Jeremy was busily working on the long strands of hemp he had collected for the planned costume. He was weaving and braiding the pieces into some sort of wigged-dreadlocks using his outstretched legs and toes for anchors. I was beginning to see the described endgame in real time now, at least somewhat.
The collection of bones and wiring, along with various other pieces, still proved baffling. Unsure where or by what method he had procured the thing, I was staying clear of questions there, as well. It was a true human tibia, that I knew after examining it. There are teeth marks. All predatory animals, to be precise.
The visit by the law a bit later turned out less than supportive. The deputy merely glanced at our evidence and barely took note as Jeremy related his gnaw-tooth theory. The little tinhorn half-heartedly took the material shred I showed him. When he laid it down on the porch outside the front door and proceeded to ignore it, I pocketed it.
And, keep the dogs in the rest of the day, too. He was puffing up in his indignity. We were both frustrated by the inattention afterward but finally concluded the need to just blow it off for the time-being. So we lit up a head high doobie. Sure enough, the whole thing became hilarious within 15 minutes. Three days had passed since the bear incident and we had still not seen nor heard from our friend, Ambergai.
The evening was coming on, the fireplace was lit, the dogs were in their normal position at the hearth and Jeremy was enjoying the hearty soup I had made earlier, sopping up the last remains with the French bread accompanying it. His feet were raised toward the fire and the wind was whistling around the chimney flue above. Another weather front had delivered a second snow and we were heartened that no more tracks had been found on the balcony or our property.
So far as we could tell. Still, the culprits had not been captured and everyone on the mountain was nervous. Which also kept his dick hard. Jeremy and he had a close bond of friendship. Upon being invited to relocate to our more solidly spacious log home, Adolpho had expressed reticence to the proposal, but had not refused. A drafty lean-to, called home, secluded and vulnerable to formerly non-threatening black bears capable of breaking down the door had ultimately convinced Adolpho that he should vacate it for the sturdier confines of ours.
The Italian boy had accepted the offer. Arriving the same evening with a large backpack, extra hiking boots and his mountain bike, the attractive youth had taken refuge in a spare bedroom downstairs. His state of mind had been frazzled when we answered his arriving knock. After unpacking the few belongings brought along, the young man then begged off from further conversation due to a need for rest, he told us. Even the pooches failed to draw him out.
We left him to himself. Adolpho persisted in a stubbornly taciturn approach toward us the following morning as we gathered in the kitchen. While we understood the boy not really desiring to relive the ghastly scenario on the top of Telluride mountain, he inexplicably accepted our hospitality in typical single straight-boy fashion. Upon exiting the bedroom door, it appeared he had donned almost every piece of clothing in his sparse wardrobe.
I detected several symptoms common to PTSD. His flannel plaids contrasted oddly in layers and were made more mismatched by the haphazard buttoning job. At least three color schemes blossomed around the neckline, long underwear showed beneath that. I observed that there were multiple buttons missing on the outer one so that might be the case with those underneath. We could discern uneven tails sticking out at the waistline, all untucked as they were. The bulkiness to his otherwise slim waist and legs led us to believe he had layered the bottom half as well.
Barely ten words left his mouth as he almost gulped three cups of double espresso, which did nothing to relax the almost frenetic body language. Coffee time, normally so laid back, had been awkwardly tense with Adolpho. The attractive man was unshowered and greasy-haired, his eyes bloodshot… and he smelled. Not in a good way, either. To that point, we had only known the well-groomed and outgoing youth. Both a good conversationalist and a cleanly put together, if un-imaginative, dresser. I allowed that he was a single straight boy and we only knew him from his work-mode world, so there was that.
We proceeded in our schedules. It culminated that late afternoon with a bulky trip on the gondola, having filled an entire lift car with my purchases. Storing everything at the station over three trips from varied stores finally found me bushed and alone as I ascended for the home crossing. Totally immersed in planning an itinerary and mentally ordering our extended stay, along with mulling the Texas issues, I gazed vacantly from the glass enclosed car.
Reality yanked on me as I suddenly realized that below, three black bears, a mother and two cubs, were loping across the snowy meadow. They made their way from a copse of spruces toward a rocky abutment covered with bushes and aspen trees. The three vanished into a shrouded cave or hollow through an aperture between two large boulders. After the fact, I realized that the mama bear had been carrying something in her mouth and as the gondola continued upward, away from the scene, I thought I noticed a pinkish trail in the snow coloring the tracks left by their passage.
The last rays of sun disappearing over the far west peak obscured whether it had been sunrays and light reflections, or something more ominous. Arriving at the Mountain Village Station, I hired one of the boys just leaving his shift there to aid my traverse to the lodge. Even with two of us, it was an ordeal managing all of the packages and sacks up the lane to the house. He was gesticulating in a fashion which led me to know the homecoming was probably timely.
Having seen enough, I pushed between the two, forcing their separation. The banty rooster of a law officer retreated off the porch and down the steps, red-faced. The faintest of smiles arose as I reached up to kiss him hello. He lightened upon noticing the blonde ski-bum kid standing there in bewilderment at the scene. Gathering all the bags and packages inside, we were broadsided by the wonderful smell of simmering rabbit fricassee. The young man almost salivated his acknowledgment of the dish—absolutely no idea what it was, nevertheless he was orgasming at the smell.
I wondered at that and watched as the two exchanged pleasantries like old buddies. Casting Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland, the story had posited the theory that every person in the world from the Pope in Rome to the lowest untouchable in New Delhi could follow a random chain of connection separated by no more than six people… to me, a mind-boggling concept.
Six degrees, indeed, I thought. Though the delicious aroma on its own would have been justification aplenty. I took the multiple items upstairs while Jeremy took the other things to the kitchen, bedrooms and storage pantry. I laughed to myself as I pictured the boy on the gondola with my man, full well knowing his effect on men and women alike and the ends to which they would go upon first meeting him. I fully agreed—the man was irresistible. And this boy—Bryce, did he say? I was repeatedly rendered glad to be void of jealousy, what with the hormonally heightened realm Jeremy thrived in.
Since the 21st century had augured in the era of jungle-fever proclivities more common amongst the younger set than ours, I had found that the movie-star looks of my husband kindled a startlingly sexual undertone with these millennials. The man simply could not hide the drop-dead sensuality, nor did he much try.
Making my way downstairs, the creak of the front door floated to my ears. I welcomed the attractive youth and let him know dinner was just about ready. Like he could be in any way unaware by the savory aroma. The lip-licking look let me know he was famished. The nervous swipe of his dark shoulder-length waves let me know he wanted to discuss something. So I drew him into the great room.
Sitting by the fireplace, he broke into a gushing tirade of apology for the way he had acted earlier in the morning and previous evening. My quick acceptance of it and the lighting of the joint, followed by a couple of tokes each, had us chatting amiably as we always had. I was happy to see the boy letting it go. His relief was evident. It had cowed him—he even wondered if he, Adolpho, was somehow implicated in the mess. He told me that the sheriff and the other officers were all talking like this was a murderous rampage by a person or persons rather than the bear-mauling being officially put out by their office.
Ambergai Gee. No wonder this boy was totally messed up, I thought. First, coming upon the bloody scene, then being treated like a person-of-interest, then having to stay alone in a lonesome up-mountain place such as his own, unsure of what or who may have him in their sights. And, what the fuck was this crap about Gai? When Jeremy had called him, Adolpho continued, he had first hesitated at the chance to join us. He had revolted himself by the thought that my man might think he would take the offer for sexual reasons…silly straight man.
The convoluted reasoning they employed when it came to their dealings with gay men. Jeremy might be a lot of things, but by no means was a lech or perv among them. My man had a nearly two-decade track record of upstanding character traits, by my first-hand knowledge, who happened to be overly-endowed with both bodily and psychologically magnetic qualities. Inherent to his being. Including the nine inch one. The man had proven the fact umpteen times over the years.
Horn-doggery and lechery were not worthy of comparison. Jeremy epitomized the difference. I assured Adolpho of all this over the coming minutes and we went to the kitchen to gather things for the upcoming impromptu stew fest…it was making everybody hunger-cum, if that was even a term. Popping open a couple of Belhaven ales, which I knew the young Italian enjoyed, we finally thought of helping Jeremy and young Bryce finish unpacking things.
Where had they gotten themselves off to? Those turned out to be prescient thoughts. Upon opening the second bedroom door, our curiosity was answered.
The two were lip locked and tonguing each other through audible groans and moans. Bryce was straddling the prone black man, one leg on the ground, the other bent upon the bed, the boy rocking deeply on the thing in his hole. I just sucked in another toke at the sight, feeling my own piece respond in typical fashion to seeing my own guy in the writhing state of ecstasy I so well knew.
I totally got off on viewing or sharing his pleasure. Turning to Adolpho, I offered a power hit and the stoned straight boy reacted by accepting it. Bryce, not well-versed in our open ways, sputtered his apologies to everyone and no one in particular. That silenced the kid and he slowly relaxed, finally smiling self-consciously at the three of us. Or strung up. Rather than that, I stepped into the adjoining bathroom and brought each slimed man a towel and warm washcloth.
Adolpho was simply not sure what to make of the whole scenario. Then he went over to the Italian and sat down on the side of the bed while he deliberately pulled Adolpho toward him, unzipping first one jean zipper, then a second, and finally, unbuttoning the last pair. It had grown up to be a large, curved, cut beauty. Jeremy neatly pushed all three pairs plus the drawers to the triply-socked ankles.
