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Title: Wisdom, Wit, and Pathos of Ouida - Selected from the Works of Ouida
Author: Ouida, 1839-1908
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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  ARIADNE                                                             1

  CHANDOS                                                            32

  FOLLE-FARINE                                                       48

  IDALIA                                                             97

  A VILLAGE COMMUNE                                                 106

  PUCK                                                              115

  TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES                                           158

  FAME                                                              177

  MOTHS                                                        182, 354

  IN A WINTER CITY                                                  189

  A LEAF IN THE STORM                                               205

  A DOG OF FLANDERS                                                 209

  A BRANCH OF LILAC                                                 216

  SIGNA                                                             220

  TRICOTRIN                                                         264

  A PROVENCE ROSE                                                   288

  PIPISTRELLO                                                       291

  HELD IN BONDAGE                                                   294

  PASCARÈL                                                          296

  IN MAREMMA                                                        335

  UNDER TWO FLAGS                                                   363

  STRATHMORE                                                        417

  FRIENDSHIP                                                        427

  WANDA                                                             452


One grows to love the Roman fountains as sea-born men the sea. Go where
you will there is the water; whether it foams by Trevi, where the green
moss grows in it like ocean weed about the feet of the ocean god, or
whether it rushes reddened by the evening light, from the mouth of an
old lion that once saw Cleopatra; whether it leaps high in air, trying
to reach the gold cross on St. Peter's or pours its triple cascade over
the Pauline granite; whether it spouts out of a great barrel in a wall
in old Trastevere, or throws up into the air a gossamer as fine as
Arachne's web in a green garden way where the lizards run, or in a
crowded corner where the fruit-sellers sit against the wall;--in all its
shapes one grows to love the water that fills Rome with an unchanging
melody all through the year.

       *       *       *

And indeed I do believe all things and all traditions. History is like
that old stag that Charles of France found out hunting in the woods
once, with the bronze collar round its neck on which was written, "Cæsar
mihi hoc donavit." How one's fancy loves to linger about that old stag,
and what a crowd of mighty shades come thronging at the very thought of
him! How wonderful it is to think of--that quiet grey beast leading his
lovely life under the shadows of the woods, with his hinds and their
fawns about him, whilst Cæsar after Cæsar fell and generation on
generation passed away and perished! But the sciolist taps you on the
arm. "Deer average fifty years of life; it was some mere court trick of
course--how easy to have such a collar made!" Well, what have we gained?
The stag was better than the sciolist.

       *       *       *

Life costs but little on these sunny, silent shores; four walls of loose
stones, a roof of furze and brambles, a fare of fish and fruit and
millet-bread, a fire of driftwood easily gathered--and all is told. For
a feast pluck the violet cactus; for a holiday push the old red boat to
sea, and set the brown sail square against the sun--nothing can be
cheaper, perhaps few things can be better.

To feel the western breezes blow over that sapphire sea, laden with the
fragrance of a score of blossoming isles. To lie under the hollow rocks,
where centuries before the fisher folk put up that painted tablet to the
dear Madonna, for all poor shipwrecked souls. To climb the high hills
through the tangle of myrtle and tamarisk, and the tufted rosemary, with
the kids bleating above upon some unseen height. To watch the soft night
close in, and the warning lights shine out over shoals and sunken rocks,
and the moon hang low and golden in the blue dusk at the end there under
the arch of the boughs. To spend long hours in the cool, fresh, break of
day, drifting with the tide, and leaping with bare free limbs into the
waves, and lying outstretched upon them, glancing down to the depths
below, where silvery fish are gliding and coral branches are growing,
and pink shells are floating like rose-leaves, five fathoms low and
more. Oh! a good life, and none better, abroad in the winds and weather,
as Nature meant that every living thing should be, only, alas, the
devil put it into the mind of man to build cities! A good life for the
soul and the body: and from it this sea-born Joy came to seek the

       *       *       *

With a visible and physical ill one can deal; one can thrust a knife
into a man at need, one can give a woman money for bread or masses, one
can run for medicine or a priest. But for a creature with a face like
Ariadnê's, who had believed in the old gods and found them fables, who
had sought for the old altars and found them ruins, who had dreamed of
Imperial Rome and found the Ghetto--for such a sorrow as this, what
could one do?

       *       *       *

Some said I might have been a learned man, had I taken more pains. But I
think it was only their kindness. I have that twist in my brain, which
is the curse of my countrymen--a sort of devilish quickness at doing
well, that prevents us ever doing best; just the same sort of thing that
makes our goatherds rhyme perfect sonnets, and keeps them dunces before
the alphabet.

       *       *       *

If our beloved Leopardi, instead of bemoaning his fate in his despair
and sickening of his narrow home, had tried to see how many fair strange
things there lay at his house door, had tried to care for the troubles
of the men that hung the nets on the trees, and the innocent woes of the
girl that carried the grass to the cow, and the obscure martyrdom of
maternity and widowhood that the old woman had gone through who sat
spinning on the top of the stairs, he would have found that his little
borgo that he hated so for its dulness had all the comedies and
tragedies of life lying under the sound of its tolling bells. He would
not have been less sorrowful, for the greater the soul the sadder it is
for the unutterable waste, the unending pain of life. But he would never
have been dull: he would never have despised, and despising missed, the
stories and the poems that were round him in the millet fields and the
olive orchards. There is only one lamp which we can carry in our hand,
and which will burn through the darkest night, and make the light of a
home for us in a desert place: it is sympathy with everything that

       *       *       *

Into other lands I wandered, then, and sought full half the world. When
one wants but little, and has a useful tongue, and knows how to be merry
with the young folk, and sorrowful with the old, and can take the fair
weather with the foul, and wear one's philosophy like an easy boot,
treading with it on no man's toe, and no dog's tail; why, if one be of
this sort, I say, one is, in a great manner, independent of fortune; and
the very little that one needs one can usually obtain. Many years I
strayed about, seeing many cities and many minds, like Odysseus; being
no saint, but, at the same time, being no thief and no liar.

       *       *       *

Art was dear to me. Wandering through many lands, I had come to know the
charm of quiet cloisters; the delight of a strange, rare volume; the
interest of a quaint bit of pottery; the unutterable loveliness of some
perfect painter's vision, making a glory in some dusky, world-forgotten
church: and so my life was full of gladness here in Rome, where the
ass's hoof ringing on a stone may show you that Vitruvius was right,
where you had doubted him; or the sun shining down upon a cabbage
garden, or a coppersmith's shreds of metal, may gleam on a signet ring
of the Flavian women, or a broken vase that may have served vile Tullia
for drink.

       *       *       *

Art is, after nature, the only consolation that one has at all for

       *       *       *

I have been all my life blown on by all sorts of weather, and I know
there is nothing so good as the sun and the wind for driving ill-nature
and selfishness out of one.

       *       *       *

Anything in the open air is always well; it is because men now-a-days
shut themselves up so much in rooms and pen themselves in stifling
styes, where never the wind comes or the clouds are looked at, that
puling discontent and plague-struck envy are the note of all modern
politics and philosophies. The open air breeds Leonidas, the factory
room Felix Pyat.

       *       *       *

I lit my pipe. A pipe is a pocket philosopher, a truer one than
Socrates. For it never asks questions. Socrates must have been very
tiresome when one thinks of it.

       *       *       *

I have had some skill in managing the minds of crowds; it is a mere
knack, like any other; it belongs to no particular character or culture.
Arnold of Brescia had it, and so had Masaniello. Lamartine had it, and
so had Jack Cade.

       *       *       *

It is of use to have a reputation for queerness; it gains one many
solitary moments of peace.

       *       *       *

Ersilia was a good soul, and full of kindliness; but charity is a flower
not naturally of earthly growth, and it needs manuring with a promise of

       *       *       *

The soul of the poet is like a mirror of an astrologer: it bears the
reflection of the past and of the future, and can show the secrets of
men and gods; but all the same it is dimmed by the breath of those who
stand by and gaze into it.

       *       *       *

"You are not unhappy now?" I said to her in farewell.

She looked at me with a smile.

"You have given me hope; and I am in Rome, and I am young."

She was right. Rome may be only a ruin, and Hope but another name for
deception and disappointment; but Youth is supreme happiness in itself,
because all possibilities lie in it, and nothing in it is as yet

       *       *       *

There never was an Æneas; there never was a Numa; well, what the better
are we? We only lose the Trojan ship gliding into Tiber's mouth, when
the woodland thickets that bloomed by Ostia were reddening with the
first warmth of the day's sun; we only lose the Sabine lover going by
the Sacred Way at night, and sweet Egeria weeping in the woods of Nemi;
and are--by their loss--how much the poorer!

Perhaps all these things never were.

The little stone of truth, rolling through the many ages of the world,
has gathered and grown grey with the thick mosses of romance and
superstition. But tradition must always have that little stone of truth
as its kernel; and perhaps he who rejects all, is likelier to be wrong
than even foolish folk like myself who love to believe all, and who
tread the new paths, thinking ever of the ancient stories.

       *       *       *

There can be hardly any life more lovely upon earth than that of a young
student of art in Rome. With the morning, to rise to the sound of
countless bells and of innumerable streams, and see the silver lines of
the snow new fallen on the mountains against the deep rose of the dawn,
and the shadows of the night steal away softly from off the city,
releasing, one by one, dome and spire, and cupola and roof, till all the
wide white wonder of the place discloses itself under the broad
brightness of full day; to go down into the dark cool streets, with the
pigeons fluttering in the fountains, and the sounds of the morning
chants coming from many a church door and convent window, and little
scholars and singing children going by with white clothes on, or scarlet
robes, as though walking forth from the canvas of Botticelli or
Garofalo; to eat frugally, sitting close by some shop of flowers and
birds, and watching all the while the humours and the pageants of the
streets by quaint corners, rich with sculptures of the Renaissance, and
spanned by arches of architects that builded for Agrippa, under grated
windows with arms of Frangipanni or Colonna, and pillars that
Apollodorus raised; to go into the great courts of palaces, murmurous
with the fall of water, and fresh with green leaves and golden fruit,
that rob the colossal statues of their gloom and gauntness, and thence
into the vast chambers where the greatest dreams that men have ever had,
are written on panel and on canvas, and the immensity and the silence of
them all are beautiful and eloquent with dead men's legacies to the
living, where the Hours and the Seasons frolic beside the Maries at the
Sepulchre, and Adonis bares his lovely limbs, in nowise ashamed because
S. Jerome and S. Mark are there; to study and muse, and wonder and be
still, and be full of the peace which passes all understanding, because
the earth is lovely as Adonis is, and life is yet unspent; to come out
of the sacred light, half golden, and half dusky, and full of many
blended colours, where the marbles and the pictures live, sole dwellers
in the deserted dwellings of princes; to come out where the oranges are
all aglow in the sunshine, and the red camellias are pushing against the
hoary head of the old stone Hermes, and to go down the width of the
mighty steps into the gay piazza, alive with bells tolling, and crowds
laughing, and drums abeat, and the flutter of carnival banners in the
wind; and to get away from it all with a full heart, and ascend to see
the sun set from the terrace of the Medici, or the Pamfili, or the
Borghese woods, and watch the flame-like clouds stream homewards behind
S. Peter's, and the pines of Monte Mario grow black against the west,
till the pale green of evening spreads itself above them, and the stars
arise; and then, with a prayer--be your faith what it will--a prayer to
the Unknown God, to go down again through the violet-scented air and the
dreamful twilight, and so, with unspeakable thankfulness, simply because
you live, and this is Rome--so homeward.

       *       *       *

The strong instinctive veracity in her weighed the measure of her days,
and gave them their right name. She was content, her life was full of
the sweetness and strength of the arts, and of the peace of noble
occupation and endeavour. But some true instinct in her taught her that
this is peace, but is not more than peace. Happiness comes but from the
beating of one heart upon another.

       *       *       *

There was a high wall near, covered with peach-trees, and topped with
wistaria and valerian, and the handsome wild caperplant; and against the
wall stood rows of tall golden sunflowers late in their blooming; the
sun they seldom could see for the wall, and it was pathetic always to
me, as the day wore on, to watch the poor stately amber heads turn
straining to greet their god, and only meeting the stones and the
cobwebs, and the peach-leaves of their inexorable barrier.

They were so like us!--straining after the light, and only finding
bricks and gossamer and wasps'-nests! But the sunflowers never made
mistakes as we do: they never took the broken edge of a glass bottle or
the glimmer of a stable lanthorn for the glory of Helios, and comforted
themselves with it--as we can do.

       *       *       *

Dear, where we love much we always forgive, because we ourselves are
nothing, and what we love is all.

       *       *       *

There is something in the silence of an empty room that sometimes has a
terrible eloquence: it is like the look of coming death in the eyes of a
dumb animal; it beggars words and makes them needless.

       *       *       *

When you have said to yourself that you will kill any one, the world
only seems to hold yourself and him, and God--who will see the justice

       *       *       *

What is it that love does to a woman?--without it she only sleeps; with
it, alone, she lives.

       *       *       *

A great love is an absolute isolation, and an absolute absorption.
Nothing lives or moves or breathes, save one life: for one life alone
the sun rises and sets, the seasons revolve, the clouds bear rain, and
the stars ride on high; the multitudes around cease to exist, or seem
but ghostly shades; of all the sounds of earth there is but one voice
audible; all past ages have been but the herald of one soul; all
eternity can be but its heritage alone.

       *       *       *

Is Nature kind or cruel? Who can tell?

The cyclone comes, or the earthquake; the great wave rises and swallows
the cities and the villages, and goes back whence it came; the earth
yawns, and devours the pretty towns and the sleeping children, the
gardens where the lovers were sitting, and the churches where women
prayed, and then the morass dries up and the gulf unites again. Men
build afresh, and the grass grows, and the trees, and all the flowering
seasons come back as of old. But the dead are dead: nothing changes

As it is with the earth, so it is with our life; our own poor, short,
little life, that is all we can really call our own.

Calamities shatter, and despair engulfs it; and yet after a time the
chasm seems to close; the storm wave seems to roll back; the leaves and
the grass return; and we make new dwellings. That is, the daily ways of
living are resumed, and the common tricks of our speech and act are as
they used to be before disaster came upon us. Then wise people say, he
or she has "got over it." Alas, alas! the drowned children will not come
back to us; the love that was struck down, the prayer that was silenced,
the altar that was ruined, the garden that was ravished, they are all
gone for ever,--for ever, for ever! Yet we live; because grief does not
always kill, and often does not speak.

       *       *       *

I crept through the myrtles downward, away from the house where the
statue lay shattered. The earliest of the nightingales of the year was
beginning her lay in some leafy covert hard by, but never would he hear
music in their piping again; never, never: any more than I should hear
the song of the Faun in the fountain.

For the song that we hear with our ears is only the song that is sung in
our hearts.

And his heart, I knew, would be for ever empty and silent, like a temple
that has been burned with fire, and left standing, pitiful and terrible,
in mockery of a lost religion, and of a forsaken god.

       *       *       *

Men and women, losing the thing they love, lose much, but the artist
loses far more; for him are slaughtered all the children of his dreams,
and from him are driven all the fair companions of his solitude.

       *       *       *

Love art alone, forsaking all other loves, and she will make you happy,
with a happiness that shall defy the seasons and the sorrows of time,
the pains of the vulgar and the changes of fortune, and be with you day
and night, a light that is never dim. But mingle with it any human
love--and art will look for ever at you with the eyes of Christ when he
looked at the faithless follower as the cock crew.

       *       *       *

And, indeed, there are always the poor: the vast throngs born century
after century, only to know the pangs of life and of death, and nothing
more. Methinks that human life is, after all, but like a human body,
with a fair and smiling face, but all the limbs ulcered and cramped and
racked with pain. No surgery of statecraft has ever known how to keep
the fair head erect, yet give the trunk and the limbs health.

       *       *       *

For in a great love there is a self-sustaining strength by which it
lives, deprived of everything, as there are plants that live upon our
barren ruins burned by the sun, and parched and shelterless, yet ever
lifting green leaves to the light.

       *       *       *

And indeed after all there is nothing more cruel than the impotence of
genius to hold and keep those commonest joys and mere natural affections
which dullards and worse than dullards rejoice in at their pleasure; the
common human things, whose loss makes the great possessions of its
imperial powers all valueless and vain as harps unstrung, or as lutes
that are broken.

       *       *       *

"This world of our own immediate day is weak and weary, because it is no
longer young; yet it possesses one noble attribute--it has an acute and
almost universal sympathy, which does indeed often degenerate into a
false and illogical sentiment, yet serves to redeem an age of egotism.
We have escaped both the gem-like hardness of the Pagan, and the
narrowing selfishness of the Christian and the Israelite. We are sick
for the woe of creation, and we wonder why such woe is ours, and why it
is entailed on the innocent dumb beasts, that perish in millions for us,
unpitied, day and night. Rome had no altar to Pity: it is the one God
that we own. When that pity in us for all things is perfected, perhaps
we shall have reached a religion of sympathy that will be purer than any
religion the world has yet seen, and more productive. 'Save my country!'
cried the Pagan to his deities. 'Save my soul!' cries the Christian at
his altars. We, who are without a god, murmur to the great unknown
forces of Nature: 'Let me save others some little portion of this pain
entailed on all simple and guileless things, that are forced to live,
without any fault of their own at their birth, or any will of their own
in their begetting.'"

       *       *       *

How should we have great Art in our day? We have no faith. Belief of
some sort is the lifeblood of Art. When Athene and Zeus ceased to excite
any veneration in the minds of men, sculpture and architecture both lost
their greatness. When the Madonna and her son lost that mystery and
divinity, which for the simple minds of the early painters they
possessed, the soul went out of canvas and of wood. When we carve a
Venus now, she is but a light woman; when we paint a Jesus now, it is
but a little suckling, or a sorrowful prisoner. We want a great
inspiration. We ought to find it in the things that are really
beautiful, but we are not sure enough, perhaps, what is so. What does
dominate us is a passion for nature; for the sea, for the sky, for the
mountain, for the forest, for the evening storm, for the break of day.
Perhaps when we are thoroughly steeped in this we shall reach greatness
once more. But the artificiality of all modern life is against it; so is
its cynicism. Sadness and sarcasm make a great Lucretius as a great
Juvenal, and scorn makes a strong Aristophanes; but they do not make a
Praxiteles and an Apelles; they do not even make a Raffaelle, or a

Art, if it be anything, is the perpetual uplifting of what is beautiful
in the sight of the multitudes--the perpetual adoration of that
loveliness, material and moral, which men in the haste and the greed of
their lives are everlastingly forgetting: unless it be that it is empty
and useless as a child's reed-pipe when the reed is snapt and the
child's breath spent. Genius is obligation.

       *       *       *

"No woman, I think, ever loved you as this woman does, whom you have
left as I would not leave a dog," said Maryx, and something of his old
ardent eloquence returned to him, and his voice rose and rang clearer as
the courage in him consummated the self-sacrifice that he had set
himself for her sake. "Have you ever thought what you have done? When
you have killed Art in an artist, you have done the cruellest murder
that earth can behold. Other and weaker natures than hers might forget,
but she never. Her fame will be short-lived as that rose, for she sees
but your face, and the world will tire of that, but she will not. She
can dream no more. She can only remember. Do you know what that is to
the artist?--it is to be blind and to weary the world; the world that
has no more pity than you have! You think her consoled because her
genius has not left her: are you a poet and yet do not know that genius
is only a power to suffer more and to remember longer?--nothing else.
You say to yourself that she will have fame, that will beguile her as
the god came to Ariadnê; perhaps; but across that fame, let it become
what it may, there will settle for ever the shadow of the world's
dishonour; it will be for ever poisoned, and cursed, and embittered by
the scorn of fools, and the reproach of women, since by you they have
been given their lashes of nettles, and by you have been given their
by-word to hoot. She will walk in the light of triumph, you say, and
therefore you have not hurt her; do you not see that the fiercer that
light may beat on her, the sharper will the eyes of the world search out
the brand with which you have burned her. For when do men forgive force
in the woman? and when do women ever forgive the woman's greatness? and
when does every cur fail to snarl at the life that is higher than its
fellows? It is by the very genius in her that you have had such power to
wound, such power to blight and to destroy. By so long as her name shall
be spoken, so long will the wrong you have done her cling round it, to
make it meet for reproach. A mere woman dies, and her woe and her shame
die with her, and the earth covers her and them; but such shelter is
denied for ever to the woman who has genius and fame; long after she is
dead she will lie out on common soil, naked and unhouselled, for all the
winds to blow on her and all the carrion birds to tear."

       *       *       *

"No, no. That is accursed! To touch Art without a right to touch it,
merely as a means to find bread--you are too honest to think of such a
thing. Unless Art be adored for its own sake and purely, it must be
left alone. Philip of Macedon had every free man's child taught Art! I
would have every boy and girl taught its sacredness; so, we might in
time get back some accuracy of taste in the public, some
conscientiousness of production in the artist. If artistic creation be
not a joy, an imperious necessity, an instinct of all the forces of the
mind, let the boy go and plough, and the girl go and spin."

       *       *       *

Maybe you turn your back on happiness. I have heard that wise people
often do that. They look up so at the sun and the stars, that they set
their foot on the lark that would have sung to them and woke them
brightly in the morning--and kill it.

       *       *       *

Landscape painting is the only original form of painting that modern
times can boast. It has not exhausted itself yet; it is capable of
infinite development. Ruysdael, Rembrandt, and the rest, did great
scenes, it is true, but it has been left to our painters to put soul
into the sunshine of a cornfield, and suggest a whole life of labour in
a dull evening sky hanging over a brown ploughed upland, with the horses
going tired homewards, and one grey figure trudging after them, to the
hut on the edge of the moor. Of course the modern fancy of making nature
answer to all human moods, like an Eölian harp, is morbid and
exaggerated, but it has a beauty in it, and a certain truth. Our
tenderer souls take refuge in the country now, as they used to do in the

       *       *       *

I think if people oftener saw the break of day they would vow oftener to
keep that dawning day holy, and would not so often let its fair hours
drift away with nothing done that were not best left undone.

       *       *       *

We are the sons of our Time: it is not for us to slay our mother. Let us
cover her dishonour if we see it, lest we should provoke the Erinyes.

       *       *       *

How one loves Canova the man, and how one execrates Canova the artist!
Surely never was a great repute achieved by so false a talent and so
perfect a character. One would think he had been born and bred in
Versailles instead of Treviso. He is called a naturalist! Look at his
Graces! He is always Coysevax and Coustou at heart. Never purely
classic, never frankly modern. Louis XIV. would have loved him better
than Bernini.

       *       *       *

If Alexander had believed himself a bubble of gas instead of the son of
a god, he would not have changed the face of the world. Negation cannot
be the parent of heroism, though it will produce an indifference that
counterfeits it not ill, since Petronius died quite as serenely as ever
did the martyrs of the Church.

       *       *       *

Genius cannot escape the taint of its time more than a child the
influence of its begetting. Augustus could have Horace and Ovid; he
could never have had Homer and Milton.

       *       *       *

I do not think with you. Talent takes the mark of its generation; genius
stamps its time with its own impression. Virgil had the sentiment of an
united Italy.

       *       *       *

Tell her that past she thinks so great was only very like the Serapis
which men worshipped so many ages in Theophilis, and which, when the
soldiers struck it down at last, proved itself only a hollow Colossus
with a colony of rats in its head that scampered right and left.

       *       *       *

Falconet struck the death-note of the plastic arts when he said, "Our
marbles have _almost_ colour." That is just where we err. We are
incessantly striving to make Sculpture at once a romance-writer and a
painter, and of course she loses all dignity and does but seem the jay
in borrowed plumes of sable. Conceits are altogether out of keeping with
marble. They suit a cabinet painting or a piece of china. Bernini was
the first to show the disease when he veiled the head of his Nile to
indicate that the source was unknown.

       *       *       *

Whosoever has any sort of fame has lighted a beacon that is always
shining upon him, and can never more return into the cool twilight of
privacy even when most he wishes. It is of these retributions--some call
them compensations--of which life is full.

       *       *       *

Men have forgotten the virile Pyrrhic dance, and have become incapable
of the grace of the Ionian; their only dance is a Danse Macabre, and
they are always hand in hand with a skeleton.

       *       *       *

By night Rome is still a city for the gods; the shadows veil its wounds,
the lustre silvers all its stones; its silence is haunted as no other
silence is; if you have faith, there where the dark gloss of the laurel
brushes the marble as in Agrippa's time, you will see the Immortals
passing by chained with dead leaves and weeping.

       *       *       *

A great love is an absolute isolation and an absolute absorption.
Nothing lives or moves or breathes save one life; for one life alone the
sun rises and sets, the seasons revolve, the clouds bear rain, and the
stars ride on high; the multitudes around cease to exist, or seem but
ghostly shades; of all the sounds of earth there is but one voice
audible; all past ages have been but the herald of one soul; all
eternity can be but its heritage alone.

       *       *       *

Perhaps she was right: for a few hours of joy one owes the debt of
years, and should give a pardon wide and deep as the deep sea.

This Love which she had made in his likeness, the tyrant and compeller
of the world, was to her as the angel which brings perfect dreams and
lets the tired sleeper visit heaven.

       *       *       *

"And when the ship sails away without you?" I said brutally, and
laughing still, because the mention of the schooner had broken the bonds
of the silence that had held me against my will half paralysed, and I
seemed to be again upon the Tyrrhene shore, seeing the white sail fade
against the sky.

"And when that ship sails without you? The day will come. It always
comes. You are my Ariadnê; yet you forget Naxos! Oh, the day will come!
you will kiss the feet of your idol then, and they will not stay; they
will go away, away, away, and they will not tarry for your prayers or
your tears--ay, it is always so. Two love, and one tires. And you know
nothing of that; you who would have love immortal."

And I laughed again, for it seemed to me so horrible, and I was half

No doubt it would have been kinder had I struck my knife down into her
breast with her words unspoken.

All shade of colour forsook her face; only the soft azure of the veins
remained, and changed to an ashen grey. She shook with a sudden shiver
from head to foot as the name she hated, the name of Ariadnê, fell upon
her ear. The icebolt had fallen in her paradise. A scared and terrible
fear dilated her eyes, that opened wide in the amaze of some suddenly
stricken creature.

"And when he leaves you?" I said, with cruel iteration. "Do you remember
what you told me once of the woman by the marshes by the sea, who had
nothing left by which to remember love save wounds that never healed?
That is all his love will leave you by-and-by."

"Ah, never!"

She spoke rather to herself than me. The terror was fading out of her
eyes, the blood returning to her face; she was in the sweet bewildered
trance of that blind faith which goes wherever it is led, and never asks
the end nor dreads the fate. Her love was deathless: how could she know
that his was mortal?

"You are cruel," she said, with her mouth quivering, but the old, soft,
grand courage in her eyes. "We are together for ever; he has said so.
But even if--if--I only remembered him by wounds, what would that change
in me? He would _have_ loved me. If he would wish to wound me, so he
should. I am his own as the dogs are. Think!--he looked at me, and all
the world grew beautiful; he touched me, and I was happy--I, who never
had been happy in my life. You look at me strangely; you speak harshly.
Why? I used to think, surely you would be glad----"

I gripped my knife and cursed him in my soul.

How could one say to her the thing that he had made her in man's and
woman's sight?

"I thought you would be glad," she said, wistfully, "and I would have
told you long ago--myself. I do not know why you should look so. Perhaps
you are angered because I seemed ungrateful to you and Maryx. Perhaps I
was so. I have no thought--only of him. What he wished, that I did. Even
Rome itself was for me nothing, and the gods--there is only one for me;
and he is with me always. And I think the serpents and the apes are gone
for ever from the tree, and he only hears the nightingales--now. He
tells me so often. Very often. Do you remember I used to dream of
greatness for myself--ah, what does it matter! I want nothing now. When
he looks at me--the gods themselves could give me nothing more."

And the sweet tranquil radiance came back into her eyes, and her
thoughts wandered into the memories of this perfect passion which
possessed her, and she forgot that I was there.

My throat was choking; my eyes felt blind; my tongue clove to my mouth.
I, who knew what that end would be as surely as I knew the day then
shining would sink into the earth, I was dumb, like a brute beast--I,
who had gone to take his life.

Before this love which knew nothing of the laws of mankind, how poor and
trite and trivial looked those laws! What could I dare to say to her of
shame? Ah! if it had only been for any other's sake! But he,--perhaps he
did not lie to her; perhaps he did only hear the nightingales with her
beside him; but how soon their song would pall upon his ear, how soon
would he sigh for the poisonous kiss of the serpents! I knew! I knew!

I stood heart-broken in the warm light that was falling through the
casement and streaming towards her face. What could I say to her? Men
harder and sterner and surer in every way of their own judgment than I
was of mine no doubt would have shaken her with harsh hands from that
dream in which she had wandered to her own destruction.

No doubt a sterner moralist than I would have had no pity, and would
have hurled on her all the weight of those bitter truths of which she
was so ignorant; would have shown her that pit of earthly scorn upon
whose brink she stood; would have torn down all that perfect, credulous
faith of hers, which could have no longer life nor any more lasting root
than the flowering creeper born of a summer's sun, and gorgeous as the
sunset's hues, and clinging about a ruin-mantling decay. Oh yes, no
doubt. But I am only weak, and of little wisdom, and never certain that
the laws and ways of the world are just, and never capable of long
giving pain to any harmless creature, least of all to her.

She seemed to rouse herself with effort to remember I was there, and
turned on me her eyes that were suffused and dreamful with happiness,
like a young child's with sleep.

"I must have seemed so thankless to you: you were so very good to me,"
she said, with that serious sweetness of her rare smile that I had used
to watch for, as an old dog watches for his young owner's--an old dog
that is used to be forgotten, but does not himself forget, though he is
old. "I must have seemed so thankless; but he bade me be silent, and I
have no law but him. After that night when we walked in Nero's fields,
and I went home and learned he loved me;--do you not see I forgot that
there was any one in all the world except himself and me? It must always
be so--at least, so I think. Oh, how true that poem was! Do you
remember how he read it that night after Mozart amongst the roses by the
fire? What use was endless life and all the lore of the spirits and
seers to Sospitra? I was like Sospitra, till he came; always thinking of
the stars and the heavens in the desert all alone, and always wishing
for life eternal, when it is only life _together_ that is worth a wish
or a prayer. But why do you look at me so? Perhaps you do not
understand. Perhaps I am selfish."

This was all that it seemed to her--that I did not understand. Could she
see the tears of blood that welled up in my eyes? Could she see the
blank despair that blinded my sight? Could she see the frozen hand that
I felt clutching at my heart and benumbing it? I did not understand;
that was all that it seemed to her.

She was my Ariadnê, born again to suffer the same fate. I saw the
future: she could not. I knew that he would leave her as surely as the
night succeeds the day. I knew that his passion--if passion, indeed, it
were, and not only the mere common vanity of subjugation and
possession--would pall on him and fade out little by little, as the
stars fade out of the grey morning skies. I knew, but I had not the
courage to tell her.

Men were faithful only to the faithless. But what could she know of

"Thinking of the stars and of the heavens in the desert all alone! Yes!"
I cried; and the bonds of my silence were unloosed, and the words rushed
from my lips like a torrent from between the hills.

"Yes; and never to see the stars any more, and to lose for ever the
peace of the desert--that, you think, is gain! Oh, my dear! what can I
say to you? What can I say? You will not believe if I tell you. I shall
seem a liar and a prophet of false woe. I shall curse when I would
bless. What can I say to you? Athene watched over you. You were of those
who dwell alone, but whom the gods are with. You had the clue and the
sword, and they are nothing to you; you lose them both at his word, at
the mere breath of his lips, and know no god but his idle law, that
shifts as the winds of the sea. And you count that gain? Oh, just
Heaven! Oh, my dear, my heart is broken; how can I tell you? One man
loved you who was great and good, to whom you were a sacred thing, who
would have lifted you up in heaven, and never have touched too roughly a
single hair of your head; and you saw him no more than the very earth
that you trod; he was less to you than the marbles he wrought in; and he
suffers: and what do you care? You have had the greatest wrong that a
woman can have, and you think it the greatest good, the sweetest gift!
He has torn your whole life down as a cruel hand tears a rose in the
morning light, and you rejoice! For what do you know? He will kill your
soul, and still you will kiss his hand. Some women are so. When he
leaves you, what will you do? For you there will only be death. The weak
are consoled, but the strong never. What will you do? What will you do?
You are like a child that culls flowers at the edge of a snake's
breeding-pit. He waked you--yes!--to send you in a deeper sleep, blind
and dumb to everything but his will. Nay, nay! that is not your fault.
Love does not come at will; and of goodness it is not born, nor of
gratitude, nor of any right or reason on the earth. Only that you should
have had no thought of us--no thought at all--only of him by whom your
ruin comes; that seems hard! Ay, it is hard. You stood just so in my
dream, and you hesitated between the flower of passion and the flower of
death. Ah, well might Love laugh. They grow on the same bough; Love
knows that. Oh, my dear, my dear, I come too late! Look! he has done
worse than murder, for that only kills the body; but he has killed the
soul in you. He will crush out all that came to you from heaven; all
your mind and your hopes and your dreams, and all the mystery in you,
that we poor half-dumb fools call genius, and that made the common
daylight above you full of all beautiful shapes and visions that our
duller eyes could not see as you went. He has done worse than murder,
and I came to take his life. Ay, I would slay him now as I would
strangle the snake in my path. And even for this I come too late. I
cannot do you even this poor last service. To strike him dead would only
be to strike you too. I come too late! Take my knife, lest I should see
him--take it. Till he leaves you I will wait."

I drew the fine, thin blade across my knee and broke it in two pieces,
and threw the two halves at her feet.

Then I turned without looking once at her, and went away.

I do not know how the day waned and passed; the skies seemed red with
fire, and the canals with blood. I do not know how I found my road over
the marble floors and out into the air. I only remember that I felt my
way feebly with my hands, as though the golden sunlight were all
darkness, and that I groped my way down the steps and out under an angle
of the masonry, staring stupidly upon the gliding waters.

I do not know whether a minute had gone by or many hours, when some
shivering sense of sound made me look up at the casement above, a high,
vast casement fretted with dusky gold and many colours, and all kinds of
sculptured stone. The sun was making a glory as of jewels on its painted
panes. Some of them were open; I could see within the chamber Hilarion's
fair and delicate head, and his face drooped with a soft smile. I could
see her, with all her loveliness, melting, as it were, into his embrace,
and see her mouth meet his.

If I had not broken the steel!----

I rose from the stones and cursed them, and departed from the place as
the moon rose.

       *       *       *

He was silent; the moonlight poured down between us white and wide;
there lay a little dead bird on the stones, I remember, a redbreast,
stiff and cold. The people traffic in such things here, in the square of
Agrippa; it had fallen, doubtless, off some market stall.

Poor little robin! All the innocent sweet woodland singing-life of it
was over, over in agony, and not a soul in all the wide earth was the
better for its pain; not even the huckster who had missed making his
copper coin by it. Woe is me; the sorrow of the world is great.

I pointed to it where it lay, poor little soft huddled heap of bright
feathers; there is no sadder sight than a dead bird, for what lovelier
life can there be than a bird's life, free in the sun and the rain, in
the blossom and foliage?

"Make the little cold throat sing at sunrise," I said to him. "When you
can do that, then think to undo what you have done."

"She will forget:--"

"You know she never will forget. There is your crime."

"She will have her art----"

"Will the dead bird sing?"

       *       *       *

Here, if anywhere in the "divine city of the Vatican"--for in truth a
city and divine it is, and well has it been called so--here, if
anywhere, will wake the soul of the artist; here, where the very
pavement bears the story of Odysseus, and each passage-way is a Via
Sacra, and every stone is old with years whose tale is told by hundreds
or by thousands, and the wounded Adonis can be adored beside the tempted
Christ of Sistine, and the serious beauty of the Erythean Sibyl lives
beside the laughing grace of ivy-crowned Thalia, and the Jupiter
Maximus frowns on the mortals made of earth's dust, and the Jehovah who
has called forth woman meets the first smile of Eve. A Divine City
indeed, holding in its innumerable chambers and its courts of granite
and of porphyry all that man has ever dreamed of, in his hope and in his
terror, of the Unknown God.

       *       *       *

The days of joyous, foolish mumming came--the carnival mumming that as a
boy I had loved so well, and that, ever since I had come and stitched
under my Apollo and Crispin, I had never been loth to meddle and mix in,
going mad with my lit taper, like the rest, and my whistle of the
Befana, and all the salt and sport of a war of wits such as old Rome has
always heard in midwinter since the seven nights of the Saturnalia.

Dear Lord! to think that twice a thousand years ago and more, along
these banks of Tiber, and down in the Velabrum and up the Sacred Way,
men and women and children were leaping, and dancing, and shouting, and
electing their festal king, and exchanging their new-year gifts of wax
candles and little clay figures: and that now-a-days we are doing just
the same thing in the same season, in the same places, only with all the
real faunic joyfulness gone out of it with the old slain Saturn, and a
great deal of empty and luxurious show come in instead! It makes one
sad, mankind looks such a fool.

Better be Heine's fool on the seashore, who asks the winds their
"wherefore" and their "whence." You remember Heine's poem--that one in
the "North Sea" series, that speaks of the man by the shore, and asks
what is Man, and what shall become of him, and who lives on high in the
stars? and tells how the waves keep on murmuring and the winds rising,
the clouds scudding before the breeze, and the planets shining so cold
and so far, and how on the shore a fool waits for an answer, and waits
in vain. It is a terrible poem, and terrible because it is true.

Every one of us stands on the brink of the endless sea that is Time and
is Death; and all the blind, beautiful, mute, majestic forces of
creation move around us and yet tell us nothing.

It is wonderful that, with this awful mystery always about us, we can go
on on our little lives as cheerfully as we do; that on the edge of that
mystical shore we yet can think so much about the crab in the
lobster-pot, the eel in the sand, the sail in the distance, the child's
face at home.

Well, no doubt it is heaven's mercy that we can do so; it saves from
madness such thinking souls as are amongst us.

       *       *       *

"My dear, of love there is very little in the world. There are many
things that take its likeness: fierce unstable passions and poor
egotisms of all sorts, vanities too, and many other follies--Apatê and
Philotês in a thousand masquerading characters that gain great Love
discredit. The loves of men, and women too, my dear, are hardly better
very often than Minos' love for Skylla; you remember how he threw her
down from the stern of his vessel when he had made the use of her he
wished, and she had cut the curls of Nisias. A great love does not of
necessity imply a great intelligence, but it must spring out of a great
nature, that is certain; and where the heart has spent itself in much
base petty commerce, it has no deep treasury of gold on which to draw;
it is bankrupt from its very over-trading. A noble passion is very rare;
believe me; as rare as any other very noble thing."

       *       *       *

"Do you call him a poet because he has the trick of a sonorous cadence
and of words that fall with the measure of music, so that youths and
maidens recite them for the vain charm of their mere empty sound? It is
a lie--it is a blasphemy. A poet! A poet suffers for the meanest thing
that lives; the feeblest creature dead in the dust is pain to him; his
joy and his sorrow alike outweigh tenfold the joys and the sorrows of
men; he looks on the world as Christ looked on Jerusalem, and weeps; he
loves, and all heaven and all hell are in his love; he is faithful unto
death, because fidelity alone can give to love the grandeur and the
promise of eternity; he is like the martyrs of the church who lay upon
the wheel with their limbs racked, yet held the roses of Paradise in
their hands and heard the angels in the air. That is a poet; that is
what Dante was, and Shelley and Milton and Petrarca. But this man? this
singer of the senses, whose sole lament is that the appetites of the
body are too soon exhausted; this languid and curious analysist who
rends the soul aside with merciless cruelty, and puts away the quivering
nerves with cold indifference, once he has seen their secrets?--this a
poet? Then so was Nero harping! Accursed be the book and all the
polished vileness that his verses ever palmed off on men by their mere
tricks of sound. This a poet! As soon are the swine that rout the
garbage, the lions of the Apocalypse by the throne of God!"

       *       *       *

The glad water sparkles and ripples everywhere; above the broad porphyry
basins butterflies of every colour flutter, and swallows fly; lovers and
children swing balls of flowers, made as only our Romans know how to
make them; the wide lawns under the deep-shadowed avenues are full of
blossoms; the air is full of fragrance; the palms rise against a
cloudless sky; the nights are lustrous; in the cool of the great
galleries the statues seem to smile: so spring had been to me always;
but now the season was without joy, and the scent of the flowers on the
wind hurt me as it smote my nostrils.

For a great darkness seemed always between me and the sun, and I
wondered that the birds could sing, and the children run amongst the
blossoms--the world being so vile.

       *       *       *

Women hope that the dead love may revive; but men know that of all dead
things none are so past recall as a dead passion.

The courtesan may scourge it with a whip of nettles back into life; but
the innocent woman may wet it for ever with her tears, she will find no

       *       *       *

Art is an angel of God, but when Love has entered the soul, the angel
unfolds its plumes and takes flight, and the wind of its wings withers
as it passes. He whom it has left misses the angel at his ear, but he is
alone for ever. Sometimes it will seem to him then that it had been no
angel ever, but a fiend that lied, making him waste his years in a
barren toil, and his nights in a joyless passion; for there are two
things beside which all Art is but a mockery and a curse: they are a
child that is dying and a love that is lost.

       *       *       *

Love art alone, forsaking all other loves, and she will make you happy,
with a happiness that shall defy the seasons and the sorrows of time,
the pains of the vulgar and the changes of fortune, and be with you day
and night, a light that is never dim. But mingle with it any human
love--and art will look for ever at you with the eyes of Christ when he
looked at the faithless follower as the cock crew.

       *       *       *

The little garden of the Rospigliosi seems to have all mediæval Rome
shut in it, as you go up the winding stairs with all their lichens and
water-plants and broken marbles, into the garden itself, with its smooth
emerald turf and spreading magnolias, and broad fish-ponds, and orange
and citron trees, and the frescoed building at the end where Guido's
Aurora floats in unchanging youth, and the buoyant Hours run before the

Myself I own I care not very much for that Aurora; she is no incarnation
of the morning, and though she floats wonderfully and does truly seem to
move, yet is she in nowise ethereal nor suggestive of the dawn either of
day or life. When he painted her, he must have been in love with some
lusty taverner's buxom wife busked in her holiday attire.

But whatever one may think of the famed Aurora, of the loveliness of her
quiet garden home, safe in the shelter of the stately palace walls,
there can be no question; the little place is beautiful, and sitting in
its solitude with the brown magnolia fruit falling on the grass, and the
blackbirds pecking between the primroses, all the courtly and superb
pageant of the dead ages will come trooping by you, and you will fancy
that the boy Metastasio is reciting strophes under yonder Spanish
chestnut-tree, and cardinals, and nobles, and gracious ladies, and
pretty pages are all listening, leaning against the stone rail of the
central water.

For this is the especial charm and sorcery of Rome, that, sitting idly
in her beautiful garden-ways, you can turn over a score of centuries and
summon all their pomp and pain before you, as easily as little children
can turn over the pages of a coloured picture-book until their eyes are


It is so easy for the preacher, when he has entered the days of
darkness, to tell us to find no flavour in the golden fruit, no music in
the song of the charmer, no spell in eyes that look love, no delirium in
the soft dreams of the lotus--so easy when these things are dead and
barren for himself, to say they are forbidden! But men must be far more
or far less than mortal ere they can blind their eyes, and dull their
senses, and forswear their nature, and obey the dreariness of the
commandment; and there is little need to force the sackcloth and the
serge upon us. The roses wither long before the wassail is over, and
there is no magic that will make them bloom again, for there is none
that renews us--youth. The Helots had their one short, joyous festival
in their long year of labour; life may leave us ours. It will be surely
to us, long before its close, a harder tyrant and a more remorseless
taskmaster than ever was the Lacedemonian to his bond-slaves,--bidding
us make bricks without straw, breaking the bowed back, and leaving us as
our sole chance of freedom the hour when we shall turn our faces to the
wall--and die.

       *       *       *

Society, that smooth and sparkling sea, is excessively difficult to
navigate; its surf looks no more than champagne foam, but a thousand
quicksands and shoals lie beneath: there are breakers ahead for more
than half the dainty pleasure-boats that skim their hour upon it; and
the foundered lie by millions, forgotten, five fathoms deep below. The
only safe ballast upon it is gold dust; and if stress of weather come on
you, it will swallow you without remorse. Trevenna had none of this
ballast; he had come out to sea in as ticklish a cockle-shell as might
be; he might go down any moment, and he carried no commission, being a
sort of nameless, unchartered rover: yet float he did, securely.

       *       *       *

Corals, pink and delicate, rivet continents together; ivy tendrils, that
a child may break, bold Norman walls with bonds of iron; a little ring,
a toy of gold, a jeweller's bagatelle, forges chains heavier than the
galley-slave's: so a woman's look may fetter a lifetime.

       *       *       *

He had passed through life having escaped singularly all the shadows
that lie on it for most men; and he had, far more than most, what may be
termed the faculty for happiness--a gift, in any temperament, whose
wisdom and whose beauty the world too little recognises.

       *       *       *

A temperament that is _never_ earnest is at times well-nigh as wearisome
as a temperament that is never gay; there comes a time when, if you can
never touch to any depth, the ceaseless froth and brightness of the
surface will create a certain sense of impatience, a certain sense of

       *       *       *

A straw misplaced will make us enemies; a millstone of benefits hung
about his neck may fail to anchor down by us a single friend. We may
lavish what we will--kindly thought, loyal service, untiring aid, and
generous deed--and they are all but as oil to the burning, as fuel to
the flame, when spent upon those who are jealous of us.

       *       *       *

Truth is a rough, honest, helter-skelter terrier, that none like to see
brought into their drawing-rooms, throwing over all their dainty little
ornaments, upsetting their choicest Dresden, that nobody guessed was
cracked till it fell with the mended side uppermost, and keeping every
one in incessant tremor lest the next snap should be at their braids or
their boots, of which neither the varnish nor the luxuriance will stand
rough usage.

       *       *       *

When will men learn to know that the power of genius, and the human
shell in which it chances to be harboured, are as distinct as is the
diamond from the quartz-bed in which they find it?

       *       *       *

Had he embraced dishonour, and accepted the rescue that a lie would have
lent him, this misery in its greatest share had never been upon him. He
would have come hither with riches about him, and the loveliness he had
worshipped would have been his own beyond the touch of any rival's hand.
Choosing to cleave to the old creeds of his race, and passing, without a
backward glance, into the paths of honour and of justice, it was thus
with him now. Verily, virtue must be her own reward, as in the Socratic
creed; for she will bring no other dower than peace of conscience in her
gift to whosoever weds her. "I have loved justice, and fled from
iniquity; wherefore here I die in exile," said Hildebrand upon his
death-bed. They will be the closing words of most lives that have
followed truth.

       *       *       *

There are liberties sweeter than love; there are goals higher than

Some memory of them stirred in him there, with the noiseless flow of the
lingering water at his feet, and above the quiet of the stars; the
thoughts of his youth came back to him, and his heart ached with their

Out of the salt depths of their calamity men had gathered the heroisms
of their future; out of the desert of their exile they had learned the
power to return as conquerors. The greater things within him awakened
from their lethargy; the innate strength so long untried, so long lulled
to dreamy indolence and rest, uncoiled from its prostration; the force
that would resist and, it might be, survive, slowly came upon him, with
the taunts of his foe. It was possible that there was that still in him
which might be grander and truer to the ambitions of his imaginative
childhood under adversity, than in the voluptuous sweetness of his rich
and careless life. It was possible, if--if he could once meet the fate
he shuddered from, once look at the bitterness of the life that waited
for him, and enter on its desolate and arid waste without going back to
the closed gates of his forfeited paradise to stretch his limbs within
their shadow once more ere he died.

There is more courage needed oftentimes to accept the onward flow of
existence, bitter as the waters of Marah, black and narrow as the
channel of Jordan, than there is ever needed to bow down the neck to the
sweep of the death-angel's sword.

       *       *       *

He accepted the desolation of his life, for the sake of all beyond life,
greater than life, which looked down on him from the silence of the

       *       *       *

It was sunset in Venice,--that supreme moment when the magical flush of
light transfigures all, and wanderers whose eyes have long ached with
the greyness and the glare of northward cities gaze and think themselves
in heaven. The still waters of the lagunes, the marbles and the porphyry
and the jasper of the mighty palaces, the soft grey of the ruins all
covered with clinging green and the glowing blossoms of creepers, the
hidden antique nooks where some woman's head leaned out of an arched
casement, like a dream of the Dandolo time when the Adriatic swarmed
with the returning galleys laden with Byzantine spoil, the dim, mystic,
majestic walls that towered above the gliding surface of the eternal
water, once alive with flowers, and music, and the gleam of golden
tresses, and the laughter of careless revellers in the Venice of
Goldoni, in the Venice of the Past;--everywhere the sunset glowed with
the marvel of its colour, with the wonder of its warmth.

Then a moment, and it was gone. Night fell with the hushed shadowy
stillness that belongs to Venice alone; and in the place of the riot and
luxuriance of colour there was the tremulous darkness of the young
night, with the beat of an oar on the water, the scent of unclosing
carnation-buds, the white gleam of moonlight, and the odour of
lilies-of-the-valley blossoming in the dark archway of some mosaic-lined

       *       *       *

The ruin that had stripped him of all else taught him to fathom the
depths of his own attainments. He had in him the gifts of a Goethe; but
it was only under adversity that these reached their stature and bore
their fruit.

       *       *       *

The words were true. The bread of bitterness is the food on which men
grow to their fullest stature; the waters of bitterness are the
debatable ford through which they reach the shores of wisdom; the ashes
boldly grasped and eaten without faltering are the price that must be
paid for the golden fruit of knowledge. The swimmer cannot tell his
strength till he has gone through the wild force of opposing waves; the
great man cannot tell the might of his hand and the power of his
resistance till he has wrestled with the angel of adversity, and held it
close till it has blessed him.

       *       *       *

The artist was true to his genius; he knew it a greater gift than
happiness; and as his hands wandered by instinct over the familiar
notes, the power of his kingdom came to him, the passion of his mistress
was on him, and the grandeur of the melody swelled out to mingle with
the night, divine as consolation, supreme as victory.

       *       *       *

The man who puts chains on another's limbs is only one shade worse than
he who puts fetters on another's free thoughts and on another's free

       *       *       *

One fetter of tradition loosened, one web of superstition broken, one
ray of light let in on darkness, one principle of liberty secured, are
worth the living for, he mused. Fame!--it is the flower of a day, that
dies when the next sun rises. But to do something, however little, to
free men from their chains, to aid something, however faintly, the
rights of reason and of truth, to be unvanquished through all and
against all, these may bring one nearer the pure ambitions of youth.

Happiness dies as age comes to us; it sets for ever, with the suns of
early years: yet perhaps we may keep a higher thing beside which it
holds but a brief loyalty, if to ourselves we can rest true, if for the
liberty of the world we can do anything.

       *       *       *

Do not believe that happiness makes us selfish; it is a treason to the
sweetest gift of life. It is when it has deserted us that it grows hard
to keep all the better things in us from dying in the blight.

       *       *       *

"Coleridge cried, 'O God, how glorious it is to live!' Renan asks, 'O
God, when will it be worth while to live?' In nature we echo the poet;
in the world we echo the thinker."

       *       *       *

"Yet you are greater than you were then," he said, slowly. "I know it,--I
who am but a wine-cup rioter and love nothing but my summer-day fooling.
You are greater; but the harvest you sow will only be reaped over your

"I should be content could I believe it would be reaped then."

"Be content then. You may be so."

"God knows! Do you not think Marsy and Delisle de Sales and Linguet
believed, as they suffered in their dungeons for mere truth of speech,
that the remembrance of future generations would solace them? Bichât
gave himself to premature death for science' sake; does the world once
in a year speak his name? Yet how near those men are to us, to be
forgotten! A century, and history will scarce chronicle them."

"Then why give the wealth of your intellect to men?"

"Are there not higher things than present reward and the mere talk of
tongues? The _monstrari digito_ were scarce a lofty goal. We may love
Truth and strive to serve her, disregarding what she brings us. Those
who need a bribe from her are not her true believers."

Philippe d'Orvâle tossed his silvery hair from his eyes,--eyes of such
sunny lustre still.

"Ay! And those who held that sublime code of yours, that cleaving to
truth for truth's sake, where are they? How have they fared in every
climate and in every age? Stoned, crucified, burned, fettered, broken on
the vast black granite mass of the blind multitude's brutality, of the
priesthood's curse and craft!"

"True! Yet if through us, ever so slightly, the bondage of the creeds'
traditions be loosened from the lives they stifle, and those
multitudes--so weary, so feverish, so much more to be pitied than
condemned--become less blind, less brute, the sacrifice is not in vain."

"In your sense, no. But the world reels back again into darkness as soon
as a hand has lifted it for a while into light. Men hold themselves
purified, civilised; a year of war,--and lust and bloodthirst rage
untamed in all their barbarism; a taste of slaughter,--and they are
wolves again! There was truth in the old feudal saying, 'Oignez vilain,
il vous poindra; poignez vilain, il vous oindra.' Beat the multitudes
you talk of with a despot's sword, and they will lick your feet; touch
them with a Christ-like pity, and they will nail you to the cross."

There was terrible truth in the words: this man of princely blood, who
disdained all sceptres and wanted nothing of the world, could look
through and through it with his bold sunlit eyes, and see its
rottenness to the core.

Chandos sighed as he heard.

"You are right,--only too right. Yet even while they crouch to the
tyrant's sabre, how bitterly they need release! even while they crucify
their teachers and their saviours, how little they know what they do!
They may forsake themselves; but they should not be forsaken."

Philippe d'Orvâle looked on him with a light soft as woman's tears in
his eyes, and dashed his hand down on the alabaster.

"Chandos, you live twenty centuries too late. You would have been
crowned in Athens, and throned in Asia. But here, as a saving grace,
they will call you--'mad!'"

"Well, if they do? The title has its honours. It was hooted against
Solon and Socrates."

       *       *       *

"I would do all in the world to please _you_, monseigneur," he answered,
sadly; "but I cannot change my nature. The little aziola loves the
shade, and shrinks from noise and glare and all the ways of men; I am
like it. You cannot make the aziola a bird for sunlight; you cannot make
me as others are."

Chandos looked down on him with an almost tender compassion. To him,
whose years were so rich in every pleasure and every delight that men
can enjoy, the loneliness and pain of Lulli's life, divorced from all
the living world, made it a marvel profoundly melancholy, profoundly
formed to claim the utmost gentleness and sympathy.

"I would not have you as others are, Lulli," he said, softly. "If in all
the selfishness and pleasures of our world there were not some here and
there to give their lives to high thoughts and to unselfish things, as
you give yours, we should soon, I fear, forget that such existed. But
for such recluse's devotion to an art as yours, the classics would have
perished; without the cloister-penmen, the laws of science would never
have broken the bondage of tradition."

Lulli looked up eagerly; then his head drooped again with the
inexpressible weariness of that vain longing which "toils to reach the

"Ah, what is the best that I reach?--the breath of the wind which
passes, and sighs, and is heard no more."

       *       *       *

"How crabbed a scroll!" he went on, throwing himself down a moment on
the thyme and grass. "The characters must baffle even you; the years
that have yellowed the vellum have altered the fashion. Whose is it?"

"An old Elizabethan musician's," answered Lulli, as he looked up. "Yes;
the years take all,--our youth, our work, our life, even our graves."

Something in his Provençal cadence gave a rhythm to his simplest speech:
the words fell sadly on his listener's ear, though on the sensuous
luxuriance of his own existence no shadow ever rested, no skeleton ever

"Yes: the years take all," he said, with a certain sadness on him. "How
many unperfected resolves, unachieved careers, unaccomplished ambitions,
immatured discoveries, perish under the rapidity of time, as unripe
fruits fall before their season! Bichât died at thirty-one:--if he had
lived, his name would now have outshone Aristotle's."

"We live too little time to do anything even for the art we give our
life to," murmured Lulli. "When we die, our work dies with us: our
better self must perish with our bodies; the first change of fashion
will sweep it into oblivion."

"Yet something may last of it," suggested Chandos, while his hand
wandered among the blue bells of the curling hyacinths. "Because few
save scholars read the '_Defensio Populi_' now, the work it did for free
thought cannot die. None the less does the cathedral enrich Cologne
because the name of the man who begot its beauty has passed unrecorded.
None the less is the world aided by the effort of every true and daring
mind because the thinker himself has been crushed down in the rush of
unthinking crowds."

"No, if _it_ could live!" murmured Lulli, softly, with a musing pain in
the broken words. "But look! the scroll was as dear to its writer as his
score to Beethoven,--the child of his love, cradled in his thoughts
night and day, cherished as never mother cherished her first-born,
beloved as wife or mistress, son or daughter, never were. Perhaps he
denied himself much to give his time more to his labour; and when he
died, lonely and in want, because he had pursued that for which men
called him a dreamer, his latest thought was of the work which never
could speak to others as it spoke to him, which he must die and leave,
in anguish that none ever felt to sever from a human thing. Yet what
remains of his love and his toil? It is gone, as a laugh or a sob dies
off the ear, leaving no echo behind. His name signed here tells nothing
to the men for whom he laboured, adds nothing to the art for which he
lived. As it is with him, so will it be with me."

His voice, that had risen in sudden and untutored eloquence, sank
suddenly into the sadness and the weariness of the man whose highest joy
is but relief from pain; and in it was a keener pang still,--the grief
of one who strives for what incessantly escapes him.

"Wait," said Chandos, gently. "Are we sure that nothing lives of the
music you mourn? It may live on the lips of the people, in those
Old-World songs whose cause we cannot trace, yet which come sweet and
fresh transmitted to every generation. How often we hear some nameless
melody echo down a country-side! the singers cannot tell you whence it
came; they only know their mothers sang it by their cradles, and they
will sing it by their children's. But in the past the song had its birth
in genius."

Guido Lulli bent his head.

"True: such an immortality were all-sufficient: we could well afford to
have our names forgotten----"

       *       *       *

"Let that fellow alone, Cos," laughed Chandos, to avert the stormy
element which seemed to threaten the serenity of his breakfast-party.
"Trevenna will beat us all with his tongue, if we tempt him to try
conclusions. He should be a Chancellor of the Exchequer or a Cheap John;
I am not quite clear which as yet."

"Identically the same things!" cried Trevenna. "The only difference is
the scale they are on; one talks from the bench, and the other from the
benches; one cheapens tins, and the other cheapens taxes; one has a
salve for an incurable disease, and the other a salve for the national
debt; one rounds his periods to put off a watch that won't go, and the
other to cover a deficit that won't close; but they radically drive the
same trade, and both are successful if the spavined mare trots out
looking sound, and the people pay up. 'Look what I save you,' cry Cheap
John and Chancellor; and while they shout their economics, they pocket
their shillings. Ah, if I were sure I could bamboozle a village, I
should know I was qualified to make up a Budget."

       *       *       *

"Most impudent of men! When will you learn the first lesson of society,
and decently and discreetly _apprendre à vous effacer_?"

"_A m'effacer_? The advice Lady Harriet Vandeleur gave Cecil. Very good
for mediocre people, I dare say; but it wouldn't suit _me_. There are
some people, you know, that won't iron down for the hardest rollers.
_M'effacer_? No! I'd rather any day be an ill-bred originality than a
well-bred nonentity."

"Then you succeed perfectly in being what you wish! Don't you know,
monsieur, that to set yourself against conventionalities is like talking
too loud?--an impertinence and an under-breeding that society resents by

"Yes, I know it. But a duke may bawl, and nobody shuts out _him_; a
prince might hop on one leg, and everybody would begin to hop too. Now,
what the ducal lungs and the princely legs might do with impunity, I
declare I've a right to do, if I like."

"_Bécasse_! no one can declare his rights till he can do much more,
and--purchase them. Have a million, and we may perhaps give you a little
license to be unlike other persons: without the million it is an
ill-bred _gaucherie_."

"Ah, I know! Only a nobleman may be original; a poor penniless wretch
upon town must be humbly and insignificantly commonplace. What a pity
for the success of the aristocratic monopolists that nature puts clever
fellows and fools just in the reverse order! But then nature's a
shocking socialist."

"And so are you."

Trevenna laughed.

"Hush, madame. Pray don't destroy me with such a whisper."

       *       *       *

Talent wears well; genius wears itself out; talent drives a brougham in
fact, genius a sun-chariot in fancy; talent keeps to earth and fattens
there, genius soars to the empyrean, to get picked by every kite that
flies; talent is the part and the venison, genius the seltzer and
souffle of life. The man who has talent sails successfully on the top of
the wave; the man with genius beats himself to pieces, fifty to one, on
the first rock he meets.

       *       *       *

One innocent may be wrongly suspected until he is made the thing that
the libel called him.

       *       *       *

Men shut out happiness from their schemes for the world's happiness.
They might as well try to bring flowers to bloom without the sun.

       *       *       *

The most dastardly sin on earth is the desertion of the fallen.

       *       *       *

Let the world abandon you, but to yourself be true.

       *       *       *

The bread of bitterness is the food on which men grow to their fullest

       *       *       *

Youth without faith is a day without sun.

       *       *       *

I detest posterity--every king hates his heir.

       *       *       *

Scandals are like dandelion seeds; they are arrow-headed and stick when
they fall, and bring forth and multiply fourfold.

       *       *       *

The puff perfect is the puff personal--adroitly masked.

       *       *       *

I wear the Bonnet Rouge discreetly weighed down with a fine tassel of
British prudence.

       *       *       *

He was a master of the great art of banter. It is a marvellous force; it
kills sanctity, unveils sophistry, travesties wisdom, cuts through the
finest shield, and turns the noblest impulses to hopeless ridicule.

       *       *       *

Immortality is dull work--a hideous statue that gets black as soot in no
time; funeral sermons that make you out a vial of revelations and
discuss the probabilities of your being in the realms of Satan; a bust
that slants you off at the shoulders and sticks you up on a bracket; a
tombstone for the canes of the curious to poke at; an occasional
attention in the way of withered immortelles or biographical
Billingsgate, and a partial preservation shared in common with mummies,
auks' eggs, snakes in bottles, and deformities in spirits of
wine:--that's posthumous fame. I must say I don't see much fun in it.

       *       *       *

It were hard not to be wrong in philosophies when the body starves on a
pinch of oatmeal. It is the law of necessity, the balance of economy;
human fuel must be used up that the machine of the world may spin on;
but it is not, perhaps, marvellous that the living fuel is sometimes
unreconciled to that symmetrical rule of waste and repair, of consumer
and consumed.

       *       *       *

It is many centuries since Caius Gracchus called the mercantile classes
to aid the people against the patricians, and found too late that they
were deadlier oppressors than all the optimates; but the error still
goes on, and the moneymakers churn it into gold, as they churned it then
into the Asiatic revenues and the senatorial amulets.

       *       *       *

The love of a people is the most sublime crown that can rest on the brow
of any man, but the love of a mob is a mongrel that fawns and slavers
one moment, to rend and tear the next.


In this old-world district, amidst the pastures and corn-lands of
Normandy, superstition had taken a hold which the passage of centuries
and the advent of revolution had done very little to lessen. Few of the
people could read, and fewer still could write. They knew nothing but
what their priests and politicians told them to believe. They went to
their beds with the poultry, and rose as the cock crew: they went to
mass, as their ducks to the osier and weed ponds; and to the
conscription as their lambs to the slaughter. They understood that there
was a world beyond them, but they remembered it only as the best market
for their fruit, their fowls, their lace, their skins. Their brains were
as dim as were their oil-lit streets at night; though their lives were
content and mirthful, and for the most part pious. They went out into
the summer meadows chanting aves, in seasons of drought to pray for rain
on their parching orchards, in the same credulity with which they groped
through the winter-fog bearing torches, and chanting dirges to gain a
blessing at seed-time on their bleak, black fallows.

The beauty and the faith of the old mediæval life were with them still;
and with its beauty and its faith were its bigotry and cruelty likewise.

They led simple and contented lives; for the most part honest, and
amongst themselves cheerful and kindly: preserving much grace of colour,
of costume, of idiosyncrasy, because apart from the hueless communism
and characterless monotony of modern cities.

But they believed in sorcery and in devilry: they were brutal to their
beasts, and could be as brutal to their foes: they were steeped in
legend and tradition from their cradles; and all the darkest
superstitions of dead ages still found home and treasury in their hearts
and at their hearths.

They had always been a religious people in this birth country of the
Flamma race: the strong poetic reverence of their forefathers, which had
symbolised itself in the carving of every lintel, corbel or buttress in
their streets, and the fashion of every spire on which a weather-vane
could gleam against the sun, was still in their blood; the poetry had
departed, but the bigotry remained.

       *       *       *

"The earth and the air are good," she thought, as she lay there watching
the dark leaves sway in the foam and the wind, and the bright-bosomed
birds float from blossom to blossom. For there was latent in her, all
untaught, that old pantheistic instinct of the divine age, when the
world was young, to behold a sentient consciousness in every leaf
unfolded to the light; to see a soul in every created thing the day
shines on; to feel the presence of an eternal life in every breeze that
moves, in every grass that grows; in every flame that lifts itself to
heaven; in every bell that vibrates on the air; in every moth that soars
to reach the stars.

Pantheism is the religion of the poet; and nature had made her a poet,
though man as yet had but made of her an outcast, a slave, and a beast
of burden.

"The earth and the air are good," she thought, watching the sun-rays
pierce the purple hearts of a passion-flower, the shadows move across
the deep brown water, the radiant butterfly alight upon a lily, the
scarlet-throated birds dart in and out through the yellow feathery
blossoms of the limes.

       *       *       *

When a man clings to life for life's sake, because it is fair and sweet,
and good in the sight and the senses, there may be weakness in his
shudder at its threatening loss. But when a man is loth to lose life
although it be hard, and joyless, and barren of all delights, because
this life gives him power to accomplish things greater than he, which
yet without him must perish, there is the strength in him, as there is
the agony of Prometheus.

With him it must die also: that deep dim greatness within him, which
moves him, despite himself; that nameless unspeakable force which
compels him to create and to achieve; that vision by which he beholds
worlds beyond him not seen by his fellows.

Weary of life he may be; of life material, and full of subtlety; of
passion, of pleasure, of pain; of the kisses that burn, of the laugh
that rings hollow, of the honey that so soon turns to gall, of the
sickly fatigues, and the tired, cloyed hunger, that are the portion of
men upon earth. Weary of these he may be; but still if the gods have
breathed on him, and made him mad with the madness that men have called
genius, there will be that in him greater than himself, which he
knows,--and cannot know without some fierce wrench and pang,--will be
numbed and made impotent, and drift away, lost for evermore, into that
eternal night, which is all that men behold of death.

       *       *       *

The grass of the Holy River gathers perfume from the marvellous suns,
and the moonless nights, and the gorgeous bloom of the east, from the
aromatic breath of the leopard, and the perfume of the fallen
pomegranate, and the sacred oil that floats in the lamps, and the caress
of the girl-bather's feet, and the myrrh-dropping unguents that glide
from the maiden's bare limbs in the moonlight,--the grass holds and
feeds on them all. But not till the grass has been torn from the roots,
and been crushed, and been bruised and destroyed, can the full odours
exhale of all it has tasted and treasured.

Even thus the imagination of man may be great, but it can never be at
its greatest until one serpent, with merciless fangs, has bitten it
through and through, and impregnated it with passion and with
poison,--that one deathless serpent which is memory.

       *       *       *

And, indeed, to those who are alive to the nameless, universal, Eternal
Soul which breathes in all the grasses of the fields, and beams in the
eyes of all creatures of earth and air, and throbs in the living light
of palpitating stars, and thrills through the young sap of forest trees,
and stirs in the strange loves of wind-borne plants, and hums in every
song of the bee, and burns in every quiver of the flame, and peoples
with sentient myriads every drop of dew that gathers on a hare-bell,
every bead of water that ripples in a brook--to them the mortal life of
man can seem but little, save at once the fiercest and the feeblest
thing that does exist; at once the most cruel and the most impotent;
tyrants of direst destruction, and bondsmen of lowest captivity.

       *       *       *

The earth has always most charm, and least pain, to the poet or the
artist when men are hidden away under their roofs. Then they do not
break its calm with either their mirth or their brutality; then the vile
and revolting coarseness of their works, that blot it with so much
deformity, is softened and obscured in the purple breaths of shadow, and
the dim tender gleam of stars.

       *       *       *

When the world was in its youth, it had leisure to treasure its
recollections; even to pause and look back; to see what flower of a fair
thought, what fruit of a noble art, it might have overlooked or left
down-trodden. But now it is so old, and is so tired; it is purblind, and
heavy of foot; it does not notice what it destroys; it desires rest and
can find none; nothing can matter greatly to it; its dead are so many
that it cannot count them; and being thus worn and dulled with age, and
suffocated under the weight of its innumerable memories, it is very slow
to be moved, and swift--terribly swift--to forget.

Why should it not be?

It has known the best, it has known the worst that ever can befall it.

And the prayer that to the heart of man seems so freshly born from his
own desire, what is it on the weary ear of the world, save the same old,
old cry which it has heard through all the ages, empty as the sound of
the wind, and for ever--for ever--unanswered?

       *       *       *

For there is nothing so cruel in life as a Faith;--the Faith, whatever
its name may be, that draws a man on all his years through on one narrow
path, by one tremulous light, and then at the last, with a laugh--drowns

       *       *       *

I think I see!--the great God walked by the edge of the river, and he
mused on a gift to give man, on a joy that should be a joy on the earth
for ever; and he passed by the lily white as snow, by the thyme that fed
the bees, by the gold heart in the arum flower, by the orange flame of
the tall sandrush, by all the great water-blossoms which the sun kissed
and the swallows loved, and he came to the one little reed pierced with
the snake's-tongues, and all alone amidst millions. Then he took it up,
and cut it to the root, and killed it; killed it as a reed--but breathed
into it a song audible and beautiful to all the ears of men. Was that
death to the reed?--or life? Would a thousand summers of life by the
waterside have been worth that one thrill of song when a god first spoke
through it?

       *       *       *

It is odd that you should live in a palace, and he should want for
bread; but then he can create things, and you can only buy them. So it
is even, perhaps.

       *       *       *

A word that needs compelling is broken by the heart before the lips give
it. It is to plant a tree without a root to put faith in a man that
needs a bond.

       *       *       *

"You are glad since you sing!" said the old man to her as she passed him
again on her homeward way and paused again beside him.

"The birds in cages sing," she answered him, "but think you they are

"Are they not?"

She sat down a moment beside him, on the bank which was soft with moss,
and odorous with wild flowers curling up the stems of the poplars and
straying over into the corn beyond.

"Are they? Look. Yesterday I passed a cottage, it is on the Great South
Road; far away from here. The house was empty; the people no doubt were
gone to labour in the fields; there was a wicker cage hanging to the
wall, and in the cage there was a blackbird. The sun beat on his head;
his square of sod was a dry clod of bare earth; the heat had dried every
drop of water in his pan; and yet the bird was singing. Singing how? In
torment, beating his breast against the bars till the blood started,
crying to the skies to have mercy on him and to let the rain fall. His
song was shrill; it had a scream in it; still he sang. Do you say the
merle was glad?"

"What did you do?" asked the old man, still breaking his stones with a
monotonous rise and fall of his hammer.

"I took the cage down and opened the door."

"And he?"

"He shot up in the air first, then dropped down amidst the grasses,
where a little brook which the drought had not dried was still running;
and he bathed and drank, and bathed again, seeming mad with the joy of
the water. When I lost him from sight he was swaying among the leaves on
a bough over the river; but then he was silent."

"And what do you mean by that?"

Her eyes clouded; she was mute. She vaguely knew the meaning it bore to
herself, but it was beyond her to express it. All things of nature had
voices and parables for her, because her fancy was vivid, and her mind
was still too dark, and too profoundly ignorant, for her to be able to
shape her thoughts into metaphor or deduction. The bird had spoken to
her; by his silence as by his song; but what he had uttered she could
not well utter again. Save indeed that song was not gladness, and
neither was silence pain.

       *       *       *

"The future?" she said at last, "that means something that one has not,
and that is to come--is it so?" "Something that one never has, and that
never comes," muttered the old man, wearily cracking the flints in two;
"something that one possesses in one's sleep, and that is farther off
each time that one awakes; and yet a thing that one sees always, sees
even when one lies a dying they say--for men are fools."

       *       *       *

In one of the most fertile and most fair districts of northern France
there was a little Norman town, very, very old, and beautiful
exceedingly by reason of its ancient streets, its high peaked roofs, its
marvellous galleries and carvings, its exquisite greys and browns, its
silence and its colour, and its rich still life.

Its centre was a great cathedral, noble as York or Chartres; a
cathedral, whose spire shot to the clouds, and whose innumerable towers
and pinnacles were all pierced to the day, so that the blue sky shone
and the birds of the air flew all through them. A slow brown river,
broad enough for market boats and for corn barges, stole through the
place to the sea, lapping as it went the wooden piles of the houses, and
reflecting the quaint shapes of the carvings, the hues of the signs and
the draperies, the dark spaces of the dormer windows, the bright heads
of some casement-cluster of carnations, the laughing face of a girl
leaning out to smile on her lover.

All around it lay the deep grass unshaven, the leagues on leagues of
fruitful orchards, the low blue hills tenderly interlacing one another,
the fields of colza, where the white head-dress of the women-workers
flashed in the sun like a silvery pigeon's wing. To the west there were
the deep green woods, and the wide plains golden with gorse of Arthur's
and of Merlin's lands; and beyond, to the northward, was the dim
stretch of the ocean breaking on a yellow shore, whither the river ran,
and whither led straight shady roads, hidden with linden and with poplar
trees, and marked ever and anon by a wayside wooden Christ, or by a
little murmuring well crowned with a crucifix.

A beautiful, old, shadowy, ancient place: picturesque everywhere; often
silent, with a sweet sad silence that was chiefly broken by the sound of
bells or the chaunting of choristers. A place of the Middle Ages still.
With lanterns swinging on cords from house to house as the only light;
with wondrous scroll-works and quaint signs at the doors of all its
traders; with monks' cowls and golden croziers and white-robed acolytes
in its streets; with the subtle smoke of incense coming out from the
cathedral door to mingle with the odours of the fruits and flowers in
the market-place; with great flat-bottomed boats drifting down the river
under the leaning eaves of its dwellings; and with the galleries of its
opposing houses touching so nearly that a girl leaning in one could
stretch a Provence rose or toss an Easter egg across to her neighbour in
the other.

Doubtless there were often squalor, poverty, dust, filth, and
uncomeliness within these old and beautiful homes. Doubtless often the
dwellers therein were housed like cattle and slept like pigs, and looked
but once out to the woods and waters of the landscapes round for one
hundred times that they looked at their hidden silver in an old delf
jug, or at their tawdry coloured prints of St. Victorian or St. Scævola.

But yet much of the beauty and the nobility of the old, simple, restful,
rich-hued life of the past still abode there, and remained with them. In
the straight, lithe form of their maidens, untrammelled by modern garb,
and moving with the free majestic grace of forest does. In the vast,
dim, sculptured chambers, where the grandam span by the wood fire, and
the little children played in the shadows, and the lovers whispered in
the embrasured window. In the broad market-place, where the mules
cropped the clover, and the tawny awnings caught the sunlight, and the
white caps of the girls framed faces fitted for the pencils of missal
painters, and the flush of colour from mellow wall-fruits and
grape-clusters glanced amidst the shelter of deepest, freshest green. In
the perpetual presence of their cathedral, which, through sun and storm,
through frost and summer, through noon and midnight, stood there amidst
them, and watched the galled oxen tread their painful way, and the
scourged mules droop their humble heads, and the helpless, harmless
flocks go forth to the slaughter, and the old weary lives of the men and
women pass through hunger and cold to the grave, and the sun and the
moon rise and set, and the flowers and the children blossom and fade,
and the endless years come and go, bringing peace, bringing war;
bringing harvest, bringing famine; bringing life, bringing death; and,
beholding these, still said to the multitude in its terrible irony, "Lo!
your God is Love."

This little town lay far from the great Paris highway and all greatly
frequented tracks. It was but a short distance from the coast, but near
no harbour of greater extent than such as some small fishing village had
made in the rocks for the trawlers. Few strangers ever came to it,
except some wandering painters or antiquaries. It sent its apples and
eggs, its poultry and honey, its colza and corn to the use of the great
cities; but it was rarely that any of its own people went thither.

Now and then some one of the oval-faced, blue-eyed, lithe-limbed maidens
of its little homely households would sigh and flush and grow restless,
and murmur of Paris; and would steal out in the break of a warm grey
morning whilst only the birds were still waking; and would patter away
in her wooden shoes over the broad, white, southern road, with a stick
over her shoulder, and a bundle of all her worldly goods upon the stick.
And she would look back often, often, as she went; and when all was lost
in the blue haze of distance save the lofty spire which she still saw
through her tears, she would say in her heart, with her lips parched and
trembling, "I will come back again. I will come back again."

But none such ever did come back.

They came back no more than did the white sweet sheaves of the lilies
which the women gathered and sent to be bought and sold in the city--to
gleam one faint summer night in a gilded balcony, and to be flung out
the next morning, withered and dead.

One amongst the few who had thus gone whither the lilies went, and of
whom the people would still talk as their mules paced homewards through
the lanes at twilight, had been Reine Flamma, the daughter of the miller
of Yprés.

       *       *       *

"There are only two trades in a city," said the actors to her, with a
smile as bitter as her own, "only two trades--to buy souls and to sell
them. What business have you here, who do neither the one nor the

There was music still in this trampled reed of the river, into which the
gods had once bidden the stray winds and the wandering waters breathe
their melody; but there, in the press, the buyers and sellers only saw
in it a frail thing of the sand and the stream, only made to be woven
for barter, or bind together the sheaves of the roses of pleasure.

       *       *       *

Art was to him as mother, brethren, mistress, offspring, religion--all
that other men hold dear. He had none of these, he desired none of them;
and his genius sufficed to him in their stead.

It was an intense and reckless egotism, made alike cruel and sublime by
its intensity and purity, like the egotism of a mother in her child. To
it, as the mother to her child, he would have sacrificed every living
creature; but to it also, like her, he would have sacrificed his very
existence as unhesitatingly. But it was an egotism which, though
merciless in its tyranny, was as pure as snow in its impersonality; it
was untainted by any grain of avarice, of vanity, of selfish desire; it
was independent of all sympathy; it was simply and intensely the passion
for immortality:--that sublime selfishness, that superb madness, of all
great minds.

Art had taken him for its own, as Demeter, in the days of her
desolation, took the child Demophoon to nurture him as her own on the
food of gods, and to plunge him through the flames of a fire that would
give him immortal life. As the pusillanimous and sordid fears of the
mortal mother lost to the child for evermore the possession of Olympian
joys and of perpetual youth, so did the craven and earthly cares of
bodily needs hold the artist back from the radiance of the life of the
soul, and drag him from the purifying fires. Yet he had not been utterly
discouraged; he strove against the Metanira of circumstance; he did his
best to struggle free from the mortal bonds that bound him; and, as the
child Demophoon mourned for the great goddess that had nurtured him,
refusing to be comforted, so did he turn from the base consolations of
the senses and the appetites, and beheld ever before his sight the
ineffable majesty of that Mater Dolorosa who once and for ever had
anointed him as her own.

       *       *       *

Men did not believe in him; what he wrought saddened and terrified them;
they turned aside to those who fed them on simpler and on sweeter food.

His works were great, but they were such as the public mind deems
impious. They unveiled human corruption too nakedly, and they shadowed
forth visions too exalted, and satires too unsparing, for them to be
acceptable to the multitude. They were compounded of an idealism clear
and cold as crystal, and of a reality cruel and voluptuous as love. They
were penetrated with an acrid satire and an intense despair: the world
caring only for a honied falsehood and a gilded gloss in every art,
would have none of them.

