Glaucus obeyed no more vicious dictates when he wandered into the dissipations of his time that the exhilarating voices of youth and health. His heart never was corrupted. Of far more penetration than Clodius and others of his gay companions deemed, he saw their design to prey upon his riches and his youth; but he despised wealth save as the means of enjoyment, and youth was the great sympathy that united him to them. To him the world was one vast prison to which the sovereign of Rome was the imperial gaoler, and the very virtues which, in the free days of Athens, would have made him ambitious, in the slavery of earth made him inactive and supine.
"Tell me, Clodius," said the Athenian at last, "hast thou ever been in love?"
"Yes, very often."
"He who has loved often," answered Glaucus, "has loved never."
"Art thou, then, soberly and earnestly in love? Hast thou that feeling which the poets describe—a feeling which makes us neglect our suppers, forswear the theatre, and write elegies? I should never have thought it. You dissemble well."
"I am not far gone enough for that," returned Glaucus, smiling. "In fact, I am not in love; but I could be if there but be occasion to see the object."
"Shall I guess the object? Is it not Diomed's daughter? She adores you, and does not affect to conceal it. She is both handsome and rich. She will bind the door-post of her husband with golden fillets."
"No, I do not desire to sell myself. Diomed's daughter is handsome, I grant; and at one time, had she not been the grandchild of a freedman, I might have—yet, no—she carries all her beauty in her face; her manners are not maiden-like, and her mind knows no culture save that of pleasure."
"You are ungrateful. Tell me, then, who is the fortunate virgin."
"You shall hear, my Clodius. Several months ago I was sojourning at Naples, a city utterly to my own heart. One day I entered the temple of Minerva to offer up my prayers, not for myself more than for the city on which Pallas smiles no longer. The temple was empty and deserted. The recollections of Athens crowded fast and meltingly upon me. Imagining myself still alone, my prayer gushed from my heart to my lips, and I wept as I prayed. I was startled in the midst of my devotions, however, by a deep sigh. I turned suddenly, and just behind me was a female. She had raised her veil also in prayer, and when our eyes met, methought a celestial ray shot from those dark and smiling orbs at once into my soul.
"Never, my Clodius, have I seen mortal face more exquisitely moulded. A certain melancholy softened, and yet elevated, its expression. Tears were rolling down her eyes. I guessed at once that she was of Athenian lineage. I spoke to her, though with a faltering voice. 'Art thou not, too, Athenian?' said I. At the sound of my voice she blushed, and half drew her veil across her face. 'My forefathers' ashes,' she said, 'repose by the waters of Ilyssus; my birth is of Naples; but my heart, as my lineage, is Athenian.'
"'Let us, then,' said I, 'make our offerings together!' And as the priest now appeared, we stood side by side, and so followed the ceremonial prayer. Together we touched the knees of the goddess; together we laid our olive garlands on the altar. Silently we left the temple, and I was about to ask her where she dwelt, when a youth, whose features resembled hers, took her by the hand. She turned and bade me farewell, the crowd parted us, and I saw her no more; nor when I returned to Naples after a brief absence at Athens, was I able to discover any clue to my lost country-woman. So, hoping to lose in gaiety all remembrance of that beautiful apparition, I hastened to plunge myself amidst the luxuries of Pompeii. This is all my history, I do not love but I remember and regret."
So said Glaucus. But that very night, in a house at Pompeii, whither she had come from Naples during his absence, Glaucus came face to face once more with the beautiful lone, the object of his dreams. And no longer was he able to say, "I do not love."
II.—Arbaces, the Egyptian
Amongst the wealthy dwellers in Pompeii was one who lived apart, and was at once an object of suspicion and fear. The riches of this man, who was known as Arbaces, the Egyptian, enabled him to gratify to the utmost the passions which governed him—the passion of sensual indulgence and the blind force which impelled him to seek relief from physical satiety in the pursuit of that occult knowledge which he regarded as the heritage of his race.
In Naples, Arbaces had known the parents of Ione and her brother Apaecides, and it was under his guardianship that they had come to Pompeii. The confidence which, before their death, their parents had reposed in the Egyptian was in turn fully given to him by lone and her brother. For Apaecides the Egyptian felt nothing but contempt; the youth was to him but an instrument that might be used by him in bending lone to his will. But the mind of Ione, no less than the beauty of her form, appealed to Arbaces. With her by his side, his willing slave, he saw no limit to the heights his ambition might soar to. He sought primarily to impress her with his store of unfamiliar knowledge. She, in turn, admired him for his learning, and felt grateful to him for his guardianship. Apaecides, docile and mild, with a soul peculiarly alive to religious fervour, Arbaces placed amongst the priests of Isis, and under the special care of a creature of his own, named Calenus. It pleased his purpose best, where Ione was concerned, to leave her awhile surrounded by the vain youth of Pompeii, so that he might gain by comparison.
It fell not within Arbaces' plans to show himself too often to his ward. Consequently it was some time before he became aware of the warmth of the friendship that was growing up between Ione and the handsome Greek. He knew not of their evening excursions on the placid sea, of their nightly meetings at Ione's dwelling, till these had become regular happenings in their daily lives. But one day he surprised them together, and his eyes were suddenly opened. No sooner had the Greek departed than the Egyptian sought to poison Ione's mind against him by exaggerating his love of pleasure and by unscrupulously describing him as making light of Ione's love.
Following up the advantage he gained by this appeal to her pride, Arbaces reminded Ione that she had never seen the interior of his home. It might, he said, amuse her. "Devote then," he went on, "to the austere friend of your youth one of these bright summer evenings, and let me boast that my gloomy mansion has been honoured with the presence of the admired Ione."
Unconscious of the pollutions of the mansion, of the danger that awaited her, Ione readily assented to the proposal. But there was one who, by accident, had become aware of the nature of the spells cast by Arbaces upon his visitors, and who was to be the humble means of saving lone from his toils. This was the blind flower-girl Nydia.
Of Thessalian extraction, and gentle nurture, Nydia had been stolen and sold into the slavery of an ex-gladiator named Burbo, a relative of the false priest Calenus. To save her from the cruelty of Burbo, Glaucus had purchased her, and, in return, the blind girl had become devoted to him—so devoted that her gentle heart was torn when he made it plain to her that his action was prompted by mere natural kindness of heart, and that it was his purpose to send her to Ione.
But she cast all feeling of jealousy aside when she heard of Ione's visit to the Egyptian, and quickly apprised Glaucus and Apaecides of the fair Athenian's peril.
On her arrival, Arbaces greeted Ione with deep respect. But he found it harder than he thought to resist the charm of her presence in his house, and in a moment of forgetful passion he declared his love for her. "Arbaces," he declared, "shall have no ambition save the pride of obeying thee—Ione. Ione, do not reject my love!" And as he spoke he knelt before her.
Alone, and in the grip of this singular and powerful man, Ione was not yet terrified; the respect of his language, the softness of his voice, reassured her; and in her own purity she felt protection. But she was confused, astonished. It was some moments before she could recover the power of reply.
"Rise, Arbaces," said she at length. "Rise! and if thou art serious, if thy language be in earnest——"
"If——" said he tenderly.
"Well, then, listen. You have been my guardian, my friend, my monitor. For this new character I was not prepared. Think not," she added quickly, as she saw his dark eyes glitter with the fierceness of his passion, "think not that I scorn; that I am untouched; that I am not honoured by this homage; but, say, canst thou hear me calmly?"
"Ay, though the words were lightning and could blast me!"
"I love another!" said Ione blushingly, but in a firm voice.
"By the gods," shouted Arbaces, rising to his fullest height, "dare not tell me that! Dare not mock me! It is impossible! Whom hast thou seen? Whom known? Oh, Ione, it is thy woman's invention, thy woman's art that speaks; thou wouldst gain time. I have surprised—I have terrified thee."
"Alas!" began Ione; and then, appalled before his sudden and unlooked for violence, she burst into tears.
Arbaces came nearer to her, his breath glowed fiercely on her cheek. He wound his arms round her; she sprang from his embrace. In the struggle a tablet fell from her bosom. Arbaces perceived, and seized it; it was a letter she had received that morning from Glaucus.
Ione sank upon the couch, half-dead with terror.
Rapidly the eyes of Arbaces ran over the writing. He read it to the end, and then, as the letter fell from his hand, he said, in a voice of deceitful calmness, "Is the writer of this the man thou lovest?"
Ione sobbed, but answered not.
"Speak!" he demanded.
"It is—it is!"
"Then hear me," said Arbaces, sinking his voice into a whisper. "Thou shalt go to thy tomb rather than to his arms."