He slowly worked his way around the shaft with that tongue snaking out from the full lips between slurps until the whole of it was slimed to his satisfaction. JK turned to me in silent request of a power hit. Which I gladly provided. Then, I provided the straight boy with one and then the ski bum. Finally serving myself, we were sufficiently saturated. The four of us proceeded to perform or voyeur the ongoing group thing.
Adolpho was amazed to find that male tongues were more athletic than those of the persuasion to which he had been heretofore inculcated and ended by actively tangling with his first masculine linguist. Probably not his last. At least, so hoped the young ski bum. And his little bum…I mean butt. Hunger or sleepiness inevitably invades after orgasm; the two senses being served by adjacent cranial nerves. The former extended precedence in this case.
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I signed the prescriptions personally. After cleaning up both the kitchen and ourselves, taking the dogs out, and banking the fire, the four of us headed to the warmth of our respective beds. Each of us enjoyed a gummy bear as non-liquid digestif…. The two certainly had the time to hash it out. In the process, my good man worked himself up to the point that I had to resort to slapping him. With my dick.
He was distracted by the subtly nuanced move and forgot the subject as soon as my rigid prick hit his tonsils. Would he never learn, I asked myself? Minutes later the man was asleep with it and my load filling his mouth. He lay there so angelic and pacified.
For the first time in days, we both slept uninterrupted, falling into the arms of Morpheus as softly muffled sounds emanated from the bedroom below us. The beginning day of AllHallowTide, the Western Christian Feast days signaling the liturgical dedication to remembering the dead. At least, that is, those dead that were saints, martyrs and all the faithful: those who existed in Purgatory until the Day of Reckoning or, modernly, the Rapture. All those not waiting there were already sweating in Hell.
I had sometimes wondered to myself exactly how those in Purgatory spent their time. Maybe I would review Mr. Paradise Lost. Published in winter, , it came out within a year of the Great London Fire…plenty of pre-burnt and freeze-dried souls to contemplate. His nipple, always erect, tickled my ear. My dick got hard as that nipple wobbled, inviting me with each deep, regular breath. My phattening white shaft climbed the smoothness of his thigh. The thing sprang up at my touch. I could stroke the beautiful thing while that nipple continued harassing me and he would likely only awaken to the flood of emissions at the ending, if then.
I was certain his dreams entertained a ribald world where continuous rapture and climax held dominion. What else, I reasoned, could Heaven be about if not that? The doings of the Devil Incarnate? Any extant Creator was surely getting a good laugh at the stupidity of that illogic. This basic non-sequitur really bothered me. With that, I slicked up that pretty ebony dick, closed my eyes and climbed on for a classic holiday ride. My hard dick bounced on and off the taut belly beneath it as I contemplated the concept. Climax came with the epiphany that any caring Creator had, indeed, meant orgasm to be a gift.
Never a curse. We sure would, when that time came…. A soothing communal shower later, we two descended wrapped in towels to find our adorable pair of guests cuddling together on the fireplace hearth, apparently comparing tongues. Lip-locked as they were, it was a bit difficult to tell. The two freshly showered and combed boys looked up as we entered with our coffee cups, shy at the interruption.
Hard dicks poking unshyly from the fronts of their towels told another tale, for sure. Adolpho appeared much more at ease now—multiple orgasmic experiences tended to do that to a person—and his pinkly cherubic cheeks attested to the fact of the successful addressing of the gay question regarding he and Bryce… entwined bodies seemed to bear the fact out. Limerence would appear to be in ascendance if body language was any indication…Jeremy and I exchanged self-satisfied glances at the overnight change. The two were absolutely beautiful together.
Let the bitter, rancorous, oath-keeping, sanctimonious side of the spectrum marinate themselves as they liked. Just leave the rest of us enlightened ones the hell alone, I philosophized… These two had melded under our roof and considering our own disparate beginnings along with a solid two-decade track record, naysayers may happily go fuck themselves silly.
With my blessing. While meandering through a congenial breakfast of granola, yogurt, berries, honey and buttered toast, we four compared notes for our hopes in the coming evening, should the Mash Bash materialize. Jeremy laid out his da Vinci-of-a-costume and I described my own makeshift personification of a cubic zirconium, at which all three chuckled in the visualization. The boys went off to their now-shared bedroom to pow-wow over their own.
We gave them free rein over the abundance of extra clothing and other packed-away contents in the downstair closets, should it be of help. A short hour after that, the door banged at us in announcement of visitors and the dog boys went racing to it, yipping their proclamation. Rod thin and irascible, Jeremy and I had always found it hard to believe this progressive community had actually elected the cantankerous old codger into office.
Nonetheless, it would seem to be so. Here he stood. The two scrutinized us both from head to feet there on the porch. Ever the raconteur, my studly man pulled me closer to him, draping his long, muscular arm over my bare shoulders. He looked from the wizened little deputy to his stern-faced boss, all the while smiling cordially so as to clarify things. His body language spoke volumes. Deputy Fife visibly chafed at the action and words, but in an attempt to keep things professional, Sheriff Delmar ignored the obvious yet benign provocation.
Kell, we are trying to locate a gentleman who has been reported to be staying at this address: a Mr. We have an interest in speaking to Mr. Gee and are hoping to do so now, that is if you might be of help. The man is a dear family friend. Jeremy was enjoying making the little deputy uncomfortable.
He upped the ante by airily smoothing his free hand over the patch of peeking pubic hair showing above his towel, thence upwards from bellybutton to pecs, offhandedly tweaking his nipples lightly The behavior rattled the man, leaving him nonplussed and blushing. Evidently on a short-leash, Fife was unable to bring the power of his badge to bear here in the presence of his overseer.
My man had read the situation perfectly. His unspoken retort here to that treatment by only body language was proving classic. Today, the man was more the picture of a submissive cocker spaniel upon being caught peeing on the new carpet. I had to control myself.
I let go the laugh I had been holding and we went back inside, wondering what that encounter had really been about? The landline we kept in case of lost power was ringing in the kitchen and upon answering, I heard elderly Mrs. Worriedly, she asked whether we had had any word about Gai, rightly guessing that the official visits might be related. When I let her know what had happened, she and Mr.
Chastain, who was also on the line, regaled me with their own news: there had been another bear attack the previous afternoon. They had just heard from Lady Carlotta that the three bears allegedly involved had been tracked down, tranquilized and corralled at a wildlife preserve on the next mountain over, just this morning. The good news was that the bash was a go, they added, and were we still attending?
Had they said there was another death-by-bear? An arm and his…thing…had been ripped off. Poor soul. We ended with mutual hopes for any news regarding our missing dread-headed friend. Hanging up the old-fashioned solid state rotary desk telephone I looked at Jeremy in disbelief. I think I saw it—or, at least, the after part.
I recounted the sighting of the three bears while on the gondola the previous day and the pink trail I had been unsure about in the snow. And, where was Gai? Chastain had called the victim. We were now officially freaked. The next hour saw the two of us hurrying over the mountain to the county hospital, burning up our iPhones calling everyone we could think of in search of details and answers. Nothing proved forthcoming and we fretted.
Getting admitted into the ICU proved tricky, as we were not relatives to an unidentified comatose patient. I finally prevailed on the nursing staff that even without privileges at this hospital, I may be able to offer help or advisement due to my ER status in several Austin and Texas hospitals. That worked. Upon first viewing the close-cropped person-of-color lying almost full-body bandaged, my relief at the lack of dreadlocks was mitigated by the poor stats he was exhibiting. The right arm was obviously missing at the shoulder, blood seepage was evident around the midsection and every orifice plus some newly forged ones had been plugged by supportive devices.
I conferred with the clinicians on duty. We discussed a new regimen of innovative shock remedy interventions developed at the burn center in San Antonio and recently instituted at my medical center. The protocol was accessed and begun. Regardless, the prognosis would remain grim for the patient due to the copious loss of blood and severe hypothermia suffered before being found. He had been over-long in the snowy exposure. I promised to keep in touch on the case if they would like and returned afterward to the waiting area.
Jeremy was uncharacteristically fidgety and very jumpy. He blubbered awhile into my shoulder, then we thanked the nurses and left a number should they need it. Leaving the quiet confines of the small mountain hospital ER, we made our way back to the gondola station. The discussion between us was one of reciprocal assurances that Ambergai Gee, IV, was a hardy and resourceful soul of much experience.
We resolved to keep positive about his wisdom and abilities. Bucking one another up, we arrived at the station to find no less than our friends Sheila E and her spouse, Cat G, awaiting a car. The chance meeting provided a needed diversion from the fraught past hours, so joined them on the trip back over the mountain. The svelte, cutting edge couple was relieved to hear that, at the least, no bad news had been learned about the singer with the Mighty Diamonds, though common concern stifled the normal upbeat tone when sharing time with these special ladies.
The two were partiers. Sheila was glad the bash was still on. She and Cat were scheduled to perform, they informed us. They swore us to further secrecy by spilling it that a close friend and maybe two were flying in later in the afternoon to join them, and we both zipped our lips in mimicry of losing the tattle key. Little could we know…. The knowledge raised a spectre of The Phantom of the Opera, and it seemed appropriate what with the old mine venue. In climbing homeward, attempted levity boosted one another more so by teasing about the coming hijinks sure to occur at the Mash Bash and comparing guesses as to the refurbished venue in the old Pandora Mine from the nineteenth century mining period.
