There was, in those days, an old tradition.
That tradition was Lord Linnæus Clancharlie.
Linnæus Baron Clancharlie, a contemporary of Cromwell, was one of the peers of England — few in number, be it said — who accepted the republic. The reason of his acceptance of it might, indeed, for want of a better, be found in the fact that for the time being the republic was triumphant. It was a matter of course that Lord Clancharlie should adhere to the republic, as long as the republic had the upper hand; but after the close of the revolution and the fall of the parliamentary government, Lord Clancharlie had persisted in his fidelity to it. It would have been easy for the noble patrician to reenter the reconstituted upper house, repentance being ever well received on restorations, and Charles II. being a kind prince enough to those who returned to their allegiance to him; but Lord Clancharlie had failed to understand what was due to events. While the nation overwhelmed with acclamation the king come to retake possession of England, while unanimity was recording its verdict, while the people were bowing their salutation to the monarchy, while the dynasty was rising anew amidst a glorious and triumphant recantation, at the moment when the past was becoming the future, and the future becoming the past, that nobleman remained refractory. He turned his head away from all that joy, and voluntarily exiled himself. While he could have been a peer, he preferred being an outlaw. Years had thus passed away. He had grown old in his fidelity to the dead republic, and was therefore crowned with the ridicule which is the natural reward of such folly.
He had retired into Switzerland, and dwelt in a sort of lofty ruin on the banks of the Lake of Geneva. He had chosen his dwelling in the most rugged nook of the lake, between Chillon, where is the dungeon of Bonnivard, and Vevay, where is Ludlow’s tomb. The rugged Alps, filled with twilight, winds, and clouds, were around him; and he lived there, hidden in the great shadows that fall from the mountains. He was rarely met by any passer-by. The man was out of his country, almost out of his century. At that time, to those who understood and were posted in the affairs of the period, no resistance to established things was justifiable. England was happy; a restoration is as the reconciliation of husband and wife, prince and nation return to each other, no state can be more graceful or more pleasant. Great Britain beamed with joy; to have a king at all was a good deal — but furthermore, the king was a charming one. Charles II. was amiable — a man of pleasure, yet able to govern; and great, if not after the fashion of Louis XIV. He was essentially a gentleman. Charles II. was admired by his subjects. He had made war in Hanover for reasons best known to himself; at least, no one else knew them. He had sold Dunkirk to France, a manoeuvre of state policy. The Whig peers, concerning whom Chamberlain says, “The cursed republic infected with its stinking breath several of the high nobility,” had had the good sense to bow to the inevitable, to conform to the times, and to resume their seats in the House of Lords. To do so, it sufficed that they should take the oath of allegiance to the king. When these facts were considered — the glorious reign, the excellent king, august princes given back by divine mercy to the people’s love; when it was remembered that persons of such consideration as Monk, and, later on, Jeffreys, had rallied round the throne; that they had been properly rewarded for their loyalty and zeal by the most splendid appointments and the most lucrative offices; that Lord Clancharlie could not be ignorant of this, and that it only depended on himself to be seated by their side, glorious in his honours; that England had, thanks to her king, risen again to the summit of prosperity; that London was all banquets and carousals; that everybody was rich and enthusiastic, that the court was gallant, gay, and magnificent; — if by chance, far from these splendours, in some melancholy, indescribable half-light, like nightfall, that old man, clad in the same garb as the common people, was observed pale, absent-minded, bent towards the grave, standing on the shore of the lake, scarce heeding the storm and the winter, walking as though at random, his eye fixed, his white hair tossed by the wind of the shadow, silent, pensive, solitary, who could forbear to smile?
It was the sketch of a madman.
Thinking of Lord Clancharlie, of what he might have been and what he was, a smile was indulgent; some laughed out aloud, others could not restrain their anger. It is easy to understand that men of sense were much shocked by the insolence implied by his isolation.
One extenuating circumstance: Lord Clancharlie had never had any brains. Every one agreed on that point.
It is disagreeable to see one’s fellows practise obstinacy. Imitations of Regulus are not popular, and public opinion holds them in some derision. Stubborn people are like reproaches, and we have a right to laugh at them.
Besides, to sum up, are these perversities, these rugged notches, virtues? Is there not in these excessive advertisements of self-abnegation and of honour a good deal of ostentation? It is all parade more than anything else. Why such exaggeration of solitude and exile? to carry nothing to extremes is the wise man’s maxim. Be in opposition if you choose, blame if you will, but decently, and crying out all the while “Long live the King.” The true virtue is common sense — what falls ought to fall, what succeeds ought to succeed. Providence acts advisedly, it crowns him who deserves the crown; do you pretend to know better than Providence? When matters are settled — when one rule has replaced another — when success is the scale in which truth and falsehood are weighed, in one side the catastrophe, in the other the triumph; then doubt is no longer possible, the honest man rallies to the winning side, and although it may happen to serve his fortune and his family, he does not allow himself to be influenced by that consideration, but thinking only of the public weal, holds out his hand heartily to the conqueror.
What would become of the state if no one consented to serve it? Would not everything come to a standstill? To keep his place is the duty of a good citizen. Learn to sacrifice your secret preferences. Appointments must be filled, and some one must necessarily sacrifice himself. To be faithful to public functions is true fidelity. The retirement of public officials would paralyse the state. What! banish yourself! — how weak! As an example? — what vanity! As a defiance? — what audacity! What do you set yourself up to be, I wonder? Learn that we are just as good as you. If we chose we too could be intractable and untameable and do worse things than you; but we prefer to be sensible people. Because I am a Trimalcion, you think that I could not be a Cato! What nonsense!
Never was a situation more clearly defined or more decisive than that of 1660. Never had a course of conduct been more plainly indicated to a well-ordered mind. England was out of Cromwell’s grasp. Under the republic many irregularities had been committed. British preponderance had been created. With the aid of the Thirty Years’ War, Germany had been overcome; with the aid of the Fronde, France had been humiliated; with the aid of the Duke of Braganza, the power of Spain had been lessened. Cromwell had tamed Mazarin; in signing treaties the Protector of England wrote his name above that of the King of France. The United Provinces had been put under a fine of eight millions; Algiers and Tunis had been attacked; Jamaica conquered; Lisbon humbled; French rivalry encouraged in Barcelona, and Masaniello in Naples; Portugal had been made fast to England; the seas had been swept of Barbary pirates from Gibraltar to Crete; maritime domination had been founded under two forms, Victory and Commerce. On the 10th of August, 1653, the man of thirty-three victories, the old admiral who called himself the sailors’ grandfather, Martin Happertz van Tromp, who had beaten the Spanish, had been destroyed by the English fleet. The Atlantic had been cleared of the Spanish navy, the Pacific of the Dutch, the Mediterranean of the Venetian, and by the patent of navigation, England had taken possession of the sea-coast of the world. By the ocean she commanded the world; at sea the Dutch flag humbly saluted the British flag. France, in the person of the Ambassador Mancini, bent the knee to Oliver Cromwell; and Cromwell played with Calais and Dunkirk as with two shuttlecocks on a battledore. The Continent had been taught to tremble, peace had been dictated, war declared, the British Ensign raised on every pinnacle. By itself the Protector’s regiment of Ironsides weighed in the fears of Europe against an army. Cromwell used to say, “I wish the Republic of England to be respected, as was respected the Republic of Rome.” No longer were delusions held sacred; speech was free, the press was free. In the public street men said what they listed; they printed what they pleased without control or censorship. The equilibrium of thrones had been destroyed. The whole order of European monarchy, in which the Stuarts formed a link, had been overturned. But at last England had emerged from this odious order of things, and had won its pardon.
The indulgent Charles II. had granted the declaration of Breda. He had conceded to England oblivion of the period in which the son of the Huntingdon brewer placed his foot on the neck of Louis XIV. England said its mea culpa, and breathed again. The cup of joy was, as we have just said, full; gibbets for the regicides adding to the universal delight. A restoration is a smile; but a few gibbets are not out of place, and satisfaction is due to the conscience of the public. To be good subjects was thenceforth the people’s sole ambition. The spirit of lawlessness had been expelled. Royalty was reconstituted. Men had recovered from the follies of politics. They mocked at revolution, they jeered at the republic, and as to those times when such strange words as Right, Liberty, Progress, had been in the mouth — why, they laughed at such bombast! Admirable was the return to common sense. England had been in a dream. What joy to be quit of such errors! Was ever anything so mad? Where should we be if every one had his rights? Fancy every one’s having a hand in the government? Can you imagine a city ruled by its citizens? Why, the citizens are the team, and the team cannot be driver. To put to the vote is to throw to the winds. Would you have states driven like clouds? Disorder cannot build up order. With chaos for an architect, the edifice would be a Babel. And, besides, what tyranny is this pretended liberty! As for me, I wish to enjoy myself; not to govern. It is a bore to have to vote; I want to dance. A prince is a providence, and takes care of us all. Truly the king is generous to take so much trouble for our sakes. Besides, he is to the manner born. He knows what it is. It’s his business. Peace, War, Legislation, Finance — what have the people to do with such things? Of course the people have to pay; of course the people have to serve; but that should suffice them. They have a place in policy; from them come two essential things, the army and the budget. To be liable to contribute, and to be liable to serve; is not that enough? What more should they want? They are the military and the financial arm. A magnificent rôle. The king reigns for them, and they must reward him accordingly. Taxation and the civil list are the salaries paid by the peoples and earned by the prince. The people give their blood and their money, in return for which they are led. To wish to lead themselves! what an absurd idea! They require a guide; being ignorant, they are blind. Has not the blind man his dog? Only the people have a lion, the king, who consents to act the dog. How kind of him! But why are the people ignorant? because it is good for them. Ignorance is the guardian of Virtue. Where there is no perspective there is no ambition. The ignorant man is in useful darkness, which, suppressing sight, suppresses covetousness: whence innocence. He who reads, thinks; who thinks, reasons. But not to reason is duty; and happiness as well. These truths are incontestable; society is based on them.
Thus had sound social doctrines been reestablished in England; thus had the nation been reinstated. At the same time a correct taste in literature was reviving. Shakespeare was despised, Dryden admired. “Dryden is the greatest poet of England, and of the century,” said Atterbury, the translator of “Achitophel.” It was about the time when M. Huet, Bishop of Avranches, wrote to Saumaise, who had done the author of “Paradise Lost” the honour to refute and abuse him, “How can you trouble yourself about so mean a thing as that Milton?” Everything was falling into its proper place: Dryden above, Shakespeare below; Charles II. on the throne, Cromwell on the gibbet. England was raising herself out of the shame and the excesses of the past. It is a great happiness for nations to be led back by monarchy to good order in the state and good taste in letters.
That such benefits should be misunderstood is difficult to believe. To turn the cold shoulder to Charles II., to reward with ingratitude the magnanimity which he displayed in ascending the throne — was not such conduct abominable? Lord Linnæus Clancharlie had inflicted this vexation upon honest men. To sulk at his country’s happiness, alack, what aberration!
We know that in 1650 Parliament had drawn up this form of declaration: “I promise to remain faithful to the republic, without king, sovereign, or lord.” Under pretext of having taken this monstrous oath, Lord Clancharlie was living out of the kingdom, and, in the face of the general joy, thought that he had the right to be sad. He had a morose esteem for that which was no more, and was absurdly attached to things which had been.
To excuse him was impossible. The kindest-hearted abandoned him; his friends had long done him the honour to believe that he had entered the republican ranks only to observe the more closely the flaws in the republican armour, and to smite it the more surely, when the day should come, for the sacred cause of the king. These lurkings in ambush for the convenient hour to strike the enemy a death-blow in the back are attributes to loyalty. Such a line of conduct had been expected of Lord Clancharlie, so strong was the wish to judge him favourably; but, in the face of his strange persistence in republicanism, people were obliged to lower their estimate. Evidently Lord Clancharlie was confirmed in his convictions — that is to say, an idiot!
The explanation given by the indulgent, wavered between puerile stubbornness and senile obstinacy.
The severe and the just went further; they blighted the name of the renegade. Folly has its rights, but it has also its limits. A man may be a brute, but he has no right to be a rebel. And, after all, what was this Lord Clancharlie? A deserter. He had fled his camp, the aristocracy, for that of the enemy, the people. This faithful man was a traitor. It is true that he was a traitor to the stronger, and faithful to the weaker; it is true that the camp repudiated by him was the conquering camp, and the camp adopted by him, the conquered; it is true that by his treason he lost everything — his political privileges and his domestic hearth, his title and his country. He gained nothing but ridicule, he attained no benefit but exile. But what does all this prove? — that he was a fool. Granted.
Plainly a dupe and traitor in one. Let a man be as great a fool as he likes, so that he does not set a bad example. Fools need only be civil, and in consideration thereof they may aim at being the basis of monarchies. The narrowness of Clancharlie’s mind was incomprehensible. His eyes were still dazzled by the phantasmagoria of the revolution. He had allowed himself to be taken in by the republic — yes; and cast out. He was an affront to his country. The attitude he assumed was downright felony. Absence was an insult. He held aloof from the public joy as from the plague. In his voluntary banishment he found some indescribable refuge from the national rejoicing. He treated loyalty as a contagion; over the widespread gladness at the revival of the monarchy, denounced by him as a lazaretto, he was the black flag. What! could he look thus askance at order reconstituted, a nation exalted, and a religion restored? Over such serenity why cast his shadow? Take umbrage at England’s contentment! Must he be the one blot in the clear blue sky! Be as a threat! Protest against a nation’s will! refuse his Yes to the universal consent! It would be disgusting, if it were not the part of a fool. Clancharlie could not have taken into account the fact that it did not matter if one had taken the wrong turn with Cromwell, as long as one found one’s way back into the right path with Monk.
Take Monk’s case. He commands the republican army. Charles II., having been informed of his honesty, writes to him. Monk, who combines virtue with tact, dissimulates at first, then suddenly at the head of his troops dissolves the rebel parliament, and reestablishes the king on the throne. Monk is created Duke of Albemarle, has the honour of having saved society, becomes very rich, sheds a glory over his own time, is created Knight of the Garter, and has the prospect of being buried in Westminster Abbey. Such glory is the reward of British fidelity!
Lord Clancharlie could never rise to a sense of duty thus carried out. He had the infatuation and obstinacy of an exile. He contented himself with hollow phrases. He was tongue-tied by pride. The words conscience and dignity are but words, after all. One must penetrate to the depths. These depths Lord Clancharlie had not reached. His “eye was single,” and before committing an act he wished to observe it so closely as to be able to judge it by more senses than one. Hence arose absurd disgust to the facts examined. No man can be a statesman who gives way to such overstrained delicacy. Excess of conscientiousness degenerates into infirmity. Scruple is one-handed when a sceptre is to be seized, and a eunuch when fortune is to be wedded. Distrust scruples; they drag you too far. Unreasonable fidelity is like a ladder leading into a cavern — one step down, another, then another, and there you are in the dark. The clever reascend; fools remain in it. Conscience must not be allowed to practise such austerity. If it be, it will fall until, from transition to transition, it at length reaches the deep gloom of political prudery. Then one is lost. Thus it was with Lord Clancharlie.
Principles terminate in a precipice.
He was walking, his hands behind him, along the shores of the Lake of Geneva. A fine way of getting on!
In London they sometimes spoke of the exile. He was accused before the tribunal of public opinion. They pleaded for and against him. The cause having been heard, he was acquitted on the ground of stupidity.
Many zealous friends of the former republic had given their adherence to the Stuarts. For this they deserve praise. They naturally calumniated him a little. The obstinate are repulsive to the compliant. Men of sense, in favour and good places at Court, weary of his disagreeable attitude, took pleasure in saying, “If he has not rallied to the throne, it is because he has not been sufficiently paid,” etc. “He wanted the chancellorship which the king has given to Hyde.” One of his old friends went so far as to whisper, “He told me so himself.” Remote as was the solitude of Linnæus Clancharlie, something of this talk would reach him through the outlaws he met, such as old regicides like Andrew Broughton, who lived at Lausanne. Clancharlie confined himself to an imperceptible shrug of the shoulders, a sign of profound deterioration. On one occasion he added to the shrug these few words, murmured in a low voice, “I pity those who believe such things.”
