TERRIBLY INTIMATE PORTRAITS
WITH SIXTEEN REPRODUCTIONS FROM OLD MASTERS BY LORN MACNAUGHTAN
BONI AND LIVERIGHT
PUBLISHERS : NEW YORK
TERRIBLY INTIMATE PORTRAITS
COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY BONI & LIVERIGHT, INC.
Printed in the United States of America
In view of the fact that I have received many tiresome and even carping letters from the more captious critics of this child of my brain, I feel in justice to myself and Miss Macnaughtan that it is incumbent upon me to protest, in no measured terms, against what is not only an organised opposition and a pusillanimous display of superficial egotism, but a dirty trick.
I have been taunted with my inaccuracies; I have been called a fool; an idiot; an uneducated dolt; and an illiterate cow! This is far from kind, and I resent it.
My concentrated researches prove these memoirs to be absolutely accurate in every historical detail.
I refute utterly these criticisms, fostered by naught but the basest jealousy.
My parents and other relatives consider the book excellent.
"THE HOLLIES," MARINE CRESCENT, ROME.
I have endeavoured in writing and compiling this book, to emphasize not only actual deeds and historical facts, but to aspire to an even higher goal—to conjure to life for a few brief moments the "Souls" of my subjects, stark in all their deathless beauty. What task could be nobler than to delve in these vivid famous lives and bring to light, perhaps, some hitherto undiscovered motive—some delicate and radiant action which so far has escaped the common historian and lain unplucked like a wee wood violet in an old, old garden!
Modern realists would have us believe that romance and beauty are dead, that the spirit of heroic achievement and chivalry has been crushed by the juggernautic wheels of civilisation. Poor blind, sad-hearted fools—their dreary, unlovely minds have risen like gaunt weeds from the ashes of their wasted opportunities. Romance dead? Never! And in order to disprove their dismal forebodings, I have included in my portrait gallery studies of such national heroes as—Snurge, Spout, Puffwater and Plinge. Men selected purposely not merely for the glory of their achievements but for the individual dissimilarity of their fundamental characteristics, and to illustrate to doubting minds the amazing resemblance between the signal courage and romanticism of our forebears, and the innate present day spirit of high endeavour.
Take for example "Madcap Moll," Eighth Duchess of Wapping, and her famous ride to Norwich—and compare it with Jabez Puffwater's ride to the succour of his old Aunt Topsy. Or E. Maxwell Snurge's celebrated national appeal in West Forty-Second street, and Sarah, Lady Tunnell-Penge's dramatic speech from Tower Hill to the turbulent people of London.
All, all are impregnated through and through with the never failing spirit of public heroism, and staunch loyalty to existing standards, and all will stand for beauty, romance, and nobility of purpose until the end of time.
Ring up the curtain. Bring to life the faded tapestries of yesterday side by side with the vivid multi-coloured bas-reliefs of to-day! The frou-frou of brocade and lavender adown bygone corridors, and the sharp toned clarion call of Twentieth Century heroism and daring-do!
"THE HOLLIES," MARINE CRESCENT, ROME.
1. MY AMERICAN DIARY
2. JULIE DE POOPINAC
3. MADCAP MOLL, EIGHTH DUCHESS OF WAPPING
4. E. MAXWELL SNURGE, AN INTIMATE STUDY
5. BIANCA DI PIANNO-FORTI
6. SARAH, LADY TUNNELL-PENGE ("WINSOME SAL")
7. JABEZ PUFFWATER
8. FURSTIN LIEBERWURST ZU SCHWEINEN-KALBER
9. JAKE D'ANNUNZIO SPOUT
10. DONNA ISABELLA ANGELA Y BANANAS
11. MAGGIE MACWHISTLE
12. THE EDUCATION OF RUPERT PLINGE
13. ANNA PODD
14. SOPHIE, THE UNCROWNED QUEEN OF HENRY VIII
15. "LA BIBI"
16. AH! AH!, QUEEN OF THE RUDE ISLANDS
TERRIBLY INTIMATE PORTRAITS
"MY AMERICAN DIARY"
I felt that some sort of scene was necessary in order to celebrate my first entrance into America, so I said "Little lamb, who made thee?" to a customs official. A fracas ensued far exceeding my wildest dreams, during which he delved down—with malice aforethought—to the bottom of my trunk and discovered the oddest things in my sponge bag. I think I'm going to like America.
I have very good letters to Daniel Blood, Dolores Hoofer, Senator Pinchbeck, Violet Curzon-Meyer, and Julia Pescod, so I ought to get along all right socially at any rate.
It would be quite impossible to give an adequate description of one's first glimpse of Broadway at night—I should like to have a little pocket memory of it to take out and look at whenever I feel depressed. I shall feel awfully offended for Piccadilly Circus when I get back.
God! How I love frosted chocolate!
For a really jolly evening, recommend me to the Times Square subway station. You get into any train with that delicious sensation of breathless uncertainty as to where exactly you are going to be conveyed. To approach an official is sheer folly, as any tentative question is quickly calculated to work him up into a frenzy of rage and violence, while to ask your fellow passengers is equally useless as they are generally as dazed as you are. The great thing is to keep calm and at all costs avoid expresses.
As another means of locomotion the Elevated possesses a rugged charm which is all its own, the serene pleasure of gazing into frowsy bedroom windows at elderly coloured ladies in bust bodices and flannel petticoats, being only equalled by the sudden thrill you experience when the two front carriages hurtle down into the street in flames.
I took three of my plays to Fred Latham at the Globe Theatre. He didn't accept them for immediate production, but he told me of two delightful bus rides, one going up Riverside Drive, and the other coming down Riverside Drive. I was very grateful as the busses, though slow moving, are more or less tranquil and filled with the wittiest advertisements—especially the little notices about official civility, which made everyone rock with laughter.
Met Alexander Woollcott and Heywood Broun at a first night—we were roguish together for hours—Alexander Woollcott says that each new play is a fresh joy to him, but the question is whether he's a fresh joy to each new play!—I wonder.
Spent all last night at Coney Island—I've never known such an atmosphere of genuine carnival. We went on "The Whip," the sudden convulsions of which drove the metal clasp of my braces sharply into my back, I think scarring me for life. Then we went into "The Haunted House" where a board gave way beneath my feet and ricked my ankle, the "Giant Dipper" was comparatively tame as I only bruised my side and cut my cheek. After this we had "hot dog" and stout, which the others seemed to enjoy immensely, then—laughing gaily—we all ran through a revolving wooden wheel, at least the others did, I inadvertently caught my foot and fell, which caused a lot of amusement. I shall not go out again with a sharp edged cigarette case in my pocket.
Went down to Chinatown with a jolly party all in deep evening dress which I thought was rather inappropriate. Mrs. Vernon Bale dropped her side comb into the chop suey which occasioned much laughter—Jeffery was very tiresome and refused to be impressed, saying repeatedly that he'd seen it all before in "Aladdin!"
We all went to "Montmartre" afterwards. Ina Claire was there looking lovely as usual. Marie Prune was sitting at the next table squinting dreadfully and, I think, rather drunk and obviously upset about her sister running away with a Chinaman—poor dear, she's had a lot of trouble but still even that's no excuse for looking like a blanc mange slipping off the dish, she should cultivate a little more vitality and never wear pink.
Just back from a week-end at Southampton with Mrs. Vernon Bale. Apart from coming down to breakfast she's a perfect hostess. We played the most peculiar games on Sunday evening and she and Florrie Wick did a Nautch dance which was most entertaining and bizarre! How hospitable Americans are, I've fixed up heaps of luncheon engagements for next week—Edgar Peopthatch was particularly kind—he offered to introduce me to Carl Van Vechten and Sophie Tucker both of whom I've been longing to meet.
Such a busy day! Had plays refused by Edgar Selwyn and William Harris, and this book turned down by Scribner's. I also fell off a bus, being unused to getting out on the right-hand side. I just love America.
Went with Lester to hear Tom Burke sing at the Hippodrome. His voice is better than it's ever been and he sang exceedingly good stuff. Poor John MacCormack with his winsome Irish ballads.
Lunched at the Coffee House—what an atmosphere—even the veal and ham pie tasted of the best American literature, and there was a lovely signed photograph of Hugh Walpole. I do hope I shall be taken again.
The "Vanity Fair" offices impressed me a lot, they're so comfortable, artistic, and full of deathless endeavour. They took the proofs of this book in order to publish one or two extracts from it and sent it back full of the loveliest corrections. I was duly grateful as Mr. Bishop had told me a lot about burlesque during the afternoon.
Lynn Fontanne took me to tea at Neysa McMein's studio which was most attractive, she is a charming hostess and there was an air of pleasing bohemianism about the whole affair which went far towards making me take another cake—in more formal surroundings I should naturally have refrained. After tea I played and sang and everybody talked. It was all great fun. I liked F. P. A. enormously, he really ought to write for the papers.
