea. How men and women had the courage to go on
long journeys at all away from each other in those days is hard to
realize, knowing what an impenetrable curtain of silence and mystery
immediately fell between them with the winding of the coach horn, or the
last wave of the plumed hat as it disappeared behind the last turning
of the road--leaving those at home with nothing for company but the
yearning horizon and the aching, uncommunicative hours. Days, weeks,
months, even years, must go by in waiting for a word--and when at last
it came, brought on lumbering wheels or at best by some courier on his
steaming mud-splashed mount, precious as it was, it was already grown
old and cold and perhaps long since untrue.

Imagine perhaps being dependent for one's heart news on some chance
soldier limping back from the wars, or some pilgrim from the Holy Land
with scallop shell and staff!

Distance was indeed a form of death under such conditions--no wonder men
made their wills as they set out on a journey--and when actual physical
death did not intervene, how much of that slow death-in-life, that
fading of the memory and that numbing of the affections which absence
too often brings, was even still more to be feared. The loved face might
indeed return, looking much the same as when it went away, but what of
the heart that went a-journeying, too? What even of the hearts that
remained at home?

The chances of death and disaster not even modern science can forestall,
though even these it has considerably lessened; but that other death of
the heart, which comes of the slow starvation of silence and absence, it
may be held to have all but vanquished. Thanks to its weird magicians,
you may be seas or continents away from her whom your soul loveth, yet
"at her window bid good-morrow" as punctually as if you lived next door;
or serenade her by electricity--at all hours of the night. If you sigh
in New York, she can hear you and sigh back in San Francisco; and soon
her very face will be carried to you at any moment of the day along the
magic wires. Nor will you need to wait for the postman, but be able to
read her flowerlike words as they write themselves out on the luminous
slate before you, at the very moment as she leans her fragrant bosom
upon her electric desk three thousand miles away. If this isn't
romantic, one may well ask what is!

To take the telephone alone, surely the romance of Pyramus and Thisbe,
with their primitive hole in the wall, was a tame affair compared with
the possibilities of this magic toy, by means of which you can talk with
your love not merely through a wall but through the Rocky Mountains. You
can whisper sweet nothings to her across the sounding sea, and bid her
"sleep well" over leagues of primeval forest, and through the
stoniest-hearted city her soft voice will find its way. Even in
mid-ocean the "wireless" will bring you news of her _mal-de-mer_. And
more than that; should you wish to carry her voice with you from place
to place, science is once more at your service with another magic
toy--the phonograph--by which indeed she can still go on speaking to
you, if you have the courage to listen, from beyond the grave.

The telegraph, the telephone, the "wireless," the phonograph, the
electric letter writer--such are the modern "conveniences" of romance;
and, should an elopement be on foot, what are the fastest post-chaise or
the fleetest horses compared with a high-powered automobile? And when
the airship really comes, what romance that has ever been will compare
for excitement with an elopement through the sky?

Apart from the practical conveniences of these various new devices,
there is a poetic quality about the mere devices themselves which is
full of fascination and charm. Whether we call up our sweetheart or our
stockbroker, what a thing of enchantment the telephone is merely in
itself! Such devices turn the veriest prose of life into poetry; and,
indeed, the more prosaic the uses to which we put them, the more
marvellous by contrast their marvel seems. Even our businesses are
carried on by agencies more mysterious and truly magical than anything
in the _Arabian Nights_, and all day long we are playing with mysterious
natural laws and exquisite natural forces as, in a small way, when boys
we used to delight in our experiments with oxygen and hydrogen and
Leyden jars. Science has thus brought an element of romantic "fun," so
to speak, even into our stores and our counting-houses. I wonder if
"Central" realizes what a truly romantic employment is hers?

But, pressed into the high service of love, one sees at once what a
poetic fitness there is in their employ, and how our much-abused modern
science has found at last for that fastidious god an appropriately
dignified and beautiful ministrant. Coarse and vulgar indeed seem the
ancient servitors and the uncouth machinery by which the divine business
of the god was carried on of old. Today, through the skill of science,
the august lightning has become his messenger, and the hidden gnomes of
air and sea hasten to do his bidding.

Modern science, then, so far from being an enemy of romance, is seen on
every hand to be its sympathetic and resourceful friend, its swift and
irresistible helper in its serious need, and an indulgent minister to
its lighter fancies. Be it whim or emergency, the modern laboratory is
equally at the service of romance, equally ready to gratify mankind with
a torpedo or a toy.

Not only, however, has modern science thus put itself at the service of
romance, by supplying it with its various magic machinery of
communication, but modern thought--that much maligned bugbear of
timorous minds--has generated an atmosphere increasingly favourable to
and sympathetic with the romantic expression of human nature in all its
forms.

The world has unmistakably grown younger again during the last twenty
years, as though--which, indeed, is the fact--it had thrown off an
accumulation of mopishness, shaken itself free from imaginary
middle-aged restrictions and preoccupations. All over the world there is
a wind of youth blowing such as has not freshened the air of time since
the days of Elizabeth. Once more the spring of a new Renaissance of
Human Nature is upon us. It is the fashion to be young, and the age of
romance both for men and women has been indefinitely extended. No one
gives up the game, or is expected to, till he is genuinely tired of
playing it. Mopish conventions are less and less allowed to restrict
that free and joyous play of vitality dear to the modern heart, which is
the essence of all romance. More and more the world is growing to love a
lover, and one has only to read the newspapers to see how sympathetic
are the times to any generous and adventurous display of the passions.

This more humane temper is the result of many causes. The disintegration
of religious superstition, and the substitution in its stead of
spiritual ideals closer to the facts of life, is one of these. All that
was good in Puritanism has been retained by the modern spirit, while
its narrowing and numbing features, its anti-human, self-mortifying,
provincial side have passed or are passing in the regenerating sunlight
of what one might call a spiritual paganism, which conceives of natural
forces and natural laws as inherently pure and mysteriously sacred. Thus
the way of a man with a maid is no longer a shamefaced affair, but it
is more and more realized that in its romance and its multifarious
refinements of development are the "law and the prophets," the "eternal
meanings" of natural religion and social spirituality.

Then, too, the spread of democracy, resulting in the breaking down of
caste barriers, is all to the good of romance. Swiftly and surely Guelph
and Ghibelline and break-neck orchard walls are passing away. If Romeo
and Juliet make a tragedy of it nowadays, they have only to blame their
own mismanagement, for the world is with them as it has never been
before, and all sensible fathers and mothers know it.

Again, the freer intercourse between the sexes tends incalculably to
smooth that course of true love once so proverbially rough, but now
indeed in danger of being made too unexcitingly smooth. Yet if, as a
result, certain old combinations of romance are becoming obsolete, new
ones, no less picturesque, and even more vital in their drama, are being
evolved every day by the new conditions. Those very inroads being so
rapidly and successfully made by woman into the immemorial business of
man, which are superficially regarded by some as dangerous to the
tenderer sentiments between men and women, are, on the contrary, merely
widening the area of romance, and will eventually develop, as they can
be seen already developing, a new chivalry and a new poetry of the sexes
no less deep and far more many-sided than the old. The robuster
comradeship between the two already resulting from the more active
sharing of common interests cannot but tend to a deeper and more
exhilarating union of man and woman, a completer, intenser marriage
literally of true minds as well as bodies than was possible in the old
régime, when the masculine and feminine "spheres" were kept so jealously
distinct and only allowed to touch at the elementary points of
relationship. There has always been a thrill of adventure when either
has been admitted a little farther into the other's world than was
customary. How thrilling, therefore, will it be when men and women
entirely share in each other's lives, without fictitious reserves and
mysteries, and face the whole adventure of life squarely and completely
together, all the more husband and wife for being comrades as well--as
many men and women of the new era are already joyously doing.

And, merely on the surface, what a new romantic element woman has
introduced into the daily drudgery of men's lives by her mere presence
in their offices! She cannot always be beautiful, poor dear, and she is
not invariably gracious, it is true; yet, on the whole, how much the
atmosphere of office life has gained in amenity by the coming of the
stenographer, the typewriter, and the telephone girl, not to speak of
her frequent decorative value in a world that has hitherto been
uncompromisingly harsh and unadorned! Men may affect to ignore this, and
cannot afford indeed to be too sensitive to these flowery presences that
have so considerably supplanted those misbegotten young miscreants known
as office-boys, a vanishing race of human terror; yet there she is, all
the same, in spite of her businesslike airs and her prosaic tasks,
silently diffusing about her that eternal mystery which she can never
lose, be her occupations never so masculine.

There she is with her subtly wreathed hair and her absurd little lace
handkerchiefs and her furtive powder puff and her bits of immemorial
ornaments and the soft sound of her skirts and all the rest of it. Never
mind how grimly and even brusquely you may be dictating to her
specifications for steel rails or the like, little wafts of perfume
cannot help floating across to your rolltop desk, and you are a man and
she is a woman, for all that; and, instead of having her with you at fag
ends of your days, you have her with you all day long now--and your
sisters and your sweethearts are so much the nearer to you all day for
her presence, and, whether you know it or not, you are so much the less
a brute because she is there.

Where the loss to romance comes in in these admirable new arrangements
of modern commerce it is hard to see. Of course a new element of danger
is thus introduced into the routine of our daily lives, but when was
danger an enemy to romance? The "bright face" of this particular
"danger" who would be without? The beloved essayist from whom that last
phrase is, of course, adapted, declared, as we all know, that to marry
is "to domesticate the recording angel." One might say that the modern
business man has officialized the ministering angel--perhaps some other
forms of angel as well.

In their work, then, as in their play, men and women are more and more
coming to share with each other as comrades, and really the fun of life
seems in no wise diminished as a consequence. Rather the contrary, it
would seem, if one is to judge from the "Decameron" of the newspapers.
Yet it is not very long ago that man looked askance at woman's wistful
plea to take part even in his play. He had the old boyish fear that she
would spoil the game. However, it didn't take him long to find out his
mistake and to know woman for the true "sport" that she can be. And in
that discovery it was another invention of that wicked modern science
that was the chief, if humble seeming, factor, no less than that
eclipsed but inexpressibly useful instrument (of flirtation) in the
hands of a kind providence, the bicycle.

The service of the bicycle to the "emancipation of woman" movements has
perhaps never been acknowledged by the philosopher; but a little thought
will make evident how far-reaching that service has been. When that near
day arrives on which woman shall call herself absolutely "free," should
she feel inclined to celebrate her freedom by some monument of her
gratitude, let the monument be neither to man nor woman, however valiant
in the fight, but simply let it take the form of an enthroned and
laurelled bicycle--for the moment woman mounted that apparently innocent
machine, it carried her on the high-road to freedom. On that she could
go not only where she pleased, but--what is even more to the point--with
whom she pleased. The free companionship of man and woman had begun.
Then and forever ended the old system of courtship, which seems so
laughable and even incredible today. One was no longer expected to pay
court to one's beloved, sitting stiffly on straight-backed chairs in a
chill drawing-room in the non-conducting, or non-conducive, presence of
still chillier maiden aunts. The doom of the _duenna_ was sounded; the
chill drawing-room was exchanged for "the open road" and the whispering
woodland; and soon it is to come about that a man shall propose to his
wife high up in the blue heavens, in an airship softly swaying at anchor
in the wake of the evening star.



VI

THE LAST CALL


I don't know whether or not the cry "Last call for the dining-car"
affects others as it affects me, but for me it always has a stern,
fateful sound, suggestive of momentous opportunity fast slipping away,
opportunity that can never come again; and, on the occasions when I have
disregarded it, I have been haunted with a sense of the neglected
"might-have-been."

Not, indeed, that the formless regret has been connected with any
illusions as to the mysterious quality of the dinner that I have thus
foregone. I have been well enough aware that the only actual opportunity
thus evaded has been most probably that of an unusually bad dinner,
exorbitantly paid for. The dinner itself has had nothing to do with my
feeling, which, indeed, has come of a suggestiveness in the cry beyond
the occasion, a sense conveyed by the words, in combination with the
swift speeding along of the train, of the inexorable swift passage and
gliding away of all things. Ah! so soon it will be the last call--for so
many pleasant things--that we would fain arrest and enjoy a little
longer in a world that with tragic velocity is flowing away from us,
each moment, "like the waters of the torrent." O yes, all too soon it
will be the "last call" in dead earnest--the last call for the joy of
life and the glory of the world. The grass is already withering, the
flower already fading; and that bird of time, with so short a way to
flutter, is relentlessly on the wing.

Now some natures hear this call from the beginning of their lives. Even
their opulent spendthrift youth is "made the more mindful that the sweet
days die," by every strain of music, by every gathered flower. All their
joy is haunted, like the poetry of William Morris, with the wistful
burden of mortality. Even the summer woodlands, with all their pomp and
riot of exuberant green and gold, are anything but safe from this low
sweet singing, and in the white arms of beauty, pressed desperately
close as if to imprison the divine fugitive moment, the song seems to
come nearest. Who has not held some loved face in his hands, and gazed
into it with an almost agonizing effort to realize its reality, to make
eternally sure of it, somehow to wrest possession of it and the
transfiguring moment for ever, all the time pierced with the melancholy
knowledge that tomorrow all will be as if this had never been, and life
once more its dull disenchanted self?

          Too soon shall morning take the stars away,
            And all the world be up and open-eyed,
          This magic night be turned to common day--
            Under the willows on the riverside.

Youth, however, can afford to enjoy even its melancholy; for the
ultimate fact of which that melancholy is a prophecy is a long way off.
If one enchanted moment runs to an end, it may be reasonably sure for a
long time yet of many more enchanted moments to come. It has as yet only
taken a bite or two into the wonderful cake. And, though its poets may
warn it that "youth's a stuff does not endure," it doesn't seriously
believe it. Others may have come to an end of their cake, but its cake
is going to last for ever. Alas, for the day when it is borne in upon us
with a tragic suddenness, like a miser who awakens to find that he has
been robbed of his hoard, that unaccountably the best part of the cake
has been eaten, that perhaps indeed only a few desperate crumbs remain.
A bleak laughter blends now with that once luxurious melancholy. There
is a song at our window, terribly like the mockery of Mephistopheles.
Our blood runs cold. We listen in sudden fear. It is life singing out
its last call.

The time of this call, the occasion and the manner of it, mercifully
vary with individuals. Some fortunate ones, indeed, never hear it till
they lie on their deathbeds. Such have either been gifted with such a
generous-sized cake of youth that it has lasted all their lives, or
they have possessed a great art in the eating of it. Though I may add
here that a cautious husbanding of your cake is no good way. That way
you are liable to find it grown mouldy on your hands. No, oddly enough,
it is often seen that those who all their lives have eaten their cake
most eagerly have quite a little of it left at the end. There are no
hard and fast rules for the eating of your cake. One can only find out
by eating it; and, as I have said, it may be your luck to disprove the
proverb and both eat your cake and have it.

For a dreary majority, however, the cake does come to an end, and for
them henceforth, as Stevenson grimly put it, the road lies long and
straight and dusty to the grave. For them that last call is apt to come
usually before sunset--and the great American question arises: What are
they going to do about it? That, of course, every one must decide for
himself, according to his inclinations and his opportunities. But a few
general considerations may be of comfort and even of greater value.

There is one thing of importance to know about this last call, that we
are apt to imagine we hear it before we actually do, from a nervous
sense that it is about time for it to sound. Our hair perhaps is growing
grey, and our years beginning to accumulate. We hypnotize ourselves with
our chronology, and say with Emerson:

          It is time to grow old,
          To take in sail.

Well and good, if it is and we feel like it; but may be it isn't, and we
don't. Youth is largely a habit. So is romance. And, unless we allow
ourselves to be influenced by musty conventions and superstitions, both
habits may be prolonged far beyond the moping limits of custom, and need
never be abandoned unless we become sincerely and unregretfully tired of
them. I can well conceive of an old age like that of Sophocles, as
reported by Plato, who likened the fading of the passions with the
advance of age to "being set free from service to a band of madmen."

When a man feels so, all is well and comfortable with him. He has
retired of his own free will from the banquet of life, having had his
fill, and is content. Our image of the last call does not apply to him,
but rather to those who, with appetites still keen, are sternly warned
that for them, willy-nilly, the banquet must soon end, and the prison
fare of prosaic middle age be henceforth their portion. No more ortolans
and transporting vintages for them. Nothing but Scotch oatmeal and
occasional sarsaparilla to the end of the chapter. No wonder that some,
hearing this dread sentence, go half crazy in a frenzied effort to
clutch at what remains, run amok, so to say, in their despairing
determination to have, if need be, a last "good time" and die. Their
efforts are apt to be either distasteful or pathetically comic, and the
world is apt to be cynically contemptuous of the "romantic" outbursts of
aging people. For myself, I always feel for them a deep and tender
sympathy. I know that they have heard that last fearful call to the
dining-car of life--and, poor souls, they have probably found it closed.
Their mistake has been in waiting so long for the call. From various
causes, they have mismanaged their lives. They have probably lived in a
numbing fear of their neighbours, who have told them that it is bad
manners to eat one's cake in public, and wicked to eat it in private;
and any one who is fool enough to allow his neighbours to live his life
for him instead of living it himself deserves what he gets, or rather
doesn't get.

A wholesome oblivion of one's neighbours is the beginning of wisdom.
Neighbours, at the best, are an impertinent encroachment on one's
privacy, and, at the worst, an unnatural hindrance to our development.
Generally speaking, it is the man or woman who has lived with least fear
of his neighbours, who is least likely to hear that last call. Nothing
in retrospect is so barren as a life lived in accordance with the
hypocrisies of society. For those who have never lived, and are now fain
to begin living when it is too late, that last call comes indeed with a
ghastly irony. But for those who have fearlessly lived their lives, as
they came along, with Catullus singing their _vivamus atque amemus_, and
practising it, too; for those, if indeed the last call must come, they
will be able to support it by the thought that, often as in the past
life has called to them, it has never called to them in vain. We are apt
sometimes to belittle our memories, but actually they are worth a good
deal; and should the time come when we have little to look forward to,
it will be no small comfort to have something to look back on. And it
won't be the days when we _didn't_ that we shall recall with a sense of
possession, but the days and nights when we most emphatically _did_.
Thank God, we did for once hold that face in our hands in the woodland!
Thank God, we did get divinely drunk that wild night of nights in the
city!

       Wilt thou yet take all, Galilean? But these thou
           shalt not take,
       The laurel, the palms and the paean, the breast of the
           nymphs in the brake.

It is the fine excesses of life that make it worth living. The stalks of
the days are endurable only because they occasionally break into flower.
It is our sins of omission alone that we come in the end to regret. The
temptations we resisted in our youth make themselves rods to scourge our
middle age. I regret the paradoxical form these platitudes have
unconsciously taken, for that they are the simplest truth any honest
dying man would tell you. And that phrase recalls a beautiful poem by
"E. Nesbit" which has haunted me all my life, a poem I shall beg leave
to quote here, because, though it is to be found in that poet's volume,
it is not, I believe, as well known as it deserves to be by those who
need its lesson. I quote it, too, from memory, so I trust that the
length of time I have remembered it may be set to my credit against any
verbal mistakes I make.

          "If, on some balmy summer night,
          You rowed across the moon path white,
          And saw the shining sea grow fair
          With silver scales and golden hair,
          What would you do?"

                        "I would be wise
          And shut my ears and shut my eyes,
          Lest I should leap into the tide
          And clasp the seamaid as I died."

          "But if you thus were strong to flee
          From sweet spells woven of moon and sea,
          Are you quite sure that you would reach,
          Without one backward look, the beach?"

          "I might look back, my dear, and then
          Row straight into the snare again,
          Or, if I safely got away--
          Regret it to my dying day."

He who liveth his life shall live it. It is a grave error to give
ourselves grudgingly to our experiences. Only in a whole-hearted
surrender of ourselves to the heaven-sent moment do we receive back all
it has to give us, and by the active receptivity of our natures attract
toward us other such moments, as it were, out of the sky. An ever-ready
romantic attitude toward life is the best preservative against the
_ennui_ of the years. Adventures, as the proverb says, are to the
adventurous, and, as the old song goes:

          He either fears his fate too much
            Or his deserts are small,
          That dares not put it to the touch
            To gain or lose it all.

And the spirit of the times is happily growing more clement toward a
greater fulness and variety of life. The world is growing kinder toward
the fun and foolishness of existence, and the energetic pursuit of joy
is no longer frowned down by anaemic and hypocritical philosophies. The
old gods of energy and joy are coming to their own again, and the lives
of strong men and fair women are no longer ruled over by a hierarchy of
curates and maiden aunts; in fact, the maiden aunt has begun to find out
her mistake, and is out for her share of the fun and the foolishness
with the rest. Negative morality is fast becoming discredited, and many
an old "Thou shalt not" is coming to seem as absurd as the famous Blue
Laws of Connecticut. "Self-development, not self-sacrifice,"--a
favourite dictum of Grant Allen's,--is growing more and more to be the
formula of the modern world; and, if a certain amount of self-sacrifice
is of necessity included in a healthy self-development, the proportion
is being reduced to a rational limit. One form of self-sacrifice, at all
events, is no longer demanded of us--the wholesale sacrifice of our own
opinions. The possibility that there may be two opinions or a dozen or a
hundred on one matter, and that they may be all different, yet each one
of them right in its proper application, has dawned forcibly on the
world, with the conception of the relativity of experience and the
modification of conditions. Nowadays we recognize that there are as many
"rights" and as many "wrongs" as there are individuals; and to be happy
in our own way, instead of somebody else's, is one of the first laws of
nature, health, and virtue. Many an ancient restriction on personal
vitality is going the way of the old sumptuary laws. We have all of us
amusing memories of those severe old housekeepers who for no inclemency
of the weather would allow a fire in the grate before the first of
October, and who regarded a fire before that date as a positive breach
of the moral law. Such old wives are a type of certain old-fashioned
moralists whose icy clutch on our warm-blooded humanity we no longer
suffer. Nowadays we light our fires as we have a mind to, and if we
prefer to keep them going all the year round, it is no one's business
but our own. Happy is the man who, when the end comes, can say with
Landor:

          I warmed both hands before the fire of life;
          It sinks and I am ready to depart.

Such a one will have little need to fear that last call of which I have
been writing. In Kipling's phrase, he has taken his fun where he found
it, and his barns are well stocked with the various harvests of the
years. Not his the wild regret for having "safely got away." Rather he
laughs to remember how often he was taken captive by the enchantments of
the world, how whenever there was any piece of wildness afoot he was
always found in the thick of it. When the bacchantes were out on Mount
Cithaeron, and the mad _Evoe! Evoe!_ rang through the moonstruck woods,
be sure he was up and away, with ardent hands clutched in the flying
tresses. Ah! the vine leaves and the tiger skins and the ivory bodies,
the clash of the cymbals and the dithyramb shrilling up to the stars!
"If I forget thee, O golden Aphrodite!" He is no hypocrite, no weary
"king ecclesiast," shaking his head over the orgies of sap and song in
which he can no longer share. He frankly acknowledges that then came in
the sweet o' the year, and he is still as young as the youngest by
virtue of having drunk deep of the only elixir, the Dionysiac cup of
life.

At the same time, while he may not ungratefully rejoice with Sophocles
at being "set free from service to a band of madmen," that ripening of
his nature which comes most fruitfully of a generous exercise of
its powers will have instinctively taught him that secret of the
transmutation of the passions which is one of the most precious rewards
of experience. It is quite possible for a lifelong passion for fair
women to become insensibly and unregretfully transmuted into a passion
for first editions, and you may become quite sincerely content that a
younger fellow catch the flying maiden, if only you can catch yon
flitting butterfly for your collection. And, strangest of all, your
grand passion for your own remarkable self may suffer a miraculous
transformation into a warm appreciation for other people. It is true
that you may smile a little sadly to find them even more interesting
than yourself. But such passing sadness has the relish of salvation in
it. Self is a weary throne, and the abdication of the ego is to be free
of one of the burdens rather than the pleasures of existence.

But, to conclude, it is all too possible that you who read this may have
no such assets of a wilful well spent life to draw on as he whom I have
pictured. It may be that you have starved your emotions and fled your
opportunities, or you may simply have had bad luck. The golden moments
seldom came your way. The wilderness of life has seldom blossomed with a
rose. "The breast of the nymph in the brake" and "the chimes at
midnight" were not for you. And there is a menacing murmur of autumn in
the air. The days are shortening, and the twilight comes early, with a
chilly breath. The crickets have stopped singing, and the garden is sad
with elegiac blooms. The chrysanthemum is growing on the grave of the
rose. Perhaps already it is too late--too late for life and joy. You
must take to first editions and entomology and other people's interests
in good earnest. But no! Suddenly on the wind there comes a cry--a sound
of cymbals and flutes and dancing feet. It is life's last call. You have
one chance left. There is still Indian summer. It is better than
nothing. Hurry and join the music, ere it be too late. For this is the
last call!

          When time lets slip a little perfect hour,
          Take it, for it will not come again.



VII

THE PERSECUTIONS OF BEAUTY


All religions have periods in their history which are looked back to
with retrospective fear and trembling as eras of persecution, and each
religion has its own book of martyrs. The religion of beauty is no
exception. Far from it. For most other religions, however they may have
differed among themselves, have agreed in fearing beauty, and even in
Greece there were stern sanctuaries and ascetic academes where the white
bosom of Phryne would have pleaded in vain. Christianity has not been
beauty's only enemy, by any means; though, when the Book of Martyrs of
Beauty comes to be written, it will, doubtless, be the Christian
persecutions of beauty that will bulk largest in the record--for the
Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty have been warring creeds
from the beginning.

At the present moment, there is reason to fear, or to rejoice--according
to one's individual leanings--that the Religion of Beauty is gaining
upon its ancient rival; for perhaps never since the Renaissance has
there been such a widespread impulse to assert Beauty and Joy as the
ideals of human life. As evidence one has but to turn one's eyes on the
youth of both sexes, as they rainbow the city thoroughfares with their
laughing, heartless faces, evident children of beauty and joy, "pagan"
to the core of them, however ostensibly Christian their homes and their
country. In our time, at all events, Beauty has never walked the streets
with so frank a radiance, so confident an air of security, and in her
eyes and in her carriage, as in her subtly shaped and subtly scented
garments, so conspicuous a challenge to the musty, outworn, proprieties
to frown upon her all they please. From the humblest shop-girl to the
greatest lady, there is apparent an intention to be beautiful, sweet
maid, and let who will be hum-drum, at whatever cost, by whatever means.
This, of course, at all periods, has been woman's chief thought, but
till recently, in our times, she has more or less affected a certain
secrecy in her intention. She has hinted rather than fully expressed it,
as though fearing a certain flagrancy in too public an exhibition of her
enchantments. It has hardly seemed proper to her heretofore to be as
beautiful in the public gaze as in the sanctuary of her boudoir. But
now, bless you, she has no such misgivings, and the flower-like effect
upon the city streets is as dazzling as if, some fine morning in
Constantinople, all the ladies of the various harems should suddenly
appear abroad without their yashmaks, setting fire to the hearts and
turning the heads of the unaccustomed male. Or, to make comparison
nearer home, it is almost as startling as if the ladies of the various
musical comedies in town should suddenly be let loose upon our senses in
broad daylight, in all the adorable sorceries of "make-up" and
diaphanous draperies. I swear that it can be no more thrilling to
penetrate into that mysterious paradise "behind the scenes," than to
walk up Fifth Avenue one of these summer afternoons, in the present year
of grace,--humming to one's self that wistful old song, which goes
something like this:

          The girls that never can be mine!
            In every lane and street
          I hear the rustle of their gowns,
            The whisper of their feet;
          The sweetness of their passing by,
            Their glances strong as wine,
          Provoke the unpossessive sigh--
            Ah! girls that never can be mine.

So audacious has Beauty become in these latter days, so proudly she
walks abroad, making so superb an appeal to the desire of the eye,
thighed like Artemis, and bosomed like Aphrodite, or at whiles a fairy
creature of ivory and gossamer and fragrance, with a look in her eyes of
secret gardens; and so much is the wide world at her feet, and one with
her in the vanity of her fairness--that I sometimes fear an impending
_dies irae_, when the dormant spirit of Puritanism will reassert itself,
and some stern priests thunder from the pulpit of worldly vanities and
the wrath to come. Indeed, I can well imagine in the near future some
modern Savonarola presiding over a new Bonfire of Vanities in Madison
Square, on which, to the droning of Moody and Sankey's hymns, shall be
cast all the fascinating Parisian creations, the puffs and rats, the
powder and the rouge, the darling stockings, and all such concomitant
bewitcheries that today make Manhattan a veritable Isle of Circe, all to
go up in savage sectarian flame, before the eyes of melancholy young
men, and filling all the city with the perfume of beauty's holocaust. At
street corners too will stand great books in which weeping maidens will
sign their names, swearing before high heaven, to wear nothing but
gingham and bed-ticking for the dreary remainder of their lives. Such a
day may well come, as it has often come before, and certainly will, if
women persist in being so deliberately beautiful as they are at present.

It is curious how, from time immemorial, man seems to have associated
the idea of evil with beauty, shrunk from it with a sort of ghostly
fear, while, at the same time drawn to it by force of its hypnotic
attraction. Strangely enough, beauty has been regarded as the most
dangerous enemy of the soul, and the powers of darkness that are
supposed to lie in wait for that frail and fluttering psyche, so
precious and apparently so perishable, are usually represented as taking
shapes of beguiling loveliness--lamias, loreleis, wood nymphs, and
witches with blue flowers for their eyes. Lurking in its most innocent
forms, the grim ascetic has affected to find a leaven of concupiscence,
and whenever any reformation is afoot, it is always beauty that is made
the first victim, whether it take the form of a statue, a stained-glass
window, or a hair-ribbon. "Homeliness is next to Godliness," though not
officially stated as an article of the Christian creed, has been one of
the most active of all Christian tenets. It has always been easier far
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than a gloriously
beautiful woman. Presumably such a one might be in danger of corrupting
the saints, somewhat unaccustomed to such apparitions.

In this Christian fear and hatred of beauty the democratic origin of the
Christian religion is suggestively illustrated, for beauty, wherever
found, is always mysteriously aristocratic, and thus instinctively
excites the fear and jealousy of the common people. When, in the third
century, Christian mobs set about their vandalistic work of destroying
the "Pagan" temples, tearing down the beautiful calm gods and goddesses
from their pedestals, and breaking their exquisite marble limbs with
brutish mallets, it was not, we may be sure, of the danger to their
precious souls they were thinking, but of their patrician masters who
had worshipped these fair images, and paid great sums to famous
sculptors for such adornment of their sanctuaries. Perhaps it was human
enough, for to those mobs beauty had long been associated with
oppression. Yet how painful to picture those golden marbles, in all
their immortal fairness, confronted with the hideousness of those
fanatic ill-smelling multitudes. Wonderful religionists, forsooth, that
thus break with foolish hands and trample with swinish hoofs the sacred
vessels of divine dreams. Who would not

                                  rather be
          A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,--
            So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
          Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
            Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
          Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

One can imagine the priest of such a violated sanctuary stealing back in
the quiet moonlight, when all the mob fury had passed away, seeking amid
all the wrack of fallen columns, and shattered carvings, for any poor
fragments of god or goddess at whose tranquil fair-ordered altar he had
ministered so long; and gathering such as he might find,--maybe a mighty
hand, still the hand of a god, albeit in overthrow, or some marble curls
of the sculptured ambrosial locks, or maybe the bruised breast of the
goddess, white as a water-lily in the moon. Then, seeking out some
secret corner of the sacred grove, how reverently he would bury the
precious fragments away from profane eyes, and go forth homeless into a
mysterious changing world, from which glory and loveliness were thus
surely passing away. Other priests, as we know, more fortunate than he,
had forewarnings of such impending sacrilege, and were able to
anticipate the mob, and bury their beautiful images in safe and secret
places, there to await, after the lapse of twelve centuries, the
glorious resurrection of the Renaissance. A resurrection, however, by no
means free from danger, even in that resplendent dawn of intelligence;
for Christianity was still the enemy of beauty, save in the Vatican, and
the ignorant priest of the remote village where the spade of the peasant
had revealed the sleeping marble was certain to declare the beautiful
image an evil spirit, and have it broken up forthwith and ground for
mortar, unless some influential scholar, or powerful lord touched with
"the new learning," chanced to be on hand to save it from destruction.
Yes! even at that time when beauty was being victoriously born again,
the mad fear of her raged with such panic in certain minds that, when
Savonarola lit his great bonfire so subtle a servant of beauty as
Botticelli, fallen into a sort of religious dotage, cast his own
paintings into the flames--to the lugubrious rejoicings of the
sanctimonious Piagnoni--as Savonarola's followers were called;
predecessors of those still gloomier zealots who, two centuries later,
were to turn England into a sort of whitewashed prison, with crop-headed
psalm-singing religious maniacs for gaolers. When Charles the First

          bow'd his comely head
       Down, as upon a bed,

at Whitehall, Beauty also laid her head upon the block at his side.
Ugliness, parading as piety, took her place, and once more the breaking
of images began, the banishment of music, the excommunication of grace,
and gentle manners, and personal adornments. Gaiety became penal, and a
happy heart or a beautiful smile was of the devil,--something like
hanging matters--but happy hearts and beautiful smiles must have been
rare things in England during the Puritan Commonwealth. Such as were
left had taken refuge in France, where men might worship God and Beauty
in the same church, and where it was not necessary, as at Oxford, to
bury your stained-glass windows out of the reach of the mob--those

          Storied windows richly dight
          Casting a dim religious light,

which even the Puritan Milton could thus celebrate. Doubtless, that
English Puritan persecution was the severest that Beauty has been called
upon to endure. She still suffers from it, need one say, to this day,
particularly in New England, where if the sculptured images of goddess
and nymph are not exactly broken to pieces by the populace, it is from
no goodwill towards them, but rather from an ingrained reverence for
any form of property, even though it be nude, and where, at all events,
they are under the strict surveillance of a highly proper and
respectable police, those distinguished guardians of American morals.

It is worth while to try and get at the reason for this wide-spread,
deep-rooted, fear of beauty: for some reason there must surely be. Such
instinctive feelings, on so broad a scale, are not accidental. And so
soon as one begins to analyse the attitude of religion towards beauty,
the reason is not far to seek.

All religions are made up of a spiritual element and a moral element,
the moral element being the temporary, practical, so to say, working
side of religion, concerned with this present world, and the limitations
and necessities of the various societies that compose it. The spiritual
element, the really important part of religion, has no concern with Time
and Space, temporary mundane laws, or conduct. It concerns itself only
with the eternal properties of things. Its business is the contemplation
and worship of the mystery of life, "the mystery we make darker with a
name."

Now, great popular religions, designed as they are for the discipline
and control of the great brute masses of humanity, are almost entirely
occupied with morality, and what passes in them for spirituality is
merely mythology, an element of picturesque supernaturalism calculated
to enforce the morality with the multitude. Christianity is such a
religion. It is mostly a matter of conduct here and now upon the earth.
Its mystic side does not properly belong to it, and is foreign to, not
to speak of its being practically ignored by, the average "Christian."
It is a religion designed to work hand in hand with a given state of
society, making for the preservation of such laws and manners and
customs as are best fitted to make that society a success here and now,
a worldly success in the best sense of the term. Mohammedanism is a
similar religion calculated for the needs of a different society.
Whatever the words or intentions of the founders of such religions,
their kingdoms are essentially of this world. They are not mystic, or
spiritual, or in anyway concerned with infinite and eternal things.
Their business is the moral policing of humanity. Morality, as of course
its name implies, is a mere matter of custom, and therefore varies with
the variations of races and climates. It has nothing to do with
spirituality, and, in fact, the best morals are often the least
spiritual, and _vice versa_. It will be understood then that any force
which is apt to disturb this moral, or more exactly speaking social,
order will meet at once with the opposition of organized "religions" so
called, and the more spiritual it is, the greater will be the
opposition, for it will thus be the more dangerous.

Now one begins to see why Beauty is necessarily the bugbear, more or
less, of all religions, or, as I prefer to regard them, "organized
moralities"; for Beauty is neither moral nor immoral, being as she is a
purely spiritual force, with no relations to man's little schemes of
being good and making money and being knighted and so forth. For those
who have eyes to see, she is the supreme spiritual vision vouchsafed to
us upon the earth--and, as that, she is necessarily the supreme danger
to that materialistic use and wont by which alone a materialistic
society remains possible. For this reason our young men and
maidens--particularly our young men--must be guarded against her, for
her beauty sets us adream, prevents our doing our day's work, makes us
forget the soulless occupations in which we wither away our lives. The
man who loves beauty will never be mayor of his city, or even sit on the
Board of Aldermen. Nor is he likely to own a railroad, or be a captain
of industry. Nor will he marry, for her money, a woman he does not love.
The face of beauty makes all such achievements seem small and absurd.
Such so-called successes seem to him the dreariest forms of failure. In
short, Beauty has made him divinely discontented with the limited human
world about him, divinely incapable of taking it seriously, or heeding
its standards or conditions. No wonder society should look upon Beauty
as dangerous, for she is constantly upsetting its equilibrium and
playing havoc with its smooth schemes and smug conventions. She outrages
the "proprieties" with "the innocence of nature," and disintegrates
"select" and "exclusive" circles with the wand of Romance. For earthly
possessions or rewards she has no heed. For her they are meaningless
things, mere idle dust and withered leaves. Her only real estate is in
the moon, and the one article of her simple creed--"Love is enough."

       Love is enough: though the world be a-waning
       And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
       Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
       The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
       Though the hills beheld shadows, and the sea a dark wonder
       And this day draw a veil over all deeds passed over,
       Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
       The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
       These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

Those who have looked into her eyes see limitless horizons undreamed of
by those who know her not, horizons summoning the soul to radiant
adventures beyond the bounds of Space and Time. The world is so far
right in regarding beauty with a sort of superstitious dread, as a
presence almost uncanny among our mere mortal concerns, a daemonic
thing,--which is what the world has meant when it has, not unnaturally,
confused it with the spirits of evil; for surely it is a supernatural
stranger in our midst, a fairy element, and, like the lorelei and the
lamia, it does beckon its votaries to enchanted realms away and afar
from "all the uses of the world." Therefore, to them also it brings the
thrill of a different and nobler fear--the thrill of the mortal in
presence of the immortal. A strange feeling of destiny seems to come
over us as we first look into the beautiful face we were born to love.
It seems veritably an apparition from another and lovelier world, to
which it summons us to go with it. That is what we mean when we say that
Love and Death are one; for Death, to the thought of Love, is but one of
the gates to that other world, a gate to which we instinctively feel
Love has the key. That surely is the meaning of the old fairy-stories of
men who have come upon the white woman in the woodland, and followed
her, never to be seen again of their fellows, or of those who, like
Hylas, have met the water-nymph by the lilied spring, and sunk with her
down into the crystal deeps. The strange earth on which we live is just
such a place of enchantment, neither more nor less, and some of us have
met that fair face, with a strange suddenness of joy and fear, and
followed and followed it on till it vanished beyond the limits of the
world. But our failure was that we did not follow that last white
beckoning of the hand--

          And I awoke and found me here
            On the cold hill's side.



VIII

THE MANY FACES--THE ONE DREAM


Among the many advantages of being very young is one's absolute
certainty that there is only one type of beautiful girl in the world.
That type we make a religion. We are its pugnacious champions, and the
idea of our falling in love with any other is too preposterous even for
discussion. If our tastes happen to be for blondness, brunettes simply
do not exist for us; and if we affect the slim and willowy in figure,
our contempt for the plump and rounded is too sincere for expression.
Usually the type we choose is one whose beauty is somewhat esoteric to
other eyes. We are well aware that photographs do it no justice, and
that the man in the street--who, strangely enough, we conceive as having
no eye for beauty--can see nothing in it. Thank Heaven, she is not the
type that any common eye can see. Heads are not turned in her wake as
she passes along. Her beauty is not "obvious." On the contrary, it is of
that rare and exquisite quality which only a few favoured ones can
apprehend--like the beauty of a Whistler or a Corot, and we have been
chosen to be its high-priest and evangelist. It is our secret, this
beautiful face that we love, and we wonder how any one can be found to
love the other faces. We even pity them, those rosy, rounded faces, with
their bright unmysterious eyes and straight noses and dimpled chins. How
fortunate for them that the secret of the beauty we love has been hidden
from their lovers. Sheer Bouguereau! Neither more nor less.

In fact, the beauty we affect is aggressively spiritual, and in so far
as beauty is demonstrably physical we dismiss it with disdain. Our
ideal, indeed, might be said to consist in a beauty which is beautiful
in spite of the body rather than by means of it; a beauty defiantly
clothed, so to say, in the dowdiest of fleshly garments--radiantly
independent of such carnal conditions as features or complexion. Our
ideal of figure might be said to be negative rather than positive, and
that "little sister" mentioned in Solomon's Song would bring us no
disappointment.

We are often heard to say that beauty consists chiefly, if not entirely,
in expression, that it is a transfiguration from within rather than a
gracious condition of the surface, that the shape of a nose is no
matter, and that a beautifully rounded chin or a fine throat has nothing
to do with it--indeed, is rather in the way than otherwise. We point
to the fact--which is true enough--that the most famous beauties
of antiquity were plain women--plain, that is, according to the
conventional standards.

We also maintain--again with perfect truth--that mystery is more than
half of beauty, the element of strangeness that stirs the senses through
the imagination. These and other perfectly true truths about beauty we
discover through our devotion to the one face that we love--and we
should hardly have discovered them had we begun with the merely
cherry-ripe. It is with faces much as it is with books. There is no way
of attaining a vital catholic taste in literature so good as to begin by
mastering some difficult beautiful classic, by devoting ourselves in the
ardent receptive period of youth to one or two masterpieces which will
serve as touchstones for us in all our subsequent reading. Some books
engage all our faculties for their appreciation, and through the keen
attentiveness we are compelled to give them we make personal discovery
of those principles and qualities of all fine literature which otherwise
we might never have apprehended, or in which, at all events, we should
have been less securely grounded.

So with faces: it is through the absorbed worship, the jealous study, of
one face that we best learn to see the beauty in all the other
faces--though the mere thought that our apprehension of its beauty could
ever lead us to so infidel a conclusion would seem heresy indeed during
the period of our dedication. The subtler the type, the more caviare it
is to the general, the more we learn from it. We become in a sense
discoverers, original thinkers, of beauty, taking nothing on authority,
but making trial and investigation always for ourselves. Such beauty
brings us nearer than the more explicit types to that mysterious
threshold over which beauty steps down to earth and dwells among us;
that well-spring of its wonder; the point where first its shining
essence pours its radiance into the earthly vessel.

The perfect physical type hides no little of its own miracle through its
sheer perfection, as in the case of those masterpieces which, as we say,
conceal their art. It is often through the face externally less perfect,
faces, so to say, in process of becoming beautiful, that we get glimpses
of the interior light in its divine operation. We seem to look into the
very alembic of beauty, and see all the precious elements in the act of
combination. No wonder we should deem these faces the most beautiful of
all, for through them we see, not beauty made flesh, but beauty while it
is still spirit. In our eager fanaticism, indeed, we cannot conceive
that there can be beauty in any other types as well. Yet, because we
chance to have fallen under the spell of Botticelli, shall there be no
more Titian? Our taste is for a beauty of dim silver and faded stars, a
wistful twilight beauty made of sorrow and dreams, a beauty always half
in the shadow, a white flower in the moonlight. We cannot conceive how
beauty, for others, can be a thing of the hot sun, a thing of purple and
orange and the hot sun, a thing of firm outlines, superbly concrete,
marmoreal, sumptuous, magnificently animal.

The beauty we love is very silent. It smiles softly to itself, but never
speaks. How should we understand a beauty that is vociferously gay, a
beauty of dash and dance, a beauty of swift and brilliant ways,
victoriously alive?