At this instant a curtain was rudely torn aside, and Glaucus and Apsecides appeared. There was a severe struggle, which might have had a more sinister ending had not the marble head of a goddess, shaken from its column, fallen upon Arbaces as he was about to stab the Greek, and struck the Egyptian senseless to the ground. As it was, Ione was saved, and she and her lover were then and for ever reconciled to one another.
III.—The Love Philtre
Clodius had not spoken without warrant when he had said that Julia, the daughter of the rich merchant Diomed, thought herself in love with Glaucus. But since Glaucus was denied to her, her thoughts were concentrated on revenge. In this mood she sought out Arbaces, presenting herself as one loving unrequitedly, and seeking in sorrow the aid of wisdom.
"It is a love charm," admitted Julia, "that I would seek from thy skill. I know not if I love him who loves me not, but I know that I would see myself triumph over a rival. I would see him who has rejected me my suitor. I would see her whom he has preferred in her turn despised."
Very quickly Arbaces discerned Julia's secret, and when he heard that Glaucus and Ione were shortly to be wedded, he gladly availed himself of this opportunity to rid himself of his hated rival. But he dealt not in love potions, he said; he would, however, take Diomed's daughter to one who did—the witch who dwelt on the slopes of Vesuvius.
He kept his promise; but the entire philtre given to Julia was one which went direct to the brain, and the effects of which—for neither Arbaces nor his creature, the witch, wished to place themselves within the power of the law—were such as caused those who witnessed them to attribute them to some supernatural agency.
But once again, though less happily than on the former occasion, Nydia was destined to be the means of thwarting the schemes of the Egyptian. The devotion of the blind flower-girl had deepened into love for her deliverer. She was jealous of Ione. Now, for Julia had taken her into confidence, and both believed in the love charm, she was confronted with another rival. By a simple ruse Nydia obtained the poisoned draught and in its place substituted a phial of simple water.
At the close of a banquet given by Diomed, to which the Greek was invited, Julia duly administered that which she imagined to be the secret love potion. She was disappointed when she found Glaucus coldly replace the cup, and converse with her in the same unmoved tone as before.
"But to-morrow," thought she, "to-morrow, alas for Glaucus!"
Alas for him, indeed!
When Glaucus arrived at his own house that evening, Nydia was waiting for him. She had, as usual, been tending the flowers and had lingered awhile to rest herself.
"It has been warm," said Glaucus. "Wilt thou summon Davus? The wine I have drunk heats me, and I long for some cooling drink."
Here at once, suddenly and unexpectedly, the very opportunity that Nydia awaited presented itself. She breathed quickly. "I will prepare for you myself," said she, "the summer draught that Ione loves—of honey and weak wine cooled in snow."
"Thanks," said the unconscious Glaucus. "If Ione loves it, enough; it would be grateful were it poison."
Nydia frowned, and then smiled. She withdrew for a few moments, and returned with the cup containing the beverage. Glaucus took it from her hand.
What would not Nydia have given then to have seen the first dawn of the imagined love! Far different, as she stood then and there, were the thoughts and emotions of the blind girl from those of the vain Pompeian under a similar suspense!
Glaucus had raised the cup to his lips. He had already drained about a fourth of its contents, when, suddenly glancing upon the face of Nydia, he was so forcibly struck by its alteration, by its intense, and painful, and strange expression, that he paused abruptly, and still holding the cup near his lips, exclaimed. "Why, Nydia—Nydia, art thou ill or in pain? What ails thee, my poor child?"
As he spoke, he put down the cup—happily for him, unfinished—and rose from his seat to approach her, when a sudden pang shot coldly to his heart, and was followed by a wild, confused, dizzy sensation at the brain.
The floor seemed to glide from under him, his feet seemed to move on air, a mighty and unearthly gladness rushed upon his spirit. He felt too buoyant for the earth; he longed for wings—nay, it seemed as if he possessed them. He burst involuntarily into a loud and thrilling laugh. He clapped his hands, he bounced aloft. Suddenly this perpetual transport passed, though only partially, away. He now felt his blood rushing loudly and rapidly through his veins.
Then a kind of darkness fell over his eyes. Now a torrent of broken, incoherent, insane words gushed from his lips, and, to Nydia's horror, he passed the portico with a bound, and rushed down the starlit streets, striking fear into the hearts of all who saw him.
IV.—The Day of Ghastly Night
Anxious to learn if the drug had taken effect, Arbaces set out for Julia's house on the morrow. On his way he encountered Apaecides. Hot words passed between them, and stung by the scorn of the youth, he stabbed him into the heart with his stylus. At this moment Glaucus came along. Quick as thought the Egyptian struck the already half-senseless Greek to the ground, and steeping his stylus in the blood of Apaecides, and recovering his own, called loudly for help. The next moment he was accusing Glaucus of the crime.
For a time fortune favoured the Egyptian. Glaucus, his strong frame still under the influence of the poison, was sentenced to encounter a lion in the amphitheatre, with no weapon beyond the incriminating stylus. Nydia, in her terror, confessed to the Egyptian the exchange of the love philtre. She he imprisoned in his own house. Calenus, who had witnessed the deed, sought Arbaces with the intention of using his knowledge to his own profit. He, by a stratagem, was incarcerated in one of the dungeons of the Egyptian's dwelling. The law gave Ione into the guardianship of Arbaces. But, for a third time, Nydia was the means of frustrating the plans of Arbaces.
The blind girl, when vainly endeavouring to escape from the toils of the Egyptian, overheard, in his garden, the conversation of Arbaces and Calenus; and she heard the cries of Calenus from behind the door of the chamber in which he was imprisoned. She herself was caught again by Arbaces' servant, but she contrived to bribe her keeper to take a message to Glaucus's friend, Sallust; and he, taking his servants to Arbaces' house released the two captives, and reached the arena with them, to accuse Arbaces before the multitude at the very moment when the lion was being goaded to attack the Greek, and Arbaces' victory seemed within his grasp.
Even now the nerve of the Egyptian did not desert him. He met the charge with his accustomed coolness. But the frenzied accusation of the priest of Isis turned the huge assembly against him. With loud cries they rose from their seats and poured down toward the Egyptian.
Lifting his eyes at this terrible moment, Arbaces beheld a strange and awful apparition. He beheld, and his craft restored his courage. He stretched his hand on high; over his lofty brow and royal features there came an expression of unutterable solemnity and command.
"Behold," he shouted, with a voice of thunder, which stilled the roar of the crowd, "behold how the gods protect the guiltless! The fires of the avenging Orcus burst forth against the false witness of my accusers!"
The eyes of the crowd followed the gesture of the Egyptian, and beheld, with ineffable dismay, a vast vapour shooting from the summit of Vesuvius in the form of a gigantic pine-tree; the trunk blackness, the branches fire—a fire that shifted and wavered in its hues with every moment, now fiercely luminous, now of a dull and dying red, that again blazed terrifically forth with intolerable glare. The earth shook. The walls of the theatre trembled. In the distance was heard the crash of falling roofs. The cloud seemed to roll towards the assembly, casting forth from its bosom showers of ashes mixed with fragments of burning stone. Then the burning mountain cast up columns of boiling water.
In the ghastly night thus rushing upon the realm of noon, all thought of justice and of Arbaces left the minds of the terrified people. There ensued a mad flight for the sea. Through the darkness Nydia guided Glaucus, now partly recovered from the effects of the poisoned draught, and Ione to the shore. Her blindness rendered the scene familiar to her alone.
While Arbaces perished with the majority, these three eventually gained the sea, and joined a group, who, bolder than the rest, resolved to hazard any peril rather than continue on the stricken land.
Utterly exhausted, Ione slept on the breast of Glaucus, and Nydia lay at his feet. Meanwhile, showers of dust and ashes fell into the waves, scattered their snows over the deck of the vessel they had boarded, and, borne by the winds, descended upon the remotest climes, startling even the swarthy African, and whirling along the antique soil of Syria and of Egypt.
Meekly, softly, beautifully dawned at last the light over the trembling deep! The winds were sinking into rest, the foam died from the azure of that delicious sea. Around the east thin mists caught gradually the rosy hues that heralded the morning. Light was about to resume her reign. There was no shout from the mariners at the dawning light—it had come too gradually, and they were too wearied for such sudden bursts of joy—but there was a low, deep murmur of thankfulness amidst those watchers of the long night. They looked at each other, and smiled; they took heart. They felt once more that there was a world around and a God above them!
In the silence of the general sleep Nydia had risen gently. Bending over the face of Glaucus, she softly kissed him. She felt for his hand; it was locked in that of Ione. She sighed deeply, and her face darkened. Again she kissed his brow, and with her hair wiped from it the damps of night.
"May the gods bless you, Athenian!" she murmured "May you be happy with your beloved one! May you sometimes remember Nydia! Alas! she is of no further use on earth."
