To Vita Sakville-West

     The cover of the first edition of the book with a portrait of Vita

     Many friends have helped me  in writing this book. Some are dead and so
illustrious that  I scarcely dare name  them, yet no one can read  or  write
without being perpetually  in the debt of  Defoe, Sir Thomas Browne, Sterne,
Sir Walter Scott, Lord Macaulay, Emily Bronte, De Quincey, and Walter Pater,
to name the first that come to mind. Others are alive, and though perhaps as
illustrious in their own way, are less formidable for that very reason. I am
specially indebted to Mr C.P. Sanger,  without whose knowledge of the law of
real  property this book  could never have been  written. Mr Sydney Turner's
wide and peculiar erudition has saved me,  I hope, some lamentable blunders.
I have  had  the advantage - how great I  alone can estimate -  of Mr Arthur
Waley's knowledge of Chinese. Madame Lopokova (Mrs J.M. Keynes) has been  at
hand to correct my Russian. To the unrivalled sympathy and imagination of Mr
Roger Fry I owe whatever understanding of the art of painting I may possess.
I  have,   I  hope,  profited   in  another  department  by  the  singularly
penetrating,  if severe, criticism of my nephew  Mr  Julian Bell.  Miss M.K.
Snowdon's  indefatigable  researches  in   the  archives  of  Harrogate  and
Cheltenham  were none  the less arduous  for being vain. Other friends  have
helped me  in ways too various to specify. I must content myself with naming
Mr Angus  Davidson;  Mrs Cartwright;  Miss Janet Case; Lord  Berners  (whose
knowledge  of Elizabethan  music has proved invaluable); Mr Francis Birrell;
my  brother, Dr Adrian Stephen; Mr F.L. Lucas; Mr and Mrs Desmond Maccarthy;
that most  inspiriting of critics, my brother-in-law, Mr Clive Bell; Mr G.H.
Rylands; Lady Colefax; Miss Nellie Boxall; Mr J.M. Keynes;  Mr Hugh Walpole;
Miss Violet Dickinson; the Hon.  Edward  Sackville-West; Mr and Mrs St. John
Hutchinson; Mr Duncan Grant; Mr and Mrs Stephen Tomlin; Mr and Lady Ottoline
Morrell;  my mother-in-law, Mrs  Sydney  Woolf;  Mr Osbert  Sitwell;  Madame
Jacques Raverat; Colonel Cory  Bell; Miss Valerie  Taylor; Mr J.T. Sheppard;
Mr and  Mrs T.S. Eliot;  Miss  Ethel Sands; Miss  Nan Hudson;  my nephew  Mr
Quentin  Bell  (an  old  and  valued  collaborator in fiction);  Mr  Raymond
Mortimer; Lady Gerald Wellesley; Mr Lytton Strachey; the Viscountess  Cecil;
Miss  Hope Mirrlees; Mr  E.M. Forster; the  Hon.  Harold  Nicolson;  and  my
sister, Vanessa  Bell -  but  the list  threatens to grow  too long  and  is
already  far too distinguished.  For  while it rouses in me memories  of the
pleasantest kind  it  will inevitably wake expectations in the reader  which
the  book itself can only disappoint. Therefore I will conclude by  thanking
the officials  of the British  Museum  and Record  Office for  their  wonted
courtesy;  my niece Miss  Angelica Bell, for  a service  which none  but she
could  have  rendered;  and my husband for  the patience  with which he  has
invariably helped my researches and for the profound historical knowledge to
which these pages  owe whatever degree of accuracy they may attain. Finally,
I would thank, had I not  lost his name and address, a gentleman in America,
who  has generously and gratuitously corrected the punctuation, the  botany,
the entomology, the geography, and the chronology  of previous works of mine
and will, I hope, not spare his services on the present occasion.
     0x01 graphic

     He - for there could be no doubt of  his sex, though the fashion of the
time did something to disguise it - was in the act of slicing at the head of
a Moor which swung from  the  rafters. It was the colour of an old football,
and  more or less the shape of one, save for the sunken  cheeks and a strand
or two of coarse, dry hair,  like the hair on a cocoanut.  Orlando's father,
or perhaps his grandfather, had struck it from the shoulders of a vast Pagan
who had started up under the moon in the barbarian fields of Africa; and now
it  swung,  gently, perpetually, in  the  breeze which never  ceased blowing
through the attic rooms of the gigantic house of the lord who had slain him.
     Orlando's fathers  had ridden in fields  of asphodel, and stony fields,
and fields watered by strange rivers, and they had struck many heads of many
colours off many shoulders, and brought them back to hang from  the rafters.
So too would Orlando, he vowed. But since he was sixteen only, and too young
to  ride with them in Africa or France, he  would steal away from his mother
and the peacocks in the garden and go to his attic room and there  lunge and
plunge and slice the air with his blade. Sometimes he cut the  cord  so that
the skull bumped on the floor and he had to string it up again, fastening it
with  some  chivalry almost  out of reach so that his  enemy  grinned at him
through shrunk, black lips triumphantly. The skull swung to and fro, for the
house, at the top of which  he lived,  was so vast that there seemed trapped
in  it  the wind  itself,  blowing  this way, blowing that  way,  winter and
summer.  The  green arras  with the hunters  on  it  moved perpetually.  His
fathers had  been  noble  since they had been at  all. They  came out of the
northern  mists  wearing coronets  on their heads.  Were  not  the  bars  of
darkness  in the room, and the yellow pools which  chequered the floor, made
by the sun falling through the stained  glass of a vast coat of arms  in the
window?  Orlando stood  now in the midst  of the yellow  body of an heraldic
leopard. When he put his hand on the window-sill to push the window open, it
was  instantly coloured red, blue, and yellow like a butterfly's wing. Thus,
those who like  symbols,  and have a turn for the deciphering of them, might
observe  that  though the shapely legs, the  handsome body, and the well-set
shoulders were all of them decorated with various tints of  heraldic  light,
Orlando's face, as  he threw  the window  open,  was lit solely  by the  sun
itself. A more candid, sullen face it would be impossible to find. Happy the
mother who bears, happier still the biographer who records the life of  such
a  one! Never need  she  vex herself, nor he invoke the help of novelist  or
poet.  From deed to deed, from glory to glory, from office to office he must
go, his scribe following after, till they reach whatever seat it may be that
is the height of their  desire. Orlando,  to look at, was  cut out precisely
for some such career. The red of the cheeks was covered with peach down; the
down on the lips was only  a little thicker than the down on the cheeks. The
lips  themselves  were  short  and slightly  drawn  back over  teeth  of  an
exquisite  and  almond whiteness. Nothing disturbed  the  arrowy nose in its
short, tense flight;  the hair was dark, the  ears small, and fitted closely
to the head. But, alas, that these catalogues of youthful  beauty cannot end
without  mentioning  forehead and eyes.  Alas,  that people  are seldom born
devoid  of  all  three; for directly we glance at  Orlando  standing by  the
window, we  must admit that he had eyes like drenched violets, so large that
the water seemed to have brimmed in them  and widened  them; and a brow like
the swelling of a marble dome pressed between the two blank medallions which
were  his  temples. Directly  we  glance at eyes  and forehead,  thus do  we
rhapsodize. Directly  we glance  at eyes and  forehead,  we have to  admit a
thousand  disagreeables which  it is  the aim  of  every good  biographer to
ignore. Sights disturbed him, like that of his mother, a very beautiful lady
in green walking  out to feed the peacocks  with Twitchett, her maid, behind
her; sights exalted him - the birds and the trees; and made him in love with
death - the evening sky,  the homing rooks; and so, mounting  up the  spiral
stairway  into his brain - which was a roomy one - all these sights, and the
garden sounds too, the hammer  beating, the wood chopping,  began that  riot
and  confusion of  the passions and emotions  which  every  good  biographer
detests. But to continue - Orlando slowly drew in his head, sat down  at the
table, and, with the half-conscious air of one doing what they do  every day
of their lives at this hour, took out a writing book labelled "Aethelbert: A
Tragedy in Five Acts", and dipped an old stained goose quill in the ink.
     Soon  he  had covered ten pages  and  more with poetry.  He was fluent,
evidently, but he was  abstract. Vice, Crime, Misery were the  personages of
his drama;  there  were Kings and Queens  of impossible territories;  horrid
plots  confounded them; noble sentiments suffused  them; there was  never  a
word said  as  he himself  would  have said  it, but  all was  turned with a
fluency and sweetness which, considering his age - he was  not yet seventeen
- and  that the sixteenth century had still some years of its course to run,
were  remarkable  enough. At  last, however,  he  came to  a  halt.  He  was
describing, as all young poets are for ever describing, nature, and in order
to match the  shade of green  precisely he looked (and here  he  showed more
audacity than most) at the thing itself, which happened to be  a laurel bush
growing beneath  the window. After that, of course,  he could write no more.
Green  in  nature is  one thing, green  in  literature another.  Nature  and
letters seem to have a natural  antipathy; bring them together and they tear
each other to  pieces. The shade  of green  Orlando now saw spoilt his rhyme
and  split his metre. Moreover, nature has tricks of  her own. Once look out
of a  window at bees among flowers, at  a yawning  dog, at the sun  setting,
once think "how many more suns shall I see set?", etc. etc. (the thought  is
too well known to be worth writing out) and  one drops the pen, takes  one's
cloak, strides out of the room, and catches one's foot on a painted chest as
one does so. For Orlando was a trifle clumsy.
     He was careful to avoid meeting anyone. There was Stubbs, the gardener,
coming  along the path. He  hid behind a  tree  till  he had  passed. He let
himself out at a little  gate in  the garden wall. He  skirted all  stables,
kennels, breweries, carpenters' shops,  washhouses, places  where they  make
tallow candles, kill oxen, forge horse-shoes, stitch jerkins - for the house
was a town ringing with men at work at their various crafts - and gained the
ferny path  leading  uphill through  the  park  unseen.  There is  perhaps a
kinship among qualities; one draws another along with it; and the biographer
should  here call attention to the fact that  this clumsiness is often mated
with  a  love  of solitude.  Having stumbled over a chest, Orlando naturally
loved solitary places, vast views, and to feel himself for ever and ever and
ever alone.
     So, after a  long  silence, "I  am alone," he breathed at last, opening
his  lips  for  the  first time  in this record. He had  walked very quickly
uphill through ferns and  hawthorn bushes, startling deer and wild birds, to
a place crowned by a single  oak tree. It was very high, so high indeed that
nineteen English counties could be seen beneath; and on clear days thirty or
perhaps  forty,  if  the weather was very fine. Sometimes one could  see the
English  Channel, wave reiterating  upon wave.  Rivers  could  be  seen  and
pleasure boats gliding on them; and galleons setting out to sea; and armadas
with  puffs  of smoke from which came  the dull thud  of cannon  firing; and
forts on  the coast;  and castles among the meadows; and here a watch tower;
and  there a  fortress; and again some vast mansion like that  of  Orlando's
father, massed like a town in the valley circled by walls. To the east there
were the spires of London and the smoke of the city; and perhaps on the very
sky  line,  when  the  wind was  in  the right quarter,  the craggy top  and
serrated edges of Snowdon herself showed mountainous among the clouds. For a
moment Orlando stood counting, gazing,  recognizing.  That was  his father's
house; that his uncle's.  His aunt owned those three great turrets among the
trees there. The heath was theirs and the forest; the pheasant and the deer,
the fox, the badger, and the butterfly.
     He  sighed profoundly, and  flung himself  - there was a passion in his
movements which  deserves  the word - on  the earth at the  foot of the  oak
tree.  He loved,  beneath all this  summer  transiency, to feel  the earth's
spine beneath him; for such he took the hard root of the oak tree to be; or,
for image  followed  image,  it was the  back of a great  horse that  he was
riding, or the deck of a tumbling ship - it  was anything indeed, so long as
it was  hard, for he felt  the need of  something which he  could attach his
floating heart to; the  heart that tugged at his side; the heart that seemed
filled  with  spiced and amorous gales every evening about this time when he
walked out. To the  oak tree he tied it and  as he lay there,  gradually the
flutter in and  about him  stilled itself; the little  leaves hung, the deer
stopped; the pale  summer clouds stayed; his limbs grew heavy on the ground;
and  he lay so  still that by degrees the deer  stepped nearer and the rooks
wheeled round  him and the  swallows dipped and circled and  the dragonflies
shot past,  as  if  all the fertility  and amorous  activity  of a  summer's
evening were woven web-like about his body.
     After an hour or so - the sun was rapidly sinking, the white clouds had
turned red, the hills  were violet, the woods purple, the valleys black -  a
trumpet sounded.  Orlando leapt to his feet.  The shrill sound came from the
valley. It came from a dark spot down there; a spot compact and mapped  out;
a maze; a town, yet girt about with walls; it came from the heart of his own
great  house in the  valley, which, dark before, even  as he looked  and the
single  trumpet  duplicated and  reduplicated  itself  with  other  shriller
sounds, lost its darkness  and became  pierced  with lights. Some were small
hurrying  lights, as if servants dashed along corridors to answer summonses;
others  were  high  and  lustrous   lights,  as  if   they  burnt  in  empty
banqueting-halls made ready to  receive  guests who had not come; and others
dipped  and  waved  and sank and rose, as  if held in the hands of troops of
serving  men, bending,  kneeling, rising, receiving, guarding, and escorting
with  all dignity  indoors  a great  Princess  alighting from  her  chariot.
Coaches turned and wheeled in the courtyard. Horses tossed their plumes. The
Queen had come.
     Orlando looked no more. He  dashed downhill. He  let  himself in  at  a
wicket gate. He  tore up  the  winding  staircase.  He  reached his room. He
tossed  his stockings to one side of the  room, his jerkin to the  other. He
dipped his head. He scoured  his hands.  He pared his finger  nails. With no
more than six inches of looking-glass and a pair of old candles to help him,
he had thrust  on  crimson breeches, lace collar, waistcoat  of taffeta, and
shoes with rosettes  on them as  big as  double  dahlias  in less  than  ten
minutes by the stable clock.  He was ready. He was flushed. He  was excited.
But he was terribly late.
     By  short  cuts known  to  him, he  made his way now through  the  vast
congeries of rooms and staircases to the banqueting-hall, five acres distant
on the  other side of  the house. But  half-way there, in the back  quarters
where  the  servants  lived,  he   stopped.  The   door  of  Mrs  Stewkley's
sitting-room stood open - she was gone, doubtless, with all her keys to wait
upon  her mistress.  But there, sitting at the servant's dinner table with a
tankard beside  him and paper in front of him, sat a rather fat, shabby man,
whose ruff was a thought dirty, and whose  clothes were of hodden  brown. He
held  a pen  in his  hand,  but he was not writing. He seemed in the  act of
rolling some thought  up and down, to and fro in his  mind  till it gathered
shape or  momentum  to his  liking. His eyes,  globed and  clouded like some
green stone of curious texture,  were fixed. He did not see Orlando. For all
his hurry, Orlando  stopped dead. Was  this a poet?  Was he  writing poetry?
"Tell me," he wanted to say, "everything  in  the whole world" - for he  had
the wildest, most absurd, extravagant ideas about poets and poetry - but how
speak to a man  who does  not see you? who sees ogres,  satyrs, perhaps  the
depths  of the sea instead? So Orlando stood gazing while the man turned his
pen in his fingers, this way and  that way;  and gazed and  mused; and then,
very quickly,  wrote half-a-dozen  lines and looked  up. Whereupon  Orlando,
overcome with shyness,  darted off and reached the banqueting-hall only just
in time to sink upon his knees and, hanging his  head in confusion, to offer
a bowl of rose water to the great Queen herself.
     Such was  his  shyness that he saw no more of her than her ringed hands
in water; but it was enough. It was  a memorable hand; a thin hand with long
fingers  always  curling  as if round orb  or sceptre;  a  nervous, crabbed,
sickly hand; a commanding hand too; a hand that had only to raise itself for
a head to fall; a hand, he guessed, attached to  an old body that smelt like
a cupboard in which furs are kept in camphor; which body was yet caparisoned
in all  sorts  of  brocades  and gems; and  held itself very upright  though
perhaps in pain from sciatica;  and never flinched though strung together by
a thousand  fears; and the Queen's eyes were light yellow.  All this he felt
as the great rings flashed  in the water and then something pressed his hair
- which, perhaps, accounts for his seeing  nothing  more likely to be of use
to a historian. And  in truth, his mind was such a welter  of opposites - of
the  night and the blazing candles, of the shabby  poet and the great Queen,
of silent fields and the clatter of serving men - that he could see nothing;
or only a hand.
     By the same  showing, the Queen herself can have seen only a head.  But
if  it  is  possible from a  hand  to deduce a body, informed with  all  the
attributes of a great Queen, her crabbedness, courage, frailty, and  terror,
surely a head can be as fertile, looked down upon from a chair of state by a
lady whose eyes were always, if the waxworks at the Abbey are to be trusted,
wide  open.  The  long,  curled  hair, the dark head bent so reverently,  so
innocently  before  her,  implied a  pair  of  the finest legs that a  young
nobleman has ever stood upright upon;  and violet eyes; and a heart of gold;
and  loyalty  and manly  charm - all qualities which the old woman loved the
more  the more they  failed  her. For  she was growing old and worn and bent
before her time. The sound of cannon was always  in her ears. She saw always
the glistening poison drop and the long stiletto. As  she sat  at table  she
listened; she heard the guns in the Channel; she dreaded - was that a curse,
was that a whisper? Innocence, simplicity, were all the more dear to her for
the dark background she  set  them against.  And it was that same night,  so
tradition  has  it,  when  Orlando  was  sound asleep, that  she  made  over
formally,  putting her hand  and  seal finally to the parchment, the gift of
the great monastic house that had  been the Archbishop's and then the King's
to Orlando's father.
     Orlando slept  all  night  in ignorance. He had been  kissed by a queen
without knowing  it. And perhaps,  for women's hearts  are intricate, it was
his ignorance and the start he gave when her lips touched him  that kept the
memory of her young cousin (for they had blood in common) green in her mind.
At any rate, two  years of  this quiet  country  life  had  not  passed, and
Orlando  had written  no  more perhaps than  twenty  tragedies  and a  dozen
histories and a score of sonnets when a  message came that  he was to attend
the Queen at Whitehall.
     "Here,"  she said, watching him advance  down the long  gallery towards
her, "comes my  innocent!" (There was a  serenity about him always which had
the look of innocence when, technically, the word was no longer applicable.)
     "Come!" she said. She was sitting bolt upright beside the fire. And she
held him a foot's pace from her and looked him up and down. Was she matching
her speculations  the other night with the truth  now visible?  Did she find
her guesses justified? Eyes, mouth, nose, breast, hips, hands - she ran them
over; her lips twitched visibly as she looked; but when she saw his legs she
laughed out loud. He was the very image of a noble gentleman. But  inwardly?
She flashed her yellow hawk's eyes upon him as if she would pierce his soul.
The young man withstood her  gaze blushing only a damask rose as became him.
Strength,  grace, romance, folly,  poetry, youth - she read him like a page.
Instantly she plucked a ring from her finger (the joint was swollen  rather)
and  as she fitted it to his, named him her Treasurer and Steward; next hung
about him  chains of office; and bidding him bend his knee, tied round it at
the slenderest part the jewelled order of the Garter. Nothing after that was
denied him.  When she drove in  state he rode at her carriage door. She sent
him to Scotland on a  sad embassy to the unhappy Queen. He was about to sail
for the Polish wars when she  recalled him.  For how could she bear to think
of that tender flesh torn and that curly head  rolled in the dust?  She kept
him with her. At the height of her triumph when the guns were booming at the
Tower and the air was thick enough with gunpowder to make one sneeze and the
huzzas of the people rang beneath the windows, she pulled him down among the
cushions where her women had laid her (she was so worn and old) and made him
bury  his face  in that astonishing  composition - she  had  not changed her
dress for a month - which smelt for all the world, he thought, recalling his
boyish  memory, like some old  cabinet at home where his mother's furs  were
stored. He rose, half suffocated from the embrace. "This," she breathed, "is
my victory!" - even as a rocket roared up and dyed her cheeks scarlet.
     For the old woman loved him. And the Queen, who knew a man when she saw
one,  though not,  it is said, in  the usual way, plotted for him a splendid
ambitious career. Lands  were given him, houses  assigned him. He  was to be
the son of her old age; the limb of her infirmity; the oak tree on which she
leant  her  degradation.  She   croaked   out  these  promises  and  strange
domineering tendernesses (they were at Richmond now) sitting bolt upright in
her stiff brocades by the fire which, however high they piled it, never kept
her warm.
     Meanwhile, the long  winter months drew on. Every tree in the Park  was
lined with frost. The river ran sluggishly. One day when the snow was on the
ground and the dark  panelled rooms were full  of shadows and the stags were
barking in the Park, she saw in the mirror, which she kept for fear of spies
always by her, through the door, which she kept for fear of murderers always
open, a boy - could it be  Orlando - kissing a girl? who in the Devil's name
was  the  brazen hussy?  Snatching at  her golden-hilted  sword  she  struck
violently at  the  mirror. The glass crashed;  people came running;  she was
lifted and  set in her  chair  again;  but  she was stricken  after that and
groaned much, as her days wore to an end, of man's treachery.
     It  was  Orlando's fault  perhaps;  yet,  after  all, are  we  to blame
Orlando? The age was the Elizabethan; their morals were not ours;  nor their
poets;  nor  their  climate;  nor  their  vegetables  even.  Everything  was
different. The weather itself, the heat and cold of summer and  winter, was,
we may believe, of another temper altogether. The brilliant amorous  day was
divided  as  sheerly from  the night as land from water. Sunsets were redder
and  more  intense; dawns  were whiter and more auroral.  Of our crepuscular
half-lights  and  lingering  twilights  they  knew  nothing. The  rain  fell
vehemently, or not at all. The sun blazed or there was darkness. Translating
this to the spiritual regions as their wont is,  the poets sang  beautifully
how roses fade and petals fall. The moment is brief they sang; the moment is
over; one long night is then to be slept by all.  As for using the artifices
of the  greenhouse  or conservatory to prolong or preserve these fresh pinks
and roses, that was not their way. The withered  intricacies and ambiguities
of our more gradual and doubtful age were unknown to them. Violence was all.
The flower bloomed and  faded.  The sun rose and  sank. The  lover loved and
went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young  translated into practice.
Girls were roses, and their seasons were short as the flowers'. Plucked they
must be  before nightfall; for the day was brief  and the day was all. Thus,
if Orlando followed the leading  of the climate, of  the  poets, of  the age
itself, and plucked his flower in the  window-seat even with the snow on the
ground  and  the  Queen  vigilant  in  the corridor  we  can  scarcely bring
ourselves  to blame  him. He  was young; he was boyish; he did but as nature
bade him do. As for the girl, we  know no more than Queen Elizabeth  herself
did what her name was. It may have been Doris, Chloris, Delia, or Diana, for
he made rhymes to them all in turn; equally, she may have been a court lady,
or  some  serving maid. For  Orlando's taste  was broad; he was no  lover of
garden flowers only;  the wild  and the weeds even had always  a fascination
for him.
     Here, indeed, we lay bare  rudely, as a biographer may, a curious trait
in him, to be accounted for, perhaps, by the fact that a certain grandmother
of his had worn  a smock and carried  milk-pails. Some grains of the Kentish
or Sussex  earth were mixed with the thin, fine fluid which came to him from
Normandy. He held  that the mixture of brown earth and blue blood was a good
one. Certain it is  that he had always a liking for low company,  especially
for that of lettered people whose wits so often keep them under, as if there
were the  sympathy of blood  between  them. At this season of his life, when
his head brimmed  with rhymes and he never went to bed without striking  off
some conceit, the  cheek  of an innkeeper's daughter seemed fresher  and the
wit  of  a  gamekeeper's  niece  seemed  quicker than those of the ladies at
Court.  Hence, he began going frequently to  Wapping Old Stairs and the beer
gardens at night,  wrapped in a grey cloak to hide the star at  his neck and
the  garter at his  knee.  There,  with a  mug before him, among the  sanded
alleys and bowling greens and all the simple architecture of such places, he
listened  to  sailors'  stories  of hardship and horror  and cruelty  on the
Spanish main;  how some  had lost their toes,  others their noses  - for the
spoken  story was never so  rounded or  so finely  coloured  as the written.
Especially he loved  to hear  them  volley forth their songs of  the Azores,
while the parakeets, which they had  brought from those parts, pecked at the
rings in their ears, tapped with their hard  acquisitive beaks at the rubies
on their  fingers,  and swore  as vilely  as  their  masters. The women were
scarcely less  bold in their speech and less  free in their manner  than the
birds. They  perched on his knee,  flung  their  arms  round his  neck  and,
guessing that something  out of the common lay hid beneath his duffle cloak,
were quite as eager to come at the truth of the matter as Orlando himself.
     Nor was opportunity lacking. The  river was  astir early  and late with
barges, wherries, and craft of all description. Every day sailed to sea some
fine ship bound for the Indies; now  and again another blackened  and ragged
with hairy  men on  board crept painfully to anchor. No  one missed a boy or
girl  if  they  dallied a  little  on the water  after sunset;  or raised an
eyebrow if gossip  had seen them sleeping soundly  among the  treasure sacks
safe in  each  other's  arms.  Such  indeed  was the  adventure  that befell
Orlando, Sukey, and the Earl of Cumberland. The day was hot; their loves had
been  active; they had fallen asleep among the  rubies. Late  that night the
Earl, whose  fortunes were much bound up  in  the Spanish  ventures, came to
check the booty alone with  a lantern. He flashed the  light on a barrel. He
started  back with an oath. Twined about the cask two spirits lay  sleeping.