Charles II., good man! despised him. The happiness of England under Charles II. was more than happiness, it was enchantment. A restoration is like an old oil painting, blackened by time, and revarnished. All the past reappeared, good old manners returned, beautiful women reigned and governed. Evelyn notices it. We read in his journal, “Luxury, profaneness, contempt of God. I saw the king on Sunday evening with his courtesans, Portsmouth, Cleveland, Mazarin, and two or three others, all nearly naked, in the gaming-room.” We feel that there is ill-nature in this description, for Evelyn was a grumbling Puritan, tainted with republican reveries. He did not appreciate the profitable example given by kings in those grand Babylonian gaieties, which, after all, maintain luxury. He did not understand the utility of vice. Here is a maxim: Do not extirpate vice, if you want to have charming women; if you do you are like idiots who destroy the chrysalis whilst they delight in the butterfly.
Charles II., as we have said, scarcely remembered that a rebel called Clancharlie existed; but James II. was more heedful. Charles II. governed gently, it was his way; we may add, that he did not govern the worse on that account. A sailor sometimes makes on a rope intended to baffle the wind, a slack knot which he leaves to the wind to tighten. Such is the stupidity of the storm and of the people.
The slack knot very soon becomes a tight one. So did the government of Charles II.
Under James II. the throttling began; a necessary throttling of what remained of the revolution. James II. had a laudable ambition to be an efficient king. The reign of Charles II. was, in his opinion, but a sketch of restoration. James wished for a still more complete return to order. He had, in 1660, deplored that they had confined themselves to the hanging of ten regicides. He was a more genuine reconstructor of authority. He infused vigour into serious principles. He installed true justice, which is superior to sentimental declamations, and attends, above all things, to the interests of society. In his protecting severities we recognize the father of the state. He entrusted the hand of justice to Jeffreys, and its sword to Kirke. That useful Colonel, one day, hung and rehung the same man, a republican, asking him each time, “Will you renounce the republic?” The villain, having each time said “No,” was dispatched. “I hanged him four times,” said Kirke, with satisfaction. The renewal of executions is a great sign of power in the executive authority. Lady Lisle, who, though she had sent her son to fight against Monmouth, had concealed two rebels in her house, was executed; another rebel, having been honourable enough to declare that an Anabaptist female had given him shelter, was pardoned, and the woman was burned alive. Kirke, on another occasion, gave a town to understand that he knew its principles to be republican, by hanging nineteen burgesses. These reprisals were certainly legitimate, for it must be remembered that, under Cromwell, they cut off the noses and ears of the stone saints in the churches. James II., who had had the sense to choose Jeffreys and Kirke, was a prince imbued with true religion; he practised mortification in the ugliness of his mistresses; he listened to le Père la Colombière, a preacher almost as unctuous as le Père Cheminais, but with more fire, who had the glory of being, during the first part of his life, the counsellor of James II., and, during the latter, the inspirer of Mary Alcock. It was, thanks to this strong religious nourishment, that, later on, James II. was enabled to bear exile with dignity, and to exhibit, in his retirement at Saint Germain, the spectacle of a king rising superior to adversity, calmly touching for king’s evil, and conversing with Jesuits.
It will be readily understood that such a king would trouble himself to a certain extent about such a rebel as Lord Linnæus Clancharlie. Hereditary peerages have a certain hold on the future, and it was evident that if any precautions were necessary with regard to that lord, James II. was not the man to hesitate.
Lord Linnæus Clancharlie had not always been old and proscribed; he had had his phase of youth and passion. We know from Harrison and Pride that Cromwell, when young, loved women and pleasure, a taste which, at times (another reading of the text “Woman”), betrays a seditious man. Distrust the loosely-clasped girdle. Male proecinctam juvenem cavete. Lord Clancharlie, like Cromwell, had had his wild hours and his irregularities. He was known to have had a natural child, a son. This son was born in England in the last days of the republic, just as his father was going into exile. Hence he had never seen his father. This bastard of Lord Clancharlie had grown up as page at the court of Charles II. He was styled Lord David Dirry–Moir: he was a lord by courtesy, his mother being a woman of quality. The mother, while Lord Clancharlie was becoming an owl in Switzerland, made up her mind, being a beauty, to give over sulking, and was forgiven that Goth, her first lover, by one undeniably polished and at the same time a royalist, for it was the king himself.
She had been but a short time the mistress of Charles II., sufficiently long however to have made his Majesty — who was delighted to have won so pretty a woman from the republic — bestow on the little Lord David, the son of his conquest, the office of keeper of the stick, which made that bastard officer, boarded at the king’s expense, by a natural revulsion of feeling, an ardent adherent of the Stuarts. Lord David was for some time one of the hundred and seventy wearing the great sword, while afterwards, entering the corps of pensioners, he became one of the forty who bear the gilded halberd. He had, besides being one of the noble company instituted by Henry VIII. as a bodyguard, the privilege of laying the dishes on the king’s table. Thus it was that whilst his father was growing gray in exile, Lord David prospered under Charles II.
After which he prospered under James II.
The king is dead. Long live the king! It is the non deficit alter, aureus.
It was on the accession of the Duke of York that he obtained permission to call himself Lord David Dirry–Moir, from an estate which his mother, who had just died, had left him, in that great forest of Scotland, where is found the krag, a bird which scoops out a nest with its beak in the trunk of the oak.
James II. was a king, and affected to be a general. He loved to surround himself with young officers. He showed himself frequently in public on horseback, in a helmet and cuirass, with a huge projecting wig hanging below the helmet and over the cuirass — a sort of equestrian statue of imbecile war. He took a fancy to the graceful mien of the young Lord David. He liked the royalist for being the son of a republican. The repudiation of a father does not damage the foundation of a court fortune. The king made Lord David gentleman of the bedchamber, at a salary of a thousand a year.
It was a fine promotion. A gentleman of the bedchamber sleeps near the king every night, on a bed which is made up for him. There are twelve gentlemen who relieve each other.
Lord David, whilst he held that post, was also head of the king’s granary, giving out corn for the horses and receiving a salary of £260. Under him were the five coachmen of the king, the five postilions of the king, the five grooms of the king, the twelve footmen of the king, and the four chair-bearers of the king. He had the management of the race-chorses which the king kept at Newmarket, and which cost his Majesty £600 a year. He worked his will on the king’s wardrobe, from which the Knights of the Garter are furnished with their robes of ceremony. He was saluted to the ground by the usher of the Black Rod, who belongs to the king. That usher, under James II., was the knight of Duppa. Mr. Baker, who was clerk of the crown, and Mr. Brown, who was clerk of the Parliament, kotowed to Lord David. The court of England, which is magnificent, is a model of hospitality. Lord David presided, as one of the twelve, at banquets and receptions. He had the glory of standing behind the king on offertory days, when the king give to the church the golden byzantium; on collar-days, when the king wears the collar of his order; on communion days, when no one takes the sacrament excepting the king and the princes. It was he who, on Holy Thursday, introduced into his Majesty’s presence the twelve poor men to whom the king gives as many silver pence as the years of his age, and as many shillings as the years of his reign. The duty devolved on him when the king was ill, to call to the assistance of his Majesty the two grooms of the almonry, who are priests, and to prevent the approach of doctors without permission from the council of state. Besides, he was lieutenant-colonel of the Scotch regiment of Guards, the one which plays the Scottish march. As such, he made several campaigns, and with glory, for he was a gallant soldier. He was a brave lord, well-made, handsome, generous, and majestic in look and in manner. His person was like his quality. He was tall in stature as well as high in birth.
At one time he stood a chance of being made groom of the stole, which would have given him the privilege of putting the king’s shirt on his Majesty: but to hold that office it was necessary to be either prince or peer. Now, to create a peer is a serious thing; it is to create a peerage, and that makes many people jealous. It is a favour; a favour which gives the king one friend and a hundred enemies, without taking into account that the one friend becomes ungrateful. James II., from policy, was indisposed to create peerages, but he transferred them freely. The transfer of a peerage produces no sensation. It is simply the continuation of a name. The order is little affected by it.
The goodwill of royalty had no objection to raise Lord David Dirry–Moir to the Upper House so long as it could do so by means of a substituted peerage. Nothing would have pleased his majesty better than to transform Lord David Dirry–Moir, lord by courtesy, into a lord by right.
The opportunity occurred.
One day it was announced that several things had happened to the old exile, Lord Clancharlie, the most important of which was that he was dead. Death does just this much good to folks: it causes a little talk about them. People related what they knew, or what they thought they knew, of the last years of Lord Linnæus. What they said was probably legend and conjecture. If these random tales were to be credited, Lord Clancharlie must have had his republicanism intensified towards the end of his life, to the extent of marrying (strange obstinacy of the exile!) Ann Bradshaw, the daughter of a regicide; they were precise about the name. She had also died, it was said, but in giving birth to a boy. If these details should prove to be correct, his child would of course be the legitimate and rightful heir of Lord Clancharlie. These reports, however, were extremely vague in form, and were rumours rather than facts. Circumstances which happened in Switzerland, in those days, were as remote from the England of that period as those which take place in China from the England of today. Lord Clancharlie must have been fifty-nine at the time of his marriage, they said, and sixty at the birth of his son, and must have died shortly after, leaving his infant orphaned both of father and mother. This was possible, perhaps, but improbable. They added that the child was beautiful as the day, — just as we read in all the fairy tales. King James put an end to these rumours, evidently without foundation, by declaring, one fine morning, Lord David Dirry–Moir sole and positive heir in default of legitimate issue, and by his royal pleasure, of Lord Linnæus Clancharlie, his natural father, the absence of all other issue and descent being established, patents of which grant were registered in the House of Lords. By these patents the king instituted Lord David Dirry–Moir in the titles, rights, and prerogatives of the late Lord Linnæus Clancharlie, on the sole condition that Lord David should wed, when she attained a marriageable age, a girl who was, at that time, a mere infant a few months old, and whom the king had, in her cradle, created a duchess, no one knew exactly why; or, rather, every one knew why. This little infant was called the Duchess Josiana.
The English fashion then ran on Spanish names. One of Charles II.‘s bastards was called Carlos, Earl of Plymouth. It is likely that Josiana was a contraction for Josefa-y-Ana. Josiana, however, may have been a name — the feminine of Josias. One of Henry VIII.‘s gentlemen was called Josias du Passage.
It was to this little duchess that the king granted the peerage of Clancharlie. She was a peeress till there should be a peer; the peer should be her husband. The peerage was founded on a double castleward, the barony of Clancharlie and the barony of Hunkerville; besides, the barons of Clancharlie were, in recompense of an ancient feat of arms, and by royal licence, Marquises of Corleone, in Sicily.
Peers of England cannot bear foreign titles; there are, nevertheless, exceptions; thus — Henry Arundel, Baron Arundel of Wardour, was, as well as Lord Clifford, a Count of the Holy Roman Empire, of which Lord Cowper is a prince. The Duke of Hamilton is Duke of Chatelherault, in France; Basil Fielding, Earl of Denbigh, is Count of Hapsburg, of Lauffenberg, and of Rheinfelden, in Germany. The Duke of Marlborough was Prince of Mindelheim, in Suabia, just as the Duke of Wellington was Prince of Waterloo, in Belgium. The same Lord Wellington was a Spanish Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, and Portuguese Count of Vimiera.
There were in England, and there are still, lands both noble and common. The lands of the Lords of Clancharlie were all noble. These lands, burghs, bailiwicks, fiefs, rents, freeholds, and domains, adherent to the peerage of Clancharlie–Hunkerville, belonged provisionally to Lady Josiana, and the king declared that, once married to Josiana, Lord David Dirry–Moir should be Baron Clancharlie.
Besides the Clancharlie inheritance, Lady Josiana had her own fortune. She possessed great wealth, much of which was derived from the gifts of Madame sans queue to the Duke of York. Madame sans queue is short for Madame. Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orleans, the lady of highest rank in France after the queen, was thus called.
Having prospered under Charles and James, Lord David prospered under William. His Jacobite feeling did not reach to the extent of following James into exile. While he continued to love his legitimate king, he had the good sense to serve the usurper; he was, moreover, although sometimes disposed to rebel against discipline, an excellent officer. He passed from the land to the sea forces, and distinguished himself in the White Squadron. He rose in it to be what was then called captain of a light frigate. Altogether he made a very fine fellow, carrying to a great extent the elegancies of vice: a bit of a poet, like every one else; a good servant of the state, a good servant to the prince; assiduous at feasts, at galas, at ladies’ receptions, at ceremonies, and in battle; servile in a gentlemanlike way; very haughty; with eyesight dull or keen, according to the object examined; inclined to integrity; obsequious or arrogant, as occasion required; frank and sincere on first acquaintance, with the power of assuming the mask afterwards; very observant of the smiles and frowns of the royal humour; careless before a sword’s point; always ready to risk his life on a sign from his Majesty with heroism and complacency, capable of any insult but of no impoliteness; a man of courtesy and etiquette, proud of kneeling at great regal ceremonies; of a gay valour; a courtier on the surface, a paladin below; quite young at forty-five. Lord David sang French songs, an elegant gaiety which had delighted Charles II. He loved eloquence and fine language. He greatly admired those celebrated discourses which are called the funeral orations of Bossuet.
From his mother he had inherited almost enough to live on, about £10,000 a year. He managed to get on with it — by running into debt. In magnificence, extravagance, and novelty he was without a rival. Directly he was copied he changed his fashion. On horseback he wore loose boots of cow-hide, which turned over, with spurs. He had hats like nobody else’s, unheard-of lace, and bands of which he alone had the pattern.
Towards 1705, although Lady Josiana was twenty-three and Lord David forty-four, the wedding had not yet taken place, and that for the best reasons in the world. Did they hate each other? Far from it; but what cannot escape from you inspires you with no haste to obtain it. Josiana wanted to remain free, David to remain young. To have no tie until as late as possible appeared to him to be a prolongation of youth. Middle-aged young men abounded in those rakish times. They grew gray as young fops. The wig was an accomplice: later on, powder became the auxiliary. At fifty-five Lord Charles Gerrard, Baron Gerrard, one of the Gerrards of Bromley, filled London with his successes. The young and pretty Duchess of Buckingham, Countess of Coventry, made a fool of herself for love of the handsome Thomas Bellasys, Viscount Falconberg, who was sixty-seven. People quoted the famous verses of Corneille, the septuagenarian, to a girl of twenty — “Marquise, si mon visage.” Women, too, had their successes in the autumn of life. Witness Ninon and Marion. Such were the models of the day.
Josiana and David carried on a flirtation of a particular shade. They did not love, they pleased, each other. To be at each other’s side sufficed them. Why hasten the conclusion? The novels of those days carried lovers and engaged couples to that kind of stage which was the most becoming. Besides, Josiana, while she knew herself to be a bastard, felt herself a princess, and carried her authority over him with a high tone in all their arrangements. She had a fancy for Lord David. Lord David was handsome, but that was over and above the bargain. She considered him to be fashionable.
To be fashionable is everything. Caliban, fashionable and magnificent, would distance Ariel, poor. Lord David was handsome, so much the better. The danger in being handsome is being insipid; and that he was not. He betted, boxed, ran into debt. Josiana thought great things of his horses, his dogs, his losses at play, his mistresses. Lord David, on his side, bowed down before the fascinations of the Duchess Josiana — a maiden without spot or scruple, haughty, inaccessible, and audacious. He addressed sonnets to her, which Josiana sometimes read. In these sonnets he declared that to possess Josiana would be to rise to the stars, which did not prevent his always putting the ascent off to the following year. He waited in the antechamber outside Josiana’s heart; and this suited the convenience of both. At court all admired the good taste of this delay. Lady Josiana said, “It is a bore that I should be obliged to marry Lord David; I, who would desire nothing better than to be in love with him!”
Josiana was “the flesh.” Nothing could be more resplendent. She was very tall — too tall. Her hair was of that tinge which might be called red gold. She was plump, fresh, strong, and rosy, with immense boldness and wit. She had eyes which were too intelligible. She had neither lovers nor chastity. She walled herself round with pride. Men! oh, fie! a god only would be worthy of her, or a monster. If virtue consists in the protection of an inaccessible position, Josiana possessed all possible virtue, but without any innocence. She disdained intrigues; but she would not have been displeased had she been supposed to have engaged in some, provided that the objects were uncommon, and proportioned to the merits of one so highly placed. She thought little of her reputation, but much of her glory. To appear yielding, and to be unapproachable, is perfection. Josiana felt herself majestic and material. Hers was a cumbrous beauty. She usurped rather than charmed. She trod upon hearts. She was earthly. She would have been as much astonished at being proved to have a soul in her bosom as wings on her back. She discoursed on Locke; she was polite; she was suspected of knowing Arabic.