Just about nobody was privy to the upgrades undertaken there and only vague hints had slipped out. Absorbed with ourselves, we missed the hushed approach of a sleek silver automobile from behind and nearly died of startlement when the short tap of the horn signaled its presence just feet from us. We twirled around in midair to see the capped visage of Paecup Andropov grinning by his surprise materialization. You gonna be seeing us up at the mine tonight? Ha, I thought, will we ever. We assured him it was so. She had sent him on the errand to personally invite us.
We were delighted with the offer. So, we merrily accepted and climbed in, allowing the Russian to carry us the rest of the way to the lodge. The afternoon was getting away from us. Inside, the cabin of the auto dazzled in its aristocratic appointments and Paecup pushed buttons which caused the drop of a small marble serving table and the appearance of a compact refrigerator below it. Another button rendered a partial rotation by two of the six facing Italian leather seats toward each other.
Foot supports arose to push us into a position we had not experienced in a car—except maybe a remotely similar contrivance in the new Benz Maybach S Pullman, test-driven back in Austin. The efficient chauffeur then asked if we would prefer refreshment before unloading. That is, until Mr. Andropov clicked three successive switches which ejected tiny silver spoons from the facing seat back, each heaped with pure white powder, a bit floating extravagantly down to the marble surface. That did it.
Jeremy unhooked the small spoon on the left, raised it to his flared nostril and inhaled in a sharp intake, rubbing the sides together while raising his head, like he knew what he was doing. My turn to be astonished. Then, pulling into the pebbled drive, we floatingly unloaded from the vehicle, skipped up the steps and entered. The Russian man was stripping as he crossed the threshold. Jacket, tie, cap, all disappeared over the couch; his shirt, undershirt, pants, boxer briefs, socks and shoes next left in quick succession, ending with him spread-legged, proudly naked and boning up in split seconds.
The rising member was very ethnically Slavic: big, long, thick and uncut. What else are you good at? I proceeded getting myself undressed, enjoying the show. His face contacted and followed the contour of the strongly built ebony body as he lowered the jeans. Slowly and with intent, so as to feel as much of the beautiful physique as possible, his nose slid from the thick neck downward between the mounded pectorals, over each ripple of the six-pack, all the way to the exposed crotch. Since Jeremy seldom restricted himself with underwear or drawers—he did sports straps occasionally—he had only to lift each foot out of the leggings and raise his bulky crew sweater over his head to be stunningly, rigidly nude.
His nine inches matched the white Russian. The thing levitated bobbingly upward over the parallel plane, foreskin coyly shrouding the bare edge of the spongy, curving base of the corona. The fat, round, snug nuts hugged the flaring base like lovers and it was a very good thing that I was familiar with its details as I managed only two blinks before it nestled to the short curly pubic curls in the back of that deep throat.
Slavic nostrils deeply inhaled the muskiness emanating from it.
Either way, I nearly passed out as I watched through my own held breath while waiting for him to back the thick thing out of his gullet. Basically, it never did. Through the whole head job. Jeremy stood staring directly into my eyes the entire time, his sexy gray eyes dilated with the go-fast bump and glazed by the blissful longevity being accorded him via the cavernous throat. He shared the effect with me. Or that J-Man had ever experienced. Jeremy, gentleman that he be, later denied it was so, in deference to me, but the truth was what it was.
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As the distended dickhead stretched down that throat, Paecup set his swallowing mechanism into a repetitive glugging motion. The extreme throat action forced his eruption without a single other stroke. Every perfect muscle in his body appeared to be on high-tension squeeze mode. As my pleasure rose in seeing the prolonged effect Jeremy was deriving now, I could feel the pre-cum drip from my own dickhead.
It stood straight and long in quivering readiness for my hand to stroke it, but I suddenly felt hot lips wrap around the tip and nurse the drippings. Being so intent during our entry, we had failed to notice the two young men sharing our home lounging together on the recliner by the fire. The two had stayed silent, voyeuring us through the entire occurrence. But upon seeing the unique climax and my own ropy oozing, the two had soundlessly crept from behind, settling before me on their knees. Obviously intending to prevent my drippings from messing the clean floor…. Now, the duo set to licking and massaging my hard-on, making it jump by the pleasure.
My eyes quickly raised back up to the paroxysmal satyr before me just as he gazed over at me again, conveying gratification. My longmeat soon gave in to the fervor and he vicariously shared my cresting, as I had his, only moments before. They lip-locked together around my shaft and then sprayed all over each other in their enthusiasm. Four sated men stood or knelt in a sheen of man-goo oh, wait, make that five men we all four watched the still impaled Russian erupt in multiple jets of Eastern Orthodox bliss, too. I think that made for a straight flush or five-of-a-kind, or something.
If they were watching, I figured those saints and martyrs must be cumming, too.
I had finally hit on what all those inhabitants of Purgatory do, whiling away all that time in their long wait for the pearly gates to open up: they voyeur. Pearly—get it? But, I digress. The new couple accepted an invitation to join us in the Pierce-Arrow. Jeremy leaned on the steaming wall jets under a cascading rain head while I massaged the sore muscles after all that constricting and contracting. I counted myself a fortunate man. We finally descended to sort out mixed up clothing, playfully bombarding our new driver friend with his uniform.
Now Paecup your uniform and get back to work. How homey we looked. Except for the facts that Jeremy was butt-ass naked, dangling, and the two boys were draped all over each other in just towels, there was no discernible difference between us and the old TV series family. Jeremy and I got it, anyway. In the great room, we hunkered around the fireplace, as always, nursing some of the Recipe…errr… Old Fashion cocktails.
Were his parents suing us, or had he strained something helping me haul packages? Was he pregnant? With the recent tragedies, I was kind of expecting something else bad. What was in his head, I wondered? The others looked over at us, hearing my reaction. JFK and me, we are just in love with Life, so when the unexpected rolls our way, we just accept serendipity and make the best of situations. Idiot that I was.
Lucas Laughlin Cevennes, and this is my husband, Dr. Jeremy Fallsworth Kell. We are from Austin, Texas, and stay up here in Tride for as much time as we can. I am on sabbatical from my hospital for a few more months and Jeremy teaches, Philosophy, at the University of Texas. How do you do? Would you care to join us in Life? It had struck me abruptly that we knew next to nothing whatsoever about this young person.
That should be changed, post haste. Life is, indeed, a party, but there should at least be invitations, after all. The young man fairly melted into me at this soliloquy and when he looked back up, a single tear was somersaulting down his cheek. Adolpho had stood and come up behind the boy, putting both hands on him. May we know who you are? I moved here to Tride a year ago after my grandfather passed away in Seattle.
At all. I think my heart swelled all up and burst at that moment. Jeremy, along with Bryce, sat down with us and we all just lost it for a while. Even Elvee and Suture, sensing the profundity, came up and lay down at our feet, communing with the pack. My drink tipped over between J-Man and me where I had forgotten it and we both jumped up, shattering the deepness.
We went to get paper towels and on our return, found Adolpho and Bryce whispering together. The youngsters disappeared into their bedroom and we two hustled up to our own, spending a talkative shower time, again, just because we wanted to, discussing the situation in which we found ourselves. Coming out, we put on matching silver lame thongs over our wedding cockrings and donned mountain boots with wool socks, all sprayed silver, then descended to get the grand assemblage underway. Magic lollie-pops for all were laid out to usher the four of us into the mood of the eve but not before Jeremy and I ogled the stunning young pair.
Upon exiting their new haven, they were now transformed into the characters of Alexander the Great and his lifelong lover, Hephaestion Chiliarch. The two were radiant in their simple mirrored attire, having appropriated matching calf-high sheepskin-lined leather lace-up boots from J-Man and my Santa Fe Days.
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The briefest of matching bikini underwear sporting an over-sew of gold-hued aspen leaves minimally cloaked anything of their lean physiques. Matching evergreen brow-rings encircled their wavy hair. Various temporary thigh, belly, dorsal and bicep indigo tattoos complemented the look. They set a mood of Bacchanalian mindset by the sensuality oozing from their pores and joined the two of us, singly. We figured separate tasks might enable us to keep their pants on and hands off each other long enough to help. Adolpho aided Daddy Jeremy with the intricately complicated Tungsten Tuberosity, while Bryce helped me clip together the clear plastic wedged shower door guards I had accumulated from the three hardware and bathroom supply stores in Telluride town.
We shaped the pieces into a geodesic diamond shape that would easily fit over my head and enshroud my body from neck to crotch. Heavy-duty clear rubber-banding would hold the contraption in place, attaching to my neck, arms and each upper thigh. We covered the geometric beehive-like surface with a tight-stretched cover of sheer Glad Cling Wrap, then emptied the hundred other rolls of the sticky stuff, wadding them all into loose translucent balls which would be stuffed strategically into the interior, capturing me inside.
Not quite see through, but enough so that it left a shimmery impression of my body, I looked in the mirror as Bryce positioned all of it evenly. We fashioned a ring of thin, tawny, moldable straws from the hobby shop to snugly encircle my neck, then extend behind and above my head to a rounded hoop wrapped in tinfoil, make-shifting a halo, and I was ready. I could put it all on and off, with a little help, in a matter of a few minutes at the mine entrance so as to allow free mobility, especially on the ride there.
I was sure we would need the room with the five of us. We came out of the spare bathroom to an extraordinary sight. An entire human skeleton grinned at us, suspended on bony feet a few inches above the ground. As we came in, the spooky wraith began walking toward us, quite dexterously, arm, leg and neck joints working in synchrony. Shadowing two feet behind it followed Jeremy, the managing puppeteer, supporting and controlling the skeleton by attached equestrian riding crops. His own dazzling body was sparklingly phosphorescent and golden.
