A Strange Story, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Chapter 25.

My intercourse with Margrave grew habitual and familiar. He came to my house every morning before sunrise; in the evenings we were again brought together: sometimes in the houses to which we were both invited, sometimes at his hotel, sometimes in my own home.

Nothing more perplexed me than his aspect of extreme youthfulness, contrasted with the extent of the travels, which, if he were to be believed, had left little of the known world unexplored. One day I asked him bluntly how old he was.

“How old do I look? How old should you suppose me to be?”

“I should have guessed you to be about twenty, till you spoke of having come of age some years ago.”

“Is it a sign of longevity when a man looks much younger than he is?”

“Conjoined with other signs, certainly!”

“Have I the other signs?”

“Yes, a magnificent, perhaps a matchless, constitutional organization. But you have evaded my question as to your age; was it an impertinence to put it?”

“No. I came of age — let me see — three years ago.”

“So long since? Is it possible? I wish I had your secret!”

“Secret! What secret?”

“The secret of preserving so much of boyish freshness in the wear and tear of man-like passions and man-like thoughts.”

“You are still young yourself — under forty?”

“Oh, yes! some years under forty.”

“And Nature gave you a grander frame and a finer symmetry of feature than she bestowed on me.”

“Pooh! pooh! You have the beauty that must charm the eyes of woman, and that beauty in its sunny forenoon of youth. Happy man! if you love and wish to be sure that you are loved again.”

“What you call love — the unhealthy sentiment, the feverish folly — left behind me, I think forever, when —”

“Ay, indeed — when?”

“I came of age!”

“Hoary cynic! and you despise love! So did I once. Your time may come.”

“I think not. Does any animal, except man, love its fellow she-animal as man loves woman?”

“As man loves woman? No, I suppose not.”

“And why should the subject animals be wiser than their king? But to return: you would like to have my youth and my careless enjoyment of youth?”

“Can you ask — who would not?” Margrave looked at me for a moment with unusual seriousness, and then, in the abrupt changes common to his capricious temperament, began to sing softly one of his barbaric chants — a chant different from any I had heard him sing before, made, either by the modulation of his voice or the nature of the tune, so sweet that, little as music generally affected me, this thrilled to my very heart’s core. I drew closer and closer to him, and murmured when he paused —

“Is not that a love-song?”

“No;” said he, “it is the song by which the serpent-charmer charms the serpent.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bulwer-lytton/edward/strange-story/chapter25.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31