To be “the flesh” and to be woman are two different things. Where a woman is vulnerable, on the side of pity, for instance, which so readily turns to love, Josiana was not. Not that she was unfeeling. The ancient comparison of flesh to marble is absolutely false. The beauty of flesh consists in not being marble: its beauty is to palpitate, to tremble, to blush, to bleed, to have firmness without hardness, to be white without being cold, to have its sensations and its infirmities; its beauty is to be life, and marble is death.
Flesh, when it attains a certain degree of beauty, has almost a claim to the right of nudity; it conceals itself in its own dazzling charms as in a veil. He who might have looked upon Josiana nude would have perceived her outlines only through a surrounding glory. She would have shown herself without hesitation to a satyr or a eunuch. She had the self-possession of a goddess. To have made her nudity a torment, ever eluding a pursuing Tantalus, would have been an amusement to her.
The king had made her a duchess, and Jupiter a Nereid — a double irradiation of which the strange, brightness of this creature was composed. In admiring her you felt yourself becoming a pagan and a lackey. Her origin had been bastardy and the ocean. She appeared to have emerged from the foam. From the stream had risen the first jet of her destiny; but the spring was royal. In her there was something of the wave, of chance, of the patrician, and of the tempest. She was well read and accomplished. Never had a passion approached her, yet she had sounded them all. She had a disgust for realizations, and at the same time a taste for them. If she had stabbed herself, it would, like Lucretia, not have been until afterwards. She was a virgin stained with every defilement in its visionary stage. She was a possible Astarte in a real Diana. She was, in the insolence of high birth, tempting and inaccessible. Nevertheless, she might find it amusing to plan a fall for herself. She dwelt in a halo of glory, half wishing to descend from it, and perhaps feeling curious to know what a fall was like. She was a little too heavy for her cloud. To err is a diversion. Princely unconstraint has the privilege of experiment, and what is frailty in a plebeian is only frolic in a duchess. Josiana was in everything — in birth, in beauty, in irony, in brilliancy — almost a queen. She had felt a moment’s enthusiasm for Louis de Bouffles, who used to break horseshoes between his fingers. She regretted that Hercules was dead. She lived in some undefined expectation of a voluptuous and supreme ideal.
Morally, Josiana brought to one’s mind the line —
“Un beau torse de femme en hydre se termine.”
Hers was a noble neck, a splendid bosom, heaving harmoniously over a royal heart, a glance full of life and light, a countenance pure and haughty, and who knows? below the surface was there not, in a semi-transparent and misty depth, an undulating, supernatural prolongation, perchance deformed and dragon-like — a proud virtue ending in vice in the depth of dreams.
With all that she was a prude.
It was the fashion.
Elizabeth was of a type that prevailed in England for three centuries — the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth. Elizabeth was more than English — she was Anglican. Hence the deep respect of the Episcopalian Church for that queen — respect resented by the Church of Rome, which counterbalanced it with a dash of excommunication. In the mouth of Sixtus V., when anathematizing Elizabeth, malediction turned to madrigal. “Un gran cervello di principessa,” he says. Mary Stuart, less concerned with the church and more with the woman part of the question, had little respect for her sister Elizabeth, and wrote to her as queen to queen and coquette to prude: “Your disinclination to marriage arises from your not wishing to lose the liberty of being made love to.” Mary Stuart played with the fan, Elizabeth with the axe. An uneven match. They were rivals, besides, in literature. Mary Stuart composed French verses; Elizabeth translated Horace. The ugly Elizabeth decreed herself beautiful; liked quatrains and acrostics; had the keys of towns presented to her by cupids; bit her lips after the Italian fashion, rolled her eyes after the Spanish; had in her wardrobe three thousand dresses and costumes, of which several were for the character of Minerva and Amphitrite; esteemed the Irish for the width of their shoulders; covered her farthingale with braids and spangles; loved roses; cursed, swore, and stamped; struck her maids of honour with her clenched fists; used to send Dudley to the devil; beat Burleigh, the Chancellor, who would cry — poor old fool! spat on Matthew; collared Hatton; boxed the ears of Essex; showed her legs to Bassompierre; and was a virgin.
What she did for Bassompierre the Queen of Sheba had done for Solomon;11 consequently she was right, Holy Writ having created the precedent. That which is biblical may well be Anglican. Biblical precedent goes so far as to speak of a child who was called Ebnehaquem or Melilechet — that is to say, the Wise Man’s son.
Why object to such manners? Cynicism is at least as good as hypocrisy.
Nowadays England, whose Loyola is named Wesley, casts down her eyes a little at the remembrance of that past age. She is vexed at the memory, yet proud of it.
These fine ladies, moreover, knew Latin. From the 16th century this had been accounted a feminine accomplishment. Lady Jane Grey had carried fashion to the point of knowing Hebrew. The Duchess Josiana Latinized. Then (another fine thing) she was secretly a Catholic; after the manner of her uncle, Charles II., rather than her father, James II. James II. had lost his crown for his Catholicism, and Josiana did not care to risk her peerage. Thus it was that while a Catholic amongst her intimate friends and the refined of both sexes, she was outwardly a Protestant for the benefit of the riffraff.
This is the pleasant view to take of religion. You enjoy all the good things belonging to the official Episcopalian church, and later on you die, like Grotius, in the odour of Catholicity, having the glory of a mass being said for you by le Père Petau.
Although plump and healthy, Josiana was, we repeat, a perfect prude.
At times her sleepy and voluptuous way of dragging out the end of her phrases was like the creeping of a tiger’s paws in the jungle.
The advantage of prudes is that they disorganize the human race. They deprive it of the honour of their adherence. Beyond all, keep the human species at a distance. This is a point of the greatest importance.
When one has not got Olympus, one must take the Hôtel de Rambouillet. Juno resolves herself into Araminta. A pretension to divinity not admitted creates affectation. In default of thunderclaps there is impertinence. The temple shrivels into the boudoir. Not having the power to be a goddess, she is an idol.
There is besides, in prudery, a certain pedantry which is pleasing to women. The coquette and the pedant are neighbours. Their kinship is visible in the fop. The subtile is derived from the sensual. Gluttony affects delicacy, a grimace of disgust conceals cupidity. And then woman feels her weak point guarded by all that casuistry of gallantry which takes the place of scruples in prudes. It is a line of circumvallation with a ditch. Every prude puts on an air of repugnance. It is a protection. She will consent, but she disdains — for the present.
Josiana had an uneasy conscience. She felt such a leaning towards immodesty that she was a prude. The recoils of pride in the direction opposed to our vices lead us to those of a contrary nature. It was the excessive effort to be chaste which made her a prude. To be too much on the defensive points to a secret desire for attack; the shy woman is not strait-laced. She shut herself up in the arrogance of the exceptional circumstances of her rank, meditating, perhaps, all the while, some sudden lapse from it.
It was the dawn of the eighteenth century. England was a sketch of what France was during the regency. Walpole and Dubois are not unlike. Marlborough was fighting against his former king, James II., to whom it was said he had sold his sister, Miss Churchill. Bolingbroke was in his meridian, and Richelieu in his dawn. Gallantry found its convenience in a certain medley of ranks. Men were equalized by the same vices as they were later on, perhaps, by the same ideas. Degradation of rank, an aristocratic prelude, began what the revolution was to complete. It was not very far off the time when Jelyotte was seen publicly sitting, in broad daylight, on the bed of the Marquise d’Epinay. It is true (for manners reecho each other) that in the sixteenth century Smeton’s nightcap had been found under Anne Boleyn’s pillow.
If the word woman signifies fault, as I forget what Council decided, never was woman so womanlike as then. Never, covering her frailty by her charms, and her weakness by her omnipotence, has she claimed absolution more imperiously. In making the forbidden the permitted fruit, Eve fell; in making the permitted the forbidden fruit, she triumphs. That is the climax. In the eighteenth century the wife bolts out her husband. She shuts herself up in Eden with Satan. Adam is left outside.
11 Regina Saba coram rege crura denudavit. — Schicklardus in Proemio Tarich Jersici, F. 65.
All Josiana’s instincts impelled her to yield herself gallantly rather than to give herself legally. To surrender on the score of gallantry implies learning, recalls Menalcas and Amaryllis, and is almost a literary act. Mademoiselle de Scudéry, putting aside the attraction of ugliness for ugliness’ sake, had no other motive for yielding to Pélisson.
The maiden a sovereign, the wife a subject, such was the old English notion. Josiana was deferring the hour of this subjection as long as she could. She must eventually marry Lord David, since such was the royal pleasure. It was a necessity, doubtless; but what a pity! Josiana appreciated Lord David, and showed him off. There was between them a tacit agreement neither to conclude nor to break off the engagement. They eluded each other. This method of making love, one step in advance and two back, is expressed in the dances of the period, the minuet and the gavotte.
It is unbecoming to be married — fades one’s ribbons and makes one look old. An espousal is a dreary absorption of brilliancy. A woman handed over to you by a notary, how commonplace! The brutality of marriage creates definite situations; suppresses the will; kills choice; has a syntax, like grammar; replaces inspiration by orthography; makes a dictation of love; disperses all life’s mysteries; diminishes the rights both of sovereign and subject; by a turn of the scale destroys the charming equilibrium of the sexes, the one robust in bodily strength, the other all-powerful in feminine weakness — strength on one side, beauty on the other; makes one a master and the other a servant, while without marriage one is a slave, the other a queen.
To make Love prosaically decent, how gross! to deprive it of all impropriety, how dull!
Lord David was ripening. Forty; ’tis a marked period. He did not perceive this, and in truth he looked no more than thirty. He considered it more amusing to desire Josiana than to possess her. He possessed others. He had mistresses. On the other hand, Josiana had dreams.
The Duchess Josiana had a peculiarity, less rare than it is supposed. One of her eyes was blue and the other black. Her pupils were made for love and hate, for happiness and misery. Night and day were mingled in her look.
Her ambition was this — to show herself capable of impossibilities. One day she said to Swift, “You people fancy that you know what scorn is.” “You people” meant the human race.
She was a skin-deep Papist. Her Catholicism did not exceed the amount necessary for fashion. She would have been a Puseyite in the present day. She wore great dresses of velvet, satin, or moire, some composed of fifteen or sixteen yards of material, with embroideries of gold and silver; and round her waist many knots of pearls, alternating with other precious stones. She was extravagant in gold lace. Sometimes she wore an embroidered cloth jacket like a bachelor. She rode on a man’s saddle, notwithstanding the invention of side-saddles, introduced into England in the fourteenth century by Anne, wife of Richard II. She washed her face, arms, shoulders, and neck, in sugar-candy, diluted in white of egg, after the fashion of Castile. There came over her face, after any one had spoken wittily in her presence, a reflective smile of singular grace. She was free from malice, and rather good-natured than otherwise.
Josiana was bored. The fact is so natural as to be scarcely worth mentioning.
Lord David held the position of judge in the gay life of London. He was looked up to by the nobility and gentry. Let us register a glory of Lord David’s. He was daring enough to wear his own hair. The reaction against the wig was beginning. Just as in 1824 Eugene Deveria was the first to allow his beard to grow, so in 1702 Prince Devereux was the first to risk wearing his own hair in public disguised by artful curling. For to risk one’s hair was almost to risk one’s head. The indignation was universal. Nevertheless Prince Devereux was Viscount Hereford, and a peer of England. He was insulted, and the deed was well worth the insult. In the hottest part of the row Lord David suddenly appeared without his wig and in his own hair. Such conduct shakes the foundations of society. Lord David was insulted even more than Viscount Hereford. He held his ground. Prince Devereux was the first, Lord David Dirry–Moir the second. It is sometimes more difficult to be second than first. It requires less genius, but more courage. The first, intoxicated by the novelty, may ignore the danger; the second sees the abyss, and rushes into it. Lord David flung himself into the abyss of no longer wearing a wig. Later on these lords found imitators. Following these two revolutionists, men found sufficient audacity to wear their own hair, and powder was introduced as an extenuating circumstance.
In order to establish, before we pass on, an important period of history, we should remark that the first blow in the war of wigs was really struck by a Queen, Christina of Sweden, who wore man’s clothes, and had appeared in 1680, in her hair of golden brown, powdered, and brushed up from her head. She had, besides, says Misson, a slight beard. The Pope, on his part, by a bull of March 1694, had somewhat let down the wig, by taking it from the heads of bishops and priests, and in ordering churchmen to let their hair grow.
Lord David, then, did not wear a wig, and did wear cowhide boots. Such great things made him a mark for public admiration. There was not a club of which he was not the leader, not a boxing match in which he was not desired as referee. The referee is the arbitrator.
He had drawn up the rules of several clubs in high life. He founded several resorts of fashionable society, of which one, the Lady Guinea, was still in existence in Pall Mall in 1772. The Lady Guinea was a club in which all the youth of the peerage congregated. They gamed there. The lowest stake allowed was a rouleau of fifty guineas, and there was never less than 20,000 guineas on the table. By the side of each player was a little stand on which to place his cup of tea, and a gilt bowl in which to put the rouleaux of guineas. The players, like servants when cleaning knives, wore leather sleeves to save their lace, breastplates of leather to protect their ruffles, shades on their brows to shelter their eyes from the great glare of the lamps, and, to keep their curls in order, broad-brimmed hats covered with flowers. They were masked to conceal their excitement, especially when playing the game of quinze. All, moreover, had their coats turned the wrong way, for luck. Lord David was a member of the Beefsteak Club, the Surly Club, and of the Splitfarthing Club, of the Cross Club, the Scratchpenny Club, of the Sealed Knot, a Royalist Club, and of the Martinus Scribblerus, founded by Swift, to take the place of the Rota, founded by Milton.
Though handsome, he belonged to the Ugly Club. This club was dedicated to deformity. The members agreed to fight, not about a beautiful woman, but about an ugly man. The hall of the club was adorned by hideous portraits — Thersites, Triboulet, Duns, Hudibras, Scarron; over the chimney was Æsop, between two men, each blind of an eye, Cocles and Camoëns (Cocles being blind of the left, Camoëns of the right eye), so arranged that the two profiles without eyes were turned to each other. The day that the beautiful Mrs. Visart caught the small pox the Ugly Club toasted her. This club was still in existence in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and Mirabeau was elected an honorary member.
Since the restoration of Charles II. revolutionary clubs had been abolished. The tavern in the little street by Moorfields, where the Calf’s Head Club was held, had been pulled down; it was so called because on the 30th of January, the day on which the blood of Charles I. flowed on the scaffold, the members had drunk red wine out of the skull of a calf to the health of Cromwell. To the republican clubs had succeeded monarchical clubs. In them people amused themselves with decency.
There was the Hell-fire Club, where they played at being impious. It was a joust of sacrilege. Hell was at auction there to the highest bidder in blasphemy.
There was the Butting Club, so called from its members butting folks with their heads. They found some street porter with a wide chest and a stupid countenance. They offered him, and compelled him, if necessary, to accept a pot of porter, in return for which he was to allow them to butt him with their heads four times in the chest, and on this they betted. One day a man, a great brute of a Welshman named Gogangerdd, expired at the third butt. This looked serious. An inquest was held, and the jury returned the following verdict: “Died of an inflation of the heart, caused by excessive drinking.” Gogangerdd had certainly drunk the contents of the pot of porter.
There was the Fun Club. Fun is like cant, like humour, a word which is untranslatable. Fun is to farce what pepper is to salt. To get into a house and break a valuable mirror, slash the family portraits, poison the dog, put the cat in the aviary, is called “cutting a bit of fun.” To give bad news which is untrue, whereby people put on mourning by mistake, is fun. It was fun to cut a square hole in the Holbein at Hampton Court. Fun would have been proud to have broken the arm of the Venus of Milo. Under James II. a young millionaire lord who had during the night set fire to a thatched cottage — a feat which made all London burst with laughter — was proclaimed the King of Fun. The poor devils in the cottage were saved in their night clothes. The members of the Fun Club, all of the highest aristocracy, used to run about London during the hours when the citizens were asleep, pulling the hinges from the shutters, cutting off the pipes of pumps, filling up cisterns, digging up cultivated plots of ground, putting out lamps, sawing through the beams which supported houses, breaking the window panes, especially in the poor quarters of the town. It was the rich who acted thus towards the poor. For this reason no complaint was possible. That was the best of the joke. Those manners have not altogether disappeared. In many places in England and in English possessions — at Guernsey, for instance — your house is now and then somewhat damaged during the night, or a fence is broken, or the knocker twisted off your door. If it were poor people who did these things, they would be sent to jail; but they are done by pleasant young gentlemen.