Superstitious  by  nature, and his conscience laden  with many a crime,  the
Earl took the  couple - they were wrapped in a red  cloak, and Sukey's bosom
was almost as white as the eternal snows of Orlando's poetry - for a phantom
sprung  from  the  graves  of  drowned  sailors  to upbraid  him. He crossed
himself. He vowed repentance. The  row of alms houses  still standing in the
Sheen  Road  is the visible fruit of that  moment's panic.  Twelve poor  old
women of the  parish  today drink tea  and tonight bless  his Lordship for a
roof above their heads; so that  illicit love  in a  treasure ship - but  we
omit the moral.
     Soon, however, Orlando grew tired, not only of  the  discomfort of this
way  of  life, and of the crabbed  streets of  the neighbourhood, but of the
primitive manner  of the people. For it has to be remembered that crime  and
poverty had  none of the attraction for the Elizabethans that they have  for
us. They had none  of our modern shame of  book learning; none of our belief
that to be born the son  of a butcher is a blessing and to be unable to read
a  virtue; no  fancy  that what we  call "life"  and  "reality"  are somehow
connected  with ignorance and  brutality;  nor, indeed,  any  equivalent for
these two words at all. It  was  not to seek  "life" that Orlando went among
them; not in quest of "reality" that he  left them.  But when he had heard a
score of times how Jakes had lost his nose and Sukey  her honour - and  they
told the  stories admirably,  it must be admitted - he began  to be a little
weary  of  the repetition, for  a nose can only be  cut off  in one  way and
maidenhood lost in another -  or so it seemed to him - whereas  the arts and
the  sciences  had  a  diversity about  them  which  stirred  his  curiosity
profoundly. So, always keeping them in happy memory, he left off frequenting
the  beer  gardens  and  the  skittle  alleys, hung his  grey cloak  in  his
wardrobe, let his star shine at his neck and his garter twinkle at his knee,
and appeared  once  more at the Court of  King  James. He was young, he  was
rich,  he  was  handsome.  No  one  could have been  received  with  greater
acclamation than he was.
     It  is  certain indeed  that  many ladies were ready  to show him their
favours.  The names  of three at  least  were freely  coupled  with  his  in
marriage - Clorinda, Favilla, Euphrosyne - so he called them in his sonnets.
     To  take  them  in order;  Clorinda  was a sweet-mannered  gentle  lady
enough; indeed Orlando was greatly taken with her for six months and a half;
but she had white eyelashes and could  not  bear the sight of  blood. A hare
brought up  roasted  at her father's  table turned her  faint. She  was much
under the influence of the  Priests too, and stinted her underlinen in order
to give to the poor. She took it on her to reform Orlando of his sins, which
sickened him, so that  he  drew  back from the  marriage, and  did  not much
regret it when she died soon after of the small-pox.
     Favilla,  who comes  next, was of a  different sort altogether. She was
the daughter of a poor Somersetshire  gentleman; who, by sheer assiduity and
the  use of her eyes had worked  her way up at court,  where  her address in
horsemanship,  her fine instep, and her grace in dancing  won the admiration
of all. Once, however, she was so ill-advised  as to whip a spaniel that had
torn one of her silk stockings (and it  must be said in justice that Favilla
had few stockings and those  for the most part of drugget) within an inch of
its  life beneath Orlando's window. Orlando, who  was a  passionate lover of
animals, now noticed  that her teeth were crooked, and the two  front turned
inward, which, he said, is a sure sign of  a perverse  and cruel disposition
in women, and so broke the engagement that very night for ever.
     The third, Euphrosyne, was by far the  most serious of his  flames. She
was  by  birth one of the Irish  Desmonds and had therefore a family tree of
her own as old and  deeply rooted as Orlando's itself. She was fair, florid,
and a trifle phlegmatic. She spoke Italian well, had  a perfect set of teeth
in  the upper jaw, though those  on the lower were slightly discoloured. She
was never  without  a whippet or  spaniel at her  knee; fed them  with white
bread  from  her own  plate;  sang sweetly to  the virginals; and was  never
dressed  before mid-day owing to the extreme care she took of her person. In
short,  she  would have made a perfect wife for such a nobleman as  Orlando,
and matters had gone so far  that  the lawyers on both  sides were busy with
covenants, jointures,  settlements,  messuages,  tenements, and whatever  is
needed  before  one  great  fortune can  mate  with another  when,  with the
suddenness and severity that then marked the English climate, came the Great
     The Great Frost was, historians tell us, the most severe that  has ever
visited these islands. Birds  froze in mid-air  and fell like stones to  the
ground.  At Norwich a  young countrywoman  started to  cross the road in her
usual robust health and was seen by the onlookers to turn  visibly to powder
and be blown in a puff of dust over the roofs as the icy blast struck her at
the  street  corner. The mortality  among  sheep and  cattle  was  enormous.
Corpses froze  and could not be drawn  from  the sheets. It was no  uncommon
sight to come upon a whole herd of swine frozen immovable upon the road. The
fields were full  of  shepherds, ploughmen,  teams  of  horses,  and  little
bird-scaring boys all struck stark in the act of the moment,  one  with  his
hand to his nose, another with the bottle to his lips, a third with a  stone
raised to throw at the ravens who sat, as if stuffed, upon the hedge  within
a yard of him. The severity of the frost was so extraordinary that a kind of
petrifaction  sometimes ensued;  and it was commonly supposed that the great
increase of rocks  in  some parts of Derbyshire was due to no  eruption, for
there was  none, but to the solidification of unfortunate  wayfarers who had
been turned  literally  to  stone where  they  stood. The Church could  give
little  help  in  the  matter,  and though some  landowners had these relics
blessed,   the  most  part  preferred  to  use  them  either  as  landmarks,
scratching-posts for sheep, or, when the form of the stone allowed, drinking
troughs  for cattle, which purposes they serve, admirably for the most part,
to this day.
     But while  the country people suffered the  extremity of  want, and the
trade  of the country was at a standstill, London enjoyed a carnival  of the
utmost brilliancy. The Court  was at Greenwich, and the new  King seized the
opportunity that his  coronation gave him to curry favour with the citizens.
He directed that the river, which was frozen to a  depth of twenty feet  and
more for  six or seven miles on either  side, should be swept, decorated and
given all the semblance of a park or pleasure ground,  with  arbours, mazes,
alleys, drinking booths, etc. at his expense. For himself and the courtiers,
he reserved a certain space  immediately opposite the  Palace  gates; which,
railed off from the public only by a silken rope, became  at once the centre
of  the most brilliant society  in England. Great statesmen, in their beards
and ruffs, despatched affairs of state under the crimson awning of the Royal
Pagoda.  Soldiers planned the  conquest of the Moor and the downfall of  the
Turk in striped arbours surmounted  by  plumes of ostrich feathers. Admirals
strode up and down the narrow pathways, glass in hand, sweeping  the horizon
and telling stories of the north-west passage and the Spanish Armada. Lovers
dallied upon divans spread  with  sables. Frozen roses  fell in showers when
the Queen and her ladies walked abroad. Coloured balloons hovered motionless
in the air. Here  and  there  burnt  vast  bonfires  of cedar and oak  wood,
lavishly  salted, so that the flames were of green, orange, and purple fire.
But however  fiercely they burnt, the  heat  was not enough to melt  the ice
which, though of singular transparency, was yet of the hardness of steel. So
clear indeed was  it that there could  be seen,  congealed  at  a  depth  of
several  feet,  here a porpoise,  there  a  flounder.  Shoals  of  eels  lay
motionless in  a trance, but whether their state was  one of death or merely
of   suspended   animation   which  the  warmth  would  revive  puzzled  the
philosophers. Near  London Bridge, where the river had frozen to a  depth of
some twenty fathoms, a wrecked wherry boat was plainly visible, lying on the
bed of the river where  it had sunk last autumn, overladen with apples.  The
old  bumboat woman, who was carrying her fruit to market on the Surrey side,
sat there in her  plaids and farthingales with  her lap full of  apples, for
all the  world as if she were about to serve  a  customer, though a  certain
blueness about the lips hinted the truth. 'Twas a sight King James specially
liked  to look upon, and he would bring a  troupe  of courtiers to gaze with
him. In short, nothing could exceed the brilliancy and  gaiety of  the scene
by day. But it was  at night that the carnival was at its merriest. For  the
frost continued unbroken; the nights were of perfect stillness; the moon and
stars  blazed with the hard  fixity of diamonds,  and to the  fine  music of
flute and trumpet the courtiers danced.
     Orlando, it is true, was none of  those who tread  lightly the corantoe
and lavolta;  he was clumsy and a little absentminded. He much preferred the
plain  dances  of  his  own country,  which  he danced  as a child to  these
fantastic foreign  measures.  He had  indeed just brought his  feet together
about six in  the evening  of the seventh of January  at  the finish of some
such  quadrille or minuet when he beheld, coming  from  the pavilion of  the
Muscovite Embassy, a figure, which, whether boy's or  woman's, for the loose
tunic and trousers of the Russian fashion served to disguise the sex, filled
him with the highest curiosity. The person,  whatever  the name or  sex, was
about  middle  height,  very  slenderly fashioned, and  dressed entirely  in
oyster-coloured velvet, trimmed with some unfamiliar  greenish-coloured fur.
But  these details  were obscured  by the  extraordinary seductiveness which
issued  from  the  whole person.  Images, metaphors of the most extreme  and
extravagant  twined and twisted  in  his  mind.  He called  her  a  melon, a
pineapple, an olive tree, an emerald, and a fox in the snow all in the space
of three seconds; he did not know whether he had heard her, tasted her, seen
her,  or all three together. (For though we must  pause not  a moment in the
narrative we may  here  hastily note that all his images  at  this time were
simple in the extreme to match his senses and were mostly taken from  things
he had liked the taste  of as a boy. But if his senses were simple they were
at  the same time extremely strong.  To pause therefore and seek the reasons
of things is out of the question.)...A  melon, an emerald, a fox in the snow
- so he raved, so he stared. When the boy, for  alas, a boy it must  be - no
woman could skate with such  speed and vigour  - swept almost on tiptoe past
him, Orlando was ready to tear his hair with vexation that the person was of
his own sex, and thus all embraces were out of the question. But  the skater
came  closer. Legs, hands, carriage, were  a boy's, but  no boy ever  had  a
mouth like that; no  boy had  those breasts; no boy had eyes which looked as
if  they  had been fished from the bottom  of the sea. Finally, coming  to a
stop and  sweeping  a  curtsey with the  utmost grace  to the  King, who was
shuffling past  on the  arm of some Lord-in-waiting, the unknown skater came
to  a  standstill. She was not a handsbreadth off. She was a woman.  Orlando
stared; trembled; turned  hot; turned  cold; longed to hurl  himself through
the  summer air; to crush acorns beneath his feet; to  toss his arm with the
beech trees  and the oaks. As it was, he drew  his  lips  up  over his small
white teeth; opened them perhaps half an inch as if to bite; shut them as if
he had bitten. The Lady Euphrosyne hung upon his arm.
     The  stranger's name,  he  found, was the Princess Marousha Stanilovska
Dagmar  Natasha Iliana Romanovitch, and she had come  in the  train  of  the
Muscovite Ambassador, who  was her uncle perhaps,  or perhaps her father, to
attend the coronation. Very  little  was known of  the Muscovites. In  their
great  beards  and furred  hats they sat  almost silent; drinking some black
liquid which they spat out  now and then upon the ice. None  spoke  English,
and French  with which some at least were familiar was then little spoken at
the English Court.
     It  was through  this  accident that  Orlando and  the Princess  became
acquainted. They were seated opposite each other at  the great table  spread
under a huge awning for the entertainment of the notables. The Princess  was
placed  between  two young Lords, one  Lord  Francis Vere  and the other the
young Earl  of Moray.  It was laughable  to see the predicament she soon had
them in, for though both were fine lads in their way, the babe unborn had as
much knowledge of the French tongue as  they had. When  at  the beginning of
dinner the Princess turned to the Earl and said, with a grace which ravished
his  heart, "Je crois avoir fait la  connaissance  d'un gentilhomme qui vous
tait  apparente en  Pologne l't dernier," or "La  beaut des dames  de la
cour d'Angleterre me met dans  le ravissement. On ne peut voir une dame plus
gracieuse que votre  reine, ni une coiffure plus belle que la sienne,"  both
Lord Francis and the Earl showed the  highest embarrassment. The  one helped
her largely to horse-radish sauce, the other whistled  to his  dog and  made
him beg for a marrow bone. At this the Princess could no  longer contain her
laughter, and Orlando, catching her eyes across the boars' heads and stuffed
peacocks,  laughed too. He  laughed, but  the laugh  on  his lips  froze  in
wonder. Whom had he  loved, what had he loved, he  asked himself in a tumult
of emotion, until  now? An  old  woman,  he answered,  all  skin  and  bone.
Red-cheeked  trulls too  many  to  mention.  A  puling  nun.  A  hard-bitten
cruel-mouthed  adventuress. A  nodding mass of lace  and ceremony. Love  had
meant to  him nothing but sawdust  and cinders. The joys  he had  had  of it
tasted insipid in the extreme. He marvelled  how he could have  gone through
with it without yawning. For as he looked the thickness of his blood melted;
the  ice  turned to  wine in his veins;  he heard the waters flowing and the
birds  singing;  spring broke over  the  hard wintry landscape;  his manhood
woke; he grasped a sword in his hand; he charged a more daring foe than Pole
or Moor; he dived  in deep  water;  he saw the flower of danger growing in a
crevice; he stretched his hand - in fact he was rattling off one of his most
impassioned  sonnets  when the  Princess addressed  him, "Would you have the
goodness to pass the salt?"
     He blushed deeply.
     "With  all the  pleasure  in the  world, Madame,"  he replied, speaking
French with a perfect accent. For, heaven be praised, he spoke the tongue as
his own;  his mother's maid  had taught him. Yet perhaps  it would have been
better for him had he never learnt  that tongue; never answered that  voice;
never followed the light of those eyes...
     The Princess continued. Who were those bumpkins, she asked him, who sat
beside her  with the manners of  stablemen? What was the  nauseating mixture
they  had poured on her plate? Did the dogs eat  at the same table with  the
men in England? Was that figure of fun at the end of the table with her hair
rigged up like a Maypole  (comme une grande perche  mal fagote)  really the
Queen? And  did  the  King always  slobber  like that? And  which  of  those
popinjays  was George  Villiers?  Though these questions rather  discomposed
Orlando  at first,  they were put  with  such archness and drollery  that he
could not  help but laugh; and he  saw from  the blank faces  of the company
that nobody understood a  word, he answered her as freely as  she asked him,
speaking, as she did, in perfect French.
     Thus began an intimacy between the two which soon became the scandal of
the Court.
     Soon it was observed Orlando paid the Muscovite far more attention than
mere  civility demanded.  He  was  seldom  far  from  her  side,  and  their
conversation,  though unintelligible to the rest,  was carried on with  such
animation, provoked such blushes and laughter, that the dullest could  guess
the subject.  Moreover,  the  change in  Orlando himself was  extraordinary.
Nobody  had ever seen him so  animated.  In one  night he had thrown off his
boyish  clumsiness; he  was  changed from a  sulky stripling,  who could not
enter a ladies'  room without sweeping half the ornaments from the table, to
a nobleman, full of grace and manly courtesy.  To see him hand the Muscovite
(as  she  was called) to her sledge, or offer her his hand for the dance, or
catch the spotted kerchief which she had let drop, or discharge any other of
those manifold duties which the supreme lady exacts and the lover hastens to
anticipate was a sight to kindle the dull eyes of age, and to make the quick
pulse  of youth  beat faster. Yet over  it all  hung  a  cloud. The old  men
shrugged their shoulders. The young tittered between their fingers. All knew
that a Orlando was  betrothed to another.  The Lady Margaret O'Brien  O'Dare
O'Reilly  Tyrconnel  (for that  was  the proper  name  of Euphrosyne of  the
Sonnets) wore Orlando's splendid sapphire on the second  finger of  her left
hand. It was she who had the supreme  right to his attentions. Yet she might
drop all the handkerchiefs in her wardrobe  (of which she  had  many scores)
upon the  ice  and Orlando  never stooped  to pick them  up.  She might wait
twenty minutes for him  to hand her to her sledge, and in the end have to be
content with the services of her Blackamoor. When she  skated, which she did
rather clumsily, no one was at her elbow to encourage her, and, if she fell,
which she did rather  heavily, no one raised  her to her feet and dusted the
snow from  her petticoats.  Although she  was naturally  phlegmatic, slow to
take offence,  and  more reluctant than most people  to believe  that a mere
foreigner could  oust her from Orlando's  affections,  still  even  the Lady
Margaret  herself was brought at last  to suspect that something was brewing
against her peace of mind.
     Indeed, as the days passed, Orlando took less and less care to hide his
feelings. Making some excuse or other, he would leave the company as soon as
they had  dined, or steal away from the skaters, who were forming sets for a
quadrille. Next moment it would be seen that the Muscovite was  missing too.
But what most outraged the  Court, and stung it in its tenderest part, which
is its vanity, was  that  the couple was often seen to slip under the silken
rope, which railed off the Royal enclosure from the public part of the river
and to disappear among the crowd of common people. For suddenly the Princess
would stamp her foot and cry, "Take  me away. I detest your English mob," by
which she meant the English Court itself. She could stand  it no  longer. It
was  full of  prying old women, she said,  who stared  in one's face, and of
bumptious young men who trod on one's  toes. They smelt  bad. Their dogs ran
between her legs. It was like being in a cage. In Russia they had rivers ten
miles broad  on  which  one  could  gallop six  horses  abreast all day long
without  meeting  a  soul.  Besides,  she  wanted  to  see  the  Tower,  the
Beefeaters, the heads on Temple  Bar, and the jewellers' shops  in the city.
Thus,  it came about that Orlando took  her into the city,  showed  her  the
Beefeaters  and the rebels' heads, and bought her whatever took her fancy in
the Royal Exchange. But this was  not enough. Each  increasingly desired the
other's company in privacy  all day long  where there were none to marvel or
to  stare. Instead of taking the road to London, therefore, they  turned the
other way about and were soon beyond the  crowd among the frozen  reaches of
the Thames where,  save for sea birds and some old country  woman hacking at
the ice  in  a  vain  attempt to draw a pailful of water or  gathering  what
sticks or dead leaves she could find for firing, not a living soul ever came
their way. The poor kept closely to their cottages, and the better sort, who
could afford it, crowded for warmth and merriment to the city.
     Hence, Orlando  and Sasha, as  he called her for short, and because  it
was the name of a white Russian fox he had had as a boy - a creature soft as
snow, but with teeth of steel, which bit him so savagely that his father had
it killed -  hence,  they had the  river to themselves. Hot with skating and
with love they would throw themselves down in some solitary reach, where the
yellow osiers fringed  the bank, and wrapped in  a  great fur cloak  Orlando
would  take her in his arms, and  know, for the first time, he murmured, the
delights of love. Then, when  the ecstasy was over and they lay lulled in  a
swoon on the ice, he would tell  her  of  his other loves, and how, compared
with her,  they had been of wood, of sackcloth, and of cinders. And laughing
at his  vehemence, she  would turn  once more  in  his arms and give him for
love's sake, one more embrace. And then they would  marvel that the  ice did
not  melt  with their  heat, and pity  the  poor old woman  who had no  such
natural  means  of thawing it,  but must  hack at it  with a chopper of cold
steel.  And then,  wrapped in  their  sables, they would talk of  everything
under the sun; of sights and travels; of Moor and Pagan; of this man's beard
and  that woman's skin; of a rat  that  fed from her hand at  table; of  the
arras  that  moved always  in the hall  at home;  of a  face;  of a feather.
Nothing was too small for such converse, nothing was too great.
     Then suddenly, Orlando  would fall into one of his moods of melancholy;
the sight of the old woman  hobbling over the ice might  be the cause of it,
or nothing; and would fling himself face downwards  on the ice and look into
the frozen waters and think of death. For the philosopher is right who  says
that  nothing  thicker  than  a  knife's  blade  separates   happiness  from
melancholy;  and  he goes on to  opine that one is twin fellow to the other;
and draws from this  the conclusion that  all extremes of feeling are allied
to madness; and so bids  us take  refuge in the true Church (in his view the
Anabaptist), which is the only harbour, port,  anchorage, etc., he said, for
those tossed on this sea.
     "All  ends in  death,"  Orlando would  say, sitting  upright, his  face
clouded with  gloom. (For that was the way  his mind  worked now, in violent
see-saws from life to death, stopping at  nothing in  between,  so  that the
biographer must not stop either, but must fly as fast as he can and so  keep
pace with the unthinking  passionate  foolish actions and sudden extravagant
words in which, it is impossible to  deny, Orlando at this  time of his life
     "All ends in death," Orlando would say, sitting upright on the ice. But
Sasha who  after all had no English blood in her but  was from Russia  where
the sunsets are  longer, the  dawns less sudden,  and sentences  often  left
unfinished  from doubt  as to how  best to end them - Sasha  stared  at him,
perhaps sneered  at him, for he must  have seemed a  child to her, and  said
nothing. But  at length the ice grew  cold beneath them, which she disliked,
so pulling him to his feet again, she talked so enchantingly, so wittily, so
wisely  (but unfortunately  always in  French, which  notoriously  loses its
flavour in translation) that  he forgot the frozen waters or night coming or
the old woman or whatever it was, and would  try to tell her - plunging  and
splashing among a thousand  images which had  gone as stale as the women who
inspired them - what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster,
golden wire? None  of these. She  was like a fox, or an olive tree; like the
waves of  the  sea  when  you  look  down upon  them from a  height; like an
emerald; like the sun on a green hill which is yet clouded - like nothing he
had seen or known in England. Ransack the language as he might, words failed
him. He wanted another landscape, and another tongue. English was too frank,
too candid, too honeyed a speech  for Sasha.  For  in  all she said, however
open she seemed and voluptuous,  there was something hidden; in all she did,
however  daring,  there  was something concealed.  So the green flame  seems
hidden in the emerald, or the sun prisoned in a hill. The clearness was only
outward; within was a wandering flame. It  came; it  went;  she  never shone
with the steady beam of  an  Englishwoman -  here, however,  remembering the
Lady Margaret and  her  petticoats,  Orlando  ran wild in his transports and
swept  her  over  the ice,  faster,  faster, vowing that he  would chase the
flame, dive for the gem, and  so on and so on, the words coming on the pants
of his breath with the passion of a poet whose poetry is half pressed out of
him by pain.
     But Sasha was silent. When Orlando had done telling her that she  was a
fox, an olive tree, or a green hill-top, and had given her the whole history
of his family; how  their house was one of the  most ancient in Britain; how
they  had come from Rome with the Caesars and had the right to walk down the
Corso (which is the chief street in Rome) under a tasselled palanquin, which
he said is a privilege reserved only for those of imperial blood  (for there
was an orgulous  credulity about  him which  was  pleasant enough), he would
pause  and  ask her, Where was her  own house? What  was her father? Had she
brothers? Why was she here alone with her uncle? Then,  somehow, though  she
answered  readily  enough,  an  awkwardness  would  come  between  them.  He
suspected at first that her rank was not as high as she would  like; or that
she was ashamed of the savage ways of her people, for  he had heard that the
women in Muscovy wear beards and the men are covered with fur from the waist
down;  that  both  sexes are smeared with tallow to keep  the cold out, tear
meat with their  fingers  and live  in  huts  where  an English noble  would
scruple  to  keep his  cattle;  so  that he forbore  to  press  her. But  on
reflection, he concluded that  her silence could not be for that reason; she
herself was entirely free from hair on the  chin; she dressed in  velvet and
pearls,  and her manners  were certainly not  those  of a  woman  bred in  a
     What, then, did she hide from him? The doubt underlying the  tremendous
force  of his feelings was like a  quicksand beneath a monument which shifts
suddenly and makes the whole pile shake. The agony would seize him suddenly.
Then he would blaze out in such  wrath  that she did not  know how to  quiet
him. Perhaps  she did not want to  quiet him; perhaps his rages pleased  her
and  she  provoked them  purposely  - such  is the curious obliquity  of the
Muscovitish temperament.
     To continue the  story  - skating farther than their wont that day they
reached  that part of the river where the ships had anchored and been frozen
in  midstream.  Among them was the ship of the Muscovite  Embassy flying its
double-headed  black  eagle  from  the  main   mast,  which  was  hung  with
many-coloured  icicles several yards in length. Sasha had  left  some of her
clothing  on board, and supposing the ship to be empty they climbed  on deck
and went in  search of  it. Remembering  certain passages  in his  own past,
Orlando would not have marvelled  had some  good citizens sought this refuge
before them; and so  it  turned out. They had not  ventured far  when a fine
young man started up from some business of his own behind a coil of rope and
saying,  apparently, for he spoke Russian,  that he was one of the  crew and
would help the Princess  to  find what she wanted, lit a lump of candle  and
disappeared with her into the lower parts of the ship.
     Time went  by, and Orlando, wrapped in  his own dreams, thought only of
the pleasures of life; of his jewel; of her rarity; of means for  making her
irrevocably and indissolubly  his own. Obstacles there were and hardships to
overcome. She  was determined  to  live in Russia,  where  there were frozen
rivers  and wild  horses and men, she said,  who gashed each other's throats
open.  It is true  that a  landscape of pine  and snow,  habits  of lust and
slaughter,  did not entice him.  Nor  was  he anxious to cease  his pleasant
country ways of  sport and  tree-planting;  relinquish his office; ruin  his
career;  shoot the reindeer  instead of  the rabbit; drink  vodka instead of
canary, and  slip a knife up  his sleeve - for what  purpose,  he  knew not.