       *       *       *

"See you--what he lacks is only the sinew that gold gives. What he has
done is great. The world rightly seeing must fear it; and fear is the
highest homage the world ever gives. But he is penniless; and he has
many foes; and jealousy can with so much ease thrust aside the greatness
which it fears into obscurity, when that greatness is marred by the
failures and the feebleness of poverty. Genius scorns the power of gold:
it is wrong; gold is the war-scythe on its chariot, which mows down the
millions of its foes and gives free passage to the sun-coursers with
which it leaves those heavenly fields of light for the gross
battle-fields of earth."

       *       *       *

It is true that the great artist is as a fallen god who remembers a time
when worlds arose at his breath, and at his bidding the barren lands
blossomed into fruitfulness; the sorcery of the thyrsus is still his,
though weakened.

The powers of lost dominions haunt his memory; the remembered glory of
an eternal sun is in his eyes, and makes the light of common day seem
darkness; the heart sickness of a long exile weighs on him; incessantly
he labours to overtake the mirage of a loveliness which fades as he
pursues it. In the poetic creation by which the bondage of his material
life is redeemed, he finds at once ecstasy and disgust, because he feels
at once his strength and weakness. For him all things of earth and air,
and sea and cloud, have beauty; and to his ear all voices of the forest
land and water world are audible.

He is as a god, since he can call into palpable shape dreams born of
impalpable thought; as a god, since he has known the truth divested of
lies, and has stood face to face with it, and been not afraid; a god
thus. But a cripple inasmuch as his hand can never fashion the shapes
that his vision beholds; an alien because he has lost what he never will
find upon earth; a beast, since ever and again his passions will drag
him to wallow in the filth of sensual indulgence; a slave, since
oftentimes the divinity that is in him breaks and bends under the
devilry that also is in him, and he obeys the instincts of vileness, and
when he would fain bless the nations he curses them.

       *       *       *

"I do not know," she said, wearily afresh. "Marcellin says that every
God is deaf. He must be deaf--or very cruel. Look; everything lives in
pain; and yet no God pities and makes an end of the earth. I would--if I
were He. Look--at dawn, the other day, I was out in the wood. I came
upon a little rabbit in a trap; a little, pretty, soft black-and-white
thing, quite young. It was screaming in its horrible misery; it
had been screaming all night. Its thighs were broken in the iron teeth;
the trap held it tight; it could not escape, it could only
scream--scream--scream. All in vain. When I had set it free it was
mangled as if a wolf had gnawed it; the iron teeth had bitten through
the fur, and the flesh, and the bone; it had lost so much blood, and it
was in so much pain, that it could not live. I laid it down in the
bracken, and put water to its mouth, and did what I could; but it was of
no use. It had been too much hurt. It died as the sun rose; a little,
harmless, shy, happy thing, you know, that never killed any creature,
and only asked to nibble a leaf or two, or sleep in a little round hole,
and run about merry and free. How can one care for a God since He lets
these things be?"

Arslàn smiled as he heard.

"Child,--men care for a god only as a god means a good to them. Men are
heirs of heaven, they say; and, in right of their heritage, they make
life hell to every living thing that dares dispute the world with them.
You do not understand that,--tut! You are not human then. If you were
human, you would begrudge a blade of grass to a rabbit, and arrogate to
yourself a lease of immortality."

       *       *       *

"Of a winter night," she said, slowly, "I have heard old Pitchou read
aloud to Flamma, and she reads of their God, the one they hang
everywhere on the crosses here; and the story ran that the populace
scourged and nailed to death the one whom they knew afterwards, when too
late, to have been the great man that they looked for, and that, being
bidden to make their choice of one to save, they chose to ransom and
honour a thief: one called Barabbas. Is it true?--if the world's choice
were wrong once, why not twice?"

Arslàn smiled; the smile she knew so well, and which had no more warmth
than the ice floes of his native seas.

"Why not twice? Why not a thousand times? A thief has the world's
sympathies always. It is always the Barabbas--the trickster in talent,
the forger of stolen wisdom, the bravo of political crime, the huckster
of plundered thoughts, the charlatan of false art, whom the vox populi
elects and sets free, and sends on his way rejoicing. 'Will ye have
Christ or Barabbas?' Every generation is asked the same question, and
every generation gives the same answer; and scourges the divinity out of
its midst, and finds its idol in brute force and low greed."

She only dimly comprehended, not well knowing why her words had thus
roused him. She pondered awhile, then her face cleared.

"But the end?" she asked. "The dead God is the God of all these people
round us now, and they have built great places in His honour, and they
bow when they pass His likeness in the highway or the market-place. But
with Barabbas--what was the end? It seems that they loathe and despise

Arslàn laughed a little.

"His end? In Syria may be the vultures picked his bones, where they lay
whitening on the plains--those times were primitive, the world was
young. But in our day Barabbas lives and dies in honour, and has a tomb
that stares all men in the face, setting forth his virtues, so that all
who run may read. In our day Barabbas--the Barabbas of money-greeds and
delicate cunning, and the theft which has risen to science, and the
assassination that kills souls and not bodies, and the crime that deals
moral death and not material death--our Barabbas, who is crowned Fraud
in the place of mailed Force, lives always in purple and fine linen, and
ends in the odours of sanctity with the prayers of priests over his

He spoke with a certain fierce passion that rose in him whenever he
thought of that world which had rejected him, and had accepted so many
others, weaker in brain and nerve, but stronger in one sense, because
more dishonest; and as he spoke he went straight to a wall on his right,
where a great sea of grey paper was stretched, untouched and ready to
his hand.

She would have spoken, but he made a motion to silence.

"Hush! be quiet," he said to her, almost harshly, "I have thought of

And he took the charcoal and swept rapidly with it over the dull blank
surface till the vacancy glowed with life. A thought had kindled in him;
a vision had arisen before him.

The scene around him vanished utterly from his sight. The grey stone
walls, the square windows through which the fading sun-rays fell; the
level pastures and sullen streams, and paled skies without, all faded
away as though they had existed only in a dream.

All the empty space about him became peopled with many human shapes that
for him had breath and being, though no other eye could have beheld
them. The old Syrian world of eighteen hundred years before arose and
glowed before him. The things of his own life died away, and in their
stead he saw the fierce flame of eastern suns, the gleaming range of
marble palaces, the purple flush of pomegranate flowers, the deep colour
of oriental robes, the soft silver of hills olive crested, the tumult of
a city at high festival. And he could not rest until all he thus saw in
his vision he had rendered as far as his hand could render it; and what
he drew was this.

A great thirsty, heated, seething crowd; a crowd that had manhood and
womanhood, age and infancy, youths and maidens within its ranks; a crowd
in whose faces every animal lust and every human passion were let loose;
a crowd on which a noon sun without shadow streamed; a sun which parched
and festered and engendered all corruption in the land on which it
looked. This crowd was in a city, a city on whose flat roofs the myrtle
and the cistus bloomed; above whose walls the plumes of olives waved;
upon whose distant slopes the darkling cedar groves rose straight
against the sky, and on whose lofty temple plates of gold glistened
against the shining heavens. This crowd had scourges, and stones, and
goads in their hands; and in their midst they led one clothed in white,
whose head was thorn-crowned, and whose eyes were filled with a god's
pity and a man's reproach; and him they stoned, and lashed, and hooted.

And triumphant in the throng, whose choice he was, seated aloft upon
men's shoulders, with a purple robe thrown on his shoulders, there sat a
brawny, grinning, bloated, jibbering thing, with curled lips and savage
eyes, and satyr's leer: the creature of greed, of lust, of obscenity, of
brutality, of avarice, of desire. This thing the people followed,
rejoicing exceedingly, content in the guide whom they had chosen,
victorious in the fiend for whom they spurned a deity; crying, with wide
open throats and brazen lungs,--"Barabbas!"

There was not a form in all this close-packed throng which had not a
terrible irony in it, which was not in itself a symbol of some appetite
or of some vice, for which women and men abjure the godhead in them.

A gorged drunkard lay asleep with his amphora broken beneath him, the
stream of the purple wine lapped eagerly by ragged children. A
money-changer had left the receipt of custom, eager to watch and shout,
and a thief clutched both hands full of the forsaken coins and fled.

A miser had dropped a bag of gold, and stopped to catch at all the
rolling pieces, regardless in his greed how the crowd trampled and trod
on him. A mother chid and struck her little brown curly child, because
he stretched his arms and turned his face towards the thorn-crowned

A priest of the temple, with a blood-stained knife thrust in his girdle,
dragged beside him, by the throat, a little tender lamb doomed for the

A dancing woman with jewels in her ears, and half naked to the waist,
sounding the brazen cymbals above her head, drew a score of youths after
her in Barabbas' train.

On one of the flat roof tops, reclining on purple and fine linen,
looking down on the street below from the thick foliage of her citron
boughs and her red Syrian roses, was an Egyptian wanton; and leaning
beside her, tossing golden apples in her bosom, was a young centurion of
the Roman guard, languid and laughing, with his fair chest bare to the
heat, and his armour flung in a pile beside him.

And thus, in like manner, every figure bore its parable; and above all
was the hard, hot, cruel, cloudless sky of blue, without one faintest
mist to break its horrible serenity, whilst high in the azure ether and
against the sun, an eagle and a vulture fought, locked close, and
tearing at each other's breasts.

Six nights this conception occupied him. His days were not his own, he
spent them in a rough mechanical labour which his strength executed
while his mind was far away from it; but the nights were all his, and at
the end of the sixth night the thing arose, perfect as far as his hand
could perfect it; begotten by a chance and ignorant word as have been
many of the greatest works the world has seen;--oaks sprung from the
acorn that a careless child has let fall.

When he had finished it his arm dropped to his side, he stood
motionless; the red glow of the dawn lighting the depths of his
sleepless eyes.

       *       *       *

It was a level green silent country which was round her, with little
loveliness and little colour; but as she went she laughed incessantly
in the delirious gladness of her liberty.

She tossed her head back to watch the flight of a single swallow; she
caught a handful of green leaves and buried her face in them. She
listened in a very agony of memory to the rippling moisture of a little
brook. She followed with her eyes the sweeping vapours of the
rain-clouds, and when a west wind rose and blew a cluster of loose apple
blossoms between her eyes--she could no longer bear the passionate pain
of all the long-lost sweetness, but flinging herself downward, sobbed
with the ecstasy of an exile's memories.

The hell in which she had dwelt had denied them to her for so long.

"Ah God!" she thought, "I know now--one cannot be utterly wretched
whilst one has still the air and the light and the winds of the sky."

And she arose, calmer, and went on her way; wondering, even in that
hour, why men and women trod the daily measures of their lives with
their eyes downward and their ears choked with the dust; hearkening so
little to the sound of the breeze in the grasses, looking so little to
the passage of the clouds against the sun.

       *       *       *

The ground ascended as it stretched seaward, but on it there were only
wide dull fields of colza or of grass lying, sickly and burning, under
the fire of the late afternoon sun.

The slope was too gradual to break their monotony.

Above them was the cloudless weary blue; below them was the faint
parched green; other colour there was none; one little dusky panting
bird flew by pursued by a kite; that was the only change.

She asked him no questions; she walked mutely and patiently by his side;
she hated the dull heat, the colourless waste, the hard scorch of the
air, the dreary changelessness of the scene. But she did not say so. He
had chosen to come to them.

A league onward the fields were merged into a heath, uncultivated and
covered with short prickly furze; on the brown earth between the stunted
bushes a few goats were cropping the burnt-up grasses. Here the slope
grew sharper, and the earth seemed to rise up between the sky and them,
steep and barren as a house-roof.

Once he asked her--

"Are you tired?"

She shook her head.

Her feet ached, and her heart throbbed; her limbs were heavy like lead
in the heat and the toil. But she did not tell him so. She would have
dropped dead from exhaustion rather than have confessed to him any

He took the denial as it was given, and pressed onward up the ascent.

The sun was slanting towards the west; the skies seemed like brass; the
air was sharp, yet scorching; the dull brown earth still rose up before
them like a wall; they climbed it slowly and painfully, their hands and
their teeth filled with its dust, which drifted in a cloud before them.
He bade her close her eyes, and she obeyed him. He stretched his arm out
and drew her after him up the ascent, which was slippery from drought
and prickly from the stunted growth of furze.

On the summit he stood still and released her.

"Now look."

She opened her eyes with the startled, half-questioning stare of one
led out from utter darkness into a full and sudden light.

Then, with a great cry, she sank down on the rock, trembling, weeping,
laughing, stretching out her arms to the new glory that met her sight,
dumb with its grandeur, delirious with its delight.

For what she saw was the sea.

Before her dazzled sight all its beauty stretched, the blueness of the
waters meeting the blueness of the skies; radiant with all the marvels
of its countless hues; softly stirred by a low wind that sighed across
it; bathed in a glow of gold that streamed on it from the westward;
rolling from north to south in slow, sonorous measure, filling the
silent air with the ceaseless melody of its wondrous voice.

The lustre of the sunset beamed upon it; the cool fresh smell of its
waters shot like new life through all the scorch and stupor of the day;
its white foam curled and broke on the brown curving rocks and wooded
inlets of the shores; innumerable birds, that gleamed like silver,
floated or flew above its surface; all was still, still as death, save
only for the endless movement of those white swift wings and the murmur
of the waves, in which all meaner and harsher sounds of earth seemed
lost and hushed to slumber and to silence.

The sea alone reigned, as it reigned in the young years of the earth
when men were not; as, may be, it will be its turn to reign again in the
years to come, when men and all their works shall have passed away and
be no more seen nor any more remembered.

Arslàn watched her in silence.

He was glad that it should awe and move her thus. The sea was the only
thing for which he cared, or which had any power over him. In the
northern winters of his youth he had known the ocean, in one wild
night's work, undo all that men had done to check and rule it, and
burst through all the barriers that they had raised against it, and
throw down the stones of the altar and quench the fires of the hearth,
and sweep through the fold and the byre, and flood the cradle of the
child and the grave of the grandsire.

He had seen its storms wash away at one blow the corn harvests of years,
and gather in the sheep from the hills, and take the life of the
shepherd with the life of the flock. He had seen it claim lovers locked
in each other's arms, and toss the fair curls of the first-born as it
tossed the riband weeds of its deeps. And he had felt small pity; it had
rather given him a certain sense of rejoicing and triumph to see the
water laugh to scorn those who were so wise in their own conceit, and
bind beneath its chains those who held themselves masters over all
beasts of the field and birds of the air.

Other men dreaded the sea and cursed it; but he in his way loved it
almost with passion, and could he have chosen the manner of his death
would have desired that it should be by the sea and through the sea; a
death cold and serene and dreamily voluptuous: a death on which no woman
should look and in which no man should have share.

He watched her now for some time without speaking. When the first
paroxysm of her emotion had exhausted itself, she stood motionless, her
figure like a statue of bronze against the sun, her head sunk upon her
breast, her arms outstretched as though beseeching that wondrous
brightness which she saw to take her to itself and make her one with it.
Her whole attitude expressed an unutterable worship. She was like one
who for the first time hears of God.

"What is it you feel?" he asked her suddenly. He knew without asking;
but he had made it his custom to dissect all her joys and sufferings
with little heed whether he thus added to either.

At the sound of his voice she started, and a shiver shook her as she
answered him slowly, without withdrawing her gaze from the waters.

"It has been there always--always--so near me?"

"Before the land, the sea was."

"And I never knew!"--

Her head drooped on her breast; great tears rolled silently down her
cheeks; her arms fell to her sides; she shivered again and sighed. She
knew all that she had lost--this is the greatest grief that life holds.

"You never knew," he made answer. "There was only a sand-hill between
you and all this glory; but the sand-hill was enough. Many people never
climb theirs all their lives long."

The words and their meaning escaped her.

She had for once no remembrance of him, nor any other sense save of this
surpassing wonder that had thus burst on her--this miracle that had been
near her for so long, yet of which she had never in all her visions

She was quite silent; sunk there on her knees, motionless, and gazing
straight, with eyes unblenching, at the light.

There was no sound near them, nor was there anything in sight except
where above against the deepest azure of the sky two curlews were
circling around each other, and in the distance a single ship was
gliding, with sails silvered by the sun. All signs of human life lay far
behind; severed from them by those steep scorched slopes swept only by
the plovers and the bees. And all the while she looked slow tears
gathered in her eyes and fell, and the loud hard beating of her heart
was audible in the hushed stillness of the upper air.

He waited awhile: then he spoke to her.

"Since it pains you, come away."

A great sob shuddered through her.

"Give me that pain," she muttered, "sooner than any joy. Pain? pain?--it
is life, heaven--liberty!"

For suddenly those words which she had heard spoken around her, and
which had been to her like the mutterings of the deaf and the dumb,
became real to her with thousand meanings.

The seagulls were lost in the heights of the air; the ship sailed on
into the light till the last gleam of its canvas vanished; the sun sank
westward lower and lower till it glowed in a globe of flame upon the
edge of the water: she never moved; standing there on the summit of the
cliff, with her head drooped upon her breast, her form thrown out dark
and motionless against the gold of the western sky, on her face still
that look of one who worships with intense honour and passionate faith
an unknown God.

The sun sank entirely, leaving only a trail of flame across the heavens;
the waters grew grey and purple in the shadows; one boat, black against
the crimson reflections of the west, swept on swiftly with the
in-rushing tide; the wind rose and blew long curls of seaweed on the
rocks; the shores of the bay were dimmed in a heavy mist, through which
the lights of the little hamlets dimly glowed, and the distant voices of
fishermen calling to each other as they drew in their deep-sea nets came
faint and weirdlike.

       *       *       *

What she wanted was to live. Live as the great moor bird did that she
had seen float one day over these pale, pure, blue skies, with its
mighty wings outstretched in the calm grey weather; which came none knew
whence, and which went none knew whither; which poised silent and
stirless against the clouds; then called with a sweet wild love-note to
its mate, and waited for him as he sailed in from the misty shadows
where the sea lay; and with him rose yet higher and higher in the air;
and passed westward, cleaving the fields of light, and so vanished;--a
queen of the wind, a daughter of the sun; a creature of freedom, of
victory, of tireless movement, and of boundless space, a thing of heaven
and of liberty.

       *       *       *

In the springtime of the year three gods watched by the river.

The golden flowers of the willows blew in the low winds; the waters came
and went; the moon rose full and cold over a silvery stream; the reeds
sighed in the silence.

Two winters had drifted by and one hot drowsy summer since their creator
had forsaken them, and all the white still shapes upon the walls already
had been slain by the cold breath of Time. The green weeds waved in the
empty casements; the chance-sown seeds of thistles and of bell-flowers
were taking leaf between the square stones of the paven places; on the
deserted threshold lichens and brambles climbed together; the filmy ooze
of a rank vegetation stole over the loveliness of Persephone and
devoured one by one the divine offspring of Zeus; about the feet of the
bound sun king in Pheroe and over the calm serene mockery of Hermes'
smile the grey nets of the spiders' webs had been woven to and fro,
across and across, with the lacing of a million threads, as Fate weaves
round the limbs and covers the eyes of mortals as they stumble blindly
from their birthplace to their grave. All things, the damp and the dust,
the frost and the scorch, the newts and the rats, the fret of the
flooded waters, and the stealing sure inroad of the mosses that
everywhere grew from the dews and the fogs, had taken and eaten, in
hunger or sport, or had touched, and thieved from, then left, gangrened
and ruined.

The three gods alone remained; who being the sons of eternal night, are
unharmed, unaltered, by any passage of the years of earth. The only gods
who never bend beneath the yoke of years; but unblenchingly behold the
nations wither as uncounted leaves, and the lands and the seas change
their places, and the cities and the empires pass away as a tale that is
told; and the deities that are worshipped in the temples alter in name
and attributes and cultus, at the wanton will of the age which begot

In the still, cold, moonlit air their shadows stood together. Hand in
hand; looking outward through the white night-mists. Other gods perished
with the faith of each age as it changed; other gods lived by the breath
of men's lips, the tears of prayer, the smoke of sacrifice. But
they,--their empire was the universe.

In every young soul that leaps into the light of life rejoicing blindly,
Oneiros has dominion; and he alone. In every creature that breathes,
from the conqueror resting on a field of blood to the nest bird cradled
in its bed of leaves, Hypnos holds a sovereignty which nothing mortal
can long resist and live. And Thanatos,--to him belongs every created
thing, past, present, and to come; beneath his feet all generations lie;
and in the hollow of his hand he holds the worlds; though the earth be
tenantless, and the heavens sunless, and the planets shrivel in their
courses, and the universe be shrouded in an endless night, yet through
the eternal desolation Thanatos still will reign, and through the
eternal darkness, through the immeasurable solitudes, he alone will
wander, and he still behold his work.

Deathless as themselves their shadows stood; and the worm and the lizard
and the newt left them alone and dared not wind about their calm clear
brows, and dared not steal to touch the roses at their lips, knowing
that ere the birth of the worlds these were, and when the worlds shall
have perished these still will reign on:--the slow, sure, soundless,
changeless ministers of an eternal rest, of an eternal oblivion.

A late light strayed in from the grey skies, pale as the primrose
flowers that grew amongst the reeds upon the shore; and found its way to
them, trembling; and shone in the far-seeing depths of their
unfathomable eyes.

The eyes which spake and said:

"Sleep, dreams, and death:--we are the only gods that answer prayer."

       *       *       *

Night had come; a dark night of earliest spring. The wild day had sobbed
itself to sleep after a restless life with fitful breath of storm and
many sighs of shuddering breezes.

The sun had sunk, leaving long tracks of blood-red light across one-half
the heavens.

There was a sharp crisp coldness as of lingering frost in the gloom and
the dulness. Heavy clouds, as yet unbroken, hung over the cathedral and
the clustering roofs around it in dark and starless splendour.

Over the great still plains which stretched eastward and southward,
black with the furrows of the scarce-budded corn, the wind blew hard;
blowing the river and the many streamlets spreading from it into foam;
driving the wintry leaves which still strewed the earth thickly, hither
and thither in legions; breaking boughs that had weathered the winter
hurricanes, and scattering the tender blossoms of the snowdrops and the
earliest crocuses in all the little moss-grown garden ways.

The smell of wet grass, of the wood-born violets, of trees whose new
life was waking in their veins, of damp earths turned freshly upwards by
the plough, were all blown together by the riotous breezes.

Now and then a light gleamed through the gloom where a little peasant
boy lighted home with a torch some old priest on his mule, or a boat
went down the waters with a lamp hung at its prow. For it grew dark
early, and people used to the river read a threat of a flood on its

A dim glow from the west, which was still tinged with the fire of the
sunset, fell through a great square window set in a stone building, and
striking across the sicklier rays of an oil lamp reached the opposing
wall within.

It was a wall of grey stone, dead and lustreless like the wall of a
prison-house, over whose surface a spider as colourless as itself
dragged slowly its crooked hairy limbs loaded with the moisture of the
place, which was an old tower, of which the country folk told strange
tales, where it stood among the rushes on the left bank of the stream.

A man watched the spider as it went.

It crept on its heavy way across the faint crimson reflection from the
glow of the sunken sun.

It was fat, well-nourished, lazy, content; its home of dusky silver hung
on high, where its pleasure lay in weaving, clinging, hoarding,
breeding. It lived in the dark; it had neither pity nor regret; it
troubled itself neither for the death it dealt to nourish itself, nor
for the light without, into which it never wandered; it spun and throve
and multiplied.

It was an emblem of the man who is wise in his generation; of the man
whom Cato the elder deemed divine; of the Majority and the Mediocrity
who rule over the earth and enjoy its fruits.

This man knew that it was wise; that those who were like to it were wise
also: wise with the holy wisdom which is honoured of other men.

He had been unwise--always; and therefore he stood watching the sun die,
with hunger in his soul, with famine in his body.

For many months he had been half famished, as were the wolves in his own
northern mountains in the winter solstice. For seven days he had only
been able to crush a crust of hard black bread between his teeth. For
twenty hours he had not done even so much as this. The trencher on his
tressel was empty; and he had not wherewithal to re-fill it.

He might have found some to fill it for him no doubt. He lived amidst
the poor, and the poor to the poor are good, though they are bad and
bitter to the rich. But he did not open either his lips or his hand. He
consumed his heart in silence; and his vitals preyed in anguish on
themselves without his yielding to their torments.

He was a madman; and Cato, who measured the godliness of man by what
they gained, would have held him accursed;--the madness that starves and
is silent for an idea is an insanity, scouted by the world and the gods.
For it is an insanity unfruitful; except to the future. And for the
future who cares,--save these madmen themselves?

He watched the spider as it went.

It could not speak to him as its fellow once spoke in the old Scottish
story. To hear as that captive heard, the hearer must have hope, and a
kingdom,--if only in dreams.

This man had no hope; he had a kingdom indeed, but it was not of earth;
and, in an hour of sheer cruel bodily pain, earth alone has dominion and
power and worth.

The spider crawled across the grey wall; across the glow from the
vanished sun; across a coil of a dead passion-vine, that strayed loose
through the floor; across the classic shapes of a great cartoon drawn in
chalks upon the dull rugged surface of stone.

Nothing arrested it; nothing retarded it, as nothing hastened it. It
moved slowly on; fat, lustreless, indolent, hueless; reached at length
its den, and there squatted aloft, loving the darkness; its young
swarming around, its prey held in its forceps, its nets cast about.

Through the open casement there came on the rising wind of the storm,
in the light of the last lingering sunbeam, a beautiful night-moth,
begotten by some cruel hot-house heat in the bosom of some frail exiled
tropical flower.

It swam in on trembling pinions, and alighted on the golden head of a
gathered crocus that lay dying on the stones--a moth that should have
been born to no world save that of the summer world of a Midsummer
Night's Dream.

A shape of Ariel and Oberon; slender, silver, purple, roseate,
lustrous-eyed, and gossamer-winged.

A creature of woodland waters, and blossoming forests; of the yellow
chalices of kingcups and the white breasts of river lilies, of moonbeams
that strayed through a summer world of shadows, and dew-drops that
glistened in the deep folded hearts of roses. A creature to brush the
dreaming eyes of a poet, to nestle on the bosom of a young girl
sleeping: to float earthwards on a falling star, to slumber on a lotus

A creature that amidst the still soft hush of woods and waters still
tells, to those who listen, of the world when the world was young.

The moth flew on, and poised on the fading crocus leaves, which spread
out their pale gold on the level of the grey floor.

It was weary, and its delicate wings drooped; it was storm-tossed,
wind-beaten, drenched with mist and frozen with the cold; it belonged to
the moon, to the dew, to the lilies, to the forget-me-nots, and to the
night; and it found that the hard grip of winter had seized it whilst
yet it had thought that the stars and the summer were with it. It lived
before its time,--and it was like the human soul, which being born in
the darkness of the world dares to dream of light, and, wandering in
vain search of a sun that will never rise, falls and perishes in

It was beautiful exceedingly, with the brilliant tropical beauty of a
life that is short-lived. It rested a moment on the stem of the pale
flower, then with its radiant eyes fastened on the point of light which
the lamp thrust upward, it flew on high; and, spreading out its
transparent wings and floating to the flame, kissed it, quivered once,
and died.

There fell among the dust and cinder of the lamp a little heap of
shrunken, fire-scorched, blackened ashes.

The wind whirled them upward from their rest, and drove them forth into
the night to mingle with the storm-scourged grasses, the pale dead
violets, the withered snow-flowers, with all things frost-touched and

The spider sat aloft, sucking the juices from the fettered flies,
teaching its spawn to prey and feed; content in squalor and in
plenitude; in sensual sloth, and in the increase of its body and its

He watched them both: the success of the spider, the death of the moth;
trite as a fable; ever repeated as the tides of the sea; the two symbols
of humanity; of the life which fattens on greed and gain, and the life
which perishes of divine desire.

       *       *       *

There were no rare birds, no birds of moor and mountain, in that
cultivated and populous district; but to her all the little home-bred
things of pasture and orchard were full of poetry and of character.

The robins, with that pretty air of boldness with which they veil their
real shyness and timidity; the strong and saucy sparrows, powerful by
the strength of all mediocrities and majorities; all the dainty families
of finches in their gay apparellings; the plain brown bird that filled
the night with music; the gorgeous oriole ruffling in gold, the gilded
princeling of them all; the little blue warblers, the violets of the
air; the kingfishers who had hovered so long over the forget-me-nots
upon the rivers that they had caught the colours of the flowers on their
wings; the bright blackcaps green as the leaves, with their yellow
waistcoats and velvet hoods, the innocent freebooters of the woodland
liberties: all these were her friends and lovers, various as any human
crowds of court or city.

She loved them; they and the fourfooted beasts were the sole things that
did not flee from her; and the woeful and mad slaughter of them by the
peasants was to her a grief passionate in its despair. She did not
reason on what she felt; but to her a bird slain was a trust betrayed,
an innocence defiled, a creature of heaven struck to earth.

Suddenly on the silence of the garden there was a little shrill sound of
pain; the birds flew high in air, screaming and startled; the leaves of
a bough of ivy shook as with a struggle.

She rose and looked; a line of twine was trembling against the foliage;
in its noosed end the throat of the mavis had been caught; it hung
trembling and clutching at the air convulsively with its little drawn-up
feet. It had flown into the trap as it had ended its joyous song and
soared up to join its brethren.

There were a score of such traps set in the miller's garden.

She unloosed the cord from about its tiny neck, set it free, and laid it
down upon the ivy. The succour came too late; the little gentle body was
already without breath; the feet had ceased to beat the air; the small
soft head had drooped feebly on one side; the lifeless eyes had started
from their sockets; the throat was without song for evermore.

"The earth would be good but for men," she thought, as she stood with
the little dead bird in her hand.

Its mate, which was poised on a rose bough, flew straight to it, and
curled round and round about the small slain body, and piteously
bewailed its fate, and mourned, refusing to be comforted, agitating the
air with trembling wings, and giving out vain cries of grief.

Vain; for the little joyous life was gone; the life that asked only of
God and Man a home in the green leaves; a drop of dew from the cup of a
rose; a bough to swing on in the sunlight; a summer day to celebrate in

All the winter through, it had borne cold and hunger and pain without
lament; it had saved the soil from destroying larvæ, and purified the
trees from all foul germs; it had built its little home unaided, and had
fed its nestlings without alms; it had given its sweet song lavishly to
the winds, to the blossoms, to the empty air, to the deaf ears of men;
and now it lay dead in its innocence; trapped and slain because a human
greed begrudged it a berry worth the thousandth part of a copper coin.

Out from the porch of the mill-house Claudis Flamma came, with a knife
in his hand and a basket, to cut lilies for one of the choristers of the
cathedral, since the morrow would be the religious feast of the
Visitation of Mary.

He saw the dead thrush in her hand, and chuckled to himself as he went

"The tenth bird trapped since sunrise," he said, thinking how shrewd and
how sure in their make were these traps of twine that he set in the
grass and the leaves.

She said nothing; but the darkness of disgust swept over her face, as he
came in sight in the distance.

She knelt down and scraped a hole in the earth; and laid moss in it, and
put the mavis softly on its green and fragrant bier, and covered it with
handfuls of fallen rose leaves, and with a sprig or two of thyme.

Around her head the widowed thrush flew ceaselessly, uttering sad
cries;--who now should wander with him through the sunlight?--who now
should rove with him above the blossoming fields?--who now should sit
with him beneath the boughs hearing the sweet rain fall between the
leaves?--who now should wake with him whilst yet the world was dark, to
feel the dawn break ere the east were red, and sing a welcome to the
unborn day?

       *       *       *

And, indeed, to those who are alive to the nameless, universal, eternal
soul which breathes in all the grasses of the fields, and beams in the
eyes of all creatures of earth and air, and throbs in the living light
of palpitating stars, and thrills through the young sap of forest trees,
and stirs in the strange loves of wind-borne plants, and hums in every
song of the bee, and burns in every quiver of the flame, and peoples
with sentient myriads every drop of dew that gathers on a harebell,
every bead of water that ripples in a brook--to these the mortal life of
man can seem but little, save at once the fiercest and the feeblest
thing that does exist; at once the most cruel and the most impotent;
tyrant of direst destruction and bondsman of lowest captivity.

Hence, pity entered very little into his thoughts at any time; the
perpetual torture of life did indeed perplex him, as it perplexes every
thinking creature, with wonder at the universal bitterness that taints
all creation, at the universal death whereby all forms of life are
nurtured, at the universal anguish of all existence which daily and
nightly assails the unknown God in piteous protest at the inexorable
laws of inexplicable miseries and mysteries. But because such suffering
was thus universal, therefore he almost ceased to feel pity for it; of
the two he pitied the beasts far more than the human kind:--the horse
staggering beneath the lash in all the feebleness of hunger, lameness,
and old age; the ox bleeding from the goad on the hard furrows, or
stumbling through the hooting crowd, blind, footsore, and shivering, to
its last home in the slaughter-house; the dog, yielding up its noble
life inch by inch under the tortures of the knife, loyally licking the
hand of the vivisector while he drove his probe through its quivering
nerves; the unutterable hell in which all these gentle, kindly, and
long-suffering creatures dwelt for the pleasure or the vanity, the
avarice or the brutality of men,--these he pitied perpetually, with a
tenderness for them that was the softest thing in all his nature.

       *       *       *

"There lived once in the East, a great king; he dwelt far away, amongst
the fragrant fields of roses, and in the light of suns that never set.

"He was young, he was beloved, he was fair of face and form; and the
people, as they hewed stone, or brought water, said amongst themselves,
'Verily, this man is as a god; he goes where he lists, and he lies still
or rises up as he pleases; and all fruits of all lands are culled for
him; and his nights are nights of gladness, and his days, when they
dawn, are all his to sleep through or spend as he wills.' But the people
were wrong. For this king was weary of his life.

"His buckler was sown with gems, but his heart beneath it was sore. For
he had been long bitterly harassed by foes who descended on him as
wolves from the hills in their hunger, and he had been long plagued with
heavy wars and with bad rice harvests, and with many troubles to his
nation that kept it very poor, and forbade him to finish the building of
new marble palaces, and the making of fresh gardens of delight, on which
his heart was set. So he, being weary of a barren land and of an empty
treasury, with all his might prayed to the gods that all he touched
might turn to gold, even as he had heard had happened to some magician
long before in other ages. And the gods gave him the thing he craved;
and his treasury overflowed. No king had ever been so rich, as this king
now became in the short space of a single summer-day.

"But it was bought with a price.

"When he stretched out his hand to gather the rose that blossomed in his
path, a golden flower scentless and stiff was all he grasped. When he
called to him the carrier-dove that sped with a scroll of love words
across the mountains, the bird sank on his breast a carven piece of
metal. When he was athirst and shouted to his cupbearer for drink, the
red wine ran a stream of molten gold. When he would fain have eaten, the
pulse and the pomegranate grew alike to gold between his teeth. And lo!
at eventide, when he sought the silent chambers of his harem, saying,
'Here at least shall I find rest,' and bent his steps to the couch
whereon his best-beloved slave was sleeping, a statue of gold was all he
drew into his eager arms, and cold shut lips of sculptured gold were all
that met his own.

"That night the great king slew himself, unable any more to bear this
agony; since all around him was desolation, even though all around him
was wealth.

"Now the world is too like that king, and in its greed of gold it will
barter its life away.

"Look you,--this thing is certain--I say that the world will perish,
even as that king perished, slain as he was slain, by the curse of its
own fulfilled desire.

"The future of the world is written. For God has granted their prayer to
men. He has made them rich, and their riches shall kill them.

"When all green places have been destroyed in the builder's lust of
gain:--when all the lands are but mountains of brick, and piles of wood
and iron:--when there is no moisture anywhere; and no rain ever
falls:--when the sky is a vault of smoke; and all the rivers reek with
poison:--when forest and stream, and moor and meadow, and all the old
green wayside beauty are things vanished and forgotten:--when every
gentle timid thing of brake and bush, of air and water, has been killed
because it robbed them of a berry or a fruit:--when the earth is one
vast city, whose young children behold neither the green of the field
nor the blue of the sky, and hear no song but the hiss of the steam, and
know no music but the roar of the furnace:--when the old sweet silence
of the country-side, and the old sweet sounds of waking birds, and the
old sweet fall of summer showers, and the grace of a hedgerow bough, and
the glow of the purple heather, and the note of the cuckoo and cushat,
and the freedom of waste and of woodland, are all things dead, and
remembered of no man:--then the world, like the Eastern king, will
perish miserably of famine and of drought, with gold in its stiffened
hands, and gold in its withered lips, and gold everywhere:--gold that
the people can neither eat nor drink, gold that cares nothing for them,
but mocks them horribly:--gold for which their fathers sold peace and
health, and holiness and liberty:--gold that is one vast grave."

       *       *       *

The earth is crowded full with clay gods and false prophets, and fresh
legions for ever arriving to carry on the old strife for supremacy; and
if a man pass unknown all the time that his voice is audible, and his
hand visible, through the sound and smoke of the battle, he will dream
in vain of any remembrance when the gates of the grave shall have closed
on him and shut him for ever from sight.

When the world was in its youth, it had leisure to treasure its
recollections; even to pause and look back, and to see what flower of a
fair thought, what fruit of a noble art it might have overlooked or left

But now it is so old, and is so tired; it is purblind and heavy of foot;
it does not notice what it destroys; it desires rest, and can find none;
nothing can matter greatly to it; its dead are so many that it cannot
count them; and being thus worn and dulled with age, and suffocated
under the weight of its innumerable memories, it is very slow to be
moved, and swift--terribly swift--to forget.

Why should it not be?

It has known the best, it has known the worst, that ever can befall it.

And the prayer that to the heart of a man seems so freshly born from his
own desire, what is it on the weary ear of the world, save the same old
old cry which it has heard through all the ages, empty as the sound of
the wind, and for ever--for ever--unanswered?

       *       *       *

There is no more terrible woe upon earth than the woe of the stricken
brain, which remembers the days of its strength, the living light of its
reason, the sunrise of its proud intelligence, and knows that these have
passed away like a tale that is told; like a year that is spent; like an
arrow that is shot to the stars, and flies aloft, and falls in a swamp;
like a fruit that is too well loved of the sun, and so, over-soon ripe,
is dropped from the tree and forgot on the grasses, dead to all joys of
the dawn and the noon and the summer, but still alive to the sting of
the wasp, to the fret of the aphis, to the burn of the drought, to the
theft of the parasite.

She only dimly understood, and yet she was smitten with awe and
reverence at that endless grief which had no taint of cowardice upon it,
but was pure as the patriot's despair, impersonal as the prophet's

For the first time the intellect in her consciously awoke. For the first
time she heard a human mind find voice even in its stupor and its
wretchedness to cry aloud, in reproach to its unknown Creator:

"I am _yours_! Shall I perish with the body? Why have you ever bade me
desire the light and seek it, if for ever you must thrust me into the
darkness of negation? Shall I be Nothing?--like the muscle that rots,
like the bones that crumble, like the flesh that turns to ashes, and
blows in a film on the winds? Shall I die so? I?--the mind of a man, the
breath of a god?"

       *       *       *

He could not bear to die without leaving behind his life some work the
world would cherish.

Call it folly, call it madness, it is both: the ivory Zeus that was to
give its sculptor immortality, lives but in tradition; the bronze
Athene, that was to guard the Piræus in eternal liberty, has long been
levelled with the dust; yet with every age the artist still gives life
for fame, still cries, "Let my body perish, but make my soul immortal!"

       *       *       *

The spider had drawn his dusty trail across them; the rat had squatted
at their feet; the darkness of night had enshrouded and defaced them;
yet with the morning they arose, stainless, noble, undefiled.

Amongst them there was one colossal form, on which the sun poured with
its full radiance.

This was the form of a captive grinding at a millstone; the majestic,
symmetrical, supple form of a man who was also a god.

In his naked limbs there was a supreme power; in his glance there was a
divine command; his head was lifted as though no yoke could ever lie on
that proud neck; his foot seemed to spurn the earth as though no mortal
tie had ever bound him to the sod that human steps bestrode: yet at the
corn-mill he laboured, grinding wheat like the patient blinded oxen
that toiled beside him.

For it was the great Apollo in Pheræ.

The hand which awoke the music of the spheres had been blood-stained
with murder; the beauty which had the light and lustre of the sun had
been darkened with passion and with crime; the will which no other on
earth or in heaven could withstand had been bent under the chastisement
of Zeus.

He whose glance had made the black and barren slopes of Delos to laugh
with fruitfulness and gladness--he whose prophetic sight beheld all
things past, present, and to come, the fate of all unborn races, the
doom of all unspent ages--he, the Far-Striking King, laboured here
beneath the curse of crime, greatest of all the gods, and yet a slave.

In all the hills and vales of Greece his Io pæan sounded still.

Upon his holy mountains there still arose the smoke of fires of

With dance and song the Delian maidens still hailed the divinity of
Lêtô's son.

The waves of the pure Ionian air still rang for ever with the name of

At Pytho and at Clarus, in Lycia and in Phokis, his oracles still
breathed forth upon their fiat terror or hope into the lives of men; and
still in all the virgin forests of the world the wild beasts honoured
him wheresoever they wandered, and the lion and the boar came at his
bidding from the deserts to bend their free necks and their wills of
fire meekly to bear his yoke in Thessaly.

Yet he laboured here at the corn-mill of Admetus; and watching him at
his bondage there stood the slender, slight, wing-footed Hermes, with a
slow, mocking smile upon his knavish lips, and a jeering scorn in his
keen eyes, even as though he cried:

"O brother, who would be greater than I! For what hast thou bartered to
me the golden rod of thy wealth and thy dominion over the flocks and the
herds? For seven chords strung on a shell--for a melody not even thine
own! For a lyre outshone by my syrinx hast thou sold all thine empire to
me. Will human ears give heed to thy song now thy sceptre has passed to
my hands? Immortal music only is left thee, and the vision foreseeing
the future. O god! O hero! O fool! what shall these profit thee now?"

Thus to the artist by whom they had been begotten the dim white shapes
of the deities spoke. Thus he saw them, thus he heard, whilst the pale
and watery sunlight lit up the form of the toiler in Pheræ.

For even as it was with the divinity of Delos, so is it likewise with
the genius of a man, which, being born of a god, yet is bound as a slave
to the grindstone. Since even as Hermes mocked the Lord of the Unerring
Bow, so is genius mocked of the world, when it has bartered the herds,
and the grain, and the rod that metes wealth, for the seven chords that
no ear, dully mortal, can hear.

And as he looked upon this symbol of his life, the captivity and the
calamity, the strength and the slavery of his existence overcame him;
and for the first hour since he had been born of a woman Arslàn buried
his face in his hands and wept.

He could bend great thoughts to take the shapes that he chose, as the
chained god in Pheræ bound the strong kings of the desert and forest to
carry his yoke; yet, like the god, he likewise stood fettered to the
mill to grind for bread.

       *       *       *

One evening, a little later, he met her in the fields on the same spot
where Marcellin first had seen her as a child amongst the scarlet blaze
of the poppies.

The lands were all yellow with saffron and emerald with the young corn;
she balanced on her head a great brass jar; the red girdle glowed about
her waist as she moved: the wind stirred the folds of her garments; her
feet were buried in the shining grass; clouds tawny and purple were
behind her; she looked like some Moorish phantom seen in a dream under a
sky of Spain.

He paused and gazed at her with eyes half content, half cold.

She was of a beauty so uncommon, so strange, and all that was his for
his art:--a great artist, whether in words, in melody, or in colour, is
always cruel, or at the least seems so, for all things that live under
the sun are to him created only to minister to his one inexorable

Art is so vast, and human life is so little. It is to him only supremely
just that the insect of an hour should be sacrificed to the infinite and
eternal truth which must endure until the heavens themselves shall
wither as a scroll that is held in a flame. It might have seemed to
Arslàn base to turn her ignorance, and submission to his will, for the
gratification of his amorous passions; but to make these serve the art
to which he had himself abandoned every earthly good was in his sight
justified, as the death agonies of the youth whom they decked with roses
and slew in sacrifice to the sun, were in the sight of the Mexican

The youth whom the Mexicans slew, on the high hill of the city, with his
face to the west, was always the choicest and the noblest of all the
opening flower of their manhood: for it was his fate to be called to
enter into the realms of eternal light, and to dwell face to face with
the unbearable brightness without whose rays the universe would have
perished frozen in perpetual night. So the artist, who is true to his
art, regards every human sacrifice that he renders up to it; how can he
feel pity for a thing which perishes to feed a flame that he deems the
life of the world?

The steel that he draws out from the severed heart of his victim he is
ready to plunge into his own vitals: no other religion can vaunt as much
of its priests.

"What are you thinking of to-night?" he asked her where she came through
the fields by the course of a little flower-sown brook, fringed with
tall bulrushes and waving willow-stems.

She lifted her eyelids with a dreamy and wistful regard.

"I was thinking--I wonder what the reed felt that you told me of--the
one reed that a god chose from all its millions by the waterside and cut
down to make into a flute."

"Ah?--you see there are no reeds that make music now-a-days; the reeds
are only good to be woven into kreels for the fruits and the fish of the

"That is not the fault of the reeds?"

"Not that I know; it is the fault of men, most likely, who find the
chink of coin in barter sweeter music than the song of the syrinx. But
what do you think the reed felt then?--pain to be so sharply severed
from its fellows?"

"No--or the god would not have chosen it."

"What then?"

A troubled sigh parted her lips; these old fables were fairest truths to
her, and gave a grace to every humblest thing that the sun shone on, or
the waters begat from their foam, or the winds blew with their breath
into the little life of a day.

"I was trying to think. But I cannot be sure. These reeds have
forgotten. They have lost their soul. They want nothing but to feed
among the sand and the mud, and grow in millions together, and shelter
the toads and the newts,--there is not a note of music in them
all--except when the wind rises and makes them sigh, and then they
remember that long, long-ago the breath of a great god was in them."

Arslàn looked at her where she stood; her eyes resting on the reeds, and
the brook at her feet; the crimson heat of the evening all about her, on
the brazen amphora, on the red girdle on her loins, on the thoughtful
parted lips, on the proud bent brows above which a golden butterfly
floated as above the brows of Psyche.

He smiled; the smile that was so cold to her.

"Look: away over the fields, there comes a peasant with a sickle; he
comes to mow down the reeds to make a bed for his cattle. If he heard
you, he would think you mad."

"They have thought me many things worse. What matter?"

"Nothing at all;--that I know. But you seem to envy that reed--so long
ago--that was chosen?"

"Who would not?"

"Are you so sure? The life of the reed was always pleasant;--dancing
there in the light, playing with the shadows, blowing in the winds; with
the cool waters all about it all day long, and the yellow daffodils and
the blue bell-flowers for its brethren."

"Nay;--how do you know?"

Her voice was low, and thrilled with a curious eager pain.

"How do you know?" she murmured. "Rather,--it was born in the sands,
amongst the stones, of the chance winds, of the stray germs,--no one
asking, no one heeding, brought by a sunbeam, spat out by a toad--no one
caring where it dropped. Rather,--it grew there by the river, and such
millions of reeds grew with it, that neither waters nor winds could
care for a thing so common and worthless, but the very snakes twisting
in and out despised it, and thrust the arrows of their tongues through
it in scorn. And then--I think I see!--the great god walked by the edge
of the river, and he mused on a gift to give man, on a joy that should
be a joy on the earth for ever; and he passed by the lily white as snow,
by the thyme that fed the bees, by the gold heart in the arum flower, by
the orange flame of the tall sandrush, by all the great water-blossoms
which the sun kissed, and the swallows loved, and he came to the one
little reed pierced with the snakes' tongues, and all alone amidst
millions. Then he took it up, and cut it to the root, and killed
it;--killed it as a reed,--but breathed into it a song audible and
beautiful to all the ears of men. Was that death to the reed?--or life?
Would a thousand summers of life by the waterside have been worth that
one thrill of song when a god first spoke through it?"

Her face lightened with a radiance to which the passion of her words was
pale and poor; the vibrations of her voice grew sonorous and changing as
the sounds of music itself; her eyes beamed through unshed tears as
planets through the rain.

       *       *       *

Of all the forms with which he had peopled its loneliness, these had the
most profound influence on her in their fair, passionless, majestic
beauty, in which it seemed to her that the man who had forgotten them
had repeated his own likeness. For they were all alike, yet unlike; of
the same form and feature, yet different even in their strong
resemblance, like elder and younger brethren who hold a close
companionship. For Hypnos was still but a boy with his blue-veined
eyelids closed, and his mouth rosy and parted like that of a slumbering
child, and above his golden head a star rose in the purple night.
Oneiros standing next was a youth whose eyes smiled as though they
beheld visions that were welcome to him; in his hand, amongst the white
roses, he held a black wand of sorcery, and around his bended head there
hovered a dim silvery nimbus. Thanatos alone was a man fully grown; and
on his calm and colourless face there were blended an unutterable
sadness, and an unspeakable peace; his eyes were fathomless,
far-reaching, heavy laden with thought, as though they had seen at once
the heights of heaven and the depths of hell; and he, having thus seen,
and knowing all things, had learned that there was but one good possible
in all the universe,--that one gift which his touch gave, and which men
in their blindness shuddered from and cursed. And above him and around
him there was a great darkness.

So the gods stood, and so they spoke, even to her; they seemed to her as
brethren, masters, friends--these three immortals who looked down on her
in their mute majesty.

They are the gods of the poor, of the wretched, of the outcast, of the
proscribed,--they are the gods who respect not persons nor palaces,--who
stay with the exile and flee from the king,--who leave the tyrant of a
world to writhe in torment, and call a smile beautiful as the morning on
the face of a beggar child,--who turn from the purple beds where wealth
and lust and brutal power lie, and fill with purest visions the darkest
hours of the loneliest nights, for genius and youth,--they are the gods
of consolation and of compensation,--the gods of the exile, of the
orphan, of the outcast, of the poet, of the prophet, of all whose bodies
ache with the infinite pangs of famine, and whose hearts ache with the
infinite woes of the world, of all who hunger with the body or the

       *       *       *

It became mid-April. It was market-day for all the country lying round
that wondrous cathedral-spire, which shot into the air far-reaching and
ethereal, like some fountain whose column of water had been arrested
aloft and changed to ice.

The old quiet town was busy, with a rich sunshine shed upon it, in which
the first yellow butterflies of the year had begun to dance.

It was high noon, and the highest tide of the market.

Flower-girls, fruit-girls, egg-sellers, poultry-hucksters, crowds of
women, old and young, had jolted in on their docile asses, throned on
their sheepskin saddles; and now, chattering and chaffering, drove fast
their trade. On the steps of the cathedral boys with birds'-nests,
knife-grinders making their little wheels fly, cobblers hammering, with
boards across their knees, travelling pedlars with knapsacks full of
toys and mirrors, and holy images, and strings of beads, sat side by
side in amicable competition.

Here and there a priest passed, with his black robe and broad hat, like
a dusky mushroom amongst a bed of many-hued gillyflowers. Here and there
a soldier, all colour and glitter, showed like a gaudy red tulip in
bloom amidst tufts of thyme.

The old wrinkled leathern awnings of the market-stalls glowed like
copper in the brightness of noon. The red tiles of the houses edging the
great square were gilded with yellow houseleeks. The little children ran
hither and thither with big bunches of primroses or sheaves of blue
wood-hyacinths, singing. The red and blue serges of the young girls'
bodices were like the gay hues of the anemones in their baskets. The
brown faces of the old dames under the white roofing of their headgear
were like the russet faces of the home-kept apples which they had
garnered through all the winter.

Everywhere in the shade of the flapping leather, and the darkness of
the wooden porches, there were the tender blossoms of the field and
forest, of the hedge and garden. The azure of the hyacinths, the pale
saffron of the primroses, the cool hues of the meadow daffodils, the
ruby eyes of the cultured jonquils, gleamed amongst wet rushes, grey
herbs, and freshly budded leafage. Plovers' eggs nestled in moss-lined
baskets; sheaves of velvet-coated wallflowers poured fragrance on the
air; great plumes of lilac nodded on the wind, and amber feathers of
laburnum waved above the homelier masses of mint and marjoram, and sage
and chervil.


Whatever fate rose for them with the dawn, this night at least was
theirs: there is no love like that which lives victorious even beneath
the shadow of death: there is no joy like that which finds its paradise
even amid the cruelty of pain, the fierce long struggle of despair.

Never is the voluptuous glory of the sun so deep, so rich, as when its
last excess of light burns above the purple edge of the tempest-cloud
that soars upward to cover and devour it.

       *       *       *

"And we reign still!"

She turned, as she spoke, towards the western waters, where the sea-line
of the Ægean lay, while in her eyes came the look of a royal pride and
of a deathless love.

"Greece cannot die. No matter what the land be now, Greece--_our_
Greece--must live for ever. Her language lives; the children of Europe
learn it, even if they halt it in imperfect numbers. The greater the
scholar, the humbler he still bends to learn the words of wisdom from
her school. The poet comes to her for all his fairest myths, his noblest
mysteries, his greatest masters. The sculptor looks at the broken
fragments of her statues, and throws aside his calliope in despair
before those matchless wrecks. From her soldiers learn how to die, and
nations how to conquer and to keep their liberties. No deed of heroism
is done but, to crown it, it is named parallel to hers. They write of
love, and who forgets the Lesbian? They dream of freedom, and to reach
it they remember Salamis. They talk of progress, and while they talk
they sigh for all that they have lost in Academus. They seek truth, and
while they seek, wearily long, as little children, to hear the golden
speech of Socrates, that slave, and fisherman, and sailor, and
stonemason, and date-seller were all once free to hear in her Agora. But
for the light that shone from Greece in the breaking of the Renaissance,
Europe would have perished in its Gothic darkness. They call her dead:
she can never die while her life, her soul, her genius breathe fire into
the new nations, and give their youth all of greatness and of grace that
they can claim. Greece dead! She reigns in every poem written, in every
art pursued, in every beauty treasured, in every liberty won, in every
god-like life and godlike death, in your fresh lands, which, but for
her, would be barbarian now."

Where she stood, with her eyes turned westward to the far-off snows of
Cithæron and Mount Ida, and the shores which the bronze spear of Pallas
Athene once guarded through the night and day, the dark light in her
eyes deepened, and the flush of a superb pride was on her brow--it
seemed Aspasia who lived again, and who remembered Pericles.

       *       *       *

The chant of the Imaum rang up from the shore, deep and sonorous,
calling on the Faithful to prayer, an hour before midnight. She listened
dreamily to the echoes that seemed to linger among the dark foliage.

"I like those national calls to prayer," she said, as she leaned over
the parapet, while the fire-flies glittered among the mass of leaves as
the diamond sprays glistened in her hair. "The Ave Maria, the Vespers,
the Imaum's chant, the salutation of the dawn or of the night, the hymn
before sleep, or before the sun;--you have none of those in your chill
islands? You have only weary rituals, and stuccoed churches, where the
'Pharisees for a pretence make long prayers!' As if _that_ was not the
best--the only--temple!"

She glanced upward at the star-studded sky, and on her face was that
graver and gentler look which had come there when she sang.

"I have held it so many a time," he answered her, lying awake at night
among the long grass of the Andes, or under the palms of the desert. It
was a strange delusion to build shrines to the honour of God while there
are still his own--the forests and the mountains.

       *       *       *

"It was a fair heritage to lose through a feeble vanity--that beautiful
Constantinople!" she said musingly. "The East and the West--what an
empire! More than Alexander ever grasped at--what might not have been
done with it? Asian faith and Oriental sublimity, with Roman power and
Gothic force; if there had been a hand strong enough to weld all these
together, what a world there might have been!"

"But to have done that would have been to attain the Impossible," he
answered her. "Oil and flame, old and new, living and dying, tradition
and scepticism, iconoclast and idolater, you cannot unite and harmonise
these antagonisms?"

She gave a sign of dissent.

"The prophet or the hero unites all antagonisms, because he binds them
all to his own genius. The Byzantine empire had none such; the nearest
was Julian, but he believed less in himself than in the gods; the
nearest after him was Belisarius--the fool of a courtesan, and he was
but a good soldier; he was no teacher, no liberator, no leader for the
nations. John Vatices came too late. A man must be his own convert
before he can convert others. Zoroaster, Christ, Mahommed, Cromwell,
Napoleon, believed intensely in their own missions; hence their
influence on the peoples. How can we tell what Byzantium might have
become under one mighty hand? It was torn in pieces among courtesans,
and parasites, and Christian fanatics, and Houmousians and
Houmoiousians! I have the blood of the Commneni in me. I think of it
with shame when I remember what they might have been."

"You come from the Roman Emperors?"

"The Roman Emperors?" she repeated. "When the name was a travesty, an
ignominy, a reproach! When Barbarians thronged the Forum, and the
representative of Galilee fishermen claimed power in the Capitol? Yes; I
descend, they say, from the Commneni; but I am far prouder that, on the
other hand, I come from pure Athenians. I belong to two buried worlds.
But the stone throne of the Areopagus was greater than the gold one of

       *       *       *

"That animal life is to be envied perhaps," she said.

"Their pride is centred in a silver hairpin; their conscience is
committed to a priest; their credulity is contented with tradition;
their days are all the same, from the rising of one sun to another; they
do not love, they do not hate; they are like the ass that they drive,
follow one patient routine, and only take care for their food. Perhaps
they are to be envied!"

"You would not lose 'those thoughts that wander through eternity,' to
gain in exchange the peace from ignorance of the peasant or the

She turned her face to him, with its most beautiful smile on her lips
and in her eyes.

"No, I would not: you are right. Better to know the secrets of the gods,
even though with pain, than to lead the dull, brute life, though
painless. It is only in our dark hours that we would sell our souls for
a dreamless ease."

"Dark hours! _You_ should not know them. Ah, if you would but trust me
with some confidence! if there were but some way in which I could serve

Her eyes met his with gratitude, even while she gave him a gesture of
silence. She thought how little could the bold, straight stroke of this
man's frank chivalry cut through the innumerable and intricate chains
that entangled her own life. The knightly Excalibur could do nothing to
sever the filmy but insoluble meshes of secret intrigues.

"It is a saint's-day: I had forgotten it," she said to turn his words
from herself, while the bell of the campanile still swung through the
air. "I am a pagan, you see: I do not fancy that you care much for
creeds yourself."

"Creeds? I wish there were no such word. It has only been a rallying-cry
for war, an excuse for the bigot to burn his neighbour."

"No. Long ago, under the Andes, Nezahualcoytl held the same faith that
Socrates had vainly taught in the Agora; and Zengis Khan knew the truth
of theism like Plato; yet the world has never generally learnt it. It is
the religion of nature--of reason. But the faith is too simple and too
sublime for the multitude. The mass of minds needs a religion of
mythics, legend, symbolism, and fear. What is impalpable escapes it; and
it must give an outward and visible shape to its belief, as it gives in
its art a human form to its deity. Come, since we agree in our creed, I
will take you to my temple--a temple not made by hands."

       *       *       *

"I never had a fair field!"--it may be sometimes a coward's apology; but
it is many a time the epitome of a great, cramped, tortured, wasted
life, which strove like a caged eagle to get free, and never could beat
down the bars of the den that circumstances and prejudice had forged.
The world sees the few who do reach freedom, and, watching their bold
upright flight, says rashly, "will can work all things." But they who
perish by the thousand, the fettered eagles who never see the sun; who
pant in darkness, and wear their breasts bare beating on the iron that
will never yield; who know their strength, yet cannot break their
prison; who feel their wings, yet never can soar up to meet the sweet
wild western winds of liberty; who lie at last beaten, and hopeless, and
blind, with only strength enough to long for death to come and quench
all sense and thought in its annihilation,--who thinks of them--who
counts them?

       *       *       *

The earliest dawn had broken eastward, where the mountains
stretched--the dawn of a southern summer, that almost touches the sunset
of the past night--but under the dense shadows of the old woods that had
sheltered the mystic rites of Gnostics and echoed with the Latin hymns
to Pan, no light wandered. There was only a dim silvery haze that seemed
to float over the whiteness of the tall-stemmed arum lilies and the
foam-bells of the water that here and there glimmered under the rank
vegetation, where it had broken from its hidden channels up to air and
space. Not a sound disturbed the intense stillness; that the night waned
and the world wakened, brought no change to the solitudes that men had
forgotten, and only memories of dead-deserted gods still haunted in the
places of their lost temples, whose columns were now the sea-pines'
stems, and on whose fallen altars and whose shattered sculptures the
lizard made her shelter and the wind-sown grasses seeded and took root.
Of the once graceful marble beauty and the incense-steeped stones of
sacrifice nothing remained but moss-grown shapeless fragments, buried
beneath a pall of leaves by twice a thousand autumns. Yet the ancient
sanctity still rested on the nameless, pathless woods; the breath of an
earlier time, of a younger season of the earth, seemed to lie yet upon
the untroubled forest ways; the whisper of the unseen waters had a
dream-like, unreal cadence; in the deep shade, in the warm fragrance and
the heavy gloom, there was a voluptuous yet mournful charm--the world
seemed so far, the stars shone so near; there were the sweetness of rest
and the oblivion of passion.

       *       *       *

Death is not ours to deal. And were it ours, should we give him the
nameless mystic mercy which all men live to crave--give it as the
chastisement of crime? Death! It is rest to the aged, it is oblivion to
the atheist, it is immortality to the poet! It is a vast, dim,
exhaustless pity to all the world. And would you summon it as your
hardest cruelty to sin?

They were silent; she stirred their souls--she had not bound their

"A traitor merits death," they muttered.

"Merits it! Not so. The martyr, the liberator, the seeker of truth, may
deserve its peace; how has the traitor won them? You deem yourselves
just; your justice errs. If you would give him justice, make him live.
Live to know fear lest every wind among the leaves may whisper of his
secret; live to feel the look of a young child's eyes a shame to him;
live to envy every peasant whose bread has not been bought with tainted
coin; live to hear ever in his path the stealing step of haunting
retribution; live to see his brethren pass by him as a thing accurst;
live to listen in his age to white-haired men, who once had been his
comrades, tell to the youth about them the unforgotten story of his
shame. Make him live thus if you would have justice."

They answered nothing; a shudder ran through them as they heard.

"And--if you have as I--a deliverance that forbids you even so much
harshness, still let him live, and bury his transgression in your
hearts. Say to him as I say, 'Your sin was great, go forth and sin no

       *       *       *

"One is not an assassin!"

"Since when have you discovered that?"

The flush grew darker on Count Conrad's forehead; he moved restlessly
under the irony, and drank down a draught of red fiery Roussillon
without tasting it more than if it had been water. Then he laughed; the
same careless musical laughter with which he had made the requiem over a
violet--a laugh which belonged at once to the most careless and the most
evil side of his character.

"Since sophism came in, which was with Monsieur Cain, when he asked, 'Am
I my brother's keeper?' It was ingenious that reply; creditable to a
beginner, without social advantages. 'An assassin!' Take the word boldly
by the beard, and look at it. What is there objectionable?"

"Nothing--except to the assassinated."

"It has had an apotheosis ever since the world began," pursued Phaulcon,
unheeding, in his bright vivacity. "Who are celebrated in Scripture?
Judith, Samuel, David, Moses, Joab. Who is a patriot? Brutus. Who is an
immortal? Harmodius and Aristogiton. Who is a philosopher? Cicero, while
he murmurs '_Vixerunt!_' after slaying Lentulus. Who is a hero? Marius,
who nails the senators' heads to the rostræ. Who is a martyr? Charles,
who murders Strafford. What is religion? Christianity, that has burnt
and slain millions. Who is a priest? Calvin, who destroys Servetus; or
Pole, who kills Latimer, which you like. Who is a saint? George of
Cappadocia, who slaughters right and left. Who is a ruler? Sulla, who
slays Ofella. Who is a queen? Christina, who stabs Monaldeschi;
Catherine, who strangles Peter; Isabella, who slays Moors and Jews by
the thousand. Murderers all! Assassination has always been deified; and
before it is objected to, the world must change its creeds, its
celebrities, and its chronicles. 'Monsieur, you are an assassin,' says
an impolite world. 'Messieurs,' says the polite logician, 'I found my
warrant in your Bible, and my precedent in your Brutus. What you deify
in Aristogiton and Jael you mustn't damn in Ankarström and me.' Voilà!
What could the world say?"

"That you would outwit Belial with words, and beguile Beelzebub out of
his kingdom with sophistry."


Power is sweet, and when you are a little clerk you love its sweetness
quite as much as if you were an emperor, and maybe you love it a good
deal more.

       *       *       *

He saw no reason why he should not become a deputy, and even a minister
before he died, and indeed there was no reason whatever. He was only a
clerk at fifty pounds a year; but he had a soul above all scruples, and
a heart as hard as a millstone.

       *       *       *

He was only a clerk indeed, at a slender salary, and ate his friends'
tomatoes publicly in the little back room of the caffè; but he had the
soul of a statesman. When a donkey kicks, beat it; when it dies, skin
it; so only will it profit you; that was his opinion, and the public was
the donkey of Messer Nellemane.

       *       *       *

Pippo and Viola feared everything, yet knew not what they feared; it is
a ghostly burden of dread, that which the honest poor carry with them
all through their toiling hungry days, the vague oppressive dread of
this law which is always acting the spy on them, always dogging their
steps, always emptying their pockets. The poor can understand criminal
law, and its justice and its necessity easily enough, and respect its
severities; but they cannot understand the petty tyrannies of civil law;
and it wears their lives out, and breaks their spirits. When it does not
break their spirits it curdles their blood and they become socialists,
nihilists, internationalists, anything that will promise them riddance
of their spectre and give them vengeance. We in Italy are all of us
afraid of socialism, we who have anything to lose; and yet we let the
syndics, and their secretaries, conciliators, and chancellors sow it
broadcast in dragon's teeth of petty injustices and petty cruelties,
that soon or late will spring up armed men, hydra-headed and torch in

       *       *       *

The law should be a majesty, solemn, awful, unerring: just, as man hopes
that God is just; and from its throne it should stretch out a mighty
hand to seize and grasp the guilty, and the guilty only. But when the
law is only a petty, meddlesome, cruel, greedy spy, mingling in every
household act and peering in at every window pane, then the poor who are
guiltless would be justified if they spat in its face, and called it by
its right name, a foul extortion.

       *       *       *

The Italian tongue chatters like a magpie's; if they did not let the
steam off thus they would be less easily ruled than they are; but no
great talker ever did any great thing yet, in this world.

       *       *       *

A retentive memory is of great use to a man, no doubt; but the talent of
oblivion is on the whole more useful.

       *       *       *

Sarta Rosalia is in a lovely pastoral country; the country that seems to
thrill with Theocritus' singing, as it throbs with the little tamborine
of the cicala; a country running over with beautiful greenery, and with
climbing creepers hanging everywhere, from the vine on the maples to the
china-rose hedges, and with the deep-blue shadows, and the sun-flushed
whiteness of the distant mountains lending to it in the golden distance
that solemnity and ethereal charm which, without mountains somewhere
within sight, no country ever has. But since the advent of "freedom" it
is scarred and wounded; great scar-patches stretch here and there where
woods have been felled by the avarice illumined in the souls of
landowners; hundreds and thousands of bare poles stand stark and stiff
against the river light which have been glorious pyramids of leaf
shedding welcome shadows on the river path; and many a bold round hill
like the _ballons_ of the Vosges, once rich of grass as they, now shorn
of wood, and even of undergrowth, lift a bare stony front to the lovely
sunlight, and never more will root of tree, or seed of flower or of
fern, find bed there.

Such is Progress.

       *       *       *

For the first time his _liberi pensieri_ were distasteful to him and
unsatisfactory; for atheism makes a curse a mere rattle of dry peas in a
fool's bladder, as it makes a blessing a mere flutter of a breath.
Messer Nellemane for the first time felt that the old religion has its
advantages over agnosticism; it gave you a hell for your rivals and your

       *       *       *

He had never heard of Virgil and of Theocritus--but it hurt him to have
these sylvan pictures spoiled; these pictures which are the same as
those they saw and sang; the threshing barns with the piles of golden
grain, and the flails flying to merry voices; the young horses trampling
the wheat loose from its husk with bounding limbs and tossing manes; the
great arched doorways, with the maidens sitting in a circle breaking the
maize from its withered leaves, and telling old-world stories, and
singing sweet _fiorellini_ all the while; the hanging fields broken up
in hill and vale with the dun-coloured oxen pushing their patient way
through labyrinths of vine boughs, and clouds of silvery olive leaf: the
bright laborious day, with the sun-rays turning the sickle to a
semi-circlet of silver, as the mice ran, and the crickets shouted, and
the larks soared on high: the merry supper when the day was done, with
the thrill and thrum of the mandolini, and the glisten of the unhoused
fire-flies, whose sanctuary had been broken when the bearded barley and
the amber corn fell prone: all these things rose to his memory: they had
made his youth and manhood glad and full of colour; they were here still
for his sons a little while, but when his sons should be all grown men,
then those things would have ceased to be, and even their very memory
would have perished, most likely, while the smoke of the accursed
engines would have sullied the pure blue sky, and the stench of their
foul vapours would have poisoned the golden air.

He roused himself and said wearily to Pippo,

"There is a tale I have heard somewhere of a man who sold his birthright
for gold, and when the gold was in his hands, then it changed to
withered leaves and brown moss: I was thinking, eh? that the world is
much like that man!"

       *       *       *

When all your politics and policies are summed up in the one intention
to do well for yourself, great simplicity is given to your theories, if
not to your practice.

       *       *       *

The ministerialists ... made florid and beautiful speeches full of
sesquipedalian phrases in which they spoke about the place of Italy
among the great powers, the dangers of jealousy and invasion from other
nations, the magnificence of the future, the blessings of education, the
delights of liberty, the wickedness of the opposition, the sovereign
rights of the people; and said it all so magnificently and so
bewilderingly that the people never remembered till it was too late that
they had said nothing about opposing the cow-tax--or indeed any taxes at
all, but listened and gaped, and shouted, and clapped; and being told
that they could sit at a European Congress to decide the fate of Epirus,
were for the moment oblivious that they had bad bread, dear wine, scant
meat, an army of conscripts, and a bureaucracy that devoured them as
maggots a cheese. What is political eloquence for, if not to make the
people forget such things as these?

       *       *       *

To sell your grapes to foreigners and have none at all at home is a
spirited commerce, and fine free trade; that the poor souls around are
all poisoned with cheap chemicals in the absence of wine, is only an
evidence of all that science can do.

       *       *       *

It is the noblest natures that tyranny drives to frenzy.

       *       *       *

The bureaucratic mind, all the world over, believes the squeak of the
official penny whistle to be as the trump of archangels and the voice of
Sinai. That all the people do not fall down prostrate at the squeak is,
to this order of mind, the one unmentionable sin.

       *       *       *

It is not true that no Italian ever tells the truth, as commentators on
the country say, but it is sadly true that when one does he suffers for

       *       *       *

A day in prison to a free-born son of the soil, used to work with the
broad bright sky alone above his head, is more agony than a year of it
is to a cramped city-worker used only to the twilight of a machine-room
or a workshop, only to an air full of smuts and smoke, and the stench of
acids, and the dust of filed steel or sifted coal. The sufferings of the
two cannot be compared, and one among many of the injustices the law,
all over the world, commits, is that it never takes into consideration
what a man's past has been. There are those to whom a prison is as hell;
there are those to whom it is something better than the life they led.

       *       *       *

She was an old woman, and had been bred up in the old faiths; faiths
that were not clear indeed to her nor ever reasoned on, but yet gave her
consolation, and a great, if a vague hope. Now that we tell the poor
there is no such hope, that when they have worked and starved long
enough, then they will perish altogether, like bits of candle that have
burnt themselves out, that they are mere machines made of carbon and
hydrogen, which, when they have had due friction, will then crumble back
into the dust; now that we tell them all this, and call this the spread
of education, will they be as patient?

       *       *       *

Take hope from the heart of man, and you make him a beast of prey.

       *       *       *

One of the cruellest sins of any state, in giving petty and tyrannous
authority into petty and tyrannous hands, is that it thus brings into
hatred and disgust the true and high authority of moral law.

       *       *       *

In these modern times of cowardice, when great ministers dare not say
the thing they think, and high magistrates stoop to execute decrees they
abhor, it is scarcely to be hoped for that moral courage will be a plant
of very sturdy growth in the souls of carpenters, and coopers, and
bakers, and plumbers, and day-labourers, who toil for scarce a shilling
a day.

       *       *       *

He had been wronged, and a great wrong is to the nature as a cancer is
to the body; there is no health.

       *       *       *

A just chastisement may benefit a man, though it seldom does, but an
unjust one changes all his blood to gall.

       *       *       *

In these days, Christian Europe decides that not only the poor man lying
by the wayside, but also the Samaritan who helps him, are sinners
against political economy, and its law forbids what its religion orders:
people must settle the contradiction as they deem best; they generally
are content to settle it by buttoning up their pockets, and passing by,
on the other side.

       *       *       *

In this lovely land that brims over with flowers like a cup over-filled,
where the sun is as a magician for ever changing with a wand of gold all
common things to paradise; where every wind shakes out the fragrance of
a world of fruit and flower commingled; where, for so little, the lute
sounds and the song arises; here, misery looks more sad than it does in
sadder climes, where it is like a home-born thing, and not an alien
tyrant as it is here.

       *       *       *

You cannot cage a field bird when it is old; it dies for want of flight,
of air, of change, of freedom. No use will be the stored grain of your
cages; better for the bird a berry here and there, and peace of gentle
death at last amidst the golden gorse or blush of hawthorn buds.

       *       *       *

"What is England?"

"It is a place where the poor souls have no wine of their own, I think;
and they make cannons and cheese. You see their people over here now
and then. They carry red Bibles, and they go about with their mouths
open to catch flies, and they run into all the little old dusty places;
you must have seen them."

"And why do we want to have anything to do with them?"

"They will come in ships and fire at us, if we are not bigger and
stronger than they. We must build iron houses that float, and go on the
sea and meet them."


"Animalism," forsooth!--a more unfair word don't exist. When we animals
never drink only just enough to satisfy thirst, never eat except when we
have genuine appetites, never indulge in any sort of debauch, and never
strain excess till we sink into the slough of satiety, shall "animalism"
be a word to designate all that men and women dare to do? "Animalism!"
You ought to blush for such a libel on our innocent and reasonable lives
when you regard your own! You men who scorch your throats with alcohols,
and kill your lives with absinthe; and squander your gold in the
Kursaal, and the Cecle, and the Arlington; and have thirty services at
your dinner betwixt soup and the "chasse;" and cannot spend a summer
afternoon in comfort unless you be drinking deep the intoxication of
hazard in your debts and your bets on the Heath or the Downs, at
Hurlingham or at Tattersalls' Rooms. You women, who sell your souls for
bits of stones dug from the bowels of the earth; who stake your honour
for a length of lace two centuries old; who replace the bloom your
passions have banished with the red of poisoned pigments; who wreathe
your aching heads with purchased tresses torn from prisons, and
madhouses, and coffins; who spend your lives in one incessant struggle,
first the rivalry of vanity and then the rivalry of ambition; who deck
out greed, and selfishness, and worship of station or gold, as "love,"
and then wonder that your hapless dupes, seizing the idol that you offer
them as worthy of their worship, fling it from them with a curse,
finding it dumb, and deaf, and merciless, a thing of wood and stone.

"Animalism," forsooth! God knows it would be well for you, here and
hereafter, men and women both, were you only patient, continent, and
singleminded, only faithful, gentle, and long-suffering, as are the
brutes that you mock, and misuse, and vilify in the supreme blindness of
your egregious vanity!

       *       *       *

I was horribly cold and hungry; and this is a combination which kills
sentiment in bigger people than myself. The emotions, like a hothouse
flower or a sea-dianthus, wither curiously when aired in an east wind,
or kept some hours waiting for dinner.

       *       *       *

In truth, too, despite all the fine chances that you certainly give your
peasants to make thorough beasts of themselves, they are your real
aristocrats, and have the only really good manners in your country. In
an old north-country dame, who lives on five shillings a week, in a
cottage like a dream of Teniers' or Van Tol's, I have seen a fine
courtesy, a simple desire to lay her best at her guest's disposal, a
perfect composure, and a freedom from all effort, that were in their way
the perfection of breeding. I have seen these often in the peasantry, in
the poor. It is your middle classes, with their incessant flutter, and
bluster, and twitter, and twaddle; with their perpetual strain after
effect; with their deathless desire to get one rung of the ladder higher
than they ever can get; with their preposterous affectations, their
pedantic unrealities, their morbid dread of remark, their everlasting
imitations, their superficial education, their monotonous commonplaces,
and their nervous deference to opinion;--it is your middle classes that
have utterly destroyed good manners, and have made the prevalent mode of
the day a union of boorishness and servility, of effervescence and of
apathy--a court suit, as it were, worn with muddy boots and a hempen

       *       *       *

I think Fanfreluche spoke with reason. Coincidence is a god that greatly
influences mortal affairs. He is not a cross-tempered deity either,
always; and when you beat your poor fetish for what seems to you an
untoward accident, you may do wrong; he may have benefited you far more
than you wot.

       *       *       *

Now I believe that when a woman's own fair skin is called rouge, and her
own old lace is called imitation, she must in some way or other have
roused sharply the conscience or the envy of her sisters who sit in

       *       *       *

I canna go to church. Look'ee,--they's allus a readin' o' cusses, and
damnin', and hell fire, and the like; and I canna stomach it. What for
shall they go and say as all the poor old wimmin i' tha parish is gone
to the deil 'cause they picks up a stick or tew i' hedge, or likes to
mumble a charm or tew o'er their churnin'? Them old wimmin be rare an'
good i' ither things. When I broke my ankle three years agone, old Dame
Stuckley kem o'er, i' tha hail and the snaw, a matter of five mile and
more, and she turned o' eighty; and she nursed me, and tidied the
place, and did all as was wanted to be done, 'cause Avice was away,
working somewhere's; and she'd never let me gie her aught for it. And I
heard ta passon tell her as she were sold to hell, 'cause the old soul
have a bit of belief like in witch-stones, and allus sets one aside her
spinnin' jenny, so that the thrid shanna knot nor break. Ta passon he
said, God cud mak tha thrid run smooth, or knot it, just as He chose,
and 'twas wicked to think she could cross His will. And the old dame,
she said, Weel, sir, I dinna b'lieve tha Almighty would ever spite a
poor old crittur like me, don't 'ee think it? But if we're no to help
oursells i' this world, what for have He gied us the trouble o' tha
thrid to spin? and why no han't He made tha shirts, an' tha sheets, an'
tha hose grow theersells? And ta passon niver answered her that, he only
said she was fractious and blas-_phe_-mous. Now she warn't, she spoke i'
all innocence, and she mint what she said--she mint it. Passons niver
can answer ye plain, right-down, nataral questions like this'n, and
that's why I wunna ga ta tha church.

       *       *       *

Dinna ye meddle, Tam; it's niver no good a threshin' other folk's corn;
ye allays gits the flail agin i' yer own eye somehow.

       *       *       *

The flowers hang in the sunshine, and blow in the breeze, free to the
wasp as to the bee. The bee chooses to make his store of honey, that is
sweet, and fragrant, and life-giving; the wasp chooses to make his from
the same blossoms, but of a matter hard, and bitter, and useless. Shall
we pity the wasp because, of his selfish passions, he selects the
portion that shall be luscious only to his own lips, and spends his
hours only in the thrusting-in of his sting? Is not such pity--wasted
upon the wasp--an insult to the bee who toils so wearily to gather in
for others; and who, because he stings not man, is by man maltreated?
Now it seems to me, if I read them aright, that vicious women, and women
that are of honesty and honour, are much akin to the wasp and to the

       *       *       *

My dear, a gentleman may forget his appointments, his love vows, and his
political pledges; he may forget the nonsense he talked, the dances he
engaged for, the women that worried him, the electors that bullied him,
the wife that married him, and he may be a gentleman still; but there
are two things he must never forget, for no gentleman ever does--and
they are, to pay a debt that is a debt of honour, and to keep a promise
to a creature that can't force him to keep it.