Head to toe. Every supple tendon, muscle and ligament were on magnificent display. His head and face were similarly glowing, the left half hidden by a skull mask of a pearlescent finish. His eyes had been outlined in Pharaonic manner, above and below in stark black kohl, his lips were blackened as well. A set of spectacularly feathered silver wings lay enfolded behind his back, curling over and above, then down behind his head from the strapped attachment between his shoulders. As Bryce and I oohed and aahed at the aura of the whole vision, some controlling spring tested the up and outward spreading mechanism of the functional pair, ending in a glowing umbel, as widely arching as my man was tall.
How in the world had my innovative husband ever dreamt this up, let alone brought it to fruition? Adolpho stood at the back corner looking like a woodland elf as he peered from behind the thing he had helped put together, every bit as wowed by the effect as us. Bone came from. I can get this thing on and off in five minutes flat, and I made it so it can even fold up. As long as you can put up with my gilded ass for the night. I may need some help getting the dye off, later. I fully intend to suck my first god dick tonight. Bryce drew in his breath next to me and exhaled in total disbelief.
A triple-tone automobile horn interrupted, bespeaking the Royal's arrival. It pierced the dusk outside, and we all busted ass into disassemble-mode, forgetting to be curious. Sure enough, we got Jeremy down to his glowing, gilded self by the time the Lady of the evening arrived up the steps. My golden man glided gracefully over to the heavy arched door. Opening it, he reached a gilded hand out to welcome fingers now be-decked by rings.
We all stood back as first the fingers appeared, then the rest of the Lady Saxe-Coburg inched forward, revealing none other than Liza Minelli in her transformed guise for the special night. Short, spiked black hair with silver tips mohawked her heavily made-up, blood-red lipped doppelganger Liza face.
A silver lame how convenient full body spandex leotard graced her torso and arms, high neck hugging her tight-skinned chin. Mid-thigh black leather spiked-heel boots stepped authoritatively over our threshold, coming to a sharply loud, staccato halt before Jeremy. Ten long, silver-tipped aristocratic fingers had arrived this evening, ringed with every sort of silver band and tinkling knuckle charm. Jeremy raised one hand to hers again and turned her slowly to face the rest of us. Until that moment none of us had existed. She arched a single perfect eyebrow in inspecting the three of us.
One side of her mouth rose up, lips parting in a Liza-esque smile-to-kill. She stepped forward. How did I get this lucky, young men? Do we all wear the same dress size? That broke the ice for the bedazzled Adolpho and Bryce, who had never traveled in an automobile of the sort we had described, let alone one conveying the thirteenth person in line to the throne of England. This naughty vixen humanized the whole affair and I brought the boys forward to greet her.
Or pee. He was not prepared, and all four of us broke up seeing his tangible confusion. The Lady is our friend, Carlotta, and we are all about to par-tay together, young dude. The lady was suitably in awe of the Mighty Tungsten Tuberosity, if not a little bewildered. Just as Jeremy preferred. Mysteriously, he poked a large black bag in last, leaving me wondering, what else? Paecup, in full Russian Cossack garb, grinned at all of us knowingly as he loaded all into the warm interior.
Carlotta, now comfortably medicated, was familiarly touchy-feely. Who could blame the woman, what with the succulent manflesh surrounding her? All of the same dress size, I would have to remember. Her court was in session and her courtiers were in thrall. And enthralled. After a small familiarization period, so we were more knowledgeable of her traveling palace, her next order of business was to instruct Mr. The tiny spoons appeared and the boys had yet another choice to maneuver through.
Our comfortable banter made the ride around the mountain along the San Miguel River byway through the township intimately enjoyable for all as. We zoomed pleasurably upwards in mental states of jocular camaraderie. Jeremy, in rare form, entertained us in his own gilded cape. Several hundred more were streaming up from town and the gondola on costumed feet. We ended up in a secluded cul-de-sac populated by only a few other cars and some security guards. Leaving the parking spot and heading for the mine entry point, we began feeling the distant pound of the music beat inside.
The sounds reverberated at us from diverse sources, probably vent and adit openings, I figured. Bone preceded our entourage. The characters we encountered boggled the mind what with the wide-ranging imaginations populating the area, but our own arrival set off a rumble of wonder by the group we brought.
The recently enlarged hangar-style gates were wide open and welcoming this eve. Reaching them, we halted. All five of us were virtually afloat, already levitating by the party favors. Now, we were additionally elevated by the pot smoke billowing out from inside. Jeremy signaled Adolpho, and hunky Alexander the Great unzipped the big black bag, extracting a carefully bundled head cover of woven hemp dreadlocks. They had been painstakingly sprayed shimmering silver and embroidered by hundreds of glittering sequins. Then, he extracted a snowboard with foot bindings.
At least, that is what it appeared. But the thing sat several inches off the ground by some tubular mechanism mounted underneath. While the duo fit the ornate dreads onto his head, fastening them by some prearranged plan, Carlotta passed out to each of us a set of wireless earbuds. The devices would not only diffuse the sounds inside, they should also allow for inter-personal communication with one another while partying.
Something new from Harmon-Kardon, she told us. How dope, I thought. After programming the thing, the board suddenly began glowing, then very slowly rose up about a foot off the ground, hovering obediently in place. It was not till Thursday that the flood came. By then the storm was over. By this time, also, there were not many people left at Norderney.
The season had been drawing to a close, and many of the most illustrious guests had gone before the time of the storm. Now most of the remaining visitors made haste to depart. The young women pressed their faces to the window panes of their coaches, wild to catch a last glimpse of the wild scenery. It seemed to them that they were driving away from the one real place and hour of their lives. But when the grand coach of Baron Goldstein, of Hamburg, was blown straight off the road on the dike, it was realized that the time for quick action had come.
Everybody went off as speedily as possible. It was during these hours, the last of the storm and the first of the following night, that the sea broke the dikes. The dikes, made to resist a heavy pressure from seaward, could not hold when sapped from the east. They gave way along a stretch of half a mile, and through the opening the sea came in.
The farmers were awakened by the plaintive bellowing of their animals. Swinging their feet out of bed, in the dark, they put them down in a foot of cold, muddy water. It was salt. It was the same water which rolled, out to the west, a hundred fathoms deep, and washed the white feet of the cliffs of Dover. The North Sea had come to visit them. It was rising quickly. In an hour the movables of the low farmhouses were floating on the water, knocking against the walls. As the dawn came, the people, from the roofs of their houses, watched the land around them change.
Trees and bushes were growing in a moving gray ground, and thick yellow foam was washing over the stretches of their ripening corn, the harvest of which they had been discussing on the last days before the storm. There had been such floods before. A few old people could still recount to the young how they had once been snatched from their beds and hurled upon rafts by their pale mothers, and had seen, from the collapsing houses, the cattle struggle and go under in dark water; and how breadwinners had perished and households had been ruined and lost.
The sea did such things from time to time. Still, this flood lived long in the memory of the coast. By coming on in summer time, the deluge assumed the character of a terrible, grim joke. In the annals of the province, where it kept a place and a name of its own, it was called the flood of the Cardinal. This was because in the midst of their misery the terror-stricken people got support from one already half-mythical figure, and felt at their side the presence of a guardian angel.
Many years after, in the minds of the peasants, it seemed that his company in their dark despair had shed a great white light over the black waves. The Cardinal Hamilcar von Sehestedt had, during the summer, been living in a small fisherman's house at some distance from the bath, to collect his writings of many years in a book upon the Holy Ghost. With Joachim de Flora, who was born in , the Cardinal held that while the book of the Father is given in the Old Testament, and that of the Son, in the New, the testament of the Third Person of the Trinity still remained to be written.
This he had made the task of his life. He had grown up in the Westerlands, and had preserved, during a long life of travels and spiritual work, his love for the coast scenery and the sea. In his leisure hours he would go, after the example of St. Peter himself, a long way out on the sea with the fishermen in their boats, to watch their work.
He had with him in his cottage only a sort of valet or secretary, a man by the name of Kasparson. This man was a former actor and adventurer, a brilliant fellow in his way, who spoke many languages and had been given to all sorts of studies. He was devoted to the Cardinal, but he seemed a curious Sancho Panza for the noble knight of the church.
The name of Hamilcar von Sehestedt was at that time famous all over Europe. He had been made a Cardinal three years before, when he was only seventy. He was a strange flower upon the old solid wood of the Sehestedt family tree. An old noble race of the province had lived for many hundred years for nothing but wars and their land, to produce him. The one remarkable thing about them was that they had stuck, through many trials, to the ancient Roman Catholic faith of the land. They had no mobility of spirit to change what they had once got into their heads.
The Cardinal had nine brothers and sisters, none of whom had shown any evidences of a spiritual life. It was as if some slowly gathered and quite unused store of intellectuality in the tribe had come out in this one child of it. Perhaps a woman, imported from outside, had dropped a thought into the blood of it before becoming altogether a Sehestedt, or some idea in a book had impressed itself upon a young boy before he had been taught that books and ideas mean nothing, and all this had mounted up.
The extraordinary talents of young Hamilcar had been recognized, not by his own people, but by his tutor, who had been tutor to the Crown Prince of Denmark himself. He succeeded in taking the boy off to Paris and Rome. Here this new light of genius suddenly flared up in a clear blaze, impossible to ignore.
