Part 2 out of 2
Nor did I blame Lady Thisbe for turning rather soon to the man on her
`The woman on my right was talking to the man on HER other side; so
that I was left a prey to secret memory and dread. I wasn't
wondering, wasn't attempting to explain; I was merely remembering--and
dreading. And--how odd one is!--on the top-layer of my consciousness
I hated to be seen talking to no one. Mr. Maltby at Keeb. I caught
the Duchess' eye once or twice, and she nodded encouragingly, as who
should say "You do look rather awful, and you do seem rather out of
it, but I don't for a moment regret having asked you to come."
Presently I had another chance of talking. I heard myself talk. My
feverish anxiety to please rather touched ME. But I noticed that the
eyes of my listener wandered. And yet I was sorry when the ladies
went away. I had a sense of greater exposure. Men who hadn't seen me
saw me now. The Duke, as he came round to the Duchess' end of the
table, must have wondered who I was. But he shyly offered me his hand
as he passed, and said it was so good of me to come. I had thought of
slipping away to put on another shirt and waistcoat, but had decided
that this would make me the more ridiculous. I sat drinking port--
poison to me after champagne, but a lulling poison--and listened to
noblemen with unstained shirtfronts talking about the Australian
`Is Rubicon Bezique still played in England? There was a mania for it
at that time. The floor of Keeb's Palladio-Gargantuan hall was dotted
with innumerable little tables. I didn't know how to play. My
hostess told me I must "come and amuse the dear old Duke and Duchess
of Mull," and led me to a remote sofa on which an old gentleman had
just sat down beside an old lady. They looked at me with a dim kind
interest. My hostess had set me and left me on a small gilt chair in
front of them. Before going she had conveyed to them loudly--one of
them was very deaf--that I was "the famous writer." It was a long
time before they understood that I was not a political writer. The
Duke asked me, after a troubled pause, whether I had known "old Mr.
Abraham Hayward." The Duchess said I was too young to have known Mr.
Hayward, and asked if I knew her "clever friend Mr. Mallock." I said
I had just been reading Mr. Mallock's new novel. I heard myself
shouting a confused precis of the plot. The place where we were
sitting was near the foot of the great marble staircase. I said how
beautiful the staircase was. The Duchess of Mull said she had never
cared very much for that staircase. The Duke, after a pause, said he
had "often heard old Mr. Abraham Hayward hold a whole dinner table."
There were long and frequent pauses--between which I heard myself
talking loudly, frantically, sinking lower and lower in the esteem of
my small audience. I felt like a man drowning under the eyes of an
elderly couple who sit on the bank regretting that they can offer NO
assistance. Presently the Duke looked at his watch and said to the
Duchess that it was "time to be thinking of bed."
`They rose, as it were from the bank, and left me, so to speak, under
water. I watched them as they passed slowly out of sight up the
marble staircase which I had mispraised. I turned and surveyed the
brilliant, silent scene presented by the card-players.
`I wondered what old Mr. Abraham Hayward would have done in my place.
Would he have just darted in among those tables and "held" them? I
presumed that he would not have stolen silently away, quickly and
cravenly away, up the marble staircase--as _I_ did.
`I don't know which was the greater, the relief or the humiliation of
finding myself in my bedroom. Perhaps the humiliation was the
greater. There, on a chair, was my grand new smoking-suit, laid out
for me--what a mockery! Once I had foreseen myself wearing it in the
smoking-room at a late hour--the centre of a group of eminent men
entranced by the brilliancy of my conversation. And now--! I was
nothing but a small, dull, soup-stained, sticking-plastered, nerve-
racked recluse. Nerves, yes. I assured myself that I had not seen--
what I had seemed to see. All very odd, of course, and very
unpleasant, but easily explained. Nerves. Excitement of coming to
Keeb too much for me. A good night's rest: that was all I needed.
To-morrow I should laugh at myself.
`I wondered that I wasn't tired physically. There my grand new silk
pyjamas were, yet I felt no desire to go to bed...none while it was
still possible for me to go. The little writing-table at the foot of
my bed seemed to invite me. I had brought with me in my portmanteau a
sheaf of letters, letters that I had purposely left unanswered in
order that I might answer them on KEEB HALL note-paper. These the
footman had neatly laid beside the blotting-pad on that little
writing-table at the foot of the bed. I regretted that the notepaper
stacked there had no ducal coronet on it. What matter? The address
sufficed. If I hadn't yet made a good impression on the people who
were staying here, I could at any rate make one on the people who
weren't. I sat down. I set to work. I wrote a prodigious number of
fluent and graceful notes.
`Some of these were to strangers who wanted my autograph. I was
always delighted to send my autograph, and never perfunctory in the
manner of sending it.... "Dear Madam," I remember writing to somebody
that night, "were it not that you make your request for it so
charmingly, I should hesitate to send you that which rarity alone can
render valuable.--Yours truly, Hilary Maltby." I remember reading
this over and wondering whether the word "render" looked rather
commercial. It was in the act of wondering thus that I raised my eyes
from the note-paper and saw, through the bars of the brass bedstead,
the naked sole of a large human foot--saw beyond it the calf of a
great leg; a nightshirt; and the face of Stephen Braxton. I did not
`I thought of making a dash for the door, dashing out into the
corridor, shouting at the top of my voice for help. I sat quite
`What kept me to my chair was the fear that if I tried to reach the
door Braxton would spring off the bed to intercept me. If I sat quite
still perhaps he wouldn't move. I felt that if he moved I should
`I watched him, and he watched me. He lay there with his body half-
raised, one elbow propped on the pillow, his jaw sunk on his breast;
and from under his black brows he watched me steadily.
`No question of mere nerves now. That hope was gone. No mere optical
delusion, this abiding presence. Here Braxton was. He and I were
together in the bright, silent room. How long would he be content to
`Eleven nights ago he had given me one horrible look. It was this
look that I had to meet, in infinite prolongation, now, not daring to
shift my eyes. He lay as motionless as I sat. I did not hear him
breathing, but I knew, by the rise and fall of his chest under his
nightshirt, that he was breathing heavily. Suddenly I started to my
feet. For he had moved. He had raised one hand slowly. He was
stroking his chin. And as he did so, and as he watched me, his mouth
gradually slackened to a grin. It was worse, it was more malign, this
grin, than the scowl that remained with it; and its immediate effect
on me was an impulse that was as hard to resist as it was hateful.
The window was open. It was nearer to me than the door. I could have
reached it in time....
`Well, I live to tell the tale. I stood my ground. And there dawned
on me now a new fact in regard to my companion. I had all the while
been conscious of something abnormal in his attitude--a lack of ease
in his gross possessiveness. I saw now the reason for this effect.
The pillow on which his elbow rested was still uniformly puffed and
convex; like a pillow untouched. His elbow rested but on the very
surface of it, not changing the shape of it at all. His body made not
the least furrow along the bed.... He had no weight.
`I knew that if I leaned forward and thrust my hand between those
brass rails, to clutch his foot, I should clutch--nothing. He wasn't
tangible. He was realistic. He wasn't real. He was opaque. He
`Odd as it may seem to you, these certainties took the edge off my
horror. During that walk with Lady Rodfitten, I had been appalled by
the doubt that haunted me. But now the very confirmation of that
doubt gave me a sort of courage: I could cope better with anything to-
night than with actual Braxton. And the measure of the relief I felt
is that I sat down again on my chair.
`More than once there came to me a wild hope that the thing might be
an optical delusion, after all. Then would I shut my eyes tightly,
shaking my head sharply; but, when I looked again, there the presence
was, of course. It--he--not actual Braxton but, roughly speaking,
Braxton--had come to stay. I was conscious of intense fatigue, taut
and alert though every particle of me was; so that I became, in the
course of that ghastly night, conscious of a great envy also. For
some time before the dawn came in through the window, Braxton's eyes
had been closed; little by little now his head drooped sideways, then
fell on his forearm and rested there. He was asleep.
`Cut off from sleep, I had a great longing for smoke. I had
cigarettes on me, I had matches on me. But I didn't dare to strike a
match. The sound might have waked Braxton up. In slumber he was less
terrible, though perhaps more odious. I wasn't so much afraid now as
indignant. "It's intolerable," I sat saying to myself, "utterly
`I had to bear it, nevertheless. I was aware that I had, in some
degree, brought it on myself. If I hadn't interfered and lied, actual
Braxton would have been here at Keeb, and I at this moment sleeping
soundly. But this was no excuse for Braxton. Braxton didn't know
what I had done. He was merely envious of me. And--wanly I puzzled
it out in the dawn--by very force of the envy, hatred, and malice in
him he had projected hither into my presence this simulacrum of
himself. I had known that he would be thinking of me. I had known
that the thought of me at Keeb Hall would be of the last bitterness to
his most sacred feelings. But--I had reckoned without the passionate
force and intensity of the man's nature.
`If by this same strength and intensity he had merely projected
himself as an invisible guest under the Duchess' roof--if his feat had
been wholly, as perhaps it was in part, a feat of mere wistfulness and
longing--then I should have felt really sorry for him; and my
conscience would have soundly rated me in his behalf. But no; if the
wretched creature HAD been invisible to me, I shouldn't have thought
of Braxton at all--except with gladness that he wasn't here. That he
was visible to me, and to me alone, wasn't any sign of proper remorse
within me. It was but the gauge of his incredible ill-will.