The most fashionable of the clubs was presided over by an emperor, who wore a crescent on his forehead, and was called the Grand Mohawk. The Mohawk surpassed the Fun. Do evil for evil’s sake was the programme. The Mohawk Club had one great object — to injure. To fulfil this duty all means were held good. In becoming a Mohawk the members took an oath to be hurtful. To injure at any price, no matter when, no matter whom, no matter where, was a matter of duty. Every member of the Mohawk Club was bound to possess an accomplishment. One was “a dancing master;” that is to say he made the rustics frisk about by pricking the calves of their legs with the point of his sword. Others knew how to make a man sweat; that is to say, a circle of gentlemen with drawn rapiers would surround a poor wretch, so that it was impossible for him not to turn his back upon some one. The gentleman behind him chastised him for this by a prick of his sword, which made him spring round; another prick in the back warned the fellow that one of noble blood was behind him, and so on, each one wounding him in his turn. When the man, closed round by the circle of swords and covered with blood, had turned and danced about enough, they ordered their servants to beat him with sticks, to change the course of his ideas. Others “hit the lion” — that is, they gaily stopped a passenger, broke his nose with a blow of the fist, and then shoved both thumbs into his eyes. If his eyes were gouged out, he was paid for them.
Such were, towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, the pastimes of the rich idlers of London. The idlers of Paris had theirs. M. de Charolais was firing his gun at a citizen standing on his own threshold. In all times youth has had its amusements.
Lord David Dirry–Moir brought into all these institutions his magnificent and liberal spirit. Just like any one else, he would gaily set fire to a cot of woodwork and thatch, and just scorch those within; but he would rebuild their houses in stone. He insulted two ladies. One was unmarried — he gave her a portion; the other was married — he had her husband appointed chaplain.
Cockfighting owed him some praiseworthy improvements. It was marvellous to see Lord David dress a cock for the pit. Cocks lay hold of each other by the feathers, as men by the hair. Lord David, therefore, made his cock as bald as possible. With a pair of scissors he cut off all the feathers from the tail and from the head to the shoulders, and all those on the neck. So much less for the enemy’s beak, he used to say. Then he extended the cock’s wings, and cut each feather, one after another, to a point, and thus the wings were furnished with darts. So much for the enemy’s eyes, he would say. Then he scraped its claws with a penknife, sharpened its nails, fitted it with spurs of sharp steel, spat on its head, spat on its neck, anointed it with spittle, as they used to rub oil over athletes; then set it down in the pit, a redoubtable champion, exclaiming, “That’s how to make a cock an eagle, and a bird of the poultry yard a bird of the mountain.”
Lord David attended prize-fights, and was their living law. On occasions of great performances it was he who had the stakes driven in and ropes stretched, and who fixed the number of feet for the ring. When he was a second, he followed his man step by step, a bottle in one hand, a sponge in the other, crying out to him to hit hard, suggesting stratagems, advising him as he fought, wiping away the blood, raising him when overthrown, placing him on his knee, putting the mouth of the bottle between his teeth, and from his own mouth, filled with water, blowing a fine rain into his eyes and ears — a thing which reanimates even a dying man. If he was referee, he saw that there was no foul play, prevented any one, whosoever he might be, from assisting the combatants, excepting the seconds, declare the man beaten who did not fairly face his opponent, watched that the time between the rounds did not exceed half a minute, prevented butting, and declared whoever resorted to it beaten, and forbade a man’s being hit when down. All this science, however, did not render him a pedant, nor destroy his ease of manner in society.
When he was referee, rough, pimple-faced, unshorn friends of either combatant never dared to come to the aid of their failing man, nor, in order to upset the chances of the betting, jumped over the barrier, entered the ring, broke the ropes, pulled down the stakes, and violently interposed in the battle. Lord David was one of the few referees whom they dared not thrash.
No one could train like him. The pugilist whose trainer he consented to become was sure to win. Lord David would choose a Hercules — massive as a rock, tall as a tower — and make him his child. The problem was to turn that human rock from a defensive to an offensive state. In this he excelled. Having once adopted the Cyclops, he never left him. He became his nurse; he measured out his wine, weighed his meat, and counted his hours of sleep. It was he who invented the athlete’s admirable rules, afterwards reproduced by Morley. In the mornings, a raw egg and a glass of sherry; at twelve, some slices of a leg of mutton, almost raw, with tea; at four, toast and tea; in the evening, pale ale and toast; after which he undressed his man, rubbed him, and put him to bed. In the street he never allowed him to leave his sight, keeping him out of every danger — runaway horses, the wheels of carriages, drunken soldiers, pretty girls. He watched over his virtue. This maternal solicitude continually brought some new perfection into the pupil’s education. He taught him the blow with the fist which breaks the teeth, and the twist of the thumb which gouges out the eye. What could be more touching?
Thus he was preparing himself for public life to which he was to be called later on. It is no easy matter to become an accomplished gentleman.
Lord David Dirry–Moir was passionately fond of open-air exhibitions, of shows, of circuses with wild beasts, of the caravans of mountebanks, of clowns, tumblers, merrymen, open-air farces, and the wonders of a fair. The true noble is he who smacks of the people. Therefore it was that Lord David frequented the taverns and low haunts of London and the Cinque Ports. In order to be able at need, and without compromising his rank in the white squadron, to be cheek-by-jowl with a topman or a calker, he used to wear a sailor’s jacket when he went into the slums. For such disguise his not wearing a wig was convenient; for even under Louis XIV. the people kept to their hair like the lion to his mane. This gave him great freedom of action. The low people whom Lord David used to meet in the stews, and with whom he mixed, held him in high esteem, without ever dreaming that he was a lord. They called him Tom–Jim-Jack. Under this name he was famous and very popular amongst the dregs of the people. He played the blackguard in a masterly style: when necessary, he used his fists. This phase of his fashionable life was highly appreciated by Lady Josiana.
Above this couple there was Anne, Queen of England. An ordinary woman was Queen Anne. She was gay, kindly, august — to a certain extent. No quality of hers attained to virtue, none to vice. Her stoutness was bloated, her fun heavy, her good-nature stupid. She was stubborn and weak. As a wife she was faithless and faithful, having favourites to whom she gave up her heart, and a husband for whom she kept her bed. As a Christian she was a heretic and a bigot. She had one beauty — the well-developed neck of a Niobe. The rest of her person was indifferently formed. She was a clumsy coquette and a chaste one. Her skin was white and fine; she displayed a great deal of it. It was she who introduced the fashion of necklaces of large pearls clasped round the throat. She had a narrow forehead, sensual lips, fleshy cheeks, large eyes, short sight. Her short sight extended to her mind. Beyond a burst of merriment now and then, almost as ponderous as her anger, she lived in a sort of taciturn grumble and a grumbling silence. Words escaped from her which had to be guessed at. She was a mixture of a good woman and a mischievous devil. She liked surprises, which is extremely woman-like. Anne was a pattern — just sketched roughly — of the universal Eve. To that sketch had fallen that chance, the throne. She drank. Her husband was a Dane, thoroughbred. A Tory, she governed by the Whigs — like a woman, like a mad woman. She had fits of rage. She was violent, a brawler. Nobody more awkward than Anne in directing affairs of state. She allowed events to fall about as they might chance. Her whole policy was cracked. She excelled in bringing about great catastrophes from little causes. When a whim of authority took hold of her, she called it giving a stir with the poker. She would say with an air of profound thought, “No peer may keep his hat on before the king except De Courcy, Baron Kingsale, an Irish peer;” or, “It would be an injustice were my husband not to be Lord High Admiral, since my father was.” And she made George of Denmark High Admiral of England and of all her Majesty’s plantations. She was perpetually perspiring bad humour; she did not explain her thought, she exuded it. There was something of the Sphinx in this goose.
She rather liked fun, teasing, and practical jokes. Could she have made Apollo a hunchback, it would have delighted her. But she would have left him a god. Good-natured, her ideal was to allow none to despair, and to worry all. She had often a rough word in her mouth; a little more, and she would have sworn like Elizabeth. From time to time she would take from a man’s pocket, which she wore in her skirt, a little round box, of chased silver, on which was her portrait, in profile, between the two letters Q.A.; she would open this box, and take from it, on her finger, a little pomade, with which she reddened her lips, and, having coloured her mouth, would laugh. She was greedily fond of the flat Zealand gingerbread cakes. She was proud of being fat.
More of a Puritan than anything else, she would, nevertheless, have liked to devote herself to stage plays. She had an absurd academy of music, copied after that of France. In 1700 a Frenchman, named Foretroche, wanted to build a royal circus at Paris, at a cost of 400,000 francs, which scheme was opposed by D’Argenson. This Forteroche passed into England, and proposed to Queen Anne, who was immediately charmed by the idea, to build in London a theatre with machinery, with a fourth under-stage finer than that of the King of France. Like Louis XIV., she liked to be driven at a gallop. Her teams and relays would sometimes do the distance between London and Windsor in less than an hour and a quarter.
In Anne’s time no meeting was allowed without the permission of two justices of the peace. The assembly of twelve persons, were it only to eat oysters and drink porter, was a felony. Under her reign, otherwise relatively mild, pressing for the fleet was carried on with extreme violence — a gloomy evidence that the Englishman is a subject rather than a citizen. For centuries England suffered under that process of tyranny which gave the lie to all the old charters of freedom, and out of which France especially gathered a cause of triumph and indignation. What in some degree diminishes the triumph is, that while sailors were pressed in England, soldiers were pressed in France. In every great town of France, any able-bodied man, going through the streets on his business, was liable to be shoved by the crimps into a house called the oven. There he was shut up with others in the same plight; those fit for service were picked out, and the recruiters sold them to the officers. In 1695 there were thirty of these ovens in Paris.
The laws against Ireland, emanating from Queen Anne, were atrocious. Anne was born in 1664, two years before the great fire of London, on which the astrologers (there were some left, and Louis XIV. was born with the assistance of an astrologer, and swaddled in a horoscope) predicted that, being the elder sister of fire, she would be queen. And so she was, thanks to astrology and the revolution of 1688. She had the humiliation of having only Gilbert, Archbishop of Canterbury, for godfather. To be godchild of the Pope was no longer possible in England. A mere primate is but a poor sort of godfather. Anne had to put up with one, however. It was her own fault. Why was she a Protestant?
Denmark had paid for her virginity (virginitas empta, as the old charters expressed it) by a dowry of £6,250 a year, secured on the bailiwick of Wardinburg and the island of Fehmarn. Anne followed, without conviction, and by routine, the traditions of William. The English under that royalty born of a revolution possessed as much liberty as they could lay hands on between the Tower of London, into which they put orators, and the pillory, into which they put writers. Anne spoke a little Danish in her private chats with her husband, and a little French in her private chats with Bolingbroke. Wretched gibberish; but the height of English fashion, especially at court, was to talk French. There was never a bon mot but in French. Anne paid a deal of attention to her coins, especially to copper coins, which are the low and popular ones; she wanted to cut a great figure on them. Six farthings were struck during her reign. On the back of the first three she had merely a throne struck, on the back of the fourth she ordered a triumphal chariot, and on the back of the sixth a goddess holding a sword in one hand and an olive branch in the other, with the scroll, Bello et pace. Her father, James II., was candid and cruel; she was brutal.
At the same time she was mild at bottom. A contradiction which only appears such. A fit of anger metamorphosed her. Heat sugar and it will boil.
Anne was popular. England liked feminine rulers. Why? France excludes them. There is a reason at once. Perhaps there is no other. With English historians Elizabeth embodies grandeur, Anne good-nature. As they will. Be it so. But there is nothing delicate in the reigns of these women. The lines are heavy. It is gross grandeur and gross good-nature. As to their immaculate virtue, England is tenacious of it, and we are not going to oppose the idea. Elizabeth was a virgin tempered by Essex; Anne, a wife complicated by Bolingbroke.
One idiotic habit of the people is to attribute to the king what they do themselves. They fight. Whose the glory? The king’s. They pay. Whose the generosity? The king’s. Then the people love him for being so rich. The king receives a crown from the poor, and returns them a farthing. How generous he is! The colossus which is the pedestal contemplates the pigmy which is the statue. How great is this myrmidon! he is on my back. A dwarf has an excellent way of being taller than a giant: it is to perch himself on his shoulders. But that the giant should allow it, there is the wonder; and that he should admire the height of the dwarf, there is the folly. Simplicity of mankind! The equestrian statue, reserved for kings alone, is an excellent figure of royalty: the horse is the people. Only that the horse becomes transfigured by degrees. It begins in an ass; it ends in a lion. Then it throws its rider, and you have 1642 in England and 1789 in France; and sometimes it devours him, and you have in England 1649, and in France 1793. That the lion should relapse into the donkey is astonishing; but it is so. This was occurring in England. It had resumed the pack-saddle, idolatry of the crown. Queen Anne, as we have just observed, was popular. What was she doing to be so? Nothing. Nothing! — that is all that is asked of the sovereign of England. He receives for that nothing £1,250,000 a year. In 1705, England which had had but thirteen men of war under Elizabeth, and thirty-six under James I., counted a hundred and fifty in her fleet. The English had three armies, 5,000 men in Catalonia; 10,000 in Portugal; 50,000 in Flanders; and besides, was paying £1,666,666 a year to monarchical and diplomatic Europe, a sort of prostitute the English people has always had in keeping. Parliament having voted a patriotic loan of thirty-four million francs of annuities, there had been a crush at the Exchequer to subscribe it. England was sending a squadron to the East Indies, and a squadron to the West of Spain under Admiral Leake, without mentioning the reserve of four hundred sail, under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel. England had lately annexed Scotland. It was the interval between Hochstadt and Ramillies, and the first of these victories was foretelling the second. England, in its cast of the net at Hochstadt, had made prisoners of twenty-seven battalions and four regiments of dragoons, and deprived France of one hundred leagues of country — France drawing back dismayed from the Danube to the Rhine. England was stretching her hand out towards Sardinia and the Balearic Islands. She was bringing into her ports in triumph ten Spanish line-of-battle ships, and many a galleon laden with gold. Hudson Bay and Straits were already half given over by Louis XIV. It was felt that he was about to give up his hold over Acadia, St. Christopher, and Newfoundland, and that he would be but too happy if England would only tolerate the King of France fishing for cod at Cape Breton. England was about to impose upon him the shame of demolishing himself the fortifications of Dunkirk. Meanwhile, she had taken Gibraltar, and was taking Barcelona. What great things accomplished! How was it possible to refuse Anne admiration for taking the trouble of living at the period?
From a certain point of view, the reign of Anne appears a reflection of the reign of Louis XIV. Anne, for a moment even with that king in the race which is called history, bears to him the vague resemblance of a reflection. Like him, she plays at a great reign; she has her monuments, her arts, her victories, her captains, her men of letters, her privy purse to pension celebrities, her gallery of chefs-d’oeuvre, side by side with those of his Majesty. Her court, too, was a cortège, with the features of a triumph, an order and a march. It was a miniature copy of all the great men of Versailles, not giants themselves. In it there is enough to deceive the eye; add God save the Queen, which might have been taken from Lulli, and the ensemble becomes an illusion. Not a personage is missing. Christopher Wren is a very passable Mansard; Somers is as good as Lamoignon; Anne has a Racine in Dryden, a Boileau in Pope, a Colbert in Godolphin, a Louvois in Pembroke, and a Turenne in Marlborough. Heighten the wigs and lower the foreheads. The whole is solemn and pompous, and the Windsor of the time has a faded resemblance to Marly. Still the whole was effeminate, and Anne’s Père Tellier was called Sarah Jennings. However, there is an outline of incipient irony, which fifty years later was to turn to philosophy, in the literature of the age, and the Protestant Tartuffe is unmasked by Swift just in the same way as the Catholic Tartuffe is denounced by Molière. Although the England of the period quarrels and fights France, she imitates her and draws enlightenment from her; and the light on the façade of England is French light. It is a pity that Anne’s reign lasted but twelve years, or the English would not hesitate to call it the century of Anne, as we say the century of Louis XIV. Anne appeared in 1702, as Louis XIV. declined. It is one of the curiosities of history, that the rise of that pale planet coincides with the setting of the planet of purple, and that at the moment in which France had the king Sun, England should have had the queen Moon.
A detail to be noted. Louis XIV., although they made war with him, was greatly admired in England. “He is the kind of king they want in France,” said the English. The love of the English for their own liberty is mingled with a certain acceptance of servitude for others. That favourable regard of the chains which bind their neighbours sometimes attains to enthusiasm for the despot next door.
To sum up, Anne rendered her people hureux, as the French translator of Beeverell’s book repeats three times, with graceful reiteration at the sixth and ninth page of his dedication and the third of his preface.