       *       *       *

A genius? You must mistake. I have always heard that a genius is
something that they beat to death first with sticks and stones, and set
up on a great rock to worship afterwards. Now they make her very happy
whilst she is alive. She cannot possibly be a genius.

       *       *       *

I learned many wondrous things betwixt Epsom and Ascot. A brief space,
indeed, yet one that to me seemed longer than the whole of my previous
life, so crowded was it every hour with new and marvellous experiences.
Worldly experiences, I mean. Intellectually, I am not sure that I
acquired much.

Indeed, to a little brain teeming with memories of the Théâtres
Beaumarchais, Voltaire, Molière, Feuillet, Sardou, Sandeau, &c., which
I had heard read so continually at the Dower-House amongst the Fens, the
views of dramatic literature held at the Coronet appeared of the most
extraordinary character. They certainly had one merit--simplicity.

The verb "to steal" was the only one that a successful dramatic author
appeared to be required to conjugate.

For your music steal from the music-halls; for your costumes steal from
_Le Follet_; for your ideas steal from anybody that happens to carry
such a thing about him; for your play, in its entirety, steal the plot,
the characters, the romance, the speeches, and the wit, if it have any,
of some attractive novel; and when you have made up your parcel of
thefts, tie it together with some string of stage directions, herald it
as entirely original, give a very good supper to your friends on the
press, and bow from your box as the "Author."

You will certainly be successful: and if the novelist ever object,
threaten him with an action for interference with _your_ property.

These I found were the laws laid down by London dramatists; and they
assuredly were so easy to follow and so productive to obey, that if any
Ben Jonson or Beaumarchais, Sheridan or Marivaux, had arisen and
attempted to infringe them, he would have infallibly been regarded as a
very evil example, and been extinguished by means of journalistic
slating and stall-siflage.

       *       *       *

By the way, permit me, in parenthesis, to say that one of the chief
causes of that preference for the _demi-monde_ which you daily and
hourly discover more and more, is the indulgence it shows to idleness.
Because your lives are so intense now, and always at high pressure--for
that very reason are you more indolent also in little things. It bores
you to dress; it bores you to talk; it bores you to be polite. Sir
Charles Grandison might find ecstasy in elaborating a bow, a wig, or a
speech; you like to give a little nod, cut your hair very short, and
make "awfully" do duty for all your adjectives.

"_Autres temps, autres mæurs._" You are a very odd mixture. You will go
to the ends of the earth on the scent of big game; but you shirk all
social exertion with a cynical laziness. You will come from Damascus at
a stretch without sleeping, and think nothing of it; but you find it a
wretched thing to have to exert yourself to be courteous in a

Therefore the _demi-monde_ suits you with a curious fitness, and suits
you more and more every year. I am afraid it is not very good for you. I
don't mean for your morals; I don't care the least about them, I am a
dog of the world; I mean for your manners. It makes you slangy, inert,
rude, lazy. And yet what perfect gentlemen you can be still, and what
grace there is in your careless, weary ease, when you choose to be
courteous; and you always _do_ choose, that I must say for you, when you
find a woman who is really worth the trouble.

       *       *       *

I never knew quite whether I liked her--how can you with those women of
the world? She was kind and insincere; she was gentle and she was cruel;
she was generous and ungenerous; she was true as steel, and she was
false as Judas--what would you?--she was a woman of the world, with
several sweet natural impulses, and all a coquette's diplomacies.

She tended me with the greatest solicitude one day that autumn, when I
had run a thorn into my foot: and the very next day, when I was well
again, she laughed to see me worried on the lawn by a bull-terrier. If
you have not met a woman like that, I wonder where you have lived.

       *       *       *

You must be spider or fly, as somebody says. Now all my experience tells
me that men are mostly the big, good-natured, careless blue-bottles,
half-drunk with their honey of pleasure, and rushing blindly into any
web that dazzles them a little in the sunshine; and women are the
dainty, painted, patient spiders that just sit and weave, and weave, and
weave, till--pong!--Bluebottle is in head foremost, and is killed, and
sucked dry, and eaten up at leisure.

You men think women do not know much of life. Pooh! I, Puck, who have
dwelt for many of my days on their boudoir cushions, and eaten of their
dainty little dinners, and been smuggled under their robes even into
operas, balls, and churches, tell you that is an utter fallacy. They do
not choose you to know that they know it, very probably; but there is
nothing that is hidden from them, I promise you.

       *       *       *

Don't you know that whilst broad, intellectual scepticism is masculine,
narrow, social scepticism is feminine? To get hearty, reverent, genuine
belief in the innocence of a slandered woman, go to a man: where the
world has once doubted, women, the world-worshippers, will for ever
after doubt also. You can never bring women to see that the pecked-at
fruit is always the richest and sweetest; they always take the benison
of the wooing bird to be the malison of the hidden worm!

       *       *       *

Not very long ago I was down away in the vale of Belvoir. I stayed with
my friends at a great stately place, owned by as gallant a gentleman as
ever swung himself into saddle. His wife was a beautiful woman, and he
treated her with the courtliest tenderness: indeed, I often heard their
union cited as one of almost unequalled felicity. "He never had a
thought that he did not tell me," I heard his wife once say to a friend.
"Not a single thought, I know, all these twelve years of our marriage."
It was a happy belief--many women have the like--but it was an
unutterably foolish one; for the minds of the best and truest amongst
you are, in many things, as sealed books to those whom you care for the

One bitter, black hunting-day, a day keen and cold, with frost, as men
feared, in the air, and with the ground so hard that even the Duke's
peerless "dandies," perfect hounds though they are, scarcely could keep
the scent, there came terrible tidings to the Hall--he had met with a
crashing fall. His horse had refused at timber, and had fallen upon him,
kicking his head with the hind hoofs repeatedly. They had taken him to
the nearest farmhouse, insensible; even dead already, they feared. His
wife and the elder amongst the beautiful children fled like mad
creatures across the brown fallows, and the drear blackened meadows. The
farm, happily, was not far: I sped with them.

When they reached him he was not quite lifeless, but he knew none of
them; his head had been beaten in by the plates of the kicking hoofs;
and they waited for his death with every moment, in the little old dusky
room, with its leaded lattices, and its odour of dried lavender, and its
bough of holly above the hearth. For this had chanced upon Christmas

To his wife's agonies, to his children's moans, he was silent: he knew
nothing; he lay with closed eyes and crushed brain--deaf, blind, mute.
Suddenly the eyes opened, and stared at the red winter sun where it
glowed dimly through the squares of the lattice-panes. "Dolores!" he
cried aloud; "Dolores! Dolores!" It was the name of none there.

"My God! What woman is it he calls?" his wife asked in her torture. But
none ever knew. Through half the night his faint pulse beat, his faint
breath came and went; but consciousness never more returned, and for
ever he muttered only that one name, that name which was not her own.
And when they laid the dead body in its shroud, they found on the left
arm above the elbow the word "Dolores" marked on the skin, as sailors
stamp letters in their flesh. But whose it was, or what woe or passion
it recorded, none ever knew--not even his wife, who had believed she
shared his every thought. And to his grave his dead and secret love went
with him.

This man was but a gay, frank, high-spirited gentleman, of no great
knowledge, and of no great attainments, riding fearlessly, laughing
joyously, living liberally; not a man, one would have said, to know any
deep passions, to treasure any bitter memories--and yet he had loved one
woman so well that he had never spoken of her, and never forgotten her;
never--not even in his death-hour, when the poor, stunned, stifled brain
had forgotten all other things of earth.

And so it seems to me that it is very often with you, and that you bear
with you through your lifetime the brand of an unforgotten name, branded
deep in, in days of passion, that none around you ever wot of, and that
the wife who sleeps on your heart never knows.

It is dead--the old love--long dead. And yet, when your last hour shall
come, and your senses shall be dizzy with death, the pale loves of the
troth and the hearth will fade from you, and this love alone will abide.

       *       *       *

"Modern painters do not owe you much, sir," said a youngster to him
once, writhing under the _Midas'_ ruthless flagellation of his first
Academy picture.

"On the contrary," said the great censor, taking his snuff; "they owe me
much, or might have owed me much. If they had only listened to me, they
would have saved every shilling that they have thrown away on canvas!"

       *       *       *

In your clubs and your camps, in your mischievous moods and your
philosophic moods, always indeed theoretically, you consider all women
immoral (except just, of course, your own mothers); but practically,
when your good-feeling is awakened, or your honest faith honestly
appealed to, you will believe in a woman's honour with a heartiness and
strength for which she will look in vain in her own sex. According to
your jests, the world is one vast harem, of which all the doors are open
to every man, and whose fair inmates are all alike impressionable to the
charm of intrigue or to the chink of gold. But, in simple earnest and
reality, I have heard the wildest and most debonair amongst you--once
convinced of the honour and innocence looking from a woman's eyes--stand
up in defence of these when libelled in her absence, with a zeal and a
stanchness that did my heart good.

       *       *       *

His simple creed, "the good faith of a gentleman," forbade him to injure
what lay defenceless at his mercy.

Ah! revile that old faith as you will, it has lasted longer than any
other cultus; and whilst altars have reeled, and idols been shattered,
and priests changed their teachings, and peoples altered their gods, the
old faith has lasted through all; and the simple instinct of the Greek
eupatrid and of the Roman patrician still moves the heart of the English
gentleman--the instinct of _Noblesse oblige_.

       *       *       *

"The exception proves the rule," runs your proverb; but why, I wonder,
is it that you always only believe in the rule, and are always utterly
sceptical as to the existence of the exception?

       *       *       *

The sun shone in over the roofs; the bird in its cage began a low
tremulous song; the murmur of all the crowded streets came up upon the
silence; and Nellie lay there dead;--the light upon her curly hair, and
on her mouth the smile that had come there at his touch.

"Ah, my dear!" said Fanfreluche, as she ceased her story, with a
half-soft and half-sardonic sadness, "she was but a little, ignorant,
common player, who made but three pounds a week, and who talked the
slang of the streets, and who thought shrimps and tea a meal for the
gods, and who made up her own dresses with her own hands, out of tinsel
and tarlatanes and trumperies, and who knew no better than to follow the
blind, dumb instincts of good that, self-sown and uncultured, lived in
her--God knows how!--as the harebells, with the dew on them, will live
amidst the rank, coarse grass of graveyards. She was but a poor little
player, who tried to be honest where all was corruption, who tried to
walk straightly where all ways were crooked. So she died to-day in a
garret, my dear."

       *       *       *

If all men in whose hearts lives a dull, abiding grief, whose throbs
death and death only ever will still, deserted for desert or ocean your
world of fame and of fashion, how strangely that world would look! How
much eloquence would be dumb in your senatorial chambers; how many a
smile would be missing from your ball-rooms and hunting-fields; how many
a frank laugh would die off for ever from your ear; how many a
well-known face would vanish from your clubs, from your park, from your
dinner-tables, from your race-stands!

And how seldom would it be those that you had pitied who would go!--how
often would the vacant place be that place where so many seasons through
you had seen, and had envied, the gayest, the coldest, the most
light-hearted, the most cynical amongst you!

Ah! let Society be thankful that men in their bitterness do not now fly,
as of old, to monastery or to hermitage; for, did they do so, Society
would send forth her gilded cards to the wilderness.

       *       *       *

"_Une vie manquée!_" says the world.

Is there any threnody over a death half so unutterably sad as that one
jest over a life?

"_Manquée!_"--the world has no mercy on a hand that has thrown the die
and has lost; no tolerance for the player who, holding fine cards, will
not play them by the rules of the game. "_Manquée!_" the world says,
with a polite sneer, of the lives in which it beholds no blazoned
achievement, no public success.

And yet, if it were keener of sight, it might see that those lives, not
seldom, may seem to have missed of their mark, because their aim was
high over the heads of the multitude; or because the arrow was sped by
too eager a hand in too rash a youth, and the bow lies unstrung in that
hand when matured. It might see that those lives which look so lost, so
purposeless, so barren of attainment, so devoid of object or fruition,
have sometimes nobler deeds in them and purer sacrifice than lies in
the home-range of its own narrowed vision. "_Manquée!_"--do not cast
that stone idly: how shall you tell, as you look on the course of a life
that seems to you a failure, because you do not hear its "_Io triumphe_"
on the lips of a crowd, what sweet dead dreams, what noble vain desires,
what weariness of futile longing, what conscious waste of vanished
years--nay, what silent acts of pure nobility, what secret treasures of
unfathomed love--may lie within that which seems in your sight even as a
waste land untilled, as a fire burnt out, as a harp without chords, as a
bird without song?

       *       *       *

Genius is oftentimes but a poor fool, who, clinging to a thing that
belongs to no age, Truth, does oftentimes live on a pittance and die in
a hospital; but whosoever has the gift to measure aright their
generation is invincible--living, they shall enjoy all the vices
undetected; and dead, on their tombstones they shall possess all the

       *       *       *

Cant, naked, is honoured throughout England. Cant, clothed in gold, is a
king never in England resisted.

       *       *       *

"Ben Dare, he be dead?" he asked suddenly. "They telled me so by
Darron's side."[A]

[A] The river Derwent.

Ambrose bent his head, silently.

"When wur't?"

"Last simmar-time, i' th' aftermath."

"It were a ston' as killed him?"

"Ay," said Ambrose, softly shading his eyes with his hand from the sun
that streamed through the aisles of pine.

"How wur't?"

"They was a blastin'. He'd allus thoct as he'd dee that way, you know.
They pit mair pooder i' quarry than common; and the ston' it split, and
roared, and crackit, wi' a noise like tha crack o' doom. And one bit on
't, big as ox, were shot i' th' air, an' fell, unlookit for like, and
dang him tew the groun', and crushit him,--a-lyin' richt athwart his

"An' they couldna stir it?"

"They couldna. I heerd tha other min screech richt tew here, an' I knew
what it wur, tha shrill screech comin' jist i' top o' tha blastin' roar;
an' I ran, an' ran--na gaze-hound fleeter. An' we couldna raise it--me
an' Tam, an' Job, an' Gideon o' the Mere, an' Moses Legh o' Wissen Edge,
a' strong min and i' our prime. We couldna stir it, till Moses o' Wissen
Edge he thoct o' pittin' fir-poles underneath--poles as was sharp an'
slim i' thur ends, an' stout an' hard further down. Whin tha poles was
weel thrust under we heaved, an' heaved, an' heaved, and got it slanted
o' one side, and drawed him out; an' thin it were too late, too late! A'
tha brist was crushit in--frushed flesh and bone together. He jist
muttered i' his throat, 'Tha little lass, tha little lass!' and then he
turned him on his side, and hid his face upo' the sod. When we raised
him he wur dead."

The voice of Ambrose sank very low; and where he leaned over his smithy
door the tears fell slowly down his sun-bronzed cheeks.

"Alack a day!" sighed Daffe, softly. "Sure a better un niver drew breath
i' the varsal world!"

"An' that's trew," Ambrose made answer, his voice hushed and very

"He was varra changed like," murmured Daffe, his hand wandering amongst
the golden blossoms of the stonecrop. "He niver were the same crittur
arter the lass went awa'. He niver were the same--niver. Ta seemed tew
mak an auld man o' him a' at once."

"It did," said Ambrose, brokenly. "He couldna bear tew look na tew spik
to nane o' us. He were bent i' body, an' gray o' head, that awfu' night
when he kem back fra' the waking. It were fearfu' tew see; and we
couldna dew naught. Th' ony thing as he'd take tew were Trust."

"Be dog alive?"

"Na. Trust he'd never quit o' Ben's grave. He wouldna take bit na drop.
He wouldna be touchit; not whin he was clem would he be tempted awa'.
And he died--jist tha fifth day arter his master."

"An' the wench? Hev' 'ee e'er heerd on her?"

"Niver--niver. Mappen she's dead and gone tew. She broke Ben's heart for
sure; long ere tha ston' crushit life out o't."

"And wheer may he lie?"

Ambrose clenched his brawny hand, his eyes darkened, his swarthy face
flushed duskily.

"Wheer? What think 'ee, Daffe? When we took o' him up for the burial, ta
tha church ower theer beyant tha wood, the passon he stoppit us, a' tha
gate of tha buryin' field. The passon he med long words, and sed as how
a unb'liever sud niver rest i' blessed groun', sin he willna iver enter
into the sight o' tha Lord. He sed as how Ben were black o' heart and
wicked o' mind, an' niver set fute i' church-door, and niver ate o' tha
sacrament bread, and niver not thocht o' God nor o' Devil; an' he
wouldna say tha rites o'er him an' 'twere iver so, an' he wouldna let
him lie i' tha holy earth, nor i' tha pale o' tha graveyard. Well, we
couldna gae agin him--we poor min, an' he a squire and passon tew. Sae
we took him back, five weary mile; and we brocht him here, and we dug
his grave under them pines, and we pit a cross o' tha bark to mark the
place, and we laid old Trust, when he died, by his side. I were mad with
grief like, thin; it were awfu' ta ha' him forbad Christian burial."

"Dew it matter?" asked the gentle Daffe, wistfully. He had never been
within church-doors himself.

Ambrose gave a long troubled sigh.

"Aweel! at first it seemed awfu'--awfu'! And to think as Ben 'ud niver
see the face o' his God was mair fearfu' still. But as time gees on and
on--I can see his grave fra' here, tha cross we cut is tha glimmer o'
white on that stem ayont,--it dew seem as 'tis fitter like fer him to
lie i' tha fresh free woods, wi' tha birds a' chirmin' abuve him, an' a'
tha forest things as he minded a flyin', an' nestin', an' runnin', an'
rejoicin' arount him. 'Tis allus so still there, an' peacefu'. 'Tis blue
and blue now, wi' tha hy'cinths; and there's one bonnie mavis as dew
make her home wi' each spring abuve the gravestone. 'Bout not meetin'
his God, I dunno--I darena saw nowt anent it--but, for sure, it dew seem
to me that we canna meet Him no better, nor fairer, than wi' lips that
ha ne'er lied to man nor to woman, and wi' hands as niver hae harmed the
poor dumb beasts nor the prattlin' birds. It dew seem so. I canna tell."

As the words died off his lips the sun fell yet more brightly through
the avenues of the straight, dark, odorous pines; sweet silent winds
swept up the dewy scents of mosses, and of leaves, and of wild
hyacinths; and on the stillness of that lonely place there came one
tremulous, tender sound. It was the sound of the mavis singing.

"I canna tell; but for sure it is well with him?" said Ambrose; and he
bared his head, and bowed it humbly, as though in the voice of the mavis
he heard the answer of God:

"It is well."

Ah! I trust that it may be so for you; that the sweetness of your
arrogant dreams of an unshared eternity be not wholly a delusion; that
for you--although to us you do deny it--there may be found pity,
atonement, compensation, in some great Hereafter.

       *       *       *

"I have heard a very great many men and women call the crows carrion
birds, and the jackals carrion beasts, with an infinite deal of disgust
and much fine horror at what they were pleased to term 'feasting on
corpses;' but I never yet heard any of them admit their own appetite for
the rotten 'corpse' of a pheasant, or the putrid haunch of a deer, to be
anything except the choice taste of an epicure!"

"But they do cook the corpses!" I remonstrated; whereupon she grinned
with more meaning than ever.

"Exactly what I am saying, my dear. Their love of synonyms has made them
forget that they are _carnivori_, because they talk so sweetly of the
_cuisine_. A poor, blundering, honest, ignorant lion only kills and eats
when the famine of his body forces him to obey that law of slaughter
which is imposed on all created things, from the oyster to the man, by
what we are told is the beautiful and beneficent economy of Creation. Of
course, the lion is a brutal and bloodthirsty beast of prey, to be
hunted down off the face of the earth as fast as may be. Whereas
man--what does he do? He devours the livers of a dozen geese in one
_pâté_; he has lobsters boiled alive, that the scarlet tint may look
tempting to his palate; he has fish cut up or fried in all its living
agonies, lest he should lose one _nuance_ of its flavour; he has the
calf and the lamb killed in their tender age, that he may eat dainty
sweetbreads; he has quails and plovers slaughtered in the
nesting-season, that he may taste a slice of their breasts; he crushes
oysters in his teeth whilst life is in them; he has scores of birds and
animals slain for one dinner, that he may have the numberless dishes
which fashion exacts; and then--all the time talking softly of _rissôle_
and _mayonnaise_, of _consommé_ and _entremet_, of _croquette_ and
_côtelette_--the dear _gourmet_ discourses on his charming science, and
thanks God that he is not as the parded beasts that prey!"

"Well," said I, sulkily, for I am fond myself of a good
_vol-au-vent_,--"well, you have said that eating is a law in the
economies--or the waste--of creation. Is it not well to clothe a
distasteful and barbaric necessity in a refining guise and under an
elegant nomenclature?"

"Sophist!" said Fanfreluche, with much scorn, though she herself is as
keen an epicure and as suave a sophist, for that matter, as I know,--"I
never denied that it was well for men to cheat themselves, through the
art of their cooks, into believing that they are not brutes and beasts
of prey--it is well exceedingly--for their vanity. Life is sustained
only by the destruction of life. Cookery, the divine, can turn this
horrible fact into a poetic idealism; can twine the butcher's knife with
lilies, and hide the carcass under roses. But I do assuredly think that,
when they sit down every night with their _menu_ of twenty services,
they should not call the poor lion bad names for eating an antelope once
a fortnight."

And, with the true consistency of preachers, Fanfreluche helped herself
to a Madeira stewed kidney which stood amongst other delicacies on the
deserted luncheon table.

       *       *       *

"If this play should succeed it will be a triumph of true art," said
another critical writer to Dudley Moore.

That great personage tapped his Louis-Quinze snuffbox with some

"Pardon me, but it is not possible to have art at all on the stage. Art
is a pure idealism. You can have it in a statue, a melody, a poem; but
you cannot have it on the stage, which is at its highest but a graphic
realism. The very finest acting is only fine in proportion as it is an
exact reproduction of physical life. How, then, can it be art, which is
only great in proportion as it escapes from the physical life into the

"But may not dramatic art escape thither also?" asked the critic, who
was young, and deferred to him.

"Impossible, sir. It is shackled with all the forms of earth, and--worse
still--with all its shams and commonplaces. When we read _Othello_, we
only behold the tempest of the passions and the wreck of a great soul;
but when we see _Othello_, we are affronted by the colour of the Moor's
skin, and are brought face to face with the vulgarities of the bolster!"

"Then there is no use in a stage at all?"

"I am not prepared to conclude that. It is agreeable to a vast number of
people: as a Frith or an O'Neil is agreeable to a vast number of people
to whom an Ary Scheffer or a Delaroche would be unintelligible. It is
better, perhaps, that this vast number should look at Friths and O'Neils
than that they should never look on any painting at all. Now the stage
paints rudely, often tawdrily; still it does paint. It is better than
nothing. I take it that the excellence, as the end, of histrionic art is
to portray, to the minds of the many, poetic conceptions which, without
such realistic rendering, would remain unknown and impalpable to all
save the few. Histrionic art is at its greatest only when it is the
follower and the interpreter of literature; the actor translates the
poet's meanings into the common tongue that is understood of the people.
But how many on the miserable stage of this country have ever had either
humility to perceive, or capability to achieve this?"

The other critic smiled.

"I imagine not one, in our day. Their view of their profession is
similar to Mrs. Delamere's, when Max Moncrief wrote that sparkling
comedy for her. 'My dear,' she said to him, 'why did you trouble
yourself to put all that wit and sense into it? We didn't want _that_. I
shall wear all my diamonds, and I have ordered three splendid new

       *       *       *

All day long the fowls kept it alive with sound and movement; for of all
mercurial and fussy things there is nothing on the face of the earth to
equal cocks and hens. They have such an utterly exaggerated sense, too,
of their own importance; they make such a clacking and clucking over
every egg, such a scratching and trumpeting over every morsel of
treasure-trove, and such a striding and stamping over every bit of
well-worn ground. On the whole, I think poultry have more humanity in
them than any other race, footed or feathered; and cocks certainly must
have been the first creatures that ever hit on the great art of
advertising. Myself I always fancy that the souls of this feathered
tribe pass into the bodies of journalists; but this may be a mere
baseless association of kindred ideas in my mind.

       *       *       *

She kissed the dog on the forehead; then pointed to the kreel of shells
and seaweed on the red, smooth piece of rock.

"Take care of them, dear Bronze," she murmured; "and wait till I come
back. Wait here."

She did not mean to command; she only meant to console him by the
appointment of some service.

Bronze looked in her face with eyes of woe and longing; but he made no
moan or sound, but only stretched himself beside the kreel on guard. I
am always glad to think that as she went she turned, and kissed him once

The boat flew fast over the water. When boats leave you, and drag your
heart with them, they always go like that; and when they come, and your
heart darts out to meet them, then they are so slow!

The boat flew like a seagull, the sun bright upon her sail. Bronze, left
upon the rock, lifted his head and gave one long, low wail. It echoed
woefully and terribly over the wide, quiet waters. They gave back no
answer--not even the poor answer that lies in echo.

It was very still there. Nothing was in sight except that single little
sail shining against the light, and flying--flying--flying.

Now and then you could hear a clock striking in the distant village, the
faint crow of a cock, the far-off voices of children calling to one

The little sea-mouse stole athwart a pool; the grey sea-crabs passed
like a little army; the tiny sea creatures that dwelt in rosy shells
thrust their delicate heads from their houses to peep and wonder at the
sun. But all was noiseless. How dared they make a sound, when that great
sea, that was at once their life and death, was present with its
never-ceasing "Hush!"

Bronze never moved, and his eyes never turned from the little boat that
went and left him there--the little boat that fast became merely a flash
and speck of white against the azure air, no bigger than the breadth of
a seagull's wings.

An hour drifted by. The church-clock on the cliffs had struck four
times; a deep-toned, weary bell, that tolled for every quarter, and must
often have been heard, at dead of night, by dying men, drowning
unshriven and unhouselled.

Suddenly the sand about us, so fawn-hued, smooth, and beautifully
ribbed, grew moist, and glistened with a gleam of water, like eyes that
fill with tears.

Bronze never saw: he only watched the boat. A little later the water
gushed above the sand, and, gathering in a frail rippling edge of foam,
rolled up and broke upon the rock.

And still he never saw; for still he watched the boat.

Awhile, and the water grew in volume, and filled the mouse's pool till
it brimmed over, and bathed the dull grasses till they glowed like
flowers; and drew the sea-crabs and the tiny dwellers of the shells back
once more into its wondrous living light.

And all around the fresh tide rose, silently thus about the rocks and
stones; gliding and glancing in all the channels of the shore, until the
sands were covered, and the grasses gathered in, and all the creeping,
hueless things were lost within its space; and in the stead of them, and
of the bronzed palm-leaves of weed, and of the great brown boulders
gleaming in the sun, there was but one vast lagoon of shadowless bright
water everywhere.

And still he never saw; for still he watched the boat.

By this time the tide, rolling swiftly in before a strong sou'-wester,
had risen midway against the rock on which we had been left, and was
breaking froth and foam upon the rock's worn side. For this rock alone
withstood the passage of the sea: there was naught else but this to
break the even width of water. All other things save this had been
subdued and reapen.

It was all deep water around; and the water glowed a strange emerald
green, like the green in a lizard or snake. The shore, that had looked
so near, now seemed so far, far off; and the woods were hidden in mist,
and the cottages were all blurred with the brown of the cliff, and there
came no sound of any sort from the land--no distant bell, no farm-bird's
call, no echo of children's voices. There was only one sound at all;
and that was the low, soft, ceaseless murmuring of the tide as it glided

The waters rose till they touched the crest of the rock; but still he
never moved. Stretched out upon the stone, guarding the things of her
trust, and with his eyes fastened on the sail which rose against the
light, he waited thus--for death.

I was light, and a strong swimmer. I had been tossed on those waves from
my birth. Buffeted, fatigued, blind with the salt sea-spray, drenched
with the weight of the water, I struggled across that calm dread width
of glassy coldness, and breathless reached the land.

By signs and cries I made them wot that something needed them at sea.
They began to get ready a little boat, bringing it down from its wooden
rest on high dry ground beneath the cliff. Whilst they pushed and
dragged through the deep-furrowed sand I gazed seaward. The shore was
raised; I could see straight athwart the waters. They now were level
with the rock; and yet he had never moved.

The little skiff had passed round the bend of a bluff, and was out of
his sight and ours.

The boat was pushed into the surf; they threw me in. They could see
nothing, and trusted to my guidance.

I had skill enough to make them discover whither it was I wanted them to
go. Then, looking in their eagerness whither my eyes went, they saw him
on the rock, and with a sudden exercise of passionate vigour, bent to
their oars and sent the boat against the hard opposing force of the
resisting tide. For they perceived that, from some cause, he was
motionless there, and could not use his strength; and they knew that it
would be shame to their manhood if, within sight of their land, the
creature who had succoured their brethren in the snow, and saved the
two-year child from the storm, should perish before their sight on a
calm and unfretted sea and in a full noon sun.

It was but a furlong to that rock; it was but the breadth of the beach,
that at low water stretched uncovered; and yet how slowly the boat sped,
with the ruthless tide sweeping it back as fast as the oars bore it

So near we seemed to him that one would have thought a stone flung from
us through the air would have lit far beyond him; and yet the space was
enough, more than enough, to bar us from him, filled as it was with the
strong adverse pressure of those low, swift, in-rushing waves.

The waters leaped above the summit of the rock, and for a moment covered
him. A great shout went up from the rowers beside me. They strained in
every nerve to reach him; and the roll of a fresh swell of water lifted
the boat farther than their uttermost effort could achieve, but lifted
her backward, backward to the land.

When the waters touched him he arose slowly, and stood at bay like a
stag upon a headland, when the hounds rage behind, and in front yawns
the fathomless lake.

He stood so that he still guarded the things of his trust; and his eyes
were still turned seaward, watching for the vanished sail.

Once again the men, with a loud cry to him of courage and help, strained
at their oars, and drove themselves a yard's breadth farther out. And
once again the tide, with a rush of surf and shingle, swept the boat
back, and seemed to bear her to the land as lightly as though she were a
leaf with which a wind was playing.

The waters covered the surface of the rock. It sank from sight. The foam
was white about his feet, and still he stood there--upon guard.
Everywhere there was the brilliancy of noontide sun; everywhere there
was the beaming calmness of the sea, that spread out, far and wide, in
one vast sheet of light; from the wooded line of the shore there echoed
the distant gaiety of a woman's laugh. A breeze, softly stirring through
the warm air, brought with it from the land the scent of myrtle thickets
and wild flowers. How horrible they were--the light, the calm, the
mirth, the summer fragrance!

For one moment he stood there erect; his dark form sculptured,
lion-like, against the warm yellow light of noon; about his feet the

Then, all noiselessly, a great, curled, compact wave surged over him,
breaking upon him, sweeping him away. The water spread out quickly,
smooth and gleaming like the rest. He rose, grasping in his teeth the
kreel of weed and shells.

He had waited until the last. Driven from the post he would not of
himself forsake, the love of life awoke in him; he struggled against

Three times he sank, three times he rose. The sea was now strong, and
deep, and swift of pace, rushing madly in; and he was cumbered with that
weight of osier and of weed, which yet he never yielded, because it had
been her trust. With each yard that the tide bore him forward, by so
much it bore us backward. There was but the length of a spar between us,
and yet it was enough!

He rose for the fourth time, his head above the surf, the kreel uplifted
still, the sun-rays full upon his brown weary eyes, with all their
silent agony and mute appeal. Then the tide, fuller, wilder, deeper with
each wave that rolled, and washing as it went all things of the shore
from their places, flung against him, as it swept on, a great rough limb
of driftwood. It struck him as he rose; struck him across the brow. The
wave rushed on; the tide came in; the black wood floated to the shore;
he never rose again.

And scarcely that span of the length of a spar had parted us from him
when he sank!

All the day through they searched, and searched with all the skill of
men sea-born and sea-bred. The fisher, whose little child he had saved
in the winter night, would not leave him to the things of the deep. And
at sunset they found him, floating westward, in the calm water where the
rays of the sun made it golden and warm. He was quite dead; but in his
teeth there still was clenched the osier kreel, washed empty of its

They buried him there; on the shore underneath the cliff, where a great
wild knot of myrtle grows, and the honeysuckle blooms all over the sand.
And when Lord Beltran in that autumn came, and heard how he had died in
the fulfilling of a trust, he had a stone shapen and carved; and set it
against the cliff, amongst the leafage and flowers, high up where the
highest winter tide will not come. And by his will the name of Bronze
was cut on it in deep letters that will not wear out, and on which the
sun will strike with every evening that it shall pass westward above the
sea; and beneath the name he bade three lines be chiselled likewise, and
they are these:

              HE KNEW NO BETTER.
                HE WAS A DOG."

"They are all words. Creatures that take out their grief in crape and
mortuary tablets can't feel very much."

"There are many lamentations, from Lycidas to Lesbia, which prove that
whether for a hero or a sparrow--" I began timidly to suggest.

"That's only a commonplace," snapped my lady. "They chatter and
scribble; they don't feel. They write stanzas of 'gush' on Maternity;
and tear the little bleating calf from its mother to bleed to death in
a long, slow agony. They maunder twaddle about Infancy over some ugly
red lump of human flesh, in whose creation their vanity happens to be
involved; and then go out and send the springtide lamb to the slaughter,
and shoot the parent birds as they fly to the nest where their
fledglings are screaming in hunger! Pooh! Did you never find out the
value of their words? Some one of them has said that speech was given
them to conceal their thoughts. It is true that they use it for that
end; but it was given them for this reason. At the time of the creation,
when all except man had been made, the Angel of Life, who had been
bidden to summon the world out of chaos, moving over the fresh and yet
innocent earth, thought to himself, 'I have created so much that is
doomed to suffer for ever, and for ever be mute; I will now create an
animal that shall be compensated for all suffering by listening to the
sound of its own voluble chatter.' Whereon the Angel called Man into
being, and cut the _frænum_ of his tongue, which has clacked incessantly
ever since, all through the silence of the centuries."

       *       *       *

There was once a dog, my dear, that was hit by three men, one after
another, as they went by him where he lay in the sun; and in return he
bit them--deep--and they let him alone then, and ever after sought to
propitiate him. Well, the first he bit in the arm, where there was a
brand for deserting; and the second he bit in the throat, where there
was a hideous mole; and the third he bit in the shoulder, where there
was the mark of a secret camorra. Now, not one of these three durst
speak of the wounds in places they all wished to hide; and whenever
afterwards they passed the dog, they gave him fair words, and sweet
bones, and a wide berth. It is the dogs, and the satirists, and the
libellers, and the statesmen who know how to bite like that--in the
weak part--that get let alone, and respected, and fed on the fat of the

       *       *       *

For him by whom a thirsty ear is lent to the world's homage, the tocsin
of feebleness, if not of failure, has already sounded.

The gladness of the man is come when the crowds lisp his name, and the
gold fills his hand, and the women's honeyed adulations buzz like golden
bees about his path; but how often is the greatness of the artist gone,
and gone for ever!

Because when the world denies you it is easy to deny the world; because
when the bread is bitter it is easy not to linger at the meal; because
when the oil is low it is easy to rise with dawn; because when the body
is without surfeit or temptation it is easy to rise above earth on the
wings of the spirit. Poverty is very terrible to you, and kills your
soul in you sometimes; but it is like the northern blast that lashes men
into Vikings; it is not the soft, luscious south wind that lulls them
into lotos-eaters.

       *       *       *

I have grave doubts of Mrs. Siddons. She was a goddess of the age of
fret and fume, of stalk and strut, of trilled R's and of nodding plumes.
If we had Siddons now I fear we should hiss; I am quite sure we should
yawn. She must have been Melpomene always; Nature never.

       *       *       *

Oh, how wise you are and how just!--if there be a spectacle on earth to
rejoice the angels, it is your treatment of the animals that you say God
has given unto you!

It is not for me, a little dog, to touch on such awful mysteries;
but--sometimes--I wonder, if ever He ask you how you have dealt with His
gift, what will you answer then?

If all your slaughtered millions should instead answer for you--if all
the countless and unpitied dead, all the goaded, maddened beasts from
forest and desert who were torn asunder in the holidays of Rome; and all
the innocent, playful, gentle lives of little home-bred creatures that
have been racked by the knives, and torn by the poisons, and convulsed
by the torments, of your modern Science, should, instead, answer, with
one mighty voice, of a woe no longer inarticulate, of an accusation no
more disregarded, what then? Well! Then, if it be done unto you as you
have done, you will seek for mercy and find none in all the width of the
universe; you will writhe, and none shall release you; you will pray,
and none shall hear.

       *       *       *

"These fine things don't make one's happiness," I murmured pensively to

"No, my dear, they don't," the little worldling admitted. "They do to
women; they're so material, you see. They are angels--O yes, of
course!--but they're uncommonly sharp angels where money and good living
are concerned. Just watch them--watch the tail of their eye--when a
cheque is being written or an _éprouvette_ being brought to table. And
after all, you know, minced chicken is a good deal nicer than dry bread.
Of course we can easily be sentimental and above this sort of thing,
when the chicken _is_ in our mouths where we sit by the fire; but if we
were gnawing wretched bones, out in the cold of the streets, I doubt if
we should feel in such a sublime mood. All the praises of poverty are
sung by the minstrel who has got a golden harp to chant them on; and
all the encomiums on renunciation come from your _bon viveur_ who never
denied himself aught in his life!"

       *       *       *

Emotions are quite as detrimental to a dog's tail as they are to a
lady's complexion. Joseph Buonaparte's American wife said to an American
gentleman, whom I heard quote her words, that she "never laughed because
it made wrinkles:" there is a good deal of wisdom in that cachinatory
abstinence. There is nothing in the world that wears people (or dogs) so
much as feeling of any kind, tender, bitter, humoristic, or emotional.

How often you commend a fresh-coloured matron with her daughters, and a
rosy-cheeked hunting squire in his saddle, who, with their half-century
of years, yet look so comely, so blooming, so clear-browed, and so
smooth-skinned. How often you distrust the weary delicate creature, with
the hectic flush of her rouge, in society; and the worn, tired,
colourless face of the man of the world who takes her down to dinner.
Well, to my fancy, you may be utterly wrong. An easy egotism, a
contented sensualism, may have carried the first comfortably and
serenely through their bank-note-lined paradise of commonplace
existence. How shall you know what heart-sickness in their youth, what
aching desires for joys never found, what sorrowful power of sympathy,
what fatal keenness of vision, have blanched the faded cheek, and lined
the weary mouth, of the other twain?

       *       *       *

"Sheep and men are very much alike," said Trust, who thought both very
poor creatures. "Very much alike indeed. They go in flocks, and can't
give a reason why. They leave their fleece on any bramble that is strong
enough to insist on fleecing them. They bleat loud at imagined evils,
while they tumble straight into real dangers. And for going off the
line, there's nothing like them. There may be pits, thorns, quagmires,
spring-guns, what not, the other side of the hedge, but go off the
straight track they will--and no dog can stop them. It's just the sheer
love of straying. You may bark at them right and left; go they will,
though they break their legs down a limekiln. Oh, men and sheep are
wonderfully similar; take them all in all."

       *       *       *

Ah! you people never guess the infinite woe we dogs suffer in new homes,
under strange tyrannies; you never heed how we shrink from unfamiliar
hands, and shudder at unfamiliar voices, how lonely we feel in unknown
places, how acutely we dread harshness, novelty, and scornful treatment.
Dogs die oftentimes of severance from their masters; there is
Greyfriars' Bobby now in Edinboro' town who never has been persuaded to
leave his dead owner's grave all these many years through. You see such
things, but you are indifferent to them. "It is only a dog," you say;
"what matter if the brute fret to death?"

You don't understand it of course; you who so soon forget all your own
dead--the mother that bore you, the mistress that loved you, the friend
that fought with you shoulder to shoulder; and of course, also, you care
nothing for the measureless blind pains, the mute helpless sorrows, the
vague lonely terrors, that ache in our little dumb hearts.

       *       *       *

Lucretius has said how charming it is to stand under a shelter in a
storm, and see another hurrying through its rain and wind; but a woman
would refine that sort of cruelty, and would not be quite content
unless she had an umbrella beside her that she refused to lend.

       *       *       *

"Oh, pooh, my dear!" cried Fanfreluche. "He has robbed his host at
cards, and abused his host behind his back; to fulfil the whole duty of
a nineteenth century guest it only remains for him to betray his host in

"You think very ill of men?" I muttered; I was, indeed, slightly weary
of her sceptical supercilious treatment of all things; your
pseudo-philosopher, who will always think he has plumbed the ocean with
his silver-topped cane, is a great bore sometimes.

"I think very well of men," returned Fanfreluche. "You are mistaken, my
dear. There are only two things that they never are honest about--and
that is their sport and their women. When they get talking of their
rocketers, or their runs, their pigeon-score, or their _bonnes
fortunes_, they always lie--quite unconsciously. And if they miss their
bird or their woman, isn't it always because the sun was in their eyes
as they fired, or because she wasn't half good-looking enough to try
after?--bless your heart, I know them!"

"If you do, you are not complimentary to them," I grumbled.

"Can't help that, my dear," returned Fanfreluche. "Gracious! whatever is
there that stands the test of knowing it well? I have heard Beltran say,
that you find out what an awful humbug the Staubbach is when you go up
to the top and see you can straddle across it. Well, the Staubbach is
just like everything in this life. Keep your distance, and how well the
creature looks!--all veiled in its spray, and all bright with its
prismatic colours, so deep, and so vast, and so very impressive. But
just go up to the top, scale the crags of its character, and measure the
height of its aspirations, and fathom the torrent of its passions, and
sift how much is the foam of speech, and how little is the well-spring
of thought. Well, my dear, it is a very uncommon creature if it don't
turn out just like the Staubbach."

       *       *       *

I think if you knew what you did, even the most thoughtless amongst you
would not sanction with your praise, and encourage with your coin, the
brutality that trains dancing-dogs.

Have human mimes if you will; it is natural to humanity to caper and
grimace and act a part: but for pity's sake do not countenance the
torture with which Avarice mercilessly trains us "dumb beasts" for the
trade of tricks.

"The Clown-dog draws throngs to laugh and applaud," says some
advertisement: yes, and I knew a very clever clown-dog once. His feet
were blistered with the hot irons on which he had been taught to dance;
his teeth had been drawn lest he should use his natural weapons against
his cowardly tyrants; his skin beneath his short white hair was black
with bruises; though originally of magnificent courage, his spirit had
been so broken by torture that he trembled if a leaf blew against him;
and his eyes--well, if the crowds that applauded him had once looked at
those patient, wistful, quiet eyes, with their unutterable despair,
those crowds would have laughed no more, unless they had indeed been

Who has delivered us unto you to be thus tortured, and martyred?
Who?--Oh, that awful eternal mystery that ye yourselves cannot explain!

       *       *       *

Believe me, it is the light or the darkness of our own fate that either
gives "greenness to the grass and glory to the flower," or leaves both
sickly, wan, and colourless. A little breadth of sunny lawn, the
spreading shadow of a single beech, the gentle click of a little
garden-gate, the scent of some simple summer roses--how fair these are
in your memory because of a voice which then was on your ear, because of
eyes that then gazed in your own. And the grandeur of Nile, and the
lustre of the after-glow, and the solemn desolation of Carnac, and the
wondrous beauty of the flushed sea of tossing reeds, are all cold, and
dead, and valueless, because in those eyes no love now lies for you;
because that voice, for you, is now for ever silent.

       *       *       *

For, write as you will of the glory of poverty, and of the ennui of
pleasure, there is no life like this life, wherein to the sight and the
sense all things minister; wherefrom harsh discord and all unloveliness
are banished: where the rare beauty of high-born women is common; where
the passions at their wildest still sheathe themselves in courtesy's
silver scabbard; where the daily habits of existence are made graceful
and artistic; where grief, and woe, and feud, and futile longing for
lost loves, can easiest be forgot in delicate laughter and in endless
change. Artificial? Ah, well, it may be so! But since nevermore will you
return to the life of the savage, to the wigwam of the squaw, it is
best, methinks, that the Art of Living--the great _Savoir Vivre_--should
be brought, as you seek to bring all other arts, up to uttermost

       *       *       *

Men are very much in society as women will them to be. Let a woman's
society be composed of men gently born and bred, and if she find them
either coarse or stupid, make answer to her--"You must have been coarse
or stupid yourself."

And if she demur to the _tu quoque_ as to a base and illogical form of
argument, which we will grant that it usually is, remind her that the
cream of a pasturage may be pure and rich, but if it pass into the hands
of a clumsy farm serving-maid, then shall the cheese made thereof be
neither Roquefort nor Stilton, but rough and flavourless and uneatable,
"like a Banbury cheese, nothing but paring." Now, the influence of a
woman's intelligence on the male intellects about her is as the churn to
the cream: it can either enrich and utilise it, or impoverish and waste
it. It is not too much to say that it almost invariably, in the present
decadence of the salon and parrot-jabbering of the suffrage, has the
latter effect alone.

       *       *       *

Humiliation is a guest that only comes to those who have made ready his
resting-place, and will give him a fair welcome. My father used to say
to me, "Child, when you grow to womanhood, whether you be rich or poor,
gentle or simple, as the balance of your life may turn for or against
you, remember always this one thing--that no one can disgrace you save
yourself. Dishonour is like the Aaron's Beard in the hedgerows, it can
only poison if it be plucked." They call the belladonna Aaron's Beard in
the country, you know; and it is true that the cattle, simple as they
are, are never harmed by it; just because, though it is always in their
path, they never stop and taste it. I think it may just be so with us;
with any sort of evil.

       *       *       *

"Every pleasure has its penalty. If a woman be celebrated, the world
always thinks she must be wicked. If she's wise, she laughs. It is the
bitter that you must take with the sweet, as you get the sorrel flavour
with the softness of the cream, in your soup à la Bonne Femme. But the
cream would clog without it, and the combination is piquant."

"Only to jaded palates," I retorted; for I have often tasted the Bonne
Femme, and detest it.

By the way, what exquisite irony lies in some of your kitchen

       *       *       *

Once at a great house in the west I saw a gathering on the young lord's
coming of age. There were half the highest people in England there; and
a little while before the tenantry went to their banquet in the
marquees, the boy-peer and his guests were all out on the terraces and
the lawns. With him was a very noble deer-hound, whom he had owned for
four years.

Suddenly the hound, Red Comyn, left his titled master, and plunged
head-foremost through the patrician crowd, and threw himself in wild
raptures on to a poor, miserable, tattered, travelling cobbler, who had
dared to creep in through the open gates and the happy crowds, hoping
for a broken crust. Red Comyn pounced on him, and caressed him, and laid
massive paws upon his shoulders, and gave him maddest welcome--this poor
hungry man, in the midst of that aristocratic festival.

The cobbler could scarcely speak awhile; but when he got his breath, his
arms were round the hound, and his eyes were wet with tears.

"Please pardon him, my lord," he said, all in a quiver and a tremble.
"He was mine once from the time he was pupped for a whole two year; and
he loved me, poor soul, and he ha'n't forgot. He don't know no better,
my lord--he's only a dog."

No; he didn't know any better than to remember, and be faithful, and to
recognise a friend, no matter in what woe or want. Ah, indeed, dogs are
far behind you!

For the credit of "the order," it may be added that Red Comyn and the
cobbler have parted no more, but dwell together still upon that young
lord's lands.

       *       *       *

Appearances are so and so, hence facts must be so and so likewise, is
Society's formula. This sounds mathematical and accurate; but as facts,
nine times out of ten, belie appearances, the logic is very false. There
is something, indeed, comically stupid in your satisfied belief in the
surface of any parliamentary or public facts that may be presented to
you, varnished out of all likeness to the truth by the suave periods of
writer or speaker. But there is something tragically stupid about your
dogged acceptation of any social construction of a private life, damned
out of all possibility of redemption by the flippant deductions of
chatter-box or of slanderer.

Now and then you poor humanities, who are always so dimly conscious that
you are all lies to one another, get a glimpse of various truths from
some cynical dead man's diary, or some statesman's secret papers. But
you never are warned: you placidly continue greedily to gobble up,
unexamined, the falsehoods of public men; and impudently to adjudicate
on the unrevealed secrets of private lives.

       *       *       *

You are given, very continually, to denouncing or lamenting the gradual
encroachment of mob-rule. But, alas! whose fault, pray, is it that
bill-discounters dwell as lords in ancient castles; that money-lenders
reign over old, time-honoured lands; that low-born hirelings dare to
address their master with a grin and sneer, strong in the knowledge of
his shameful secrets; and that the vile daughters of the populace are
throned in public places, made gorgeous with the jewels which, from the
heirlooms of a great patriciate, have fallen to be the gew-gaws of a
fashionable infamy?

Ah, believe me, an aristocracy is a feudal fortress which, though it has
merciless beleaguers in the Jacquerie of plebeian Envy, has yet no foe
so deadly as its own internal traitor of Lost Dignity!

       *       *       *

"But ye dunna get good wage?" said the miner, with practical wisdom.

"We doan't," confessed the East Anglian, "we doan't. And that theer
botherin' machinery as do the threshin', and the reapin', and the
sawin', and the mowin', hev a ruined us. See!--in old time, when ground
was frost-bit or water-soaked, the min threshed in-doors, in barns, and
kep in work so. But now the machine, he dew all theer is to dew, and dew
it up so quick. Theer's a many more min than theer be things to dew. In
winter-time measter he doan't want half o' us; and we're just out o'
labour; and we fall sick, cos o' naethin' to eat; and goes tew
parish--able-bodied min strong as steers."

"Machine's o' use i' mill-work," suggested one of the northerners.

"O' use! ay, o' coorse 'tis o' use--tew tha measters," growled the East
Anglian. "But if ye warn't needed at yer mill cos the iron beast was a
weavin' and a reelin' and a dewin' of it all, how'd yer feel? Wi' six
children, mebbe, biggest ony seven or eight, a crazin' ye for bread. And
ye mayn't send 'em out, cos o' labour-laws, to pick up a halfpenny for
theerselves; and tha passon be all agin yer, cos ye warn't thrifty and
didn't gev a penny for the forrin blacks out o' the six shillin' a week?
Would yer think iron beast wor o' use thin? or would yer damn him hard?"

       *       *       *

The poetic faculty--as you call the insight and the sympathy which feels
a divinity in all created things and a joy unutterable in the natural
beauty of the earth--is lacking in the generality of women,
notwithstanding their claims to the monopoly of emotion. If it be not,
how comes it that women have given you no great poet since the days of

It is women's deficiency in intellect, you will observe. Not a whit: it
is women's deficiency in sympathy.

The greatness of a poet lies in the universality of his sympathies. And
women are not sympathetic, because they are intensely self-centred.

       *       *       *

All living things seemed to draw closer together in the perils and
privations of the winter, as you men do in the frost of your frights or
your sorrows. In summer--as in prosperity--every one is for himself, and
is heedless of others because he needs nothing of them.

       *       *       *

It was covered, from the lowest of its stones to the top of its peaked
roof, with a gigantic rose-thorn.

"Sure the noblest shrub as ever God have made," would Ben say, looking
at its massive, cactus-like branches, with their red, waxen,
tender-coloured berries. The cottage was very old, and the rose-thorn
was the growth of centuries. Men's hands had never touched it. It had
stretched where it would, ungoverned, unhampered, unarrested. It had a
beautiful dusky glow about it always, from its peculiar thickness and
its blended hues; and in the chilly weather the little robin red-breasts
would come and flutter into it, and screen themselves in its shelter
from the cold, and make it rosier yet with the brightness of their
little ruddy throats.

"Tha Christ-birds do allus seem safest like i' tha Christ-bush," Ben
would say softly, breaking off the larger half of his portion of oaten
cake, to crumble for the robins with the dawn. I never knew what he
meant, though I saw he had some soft, grave, old-world story in his
thoughts, that made the rose-thorn and the red-breasts both sacred to

       *       *       *

"Ah, my dear, you little dream the ecstatic delight that exists in
Waste, for the vulgarity of a mind that has never enjoyed Possession,
till it comes to riot at one blow in Spoliation!"

"I do wish you would answer me plainly," I said, sulkily,

"Epigrams!" she added, sharply; "I daresay you do, my dear. Epigrams are
the salts of life; but they wither up the grasses of foolishness, and
naturally the grasses hate to be sprinkled therewith."

       *       *       *

We are ill appreciated, we cynics; on my honour if cynicism be not the
highest homage to Virtue there is, I should like to know what Virtue
wants. We sigh over her absence, and we glorify her perfections. But
Virtue is always a trifle stuck-up, you know, and she is very difficult
to please.

She is always looking uneasily out of the "tail of her eye" at her
opposition-leader Sin, and wondering why Sin dresses so well, and drinks
such very good wine. We "cynics" tell her that under Sin's fine clothes
there is a breast cancer-eaten, and at the bottom of the wine there is a
bitter dreg called satiety; but Virtue does not much heed that; like the
woman she is, she only notes that Sin drives a pair of ponies in the
sunshine, while she herself is often left to plod wearily through the
everlasting falling rain. So she dubs us "cynics" and leaves us--who can
wonder if we won't follow her through the rain? Sin smiles so merrily if
she makes us pay toll at the end; whereas Virtue--ah me, Virtue _will_
find such virtue in frowning!

       *       *       *

Women always put me in mind of that bird of yours, the cuckoo.

Your poetry and your platitudes have all combined to attach a most
sentimental value to cuckoos and women. All sorts of pretty phantasies
surround them both; the springtide of the year, the breath of early
flowers, the verse of old dead poets, the scent of sweet summer rains,
the light of bright dewy dawns--all these things you have mingled with
the thought of the cuckoo, till its first call through the woods in
April brings all these memories with it. Just so in like manner have you
entangled your poetic ideals, your dreams of peace and purity, all
divinities of patience and of pity, all sweet saintly sacrifice and
sorrow, with your ideas of women.

Well--cuckoos and women, believe me, are very much like each other, and
not at all like your phantasy:--to get a well-feathered nest without the
trouble of making it, and to keep easily in it themselves, no matter who
may turn out in the cold, is both cuckoo and woman all over; and, while
you quote Herrick and Wordsworth about them as you walk in the dewy
greenwood, they are busy slaying the poor lonely fledglings, that their
own young may lie snug and warm.

       *       *       *

"Then everybody is a hypocrite?"

"Not a bit, child. We always like what we haven't got; and people are
quite honest very often in their professions, though they give the lie
direct to them in their practice. People can talk themselves into
believing that they believe anything. When the preacher discourses on
the excellence of holiness, he may have been a thoroughgoing scamp all
his life; but it don't follow he's dishonest, because he's so accustomed
to talk goody-goody talk that it runs off his lips as the thread off a

"But he must know he's a scamp?"

"Good gracious me, why should he? I have met a thousand scamps; but I
never met one who considered himself so. Self-knowledge isn't so common.
Bless you, my dear, a man no more sees himself, as others see him, in a
moral looking-glass, than he does in a mirror out of his dressing-box. I
know a man who has forged bills, run off with his neighbour's wife, and
left sixty thousand pounds odd in debts behind him; but he only thinks
himself 'a victim of circumstances'--honestly thinks it too. A man never
is so honest as when he speaks well of himself. Men are always optimists
when they look inwards, and pessimists when they look round them."

I yawned a little; nothing is so pleasant, as I have known later, as to
display your worldly wisdom in epigram and dissertation, but it is a
trifle tedious to hear another person display theirs.

When you talk yourself, you think how witty, how original, how acute you
are; but when another does so, you are very apt to think only--What a
crib from Rochefoucauld!


Brussels has stones that are sermons, or rather that are quaint,
touching, illuminated legends of the middle ages, which those who run
may read.

Brussels is a gay little city that lies as bright within its girdle of
woodland as any butterfly that rests upon moss.

The city has its ways and wiles of Paris. It decks itself with white and
gold. It has music under its trees and soldiers in its streets, and
troops marching and counter-marching along its sunny avenues. It has
blue and pink, and yellow and green, on its awnings and on its
house-fronts. It has a merry open-air life on its pavements at little
marble tables before little gay-coloured cafés. It has gilded balconies
and tossing flags and comic operas, and leisurely pleasure-seekers, and
tries always to believe and make the world believe that it is Paris in
very truth.

But this is only the Brussels of the noblesse and the foreigners.

There is a Brussels that is better than this--a Brussels that belongs to
the old burgher-life, to the artists and the craftsmen, to the master
masons of Moyen-age, to the same spirit and soul that once filled the
free men of Ghent and the citizens of Bruges and the besieged of Leyden,
and the blood of Egmont and of Horne.

Down there by the water-side, where the old quaint walls lean over the
yellow sluggish stream, and the green barrels of the Antwerp barges
swing against the dusky piles of the crumbling bridges:

In the grey square desolate courts of the old palaces, where in
cobwebbed galleries and silent chambers the Flemish tapestries drop to

In the great populous square, where, above the clamorous and rushing
crowds, the majestic front of the Maison du Roi frowns against the sun,
and the spires and pinnacles of the Burgomaster's gathering-halls tower
into the sky in all the fantastic luxuriance of Gothic fancy:

Under the vast shadowy wings of angels in the stillness of the
cathedral, across whose sunny aisles some little child goes slowly all
alone, laden with lilies for the Feast of the Assumption, till their
white glory hides its curly head:

In all strange quaint old-world niches withdrawn from men in silent
grass-grown corners, where a twelfth-century corbel holds a pot of
roses, or a Gothic arch yawns beneath a wool-warehouse, or a water-spout
with a grinning faun's head laughs in the grim humour of the Moyen-age
above the bent head of a young lace-worker;----

In all these, Brussels, although more worldly than her sisters of Ghent
and Bruges, and far more worldly yet than her Teuton cousins of Freiburg
and Nürnberg, Brussels is in her own way still like some monkish story,
mixed up with the Romaunt of the Rose, or rather like some light French
vaudeville, all jests and smiles, illustrated in motley contrast with
helm and hauberk, cope and cowl, praying knights and fighting priests,
winged griffins and nimbused saints, flame-breathing dragons and
enamoured princes, all mingled together in the illuminated colours and
the heroical grotesque romance of the Middle Ages.

And it was this side of the city that Bébée knew, and she loved it well
and would not leave it for the market of the Madeleine.

       *       *       *

It was a warm grey evening, the streets were full; there were blossoms
in all the balconies, and gay colours in all the dresses. The old tinker
put his tools together and whispered to her--

"Bébée, as it is your feast-day, come and stroll in St. Hubert's
gallery, and I will buy you a horn of sugarplums or a ribbon, and we can
see the puppet-show afterwards, eh?"

But the children were waiting at home: she would not spend the evening
in the city; she only thought she would just kneel a moment in the
cathedral and say a little prayer or two for a minute--the saints were
so good in giving her so many friends.

There is something very touching in the Netherlander's relation with his
Deity. It is all very vague to him; a jumble of veneration and
familiarity, of sanctity and profanity, without any thought of being
familiar, or any idea of being profane.

There is a homely poetry, an innocent affectionateness, in it
characteristic of the people.

He talks to his good angel Michel, and to his friend that dear little
Jesus, much as he would talk to the shoemaker over the way, or the
cooper's child in the doorway.

It is a very unreasonable, foolish, clumsy sort of religion, this
theology in wooden shoes; it is half grotesque, half pathetic; the
grandmothers pass it on to the grandchildren, as they pass the bowl of
potatoes round the stove in the long winter nights; it is as silly as
possible, but it comforts them as they carry faggots over the frozen
canals or wear their eyes blind over the squares of lace; and it has in
it the supreme pathos of a perfect confidence, of an utter childlike and
undoubting trust.

This had been taught to Bébée, and she went to sleep every night in the
firm belief that the sixteen little angels of the Flemish prayer kept
watch and ward over her bed.

       *       *       *

She said her prayer, and thanked the saints for all their gifts and
goodness, her clasped hands against her silver shield; her basket on the
pavement by her; abovehead the sunset rays streaming purple and crimson
and golden through the painted windows that are the wonder of the world.

When her prayer was done she still kneeled there; her head thrown back
to watch the light; her hands clasped still; and on her upturned face
the look that made the people say, "What does she see?--the angels or
the dead?"

She forgot everything. She forgot the cherries at home, and the children
even. She was looking upward at the stories of the painted panes; she
was listening to the message of the dying sun-rays; she was feeling
vaguely, wistfully, unutterably the tender beauty of the sacred place
and the awful wonder of the world in which she with her sixteen years
was all alone, like a little blue cornflower amongst the wheat that goes
for grist, and the barley that makes men drunk.

For she was alone, though she had so many friends. Quite alone
sometimes, for God had been cruel to her, and had made her a lark
without song.

       *       *       *

He went leisurely, travelling up the bright Meuse river, and across the
monotony of the plains, then green with wheat a foot high, and musical
with the many bells of the Easter kermesses in the quaint old-world

There was something so novel, so sleepy, so harmless, so mediæval, in
the Flemish life, that it soothed him. He had been swimming all his life
in salt, sea-fed rapids; this sluggish, dull canal-water, mirroring
between its rushes a life that had scarcely changed for centuries, had a
charm for him.

He stayed awhile in Antwerpen. The town is ugly and beautiful; it is
like a dull, quaint, grès de Flandre jug, that has precious stones set
inside its rim. It is a burgher ledger of bales and barrels, of sale and
barter, of loss and gain; but in the heart of it there are illuminated
leaves of missal vellum, all gold and colour, and monkish story and
heroic ballad, that could only have been executed in the days when Art
was a religion.

       *       *       *

"Oh--to-morrow perhaps, or next year--or when Fate fancies.

"Or rather--when I choose," he thought to himself, and let his eyes rest
with a certain pleasure on the little feet that went beside him in the
grass, and the pretty neck that showed ever and again, as the frills of
her linen bodice were blown back by the wind, and her own quick motion.

Bébée looked also up at him; he was very handsome, or seemed so to her,
after the broad, blunt, characterless faces of the Brabantois around
her. He walked with an easy grace, he was clad in picture-like velvets,
he had a beautiful poetic head, and eyes like deep-brown waters, and a
face like one of Jordaens' or Rembrandt's cavaliers in the galleries
where she used to steal in of a Sunday, and look up at the paintings,
and dream of what that world could be in which those people had lived.

"_You_ are of the people of Rubes' country, are you not?" she asked him.

"Of what country, my dear?"

"Of the people that live in the gold frames," said Bébée, quite
seriously. "In the galleries, you know. I know a charwoman that scrubs
the floors of the Arenenberg, and she lets me in sometimes to look--and
you are just like those great gentlemen in the gold frames, only you
have not a hawk and a sword, and they always have. I used to wonder
where they came from, for they are not like any of us one bit, and the
charwoman--she is Lisa Dredel, and lives in the street of the Pot
d'Etain--always said, 'Dear heart, they all belong to Rubes' land--we
never see their like now-a-days.' But _you_ must come out of Rubes'
land--at least, I think so; do you not?"

He caught her meaning; he knew that Rubes was the homely abbreviation of
Rubens, that all the Netherlanders used, and he guessed the idea that
was reality to this little, lonely, fanciful mind.

"Perhaps I do," he answered her with a smile, for it was not worth his
while to disabuse her thoughts of any imagination that glorified him to
her. "Do you not want to see Rubes' world, little one? To see the gold
and the grandeur, and the glitter of it all?--never to toil or get
tired?--always to move in a pageant?--always to live like the hawks in
the paintings you talk of, with silver bells hung round you, and a hood
all sewn with pearls?"

"No," said Bébée, simply. "I should like to see it--just to see it, as
one looks through a grating into the king's grapehouses here. But I
should not like to live in it. I love my hut, and the starling, and the
chickens--and what would the garden do without me?--and the children,
and the old Annémie? I could not anyhow, anywhere be any happier than I
am. There is only one thing I wish."

"And what is that?"

"To know something. Not to be so ignorant. Just look--I can read a
little, it is true; my hours, and the letters, and when Krebs brings in
a newspaper I can read a little of it--not much. I know French well,
because Antoine was French himself, and never did talk Flemish to me;
and they, being Flemish, cannot, of course, read the newspapers at all,
and so think it very wonderful indeed in me. But what I want is to know
things, to know all about what _was_ before ever I was living. Ste.
Gudule now--they say it was built hundreds of years before; and Rubes
again--they say he was a painter-king in Antwerpen before the oldest
woman like Annémie ever began to count time. I am sure books tell you
all those things, because I see the students coming and going with them;
and when I saw once the millions of books in the Rue de la Musée, I
asked the keeper what use they were for, and he said, 'to make men wise,
my dear.' But Bac the cobbler, who was with me,--it was a fête day--Bac,
_he_ said, 'Do you not believe that, Bébée? they only muddle folk's
brains; for one book tells them one thing, and another book another, and
so on, till they are dazed with all the contrary lying; and if you see a
bookish man, be sure you see a very poor creature who could not hoe a
patch, or kill a pig, or stitch an upper-leather, were it ever so.' But
I do not believe that Bac said right. Did he?"

"I am not sure. On the whole, I think it is the truest remark on
literature I have ever heard, and one that shows great judgment in Bac.

"Well--sometimes, you know," said Bébée, not understanding his answer,
but pursuing her thoughts confidentially; "sometimes I talk like this to
the neighbours, and they laugh at me. Because Mère Krebs says that when
one knows how to spin, and sweep, and make bread, and say one's prayers,
and milk a goat or a cow, it is all a woman wants to know this side of
heaven. But for me, I cannot help it--when I look at those windows in
the cathedral, or at those beautiful twisted little spires that are all
over our Hôtel de Ville, I want to know who the men were that made
them--what they did and thought--how they looked and spoke--how they
learned to shape stone into leaves and grasses like that--how they could
imagine all those angel faces on the glass. When I go alone in the quite
early morning or at night when it is still--sometimes in winter I have
to stay till it is dark over the lace--I hear their feet come after me,
and they whisper to me close, 'Look what beautiful things we have done,
Bébée, and you all forget us quite. We did what never will die, but our
names are as dead as the stones.' And then I am so sorry for them and
ashamed. And I want to know more. Can you tell me?"

He looked at her earnestly; her eyes were shining, her cheeks were warm,
her little mouth was tremulous with eagerness.

"Did any one ever speak to you in that way?" he asked her.

"No," she answered him. "It comes into my head of itself. Sometimes I
think the cathedral angels put it there. For the angels must be tired,
you know; always pointing to God and always seeing men turn away. I used
to tell Antoine sometimes. But he used to shake his head and say that it
was no use thinking; most likely Ste. Gudule and St. Michael had set the
church down in the night all ready made--why not? God made the trees,
and they were more wonderful, he thought, for his part. And so perhaps
they are, but that is no answer. And I do _want_ to know. I want some
one who will tell me,--and if you come out of Rubes' country as I think,
no doubt you know everything, or remember it?"

He smiled.

       *       *       *

The Sun came and touched the lichens of the roof into gold.

Bébée smiled at it gaily as it rose above the tops of the trees, and
shone on all the little villages scattered over the plains.

"Ah, dear Sun!" she cried to it. "I am going to be wise. I am going into
great Rubes' country. I am going to hear of the Past and the Future. I
am going to listen to what the Poets say. The swallows never would tell
me anything; but now I shall know as much as they know. Are you not glad
for me, O Sun?"

The Sun came over the trees, and heard and said nothing. If he had
answered at all he must have said:--

"The only time when a human soul is either wise or happy, is in that one
single moment when the hour of my own shining or of the moon's beaming
seems to that single soul to be past and present and future, to be at
once the creation and the end of all things. Faust knew that; so will

But the Sun shone on and held his peace. He sees all things ripen and
fall. He can wait. He knows the end. It is always the same.

He brings the fruit out of the peach-flower, and rounds it and touches
it into ruddiest rose and softest gold; but the sun knows well that the
peach must drop--whether into the basket to be eaten by kings, or on to
the turf to be eaten by ants. What matter which very much after all?

The Sun is not a cynic; he is only wise because he is Life and He is
death, the creator and the corrupter of all things.

       *       *       *

"And where are you going so fast, as if those wooden shoes of yours were
sandals of mercury?"

"Mercury--is that a shoemaker?"

"No, my dear. He did a terrible bit of cobbling once, when he made
Woman. But he did not shoe her feet with swiftness that I know of; she
only runs away to be run after, and if you do not pursue her, she comes

Bébée did not understand at all.

"I thought God made women?" she said, a little awe-stricken.

       *       *       *

There is a dignity of peasants as well as of kings--the dignity that
comes from all absence of effort, all freedom from pretence. Bébée had
this, and she had more still than this: she had the absolute simplicity
of childhood with her still.

Some women have it still when they are fourscore.

       *       *       *

Prosper Bar, who is a Calvinist, always says, "Do not mix up prayer and
play; you would not cut a gherkin in your honey;" but I do not know why
he called prayer a gherkin, because it is sweet enough--sweeter than
anything, I think.

       *       *       *

There is not much change in the great Soignies woods. They are aisles on
aisles of beautiful green trees, crossing and recrossing; tunnels of
dark foliage that look endless; long avenues of beech, of oak, of elm,
or of fir, with the bracken and the brushwood growing dense between; a
delicious forest growth everywhere, shady even at noon, and, by a little
past midday, dusky as evening; with the forest fragrance, sweet and
dewy, all about, and under the fern the stirring of wild game, and the
white gleam of little rabbits, and the sound of the wings of birds.

Soignies is not legend-haunted like the Black Forest, nor king-haunted
like Fontainebleau, nor sovereign of two historic streams like the brave
woods of Heidelberg; nor wild and romantic, and broken with black rocks,
and poetised by the shade of Jaques, and swept through by a perfect
river, like its neighbours of Ardennes; nor throned aloft on mighty
mountains like the majestic oak glades of the Swabian hills of the

Soignies is only a Flemish forest in a plain, throwing its shadow over
corn-fields and cattle-pastures, with no panorama beyond it and no
wonders in its depth. But it is a fresh, bold, beautiful forest for all

It has only green leaves to give--green leaves always, league after
league; but there is about it that vague mystery which all forests have,
and this universe of leaves seems boundless, and Pan might dwell in it,
and St. Hubert, and John Keats.

       *       *       *

"I am going to learn to be very wise, dear," she told them; "I shall not
have time to dance or to play."

"But people are not merry when they are wise, Bébée," said Franz, the
biggest boy.

"Perhaps not," said Bébée; "but one cannot be everything, you know,

"But surely you would rather be merry than anything else?"

"I think there is something better, Franz. I am not sure; I want to find
out; I will tell you when I know."

"Who has put that into your head, Bébée?"

"The angels in the Cathedral," she told them, and the children were awed
and left her, and went away to play blindman's buff by themselves on the
grass by the swan's water.

"But for all that the angels have said it," said Franz to his sisters,
"I cannot see what good it will be to her to be wise, if she will not
care any longer afterwards for almond gingerbread and currant cake."

       *       *       *

To vice, innocence must always seem only a superior kind of chicanery.

       *       *       *

"Ay dear; when the frost kills your brave rosebush, root and bud, do you
think of the thorns that pricked you, or only of the fair sweet-smelling
things that flowered all your summer?"

       *       *       *

Flowers belong to fairyland; the flowers and the birds, and the
butterflies are all that the world has kept of its golden age; the only
perfectly beautiful things on earth, joyous, innocent, half divine,
useless, say they who are wiser than God.

       *       *       *

When the day was done, Bébée gave a quick sigh as she looked across the
square. She had so wanted to tell him that she was not ungrateful, and
she had a little moss-rose ready, with a sprig of sweetbriar, and a tiny
spray of maiden-hair fern that grew under the willows, which she had
kept covered up with a leaf of sycamore all the day long.

No one would have it now.

The child went out of the place sadly, as the carillon rang. There was
only the moss-rose in her basket, and the red and white currants that
had been given her for her dinner.

She went along the twisting, many-coloured, quaintly-fashioned streets,
till she came to the water-side.

It is very ancient, there still; there are all manner of old buildings,
black and brown and grey, peaked roofs, gabled windows, arched doors,
crumbling bridges, twisted galleries leaning to touch the dark surface
of the canal, dusky wharves crowded with barrels, and bales, and cattle,
and timber, and all the various freightage that the good ships come and
go with all the year round, to and from the Zuyder Zee, and the Baltic
water, and the wild Northumbrian shores, and the iron-bound Scottish
headlands, and the pretty grey Norman seaports, and the white sandy
dunes of Holland, with the toy towns and the straight poplar-trees.

Bébée was fond of watching the brigs and barges, that looked so big to
her, with their national flags flying, and their tall masts standing
thick as grass, and their tawny sails flapping in the wind, and about
them the sweet, strong smell of that strange, unknown thing, the sea.

Sometimes the sailors would talk with her; sometimes some old salt,
sitting astride of a cask, would tell her a mariner's tale of far-away
lands and mysteries of the deep; sometimes some curly-headed cabin-boy
would give her a shell or a plume of seaweed, and try and make her
understand what the wonderful wild water was like, which was not quiet
and sluggish and dusky as this canal was, but was for ever changing and
moving, and curling and leaping, and making itself now blue as her eyes,
now black as that thunder-cloud, now white as the snow that the winter
wind tossed, now pearl-hued and opaline as the convolvulus that blew in
her own garden.

And Bébée would listen, with the shell in her lap, and try to
understand, and gaze at the ships and then at the sky beyond them, and
try to figure to herself those strange countries, to which these ships
were always going, and saw in fancy all the blossoming orchard province
of green France, and all the fir-clothed hills and rushing rivers of the
snow-locked Swedish shore, and saw too, doubtless, many lands that had
no place at all except in dreamland, and were more beautiful even than
the beauty of the earth, as poets' countries are, to their own sorrow,

But this dull day Bébée did not go down upon the wharf; she did not want
the sailor's tales; she saw the masts and the bits of bunting that
streamed from them, and they made her restless, which they had never
done before. Instead she went in at a dark old door and climbed up a
steep staircase that went up and up and up, as though she were mounting
Ste. Gudule's belfry towers; and at the top of it entered a little
chamber in the roof, where one square unglazed hole that served for
light looked out upon the canal, with all its crowded craft, from the
dainty schooner yacht, fresh as gilding and holystone could make her,
that was running for pleasure to the Scheldt, to the rude, clumsy
coal-barge, black as night, that bore the rough diamonds of Belgium to
the snow-buried roofs of Christiania and Stromsöon.

In the little dark attic there was a very old woman in a red petticoat
and a high cap, who sat against the window, and pricked out lace
patterns with a pin on thick paper. She was eighty-five years old, and
could hardly keep body and soul together.

Bébée, running to her, kissed her.

"O mother Annémie, look here! Beautiful red and white currants, and a
roll; I saved them for you. They are the first currants we have seen
this year. Me? oh, for me, I have eaten more than are good! You know I
pick fruit like a sparrow, always. Dear mother Annémie, are you better?
Are you quite sure you are better to-day?"

The little old withered woman, brown as a walnut and meagre as a rush,
took the currants, and smiled with a childish glee, and began to eat
them, blessing the child with each crumb she broke off the bread.

"Why had you not a grandmother of your own, my little one?" she mumbled.
"How good you would have been to her, Bébée?"

"Yes," said Bébée seriously, but her mind could not grasp the idea. It
was easier for her to believe the fanciful lily-parentage of Antoine's
stories. "How much work have you done, Annémie? Oh, all that? all that?
But there is enough for a week. You work too early and too late, you
dear Annémie."

"Nay, Bébée, when one has to get one's bread, that cannot be. But I am
afraid my eyes are failing. That rose now, is it well done?"

"Beautifully done. Would the Baës take them if they were not? You know
he is one that cuts every centime in four pieces."

"Ah! sharp enough, sharp enough--that is true. But I am always afraid of
my eyes. I do not see the flags out there so well as I used to do."

"Because the sun is so bright, Annémie; that is all. I myself, when I
have been sitting all day in the Place in the light, the flowers look
pale to me. And you know it is not age with _me_, Annémie?"

The old woman and the young girl laughed together at that droll idea.

"You have a merry heart, dear little one," said old Annémie. "The saints
keep it to you always."

"May I tidy the room a little?"

"To be sure, dear, and thank you too. I have not much time, you see; and
somehow my back aches badly when I stoop."

"And it is so damp here for you, over all that water!" said Bébée, as
she swept and dusted and set to rights the tiny place, and put in a
little broken pot a few sprays of honeysuckle and rosemary that she had
brought with her. "It is so damp here. You should have come and lived in
my hut with me, Annémie, and sat out under the vine all day, and looked
after the chickens for me when I was in the town. They are such
mischievous little souls; as soon as my back is turned one or other is
sure to push through the roof, and get out amongst the flower-beds. Will
you never change your mind, and live with me, Annémie? I am sure you
would be happy, and the starling says your name quite plain, and he is
such a funny bird to talk to; you never would tire of him. Will you
never come? It is so bright there, and green and sweet-smelling, and to
think you never even have seen it!--and the swans and all,--it is a

"No, dear," said old Annémie, eating her last bunch of currants. "You
have said so so often, and you are good and mean it, that I know. But I
could not leave the water. It would kill me.

"Out of this window you know I saw my Jeannot's brig go
away--away--away--till the masts were lost in the mists. Going with iron
to Norway; the Fleur d'Epine of this town, a good ship, and a sure, and
he her mate; and as proud as might be, and with a little blest Mary in
lead round his throat.

"She was to be back in port in eight months bringing timber. Eight
months--that brought Easter time.

"But she never came. Never, never, never, you know.

"I sat here watching them come and go, and my child sickened and died,
and the summer passed, and the autumn, and all the while I
looked--looked--looked; for the brigs are all much alike; only his I
always saw as soon as she hove in sight because he tied a hank of flax
to her mizzen mast; and when he was home safe and sound I spun the hank
into hose for him; that was a fancy of his, and for eleven voyages, one
on another, he had never missed to tie the flax nor I to spin the hose.

"But the hank of flax I never saw this time; nor the brave brig; nor my
good man with his sunny blue eyes.

"Only one day in winter, when the great blocks of ice were smashing
hither and thither, a coaster came in and brought tidings of how off in
the Danish waters they had come on a waterlogged brig, and had boarded
her, and had found her empty, and her hull riven in two, and her crew
all drowned and dead beyond any manner of doubt. And on her stern there
was her name painted white, the Fleur d'Epine, of Brussels, as plain as
name could be; and that was all we ever knew--what evil had struck her,
or how they had perished, nobody ever told.

"Only the coaster brought that bit of beam away, with the Fleur d'Epine
writ clear upon it.

"But you see I never _know_ my man is dead.

"Any day--who can say?--any of those ships may bring him aboard of her,
and he may leap out on the wharf there, and come running up the stairs
as he used to do, and cry, in his merry voice, 'Annémie, Annémie, here
is more flax to spin, here is more hose to weave!' For that was always
his homeward word; no matter whether he had had fair weather or foul, he
always knotted the flax to his mast-head.

"So you see, dear, I could not leave here. For what if he came and found
me away? He would say it was an odd fashion of mourning for him.

"And I could not do without the window, you know. I can watch all the
brigs come in; and I can smell the shipping smell that I have loved all
the days of my life; and I can see the lads heaving, and climbing, and
furling, and mending their bits of canvas, and hauling their flags up
and down.

"And then who can say?--the sea never took him, I think--I think I shall
hear his voice before I die.

"For they do say that God is good."

Bébée sweeping very noiselessly, listened, and her eyes grew wistful and
wondering. She had heard the story a thousand times; always in different
words, but always the same little tale, and she knew how old Annémie was
deaf to all the bells that tolled the time, and blind to all the
whiteness of her hair, and all the wrinkles of her face, and only
thought of her sea-slain lover as he had been in the days of her youth.