With these words she turned away. A sailor, half-dozing on the deck, heard a slight splash on the waters. Drowsily he looked up, and behind, as the vessel bounded merrily on, he fancied he saw something white above the waves; but it vanished in an instant. He turned round again and dreamed of his home and children.
When the lovers awoke, their first thought was of each other, their next of Nydia. Every crevice of the vessel was searched—there was no trace of her! Mysterious from first to last, the blind Thessalian had vanished from the living world! They guessed her fate in silence, and Glaucus and Ione, while they drew nearer to each other, feeling each other the world itself, forgot their deliverance, and wept as for a departed sister.
* * * * *
The Last of the Barons
A romance of York and Lancaster's "long wars," "The Last of the Barons" was published in 1843, shortly before the death of Bulwer's mother, when, on inheriting the Knebworth estates, he assumed the surname of Lytton. The story is an admirably chosen historical subject, and in many respects is worked out with even more than Lytton's usual power and effect. Incident is crowded upon incident; revolutions, rebellions, dethronements follow one another with amazing rapidity—all duly authenticated and elaborated by powerful dialogue. It is thronged with historical material, sufficient, according to one critic, to make at least three novels. The period dealt with, 1467-1471, witnessed the rise of the trading class and the beginning of religious freedom in England. Lytton leans to the Lancastrian cause, with which the fortunes of one of his ancestors were identified, and his view of Warwick is more favourable to the redoubtable "king-maker" than that of the historians.
I.—Warwick's Mission to France
Lacking sympathy with the monastic virtues of the deposed Henry VI., and happy in the exile of Margaret of Anjou, the citizens of London had taken kindly to the regime of Edward IV. In 1467 Edward still owed to Warwick the support of the more powerful barons, as well as the favour of that portion of the rural population which was more or less dependent upon them. But he encouraged, to his own financial advantage, the enterprises of the burgesses, and his marriage with Elizabeth Woodville and his favours to her kinsfolk indicated his purpose to reign in fact as well as in name. The barons were restless, but the rising middle-class, jealous of the old power of the nobles, viewed with misgiving the projected marriage, at Warwick's suggestion, of the king's sister Margaret and the brother of Louis XI. of France.
This was the position of affairs when young Marmaduke Nevile came to London to enter the service of his relative the Earl of Warwick; and some points of it were explained to the young man by the earl himself when he had introduced the youth to his daughters, Isabel and Anne.
"God hath given me no son," he said. "Isabel of Warwick had been a mate for William the Norman; and my grandson, if heir to his grandsire's soul, should have ruled from the throne of England over the realms of Charlemagne! But it hath pleased Him Whom the Christian knight alone bows to without shame, to order otherwise. So be it. I forgot my just pretensions—forgot my blood—and counselled the king to strengthen his throne by an alliance with Louis XI. He rejected the Princess Bona of Savoy to marry widow Elizabeth Grey. I sorrowed for his sake, and forgave the slight to my counsels. At his prayer I followed the train of the queen, and hushed the proud hearts of the barons to obeisance. But since then this Dame Woodville, whom I queened, if her husband mismated, must dispute this royaulme with mine and me! A Neville, nowadays, must vail his plume to a Woodville! And not the great barons whom it will suit Edward's policy to win from the Lancastrians, not the Exeters and the Somersets, but the craven varlets, and lackeys, and dross of the camp—false alike to Henry and to Edward—are to be fondled into lordships and dandled into power. Young man, I am speaking hotly. Richard Neville never lies nor conceals; but I am speaking to a kinsman, am I not? Thou hearest—thou wilt not repeat?"
"Sooner would I pluck forth my tongue by the roots!" was Marmaduke's reply.
"Enough!" returned the earl, with a pleased smile. "When I come from France I will speak more to thee. Meanwhile, be courteous to all men, servile to none. Now to the king."
Warwick sought his royal cousin at the Tower, where the court exhibited a laxity of morals and a faculty for intrigue that were little to the stout earl's taste.
It was with manifest reluctance that Edward addressed himself to the object of Warwick's visit.
"Knowst thou not," said he, "that this French alliance, to which thou hast induced us, displeases sorely our good traders of London?"
"Mort Dieu!" returned Warwick bluntly. "And what business have the flat-caps with the marriage of a king's sister? You have spoiled them, good my lord king. Henry IV. staled not his majesty to consultation with the mayor of his city. Henry V. gave the knighthood of the Bath to the heroes of Agincourt, not to the vendors of cloth and spices."
"Thou forgettest, man," said the king carelessly, "the occasion of those honours—the eve before Elizabeth was crowned. As to the rest," pursued the king, earnestly and with dignity, "I and my house have owed much to London. Thou seest not, my poor Warwick, that these burgesses are growing up into power. And if the sword is the monarch's appeal for his right, he must look to contented and honest industry for his buckler in peace. This is policy, policy, Warwick; and Louis XI. will tell thee the same truths, harsh though they grate in a warrior's ear."
The earl bowed his head.
"If thou doubtest the wisdom of this alliance," he said, "it is not too late yet. Let me dismiss my following, and cross not the seas. Unless thy heart is with the marriage, the ties I would form are but threads and cobwebs."
"Nay," returned Edward irresolutely. "In these great state matters thy wit is older than mine. But men do say the Count of Charolois is a mighty lord, and the alliance with Burgundy will be more profitable to staple and mart."
"Then, in God's name so conclude it!" said the earl hastily. "Give thy sister to the heir of Burgundy, and forgive me if I depart to the castle of Middleham. Yet think well. Henry of Windsor is thy prisoner, but his cause lives in Margaret and his son. There is but one power in Europe that can threaten thee with aid to the Lancastrians. That power is France. Make Louis thy friend and ally, and thou givest peace to thy life and thy lineage. Make Louis thy foe, and count on plots and stratagems and treason. Edward, my loved, my honoured liege, forgive Richard Nevile for his bluntness, and let not his faults stand in bar of his counsels."
"You are right, as you are ever, safeguard of England and pillar of my state," said the king frankly; and pressing Warwick's arm, he added, "go to France, and settle all as thou wilt."
When Warwick had departed, Edward's eye followed him, musingly. The frank expression of his face vanished, and with the deep breath of a man who is throwing a weight from his heart, he muttered, "He loves me—yes; but will suffer no one else to love me! This must end some day. I am weary of the bondage."
II.—A Dishonoured Embassy
One morning, some time after Warwick's departure for France, the Lord Hastings was summoned to the king's presence. There was news from France, in a letter to Lord Rivers, from a gentleman in Warwick's train. The letter was dated from Rouen, and gave a glowing account of the honours accorded to the earl by Louis XI. Edward directed Hastings' attention to a passage in which the writer suggested that there were those who thought that so much intercourse between an English ambassador and the kinsman of Margaret of Anjou boded small profit to the English king.
"Read and judge, Hastings," said the king.
"I observe," said Hastings, "that this letter is addressed to my Lord Rivers. Can he avouch the fidelity of his correspondent?"
"Surely, yes," answered Rivers. "It is a gentleman of my own blood."
"Were he not so accredited," returned Hastings, "I should question the truth of a man who can thus consent to play the spy upon his lord and superior."
"The public weal justifies all things," said Lord Worcester, who, with Lord Rivers, viewed with jealous scorn the power of the Earl of Warwick.
"And what is to become of my merchant-ships," said the king, "if Burgundy take umbrage and close its ports?"
Hastings had no cause to take up the quarrel on Warwick's behalf. The proud earl had stepped in to prevent his marriage with his sister. But Hastings, if a foe, could be a noble one.
"Beau sire," said he, "thou knowest how little cause I have to love the Earl of Warwick. But in this council I must be all and only the king's servant. I say first, then, that Warwick's faith to the House of York is too well proven to become suspected because of the courtesies of King Louis. Moreover, we may be sure that Warwick cannot be false if he achieve the object of his embassy and detach Louis from the side of Margaret and Lancaster by close alliance with Edward and York. Secondly, sire, with regard to that alliance, which it seems you would repent, I hold now, as I have held ever, that it is a master-stroke in policy, and the earl in this proves his sharp brain worthy his strong arm; for, as his highness the Duke of Gloucester has discovered that Margaret of Anjou has been of late in London, and that treasonable designs were meditated, though now frustrated, so we may ask why the friends of Lancaster really stood aloof—why all conspiracy was, and is, in vain? Because the gold and subsidies of Louis are not forthcoming, because the Lancastrians see that if once Lord Warwick wins France from the Red Rose nothing short of such a miracle as their gaining Warwick instead can give a hope to their treason."
"Your pardon, my Lord Hastings," said Lord Rivers, "there is another letter I have not yet laid before the king." He drew forth a scroll and read from it as follows.
