Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

That hills and valleys, dales and fields, Woods or steepy mountain yields.

"And we will sit upon the rocks,
And see the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals."

But the girl shook her small, wise head, decisively.

"That is all very fine, but, as it happens, there is no such place as this Arcadia, where people can frolic in perpetual sunlight the year round and find their food and clothing miraculously provided. No, nor can you, I am afraid, give me what all maids really, in their heart of hearts, desire far more than any sugar-candy Arcadia. Oh, as I have so often told you, Kit, I think you love no woman. You love words. And your seraglio is tenanted by very beautiful words, I grant you, though there is no longer any Sestos builded of agate and crystal, either, Kit Marlowe. For, as you may perceive, sir, I have read all that lovely poem you left with me last Thursday.”

She saw how interested he was, saw how he almost smirked.

"Aha, so you think it not quite bad, eh, the conclusion of my 'Hero and Leander' ?"

[blocks in formation]

most, my poet, is better than aught else in English," she said politely, and knowing how much he delighted to hear such remarks.

"Come, I retract my charge of foolishness, for you are plainly a wench of rare discrimination. And yet you say I do not love you! Cynthia, you are beautiful, you are perfect in all things. You are that heavenly Helen of whom I wrote, some persons say, acceptably enough. How strange it was I did not know that Helen was dark-haired and pale! For certainly yours is that immortal loveliness which must be served by poets in life and death."

"And I wonder how much of these ardors," she thought, "is kindled by my praise of his verses?" She bit her lip, and she regarded him with a hint of sadness. She said, aloud:

"But I did not, after all, speak to Lord Pevensey concerning the printing

of your poem. Instead, I burned your 'Hero and Leander,' Kit Marlowe." She saw him jump as under a whiplash. Then he smiled again in that wry fashion of his.

"I lament the loss to letters, for it was my only copy. Hoh, and for what reason did you burn it, may one ask?"

remorse

Co

"I thought you loved it more than you loved me. It was my rival, I thought." The girl was aware of remorse, and yet it was mingled with a mounting joy. "And so you thought a jingle scribbled upon a bit of paper could be your rival with me!"

Then Cynthia no longer doubted, but gave a joyous little sobbing laugh, for the love of her disreputable dear poet was sustaining the stringent testing she had devised. She touched his freckled hand caressingly, and her face was as no man had ever seen it; and her voice, too, caressed him.

"Ah, you have made me the happiest of women, Kit! Kit, I am almost disappointed in you, though, that you do not grieve more for the loss of that beautiful poem."

His smiling did not waver, yet he stayed motionless.

"Do I appear perturbed?" he said. "Why, but see how lightly I take the destruction of my life-work in this my masterpiece! For I can assure you it was a masterpiece, the fruit of two years' toil and much loving repolishment."

"Ah, but you love me better than such matters, do you not?" she asked him, tenderly. "Kit Marlowe, I adore you. Sweetheart, do you not understand that a woman wants to be loved utterly and entirely? She wants no rivals, not even paper rivals. And so often when you talked of poetry I have felt lonely and chilled and far away from you, and I have been half-envious, dear, of your Heros and your Helens and your other good-for-nothing Greek minxes. But now I do not mind them at all. And I will make amends, quite prodigal amends, for my naughty jealousy; and my poet shall write me some more lovely poems, so he shall." He said:

"You fool!"

[graphic]

"Oh, oh,' said Marlowe, 'that ever a poet should love a woman!'"*

And she drew away from him, for this man was no longer smiling.

"You burned my 'Hero and Leander'! You, you big-eyed fool! You lisping idiot! You wriggling, cuddling worm! You silken bag of food, had not even you the wit to perceive it was immortal beauty which would have lived long after you and I were dirt? And you, a half-witted animal, a shining, chattering parrot, lay claws to it!" Marlowe had risen in a sort of seizure, in a condition which was really quite unreasonable when one considered that only a poem was at stake, even a rather long poem.

And Cynthia began to smile, with tremulous, hurt-looking young lips.

"So my poet's love is very much the same as Pevensey's love! And I was right, after all."

"Oh, oh," said Marlowe, "that ever a poet should love a woman! What jokes does the lewd flesh contrive!" Of a sudden he was calmer, and then rage fell from him like a dropped cloak, and he viewed her as with respectful wonder. "Why, but you sitting there, with goggling, innocent, bright eyes, are an allegory of all that is most droll and tragic. Yes, and indeed there is no reason to blame you. It is not your fault that every now and then is born a man who serves an idea which is to him the most important thing in the world. It is not your fault that this man perforce inhabits a body to which the most important thing in the world is a woman. Certainly it is not your fault that this compost makes yet another jumble of his two desires, and persuades himself that the two are somehow allied. woman inspires, the woman uplifts, the woman strengthens him for his high work, saith he! Well, well, perhaps there are such women, but by land and sea I have encountered none of them."