       *       *       *

When we suffer very much ourselves, anything that smiles in the sun
seems cruel--a child, a bird, a dragonfly--nay, even a fluttering
ribbon, or a spear-grass that waves in the wind.

       *       *       *

Bébée, whose religion was the sweetest and vaguest mingling of Pagan and
Christian myths, and whose faith in fairies and in saints was exactly
equal in strength and in ignorance--Bébée filled the delf pot anew
carefully, then knelt down on the turf in that little green corner, and
prayed in devout hopeful childish good faith to the awful unknown Powers
who were to her only as gentle guides and kindly playmates.

Was she too familiar with the Holy Mother?

She was almost fearful that she was; but then the Holy Mother loved
flowers so well, Bébée could not feel aloof from her, nor be afraid.

"When one cuts the best blossoms for her, and tries to be good, and
never tells a lie," thought Bébée, "I am quite sure, as she loves the
lilies, that she will never altogether forget me."

       *       *       *

The loveliest love is that which dreams high above all storms, unsoiled
by all burdens; but, perhaps, the strongest love is that which, whilst
it adores, drags its feet through mire, and burns its brow in heat for
the thing beloved.

       *       *       *

It is, perhaps, the most beautiful square in all Northern Europe, with
its black timbers and gilded carvings, and blazoned windows, and
majestic scutcheons, and fantastic pinnacles. This Bébée did not know,
but she loved it, and she sat resolutely in front of the Broodhuis,
selling her flowers, smiling, chatting, helping the old woman, counting
her little gains, eating her bit of bread at noon-day like any other
market girl; but, at times, glancing up to the stately towers and the
blue sky, with a look on her face that made the old tinker and cobbler
whisper together--"What does she see there?--the dead people or the

The truth was that even Bébée herself did not know very surely what she
saw--something that was still nearer to her than even this kindly crowd
that loved her. That was all she could have said had anybody asked her.

But none did.

No one wanted to hear what the dead said; and for the angels, the tinker
and the cobbler were of opinion that one had only too much of them
sculptured about everywhere, and shining on all the casements--in
reverence be it spoken of course.


"There is no soul in them," he muttered, and he set down his lamp and
frowned; a sullen mechanical art made him angered like an insult to
heaven; and these were soulless; their drawing was fine, their anatomy
faultless, their proportions and perspective excellent; but there all
merit ended. They were worse than faulty--they were commonplace. There
is no sin in Art so deadly as that.

       *       *       *

He had been only a poor lad, a coppersmith's son, here in Munich; one
among many, and beaten and cursed at home very often for mooning over
folly when others were hard at work. But he had minded neither curse nor
blow. He had always said to himself, "I am a painter." Whilst camps were
soaked with blood and echoing only the trumpets of war, he had only seen
the sweet divine smile of Art. He had gone barefoot to Italy for love of
it, and had studied, and laboured, and worshipped, and been full of the
fever of great effort and content with the sublime peace of conscious
power. He had believed in himself: it is much. But it is not all. As
years had slid away and the world of men would not believe in him, this
noble faith in himself grew a weary and bitter thing. One shadow climbed
the hills of the long years with him and was always by his side: this
constant companion was Failure.

Fame is very capricious, but Failure is seldom inconstant. Where it once
clings, there it tarries.

       *       *       *

It was a brilliant and gay day in Munich. It was the beginning of a
Bavarian summer, with the great plain like a sea of grass with flowers
for its foam, and the distant Alps of Tyrol and Vorarlberg clearly seen
in warm, transparent, buoyant weather.

Down by the winding ways of the river there were birch and beechen
thickets in glory of leaf; big water-lilies spread their white beauty
against the old black timbers of the water-mills; and in the quaint,
ancient places of the old streets, under the gables and beams, pots of
basil, and strings of green pease, and baskets of sweet-smelling
gillyflowers and other fragrant old-fashioned things, blossomed wherever
there was a breadth of blue sky over them or a maiden's hand within;
whilst above the towers and steeples, above the clanging bells of the
Domkirche and the melon-shaped crest of the Frauenkirche, and all the
cupolas and spires and minarets in which the city abounds, the pigeons
went whirling and wheeling from five at sunrise to seven of sunset,
flocks of grey and blue and black and white, happy as only birds can be,
and as only birds can be when they are doves of Venice or of Munich,
with all the city's hearths and homes for their granaries, and with the
sun and the clouds for their royal estate.

In the wide, dull new town it was dusty and hot; the big squares were
empty and garish-looking; the blistering frescoes on the buildings were
gaudy and out of place; the porticoes and friezes were naked and
staring, and wanted all that belongs to them in Italy. All the deep,
intense shadows, the sultry air, the sense of immeasurable space and of
unending light, the half-naked figures graceful as a plume of maize, the
vast projecting roofs, the spouts of tossing water, the brown barefoot
straw-plaiter passing in a broad path of sunshine, the old bronze lamp
above the painted shrine, the gateway framing the ethereal landscape of
amethystine horizons and silvery olive ways--they want all these, do
these classic porticoes and pediments of Italy, and they seem to stare,
conscious of a discordance and a lack of harmony in the German air. But
in the old town there is beauty still; in the timbered house-fronts, in
the barred and sculptured casements, in the mighty gables, in the gilded
and pictured signs, in the sunburnt walls, in the grey churches, in the
furriers' stalls, in the toysellers' workshops, in the beetling
fortresses, in the picturesque waysides, here is the old Munich of the
Minnesingers and master masons, of the burghers and the _burschen_, of
the Schefflertanz, and of the merry Christchild Fair. And old Munich
keeps all to itself, whether with winter snow on its eaves, or summer
leaves in its lattices; and here the maidens still wear coloured
kerchiefs on their heads and clattering shoes on their feet; and here
the students still look like etchings for old ballads, with long hair on
their shoulders and grey cloaks worn jauntily; and here something of the
odour and aspect of the Middle Ages lingers as about an illuminated roll
of vellum that has lain long put away and forgotten in a desk, with
faded rose-leaves and a miniature that has no name.

The Munich of builder-king Ludwig is grand, no doubt, and tedious and
utterly out of place, with mountains of marble and granite, and acres of
canvas more or less divine, and vast straight streets that make one weep
from weariness, and frescoed walls with nude women that seem to shiver
in the bitter Alpine winds; it is great, no doubt, but ponderously
unlovely, like the bronze Bavaria that looks over the plain, who can
hold six men in her head, but can never get fire in her eyes nor
meaning in her mouth--clumsy Athenæ-Artemis that she is.

New Munich, striving to be Athens or Rome, is monotonous and tiresome,
but old Munich is quaint and humble, and historical and romancical, with
its wooden pavements under foot, and its clouds of doves above head;
indeed, has so much beauty of its own, like any old painted Missal or
golden goblet of the _moyen âge_, that it seems incredible to think that
any man could ever have had the heart to send the hammers of masons
against it, and set up bald walls of plaster in its stead. Wandering in
old Munich--there is not much of it left, alas!--is like reading a
black-letter ballad about Henry the Lion or Kaiser Max; it has sombre
nooks and corners, bright gleams of stained casements, bold oriels, and
sculptured shields, arcades and arches, towers and turrets, light and
shade, harmony and irregularity, all, in a word, that old cities have,
and old Teutonic cities beyond all others; and when the Metzgersprung is
in full riot round the Marienplatz, or on Corpus Christi day, when the
King and the Court and the Church, the guilds and the senate and the
magistracy, all go humbly through the flower-strewn streets, it is easy
to forget the present and to think that one is still in the old days
with the monks, who gave their name to it, tranquil in their work-rooms
and the sound of battle all over the lands around them.

It was the Corpus Christi day in Munich now, and the whole city, the new
and the old, had hung itself with garlands and draperies, with pictures
and evergreens, with flags and tapestries, and the grand procession had
passed to and from the church, and the archbishop had blessed the
people, and the king had bared his handsome head to the sun and the Holy
Ghost, and it was all over for the year, and the people were all happy
and satisfied and sure that God was with them and their town; especially
the people of the old quarters, who most loved and clung to these
ceremonials and feasts; good God-fearing families, labouring hard,
living honestly and wholesomely, gay also in a quiet, mirthful, innocent
fashion--much such people as their forefathers were before them, in days
when Gustavus Adolphus called their city the golden saddle on the lean

The lean horse, by which he meant the sterile plains, which yield little
except hay, looks rich with verdure in the mellow afternoon light, when
midsummer is come, and the whole populace, men, women, and children, on
Sundays and feast-days pour out of the city gates eagerly to their own
little festivities under the cherry-trees of the little blue and white
coffee-houses along the course of the river, when the beanflowers are in
bloom. For out of the old city you go easily beyond the walls to the
grey glacier water of "Isar rolling rapidly," not red with blood now as
after Hohenlinden, but brilliant and boisterous always, with washerwomen
leaning over it with bare arms, and dogs wading where rushes and dams
break the current, and the hay blowing breast-high along the banks, and
the students chasing the girls through it, and every now and then upon
the wind the music of a guitar, light and dancing, or sad and slow,
according as goes the heart of the player that tunes it. At this season
Bavaria grows green, and all is fresh and radiant. Outside the town all
the country is a sheet of cherry-blossom and of clover. Night and day,
carts full of merrymakers rattle out under the alders to the dancing
places amongst the pastures, or to the _Sommerfrischen_ of their country
friends. Whoever has a kreuzer to spend will have a draft of beer and a
whiff of the lilac-scented air, and the old will sit down and smoke
their painted pipes under the eaves of their favourite _Gasthof_, and
the young will roam with their best-loved maidens through the shadows of
the Anlagen, or still farther on under the high beech-trees of


The ear has its ecstasy as have other senses.

       *       *       *

As there is love without dominion, so there is dominion without love.

       *       *       *

When Fame stands by us all alone, she is an angel clad in light and
strength; but when Love touches her she drops her sword, and fades away,
ghostlike and ashamed.

       *       *       *

Society only thought her--unamiable. True, she never said an unkind
thing, or did one; she never hurt man or woman; she was generous to a
fault; and to aid even people she despised would give herself trouble
unending. But these are serious, simple qualities which do not show
much, and are soon forgotten by those who benefit from them. Had she
laughed more, danced more, taken more kindly to the fools and their
follies, she might have been acid of tongue and niggard of sympathy; the
world would have thought her much more amiable.

       *       *       *

"If she would only listen to me!" thought her mother, in the superior
wisdom of her popular little life. "If she would only kiss a few women
in the morning, and flirt with a few men in the evening, it would set
her all right with them in a month. It is no use doing good to anybody;
they only hate you for it. You have seen them in their straits; it is
like seeing them without their wig or their teeth; they never forgive
it. But to be pleasant, always to be pleasant, that is the thing. And
after all it costs nothing."

       *       *       *

Marriage, as our world sees it, is simply a convenience; a somewhat
clumsy contrivance to tide over a social difficulty.

       *       *       *

A sin! did the world know of such a thing? Hardly. Now and then, for
sake of its traditions, the world took some hapless boy, or some still
yet unhappier woman, and pilloried one of them, and drove them out under
a shower of stones, selecting them by caprice, persecuting them without
justice, slaying them because they were friendless. But that was all.
For the most part sin was an obsolete thing, archaic and unheard of.

       *       *       *

Music is not a science, any more than poetry is. It is a sublime
instinct, like genius of all kinds.

       *       *       *

Charity in various guises is an intruder the poor see often; but
courtesy and delicacy are visitors with which they are seldom honoured.

       *       *       *

There is no shame more bitter to endure than to despise oneself. It is
harder to keep true to high laws and pure instincts in modern society
than it was in the days of martyrdom.

       *       *       *

One weeps for the death of children, but perhaps the change of them into
callous men and women is a sadder change to see after all.

       *       *       *

Honour is an old-world thing, but it smells sweet to those in whose hand
it is strong.

       *       *       *

Young lives are tossed upon the stream of life like rose-leaves on a
fast-running river, and the rose-leaves are blamed if the river be too
strong and too swift for them and they perish. It is the fault of the

       *       *       *

Every pretty woman should be a flirt, every clever woman a politician;
the aim, the animus, the intrigue, the rivalry which accompany each of
these pursuits make the salt without which the great dinner were

       *       *       *

In these old Austrian towns the churches are always very reverent
places; dark and tranquil; overladen, indeed, with ornament and image,
but too full of shadow for these to much offend; there is the scent of
centuries of incense; the walls are yellow with the damp of ages.
Mountain suzerains and bold reiters, whose deeds are still sung of in
twilight to the zither, deep beneath the moss-grown pavement; their
shields and crowns are worn flat to the stone they were embossed on by
the passing feet of generations of worshippers. High above in the
darkness there is always some colossal carved Christs. Through the
half-opened iron-studded door there is always the smell of pinewood, the
gleam of water, the greenness of Alpine grass; often, too, there is the
silvery falling of rain, and the fresh smell of it comes through the
church by whose black benches and dim lamps there will be sure to be
some old bent woman praying.

       *       *       *

The moths will eat all that fine delicate feeling away, little by
little; the moths of the world will eat the unselfishness first, and
then the innocence, and then the honesty, and then the decency; no one
will see them eating, no one will see the havoc being wrought, but
little by little the fine fabric will go, and in its place will be dust.
Ah, the pity of it! The pity of it! The webs come out of the great
weaver's loom lovely enough, but the moths of the world eat them all.

       *       *       *

She had five hundred dear friends, but this one she was really fond of;
that is to say, she never said anything bad of her, and only laughed at
her good-naturedly when she had left a room; and this abstinence is as
strong a mark of sincerity now-a-days as dying for another used to be in
the old days of strong feeling and the foolish expression of them.

       *       *       *

Gratitude is such an unpleasant quality, you know; there is always a
grudge behind it!

       *       *       *

The richest soil always bears the rankest mushrooms: France is always
bearing mushrooms.

       *       *       *

Position, she thought, was the only thing that, like old wine or oak
furniture, improved with years.

       *       *       *

Position is a pillory: sometimes they pelt one with rose-leaves, and
sometimes with rotten eggs, but one is for ever in the pillory!

       *       *       *

We are too afraid of death: that fear is the shame of Christianity.

       *       *       *

He never could prevail on his vanity to break with her, lest men should
think she had broken with him.

       *       *       *

She would go grandly to the guillotine, but she will never understand
her own times. She has dignity; we have not a scrap; we have forgotten
what it was like; we go into a passion at the amount of our bills; we
play and never pay; we smoke and we wrangle; we laugh loud, much too
loud; we inspire nothing unless, now and then, a bad war or a disastrous
speculation; we live showily, noisily, meanly, gaudily.

       *       *       *

Big brains do not easily hold trifles ... little packets of starch that
this world thinks are the staff of life.

       *       *       *

Pehl, like a young girl, is prettiest in the morning. Pehl is calm and
sedate, and simple and decorous. Pehl is like some tender, fair,
wholesome yet patrician beauty, like the pretty aristocratic Charlotte
in Kaulbach's picture, who cuts the bread-and-butter, yet looks a
patrician. Pehl has nothing of the _belle petite_, like her sister of
Baden; nothing of the titled _cocadetta_, like her cousin of Monaco;
Pehl does not gamble or riot or conduct herself madly in any way; she is
a little old-fashioned still in a courtly way; she has a little
rusticity still in her elegant manners; she is like the noble dames of
the past ages, who were so high of rank and so proud of habit, yet were
not above the distilling-room and the spinning-wheel; who were quiet,
serious, sweet, and smelt of the rose-leaves with which they filled
their big jars.

       *       *       *

The pity of modern Society is that all its habits make as effectual a
disguise morally as our domino in carnival does physically. Everybody
looks just like everybody else. Perhaps, as under the domino, so under
the appearance, there may be great nobility or great deformity; but all
look alike. Were Socrates amongst us, he would only look like a club
bore; and were there Messalina, she would only look--well--look much
like our Duchesse Jeunne!

       *       *       *

She did not know that from these swamps of flattery, intrigue, envy,
rivalry, and emulation there rises a miasma which scarcely the
healthiest lungs can withstand. She did not know that though many may be
indifferent to the tempting of men, few indeed are impenetrable to the
smile and the sneer of women; that to live your own life in the midst of
the world is a harder thing than it was of old to withdraw to the
Thebaid; that to risk "looking strange" requires a courage perhaps
cooler and higher than the soldier's or the saint's; and that to stand
away from the contact and custom of your "set" is a harder and sterner
work than it was of old to go into the sanctuary of La Trappe or Port

       *       *       *

The world has grown apathetic and purblind. Critics rage and quarrel
before a canvas, but the nations do not care; quarries of marble are
hewn into various shapes, and the throngs gape before them and are
indifferent; writers are so many that their writings blend in the public
mind in a confused phantasmagoria, where the colours run into one
another, and the lines are all waved and indistinct; the singer alone
still keeps the old magic power, "The beauty that was Athens, once the
glory that was Rome's," still holds the divine Cadmus, still sways the
vast thronged auditorium, till the myriads hold their breath like little
children in delight and awe. The great singer alone has the magic sway
of fame; and if he close his lips, "The gaiety of nations is eclipsed,"
and the world seems empty and silent, like a wood in which the birds are
all dead.


The Duc found no topic that suited her. It was the Corso di Gala that
afternoon, would she not go?

No: her horses hated masks, and she hated noise.

The Veglione on Sunday--would she not go to that?

No: those things were well enough in the days of Philippe d'Orléans, who
invented them, but they were only now as stupid as they were vulgar;
anybody was let in for five francs.

Did she like the new weekly journal that was electrifying Paris?

No: she could see nothing in it: there was no wit now-a-days--only
personalities, which grew more gross every year.

The Duc urged that personalities were as old as Cratinus and
Archilochus, and that five hundred years before Christ the satires of
Hipponax drove Bupalus to hang himself.

She answered that a bad thing was not the better for being old.

People were talking of a clever English novel translated everywhere,
called "In a Hothouse," the hothouse being society--had she seen it?

No: what was the use of reading novels of society by people who never
had been in it? The last English "society" novel she had read had
described a cabinet minister in London as going to a Drawing-room in
the crowd, with everybody else, instead of by the _petite entrée_; they
were always full of such blunders.

Had she read the new French story "Le Bal de Mademoiselle Bibi?"

No: she had heard too much of it; it made you almost wish for a
Censorship of the Press.

The Duc agreed that literature was terribly but truly described as "un
tas d'ordures soigneusement enveloppé."

She said that the "tas d'ordures" without the envelope was sufficient
for popularity, but that the literature of any age was not to be
blamed--it was only a natural growth, like a mushroom; if the soil were
noxious, the fungus was bad.

The Duc wondered what a censorship would let pass if there were one.

She said that when there was one it had let pass Crebillon, the
Chevalier Le Clos, and the "Bijoux Indiscrets;" it had proscribed
Marmontel, Helvetius, and Lanjuinais. She did not know how one man could
be expected to be wiser than all his generation.

The Duc admired some majolica she had purchased.

She said she began to think that majolica was a false taste; the
metallic lustre was fine, but how clumsy the forms! one might be led
astray by too great love of old work.

The Duc praised a magnificent Sèvres panel, just painted by Riocreux and
Goupil, and given to her by Princess Olga on the New Year.

She said it was well done, but what charm was there in it? All their
modern iron and zinc colours, and hydrate of aluminum, and oxide of
chromium, and purple of Cassius, and all the rest of it, never gave
one-tenth the charm of those old painters who had only green greys and
dull blues and tawny yellows, and never could get any kind of red
whatever; Olga had meant to please her, but she, for her part, would
much sooner have had a little panel of Abruzzi, with all the holes and
defects in the pottery, and a brown contadina for a Madonna; there was
some interest in that,--there was no interest in that gorgeous landscape
and those brilliant hunting figures.

The Duc bore all the contradictions with imperturbable serenity and
urbanity, smiled to himself, and bowed himself out in perfect

"Tout va bien," he thought to himself; "Miladi must be very much in love
to be so cross."

The Duc's personal experience amongst ladies had made him of opinion
that love did not improve the temper.

       *       *       *

"In love!" she echoed, with less languor and more of impetuosity than
she had ever displayed, "are you ever in love, any of you, ever? You
have senses and vanity and an inordinate fear of not being in the
fashion--and so you take your lovers as you drink your stimulants and
wear your wigs and tie your skirts back--because everybody else does it,
and not to do it is to be odd, or prudish, or something you would hate
to be called. Love! it is an unknown thing to you all. You have a sort
of miserable hectic passion, perhaps, that is a drug you take as you
take chlorodyne--just to excite you and make your jaded nerves a little
alive again, and yet you are such cowards that you have not even the
courage of passion, but label your drug Friendship, and beg Society to
observe that you only keep it for family uses like arnica or like
glycerine. You want notoriety; you want to indulge your fancies, and yet
keep your place in the world. You like to drag a young man about by a
chain, as if he were the dancing monkey that you depended upon for
subsistence. You like other women to see that you are not too _passée_
to be every whit as improper as if you were twenty. You like to
advertise your successes as it were with drum and trumpet, because if
you did not, people might begin to doubt that you had any. You like all
that, and you like to feel there is nothing you do not know and no
length you have not gone, and so you ring all the changes on all the
varieties of intrigue and sensuality, and go over the gamut of sickly
sentiment and nauseous license as an orchestra tunes its strings up
every night! That is what all you people call love; I am content enough
to have no knowledge of it."

       *       *       *

"I would rather have the crudest original thing than the mere galvanism
of the corpse of a dead genius. I would give a thousand paintings by
Froment, Damousse, or any of the finest living artists of Sèvres, for
one piece by old Van der Meer of Delft; but I would prefer a painting on
Sèvres done yesterday by Froment or Damousse, or even any much less
famous worker, provided only it had originality in it, to the best
reproduction of a Van der Meer that modern manufacturers could produce."

"I think you are right; but I fear our old pottery-painters were not
very original. They copied from the pictures and engravings of Mantegna,
Raffaelle, Marcantonio, Marco di Ravenna, Beatricius, and a score of

"The application was original, and the sentiment they brought to it.
Those old artists put so much heart into their work."

"Because when they painted a _stemma_ on the glaze they had still feudal
faith in nobility, and when they painted a Madonna or Ecce Homo they had
still childlike belief in divinity. What does the pottery-painter of
to-day care for the coat of arms or the religious subject he may be
commissioned to execute for a dinner service or a chapel? It may be
admirable painting--if you give a very high price--but it will still be
only manufacture."

"Then what pleasant lives those pottery painters of the early days must
have led! They were never long stationary. They wandered about
decorating at their fancy, now here and now there; now a vase for a
pharmacy, and now a stove for a king. You find German names on Italian
ware, and Italian names on Flemish grès; the Nuremberger would work in
Venice, the Dutchman would work in Rouen. Sometimes, however, they were
accused of sorcery; the great potter, Hans Kraut, you remember, was
feared by his townsmen as possessed by the devil, and was buried
ignominiously outside the gates, in his nook of the Black Forest. But on
the whole they were happy, no doubt; men of simple habits and of worthy

"You care for art yourself, M. Della Rocca?"

There came a gleam of interest in her handsome, languid, hazel eyes, as
she turned them upon him.

"Every Italian does," he answered her. "I do not think we are ever, or I
think, if ever, very seldom connoisseurs in the way that your Englishman
or Frenchman is so. We are never very learned as to styles and dates; we
cannot boast the huckster's eye of the northern bric-à-brac hunter; it
is quite another thing with us; we love art as children their nurses'
tales and cradle-songs. It is a familiar affection with us, and
affection is never very analytical. The Robbia over the chapel-door, the
apostle-pot that the men in the stables drink out of; the Sodoma or the
Beato Angelico that hangs before our eyes daily as we dine; the old
bronze _secchia_ that we wash our hands in as boys in the Loggia--these
are all so homely and dear to us that we grow up with a love for them
all as natural as our love for our mothers. You will say the children of
all rich people see beautiful and ancient things from their birth: so
they do, but not _as_ we see them. Here they are too often degraded to
the basest household uses, and made no more account of than the dust
which gathers on them; but that very neglect of them makes them the more
kindred to us. Art elsewhere is the guest of the salon--with us she is
the playmate of the infant and the serving-maid of the peasant: the
mules may drink from an Etruscan sarcophagus, and the pigeons be fed
from a _patina_ of the twelfth century."

       *       *       *

Taste, mon cher Della Rocca, is the only sure guarantee in these
matters. Women, believe me, never have any principle. Principle is a
backbone, and no woman--except bodily--ever possesses any backbone.
Their priests and their teachers and their mothers fill them with
doctrines and conventionalities--all things of mere word and wind. No
woman has any settled principles; if she have any vague ones, it is the
uttermost she ever reaches, and those can always be overturned by any
man who has any influence over her. But Taste is another matter
altogether. A woman whose taste is excellent is preserved from all
eccentricities and most follies. You never see a woman of good sense
_afficher_ her improprieties or advertise her liaisons as women of
vulgarity do. Nay, if her taste be perfect, though she have weaknesses,
I doubt if she will ever have vices. Vice will seem to her like a gaudy
colour, or too much gold braid, or very large plaits, or buttons as big
as saucers, or anything else such as vulgar women like. Fastidiousness,
at any rate, is very good _postiche_ for modesty: it is always decent,
it can never be coarse. Good taste, inherent and ingrained, natural and
cultivated, cannot alter. Principles--ouf!--they go on and off like a
slipper; but good taste is indestructible; it is a compass that never
errs. If your wife have it--well, it is possible she may be false to
you; she is human, she is feminine; but she will never make you
ridiculous, she will never compromise you, and she will not romp in a
cotillon till the morning sun shows the paint on her face washed away in
the rain of her perspiration. Virtue is, after all, as Mme. de Montespan
said, "une chose tout purement géographique." It varies with the
hemisphere like the human skin and the human hair; what is vile in one
latitude is harmless in another. No philosophic person can put any trust
in a thing which merely depends upon climate; but, Good Taste----

       *       *       *

Gossip is like the poor devil in the legend of Fugger's Teufelspalast at
Trent; it toils till cock-crow picking up the widely-scattered grains of
corn by millions till the bushel measure is piled high; and lo!--the
five grains that are _the_ grains always escape its sight and roll away
and hide themselves. The poor devil, being a primitive creature,
shrieked and flew away in despair at his failure. Gossip hugs its false
measure and says loftily that the five real grains are of no consequence

       *       *       *

The Lady Hilda sighed. This dreadful age, which has produced communists,
pétroleuses, and liberal thinkers, had communicated its vague
restlessness even to her; although she belonged to that higher region
where nobody ever thinks at all, and everybody is more or less devout in
seeming at any rate, because disbelief is vulgar, and religion is an
"affaire des moeurs," like decency, still the subtle philosophies and
sad negations which have always been afloat in the air since Voltaire
set them flying, had affected her slightly.

She was a true believer, just as she was a well-dressed woman, and had
her creeds just as she had her bath in the morning, as a matter of

Still, when she did come to think of it, she was not so very sure. There
was another world, and saints and angels and eternity; yes, of
course--but how on earth would all those baccarat people ever fit into
it? Who could, by any stretch of imagination, conceive Madame Mila and
Maurice des Gommeux in a spiritual existence around the throne of Deity?

And as for punishment and torment and all that other side of futurity,
who could even think of the mildest purgatory as suitable to those poor
flipperty-gibbet inanities who broke the seventh commandment as gaily as
a child breaks his indiarubber ball, and were as incapable of passion
and crime as they were incapable of heroism and virtue?

There might be paradise for virtue and hell for crime, but what in the
name of the universe was to be done with creatures that were only all
Folly? Perhaps they would be always flying about like the souls Virgil
speaks of, "suspensæ ad ventos," to purify themselves; as the sails of a
ship spread out to dry. The Huron Indians pray to the souls of the fish
they catch; well, why should they not? a fish has a soul if Modern
Society has one; one could conceive a fish going softly through shining
waters for ever and for ever in the ecstasy of motion; but who could
conceive Modern Society in the spheres?

       *       *       *

"One grows tired of everything," she answered with a little sigh.

"Everything that is artificial, you mean. People think Horace's love of
the rural life an affectation. I believe it to be most sincere. After
the strain of the conventionality and the adulation of the Augustan
court, the natural existence of the country must have been welcome to
him. I know it is the fashion to say that a love of Nature belongs only
to the Moderns, but I do not think so. Into Pindar, Theocritus,
Meleager, the passion for Nature must have entered very strongly; what
_is_ modern is the more subjective, the more fanciful feeling which
makes Nature a sounding-board to echo all the cries of man."

"But that is always a northern feeling?"

"Inevitably. With us Nature is too _riante_ for us to grow morbid about
it. The sunshine that laughs around us nine months of every year, the
fruits that grow almost without culture, the flowers that we throw to
the oxen to eat, the very stones that are sweet with myrtle, the very
sea sand that is musical with bees in the rosemary, everything we grow
up amongst from infancy, makes our love of Nature only a kind of
unconscious joy in it; but here even the peasant has that, and the songs
of the men that cannot read or write are full of it. If a field labourer
sing to his love he will sing of the narcissus and the crocus, as
Meleager sang to Heliodora twenty centuries ago."

       *       *       *

That is an Italian amorous fancy. Romeo and Othello are the typical
Italian lovers. I never can tell how a northerner like Shakespeare could
draw either. You are often very unfaithful; but _while_ you are faithful
you are ardent, and you are absorbed in the woman. That is one of the
reasons why an Italian succeeds in love as no other man does. "L'art de
brûler silencieusement ment le coeur d'un femme" is a supreme art with
you. Compared with you, all other men are children. You have been the
supreme masters of the great passion since the days of Ovid.

       *       *       *

Boredom is the ill-natured pebble that always _will_ get in the golden
slipper of the pilgrim of pleasure.

       *       *       *

"They say," the great assassin who slays as many thousands as ever did
plague or cholera, drink or warfare; "they say," the thief of
reputation, who steals, with stealthy step and coward's mask, to filch
good names away in the dead dark of irresponsible calumny; "they say," a
giant murderer, iron-gloved to slay you, a fleet, elusive, vaporous
will-o'-the-wisp, when you would seize and choke it; "they say," mighty
Thug though it be which strangles from behind the purest victim, had not
been ever known to touch the Lady Hilda.

       *       *       *

All her old philosophies seemed falling about her like shed leaves, and
her old self seemed to her but a purposeless frivolous chilly creature.
The real reason she would not face, and indeed as yet was not conscious
of; the reason that love had entered into her, and that love, if it be
worth the name, has always two handmaidens: swift sympathy, and sad
humility, keeping step together.

       *       *       *

The Femme Galante has passed through many various changes, in many
countries. The dames of the Decamerone were unlike the fair
athlete-seekers of the days of Horace; and the powdered coquettes of the
years of Molière, were sisters only by the kinship of a common vice to
the frivolous and fragile faggot of impulses, that is called Frou-frou.

The Femme Galante has always been a feature in every age; poets, from
Juvenal to Musset, have railed at her; artists, from Titian to
Winterhalter, have painted her; dramatists, from Aristophanes to
Congreve and Dumas Fils, have pointed their arrows at her; satirists,
from Archilochus and Simonides to Hogarth and Gavarni, have poured out
their aqua-fortis for her. But the real Femme Galante of to-day has been
missed hitherto.

Frou-frou, who stands for her, is not in the least the true type.
Frou-frou is a creature that can love, can suffer, can repent, can die.
She is false in sentiment and in art, but she is tender after all; poor,
feverish, wistful, changeful morsel of humanity. A slender, helpless,
breathless, and frail thing who, under one sad, short sin, sinks down to

But Frou-frou is in no sense the true Femme Galante of her day.
Frou-frou is much more a fancy than a fact. It is not Frou-frou that
Molière would have handed down to other generations in enduring
ridicule, had he been living now. To her he would have doffed his hat
with dim eyes; what he would have fastened for all time in his pillory
would have been a very different, and far more conspicuous offender.

The Femme Galante, who has neither the scruples nor the follies of poor
Frou-frou, who neither forfeits her place nor leaves her lord; who has
studied adultery as one of the fine arts and made it one of the domestic
virtues; who takes her wearied lover to her friends' houses as she takes
her muff or her dog, and teaches her sons and daughters to call him by
familiar names; who writes to the victim of her passions with the same
pen that calls her boy home from school; and who smooths her child's
curls with the same fingers that stray over her lover's lips; who
challenges the world to find a flaw in her, and who smiles serene at her
husband's table on a society she is careful to conciliate; who has woven
the most sacred ties and most unholy pleasures into so deft a braid,
that none can say where one commences or the other ends; who uses the
sanctity of her maternity to cover the lawlessness of her license; and
who, incapable alike of the self-abandonment of love or of the
self-sacrifice of duty, has not even such poor, cheap honour as, in the
creatures of the streets, may make guilt loyal to its dupe and partner.

This is the Femme Galante of the passing century, who, with her hand on
her husband's arm, babbles of her virtue in complacent boast; and
ignoring such a vulgar word as Sin, talks with a smile of Friendship.
Beside her Frou-frou were innocence itself, Marion de l'Orme were
honesty, Manon Lescaut were purity, Cleopatra were chaste, and Faustine
were faithful.

She is the female Tartuffe of seduction, the Précieuse Ridicule of
passion, the parody of Love, the standing gibe of Womanhood.

       *       *       *

She was always in debt, though she admitted that her husband allowed her
liberally. She had eighty thousand francs a year by her settlements to
spend on herself, and he gave her another fifty thousand to do as she
pleased with: on the whole about one half what he allowed to Blanche
Souris, of the Château Gaillard theatre.

She had had six children, three were living and three were dead; she
thought herself a good mother, because she gave her wet-nurses ever so
many silk gowns, and when she wanted the children for a fancy ball or a
drive, always saw that they were faultlessly dressed, and besides she
always took them to Trouville.

She had never had any grief in her life, except the loss of the Second
Empire, and even that she got over when she found that flying the Red
Cross flag had saved her hotel, without so much as a teacup being broken
in it, that MM. Worth and Offenbach were safe from all bullets, and
that society, under the Septennate, promised to be every bit as _leste_
as under the Empire.

In a word, Madame Mila was a type of the women of her time.

The women who go semi-nude in an age which has begun to discover that
the nude in sculpture is very immoral; who discuss "Tue-la" in a
generation which decrees Molière to be coarse, and Beaumont and Fletcher
indecent; who have the Journal pour Rire on their tables in a day when
no one who respects himself would name the Harlot's Progress; who read
Beaudelaire and patronise Térésa and Schneider in an era which finds
"Don Juan" gross, and Shakespeare far too plain; who strain all their
energies to rival Miles. Rose Thé and La Petite Boulotte in everything;
who go shrimping or oyster-hunting on fashionable sea-shores, with their
legs bare to the knee; who go to the mountains with confections, high
heels, and gold-tipped canes, shriek over their gambling as the dawn
reddens over the Alps, and know no more of the glories of earth and sky,
of sunrise and sunset, than do the porcelain pots that hold their paint,
or the silver dressing-box that carries their hair-dye.

Women who are in convulsions one day, and on the top of a drag the next;
who are in hysterics for their lovers at noon, and in ecstasies over
baccarat at midnight; who laugh in little nooks together over each
other's immoralities, and have a moral code so elastic that it will
pardon anything except innocence; who gossip over each other's dresses,
and each other's passions, in the self-same, self-satisfied chirp of
contentment, and who never resent anything on earth, except any
eccentric suggestion that life could be anything except a perpetual fête
à la Watteau in a perpetual blaze of lime-light.

Pain?--Are there not chloral and a flattering doctor? Sorrow?--Are there
not a course at the Baths, play at Monte Carlo, and new cases from
Worth? Shame?--Is it not a famine fever which never comes near a
well-laden table? Old Age?--Is there not white and red paint, and heads
of dead hair, and even false bosoms? Death? Well, no doubt there is
death, but they do not realise it; they hardly believe in it, they think
about it so little.

There is something unknown somewhere to fall on them some day that they
dread vaguely, for they are terrible cowards. But they worry as little
about it as possible. They give the millionth part of what they possess
away in its name to whatever church they belong to, and they think they
have arranged quite comfortably for all possible contingencies

If it make things safe, they will head bazaars for the poor, or wear
black in holy week, turn lottery-wheels for charity, or put on fancy
dresses in the name of benevolence, or do any little amiable trifle of
that sort. But as for changing their lives,--_pas si bête!_

A bird in the hand they hold worth two in the bush; and though your
birds may be winged on strong desire, and your bush the burning portent
of Moses, they will have none of them.

These women are not all bad; oh, no! they are like sheep, that is all.
If it were fashionable to be virtuous, very likely they would be so. If
it were _chic_ to be devout, no doubt they would pass their life on
their knees. But, as it is, they know that a flavour of vice is as
necessary to their reputation as great ladies, as sorrel-leaves to soup
à la bonne femme. They affect a license if they take it not.

They are like the barber, who said, with much pride, to Voltaire, "Je ne
suis qu'un pauvre diable de perruquier, mais je ne crois pas en Dieu
plus que les autres."

They may be worth very little, but they are desperately afraid that you
should make such a mistake as to think them worth anything at all. You
are not likely, if you know them. Still, they are apprehensive.

Though one were to arise from the dead to preach to them, they would
only make of him a nine days' wonder, and then laugh a little, and yawn
a little, and go on in their own paths.

Out of the eater came forth meat, and from evil there may be begotten
good; but out of nullity there can only come nullity. They have wadded
their ears, and though Jeremiah wailed of desolation, or Isaiah
thundered the wrath of heaven, they would not hear,--they would go on
looking at each other's dresses.

What could Paul himself say that would change them?

You cannot make sawdust into marble; you cannot make sea-sand into gold.
"Let us alone," is all they ask; and it is all that you could do, though
the force and flame of Horeb were in you.

       *       *       *

It is very curious, but loss of taste in the nobles has always been
followed by a revolution of the mob. The _décadence_ always ushers in
the democracy.

       *       *       *

Pleasure alone cannot content any one whose character has any force, or
mind any high intelligence. Society is, as you say, a book we soon read
through, and know by heart till it loses all interest. Art alone cannot
fill more than a certain part of our emotions; and culture, however
perfect, leaves us unsatisfied. There is only one thing that can give to
life what your poet called the light that never was on sea or land--and
that is human love.

       *       *       *

"Yes, it is a curious thing that we do not succeed in fresco. The grace
is gone out of it; modern painters have not the lightness of touch
necessary; they are used to masses of colour, and they use the palette
knife as a mason the trowel. The art, too, like the literature of our
time, is all detail; the grand suggestive vagueness of the Greek drama
and of the Umbrian frescoes are lost to us under a crowd of elaborated
trivialities; perhaps it is because art has ceased to be spiritual or
tragic, and is merely domestic or melodramatic; the Greeks knew neither
domesticity nor melodrama, and the early Italian painters were imbued
with a faith which, if not so virile as the worship of the Phidian Zeus,
yet absorbed them and elevated them in a degree impossible in the tawdry
Sadduceeism of our own day. By the way, when the weather is milder you
must go to Orvieto; you have never been there, I think; it is the
Prosodion of Signorelli. What a fine Pagan he was at heart! He admired
masculine beauty like a Greek; he must have been a singularly happy
man--few more happy----"


The Berceau de Dieu was a little village in the valley of the Seine.

As a lark drops its nest amongst the grasses, so a few peasant people
had dropped their little farms and cottages amidst the great green woods
on the winding river. It was a pretty place, with one steep, stony
street, shady with poplars and with elms; quaint houses, about whose
thatch a cloud of white and grey pigeons fluttered all day long; a
little aged chapel with a conical red roof; and great barns covered with
ivy and thick creepers, red and purple, and lichens that were yellow in
the sun.

All around it there were the broad, flowering meadows, with the sleek
cattle of Normandy fattening in them, and the sweet dim forests where
the young men and maidens went on every holy-day and feast-day in the
summer-time to seek for wood-anemones, and lilies of the pools, and the
wild campanula, and the fresh dogrose, and all the boughs and grasses
that made their house-doors like garden-bowers, and seemed to take the
cushat's note and the linnet's song into their little temple of God.

The Berceau de Dieu was very old indeed.

Men said that the hamlet had been there in the day of the Virgin of
Orléans; and a stone cross of the twelfth century still stood by the
great pond of water at the bottom of the street, under the
chestnut-tree, where the villagers gathered to gossip at sunset when
their work was done.

It had no city near it, and no town nearer than four leagues. It was in
the green core of a pastoral district, thickly wooded and intersected
with orchards. Its produce of wheat, and oats, and cheese, and fruit,
and eggs, was more than sufficient for its simple prosperity. Its people
were hardy, kindly, laborious, happy; living round the little grey
chapel in amity and good-fellowship.

Nothing troubled it. War and rumours of war, revolutions and
counter-revolutions, empires and insurrections, military and political
questions--these all were for it things unknown and unheard of--mighty
winds that arose and blew and swept the lands around it, but never came
near enough to harm it, lying there, as it did, in its loneliness like
any lark's nest.

       *       *       *

"I am old: yes, I am very old," she would say, looking up from her
spinning-wheel in her house-door, and shading her eyes from the sun,
"very old--ninety-two last summer. But when one has a roof over one's
head, and a pot of soup always, and a grandson like mine, and when one
has lived all one's life in the Berceau de Dieu, then it is well to be
so old. Ah, yes, my little ones--yes, though you doubt it, you little
birds that have just tried your wings--it is well to be so old. One has
time to think, and thank the good God, which one never seemed to have a
minute to do in that work, work, work, when one was young."

       *       *       *

The end soon came.

From hill to hill the Berceau de Dieu broke into flames. The village was
a lake of fire, into which the statue of the Christ, burning and
reeling, fell. Some few peasants, with their wives and children, fled to
the woods, and there escaped one torture to perish more slowly of cold
and famine. All other things perished. The rapid stream of the flame
licked up all there was in its path. The bare trees raised their
leafless branches on fire at a thousand points. The stores of corn and
fruit were lapped by millions of crimson tongues. The pigeons flew
screaming from their roosts and sank into the smoke. The dogs were
suffocated on the thresholds they had guarded all their lives. The calf
was stifled in the byre. The sheep ran bleating with the wool burning on
their living bodies. The little caged birds fluttered helpless, and then
dropped, scorched to cinders. The aged and the sick were stifled in
their beds. All things perished.

The Berceau de Dieu was as one vast furnace, in which every living
creature was caught and consumed and changed to ashes.

The tide of war has rolled on and left it a blackened waste, a smoking
ruin, wherein not so much as a mouse may creep or a bird may nestle. It
is gone, and its place can know it never more.

Never more.

But who is there to care?

It was but as a leaf which the great storm withered as it passed.

       *       *       *

"Look you," she had said to him oftentimes, "in my babyhood there was
the old white flag upon the château. Well, they pulled that down and put
up a red one. That toppled and fell, and there was one of three
colours. Then somebody with a knot of white lilies in his hand came one
day and set up the old white one afresh; and before the day was done
that was down again, and the tricolour again up where it is still. Now
some I know fretted themselves greatly because of all these changes of
the flags, but as for me, I could not see that any one of them mattered:
bread was just as dear, and sleep was just as sweet, whichever of the
three was uppermost."


In the spring and summer especially were they glad. Flanders is not a
lovely land, and around the burgh of Rubens it is perhaps least lovely
of all.

Corn and colza, pasture and plough, succeed each other on the
characterless plain in wearying repetition, and save by some gaunt grey
tower, with its peal of pathetic bells, or some figure coming athwart
the fields, made picturesque by a gleaner's bundle or a woodman's
faggot, there is no change, no variety, no beauty anywhere; and he who
has dwelt upon the mountains or amidst the forests feels oppressed as by
imprisonment with the tedium and the endlessness of that vast and dreary

But it is green and very fertile, and it has wide horizons that have a
certain charm of their own even in their dulness and monotony; and
amongst the rushes by the water-side the flowers grow, and the trees
rise tall and fresh where the barges glide with their great hulks black
against the sun, and their little green barrels and vari-coloured flags
gay against the leaves.

Anyway, there is a greenery and breadth of space enough to be as good as
beauty to a child and a dog; and these two asked no better, when their
work was done, than to lie buried in the lush grasses on the side of the
canal, and watch the cumbrous vessels drifting by, and bringing the
crisp salt smell of the sea amongst the blossoming scents of the country

       *       *       *

Antwerp, as all the world knows, is full at every turn of old piles of
stones, dark and ancient and majestic, standing in crooked courts,
jammed against gateways and taverns, rising by the water's edge, with
bells ringing above them in the air, and ever and again out of their
arched doors a swell of music pealing.

There they remain, the grand old sanctuaries of the past, shut in amidst
the squalor, the hurry, the crowds, the unloveliness and the commerce of
the modern world; and all day long the clouds drift and the birds
circle, and the winds sigh around them, and beneath the earth at their
feet there sleeps--RUBENS.

And the greatness of the mighty Master still rests upon Antwerp;
wherever we turn in its narrow streets his glory lies therein, so that
all mean things are thereby transfigured; and as we pace slowly through
the winding ways, and by the edge of the stagnant water, and through the
noisome courts, his spirit abides with us, and the heroic beauty of his
visions is about us, and the stones that once felt his footsteps and
bore his shadow seem to arise and speak of him with living voices. For
the city which is the tomb of Rubens still lives to us through him, and
him alone.

Without Rubens, what were Antwerp? A dirty, dusky, bustling mart, which
no man would ever care to look upon save the traders who do business on
its wharves. With Rubens, to the whole world of men it is a sacred name,
a sacred soil, a Bethlehem where a god of Art saw light, a Golgotha
where a god of Art lies dead.

It is so quiet there by that great white sepulchre--so quiet, save only
when the organ peals, and the choir cries aloud the Salve Regina or the
Kyrie Eleison. Sure no artist ever had a greater gravestone than that
pure marble sanctuary gives to him in the heart of his birthplace in the
chancel of St. Jacques?

O nations! closely should you treasure your great men, for by them alone
will the future know of you. Flanders in her generations has been wise.
In his life she glorified this greatest of her sons, and in his death
she magnifies his name. But her wisdom is very rare.

       *       *       *

The night was very wild. The lamps under the wayside crosses were blown
out: the roads were sheets of ice; the impenetrable darkness hid every
trace of habitations; there was no living thing abroad. All the cattle
were housed, and in all the huts and homesteads men and women rejoiced
and feasted. There was only the dog out in the cruel cold--old and
famished and full of pain, but with the strength and the patience of a
great love to sustain him in his search.

The trail of Nello's steps, faint and obscure as it was under the new
snow, went straightly along the accustomed tracks into Antwerp. It was
past midnight when Patrasche traced it over the boundaries of the town
and into the narrow, tortuous, gloomy streets. It was all quite dark in
the town. Now and then some light gleamed ruddily through the crevices
of house-shutters, or some group went homeward with lanterns chanting
drinking songs. The streets were all white with ice: the high walls and
roofs loomed black against them. There was scarce a sound save the riot
of the winds down the passages as they tossed the creaking signs and
shook the tall lamp-irons.

So many passers-by had trodden through and through the snow, so many
diverse paths had crossed and re-crossed each other, that the dog had a
hard task to retain any hold on the track he followed. But he kept on
his way, though the cold pierced him to the bone, and the jagged ice cut
his feet, and the hunger in his body gnawed like a rat's teeth. But he
kept on his way--a poor, gaunt, shivering, drooping thing in the frozen
darkness, that no one pitied as he went--and by long patience traced the
steps he loved into the very heart of the burgh and up to the steps of
the great cathedral.

"He is gone to the things that he loved," thought Patrasche; he could
not understand, but he was full of sorrow and of pity for the
art-passion that to him was so incomprehensible and yet so sacred.

The portals of the cathedral were unclosed after the midnight mass. Some
heedlessness in the custodians, too eager to go home and feast or sleep,
or too drowsy to know whether they turned the keys aright, had left one
of the doors unlocked. By that accident the footfalls Patrasche sought
had passed through into the building, leaving the white marks of snow
upon the dark stone floor. By that slender white thread, frozen as it
fell, he was guided through the intense silence, through the immensity
of the vaulted space--guided straight to the gates of the chancel, and
stretched there upon the stones he found Nello. He crept up noiselessly,
and touched the face of the boy. "Didst thou dream that I should be
faithless and forsake thee? I--a dog?" said that mute caress.

The lad raised himself with a low cry and clasped him close.

"Let us lie down and die together," he murmured. "Men have no need of
us, and we are all alone."

In answer, Patrasche crept closer yet, and laid his head upon the young
boy's breast. The great tears stood in his brown sad eyes: not for
himself--for himself he was happy.

They lay close together in the piercing cold. The blasts that blew over
the Flemish dykes from the northern seas were like waves of ice, which
froze every living thing they touched. The interior of the immense vault
of stone in which they were was even more bitterly chill than the
snow-covered plains without. Now and then a bat moved in the shadows;
now and then a gleam of light came to the ranks of carven figures. Under
the Rubens they lay together, quite still, and soothed almost into a
dreaming slumber by the numbing narcotic of the cold. Together they
dreamed of the old glad days when they had chased each other through the
flowering grasses of the summer meadows, or sat hidden in the tall
bulrushes by the water's side, watching the boats go seaward in the sun.

No anger had ever separated them; no cloud had ever come between them;
no roughness on the one side, no faithlessness on the other, had ever
obscured their perfect love and trust. All through their short lives
they had done their duty as it had come to them, and had been happy in
the mere sense of living, and had begrudged nothing to any man or beast,
and had been quite content because quite innocent. And in the faintness
of famine and of the frozen blood that stole dully and slowly through
their veins, it was of the days they had spent together that they
dreamed, lying there in the long watches of the night of the Noël.

Suddenly through the darkness a great white radiance streamed through
the vastness of the aisles; the moon, that was at her height, had broken
through the clouds; the snow had ceased to fall; the light reflected
from the snow without was clear as the light of dawn. It fell through
the arches full upon the two pictures above, from which the boy on his
entrance had flung back the veil: the Elevation and the Descent of the
Cross were for one instant visible as by day.

Nello rose to his feet and stretched his arms to them: the tears of a
passionate ecstasy glistened on the paleness of his face.

"I have seen them at last!" he cried aloud. "O God, it is enough!"

His limbs failed under him, and he sank upon his knees, still gazing
upward at the majesty that he adored. For a few brief moments the light
illumined the divine visions that had been denied to him so long--light,
clear and sweet and strong as though it streamed from the throne of

Then suddenly it passed away: once more a great darkness covered the
face of Christ.

The arms of the boy drew close again the body of the dog.

"We shall see His face--_there_," he murmured; "and He will not part us,
I think; He will have mercy."

On the morrow, by the chancel of the cathedral, the people of Antwerp
found them both. They were both dead: the cold of the night had frozen
into stillness alike the young life and the old. When the Christmas
morning broke and the priests came to the temple, they saw them lying
thus on the stones together. Above, the veils were drawn back from the
great visions of Rubens, and the fresh rays of the sunrise touched the
thorn-crowned head of the God.

As the day grew on there came an old, hard-featured man, who wept as
women weep.

"I was cruel to the lad," he muttered, "and now I would have made
amends--yea, to the half of my substance--and he should have been to me
as a son."

There came also, as the day grew apace, a painter who had fame in the
world, and who was liberal of hand and of spirit.

"I seek one who should have had the prize yesterday had worth won," he
said to the people,--"a boy of rare promise and genius. An old
woodcutter on a fallen tree at eventide--that was all his theme. But
there was greatness for the future in it. I would fain find him, and
take him with me and teach him art."

       *       *       *

Death had been more pitiful to them than longer life would have been. It
had taken the one in the loyalty of love, and the other in the innocence
of faith, from a world which for love has no recompense, and for faith
no fulfilment.

All their lives they had been together, and in their deaths they were
not divided; for when they were found the arms of the boy were folded
too closely around the dog to be severed without violence, and the
people of their little village, contrite and ashamed, implored a special
grace for them, and, making them one grave, laid them to rest there side
by side--for ever.


And indeed I loved France: still, in the misery of my life, I loved her
for all that I had had from her.

I loved her for her sunny roads, for her cheery laughter, for her
vine-hung hamlets, for her contented poverty, for her gay, sweet mirth,
for her pleasant days, for her starry nights, for her little bright
groups at the village fountain, for her old, brown, humble peasants at
her wayside crosses, for her wide, wind-swept plains all red with her
radiant sunsets. She had given me beautiful hours; she is the mother of
the poor, who sings to them so that they forget their hunger and their
nakedness; she had made me happy in my youth. I was not ungrateful.

It was in the heats of September that I reached my country. It was just
after the day of Sedan. I heard all along the roads, as I went, sad,
sullen murmurs of our bitter disasters. It was not the truth exactly
that was ever told at the poor wine-shops and about the harvest-fields,
but it was near enough to the truth to be horrible.

The blood-thirst which had been upon me ever since that night when I
found her chair empty seemed to burn and seethe, till I saw nothing but
blood--in the air, in the sun, in the water.

       *       *       *

I remember in that ghastly time seeing a woman put the match to a piece
whose gunner had just dropped dead. She fired with sure aim: her shot
swept straight into a knot of horsemen on the Neuilly road, and emptied
more than one saddle.

"You have a good sight," I said to her.

She smiled.

"This winter," she said slowly, "my children have all died for want of
food--one by one, the youngest first. Ever since then I want to hurt
something--always. Do you understand?"

I did understand: I do not know if you do. It is just these things that
make revolutions.

       *       *       *

When I sit in the gloom here I see all the scenes of that pleasant life
pass like pictures before me.

No doubt I was often hot, often cold, often footsore, often ahungered
and athirst: no doubt; but all that has faded now. I only see the old,
lost, unforgotten brightness; the sunny roads, with the wild poppies
blowing in the wayside grass; the quaint little red roofs and peaked
towers that were thrust upward out of the rolling woods; the clear blue
skies, with the larks singing against the sun; the quiet, cool,
moss-grown towns, with old dreamy bells ringing sleepily above them; the
dull casements opening here and there to show a rose like a girl's
cheek, and a girl's face like the rose; the little wine-shops buried in
their climbing vines and their tall, many-coloured hollyhocks, from
which sometimes a cheery voice would cry, "Come, stay for a stoup of
wine, and pay us with a song."

Then, the nights when the people flocked to us, and the little tent was
lighted, and the women's and the children's mirth rang out in peals of
music; and the men vied with each other as to which should bear each of
us off to have bed and board under the cottage roof, or in the old
mill-house, or in the weaver's garret; the nights when the homely
supper-board was brightened and thought honoured by our presence; when
we told the black-eyed daughter's fortunes, and kept the children
round-eyed and flushing red with wonder at strange tales, and smoked
within the leaf-hung window with the father and his sons; and then went
out, quietly, alone in the moonlight, and saw the old cathedral white
and black in the shadows and the light; and strayed a little into its
dim aisles, and watched the thorn-crowned God upon the cross, and in the
cool fruit-scented air, in the sweet, silent dusk, moved softly with
noiseless footfall and bent head, as though the dead were there.

Ah, well! they are all gone, those days and nights. Begrudge me not
their memory. I am ugly, and very poor, and of no account; and I die at
sunrise, so they say. Let me remember whilst I can: it is all oblivion
_there_. So they say.

       *       *       *

Whether I suffered or enjoyed, loved or hated, is of no consequence to
any one. The dancing-dog suffers intensely beneath the scourge of the
stick, and is capable of intense attachment to any one who is merciful
enough not to beat him; but the dancing-dog and his woe and his love are
nothing to the world: I was as little.

There is nothing more terrible, nothing more cruel, than the waste of
emotion, the profuse expenditure of fruitless pain, which every hour,
every moment, as it passes, causes to millions of living creatures. If
it were of any use who would mind? But it is all waste, frightful waste,
to no end, to no end.

       *       *       *

Ah, well! it is our moments of blindness and of folly that are the sole
ones of happiness for all of us on earth. We only see clearly, I think,
when we have reached the depths of woe.

       *       *       *

France was a great sea in storm, on which the lives of all men were as
frail boats tossing to their graves. Some were blown east, some west;
they passed each other in the endless night, and never knew, the tempest
blew so strong.

       *       *       *

Winter tries hardly all the wandering races: if the year were all
summer, all the world would be Bohemians.

       *       *       *

We poured out blood like water, and much of it was the proud blue blood
of the old nobility. We should have saved France, I am sure, if there
had been any one who had known how to consolidate and lead us. No one
did; so it was all of no use.

Guerillas like us can do much, very much, but to do so much that it is
victory we must have a genius amidst us. And we had none. If the First
Bonaparte had been alive and with us, we should have chased the foe as
Marius the Cimbri.

I think other nations will say so in the future: at the present they are
all dazzled, they do not see clearly--they are all worshipping the
rising sun. It is blood-red, and it blinds them.

       *       *       *

It is so strange! We see a million faces, we hear a million voices, we
meet a million women with flowers in their breasts and light in their
fair eyes, and they do not touch us. Then we see one, and she holds for
us life or death, and plays with them idly so often--as idly as a child
with toys. She is not nobler, better, or more beautiful than were all
those we passed, and yet the world is empty to us without her.


In the garden of these children all the flora of Italy was gathered and
was growing.

The delights of an Italian garden are countless. It is not like any
other garden in the world. It is at once more formal and more wild, at
once greener with more abundant youth and venerable with more antique
age. It has all Boccaccio between its walls, all Petrarca in its leaves,
all Raffaelle in its skies. And then the sunshine that beggars words and
laughs at painters!--the boundless, intense, delicious, heavenly light!
What do other gardens know of that, save in orange-groves of Granada and
rose thickets of Damascus?

The old broken marble statues, whence the water dripped and fed the
water-lily; the great lemon-trees in pots big enough to drown a boy, the
golden globes among their emerald leaves; the magnolias, like trees cast
in bronze, with all the spice of India in their cups; the spires of
ivory bells that the yuccas put forth, like belfries for fairies; the
oleanders taller than a man, red and white and blush colour; the broad
velvet leaves of the flowering rush; the dark majestic ilex oaks, that
made the noon like twilight; the countless graces of the vast family of
acacias; the high box hedges, sweet and pungent in the sun; the stone
ponds, where the gold-fish slept through the sultry day; the wilderness
of carnations; the huge roses, yellow, crimson, snow-white, and the
small noisette and the banksia with its million of pink stars; myrtles
in dense thickets, and camellias like a wood of evergreens; cacti in all
quaint shapes, like fossils astonished to find themselves again alive;
high walls, vine-hung and topped by pines and cypresses; low walls with
crowds of geraniums on their parapets, and the mountains and the fields
beyond them; marble basins hidden in creepers where the frogs dozed all
day long; sounds of convent bells and of chapel chimes; green lizards
basking on the flags; great sheds and granaries beautiful with the
clematis and the wisteria and the rosy trumpets of the bignonia; great
wooden places cool and shady, with vast arched entrances, and scent of
hay, and empty casks, and red earthen amphoræ, and little mice scudding
on the floors, and a sun-dial painted on the wall, and a crucifix set
above the weather-cock, and through the huge unglazed windows sight of
the green vines with the bullocks in the harvest-carts beneath them, or
of some hilly sunlit road with a mule-team coming down it, or of a blue
high hill with its pine-trees black against the sky, and on its slopes
the yellow corn and misty olive. This was their garden; it is ten
thousand other gardens in the land.

The old painters had these gardens, and walked in them, and thought
nothing better could be needed for any scene of Annunciation or
Adoration, and so put them in beyond the windows of Bethlehem or behind
the Throne of the Lamb--and who can wonder?

       *       *       *

In these little ancient burghs and hillside villages, scattered up and
down between mountain and sea, there is often some boy or girl, with a
more wonderful voice, or a more beautiful face, or a sweeter knack of
song, or a more vivid trick of improvisation than the others; and this
boy or girl strays away some day with a little bundle of clothes, and a
coin or two, or is fetched away by some far-sighted pedlar in such human
wares, who buys them as bird-fanciers buy the finches from the nets; and
then, years and years afterwards, the town or hamlet hears indistinctly
of some great prima donna, or of some lark-throated tenor, that the big
world is making happy as kings, and rich as kings' treasurers, and the
people carding the flax or shelling the chestnuts say to one another,
"That was little black Lià, or that was our old Momo;" but Momo or Lià
the village or the vine-field never sees again.

       *       *       *

The heart of silver falls ever into the hands of brass. The sensitive
herb is eaten as grass by the swine.

       *       *       *

Fate will have it so. Fate is so old, and weary of her task; she must
have some diversion. It is Fate who blinded Love for sport, and on the
shoulders of Possession hung the wallet full of stones and

       *       *       *

As passion yet unknown thrills in the adolescent, as maternity yet
undreamed of stirs in the maiden; so the love of art comes to the artist
before he can give a voice to his thought or any name to his desire.

Signa heard "beautiful things" as he sat in the rising moonlight, with
the bells of the little bindweed white about his feet.

That was all he could have said.

Whether the angels sent them on the breeze, or the birds brought them,
or the dead men came and sang them to him, he could not tell. Indeed,
who can tell?

Where did Guido see the golden hair of St. Michael gleam upon the wind?
Where did Mozart hear the awful cries of the risen dead come to
judgment? What voice was in the fountain of Vaucluse? Under what nodding
oxlip did Shakespeare find Titania asleep? When did the Mother of Love
come down, chaster in her unclothed loveliness than vestal in her veil,
and with such vision of her make obscure Cleomenes immortal?

Who can tell?

Signa sat dreaming, with his chin upon his hands, and his eyes wandering
over all the silent place, from the closed flowers at his feet to the
moon in her circles of mist.

Who walks in these paths now may go back four hundred years. They are
changed in nothing. Through their high hedges of rhododendron and of
jessamine that grow like woodland trees it would still seem but natural
to see Raffaelle with his court-train of students, or Signorelli
splendid in those apparellings which were the comment of his age; and on
these broad stone terraces with the lizards basking on their steps and
the trees opening to show a vine-covered hill with the white oxen
creeping down it and the blue mountains farther still behind, it would
be but fitting to see a dark figure sitting and painting lilies upon a
golden ground, or cherubs' heads upon a panel of cypress wood, and to
hear that this painter was the monk Angelico.

The deepest charm of these old gardens, as of their country, is, after
all, that in them it is possible to forget the present age.

In the full, drowsy, voluptuous noon, when they are a gorgeous blaze of
colour and a very intoxication of fragrance, as in the ethereal white
moonlight of midnight, when, with the silver beams and the white
blossoms and the pale marbles, they are like a world of snow, their
charm is one of rest, silence, leisure, dreams, and passion all in one;
they belong to the days when art was a living power, when love was a
thing of heaven or of hell, and when men had the faith of children and
the force of gods.

Those days are dead, but in these old gardens you can believe still that
you live in them.

       *       *       *

"Pippa!" echoed Istriel. His memories were wakened by the name, and went
back to the days of his youth, when he had gone through the fields at
evening, when the purple beanflower was in bloom.

"What is your name then?" he asked, with a changed sound in his voice,
and with his fair cheek paler.

"I am Bruno Marcillo; I come from the hills above the Lastra a Signa."

Istriel rose, and looked at him; he had not remembered dead Pippa for
many a year. All in a moment he did remember: the long light days, the
little grey-walled town, the meetings in the vine-hung paths, when
sunset burned the skies; the girl with the pearls on her round brown
throat, the moonlit nights, with the strings of the guitar throbbing,
and the hearts of the lovers leaping; the sweet, eager, thoughtless
passion that swayed them one to another, as two flowers are blown
together in the mild soft winds of summer; he remembered it all now.

And he had forgotten so long; forgotten so utterly; save now and then,
when in some great man's house he had chanced to see some painting done
in his youth, and sold then for a few gold coins, of a tender
tempestuous face, half smiling and half sobbing, full of storm and
sunshine, both in one; and then at such times had thought, "Poor little
fool! she loved me too well;--it is the worst fault a woman has."

Some regret he had felt, and some remorse when he had found the garret
empty, and had lost Pippa from sight in the great sea of chance; but
she had wearied him, importuned him, clung to him; she had had the worst
fault, she had loved him too much. He had been young and poor, and very
ambitious; he had been soon reconciled; he had soon learned to think
that it was a burden best fallen from his shoulders. No doubt she had
suffered; but there was no help for that--some one always suffered when
these ties were broken--so he had said to himself. And then there had
come success and fame, and the pleasures of the world and the triumphs
of art, and Pippa had dropped from his thoughts as dead blossoms from a
bough; and he had loved so many other women, that he could not have
counted them; and the memory of that boy-and-girl romance in the green
hill country of the old Etruscan land had died away from him like a song
long mute.

Now, all at once, Pippa's hand seemed to touch him--Pippa's voice seemed
to rouse him--Pippa's eyes seemed to look at him.

       *       *       *

It was very early in the morning.

There had been heavy rains at night, and there was, when the sun rose,
everywhere, that white fog of the Valdarno country which is like a
silvery cloud hanging over all the earth. It spreads everywhere and
blends together land and sky; but it has breaks of exquisite
transparencies, through which the gold of the sunbeam shines, and the
rose of the dawn blushes, and the summits of the hills gleam here and
there, with a white monastery, or a mountain belfry, or a cluster of
cypresses seen through it, hung in the air as it were, and framed like
pictures in the silvery mist.

It is no noxious steam rising from the rivers and the rains: no grey and
oppressive obliteration of the face of the world like the fogs of the
north; no weight on the lungs and blindness to the eyes; no burden of
leaden damp lying heavy on the soil and on the spirit; no wall built up
between the sun and men; but a fog that is as beautiful as the full
moonlight is--nay, more beautiful, for it has beams of warmth, glories
of colour, glimpses of landscape such as the moon would coldly kill; and
the bells ring, and the sheep bleat, and the birds sing underneath its
shadow; and the sun-rays come through it, darted like angels' spears:
and it has in it all the promise of the morning, and all the sounds of
the waking day.

       *       *       *

A great darkness was over all his mind like the plague of that unending
night which brooded over Egypt.

All the ferocity of his nature was scourged into its greatest strength;
he was sensible of nothing except the sense that he was beaten in the
one aim and purpose of his life.

Only--if by any chance he could still save the boy.

That one thought--companion with him, sleeping and waking, through so
many joyless nights--stayed with him still.

It seemed to him that he would have strength to scale the very heights
of heaven, and shake the very throne of God until He heard--to save the

The night was far gone; the red of the day-dawn began to glow, and the
stars paled.

He did not know how time went; but he knew the look of the daybreak.
When the skies looked so through his grated windows at home, he rose and
said a prayer, and went down and unbarred his doors, and led out his
white beasts to the plough, or between the golden lines of the reaped
corn; all that was over now.

The birds were waking on the old green hills and the crocus flowers
unclosing; but he----

"I shall never see it again," he thought, and his heart yearned to it,
and the great, hot, slow tears of a man's woe stole into his aching eyes
and burned them. But he had no pity on himself.

He had freedom and health and strength and manhood, and he was still not
old, and still might win the favour of women, and see his children
laugh--if he went back to the old homestead, and the old safe ways of
his fathers. And the very smell of the earth there was sweet to him as a
virgin's breath, and the mere toil of the ground had been dear to him by
reason of the faithful love that he bore to his birthplace. But he had
no pity on himself.

"My soul for his," he had said; and he cleaved to his word and kept it.

In his day he had been savage to others. He was no less so to himself.

He had done all that he knew how to do. He had crushed out the natural
evil of him and denied the desires of the flesh, and changed his very
nature to do good by Pippa's son: and it had all been of no use; it had
all been spent in vain, as drowning seamen's cries for help are spent on
angry winds and yawning waters. He had tried to follow God's will and to
drive the tempter from him, for the boy's sake; and it had all been of
no avail. Through the long score of years his vain sacrifices echoed
dully by him as a dropt stone through the dark shaft of a well.

Perhaps it was not enough.

Perhaps it was needful that he should redeem the boy's soul by the utter
surrender and eternal ruin of his own--perhaps. After all it was a poor
love which balanced cost; a meek, mean love which would not dare to take
guilt upon it for the thing it cherished.

To him crime was crime in naked utter blackness; without aught of those
palliatives with which the cultured and philosophic temper can streak it
smooth and paint its soft excuse, and trace it back to influence or
insanity. To him sin was a mighty, hideous, hell-born thing, which being
embraced dragged him who kissed it on the mouth, downward and downward
into bottomless pits of endless night and ceaseless torment. To him the
depths of hell and heights of heaven were real as he had seen them in
the visions of Orgagna.

Yet he was willing to say, "Evil, be thou my good!" if by such evil he
could break the bonds of passion from the life of Pippa's son.

He had in him the mighty fanaticism which has made at once the tyrants
and the martyrs of the world.

"Leave him to me," he had said, and then the strength and weakness, and
ruthless heat, and utter self-deliverance of his nature leaped to their
height, and nerved him with deadly passion.

"There is but one way," he said to himself;--there was but one way to
cut the cords of this hideous, tangled knot of destiny and let free the
boy to the old ways of innocence.

"He will curse me," he thought; "I shall die--never looking on his
face--never hearing his voice. But he will be freed--so. He will
suffer--for a day--a year. But he will be spared the truth. And he is so
young--he will be glad again before the summer comes."

For a moment his courage failed him.

He could face the thought of an eternity of pain, and not turn pale, nor
pause. But to die with the boy's curse on him--that was harder.

"It is selfishness to pause," he told himself. "He will loathe me
always; but what matter?--he will be saved; he will be innocent once
more; he will hear his 'beautiful things' again; he will never know the
truth; he will be at peace with himself, and forget before the summer
comes. He never has loved me--not much. What does it matter?--so that he
is saved. When he sees his mother in heaven some day, then she will say
to him--'It was done for your sake.' And I shall know that he sees then,
as God sees. That will be enough."

       *       *       *

The boy looked out through the iron bars of his open lattice into the
cold, still night, full of the smell of fallen leaves and fir cones. The
tears fell down his cheeks; his heart was oppressed with a vague
yearning, such as made Mozart weep, when he heard his own Lacrimosa

It is not fear of death, it is not desire of life.

It is that unutterable want, that nameless longing, which stirs in the
soul that is a little purer than its fellow, and which, burdened with
that prophetic pain which men call genius, blindly feels its way after
some great light, that knows must be shining somewhere upon other
worlds, though all the earth is dark.

When Mozart wept, it was for the world he could never reach--not for the
world he left.

       *       *       *

He had been brought up upon this wooded spur, looking down on the Signa
country; all his loves and hatreds, joys and pains, had been known here;
from the time he had plucked the maple leaves in autumn for the cattle
with little brown five-year-old hands he had laboured here, never seeing
the sun set elsewhere except on that one night at the sea. He was close
rooted to the earth as the stonepines were and the oaks. It had always
seemed to him that a man should die where he took life first, amongst
his kindred and under the sods that his feet had run over in babyhood.
He had never thought much about it, but unconsciously the fibres of his
heart had twisted themselves round all the smallest and the biggest
things of his home as the tendrils of a strong ivy bush fasten round a
great tower and the little stones alike.

The wooden settle where his mother had sat; the shrine in the house
wall; the copper vessels that had glowed in the wood-fuel light when a
large family had gathered there about the hearth; the stone well under
the walnut-tree where dead Dina had often stayed to smile on him; the
cypress-wood presses where Pippa had kept her feast-day finery and her
pearls; the old vast sweet-smelling sheds and stables where he had
threshed and hewn and yoked his oxen thirty years if one: all these
things, and a hundred like them, were dear to him with all the memories
of his entire life; and away from them he could know no peace.

He was going away into a great darkness. He had nothing to guide him.
The iron of a wasted love, of a useless sacrifice, was in his heart. His
instinct drove him where there was peril for Pippa's son--that was all.

If this woman took the lad away from him, where was there any mercy or
justice, earthly or divine? That was all he asked himself, blindly and
stupidly; as the oxen seem to ask it with their mild, sad eyes as they
strain under the yoke and goad, suffering and not knowing why they

Nothing was clear to Bruno.

Only life had taught him that Love is the brother of Death.

One thing and another had come between him and the lad he cherished. The
dreams of the child, the desires of the youth, the powers of art, the
passion of genius, one by one had come in between him and loosened his
hold, and made him stand aloof as a stranger. But Love he had dreaded
most of all; Love which slays with one glance dreams and art and genius,
and lays them dead as rootless weeds that rot in burning suns.

Now Love had come.

He worked all day, holding the sickness of fear off him as best he
could, for he was a brave man;--only he had wrestled with fate so long,
and it seemed always to beat him, and almost he grew tired.

He cut a week's fodder for the beasts, and left all things in their
places, and then, as the day darkened, prepared to go.

Tinello and Pastore lowed at him, thrusting their broad white foreheads
and soft noses over their stable door.

He turned and stroked them in farewell.

"Poor beasts!" he muttered; "shall I never muzzle and yoke you ever

His throat grew dry, his eyes grew dim. He was like a man who sails for
a voyage on unknown seas, and neither he nor any other can tell whether
he will ever return.

He might come back in a day; he might come back never.

Multitudes, well used to wander, would have laughed at him. But to him
it was as though he set forth on the journey which men call death.

In the grey lowering evening he kissed the beasts on their white brows.
There was no one there to see his weakness, and year on year he had
decked them with their garlands of hedge flowers and led them up on
God's day to have their strength blessed by the priest--their strength
that laboured with his own from dawn to dark over the bare brown fields.

Then he turned his back on his old home, and went down the green sides
of the hill, and lost sight of his birthplace as the night fell.

All through the night he was borne away by the edge of the sea, along
the wild windy shores, through the stagnant marshes and the black pools
where the buffalo and the wild boar herded, past the deserted cities of
the coast, and beyond the forsaken harbours of Æneas and of Nero.

The west wind blew strong; the clouds were heavy; now and then the moon
shone on a sullen sea; now and then the darkness broke over rank maremma
vapours; at times he heard the distant bellowing of the herds, at times
he heard the moaning of the water; mighty cities, lost armies,
slaughtered hosts, foundered fleets, were underneath that soil and sea;
whole nations had their sepulchres on that low, wind-blown shore. But of
these he knew nothing.

It only seemed to him, that day would never come.

Once or twice he fell asleep for a few moments, and waking in that
confused noise of the stormy night and the wild water and the frightened
herds, thought that he was dead, and that this sound was the passing of
the feet of all the living multitude going for ever to and fro,
unthinking, over the depths of the dark earth where he lay.

       *       *       *

To behold the dominion of evil; the victory of the liar; the empire of
that which is base; to be powerless to resist, impotent to strip it
bare; to watch it suck under a beloved life as the whirlpool the
gold-freighted vessel; to know that the soul for which we would give our
own to everlasting ruin is daily, hourly, momentarily subjugated,
emasculated, possessed, devoured by those alien powers of violence and
fraud which have fastened upon it as their prey; to stand by fettered
and mute, and cry out to heaven that in this conflict the angels
themselves should descend to wrestle for us, and yet know that all the
while the very stars in their courses shall sooner stand still than this
reign of sin be ended:--this is the greatest woe that the world holds.

Beaten, we shake in vain the adamant gates of a brazen iniquity; we may
bruise our breasts there till we die; there is no entrance possible. For
that which is vile is stronger than all love, all faith, all pure
desire, all passionate pain; that which is vile has all the forces that
men have called the powers of hell.

       *       *       *

To him the world was like the dark fathomless waste of waters shelving
away to nameless shapeless perils such as the old Greek mariners drew
upon their charts as compassing the shores they knew.

He had no light of knowledge by which to pursue in hope or fancy the
younger life that would be launched into the untried realms. To him such
separation was as death.

He could not write; he could not even read what was written. He could
only trust to others that all was well with the boy.

He could have none of that mental solace which supports the scholar;
none of that sense of natural loveliness which consoles the poet; his
mind could not travel beyond the narrow circlet of its own pain; his
eyes could not see beauty everywhere from the green fly at his foot to
the sapphire mountains above his head; he only noticed the sunset to
tell the weather; he only looked across the plain to see if the
rain-fall would cross the river. When the autumn crocus sank under his
share, to him it was only a weed best withered; in hell he believed, and
for heaven he hoped, but only dully, as things certain that the priests
knew; but all consolations of the mind or the fancy were denied to him.
Superstitions, indeed, he had, but these were all;--sad-coloured fungi
in the stead of flowers.

The Italian has not strong imagination.

His grace is an instinct; his love is a frenzy; his gaiety is rather joy
than jest; his melancholy is from temperament, not meditation; nature is
little to him; and his religion and his passions alike must have
physical indulgence and perpetual nearness, or they are nothing.

He lived in almost absolute solitude. Sometimes it grew dreary, and the
weeks seemed long.

Two years went by--slowly.

Signa did not come home. The travel to and fro took too much money, and
he was engrossed in his studies, and it was best so; so Luigi Dini said,
and Bruno let it be. The boy did not ask to return. His letters were
very brief and not very coherent, and he forget to send messages to old
Teresina or to Palma. But there was no fear for him.

The sacristan's friends under whose roof he was wrote once in a quarter,
and spoke well of him always, and said that the professors did the same,
and that a gentler lad or one more wedded to his work they never knew.
And so Bruno kept his soul in patience, and said, "Do not trouble him;
when he wishes he will come--or if he want anything. Let him be."

To those who have traversed far seas and many lands, and who can bridge
untravelled countries by the aid of experience and of understanding,
such partings have pain, but a pain lessened by the certain knowledge of
their span and purpose. By the light of remembrance or of imagination
they can follow that which leaves them.

But Bruno had no such solace.

To him all that was indefinite was evil; all that was unfamiliar was
horrible. It is the error of ignorance at all times.

       *       *       *

He played for himself, for the air, for the clouds, for the trees, for
the sheep, for the kids, for the waters, for the stones; played as Pan
did, and Orpheus and Apollo.

His music came from heaven and went back to it. What did it matter who
heard it on earth?

A lily would listen to him as never a man could do; and a daffodil would
dance with delight as never woman could;--or he thought so at least,
which was the same thing. And he could keep the sheep all round him,
charmed and still, high above on the hillside, with the sad pines

What did he want with people to hear? He would play for them; but he did
not care. If they felt it wrongly, or felt it not at all, he would stop,
and run away.

"If they are deaf I will be dumb," he said. "The dogs and the sheep and
the birds are never deaf--nor the hills--nor the flowers. It is only
people that are deaf. I suppose they are always hearing their own steps
and voices and wheels and windlasses and the cries of the children and
the hiss of the frying-pans. I suppose that is why. Well, let them be
deaf. Rusignuola and I do not want them."

So he said to Palma under the south wall, watching a butterfly, that
folded was like an illuminated shield of black and gold, and with its
wings spread was like a scarlet pomegranate blossom flying. Palma had
asked him why he had run away from the bridal supper of Griffeo, the
coppersmith's son,--just in the midst of his music; run away home, he
and his violin.

"They were not deaf," resumed Palma. "But your music was so sad--and
they were merry."

"I played what came to me," said Signa.

"But you are merry sometimes."

"Not in a little room with oilwicks burning, and a stench of wine, and
people round me. People always make me sad."

"Why that?"

"Because--I do not know:--when a number of faces are round me I seem
stupid; it is as if I were in a cage; I feel as if God went away,
farther, farther, farther!"

"But God made men and women."

"Yes. But I wonder if the trapped birds, and the beaten dogs, and the
smarting mules, and the bleeding sheep think so."

"Oh, Signa!"

"I think they must doubt it," said Signa.

"But the beasts are not Christians, the priests say so," said Palma, who
was a very true believer.

"I know. But I think they are. For they forgive. We never do."

"Some of us do."

"Not as the beasts do. Agnoto's house-lamb, the other day, licked his
hand as he cut its throat. He told me so."

"That was because it loved him," said Palma.

"And how can it love if it have not a soul?" said Signa.

Palma munched her crust. This sort of meditation, which Signa was very
prone to wander in, utterly confused her.

She could talk at need, as others could, of the young cauliflowers, and
the spring lettuces, and the chances of the ripening corn, and the look
of the budding grapes, and the promise of the weather, and the
likelihood of drought, and the Parocco's last sermon, and the gossips'
last history of the neighbours, and the varying prices of fine and of
coarse plaiting; but anything else--Palma was more at ease with the
heavy pole pulling against her, and the heavy bucket coming up sullenly
from the water-hole.