There existed a tale of how the Pope himself, after the young priest had been presented to him, had seen in a dream how this youth had been set apart by providence to bring back the great Protestant countries under the Holy See. Still, the church had tried the young man severely, distrustful of many of the ideas and powers in him, of his visionary gift, and of the most striking feature of his nature: an immense capacity for pity which embraced not only the sinful and miserable but seemed to turn even toward the high and holy of the world.
Their severity did not hurt him; obedience was in his nature. To his great power of imagination he joined a deep love of law and order. Perhaps in the end these two sides of his nature came to the same thing: to him everything seemed possible, and equally likely to fall in with the beautiful and harmonious scheme of things.
The Pope himself, later, said of him: "If, after the destruction of our present world, I were to charge one human being with the construction of a new world, the only person whom I would trust with this work would be my young Hamilcar. The young Cardinal, after the church had handled him, came out a man of the world in the old sense of the word, but in a new and greater proportion. He moved with the same ease and grace amongst kings and outcasts.
He had been sent to the missionary monasteries of Mexico, and had had great influence with the Indian and half-caste tribes there. One thing about him impressed the world everywhere: wherever he went, it was believed of him that he could work miracles. At the time of his stay in Norderney the hardened and heavy coast people took to thinking strange things of him. After the flood it was said by many that he had been seen to walk upon the waves. He may have felt handicapped in this feat, for he was nearly killed at the very start of events.
When the fishermen from the hamlet, as the flood came on, ran to his assistance, they found his cottage already half a ruin. In the fall of it the man Kasparson had been killed. The Cardinal himself was badly wounded, and wore, all during his rescue work, a long, blood-stained bandage wound about his head. In spite of this the old man worked all day with undaunted courage with the ruined people.
The money that he had had with him he gave over to them. It was the first contribution to the funds which were afterward collected for the sufferers from all over Europe. Much greater still was the effect of his presence amongst them. He showed good knowledge of steering a boat.
They did not believe that any vessel holding him could go down. On his command they rowed straight in amongst fallen buildings, and the women jumped into the boats from the house roofs, their children in their arms. From time to time he spoke to them in a strong and clear voice, quoting to them the book of Job. Once or twice, when the boat, hit by heavy floating timbers, came near to capsizing, he rose and held out his hand, and as if he had a magic power of balance, the boat steadied itself.
Near a farmhouse a chained dog, on the top of its kennel, over which the sea was washing, pulled at its chain and howled, and seemed to have gone mad with fear. As one of the men tried to take hold of it, it bit him. The old Cardinal, turning the boat a little, spoke to the dog and loosened its chain.
The dog sprang into the boat. Whining, it squeezed itself against the old man's legs, and would not leave him. Many peasant households had been saved before anybody thought of the bath. This was strange, as the rich and gay life out there had played a big part in the minds of the population. But in the hour of danger old ties of blood and life were stronger than the new fascination. At the baths they would have light boats for pleasure trips, but few people who knew how to maneuver them. It was not till noon that the heavier boats were sent out, advancing fathom-high over the promenade.
The place where the boats unloaded, on their return landward, was a windmill which, built on a low slope and a half-circular bastion of big stones, gave them access to lay to. From the other side of it you could somehow move on by road. Here, at a distance, horses and carts had been brought up. The mill itself made a good landmark, her tall wings standing up, hard and grim, a tumbledown big black cross against a tawny sky. A crowd of people was collected here waiting for the boats. As they came in from the baths for the first time there were no tears of welcome and reunion, for these people they carried, luxuriously dressed even in their panic, with heavy caskets on their knees, were strangers.
The last boat brought news that there were still, out at Norderney, four or five persons for whom no place had been found in the boat. The tired boatmen looked at one another.
Short Stories 2
They knew the tide and high sea out there, and they thought: We will not go. Cardinal Hamilcar was standing in a group of women and children, with his back to the men, but as if he could read their hardening faces and hearts he became silent. He turned and looked at the newly arrived party. Even he seemed to tarry. Below the white bandages his eyes rested on them with a singular, a mysterious expression. He had not eaten all day; now he asked for something to drink, and they brought him a jug of the spirits of the province. Turning once more toward the water he said quietly, Eh bien.
Allons, allons. The words were strange to the peasants, for they were terms used by the coachmen of the nobility, trained abroad, for their teams of four horses. As he walked down to the boat, and the people from the bath dispersed before him, some of the ladies suddenly and wildly clapped their hands. They meant no harm. Knowing heroism only from the stage, they gave it the stage's applause. But the old man whom they applauded stopped under it for a moment. He bowed his head a little, with an exquisite irony, in the manner of a hero upon the stage. His limbs were so stiff that he had to be supported and lifted into the boat.
It was not till late on Thursday afternoon that the boat was again on its way back. A dead darkness had all day been lying upon the wide landscape. As far as the eye reached, what had been an undulating range of land was now nothing but an immense gray plane, alarmingly alive. Nothing seemed to be firm. To the crushed hearts of the men rowing over their cornfields and meadows, this movableness of what had been their foundation and foothold was unbearable, and they turned their eyes away from it. The clouds hung low upon the water. The small boat, moving heavily, seemed to be advancing upon a narrow horizontal course, squeezed in between the mass of weight below and what appeared to be a mass of weight above it.
The four people lately rescued from the ruins of Norderney sat, white as corpses, in the stern. The first of them was old Miss Nat-og-Dag, a maiden lady of great wealth, the last of the old illustrious race which carried arms two-parted in black and white, and whose name meant "Night and Day.
She had with her a girl of sixteen, the Countess Calypso von Platen Hallermund, the niece of the scholar and poet of that name. These two ladies, although they behaved in the midst of danger with great self-control, gave nevertheless that impression of wildness which, within a peaceful age and society, only the vanishing and decaying aristocracy can afford to maintain. To the rescuing party it was as if they had taken into the boat two tigresses, one old and one young, the cub quite wild, the old one only the more dangerous for having the appearance of being tamed.
Neither of them was in the least afraid. While we are young the idea of death or failure is intolerable to us; even the possibility of ridicule we cannot bear. But we have also an unconquerable faith in our own stars, and in the impossibility of anything venturing to go against us. As we grow old we slowly come to believe that everything will turn out badly for us, and that failure is in the nature of things; but then we do not much mind what happens to us one way or the other.
In this way a balance is obtained. Miss Malin Nat-og-Dag, while perfectly indifferent to what should become of her, was also, because of the derangement of her mind, joining, to this advantage of her age, the privilege of youth, that simple and arrogant optimism which takes for granted that nothing can go wrong with it. It is even doubtful whether she believed that she could die. The girl of sixteen, pressed close to her, her dusky tresses loosened and blown about her, was taking in everything around her with ecstasy: the faces of her companions, the movements of the boat, the terrible, dull-brownish hue of the water below her, and was imagining herself to be a great divinity of the sea.
The fourth was Miss Malin's maid, who lay in the bottom of the boat, too terrified to lift her face from the knees of her mistress. These four people, so lately snatched out of the jaws of death, had not yet escaped his hold. As their boat, on its way landward, passed at a little distance the scattered buildings of a farm, of which only the roofs and upper parts of the walls appeared above the water, they caught sight of human beings making signs to them from the loft of one of these buildings.
The peasant boatmen were surprised, for they were certain that a barge had been sent to this place earlier in the day. Under the commanding glances of young Calypso, who had caught sight of children amongst the castaways, they changed their direction, and with difficulty approached the house. As they were drawing near, a small granary, of which only the roof was visible, suddenly gave in, fell, and disappeared noiselessly before their eyes. For a moment he tried to follow the dispersing bits of wreckage with his eyes.
Then he sat down again, very pale. The boat grated along the wall of the farmhouse and at last found a holdfast in a projecting beam, which made it possible for them to communicate with the people in the hayloft. They found there two women, one old and one young, a boy of sixteen, and two small children, and learned that they had been visited by the rescuing barge about three hours before.
But they had profited by it only to send off their cow and calf, and a small collection of poor farm goods, heroically remaining themselves with the rising waters around them. The old woman had even been offered a place in the barge, with the animals, but she had refused to leave her daughter and grandchildren.
The boat could not possibly hold an additional load of five persons, and it had to be decided quickly who of the passengers should change places with the family of the farmhouse. Those who were left in the loft would have to remain there till the boat could return. Since it was already growing dark, and there was no chance of bringing a boat along until dawn, this would mean a wait of six or seven hours.
The question was whether the house would hold out for so long. The Cardinal, rising up in his fluttering dark cloak, said that he would stay in the loft. At these words the people in the boat were thrown into dark despair. They were afraid to come back without him. The boatmen let go their hold on the oars, laid their hands on him, and implored him to stay with them. But he would hear nothing, and explained to them that he would be as much in the hand of God here as anywhere else, even though perhaps under a different finger, and that it might have been for this that he had been sent out on this last journey.
They saw that they could do nothing with him, and resigned themselves to their fate. Miss Malin then quickly pronounced herself determined to keep him company in the hayloft, and the girl would not leave her old friend. At the last moment Miss Malin's maid cried out that she would not leave her mistress, and the men were already lifting her from the bottom of the boat when her mistress cast upon her the sort of glance by which you judge whether a person is likely to make a satisfactory fourth at a game of cards.
Besides, you are probably in the family way, and so must hold onto futurity, my poor girl. Good night, Mariechen. It was not easy for the women to get from the boat into the loft. Miss Malin, though, was thin and strong, and the men lifted her and placed her in the doorway as one would plant a scarecrow in a field. The small and light girl followed her as lithely as a cat. The black dog, on seeing the Cardinal leave the boat, whined loudly and suddenly jumped from the rail to the loft, and the young girl hauled it in. It was now high time for the peasant family to get into the boat, but they would not go before they had, loudly weeping, kissed the hands of their relievers and piled blessings upon them.