Perhaps it were well for us that we should never understand, well for us
that we should preserve our singleness of taste through life. Some
contrive to do this, and never as long as they live are unfaithful to
the angel-blue eyes of their boyish love. Moralists have perhaps not
realized how much continence is due to a narrowness of aesthetic taste.
Obviously the man who sees beauty only in blue eyes is securer from
temptation than the man who can see beauty in brown or green eyes as
well; and how perilous is his state for whom danger lurks in all
beautiful eyes, irrespective of shape, size, or colour! And, alas! it is
to this state of eclecticism that most of us are led step by step by the
Mephistopheles of experience.

As great politicians in their maturity are usually found in the exact
opposite party to that which they espoused in their youth, so men who
loved blondness in boyhood are almost certain to be found at the feet of
the raven-haired in their middle age, and _vice versa_. The change is
but a part of that general change which overtakes us with the years,
substituting in us a catholic appreciation of the world as it is for
idealist notions of the world as we see it, or desire it to be. It is a
part of that gradual abdication of the ego which comes of the slow
realization that other people are quite as interesting as ourselves--in
fact, a little more so,--and their tastes and ways of looking at things
may be worth pondering, after all. But, O when we have arrived at this
stage, what a bewildering world of seductive new impressions spreads for
us its multitudinous snares! No longer mere individuals, we have not
merely an individual's temptations to guard against, but the temptations
of all the world. Instead of being able to see only that one type of
beauty which first appealed to us, our eyes have become so instructed
that we now see the beauty of all the other types as well; and we no
longer scorn as Philistine the taste of the man in the street for the
beauty that is robustly vital and flamboyantly contoured. Once we called
it obvious. Now we say it is "barbaric," and call attention to its
perfection of type.

The remembrance of our former injustice to it may even awaken a certain
tenderness towards it in our hearts, and soon we find ourselves making
love to it, partly from a vague desire to make reparation to a slighted
type, and partly from the experimental pleasure of loving a beauty the
attraction of which it was once impossible for us to imagine. So we feel
when the charm of some old master, hitherto unsympathetic, is suddenly
revealed to us. Ah! it was this they saw. How blind they must have
thought us!

Brown eyes that I love, will you forgive me that I once looked into blue
eyes as I am looking now into yours? Hair black as Erebus, will you
forgive these hands that once loved to bathe in a brook of rippled gold?
Ah! they did not know. It was in ignorance they sinned. They did not
know.

O my beautiful cypress, stately queen of the garden of the world,
forgive me that once I gave to the little shrub-like women the worship
that is rightly yours!

Lady, whose loveliness is like white velvet, a vineyard heavy with
golden grapes, abundant as an orchard of apple blossoms, forgive that
once I loved the shadow women, the sad wreathing mists of beauty, the
silvery uncorseted phantoms of womanhood. It was in ignorance I sinned.
I did not know.

Ah! That Mephistopheles of experience! How he has led us from one fair
face to another, teaching us, one by one, the beauty of all. No longer
lonely sectarians of beauty, pale prophets of one lovely face, there is
now no type whose secret is hidden from us. The world has become a
garden of beautiful faces. The flowers are different, but they are all
beautiful. How is it possible for us, now that we know the charm of each
one, to be indifferent to any, or to set the beauty of one above the
other? We have learned the beauty of the orchid, but surely we have not
unlearned the rose; and would you say that orchid or rose is more
beautiful than the lily? Surely not. They are differently beautiful,
that is all.

Are blue eyes more beautiful than brown? I thought so once, but now I
see that they are differently beautiful, that is all. Nor is gold hair
more beautiful than black any more, or black than gold. They are
differently beautiful, that is all. Nor is thy white skin, O Saxon lady,
more beautiful than hers of tropic bronze.

Come sad, or come with laughter, beautiful faces; come like stars in
dreams, or come vivid as fruit upon the bough; come softly like a timid
fawn, or terrible as an army with banners; come silent, come singing ...
you are all beautiful, and none is fairer than another--only differently
fair.

And yet ... and yet ... Experience is indeed Mephistopheles in this: We
must pay him for all this wisdom. Is it the old price? Is it our souls?
I wonder.

This at least is true: that, while indeed he has opened our eyes to all
this beauty that was hidden to us, shown us beauty, indeed, where we
could see but evil before, we miss something from our delight in these
faces. We can appreciate more beauty, but do we appreciate any quite as
much as in those old days when we were such passionate monotheists of
the beautiful? Alas! We are priests no more, are we even lovers? But we
are wonderful connoisseurs.

It is our souls.



IX

THE SNOWS OF YESTER-YEAR


_Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?_ As I transcribe once more that
ancient sigh, perhaps the most real sigh in all literature, it is high
mid-summer, and the woodland surrounding the little cabin in which I am
writing lies in a trance of green and gold, hot and fragrant and dizzy
with the whirring of cicadas, under the might of the July sun. Bees buzz
in and out through my door, and sometimes a butterfly flits in, flutters
a while about my bookshelves, and presently is gone again, in search of
sweets more to his taste than those of the muses, though Catullus is
there, with

          Songs sweeter than wild honey dripping down,
          Which once in Rome to Lesbia he sang.

As I am caught by the dream-drowsy spell of the hot murmuring afternoon,
and my eyes rest on the thick vines clustering over the rocks, and the
lush grasses and innumerable underbrush, so spendthrift in their
crowding luxuriance, I try to imagine the ground as it was but four
months ago still in the grasp of winter, when the tiniest blade of
grass, or smallest speck of creeping green leaf, seemed like a miracle,
and it was impossible to realize that under the broad snowdrifts a
million seeds, like hidden treasure, were waiting to reveal their
painted jewels to the April winds. Snow was plentiful then, to be had by
the ton--but now, the thought suddenly strikes me, and brings home with
new illuminating force Villon's old refrain, that though I sought the
woodland from end to end, ransacked its most secret places, not one
vestige of that snow, so lately here in such plenty, would it be
possible to find. Though you were to offer me a million dollars for as
much as would fill the cup of a wild rose, say even a hundred million, I
should have to see all that money pass me by. I can think of hardly
anything that it couldn't buy--but such a simple thing as last year's
snow!

Could there be a more poignant symbol of irreclaimable vanished things
than that so happily hit on by the old ballade-maker:

          Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
            Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
          Save with thus much for an overword--
            But where are the snows of yester-year?

Villon, as we know, has a melancholy fondness for asking these sad,
hopeless questions of snow and wind. He muses not only of the drift of
fair faces, but of the passing of mighty princes and all the arrogant
pride and pomp of the earth--"pursuivants, trumpeters, heralds, hey!"
"Ah! where is the doughty Charlemagne?" They, even as the humblest, "the
wind has carried them all away." They have vanished utterly as the snow,
gone--who knows where?--on the wind. "'Dead and gone'--a sorry burden of
the Ballad of Life," as Thomas Lowell Beddoes has it in his _Death's
Jest Book_. "Dead and gone!" as Andrew Lang re-echoes in a sweetly
mournful ballade:

          Through the mad world's scene
            We are drifting on,
          To this tune, I ween,
            "They are dead and gone!"

"Nought so sweet as melancholy," sings an old poet, and, while the
melancholy of the exercise is undoubted, there is at the same time an
undeniable charm attaching to those moods of imaginative retrospect in
which we summon up shapes and happenings of the vanished past, a tragic
charm indeed similar to that we experience in mournful music or elegiac
poetry.

For, it is impossible to turn our eyes on any point of the starlit vista
of human history, without being overwhelmed with a heart-breaking sense
of the immense treasure of radiant human lives that has gone to its
making, the innumerable dramatic careers now shrunk to a mere mention,
the divinely passionate destinies, once all wild dream and dancing
blood, now nought but a name huddled with a thousand such in some dusty
index, seldom turned to even by the scholar, and as unknown to the world
at large as the moss-grown name on some sunken headstone in a country
churchyard. What an appallingly exuberant and spendthrift universe it
seems, pouring out its multitudinous generations of men and women with
the same wasteful hand as it has filled this woodland with millions of
exquisite lives, marvellously devised, patterned with inexhaustible
fancy, mysteriously furnished with subtle organs after their needs,
crowned with fairy blossoms, and ripening with magic seeds,--such a vast
treasure of fragrant sunlit leafage, all produced with such elaborate
care, and long travail, and all so soon to vanish utterly away!

Along with this crushing sense of cosmic prodigality, and somewhat
lighting up its melancholy, comes the inspiring realization of the
splendid spectacle of human achievement, the bewildering array of all
the glorious lives that have been lived, of all the glorious happenings,
under the sun. Ah! what men this world has seen, and--what women! What
divine actors have trod this old stage, and in what tremendous dramas
have they taken part! And how strange it is, reading some great dramatic
career, of Caesar, say, or Luther, or Napoleon, or Byron, to realize
that there was a time when they were not, then a time when they were
beginning to be strange new names in men's ears, then all the romantic
excitement of their developing destinies, and the thunder and lightning
of the great resounding moments of their lives--moments made out of
real, actual, prosaic time, just as our own moments are made, yet once
so splendidly shining on the top of the world, as though to stay there
forever, moments so glorious that it would seem that Time must have
paused to watch and prolong them, jealous that they should ever pass and
give place to lesser moments!

Think too of those other fateful moments of history, moments not
confined to a few godlike individuals, but participated in by whole
nations, such moments as that of the great Armada, the French
Revolution, or the Declaration of American Independence. How strangely
it comes upon one that these past happenings were once only just taking
place, just as at the moment of my writing other things are taking
place, and clocks were ticking and water flowing, just as they are doing
now! How wonderful, it seems to us, to have been alive then, as we are
alive now, to have shared in those vast national enthusiasms, "in those
great deeds to have had some little part"; and is it not a sort of poor
anti-climax for a world that has gone through such noble excitement to
have sunk back to this level of every day! Alas! all those lava-like
moments of human exaltation--what are they now, but, so to say, the
pumice-stone of history. They have passed as the summer flowers are
passing, they are gone with last year's snow.

But the last year's snow of our personal lives--what a wistful business
it is, when we get thinking of that! To recall certain magic moments out
of the past is to run a risk of making the happiest present seem like a
desert; and for most men, I imagine, such retrospect is usually busied
with some fair face, or perhaps--being men--with several fair faces,
once so near and dear, and now so far. How poignantly and unprofitably
real memory can make them--all but bring them back--how vividly
reconstruct immortal occasions of happiness that we said could not, must
not, pass away; while all the time our hearts were aching with the sure
knowledge that they were even then, as we wildly clutched at them,
slipping from our grasp!

That summer afternoon,--do you too still remember it, Miranda?--when,
under the whispering woodland, we ate our lunch together with such
prodigious appetite, and O! such happy laughter, yet never took our eyes
from each other; and, when the meal was ended, how we wandered along the
stream-side down the rocky glen, till we came to an enchanted pool among
the boulders, all hushed with moss and ferns and overhanging boughs--do
you remember what happened then, Miranda? Ah! nymphs of the forest
pools, it is no use asking me to forget.

And, all the time, my heart was saying to my eyes:--"This fairy hour--so
real, so magical, now--some day will be in the far past; you will sit
right away on the lonely outside of it, and recall it only with the
anguish of beautiful vanished things." And here I am today surely
enough, years away from it, solitary on its lonely outside!

I suppose that the river, this summer day, is making the same music
along its rocky bed, and the leafy boughs are rustling over that haunted
pool just the same as when--but where are the laughing ripples--ah!
Miranda--that broke with laughter over the divinely troubled water, and
the broken reflections, as of startled water-lilies, that rocked to and
fro in a panic of dazzling alabaster?

They are with last year's snow.

Meriel of the solemn eyes, with the heart and the laughter of a child,
and soul like the starlit sky, where should one look for the snows of
yester-year if not in your bosom, fairy girl my eyes shall never see
again. Wherever you are, lost to me somewhere among the winding paths of
this strange wood of the world, do you ever, as the moonlight falls over
the sea, give a thought to that night when we sat together by a window
overlooking the ocean, veiled in a haze of moonlit pearl, and, dimly
seen near shore, a boat was floating, like some mystic barge, as we
said, in our happy childishness, waiting to take us to the _Land East of
the Sun and West of the Moon_? Ah! how was it we lingered and lingered
till the boat was no more there, and it was too late? Perhaps it was
that we seemed to be already there, as you turned and placed your hand
in mine and said: "My life is in your hand." And we both believed it
true. Yes! wherever we went together in those days, we were always in
that enchanted land--whether we rode side by side through London streets
in a hansom--"a two-wheeled heaven" we called it--(for our dream
stretches as far back as that prehistoric day--How old one of us seems
to be growing! You, dear face, can never grow old)--or sat and laughed
at clowns in London music halls, or wandered in Surrey lanes, or gazed
at each other, as if our hearts would break for joy, over the snow-white
napery of some country inn, and maybe quoted Omar to each other, as we
drank his red wine to the immortality of our love. Perhaps we were
right, after all. Perhaps it could never die, and Time and Distance are
perhaps merely illusions, and you and I have never been apart. Who knows
but that you are looking over my shoulder as I write, though you seem so
far away, lost in that starlit silence that you loved. Ah! Meriel, is it
well with you, this summer day? A sigh seems to pass through the sunlit
grasses. They are waving and whispering as I have seen them waving and
whispering over graves.

Such moments as these I have recalled all men have had in their lives,
moments when life seemed to have come to miraculous flower, attained
that perfect fulfilment of its promise which else we find only in
dreams. Beyond doubt there is something in the flawless blessedness of
such moments that links our mortality with super-terrestrial states of
being. We do, in very deed, gaze through invisible doors into the ether
of eternal existences, and, for the brief hour, live as they, drinking
deep of that music of the infinite which is the divine food of the
enfranchised soul. Thence comes our exaltation, and our wild longing to
hold the moment for ever; for, while it is with us, we have literally
escaped from the everyday earth, and have found the way into some other
dimension of being, and its passing means our sad return to the
prison-house of Time, the place of meetings and partings, of distance
and death.

Part of the pang of recalling such moments is a remorseful sense that
perhaps we might have held them fast, after all. If only we might bring
them back, surely we would find some way to dwell in them for ever. They
came upon us so suddenly out of heaven, like some dazzling bird, and we
were so bewildered with the wonder of their coming that we stretched out
our hands to seize them, only when they were already spreading their
wings for flight. But O if the divine bird would but visit us again!
What golden nets we would spread for him! What a golden cage of worship
we would make ready! Our eyes would never leave his strange plumage, nor
would we miss one note of his strange song. But alas! now that we are
grown wise and watchful, that "moment eternal" comes to us no more.
Perhaps too that sad wisdom which has come to us with the years would
least of all avail us, should such moments by some magic chance suddenly
return. For it is one of the dangers of the retrospective habit that it
incapacitates us for the realization of the present hour. Much dwelling
on last year's snow will make us forget the summer flowers. Dreaming of
fair faces that are gone, we will look with unseeing eyes into the fair
faces that companion us still. To the Spring we say: "What of all your
blossom, and all your singing! Autumn is already at your heels, like a
shadow; and Winter waits for you like a marble tomb." To the hope that
still may beckon we say: "Well, what though you be fulfilled, you will
pass, like the rest. I shall see you come. We shall dwell together for a
while, and then you will go; and all will be as it was before, all as if
you had never come at all." For the retrospective mood, of necessity,
begets the anticipatory; we see everything finished before it is begun,
and welcome and valediction blend together on our lips. "That which hath
been is now; and that which is to be hath already been."

                            In every kiss sealed fast
          To feel the first kiss and forebode the last--

that is the shadow that haunts every joy, and sicklies o'er every action
of him whom life has thus taught to look before and after.

Youth is not like that, and therein, for older eyes, lies its tragic
pathos. Superficial--or, if you prefer it, more normal--observers are
made happy by the spectacle of eager and confident young lives, all
abloom and adream, turning towards the future with plumed impatient
feet. But for some of us there is nothing quite so sad as young joy. The
playing of children is perhaps the most unbearably sad thing in the
world. Who can look on young lovers, without tears in their eyes? With
what innocent faith they are taking in all the radiant lies of life! But
perhaps a young mother with her new-born babe on her breast is the most
tragical of all pictures of unsuspecting joy, for none of all the
trusting sons and daughters of men is destined in the end to find
herself so tragically, one might say cynically, fooled.

Cynically, I said; for indeed sometimes, as one ponders the lavish
heartless use life seems to make of all its divinely precious
material--were it but the flowers in one meadow, or the butterflies of a
single summer day--it does seem as though a cruel cynicism inhered
somewhere in the scheme of things, delighting to destroy and
disillusionize, to create loveliness in order to scatter it to the
winds, and inspire joy in order to mock it with desolation. Sometimes it
seems as though the mysterious spirit of life was hardly worthy of the
vessels it has called into being, hardly treats them fairly, uses them
with an ignoble disdain. For, how generously we give ourselves up to
life, how innocently we put our trust in it, do its bidding with such
fine ardours, striving after beauty and goodness, fain to be heroic and
clean of heart--yet "what hath man of all his labours, and of the
vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun." Yea,
dust, and fallen rose-leaves, and last year's snow.

And yet and yet, for all this drift and dishonoured decay of things,
that retrospective mood of ours will sometimes take another turn, and,
so rare and precious in the memory seem the treasure that it has lost,
and yet in imagination still holds, that it will not resign itself to
mortal thoughts of such manifest immortalities. The snows of
yester-year! Who knows if, after all, they have so utterly vanished as
they seem. Who can say but that there may be somewhere in the universe
secret treasuries where all that has ever been precious is precious
still, safely garnered and guarded for us against some wonderful moment
which shall gather up for us in one transfiguring apocalypse all the
wonderful moments that have but preceded us into eternity. Perhaps, as
nothing is lost in the world, so-called, of matter, nothing is lost too
in the world of love and dream.

          O vanished loveliness of flowers and faces,
          Treasure of hair, and great immortal eyes,
          Are there for these no safe and secret places?
          And is it true that beauty never dies?
          Soldiers and saints, haughty and lovely names,
          Women who set the whole wide world in flames,
          Poets who sang their passion to the skies,
          And lovers wild and wise:
          Fought they and prayed for some poor flitting gleam
          Was all they loved and worshipped but a dream?
          Is Love a lie and fame indeed a breath?
          And is there no sure thing in life--but death?

Ah! perhaps we shall find all such lost and lovely things when we come
at length to the Land of Last Year's Snow.



X

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF GOSSIP


According to the old Scandinavian fable of the cosmos, the whole world
is encircled in the coils of a vast serpent. The ancient name for it was
the Midgard serpent, and doubtless, for the old myth-maker, it had
another significance. Today, however, the symbol may still hold good of
a certain terrible and hideous reality.

Still, as of old, the world is encircled in the coils of a vast serpent;
and the name of the serpent is Gossip. Wherever man is, there may you
hear its sibilant whisper, and its foul spawn squirm and sting and
poison in nests of hidden noisomeness, myriad as the spores of
corruption in a putrefying carcass, varying in size from some
hydra-headed infamy endangering whole nations and even races with its
deadly breath, to the microscopic wrigglers that multiply, a million a
minute, in the covered cesspools of private life.

Printed history is so infested with this vermin, in the form of secret
memoirs, back-stairs diarists, and boudoir eavesdroppers, that it is
almost impossible to feel sure of the actual fact of any history
whatsoever. The fame of great personages may be literally compared to
the heroic figures in the well-known group of the Laocoön, battling in
vain with the strangling coils of the sea-serpent of Poseidon. We
scarcely know what to believe of the dead; and for the living, is it not
true, as Tennyson puts it, that "each man walks with his head in a cloud
of poisonous flies"?

What is this evil leaven that seems to have been mixed in with man's
clay at the very beginning, making one almost ready to believe in the
old Manichean heresy of a principle of evil operating through nature,
everywhere doing battle with the good? Even from the courts of heaven,
as we learn from the Book of Job, the gossip was not excluded; and how
eternally true to the methods of the gossip in all ages was Satan's way
of going to work in that immortal allegory! Let us recall the familiar
scene with a quoted verse or two:

    Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves
    before the Lord, and Satan [otherwise, the Adversary] came also
    among them.

    And the Lord said unto Satan, "Whence comest thou?" Then Satan
    answered the Lord, and said: "From going to and fro in the earth,
    and from walking up and down in it."

    And the Lord said unto Satan: "Hast thou considered my servant Job,
    that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright
    man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"

    Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, "Doth Job fear God for
    nought?"

Here we have in a nutshell the whole _modus operandi_ of the gossip in
all ages, and as he may be observed at any hour of the day or night,
slimily engaged in his cowardly business. "Going to and fro in the
earth, walking up and down in it," everywhere peering and listening,
smiling and shrugging, here and there dropping a hint, sowing a seed,
leering an innuendo; seldom saying, only implying; leaving everywhere
trails of slime, yet trails too vague and broken to track him by, secure
in his very cowardice.

"Doth Job fear God for nought?" He only asks, observe. Affirms nothing.
Only innocently wonders. Sows a doubt, that's all--and leaves it to
work.

The victim may possibly be set right in the end, as was Job; but
meanwhile he has lost his flocks and his herds, his sons and his
daughters, and suffered no little inconvenience from a loathsome plague
of boils. Actually--life not being, like the Book of Job, an
allegory--he very seldom is set right, but must bear his losses and his
boils with what philosophy he can master till the end of the chapter.

The race to which Job belonged presents perhaps the most conspicuous
example of a whole people burdened throughout its history with a
heritage of malignant gossip. In the town of Lincoln, in England, there
exists to this day, as one of its show places, the famous "Jew's House,"
associated with the gruesome legend of "the boy of Lincoln"--a child,
it was whispered, sacrificed by the Jews at one of their pastoral
feasts. Such a wild belief in child-sacrifice by the Jews was widespread
in the Middle Ages, and is largely responsible, I understand, even at
the present day, for the Jewish massacres in Russia.

Think of the wild liar who first put that fearful thought into the mind
of Europe! Think of the holocausts of human lives, and all the attendant
agony of which his diabolical invention has been the cause! What
criminal in history compares in infamy with that unknown--gossip?

A similar madness of superstition, responsible for a like cruel
sacrifice of innocent lives, was the terrible belief in witchcraft.
Having its origin in ignorance and fear, it was chiefly the creation of
hearsay carried from lip to lip, beginning with the deliberate invention
of lying tongues, delighting in evil for its own sake, or taking
advantage of a ready weapon to pay off scores of personal enmity. At any
time to a period as near to our own day as the early eighteenth century,
nothing was easier than to rid oneself of an enemy by starting a whisper
going that he or she held secret commerce with evil spirits, was a
reader of magical books, and could at will cast spells of disease and
death upon the neighbours or their cattle.

You had but to be recluse in your habits and eccentric in your
appearance, with perhaps a little more wisdom in your head and your
conversation than your fellows, to be at the mercy of the first fool or
knave who could gather a mob at his heels, and hale you to the nearest
horse-pond. Statement and proof were one, and how ready, and indeed
eager, human nature was to believe the wildest nonsense told by witless
fool or unscrupulous liar, the records of such manias as the famous
Salem trials appallingly evidence. Men high in the state, as well as
helpless old women in their dotage, disfigured with "witch-moles" or
incriminating beards on their withered faces, were equally vulnerable to
this most fearful of weapons ever placed by ignorance in the hands of
the malignant gossip.

In such epidemics of tragic gossip we see plainly that, whatever
individuals are originally responsible, society at large is all too
culpably _particeps criminis_ in this phenomenon under consideration. If
the prosperity of a jest be in the ears that hear it, the like is
certainly true of any piece of gossip. Whoever it may be that sows the
evil seed of slander, the human soil is all too evilly ready to receive
it, to give it nurture, and to reproduce it in crops persistent as the
wild carrot and flamboyant as the wild mustard.

There is something mean in human nature that prefers to think evil, that
gives a willing ear and a ready welcome to calumny, a sort of jealousy
of goodness and greatness and things of good report.

Races and nations are thus ever ready to believe the worst of one
another. In all times it has been in this field of inter-racial and
international prejudice that the gossip has found the widest scope for
his gleeful activity, sowing broadcast dissensions and misunderstandings
which have persisted for centuries. They are the fruitful cause of wars,
insuperable barriers to progress, fabulous growths which the
enlightenment of the world painfully labours to weed out, but will
perhaps never entirely eradicate.

Race-hatred is undoubtedly nine-tenths the heritage of ancient gossip.
Think of the generations of ill-feeling that kept England and France,
though divided but by a narrow strait, "natural enemies" and
misunderstood monsters to each other. In a less degree, the friendship
of England and America has been retarded by international gossips on
both sides. And as for races and nations more widely separated by
distance or customs, no lies have been bad enough for them to believe
about one another.

It is only of late years that Europe has come to regard the peoples of
the Orient as human beings at all. And all this misunderstanding has
largely been the work of gossip acting upon ignorance.

It is easy to see how in the days of difficult communication, before
nations were able to get about in really representative numbers to make
mutual acquaintance, they were completely at the mercy of a few
irresponsible travellers, who said or wrote what they pleased, and had
no compunction about lying in the interests of entertainment. The
proverbial "gaiety of nations" has always, in a great degree, consisted
in each nation believing that it was superior to all others, and that
the natives of other countries were invariably hopelessly dirty and
immoral, to say the least. Such reports the traveller was expected to
bring home with him, and such he seldom failed to bring.

Even at the present time, when intercourse is so cosmopolitan, and some
approach to a sense of human brotherhood has been arrived at, the old
misconceptions die hard. Nations need still to be constantly on their
guard in believing all that the telegraph or the wireless is willing to
tell them about other countries. Electricity, many as are its advantages
for cosmopolitan _rapprochements_, is not invariably employed in the
interests of truth, and newspaper correspondents, if not watched, are
liable to be an even more dangerous form of international gossip than
the more leisurely fabulist of ancient time.

When we come to consider the operation of gossip in the lives of
individuals, the disposition of human nature to relish discrediting
rumour is pitifully conspicuous. We know _Hamlet's_ opinion on the
matter:

          Let Hercules himself do what he may,
          The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.

And again:

          Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow,
          Thou shalt not escape calumny.

This, it is to be feared, is merely the sad truth, for mankind, while it
admires both greatness and goodness, would seem to resent the one and
only half believe in the other. At all events, nothing is more to its
taste than the rumour that detracts from the great or sullies the good;
and so long as the rumour be entertaining, it has little concern for its
truth.

Froude, in writing of Caesar, has this to say admirably to our purpose:

    In ages which we call heroic, the saint works miracles, the warrior
    performs exploits beyond the strength of natural man. In ages less
    visionary, which are given to ease and enjoyment, the tendency is to
    bring a great man down to the common level, and to discover or
    invent faults which shall show that he is or was but a little man
    after all. Our vanity is soothed by evidence that those who have
    eclipsed us in the race of life are no better than ourselves, or in
    some respects worse than ourselves; and if to these general impulses
    be added political or personal animosity, accusations of depravity
    are circulated as surely about such men, and are credited as readily
    as under other influences are the marvellous achievements of a Cid
    or a St. Francis.

    The absurdity of a calumny may be as evident as the absurdity of a
    miracle; the ground for belief may be no more than a lightness of
    mind, and a less pardonable wish that it may be true. But the idle
    tale floats in society, and by and by is written down in books and
    passes into the region of established realities.

The proportion of such idle tales seriously printed as history can
never, of course, be computed. Sometimes one is tempted to think that
history is mainly "whole cloth." Certainly the lives of such men as
Caesar are largely made up of what one might term illustrative fictions
rather than actual facts. The story of Caesar and Cleopatra is probably
such an "illustrative fiction," representing something that might very
well have happened to Caesar, whether it did so or not. At all events,
it does his fame no great harm, unlike another calumny, which, as it
does not seem "illustrative"--that is, not in keeping with his general
character--we are at liberty to reject. Both alike, however, were
the product of the gossip, the embodied littleness of human nature
endeavouring then, as always, to minimize and discredit the strong man,
who, whatever his actual faults, at least strenuously shoulders for his
fellows the hard work of the world.

The great have usually been strong enough to smile contempt on their
traducers--Caesar's answer to an infamous epigram of the poet Catullus
was to ask him to dinner--but even so, at what extra cost, what "expense
of spirit in a waste of shame," have their achievements been bought,
because of these curs that bark forever at the heels of fame!

And not always have they thus prevailed against the pack. Too often has
the sorry spectacle been seen of greatness and goodness going down
before the poisonous tongues and the licking jaws. Even Caesar himself
had to fall at last, his strong soul perhaps not sorry to escape through
his dagger-wounds from so pitiably small a world; and the poison in the
death-cup of Socrates was not so much the juice of the hemlock as the
venom of the gossips of Athens.

In later times, no service to his country, no greatness of character,
can save the noble Raleigh from the tongues determined to bring him to
the block; and, when the haughty head of Marie Antoinette must bow at
last upon the scaffold, the true guillotine was the guillotine of
gossip. It was such lying tales as that of the diamond necklace that had
brought her there. All Queen Elizabeth's popularity could not save her
from the ribaldry of scandal, nor Shakespeare's genius protect his name
from the foulest of stains.

In our own time, the mere mention of the name of Dreyfus suffices to
remind us of the terrible nets woven by this dark spinner. Within the
last year or two, have we not seen the loved king of a great nation
driven to seek protection from the spectre of innuendo in the courts of
law? But gossip laughs at such tribunals. It knows that where once it
has affixed its foul stain, the mark remains forever, indelible as that
imaginary stain which not all the multitudinous seas could wash from the
little hand of Lady Macbeth. The more the stain is washed, the more
persistently it reappears, like Rizzio's blood, as they say, in Holyrood
Palace. To deny a rumour is but to spread it. An action for libel,
however it may be decided, has at least the one inevitable result of
perpetuating it.

Take the historical case of the Man with the Iron Mask. Out of pure
deviltry, it would appear, Voltaire started the story, as mere a fiction
as one of his written romances, that the mysterious prisoner was no less
than a half-brother of Louis XIV; and Dumas, seeing the dramatic
possibilities of the legend, picturesquely elaborates it in _Le Vicomte
de Bragelonne_. Never, probably, was so impudent an invention, and
surely never one so successful; for it is in vain that historians expose
it over and over again. Learned editors have proved with no shadow of a
doubt that the real man of the mask was an obscure Italian political
adventurer; but though scholars may be convinced, the world will have
nothing of your Count Matthioli, and will probably go on believing
Voltaire's story to the end of time.

"At least there must have been something in it" is always the last word
on such debatable matters; and the curious thing is that, whenever a
doubt of the truth is expressed, it is never the victim, but always the
scandal, to which the benefit of the doubt is extended. Whatever the
proven fact, the world always prefers to hold fast by the disreputable
doubt.

All that is necessary is to find the dog a bad name. The world will see
that he never loses it. In this regard the oft-reiterated confidence of
the dead in the justice of posterity is one of the most pathetic of
illusions. "Posterity will see me righted," cries some poor victim of
human wrong, as he goes down into the darkness; but of all appeals, the
appeal to posterity is the most hopeless.

What posterity relishes is rather new scandals about its immortals than
tiresome belated justifications. It prefers its villains to grow blacker
with time, and welcomes proof of fallibility and frailty in its immortal
exemplars. For rehabilitation it has neither time nor inclination,
and it pursues certain luckless reputations beyond the grave with a
mysterious malignity.

Such a reputation is that of Edgar Allan Poe. One would have thought
that posterity would be eager to make up to his shade for the criminal
animus of Rufus Griswold, his first biographer. On the contrary, it
prefers to perpetuate the lying portrait; and no consideration of the
bequests of Poe's genius, or of his tragic struggles with adverse
conditions, no editorial advocacy, or documentary evidence in his
favour, has persuaded posterity to reverse the unduly harsh judgment of
his fatuous contemporaries.

Fortunately, it all matters nothing to Poe now. It is only to us that it
matters.

Saddening, surely, it is, to say the least, to realize that the humanity
of which we are a part is tainted with so subtle a disease of lying, and
so depraved an appetite for lies. Under such conditions, it is
surprising that greatness and goodness are ever found willing to serve
humanity at all, and that any but scoundrels can be found to dare the
risks of the high places of the world. For this social disease of gossip
resembles that distemper which, at the present moment, threatens the
chestnut forests of America. It first attacks the noblest trees. Like
it, too, it would seem to baffle all remedies, and like it, it would
seem to be the work of indestructible microscopic worms.

It is this vermicular insignificance of the gossip that makes his
detection so difficult, and gives him his security. A great reputation
may feel itself worm-eaten, and may suddenly go down with a crash, but
it will look around in vain for the social vermin that have brought
about its fall. It is the cowardice of gossip that its victims have
seldom an opportunity of coming face to face with their destroyers; for
the gossip is as small as he is ubiquitous--

          Not half so big as a round little worm
          Prick'd from the lazy finger of a maid.

In all societies, there are men and women who are vaguely known as
gossips; but they are seldom caught red-handed. For one thing, they do
not often speak at first hand. They profess only to repeat something
that they have heard--something, they are careful to add, which is
probably quite untrue, and which they themselves do not believe for a
moment.

Then the fact stated or hinted is probably no concern of ours. It is not
for us to sift its truth, or to bring it to the attention of the
individual it tarnishes. Obviously, society would become altogether
impossible if each one of us were to constitute ourselves a sort of
social police to arraign every accuser before the accused. We should
thus, it is to be feared, only make things worse, and involuntarily play
the gossip's own game. The best we can do is as far as possible to
banish the tattle from our minds, and, at all events, to keep our own
mouths shut.

Even so, however, some harm will have been done. We shall never be quite
sure but that the rumour was true, and when we next meet the person
concerned, it will probably in some degree colour our attitude toward
him.

And with others, less high-minded than ourselves, the gossip will have
had greater success. Not, of course, meaning any harm, they will inquire
of someone else if what So-and-so hinted of So-and-so can possibly be
true. And so it will go on _ad infinitum_. The formula is simple, and it
is only a matter of arithmetical progression for a private lie, once
started on its journey, to become a public scandal, with a reputation
gone, and no one visibly responsible.

Of course, not all gossip is purposely harmful in its intention. The
deliberate, creative gossip is probably rare. In fact, gossip usually
represents the need of a bored world to be entertained at any price, the
restless _ennui_ that must be forever talking or listening to fill the
vacuity of its existence, to supply its lack of really vital interests.
This demand naturally creates a supply of idle talkers, whose social
existence depends on their ability to provide the entertainment desired;
and nothing would seem to be so well-pleasing to the idle human ear as
the whisper that discredits, or the story that ridicules, the
distinction it envies, and the goodness it cannot understand.

The mystery of gossip is bound up with the mysterious human need of
talking. Talk we must, though we say nothing, or talk evil from sheer
lack of subject-matter. When we know why man talks so much, apparently
for the mere sake of talking, we shall probably be nearer to knowing why
he prefers to speak and hear evil rather than good of his fellows.

Possibly the gossip would be just as ready to speak well of his victims,
to circulate stories to their credit rather than the reverse, but for
the melancholy fact that he would thus be left without an audience. For
the world has no anxiety to hear good of its neighbour, and there is no
piquancy in the disclosure of hidden virtues.

'Tis true, 'tis pity; pity 'tis, 'tis true; and the only poor
consolation to be got out of it is that the victims of gossip may, if
they feel so inclined, feel flattered rather than angered by its
attentions; for, at all events, it argues their possession of gifts
and qualities transcending the common. At least it presupposes
individuality; and, all things considered, it may be held as true that
those most gossiped about are usually those who can best afford to pay
this tax levied by society on any form of distinction.

After all, the great and good man has his greatness and goodness to
support him, though the world should unite in depreciating him. The
artist has his genius, the beautiful woman has her beauty. 'Tis in
ourselves that we are thus and thus; and if fame must have gossip for
its seamy side, there are some satisfactions that cannot be stolen away,
and some laurels that defy the worm.



XI

THE PASSING AWAY OF THE EDITOR


The word "editor" as applied to the conductors of magazines and
newspapers is rapidly becoming a mere courtesy title; for the powers and
functions formerly exercised by editors, properly so called, are being
more and more usurped by the capitalist proprietor. There are not a few
magazines where the "editor" has hardly more say in the acceptance of a
manuscript than the contributor who sends it in. Few are the editors
left who uphold the magisterial dignity and awe with which the name of
editor was wont to be invested. These survive owing chiefly to the
prestige of long service, and even they are not always free from the
encroachments of the new method. The proprietor still feels the irksome
necessity of treating their editorial policies with respect, though
secretly chafing for the moment when they shall give place to more
manageable, modern tools.

The "new" editor, in fact, is little more than a clerk doing the bidding
of his proprietor, and the proprietor's idea of editing is slavishly to
truckle to the public taste--or rather to his crude conception of the
public taste. The only real editors of today are the capitalist and the
public. The nominal editor is merely an office-boy of larger growth, and
slightly larger salary.

Innocent souls still, of course, imagine him clothed with divine powers,
and letters of introduction to him are still sought after by the
superstitious beginner. Alas! the chances are that the better he thinks
of your MS. the less likely is it to be accepted by--the proprietor; for
Mr. Snooks, the proprietor, has decided tastes of his own, and a
peculiar distaste for anything remotely savouring of the "literary." His
broad editorial axiom is that a popular magazine should be everything
and anything but--"literature." For any signs of the literary taint he
keeps open a stern and ever-watchful eye, and the "editor" or "editorial
assistant"--to make a distinction without a difference--whom he should
suspect of literary leanings has but a short shrift. Mr. Snooks is
seldom much of a reader himself. His activities have been exclusively
financial, and he has drifted into the magazine business as he might
have drifted into pork or theatres--from purely financial reasons. His
literary needs are bounded on the north by a detective story, and on the
south by a scientific article. The old masters of literature are as much
foolishness to him as the old masters of painting. In short, he is just
a common, ignorant man with money invested in a magazine; and who shall
blame him if he goes on the principle that he who pays the piper calls
the tune. When he starts in he not infrequently begins by entrusting
his magazine to some young man with real editorial ability and ambition
to make a really good thing. This young man gathers about him a group of
kindred spirits, and the result is that after the publication of the
second number Mr. Snooks decides to edit the magazine himself, with the
aid of a secretary and a few typewriters. His bright young men hadn't
understood "what the public wants" at all. They were too high-toned, too
"literary." What the public wants is short stories and pictures of
actresses; and the short stories, like the actresses, must be no better
than they should be. Even short stories when they are masterpieces are
not "what the public wants." So the bright young men go into outer
darkness, sadly looking for new jobs, and with its third number
_Snooks's Monthly_ has fallen into line with the indistinguishable ruck
of monthly magazines, only indeed distinguishable one from the other by
the euphonious names of their proprietors.

Now, a proprietor's right to have his property managed according to his
own ideas needs no emphasizing. The sad thing is that such proprietors
should get hold of such property. It all comes, of course, of the
modern vulgarization of wealth. Time was when even mere wealth was
aristocratic, and its possession, more or less implied in its possessors
the possession, too, of refinement and culture. The rich men of the past
knew enough to encourage and support the finer arts of life, and were
interested in maintaining high standards of public taste and feeling.
Thus they were capable of sparing some of their wealth for investment in
objects which brought them a finer kind of reward than the financial.
Among other things, they understood and respected the dignity of
literature, and would not have expected an editor to run a literary
venture in the interests of the illiterate. The further degradation of
the public taste was not then the avowed object of popular magazines.
Indeed--strange as it sounds nowadays--it was rather the education than
the degradation of the public taste at which the editor aimed, and in
that aim he found the support of intelligent proprietors.

Today, however, all this is changed. Wealth has become democratic, and
it is only here and there, in its traditional possessors, that it
retains its traditional aristocracy of taste. As the commonest man can
be a multi-millionaire, so the commonest man can own a magazine, and
have it edited in the commonest fashion for the common good.

As a result, the editor's occupation, in the true sense, will soon be
gone. There is, need one say, no lack today of men with real editorial
individuality--but editorial individuality is the last thing the
capitalist proprietors want. It is just that they are determined to
stamp out. Therefore, your real editor must either swallow his pride and
submit to ignorant dictation, or make way for the little band of
automatic sorters of manuscript, which, as nine tailors make a man,
nowadays constitute a sort of composite editor under the direction of
the proprietor.

With the elimination of editorial individuality necessarily follows
elimination of individuality in the magazine. More and more, every day,
magazines are conforming to the same monotonous type; so that, except
for name and cover, it is impossible to tell one magazine from another.
Happily one or two--_rari nantes in gurgito vasto_--survive amid the
democratic welter; and all who have at heart not only the interests of
literature, but the true interests of the public taste, will pray that
they will have the courage to maintain their distinction, unseduced by
the moneyed voice of the mob--a distinction to which, after all, they
have owed, and will continue to owe, their success. The names of these
magazines will readily occur to the reader, and, as they occur, he
cannot but reflect that it was just editorial individuality and a high
standard of policy that made them what they are, and what, it is
ardently to be hoped, they will still continue to be. Plutus and Demos
are the worst possible editors for a magazine; and in the end, even, it
is the best magazine that always makes the most money.



XII

THE SPIRIT OF THE OPEN


I often think, as I sit here in my green office in the woodland--too
often diverted from some serious literary business with the moon or the
morning stars, or a red squirrel who is the familiar spirit of my
wood-pile, or having my thoughts carried out to sea by the river which
runs so freshly and so truantly, with so strong a current of temptation,
a hundred yards away from my window--I often think that the strong
necessity that compelled me to do my work, to ply my pen and inkpot out
here in the leafy, blue-eyed wilderness, instead of doing it by
typewriter in some forty-two-storey building in the city, is one of
those encouraging signs of the times which links one with the great
brotherhood of men and women that have heard the call of the great god
Pan, as he sits by the river--

          Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
          Piercing sweet by the river!
          Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!

And I go on thinking to this effect: that this impulse that has come to
so many of us, and has, incidentally, wrought such a harmony in our
lives, is something more than duck-shooting, trout-fishing,
butterfly-collecting, or a sentimental passion for sunsets, but is
indeed something not so very far removed from religion, romantic
religion. At all events, it is something that makes us happy, and keeps
us straight. That combination of results can only come by the
satisfaction of the undeniable religious instinct in all of us: an
instinct that seeks goodness, but seeks happiness too. Now, there are
creeds by which you can be good without being happy; and creeds by which
you can be happy without being good. But, perhaps, there is only one
creed by which you can be both at once--the creed of the growing grass,
and the blue sky and the running river, the creed of the dog-wood and
the skunk-cabbage, the creed of the red-wing and the blue heron--the
creed of the great god Pan.

Pan, being one of the oldest of the gods, might well, in an age eager
for novelty, expect to be the latest fashion; but the revival of his
worship is something far more than a mere vogue. It was rumoured, as, of
course, we all know, early in the Christian era, that he was dead. The
pilot Thomas, ran the legend, as told by Plutarch, sailing near Pascos,
with a boatful of merchants, heard in the twilight a mighty voice
calling from the land, bidding him proclaim to all the world that Pan
was dead. "Pan is dead!"--three times ran the strange shuddering cry
through the darkness, as though the very earth itself wailed the passing
of the god.

But Pan, of course, could only die with the earth itself, and so long as
the lichen and the moss keep quietly at their work on the grey boulder,
and the lightning zigzags down through the hemlocks, and the arrowhead
guards its waxen blossom in the streams; so long as the earth shakes
with the thunder of hoofs, or pours out its heart in the song of the
veery-thrush, or bares its bosom in the wild rose, so long will there be
little chapels to Pan in the woodland--chapels on the lintels of which
you shall read, as Virgil wrote: _Happy is he who knows the rural gods,
Pan, and old Sylvanus, and the sister nymphs_.

It is strange to see how in every country, but more particularly in
America and in England, the modern man is finding his religion as it was
found by those first worshippers of the beautiful mystery of the visible
universe, those who first caught glimpses of

          Nymphs in the coppice, Naiads in the fountain,
          Gods on the craggy height and roaring sea.

First thoughts are proverbially the best; at all events, they are the
bravest. And man's first thoughts of the world and the strangely
romantic life he is suddenly called up, out of nothingness, to live,
unconsulted, uninstructed, left to feel his way in the blinding
radiance up into which he has been mysteriously thrust; those first
thoughts of his are nowadays being corroborated in every direction by
the last thoughts of the latest thinker. Mr. Jack London, one of
Nature's own writers, one of those writers too, through whom the Future
speaks, has given a name to this stirring of the human soul--"The Call
of the Wild." Following his lead, others have written of "The Lure," of
this and that in nature, and all mean the same thing: that the salvation
of man is to be found on, and by means of, the green earth out of which
he was born, and that, as there is no ill of his body which may not be
healed by the magic juices of herb and flower, or the stern potency of
minerals, so there is no sickness of his soul that may not be cured by
the sound of the sea, the rustle of leaves, or the songs of birds.