She felt, when he spoke in this way, much as Bruno did--only far more
intensely--as if Signa went away from her--right away into the sky
somewhere--as the swallows went when they spread their wings to the
east, or the blue wood-smoke when it vanished.

"You love your music better than you do Bruno, or me, or anything,
Signa," she said, with a little sorrow that was very humble, and not in
the least reproachful.

"Yes," said Signa, with the unconscious cruelty of one in whom Art is
born predominant. "Do you know, Palma," he said suddenly, after a
pause--"Do you know--I think I could make something beautiful, something
men would be glad of, if only I could be where they would care for it."

"We do care," said the girl gently.

"Oh, in a way. That is not what I mean," said the boy, with a little
impatience which daily grew on him more, for the associates of his life.
"You all care; you all sing; it is as the finches do in the fields,
without knowing at all what it is that you do. You are all like birds.
You pipe--pipe--pipe, as you eat, as you work, as you play. But what
music do we ever have in the churches? Who amongst you really likes all
that music when I play it off the old scores that Gigi says were written
by such great men, any better than you like the tinkling of the
mandolines when you dance in the threshing barns? I am sure you all like
the mandolines best. I know nothing here. I do not even know whether
what I do is worth much or nothing. I think if I could hear great music
once--if I could go to Florence----"

"To Florence?" echoed Palma.

       *       *       *

The contadino not seldom goes through all his life without seeing one
league beyond the fields of his labour, and the village that he is
registered at, married at, and buried at, and which is the very apex of
the earth to him. Women will spin and plait and hoe and glean within
half a dozen miles of some great city whose name is an art glory in the
mouths of scholars, and never will have seen it, never once perhaps,
from their birth down to their grave. A few miles of vine-bordered
roads, a breadth of corn-land, a rounded hill, a little red roof under a
mulberry tree, a church tower with a saint upon the roof, and a bell
that sounds over the walnut-trees--these are their world: they know and
want to know no other.

A narrow life, no doubt, yet not without much to be said for it. Without
unrest, without curiosity, without envy; clinging like a plant to the
soil; and no more willing to wander than the vinestakes which they
thrust into the earth.

To those who have put a girdle round the earth with their footsteps, the
whole world seems much smaller than does the hamlet or farm of his
affections to the peasant:--and how much poorer! The vague, dreamful
wonder of an untravelled distance--of an untracked horizon--has after
all more romance in it than lies in the whole globe run over in a year.

Who can ever look at the old maps in Herodotus or Xenophon without a
wish that the charm of those unknown limits and those untraversed seas
was ours?--without an irresistible sense that to have sailed away, in
vaguest hazard, into the endless mystery of the utterly unknown, must
have had a sweetness and a greatness in it that is never to be extracted
from "the tour of the world in ninety days."

       *       *       *

"She takes a whim for him; a fancy of a month; he thinks it heaven and
eternity. She has ruined him. His genius is burned up; his youth is
dead; he will do nothing more of any worth. Women like her are like the
Indian drugs, that sleep and kill. How is that any fault of mine? He
could see the thing she was. If he will fling his soul away upon a
creature lighter than thistle-down, viler than a rattlesnake's poison,
poorer and quicker to pass than the breath of a gnat--whose blame is
that except his own? There was a sculptor once, you know, that fell to
lascivious worship of the marble image he had made; well,--poets are not
even so far wise as that. They make an image out of the gossamer rainbow
stuff of their own dreams, and then curse heaven and earth because it
dissolves to empty air in their fond arms--whose blame is that? The
fools are made so----"

       *       *       *

Not only the fly on the spoke takes praise to itself for the speed of
the wheel, but the stone that would fain have hindered it, says, when
the wheel unhindered has passed it, "Lo! see how much I helped!"

       *       *       *

The woman makes or mars the man: the man the woman. Mythology had no
need of the Fates.

There is only one; the winged blind god that came by night to Psyche.

       *       *       *

All in a moment his art perished.

When a human love wakes it crushes fame like a dead leaf, and all the
spirits and ministers of the mind shrink away before it, and can no more
allure, no more console, but, sighing, pass into silence and are dumb.

       *       *       *

Life, without a central purpose around which it can revolve, is like a
star that has fallen out of its orbit. With a great affection or a great
aim gone, the practical life may go on loosely, indifferently,
mechanically, but it takes no grip on outer things, it has no vital
interest, it gravitates to nothing.

       *       *       *

Men who dwell in solitude are superstitious. There is no "chance" for

The common things of earth and air to them grow portents: and it is
easier for them to believe that the universe revolves to serve the
earth, than to believe that men are to the universe as the gnats in the
sunbeam to the sun; they can sooner credit that the constellations are
charged with their destiny, than that they can suffer and die without
arousing a sigh for them anywhere in all creation. It is not vanity, as
the mocker too hastily thinks. It is the helpless, pathetic cry of the
mortal to the immortal nature from which he springs:

"Leave me not alone: confound me not with the matter that perishes: I am
full of pain--have pity!"

To be the mere sport of hazard as a dead moth is on the wind--the heart
of man refuses to believe it can be so with him. To be created only to
be abandoned--he will not think that the forces of existence are so
cruel and so unrelenting and so fruitless. In the world he may learn to
say that he thinks so, and is resigned to it; but in loneliness the
penumbra of his own existence lies on all creation, and the winds and
the stars and the daylight and night and the vast unknown mute forces of
life--all seem to him that they must of necessity be either his
ministers or his destroyers.

       *       *       *

Of all the innocent things that die, the impossible dreams of the poet
are the things that die with most pain, and, perhaps, with most loss to
humanity. Those who are happy die before their dreams. This is what the
old Greek saying meant.

The world had not yet driven the sweet, fair follies from Signa's head,
nor had it yet made him selfish. If he had lived in the age when
Timander could arrest by his melodies the tide of revolution, or when
the harp of the Persian could save Bagdad from the sword and flame of
Murad, all might have been well with him. But the time is gone by when
music or any other art was a king. All genius now is, at its best, but a
servitor--well or ill fed.

       *       *       *

Silently he put his hand out and grasped Signa's, and led him into the
Spanish Chapel, and sank on his knees.

The glory of the morning streamed in from the cloister; all the dead
gold and the faded hues were transfigured by it; the sunbeams shone on
the face of Laura, the deep sweet colours of Bronzino's Coena glowed
upward in the vault amidst the shadows; the company of the blessed,
whom the old painters had gathered there, cast off the faded robes that
the Ages had wrapped them in, and stood forth like the tender spirits
that they were, and seemed to say, "Nay, we, and they who made us, we
are not dead, but only waiting."

It is all so simple and so foolish there; the war-horses of Taddeo that
bear their lords to eternity as to a joust of arms; the heretic dogs of
Memmi, with their tight wooden collars; the beauteous Fiammetta and her
lover, thronging amongst the saints; the little house, where the Holy
Ghost is sitting, with the purified saints listening at the door, with
strings tied to their heads to lift them into paradise; it is all so
quaint, so childlike, so pathetic, so grotesque,--like a set of wooden
figures from its Noah's Ark that a dying child has set out on its little
bed, and that are so stiff and ludicrous, and yet which no one well can
look at and be unmoved, by reason of the little cold hand that has found
beauty in them.

As the dying child to the wooden figures, so the dead faith gives to the
old frescoes here something that lies too deep for tears; we smile, and
yet all the while we say;--if only we could believe like this; if only
for us the dead could be but sleeping!

       *       *       *

It was past midnight, and the moon had vanished behind her mountain,
withdrawing her little delicate curled golden horn, as if to blow with
it the trumpet-call of morning.

       *       *       *

Such pretty, neat, ready lying as this would stand him in better stead
than all the high spirit in the world; which, after all, only serves to
get a man into hot water in this life and eternal fire in the next.

       *       *       *

In the country of Virgil, life remains pastoral still. The field
labourer of northern countries may be but a hapless hind, hedging and
ditching dolefully, or at best serving a steam-beast with oil and fire;
but in the land of the Georgics there is the poetry of agriculture

Materially it may be an evil and a loss--political economists will say
so; but spiritually it is a gain. A certain peace and light lie on the
people at their toil. The reaper with his hook, the plougher with his
oxen, the girl who gleans amongst the trailing vines, the child that
sees the flowers tossing with the corn, the men that sing to get a
blessing on the grapes--they have all a certain grace and dignity of the
old classic ways left with them. They till the earth still with the
simplicity of old, looking straight to the gods for recompense. Great
Apollo might still come down amidst them and play to them in their
threshing-barns, and guide his milk-white beasts over their
furrows,--and there would be nothing in the toil to shame or burden him.
It will not last. The famine of a world too full will lay it waste; but
it is here a little while longer still.

       *       *       *

For Discontent already creeps into each of these happy households, and
under her fox-skin hood says, "Let me in--I am Progress."

       *       *       *

In most men and women, Love waking wakes, with itself, the soul.

In poets Love waking kills it.

       *       *       *

When God gives genius, I think He makes the brain of some strange,
glorious stuff, that takes all strength out of the character, and all
sight out of the eyes. Those artists--they are like the birds we blind:
they sing, and make people weep for very joy to hear them; but they
cannot see their way to peck the worms, and are for ever wounding their
breasts against the wires. No doubt it is a great thing to have genius;
but it is a sort of sickness after all; and when love comes--

       *       *       *

Lippo knew that wise men do not do harm to whatever they may hate.

They drive it on to slay itself.

So without blood-guiltiness they get their end, yet stainless go to God.

       *       *       *

He was a little shell off the seashore that Hermes had taken out of
millions like it that the waves washed up, and had breathed into, and
had strung with fine chords, and had made into a syrinx sweet for every
human ear.

Why not break the simple shell for sport? She did not care for music.
Did the gods care--they could make another.

       *       *       *

Start a lie and a truth together, like hare and hound; the lie will run
fast and smooth, and no man will ever turn it aside; but at the truth
most hands will fling a stone, and so hinder it for sport's sake, if
they can.

       *       *       *

He heard the notes of a violin, quite faint and distant, but sweet as
the piping of a blackbird amongst the white anemones of earliest

       *       *       *

"Nature makes some folks false as it makes lizards wriggle," said he.
"Lippo is a lizard. No dog ever caught him napping, though he looks so
lazy in the sun."

       *       *       *

He did not waver. He did not repine. He made no reproach, even in his
own thoughts. He had only lost all the hope out of his life and all the
pride of it.

But men lose these and live on; women also.

He had built up his little kingdom out of atoms, little by little; atoms
of time, of patience, of self-denial, of hoarded coins, of snatched
moments;--built it up little by little, at cost of bodily labour and of
bodily pain, as the pyramids were built brick by brick by the toil and
the torment of unnoticed lives.

It was only a poor little nook of land, but it had been like an empire
won to him.

With his foot on its soil he had felt rich.

And now it was gone--gone like a handful of thistle-down lost on the
winds, like a spider's web broken in a shower of rain. Gone: never to be
his own again. Never.

He sat and watched the brook run on, the pied birds come to drink, the
throstle stir on the olive, the cloud shadows steal over the brown, bare

The red flush of sunrise faded. Smoke rose from the distant roofs. Men
came out on the lands to work. Bells rang. The day began.

He got up slowly and went away; looking backwards, looking backwards,

Great leaders who behold their armed hosts melt like snow, and great
monarchs who are driven out discrowned from the palaces of their
fathers, are statelier figures and have more tragic grace than he
had;--only a peasant leaving a shred of land, no bigger than a rich
man's dwelling-house will cover;--but vanquished leader or exiled
monarch never was more desolate than Bruno, when the full sun rose and
he looked his last look upon the three poor fields, where for ever the
hands of other men would labour, and for ever the feet of other men
would wander.

       *       *       *

He only heard the toads cry to one another, feeling rain coming, "Crake!
crake! crake! We love a wet world as men an evil way. The skies are
going to weep; let us be merry. Crock! crock! crock!"

And they waddled out--slow, quaint, black things, with arms akimbo, and
stared at him with their shrewd, hard eyes. They would lie snug a
thousand years with a stone and be quite happy.

Why were not men like that?

Toads are kindly in their way, and will get friendly. Only men seem to
them such fools.

The toad is a fakeer, and thinks the beatitude of life lies in
contemplation. Men fret and fuss and fume, and are for ever in haste;
the toad eyes them with contempt.

       *       *       *

I would die this hour, oh, so gladly, if I could be quite sure that my
music would be loved, and be remembered. I do not know: there can be
nothing like it, I think:--a thing you create, that is all your own,
that is the very breath of your mouth, and the very voice of your soul;
which is all that is best in you, the very gift of God; and then to know
that all this may be lost eternally, killed, stifled, buried, just for
want of men's faith and a little gold! I do not think there can be any
loss like it, nor any suffering like it, anywhere else in the world. Oh,
if only it would do any good, I would fling my body into the grave
to-morrow, happy, quite happy; if only afterwards, they would sing my
songs, all over the earth, and just say, "God spoke to him; and he has
told men what He said."

       *       *       *

No one can make much music with the mandoline, but there is no other
music, perhaps, which sounds so fittingly to time and place, as do its
simple sonorous tender chords when heard through the thickets of
rose-laurel or the festoons of the vines, vibrating on the stillness of
the night under the Tuscan moon. It would suit the serenade of Romeo;
Desdemona should sing the willow song to it, and not to the harp; Paolo
pleaded by it, be sure, many a time to Francesca; and Stradella sang to
it the passion whose end was death; it is of all music the most Italian,
and it fills the pauses of the love-songs softly, like a sigh or like a

Its very charm is, that it says so little. Love wants so little said.

And the mandoline, though so mournful and full of languor as Love is,
yet can be gay with that caressing joy born of beautiful nothings, which
makes the laughter of lovers the lightest-hearted laughter that ever
gives silver wings to time.

       *       *       *

It was a quaint, vivid, pretty procession, full of grace and of
movement--classic and homely, pagan and mediæval, both at once--bright
in hue, rustic in garb, poetic in feeling.

Teniers might have painted the brown girls and boys leaping and singing
on the turf, with their brandishing boughs, their flaring torches, their
bare feet, their tossing arms; but Leonardo or Guercino would have been
wanted for the face of the young singer whom they carried, with the
crown of the leaves and of the roses on his drooped head, like the
lotus flowers on the young Antinous.

Piero di Cosimo, perhaps, in one of his greatest moments of brilliant
caprice, might best have painted the whole, with the background of the
dusky hillside; and he would have set it round with strange arabesques
in gold, and illumined amongst them in emblem the pipe of the shepherd,
and the harp of the muse, and the river-rush that the gods would cut
down and fill with their breath and the music of heaven.

Bruno stood by, and let the innocent pageant pass, with its gold of
autumn foliage and its purples of crocus-like colchicum.

He heard their voices crying in the court: "We have got him--we have
brought him. Our Signa, who is going to be great!"

       *       *       *

All life had been to him as the divining-rod of Aaron, blooming ever
afresh with magic flowers. Now that the flame of pain and passion burned
it up, and left a bare sear brittle bough, he could not understand.

Love is cruel as the grave.

The poet has embraced the universe in his visions, and heard harmony in
every sound, from deep calling through the darkest storm to deep, as
from the lightest leaf-dancing in the summer wind; he has found joy in
the simplest things, in the nest of a bird, in the wayside grass, in the
yellow sand, in the rods of the willow; the lowliest creeping life has
held its homily and solace, and in the hush of night he has lifted his
face to the stars, and thought that he communed with their Creator and
his own. Then--all in a moment--Love claims him, and there is no melody
anywhere save in one single human voice, there is no heaven for him save
on one human breast; when one face is turned from him there is darkness
on all the earth; when one life is lost--let the stars reel from their
courses and the world whirl and burn and perish like the moon; nothing
matters; when Love is dead there is no God.

       *       *       *

Bruno lay down that night, but for an hour only. He could not sleep.

He rose before the sun was up, in the grey wintry break of day, while
the fog from the river rose like a white wall built up across the plain.

It is the season when the peasant has the least to do. Ploughing, and
sowing, and oil-pressing, all are past; there is little labour for man
or beast; there is only garden work for the vegetable market, and the
care of the sheep and cattle, where there are any. In large households,
where many brothers and sisters get round the oil lamp and munch roast
chestnuts and thrum a guitar, or tell ghost stories, these short empty
days are very well; sometimes there is a stranger lost coming over the
pinewoods, sometimes there is a snow-storm, and the sheep want seeing
to; sometimes there is the old roistering way of keeping Twelfth-night,
even on these lonely wind-torn heights; where the house is full and
merry, the short winter passes not so very dully; but in the solitary
places, where men brood alone, as Bruno did, they are heavy enough; all
the rest of the world might be dead and buried, the stillness is so
unbroken, the loneliness so great.

He got up and saw after his few sheep above amongst the pines; one or
two of them were near lambing; then he laboured on his garden mould
amongst the potato plants and cauliflowers, the raw mist in his lungs
and the sea-wind blowing. It had become very mild; the red rose on his
house-wall was in bud, and the violets were beginning to push from
underneath the moss; but the mornings were always very cold and damp.

An old man came across from Carmignano to beg a pumpkin-gourd or two; he
got a scanty living by rubbing them up and selling them to the fishermen
down on the Arno. Bruno gave them. He had known the old creature all his

"You are dull here," said the old man, timidly; because every one was
more or less afraid of Bruno.

Bruno shrugged his shoulders and took up his spade again.

"Your boy does grand things, they say," said the old man; "but it would
be cheerfuller for you if he had taken to the soil."

Bruno went on digging.

"It is like a man I know," said the pumpkin-seller, thinking the sound
of his own voice must be a charity. "A man that helped to cast
church-bells. He cast bells all his life; he never did anything else at
all. 'It is brave work,' said he to me once, 'sweating in the furnace
there and making the metal into tuneful things to chime the praise of
all the saints and angels; but when you sweat and sweat and sweat, and
every bell you make just goes away and is swung up where you never see
or hear it ever again--that seems sad; my bells are all ringing in the
clouds, saving the people's souls, greeting Our Lady; but they are all
gone ever so far away from me. I only hear them ringing in my dreams.'
Now, I think the boy is like the bells--to you."

Bruno dug in the earth.

"The man was a fool," said he. "Who cared for his sweat or sorrow? It
was his work to melt the metal. That was all."

"Ay," said the pumpkin-seller, and shouldered the big, yellow, wrinkled
things that he had begged; "but never to hear the bells--that is sad

Bruno smiled grimly.

"Sad! He could hear some of them as other people did, no doubt, ringing
far away against the skies while he was in the mud. That was all he
wanted; if he were wise, he did not even want so much as that.

It was against his wont to speak so many words on any other thing than
the cattle or the olive harvest or the prices of seeds and grain in the
market in the town. He set his heel upon his spade and pitched the
earth-begrimed potatoes in the skip he filled.

The old man nodded and went--to wend his way to Carmignano.

Suddenly he turned back: he was a tender-hearted, fanciful soul, and had
had a long, lonely life himself.

"I tell you what," he said, a little timidly; "perhaps the bells,
praising God always, ringing the sun in and out, and honouring Our Lady;
perhaps they went for something in the lives of the men that made them?
I think they must. It would be hard if the bells got everything, the
makers nothing."

Over Bruno's face a slight change went. His imperious eyes softened. He
knew the old man spoke in kindness.

"Take these home with you. Nay; no thanks," he said, and lifted on the
other's back the kreel full of potatoes dug for the market.

The old man blessed him, overjoyed; he was sickly and very poor; and
hobbled on his way along the side of the mountains.

Bruno went to other work.

If the bells ring true and clear, and always to the honour of the
saints, a man may be content to have sweated for it in the furnace and
to be forgot; but--if it be cracked in a fire and the pure ore of it
melt away shapeless?

       *       *       *

"Toccò" was sounding from all the city clocks. He met another man he
knew, a farmer from Montelupo.

"Brave doings!" said the Montelupo man. "A gala night to-night for the
foreign prince, and your boy summoned, so they say. No doubt you are
come in to see it all?"

Bruno shook himself free quickly, and went on; for a moment it occurred
to him that it might be best to wait and see Signa in the town; but then
he could not do that well. Nothing was done at home, and the lambs could
not be left alone to the shepherd lad's inexperience; only a day old,
one or two of them, and the ground so wet, and the ewes weakly. To leave
his farm would have seemed to Bruno as to leave his sinking ship does to
a sailor. Besides, he had nothing to do with all the grandeur; the king
did not want _him_.

All this stir and tumult and wonder and homage in the city was for
Signa; princes seemed almost like his servants, the king like his
henchman! Bruno was proud, under his stern, calm, lofty bearing, which
would not change, and would not let him smile, or seem so womanish-weak
as to be glad for all the gossiping.

The boy wanted no king or prince.

He said so to them with erect disdain.

Yet he was proud.

"After all, one does hear the bells ringing," he thought; his mind
drifting away to the old Carmignano beggar's words. He was proud, and

He stopped his mule by Strozzi palace, and pushed his way into the
almost empty market to the place called the Spit or Fila, where all day
long and every day before the roaring fires the public cooks roast flesh
and fowl to fill the public paunch of Florence.

Here there was a large crowd, pushing to buy the frothing, savoury hot
meats. He thrust the others aside, and bought half a kid smoking, and a
fine capon, and thrust them in his cart. Then he went to a shop near,
and bought some delicate white bread, and some foreign chocolate, and
some snowy sugar.

"No doubt," he thought, "the boy had learned to like daintier fare than
theirs in his new life;" theirs, which was black crusts and oil and
garlic all the year round, with meat and beans, perhaps, on feast
nights, now and then, by way of a change. Then as he was going to get
into his seat he saw among the other plants and flowers standing for
sale upon the ledge outside the palace a damask rose-tree--a little
thing, but covered with buds and blossoms blushing crimson against the
stately old iron torch-rings of the smith Caprera. Bruno looked at
it--he who never thought of flowers from one year's end on to another,
and cut them down with his scythe for his oxen to munch as he cut grass.
Then he bought it.

The boy liked all beautiful innocent things, and had been always so
foolish about the lowliest herb. It would make the dark old house upon
the hill look bright to him. Ashamed of the weaknesses that he yielded
to, Bruno sent the mule on at its fastest pace; the little red rose-tree
nodding in the cart.

He had spent more in a day than he was accustomed to spend in three
months' time.

But then the house looked so cheerless.

As swiftly as he could make the mule fly, he drove home across the

The boy was there, no doubt; and would be cold and hungry, and alone.

Bruno did not pause a moment on his way, though more than one called to
him as he drove, to know if it were true indeed that this night there
was to be a gala for the Lamia and the princes.

He nodded, and flew through the chill grey afternoon, splashing the deep
mud on either side of him.

The figure of St. Giusto on his high tower; the leafless vines and the
leafless poplars; the farriers' and coopers' workshops on the road; grim
Castel Pucci, that once flung its glove at Florence; the green low dark
hills of Castagnolo; villa and monastery, watch-tower and bastion,
homestead and convent, all flew by him, fleeting and unseen; all he
thought of was that the boy would be waiting, and want food.

He was reckless and furious in his driving always, but his mule had
never been beaten and breathless as it was that day when he tore up the
ascent to his own farm as the clocks in the plain tolled four.

He was surprised to see his dog lie quiet on the steps.

"Is he there?" he cried instinctively to the creature, which rose and
came to greet him.

There was no sound anywhere.

Bruno pushed his door open.

The house was empty.

He went out again and shouted to the air.

The echo from the mountain above was all his answer. When that died away
the old silence of the hills was unbroken.

He returned and took the food and the little rose-tree out of his cart.

He had bought them with eagerness, and with that tenderness which was in
him, and for which dead Dina had loved him to her hurt. He had now no
pleasure in them. A bitter disappointment flung its chill upon him.

Disappointment is man's most frequent visitor--the uninvited guest most
sure to come; he ought to be well used to it; yet he can never get

Bruno ought to have learned never to hope.

But his temper was courageous and sanguine: such madmen hope on to the
very end.

He put the things down on the settle, and went to put up the mule. The
little rose-tree had been too roughly blown in the windy afternoon; its
flowers were falling, and some soon strewed the floor.

Bruno looked at it when he entered.

It hurt him; as the star Argol had done.

He covered the food with a cloth, and set the flower out of the draught.
Then he went to see his sheep.

There was no train by the seaway from Rome until night. Signa would not
come that way now, since he had to be in the town for the evening.

"He will come after the theatre," Bruno said to himself, and tried to
get the hours away by work. He did not think of going into the city
again himself. He was too proud to go and see a thing he had never been
summoned to; too proud to stand outside the doors and stare with the
crowd while Pippa's son was honoured within.

Besides, he could not have left the lambs all a long winter's night; and
the house all unguarded; and nobody there to give counsel to the poor
mute simpleton whom he had now to tend his beasts.

"He will come after the theatre," he said.

The evening seemed very long.

The late night came. Bruno set his door open, cold though it was; so
that he should catch the earliest sound of footsteps. The boy, no doubt,
he thought, would drive to the foot of the hill, and walk the rest.

It was a clear night after the rain of many days.

He could see the lights of the city in the plain fourteen miles or so

What was doing down there?

It seemed strange;--Signa being welcomed there, and he himself knowing
nothing--only hearing a stray word or two by chance.

Once or twice in his younger days he had seen the city in gala over some
great artist it delighted to honour; he could imagine the scene and
fashion of it all well enough; he did not want to be noticed in it, only
he would have liked to have been told, and to have gone down and seen
it, quietly wrapped in his cloak, amongst the throng.

That was how he would have gone, had he been told.

He set the supper out as well as he could, and put wine ready, and the
rose-tree in the midst. In the lamplight the little feast did not look
so badly.

He wove wicker-work round some uncovered flasks by way of doing
something. The bitter wind blew in; he did not mind that; his ear was
strained to listen. Midnight passed. The wind had blown his lamp out. He
lighted two great lanthorns, and hung them up against the doorposts; it
was so dark upon the hills.

One hour went; another; then another. There was no sound. When yet
another passed, and it was four of the clock, he said:

"He will not come to-night. No doubt they kept him late, and he was too
tired. He will be here by sunrise."

He threw himself on his bed for a little time, and closed the door. But
he left the lanthorns hanging outside; on the chance.

He slept little; he was up while it was still dark, and the robins were
beginning their first twittering notes.

"He will be here to breakfast," he said to himself, and he left the
table untouched, only opening the shutters so that when day came it
should touch the rose at once and wake it up; it looked so drooping, as
though it felt the cold.

Then he went and saw to his beasts and to his work.

The sun leapt up in the cold, broad, white skies. Signa did not come
with it.

The light brightened. The day grew. Noon brought its hour of rest.

The table still stood unused. The rose-leaves had fallen in a little
crimson pool upon it. Bruno sat down on the bench by the door, not
having broken his fast.

"They are keeping him in the town," he thought. "He will come later."

He sat still a few moments, but he did not eat.

In a little while he heard a step on the dead winter leaves and tufts of
rosemary. He sprang erect; his eyes brightened; his face changed. He
went forward eagerly:

"Signa!--my dear!--at last!"

He only saw under the leafless maples and brown vine tendrils a young
man that he had never seen, who stopped before him breathing quickly
from the steepness of the ascent.

"I was to bring this to you," he said, holding out a long gun in its
case. "And to tell you that he, the youth they all talk of--Signa--went
back to Rome this morning; had no time to come, but sends you this, with
his dear love and greeting, and will write from Rome to-night. Ah, Lord!
There was such fuss with him in the city. He was taken to the foreign
princes, and then the people!--if you had heard them!--all the street
rang with the cheering. This morning he could hardly get away for all
the crowd there was. I am only a messenger. I should be glad of wine.
Your hill is steep."

Bruno took the gun from him, and put out a flask of his own wine on the
threshold; then shut close the door.

It was such a weapon as he had coveted all his life long, seeing such in
gunsmiths' windows and the halls of noblemen: a breech-loader, of
foreign make, beautifully mounted and inlaid with silver.

He sat still a little while, the gun lying on his knees; there was a
great darkness on his face. Then he gripped it in both hands, the butt
in one, the barrel in the other, and dashed the centre of it down across
the round of his great grindstone.

The blow was so violent, the wood of the weapon snapped with it across
the middle, the shining metal loosened from its hold. He struck it
again, and again, and again; until all the polished walnut was flying in
splinters, and the plates of silver, bent and twisted, falling at his
feet; the finely tempered steel of the long barrel alone was whole.

He went into his woodshed, and brought out branches of acacia brambles,
and dry boughs of pine, and logs of oak; dragging them forth with fury.
He piled them in the empty yawning space of the black hearth, and built
them one on another in a pile; and struck a match and fired them,
tossing pine-cones in to catch the flames.

In a few minutes a great fire roared alight, the turpentine in the
pine-apples and fir-boughs blazing like pitch. Then he fetched the
barrel of the gun, and the oaken stock, and the silver plates and
mountings, and threw them into the heat.

The flaming wood swallowed them up; he stood and watched it.

After a while a knock came at his house-door.

"Who is there?" he called.

"It is I," said a peasant's voice. "There is so much smoke, I thought
you were on fire. I was on the lower hill, so I ran up--is all right
with you?"

"All is right with me."

"But what is the smoke?"

"I bake my bread."

"It will be burnt to cinders."

"I make it, and I eat it. Whose matter is it?"

The peasant went away muttering, with slow unwilling feet.

Bruno watched the fire.

After a brief time its frenzy spent itself; the flames died down; the
reddened wood grew pale, and began to change to ash; the oaken stock was
all consumed, the silver was melted and fused into shapeless lumps, the
steel tube alone kept shape unchanged, but it was blackened and choked
up with ashes, and without beauty or use.

Bruno watched the fire die down into a great mound of dull grey and
brown charred wood.

Then he went out, and drew the door behind him, and locked it.

The last red rose dropped, withered by the heat.

       *       *       *

There is always song somewhere. As the wine waggon creaks down the hill,
the waggoner will chant to the corn that grows upon either side of him.
As the miller's mules cross the bridge, the lad as he cracks his whip
will hum to the blowing alders. In the red clover, the labourers will
whet their scythes to a trick of melody. In the quiet evenings a Kyrie
Eleison will rise from the thick leaves that hide a village chapel. On
the hills the goatherd, high in air amongst the arbutus branches, will
scatter on the lonely mountain-side stanzas of purest rhythm. By the
sea-shore, where Shelley died, the fisherman, rough and salt and
weather-worn, will string notes of sweetest measure under the
tamarisk-tree on his mandoline. But the poetry and the music float on
the air like the leaves of roses that blossom in a solitude, and drift
away to die upon the breeze; there is no one to notice the fragrance,
there is no one to gather the leaves.

       *       *       *

But then life does not count by years. Some suffer a lifetime in a day,
and so grow old between the rising and the setting of a sun.

       *       *       *

But he was not obstinate. He only stretched towards the light he saw, as
the plant in the cellar will stretch through the bars.

Tens of millions of little peasants come to the birth, and grow up and
become men, and do the daily bidding of the world, and work and die, and
have no more of soul or Godhead in them than the grains of sand. But
here and there, with no lot different from his fellows, one is born to
dream and muse and struggle to the sun of higher desires, and the world
calls such a one Burns, or Haydn, or Giotto, or Shakespeare, or whatever
name the fierce light of fame may burn upon and make irridescent.

       *       *       *

The mighty lives have passed away into silence, leaving no likeness to
them on earth; but if you would still hold communion with them, even
better than to go to written score or printed book or painted panel or
chiselled marble or cloistered gloom is it to stray into one of these
old quiet gardens, where for hundreds of years the stone naiad has
leaned over the fountain, and the golden lizard hidden under the fallen
caryatide, and sit quite still, and let the stones tell you what they
remember, and the leaves say what the sun once saw; and then the shades
of the great dead will come to you. Only you must love them truly, else
you will see them never.

       *       *       *

"How he loves that thing already--as he never will love me," thought
Bruno, looking down at him in the starlight, with that dull sense of
hopeless rivalry and alien inferiority which the self-absorption of
genius inflicts innocently and unconsciously on the human affections
that cling to it, and which later on love avenges upon it in the same

       *       *       *

Who can look at the old maps in Herodotus or Xenophon, without a wish
that the charm of those unknown limits and those untraversed seas was
ours?--without an irresistible sense that to have sailed away, in
vaguest hazard, into the endless mystery of the utterly unknown, must
have had a sweetness and a greatness in it that is never to be extracted
from the "tour of the world in ninety days."

       *       *       *

Fair faiths are the blossoms of life. When the faith drops, spring is

       *       *       *

In the country of Virgil, life remains pastoral still. The
field-labourer of northern counties may be but a hapless hind, hedging
and ditching dolefully, or at least serving a steam-beast with oil and
fire, but in the land of the Georgics there is the poetry of agriculture

       *       *       *

The fatal desire of fame, which is to art the corroding element, as the
desire of the senses is to love--bearing with it the seeds of satiety
and mortality--had entered into him without his knowing what it was that
ailed him.

       *       *       *

Genius lives in isolation, and suffers from it. But perhaps it creates
it. The breath of its lips is like ether; purer than the air around it,
it changes the air for others into ice.

       *       *       *

Conscience and genius--the instinct of the heart, and the desire of the
mind--the voice that warns and the voice that ordains: when these are in
conflict, it is bitter for life in which they are at war; most bitter of
all when that life is in its opening youth, and sure of everything, and
yet sure of nothing.

       *       *       *

Between them there was that bottomless chasm of mental difference,
across which mutual affection can throw a rope-chain of habit and
forbearance for the summer days, but which no power on earth can ever
bridge over with that iron of sympathy which stands throughout all

       *       *       *

When the heart is fullest of pain, and the mouth purest with truth,
there is a cruel destiny in things, which often makes the words worst
chosen and surest to defeat the end they seek.

       *       *       *

There is a chord in every human heart that has a sigh in it if touched
aright. When the artist finds the key-note which that chord will answer
to--in the dullest as in the highest--then he is great.

       *       *       *

Life without a central purpose around which it can revolve, is like a
star that has fallen out of its orbit. With a great affection or a great
aim gone, the practical life may go on loosely, indifferently,
mechanically, but it takes no grip on outer things, it has no vital
interest, it gravitates to nothing.

       *       *       *

Fame has only the span of a day, they say. But to live in the hearts of
the people--that is worth something.

       *       *       *

Keep young. Keep innocent. Innocence does not come back: and repentance
is a poor thing beside it.

       *       *       *

The chimes of the monastery were ringing out for the first mass; deep
bells of sweet tone, that came down the river like a benediction on the
day. Signa kneeled down on the grass.

"Did you pray for the holy men?" Bruno asked him when they rose, and
they went on under the tall green quivering trees.

"No," said Signa under his breath. "I prayed for the devil."

"For him?" echoed Bruno aghast; "what are you about, child? Are you
possessed? Do you know what the good priests would say?"

"I prayed for him," said Signa. "It is he who wants it. To be wicked
_there_ where God is, and the sun, and the bells"----

"But he is the foe of God. It is horrible to pray for him."

"No," said Signa, sturdily. "God says we are to forgive our enemies, and
help them. I only asked Him to begin with His."

Bruno was silent.


At every point where her eyes glanced there was a picture of exquisite
colour, and light, and variety.

But the scene in its loveliness was so old to her, so familiar, that it
was scarcely lovely, only monotonous. With all a child's usual ignorant
impatience of the joys of the present--joys so little valued at the
time, so futilely regretted in the after-years--she was heedless of the
hour's pleasure, she was longing for what had not come.

       *       *       *

On the whole, the Waif fared better, having fallen to the hands of a
vagabond philosopher, than if she had drifted to those of a respected
philanthropist. The latter would have had her glistening hair shorn
short, as a crown with which that immortal and inconsistent socialist
Nature had no justification in crowning a foundling, and, in his desire
to make her fully expiate the lawless crime of entering the world
without purse or passport, would have left her no choice, as she grew
into womanhood, save that between sinning and starving. The former bade
the long fair tresses float on the air, sunny rebels against bondage,
and saw no reason why the childhood of the castaway should not have its
share of childish joyousness as well as the childhood prince-begotten
and palace-cradled; holding that the fresh life just budded on earth
was as free from all soil, no matter whence it came, as is the brook of
pure rivulet water, no matter whether it spring from classic lake or
from darksome cavern.

       *       *       *

The desire to be "great" possessed her. When that insatiate passion
enters a living soul, be it the soul of a woman-child dreaming of a
coquette's conquests, or a crowned hero craving for a new world, it
becomes blind to all else. Moral death falls on it; and any sin looks
sweet that takes it nearer to its goal. It is a passion that generates
at once all the loftiest and all the vilest things, which between them
ennoble and corrupt the world--even as heat generates at once the
harvest and the maggot, the purpling vine and the lice that devour it.
It is a passion without which the world would decay in darkness, as it
would do without heat, yet to which, as to heat, all its filthiest
corruption is due.

       *       *       *

A woman's fair repute is like a blue harebell--a touch can wither it.

       *       *       *

Viva had gained the "great world;" and because she had gained it all the
old things of her lost past grew unalterably sweet to her now that they
no longer could be called hers. The brown, kind, homely, tender face of
grand'mère; the gambols of white and frolicsome Bébé; the woods where,
with every spring, she had filled her arms with sheaves of delicate
primroses; the quaint little room with its strings of melons and sweet
herbs, its glittering brass and pewter, its wood-fire with the soup-pot
simmering above the flame; the glad free days in the vineyard and on
the river, with the winds blowing fragrance from over the clover and
flax, and the acacias and lindens; nay, even the old, quiet, sleepy
hours within the convent-walls, lying on the lush unshaven grass, while
the drowsy bells rang to vespers or compline,--all became suddenly
precious and dear to her when once she knew that they had drifted away
from her for evermore.

       *       *       *

Then he bent his head, letting her desire be his law; and that music,
which had given its hymn for the vintage-feast of the Loire, and which
had brought back the steps of the suicide from the river-brink in the
darkness of the Paris night, which sovereigns could not command and
which held peasants entranced by its spell, thrilled through the
stillness of the chamber.

Human in its sadness, more than human in its eloquence, now melancholy
as the Miserere that sighs through the gloom of a cathedral at midnight,
now rich as the glory of the afterglow in Egypt, a poem beyond words, a
prayer grand as that which seems to breathe from the hush of mountain
solitudes when the eternal snows are lighted by the rising of the
sun--the melody of the violin filled the silence of the closing day.

The melancholy, ever latent in the vivid natures of men of genius, is
betrayed and finds voice in their Art. Goethe laughs with the riotous
revellers, and rejoices with the summer of the vines, and loves the glad
abandonment of woman's soft embraces, and with his last words prays for
Light. But the profound sadness of the great and many-sided master-mind
thrills through and breaks out in the intense humanity, the passionate
despair of Faust; the melancholy and the yearning of the soul are there.

With Tricotrin they were uttered in his music.

       *       *       *

"Let me be but amused! Let me only laugh if I die!" cries the world in
every age. It has so much of grief and tragedy in its own realities, it
has so many bitter tears to shed in its solitude, it has such weariness
of labour without end, it has such infinitude of woe to regard in its
prisons, in its homes, in its battlefields, in its harlotries, in its
avarices, in its famines; it is so heart-sick of them all, that it would
fain be lulled to forgetfulness of its own terrors; it asks only to
laugh for awhile, even if it laugh but at shadows.

"The world is vain, frivolous, reckless of that which is earnest; it is
a courtesan who thinks only of pleasure, of adornment, of gewgaws, of
the toys of the hour!" is the reproach which its satirists in every age
hoot at it.

Alas! it is a courtesan who, having sold herself to evil, strives to
forget her vile bargain; who, having washed her cheeks white with
saltest tears, strives to believe that the paint calls the true colour
back; who, having been face to face for so long with blackest guilt,
keenest hunger, dreadest woe, strives to lose their ghosts, that
incessantly follow her, in the tumult of her own thoughtless laughter.

"Let me be but amused!"--the cry is the aching cry of a world that is
overborne with pain, and with longing for the golden years of its youth;
that cry is never louder than when the world is most conscious of its
own infamy.

In the Roman Empire, in the Byzantine Empire, in the Second Empire of
Napoleonic France, the world, reeking with corruption, staggering under
the burden of tyrannies, and delivered over to the dominion of lust, has
shrieked loudest in its blindness of suffering, "Let me only laugh if I

       *       *       *

Not as others! Why, my Waif? Is your foot less swift, your limb less
strong, your face less fair than theirs? Does the sun shine less often,
have the flowers less fragrance, does sleep come less sweetly to you
than to them? Nature has been very good, very generous to you, Viva. Be
content with her gifts. What you lack is only a thing of man's
invention--a quibble, a bauble, a Pharisee's phylactery. Look at the
river-lilies that drift yonder--how white they are, how their leaves
enclose and caress them, how the water buoys them up and plays with
them! Well, are they not better off than the poor rare flowers that live
painfully in hothouse air, and are labelled, and matted, and given long
names by men's petty precise laws? You are like the river-lilies. O
child, do not pine for the glass house that would ennoble you, only to
force you and kill you?

       *       *       *

Wrong to be proud, you ask? No. But then the pride must be of a right
fashion. It must be the pride which says, "Let me not envy, for that
were meanness. Let me not covet, for that were akin to theft. Let me not
repine, for that were weakness." It must be the pride which says, "I can
be sufficient for myself. My life makes my nobility; and I need no
accident of rank, because I have a stainless honour." It must be pride
too proud to let an aged woman work where youthful limbs can help her;
too proud to trample basely on what lies low already; too proud to be a
coward, and shrink from following conscience in the confession of known
error; too proud to despise the withered toil-worn hands of the poor and
old, and be vilely forgetful that those hands succoured you in your
utmost need of helpless infancy!

       *       *       *

Philosophy, Viva, is the pomegranate of life, ever cool and most
fragrant, and the deeper you cut in it the richer only will the core
grow. Power is the Dead-Sea apple, golden and fair to sight while the
hand strives to reach it, dry grey ashes between dry fevered lips when
once it is grasped and eaten!

       *       *       *

Pleasure is but labour to those who do not know also that labour in its
turn is pleasure.

       *       *       *

Happy! As a mollusc is happy so long as the sea sweeps prey into its
jaws; what does the mollusc care how many lives have been shipwrecked so
long as the tide wafts it worms? She has killed her conscience, Viva;
there is no murder more awful. It is to slay what touch of God we have
in us!

       *       *       *

Have I been cruel, my child? Your fever of discontent needed a sharp
cure. Life lies before you, Viva, and you alone can mould it for
yourself. Sin and anguish fill nine-tenths of the world: to one soul
that basks in light, a thousand perish in darkness; I dare not let you
go on longer in your dangerous belief that the world is one wide
paradise, and that the high-road of its joys is the path of reckless
selfishness. Can you not think that there are lots worse than that of a
guiltless child who is well loved and well guarded, and has all her
future still before her?

       *       *       *

It rests with you to live your life nobly or vilely. We have not our
choice to be rich or poor, to be happy or unhappy, to be in health or in
sickness; but we have our choice to be worthy or worthless. No
antagonist can kill our soul in us; that can perish only from its own
suicide. Ever remember that.

       *       *       *

But they are hollow inside, you still urge? fie, for shame! What a plea
that is! Have you the face to make it? If you have, let me bargain with

When all the love that is fair and false goes begging for believers, and
all the passion that is a sham fails to find one fool to buy it; when
all the priests and politicians clap in vain together the brazen cymbals
of their tongues, because their listeners will not hearken to brass
clangour, nor accept it for the music of the spheres; when all the
creeds, that feast and fatten upon the cowardice and selfishness of men,
are driven out of hearth and home, and mart and temple, as impostors
that put on the white beard of reverence and righteousness to pass
current a cheater's coin; when all the kings that promise peace while
they swell their armouries and armies; when all the statesmen that
chatter of the people's weal as they steal up to the locked casket where
coronets are kept; when all the men who talk of "glory," and prate of an
"idea" that they may stretch their nation's boundary, and filch their
neighbour's province--when all these are no longer in the land, and no
more looked on with favour, then I will believe your cry that you hate
the toys which are hollow.

       *       *       *

Can an ignorant or an untrained brain follow the theory of light, or the
metamorphosis of plants? Yet it may rejoice in the rays of a summer sun,
in the scent of a nest of wild-flowers. So may it do in my music. Shall
I ask higher payment than the God of the sun and the violets asks for

       *       *       *

Once there were three handmaidens of Krishna's; invisible, of course, to
the world of men. They begged of Krishna, one day, to test their wisdom,
and Krishna gave them three drops of dew. It was in the season of
drought,--and he bade them go and bestow them where each deemed best in
the world.

Now one flew earthward, and saw a king's fountain leaping and shining in
the sun; the people died of thirst, and the fields and the plains were
cracked with heat, but the king's fountain was still fed and played on.
So she thought, "Surely, my dew will best fall where such glorious water
dances?" and she shook the drop into the torrent.

The second hovered over the sea, and saw the Indian oysters lying under
the waves, among the sea-weed and the coral. Then she thought, "A
rain-drop that falls in an oyster's shell becomes a pearl; it may bring
riches untold to man, and shine in the diadem of a monarch. Surely it is
best bestowed where it will change to a jewel?"--and she shook the dew
into the open mouth of a shell.

The third had scarcely hovered a moment over the parched white lands,
ere she beheld a little, helpless brown bird dying of thirst upon the
sand, its bright eyes glazed, its life going out in torture. Then she
thought, "Surely my gift will be best given in succour to the first and
lowliest thing I see in pain?"--and she shook the dew-drop down into the
silent throat of the bird, that fluttered, and arose, and was

Then Krishna said that she alone had bestowed her power wisely; and he
bade her take the tidings of rain to the aching earth, and the earth
rejoiced exceedingly. Genius is the morning dew that keeps the world
from perishing in drought. Can you read my parable?

       *       *       *

To die when life can be lived no longer with honour is greatness indeed;
but to die because life galls and wearies and is hard to pursue--there
is no greatness in that? It is the suicide's plea for his own self-pity.
You live under tyranny, corruption, dynastic lies hard to bear, despotic
enemies hard to bear, I know. But you forget--what all followers of your
creed ever forget--that without corruption, untruth, weakness, ignorance
in a nation itself, such things could not be in its rulers. Men can
bridle the ass and can drive the sheep; but who can drive the eagle or
bridle the lion? A people that was strong and pure no despot could yoke
to his vices.

       *       *       *

No matter! He must have _race_ in him. Heraldry may lie; but voices do
not. Low people make money, drive in state, throng to palaces, receive
kings at their tables by the force of gold; but their antecedents always
croak out in their voices. They either screech or purr; they have no
clear modulations; besides, their women always stumble over their train,
and their men bow worse than their servants.

       *       *       *

Ere long he drew near a street which in the late night was still
partially filled with vehicles and with foot-passengers, hurrying
through the now fast-falling snow, and over the slippery icy pavements.
In one spot a crowd had gathered--of artisans, women, soldiers, and
idlers, under the light of a gas-lamp. In the midst of the throng some
gendarmes had seized a young girl, accused by one of the bystanders of
having stolen a broad silver piece from his pocket.

She offered no resistance; she stood like a stricken thing, speechless
and motionless, as the men roughly laid hands on her.

Tricotrin crossed over the road, and with difficulty made his way into
the throng of blouses and looked at her. Degraded she was, but scarcely
above a child's years; and her features had a look as if innocence were
in some sort still there, and sin still loathed in her soul. As he drew
near he heard her mutter,

"Mother, mother! She will die of hunger!--it was for her, only for her!"

He stooped in the snow, and letting fall, unperceived, a five-franc
piece, picked it up again.

"Here is some silver," he said, turning to the infuriated owner, a
lemonade-seller, who could ill afford to lose it now that it was winter,
and people were too cold for lemonade, and who seized it with rapturous

"That is it, monsieur, that is it. Holy Jesus! how can I thank you? Ah,
if I had convicted the poor creature--and all in error!--I should never
have forgiven myself! Messieurs les gendarmes, let her go! It was my
mistake. My silver piece was in the snow!"

The gendarmes reluctantly let quit their prey: they muttered, they
hesitated, they gripped her arms tighter, and murmured of the

"Let her go," said Tricotrin quietly: and in a little while they did
so,--the girl stood bareheaded and motionless in the snow like a
frost-bound creature.

Soon the crowd dispersed: nothing can be still long in Paris, and since
there had been no theft there was no interest! they were soon left
almost alone, none were within hearing.

Then he stooped to her: she had never taken off him the wild, senseless,
incredulous gaze of her great eyes.

"Were you guilty?" he asked her.

She caught his hands, she tried to bless him and to thank him, and broke
down in hysterical sobs.

"I took it--yes! What would you have? I took it for my mother. She is
old, and blind, and without food. It is for her that I came on the
streets; but she does not know it, it would kill her to know; she thinks
my money honest; and she is so proud and glad with it! That was the
first thing I _stole_! O God! are you an angel? If they had put me in
prison my mother would have starved!"

He looked on her gently, and with a pity that fell upon her heart like

"I saw it was your first theft. Hardened robbers do not wear your
stricken face," he said softly, as he slipped two coins into her hand.
"Ah, child! let your mother die rather than allow her to eat the bread
of your dishonour: which choice between the twain do you not think a
mother would make? And know your trade she must, soon or late. Sin no
more, were it only for that love you bear her."

       *       *       *

Their lives had drifted asunder, as two boats drift north and south on a
river, the distance betwixt them growing longer and longer with each
beat of the oars and each sigh of the tide. And for the lives that part
thus, there is no reunion. One floats out to the open and sunlit sea;
and one passes away to the grave of the stream. Meet again on the river
they cannot.

       *       *       *

"They shudder when they read of the Huns and the Ostrogoths pouring down
into Rome," he mused, as he passed toward the pandemonium. "They keep a
horde as savage, imprisoned in their midst, buried in the very core of
their capitals, side by side with their churches and palaces, and never
remember the earthquake that would whelm them if once the pent volcano
burst, if once the black mass covered below took flame and broke to the
surface! Statesmen multiply their prisons, and strengthen their laws
against the crime that is done--and they never take the canker out of
the bud, they never save the young child from pollution. Their political
economy never studies prevention; it never cleanses the sewers, it only
curses the fever-stricken!"

       *       *       *

"What avail?" he thought. "What avail to strive to bring men nearer to
the right? They love their darkness best--why not leave them to it? Age
after age the few cast away their lives striving to raise and to ransom
the many. What use? Juvenal scourged Rome, and the same vices that his
stripes lashed then, laugh triumphant in Paris to-day! The satirist, and
the poet, and the prophet strain their voices in vain as the crowds rush
on; they are drowned in the chorus of mad sins and sweet falsehoods! O
God! the waste of hope, the waste of travail, the waste of pure desire,
the waste of high ambitions!--nothing endures but the wellspring of lies
that ever rises afresh, and the bay-tree of sin that is green, and
stately, and deathless!"

       *       *       *

He himself went onward through the valley, through the deep belt of the
woods, through the avenues of the park. The whole front of the antique
building was lighted, and the painted oriels gleamed ruby, and amber,
and soft brown, in the dusky evening, through the green screen of

The fragrance of the orange alleys, and of the acres of flowers, was
heavy on the air; there was the sound of music borne down the low
southerly wind; here and there through the boughs was the dainty glisten
of gliding silks:--it was such a scene as once belonged to the terraces
and gardens of Versailles.

From beyond the myrtle fence and gilded railings which severed the park
from the pleasaunce, enough could be seen, enough heard, of the
brilliant revelry within to tell of its extravagance, and its elegance,
in the radiance that streamed from all the illumined avenues.

He stood and looked long; hearing the faint echo of the music, seeing
the effulgence of the light through the dark myrtle barrier.

A very old crippled peasant, searching in the grass for truffles, with a
little dog, stole timidly up and looked too.

"How can it feel, to live like _that?_" he asked, in a wistful,
tremulous voice.

Tricotrin did not hear: his hand was grasped on one of the gilded rails
with a nervous force as from bodily pain.

The old truffle-gatherer, with his little white dog panting at his feet,
crossed himself as he peered through the myrtle screen.

"God!" he muttered; "how strange it seems that people are there who
never once knew what it was to want bread, and to find it nowhere,
though the lands all teemed with harvest! They never feel hungry, or
cold, or hot, or tired, or thirsty: they never feel their bones ache,
and their throat parch, and their entrails gnaw! These people ought not
to get to heaven--they have it on earth!"

Tricotrin heard at last: he turned his head and looked down on the old
man's careworn, hollow face.

"'Verily they have their reward,' you mean? Nay, that is a cruel
religion, which would excruciate hereafter those who enjoy now. Judge
them not; in their laurel crowns there is full often twisted a serpent.
The hunger of the body is bad indeed, but the hunger of the mind is
worse perhaps; and from that they suffer, because from every fulfilled
desire springs the pain of a fresh satiety."

The truffle-hunter, wise in his peasant-fashion, gazed wistfully up at
the face above him, half comprehending the answer.

"It may be so," he murmured; "but then--they _have_ enjoyed! Ah, Christ!
that is what I envy them. Now we--we die, starved amidst abundance; we
see the years go, and the sun never shines once in them; and all we have
is a hope--a hope that may be cheated at last; for none have come back
from the grave to tell us whether _that_ fools us as well."

       *       *       *

"I incline to think you live twenty centuries too late, or--twenty
centuries too early."

Viva turned on him a swift and eager glance.

"Of course!" she said, with a certain emotion, whose meaning he could
not analyse. "Was there ever yet a man of genius who was not either the
relic of some great dead age, or the precursor of some noble future one,
in which he alone has faith?"

"Chut!" said Tricotrin, rapidly; he could not trust himself to hear her
speak in his own defence. "Fine genius mine! To fiddle to a few
villagers, and dash colour on an alehouse shutter! I have the genius of
indolence, if you like. As to my belonging to a bygone age,--well! I am
not sure that I have not got the soul in me of some barefooted friar of
Moyen Age, who went about where he listed, praying here, laughing there,
painting a missal with a Pagan love-god, and saying a verse of Horace
instead of a chant of the Church. Or, maybe, I am more like some Greek
gossiper, who loitered away his days in the sun, and ate his dates in
the market-place, and listened here and there to a philosopher,
and--just by taking no thought--hit on a truer philosophy than ever
came out of Porch or Garden. Ah, my Lord of Estmere! you have two
hundred servants over there at Villiers, I have been told; do you not
think I am better served here by one little, brown-eyed, brown-cheeked
maiden, who sings her Béranger like a lark, while she brings me her dish
of wild strawberries? There is fame too for you--his--the King of the
Chansons! When a girl washes her linen in the brook--when a herdsman
drives his flock through the lanes--when a boy throws his line in a
fishing-stream--when a grisette sits and works at her attic
lattice--when a student dreams under the linden leaves--he is on their
lips, in their hearts, in their fancies and joys. What a power! What a
dominion! Wider than any that emperors boast!"

"And," added Estmere, with a smile, "if you were not Tricotrin you would
be Béranger?"

       *       *       *

"Aye! Hymns forbad at noonday are ever so sung at night; and oftentimes,
what at noon would have been a lark's chant of liberty, grows at night
to a vampire's screech for blood!" he murmured. "They are gay at your
château up yonder."

       *       *       *

Be not a coward who leaves the near duty that is as cruel to grasp as a
nettle, and flies to gather the far-off duty that will flaunt in men's
sight like a sun-flower.

       *       *       *

"A great Character!" says Society, when it means--"a great Scamp!"

       *       *       *

Estmere laid the panel down as he heard.

"Whoever painted it must have genius."

"Genius!" interrupted Tricotrin. "Pooh! What is genius? Only the power
to see a little deeper and a little clearer than most other people. That
is all."

"The power of vision? Of course. But that renders it none the less

"Oh yes, it is rare--rare like kingfishers, and sandpipers, and herons,
and black eagles. And so men always shoot it down, as they do the birds,
and stick up the dead body in glass cases, and label it, and stare at
it, and bemoan it as 'so singular,' having done their best to insure its

Estmere looked keenly at him.

"Surely genius that secretes itself as your friend's must do," he said,
touching the panel afresh, "commits suicide, and desires its own

"Pshaw!" said Tricotrin, impatiently, and with none of his habitual
courtesy. "You think the kingfisher and the black eagle have no better
thing to live for than to become the decorations of a great personage's
glass cabinets. You think genius can find no higher end than to furnish
frescoes and panellings for a nobleman's halls and ante-chambers. You
mistake very much; the mistake is a general one in your order. But
believe me, the kingfisher enjoys his brown moorland stream, and his
tufts of green rushes, and his water-swept bough of hawthorn; the eagle
enjoys his wild rocks, and his sweep through the air, and his steady
gaze at the sun that blinds all human eyes;--and neither ever imagine
that the great men below pity them because they are not stuffed, and
labelled, and praised by rule in their palaces! And genius is much of
the birds' fashion of thinking. It lives its own life; and is not, as
your connoisseurs are given to fancy, wretched unless you see fit in
your graciousness to deem it worth the glass-case of your criticism, and
the straw-stuffing of your gold. For it knows, as kingfisher and eagle
knew also, that stuffed birds nevermore use their wings, and are
evermore subject to be bought and be sold."

       *       *       *

Against the foreign foes of your country die in your youth if she need
it. But against her internecine enemies live out your life in continual
warfare. When I tell you this, do you dream that I spare you?
Children!--you have yet to learn what life is! Who could think it hard
to die in the glory of strife, drunk with the sound of the combat, and
feeling no pain in the swoon of a triumph? Few men whose blood was hot
and young would ask a greater ending. But to keep your souls in
patience; to strive unceasingly with evil; to live in self-negation, in
ceaseless sacrifices of desire; to give strength to the weak, and sight
to the blind, and light where there is darkness, and hope where there is
bondage; to do all these through many years unrecognised of men, content
only that they are done with such force as lies within you,--this is
harder than to seek the cannons' mouths, this is more bitter than to
rush, with drawn steel, on your tyrants.

Your women cry out against you because you leave them to starve and to
weep while you give your hearts to revolution and your bodies to the
sword. Their cry is the cry of selfishness, of weakness, of narrowness,
the cry of the sex that sees no sun save the flame on its hearth: yet
there is truth in it--a truth you forget. The truth--that, forsaking the
gold-mine of duty which lies at your feet, you grasp at the rainbow of
glory; that, neglectful of your own secret sins, you fly at public woes
and at national crimes. Can you not see that if every man took heed of
the guilt of his own thoughts and acts, the world would be free and at
peace? It is easier to rise with the knife unsheathed than to keep watch
and ward over your own passions; but do not cheat yourself into
believing that it is nobler, and higher, and harder. What reproach is
cast against all revolutionists?--that the men who have nothing to lose,
the men who are reckless and outlawed, alone raise the flag of revolt.
It is a satire; but in every satire there lies the germ of a terrible

You--you who are children still, you whose manhood is still a gold
scarcely touched in your hands, a gold you can spend in all great ways,
or squander for all base uses;--you can give the lie to that public
reproach, if only you will live in such wise that your hands shall be
clean, and your paths straight, and your honour unsullied through all
temptations. Wait, and live so that the right to judge, to rebuke, to
avenge, to purify, become yours through your earning of them. Live
nobly, first; and then teach others how to live.

       *       *       *

"So you have brought Fame to Lélis, my English lord?" said Tricotrin,
without ceremony. "That was a good work of yours. She is a comet that
has a strange fancy only to come forth like a corpse-candle, and dance
over men's graves. It is her way. When men will have her out in the noon
of their youth, she kills them; and the painter's bier is set under his
Transfiguration, and the soldier's body is chained to the St. Helena
rock, and the poet's grave is made at Missolonghi. It is always so."

Estmere bowed his head in assent; he was endeavouring to remember where
he had once met this stranger who thus addressed him--where he had once
heard these mellow, ringing, harmonious accents.

"Was it because you were afraid of dying in your prime that you would
never woo Fame then yourself?" asked Lélis, with a smile.

"Oh-hè!" answered Tricotrin, seating himself on a deal box that served
as a table, and whereat he and the artist had eaten many a meal of roast
chestnuts and black coffee; "I never wanted her; she is a weather vane,
never still two moments; she is a spaniel that quits the Plantagenet the
moment the battle goes against him, and fawns on Bolingbroke; she is an
alchemist's crucible, that has every fair and rich thing thrown into it,
but will only yield in return the calcined stones of chagrin and
disappointment; she is a harlot, whose kisses are to be bought, and who
runs after those who brawl the loudest and swagger the finest in the
world's market-places. No! I want nothing of her. My lord here condemned
her as I came in; he said she was the offspring of echoing parrots, of
imitative sheep, of fawning hounds. Who can want the creature of such

       *       *       *

"There are many kinds of appreciation. The man of science appreciates
when he marvels before the exquisite structure of the sea-shell, the
perfect organism of the flower; but the young girl appreciates, too,
when she holds the shell to her ear for its music, when she kisses the
flower for its fragrance. Appreciation! It is an affair of the reason,
indeed; but it is an affair of the emotions also."

"And you prefer what is born of the latter?"

"Not always; but for my music I do. It speaks in an unknown tongue.
Science may have its alphabet, but it is feeling that translates its
poems. Delaroche, who leaves off his work to listen; Descamps, in whose
eyes I see tears; Ingres, who dreams idyls while I play; a young poet
whose face reflects my thoughts, an old man whose youth I bring back, an
hour of pain that I soothe, an hour of laughter that I give; these are
my recompense. Think you I would exchange them for the gold showers and
the diamond boxes of a Farinelli?"

"Surely not. All I meant was that you might gain a world-wide celebrity
did you choose----"

"Gain a honey-coating that every fly may eat me and every gnat may
sting? I thank you. I have a taste to be at peace, and not to become
food to sate the public famine for a thing to tear."

Estmere smiled; he did not understand the man who thus addressed him,
but he was attracted despite all his strongest prejudices.

"You are right! Under the coat of honey is a shirt of turpentine.
Still--to see so great a gift as yours wasted----"

"Wasted? Because the multitudes have it, such as it is, instead of the
units? Droll arithmetic! I am with you in thinking that minorities
should have a good share of power, for all that is wisest and purest is
ever in a minority, as we know; but I do not see, as you see, that
minorities should command a monopoly--of sweet sounds or of anything

"I speak to the musician, not to the politician," said Estmere, with the
calm, chill contempt of his colder manner: the cold side of his
character was touched, and his sympathies were alienated at once.

Tricotrin, indifferent to the hint as to the rebuff, looked at him

"Oh, I know you well, Lord Estmere; I told you so not long ago, to your
great disgust. You and your Order think no man should ever presume to
touch politics unless his coat be velvet and his rent-roll large, like
yours. But, you see, we of the _école buissonnière_ generally do as we
like; and we get pecking at public questions for the same reason as our
brother birds peck at the hips and the haws--because we have no
granaries as you have. You do not like Socialism? Ah! and yet affect to
follow it."

"I!" Estmere looked at this wayside wit, this wine-house philosopher,
with a regard that asked plainly, "Are you fool or knave?"

"To be sure," answered Tricotrin. "You have chapel and chaplain yonder
at your château, I believe? The Book of the Christians is the very
manual of Socialism: '_You_ read the Gospel, Marat?' they cried. 'To be
sure,' said Marat. 'It is the most republican book in the world, and
sends all the rich people to hell.' If you do not like my politics,
_beau sire_, do not listen to the Revolutionist of Galilee."

       *       *       *

Not rare on this earth is the love that cleaves to the thing it has
cherished through guilt, and through wrong, and through misery. But
rare, indeed, is the love that still lives while its portion is
oblivion, and the thing which it has followed passes away out to a joy
that it cannot share, to a light that it cannot behold.

For this is as the love of a god, which forsakes not, though its
creatures revile, and blaspheme, and deride it.

       *       *       *

Ever and anon the old, dark, eager, noble face was lifted from its
pillow, and the withered lips murmured three words:

"Is she come?"

For Tricotrin had bent over her bed, and had murmured, "I go to seek
her, she is near;" and grand'mère had believed and been comforted, for
she knew that no lie passed his lips. And she was very still and only
the nervous working of the hard, brown, aged hand showed the longing of
her soul.

Life was going out rapidly, as the flame sinks fast in a lamp whose oil
is spent. The strong and vigorous frame, the keen and cheery will, had
warded off death so long and bravely; and now they bent under, all
suddenly, as those hardy trees will bend after a century of wind and
storm--bend but once, and only to break for ever.

The red sun in the west was in its evening glory; and through the open
lattice there were seen in the deep blue of the sky, the bough of a
snow-blossomed pear-tree, the network of the ivy, and the bees humming
among the jasmine flowers. From the distance there came faintly the
musical cries of the boatmen down the river, the voices of the
vine-tenders in the fields, the singing of a throstle on a wild-grape

Only, in the little darkened chamber the old peasant lay quite
still--listening, through all the sweet and busy sounds of summer, for a
step that never came.

And little by little all those sounds grew fainter on her ear: the
dulness of death was stealing over all her senses; and all she heard was
the song of the thrush where the bird swayed on the vine, half in, half
out, of the lattice.

But the lips moved still, though no voice came, with the same words: "Is
she come?" and when the lips no more could move, the dark and straining
wistfulness of the eyes asked the question more earnestly, more
terribly, more ceaselessly.

The thrush sang on, and on, and on; but to the prayer of the dying eyes
no answer came.

The red sun sank into the purple mists of cloud; the song of the bird
was ended; the voice of the watching girl murmured, "They will come too

For, as the sun faded off from the vine in the lattice, and the singing
of the bird grew silent, grand'mère raised herself with her arms
outstretched, and the strength of her youth returned in the hour of

"They never come back!" she cried. "They never come back! nor will she!
One dead in Africa--and one crushed beneath the stone--and one shot on
the barricade. The three went forth together; but not one returned. We
breed them, we nurse them, we foster them; and the world slays them body
and soul, and eats the limbs that lay in our bosoms, and burns up the
souls that we knew so pure. And she went where they went: she is dead
like them."

Her head fell back; her mouth was grey and parched, her eyes had no
longer sight; a shiver ran through the hardy frame that winter storms
and summer droughts had bruised and scorched so long; and a passionless
and immeasurable grief came on the brown, weary, age-worn face.

"All dead!" she murmured in the stillness of the chamber, where the song
of the bird had ceased, and the darkness of night had come.

Then through her lips the last breath quivered in a deep-drawn sigh, and
the brave, patient, unrewarded life passed out for ever.

       *       *       *

"You surely find no debtor such an ingrate, no master such a tyrant, as
the People?"

"Perhaps. But, rather I find it a dog that bullies and tears where it is
feared, but may be made faithful by genuine courage and strict justice
shown to it."

"The experience of the musician, then, must be much more fortunate than
the experience of the statesman."

"Why, yes. It is ungrateful to great men, I grant; but it has the
irritation of its own vague sense that it is but their tool, their
ladder, their grappling-iron, to excuse it. Still--I know well what you
mean; the man who works for mankind works for a taskmaster who makes
bitter every hour of his life only to forget him with the instant of his
death; he is ever rolling the stone of human nature upward toward purer
heights, to see it recoil and rush down into darkness and bloodshed. I


Flowers are like your poets: they give ungrudgingly, and, like all
lavish givers, are seldom recompensed in kind.

We cast all our world of blossom, all our treasure or fragrance, at the
feet of the one we love; and then, having spent ourselves in that too
abundant sacrifice, you cry, "A yellow, faded thing! to the dust-hole
with it!" and root us up violently, and fling us to rot with the refuse
and offal; not remembering the days when our burden of beauty made
sunlight in your darkest places, and brought the odours of a lost
paradise to breathe over your bed of fever.

Well, there is one consolation. Just so likewise do you deal with your
human wonder-flower of genius.

       *       *       *

I sighed at my square open pane in the hot, sulphurous mists of the
street, and tried to see the stars and could not. For, between me and
the one small breadth of sky which alone the innumerable roofs left
visible, a vintner had hung out a huge gilded imperial crown as a sign
on his roof-tree; and the crown, with its sham gold turning black in the
shadow, hung between me and the planets.

I knew that there must be many human souls in a like plight with
myself, with the light of heaven blocked from them by a gilded tyranny,
and yet I sighed, and sighed, and sighed, thinking of the white pure
stars of Provence throbbing in the violet skies.

A rose is hardly wiser than a poet, you see: neither rose nor poet will
be comforted, and be content to dwell in darkness because a crown of
tinsel swings on high.

       *       *       *

Ah! In the lives of you who have wealth and leisure we, the flowers, are
but one thing among many: we have a thousand rivals in your porcelains,
your jewels, your luxuries, your intaglios, your mosaics, all your
treasures of art, all your baubles of fancy. But in the lives of the
poor we are alone: we are all the art, all the treasure, all the grace,
all the beauty of outline, all the purity of hue that they possess:
often we are all their innocence and all their religion too.

Why do you not set yourselves to make us more abundant in those joyless
homes, in those sunless windows?

       *       *       *

For the life of a painter is beautiful when he is still young, and loves
truly, and has a genius in him stronger than calamity, and hears a voice
in which he believes say always in his ear, "Fear nothing. Men must
believe as I do in thee, one day. And meanwhile--we can wait!"

And a painter in Paris, even though he starve on a few sous a day, can
have so much that is lovely and full of picturesque charm in his daily
pursuits: the long, wondrous galleries full of the arts he adores; the
_réalité de l'idéal_ around him in that perfect world; the slow, sweet,
studious hours in the calm wherein all that is great in humanity alone
survives; the trance--half adoration, half aspiration, at once desire
and despair--before the face of the Mona Lisa; then, without, the
streets so glad and so gay in the sweet, living sunshine; the quiver of
green leaves among gilded balconies; the groups at every turn about the
doors; the glow of colour in market-place and peopled square; the quaint
grey piles in old historic ways; the stones, from every one of which
some voice from the imperishable Past cries out; the green and silent
woods, the little leafy villages, the winding waters garden-girt; the
forest heights, with the city gleaming and golden in the plain; all
these are his.

With these--and youth--who shall dare say the painter is not rich--ay,
though his board be empty, and his cup be dry?

I had not loved Paris--I, a little imprisoned rose, caged in a clay pot,
and seeing nothing but the sky-line of the roofs. But I grew to love it,
hearing from René and from Lili of all the poetry and gladness that
Paris made possible in their young and burdened lives, and which could
have been thus possible in no other city of the earth.

City of Pleasure you have called her, and with truth; but why not also
City of the Poor? For what city, like herself, has remembered the poor
in her pleasure, and given to them, no less than to the richest, the
treasure of her laughing sunlight, of her melodious music, of her
gracious hues, of her million flowers, of her shady leaves, of her
divine ideals?


It was a strange, gaunt wilderness of stone, this old villa of the
Marchioni. It would have held hundreds of serving-men. It had as many
chambers as one of the palaces down in Rome; but life is homely and
frugal here, and has few graces. The ways of everyday Italian life in
these grand old places are like nettles and thistles set in an old
majolica vase that has had knights and angels painted on it. You know
what I mean, you who know Italy. Do you remember those pictures of
Vittario Carpacio and of Gentile? They say that is the life our Italy
saw once in her cities and her villas;--that is the life she wants.
Sometimes when you are all alone in these vast deserted places the
ghosts of all that pageantry pass by you, and they seem fitter than the
living people for these courts and halls.

       *       *       *

I had been no saint. I had always been ready for jest or dance or
intrigue with a pretty woman, and sometimes women far above me had cast
their eyes down on the arena as in Spain ladies do in the bull-ring to
pick a lover out thence for his strength: but I had never cared. I had
loved, laughed, and wandered away with the stroller's happy liberty; but
I had never cared. Now all at once the whole world seemed dead; dead,
heaven and earth; and only one woman's two eyes left living in the
universe; living, and looking into my soul and burning it to ashes. Do
you know what I mean? No?--ay, then you know not love.

       *       *       *

Sometimes I think love is the darkest mystery of life: mere desire will
not explain it, nor will the passions or the affections. You pass years
amidst crowds, and know naught of it; then all at once you meet a
stranger's eyes, and never are you free. That is love. Who shall say
whence it comes? It is a bolt from the gods that descends from heaven
and strikes us down into hell. We can do nothing.

       *       *       *

In Italy one wants so little; the air and the light, and a little red
wine, and the warmth of the wind, and a handful of maize or of grapes,
and an old guitar, and a niche to sleep in near a fountain that murmurs
and sings to the mosses and marbles--these are enough in Italy.

       *       *       *

Petty laws breed great crimes. Few rulers, little or big, remember that.

       *       *       *

_L'esprit du clocher_ is derided nowadays. But it may well be doubted
whether the age which derides it will give the world anything one-half
as tender and true in its stead. It is peace because it is content; and
it is a peace which has in it the germ of heroism: menaced, it produces
patriotism--the patriotism whose symbol is Tell.

       *       *       *

The tyrannies of petty law hurt the authority of the State more with the
populace than all the severity of a Draconian code against great
offences. Petty laws may annoy but can never harm the rich, for they can
always evade them or purchase immunity; but petty laws for the poor are
as the horse-fly on the neck and on the eyelids of the horse.

       *       *       *

It was in the month of April; outside the walls and on the banks of
Tiber, still swollen by the floods of winter, one could see the gold of
a million daffodils and the bright crimson and yellow of tulips in the
green corn. The scent of flowers and herbs came into the town and filled
its dusky and narrow ways; the boatmen had green branches fastened to
their masts; in the stillness of evening one heard the song of crickets,
and even a mosquito would come and blow his shrill little trumpet, and
one was willing to say to him "Welcome!" because on his little horn he
blew the glad news, "Summer is here!"


"A young man married is a man that's marred." That's a golden rule,
Arthur; take it to heart. Anne Hathaway, I have not a doubt, suggested
it; experience is the sole asbestos, only unluckily one seldom gets it
before one's hands are burnt irrevocably. Shakespeare took to wife the
ignorant, rosy-cheeked Warwickshire peasant girl at _eighteen_! Poor
fellow! I picture him, with all his untried powers, struggling like
new-born Hercules for strength and utterance, and the great germ of
poetry within him, tingeing all the common realities of life with its
rose hue; genius giving him power to see with god-like vision the
"fairies nestling in the cowslip chalices," and the golden gleam of
Cleopatra's sails; to feel the "spiced Indian air" by night, and the
wild working of kings' ambitious lust; to know by intuition, alike the
voices of nature unheard by common ears, and the fierce schemes and
passions of a world from which social position shut him out! I picture
him in his hot, imaginative youth, finding his first love in the
yeoman's daughter at Shottery, strolling with her by the Avon, making
her an "odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds," and dressing her up in
the fond array of a boy's poetic imaginings! Then--when he had married
her, he, with the passionate ideals of Juliets and Violas, Ophelias and
Hermiones in his brain and heart, must have awakened to find that the
voices so sweet to him were dumb to her. The "cinque spotted cowslip
bells" brought only thoughts of wine to her. When he was watching
"certain stars shoot madly from their spheres," she most likely was
grumbling at him for mooning there after curfew bell. When he was
learning Nature's lore in "the fresh cup of the crimson rose," she was
dinning in his ear that Hammet and Judith wanted worsted socks. When he
was listening in fancy to the "sea-maid's song," and weaving thoughts to
which a world still stands reverentially to listen, she was buzzing
behind him, and bidding him go card the wool, and weeping that, in her
girlhood, she had not chosen some rich glover or ale-taster, instead of
idle, useless, wayward Willie Shakespeare. Poor fellow! He did not
write, I would swear, without fellow-feeling, and yearning over souls
similarly shipwrecked, that wise saw, "A young man married is a man
that's marred."


When a man's eyes meet yours, and his faith trusts you, and his heart
upon a vague impulse is laid bare to you, it always has seemed to me the
basest treachery the world can hold to pass the gold of confidence which
he pours out to you from hand to hand as common coin for common

       *       *       *

Circumstance is so odd and so cruel a thing. It is wholly apart from

Genius will do so little for a man if he do not know how to seize or
seduce opportunity. No doubt, in his youth, Ambrogiò had been shy,
silent, out of his art timid, and in his person ungraceful, and
unlovely. So the world had passed by him turning a deaf ear to his
melodies, and he had let it pass, because he had not that splendid
audacity to grasp it perforce, and hold it until it blessed him, without
which no genius will ever gain the benediction of the Angel of Fame.

Which is a fallen Angel, no doubt; but still, perhaps, the spirit most
worth wrestling with after all; since wrestle we must in this world, if
we do not care to lie down and form a pavement for other men's cars of
triumph, as the Assyrians of old stretched themselves on their faces
before the coming of the chariot of their kings.

       *       *       *

One of the saddest things perhaps in all the sadness of this world is
the frightful loss at which so much of the best and strongest work of a
man's life has to be thrown away at the onset. If you desire a name
amongst men, you must buy the crown of it at such a costly price!

True, the price will in the end be paid back to you, no doubt, when you
are worn out, and what you do is as worthless as the rustling canes that
blow together in autumn by dull river sides: then you scrawl your
signature across your soulless work, and it fetches thrice its weight in

But though you thus have your turn, and can laugh at your will at the
world that you fool, what can that compensate you for all those dear
dead darlings?--those bright first-fruits, those precious earliest
nestlings of your genius, which had to be sold into bondage for a broken
crust, which drifted away from you never to be found again, which you
know well were a million fold better, fresher, stronger, higher, better
than anything you have begotten since then; and yet in which none could
be found to believe, only because you had not won that magic spell which
lies in--being known?

       *       *       *

When I think of the sweet sigh of the violin melodies through the white
winter silence of Raffaelino's eager, dreamy eyes, misty with the
student's unutterable sadness and delight; of old Ambrogiò, with his
semicircle of children round him, lifting their fresh voices at his
word; of the little robin that came every day upon the waterpipe, and
listened, and thrilled in harmony, and ate joyfully the crumbs which the
old maestro daily spared to it from his scanty meal--when I think of
those hours, it seems to me that they must have been happiness too.

"Could we but know when we are happy!" sighs some poet. As well might
he write, "Could we but set the dewdrop with our diamonds! could we but
stay the rainbow in our skies!"

       *       *       *

Every old Italian city has this awe about it--holds close the past and
moves the living to a curious sense that they are dead and in their
graves are dreaming; for the old cities themselves have beheld so much
perish around them, and yet have kept so firm a hold upon tradition and
upon the supreme beauty of great arts, that those who wander there grow,
as it were, bewildered, and know not which is life and which is death
amongst them.

       *       *       *

The sun was setting.

Over the whole Valdarno there was everywhere a faint ethereal golden
mist that rose from the water and the woods.

The town floated on it as upon a lake; her spires, and domes, and
towers, and palaces bathed at their base in its amber waves, and rising
upward into the rose-hued radiance of the upper air. The mountains that
encircled her took all the varying hues of the sunset on their pale
heights until they flushed to scarlet, glowered to violet, wavered with
flame, and paled to whiteness, as the opal burns and fades. Warmth,
fragrance, silence, loveliness encompassed her; and in the great
stillness the bell of the basilica tolled slowly the evening call to

Thus Florence rose before me.

A strange tremor of exceeding joy thrilled through me as I beheld the
reddened shadows of those close-lying roofs, and those marble heights of
towers and of temples. At last my eyes gazed on her! the daughter of
flowers, the mistress of art, the nursing mother of liberty and of

I fell on my knees and thanked God. I pity those who, in such a moment,
have not done likewise.

       *       *       *

There is nothing upon earth, I think, like the smile of Italy as she
awakes when the winter has dozed itself away in the odours of its
oakwood fires.

The whole land seems to laugh.

The springtide of the north is green and beautiful, but it has nothing
of the radiance, the dreamfulness, the ecstasy of spring in the southern
countries. The springtide of the north is pale with the gentle
colourless sweetness of its world of primroses; the springtide of Italy
is rainbow-hued, like the profusion of anemones that laugh with it in
every hue of glory under every ancient wall and beside every hill-fed

Spring in the north is a child that wakes from dreams of death; spring
in the south is a child that wakes from dreams of love. One is rescued
and welcomed from the grave; but the other comes smiling on a sunbeam
from heaven.