`Well, it seemed to me that he was avenged--with a vengeance. There I
sat, hot-browed from sleeplessness, cold in the feet, stiff in the
legs, cowed and indignant all through--sat there in the broadening
daylight, and in that new evening suit of mine with the Braxtonised
shirtfront and waistcoat that by day were more than ever loathsome.
Literature's Ambassador at Keeb.... I rose gingerly from my chair,
and caught sight of my face, of my Braxtonised cheek, in the mirror.
I heard the twittering of birds in distant trees. I saw through my
window the elaborate landscape of the Duke's grounds, all soft in the
grey bloom of early morning. I think I was nearer to tears than I had
ever been since I was a child. But the weakness passed. I turned
towards the personage on my bed, and, summoning all such power as was
in me, WILLED him to be gone. My effort was not without result--an
inadequate result. Braxton turned in his sleep.
`I resumed my seat, and...and...sat up staring and blinking, at a tall
man with red hair. "I must have fallen asleep," I said. "Yessir," he
replied; and his toneless voice touched in me one or two springs of
memory: I was at Keeb; this was the footman who looked after me. But-
-why wasn't I in bed? Had I--no, surely it had been no nightmare.
Surely I had SEEN Braxton on that white bed.
`The footman was impassively putting away my smoking-suit. I was too
dazed to wonder what he thought of me. Nor did I attempt to stifle a
cry when, a moment later, turning in my chair, I beheld Braxton
leaning moodily against the mantelpiece. "Are you unwellsir?" asked
the footman. "No," I said faintly, "I'm quite well."--"Yessir. Will
you wear the blue suit or the grey?"--"The grey."--"Yessir."--It
seemed almost incredible that HE didn't see Braxton; HE didn't appear
to me one whit more solid than the night-shirted brute who stood
against the mantelpiece and watched him lay out my things.--"Shall I
let your bath-water run nowsir?"--"Please, yes."--"Your bathroom's the
second door to the left sir."--He went out with my bath-towel and
sponge, leaving me alone with Braxton.
`I rose to my feet, mustering once more all the strength that was in
me. Hoping against hope, with set teeth and clenched hands, I faced
him, thrust forth my will at him, with everything but words commanded
him to vanish--to cease to be.
`Suddenly, utterly, he vanished. And you can imagine the truly
exquisite sense of triumph that thrilled me and continued to thrill me
till I went into the bathroom and found him in my bath.
`Quivering with rage, I returned to my bedroom. "Intolerable," I
heard myself repeating like a parrot that knew no other word. A bath
was just what I had needed. Could I have lain for a long time basking
in very hot water, and then have sponged myself with cold water, I
should have emerged calm and brave; comparatively so, at any rate. I
should have looked less ghastly, and have had less of a headache, and
something of an appetite, when I went down to breakfast. Also, I
shouldn't have been the very first guest to appear on the scene.
There were five or six round tables, instead of last night's long
table. At the further end of the room the butler and two other
servants were lighting the little lamps under the hot dishes. I
didn't like to make myself ridiculous by running away. On the other
hand, was it right for me to begin breakfast all by myself at one of
these round tables? I supposed it was. But I dreaded to be found
eating, alone in that vast room, by the first downcomer. I sat
dallying with dry toast and watching the door. It occurred to me that
Braxton might occur at any moment. Should I be able to ignore him?
`Some man and wife--a very handsome couple--were the first to appear.
They nodded and said "good morning" when they noticed me on their way
to the hot dishes. I rose--uncomfortably, guiltily--and sat down
again. I rose again when the wife drifted to my table, followed by
the husband with two steaming plates. She asked me if it wasn't a
heavenly morning, and I replied with nervous enthusiasm that it was.
She then ate kedgeree in silence. "You just finishing, what?" the
husband asked, looking at my plate. "Oh, no--no--only just
beginning," I assured him, and helped myself to butter. He then ate
kedgeree in silence. He looked like some splendid bull, and she like
some splendid cow, grazing. I envied them their eupeptic calm. I
surmised that ten thousand Braxtons would not have prevented THEM from
sleeping soundly by night and grazing steadily by day. Perhaps their
stolidity infected me a little. Or perhaps what braced me was the
great quantity of strong tea that I consumed. Anyhow I had begun to
feel that if Braxton came in now I shouldn't blench nor falter.
`Well, I wasn't put to the test. Plenty of people drifted in, but
Braxton wasn't one of them. Lady Rodfitten--no, she didn't drift, she
marched, in; and presently, at an adjacent table, she was drawing a
comparison, in clarion tones, between Jean and Edouard de Reszke. It
seemed to me that her own voice had much in common with Edouard's.
Even more was it akin to a military band. I found myself beating time
to it with my foot. Decidedly, my spirits had risen. I was in a mood
to face and outface anything. When I rose from the table and made my
way to the door, I walked with something of a swing--to the tune of
`My buoyancy didn't last long, though. There was no swing in my walk
when, a little later, I passed out on to the spectacular terrace. I
had seen my enemy again, and had beaten a furious retreat. No doubt I
should see him yet again soon--here, perhaps, on this terrace. Two of
the guests were bicycling slowly up and down the long paven expanse,
both of them smiling with pride in the new delicious form of
locomotion. There was a great array of bicycles propped neatly along
the balustrade. I recognised my own among them. I wondered whether
Braxton had projected from Clifford's Inn an image of his own bicycle.
He may have done so; but I've no evidence that he did. I myself was
bicycling when next I saw him; but he, I remember, was on foot.
`This was a few minutes later. I was bicycling with dear Lady
Rodfitten. She seemed really to like me. She had come out and
accosted me heartily on the terrace, asking me, because of my
sticking-plaster, with whom I had fought a duel since yesterday. I
did not tell her with whom, and she had already branched off on the
subject of duelling in general. She regretted the extinction of
duelling in England, and gave cogent reasons for her regret. Then she
asked me what my next book was to be. I confided that I was writing a
sort of sequel--"Ariel Returns to Mayfair." She shook her head, said
with her usual soundness that sequels were very dangerous things, and
asked me to tell her "briefly" the lines along which I was working. I
did so. She pointed out two or three weak points in my scheme. She
said she could judge better if I would let her see my manuscript. She
asked me to come and lunch with her next Friday--"just our two
selves"--at Rodfitten House, and to bring my manuscript with me. Need
I say that I walked on air?
`"And now," she said strenuously, "let us take a turn on our
bicycles." By this time there were a dozen riders on the terrace, all
of them smiling with pride and rapture. We mounted and rode along
together. The terrace ran round two sides of the house, and before we
came to the end of it these words had provisionally marshalled
themselves in my mind:
COUNTESS OF RODFITTEN
THIS BOOK WHICH OWES ALL
TO HER WISE COUNSEL
AND UNWEARYING SUPERVISION
IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED
BY HER FRIEND
`Smiled to masonically by the passing bicyclists, and smiling
masonically to them in return, I began to feel that the rest of my
visit would run smooth, if only--
`"Let's go a little faster. Let's race!" said Lady Rodfitten; and we
did so--"just our two selves." I was on the side nearer to the
balustrade, and it was on that side that Braxton suddenly appeared
from nowhere, solid-looking as a rock, his arms akimbo, less than
three yards ahead of me, so that I swerved involuntarily, sharply,
striking broadside the front wheel of Lady Rodfitten and collapsing
with her, and with a crash of machinery, to the ground.
`I wasn't hurt. She had broken my fall. I wished I was dead. She
was furious. She sat speechiess with fury. A crowd had quickiy
collected--just as in the case of a street accident. She accused me
now to the crowd. She said I had done it on purpose. She said such
terrible things of me that I think the crowd's sympathy must have
veered towards me. She was assisted to her feet. I tried to be one
of the assistants. "Don't let him come near me!" she thundered. I
caught sight of Braxton on the fringe of the crowd, grinning at me.
"It was all HIS fault," I madly cried, pointing at him. Everybody
looked at Mr. Balfour, just behind whom Braxton was standing. There
was a general murmur of surprise, in which I have no doubt Mr. Balfour
joined. He gave a charming, blank, deprecating smile. "I mean--I
can't explain what I mean," I groaned. Lady Rodfitten moved away,
refusing support, limping terribly, towards the house. The crowd
followed her, solicitous. I stood helplessly, desperately, where I
`I stood an outlaw, a speck on the now empty terrace. Mechanically I
picked up my straw hat, and wheeled the two bent bicycles to the
balustrade. I suppose Mr. Balfour has a charming nature. For he
presently came out again--on purpose, I am sure, to alleviate my
misery. He told me that Lady Rodfitten had suffered no harm. He took
me for a stroll up and down the terrace, talking thoughtfully and
enchantingly about things in general. Then, having done his deed of
mercy, this Good Samaritan went back into the house. My eyes followed
him with gratitude; but I was still bleeding from wounds beyond his
skill. I escaped down into the gardens. I wanted to see no one.