Thirty or forty years ago the soul of the world was very sick. It had
lost religion in a night of misunderstood "materialism," so-called. But
since then that mere "matter" which seemed to eclipse the soul has grown
strangely radiant to deep-seeing eyes, and, whereas then one had to
doubt everything, dupes of superficial disillusionment, now there is no
old dream that has not the look of coming true, no hope too wild and
strange and beautiful to be confidently entertained. Even, if you wish
to believe in fairies, science will hardly say you nay. Those dryads and
fauns, which Keats saw "frightened away" by the prosaic times in which
it was his misfortune to be alive and unrecognized, are trooping back in
every American woodland, and the god whose name I have invoked has
become more than ever

                                 the leaven
          That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
          Gives it a touch ethereal.

His worship is all the more sincere because it is not self-conscious.
If you were to tell the trout-fisher, or the duck-shooter, or the
camper-out, that he is a worshipper of Pan, he would look at you in a
kindly bewilderment. He would seem a little anxious about you, but it
would be only a verbal misunderstanding. It would not take him long to
realize that you were only putting in terms of a creed the intuitive and
inarticulate faith of his heart. Perhaps the most convincing sign of
this new-old faith in nature is the unconsciousness of the believer. He
has no idea that he is believing or having faith in anything. He is
simply loving the green earth and the blue sea, and the ways of birds
and fish and animals; but he is so happy in his innocent, ignorant joy
that he seems almost to shine with his happiness. There is, literally, a
light about him--that light which edges with brightness all sincere
action. The trout, or the wild duck, or the sea bass is only an innocent
excuse to be alone with the Infinite. To be alone. To be afar. Men sail
precarious craft in perilous waters for no reason they could tell
of. They may think that trawling, or dredging, or whaling is the
explanation: the real reason is the mystery we call the Sea.

Ostensibly, of course, the angler is a man who goes out to catch fish;
yet there is a great difference between an angler and a fishmonger.
Though the angler catches no fish, though his creel be empty as he
returns home at evening, there is a curious happiness and peace about
him which a mere fishmonger would be at a loss to explain. Fish, as I
said, were merely an excuse; and, as he vainly waited for fish, without
knowing it, he was learning the rhythm of the stream, and the silence of
ferns was entering into his soul, and the calm and patience of meadows
were dreamily becoming a part of him. Suddenly, too, in the silence,
maybe he caught sight of a strange, hairy, masterful presence, sitting
by the stream, whittling reeds, and blowing his breath into them here
and there, and finally binding them together with rushes, till he had
made out of the empty reeds and rushes an instrument that sang
everything that can be sung and told you everything that can be told.

          The sun on the hill forgot to die.
          And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
          Came back to dream on the river.

Do you really think that the huntsman hunts only the deer? He, himself,
doubtless thinks that the trophy of the antlers was all he went out
into the woods to win. But there came a day to him when he missed the
deer, and caught a glimpse instead of the divine huntress, Diana,
high-buskined, short-kirtled, speeding with her hounds through the
lonely woodland, and his thoughts ran no more on venison for that day.

The same truth is true of all men who go out into the green, blue-eyed
wilderness, whether they go there in pursuit of game or butterflies.
They find something stranger and better than what they went out to seek,
and, if they come home disappointed in the day's bag or catch, there is
yet something in their eyes, and across their brows, a light of peace,
an enchanted calm, which tells those who understand that they, at all
events, have seen the great god Pan, and heard the music he can make out
of the pipy hemlocks or the lonely pines.



XIII

AN OLD AMERICAN TOW-PATH


The charm of an old canal is one which every one seems to feel. Men who
care nothing about ruined castles or Gothic cathedrals light up with
romantic enthusiasm if you tell them of some old disused or seldom-used
canal, grass-grown and tree-shaded, along which, hardly oftener than
once a week, a leisurely barge--towed by an equally leisurely mule, with
its fellow there on deck taking his rest, preparatory to his next
eight-mile "shift"--sleepily dreams its way, presumably on some errand
and to some destination, yet indeed hinting of no purpose or object
other than its loitering passage through a summer afternoon. I have even
heard millionaires express envy of the life lived by the little family
hanging out its washing and smoking its pipe and cultivating its
floating garden of nasturtiums and geraniums, with children playing and
a house-dog to keep guard, all in that toy house of a dozen or so feet,
whose foundations are played about by fishes, and whose sides are
brushed by whispering reeds. But the charm of an old canal is perhaps
yet more its own when even so tranquil a happening as the passage of a
barge is no longer looked for, and the quiet water is called upon for no
more arduous usefulness than the reflection of the willows or the
ferrying across of summer clouds. Nature herself seems to wield a new
peculiar spell in such association--old quarries, the rusting tramways
choked with fern; forgotten mines with the wild vine twining tenderly
about the old iron of dismantled pit-tackle, grown as green as itself
with the summer rains; roads once dusty with haste over which only the
moss and the trailing arbutus now leisurely travel. Wherever Nature is
thus seen to be taking to herself, making her own, what man has first
made and grown tired of, she is twice an enchantress, strangely
combining in one charm the magic of a wistful, all but forgotten, past
with her own sibyl-line mystery.

The symbol of that combined charm is that poppy of oblivion of which Sir
Thomas Browne so movingly wrote: but, though along that old canal of
which I am thinking and by which I walked a summer day, no poppies were
growing, the freshest grass, the bluest flowers, the new-born rustling
leafage of the innumerable trees, all alike seemed to whisper of
forgetfulness, to be brooding, even thus in the very heyday of the mad
young year, over time past. And this eloquently retrospective air of
Nature made me realize, with something of the sense of discovery, how
much of what we call antiquity is really a trick of Nature. She is as
clever at the manufacture of antiques as some expert of "old masters."
A little moss here and there, a network of ivy, a judicious use of ferns
and grass, a careless display of weeds and wild flowers, and in twenty
years Nature can make a modern building look as if it dated from the
Norman Conquest. I came upon this reflection because, actually, my canal
is not very old, though from the way it impressed me, and from the
manner in which I have introduced it, the reader might well imagine it
as old as Venice and no younger than Holland, and may find it as hard to
believe as I did that its age is but some eighty years, and that it has
its romantic being between Newark Bay and Phillipsburg, on the Delaware
River.

One has always to be careful not to give too much importance to one's
own associative fancies in regard to the names of places. To me, for
instance, "Perth Amboy" has always had a romantic sound, and I believe
that a certain majesty in the collocation of the two noble words would
survive that visit to the place itself which I have been told is all
that is necessary for disillusionment. On the other hand, for reasons
less explainable, Hackensack, Paterson, Newark, and even Passaic are
names that had touched me with no such romantic thrill. Wrongfully, no
doubt, I had associated them with absurdity, anarchy, and railroads.
Never having visited them, it was perhaps not surprising that I should
not have associated them with such loveliness and luxury of Nature as I
now unforgettably recall; and I cannot help feeling that in the case of
places thus unfortunately named, Nature might well bring an action for
damages, robbed as she thus undoubtedly is of a flock of worshippers.

At all events, I believe that my surprise and even incredulity will be
understood when an artist friend of mine told me that by taking the Fort
Lee ferry, and trolleying from the Palisades through Hackensack to
Paterson, I might find--a dream canal. It was as though he had said that
I had but to cross over to Hoboken to find the Well at the World's End.
But it was true, for all that--quite fairy-tale true. It was one of
those surprises of peace, deep, ancient peace, in America, of which
there are many, and of which more needs to be told. I can conceive of no
more suggestive and piquant contrast than that of the old canal gliding
through water-lilies and spreading pastures, in the bosom of hills
clothed with trees that scatter the sunshine or gather the darkness, the
haunt of every bird that sings or flashes strange plumage and is gone,
gliding past flowering rushes and blue dragon-flies, not

          Flowing down to Camelot,

as one might well believe, but between Newark and Phillipsburg, touching
Paterson midway with its dreaming hand.

Following my friend's directions, we had met at Paterson, and, desirous
of finding our green pasture and still waters with the least possible
delay, we took a trolley running in the Newark direction, and were
presently dropped at a quaint, quiet little village called Little Falls,
the last we were to see of the modern work-a-day world for several
miles. A hundred yards or so beyond, and it is as though you had entered
some secret green door into a pastoral dream-land. Great trees, like
rustling walls of verdure, enclose an apparently endless roadway of
gleaming water, a narrow strip of tow-path keeping it company,
buttressed in from the surrounding fields with thickets of every species
of bush and luxurious undergrowth, and starred with every summer flower.

Presently, by the side of the path, one comes to an object which seems
romantically in keeping with the general character of the scene--a long
block of stone, lying among the grasses and the wild geraniums, on
which, as one nears it, one descries carved scroll-work and quaint,
deep-cut lettering. Is it the tomb of dead lovers, the memorial of some
great deed, or an altar to the _genius loci_? The willows whisper about
it, and the great elms and maples sway and murmur no less impressively
than if the inscription were in Latin of two thousand years ago. Nor is
it in me to regret that the stone and its inscription, instead of
celebrating the rural Pan, commemorate the men to whom I owe this lane
of dreaming water and all its marginal green solitude: to wit--the
"MORRIS CANAL AND BANKING CO., A.D. 1829," represented by its
president, its cashier, its canal commissioner, and a score of other
names of directors, engineers, and builders. Peace, therefore, to the
souls of those dead directors, who, having only in mind their banking
and engineering project, yet unconsciously wrought, nearly a century
ago, so poetic a thing, and may their rest be lulled by such leafy
murmurs and swaying of tendrilled shadows as all the day through stir
and sway along the old canal!

A few yards beyond this monumental stone, there comes a great opening in
the sky, a sense of depth and height and spacious freshness in the air,
such as we feel on approaching the gorge of a great river; and in fact
the canal has arrived at the Passaic and is about to be carried across
it in a sort of long, wooden trough, supported by a noble bridge that
might well pass for a genuine antique, owing to that collaborating hand
of Nature which has filled the interstices of its massive masonry with
fern, and so loosened it here and there that some of the canal escapes
in long, ribbon-like cascades into the rocky bed of the river below. An
aqueduct has always seemed to me, though it would be hard to say why, a
most romantic thing. The idea of carrying running water across a bridge
in this way--water which it is so hard to think of as imprisoned or
controlled, and which, too, however shallow, one always associates with
mysterious depth--the idea of thus carrying it across a valley high up
in the air, so that one may look underneath it, underneath the bed in
which it runs, and think of the fishes and the water-weeds and the
waterbugs all being carried across with it, too--this, I confess, has
always seemed to me engagingly marvellous. And I like, too, to think
that the canal, whose daily business is to be a "common carrier" of
others, thus occasionally tastes the luxury of being carried itself; as
sometimes one sees on a freight car a new buggy, or automobile, or
sometimes a locomotive, being luxuriously ridden along--as though out
for a holiday--instead of riding others.

And talking of freight-cars, it came to me with a sense of illumination
how different the word "Passaic" looks printed in white letters on the
grey sides of grim produce-vans in begrimed procession, from the way it
looks as it writes its name in wonderful white waterfalls, or murmurs it
through corridors of that strange pillared and cake-shaped rock, amid
the golden pomp of a perfect summer day. For a short distance the
Passaic and the canal run side by side, but presently they part company,
and mile after mile the canal seems to have the world to itself, once in
a great while finding human companionship in a shingled cottage half
hidden among willows, a sleepy brick-field run on principles as ancient
as itself, shy little girls picking flowers on its banks, or saucy boys
disporting themselves in the old swimming-hole; and

          Sometimes an angler comes and drops his hook
          Within its hidden depths, and 'gainst a tree
          Leaning his rod, reads in some pleasant book,
          Forgetting soon his pride of fishery;
            And dreams or falls asleep,
            While curious fishes peep
          About his nibbled bait or scornfully
            Dart off and rise and leap.

Once a year, indeed, every one goes a-fishing along the old canal--men,
women, boys, and girls. That is in spring, when the canal is emptied for
repairs, the patching up of leaks, and so forth. Then the fish lie
glittering in the shallow pools, as good as caught, and happy children
go home with strings of sunfish,--"pumpkin-seeds" they call
them,--cat-fish, and the like picturesque unprofitable spoils, while
graver fisher-folk take count of pickerel and bream. This merry festival
was over and gone, and the canal was all brimming with the lustral
renewal of its waters, its depths flashing now and again with the
passage of wary survivors of that spring _battue_.

It is essential to the appreciation of an old canal that one should not
expect it to provide excitement, that it be understood between it and
its fellow-pilgrim that there is very little to say and nothing to
record. Along the old tow-path you must be content with a few simple,
elemental, mysterious things. To enter into its spirit you must be
somewhat of a monastic turn of mind, and have spiritual affiliations,
above all, with La Trappe. For the presiding muse of an old canal is
Silence; yet, as at La Trappe, a silence far indeed from being a dumb
silence, but a silence that contains all speech. My friend and I spoke
hardly at all as we walked along, easily obedient to the spirit of the
hour and the place. For there were so few of those little gossipy
accidents and occurrences by the way that make those interruptions we
call conversation, and such overwhelming golden-handed presences of
sunlit woodlands, flashing water-meadows, shining, singing air, and
distant purple hills--all the blowing, rippling, leafy glory and mighty
laughter of a summer day--that we were glad enough to let the birds do
such talking as Nature deemed necessary; and I seem never to have heard
or seen so many birds, of so many varieties, as haunt that old canal.

As we chose our momentary camping-place under a buttonwood-tree, from
out an exuberant swamp of yellow water-lilies and the rearing
sword-blades of the coming cat-tail, a swamp blackbird, on his glossy
black orange-tipped wings, flung us defiance with his long, keen, full,
saucy note; and as we sat down under our buttonwood and spread upon the
sward our pastoral meal, the veery-thrush--sadder and stranger than any
nightingale--played for us, unseen, on an instrument like those old
water-organs played on by the flow and ebb of the tide, a flute of
silver in which some strange magician has somewhere hidden tears. I
wondered, as he sang, if the veery was the thrush that, to Walt
Whitman's fancy, "in the swamp in secluded recesses" mourned the death
of Lincoln:

        Solitary the thrush,
        The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,
        Sings to himself a song.

But when the veery had flown with his heart-break to some distant copse,
two song-sparrows came to persuade us with their blithe melody that life
was worth living, after all; and cheerful little domestic birds, like
the jenny-wren and the chipping-sparrow, pecked about and put in between
whiles their little chit-chat across the boughs, while the bobolink
called to us like a comrade, and the phoebe-bird gave us a series of
imitations, and the scarlet tanager and the wild canary put in a vivid
appearance, to show what can be done with colour, though they have no
song.

Yet, while one was grateful for such long, green silence as we found
along that old canal, one could not help feeling how hard it would be
to put into words an experience so infinite and yet so undramatic. Birds
and birds, and trees and trees, and the long, silent water! Prose has
seldom been adequate for such moments. So, as my friend and I took up
our walk again, I sang him this little song of the Silence of the Way:

          Silence, whose drowsy eyelids are soft leaves,
            And whose half-sleeping eyes are the blue flowers,
          On whose still breast the water-lily heaves,
            And all her speech the whisper of the showers.

          Made of all things that in the water sway,
            The quiet reed kissing the arrowhead,
          The willows murmuring, all a summer day,
            "Silence"--sweet word, and ne'er so softly said

          As here along this path of brooding peace,
            Where all things dream, and nothing else is done
          But all such gentle businesses as these
            Of leaves and rippling wind, and setting sun

          Turning the stream to a long lane of gold,
            Where the young moon shall walk with feet of pearl,
          And, framed in sleeping lilies, fold on fold.
            Gaze at herself like any mortal girl.

But, after all, trees are perhaps the best expression of silence, massed
as they are with the merest hint of movement, and breathing the merest
suggestion of a sigh; and seldom have I seen such abundance and variety
of trees as along our old canal--cedars and hemlocks and hickory
dominating green slopes of rocky pasture, with here and there a clump of
silver birches bent over with the strain of last year's snow; and all
along, near by the water, beech and basswood, blue-gum and pin-oak, ash,
and even chestnut flourishing still, in defiance of blight. Nor have I
ever seen such sheets of water-lilies as starred the swampy thickets, in
which elder and hazels and every conceivable bush and shrub and giant
grass and cane make wildernesses pathless indeed save to the mink and
the water-snake, and the imagination that would fain explore their
glimmering recesses.

No, nothing except birds and trees, water-lilies and such like
happenings, ever happens along the old canal; and our nearest to a human
event was our meeting with a lonely, melancholy man, sitting near a
moss-grown water-wheel, smoking a corn-cob pipe, and gazing wistfully
across at the Ramapo Hills, over which great sunlit clouds were
billowing and casting slow-moving shadows. Stopping, we passed him the
time of day and inquired when the next barge was due. For answer he took
a long draw at his corn-cob, and, taking his eyes for a moment from the
landscape, said in a far-away manner that it might be due any time now,
as the spring had come and gone, and implying, with a sort of sad humour
in his eyes, that spring makes all things possible, brings all things
back, even an old slow-moving barge along the old canal.

"What do they carry on the canal?" I asked the melancholy man, the
romantic green hush and the gleaming water not irrelevantly flashing on
my fancy that far-away immortal picture of the lily-maid of Astolat on
her strange journey, with a letter in her hand for Lancelot.

"Coal," was his answer; and, again drawing at his corn-cob, he added,
with a sad and understanding smile, "once in a great while." Like most
melancholy men, he seemed to have brains, in his way, and to have no
particular work on hand, except, like ourselves, to dream.

"Suppose," said I, "that a barge should come along, and need to be drawn
up this 'plane'--would the old machinery work?" and I pointed to six
hundred feet of sloping grass, down which a tramway stretches and a
cable runs on little wheels--technically known, it appeared, as a
"plane."

Then the honour of the ancient company for which he had once worked
seemed to stir his blood, and he awakened to something like enthusiasm
as he explained the antique, picturesque device by which it is still
really possible for a barge to climb six hundred feet of grass and
fern--drawn up in a long "cradle," instead of being raised by locks in
the customary way.

Then he took us into the old building where, in the mossed and dripping
darkness, we could discern the great water-wheels that work this
fascinating piece of ancient engineering; and added that there would
probably be a barge coming along in three or four days, if we should
happen to be in the neighbourhood. He might have added that the old
canal is one of the few places where "time and tide" wait for any one
and everybody--but alas! on this occasion we could not wait for them.

Our walk was nearing its end when we came upon a pathetic reminder that,
though the old canal is so far from being a stormy sea, there have been
wrecks even in those quiet waters. In a backwater whispered over by
willows and sung over by birds, a sort of water-side graveyard, eleven
old barges were ingloriously rotting, unwept and unhonoured. The hulks
of old men-of-war, forgotten as they may seem, have still their annual
days of bunting and the salutes of cannon; but to these old servitors of
peace come no such memorial recognitions.

"Unwept and unhonoured, may be," said I to my friend, "but they shall
not go all unsung, though humble be the rhyme"; so here is the rhyme I
affixed to an old nail on the mouldering side of the _Janita C.
Williams_:

          You who have done your work and asked no praise,
          Mouldering in these unhonoured waterways,
          Carrying but simple peace and quiet fire,
          Doing a small day's work for a small hire--
          You need not praise, nor guns, nor flags unfurled,
          Nor all such cloudy glories of the world;
          The laurel of a simple duty done
          Is the best laurel underneath the sun,
          Yet would two strangers passing by this spot
          Whisper, "Old boat--you are not all forgot!"



XIV

A MODERN SAINT FRANCIS


We were neither of us fox-hunting ourselves, but chanced both to be out
on our morning walk and to be crossing a breezy Surrey common at the
same moment, when the huntsmen and huntresses of the Slumberfold Hunt
were blithely congregating for a day's run. A meet is always an
attractive sight, and we had both come to a halt within a yard or two of
each other, and stood watching the gallant company of fine ladies and
gentlemen on their beautiful, impatient mounts, keeping up a prancing
conversation, till the exciting moment should arrive when the cry would
go up that the fox had been started, and the whole field would sweep
away, a cataract of hounds, red-coats, riding habits, and dog-carts.

The moment came. The fox had been found in a spinney running down to
Withy Brook, and his race for life had begun. With a happy shout, the
hunt was up and off in a twinkling, and the stranger and I were left
alone on the broad common.

I had scanned him furtively as he stood near me; a tall, slightly build
man of about fifty, with perfectly white hair, and strangely gentle
blue eyes. There was a curious, sad distinction over him, and he had
watched the scene with a smile of blended humour and pity.

Turning to me, as we were left alone, and speaking almost as though to
himself: "It is a strange sight," he said with a sigh. "I wonder if it
seems as strange to you? Think of all those grown-up, so-called
civilized people being so ferociously intent on chasing one poor little
animal for its life--and feeling, when at last the huntsman holds up his
poor brush, with absurd pride (if indeed the fox is not too sly for
them), that they have really done something clever, in that with so many
horses and dogs and so much noise, they have actually contrived to catch
and kill one fox!"

"It is strange!" I said, for I had been thinking just that very thing.

"Of course, they always tell you," he continued, as we took the road
together, "that the fox really enjoys being hunted, and that he feels
his occupation gone if there are no hounds to track him, and finally to
tear him to pieces. What wonderful stories human nature will tell itself
in its own justification! Can one imagine any created thing _enjoying_
being pursued for its life, with all that loud terror of men and horses
and savage dogs at its heels? No doubt--if we can imagine even a fox so
self-conscious--it would take a certain pride in its own cunning and
skill, if the whole thing were a game; but a race with death is too
deadly in earnest for a fox even to relish his own stratagems. Happily
for the fox, it is probable that he does not feel so much for himself as
some of us feel for him; but any one who knows the wild things knows too
what terror they are capable of feeling, and how the fear of death is
always with them. No! you may be sure that a fox prefers a cosy
hen-roost to the finest run with the hounds ever made."

"But even if he should enjoy being hunted," I added, "the even stranger
thing to me is that civilized men and women should enjoy hunting him."

"Isn't it strange?" answered my companion eagerly, his face lighting up
at finding a sympathizer. "When will people realize that there is so
much more fun in studying wild things than in killing them!..."

He stopped suddenly in his walk, to gather a small weed which had
caught his quick eye by the roadside, and which he examined for a
moment through a little pocket microscope which I noticed, hanging
like an eyeglass round his neck, and which I learned afterward quite
affectionately to associate with him. Then, as we walked on, he
remarked:

"But, of course, we are yet very imperfectly civilized. Humanity is a
lesson learned very slowly by the human race. Yet we are learning it by
degrees, yes! we are learning it," and he threw out his long stride more
emphatically--the stride of one accustomed to long daily tramps on the
hills.

"Strange, that principle of cruelty in the universe!" he resumed, after
a pause in which he had walked on in silence. "Very strange. To me it is
the most mysterious of all things--though, I suppose, after all, it is
no more mysterious than pity. When, I wonder, did pity begin? Who was
the first human being to pity another? How strange he must have seemed
to the others, how incomprehensible and ridiculous--not to say
dangerous! There can be little doubt that he was promptly dispatched
with stone axes as an enemy of a respectable murderous society."

"I expect," said I "that our friends the fox-hunters would take a
similar view of our remarks on their sport."

"No doubt--and perhaps turn their hounds on us! A man hunt! 'Give me the
hunting of man!' as a brutal young poet we know of recently sang."

"How different was the spirit of Emerson's old verse," I said:

          "Hast thou named all the birds without a gun?
          Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk?...
          O be my friend, and teach me to be thine!"

"That is one of my mottoes!" cried my companion with evident pleasure.
"Let us go and quote it to our fox-hunters!"

"I wonder how the fox is getting on," I said.

"If he is any sort of fox, he is safe enough as yet, we may be sure.
They are wonderful creatures. It is not surprising that mankind has
always looked upon Reynard as almost a human being--if not more--for
there is something quite uncanny in his instincts, and the cool,
calculating way in which he uses them. He is come and gone like a ghost.
One moment you were sure you saw him clearly close by and the next he is
gone--who knows where? He can run almost as swiftly as light, and as
softly as a shadow; and in his wildest dash, what a sure judgment he has
for the lie of the ground, how unerringly--and at a moment when a
mistake is death--he selects his cover! How learned, too, he is in
his knowledge of the countryside! There is not a dry ditch, or a
water-course, or an old drain, or a hole in a bank for miles around that
is not mysteriously set down in the map he carries in his graceful,
clever head; and one need hardly say that all the suitable hiding-places
in and around farm-yards are equally well known to him. Then withal he
is so brave. How splendidly, when wearied out, and hopelessly tracked
down, with the game quite up, he will turn on his pursuers, and die with
his teeth fast in his enemy's throat!"

"I believe you are a fox-hunter in disguise," I laughed.

"Well, I have hunted as a boy," he said, "and I know something of what
those red-coated gentlemen are feeling. But soon I got more interested
in studying nature than killing it, and when I became a naturalist I
ceased to be a hunter. You get to love the things so that it seems like
killing little children. They come so close to you, are so beautiful and
so clever; and sometimes there seems such a curious pathos about them.
How any one can kill a deer with that woman's look in its eyes, I don't
know. I should always expect the deer to change into a fairy princess,
and die in my arms with the red blood running from her white breast. And
pigeons, too, with their soft sunny coo all the summer afternoon, or the
sudden lapping of sleepy wings round the chimneys--how can any one trap
or shoot them with blood-curdling rapidity, and not expect to see
ghosts!"

"Of course, there is this difference about the fox," I said, "that it is
really in a sense born to be hunted. For not only is it a fierce hunter
itself, but it would not be allowed to exist at all, so to say, unless
it consented to being hunted. Like a gladiator it accepts a comfortable
living for a certain time, on condition of its providing at last a
spirited exhibition of dying. In other words, it is preserved entirely
for the purpose of being hunted. It must accept life on that condition
or be extirpated as destructive vermin by the plundered farmer. Life is
sweet, after all, and to be a kind of protected highwayman of the
poultry-yard, for a few sweet toothsome years, taking one's chances of
being surely brought to book at last, may perhaps seem worth while."

"Yes! but how does your image of the protected gladiator reflect on
those who protect him? There, of course, is the point. The gladiator, as
you say, is willing to take his chances in exchange for fat living and
idleness, as long as he lives. You may even say that his profession is
good for him, develops fine qualities of mind even as well as body--but
what of the people who crowd with blood-thirsty eagerness to watch those
qualities exhibited in so tragic a fashion for their amusement? Do they
gain any of his qualities of skill and courage, and strength and
fearlessness in the face of death? No, they are merely brutalized by
cruel excitement--and while they applaud his skill and admire his
courage, they long most to watch him die. So--is it not?--with our
friend the fox. The huntsman invariably compliments him on his spirit
and his cunning, but what he wants is--the brush. He wants the
excitement of hunting the living thing to its death; and, let huntsmen
say what they will about the exhilaration of the horse exercise across
country as being the main thing, they know better--and, if it be true,
why don't they take it without the fox?"

"They do in America, as, of course, you know. There a man walks across
country trailing a stick, at the end of which is a piece of cloth
impregnated with some pungent scent which hounds love and mistake for
the real thing."

"Hard on the poor hounds!" smiled my friend. "Even worse than a red
herring. You could hardly blame the dogs if they mistook the man for
Actaeon and tore him to pieces."

"And I suspect that the huntsmen are no better satisfied."

"Yet, as we were saying, if the secret spring of their sport is not the
cruel delight of pursuing a living thing to its death, that American
plan should serve all the purposes, and give all the satisfaction for
which they claim to follow the hounds: the keen pleasure of a gallop
across country, the excitement of its danger, the pluck and pride of
taking a bad fence, and equally, too, the pleasure of watching the
hounds cleverly at work with their mysterious gift of scent. All the
same, I suspect there are few sportsmen who would not vote it a tame
substitute. Without something being killed, the zest, the 'snap,' is
gone. It is as depressing as a sham fight."

"Yes, that mysterious shedding of blood! what a part it has played in
human history! Even religion countenances it, and war glorifies it. Men
are never in higher spirits than when they are going to kill, or be
killed themselves, or see something else killed. Tennyson's 'ape and
tiger' die very hard in the tamest of us."

"Alas, indeed they do!" said my friend with a sigh. "But I do believe
that they are dying none the less. Just of late there has been a
reaction in favour of brute force, and people like you and me have been
ridiculed as old-fashioned sentimentalists. But reaction is one of the
laws of advance. Human progress always takes a step backwards after it
has taken two forward. And so it must be here too. In the end, it is the
highest type among men and nations that count, and the highest types
among both today are those which show most humanity, shrink most from
the infliction of pain. When one thinks of the horrible cruelties that
were the legal punishment of criminals, even within the last two hundred
years, and not merely brutal criminals, but also political offenders or
so-called heretics--how every one thought it the natural and proper
thing to break a man on the wheel for a difference of opinion, or
torture him with hideous ingenuity into a better frame of mind, and
how the pettiest larcenies were punished by death; it seems as if we
of today, even the least sensitive of us, cannot belong to the same
race--and it is impossible to deny that the heart of the world has grown
softer and that pity is becoming more and more a natural instinct in
human nature. I believe that some day it will have thrust out cruelty
altogether, and that the voluntary infliction of pain upon another will
be unknown. The idea of any one killing for pleasure will seem too
preposterous to be believed, and soldiers and fox-hunters and
pigeon-shooters will be spoken of as nowadays we speak of cannibals.
But, of course, I am a dreamer," he concluded, his face shining with his
gentle dream, as though he had been a veritable saint of the calendar.

"Yes, a dream," he added presently, "and yet--"  In that "and yet"
there was a world of invincible faith that made it impossible not to
share his dream, even see it building before one's eyes--such is the
magnetic power of a passionate personal conviction.

"Of course," he went on again, "we all know that 'nature is one with
rapine, a harm no preacher can heal.' But because the fox runs off with
the goose, or the hawk swoops down on the chicken, and 'yon whole little
wood is a world of plunder and prey'--is that any reason why we should
be content to plunder and prey too? And after all, the cruelty of Nature
is only one-sided. There is lots of pity in Nature too. These strange
little wild lives around us are not entirely bent on killing and eating
each other. They know the tenderness of motherhood, the sweetness of
building a home together, and I believe there is far more comradeship
and mutual help amongst them than we know of. Yes, even in wild Nature
there is a principle of love working no less than a principle of hate.
Nature is not all-devouring and destroying. She is loving and building
too. Nature is more constructive than destructive, and she is ever at
work evolving and evolving a higher dream. Surely it is not for man, to
whom, so far as we know, Nature has entrusted the working out of her
finest impulses, and whom she has endowed with all the fairy apparatus
of the soul; it is not for him, whose eyes--of all her children--Nature
has opened, the one child she has taken into her confidence and to whom
she has whispered her secret hopes and purposes; surely it is not for
man voluntarily to deny his higher lot, and, because the wolf and he
have come from the same great mother, say: 'I am no better than the
wolf. Why should I not live the life of a wolf--and kill and devour like
my brother?' Surely it is not for the cruel things in Nature to teach
man cruelty--rather, if it were possible," and the saint smiled at his
fancy, "would it be the mission of man to teach them kindness: rather
should he preach pity to the hawk and peace between the panther and the
bear. It is not the bad lessons of Nature, but the good, that are meant
for man--though, as you must have noticed, man seldom appeals to the
precedents of Nature except to excuse that in him which is Nature at her
worst. When we say, 'it is only natural,' we almost invariably refer to
that in Nature of which Nature herself has entrusted the refinement or
the elimination to man. It is Nature's bad we copy, not Nature's good;
and always we forget that we ourselves are a part of Nature--Nature's
vicegerent, so to say, upon the earth--"

As we talked, we had been approaching a house built high among the
heather, with windows looking over all the surrounding country.
Presently, the saint stopped in front of it.

"This is my house," he said. "Won't you come in and see me some
time?--and, by the way, I am going to talk to some of the village
children about the wild things, bird's nesting, and so forth, up at the
schoolhouse on Thursday. I wish you'd come and help me. One's only hope
is with the children. The grown-up are too far gone. Mind you come."

So we parted, and, as I walked across the hill homeward, haunted by that
gentle face, I thought of Melampus, that old philosopher who loved the
wild things so and had made such friends with them, that they had taught
him their language and told him all their secrets:

          With love exceeding a simple love of the things
            That glide in grasses and rubble of woody wreck;
          Or change their perch on a beat of quivering wings
            From branch to branch, only restful to pipe and peck;
          Or, bridled, curl at a touch their snouts in a ball;
            Or cast their web between bramble and thorny hook;
          The good physician, Melampus, loving them all,
            Among them walked, as a scholar who reads a book.

As I dipped into the little thick-set wood that surrounds my house,
something stood for a second in one of the openings, then was gone like
a shadow. I was glad to think how full of bracken and hollows, and
mysterious holes and corners of mossed and lichened safety was our old
wood--for the shadow was a fox. I like to think it was the very fox we
had been talking about come to find shelter with me--and, if he stole a
meal out of our hen-roost, I gave it him before he asked it, with all
the will in the world. I hope he chose a good fat hen, and not one of
your tough old capons that sometimes come to table.



XV

THE LITTLE GHOST IN THE GARDEN


I don't know in what corner of the garden his busy little life now takes
its everlasting rest. None of us had the courage to stand by, that
summer morning, when Morris, our old negro man, buried him, and we felt
sympathetic for Morris that the sad job should fall upon him, for Morris
loved him just as we did. Perhaps if we had loved him less, more
sentimentally than deeply, we should have indulged in some sort of
appropriate ceremonial, and marked his grave with a little stone. But,
as I have said, his grave, like that of the great prophet, is a secret
to this day. None of us has ever asked Morris about it, and his grief
has been as reticent as our own. I wondered the other night, as I walked
the garden in a veiled moonlight, whether it was near the lotus-tanks he
was lying--for I remembered how he would stand there, almost by the
hour, watching the goldfish that we had engaged to protect us against
mosquitoes, moving mysteriously under the shadows of the great flat
leaves. In his short life he grew to understand much of this strange
world, but he never got used to those goldfish; and often I have seen
him, after a long wistful contemplation of them, turn away with a sort
of half-frightened, puzzled bark, as though to say that he gave it up.
Or, does he lie, I wonder, somewhere among the long grass of the
salt-marsh, that borders our garden, and in perigee tides widens out
into a lake. There indeed would be his appropriate country, for there
was the happy hunting-ground through which in life he was never tired of
roaming, in the inextinguishable hope of mink, and with the occasional
certainty of a water-rat.

He had come to us almost as mysteriously as he went away; a fox-terrier
puppy wandered out of the Infinite to the neighbourhood of our ice-box,
one November morning, and now wandered back again. Technically, he was
just graduating out of puppyhood, though, like the most charming human
beings, he never really grew up, and remained, in behaviour and
imagination, a puppy to the end. He was a dog of good breed and good
manners, evidently with gentlemanly antecedents canine and human. There
were those more learned in canine aristocracy than ourselves who said
that his large leaf-like, but very becoming, ears meant a bar sinister
somewhere in his pedigree, but to our eyes those only made him
better-looking; and, for the rest of him, he was race--race nervous,
sensitive, refined, and courageous--from the point of his all-searching
nose to the end of his stub of a tail, which the conventional docking
had seemed but to make the more expressive. We had already one dog in
the family when he arrived, and two Maltese cats. With the cats he was
never able to make friends, in spite of persistent well-intentioned
efforts. It was evident to us that his advances were all made in the
spirit of play, and from a desire of comradeship, the two crowning needs
of his blithe sociable spirit. But the cats received them in an attitude
of invincible distrust, of which his poor nose frequently bore the sorry
signature. Yet they had become friendly enough with the other dog, an
elderly setter, by name Teddy, whose calm, lordly, slow-moving ways were
due to a combination of natural dignity, vast experience of life, and
some rheumatism. As Teddy would sit philosophizing by the hearth of an
evening, immovable and plunged in memories, yet alert on the instant to
a footfall a quarter of a mile away, they would rub their sinuous
smoke-grey bodies to and fro beneath his jaws, just as though he were a
piece of furniture; and he would take as little notice of them as though
he were the leg of the piano; though sometimes he would wag his tail
gently to and fro, or rap it softly on the floor, as though appreciating
the delicate attention.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of Teddy's reception of the newcomer we had at first some slight
misgiving, for, amiable as we have just seen him with his Maltese
companions, and indeed as he is generally by nature, his is the
amiability that comes of conscious power, and is his, so to say, by
right of conquest; for of all neighbouring dogs he is the acknowledged
king. The reverse of quarrelsome, the peace of his declining years has
been won by much historical fighting, and his reputation among the dogs
of his acquaintance is such that it is seldom necessary for him to
assert his position. It is only some hapless stranger ignorant of his
standing that will occasionally provoke him to a display of those
fighting qualities he grows more and more reluctant to employ. Even with
such he is comparatively merciful; stern, but never brutal. Usually all
that is necessary is for him to look at them steadfastly for a few
moments in a peculiar way. This seems to convince them that, after all,
discretion is the better part, and slowly and sadly they turn around in
a curious cowed way, and walk off, apparently too scared to run, with
Teddy, like Fate, grimly at their heels, steadily "pointing" them off
the premises. We were a little anxious, therefore, as to how Teddy would
take our little terrier, with his fussy, youthful self-importance, and
eternal restless poking into other folks' affairs. But Teddy, as we
might have told ourselves, had had a long and varied experience of
terriers, and had nothing to learn from us. Yet I have no doubt that,
with his instinctive courtesy, he divined the wishes of the family in
regard to the newcomer, and was, therefore, predisposed in his favour.
This, however, did not save the evidently much overawed youngster from a
stern and searching examination, the most trying part of which seemed
to be that long, silent, hypnotizing contemplation of him, which is
Teddy's way of asserting his dignity. The little dog visibly trembled
beneath the great one's gaze, his tongue hanging out of his mouth, and
his eyes wandering helplessly from side to side; and he seemed to be
saying, in his dog way: "O yes! I know you are a very great and
important personage--and I am only a poor little puppy of no importance.
Only please let me go on living--and you will see how well I will
behave." Teddy seemed to be satisfied that some such recognition and
submission had been tendered him; so presently he wagged his tail, that
had up till then been rigid as a ramrod, and not only the little
terrier, but all of us, breathed again. Yet it was some time before
Teddy would admit him into anything like what one might call intimacy,
and premature attempts at gamesome familiarity were checked by the
gathering thunder of a lazy growl that unmistakably bade the youngster
keep his place. But real friendship eventually grew between them,
on Teddy's side a sort of big-brother affectionate tutelage and
guardianship, and on Puppy's--for, though we tried many, we never found
any other satisfactory name for him but "Puppy"--a reverent admiration
and watchful worshipping imitation. No great man was ever more anxiously
copied by some slavish flatterer than that old sleepy carelessly-great
setter by that eager, ambitious little terrier. The occasions when to
bark and when not to bark, for example. One could actually see Puppy
studying the old dog's face on doubtful occasions of the kind. Boiling
over, as he visibly was, with the desire to bark his soul out, yet he
could be seen unmistakably restraining himself, till Teddy, after some
preliminary soliloquizing in deep undertones, had made up his mind that
the suspicious shuffling-by of probably some inoffensive Italian workman
demanded investigation, and lumberingly risen to his feet and made for
the door. Then, like a bunch of firecrackers, Puppy was at the heels,
all officious assistance, and the two would disappear like an old and a
young thunderbolt into the resounding distance.

       *       *       *       *       *

Teddy's friendship had seemed to be definitely won on an occasion which
brought home to one the quaint resemblance between the codes and ways of
dogs and those of schoolboys. When the winter came on, a rather severe
one, it soon became evident that the little short-haired fellow suffered
considerably from the cold. Out on walks, he was visibly shivering,
though he made no fuss about it. So one of the angels in the house
knitted for him a sort of woollen sweater buttoned down his neck and
under his belly, and trimmed it with some white fur that gave it an
exceedingly smart appearance. Teddy did not happen to be there when it
was first tried on, and, for the moment, Puppy had to be content with
our admiration, and his own vast sense of importance. Certainly, a more
self-satisfied terrier never was than he who presently sped out, to air
his new finery before an astonished neighbourhood. But alas! you should
have seen him a few minutes afterwards. We had had the curiosity to
stroll out to see how he had got on, and presently, in a bit of rocky
woodland near by, we came upon a curious scene. In the midst of a clump
of red cedars, three great dogs, our Teddy, a wicked old black
retriever, and a bustling be-wigged and be-furred collie, stood in a
circle round Puppy, seated on his haunches, trembling with fear, tongue
lolling and eyes wandering, for all the world as though they were
holding a court-martial, or, at all events, a hazing-party. The offence
evidently lay with that dandified new sweater. One and another of the
dogs smelt at it, then tugged at it in evident disgust; and, as each
time Puppy made a move to get away, all girt him round with guttural
thunder of disapproval, as much as to say: "Do you call that a thing for
a manly dog to go around in? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you
miserable dandy."

We couldn't help reflecting that it was all very well for those great
comfortable long-haired dogs to talk, naturally protected as they were
from the cold. Yet that evidently cut no figure with them, and they went
on sniffing and tugging and growling, till we thought our poor Puppy's
eyes and tongue would drop out with fear. Yet, all the time, they
seemed to be enjoying his plight, seemed to be smiling grimly together,
wicked old experienced brutes as they were.

Presently the idea of the thing seemed to occur to Puppy, or out of his
extremity a new soul was born within him, for suddenly an infinite
disgust of his new foppery seemed to take possession of him too, and,
regaining his courage, he turned savagely upon it, ripping it this way
and that, and struggling with might and main to rid himself of the
accursed thing. Presently he stood free, and barks of approval at once
went up from his judges. He had come through his ordeal, and was once
more a dog among dogs. Great was the rejoicing among his friends, and
the occasion having been duly celebrated by joint destruction and
contumely of the offending garment, Teddy and he returned home, friends
for life.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is to be feared that that friendship, deep and tender as it grew to
be on both sides, perhaps particularly on Teddy's, was the indirect
cause of Puppy's death. I have referred to Teddy's bark, and how he is
not wont to waste it on trivial occasions, or without due thought. On
the other hand, he is proud of it, and loves to practice it--just for
its own sake, particularly on early mornings, when, however fine a bark
it is, most of our neighbours would rather continue sleeping than wake
up to listen to it. There is no doubt at all, for those who understand
him, that it is a purely artistic bark. He means no harm to any one by
it. When the milkman, his private enemy, comes at seven, the bark is
quite different. This barking of Teddy's seems to be literally at
nothing. Around five o'clock on summer mornings, he plants himself on a
knob of rock overlooking the salt marsh and barks, possibly in honour of
the rising sun, but with no other perceptible purpose. So have I heard
men rise in the dawn to practice the cornet--but they were men, so they
ran no risk of their lives. Teddy's practicing, however, has now been
carried on for several years in the teeth of no little peril; and, had
it not been for much human influence employed on his behalf, he would
long since have antedated his little friend in Paradise. When that
little friend, however, came to assist and emulate him in those morning
recitals, adding to his bark an occasional--I am convinced purely
playful--bite, I am inclined to think that a sentiment grew in the
neighbourhood that one dog at a time was enough. At all events, Teddy
still barks at dawn as of old, but our little Puppy barks no more.

Before the final quietus came to him, there were several occasions on
which the Black dog, called Death, had almost caught him in his jaws.
One there was in especial. He had, I believe, no hatred for any living
thing save Italian workmen and automobiles. I have seen an Italian
workman throw his pick-axe at him, and then take to his heels in
grotesque flight. But the pick-axe missed him, as did many another
clumsily hurled missile.