If I had money I should buy the English rights of "Dulcy" and drag Lynn back to England by sheer force—we have few enough good actresses without letting those we have, fly away. There's no denying that America's the place to get on—this book was refused by Harcourt Brace only yesterday.
Met the Theatre Guild this morning and played hide and seek with them in the park—such a merry set of rascals! Teresa Helburn invented a new prank—she took all my MSS. and hid them in a tin box for two months—how we laughed!
Apparently all the theatrical "Elite" congregate at the Algonquin for supper, I noticed Elsie and Mrs. Janis, Irving Berlin, Frances Carson, and Desiree Bibble who looked appalling in probably the rudest hat that has ever been worn by man, woman, or child.
Marc Connelly made me laugh for twenty minutes over a friend's funeral—what a sense of humour!
Spent all day on an island in the middle of the Sound with a lot of old gentlemen in towels—returned very sunburned and in great pain—now I know what Jeffery suffered when he embarked for England looking like a fire engine.
Went to the first night of "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife" with Alfred Lunt—in which Barry Baxter made an enormous hit, he is now a brilliant light comedian. I think one or two of his sworn acquaintances in England will be quite cross when I tell them.
Had my first experience of surf bathing to-day, at Easthampton. Apart from spraining my wrist, being grazed all over, stunned by a breaker, and finally swept several miles out to sea, I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Met Mr. Liveright—what a dear!
JULIE DE POOPINAC
For several years all France rang with the name of Julie de Poopinac—or to give her her full title, Angelique Yvonne Mathilde Clementine Virginie Celeste Julie, Vicomtesse de Poopinac. As the most peerless of all the beauties at Court during the last years of a desperately tottering throne, she has been hailed and heralded (and is still in some outlying villages in Old Provence and Old Normandy) as almost an enchantress, so great was her beauty and her wit. Born in a stately chateau in Old Picardy, she was brought up in comparative seclusion; her father, the Duc de Potache, spent his time at Court, so that her radiant loveliness was left to mature and develop unnoticed. Her childhood was uneventful, but at the age of seventeen this ravishing creature was wedded by proxy to Gustave de Poopinac, a dashing young officer in the Garde du Corps, and at twenty-five she came to Court in order to see her husband; but alas! Fate, seated securely in Destiny's irreproachable turret, willed it that her journey should be in vain. She left Old Picardy a merry, laughing married woman—and arrived at Versailles a widow. Gustave, the husband whose love she would never know, perished at an early hour on the morning of her arrival, at an adversary's sword-point behind a potting-shed near the Petit Trianon. Rumour whispered that it was on account of a woman that he fought and lost, but this last blow of Providence's hatchet was spared his girl bride, innocent, secure in her supreme purity and innate virginity. If evil tongues had even mentioned the word "woman" to her, she would not have known what they meant.
Gradually the pain of her loss grew less. She commenced to enter into Court life with a certain amount of zest. Ben-Hepple tells us that it was during a masked carnival in the Park of Versailles that she first attracted the attention of the amorous King. He had dropped behind Du Barry for a moment to tie up his bootlace, and Julie, running girlishly along the moonlit path, bumped violently into his arched back. With a muttered exclamation he straightened himself and tore off her mask. Ben-Hepple goes on to say that his Majesty went from scarlet to white, from white to green, and then back again to scarlet before he made his world-famed remark, "Mon Dieu! Quel visage!" At this moment Du Barry appeared, furious at being left, and dragged her royal paramour away. But the mischief was done. The wheel of circumstance had turned once more—and a few days later Julie changed her appartements for some on a higher landing.
What vice! What intrigue! What corruption! Versailles seemed but a vast conservatory sheltering the vile soil from which sprang the lilies of France—La Belle France, as Edgar Sheepmeadow so eloquently puts it. Did any single bloom escape the blight of ineffable depravity? No—not one! Occasionally some fresh young thing would appear at Court—appealing and innocent. Then the atmosphere would begin to take effect: some one would whisper something to her—she would leer almost unconsciously; a few days later she would be discovered carrying on anyhow!
Julie de Poopinac, beautiful, accomplished and incredibly witty, queened it in this melee of appalling degeneracy; she was not at heart wicked, but her environment closed in upon her pinched and wasted heart, crushing the youth and sweetness from it.
She held between her slim fingers the reins of government, and womanlike she twisted them this way and that, her foolish head slightly turned by adulation and flattery. Louis adored her: he gave her a cameo brooch, a beaded footstool (which his mother had used), and the loveliest cock linnet, which used to fly about all over the place, singing songs of its own composition.
All the world knows of her celebrated scene with Marie Antoinette, but Edgar Sheepmeadow recounts it so deliciously in Volume III of "Women Large and Women Small" that it would be a sin not to quote it. "They met," he says, "on the Grand Staircase. The Dauphine, with her usual hauteur, was mounting with her head held high. Julie, by some misfortune, happened to get in her way. The Dauphine, not seeing her, trod heavily on her foot, then jogged her in the ribs with her elbow. Though realising who it was, the great lady could not but apologise. Drawing herself up as high as possible, she said in icy tones, 'I beg your pardon!' Quick as thought Julie replied, 'Granted as soon as asked!' Then with a toss of her curls she ran down the stairs, leaving the haughty Princess's mind a vortex of tumultuous feelings."
A few words of description should undoubtedly be vouchsafed to the decoration of her apartments at Versailles. Artistic from birth, Julie de Poopinac inaugurated almost a revolution in colour schemes: her salle des populaces (room of the people), where she received supplicants for alms and various other favours, was upholstered in Godstone blue, with hangings of griffin pink; her salle a manger (dining-room) was a tasteful melange of elephant green, cerise, and burnt umber. Her salle de bain (bathroom) deserves special mention, owing to its bizarre mixture of mustard colour and vetch purple—while her chambre a coucher (bedroom) was a truly fitting setting for so brilliant a gem. The walls were lined with costly Bridgeport tapestries in brown and black, picked out here and there with beads and tufts of gloriously coloured wool. The bed curtains were of soft Norwegian yellow, with massive tassels of crab mauve, while the carpet and upholstery were almost entirely Spanish crimson with head-rests of Liverpool plush! It was here, of course, that she wrote most of her poems.
Her world-renowned "Idyl to Summer":—
"Dawn, The poplars droop and sway and droop, A lazy bee With wings athread with gold and green His merry way with esctasy He takes, amid the garden blooms— Ah me, ah God, ah God, ah me! Dawn...."
And the perfectly delicious light poem dedicated to Louis—
"Beloved, it is morn—I rise To smell the roses sweet; Emphatic are my hips and thighs, Phlegmatic are my feet. Ten thousand roses have I got Within a garden small, Give me but strength to smell the lot, Oh, let me sniff them all!"
Then her rather sordid realistic poem to Louis's death-bed commencing
"Oh, Bed Wherein he frequently disposed His weary limbs when day was done, His last long sleep has murmured down— Oh Bed—beneath your silken pall, His eyes aglaze with death, and dim With age—are closed. Oh, Bed!"
It was of course after Louis's death that Julie was forced to seek retirement in her chateau in Old Brittany. There for many years she lived in almost complete seclusion, writing her books which were the inspired outpourings of a tortured soul: "Lilith: the Story of a Woman"; "The Hopeless Quest," an allegorical tale of the St. Malo sand-dunes, then unexplored; and "The Pig-Sty," a biting satire on life at Court.
Then the storm-cloud of the revolution broke athwart the length and breadth of fair France, relentless, and indomitable and irredeemable. Julie was arrested while blackberrying in a Dolly Varden hat. With a brave smile, Ben-Hepple tells us, she flung the berries away. "I am ready!" she said.
You all know of her journey to Paris, and her mockery of a trial before the tribunal—her pitiful bravery when the inhuman monsters tried to make her say "A la lanterne!" Nothing would induce her to—she had the firmness of many ancestors behind her.
We will quote Ben-Hepple's vivid description of her execution:—
"The day dawned grey with heavy clouds to the east," he says. "About five minutes past ten, a few rain-drops fell. The tumbrils were already rattling along amidst the frenzied jeers of the crowd. The first one contained a group of ci-devant aristos, laughing and singing—one elderly vicomtesse was playing on a mouth-organ. In the second tumbril sat two women—one, Marie Topinambour, a poor dancer, was weeping; the other, Julie de Poopinac, was playing at cat's cradles. Her dress was of sprigged muslin, and she wore a rather battered Dolly Varden hat. She was haughtily impervious to the vile epithets of this mob. Upon reaching the guillotine, Marie Topinambour became panic-stricken, and swarmed up one of the posts before any one could stop her. In bell-like tones, Julie bade her descend. 'Fear nothing, ma petite,' she cried. 'See, I am smiling!' The terrified Marie looked down and was at once calmed. Julie was indeed smiling. One or two marquises who were waiting their turn were in hysterics. Marie slowly descended, and was quickly executed. Then Julie stepped forward. 'Vive le Roi!' she cried, forgetting in her excitement that he was already dead, and flinging her Dolly Varden hat in the very teeth of the crowd, she laid her head in the prescribed notch. A woman in the mob said 'Pauvre' and somebody else said 'A bas!' The knife fell...."