Still more did I want to be seen by no one. I dreaded in every nerve
of me my reappearance among those people. I walked ever faster and
faster, to stifle thought; but in vain. Why hadn't I simply ridden
THROUGH Braxton? I was aware of being now in the park, among great
trees and undulations of wild green ground. But Nature did not
achieve the task that Mr. Balfour had attempted; and my anguish was
`I paused to lean against a tree in the huge avenue that led to the
huge hateful house. I leaned wondering whether the thought of re-
entering that house were the more hateful because I should have to
face my fellow-guests or because I should probably have to face
Braxton. A church bell began ringing somewhere. And anon I was aware
of another sound--a twitter of voices. A consignment of hatted and
parasoled ladies was coming fast adown the avenue. My first impulse
was to dodge behind my tree. But I feared that I had been observed;
so that what was left to me of self-respect compelled me to meet these
`The Duchess was among them. I had seen her from afar at breakfast,
but not since. She carried a prayer-book, which she waved to me as I
approached. I was a disastrous guest, but still a guest, and nothing
could have been prettier than her smile. "Most of my men this week,"
she said, "are Pagans, and all the others have dispatch-boxes to go
through--except the dear old Duke of Mull, who's a member of the Free
Kirk. You're Pagan, of course?"
`I said--and indeed it was a heart-cry--that I should like very much
to come to church. "If I shan't be in the way," I rather abjectly
added. It didn't strike me that Braxton would try to intercept me. I
don't know why, but it never occurred to me, as I walked briskly along
beside the Duchess, that I should meet him so far from the house. The
church was in a corner of the park, and the way to it was by a side
path that branched off from the end of the avenue. A little way
along, casting its shadow across the path, was a large oak. It was
from behind this tree, when we came to it, that Braxton sprang
suddenly forth and tripped me up with his foot.
`Absurd to be tripped up by the mere semblance of a foot? But
remember, I was walking quickly, and the whole thing happened in a
flash of time. It was inevitable that I should throw out my hands and
come down headlong--just as though the obstacle had been as real as it
looked. Down I came on palms and knee-caps, and up I scrambled, very
much hurt and shaken and apologetic. "POOR Mr. Maltby! REALLY--!"
the Duchess wailed for me in this latest of my mishaps. Some other
lady chased my straw hat, which had bowled far ahead. Two others
helped to brush me. They were all very kind, with a quaver of mirth
in their concern for me. I looked furtively around for Braxton, but
he was gone. The palms of my hands were abraded with gravel. The
Duchess said I must on no account come to church NOW. I was utterly
determined to reach that sanctuary. I marched firmly on with the
Duchess. Come what might on the way, I wasn't going to be left out
here. I was utterly bent on winning at least one respite.
`Well, I reached the little church without further molestation. To be
there seemed almost too good to be true. The organ, just as we
entered, sounded its first notes. The ladies rustled into the front
pew. I, being the one male of the party, sat at the end of the pew,
beside the Duchess. I couldn't help feeling that my position was a
proud one. But I had gone through too much to take instant pleasure
in it, and was beset by thoughts of what new horror might await me on
the way back to the house. I hoped the Service would not be brief.
The swelling and dwindling strains of the "voluntary" on the small
organ were strangely soothing. I turned to give an almost feudal
glance to the simple villagers in the pews behind, and saw a sight
that cowed my soul.
`Braxton was coming up the aisle. He came slowly, casting a tourist's
eye at the stained-glass windows on either side. Walking heavily, yet
with no sound of boots on the pavement, he reached our pew. There,
towering and glowering, he halted, as though demanding that we should
make room for him. A moment later he edged sullenly into the pew.
Instinctively I had sat tight back, drawing my knees aside, in a
shudder of revulsion against contact. But Braxton did not push past
me. What he did was to sit slowly and fully down on me.
`No, not down ON me. Down THROUGH me--and around me. What befell me
was not mere ghastly contact with the intangible. It was inclusion,
envelopment, eclipse. What Braxton sat down on was not I, but the
seat of the pew; and what he sat back against was not my face and
chest, but the back of the pew. I didn't realise this at the moment.
All I knew was a sudden black blotting-out of all things; an infinite
and impenetrable darkness. I dimly conjectured that I was dead. What
was wrong with me, in point of fact, was that my eyes, with the rest
of me, were inside Braxton. You remember what a great hulking fellow
Braxton was. I calculate that as we sat there my eyes were just
beneath the roof of his mouth. Horrible!
`Out of the unfathomable depths of that pitch darkness, I could yet
hear the "voluntary" swelling and dwindling, just as before. It was
by this I knew now that I wasn't dead. And I suppose I must have
craned my head forward, for I had a sudden glimpse of things--a close
quick downward glimpse of a pepper-and-salt waistcoat and of two great
hairy hands clasped across it. Then darkness again. Either I had
drawn back my head, or Braxton had thrust his forward; I don't know
which. "Are you all right?" the Duchess' voice whispered, and no
doubt my face was ashen. "Quite," whispered my voice. But this
pathetic monosyllable was the last gasp of the social instinct in me.
Suddenly, as the "voluntary" swelled to its close, there was a great
sharp shuffling noise. The congregation had risen to its feet, at the
entry of choir and vicar. Braxton had risen, leaving me in daylight.
I beheld his towering back. The Duchess, beside him, glanced round at
me. But I could not, dared not, stand up into that presented back,
into that great waiting darkness. I did but clutch my hat from
beneath the seat and hurry distraught down the aisle, out through the
porch, into the open air.
`Whither? To what goal? I didn't reason. I merely fled--like
Orestes; fled like an automaton along the path we had come by. And
was followed? Yes, yes. Glancing back across my shoulder, I saw that
brute some twenty yards behind me, gaining on me. I broke into a
sharper run. A few sickening moments later, he was beside me,
scowling down into my face.
`I swerved, dodged, doubled on my tracks, but he was always at me.
Now and again, for lack of breath, I halted, and he halted with me.
And then, when I had got my wind, I would start running again, in the
insane hope of escaping him. We came, by what twisting and turning
course I know not, to the great avenue, and as I stood there in an
agony of panting I had a dazed vision of the distant Hall. Really I
had quite forgotten I was staying at the Duke of Hertfordshire's. But
Braxton hadn't forgotten. He planted himself in front of me. He
stood between me and the house.
`Faint though I was, I could almost have laughed. Good heavens! was
THAT all he wanted: that I shouldn't go back there? Did he suppose I
wanted to go back there--with HIM? Was I the Duke's prisoner on
parole? What was there to prevent me from just walking off to the
railway station? I turned to do so.
`He accompanied me on my way. I thought that when once I had passed
through the lodge gates he might vanish, satisfied. But no, he didn't
vanish. It was as though he suspected that if he let me out of his
sight I should sneak back to the house. He arrived with me, this
quiet companion of mine, at the little railway station. Evidently he
meant to see me off. I learned from an elderly and solitary porter
that the next train to London was the 4.3.
`Well, Braxton saw me off by the 4.3. I reflected, as I stepped up
into an empty compartment, that it wasn't yet twenty-four hours ago
since I, or some one like me, had alighted at that station.
`The guard blew his whistle; the engine shrieked, and the train jolted
forward and away; but I did not lean out of the window to see the last
of my attentive friend.
`Really not twenty-four hours ago? Not twenty-four years?'
Maltby paused in his narrative. `Well, well,' he said, `I don't want
you to think I overrate the ordeal of my visit to Keeb. A man of
stronger nerve than mine, and of greater resourcefulness, might have
coped successfully with Braxton from first to last--might have stayed
on till Monday, making a very favourable impression on every one all
the while. Even as it was, even after my manifold failures and sudden
flight, I don't say my position was impossible. I only say it seemed
so to me. A man less sensitive than I, and less vain, might have
cheered up after writing a letter of apology to his hostess, and have
resumed his normal existence as though nothing very terrible had
happened, after all. I wrote a few lines to the Duchess that night;
but I wrote amidst the preparations for my departure from England: I
crossed the Channel next morning. Throughout that Sunday afternoon
with Braxton at the Keeb railway station, pacing the desolate platform
with him, waiting in the desolating waiting-room with him, I was numb
to regrets, and was thinking of nothing but the 4.3. On the way to
Victoria my brain worked and my soul wilted. Every incident in my
stay at Keeb stood out clear to me; a dreadful, a hideous pattern. I
had done for myself, so far as THOSE people were concerned. And now
that I had sampled THEM, what cared I for others? "Too low for a
hawk, too high for a buzzard." That homely old saying seemed to sum
me up. And suppose I COULD still take pleasure in the company of my
own old upper-middle class, how would that class regard me now?
Gossip percolates. Little by little, I was sure, the story of my Keeb
fiasco would leak down into the drawing-room of Mrs. Foster-Dugdale.
I felt I could never hold up my head in any company where anything of
that story was known. Are you quite sure you never heard anything?'
I assured Maltby that all I had known was the great bare fact of his
having stayed at Keeb Hall.
`It's curious,' he reflected. `It's a fine illustration of the
loyalty of those people to one another. I suppose there was a general
agreement for the Duchess' sake that nothing should be said about her
queer guest. But even if I had dared hope to be so efficiently hushed
up, I couldn't have not fled. I wanted to forget. I wanted to leap
into some void, far away from all reminders. I leapt straight from
Ryder Street into Vaule-la-Rochette, a place of which I had once heard
that it was the least frequented seaside-resort in Europe. I leapt
leaving no address--leapt telling my landlord that if a suit-case and
a portmanteau arrived for me he could regard them, them and their
contents, as his own for ever. I daresay the Duchess wrote me a kind
little letter, forcing herself to express a vague hope that I would
come again "some other time." I daresay Lady Rodfitten did NOT write
reminding me of my promise to lunch on Friday and bring "Ariel Returns
to Mayfair" with me. I left that manuscript at Ryder Street; in my
bedroom grate; a shuffle of ashes. Not that I'd yet given up all
thought of writing. But I certainly wasn't going to write now about
the two things I most needed to forget. I wasn't going to write about
the British aristocracy, nor about any kind of supernatural
presence.... I did write a novel--my last--while I was at Vaule.