The old woman insisted on handing over to them a small stable lantern with a couple of spare tallow candles, a jug of water, and a keg of gin, together with a loaf of the hard black bread which the peasants of the Westerlands make. The men in the boat shoved off, and in a moment a belt of brown water lay between the house and the boat. From the door of the hayloft the derelicts watched the boat withdraw, very slowly, for it was heavily laden, across the heaving plane. The branches of tall poplars near the house floated upon the surface of the water and were washed about violently with it.
The dark sky, which all day had lain like a leaden lid upon the world, suddenly colored deep down in the west, as if the lid had been lifted a little there, to a flaming red that was reflected in the sea below. All faces in the boat were turned toward the loft, and when they were nearly out of sight they lifted their arms in a farewell greeting. The Cardinal, standing in the doorway of the loft, solemnly raised his arms to them in a blessing.
Miss Malin waved a little handkerchief. Soon the boat, fading from their sight, became one with the sea and the air. As if they had been four marionettes, pulled by the same wire, the four people turned their faces to one another. Miss Malin, always inclined toward a bright view of things, found herself satisfied with her partners. The Cardinal gave expression to these thoughts. The old man stood for a little while in deep silence, as if it took him time to get used again to the steadiness of a house, after a day spent in boats upon the restless seas, and to an atmosphere of comparative quiet after long hours of incessant danger--for nothing was likely to happen here at the moment--to get used, also, after his work with the broken-hearted peasants and fishermen around him, to the company of his equals.
Slowly his manner changed from that of a commander to that of a convive. He smiled at his companions. I am looking forward to what hours I shall, under the favor of God, spend with you here. Madame," he said to Miss Malin, "I am not surprised at your gallantry, for I know about your race. It was a Nat-og-Dag who, at Warberg, when the King's horse was shot under him, jumped from his own horse and handed it to the King, with the words: 'To the King, my horse; to the enemy, my life; to the Lord, my soul.
Here," he said, looking around him at the loft, "I may say it: Blessed are the pure in blood, for they shall see" He paused, reflecting upon his theme. For this moment here, for us, our fathers were brought up, through the centuries, in skill of arms and loyalty to their king; and our mothers, in virtue. He could have said nothing which would better have strengthened and inspired the hearts of the women, who were both fierce devils in racial pride.
Nevertheless he said nothing. They closed the door of the loft, but as it was hanging loose, and kept knocking about, the Cardinal asked the women if they could not find something with which to tie it fast. The girl felt for the ribbon which had tied her hair, but it had blown away. Miss Malin then gracefully lifted her petticoat and took off a long garter, embroidered with rosebuds. On that account the sister of this ribbon, which is now being sanctified by your holy hand, lies in the vault of the Royal Mausoleum of Stuttgart. Pray do not talk or think in that way.
Nothing sanctifies, nothing, indeed, is sanctified, except by the play of the Lord, which is alone divine. You speak like a person who would pronounce half of the notes of the scale--say, do , re and mi --to be sacred, but fa , sol , la , and si to be only profane, while, Madame, no one of the notes is sacred in itself, and it is the music, which can be made out of them, which is alone divine.
If your garter be sanctified by my feeble old hand, so is my hand by your fine silk garter. The lion lies in wait for the antelope at the ford, and the antelope is sanctified by the lion, as is the lion by the antelope, for the play of the Lord is divine. Not the bishop, or the knight, or the powerful castle is sacred in itself, but the game of chess is a noble game, and therein the knight is sanctified by the bishop, as the bishop by the queen.
Neither would it be an advantage if the bishop were ambitious to acquire the higher virtues of the queen, or the castle, those of the bishop. So are we sanctified when the hand of the Lord moves us to where he wants us to be. Here he may be about to play a fine game with us, and in that game I shall be sanctified by you, as you by any of us. When the door of the loft was closed, the place became dark, but the little lantern on the floor shed a gentle light.
The loft looked like a home to the hearts of the derelicts. It was as if they had lived here a long time. The farmers had lately harvested their hay, and half the loft was stacked with it. It smelled very sweet and made a clean and soft seat. The Cardinal, who was very tired, soon sank down into it, his long cloak spread around him on the floor. Miss Malin faced him from the opposite side of the lantern. The young girl sat next to her, her legs crossed, like a small oriental idol. The boy, when at last he sat down with them, took a seat upon a ladder which lay on the floor, and which raised him a little above the others.
The dog kept close to the Cardinal. Sitting up, its ears back, from time to time it seemed, in a deep movement, to swallow its fear and loneliness. In these positions the party remained for most of the night. Indeed, the Cardinal and Miss Malin kept theirs, as will be heard, until the first light of dawn. All their shadows, thrown away in a circle from the center of the stable lamp, reached up to the rafters under the roof. In the course of the night it often seemed as if it were these long shadows which were really alive, and which kept up the spirit and the talk of the gathering, behind the exhausted people.
As we want to feel like this tonight, I pray that you will be our hostess, and transfer your talents to this loft. Miss Malin at once fell in with his suggestion and took command of the place. Some people manage to loll upon a throne; Miss Malin, on the contrary, sat in the hay as upon one of those tabourets which are amongst the privileges of duchesses. She made Jonathan cut up the bread and hand it around, and to her companions, who had had no food all day, the hard black crusts held the fragrance of the cornfields. In the course of the night she and the Cardinal, who were old and faint, drank between them most of the gin in the keg.
The two young people did not touch it. She had, straight away, more than she had asked for in the task of making her companions comfortable, for hardly had the Cardinal spoken when he fell down in a dead faint. The women, who dared not loosen the bandages around his head, sprinkled them with water out of the jar. When he first recovered he stared wildly at them, and put his hands to his head, but as he regained consciousness he gently apologized for the trouble he had given them, adding that he had had a fatiguing day.
He seemed, however, somehow changed after his recovery, as if weaker than before, and, as if handing some of his leadership and responsibility to Miss Malin, he kept close to her. It has been said that she was a little off her head. Still, to the people who knew her well, it sometimes seemed open to doubt whether she was not mad by her own choice, or from some caprice of hers, for she was a capricious woman. Neither had she always been mad. She had even been a woman of great sense, who studied philosophy, and held human passions in scorn. If Miss Malin had now been given the choice of returning to her former reasonable state, and had been capable of realizing the meaning of the offer, she might have declined it on the ground that you have in reality more fun out of life when a little off your head.
Miss Malin was now a rich woman, but she had not always been that, either. She had grown up an orphan girl in the house of rich relations. Her proud old name she had always had, also her very proud big nose. She had been brought up by a pious governess, of the sect of the Hernhuten, who thought much of female virtue. In those days a woman's being had one center of gravity, and life was simpler to her on this account than it has been later on. Indeed, the higher a young woman could drive up the price individually, the greater was her state of holiness, and it was far better that it should be said of her that for her sake many men had been made unhappy, than that she should have made many men happy.
Miss Malin, urged on by her disposition as well as her education, ran amuck a little in her relation to the doctrine. She took the line, not only of defense, but of a most audacious offensive. Fantastical by nature, she saw no reason for temperance, and drove up her price fantastically high. In fact, in regard to the high valuation of her own body she became the victim of a kind of megalomania. Sigrid the Haughty, the ancient Queen of Norway, summoned to her all her suitors amongst the minor kings of the country, and then put fire to the house and burned them all up, declaring that in this way she would teach the petty kings of Norway to come and woo her.
Malin might have done the same with an equally good conscience. She had taken to heart what her governess had read her out of the Bible, that "whoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart," and she had made herself the female counterpart of the conscientious young male of the Gospel. A man's desire for her was to her, as probably to Queen Sigrid, a deadly impertinence, and as grave an offense as an attempted rape.
She showed but little feminine esprit de corps , and appeared not to consider in the least that it would have been hard on the honest young women in general if the principle had been carried through, since their whole field of action lay between the two ideas, and, by amalgamating them, you would put as quick an end to their activity as you would to that of a concertina player by folding up the concertina and hooking its two end pieces together.
She cut a slightly pathetic figure, as do all people who, in this world, take the words of Scripture au pied de la lettre. But she did not at all mind what sort of figure she cut. In her youth, however, this fanatical virgin cut no mean figure in society, for she was highly talented and brilliant.
Though not beautiful, she had the higher gift of seeming so, and in society she played the part of a belle when far lovelier women were left unattended. The homage that she received she took as the natural tribute to a Nat-og-Dag, and she was not insensitive to flatteries which concerned her spirit and courage, or her rare gifts for music and dancing.
She even chose her friends mostly amongst men, and thought women a little stupid. But she was at the same time ever on the outlook, like a fighting bull for a red cloth, or a crusader for the sign of the half-moon, for any sign of the eye of lust, in order to annihilate the owner without pity. Yet Miss Malin had not escaped the common fate of human beings. She had her romance. When she was twenty-seven, already an old maid, she decided to marry after all. In this position she felt like a very tall bitch surrounded by small yapping lap dogs. She was still prepared to burn up the petty kings who might come to woo her, but she picked out her choice.
So did Queen Sigrid, who swooped down on the Christian hero, Olav Trygveson, and in the saga can be read the tragic outcome of the meeting of these two proud hearts. Malin, for her part, picked out Prince Ernest Theodore of Anhalt. This young man was the idol of his time. Of the highest birth and enormously rich, since his mother had been a grand duchess of Russia, he was also handsome as an angel, a bel-esprit , and a lion of Judah as a soldier.