       *       *       *       *       *

An automobile, however, on one occasion, came nearer its mark. Like
every other dog that ever barked, particularly terriers, Puppy delighted
to harass the feet of fast trotting horses, mockingly running ahead of
them, barking with affected savagery, and by a miracle evading their
on-coming hoofs--which to him, tiny thing as he was, must have seemed
like trip-hammers pounding down from the sky. But horses understand such
gaiety in terriers. They understand that it is only their foolish fun.
Automobiles are different. They have no souls. They see nothing engaging
in having their tires snapped at, as they whirl swiftly by; and, one
day, after Puppy had flung himself in a fine fury at the tires of one of
these soulless things, he gave a sharp yelp--"not cowardly!"--and lay a
moment on the roadside. But only a moment; then he went limping off on
his three sound legs, and hid himself away from all sympathy, in some
unknown spot. It was in vain we called and sought him, and only after
two days was he discovered, in the remotest corner of a great rocky
cellar, determined apparently to die alone in an almost inaccessible
privacy of wood and coal. Yet, when at last we persuaded him that life
was still sweet and carried him upstairs into the great living-room, and
the beautiful grandmother, who knows the sorrows of animals almost as
the old Roman seer knew the languages of beasts and birds, had taken
him in charge and made a cosy nest of comforters for him by the fire,
and tempted his languid appetite--to which the very thought of bones
was, of course, an offence--with warm, savory-smelling soup; then, he
who had certainly been no coward--for his thigh was a cruel lump of pain
which no human being would have kept so patiently to himself--became
suddenly, like many human invalids, a perfect glutton of self-pity; and
when we smoothed and patted him and told him how sorry we were, it was
laughable, and almost uncanny, how he suddenly set up a sort of moaning
talk to us, as much as to say that he certainly had had a pretty bad
time, was really something of a hero, and deserved all the sympathy we
would give him. So far as one can be sure about anything so mysterious
as animals, I am sure that from then on he luxuriated in his little
hospital by the fireside, and played upon the feelings of his beautiful
nurse, and of his various solicitous visitors, with all the histrionic
skill of the spoiled and petted convalescent. Suddenly, however, one
day, he forgot his part. He heard some inspiring barking going on
nearby--and, in a flash, his comforters were thrust aside, and he was
off and away to join the fun. Then, of course, we knew that he was well
again; though he still went briskly about his various business on three
legs for several days.

His manner was quite different, however, the afternoon he had so
evidently come home to die. There was no pose about the little forlorn
figure, which, after a mysterious absence of two days, suddenly
appeared, as we were taking tea on the veranda, already the very ghost
of himself. Wearily he sought the cave of the beautiful grandmother's
skirts, where, whenever he had had a scolding, he was wont always to
take refuge--barking, fiercely, as from an inaccessible fortress, at his
enemies.

       *       *       *       *       *

But, this afternoon, there was evidently no bark in him, poor little
fellow; everything about him said that he had just managed to crawl home
to die. His brisk white coat seemed dank with cold dews, and there was
something shadowy about him and strangely quiet. His eyes, always so
alert, were strangely heavy and indifferent, yet questioning and somehow
accusing. He seemed to be asking us why a little dog should suffer so,
and what was going to happen to him, and what did it all mean. Alas! We
could not tell him; and none of us dare say to each other that our
little comrade in the mystery of life was going to die. But a silence
fell over us all, and the beautiful grandmother took him into her care,
and so well did her great and wise heart nurse him through the night
that next morning it almost seemed as though we had been wrong; for a
flash of his old spirit was in him again, and, though his little legs
shook under him, it was plain that he wanted to try and be up at his
day's work on the veranda, warning off the passer-by, or in the garden
carrying on his eternal investigations, or farther afield in the
councils and expeditions of his fellows. So we let him have his way, and
for a while he seemed happier and stronger for the sunshine, and the old
familiar scents and sounds. But the one little tired husky bark he gave
at his old enemy, the Italian workman, passing by, would have broken
your heart; and the effort he made with a bone, as he visited the
well-remembered neighbourhood of the ice-box for the last time, was
piteous beyond telling. Those sharp, strong teeth that once could bite
and grind through anything could do nothing with it now. To lick it
sadly with tired lips, in a sort of hopeless way, was all that was left;
and there was really a look in his face as though he accepted this
mortal defeat, as he lay down, evidently exhausted with his exertions,
on a bank nearby. But once more his spirit seemed to revive, and he
scrambled to his legs again and wearily crawled to the back of the
house, where the beautiful grandmother loves to sit and look over the
glittering salt-marsh in the summer afternoons.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of course, he knew that she was there. She had been his best friend in
this strange world. His last effort was naturally to be near her again.
Almost he reached that kind cave of her skirts. Only another yard or two
and he had been there. But the energy that had seemed irrepressible and
everlasting had come to its end, and the little body had to give in at
last, and lie down wearily once more with no life left but the love in
its fading eyes.

There are some, I suppose, who may wonder how one can write about the
death of a mere dog like this; and cannot understand how the death of a
little terrier can make the world seem a lonelier place. But there are
others, I know, who will scarce need telling, men and women with little
ghosts of their own haunting their moonlit gardens; strange, appealing,
faithful companions, kind little friendly beings that journeyed with
them awhile the pilgrimage of the soul.

I often wonder if Teddy misses his little busy playfellow and disciple
as we do; if, perhaps, as he barks over the marsh of a morning, he is
sending him a message. He goes about the place with nonchalant greatness
as of old, and the Maltese cats still rub their sinuous smoke-grey
bodies to and fro beneath his jaws at evening. There is no sign of
sorrow upon him. But he is old and very wise, and keeps strange
knowledge to himself. So, who can say?



XVI

THE ENGLISH COUNTRYSIDE


For the genuine lover of nature, as distinct from the connoisseur of
dainty or spectacular "scenery," nature has always and everywhere some
charm or satisfaction. He will find it no less--some say more--in winter
than in summer, and I have little doubt that the great Alkali Desert is
not entirely without its enthusiasts. The nature among which we spent
our childhood is apt to have a lasting hold on us, in defiance of
showier competition, and I suppose there is no land with soul so dead
that it does not boast itself the fairest under heaven.

I am writing this surrounded by a natural scene which I would not
exchange for the Swiss lakes, yet I presume it is undeniable that
Switzerland has a more universal reputation for natural beauty than
Connecticut. It is, as we say, one of the show places of the earth. So
Niagara Falls, the Grand Cañon, the Rockies, and California generally
lord it over America. Italy has such a reputation for beauty that it is
almost unfair to expect her to live up to it. I once ventured to say
that the Alps must be greasy with being climbed, and it says much for
such stock pieces in nature's repertoire, that, in spite of all the wear
and tear of sentimental travellers, the mock-admiration of generations,
the batteries of amateur cameras, the Riviera, the English lakes, the
Welsh mountains, the Highlands of Scotland, and other tourist-trodden
classics of the picturesque, still remain haunts of beauty and joys
forever. God's masterpieces do not easily wear out.

Every country does something supremely well, and England may be said to
have a patent for a certain kind of scenery which Americans are the
first to admire. English scenery has no more passionate pilgrim than the
traveller from the United States, as the visitors' books of its various
show-places voluminously attest. Perhaps it is not difficult, when one
has lived in both countries, to understand why.

While America, apart from its impressive natural splendours, is rich
also in idyllic and pastoral landscape, it has, as yet, but little
"countryside." I say, as yet, because "the countryside," I think I am
right in feeling, is not entirely a thing of nature's making, but
rather a collaboration resulting from nature and man living so long in
partnership together. In England, with which the word is peculiarly, if
not exclusively, associated, God is not entirely to be credited with
making the country. Man has for generations also done his share.

It is perhaps not without significance that the word "countryside"
was not to be found in Webster's dictionary, till a recent edition.
Originally, doubtless, it was used with reference to those rural
districts in the vicinity of a town; as one might say the country side
of the town. Not wild or solitary nature was meant, but nature
humanized, made companionable by the presence and occupations of man; a
nature which had made the winding highway, the farm, and the pasture,
even the hamlet, with its church tower and its ancient inn, one with
herself.

The American, speeding up to London from his landing either at Liverpool
or Southampton, always exclaims on the gardenlike aspect, the deep, rich
greenness of the landscape. It is not so much the specific evidences of
cultivation, though those, of course, are plentifully present, but a
general air of ripeness and order. Even the land not visible under
cultivation suggests immemorial care and fertility. We feel that this
land has been fought over and ploughed over, nibbled over by sheep, sown
and reaped, planted and drained, walked over, hunted over, and very much
beloved, for centuries. It is not fanciful to see in it a land to
which its people have been stubbornly and tenderly devoted--still
"Shakespeare's England," still his favoured "isle set in the silver
sea."

As seen from the railway-carriage window, one is struck, too, by the
comparative tidiness of the English landscape. There are few loose ends,
and the outskirts of villages are not those distressing dump-heaps
which they too often are in America. Yet there is no excessive air of
trimness. The order and grooming seem a part of nature's processes.
There is, too, a casual charm about the villages themselves, the
graceful, accidental grouping of houses and gardens, which suggests
growth rather than premeditation. The general harmony does not preclude,
but rather comes of, the greatest variety of individual character.

Herein the English village strikingly differs from the typical New
England village, where the charm comes of a prim uniformity, and
individuality is made to give place to a general parking of lawns and
shade-trees in rectangular blocks and avenues. A New England village
suggests some large institution disposed in separate uniform buildings,
placed on one level carpet of green, each with a definite number of
trees, and the very sunlight portioned out into gleaming allotments.
The effect gained is for me one of great charm--the charm of a vivid,
exquisitely ordered, green silence, with a touch of monastic, or
Quakerish, decorum. I would not have it otherwise, and I speak of it
only to suggest by contrast the different, desultory charm of an old
English village, where beauty has not been so much planned, as has just
"occurred."

Of course, this is the natural result of the long occupation of the
land. Each century in succession has had a hand in shaping the
countryside to its present aspect, and English history is literally a
living visible part of English scenery. Here the thirteenth century has
left a church, here the fourteenth a castle, here the sixteenth, with
its suppression of the monasteries, a ruined abbey. Here is an inn where
Chaucer's pilgrims stopped on the way to Canterbury. Here, in a field
covered over by a cow-shed, is a piece of tessellated pavement which was
once the floor of an old country house occupied by one of Caesar's
generals.

Those strange grassy mounds breaking the soft sky-line of the rolling
South Downs are the tombs of Saxon chieftains, that rubble of stones at
the top of yonder hill was once a British camp, and those curious ridges
terracing yonder green slope mark the trenches of some prehistoric
battlefield. All these in the process of time have become part and
parcel of the English countryside, as necessary to its "English"
character as its trees and its wild flowers.

How much, too, the English countryside owes for its beauty to the many
old manor-houses, gabled and moated, with their quaint, mossy-walled
gardens and great forestlike parks. Whatever we may think of the English
territorial system as economics, its service to English scenery has been
incalculable. Without English traditionalism we should hardly have had
the English countryside.

The conservation of great estates, entailing a certain conservatism in
the treatment of farm lands from generation to generation, and the
upholding, too, of game-preserves, however obnoxious to the land
reformer, have been all to the good of the nature-lover. We owe no
little of the beauty of the English woodland to the English pheasant;
and with the coming of land nationalization we may expect to see
considerable changes in the English countryside. Meanwhile, in spite of,
or perhaps because of, the feudalistic character of English landlordism,
the Englishman enjoys a right of walking over his native land of which
no capitalist can rob him. Hence results another charming feature of the
English countryside--the footpaths you see everywhere winding over hill
and dale, through field and coppice. The ancient rights of these are
safeguarded to the people forever by statute no wealth can defy; and,
let any _nouveau riche_ of a landlord try to close one of them, and
he has to reckon with one of the pluckiest and most persistent
organizations of English John Hampdens, the society that makes the
protection of these traditional pathways its particular care. So the
rich man cannot lock up his trees and his woodland glades all for
himself, but is compelled to share them to the extent of allowing the
poorest pedestrian to walk through them--which is about all the rich man
can do with them himself.

These footpaths, in conjunction with English lanes, have made the charm
of walking tours in England proverbial. Certain counties particularly
pride themselves on their lands. Surrey and Devonshire are the great
rivals in this respect. We say "Surrey lanes" or "Devonshire lanes,"
as we speak of "Italian skies" or "Southern hospitality." Other
counties--Warwickshire, for example--doubtless have lanes no less
lovely, but Surrey and Devonshire have, so to say, got the decision;
and, if an American traveller wants to see a typical English lane, he
goes to Surrey or Devonshire, just as, if he wants a typical English
pork-pie, he sends to Melton Mowbray.

And the English lane has come honestly by its reputation. You may be
disappointed in Venice, but you will be hard to please if you are not
caught by the spell of an English lane. Of course, you must not expect
to feel that spell if you tear through it in a motor-car. It was made
for the loiterer, as its whimsical twists and turns plainly show. If you
are in a hurry, you had better keep to the king's highway, stretching
swift and white on the king's business. The English lane was made for
the leisurely meandering of cows to and from pasture, for the dreamy
snail-pace of time-forgetting lovers, for children gathering primroses
or wild strawberries, or for the knap-sacked wayfarer to whom time and
space are no objects, whose destination is anywhere and nowhere, whose
only clocks are the rising sun and the evening star, and to whom the way
means more than the goal.

I should not have spoken of it as "made," for, when it is most
characteristic, an English lane has no suggestion of ever having been
man-made like other roads. It seems as much a natural feature as the
woods or meadows through which it passes; and sometimes, as in Surrey,
when it runs between high banks, tunnelling its way under green boughs,
it seems more like an old river-bed than a road, whose sides nature has
tapestried with ferns and flowers. Of all roads in the world it is the
dreamer's road, luring on the wayfarer with perpetual romantic promise
and surprise, winding on and on, one can well believe, into the very
heart of fairy-land. Everything beautiful seems to be waiting for us
somewhere in the turnings of an English lane.

Had I sat down to write of the English countryside two years ago, I
should have done so with a certain amount of cautious skepticism. I
should have said to myself: "You have not visited England for over ten
years. Are you quite sure that your impressions of its natural beauties
are not the rose-coloured exaggerations of memory? Are not time and
distance lending their proverbial enchantment?" In fact, as I set sail
to revisit England, the spring before last, it was in some such mood of
anticipatory disillusion.

After all, I had said to myself, is not the English countryside the work
of the English poets--the English spring, the English wild flowers, the
English lark, the English nightingale, and so forth? That longing of
Browning expressed in the lines,

          O to be in England
          Now that April's there!

was, after all, the cry of a homesick versifier, thinking "Home
Thoughts, from Abroad"; and are Herrick and Wordsworth quite to be
trusted on the subject of daffodils?

Well, I am glad to have to own that my revisiting my native land
resulted in an agreeable disappointment. With a critical American eye,
jealously on my guard against sentimental superstition, I surveyed the
English landscape and examined its various vaunted beauties and
fascinations, as though making their acquaintance for the first time.
No, my youthful raptures had not been at fault, and the poets were once
more justified. The poets are seldom far wrong. If they see anything, it
is usually there. If we cannot see it, too, it is the fault of our eyes.

Take the English hawthorn, for instance. As its fragrance is wafted to
you from the bushes where it hangs like the fairest of white linen, you
will hardly, I think, quarrel with its praises. Yet, though it is, if I
am not mistaken, of rare occurrence in America, it is not absolutely
necessary to go to England for the hawthorn. Any one who cares to go
a-Maying along the banks of the Hudson, in the neighbourhood of
Peekskill, will find it there. But for the primrose and the cowslip you
must cross the sea; and, if you come upon such a wood as I strayed into,
my last visit, you will count it worth the trip. It was literally
carpeted with clumps of primroses and violets (violets that smell, too)
so thickly massed together in the mossy turf that there was scarcely
room to tread. There are no words rich or abundant enough to suggest the
sense of innocent luxury brought one by such a natural Persian carpet of
soft gold and dewy purple, at once so gorgeous and yet so gentle. In all
this lavish loveliness of English wild flowers there is, indeed, a
peculiar tenderness. The innocence of children seems to be in them, and
the tenderness of lovers.

          A lover would not tread
          A cowslip on the head--

How appropriately such lines come to mind as one carefully picks one's
way down a green hillside yellow with cowslips, and breathing perhaps
the most delicate of all flowery fragrances. Yet again, as we pass into
another stretch of woodland, another profusion and another fragrance
await us, the winey perfume and the spectral blue sheen of the wild
hyacinth. As one comes upon stretches of these hyacinths in the woods,
they seem at first glance like pools of blue water or fallen pieces of
the sky. Here, for once, the poets are left behind, and, of them all,
Shakespeare and Milton alone have come near to suggesting the
loveliness, at once so spiritual and so warmly and sweetly of the earth,
that belongs to English wild flowers. I know not if Sheffield steel
still keeps its position among the eternal verities, but in an age when
so many of one's cherished beliefs are threatened with the scrap-heap,
I count it of no small importance to be able to retain one's faith in
the English lark and English wild flowers.

But the English countryside is not all greenness and softness, blossomy
lanes, moated granges, and idyllic villages. It by no means always
suggests the gardener, the farmer, or the gamekeeper. It is rich, too,
in wildness and solitude, in melancholy fens and lonely moorlands. To
the American accustomed to the vast areas of his own enormous continent,
it would come as a surprise to realize that a land far smaller than many
of his States can in certain places give one so profound a sense of the
wilderness. Yet I doubt if a man could feel lonelier anywhere in the
world than on a Yorkshire moor or on Salisbury Plain.

After all, we are apt to forget that, even on the largest continent, we
can see only a limited portion of the earth at once. When one is in the
middle of Lake Erie we are as much out of sight of land, as impressed by
the illusion of boundless water, as if we were in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean. So, on Salisbury Plain, with nothing but rolling billows
of close-cropped turf, springy and noiseless to the tread, as far as the
eye can see, one feels as alone with the universe as in the middle of
some Asian desert. In addition to the actual loneliness of the scene,
and a silence broken only by the occasional tinkle of sheep-bells, as a
flock moves like a fleecy cloud across the grass, is an imaginative
loneliness induced by the overwhelming sense of boundless unrecorded
time, the "dim-grey-grown ages," of which the mysterious boulders of
Stonehenge are the voiceless witnesses. To experience this feeling to
the full one should come upon an old Roman road in the twilight,
grass-grown, choked with underbrush, but still running straight and
clearly defined as when it shook to the tread of Roman legions. It is
eery to follow one of these haunted roads, filled with the far-off
thoughts and fancies it naturally evokes, and then suddenly to come out
again into the world of today, as it joins the highway once more, and
the lights of a wayside inn welcome us back to humanity, with perhaps a
touring car standing at the door.

One need hardly say that the English wayside inn is as much a feature of
the English countryside as the English hawthorn. Its praises have been
the theme of essayists and poets for generations, and at its best there
is a cosiness and cheer about it which warm the heart, as its quaintness
and savour of past days keep alive the sense of romantic travel. There
the spirit of ancient hospitality still survives, and, though the
motor-car has replaced the stage-coach, that is, after all, but a
detail, and the old, low-ceilinged rooms, the bay windows with their
leaded panes, the tap-room with its shining vessels, the great kitchen,
the solid English fare, the brass candlesticks at bedtime, and the
lavendered sheets, still preserve the atmosphere of a novel by Fielding
or an essay by Addison.

There still, as in Shakespeare's day, one can take one's ease at one's
inn, as perhaps in the hostelries of no other land. It is the frequency
and excellence of these English inns that make it charmingly possible to
see England, as it is best seen, on foot or on a bicycle. It is not a
country of isolated wonders, with long stretches of mere road between.
Every mile counts for something. But, if the luxury of walking it with
stick and knapsack is denied us, and we must needs see it by motor-car,
we cannot fail to make one observation, that of the surprising variety
of natural scenery packed in so small a space. Between Land's End and
the Tweed the eye and the imagination have encountered every form of the
picturesque. In an area some three hundred and fifty miles long by three
hundred broad are contained the ruggedness of Cornwall, the idyllic
softness of Devon, the dreamy solitudes of the South Downs, with their
billowy, chalky contours, the agricultural fertility of Kent and
Middlesex, the romantic woodlands and hilly pastures of Surrey, the
melancholy fens of Lincolnshire, the broad, bosky levels of the
midlands, the sudden wildness of Wales, with her mountains and glens,
Yorkshire, with its grim, heather-clad moors, Westmoreland, with its
fells and Wordsworthian "Lakes"; every note in the gamut of natural
beauty has been struck, from honeysuckle prettiness to savage grandeur.

Yet, although all these contrasts are included in the English scene, it
is not of solitude or grandeur that we think when we speak of the
English countryside. They are the exceptions to the rule of a gentler,
more humanized natural beauty, in which the village church and the
ivy-clad ruin play their part. Perhaps some such formula as this would
represent the typical scene that springs to the mind's eye with the
phrase "the English countryside": a village green, with some geese
stringing out across it. A straggle of quaint thatched cottages, roses
climbing about the windows, and in front little, carefully kept gardens,
with hollyhocks standing in rows, stocks and sweet-williams and such
old-fashioned flowers. At one end of the village, rising out of a clump
of yews, the mouldering church-tower, with mossy gravestones on one side
and a trim rectory on the other. At the other end of the village a
gabled inn, with a great stable-yard, busy with horses and waggons.
Above the village, the slopes of gently rising pastures, intersected
with footpaths and shadowed with woodlands. A little way out of the
village, an old mill with a lilied mill-pond, a great, dripping
water-wheel, and the murmur of the escaping stream. And winding on
into the green, sun-steeped distance, the blossom-hung English lanes.



XVII

LONDON--CHANGING AND UNCHANGING


I find it an unexpectedly strange experience to be in London again
after ten years in New York. I had no idea it could be so strange. Of
course, there are men to whom one great city is as another--commercial
travellers, impresarios, globe-trotting millionaires. Being none of
these, I am not as much at home in St. Petersburg as in Buda-Pesth, in
Berlin as in Paris, and, while once I might have envied such plastic
cosmopolitanism, I am realizing, this last day or two in London, that,
were such an accomplishment mine, it had been impossible for me to feel
as deeply as I do my brief reincarnation into a city and a country with
which I was once so intimate, and which now seems so romantically
strange, while remaining so poignantly familiar. The man who is at home
everywhere has nowhere any home. My home was once this London--this
England--in which I am writing; but nothing so much as being in London
again could make me realize that my home now is New York, and how long
and how instinctively, without knowing it, I have been an American. It
is not indeed that I love New York and America more than I love London
and England. In fact, London has never seemed so wonderful to me in the
past as she has seemed during these days of my wistful momentary return
to her strange great heart. But this very freshness of her marvel to one
who once deemed that he knew her so well proves but the completeness of
my spiritual acclimatization into another land. I seem to be seeing her
face, hearing her voice, for the first time; while, all the while, my
heart is full with unforgotten memories, and my eyes have scarce the
hardihood to gaze with the decorum befitting the public streets on many
a landmark of vanished hours. To find London almost as new and strange
to me as New York once seemed when I first sighted her soaring morning
towers, and yet to know her for an enchanted Ghost-Land; to be able to
find my way through her streets--in spite of the new Kingsway and
Aldwych!--with closed eyes, and yet to see her, it almost seems, for the
first time: surely it is a curious, almost uncanny, experience.

Do I find London changed?--I am asked. I have been so busy in
rediscovering what I had half-forgotten, in finding engaging novelties
in things anciently familiar, that the question is one which I feel
hardly competent to answer. For instance, I had all but forgotten that
there was so noble a thing in the world as an old-fashioned English
pork-pie. Yesterday I saw one in a window, with a thrill of recognition,
that made a friend with whom I was walking think for a moment that I
had seen a ghost. He knows nothing of the human heart who cannot realize
how tremulous with ancient heart-break may seem an old-fashioned English
pork-pie--after ten years in America.

And, again, how curiously novel and charming seemed the soft and
courteous English voices--with or without aitches--all about one in
the streets and in the shops--I had almost said the "stores." I am
enamoured of the American accent, these many years, and--the calumny of
superficial observation to the contrary--I will maintain, so far as my
own experience goes, that there is as much courtesy broadcast in America
as in any land; more, I am inclined to think than in France. Yet, for
all that, that something or other in the English voice which I had heard
long since and lost awhile smote me with a peculiar pleasure, and,
though I like the comradely American "Cap" or "Professor," and am hoping
soon to hear it again--yet the novelty of being addressed once more as
"Sir" has had, I must own, a certain antiquarian charm.

Wandering in a quaint by-street near my hotel, and reading the names and
signs on one or two of the neat old-world "places of business," I came
on the word "sweep." I believe it was on a brass-plate. For a moment, I
wondered what it meant; and then I realized, with a great gratitude,
that London had not changed so much, after all, since the days of
Charles Lamb. As I emerged into a broader thoroughfare, my ears were
smitten with the sound of minstrelsy. It is true that the tune was
changed. It was unmistakably rag-time. Yet, there was the old
piano-organ, and in a broad circle of spectators, suspended awhile from
their various wayfaring, a young man in tennis flannels was performing a
spirited Apache dance with a quite comely short-skirted young woman, who
rightly enough felt that she had no need to be ashamed of her legs.
Across the extemporized stage, every now and then, taxicabs tooted
cautiously, longing in their hearts to stay; and once a motor
coal-waggon, like a sort of amateur freight-train, thundered across; but
not even these could break the spell that held that ring of enchanted
loiterers, from which presently the pennies fell like rain--the eternal
spell--still operating, I was glad to see, under the protection of the
only human police in the world--of the strolling player in London town.
Just before the players turned to seek fresh squares and alleys new, I
noticed on the edge of the crowd what seemed, in the gathering twilight,
to be a group of uplifted spears. Spears or halberds, were they? It was
a little company of the ancient brotherhood of lamp-lighters, seduced,
like the rest of us, from the strict pursuance of duty by the vagabond
music.

To me this thought is full of reassurance, whatever be the murmurs of
change: London has still her sweeps, her strolling minstrels, and her
lamp-lighters.

Of course, I missed at once the old busses, yet there are far more
horses left than I had dared to hope, and the hansom is far from
extinct. In fact, there seems to be some promise of its renaissance, and
even yet, in the words of the ancient bard, despite the competition of
taxis--

          Like dragon-flies,
            The hansoms hover
          With jewelled eyes,
            To catch the lover.

Further,--the quietude of the Temple remains undisturbed, the lawns of
Gray's Inn are green as of old, the Elizabethanism of Staple Inn is
unchanged, about the cornices of the British Museum the pigeons still
flutter and coo, and the old clocks chime sweetly as of old from their
mysterious stations aloft somewhere in the morning and the evening sky.

Changes, of course, there are. It is easier to telephone in London today
than it was ten years ago--almost as easy as in some little provincial
town in Connecticut. Various minor human conveniences have been
improved. The electric lighting is better. Some of the elevators--I
mean the "lifts"--almost remind one of New York. The problem of "rapid
transit" has been simplified. All which things, however, have nothing to
do with national characteristics, but are now the common property of the
civilized, or rather, I should say, the commercialized, world, and are
probably to be found no less in full swing in Timbuctoo. No one--save,
maybe, the citizens of some small imitative nation--confounds these
things with change, or calls them "progress." The soul of a great old
nation adopts all such contrivances as in the past it has adopted new
weapons, or new modes of conveyance. Only a Hottentot or a Cook's
Tourist can consider such superficial developments as evidences of
"change."

There are, of course, some new theatres--though I have heard of no new
great actor or actress. The old "favourites" still seem to dominate the
play-bills, as they did ten years ago. There is Mr. Hammerstein's Opera
House in the Kingsway. I looked upon it with pathos. Yet, surely, it is
a monument not so much of changing London as of that London which sees
no necessity of change.

In regard to the great new roadways, Kingsway, Aldwych, and the
broadening of the Strand, I have been grateful for the temper which
seems to have presided over their making--a temper combining the
necessary readjustment of past and present, with a spirit of sensitive
conservation for those buildings which more and more England will
realize as having a lasting value for her spirit.

So far as I have observed, London has been guilty of no such vandalism
as is responsible for the new Boulevard Raspail in Paris, and similar
heartless destructiveness, in a city which belongs less to France than
to the human soul. Such cities as London and Paris are among the eternal
spiritual possessions of mankind. If only those temporarily in charge of
them could be forced somehow to remember that, when their brief mayoral,
or otherwise official, lives are past, there will be found those who
will need to look upon what they have destroyed, and who will curse them
in their graves.

Putting aside such merely superficial "changes" as new streets, new
theatres, and new conveniences, there does seem to me one change of a
far higher importance for which I have no direct evidence, and which I
can only hint at, even to myself, as "something in the air." It is, of
course, nothing new either to London or to England. It is rather the
reawakening of an old temper to which England's history has so often and
so momentously given expression. I seem to find it in a new alertness in
the way men and women walk and talk in the streets, a braced-up
expectancy and readiness for some approaching development in England's
destiny, a new quickening of that old indomitable spirit that has faced
not merely external dangers, but grappled with and resolved her own
internal problems. London seems to me like a city that has heard a voice
crying "Arise, thou that sleepest!" and is answering to the cry with
girt loins and sloth-purged heart and blithe readiness for some new
unknown summons of a future that can but develop the glory of her past.

England seems to be no more sleepily resting on her laurels, as she was
some twenty years ago. Nor does she seem, on the other hand, to show the
least anxiety that she could ever lose them. She is merely realizing
that the time is at hand when she is to win others--that one more of
those many re-births of England, so to speak, out of her own womb,
approaches, and that once more she is about to prove herself eternally
young.

New countries are apt to speak of old countries as though they are
dying, merely because they have lived so long. Yet there is a longevity
which is one of the surest evidences of youth. Such I seem to feel once
more is England's--as from my window I watch the same old English May
weather: the falling rain and the rich gloom, within which moves always,
shouldering the darkest hour, an oceanic radiance, a deathless principle
of celestial fire.

LONDON, May, 1913.



XVIII

THE HAUNTED RESTAURANT


Were one to tell the proprietors of the very prosperous and flamboyant
restaurant of which I am thinking that it is haunted--yea, that ghosts
sit at its well appointed tables, and lost voices laugh and wail and
sing low to themselves through its halls--they would probably take one
for a lunatic--a servant of the moon.

Certainly, to all appearance, few places would seem less to suggest the
word "haunted" than that restaurant, as one comes upon it, in one of the
busiest of London thoroughfares, spreading as it does for blocks around,
like a conflagration, the festive glare of its electrically emblazoned
façade. Yet no ruined mansion, with the moon shining in through its
shattered roof, the owl nesting in its banqueting hall, and the snake
gliding through its bed chambers, was ever more peopled with phantoms
than this radiant palace of prandial gaiety, apparently filled with the
festive murmur of happy diners, the jocund strains of its vigorous
orchestra, the subdued clash of knives and forks and delicate dishes,
the rustle of women's gowns and the fairy music of women's voices. For
me its portico, flaming like a vortex of dizzy engulfing light, upon
which, as upon a swift current, gay men and women, alighting from motor
and hansom, are swept inward to glittering tables of snow-white napery,
fair with flowers--for me the mouth of the grave is not less dread,
and the walls of a sepulchre are not so painted with dead faces
or so inscribed with elegiac memories. I could spend a night in
Père-la-Chaise, and still be less aware of the presence of the dead
than I was a short time ago, when, greatly daring, I crossed with a
shudder that once so familiar threshold.

It was twelve years since I had been in London, so I felt no little of a
ghost myself, and I knew too well that it would be vain to look for the
old faces. Yes, gone was the huge good-natured commissionaire, who so
often in the past, on my arrival in company with some human flower, had
flung open the apron of our cab with such reverential alacrity, and on
our departure had so gently tucked in the petals of her skirts, smiling
the while a respectfully knowing benediction on the prospective
continuance of our evening's adventure. Another stood in his place, and
watched my lonely arrival with careless indifference. Glancing through
the window of the treasurer's office to the right of the hall, I could
see that an unfamiliar figure sat at the desk, where in the past so many
a cheque had been cashed for me with eager _bonhomie_. Now I reflected
that considerable identification would be necessary for that once
light-hearted transaction. It is true that I was welcomed with courtesy
by a bowing majordomo, but alas, my welcome was that of a stranger; and
when I mounted the ornate, marble-walled staircase leading to the
gallery where I had always preferred to sit, I realized that my hat and
cane must pass into alien keeping, and that no waiter's face would light
up as he saw me threading my way to the sacred table, withdrawn in a
nook of the balcony, where one could see and hear all, participate in
the general human stir and atmosphere, and yet remain apart.

Ah! no; for the friendly Cockney that once greeted me with an enfolding
paternal kindness was substituted broken English of a less companionable
accent. A polite young Greek it was who stood waiting respectfully for
my order, knowing nothing of all it meant for me--_me_--to be seated at
that table again--whereas, had he been one of half a dozen of the
waiters of yester-year, he would have known almost as much as I of the
"secret memoirs" of that historic table.

In ordering my meal I made no attempt at sentiment, for my mood went far
deeper than sentiment. Indeed, though, every second of the time, I was
living so vividly, so cruelly, in the past, I made one heartbroken
acknowledgment of the present by beginning with the anachronism of a
dry Martini cocktail, which, twelve years previous, was unknown and
unattainable in that haunted gallery. That cocktail was a sort of
desperate epitaph. It meant that I was alone--alone with my ghosts. Yet
it had a certain resurrecting influence, and as I sat there proceeding
dreamily with my meal, one face and another would flash before me, and
memory after memory re-enact itself in the theatre of my fancy. So
much in my actual surroundings brought back the past with an aching
distinctness--particularly the entrance of two charming young people,
making rainbows all about them, as, ushered by a smiling waiter, who was
evidently no stranger to their felicity, they seated themselves at a
neighbouring table with a happy sigh, and neglected the menu for a
moment or two while they gazed, rapt and lost, into each other's eyes.
How well I knew it all; how easily I could have taken the young man's
place, and played the part for which this evening he was so fortunately
cast! As I looked at them, I instinctively summoned to my side the
radiant shade of Aurea, for indeed she had seemed made of gold--gold and
water lilies. And, as of old, when I had called to her, she came swiftly
with a luxurious rustle of fragrant skirts, like the sound of the west
wind among the summer trees, or the swish and sway of the foam about the
feet of Aphrodite. There she sat facing me once more, "a feasting
presence made of light"--her hair like a golden wheat sheaf, her
eyes like blue flowers amid the wheat, and her bosom, by no means
parsimoniously concealed, literally suggesting that the loveliness of
all the water lilies in the world was amassed there within her corset
as in some precious casket. Ours was not one of the great tragic loves,
but I know I shall think of Aurea's bosom on my death-bed. At her coming
I had ordered champagne--we always drank champagne together, because, as
we said, it matched so well with her hair--champagne of a no longer
fashionable brand. The waiter seemed a little surprised to hear it asked
for, but it had been the only _chic_ brand in 19--.

"Look at those two yonder," I said presently, after we had drunk to
each other, smiling long into each other's eyes over the brims of our
glasses. "You and I were once as they. It is their first wonderful
dinner together. Watch them--the poor darlings; it is enough to break
one's heart."

"Do you remember ours?" asked Aurea quite needlessly.

"I wonder what else I was thinking of--dear idiot!" said I, with tender
elegance, as in the old days.

As I said before, Aurea and I had not been tragic in our love. It was
more a matter of life--than death; warm, pagan, light-hearted life. Ours
was perhaps that most satisfactory of relationships between men and
women, which contrives to enjoy the happiness, the fun, even the
ecstasy, of loving, while evading its heartache. It was, I suppose, what
one would call a healthy physical enchantment, with lots of tenderness
and kindness in it, but no possibility of hurt to each other. There was
nothing Aurea would not have done for me, or I for Aurea, except--marry
each other; and, as a matter of fact, there were certain difficulties on
both sides in the way of our doing that, difficulties, however, which I
am sure neither of us regretted.

Yes, Aurea and I understood thoroughly what was going on in those young
hearts, as we watched them, our eyes starry with remembrance. Who better
than we should know that hush and wonder, that sense of enchanted
intimacy, which belongs of all moments perhaps in the progress of a
passion to that moment when two standing tiptoe on the brink of golden
surrender, sit down to their first ambrosial meal together--delicious
adventure!--with all the world to watch them, if it choose, and yet
aloof in a magic loneliness, as of youthful divinities wrapped in a
roseate cloud! Hours of divine expectancy, at once promise and
fulfilment. Happy were it for you, lovers, could you thus sit forever,
nor pass beyond this moment, touched by some immortalizing wand as those
lovers on the Grecian Urn:

          Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss.
             Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
          She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss.
             Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

"See," said Aurea presently, "they are getting ready to go. The waiter
has brought the bill, and is looking away, suddenly lost in profound
meditation. Let us see how he pays the bill. I am sure she is anxious."

"Your old test!" said I. "Do you remember?"

"Yes! And it's one that never fails," said Aurea with decision. "When a
woman goes out to dinner with a man for the first time, he little knows
how much is going to depend on his way of paying the bill. If, as with
some men one meets, he studies it through a microscope and adds it
up with anxious brow--meanwhile quite evidently forgetting your
presence--how your heart sinks, sinks and hardens--but you are glad all
the same, and next day you congratulate yourself on your narrow escape!"

"Was I like that?" said I.

"Did we escape?" asked Aurea. Then she added, touching my arm as with a
touch of honeyed fire: "O I'm so glad! He did it delightfully--quite _en
prince_. Just the right nonchalance--and perhaps, poor dear, he's as
poor--"

"As we often were," I added.

And then through the corners of our eyes we saw the young lovers rise
from the table, and the man enfold his treasure in her opera cloak, O so
reverently, O so tenderly, as though he were wrapping up some holy
flower. And O those deep eyes she gave him, half turning her head as he
did so!

"That look," whispered Aurea, quoting Tennyson, "'had been a clinging
kiss but for the street.'"

Then suddenly they were gone, caught up like Enoch, into heaven--some
little heaven, maybe, like one that Aurea and I remember, high up under
the ancient London roofs.

But, with their going, alas, Aurea had vanished too, and I was left
alone with my Greek waiter, who was asking me what cheese I would
prefer.

With the coming of coffee and cognac, I lit my cigar and settled down to
deliberate reverie, as an opium smoker gives himself up to his dream. I
savoured the bitter-sweetness of my memories; I took a strange pleasure
in stimulating the ache of my heart with vividly recalled pictures of
innumerable dead hours. I systematically passed from table to table all
around that spacious peristyle. There was scarcely one at which I
had not sat with some vanished companion in those years of ardent,
irresponsible living which could never come again. Not always a woman
had been the companion whose form I thus conjured out of the past, too
often out of the grave; for the noble friendship of youth haunted those
tables as well, with its generous starry-eyed enthusiasms and passionate
loyalties. Poets of whom but their songs remain, themselves by tragic
pathways descended into the hollow land, had read their verses to me
there, still glittering with the dawn dew of their creation, as we sat
together over the wine and talked of the only matters then--and perhaps
even yet--worth talking of: love and literature. Of these but one can
still be met in London streets, but all now wear crowns of varying
brightness--

          Where the oldest bard is as the young,
            And the pipe is ever dropping honey,
          And the lyre's strings are ever strung.

Dear boon fellows of life as well as literature, how often have we risen
from those tables, to pursue together the not too swiftly flying
petticoat, through the terrestrial firmament of shining streets, aglow
with the midnight sun of pleasure, a-dazzle with eyes brighter far than
the city lamps--passionate pilgrims of the morning star! Ah! we go on
such quests no more--"another race hath been and other palms are won."

No, not always women--but naturally women nearly always, for it was the
time of rosebuds, and we were wisely gathering them while we might--

          Through the many to the one--
             O so many!
          Kissing all and missing none,
             Loving any.

Every man who has lived a life worthy the name of living has his own
private dream of fair women, the memory of whom is as a provision laid
up against the lean years that must come at last, however long they may
be postponed by some special grace of the gods, which is, it is good to
remember, granted to some--the years when one has reluctantly to
accept that the lovely game is almost, if not quite at an end, and to
watch the bloom and abundance of fragrant young creatures pass us,
unregarding, by. And, indeed, it may happen that a man who has won what
is for him the fairest of all fair faces, and has it still by his side,
may enter sometimes, without disloyalty, that secret gallery of those
other fair faces that were his before hers, in whom they are all summed
up and surpassed, had dawned upon his life. We shall hardly be loyal to
the present if we are coldly disloyal to the past. In the lover's
calendar, while there is but one Madonna, there must still be minor
saints, to whom it is meet, at certain times and seasons, to offer
retrospective candles--saints that, after the manner of many saints,
were once such charming sinners for our sakes, that utter forgetfulness
of them were an impious boorishness surely unacceptable to the most
jealous of Madonnas. Public worship of them is not, of course,
desirable, but occasional private celebrations are surely more than
permissible--such celebrations as that "night of memory and tears" which
Landor consecrated to Rose Aylmer, or that song which Thackeray
consecrated to certain loves of the long ago--

          Gillian's dead, God rest her bier,
            How I loved her twenty years syne!
          Marian's married, but I sit here,
          Alone and merry at forty year,
            Dipping my nose in the Gascon wine.

So I, seated in my haunted restaurant, brought the burnt offerings of
several cigars, and poured out various libations to my own private
Gillians and Marians, and in fancy sat and looked into Angelica's eyes
at this table, and caressed Myrtle's opaled hand at that, and read
Sylvia a poem I had just written for her at still another. "Whose names
are five sweet symphonies," wrote Rossetti. Yes, symphonies, indeed, in
the ears of memory are the names of the lightest loves that flittered
butterfly-like across our path in the golden summer of our lives,
each name calling up its human counterpart, with her own endearing
personality distinguishing her from all other girls, her way of
smiling, her way of talking, her way of being serious, all the little
originalities on which she prided herself, her so solemnly held
differentia of tastes and manners--all, in a word, that made you realize
that you were dining with Corinna and not with Chloe. What a service of
contrast each--all unwittingly, need one say--did the other, just in the
same fashion as contrasting colours accentuate the special quality one
of the other. To have dined last night with Amaryllis, with her Titian
red hair and green eyes, her tropic languor and honey-drowsy ways,
was to feel all the keener zest in the presence of Callithoe on
the following evening, with her delicate soul-lit face, and eager
responsiveness of look and gesture--_blonde cendré_, and _fausse
maigre_--a being one of the hot noon, the other a creature of the
starlight. But I disclaim the sultanesque savour of thus writing of
these dear bearers of symphonic names. To talk of them as flowers and
fruit, as colour and perfume, as ivory and velvet, is to seem to forget
the best of them, and the best part of loving them and being loved
again; for that consisted in their comradeship, their enchanted
comradeship, the sense of shared adventure, the snatching of a fearful
joy together. For a little while we had escaped from the drab and
songless world, and, cost what it might, we were determined to take
possession, for a while at least, of that paradise which sprang into
existence at the moment when "male and female created He them." Such
divine foolishness, let discretion warn, or morality frown, or society
play the censorious hypocrite, "were wisdom in the scorn of
consequence."

"Ah, then," says every man to himself of such hours, as I said to myself
in my haunted restaurant--"ah, then came in the sweet o' the year."

But lovely and pleasant as were the memories over which I thus sat
musing, there was one face immeasurably beyond all others that I had
come there hoping and yet fearing to meet again, hers of whom for years
that seem past counting all the awe and wonder and loveliness of the
world have seemed but the metaphor. Endless years ago she and I had sat
at this table where I was now sitting and had risen from it with
breaking hearts, never to see each other's face, hear each other's voice
again. Voluntarily, for another's sake, we were breaking our hearts,
renouncing each other, putting from us all the rapture and religion
of our loving, dying then and there that another might live--vain
sacrifice! Once and again, long silences apart, a word or two would wing
its way across lands and seas and tell us both that we were still
under the same sky and were still what nature had made us from the
beginning--each other's. But long since that veil of darkness unpierced
of my star has fallen between us, and no longer do I hear the rustle of
her gown in the autumn woods, nor do the spring winds carry me the
sweetness of her faithful thoughts any more. So I dreamed maybe that,
after the manner of phantoms, we might meet again on the spot where we
had both died--but alas, though the wraiths of lighter loving came gaily
to my call, she of the starlit silence and the tragic eyes came not,
though I sat long awaiting her--sat on till the tables began to be
deserted, and the interregnum between dinner and after-theatre supper
had arrived. No, I began to understand that she could no longer come
to me: we must both wait till I could go to her.