"Yesterday the earl feasted the king, and as, in discharge of mine office, I carved for my lord, I heard King Louis say, 'Pasque Dieu, my Lord Warwick, our couriers bring us word that Count de Charolais declares he shall yet wed the Lady Margaret, and that he laughs at your embassage. What if our brother King Edward fall back from the treaty?' 'He durst not,' said the earl."
"'Durst not!'" exclaimed Edward, starting to his feet, and striking the table with his clenched hand. "'Durst not!' Hastings, heard you that?"
Hastings bowed his head in assent.
"Is that all, Lord Rivers?"
"All! And, methinks, enough!"
"Enough, by my halidame!" said Edward, laughing bitterly. "He shall see what a king dares when a subject threatens."
Lord Rivers had not read the whole of the letter. The sentence read: "He durst not, because what a noble heart dares least is to belie the plighted word, and what the kind heart shuns most is to wrong the confiding friend."
When Warwick returned, with the object of his mission achieved, it was to find Margaret of England the betrothed of the Count de Charolais, and his embassy dishonoured. He retired in anger and grief to his castle of Middleham, and though the king declared that "Edward IV. reigns alone," most of the great barons forsook him to rally round their leader in his retirement.
III.—The Scholar and his Daughter
Sybill Warner had been at court in the train of Margaret of Anjou. Her father, Adam Warner, was a poor scholar, with his heart set upon the completion of an invention which should inaugurate the age of steam. They lived together in an old house, with but one aged serving-woman. Even necessaries were sacrificed that the model of the invention might be fed. Then one day there came to Adam Warner an old schoolfellow, Robert Hilyard, who had thrown in his lot with the Lancastrians, and become an agent of the vengeful Margaret. Hilyard told so moving a tale of his wrongs at the hands of Edward that the old man consented to aid him in a scheme for communicating with the imprisoned Henry.
Henry was still permitted to see visitors, and Hilyard's proposal was that Warner should seek permission to exhibit his model, in the mechanism of which were to be hidden certain treasonable papers for Henry to sign.
As we have seen, from Hastings' remark to the king, the plot failed. Hilyard escaped, to stir up the peasantry, who knew him as Robin of Redesdale. Warner's fate was inclusion in the number of astrologers and alchemists retained by the Duchess of Bedford, who also gave a place amongst her maidens to Sybill, to whom Hastings had proffered his devoted attachment, though he was already bound by ties of policy and early love to Margaret de Bonville.
Meanwhile, it became the interest of the king's brothers to act as mediators between Edward and his powerful subject. The Duke of Clarence was anxious to wed the proud earl's equally proud elder daughter Isabel; the hand of the gentle Anne was sought more secretly by Richard of Gloucester. At last the peacemakers effected their object.
But the peace was only partial, the final rupture not far off. The king restored to Warwick the governorship of Calais—outwardly as a token of honour; really as a means of ridding himself of one whose presence came between the sun and his sovereignty. Moreover, he forbade the marriage between Clarence and Isabel, to the mortification of his brother, the bitter disappointment of Isabel herself, and the chagrin of the earl.
However, Edward had once more to experience indebtedness at the hands of the man whom he treated so badly, but whose devotion to him it seemed that nothing could destroy. There arose the Popular Rebellion, and Warwick only arrived at Olney, where the king was sorely pressed, in time to save him and to secure, on specific terms, a treaty of peace.
Again Edward's relief was but momentary. Proceeding to Middleham as Warwick's guest, when he beheld the extent of the earl's retinue his jealous passions were roused more than ever before; and he formed a plan not only for attaching to himself the allegiance of the barons, but of presenting the earl to the peasants in the light of one who had betrayed them.
Smitten, too, by the charms of the Lady Anne, he meditated a still more unworthy scheme. Dismissing the unsuspecting Warwick to the double task of settling with the rebels and calling upon his followers to range themselves under the royal banner, he commanded Anne's attendance at court.
Events leading to the final breach between king and king-maker followed rapidly. One night the Lady Anne fled in terror from the Tower—fled from the dishonouring addresses of her sovereign, now grown gross in his cups, however brave in battle. The news reached Warwick too late for him to countermand the messages he had sent to his friends on the king's behalf. And, so rapid were Edward's movements that Warwick, his eyes at length opened to Edward's true character, was compelled to flee to the court of King Louis at Amboise, there to plan his revenge, hampered in doing so by his daughter Isabel's devotion to Clarence, who followed him to France, and by the fact that, in regard to his own honour, he could communicate to none save his own kin the secret cause of his open disaffection.
IV.—The Return of the King-Maker
There was no love between Warwick and Margaret of Anjou. But his one means of exacting penance from Edward was alliance with the unlucky cause of Lancaster. And this alliance was brought about by the suave diplomacy of Louis, and the discovery of the long-existing attachment between the Lady Anne and her old play-fellow, Edward, the only son of Henry and Margaret, and the hope of the Red Rose.
Coincidently with the marriage of Clarence and Isabel on French soil, the young Edward and Isabel's sister were betrothed. Richard of Gloucester was thus definitely estranged from Warwick's cause. And secret agencies were set afoot to undermine the loyalty of the weak Clarence to the cause which he had espoused.
At first, however, Warwick's plans prospered. He returned to England, forced Edward to fly the country in his turn, and restored Henry VI. to the throne. So far, Clarence and Isabel accompanied him; while Margaret and her son, with Lady Warwick and the Lady Anne, remained at Amboise.
Then the very elements seemed to war against the Lancastrians. The restoration came about in October 1470. Margaret was due in London in November, but for nearly six months the state of the Channel was such that she was unable to cross it.
Warwick sickened of his self-imposed task. The whole burden of government rested upon the shoulders of the great earl, great where deeds of valour were to be done, but weak in the niceties of administration.
The nobles, no less than the people, had expected miracles. The king-maker, on his return, gave them but justice. Such was the earl's position when Edward, with a small following, landed at Ravenspur. A treacherous message, sent to Warwick's brother Montagu by Clarence, caused Montagu to allow the invader to march southwards unmolested. This had so great an effect on public feeling that when Edward reached the Midlands, he had not a mere handful of supporters at his back, but an army of large dimensions. Then the wavering Clarence went over to his brother, and it fell to the lot of the earl sorrowfully to dispatch Isabel to the camp of his enemy.
But Warwick's cup of bitterness was not yet full. The Tower was surrendered to Edward's friends, and on the following day Edward himself entered the capital, to be received by the traders with tumultuous cheers.
Raw, cold, and dismal dawned the morning of the fateful 14th of March, 1471, when Margaret at last reached English soil, and Edward's forces met those of Warwick on the memorable field of Barnet. All was not yet lost to the cause of the Red Rose. But a fog settled down over the land to complete, as it were, the disadvantages caused by the prolonged storms at sea. At a critical period of the battle the silver stars on the banners of one of the Lancastrians, the Earl of Oxford, being mistaken for the silver suns of Edward's cognisance, two important sections of Warwick's army fell upon one another. Friend was slaughtering friend ere the error was detected. While all was yet in doubt, confusion, and dismay, rushed full into the centre Edward himself, with his knights and riders; and his tossing banners added to the general incertitude and panic.
Warwick and his brother gained the shelter of a neighbouring wood, where a trusty band of the earl's northern archers had been stationed. Here they made their last stand, Warwick destroying his charger to signify to his men that to them and to them alone he entrusted his fortunes and his life.
A breach was made in the defence, and Warwick and his brother fell side by side, choosing death before surrender. And by them fell Hilyard, shattered by a bombard. Young Marmaduke Nevile was among the few notable survivors.
The cries of "Victory!" reached a little band of watchers gathered in the churchyard on the hill of Hadley. Here Henry the Peaceful had been conveyed. And here, also, were Adam Warner and his daughter. The soldiers, hearing from one of the Duchess of Bedford's creatures whose chicanery had been the object of his scorn, that Warner was a wizard, had desired that his services should be utilised. Till the issue was clear, he had been kept a prisoner. When it was beyond doubt, he was hanged. Sybill was found lying dead at her father's feet. Her heart was already broken, for the husband of Margaret de Bonville having died, Lord Hastings had been recalled to the side of his old love, his thought of marriage with Sybill being abandoned for ever.
King Edward and his brothers went to render thanksgiving at St. Paul's; thence to Baynard's Castle to escort the queen and her children once more to the Tower.
At the sight of the victorious king, of the lovely queen, and, above all, of the young male heir, the crowd burst forth with a hearty cry: "Long live the king and the king's son!"
Mechanically, Elizabeth turned her moistened eyes from Edward to Edward's brother, and suddenly clasped her infant closer to her bosom when she caught the glittering and fatal eye of Richard, Duke of Gloucester—Warwick's grim avenger in the future—fixed upon that harmless life, destined to interpose a feeble obstacle between the ambition of a ruthless intellect and the heritage of the English throne!