Still, all this and more than all this he would do for her sake. As  for his
marriage to the  Lady Margaret, fixed  though it was for this  day sennight,
the  thing was so palpably absurd that  he scarcely  gave it a thought.  Her
kinsmen would abuse him for deserting a great lady; his friends would deride
him for  ruining the finest career in the  world for a  Cossack woman and  a
waste of snow  -  it weighed not a straw in the balance compared  with Sasha
herself.  On  the  first dark night they would fly. They would take ship  to
Russia. So he pondered; so he plotted as he walked up and down the deck.
     He was recalled, turning westward, by the sight of the  sun, slung like
an  orange on the cross of  St Paul's. It was blood-red and sinking rapidly.
It must be  almost evening. Sasha had  been gone  this hour and more. Seized
instantly with those dark forebodings which shadowed even his most confident
thoughts of her, he plunged the way he had seen them go into the hold of the
ship; and, after stumbling among  chests and  barrels in the  darkness,  was
made aware by a faint glimmer in a  corner  that they were seated there. For
one second, he had a vision of them; saw  Sasha seated on the sailor's knee;
saw her bend towards him; saw them embrace  before the light was blotted out
in a red cloud by his rage. He blazed into such  a howl  of anguish that the
whole ship  echoed. Sasha threw  herself between them, or  the  sailor would
have been stifled before he could  draw his cutlass. Then  a deadly sickness
came over Orlando,  and they had to lay him on the floor and give him brandy
to drink before he revived. And then, when he had recovered and was sat upon
a heap of sacking on deck,  Sasha hung over  him, passing before his dizzied
eyes  softly, sinuously, like  the fox that had bit  him, now cajoling,  now
denouncing,  so that he  came to doubt what he had  seen. Had not the candle
guttered;  had not the shadows  moved? The box was heavy, she said;  the man
was helping her to move it. Orlando believed her one moment - for who can be
sure that his rage has not painted what he most dreads  to find? -  the next
was the more  violent with  anger at her deceit. Then  Sasha  herself turned
white; stamped her  foot on deck; said she  would go that  night, and called
upon her Gods to destroy her, if she, a Romanovitch, had lain in the arms of
a common  seaman. Indeed,  looking  at them together  (which he could hardly
bring himself to do) Orlando was outraged by the foulness of his imagination
that  could  have painted so frail a creature in the  paw  of that hairy sea
brute. The  man was huge; stood six feet four in  his stockings, wore common
wire rings in his ears; and looked like a dray horse upon which some wren or
robin has perched in its flight. So he yielded; believed her; and  asked her
pardon. Yet when they were going down the ship's side, lovingly again, Sasha
paused  with her  hand  on  the  ladder,  and  called  back  to  this  tawny
wide-cheeked monster a volley of Russian  greetings, jests, or  endearments,
not a word of which Orlando could understand. But there was something in her
tone (it might be the fault of the Russian consonants) that reminded Orlando
of a scene some nights since, when he had come upon  her in secret gnawing a
candle-end in a corner, which she had picked from  the  floor. True,  it was
pink; it was gilt; and it was from  the King's table; but it was tallow, and
she gnawed  it. Was  there  not, he  thought, handing her  on  to  the  ice,
something rank in  her, something  coarse flavoured, something peasant born?
And  he  fancied her at  forty grown unwieldy though she was now slim  as  a
reed, and lethargic though she was  now blithe as a lark.  But again as they
skated  towards London such suspicions melted in his breast, and  he felt as
if  he had been hooked by a great fish through the  nose  and rushed through
the waters unwillingly, yet with his own consent.
     It was an evening  of astonishing beauty.  As  the  sun  sank, all  the
domes, spires, turrets,  and  pinnacles  of London rose  in  inky  blackness
against  the  furious  red  sunset  clouds.  Here  was  the fretted cross at
Charing; there the dome of  St  Paul's; there the massy square of  the Tower
buildings; there like a grove of trees stripped of all leaves save a knob at
the end were  the heads on the  pikes at Temple Bar.  Now  the Abbey windows
were lit  up and  burnt like a  heavenly, many-coloured shield (in Orlando's
fancy); now all the  west seemed  a golden window with troops of  angels (in
Orlando's fancy again) passing up  and down the heavenly stairs perpetually.
All  the time they seemed to be skating in fathomless depths of air, so blue
the ice  had become; and so glassy smooth was it that they sped  quicker and
quicker to the city with the white gulls circling about them, and cutting in
the air with their  wings the very same sweeps that they cut on the ice with
their skates.
     Sasha, as if  to reassure him, was tenderer than  usual  and even  more
delightful. Seldom would she talk about  her past life, but now she told him
how, in winter in Russia, she would listen to the wolves  howling across the
steppes, and thrice, to show him, she barked like a wolf. Upon which he told
her of  the stags in the snow  at home,  and  how they would  stray into the
great hall for warmth and be fed by an old man with porridge from a  bucket.
And then she praised him; for his love of beasts; for his gallantry; for his
legs. Ravished with her praises and shamed to think how  he had maligned her
by fancying her on the knees of a common sailor and grown fat and  lethargic
at forty,  he  told  her  that  he could  find no words to  praise her;  yet
instantly  bethought  him how she  was like  the spring  and green grass and
rushing  waters, and seizing  her  more tightly than ever, he swung her with
him half  across the river  so that the gulls and the  cormorants swung too.
And halting at length,  out of breath,  she said,  panting slightly, that he
was like a million-candled Christmas tree (such as they have in Russia) hung
with yellow globes; incandescent; enough to light a whole street by; (so one
might translate it) for what with his glowing  cheeks,  his  dark curls, his
black and crimson  cloak,  he looked  as  if  he were  burning with  his own
radiance, from a lamp lit within.
     All the colour, save  the red  of  Orlando's cheeks, soon faded.  Night
came on. As  the  orange light of  sunset vanished it  was  succeeded  by an
astonishing  white glare from  the torches, bonfires, flaming  cressets, and
other devices by which the river was lit up and the strangest transformation
took place. Various churches and  noblemen's palaces,  whose  fronts were of
white stone showed in streaks and patches as if  floating on the air. Of  St
Paul's, in particular, nothing was left but a gilt cross. The Abbey appeared
like  the grey  skeleton  of  a  leaf. Everything  suffered  emaciation  and
transformation. As they approached the carnival, they heard a deep note like
that struck on a tuning-fork which boomed louder and louder until  it became
an  uproar. Every now and then a great shout followed a rocket into the air.
Gradually they could discern little figures breaking off from the vast crowd
and spinning hither and thither like  gnats on the surface of a river. Above
and around this brilliant circle  like a  bowl of  darkness pressed the deep
black of a winter's night. And then  into this darkness there began to  rise
with pauses, which kept  the expectation alert and the mouth open, flowering
rockets;  crescents; serpents; a crown.  At one moment the woods and distant
hills  showed  green as on  a  summer's  day;  the  next all was winter  and
blackness again.
     By this time Orlando and the Princess were close to the Royal enclosure
and found their way barred by a  great crowd  of the common people, who were
pressing as near to the silken rope as they dared. Loth to end their privacy
and  encounter  the sharp  eyes that were on the  watch for them, the couple
lingered  there,  shouldered  by  apprentices;  tailors;   fishwives;  horse
dealers, cony catchers; starving  scholars; maid-servants in their whimples;
orange girls; ostlers; sober citizens; bawdy tapsters; and a crowd of little
ragamuffins such  as  always  haunt the outskirts of a crowd,  screaming and
scrambling  among people's feet -  all the riff-raff  of the  London streets
indeed was there, jesting and jostling, here casting dice, telling fortunes,
shoving, tickling, pinching; here uproarious, there  glum; some of them with
mouths gaping a yard wide; others as little reverent as daws on a house-top;
all as variously rigged  out as their purse or stations allowed; here in fur
and broadcloth; there in tatters with their feet kept from the ice only by a
dishclout bound about  them.  The main press  of people, it appeared,  stood
opposite a booth or stage something like our Punch and Judy  show upon which
some kind  of theatrical  performance was  going  forward.  A  black man was
waving his  arms and vociferating. There was  a woman in  white laid  upon a
bed. Rough though the  staging was, the actors running up and down a pair of
steps  and  sometimes  tripping, and  the  crowd  stamping  their  feet  and
whistling, or when they were bored, tossing a piece of orange peel on to the
ice which a dog would scramble for, still the astonishing, sinuous melody of
the words stirred Orlando like music. Spoken with extreme speed and a daring
agility of tongue which reminded him  of the  sailors  singing in  the  beer
gardens at Wapping, the words even  without meaning were as wine to him. But
now and again a single phrase would come to him over the ice which was as if
torn from the depths of his heart. The  frenzy of the Moor seemed to him his
own frenzy, and when the Moor  suffocated the woman  in her bed it was Sasha
he killed with his own hands.
     At last the play was ended. All had grown dark. The tears streamed down
his face. Looking up into the sky there was nothing but blackness there too.
Ruin and death,  he thought, cover all.  The life of man ends in the  grave.
Worms devour us.
     Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
     Of sun and moon, and that the affrighted globe
     Should yawn?
     Even  as  he said this a star of  some  pallor  rose in his memory. The
night was dark; it was pitch dark; but it was such a night as this that they
had waited for; it was on such a night as this that they had planned to fly.
He  remembered  everything. The  time had come. With a burst  of passion  he
snatched Sasha to him, and hissed in her ear  "Jour de ma vie!" It was their
signal. At  midnight  they would  meet at  an  inn near Blackfriars.  Horses
waited  there. Everything was in readiness for their flight. So they parted,
she to her tent, he to his. It still wanted an hour of the time.
     Long before midnight Orlando was in waiting. The night was of so inky a
blackness  that a man  was on you before he could be seen, which  was all to
the good,  but  it was also of the  most  solemn stillness so that a horse's
hoof, or a child's cry, could be heard  at a distance of half a mile. Many a
time did Orlando, pacing the little courtyard, hold his heart  at the  sound
of some nag's steady footfall on the cobbles, or at  the rustle of a woman's
dress.  But the traveller was only some merchant,  making home  belated;  or
some woman of the quarter whose errand was nothing so innocent. They passed,
and  the street  was  quieter than  before.  Then  those lights which  burnt
downstairs in the  small, huddled quarters where the poor  of the city lived
moved up to the sleeping-rooms, and then, one by one, were extinguished. The
street lanterns in these purlieus  were few  at most; and  the negligence of
the  night watchman  often  suffered them to  expire long before  dawn.  The
darkness then became even deeper than before. Orlando looked to the wicks of
his  lantern, saw  to the  saddle girths; primed  his pistols;  examined his
holsters; and did all these things a dozen times at least till he could find
nothing  more  needing  his  attention. Though  it  still lacked some twenty
minutes to  midnight,  he  could not bring himself to  go indoors to the inn
parlour, where  the hostess was  still serving  sack and the cheaper sort of
canary  wine to  a  few seafaring men, who would  sit there  trolling  their
ditties, and telling their stories  of  Drake, Hawkins, and  Grenville, till
they toppled off the  benches  and rolled  asleep  on the sanded floor.  The
darkness  was  more  compassionate  to  his  swollen and violent  heart.  He
listened to  every  footfall; speculated  on every sound. Each drunken shout
and each wail from some poor  wretch  laid in the straw or in other distress
cut his heart to the quick, as if it boded ill omen to his venture.  Yet, he
had  no fear for Sasha. Her courage made nothing of the adventure. She would
come  alone, in her cloak  and trousers, booted  like  a man.  Light  as her
footfall was, it would hardly be heard, even in this silence.
     So he waited in the darkness.  Suddenly he was struck  in the face by a
blow, soft, yet heavy, on the side of his  cheek. So strung with expectation
was he, that he started and put his hand to his sword. The blow was repeated
a dozen times on forehead and cheek. The dry frost had lasted so  long  that
it took him a minute to realize that these were raindrops falling; the blows
were the blows of the rain. At first, they fell slowly, deliberately, one by
one. But soon  the six  drops  became  sixty;  then  six  hundred;  then ran
themselves together in  a steady  spout  of water. It was as if the hard and
consolidated sky poured itself forth in one profuse fountain.  In  the space
of five minutes Orlando was soaked to the skin.
     Hastily  putting the horses under cover, he sought shelter  beneath the
lintel of the  door whence he could still observe the courtyard. The air was
thicker  now  than  ever,  and  such  a  steaming and droning rose  from the
downpour that  no footfall of  man  or  beast could be  heard above it.  The
roads,  pitted as they  were  with  great holes, would  be  under water  and
perhaps impassable. But of what effect this would have upon  their flight he
scarcely  thought.  All  his  senses were bent upon gazing along the cobbled
pathway  - gleaming  in the  light  of the  lantern  -  for Sasha's  coming.
Sometimes, in the darkness,  he seemed to see her wrapped  about  with  rain
strokes.  But the phantom  vanished.  Suddenly,  with  an awful and  ominous
voice, a voice full of  horror and alarm which raised every hair of  anguish
in Orlando's soul, St Paul's struck the first stroke of midnight. Four times
more  it struck remorselessly. With the superstition of a lover, Orlando had
made out  that it was on the sixth stroke that she would come. But the sixth
stroke echoed away,  and  the  seventh  came  and  the  eighth, and  to  his
apprehensive mind they seemed  notes first  heralding and  then  proclaiming
death and  disaster.  When the  twelfth struck  he knew  that his  doom  was
sealed. It was useless for the rational part of him to reason;  she might be
late; she  might be prevented; she might have missed her way. The passionate
and feeling heart  of  Orlando knew the truth. Other clocks struck, jangling
one  after another. The whole  world  seemed  to  ring with the  news of her
deceit and  his derision. The  old suspicions subterraneously at work in him
rushed forth  from concealment openly. He was bitten by a swarm  of  snakes,
each more poisonous than the last. He stood in the doorway in the tremendous
rain without moving. As the minutes passed, he sagged a little at the knees.
The downpour rushed on. In the thick of it, great guns seemed  to boom. Huge
noises as of the tearing and rending of oak trees could be heard. There were
also  wild cries and  terrible inhuman groanings.  But  Orlando  stood there
immovable till Paul's clock struck two, and then, crying aloud with an awful
irony, and all his teeth showing, "Jour de ma vie!" he dashed the lantern to
the ground, mounted his horse and galloped he knew not where.
     Some blind instinct, for he was past reasoning, must have driven him to
take the river bank in the direction of the sea.  For when  the  dawn broke,
which it did with unusual suddenness, the sky turning  a pale yellow and the
rain almost  ceasing,  he  found himself  on  the  banks of  the Thames  off
Wapping. Now a  sight of the most extraordinary nature  met his eyes. Where,
for three months  and  more, there had been solid ice of such thickness that
it seemed  permanent as stone, and a whole gay city  had been stood  on  its
pavement,  was now  a race of turbulent  yellow waters. The river had gained
its freedom in the night. It was as if a sulphur spring (to which  view many
philosophers inclined) had risen from the volcanic regions beneath and burst
the ice asunder  with  such vehemence  that  it  swept  the  huge  and massy
fragments furiously apart. The mere look of the water was enough to turn one
giddy. All was riot and  confusion. The river was strewn with icebergs. Some
of these were  as broad as a bowling green and as high as a house; others no
bigger than a man's hat, but most fantastically twisted. Now would come down
a whole  convoy of ice  blocks  sinking everything that stood in  their way.
Now, eddying and swirling  like a tortured serpent, the river  would seem to
be hurtling itself between the fragments and tossing them from bank to bank,
so that they could be heard smashing against the piers and pillars. But what
was  the  most awful  and inspiring of  terror  was the sight of  the  human
creatures who had been trapped in the night and now paced their twisting and
precarious  islands in the utmost agony of spirit. Whether  they jumped into
the  flood  or stayed on the ice their doom was certain.  Sometimes quite  a
cluster of  these poor  creatures would  come down  together, some  on their
knees, others suckling their babies. One  old man seemed to be reading aloud
from  a  holy  book. At  other  times, and his  fate  perhaps  was  the most
dreadful, a solitary wretch would stride his narrow tenement alone.  As they
swept out to sea,  some could  be heard crying vainly  for help, making wild
promises to amend their ways, confessing  their  sins  and vowing altars and
wealth  if God would  hear  their prayers. Others were  so dazed with terror
that they sat immovable and silent looking steadfastly before them. One crew
of  young  watermen  or post-boys,  to  judge by their  liveries, roared and
shouted  the lewdest tavern songs, as if in bravado, and were dashed against
a tree and sunk with  blasphemies  on their lips. An old nobleman - for such
his furred gown and  golden  chain proclaimed him -  went down not far  from
where Orlando  stood, calling vengeance upon the Irish rebels, who, he cried
with his last breath, had plotted  this devilry. Many perished clasping some
silver pot or other treasure  to their breasts; and at least a score of poor
wretches were drowned by  their own cupidity,  hurling  themselves from  the
bank into the flood rather than let a gold goblet escape them, or see before
their eyes the disappearance of some furred  gown. For furniture, valuables,
possessions  of all  sorts  were carried away  on  the icebergs. Among other
strange  sights  was to be  seen  a  cat  suckling  its young; a table  laid
sumptuously for  a  supper of  twenty; a couple  in  bed; together  with  an
extraordinary number of cooking utensils.
     Dazed and astounded, Orlando could do nothing for some  time  but watch
the appalling race of waters as it hurled itself past  him. At last, seeming
to recollect himself, he clapped spurs to his horse and galloped  hard along
the river bank in the direction of the sea. Rounding a bend of the river, he
came  opposite  that  reach  where,  not two  days  ago, the  ships  of  the
Ambassadors had seemed immovably frozen. Hastily, he made count of them all;
the  French; the Spanish; the Austrian; the Turk. All  still floated, though
the  French  had broken loose  from her moorings, and the Turkish vessel had
taken  a great  rent in her  side and  was  fast filling with water. But the
Russian ship was nowhere to  be seen. For one moment Orlando thought it must
have foundered;  but, raising himself in his  stirrups and shading his eyes,
which had the sight of  a hawk's, he could just make out the shape of a ship
on the horizon. The black eagles were flying from the mast head. The ship of
the Muscovite Embassy was standing out to sea.
     Flinging himself  from his horse, he made, in his  rage, as if he would
breast the flood. Standing knee-deep  in water he  hurled at  the  faithless
woman all  the  insults that  have ever been the lot  of her sex. Faithless,
mutable,  fickle,  he  called  her; devil,  adulteress,  deceiver;  and  the
swirling waters took his words,  and tossed  at  his feet a broken pot and a
little straw.
     0x01 graphic

     The  biographer  is  now  faced  with a  difficulty which  it is better
perhaps to confess than to gloss over. Up to this point in telling the story
of Orlando's life,  documents,  both  private  and historical, have  made it
possible to fulfil the first duty of a biographer, which is to plod, without
looking to right or left, in the indelible footprints of truth; unenticed by
flowers; regardless of shade; on and on methodically till we fall plump into
the grave and write finis on the tombstone above  our heads. But now we come
to an episode which lies right across our path, so that there is no ignoring
it. Yet  it  is  dark,  mysterious,  and undocumented; so  that there is  no
explaining  it.  Volumes  might  be written in interpretation of  it;  whole
religious systems founded upon the signification  of  it. Our simple duty is
to state  the facts as far as they are known, and so  let the reader make of
them what he may.
     In the summer of that disastrous winter which saw the frost, the flood,
the deaths of many thousands, and the complete downfall of Orlando's hopes -
for he was exiled from Court; in deep disgrace with the most powerful nobles
of his time; the  Irish  house of Desmond was  justly enraged; the King  had
already trouble enough with  the Irish not to relish this further addition -
in that summer  Orlando retired to his  great house in the country and there
lived in  complete  solitude.  One  June  morning  -  it  was  Saturday  the
18th - he failed to  rise  at his usual hour,  and when his groom
went to call him he was found fast asleep. Nor could he be awakened.  He lay
as if in  a  trance, without perceptible breathing; and though dogs were set
to bark  under his  window; cymbals, drums,  bones beaten perpetually in his
room; a gorse bush put under his pillow; and mustard plasters applied to his
feet, still he did not  wake, take food, or show any sign of  life for seven
whole days. On the seventh day he woke at his  usual  time (a quarter before
eight,  precisely)  and  turned the  whole  posse of caterwauling wives  and
village soothsayers out of  his room, which was natural enough; but what was
strange was that he showed no consciousness of any  such trance, but dressed
himself and sent  for his horse as  if he  had woken from a  single  night's
slumber. Yet some  change, it was suspected,  must  have taken place in  the
chambers  of  his brain,  for though  he  was perfectly  rational and seemed
graver  and more sedate in  his ways  than  before, he  appeared  to have an
imperfect recollection  of  his past life. He would listen when people spoke
of  the  great frost or  the skating or  the carnival, but he never gave any
sign,  except by passing his hand across his  brow as if  to wipe  away some
cloud, of  having witnessed  them himself. When the events of  the  past six
months were discussed, he seemed not so much distressed as puzzled, as if he
were troubled by confused memories of some time  long gone or were trying to
recall  stories  told  him  by  another. It was  observed that if Russia was
mentioned or Princesses or  ships, he would fall into a  gloom  of an uneasy
kind and get up and look  out of the window or call one of the  dogs to him,
or take a knife and carve a piece of cedar wood. But the doctors were hardly
wiser  then than  they  are  now,  and  after prescribing rest and exercise,
starvation and nourishment, society and solitude, that he should  lie in bed
all  day and ride forty  miles  between lunch and dinner, together with  the
usual sedatives and  irritants,  diversified,  as the fancy took  them, with
possets of newt's slobber on rising, and draughts of peacock's gall on going
to bed, they left him to himself, and  gave  it as their opinion that he had
been asleep for a week.
     But if sleep it  was, of  what  nature, we  can  scarcely  refrain from
asking, are such sleeps  as  these? Are they remedial measures -  trances in
which the most galling memories, events that seem likely to cripple life for
ever, are brushed with a dark wing which  rubs their harshness off and gilds
them, even the ugliest and  basest, with a lustre, an incandescence? Has the
finger of death to be laid on the tumult  of life from time to  time lest it
rend  us  asunder? Are we so made that we have to  take death in small doses
daily  or we could not  go on  with  the  business of  living? And then what
strange powers are these that penetrate our  most secret ways and change our
most treasured possessions without our willing  it? Had Orlando, worn out by
the  extremity of his  suffering, died for a  week,  and then  come  to life
again? And  if so, of what  nature is death and of what nature life?  Having
waited well over half  an hour for an answer  to  these questions, and  none
coming, let us get on with the story.
     Now Orlando gave himself up to a life of extreme solitude. His disgrace
at Court and the violence of his grief were partly  the reason of it, but as
he made no effort to  defend himself and seldom invited anyone  to visit him
(though he had many friends who would willingly have done so) it appeared as
if to be alone in the great house of his fathers suited his temper. Solitude
was his choice. How he  spent his  time, nobody quite knew. The servants, of
whom he kept a full retinue, though much of their business was to dust empty
rooms and to smooth the coverlets of beds that were never slept in, watched,
in the dark  of the evening, as they sat over their cakes and  ale, a  light
passing along the galleries, through the banqueting-halls, up the staircase,
into the bedrooms,  and  knew that their  master was perambulating the house
alone.  None dared follow  him, for the house was haunted by a great variety
of ghosts,  and the  extent of  it made it easy to lose one's way and either
fall  down  some hidden staircase or open a door which, should the wind blow
it to, would shut upon one  for ever - accidents of no uncommon  occurrence,
as the frequent discovery of the  skeletons  of men and animals in attitudes
of great agony made  evident. Then the light  would be  lost altogether, and
Mrs Grimsditch,  the housekeeper, would say to Mr  Dupper, the chaplain, how
she hoped  his Lordship  had not met with some bad accident. Mr Dupper would
opine that his Lordship was on his knees,  no doubt, among the tombs of  his
ancestors in the Chapel, which was in the  Billiard Table Court, half a mile
away  on the south  side. For he  had  sins on his conscience, Mr Dupper was
afraid;  upon which Mrs Grimsditch would retort, rather sharply, that so had
most of us; and Mrs Stewkley and Mrs Field and old Nurse Carpenter would all
raise their voices in his Lordship's praise; and the grooms and the stewards
would swear  that it  was a thousand pities to see so fine a nobleman moping
about the house when he might  be hunting the  fox or chasing  the deer; and
even  the little laundry maids and scullery maids, the Judys and the Faiths,
who were handing round the tankards and cakes, would pipe up their testimony
to his Lordship's gallantry; for never was there a kinder  gentleman, or one
more free with  those  little pieces of silver which serve to buy a  knot of
ribbon or put  a  posy in  one's hair;  until  even the Blackamoor whom they
called Grace Robinson by way of making a Christian woman of  her, understood
what they were  at, and  agreed that his Lordship was  a handsome, pleasant,
darling  gentleman in the only way she could,  that is to say by showing all
her teeth at once in a broad grin.  In short, all his serving  men and women
held him in high respect,  and cursed the foreign  Princess (but they called
her by a coarser name than that) who had brought him to this pass.
     But though it  was probably cowardice, or love  of hot ale, that led Mr
Dupper to imagine his Lordship  safe among the tombs  so that he need not go
in search of him, it  may well have  been  that Mr Dupper was right. Orlando
now took a strange delight in thoughts of death and decay, and, after pacing
the  long  galleries  and  ballrooms  with a  taper in his  hand, looking at
picture after picture as if he sought the likeness of somebody whom he could
not  find, would mount into the  family pew and sit  for  hours watching the
banners stir and the moonlight waver with a bat or death's head moth to keep
him  company. Even this was not enough for him, but he must descend into the
crypt where his ancestors lay, coffin piled upon coffin, for ten generations
together. The place was so seldom  visited that  the rats made free with the
lead work, and now a thigh bone would catch at his cloak as he passed, or he
would crack the skull of some old Sir Malise as it rolled beneath his  foot.