"Mr. and Mrs. Robinson." Did you ever come across a copy of it?
I nodded gravely.
`Ah; I wasn't sure,' said Maltby, `whether it was ever published. A
dreary affair, wasn't it? I knew a great deal about suburban life.
But--well, I suppose one can't really understand what one doesn't
love, and one can't make good fun without real understanding.
Besides, what chance of virtue is there for a book written merely to
distract the author's mind? I had hoped to be healed by sea and
sunshine and solitude. These things were useless. The labour of "Mr.
and Mrs. Robinson" did help, a little. When I had finished it, I
thought I might as well send it off to my publisher. He had given me
a large sum of money, down, after "Ariel," for my next book--so large
that I was rather loth to disgorge. In the note I sent with the
manuscript, I gave no address, and asked that the proofs should be
read in the office. I didn't care whether the thing were published or
not. I knew it would be a dead failure if it were. What mattered one
more drop in the foaming cup of my humiliation? I knew Braxton would
grin and gloat. I didn't mind even that.'
`Oh, well,' I said, `Braxton was in no mood for grinning and gloating.
"The Drones" had already appeared.'
Maltby had never heard of `The Drones'--which I myself had remembered
only in the course of his disclosures. I explained to him that it was
Braxton's second novel, and was by way of being a savage indictment of
the British aristocracy; that it was written in the worst possible
taste, but was so very dull that it fell utterly flat; that Braxton
had forthwith taken, with all of what Maltby had called `the
passionate force and intensity of his nature,' to drink, and had
presently gone under and not re-emerged.
Maltby gave signs of genuine, though not deep, emotion, and cited two
or three of the finest passages from `A Faun on the Cotswolds.' He
even expressed a conviction that `The Drones' must have been
misjudged. He said he blamed himself more than ever for yielding to
that bad impulse at that Soiree.
`And yet,' he mused, `and yet, honestly, I can't find it in my heart
to regret that I did yield. I can only wish that all had turned out
as well, in the end, for Braxton as for me. I wish he could have won
out, as I did, into a great and lasting felicity. For about a year
after I had finished "Mr. and Mrs. Robinson" I wandered from place to
place, trying to kill memory, shunning all places frequented by the
English. At last I found myself in Lucca. Here, if anywhere, I
thought, might a bruised and tormented spirit find gradual peace. I
determined to move out of my hotel into some permanent lodging. Not
for felicity, not for any complete restoration of self-respect, was I
hoping; only for peace. A "mezzano" conducted me to a noble and
ancient house, of which, he told me, the owner was anxious to let the
first floor. It was in much disrepair, but even so seemed to me very
cheap. According to the simple Luccan standard, I am rich. I took
that first floor for a year, had it repaired, and engaged two
servants. My "padrona" inhabited the ground floor. From time to time
she allowed me to visit her there. She was the Contessa Adriano-
Rizzoli, the last of her line. She is the Contessa Adriano-Rizzoli-
Maltby. We have been married fifteen years.'
Maltby looked at his watch. He rose and took tenderly from the table
his great bunch of roses. `She is a lineal descendant,' he said, `of
the Emperor Hadrian.'
I like to remember that I was the first to call him so, for, though he
always deprecated the nickname, in his heart he was pleased by it, I
know, and encouraged to go on.
Quite apart from its significance, he had reason to welcome it. He
had been unfortunate at the font. His parents, at the time of his
birth, lived in Ladbroke Crescent, XV. They must have been an
extraordinarily unimaginative couple, for they could think of no
better name for their child than Ladbroke. This was all very well for
him till he went to school. But you can fancy the indignation and
delight of us boys at finding among us a newcomer who, on his own
confession, had been named after a Crescent. I don't know how it is
nowadays, but thirty-five years ago, certainly, schoolboys regarded
the possession of ANY Christian name as rather unmanly. As we all had
these encumbrances, we had to wreak our scorn on any one who was
cumbered in a queer fashion. I myself, bearer of a Christian name
adjudged eccentric though brief, had had much to put up with in my
first term. Brown's arrival, therefore, at the beginning of my second
term, was a good thing for me, and I am afraid I was very prominent
among his persecutors. Trafalgar Brown, Tottenham Court Brown, Bond
Brown--what names did we little brutes NOT cull for him from the
London Directory? Except how miserable we made his life, I do not
remember much about him as he was at that time, and the only important
part of the little else that I do recall is that already he showed a
strong sense for literature. For the majority of us Carthusians,
literature was bounded on the north by Whyte Melville, on the south by
Hawley Smart, on the east by the former, and on the west by the
latter. Little Brown used to read Harrison Ainsworth, Wilkie Collins,
and other writers whom we, had we assayed them, would have dismissed
as `deep.' It has been said by Mr. Arthur Symons that `all art is a
mode of escape.' The art of letters did not, however, enable Brown to
escape so far from us as he would have wished. In my third term he
did not reappear among us. His parents had in some sort atoned.
Unimaginative though they were, it seems they could understand a tale
of woe laid before them circumstantially, and had engaged a private
tutor for their boy. Fifteen years elapsed before I saw him again.
This was at the second night of some play. I was dramatic critic for
the Saturday Review, and, weary of meeting the same lot of people over
and over again at first nights, had recently sent a circular to the
managers asking that I might have seats for second nights instead. I
found that there existed as distinct and invariable a lot of second-
nighters as of first-nighters. The second-nighters were less `showy';
but then, they came rather to see than to be seen, and there was an
air, that I liked, of earnestness and hopefulness about them. I used
to write a great deal about the future of the British drama, and they,
for their part, used to think and talk a great deal about it. People
who care about books and pictures find much to interest and please
them in the present. It is only the students of the theatre who
always fall back, or rather forward, on the future. Though second-
nighters do come to see, they remain rather to hope and pray. I
should have known anywhere, by the visionary look in his eyes, that
Brown was a confirmed second-nighter.
What surprises me is that I knew he was Brown. It is true that he had
not grown much in those fifteen years: his brow was still
disproportionate to his body, and he looked young to have become
`confirmed' in any habit. But it is also true that not once in the
past ten years, at any rate, had he flitted through my mind and poised
on my conscience.
I hope that I and those other boys had long ago ceased from recurring
to him in nightmares. Cordial though the hand was that I offered him,
and highly civilised my whole demeanour, he seemed afraid that at any
moment I might begin to dance around him, shooting out my lips at him
and calling him Seven-Sisters Brown or something of that kind. It was
only after constant meetings at second nights, and innumerable
entr'acte talks about the future of the drama, that he began to trust
me. In course of time we formed the habit of walking home together as
far as Cumberland Place, at which point our ways diverged. I gathered
that he was still living with his parents, but he did not tell me
where, for they had not, as I learned by reference to the Red Book,
moved from Ladbroke Crescent.
I found his company restful rather than inspiring. His days were
spent in clerkship at one of the smaller Government Offices, his
evenings--except when there was a second night--in reading and
writing. He did not seem to know much, or to wish to know more, about
life. Books and plays, first editions and second nights, were what he
cared for. On matters of religion and ethics he was as little keen as
he seemed to be on human character in the raw; so that (though I had
already suspected him of writing, or meaning to write, a play) my
eyebrows did rise when he told me he meant to write a play about
He made me understand, however, that it was rather the name than the
man that had first attracted him. He said that the name was in itself
a great incentive to blank-verse. He uttered it to me slowly, in a
voice so much deeper than his usual voice, that I nearly laughed. For
the actual bearer of the name he had no hero-worship, and said it was
by a mere accident that he had chosen him as central figure. He had
thought of writing a tragedy about Sardanapalus; but the volume of the
"Encyclopedia Britannica" in which he was going to look up the main
facts about Sardanapalus happened to open at Savonarola. Hence a
sudden and complete peripety in the student's mind. He told me he had
read the Encyclopedia's article carefully, and had dipped into one or
two of the books there mentioned as authorities. He seemed almost to
wish he hadn't. `Facts get in one's way so,' he complained. `History
is one thing, drama is another. Aristotle said drama was more
philosophic than history because it showed us what men WOULD do, not
just what they DID. I think that's so true, don't you? I want to
show what Savonarola WOULD have done if--' He paused.
`Well, that's just the point. I haven't settled that yet. When I've
thought of a plot, I shall go straight ahead.'