Queen Anne bore a little grudge to the Duchess Josiana, for two reasons. Firstly, because she thought the Duchess Josiana handsome. Secondly, because she thought the Duchess Josiana’s betrothed handsome. Two reasons for jealousy are sufficient for a woman. One is sufficient for a queen. Let us add that she bore her a grudge for being her sister. Anne did not like women to be pretty. She considered it against good morals. As for herself, she was ugly. Not from choice, however. A part of her religion she derived from that ugliness. Josiana, beautiful and philosophical, was a cause of vexation to the queen. To an ugly queen, a pretty duchess is not an agreeable sister.
There was another grievance, Josiana’s “improper” birth. Anne was the daughter of Anne Hyde, a simple gentlewoman, legitimately, but vexatiously, married by James II. when Duke of York. Anne, having this inferior blood in her veins, felt herself but half royal, and Josiana, having come into the world quite irregularly, drew closer attention to the incorrectness, less great, but really existing, in the birth of the queen. The daughter of mésalliance looked without love upon the daughter of bastardy, so near her. It was an unpleasant resemblance. Josiana had a right to say to Anne, “My mother was at least as good as yours.” At court no one said so, but they evidently thought it. This was a bore for her royal Majesty. Why this Josiana? What had put it into her head to be born? What good was a Josiana? Certain relationships are detrimental. Nevertheless, Anne smiled on Josiana. Perhaps she might even have liked her, had she not been her sister.
It is useful to know what people do, and a certain surveillance is wise. Josiana had Lord David watched by a little creature of hers, in whom she reposed confidence, and whose name was Barkilphedro.
Lord David had Josiana discreetly observed by a creature of his, of whom he was sure, and whose name was Barkilphedro.
Queen Anne, on her part, kept herself secretly informed of the actions and conduct of the Duchess Josiana, her bastard sister, and of Lord David, her future brother-inlaw by the left hand, by a creature of hers, on whom she counted fully, and whose name was Barkilphedro.
This Barkilphedro had his fingers on that keyboard — Josiana, Lord David, a queen. A man between two women. What modulations possible! What amalgamation of souls!
Barkilphedro had not always held the magnificent position of whispering into three ears.
He was an old servant of the Duke of York. He had tried to be a churchman but had failed. The Duke of York, an English and a Roman prince, compounded of royal Popery and legal Anglicanism, had his Catholic house and his Protestant house, and might have pushed Barkilphedro in one or the other hierarchy; but he did not judge him to be Catholic enough to make him almoner, or Protestant enough to make him chaplain. So that between two religions, Barkilphedro found himself with his soul on the ground.
Not a bad posture, either, for certain reptile souls.
Certain ways are impracticable, except by crawling flat on the belly.
An obscure but fattening servitude had long made up Barkilphedro’s whole existence. Service is something; but he wanted power besides. He was, perhaps, about to reach it when James II. fell. He had to begin all over again. Nothing to do under William III., a sullen prince, and exercising in his mode of reigning a prudery which he believed to be probity. Barkilphedro, when his protector, James II., was dethroned, did not lapse all at once into rags. There is a something which survives deposed princes, and which feeds and sustains their parasites. The remains of the exhaustible sap causes leaves to live on for two or three days on the branches of the uprooted tree; then, all at once, the leaf yellows and dries up: and thus it is with the courtier.
Thanks to that embalming which is called legitimacy, the prince himself, although fallen and cast away, lasts and keeps preserved; it is not so with the courtier, much more dead than the king. The king, beyond there, is a mummy; the courtier, here, is a phantom. To be the shadow of a shadow is leanness indeed. Hence Barkilphedro became famished. Then he took up the character of a man of letters.
But he was thrust back even from the kitchens. Sometimes he knew not where to sleep. “Who will give me shelter?” he would ask. He struggled on. All that is interesting in patience in distress he possessed. He had, besides, the talent of the termite — knowing how to bore a hole from the bottom to the top. By dint of making use of the name of James II., of old memories, of fables of fidelity, of touching stories, he pierced as far as the Duchess Josiana’s heart.
Josiana took a liking to this man of poverty and wit, an interesting combination. She presented him to Lord Dirry–Moir, gave him a shelter in the servants’ hall among her domestics, retained him in her household, was kind to him, and sometimes even spoke to him. Barkilphedro felt neither hunger nor cold again. Josiana addressed him in the second person; it was the fashion for great ladies to do so to men of letters, who allowed it. The Marquise de Mailly received Roy, whom she had never seen before, in bed, and said to him, “C’est toi qui as fait l’Année galante! Bonjour.” Later on, the men of letters returned the custom. The day came when Fabre d’Eglantine said to the Duchesse de Rohan, “N’est-tu pas la Chabot?”
For Barkilphedro to be “thee’d” and “thou’d” was a success; he was overjoyed by it. He had aspired to this contemptuous familiarity. “Lady Josiana thees-and-thous me,” he would say to himself. And he would rub his hands. He profited by this theeing-and-thouing to make further way. He became a sort of constant attendant in Josiana’s private rooms; in no way troublesome; unperceived; the duchess would almost have changed her shift before him. All this, however, was precarious. Barkilphedro was aiming at a position. A duchess was half-way; an underground passage which did not lead to the queen was having bored for nothing.
One day Barkilphedro said to Josiana, —
“Would your Grace like to make my fortune?”.
“What dost thou want?”
“An appointment? for thee!”
“What an idea! thou to ask for an appointment! thou, who art good for nothing.”
“That’s just the reason.”
Josiana burst out laughing.
“Among the offices to which thou art unsuited, which dost thou desire?”
“That of cork drawer of the bottles of the ocean.”
Josiana’s laugh redoubled.
“What meanest thou? Thou art fooling.”
“To amuse myself, I shall answer you seriously,” said the duchess. “What dost thou wish to be? Repeat it.”
“Uncorker of the bottles of the ocean.”
“Everything is possible at court. Is there an appointment of that kind?”
“This is news to me. Go on.”
“There is such an appointment.”
“Swear it on the soul which thou dost not possess.”
“I swear it.”
“I do not believe thee.”
“Thank you, madam.”
“Then thou wishest? Begin again.”
“To uncork the bottles of the ocean.”
“That is a situation which can give little trouble. It is like grooming a bronze horse.”
“Nothing to do. Well ’tis a situation to suit thee. Thou art good for that much.”
“You see I am good for something.”
“Come! thou art talking nonsense. Is there such an appointment?”
Barkilphedro assumed an attitude of deferential gravity. “Madam, you had an august father, James II., the king, and you have an illustrious brother-inlaw, George of Denmark, Duke of Cumberland; your father was, and your brother is, Lord High Admiral of England — ”
“Is what thou tellest me fresh news? I know all that as well as thou.”
“But here is what your Grace does not know. In the sea there are three kinds of things: those at the bottom, lagan; those which float, flotsam; those which the sea throws up on the shore, jetsam.”
“These three things — lagan, flotsam, and jetsam — belong to the Lord High Admiral.”
“Your Grace understands.”
“All that is in the sea, all that sinks, all that floats, all that is cast ashore — all belongs to the Admiral of England.”
“Everything! Really? And then?”
“Except the sturgeon, which belongs to the king.”
“I should have thought,” said Josiana, “all that would have belonged to Neptune.”
“Neptune is a fool. He has given up everything. He has allowed the English to take everything.”
“Finish what thou wert saying.”
“‘Prizes of the sea’ is the name given to such treasure trove.”
“Be it so.”
“It is boundless: there is always something floating, something being cast up. It is the contribution of the sea — the tax which the ocean pays to England.”
“With all my heart. But pray conclude.”
“Your Grace understands that in this way the ocean creates a department.”
“At the Admiralty.”
“The Sea Prize Department.”
“The department is subdivided into three offices — Lagan, Flotsam, and Jetsam — and in each there is an officer.”
“A ship at sea writes to give notice on any subject to those on land — that it is sailing in such a latitude; that it has met a sea monster; that it is in sight of shore; that it is in distress; that it is about to founder; that it is lost, etc. The captain takes a bottle, puts into it a bit of paper on which he has written the information, corks up the flask, and casts it into the sea. If the bottle goes to the bottom, it is in the department of the lagan officer; if it floats, it is in the department of the flotsam officer; if it be thrown upon shore, it concerns the jetsam officer.”
“And wouldst thou like to be the jetsam officer?”
“And that is what thou callest uncorking the bottles of the ocean?”
“Since there is such an appointment.”
“Why dost thou wish for the last-named place in preference to both the others?”
“Because it is vacant just now.”
“In what does the appointment consist?”
“Madam, in 1598 a tarred bottle, picked up by a man, conger-fishing on the strand of Epidium Promontorium, was brought to Queen Elizabeth; and a parchment drawn out of it gave information to England that Holland had taken, without saying anything about it, an unknown country, Nova Zembla; that the capture had taken place in June, 1596; that in that country people were eaten by bears; and that the manner of passing the winter was described on a paper enclosed in a musket-case hanging in the chimney of the wooden house built in the island, and left by the Dutchmen, who were all dead: and that the chimney was built of a barrel with the end knocked out, sunk into the roof.”
“I don’t understand much of thy rigmarole.”
“Be it so. Elizabeth understood. A country the more for Holland was a country the less for England. The bottle which had given the information was held to be of importance; and thenceforward an order was issued that anybody who should find a sealed bottle on the sea-shore should take it to the Lord High Admiral of England, under pain of the gallows. The admiral entrusts the opening of such bottles to an officer, who presents the contents to the queen, if there be reason for so doing.”
“Are many such bottles brought to the Admiralty?”
“But few. But it’s all the same. The appointment exists. There is for the office a room and lodgings at the Admiralty.”
“And for that way of doing nothing, how is one paid?”
“One hundred guineas a year.”
“And thou wouldst trouble me for that much?”
“It is enough to live upon.”
“Like a beggar.”
“As it becomes one of my sort.”
“One hundred guineas! It’s a bagatelle.”
“What keeps you for a minute, keeps us for a year. That’s the advantage of the poor.”
“Thou shalt have the place.”
A week afterwards, thanks to Josiana’s exertions, thanks to the influence of Lord David Dirry–Moir, Barkilphedro — safe thenceforward, drawn out of his precarious existence, lodged, and boarded, with a salary of a hundred guineas — was installed at the Admiralty.
There is one thing the most pressing of all: to be ungrateful.
Barkilphedro was not wanting therein.
Having received so many benefits from Josiana, he had naturally but one thought — to revenge himself on her. When we add that Josiana was beautiful, great, young, rich, powerful, illustrious, while Barkilphedro was ugly, little, old, poor, dependent, obscure, he must necessarily revenge himself for all this as well.
When a man is made out of night, how is he to forgive so many beams of light?
Barkilphedro was an Irishman who had denied Ireland — a bad species.
Barkilphedro had but one thing in his favour — that he had a very big belly. A big belly passes for a sign of kind-heartedness. But his belly was but an addition to Barkilphedro’s hypocrisy; for the man was full of malice.
What was Barkilphedro’s age? None. The age necessary for his project of the moment. He was old in his wrinkles and gray hairs, young in the activity of his mind. He was active and ponderous; a sort of hippopotamus-monkey. A royalist, certainly; a republican — who knows? a Catholic, perhaps; a Protestant, without doubt. For Stuart, probably; for Brunswick, evidently. To be For is a power only on the condition of being at the same time Against. Barkilphedro practised this wisdom.
The appointment of drawer of the bottles of the ocean was not as absurd as Barkilphedro had appeared to make out. The complaints, which would in these times be termed declamations, of Garcia Fernandez in his “Chart–Book of the Sea,” against the robbery of jetsam, called right of wreck, and against the pillage of wreck by the inhabitants of the coast, had created a sensation in England, and had obtained for the shipwrecked this reform — that their goods, chattels, and property, instead of being stolen by the country-people, were confiscated by the Lord High Admiral. All the débris of the sea cast upon the English shore — merchandise, broken hulls of ships, bales, chests, etc. — belonged to the Lord High Admiral; but — and here was revealed the importance of the place asked for by Barkilphedro — the floating receptacles containing messages and declarations awakened particularly the attention of the Admiralty. Shipwrecks are one of England’s gravest cares. Navigation being her life, shipwreck is her anxiety. England is kept in perpetual care by the sea. The little glass bottle thrown to the waves by the doomed ship, contains final intelligence, precious from every point of view. Intelligence concerning the ship, intelligence concerning the crew, intelligence concerning the place, the time, the manner of loss, intelligence concerning the winds which have broken up the vessel, intelligence concerning the currents which bore the floating flask ashore. The situation filled by Barkilphedro has been abolished more than a century, but it had its real utility. The last holder was William Hussey, of Doddington, in Lincolnshire. The man who held it was a sort of guardian of the things of the sea. All the closed and sealed-up vessels, bottles, flasks, jars, thrown upon the English coast by the tide were brought to him. He alone had the right to open them; he was first in the secrets of their contents; he put them in order, and ticketed them with his signature. The expression “loger un papier au greffe,” still used in the Channel Islands, is thence derived. However, one precaution was certainly taken. Not one of these bottles could be unsealed except in the presence of two jurors of the Admiralty sworn to secrecy, who signed, conjointly with the holder of the jetsam office, the official report of the opening. But these jurors being held to secrecy, there resulted for Barkilphedro a certain discretionary latitude; it depended upon him, to a certain extent, to suppress a fact or bring it to light.
These fragile floating messages were far from being what Barkilphedro had told Josiana, rare and insignificant. Some times they reached land with little delay; at others, after many years. That depended on the winds and the currents. The fashion of casting bottles on the surface of the sea has somewhat passed away, like that of vowing offerings, but in those religious times, those who were about to die were glad thus to send their last thought to God and to men, and at times these messages from the sea were plentiful at the Admiralty. A parchment preserved in the hall at Audlyene (ancient spelling), with notes by the Earl of Suffolk, Grand Treasurer of England under James I., bears witness that in the one year, 1615, fifty-two flasks, bladders, and tarred vessels, containing mention of sinking ships, were brought and registered in the records of the Lord High Admiral.
Court appointments are the drop of oil in the widow’s cruse, they ever increase. Thus it is that the porter has become chancellor, and the groom, constable. The special officer charged with the appointment desired and obtained by Barkilphedro was invariably a confidential man. Elizabeth had wished that it should be so. At court, to speak of confidence is to speak of intrigue, and to speak of intrigue is to speak of advancement. This functionary had come to be a personage of some consideration. He was a clerk, and ranked directly after the two grooms of the almonry. He had the right of entrance into the palace, but we must add, what was called the humble entrance — humilis introïtus — and even into the bed-chamber. For it was the custom that he should inform the monarch, on occasions of sufficient importance, of the objects found, which were often very curious: the wills of men in despair, farewells cast to fatherland, revelations of falsified logs, bills of lading, and crimes committed at sea, legacies to the crown, etc., that he should maintain his records in communication with the court, and should account, from time to time, to the king or queen, concerning the opening of these ill-omened bottles. It was the black cabinet of the ocean.
Elizabeth, who was always glad of an opportunity of speaking Latin, used to ask Tonfield, of Coley in Berkshire, jetsam officer of her day, when he brought her one of these papers cast up by the sea, “Quid mihi scribit Neptunus?” (What does Neptune write me?)
The way had been eaten, the insect had succeeded. Barkilphedro approached the queen.
This was all he wanted.
To make his fortune?
To unmake that of others?
A greater happiness.
To hurt is to enjoy.
To have within one the desire of injuring, vague but implacable, and never to lose sight of it, is not given to all.
Barkilphedro possessed that fixity of intention.
As the bulldog holds on with his jaws, so did his thought.
To feel himself inexorable gave him a depth of gloomy satisfaction. As long as he had a prey under his teeth, or in his soul, a certainty of evil-doing, he wanted nothing.
He was happy, shivering in the cold which his neighbour was suffering. To be malignant is an opulence. Such a man is believed to be poor, and, in truth, is so; but he has all his riches in malice, and prefers having them so. Everything is in what contents one. To do a bad turn, which is the same as a good turn, is better than money. Bad for him who endures, good for him who does it. Catesby, the colleague of Guy Fawkes, in the Popish powder plot, said: “To see Parliament blown upside down, I wouldn’t miss it for a million sterling.”
What was Barkilphedro? That meanest and most terrible of things — an envious man.
Envy is a thing ever easily placed at court.
Courts abound in impertinent people, in idlers, in rich loungers hungering for gossip, in those who seek for needles in trusses of hay, in triflers, in banterers bantered, in witty ninnies, who cannot do without converse with an envious man.
What a refreshing thing is the evil spoken to you of others.