* * * * *
The Man of Feeling
Henry Mackenzie, the son of an Edinburgh physician, was born in that city on August 26, 1745. He was educated for the law, and at the age of twenty became attorney for the crown in Scotland. It was about this time that he began to devote his attention to literature. His first story, "The Man of Feeling," was published anonymously in 1771, and such was its popularity that its authorship was claimed in many quarters. Considered as a novel, "The Man of Feeling" is frankly sentimental. Its fragmentary form was doubtlessly suggested by Sterne's "Sentimental Journey," and the adventures of the hero himself are reminiscent of those of Moses in "The Vicar of Wakefield." But of these two masterpieces Mackenzie's work falls short: it has none of Sterne's humour, nor has it any of Goldsmith's subtle characterisation. "The Man of Feeling" was followed in 1773 by "The Man of the World," and later by a number of miscellaneous articles and stories. Mackenzie died on January 14, 1831.
I.—A Whimsical History
I was out shooting with the curate on a burning First of September, and we had stopped for a minute by an old hedge.
Looking round, I discovered for the first time a venerable pile, to which the enclosure before us belonged. An air of melancholy hung about it, and just at that instant I saw pass between the trees a young lady with a book in her hand. The curate sat him down on the grass and told me that was the daughter of a neighbouring gentleman of the name of Walton, whom he had seen walking there more than once.
"Some time ago," he said, "one Harley lived there, a whimsical sort of man, I am told. The greatest part of his history is still in my possession. I once began to read it, but I soon grew weary of the task; for, besides that the hand is intolerably bad, I never could find the author in one strain for two chapters together. The way I came by it was this. Some time ago a grave, oddish kind of a man boarded at a farmer's in this parish. He left soon after I was made curate, and went nobody knows whither; and in his room was found a bundle of papers, which was brought to me by his landlord."
"I should be glad to see this medley," said I.
"You shall see it now," answered the curate, "for I always take it along with me a-shooting. 'Tis excellent wadding."
When I returned to town I had leisure to peruse the acquisition I had made, and found it a little bundle of episodes, put together without art, yet with something of nature.
The curate must answer for the omissions.
II.—The Man of Feeling in Love
Harley lost his father, the last surviving of his parents, when he was a boy. His education, therefore, had been but indifferently attended to; and after being taken from a country school, the young gentleman was suffered to be his own master in the subsequent branches of literature, with some assistance from the pastor of the parish in languages and philosophy, and from the exciseman in arithmetic and book-keeping.
There were two ways of increasing his fortune. One of these was the prospect of succeeding to an old lady, a distant relation, who was known to be possessed of a very large sum in the stocks. But the young man was so untoward in his disposition, and accommodated himself so ill to her humour, that she died and did not leave him a farthing.
The other method pointed out to him was an endeavour to get a lease of some crown lands which lay contiguous to his little paternal estate. As the crown did not draw so much rent as Harley could afford to give, with very considerable profit to himself, it was imagined this lease might be easily procured. However, this needed some interest with the great, which neither Harley nor his father ever possessed.
His neighbour, Mr. Walton, having heard of this affair, generously offered his assistance to accomplish it, and said he would furnish him with a letter of introduction to a baronet of his acquaintance who had a great deal to say with the first lord of the treasury.
Harley, though he had no great relish for the attempt, could not resist the torrent of motives that assaulted him, and a day was fixed for his departure.
The day before he set out he went to take leave of Mr. Walton—there was another person of the family to whom also the visit was intended. For Mr. Walton had a daughter; and such a daughter!
As her father had some years retired to the country, Harley had frequent opportunities of seeing her. He looked on her for some time merely with that respect and admiration which her appearance seemed to demand; he heard her sentiments with peculiar attention, but seldom declared his opinions on the subject. It would be trite to observe the easy gradation from esteem to love; in the bosom of Harley there scarce needed a transition.
Harley's first effort to interview the baronet met with no success, but he resolved to make another attempt, fortified with higher notions of his own dignity, and with less apprehensions of repulse. By the time he had reached Grosvenor Square and was walking along the pavement which led to the baronet's he had brought his reasoning to the point that by every rule of logic his conclusions should have led him to a thorough indifference in approaching a fellow-mortal, whether that fellow-mortal was possessed of six or six thousand pounds a year. Nevertheless, it is certain that when he approached the great man's door he felt his heart agitated by an unusual pulsation.
He observed a young gentleman coming out, dressed in a white frock and a red laced waistcoat; who, as he passed, very politely made him a bow, which Harley returned, though he could not remember ever having seen him before. The stranger asked Harley civilly if he was going to wait on his friend the baronet. "For I was just calling," said he, "and am sorry to find that he is gone some days into the country."
Harley thanked him for his information, and turned from the door, when the other observed that it would be proper to leave his name, and very obligingly knocked for that purpose.
"Here is a gentleman, Tom, who meant to have waited on your master."
"Your name, if you please, sir?"
"You'll remember, Tom, Harley."
The door was shut.
"Since we are here," said the stranger, "we shall not lose our walk if we add a little to it by a turn or two in Hyde Park."
The conversation as they walked was brilliant on the side of his companion.
When they had finished their walk and were returning by the corner of the park they observed a board hung out of a window signifying, "An excellent ordinary on Saturdays and Sundays." It happened to be Saturday, and the table was covered for the purpose.
"What if we should go in and dine, sir?" said the young gentleman. Harley made no objection, and the stranger showed him the way into the parlour.
Over against the fire-place was seated a man of a grave aspect, who wore a pretty large wig, which had once been white, but was now of a brownish yellow; his coat was a modest coloured drab; and two jack-boots concealed in part the well-mended knees of an old pair of buckskin breeches. Next him sat another man, with a tankard in his hand and a quid of tobacco in his cheek, whose dress was something smarter.
The door was soon opened for the admission of dinner. "I don't know how it is with you, gentlemen," said Harley's new acquaintance, "but I am afraid I shall not be able to get down a morsel at this horrid mechanical hour of dining." He sat down, however, and did not show any want of appetite by his eating. He took upon him the carving of the meat, and criticised the goodness of the pudding, and when the tablecloth was removed proposed calling for some punch, which was readily agreed to.
While the punch lasted the conversation was wholly engrossed by this young gentleman, who told a great many "immensely comical stories" and "confounded smart things," as he termed them. At last the man in the jack-boots, who turned out to be a grazier, pulling out a watch of very unusual size, said that he had an appointment. And the young gentleman discovered that he was already late for an appointment.
When the grazier and he were gone, Harley turned to the remaining personage, and asked him if he knew that young gentleman. "A gentleman!" said he. "I knew him, some years ago, in the quality of a footman. But some of the great folks to whom he has been serviceable had him made a ganger. And he has the assurance to pretend an acquaintance with men of quality. The impudent dog! With a few shillings in his pocket, he will talk three times as much as my friend Mundy, the grazier there, who is worth nine thousand if he's worth a farthing. But I know the rascal, and despise him as he deserves!"
Harley began to despise him, too, but he corrected himself by reflecting that he was perhaps as well entertained, and instructed, too, by this same ganger, as he should have been by such a man of fashion as he had thought proper to personate.
III.—Harley's Success with the Baronet
The card he received was in the politest style in which disappointment could be communicated. The baronet "was under a necessity of giving up his application for Mr. Harley, as he was informed that the lease was engaged for a gentleman who had long served his majesty in another capacity, and whose merit had entitled him to the first lucrative thing that should be vacant." Even Harley could not murmur at such a disposal. "Perhaps," said he to himself, "some war-worn officer, who had been neglected from reasons which merited the highest advancement; whose honour could not stoop to solicit the preferment he deserved; perhaps, with a family taught the principles of delicacy without the means of supporting it; a wife and children—gracious heaven!—whom my wishes would have deprived of bread—!"
He was interrupted in his reverie by someone tapping him on the shoulder, and on turning round, he discovered it to be the very man who had recently explained to him the condition of his gay companion.
"I believe we are fellows in disappointment," said he. Harley started, and said that he was at a loss to understand him.
"Pooh! you need not be so shy," answered the other; "everyone for himself is but fair, and I had much rather you had got it than the rascally ganger. I was making interest for it myself, and I think I had some title. I voted for this same baronet at the last election, and made some of my friends do so, too; though I would not have you imagine that I sold my vote. No, I scorn it—let me tell you I scorn it; but I thought as how this man was staunch and true, and I find he's but a double-faced fellow after all, and speechifies in the House for any side he hopes to make most by. A murrain on the smooth-tongued knave, and after all to get it for this rascal of a ganger."