EIGHTH DUCHESS OF WAPPING
Nobody who knew George I. could help loving him—he possessed that peculiar charm of manner which had the effect of subjugating all who came near him into immediate slavery. Madcap Moll—his true love, his one love (England still resounds with her gay laugh)—adored him with such devotion as falls to the lot of few men, be they kings or beggars.
They met first in the New Forest, where Norman Bramp informs us, in his celebrated hunting memoirs "Up and Away," the radiant Juniper spent her wild, unfettered childhood. She was ever a care-free, undisciplined creature, snapping her shapely fingers at bad weather, and riding for preference without a saddle—as hoydenish a girl as one could encounter on a day's march. Her auburn ringlets ablow in the autumn wind, her cheeks whipped to a flush by the breeze's caress, and her eyes sparkling and brimful of tomboyish mischief and roguery! This, then, was the picture that must have met the King's gaze as he rode with a few trusty friends through the forest for his annual week of otter shooting. Upon seeing him, Madcap Moll gave a merry laugh, and crying "Chase me, George!" in provocative tones, she rode swiftly away on her pony. Many of the courtiers trembled at such a daring exhibition of lese majeste, but the King, provoked only by her winning smile, tossed his gun to Lord Twirp and set off in hot pursuit. Eventually he caught his roguish quarry by the banks of a sunlit pool. She had flung herself off her mount and flung herself on the trunk of a tree, which she bestrode as though it were a better and more fiery steed. The King cast an appraising glance at her shapely legs, and then tethered his horse to an old oak.
"Are you a creature of the woods?" he said.
Madcap Moll tossed her curls. "Ask me!" she cried derisively.
"I am asking you," replied the King.
"Odds fudge—you have spindleshanks!" cried Madcap Moll irrelevantly. The King was charmed. He leant towards her.
"One kiss, mistress!" he implored. At that she slapped his face and made his nose bleed. He was captivated.
"I'faith, art a daring girl," he cried delightedly. "Knowest who I am?"
"I care not!" replied the girl.
"George the First!" said the King, rising. Madcap Moll blanched.
"Sire," she murmured, "I did not know—a poor, unwitting country lass—have mercy!"
The King touched her lightly on the nape.
"Get up," he said gently; "you are as loyal and spirited a girl as one could meet in all Hampshire, I'll warrant. Hast a liking for Court?"
"Oh, sire!" answered the girl.
Thus did the King meet her who was to mean everything in his life, and more....
It was twilight in the forest, Raymond Waffle tells us, when the King rode away. In the opposite direction rode a pensive girl, her eyes aglow with something deeper than had ever before illumined their translucency.
Budde Towers, according to Plabbin's "Guide to Hampshire," lay in the heart of the forest. Built in the days of William the Conqueror, 1066, and William Rufus, 1087, by Sir Francis Budde, it had been inhabited by none but Buddes of each successive generation. Madcap Moll's great-grandfather, Lord Edmund Budde, added a tower here and there when he felt inclined, while her uncle Robert Budde—known from Bournemouth to Lyndhurst as Bounding Bob—built the celebrated picture gallery (which can be viewed to this day by genealogical enthusiasts), the family portraits up to then having been stored in the box-room.
Old Earl Budde, Moll's father, was as crusty an old curmudgeon as one could find in a county. His wife (the lovely Evelyn Wormgate, a daughter of the Duke of Bognor and Wormgate) had died while the radiant Moll was but a puling infant. Thus it was that, knowing no hand of motherly authority, the child perforce ran wild throughout her dazzling adolescence.
The trees were her playmates, the twittering of the birds her music—all the wild things of the forest loved her, specially dogs and children. She knew every woodcutter for miles round by his Christian name. "Why, here's Madcap Moll!" they would say, as the beautiful girl came galloping athwart her mustang, untamed and headstrong as she herself.
This, then, was the priceless jewel which George I., spurred on by an overmastering passion, ordered to be transferred from its rough and homely setting to the ornate luxury of life at Court, where he immediately bestowed upon her the title of Eighth Duchess of Wapping.
It was about a month after her arrival in London that Sir Oswald Cronk painted his celebrated life-size portrait of her in the costly riding-habit which was one of the many gifts of her royal lover. Sir Oswald, with his amazing technique, has managed to convey that suggestion of determination and resolution, one might almost say obstinacy, lying behind the gay, devil-may-care roguishness of her bewitching glance. Her slim, girlish figure he has portrayed with amazing accuracy, also the beautiful negligent manner in which she invariably carried her hunting-crop; her left hand is lovingly caressing the head of her faithful hound, Roger, who, Raymond Waffle informs us, after his mistress's death refused to bury bones anywhere else but on her grave. Ah me! Would that some of our human friends were as unflagging in their affections as the faithful Roger!
Her reign as morganatic queen was remarkable for several scientific inventions of great utility—notably the "pushfast," a machine designed exclusively for the fixing of leather buttons in church hassocks; also Dr. Snaggletooth's cunning device for separating the rind from Camembert cheese without messing the hands! There were in addition to the examples here quoted many minor inventions which, though perhaps not of any individually intrinsic value, went far to illustrate Madcap Moll's influence on the progress of the civilisation of her time.
In Raymond Waffle's rather long-winded record of her life he dwells for several chapters upon the Papist plots which menaced her position at Court. After a visit to several of London's museums, I have discovered that most of the facts he quotes are naught but fallacies. There were undoubtedly plots, but nothing in the least Papist. She had her enemies—who has not? But, as far as religion was concerned, Papists, Protestants, Wesleyans, and occasionally Mahommedans, all joined together in unstinting praise of her character and judgment.
Any faults or acts of thoughtlessness committed during her brilliant life were amply compensated for by the supreme deed of loyalty and patriotism which, alas! marked the tragic close of her all too short career. Her ride to Norwich—show me the man whose pulses do not thrill at the mention of that heroic achievement! That wonderful, wonderful ride—that amazing, glorious tour de force which caused her name to be revered and hallowed in every sleepy hamlet and hovel of Old England—her ride to Norwich on Piebald Polly, her thoroughbred mare! On, on through the night—a fitful moon scrambling aslant the cloud-blown heavens, the wind whistling past her ears, and the tune of "God Save the King" ringing in her brain, the rhythm set by the convulsive movements of Piebald Polly. On, on, through towns and villages, and then once more the open country—what is that noise? The roaring of water! Torrents are unloosed—the dam has burst! Miller's Leap. Can she do it?—can she?—can she? She can—and has. Dawn shows in the eastern sky—the lights of Norwich—Norwich at last!
Poor Moll! the day that dawned as she sped along those weary roads was to prove itself her last. Her exhaustion was so great on reaching the city gates that she fell from Piebald Polly's drooping back and never regained consciousness.
Rumour asserts that the King plunged the country in mourning for several weeks—some say he never smiled again. Madcap Moll, Eighth Duchess of Wapping, left behind her no children, but she left engraved upon the hearts of all who knew her the memory of a beautiful, noble, and winsome woman.
E. MAXWELL SNURGE
AN INTIMATE STUDY
I will not seek to write of E. Maxwell Snurge as his friends have written of him, tall, courageous, and vitally intelligent. Nor as his enemies have chronicled him, short, fat and intensely stupid. I will endeavour with a few brief flourishes of the pen, to portray the various intricacies of his character as I see them, clearly and dispassionately with the eyes of a psychological observer, whose hand is uncorrupted by the bribes of ruthless profiteers, grafters and the like.
It is my desire to convey to the reader the real E. Maxwell Snurge shorn of tawdry trappings of party politics and the illusion and glamour of public idolatry—a man—just a man—but what a man!
To dwell on the widely circulated story of his life would be needless, and to follow his political career, merely futile. What is there left? you ask. And I answer you with extreme firmness, there is one aspect of E. Maxwell Snurge which has never been seriously analysed—his soul! And it is that and that alone which will be the foundation stone of my structural portrayal of his character.
Why wasn't E. Maxwell Snurge president of the United States? Many have asked that question, he frequently used to ask it himself, and his wife—the sainted Amy Snurge of ever revered memory—would rest her thin, ascetic hand upon his coat sleeve and answer him with yearning sympathy but little satisfaction—Why?
Let us turn to an early episode in his career in our search for the key to the complexities of his mind, an episode slight in itself but well worthy of recording if only for the illumination it throws upon the much questioned motives of his later actions. He was spending a week-end with friends on Long Island—a fishing week-end. Mrs. Jake Van Opus (formerly the lovely Consuelo Root) out of consideration for her eminent guest and with great tact and charm, immediately he arrived made a point of forbidding politics as a subject for discussion in the house, and confined the general conversation exclusively to fish. That this thoughtful act was appreciated by the overworked politician it is needless to remark; he settled down to his brief respite with a tranquil contentment and complete blankness of mind which only the cleverest of us can assume at will.