And with this thought in my mind, I set about preparing to take my leave,
but at that moment I was startled--almost superstitiously--startled by
a touch on my shoulder. I was not to leave those once familiar halls
without one recognition, after all. It was our old waiter of all
those years ago, who, with an almost paternal gladness, was telling
me how good it was to see me again, and, with consolatory mendacity,
was assuring me that I had hardly changed a bit. God bless him--he
will never know what good it did me to have his honest recognition.
The whole world was not yet quite dead and buried, after all, nor
was I quite such an unremembered ghost as I had seemed. Dear old Jim
Lewis! So some of the old guard were still on deck, after all! And,
I was thinking as I looked at him: "He, too, has looked upon her
face. He it was who poured out our wine, that last time together."
Then I had a whim. My waiter had been used to them in the old days.

"Jim," I said, "I want you to give this half-sovereign to the bandmaster
and ask him to play Chopin's _Funeral March_. There are not many people
in the place, so perhaps he won't mind. Tell him it's for an old friend
of yours, and in memory of all the happy dinners he had here long ago."

So to the strains of that death music, which so strangely blends the
piercing pathos of lost things with a springlike sense of resurrection,
a spheral melody of immortal promise, I passed once more through the
radiant portals of my necropolitan restaurant into the resounding
thoroughfares of still living and still loving humanity.



XIX

THE NEW PYRAMUS AND THISBE


There never was a shallower or more short-sighted criticism than that
which has held that science is the enemy of romance. Ruskin, with
all the April showers of his rhetoric, discredited himself as an
authoritative thinker when he screamed his old-maidish diatribes against
that pioneer of modern romantic communication, the railroad. Just as
surely his idol Turner proved himself a romantic painter, not by his
rainbows, or his Italian sunsets, but by that picture of _Storm, Rain,
and Speed_--an old-fashioned express fighting its way through wind,
rain, and of course rainbows--in the English National Gallery.

With all his love of that light that never was on sea or land, Turner
was yet able to see the romance of that new thing of iron and steam so
affrighting to other men of his generation. A lover of light in all its
swift prismatic changes, he was naturally a lover of speed. He realized
that speed was one of the two most romantic things in the world. The
other is immobility. At present the two extremes of romantic expression
are the Sphinx and--the automobile. Unless you can realize that an
automobile is more romantic than a stage-coach, you know nothing
about romance. Soon the automobile will have its nose put out by the
air-ship, and we shall not need to be long-lived to see the day when
we shall hear old-timers lamenting the good old easy-going past of
the seventy-miles-an-hour automobile--just as we have heard our
grand-fathers talk of postilions and the Bath "flyer."

Romance is made of two opposites: Change, and That Which Changeth Not.
In spite of foolish sentimentalism, who needs be told that love is one
of those forces of the universe that is the same yesterday, today, and
forever--the same today as when Dido broke her heart, as when Leander
swam the Hellespont? Gravitation is not more inherent in the cosmic
scheme, nor fire nor water more unchangeable in their qualities.

But Love, contrary to the old notion that he is unpractical, is a
business-like god, and is ever on the lookout for the latest modern
appliances that can in anyway serve his purposes. True love is far from
being old-fashioned. On the contrary, true love is always up-to-date.
True love has its telephone, its phonograph, its automobile, and soon it
will have its air-ship. In the telephone alone what a debt love owes to
its supposed enemy, modern science! One wonders how lovers in the old
days managed to live at all without the telephone.

We often hear how our modern appliances wear upon our nerves. But think
how the lack of modern appliances must have worn upon the nerves of our
forefathers, and particularly our foremothers! Think what distance meant
in the Middle Ages, when the news of a battle took days to travel,
though carried by the swiftest horses. Horses! Think again of news being
carried by--horses! And once more think, with a prayer of gratitude to
two magicians named Edison and Bell, and with a due sense of your being
the spoiled and petted offspring of the painful ages, that should your
love be in Omaha this night and you in New York City, you can say
good-night to her through the wall of your apartment, and hear her sigh
back her good-night to you across two thousand miles of the American
flag. Or should your love be on the sea, you can interrupt her
flirtations all the way across with your persistent wireless
conversation. Contrast your luxurious communicativeness with the case of
the lovers of old-time. Say that you have just married a young woman,
and you are happy together in your castle in the heart of the forest.
Suddenly the courier of war is at your gates, and you must up and arm
and away with your men to the distant danger. You must follow the Cross
into the savage Kingdom of the Crescent. The husband must become the
crusader, and the Lord Christ alone knows when he shall look on the
child's face of his wife again. Through goblin-haunted wildernesses he
must go, through unmapped no-man's lands, and vacuum solitudes of the
world's end, and peril and pestilence meet in every form, the face of
his foe the friendliest thing in all his mysterious travel. Not a
pay-station as yet in all the wide world, and fully five hundred years
to the nearest telegraph office!

And think of the young wife meanwhile, alone with her maids and her
tapestry in the dank isolation of her lonely, listening castle. Not a
leaf falls in the wood, but she hears it. Not a footstep snaps the
silence, but her eyes are at the sleepless slit of light which is her
window in the armoured stone of her fortified bridal tower. The only
news of her husband she can hope for in a full year or more will be
the pleasing lies of some flattering minstrel, or broken soldier, or
imaginative pilgrim. On such rumours she must feed her famishing
heart--and all the time her husband's bones may be whitening unepitaphed
outside the walls of Ascalon or Joppa.

There is an old Danish ballad which quaintly tells the tale of such old
long-distance days, with that blending of humour and pathos that forever
goes to the heart of man. A certain Danish lord had but yesterday taken
unto himself a young wife, and on the morrow of his marriage there came
to him the summons to war. Then, as now, there was no arguing with the
trumpets of martial duty. The soldier's trumpet heeds not the soldier's
tears. The war was far away and likely to be long. Months, even years,
might go by before that Danish lord would look on the face of his bride
again. So much might happen meanwhile! A little boy, or a little girl,
might be born to the castle, and the father, fighting far away, know
nothing of the beautiful news. And there was no telephone in the castle,
and it was five hundred years to the nearest telegraph office.

So the husband and wife agreed upon a facetious signal of their own. The
castle stood upon a ridge of hills which could be seen fifty miles away,
and on the ridge the bride promised to build a church. If the child that
was to be born proved to be a boy, the church would be builded with a
tower; if a girl, with a steeple. So the husband went his way, and three
years passed, and at length he returned with his pennons and his
men-at-arms to his own country. Scanning the horizon line, he hurried
impatiently toward the heliographic ridge. And lo! when at last it came
in sight against the rising sun, there was a new church builded stately
there--with two towers.

So it was with the most important of all news in the Middle Ages; and
yet today, as I said, you in New York City have only to knock good-night
on your wall, to be heard by your true love in Omaha, and hear her knock
back three times the length of France; Pyramus and Thisbe--with this
difference: that the wall is no longer a barrier, but a sensitive
messenger. It has become, indeed, in the words of Demetrius in _A
Midsummer Night's Dream_, the wittiest of partitions, and the modern
Pyramus may apostrophize it in grateful earnest:

          "Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall ...
          Thanks, courteous wall. Jove shield thee well for this!"

So at least I always feel toward the wall of my apartment every time I
call up her whom my soul loveth that dwelleth far away in Massachusetts.
She being a Capulet and I a Montague, it would go hard with us for
communication, were it not for this long-distance wall; and any one
who knows anything of love knows that the primal need of lovers is
communication. Lovers have so deep a distrust of each other's love that
they need to be assured of it from hour to hour. To the philosopher it
may well seem strange that this certitude should thus be in need of
progressive corroboration. But so it is, and the pampered modern lover
may well wonder how his great-grandfather and great-grandmother
supported the days, or even kept their love alive, on such famine
rations as a letter once a month. A letter once a month! They must have
had enormous faith in each other, those lovers of old-time, or they must
have suffered as we can hardly bear to think of--we, who write to each
other twice a day, telegraph three times, telephone six, and transmit a
phonographic record of our sighs to each other night and morn. The
telephone has made a toy of distance and made of absence, in many cases,
a sufficient presence. It is almost worth while to be apart on occasion
just for the sake of bringing each other so magically near. It is the
Arabian Nights come true. As in them, you have only to say a word, and
the jinn of the electric fire is waiting for your commands. The word
has changed. Once it was "Abracadabra." Now it is "Central." But the
miracle is just the same.

One might almost venture upon the generalization that most tragedies
have come about from lack of a telephone. Of course, there are
exceptions, but as a rule tragedies happen through delays in
communication.

If there had been a telephone in Mantua, Romeo would never have bought
poison of the apothecary. Instead, he would have asked leave to use his
long-distance telephone. Calling up Verona, he would first cautiously
disguise his voice. If, as usual, the old nurse answered, all well; but
if a bearded voice set all the wires a-trembling, he would, of course,
hastily ring off, and abuse "Central" for giving him the wrong number.
And "Central" would understand. Then Romeo would wait an hour or two
till he was sure that Lord Capulet had gone to the Council, and ring up
again. This time he would probably get the nurse and confide to her his
number in Mantua. Next morning Juliet and her nurse had only to drop in
at the nearest drug store, and confide to Romeo the whole plot which
Balthazar so sadly bungled. All that was needed was a telephone, and
Romeo would have understood that Juliet was only feigning death for the
sake of life with him.

But, as in the case of our Danish knight, there was not a pay-station
as yet in all the wide world, and it was fully five hundred years
to the nearest telegraph office. Another point in this tragedy is
worth considering by the modern mind: that not only would the final
catastrophe have been averted by the telephone, but that those beautiful
speeches to and from Juliet's balcony, made at such desperate risk to
both lovers, had the telephone only been in existence, could have
been made in complete security from the seclusion of their distant
apartments.

Seriously speaking, there are few love tragedies, few serious historic
crises of any kind, that might not have been averted by the telephone.
Strange indeed, when one considers a little, is that fallacy of
sentimentalism which calls science the enemy of love.

Far from being its enemy, science is easily seen to be its most romantic
servant; for all its strenuous and delicate learning it brings to the
feet of love for a plaything. Not only will it carry the voice of love
across space and time, but it will even bring it back to you from
eternity. It will not only carry to your ears the voices of the living,
but it will also keep safe for you the sweeter voices of the dead. In
fact, it would almost seem as though science had made all its
discoveries for the sake of love.



XX

TWO WONDERFUL OLD LADIES


It is a pity that our language has no other word to indicate that one
has lived seventy, eighty, or ninety years, than the word "old"; for the
word "old" carries with it implications of "senility" and decrepitude,
which many merely chronologically "old" people very properly resent. The
word "young," similarly, needs the assistance of another word, for we
all know individuals of thirty and forty, sometimes even only twenty,
whom it is as absurd to call "young" as it is to call those others of
seventy, eighty, or ninety, "old."

"Youth" is too large and rich a word to serve the limited purpose of
numbering the years of undeveloped boys and girls. It should stand
rather for the vital principle in men and women, ever expanding, and
rebuilding, and refreshing the human organism, partly a physical, but
perhaps in a greater degree a spiritual energy.

I am not writing this out of any compliment to two wonderful "old"
ladies of whom I am particularly thinking. They would consider me a
dunce were they to suspect me of any such commonplace intent. No! I am
not going to call them "eighty years young," or employ any of those
banal euphemisms with which would-be "tactful" but really club-footed
sentimentalists insult the intelligence of the so-called "old." Of
course, I know that they are both eighty or thereabouts, and they know
very well that I know. We make no secret of it. Why should we? Actually
though the number of my years falls short of eighty, I feel so much
older than either of them, that it never occurs to me to think of them
as "old," and often as I contemplate their really glowing energetic
youth, I grow melancholy for myself, and wonder what has become of my
own.

They were schoolgirls together. Luccia married Irene's brother--for they
allow me the privilege of calling them by their Christian names--and
they have been friends all their lives. Sometimes I see them together,
though oftener apart, for Luccia and her white-haired poet husband--no
"older" than herself,--are neighbours of mine in the country, and Irene
lives for the most part in New York--as much in love with its giant
developments as though she did not also cherish memories of that quaint,
almost vanished, New York of her girlhood days; for she is nothing if
not progressive.

But I will tell about Luccia first, and the first thing it is natural to
speak of--so every one else finds too--is her beauty. They say that she
was beautiful when she was young (I am compelled sometimes, under
protest, to use the words "young" and "old" thus chronologically) and,
of course, she must have been. I have, however, seen some of her early
portraits, before her hair was its present beautiful colour, and I must
confess that the Luccia of an earlier day does not compare with the
Luccia of today. I don't think I should have fallen in love with her
then, whereas now it is impossible to take one's eyes off her. She seems
to have grown more flower-like with the years, and while her lovely
indestructible profile has gathered distinction, and a lifelong habit of
thinking beautiful thoughts, and contemplating beautiful things, has
drawn honeyed lines as in silver point about her eyes and mouth, the
wild-roses of her cheeks still go on blooming--like wild-roses in
moonlight. And over all glow her great clear witty eyes, the eyes of a
_grand dame_ who has still remained a girl. Her humour, no doubt, has
much to do with her youth, and I have seen strangers no little
surprised, even disconcerted, at finding so keen a humour in one so
beautiful; for beauty and humour are seldom found together in so
irresistible a combination. Is it to be wondered at that often on summer
days when I feel the need of a companion, I go in search of Luccia, and
take tea with her on the veranda? Sometimes I will find her in the
garden seated in front of her easel, making one of her delicate
water-colour sketches--for she was once a student in Paris and has
romantic Latin-quarter memories. Or I will find her with her magnifying
glass, trying to classify some weed she has come upon in the garden,
for she is a learned botanist; and sometimes we will turn over the pages
of books in which she hoards the pressed flowers gathered by her and her
husband in Italy and Switzerland up till but a year or two ago,
memorials of a life together that has been that flawless romance which
love sometimes grants to his faithful servants.

At other times we will talk politics, and I wish you could hear the
advanced views of this "old" lady of eighty. Indeed, generally speaking,
I find that nowadays the only real progressives are the "old" people. It
seems to be the fashion with the "young" to be reactionary. Luccia,
however, has been a radical and a rebel since her girlhood, and, years
before the word "feminist" was invented, was fighting the battle of
the freedom of woman. And what a splendid Democrat she is, and how
thoroughly she understands and fearlessly faces the problems and
developments of the moment! She is of the stuff the old Chartist women
and the women of the French Revolution were made of, and in her heart
the old faith in Liberty and the people burns as brightly as though she
were some young Russian student ready to give her life for the cause.
When the revolution comes to America, stern masculine authority will be
needed to keep her--her friend Irene too--from the barricades.

"Stern masculine authority"! As I write that phrase, how plainly I can
hear her mocking laughter; for she is never more delightful than when
pouring out her raillery on the magisterial pretensions of man. To hear
her talk! The idea of a mere man daring to assume any authority or
direction over a woman! Yet we who know her smile and whisper to
ourselves that, for all her witty tirades, she is perhaps of all women
the most feminine, and really the most "obedient" of wives--a rebel in
all else save to the mild tyranny of the poet she has loved, honoured,
and yes! obeyed, all these wonderful years.

Perhaps in nothing is the reality of her youthfulness so expressive as
in her adorable gaiety. Like a clear fresh spring, it is ever brimming
up from the heart into her mischief-loving eyes. By her side merely
technically young people seem heavy and serious. And nothing amuses her
more than gravely to mystify, or even bewilderingly shock, some proper
acquaintance, or some respectable strangers, with her carefully designed
mock improprieties of speech or action. To look at the loveliest of
grand-mothers, it is naturally somewhat perplexing to the uninitiated
visitor to hear her talk, with her rarely distinguished manner, of
frivolous matters with which they assume she has long since done.

A short while ago, when I was taking tea with her, she had for visitor a
staid old-maidish lady, little more than half her age, whom she had
known as a girl, but had not seen for some years. In the course of
conversation, she turned to her guest, with her grand air:

"Have you done much dancing this season?" she asked.

"O indeed no," answered the other unsuspiciously, "my dancing days are
over."

"At your age!" commented Luccia with surprise. "Nonsense! You must let
me teach you to dance the tango. I have enjoyed it immensely this
winter."

"Really?" gasped the other in astonishment, with that intonation in the
voice naturally so gratifying to the "old" suggesting that the person
talking with them really regards them as dead and buried.

"Of course, why not?" asks Luccia with perfect seriousness. "I dance it
with my grandsons. My husband doesn't care to dance it. He prefers the
polka."

Not knowing what to think, the poor old maid--actually "old" compared
with Luccia--looked from her to the beautiful venerable figure of her
polka-dancing husband seemingly meditating over his pipe, a little
withdrawn from them on the veranda, but inwardly shaken with mirth at
the darling nonsense of her who is still the same madcap girl he first
fell in love with so many years ago.

When the guest had departed, with a puzzled, questioning look still
lingering on her face, Luccia turned to me, her eyes bright pools of
merriment:

"It was quite true, wasn't it? Come, let us try it."

And, nimble as a girl, she was on her feet, and we executed quite a
passable tango up and down the veranda, to the accompaniment of her
husband's--"Luccia! Luccia! what a wild thing you are!"

A certain reputation for "wildness," a savour of innocent Bohemianism,
has clung to Luccia, and Irene too, all through their lives, as a legacy
from that far-off legendary time when, scarcely out of their girlhood,
they were fellow art-students together in Paris. Belonging both to
aristocratic, rather straitlaced New England families, I have often
wondered how they contrived to accomplish that adventure in a day when
such independent action on the part of two pretty young ladies was an
adventure indeed. But it was the time when the first vigorous spring of
feminine revolt was in the air. Rosa Bonheur, George Eliot, Elizabeth
Cady Stanton, and other leaders were setting the pace for the advanced
women, and George Sand was still a popular romancer. As a reminiscence
of George Sand, Luccia to this day pretends that she prefers to smoke
cigars to cigarettes, though, as a matter of fact, she has never smoked
either, and has, indeed, an ultra-feminine detestation of tobacco--even
in the form of her husband's pipe. She only says it, of course, for
the fun of seeming "naughty"; which recalls to my mind her shocking
behaviour one day when I went with her to call on some very prim
cousins in New York. It was a household of an excessively brown-stone
respectability, just the atmosphere to rouse the wickedness in Luccia.
As we sat together in an upright conversation that sounded like the
rustling of dried leaves in a cemetery, why! Luccia, for all her eighty
years, seemed like a young wild-rose bush filling the tomb-like room
with living light and fragrance. I could see the wickedness in her
surging for an outburst. She was well aware that those respectable
connections of hers had always looked upon her as a sort of "artistic"
black sheep in the family. Presently her opportunity came. As our visit
dragged mournfully towards its end, the butler entered, in pursuance of
the early Victorian ritual on such occasions, bearing a tray on which
was a decanter of sherry, some tiny wine-glasses, and some dry biscuits
of a truly early Victorian dryness. This ghostly hospitality was duly
dispensed, and Luccia, who seldom drinks anything but tea, instead of
sipping her sherry with a lady-like aloofness, drained her glass with a
sudden devil-may-care abandon, and, to the evident amazement even of the
furniture, held it out to be refilled. Such pagan behaviour had never
disgraced that scandalized drawing-room before. And when to her action
she added words, the room absolutely refused to believe its ears. "I
feel," she said, with a deep-down mirth in her eyes which only I could
suspect rather than see, "I feel today as if I should like to go on a
real spree. Do you ever feel that way?"

A palpable shudder passed through the room.

"Cousin Luccia!" cried out the three outraged mummies; the brother with
actual sternness, and the sisters in plain fear. Had their eccentric
cousin really gone out of her mind at last?

"Never feel that way?" she added, delighting in the havoc she was
making. "You should. It's a wonderful feeling."

Then she drained her second glass, and to the evident relief of all
three, rose to go. How we laughed together, as we sped away in our
taxicab. "It's as well to live up to one's reputation with such people,"
she said, that dear, fantastic Luccia.

_À propos_ that early Parisian adventure, Rosa Bonheur had been one of
Luccia's and Irene's great exemplars, and one might say, in one
particular connection,--heroes. I refer to the great painter's adoption
of masculine costume. Why two unusually pretty young women should burn
to discard the traditional flower-furniture of their sex, in exchange
for the uncouth envelopes of man, is hard to understand. But it was
the day of Mrs. Bloomer, as well as Rosa Bonheur; and earnest young
"intellectuals" among women had a notion, I fancy, that to shake off
their silks and laces was, symbolically, at all events, to shake off the
general disabilities of their sex, and was somehow an assertion of a
mental equality with man. At all events, it was a form of defiance
against their sex's immemorial tyrant, which seems to have appealed to
the imaginations of some young women of the period. Another woman's
weakness to be sternly discarded was that scriptural "glory" of her
hair. That must be ruthlessly lopped. So it is easy to imagine the
horror of such relatives as I have hinted at when our two beautiful
adventuresses returned from Paris, and appeared before their families in
great Spanish cloaks, picturesque, coquettish enough you may be sure,
veiling with some show of discretion those hideous compromises with
trousers invented and worn by the strong-minded Mrs. Bloomer, and
wearing their hair after the manner of Florentine boys. To face one's
family, and to walk New York streets so garbed, must have needed real
courage in those days; yet the two friends did both, and even for
a while accepted persecution for vagaries which for them had the
dead-seriousness of youth.

Passionate young propagandists as they were, they even preferred to
abandon their homes for a while--rather than their bloomers--and, taking
a studio together in New York, started out to earn their own living by
the teaching of art. Those were the days of the really brave women.

But to return to the less abstract topic of the bloomers, I often tease
Luccia and Irene about them, seeking for further information as to why
they ever came to retrograde from a position so heroically taken, one of
such serious import to human progress, and to condescend once more to
don the livery of feminine servitude, and appear, as they do today, in
delicate draperies which the eye searches in vain for any hint of
sanguinary revolution. Luccia always looks shamefaced at the question.
She still feels guilty, I can see, of a traitorous backsliding and
occasionally threatens to make up for it by a return to masculine
costume--looking the most exquisite piece of Dresden china as she says
it. I have seen that masculine tyrant of hers smiling knowingly to
himself on such occasions, and it has not been difficult to guess why
and when those historic bloomers disappeared into the limbo of lost
causes. There is little doubt that when Love came in by the door, the
bloomers went out, so to speak, by the window.

Irene seems to have held out longer, and, doubtless, scornful of her
more frivolous comrade's defection, steadfastly kept the faith awhile
unsupported, walking the world in bloomered loneliness--till a like
event overtook her. Such is the end of every maid's revolt! But Irene,
to this day, retains more of her student seriousness than her more
worldly-minded friend. Her face is of the round cherubic type, and her
large heavy-lidded eyes have a touch of demureness veiling humour no
less deep than Luccia's, but more reflective, chuckling quietly to
itself, though on occasion I know no one better to laugh with, even
giggle with, than Irene. But, whereas Luccia will talk gaily of
revolution and even anarchy for the fun of it, and in the next breath
talk hats with real seriousness, Irene still remains the purposeful
revolutionary student she was as a girl; while Luccia contents herself
with flashing generalizations, Irene seriously studies the latest
developments of thought and society, reads all the new books, sees all
the new plays and pictures, and has all the new movements of whatever
kind--art, philosophy, and sociology--at her finger ends; and I may add
that her favourite writer is Anatole France. Whenever I need light on
the latest artistic or philosophic nonsense calling itself a movement
(cubism, futurism, Bergsonism, syndicalism, or the like) I go to her,
certain that she will know all about it. Nothing is too "modern" for
this wonderful "old" lady of seventy-nine; and, whenever I am in town,
we always go together to the most "advanced" play in the newest of new
theatres.

_À propos_ our theatre-going together, I must not forget a story about
her which goes back to that bloomer period. A little while ago, calling
to take tea with her, I found her seated with a fine soldierly
white-haired "old" man, and they were in such merry talk that I felt
that perhaps I was interrupting old memories. But they generously took
me into the circle of their reminiscence. They had been laughing as I
came in--"Shall I tell him, General?" she said, "what we were laughing
about?" Then she did. She and the General had been girl and boy
together, and as they came to eighteen and nineteen had been
semi-serious sweethearts. The embryo General--no doubt because of her
pretty face--had taken all her student vagaries with lover-like
seriousness, and had, on one occasion, assisted in a notable enterprise.
The bloomers had not been definitely donned at that time, but they were
on the way, glimmering ahead as a discussed ideal. Whether it was as a
preliminary experiment, or only in consequence of a "dare," I am not
quite sure. I think it was a little of both, and that the General had
dared Irene to go with him to the opera (in the gallery) dressed in
boy's clothes. She accepted the challenge, borrowing a suit of clothes
from her brother for the purpose. Her figure, according to the General's
account, had looked anything but masculine, and her hair, tucked up
under her boy's hat as best she could, was a peculiar peril. How her
heart had almost stopped beating as a policeman had turned upon the
youthful pair a suspicious scrutiny, how they had taken to their heels
at his glance, how she had crimsoned at the box-office, and hid her face
behind a fat man as they had scurried past the ticket-attendant, and how
during the whole performance a keen-faced woman had glanced at her with
a knowing persistency that seemed to threaten her with imminent exposure
and arrest, and how wonderful the whole thing had been--just to be in
boy's clothes and go in them to the theatre with one's sweetheart. O
youth! youth! youth!

As I looked at the General with his white hair, and Irene with her
quaint little old lady's cap over her girlish face, and visualized for
myself those two figures before me as they had appeared on the night of
that escapade, I realized that the real romance of life is made by
memory, and that for these two old friends to be able thus to recall
together across all those years that laughing freak of their young blood
was still more romantic than the original escapade. But as I went on
looking at Irene, with the bloom of her immortal youth upon her, I grew
jealous of the General's share in that historic night. Well, never mind,
it is I who take her to the theatre nowadays--and, after all, I think I
prefer her to go dressed just as she is.



XXI

A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION


Christmas already! However welcome its coming, Christmas always seems to
take us by surprise. Is the year really so soon at the end of its
journey? Why, it seems only yesterday that it needed a special effort of
remembrance to date our letters with the new "_anno domini_." And have
you noticed that one always does that reluctantly, with something almost
of misgiving? The figures of the old year have a warm human look, but
those of the new wear a chill, unfamiliar, almost menacing expression.
Nineteen hundred and--we know. It is nearly "all in." It has done its
best--and its worst. Between Christmas Day and New-Year it has hardly
time to change its character. Good or bad, as it may have been, we feel
at home with it, and we are fain to keep the old almanac a little longer
on the wall. But the last leaves are falling, the days are shortening.
There is a smell of coming snow in the air, and for weeks past it has
already been Christmas in the shops.

Yes, however it strikes us, we are a year older. On the first of January
last we had twelve brand-new months of a brand-new year to spend, and
now the last of them is all but spent. We had a new spring to look out
for, like the coming of one's sweetheart, a new summer bounteous in
prospect with inexhaustible wealth of royal sunshine, a new autumn, with
ruddy orchards and the glory of the tapestried woods; and now of the
four new seasons that were to be ours but one remains:

          And here is but December left and I,
             To wonder if the hawthorn bloomed in May,
          And if the wild rose with so fine a flush
            Mantled the cheek of June, and if the way
          The stream went singing foamed with meadow sweet,
            And if the throstle sang in yonder bush,
          And if the lark dizzied with song the sky.
            I watched and listened--yet so sweet, so fleet,
          The mad young year went by!

Strange, that feeling at the end of the year that somehow we have missed
it, have failed to experience it all to the full, taken it too
carelessly, not dwelt sufficiently on its rich, expressive hours. Each
year we feel the same, and however intent we may have been, however we
have watched and listened, sensitively eager to hold and exhaust each
passing moment, when the year-end has come, we seem somehow to have been
cheated after all. Who, at the beginning of each year, has not promised
himself a stricter attentiveness to his experience? This year he will
"load every rift with ore."

          This year, I said, when first along the lane
            With tiny nipples of the tender green
          The winter-blackened hedge grew bright again,
            This year I watch and listen; I have seen
          So many springs steal profitless away,
            This year I garner every sound and sweet.
          And you, young year, make not such haste to bring
            Hawthorn and rose; nor jumble, indiscreet,
          Treasure on treasure of the precious spring;
            But bring all softly forth upon the air,
          Unhasting to be fair...

Yet, for all our watchfulness, the year seems to have escaped us. We
know that the birds sang, that the flowers bloomed, that the grass was
green, but it seems to us that we did not take our joy of them with
sufficient keenness; our sweetheart came, but we did not look deep
enough into her eyes. If only we live to see the wild rose again! But
meanwhile here is the snow.

Unless we are still numbered among those happy people for whom
Christmas-trees are laden and lit, this annual prematurity of Christmas
cannot but make us a little meditative amid our mirth, and if, while
Santa Claus is dispensing his glittering treasures, our thoughts grow a
little wistful, they will not necessarily be mournful thoughts, or on
that account less seasonable in character; for Christmas is essentially
a retrospective feast, and we may, with fitness, with indeed a proper
piety of unforgetfulness, bring even our sad memories, as it were to
cheer themselves, within the glow of its festivity. Ghosts have always
been invited to Christmas parties, and whether they are seen or not,
they always come; nor is any form of story so popular by the Christmas
fire as the ghost-story--which, when one thinks of it, is rather odd,
considering the mirthful character of the time. Yet, after all, what are
our memories but ghost-stories? Ah! the beautiful ghosts that come to
the Christmas fire!

Christmas too is pre-eminently the Feast of the Absent, the Festival of
the Far-Away, for the most prosperous ingathering of beloved faces about
the Christmas fire can but include a small number of those we would fain
have there; and have you ever realized that the absent are ghosts? That
is, they live with us sheerly as spiritual presences, dependent upon our
faithful remembrance for their embodiment. We may not, with our physical
eyes, see them once a year; we may not even have so seen them for twenty
years; it may be decreed that we shall never see them again; we seldom,
perhaps never, write to each other; all we know of each other is that we
are alive and love each other across space and time. Alive--but how?
Scarce otherwise, surely, than the unforgotten dead are alive--alive in
unforgetting love.

It is rather strange, if you will give it a thought, how much of our
real life is thus literally a ghost-story. Probably it happens with the
majority of us that those who mean most to us, by the necessities of
existence, must be far away, met but now and then in brief flashes
of meeting that often seem to say so much less than absence; our
intercourse is an intercourse of the imagination--yet how real! They
belong to the unseen in our lives, and have all its power over us. The
intercourse of a mother and a son--is it not often like that in a world
which sends its men on the four winds, to build and fight, while the
mother must stay in the old nest? Seldom at Christmas can a mother
gather all her children beneath the wing of her smile. Her big boys are
seven seas away, and even her girls have Christmas-trees of their own.
But motherhood is in its very nature a ghostly, a spiritual, thing, and
the big boys and the old mother are not really divided. They meet
unseen by the Christmas fire, as they meet all the year round in that
mysterious ether of the soul, where space and time are not.

Yes, it is strange to think how small a proportion of our lives we spend
with those we love; even when we say that we spend all our time with
them. Husband and wife even--how much of the nearness of the closest of
human relations is, and must be, what Rossetti has called "parted
presence!" The man must go forth to his labour until the evening. How
few of the twenty-four hours can these two beings who have given their
whole lives to each other really give! Husband and wife even must be
content to be ghosts to each other for the greater part of each day.
As Rossetti says in his poem, eyes, hands, voice, lips, can meet so
strangely seldom in the happiest marriage; only in the invisible home of
the heart can the most fortunate husband and wife be always together:

          Your heart is never away,
             But ever with mine, forever,
             Forever without endeavour,
          Tomorrow, love, as today;
          Two blent hearts never astray,
             Two souls no power may sever,
             Together, O my love, forever!

When I said that the absent were ghosts, I don't think you quite liked
the saying. It gave you a little shiver. It seemed rather grimly
fantastic. But do you not begin to see what I meant? Begin to see the
comfort in the thought? begin to see the inner connection between
Christmas and the ghost-story? Yes, the real lesson of Christmas is the
ever presence of the absent through love; the ghostly, that is to say
the spiritual, nature of all human intercourse. Our realities can exist
only in and through our imaginations, and the most important part of our
lives is lived in a dream with dream-faces, the faces of the absent and
the dead--who, in the consolation of this thought, are alike brought
near.

I have a friend who is dead--but I say to myself that he is in New
Zealand; for, if he were really in New Zealand, we should hardly seem
less distant, or be in more frequent communication. We should say that
we were both busy men, that the mails were infrequent, but that between
us there was no need of words, that we both "understood." That is what I
say now. It is just as appropriate. Perhaps he says it too. And--we
shall meet by the Christmas fire.

I have a friend who is alive. He is alive in England. We have not met
for twelve years. He never writes, and I never write. Perhaps we shall
never meet, never even write to each other, again. It is our way, the
way of many a friendship, none the less real for its silence--friendship
by faith, one might say, rather than by correspondence. My dead friend
is not more dumb, not more invisible. When these two friends meet me
by the Christmas fire, will they not both alike be ghosts--both, in a
sense, dead, but both, in a truer sense, alive?

It is so that, without our thinking of it, our simple human feelings one
for another at Christmas-time corroborate the mystical message which
it is the church's meaning to convey by this festival of "peace and
good-will to men"--the power of the Invisible Love; from the mystical
love of God for His world, to the no less, mystical love of mother and
child, of lover and lover, of friend and friend.

And, when you think of it, is not this festival founded upon what,
without irreverence, we may call the Divine Ghost-Story of Christmas?
Was there ever another ghost-story so strange, so full of marvels, a
story with so thrilling a message from the unseen? Taken just as a
story, is there anything in the _Arabian Nights_ so marvellous as this
ghost-story of Christmas? The world was all marble and blood and bronze,
against a pitiless sky of pitiless gods. The world was Rome. No rule
ever stood builded so impregnably from earth to stars--a merciless wall
of power. Strength never planted upon the earth so stern a foot. Never
was tyranny so invincibly bastioned to the cowed and conquered eye.

And against all this marble and blood and bronze, what frail fantastic
attack is this? What quaint expedition from fairy-land that comes so
insignificantly against these battlements on which the Roman helmets
catch the setting sun?

A Star in the Sky. Some Shepherds from Judea. Three Wise Men from the
East. Some Frankincense and Myrrh. A Mother and Child.

Yes, a fairy-tale procession--but these are to conquer Rome, and that
child at his mother's breast has but to speak three words, for all that
marble and bronze to melt away: "Love One Another."

It may well have seemed an almost ludicrous weapon--three gentle words.
So one might attack a fortress with a flower. But Rome fell before them,
for all that, and cruel as the world still is, so cruel a world can
never be again. The history of Christianity from Christ to Tolstoi
is the history of a ghost-story; and as Rome fell before the men it
martyred, so Russia has been compelled at last to open its prison doors
by the passive imperative of the three gentle words. Stone and iron are
terribly strong to the eye and even to the arm of man, but they are as
vapour before the breath of the soul. Many enthroned and magisterial
authorities seem so much more important and powerful than the simple
human heart, but let the trial of strength come, and we see the might of
the delicate invisible energy that wells up out of the infinite mystery
to support the dreams of man.

Christmas is the friendly human announcement of this ghostly truth; its
holly and boar's-head are but a rough-and-tumble emblazonment of that
mystic gospel of--The Three Words; the Gospel of the Unseen Love.

And how well has the church chosen this particular season of the year
for this most subtly spiritual of all its festivals, so subtle because
its ghostly message is so ruddily disguised in human mirth, and thus the
more unconsciously operative in human hearts!

Winter, itself so ghostly a thing, so spiritual in its beauty, was
indeed the season to catch our ears with this ghost-story of the
Invisible and Invincible Love. The other seasons are full of sensuous
charm and seductiveness. With endless variety of form and colour and
fragrance, they weave "a flowery band to bind us to the earth." They are
running over with the pride of sap, the luxury of green leaves, and the
intoxicating fulness of life. The summer earth is like some voluptuous
enchantress, all ardour and perfume, and soft dazzle of moted sunshine.
But the beauty of winter seems a spiritual, almost a supernatural,
thing, austere and forbidding at first, but on a nearer approach found
to be rich in exquisite exhilaration, in rare and lofty discoveries and
satisfactions of the soul. Winter naturally has found less favour with
the poets than the other seasons. Praise of it has usually a strained
air, as though the poet were making the best of a barren theme, like a
portrait-painter reluctantly flattering some unattractive sitter. But
one poet has seen and seized the mysterious beauty of winter with
unforced sympathy--Coventry Patmore, whose "Odes," in particular,
containing as they do some of the most rarely spiritual meditation in
English poetry, are all too little known. In one of these he has these
beautiful lines, which I quote, I hope correctly, from memory:

          I, singularly moved
          To love the lovely that are not beloved,
          Of all the seasons, most love winter, and to trace
          The sense of the Trophonian pallor of her face.
          It is not death, but plenitude of peace;
          And this dim cloud which doth the earth enfold
          Hath less the characters of dark and cold
          Than light and warmth asleep,
          And intermittent breathing still doth keep
          With the infant harvest heaving soft below
          Its eider coverlet of snow.

The beauty of winter is like the beauty of certain austere classics of
literature and art, and as with them, also, it demands a certain almost
moral strenuousness of application before it reveals itself. The
loftiest masterpieces have something aloof and cheerless about them at
our first approach, something of the cold breath of those starry spaces
into which they soar, and to which they uplift our spirits. When we
first open Dante or Milton, we miss the flowers and the birds and the
human glow of the more sensuous and earth-dwelling poets. But after
awhile, after our first rather bleak introduction to them, we grow aware
that these apparently undecorated and unmusical masterpieces are radiant
and resounding with a beauty and a music which "eye hath not seen nor
ear heard." For flowers we are given stars, for the song of birds the
music of the spheres, and for that human glow a spiritual ecstasy.

Similarly with winter. It has indeed a strange beauty peculiar to
itself, but it is a beauty we must be at some pains to enjoy. The beauty
of the other seasons comes to us, offers itself to us, without effort.
To study the beauty of summer, it is enough to lie under green boughs
with half-closed eyes, and listen to the running stream and the murmur
of a million wings. But winter's is no such idle lesson. In summer we
can hardly stay indoors, but in winter we can hardly be persuaded to
go out. We must gird ourselves to overcome that first disinclination,
else we shall know nothing of winter but its churlish wind and its
ice-in-the-pail. But, the effort made, and once out of doors on a
sunlit winter's morning, how soon are we finding out the mistake we
were making, coddling ourselves in the steam-heat! Indoors, indeed,
the prospect had its Christmas-card picturesqueness; snow-clad roofs,
snow-laden boughs, silhouetted tracery of leafless trees; but we said
that it was a soulless spectacular display, the beauty of death, and
the abhorred coldness thereof. We have hardly walked a hundred yards,
however, before impressions very different are crowding upon us,
among which the impression of cold is forgotten, or only retained as
pleasantly heightening the rest.

Far from the world's being dead, as it had seemed indoors, we are
presently, in some strange indefinable way, made intensely conscious of
a curious overwhelming sense of life in the air, as though the crystal
atmosphere was, so to say, ecstatically charged with the invisible
energy of spiritual forces. In the enchanted stillness of the snow, we
seem to hear the very breathing of the spirit of life. The cessation of
all the myriad little sounds that rise so merrily and so musically from
the summer surface of the earth seems to allow us to hear the solemn
beat of the very heart of earth itself. We seem very near to the sacred
mystery of being, nearer than at any other season of the year, for in
other seasons we are distracted by its pleasurable phenomena, but in
winter we seem close to the very mystery itself; for the world seems to
have put on robes of pure spirit and ascended into a diviner ether.

The very phenomena of winter have a spiritual air which those of summer
lack, a phantom-like strangeness. How mysterious this ice, how ghostly
this snow, and all the beautiful fantastic shapes taken by both; the
dream-like foliage, and feathers and furs of the snow, the Gothic
diablerie of icicled eaves, all the fairy fancies of the frost, the
fretted crystal shapes that hang the brook-side with rarer than Venetian
glass, the strange flowers that stealthily overlay the windows, even
while we watch in vain for the unseen hand! No flowers of summer seem so
strange as these, make us feel so weirdly conscious of the mystery of
life. As the ghostly artist covers the pane, is it not as though a
spirit passed?

As we walk on through the shining morning, we ourselves seem to grow
rarefied as the air. Our senses seem to grow finer, purged to a keener
sensitiveness. Our eyes and ears seem to become spiritual rather than
physical organs, and an exquisite elation, as though we were walking on
shining air, or winging through celestial space, fills all our being.
The material earth and our material selves seem to grow joyously
transparent, and while we are conscious of our earthly shoe-leather
ringing out on the iron-bound highway, we seem, nevertheless, to be
spirits moving without effort, in a world of spirit. Seldom, if ever,
in summer are we thus made conscious of, so to say, our own ghosts,
thus lifted up out of our material selves with a happy sense of
disembodiment.

There would, indeed, seem to be some relation between temperature and
the soul, and something literally purifying about cold. Certain it is
that we return from our winter's walk with something sacred in our
hearts and something shining in our faces, which we seldom, if ever,
bring back with us in summer. Without understanding the process, we seem
to have been brought nearer to the invisible mystery, and a solemn peace
of happy insight seems for a little while at least to possess our souls.
Our white walk in the snow-bright air has in some way quickened the
half-torpid immortal within us, revived awhile our sluggish sense of our
spiritual significance and destiny, made us once more, if only for a
little, attractively mysterious to ourselves. Yes! there is what one
might call a certain monastic discipline about winter which impels the
least spiritual minded to meditation on his mortal lot and its immortal
meanings; and thus, as I said, the Church has done wisely to choose
winter for its most Christian festival. The heart of man, thus prepared
by the very elements, is the more open to the message of the miraculous
love, and the more ready to translate it into terms of human goodness.
And thus, I hope, the ghostly significance of mince-pie is made clear.

But enough of ghostly, grown-up thoughts. Let us end with a song for
the children:

          O the big red sun,
            And the wide white world,
          And the nursery window
            Mother-of-pearled;

          And the houses all
            In hoods of snow,
          And the mince-pies,
            And the mistletoe;

          And Christmas pudding,
            And berries red,
          And stockings hung
            At the foot of the bed;

          And carol-singers,
            And nothing but play--
          O baby, this is
            Christmas Day!



XXII

ON RE-READING WALTER PATER


It is with no small satisfaction, and with a sense of reassurance of
which one may, in moods of misgiving, have felt the need during
two decades of the Literature of Noise, that one sees a writer so
pre-eminently a master of the Literature of Meditation coming, for all
the captains and the shouting, so surely into his own. The acceptance
of Walter Pater is not merely widening all the time, but it is more
and more becoming an acceptance such as he himself would have most
valued, an acceptance in accordance with the full significance of his
work rather than a one-sided appreciation of some of its Corinthian
characteristics. The Doric qualities of his work are becoming recognized
also, and he is being read, as he has always been read by his true
disciples--so not inappropriately to name those who have come under his
graver spell--not merely as a _prosateur_ of purple patches, or a
sophist of honeyed counsels tragically easy to misapply, but as an
artist of the interpretative imagination of rare insight and magic, a
writer of deep humanity as well as aesthetic beauty, and the teacher of
a way of life at once ennobling and exquisite. It is no longer possible
to parody him--after the fashion of Mr. Mallock's brilliancy in _The New
Republic_--as a writer of "all manner and no matter," nor is it possible
any longer to confuse his philosophy with those gospels of unrestrained
libertinism which have taken in vain the name of Epicurus. His highly
wrought, sensitively coloured, and musically expressive style is seen to
be what it is because of its truth to a matter profound and delicate and
intensely meditated, and such faults as it has come rather of too much
matter than too little; while his teaching, far from being that of
a facile "Epicureanism," is seen, properly understood, to involve
something like the austerity of a fastidious Puritanism, and to result
in a jealous asceticism of the senses rather than in their indulgence.
"Slight as was the burden of positive moral obligation with which he had
entered Rome," he writes of Marius, as on his first evening in Rome the
murmur comes to him of "the lively, reckless call to 'play,' from the
sons and daughters of foolishness," "it was to no wasteful and vagrant
affections, such as these, that his Epicureanism had committed him."
Such warnings against misunderstanding Pater is careful to place, at, so
to say, all the cross-roads in his books, so scrupulously concerned is
he lest any reader should take the wrong turning. Few writers, indeed,
manifest so constant a consideration for, and, in minor matters,
such a sensitive courtesy toward, their readers, while in matters
of conscience Pater seems to feel for them an actual pastoral
responsibility. His well-known withdrawal of the "Conclusion" to _The
Renaissance_ from its second edition, from a fear that "it might
possibly mislead some of those young men into whose hands it might
fall," is but one of many examples of his solicitude; and surely such as
have gone astray after such painstaking guidance have but their own
natures to blame. As he justly says, again of Marius, "in the reception
of metaphysical _formula_, all depends, as regards their actual and
ulterior result, on the pre-existent qualities of that soil of human
nature into which they fall--the company they find already present
there, on their admission into the house of thought."

