Something in his heart snapped like a fiddle-string, and he was entirely aware of this circumstance. As to her eyes, teeth, coloring, complexion, brows, height and hair, it is needless to expatiate. The most painstaking inventory of these chattels would necessarily be misleading, because the impression which they conveyed to him was that of a bewildering, but not distasteful, transfiguration of the universe, apt as a fanfare at the entrance of a queen.
But he would be Prince Fribble to the last. And so, "Wait just a moment, please," he said, "I want to harrow up your soul and freeze your blood."
Wherewith he suavely told her everything about Paul Vanderhoffen's origin and the alternatives now offered him, and she listened without comment.
"Ai! ai!" young Vanderhoffen perorated; "the situation is complete. I have not the least desire to be Grand-Duke of Saxe-Kesselberg. It is too abominably tedious. But, if I do not join in with Desmarets, who has the guy-ropes of a restoration well in hand, I must inevitably be—removed, as the knave phrases it. For as long as I live, I will be an insuperable barrier between Augustus and his Sophia. Otototoi!" he wailed, with a fine tone of tragedy, "the one impossible achievement in my life has always been to convince anybody that it was mine to dispose of as I elected!"
"Oh, man proposes——" she began, cryptically. Then he deliberated, and sulkily submitted: "But I may not even propose to abdicate. Augustus has put himself upon sworn record as an eye-witness of my hideous death. And in consequence I might keep on abdicating from now to the crack of doom, and the only course left open to him would be to treat me as an impostor."
She replied, with emphasis, "I think your cousin is a beast!"
"Ah, but the madman is in love," he pleaded. "You should not judge poor masculinity in such a state by any ordinary standards. Oh really, you don't know the Princess Sophia. She is, in sober truth, the nicest person who was ever born a princess. Why, she had actually made a mock of even that handicap, for ordinarily it is as disastrous to feminine appearance as writing books. And, oh, Lord! they will be marrying her to me, if Desmarets and I win out." Thus he forlornly ended.
"The designing minx!" Miss Claridge said, distinctly.
"Now, gracious lady, do be just a cooing pigeon and grant that when men are in love they are not any more encumbered by abstract notions about honor than if they had been womanly from birth. Come, let's be lyrical and open-minded," he urged; and he added, "No, either you are in love or else you are not in love. And nothing else will matter either way. You see, if men and women had been primarily designed to be rational creatures, there would be no explanation for their being permitted to continue in existence," he lucidly explained. "And to have grasped this fact is the pith of all wisdom."
"Oh, I am very wise." A glint of laughter shone in her eyes. "I would claim to be another Pythoness if only it did not sound so snaky and wriggling. So, from my trident—or was it a Triton they used to stand on?—I announce that you and your Augustus are worrying yourselves gray-headed over an idiotically simple problem. Now, I disposed of it offhand when I said, 'Man proposes.'"
He seemed to be aware of some one who from a considerable distance was inquiring her reasons for this statement.
"Because in Saxe-Kesselberg, as in all other German states, when a prince of the reigning house marries outside of the mediatized nobility he thereby forfeits his right of succession. It has been done any number of times. Why, don't you see, Mr. Vanderhoffen? Conceding you ever do such a thing, your cousin Augustus would become at once the legal heir. So you must marry. It is the only way, I think, to save you from regal incarceration and at the same time to reassure the Prince of Lueminster—that creature's father—that you have not, and never can have, any claim which would hold good in law. Then Duke Augustus could peaceably espouse his Sophia and go on reigning—— And, by the way, I have seen her picture often, and if that is what you call beauty——" Miss Claridge did not speak this last at least with any air of pointing out the self-evident.
And, "I believe," he replied, "that all this is actually happening. I might have known fate meant to glut her taste for irony."
"But don't you see? You have only to marry anybody outside of the higher nobility—and just as a makeshift——" She had drawn closer in the urgency of her desire to help him. An infinite despair and mirth as well was kindled by her nearness. And the man was insane and dimly knew as much.