"The ganger! There must be some mistake," said Harley. "He writes me that it was engaged for one whose long services—"
"Services!" interrupted the other; "some paltry convenience to the baronet. A plague on all rogues! I shall but just drink destruction to them to-night and leave London to-morrow by sunrise."
"I shall leave it, too," said Harley; and so he accordingly did.
In passing through Piccadilly, he had observed on the window of an inn a notification of the departure of a stage-coach for a place on his road homewards; on the way back to his lodgings, he took a seat in it.
IV.—He Meets an Old Acquaintance
When the stage-coach arrived at the place of its destination, Harley, who did things frequently in a way different from what other people call natural, set out immediately afoot, having first put a spare shirt in his pocket and given directions for the forwarding of his portmanteau. It was a method of travelling which he was accustomed to take.
On the road, about four miles from his destination, Harley overtook an old man, who from his dress had been a soldier, and walked with him.
"Sir," said the stranger, looking earnestly at him, "is not your name Harley? You may well have forgotten my face, 'tis a long time since you saw it; but possibly you may remember something of old Edwards? When you were at school in the neighbourhood, you remember me at South Hill?"
"Edwards!" cried Harley, "O, heavens! let me clasp those knees on which I have sat so often. Edwards! I shall never forget that fireside, round which I have been so happy! But where have you been? Where is Jack? Where is your daughter?"
"'Tis a long tale," replied Edwards, "but I will try to tell it you as we walk."
Edwards had been a tenant farmer where his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had lived before him. The rapacity of a land steward, heavy agricultural losses, and finally the arrival of a press-gang had reduced him to misery. By paying a certain sum of money he had been accepted by the press-gang instead of his son, and now old Edwards was returning home invalided from the army.
When they had arrived within a little way of the village they journeyed to, Harley stopped short and looked steadfastly on the mouldering walls of a ruined house that stood by the roadside.
"What do I see?" he cried. "Silent, unroofed, and desolate! That was the very school where I was boarded when you were at South Hill; 'tis but a twelve-month since I saw it standing and its benches filled with cherubs. That opposite side of the road was the green on which they sported; see, it is now ploughed up!"
Just then a woman passed them on the road, who, in reply to Harley, told them the squire had pulled the school-house down because it stood in the way of his prospects.
"If you want anything with the school-mistress, sir," said the woman. "I can show you the way to her house."
They followed her to the door of a snug habitation, where sat an elderly woman with a boy and a girl before her, each of whom held a supper of bread and milk in their hands.
"They are poor orphans," the school-mistress said, when Harley addressed her, "put under my care by the parish, and more promising children I never saw. Their father, sir, was a farmer here in the neighbourhood, and a sober, industrious man he was; but nobody can help misfortunes. What with bad crops and bad debts, his affairs went to wreck, and both he and his wife died of broken hearts. And a sweet couple they were, sir. There was not a properer man to look on in the county than John Edwards, and so, indeed, were all the Edwardses of South Hill."
"Edwards! South Hill!" said the old soldier, in a languid voice, and fell back in the arms of the astonished Harley.
He soon recovered, and folding his orphan grandchildren in his arms, cried, "My poor Jack, art thou gone—"
"My dear old man," said Harley, "Providence has sent you to relieve them. It will bless me if I can be the means of assisting you."
"Yes, indeed, sir," answered the boy. "Father, when he was a-dying, bade God bless us, and prayed that if grandfather lived he might send him to support us. I have told sister," said he, "that she should not take it so to heart. She can knit already, and I shall soon be able to dig. We shall not starve, sister, indeed we shall not, nor shall grandfather neither."
The little girl cried afresh. Harley kissed off her tears, and wept between every kiss.
V.—The Man of Feeling is Jealous
Shortly after Harley's return home his servant Peter came into his room one morning with a piece of news on his tongue.
"The morning is main cold, sir," began Peter.
"Is it?" said Harley.
"Yes, sir. I have been as far as Tom Dowson's to fetch some barberries. There was a rare junketting at Tom's last night among Sir Harry Benson's servants. And I hear as how Sir Harry is going to be married to Miss Walton. Tom's wife told it me, and, to be sure, the servants told her; but, of course, it mayn't be true, for all that."
"Have done with your idle information," said Harley. "Is my aunt come down into the parlour to breakfast?"
"Tell her I'll be with her immediately."
His aunt, too, had been informed of the intended match between Sir Harry Benson and Miss Walton, Harley learnt.
"I have been thinking," said she, "that they are distant relations, for the great-grandfather of this Sir Harry, who was knight of the shire in the reign of Charles I., married a daughter of the Walton family."
Harley answered drily that it might be so, but that he never troubled himself about those matters.
"Indeed," said she, "you are to blame, nephew, for not knowing a little more of them; but nowadays it is money, not birth, that makes people respected—the more shame for the times."
Left alone, Harley went out and sat down on a little seat in the garden.
"Miss Walton married!" said he. "But what is that to me? May she be happy! Her virtues deserve it. I had romantic dreams. They are fled."
That night the curate dined with him, though his visits, indeed, were more properly to the aunt than the nephew. He had hardly said grace after dinner when he said he was very well informed that Sir Harry Benson was just going to be married to Miss Walton. Harley spilt the wine he was carrying to his mouth; he had time, however, to recollect himself before the curate had finished the particulars of his intelligence, and, summing up all the heroism he was master of, filled a bumper, and drank to Miss Walton.
"With all my heart," said the curate; "the bride that is to be!" Harley would have said "bride," too, but it stuck in his throat, and his confusion was manifest.
VI.—He Sees Miss Walton and is Happy
Miss Walton was not married to Sir Harry Benson, but Harley made no declaration of his own passion after that of the other had been unsuccessful. The state of his health appears to have been such as to forbid any thoughts of that kind. He had been seized with a very dangerous fever caught by attending old Edwards in one of an infectious kind. From this he had recovered but imperfectly, and though he had no formed complaint, his health was manifestly on the decline.
It appears that some friend had at length pointed out to his aunt a cause from which this decline of health might be supposed to proceed, to wit, his hopeless love for Miss Walton—for, according to the conceptions of the world, the love of a man of Harley's modest fortune for the heiress of L4,000 a year is indeed desperate.
Be that as it may, I was sitting with him one morning when the door opened and his aunt appeared, leading in Miss Walton. I could observe a transient glow upon his face as he rose from his seat. She begged him to resume his seat, and placed herself on the sofa beside him. I took my leave, and his aunt accompanied me to the door. Harley was left with Miss Walton alone. She inquired anxiously about his health.
"I believe," said he, "from the accounts which my physicians unwillingly give me, that they have no great hopes of my recovery."
She started as he spoke, and then endeavoured to flatter him into a belief that his apprehensions were groundless.
"I do not wish to be deceived," said he. "To meet death as becomes a man is a privilege bestowed on few. I would endeavour to make it mine. Nor do I think that I can ever be better prepared for it than now." He paused some moments. "I am in such a state as calls for sincerity. Let that also excuse it. It is perhaps the last time we shall ever meet." He paused again. "Let it not offend you to know your power over one so unworthy. To love Miss Walton could not be a crime; if to declare it is one, the expiation will be made."
Her tears were now flowing without control.
"Let me entreat you," said she, "to have better hopes. Let not life be so indifferent to you, if my wishes can put any value on it. I know your worth—I have known it long. I have esteemed it. What would you have me say? I have loved it as it deserved."
He seized her hand, a languid colour reddened her cheek; a smile brightened faintly in his eye. As he gazed on her it grew dim, it fixed, it closed. He sighed, and fell back on his seat. Miss Walton screamed at the sight.
His aunt and the servants rushed into the room. They found them lying motionless together.
His physician happened to call at that instant. Every art was tried to recover them. With Miss Walton they succeeded, but Harley was gone for ever.
* * * * *
XAVIER DE MAISTRE
A Journey Round My Room
Count Xavier de Maistre was born in October 1763 at Chambery, in Savoy. When, in the war and the upheaval that followed on the French Revolution, his country was annexed to France, he emigrated to Russia, and being a landscape painter of fine talent, he managed to live on the pictures which he sold. He died at St. Petersburg on June 12, 1852. His famous "Journey Round My Room" ("Voyage autour de ma chambre") was written in 1794 at Turin, where he was imprisoned for forty-two days over some affair of honour. The style of his work is clearly modelled on that of Sterne, but the ideas, which he pours out with a delightful interplay of wit and fancy, are marked with the stamp of a fine, original mind. The work is one of the most brilliant tours de force in a literature remarkable for its lightness, grace, and charm. Being a born writer, de Maistre whiled away his time by producing a sparkling little masterpiece, which will be cherished long after the heavy, philosophical works written by his elder brother, Joseph de Maistre, have mouldered into the dust. In the lifetime of the two brothers, Joseph was regarded throughout Europe as a man of high genius, while Xavier was looked down on as a trifler.