       *       *       *

The landscape that has the olive is spiritual as no landscape can ever
be from which the olive is absent; for where is there spirituality
without some hue of sadness?

But this spiritual loveliness is one for which the human creature that
is set amidst it needs a certain education as for the power of
Euripides, for the dreams of Phædrus, for the strength of Michaelangelo,
for the symphonies of Mozart or Beethoven.

The mind must itself be in a measure spiritualised ere aright it can
receive it.

It is too pure, too impalpable, too nearly divine, to be grasped by
those for whom all beauty centres in strong heats of colour and great
breadths of effect; it floats over the senses like a string of perfect
cadences in music; it has a breath of heaven in it; though on the earth
it is not of the earth; when the world was young, ere men had sinned on
it, and gods forsaken it, it must have had the smile of this light that
lingers here.

       *       *       *

Bad? Good? Pshaw! Those are phrases. No one uses them but fools. You
have seen the monkeys' cage in the beast-garden here. That is the world.
It is not strength, or merit, or talent, or reason that is of any use
there; it is just which monkey has the skill to squeeze to the front and
jabber through the bars, and make his teeth meet in his neighbours'
tails till they shriek and leave him free passage--it is that monkey
which gets all the cakes and the nuts of the folk on a feast-day. The
monkey is not bad; it is only a little quicker and more cunning than the
rest; that is all.

       *       *       *

It is a kind of blindness--poverty. We can only grope through life when
we are poor, hitting and maiming ourselves against every angle.

       *       *       *

Count art by gold, and it fetters the feet it once winged.

       *       *       *

"Is that all you know?" he cried, while his voice rang like a
trumpet-call. "Listen here, then, little lady, and learn better. What is
it to be a player? It is this. A thing despised and rejected on all
sides; a thing that was a century since denied what they call Christian
burial; a thing that is still deemed for a woman disgraceful, and for a
man degrading and emasculate; a thing that is mute as a dunce save when,
parrot-like, it repeats by rote with a mirthless grin or a tearless sob;
a wooden doll, as you say, applauded as a brave puppet in its prime,
hissed at in its first hour of failure or decay; a thing made up of
tinsel and paint, and patchwork, of the tailor's shreds and the barber's
curls of tow--a ridiculous thing to be sure. That is a player. And yet
again--a thing without which laughter and jest were dead in the sad
lives of the populace; a thing that breathes the poet's words of fire so
that the humblest heart is set aflame; a thing that has a magic on its
lips to waken smiles or weeping at its will; a thing which holds a
people silent, breathless, intoxicated with mirth or with awe, as it
chooses; a thing whose grace kings envy, and whose wit great men will
steal; a thing by whose utterance alone the poor can know the fair
follies of a thoughtless hour, and escape for a little space from the
dull prisons of their colourless lives into the sunlit paradise where
genius dwells--_that_ is a player, too!"

       *       *       *

The instrument on which we histrions play is that strange thing, the
human heart. It looks a little matter to strike its chords of laughter
or of sorrow; but, indeed, to do that aright and rouse a melody which
shall leave all who hear it the better and the braver for the hearing,
that may well take a man's lifetime, and, perhaps, may well repay it.

       *       *       *

Oh, cara mia, when one has run about in one's time with a tinker's
tools, and seen the lives of the poor, and the woe of them, and the
wretchedness of it all, and the utter uselessness of everything, and
the horrible, intolerable, unending pain of all the things that breathe,
one comes to think that in this meaningless mystery which men call life
a little laughter and a little love are the only things which save us
all from madness--the madness that would curse God and die.

       *       *       *

It always seems as if that well-spring of poetry and art which arose in
Italy, to feed and fertilise the world when it was half dead and wholly
barren under the tyrannies of the Church and the lusts of Feudalism; it
would always seem, I say, as though that water of life had so saturated
the Italian soil, that the lowliest hut upon its hills and plains will
ever nourish and put forth some flower of fancy.

The people cannot read, but they can rhyme. They cannot reason, but they
can keep perfect rhythm. They cannot write their own names, but written
on their hearts are the names of those who made their country's
greatness. They believe in the virtues of a red rag tied to a stick
amidst their fields, but they treasure tenderly the heroes and the
prophets of an unforgotten time. They are ignorant of all laws of
science or of sound, but when they go home by moonlight through the
maize yonder alight with lùcciole, they will never falsify a note, or
overload a harmony, in their love-songs.

The poetry, the art, in them is sheer instinct; it is not the genius of
isolated accident, but the genius of inalienable heritage.

       *       *       *

Do you ever think of those artist-monks who have strewed Italy with
altar-pieces and missal miniatures till there is not any little lonely
dusky town of hers that is not rich by art? Do you often think of them?
I do.

There must have been a beauty in their lives--a great beauty--though
they missed of much, of more than they ever knew or dreamed of, let us
hope. In visions of the Madonna they grew blind to the meaning of a
woman's smile, and illuminating the golden olive wreath above the heads
of saints they lost the laughter of the children under the homely
olive-trees without.

But they did a noble work in their day; and leisure for meditation is no
mean treasure, though the modern world does not number it amongst its

One can understand how men born with nervous frames and spiritual
fancies into the world when it was one vast battle-ground, where its
thrones were won by steel and poison, and its religion enforced by torch
and faggot, grew so weary of the never-ending turmoil, and of the
riotous life which was always either a pageant or a slaughter-house,
that it seemed beautiful to them to withdraw themselves into some
peaceful place like this Badià and spend their years in study and in
recommendation of their souls to God, with the green and fruitful fields
before their cloister windows, and no intruders on the summer stillness
as they painted their dreams of a worthier and fairer world except the
blue butterflies that strayed in on a sunbeam, or the gold porsellini
that hummed at the lilies in the Virgin's chalice.

       *       *       *

Florence, where she sits throned amidst her meadows white with Lenten
lilies, Florence is never terrible, Florence is never old. In her
infancy they fed her on the manna of freedom, and that fairest food gave
her eternal youth. In her early years she worshipped ignorantly indeed,
but truly always the day-star of liberty; and it has been with her
always so that the light shed upon her is still as the light of

Does this sound a fanciful folly? Nay, there is a real truth in it.

The past is so close to you in Florence. You touch it at every step. It
is not the dead past that men bury and then forget. It is an
unquenchable thing; beautiful, and full of lustre, even in the tomb,
like the gold from the sepulchres of the Ætruscan kings that shines on
the breast of some fair living woman, undimmed by the dust and the
length of the ages.

The music of the old greatness thrills through all the commonest things
of life like the grilli's chant through the wooden cages on Ascension
Day; and, like the song of the grilli, its poetry stays in the warmth of
the common hearth for the ears of the little children, and loses nothing
of its melody.

The beauty of the past in Florence is like the beauty of the great

About the Duomo there is stir and strife at all times; crowds come and
go; men buy and sell; lads laugh and fight; piles of fruit blaze gold
and crimson; metal pails clash down on the stones with shrillest
clangour; on the steps boys play at dominoes, and women give their
children food, and merry maskers grin in carnival fooleries; but there
in their midst is the Duomo all unharmed and undegraded, a poem and a
prayer in one, its marbles shining in the upper air, a thing so majestic
in its strength, and yet so human in its tenderness, that nothing can
assail, and nothing equal it.

Other, though not many, cities have histories as noble, treasuries as
vast; but no other city has them living and ever present in her midst,
familiar as household words, and touched by every baby's hand and
peasant's step, as Florence has.

Every line, every rood, every gable, every tower, has some story of the
past present in it. Every tocsin that sounds is a chronicle; every
bridge that unites the two banks of the river unites also the crowds of
the living with the heroism of the dead.

In the winding dusky irregular streets, with the outlines of their logge
and arcades, and the glow of colour that fills their niches and
galleries, the men who "have gone before" walk with you; not as
elsewhere mere gliding shades clad in the pallor of a misty memory, but
present, as in their daily lives, shading their dreamful eyes against
the noonday sun or setting their brave brows against the mountain wind,
laughing and jesting in their manful mirth and speaking as brother to
brother of great gifts to give the world. All this while, though the
past is thus close about you the present is beautiful also, and does not
shock you by discord and unseemliness as it will ever do elsewhere. The
throngs that pass you are the same in likeness as those that brushed
against Dante or Calvacanti; the populace that you move amidst is the
same bold, vivid, fearless, eager people with eyes full of dreams, and
lips braced close for war, which welcomed Vinci and Cimabue and fought
from Montaperto to Solferino.

And as you go through the streets you will surely see at every step some
colour of a fresco on a wall, some quaint curve of a bas-relief on a
lintel, some vista of Romanesque arches in a palace court, some dusky
interior of a smith's forge or a wood-seller's shop, some Renaissance
seal-ring glimmering on a trader's stall, some lovely hues of fruits and
herbs tossed down together in a Tre Cento window, some gigantic mass of
blossoms being borne aloft on men's shoulders for a church festivity of
roses, something at every step that has some beauty or some charm in it,
some graciousness of the ancient time, or some poetry of the present

The beauty of the past goes with you at every step in Florence. Buy eggs
in the market, and you buy them where Donatello bought those which fell
down in a broken heap before the wonder of the crucifix. Pause in a
narrow bye-street in a crowd and it shall be that Borgo Allegri, which
the people so baptized for love of the old painter and the new-born art.
Stray into a great dark church at evening time, where peasants tell
their beads in the vast marble silence, and you are where the whole city
flocked, weeping, at midnight to look their last upon the face of their
Michael Angelo. Pace up the steps of the palace of the Signorìa and you
tread the stone that felt the feet of him to whom so bitterly was known
"_com' è duro calle, lo scendere è'l salir per l'altrúi scale_." Buy a
knot of March anemoni or April arum lilies, and you may bear them with
you through the same city ward in which the child Ghirlandajo once
played amidst the gold and silver garlands that his father fashioned for
the young heads of the Renaissance. Ask for a shoemaker and you shall
find the cobbler sitting with his board in the same old twisting,
shadowy street way, where the old man Toscanelli drew his charts that
served a fair-haired sailor of Genoa, called Columbus. Toil to fetch a
tinker through the squalor of San Niccolò, and there shall fall on you
the shadow of the bell-tower where the old sacristan saved to the world
the genius of the Night and Day. Glance up to see the hour of the
evening time, and there, sombre and tragical, will loom above you the
walls of the communal palace on which the traitors were painted by the
brush of Sarto, and the tower of Giotto, fair and fresh in its perfect
grace as though angels had builded it in the night just past, "_ond'
ella toglie ancora e terza e nona_," as in the noble and simple days
before she brake the "_cerchia antìca_."

Everywhere there are flowers, and breaks of songs, and rills of
laughter, and wonderful eyes that look as if they too, like their Poets,
had gazed into the heights of heaven and the depths of hell.

And then you will pass out at the gates beyond the city walls, and all
around you there will be a radiance and serenity of light that seems to
throb in its intensity and yet is divinely restful, like the passion and
the peace of love when it has all to adore and nothing to desire.

The water will be broad and gold, and darkened here and there into
shadows of porphyrine amber. Amidst the grey and green of the olive and
acacia foliage there will arise the low pale roofs and flat-topped
towers of innumerable villages.

Everywhere there will be a wonderful width of amethystine hills and
mystical depths of seven-chorded light. Above, masses of rosy cloud will
drift, like rose-leaves leaning on a summer wind. And, like a magic
girdle which has shut her out from all the curse of age and death and
man's oblivion, and given her a youth and loveliness which will endure
so long as the earth itself endures, there will be the circle of the
mountains, purple and white and golden, lying around Florence.

       *       *       *

Amidst all her commerce, her wars, her hard work, her money-making,
Florence was always dominated and spiritualised, at her noisiest and
worst, by a poetic and picturesque imagination.

Florentine life had always an ideal side to it; and an idealism, pure
and lofty, runs through her darkest histories and busiest times like a
thread of gold through a coat of armour and a vest of frieze.

The Florentine was a citizen, a banker, a workman, a carder of wool, a
weaver of silk, indeed; but he was also always a lover, and always a
soldier; that is, always half a poet. He had his Caròccio and his
Ginevra as well as his tools and his sacks of florins. He had his sword
as well as his shuttle. His scarlet giglio was the flower of love no
less than the blazonry of battle on his standard, and the mint stamp of
the commonwealth on his coinage.

Herein lay the secret of the influence of Florence: the secret which
rendered the little city, stretched by her river's side, amongst her
quiet meadows white with arums, a sacred name to all generations of men
for all she dared and all she did.

"She amassed wealth," they say: no doubt she did--and why?

To pour it with both hands to melt in the foundries of Ghiberti--to
bring it in floods to cement the mortar that joined the marbles of
Brunelleschi! She always spent to great ends, and to mighty uses.

When she called a shepherd from his flocks in the green valley to build
for her a bell-tower so that she might hear, night and morning, the call
to the altar, the shepherd built for her in such fashion that the belfry
has been the Pharos of Art for five centuries.

Here is the secret of Florence--supreme aspiration.

The aspiration which gave her citizens force to live in poverty, and
clothe themselves in simplicity, so as to be able to give up their
millions of florins to bequeath miracles in stone and metal and colour
to the Future. The aspiration which so purified her soil, red with
carnage, black with smoke of war, trodden continuously by hurrying feet
of labourers, rioters, mercenaries, and murderers, that from that soil
there could spring, in all its purity and perfection, the
paradise-blossom of the Vita Nuova.

Venice perished for her pride and carnal lust; Rome perished for her
tyrannies and her blood-thirst; but Florence--though many a time nearly
strangled under the heel of the Empire and the hand of the
Church--Florence was never slain utterly either in body or soul;
Florence still crowned herself with flowers even in her throes of agony,
because she kept always within her that love--impersonal, consecrate,
void of greed--which is the purification of the individual life and the
regeneration of the body politic. "We labour for the ideal," said the
Florentines of old, lifting to heaven their red flower de luce--and to
this day Europe bows before what they did and cannot equal it.

"But she had so many great men, so many mighty masters!" I would urge,
whereon Pascarèl would glance on me with his lightest and yet utmost

"O wise female thing, who always traces the root to the branch and
deduces the cause from the effect! Did her great men spring up
full-armed like Athene, or was it the pure, elastic atmosphere of her
that made her mere mortals strong as immortals? The supreme success of
modern government is to flatten down all men into one uniform likeness,
so that it is only by most frightful, and often destructive, effort that
any originality can contrive to get loose in its own shape for a
moment's breathing space; but in the Commonwealth of Florence a man,
being born with any genius in him, drew in strength to do and dare
greatly with the very air he breathed."

Moreover, it was not only the great men that made her what she was.

It was, above all, the men who knew they were not great, but yet had the
patience and unselfishness to do their appointed work for her zealously,
and with every possible perfection in the doing of it.

It was not only Orcagna planning the Loggia, but every workman who
chiselled out a piece of its stone, that put all his head and heart into
the doing thereof. It was not only Michaelangelo in his studio, but
every poor painter who taught the mere a, b, c, d of the craft to a
crowd of pupils out of the streets, who did whatsoever came before them
to do mightily and with reverence.

In those days all the servants as well as the sovereigns of art were
penetrated with the sense of her holiness.

It was the mass of patient, intelligent, poetic, and sincere servitors
of art, who, instead of wildly consuming their souls in envy and desire,
cultured their one talent to the uttermost, so that the mediocrity of
that age would have been the excellence of any other.

Not alone from the great workshops of the great masters did the light
shine on the people. From every scaffold where a palace ceiling was
being decorated with its fresco, from every bottega where the children
of the poor learned to grind and to mingle the colours, from every cell
where some solitary monk studied to produce an offering to the glory of
his God, from every nook and corner where the youths gathered in the
streets to see some Nunziata or Ecce Homo lifted to its niche in the
city wall, from every smallest and most hidden home of art--from the
nest under the eaves as well as from the cloud-reaching temples,--there
went out amidst the multitudes an ever-flowing, ever-pellucid stream of
light, from that Aspiration which is in itself Inspiration.

So that even to this day the people of Italy have not forgotten the
supreme excellence of all beauty, but are, by the sheer instinct of
inherited faith, incapable of infidelity to those traditions; so that
the commonest craftsman of them all will sweep his curves and shade his
hues upon a plaster cornice with a perfection that is the despair of the
maestri of other nations.

       *       *       *

The broad plains that have been the battle-ground of so many races and
so many ages were green and peaceful under the primitive husbandry of
the contadini.

Everywhere under the long lines of the yet unbudded vines the seed was
springing, and the trenches of the earth were brimful with brown
bubbling water left from the floods of winter, when Reno and Adda had
broken loose from their beds.

Here and there was some old fortress grey amongst the silver of the
olive orchards; some village with white bleak house-walls and flat roofs
pale and bare against the level fields; or some little long-forgotten
city once a stronghold of war and a palace for princes, now a little
hushed and lonely place, with weed-grown ramparts and gates rusted on
their hinges, and tapestry weavers throwing the shuttle in its deserted
and dismantled ways.

But chiefly it was always the green, fruitful, weary, endless plain
trodden by the bullocks and the goats, and silent, strangely silent, as
though fearful still of its tremendous past.

       *       *       *

The long bright day draws to a close. The west is in a blaze of gold,
against which the ilex and the acacia are black as funeral plumes. The
innumerable scents of fruits and flowers and spices, and tropical seeds,
and sweet essences, that fill the streets at every step from shops and
stalls, and monks' pharmacies, are fanned out in a thousand delicious
odours on the cooling air. The wind has risen, blowing softly from
mountain and from sea across the plains through the pines of Pisa,
across to the oak-forests of green Casentìno.

Whilst the sun still glows in the intense amber of his own dying glory,
away in the tender violet hues of the east the young moon rises.

Rosy clouds drift against the azure of the zenith, and are reflected as
in a mirror in the shallow river waters.

A little white cloud of doves flies homeward against the sky.

All the bells chime for the Ave Maria.

The evening falls.

Wonderful hues, creamy, and golden, and purple, and soft as the colours
of a dove's throat, spread themselves slowly over the sky; the bell
tower rises like a shaft of porcelain clear against the intense azure;
amongst the tall canes by the river the fire-flies sparkle; the shores
are mirrored in the stream with every line and curve, and roof and
cupola, drawn in sharp deep shadow; every lamp glows again thrice its
size in the glass of the current, and the arches of the bridges meet
their own image there; the boats glide down the water that is now white
under the moon, now amber under the lights, now black under the walls,
for ever changing; night draws on, then closes quite.

But it is night as radiant as day, and ethereal as day can never be; on
the hills the cypresses still stand out against the faint gold that
lingers in the west; there is the odour of carnations and of acacias

Noiseless footsteps come and go.

People pass softly in shadow, like a dream.

       *       *       *

You know how St. Michael made the Italian? he is saying to them, and the
clear crystal ring of the sonorous Tuscan reaches to the farthest corner
of the square. Nay?--oh, for shame! Well, then, it was in this fashion;
long, long ago, when the world was but just called from chaos, the
Dominiddio was tired, as you all know, and took his rest on the seventh
day; and four of the saints, George and Denis and Jago and Michael,
stood round him with their wings folded and their swords idle.

So to them the good Lord said: "Look at those odds and ends, that are
all lying about after the earth is set rolling. Gather them up, and make
them into four living nations to people the globe." The saints obeyed
and set to the work.

St. George got a piece of pure gold and a huge lump of lead, and buried
the gold in the lead, so that none ever would guess it was there, and so
sent it rolling and bumping to earth, and called it the English people.

St. Jago got a bladder filled with wind, and put in it the heart of a
fox, and the fang of a wolf, and whilst it puffed and swelled like the
frog that called itself a bull, it was despatched to the world as the

St. Denis did better than that; he caught a sunbeam flying, and he tied
it with a bright knot of ribbons, and he flashed it on earth as the
people of France; only, alas! he made two mistakes, he gave it no
ballast, and he dyed the ribbons blood-red.

Now St. Michael, marking their errors, caught a sunbeam likewise, and
many other things too; a mask of velvet, a poniard of steel, the chords
of a lute, the heart of a child, the sigh of a poet, the kiss of a
lover, a rose out of paradise, and a silver string from an angel's lyre.

Then with these in his hand he went and knelt down at the throne of the
Father. "Dear and great Lord," he prayed, "to make my work perfect, give
me one thing; give me a smile of God." And God smiled.

Then St. Michael sent his creation to earth, and called it the Italian.

But--most unhappily, as chance would have it--Satanas watching at the
gates of hell, thought to himself, "If I spoil not his work, earth will
be Eden in Italy." So he drew his bow in envy, and sped a poisoned
arrow; and the arrow cleft the rose of paradise, and broke the silver
string of the angel.

And to this day the Italian keeps the smile that God gave in his eyes;
but in his heart the devil's arrow rankles still.

Some call this barbed shaft Cruelty; some Superstition; some Ignorance;
some Priestcraft; maybe its poison is drawn from all four; be it how it
may, it is the duty of all Italians to pluck hard at the arrow of hell,
so that the smile of God alone shall remain with their children's

Yonder in the plains we have done much; the rest will lie with you, the
Freed Nation.

       *       *       *

There is an old legend, he made answer to me, an old monkish tale, which
tells how, in the days of King Clovis, a woman, old and miserable,
forsaken of all, and at the point of death, strayed into the Merovingian
woods, and lingering there, and hearkening to the birds, and loving
them, and so learning from them of God, regained, by no effort of her
own, her youth; and lived, always young and always beautiful, a hundred
years; through all which time she never failed to seek the forests when
the sun rose, and hear the first song of the creatures to whom she owed
her joy. Whoever to the human soul can be, in ever so faint a sense,
that which the birds were to the woman in the Merovingian woods, he, I
think, has a true greatness. But I am but an outcast, you know; and my
wisdom is not of the world.

Yet it seemed the true wisdom, there, at least, with the rose light
shining across half the heavens, and the bells ringing far away in the
plains below over the white waves of the sea of olives.

       *       *       *

Only for the people! Altro! did not Sperone and all the critics at his
heels pronounce Ariosto only fit for the vulgar multitude? and was not
Dante himself called the laureate of the cobblers and the bakers?

And does not Sacchetti record that the great man took the trouble to
quarrel with an ass-driver and a blacksmith because they recited his
verses badly?

If he had not written "only for the people," we might never have got
beyond the purisms of Virgilio, and the Ciceronian imitations of Bembo.

Dante now-a-days may have become the poet of the scholars and the sages,
but in his own times he seemed to the sciolists a most terribly low
fellow for using his mother tongue; and he was most essentially the poet
of the vulgar--of the _vulgare eloquio_, of the _vulgare illustre_; and
pray what does the "Commedia" mean if not a _canto villereccio_, a song
for the rustics? Will you tell me that?

Only for the people! Ah, that is the error. Only! how like a woman that
is! Any trash will do for the people; that is the modern notion; vile
roulades in music, tawdry crudities in painting, cheap balderdash in
print--all that will do for the people. So they say now-a-days.

Was the bell tower yonder set in a ducal garden or in a public place?
Was Cimabue's masterpiece veiled in a palace or borne aloft through the
throngs of the streets?

       *       *       *

A man, be he bramble or vine, likes to grow in the open air in his own
fashion; but a woman, be she flower or weed, always thinks she would be
better under glass. When she gets the glass she breaks it--generally;
but till she gets it she pines.

       *       *       *

When they grew up in Italy, all that joyous band,--Arlecchino in
Bergamo, Stenterello in Florence, Pulcinello in Naples, Pantaleone in
Venice, Dulcamara in Bologna, Beltramo in Milan, Brighella in
Brescia--masked their mirthful visages and ran together and jumped on
that travelling stage before the world, what a force they were for the
world, those impudent mimes!

"Only Pantomimi?" When they joined hands with one another and rolled
their wandering house before St. Mark's they were only players indeed;
but their laughter blew out the fires of the Inquisition, their fools'
caps made the papal tiara look but paper toy, their wooden swords struck
to earth the steel of the nobles, their arrows of epigram, feathered
from goose and from falcon, slew, flying, the many-winged dragon of

They were old as the old Latin land, indeed.

They had mouldered for ages in Etruscan cities, with the dust of
uncounted centuries upon them, and been only led out in Carnival times,
pale, voiceless, frail ghosts of dead powers, whose very meaning the
people had long forgotten. But the trumpet-call of the Renaissance woke
them from their Rip Van Winkle sleep.

They got up, young again, and keen for every frolic--Barbarossas of sock
and buskin, whose helmets were caps and bells, breaking the magic spell
of their slumber to burst upon men afresh; buoyant incarnations of the
new-born scorn for tradition, of the nascent revolts of democracy, with
which the air was rife.

"Only Pantomimi?" Oh, altro!

The world when it reckons its saviours should rate high all it owed to
the Pantomimi,--the privileged Pantomimi--who first dared take license
to say in their quips and cranks, in their capers and jests, what had
sent all speakers before them to the rack and the faggots.

Who think of that when they hear the shrill squeak of Pulcinello in the
dark bye-streets of northern towns, or see lean Pantaleone slip and
tumble through the transformation-scene of some gorgeous theatre?

Not one in a million.

Yet it is true for all that. Free speech was first due to the Pantomimi.
A proud boast that. They hymn Tell and chant Savonarola and glorify the
Gracchi, but I doubt if any of the gods in the world's Pantheon or the
other world's Valhalla did so much for freedom as those merry mimes that
the children scamper after upon every holiday.

       *       *       *

We are straws on the wind of the hour, too frail and too brittle to
float into the future. Our little day of greatness is a mere child's
puff-ball, inflated by men's laughter, floated by women's tears; what
breeze so changeful as the one, what waters so shallow as the
other?--the bladder dances a little while; then sinks, and who

       *       *       *

Do you know the delicate delights of a summer morning in Italy? morning
I mean between four and five of the clock, and not the full hot mid-day
that means morning to the languid associations of this weary century.

The nights, perfect as they are, have scarcely more loveliness than the
birth of light, the first rippling laughter of the early day.

The air is cool, almost cold, and clear as glass. There is an endless
murmur from birds' throats and wings, and from far away there will ring
from village or city the chimes of the first mass. The deep broad
shadows lie so fresh, so grave, so calm, that by them the very dust is
stilled and spiritualised.

Softly the sun comes, striking first the loftier trees and then the
blossoming magnolias, and lastly the green lowliness of the gentle
vines; until all above is in a glow of new-born radiance, whilst all
beneath the leaves still is dreamily dusk and cool.

The sky is of a soft sea-blue; great vapours will float here and there,
iris-coloured and snow-white. The stone parapets of bridge and tower
shine against the purple of the mountains, which are low in tone, and
look like hovering storm-clouds. Across the fields dun oxen pass to
their labour; through the shadows peasants go their way to mass; down
the river a raft drifts slowly, with the pearly water swaying against
the canes; all is clear, tranquil, fresh as roses washed with rain.

       *       *       *

To the art of the stage, as to every other art, there are two sides: the
truth of it, which comes by inspiration--that is, by instincts subtler,
deeper, and stronger than those of most minds; and the artifice of it,
in which it must clothe itself to get understood by the people.

It is this latter which must be learnt; it is the leathern harness in
which the horses of the sun must run when they come down to race upon

       *       *       *

For in Italy life is all contrast, and there is no laugh and love-song
without a sigh beside them; there is no velvet mask of mirth and passion
without the marble mask of art and death near to it. For everywhere the
wild tulip burns red upon a ruined altar, and everywhere the blue borage
rolls its azure waves through the silent temples of forgotten gods.

       *       *       *

To enter Bologna at midnight is to plunge into the depths of the middle

Those desolate sombre streets, those immense dark arches, dark as
Tartarus, those endless arcades where scarce a footfall breaks the
stillness, that labyrinth of marble, of stone, of antiquity; the past
alone broods over them all.

As you go it seems to you that you see the gleam of a snowy plume and
the shine of a straight rapier striking home through cuirass and
doublet, whilst on the stones the dead body falls, and high above over
the lamp-iron, where the torch is flaring, a casement uncloses, and a
woman's voice murmurs, with a cruel little laugh, "Cosa fatta capo ha!"

There is nothing to break the spell of that old-world enchantment.

Nothing to recall to you that the ages of Bentivoglio and of Visconti
have fled for ever.

The mighty Academy of Luvena Juris is so old, so old, so old!--the folly
and frippery of modern life cannot dwell in it a moment; it is as that
enchanted throne which turned into stone like itself whosoever dared to
seat himself upon its majestic heights.

For fifteen centuries Bologna has grimly watched and seen the mad life
of the world go by; it sits amidst the plains as the Sphynx amidst her

       *       *       *

It is women's way. They always love colour better than form, rhetoric
better than logic, priestcraft better than philosophy, and flourishes
better than fugues. It has been said scores of times before I said it.

Nay, he pursued, thinking he had pained me, you have a bright wit
enough, and a beautiful voice, though you sing without knowing very well
what you do sing. But genius you have not, look you; say your
thanksgiving to the Madonna at the next shrine we come to; genius you
have not.

What is it?

Well, it is hard to tell; but this is certain, that it puts peas
unboiled into the shoes of every pilgrim who really gets up to its

Genius has all manner of dead dreams and sorrowful lost loves for its
scallop-shells; and the palm that it carries is the bundle of rods
wherewith fools have beaten it for calling them blind.

Genius has eyes so clear that it sees straight down into the hearts of
others through all their veils of sophistry and simulation; but its own
heart is pierced often to the quick for shame of what it reads there.

It has such long and faithful remembrance of other worlds and other
lives which most minds have forgotten, that beside the beauty of those
memories all things of earth seem poor and valueless.

Men call this imagination or idealism; the name does not matter much;
whether it be desire or remembrance, it comes to the same issue; so that
genius, going ever beyond the thing it sees in infinite longing for some
higher greatness which it has either lost or otherwise cannot reach,
finds the art, and the humanity, and the creations, and the affections
which seem to others so exquisite most imperfect and scarcely to be

The heaven of Phædrus is the world which haunts Genius--where there
shall not be women but Woman, not friends but Friendship, not poems but
Poetry; everything in its uttermost wholeness and perfection; so that
there shall be no possibility of regret nor any place for desire.

For in this present world there is only one thing which can content it,
and that thing is music; because music has nothing to do with earth, but
sighs always for the lands beyond the sun.

And yet all this while genius, though sick at heart, and alone, and
finding little in man or in woman, in human art or in human nature, that
can equal what it remembers--or, as men choose to say, it imagines--is
half a child too, always: for something of the eternal light which
streams from the throne of God is always shed about it, though sadly
dimmed and broken by the clouds and vapours that men call their

Half a child always, taking a delight in the frolic of the kids, the
dancing of the daffodils, the playtime of the children, the romp of the
winds with the waters, the loves of the birds in the blossoms. Half a
child always, but always with tears lying close to its laughter, and
always with desires that are death in its dreams.

No; you have not genius, cara mia. Say your grazie at the next shrine we

       *       *       *

Therefore, in those days men, giving themselves leave to be glad for a
little space, were glad with the same sinewy force and manful singleness
of purpose as made them in other times laborious, self-denying, patient,
and fruitful of high thoughts and deeds.

Because they laboured for their fellows, therefore they could laugh with
them; and because they served God, therefore they dared be glad.

In those grave, dauntless, austere lives the Carnival's jocund revelry
was as one golden bead in a pilgrim's rosary of thorn-berries.

They had aimed highly and highly achieved; therefore they could go forth
amidst their children and rejoice.

But we--in whom all art is the mere empty Shibboleth of a ruined
religion whose priests are all dead; we--whose whole year-long course is
one Dance of Death over the putridity of our pleasures; we--whose
solitary purpose it is to fly faster and faster from desire to satiety,
from satiety to desire, in an endless eddy of fruitless effort;
we--whose greatest genius can only raise for us some inarticulate
protest of despair against some unknown God;--we have strangled King
Carnival and killed him, and buried him in the ashes of our own
unutterable weariness and woe.

       *       *       *

Oh, I believe it was all true enough.

There were mighty Pascarèlli in the olden days. But I am very glad that
I was not of them; except, indeed, that I should have liked to strike a
blow or two for Guido Calvacanti and have hindered the merrymaking of
those precious rascals who sent him out to die of the marsh fever.


No; certainly I would not be great. To be a great man is endlessly to
crave something that you have not; to kiss the hands of monarchs and
lick the feet of peoples. To be great? Who was ever more great than
Dante, and what was his experience?--the bitterness of begged bread, and
the steepness of palace stairs.

Besides, given the genius to deserve it, the up-shot of a life spent for
greatness is absolutely uncertain. Look at Machiavelli.

After having laid down infallible rules for social and public success
with such unapproachable astuteness that his name has become a synonym
for unerring policy, Machiavelli passed his existence in obedience and
submission to Rome, to Florence, to Charles, to Cosmo, to Leo, to

He was born into a time favourable beyond every other to sudden changes
of fortune; a time in which any fearless audacity might easily become
the stepping-stone to a supreme authority; and yet Machiavelli, whom the
world still holds as its ablest statesman--in principle--never in
practice rose above the level of a servant of civil and papal tyrannies,
and, when his end came, died in obscurity and almost in penury.

Theoretically, Machiavelli could rule the universe; but practically he
never attained to anything finer than a more or less advantageous change
of masters. To reign doctrinally may be all very well, but when it only
results in serving actually, it seems very much better to be obscure and
content without any trouble.

     "Fumo di gloria non vale fumo di pipa."

I, for one, at any rate, am thoroughly convinced of that truth of

I hearkened to him sorrowful; for to my ignorant eyes the witch candle
of fame seemed a pure and perfect planet; and I felt that the planet
might have ruled his horoscope had he chosen.

Is there no glory at all worth having, then? I murmured.

He stretched himself where he rested amongst the arum-whitened grass,
and took his cigaretto from his mouth:

Well, there is one, perhaps. But it is to be had about once in five

You know Or San Michele? It would have been a world's wonder had it
stood alone, and not been companioned with such wondrous rivals that its
own exceeding beauty scarce ever receives full justice.

Where the jasper of Giotto and the marble of Brunelleschi, where the
bronze of Ghiberti and the granite of Arnolfo rise everywhere in the
sunlit air to challenge vision and adoration, or San Michele fails of
its full meed from men. Yet, perchance, in all the width of Florence
there is not a nobler thing.

It is like some massive casket of silver oxydised by time; such a casket
as might have been made to hold the Tables of the Law by men to whose
faith Sinai was the holy and imperishable truth.

I know nothing of the rule or phrase of Architecture, but it seems to
me surely that that square-set strength, as of a fortress, towering
against the clouds, and catching the last light always on its fretted
parapet, and everywhere embossed and enriched with foliage, and tracery,
and the figures of saints, and the shadows of vast arches, and the light
of niches gold-starred and filled with divine forms, is a gift so
perfect to the whole world, that, passing it, one should need say a
prayer for great Taddeo's soul.

Surely, nowhere is the rugged, changeless, mountain force of hewn stone
piled against the sky, and the luxuriant, dreamlike, poetic delicacy of
stone carven and shaped into leafage and loveliness more perfectly
blended and made one than where Or San Michele rises out of the dim,
many-coloured, twisting streets, in its mass of ebon darkness and of
silvery light.

Well, the other day, under the walls of it I stood, and looked at its
Saint George where he leans upon his shield, so calm, so young, with his
bared head and his quiet eyes.

"That is our Donatello's," said a Florentine beside me--a man of the
people, who drove a horse for hire in the public ways, and who paused,
cracking his whip, to tell this tale to me. "Donatello did that, and it
killed him. Do you not know? When he had done that Saint George, he
showed it to his master. And the master said, 'It wants one thing only.'
Now this saying our Donatello took gravely to heart, chiefly of all
because his master would never explain where the fault lay; and so much
did it hurt him, that he fell ill of it, and came nigh to death. Then he
called his master to him. 'Dear and great one, do tell me before I die,'
he said, 'what is the one thing my statue lacks.' The master smiled, and
said, 'Only--speech.' 'Then I die happy,' said our Donatello. And he
died--indeed, that hour."

"Now, I cannot say that the pretty story is true; it is not in the least
true; Donato died when he was eighty-three, in the Street of the Melon;
and it was he himself who cried, 'Speak then--speak!' to his statue, as
it was carried through the city. But whether true or false the tale,
this fact is surely true, that it is well--nobly and purely well--with a
people when the men amongst it who ply for hire on its public ways think
caressingly of a sculptor dead five hundred years ago, and tell such a
tale standing idly in the noonday sun, feeling the beauty and the pathos
of it all.

"'Our Donatello' still to the people of Florence. 'Our own little
Donato' still, our pet and pride, even as though he were living and
working in their midst to-day, here in the shadows of the
Stocking-maker's Street, where his Saint George keeps watch and ward.

"'Our little Donato' still, though dead so many hundred years ago.

"That is glory, if you will. And something more beautiful than any

He was silent a long while, gathering lazily with his left hand the arum
lilies to bind them together for me.

Perhaps the wish for the moment passed over him that he had chosen to
set his life up in stone, like to Donato's, in the face of Florence,
rather than to weave its light and tangled skein out from the breaths of
the wandering winds and the sands of the shifting shore.

       *       *       *

Come out here in the young months of summer, and leave, as we left, the
highways that grim walls fence in, and stray, as we strayed, through the
field-paths and the bridle-roads in the steps of the contadini, and you
will find this green world about your feet touched with the May-day
suns to tenderest and most lavish wealth of nature.

The green corn uncurling underneath the blossoming vines. The vine
foliage that tosses and climbs and coils in league on league of verdure.
The breast-high grasses full of gold and red and purple from the
countless flowers growing with it.

The millet filled with crimson gladioli and great scarlet poppies. The
hill-sides that look a sheet of rose-colour where the lupinelli are in
bloom. The tall plumes of the canes, new-born, by the side of every
stream and rivulet.

The sheaves of arum leaves that thrust themselves out from every joint
of masonry or spout of broken fountain. The flame of roses that burns on
every handbreadth of untilled ground and springs like a rainbow above
the cloud of every darkling roof or wall. The ocean spray of arbutus and
acacia shedding its snow against the cypress darkness. The sea-green of
the young ilex leaves scattered like light over the bronze and purple of
the older growth. The dreamy blue of the iris lilies rising underneath
the olives and along the edges of the fields.

       *       *       *

All greatest gifts that have enriched the modern world have come from
Italy. Take those gifts from the world, and it would lie in darkness, a
dumb, barbaric, joyless thing.

Leave Rome alone, or question as you will whether she were the mightiest
mother, or the blackest curse that ever came on earth. I do not speak of
Rome, imperial or republican, I speak of Italy.

Of Italy, after the greatness of Rome dropped as the Labarum was raised
on high, and the Fisher of Galilee came to fill the desolate place of
the Cæsars.

Of Italy, when she was no more a vast dominion, ruling over half the
races of the globe, from the Persian to the Pict, but a narrow slip
bounded by Adriatic and Mediterranean, divided into hostile sections,
racked by foreign foes, and torn by internecine feud.

Of Italy, ravaged by the Longobardo, plundered by the French, scourged
by the Popes, tortured by the Kaisers; of Italy, with her cities at war
with each other, her dukedoms against her free towns, her tyrants in
conflict with her municipalities; of Italy, in a word, as she has been
from the days of Theodoric and Theodolinda to the days of Napoleon and
Francis Joseph. It is this Italy--our Italy--which through all the
centuries of bloodshed and of suffering never ceased to bear aloft and
unharmed its divining-rod of inspiration as S. Christopher bore the
young Christ above the swell of the torrent and the rage of the tempest.

All over Italy from north to south men arose in the darkness of those
ages who became the guides and the torchbearers of a humanity that had
gone astray in the carnage and gloom.

The faith of Columbus of Genoa gave to mankind a new world. The insight
of Galileo of Pisa revealed to it the truth of its laws of being. Guido
Monacco of Arezzo bestowed on it the most spiritual of all earthly joys
by finding a visible record for the fugitive creations of harmony ere
then impalpable and evanescent as the passing glories of the clouds.
Dante Alighieri taught to it the might of that vulgar tongue in which
the child babbles at its mother's knee, and the orator leads a
breathless multitude at his will to death or triumph. Teofilo of Empoli
discovered for it the mysteries of colour that lie in the mere earths of
the rocks and the shores, and the mere oils of the roots and the
poppies. Arnoldo of Breccia lit for it the first flame of free opinion,
and Amatus of Breccia perfected for it the most delicate and exquisite
of all instruments of sound, which men of Cremona, or of Bologna, had
first created. Maestro Giorgio, and scores of earnest workers whose
names are lost in Pesaro and in Gubbio, bestowed on it those homelier
treasures of the graver's and the potter's labours which have carried
the alphabet of art into the lowliest home. Brunelleschi of Florence
left it in legacy the secret of lifting a mound of marble to the upper
air as easily as a child can blow a bubble; and Giordano Bruno of Nola
found for it those elements of philosophic thought, which have been
perfected into the clear and prismatic crystals of the metaphysics of
the Teuton and the Scot.

From south and north, from east and west, they rose, the ministers and
teachers of mankind.

From mountain and from valley, from fortress smoking under battle, and
from hamlet laughing under vines; from her great wasted cities, from her
small fierce walled towns, from her lone sea-shores ravaged by the
galleys of the Turks, from her villages on hill and plain that struggled
into life through the invaders' fires, and pushed their vineshoots over
the tombs of kings, everywhere all over her peaceful soil, such men

Not men alone who were great in a known art, thought or science, of
these the name was legion; but men in whose brains, art, thought, or
science took new forms, was born into new life, spoke with new voice,
and sprang full armed a new Athene.

Leave Rome aside, I say, and think of Italy; measure her gifts, which
with the lavish waste of genius she has flung broadcast in grand and
heedless sacrifice, and tell me if the face of earth would not be dark
and drear as any Scythian desert without these?

She was the rose of the world, aye--so they bruised and trampled her,
and yet the breath of heaven was ever in her.

She was the world's nightingale, aye--so they burned her eyes out and
sheared her wings, and yet she sang.

But she was yet more than these: she was the light of the world: a light
set on a hill, a light unquenchable. A light which through the darkness
of the darkest night has been a Pharos to the drowning faiths and dying
hopes of man.

       *       *       *

"It must have been such a good life--a painter's--in those days; those
early days of art. Fancy the gladness of it then--modern painters can
know nothing of it.

"When all the delicate delights of distance were only half perceived;
when the treatment of light and shadow was barely dreamed of; when
aerial perspective was just breaking on the mind in all its wonder and
power; when it was still regarded as a marvellous boldness to draw from
the natural form in a natural fashion;--in those early days only fancy
the delights of a painter!

"Something fresh to be won at each step; something new to be penetrated
at each moment; something beautiful and rash to be ventured on with each
touch of colour,--the painter in those days had all the breathless
pleasure of an explorer; without leaving his birthplace he knew the joys
of Columbus.

"And then the reverence that waited on him.

"He was a man who glorified God amongst a people that believed in God.

"What he did was a reality to himself and those around him. Spinello
fainted before the Satanas he portrayed, and Angelico deemed it
blasphemy to alter a feature of the angels who visited him that they
might live visibly for men in his colours in the cloister.

"Of all men the artist was nearest to heaven, therefore of all men was
he held most blessed.

"When Francis Valois stooped for the brush he only represented the
spirit of the age he lived in. It is what all wise kings do. It is their
only form of genius.

"Now-a-days what can men do in the Arts! Nothing.

"All has been painted--all sung--all said.

"All is twice told--in verse, in stone, in colour. There is no
untraversed ocean to tempt the Columbus of any Art.

"It is dreary--very dreary--that. All had been said and done so much
better than we can ever say or do it again. One envies those men who
gathered all the paradise flowers half opened, and could watch them

"Art can only live by Faith: and what faith have we?

"Instead of Art we have indeed Science; but Science is very sad, for she
doubts all things and would prove all things, and doubt is endless, and
proof is a quagmire that looks like solid earth, and is but shifting

His voice was sad as it fell on the stillness of Arezzo--Arezzo who had
seen the dead gods come and go, and the old faiths rise and fall, there
where the mule trod its patient way and the cicala sang its summer song
above the place where the temple of the Bona Dea and the Church of
Christ had alike passed away, so that no man could tell their place.

It was all quiet around.

"I would rather have been Spinello than Petrarca," he pursued, after a
while. "Yes; though the sonnets will live as long as men love: and the
old man's work has almost every line of it crumbled away.

"But one can fancy nothing better than a life such as Spinello led for
nigh a century up on the hill here, painting, because he loved it, till
death took him. Of all lives, perhaps, that this world has ever seen,
the lives of painters, I say, in those days were the most perfect.

"Not only the magnificent pageants of Leonardo's, of Raffaelle's, of
Giorgone's: but the lowlier lives--the lives of men such as Santi, and
Ridolfi, and Benozzo, and Francia, and Timoteo, and many lesser men than
they, painters in fresco and grisaille, painters of miniatures, painters
of majolica and montelupo, painters who were never great, but who
attained infinite peacefulness and beauty in their native towns and
cities all over the face of Italy.

"In quiet places, such as Arezzo and Volterra, and Modena and Urbino,
and Cortona and Perugia, there would grow up a gentle lad who from
infancy most loved to stand and gaze at the missal paintings in his
mother's house, and the coena in the monk's refectory, and when he had
fulfilled some twelve or fifteen years, his people would give in to his
wish and send him to some bottega to learn the management of colours.

"Then he would grow to be a man; and his town would be proud of him, and
find him the choicest of all work in its churches and its convents, so
that all his days were filled without his ever wandering out of reach of
his native vesper bells.

"He would make his dwelling in the heart of his birthplace, close under
its cathedral, with the tender sadness of the olive hills stretching
above and around; in the basiliche or the monasteries his labour would
daily lie; he would have a docile band of hopeful boyish pupils with
innocent eyes of wonder for all he did or said; he would paint his
wife's face for the Madonna's, and his little son's for the child
Angel's; he would go out into the fields and gather the olive bough, and
the feathery corn, and the golden fruits, and paint them tenderly on
ground of gold or blue, in symbol of those heavenly things of which the
bells were for ever telling all those who chose to hear; he would sit in
the lustrous nights in the shade of his own vines and pity those who
were not as he was; now and then horsemen would come spurring in across
the hills and bring news with them of battles fought, of cities lost and
won; and he would listen with the rest in the market-place, and go home
through the moonlight thinking that it was well to create the holy
things before which the fiercest reiter and the rudest free-lance would
drop the point of the sword and make the sign of the cross.

"It must have been a good life--good to its close in the cathedral
crypt--and so common too; there were scores such lived out in these
little towns of Italy, half monastery and half fortress, that were
scattered over hill and plain, by sea and river, on marsh and mountain,
from the day-dawn of Cimabue to the afterglow of the Carracci.

"And their work lives after them; the little towns are all grey and
still and half peopled now; the iris grows on the ramparts, the canes
wave in the moats, the shadows sleep in the silent market-place, the
great convents shelter half-a-dozen monks, the dim majestic churches are
damp and desolate, and have the scent of the sepulchre.

"But there, above the altars, the wife lives in the Madonna and the
child smiles in the Angel, and the olive and the wheat are fadeless on
their ground of gold and blue; and by the tomb in the crypt the
sacristan will shade his lantern and murmur with a sacred tenderness:--

"'Here he sleeps.'

"'He,' even now, so long, long after, to the people of his birthplace.
Who can want more of life--or death?"

So he talked on in that dreamy, wistful manner that was as natural with
him in some moments as his buoyant and ironical gaiety at others.

Then he rose as the shadows grew longer and pulled down a knot of
pomegranate blossom for me, and we went together under the old walls,
across the maize fields, down the slope of the hills to the olive
orchard, where a peasant, digging deep his trenches against the autumn
rains, had struck his mattock on the sepulchre of the Etruscan king.

There was only a little heap of fine dust when we reach the spot.

       *       *       *

"There was so much more colour in those days," he had said, rolling a
big green papone before him with his foot. "If, indeed, it were laid on
sometimes too roughly. And then there was so much more play for
character. Now-a-days, if a man dare go out of the common ways to seek a
manner of life suited to him, and unlike others, he is voted a vagabond,
or, at least, a lunatic, supposing he is rich enough to get the sentence
so softened. In those days the impossible was possible--a paradox? oh,
of course. The perfection of those days was, that they were full of
paradoxes. No democracy will ever compass the immensity of Hope, the
vastness of Possibility, with which the Church of those ages filled the
lives of the poorest poor. Not hope spiritual only, but hope
terrestrial, hope material and substantial. A swineherd, glad to gnaw
the husks that his pigs left, might become the Viceregent of Christ, and
spurn emperors prostrate before his throne. The most famished student
who girt his lean loins to pass the gates of Pavia or Ravenna, knew that
if he bowed his head for the tonsure he might live to lift it in a
pontiff's arrogance in the mighty reality and the yet mightier metaphor
of a Canosa. The abuses of the mediæval Church have been gibbeted in
every language; but I doubt if the wonderful absolute _equality_ which
that Church actually contained and caused has ever been sufficiently
remembered. Then only think how great it was to _be_ great in those
years, when men were fresh enough of heart to feel emotion and not
ashamed to show it. Think of Petrarca's entry into Rome; think of the
superb life of Raffael; think of the crowds that hung on the lips of
the Improvisatori: think of the influence of S. Bruno, of S. Bernard, of
S. Francis; think of the enormous power on his generation of Fra
Girolamo! And if one were not great at all, but only a sort of brute
with stronger sinews than most men, what a fearless and happy brute one
might be, riding with Hawkwood's Lances, or fighting with the Black
Bands! Whilst, if one were a peaceable, gentle soul, with a turn for art
and grace, what a calm, tender life one might lead in little, old, quiet
cities, painting praying saints on their tiptoes, or moulding
marriage-plates in majolica! It must have been such a great thing to
live when the world was still all open-eyed with wonder at itself, like
a child on its sixth birthday. Now-a-days, science makes a great
discovery; the tired world yawns, feels its pockets, and only asks,
"Will it pay?" Galileo ran the risk of the stake, and Giordano Bruno
suffered at it; but I think that chance of the faggots must have been
better to bear than the languid apathy and the absorbed avarice of the
present age, which is chiefly tolerant because it has no interest except
in new invented ways for getting money and for spending it."


He remembered two years before, when he had passed through Italy on his
way eastward, pausing in Ferrara, and Brescia, and Mantua, and staying
longer in the latter city on account of a trial then in course of
hearing in the court of justice, which had interested him by its
passionate and romantic history; it had been the trial of the young
Count d'Este, accused of the assassination of his mistress. Sanctis had
gone with the rest of the town to the hearing of the long and tedious
examination of the witnesses and of accused. It had been a warm day in
early autumn, three months after the night of the murder; Mantua had
looked beautiful in her golden mantle of sunshine and silver veil of
mist; there was a white, light fog on the water meadows and the lakes,
and under it the willows waved and the tall reeds rustled; whilst the
dark towers, the forked battlements, the vast Lombard walls, seemed to
float on it like sombre vessels on a foamy sea.

He remembered the country people flocking in over the bridge, the bells
ringing, the red sails drifting by, the townsfolk gathering together in
the covered arcades and talking with angry rancour against the dead
woman's lord. He remembered sitting in the hush and gloom of the
judgment-hall and furtively sketching the head of the prisoner because
of its extreme and typical beauty. He remembered how at the time he had
thought this accused lover guiltless, and wondered that the tribunal did
not sooner suspect the miserly, malicious, and subtle meaning of the
husband's face. He remembered listening to the tragic tale that seemed
so well to suit those sombre, feudal streets, those melancholy waters,
seeing the three-edged dagger passed from hand to hand, hearing how the
woman had been found dead in her beauty on her old golden and crimson
bed with the lilies on her breast, and looking at the attitude of the
prisoner--in which the judges saw remorse and guilt, and he could only
see the unutterable horror of a bereaved lover to whom the world was
stripped and naked.

He had stayed but two days in Mantua, but those two days had left an
impression on him like that left by the reading at the fall of night of
some ghastly poem of the middle ages. He had thought that they had
condemned an innocent man, as the judge gave his sentence of the galleys
for life: and the scene had often come back to his thoughts.

The vaulted audience chamber; the strong light pouring in through high
grated windows; the pillars of many-coloured marbles, the frescoed roof;
the country people massed together in the public place, with faces that
were like paintings of Mantegna or Masaccio; the slender supple form of
the accused drooping like a bruised lily between the upright figures of
two carabineers; the judge leaning down over his high desk in black
robes and black square cap, like some Venetian lawgiver of Veronese or
of Titian; and beyond, through an open casement, the silvery, watery,
sun-swept landscape that was still the same as when Romeo came,
banished, to Mantua. All these had remained impressed upon his mind by
the tragedy which there came to its close as a lover, passionate as
Romeo and yet more unfortunate, was condemned to the galleys for his
life. "They have ill judged a guiltless man," he had said to himself as
he had left the court with a sense of pain before injustice done, and
went with heart saddened by a stranger's fate into the misty air, along
the shining water where the Mills of the Twelve Apostles were churning
the great dam into froth, as they had done through seven centuries,
since first, with reverent care, the builder had set the sacred statues
there that they might bless the grinding of the corn.

Sitting now in the silence of the tomb, Sanctis recalled that day, when,
towards the setting of the sun, he had strolled there by the
water-wheels of the twelve disciples, and allowed the fate of an unknown
man, declared a criminal by impartial judges, to cloud over for him the
radiance of evening on the willowy Serraglio and chase away his peaceful
thoughts of Virgil. He remembered how the country people had come out by
the bridge and glided away in their boats, and talked of the murder of
Donna Aloysia; and how they had, one and all of them, said, going back
over the lake water or along the reed-fringed roads, to their
farmhouses, that there could be no manner of doubt about it--the lover
had been moon-struck and mad with jealousy, and his dagger had found
its way to her breast. They had not blamed him much, but they had never
doubted his guilt; and the foreigner alone, standing by the mill
gateway, and seeing the golden sun go down beyond the furthermost fields
of reeds that grew blood-red as the waters grew, had thought to himself
and said half aloud:

"Poor Romeo! he is guiltless, even though the dagger were his"----

And a prior, black-robed, with broad looped-up black hat, who was also
watching the sunset, breviary in hand, had smiled and said, "Nay, Romeo,
banished to us, had no blood on his hand; but this Romeo, native of our
city, has. Mantua will be not ill rid of Luitbrand d'Este."

Then he again, in obstinacy and against all the priest's better
knowledge as a Mantuan, had insisted and said, "The man is innocent."

And the sun had gone down as he had spoken, and the priest had smiled--a
smile cold as a dagger's blade--perhaps recalling sins confessed to him
of love that had changed to hate, of fierce delight ending in as fierce
a death-blow. Mantua in her day had seen so much alike of love and hate.

"The man is innocent," he had said insisting, whilst the carmine light
had glowed on the lagoons and bridges, and on the Lombard walls, and
Gothic gables, and high bell-towers, and ducal palaces, and feudal
fortresses of the city in whose street Crichton fell to the hired steel
of bravoes.

       *       *       *

She had the heaven-born faculty of observation of the poets, and she had
that instinct of delight in natural beauty which made Linnæus fall on
his knees before the English gorse and thank God for having made so
beautiful a thing.

Her sympathies and her imaginings spent themselves in solitary song as
she made the old strings of the lute throb in low cadence when she sat
solitary by her hearth on the rock floor of the grave; and out of doors
her eyes filled and her lips laughed when she wandered through the leafy
land and found the warbler's nest hung upon the reeds, or the first
branching asphodel in flower. She could not have told why these made her
happy, why she could watch for half a day untired the little wren
building where the gladwyn blossomed on the water's edge. It was only
human life that hurt her, embittered her, and filled her with hatred of

As she walked one golden noon by the Sasso Scritto, clothed with its
myrtle and thyme and its quaint cacti that later would bear their purple
heads of fruit; the shining sea beside her, and above her the bold
arbutus-covered heights, with the little bells of the sheep sounding on
their sides, she saw a large fish, radiant as a gem, with eyes like
rubies. Some men had it; a hook was in its golden gills, and they had
tied its tail to the hook so that it could not stir, and they had put it
in a pail of water that it might not die too quickly, die ere they could
sell it. A little further on she saw a large green and gold snake, one
of the most harmless of all earth's creatures, that only asked to creep
into the sunshine, to sleep in its hole in the rock, to live out its
short, innocent life under the honey smile of the rosemary; the same men
stoned it to death, heaping the pebbles and broken sandstone on it, and
it perished slowly in long agony, being large and tenacious of life. Yet
a little further on, again, she saw a big square trap of netting, with a
blinded chaffinch as decoy. The trap was full of birds, some fifty or
sixty of them, all kinds of birds, from the plain brown minstrel,
beloved of the poets, to the merry and amber-winged oriole, from the
dark grey or russet-bodied fly-catcher and whinchat to the glossy and
handsome jay, cheated and caught as he was going back to the north; they
had been trapped, and would be strung on a string and sold for a copper
coin the dozen; and of many of them the wings or the legs were broken
and the eyes were already dim. The men who had taken them were seated on
the thymy turf grinning like apes, with pipes in their mouths, and a
flask of wine between their knees.

She passed on, helpless.

She thought of words that Joconda had once quoted to her, words which
said that men were made in God's likeness!

       *       *       *

While it is winter the porphyrion sails down the willowy streams beside
the sultan-hen that is to be his love, and sees her not, and stays not
her passage upon the water or through the air; she does not live as yet
to him. But when the breath of the spring brings the catkins from the
willows, and the violets amidst the wood-moss on the banks, then he
awakes and beholds her; and then the stream reflects but her shape for
him, and the rushes are full of the melody of his love-call. It was
still winter with Este--a bitter winter of discontent; and he had no
eyes for this water-bird that swam with him through the icy current of
his adversity.

To break the frozen flood that imprisoned him was his only thought.

       *       *       *

Air is the king of physicians; he who stands often with nothing between
him and the open heavens will gain from them health both moral and

       *       *       *

"Yes; you have a right to know. After all, it was ruin to me, but it is
not much of a story; a tale-teller with his guitar on a vintage night
would soon make a better one. I loved a woman. She lived in Mantua. So
did I, too. For her sake I lost three whole years--three years of the
best of my life. And yet, what is gain except love, and what better than
joy can we have? A pomegranate is ripe but once. And I--my pomegranate
is rotten for evermore! We lived in Mantua. It is a strange sad place.
It was great and gay enough once. Grander pomp than Mantua's there was
never known in Italy. Felix Mantua!--and now it is all decaying,
mouldering, sinking, fading; it is silent as death; the mists, the
waters, the empty palaces, the walls that the marshes are eating little
by little every day, the grass and the moss and the wild birds' nests on
the roofs, on the temples, on the bridges, all are desolate in Mantua
now. Yet is it beautiful in its loneliness, when the sunrise comes over
the seas of reeds, and the towers and the arches are reflected in the
pools and streams; and yet again at night, when the moon is high and the
lagoons are as sheets of silver, and the shadows come and go over the
bulrushes and St. Andrea lifts itself against the stars. Yes; then it is
still Mantova la Gloriosa."

His voice dropped; the tears came into his closing eyes as though he
looked on the dead face of a familiar friend.

He felt the home sickness of the exile, of the wanderer who knows not
where to lay his head.

The glory was gone from the city.

Its greatness was but as a ghost that glided through its deserted
streets calling in vain on dead men to arise.

The rough red sail of the fishing-boat was alone on the waters once
crowded with the silken sails of gilded galleys; the toad croaked and
the stork made her nest where the Lords of Gonzaga had gone forth to
meet their brides of Este or of Medici; Virgil, Alboin, great Karl,
Otho, Petrarca, Ariosto, had passed by here over this world of waters
and become no more than dreams; and the vapours and the dust together
had stolen the smile from Giulio's Psyche, and the light from Mantegna's
arabesques. On the vast walls the grass grew, and in the palaces of
princes the winds wandered and the beggars slept. All was still,
disarmed, lonely, forgotten; left to a silence like the silence of the
endless night of death. Yet it was dear to him; this sad and stately
city, waiting for the slow death of an unpitied and lingering decay.

It was dear to him from habit, from birth, from memory, from affinity,
as the reeds of its stagnant waters were dear to the sedge-warbler that
hung its slender nest on the stem of a rush. A price was set on his
head; and never more, he thought, would he see the sunshine in ripples
of gold come over the grey lagoons.

       *       *       *

No one cared; the terrible, barren, acrid truth, that science trumpets
abroad as though it were some new-found joy, touched her ignorance with
its desolating despair. No one cared. Life was only sustained by death.
The harmless and lovely children of the air and of the moor were given
over, year after year, century after century, to the bestial play and
the ferocious appetites of men. The wondrous beauty of the earth renewed
itself only to be the scene of endless suffering, of interminable
torture. The human tyrant, without pity, greedy as a child, more brutal
than the tiger in his cruelty, had all his way upon the innocent races
to which he begrudged a tuft of reeds, a palm's breadth of moss or sand.
The slaughter, the misery, the injustice, renewed themselves as the
greenness of the world did. No one cared. There was no voice upon the
blood-stained waters. There was no rebuke from the offended heavens. To
all prayer or pain there was eternal silence as the sole reply.

       *       *       *

The uneducated are perhaps unjustly judged sometimes. To the ignorant
both right and wrong are only instincts; when one remembers their
piteous and innocent confusion of ideas, the twilight of dim
comprehension in which they dwell, one feels that oftentimes the laws of
cultured men are too hard on them, and that, in a better sense than that
of injustice and reproach, there ought indeed to be two laws for rich
and poor.

       *       *       *

It needs a great nature to bear the weight of a great gratitude.

To a great nature it gives wings that bear it up to heaven; a lower
nature feels it always as a clog that impatiently is dragged only so
long as force compels.

       *       *       *

When the thoughts of youth return, fresh as the scent of new-gathered
blossoms, to the tired old age which has so long forgot them, the coming
of Death is seldom very distant.

       *       *       *

The boat went through the waters swiftly, as the wind blew more
strongly; the sandy shore with its scrub of low-growing rock-rose and
prickly Christ's thorn did not change its landscape, but what she looked
at always was the sea; the sea that in the light had the smiling azure
of a young child's eyes, and when the clouds cast shadows on it, had the
intense impenetrable brilliancy of a jewel.

In the distance were puffs of white and grey, like smoke or mist; those
mists were Corsica and Caprajà.

Elba towered close at hand.

Gorgona lay far beyond, with all the other little isles that seem made
to shelter Miranda and Ariel, but of Gorgona she knew nothing; she was
steering straight towards it, but it was many a league distant on the
northerly water.

When she at last stopped her boat in its course she was at the Sasso
Scritto: a favourite resting-place with her, where, on feast-days, when
Joconda let her have liberty from housework and rush-plaiting and
spinning of flax, she always came.

Northward, there was a long smooth level beach of sand, and beyond that
a lagoon where all the waterbirds that love both the sea and the marsh
came in large flocks, and spread their wings over the broad spaces in
which the salt water and the fresh were mingled. Beyond this there were
cliffs of the humid red tufa, and the myrtle and the holy thorn grew
down their sides, and met in summer the fragrant hesperis of the shore.

These cliffs were fine bold bluffs, and one of them had been called from
time immemorial the Sasso Scritto,--why, no one knew; the only writing
on it was done by the hand of Nature. It was steep and lofty; on its
summit were the ruins of an old fortress of the middle ages; its sides
were clothed with myrtle, aloe, and rosemary, and at its feet were
boulders of marble, rose and white in the sun; rock pools, with
exquisite network of sunbeams crossing their rippling surface, and
filled with green ribbon-grasses and red sea-foliage, and shining gleams
of broken porphyry, and pieces of agate and cornelian.

The yellow sands hereabouts were bright just now with the sea-daffodil,
and the sea-stocks, which would blossom later, were pricking upward to
the Lenten light; great clusters of southern-wood waved in the wind, and
the pungent sea-rush grew in long lines along the shore, where the
sand-piper was dropping her eggs, and the blue-rock was carrying dry
twigs and grass to his home in the ruins above or the caverns beneath,
and the stock-doves in large companies were winging their way over sea
towards the Maritime or the Pennine Alps.

This was a place that Musa loved, and she would come here and sit for
hours, and watch the roseate cloud of the returning flamingoes winging
their way from Sardinia, and the martins busy at their masonry in the
cliffs, and the Arctic longipennes going away northward as the weather
opened, and the stream-swallows hunting early gnats and frogs on the
water, and the kingfisher digging his tortuous underground home in the
sand. Here she would lie for hours amongst the rosemary, and make silent
friendships with the populations of the air, while the sweet blue sky
was above her head, and the sea, as blue, stretched away till it was
lost in light.

Once up above, on these cliffs, the eye could sweep over the sea north
and south, and the soil was more than ever scented with that fragrant
and humble blue-flowered shrub of which the English madrigals and glees
of the Stuart and Hanoverian poets so often speak, and seem to smell.
Behind the cliffs stretched moorland, marshes, woodland, intermingled,
crossed by many streams, holding many pools, blue-fringed in May with
iris, and osier beds, and vast fields of reeds, and breadths of forest
with dense thorny underwood, where all wild birds came in their season,
and where all was quiet save for a bittern's cry, a boar's snort, a
snipe's scream, on the lands once crowded with the multitudes that gave
the eagle of Persia and the brazen trumpets of Lydia to the legions of

Under their thickets of the prickly sloe-tree and the sweet-smelling bay
lay the winding ways of buried cities; their runlets of water rippled
where kings and warriors slept beneath the soil, and the yellow marsh
lily, and the purple and the rose of the wind-flower and the
pasque-flower, and the bright red of the Easter tulips, and the white
and the gold of the asphodels, and the colours of a thousand other rarer
and less homelike blossoms, spread their innocent glory in their turn to
the sky and the breeze, above the sunken stones of courts and gates and
palaces and prisons.

These moors were almost as solitary as the deserts are.

Now and then against the blue of the sky and the brown of the wood,
there rose the shapes of shepherds and their flocks; now and then herds
of young horses went by, fleet and unconscious of their doom; now and
then the sound of a rifle cracked the silence of the windless air; but
these came but seldom.

Maremma is wide, and its people are scattered.

In autumn and in winter, hunters, shepherds, swineherds, sportsmen,
birdcatchers, might spoil the solemn peace of these moors, but in spring
and summer no human soul was seen upon them. The boar and the buffalo,
the flamingo and the roebuck, the great plover and the woodcock, reigned

       *       *       *

"They say he sang too well, and that was why they burnt him," said
Andreino to her to-day, after telling her for the hundredth time of what
he had seen once on the Ligurian shore, far away yonder northward, when
he, who knew nothing of Adonais or Prometheus, had been called, a stout
seafaring man in that time, amongst other peasants of the country-side,
to help bring in the wood for a funeral pyre by the sea.

He had known nought of the songs or the singer, but he loved to tell the
tale he had heard then; and say how he had seen, he himself, with his
own eyes, the drowned poet burn, far away yonder where the pines stood
by the sea, and how the flames had curled around the heart that men had
done their best to break, and how it had remained unburnt in the midst,
whilst all the rest drifted in ashes down the wind. He knew nought of
the Skylark's ode, and nought of the Cor Cordium; but the scene by the
seashore had burned itself as though with flame into his mind, and he
spoke of it a thousand times if once, sitting by the edge of the sea
that had killed the singer.

"Will they burn me if I sing too well?" the child asked him this day,
the words of Joconda being with her.

"Oh, that is sure," said Andreino, half in jest and half in earnest.
"They burnt him because he sang better than all of them. So they said.
I do not know. I know the resin ran out of the pinewood all golden and
hissing and his heart would not burn, all we could do. You are a female
thing, Musa; your heart will be the first to burn, the first of all!"

"Will it?" said Musa seriously, but not any way alarmed, for the thought
of that flaming pile by the seashore by night was a familiar image to

"Ay, for sure; you will be a woman!" said Andreino, hammering into his

       *       *       *

"Though there is not a soul here, still sometimes they come--Lucchese,
Pistoiese, what not--they come as they go; they are a faithless lot;
they love all winter, and while the corn is in the ear it goes well, but
after harvest--phew!--they put their gains in their pockets and they are
off and away back to their mountains. There are broken hearts in Maremma
when the threshing is done."

"Yes," said Musa again.

It was nothing to her, and she heeded but little.

"Yes, because men speak too lightly and women hearken too quickly; that
is how the mischief is born. With the autumn the mountaineers come. They
are strong and bold; they are ruddy and brown; they work all day, but in
the long nights they dance and they sing; then the girl listens. She
thinks it is all true, though it has all been said before in his own
hills to other ears. The winter nights are long, and the devil is always
near; when the corn goes down and the heat is come there is another sad
soul the more, another burden to carry, and he--he goes back to the
mountains. What does he care? Only when he comes down into the plains
again he goes to another place to work, because men do not love women's
tears. That is how it goes in Maremma."

       *       *       *

"So the saints will pluck her to themselves at last," thought Joconda;
and the dreariness, the lovelessness, the hopelessness of such an
existence did not occur to her, because age, which has learned the
solace and sweetness of peace, never remembers that to youth peace seems
only stagnation, inanition, death.

The exhausted swimmer, reaching the land, falls prone on it, and blesses
it; but the outgoing swimmer, full of strength, spurns the land, and
only loves the high-crested wave, the abyss of the deep sea.

       *       *       *

Imagination without culture is crippled and moves slowly; but it can be
pure imagination, and rich also, as folk-lore will tell the vainest.

       *       *       *

It is this narrowness of the peasant mind which philosophers never
fairly understand, and demagogues understand but too well, and warp to
their own selfish purposes and profits.

       *       *       *

Flying, the flamingoes are like a sunset cloud; walking, they are like
slender spirals of flame traversing the curling foam. When one looks on
them across black lines of storm-blown weeds on a November morning in
the marshes, as their long throats twist in the air with the flexile
motion of the snake, the grace of a lily blown by wind, one thinks of
Thebes, of Babylon, of the gorgeous Persia of Xerxes, of the lascivious
Egypt of the Ptolemies.

The world has grown grey and joyless in the twilight of age and fatigue,
but these birds keep the colour of its morning. Eos has kissed them.

       *       *       *

For want of a word lives often drift apart.

       *       *       *

Nausicaa, in the safe shelter of her father's halls, had never tended
Odysseus with more serenity and purity than the daughter of Saturnino
tended his fellow-slave.

The sanctity of the tombs lay on them, the dead were so near; neither
profanity nor passion seemed to have any place here in this mysterious
twilight alive with the memories of a vanished people. Her innocence was
a grand and noble thing, like any one of the largest white lilies that
rose up from the noxious mud of the marshes; a cup of ivory wet with the
dewdrops of dawn, blossoming fair on fetid waters. And in him the
languor of sickness and of despair borrowed unconsciously for awhile the
liveries of chastity; and he spoke no word, he made no gesture, that
would have scared from its original calm the soul of this lonely
creature, who succoured him with so much courage and so much compassion
that they awed him with the sense of an eternal, infinite, and
overwhelming obligation. It needs a great nature to bear the weight of a
great gratitude.

To a great nature it gives wings that bear it up to heaven; a lower
nature feels it always a clog that impatiently is dragged only so long
as force compels.

       *       *       *

Her daily labours remained the same, but it seemed to her as if she had
the strength of those immortals he told her she resembled. She felt as
though she trod on air, as though she drank the sunbeams and they gave
her force like wine; she had no sense of fatigue; she might have had
wings at her ankles, and nectar in her veins. She was so happy, with
that perfect happiness which only comes where the world cannot enter,
and the free nature has lifted itself to the light, knowing nothing of,
and caring nothing for, the bonds of custom and of prejudice with which
men have paralysed and cramped themselves, calling the lower the higher

       *       *       *

The world was so far from her; she knew not of it; she was a law to
herself, and her whole duty seemed to her set forth in one single word,
perhaps the noblest word in human language--fidelity. When life is cast
in solitary places, filled with high passions, and led aloof from men,
the laws which are needful to curb the multitudes, but yet are poor
conventional foolish things at their best, sink back into their true
signification, and lose their fictitious awe.

       *       *       *

Moreover, love is for ever measureless, and the deepest and most
passionate love is that which survives the death of esteem.

Friendship needs to be rooted in respect, but love can live upon itself
alone. Love is born of a glance, a touch, a murmur, a caress; esteem
cannot beget it, nor lack of esteem slay it. _Questi che mai da me non
fia diviso_, shall be for ever its consolation amidst hell. One life
alone is beloved, is beautiful, is needful, is desired: one life alone
out of all the millions of earth. Though it fall, err, betray, be mocked
of others and forsaken by itself, what does this matter? This cannot
alter love. The more it is injured by itself, derided of men, abandoned
of God, the more will love still see that it has need of love, and to
the faithless will be faithful.

       *       *       *

He stood mute and motionless awhile. Then as the truth was borne in on
him, tears gushed from his eyes like rain, and he laughed long, and
laughed loud as madmen do.

He never doubted her.

He sprang up the stone steps, and leapt into the open air: into that
light of day which he had been forbidden to see so long.

To stand erect there, to look over the plains, to breathe, and move, and
gaze, and stretch his arms out to the infinite spaces of the sea and
sky--this alone was so intense a joy that he felt mad with it.

Never again to hide with the snake and the fox; never again to tremble
as his shadow went beside him on the sand; never to waste the sunlit
hours hidden in the bowels of the earth; never to be afraid of every
leaf that stirred, of every bird that flew, of every moon-beam that fell
across his path!--he laughed and sobbed with the ecstasy of his release.

"O God, Thou hast not forgotten!" he cried in that rapture of freedom.

All the old childish faiths that had been taught him by dim old altars
in stately Mantuan churches came back to his memory and heart.

On the barren rock of Gorgona he had cursed and blasphemed the Creator
and creation of a world that was hell; he had been without hope: he had
derided all the faiths of his youth as illusions woven by devils to make
the disappointment of man the more bitter.

But now in the sweetness of his liberty, all the old happy beliefs
rushed back to him; he saw Deity in the smile of the seas, in the light
upon the plains. He was free!

       *       *       *

The world has lost the secret of making labour a joy; but nature has
given it to a few. Where the maidens dance the _Saltarello_ under the
deep Sardinian forests, and the honey and the grapes are gathered
beneath the snowy sides of Etna, and the oxen walk up to their loins in
flowing grass where the long aisles of pines grow down the Adrian shore,
this wood-magic is known still of the old simple charm of the pastoral

       *       *       *

"Does it vex you that I am not a boy?" said the girl--"why should it vex
you? I can do all they can, I can row better than many, and sail and
steer; I can drive too, and I know what to do with the nets; if I had a
boat of my own you would see what I could do."

"All that is very well," said Joconda with a little nod. "I do not say
it is not. But you have not a boat of your own, that is just it; that is
what women always suffer from; they have to steer, but the craft is some
one else's, and the haul too."

       *       *       *

Wild bird of sea and cloud, you are a stormy petrel, but there may come
a storm too many--and I am old. I have done my best, but that is little.
If you were a lad one would not be so uneasy. I suppose the good God
knows best--if one could be sure of that--I am a hard working woman, and
I have done no great sin that I know of, but up in heaven they never
take any thought of me. When I was young, I asked them at my marriage
altar to help me, and when my boys were born, I did the same, but they
never noticed; my man was drowned, and my beautiful boys got the fever
and sickened one by one and died: that was all I got. Priests say it is
best; priests are not mothers.

       *       *       *

"They were greater than the men that live now," she said with a solemn

"Perhaps; Why think so?"

"Because they were not afraid of their dead; they built them beautiful
houses, and gave them beautiful things. Now, men are afraid or ashamed,
or they have no remembrance. Their dead are huddled away in dust or mud
as though they were hateful or sinful. That is what I think so cowardly,
so thankless. If they will not bear the sight of death, it were better
to let great ships go slowly out, far out to sea, and give the waves
their lost ones."


When gardeners plant and graft, they know very well what will be the
issue of their work; they do not expect the rose from a bulb of garlic,
or look for the fragrant olive from a slip of briar; but the culturers
of human nature are less wise, and they sow poison, yet rave in
reproaches when it breeds and brings forth its like. "The rosebud garden
of girls" is a favourite theme for poets, and the maiden in her likeness
to a half-opened blossom, is as near purity and sweetness as a human
creature can be, yet what does the world do with its opening buds?--it
thrusts them in the forcing-house amidst the ordure, and then, if they
perish prematurely, never blames itself. The streets absorb the girls of
the poor; society absorbs the daughters of the rich; and not seldom one
form of prostitution, like the other, keeps its captives "bound in the
dungeon of their own corruption."

       *       *       *

The frivolous are always frightened at any strength or depth of nature,
or any glimpse of sheer despair.

Not to be consoled!

What can seem more strange to the shallow? What can seem more obstinate
to the weak? Not to be consoled is to offend all swiftly forgetting
humanity, most of whose memories are writ on water.

       *       *       *

It is harder to keep true to high laws and pure instincts in modern
society than it was in days of martyrdom. There is nothing in the whole
range of life so dispiriting and so unnerving as a monotony of
indifference. Active persecution and fierce chastisement are tonics to
the nerves; but the mere weary conviction that no one cares, that no one
notices, that there is no humanity that honours, and no deity that
pities, is more destructive of all higher effort than any conflict with
tyranny or with barbarism.

       *       *       *

Yet as he thought, so he did not realise that he would ever cease to be
in the world--who does? Life was still young in him, was prodigal to him
of good gifts; of enmity he only knew so much as made his triumph finer,
and of love he had more than enough. His life was full--at times
laborious--but always poetical and always victorious. He could not
realise that the day of darkness would ever come for him, when neither
woman nor man would delight him, when no roses would have fragrance for
him, and no song any spell to rouse him. Genius gives immortality in
another way than in the vulgar one of being praised by others after
death; it gives elasticity, unwearied sympathy, and that sense of some
essence stronger than death, of some spirit higher than the tomb, which
nothing can destroy. It is in this sense that genius walks with the

       *       *       *

A cruel story runs on wheels, and every hand oils the wheels as they

       *       *       *

You may weep your eyes blind, you may shout your throat dry, you may
deafen the ears of your world for half a lifetime, and you may never get
a truth believed in, never have a simple fact accredited. But the lie
flies like the swallow, multiplies itself like the caterpillar, is
accepted everywhere, like the visits of a king; it is a royal guest for
whom the gates fly open, the red carpet is unrolled, the trumpets sound,
the crowds applaud.

       *       *       *

She lived, like all women of her stamp and her epoch, in an atmosphere
of sugared sophisms; she never reflected, she never admitted, that she
did wrong; in her world nothing mattered much, unless, indeed, it were
found out, and got into the public mouth.

Shifting as the sands, shallow as the rain-pools, drifting in all danger
to a lie, incapable of loyalty, insatiably curious, still as a friend
and ill as a foe, kissing like Judas, denying like Peter, impure of
thought, even where by physical bias or political prudence still pure in
act, the woman of modern society is too often at once the feeblest and
the foulest outcome of a false civilisation. Useless as a butterfly,
corrupt as a canker, untrue to even lovers and friends because mentally
incapable of comprehending what truth means, caring only for physical
comfort and mental inclination, tired of living, but afraid of dying;
believing some in priests, and some in physiologists, but none at all in
virtue; sent to sleep by chloral, kept awake by strong waters and raw
meat; bored at twenty, and exhausted at thirty, yet dying in the harness
of pleasure rather than drop out of the race and live naturally;
pricking their sated senses with the spur of lust, and fancying it love;
taking their passions as they take absinthe before dinner; false in
everything, from the swell of their breast to the curls at their
throat;--beside them the guilty and tragic figures of old, the Medea,
the Clytemnæstra, the Phædra, look almost pure, seem almost noble.

When one thinks that they are the only shape of womanhood which comes
hourly before so many men, one comprehends why the old Christianity
which made womanhood sacred dies out day by day, and why the new
Positivism, which would make her divine, can find no lasting root.