And so, "I see," he answered. "But, as it happens, I cannot marry any woman, because I love a particular woman. At least, I suppose she isn't anything but just a woman. That statement," he announced, "is a formal tribute paid by what I call my intellect to what the vulgar call the probabilities. The rest of me has no patience whatever with such idiotic blasphemy."
She said, "I think I understand." And this surprised him, coming as it did from her whom he had always supposed to be the fiancee of Lord Brudenel's title and bank-account.
"And, well!"—he waved his hands—"either as tutor or as grand-duke, this woman is unattainable, because she has been far too carefully reared"—and here he frenziedly thought of that terrible matron whom, as you know, he had irreverently likened to a crocodile—"either to marry a pauper or to be contented with a left-handed alliance. And I love her. And so"—he shrugged—"there is positively nothing left to do save sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings."
She said, "Oh, and you mean it! You are speaking the plain truth!" A change had come into her lovely face which would have made him think it even lovelier had not that contingency been beyond conception.
And Mildred Claridge said, "It is not fair for dreamers such as you to let a woman know just how he loves her. That is not wooing. It is bullying."
His lips were making a variety of irrational noises. And he was near to her. Also he realized that he had never known how close akin were fear and joy, so close the two could mingle thus, and be quite undistinguishable. And then repentance smote him.
"I am contemptible!" he groaned. "I had no right to trouble you with my insanities. Indeed I had not ever meant to let you guess how mad I was. But always I have evaded my responsibilities. So I remain Prince Fribble to the last."
"Oh, but I knew, I have always known." She held her eyes away from him. "And I wrote to Lord Brudenel only yesterday releasing him from his engagement."
And now without uncertainty or haste Paul Vanderhoffen touched her cheek and raised her face, so that he saw it plainly in the rising twilight, and all its wealth of tenderness newborn. And what he saw there frightened him.
For the girl loved him! He felt himself to be, as most men do, a swindler when he comprehended this preposterous fact; and, in addition, he thought of divers happenings, such as shipwrecks, holocausts and earthquakes, which might conceivably have appalled him, and understood that he would never in his life face any sense of terror as huge as was this present sweet and illimitable awe.
And then he said, "You know that what I hunger for is impossible. There are so many little things, like common-sense, to be considered. For this is just a matter which concerns you and Paul Vanderhoffen—a literary hack, a stuttering squeak-voiced ne'er-do-well, with an acquired knack for scribbling verses that are feeble-minded enough for Annuals and Keepsake Books, and so fetch him an occasional guinea. For, my dear, the verses I write of my own accord are not sufficiently genteel to be vended in Paternoster Row; they smack too dangerously of human intelligence. So I am compelled, perforce, to scribble such jingles as I am ashamed to read, because I must write something. . . ." Paul Vanderhoffen shrugged, and continued, in tones more animated: "There will be no talk of any grand-duke. Instead, there will be columns of denunciation and tittle-tattle in every newspaper—quite as if you, a baronet's daughter, had run away with a footman. And you will very often think wistfully of Lord Brudenel's fine house when your only title is—well, Princess of Grub Street, and your realm is a garret. And for a while even to-morrow's breakfast will be a problematical affair. It is true Lord Lansdowne has promised me a registrarship in the Admiralty Court, and I do not think he will fail me. But that will give us barely enough to live on—with strict economy, which is a virtue that neither of us knows anything about. I beg you to remember that—you who have been used to every luxury! you who really were devised that you might stand beside an emperor and set tasks for him. In fine, you know——"
And Mildred Claridge said, "I know that, quite as I observed, man proposes—when he has been sufficiently prodded by some one who, because she is an idiot—And that is why I am not blushing—very much——"
"Your coloring is not—repellent." His high-pitched pleasant voice, in spite of him, shook now with more than its habitual suggestion of a stutter. "What have you done to me, my dear?" he said. "Why can't I jest at this . . . as I have always done at everything——?"