It was a ghastly sepulchre; dug deep beneath the foundations of the house as
if  the  first  Lord  of  the  family, who  had come  from  France  with the
Conqueror, had wished to testify how all pomp is  built upon corruption; how
the skeleton lies beneath the flesh: how we that  dance  and sing above must
lie below; how the crimson velvet turns to dust; how the ring (here Orlando,
stooping his lantern, would pick up a gold circle  lacking a stone, that had
rolled  into a  corner)  loses its ruby  and the  eye which was  so lustrous
shines no more. "Nothing remains  of all these Princes," Orlando would  say,
indulging in some pardonable exaggeration of their rank, "except one digit,"
and he would take a skeleton hand  in his  and bend  the joints this way and
that. "Whose hand was it?"  he  went on to ask. "The right or  the left? The
hand of man  or woman, of age or youth? Had it urged the war horse, or plied
the needle? Had it plucked the  rose, or  grasped  cold steel? Had  it?" but
here either his invention failed  him or, what is more  likely, provided him
with  so many instances of what a hand can do that  he shrank, as  his  wont
was, from the cardinal labour of composition, which is excision, and he  put
it with  the  other  bones,  thinking how there  was a writer  called Thomas
Browne, a Doctor of Norwich, whose writing upon such subjects took his fancy
     So, taking  his lantern  and seeing that  the bones were in  order, for
though romantic, he was singularly  methodical and detested  nothing so much
as a ball of string  on  the  floor, let alone the skull  of an ancestor, he
returned  to that  curious,  moody pacing  down  the  galleries, looking for
something among the pictures, which was interrupted at length by a veritable
spasm of  sobbing, at the sight of a Dutch snow scene  by an unknown artist.
Then  it seemed to him  that  life was not worth living any more. Forgetting
the  bones of  his  ancestors  and  how life is founded on a grave, he stood
there shaken with sobs,  all for the desire of a woman in Russian  trousers,
with slanting eyes, a pouting mouth and pearls about her neck. She had gone.
She had left him. He was never to see her again. And so he sobbed. And so he
found his way back to his own rooms; and Mrs Grimsditch, seeing the light in
the window, put  the  tankard from her  lips and said Praise be  to God, his
Lordship was safe in his room  again; for  she  had  been thinking  all this
while that he was foully murdered.
     Orlando now drew his chair up to the  table;  opened  the works of  Sir
Thomas Browne and proceeded  to investigate the delicate articulation of one
of the doctor's longest and most marvellously contorted cogitations.
     For though these are not  matters on  which a biographer can profitably
enlarge it is plain enough to those who have done  a reader's part in making
up  from  bare  hints   dropped  here  and  there  the  whole  boundary  and
circumference of a living person; can hear in what we only  whisper a living
voice;  can see, often when we say nothing about  it, exactly what he looked
like; know  without a word to guide  them precisely what he thought - and it
is  for readers  such as these that we write -  it is  plain then to  such a
reader  that  Orlando  was  strangely  compounded   of  many  humours  -  of
melancholy, of indolence, of passion, of love of solitude, to say nothing of
all those contortions and subtleties of  temper  which were indicated on the
first page, when he slashed at a  dead nigger's head;  cut it down;  hung it
chivalrously  out  of  his  reach  again  and  then  betook  himself to  the
windowseat with a book. The taste for  books was an early one. As a child he
was sometimes found at midnight by a page still reading. They took his taper
away, and he  bred glow-worms to serve his purpose. They took the glow-worms
away, and he  almost  burnt the house down  with a  tinder. To put  it in  a
nutshell,  leaving the novelist to smooth  out the crumpled silk and all its
implications, he was a  nobleman afflicted with a love  of literature.  Many
people  of  his time, still more of his rank, escaped the infection and were
thus free to run or ride or make love at their own sweet will. But some were
early  infected by a germ said to be bred of  the pollen of the asphodel and
to be blown out of Greece and Italy, which was of so deadly a nature that it
would shake  the  hand as it  was  raised to strike, and cloud the eye as it
sought its prey, and make the tongue stammer as it declared its love. It was
the fatal nature  of this disease  to substitute a  phantom  for reality, so
that Orlando, to whom fortune had given  every  gift - plate, linen, houses,
men-servants, carpets, beds in profusion - had only  to open a book for  the
whole vast accumulation to turn to mist.  The nine acres of stone which were
his  house vanished; one hundred and fifty indoor servants  disappeared; his
eighty  riding horses became invisible; it would take too long to count  the
carpets, sofas,  trappings, china, plate, cruets,  chafing  dishes and other
movables  often of beaten gold, which evaporated like so much sea mist under
the miasma. So it  was, and Orlando would  sit by himself, reading, a  naked
     The disease  gained rapidly upon him now in his solitude. He would read
often six  hours into the night; and when they came to him for orders  about
the slaughtering  of cattle or the harvesting of  wheat, he would  push away
his  folio and look as if he did not understand  what was said to  him. This
was bad  enough and wrung the hearts of Hall,  the falconer,  of Giles,  the
groom, of  Mrs  Grimsditch,  the housekeeper, of Mr  Dupper, the chaplain. A
fine  gentleman like  that, they said, had no need of books. Let  him  leave
books, they said, to  the palsied or  the  dying. But worse was to come. For
once  the disease of  reading has laid upon the system it weakens it so that
it  falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells  in the inkpot and
festers in the  quill. The  wretch takes to writing.  And while this is  bad
enough in a poor man, whose only property is a chair and a table set beneath
a leaky roof - for he has not much to lose, after all - the plight of a rich
man, who  has  houses and  cattle, maidservants, asses  and linen,  and  yet
writes books, is pitiable in the extreme. The  flavour of it all goes out of
him; he is riddled by hot irons; gnawed by vermin. He would give every penny
he has (such  is the malignity of  the germ)  to write one little  book  and
become famous; yet  all the gold in Peru will not buy him the treasure of  a
well-turned  line.  So  he  falls  into consumption  and sickness, blows his
brains out, turns his face to the wall. It matters not in what attitude they
find  him. He has passed through the gates of Death and known the flames  of
     Happily, Orlando  was of a strong  constitution and  the  disease  (for
reasons presently to be given) never broke him down as it has broken many of
his peers. But he was deeply smitten with it, as the sequel shows. For  when
he had read for an hour or so in Sir Thomas Browne, and the bark of the stag
and the call  of the night watchman showed that it was the dead of night and
all safe asleep, he crossed the room, took a  silver key from his pocket and
unlocked the doors of a  great  inlaid  cabinet  which stood in  the corner.
Within  were some  fifty drawers  of  cedar  wood and upon each was  a paper
neatly written in Orlando's hand. He paused, as if hesitating which to open.
One was inscribed  "The  Death  of Ajax",  another "The  Birth  of Pyramus",
another "Iphigenia in  Aulis",  another "The Death  of  Hippolytus", another
"Meleager", another "The Return of Odysseus", - in fact there was scarcely a
single drawer that  lacked the  name  of  some mythological personage  at  a
crisis of his career. In each drawer lay a document of considerable size all
written over  in  Orlando's  hand.  The truth  was  that  Orlando  had  been
afflicted thus  for many years.  Never  had any boy begged apples as Orlando
begged paper; nor sweetmeats as he  begged ink.  Stealing away from talk and
games, he had hidden himself behind curtains,  in priest's holes, or in  the
cupboard behind his mother's bedroom which had a great hole in the floor and
smelt horribly of  starling's  dung, with an inkhorn in one hand,  a  pen in
another, and on his knee a roll  of paper. Thus had been written, before  he
was turned twenty-five, some forty-seven plays,  histories, romances, poems;
some in prose, some in verse; some in French, some in Italian; all romantic,
and  all  long. One  he had had  printed by John Ball  of  the Feathers  and
Coronet opposite St Paul's Cross, Cheapside; but though the sight of it gave
him extreme delight, he had never dared show it even to his mother, since to
write, much  more to publish, was,  he  knew,  for a nobleman  an inexpiable
     Now, however, that it was the  dead of night and he was alone, he chose
from this repository one thick document called "Xenophila a Tragedy" or some
such  title, and  one  thin one,  called simply "The Oak Tree" (this was the
only monosyllabic title among the lot), and then he approached the  inkhorn,
fingered the quill, and made  other  such  passes as  those addicted to this
vice begin their rites with. But he paused.
     As  this pause  was  of extreme significance in  his history,  more so,
indeed, than many  acts which bring men  to their  knees and make rivers run
with  blood,  it behoves us to ask  why he  paused;  and to reply, after due
reflection, that it was for some such reason as this. Nature, who has played
so many queer tricks upon us,  making us so unequally of clay  and diamonds,
of  rainbow  and granite, and stuffed them  into a case, often of  the  most
incongruous, for  the poet  has a butcher's face  and the butcher  a poet's;
nature,  who delights in muddle and mystery, so  that even now (the first of
November  1927) we know not  why we go upstairs, or why we come  down again,
our most daily movements  are like the passage of a ship on an unknown  sea,
and the sailors at the mast-head ask, pointing their glasses to the horizon;
Is there land or is there none? to which, if we are prophets, we make answer
"Yes"; if we are truthful we say "No"; nature, who has so much to answer for
besides   the  perhaps  unwieldy  length  of   this  sentence,  has  further
complicated  her  task and added to our  confusion by providing not  only  a
perfect rag-bag  of  odds and  ends within us  -  a piece  of  a policeman's
trousers lying cheek  by jowl with Queen Alexandra's wedding veil -  but has
contrived that the whole assortment shall  be lightly stitched together by a
single  thread.  Memory  is  the seamstress, and a capricious one  at  that.
Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and  thither. We know
not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement
in  the world, such  as  sitting  down at a table  and  pulling the inkstand
towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright,
now dim,  hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen
of a family of fourteen  on  a line in a gale of wind.  Instead  of being  a
single, downright, bluff piece  of work  of which no  man need feel ashamed,
our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings,
a rising and falling of lights. Thus it was that Orlando, dipping his pen in
the  ink, saw  the mocking face  of the lost  Princess and  asked  himself a
million questions instantly which  were as arrows  dipped in gall. Where was
she; and why had she left him?  Was the Ambassador  her uncle  or her lover?
Had they  plotted?  Was she forced? Was she married? Was she dead? -  all of
which so drove their venom into him that, as if to vent his agony somewhere,
he  plunged his quill so deep into the inkhorn that the ink spirted over the
table, which  act,  explain it how one  may (and no explanation  perhaps  is
possible - Memory is inexplicable),  at once substituted for the face of the
Princess  a face  of a very  different  sort.  But  whose  was  it, he asked
himself?  And  he  had to wait,  perhaps half  a minute, looking  at the new
picture  which lay  on top of the  old, as one  lantern  slide  is half seen
through the next, before he could say to himself, "This is the face  of that
rather fat, shabby man  who sat in Twitchett's  room ever so many years  ago
when  old Queen Bess came here to dine; and  I  saw him," Orlando continued,
catching at another of those little coloured rags, "sitting at the table, as
I peeped in  on my way downstairs, and  he had the most  amazing eyes," said
Orlando, "that ever were, but who the devil was he?" Orlando asked, for here
Memory  added to  the forehead  and  eyes,  first,  a coarse, grease-stained
ruffle,  then a brown  doublet, and finally a  pair of  thick  boots such as
citizens wear  in Cheapside. "Not a Nobleman; not one  of us," said  Orlando
(which he  would not have  said  aloud,  for  he was the  most  courteous of
gentlemen; but it shows  what an  effect noble  birth has  upon the mind and
incidentally how difficult it is for a nobleman  to be a writer), "a poet, I
dare  say." By all  the laws, Memory,  having  disturbed  him  sufficiently,
should now have  blotted the whole thing out completely, or have fetched  up
something so idiotic and out of keeping - like a dog chasing a cat or an old
woman  blowing her nose into a red cotton handkerchief - that, in despair of
keeping  pace  with  her  vagaries, Orlando should  have  struck  his pen in
earnest against his paper. (For we can, if  we have the resolution, turn the
hussy, Memory, and all her ragtag and bobtail out of the house.) But Orlando
paused. Memory  still held before him the  image of a  shabby man with  big,
bright eyes. Still he  looked, still he paused. It  is these pauses that are
our undoing.  It is then  that  sedition enters the fortress and  our troops
rise  in insurrection. Once before he had paused, and  love  with its horrid
rout, its shawms, its cymbals,  and  its heads with gory locks torn from the
shoulders had burst  in. From  love he  had  suffered  the  tortures  of the
damned.  Now, again,  he  paused,  and  into  the  breach  thus  made, leapt
Ambition,  the harridan,  and Poetry,  the  witch, and Desire of  Fame,  the
strumpet;  all joined  hands  and made of  his  heart their  dancing ground.
Standing upright in the solitude of  his room, he vowed that he would be the
first  poet of  his  race and  bring immortal lustre upon his name. He  said
(reciting the names and exploits of his ancestors) that Sir Boris had fought
and killed the  Paynim;  Sir  Gawain,  the  Turk; Sir  Miles, the Pole;  Sir
Andrew, the Frank; Sir Richard, the Austrian; Sir Jordan, the Frenchman; and
Sir Herbert,  the Spaniard.  But  of all that killing  and campaigning, that
drinking and  love-making, that  spending and hunting and riding and eating,
what  remained? A skull; a finger. Whereas, he said,  turning to the page of
Sir Thomas Browne, which lay open upon the table - and again he paused. Like
an  incantation rising from  all parts of the room, from the night  wind and
the moonlight,  rolled  the  divine  melody of those words which,  lest they
should outstare this page, we will leave where they lie entombed, not  dead,
embalmed rather, so  fresh is their colour,  so  sound their breathing - and
Orlando, comparing that achievement with  those  of his ancestors, cried out
that  they  and their deeds were dust and ashes, but this man  and his words
were immortal.
     He soon  perceived, however, that the  battles which  Sir Miles and the
rest  had  waged  against armed knights  to  win a kingdom, were not half so
arduous  as  this  which he now  undertook  to win immortality  against  the
English language. Anyone moderately familiar with the rigours of composition
will not need to be told  the story  in  detail; how he wrote and it  seemed
good; read and it seemed vile;  corrected and  tore up; cut out; put in; was
in ecstasy; in  despair; had his  good nights and bad mornings;  snatched at
ideas and  lost them; saw  his book plain before him and it vanished;  acted
his people's parts as he ate;  mouthed  them as he  walked; now  cried;  now
laughed;  vacillated  between this style and  that; now preferred the heroic
and pompous;  next the plain and  simple; now the  vales  of Tempe; then the
fields of Kent or Cornwall; and could not decide whether he was the divinest
genius or the greatest fool in the world.
     It was  to settle  this last question that he decided after many months
of such feverish labour, to break the solitude of years and communicate with
the outer  world. He had  a friend  in London, one Giles Isham, of  Norfolk,
who, though of gentle birth, was acquainted with writers and could doubtless
put  him  in  touch  with  some  member  of  that  blessed,  indeed  sacred,
fraternity. For,  to Orlando in the state he was now in, there was  a  glory
about a  man who had  written a  book and had it printed, which outshone all
the glories of blood and state.  To his imagination it seemed as if even the
bodies  of  those instinct  with such divine thoughts must  be transfigured.
They must have aureoles  for hair,  incense  for breath, and roses must grow
between their lips  - which was certainly  not true either  of himself or Mr
Dupper. He could  think of no  greater happiness than  to be allowed  to sit
behind a  curtain and hear them talk. Even the imagination of that  bold and
various discourse made  the memory of what  he and his courtier friends used
to talk about - a  dog, a horse, a woman, a game of cards - seem brutish  in
the extreme. He bethought  him  with pride that he had always been called  a
scholar, and sneered  at for  his love of solitude and  books.  He had never
been apt at  pretty phrases. He would  stand  stock still, blush, and stride
like a grenadier in  a ladies'  drawing-room. He had twice  fallen, in sheer
abstraction, from his horse.  He had broken Lady Winchilsea's fan once while
making a rhyme. Eagerly recalling these and other instances of his unfitness
for the life of society, an  ineffable hope, that all the  turbulence of his
youth,  his clumsiness, his  blushes, his  long walks,  and his  love of the
country proved that  he himself belonged to the  sacred race rather  than to
the noble  -  was by birth a writer, rather  than an aristocrat  - possessed
him. For the first time since the night of the great flood he was happy.
     He  now  commissioned Mr  Isham  of Norfolk  to  deliver to Mr Nicholas
Greene of Clifford's Inn a document which set forth Orlando's admiration for
his  works (for Nick  Greene was a very famous writer at  that time) and his
desire to  make  his acquaintance; which he  scarcely dared  ask; for he had
nothing to offer  in return; but if  Mr Nicholas  Greene would condescend to
visit him, a  coach  and four would  be at  the  corner  of Fetter  Lane  at
whatever hour Mr Greene chose to appoint, and bring him safely to  Orlando's
house. One may fill up the phrases which then followed; and figure Orlando's
delight  when,  in  no long time, Mr Greene signified his  acceptance of the
Noble Lord's invitation; took his place in the coach and was set down in the
hall to  the south  of  the main  building  punctually at seven  o'clock  on
Monday, April the twenty-first.
     Many Kings, Queens, and Ambassadors had been received there; Judges had
stood  there  in their  ermine. The  loveliest ladies  of the land  had come
there;  and the  sternest warriors. Banners  hung  there  which had been  at
Flodden and  at Agincourt.  There were displayed the painted coats  of  arms
with their lions and their leopards  and their coronets. There were the long
tables  where the  gold  and  silver plate  was stood;  and  there the  vast
fireplaces of wrought Italian  marble where nightly a  whole oak tree,  with
its  million  leaves and its  nests of  rook and wren,  was burnt  to ashes.
Nicholas Greene, the  poet stood there now, plainly dressed in  his slouched
hat and black doublet, carrying in one hand a small bag.
     That Orlando as he hastened to greet him was slightly disappointed  was
inevitable.  The poet was not above middle height; was of a mean figure; was
lean and stooped somewhat, and, stumbling over the mastiff  on entering, the
dog  bit him. Moreover, Orlando for all his knowledge of mankind was puzzled
where to place him. There  was something about him which belonged neither to
servant,  squire, or noble. The head  with  its rounded forehead and  beaked
nose was fine, but the  chin receded. The eyes were  brilliant, but the lips
hung  loose and slobbered. It was  the expression of the face  - as a whole,
however,  that  was disquieting. There  was none of that  stately  composure
which makes  the faces  of the nobility  so pleasing to look at;  nor had it
anything of  the dignified servility  of  a well-trained domestic's face; it
was a face  seamed,  puckered, and drawn  together. Poet though he  was,  it
seemed as if he were more used to scold than to flatter; to  quarrel than to
coo;  to  scramble than to ride; to struggle  than to rest; to hate  than to
love.  This,  too, was  shown  by the  quickness  of his  movements;  and by
something fiery  and  suspicious  in his glance. Orlando was  somewhat taken
aback. But they went to dinner.
     Here, Orlando,  who  usually took such things for granted, was, for the
first time, unaccountably ashamed of  the number of his servants and of  the
splendour of his table.  Stranger  still, he bethought  him with pride - for
the  thought was generally distasteful - of  that great grandmother Moll who
had milked the cows. He was about somehow to allude to this humble woman and
her  milk-pails, when  the poet forestalled him by saying  that it was  odd,
seeing how common the name of Greene was, that the family had come over with
the Conqueror and was of the highest nobility in France. Unfortunately, they
had come down in the world and done little more than leave their name to the
royal  borough  of  Greenwich.  Further  talk of  the same sort, about  lost
castles,  coats   of  arms,  cousins   who  were  baronets  in  the   north,
intermarriage  with noble families in the west, how  some  Greens  spelt the
name with an e at the end,  and others without, lasted till  the venison was
on the table.  Then Orlando  contrived to say something of  Grandmother Moll
and her cows, and had eased his heart a little of its burden by the time the
wild  fowl were before them.  But  it was not until  the Malmsey was passing
freely that Orlando  dared mention what  he could not  help thinking  a more
important matter than the  Greens  or the  cows; that is to  say  the sacred
subject of poetry. At the first mention of the word, the poet's eyes flashed
fire; he dropped the fine gentleman airs he  had  worn; thumped his glass on
the  table,  and  launched into  one  of the  longest, most  intricate, most
passionate, and bitterest stories that Orlando had ever heard, save from the
lips of a jilted woman, about a  play of his; another poet; and a critic. Of
the  nature  of poetry  itself, Orlando only gathered that it  was harder to
sell  than  prose, and though  the lines  were  shorter  took  longer in the
writing. So the talk went on with  ramifications interminable, until Orlando
ventured to hint that he had himself been so rash as to write - but here the
poet  leapt  from  his chair. A mouse had squeaked in the wainscot, he said.
The truth was, he explained, that his nerves were in a state where a mouse's
squeak  upset them for a fortnight. Doubtless the house was full of  vermin,
but Orlando had not heard them. The poet then gave Orlando the full story of
his health for the past ten  years  or so. It had been so bad that one could
only marvel that he still lived. He had had the  palsy, the  gout, the ague,
the dropsy,  and the  three sorts of  fever in succession; added to which he
had an enlarged heart, a great spleen, and a diseased liver. But, above all,
he had, he  told  Orlando, sensations in his spine which defied description.
There was one knob  about the third from the  top  which  burnt  like  fire;
another about second  from the  bottom which was cold as  ice.  Sometimes he
woke with a brain like lead;  at others it was as if  a thousand wax  tapers
were alight  and people were throwing fireworks  inside him. He could feel a
rose  leaf  through his  mattress,  he said;  and knew his  way almost about
London by the feel of the cobbles. Altogether he was a piece of machinery so
finely  made  and curiously  put  together  (here he  raised his  hand as if
unconsciously, and indeed  it was of the finest  shape  imaginable) that  it
confounded him to think  that he had only sold five  hundred  copies  of his
poem, but that of course was largely due  to the conspiracy against him. All
he could say, he concluded, banging his fist  upon  the table, was that  the
art of poetry was dead in England.
     How that could be with Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Browne, Donne,
all now  writing or  just having  written, Orlando, reeling off the names of
his favourite heroes, could not think.
     Greene laughed sardonically. Shakespeare, he admitted, had written some
scenes that  were well enough; but  he  had taken them chiefly from Marlowe.
Marlowe was a likely boy, but what could you say of a lad who died before he
was  thirty? As for Browne, he  was for writing poetry in prose, and  people
soon got tired  of such conceits as that. Donne was a mountebank who wrapped
up his lack of meaning in hard words. The gulls were taken in; but the style
would  be out of fashion twelve months hence. As for Ben Jonson - Ben Jonson
was a friend of his and he never spoke ill of his friends.
     No, he concluded, the great age of literature is past; the great age of
literature was the Greek; the Elizabethan age was inferior in every  respect
to the  Greek. In such ages  men cherished a divine ambition which he  might
call  La Gloire (he pronounced  it Glawr, so that  Orlando did not  at first
catch his meaning). Now all young writers were in the pay of the booksellers
and poured out any trash that would sell. Shakespeare was the chief offender
in this  way and Shakespeare  was already paying the penalty. Their own age,
he said,  was marked by precious conceits and wild experiments  - neither of
which the Greeks would have tolerated for a moment. Much though it hurt  him
to say  it  - for he loved literature as he loved his life - he could see no
good in  the present and had no hope for the  future. Here he poured himself
out another glass of wine.
     Orlando was shocked by these  doctrines; yet  could  not help observing
that  the  critic himself seemed  by no means downcast. On the contrary, the
more he denounced his own time,  the more  complacent he  became.  He  could
remember, he  said, a  night  at the  Cock  Tavern in  Fleet Street when Kit
Marlowe  was there  and some others. Kit was in high feather, rather  drunk,
which he easily became, and  in a mood to say silly things. He could see him
now,  brandishing his  glass at  the company  and  hiccoughing out, "Stap my
vitals, Bill" (this was  to Shakespeare), "there's a great  wave coming  and
you're  on the  top of it," by  which he meant,  Greene explained, that they
were  trembling on  the verge of a great age in English literature, and that
Shakespeare was to be a poet of some importance. Happily for himself, he was
killed two nights later in a drunken brawl,  and so did not live to  see how
this prediction turned out. "Poor foolish fellow,"  said Greene, "to  go and
say a thing like that. A great age, forsooth - the Elizabethan a great age!"
     "So,  my dear Lord," he continued, settling himself comfortably  in his
chair and rubbing the wine-glass between his fingers, "we must make the best
of it, cherish the past and honour those writers  - there are still a few of
'em  - who take antiquity for their  model  and  write, not for  pay but for
Glawr."  (Orlando could have  wished him  a  better  accent.) "Glawr,"  said
Greene, "is the spur of noble minds. Had I a pension of three hundred pounds
a  year paid  quarterly,  I  would live for Glawr alone. I would  lie in bed
every morning reading Cicero. I would imitate his style so that you couldn't
tell the  difference  between  us. That's  what  I  call fine writing," said
Greene; "that's what I call Glawr.  But it's necessary  to have a pension to
do it."
     By this time Orlando had abandoned all hope of discussing his own  work
with the poet; but this mattered the less as the talk now got upon the lives
and characters of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and  the rest, all of whom Greene
had known intimately  and about whom he had a thousand anecdotes of the most
amusing  kind to tell. Orlando had never laughed so much in his life. These,
then,  were his gods! Half were drunken and  all  were amorous. Most of them
quarrelled with their wives; not one of them was above a lie  or an intrigue
of the  most paltry  kind.  Their poetry was scribbled down  on the backs of
washing bills held to the heads of printer's devils at the street door. Thus
Hamlet  went  to press; thus Lear; thus  Othello. No wonder, as Greene said,
that these plays show the faults they do. The rest of the time  was spent in
carousings and junketings in taverns and in beer gardens,  when things  were
said that  passed belief  for wit, and things were done that made the utmost
frolic of the courtiers seem pale in comparison. All this Greene told with a
spirit that roused Orlando to the  highest pitch of delight. He had a  power
of mimicry that brought the dead to life, and could say the finest things of
books provided they were written three hundred years ago.