The

All this was said while Marlowe shuffled about the room, with bent shoulders, and nodding his touzled, red head, and limping as he walked Now Marlowe turned, futile and lean and shabby-looking, just where Pevensey had loomed resplendent a while since. Again she saw the poet's queer, twisted, jeering smile.

"What do you care for my ideals,

what do you care for the ideals of that tall earl whom you have held from his proper business for a fortnight or for the ideals of any man alive? Why, not one thread of that dark hair, not one snap of those white, little fingers, except when ideals irritate you by distracting a man's attention from Cynthia Allonby. Otherwise, he is welcome enough to play with his incomprehensible toys."

He jerked a thumb toward the shelves behind him.

"Oho, you virtuous pretty ladies! What all you value is such matters as those cups. They please the eye, they are worth sound money, and people envy you the possession of them. So you cherish your shiny mud cups, and you burn my 'Hero and Leander'; and I declaim all this dull nonsense over the ashes of my ruined dreams, thinking at the bottom of how pretty you are and of how much I would like to kiss you. That is the real tragedy, the immemorial tragedy, that I should still hanker after you, my Cynthia."

His voice dwelt tenderly upon her name. His fever-haunted eyes were tender, too, for just a moment. Then he grimaced.

"No, I am wrong; the tragedy strikes deeper. The root of it is that there is in you and in all your glittering kind no malice, no will to do harm or to hurt anything, but just a bland and invincible and, upon the whole, a well-meaning stupidity, informing a bright and soft and delicately scented animal. So you work ruin among those men who serve ideals, not foreplanning ruin, not desiring to ruin anything, not even having sufficient wit to perceive the ruin when it is accomplished. You are, when all is done, not even detestable, not even a worthy peg whereon to hang denunciatory sonnets, you shallowpated pretty creatures whom poets-oh, and in youth all men are poets!-whom poets now and always are doomed to hanker after, to the detriment of their poesy. No, I concede it; you kill without premeditation, and without ever suspecting your hands to be anything but stainless. So in logic I should retract all my harsh words, and I must, without any hint of reproach, endeavor

to bid you a somewhat more civil fare- she found in the mirror, too, she re

well."

She had regarded him throughout this preposterous and uncalled-for harangue with sad composure, with a forgiving pity. Now she asked him, very quietly:

"Where are you going, Kit?"

"To the Golden Hind, O gentle, patient, and unjustly persecuted virgin martyr," he answered, with an exaggerated bow, "since that is the part in which you now elect to posture."

"Not to that low, vile place again!" "But certainly I intend in that tavern to get tipsy as quickly as possible; for then the first woman I see will for the time become the woman whom I desire, and who exists nowhere." And with that the red-haired man departed, limping and singing as he went to look for a trull in a pot-house. Sang Marlowe:

"And I will make her beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle.

"A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold."

She sat quite still when Marlowe had gone.

"He will get drunk again," she thought despondently. "Well, and why should it matter to me if he does, after all that outrageous ranting? He has been unforgivably insulting. Oh, but none the less, I do not want to have him babbling of the roses and gold of that impossible fairy world, which the poor frantic child really believes in, to some painted woman of the town who will laugh at him. I loathe the thought of her laughing at him-and kissing him! His notions are wild foolishness; but I at least wish that they were not foolishness, and that hateful woman will not care one way or the other."

So Cynthia sighed, and to comfort her forlorn condition fetched a handmirror from the shelves whereon glowed her green cups. She touched each cup caressingly in passing, and that which

garded not unappreciatively from varying angles. Yes, after all, dark hair and a pale skin had their advantages at a court where pink-and-yellow women were so much the fashion as to be common. Men remembered you more distinctively, though nobody cared for men, in view of their unreasonable behavior and their absolute self-centeredness. Oh, it was pitiable, it was grotesque, she reflected sadly, how Pevensey and Kit Marlowe had both failed her after so many pretty speeches!