"Boy, boy!" she said; "laughter is excellent. And wisdom too is excellent. Only I think that you have laughed too much, and I have been too shrewd—But now I know that it is better to be a princess in Grub Street than to figure at Ranelagh as a good-hearted fool's latest purchase. For Lord Brudenel is really very good-natured," she argued, "and I did like him, and mother was so set upon it—and he was rich—and I honestly thought——"
"And now?" he said.
"And now I know," she answered happily.
They looked at each other for a little while. Then he took her hand, prepared in turn for self-denial.
"The Household Review wants me to 'do' a series on famous English bishops," he reported, humbly. "I had meant to refuse, because it would all have to be dull High-Church twaddle. And the English Gentleman wants some rather outrageous lying done in defense of the Corn Laws. You would not despise me too much—would you, Mildred?—if I undertook it now. I really have no choice. And there is plenty of hackwork of that sort available to keep us going until more solvent days, when I shall have opportunity to write something quite worthy of you."
"For the present, dear, it would be much more sensible, I think, to 'do' the bishops and the Corn Laws. You see, that kind of thing pays very well, and is read by the best people; whereas poetry, of course— But you can always come back to the verse-making, you know——"
"If you ever let me," he said, with a flash of prescience. "And I don't believe you mean to let me. You are your mother's daughter, after all! Nefarious woman, you are planning, already, to make a responsible member of society out of me! and you will do it, ruthlessly! Such is to be Prince Fribble's actual burial—in his own private carriage, with a receipted tax-bill in his pocket!"
"What nonsense you poets talk!" the girl observed. But to him, forebodingly, that familiar statement seemed to lack present application.
THE LADY OF ALL OUR DREAMS
"In JOHN CHARTERIS appeared a man with an inborn sense of the supreme interest and the overwhelming emotional and spiritual relevancy of human life as it is actually and obscurely lived; a man with unmistakable creative impulses and potentialities; a man who, had he lived in a more mature and less self-deluding community—a community that did not so rigorously confine its interest in facts to business, and limit its demands upon art to the supplying of illusions—might humbly and patiently have schooled his gifts to the service of his vision. . . . As it was, he accepted defeat and compromised half-heartedly with commercialism."
And men unborn will read of Heloise, And Ruth, and Rosamond, and Semele, When none remembers your name's melody Or rhymes your name, enregistered with these.
And will my name wake moods as amorous As that of Abelard or Launcelot Arouses? be recalled when Pyramus And Tristram are unrhymed of and forgot?— Time's laughter answers, who accords to us More gracious fields, wherein we harvest—what?
JOHN CHARTERIS. Torrismond's Envoi, in Ashtaroth's Lackey.
THE LADY OF ALL OUR DREAMS
"Our distinguished alumnus," after being duly presented as such, had with vivacity delivered much the usual sort of Commencement Address. Yet John Charteris was in reality a trifle fagged.
The afternoon train had been vexatiously late. The little novelist had found it tedious to interchange inanities with the committee awaiting him at the Pullman steps. Nor had it amused him to huddle into evening-dress, and hasten through a perfunctory supper in order to reassure his audience at half-past eight precisely as to the unmitigated delight of which he was now conscious.
Nevertheless, he alluded with enthusiasm to the arena of life, to the dependence of America's destiny upon the younger generation, to the enviable part King's College had without exception played in history, and he depicted to Fairhaven the many glories of Fairhaven—past, present and approaching—in superlatives that would hardly have seemed inadequate if applied to Paradise. His oration, in short, was of a piece with the amiable bombast that the college students and Fairhaven at large were accustomed to applaud at every Finals—the sort of linguistic debauch that John Charteris himself remembered to have applauded as an undergraduate more years ago than he cared to acknowledge.