     So time passed, and  Orlando  felt for his guest  a strange mixture  of
liking  and contempt,  of  admiration  and  pity,  as well as  something too
indefinite to be called by any one name, but had something of fear in it and
something of fascination. He  talked incessantly about himself, yet was such
good company that  one could listen to the story of his ague  for ever. Then
he was so witty; then he was so irreverent; then  he made so free  with  the
names of  God and Woman; then he  was so full  of queer  crafts and had such
strange lore in his head; could make  salad in three hundred different ways;
knew all  that could  be known of the  mixing of  wines; played half-a-dozen
musical instruments, and  was the first person, and  perhaps  the  last,  to
toast cheese in the great Italian fireplace. That he did not know a geranium
from a carnation, an oak from a birch  tree, a  mastiff  from a greyhound, a
teg from a ewe,  wheat from barley, plough land from fallow; was ignorant of
the rotation of the  crops; thought oranges grew underground  and turnips on
trees; preferred any townscape to  any  landscape, -  all this and much more
amazed Orlando,  who  had  never  met anybody of his kind  before. Even  the
maids, who  despised him, tittered at his jokes, and the  men-servants,  who
loathed  him, hung about  to  hear his stories. Indeed, the house  had never
been so lively as now that he was there - all of which gave Orlando  a great
deal to think about, and  caused  him to  compare this way of life  with the
old.  He  recalled the sort of talk  he had been  used to about  the King of
Spain's apoplexy  or the mating of a  bitch;  he bethought  him how the  day
passed between  the stables and the  dressing closet; he remembered  how the
Lords  snored  over  their  wine  and  hated anybody  who woke  them up.  He
bethought him how active and valiant they were  in  body;  how  slothful and
timid  in  mind.  Worried by these thoughts, and  unable to strike  a proper
balance,  he came  to the  conclusion that he  had admitted  to  his house a
plaguey spirit of unrest that would never suffer him to sleep sound again.
     At  the  same  moment,  Nick  Greene  came  to precisely  the  opposite
conclusion.  Lying  in bed of a morning  on the softest  pillows between the
smoothest sheets and looking  out of his oriel window  upon  turf which  for
centuries had known neither dandelion  nor dock weed, he thought that unless
he could  somehow make his escape,  he should be smothered alive. Getting up
and  hearing the pigeons coo, dressing and hearing  the  fountains  fall, he
thought that unless he could hear the drays roar  upon the cobbles of  Fleet
Street, he would  never write another line.  If this goes on much longer, he
thought, hearing the footman mend the fire and spread the  table with silver
dishes next door, I shall fall  asleep and (here he gave a prodigious  yawn)
sleeping die.
     So  he sought Orlando in his room, and explained that he  had  not been
able to sleep  a wink  all night because of the silence. (Indeed, the  house
was surrounded by a park fifteen miles in circumference and a wall ten  feet
high.)  Silence,  he  said,  was  of all things the most  oppressive  to his
nerves. He would  end his visit, by  Orlando's  leave,  that  very  morning.
Orlando felt some relief at this, yet also a great reluctance to let him go.
The house, he thought, would seem very dull without him. On parting  (for he
had never yet liked to  mention the subject), he  had the  temerity to press
his play upon the Death of Hercules upon the poet and ask his opinion of it.
The  poet took it;  muttered something about Glawr and Cicero, which Orlando
cut short by  promising to pay the pension quarterly; whereupon Greene, with
many protestations of affection, jumped into the coach and was gone.
     The great hall had never seemed so large, so  splendid, or  so empty as
the chariot rolled away. Orlando knew that he would never have the heart  to
make toasted cheese in the Italian  fireplace again. He would never have the
wit to crack jokes about Italian pictures; never have the skill to mix punch
as it should be  mixed;  a  thousand good  quips and cranks would be lost to
him. Yet what a relief to  be out of the sound of that querulous voice, what
a luxury to be  alone once  more, so he  could not  help reflecting,  as  he
unloosed the mastiff which had been tied up these six weeks because it never
saw the poet without biting him.
     Nick  Greene  was set  down  at the corner  of Fetter  Lane  that  same
afternoon, and  found things going on much as he had  left them. Mrs Greene,
that  is to say, was  giving  birth to a baby in  one room; Tom Fletcher was
drinking gin in another. Books were tumbled all  about the  floor; dinner  -
such as it was -  was  set  on a  dressing-table where the children had been
making mud pies. But this, Greene felt, was the atmosphere for writing, here
he could write, and write he did. The subject was made for him. A noble Lord
at home. A  visit to  a  Nobleman in the country - his new poem was  to have
some such title as  that. Seizing  the  pen with  which his  little  boy was
tickling  the cat's ears, and dipping it  in the  egg-cup which  served  for
inkpot, Greene dashed off a  very spirited satire there and  then. It was so
done to a turn that no one  could doubt that the young Lord who  was roasted
was  Orlando;  his  most  private  sayings  and doings, his enthusiasms  and
follies, down  to the very  colour of his hair and the foreign way he had of
rolling his  r's, were there  to the life. And  if there  had been any doubt
about  it, Greene clinched  the  matter  by  introducing, with  scarcely any
disguise, passages from  that  aristocratic tragedy, the Death of  Hercules,
which he found as he expected, wordy and bombastic in the extreme.
     The  pamphlet, which ran at  once into several  editions,  and paid the
expenses of Mrs Greene's tenth lying-in, was soon  sent  by friends who take
care of such matters to Orlando himself.  When he had read it,  which he did
with  deadly  composure  from start  to finish,  he  rang for  the  footman;
delivered the document to him at the end of a pair of tongs;  bade  him drop
it in the filthiest heart of  the  foulest midden on  the estate. Then, when
the man was turning to  go he  stopped him, "Take  the swiftest horse in the
stable," he said,  "ride for  dear life to Harwich. There embark upon a ship
which you will find bound for Norway. Buy for me from the King's own kennels
the finest elk-hounds of the Royal strain, male  and female. Bring them back
without delay. For," he murmured,  scarcely above his breath as he turned to
his books, "I have done with men."
     The  footman, who  was  perfectly trained  in  his  duties,  bowed  and
disappeared. He  fulfilled his task so efficiently that he was back that day
three weeks, leading in his  hand a leash of the  finest elk-hounds, one  of
whom,  a  female,  gave  birth that  very night under the dinner-table to  a
litter of eight fine puppies. Orlando had them brought to his bedchamber.
     "For," he said, "I have done with men."
     Nevertheless, he paid the pension quarterly.
     Thus, at the age of thirty, or thereabouts, this young Nobleman had not
only  had  every  experience  that  life  has to  offer,  but  had seen  the
worthlessness  of them  all.  Love and  ambition, women and poets  were  all
equally vain. Literature was a farce. The night after reading Greene's Visit
to a Nobleman in the Country, he burnt in a great  conflagration fifty-seven
poetical works, only  retaining "The Oak  Tree", which was his  boyish dream
and very short. Two  things alone remained to  him in which  he  now put any
trust: dogs and  nature; an elk-hound and a rose bush. The world, in all its
variety, life in all  its complexity, had shrunk to  that. Dogs  and a  bush
were  the whole of it. So feeling  quit of a vast  mountain of illusion, and
very naked in consequence,  he called  his  hounds to him and strode through
the Park.
     So long  had  he been  secluded, writing and reading, that he had  half
forgotten  the amenities  of nature,  which in June can be  great.  When  he
reached that high mound whence on fine days half of England with  a slice of
Wales and  Scotland  thrown  in  can be  seen,  he flung  himself under  his
favourite oak tree and felt that if he need never speak to  another  man  or
woman  so  long as  he  lived;  if his dogs did not  develop  the faculty of
speech; if he  never met  a poet or a Princess again, he might make out what
years remained to him in tolerable content.
     Here he came then, day after day,  week after week,  month after month,
year after  year. He  saw the beech trees  turn  golden and the young  ferns
unfurl; he saw the moon sickle and then circular; he saw - but probably  the
reader can imagine  the passage which should follow  and how every tree  and
plant in the neighbourhood is described first green, then  golden; how moons
rise and  suns  set; how spring follows winter and  autumn summer; how night
succeeds  day  and  day night; how  there is  first a  storm  and then  fine
weather; how things remain  much as they are for two  or three hundred years
or  so, except  for a little dust and a few cobwebs which  one old woman can
sweep up in half an hour; a conclusion which, one cannot help feeling, might
have  been reached more quickly by the  simple statement that  "Time passed"
(here the exact amount could be indicated in brackets)  and nothing whatever
     But  Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables  bloom
and fade with amazing  punctuality, has  no such simple effect upon the mind
of man.  The  mind  of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness  upon the
body of time.  An hour, once  it lodges in the queer element  of  the  human
spirit, may be  stretched to fifty  or a hundred times  its clock length; on
the other hand, an hour  may be  accurately represented on  the timepiece of
the mind by  one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between  time on the
clock  and time in  the mind is less known than it  should be  and  deserves
fuller investigation. But the  biographer, whose interests are, as  we  have
said, highly restricted, must confine himself to  one simple statement: when
a man has  reached the age  of  thirty, as Orlando now had,  time when he is
thinking   becomes  inordinately  long;  time  when  he   is  doing  becomes
inordinately short. Thus Orlando gave his orders and did the business of his
vast estates in  a flash;  but directly he was alone on the mound under  the
oak tree,  the  seconds  began to  round and fill until it seemed as if they
would never fall.  They  filled  themselves, moreover,  with  the  strangest
variety of objects. For not only  did he find himself confronted by problems
which have puzzled the wisest of men, such as What is love? What friendship?
What truth?  but directly he came to think about them, his whole past, which
seemed to him of extreme length and variety, rushed into the falling second,
swelled it a dozen times its natural size, coloured it a thousand tints, and
filled it with all the odds and ends in the universe.
     In  such thinking (or by whatever  name  it  should be called) he spent
months  and  years of  his life. It  would be no exaggeration to say that he
would go out after breakfast a man  of thirty  and come home to dinner a man
of  fifty-five at least. Some weeks added  a century to his  age, others  no
more than  three seconds at most.  Altogether, the  task of  estimating  the
length of human life (of the animals' we presume not to speak) is beyond our
capacity, for directly we say  that it is ages long, we are reminded that it
is briefer than the  fall of a rose  leaf to the ground. Of the  two  forces
which alternately,  and what  is  more confusing  still, at the same moment,
dominate our  unfortunate numbskulls  - brevity and diuturnity - Orlando was
sometimes under the  influence of  the  elephant-footed  deity, then  of the
gnat-winged  fly. Life seemed to  him  of prodigious length. Yet even so, it
went  like a flash.  But  even  when it  stretched  longest and the  moments
swelled biggest and he seemed to wander alone  in  deserts of vast eternity,
there  was  no  time for the smoothing  out and deciphering of  those scored
parchments  which thirty  years among men and women had  rolled tight in his
heart and  brain. Long before he had  done thinking about Love (the oak tree
had put forth its leaves and  shaken them to the ground a dozen times in the
process)  Ambition  would  jostle  it  off  the  field, to  be  replaced  by
Friendship or Literature. And as  the first question had not  been settled -
What is Love? - back it would come at  the  least  provocation  or none, and
hustle Books or  Metaphors of  What one lives for into the margin,  there to
wait till they saw their chance to rush into the  field again. What made the
process  still  longer was that it was profusely illustrated,  not only with
pictures,  as that  of old Queen  Elizabeth, laid on her tapestry  couch  in
rose-coloured brocade with an  ivory snuff-box in her hand and a gold-hilted
sword by  her side, but with  scents - she was  strongly perfumed - and with
sounds; the stags were barking in Richmond Park that  winter's day.  And so,
the thought of love would be all ambered over with snow and winter; with log
fires burning; with Russian women, gold  swords, and the bark of stags; with
old King James' slobbering and  fireworks and sacks of treasure in the holds
of Elizabethan sailing ships. Every single thing, once  he tried to dislodge
it from its place in his mind, he found thus cumbered with other matter like
the lump  of glass which,  after a year  at  the bottom of the sea, is grown
about  with bones and dragon-flies, and  coins  and the  tresses of  drowned
     "Another metaphor by Jupiter!" he would exclaim as he said  this (which
will  show the disorderly  and circuitous way  in which his mind  worked and
explain why the oak tree flowered and faded so  often before he came to  any
conclusion about Love). "And what's the point of  it?" he would ask himself.
"Why not  say simply in so many words?" and then he  would try to think  for
half  an hour, - or was  it two years  and a half? - how to say simply in so
many words what  love is. "A figure like that is  manifestly untruthful," he
argued, "for  no  dragon-fly, unless  under  very exceptional circumstances,
could live at the bottom of the sea. And  if literature is not the Bride and
Bedfellow  of  Truth,  what  is she? Confound  it all,"  he  cried, "why say
Bedfellow when one's  already said Bride? Why  not simply say what one means
and leave it?"
     So then he tried saying the  grass is green and the  sky is blue and so
to propitiate  the austere  spirit  of poetry whom still, though  at a great
distance,  he could not help reverencing. "The sky is  blue," he said,  "the
grass is green." Looking up, he saw that, on  the contrary, the sky is  like
the veils which a thousand Madonnas  have let fall from their  hair; and the
grass fleets and  darkens  like a  flight  of girls fleeing the embraces  of
hairy satyrs  from  enchanted woods.  "Upon  my word," he  said (for he  had
fallen  into the bad habit of speaking aloud),  "I don't see that one's more
true than another. Both are utterly  false." And he despaired of being  able
to solve the  problem of what poetry  is  and what truth  is and fell into a
deep dejection.
     And here we may profit by a  pause in his soliloquy to reflect how  odd
it was  to  see Orlando stretched there on his  elbow  on a June day  and to
reflect that this fine fellow with all his faculties about him and a healthy
body, witness cheeks and limbs - a man who never thought twice about heading
a charge  or fighting a duel  - should  be so  subject  to the  lethargy  of
thought, and rendered so susceptible by it, that when it  came to a question
of  poetry,  or his own competence in it, he  was as shy  as  a  little girl
behind her mother's  cottage  door. In our belief, Greene's ridicule  of his
tragedy hurt  him  as much  as  the Princess' ridicule of  his  love. But to
     Orlando went on thinking. He kept  looking at the grass and at  the sky
and trying to bethink  him what a true poet, who has his verses published in
London, would say about  them. Memory meanwhile (whose  habits have  already
been described) kept steady  before his eyes the face of Nicholas Greene, as
if  that sardonic  loose-lipped  man,  treacherous as he had proved himself,
were  the Muse in person, and it  was to him that Orlando must do homage. So
Orlando, that  summer morning, offered him a variety of phrases, some plain,
others  figured, and  Nick Greene kept  shaking his head  and  sneering  and
muttering something about  Glawr  and Cicero and the death of poetry in  our
time. At length, starting  to  his feet (it was now  winter  and  very cold)
Orlando swore one of the most remarkable oaths of his lifetime, for it bound
him to a servitude than which none is stricter. "I'll be blasted,"  he said,
"if I ever write another word, or try to write another word, to please  Nick
Greene or  the Muse. Bad,  good,  or indifferent, I'll write, from  this day
forward, to please myself"; and here he made as  if he  were tearing a whole
budget  of  papers across and  tossing  them in  the face  of  that sneering
loose-lipped man. Upon which,  as a cur ducks if you stoop to shy a stone at
him, Memory ducked  her effigy of Nick Greene out of sight; and  substituted
for it - nothing whatever.
     But  Orlando, all  the same, went on thinking.  He  had indeed much  to
think of.  For when he tore the  parchment across, he tore, in  one rending,
the  scrolloping, emblazoned scroll which he  had made out in his own favour
in  the solitude of his  room  appointing  himself,  as  the  King  appoints
Ambassadors,  the first  poet  of his race,  the first  writer of  his  age,
conferring  eternal  immortality upon his soul and granting his body a grave
among  laurels  and   the  intangible   banners  of   a  people's  reverence
perpetually. Eloquent as this all was, he now tore it up and threw it in the
dustbin. "Fame," he  said. "is like" (and since there was  no Nick Greene to
stop him,  he went on to revel in images of which we will choose only one or
two of the  quietest) "a braided coat which hampers the limbs;  a  jacket of
silver which  curbs the  heart;  a painted shield which covers a scarecrow,"
etc.  etc.  The pith  of  his  phrases  was  that  while  fame  impedes  and
constricts,  obscurity  wraps about a man like a  mist;  obscurity is  dark,
ample,  and free; obscurity lets  the mind take its way  unimpeded. Over the
obscure man is poured the  merciful suffusion of darkness. None knows  where
he goes or comes.  He may seek the truth and speak it;  he alone is free; he
alone  is truthful; he alone is  at peace. And so he sank into a quiet mood,
under the oak  tree,  the hardness of whose roots, exposed above the ground,
seemed to him rather comfortable than otherwise.
     Sunk for a long time in profound thoughts as to the value of obscurity,
and  the delight of having no name, but being like a wave  which returns  to
the deep body of the sea; thinking how obscurity rids the mind of the irk of
envy and  spite;  how  it  sets  running  in  the veins the  free  waters of
generosity and magnanimity; and  allows  giving  and taking  without  thanks
offered or praise given; which must have been the way of all great poets, he
supposed (though  his knowledge  of Greek was  not enough to  bear him out),
for, he thought, Shakespeare  must  have written like that, and  the  church
builders  built like that, anonymously,  needing no thanking or naming,  but
only their work in the daytime and a  little ale  perhaps at night? "What an
admirable life  this is," he thought, stretching his limbs out under the oak
tree. "And why not enjoy it this very moment?" The thought struck him like a
bullet. Ambition dropped  like a plummet. Rid  of the heart-burn of rejected
love, and  of vanity rebuked, and all the  other stings and pricks which the
nettle-bed of life had  burnt  upon him when ambitious of fame, but could no
longer inflict upon  one careless of  glory, he  opened his  eyes, which had
been wide open  all the time, but had seen  only thoughts, and saw, lying in
the hollow beneath him, his house.
     There it lay in  the early sunshine  of spring. It looked a town rather
than a house, but a town built, not hither  and  thither, as this man wished
or that, but circumspectly, by a single architect with one idea in his head.
Courts and  buildings, grey, red, plum  colour, lay orderly and symmetrical;
the courts were some of them oblong and some square; in this was a fountain;
in  that  a  statue; the buildings were some of them low, some pointed; here
was  a chapel,  there a belfry; spaces of the greenest grass lay in  between
and clumps of cedar trees and beds of bright flowers; all were clasped - yet
so well  set out  was it that it seemed  that every part had  room to spread
itself  fittingly  -  by  the roll  of  a  massive  wall;  while smoke  from
innumerable chimneys curled perpetually into the air. This vast, yet ordered
building, which could house  a thousand men and perhaps two thousand horses,
was built,  Orlando thought,  by workmen whose names  are unknown. Here have
lived,  for  more centuries  than I can count, the obscure generations of my
own obscure family. Not one of  these Richards, Johns, Annes, Elizabeths has
left a token  of himself behind him,  yet all, working together  with  their
spades and their needles,  their love-making and  their  child-bearing, have
left this.
     Never had the house looked more noble and humane.
     Why, then, had he wished  to  raise himself above them?  For it  seemed
vain  and arrogant in  the extreme to try to  better that  anonymous work of
creation; the labours  of those vanished hands. Better was it to go  unknown
and leave behind you an  arch, a  potting shed, a wall where  peaches ripen,
than to  burn like  a  meteor  and leave no  dust. For after  all, he  said,
kindling as  he  looked  at  the great  house on  the greensward  below, the
unknown lords and ladies who lived there never forgot to set aside something
for  those who  come after; for the  roof that will leak; for the tree  that
will  fall. There  was always  a warm corner for  the  old  shepherd in  the
kitchen;  always food  for  the hungry;  always their goblets were polished,
though they  lay sick,  and  their windows were  lit though they lay  dying.
Lords though they were, they were content to go down into obscurity with the
molecatcher and the stone-mason. Obscure noblemen, forgotten builders - thus
he apostrophized them with a warmth that  entirely gainsaid such  critics as
called him cold, indifferent, slothful (the truth being that a quality often
lies just on the  other side of  the  wall from where we seek it) -  thus he
apostrophized his  house and race in terms of the most moving eloquence; but
when it  came  to  the peroration -  and what  is  eloquence  that  lacks  a
peroration? - he fumbled. He would have liked to have ended with  a flourish
to the effect  that he would follow in their footsteps and add another stone
to their building. Since,  however, the building already covered nine acres,
to add even a single stone  seemed superfluous.  Could one mention furniture
in a peroration? Could one speak of chairs and tables and mats to lie beside
people's beds? For whatever  the peroration wanted, that was what  the house
stood  in need of.  Leaving his speech unfinished for the  moment, he strode
down hill again resolved henceforward to devote himself to the furnishing of
the mansion. The news - that she was to attend him instantly - brought tears
to the  eyes of  good old Mrs Grimsditch, now grown somewhat  old.  Together
they perambulated the house.
     The  towel horse in the King's bedroom ("and  that  was  King Jamie, my
Lord," she said, hinting that it was many a day since a King had slept under
their roof;  but the odious Parliament days were over  and  there was  now a
Crown in England again) lacked a leg; there were  no stands to the ewers  in
the  little closet leading  into the waiting room  of the Duchess's page; Mr
Greene had made a stain on the carpet with his nasty pipe smoking, which she
and Judy, for all their scrubbing, had never been able to  wash out. Indeed,
when Orlando came to reckon up the matter of furnishing with rosewood chairs
and  cedar-wood cabinets,  with  silver  basins,  china bowls,  and  Persian
carpets, every  one of the three hundred and  sixty-five bedrooms which  the
house contained, he saw that it would be no light one; and if some thousands
of pounds of his estate remained over, these would do little  more than hang
a few galleries with tapestry, set  the dining hall with fine, carved chairs
and provide mirrors of solid silver and chairs  of the same metal (for which
he had an inordinate passion) for the furnishing of the royal bedchambers.
     He now  set to work in  earnest, as we can prove beyond  a doubt if  we
look at his ledgers. Let us glance at an inventory of what he bought at this
time, with the expenses totted up in the margin - but these we omit.
     "To fifty  pairs  of Spanish  blankets,  ditto  curtains of crimson and
white taffeta; the valence to  them of  white satin embroidered with crimson
and white silk...
     "To seventy yellow satin chairs and  sixty stools,  suitable with their
buckram covers to them all...
     "To sixty seven walnut tree tables...
     "To seventeen dozen  boxes  containing each dozen  five dozen of Venice
     "To one hundred and two mats, each thirty yards long...
     "To ninety seven cushions of crimson  damask laid with silver parchment
lace and footstools of cloth of tissue and chairs suitable...
     "To fifty branches for a dozen lights apiece..."
     Already  - it is an  effect lists have upon  us - we  are beginning  to
yawn.  But if we stop, it is only that the catalogue is tedious, not that it
is finished. There  are ninety-nine  pages  more  of  it  and  the total sum
disbursed ran into  many  thousands - that  is to say millions of our money.
And if his day was spent like this,  at night again, Lord Orlando  might  be
found reckoning out what it would cost to level a  million molehills, if the
men were paid tenpence an hour;  and again,  how many hundredweight of nails
at  fivepence halfpenny  a gill were needed to  repair the fence  round  the
park, which was fifteen miles in circumference. And so on and so on.
     The tale, we  say, is tedious,  for one cupboard  is much like another,
and  one  molehill not much different from a million. Some pleasant journeys
it cost him; and some fine adventures. As, for instance, when he set a whole
city of blind women near  Bruges  to  stitch hangings for a silver  canopied
bed; and the story of his  adventure with a Moor in Venice of whom he bought
(but  only  at the  sword's point) his lacquered cabinet,  might,  in  other
hands,  prove worth  the  telling.  Nor did the  work lack variety; for here
would come,  drawn by teams from Sussex, great trees, to be  sawn across and
laid along  the gallery  for flooring; and then a chest from Persia, stuffed
with wool and sawdust. from which, at last, he would take a single plate, or
one topaz ring.
     At length,  however,  there was no  room  in the  galleries for another
table; no room on te tables for  another cabinet; no room in the cabinet for
another rose-bowl;  no room in the bowl for  another  handful  of potpourri;
there was no  room  for anything anywhere; in short the house was furnished.
In  the  garden snowdrops, crocuses,  hyacinths, magnolias,  roses,  lilies,
asters, the dahlia  in all  its  varieties, pear  trees  and apple trees and
cherry trees  and mulberry trees,  with  an  enormous quantity of  rare  and
flowering shrubs,  of  trees  evergreen and perennial, grew so thick on each
other's roots  that  there was  no  plot of earth  without its bloom, and no
stretch of sward without its  shade. In  addition, he had imported wild fowl
with gay  plumage;  and two  Malay bears, the  surliness  of  whose  manners
concealed, he was certain, trusty hearts.