I.—My Great Discovery
How glorious it is to open a new career, and to appear suddenly in the world of science with a book of discoveries in one's hand like an unexpected comet sparkling in space! Here is the book, gentleman. I have undertaken and carried out a journey of forty-two days in my room. The interesting observations I have made, and the continual pleasure I have felt during this long expedition, excited in me the wish to publish it; the certitude of the usefulness of my work decided me. My heart is filled with an inexpressible satisfaction when I think of the infinite number of unhappy persons to whom I am now able to offer an assured resource against the tediousness and vexations of life. The delight one finds in travelling in one's own room is a pure joy, exempt from the unquiet jealousies of men and independent of ill-fortune.
In the immense family of men that swarm on the surface of the earth, there is not one—no, not one (I am speaking, of course, of those who have a room to live in)—who can, after having read this book, refuse his approbation to the new way of travelling which I have invented. It costs nothing, that is the great thing! Thus it is certain of being adopted by very rich people! Thousands of persons who have never thought of travelling will now resolve to follow my example.
Come, then, let us go forth! Follow me, all ye hermits who through some mortification in love, some negligence in friendship, have withdrawn into your rooms far from the pettiness and infidelity of mankind! But quit your dismal thoughts, I pray you. Every minute you lose some pleasure without gaining any wisdom in place of it. Deign to accompany me on my travels. We shall go by easy stages, laughing all along the road at every tourist who has gone to Rome or Paris. No obstacle shall stop us, and, surrendering ourselves to our imagination, we will follow it wherever it may lead us.
But persons are so curious. I am sure you would like to know why my journey round my room lasted forty-two days instead of forty-three, or some other space of time. But how can I tell you when I do not know myself? All I can say is that if you find my work too long, it was not my fault. In spite of the vanity natural in a traveller, I should have been very glad if it had only run a single chapter. The fact is, that though I was allowed in my room all the pleasures and comfort possible, I was not permitted to leave it when I wished.
Is there anything more natural and just than to fight to the death with a man who has inadvertently trodden on your foot, or let fall some sharp words in a moment of vexation of which your imprudence was the cause? Nothing, you will admit, is more logical; and yet there are some people who disapprove of this admirable custom.
But, what is still more natural and logical, the very people who disapprove it and regard it as a grave crime treat with greater rigour any man who refuses to commit it. Many an unhappy fellow has lost his reputation and position through conforming with their views, so that if you have the misfortune to be engaged in what is called "an affair of honour," it is best to toss up to see if you should follow the law or the custom; and as the law and the custom in regard to duelling are contradictory, the magistrates would also do well to frame their sentence on the throw of the dice. Probably, it was in this way that they determined that my journey should last exactly forty-two days.
II.—My Armchair and my Bed
My chamber forms a square, round which I can take thirty-six steps, if I keep very close to the wall. But I seldom travel in a straight line. I dislike persons who are such masters of their feet and of their ideas that they can say: "To-day I shall make three calls, I shall write four letters, I shall finish this work that I have begun." So rare are the pleasures scattered along our difficult path in life, that we must be mad not to turn out of our way and gather anything of joy which is within our reach.
To my mind, there is nothing more attractive than to follow the trail of one's ideas, like a hunter tracking down game, without holding to any road. I like to zigzag about. I set out from my table to the picture in the corner. From there I journey obliquely towards the door; but if I come upon my armchair I stand on no ceremonies, but settle myself in it at once. 'Tis an excellent piece of furniture, an armchair, and especially useful to a meditative man. In long winter evenings it is sometimes delightful and always wise to stretch oneself in it easily, far from the din of the numerous assemblies.
After my armchair, in walking towards the north I discover my bed, which is placed at the end of my room, and there forms a most agreeable perspective. So happily is it arranged that the earliest rays of sunlight come and play on the curtains. I can see them, on fine summer mornings, advancing along the white wall with the rising sun; some elms, growing before my window, divide them in a thousand ways, and make them dance on my bed, which, by their reflection, spread all round the room the tint of its own charming white and rose pattern. I hear the twittering of the swallows that nest in the roof, and of other birds in the elms; a stream of charming thoughts flows into my mind, and in the whole world nobody has an awakening as pleasant and as peaceful as mine.
Only metaphysicians must read this chapter. It throws a great light on the nature of man. I cannot explain how and why I burnt my fingers at the first steps I made in setting out on my journey around my room, until I expose my system of the soul and the beast. In the course of diverse observations I have found out that man is composed of a soul and a beast.
It is often said that man is made up of a soul and a body, and this body is accused of doing all sorts of wrong things. In my opinion, there is no ground for such accusations, for the body is as incapable of feeling as it is of thinking. The beast is the creature on whom the blame should be laid. It is a sensible being, perfectly distinct from the soul, a veritable individual, with its separate existence, tastes, inclinations, and will; it is superior to other animals only because it has been better brought up, and endowed with finer organs. The great art of a man of genius consists in knowing how to train his beast so well that it can run alone, while the soul, delivered from its painful company, rises up into the heavens. I must make this clear by an example.
One day last summer I was walking along on my way to the court. I had been painting all the morning, and my soul, delighted with her meditation on painting, left to the beast the care of transporting me to the king's palace.
"What a sublime art painting is!" thought my soul. "Happy is the man who has been touched by the spectacle of nature, who is not compelled to paint pictures for a living, and still less just to pass the time away; but who, struck by the majesty of a fine physiognomy and by the admirable play of light that blends in a thousand tints on a human face, tries to approach in his works the sublime effects of nature!"
While my soul was making these reflections, the beast was running its own way. Instead of going to court, as it had been ordered to, it swerved so much to the left that at the moment when my soul caught it up, it was at the door of Mme. de Hautcastel's house, half a mile from the palace.
* * * * *
If it is useful and pleasant to have a soul so disengaged from the material world that one can let her travel all alone when one wishes to, this faculty is not without its inconveniences. It was through it, for instance, that I burnt my fingers. I usually leave to my beast the duty of preparing my breakfast. It toasts my bread and cuts it in slices. Above all, it makes coffee beautifully, and it drinks it very often without my soul taking part in the matter, except when she amuses herself with watching the beast at work. This, however, is rare, and a very difficult thing to do.
It is easy, during some mechanical act, to think of something else; but it is extremely difficult to study oneself in action, so to speak; or, to explain myself according to my own system, to employ one's soul in examining the conduct of one's beast, to see it work without taking any part. This is really the most astonishing metaphysical feat that man can execute.
I had laid my tongs on the charcoal to toast my bread, and some time after, while my soul was on her travels, a flaming stump rolled on the grate; my poor beast went to take up the tongs, and I burnt my fingers.
IV.—A Great Picture
The first stage of my journey round my room is accomplished. While my soul has been explaining my new system of metaphysic, I have been sitting in my armchair in my favourite attitude, with the two front feet raised a couple of inches off the floor. By swaying my body to and fro, I have insensibly gained ground, and I find myself with a start close to the wall. This is the way in which I travel when I am not in a hurry.
My chamber is hung with prints and paintings which embellish it in an admirable manner. I should like the reader to examine them one after the other, and to entertain himself during the long journey that we must make in order to arrive at my desk. Look, here is a portrait of Raphael. Beside it is a likeness of the adorable lady whom he loved.
But I have something still finer than these, and I always reserve it for the last. I find that both connoisseurs and ignoramuses, both women of the world and little children, yes, and even animals, are pleased and astonished by the way in which this sublime work renders every effect in nature. What picture can I present to you, gentlemen; what scene can I put beneath your lovely eyes, ladies, more certain of winning your favour than the faithful image of yourselves? The work of which I speak is a looking-glass, and nobody up to the present has taken it into his head to criticise it; it is, for all those who study it, a perfect picture in which there is nothing to blame. It is thus the gem of my collection.
You see this withered rose? It is a flower of the Turin carnival of last year. I gathered it myself at Valentin's, and in the evening, an hour before the ball, I went full of hope and joy to present it to Mme. de Hautcastel. She took it, and placed it on her dressing-table without looking at it, and without looking at me. But how could she take any notice of me? Standing in an ectasy before a great mirror, she was putting the last touches to her finery. So totally was she absorbed in the ribbons, the gauzes, the ornaments heaped up before her, that I could not obtain a glance, a sign. I finished my losing patience, and being unable to resist the feeling of anger that swept over me, I took up the rose and walked out without taking leave of my sweetheart.
"Are you going?" she said, turning round to see her figure in profile.
I did not answer, but I listened at the door to learn if my brusque departure produced any effect.
"Do you not see," exclaimed Mme. de Hautcastel to her maid, after a short silence, "that this pelisse is much too full at the bottom? Get some pins and make a tuck in it."