Envy is good stuff to make a spy. There is a profound analogy between that natural passion, envy, and that social function, espionage. The spy hunts on others’ account, like the dog. The envious man hunts on his own, like the cat.
A fierce Myself, such is the envious man.
He had other qualities. Barkilphedro was discreet, secret, concrete. He kept in everything and racked himself with his hate. Enormous baseness implies enormous vanity. He was liked by those whom he amused, and hated by all others; but he felt that he was disdained by those who hated him, and despised by those who liked him. He restrained himself. All his gall simmered noiselessly in his hostile resignation. He was indignant, as if rogues had the right to be so. He was the furies’ silent prey. To swallow everything was his talent. There were deaf wraths within him, frenzies of interior rage, black and brooding flames unseen; he was a smoke-consuming man of passion. The surface was smiling. He was kind, prompt, easy, amiable, obliging. Never mind to whom, never mind where, he bowed. For a breath of wind he inclined to the earth. What a source of fortune to have a reed for a spine! Such concealed and venomous beings are not so rare as is believed. We live surrounded by ill-omened crawling things. Wherefore the malevolent? A keen question! The dreamer constantly proposes it to himself, and the thinker never resolves it. Hence the sad eye of the philosophers ever fixed upon that mountain of darkness which is destiny, and from the top of which the colossal spectre of evil casts handfuls of serpents over the earth.
Barkilphedro’s body was obese and his face lean. A fat bust and a bony countenance. His nails were channelled and short, his fingers knotted, his thumbs flat, his hair coarse, his temples wide apart, and his forehead a murderer’s, broad and low. The littleness of his eye was hidden under his bushy eyebrows. His nose, long, sharp, and flabby, nearly met his mouth. Barkilphedro, properly attired, as an emperor, would have somewhat resembled Domitian. His face of muddy yellow might have been modelled in slimy paste — his immovable cheeks were like putty; he had all kinds of ugly refractory wrinkles; the angle of his jaw was massive, his chin heavy, his ear underbred. In repose, and seen in profile, his upper lip was raised at an acute angle, showing two teeth. Those teeth seemed to look at you. The teeth can look, just as the eye can bite.
Patience, temperance, continence, reserve, self-control, amenity, deference, gentleness, politeness, sobriety, chastity, completed and finished Barkilphedro. He culumniated those virtues by their possession.
In a short time Barkilphedro took a foothold at court.
There are two ways of making a footing at court. In the clouds, and you are august; in the mud, and you are powerful.
In the first case, you belong to Olympus.
In the second case, you belong to the private closet.
He who belongs to Olympus has but the thunderbolt, he who is of the private closet has the police.
The private closet contains all the instruments of government, and sometimes, for it is a traitor, its chastisement. Heliogabalus goes there to die. Then it is called the latrines.
Generally it is less tragic. It is there that Alberoni admires Vendôme. Royal personages willingly make it their place of audience. It takes the place of the throne. Louis XIV. receives the Duchess of Burgundy there. Philip V. is shoulder to shoulder there with the queen. The priest penetrates into it. The private closet is sometimes a branch of the confessional. Therefore it is that at court there are underground fortunes — not always the least. If, under Louis XI., you would be great, be Pierre de Rohan, Marshal of France; if you would be influential, be Olivier le Daim, the barber; if you would, under Mary de Medicis, be glorious, be Sillery, the Chancellor; if you would be a person of consideration, be La Hannon, the maid; if you would, under Louis XV., be illustrious, be Choiseul, the minister; if you would be formidable, be Lebel, the valet. Given, Louis XIV., Bontemps, who makes his bed, is more powerful than Louvois, who raises his armies, and Turenne, who gains his victories. From Richelieu, take Père Joseph, and you have Richelieu nearly empty. There is the mystery the less. His Eminence in scarlet is magnificent; his Eminence in gray is terrible. What power in being a worm! All the Narvaez amalgamated with all the O’Donnells do less work than one Sõr Patrocinio.
Of course the condition of this power is littleness. If you would remain powerful, remain petty. Be Nothingness. The serpent in repose, twisted into a circle, is a figure at the same time of the infinite and of naught.
One of these viper-like fortunes had fallen to Barkilphedro.
He had crawled where he wanted.
Flat beasts can get in everywhere. Louis XIV. had bugs in his bed and Jesuits in his policy.
The incompatibility is nil.
In this world everything is a clock. To gravitate is to oscillate. One pole is attracted to the other. Francis I. is attracted by Triboulet; Louis XIV. is attracted by Lebel. There exists a deep affinity between extreme elevation and extreme debasement.
It is abasement which directs. Nothing is easier of comprehension. It is he who is below who pulls the strings. No position more convenient. He is the eye, and has the ear. He is the eye of the government; he has the ear of the king. To have the eye of the king is to draw and shut, at one’s whim, the bolt of the royal conscience, and to throw into that conscience whatever one wishes. The mind of the king is his cupboard; if he be a rag-picker, it is his basket. The ears of kings belong not to kings, and therefore it is that, on the whole, the poor devils are not altogether responsible for their actions. He who does not possess his own thought does not possess his own deed. A king obeys — what? Any evil spirit buzzing from outside in his ear; a noisome fly of the abyss.
This buzzing commands. A reign is a dictation.
The loud voice is the sovereign; the low voice, sovereignty. Those who know how to distinguish, in a reign, this low voice, and to hear what it whispers to the loud, are the real historians.
Queen Anne had several of these low voices about her. Barkilphedro was one.
Besides the queen, he secretly worked, influenced, and plotted upon Lady Josiana and Lord David. As we have said, he whispered in three ears, one more than Dangeau. Dangeau whispered in but two, in the days when, thrusting himself between Louis XIV., in love with Henrietta, his sister-inlaw, and Henrietta, in love with Louis XIV., her brother-inlaw, he being Louis’s secretary, without the knowledge of Henrietta, and Henrietta’s without the knowledge of Louis, he wrote the questions and answers of both the love-making marionettes.
Barkilphedro was so cheerful, so accepting, so incapable of taking up the defence of anybody, possessing so little devotion at bottom, so ugly, so mischievous, that it was quite natural that a regal personage should come to be unable to do without him. Once Anne had tasted Barkilphedro she would have no other flatterer. He flattered her as they flattered Louis the Great, by stinging her neighbours. “The king being ignorant,” says Madame de Montchevreuil, “one is obliged to mock at the savants.”
To poison the sting, from time to time, is the acme of art. Nero loves to see Locusta at work.
Royal palaces are very easily entered; these madrepores have a way in soon guessed at, contrived, examined, and scooped out at need by the gnawing thing which is called the courtier. A pretext to enter is sufficient. Barkilphedro, having found this pretext, his position with the queen soon became the same as that with the Duchess Josiana — that of an indispensable domestic animal. A witticism risked one day by him immediately led to his perfect understanding of the queen and how to estimate exactly her kindness of heart. The queen was greatly attached to her Lord Steward, William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, who was a great fool. This lord, who had obtained every Oxford degree and did not know how to spell, one fine morning committed the folly of dying. To die is a very imprudent thing at court, for there is then no further restraint in speaking of you. The queen, in the presence of Barkilphedro, lamented the event, finally exclaiming, with a sigh, —
“It is a pity that so many virtues should have been borne and served by so poor an intellect.”
“Dieu veuille avoir son âne!” whispered Barkilphedro, in a low voice, and in French.
The queen smiled. Barkilphedro noted the smile. His conclusion was that biting pleased. Free licence had been given to his spite. From that day he thrust his curiosity everywhere, and his malignity with it. He was given his way, so much was he feared. He who can make the king laugh makes the others tremble. He was a powerful buffoon. Every day he worked his way forward — underground. Barkilphedro became a necessity. Many great people honoured him with their confidence, to the extent of charging him, when they required him, with their disgraceful commissions.
There are wheels within wheels at court. Barkilphedro became the motive power. Have you remarked, in certain mechanisms, the smallness of the motive wheel?
Josiana, in particular, who, as we have explained, made use of Barkilphedro’s talents as a spy, reposed such confidence in him that she had not hesitated to entrust him with one of the master-keys of her apartments, by means of which he was able to enter them at any hour. This excessive licence of insight into private life was in fashion in the seventeenth century. It was called “giving the key.” Josiana had given two of these confidential keys — Lord David had one, Barkilphedro the other. However, to enter straight into a bedchamber was, in the old code of manners, a thing not in the least out of the way. Thence resulted incidents. La Ferté, suddenly drawing back the bed curtains of Mademoiselle Lafont, found inside Sainson, the black musketeer, etc., etc.
Barkilphedro excelled in making the cunning discoveries which place the great in the power of the little. His walk in the dark was winding, soft, clever. Like every perfect spy, he was composed of the inclemency of the executioner and the patience of a micograph. He was a born courtier. Every courtier is a noctambulist. The courtier prowls in the night, which is called power. He carries a dark lantern in his hand. He lights up the spot he wishes, and remains in darkness himself. What he seeks with his lantern is not a man, it is a fool. What he finds is the king.
Kings do not like to see those about them pretend to greatness. Irony aimed at any one except themselves has a charm for them. The talent of Barkilphedro consisted in a perpetual dwarfing of the peers and princes to the advantage of her Majesty’s stature, thus increased in proportion. The master-key held by Barkilphedro was made with two sets of wards, one at each end, so as to open the inner apartments in both Josiana’s favourite residences — Hunkerville House in London, Corleone Lodge at Windsor. These two houses were part of the Clancharlie inheritance. Hunkerville House was close to Oldgate. Oldgate was a gate of London, which was entered by the Harwich road, and on which was displayed a statue of Charles II., with a painted angel on his head, and beneath his feet a carved lion and unicorn. From Hunkerville House, in an easterly wind, you heard the peals of St. Marylebone. Corleone Lodge was a Florentine palace of brick and stone, with a marble colonnade, built on pilework, at Windsor, at the head of the wooden bridge, and having one of the finest courts in England.
In the latter palace, near Windsor Castle, Josiana was within the queen’s reach. Nevertheless, Josiana liked it.
Scarcely anything in appearance, everything in the root, such was the influence of Barkilphedro over the queen. There is nothing more difficult than to drag up these bad grasses of the court — they take a deep root, and offer no hold above the surface. To root out a Roquelaure, a Triboulet, or a Brummel, is almost impossible.
From day to day, and more and more, did the queen take Barkilphedro into her good graces. Sarah Jennings is famous; Barkilphedro is unknown. His existence remains ignored. The name of Barkilphedro has not reached as far as history. All the moles are not caught by the mole-trapper.
Barkilphedro, once a candidate for orders, had studied a little of everything. Skimming all things leaves naught for result. One may be victim of the omnis res scibilis. Having the vessel of the Danaïdes in one’s head is the misfortune of a whole race of learned men, who may be termed the sterile. What Barkilphedro had put into his brain had left it empty.
The mind, like nature, abhors vacuum. Into emptiness nature puts love; the mind often puts hate. Hate occupies.
Hate for hate’s sake exists. Art for art’s sake exists in nature more than is believed. A man hates — he must do something. Gratuitous hate — formidable word! It means hate which is itself its own payment. The bear lives by licking his claws. Not indefinitely, of course. The claws must be revictualled — something must be put under them.
Hate indistinct is sweet, and suffices for a time; but one must end by having an object. An animosity diffused over creation is exhausting, like every solitary pleasure. Hate without an object is like a shooting-match without a target. What lends interest to the game is a heart to be pierced. One cannot hate solely for honour; some seasoning is necessary — a man, a woman, somebody, to destroy. This service of making the game interesting; of offering an end; of throwing passion into hate by fixing it on an object; of of amusing the hunter by the sight of his living prey; giving the watcher the hope of the smoking and boiling blood about to flow; of amusing the bird-catcher by the credulity of the uselessly-winged lark; of being a victim, unknowingly reared for murder by a master-mind — all this exquisite and horrible service, of which the person rendering it is unconscious, Josiana rendered Barkilphedro.
Thought is a projectile. Barkilphedro had, from the first day, begun to aim at Josiana the evil intentions which were in his mind. An intention and a carbine are alike. Barkilphedro aimed at Josiana, directing against the duchess all his secret malice. That astonishes you! What has the bird done at which you fire? You want to eat it, you say. And so it was with Barkilphedro.
Josiana could not be struck in the heart — the spot where the enigma lies is hard to wound; but she could be struck in the head — that is, in her pride. It was there that she thought herself strong, and that she was weak.
Barkilphedro had found it out. If Josiana had been able to see clearly through the night of Barkilphedro, if she had been able to distinguish what lay in ambush behind his smile, that proud woman, so highly situated, would have trembled. Fortunately for the tranquillity of her sleep, she was in complete ignorance of what was in the man.
The unexpected spreads, one knows not whence. The profound depths of life are dangerous. There is no small hate. Hate is always enormous. It preserves its stature in the smallest being, and remains a monster. An elephant hated by a worm is in danger.
Even before he struck, Barkilphedro felt, with joy, the foretaste of the evil action which he was about to commit. He did not as yet know what he was going to do to Josiana; but he had made up his mind to do something. To have come to this decision was a great step taken. To crush Josiana utterly would have been too great a triumph. He did not hope for so much; but to humiliate her, lessen her, bring her grief, redden her proud eyes with tears of rage — what a success! He counted on it. Tenacious, diligent, faithful to the torment of his neighbour, not to be torn from his purpose, nature had not formed him for nothing. He well understood how to find the flaw in Josiana’s golden armour, and how to make the blood of that Olympian flow.
What benefit, we ask again, would accrue to him in so doing? An immense benefit — doing evil to one who had done good to him. What is an envious man? An ungrateful one. He hates the light which lights and warms him. Zoilus hated that benefit to man, Homer. To inflict on Josiana what would nowadays be called vivisection — to place her, all convulsed, on his anatomical table; to dissect her alive, at his leisure, in some surgery; to cut her up, as an amateur, while she should scream — this dream delighted Barkilphedro!
To arrive at this result it was necessary to suffer somewhat himself; he did so willingly. We may pinch ourselves with our own pincers. The knife as it shuts cuts our fingers. What does it matter? That he should partake of Josiana’s torture was a matter of little moment. The executioner handling the red-hot iron, when about to brand a prisoner, takes no heed of a little burn. Because another suffers much, he suffers nothing. To see the victim’s writhings takes all pain from the inflicter.
Do harm, whatever happens.
To plan evil for others is mingled with an acceptance of some hazy responsibility. We risk ourselves in the danger which we impel towards another, because the chain of events sometimes, of course, brings unexpected accidents. This does not stop the man who is truly malicious. He feels as much joy as the patient suffers agony. He is tickled by the laceration of the victim. The malicious man blooms in hideous joy. Pain reflects itself on him in a sense of welfare. The Duke of Alva used to warm his hands at the stake. The pile was torture, the reflection of it pleasure. That such transpositions should be possible makes one shudder. Our dark side is unfathomable. Supplice exquis (exquisite torture) — the expression is in Bodin12 — has perhaps this terrible triple sense: search for the torture; suffering of the tortured; delight of the torturer.
Ambition, appetite — all such words signify some one sacrificed to some one satiated. It is sad that hope should be wicked. Is it that the outpourings of our wishes flow naturally to the direction to which we most incline — that of evil? One of the hardest labours of the just man is to expunge from his soul a malevolence which it is difficult to efface. Almost all our desires, when examined, contain what we dare not avow.
In the completely wicked man this exists in hideous perfection. So much the worse for others, signifies so much the better for himself. The shadows of the caverns of man’s mind.
Josiana, in a plenitude of security the fruit of ignorant pride, had a contempt for all danger. The feminine faculty of disdain is extraordinary. Josiana’s disdain, unreasoning, involuntary, and confident. Barkilphedro was to her so contemptible that she would have been astonished had any one remarked to her that such a creature existed. She went, and came, and laughed before this man who was looking at her with evil eyes. Thoughtful, he bided his time.
In proportion as he waited, his determination to cast a despair into this woman’s life augmented. Inexorable high tide of malice.
In the meantime he gave himself excellent reasons for his determination. It must not be thought that scoundrels are deficient in self-esteem. They enter into details with themselves in their lofty monologues, and they take matters with a high hand. How? This Josiana had bestowed charity on him! She had thrown some crumbs of her enormous wealth to him, as to a beggar. She had nailed and riveted him to an office which was unworthy him. Yes; that he, Barkilphedro, almost a clergyman, of varied and profound talent, a learned man, with the material in him for a bishop, should have for employ the registration of nasty patience-trying shards, that he should have to pass his life in the garret of a register-office, gravely uncorking stupid bottles, incrusted with all the nastiness of the sea, deciphering musty parchments, like filthy conjuring-books, dirty wills, and other illegible stuff of the kind, was the fault of this Josiana. Worst of all, this creature “thee’d” and “thou’d” him! And he should not revenge himself — he should not punish such conduct! Well, in that case there would no longer be justice on earth!