     All now was  ready;  and when it was evening and the innumerable silver
sconces were lit and the light airs which for ever moved about the galleries
stirred the blue and green arras, so that  it looked as if the huntsmen were
riding  and Daphne flying; when the silver shone and lacquer glowed and wood
kindled; when the carved chairs held their  arms out  and dolphins swam upon
the walls with mermaids on their backs; when all this and much more than all
this was complete and to  his  liking, Orlando walked through the house with
his elk-hounds following and felt content. He had matter now, he thought, to
fill out his peroration. Perhaps  it would be well  to begin  the speech all
over again.  Yet, as  he paraded the galleries he felt that still  something
was  lacking.  Chairs  and tables, however richly  gilt  and  carved, sofas,
resting on lions' paws with swans'  necks  curving under them, beds even  of
the softest  swansdown are not by themselves enough. People sitting in them,
people lying in them improve them amazingly. Accordingly Orlando now began a
series  of very  splendid  entertainments to  the nobility and gentry of the
neighbourhood. The three hundred and  sixty-five bedrooms were  full  for  a
month  at a  time.  Guests jostled  each  other on the fifty-two staircases.
Three  hundred servants bustled  about the  pantries.  Banquets  took  place
almost nightly. Thus, in a very few years,  Orlando had worn the nap off his
velvet, and  spent the  half of  his fortune; but  he  had  earned the  good
opinion of his neighbours,  held a  score of offices  in the county, and was
annually presented with perhaps a dozen volumes dedicated to his Lordship in
rather  fulsome terms  by grateful poets. For  though he was careful  not to
consort  with writers at that time and kept himself always aloof from ladies
of foreign blood,  still,  he was excessively generous both  to women and to
poets, and both adored him.
     But when the feasting was at  its  height  and his guests were at their
revels, he was apt to take himself off to his private room alone. There when
the door was shut, and  he was certain of  privacy, he would have out an old
writing book, stitched together with silk stolen from his mother's  workbox,
and labelled in a round schoolboy  hand, "The Oak Tree, A Poem". In  this he
would write till midnight chimed and  long after. But as he scratched out as
many  lines  as  he  wrote in, the sum  of them was often, at the end of the
year, rather less than  at the beginning, and it looked as if in the process
of writing the  poem  would  be  completely  unwritten. For  it is  for  the
historian of letters to remark  that he had changed his style amazingly. His
floridity  was  chastened;  his abundance  curbed;  the  age  of  prose  was
congealing those warm fountains. The very  landscape outside was  less stuck
about with  garlands  and  the  briars  themselves  were  less  thorned  and
intricate. Perhaps the senses were a little duller and honey  and cream less
seductive to the  palate. Also that the streets were  better drained and the
houses better lit had its effect upon the style, it cannot be doubted.
     One day he  was adding a line or two with  enormous labour to "The  Oak
Tree, A Poem", when a shadow crossed the tail of his  eye. It was no shadow,
he  soon saw, but the figure  of a very tall lady  in riding hood and mantle
crossing the quadrangle on which his  room  looked out. As this was the most
private of the courts, and the lady was a stranger to him, Orlando marvelled
how  she had got there. Three days later the same apparition appeared again;
and on Wednesday noon appeared  once more. This time, Orlando was determined
to follow her, nor apparently  was she afraid to be found, for she slackened
her steps as he came  up and  looked him full  in the  face. Any other woman
thus caught in  a  Lord's private grounds would have been  afraid; any other
woman with that face, head-dress,  and aspect would have thrown her mantilla
across her shoulders to hide it. For this lady resembled nothing  so much as
a hare; a hare startled, but obdurate; a hare whose timidity is overcome  by
an immense and foolish audacity; a hare that sits upright and glowers at its
pursuer with great, bulging  eyes; with ears erect but quivering, with  nose
pointed,  but twitching.  This  hare, moreover, was six feet high and wore a
head-dress into  the bargain of some  antiquated kind  which made  her  look
still taller. Thus  confronted, she stared at Orlando  with a stare in which
timidity and audacity were most strangely combined.
     First,  she asked  him, with a proper,  but somewhat clumsy curtsey, to
forgive her her intrusion. Then, rising to her full height again, which must
have been something over six feet two, she went on to  say - but with such a
cackle of  nervous laughter, so much  tee-heeing and haw-hawing that Orlando
thought  she must  have escaped  from a lunatic  asylum - that  she was  the
Archduchess Harriet  Griselda  of Finster-Aarhorn  and  Scand-op-Boom in the
Roumanian  territory. She desired above all things to make his acquaintance,
she said. She had  taken  lodging over a baker's shop at the Park Gates. She
had seen his picture and it was the image of a sister of hers who was - here
she guffawed -  long  since  dead. She was  visiting  the English court. The
Queen was her Cousin. The King was a very good fellow but seldom went to bed
sober. Here  she  tee-heed and haw-hawed again. In  short, there was nothing
for it but to ask her in and give her a glass of wine.
     Indoors,  her  manners regained  the hauteur  natural  to  a  Roumanian
Archduchess; and had she not shown a knowledge  of wines rare in a lady, and
made some  observations upon firearms and  the  customs of sportsmen in  her
country, which were sensible enough, the talk would have lacked spontaneity.
Jumping to her feet at last, she announced that she would call the following
day,  swept  another  prodigious  curtsey and departed.  The following  day,
Orlando rode out.  The next, he turned his back;  on the  third he drew  his
curtain.  On the  fourth it  rained, and as he could not keep  a lady in the
wet, nor was altogether averse to  company, he  invited her in and asked her
opinion whether a suit of armour, which belonged to an ancestor of his,  was
the work of Jacobi or of Topp. He inclined to Topp. She held another opinion
- it matters very little which. But it is of  some  importance to the course
of our  story that, in illustrating her  argument,  which had to do with the
working of the tie pieces, the Archduchess Harriet took the golden shin case
and fitted it to Orlando's leg.
     That he  had a pair of the  shapeliest legs that any Nobleman has  ever
stood upright upon has already been said.
     Perhaps something in the  way she  fastened  the  ankle buckle; or  her
stooping posture; or Orlando's long seclusion; or the natural sympathy which
is between the sexes; or the Burgundy; or the fire - any of these causes may
have  been to blame;  for certainly  blame there is  on one side or another,
when a Nobleman of Orlando's breeding, entertaining a lady in his house, and
she his  elder by  many years, with a  face a  yard long  and staring  eyes,
dressed somewhat ridiculously too, in a mantle and riding cloak  though  the
season  was warm - blame  there is  when such a Nobleman  is so suddenly and
violently overcome by passion of some sort that he has to leave the room.
     But what sort of passion, it may well be asked, could this be?  And the
answer is double faced as Love herself. For Love  - but  leaving Love out of
the argument for a moment, the actual event was this:
     When the Archduchess Harriet  Griselda stooped  to  fasten  the buckle,
Orlando heard, suddenly and  unaccountably,  far off  the  beating of Love's
wings.  The distant stir  of that  soft  plumage  roused  in him  a thousand
memories of rushing waters, of loveliness  in the snow and faithlessness  in
the flood;  and the sound came  nearer; and he blushed  and trembled; and he
was moved  as he had thought  never to be moved again;  and  he was ready to
raise his hands and let the bird of beauty alight upon his shoulders, when -
horror! - a creaking  sound like that the crows make tumbling over the trees
began  to reverberate; the  air seemed dark with  coarse black wings; voices
croaked; bits of straw, twigs, and feathers dropped; and there  pitched down
upon  his shoulders the  heaviest  and foulest  of  the  birds; which is the
vulture.  Thus he  rushed  from the room  and sent  the  footman to  see the
Archduchess Harriet to her carriage.
     For Love,  to which we may  now return,  has two faces; one white,  the
other black; two bodies; one smooth, the other hairy.  It has two hands, two
feet,  two nails,  two, indeed, of every member and each one  is  the  exact
opposite of the  other. Yet, so strictly are they  joined  together that you
cannot separate them.  In this case, Orlando's love began her flight towards
him with her white face  turned,  and  her smooth and  lovely body outwards.
Nearer and nearer she came wafting before her airs of pure delight. All of a
sudden (at  the sight of  the  Archduchess  presumably)  she  wheeled about,
turned the other way round; showed herself black, hairy, brutish; and it was
Lust the vulture, not Love,  the Bird of Paradise, that flopped,  foully and
disgustingly, upon  his  shoulders.  Hence  he  ran;  hence he  fetched  the
     But the  harpy is not so easily banished as all  that. Not only did the
Archduchess continue to lodge  at the Baker's, but Orlando was haunted every
day and  night by  phantoms  of  the foulest kind. Vainly, it seemed, had he
furnished  his house with silver and  hung the walls with arras, when at any
moment a dung-bedraggled fowl could settle upon his writing table. There she
was, flopping  about  among  the chairs;  he  saw her  waddling ungracefully
across the  galleries. Now, she perched, top heavy upon a fire  screen. When
he chased her out, back she came and pecked at the glass till she broke it.
     Thus  realizing that his home was uninhabitable, and that steps must be
taken to end  the  matter instantly, he  did what any other young  man would
have done in his  place,  and  asked King Charles to send him  as Ambassador
Extraordinary to Constantinople.  The King  was walking  in Whitehall.  Nell
Gwyn was  on his arm.  She was pelting him with hazel nuts. 'Twas a thousand
pities, that amorous lady sighed, that such a pair of legs  should leave the
     Howbeit, the Fates were hard; she could do no more  than toss one  kiss
over her shoulder before Orlando sailed.
     0x01 graphic

     It is, indeed, highly unfortunate,  and much  to  be regretted that  at
this stage of  Orlando's career, when he played a most important part in the
public life of his  country, we  have  least information to go upon. We know
that he  discharged his  duties  to admiration -  witness  his Bath  and his
Dukedom.  We  know that  he  had  a  finger  in  some  of the most  delicate
negotiations between  King Charles and  the Turks - to that, treaties in the
vault of the Record Office  bear testimony. But the revolution  which  broke
out  during  his period  of  office,  and the fire which followed,  have  so
damaged  or destroyed all those papers  from  which  any  trustworthy record
could be  drawn, that what we can give is lamentably  incomplete.  Often the
paper  was scorched  a  deep  brown  in  the middle  of  the most  important
sentence.  Just  when we thought to  elucidate  a  secret  that  has puzzled
historians  for  a  hundred  years, there was a hole in  the manuscript  big
enough to  put  your finger through. We  have done  our  best to piece out a
meagre summary from the charred fragments that remain; but often it has been
necessary to speculate, to surmise, and even to use the imagination.
     Orlando's  day was passed, it would seem,  somewhat  in  this  fashion.
About seven, he  would rise,  wrap himself in a long Turkish cloak, light  a
cheroot, and lean his elbows on the parapet. Thus he would stand, gazing  at
the city beneath him, apparently entranced. At this hour  the mist would lie
so thick that the domes of Santa Sofia and the rest would seem to be afloat;
gradually the  mist  would uncover  them; the  bubbles  would be seen  to be
firmly fixed; there would be the  river; there the Galata Bridge;  there the
green-turbaned pilgrims  without  eyes  or  noses,  begging  alms; there the
pariah dogs picking up offal; there the shawled women; there the innumerable
donkeys; there men on horses carrying long poles. Soon, the whole town would
be astir  with the cracking  of  whips, the  beating of  gongs,  cryings  to
prayer, lashing  of  mules, and  rattle  of  brass-bound wheels, while  sour
odours, made from bread fermenting and incense, and spice, rose even to  the
heights  of  Pera  itself  and  seemed  the  very  breath  of  the  strident
multi-coloured and barbaric population.
     Nothing,  he reflected,  gazing at the view which was  now sparkling in
the sun, could  well be less  like the counties  of Surrey and Kent  or  the
towns of London  and Tunbridge Wells. To the right and left rose in bald and
stony prominence the inhospitable  Asian mountains, to which the arid castle
of a robber chief or two might hang; but parsonage there was none, nor manor
house, nor cottage, nor oak, elm, violet, ivy, or wild eglantine. There were
no hedges for ferns to grow on, and no fields for sheep to graze. The houses
were  white as  egg-shells and as bald.  That  he, who was  English root and
fibre,  should yet  exult to the depths of his heart in this  wild panorama,
and gaze and  gaze at those passes and  far  heights planning journeys there
alone on foot where only the  goat and shepherd had gone before; should feel
a  passion  of affection  for the  bright,  unseasonable flowers,  love  the
unkempt pariah dogs beyond even his elk hounds at home, and snuff the acrid,
sharp  smell of the streets  eagerly  into his  nostrils,  surprised him. He
wondered if, in the  season of the Crusades, one of his  ancestors had taken
up with  a Circassian peasant  woman; thought it possible; fancied a certain
darkness in his complexion; and, going indoors again, withdrew to his bath.
     An hour later, properly scented, curled, and anointed, he would receive
visits  from  secretaries  and other  high  officials  carrying,  one  after
another, red  boxes which  yielded only  to  his own golden key. Within were
papers of the highest importance, of which  only fragments, here a flourish,
there a seal firmly attached to a piece of burnt silk, now remain.  Of their
contents then, we cannot speak,  but can only testify that  Orlando was kept
busy, what with his wax and seals, his various coloured ribbons which had to
be  diversely attached, his engrossing of titles  and making  of  flourishes
round capital  letters,  till  luncheon came  - a  splendid  meal of perhaps
thirty courses.
     After  luncheon,  lackeys announced that his  coach and six was  at the
door, and he went, preceded by purple Janissaries running on foot and waving
great ostrich  feather  fans  above  their  heads,  to call  upon  the other
ambassadors and dignitaries of state. The ceremony  was  always the same. On
reaching the courtyard, the Janissaries struck with their fans upon the main
portal, which  immediately flew  open  revealing a large chamber, splendidly
furnished.  Here were seated two  figures, generally of  the opposite sexes.
Profound  bows  and  curtseys  were  exchanged.  In  the first room, it  was
permissible only to  mention the weather.  Having said  that it was fine  or
wet, hot or  cold,  the Ambassador then passed on to the next chamber, where
again,  two figures rose  to  greet him. Here  it was  only  permissible  to
compare  Constantinople  as  a  place  of  residence  with  London;  and the
Ambassador naturally said that he  preferred  Constantinople, and  his hosts
naturally said,  though they had not seen it, that they preferred London. In
the  next  chamber,  King  Charles's  and  the  Sultan's  healths had to  be
discussed at some length. In the next were discussed the Ambassador's health
and that of  his host's wife, but  more  briefly. In the next the Ambassador
complimented  his host upon his  furniture,  and  the host  complimented the
Ambassador  upon his dress. In  the next, sweet meats were offered, the host
deploring  their  badness,  the Ambassador  extolling  their  goodness.  The
ceremony ended at length with the smoking of  a hookah and the drinking of a
glass  of coffee;  but though the motions of smoking and drinking were  gone
through punctiliously there  was neither tobacco  in the pipe nor coffee  in
the glass,  as, had either smoke or drink been  real,  the human frame would
have sunk beneath the surfeit. For,  no sooner had the Ambassador despatched
one such visit, than another had  to be undertaken. The same ceremonies were
gone through in precisely  the same  order  six  or seven times over  at the
houses of the other great officials, so  that  it was  often  late at  night
before the Ambassador reached home. Though Orlando  performed these tasks to
admiration and never denied that they  are, perhaps, the most important part
of a  diplomatist's  duties, he was undoubtedly fatigued by them, and  often
depressed to such a  pitch  of gloom  that  he  preferred to take his dinner
alone with his dogs. To  them, indeed, he might be heard talking  in his own
tongue.  And sometimes, it is said, he  would pass out of his own gates late
at  night so disguised that  the sentries did not know  him. Then  he  would
mingle with the crowd on the Galata Bridge; or stroll  through  the bazaars;
or throw aside his shoes and join the worshippers in the Mosques. Once, when
it was given out that he was ill of a fever, shepherds, bringing their goats
to  market, reported that  they had met an English Lord on the mountain  top
and heard him praying to his God. This  was thought to  be Orlando  himself,
and  his prayer was, no doubt, a  poem said  aloud, for it was known that he
still carried  about  with him,  in the bosom  of  his cloak, a much  scored
manuscript; and servants,  listening  at  the  door,  heard  the  Ambassador
chanting something in an odd, sing-song voice when he was alone.
     It is  with fragments such as these that we must do our best to make up
a picture of Orlando's life and character at this time. There exist, even to
this day, rumours, legends, anecdotes of a floating and unauthenticated kind
about Orlando's life  in  Constantinople (we have quoted but a few of  them)
which  go to prove that he possessed, now that he was in the prime  of life,
the power to stir the fancy and rivet the eye which will keep a memory green
long  after  all  that  more  durable qualities  can do  to  preserve it  is
forgotten. The  power is  a mysterious one  compounded of beauty, birth, and
some rarer gift, which we may call glamour and have done with it. "A million
candles", as Sasha had said,  burnt in him without his being  at the trouble
of lighting a single one.  He  moved like a stag, without any need  to think
about his legs. He spoke in his ordinary  voice and echo beat a silver gong.
Hence rumours gathered round him.  He became the  adored  of many women  and
some men.  It was  not necessary that  they should speak to him or even that
they  should  see him; they  conjured up  before  them  especially when  the
scenery  was romantic,  or  the sun  was  setting,  the figure  of  a  noble
gentleman in silk stockings. Upon  the poor and uneducated, he had  the same
power as upon the rich. Shepherds, gipsies, donkey drivers, still sing songs
about  the English  Lord  "who  dropped  his emeralds  in  the well",  which
undoubtedly  refer to Orlando, who once, it seems, tore his jewels  from him
in  a moment of rage or intoxication and  flung  them in  a fountain; whence
they were  fished by a page boy. But this romantic power, it is well  known,
is often associated with a nature of extreme  reserve. Orlando seems to have
made no  friends. As far  as  is known, he formed  no attachments. A certain
great lady came  all the  way  from England  in order to  be  near him,  and
pestered him with her attentions, but  he  continued to discharge his duties
so indefatigably that he  had not been Ambassador at the Horn for  more than
two years and a half before King Charles  signified his intention of raising
him to the highest rank  in the peerage. The envious said that this was Nell
Gwyn's tribute to the memory of a leg. But, as she had  seen him once  only,
and was  then busily engaged in pelting her  royal master with nutshells, it
is likely that it was his merits that won him his Dukedom, not his calves.
     Here we  must pause, for we have reached a moment of great significance
in his career. For the  conferring of the Dukedom was the occasion of a very
famous,  and indeed, much  disputed incident,  which we must  now  describe,
picking  our way among burnt papers and little bits of tape  as best we may.
It was at the end of the great fast of Ramadan that  the  Order of the  Bath
and  the patent  of nobility arrived in a frigate commanded  by  Sir  Adrian
Scrope;  and  Orlando  made this the  occasion  for  an  entertainment  more
splendid than any that has been known before or since in Constantinople. The
night  was  fine;  the  crowd  immense,  and  the  windows  of  the  Embassy
brilliantly illuminated. Again, details  are lacking,  for the fire  had its
way  with  all  such records, and has  left only tantalizing fragments which
leave the most  important points obscure.  From  the  diary of  John  Fenner
Brigge,  however, an English  naval  officer, who  was among the guests,  we
gather  that people  of all nationalities  "were packed like  herrings in  a
barrel"  in the  courtyard.  The crowd  pressed so unpleasantly  close  that
Brigge  soon  climbed  into  a  Judas  tree,  the   better  to  observe  the
proceedings.  The rumour  had  got  about  among  the  natives (and here  is
additional proof  of Orlando's  mysterious  power over the imagination) that
some  kind of miracle was to be performed. "Thus,"  writes  Brigge (but  his
manuscript   is  full  of  burns  and  holes,  some  sentences  being  quite
illegible),  "when  the rockets  began  to soar  into  the  air,  there  was
considerable  uneasiness  among  us  lest  the native  population  should be
seized...fraught with unpleasant consequences to all...English ladies in the
company,  I own that my hand went to my cutlass.  Happily," he  continues in
his  somewhat  long-winded  style,  "these  fears seemed,  for  the  moment,
groundless  and,  observing  the  demeanour of  the natives...I came to  the
conclusion that this demonstration of our skill in the art of pyrotechny was
valuable, if only because it  impressed upon  them...the  superiority of the
British...Indeed,  the sight was one of indescribable magnificence.  I found
myself  alternately  praising the  Lord  that he had permitted...and wishing
that my poor, dear mother...By  the  Ambassador's orders, the  long windows,
which are so imposing a feature of Eastern architecture, for though ignorant
in many ways...were thrown wide;  and  within, we could see a tableau vivant
or theatrical display  in which English ladies and gentlemen...represented a
masque the work  of one...The words were inaudible, but the sight of so many
of  our  countrymen  and  women,  dressed  with  the  highest  elegance  and
distinction...moved me to  emotions  of which  I am  certainly  not ashamed,
though unable...I was intent upon observing the astonishing conduct of  Lady
- which  was of  a nature to fasten the  eyes of all upon her,  and to bring
discredit upon her sex  and country,  when" - unfortunately a  branch of the
Judas tree broke, Lieutenant Brigge fell to the ground, and the rest  of the
entry records only his gratitude to Providence (who plays a very  large part
in the diary) and the exact nature of his injuries.
     Happily, Miss Penelope Hartopp, daughter of  the General of that  name,
saw the scene from inside and carries on the tale in a  letter, much defaced
too, which  ultimately reached  a female  friend  at  Tunbridge Wells.  Miss
Penelope was  no  less lavish in  her  enthusiasm than  the gallant officer.
"Ravishing," she exclaims ten times on  one page, "wondrous...utterly beyond   plate...candelabras...negroes  in   plush   breeches...
pyramids  of  ice...fountains  of  negus...jellies  made  to  represent  His
Majesty's  ships...swans  made to represent  water lilies...birds  in golden
cages...gentlemen in slashed crimson  velvet...Ladies' headdresses  AT LEAST
six  foot high...musical boxes....Mr  Peregrine said I  looked  QUITE lovely
which I only repeat to you,  my dearest, because I know...Oh!  how  I longed
for you all!...surpassing anything we have seen at  the Pantiles...oceans to
drink...some  gentlemen  overcome...Lady Betty ravishing....Poor Lady Bonham
made  the  unfortunate  mistake  of  sitting down  without  a chair  beneath
her...Gentlemen  all  very  gallant...wished  a  thousand times for you  and
dearest Betsy...But the sight  of all others, the cynosure  of all
all admitted, for none  could be so  vile as to deny it, was the  Ambassador
himself. Such  a leg! Such  a countenance!!  Such princely manners!!! To see
him come into the room! To  see him go  out again! And something INTERESTING
in the expression, which makes one feel, one scarcely knows why, that he has
SUFFERED! They say a lady was the cause of it.  The heartless monster!!! How
can  one  of  our  REPUTED  TENDER  SEX have  had  the effrontery!!!  He  is
unmarried, and half  the ladies in the place  are  wild for  love of him...A
thousand, thousand kisses to Tom, Gerry, Peter, and dearest Mew" [presumably
her cat].
     From  the Gazette  of the time,  we gather  that "as the  clock  struck
twelve, the Ambassador appeared  on the  centre Balcony  which was hung with
priceless rugs. Six Turks of  the Imperial Body Guard, each over six foot in
height, held torches to his right and left. Rockets rose into the air at his
appearance, and a great shout went up from the people, which the  Ambassador
acknowledged,  bowing deeply, and  speaking a few  words  of  thanks in  the
Turkish  language,  which it  was one of his accomplishments  to  speak with
fluency. Next,  Sir Adrian  Scrope,  in the full dress of a British Admiral,
advanced; the Ambassador knelt on one knee; the Admiral placed the Collar of
the Most Noble Order of the Bath round his neck, then pinned the Star to his
breast; after which another gentleman of the diplomatic corps advancing in a
stately manner placed on his shoulders  the ducal robes, and handed him on a
crimson cushion, the ducal coronet."
     At  length, with a  gesture of  extraordinary majesty  and grace, first
bowing  profoundly, then raising himself  proudly erect,  Orlando  took  the
golden circlet of strawberry leaves and placed it, with a gesture which none
that saw it ever forgot, upon his brows. It was at this point that the first
disturbance began.  Either the  people had expected  a miracle -  some say a
shower of gold was prophesied to fall from the skies - which did not happen,
or this was the signal chosen for the attack to begin; nobody seems to know;
but as the coronet settled  on Orlando's  brows a great uproar  rose.  Bells
began  ringing; the harsh cries of  the prophets were heard above the shouts
of the people; many Turks fell flat to the ground and touched the earth with
their foreheads.  A door burst open. The natives pressed into the banqueting
rooms. Women shrieked. A certain  lady, who was said to be dying for love of
Orlando,  seized a candelabra  and  dashed it to the ground.  What might not
have happened, had it not been for the presence  of Sir Adrian Scrope  and a
squad  of British blue-jackets, nobody can say. But the  Admiral ordered the
bugles to be sounded;  a hundred blue-jackets stood instantly  at attention;
the disorder was quelled, and quiet, at least for the time being, fell  upon
the scene.
     So far, we  are on the  firm, if rather narrow, ground  of  ascertained
truth. But nobody has ever known exactly  what took place later  that night.
The testimony of the sentries  and others seems, however, to prove  that the
Embassy was empty of company, and shut up for the night in the  usual way by
two  A.M. The Ambassador was seen to  go  to  his room,  still  wearing  the
insignia of his rank, and shut the  door. Some say he locked  it,  which was
against his custom.  Others maintain that they heard music of a rustic kind,
such  as  shepherds play,  later  that  night  in  the  courtyard under  the
Ambassador's window. A  washer-woman, who was kept awake by toothache,  said
that she  saw  a man's figure, wrapped in a cloak or dressing gown, come out
upon the balcony. Then, she said, a woman,  much  muffled, but apparently of
the peasant class, was drawn up by means of a rope which the man let down to
her  on  to  the  balcony.  There,  the  washer-woman  said,  they  embraced
passionately  "like lovers", and  went into  the room together,  drawing the
curtains so that no more could be seen.