Pauline Romeyne had sat beside him then—yonder, upon the fourth bench from the front, where now another boy with painstakingly plastered hair was clapping hands. There was a girl on the right of this boy, too. There naturally would be. Mr. Charteris as he sat down was wondering if Pauline was within reach of his voice? and if she were, what was her surname nowadays?
Then presently the exercises were concluded, and the released auditors arose with an outwelling noise of multitudinous chatter, of shuffling feet, of rustling programs. Many of Mr. Charteris' audience, though, were contending against the general human outflow and pushing toward the platform, for Fairhaven was proud of John Charteris now that his colorful tales had risen, from the semi-oblivion of being cherished merely by people who cared seriously for beautiful things, to the distinction of being purchasable in railway stations; so that, in consequence, Fairhaven wished both to congratulate him and to renew acquaintanceship.
He, standing there, alert and quizzical, found it odd to note how unfamiliar beaming faces climbed out of the hurly-burly of retreating backs, to say, "Don't you remember me? I'm so-and-so." These were the people whom he had lived among once, and some of these had once been people whom he loved. Now there was hardly any one whom at a glance he would have recognized.
Nobody guessed as much. He was adjudged to be delightful, cordial, "and not a bit stuck-up, not spoiled at all, you know." To appear this was the talisman with which he banteringly encountered the universe.
But John Charteris, as has been said, was in reality a trifle fagged. When everybody had removed to the Gymnasium, where the dancing was to be, and he had been delightful there, too, for a whole half-hour, he grasped with avidity at his first chance to slip away, and did so under cover of a riotous two-step.
He went out upon the Campus.
He found this lawn untenanted, unless you chose to count the marble figure of Lord Penniston, made aerial and fantastic by the moonlight, standing as it it were on guard over the College. Mr. Charteris chose to count him. Whimsically, Mr. Charteris reflected that this battered nobleman's was the one familiar face he had exhumed in all Fairhaven. And what a deal of mirth and folly, too, the old fellow must have witnessed during his two hundred and odd years of sentry-duty! On warm, clear nights like this, in particular, when by ordinary there were only couples on the Campus, each couple discreetly remote from any of the others. Then Penniston would be aware of most portentous pauses (which a delectable and lazy conference of leaves made eloquent) because of many unfinished sentences. "Oh, YOU know what I mean, dear!" one would say as a last resort. And she-why, bless her heart! of course, she always did. . . . Heigho, youth's was a pleasant lunacy. . . .
Thus Charteris reflected, growing drowsy. She said, "You spoke very well to-night. Is it too late for congratulations?"
Turning, Mr. Charteris remarked, "As you are perfectly aware, all that I vented was just a deal of skimble-scamble stuff, a verbal syllabub of balderdash. No, upon reflection, I think I should rather describe it as a conglomeration of piffle, patriotism and pyrotechnics. Well, Madam Do-as-you-would-be-done-by, what would you have? You must give people what they want."
It was characteristic that he faced Pauline Romeyne—or was it still Romeyne? he wondered—precisely as if it had been fifteen minutes, rather than as many years, since they had last spoken together.
"Must one?" she asked. "Oh, yes, I know you have always thought that, but I do not quite see the necessity of it."
She sat upon the bench beside Lord Penniston's square marble pedestal. "And all the while you spoke I was thinking of those Saturday nights when your name was up for an oration or a debate before the Eclectics, and you would stay away and pay the fine rather than brave an audience."
"The tooth of Time," he reminded her, "has since then written wrinkles on my azure brow. The years slip away fugacious, and Time that brings forth her children only to devour them grins most hellishly, for Time changes all things and cultivates even in herself an appreciation of irony,—and, therefore, why shouldn't I have changed a trifle? You wouldn't have me put on exhibition as a lusus naturae?"
"Oh, but I wish you had not altered so entirely!" Pauline sighed.
"At least, you haven't," he declared. "Of course, I would be compelled to say so, anyhow. But in this happy instance courtesy and veracity come skipping arm-in-arm from my elated lips." And, indeed, it seemed to him that Pauline was marvelously little altered. "I wonder now," he said, and cocked his head, "I wonder now whose wife I am talking to?"