He had even a noble heart, and no frivolity in his nature, so that when, to the right and left of him, fair women died from love of him, he grieved. With all this he was an observer; he saw things. One day he saw Miss Malin, and for some time saw little else. This young man had obtained everything in life--and women in particular--too cheaply. Beauty, talents, charm, virtue had been his for the lifting of his little finger.
About Miss Malin there was nothing striking but the price. That this thin, big-nosed, penniless girl, two years older than he, would demand not only his princely name and a full share in his brilliant future, but also his prostrate adoration, his life-long fidelity, and subjection in life and death and could be had for nothing less,--this impressed the young Prince. Some people have an unconquerable love of riddles.
They may have the chance of listening to plain sense, or to such wisdom as explains life; but no, they must go and work their brains over a riddle, just because they do not understand what it means. That the solution is most likely silly in itself makes no difference to those possessed by this particular passion. Prince Ernest had this mentality, and, even from his childhood, would sit for days lost in riddles and puzzles--a pastime which, in his case, was taken as a proof of high intellectuality.
When, therefore, he found this hard nut to crack, the more easily solved beauties faded before his eyes. So nervous was Prince Ernest about this first risk of refusal which he had taken in his life--and God knows whether he most dreaded or coveted it--that he did not propose to Malin Nat-og-Dag until the very last evening before he was to depart for the war. A fortnight later he was killed upon the battle field of Jena, and he was clasping in his hand a small gold locket with a curl of fair hair in it.
Many lovely blondes found comfort in the thought of this locket. None knew that amongst all the riches of silken tresses that had weighed him down, only this lock from an old maid's head had been to him a wing feather of a Walkyrie, lifting him from the ground. If Malin had been a Roman Catholic she would have gone into a nunnery after the battle of Jena, to save, if not her soul, at least her self-respect, for, say what you will, no maiden makes such a brilliant match as she who becomes the bride of the Lord.
But being a good Protestant, with a leaning toward the teachings of the Hernhuten, she just took up her cross and carried it gallantly. That nobody in the world knew of her tragedy fell in well with her opinion of other people, namely, that they never did know anything of any importance. She gave up all thought of marriage. At the age of fifty she came unexpectedly into a very great fortune. There were people who understood her so little as to believe that it was this that went to her head and caused there the confounding of fact and fantasy.
It was not so. She would not have been in the least upset by finding herself in possession of the treasures of the Grand Turk. What changed her was what changes all women at fifty: the transfer from the active service of life--with a pension or the honors of war, as the case may be--to the mere passive state of a looker-on. A weight fell away from her; she flew up to a higher perch and cackled a little. Her fortune helped her only in so far as it provided the puff of air under her wings that enabled her to fly a little higher and cackle a little louder, although it also did away with all criticism from her surroundings.
In her laughter of liberation there certainly was a little madness. This madness took, as already said, the curious form of a firm faith in a past of colossal licentiousness. She believed herself to have been the grand courtesan of her time, if not the great whore of the Revelation. She took her fortune, her house, and her jewels as the wages of sin, collected in her long career of falls, and because of this she was extremely generous with her money, considering that what had been frivolously gathered must be frivolously spent.
She could not open her mouth without referring to her days of debauchery. Even Prince Ernest Theodore, the chaste young lover whom she had refused even a parting kiss, figured in her waxwork collection as a victim of her siren's arts and ferocity. It is doubtful whether any spectacle can be enjoyed in the same way by those people who may, after all, run a risk of becoming part of it and by those who are by circumstance entirely cut off from any such possibility. The Emperor of Rome himself might, after a particularly exciting show, see the trident and the net in a nightmare.
But the Vestal Virgins would lie on their marble couches and, with the knowledge of connoisseurs, go over every detail in the fight, and imagine themselves in the place of their favorite gladiator. In the same way it is unlikely that even the most pious old lady would attend the trial and burning of a witch with quite the untroubled mind of the male audience around the stake. No young woman could, even from a nun's cell, have thrown herself into the imaginary excesses of Miss Malin without fear and trembling. But the old woman, who had seen to her safety, could dive down into any abyss of corruption with the grace of a crested grebe.
Faithful by nature, she stuck to the point of view of her youth with regard to the Gospel's words concerning adultery. She had the word of the Bible for it that a multitude of young men had indeed committed it with her. But she resolutely turned them inside out, as a woman will a frock the colors of which have disappointed her by fading. She was the catoptric image of the great repenting sinner whose sins are made white as wool, and was here taking a genuine pleasure in dyeing the pretty lamb's wool of her life in sundry fierce dyes.
In all her fantasies she was her own heroine, and she ran through the spheres of the seven deadly sins with the ecstasy of a little boy who gallops through the great races of the world upon his rocking-horse. No danger could possibly put fear into her, nor any anguish of conscience spoil her peace. If there was one person of whom she spoke with contempt it was the Mary Magdalene of the Gospel, who could no better carry the burden of her sweet sins than to retire to the desert of Libya in the company of a skull.
She herself carried the weight of hers with the skill of an athlete, and was up to playing a graceful game of bilboquet with it. Her face itself changed under her great spiritual revolution, and at the time when other women resort to rouge and belladonna, her lenience with human weakness produced in her a heightened color and sweet brilliancy of eye.
She was nearer to being a pretty woman than she had ever been before. Like a witch she had always looked, but in her second childhood her appearance had more of the wicked fairy of the children's tales than of the Medusa, the revenging angel with her flaming sword who had held her own against Prince Ernest. She had preserved her elfin leanness and lightness, and as for her skill as a dancer, she might still be the belle of any great ball. The little cloven hoof beneath was now daintily gilded, like that of Esmeralda's goat itself. It was in this glow of mild madness and second youth that she now sat, marooned in the hayloft of the peasant's barn, conversing vivaciously with the Cardinal Hamilcar.
When the ladies of the court came to him to have their portraits painted--for he was much sought by such fair women who wanted their beauty immortalized--how many times have I not heard him tell them: 'Wash your faces, Mesdames. Take the powder, rouge, and kohl off them. For if you will paint your faces yourselves I cannot paint you. It has seemed to me that this is what the Lord is continually telling the too weak and vain mortals: 'Wash your faces. For if you will do the painting of them yourselves, laying on humility and renunciation, charity and chastity one inch thick, I can do nothing about them.
But we will seek comfort in the thought that there is no higher honor or happiness for us than this: to have our portraits painted by the hand of the Lord. That alone is what we have ever longed for and named immortality. Seeing that the face of the speaker was covered with blood-stained bandages, Miss Malin was about to make a remark, but she restrained herself, for she did not know what lasting disfigurements of a noble presence they might conceal.
The Cardinal understood her thought and expressed it with a smile. But have we not been taught of the cleansing power of blood? Madame, I know now that it is stronger even than we thought. And perhaps my face needed it. Who, but the Lord, knows what rouge and powder I have put on it in the course of seventy years? Verily, Madame, in these bandages I feel that I am nearer to posing for my portrait by him than I ever have been before.
Miss Malin blushed slightly at being detected in a lack of tact, and nimbly put back the conversation a little, as one sets back a clock. But as to this divine portrait of me, which is, I suppose, to be hung in the galleries of heaven, when I myself am dead and gone--allow me to say, My Lord, that here my ideas differ from yours a little. I have seen the master himself strike the face of a great French painter with a badger's-hair brush full of cadmium, because they disagreed about the laws of perspective. Impart to me your views, Madame. I may learn from you.
It is a strange, a most original, idea of yours, My Lord. Why, he knows it already, and may even have found it a little bit dull. Truth is for tailors and shoemakers, My Lord. I, on the contrary, have always held that the Lord has a penchant for masquerades. Do you not yourself tell us, my lords spiritual, that our trials are really blessings in disguise? And so they are. I, too, have found them to be so, at midnight, at the hour when the mask falls.
But at the same time nobody can deny that they have been dressed up by the hand of an unrivaled expert. The Lord himself--with your permission--seems to me to have been masquerading pretty freely at the time when he took on flesh and dwelt amongst us. Indeed, had I been the hostess of the wedding of Cana, I might have resented the feat a little--I might, I tell you, My Lord--had I there asked that brilliant youth, the carpenter's son, in order to give him a treat on my best Berncastler Doktor, and he had, at the moment when it suited him, changed pure water into a far finer vintage!
And still the lady did not know, of course, of what things he was really capable, being God Almighty. Ah, ah! Your truth comes out quite early enough'--under your favor, My Lord--'and that is the end of the game. Surely, that is a divine quality; and what is it but deceit on principle? Since here a youth and a maiden are present, you and I, who have observed life from the best of observatories--you from the confessional, and I from the alcove--will take pains to disregard the truth; we will talk only of legs.
I can tell you, then, that you may divide all women according to the beauty of their legs. Those who have pretty legs, and who know the concealed truth to be sweeter than all illusions, are the truly gallant women, who look you in the face, who have the genuine courage of a good conscience. But if they took to wearing trousers, where would their gallantry be?
The young men of our days, who wear tight trousers which oblige them to keep two valets for drawing them on, one for each leg". They may have the facts of life on their side, while the legs of the women, under their petticoats, are ideas. But the people who go forth on ideas are the ones who have the true heroism.