Still, there was a queer pleasure in being wooed by Kit; his insane notions went to one's head like wine. She would send Meg for him again to-morrow. And Pevensey was, of course, the best match imaginable. No, it would be too heartless to dismiss George Bulmer outright. It was unreasonable of him to desert her because a Gascon threatened to go to mass; but, after all, she would probably marry George in the end. He was really almost unendurably silly, though, about England and feedom and religion and right and wrong and things like that. Yes, it would be tedious to have a husband who often talked to you as though he were addressing a public meeting. However, he was very handsome, particularly in his high-flown and most tedious moments; and her dear old father would be profoundly delighted by the marriage of his daughter to a man whose wife could have at will a dozen caledon cups and anything else she chose to ask for.

So

But now the sun had set, and the room was growing quite dark. Cynthia replaced the mirror upon the shelves, propping it upright with those wonderful green cups, which had anew reminded her of Pevensey's wealth and generosity.

THE door opened. Stalwart young Captain Edward Musgrave came with a lighted candle, which he placed carefully upon the table in the room's center. He said:

"They told me you were here. I come from London. I bring news for you." "You bring no pleasant tidings, I fear."

"As Lord Pevensey rode through the

Strand this afternoon, on his way home, the plague smote him. That is my sad news. I grieve to bring such news, for your cousin was a worthy gentleman and universally respected."

"Ah," Cynthia said very quietly, "so Pevensey is dead. But the plague kills quickly."

"Yes, yes, that is a comfort, certainly. Yes, he turned quite black in the face, they report, and before his men could reach him had fallen from his horse. It was all over almost instantly. I saw him afterward, hardly a pleasant sight. I came to you as soon as I could. I was vexatiously detained."

"So George Bulmer is dead in a London gutter! It seems strange, because he was here, befriended by monarchs, and very strong and handsome and selfconfident, hardly two hours ago. Is that his blood upon your sleeve?"

"But of course not. I told you I was vexatiously detained, almost at your gates. Yes, I had the ill luck to blunder into a disgusting business. The two rapscallions tumbled out of a doorway under my horse's very nose, egad! It was a near thing I did not ride them down. So I stopped, naturally. Afterward I regretted stopping, for I was too late to be of help. It was at the Golden Hind, of course. Something really ought to be done about that place. Yes, and that rogue Marler bled all over a new doublet, as you see. And the Deptford constables held me, with their foolish interrogatories-"

"So one of the fighting men was named Marlowe? Is he dead, too, dead in another gutter?"

"Marlowe or Marler, or something of the sort, wrote plays and sonnets and such stuff, they tell me. I do not know anything about him, though, I give you my word now, those greasy constables treated me as though I were a noted frequenter of pot-houses. That sort of thing is most annoying. At all events, he was drunk as David's sow, and squabbling over, saving your presence, a woman of the sort one looks to find in that hole. And so, as I was saying, this other rascal dug a knife into him."

But now, to Captain Musgrave's discomfort, Cynthia Allonby had begun to weep heartbrokenly.

So he cleared his throat, and he patted the back of her hand.

"It is a great shock to you, naturally, oh, most naturally, and does you infinite credit. But come now, Pevensey is gone, as we must all go some day, and our tears cannot bring him back, my dear. We can but hope he is better off, poor fellow, and look on it as a mysterious dispensation and that sort of thing, my dear."

"O Ned, but people are so cruel! People will be saying that it was I who kept poor Cousin George in London this past two weeks, and that but for me he would have been in France long ago! And then the queen, Ned! Why, that pig-headed old woman will be blaming it on me that there is nobody to prevent that detestable French King from turning Catholic and dragging England into new wars, and I shall not be able to go to any of the court dances! Nor to the masques," sobbed Cynthia, "nor anywhere!"

"Now you talk tender-hearted and angelic nonsense. It is noble of you to feel that way, of course; but Pevensey did not take proper care of himself, and that is all there is to it. Now, I have remained in London since the plague's outbreak. I stayed with my regiment, naturally. We have had a few deaths, of course; people die everywhere. But the plague has never bothered me. And why has it never bothered me? Simply because I was sensible, took the pains to consult an astrologer, and by his advice wear about my neck night and day a bag of dried toad's blood and powdered cinnamon. It is an infallible specific for men born in February. No, not for a moment do I wish to speak harshly of the dead, but sensible persons cannot but consider Lord Pevensey's death to have been caused by his own carelessness."

"Now certainly that is true," the girl said, brightening. "It was really his own carelessness and his dear lovable rashness. And somebody could explain it to the queen. Besides, I often think that wars are good for the public spirit of a nation and bring out its true manhood. But, then, it upset me, too, a little, Ned, to hear about this Marlowe, for I must tell you that I knew the poor

« AnkstesnisTęsti »