That Pater's philosophy could ever have been misunderstood is not to be
entertained with patience by any one who has read him with even ordinary
attention; that it may have been misapplied, in spite of all his care,
is, of course, possible; but if a writer is to be called to account for
all the misapplications, or distortions, of his philosophy, writing may
as well come to an end. Yet, inconceivable as it may sound, a critic
very properly held in popular esteem recently gave it as his opinion
that the teaching of Walter Pater was responsible for the tragic career
of the author of _The Picture of Dorian Gray_. Certainly that remarkable
man was an "epicurean"--but one, to quote Meredith, "whom Epicurus would
have scourged out of his garden"; and the statement made by the critic
in question that _The Renaissance_ is the book referred to in _The
Picture of Dorian Gray_ as having had a sinister influence over its hero
is so easily disposed of by a reference to that romance itself that it
is hard to understand its ever having been made. Here is the passage
describing the demoralizing book in question:

    His eye fell on the yellow book that Lord Henry had sent him.... It
    was the strangest book he had ever read. It seemed to him that in
    exquisite raiment, and to the delicate sound of flutes, the sins of
    the world were passing in dumb show before him. Things that he had
    dimly dreamed of were suddenly made real to him. Things of which he
    had never dreamed were gradually revealed.

    It was a novel without a plot, and with only one character, being,
    indeed, simply a psychological study of a certain young Parisian who
    spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the
    passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except
    his own, and to sum up, as it were, in himself the various moods
    through which the world-spirit had ever passed, loving for their
    mere artificiality those renunciations that men have unwisely called
    virtue, as much as those natural rebellions that wise men still call
    sin. The style in which it was written was that curious jewelled
    style, vivid and obscure at once, full of _argot_ and of archaisms,
    of technical expressions and of elaborate paraphrases, that
    characterizes the work of some of the finest artists of the French
    school of _Décandents._ There were in it metaphors as monstrous as
    orchids, and as evil in colour. The life of the senses was described
    in the terms of mystical philosophy. One hardly knew at times
    whether one was reading the spiritual ecstasies of some medieval
    saint or the morbid confessions of a modern sinner. It was a
    poisonous book. The heavy odour of incense seemed to cling about its
    pages and to trouble the brain. The mere cadence of the sentences,
    the subtle monotony of their music, so full as it was of complex
    refrains and movements elaborately repeated, produced in the mind of
    the lad, as he passed from chapter to chapter, a form of reverie, a
    malady of dreaming, that made him unconscious of the falling day and
    the creeping shadows....

    For years Dorian Gray could not free himself from the memory of this
    book. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he never
    sought to free himself from it. He procured from Paris no less than
    five large paper copies of the first edition, and had them bound in
    different colours, so that they might suit his various moods and the
    changing fancies of a nature over which he seemed, at times, to have
    almost entirely lost control.

The book thus characterized is obviously by a French writer--I have
good reason for thinking that it was _À Rebours_ by Huysmans--and how
any responsible reader can have imagined that Walter Pater's _The
Renaissance_ answers to this description passes all understanding. A
critic guilty of so patent a misstatement must either never have read
_The Picture of Dorian Gray_, or never have read _The Renaissance_. On
the other hand, if on other more reliable evidence it can be found that
Oscar Wilde was one of those "young men" misled by Pater's book, for
whose spiritual safety Pater, as we have seen, was so solicitous, one
can only remind oneself again of the phrase quoted above in regard to
"that soil of human nature" into which a writer casts his seed. If that
which was sown a lily comes up a toadstool, there is evidently something
wrong with the soil.

Let us briefly recall what this apparently so "dangerous" philosophy
of Pater's is, and we cannot do better than examine it in its most
concentrated and famous utterance, this oft-quoted passage from that
once-suppressed "Conclusion" to _The Renaissance_:

    Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A
    counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated
    dramatic life. How may we see in them all that there is to be seen
    in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from
    point to point, and be present always at the focus where the
    greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy? To
    burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this
    ecstasy, is success in life.... While all melts under our feet, we
    may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to
    knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for
    a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange
    colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist's hands, or the
    face of one's friend. With this sense of the splendor of our
    experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one
    desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make
    theories about the things we see and touch.... Well! we are all
    _condamnés_, as Victor Hugo says; we are all under sentence of
    death, but with a sort of indefinite reprieve--_les hommes sont tous
    condamnés à mort avec des sursis indéfinis_: we have an interval,
    and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in
    listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among "the
    children of this world," in art and song. For our one chance lies in
    expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible
    into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened
    sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of
    enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come
    naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is passion--that it does
    yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of
    such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of
    art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing
    frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as
    they pass, and simply for those moments' sake.

Now, if it be true that the application, or rather the misapplication,
of this philosophy led Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol, it is none the
less true that another application of it led Marius to something like
Christian martyrdom, and Walter Pater himself along an ever loftier and
serener path of spiritual vision.

Nothing short of wilful misconstruction can make of the counsel thus
offered, with so priestly a concern that the writer's exact meaning be
brought home to his reader, other than an inspiration toward a noble
employment of that mysterious opportunity we call life. For those of us,
perhaps more than a few, who have no assurance of the leisure of an
eternity for idleness or experiment, this expansion and elevation of the
doctrine of the moment, carrying a merely sensual and trivial moral in
the Horatian maxim of _carpe diem_, is one thrillingly charged with
exhilaration and sounding a solemn and yet seductive challenge to us to
make the most indeed, but also to make the best, of our little day. To
make the most, and to make the best of life! Those who misinterpret or
misapply Pater forget his constant insistence on the second half of that
precept. We are to get "as many pulsations as possible into the given
time," but we are to be very careful that our use of those pulsations
shall be the finest. Whether or not it is "simply for those moments'
sake," our attempt must be to give "_the highest quality_," remember, to
those "moments as they pass." And who can fail to remark the fastidious
care with which Pater selects various typical interests which he deems
most worthy of dignifying the moment? The senses are, indeed, of natural
right, to have their part; but those interests on which the accent of
Pater's pleading most persuasively falls are not so much the "strange
dyes, strange colours, and curious odours," but rather "the face of
one's friend," ending his subtly musical sentence with a characteristic
shock of simplicity, almost incongruity--or "some mood of passion or
insight or intellectual excitement," or "any contribution to knowledge
that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment."
There is surely a great gulf fixed between this lofty preoccupation with
great human emotions and high spiritual and intellectual excitements,
and a vulgar gospel of "eat, drink, for tomorrow we die," whether or not
both counsels start out from a realization of "the awful brevity" of our
mortal day. That realization may prompt certain natures to unbridled
sensuality. Doomed to perish as the beasts, they choose, it would seem
with no marked reluctance, to live the life of the beast, a life
apparently not without its satisfactions. But it is as stupid as it is
infamous to pretend that such natures as these find any warrant for
their tragic libertinism in Walter Pater. They may, indeed, have found
aesthetic pleasure in the reading of his prose, but the truth of which
that prose is but the beautiful garment has passed them by. For such
it can hardly be claimed that they have translated into action the
aspiration of this tenderly religious passage:

    Given the hardest terms, supposing our days are indeed but a shadow,
    even so we may well adorn and beautify, in scrupulous self-respect,
    our souls and whatever our souls touch upon--these wonderful bodies,
    these material dwelling-places through which the shadows pass
    together for a while, the very raiment we wear, our very pastimes,
    and the intercourse of society.

Here in this passage from _Marius_ we find, to use Pater's own words
once more, "the spectacle of one of the happiest temperaments coming,
so to speak, to an understanding with the most depressing of theories."
That theory, of course, was the doctrine of the perpetual flux of things
as taught by Aristippus of Cyrene, making a man of the world's practical
application of the old Heraclitean formula, his influence depending on
this, "that in him an abstract doctrine, originally somewhat acrid, had
fallen upon a rich and genial nature well fitted to transform it into a
theory of practice of considerable stimulative power toward a fair
life." Such, too, was Pater's nature, and such his practical usefulness
as what one might call a philosophical artist. Meredith, Emerson,
Browning, and even Carlyle were artists so far related to him and each
other in that each of them wrought a certain optimism, or, at all
events, a courageous and even blithe working theory of life and conduct,
out of the unrelenting facts of existence unflinchingly faced, rather
than ecclesiastically smoothed over--the facts of death and pain and
struggle, and even the cruel mystery that surrounds with darkness and
terror our mortal lot. Each one of them deliberately faced the worst,
and with each, after his own nature, the worst returned to laughter. The
force of all these men was in their artistic or poetic embodiment of
philosophical conceptions, but, had they not been artists and poets,
their philosophical conceptions would have made but little way. And it
is time to recall, what critics preoccupied with his "message" leave
unduly in the background, that Pater was an artist of remarkable power
and fascination, a maker of beautiful things, which, whatever their
philosophical content, have for our spirits the refreshment and
edification which all beauty mysteriously brings us, merely because it
is beauty. _Marius the Epicurean_ is a great and wonderful book, not
merely on account of its teaching, but because it is simply one of the
most _beautiful_ books, perhaps the most beautiful book, written in
English. It is beautiful in many ways. It is beautiful, first of all, in
the uniquely personal quality of its prose, prose which is at once
austere and sensuous, simple at once and elaborate, scientifically exact
and yet mystically suggestive, cool and hushed as sanctuary marble,
sweet-smelling as sanctuary incense; prose that has at once the
qualities of painting and of music, rich in firmly visualized pictures,
yet moving to subtle, half-submerged rhythms, and expressive with every
delicate accent and cadence; prose highly wrought, and yet singularly
surprising one at times with, so to say, sudden innocencies, artless and
instinctive beneath all its sedulous art. It is no longer necessary, as
I hinted above, to fight the battle of this prose. Whether it appeal to
one not, no critic worth attention any longer disparages it as mere
ornate and perfumed verbiage, the elaborate mannerism of a writer hiding
the poverty of his thought beneath a pretentious raiment of decorated
expression. It is understood to be the organic utterance of one with a
vision of the world all his own striving through words, as he best can,
to make that vision visible to others as nearly as possible as he
himself sees it. Pater himself has expounded his theory and practice of
prose, doubtless with a side-thought of self-justification, in various
places up and down his writings, notably in his pregnant essay on
"Style," and perhaps even more persuasively in the chapter called
"Euphuism" in _Marius_. In this last he thus goes to the root of the
matter:

    That preoccupation of the _dilettante_ with what might seem mere
    details of form, after all, did but serve the purpose of bringing
    to the surface, sincerely and in their integrity, certain strong
    personal intuitions, a certain vision or apprehension of things
    as really being, with important results, thus, rather than
    thus--intuitions which the artistic or literary faculty was called
    upon to follow, with the exactness of wax or clay, clothing the
    model within.

This striving to express the truth that is in him has resulted in a
beauty of prose which for individual quality must be ranked with the
prose of such masters as De Quincey and Lamb, and, to make a not
irrelevant comparison, above the very fine prose of his contemporary
Stevenson, by virtue of its greater personal sincerity.

There is neither space here, nor need, to illustrate this opinion by
quotation, though it may not be amiss, the musical and decorative
qualities of Pater's prose having been so generally dwelt upon, to
remind the reader of the magical simplicities by which it is no less
frequently characterized. Some of his quietest, simplest phrases have a
wonderful evocative power: "the long reign of these quiet Antonines,"
for example; "the thunder which had sounded all day among the hills";
"far into the night, when heavy rain-drops had driven the last lingerers
home"; "Flavian was no more. The little marble chest with its dust and
tears lay cold among the faded flowers." What could be simpler than
these brief sentences, yet how peculiarly suggestive they are;
what immediate pictures they make! And this magical simplicity is
particularly successful in his descriptive passages, notably of natural
effects, effects caught with an instinctively selected touch or two,
an expressive detail, a grey or coloured word. How lightly sketched,
and yet how clearly realized in the imagination, is the ancestral
country-house of Marius's boyhood, "White-Nights," "that exquisite
fragment of a once large and sumptuous villa"--"Two centuries of the
play of the sea-wind were in the velvet of the mosses which lay along
its inaccessible ledges and angles." Take again this picture:

    The cottagers still lingered at their doors for a few minutes as the
    shadows grew larger, and went to rest early; though there was still
    a glow along the road through the shorn corn-fields, and the birds
    were still awake about the crumbling grey heights of an old temple.

And again this picture of a wayside inn:

    The room in which he sat down to supper, unlike the ordinary
    Roman inns at that day, was trim and sweet. The firelight danced
    cheerfully upon the polished three-wicked _lucernae_ burning cleanly
    with the best oil, upon the whitewashed walls, and the bunches of
    scarlet carnations set in glass goblets. The white wine of the place
    put before him, of the true colour and flavour of the grape, and
    with a ring of delicate foam as it mounted in the cup, had a
    reviving edge or freshness he had found in no other wine.

Those who judge of Pater's writing by a few purple passages such as the
famous rhapsody on the _Mona Lisa_, conceiving it as always thus heavy
with narcotic perfume, know but one side of him, and miss his gift
for conveying freshness, his constant happiness in light and air and
particularly running water, "green fields--or children's faces." His
lovely chapter on the temple of Aesculapius seems to be made entirely
of morning light, bubbling springs, and pure mountain air; and the
religious influence of these lustral elements is his constant theme.
For him they have a natural sacramental value, and it is through
them and such other influences that Pater seeks for his hero the
sanctification of the senses and the evolution of the spirit. In his
preoccupation with them, and all things lovely to the eye and to the
intelligence, it is that the secret lies of the singular purity of
atmosphere which pervades his _Marius_, an atmosphere which might be
termed the soul-beauty of the book, as distinct from its, so to say,
body-beauty as beautiful prose.

Considering _Marius_ as a story, a work of imagination, one finds the
same evocative method used in the telling of it, and in the portrayal
of character, as Pater employs in its descriptive passages. Owing
to certain violent, cinematographic methods of story-telling and
character-drawing to which we have become accustomed, it is too often
assumed that stories cannot be told or characters drawn in any other
way. Actually, of course, as many an old masterpiece admonishes us,
there is no one canon in this matter, but, on the contrary, no limit to
the variety of method and manner a creative artist is at liberty to
employ in his imaginative treatment of human life. All one asks is that
the work should live, the characters and scenes appear real to us, and
the story be told. And Pater's _Marius_ entirely satisfies this demand
for those to whom such a pilgrimage of the soul will alone appeal. It is
a real story, no mere German scholar's attempt to animate the dry bones
of his erudition; and the personages and the scenes do actually live
for us, as by some delicate magic of hint and suggestion; and, though at
first they may seem shadowy, they have a curious way of persisting, and,
as it were, growing more and more alive in our memories. The figure of
Marcus Aurelius, for example, though so delicately sketched, is a
masterpiece of historical portraiture, as the pictures of Roman life,
done with so little, seem to me far more convincing than the like
over-elaborated pictures of antiquity, so choked with learned detail,
of Flaubert and of Gautier. Swinburne's famous praise of Gautier's
_Mademoiselle de Maupin_ applies with far greater fitness to Pater's
masterpiece; for, if ever a book deserved to be described as

          The golden book of spirit and sense,
          The holy writ of beauty,

it is _Marius the Epicurean_.

It has been natural to dwell so long on this "golden book," because
Pater's various gifts are concentrated in it, to make what is, of
course, his masterpiece; though some one or other of these gifts is to
be found employed with greater mastery in other of his writings, notably
that delicate dramatic gift of embodying in a symbolic story certain
subtle states of mind and refinements of temperament which reaches its
perfection in _Imaginary Portraits_, to which the later "Apollo in
Picardy" and "Hippolytus Veiled" properly belong. It is only necessary
to recall the exquisitely austere "Sebastian Van Storck" and the
strangely contrasting Dionysiac "Denys L'Auxerrois" to justify one's
claim for Pater as a creative artist of a rare kind, with a singular and
fascinating power of incarnating a philosophic formula, a formula no
less dry than Spinoza's, or a mood of the human spirit, in living,
breathing types and persuasive tragic fables. This genius for creative
interpretation is the soul and significance of all his criticism. It
gives their value to the studies of _The Renaissance_, but perhaps its
finest flower is to be found in the later _Greek Studies_. To Flavian,
Pater had said in _Marius_, "old mythology seemed as full of untried,
unexpressed motives and interest as human life itself," and with what
marvellous skill and evocative application of learning, he himself later
developed sundry of those "untried, unexpressed motives," as in his
studies of the myths of Dionysus--"The spirit of fire and dew, alive and
leaping in a thousand vines"--and Demeter and Persephone--"the peculiar
creation of country people of a high impressibility, dreaming over their
work in spring or autumn, half consciously touched by a sense of its
sacredness, and a sort of mystery about it"--no reader of Pater needs to
be told. This same creative interpretation gives a like value to his
studies of Plato; and so by virtue of this gift, active throughout the
ten volumes which constitute his collected work, Pater proved himself
to be of the company of the great humanists.

Along with all the other constituents of his work, its sacerdotalism,
its subtle reverie, its sensuous colour and perfume, its marmoreal
austerity, its honeyed music, its frequent preoccupation with the
haunted recesses of thought, there go an endearing homeliness and
simplicity, a deep human tenderness, a gentle friendliness, a something
childlike. He has written of her, "the presence that rose thus so
strangely beside the waters," to whom all experience had been "but as
the sound of lyres and flutes," and he has written of "The Child in the
House." Among all "the strange dyes, strange colours, and curious
odours, and work of the artist's hands," one never misses "the face of
one's friend"; and, in all its wanderings, the soul never strays far
from the white temples of the gods and the sound of running water.

It is by virtue of this combination of humanity, edification, and
aesthetic delight that Walter Pater is unique among the great teachers
and artists of our time.



XXIII

THE MYSTERY OF "FIONA MACLEOD" [1]


    [1]_William Sharp (Fiona Macleod)_. A Memoir, compiled
    by his wife, Elizabeth A. Sharp. (Duffield & Co.)
    _The Writings of Fiona Macleod_. Uniform edition. Arranged
    by Mrs. William Sharp. (Duffield & Co.)

In the fascinating memoir of her husband, which Mrs. William Sharp has
written with so much dignity and tact, and general biographic skill, she
dwells with particular fondness of recollection on the two years of
their life at Phenice Croft, a charming cottage they had taken in the
summer of 1892 at Rudgwick in Sussex, seven miles from Horsham, the
birthplace of Shelley. Still fresh in my memory is a delightful visit I
paid them there, and I was soon afterwards to recall with special
significance a conversation I had with Mrs. Sharp, as four of us walked
out one evening after dinner in a somewhat melancholy twilight, the
glow-worms here and there trimming their ghostly lamps by the wayside,
and the nightjar churring its hoarse lovesong somewhere in the
thickening dusk.

"Will," Mrs. Sharp confided to me, was soon to have a surprise for his
friends in a fuller and truer expression of himself than his work had
so far attained, but the nature of that expression Mrs. Sharp did not
confide--more than to hint that there were powers and qualities in her
husband's make-up that had hitherto lain dormant, or had, at all events,
been but little drawn upon.

Mrs. Sharp was thus vaguely hinting at the future "Fiona Macleod,"
for it was at Rudgwick, we learn, that that so long mysterious
literary entity sprang into imaginative being with _Pharais_. _Pharais_
was published in 1894, and I remember that early copies of it came
simultaneously to myself and Grant Allen, with whom I was then staying,
and how we were both somewhat _intrigué_ by a certain air of mystery
which seemed to attach to the little volume. We were both intimate
friends of William Sharp, but I was better acquainted with Sharp's
earlier poetry than Grant Allen, and it was my detection in _Pharais_
of one or two subtly observed natural images, the use of which had
previously struck me in one of his _Romantic Ballads and Poems of
Phantasy_, that brought to my mind in a flash of understanding that
Rudgwick conversation with Mrs. Sharp, and thus made me doubly certain
that "Fiona Macleod" and William Sharp were one, if not the same.
Conceiving no reason for secrecy, and only too happy to find that my
friend had fulfilled his wife's prophecy by such fuller and finer
expression of himself, I stated my belief as to its authorship in a
review I wrote for the London _Star_. My review brought me an urgent
telegram from Sharp, begging me, for God's sake, to shut my mouth--or
words to that effect. Needless to say, I did my best to atone for
having thus put my foot in it, by a subsequent severe silence till
now unbroken; though I was often hard driven by curious inquirers to
preserve the secret which my friend afterwards confided to me.

When I say "confided to me," I must add that in the many confidences
William Sharp made to me on the matter, I was always aware of a reserve
of fanciful mystification, and I am by no means sure, even now, that I,
or any of us--with the possible exception of Mrs. Sharp--know the whole
truth about "Fiona Macleod." Indeed it is clear from Mrs. Sharp's
interesting revelations of her husband's temperament that "the whole
truth" could hardly be known even to William Sharp himself; for, very
evidently in "Fiona Macleod" we have to deal not merely with a literary
mystification, but with a psychological mystery. Here it is pertinent to
quote the message written to be delivered to certain of his friends
after his death: "This will reach you," he says, "after my death. You
will think I have wholly deceived you about Fiona Macleod. But, in an
intimate sense this is not so, though (and inevitably) in certain
details I have misled you. Only, it is a mystery. I cannot explain.
Perhaps you will intuitively understand or may come to understand. 'The
rest is silence.' Farewell. WILLIAM SHARP."

"It is only right, however, to add that I, and I only, was the
author--in the literal and literary sense--of all written under the
name of 'Fiona Macleod.'"

"Only, it is a mystery. I cannot explain." Does "I cannot explain" mean
"I must not explain," or merely just what it says? I am inclined to
think it means both; but, if so, the "must not" would refer to the
purely personal mystification on which, of course, none would desire to
intrude, and the "cannot" would refer to that psychological mystery
which we are at liberty to investigate.

William Sharp's explanation to myself--as I believe to others of his
friends--was to the same tenor as this posthumous statement. He and he
only had actually _written_ the "Fiona Macleod" fantasies and poems,
but--yes! there was a real "Fiona Macleod" as well. She was a beautiful
cousin of his, living much in solitude and dreams, and seldom visiting
cities. Between her and him there was a singular spiritual kinship,
which by some inexplicable process, so to say, of psychic collaboration,
had resulted in the writings to which he had given her name. They were
hers as well as his, his as well as hers. Several times he even went so
far as to say that Miss Macleod was contemplating a visit to London, but
that her visit was to be kept a profound secret, and that he intended
introducing her to three of his friends and no more--George Meredith,
W.B. Yeats, and myself. Probably he made the same mock-confidence to
other friends, as a part of his general scheme of mystification. On one
occasion, when I was sitting with him in his study, he pointed to the
framed portrait of a beautiful woman which stood on top of a revolving
book-case, and said "That is Fiona!" I affected belief, but, rightly or
wrongly, it was my strong impression that the portrait thus labelled was
that of a well-known Irish lady prominently identified with Home Rule
politics, and I smiled to myself at the audacious white lie. Mrs. Sharp,
whose remembrance of her husband goes back to "a merry, mischievous
little boy in his eighth year, with light-brown curly hair, blue-grey
eyes, and a laughing face, and dressed in a tweed kilt," tells us that
this "love not only of mystery for its own sake, but of mystification
also," was a marked characteristic of his nature--a characteristic
developed even in childhood by the necessity he always felt of hiding
away from his companions that visionary side of his life which was
almost painfully vivid with him, and the sacredness of which in late
years he felt compelled to screen under his pseudonym.

That William Sharp's affirmation of an actual living and breathing
"Fiona Macleod" was, however, virtually true is confided by this
significant and illuminating passage in Mrs. Sharp's biography. Mrs.
Sharp is speaking of a sojourn together in Rome during the spring of
1891, in which her husband had experienced an unusual exaltation and
exuberance of vital and creative energy.

    There, at last [she says], he had found the desired incentive
    towards a true expression of himself, in the stimulus and
    sympathetic understanding of the friend to whom he dedicated the
    first of the books published under his pseudonym. This friendship
    began in Rome and lasted throughout the remainder of his life. And
    though this new phase of his work was at no time the result of
    collaboration, as certain of his critics have suggested, he was
    deeply conscious of his indebtedness to this friend, for--as he
    stated to me in a letter of instructions, written before he went to
    America in 1896, concerning his wishes in the event of his death--he
    realized that it was "to her I owe my development as 'Fiona
    Macleod,' though in a sense of course that began long before I
    knew her, and indeed while I was still a child," and that, as he
    believed, "without her there would have been no 'Fiona Macleod.'"
    Because of her beauty, her strong sense of life and of the joy of
    life; because of her keen intuitions and mental alertness, her
    personality stood for him as a symbol of the heroic women of Greek
    and Celtic days, a symbol that, as he expressed it, unlocked new
    doors in his mind and put him "in touch with ancestral memories" of
    his race. So, for a time, he stilled the critical, intellectual mood
    of William Sharp, to give play to the development of this new-found
    expression of subtle emotions, towards which he had been moving with
    all the ardour of his nature.

From this statement of Mrs. Sharp one naturally turns to the dedication
of _Pharais_ to which she refers, finding a dedicatory letter
to "E.W.R." dealing for the most part with "Celtic" matters, but
containing these more personal passages:

    Dear friend [the letter begins], while you gratify me by your
    pleasure in this inscription, you modestly deprecate the dedication
    to you of this study of alien life--of that unfamiliar island-life
    so alien in all ways from the life of cities, and, let me add, from
    that of the great mass of the nation to which, in the communal
    sense, we both belong. But in the Domhan-Tòir of friendship there
    are resting-places where all barriers of race, training, and
    circumstances fall away in dust. At one of these places we met, a
    long while ago, and found that we loved the same things, and in the
    same way.

The letter ends with this: "There is another Pàras (Paradise) than that
seen of Alastair of Innisròn--the Tir-Nan-Oigh of friendship. Therein we
both have seen beautiful visions and dreamed dreams. Take, then, out of
my heart, this book of vision and dream."

"Fiona Macleod," then, would appear to be the collective name given to
a sort of collaborative Three-in-One mysteriously working together: an
inspiring Muse with the initials E.W.R.; that psychical "other self"
of whose existence and struggle for expression William Sharp had been
conscious all his life; and William Sharp, general _littérateur_, as
known to his friends and reading public. "Fiona Macleod" would seem to
have always existed as a sort of spiritual prisoner within that comely
and magnetic earthly tenement of clay known as William Sharp, but
whom William Sharp had been powerless to free in words, till, at
the wand-like touch of E.W.R.--the creative stimulus of a profound
imaginative friendship--a new power of expression had been given to
him--a power of expression strangely missing from William Sharp's
previous acknowledged writings.

To speak faithfully, it was the comparative mediocrity, and occasional
even positive badness, of the work done over his own name that formed
one of the stumbling-blocks to the acceptance of the theory that William
Sharp _could_ be "Fiona Macleod." Of course, his work had been that of
an accomplished widely-read man of letters, his life of Heine being
perhaps his most notable achievement in prose; and his verse had not
been without intermittent flashes and felicities, suggestive of
smouldering poetic fires, particularly in his _Sospiri di Roma_; but,
for the most part, it had lacked any personal force or savour, and was
entirely devoid of that magnetism with which William Sharp, the man, was
so generously endowed. In fact, its disappointing inadequacy was a
secret source of distress to the innumerable friends who loved him
with a deep attachment, to which the many letters making one of the
delightful features of Mrs. Sharp's biography bear witness. In himself
William Sharp was so prodigiously a personality, so conquering in the
romantic flamboyance of his sun-like vitality, so overflowing with the
charm of a finely sensitive, richly nurtured temperament, so essentially
a poet in all he felt and did and said, that it was impossible patiently
to accept his writings as any fair expression of himself. He was, as we
say, so much more than his books--so immeasurably and delightfully
more--that, compared with himself, his books practically amounted to
nothing; and one was inclined to say of him in one's heart, as one does
sometimes say of such imperfectly articulate artistic natures: "What
a pity he troubles to write at all! Why not be satisfied with being
William Sharp? Why spoil 'William Sharp' by this inadequate and
misleading translation?"

The curious thing, too, was that the work he did over his own name,
after "Fiona Macleod" had escaped into the freedom of her own beautiful
individual utterance, showed no improvement in quality, no marks of
having sprung from the same mental womb where it had lain side by side
with so fair a sister. But, of course, one can readily understand that
such work would naturally lack spontaneity of impulse, having to be
done, more or less, against the grain, from reasons of expediency: so
long as "Fiona Macleod" must remain a secret, William Sharp must produce
something to show for himself, in order to go on protecting that secret,
which would, also, be all the better kept by William Sharp continuing in
his original mediocrity. Of this dual activity, Mrs. Sharp thus writes
with much insight:

    From then till the end of his life [she says] there was a continual
    play of the two forces in him, or of the two sides of his nature: of
    the intellectually observant, reasoning mind--the actor, and of the
    intuitively observant, spiritual mind--the dreamer, which
    differentiated more and more one from the other, and required
    different conditions, different environment, different stimuli,
    until he seemed to be two personalities in one. It was a development
    which, as it proceeded, produced a tremendous strain on his physical
    and mental resources, and at one time between 1897-8 threatened him
    with a complete nervous collapse. And there was for a time distinct
    opposition between those two natures which made it extremely
    difficult for him to adjust his life, for the two conditions were
    equally imperative in their demands upon him.

    His preference, naturally, was for the intimate creative work which
    he knew grew out of his inner self; though the exigencies of life,
    his dependence on his pen for his livelihood, and, moreover, the
    keen active interest "William Sharp" took in all the movements of
    the day, literary and political, at home and abroad, required of
    him a great amount of applied study and work.

The strain must indeed have been enormous, and one cannot but feel that
much of it was a needless, even trivial "expense of spirit," and regret
that, when "Fiona Macleod" had so manifestly come into her own, William
Sharp should have continued to keep up the mystification, entailing as
it did such an elaborate machinery of concealment, not the least taxing
of which must have been the necessity of keeping up "Fiona Macleod's"
correspondence as well as his own. Better, so to say, to have thrown
William Sharp overboard, and to have reserved the energies of a
temperament almost abnormally active, but physically delusive and
precarious, for the finer productiveness of "Fiona Macleod." But William
Sharp deemed otherwise. He was wont to say, "Should the secret be found
out, Fiona dies," and in a letter to Mrs. Thomas A. Janvier--she and her
husband being among the earliest confidants of his secret--he makes this
interesting statement: "I can write out of my heart in a way I could
not do as William Sharp, and indeed I could not do so if I were the
woman Fiona Macleod is supposed to be, unless veiled in scrupulous
anonymity.... This rapt sense of oneness with nature, this _cosmic
ecstasy_ and elation, this wayfaring along the extreme verges of the
common world, all this is so wrought up with the romance of life that
I could not bring myself to expression by my outer self, insistent and
tyrannical as that need is.... My truest self, the self who is below
all other selves, and my most intimate life and joys and sufferings,
thoughts, emotions, and dreams, _must_ find expression, yet I cannot
save in this hidden way...."

Later he wrote: "Sometimes I am tempted to believe I am half a woman,
and so far saved as I am by the hazard of chance from what a woman can
be made to suffer if one let the light of the common day illuminate the
avenues and vistas of her heart...."

At one time, I thought that William Sharp's assumption of a feminine
pseudonym was a quite legitimate device to steal a march on his critics,
and to win from them, thus disguised, that recognition which he must
have been aware he had failed to win in his own person. Indeed, it is
doubtful whether, if he had published the "Fiona Macleod" writings under
his own name, they would have received fair critical treatment. I am
very sure that they would not; for there is quite a considerable amount
of so-called "criticism" which is really foregone conclusion based on
personal prejudice, or biassed preconception, and the refusal to admit
(employing a homely image) that an old dog does occasionally learn new
tricks. Many well-known writers have resorted to this device, sometimes
with considerable success. Since reading Mrs. Sharp's biography,
however, I conclude that this motive had but little, if any, influence
on William Sharp, and that his statement to Mrs. Janvier must be taken
as virtually sincere.

A certain histrionism, which was one of his charms, and is perhaps
inseparable from imaginative temperaments, doubtless had its share in
his consciousness of that "dual nature" of which we hear so much,
and which it is difficult sometimes to take with Sharp's "Celtic"
seriousness. Take, for example, this letter to his wife, when, having
left London, precipitately, in response to the call of the Isles, he
wrote: "The following morning we (for a kinswoman was with me) stood on
the Greenock pier waiting for the Hebridean steamer, and before long
were landed on an island, almost the nearest we could reach, that I
loved so well." Mrs. Sharp dutifully comments: "The 'we' who stood on
the pier at Greenock is himself in his dual capacity; his 'kinswoman' is
his other self." Later he writes, on his arrival in the Isle of Arran:
"There is something of a strange excitement in the knowledge that two
people are here: so intimate and yet so far off. For it is with me as
though Fiona were asleep in another room. I catch myself listening
for her step sometimes, for the sudden opening of a door. It is
unawaredly that she whispers to me. I am eager to see what she will
do--particularly in _The Mountain Lovers_. It seems passing strange
to be here with her alone at last...." I confess that this strikes
me disagreeably. It is one thing to be conscious of a "dual
personality"--after all, consciousness of dual personality is by no
means uncommon, and it is a commonplace that, spiritually, men of genius
are largely feminine--but it is another to dramatize one's consciousness
in this rather childish fashion. There seems more than a suspicion of
pose in such writing: though one cannot but feel that William Sharp was
right in thinking that the real "Fiona Macleod" was asleep at the
moment. At the same time, William Sharp seems unmistakably to have been
endowed with what I suppose one has to call "psychic" powers--though the
word has been "soiled with all ignoble use"--and to be the possessor
in a considerable degree of that mysterious "sight" or sixth sense
attributed to men and women of Gaelic blood. Mrs. Sharp tells a curious
story of his mood immediately preceding that flight to the Isles of
which I have been writing. He had been haunted the night before by the
sound of the sea. It seemed to him that he heard it splashing in the
night against the walls of his London dwelling. So real it had seemed
that he had risen from his bed and looked out of the window, and even in
the following afternoon, in his study, he could still hear the waves
dashing against the house. "A telegram had come for him that morning,"
writes Mrs. Sharp, "and I took it to his study. I could get no answer.
I knocked, louder, then louder,--at last he opened the door with a
curiously dazed look in his face. I explained. He answered: 'Ah, I
could not hear you for the sound of the waves!'"

His last spoken words have an eerie suggestiveness in this connection.
Writing of his death on the 12th of December, 1905, Mrs. Sharp says:
"About three o'clock, with his devoted friend Alec Hood by his side, he
suddenly leant forward with shining eyes and exclaimed in a tone of
joyous recognition, 'Oh, the beautiful "Green Life," again!' and the
next moment sank back in my arms with the contented sigh, 'Ah, all is
well!'"

"The green life" was a phrase often on Sharp's lips, and stood for him
for that mysterious life of elemental things to which he was almost
uncannily sensitive, and into which he seemed able strangely to merge
himself, of which too his writings as "Fiona Macleod" prove him to have
had "invisible keys." It is this, so to say, conscious pantheism,
this kinship with the secret forces and subtle moods of nature, this
responsiveness to her mystic spiritual "intimations," that give to those
writings their peculiar significance and value. In the external lore of
nature William Sharp was exceptionally learned. Probably no writer in
English, with the exceptions of George Meredith and Grant Allen, was his
equal here, and his knowledge had been gained, as such knowledge can
only be gained, in that receptive period of an adventurous boyhood of
which he has thus written: "From fifteen to eighteen I sailed up every
loch, fjord, and inlet in the Western Highlands and islands, from Arran
and Colonsay to Skye and the Northern Hebrides, from the Rhinns of
Galloway to the Ord of Sutherland. Wherever I went I eagerly associated
myself with fishermen, sailors, shepherds, gamekeepers, poachers,
gypsies, wandering pipers, and other musicians." For two months he had
"taken the heather" with, and had been "star-brother" and "sun-brother"
to, a tribe of gypsies, and in later years he had wandered variously in
many lands, absorbing the wonder and the beauty of the world. Well
might he write to Mrs. Janvier: "I have had a very varied, and, to use a
much abused word, a very romantic life in its internal as well as in its
external aspects." Few men have drunk so deep of the cup of life, and
from such pure sky-reflecting springs, and if it be true, in the words
of his friend Walter Pater, that "to burn ever with this hard gem-like
flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life," then indeed the
life of William Sharp was a nobly joyous success.

And to those who loved him it is a great happiness to know that he was
able to crown this ecstasy of living with that victory of expression for
which his soul had so long travailed, and to leave behind him not only a
lovely monument of star-lit words, but a spiritual legacy of perennial
refreshment, a fragrant treasure-house of recaptured dreams, and
hallowed secrets of the winds of time: for such are _The Writings of
"Fiona Macleod"_.



XXIV

FORBES-ROBERTSON: AN APPRECIATION


The voluntary abdication of power in its zenith has always fascinated
and "intrigued" the imagination of mankind. We are so accustomed to
kings and other gifted persons holding on to their sceptres with a
desperate tenacity, even through those waning years when younger men,
beholding their present feebleness, wonder whether their previous might
was not a fancy of their fathers, whether, in fact, they were ever
really kings or gifted persons at all. In so many cases we have to rely
on a legend of past accomplishment to preserve our reverence. Therefore,
when a Sulla or a Charles V. or a Mary Anderson, leave their thrones at
the moment when their sway over us is most assured and brilliant, we
wonder--wonder at a phenomenon rare in humanity, and suggestive of
romantic reserves of power which seal not only our allegiance to them,
but that of posterity. The mystery which resides in all greatness, in
all charm, is not violated by the cynical explanations of decay. They
remain fortunate as those whom the gods loved, wearing the aureoles of
immortal promise.

Few artists have been wise in this respect; poets, for example, very
seldom. Thus we find the works of most of them encumbered with the
débris of their senility. Coventry Patmore was a rare example of a poet
who laid down his pen deliberately, not merely as an artist in words,
but as an artist in life, having, as he said in the memorable preface to
the collected edition of his poems, completed that work which in his
youth he had set before him. His readers, therefore, are not saddened by
any pathetic gleanings from a once-rich harvest-field, or the carefully
picked-up shakings of November boughs.

Forbes-Robertson is one of those artists who has chosen to bid farewell
to his art while he is still indisputably its master. One or two other
distinguished actors before him have thus chosen, and a greater number
have bade us, those professional "farewells" that remind one of that
dream of De Quincey in which he heard reverberated "Everlasting
farewells! and again and yet again reverberated--everlasting farewells!"
In Forbes-Robertson's case, however, apart from our courteous taking the
word of his management, we know that the news is sadly true. There is
a curious personal honour and sincerity breathing through all his
impersonations that make us feel, so to say, that not only would we take
the ghost's word for a thousand pounds, but that between him and his art
is such an austere compact that he would be incapable of humiliating it
by any mere advertising devices; and beyond that, those who have seen
him play this time (1914) in New York must have been aware that in the
very texture of all his performances was woven like a sigh the word
"farewell." His very art, as I shall have later to emphasize, is an art
of farewell; but, apart from that general quality, it seemed to me,
though, indeed, it may have been mere sympathetic fancy, that in these
last New York performances, as in the performances last spring in
London, I heard a personal valedictory note. Forbes-Robertson seemed to
be saying good-by at once to his audience and to his art.

In doing this, along with the inevitable sadness that must accompany
such a step, one cannot but think there will be a certain private
whimsical satisfaction for him in being able to go about the world in
after years with his great gift still his, hidden away, but still his to
use at any moment, and to know not only that he has been, but still is,
as it were, in secret, the supreme Hamlet of his time. Something
like that, one may imagine, must be the private fun of abdication.
Forbes-Robertson, as he himself has told us, lays down one art only to
take up another to which he has long been devoted, and of his early
affiliation to which the figure of Love Kissing Beatrice in Rossetti's
"Dante's Dream" bears illustrious and significant witness. As, one
recalls that he was the model for that figure one realizes that even
then he was the young lord Hamlet, born to be _par excellence_ the actor
of sorrow and renunciation.

It is not my province to write here of Forbes-Robertson from the point
of view of the reminiscent playgoer or of the technical critic of
acting. Others, obviously, are far better qualified to undertake those
offices for his fame. I would merely offer him the tribute of one to
whom for many years his acting has been something more than acting, as
usually understood, something to class with great poetry, and all the
spiritual exaltation which "great poetry" implies. From first to last,
however associated with that whimsical comedy of which, too, he is
appropriately a master, he has struck for me that note of almost
heartbreaking spiritual intensity which, under all its superficial
materialism and cynicism, is the key-note of the modern world.

When I say "first," I am thinking of the first time I saw him, on the
first night of _The Profligate_ by Pinero, in its day one of the plays
that blazed the trail for that social, or, rather, I should say,
sociological, drama since become even more deadly in earnest, though
perhaps less deadly in skill. Incidentally, I remember that Miss Olga
Nethersole, then quite unknown, made a striking impression of evil,
though playing only a small part. It was Forbes-Robertson, however, for
me, and I think for all the playgoing London of the time, that gave the
play its chief value by making us startlingly aware, through the
poignancy of his personality, of what one might call the voice of the
modern conscience. To associate that thrillingly beautiful and profound
voice of his with anything that sounds so prosaic as a "modern
conscience" may seem unkind, but actually our modern conscience is
anything but prosaic, and combines within it something at once poetic
and prophetic, of which that something ghostly in Forbes-Robertson's
acting is peculiarly expressive. That quality of other-worldliness which
at once scared and fascinated the lodgers in _The Passing of the Third
Floor Back_ is present in all Forbes-Robertson's acting. It was that
which strangely stirred us, that first night of _The Profligate_. We
meet it again with the blind Dick Heldar in _The Light That Failed_, and
of course we meet it supremely in _Hamlet_. In fact, it is that quality
which, chief among others, makes Forbes-Robertson's Hamlet the classical
Hamlet of his time.

Forbes-Robertson has of course played innumerable parts. Years before
_The Profligate_, he had won distinction as the colleague of Irving and
Mary Anderson. He may be said to have played everything under the sun.
His merely theatric experience has thus enriched and equipped his
temperament with a superb technique. It would probably be impossible for
him to play any part badly, and of the various successes he has made, to
which his present repertoire bears insufficient witness, others, as I
have said, can point out the excellences. My concern here is with his
art in its fullest and finest expression, in its essence; and therefore
it is unnecessary for me to dwell upon any other of his impersonations
than that of Hamlet. When a man can play _Hamlet_ so supremely, it may
be taken for granted, I presume, that he can play _Mice and Men_, or
even that masterpiece of all masterpieces, _Caesar and Cleopatra_. I
trust that it is no disrespect to the distinguished authors of these two
plays to say that such plays in a great actor's repertoire represent
less his versatility than his responsibilities, that pot-boiling
necessity which hampers every art, and that of the actor, perhaps, most
of all.