For it is the consciousness of hidden power which gives courage. But I beg your pardon, My Lord, for speaking so long. I have profited by your speech. But it has not convinced me that you and I are not really of one mind. This world of ours is like the children's game of bread and cheese; there is always something underneath--truth, deceit; truth, deceit! When the Caliph masqueraded as one of his own poor subjects, all his hidden splendor could not have saved the jest from being in pretty poor taste, had he not had beneath it a fraternal heart for his poor people.
Likewise, when our Lord did, for some thirty years, masquerade as a son of man, there would have been no really good sense in the thing had he not had, after all, a humane heart, and even, Madame, a sympathy with lovers of good wine. The witty woman, Madame, chooses for her carnival costume one which ingeniously reveals something in her spirit or heart which the conventions of her everyday life conceal; and when she puts on the hideous long-nosed Venetian mask, she tells us, not only that she has a classic nose behind it, but that she has much more, and may well be adored for things other than her mere beauty.
So speaketh the Arbiter of the masquerade: 'By thy mask I shall know thee. And what a moment! Oh, Madame, it will not be too much to have waited for it a million years. Heaven will ring and resound with laughter, pure and innocent as that of a child, clear as that of a bride, triumphant as that of a faithful warrior who lays down the enemy's banners at his sovereign's feet, or who is at last lifted from the dungeon and the chains, cleared of his slanderer's calumnies!
It will be soon midnight. Let it be the hour of the falling of the mask. If it be not your mask, or mine, which is to fall, let it be the mask of fate and life. Death we may soon have to face, without any mask. In the meantime we have nothing to do but to remember what life be really like. Come, Madame, and my young brother and sister! As we shall not be able to sleep, and are still comfortably seated here, tell me who you are, and recount to me your stories without restraint. Thus, I believe, some proud building of your life has fallen, and has gone to pieces under your eyes.
Tell us which it was. You are, perhaps, a partisan of the revolutionary ideas of your generation. Do not imagine, then, that I am a stranger to those theories. I am indeed more closely in touch with them than you could know. But should we let any discrepancy in politics separate our hearts at this hour? Come, I shall Speak to you in your own words: And now abideth liberty, equality, fraternity, these three, but the greatest of these is fraternity. But who more than the bastard needs to cry out to ask who he is?
So have faith in us. Tell us now, before morning, the story of your life. The young man, whose countenance had all the time been stamped with the loneliness which is the hallmark of true melancholy, at these words looked up into the Cardinal's face. The great dignity of manner of the old man had impressed the others from the moment they came into his presence. Now the boy was fascinated by the strange lucidity of his eyes. For a few moments the two looked intensely at each other. The color rose in the pale cheeks of the young man. He drew a deep sigh.
Perhaps I shall understand it all better when I can, at last, give words to it. They even gave me a name. They called me Timon of Assens. And they were right in so far as I do indeed come from Assens, which is, as you may know, a small seaport town on the island of Funen. I never, indeed, thought that anything at all might occupy itself with me. It seemed to me that it was, on the contrary, my task to look after the world. My father sailed, and for many summers I sailed with him, and came to Portugal and Greece. When we were on the sea, the ship and the cargo had to be looked after by us, and to both of us they seemed the important things in the world.
Although I have for some time moved in the highest society, I never have seen her equal either in looks or in manners. But she kept no company with the other skippers' wives, and never went to other people's houses. While I was with her I held the belief that the plants, flowers, and insects of the world were the really important things in it, and that human beings were here only to look after them. Our days were filled with nothing but innocence and pleasure.
Miss Malin, who had been listening attentively, always keen for any kind of narrative, here interrupted the narrator, sighing a little. Mais moi je n'aime pas les plaisirs innocents. He was to have been a parson, but he got into some trouble and never succeeded, but when he was a student in Copenhagen he was a tutor in many great houses. He always took a great interest in me, but though I admired him I never felt quite well in his company. He was very sharp, like a razor; you did not come away from him without having cut your fingers a little, although at the moment you might not feel it.
When I was about sixteen he told my father that I ought to come with him to Copenhagen, to study under the learned people that he knew there, for he thought me a very brilliant boy. It seemed to me that there was nothing but people there. They did not care for me, either.
When I had talked to them for a little they generally walked away. But after a while my interest was caught by the expansive hothouses and nurseries of the royal palaces and of the great noblemen. Amongst these the most renowned were those of Baron Joachim von Gersdorff, who was High Steward of Denmark, and himself a great botanist, who had traveled all over Europe, India, Africa, and America and collected rare plants everywhere.
He came of a Russian family, and his wealth was such as is otherwise unknown in Denmark. He was a poet and musician, a diplomat, a seducer of women, even then, when he was an old man. Still, all this was not what caught your mind about the man. But it was this: that he was a man of fashion. Or you might say that fashion itself was only, in Copenhagen at least, the footman of Baron Gersdorff. Whatever he did at once became the thing for everybody to do. Oh, I do not want to describe the man. You will know, I think, what a man of fashion means. I have learned it.
Such a man was he. Rasmus presented me to him, and he greeted me in a very friendly way, and offered to show me the whole place, which he did with much patience and benevolence. After that day I nearly always found him there. He took me on to write a catalogue for his cactus house. We spent many days together in that hot glasshouse. I liked him much, because he had seen so much of the world, and could tell me about the flowers and insects of it. At times I noticed that my presence moved him strangely. One afternoon, as I was reading to him a treatise upon the mouth of the tube of the Epiphyllum, I saw that he had shut his eyes.
He took my hand and held it, and as I finished he looked up and said: 'What am I to give you, Jonathan, as a finder's fee? He told me that I had a remarkably sweet voice, and asked me to let him arrange for Monsieur Dupuy to give me singing lessons. I had been taught to sing by my mother. When I was in Rome there was a boy named Mario in the choir of the Jesu, who had a voice like an angel.
The Pope himself told me to go and hear him, and I was well aware why, for he was hoping to convert me to Rome, and thought that this golden angel's song might break down all my resistance. From my pew I saw the Pope himself burst into tears when, like a swan taking the wing, this Mario lifted up his voice in Carissimi's immortal recitative: 'Get thee behind me, Satan! Two days later he was wickedly poisoned by three cantharide pills. I do not hold with popery, but I admit that he was a fine figure of a Pope, and died like a man. And so you had your lessons, and became a virtuoso, Monsieur Jonathan?
And as I was always very fond of music I worked hard and made good progress. At the beginning of the third winter the Baron, who by this time never seemed to like to part with me, took me around to the great houses of his friends and made me sing for them. When I had first come to Copenhagen I used to stand outside the great houses on winter evenings, to see the flowers and chandeliers in the halls, and the young women as they got out of their carriages.
Now I went in everywhere myself, and the ladies, old and young, were as kind to me as if I had been their child or young brother. I was very happy. I thought: How foolish those people are who tell you that the great people of the towns love nothing but riches and worldly honors. All these ladies and great gentlemen love music as much as I do--yes, more--and forget everything else for it, and what a great thing is the love of the beautiful.
Her mother made us pose together in a charade, as Orpheus and Euridice. All that winter was very much like a dream, for do you not sometimes dream that you can sing whatever note you like, and run up and down the whole scale, like the angels on Jacob's ladder? I sometimes dream that even now. I fell ill, and as I was getting well the court physician, who was attending me, told me that I had lost my voice and that I had no hope of getting it back.
While I was still in bed I was much worried by this, not only by the loss of my voice itself, but by the thought of how I should now disappoint and lose my friends, and how sad my life would now become. I was even shedding tears about it when Rasmus Petersen came to see me. I opened my heart to him, to get his sympathy in my distress. He had to get up from his chair and pretend to look out of the window to hide his laughter. I thought it heartless of him, and did not say any more to him. I held that you were indeed the simpleton you look, which nobody else would believe.
They think that you are a shrewd boy. It will not make the slightest difference in the world to you that you have lost that voice of yours. I think I grew pale, even though his words cheered me. I guessed as much, before I ever brought you to his hothouses, from looking at a portrait of him as a child, in which he also has the head of an angel. When he knew it himself he was more pleased than I have ever seen him. He said: "I have never had a child in my life. It seems very curious to me that I should have got one. Still, I believe this boy to be indeed the son of my body, and I shall reward him for that.
But should I find that my soul is going to live on, in him--as God liveth I will legitimatize him, and leave him all that I own. They have been watching you all the time to see if the soul of Baron Gersdorff was showing itself in you, in which case you would be the richest man, and the best match, Jonathan, in all northern Europe. I have never in my life written a line without imagining myself in the place of some poet or other that I know of. I have written poems in the manner of Horace or Lamartine. Likewise I am not capable of writing a love letter to a woman without representing to myself in my own mind either Lovelace, the Corsaire or Eugene Onegine.
The ladies have been flattered, adored, and seduced by all the heroes of Chateaubriand and Lord Byron in turn. There is nothing that I have ever done unconsciously, without knowing well what I did. But this boy, this Jonathan, I have really made without thinking of it. He is bound to be, not any figure out of Firdousi, or even Oehlenschlaeger, but a true and genuine work of Joachim Gersdorff.
That is a curious thing, a very curious thing, for Joachim Gersdorff to be watching. That is a phenomenon of extreme importance to Joachim Gersdorff. Let him but show me what a Joachim Gersdorff is in reality, and no reward of mine shall be too great. Riches, houses, jewels, women, wines, and the honors of the land shall be his for it. Such a strong feeling I had never, in all my life, experienced. But I might have found refuge from that shame in my own heart, for in a way I loved the man. For the shame which I now felt it seemed to me that there was no refuge anywhere.
Upon the very bottom of my soul, I felt, and that for the first time in my life, the eyes of all the world.