I said I supposed he intended his tragedy rather for the study than
for the stage. This seemed to hurt him. I told him that what I meant
was that managers always shied at anything without `a strong feminine
interest.' This seemed to worry him. I advised him not to think
about managers. He promised that he would think only about
I know now that this promise was not exactly kept by him; and he may
have felt slightly awkward when, some weeks later, he told me he had
begun the play. `I've hit on an initial idea,' he said, `and that's
enough to start with. I gave up my notion of inventing a plot in
advance. I thought it would be a mistake. I don't want puppets on
wires. I want Savonarola to work out his destiny in his own way. Now
that I have the initial idea, what I've got to do is to make
Savonarola LIVE. I hope I shall be able to do this. Once he's alive,
I shan't interfere with him. I shall just watch him. Won't it be
interesting? He isn't alive yet. But there's plenty of time. You
see, he doesn't come on at the rise of the curtain. A Friar and a
Sacristan come on and talk about him. By the time they've finished,
perhaps he'll be alive. But they won't have finished yet. Not that
they're going to say very much. But I write slowly.'
I remember the mild thrill I had when, one evening, he took me aside
and said in an undertone, `Savonarola has come on. Alive!' For me
the MS. hereinafter printed has an interest that for you it cannot
have, so a-bristle am I with memories of the meetings I had with its
author throughout the nine years he took over it. He never saw me
without reporting progress, or lack of progress. Just what was going
on, or standing still, he did not divulge. After the entry of
Savonarola, he never told me what characters were appearing. `All
sorts of people appear,' he would say rather helplessly. `They
insist. I can't prevent them.' I used to say it must be great fun to
be a creative artist; but at this he always shook his head: `I don't
create. THEY do. Savonarola especially, of course. I just look on
and record. I never know what's going to happen next.' He had the
advantage of me in knowing at any rate what had happened last. But
whenever I pled for a glimpse he would again shake his head:
`The thing MUST be judged as a whole. Wait till I've come to the end
of the Fifth Act.'
So impatient did I become that, as the years went by, I used rather to
resent his presence at second nights. I felt he ought to be at his
desk. His, I used to tell him, was the only drama whose future ought
to concern him now. And in point of fact he had, I think, lost the
true spirit of the second-nighter, and came rather to be seen than to
see. He liked the knowledge that here and there in the auditorium,
when he entered it, some one would be saying `Who is that?' and
receiving the answer `Oh, don't you know? That's "Savonarola" Brown.'
This sort of thing, however, did not make him cease to be the modest,
unaffected fellow I had known. He always listened to the advice I
used to offer him, though inwardly he must have chafed at it. Myself
a fidgety and uninspired person, unable to begin a piece of writing
before I know just how it shall end, I had always been afraid that
sooner or later Brown would take some turning that led nowhither--
would lose himself and come to grief. This fear crept into my
gladness when, one evening in the spring of 1909, he told me he had
finished the Fourth Act. Would he win out safely through the Fifth?
He himself was looking rather glum; and, as we walked away from the
theatre, I said to him, `I suppose you feel rather like Thackeray when
he'd "killed the Colonel": you've got to kill the Monk.'
`Not quite that,' he answered. `But of course he'll die very soon
now. A couple of years or so. And it does seem rather sad. It's not
merely that he's so full of life. He has been becoming much more
HUMAN lately. At first I only respected him. Now I have a real
affection for him.'
This was an interesting glimpse at last, but I turned from it to my
`Haven't you,' I asked, `any notion of HOW he is to die?'
Brown shook his head.
`But in a tragedy,' I insisted, `the catastrophe MUST be led up to,
step by step. My dear Brown, the end of the hero MUST be logical and
`I don't see that,' he said, as we crossed Piccadilly Circus. `In
actual life it isn't so. What is there to prevent a motor-omnibus
from knocking me over and killing me at this moment?'
At that moment, by what has always seemed to me the strangest of
coincidences, and just the sort of thing that playwrights ought to
avoid, a motor-omnibus knocked Brown over and killed him.
He had, as I afterwards learned, made a will in which he appointed me
his literary executor. Thus passed into my hands the unfinished play
by whose name he had become known to so many people.
I hate to say that I was disappointed in it, but I had better confess
quite frankly that, on the whole, I was. Had Brown written it quickly
and read it to me soon after our first talk about it, it might in some
ways have exceeded my hopes. But he had become for me, by reason of
that quiet and unhasting devotion to his work while the years came and
went, a sort of hero; and the very mystery involving just what he was
about had addicted me to those ideas of magnificence which the unknown
is said always to foster.
Even so, however, I am not blind to the great merits of the play as it
stands. It is well that the writer of poetic drama should be a
dramatist and a poet. Here is a play that abounds in striking
situations, and I have searched it vainly for one line that does not
scan. What I nowhere feel is that I have not elsewhere been thrilled
or lulled by the same kind of thing. I do not go so far as to say
that Brown inherited his parents' deplorable lack of imagination. But
I do wish he had been less sensitive than he was to impressions, or
else had seen and read fewer poetic dramas ancient and modern.
Remembering that visionary look in his eyes, remembering that he was
as displeased as I by the work of all living playwrights, and as
dissatisfied with the great efforts of the Elizabethans, I wonder that
he was not more immune from influences.
Also, I cannot but wish still that he had faltered in his decision to
make no scenario. There is much to be said for the theory that a
dramatist should first vitalise his characters and then leave them
unfettered ; but I do feel that Brown's misused the confidence he
reposed in them. The labour of so many years has somewhat the air of
being a mere improvisation. Savonarola himself, after the First Act
or so, strikes me as utterly inconsistent. It may be that he is just
complex, like Hamlet. He does in the Fourth Act show traces of that
Prince. I suppose this is why he struck Brown as having become `more
human.' To me he seems merely a poorer creature.
But enough of these reservations. In my anxiety for poor Brown's sake
that you should not be disappointed, perhaps I have been carrying
tactfulness too far and prejudicing you against that for which I
specially want your favour. Here, without more ado, is
SCENE: A Room in the Monastery of San Marco, Florence.
TIME: 1490, A.D. A summer morning.
Enter the SACRISTAN and a FRIAR.
Savonarola looks more grim to-day
Than ever. Should I speak my mind, I'd say
That he was fashioning some new great scourge
To flay the backs of men.
'Tis even so.
Brother Filippo saw him stand last night
In solitary vigil till the dawn
Lept o'er the Arno, and his face was such
As men may wear in Purgatory--nay,
E'en in the inmost core of Hell's own fires.
I often wonder if some woman's face,
Seen at some rout in his old worldling days,
Haunts him e'en now, e'en here, and urges him
To fierier fury 'gainst the Florentines.
Savonarola love-sick! Ha, ha, ha!
Love-sick? He, love-sick? 'Tis a goodly jest!
The CONfirm'd misogyn a ladies' man!
Thou must have eaten of some strange red herb
That takes the reason captive. I will swear
Savonarola never yet hath seen
A woman but he spurn'd her. Hist! He comes.
[Enter SAVONAROLA, rapt in thought.]
Give thee good morrow, Brother.
A multitude of morrows equal-good
Till thou, by Heaven's grace, hast wrought the work
Nearest thine heart.
I thank thee, Brother, yet
I thank thee not, for that my thankfulness
(An such there be) gives thanks to Heaven alone.
FRI. [To SACR.]
'Tis a right answer he hath given thee.
Had Sav'narola spoken less than thus,
Methinks me, the less Sav'narola he.
As when the snow lies on yon Apennines,
White as the hem of Mary Mother's robe,
And insusceptible to the sun's rays,
Being harder to the touch than temper'd steel,
E'en so this great gaunt monk white-visaged
Upstands to Heaven and to Heav'n devotes
The scarped thoughts that crown the upper slopes
Of his abrupt and AUStere nature.
[Enter LUCREZIA BORGIA, ST. FRANCIS oF ASSISI, and LEONARDO DA VINCI. LUC. is
This is the place.
LUC. [Pointing at SAV.]
And this the man! [Aside.] And I--
By the hot blood that courses i' my veins
I swear it ineluctably--the woman!
Who is this wanton?
[LUC. throws back her hood, revealing her face. SAV. starts back,
gazing at her.]
Hush, Sir! 'Tis my little sister
The poisoner, right well-belov'd by all
Whom she as yet hath spared. Hither she came
Mounted upon another little sister of mine--
A mare, caparison'd in goodly wise.
She--I refer now to Lucrezia--
Desireth to have word of thee anent
Some matter that befrets her.
SAV. [To LUC.]
Savonarola will not tempted be
By face of woman e'en tho' 't be, tho' 'tis,
Surpassing fair. All hope abandon therefore.
I charge thee: Vade retro, Satanas.
Sirrah, thou speakst in haste, as is the way
Of monkish men. The beauty of Lucrezia
Commends, not discommends, her to the eyes
Of keener thinkers than I take thee for.
I am an artist and an engineer,
Giv'n o'er to subtile dreams of what shall be
On this our planet. I foresee a day
When men shall skim the earth i' certain chairs
Not drawn by horses but sped on by oil
Or other matter, and shall thread the sky
It may be as thou sayest, friend,
Or may be not. [To SAV.] As touching this our errand,
I crave of thee, Sir Monk, an audience
Lo! Here Alighieri comes.
I had methought me he was still at Parma.
ST. FRAN. [To DAN.]
How fares my little sister Beatrice?
She died, alack, last sennight.
Did she so?
If the condolences of men avail
Thee aught, take mine.
They are of no avail.
SAV. [To LUC.]
I do refuse thee audience.
Didst thou not say so promptly when I ask'd it?
Full well thou knowst that I was interrupted
By Alighieri's entry.