To my thinking, the chief interest of all Forbes-Robertson's other parts
is that they have "fed" his Hamlet; and, indeed, many of his best parts
may be said to be studies for various sides of Hamlet, his fine _Romeo_,
for example, which, unfortunately, he no longer plays. In _Hamlet_ all
his qualities converge, and in him the tradition of the stage that all
an ambitious actor's experience is only to fit him to play Hamlet is for
once justified. But, of course, the chief reason of that success is that
nature meant Forbes-Robertson to play Hamlet. Temperament, personality,
experience, and training have so worked together that he does not merely
play, but _is_, Hamlet. Such, at all events, is the complete illusion he
is able to produce.

Of course, one has heard from them of old time that an actor's
personality must have nothing to do with the part he is playing; that he
only is an actor who can most successfully play the exact opposite of
himself. That is the academic theory of "character-acting," and of
course the half-truth of it is obvious. It represents the weariness
induced in audiences by handsome persons who merely, in the stage
phrase, "bring their bodies on"; yet it would go hard with some of our
most delightful comedians were it the whole truth about acting. As a
matter of fact, of course, a great actor includes a multiplicity of
selves, so that he may play many parts, yet always be playing himself.
Beyond himself no artist, whatever his art, has ever gone.

What reduplication of personality is necessary for the man who plays
Hamlet need hardly be said, what wide range of humanity and variety of
accomplishment; for, as Anatole France has finely said of Hamlet, "He is
a man, he is man, he is the whole of man."

Time was when _Hamlet_ was little more than an opportunity for some
robustious periwig-pated fellow, or it gave the semi-learned actor the
chance to conceal his imaginative incapacity by a display of "new
readings." For example, instead of saying:

          The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold,

you diverted attention from your acting by an appeal to the literary
antiquarianism of your audience, and, out of one or other of the
quartos, read the line:

          The air bites shrewdly; _is_ it very cold?

with the implication that there was a whole world of suggestion in the
difference.

One has known actors, far from unillustrious, who staked their whole
performance on some such learned triviality or some trifling novelty of
business, when, for example, in Hamlet's scene with his mother, the
prince comes to:

          Look here upon this picture, and on this.

An actor who deserves better than he has yet received in the tradition
of the acted _Hamlet_--I mean Wilson Barrett--used to make much of
taking a miniature of his father from his bosom to point the contrast.

But all such things in the end are of no account. New readings, new
business, avail less and less. Nor does painstaking archaeology of
scenery or dresses any longer throw dust in our eyes. We are for the
play, the living soul of the play. Give us that, and your properties may
be no more elaborate than those of a _guignol_ in the Champs-Elysées.

Forbes-Robertson's acting is so imaginative, creating the scene about
him as he plays, that one almost resents any stage-settings for him at
all, however learnedly accurate and beautifully painted.

His soul seems to do so much for us that we almost wish it could be
left to do it all, and he act for us as they acted in Elizabeth's day,
with only a curtain for scenery, and a placard at the side of the stage
saying, "This is Elsinore."

One could hardly say more for one's sense of the reality of
Forbes-Robertson's acting, as, naturally, one is not unaware that
distressing experiments have been made to reproduce the Elizabethan
theatre by actors who, on the other hand, were sadly in need of all
that scenery, archaeology, or orchestra could do for them.

With a world overcrowded with treatises on the theme, from, and before,
Gervinus, with the commentary of _Wilhelm Meister_ in our minds, not to
speak of the starlit text ever there for our reading, there is surely no
need to traverse the character of Hamlet. He has meant so much to our
fathers--though he can never have meant so much to them as he does to us
of today--that he is, so to say, in our blood. He is strangely near to
our hearts by sheer inheritance. And perhaps the most beautiful thing
Forbes-Robertson's Hamlet does for us is that it commands our love for a
great gentleman doing his gentlest and bravest and noblest with a sad
smile and a gay humour, in not merely a complicated, wicked, absurd, and
tiresome, but, also, a ghostly world.

When we think of Hamlet, we think of him as two who knew him very well
thought of him,--Ophelia and Horatio,--and as one who saw him only as he
sat at last on his throne, dead, with the crown of Denmark on his
knees.

Ophelia's

          Courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword,
          The expectancy and rose of the fair state;

the "sweet prince" of Horatio's "good-night"--the soldier for whose
passage Fortinbras commanded

          The soldier's music and the rites of war.

We think of him, too, as the haunted son of a dear father murdered, a
philosophic spectator of the grotesque brutality of life, suddenly by a
ghostly summons called on to take part in it; a prince, a philosopher, a
lover, a soldier, a sad humourist.

Were one asked what aspects of Hamlet does Forbes-Robertson specially
embody, I should say, in the first place, his princeliness, his
ghostliness, then his cynical and occasionally madcap humour, as where,
at the end of the play-scene, he capers behind the throne in a terrible
boyish glee. No actor that I have seen expresses so well that scholarly
irony of the Renaissance permeating the whole play. His scene with
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and the recorders is masterly: the silken
sternness of it, the fine hauteur, the half-appeal as of lost ideals
still pleading with the vulgarity of life, the fierce humour of its
disillusion, and behind, as always, the heartbreak--that side of which
comes of the recognition of what it is to be a gentleman in such a
world.

In this scene, too, as in others, Forbes-Robertson makes it clear that
that final tribute of Fortinbras was fairly won.

The soldier--if necessary, the fighter--is there as supple and strong as
a Damascus blade. One is always aware of the "something dangerous," for
all his princely manners and scholarly ways. One is never left in doubt
as to how this Hamlet will play the man. It is all too easy for him to
draw his sword and make an end of the whole fantastic business. Because
this philosophic swordsman holds the sword, let no one think that he
knows not how to wield it. All this gentleness--have a care!--is that of
an unusually masculine restraint.

In the scene with Ophelia, Forbes-Robertson's tenderness was almost
terrible. It came from such a height of pity upon that little
uncomprehending flower!

"I never gave you aught," as Forbes-Robertson said it, seemed to mean:
"I gave you all--all that you could not understand." "Yet are not you
and I in the toils of that destiny there that moves the arras. _Is_ it
your father?"

Along with Forbes-Robertson's spiritual interpretation of Shakespeare
goes pre-eminently, and doubtless as a contributive part of it, his
imaginative revitalization of the great old lines--lines worn like a
highway with the passage of the generations. As a friend of mine
graphically phrased it, "How he revives for us the splendour of the
text!"

The splendour of the text! It is a good phrase, and how splendid the
text is we, of course, all know--know so well that we take it for
granted, and so fall into forgetfulness of its significance; forgetting
what central fires of soul and intellect must have gone to the creation
of such a world of transcendent words.

Yet how living the lines still are, though the generations have almost
quoted the life out of them, no man who has spoken them on the stage in
our day, except Forbes-Robertson, has had the gift to show.

It is more than elocution, masterly elocution as it is, more than the
superbly modulated voice: the power comes of spiritual springs welling
up beneath the voice--springs fed from those infinite sources which "lie
beyond the reaches of our souls."

Merely to take the phrase I have just quoted, how few actors--or readers
of Shakespeare, or members of any Shakespearian audience, for that
matter--have any personal conception of what it means! They may make a
fine crescendo with it, but that is all. They have never stood,
shrinking and appalled, yet drawn with a divine temptation, upon the
brink of that vastness along the margin of which, it is evident, that
Hamlet often wandered. It is in vain they tell their audiences and
Horatio:

          There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
          Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

We are quite sure that they know nothing of what they are saying; and
that, as a matter of fact, there are few things for them in heaven or
earth except the theatre they are playing in, their actors' club, and,
generally, their genial mundane lives; and, of course, one rather
congratulates them on the simplicity of their lives, congratulates them
on their ignorance of such haunted regions of the mind. Yet, all the
same, that simplicity seems to disqualify them from playing _Hamlet_.

Few Shakespearian actors seem to remember what they are
playing--Shakespeare. One would think that to be held a worthy
interpreter of so great a dramatist, so mysterious a mind, and so
golden a poet, were enough distinction. Oscar Wilde, in a fine
sonnet, addressed Henry Irving as

          Thou trumpet set for Shakespeare's lips to blow,

and we may be sure that Irving appreciated the honour thus paid him, he
who so wonderfully interpreted so many of Shakespeare's moods, so well
understood the irony of his intellect, even the breadth of his humanity,
yet in _Hamlet_, at all events, so strangely missed his soul.

Most of us have seen many Hamlets die. We have watched them squirming
through those scientific contortions of dissolution, to copy which they
had very evidently walked the hospitals in a businesslike quest of
death-agonies, as certain histrionic connoisseurs of madness in France
lovingly haunt the Saltpétrière. As I look back, I wonder how we
tolerated their wriggling absurdity. I suppose it was that the hand of
tradition was still upon us, as upon them. And, let us not forget, the
words were there, the immortal words, and an atmosphere of tragic death
and immortality that only such words could create:

          Absent thee from felicity awhile,
          And in the harsh world draw thy breath in pain
          To hear my story ...
          The rest is silence....

How different it is when Forbes-Robertson's Hamlet dies! All my life I
seem to have been asking my friends, those I loved best, those who
valued the dearest, the kindest, the greatest, and the strongest in our
strange human life, to come with me and see Forbes-Robertson die in
_Hamlet_. I asked them because, as that strange young dead king sat
upon his throne, there was something, whatever it meant--death, life,
immortality, what you will--of a surpassing loveliness, something
transfiguring the poor passing moment of trivial, brutal murder into a
beauty to which it was quite natural that that stern Northern warrior,
with his winged helmet, should bend the knee. I would not exchange
anything I have ever read or seen for Forbes-Robertson as he sits there
so still and starlit upon the throne of Denmark.

Forbes-Robertson is not merely a great Shakespearian actor; he is a
great spiritual actor. The one doubtless implies the other, though the
implication has not always appeared to be obvious.

He is prophetic of what the stage will some day be, and what we can see
it here and there preparing to become. In all the welter of the dramatic
conditions of the moment there emerges one fact, that of the growing
importance of the stage as a vehicle for what one may term general
culture. The stage, with its half-sister, the cinema, is strangely,
by how long and circuitous a route, returning of course, with an
immeasurably developed equipment, to its starting-point, ending
curiously where it began as the handmaid of the church. As with the old
moralities or miracle-plays, it is becoming once more our teacher. The
lessons of truth and beauty, as those of plain gaiety and delight, are
relying more and more upon the actor for their expression, and less on
the accredited doctors of divinity or literature. Even the dancers are
doing much for our souls. Our duties as citizens are being taught us by
well-advertised plays, and if we wish to abolish Tammany or change our
police commissioner, we enforce our desire by the object-lesson of a
play. The great new plays may not yet be here, but the public once more
is going to the theatre, as it went long ago in Athens, to be delighted
and amused, of course, but also to be instructed in national and civic
affairs, and, most important of all, to be purified by pity and terror.



XXV

A MEMORY OF FRÉDÉRIC MISTRAL


There are many signs that poetry is coming into its own again--even
here in America, which, while actually one of the most romantic and
sentimental of countries, fondly imagines itself the most prosaic.

Kipling, to name but one instance, has, by his clarion-tongued
quickening of the British Empire, shown so convincingly what dynamic
force still belongs to the right kind of singing, and the poet in
general seems to be winning back some of that serious respect from his
fellow-citizens which, under a misapprehension of his effeminacy and
general uselessness, he had lost awhile. The poet is not so much a joke
to the multitude as he was a few years ago, and the term "minor poet"
seems to have fallen into desuetude.

Still for all this, I doubt if it is in the Anglo-Saxon blood, nowadays
at all events, to make a national hero of a poet, one might say a
veritable king, such as Frédéric Mistral is today in Provence. In our
time, Björnson in Norway was perhaps the only parallel figure, and he
held his position as actual "father of his people" for very much the
same reasons. At once a commanding and lovable personality, he and his
work were absolutely identified with his country and his countrymen. He
was simply Norway incarnate.

So, today in Provence, it is with Frédéric Mistral. He is not only a
poet of Provence. He is Provence incarnate, and, apart from the noble
quality of his work, his position as the foremost representative of his
compatriots is romantically unique. No other country today, pointing to
its greatest man, would point out--a poet; whereas Mistral, were he not
as unspoiled as he is laurelled, might, with literal truth, say:

          "_Provence--c'est moi!_"

We had hardly set foot in Provence this last spring, my wife and I,
before we realized, with grateful wonder, that we had come to a country
that has a poet for a king.

On arriving at Marseilles almost the first word we heard was
"Mistral"--not the bitter wind of the same name, but the name of the
honey-tongued "Master." Our innkeeper--O the delightful innkeepers of
France!--on our consulting him as to our project of a walking trip
through the Midi--as Frenchmen usually speak of Provence--said, for his
first aid to the traveller: "Then, of course, you will see our great
poet, Mistral." And he promptly produced a copy of _Mirèio_, which he
begged me to use till I had bought a copy for myself.

"Ah! Mistral," he cried, with Gallic enthusiasm, using the words I have
borrowed from his lips, "Mistral is the King of Provence!"

Marseilles had not always been so enthusiastic over Mistral and his
fellows. And Mistral, in his memoirs, gives an amusing account of a
philological battle fought over the letter "s" in a room behind one of
the Marseilles bookshops between "the amateurs of trivialities, the
rhymers of the white beard, the jealous, the grumblers," and the young
innovators of the "félibrige."

But that was over fifty years ago, and the battle of those young
enthusiasts has long since been won. What that battle was and what an
extraordinary victory came of it must needs be told for the significance
of Mistral in Provence to be properly understood.

The story is one of the most romantic in the history of literature.
Briefly, it is this:

The Provençal language, the "langue d'oc," was, of course, once the
courtly and lettered language of Europe, the language of the great
troubadours, and through them the vehicle of the culture and refinement
of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. From it may be said to have
sprung the beginnings of Italian literature.

But, owing to various historical vicissitudes, the language of Northern
France, the "langue d'oil," gradually took its place, and when Mistral
was born, in 1830, Provençal had long been regarded as little more than
a _patois_.

Now it was the young Mistral's dream, as a school-boy in the old convent
school of Saint Michael de Frigolet, at Avignon, to restore his native
tongue to its former high estate, to make it once more a literary
language, and it chanced that one of his masters, Joseph Roumanille, was
secretly cherishing the same dream.

The master, looking over his pupil's shoulder one day, found that,
instead of working at his prescribed task, he was busily engaged in
translating the Penitential Psalms into Provençal. Instead of punishing
him, the master gratefully hailed a kindred spirit, and presently
confided Provençal verses of his own making. From that moment, though
there was a dozen years' difference between their ages, Mistral and
Roumanille began a friendship which was to last till Roumanille's death,
a friendship of half a century.

Soon their dream attracted other recruits, and presently seven friends,
whose names are all famous now, and most of whom have statues in Arles
or in Avignon--Roumanille, Mistral, Aubanel, Mathieu, Giéra, Brunet, and
Tavan--after the manner of Ronsard's "Pléiade," and Rossetti's
"P.R.B."--formed themselves into a brotherhood to carry on the great
work of regeneration.

They needed a name to call themselves by. They had all met together to
talk things over in the old castle of Font-Ségugne, or, as Mistral more
picturesquely puts it: "It was written in heaven that one blossoming
Sunday, the twenty-first of May, 1854, in the full springtide of life
and of the year, seven poets should come to meet together in the castle
of Font-Ségugne." Several suggestions were made for a name for this
brotherhood, but presently Mistral announced that in an old folk-story
he had collected at his birthplace, Maillane, he believed that he had
found the word they were in search of. In this folk-story the boy Christ
is represented as discoursing in the temple with "the seven félibres of
the Law."

"Why, that is us!" exclaimed the enthusiastic young men as Mistral
finished, and there on the spot "félibre" was adopted as the password of
their order, Mistral coining the word "félibrige" to represent the work
they aimed to do, and also their association. The name stuck, and has
now for many years been the banner-word for the vigorous school of
Provençal literature and the allied arts of painting and sculpture which
has responded with such eager vitality to Mistral's rallying cry.

But, excellent as are the other poets which the school has produced--and
one need only glance through a recent _Anthologie du Félibrige_ to
realize what a wealth of true poetry the word "félibrige" now stands
for--there can be no question that its greatest asset still remains
Mistral's own work, as it was his first great poem, _Mirèio_, which
first drew the eyes of literary Paris, more than inclined to be
contemptuous, to the Provençal renaissance.

Adolphe Dumas had been sent to Provence in the year 1856 by the Minister
of Public Instruction to collect the folk-songs of the people, and
calling on Mistral (then twenty-six), living quietly with his widowed
mother at Maillane, he had found him at work on _Mirèio_. Mistral read
some passages to him, with the result that the generous Dumas returned
to Paris excitedly to proclaim the advent of a new poet. Presently,
Mistral accepted his invitation to visit Paris, was introduced to the
great Lamartine--who has left some charming pages descriptive of his
visit,--read some of _Mirèio_ to him, and was hailed by him as "the
Homer of Provence."

The press, however, had its little fling at the new-comer. "The Mistral
it appears," said one pitiful punster, "has been incarnated in a poem.
We shall soon see whether it is anything else but wind." Such has been
the invariable welcome of great men in a small world.

But Mistral had no taste for Paris, either as a lion or a butt, and,
after a few days' stay, we find him once more quietly at home at
Maillane. Yet he had brought back with him one precious trophy--the
praise of Lamartine; and when, in the course of a year or two (1859),
_Mirèio_ came to be published at Avignon, it bore, as it still bears,
this heart-felt dedication to Lamartine:

"To thee I dedicate _Mirèio_; it is my heart and my soul; it is the
flower of my years; it is a bunch of grapes from Crau with all its
leaves--a rustic's offering."

With the publication of _Mirèio_ Mistral instantly "arrived," instantly
found himself on that throne which, as year has followed year, has
become more securely his own. Since then he has written much noble
poetry, all embodying and vitalizing the legendary lore of his native
land, a land richer in momentous history, perhaps, than any other
section of Europe. But in addition to his poetry he has, single-handed,
carried through the tremendous scholarly task of compiling a dictionary
of the Provençal language--a _Thesaurus of the Félibrige_, for which
work the Institute awarded him a prize of ten thousand francs.

In 1904, he was awarded the Nobel prize of 100,000 francs, but such is
his devotion to his fellow-countrymen that he did not keep that prize
for himself, but used it to found the Musée Arlésien at Arles, a museum
designed as a treasure house of anything and everything pertaining to
the history and life of Provence--antiquities, furniture, costumes,
paintings, and so forth.

It was in Arles in 1909, the fiftieth birthday of _Mirèio_, that
Mistral, then seventy-nine years old, may be said to have reached the
summit of his romantic fame. A great festival was held in his honour, in
which the most distinguished men of France took part. A dramatized
version of his _Mirèio_ was played in the old Roman amphitheatre, and a
striking statue of him was unveiled in the antique public square, the
Place du Forum, with the shade of Constantine looking on, one might
feel, from his mouldering palace hard by.

In Arles Mistral is a well-known, beloved figure, for it is his custom,
every Saturday, to come there from Maillane, to cast his eye over the
progress of his museum, the pet scheme of his old age. One wonders how
it must seem to pass that figure of himself, pedestaled high in the old
square. To few men is it given to pass by their own statues in the
street. Sang a very different poet--

          They grind us to the dust with poverty,
          And build us statues when we come to die.

But poor Villon had the misfortune to be a poet of the "langue d'oil,"
and the Montfaucon gibbet was the only monument of which he stood in
daily expectation. Could the lines of two poets offer a greater
contrast? Blessed indeed is he who serves the rural gods, Pan and Old
Sylvanus and the sister nymphs--as Virgil sang; and Virgilian indeed has
been the golden calm, and sunlit fortunes, as Virgilian, rather than
Homeric, is the gracious art, of the poet whom his first Parisian
admirer, Adolphe Dumas, called "the Homer of Provence"--as Virgilian,
too, seemed the landscape through which at length, one April afternoon,
we found ourselves on pilgrimage to the home of him whose name had been
on the lips of every innkeeper, shopkeeper, and peasant, all the way
from Marseilles to Tarascon.

Yes! the same golden peace that lies like a charm across every page
of his greatest poem lay across that sun-steeped, fertile plain,
with its walls of cypress trees, its lines of poplars, its delicate,
tapestry-like designs of almond trees in blossom, on a sombre background
of formal olive orchards, its green meadows, lit up with singing
water-courses, or gleaming irrigation canals, starred here and there
with the awakening kingcup, or sweet with the returning violet--here
and there a farmhouse ("mas," as they call them in Provence) snugly
sheltered from the mistral by their screens of foliage--and far aloft in
the distance, floating like a silver dream, the snow-white shoulder of
Mont Ventoux--the Fuji Yama of Provence.

At last the old, time-worn village came in sight--it lies about ten
miles north-east of Tartarin's Tarascon--and we entered it, as was
proper, with the "Master's" words on our lips: "Maillane is beautiful,
well-pleasing is Maillane; and it grows more and more beautiful every
day. Maillane is the honour of the countryside, and takes its name from
the month of May.

"Who would be in Paris or in Rome? Poor conscripts! There is nothing to
charm one there; but Maillane has its equal nowhere--and one would
rather eat an apple in Maillane than a partridge in Paris."

It was Sunday afternoon, and the streets were full of young people in
their Sunday finery, the girls wearing the pretty Arlésien caps. At
first sight of us, with our knapsacks, they were prepared to be amused,
and saucy lads called out things in mock English; but when it was
understood that we were seeking the house of the "Master" we inspired
immediate respect, and a dozen eager volunteers put themselves at our
service and accompanied us in a body to where, at the eastern edge of
the village, there stands an unpretentious square stone house of no
great antiquity, surrounded by a garden and half hidden with trees.

We stood silently looking at the house for a few minutes, trying to
realize that there a great poet had gone on living and working, in
single-minded devotion to his art and his people, for full fifty
years--there in that green, out-of-the-way corner of the world. The
idea of a life so rooted in contentment, so continuously happy in the
lifelong prosecution of a task set to itself in boyhood, and so
independent of change, is one not readily grasped by the hurrying
American mind.

Then we pushed open the iron gate and passed into the garden. A paved
walk led up to the front door, but that had an unused look, and, gaining
no response there, we walked through a shrubbery around the side of the
house, and as we turned the corner came on what was evidently the real
entrance, facing a sunny slope of garden where hyacinths and violets
told of the coming of spring. Here we were greeted by some half a dozen
friendly dogs, whose demonstrations brought to the door a neat little,
keen-eyed peasant woman, with an expression in her face that suggested
that she was the real watch dog, on behalf of her master, standing
between him and an intrusive world. As a matter of fact, as we afterward
learned, that is one of her many self-imposed offices, for, having been
in the Mistral household for many years, she has long since been as much
a family friend as a servant, and generally looks after the Master and
Mme. Mistral as if they were her children, nursing and "bossing" them by
turns. "Elise"--I think her name is--is a "character" almost as well
known in Provence as the Master himself.

So she looked sharply at us, while I produced a letter to M. Mistral
which had been given me by a humble associate of the "félibres," a
delightful _chansonnier_ we had met at Les Baux. With this she went
indoors, presently to return with a face of still cautious welcome, and
invited us in to a little square hall hung with photographs of various
distinguished friends of the poet and two bronze medallions of himself,
one representing him with his favourite dog.

Then a door to the right opened, revealing a typical scholar's study,
lined with books from ceiling to floor, books and papers on tables and
chairs, and framed photographs again on the free wall space. The spring
sunshine poured in through long windows, and in this characteristic
setting stood a tall old man, astonishingly erect, his distinguished
head, with its sparse white locks, its keen eyes, and strong yet
delicate aquiline features, pointed white beard and mustache,
suggesting pictures of some military grand seigneur of old time. His
carriage had the same blending of soldier and nobleman, and the stately
kindliness with which he bade us welcome belonged, alas! to another day.

At his side stood a tall, handsome lady, with remarkable, dark, kind
eyes, evidently many years his junior. This was Mme. Mistral, in her day
one of those "queens of beauty" whom the "félibres" elect every seven
years at their floral fêtes. Mme. Mistral was no less gracious to us
than her husband, and joined in the talk that followed with much
animation and charm.

We had a little feared that M. Mistral, as he declines to write in
anything but Provençal, might carry his artistic creed into his
conversation too. To our relief, however, he spoke in the most polished
French--for you may know French very well, but be quite unable to
understand Provençal, either printed or spoken. This had sometimes made
our journeying difficult, as we inquired our way of peasants along the
road.

It was natural to talk first to Mistral of literature. We inquired
whether he read much English. He shook his head, smiling. No! outside of
one or two of the great classics, Shakespeare and Milton, for example,
he had read little. Yes! he had read one American author--Fenimore
Cooper. _Le Feu-Follet_ had been a favourite book of his boyhood. This
we identified as _The Fire-Fly_.

He seemed to wish to talk about America rather than literature, and
seemed immensely interested in the fact that we were Americans, and he
raised his eyes, with an expression of French wonderment, at the fact
of our walking our way through the country--as also at the length of
the journey from America. Evidently it seemed to him a tremendous
undertaking.

"You Americans," he said, "are a wonderful people. You think nothing of
going around the world."

We were surprised to find that he took the keenest interest in American
politics.

"It must be a terribly difficult country to govern," he said. And then
he asked us eagerly for news of our "extraordinary President." We
suggested Mr. Wilson.

"Oh, no! no!" he explained. "The extraordinary man who was President
before him."

"Colonel Roosevelt?"

Yes, that was the man--a most remarkable man that! So Colonel Roosevelt
may be interested to hear that the poet-king of Provence is an
enthusiastic Bull Mooser.

Of course, we talked too of the "félibrige," and it was beautiful to see
how M. Mistral's face softened at the mention of his friend Joseph
Roumanille, and with what generosity he attributed the origin of the
great movement to his dead friend.

"But you must by all means call on Mme. Roumanille," said he, "when you
go to Avignon, and say that I sent you"--for Roumanille's widow still
lives, one of the most honoured muses of the "félibrige."

When it was time for us to go on our way, nothing would satisfy M. and
Mme. Mistral but that we drink a glass of a cordial which is made by
"Elise" from Mistral's own recipe; and as we raised the tiny glasses of
the innocent liqueur in our hands, Mistral drank "A l'Amérique!"

Then, taking a great slouch hat from a rack in the hall, and looking as
though it was his statue from Aries accompanying us, the stately old man
led us out into the road, and pointed us the way to Avignon.

On the 30th of this coming September that great old man--the memory of
whose noble presence and beautiful courtesy will remain with us
forever--will be eighty-three.

February, 1913.



XXVI

IMPERISHABLE FICTION


The longevity of trees is said to be in proportion to the slowness of
their growth. It has to do no little as well with the depth and area of
their roots and the richness of the soil in which they find themselves.
When the sower went forth to sow, it will be remembered, that which soon
sprang up as soon withered away. It was the seed that was content to
"bring forth fruit with patience" that finally won out and survived the
others.

These humble, old-fashioned illustrations occur to me as I apply myself
to the consideration of the question provoked by the lightning
over-production of modern fiction and modern literature generally: the
question of the flourishing longevity of the fiction of the past as
compared with the swift oblivion which seems almost invariably to
over-take the much-advertised "masterpieces" of the present.

I read somewhere a ballade asking--where are the "best sellers" of
yesteryear? The ballad-maker might well ask, and one might re-echo with
Villon: "Mother of God, ah! where are they?" During the last twenty
years they have been as the sands on the seashore for multitude, yet I
think one would be hard set to name a dozen of them whose titles even
are still on the lips of men--whereas several quieter books published
during that same period, unheralded by trumpet or fire-balloon, are seen
serenely to be ascending to a sure place in the literary firmament.

What can be the reason? Can the decay of these forgotten phenomena of
modern fiction, so lavishly crowned with laurels manufactured in the
offices of their own publishers, have anything to do with the hectic
rapidity of their growth, and may there be some truth in the supposition
that the novels, and books generally, that live longest are those that
took the longest to write, or, at all events underwent the longest
periods of gestation?

Some fifteen years or so ago one of the most successful manufacturers of
best sellers was Guy Boothby, whose _Dr. Nikola_ is perhaps still
remembered. Unhappily he did not live long to enjoy the fruits of his
industrious dexterity. I bring his case to mind as typical of the modern
machine-made methods.

I had read in a newspaper that he did his "writing" by phonograph, and
chancing to meet him somewhere, asked him about it. His response was to
invite me to come down to his charming country house on the Thames and
see how he did it. Boothby was a fine, manly fellow, utterly without
"side" or any illusions as to the quality of his work. He loved good
literature too well--Walter Pater, incongruously enough, was one of his
idols--to dream that he could make it. Nor was the making of literature
by any means his first preoccupation, as he made clear, with winning
frankness, within a few moments of my arriving at his home.

Taking me out into his grounds, he brought me to some extensive kennels,
where he showed me with pride some fifty or so prize dogs; then he took
me to his stables, his face shining with pleasure in his thoroughbreds;
and again he led the way to a vast hennery, populated with innumerable
prize fowls.

"These are the things I care about," he said, "and I write the stuff for
which it appears I have a certain knack only because it enables me to
buy them!"

Would that all writers of best sellers were as engagingly honest. No few
of them, however, write no better and affect the airs of genius into the
bargain.

Then Boothby took me into his "study," the entire literary apparatus of
which consisted of three phonographs; and he explained that, when he had
dictated a certain amount of a novel into one of them, he handed it over
to his secretary in another room, who set it going and transcribed what
he had spoken into the machine; he, meanwhile, proceeding to fill up
another record. And he concluded airily by saying with a laugh that he
had a novel of 60,000 words to deliver in ten days, and was just on the
point of beginning it!

Boothby's method was, I believe, somewhat unusual in those days. Since
then it has become something like the rule. Not so much as regards
the phonograph, perhaps, but with respect to the breathless speed of
production.

I am informed by an editor, associated with magazines that use no less
than a million and a half words of fiction a month, that he has among
his contributors more than one writer on whom he can rely to turn off a
novel of 60,000 words in six days, and that he can put his finger on
twenty novelists who think nothing of writing a novel of a hundred
thousand words in anywhere from sixty to ninety days. He recalled to me,
too, the case of a well-known novelist who has recently contracted to
supply a publisher with four novels in one year, each novel to run to
not less than a hundred thousand words. One thinks of the Scotsman with
his "Where's your Willie Shakespeare now?"

Even Balzac's titanic industry must hide its diminished head before such
appalling fecundity; and what would Horace have to say to such frog-like
verbal spawning, with his famous "labour of the file" and his counsel to
writers "to take a subject equal to your powers, and consider long what
your shoulders refuse, what they are able to bear." It is to be feared
that "the monument more enduring than brass" is not erected with such
rapidity. The only brass associated with the modern best seller is to
be found in the advertisements; and, indeed, all that both purveyor and
consumer seem to care about may well be summed up in the publisher's
recommendation quoted by Professor Phelps: "This book goes with a rush
and ends with a smash." Such, one might add, is the beginning and ending
of all literary rockets.

Now let us recall some fiction that has been in the world anywhere from,
say, three hundred years to fifty years and is yet vigorously alive,
and, in many instances, to be classed still with the best sellers.

_Don Quixote_, for example, was published in 1605, but is still actively
selling. Why? May it perhaps be that it was some six years in the
writing, and that a great man, who was soldier as well as writer,
charged it with the vitality of all his blood and tears and laughter,
all the hard-won humanity of years of manful living, those five years as
a slave in Algiers (actually beginning it in prison once more at La
Mancha), and all the stern struggle of a storm-tossed life faced with
heroic steadfastness and gaiety of heart?

Take another book which, if it is not read as much as it used to be, and
still deserves to be, is certainly far from being forgotten--_Gil Blas_.
Published in 1715--that is, its first two parts--it has now two
centuries of popularity to its credit, and is still as racy with
humanity as ever; but, though Le Sage was a rapid and voluminous writer,
over this one book which alone the world remembers it is significant to
note that he expended unusual time and pains. He was forty-seven years
old when the first two parts were published. The third part was not
published till 1724, and eleven years more were to elapse before the
issue of the fourth and final part in 1735.

A still older book that is still one of the world's best sellers, _The
Pilgrim's Progress_, can hardly be conceived as being dashed off in
sixty or ninety days, and would hardly have endured so long had not
Bunyan put into it those twelve years of soul torment in Bedford gaol.
_Robinson Crusoe_ still sells its annual thousands, whereas others of
its author's books no less skilfully written are practically forgotten,
doubtless because Defoe, fifty-eight years old at its publication, had
concentrated in it the ripe experience of a lifetime. Though a boy's
book to us, he clearly intended it for an allegory of his own arduous,
solitary life.

"I, Robinson Crusoe," we read, "do affirm that the story, though
allegorical, is also historical, and that it is the beautiful
representation of a life of unexampled misfortune, and of a variety
not to be met with in this world."

_The Vicar of Wakefield_, as we know, was no hurried piece of work.
Indeed, Goldsmith went about it in so leisurely a fashion as to leave it
neglected in a drawer of his desk, till Johnson rescued it, according to
the proverbial anecdote; and even then its publisher, Newbery, was in
no hurry, for he kept it by him another two years before giving it to
the printer and to immortality. It was certainly one of those fruits
"brought forth with patience" all round.

_Tom Jones_ is another such slow-growing masterpiece. Written in the
sad years immediately following the death of his dearly loved wife,
Fielding, dedicating it to Lord Lyttelton, says: "I here present you
with the labours of some years of my life"; and it need scarcely
be added that the book, as in the case of all real masterpieces,
represented not merely the time expended on it, but all the accumulated
experience of Fielding's very human history.

Yes! Whistler's famous answer to Ruskin's counsel holds good of all
imperishable literature. Had he the assurance to ask two hundred guineas
for a picture that only took a day to paint? No, replied Whistler, he
asked it for "the training of a lifetime"; and it is this training of a
lifetime, in addition to the actual time expended on composition, that
constitutes the reserve force of all great works of fiction, and is
entirely lacking in most modern novels, however superficially brilliant
be their workmanship.

For this reason books like George Borrow's _Lavengro_ and _Romany Rye_,
failures on their publication, grow greater rather than less with the
passage of time. Their writers, out of the sheer sincerity of their
natures, furnished them, as by magic, with an inexhaustible provision of
life-giving "ichor." To quote from Milton, "a good book is the precious
life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a
life beyond life."

Of this immortality principle in literature Milton himself, it need
hardly be said, is one of the great exemplars. He was but thirty-two
when he first projected _Paradise Lost_, and through all the intervening
years of hazardous political industry he had kept the seed warm in his
heart, its fruit only to be brought forth with tragic patience in those
seven years of blindness and imminent peril of the scaffold which
followed his fiftieth birthday.

The case of poets is not irrelevant to our theme, for the conditions of
all great literature, whatever its nature, are the same. Therefore,
we may recall Dante, whose _Divine Comedy_ was with him from his
thirty-fifth year till the year of his death, the bitter-sweet companion
of twenty years of exile. Goethe, again, finished at eighty the _Faust_
he had conceived at twenty.

Spenser was at work on his _Faerie Queene_, alongside his preoccupation
with state business, for nearly twenty years. Pope was twelve years
translating Homer, and I think there is little doubt that Gray's _Elegy_
owes much of its staying power to the Horatian deliberation with which
Gray polished and repolished it through eight years.

If we are to believe Poe's _Philosophy of Composition_, and there is, I
think, more truth in it than is generally allowed, the vitality of _The
Raven_, as that, too, of his genuinely imperishable fictions, is less
due to inspiration than to the mathematical painstaking of their
composition.

But, perhaps, of all poets, the story of Virgil is most instructive for
an age of "get-rich-quick" _littérateurs_. On his _Georgics_ alone he
worked seven years, and, after working eleven years on the _Aeneid_, he
was still so dissatisfied with it that on his death-bed he besought his
friends to burn it, and on their refusal, commanded his servants to
bring the manuscript that he might burn it himself. But, fortunately,
Augustus had heard portions of it, and the imperial veto overpowered the
poet's infanticidal desire.

But, to return to the novelists, it may at first sight seem that the
great writer who, with the Waverley Novels, inaugurated the modern era
of cyclonic booms and mammoth sales, was an exception to the classic
formula of creation which we are endeavouring to make good. Stevenson,
we have been told, used to despair as he thought of Scott's "immense
fecundity of invention" and "careless, masterly ease."

"I cannot compete with that," he says--"what makes me sick is to think
of Scott turning out _Guy Mannering_ in three weeks."

Scott's speed is, indeed, one of the marvels of literary history, yet
in his case, perhaps more than in that of any other novelist, it must
be remembered that this speed had, in an unusual degree, that "training
of a lifetime" to rely upon; as from his earliest boyhood all Scott's
faculties had been consciously as well as unconsciously engaged in
absorbing and, by the aid of his astonishing memory, preserving the
vast materials on which he was able thus carelessly to draw.

Moreover, those who have read his manly autobiography know that this
speed was by no means all "ease," as witness the almost tragic
composition of _The Bride of Lammermoor_. If ever a writer scorned
delights and lived laborious days, it was Walter Scott. At the same time
the condition of his fame in the present day bears out the general truth
of my contention, for there is little doubt that he would be more widely
read than he is were it not for those too frequent _longueurs_ and inert
paddings which resulted from his too hurried workmanship.

Jane Austen is another example of comparatively rapid creation, writing
three of her best-known novels, _Pride and Prejudice_, _Sense and
Sensibility_, and _Northanger Abbey_ between the ages of twenty-one and
twenty-three. Yet _Pride and Prejudice_, which practically survives the
others, took her ten months to complete, and all her writings, it has
again to be said, had first been deeply and intimately "lived."

Charlotte Brontë was a year in writing _Jane Eyre_, spurred on to new
effort by the recent rejection of _The Professor_; but to write such a
book in a year cannot be called over-hasty production when one considers
how much of _Jane Eyre_ was drawn from Charlotte Brontë's own life, and
also how she and her sisters had been experimenting with literature from
their earliest childhood.

Thackeray considered an allowance of two years sufficient for the
writing of a good novel, but that seems little enough when one takes
into account the length of his best-known books, not to mention the
perfection of their craftsmanship. Dickens, for all the prodigious bulk
of his output, was rather a steady than a rapid writer. "He considered,"
says Forster, "three of his not very large manuscript pages a good, and
four an excellent, day's work."

_David Copperfield_ was about a year and nine months in the writing,
having been begun in the opening of 1849 and completed in October, 1850.
_Bleak House_ took a little longer, having been begun in November, 1851,
and completed in August, 1853. _Hard Times_ was a hasty piece of work,
written between the winter of 1853, and the summer of 1854, and it
cannot be considered one of Dickens's notable successes.

George Meredith wrote four of his greatest novels in seven years,
_Richard Feverel_, _Evan Harrington_, _Sandra Belloni_, and _Rhoda
Fleming_ being produced between 1859 and 1866. His poem, _Modern Love_,
was also written during that period.

George Eliot was a much-meditating, painstaking writer, though _Adam
Bede_ cost her little more than a year's work. Her novels, however, as
a rule, did not come forth without prayer and fasting, and, in the
course of their creation, she used often to suffer from "hopelessness
and melancholy." _Romola_, to which she devoted long and studious
preparation, she was often on the point of giving up, and in regard to
it she gives expression to a literary ideal to which the gentleman with
the contract for four novels a year, referred to in the outset of this
paper, is probably a stranger.

    It may turn out [she says], that I can't work freely and fully
    enough in the medium I have chosen, and in that case I must give
    it up; for I will never write anything to which my whole heart,
    mind, and conscience don't consent; so that I may feel it was
    something--however small--which wanted to be done in this world,
    and that I am just the organ for that small bit of work.

Charles Kingsley who, if not a great novelist, has to his credit in
_Westward Ho!_ one romance at least which, in the old phrase, "the world
will not willingly let die," was as conscientious in his work as he was
brilliant.

Says a friend who was with him while he was writing _Hypatia_:

"He took extraordinary pains to be accurate. We spent one whole day in
searching the four folio volumes of Synesius for a fact he thought was
there, and which was found there at last."

The writer of perhaps the greatest historical novel in the English
language, _The Cloister and the Hearth_, was what one might call a
glutton for thoroughness. Of himself Charles Reade has said: "I studied
the great art of fiction closely for fifteen years before I presumed
to write a line. I was a ripe critic before I became an artist." His
commonplace books, on the entries in which and the indexing he was
accustomed to spend one whole day out of each week, cataloguing the
notes of his multifarious reading and pasting in cuttings from
newspapers likely to be useful in novel-building, completely filled
one of the rooms in his house. In his will he left these open to the
inspection of literary students who cared to study the methods which
he had found so serviceable.

To name one or two more English novelists: Thomas Hardy's novels would
seem to have the slow growth of deep-rooted things. His greatest work,
_The Return of the Native_, was on the stocks for four years, though a
year seems to have sufficed for _Far from the Madding Crowd_.

The meticulous practice of Stevenson is proverbial, but this glimpse of
his method is worth catching again.

    The first draft of a story [records Mr. Charles D. Lanier],
    Stevenson wrote out roughly, or dictated to Lloyd Osbourne. When all
    the colours were in hand for the complete picture, he invariably
    penned it himself, with exceeding care.... If the first copy did not
    please him, he patiently made a second or a third draft. In his
    stern, self-imposed apprenticeship of phrase-making he had prepared
    himself for these workmanlike methods by the practice of rewriting
    his trial stories into dramas and then reworking them into stories
    again.

Nathaniel Hawthorne brought the devoted, one might say, the devotional,
spirit of the true artist to all his work, but _The Scarlet Letter_ was
written at a good pace when once started, though, as usual, the germ
had been in Hawthorne's mind for many years. The story of its beginning
is one of the many touching anecdotes in that history of authorship
which Carlyle compared to the Newgate Calendar. Incidentally, too, it
witnesses that an author occasionally meets with a good wife.

One wintry autumn day in Salem, Hawthorne returned home earlier than
usual from the custom-house. With pale lips, he said to his wife: "I am
turned out of office." To which she--God bless her!--cheerily replied:
"Very well! now you can write your book!" and immediately set about
lighting his study fire and generally making things comfortable for his
work.

The book was _The Scarlet Letter_, and was completed by the following
February, Hawthorne, as his wife said, writing "immensely" on it day
after day, nine hours a day. When finished, Hawthorne seems to have been
dispirited about the story, and put it away in a drawer; but the good
James T. Fields chanced soon to call on him, and asked him if he had
anything for him to publish.

"Who," asked Hawthorne gloomily, "would risk publishing a book from me,
the most unpopular writer in America?"

"I would," was Field's rejoinder, and after some further sparring,
Hawthorne owned up.

"As you have found me out," said he, "take what I have written and tell
me if it is good for anything"; and Fields went away with the manuscript
of what is, without any question, America's greatest novel.

Turning to the great novelists of France, with one or two exceptions,
they all bear out the theory of longevity in literature which I have
been endeavouring to support. It must reluctantly be confessed that one
of the most fascinatingly vital of them all, Alexandre Dumas, is one of
the exceptions, born improvisator as he was; yet immense research, it
needs hardly be said, went to the making of his enormous library of
romance--even though, it be allowed, that much of that work was done for
him by his "disciples."

George Sand was another facile, all too facile, writer. Here is a
description of her method:

    To write novels was to her only a process of nature. She seated
    herself before her table at ten o'clock, with scarcely a plot and
    only the slightest acquaintance with her characters, and until five
    in the evening, while her hand guided a pen, the novel wrote itself.
    Next day, and the next, it was the same. By and by the novel had
    written itself in full and another was unfolding.

Whether George Sand is still alive as a novelist, apart from her place
as an historic personality, I leave others to decide; but I am very sure
that she would be read a great deal more than she is if she had not so
confidently left her novels--to write themselves. Different, indeed, was
the method of Balzac, toiling year after year at his colossal task of
_The Human Comedy_, sometimes working eighteen hours a day, and never
less than twelve, and that "in the midst of protested bills, business
annoyances, the most cruel financial straits, in utter solitude and lack
of all consolation." But then Balzac was sustained by one of those great
dreams, without whose aid no lasting literature is produced, the dream,
"by infinite patience and courage, to compose for the France of the
nineteenth century, that history of morals which the old civilizations
of Rome, Athens, Memphis, and India have left untold."

To fulfil this he was able to live, for a long period, on a daily
expenditure of "three sous for bread, two for milk, and three for
firing." But doubtless it had been different if his dream had been
prize puppies, a garage full of motor-cars, or a translation into the
Four Hundred.