"No, Jack, I never married," she said quietly.
"It is selfish of me," he said, in the same tone, "but I am glad of that."
And so they sat a while, each thinking.
"I wonder," said Pauline, with that small plaintive voice which Charteris so poignantly remembered, "whether it is always like this? Oh, do the Overlords of Life and Death ALWAYS provide some obstacle to prevent what all of us have known in youth was possible from ever coming true?"
And again there was a pause which a delectable and lazy conference of leaves made eloquent.
"I suppose it is because they know that if it ever did come true, we would be gods like them." The ordinary associates of John Charteris, most certainly, would not have suspected him to be the speaker. "So they contrive the obstacle, or else they send false dreams—out of the gates of horn—and make the path smooth, very smooth, so that two dreamers may not be hindered on their way to the divorce-courts."
"Yes, they are jealous gods! oh, and ironical gods also! They grant the Dream, and chuckle while they grant it, I think, because they know that later they will be bringing their playthings face to face—each married, fat, inclined to optimism, very careful of decorum, and perfectly indifferent to each other. And then they get their fore-planned mirth, these Overlords of Life and Death. 'We gave you,' they chuckle, 'the loveliest and greatest thing infinity contains. And you bartered it because of a clerkship or a lying maxim or perhaps a finger-ring.' I suppose that they must laugh a great deal."
"Eh, what? But then you never married?" For masculinity in argument starts with the word it has found distasteful.
"Nor I." And his tone implied that the two facts conjoined proved much.
"Miss Willoughby——?" she inquired.
Now, how in heaven's name, could a cloistered Fairhaven have surmised his intention of proposing on the first convenient opportunity to handsome, well-to-do Anne Willoughby? He shrugged his wonder off. "Oh, people will talk, you know. Let any man once find a woman has a tongue in her head, and the stage-direction is always 'Enter Rumor, painted full of tongues.'"
Pauline did not appear to have remarked his protest. "Yes,—in the end you will marry her. And her money will help, just as you have contrived to make everything else help, toward making John Charteris comfortable. She is not very clever, but she will always worship you, and so you two will not prove uncongenial. That is your real tragedy, if I could make you comprehend."
"So I am going to develop into a pig," he said, with relish,—"a lovable, contented, unambitious porcine, who is alike indifferent to the Tariff, the importance of Equal Suffrage and the market-price of hams, for all that he really cares about is to have his sty as comfortable as may be possible. That is exactly what I am going to develop into,—now, isn't it?" And John Charteris, sitting, as was his habitual fashion, with one foot tucked under him, laughed cheerily. Oh, just to be alive (he thought) was ample cause for rejoicing! and how deliciously her eyes, alert with slumbering fires, were peering through the moon-made shadows of her brows!
"Well——! something of the sort." Pauline was smiling, but restrainedly, and much as a woman does in condoning the naughtiness of her child. "And, oh, if only——"
"Why, precisely. 'If only!' quotha. Why, there you word the key-note, you touch the cornerstone, you ruthlessly illuminate the mainspring, of an intractable unfeeling universe. For instance, if only
You were the Empress of Ayre and Skye, And I were Ahkond of Kong, We could dine every day on apple-pie, And peddle potatoes, and sleep in a sty, And people would say when we came to die, 'They never did anything wrong.'
But, as it is, our epitaphs will probably be nothing of the sort. So that there lurks, you see, much virtue in this 'if only.'"
Impervious to nonsense, she asked, "And have I not earned the right to lament that you are changed?"
"I haven't robbed more than six churches up to date," he grumbled. "What would you have?"
The answer came, downright, and, as he knew, entirely truthful: "I would have had you do all that you might have done."