[Noise without. Enter Guelfs and Ghibellines fighting.]
What is this?
I did not think that in this cloister'd spot
There would be so much doing. I had look'd
To find Savonarola all alone
And tempt him in his uneventful cell.
Instead o' which--Spurn'd am I? I am I.
There was a time, Sir, look to 't! O damnation!
What is 't? Anon then! These my toys, my gauds,
That in the cradle--aye, 't my mother's breast--
I puled and lisped at,--'Tis impossible,
Tho', faith, 'tis not so, forasmuch as 'tis.
And I a daughter of the Borgias!--
Or so they told me. Liars! Flatterers!
Currying lick-spoons! Where's the Hell of 't then?
'Tis time that I were going. Farewell, Monk,
But I'll avenge me ere the sun has sunk.
[Exeunt LUC., ST. FRAN., and LEONARDO, followed by DAN. SAV., having
watched LUC. out of sight, sinks to his knees, sobbing. FRI. and SACR.
watch him in amazement. Guelfs and Ghibellines continue fighting as
the Curtain falls.]
TIME: Afternoon of same day.
SCENE: Lucrezia's Laboratory. Retorts, test-tubes, etc. On small
Renaissance table, up c., is a great poison-bowl, the contents of
which are being stirred by the FIRST APPRENTICE. The SECOND APPRENTICE
stands by, watching him.
For whom is the brew destin'd?
I know not.
Lady Lucrezia did but lay on me
Injunctions as regards the making of 't,
The which I have obey'd. It is compounded
Of a malignant and a deadly weed
Found not save in the Gulf of Spezia,
And one small phial of 't, I am advis'd,
Were more than 'nough to slay a regiment
Of Messer Malatesta's condottieri
In all their armour.
I can well believe it.
Mark how the purple bubbles froth upon
The evil surface of its nether slime!
LUC. [To FIRST APP.]
Is 't done, Sir Sluggard?
Madam, to a turn.
Had it not been so, I with mine own hand
Would have outpour'd it down thy gullet, knave.
See, here's a ring of cunningly-wrought gold
That I, on a dark night, did purchase from
A goldsmith on the Ponte Vecchio.
Small was his shop, and hoar of visage he.
I did bemark that from the ceiling's beams
Spiders had spun their webs for many a year,
The which hung erst like swathes of gossamer
Seen in the shadows of a fairy glade,
But now most woefully were weighted o'er
With gather'd dust. Look well now at the ring!
Touch'd here, behold, it opes a cavity
Capacious of three drops of yon fell stuff.
Dost heed? Whoso then puts it on his finger
Dies, and his soul is from his body rapt
To Hell or Heaven as the case may be.
Take thou this toy and pour the three drops in.
[Hands ring to FIRST APP. and comes down c.]
So, Sav'narola, thou shalt learn that I
Utter no threats but I do make them good.
Ere this day's sun hath wester'd from the view
Thou art to preach from out the Loggia
Dei Lanzi to the cits in the Piazza.
I, thy Lucrezia, will be upon the steps
To offer thee with phrases seeming-fair
That which shall seal thine eloquence for ever.
O mighty lips that held the world in spell
But would not meet these little lips of mine
In the sweet way that lovers use--O thin,
Cold, tight-drawn, bloodless lips, which natheless I
Deem of all lips the most magnifical
In this our city--
[Enter the Borgias' FOOL.]
Well, Fool, what's thy latest?
Aristotle's or Zeno's, Lady--'tis neither latest nor last. For,
marry, if the cobbler stuck to his last, then were his latest his last
in rebus ambulantibus. Argal, I stick at nothing but cobble-stones,
which, by the same token, are stuck to the road by men's fingers.
How many crows may nest in a grocer's jerkin?
A full dozen at cock-crow, and something less under the dog-star, by
reason of the dew, which lies heavy on men taken by the scurvy.
LUC. [To FIRST APP.]
Methinks the Fool is a fool.
And therefore, by auricular deduction, am I own twin to the Lady
When pears hang green on the garden wall
With a nid, and a nod, and a niddy-niddy-o
Then prank you, lads and lasses all,
With a yea and a nay and a niddy-o.
But when the thrush flies out o' the frost
With a nid, [etc.]
'Tis time for loons to count the cost,
With a yea [etc.]
[Enter the PORTER.]
O my dear Mistress, there is one below
Demanding to have instant word of thee.
I told him that your Ladyship was not
At home. Vain perjury! He would not take
Nay for an answer.
Ah? What manner of man
A personage the like of whom
Is wholly unfamiliar to my gaze.
Cowl'd is he, but I saw his great eyes glare
From their deep sockets in such wise as leopards
Glare from their caverns, crouching ere they spring
On their reluctant prey.
And what name gave he?
PORTER [After a pause.]
Savon-? [PORTER nods.] Show him up. [Exit PORTER.]
If he be right astronomically, Mistress, then is he the greater dunce
in respect of true learning, the which goes by the globe. Argal,
'twere better he widened his wind-pipe.
Fly home, sweet self,
Nothing's for weeping,
Hemp was not made
For lovers' keeping, Lovers' keeping,
Cheerly, cheerly, fly away.
Hew no more wood
While ash is glowing,
The longest grass
Is lovers' mowing,
[Re-enter PORTER, followed by SAV. Exeunt PORTER, FOOL, and FIRST and
I am no more a monk, I am a man
O' the world.
[Throws off cowl and frock, and stands forth in the costume of a
Renaissance nobleman. LUCREZIA looks him up and down.]
Thou cutst a sorry figure.
Is neither here nor there. I love you, Madam.
And this, methinks, is neither there nor here,
For that my love of thee hath vanished,
Seeing thee thus beprankt. Go pad thy calves!
Thus mightst thou, just conceivably, with luck,
Capture the fancy of some serving-wench.
And this is all thou hast to say to me?
I am dismiss'd?
[Resumes frock and cowl.]
Savonarola is himself once more.
And all my love for him returns to me
Too late! My pride of manhood
Is wounded irremediably. I'll
To the Piazza, where my flock awaits me.
Thus do we see that men make great mistakes
But may amend them when the conscience wakes.
I'm half avenged now, but only half:
'Tis with the ring I'll have the final laugh!
Tho' love be sweet, revenge is sweeter far.
To the Piazza! Ha, ha, ha, ha, har!
[Seizes ring, and exit. Through open door are heard, as the Curtain
falls, sounds of a terrific hubbub in the Piazza.]
SCENE: The Piazza.
TIME: A few minutes anterior to close of preceding Act.
The Piazza is filled from end to end with a vast seething crowd that
is drawn entirely from the lower orders. There is a sprinkling of
wild-eyed and dishevelled women in it. The men are lantern-jawed,
with several days' growth of beard. Most of them carry rude weapons--
staves, bill-hooks, crow-bars, and the like--and are in as excited a
condition as the women. Some of them are bare-headed, others affect a
kind of Phrygian cap. Cobblers predominate.
Enter LORENZO DE MEDICI and COSIMO DE MEDICI. They wear cloaks of scarlet
brocade, and, to avoid notice, hold masks to their faces.
What purpose doth the foul and greasy plebs
Ensue to-day here?
I nor know nor care.
How thrall'd thou art to the philosophy
Of Epicurus! Naught that's human I
Deem alien from myself. [To a COBBLER.] Make answer, fellow!
What empty hope hath drawn thee by a thread
Forth from the OBscene hovel where thou starvest?
No empty hope, your Honour, but the full
Assurance that to-day, as yesterday,
Savonarola will let loose his thunder
Against the vices of the idle rich
And from the brimming cornucopia
Of his immense vocabulary pour
Scorn on the lamentable heresies
Of the New Learning and on all the art
Later than Giotto.
Mark how absolute
The knave is!
Then are parrots rational
When they regurgitate the thing they hear!
This fool is but an unit of the crowd,
And crowds are senseless as the vasty deep
That sinks or surges as the moon dictates.
I know these crowds, and know that any man
That hath a glib tongue and a rolling eye
Can as he willeth with them.
[Removes his mask and mounts steps of Loggia.]
[Prolonged yells and groans from the crowd.]
Yes, I am he, I am that same Lorenzo
Whom you have nicknamed the Magnificent.
[Further terrific yells, shakings of fists, brandishings of bill-
hooks, insistent cries of `Death to Lorenzo!' `Down with the
Magnificent!' Cobblers on fringe of crowd, down c., exhibit especially
all the symptoms of epilepsy, whooping-cough, and other ailments.]
You love not me.
[The crowd makes an ugly rush. LOR. appears likely to be dragged down
and torn limb from limb, but raises one hand in nick of time, and
Yet I deserve your love.
[The yells are now variegated with dubious murmurs. A cobbler down c.
thrusts his face feverishly in the face of another and repeats, in a
hoarse interrogative whisper, `Deserves our love?']
Not for the sundry boons I have bestow'd
And benefactions I have lavished
Upon Firenze, City of the Flowers,
But for the love that in this rugged breast
I bear you.
[The yells have now died away, and there is a sharp fall in dubious
murmurs. The cobbler down c. says, in an ear-piercing whisper, `The
love he bears us,' drops his lower jaw, nods his head repeatedly, and
awaits in an intolerable state of suspense the orator's next words.]
I am not a blameless man,
[Some dubious murmurs.]