12 Book I., p. 196.
What! this woman, this extravagant thing, this libidinous dreamer, a virgin until the opportunity occurred, this bit of flesh as yet unfreed, this bold creature under a princess’s coronet; this Diana by pride, as yet untaken by the first comer, just because chance had so willed it; this bastard of a low-lived king who had not the intellect to keep his place; this duchess by a lucky hit, who, being a fine lady, played the goddess, and who, had she been poor, would have been a prostitute; this lady, more or less, this robber of a proscribed man’s goods, this overbearing strumpet, because one day he, Barkilphedro, had not money enough to buy his dinner, and to get a lodging — she had had the impudence to seat him in her house at the corner of a table, and to put him up in some hole in her intolerable palace. Where? never mind where. Perhaps in the barn, perhaps in the cellar; what does it matter? A little better than her valets, a little worse than her horses. She had abused his distress — his, Barkilphedro’s — in hastening to do him treacherous good; a thing which the rich do in order to humiliate the poor, and to tie them, like curs led by a string. Besides, what did the service she rendered him cost her? A service is worth what it costs. She had spare rooms in her house. She came to Barkilphedro’s aid! A great thing, indeed. Had she eaten a spoonful the less of turtle soup for it? had she deprived herself of anything in the hateful overflowing of her superfluous luxuries? No. She had added to it a vanity, a luxury, a good action like a ring on her finger, the relief of a man of wit, the patronization of a clergyman. She could give herself airs: say, “I lavish kindness; I fill the mouths of men of letters; I am his benefactress. How lucky the wretch was to find me out! What a patroness of the arts I am!” All for having set up a truckle bed in a wretched garret in the roof. As for the place in the Admiralty, Barkilphedro owed it to Josiana; by Jove, a pretty appointment! Josiana had made Barkilphedro what he was. She had created him. Be it so. Yes, created nothing — less than nothing. For in his absurd situation he felt borne down, tongue-tied, disfigured. What did he owe Josiana? The thanks due from a hunchback to the mother who bore him deformed. Behold your privileged ones, your folks overwhelmed with fortune, your parvenus, your favourites of that horrid stepmother Fortune! And that man of talent, Barkilphedro, was obliged to stand on staircases, to bow to footmen, to climb to the top of the house at night, to be courteous, assiduous, pleasant, respectful, and to have ever on his muzzle a respectful grimace! Was not it enough to make him gnash his teeth with rage! And all the while she was putting pearls round her neck, and making amorous poses to her fool, Lord David Dirry–Moir; the hussy!
Never let any one do you a service. They will abuse the advantage it gives them. Never allow yourself to be taken in the act of inanition. They would relieve you. Because he was starving, this woman had found it a sufficient pretext to give him bread. From that moment he was her servant; a craving of the stomach, and there is a chain for life! To be obliged is to be sold. The happy, the powerful, make use of the moment you stretch out your hand to place a penny in it, and at the crisis of your weakness make you a slave, and a slave of the worst kind, the slave of an act of charity — a slave forced to love the enslaver. What infamy! what want of delicacy! what an assault on your self-respect! Then all is over. You are sentenced for life to consider this man good, that woman beautiful; to remain in the back rows; to approve, to applaud, to admire, to worship, to prostrate yourself, to blister your knees by long genuflections, to sugar your words when you are gnawing your lips with anger, when you are biting down your cries of fury, and when you have within you more savage turbulence and more bitter foam than the ocean!
It is thus that the rich make prisoners of the poor.
This slime of a good action performed towards you bedaubs and bespatters you with mud for ever.
An alms is irremediable. Gratitude is paralysis. A benefit is a sticky and repugnant adherence which deprives you of free movement. Those odious, opulent, and spoiled creatures whose pity has thus injured you are well aware of this. It is done — you are their creature. They have bought you — and how? By a bone taken from their dog and cast to you. They have flung that bone at your head. You have been stoned as much as benefited. It is all one. Have you gnawed the bone — yes or no? You have had your place in the dog-kennel as well. Then be thankful — be ever thankful. Adore your masters. Kneel on indefinitely. A benefit implies an understood inferiority accepted by you. It means that you feel them to be gods and yourself a poor devil. Your diminution augments them. Your bent form makes theirs more upright. In the tones of their voices there is an impertinent inflexion. Their family matters — their marriages, their baptisms, their child-bearings, their progeny — all concern you. A wolf cub is born to them. Well, you have to compose a sonnet. You are a poet because you are low. Isn’t it enough to make the stars fall! A little more, and they would make you wear their old shoes.
“Who have you got there, my dear? How ugly he is! Who is that man?”
“I do not know. A sort of scholar, whom I feed.”
Thus converse these idiots, without even lowering their voice. You hear, and remain mechanically amiable. If you are ill, your masters will send for the doctor — not their own. Occasionally they may even inquire after you. Being of a different species from you, and at an inaccessible height above you, they are affable. Their height makes them easy. They know that equality is impossible. By force of disdain they are polite. At table they give you a little nod. Sometimes they absolutely know how your name is spelt! They only show that they are your protectors by walking unconsciously over all the delicacy and susceptibility you possess. They treat you with good-nature. Is all this to be borne?
No doubt he was eager to punish Josiana. He must teach her with whom she had to deal!
O my rich gentry, because you cannot eat up everything, because opulence produces indigestion seeing that your stomachs are no bigger than ours, because it is, after all, better to distribute the remainder than to throw it away, you exalt a morsel flung to the poor into an act of magnificence. Oh, you give us bread, you give us shelter, you give us clothes, you give us employment, and you push audacity, folly, cruelty, stupidity, and absurdity to the pitch of believing that we are grateful! The bread is the bread of servitude, the shelter is a footman’s bedroom, the clothes are a livery, the employment is ridiculous, paid for, it is true, but brutalizing.
Oh, you believe in the right to humiliate us with lodging and nourishment, and you imagine that we are your debtors, and you count on our gratitude! Very well; we will eat up your substance, we will devour you alive and gnaw your heart-strings with our teeth.
This Josiana! Was it not absurd? What merit had she? She had accomplished the wonderful work of coming into the world as a testimony of the folly of her father and the shame of her mother. She had done us the favour to exist, and for her kindness in becoming a public scandal they paid her millions; she had estates and castles, warrens, parks, lakes, forests, and I know not what besides, and with all that she was making a fool of herself, and verses were addressed to her! And Barkilphedro, who had studied and laboured and taken pains, and stuffed his eyes and his brain with great books, who had grown mouldy in old works and in science, who was full of wit, who could command armies, who could, if he would, write tragedies like Otway and Dryden, who was made to be an emperor — Barkilphedro had been reduced to permit this nobody to prevent him from dying of hunger. Could the usurpation of the rich, the hateful elect of chance, go further? They put on the semblance of being generous to us, of protecting us, and of smiling on us, and we would drink their blood and lick our lips after it! That this low woman of the court should have the odious power of being a benefactress, and that a man so superior should be condemned to pick up such bribes falling from such a hand, what a frightful iniquity! And what social system is this which has for its base disproportion and injustice? Would it not be best to take it by the four corners, and to throw pell-mell to the ceiling the damask tablecloth, and the festival, and the orgies, and the tippling and drunkenness, and the guests, and those with their elbows on the table, and those with their paws under it, and the insolent who give and the idiots who accept, and to spit it all back again in the face of Providence, and fling all the earth to the heavens? In the meantime let us stick our claws into Josiana.
Thus dreamed Barkilphedro. Such were the ragings of his soul. It is the habit of the envious man to absolve himself, amalgamating with his personal grievance the public wrongs.
All the wild forms of hateful passions went and came in the intellect of this ferocious being. At the corners of old maps of the world of the fifteenth century are great vague spaces without shape or name, on which are written these three words, Hic sunt leones. Such a dark corner is there also in man. Passions grow and growl somewhere within us, and we may say of an obscure portion of our souls, “There are lions here.”
Is this scaffolding of wild reasoning absolutely absurd? does it lack a certain justice? We must confess it does not.
It is fearful to think that judgment within us is not justice. Judgment is the relative, justice is the absolute. Think of the difference between a judge and a just man.
Wicked men lead conscience astray with authority. There are gymnastics of untruth. A sophist is a forger, and this forger sometimes brutalizes good sense.
A certain logic, very supple, very implacable, and very agile, is at the service of evil, and excels in stabbing truth in the dark. These are blows struck by the devil at Providence.
The worst of it was that Barkilphedro had a presentiment. He was undertaking a heavy task, and he was afraid that after all the evil achieved might not be proportionate to the work.
To be corrosive as he was, to have within himself a will of steel, a hate of diamond, a burning curiosity for the catastrophe, and to burn nothing, to decapitate nothing, to exterminate nothing; to be what he was, a force of devastation, a voracious animosity, a devourer of the happiness of others, to have been created (for there is a creator, whether God or devil), to have been created Barkilphedro all over, and to inflict perhaps after all but a fillip of the finger — could this be possible? could it be that Barkilphedro should miss his aim? To be a lever powerful enough to heave great masses of rock, and when sprung to the utmost power to succeed only in giving an affected woman a bump in the forehead — to be a catapult dealing ruin on a pole-kitten! To accomplish the task of Sisyphus, to crush an ant; to sweat all over with hate, and for nothing at all. Would not this be humiliating, when he felt himself a mechanism of hostility capable of reducing the world to powder! To put into movement all the wheels within wheels, to work in the darkness all the mechanism of a Marly machine, and to succeed perhaps in pinching the end of a little rosy finger! He was to turn over and over blocks of marble, perchance with the result of ruffling a little the smooth surface of the court! Providence has a way of thus expending forces grandly. The movement of a mountain often only displaces a molehill.
Besides this, when the court is the dangerous arena, nothing is more dangerous than to aim at your enemy and miss him. In the first place, it unmasks you and irritates him; but besides and above all, it displeases the master. Kings do not like the unskilful. Let us have no contusions, no ugly gashes. Kill anybody, but give no one a bloody nose. He who kills is clever, he who wounds awkward. Kings do not like to see their servants lamed. They are displeased if you chip a porcelain jar on their chimney-piece or a courtier in their cortège. The court must be kept neat. Break and replace; that does not matter. Besides, all this agrees perfectly with the taste of princes for scandal. Speak evil, do none; or if you do, let it be in grand style.
Stab, do not scratch, unless the pin be poisoned. This would be an extenuating circumstance, and was, we may remember, the case with Barkilphedro.
Every malicious pigmy is a phial in which is enclosed the dragon of Solomon. The phial is microscopic, the dragon immense. A formidable condensation, awaiting the gigantic hour of dilation! Ennui consoled by the premeditation of explosion! The prisoner is larger than the prison. A latent giant! how wonderful! A minnow in which is contained a hydra. To be this fearful magical box, to contain within him a leviathan, is to the dwarf both a torture and a delight.
Nor would anything have caused Barkilphedro to let go his hold. He awaited his time. Was it to come? What mattered that? He watched for it. Self-love is mixed up in the malice of the very wicked man. To make holes and gaps in a court fortune higher than your own, to undermine it at all risks and perils, while encased and concealed yourself, is, we repeat, exceedingly interesting. The player at such a game becomes eager, even to passion. He throws himself into the work as if he were composing an epic. To be very mean, and to attack that which is great, is in itself a brilliant action. It is a fine thing to be a flea on a lion.
The noble beast feels the bite, and expends his mighty anger against the atom. An encounter with a tiger would weary him less; see how the actors exchange their parts. The lion, humiliated, feels the sting of the insect; and the flea can say, “I have in my veins the blood of a lion.”
However, these reflections but half appeased the cravings of Barkilphedro’s pride. Consolations, palliations at most. To vex is one thing; to torment would be infinitely better. Barkilphedro had a thought which returned to him without ceasing: his success might not go beyond just irritating the epidermis of Josiana. What could he hope for more — he so obscure against her so radiant? A scratch is worth but little to him who longs to see the crimson blood of his flayed victim, and to hear her cries as she lies before him more than naked, without even that garment the skin! With such a craving, how sad to be powerless!
Alas, there is nothing perfect!
However, he resigned himself. Not being able to do better, he only dreamed half his dream. To play a treacherous trick is an object after all.
What a man is he who revenges himself for a benefit received! Barkilphedro was a giant among such men. Usually, ingratitude is forgetfulness. With this man, patented in wickedness, it was fury. The vulgar ingrate is full of ashes; what was within Barkilphedro? A furnace — furnace walled round by hate, silence, and rancour, awaiting Josiana for fuel. Never had a man abhorred a woman to such a point without reason. How terrible! She was his dream, his preoccupation, his ennui, his rage.
Perhaps he was a little in love with her.
To find the vulnerable spot in Josiana, and to strike her there, was, for all the causes we have just mentioned, the imperturbable determination of Barkilphedro. The wish is sufficient; the power is required. How was he to set about it? There was the question.
Vulgar vagabonds set the scene of any wickedness they intend to commit with care. They do not feel themselves strong enough to seize the opportunity as it passes, to take possession of it by fair means or foul, and to constrain it to serve them. Deep scoundrels disdain preliminary combinations. They start from their villainies alone, merely arming themselves all round, prepared to avail themselves of various chances which may occur, and then, like Barkilphedro, await the opportunity. They know that a ready-made scheme runs the risk of fitting ill into the event which may present itself. It is not thus that a man makes himself master of possibilities and guides them as one pleases. You can come to no previous arrangement with destiny. To-morrow will not obey you. There is a certain want of discipline in chance.
Therefore they watch for it, and summon it suddenly, authoritatively, on the spot. No plan, no sketch, no rough model; no ready-made shoe ill-fitting the unexpected. They plunge headlong into the dark. To turn to immediate and rapid profit any circumstance that can aid him is the quality which distinguishes the able scoundrel, and elevates the villain into the demon. To strike suddenly at fortune, that is true genius.
The true scoundrel strikes you from a sling with the first stone he can pick up. Clever malefactors count on the unexpected, that senseless accomplice of so many crimes. They grasp the incident and leap on it; there is no better Ars Poetica for this species of talent. Meanwhile be sure with whom you have to deal. Survey the ground.
With Barkilphedro the ground was Queen Anne. Barkilphedro approached the queen, and so close that sometimes he fancied he heard the monologues of her Majesty. Sometimes he was present unheeded at conversations between the sisters. Neither did they forbid his sliding in a word. He profited by this to lessen himself — a way of inspiring confidence. Thus one day in the garden at Hampton Court, being behind the duchess, who was behind the queen, he heard Anne, following the fashion, awkwardly enunciating sentiments.
“Animals are happy,” said the queen. “They run no risk of going to hell.”
“They are there already,” replied Josiana.
This answer, which bluntly substituted philosophy for religion, displeased the queen. If, perchance, there was depth in the observation, Anne felt shocked.
“My dear,” said she to Josiana, “we talk of hell like a couple of fools. Ask Barkilphedro all about it. He ought to know such things.”
“As a devil?” said Josiana.
“As a beast,” replied Barkilphedro, with a bow.
“Madam,” said the queen to Josiana, “he is cleverer than we.”
For a man like Barkilphedro to approach the queen was to obtain a hold on her. He could say, “I hold her.” Now, he wanted a means of taking advantage of his power for his own benefit. He had his foothold in the court. To be settled there was a fine thing. No chance could now escape him. More than once he had made the queen smile maliciously. This was having a licence to shoot. But was there any preserved game? Did this licence to shoot permit him to break the wing or the leg of one like the sister of her Majesty? The first point to make clear was, did the queen love her sister? One false step would lose all. Barkilphedro watched.
Before he plays the player looks at the cards. What trumps has he? Barkilphedro began by examining the age of the two women. Josiana, twenty-three; Anne, forty-one. So far so good. He held trumps. The moment that a woman ceases to count by springs, and begins to count by winters, she becomes cross. A dull rancour possesses her against the time of which she carries the proofs. Fresh-blown beauties, perfumes for others, are to such a one but thorns. Of the roses she feels but the prick. It seems as if all the freshness is stolen from her, and that beauty decreases in her because it increases in others.
To profit by this secret ill-humour, to dive into the wrinkle on the face of this woman of forty, who was a queen, seemed a good game for Barkilphedro.
Envy excels in exciting jealousy, as a rat draws the crocodile from its hole.