But he must needs refine. "Why, no—you would have made me do it, wrung out the last drop. You would have bullied me and shamed me into being all that I might have been. I see that now." He spoke as if in wonder, with quickening speech. "Pauline, I haven't been entirely not worth while. Oh, yes, I know! I know I haven't written five-act tragedies which would be immortal, as you probably expected me to do. My books are not quite the books I was to write when you and I were young. But I have made at worst some neat, precise and joyous little tales which prevaricate tenderly about the universe and veil the pettiness of human nature with screens of verbal jewelwork. It is not the actual world they tell about, but a vastly superior place where the Dream is realized and everything which in youth we knew was possible comes true. It is a world we have all glimpsed, just once, and have not ever entered, and have not ever forgotten. So people like my little tales. . . . Do they induce delusions? Oh, well, you must give people what they want, and literature is a vast bazaar where customers come to purchase everything except mirrors."
She said soberly, "You need not make a jest of it. It is not ridiculous that you write of beautiful and joyous things because there was a time when living was really all one wonderful adventure, and you remember it."
"But, oh, my dear, my dear! such glum discussions are so sadly out-of-place on such a night as this," he lamented. "For it is a night of pearl-like radiancies and velvet shadows and delicate odors and big friendly stars that promise not to gossip, whatever happens. It is a night that hungers, and all its undistinguishable little sounds are voicing the night's hunger for masks and mandolins, for rope-ladders and balconies and serenades. It is a night . . . a night wherein I gratefully remember so many beautiful sad things that never happened . . . to John Charteris, yet surely happened once upon a time to me . . ."
"I think that I know what it is to remember—better than you do, Jack. But what do you remember?"
"In faith, my dear, the most Bedlamitish occurrences! It is a night that breeds deplorable insanities, I warn you. For I seem to remember how I sat somewhere, under a peach-tree, in clear autumn weather, and was content; but the importance had all gone out of things; and even you did not seem very important, hardly worth lying to, as I spoke lightly of my wasted love for you, half in hatred, and—yes, still half in adoration. For you were there, of course. And I remember how I came to you, in a sinister and brightly lighted place, where a horrible, staring frail old man lay dead at your feet; and you had murdered him; and heaven did not care, and we were old, and all our lives seemed just to end in futile tangle-work. And, again, I remember how we stood alone, with visible death crawling lazily toward us, as a big sullen sea rose higher and higher; and we little tinseled creatures waited, helpless, trapped and yearning. . . . There is a boat in that picture; I suppose it was deeply laden with pirates coming to slit our throats from ear to ear. I have forgotten that part, but I remember the tiny spot of courtplaster just above your painted lips. . . . Such are the jumbled pictures. They are bred of brain-fag, no doubt; yet, whatever be their lineage," said Charteris, happily, "they render glum discussion and platitudinous moralizing quite out of the question. So, let's pretend, Pauline, that we are not a bit more worldly-wise than those youngsters who are frisking yonder in the Gymnasium—for, upon my word, I dispute if we have ever done anything to suggest that we are. Don't let's be cowed a moment longer by those bits of paper with figures on them which our too-credulous fellow-idiots consider to be the only almanacs. Let's have back yesterday, let's tweak the nose of Time intrepidly." Then Charteris caroled:
"For Yesterday! for Yesterday! I cry a reward for a Yesterday Now lost or stolen or gone astray, With all the laughter of Yesterday!"
"And how slight a loss was laughter," she murmured—still with the vague and gentle eyes of a day-dreamer—"as set against all that we never earned in youth, and so will never earn."
He inadequately answered "Bosh!" and later, "Do you remember——?" he began.
Yes, she remembered that, it developed. And "Do you remember——?" she in turn was asking later. It was to seem to him in retrospection that neither for the next half-hour began a sentence without this formula. It was as if they sought to use it as a master-word wherewith to reanimate the happinesses and sorrows of their common past, and as if they found the charm was potent to awaken the thin, powerless ghosts of emotions that were once despotic. For it was as if frail shadows and half-caught echoes were all they could evoke, it seemed to Charteris; and yet these shadows trooped with a wild grace, and the echoes thrilled him with the sweet and piercing surprise of a bird's call at midnight or of a bugle heard in prison.