Yet for that I have lov'd you passing much,
Shall some things be forgiven me.
[Noises of cordial assent.]
In this our city, known unto you all,
A man more virtuous than I am, and
A thousand times more intellectual;
Yet envy not I him, for--shall I name him?--
He loves not you. His name? I will not cut
Your hearts by speaking it. Here let it stay
On tip o' tongue.
Then steel you to the shock!--
[For a moment or so the crowd reels silently under the shock. Cobbler
down c. is the first to recover himself and cry `Death to Savonarola!'
The cry instantly becomes general. LOR. holds up his hand and
gradually imposes silence.]
His twin bug-bears are
Yourselves and that New Learning which I hold
Less dear than only you.
[Profound sensation. Everybody whispers `Than only you' to everybody
else. A woman near steps of Loggia attempts to kiss hem of LOR.'s
Would you but con
With me the old philosophers of Hellas,
Her fervent bards and calm historians,
You would arise and say `We will not hear
Another word against them!'
[The crowd already says this, repeatedly, with great emphasis.]
Take the Dialogues
Of Plato, for example. You will find
A spirit far more truly Christian
In them than in the ravings of the sour-soul'd
[Prolonged cries of `Death to the Sour-Souled Savonarola!' Several
cobblers detach themselves from the crowd and rush away to read the
Platonic Dialogues. Enter SAVONAROLA. The crowd, as he makes his way
through it, gives up all further control of its feelings, and makes a
noise for which even the best zoologists might not find a good
comparison. The staves and bill-hooks wave like twigs in a storm.
One would say that SAV. must have died a thousand deaths already. He
is, however, unharmed and unruffled as he reaches the upper step of
the Loggia. LOR. meanwhile has rejoined COS. in the Piazza.]
Pax vobiscum, brothers!
[This does but exacerbate the crowd's frenzy.]
VOICE OF A COBBLER
Hear his false lips cry Peace when there is no
Are not you ashamed, O Florentines,
[Renewed yells, but also some symptoms of manly shame.]
That hearken'd to Lorenzo and now reel
Inebriate with the exuberance
Of his verbosity?
[The crowd makes an obvious effort to pull itself together.]
A man can fool
Some of the people all the time, and can
Fool all the people sometimes, but he cannot
Fool ALL the people ALL the time.
[Loud cheers. Several cobblers clap one another on the back. Cries
of `Death to Lorenzo!' The meeting is now well in hand.]
I must adopt a somewhat novel course
In dealing with the awful wickedness
At present noticeable in this city.
I do so with reluctance. Hitherto
I have avoided personalities.
But now my sense of duty forces me
To a departure from my custom of
Naming no names. One name I must and shall
[All eyes are turned on LOR., who smiles uncomfortably.]
No, I do not mean Lorenzo. He
Is 'neath contempt.
[Loud and prolonged laughter, accompanied with hideous grimaces at LOR.
Exeunt LOR. and COS.]
I name a woman's name,
[The women in the crowd eye one another suspiciously.]
A name known to you all--four-syllabled,
Beginning with an L.
[Pause. Enter hurriedly LUC., carrying the ring. She stands,
unobserved by any one, on outskirt of crowd. SAV. utters the name:]
LUC. [With equal intensity.]
[SAV. starts violently and stares in direction of her voice.]
Yes, I come, I come!
[Forces her way to steps of Loggia. The crowd is much bewildered, and
the cries of `Death to Lucrezia Borgia!' are few and sporadic.]
Why didst thou call me?
[SAV. looks somewhat embarrassed.]
What is thy distress?
I see it all! The sanguinary mob
Clusters to rend thee! As the antler'd stag,
With fine eyes glazed from the too-long chase,
Turns to defy the foam-fleck'd pack, and thinks,
In his last moment, of some graceful hind
Seen once afar upon a mountain-top,
E'en so, Savonarola, didst thou think,
In thy most dire extremity, of me.
And here I am! Courage! The horrid hounds
Droop tail at sight of me and fawn away
[The crowd does indeed seem to have fallen completely under the sway
of LUC.'s magnetism, and is evidently convinced that it had been about
to make an end of the monk.]
Take thou, and wear henceforth,
As a sure talisman 'gainst future perils,
This little, little ring.
[SAV. makes awkward gesture of refusal. Angry murmurs from the crowd.
Cries of `Take thou the ring!' `Churl!' `Put it on!' etc.
Enter the Borgias' FOOL and stands unnoticed on fringe of crowd.]
I hoped you 'ld like it--
Neat but not gaudy. Is my taste at fault?
I'd so look'd forward to-- [Sob.] No, I'm not crying,
But just a little hurt.
[Hardly a dry eye in the crowd. Also swayings and snarlings
indicative that SAV.'s life is again not worth a moment's purchase.
SAV. makes awkward gesture of acceptance, but just as he is about to
put ring on finger, the FOOL touches his lute and sings:--]
Wear not the ring,
It hath an unkind sting,
Ding, dong, ding.
Bide a minute,
There's poison in it,
Poison in it,
Ding-a-dong, dong, ding.
The fellow lies.
[The crowd is torn with conflicting opinions. Mingled cries of `Wear
not the ring!' `The fellow lies!' `Bide a minute!' `Death to the
Fool!' `Silence for the Fool!' `Ding-a-dong, dong, ding!' etc.]
Wear not the ring,
For Death's a robber-king,
There's no trinket
Is what you think it,
What you think it,
[SAV. throws ring in LUC.'s face. Enter POPE JULIUS II, with Papal
Arrest that man and woman!
[Re-enter Guelfs and Ghibellines fighting. SAV. and LUC. are arrested
by Papal officers. Enter MICHAEL ANGELO. ANDREA DEL SARTO appears for a
moment at a window. PIPPA passes. Brothers of the Misericordia go by,
singing a Requiem for Francesca da Rimini. Enter BOCCACCIO, BENVENUTO
CELLINI, and many others, making remarks highly characteristic of
themselves but scarcely audible through the terrific thunderstorm
which now bursts over Florence and is at its loudest and darkest
crisis as the Curtain falls.]
TIME: Three hours later.
SCENE: A Dungeon on the ground-floor of the Palazzo Civico.
The stage is bisected from top to bottom by a wall, on one side of
which is seen the interior of LUCREZIA'S cell, on the other that of
Neither he nor she knows that the other is in the next cell. The
audience, however, knows this.
Each cell (because of the width and height of the proscenium) is of
more than the average Florentine size, but is bare even to the point
of severity, its sole amenities being some straw, a hunk of bread, and
a stone pitcher. The door of each is facing the audience. Dim-ish
LUCREZIA wears long and clanking chains on her wrists, as does also
SAVONAROLA. Imprisonment has left its mark on both of them. SAVONAROLA'S
hair has turned white. His whole aspect is that of a very old, old
man. LUCREZIA looks no older than before, but has gone mad.
Alas, how long ago this morning seems
This evening! A thousand thousand eons
Are scarce the measure of the gulf betwixt
My then and now. Methinks I must have been
Here since the dim creation of the world
And never in that interval have seen
The tremulous hawthorn burgeon in the brake,
Nor heard the hum o' bees, nor woven chains
Of buttercups on Mount Fiesole
What time the sap lept in the cypresses,
Imbuing with the friskfulness of Spring
Those melancholy trees. I do forget
The aspect of the sun. Yet I was born
A freeman, and the Saints of Heaven smiled
Down on my crib. What would my sire have said,
And what my dam, had anybody told them
The time would come when I should occupy
A felon's cell? O the disgrace of it
The scandal, the incredible come-down!
It masters me. I see i' my mind's eye
The public prints--`Sharp Sentence on a Monk.'
What then? I thought I was of sterner stuff
Than is affrighted by what people think.
Yet thought I so because 'twas thought of me,
And so 'twas thought of me because I had
A hawk-like profile and a baleful eye.
Lo! my soul's chin recedes, soft to the touch
As half-churn'd butter. Seeming hawk is dove,
And dove's a gaol-bird now. Fie out upon 't!
How comes it? I am Empress Dowager
Of China--yet was never crown'd. This must
Be seen to.
[Quickly gathers some straw and weaves a crown, which she puts on.]
O, what a degringolade!
The great career I had mapp'd out for me--
Nipp'd i' the bud. What life, when I come out,
Awaits me? Why, the very Novices
And callow Postulants will draw aside
As I pass by, and say `That man hath done
Time!' And yet shall I wince? The worst of Time
Is not in having done it, but in doing 't.
Ha, ha, ha, ha! Eleven billion pig-tails
Do tremble at my nod imperial,--
The which is as it should be.
I have heard
That gaolers oft are willing to carouse
With them they watch o'er, and do sink at last
Into a drunken sleep, and then's the time
To snatch the keys and make a bid for freedom.
Gaoler! Ho, Gaoler!
[Sounds of lock being turned and bolts withdrawn. Enter the Borgias'
FOOL, in plain clothes, carrying bunch of keys.]
I have seen thy face
I saved thy life this afternoon, Sir.
Thou art the Borgias' Fool?
Say rather, was.
Unfortunately I have been discharg'd
For my betrayal of Lucrezia,
So that I have to speak like other men--
Decasyllabically, and with sense.
An hour ago the gaoler of this dungeon
Died of an apoplexy. Hearing which,
I ask'd for and obtain'd his billet.