Athletic from birth, Snurge cast his line repeatedly far out to sea with the strength and dogged perseverance which characterised his every deed—but alas, nearly fifteen hours went by before his patience was rewarded. Day had turned to dusk and the sun was setting when he was suddenly jerked from the fishing stand into the water. With an exultant shout, he clambered on to a rock still clasping his rod—"A Bite, a Bite!" he cried in tones strangely alien from those he customarily employed when addressing a civic conference. "A Bite at last!" Playing his submarine quarry with extraordinary finesse, he eventually, amid laudatory shouts and frantic cheering, landed an exquisitely striped bass, which lay at his feet gasping, apparently quite exhausted by its struggles to evade captivity. Now comes the point of the story, Snurge surveyed his catch quietly for a few moments—those standing near by noticed sternly repressed tears in his eyes—then he said a thing which come what may will eternally prove him the possessor of unparalleled insight and humanity. Touching the recumbent fish gently with his foot he sighed deeply—
"This bass is Democracy," he murmured, "And see what I have done with it!" Superstitious observers state that at this point the bass closed its eyes wearily, but this may only be a fanatical exaggeration.
Then with a set face he lifted the fish high above his head and flung it back into its native element, thereby undoing the efforts of many hours' untiring labour and patience.
I have told this story in order to illustrate definitely the initial weakness in his lifelong policy, call it folly if you like, or even imbecility, but I prefer to assign to it the one all embracing word—"Generosity." He was too generous, all through his career he sacrificed everything through his generous capacity for seeing and sympathising with both sides of every question. Many, many times he would shelve the carefully formulated schemes of months on the sudden realisation of what the Opposition would suffer if he carried them through.
Think—as I sometimes think—what a sad thing, what a vortex of conflicting emotions the heart of Amy Snurge must have been during those hard years, knowing her husband's strength and resource, deploring yet loving his weakness, encouraging, aiding and abetting his every act with the feminine pertinacity which has characterized the world's greatest heroines. Poor woman, no wonder the grave claimed her so soon, for like the bass—like Democracy, her vitality was exhausted by the destructive and constructive force of Snurge. Only unlike the bass she couldn't swim well, and unlike Democracy she had the man to contend with as well as the politician.
Snurge was by no means a revolutionary; he possessed too many ideals and too little passion, he was essentially a passionless man—except of course the one historic occasion during his campaign against prohibition when he completely lost control, and flying low in a government aeroplane broke a bottle of green chartreuse over the head of the Statue of Liberty.
The uproar which was the natural outcome of this defiant protest, was abruptly stemmed by the sudden reversal of his tactics on the day following the event, when he made a spirited appeal in West Forty-Second Street for prohibition! This resulted in a hopeless gloom enveloping the metropolis. The populace commenced to realise in a measure the unreliability of Snurge as a saviour of the state, while at the same time fully appreciating his many sterling qualities.
Dark things were whispered in the White House.
One need not go far then to seek the reason for his fall from grace, his utter failure as a Republican candidate for the presidency—it was his generosity, his innate humanity, and his extraordinary breadth and clarity of vision.
If this man had but been president in 1914 there might not have been any war. Had he been president in 1776 there might not have been any revolution, and had he but been president in 1491 God knows what there might not have been.
America in Sunshine and Shadow B. F. Bramp. 2 Vols. The Roguish Royalist Anonymous Mirrors of Salt Lake City By the Gentleman with the Cuspidor. 5 Vols. Amy Snurge, a Grand Woman Ernest Frapple. 2 Vols. "Columbia Beware!" Weedheim.
I am also deeply indebted to Esther Throtch for her unlimited energy and devoted assistance.
BIANCA DI PIANNO-FORTI
Mediaeval Italy has in its time boasted many beautiful women, but there is one who must take her place before them all, one whose name is a byword to this day in every corner of that sun-washed country—Bianca di Pianno-Forti. One shudders at that name—so radiant was she, and yet so incredibly evil. Her tragic death somehow seems a fitting ending to a life such as hers—a life so without mercy, so without pity, and yet so amazingly vivid that it seems to be emblazoned on Italy's very heart.
She first saw the light in Florence. Her father, Allegro, of the celebrated house of Andante Caprioso, married at the age of fourteen Giulia Presto, of Verona, at the age of nine. At the birth of Bianca her mother died, leaving her to the care of her broken-hearted father and brother Pizzicato (destined later on to make the world ring with his music). Perhaps the only thing to be said in excuse of Bianca's later conduct is the fact that she never knew a mother's love. The nuns at the convent wherein she spent her ripening childhood were kind; but, alas! they were not mothers—at least, not all of them. Bianca left the convent when she was sixteen. Slim, lissom, sinuous, with those arresting eyes that seemed, so Fibinio tells us, to search out the very souls of all who came near her. Her first love affair occured about a week after her arrival in her home in Florence. She was in the habit of walking to mass at the cathedral with her maid Vivace. One morning, so Poliolioli relates, a handsome soldier stepped out of the shadows of an adjoining buttress and looked at her. Bianca at once swooned. The same thing happened again—and again—and yet again. One night she heard the shutters of her bedchamber rattle! "Who is there?" she cried, yet not too loudly, because her woman's instinct warned her to be wary. The shutters were flung open, and the young soldier stepped flamboyantly into the room. "I am here, cara, cara mia!" he cried. "I, Vibrato Adagio!" With a sibilant cry she fell into his out-stretched arms. "Mio, mio," she echoed in ecstasy, "I am yours and you are mine!" So lightly was the first stepping-stone passed on her reckless path of immorality and vice. Her fickle heart soon tired of the debonair Vibrato, and in a fit of satiated pique she had his ears cut off and his tongue removed and tied to his big toe. Thus was her ever-increasing lust for bloodshed apparent even at that early age. Her next affaire occured when she was travelling to Rome with her brother Pizzicato, who was to become a chorister at the Vatican. On stopping for refreshment at a wayside tavern, Bianca was struck by the arresting looks of the ostler who was tending their steaming steeds. Beckoning to him, she asked of him his name; he turned his vacant eyes round and round wonderingly for a moment. "Crescendo," he replied. Bianca's eyes flashed fire. "Accelerato!" she cried imperiously, and, hypnotised into submission, the scared man fled upstairs, Bianca following.
Upon arriving in Rome, Bianca and Pizzicato repaired to their father's brother-in-law, who was well known as a lavish entertainer. He was one Rapidamente Tempo di Valse, a widower, living with his two sons, Lento and Comprino, handsome lads both in the first flush of manhood, and both destined to fall victims to Bianca's compelling attractions. Contemporary history informs us that Bianca stayed in the Palazzo Tempo di Valse for seven years, visiting Pizzicato from time to time, and employing herself with various love affairs.
In June she became betrothed to Duke Crazioso di Pianno-Forti, of the famous family of Moderato e Diminuendo—indirectly descended from the Cardinal Appassionato Tutti. Tutti was the great-uncle of the infamous Con Spirito, well known to posterity as the lover of the lovely but passionate Violenza Allargando, destined to become the mother of Largo con Craviata, the fearless captain of Dolcissimo's light horse under General Lamento Agitato, whose grandmother, Sempre Calando, was notorious for her illicit liaison with Pesante e Stentato, a union which was to bear fruit in the shape of Lusingando Molto.
Bianca's wedding was celebrated with enormous rejoicing in Venice, where was situated the ducal palace of the Pianno-Fortis. Mention should be made of the life led by Bianca during the first years of her marriage, of her pet staghounds, of her tapestried bedchamber with bloodthirsty scenes of the chase depicted thereon—how she loved blood, this beautiful girl!
Her portrait herein reproduced is after an engraving by Campanele; note the sinister line of the cheek-bone and the passionate beauty of the nethermost lip! One can visualise her—radiant at the head of crowded dining-tables, drinking from gem-encrusted goblets, accepting glances fraught with ardent desire from one or other of the male guests.
All the world knows of her famous visit to the Pope, and how he died a few hours later; while it would be mere repetition of general knowledge to enlarge on her sojourn with the Doge, and his subsequent demise. Let us touch ever so lightly on her three children, Poco, Confuoco, and Strepitoso. How could they help being beautiful with such a mother, poor mites, branded from birth with the sense of their impending fate! After a while Bianca became aware that tongues were a-wag in Venice, sullying her name with foul calumnies. Her decision for their downfall was swift and terrible. She persuaded her easy-going husband to ride to Naples; then, free of his cumbersome authority, she set to work on the preparations for her world-famous supper party. Picture it if you will: five hundred and eighty-three guests all seated laughingly in the immense banqueting-hall—Bianca at the head of the table, superb, incomparable, her corsage a glittering mass of gems, her breast chilled by the countless diamonds on her camisole, her smile radiant and a peach-like flush on the ivory pallor of her face. This was indeed her hour—her triumph—her subtle revenge. Her heart thrilled with the knowledge of that inward secret that was hers immutably, for every morsel of food and drink upon that festive board was impregnated with the deadliest poison—all except the two pieces of toast with which she regaled herself, having dined earlier and alone.