The faith of men can only live by the purity of women, and there is both
impurity and feebleness at the core of the dolls of Worth, as the canker
of the phylloxera works at the root of the vine.

       *       *       *

"What an actress was lost in your mother!" he added with his rough
laugh; but he confused the talent of the comedian of society with that
of the comedian of the stage, and they are very dissimilar. The latter
almost always forgets herself in her part; the former never.

       *       *       *

The scorn of genius is the most arrogant and the most boundless of all

       *       *       *

"The fame of the singer can never be but a breath, a sound through a
reed. When our lips are once shut, there is on us for ever eternal
silence. Who can remember a summer breeze when it has passed by, or
tell in any after-time how a laugh or a sigh sounded?"

       *       *       *

"When the soldier dies at his post, unhonoured and unpitied, and out of
sheer duty, is that unreal because it is noble?" he said one night to
his companions. "When the sister of charity hides her youth and her sex
under a grey shroud, and gives up her whole life to woe and solitude, to
sickness and pain, is that unreal because it is wonderful? A man paints
a spluttering candle, a greasy cloth, a mouldy cheese, a pewter can;
'How real!' they cry. If he paint the spirituality of dawn, the light of
the summer sea, the flame of arctic nights, of tropic woods, they are
called unreal, though they exist no less than the candle and the cloth,
the cheese and the can. Ruy Blas is now condemned as unreal because the
lovers kill themselves; the realists forget that there are lovers still
to whom that death would be possible, would be preferable, to low
intrigue and yet more lowering falsehood. They can only see the mouldy
cheese, they cannot see the sunrise glory. All that is heroic, all that
is sublime, impersonal, or glorious, is derided as unreal. It is a
dreary creed. It will make a dreary world. Is not my Venetian glass with
its iridescent hues of opal as real every whit as your pot of pewter?
Yet the time is coming when every one, morally and mentally at least,
will be allowed no other than a pewter pot to drink out of, under pain
of being 'writ down an ass'--or worse. It is a dreary prospect."

       *       *       *

"Good? bad? If there were only good and bad in this world it would not
matter so much," said Corrèze a little recklessly and at random. "Life
would not be such a disheartening affair as it is. Unfortunately the
majority of people are neither one nor the other, and have little
inclination for either crime or virtue. It would be almost as absurd to
condemn them as to admire them. They are like tracts of shifting sand,
in which nothing good or bad can take root. To me they are more
despairing to contemplate than the darkest depth of evil; out of that
may come such hope as comes of redemption and remorse, but in the vast,
frivolous, featureless mass of society there is no hope."

       *       *       *

"No!" he said with some warmth: "I refuse to recognise the divinity of
noise; I utterly deny the majesty of monster choruses; clamour and
clangour are the death-knell of music as drapery and so-called realism
(which means, if it mean aught, that the dress is more real than the
form underneath it!) are the destruction of sculpture. It is very
strange. Every day art in every other way becomes more natural and music
more artificial. Every day I wake up expecting to hear myself _dénigré_
and denounced as old-fashioned, because I sing as my nature as well as
my training teaches me to do. It is very odd; there is such a cry for
naturalism in other arts--we have Millet instead of Claude; we have Zola
instead of Georges Sand; we have Dumas _fils_ instead of Corneille; we
have Mercié instead of Canova; but in music we have precisely the
reverse, and we have the elephantine creations, the elaborate and
pompous combinations of Baireuth, and the Tone school, instead of the
old sweet strains of melody that went straight and clear to the ear and
the heart of man. Sometimes my enemies write in their journals that I
sing as if I were a Tuscan peasant strolling through his corn--how
proud they make me! But they do not mean to do so. I will not twist and
emphasise. I trust to melody. I was taught music in its own country, and
I will not sin against the canons of the Italians. They are right.
Rhetoric is one thing, and song is another. Why confuse the two?
Simplicity is the soul of great music; as it is the mark of great
passion. Ornament is out of place in melody which represents single
emotions at their height, be they joy, or fear, or hate, or love, or
shame, or vengeance, or whatsoever they will. Music is not a science any
more than poetry is. It is a sublime instinct, like genius of all kinds.
I sing as naturally as other men speak; let me remain natural"----

       *       *       *

Childhood goes with us like an echo always, a refrain to the ballad of
our life. One always wants one's cradle-air.

       *       *       *

"The poor you have always with you," she said to a bevy of great ladies
once. "Christ said so. You profess to follow Christ. How have you the
poor with you? The back of their garret, the roof of their hovel,
touches the wall of your palace, and the wall is thick. You have
dissipations, spectacles, diversions that you call charities; you have a
tombola for a famine, you have a dramatic performance for a flood, you
have a concert for a fire, you have a fancy fair for a leprosy. Do you
never think how horrible it is, that mockery of woe? Do you ever wonder
at revolutions? Why do you not say honestly that you care nothing? You
do care nothing. The poor might forgive the avowal of indifference; they
will never forgive the insult of affected pity."

       *       *       *

"Why do you go to such a place?" he asked her as she stood on the

"There are poor there, and great misery," she answered him reluctantly;
she did not care to speak of these things at any time.

"And what good will you do? You will be cheated and robbed, and even if
you are not, you should know that political science has found that
private charity is the hotbed of all idleness."

"When political science has advanced enough to prevent poverty, it may
have the right to prevent charity too," she answered him, with a
contempt that showed thought on the theme was not new to her. "Perhaps
charity--I dislike the word--may do no good; but friendship from the
rich to the poor must do good; it must lessen class hatreds."

"Are you a socialist?" said Zouroff with a little laugh, and drew back
and let her pass onward.

       *       *       *

"My dear! I never say rude things; but, if you wish me to be sincere, I
confess I think everybody is a little vulgar now, except old women like
me, who adhered to the Faubourg while you all were dancing and changing
your dresses seven times a day at St. Cloud. There is a sort of
vulgarity in the air; it is difficult to escape imbibing it; there is
too little reticence, there is too much tearing about; men are not
well-mannered, and women are too solicitous to please, and too
indifferent how far they stoop in pleasing. It may be the fault of
steam; it may be the fault of smoking; it may come from that flood of
new people of whom 'L'Etrangère' is the scarcely exaggerated sample;
but, whatever it comes from, there it is--a vulgarity that taints
everything, courts and cabinets as well as society. Your daughter
somehow or other has escaped it, and so you find her odd, and the world
thinks her stiff. She is neither; but no dignified long-descended
point-lace, you know, will ever let itself be twisted and twirled into a
cascade and a _fouillis_ like your Brétonne lace that is just the
fashion of the hour, and worth nothing. I admire your Vera very greatly;
she always makes me think of those dear old stately hotels with their
grand gardens in which I saw, in my girlhood, the women who, in theirs,
had known France before '30. These hotels and their gardens are gone,
most of them, and there are stucco and gilt paint in their places. And
here are people who think that a gain. I am not one of them."


The old viscount, haughtiest of haughty nobles, would never abate one
jot of his magnificence; and his sons had but imbibed the teaching of
all that surrounded them; they did but do in manhood what they had been
unconsciously moulded to do in boyhood, when they were sent to Eton at
ten with gold dressing-boxes to grace their dame's tables, embryo dukes
for their co-fags, and tastes that already knew to a nicety the worth of
the champagnes at Christopher's. The old, old story--how it repeats
itself! Boys grow up amidst profuse prodigality, and are launched into a
world where they can no more arrest themselves, than the feather-weight
can pull in the lightning-stride of the two-year-old, who defies all
check, and takes the flat as he chooses. They are brought up like young
dauphins, and tossed into the costly whirl to float as best they can--on
nothing. Then on the lives and deaths that follow; on the graves where a
dishonoured alien lies forgotten by the dark Austrian lake-side, or
under the monastic shadow of some crumbling Spanish crypt; where a red
cross chills the lonely traveller in the virgin solitudes of Amazonian
forest aisles, or the wild scarlet creepers of Australia trail over a
nameless mound above the trackless stretch of sun-warmed waters--then,
at them the world

  "Shoots out its lips with scorn."

Not on _them_ lies the blame.

       *       *       *

His influence had done more to humanise the men he was associated with
than any preachers or teachers could have done.

Almost insensibly they grew ashamed to be beaten by him, and strove to
do like him as far as they could. They never knew him drunk, they never
heard him swear, they never found him unjust, even to a poverty-stricken
_indigène_, or brutal, even to a _fille de joie_. Insensibly his
presence humanised them. Of a surety, the last part Bertie dreamed of
playing was that of a teacher to any mortal thing. Yet--here in
Africa--it might reasonably be questioned if a second Augustine or
François Xavier would ever have done half the good among the
devil-may-care Roumis that was wrought by the dauntless, listless,
reckless soldier, who followed instinctively the one religion which has
no cant in its brave, simple creed, and binds man to man in links that
are as true as steel--the religion of a gallant gentleman's loyalty and

       *       *       *

The child had been flung upward, a little straw floating in the gutter
of Paris iniquities; a little foam-bell, bubbling on the sewer waters of
barrack vice; the stick had been her teacher, the baggage-waggon her
cradle, the camp-dogs her playfellows, the _caserne_ oaths her lullaby,
the _guidons_ her sole guiding-stars, the _razzia_ her sole fete-day: it
was little marvel that the bright, bold, insolent little friend of the
flag had nothing left of her sex save a kitten's mischief and coquette's
archness. It said much rather for the straight, fair, sunlit instincts
of the untaught nature, that Cigarette had gleaned, even out of such a
life, two virtues that she would have held by to the death, if tried--a
truthfulness that would have scorned a lie as only fit for cowards, and
a loyalty that cleaved to France as a religion.

       *       *       *

Tired as over-worked cattle, and crouched or stretched like worn-out
homeless dogs, they had never wakened as he had noiselessly harnessed
himself, and he looked at them with that interest in other lives which
had come to him through adversity; for if misfortune had given him
strength, it had also given him sympathy.

       *       *       *

And he did her that injustice which the best amongst us are apt to do to
those whom we do not feel interest enough in to study with that
closeness which can alone give comprehension of the intricate and
complex rebus, so faintly sketched, so marvellously involved, of human

       *       *       *

The gleam of the dawn spread in one golden glow of the morning, and the
day rose radiant over the world; they stayed not for its beauty or its
peace; the carnage went on hour upon hour; men began to grow drunk with
slaughter as with raki. It was sublimely grand; it was hideously
hateful--this wild-beast struggle, that heaving tumult of striving lives
that ever and anon stirred the vast war-cloud of smoke and broke from it
as the lightning from the night. The sun laughed in its warmth over a
thousand hills and streams, over the blue seas lying northward, and over
the yellow sands of the south; but the touch of its heat only made the
flame in their blood burn fiercer; and the fulness of its light only
served to show them clearer where to strike, and how to slay.

       *       *       *

She might be a careless young coquette, a lawless little brigand, a
child of sunny caprices, an elf of dauntless mischief; but she was more
than these. The divine fire of genius had touched her, and Cigarette
would have perished for her country not less surely than Jeanne d'Arc.
The holiness of an impersonal love, the glow of an imperishable
patriotism, the melancholy of a passionate pity for the concrete and
unnumbered sufferings of the people, were in her instinctive and inborn,
as fragrance in the heart of flowers. And all these together moved her
now, and made her young face beautiful as she looked down upon the
crowding soldiery.

       *       *       *

After all, Diderot was in the right when he told Rousseau which side of
the question to take. On my life, civilisation develops comfort, but I
do believe it kills nobility. Individuality dies in it, and egotism
grows strong and specious. Why is it that in a polished life a man,
whilst becoming incapable of sinking to crime, almost always becomes
also incapable of rising to greatness? Why is it that misery, tumult,
privation, bloodshed, famine, beget, in such a life as this, such
countless things of heroism, of endurance, of self-sacrifice--things
mostly of demigods--in men who quarrel with the wolves for a wild-boar's
carcase, for a sheep's offal?

       *       *       *

As for death--when it comes it comes. Every soldier carries it in his
wallet, and it may jump out on him any minute. I would rather die young
than old. Pardi! age is nothing else but death that is _conscious_.

       *       *       *

It is misery that is glory--the misery that toils with bleeding feet
under burning suns without complaint; that lies half dead through the
long night with but one care, to keep the torn flag free from the
conqueror's touch; that bears the rain of blows in punishment rather
than break silence and buy release by betrayal of a comrade's trust;
that is beaten like the mule, and galled like the horse, and starved
like the camel, and housed like the dog, and yet does the thing which is
right, and the thing which is brave, despite all; that suffers, and
endures, and pours out his blood like water to the thirsty sands whose
thirst is never stilled, and goes up in the morning sun to the combat as
though death were the Paradise of the Arbico's dream, knowing the while
that no Paradise waits save the crash of the hoof through the throbbing
brain, or the roll of the gun-carriage over the writhing limb. _That_ is
glory. The misery that is heroism because France needs it, because a
soldier's honour wills it. _That_ is glory. It is to-day in the hospital
as it never is in the Cour des Princes where the glittering host of the
marshals gather!

       *       *       *

Spare me the old world-worn, thread-bare formulas. Because the flax and
the colza blossom for use, and the garden flowers grow trained and
pruned, must there be no bud that opens for mere love of the sun, and
swings free in the wind in its fearless fair fashion? Believe me, it is
the lives which follow no previous rule that do the most good, and give
the most harvest.

       *       *       *

"The first thing I saw of Cigarette was this: She was seven years old;
she had been beaten black and blue; she had had two of her tiny teeth
knocked out. The men were furious, she was a pet with them; and she
would not say who had done it, though she knew twenty swords would have
beaten him flat as a fritter if she had given his name. I got her to sit
to me some days after. I pleased her with her own picture. I asked her
to tell me why she would not say who had ill-treated her. She put her
head on one side like a robin, and told me, in a whisper: 'It was one of
my comrades--because I would not steal for him. I would not have the
army know--it would demoralise them. If a French soldier ever does a
cowardly thing, another French soldier must not betray it.' That was
Cigarette--at seven years. The _esprit du corps_ was stronger than her
own wrongs."

       *       *       *

A better day's sport even the Quorn had never had in all its brilliant
annals, and faster things the Melton men themselves had never wanted:
both those who love the "quickest thing you ever knew--thirty minutes
without a check--_such_ a pace!" and care little whether the _finale_ be
"killed" or "broke away," and those of older fashion, who prefer "long
day, you know, steady as old time, the beauties stuck like wax through
fourteen parishes as I live; six hours if it were a minute; horses dead
beat; positively walked, you know, no end of a day!" but must have the
fatal "who-whoop" as conclusion--both of these, the "new style and the
old," could not but be content with the doings of the "Demoiselles" from
start to finish.

Was it likely that Cecil remembered the caustic lash of his father's
ironies while he was lifting Mother of Pearl over the posts and rails,
and sweeping on, with the halloo ringing down the wintry wind as the
grasslands flew beneath him? Was it likely that he recollected the
difficulties that hung above him while he was dashing down the Gorse
happy as a king, with the wild hail driving in his face, and a break of
stormy sunshine just welcoming the gallant few who were landed at the
death, as twilight fell? Was it likely that he could unlearn all the
lessons of his life, and realise in how near a neighbourhood he stood to
ruin when he was drinking Regency sherry out of his gold flask as he
crossed the saddle of his second horse, or, smoking, rode slowly
homeward through the leafless muddy lanes in the gloaming?

Scarcely;--it is very easy to remember our difficulties when we are
eating and drinking them, so to speak, in bad soups and worse wines in
Continental impecuniosity, sleeping on them as rough Australian
shake-downs, or wearing them perpetually in Californian rags and
tatters, it were impossible very well to escape from them then; but it
is very hard to remember them when every touch and shape of life is
pleasant to us--when everything about us is symbolical and redolent of
wealth and ease--when the art of enjoyment is the only one we are Called
on to study, and the science of pleasure all we are asked to explore.

It is well-nigh impossible to believe yourself a beggar when you never
want sovereigns for whist; and it would be beyond the powers of human
nature to conceive your ruin irrevocable, while you still eat turbot and
terrapin with a powdered giant behind your chair daily. Up in his garret
a poor wretch knows very well what he is, and realises in stern fact the
extremities of the last sou, the last shirt, and the last hope; but in
these devil-may-care pleasures--in this pleasant, reckless, velvet-soft
rush down-hill--in this club-palace, with every luxury that the heart of
man can devise and desire, yours to command at your will--it is hard
work, _then_, to grasp the truth that the crossing-sweeper yonder, in
the dust of Pall Mall, is really not more utterly in the toils of
poverty than you are!

       *       *       *

The bell was clanging and clashing passionately, as Cecil at last went
down to the weights, all his friends of the Household about him, and all
standing "crushers" on their champion, for their stringent _esprit du
corps_ was involved, and the Guards are never backward in putting their
gold down, as all the world knows. In the inclosure, the cynosure of
devouring eyes, stood the King, with the _sang froid_ of a superb
gentleman, amid the clamour raging round him, one delicate ear laid back
now and then, but otherwise indifferent to the din, with his coat
glistening like satin, the beautiful tracery of vein and muscle, like
the veins of vine-leaves, standing out on the glossy, clear-carved neck
that had the arch of Circassia, and his dark antelope eyes gazing with a
gentle, pensive earnestness on the shouting crowd.

His rivals, too, were beyond par in fitness and in condition, and there
were magnificent animals among them. Bay Regent was a huge, raking
chestnut, upwards of sixteen hands, and enormously powerful, with very
fine shoulders, and an all-over-like-going head; he belonged to a
Colonel in the Rifles, but was to be ridden by Jimmy Delmar of the 10th
Lancers, whose colours were violet with orange hoops. Montacute's horse,
Pas de Charge, which carried all the money of the Heavy Cavalry,
Montacute himself being in the Dragoon Guards, was of much the same
order, a black hunter with racing blood in him, loins and withers that
assured any amount of force, and no fault but that of a rather coarse
head, traceable to a slur on his 'scutcheon on the distaff side from a
plebeian great-grandmother, who had been a cart mare, the only stain in
his otherwise faultless pedigree. However, she had given him her massive
shoulders, so that he was in some sense a gainer by her after all. Wild
Geranium was a beautiful creature enough, a bright bay Irish mare, with
that rich red gloss that is like the glow of a horse-chestnut, very
perfect in shape, though a trifle light perhaps, and with not quite
strength enough in neck or barrel; she would jump the fences of her own
paddock half a dozen times a day for sheer amusement, and was game to
anything. She was entered by Cartouche of the Enniskillens, to be ridden
by "Baby Grafton," of the same corps, a feather-weight, and quite a boy,
but with plenty of science in him. These were the three favourites; Day
Star ran them close, the property of Durham Vavassour, of the Scots
Greys, and to be ridden by his owner; a handsome, flea-bitten, grey
sixteen-hander, with ragged hips, and action that looked a trifle
string-halty, but noble shoulders, and great force in the loins and
withers; the rest of the field, though unusually excellent, did not find
so many "sweet voices" for them, and were not so much to be feared: each
starter was of course much backed by his party, but the betting was
tolerably even on these four:--all famous steeplechasers;--the King at
one time, and Bay Regent at another, slightly leading in the Ring.

Thirty-two starters were hoisted up on the telegraph board, and as the
field got at last under weigh, uncommonly handsome they looked, while
the silk jackets of all the colours of the rainbow glittered in the
bright noon sun. As Forest King closed in, perfectly tranquil still, but
beginning to glow and quiver all over with excitement, knowing as well
as his rider the work that was before him, and longing for it in every
muscle and every limb, while his eyes flashed fire as he pulled at the
curb and tossed his head aloft, there went up a general shout of
"Favourite!" His beauty told on the populace, and even somewhat on the
professionals, though the legs kept a strong business prejudice against
the working powers of "the Guards' crack." The ladies began to lay
dozens in gloves on him; not altogether for his points, which perhaps
they hardly appreciated, but for his owner and rider, who, in the
scarlet and gold, with the white sash across his chest, and a look of
serene indifference on his face, they considered the handsomest man of
the field. The Household is usually safe to win the suffrages of the

In the throng on the course Rake instantly bonneted an audacious dealer
who had ventured to consider that Forest King was "light and curby in
the 'ock." "You're a wise 'un, you are!" retorted the wrathful and
ever-eloquent Rake, "there's more strength in his clean flat legs, bless
him! than in all the round, thick, mill-posts of _your_ half-breds, that
have no more tendon than a bit of wood, and are just as flabby as a
sponge!" Which hit the dealer home just as his hat was hit over his
eyes; Rake's arguments being unquestionable in their force.

The thoroughbreds pulled and fretted, and swerved in their impatience;
one or two over-contumacious bolted incontinently, others put their
heads between their knees in the endeavour to draw their riders over
their withers; Wild Geranium reared straight upright, fidgeted all over
with longing to be off, passaged with the prettiest, wickedest grace in
the world, and would have given the world to neigh if she had dared, but
she knew it would be very bad style, so, like an aristocrat as she was,
restrained herself; Bay Regent almost sawed Jimmy Delmar's arms off
looking like a Titan Bucephalus; while Forest King, with his nostrils
dilated till the scarlet tinge on them glowed in the sun, his muscles
quivering with excitement as intense as the little Irish mare's, and all
his Eastern and English blood on fire for the fray, stood steady as a
statue for all that, under the curb of a hand light as a woman's, but
firm as iron to control, and used to guide him by the slightest touch.

All eyes were on that throng of the first mounts in the Service;
brilliant glances by the hundred gleamed down behind hot-house bouquets
of their chosen colour, eager ones by the thousand stared thirstily from
the crowded course, the roar of the Ring subsided for a second, a
breathless attention and suspense succeeded it; the Guardsmen sat on
their drags, or lounged near the ladies with their race-glasses ready,
and their habitual expression of gentle and resigned weariness in nowise
altered, because the Household, all in all, had from sixty to seventy
thousand on the event, and the Seraph murmured mournfully to his
cheroot, "That chestnut's no end _fit_," strong as his faith was in the
champion of the Brigades.

A moment's good start was caught--the flag dropped--off they went,
sweeping out for the first second like a line of cavalry about to

Another moment, and they were scattered over the first field, Forest
King, Wild Geranium, and Bay Regent leading for two lengths, when
Montacute, with his habitual "fast burst," sent Pas de Charge past them
like lightning. The Irish mare gave a rush and got alongside of him; the
King would have done the same, but Cecil checked him, and kept him in
that cool swinging canter which covered the grassland so lightly; Bay
Regent's vast thundering stride was Olympian, but Jimmy Delmar saw his
worst foe in the "Guards' crack," and waited on him warily, riding
superbly himself.

The first fence disposed of half the field, they crossed the second in
the same order, Wild Geranium racing neck to neck with Pas de Charge;
the King was all athirst to join the duello, but his owner kept him
gently back, saving his pace and lifting him over the jumps as easily as
a lapwing. The second fence proved a cropper to several, some awkward
falls took place over it, and tailing commenced; after the third field,
which was heavy plough, all knocked off but eight, and the real struggle
began in sharp earnest: a good dozen who had shown a splendid stride
over the grass being done up by the terrible work on the clods.

The five favourites had it all to themselves; Day Star pounding onward
at tremendous speed, Pas de Charge giving slight symptoms of distress
owing to the madness of his first burst, the Irish mare literally flying
ahead of him, Forest King and the chestnut waiting on one another.

In the Grand Stand the Seraph's eyes strained after the Scarlet and
White, and he muttered in his moustaches, "Ye gods, what's up? The
world's coming to an end!--Beauty's turned cautious!"

Cautious, indeed,--with that giant of Pytchley fame running neck to neck
by him; cautious,--with two-thirds of the course unrun, and all the
yawners yet to come; cautious,--with the blood of Forest King lashing to
boiling heat, and the wondrous greyhound stride stretching out faster
and faster beneath him, ready at a touch to break away and take the
lead: but he would be reckless enough by-and-by; reckless, as his nature
was, under the indolent serenity of habit.

Two more fences came, laced high and stiff with the Shire thorn, and
with scarce twenty feet between them, the heavy ploughed land leading to
them, clotted, and black, and hard, with the fresh earthy scent steaming
up as the hoofs struck the clods with a dull thunder. Pas de Charge rose
to the first: distressed too early, his hind feet caught in the thorn,
and he came down rolling clear of his rider; Montacute picked him up
with true science, but the day was lost to the Heavy Cavalry men. Forest
King went in and out over both like a bird, and led for the first time;
the chestnut was not to be beat at fencing, and ran even with him; Wild
Geranium flew still as fleet as a deer, true to her sex, she would not
bear rivalry; but little Grafton, though he rode like a professional,
was but a young one, and went too wildly--her spirit wanted cooler curb.

And now only, Cecil loosened the King to his full will and his full
speed. Now only, the beautiful Arab head was stretched like a racer's
in the run-in for the Derby, and the grand stride swept out till the
hoofs seemed never to touch the dark earth they skimmed over; neither
whip nor spur was needed, Bertie had only to leave the gallant temper
and the generous fire that were roused in their might to go their way,
and hold their own. His hands were low; his head was a little back; his
face very calm; the eyes only had a daring, eager, resolute will
lighting in them; Brixworth lay before him. He knew well what Forest
King could do; but he did not know how great the chestnut Regent's
powers might be.

The water gleamed before them, brown and swollen, and deepened with the
meltings of winter snows a month before; the brook that has brought so
many to grief over its famous banks, since cavaliers leapt it with their
falcon on their wrist, or the mellow note of the horn rang over the
woods in the hunting days of Stuart reigns. They knew it well, that long
dark line, skimmering there in the sunlight, the test that all must pass
who go in for the Soldiers' Blue Ribbon. Forest King scented water, and
went on with his ears pointed, and his greyhound stride lengthening,
quickening, gathering up all its force and its impetus for the leap that
was before--then like the rise and the swoop of the heron he spanned the
water, and, landing clear, launched forward with the lunge of a spear
darted through air. Brixworth was passed--the Scarlet and White, a mere
gleam of bright colour, a mere speck in the landscape, to the breathless
crowds in the stand, sped on over the brown and level grassland; two and
a quarter miles done in four minutes and twenty seconds. Bay Regent was
scarcely behind him; the chestnut abhorred the water, but a finer
trained hunter was never sent over the Shires, and Jimmy Delmar rode
like Grimshaw himself. The giant took the leap in magnificent style, and
thundered on neck and neck with the "Guards' crack." The Irish mare
followed, and, with miraculous gameness, landed safely; but her
hind-legs slipped on the bank, a moment was lost, and "Baby" Grafton
scarce knew enough to recover it, though he scoured on nothing daunted.

Pas de Charge, much behind, refused the yawner; his strength was not
more than his courage, but both had been strained too severely at first.
Montacute struck the spurs into him with a savage blow over the head;
the madness was its own punishment; the poor brute rose blindly to the
jump, and missed the bank with a reel and a crash; Sir Eyre was hurled
out into the brook, and the hope of the Heavies lay there with his
breast and fore-legs resting on the ground, his hind-quarters in the
water, and his back broken. Pas de Charge would never again see the
starting-flag waved, or hear the music of the hounds, or feel the
gallant life throb and glow through him at the rallying notes of the
horn. His race was run.

Not knowing, or looking, or heeding what happened behind, the trio tore
on over the meadow and the ploughed; the two favourites neck by neck,
the game little mare hopelessly behind through that one fatal moment
over Brixworth. The turning-flags were passed; from the crowds on the
course a great hoarse roar came louder and louder, and the shouts rang,
changing every second, "Forest King wins," "Bay Regent wins," "Scarlet
and White's ahead," "Violet's up with him," "Violet's past him,"
"Scarlet recovers," "Scarlet beats," "A cracker on the King," "Ten to
one on the Regent," "Guards are over the fence first," "Guards are
winning," "Guards are losing," "Guards are beat!!"

Were they?

As the shout rose, Cecil's left stirrup leather snapped and gave way; at
the pace they were going most men, ay, and good riders too, would have
been hurled out of their saddle by the shock; he scarcely swerved; a
moment to ease the King and to recover his equilibrium, then he took the
pace up again as though nothing had changed. And his comrades of the
Household, when they saw this through their race-glasses, broke through
their serenity and burst into a cheer that echoed over the grasslands
and the coppices like a clarion, the grand rich voice of the Seraph
leading foremost and loudest--a cheer that rolled mellow and triumphant
down the cold bright air like the blast of trumpets, and thrilled on
Bertie's ear where he came down the course a mile away. It made his
heart beat quicker with a victorious headlong delight, as his knees
pressed closer into Forest King's flanks, and, half stirrupless like the
Arabs, he thundered forward to the greatest riding feat of his life. His
face was very calm still, but his blood was in tumult, the delirium of
pace had got on him, a minute of life like this was worth a year, and he
knew that he would win or die for it, as the land seemed to fly like a
black sheet under him, and, in that killing speed, fence and hedge and
double and water all went by him like a dream, whirling underneath him
as the grey stretches, stomach to earth, over the level, and rose to
leap after leap.

For that instant's pause, when the stirrup broke, threatened to lose him
the race.

He was more than a length behind the Regent, whose hoofs as they dashed
the ground up sounded like thunder, and for whose herculean strength the
plough has no terrors; it was more than the lead to keep now, there was
ground to cover, and the King was losing like Wild Geranium. Cecil felt
drunk with that strong, keen, west wind that blew so strongly in his
teeth, a passionate excitation was in him, every breath of winter air
that rushed in its bracing currents round him seemed to lash him like a
stripe--the Household to look on and see him beaten!

Certain wild blood that lay latent in Cecil under the tranquil
gentleness of temper and of custom, woke, and had the mastery; he set
his teeth hard, and his hands clenched like steel on the bridle. "Oh! my
beauty, my beauty," he cried, all unconsciously half aloud as they clear
the thirty-sixth fence; "kill me if you like, but don't _fail_ me!"

As though Forest King heard the prayer and answered it with all his
hero's heart, the splendid form launched faster out, the stretching
stride stretched farther yet with lightning spontaneity, every fibre
strained, every nerve struggled; with a magnificent bound like an
antelope the grey recovered the ground he had lost, and passed Bay
Regent by a quarter-length. It was a neck-to-neck race once more, across
the three meadows with the last and lower fences that were between them
and the final leap of all; that ditch of artificial water with the
towering double hedge of oak rails and of blackthorn that was reared
black and grim and well-nigh hopeless just in front of the Grand Stand.
A roar like the roar of the sea broke up from the thronged course as the
crowd hung breathless on the even race; ten thousand shouts rang as
thrice ten thousand eyes watched the closing contest, as superb a sight
as the Shires ever saw, while the two ran together, the gigantic
chestnut, with every massive sinew swelled and strained to tension, side
by side with the marvellous grace, the shining flanks, and the
Arabian-like head of the Guards' horse.

Louder and wilder the shrieked tumult rose: "The Chestnut beats!" "The
Grey beats!" "Scarlet's ahead!" "Bay Regent's caught him!" "Violet's
winning, Violet's winning!" "The King's neck by neck!" "The King's
beating!" "The Guards will get it!" "The Guards' crack has it!" "Not
yet, not yet!" "Violet will thrash him at the jump!" "Now for it!" "The
Guards, the Guards, the Guards!" "Scarlet will win!" "The King has the
finish!" "No, no, no, NO!"

Sent along at a pace that Epsom flat never saw eclipsed, sweeping by the
Grand Stand like the flash of electric flame, they ran side to side one
moment more, their foam flung on each other's withers, their breath hot
in each other's nostrils, while the dark earth flew beneath their
stride. The blackthorn was in front behind five bars of solid oak, the
water yawning on its farther side, black and deep, and fenced, twelve
feet wide if it were an inch, with the same thorn wall beyond it! a leap
no horse should have been given, no steward should have set. Cecil
pressed his knees closer and closer, and worked the gallant hero for the
test; the surging roar of the throng, though so close, was dull on his
ear; he heard nothing, knew nothing, saw nothing but that lean chestnut
head beside him, the dull thud on the turf of the flying gallop, and the
black wall that reared in his face. Forest King had done so much, could
he have stay and strength for this?

Cecil's hands clenched unconsciously on the bridle, and his face was
very pale--pale with excitation--as his foot where the stirrup was
broken crushed closer and harder against the grey's flanks.

"Oh, my darling, my beauty--_now_!"

One touch of the spur--the first--and Forest King rose at the leap, all
the life and power there were in him gathered for one superhuman and
crowning effort; a flash of time, not half a second in duration, and he
was lifted in the air higher, and higher, and higher in the cold, fresh,
wild winter wind; stakes and rails, and thorn and water lay beneath him
black and gaunt and shapeless, yawning like a grave; one bound, even in
mid air, one last convulsive impulse of the gathered limbs, and Forest
King was over!

And as he galloped up the straight run-in, he was alone.

Bay Regent had refused the leap.

As the grey swept to the judge's chair, the air was rent with deafening
cheers that seemed to reel like drunken shouts from the multitude. "The
Guards win, the Guards win;" and when his rider pulled up at the
distance with the full sun shining on the scarlet and white, with the
gold glisten of the embroidered "Coeur Vaillant se fait Royaume,"
Forest King stood in all his glory, winner of the Soldier's Blue Ribbon,
by a feat without its parallel in all the annals of the Gold Vase.

       *       *       *

Over there in England, you know, sir, pipe-clay is the deuce-and-all;
you've always got to have the stock on, and look as stiff as a stake, or
it's all up with you; you're that tormented about little things that you
get riled and kick the traces before the great 'uns come to try you.
There's a lot of lads would be game as game could be in battle, ay, and
good lads to boot, doing their duty right as a trivet when it came to
anything like war, that are clean druv' out of the service in time o'
peace, along with all them petty persecutions that worry a man's skin
like mosquito-bites. Now here they know that, and Lord! what soldiers
they do make through knowing of it! It's tight enough and stern enough
in big things; martial law sharp enough, and obedience to the letter all
through the campaigning; but that don't grate on a fellow; if he's worth
his salt he's sure to understand that he must move like clockwork in a
fight, and that he's to go to hell at double-quick march, and mute as a
mouse, if his officers see fit to send him. _That's_ all right, but they
don't fidget you here about the little fal-lals; you may stick your
pipe in your mouth, you may have your lark, you may do as you like, you
may spend your _décompte_ how you choose, you may settle your little
duel as you will, you may shout and sing and jump and riot on the march,
so long as you _march on_; you may lounge about half dressed in any
style as suits you best, so long as you're up to time when the trumpets
sound for you; and that's what a man likes. He's ready to be a machine
when the machine's wanted in working trim, but when it's run off the
line and the steam all let off, he do like to oil his own wheels, and
lie a bit in the sun at his fancy. There aren't better stuff to make
soldiers out of nowhere than Englishmen, God bless 'em, but they're
badgered, they're horribly badgered, and that's why the service don't
take over there, let alone the way the country grudge 'em every bit of
pay. In England you go in the ranks--well, they all just tell you you're
a blackguard, and there's the lash, and you'd better behave yourself or
you'll get it hot and hot; they take for granted you're a bad lot or you
wouldn't be there, and in course you're riled and go to the bad
according, seeing that it's what's expected of you. Here, contrariwise,
you come in the ranks and get a welcome, and feel that it just rests
with yourself whether you won't be a fine fellow or not; and just along
of feelin' that you're pricked to show the best metal you're made on,
and not to let nobody else beat you out of the race like. Ah! it makes a
wonderful difference to a fellow--a wonderful difference--whether the
service he's come into look at him as a scamp that never will be nothin'
_but_ a scamp, or as a rascal that's maybe got in him, all rascal though
he is, the pluck to turn into a hero. It makes a wonderful difference,
this 'ere, whether you're looked at as stuff that's only fit to be
shovelled into the sand after a battle; or as stuff that'll belike churn
into a great man. And it's just that difference, sir, that France has
found out, and England hasn't--God bless her all the same.

With which the soldier whom England had turned adrift, and France had
won in her stead, concluded his long oration by dropping on his knees to
refill his Corporal's chibouque.

"A army's just a machine, sir, in course," he concluded, as he rammed in
the Turkish tobacco. "But then it's a live machine for all that; and
each little bit of it feels for itself like the joints in an eel's body.
Now, if only one of them little bits smarts, the whole crittur goes
wrong--there's the mischief."

       *       *       *

It makes all the difference in life, whether hope is left, or--left out!

       *       *       *

She had been ere now a child and a hero; beneath this blow which struck
at him she changed--she became a woman and a martyr.

And she rode at full speed through the night, as she had done through
the daylight, her eyes glancing all around in the keen instinct of a
trooper, her hand always on the butt of her belt pistol. For she knew
well what the danger was of these lonely, unguarded, untravelled leagues
that yawned in so vast a distance between her and her goal. The Arabs,
beaten, but only rendered furious by defeat, swept down on to those
plains with the old guerilla skill, the old marvellous rapidity. She
knew that with every second shot or steel might send her reeling from
her saddle, that with every moment she might be surrounded by some
desperate band who would spare neither her sex nor her youth. But that
intoxication of peril, the wine-draught she had drunk from her infancy,
was all which sustained her in that race with death. It filled her veins
with their old heat, her heart with its old daring, her nerves with
their old matchless courage: but for it she would have dropped,
heart-sick with terror and despair, ere her errand could be done; under
it she had the coolness, the keenness, the sagacity, the sustained
force, and the supernatural strength of some young hunted animal. They
might slay her so that she left perforce her mission unaccomplished; but
no dread of such a fate had even an instant's power to appal her or
arrest her. While there should be breath in her, she would go on to the

There were eight hours' hard riding before her, at the swiftest pace her
horse could make; and she was already worn by the leagues already
traversed. Although this was nothing new that she did now, yet as time
flew on and she flew with it, ceaselessly, through the dim solitary
barren moonlit land, her brain now and then grew giddy, her heart now
and then stood still with a sudden numbing faintness. She shook the
weakness off her with the resolute scorn for it of her nature, and
succeeded in its banishment. They had put in her hand as she had passed
through the fortress gates a lance with a lantern muffled in Arab
fashion, so that the light was unseen from before, while it streamed
over her herself, to enable her to guide her way if the moon should be
veiled by clouds. With that single starry gleam aslant on a level with
her eyes, she rode through the ghastly twilight of the half-lit plains,
now flooded with lustre as the moon emerged, now engulfed in darkness as
the stormy western winds drove the cirri over it. But neither darkness
nor light differed to her; she noted neither; she was like one drunk
with strong wine, and she had but one dread--that the power of her horse
would give way under the unnatural strain made on it, and that she would
reach too late, when the life she went to save would have fallen for
ever, silent unto death, as she had seen the life of Marquise _fall_.

Hour on hour, league on league, passed away; she felt the animal quiver
under the spur, and she heard the catch in his panting breath as he
strained to give his fleetest and best, that told her how, ere long, the
racing speed, the extended gallop at which she kept him, would tell, and
beat him down despite his desert strain. She had no pity; she would have
killed twenty horses under her to reach her goal. She was giving her own
life, she was willing to lose it, if by its loss she did this thing, to
save even the man condemned to die with the rising of the sun. She did
not spare herself; and she would have spared no living thing, to fulfil
the mission that she undertook. She loved with the passionate blindness
of her sex, with the absolute abandonment of the southern blood. If to
spare him she must have bidden thousands fall, she would have given the
word for their destruction without a moment's pause.

Once from some screen of gaunt and barren rock a shot was fired at her,
and flew within a hair's-breadth of her brain; she never even looked
around to see whence it had come; she knew it was from some Arab prowler
of the plains. Her single spark of light through the half-veiled lantern
passed as swiftly as a shooting-star across the plateau. And as she felt
the hours steal on--so fast, so hideously fast--with that horrible
relentlessness, "ohne Hast, ohne Rast," which tarries for no despair, as
it hastens for no desire, her lips grew dry as dust, her tongue clove to
the roof of her mouth, the blood beat like a thousand hammers on her

What she dreaded came.

Midway in her course, when, by the stars, she knew midnight was passed,
the animal strained with hard-drawn panting gasps to answer the demand
made on him by the spur and by the lance-shaft with which he was goaded
onward. In the lantern-light she saw his head stretched out in the
racing agony, his distended eyeballs, his neck covered with foam and
blood, his heaving flanks that seem bursting with every throb that his
heart gave; she knew that half a league more forced from him, he would
drop like a dead thing never to rise again. She let the bridle drop upon
the poor beast's neck, and threw her arms above her head with a shrill
wailing cry, whose despair echoed over the noiseless plains like the cry
of a shot-stricken animal. She saw it all; the breathing of the rosy,
golden day; the stillness of the hushed camp; the tread of the few
picked men; the open coffin by the open grave; the levelled carbines
gleaming in the first rays of the sun.... She had seen it so many
times--seen it to the awful end, when the living man fell down in the
morning light a shattered, senseless, soulless, crushed-out mass.

That single moment was all the soldier's nature in her gave to the
abandonment of despair, to the paralysis that seized her. With that one
cry from the depths of her breaking heart, the weakness spent itself:
she knew that action alone could aid him. She looked across, southward
and northward, east and west, to see if there were aught near from which
she could get aid. If there were none, the horse must drop down to die,
and with his life the other life would perish as surely as the sun would

Her gaze, straining through the darkness, broken here and there by
fitful gleams of moonlight, caught sight in the distance of some yet
darker thing moving rapidly--a large cloud skimming the earth. She let
the horse, which had paused the instant the bridle had touched his neck,
stand still awhile, and kept her eyes fixed on the advancing cloud till,
with the marvellous surety of her desert-trained vision, she
disentangled it from the floating mists and wavering shadows, and
recognised it, as it was, a band of Arabs.

If she turned eastward out of her route, the failing strength of her
horse would be fully enough to take her into safety from their pursuit,
or even from their perception, for they were coming straightly and
swiftly across the plain. If she were seen by them she was certain of
her fate; they could only be the desperate remnant of the decimated
tribes, the foraging raiders of starving and desperate men, hunted from
refuge to refuge, and carrying fire and sword in their vengeance
wherever an unprotected caravan or a defenceless settlement gave them
the power of plunder and of slaughter, that spared neither age nor sex.
She was known throughout the length and the breadth of the land to the
Arabs: she was neither child nor woman to them; she was but the soldier
who had brought up the French reserve at Zaraila; she was but the foe
who had seen them defeated, and ridden down with her comrades in their
pursuit in twice a score of vanquished, bitter, intolerably shameful
days. Some among them had sworn by their God to put her to a fearful
death if ever they made her captive, for they held her in superstitious
awe, and thought the spell of the Frankish successes would be broken if
she were slain. She knew that; yet, knowing it, she looked at their
advancing band one moment, then turned her horse's head and rode
straight toward them.

"They will kill me, but that may save him," she thought. "Any other way
he is lost."

So she rode directly toward them; rode so that she crossed their front,
and placed herself in their path, standing quite still, with the cloth
torn from the lantern, so that its light fell full about her, as she
held it above her head. In an instant they knew her. They were the
remnant who had escaped from the carnage of Zaraila; they knew her with
all the rapid unerring surety of hate. They gave the shrill wild
war-shout of their tribe, and the whole mass of gaunt, dark, mounted
figures with their weapons whirling round their heads enclosed her: a
cloud of kites settled down with their black wings and cruel beaks upon
one young silvery-plumed gerfalcon.

She sat unmoved, and looked up at the naked blades that flashed above
her: there was no fear upon her face, only a calm resolute proud beauty,
very pale, very still in the light that gleamed on it from the lantern

"I surrender," she said briefly. She had never thought to say these
words of submission to her scorned foes; she would not have been brought
to utter them to spare her own existence. Their answer was a yell of
furious delight, and their bare blades smote each other with a clash of
brutal joy: they had her, the Frankish child who had brought shame and
destruction on them at Zaraila, and they longed to draw their steel
across the fair young throat, to plunge their lances into the bright
bare bosom, to twine her hair round their spear handles, to rend her
delicate limbs apart, as a tiger rends the antelope, to torture, to
outrage, to wreak their vengeance on her. Their chief, only, motioned
their violence back from her, and bade them leave her untouched. At him
she looked, still with the same fixed, serene, scornful resolve: she had
encountered these men so often in battle, she knew so well how rich a
prize she was to him. But she had one thought alone with her; and for it
she subdued contempt, and hate, and pride, and every passion in her.

"I surrender," she said, with the same tranquillity. "I have heard that
you have sworn by your God and your Prophet to tear me limb from limb
because that I--a child, and a woman-child--brought you to shame and to
grief on the day of Zaraila. Well, I am here; do it. You can slake your
will on me. But that you are brave men, and that I have ever met you in
fair fight, let me speak one word with you first."

Through the menaces and the rage around her, fierce as the yelling of
starving wolves around a frozen corpse, her clear brave tones reached
the ear of the chief in the lingua-sabir that she used. He was a young
man, and his ear was caught by that tuneful voice, his eyes by that
youthful face. He signed upward the swords of his followers, and
motioned them back as their arms were stretched to seize her, and their
shouts clamoured for her slaughter.

"Speak on," he said briefly to her.

"You have sworn to take my body, sawn in two, to Ben-Ihreddin?" she
pursued, naming the Arab leader whom her Spahis had driven off the field
of Zaraila. "Well, here it is; you can take it to him; and you will
receive the piastres, and the horse, and the arms that he has promised
to whosoever shall slay me. I have surrendered; I am yours. But you are
bold men, and the bold are never mean; therefore I will ask one thing of
you. There is a man yonder, in my camp, condemned to death with the
dawn. He is innocent. I have ridden from Algiers to-day with the order
of his release. If it is not there by sunrise, he will be shot; and he
is guiltless as a child unborn. My horse is worn out; he could not go
another half-league. I knew that, since he had failed, my comrade must
die, unless I found a fresh beast or a messenger to go in my stead. I
saw your band come across the plain. I knew that you would kill me,
because of your oath and of your Emir's bribe; but I thought that you
would have greatness enough in you to save this man who is condemned,
without crime, and who must perish unless you, his foes, have pity on
him. Therefore I came. Take the paper that frees him; send your fleetest
and surest with it, under a flag of truce, into our camp by the dawn;
let him tell them there that I, Cigarette, gave it him--he must say no
word of what you have done to me, or his white flag will not protect him
from the vengeance of my army--and then receive your reward from your
chief, Ben-Ihreddin, when you lay my head down for his horse's hoofs to
trample into the dust. Answer me--is the compact fair? Ride on with this
paper northward, and then kill me with what torments you choose."

She spoke with calm unwavering resolve, meaning that which she uttered
to its very uttermost letter. She knew that these men had thirsted for
her blood; she offered it to be shed to gain for him that messenger on
whose speed his life was hanging; she knew that a price was set upon her
head, but she delivered herself over to the hands of her enemies so that
thereby she might purchase his redemption.

As they heard, silence fell upon the brutal clamorous herd around--the
silence of amaze and of respect. The young chief listened gravely; by
the glistening of his keen black eyes, he was surprised and moved,
though, true to his teaching, he showed neither emotion as he answered

"Who is this Frank for whom you do this thing?"

"He is the warrior to whom you offered life on the field of Zaraila,
because his courage was as the courage of gods."

She knew the qualities of the desert character; knew how to appeal to
its reverence and to its chivalry.

"And for what does he perish?" he asked.

"Because he forgot for once that he was a slave; and because he has
borne the burden of a guilt that was not his own."

They were quite still now, closed around her; these ferocious
plunderers, who had been thirsty a moment before to sheathe their
weapons in her body, were spell-bound by the sympathy of courageous
souls, by some vague perception that there was a greatness in this
little tigress of France, whom they had sworn to hunt down and
slaughter, which surpassed all they had known or dreamed.

"And you have given yourself up to us that by your death you may
purchase a messenger from us for this errand?" pursued their leader. He
had been reared as a boy in the high tenets and the pure chivalries of
the school of Abd-el-Kader; and they were not lost in him despite the
crimes and the desperation of his life.

She held the paper out to him with a passionate entreaty breaking
through the enforced calm of despair with which she had hitherto spoken.

"Cut me in ten thousand pieces with your swords, but save _him_, as you
are brave men, as you are generous foes!"

With a single sign of his hand, their leader waved them back where they
crowded around her, and leaped down from his saddle, and led the horse
he had dismounted to her.

"Maiden," he said gently, "we are Arabs, but we are not brutes. We swore
to avenge ourselves on an enemy; we are not vile enough to accept a
martyrdom. Take my horse--he is the swiftest of my troop--and go you on
your errand; you are safe from me."

She looked at him in stupor; the sense of his words was not tangible to
her; she had had no hope, no thought, that they would ever deal thus
with her; all she had ever dreamed of was so to touch their hearts and
their generosity that they would spare one from among their troop to do
the errand of mercy she had begged of them.

"You play with me;" she murmured, while her lips grew whiter and her
great eyes larger in the intensity of her emotion. "Ah! for pity's
sake, make haste and kill me, so that this only may reach him!"

The chief, standing by her, lifted her up in his sinewy arms, on to the
saddle of his charger. His voice was very solemn, his glance was very
gentle; all the nobility of the highest Arab nature was aroused in him
at the heroism of a child, a girl, an infidel--one, in his sight,
abandoned and shameful among her sex.

"Go in peace," he said simply; "it is not with such as thee that we

Then, and then only, as she felt the fresh reins placed in her hands,
and saw the ruthless horde around her fall back and leave her free, did
she understand his meaning, did she comprehend that he gave her back
both liberty and life, and, with the surrender of the horse he loved,
the noblest and most precious gift that the Arab ever bestows or ever
receives. The unutterable joy seemed to blind her, and gleam upon her
face like the blazing light of noon, as she turned her burning eyes full
on him.

"Ah! now I believe that thine Allah rules thee, equally with Christians!
If I live, thou shalt see me back ere another night; if I die, France
will know how to thank thee!"

"We do not do the thing that is right for the sake that men may
recompense us," he answered her gently. "Fly to thy friend, and
hereafter do not judge that those who are in arms against thee must
needs be as the brutes that seek out whom they shall devour."

Then, with one word in his own tongue, he bade the horse bear her
southward, and, as swiftly as a spear launched from his hand, the animal
obeyed him and flew across the plains. He looked after her awhile,
through the dim tremulous darkness that seemed cleft by the rush of the
gallop as the clouds are cleft by lightning, while his tribe sat silent
on their horses in moody unwilling consent, savage in that they had
been deprived of prey, moved in that they were sensible of this
martyrdom which had been offered to them.

"Verily the courage of a woman has put the best among us unto shame," he
said, rather to himself than them, as he mounted the stallion brought
him from the rear and rode slowly northward, unconscious that the thing
he had done was great, because conscious only that it was just.

And, borne by the fleetness of the desert-bred beast, she went away
through the heavy bronze-hued dulness of the night. Her brain had no
sense, her hands had no feeling, her eyes had no sight; the rushing as
of waters was loud on her ears, the giddiness of fasting and of fatigue
sent the gloom eddying round and round like a whirlpool of shadow. Yet
she had remembrance enough left to ride on, and on, and on without once
flinching from the agonies that racked her cramped limbs and throbbed in
her beating temples; she had remembrance enough to strain her blind eyes
toward the east and murmur, in her terror of that white dawn, that must
soon break, the only prayer that had been ever uttered by the lips no
mother's kiss had ever touched:

"_O God! keep the day back!_"

       *       *       *

One of the most brilliant of Algerian autumnal days shone over the great
camp in the south. The war was almost at an end for a time; the Arabs
were defeated and driven desertwards; hostilities irksome, harassing,
and annoying, like all guerilla warfare, would long continue, but peace
was virtually established, and Zaraila had been the chief glory that had
been added by the campaign to the flag of Imperial France. The kites
and the vultures had left the bare bones by thousands to bleach upon the
sands, and the hillocks of brown earth rose in crowds where those more
cared for in death had been hastily thrust beneath the brown crust of
the earth. The dead had received their portion of reward--in the
jackall's teeth, in the crow's beak, in the worm's caress. And the
living received theirs in this glorious rose-flecked glittering autumn
morning, when the breath of winter made the air crisp and cool, but the
ardent noon still lighted with its furnace glow the hillside and the

The whole of the Army of the South was drawn up on the immense level of
the plateau to witness the presentation of the Cross of the Legion of

It was full noon. The sun shone without a single cloud on the deep
sparkling azure of the skies. The troops stretched east and west, north
and south, formed up in three sides of one vast massive square.

The red white and blue of the standards, the brass of the eagle guidons,
the grey tossed manes of the chargers, the fierce swarthy faces of the
soldiery, the scarlet of the Spahis' cloaks, and the snowy folds of the
Demi-Cavalerie turbans, the shine of the sloped lances, and the glisten
of the carbine barrels, fused together in one sea of blended colour,
flashed into a million of prismatic hues against the sombre bistre
shadow of the sunburnt plains and the clear blue of the skies.

It had been a sanguinary, fruitless, cruel campaign; it had availed
nothing except to drive the Arabs away from some hundred leagues of
useless and profitless soil; hundreds of French soldiers had fallen by
disease, and drought, and dysentery, as well as by shot and sabre, and
were unrecorded save on the books of the bureaus, unlamented save,
perhaps, in some little nestling hamlet among the great green woods of
Normandy, or some wooden hut among the olives and the vines of
Provence, where some woman toiling till sunset among the fields, or
praying before some wayside saint's stone niche, would give a thought to
the far-off and devouring desert that had drawn down beneath its sands
the head that had used to lie upon her bosom, cradled as a child's, or
caressed as a lover.

But the drums rolled out their long deep thunder over the wastes; and
the shot-torn standards fluttered gaily in the breeze blowing from the
west, and the clear full music of the French bands echoed away to the
dim distant terrible south, where the desert-scorch and the
desert-thirst had murdered their bravest and best--and the Army was _en
fête_. _En fête_, for it did honour to its darling. Cigarette received
the Cross.

Mounted on her own little bright bay, Etoile-Filante, with tricolour
ribbons flying from his bridle and among the glossy fringes of his mane,
the Little One rode among her Spahis. A scarlet _képi_ was set on her
thick silken curls, a tricolour sash was knotted round her waist, her
wine-barrel was slung on her left hip, her pistols thrust in her
_ceinturon_, and a light carbine held in her hand with the butt-end
resting on her foot. With the sun on her child-like brunette face, her
eyes flashing like brown diamonds in the light, and her marvellous
horsemanship, showing its skill in a hundred _désinvoltures_ and daring
tricks, the little Friend of the Flag had come hither among her
half-savage warriors, whose red robes surrounded her like a sea of

And on a sea of blood she, the Child of War, had floated, never sinking
in that awful flood, but buoyant ever above its darkest waves, catching
ever some ray of sunlight upon her fair young head, and being oftentimes
like a star of hope to those over whom its dreaded waters closed.
Therefore they loved her, these grim, slaughterous, and lustful
warriors, to whom no other thing of womanhood was sacred, by whom in
their wrath or their crime no friend and no brother was spared, whose
law was license, and whose mercy was murder. They loved her, these
brutes whose greed was like the tiger's, whose hate was like the
devouring flame; and any who should have harmed a single lock of her
curling hair would have had the spears of the African Mussulmans buried
by the score in his body. They loved her, with the one fond triumphant
love these vultures of the army ever knew; and to-day they gloried in
her with fierce passionate delight. To-day she was to her wild wolves of
Africa what Jeanne of Vaucouleurs was to her brethren of France. And
to-day was the crown of her young life. It is given to most, if the
desire of their soul ever become theirs, to possess it only when long
and weary and fainting toil has brought them to its goal; when beholding
the golden fruit so far off, through so dreary a pilgrimage, dulls its
bloom as they approach; when having so long centred all their thoughts
and hopes in the denied possession of that one fair thing, they find but
little beauty in it when that possession is granted to satiate their
love. But thrice happy, and few as happy, are they to whom the dream of
their youth is fulfilled _in_ their youth, to whom their ambition comes
in full sweet fruitage, while yet the colours of glory have not faded to
the young, eager, longing eyes that watch its advent. And of these was

In the fair, slight, girlish body of the child-soldier there lived a
courage as daring as Danton's, a patriotism as pure as Vergniaud's, a
soul as aspiring as Napoleon's. Untaught, untutored, uninspired by
poet's words or patriot's bidding, spontaneous as the rising and the
blossoming of some wind-sown, sun-fed flower, there was, in this child
of the battle and the razzia, the spirit of genius, the desire to live
and to die greatly. It was unreasoned on, it was felt, not thought, it
was often drowned in the gaiety of young laughter, and the ribaldry of
military jest, it was often obscured by noxious influence, and stifled
beneath the fumes of lawless pleasure; but there, ever, in the soul and
the heart of Cigarette, dwelt the germ of a pure ambition--the ambition
to do some noble thing for France, and leave her name upon her soldiers'
lips, a watchword and a rallying-cry for evermore. To be for ever a
beloved tradition in the army of her country, to have her name
remembered in the roll-call as "_Mort sur le champ d'honneur_;" to be
once shrined in the love and honour of France, Cigarette--full of the
boundless joys of life that knew no weakness and no pain, strong as the
young goat, happy as the young lamb, careless as the young flower
tossing on the summer breeze--Cigarette would have died contentedly. And
now, living, some measure of this desire had been fulfilled to her, some
breath of this imperishable glory had passed over her. France had heard
the story of Zaraila; from the throne a message had been passed to her;
what was far beyond all else to her, her own Army of Africa had crowned
her, and thanked her, and adored her as with one voice, and wheresoever
she passed the wild cheers rang through the roar of musketry, as through
the silence of sunny air, and throughout the regiments every sword would
have sprung from its scabbard in her defence if she had but lifted her
hand and said one word--"Zaraila!"

The Army looked on her with delight now. In all that mute, still,
immovable mass that stretched out so far, in such gorgeous array, there
was not one man whose eyes did not turn on her, whose pride did not
centre in her--their Little One who was so wholly theirs, and who had
been under the shadow of their flag ever since the curls, so dark now,
had been yellow as wheat in her infancy. The flag had been her shelter,
her guardian, her plaything, her idol; the flutter of the striped folds
had been the first thing at which her childish eyes had laughed; the
preservation of its colours from the sacrilege of an enemy's touch had
been her religion, a religion whose true following was, in her sight,
salvation of the worst and the most worthless life; and that flag she
had saved, and borne aloft in victory at Zaraila. There was not one in
all those hosts whose eyes did not turn on her with gratitude, and
reverence, and delight in her as their own.

But she had scarce time even for that flash of pain to quiver in
impotent impatience through her. The trumpets sounded, the salvoes of
artillery pealed out, the lances and the swords were carried up in
salute; on to the ground rode the Marshal of France, who represented the
imperial will and presence, surrounded by his staff, by generals of
division and brigade, by officers of rank, and by some few civilian
riders. An _aide_ galloped up to her where she stood with the corps of
her Spahis, and gave her his orders. The Little One nodded carelessly,
and touched Etoile-Filante with the prick of the spur. Like lightning
the animal bounded forth from the ranks, rearing and plunging, and
swerving from side to side, while his rider, with exquisite grace and
address, kept her seat like the little semi-Arab that she was, and with
a thousand curves and bounds cantered down the line of the gathered
troops, with the west wind blowing from the far-distant sea, and fanning
her bright cheeks till they wore the soft scarlet flush of the glowing
japonica flower. And all down the ranks a low, hoarse, strange, longing
murmur went--the buzz of the voices which, but that discipline
suppressed them, would have broken out in worshipping acclamations.

As carelessly as though she reined up before the _café_ door of the _As
de Pique_, she arrested her horse before the great Marshal who was the
impersonation of authority, and put her hand up in the salute, with her
saucy wayward laugh. He was the impersonation of that vast, silent,
awful, irresponsible power which, under the name of the Second Empire,
stretched its hand of iron across the sea, and forced the soldiers of
France down into nameless graves, with the desert sand choking their
mouths; but he was no more to Cigarette than any drummer-boy that might
be present. She had all the contempt for the laws of rank of your
thorough inborn democrat, all the gay _insouciant_ indifference to
station of the really free and untrammelled nature; and, in her sight, a
dying soldier, lying quietly in a ditch to perish of shot-wounds without
a word or a moan, was greater than all Messieurs les Maréchaux
glittering in their stars and orders. As for impressing her, or hoping
to impress her, with rank--pooh! You might as well have bid the sailing
clouds pause in their floating passage because they came between royalty
and the sun. All the sovereigns of Europe would have awed Cigarette not
one whit more than a gathering of muleteers. "Allied sovereigns--bah!"
she would have said, "what did that mean in '15? A chorus of magpies
chattering over one stricken eagle!"

So she reined up before the Marshal and his staff, and the few great
personages whom Algeria could bring around them, as indifferently as she
had many a time reined up before a knot of grim Turcos, smoking under a
barrack-gate. _He_ was nothing to her; it was her Army that crowned her.
"The Generalissimo is the poppy-head, the men are the wheat; lay every
ear of the wheat low, and of what use is the towering poppy that blazed
so grand in the sun?" Cigarette would say with metaphorical unction,
forgetful, like most allegorists, that her fable was one-sided and
unjust in figure and deduction.

Nevertheless, despite her gay contempt for rank, her heart beat fast
under its golden-laced jacket as she reined up Etoile and saluted. In
that hot clear sun all the eyes of that immense host were fastened on
her, and the hour of her longing desire was come at last. France had
recognised that she had done greatly, and France, through the voice of
this, its chief, spoke to her--France, her beloved, and her
guiding-star, for whose sake the young brave soul within her would have
dared and have endured all things. There was a group before her, large
and brilliant, but at them Cigarette never looked; what she saw were the
sunburnt faces of her "children," of men who, in the majority, were old
enough to be her grandsires, who had been with her through so many
darksome hours, and whose black and rugged features lightened and grew
tender whenever they looked upon their Little One. For the moment she
felt giddy with sweet fiery joy; they were here to behold her thanked in
the name of France.

The Marshal, in advance of all his staff, touched his plumed hat and
bowed to his saddle-bow as he faced her. He knew her well by sight, this
pretty child of his Army of Africa, who had, before then, suppressed
mutiny like a veteran, and led the charge like a Murat--this kitten with
a lion's heart, this humming-bird with an eagle's swoop.

"Mademoiselle," he commenced, while his voice, well skilled to such
work, echoed to the farthest end of the long lines of troops, "I have
the honour to discharge to-day the happiest duty of my life. In
conveying to you the expression of the Emperor's approval of your noble
conduct in the present campaign, I express the sentiments of the whole
Army. Your action on the day of Zaraila was as brilliant in conception
as it was great in execution; and the courage you displayed was only
equalled by your patriotism. May the soldiers of many wars remember you
and emulate you. In the name of France, I thank you. In the name of the
Emperor, I bring to you the Cross of the Legion of Honour."

As the brief and soldierly words rolled down the ranks of the listening
regiments, he stooped forward from his saddle and fastened the red
ribbon on her breast; while from the whole gathered mass, watching,
hearing, waiting breathlessly to give their tribute of applause to their
darling also, a great shout rose as with one voice, strong, full,
echoing over and over again across the plains in thunder that joined her
name with the name of France and of Napoleon, and hurled it upward in
fierce tumultuous idolatrous love to those cruel cloudless skies that
shone above the dead. She was their child, their treasure, their idol,
their young leader in war, their young angel in suffering; she was all
their own, knowing with them one common mother--France. Honour to her
was honour to them; they gloried with heart and soul in this bright
young fearless life that had been among them ever since her infant feet
had waded through the blood of slaughter-fields, and her infant lips had
laughed to see the tricolour float in the sun above the smoke of battle.

And as she heard, her face became very pale, her large eyes grew dim and
very soft, her mirthful mouth trembled with the pain of a too intense
joy. She lifted her head, and all the unutterable love she bore her
country and her people thrilled through the music of her voice:

"_Français!--ce n'était rien!_"

That was all she said; in that one first word of their common
nationality, she spoke alike to the Marshal of the Empire and to the
conscript of the ranks. "Français!" that one title made them all equal
in her sight; whoever claimed it was honoured in her eyes, and was
precious to her heart, and when she answered them that it was nothing,
this thing which they glorified in her, she answered but what seemed the
simple truth in her code. She would have thought it "nothing" to have
perished by shot, or steel, or flame, in day-long torture, for that one
fair sake of France.

Vain in all else, and to all else wayward, here she was docile and
submissive as the most patient child; here she deemed the greatest and
the hardest thing that she could ever do far less than all that she
would willingly have done. And as she looked upon the host whose
thousand and ten thousand voices rang up to the noonday sun in her
homage, and in hers alone, a light like a glory beamed upon her face,
that for once was white and still and very grave;--none who saw her face
then, ever forgot that look.

In that moment she touched the full sweetness of a proud and pure
ambition, attained and possessed in all its intensity, in all its
perfect splendour. In that moment she knew that divine hour which, born
of a people's love and of the impossible desires of genius in its youth,
comes to so few human lives--knew that which was known to the young
Napoleon when, in the hot hush of the nights of July, France welcomed
the Conqueror of Italy.

       *       *       *

She longed to do as some girl of whom she had once been told by an old
Invalide had done in the '89--a girl of the people, a fisher-girl of the
Cannébière who had loved one above her rank, a noble who deserted her
for a woman of his own order, a beautiful, soft-skinned, lily-like
scornful aristocrat, with the silver ring of merciless laughter, and the
languid lustre of sweet contemptuous eyes. The Marseillaise bore her
wrong in silence--she was a daughter of the south and of the populace,
with a dark, brooding, burning beauty, strong and fierce, and braced
with the salt lashing of the sea and with the keen breath of the stormy
mistral. She held her peace while the great lady was wooed and won,
while the marriage joys came with the purple vintage time, while the
people were made drunk at the bridal of their _châtelaine_ in those hot,
ruddy, luscious autumn days.

She held her peace; and the Terror came, and the streets of the city by
the sea ran blood, and the scorch of the sun blazed, every noon, on the
scaffold. Then she had her vengeance. She stood and saw the axe fall
down on the proud snow-white neck that never had bent till it bent
there, and she drew the severed head into her own bronzed hands and
smote the lips his lips had kissed, a cruel blow that blurred their
beauty out, and twined a fish-hook in the long and glistening hair, and
drew it, laughing as she went, through dust, and mire, and gore, and
over the rough stones of the town, and through the shouting crowds of
the multitudes, and tossed it out on to the sea, laughing still as the
waves flung it out from billow to billow, and the fish sucked it down to
make their feast. "_Voilà tes secondes noces!_" she cried where she
stood, and laughed by the side of the gray angry water, watching the
tresses of the floating hair sink downward like a heap of sea-tossed

       *       *       *

"There is only one thing worth doing--to die greatly!" thought the
aching heart of the child-soldier, unconsciously returning to the only
end that the genius and the greatness of Greece could find as issue to
the terrible jest, the mysterious despair, of all existence.

       *       *       *

A very old man--one who had been a conscript in the bands of Young
France, and marched from his Pyrenéan village to the battle-tramp of the
Marseillaise, and charged with the Enfans de Paris across the plains of
Gemappes; who had known the passage of the Alps, and lifted the long
curls from the dead brow of Désaix, at Marengo, and seen in the sultry
noonday dust of a glorious summer the Guard march into Paris, while the
people laughed and wept with joy, surging like the mighty sea around one
pale frail form, so young by years, so absolute by genius.

A very old man; long broken with poverty, with pain, with bereavement,
with extreme old age; and by a long course of cruel accidents, alone,
here in Africa, without one left of the friends of his youth, or of the
children of his name, and deprived even of the charities due from his
country to his services--alone save for the little Friend of the Flag,
who, for four years, had kept him on the proceeds of her wine trade, in
this Moorish attic, tending him herself when in town, taking heed that
he should want for nothing when she was campaigning.

She hid, as her lawless courage would not have stooped to hide a sin,
had she chosen to commit one, this compassion which she, the young
_condottiera_ of Algeria, showed with so tender a charity to the soldier
of Bonaparte. To him, moreover, her fiery imperious voice was gentle as
the dove, her wayward dominant will was pliant as the reed, her
contemptuous sceptic spirit was reverent as a child's before an altar.
In her sight the survivor of the Army of Italy was sacred; sacred the
eyes which, when full of light, had seen the sun glitter on the
breastplates of the Hussars of Murat, the Dragoons of Kellerman, the
Cuirassiers of Milhaud; sacred the hands which, when nervous with youth,
had borne the standard of the Republic victorious against the gathered
Teuton host in the Thermopylæ of Champagne; sacred the ears which, when
quick to hear, had heard the thunder of Arcola, of Lodi, of Rivoli, and,
above even the tempest of war, the clear, still voice of Napoleon;
sacred the lips which, when their beard was dark in the fulness of
manhood, had quivered, as with a woman's weeping, at the farewell in the
spring night in the moonlit Cour des Adieux.

Cigarette had a religion of her own; and followed it more closely than
most disciples follow other creeds.

       *       *       *

The way was long; the road ill-formed, leading for the most part across
a sere and desolate country, with nothing to relieve its barrenness
except long stretches of the great spear-headed reeds. At noon the heat
was intense; the little cavalcade halted for half an hour under the
shade of some black towering rocks which broke the monotony of the
district, and commenced a more hilly and more picturesque portion of the
country. Cigarette came to the side of the temporary ambulance in which
Cecil was placed. He was asleep--sleeping for once peacefully with
little trace of pain upon his features, as he had slept the previous
night. She saw that his face and chest had not been touched by the
stinging insect-swarm; he was doubly screened by a shirt hung above him
dexterously on some bent sticks.

"Who has done that?" thought Cigarette. As she glanced round she
saw--without any linen to cover him, Zackrist had reared himself up and
leaned slightly forward over against his comrade. The shirt that
protected Cecil was his; and on his own bare shoulders and mighty chest
the tiny armies of the flies and gnats were fastened, doing their will

As he caught her glance, a sullen ruddy glow of shame shone through the
black hard skin of his sunburnt visage--shame to which he had been never
touched when discovered in any one of his guilty and barbarous actions.

"_Dame!_" he growled savagely; "he gave me his wine; one must do
something in return. Not that I feel the insects--not I; my skin is
leather, see you; they can't get through it; but his is _peau de
femme_--white and soft--bah! like tissue paper!"

"I see, Zackrist; you are right. A French soldier can never take a
kindness from an English fellow without outrunning him in generosity.
Look--here is some drink for you."

She knew too well the strange nature with which she had to deal to say a
syllable of praise to him for his self-devotion, or to appear to see
that, despite his boast of his leather skin, the stings of the cruel
winged tribes were drawing his blood and causing him alike pain and
irritation which, under that sun, and added to the torment of his
gunshot wound, were a martyrdom as great as the noblest saint ever

"_Tiens! tiens!_ I did him wrong," murmured Cigarette. "That is what
they are--the children of France--even when they are at their worst,
like that devil, Zackrist. Who dare say they are not the heroes of the

And all through the march she gave Zackrist a double portion of her
water dashed with red wine, that was so welcome and so precious to the
parched and aching throats; and all through the march Cecil lay asleep,
and the man who had thieved from him, the man whose soul was stained
with murder, and pillage, and rapine, sat erect beside him, letting the
insects suck his veins and pierce his flesh.

It was only when they drew near the camp of the main army that Zackrist
beat off the swarm and drew his old shirt over his head. "You do not
want to say anything to him," he muttered to Cigarette. "I am of
leather, you know; I have not felt it."

She nodded; she understood him. Yet his shoulders and his chest were
well-nigh flayed, despite the tough and horny skin of which he made his

"_Dieu!_ we are droll!" mused Cigarette. "If we do a good thing, we hide
it as if it were a bit of stolen meat, we are so afraid it should be
found out; but, if they do one in the world there, they bray it at the
tops of their voices from the houses' roofs, and run all down the
streets screaming about it for fear it should be lost. _Dieu!_ we are

And she dashed the spurs into her mare and galloped off at the height of
her speed into camp--a very city of canvas, buzzing with the hum of
life, regulated with the marvellous skill and precision of French
warfare, yet with the carelessness and the picturesqueness of the
desert-life pervading it.

       *       *       *

Like wave rushing on wave of some tempestuous ocean, the men swept out
to meet her in one great surging tide of life, impetuous, passionate,
idolatrous, exultant, with all the vivid ardour, all the uncontrolled
emotion, of natures south-born, sun-nurtured. They broke away from their
mid-day rest as from their military toil, moved as by one swift breath
of fire, and flung themselves out to meet her, the chorus of a thousand
voices ringing in deafening _vivas_ to the skies. She was enveloped in
that vast sea of eager, furious lives, in that dizzy tumult of
vociferous cries, and stretching hands, and upturned faces. As her
soldiers had done the night before, so these did now--kissing her hands,
her dress, her feet, sending her name in thunder through the sunlit air,
lifting her from off her horse, and bearing her, in a score of stalwart
arms, triumphant in their midst.

She was theirs--their own--the Child of the Army, the Little One whose
voice above their dying brethren had the sweetness of an angel's song,
and whose feet, in their hours of revelry, flew like the swift and
dazzling flight of gold-winged orioles. And she had saved the honour of
their Eagles; she had given to them and to France their god of Victory.
They loved her--O God, how they loved her!--with that intense,
breathless, intoxicating love of a multitude which, though it may stone
to-morrow what it adores to-day, has yet for those on whom it has once
been given thus a power no other love can know--a passion unutterably
sad, deliriously strong.

That passion moved her strangely.

As she looked down upon them, she knew that not one man breathed among
that tumultuous mass but would have died that moment at her word; not
one mouth moved among that countless host but breathed her name in
pride, and love, and honour.

She might be a careless young coquette, a lawless little brigand, a
child of sunny caprices, an elf of dauntless mischief; but she was more
than these. The divine fire of genius had touched her, and Cigarette
would have perished for her country not less surely than Jeanne d'Arc.
The holiness of an impersonal love, the glow of an imperishable
patriotism, the melancholy of a passionate pity for the concrete and
unnumbered sufferings of the people were in her, instinctive and inborn,
as fragrance in the heart of flowers. And all these together moved her
now, and made her young face beautiful as she looked down upon the
crowded soldiery.

"It was nothing," she answered them; "it was nothing. It was for

For France! They shouted back the beloved word with tenfold joy; and the
great sea of life beneath her tossed to and fro in stormy triumph, in
frantic paradise of victory, ringing her name with that of France upon
the air, in thunder-shouts like spears of steel smiting on shields of

But she stretched her hand out, and swept it backward to the
desert-border of the south with a gesture that had awe for them.

"Hush!" she said softly, with an accent in her voice that hushed the
riot of their rejoicing homage till it lulled like the lull in a storm.
"Give me no honour while _they_ sleep yonder. With the dead lies the

       *       *       *

Thoughts are very good grain, but if they are not whirled round, round,
round, and winnowed and ground in the millstones of talk, they remain
little, hard, useless kernels, that not a soul can digest.

       *       *       *

Love was all very well, so Cigarette's philosophy had always reckoned; a
chocolate bonbon, a firework, a bagatelle, a draught of champagne, to
flavour an idle moment. "_Vin et Vénus_" she had always been accustomed
to see worshipped together, as became their alliterative; it was a bit
of fun--that was all. A passion that had pain in it had never touched
the Little One; she had disdained it with lightest, airiest contumely.
"If your sweetmeat has a bitter almond in it, eat the sugar, and throw
the almond away, you goose! that is simple enough, isn't it? Bah! I
don't pity the people who eat the bitter almond; not I--_ce sont bien
bêtes, ces gens!_" she had said once, when arguing with an officer on
the absurdity of a melancholy love which possessed him, and whose
sadness she rallied most unmercifully. Now, for once in her young life,
the Child of France found that it was remotely possible to meet with
almonds so bitter that the taste will remain and taint all things, do
what philosophy may to throw its acridity aside.

       *       *       *

There were before them death, deprivation, long days of famine, long
days of drought and thirst; parching sun-baked roads; bitter chilly
nights; fiery furnace-blasts of sirocco; killing, pitiless, northern
winds; hunger, only sharpened by a snatch of raw meat or a handful of
maize; and the probabilities, ten to one, of being thrust under the sand
to rot, or left to have their skeletons picked clean by the vultures.
But what of that? There were also the wild delight of combat, the
freedom of lawless warfare, the joy of deep strokes thrust home, the
chance of plunder, of wine-skins, of cattle, of women; above all, that
lust for slaughter which burns so deep down in the hidden souls of men,
and gives them such brotherhood with wolf and vulture, and tiger, when
once its flames burst forth.

       *       *       *

The levelled carbines covered him; he stood erect with his face full
toward the sun; ere they could fire, a shrill cry pierced the air--

"Wait! in the name of France."

Dismounted, breathless, staggering, with her arms flung upward, and her
face bloodless with fear, Cigarette appeared upon the ridge of rising

The cry of command pealed out upon the silence in the voice that the
Army of Africa loved as the voice of their Little One. And the cry came
too late; the volley was fired, the crash of sound thrilled across the
words that bade them pause, the heavy smoke rolled out upon the air, the
death that was doomed was dealt.

But beyond the smoke-cloud he staggered slightly, and then stood erect
still, almost unharmed, grazed only by some few of the balls. The flash
of fire was not so fleet as the swiftness of her love; and on his breast
she threw herself, and flung her arms about him, and turned her head
backward with her old dauntless sunlit smile as the balls pierced her
bosom, and broke her limbs, and were turned away by that shield of warm
young life from him.

Her arms were gliding from about his neck, and her shot limbs were
sinking to the earth as he caught her up where she dropped to his feet.

"O God! my child! they have killed you!"

He suffered more, as the cry broke from him, than if the bullets had
brought him that death which he saw at one glance had stricken down for
ever all the glory of her childhood, all the gladness of her youth.

She laughed--all the clear, imperious, arch laughter of her sunniest
hours unchanged.

"Chut! It is the powder and ball of France! _that_ does not hurt. If it
were an Arbico's bullet now! But wait! Here is the Marshal's order. He
suspends your sentence; I have told him all. You are safe!--do you
hear?--you are safe! How he looks! Is he grieved to live? _Mes
Français!_ tell him clearer than I can tell--here is the order. The
General must have it. No--not out of my hand till the General sees it.
Fetch him, some of you--fetch him to me."

"Great Heaven! you have given your life for mine!"

The words broke from him in an agony as he held her upward against his
heart, himself so blind, so stunned, with the sudden recall from death
to life, and with the sacrifice whereby life was thus brought to him,
that he could scarce see her face, scarce hear her voice, but only
dimly, incredulously, terribly knew, in some vague sense, that she was
dying, and dying thus for him.

She smiled up in his eyes, while even in that moment, when her life was
broken down like a wounded bird's, and the shots had pierced through
from her shoulder to her bosom, a hot scarlet flush came over her cheeks
as she felt his touch and rested on his heart.

"A life! _Tiens!_ what is it to give? We hold it in our hands every
hour, we soldiers, and toss it in change for a draught of wine. Lay me
down on the ground--at your feet--so! I shall live longest that way, and
I have much to tell. How they crowd around me! _Mes soldats_, do not
make that grief and that rage over me. They are sorry they fired; that
is foolish. They were only doing their duty, and they could not hear me
in time."

But the brave words could not console those who had killed the Child of
the Tricolour; they flung their carbines away, they beat their breasts,
they cursed themselves and the mother who had borne them; the silent,
rigid, motionless phalanx that had stood there in the dawn to see death
dealt in the inexorable penalty of the law was broken up into a
tumultuous, breathless, heart-stricken, infuriated throng, maddened with
remorse, convulsed with sorrow, turning wild eyes of hate on him as on
the cause through which their darling had been stricken. He, laying her
down with unspeakable gentleness as she had bidden him, hung over her,
leaning her head against his arm, and watching in paralysed horror the
helplessness of the quivering limbs, the slow flowing of the blood
beneath the Cross that shone where that young heroic heart so soon would
beat no more.

"Oh, my child, my child!" he moaned, as the full might and meaning of
this devotion which had saved him at such cost rushed on him. "What am I
worth that you should perish for me? Better a thousand times have left
me to my fate! Such nobility, such sacrifice, such love!"