     Next  morning,  the Duke,  as  we must now call him, was  found by  his
secretaries  sunk  in  profound  slumber  amid  bed  clothes that  were much
tumbled. The room  was in some disorder, his coronet  having  rolled  on the
floor, and  his cloak and garter being flung all of a  heap on  a chair. The
table was  littered with  papers.  No suspicion  was  felt  at first, as the
fatigues of the night had been great.  But when afternoon  came and he still
slept, a doctor was summoned. He applied remedies which had been used on the
previous occasion,  plasters,  nettles, emetics, etc., but without  success.
Orlando slept on. His secretaries then thought  it their duty to examine the
papers on the table. Many were scribbled over with poetry, in which frequent
mention was made of an oak  tree. There were also various state  papers  and
others of  a  private  nature  concerning the management of his  estates  in
England.  But  at   length   they  came  upon  a  document  of  far  greater
significance. It was nothing  less,  indeed,  than a deed of marriage, drawn
up, signed,  and witnessed  between  his  Lordship,  Orlando, Knight  of the
Garter,  etc., etc., etc., and Rosina Pepita, a dancer, father unknown,  but
reputed a gipsy, mother also unknown but reputed a seller of old iron in the
market-place over against the Galata  Bridge. The secretaries looked at each
other in dismay. And  still Orlando slept.  Morning and evening they watched
him, but, save that his breathing was  regular and his cheeks still  flushed
their  habitual deep  rose,  he gave no sign  of life.  Whatever  science or
ingenuity could do to waken him they did. But still he slept.
     On  the seventh  day  of his trance (Thursday, May the 10th)  the first
shot was fired of that terrible  and bloody insurrection of which Lieutenant
Brigge  had detected the first symptoms. The Turks rose  against the Sultan,
set fire to the town, and put every foreigner they could find, either to the
sword or to the  bastinado.  A few English managed to escape; but, as  might
have been expected, the gentlemen of the British Embassy preferred to die in
defence of their red boxes, or, in extreme cases, to swallow bunches of keys
rather  than  let them fall into the hands of the Infidel. The rioters broke
into Orlando's  room,  but seeing him stretched to all appearances dead they
left him untouched, and only robbed him of his coronet  and the robes of the
     And now again obscurity descends, and would indeed that it were deeper!
Would, we almost have it in our hearts to exclaim, that it were so deep that
we could see nothing whatever  through its opacity! Would that we might here
take  the pen  and write Finis to our work! Would  that  we  might spare the
reader what is to come and say to him in so many words, Orlando died and was
buried. But here, alas,  Truth, Candour,  and  Honesty, the austere Gods who
keep watch  and ward by the inkpot of the biographer, cry  No! Putting their
silver  trumpets to their lips they  demand  in one  blast, Truth! And again
they  cry  Truth! and sounding  yet a third time in concert they peal forth,
The Truth and nothing but the Truth!
     At which - Heaven be praised! for it affords us a breathing space - the
doors gently  open, as if a  breath  of the gentlest and holiest zephyr  had
wafted them apart, and three figures enter. First, comes our Lady of Purity;
whose brows are bound with fillets of the whitest lamb's wool; whose hair is
as  an avalanche of the driven  snow; and  in whose  hand  reposes the white
quill of a virgin goose. Following her, but with a statelier step, comes our
Lady  of  Chastity;  on whose  brow  is  set like  a  turret of  burning but
unwasting  fire  a diadem of  icicles;  her eyes  are  pure  stars, and  her
fingers,  if  they touch you,  freeze you to the  bone.  Close  behind  her,
sheltering indeed in the shadow  of her more stately sisters, comes our Lady
of Modesty, frailest and fairest of  the three; whose face is  only shown as
the young moon shows when it is thin and sickle shaped and half hidden among
clouds. Each advances towards  the centre  of  the room where  Orlando still
lies sleeping; and with gestures at once  appealing and commanding, OUR LADY
OF PURITY speaks first:
     "I am  the guardian of the sleeping fawn;  the  snow is dear to me; and
the moon rising; and  the  silver  sea. With  my robes  I cover the speckled
hen's eggs  and the brindled sea shell; I  cover  vice and  poverty. On  all
things frail or  dark or  doubtful, my  veil descends. Wherefore, speak not,
reveal not. Spare, O spare!"
     Here the trumpets peal forth.
     "Purity Avaunt! Begone Purity!"
     Then OUR LADY OF CHASTITY speaks:
     "I am she whose touch  freezes and  whose glance turns to stone. I have
stayed the star in its  dancing,  and the wave as it falls. The highest Alps
are my dwelling place;  and  when I walk,  the lightnings flash in  my hair;
where my eyes fall, they kill. Rather  than let Orlando wake, I will  freeze
him to the bone. Spare, O spare!"
     Here the trumpets peal forth.
     "Chastity Avaunt! Begone Chastity!"
     Then OUR LADY OF MODESTY speaks, so low that one can hardly hear:
     "I am she that men call Modesty. Virgin I am and ever shall be. Not for
me the fruitful  fields and the fertile vineyard.  Increase is odious to me;
and when  the apples burgeon or the flocks  breed,  I run, I  run; I let  my
mantle fall. My hair covers my eyes. I do not see. Spare, O spare!"
     Again the trumpets peal forth:
     "Modesty Avaunt! Begone Modesty!?"
     With gestures of grief and lamentation the three sisters now join hands
and dance slowly, tossing their veils and singing as they go:
     "Truth come  not out from your horrid den. Hide deeper,  fearful Truth.
For you flaunt in the brutal gaze of the sun things that were better unknown
and undone; you unveil  the shameful; the dark you  make  clear, Hide! Hide!
     Here  they  make  as  if to  cover  Orlando with  their draperies.  The
trumpets, meanwhile, still blare forth,
     "The Truth and nothing but the Truth."
     At  this  the Sisters try to  cast  their veils over the  mouths of the
trumpets so as  to muffle  them, but in vain, for now all the trumpets blare
forth together,
     "Horrid Sisters, go!"
     The sisters become  distracted and  wail in unison, still circling  and
flinging their veils up and down.
     "It has not always been so! But men want us no longer; the women detest
us. We go; we  go. I  (PURITY SAYS THIS) to the hen roost. I  (CHASTITY SAYS
THIS) to the still unravished heights of  Surrey. I  (MODESTY SAYS THIS)  to
any cosy nook where there are ivy and curtains in plenty."
     "For  there, not  here  (all  speak  together joining  hands and making
gestures  of  farewell  and  despair  towards  the bed  where  Orlando  lies
sleeping) dwell  still in nest and boudoir,  office  and lawcourt those  who
love  us;  those  who honour us,  virgins and city men; lawyers and doctors;
those who prohibit; those who deny; those who reverence without knowing why;
those  who praise without understanding; the still very numerous (Heaven  be
praised) tribe  of the respectable;  who prefer  to see  not; desire to know
not; love the darkness; those still worship us, and with reason; for we have
given them Wealth, Prosperity, Comfort, Ease.  To them we go,  you we leave.
Come, Sisters, come! This is no place for us here."
     They retire in haste, waving their draperies over their heads, as if to
shut  out something that they dare not  look upon  and close the door behind
     We  are,  therefore, now  left  entirely  alone in the  room  with  the
sleeping Orlando and the trumpeters. The trumpeters, ranging themselves side
by side in order, blow one terrific blast:
     "THE TRUTH!"
     at which Orlando woke.
     He  stretched himself. He rose. He stood  upright in complete nakedness
before us, and while  the  trumpets pealed Truth!  Truth! Truth! we have  no
choice left but confess - he was a woman.
     0x01 graphic

     The  sound of the trumpets died away and Orlando stood  stark naked. No
human being, since the world began, has ever looked more ravishing. His form
combined  in one the  strength of  a  man  and a  woman's grace. As he stood
there, the silver trumpets prolonged their  note,  as if  reluctant to leave
the  lovely sight  which their blast had called forth; and Chastity, Purity,
and Modesty, inspired, no doubt,  by Curiosity, peeped  in at the  door  and
threw a  garment like a towel at the naked form which,  unfortunately,  fell
short by  several inches.  Orlando  looked himself  up  and down  in  a long
looking-glass,  without  showing  any  signs   of  discomposure,  and  went,
presumably, to his bath.
     We may  take advantage of this  pause in the narrative  to make certain
statements. Orlando had become  a woman  -  there is  no denying it. But  in
every other respect,  Orlando remained precisely as he had been.  The change
of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to  alter their
identity. Their  faces  remained, as their portraits  prove, practically the
same. His memory - but in future we  must, for convention's sake, say  "her"
for "his", and  "she" for "he" - her memory then, went back  through all the
events of  her past  life  without encountering  any  obstacle. Some  slight
haziness  there may have  been, as if  a few dark drops had fallen  into the
clear pool of memory; certain things  had become a  little dimmed; but  that
was all.  The  change  seemed  to  have  been  accomplished  painlessly  and
completely and in such a way that Orlando herself showed no  surprise at it.
Many people, taking this into account, and holding that such a change of sex
is against nature, have  been at great  pains to prove (1)  that Orlando had
always  been a  woman,  (2)  that  Orlando  is at  this  moment  a man.  Let
biologists and  psychologists determine.  It is  enough for us to  state the
simple fact; Orlando  was a man  till the  age of  thirty;  when he became a
woman and has remained so ever since.
     But let other  pens treat  of  sex and  sexuality; we  quit such odious
subjects as soon as we  can. Orlando had now washed, and  dressed herself in
those  Turkish coats and trousers which can be worn  indifferently by either
sex;  and was forced to consider her position. That it  was  precarious  and
embarrassing in  the extreme  must be the first thought  of every reader who
has followed her story with sympathy. Young, noble, beautiful, she had woken
to find herself in a  position than which we can conceive none more delicate
for  a young lady  of rank. We should not  have blamed her had she  rung the
bell,  screamed,  or   fainted.  But  Orlando  showed   no  such   signs  of
perturbation.  All  her actions  were deliberate  in the extreme,  and might
indeed have  been  thought  to  show  tokens  of  premeditation.  First, she
carefully  examined  the  papers  on the table; took  such  as seemed to  be
written  in  poetry,  and  secreted them in  her bosom; next she  called her
Seleuchi hound, which had never left her  bed all these  days,  though  half
famished with hunger,  fed  and combed  him; then stuck a pair of pistols in
her  belt; finally  wound about her  person several  strings of emeralds and
pearls of the  finest orient  which had  formed part  of  her  Ambassadorial
wardrobe. This  done, she leant out of the window, gave one low whistle, and
descended the  shattered  and  bloodstained  staircase, now strewn with  the
litter  of waste-paper  baskets, treaties, despatches, seals,  sealing  wax,
etc., and so entered  the courtyard. There, in the shadow  of  a  giant  fig
tree, waited an old gipsy on a donkey. He led another by the bridle. Orlando
swung her leg over it; and thus, attended by a lean dog, riding a donkey, in
company of a  gipsy,  the Ambassador of Great Britain at  the  Court of  the
Sultan left Constantinople.
     They rode  for  several  days and  nights and  met  with  a  variety of
adventures, some at the hands of men, some at the hands of nature, in all of
which Orlando acquitted herself with courage. Within a week they reached the
high ground outside Broussa, which was then  the chief camping ground of the
gipsy tribe to which Orlando had  allied herself.  Often she  had  looked at
those mountains from her  balcony  at the Embassy;  often had  longed to  be
there; and  to  find  oneself  where  one  has  longed  to be  always,  to a
reflective mind, gives food for thought. For some time, however, she was too
well pleased with the change to spoil it by thinking. The pleasure of having
no documents to seal  or  sign, no flourishes to make, no calls to pay,  was
enough. The gipsies  followed  the grass;  when it was grazed down, on  they
moved again. She  washed  in streams if she  washed at  all; no  boxes, red,
blue,  or green, were  presented to her;  there  was not a  key, let alone a
golden key, in the whole camp; as for  "visiting", the word was unknown. She
milked  the goats; she  collected brushwood; she stole  a hen's egg now  and
then,  but always put a  coin or a pearl in place  of it; she herded cattle;
she stripped vines;  she trod the grape; she filled  the goat-skin and drank
from it; and when she remembered how, at about  this time of day, she should
have  been  making  the motions  of  drinking  and  smoking  over  an  empty
coffee-cup and a  pipe which lacked tobacco, she laughed aloud, cut  herself
another hunch of bread, and begged for a puff from old Rustum's pipe, filled
though it was with cow dung.
     The gipsies, with whom it is  obvious that she must have been in secret
communication before the revolution, seem to have  looked upon her as one of
themselves (which  is  always  the highest compliment a people can pay), and
her dark  hair  and  dark complexion bore out  the  belief  that she was, by
birth, one of them and had been snatched by an English  Duke from a nut tree
when  she was  a baby and taken  to that barbarous land where people live in
houses because they are too feeble and diseased to stand the open air. Thus,
though in  many  ways  inferior  to them, they were  willing to help her  to
become  more  like  them;  taught  her  their  arts  of   cheese-making  and
basket-weaving,  their science of stealing  and bird-snaring, and were  even
prepared to consider letting her marry among them.
     But Orlando had  contracted in England some of the customs  or diseases
(whatever you choose to consider them) which cannot, it seems,  be expelled.
One evening, when they were all sitting round  the camp  fire and the sunset
was blazing over the Thessalian hills, Orlando exclaimed:
     "How good to eat!"
     (The gipsies have no word for "beautiful". This is the nearest.)
     All the  young men and women  burst out laughing uproariously.  The sky
good to eat, indeed! The elders,  however, who  had seen  more of foreigners
than  they had,  became suspicious. They noticed that Orlando often sat  for
whole  hours  doing nothing whatever, except look here and then there;  they
would come upon her on some  hill-top  staring  straight in front of her, no
matter  whether the goats were grazing  or straying.  They began  to suspect
that  she  had  other beliefs than their  own, and the  older  men and women
thought it probable that she had fallen into the  clutches of the vilest and
cruellest among all the Gods,  which is Nature. Nor were they far wrong. The
English disease, a love of Nature, was inborn in her, and here, where Nature
was so much larger and  more  powerful  than in England, she  fell into  its
hands as she had never done before. The malady is too  well  known,  and has
been, alas,  too  often  described  to  need  describing afresh,  save  very
briefly. There were mountains; there were  valleys; there were streams.  She
climbed  the mountains; roamed the valleys; sat on the banks of the streams.
She likened  the  hills to ramparts, to the breasts of doves, and the flanks
of kine. She compared the flowers to enamel and the turf to Turkey rugs worn
thin. Trees were withered hags, and sheep were grey boulders. Everything, in
fact, was something else.  She found the tarn on the mountain-top and almost
threw herself in to seek the  wisdom  she  thought lay hid there;  and when,
from  the  mountain-top, she beheld far off, across  the Sea of Marmara, the
plains of Greece, and made out  (her eyes were admirable) the Acropolis with
a white streak or two,  which must, she thought, be  the Parthenon, her soul
expanded with her eyeballs, and she prayed that she might  share the majesty
of the  hills,  know  the serenity  of the plains, etc. etc.,  as  all  such
believers  do. Then, looking down, the red hyacinth, the purple iris wrought
her to cry out in ecstasy at the goodness, the beauty of nature; raising her
eyes again, she beheld the eagle soaring, and imagined its raptures and made
them  her  own. Returning home,  she saluted each star,  each peak, and each
watch-fire as  if  they signalled to her alone; and at last,  when she flung
herself  upon her mat in  the gipsies' tent, she could not help bursting out
again,  How good to eat! How  good to eat! (For  it is  a  curious fact that
though human beings have such imperfect means  of  communication, that  they
can  only say "good  to eat"  when  they mean "beautiful" and the other  way
about, they will yet endure ridicule and misunderstanding  rather than  keep
any experience to themselves.) All the young gipsies laughed. But  Rustum el
Sadi,  the old man who  had  brought Orlando out  of  Constantinople on  his
donkey, sat silent. He had a nose like a scimitar; his  cheeks were furrowed
as if from the age-long descent of  iron  hail; he  was brown and keen-eyed,
and as he sat tugging at his hookah he observed Orlando narrowly. He had the
deepest suspicion  that her  God was Nature. One day he found her  in tears.
Interpreting this to mean that her God had punished her, he told her that he
was not surprised. He showed her the fingers  of  his left hand, withered by
the  frost; he  showed her his right foot, crushed where a  rock had fallen.
This,  he  said, was  what her  God  did  to men.  When  she  said, "But  so
beautiful", using the English word, he shook his head; and when she repeated
it he was angry. He saw that she did  not believe what he believed, and that
was enough, wise and ancient as he was, to enrage him.
     This  difference of  opinion disturbed Orlando, who  had been perfectly
happy until now. She began to think, was Nature beautiful or cruel; and then
she asked herself what this beauty was; whether it was in things themselves,
or only in herself; so she went on to  the nature of reality, which  led her
to truth, which in its turn led to Love, Friendship, Poetry  (as in the days
on  the high  mound  at home); which meditations, since she could impart  no
word  of  them, made her long, as she had never longed before, for  pen  and
     "Oh! if only I could write!" she cried (for  she had the odd conceit of
those  who write  that words written  are shared). She had  no ink;  and but
little paper. But  she  made  ink from berries and wine;  and  finding a few
margins  and blank spaces  in the manuscript of "The Oak  Tree", managed  by
writing  a  kind of shorthand,  to describe the scenery  in  a  long,  blank
version poem, and to  carry on a dialogue with herself about this Beauty and
Truth concisely enough. This kept her extremely happy for hours on  end. But
the  gipsies  became suspicious. First, they noticed that she was less adept
than  before  at milking and cheese-making; next, she often hesitated before
replying; and once a gipsy boy who had been asleep, woke in a terror feeling
her  eyes  upon  him. Sometimes this constraint would be felt by  the  whole
tribe,  numbering  some dozens of grown men and women. It  sprang  from  the
sense they had (and their senses are very sharp and much in advance of their
vocabulary)  that  whatever they  were doing  crumbled like  ashes  in their
hands.  An old  woman making a  basket, a  boy skinning a  sheep,  would  be
singing or crooning contentedly at their work, when Orlando would  come into
the camp, fling herself down by the fire and gaze into the flames.  She need
not even look at them,  and yet they felt, here  is someone  who doubts; (we
make  a rough-and-ready translation from the gipsy language) here is someone
who does  not  do the thing for the sake  of doing; nor looks  for looking's
sake; here is  someone  who  believes neither in sheep-skin  nor basket; but
sees (here they looked apprehensively about the tent) something else. Then a
vague but most unpleasant feeling would begin to work in the boy and in  the
old  woman. They  broke  their withys; they  cut their fingers. A great rage
filled them. They  wished  Orlando would leave the tent and never come  near
them again. Yet she was  of a  cheerful and willing disposition, they owned;
and one of her pearls was enough to buy the finest herd of goats in Broussa.
     Slowly, she began to feel  that there  was some  difference between her
and the gipsies which  made her hesitate sometimes to marry and settle  down
among them for ever. At first she tried to account for it by saying that she
came  of an ancient  and  civilized  race,  whereas these  gipsies  were  an
ignorant people,  not much  better  than savages. One night  when they  were
questioning her about England she could  not help with some pride describing
the house where she was born, how it had 365  bedrooms and  had  been in the
possession of her family for four  or five hundred years. Her ancestors were
earls, or even dukes, she added. At this she noticed again that the  gipsies
were uneasy; but not angry  as before when  she  had  praised the  beauty of
nature.  Now they  were courteous, but  concerned as people of fine breeding
are when a stranger has been made to reveal his low birth or poverty. Rustum
followed her out of the  tent  alone and said that she need not mind if  her
father were a Duke, and possessed all the  bedrooms  and furniture  that she
described. They would none of them think the worse of her for that. Then she
was  seized  with a shame that she had never felt before. It  was clear that
Rustum and the other gipsies thought a descent of four or five hundred years
only  the meanest possible.  Their own  families  went back at least two  or
three thousand years. To  the gipsy whose ancestors had  built the  Pyramids
centuries before Christ was born, the genealogy of Howards and  Plantagenets
was  no  better and no worse than  that of the  Smiths and the Joneses: both
were negligible.  Moreover, where  the  shepherd  boy had a  lineage of such
antiquity, there was  nothing specially  memorable or desirable  in  ancient
birth; vagabonds  and beggars all  shared  it.  And  then, though he was too
courteous to  speak openly, it was clear  that the gipsy  thought that there
was no more vulgar ambition  than to  possess  bedrooms by the hundred (they
were on top of a hill as they spoke; it was night; the mountains rose around
them) when  the whole earth is ours. Looked at from the gipsy point of view,
a  Duke,  Orlando understood,  was nothing  but  a profiteer  or robber  who
snatched land and money from people who rated these things  of little worth,
and could think of nothing better to  do  than  to  build three  hundred and
sixty-five bedrooms when one  was enough, and none was even better than one.
She  could not  deny that  her ancestors had accumulated  field after field;
house after  house; honour after honour; yet had none of them been saints or
heroes,  or  great benefactors of the human race.  Nor could she counter the
argument  (Rustum  was  too  much  of  a  gentleman  to  press  it, but  she
understood) that  any man who did now what  her  ancestors had done three or
four  hundred  years  ago  would be  denounced - and by her own  family most
loudly - for a vulgar upstart, an adventurer, a nouveau riche.
     She sought to answer such arguments by  the familiar if  oblique method
of finding the  gipsy life itself rude  and barbarous;  and so, in  a  short
time,  much  bad blood  was bred between  them. Indeed, such  differences of
opinion are enough to cause bloodshed and revolution. Towns have been sacked
for less, and a million martyrs have suffered at the stake rather than yield
an inch upon any of the points here debated.  No  passion is stronger in the
breast of man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing
so cuts at  the root of his happiness and fills him with rage  as the  sense
that another rates low what he prizes high.  Whigs and Tories, Liberal party
and Labour party - for what do they battle  except their own prestige? It is
not love of truth  but desire  to prevail that sets  quarter against quarter
and makes parish desire the downfall of parish. Each seeks peace of mind and
subserviency rather than the triumph of truth and the exaltation of virtue -
but these moralities belong, and should be left to the historian, since they
are as dull as ditch water.
     "Four  hundred  and  seventy-six bedrooms mean nothing to them," sighed
     "She prefers a sunset to a flock of goats," said the gipsies.
     What was to be done, Orlando could not think. To  leave the gipsies and
become once more an Ambassador seemed to her intolerable. But it was equally
impossible to remain for ever where there was neither ink nor writing paper,
neither  reverence  for  the  Talbots  nor  respect for  a  multiplicity  of
bedrooms. So  she was  thinking,  one  fine morning on the  slopes  of Mount
Athos, when minding her goats. And then Nature, in  whom she trusted, either
played her a trick or worked a miracle - again, opinions differ too much for
it to be possible to say which. Orlando was gazing rather disconsolately  at
the  steep hill-side in front of her. It was now midsummer,  and  if we must
compare the  landscape to anything, it would have been to a  dry bone; to  a
sheep's skeleton; to a  gigantic skull picked white  by a thousand vultures.
The heat was  intense, and the little fig  tree under which Orlando lay only
served to print patterns of fig-leaves upon her light burnous.
     Suddenly a shadow, though  there was nothing to cast a shadow, appeared
on  the  bald mountain-side  opposite. It deepened  quickly and soon a green
hollow showed where there had  been barren rock before. As  she  looked, the
hollow deepened and widened, and a great park-like space opened in the flank
of the hill.  Within, she could see an undulating and grassy lawn; she could
see  oak trees dotted here  and there; she could see  the  thrushes  hopping
among the branches. She could see the deer stepping delicately from shade to
shade,  and  could even  hear  the hum of insects and the  gentle  sighs and
shivers of a summer's day in England. After she had gazed entranced for some
time,  snow began falling; soon  the whole landscape was covered and  marked
with  violet shades  instead  of yellow  sunlight. Now she  saw heavy  carts
coming along the roads, laden with tree trunks,  which they were taking, she
knew, to be sawn for firewood; and  then appeared the roofs and belfries and
towers  and courtyards of her  own home. The snow was  falling steadily, and
she could now hear the slither  and  flop which it made as it slid down  the
roof and fell to the ground. The smoke went up from a thousand chimneys. All
was  so clear and minute that she  could see a  daw pecking for worms in the
snow. Then, gradually, the violet shadows deepened and closed over the carts
and  the lawns and the great house itself. All was  swallowed up.  Now there
was nothing left of the grassy  hollow,  and instead of the green lawns  was
only the blazing hill-side which  a thousand vultures  seemed to have picked
bare. At this, she burst into a passion of tears, and  striding back to  the
gipsies' camp, told them that she must sail for England the very next day.
     It was happy for her that she did so. Already the young men had plotted
her death. Honour, they said,  demanded  it, for  she  did not think as they
did. Yet they would have been sorry to cut her throat; and welcomed the news
of her departure. An  English merchant  ship,  as luck  would  have it,  was
already under sail in the  harbour about to return to England;  and Orlando,
by breaking off  another pearl from her necklace, not only  paid her passage
but had some banknotes left over in  her wallet.  These she would have liked
to present to the gipsies. But they despised wealth she knew; and she had to
content herself with embraces, which on her part were sincere.
     0x01 graphic

     With  some  of the guineas left from the sale of the tenth pearl on her
string, Orlando bought herself a complete outfit  of such  clothes  as women
then wore, and it was in the dress of a young Englishwoman of rank  that she
now sat  on the  deck of the  "Enamoured Lady". It is a strange fact, but  a
true one, that up to this moment she had scarcely given  her sex a  thought.
Perhaps the Turkish trousers which she had hitherto worn had done  something
to  distract her  thoughts;  and  the  gipsy  women, except  in  one or  two
important particulars, differ very little from  the gipsy men. At any  rate,
it was  not until she felt the coil of skirts about her legs and the Captain
offered, with the greatest politeness, to  have an awning spread for her  on
deck, that she realized with a start the penalties and the privileges of her
position. But that start was not of the kind that might have been expected.