Historians tell us that following close on that event some rather ugly rumours were noised abroad—in fact, some of the relatives of the poisoned guests even went so far as to complain to various people in authority and stir up strife in every way possible. Bianca was naturally furious. Some say that it was her sudden rage on hearing this that caused her to burn her children to death; others say her act was merely due to bad temper owing to a sick headache. Anyhow, as later events go to show, she had chosen the very worst time to murder her children. More ugly rumours were at once noised abroad by those who were jealous of her. Upon her husband's return from Naples he was immediately arrested, and a few days later hung. Too late the hapless Bianca sought to make her escape; she was caught and taken prisoner while swimming across the Grand Canal with her clothes and a few personal effects in a bundle in her mouth. She was carried shrieking to Milan, where she endured a mockery of a trial; on political grounds she was sentenced to being torn to pieces by she-goats at Genoa. Poor, beautiful Bianca! On the fulfilment of her unjust and barbarous sentence it is too horrible to dwell at any length. This glorious creature, this resplendent vision, this divine goddess—she-goats! Dreadful, degrading, unutterable!!!
The day for her death dawned fair over the Mediterranean. Bianca, garbed in white, walked with dignity into the meadow wherein the she-goats anxiously awaited her. She bravely repressed a shudder, and fell upon her knees. History tells us that every goat turned away, as though ashamed of the part it was destined to play. Then, with a look of ineffable peace stealing over her waxen face, Bianca rose to her full height, and, flinging her arms heavenwards, she delivered that celebrated and heartrending speech which has lived after her for so long:—
"Dio mio, concerto—concerto!"
One by one the she-goats advanced....
SARAH, LADY TUNNELL-PENGE
Ffraddle of 1643 was very different from the Ffraddle of 1789, and still more different from the Ffraddle of 1832. At a time when civil war was raging between Jacobites and Papists and Roundheads and Ironsides and everything, Ffraddle stood grey, silent and indomitable—the very spirit of peace allied with strength seemed embodied in its grim masonry. The clash of arms and the death cries from millions of rebellious throats which echoed athwart the length and breadth of young England were unable to pierce the stillness of Ffraddle's moated security. Owls murmured on its battered turrets, sparrows perched on its portcullis, cuckoos cooed all over it, heedless indeed of the turmoil and frenzied strife raging outside its feudal gates.
What a birthplace for one of history's most priceless pearls—Sarah Twig! The heart of every lover of beauty leaps and jumps and starts at the sound of that name—Sarah Twig. Why are some destined for so much while others are destined, alas! for so little? Who knows? Sarah—a rose-leaf, a crumpled atom, dropped as it were from some heavenly garden into the black times of the Merry Monarch—when, according to Bloodworthy, virtue was laughed to scorn and evil went unpunished; when, according to Follygob, virginity was a scream, and harlotry a hobby; and when, according to Sheepmeadow, homeliness was sin, and beauty but a gilded casket concealing vice and depravity unutterable.
History relates that though food was scarce and light hearts hard to find, at the birth of Sarah Twig there was no dearth of these commodities. The snow was on the ground, Follygob says—the woods and coppices and hills lay slumbering beneath a glistening white mantle. What a mind! To have written those words! It was undoubtedly Follygob's artistic style and phraseology that branded him once and for all as the master-chronicler of his time.
Sarah Twig was born in the east wing, a lofty room which can be viewed to this day by all true lovers of historical architecture. To describe it adequately is indeed difficult. Some say there was a bed in it and an early Norman window; others have it that there was no bed but a late Gothic fireplace; while a few outstanding writers insist that there was nothing at all in the room but a very old Roman washstand.
The night of Sarah's birth was indeed a wild one—snow and sleet eddied and swirled around the massive structure destined to harbour one whose radiant beauty was to be a byword in all Europe. The wind, so Follygob with his incomparable style tells us, lashed itself to a livid fury against the sturdy Ffraddle turrets and mullions, whilst outside beyond the keep and raised drawbridge the beacons and camp fires stained the frost-laden air with vivid streaks of red and yellow—colours which formed the background of the Ffraddle coat of arms, thus presenting an omen to the startled inhabitants which history relates they were not slow to recognise.
Bloodworthy describes for us the plan by which Lord Ffraddle was to acquaint the village with the sex of the child. If it were a boy, red fire was to be burnt on the south turret, and if a girl, green fire was to be burnt on the north turret; but unfortunately, he goes on to tell us, owing to some misadventure blue fire was firmly burnt on all the turrets. Imagine the horror of the superstitious populace! Some left the country never to return, crying aloud that a chameleon had been born to their beloved chatelaine!
Of Sarah's youth historians tell us little. She was, apart from her beauty, a very knowing child. Often when missing from the banqueting-hall she would be discovered in the library reading and studying the political works of the period. Often Lord Ffraddle was known to remark in his usual witty way, "In sooth, the child will soon have as much knowledge as her father," a sally which was invariably received with shrieks of delight by the infant Sarah, whose brilliant sense of humour was plainly apparent, even at that early age.
Her adolescence was remarkable for little save the rapid development of her supple loveliness, some idea of which can be gauged from the reproduction of Punter's famous portrait on page 74. Though painted at a somewhat later date, this masterpiece still presents us with most of the leading characteristics of its ravishing model. Note the eyes—the dreamy, cognisant expression; glance at the pretty mouth and the dainty ears. Her demeanour is obviously that of a meek and modest woman, but Punter, with his true genius, has caught that glint of inward fire, that fleeting look of shy mischief that earned for her the world-famous nickname of "Winsome Sal."
It was when she was eighteen that Destiny, with inhuman cunning, caught up in his net the fragile ball of her life.
The handsome, devil-may-care Julius Fenchurch-Streete applied to Lord Ffraddle for a secretaryship, which was ultimately granted to him. Imagine the situation—this rake, this dark-eyed ne'er-do-well, notorious all down Cheapside for his relentless dalliance with the fair, placed in intimate proximity with one of England's most glorious specimens of ripening womanhood. It was, Sheepmeadow writes, like the meeting of flint and tinder—these two so widely different in the essentials and yet so akin in their physical beauty. As was inevitable, from the first they loved—he with the flaming passion of a hell-rake, she with the sweet, appealing purity of one whose whole life had been peculiarly virginal. There followed swiftly upon their ardent confessions the determination to elope together. The night they bade adieu to Ffraddle and all it held is well known to young and old of every generation. They crept from their rooms at midnight and met at the top of the grand staircase, down which they proceeded to crawl on all fours. A few moments later they were on a sturdy mare, she riding pillion, he riding anyhow. Not a sound had been heard, not a dog had barked, not a bird had called. Once, Sheepmeadow informs us, Lady Ffraddle turned over in her sleep. Poor, unsuspecting mother! On and on through the snow rode the feckless couple. Once Sarah rested her hand lightly on her lover's arm. "Whither are we bound?" she inquired. "Only the mare knows that," Julius replied, and in shaken silence they rode on.
History is not very enlightening as to how long Julius Fenchurch-Streete lived with Sarah Twig—poor Sarah, the bubble of her romance soon was to be pricked. For three weeks they lived gloriously, radiantly, at the old sign of "The Cod and Haddock" in Egham. "My heart is a pool of ecstasy," she wrote in her diary. Pitiful pool, so soon to be drained of its joy!
Then the storm-clouds gathered, the sun withdrew its gold. Julius rode away—Sarah was alone, alone in Egham, her love unblessed by any sort of church, no name for the child to come—a sorry, sorry plight. The buxom proprietress of "The Cod and Haddock," little dreaming her real identity, set her to work. Work! for those fair hands, those inexpressibly filbert nails!
Was it the sudden relenting of malleable fate that caused the Merry Monarch to come riding blithely through sleepy Egham, followed by his equerry, Lord Francis Tunnell-Penge, and several of his suite? Halting outside the inn, Bloodworthy relates that his Majesty was immediately struck by a winsome face at an upper window. "Lud!" he cried laconically, and dismounted, taking several dogs from his hat as he did so, and one from his pocket; for he was devoted to animals, Bloodworthy goes on to say, and often spent days stroking their soft ears abstractedly. Then, seized by a sudden inspiration, he inquired of the landlady as to whose was the face he had seen. In a trice the story was told—the King waved his hand imperiously and took a pinch of snuff. "Send her to me," he said.
When Sarah entered, all hot from her manual labours, Charles started to his feet. Here was no scullion, no plaything of an idle hour. Here was breeding, dignity and beauty. Ah! Beauty! Probably these cold shores will never again shelter beauty like Sarah Twig's. On seeing the King she curtsied low. He bowed with the stately elegance for which he was famed.
"Your name?" he asked.
The glorious vision veiled her eyes.
"I have no name, sire—now." With these words, spoken from a heart surcharged with bitterest sorrow, the poor woman swooned away.