Then twelve o'clock was heralded by the College bell, and Pauline arose as though this equable deep-throated interruption of the music's levity had been a signal. John Charteris saw her clearly now; and she was beautiful.
"I must go. You will not ever quite forget me, Jack. Such is my sorry comfort." It seemed to Charteris that she smiled as in mockery, and yet it was a very tender sort of derision. "Yes, you have made your books. You have done what you most desired to do. You have got all from life that you have asked of life. Oh, yes, you have got much from life. One prize, though, Jack, you missed."
He, too, had risen, quiet and perfectly sure of himself. "I haven't missed it. For you love me."
This widened her eyes. "Did I not always love you, Jack? Yes, even when you went away forever, and there were no letters, and the days were long. Yes, even knowing you, I loved you, John Charteris."
"Oh, I was wrong, all wrong," he cried; "and yet there is something to be said upon the other side, as always. . . ." Now Charteris was still for a while. The little man's chin was uplifted so that it was toward the stars he looked rather than at Pauline Romeyne, and when he spoke he seemed to meditate aloud. "I was born, I think, with the desire to make beautiful books—brave books that would preserve the glories of the Dream untarnished, and would re-create them for battered people, and re-awaken joy and magnanimity." Here he laughed, a little ruefully. "No, I do not think I can explain this obsession to any one who has never suffered from it. But I have never in my life permitted anything to stand in the way of my fulfilling this desire to serve the Dream by re-creating it for others with picked words, and that has cost me something. Yes, the Dream is an exacting master. My books, such as they are, have been made what they are at the dear price of never permitting myself to care seriously for anything else. I might not dare to dissipate my energies by taking any part in the drama I was attempting to re-write, because I must so jealously conserve all the force that was in me for the perfection of my lovelier version. That may not be the best way of making books, but it is the only one that was possible for me. I had so little natural talent, you see," said Charteris, wistfully, "and I was anxious to do so much with it. So I had always to be careful. It has been rather lonely, my dear. Now, looking back, it seems to me that the part I have played in all other people's lives has been the role of a tourist who enters a cafe chantant, a fortress, or a cathedral, with much the same forlorn sense of detachment, and observes what there is to see that may be worth remembering, and takes a note or two, perhaps, and then leaves the place forever. Yes, that is how I served the Dream and that is how I got my books. They are very beautiful books, I think, but they cost me fifteen years of human living and human intimacy, and they are hardly worth so much."
He turned to her, and his voice changed. "Oh, I was wrong, all wrong, and chance is kindlier than I deserve. For I have wandered after unprofitable gods, like a man blundering through a day of mist and fog, and I win home now in its golden sunset. I have laughed very much, my dear, but I was never happy until to-night. The Dream, as I now know, is not best served by making parodies of it, and it does not greatly matter after all whether a book be an epic or a directory. What really matters is that there is so much faith and love and kindliness which we can share with and provoke in others, and that by cleanly, simple, generous living we approach perfection in the highest and most lovely of all arts. . . . But you, I think, have always comprehended this. My dear, if I were worthy to kneel and kiss the dust you tread in I would do it. As it happens, I am not worthy. Pauline, there was a time when you and I were young together, when we aspired, when life passed as if it were to the measures of a noble music—a heart-wringing, an obdurate, an intolerable music, it might be, but always a lofty music. One strutted, no doubt—it was because one knew oneself to be indomitable. Eh, it is true I have won all I asked of life, very horribly true. All that I asked, poor fool! oh, I am weary of loneliness, and I know now that all the phantoms I have raised are only colorless shadows which belie the Dream, and they are hateful to me. I want just to recapture that old time we know of, and we two alone. I want to know the Dream again, Pauline,—the Dream which I had lost, had half forgotten, and have so pitifully parodied. I want to know the Dream again, Pauline, and you alone can help me."