A stoup o' liquor for thyself and me.
Freedom! there's nothing that thy votaries
Grudge in the cause of thee. That decent man
Is doom'd by me to lose his place again
To-morrow morning when he wakes from out
His hoggish slumber. Yet I care not.
[Re-enter GAOLER with a leathern bottle and two glasses.]
This is the stuff to warm our vitals, this
The panacea for all mortal ills
And sure elixir of eternal youth.
[GAOLER drains a glass and shows signs of instant intoxication. SAV.
claps him on shoulder and replenishes glass. GAOLER drinks again, lies
down on floor, and snores. SAV. snatches the bunch of keys, laughs
long but silently, and creeps out on tip-toe, leaving door ajar.
LUC. meanwhile has lain down on the straw in her cell, and fallen
Noise of bolts being shot back, jangling of keys, grating of lock, and
the door of LUC.'S cell flies open. SAV. takes two steps across the
threshold, his arms outstretched and his upturned face transfigured
with a great joy.]
How sweet the open air
Leaps to my nostrils! O the good brown earth
That yields once more to my elastic tread
And laves these feet with its remember'd dew!
[Takes a few more steps, still looking upwards.]
Free !--I am free! O naked arc of heaven,
Enspangled with innumerable--no,
Stars are not there. Yet neither are there clouds!
The thing looks like a ceiling! [Gazes downward.] And this thing
Looks like a floor. [Gazes around.] And that white bundle yonder
Looks curiously like Lucrezia.
[LUC. awakes at sound of her name, and sits up sane.]
There must be some mistake.
LUC. [Rises to her feet.]
There is indeed!
A pretty sort of prison I have come to,
In which a self-respecting lady's cell
Is treated as a lounge!
I had no notion
You were in here. I thought I was out there.
I will explain--but first I'll make amends.
Here are the keys by which your durance ends.
The gate is somewhere in this corridor,
And so good-bye to this interior!
[Exeunt SAV. and LUC. Noise, a moment later, of a key grating in a
lock, then of gate creaking on its hinges; triumphant laughs of
fugitives; loud slamming of gate behind them.
In SAV.'s cell the GAOLER starts in his sleep, turns his face to the
wall, and snores more than ever deeply. Through open door comes a
Sleep on, Savonarola, and awake
Not in this dungeon but in ruby Hell!
[Stabs Gaoler, whose snores cease abruptly. Enter POPE JULIUS II, with
Papal retinue carrying torches. MURDERER steps quickly back into
POPE [To body of GAOLER.]
Savonarola, I am come to taunt
Thee in thy misery and dire abjection.
Rise, Sir, and hear me out.
MURD. [Steps forward.]
Waste not thy breath. Savonarola's dead.
I murder'd him.
Thou hadst no right to do so.
Who art thou, pray?
Lucrezia's brother, and I claim a brother's
Right to assassinate whatever man
Shall wantonly and in cold blood reject
Her timid offer of a poison'd ring.
Of this anon.
[Stands over body of GAOLER.]
Our present business
Is general woe. No nobler corse hath ever
Impress'd the ground. O let the trumpets speak it!
[Flourish of trumpets.]
This was the noblest of the Florentines.
His character was flawless, and the world
Held not his parallel. O bear him hence
With all such honours as our State can offer.
He shall interred be with noise of cannon,
As doth befit so militant a nature.
Prepare these obsequies.
[Papal officers lift body of GAOLER.]
A PAPAL OFFICER
But this is not
Savonarola. It is some one else.
Lo! 'tis none other than the Fool that I
Hoof'd from my household but two hours agone.
I deem'd him no good riddance, for he had
The knack of setting tables on a roar.
What shadows we pursue! Good night, sweet Fool,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
Interred shall he be with signal pomp.
No honour is too great that we can pay him.
He leaves the world a vacuum. Meanwhile,
Go we in chase of the accursed villain
That hath made escapado from this cell.
To horse! Away! We'll scour the country round
For Sav'narola till we hold him bound.
Then shall you see a cinder, not a man,
Beneath the lightnings of the Vatican!
[Flourish, alarums and excursions, flashes of Vatican lightning, roll
of drums, etc. Through open door of cell is led in a large milk-white
horse, which the POPE mounts as the Curtain falls.]
Remember, please, before you formulate your impressions, that saying
of Brown's: `The thing must be judged as a whole.' I like to think
that whatever may seem amiss to us in these Four Acts of his would
have been righted by collation with that Fifth which he did not live
I like, too, to measure with my eyes the yawning gulf between stage
and study. Very different from the message of cold print to our
imagination are the messages of flesh and blood across footlights to
our eyes and ears. In the warmth and brightness of a crowded theatre
`Savonarola' might, for aught one knows, seem perfect. `Then why,' I
hear my gentle readers asking, `did you thrust the play on US, and not
on a theatrical manager?'
That question has a false assumption in it. In the course of the past
eight years I have thrust `Savonarola' on any number of theatrical
managers. They have all of them been (to use the technical phrase)
`very kind.' All have seen great merits in the work; and if I added
together all the various merits thus seen I should have no doubt that
`Savonarola' was the best play never produced. The point on which all
the managers are unanimous is that they have no use for a play without
an ending. This is why I have fallen back, at last, on gentle
readers, whom now I hear asking why I did not, as Brown's literary
executor, try to finish the play myself. Can they never ask a
question without a false assumption in it? I did try, hard, to finish
Artistically, of course, the making of such an attempt was
indefensible. Humanly, not so. It is clear throughout the play--
especially perhaps in Acts III and IV--that if Brown had not
steadfastly in his mind the hope of production on the stage, he had
nothing in his mind at all. Horrified though he would have been by
the idea of letting me kill his Monk, he would rather have done even
this than doom his play to everlasting unactedness. I took,
therefore, my courage in both hands, and made out a scenario....
Dawn on summit of Mount Fiesole. Outspread view of Florence (Duomo,
Giotto's Tower, etc.) as seen from that eminence.--NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI,
asleep on grass, wakes as sun rises. Deplores his exile from
Florence, LORENZO'S unappeasable hostility, etc. Wonders if he could
not somehow secure the POPE'S favour. Very cynical. Breaks off: But
who are these that scale the mountain-side? | Savonarola and Lucrezia
| Borgia!--Enter through a trap-door, back c. [trap-door veiled from
audience by a grassy ridge], SAV. and LUC. Both gasping and footsore
from their climb. [Still, with chains on their wrists? or not?]--MACH.
steps unobserved behind a cypress and listens.--SAV. has a speech to
the rising sun--Th' effulgent hope that westers from the east | Daily.
Says that his hope, on the contrary, lies in escape To that which
easters not from out the west, | That fix'd abode of freedom which men
call | America! Very bitter against POPE.--LUC. says that she, for her
part, means To start afresh in that uncharted land | Which austers not
from out the antipod, | Australia!--Exit MACH., unobserved, down trap-
door behind ridge, to betray LUC. and SAV.--Several longish speeches by
SAV. and LUC. Time is thus given for MACH. to get into touch with POPE,
and time for POPE and retinue to reach the slope of Fiesole. SAV.,
glancing down across ridge, sees these sleuth-hounds, points them out
to LUC. and cries Bewray'd! LUC. By whom? SAV. I know not, but suspect
| The hand of that sleek serpent Niccolo | Machiavelli.--SAV. and LUC.
rush down c., but find their way barred by the footlights.--LUC. We
will not be ta'en Alive. And here availeth us my lore | In what
pertains to poison. Yonder herb | [points to a herb growing down r.]
Is deadly nightshade. Quick, Monk! Pluck we it !--SAV. and LUC. die
just as POPE appears over ridge, followed by retinue in full cry.--
POPE'S annoyance at being foiled is quickly swept away on the great
wave of Shakespearean chivalry and charity that again rises in him.
He gives SAV. a funeral oration similar to the one meant for him in Act
IV, but even more laudatory and more stricken. Of LUC., too, he
enumerates the virtues, and hints that the whole terrestrial globe
shall be hollowed to receive her bones. Ends by saying: In deference
to this our double sorrow | Sun shall not shine to-day nor shine to-
morrow.--Sun drops quickly back behind eastern horizon, leaving a
great darkness on which the Curtain slowly falls.
All this might be worse, yes. The skeleton passes muster. But in the
attempt to incarnate and ensanguine it I failed wretchedly. I saw
that Brown was, in comparison with me, a master. Thinking I might
possibly fare better in his method of work than in my own, I threw the
skeleton into a cupboard, sat down, and waited to see what Savonarola
and those others would do.
They did absolutely nothing. I sat watching them, pen in hand, ready
to record their slightest movement. Not a little finger did they
raise. Yet I knew they must be alive. Brown had always told me they
were quite independent of him. Absurd to suppose that by the accident
of his own death they had ceased to breathe.... Now and then,
overcome with weariness, I dozed at my desk, and whenever I woke I
felt that these rigid creatures had been doing all sorts of wonderful
things while my eyes were shut. I felt that they disliked me. I came
to dislike them in return, and forbade them my room.
Some of you, my readers, might have better luck with them than I.
Invite them, propitiate them, watch them! The writer of the best
Fifth Act sent to me shall have his work tacked on to Brown's; and I
suppose I could get him a free pass for the second night.
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