"Lud!" remarked the King irritably, "the girl must have a name. You must marry her, Francis—she shall be Lady Tunnell-Penge." Then the impulsive monarch stooped, and, opening a locket on the unconscious woman's breast, read the name Sarah in blue diamonds on an opaque background. "But," he added softly under his breath, "I shall know her only as 'Winsome Sal'!"
Thus Sarah Twig, so nearly an outcast through her own girlish folly, became possessor of a name honoured and even adored throughout England.
The first few years of her life at Court were more or less uneventful—she saw little of her husband and lots of the King. He and she used to wander along the river side, simply loaded with different dogs. Whenever there were theatricals given, Sheepmeadow tells us, Sarah invariably appeared as Diana or Minerva, preferring these parts on account of their suitability to her youth and figure. All these events took place long after Punter's portrait, though several others were done latterly. Her wit and gaiety were of course world-famed, and her political treatises are preserved to this day.
On one dramatic occasion her brilliant political knowledge and presence of mind were the means of saving England from turmoil or worse. Hearing that the people were hungry and restless, Sarah rushed to the King. "What's to do?" she cried breathlessly.
"God knows," replied Charles, adding "Lud!" as an afterthought. Then he went on fondling the long silky ears of one of his lap-dogs with which the room was strewn.
Heartbroken, Sarah left the room and rushed out of Whitehall as fast as her legs could carry her, heeding not the jeers of the crowd. She made for Tower Hill, from the summit of which she delivered her world-famous political speech, ending with the stirring words, "Sift your corn through sieves!"
How that speech sends a throb to one's heart—the defiance of it, the subtlety of it, and yet the intense womanliness of it! The people cheered her back to the palace. She went straight to the King's room—he was feeding his dogs.
"I've saved England!" cried Sarah exultantly.
"Lud!" replied the King, and handed her some cat's-meat. No wonder women loved him!
Incidents like these went to make up the multi-coloured mosaic of Sarah, Lady Tunnell-Penge's life. Her children were many—Arthur, later on Lord Crumpingfax; Muriel, later the Duchess of Dripp; and various others.
She died at the age of seventy-nine, thus outliving her Royal paramour. A beautiful life, a noble life, a gentle life—yet was there something missing? Sometimes I gaze at her portrait and wonder.
Jabez Puffwater might have been so much physically, mentally and publicly and has been so little any way that a tattered moral must hang sadly upon the gaunt tree of his career.
He might have been many things—he might have been a successful theatrical manager, or only an artistic one—he might have been a naval commander, or a psychoanalyst, or a Christian Science healer—he might have imparted to the United States Senate that infinitesimal something which would probably have proved to be the greatest comfort, especially in the cold weather.
If Mr. Belasco had not preferred Mr. David Warfield, Jabez Puffwater might have made an enormous success in "The Return of Peter Grimm"—had he but possessed an aptitude for histrionic achievement. He might have sung at the Metropolitan year after year without ceasing if Miss Geraldine Farrar had not taken an instantaneous dislike to him at sight—and had he but possessed a flamboyant temperament and an elementary knowledge of Puccini. In fact there is almost nothing he couldn't have been if only Fate had but weaned him at the breast of opportunity instead of ordaining his life drama to be played out in lonely dignity in the drab but intensely political village of Oggsville, Ken.
Oggsville, Ken. has been for many years a hotbed of occasionally seditious, but always subtle intrigue, the constructive and progressive policy of the upper part of the town, near the railway bridge, being in direct opposition to the destructive statesmanship and constitutional conventionality of the lower residential quarter embracing the timber-yard, Elijah Square, and Aunt Martha's Soda Fountain. Naturally Jabez Puffwater, whose modest store stood figuratively and literally at the crossing of the ways, was always in a somewhat uncertain state of mind as to which side he should ultimately pin his colours. Perhaps on a Tuesday St. John Eddle, a staunch upholder of the C. and P.P., would enter Jabez's store and hit him in the face because he'd sent a tin of sardines to the Furdlehoe Mansion on the other side of the River. And maybe on a Friday Moses Whortleberry, a leading light of the D. S. and C. C. would belabour him with one of his own hams for daring to acquaint old Hiram Holdit, the station master, with the result of the cocoa coupon competition.
One thing stood out firmly amid the turmoil of Jabez's environment—and that was his idealistic and almost fanatical admiration of the exploits of Buffalo Bill as depicted on the screen and retailed in small paper-bound books. Indeed so struck was he by the verve and virility of this astounding man that he took to attiring his lower limbs—which seldom showed above the counter—in the breeches, leggings, belt and pistol so well known to all lovers of the limitless prairie. The infinite pathos of Jabez Puffwater's blind devotion to one whom he had never seen will not fail to strike home to the stoniest heart. The tragedy of this man whose dauntless spirit so far outgrew his physical appearance—being compelled to sell cheeses, hams, molasses, etc, in order to live, is far more pitiful to me than the stern virginity of Queen Elizabeth, or even the nose of Cyrano de Bergerac.
It was when Jabez Puffwater had just reached his forty-third birthday that he first became seriously implicated in that political bombshell, the Goodge-Keewee Treaty made out with masterful cunning by Albert Goodge and Nicholas Keewee, with the sole motive of undermining the transcontinental railroad system to a devastating degree. The various reasons both for and against this daring policy are so excellently and clearly put forward in Vernon Treeby's "When Southern Blood is Dripping" that I will not attempt to go into it here. Enough that it caused an unparalleled sensation in Oggsville, Ken. and was indirectly the means of introducing into the heart of Jabez Puffwater the secret fear which was destined to grow ever larger and larger until eventually its black wings beat his battered soul into eternity. "The fear of a Black Rising!" Jabez was undoubtedly a man of more than average courage but after reading the Goodge-Keewee Treaty he went back to his store a harassed man. What did it all mean? Nobody knew. Ah, God! If only Jabez Puffwater had possessed the inspiring rhetoric of a Bernard Proon, or the imposing presence of a Freddie Hooter, what a lot he could have done. As it was he just went home—aching—yet withal as yet subconsciously—for the ability to be of use in some way, the opportunity of distinguishing himself and saving his beloved home town from the awful effects of the fear that was fated from now onward to be with him always—the dreaded Black Rising.
For many years after that fateful conference Jabez was to be seen every evening seated outside his store with a horse pistol in his hand ever pointed in the direction of the wooded hills to the Southward. Little boys on their way home from school would throw mud at him, but he never heeded them; little girls would make rude noises quite near him with their rubber overshoes, but he ignored them utterly. I often wonder on looking back what Douglas Bogtoe would have been had he but possessed one half of Puffwater's concentrated repose. That celebrated appeal for the Louisiana Canal installation would have been worded very differently and as for his world-famed piscatorial argument with Olaf Campbell in the Brooke Club—that would have probably been approached from an entirely opposite angle.
To analyse and compare Bogtoe's electrical psychology with the phlegmatic determination and boyish zeal of Puffwater would take, alas, too long; so I will not seek to say more than that had the two widely differentiated spirits but been combined within the same material tissues—that a quainter nor a more peculiar juxtaposition of entities it would have been hard to find, search where you may.
I try occasionally to picture to myself the lonely horror-stricken nights Jabez Puffwater must have endured with that appalling fear always crouching within him, egging him on towards the culminating tragedy of his sad career.
There had been talk of a lynching in New Orleans and of a shooting in Old Virginia and there were even whispers of a slapping in Alabama.
Jabez was priming his pistol one morning while he hastily scanned the elevating disclosures—social and otherwise—of the New York American, when a breathless woman rode up to the store on a tricycle. She delivered a note to Jabez and waited while he read it.
"Come at once—am exceedingly ill—Aunt Topsy."
Jabez thought for a moment—then crushing down his rising apprehensions he mounted his mare Buffalo Babs and made for the hills.
Ten miles there and ten miles back, and the fear always with him—the fear of the Black Rising.
Many psychoanalysts have endeavoured to discover the exact motive for Jabez Puffwater's sudden and unexpected slaying of his old Aunt Topsy—whose coal-black arms had fondled him as a baby. Many theories have been put forward, but none of them—with the exception, perhaps, of Herman Pipper—possess the ring of truth. Pipper's deduction of the circumstantial evidence is that it was all the outcome of a naughty practical joke played by little Michael Drisher who appeared suddenly during Jabez's interview with his Aunt and burst the awful news upon them that there had been a fearful Black Rising in Oggsville, Ken. and that debauch—murder—and worse were going on all over the globe.
"With a great cry," Pipper tells us, "Jabez smote his brow. 'At last!' he moaned in deep anguish. 'At last it has come!' Then he turned, and seizing a large milk bottle he battered the head of Aunt Topsy, crying the while in the voice of a fanatic, 'For my home town! For my home town! This is a just reprisal!!!' Then with a last look at the havoc he had wrought he went out of the house and into the wilderness—"
Pipper's imaginative description ends too abruptly to be really satisfactory; but one fact about the life of Jabez Puffwater will remain emblazoned on America's history for time immemorial—that if he had only possessed the rhetoric of a Proon—the presence of a Hooter—the education of a Floop—the racial understanding of a Bogtoe and the mentality of a Snurge—he would not only have proved himself invaluable to the home constituency of Oggsville, Ken. but have been an entirely different man altogether.