Barkilphedro fixed his wise gaze on Anne. He saw into the queen as one sees into a stagnant pool. The marsh has its transparency. In dirty water we see vices, in muddy water we see stupidity; Anne was muddy water.
Embryos of sentiments and larvæ of ideas moved in her thick brain. They were not distinct; they had scarcely any outline. But they were realities, however shapeless. The queen thought this; the queen desired that. To decide what was the difficulty. The confused transformations which work in stagnant water are difficult to study. The queen, habitually obscure, sometimes made sudden and stupid revelations. It was on these that it was necessary to seize. He must take advantage of them on the moment. How did the queen feel towards the Duchess Josiana? Did she wish her good or evil?
Here was the problem. Barkilphedro set himself to solve it. This problem solved, he might go further.
Divers chances served Barkilphedro — his tenacity at the watch above all.
Anne was, on her husband’s side, slightly related to the new Queen of Prussia, wife of the king with the hundred chamberlains. She had her portrait painted on enamel, after the process of Turquet of Mayerne. This Queen of Prussia had also a younger illegitimate sister, the Baroness Drika.
One day, in the presence of Barkilphedro, Anne asked the Russian ambassador some question about this Drika.
“They say she is rich?”
“She has palaces?”
“More magnificent than those of her sister, the queen.”
“Whom will she marry?”
“A great lord, the Count Gormo.”
“Is she young?”
“As beautiful as the queen?”
The ambassador lowered his voice, and replied, —
“That is insolent,” murmured Barkilphedro.
The queen was silent; then she exclaimed, —
Barkilphedro noticed the plural.
Another time, when the queen was leaving the chapel, Barkilphedro kept pretty close to her Majesty, behind the two grooms of the almonry. Lord David Dirry–Moir, crossing the ranks of women, made a sensation by his handsome appearance. As he passed there was an explosion of feminine exclamations.
“How elegant! How gallant! What a noble air! How handsome!”
“How disagreeable!” grumbled the queen.
Barkilphedro overheard this; it decided him.
He could hurt the duchess without displeasing the queen. The first problem was solved; but now the second presented itself.
What could he do to harm the duchess? What means did his wretched appointment offer to attain so difficult an object?
Let us note a circumstance. Josiana had le tour.
This is easy to understand when we reflect that she was, although illegitimate, the queen’s sister — that is to say, a princely personage.
To have le tour — what does it mean?
Viscount St. John, otherwise Bolingbroke, wrote as follows to Thomas Lennard, Earl of Sussex:—
“Two things mark the great — in England, they have le tour; in France, le pour.”
When the King of France travelled, the courier of the court stopped at the halting-place in the evening, and assigned lodgings to his Majesty’s suite.
Amongst the gentlemen some had an immense privilege. “They have le pour” says the Journal Historique for the year 1694, page 6; “which means that the courier who marks the billets puts ‘pour’ before their names — as, ‘Pour M. le Prince de Soubise;’ instead of which, when he marks the lodging of one who is not royal, he does not put pour, but simply the name — as, ‘Le Duc de Gesvres, le Duc de Mazarin.’” This pour on a door indicated a prince or a favourite. A favourite is worse than a prince. The king granted le pour, like a blue ribbon or a peerage.
Avoir le tour in England was less glorious but more real. It was a sign of intimate communication with the sovereign. Whoever might be, by birth or favour, in a position to receive direct communications from majesty, had in the wall of their bedchamber a shaft in which was adjusted a bell. The bell sounded, the shaft opened, a royal missive appeared on a gold plate or on a cushion of velvet, and the shaft closed. This was intimate and solemn, the mysterious in the familiar. The shaft was used for no other purpose. The sound of the bell announced a royal message. No one saw who brought it. It was of course merely the page of the king or the queen. Leicester avait le tour under Elizabeth; Buckingham under James I. Josiana had it under Anne, though not much in favour. Never was a privilege more envied.
This privilege entailed additional servility. The recipient was more of a servant. At court that which elevates, degrades. Avoir le tour was said in French; this circumstance of English etiquette having, probably, been borrowed from some old French folly.
Lady Josiana, a virgin peeress as Elizabeth had been a virgin queen, led — sometimes in the City, and sometimes in the country, according to the season — an almost princely life, and kept nearly a court, at which Lord David was courtier, with many others.
Not being married, Lord David and Lady Josiana could show themselves together in public without exciting ridicule, and they did so frequently. They often went to plays and racecourses in the same carriage, and sat together in the same box. They were chilled by the impending marriage, which was not only permitted to them, but imposed upon them; but they felt an attraction for each other’s society. The privacy permitted to the engaged has a frontier easily passed. From this they abstained; that which is easy is in bad taste.
The best pugilistic encounters then took place at Lambeth, a parish in which the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury has a palace though the air there is unhealthy, and a rich library open at certain hours to decent people.
One evening in winter there was in a meadow there, the gates of which were locked, a fight, at which Josiana, escorted by Lord David, was present. She had asked, —
“Are women admitted?”
And David had responded, —
“Sunt fæminae magnates!”
Liberal translation, “Not shopkeepers.” Literal translation, “Great ladies exist. A duchess goes everywhere!”
This is why Lady Josiana saw a boxing match.
Lady Josiana made only this concession to propriety — she dressed as a man, a very common custom at that period. Women seldom travelled otherwise. Out of every six persons who travelled by the coach from Windsor, it was rare that there were not one or two amongst them who were women in male attire; a certain sign of high birth.
Lord David, being in company with a woman, could not take any part in the match himself, and merely assisted as one of the audience.
Lady Josiana betrayed her quality in one way; she had an opera-glass, then used by gentlemen only.
This encounter in the noble science was presided over by Lord Germaine, great-grandfather, or grand-uncle, of that Lord Germaine who, towards the end of the eighteenth century, was colonel, ran away in a battle, was afterwards made Minister of War, and only escaped from the bolts of the enemy, to fall by a worse fate, shot through and through by the sarcasm of Sheridan.
Many gentlemen were betting. Harry Bellew, of Carleton, who had claims to the extinct peerage of Bella-aqua, with Henry, Lord Hyde, member of Parliament for the borough of Dunhivid, which is also called Launceston; the Honourable Peregrine Bertie, member for the borough of Truro, with Sir Thomas Colpepper, member for Maidstone; the Laird of Lamyrbau, which is on the borders of Lothian, with Samuel Trefusis, of the borough of Penryn; Sir Bartholomew Gracedieu, of the borough of Saint Ives, with the Honourable Charles Bodville, who was called Lord Robartes, and who was Custos Rotulorum of the county of Cornwall; besides many others.
Of the two combatants, one was an Irishman, named after his native mountain in Tipperary, Phelem-ghe-Madone, and the other a Scot, named Helmsgail.
They represented the national pride of each country. Ireland and Scotland were about to set to; Erin was going to fisticuff Gajothel. So that the bets amounted to over forty thousand guineas, besides the stakes.
The two champions were naked, excepting short breeches buckled over the hips, and spiked boots laced as high as the ankles.
Helmsgail, the Scot, was a youth scarcely nineteen, but he had already had his forehead sewn up, for which reason they laid 2 1/3 to 1 on him. The month before he had broken the ribs and gouged out the eyes of a pugilist named Sixmileswater. This explained the enthusiasm he created. He had won his backers twelve thousand pounds. Besides having his forehead sewn up Helmsgail’s jaw had been broken. He was neatly made and active. He was about the height of a small woman, upright, thick-set, and of a stature low and threatening. And nothing had been lost of the advantages given him by nature; not a muscle which was not trained to its object, pugilism. His firm chest was compact, and brown and shining like brass. He smiled, and three teeth which he had lost added to his smile.
His adversary was tall and overgrown — that is to say, weak.
He was a man of forty years of age, six feet high, with the chest of a hippopotamus, and a mild expression of face. The blow of his fist would break in the deck of a vessel, but he did not know how to use it.
The Irishman, Phelem-ghe-Madone, was all surface, and seemed to have entered the ring to receive rather than to give blows. Only it was felt that he would take a deal of punishment. Like underdone beef, tough to chew, and impossible to swallow. He was what was termed, in local slang, raw meat. He squinted. He seemed resigned.
The two men had passed the preceding night in the same bed, and had slept together. They had each drunk port wine from the same glass, to the three-inch mark.
Each had his group of seconds — men of savage expression, threatening the umpires when it suited their side. Amongst Helmsgail’s supporters was to be seen John Gromane, celebrated for having carried an ox on his back; and one called John Bray, who had once carried on his back ten bushels of flour, at fifteen pecks to the bushel, besides the miller himself, and had walked over two hundred paces under the weight. On the side of Phelem-ghe-Madone, Lord Hyde had brought from Launceston a certain Kilter, who lived at Green Castle, and could throw a stone weighing twenty pounds to a greater height than the highest tower of the castle.
These three men, Kilter, Bray, and Gromane, were Cornishmen by birth, and did honour to their county.
The other seconds were brutal fellows, with broad backs, bowed legs, knotted fists, dull faces; ragged, fearing nothing, nearly all jail-birds.
Many of them understood admirably how to make the police drunk. Each profession should have its peculiar talents.
The field chosen was farther off than the bear garden, where they formerly baited bears, bulls, and dogs; it was beyond the line of the farthest houses, by the side of the ruins of the Priory of Saint Mary Overy, dismantled by Henry VIII. The wind was northerly, and biting; a small rain fell, which was instantly frozen into ice. Some gentlemen present were evidently fathers of families, recognized as such by their putting up their umbrellas.
On the side of Phelem-ghe-Madone was Colonel Moncreif, as umpire; and Kilter, as second, to support him on his knee.
On the side of Helmsgail, the Honourable Pughe Beaumaris was umpire, with Lord Desertum, from Kilcarry, as bottle-holder, to support him on his knee.
The two combatants stood for a few seconds motionless in the ring, whilst the watches were being compared. They then approached each other and shook hands.
Phelem-ghe-Madone said to Helmsgail, —
“I should prefer going home.”
Helmsgail answered, handsomely, —
“The gentlemen must not be disappointed, on any account.”
Naked as they were, they felt the cold. Phelem-ghe-Madone shook. His teeth chattered.
Dr. Eleanor Sharpe, nephew of the Archbishop of York, cried out to them, —
“Set to, boys; it will warm you.”
Those friendly words thawed them.
They set to.
But neither one nor the other was angry. There were three ineffectual rounds. The Rev. Doctor Gumdraith, one of the forty Fellows of All Souls’ College, cried, —
“Spirit them up with gin.”
But the two umpires and the two seconds adhered to the rule. Yet it was exceedingly cold.
First blood was claimed.
They were again set face to face.
They looked at each other, approached, stretched their arms, touched each other’s fists, and then drew back.
All at once, Helmsgail, the little man, sprang forward. The real fight had begun.
Phelem-ghe-Madone was struck in the face, between the Ryes. His whole face streamed with blood. The crowd cried, —
“Helmsgail has tapped his claret!”
There was applause. Phelem-ghe-Madone, turning his arms like the sails of a windmill, struck out at random.
The Honourable Peregrine Bertie said, “Blinded;” but he was not blind yet.
Then Helmsgail heard on all sides these encouraging words, —
“Bung up his peepers!”
On the whole, the two champions were really well matched; and, notwithstanding the unfavourable weather, it was seen that the fight would be a success.
The great giant, Phelem-ghe-Madone, had to bear the inconveniences of his advantages; he moved heavily. His arms were massive as clubs; but his chest was a mass. His little opponent ran, struck, sprang, gnashed his teeth; redoubling vigour by quickness, from knowledge of the science.
On the one side was the primitive blow of the fist — savage, uncultivated, in a state of ignorance; on the other side, the civilized blow of the fist. Helmsgail fought as much with his nerves as with his muscles, and with as much intention as force. Phelem-ghe-Madone was a kind of sluggish mauler — somewhat mauled himself, to begin with. It was art against nature. It was cultivated ferocity against barbarism.
It was clear that the barbarian would be beaten, but not very quickly. Hence the interest.
A little man against a big one, and the chances are in favour of the little one. The cat has the best of it with a dog. Goliaths are always vanquished by Davids.
A hail of exclamations followed the combatants.
“Bravo, Helmsgail! Good! Well done, Highlander! Now, Phelem!”
And the friends of Helmsgail repeated their benevolent exhortation, —
“Bung up his peepers!”
Helmsgail did better. Rapidly bending down and back again, with the undulation of a serpent, he struck Phelem-ghe-Madone in the sternum. The Colossus staggered.
“Foul blow!” cried Viscount Barnard.
Phelem-ghe-Madone sank down on the knee of his second, saying, —
“I am beginning to get warm.”
Lord Desertum consulted the umpires, and said, —
“Five minutes before time is called.”
Phelem-ghe-Madone was becoming weaker. Kilter wiped the blood from his face and the sweat from his body with a flannel, and placed the neck of a bottle to his mouth. They had come to the eleventh round. Phelem, besides the scar on his forehead, had his breast disfigured by blows, his belly swollen, and the fore part of the head scarified. Helmsgail was untouched.
A kind of tumult arose amongst the gentlemen.
Lord Barnard repeated, “Foul blow.”
“Bets void!” said the Laird of Lamyrbau.
“I claim my stake!” replied Sir Thomas Colpepper.
And the honourable member for the borough of Saint Ives, Sir Bartholomew Gracedieu, added, “Give me back my five hundred guineas, and I will go. Stop the fight.”
Phelem arose, staggering like a drunken man, and said, —
“Let us go on fighting, on one condition — that I also shall have the right to give one foul blow.”
They cried “Agreed!” from all parts of the ring. Helmsgail shrugged his shoulders. Five minutes elapsed, and they set to again.
The fighting, which was agony to Phelem, was play to Helmsgail. Such are the triumphs of science.
The little man found means of putting the big one into chancery — that is to say, Helmsgail suddenly took under his left arm, which was bent like a steel crescent, the huge head of Phelem-ghe-Madone, and held it there under his armpits, the neck bent and twisted, whilst Helmsgail’s right fist fell again and again like a hammer on a nail, only from below and striking upwards, thus smashing his opponent’s face at his ease. When Phelem, released at length, lifted his head, he had no longer a face.
That which had been a nose, eyes, and a mouth now looked only like a black sponge, soaked in blood. He spat, and on the ground lay four of his teeth.
Then he fell. Kilter received him on his knee.
Helmsgail was hardly touched: he had some insignificant bruises and a scratch on his collar bone.
No one was cold now. They laid sixteen and a quarter to one on Helmsgail.
Harry Carleton cried out, —
“It is all over with Phelem-ghe-Madone. I will lay my peerage of Bella-aqua, and my title of Lord Bellew, against the Archbishop of Canterbury’s old wig, on Helmsgail.”
“Give me your muzzle,” said Kilter to Phelem-ghe-Madone. And stuffing the bloody flannel into the bottle, he washed him all over with gin. The mouth reappeared, and he opened one eyelid. His temples seemed fractured.
“One round more, my friend,” said Kilter; and he added, “for the honour of the low town.”
The Welsh and the Irish understand each other, still Phelem made no sign of having any power of understanding left.
Phelem arose, supported by Kilter. It was the twenty-fifth round. From the way in which this Cyclops, for he had but one eye, placed himself in position, it was evident that this was the last round, for no one doubted his defeat. He placed his guard below his chin, with the awkwardness of a failing man.
Helmsgail, with a skin hardly sweating, cried out, —
“I’ll back myself, a thousand to one.”
Helmsgail, raising his arm, struck out; and, what was strange, both fell. A ghastly chuckle was heard. It was Phelem-ghe-Madone’s expression of delight. While receiving the terrible blow given him by Helmsgail on the skull, he had given him a foul blow on the navel.
Helmsgail, lying on his back, rattled in his throat.
The spectators looked at him as he lay on the ground, and said, “Paid back!” All clapped their hands, even those who had lost. Phelem-ghe-Madone had given foul blow for foul blow, and had only asserted his right.
They carried Helmsgail off on a hand-barrow. The opinion was that he would not recover.
Lord Robartes exclaimed, “I win twelve hundred guineas.”
Phelem-ghe-Madone was evidently maimed for life.
As she left, Josiana took the arm of Lord David, an act which was tolerated amongst people “engaged.” She said to him, —
“It is very fine, but — ”
“I thought it would have driven away my spleen. It has not.”
Lord David stopped, looked at Josiana, shut his mouth, and inflated his cheeks, whilst he nodded his head, which signified attention, and said to the duchess, —
“For spleen there is but one remedy.”
“What is it?”
The duchess asked, —
“And who is Gwynplaine?”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51