The hot colour flushed her face once more; she was strong to the last to
conceal that passion for which she was still content to perish in her

"Chut! we are comrades, and you are a brave man. I would do the same for
any of my Spahis. Look you, I never heard of your arrest till I heard
too of your sentence"----

She paused a moment, and her features grew white, and quivered with pain
and with the oppression that seemed to lie like lead upon her chest. But
she forced herself to be stronger than the anguish which assailed her
strength; and she motioned them all to be silent as she spoke on while
her voice still should serve her.

"They will tell you how I did it--I have not time. The Marshal gave his
word you shall be saved; there is no fear. That is your friend who bends
over me here?--is it not? A fair face, a brave face! You will go back to
your land--you will live among your own people--and _she_, she will love
you now--now she knows you are of her Order!"

Something of the old thrill of jealous dread and hate quivered through
the words, but the purer, nobler nature vanquished it; she smiled up in
his eyes, heedless of the tumult round them.

"You will be happy. That is well. Look you--it is nothing that I did. I
would have done it for any one of my soldiers. And for this"--she
touched the blood flowing from her side with the old, bright, brave
smile--"it was an accident; they must not grieve for it. My men are good
to me; they will feel such regret and remorse; but do not let them. I am
glad to die."

The words were unwavering and heroic, but for one moment a convulsion
went over her face; the young life was so strong in her, the young
spirit was so joyous in her, existence was so new, so fresh, so bright,
so dauntless a thing to Cigarette. She loved life: the darkness, the
loneliness, the annihilation of death were horrible to her as the
blackness and the solitude of night to a young child. Death, like night,
can be welcome only to the weary, and she was weary of nothing on the
earth that bore her buoyant steps; the suns, the winds, the delights of
the sights, the joys of the senses, the music of her own laughter, the
mere pleasure of the air upon her cheeks, or of the blue sky above her
head, were all so sweet to her. Her welcome of her death-shot was the
only untruth that had ever soiled her fearless lips. Death was terrible;
yet she was content--content to have come to it for his sake.

There was a ghastly stricken silence round her. The order she had
brought had just been glanced at, but no other thought was with the most
callous there than the heroism of her act, than the martyrdom of her

The colour was fast passing from her lips, and a mortal pallor settling
there in the stead of that rich bright hue, once warm as the scarlet
heart of the pomegranate. Her head leant back on Cecil's breast, and she
felt the great burning tears fall one by one upon her brow as he hung
speechless over her; she put her hand upward and touched his eyes

"Chut! What is it to die--just to die? You have _lived_ your martyrdom;
I could not have done that. Listen, just one moment. You will be rich.
Take care of the old man--he will not trouble long--and of Vole-qui-veut
and Etoile, and Boule Blanche, and the rat, and all the dogs, will you?
They will show you the Château de Cigarette in Algiers. I should not
like to think that they would starve."

She felt his lips move with the promise he could not find voice to
utter; and she thanked him with that old child-like smile that had lost
nothing of its light.

"That is good; they will be happy with you. And see here;--that Arab
must have back his white horse: he alone saved you. Have heed that they
spare him. And make my grave somewhere where my Army passes; where I can
hear the trumpets, and the arms, and the passage of the troops--O God! I
forgot! I shall not wake when the bugles sound. It will all _end_ now,
will it not? That is horrible, horrible!"

A shudder shook her as, for the moment, the full sense that all her
glowing, redundant, sunlit, passionate life was crushed out for ever
from its place upon the earth forced itself on and overwhelmed her. But
she was of too brave a mould to suffer any foe--even the foe that
conquers kings--to have power to appal her. She raised herself, and
looked at the soldiery around her, among them the men whose carbines had
killed her, whose anguish was like the heartrending anguish of women.

"Mes Français! That was a foolish word of mine. How many of my bravest
have fallen in death; and shall I be afraid of what they welcomed? Do
not grieve like that. You could not help it; you were doing your duty.
If the shots had not come to me, they would have gone to him; and he has
been unhappy so long, and borne wrong so patiently, he has earned the
right to live and enjoy. Now I--I have been happy all my days, like a
bird, like a kitten, like a foal, just from being young and taking no
thought. I should have had to suffer if I had lived; it is much best as
it is"----

Her voice failed her when she had spoken the heroic words; loss of blood
was fast draining all strength from her, and she quivered in a torture
she could not wholly conceal; he for whom she perished hung over her in
an agony greater far than hers; it seemed a hideous dream to him that
this child lay dying in his stead.

"Can nothing save her?" he cried aloud. "O God! that you had fired one
moment sooner!"

She heard; and looked up at him with a look in which all the passionate,
hopeless, imperishable love she had resisted and concealed so long
spoke with an intensity she never dreamed.

"She is content," she whispered softly. "You did not understand her
rightly; that was all."

"_All!_ O God! how I have wronged you!"

The full strength, and nobility, and devotion of this passion he had
disbelieved in and neglected rushed on him as he met her eyes; for the
first time he saw her as she was, for the first time he saw all of which
the splendid heroism of this untrained nature would have been capable
under a different fate. And it struck him suddenly, heavily, as with a
blow; it filled him with a passion of remorse.

"My darling!--my darling! what have I done to be worthy of such love?"
he murmured, while the tears fell from his blinded eyes, and his head
drooped until his lips met hers. At the first utterance of that word
between them, at the unconscious tenderness of his kisses that had the
anguish of a farewell in them, the colour suddenly flushed all over her
blanched face; she trembled in his arms; and a great shivering sigh ran
through her. It came too late, this warmth of love. She learned what its
sweetness might have been only when her lips grew numb, and her eyes
sightless, and her heart without pulse, and her senses without

"Hush!" she answered, with a look that pierced his soul. "Keep those
kisses for Miladi. She will have the right to love you; she is of your
'_aristocrates_,' she is not 'unsexed.' As for me,--I am only a little
trooper who has saved my comrade! My soldiers, come round me one
instant; I shall not long find words."

Her eyes closed as she spoke; a deadly faintness and coldness passed
over her; and she gasped for breath. A moment, and the resolute courage
in her conquered: her eyes opened and rested on the war-worn faces of
her "children"--rested in a long-lost look of unspeakable wistfulness
and tenderness.

"I cannot speak as I would," she said at length, while her voice grew
very faint. "But I have loved you. All is said!"

All was uttered in those four brief words. "She had loved them." The
whole story of her young life was told in the single phrase. And the
gaunt, battle-scarred, murderous, ruthless veterans of Africa who heard
her could have turned their weapons against their own breasts, and
sheathed them there, rather than have looked on to see their darling

"I have been too quick in anger sometimes--forgive it," she said gently.
"And do not fight and curse among yourselves; it is bad amid brethren.
Bury my Cross with me, if they will let you; and let the colours be over
my grave, if you can. Think of me when you go into battle; and tell them
in France"----

For the first time her own eyes filled with great tears as the name of
her beloved land paused upon her lips; she stretched her arms out with a
gesture of infinite longing, like a lost child that vainly seeks its

"If I could only see France once more! France"----

It was the last word upon her utterance; her eyes met Cecil's in one
fleeting upward glance of unutterable tenderness; then with her hands
still stretched out westward to where her country was, and with the
dauntless heroism of her smile upon her face like light, she gave a
tired sigh as of a child that sinks to sleep, and in the midst of her
Army of Africa the Little One lay dead.


The sun was setting, sinking downward beyond purple bars of cloud, and
leaving a long golden trail behind it in its track--sinking slowly and
solemnly towards the west as the day declined, without rest, yet without
haste, as though to give to all the sons of earth warning and time to
leave no evil rooted, no bitterness unhealed, no feud to ripen, and no
crime to bring forth seed, when the day should have passed away to be
numbered with hours irrevocable, and the night should cast its pall over
the dark deeds done, and seal their graves never to be unclosed. The sun
was setting, and shedding its rich and yellow light over the green
earth, on the winding waters, and the blue hills afar off, and down the
thousand leafy aisles close by; but to one place that warm radiance
wandered not, in one spot the rays did not play, the glory did not
enter. That place was the deer-pond of the old Bois, where the dark
plants brooding on the fetid waters, which only stirred with noisome
things, had washed against the floating hair of lifeless women, and the
sombre branches of the crowding trees had been dragged earthward by the
lifeless weight of the self-slain, till the air seemed to be poisonous
with death, and the grasses, as they moved, to whisper to the winds
dread secrets of the Past. And here the light of the summer evening did
not come, but only through the leafless boughs of one seared tree, which
broke and parted the dark barrier of forest growth, they saw the west,
and the sun declining slowly in its haze of golden air, sinking downward
past the bars of cloud.

All was quiet, save the dull sounds of the parting waters, when some
loathsome reptiles stirred among its brakes, or the hot breeze moved its
pestilential plants; and in the silence they stood fronting each other;
in this silence they had met, in it they would part. And there, on their
right hand, through the break in the dank wall of leaves, shone the sun,
looking earthward, luminous, and blinding human sight like the gaze of

The light from the west fell upon Erroll, touching the fair locks of his
silken hair, and shining in his azure eyes as they looked up at the
sunny skies, where a bird was soaring and circling in space, happy
through its mere sense and joy of life; and on Strathmore's face the
deep shadows slanted, leaving it as though cast in bronze, chill and
tranquil as that of an Eastern Kabyl, each feature set into the
merciless repose of one immovable purpose. Their faces were strangely
contrasted, for the serenity of the one was that of a man who fearlessly
awaits an inevitable doom, the serenity of the other that of a man who
mercilessly deals out an implacable fate; and while in the one those
present saw but the calmness of courage and of custom, in the other they
vaguely shrank from a new and an awful meaning. For beneath the suave
smile of the Duellist they read the intent of the Murderer.

The night was nigh at hand, and soon the day had to be gathered to the
past, such harvest garnered with it as men's hands had sown throughout
its brief twelve hours, which are so short in span, yet are so long in
sin. "LET NOT THE SUN GO DOWN UPON YOUR WRATH." There, across the west,
in letters of flame, the warning of the Hebrew scroll was written on the
purple skies; but he who should have read them stood immutable yet
insatiate, with the gleam of a tiger's lust burning in his eyes--the
lust when it scents blood; the lust that only slakes its thirst in life.

They fronted one another, those who had lived as brothers; while at
their feet babbled the poisonous waters, and on their right hand shone
the evening splendour of the sun.


The word fell down upon the silence, and the hiss of a shrill cicada
echoed to it like a devil's laugh. Their eyes met, and in the gaze of
the one was a compassionate pardon, but in the gaze of the other a
relentless lust.

And the sun sank slowly downward beyond the barrier of purple cloud,
passing away from earth.


Again the single word dropped out upon the stillness, marking the flight
of the seconds; again the hoot of the cicada echoed it, laughing
hideously from its noisome marsh.

And the sun sank slowly, still slowly, nearer and nearer to its shroud
of mist, bearing with it all that lingered of the day.


The white death-signal flickered in the breeze, and the last golden rays
of the sun were still above the edge of the storm-cloud.

There was yet time.

But the warning was not read: there was the assassin's devilish greed
within Strathmore's soul, the assassin's devilish smile upon his lips;
the calmness of his face never changed, the tranquil pulse of his wrist
never quickened, the remorseless gleam of his eyes never softened. It
was for him to fire first, and the doom written in his look never
relaxed. He turned--in seeming carelessness, as you may turn to aim at
carrion bird--but his shot sped home.

One moment Erroll stood erect, his fair hair blowing in the wind, his
eyes full open to the light; then--he reeled slightly backward, raised
his right arm, and fired in the air! The bullet flew far and harmless
amidst the forest foliage, his arm dropped, and without sign or sound he
fell down upon the sodden turf, his head striking against the earth with
a dull echo, his hands drawing up the rank herbage by the roots, as they
closed convulsively in one brief spasm.

He was shot through the heart.

And the sun sank out of sight, leaving a dusky, sultry gloom to brood
over the noxious brakes and sullen stagnant waters, leaving the world to
Night, as fitting watch and shroud of Crime; and those who stood there
were stricken with a ghastly horror, were paralysed by a vague and
sudden awe, for they knew that they were in the presence of death, and
that the hand which had dealt it was the hand of his chosen friend. But
he, who had slain him, more coldly, more pitilessly than the merciful
amongst us would slay a dog, stood unmoved in the shadow, with his
ruthless calm, his deadly serenity, which had no remorse as it had had
no mercy, while about his lips there was a cold and evil smile, and in
his eyes gleamed the lurid flame of a tiger's triumph--the triumph when
it has tasted blood, and slaked its thirst in life.

_"Voyez!--il est mort!"_

The words, uttered in his ear by Valdor, were hoarse and almost
tremulous; but he heard and assented to them unmoved. An exultant light
shone and glittered in his eyes; he had avenged himself and her! Life
was the sole price that his revenge had set; his purpose had been as
iron, and his soul was as bronze. He went nearer, leisurely, and stooped
and looked at the work of his hand. In the gloom the dark-red blood
could yet be clearly seen, slowly welling out and staining the clotted
herbage as it flowed, while one stray gleam of light still stole
across, as if in love and pity, and played about the long fair hair
which trailed amidst the grass.

Life still lingered, faintly, flickeringly, as though both to leave for
ever that which one brief moment before had been instinct with all its
richest glory; the eyes opened wide once more, and looked up to the
evening skies with a wild, delirious, appealing pain, and the lips which
were growing white and drawn moved in a gasping prayer:

"Oh, God! I forgive--I forgive. He did not know"----

Then his head fell back, and his eyes gazed upward without sight or
sense, and murmuring low a woman's name, "Lucille! Lucille!" while one
last breath shivered like a deep-drawn sigh through all his frame--he
died. And his murderer stood by to see the shudder convulse the rigid
limbs, and count each lingering pang--calm, pitiless, unmoved, his face
so serene in its chill indifference, its brutal and unnatural
tranquillity, whilst beneath the drooped lids his eyes watched with the
dark glitter of a triumphant vengeance the last agony of the man whom he
had loved, that the two who were with him in this ghastly hour shrank
involuntarily from his side, awed more by the Living than the Dead.
Almost unconsciously they watched him, fascinated basilisk-wise, as he
stooped and severed a long flake of hair that was soiled by the dank
earth and wet with the dew: unarrested they let him turn away with the
golden lock in his hand and the fatal calm on his face, and move to the
spot where his horse was waiting. The beat of the hoofs rang muffled on
the turf, growing fainter and fainter as the gallop receded. Strathmore
rode to her whose bidding had steeled his arm, and whose soft embrace
would be his reward; rode swift and hard, with his hand closing fast on
the promised pledge of his vengeance; while behind him, in the shadows
of the falling night, lay a man whom he had once loved, whom he had now
slain, with the light of early stars breaking pale and cold, to shine
upon the oozing blood as it trailed slowly in its death-stream through
the grasses, staining red the arid turf.

And the sun had gone down upon his wrath.

       *       *       *

Mes frères! it is well for us that we are no seers! Were we cursed with
prevision, could we know how, when the idle trifle of the present hour
shall have been forged into a link of the past, it will stretch out and
bind captive the whole future in its bonds, we should be paralysed,
hopeless, powerless, old ere we were young! It is well for us that we
are no seers. Were we cursed with second sight, we should see the white
shroud breast-high above the living man, the phosphor light of death
gleaming on the youthful radiant face, the feathery seed, lightly sown,
bearing in it the germ of the upas-tree; the idle careless word, daily
uttered, carrying in its womb the future bane of a lifetime; we should
see these things till we sickened, and reeled, and grew blind with pain
before the ghastly face of the Future, as men in ancient days before the
loathsome visage of the Medusa!

       *       *       *

Contretemps generally have some saving crumbs of consolation for those
who laugh at fate, and look good-humouredly for them; life's only evil
to him who wears it awkwardly, and philosophic resignation works as many
miracles as Harlequin; grumble, and you go to the dogs in a wretched
style; make _mots_ on your own misery, and you've no idea how pleasant a
_trajet_ even drifting "to the bad" may become.

       *       *       *

The statue that Strathmore at once moulded and marred was his life: the
statue which we all, as we sketch it, endow with the strength of the
Milo, the glory of the Belvedere, the winged brilliance of the Perseus!
which ever lies at its best; when the chisel has dropped from our hands,
as they grow powerless and paralysed with death; like the mutilated
torso; a fragment unfinished and broken, food for the ants and worms,
buried in the sands that will quickly suck it down from sight or memory,
with but touches of glory and of value left here and there, only faintly
serving to show what _might have been_, had we had time, had we had

       *       *       *

With which satirical reflection on his times and his order drifting
through his mind, Strathmore's thoughts floated onward to a piece of
statecraft then numbered among the delicate diplomacies and intricate
embroglie of Europe, whose moves absorbed him as the finesses of a
problem absorb a skilful chess-player, and from thence stretched onwards
to his future, in which he lived, like all men of dominant ambition, far
more than he lived in his present. It was a future brilliant, secure,
brightening in its lustre, and strengthening in its power, with each
successive year; a future which was not to him as to most wrapped in a
chiaroscuro, with but points of luminance gleaming through the mist, but
in whose cold glimmering light he seemed to see clear and distinct, as
we see each object of the far-off landscape stand out in the air of a
winter's noon, every thread that he should gather up, every distant
point to which he should pass onward; a future singular and
characteristic, in which state-power was the single ambition marked out,
from which the love of women was banished, in which pleasure and wealth
were as little regarded as in Lacedæmon, in which age would be courted,
not dreaded, since with it alone would come added dominion over the
minds of men, and in which, as it stretched out before him, failure and
alteration were alike impossible. What, if he lived, could destroy a
future that would be solely dependent on, solely ruled by, himself? By
his own hand alone would his future be fashioned; would he hew out any
shape save the idol that pleased him? When we hold the chisel ourselves,
are we not secure to have no error in the work? Is it likely that our
hand will slip, that the marble we select will be dark-veined, and
brittle, and impure, that the blows of the mallet will shiver our
handiwork, and that when we plan a Milo--god of strength--we shall but
mould and sculpture out a Laocoön of torture? Scarcely; and Strathmore
held the chisel, and, certain of his own skill, was as sure of what he
should make of life as Benvenuto, when he bade the molten metal pour
into the shape that he, master-craftsman, had fashioned, and gave to the
sight of the world the Winged Perseus. But Strathmore did not remember
what Cellini did--that one flaw might mar the whole!

       *       *       *

In the little _millefleurs_-scented billet lay, unknown to its writer as
to him, the turning-point of his life! God help us! what avail are
experience, prescience, prudence, wisdom, in this world, when at every
chance step the silliest trifle, the most commonplace meeting, an
invitation to dinner, a turn down the wrong street, the dropping of a
glove, the delay of a train, the introduction to an unnoticed stranger,
will fling down every precaution, and build a fate for us of which we
never dream? Of what avail for us to erect our sand-castle when every
chance blast of air may blow it into nothing, and drift another into
form that we have no power to move? Life hinges upon hazard, and at
every turn wisdom is mocked by it, and energy swept aside by it, as the
battled dykes are worn away, and the granite walls beaten down by the
fickle ocean waves, which, never two hours together alike, never two
instants without restless motion, are yet as changeless as they are
capricious, as omnipotent as they are fickle, as cruel as they are
countless! Men and mariners may build their bulwarks, but hazard and the
sea will overthrow and wear away both alike at their will--their wild
and unreined will, which no foresight can foresee, no strength can

Was it not the mere choice between the saddle and the barouche that day
when Ferdinand d'Orléans flung down on second thoughts his riding-whip
upon the console at the Tuileries, and ordered his carriage instead of
his horse, that cost himself his life, his son a throne, the Bourbon
blood their royalty, and France for long years her progress and her
peace? Had he taken up his whip instead of laying it aside, he might be
living to-day with the sceptre in his hand, and the Bee, crushed beneath
his foot, powerless to sting to the core of the Lily! Of all strange
things in human life, there is none stranger than the dominance of

       *       *       *

He landed and went into Silver-rest in the morning light. Far as the eye
could reach stretched the deep still waters of the bay; the white sails
of his yacht and of the few fishing skiffs in the offing stood out
distinct and glancing in the sun; over the bluffs and in all the clefts
of rock the growing grass blew and flickered in the breeze; and as he
crossed the sands the air was fragrant with the scent of the wild
flowers that grew down to the water's edge. But to note these things a
man must be in unison with the world; and to love them he must be in
unison with himself. Strathmore scarce saw them as he went onward.

       *       *       *

If a military man's friend dies who had the step above him, his first
thought is "Promotion! deucedly lucky for me!" His next, "Poor fellow,
what a pity!" always comes two seconds after. I understand Voltaire. If
your companion's existence at table makes you have a dish dressed as you
don't like it, you are naturally relieved if an apoplectic fit empties
his chair, and sets you free to say, "_Point de sauce blanche!_" All men
are egotists, they only persuade themselves they are not selfish by
swearing so often, that at last they believe what they say. No motive
under the sun will stand the microscope; human nature, like a faded
beauty, must only have a _demi-lumièr_; draw the blinds up, and the
blotches come out, the wrinkles show, and the paint peels off. The
beauty scolds the servants--men hiss the satirists--who dare to let in

       *       *       *

The Frenchwoman prides herself on being thought unfaithful to her
husband; the Englishwoman on being thought faithful to him; but though
their theories are different, their practice comes to much the same


When Zeus, half in sport and half in cruelty, made man, young Hermês,
who, as all Olympus knew, was for ever at some piece of mischief,
insisted on meddling with his father's work, and got leave to fashion
the human ear out of a shell that he chanced to have by him, across
which he stretched a fine cobweb that he stole from Arachne. But he
hollowed and twisted the shell in such a fashion that it would turn back
all sounds except very loud blasts that Falsehood should blow on a
brazen horn, whilst the impenetrable web would keep out all such
whispers as Truth could send up from the depths of her well.

Hermês chuckled as he rounded the curves of his ear, and fastened it on
to the newly-made human creature.

"So shall these mortals always hear and believe the thing that is not,"
he said to himself in glee--knowing that the box he would give to
Pandora would not bear more confused and complex woes to the hapless
earth than this gift of an ear to man.

But he forgot himself so far that, though two ears were wanted, he only
made one.

Apollo, passing that way, marked the blunder, and resolved to avenge the
theft of his milk-white herds which had led him such a weary chase
through Tempe.

Apollo took a pearl of the sea and hollowed it, and strung across it a
silver string from his own lyre, and with it gave to man one ear by
which the voice of Truth should reach the brain.

"You have spoilt all my sport," said the boy Hermes, angry and weeping.

"Nay," said the elder brother with a smile. "Be comforted. The brazen
trumpets will be sure to drown the whisper from the well, and ten
thousand mortals to one, be sure, will always turn by choice your ear
instead of mine."

       *       *       *

Women never like one another, except now and then an old woman and a
young woman like you and me. They are good to one another amongst the
poor, you say! Oh, that I don't know anything about. They may be.
Barbarians always retain the savage virtues. In Society women hate one
another--all the more because in Society they have to smile in each
other's faces every night of their lives. Only think what that is, my
dear!--to grudge each other's conquests, to grudge each other's
diamonds, to study each other's dress, to watch each other's wrinkles,
to outshine each other always on every possible occasion, big or little,
and yet always to be obliged to give pet names to each other, and visit
each other with elaborate ceremonial--why, women _must_ hate each other!
Society makes them. Your poor folks, I daresay, in the midst of their
toiling and moiling, and scrubbing and scraping, and starving and
begging, do do each other kindly turns, and put bread in each other's
mouths now and then, because they can scratch each other's eyes out, and
call each other hussies in the streets, any minute they like, in the
most open manner. But in Society women's entire life is a struggle for
precedence, precedence in everything--beauty, money, rank, success,
dress, everything. We have to smother hate under smiles, and envy under
compliment, and while we are dying to say "You hussy," like the women
in the streets, we are obliged, instead of boxing her ears, to kiss her
on both cheeks, and cry, "Oh, my dearest--how charming of you--so kind!"
Only think what all that repression means. You laugh? Oh, you very
clever people always do laugh at these things. But you must study
Society, or suffer from it, sooner or later. If you don't always strive
to go out before everybody, life will end in everybody going out before
you, everybody--down to the shoeblack!

       *       *       *

"Read!" echoed the old wise man with scorn. "O child, what use is that?
Read!--the inland dweller reads of the sea, and thinks he knows it, and
believes it to be as a magnified duck-pond, and no more. Can he tell
anything of the light and the shade; of the wave and the foam; of the
green that is near, of the blue that is far; of the opaline changes, now
pure as a dove's throat, now warm as a flame; of the great purple depths
and the fierce blinding storm; and the delight and the fear, and the
hurricane rising like a horse snorting for war, and all that is known to
man who goes down to the great deep in ships? Passion and the sea are
like one another. Words shall not tell them, nor colour portray them.
The kiss that burns, and the salt spray that stings--let the poet excel
and the painter endeavour, yet the best they can do shall say nothing to
the woman without a lover; and the landsman who knows not the sea. If
you would live--love. You will live in an hour a lifetime; and you will
wonder how you bore your life before. But as an artist all will be over
with you--that I think."

       *       *       *

What is the use of railing against Society? Society, after all, is only
Humanity _en masse_, and the opinion of it must be the opinion of the
bulk of human minds. Complaints against Society are like the lions'
against the man's picture. No doubt the lions would have painted the
combat as going just the other way, but then, so long as it is the man
who has the knife or the gun, and the palette and the pencil, where is
the use of the lions howling about injustice? Society has the knife and
the pencil; that's the long and the short of it; and if people don't
behave themselves they feel 'em both, and have to knock under. They're
knifed first, and then caricatured--as the lions were.

       *       *       *

"Excelling!--it is rather a Dead Sea apple, I fear. The effort is
happiness, but the fruit always seems poor."

Lady Cardiff could not patiently hear such nonsense.

"There you are again, my dear feminine Alceste," she said irritably,
"looking at things from your solitary standpoint on that rock of yours
in the middle of the sea. _You_ are thinking of the excelling of genius,
of the possessor of an ideal fame, of the 'Huntress mightier than the
moon' and _I_ am thinking of the woman who excels in Society--who has
the biggest diamonds, the best _chef_, the most lovers, the most _chic_
and _chien_, who leads the fashion, and condescends when she takes tea
with an empress. But even from your point of view on your rock, I can't
quite believe it. Accomplished ambition must be agreeable. To look back
and say, 'I have achieved!'--what leagues of sunlight sever that proud
boast from the weary sigh, 'I have failed!' Fame must console."

"Perhaps; but the world, at least, does its best that it should not. Its
glory discs are of thorns."

"You mean that superiority has its attendant shadow, which is calumny?
Always has had, since Apelles painted. What does it matter if everybody
looks after you when you pass down a street, what they say when you

"A malefactor may obtain that sort of flattery. I do not see the charm
of it."

"You are very perverse. Of course I talk of an unsullied fame, not of an
infamous notoriety."

"Fame nowadays is little else but notoriety," said Etoile with a certain
scorn, "and it is dearly bought, perhaps too dearly, by the sacrifice of
the serenity of obscurity, the loss of the peace of private life. Art is
great and precious, but the pursuit of it is sadly embittered when we
have become so the plaything of the public, through it, that the
simplest actions of our lives are chronicled and misconstrued. You do
not believe it, perhaps, but I often envy the women sitting at their
cottage doors, with their little children on their knees; no one talks
of _them_!"

  "J'ai tant de gloire, ô roi, que j'aspire au fumier!"

said Lady Cardiff. "You are very thankless to Fate, my dear, but I
suppose it is always so."

And Lady Cardiff took refuge in her cigar case, being a woman of too
much experience not to know that it is quite useless to try and make
converts to your opinions; and especially impossible to convince people
dissatisfied with their good fortune that they ought to be charmed with

"It is very curious," she thought when she got into her own carriage,
"really it makes one believe in that odd doctrine of, what is it,
Compensations; but, certainly, people of great talent always are a
little mad. If they're not flightily mad with eccentricity and brandy,
they are morbidly mad with solitude and sentiment. Now she is a great
creature, really a great creature; might have the world at her feet if
she liked; and all she cares for is a big dog, a bunch of roses, and
some artist or poet dead and gone three hundred or three thousand years!
It is very queer. It is just like that extraordinary possession of
Victor Hugo's; with powers that might have sufficed to make ten men
brilliant and comfortable, he must vex and worry about politics that
didn't concern him in the least, and go and live under a skylight in the
middle of the sea. It is very odd. They are never happy; but when they
are unhappy, and if you tell them that Addison could be a great writer,
and yet live comfortably and enjoy the things of this world, they only
tell you contemptuously that Addison had no genius, he had only a Style.
I suppose he hadn't. I think if I were one of them and had to choose, I
would rather have only a Style too."

       *       *       *

When passion and habit long lie in company it is only slowly and with
incredulity that habit awakens to find its companion fled, itself alone.

       *       *       *

A new acquaintance is like a new novel; you open it with expectation,
but what you find there seldom makes you care to take it off the shelf
another time.

       *       *       *

The pity which is not born from experience is always cold. It cannot
help being so. It does not understand.

       *       *       *

The house she lived in was very old, and had those charming conceits,
those rich shadows and depth of shade, that play of light, that variety,
and that character which seem given to a dwelling-place in ages when
men asked nothing better of their God than to live where their fathers
had lived, and leave the old roof-tree to their children's children.

The thing built yesterday, is a caravanserai: I lodge in it to-day, and
you to-morrow; in an old house only can be made a home, where the
blessings of the dead have rested and the memories of perfect faiths and
lofty passions still abide.

       *       *       *

There is so much mystery in this world, only people who lead humdrum
lives will not believe it.

It is a great misfortune to be born to a romantic history. The humdrum
always think that you are lying. In real truth romance is common in
life, commoner, perhaps, than the commonplace. But the commonplace
always looks more natural.

In Nature there are millions of gorgeous hues to a scarcity of neutral
tints; yet the pictures that are painted in sombre semi-tones and have
no one positive colour in them are always pronounced the nearest to
nature. When a painter sets his palette, he dares not approach the gold
of the sunset and dawn, or the flame of the pomegranate and poppy.

       *       *       *

This age of Money, of Concessions, of Capitalists, and of Limited
Liabilities, has largely produced the female financier, who thinks with
M. de Camors, that "_l'humanité est composée des actionnaires_." Other
centuries have had their especial type of womanhood; the learned and
graceful _hetaira_, the saintly and ascetic recluse, the warrior of
Oriflamme or Red Rose, the _dame de beauté_, all loveliness and light,
like a dewdrop, the philosophic _précieuse_, with sesquipedalian phrase,
the revolutionist, half nude of body and wholly nude of mind, each in
their turn have given their sign and seal to their especial century, for
better or for worse. The nineteenth century has some touch of all, but
its own novelty of production is the female speculator.

The woman who, breathless, watches _la hausse_ and _la baisse_; whose
favour can only be won by some hint in advance of the newspapers; whose
heart is locked to all save golden keys; who starts banks, who concocts
companies, who keeps a broker, as in the eighteenth century a woman kept
a monkey, and in the twelfth a knight; whose especial art is to buy in
at the right moments, and to sell out in the nick of time; who is great
in railways and canals, and new bathing-places, and shares in
fashionable streets; who chooses her lovers, thinking of concessions,
and kisses her friends for sake of the secrets they may betray from
their husbands--what other centuries may say of her who can tell?

The Hôtel Rambouillet thought itself higher than heaven, and the
generation of Catherine of Sienna believed her deal planks the sole
highway to the throne of God.

       *       *       *

Proud women, and sensitive women, take hints and resent rebuffs, and so
exile themselves from the world prematurely and haughtily. They abdicate
the moment they see that any desire their discrowning. Abdication is
grand, no doubt. But possession is more profitable. "A well-bred dog
does not wait to be kicked out," says the old see-saw. But the well-bred
dog thereby turns himself into the cold, and leaves the crumbs from
under the table to some other dog with less good-breeding and more
worldly wisdom. The sensible thing to do is to stay where you like best
to be; stay there with tooth and claw ready and a stout hide on which
cudgels break. People, after all, soon get tired of kicking a dog that
never will go.

High-breeding was admirable in days when the world itself was high-bred.
But those days are over. The world takes high-breeding now as only a
form of insolence.

       *       *       *

"To your poetic temper life is a vast romance, beautiful and terrible,
like a tragedy of Æschylus. You stand amidst it entranced, like a child
by the beauty and awe of a tempest. And all the while the worldly-wise,
to whom the tempest is only a matter of the machineries of a theatre--of
painted clouds, electric lights, and sheets of copper--the world-wise
govern the storm as they choose and leave you in it defenceless and
lonely as old Lear. To put your heart into life is the most fatal of
errors; it is to give a hostage to your enemies whom you can only ransom
at the price of your ruin. But what is the use of talking? To you, life
will be always Alastor and Epipsychidion, and to us, it will always be a
Treatise on Whist. That's all!"

"A Treatise on Whist! No! It is something much worse. It is a Book of
the Bastile, with all entered as criminal in it, who cannot be bought
off by bribe or intrigue, by a rogue's stratagem or a courtesan's vice!"

"The world is only a big Harpagon, and you and such as you are Maître
Jacques. '_Puisque vous l'avez voulu!_' you say,--and call him frankly
to his face, '_Avare, ladre, vilain, fessemathieu!_' and Harpagon
answers you with a big stick and cries, '_Apprenez à parler!_' Poor
Maître Jacques! I never read of him without thinking what a type he is
of Genius. No offence to you, my dear. He'd the wit to see he would
never be pardoned for telling the truth, and yet he told it! The perfect
type of Genius."

       *       *       *

The untruthfulness of women communicates itself to the man whose chief
society they form, and the perpetual necessities of intrigue end in
corrupting the temper whose chief pursuit is passion.

Women who environ a man's fidelity by ceaseless suspicion and exaction,
create the evil that they dread.

       *       *       *

Society, after all, asks very little. Society only asks you to wash the
outside of your cup and platter: inside you may keep any kind of
nastiness that you like: only wash the outside. Do wash the outside,
says Society; and it would be a churl or an ass indeed who would refuse
so small a request.

       *       *       *

A woman who is ice to his fire, is less pain to a man than the woman who
is fire to his ice. There is hope for him in the one, but only a dreary
despair in the other. The ardours that intoxicate him in the first
summer of his passion serve but to dull and chill him in the later time.

       *       *       *

A frog that dwelt in a ditch spat at a worm that bore a lamp.

"Why do you do that?" said the glow-worm.

"Why do you shine?" said the frog.

       *       *       *

When a name is in the public mouth the public nostril likes to smell a
foulness in it. It likes to think that Byron committed incest; that
Milton was a brute; that Raffaelle's vices killed him; that Pascal was
mad; that Lamartine lived and died a pauper; that Scipio took the
treasury moneys; that Thucydides and Phidias stole; that Heloise and
Hypatia were but loose women after all--so the gamut runs over twice a
thousand years; and Rousseau is at heart the favourite of the world
because he was such a beast, with all his talent.

When the world is driven to tears and prayers by Schiller, it hugs
itself to remember that he could not write a line without the smell of
rotten apples near, and that when he died there was not enough money in
his desk to pay his burial. They make him smaller, closer, less
divine--the apples and the pauper's coffin.

       *       *       *

"Get a great cook; give three big balls a winter, and drive English
horses; you need never consider Society then, it will never find fault
with you, _ma très-chère_."

She did not quite understand, but she obeyed; and Society never did.
Society says to the members of it as the Spanish monk to the tree that
he pruned, and that cried out under his hook:

"It is not beauty that is wanted of you, nor shade, but olives."

Moral loveliness or mental depth, charm of feeling or nobleness of
instinct, beauty, or shade, it does not ask for, but it does ask for
olives--olives that shall round off its dessert, and flavour its dishes,
and tickle its sated palate; olives that it shall pick up without
trouble, and never be asked to pay for; these are what it likes.

Now it is precisely in olives that the woman who has one foot in Society
and one foot out of it will be profuse.

She must please, or perish.

She must content, or how will she be countenanced?

The very perilousness of her position renders her solicitous to attract
and to appease.

Society follows a natural selfishness in its condonation of her; she is
afraid of it, therefore she must bend all her efforts to be agreeable to
it! it can reject her at any given moment, so that her court of it must
be continual and expansive. No woman will take so much pains, give so
much entertainment, be so willing to conciliate, be so lavish in
hospitality, be so elastic in willingness, as the woman who adores
Society, and knows that any black Saturday it may turn her out with a
bundle of rods, and a peremptory dismissal.

Between her and Society there is a tacit bond.

"Amuse me, and I will receive you."

"Receive me, and I will amuse you."

       *       *       *

Of all lay figures there is none on earth so useful as a wooden husband.
You should get a wooden husband, my dear, if you want to be left in
peace. It is like a comfortable slipper or your dressing-gown after a
ball. It is like springs to your carriage. It is like a clever maid who
never makes mistakes with your notes or comes without coughing
discreetly through your dressing-room. It is like tea, cigarettes,
postage-stamps, foot-warmers, eiderdown counterpanes--anything that
smooths life, in fact. Young women do not think enough of this. An
easy-going husband is the one indispensable comfort of life. He is like
a set of sables to you. You may never want to put them on; still, if the
north wind do blow--and one can never tell--how handy they are! You pop
into them in a second, and no cold wind can find you out, my dear.
Couldn't find you out, if your shift were in rags underneath! Without
your husband's countenance, you have scenes. With scenes, you have
scandal. With scandal, you come to a suit. With a suit, you most likely
lose your settlements. And without your settlements, where are you in
Society? With a husband you are safe. You need never think about him in
any way. His mere existence suffices. He will always be at the bottom of
your table, and the head of your visiting-cards. That is enough. He will
represent Respectability for you, without your being at the trouble to
represent Respectability for yourself. Respectability is a thing of
which the shadow is more agreeable than the substance. Happily for us,
Society only requires the shadow.

       *       *       *

Very well; if you dislike dancing, don't dance; though if a woman don't,
you know, they always think she has got a short leg, or a cork leg, or
something or other that's dreadful. But why not show yourself at them?
At least show yourself. One goes to balls as one goes to church. It's a
social muster.

       *       *       *

The art of pleasing is more based on the art of seeming pleased than
people think of, and she disarmed the prejudices of her enemies by the
unaffected delight she appeared to take in themselves. You may think
very ill of a woman, but after all you cannot speak very ill of her if
she has assured you a hundred times that you are amongst her dearest

       *       *       *

Society always had its fixed demands. It used to exact birth. It used to
exact manners. In a remote and golden age there is a tradition that it
was once contented with mind. Nowadays it exacts money, or rather
amusement, because if you don't let other folks have the benefit of your
money, Society will take no account of it. But have money and spend it
well (that is, let Society live on it, gorge with it, walk ankle-deep in
it), and you may be anything and do anything; you may have been an
omnibus conductor in the Strand, and you may marry a duke's daughter;
you may have been an oyster-girl in New York, and you may entertain
royalties. It is impossible to exaggerate an age of anomaly and
hyperbole. There never was an age when people were so voracious of
amusement, and so tired of it, both in one. It is a perpetual carnival
and a permanent yawn. If you can do anything to amuse us you are
safe--till we get used to you--and then you amuse no longer, and must go
to the wall. Every age has its price: what Walpole said of men must be
true of mankind. Anybody can buy the present age that will bid very high
and pay with tact as well as bullion. There is nothing it will not
pardon if it see its way to getting a new sensation out of its leniency.
Perhaps no one ought to complain. A Society with an india-rubber
conscience, no memory, and an absolute indifference to eating its own
words and making itself ridiculous, is, after all, a convenient one to
live in--if you can pay for its suffrages.

       *       *       *

If you are only well beforehand with your falsehood all will go upon
velvet; nobody ever listens to a rectification. "Is it possible?"
everybody cries with eager zest; but when they have only to say "Oh,
wasn't it so?" nobody feels any particular interest. It is the first
statement that has the swing and the success; as for explanation or
retractation--pooh! who cares to be bored?

       *       *       *

Those people with fine brains and with generous souls will never learn
that life is after all only a game--a game which will go to the
shrewdest player and the coolest. They never see this; not they; they
are caught on the edge of great passions, and swept away by them. They
cling to their affections like commanders to sinking ships, and go down
with them. They put their whole heart into the hands of others, who only
laugh and wring out their lifeblood. They take all things too vitally in
earnest. Life is to them a wonderful, passionate, pathetic, terrible
thing that the gods of love and of death shape for them. They do not see
that coolness and craft, and the tact to seize accident, and the
wariness to obtain advantage, do in reality far more in hewing out a
successful future than all the gods of Greek or Gentile. They are very
unwise. It is of no use to break their hearts for the world; they will
not change it. _La culte de l'humanité_ is the one of all others which
will leave despair as its harvest. Laugh like Rabelais, smile like
Montaigne; that is the way to take the world. It only puts to death its
Sebastians, and makes its Shelleys not sorrowful to see the boat is

       *       *       *

Society always adheres to its principles; just as a Moslem subscribes
none the less to the Koran because he may just have been blowing the
froth off his bumper of Mumm's before he goes to his mosque.

       *       *       *

Pleasantness is the soft note of this generation, just as scientific
assassination is the harsh note of it. The age is compounded of the two.
Half of it is chloroform; the other half is dynamite.

       *       *       *

You make us think, and Society dislikes thinking. You call things by
their right names, and Society hates that, though Queen Bess didn't mind
it. You trumpet our own littleness in our ear, and we know it so well
that we do not care to hear much about it. You shudder at sin, and we
have all agreed that there is no such thing as sin, only mere
differences of opinion, which, provided they don't offend us, we have no
business with: adultery is a _liaison_, lying is gossip, debt is a
momentary embarrassment, immorality is a little slip, and so forth: and
when we have arranged this pretty little dictionary of convenient
pseudonyms, it is not agreeable to have it sent flying by fierce,
dreadful, old words, that are only fit for some book that nobody ever
reads, like Milton or the Family Bible. We do not want to think. We do
not want to hear. We do not care about anything. Only give us a good
dinner and plenty of money, and let us outshine our neighbours. There is
the Nineteenth Century Gospel. My dear, if Ecclesiasticus himself came
he would preach in vain. You cannot convince people that don't want to
be convinced. We call ourselves Christians--Heaven save the mark!--but
we are only the very lowest kind of pagans. We do not believe in
anything--except that nothing matters. Well, perhaps nothing does
matter. Only one wonders why ever so many of us were all created, only
just to find _that_ out.

       *       *       *

Love to the looker-on may be blind, unwise, unworthily bestowed, a
waste, a sacrifice, a crime; yet none the less is love, alone, the one
thing that, come weal or woe, is worth the loss of every other thing;
the one supreme and perfect gift of earth, in which all common things of
daily life become transfigured and divine. And perhaps of all the many
woes that priesthoods have wrought upon humanity, none have been greater
than this false teaching, that love can ever be a sin. To the sorrow
and the harm of the world, the world's religions have all striven to
make men and women shun and deny their one angel as a peril or a shame;
but religions cannot strive against nature, and when the lovers see each
other's heaven in each other's eyes, they know the supreme truth that
one short day together is worth a lifetime's glory.

       *       *       *

Genius is like the nautilus, all sufficient for itself in its pretty
shell, quite at home in the big ocean, with no fear from any storm. But
if a wanton stone from a boat passing by break the shell, where is the
nautilus then? Drowned; just like any common creature!

       *       *       *

There are times when, even on the bravest temper, the ironical mockery,
the cruel despotism of trifling circumstances, that have made themselves
the masters of our lives, the hewers of our fate, must weigh with a
sense of involuntary bondage, against which to strive is useless.

The weird sisters were forms of awe and magnitude proportionate to the
woes they dealt out, to the destiny they wove. But the very littleness
of the daily chances that actually shape fate is, in its discordance and
its mockery, more truly terrible and most hideously solemn--it is the
little child's laugh at a frisking kitten which brings down the
avalanche, and lays waste the mountain side, or it is the cackle of the
startled geese that saves the Capitol.

To be the prey of Atropos was something at the least; and the grim _Deus
vult perdere_, uttered in the delirium of pain, at the least made the
maddened soul feel of some slender account in the sight of the gods and
in the will of Heaven. But we, who are the children of mere accident and
the sport of idlest opportunity, have no such consolation.

       *       *       *

Of course they will stone you, as village bumpkins run out and stone an
odd stray bird that they have never seen before; and the more beautiful
the plumage looks, the harder rain the stones. If the bird were a
sparrow the bumpkins would let it be.

       *       *       *

Love that remembers aught save the one beloved may be affection, but it
is not love.

       *       *       *

Ariel could not combat a leopardess; Ithuriel's spear glances pointless
from a rhinoceros' hide. To match what is low and beat it, you must
stoop, and soil your hands to cut a cudgel rough and ready. She did not
see this; and seeing it, would not have lowered herself to do it.

       *       *       *

Which is the truth, which is the madness?--when the artist, in the
sunlit ice of a cold dreamland, scorns love and adores but one art; or
when the artist, amidst the bruised roses of a garden of passion, finds
all heaven in one human heart?

       *       *       *

There is a story in an old poet's forgotten writings of a woman who was
queen when the world was young, and reigned over many lands, and loved a
captive, and set him free, and thinking to hurt him less by seeming
lowly, came down from her throne and laid her sceptre in the dust, and
passed amongst the common maidens that drew water at the well, or begged
at the city gate, and seemed as one of them, giving him all and keeping
nought herself: "so will he love me more," she thought; but he, crowned
king, thought only of the sceptre and the throne, and having those,
looked not amongst the women at the gate, and knew her not, because what
he had loved had been a queen. Thus she, self-discrowned, lost both her
lover and her kingdom. A wise man amongst the throng said to her, "Nay,
you should have kept aloof upon your golden seat and made him feel your
power to deal life or death, and fretted him long, and long kept him in
durance and in doubt, you, meanwhile, far above. For men are light
creatures as the moths are."

       *       *       *

They had lived in London and Paris all their lives, and had, before
this, heard patriotism used as a reason for a variety of things, from a
minister's keeping in office against the will of the country, to a
newspaper's writing a country into bloodshed and bankruptcy; they were
quite aware of the word's elasticity.

       *       *       *

It was the true and perfect springtide of the year, when Love walks
amongst the flowers, and comes a step nearer what it seeks with every

Without Love, spring is of all seasons cruel; more cruel than all frost
and frown of winter.

       *       *       *

In the early days of an illicit passion concealment is charming; every
secret stairway of intrigue has a sweet surprise at its close; to be in
conspiracy with one alone against all the rest of humanity is the most
seductive of seductions. Love lives best in this soft twilight, where it
only hears its own heart and one other's beat in the solitude.

But when the reverse of the medal is turned; when every step on the
stairs has been traversed and tired of, when, instead of the heart's
beat, there is but an upbraiding voice, when it is no longer _with_ one
but _from_ one that concealment is needed, then the illicit passion is
its own Nemesis, then nothing were ever drearier, wearier, more anxious,
or more fatiguing than its devious paths become, and they seem to hold
the sated wanderer in a labyrinth of which he knows, and knowing hates,
every wind, and curve, and coil, yet out of which it seems to him he
will never make his way back again into the light of wholesome day.

       *       *       *

My dear, the days of Fontenoy are gone out; everybody nowadays only
tries to get the first fire, by hook or by crook. Ours is an age of
cowardice and cuirassed cannon; chivalry is out of place in it.

       *       *       *

With a woman, the vulgarity that lies in public adulation is apt to
nauseate; at least if she be so little of a woman that she is not vain,
and so much of one that she cares for privacy. For the fame of our age
is not glory but notoriety; and notoriety is to a woman like the bull to
Pasiphae--whilst it caresses it crushes.

       *       *       *

Had she your talent the world would have heard of her. As it is, she
only enjoys herself. Perhaps the better part. Fame is a cone of smoke.
Enjoyment is a loaf of sugar.

       *       *       *

There is no such coward as the woman who toadies Society because she has
outraged Society. The bully is never brave.

"Oignez vilain il vous poindra: poignez vilain il vous oindra," is as
true of the braggart's soul still, as it used to be in the old days of
Froissart, when the proverb was coined.

       *       *       *

She was of opinion with Sganarelle, that "cinq ou six coups de bâton
entre gens qui s'aiment ne font que ragaillarder l'affection."

But, like Sganarelle also, she always premised that the right to give
the blows should be hers.

       *       *       *

She was only like any other well-dressed woman after all, and humanity
considers that when genius comes forth in the flesh the touch of the
coal from the altar should have left some visible stigmata on the lips
it has burned, as, of course anybody knows, it invariably leaves some
smirch upon the character.

Humanity feels that genius ought to wear a livery, as Jews and loose
women wore yellow in the old golden days of distinction.

"They don't even paint!" said one lady, and felt herself aggrieved.

       *       *       *

Calumny is the homage of our contemporaries, as some South Sea Islanders
spit on those they honour.

       *       *       *

Popularity has been defined as the privilege of being cheered by the
kind of people you would never allow to bow to you.

Fame may be said to be the privilege of being slandered at once by the
people who do bow to you, as well as by the people who do not.

       *       *       *

Nobody there knew at all. So everybody averred they knew for certain.
Nobody's story agreed with anybody else's, but that did not matter at
all. The world, like Joseph's father, gives the favourite coat of many
colours which the brethren rend.

       *       *       *

"Be honey, and the flies will eat you," says the old saw, but, like most
other proverbs, it will not admit of universal application. There is a
way of being honey that is thoroughly successful and extremely popular,
and constitutes a kind of armour that is bomb-proof.

       *       *       *

The longest absence is less perilous to love than the terrible trials of
incessant proximity.

       *       *       *

She forgot that love likes to preserve its illusions, and that it will
bear better all the sharpest deprivations in the world than it will the
cruel tests of an unlovely and unveiled intercourse.

She had committed the greatest error of all: she had let him be
disenchanted by familiarity. Passion will pardon rage, will survive
absence, will forgive infidelity, will even thrive on outrage, and will
often condone a crime; but when it dies of familiarity it is dead for
ever and aye.

       *       *       *

Society will believe anything rather than ever believe that Itself can
be duped.

If you have only assurance enough to rely implicitly on this, there is
hardly anything you cannot induce it to accept.

       *       *       *

Here was the secret of her success. To her nothing was little.

This temper is always popular with Society. To enjoy yourself in the
world, is, to the world, the prettiest of indirect compliments.

The chief offence of the poet, as of the philosopher, is that the world
as it is fails to satisfy them.

Society, which is after all only a conglomerate of hosts, has the host's
weakness--all its guests must smile.

The poet sighs, the philosopher yawns. Society feels that they
depreciate it. Society feels more at ease without them.

To find every one acceptable to you is to make yourself acceptable to
every one.

Hived bees get sugar because they will give back honey. All existence is
a series of equivalents.

       *       *       *

Even the discreetest friends will, like the closest-packed hold of a
ship, leak occasionally. Salt water and secrets are alike apt to ooze.

       *       *       *

The simplicity of the artist is always the stumbling-block of the artist
with the world.

       *       *       *

A woman need never dread the fiercest quarrel with her lover; the
tempest may bring sweeter weather than any it broke up, and after the
thunder the singing of birds will sound lovelier than before. Anger will
not extinguish love, nor will scorn trample it dead; jealousy will fan
its fires, and offences against it may but fasten closer the fetters
that it adores beyond all liberty. But when love dies of a worn-out
familiarity it perishes for ever and aye.

Jaded, disenchanted, wearied, indifferent, the tired passion expires of
sheer listlessness and contemptuous disillusion.

The death is slow and unperceived, but it is sure; and it is a death
that has no resurrection.

       *       *       *

There is nothing that you may not get people to believe in if you will
only tell it them loud enough and often enough, till the welkin rings
with it.

       *       *       *

What Raffaelle has left us must be to the glories he imagined as the
weaver's dye to the sunset's fire.

       *       *       *

A woman's violence is a mighty power; before it reason recoils unnerved,
justice quails appalled, and peace perishes like a burnt-up scroll; it
is a sand-storm, before which courage can do but little: the bravest man
can but fall on his face and let it rage on above him.

       *       *       *

A very trustful woman believes in her lover's fidelity with her heart; a
very vain woman believes in it with her head.

       *       *       *

From the moment that another life has any empire on ours, peace is gone.

Art spreads around us a profound and noble repose, but passion enters
it, and then art grows restless and troubled as the deep sea at the call
of the whirlwind.


A man cast forth from his home is like a ship cut loose from its anchor
and rudderless. Whatever may have been his weakness, his offences, they
cannot absolve you from your duty to watch over your husband's soul, to
be his first and most faithful friend, to stand between him and his
temptations and perils. That is the nobler side of marriage. When the
light of love is faded, and its joys are over, its duties and its
mercies remain. Because one of the twain has failed in these the other
is not acquitted of obligation.

       *       *       *

"Choose some career; make yourself some aim in life; do not fold your
talents in a napkin; in a napkin that lies on the supper-table at
Bignon's. That idle, aimless life is very attractive, I daresay, in its
way, but it must grow wearisome and unsatisfactory as years roll on. The
men of my house have never been content with it; they have always been
soldiers, statesmen, something or other beside mere nobles."

"But they have had a great position."

"Men make their own position; they cannot make a name (at least, not to
my thinking). You have that good fortune; you have a great name; you
only need, pardon me, to make your manner of life worthy of it."

"Cannot make a name? Surely in these days the beggar rides on horseback
in all the ministries and half the nobilities;"

"You mean that Hans, Pierre, or Richard becomes a count, an excellency,
or an earl? What does that change? It alters the handle; it does not
alter the saucepan. No one can be ennobled. Blood is blood; nobility can
only be inherited; it cannot be conferred by all the heralds in the
world. The very meaning and essence of nobility are descent, inherited
traditions, instincts, habits, and memories--all that is meant by
_noblesse oblige_."

       *       *       *

"Men are always like Horace," said the princess. "They admire rural
life, but they remain for all that with Augustus."

       *       *       *

I read the other day of some actresses dining off a truffled pheasant
and a sack of bonbons. That is the sort of dinner we make all the year
round, morally--metaphorically--how do you say it? It makes us thirsty,
and perhaps--I am not sure--perhaps it leaves us half starved, though we
nibble the sweetmeats, and don't know it.

"Your dinner must lack two things--bread and water."

"Yes; we never see either. It is all truffles and caramels and _vins

"There is your bread."

She glanced at the little children, two pretty, graceful little maids of
six and seven years old.

"_Ouf!_" said the Countess Branka. "They are only little bits of puff
paste, a couple of _petits fours_ baked on the boulevards. If they be
_chic_, and marry well, I for one shall ask no more of them. If ever you
have children, I suppose you will rear them on science and the

"Perhaps on the open air and Homer."

       *       *       *

Cannot you make them understand that we are not public artists to need
_réclames_, nor yet sovereigns to be compelled to submit to the
microscope? Is this the meaning of civilisation--to make privacy
impossible, to oblige every one to live under a lens?

       *       *       *

The world was much happier when distinctions and divisions were
impassable. There are no sumptuary laws now. What is the consequence?
That your _bourgeoise_ ruins her husband in wearing gowns fit only for a
duchess, and your prince imagines it makes him popular to look precisely
like a cabman or a bailiff.

       *       *       *

A great love must be as exhaustless as the ocean in its mercy, and as
profound in its comprehension.

       *       *       *

What was love if not one long forgiveness? What raised it higher than
the senses if not its infinite patience and endurance of all wrong? What
was its hope of eternal life if it had not gathered strength in it
enough to rise above human arrogance and human vengeance?

       *       *       *

There is an infinite sense of peace in those cool, vast, unworn mountain
solitudes, with the rain-mists sweeping like spectral armies over the
level lands below, and the sun-rays slanting heavenward, like the spears
of an angelic host. There is such abundance of rushing water, of deep
grass, of endless shade, of forest trees, of heather and pine, of
torrent and tarn; and beyond these are the great peaks that loom through
breaking clouds, and the clear cold air, in which the vulture wheels and
the heron sails; and the shadows are so deep, and the stillness is so
sweet, and the earth seems so green, and fresh, and silent, and strong.
Nowhere else can one rest so well; nowhere else is there so fit a refuge
for all the faiths and fancies that can find a home no longer in the
harsh and hurrying world; there is room for them all in the Austrian
forests, from the Erl-King to Ariel and Oberon.

       *       *       *

"You think any sin may be forgiven?" he said irrelevantly, with his face

"That is a very wide question. I do not think St. Augustine himself
could answer it in a word or in a moment. Forgiveness, I think, would
surely depend on repentance."

"Repentance in secret--would that avail?"

"Scarcely--would it?--if it did not attain some sacrifice. It would have
to prove its sincerity to be accepted."

"You believe in public penance?" said Sabran, with some impatience and

"Not necessarily public," she said, with a sense of perplexity at the
turn his words had taken. "But of what use is it for one to say he
repents unless in some measure he makes atonement?"

"But where atonement is impossible?"

"That could never be."

"Yes. There are crimes whose consequences can never be undone. What
then? Is he who did them shut out from all hope?"

"I am no casuist," she said, vaguely troubled. "But if no atonement were
possible I still think--nay, I am sure--a sincere and intense regret
which is, after all, what we mean by repentance, must be accepted, must
be enough."

"Enough to efface it in the eyes of one who had never sinned?"

"Where is there such a one? I thought you spoke of heaven."

"I spoke of earth. It is all we can be sure to have to do with; it is
our one poor heritage."

"I hope it is but an antechamber which we pass through, and fill with
beautiful things, or befoul with dust and blood, at our own will."

"Hardly at our own will. In your antechamber a capricious tyrant waits
us all at birth. Some come in chained; some free."

       *       *       *

"Do not compare the retreat of the soldier tired of his wounds, of the
gambler wearied by his losses, with the poet or the saint who is at
peace with himself and sees all his life long what he at least believes
to be the smile of God. Loyola and Francis d'Assisi are not the same
thing, are not on the same plane."

"What matter what brought them," she said softly, "if they reach the
same goal?"

       *       *       *

"You bade me do good at Romaris. Candidly, I see no way to do it except
in saving a crew off a wreck, which is not an occasion that presents
itself every week. I cannot benefit these people materially, since I am
poor; I cannot benefit them morally, because I have not their faith in
the things unseen, and I have not their morality in the things
tangible. They are God-fearing, infinitely patient, faithful in their
daily lives, and they reproach no one for their hard lot, cast on an
iron shore and forced to win their scanty bread at the risk of their
lives. They do not murmur either at duty or mankind. What should I say
to them? I, whose whole life is one restless impatience, one petulant
mutiny against circumstance? If I talk with them I only take them what
the world always takes into solitude--discontent. It would be a cruel
gift, yet my hand is incapable of holding out any other. It is a homely
saying that no blood comes out of a stone; so, out of a life saturated
with the ironies, the contempt, the disbelief, the frivolous
philosophies, the hopeless negations of what we call Society, there can
be drawn no water of hope and charity, for the well-head--belief--is
dried up at its source. Some pretend, indeed, to find in humanity what
they deny to exist as Deity, but I should be incapable of the illogical
exchange. It is to deny that the seed sprang from a root; it is to
replace a grand and illimitable theism by a finite and vainglorious
bathos. Of all the creeds that have debased mankind, the new creed that
would centre itself in man seems to me the poorest and the most baseless
of all. If humanity be but a _vibrion_, a conglomeration of gases, a
mere mould holding chemicals, a mere bundle of phosphorus and carbon,
how can it contain the elements of worship? what matter when or how each
bubble of it bursts? This is the weakness of all materialism when it
attempts to ally itself with duty. It becomes ridiculous. The _carpi
diem_ of the classic sensualists, the morality of the 'Satyricon' or the
'Decamerone,' are its only natural concomitants and outcome; but as yet
it is not honest enough to say this. It affects the soothsayer's long
robe, the sacerdotal frown, and is a hypocrite."

In answer she wrote back to him:

"I do not urge you to have my faith: what is the use? Goethe was right.
It is a question between a man and his own heart. No one should venture
to intrude there. But taking life even as you do, it is surely a casket
of mysteries. May we not trust that at the bottom of it, as at the
bottom of Pandora's, there may be hope? I wish again to think with
Goethe that immortality is not an inheritance, but a greatness to be
achieved like any other greatness, by courage, self-denial, and purity
of purpose--a reward allotted to the just. This is fanciful, may be, but
it is not illogical. And without being either a Christian or a
Materialist, without beholding either majesty or divinity in humanity,
surely the best emotion that our natures know--pity--must be large
enough to draw us to console where we can, and sustain where we can, in
view of the endless suffering, the continual injustice, the appalling
contrasts, with which the world is full. Whether man be the _vibrion_ or
the heir to immortality, the bundle of carbon or the care of angels, one
fact is indisputable: he suffers agonies, mental and physical, that are
wholly out of proportion to the brevity of his life, while he is too
often weighted from infancy with hereditary maladies, both of body and
of character. This is reason enough, I think, for us all to help each
other, even though we feel, as you feel, that we are as lost children,
wandering in a great darkness, with no thread or clue to guide us to the

       *       *       *

"We do not cultivate music one-half enough among the peasantry. It
lightens labour; it purifies and strengthens the home life; it sweetens
black bread. Do you remember that happy picture of Jordaens' 'Where the
old sing, the young chirp,' where the old grandfather and grandmother,
and the baby in its mother's arms, and the hale five-year-old boy, and
the rough servant, are all joining in the same melody, while the goat
crops the vine-leaves off the table? I should like to see every cottage
interior like that when the work was done. I would hang up an etching
from Jordaens where you would hang up, perhaps, the programme of

Then she walked back with him through the green sun-gleaming woods.

"I hope that I teach them content," she continued. "It is the lesson
most neglected in our day. '_Niemand will ein Schuster sein; Jedermann
ein Dichter._' It is true we are very happy in our surroundings. A
mountaineer's is such a beautiful life, so simple, healthful, hardy, and
fine; always face to face with nature. I try to teach them what an
inestimable joy that alone is. I do not altogether believe in the
prosaic views of rural life. It is true that the peasant digging his
trench sees the clod, not the sky; but then when he does lift his head
the sky is there, not the roof, not the ceiling. That is so much in
itself. And here the sky is an everlasting grandeur; clouds and domes of
snow are blent together. When the stars are out above the glaciers how
serene the night is, how majestic! even the humblest creature feels
lifted up into that eternal greatness. Then you think of the home-life
in the long winters as dreary; but it is not so. Over away there, at
Lahn, and other places on the Hallstadtersee, they do not see the sun
for five months; the wall of rock behind them shuts them from all light
of day; but they live together, they dance, they work. The young men
recite poems, and the old men tell tales of the mountains and the French
war, and they sing the homely songs of the _Schnader-hüpfeln_. Then when
winter passes, when the sun comes up again over the wall of rocks, when
they go out into the light once more, what happiness it is! One old man
said to me, 'It is like being born again!' and another said, 'Where it
is always warm and light I doubt they forget to thank God for the
sunshine;' and quite a young child said, all of his own accord, 'The
primroses live in the dusk all the winter, like us, and then when the
sun comes up we and they run out together, and the Mother of Christ has
set the water and the little birds laughing.' I would rather have the
winter of Lahn than the winter of Belleville."

       *       *       *

If the Venus de Medici could be animated into life women would only
remark that her waist was large.

       *       *       *

Tedium is the most terrible and the most powerful foe love ever

       *       *       *

"Life is after all like baccarat or billiards," he said to himself. "It
is no use winning unless there be a _galerie_ to look on and applaud."

       *       *       *

Time hung on his hands like a wearisome wallet of stones.

When all the habits of life are suddenly rent asunder, they are like a
rope cut in two. They may be knotted together clumsily, or they may be
thrown altogether aside and a new strand woven, but they will never be
the same thing again.

       *       *       *

The greatness of a great race is a thing far higher than mere pride. Its
instincts are noble and supreme, its obligations are no less than its
privileges; it is a great light which streams backward through the
darkness of the ages, and if by that light you guide not your footsteps,
then are you thrice accursed, holding as you do that lamp of honour in
your hands.

       *       *       *

Even to those who care nothing for Society, and dislike the stir and
noise of the world about them, there is still always a vague sense of
depression in the dispersion of a great party; the house seems so
strangely silent, the rooms seem so strangely empty, servants flitting
noiselessly here and there, a dropped flower, a fallen jewel, an
oppressive scent from multitudes of fading blossoms, a broken vase
perhaps, or perhaps a snapped fan--these are all that are left of the
teeming life crowded here one little moment ago. Though one may be glad
they are gone, yet there is a certain sadness in it. "_Le lendemain de
la fête_" keeps its pathos, even though the _fête_ itself has possessed
no poetry and no power to amuse.

       *       *       *

In every one of her villages she had her schools on this principle, and
they throve, and the children with them. Many of these could not read a
printed page, but all of them could read the shepherd's weather-glass in
sky and flower; all of them knew the worm that was harmful to the crops,
the beetle that was harmless in the grass; all knew a tree by a leaf, a
bird by a feather, an insect by a grub.

Modern teaching makes a multitude of gabblers. She did not think it
necessary for the little goat-herds, and dairymaids, and foresters, and
charcoal-burners, and sennerins, and carpenters, and cobblers, to study
the exact sciences or draw casts from the antique. She was of opinion,
with Pope, that "a little learning is a dangerous thing," and that a
smattering of it will easily make a man morose and discontented, whilst
it takes a very deep and lifelong devotion to it to teach a man content
with his lot. Genius, she thought, is too rare a thing to make it
necessary to construct village schools for it, and whenever or wherever
it comes upon earth, it will surely be its own master.

She did not believe in culture for little peasants who have to work for
their daily bread at the plough-tail or with the reaping-hook. She knew
that a mere glimpse of a Canaan of art and learning is cruelty to those
who never can enter into and never even can have leisure to merely gaze
on it. She thought that a vast amount of useful knowledge is consigned
to oblivion whilst children are taught to waste their time in picking up
the crumbs of a great indigestible loaf of artificial learning. She had
her scholars taught their "ABC," and that was all. Those who wished to
write were taught, but writing was not enforced. What they were made to
learn was the name and use of every plant in their own country; the
habits and ways of all animals; how to cook plain food well, and make
good bread; how to brew simples from the herbs of their fields and
woods, and how to discern the coming weather from the aspect of the
skies, the shutting-up of certain blossoms, and the time of day from
those "poor men's watches," the opening flowers. In all countries there
is a great deal of useful household and out-of-door lore that is fast
being choked out of existence under books and globes, and which, unless
it passes by word of mouth from generation to generation, is quickly and
irrevocably lost. All this lore she had cherished by her
school-children. Her boys were taught in addition any useful trade they
liked--boot-making, crampon-making, horse-shoeing, wheel-making, or
carpentry. This trade was made a pastime to each. The little maidens
learned to sew, to cook, to spin, to card, to keep fowls and sheep and
cattle in good health, and to know all poisonous plants and berries by

"I think it is what is wanted," she said. "A little peasant child does
not need to be able to talk of the corolla and the spathe, but he does
want to recognise at a glance the flower that will give him healing and
the berries that will give him death. His sister does not in the least
require to know why a kettle boils, but she does need to know when a
warm bath will be good for a sick baby or when hurtful. We want a new
generation to be helpful, to have eyes, and to know the beauty of
silence. I do not mind much whether my children reap or not. The
labourer that reads turns Socialist, because his brain cannot digest the
hard mass of wonderful facts he encounters. But I believe every one of
my little peasants, being wrecked like Crusoe, would prove as handy as

       *       *       *

"Can you inform me how it is that women possess tenacity of will in
precise proportion to the frivolity of their lives? All these
butterflies have a volition of iron."

"It is egotism. Intensely selfish people are always very decided as to
what they wish. That is in itself a great force; they do not waste their
energies in considering the good of others."

       *       *       *

"I am not like you, my dear Olga," she wrote to her relative the
Countess Brancka. "I am not easily amused. That _course effrénée_ of the
great world carries you honestly away with it; all those incessant
balls, those endless visits, those interminable conferences on your
toilettes, that continual circling of human butterflies round you, those
perpetual courtships of half a score of young men; it all diverts you.
You are never tired of it; you cannot understand any life outside its
pale. All your days, whether they pass in Paris or Petersburgh, at
Trouville, at Biarritz, or at Vienna or Scheveningen, are modelled on
the same lines; you must have excitement as you have your cup of
chocolate when you wake. What I envy you is that the excitement excites
you. When I was amidst it I was not excited; I was seldom ever diverted.
See the misfortune that it is to be born with a grave nature! I am as
serious as Marcus Antoninus. You will say that it comes of having
learned Latin and Greek. I do not think so; I fear I was born
unamusable. I only truly care about horses and trees, and they are both
grave things, though a horse can be playful enough sometimes when he is
allowed to forget his servitude. Your friends, the famous tailors, send
me admirably-chosen costumes which please that sense in me which Titians
and Vandycks do (I do not mean to be profane); but I only put them on as
the monks do their frocks. Perhaps I am very unworthy of them; at least,
I cannot talk toilette as you can with ardour a whole morning and every
whole morning of your life. You will think I am laughing at you; indeed
I am not. I envy your faculty of sitting, as I am sure you are sitting
now, in a straw chair on the shore, with a group of _boulevardiers_
around you, and a crowd making a double hedge to look at you when it is
your pleasure to pace the planks. My language is involved. I do not envy
you the faculty of doing it, of course; I could do it myself to-morrow.
I envy you the faculty of finding amusement in doing it, and finding
flattery in the double hedge."

       *       *       *

"No doubt a love of nature is a triple armour against self-love. How can
I say how right I think your system with these children? You seem not to
believe me. There is only one thing in which I differ with you; you
think the 'eyes that see' bring content. Surely not! surely not!"

"It depends on what they see. When they are wide open in the woods and
fields, when they have been taught to see how the tree-bee forms her
cell and the mole her fortress, how the warbler builds his nest for his
love and the water-spider makes his little raft, how the leaf comes
forth from the hard stem and the fungi from the rank mould, then I think
that sight is content--content in the simple life of the woodland place,
and in such delighted wonder that the heart of its own accord goes up in
peace and praise to the Creator. The printed page may teach envy,
desire, coveteousness, hatred, but the Book of Nature teaches
resignation, hope, willingness to labour and live, submission to die.
The world has gone farther and farther from peace since larger and
larger have grown its cities, and its shepherd kings are no more."

       *       *       *

She remained still, her hands folded on her knees, her face set as
though it were cast in bronze. The great bedchamber, with its hangings
of pale blue plush and its silver-mounted furniture, was dim and shadowy
in the greyness of a midwinter afternoon. Doors opened, here to the bath
and dressing chambers, there to the oratory, yonder to the apartments of
Sabran. She looked across to the last, and a shudder passed over her; a
sense of sickness and revulsion came on her.

She sat still and waited; she was too weak to go farther than this room.
She was wrapped in a long loose gown of white satin, lined and trimmed
with sable. There were black bearskins beneath her feet; the atmosphere
was warmed by hot air, and fragrant with some bowls full of forced
roses, which her women had placed there at noon. The grey light of the
fading afternoon touched the silver scrollwork of the bed, and the
silver frame of one large mirror, and fell on her folded hands and on
the glister of their rings. Her head leaned backward against the high
carved ebony of her chair. Her face was stern and bitterly cold, as that
of Maria Theresa when she signed the loss of Silesia.

He approached from his own apartments, and came timidly and with a slow
step forward. He did not dare to salute her, or go near to her; he stood
like a banished man, disgraced, a few yards from her seat.

Two months had gone by since he had seen her. When he entered he read on
her features that he must leave all hope behind.

Her whole frame shrank within her as she saw him there, but she gave no
sign of what she felt. Without looking at him she spoke, in a voice
quite firm, though it was faint from feebleness.

"I have but little to say to you, but that little is best said, not

He did not reply; his eyes were watching her with a terrible appeal, a
very agony of longing. They had not rested on her for two months. She
had been near the gates of the grave, within the shadow of death. He
would have given his life for a word of pity, a touch, a regard--and he
dared not approach her!

She dared not look at him. After that first glance, in which there had
been so much of horror, of revulsion, she did not once look towards him.
Her face had the immutability of a mask of stone; so many wretched days
and haunted nights had she spent nerving herself for this inevitable
moment that no emotion was visible in her; into her agony she had poured
her pride, and it sustained her, as the plaster poured into the dry
bones at Pompeii makes the skeleton stand erect, the ashes speak.

"After that which you have told me," she said, after a moment's silence
in which he fancied she must hear the throbbing of his heart, "you must
know that my life cannot be lived out beside yours. The law gives you
many rights, no doubt, but I believe you will not be so base as to
enforce them."

"I have no rights!" he muttered. "I am a criminal before the law. The
law will free you from me, if you choose."

"I do not choose," she said coldly; "you understand me ill. I do not
carry my wrongs or my woes to others. What you have told me is known
only to Prince Vásárhely and to the Countess Brancka. He will be silent;
he has the power to make her so. The world need know nothing. Can you
think that I shall be its informant?"

"If you divorce me"---- he murmured.

A quiver of bitter anger passed over her features, but she retained her

"Divorce? What could divorce do for me? Could it destroy the past?
Neither Church or Law can undo what you have done. Divorce would make me
feel that in the past I had been your mistress, not your wife, that is

She breathed heavily, and again pressed her hand on her breast.

"Divorce!" she repeated. "Neither priest nor judge can efface a past as
you clean a slate with a sponge! No power, human or divine, can free
_me_, purify _me_, wash your dishonoured blood from your children's

She almost lost her self-control; her lips trembled, her eyes were full
of flame, her brow was black with passion. With a violent effort she
restrained herself; invective or reproach seemed to her low and coarse
and vile.

He was silent; his greatest fear, the torture of which had harassed him
sleeping and waking ever since he had placed his secret in her hands,
was banished at her words. She would seek no divorce--the children would
not be disgraced--the world of men would not learn his shame; and yet as
he heard a deeper despair than any he had ever known came over him. She
was but as those sovereigns of old who scorned the poor tribunals of
man's justice because they held in their own might the power of so much
heavier chastisement.

"I shall not seek for a legal separation," she resumed; "that is to say,
I shall not, unless you force me to do so to protect myself from you. If
you fail to abide by the conditions I shall prescribe, then you will
compel me to resort to any means that may shelter me from your demands.
But I do not think you will endeavour to force on me conjugal rights
which you obtained over me by a fraud."

All that she desired was to end quickly the torture of this interview,
from which her courage had not permitted her to shrink. She had to
defend herself because she would not be defended by others, and she only
sought to strike swiftly and unerringly so as to spare herself and him
all needless or lingering throes. Her speech was brief, for it seemed to
her that no human language held expression deep and vast enough to
measure the wrong done to her, could she seek to give it utterance.

She would not have made a sound had any murderer stabbed her body; she
would not now show the death-wound of her soul and honour to this man
who had stabbed both to the quick. Other women would have made their
moan aloud, and cursed him. The daughter of the Szalras choked down her
heart in silence, and spoke as a judge speaks to one condemned by man
and God.

"I wish no words between us," she said, with renewed calmness. "You know
your sin; all your life has been a lie. I will keep me and mine back
from vengeance; but do not mistake--God may pardon you, I never! What I
desired to say to you is that henceforth you shall wholly abandon the
name you stole; you shall assign the land of Romaris to the people; you
shall be known only as you have been known here of late, as the Count
von Idrac. The title was mine to give, I gave it you; no wrong is done
save to my fathers, who were brave men."

He remained silent; all excuse he might have offered seemed as if from
him to her it would be but added outrage. He was her betrayer, and she
had the power to avenge betrayal; naught that she could say or do could
seem unjust or undeserved beside the enormity of her irreparable wrongs.

"The children?" he muttered faintly, in an unuttered supplication.

"They are mine," she said, always with the same unchanging calm that was
cold as the frozen earth without. "You will not, I believe, seek to
enforce your title to dispute them with me?"

He gave a gesture of denial.

He, the wrong-doer, could not realise the gulf which his betrayal had
opened betwixt himself and her. On him all the ties of their past
passion were sweet, precious, unchanged in their dominion. He could not
realise that to her all these memories were abhorred, poisoned, stamped
with ineffable shame; he could not believe that she, who had loved the
dust that his feet had brushed, could now regard him as one leprous and
accursed. He was slow to understand that his sin had driven him out of
her life for evermore.

Commonly it is the woman on whom the remembrance of love has an
enthralling power when love itself is traitor; commonly it is the man on
whom the past has little influence, and to whom its appeal is vainly
made; but here the position was reversed. He would have pleaded by it;
she refused to acknowledge it, and remained as adamant before it. His
nerve was too broken, his conscience was too heavily weighted, for him
to attempt to rebel against her decisions or sway her judgment. If she
had bidden him go out and slay himself he would gladly have obeyed.

"Once you said," he murmured timidly, "that repentance washes out all
crimes. Will you count my remorse as nothing?"

"You would have known no remorse had your secret never been discovered!"

He shrank as from a blow.

"That is not true," he said wearily. "But how can I hope you will
believe me?"

She answered nothing.

"Once you told me that there was no sin you would not pardon me!" he

She replied:

"We pardon sin; we do not pardon baseness."

She paused and put her hand to her heart; then she spoke again in that
cold, forced, measured voice, which seemed on his ear as hard and
pitiless as the strokes of an iron hammer, beating life out beneath it.

"You will leave Hohenszalras; you will go where you will; you have the
revenues of Idrac. Any other financial arrangements that you may wish to
make I will direct my lawyers to carry out. If the revenues of Idrac be
insufficient to maintain you"----

"Do not insult me--so," he murmured, with a suffocated sound in his
voice, as though some hand were clutching at his throat.

"Insult _you_!" she echoed with a terrible scorn.

She resumed with the same inflexible calmness,

"You must live as becomes the rank due to my husband. The world need
suspect nothing. There is no obligation to make it your confidante. If
any one were wronged by the usurpation of the name you took it would be
otherwise, but as it is you will lose nothing in the eyes of men;
Society will not flatter you the less. The world will only believe that
we are tired of one another, like so many. The blame will be placed on
me. You are a brilliant comedian, and can please and humour it. I am
known to be a cold, grave, eccentric woman, a recluse, of whom it will
deem it natural that you are weary. Since you allow that I have the
right to separate from you--to deal with you as with a criminal--you
will not seek to recall your existence to me. You will meet my
abstinence by the only amends you can make to me. Let me forget--as far
as I am able--let me forget that ever you have lived!"

He staggered slightly, as if under some sword-stroke from an unseen
hand. A great faintness came upon him. He had been prepared for rage,
for reproach, for bitter tears, for passionate vengeance; but this
chill, passionless, disdainful severance from him for all eternity he
had never dreamed of; it crept like the cold of frost into his very
marrow; he was speechless and mute with shame. If she had dragged him
through all the tribunals of the world she would have hurt him and
humiliated him far less. Better all the hooting gibes of the whole earth
than this one voice, so cold, so inflexible, so full of utter scorn!

Despite her bodily weakness she rose to her full height, and for the
first time looked at him.

"You have heard me," she said; "now go!"

But instead, blindly, not knowing what he did, he fell at her feet.

"But you loved me," he cried, "you loved me so well!"

The tears were coursing down his cheeks.

She drew the sables of her robe from his touch.

"Do not recall _that_," she said, with a bitter smile. "Women of my race
have killed men before now for less outrage than yours has been to me."

"Kill me!" he cried to her. "I will kiss your hand."

She was mute.

He clung to her gown with an almost convulsive supplication.

"Believe, at least, that _I_ loved _you_!" he cried, beside himself in
his misery and impotence. "Believe that, at the least!"

She turned from him.

"Sir, I have been your dupe for ten long years; I can be so no more!"

Under that intolerable insult he rose slowly, and his eyes grew blind,
and his limbs trembled, but he walked from her, and sought not again
either her pity or her pardon.

On the threshold he looked back once. She stood erect, one hand resting
upon the carved work of her high oak chair; cold, stately, motionless,
the furred velvets falling to her feet like a queen's robes.

He looked, then passed the threshold and closed the door behind him.


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