FURSTIN LIEBERWURST ZU SCHWEINEN-KALBER
How strange it seems that she of whom we write is dust and less than dust below the fertile soil of her so beloved Prussia—Furstin Lieberwurst zu Schweinen-Kalber! Can you not rise from the grave once more to charm us with the magic of your voice? Are those deep, mellowed tones, so sonorous and appealing, never to be heard again? Ah, me! Why, indeed, should such divinity be so short lived? Who could play Juliet as she could? Nobody! Her enemies laughed and said that her chronic adenoids utterly destroyed all the beauty of the part. Jealousy! Vile jealousy! Genius always has that to contend with. Every one has failings. Gretchen Lieberwurst zu Schweinen-Kalber made of Juliet a woman—a pulsating, human woman, with failings like the rest of us, the chief of which happened to be adenoids.
To trace this soul-stirring actress to her obscure birth has indeed been a labour—but withal, a labour of love! For who could help experiencing exquisite joy at unearthing trinkets and miniatures and broken memories of such a radiant being?
Nuremburg, red-roofed and gleaming in the sunlight, was the place wherein she first saw the light of day. Her father, Peter Schmidt, was by trade a sausage-moulder, for in those far-off days there was not the vast machinery of civilisation to wield the good meat into the requisite shape. Gretchen, when a girl, often used to watch her father as he plied his trade and recite to him verses she had learnt at her dame school—fragments from the Teutonic masterpieces of the time—"Kruschen Kruschen," and—
"Baby white and baby red, Like a moon convulsive Rolling up and down the bed, Utterly repulsive!"—
a beautiful little lullaby of Herman Veigel's. Gretchen used to recite it with the tears pouring down her cheeks, so poignantly affected was she by the sensitive beauty of it. Her father also used to weep hopelessly—also her mother, if she happened to be near; and Heinrich, the cat, invariably retreated under the sofa, unutterably moved.
Life dragged on with some monotony for Gretchen. She often used to help her mother in the kitchen—and occasionally in the sitting-room. One day she became a woman! Every one noticed it. Neighbours used to meet her mother in the strasse and say, "Frau Schmidt, your Gretchen is a woman." Frau Schmidt would nod proudly and reply, "Yes, we have seen that; my Peter and I—we are very happy." Thus Gretchen left her girlhood behind her. It was her habit, so Grundelheim tells us, to walk out in the forest with one Hans Breitel, an actor at the municipal theatre. He used to teach her to talk to the birds, and when she besought him ardently to tell her stories of the theatre, he would relate to her the parts he had nearly played. Gretchen's heart thrilled—oh to be an actress, an actress! On her twenty-fourth birthday von Bottiburgen tells us, Gretchen left home, and went to Berlin. She wanted to get an interview with Goethe. One day, after she had been in Berlin a little while, she found him. Brampenrich describes the scene for us, so beautifully and with such truly exquisite rotundity of style:—
"The Great Goethe ate at his lunch. What was that noise? He swiftly put down his knife: the door bursts open; Gretchen Schmidt enters, her lovely hair awry, her cheeks flushed. 'I will act!' she cries in bell-like tones. 'Ach, ach!' cries Goethe. Then Gretchen, with a superb gesture, hangs her hat on the door handle, and recites to the amazed man his beloved 'Faust,' word for word, syllable for syllable!"
Thus Brampenrich shows us, with his supreme word imagery, what really happened.
Gretchen never saw Goethe again; he left Berlin almost immediately for the Black Forest. Gretchen, alone in the great capital, alone and a woman, what could she do? Grundelheim, in his celebrated "Toilers who have Toiled," relates how desperately hard she worked with her mangle in the Konigstrasse. Then one day, when things seemed at their blackest, Romance, with its multi-coloured finger, poked a hole in the bubble of her existence. The King of Prussia drove along the Konigstrasse, bowing to right and left. Gretchen stepped lightly over her mangle and dropped a curtsey. The King was immediately captivated, and a few hours later the happy girl found herself in the Royal Palace. After that events moved rapidly. At the lax German Court Gretchen soon forgot her austere upbringing, and entered into the round games and charades with untold abandon! Alas! the fickle heart of the King was soon turned from her. Realising this Gretchen seized upon a noble much enamoured of her, Furst Lieberwurst zu Schweinen-Kalber, and married him one spring morning in the Chapel Royal. For three months they lived together in the Austrian Tyrol; then Gretchen, heeding at last the persistent call of her art, left him, and fled back to Berlin, where she obtained an engagement to play Juliet. It was from that moment that her real passion for her part developed. It grew to be an obsession—she was feted, lauded, mentioned in several public speeches. For sixty-five years she played it all over Germany, never tiring, never weakening. People gibbered over her; then came her tragic death at the age of ninety-two in the balcony scene. She stumbled forward, Grundelheim says, then backward, then forward, then backward again, and then forward for the last time. The balcony gave way, and she fell at Romeo's feet (it was the great Fritz Schnotter, with whom she had been playing for two years: in private life he was, of course, her lover—she always insisted on that).
History tells us that he caught her in his arms—Bottiburgen contests that he caught her in the middle of his chest; anyhow, the house is said to have risen and cheered, thinking it was a new scene suddenly interpolated. Then the curtain slowly fell, and they realised the truth—they would never see their idolised Gretchen again.
In passing, it would perhaps be as well to mention some of the famous Romeos who played opposite this bewitcher of all sexes. There was Reginald Bug, a young Englishman, who loved her passionately for a few years; then the renowned Pierre Dentifrice from the Comedie Francaise; then Angelo Carlini, and Basto Caballero (founder of the Shakespearean Theatre in Barcelona); then Dimitri Chuggski, a very temperamental, highly strung Russian (it is in Volume VIII. of Edgar Sheepmeadow's "Beds and their Inmates" that he relates the story of Chuggski's desertion of Gretchen; he contends that he left her because she always slept with her mouth open).
Her last and most famous lover on and off the stage was the aforementioned Fritz Schnotter; he is treated lavishly in three volumes of Bottiburgen.
Her portrait on page 100 is a reproduction of Grobmeyer's etching. The original could formerly be viewed, I believe, by applying to the Kaiser for permission and paying 18,000 marks.
JAKE D'ANNUNZIO SPOUT
Why is it that to some are vouchsafed such supreme gifts while other have perforce to drag out their lives in the hideous monotony of offices and banks and the like?
Jake D'Annunzio Spout—even he, Jake the glorious—Spout the magnificent—commenced his career behind the counter of a delicatessen on Ninth Avenue—and now—his name and glory have waved across America like a pennon of victory. I do not intend as others have done to describe every small detail of his early life—I merely wish with a few brief and decided strokes of the pen to expose to the public his mastery of psychology, his exquisite grace of style and above all his amazing supremacy of grammar. No writer since Steve Montespan Pligger has achieved such stupendous feats of literature and even he—Pligger—failed over his well-remembered attack on an English Duchess, "The Fall of a Bloated Aristocrat." According to contemporary criticisms it appears that through lack of familiarity with his subject he was unable to make her bloated enough—which was a pity as the main bulk of the book was intensely interesting, but Pligger, great as he undoubtedly was, could never aspire to the heights of Spout. Many people on reading Spout's first volume of poems in prose "Autumn in my Garden" were heard to say with a shake of the head, "Pligger's sun has set, we are at the Dawn of a new Era—the Spout Era!" Perhaps the greatest factor in Spout's greatness is his amazing versatility. No one reading "Marie of Chinatown" for the first time would believe the author capable of "Across the Sound for a Wife"! The realistic sordidity of the former balanced against the breathless adventure of the latter, combine in stamping Spout as a genius of the highest order.
The three books he wrote while still working in the delicatessen store are indelibly stamped with the pathos of his environment—"Thoughts in Vinegar," a bitter satire on bohemianism—"Three Little Pickles," an autobiography of the Barrymores as children and "The lonely Anchovy," a whimsical fantasy which if we are to believe Town Topics made Sir James Barrie quite furious.
The story of the sudden recognition of Jake D'Annunzio Spout's genius by the more advanced literary coterie of New York City, etc., is widely known but too charming to leave unmentioned. He was, so we are told, seated on an upturned wooden box behind a pile of cheeses, sunk in a reverie, when suddenly the door opened and three men came into the store.
"We wish to see Jake D'Annunzio Spout," said the foremost with a rich Harvard accent.
Jake rose shyly, knocking a Camembert to the ground in his embarrassment. "I am he," he said blushing.
A grey-haired man sniffed and waved his hand comprehensively. "You must leave these sordid surroundings," he said in a beautifully modulated voice in which a bad cold and a Yale intonation struggled for precedence, "and come with us."