"Oh, if I could! if even I could now, my dear!" Pauline Romeyne left him upon a sudden, crying this. And "So!" said Mr. Charteris.
He had been deeply shaken and very much in earnest; but he was never the man to give for any lengthy while too slack a rein to emotion; and so he now sat down upon the bench and lighted a cigarette and smiled. Yet he fully recognized himself to be the most enviable of men and an inhabitant of the most glorious world imaginable—a world wherein he very assuredly meant to marry Pauline Romeyne say, in the ensuing September. Yes, that would fit in well enough, although, of course, he would have to cancel the engagement to lecture in Milwaukee. . . . How lucky, too, it was that he had never actually committed himself with Anne Willoughby! for while money was an excellent thing to have, how infinitely less desirable it was to live perked up in golden sorrow than to feed flocks upon the Grampian Hills, where Freedom from the mountain height cried, "I go on forever, a prince can make a belted knight, and let who will be clever. . . ."
"—and besides, you'll catch your death of cold," lamented Rudolph Musgrave, who was now shaking Mr. Charteris' shoulder.
"Eh, what? Oh, yes, I daresay I was napping," the other mumbled. He stood and stretched himself luxuriously. "Well, anyhow, don't be such an unmitigated grandmother. You see, I have a bit of rather important business to attend to. Which way is Miss Romeyne?"
"Pauline Romeyne? why, but she married old General Ashmeade, you know. She was the gray-haired woman in purple who carried out her squalling brat when Taylor was introducing you, if you remember. She told me, while the General was getting the horses around, how sorry she was to miss your address, but they live three miles out, and Mrs. Ashmeade is simply a slave to the children. . . . Why, what in the world have you been dreaming about?"
"Eh, what? Oh, yes, I daresay I was only napping," Mr. Charteris observed. He was aware that within they were still playing a riotous two-step.
BALLAD OF PLAGIARY
"Freres et matres, vous qui cultivez"—PAUL VERVILLE.
Hey, my masters, lords and brothers, ye that till the fields of rhyme, Are ye deaf ye will not hearken to the clamor of your time?
Still ye blot and change and polish—vary, heighten and transpose— Old sonorous metres marching grandly to their tranquil close.
Ye have toiled and ye have fretted; ye attain perfected speech: Ye have nothing new to utter and but platitudes to preach.
And your rhymes are all of loving, as within the old days when Love was lord of the ascendant in the horoscopes of men.
Still ye make of love the utmost end and scope of all your art; And, more blind than he you write of, note not what a modest part
Loving now may claim in living, when we have scant time to spare, Who are plundering the sea-depths, taking tribute of the air,—
Whilst the sun makes pictures for us; since to-day, for good or ill, Earth and sky and sea are harnessed, and the lightnings work our will.
Hey, my masters, all these love-songs by dust-hidden mouths were sung That ye mimic and re-echo with an artful-artless tongue,—
Sung by poets close to nature, free to touch her garments' hem Whom to-day ye know not truly; for ye only copy them.
Them ye copy—copy always, with your backs turned to the sun, Caring not what man is doing, noting that which man has done.
We are talking over telephones, as Shakespeare could not talk; We are riding out in motor-cars where Homer had to walk;
And pictures Dante labored on of mediaeval Hell The nearest cinematograph paints quicker, and as well.
But ye copy, copy always;—and ye marvel when ye find This new beauty, that new meaning,—while a model stands behind,
Waiting, young and fair as ever, till some singer turn and trace Something of the deathless wonder of life lived in any place.
Hey, my masters, turn from piddling to the turmoil and the strife! Cease from sonneting, my brothers; let us fashion songs from life.
Thus I wrote ere Percie passed me. . . . Then did I epitomize All life's beauty in one poem, and make haste to eulogize Quite the fairest thing life boasts of, for I wrote of Percie's eyes.
EXPLICIT DECAS POETARUM