That is how I come to have a withered rose on my desk. I shall make no reflections on the affair. I shall not even draw any conclusions from it concerning the force and duration of a woman's love.
My forty-two days are coming to an end, and an equal space of time would not suffice to describe the rich country in which I am now travelling, for I have at last reached my bookshelf. It contains nothing but novels—yes, I shall be candid—nothing but novels and a few choice poets. As though I had not enough troubles of my own, I willingly share in those of a thousand imaginary persons, and I feel them as keenly as if they were mine. What tears have I shed over the unhappiness of Clarissa!
But if I thus seek for feigned afflictions, I find, in compensation, in this imaginary world, the virtue, the goodness, the disinterestedness which I have been unable to discover together in the real world in which I exist. It is there that I find the wife that I desire, without temper, without lightness, without subterfuge; I say nothing about beauty—you can depend on my imagination for that! Then, closing the book which no longer answers to my ideas, I take her by the hand, and we wander together through a land a thousand times more delicious than that of Eden. What painter can depict the scene of enchantment in which I have placed the divinity of my heart? But when I am tired of love-making I take up some poet, and set out again for another world.
V.—In Prison Again
O charming land of imagination which has been given to men to console them for the realities of life, it is time for me to leave thee! This is the day when certain persons pretend to give me back my freedom, as though they had deprived me of it! As though it were in their power to take it away from me for a single instant, and to hinder me from scouring as I please the vast space always open before me! They have prevented me from going out into a single town—Turin, a mere point on the earth—but they have left to me the entire universe; immensity and eternity have been at my service.
To-day, then, I am free, or rather I am going to be put back into irons. The yoke of business is again going to weigh me down; I shall not be able to take a step which is not measured by custom or duty. I shall be fortunate if some capricious goddess does not make me forget one and the other, and if I escape from this new and dangerous captivity.
Oh, why did they not let me complete my journey! Was it really to punish me that they confined me in my room? In this country of delight which contains all the good things, all the riches of the world? They might as well have tried to chastise a mouse by shutting him up in a granary.
Yet never have I perceived more clearly that I have a double nature. All the time that I am regretting my pleasures of the imagination, I feel myself consoled by force. A secret power draws me away. It tells me that I have need of the fresh air and the open sky, and that solitude resembles death. So here am I dressed and ready. My door opens; I am rambling under the spacious porticoes of the street of Po; a thousand charming phantoms dance before my eyes. Yes, this is her mansion, this is the door; I tremble with anticipation.
* * * * *
SIR THOMAS MALORY
Little is known of Sir Thomas Malory, who, according to Caxton, "did take out of certain French books a copy of the noble histories of King Arthur and reduced it to English." We learn from the text that "this book was finished in the ninth year of the reign of King Edward the Fourth, by Sir Thomas Malory, Knight." That would be in the year 1469. Malory is said to have been a Welshman. The origin of the Arthurian romance was probably Welsh. Its first literary form was in Geoffrey of Monmouth's prose, in 1147. Translated into French verse, and brightened in the process, these legends appear to have come back to us, and to have received notable additions from Walter Map (1137-1209), another Welshman. A second time they were worked on and embellished by the French romanticists, and from these later versions Malory appears to have collated the materials for his immortal translation. The story of Arthur and Launcelot is the thread of interest followed in this epitome.
I.—The Coming of Arthur
It befell in the days of the noble Utherpendragon, when he was King of England, there was a mighty and noble duke in Cornwall, named the Duke of Tintagil, that held long war against him. And the duke's wife was called a right fair lady, and a passing wise, and Igraine was her name. And the duke, issuing out of the castle at a postern to distress the king's host, was slain. Then all the barons, by one assent, prayed the king of accord between the Lady Igraine and himself. And the king gave them leave, for fain would he have accorded with her; and they were married in a morning with great mirth and joy.
When the Queen Igraine grew daily nearer the time when the child Arthur should be born, Merlin, by whose counsel the king had taken her to wife, came to the king and said: "Sir, you must provide for the nourishing of your child. I know a lord of yours that is a passing true man, and faithful, and he shall have the nourishing of your child. His name is Sir Ector, and he is a lord of fair livelihood." "As thou wilt," said the king, "be it." So the child was delivered unto Merlin, and he bare it forth unto Sir Ector, and made a holy man to christen him, and named him Arthur.
But, within two years, King Uther fell sick of a great malady, and therewith yielded up the ghost, and was interred as belonged unto a king; wherefore Igraine the queen made great sorrow, and all the barons.
Then stood the realm in great jeopardy a long while, for many weened to have been king. And Merlin went to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and counselled him to send for all the lords of the realm, and all the gentlemen of arms, to London before Christmas, upon pain of cursing, that Jesus, of His great mercy, should show some miracle who should be rightwise king. So in the greatest church of London there was seen against the high altar a great stone and in the midst thereof there was an anvil of steel, and therein stuck a fair sword, naked by the point, and letters of gold were written about the sword that said, "Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of England."
And many essayed, but none might stir the sword.
And on New Year's Day the barons made a joust, and Sir Ector rode to the jousts; and with him rode Sir Kaye, his son, and young Arthur, that was his nourished brother.
And Sir Kaye, who was made knight at Allhallowmas afore, had left his sword at his father's lodging, and so prayed young Arthur to ride for it. Then Arthur said to himself, "I will ride to the churchyard and take the sword that sticketh in the stone for my brother Kaye." And so, lightly and fiercely, he pulled it out of the stone, and took horse and delivered to Sir Kaye the sword. "How got you this sword?" said Sir Ector to Arthur. "Sir, I will tell you," said Arthur; "I pulled it out of the stone without any pain." "Now," said Sir Ector, "I understand you must be king of this land." "Wherefore I?" said Arthur. "And for what cause?" "Sir," said Sir Ector, "for God will have it so." And therewithal Sir Ector kneeled down to the earth, and Sir Kaye also.
Then Sir Ector told him all how he had betaken him to nourish him; and Arthur made great moan when he understood that Sir Ector was not his father.
And at the Feast of Pentecost all manner of men essayed to pull out the sword, and none might prevail but Arthur, who pulled it out before all the lords and commons. And the commons cried, "We will have Arthur unto our king." And so anon was the coronation made.
And Merlin said to King Arthur, "Fight not with the sword that you had by miracle till you see that you go to the worst, then draw it out and do your best." And the sword, Excalibur, was so bright that it gave light like thirty torches.
II.—The Marriage of Arthur
In the beginning of King Arthur, after that he was chosen king by adventure and by grace, for the most part the barons knew not that he was Utherpendragon's son but as Merlin made it openly known. And many kings and lords made great war against him for that cause, but King Arthur full well overcame them all; for the most part of the days of his life he was much ruled by the counsel of Merlin. So it befell on a time that he said unto Merlin, "My barons will let me have no rest, but needs they will have that I take a wife, and I will none take but by thy advice."
"It is well done," said Merlin, "for a man of your bounty and nobleness should not be without a wife. Now, is there any fair lady that ye love better than another?"
"Yea," said Arthur; "I love Guinever, the king's daughter, of the land of Cameliard. This damsel is the gentlest and fairest lady I ever could find."
"Sir," said Merlin, "she is one of the fairest that live, and as a man's heart is set he will be loth to return."
But Merlin warned the king privily that Guinever was not wholesome for him to take to wife, for he warned him that Launcelot should love her, and she him again. And Merlin went forth to King Leodegraunce, of Cameliard, and told him of the desire of the king that he would have to his wife Guinever, his daughter. "That is to me," said King Leodegraunce, "the best tidings that ever I heard; and I shall send him a gift that shall please him, for I shall give him the Table Round, the which Utherpendragon gave me; and when it is full complete there is a place for a hundred and fifty knights; and a hundred good knights I have myself, but I lack fifty, for so many have been slain in my days."
And so King Leodegraunce delivered his daughter, Guinever, to Merlin, and the Table Round, with the hundred knights, and they rode freshly and with great royalty, what by water and what by land.
And when Arthur heard of the coming of Guinever and the hundred knights of the Round Table he made great joy; and in all haste did ordain for the marriage and coronation in the most honourable wise that could be devised. And Merlin found twenty-eight good knights of prowess and worship, but no more could he find. And the Archbishop of Canterbury was sent for, and blessed the seats of the Round Table with great devotion.
Then was the high feast made ready, and the king was wedded at Camelot unto Dame Guinever, in the Church of St. Steven's, with great solemnity.
III.—Sir Launcelot and the King
And here I leave off this tale, and overskip great books of Merlin, and Morgan le Fay, and Sir Balin le Savage, and Sir Launcelot du Lake, and Sir Galahad, and the Book of the Holy Grail, and the Book of Elaine, and come to the tale of Sir Launcelot, and the breaking up of the Round Table.