"Where to?" cried Jake clutching a salami sausage with boyish excitement.
All three men doffed their hats.
"To the Coffee House," they said reverently.
"At this point," says Earl Hank in his exquisite study, 'Spout Through and Through,' tears of ecstasy gushed down the boy's cheeks. 'At last,' he cried in a choked voice and swooned.
The three men gathered him up tenderly and carried him out towards the Elevated—"
Of course the salient feature of Hank's study of Spout is the deep love and affection for his subject which permeates every page. Nobody but a true enthusiast and lover of beauty could ever have been so inspired. It was not until reaching the intellectually austere atmosphere of the Coffee House that Spout regained consciousness: he opened his eyes wearily, but the light of dazzled amazement replaced fatigue when he beheld the company that surrounded him—every man's face seemed to be stamped indelibly with the ineffaceable mark of artistic achievement. Spout rose in happy, awed wonderment.
Hands were stretched forth to him in welcome and friendship—one of the younger members gave vent to a furtive cheer but was instantly suppressed. Lunch, we are told, was to the newly-discovered poet a long dream of ecstasy, with the exception of one incident which, though somewhat painful, it is necessary to retail in order to illustrate what havoc habit can work on even the brightest psychologies. Earl Bowles (a descendant of Senator Didcot Bowles—beloved by all) in his rather wordy dissertation on "Intellects of the Hour" presents to us perhaps the most vivid picture of the scene.
"Harvey Pricklebott, for several years editor of 'Art in the Home,' leant forward to the dazed Spout and requested him to pass a plate of cold tongue which was lying near. With businesslike alacrity Spout did so—and then before anyone could prevent it—detached from his belt a delicatessen payment check for 25 cents and pushed it across the table."
"There was a dreadful silence—Spout realising his appalling error endeavoured to pass it off by humming the Jewel Song from Faust. For a moment his nonchalance amazed everyone then as though a veil had been suddenly snatched from their eyes they gave a great cry: 'This is Spout! What Humour! What Roguery! Spout the Brilliant!'"
After this serio-comic contretemps every remark Spout made was hailed by all as a gem of superlative wit.
From the moment of his entrance into the Coffee House, Spout's career was assured—encouraged by his amazing success in a milieu to which many aspired but few attained, he at once wrote about it, probably his most world-famed novel, "The Continuous Fall of Harriet Ramsbotham." To say that this daring attack upon existing social conditions caused a sensation is to put the case mildly—it was a positive literary tour de force. Take for example the extraordinarily vital passage in volume two—when Harriet is insulted by Donald at a soda fountain, or the sordidly realistic moment in volume three when she is horsewhipped by Frederick on Long Beach—and above all perhaps those few tense seconds in volume one when Norman having lured her to Childs' for supper brands her left thigh with a flat-iron. Immediately upon publication of this masterpiece Spout received five hundred and ninety-four letters from anxious mothers, eight hundred and two requests for sexual advice from oppressed governesses and several threatening telegrams from the police.
The ordinary everyday novelist would at once have become bombastic and conceited at being the cause of such a universal upheaval—not so Spout. He retired quite quietly to his cosy kitchenette apartment in Harlem and wrote that charming and winsome essay in sentiment "Mollie's Holiday"—which in due course he followed with his celebrated treatise on reincarnation "A Drop of Blood" and "To Horse, to Horse" a stirring romance of the Civil War.
I will not seek with convincing falsehoods and unscrupulous sophistry to hide the fact that Jake D'Annunzio Spout was never quite a gentleman. Others have endeavoured to do this and to my mind it is not only degrading but quite unworthy of the man's genius to dwell on such paltry failings as bad table manners, slight personal uncleanliness and the like. Many of the greatest men in the world have bitten their nails, and if we are to believe contemporary biographers, even the gloriously verbose Carlyle was known to expectorate frequently and with the utmost abandon while writing his world-famed fantasy "The French Revolution."
Jake Spout was perhaps twenty-six when he met H. Mackenzie Kump the philanthropic millionaire whose intimate study "Spout, as I Knew Him" met with such a brilliant success last year. Kump it was who cajoled and eventually almost by force persuaded Jake to make a tour of the world. Kump it was who nursed him devotedly through malaria in Mombasa, dysentery in Delhi, hernia in Hong Kong, cramp in Cape Town and acute earache in Edinburgh, and who soothed his bedside with almost womanly tenderness during his fearful outbreak of varicose veins in Vancouver. The work Spout accomplished in spite of slightly adverse circumstances while abroad was quite stupendous and had it not been for his tragic marriage would doubtless have been published with alacrity and read by millions. It was presumably the will of an unkind fate that he should be pursued and eventually captured by Esme Chaddle—a woman not only without scruples of any description but possessing a revoltingly ugly face and the temper of a fiend. It was on their honeymoon that she became suddenly cross at breakfast and burnt all the unpublished MSS. that she could find in the back yard, thereby destroying heartlessly the luscious fruits of untold labour while abroad. Spout with the contradictory stubbornness characteristic of so many geniuses continued—though very hurt—to adore his vixenish wife with the blind concentrated passion which for so many years had impregnated his work and now, alas, was running to waste on such an unyielding desert. His literary friends and admirers one and all shook their heads sadly, perceiving reluctantly that the end was in sight. For two years Spout wrote nothing but three short articles, then as though some premonition of impending disaster touched with flaming wings the sleeping carcase of his talent he sat down and wrote his soul-searching national appeal "Hist." This he completed on his thirty-first birthday.
For a true and sincere description of that last tragic night we must turn to Richard Floop—whose love for Spout has lent his pen so much glamour and poetry.
"Dusk was falling when Jake stole softly out through the scullery door and clambered on the char-a-banc for Coney Island. On arrival at that home of gaiety and irresponsibility he forgot his troubles—his sordid domestic upheavals—even his talent he suppressed and merged himself like an ordinary human being into the mad spirit of carnival. With boyish shouts he rolled on the joy-wheel; with childish gurgles he bestrode strange and jolting painted horses and waved his hat daringly when the merry-go-round was at its fastest. His excitement on the helter-skelter knew no bounds—while his delighted screams in the river caves called forth many appreciative raspberries from the friendly crowds. With no presentiment that this evening of unadulterated ecstasy was to be the culminating and final sensation in his eventful life he stepped into that fatal compartment on the big wheel—from which a quarter of an hour later he hurtled when at an enormous height from the ground!"
There ends Floop's beautiful and heart-breaking picture of the death of a great and wonderful man. Some say it was suicide—others that he was merely leaning out too far in admiration of the view. Who knows what really inspired that sudden fierce rush to death? But whatever the cause there is one fact that remains—shining like a star above the squalid wreck of his latter years—he died happy. The indisputable proof of this can be obtained from perusal of the first line of a poem which was discovered in his breast pocket:
"All Hail to Fun and Merriment—"
The less widely-known works of Jake D'Annunzio Spout are as follows:
"Sun-dappled Dreams," a book of poems. "Through Bavaria with a Note-book." "The Sin of Pharoah Bubster."
"With Lincoln in Calcutta," a Fantasy.
Fountain-pen pieces and ever-sharp pencil in collection of H. Mackenzie Kump.
DONNA ISABELLA ANGELICA Y BANANAS
Spain has ever been the home of romance and beauty and fiery passion, but never in its whole history has it bred such a tremulously beautiful love story as that of Donna Isabella Angelica y Bananas. A romance of two passionate hearts in such a vivid setting cannot but fail to make the eye kindle and the pulses throb. Compared to it, Lancelot and Elaine become cardboard puppets, Dante and Beatrice figures of clay utterly devoid of life, while Paolo and Francesca appear merely idiotic.
Picture to yourself, if you will, the Spain of the Middle Ages; if you can't, it doesn't matter. Isabella Angelica was born at Seville in 1582, the daughter of Don Juan de Cabarajal and Maria his wife. Don Juan owned the Castello del Hurtado, having been left it by his infamous but regal uncle, Don Lopez a Basastos.
The Castello lay surrounded in the foreground by turrets and moats, in the middle distance by orange groves and extraordinarily verdant meadows; while in the background the majestic Pyrenees, rearing their snowy peaks in serried ranks of symmetrical splendour, imparted to the whole thing the semblance of rugged grandeur which is the birthright of every true Spaniard. Isabella Angelica's childhood dawned and waned in these exquisite surroundings: she would play with her tutors various games, some of them traditional, such as "catch orange" and "raralara," and now and then frolics of her own invention, for history tells us she was ever a merry little trickster. It was not until she was seventeen that the true radiance of her beauty became apparent. Her mother had been wiser to guard the child more closely than she did, for do we not read in Dr. Polata's "From Girl to Woman" that between the ages of nineteen and twenty she was constantly seen mounting the Pyrenees in a daring fashion and entirely unattended? But still, doubtless owing to her charming nature, which was a sweet composition of mischief and kindliness, she remained unspoilt by this undesirable contact with a rude world which should, until her marriage, have been outside her girlish ken.