Victor Hugo, again, was one of the herculean artists, working, in
Emerson's phrase, "in a sad sincerity," with the patience of an ant and
the energy of a volcano. Of his _Les Misérables_--perhaps the greatest
novel ever written, as it is, I suppose, easily the longest--he said,
"it takes me nearly as long to publish a book as to write one"; and he
was at work on _Les Misérables_, off and on, for nearly fifteen years.
Of his writing _Notre Dame_ (that other colossus of fiction) this quaint
picture has been preserved. He had made vast historical preparations for
it, but ever there seemed still more to make, till at length his
publisher grew impatient, and under his pressure Hugo at last made a
start--after this fashion:

    He purchased a great grey woollen wrapper that covered him from head
    to foot, he locked up all his clothes lest he should be tempted to
    go out, and, carrying off his ink-bottle to his study, applied
    himself to his labour just as if he had been in prison. He never
    left the table except for food and sleep, and the sole recreation
    that he allowed himself was an hour's chat after dinner with M.
    Pierre Leroux, or any other friend who might drop in, and to whom he
    would occasionally read over his day's work.

Daudet, whose _Tartarin_ bids fair to remain one of the world's types,
like _Don Quixote_ or _Mr. Micawber_, for all his natural Provençal
gift of improvisation and, indeed, from his self-recognized necessity
of keeping it in check, was another strenuous artist. He wrote each
manuscript three times over, he told his biographer, and would write it
as many more if he could; and his son, in writing of him, has this truth
to say of his, as of all living work:

    The fact is that labour does not begin at the moment when the
    artist takes his pen. It begins in sustained reflection and in the
    thought which accumulates images and sifts them, garners and winnows
    them out, and compels life to keep control over imagination, and
    imagination to expand and enlarge life.

Zola is perhaps unduly depreciated nowadays, but certainly, if Carlyle's
"infinite capacity for taking pains" as a recipe for genius ever was put
to the test, it was by the author of the Rougon-Macquart series. Talking
of rewriting, Prosper Mérimée, best known for _Carmen_, is said to have
rewritten his _Colomba_ no less than sixteen times; as our Anglo-Saxon
Kipling, it used to be told, wrote his short stories seven times over.

But, of course, the classical example of the artist-fanatic in modern
times was Gustave Flaubert. His agonies in quest of the _mot propre_,
the one and only word, are proverbial, and are said literally to have
broken down his nerves. Mr. Huneker has told of him that "he would
annotate three hundred volumes for a page of facts.... In twenty pages
he sometimes saved three or four from destruction," and, in the course
of twenty-six years' polishing and pruning of _The Temptation of Saint
Anthony_, he reduced his original manuscript of 540 pages down to 136,
even reducing it still further after its first publication.

On _Madame Bovary_ he worked six years, and in writing _Salâmmbo_,
which, took him no less time, he studied the scenery on the spot and
exhausted the resources of the Imperial Library in his search for
documentary evidences.

Flaubert may be said to have carried his passion for perfection to the
point of mania, and it will be a question with some whether, with all
his pains, he can be called a great novelist, after all. But that he was
a great stylist and a master in the art of making terrible and beautiful
bas-reliefs admits of no doubt.

To be a great world-novelist you need an all-embracing humanity as well,
such as we find in Tolstoy's _War and Peace_--but that great book, need
one say, came of no slipshod speed of improvisation. On the contrary,
Tolstoy corrected and recorrected it so often that his wife, who acted
as his amanuensis, is said to have copied the whole enormous manuscript
no less than seven times!

Yes! though it be doubtless true, in Mr. Kipling's famous phrase, that

          There are nine and sixty ways
          Of inditing tribal lays,
          And every blessed one of them is right,

I think that the whole nine and sixty of them include somewhere in their
method those sole preservative virtues of truth to life and passionate
artistic integrity. The longest-lived books, whatever their nature, have
usually been the longest growing; and even those lasting things of
literature that have seemed, as it were, to spring up in a night, have
been long in secret preparation in a soil mysteriously enriched and
refined by the hid processes of time.



XXVII

THE MAN BEHIND THE PEN


Bulwer's deservedly famous phrase, "The pen is mightier than the sword,"
beneath its surface application, if you think it over, has this further
suggestion to make to the believer in literature--that, as the sword is
of no value as a weapon apart from the man that wields it, so, and no
less so, is it with the pen. A mere pen, a mere sword--of what use are
they, save as mural decorations, without a man behind them?

And that recalls a memory of mine, which, as both great men are now
drinking wine in Valhalla out of the skulls of their critics, there can
be no harm in recalling.

Some years ago I was on an unforgettable visit to Björnson, at his
country home of Aulestad, near Lillehammer. This is not the moment to
relive that beautiful memory as a whole. All that is pertinent to my
present purpose is a remark in regard to Ibsen that Björnson flashed out
one day, shaking his great white mane with earnestness, his noble face
alight with the spirit of battle. We had been talking of his possibly
too successful attempt to sever Norway from Sweden, and Ibsen came in
somehow incidentally.

"Ibsen," said he, "is not a man. He is only a pen."

There is no necessity to discuss the justice of the dictum. Probably, if
ever there was a man behind a pen, it was Ibsen; but Ibsen's manhood
concentrated itself entirely behind his pen, whereas Björnson's employed
other weapons also, such as his gift of oratory, and was generally more
dramatically in evidence. Björnson and Ibsen, as we know, did not agree
on a number of things. Thus Björnson, like a human being, was unjust.
But his phrase was a useful one, and I am using it. It was misapplied to
Ibsen; but, put in the form of a question, I know of no better single
test to apply to writers, dead or alive, than--

"Is this a man? Or is it only a pen?"

Said Walt Whitman, in his familiar "So Long" to _Leaves of Grass_:

          Camerado, this is no book;
          Who touches this touches a man.

And, of course, Walt was right about his own book, whether you like the
man behind _Leaves of Grass_ or not; but also that assertion of his
might be chalked as a sort of customs "O.K." on all literary baggage
whatsoever that has passed free into immortality. There is positively no
writer that has withstood the searching examination of time, on whose
book that final stamp of literary reality may not be placed. On every
classic, Time has scrawled ineffaceably:

          This is no book;
          Who touches this touches a man.

I raise the question of reality in literature in no merely academic
spirit. For those who not only love books, but care for literature as a
living thing, the question is a particularly live issue at the present
time, when not only the quantity of writing is so enormous, but the
average quality of it is so astonishingly good, when technique that
would almost humble the masters, and would certainly dazzle them, is an
accomplishment all but commonplace. At any rate, it is so usual as to
create no special surprise. If people write at all, it is taken for
granted, nowadays, that they write well. And the number of people at the
present time writing not only well, but wonderfully well, is little
short of appalling.

In this, for those who ponder the phenomena of literature, there is less
matter for congratulation than would seem likely at first sight. There
is, indeed, no little bewilderment, and some disquietude. Confronted
with short stories--and novels also, for that matter--told with a skill
which makes the old masters of fiction look like clumsy amateurs;
confronted, too, with a thousand poets--the number is scarcely an
exaggeration--with accomplishments of metre and style that make some
famous singers seem like clodhoppers of the muse, one is obliged to ask
oneself:

"Are these brilliant writers really greater than those that went
before?"

If for some reason, felt at first rather than defined, we answer "no,"
we are forced to the conclusion that, after all, literature must be
something more than a mere matter of writing. If so, we are constrained
to ask ourselves, what is it?

The men who deal with manuscripts--editors, publishers' readers, and
publishers, men not only expert witnesses in regard to the printed
literature of the day, but also curiously learned in the story of the
book unborn, the vast mass of writing that never arrives at print--are
even more impressed by what one might call the uncanny literary
brilliance of the time. They are also puzzled by the lack of a certain
something missing in work which otherwise possesses every nameable
quality of literary excellence. One of these, an editor with an eye as
sympathetic as it is keen, told me of an instance to the point, typical
of a hundred others.

He had been unusually struck by a story sent in to him by an unknown
writer. It was, he told me, amazing from every purely literary point of
view--plot, characterization, colour, and economy of language. It had so
much that it seemed strange that anything at all should be lacking. He
sent for the writer, and told him just what he thought.

"But," he ended, after praise such as an editor seldom risks, "there is
something the matter with it, after all. I wonder if you can tell me
what it is."

The writer was, for a writer so flattered, strangely modest. All he
could say, he answered, was that he had done his best. The editor,
agreeing that he certainly seemed to have done that, was all the more
curious to find out how it was that a man who could do so well had not
been able to add to his achievement the final "something" that was
missing.

"What puzzles me," said the editor finally, "is that, with all the
rest, you were not able to add--humanity. Your story seems to have
been written by a wonderful literary machine, instead of by a man."

And, no doubt, the young story-writer went away sorrowful, in spite of
the acceptance of his story--which, after all, was only lacking in that
quality which you will find lacking in all the writing of the day, save
in that by one or two exceptional writers, who, by their isolation, the
more forcibly point the moral.

A wonderful literary machine! The editor's phrase very nearly hits off
the situation. As we have the linotype to set up the written words with
a minimum of human agency, we really seem to be within measurable
distance of a similar automaton that will produce the literature to be
set up without the intrusion of any flesh-and-blood author. In this
connection I may perhaps be permitted to quote a sentence or two from
myself, written _à propos_ a certain chameleonesque writer whose
deservedly popular works are among the contemporary books that I most
value:

    A peculiar skill seems to have been developed among writers during
    the last twenty years--that of writing in the manner of some master,
    not merely with mimetic cleverness, but with genuine creative power.
    We have poets who write so like Wordsworth and Milton that one can
    hardly differentiate them from their masters; and yet--for this is
    my point--they are no mere imitators, but original poets, choosing,
    it would seem, some old mask of immortality through which to express
    themselves. In a different way from that of Guy de Maupassant they
    have chosen to suppress themselves, or rather, I should say, that,
    whereas De Maupassant strove to suppress, to eliminate, himself,
    their method is that of disguise.

    In some respects they remind one of the hermit-crab, who annexes
    some beautiful ready-made house, instead of making one for himself.
    But then they annex it so brilliantly, with such delightful
    consequences for the reader, that not only is there no ground for
    complaint, but the reader almost forgets that the house does not
    really belong to them, and that they are merely entertaining tenants
    on a short lease.

It is not that one is not grateful to writers of this type. Indeed one
is. They not only provide us with genuine entertainment, but, by the
skill born of their fine culture, they make us re-taste of the old
masters in their brilliant variations. One has no complaint against
them. Far from it. Only one wonders why they trouble to attach their own
merely personal names to their volumes, for, so far as those volumes are
concerned, there is no one to be found in them answering to the name of
the ostensible author.

Suppose, for example, that the author's name on the title-page is
"Brown." Well, so far as we can find out by reading, "Brown" might just
as well be "Green." In fact, there is no "Brown" discoverable--no
individual man behind the pen that wrote, not out of the fulness of the
heart, or the originality of the brain, from any experience or knowledge
or temperament peculiar to "Brown," but out of the fulness of what one
might call a creatively assimilated education, and by the aid of a
special talent for the combination of literary influences.

We have had a great deal of pleasure in the reading, we have admired
this and that, we may even have been astonished, but I repeat--there is
no "Brown." In private life "Brown" may be a forceful and fascinating
personality, but, so far as literature is concerned, he is merely a
"wonderful literary machine." He has been able, by his remarkable skill,
to conjure every other writer into his book--except himself. The name
"Brown" on his title-page means nothing. He has not "made his name."

The phrase "to make a name" has become so dulled with long usage that it
is worth while to pause and consider what a reality it stands for. What
it really means, of course, is that certain men and women, by the
personal force or quality of their lives, have succeeded in charging
their names--names given them originally haphazard, as names are given
to all of us--with a permanent significance as unmistakable as that
belonging to the commonest noun. The name "Byron" has a meaning as clear
and unmistakable as the word "mutton." The words "dog" and "cat" have a
meaning hardly more clearly defined than the name "Burns" or "Voltaire."
An oak-tree can no more be mistaken for a willow than Shakespeare can be
confused with Spenser. If we say "Coleridge," there is no possibility of
any one thinking that perhaps we meant "Browning."

The reason, of course, is that these names are as unmistakably "made"
as a Krupp gun or a Sheffield razor. Sincere, intense life has passed
into them, life lived as the men who bore those names either chose, or
were forced, to live it; individual experience, stern or gentle, in
combination with an individual gift of expression.

All names that are really "made" are made in the same way. You may make
a name as Napoleon made his, through war, or you may make it as Keats
made his, by listening to the nightingale and worshipping the moon. Or
you may make it as Charles Lamb made his, merely by loving old folios,
whist, and roast pig. All that is necessary--granted, of course, the
gift of literary expression--is sincerity, an unshakable faithfulness to
yourself.

In really great writers--or, at all events, in those writings of theirs
by which they immortally exist--there is not one insincere word. The
perishable parts of great writers will, without exception, be found to
be those writings which they attempted either in insincere moments, or
at the instigation of some surface talent that had no real connection
with their deep-down selves.

All real writing has got to be lived before it is written--lived not
only once or twice, but lived over and over again. Mere reporting won't
do in literature, nor the records of easy voyaging through perilous
seas. Dante had to walk through hell before he could write of it, and
men today who would write either of hell or of heaven will never do it
by a study of fashionable drawing-rooms, or prolonged sojourns in the
country houses of the great.

On the other hand, if you wish to write convincingly about what we call
"society," those lords and ladies, for example, who are just as real in
their strange way as coal-heavers and mechanics, it is of no use your
trying, unless you were fortunate enough to be born among them, or have
been unfortunately associated with them all your life. To write with
reality about the most artificial condition necessitates an intimate
acquaintance with it that, at its best, is tragic. Those who would write
about the depths and the heights must have dared them, not merely as
visitors, but as awestricken inhabitants. Similarly, those who would
write about the plain, the long, low levels of commonplace human life,
must have dwelt in them, have possessed the dreary, unlaurelled courage
of the good bourgeois, have known what it is to live out the day just
for the day's sake, with the blessed hope of a reasonably respectable
and comfortable conclusion.

Probably it seldom occurs to us to think what a tremendously rooted life
is needed to make even one lasting lyric, though the strangeness of the
process is but the same strangeness that accompanies the antecedent
preparation of a flower.

          How many suns it takes
          To make one speedwell blue--

was no mere fancy of a poet. It is a fact of the long sifting and
kneading to which time subjects the material of its perfect things.

One could not get a better example of what I mean than Lovelace's song
_To Lucasta, Going to the Wars_, without which no anthology of English
verse could possibly be published. Why does generation after generation
say over and over, and hand on to its children:

          Yet this inconstancy is such
            As you too shall adore;
          I could not love thee, dear, so much
            Loved I not honour more.

Is it merely because it is so well written, or because it embodies a
highly moral sentiment suitable to the education of young men? No, it is
because the sword and the pen for once met together in the hand of a
man, because a soldier and a lover and a poet met together in a song.
One might almost say that Lovelace wrote his lyric first with his sword,
and merely copied it out with his pen. At all events, he was first a man
and incidentally a poet; and every real poet that ever sang, whether or
not he wielded the weapons of physical warfare, has been just the same.
Otherwise he could not have been a poet.

When one speaks of the man behind the pen, one does not necessarily mean
that the writer must be a man of dominant personality, suggestive in
every sentence of "the strenuous life," and muscle, and "punch."
Literature might be described as the world in words, and as it takes all
kinds of men to make a world, so with the world of literature. All we
ask is that we should be made aware of some kind of a man. Numerous
other qualities besides "the punch" go to the making of living
literature, though blood and brawn, not to say brutality, have of late
had it so much their own way in the fashionable literature of the
day--written by muscular literary gentlemen who seem to write rather
with their fists than their pens--that we are in danger of forgetting
the reassuring truth.

J.M. Barrie long ago made a criticism on Rudyard Kipling which has
always stayed by me as one of the most useful of critical touchstones.

"Mr. Kipling," said he, "has yet to learn that a man may know more of
life staying at home by his mother's knee than swaggering in bad company
over three continents."

Nor is successful literature necessarily the record of the successful
temperament. Some writers, not a few, owe their significance to the fact
that they have found humanly intimate expression for their own failure,
or set down their weakness in such a way as to make themselves the
consoling companions of human frailty and disappointment through the
generations. It is the paradox of such natures that they should express
themselves in the very record of their frustration. Amiel may be taken
as the type of such writers. In confiding to his _Journal_ his hopeless
inability for expressing his high thought, he expressed what is
infinitely more valuable to us--himself.

Nor, again, does it follow that the man who thus gets himself
individualized in literature is the kind of man we care about or approve
of. Often it is quite the contrary, and we may think that it had been
just as well if some human types had not been able so forcibly to
project into literature their unworthy and undesirable selves. Yet this
is God's world, and nothing human must be foreign to the philosophical
student of it.

All the "specimens" in a natural history museum are not things of
beauty or joy. So it is in the world of books. François Villon cannot
be called an edifying specimen of the human family, yet he unmistakably
belongs there, and it was to that prince of scalawags that we owe not
merely that loveliest sigh in literature--"Where are the snows of
yester-year?"--but so striking a picture of the underworld of medieval
Paris that without it we should hardly be able to know the times as
they were.

The same applies to Benvenuto Cellini--bully, assassin, insufferable
egoist, and so forth, as well as artist. If he had not been sufficiently
in love with his own swashbuckler rascality to write his amazing
autobiography, how dim to our imaginations, comparatively, would have
been the world of the Italian Renaissance!

Again, in our own day, take Baudelaire, a personality even less
agreeable still--morbid, diseased, if you will, wasting, you may deem,
immense poetic powers on revealing the beauty of those "flowers of evil"
which had as well been left in their native shade. Yet, it is because he
saw them so vividly, cared to see little else, dwelt in his own strange
corner of the world with such an intensity of experience, that he
is--Baudelaire. Like him or not, his name is "made." A queer kind of
man, indeed, but not "only a pen."

Certain writers have made a cult of "impersonality" in literature. They
would do their utmost to keep themselves out of sight, to let their
subject-matter tell its own tale. But such a feat is an impossibility.
They might as well try to get out of their own skins. The mere effort
at suppression ends in a form of revelation. Their mere choice of
themes and manner of presentation, let them keep behind the scenes as
assiduously as they may, will in the end stamp them. However much a man
may hide behind his pen, so that indeed his personality, compared with
that of more subjective writers, remains always somewhat enigmatic, yet
when the pen is wielded by a man, whatever his reticence or his mask, we
know that a man is there--and that is all that concerns us.

On the other hand, of course, there are companionable, sympathetic
writers whose whole stock-in-trade is themselves, their personal charm,
their personal way of looking at things. Of these, Montaigne and Charles
Lamb are among the great examples. It matters to us little or nothing
what they are writing about; for their subjects, so far as they are
concerned, are only important in relation to themselves, as revealing
to us by reflection two uncommonly "human" human beings, whom it is
impossible to mistake for any one else; just as we enjoy the society of
some whimsical talker among our living friends, valuing him not so much
for what he says, but for the way he says it, and because it is he, and
no one else, that is talking.

Again, there are other men whose names, in addition to their personal
suggestion, have an impersonal significance as marking new eras of human
development, such as Erasmus or Rousseau or Darwin; men who embodied
the time-spirit at crucial moments of world change, men who announced
rather than created, the heralds of epochs, men who first took the new
roads along which the rest of mankind were presently to travel, men who
felt or saw something new for the first time, prophets of dawn while yet
their fellows slept.

Sometimes a man will come to stand for a whole nation, like Robert Burns
or Cervantes; or a great, half-legendary age of the world, like Homer;
or some permanent attitude of the human spirit, like Plato.

No fixed star, great or small, in the firmament of literature ever
got there without some vital reason, or merely by writing, however
remarkable. The idea that literature is a mere matter of writing is seen
to be the hollowest of misconceptions the moment you run over any list
of enduring names. Try any such that you can think of, and in every case
you will find that the name stands for something more than a writer. Of
course, the man had to have his own peculiar genius for writing, but the
peculiarity was but the result of his individual being, his own special
way of living his life or viewing the world.

Take Horace, for example. Does he live merely because of his unique
style, his masterly use of the Latin tongue? By means of that, of
course, but only secondarily. Primarily, he is as alive today as he
was when he sauntered through the streets of Rome, because he was so
absolutely the type of the well-bred man of the world in all countries
and times. He lived seriously in the social world as he found it, and
felt no idealistic craving to have it remoulded nearer to the heart's
desire. He was satisfied with its pleasures, and at one with its
philosophy. Thus he is as much at home in modern Paris or London or
New York as in ancient Rome, and his book is, therefore, forever
immortal as the man of the world's Bible.

Take a name so different as that of Shelley. We have but to speak it
to define all it now stands for. Though no one should read a line of
Shelley's any more, the dream he dreamed has passed into the very
life-blood of mankind. Wherever men strive for freedom, or seek to
attune their lives to the strange spiritual music that breathes through
all things--music that none ever heard more clearly than he--there is
Shelley like the morning star to guide them and inspire.

Think what Wordsworth means to the spiritual thought of the modern
world. In his own day he was one of the most lonely and laughed at of
poets, moping among his lakes and mountains and shepherds. Yet, as
Matthew Arnold said, "we are all Wordsworthians nowadays," and the
religion of nature that he found there for himself in his solitude bids
fair to be the final religion of the modern world.

It is the same with every other great name one can think of, be it
Bunyan or Heine, Schopenhauer or Izaak Walton. One has but to cast
one's eyes over one's shelves to realize, as we see the familiar
names, how literally the books that bear them are living men, merely
transmigrated from their fleshly forms into the printed word.
Shakespeare and Milton, yes, even Pope; Johnson, Fielding, Sterne,
Scott, Dickens, Thackeray, Carlyle, Dumas, Balzac, Emerson, Thoreau,
Hawthorne, Poe--their very faces seem to look out at us from the
bindings, such vividly human beings were they, with a vision of the
world, or a definition of character, so much their own and no one
else's. One might almost call them patented human beings--patentees of
spiritual discoveries, or of aspects of humanity, whose patents can
never be infringed for all our cleverness.

Said Tennyson, in bitter answer to criticism that began to depreciate
him because of the glibness of his imitators:

          All can grow the flower now,
          For all have got the seed.

And certainly, as I have already said, the art of literary impersonation
is carried to a pitch today that almost amounts to genius. Yet you have
only to compare the real flower with the imitation, and you will soon
understand the difference.

Take Walter Scott. It is a commonplace to say how much better we do the
historical novel nowadays than he did. At first sight, we may seem to;
in certain particulars, no doubt we do; but read him again, read _Rob
Roy_ or _Quentin Durward_ again, and you will not be quite so sure. You
will realize what an immortal difference there is, after all, between
the pen with a man behind it, and the most brilliant literary machine.

Yes, "the mob of gentlemen that write with ease" is once more with us,
but no real book was ever yet written with ease, and no book has ever
survived, or ever can, in which we do not feel the presence of the
fighting, dreaming, or merely enjoying soul of a man.



XXVIII

BULLS IN CHINA-SHOPS


There are some people of great value and importance in their own
spheres, who, on the strength of the distinction gained there, are apt
to intrude on other spheres of which they have no knowledge, where in
fact they are irrelevant, and often indeed ridiculously out of place.
This, however, does not prevent their trying to assert an authority
gained in their own sphere in those other spheres where they simply do
not belong; and such is the power of a name that is won for any one
thing that the multitude, unaccustomed to make distinctions, accepts
them as authorities on the hundred other things of which they know
nothing. Thus, to take a crude example, the New York Police, which is,
without doubt, learned in its own world, and well-adapted and equipped
for asserting its authority there, sometimes intrudes, with its
well-known _bonhomie_, into the worlds of drama and sculpture, and,
because it is an acknowledged judge of crooks and grafters, presumes
to be a judge and censor also of new plays and nude statues.

Of course, the New York Police is absurd in such a character, absurd as
a bull in a china-shop is absurd; yet, as in the case of the bull with
the china, it is capable of doing quite a lot of damage.

I take the New York Police merely, as I said, as a crude example of,
doubtless, well-meant, but entirely misplaced energy. Actually, however,
it is scarcely more absurd than many similar, if more distinguished,
bulls gaily crashing about on higher planes.

Such are statesmen who, because they are Prime Ministers or Presidents,
deem themselves authorities on everything within the four winds, doctors
of divinity, and general _arbitri elegantiarum_.

Such a bull in a china-shop in regard to literature was the late Mr.
Gladstone. It is no disrespect towards his great and estimable character
to say, that while, of course, he was technically a scholar--"great
Homeric scholar" was the accepted phrase for him--there were probably
few men in England so devoid of the literary sense. Yet for an author to
receive a post-card of commendation from Mr. Gladstone meant at least
the sale of an edition or two, and a certain permanency in public
appreciation. Her late Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria was Mr.
Gladstone's only rival as the literary destiny of the time. To Mr.
Gladstone we owe Mrs. Humphry Ward, to Her Majesty we owe Miss Marie
Corelli.

John Ruskin, much as we may admire him for his moral influence, and
admire, or not admire, him for his prose, was a bull in a china-shop
when he made his famous criticism on Whistler, and thus inadvertantly
added to the gaiety of nations by provoking that delightful trial,
which, farcical as it seemed at the moment, not merely evoked from
Whistler himself some imperishable dicta on art and the relation of
critics to art, but really did something towards the long-drawn
awakening of that mysterious somnolence called the public consciousness
on the strange mission of beauty in this world, and, incidentally of the
status of those "eccentric" ministers of it called artists.

I do not mean to say that bulls in china-shops are without their uses.
John Ruskin is a shining example to the contrary.

One of his contemporaries, Thomas Carlyle, for all his genius, was on
one important subject--that of poetry--as much of a bull in a china-shop
as Ruskin was in art. Great friends as were he and Tennyson, the famous
anecdote _à propos_ of Tennyson's publication of _The Idylls of the
King_--"all very fine, Alfred, but when are you going to do some
work"--and many other such written deliverances suffice to show how
absolutely out of court a great tragic humorist and rhetorician may
be on an art practised by writers at least as valuable to English
literature as himself, say Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, and Keats.
Carlyle was a great writer, but the names of these four gentlemen who,
according to his standard, never did any "work" have a strangely
permanent look about them compared with that of the prophet-journalist
of Chelsea and Ecclefechan.

A similar "sage," another of the great conversational brow-beaters of
English literature, Samuel Johnson, though it was his chief business to
be a critic of poetry, was hardly more in court on the matter than
Carlyle. In fact, Dr. Johnson might with truth be described as the King
Bull of all the Bulls of all the China-shops. There was no subject,
however remote from his knowledge or experience on which he would
hesitate to pronounce, and if necessary bludgeon forth, his opinion.
But in his case, there is one important distinction to be made, a
distinction that has made him immortal.

He disported his huge bulk about the china-shop with such quaintness,
with such engaging sturdiness of character, strangely displaying all the
time so unique a wisdom of that world that lies outside and encloses all
china-shops, so unparalleled a genius of common sense, oddly linked
with that good old-time quality called "the fear of God," that in
his case we felt that the china, after all, didn't matter, but that
Dr. Samuel Johnson, "the great lexicographer," supremely did. His
opinions of Scotsmen or his opinions of poetry in themselves amount to
little--though they are far from being without their shrewd insight--and
much of the china--such as Milton's poetry--among which he gambolled,
after the manner of Behemoth, chanced to be indestructible. Any china
he broke was all to the ultimate good of the china-shop. Yet, if we
accept him so, is it not because he was such a wonderful bull in the
china-shop of the world?

There have been other such bulls but hardly another so great, and with
his name I will, for the moment at least, put personalities aside, and
refer to droves rather than to individual bulls. A familiar type of
the bull in the china-shop is the modern clergyman, who, apparently,
insecure in his status of saint-hood, dissatisfied with that spiritual
sphere which so many confiding human beings have given into his
keeping, will be forever pushing his way like an unwelcome, yet quite
unauthoritative, policeman, into that turmoil of human affairs--of which
politics is a sort of summary--where his opinion is not of the smallest
value, though, perforce, it is received with a certain momentary
respect--as though some beautiful old lady should stroll up to a battery
of artillery, engaged in some difficult and dangerous attack, and offer
her advice as to the sighting and management of the guns. The modern
clergyman's interference in the working out of the secular problems
of modern life has no such picturesque beauty--and it is even less
effective.

One would have thought that to have the care of men's souls would be
enough. What a world of suggestiveness there was in the old phrase "a
cure of souls"! Men's souls need saving as much today as ever. Perhaps
they were never in greater danger. Therefore, as the proverbial place
for the cobbler is his last, so more than ever the place for the
clergyman is his church, his pulpit, and those various spiritual offices
for which he is presumably "chosen." His vows do not call upon him
either to be a politician or a matinée idol, nor is it his business to
sow doubt where he is paid for preaching faith. If the Church is losing
its influence, it is largely because of its inefficient interference
in secular affairs, and because of the small percentage of real
spirituality amongst its clergy.

But there is a worse intrusion than that of clergymen into secular
affairs. There is the intrusion of the cheap atheist, the small
materialistic thinker, into a sphere of which certainly no clergyman or
priest has any monopoly, that sphere of what we call the spiritual life,
which, however undemonstrable by physical tests, has been real to so
many men and women whose intellects can hardly be called negligible,
from Plato to Newman. I have too much respect for their courageous
sincerity, their nobility of character, as well as for the necessary, if
superficial, destructive work they did, when to do such work meant no
little personal peril and obloquy to themselves, to class Robert
Ingersoll and Charles Bradlaugh with the small fry that resemble them
merely in their imitative negations; yet this is certainly true of both
of them that they were bulls in the china-shop to this extent--that they
confounded real religion with the defective historical evidences of one
religion, and the mythologic assertions and incongruities of its sacred
book. They did splendid work in their iconoclastic criticism of "the
letter" that "killeth," but of "the spirit" that "giveth life" they seem
to have had but little inkling. To make fun of Jonah and the whale, or
"the Mistakes of Moses," had no doubt a certain usefulness, but it was
no valid argument against the existence of God, nor did it explain away
the mysterious religious sense in man--however, or wherever expressed.
Neither Ingersoll nor Bradlaugh saw that the crudest Mumbo-Jumbo
idolatry of the savage does really stand for some point of rapport
between the seen and the unseen, and that, so long as the mysterious
sacredness of life is acknowledged and reverenced, it matters little by
what symbols we acknowledge it and do it reverence.

One may consider that the present age is an age of spiritual eclipse,
though that is not the writer's opinion, and question with Matthew
Arnold:

          What girl
          Now reads in her bosom as clear
          As Rebekah read, when she sate
          At eve by the palm-shaded well?
          Who guards in her breast
          As deep, as pellucid a spring
          Of feeling, as tranquil, as sure?
          What bard,
          At the height of his vision, can deem
          Of God, of the world, of the soul,
          With a plainness as near,
          As flashing as Moses felt
          When he lay in the night by his flock
          On the starlit Arabian waste?
          Can rise and obey
          The beck of the Spirit like him.

Yet the sight of one who sees is worth more than the blindness of a
hundred that cannot see. Some people are born with spiritual antennae
and some without. There is much delicate wonder in the universe that
needs special organizations for its apprehension. "One eye," you
remember, that of Browning's _Sordello_--

          one eye
          In all Verona cared for the soft sky.

In these imponderable and invisible matters, many are in a like case
with Hamlet's mother, when she was unable to see the ghost of his
father which he so plainly saw. "Yet all there is I see!" exclaimed the
queen--though she was quite wrong, as wrong as Mr. Ruskin when he could
see nothing in that painting of Whistler's but a cocks-comb throwing a
paint-pot at a canvas and calling it a picture!

Many people who have sharp enough eyes and ears for their own worlds are
absolutely blind and deaf when introduced into other worlds for which
nature has not equipped them. But this by no means prevents their
pronouncing authoritative opinions in those worlds, opinions which
would be amazing if they were not so impertinent. Many literary people
proclaim their indifference to and even contempt for music--as if their
announcement meant anything more than their music deafness, their
unfortunate exclusion from a great art. Mark Twain used to advertise his
preference for the pianola over the piano--as if that proved anything
against the playing of Paderewski. Similarly, he acted the bull in the
china-shop in regard to Christian Science, which cannot be the accepted
creed of millions of men and women of intelligence and social value
without deserving even in a critic the approach of some respect.

But humorists are privileged persons. That, no doubt, accounts for the
astonishing toleration of Bernard Shaw. Were it not that he is a
_farceur_, born to write knock-about comedies--his plays, by the way,
might be termed knock-about comedies of the middle-class mind--he would
never have got a hearing for his common-place blasphemies, and cheap
intellectual antics. He is undeniably "funny," so we cannot help
laughing, though we are often ashamed of ourselves for our laughter; for
to him there is nothing sacred--except his press-notices, and--his
royalties.

His so-called "philosophy" has an air of dangerous novelty only to those
innocent middle-classes born but yesterday, to whom any form of thought
is a novelty. Methusaleh himself was not older than Mr. Shaw's "original
ideas." In England, twenty years ago, we were long since weary of his
egotistic buffooneries. Of anything "fine" in literature or art he is
contemptuously ignorant, and from understanding of any of the finer
shades of human life, or of the meaning of such words as "honour,"
"gentleman," "beauty," "religion," he is by nature utterly shut out. He
laughs and sneers to make up for his deficiencies, like that Pietro
Aretino who threw his perishable mud at Michael Angelo. So is it always
with the vulgarian out of his sphere. Once he dared to talk vulgarly of
God to a great man who believed in God--Count Tolstoi.

He had written to Tolstoi _à propos_ his insignificant little play _The
Showing up of Blanco Posnet_, and in the course of his letter had said:
"Suppose the world were only one of God's jokes, would you work any less
to make it a good joke instead of a bad one?" Tolstoi had hitherto been
favourably inclined towards Shaw, owing to his friend and biographer Mr.
Aylmer Maude; but this cheap-jack sacrilege was too much for the great
old man, who seemed to know God with almost Matthew Arnold's

          plainness as near
          As flashing as Moses felt,

and he closed the correspondence with a rebuke which would have abashed
any one but the man to whom it was sent.

Tolstoi was like Walt Whitman--he "argued not concerning God." It is a
point of view which people like Mr. Shaw can never understand; any more
than he or his like can comprehend that there are areas of human feeling
over which for him and other such bulls in china-shops should be posted
the delicate Americanism--KEEP OUT.



XXIX

THE BIBLE AND THE BUTTERFLY


Once, in my old book-hunting days, I picked up, on the Quai Voltaire, a
copy of the _Proverbs of King Solomon_. Then it was more possible than
today to make finds in that quaint open-air library which, still more
than any library housed within governmental or diplomaed walls, is
haunted by the spirit of those passionate, dream-led scholars that
made the Renaissance, and crowded to those lectures filled with that
dangerous new charm which always belongs to the poetic presentation of
new knowledge--those lectures, "musical as is Apollo's lute," being
given up on the hill nearby, by a romantic young priest named Abelard.

My copy of the Great King's Wisdom was of no particular bibliographical
value, but it was one of those thick-set, old-calf duodecimos "black
with tarnished gold" which Austin Dobson has sung, books that, one
imagines, must have once made even the Latin Grammar attractive. The
text was the Vulgate, a rivulet of Latin text surrounded by meadows of
marginal comments of the Fathers translated into French,--the whole
presided over, for the edification of the young novice, to whom my copy
evidently belonged, by a distinguished Monseigneur who, in French of the
time of Bossuet, told exactly how these young minds should understand
the wisdom of Solomon, told it with a magisterial style which suggested
that Solomon lived long ago--and, yet, was one of the pillars of the
church. But what particularly interested me about the book, however, as
I turned over its yellow pages, was a tiny thing pressed between them, a
thing the Fathers and the Monseigneur would surely have regarded as
curiously alien to their wisdom, a thing once of a bright, but now of a
paler yellow, and of a frailer texture than it had once been in its
sunlit life--a flower, I thought at first, but, on looking closer, I saw
it was, or had once been, a yellow butterfly.

What young priest was it, I wondered, that had thus, with a breaking
heart, crushed the joy of life between these pages! On what spring
morning had this silent little messenger hovered a while over the high
garden-walls of St. Sulpice, flitting and fluttering, and at last darted
and alighted on the page of this old book, at that moment held in the
hands of a young priest walking to and fro amid the tall whispering
trees--delivering at last to him on the two small painted pages of its
wings a message he must not read....

The temptation was severe, for spring was calling all over Paris, and
the words of another book of the Great King whose wisdom he held in his
hand said to him in the Latin that came easily to all manner of men in
those days: _Lo! the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the
flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.... Arise, my love, my
fair one, and come away._

The little fluttering thing seemed to be saying that to him as it poised
on the page, and, as his eyes went into a dream, began to crawl softly,
like a rope-walker, up one of his fingers, with a frail, half-frightened
hold, while, high up, over the walls of the garden the poplars were
discreetly swaying to the southern wind, and the lilac-bushes were
carelessly tossing this way and that their fragrance, as altar-boys
swing their censers in the hushed chancel,--but ah! so different an
incense.

_The flowers appear on the earth_, he repeated to himself, beguiled for
a moment, _the flowers appear on the earth; and the time of the singing
of birds is come...._

But, suddenly, for his help against that tiny yellow butterfly there
came to him other stern everlasting words:

_The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our Lord
endureth forever._

Then it was, if I imagine aright from my old book, that my young novice
of St. Sulpice crushed the joy of life, in the frail form of its little
messenger, between the pages of the book he held in his hand just then,
the book I held in my hand for a while a hundred and fifty years or so
after--the book I bought that morning on the Quai Voltaire--guarding
that little dead butterfly even more than the wisdom of Solomon. I
wonder if, as he crushed that butterfly, he said to himself--in words
that have grown commonplace since his time--the words of that strange
emperor Hadrian--_Animula, vagula, blandula_!

Perhaps I should not have remembered that book-hunting morning in Old
Paris on the Quai Voltaire, when I bought that beautiful old copy of the
_Proverbs of Solomon_--with the butterfly so strangely crushed between
its pages--had it not been for a circumstance that happened to me, the
other day, in the subway, which seemed to me of the nature of a marvel.
Many weary men and women were travelling--in an enforced, yet in some
way humorously understanding, society--from Brooklyn Bridge to the
Bronx. I got in at Wall Street. The "crush-hour" was near, for it was
4:25--still, as yet, there were time and space granted us to observe
our neighbours. In the particular car in which I was sitting, there
was room still left to look about and admire the courage of your
fellow-passengers. Weary men going home--many of them having used them
all day long--have little wish to use their eyes, so all the men in my
car sat silently and sadly, contemplating the future. As I looked at
them, it seemed to me that they were thinking over the day's work they
had done, and the innumerable days' work they had still to do. No one
smiled. No one observed the other. An automatic courtesy gave a seat
here and there, but no one gave any attention to any business but his
own thoughts and his own sad station.

It was a car, if I remember aright, occupied almost entirely by
men-passengers, and, so far as I could see, there were no evidences that
men knew women from men, or _vice versa_, yet, at last, there seemed to
dawn on four men sitting in a row that there was a wonderful creature
reading a book on the other side of the aisle--a lovely young woman,
with all the fabled beauty of the sea-shell, and the rainbow, that
enchantment in her calm pearl-like face, and in the woven stillness of
her hair, that has in all times and countries made men throw up sails
and dare the unknown sea, and the unknown Fates. The beauty, too, that
nature had given her was clothed in the subdued enchantments of the
rarest art. All unconscious of the admiration surrounding her, she sat
in that subway car, like a lonely butterfly, strangely there in her
incongruous surroundings, for a mysterious moment,--to vanish as swiftly
as she had come--and, as she stepped from the car, leaving it dark and
dazzled--

          bright with her past presence yet--

I, who had fortunately, and fearfully, sat by her side was aware that
the book she had been reading was lying forgotten on the seat. It was
mine by right of accident,--treasure-trove. So I picked it up, braving
the glares of the four sad men facing me.

Naturally, I had wondered what book it was; but its being bound in
tooled and jewelled morocco, evidently by one of the great bookbinders
of Paris, made it unprofitable to hazard a guess.

I leave to the imagination of lovers of books what book one would
naturally expect to find in hands so fair. Perhaps _Ronsard_--or some
other poet from the Rose-Garden of old France. No! it was a charmingly
printed copy of The New Testament.

The paradox of the discovery hushed me for a few moments, and then I
began to turn over the pages, several of which I noticed were dog eared
after the manner of beautiful women in all ages. A pencil here and there
had marked certain passages. _Come unto me_, ran one of the underlined
passages, _all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give you rest_,--and
I thought how strange it was that she whose face was so calm and still
should have needed to mark that. And another marked passage I noted--_He
was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him
not_. Then I put down the book with a feeling of awe--such as the Bible
had never brought to me before, though I had been accustomed to it from
my boyhood, and I said to myself: "How very strange!" And I meant how
strange it was to find this wonderful old book in the hands of this
wonderful young beauty.

It had seemed strange to find that butterfly in that old copy of the
_Proverbs of King Solomon_, but how much stranger to find the New
Testament in the hands, or, so to speak, between the wings, of an
American butterfly.

I found something written in the book at least as wonderful to me as
the sacred text. It was the name of the butterfly--a name almost as
beautiful as herself. So I was enabled to return her book to her. There
is, of course, no need to mention a name as well-known for good works as
good looks. It will suffice to say that it was the name of the most
beautiful actress in the world.

There is a moral to this story. Morals--to stories--are once more
coming into fashion. The Bible, in my boyhood, came to us with no such
associations as I have recalled. There were no butterflies between its
pages, nor was it presented to us by fair or gracious hands. It was a
very grim and minatory book, wielded, as it seemed to one's childish
ignorance, for the purpose which that young priest of St. Sulpice had
used the pages of his copy of the _Proverbs of King Solomon_, that of
crushing out the joy of life.

My first acquaintance with it as I remember, was in a Methodist chapel
in Staffordshire, England, where three small boys, including myself,
prisoned in an old-fashioned high-back pew, were endeavouring to relieve
the apparently endless _ennui_ of the service by eating surreptitious
apples. Suddenly upon our three young heads descended what seemed like a
heavy block of wood, wielded by an ancient deacon who did not approve
of boys. We were, each of us, no more than eight years old, and the book
which had thus descended upon our heads was nothing more to us than a
very weighty book--to be dodged if possible, for we were still in that
happy time of life when we hated all books. We knew nothing of its
contents--to us it was only a schoolmaster's cane, beating us into
silence and good behaviour.

So the Bible has been for many generations of boys a book even more
terrible than Caesar's _Commentaries_ or the _Aeneid_ of Virgil--the
dull thud of a mysterious cudgel upon the shoulders of youth which you
bore as courageously as you could.

So many of us grew up with what one might call a natural prejudice
against the Bible.

Then some of us who cared for literature took it up casually and found
its poetic beauty. We read the _Book of Job_--which, by the way, Mr.
Swinburne is said to have known by heart; and as we read it even the
stars themselves seemed less wonderful than this description of their
marvel and mystery:

_Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the hands of
Orion?_

_Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide
Arcturus with his sons?_

Or we read in the 37th chapter of the _Book of Ezekiel_ of that weird
valley that was full of bones--"_and as I prophesied, there was a noise,
and behold a shaking, and the bones came together bone to bone_,"
surely one of the most wonderful visions of the imagination in all
literature.

Or we read the marvellous denunciatory rhetoric of Jeremiah and Isaiah,
or the music of the melodious heart-strings of King David; we read the
solemn adjuration of the "King Ecclesiast" to remember our Creator in
the days of our youth, with its haunting picture of old age: and the
loveliness of _The Song of Songs_ passed into our lives forever.

To this purely literary love of the Bible there has been added within
the last few years a certain renewed regard for it as the profoundest
book of the soul, and for some minds not conventionally religious it has
regained even some of its old authority as a spiritual guide and stay.
And I will confess for myself that sometimes, as I fall asleep at
night, I wonder if even Bernard Shaw has written anything to equal the
Twenty-third Psalm.


THE END





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