     It was not caused, that  is to say, simply and solely by the thought of
her chastity and how she could preserve it. In normal circumstances a lovely
young woman alone would have  thought of  nothing else; the whole edifice of
female government  is  based on  that  foundation  stone; chastity  is their
jewel,  their  centrepiece,  which they run mad  to  protect,  and die  when
ravished  of.  But  if  one has been  a  man for thirty years or so,  and an
Ambassador into the bargain, if  one has held a Queen in one's  arms and one
or  two other ladies,  if report be true, of less  exalted rank, if one  has
married a  Rosina  Pepita, and so on, one  does not perhaps give such a very
great start  about that. Orlando's start was of a very complicated kind, and
not to  be summed  up in a trice. Nobody,  indeed, ever accused her of being
one of those quick wits who run  to the  end of things in  a minute. It took
her  the  entire length of the voyage  to  moralize out the meaning  of  her
start, and so, at her own pace, we will follow her.
     "Lord," she thought, when she had  recovered from her start, stretching
herself out  at length under her awning, "this is a  pleasant, lazy  way  of
life, to be  sure. But," she thought, giving her legs a kick,  "these skirts
are  plaguey  things to have about  one's heels.  Yet  the  stuff  (flowered
paduasoy) is the loveliest in the world. Never have I seen my own skin (here
she  laid her  hand on  her  knee) look to  such advantage as now. Could  I,
however,  leap  overboard  and swim in clothes like these?  No! Therefore, I
should have to  trust to the  protection  of  a blue-jacket. Do  I object to
that? Now  do I?"  she wondered,  here encountering  the first  knot  in the
smooth skein of her argument.
     Dinner came before  she  had  untied  it,  and then it was the  Captain
himself - Captain Nicholas Benedict Bartolus, a sea-captain of distinguished
aspect, who did it for her as he helped her to a slice of corned beef.
     "A little of the fat, Ma'm?" he asked. "Let me cut you just the tiniest
little slice the size of your fingernail." At those words a delicious tremor
ran  through her frame.  Birds sang; the  torrents rushed. It  recalled  the
feeling  of indescribable pleasure  with which  she had  first  seen  Sasha,
hundreds of  years ago.  Then she had pursued, now she  fled.  Which  is the
greater ecstasy?  The man's or the woman's?  And  are they  not perhaps  the
same? No, she thought,  this is the most delicious (thanking the Captain but
refusing), to refuse,  and see him frown. Well, she would,  if he wished it,
have the very thinnest,  smallest  shiver  in the world. This was  the  most
delicious  of all, to yield  and see him  smile. "For nothing," she thought,
regaining her couch on deck,  and continuing the argument, "is more heavenly
than to  resist  and to yield; to yield and to resist. Surely  it throws the
spirit into such a rapture as  nothing else  can. So that I'm not sure," she
continued, "that I  won't  throw myself overboard, for the mere  pleasure of
being rescued by a blue-jacket after all."
     (It  must  be  remembered  that  she  was  like  a child entering  into
possession  of a pleasaunce or toy cupboard; her arguments would not commend
themselves to mature women, who have had the run of it all their lives.)
     "But  what used  we young fellows in the cockpit of the "Marie Rose" to
say about  a woman who threw  herself overboard for  the pleasure  of  being
rescued  by a blue-jacket?" she said. "We had a word  for  them.  Ah! I have
it..." (But we must omit  that word; it was disrespectful in the extreme and
passing  strange  on  a lady's lips.) "Lord!  Lord!"  she cried again at the
conclusion of her thoughts, "must I then begin to respect the opinion of the
other sex, however  monstrous I think it? If I wear skirts, if I can't swim,
if I have to be rescued by a blue-jacket, by God!" she cried, "I must!" Upon
which  a gloom fell over her.  Candid by nature,  and averse to all kinds of
equivocation, to tell lies bored her. It seemed to  her a roundabout way  of
going to work. Yet, she  reflected, the flowered paduasoy - the pleasure  of
being  rescued  by a blue-jacket -  if  these were only to  be  obtained  by
roundabout ways, roundabout one must go,  she supposed.  She remembered how,
as  a  young man, she  had insisted  that women  must  be obedient,  chaste,
scented, and  exquisitely  apparelled. "Now  I  shall have  to pay in my own
person for those desires," she reflected; "for  women are not (judging by my
own short experience of the sex)  obedient, chaste, scented, and exquisitely
apparelled by nature. They  can only attain these graces, without which they
may  enjoy none of the  delights  of  life, by the most tedious  discipline.
There's the hairdressing," she thought, "that alone will  take an hour of my
morning, there's looking in the looking-glass, another hour; there's staying
and lacing; there's washing and  powdering;  there's  changing from  silk to
lace  and from lace to paduasoy; there's  being chaste year  in year out..."
Here she tossed her foot impatiently,  and showed an inch or two of calf.  A
sailor  on the  mast, who happened to  look down at  the  moment, started so
violently that he missed his  footing and only saved himself  by the skin of
his teeth. "If the  sight of my ankles means death to  an honest fellow who,
no  doubt, has a wife and family to support, I  must, in  all humanity, keep
them covered," Orlando  thought.  Yet  her  legs  were  among  her  chiefest
beauties. And she fell to thinking what an odd pass we have come to when all
a  woman's  beauty has to  be kept  covered lest a  sailor  may  fall from a
mast-head. "A pox on them!" she said, realizing  for the first time what, in
other circumstances, she  would have been taught as a child, that is to say,
the sacred responsibilities of womanhood.
     "And that's the last  oath I shall ever be able to swear," she thought;
"once I  set foot on English soil. And I shall never be  able to crack a man
over the head,  or tell him he lies in his teeth, or draw  my  sword and run
him through the body,  or sit among my peers, or wear  a coronet, or walk in
procession,  or  sentence  a man to death,  or lead an  army, or prance down
Whitehall  on a charger, or wear seventy-two different  medals on my breast.
All I can do, once I set foot on English soil, is to pour out tea and ask my
lords how they like it. D'you take sugar? D'you take cream?" And mincing out
the words, she  was horrified to perceive how low an opinion she was forming
of the other sex,  the manly, to which it had once been her pride to belong.
"To fall from a mast-head," she thought, "because  you see a woman's ankles;
to dress  up  like a Guy  Fawkes and parade the  streets, so  that women may
praise you; to deny a  woman  teaching lest she may  laugh at you; to be the
slave of the frailest chit in petticoats. and yet to go about as if you were
the Lords of creation. Heavens!" she thought, "what fools they  make of us -
what fools we are!" And here it would seem from some ambiguity in her  terms
that  she was  censuring both sexes equally, as if she belonged  to neither;
and  indeed, for the time being,  she seemed to  vacillate; she was man; she
was woman;  she  knew  the secrets, shared the weaknesses  of each. It was a
most bewildering  and  whirligig  state  of mind to be in.  The  comforts of
ignorance  seemed utterly denied her. She was  a feather blown  on the gale.
Thus it  is  no great wonder, as  she pitted one sex against the  other, and
found each alternately full of the  most deplorable infirmities, and was not
sure to which she belonged -  it  was no great wonder  that she was about to
cry out  that she  would  return to Turkey and become a gipsy again when the
anchor  fell  with  a great splash into the sea; the  sails came tumbling on
deck, and she perceived  (so sunk had she been in thought that she  had seen
nothing for several days) that the ship was anchored off the coast of Italy.
The Captain at once sent to ask the honour of her company ashore with him in
the longboat.
     When  she returned the next morning, she stretched herself on her couch
under the awning and arranged her draperies  with the greatest decorum about
her ankles.
     "Ignorant and poor as we are compared with the other sex," she thought,
continuing  the  sentence  which  she  had  left  unfinished  the other day,
"armoured with  every weapon as they are,  while they debar us even  from  a
knowledge of  the alphabet" (and  from these opening words it is  plain that
something had  happened  during the night to  give  her  a push towards  the
female sex,  for she was speaking more as a woman speaks than  as a man, yet
with a sort of  content after all),  "still - they fall from the mast-head."
Here  she gave a great yawn  and fell asleep.  When  she woke, the ship  was
sailing before a  fair  breeze so near  the shore that towns on the  cliffs'
edge seemed only  kept from slipping  into the water by the interposition of
some great  rock or the twisted roots  of some ancient olive tree. The scent
of oranges wafted from a million trees, heavy with the fruit, reached her on
deck. A  score of blue dolphins,  twisting  their  tails, leapt high now and
again into the  air. Stretching her  arms out (arms, she had learnt already,
have  no  such fatal effects as legs), she thanked  Heaven that she  was not
prancing down Whitehall  on a  warhorse, nor even sentencing a man to death.
"Better  is  it," she  thought,  "to  be clothed with poverty and ignorance,
which are the  dark garments of the female sex; better to leave the rule and
discipline of  the  world to others; better be quit of martial ambition, the
love of power,  and all  the other  manly  desires  if so one can more fully
enjoy the  most exalted raptures known to the humane spirit, which are," she
said  aloud, as her  habit was  when deeply moved, "contemplation, solitude,
     "Praise  God  that I'm a woman!" she cried, and was  about  to run into
extreme folly - than which none is more distressing in woman or man either -
of  being proud of  her sex, when she paused over the  singular word, which,
for all we can do  to put  it in its place, has crept in  at the  end of the
last  sentence:  Love.  "Love,"  said  Orlando.  Instantly  -  such  is  its
impetuosity - love took a human shape -  such is  its pride. For where other
thoughts are  content to remain abstract, nothing will satisfy  this one but
to put on flesh and blood, mantilla and petticoats, hose and jerkin. And  as
all  Orlando's loves had been women,  now, through the culpable laggardry of
the  human frame to adapt  itself  to convention, though she herself  was  a
woman, it was still a woman  she loved; and if the consciousness of being of
the same sex  had  any  effect  at  all, it was  to quicken and deepen those
feelings which she had had as a man. For now  a thousand hints and mysteries
became plain to her that  were then dark. Now,  the obscurity, which divides
the  sexes and lets linger innumerable impurities in its gloom, was removed,
and if there is anything in what the poet says about truth  and beauty, this
affection gained in beauty what it lost in falsity.  At last, she cried, she
knew Sasha as  she was, and in  the  ardour of this discovery,  and  in  the
pursuit of all those treasures which were now  revealed, she was so rapt and
enchanted that  it was as if a cannon ball had  exploded at her  ear  when a
man's voice said, "Permit me, Madam," a man's hand  raised her  to her feet;
and the  fingers of a man with  a three-masted sailing ship  tattooed on the
middle finger pointed to the horizon.
     "The cliffs  of England, Ma'am,"  said  the  Captain, and he raised the
hand which had pointed at the  sky to the salute. Orlando now  gave a second
start, even more violent than the first.
     "Christ Jesus!" she cried.
     Happily, the sight  of her native land after  long absence excused both
start  and exclamation, or she  would have been hard put to it to explain to
Captain Bartolus the raging and conflicting emotions which now boiled within
her. How tell him that she, who now trembled on his arm, had been a Duke and
an Ambassador? How explain to him that she, who had been lapped like a  lily
in folds of paduasoy, had hacked  heads off, and lain with loose women among
treasure sacks in the holds of pirate ships on summer nights when the tulips
were abloom and the bees buzzing off Wapping Old Stairs? Not even to herself
could  she explain the giant start she gave,  as the resolute right  hand of
the sea-captain indicated the cliffs of the British Islands.
     "To refuse and to  yield," she murmured, "how delightful; to pursue and
conquer, how  august; to  perceive and to reason, how  sublime." Not one  of
these words  so coupled together  seemed to her  wrong; nevertheless, as the
chalky  cliffs  loomed nearer, she  felt  culpable;  dishonoured;  unchaste,
which, for one who had never given the matter a thought, was strange. Closer
and closer they drew, till the samphire gatherers, hanging half-way down the
cliff, were plain to the naked  eye. And watching them, she felt, scampering
up and down within her, like some derisive ghost who in another instant will
pick  up  her skirts  and  flaunt out of sight,  Sasha the lost,  Sasha  the
memory, whose reality she had  proved just now  so surprisingly - Sasha, she
felt,  mopping and mowing and  making  all  sorts  of disrespectful gestures
towards the  cliffs and the  samphire gatherers; and  when the sailors began
chanting, "So good-bye and adieu  to you, Ladies of Spain", the words echoed
in Orlando's sad heart,  and she felt that however  much landing there meant
comfort,  meant  opulence,  meant  consequence  and  state  (for  she  would
doubtless  pick  up  some noble  Prince  and reign, his  consort,  over half
Yorkshire), still, if it meant conventionality, meant slavery, meant deceit,
meant  denying  her  love,  fettering  her  limbs,  pursing  her  lips,  and
restraining her tongue, then she would turn about with the ship and set sail
once more for the gipsies.
     Among the hurry of these thoughts, however, there now rose, like a dome
of  smooth,  white  marble, something  which, whether fact or fancy,  was so
impressive to  her fevered imagination  that she  settled upon it as one has
seen a swarm of vibrant dragonflies alight, with apparent satisfaction, upon
the glass bell which shelters some tender  vegetable. The form of it, by the
hazard of fancy,  recalled that earliest,  most persistent memory -  the man
with the big forehead in Twitchett's sitting-room, the man who sat  writing,
or rather  looking, but certainly not at her, for he never seemed to see her
poised there in  all her finery, lovely  boy  though she must have been, she
could  not  deny  it - and whenever she thought  of him, the  thought spread
round it, like the risen moon on turbulent waters, a  sheet of  silver calm.
Now  her  hand  went  to  her bosom  (the other was  still  in the Captain's
keeping), where the pages of her poem were hidden safe. It might have been a
talisman that  she kept there.  The  distraction of sex, which hers was, and
what it meant,  subsided; she thought now only  of the glory of  poetry, and
the great lines of Marlowe, Shakespeare,  Ben Jonson, Milton  began  booming
and reverberating, as if a golden clapper beat  against a golden bell in the
cathedral tower  which was  her  mind. The truth was that  the  image of the
marble dome which her eyes had first discovered so faintly that it suggested
a  poet's  forehead  and thus started a flock  of irrelevant  ideas, was  no
figment, but a reality; and as the ship advanced  down the  Thames before  a
favouring gale, the image with all its associations gave place to the truth,
and revealed itself as nothing more and nothing less than the dome of a vast
cathedral rising among a fretwork of white spires.
     "St  Paul's," said Captain Bartolus,  who stood by her side. "The Tower
of London," he continued. "Greenwich  Hospital,  erected in memory of  Queen
Mary by her husband, his late majesty, William the Third. Westminster Abbey.
The Houses of  Parliament." As he spoke, each of these famous buildings rose
to view.  It was a fine September  morning. A myriad of  little  water-craft
plied from bank  to bank. Rarely has a gayer, or more interesting, spectacle
presented itself to the gaze of a  returned traveller. Orlando hung over the
prow, absorbed  in wonder. Her  eyes had been used  too long to  savages and
nature not to be entranced by  these urban glories. That, then, was the dome
of St Paul's which Mr Wren had built during her absence. Near by, a shock of
golden hair burst from a pillar - Captain Bartolus was at her side to inform
her  that that  was the Monument; there had been a plague and a fire  during
her absence, he said. Do what she could to restrain them, the tears came  to
her eyes, until, remembering that it is becoming in a woman to weep, she let
them flow. Here,  she thought, had been the great carnival. Here,  where the
waves slapped briskly, had stood the  Royal Pavilion. Here she had first met
Sasha. About here (she  looked down into the sparkling waters) one had  been
used to see the frozen bumboat woman  with her apples on her  lap.  All that
splendour and  corruption  was  gone. Gone,  too, was  the dark  night,  the
monstrous downpour,  the  violent surges of  the  flood.  Here, where yellow
icebergs  had raced circling with a crew of terror-stricken wretches on top,
a  covey of  swans  floated, orgulous, undulant, superb.  London  itself had
completely changed since she  had last seen it. Then, she remembered, it had
been a huddle of little black, beetle-browed houses. The heads of rebels had
grinned on pikes at  Temple Bar. The cobbled pavements had reeked of garbage
and  ordure. Now, as the ship sailed  past  Wapping,  she caught glimpses of
broad  and orderly thoroughfares. Stately coaches drawn by teams of well-fed
horses stood at the doors of  houses whose  bow windows, whose  plate glass,
whose  polished  knockers, testified to the wealth and modest dignity of the
dwellers within. Ladies in flowered silk (she put the Captain's glass to her
eye) walked on raised footpaths.  Citizens in broidered  coats took snuff at
street  corners under  lamp-posts. She caught  sight of a variety of painted
signs swinging in  the  breeze and could form  a rapid  notion from what was
painted on  them of the tobacco, of  the stuff, of the silk, of the gold, of
the  silver ware, of the gloves, of the  perfumes, and  of  a thousand other
articles which were sold within. Nor could she do more as the ship sailed to
its anchorage by London Bridge than glance at coffee-house windows where, on
balconies, since the weather was fine, a great number of decent citizens sat
at ease, with china dishes  in front  of  them, clay  pipes by their  sides,
while one among them read from a news  sheet, and was frequently interrupted
by  the laughter or the comments of  the others.  Were these  taverns,  were
these wits, were these poets? she asked  of Captain Bartolus, who obligingly
informed her that even now - if she turned her head a little to the left and
looked along the line of his first finger - so - they were passing the Cocoa
Tree, where, - yes,  there he  was -  one might see Mr  Addison  taking  his
coffee; the  other two gentlemen -  "there, Ma'am, a little to  the right of
the lamp-post, one of 'em humped, t'other much the same as you or me" - were
Mr Dryden and Mr Pope. "Sad dogs," said the Captain,  by which he meant that
they were Papists, "but men of parts, none the less," he added, hurrying aft
to superintend the  arrangements  for landing.  (The Captain must  have been
mistaken, as  a reference to any textbook  of literature  will show; but the
mistake was a kindly one, and so we let it stand.)
     "Addison,  Dryden,  Pope,"  Orlando repeated  as if  the  words were an
incantation. For  one  moment she saw the high mountains above Broussa,  the
next, she had set her foot upon her native shore.
     But now Orlando was to learn how little the most tempestuous flutter of
excitement avails against the iron  countenance of the law; how  harder than
the stones of  London Bridge  it  is,  and than  the lips  of  a cannon more
severe. No  sooner had she returned to her home in Blackfriars  than she was
made aware by a succession  of Bow Street runners and other grave emissaries
from the Law Courts that she was a party to three major suits which had been
preferred against  her  during  her  absence,  as  well as innumerable minor
litigations,  some  arising  out of,  others  depending  on them. The  chief
charges against her were (1) that she was dead, and therefore could not hold
any property whatsoever; (2) that she was a woman, which amounts to much the
same  thing;  (3) that she  was  an  English Duke who had married one Rosina
Pepita, a dancer; and had had by her  three sons, which  sons  now declaring
that their father was deceased, claimed that all  his property  descended to
them.  Such grave charges as these would, of course, take time  and money to
dispose of. All her estates  were put in Chancery and her titles  pronounced
in abeyance  while the suits were under litigation. Thus it  was in a highly
ambiguous condition, uncertain whether she was alive  or dead, man or woman,
Duke or nonentity, that  she posted down to her country seat, where, pending
the  legal judgment, she  had the Law's permission to reside in  a  state of
incognito or incognita, as the case might turn out to be.
     It was a  fine evening in  December when she  arrived and the  snow was
falling and the violet shadows were slanting much as she  had seen them from
the hill-top at Broussa. The great house lay  more like a town than a house,
brown and blue, rose and purple  in the snow, with  all its chimneys smoking
busily as if inspired with a life of their own. She could not restrain a cry
as she saw it there tranquil and massive, couched upon the  meadows.  As the
yellow coach entered the  park and came bowling along  the drive between the
trees, the  red  deer  raised their  heads as if  expectantly,  and  it  was
observed  that  instead of showing the timidity natural to  their kind, they
followed  the  coach and stood  about  the  courtyard  when it drew up. Some
tossed  their antlers, others pawed the  ground as the step was let down and
Orlando alighted. One, it is  said,  actually knelt  in the snow before her.
She had not time to reach her hand towards the knocker before both  wings of
the great door were flung open, and  there,  with  lights  and torches  held
above their heads, were  Mrs Grimsditch, Mr  Dupper,  and a whole retinue of
servants come to greet her. But the orderly procession was interrupted first
by the  impetuosity  of Canute, the elk-hound, who  threw himself with  such
ardour upon his mistress that he almost knocked her to the ground; next,  by
the agitation of Mrs Grimsditch,  who, making as if to curtsey, was overcome
with emotion and could do no more than gasp Milord! Milady! Milady!  Milord!
until Orlando comforted  her with a hearty kiss  upon both her cheeks. After
that, Mr  Dupper began  to read from a parchment, but  the dogs barking, the
huntsmen winding their horns, and the stags, who had come into the courtyard
in the  confusion,  baying the  moon, not  much  progress was made,  and the
company dispersed within after crowding about their Mistress, and testifying
in every way to their great joy at her return.
     No one showed an  instant's  suspicion that Orlando was not the Orlando
they had known. If any doubt there was  in the human  mind the action of the
deer  and  the  dogs would  have been  enough  to dispel  it,  for  the dumb
creatures,  as is  well known,  are far better judges  both  of identity and
character than we are. Moreover, said Mrs Grimsditch, over her dish of china
tea, to Mr Dupper that night, if her Lord was a Lady now, she had never seen
a lovelier  one, nor was there a penny piece to choose between them; one was
as  well-favoured  as  the  other; they were  as like  as two peaches on one
branch; which,  said Mrs  Grimsditch, becoming confidential,  she had always
had  her suspicions (here she nodded her head very mysteriously),  which  it
was no surprise to  her  (here she nodded her head very knowingly),  and for
her part, a very great comfort; for what with the towels wanting mending and
the curtains  in the chaplain's parlour being moth-eaten  round the fringes,
it was time they had a Mistress among them.
     "And some little masters  and mistresses to come after her," Mr  Dupper
added,  being  privileged by virtue of  his holy office to speak his mind on
such delicate matters as these.
     So, while the old servants gossiped in the servants' hall, Orlando took
a  silver candle in  her hand  and roamed  once more  through the halls, the
galleries, the courts, the bedrooms;  saw  loom  down at her  again the dark
visage of this Lord  Keeper, that Lord Chamberlain, among her ancestors; sat
now in this chair of state, now reclined on that canopy of delight; observed
the arras, how  it  swayed; watched the huntsmen riding  and Daphne  flying;
bathed her hand, as  she had loved to  do  as a child, in the yellow pool of
light which the moonlight made  falling  through the heraldic Leopard in the
window; slid  along the polished planks of the gallery,  the  other  side of
which was rough  timber; touched this silk, that satin;  fancied the  carved
dolphins  swam; brushed her  hair with King  James' silver brush; buried her
face in the potpourri, which was made as the Conqueror had taught  them many
hundred years ago and from the same roses; looked at the garden and imagined
the  sleeping crocuses, the dormant  dahlias; saw the frail nymphs  gleaming
white in the snow and the  great yew hedges, thick as  a house, black behind
them;  saw the orangeries and the giant medlars; all this  she saw, and each
sight and sound, rudely as we  write it down,  filled her heart with such  a
lust and balm of  joy, that at length, tired out, she entered the Chapel and
sank into the old red arm-chair in which her ancestors used to hear service.
There  she lit  a cheroot ('twas a habit she had brought back from the East)
and opened the Prayer Book.
     It was a little  book bound  in velvet, stitched with gold,  which  had
been held by Mary Queen of Scots on the scaffold, and the eye of faith could
detect  a  brownish stain, said to be made of a drop of the Royal blood. But
what  pious  thoughts  it roused  in  Orlando, what evil passions it soothed
asleep,  who dare say, seeing that of all communions this with  the deity is
the most inscrutable? Novelist,  poet,  historian all falter with their hand
on  that door; nor  does the  believer himself enlighten us,  for is he more
ready to die than other people, or  more eager to share  his goods?  Does he
not keep as many maids and carriage horses as the rest? and yet with it all,
holds a faith he says which should  make goods a vanity and death desirable.
In the Queen's prayer book,  along with  the blood-stain, was also a lock of
hair and a crumb of pastry; Orlando now added to these keepsakes a  flake of
tobacco, and so, reading and smoking, was moved by the humane jumble of them
all - the hair, the pastry, the blood-stain, the tobacco - to such a mood of
contemplation  as  gave her a reverent air suitable  in  the  circumstances,
though she had, it is said, no traffic with the usual God. Nothing, however,
can be more arrogant, though nothing is commoner than to assume that of Gods
there is only one, and  of religions  none  but  the  speaker's. Orlando, it
seemed,  had a faith of her own. With all the religious ardour in the world,
she now reflected upon  her  sins and  the imperfections that had crept into
her  spiritual  state.  The letter S, she reflected,  is the  serpent in the
poet's Eden.  Do what she would  there were  still too many  of these sinful
reptiles in the first stanzas of "The Oak Tree". But "S" was nothing, in her
opinion, compared with  the termination "ing". The present participle is the
Devil himself,  she thought, now  that  we are in the place for believing in
Devils. To  evade  such  temptations  is  the first  duty  of the poet,  she
concluded,  for  as  the ear is  the antechamber  to  the  soul, poetry  can
adulterate and destroy more surely than lust or gunpowder. The poet's, then,
is the  highest office of all, she continued.  His  words reach where others
fall short. A silly song of Shakespeare's has done more for the poor and the
wicked than all the preachers and philanthropists in the world. No  time, no
devotion,  can  be  too great,  therefore,  which  makes the  vehicle of our
message less distorting. We must  shape our words till they are the thinnest
integument for our thoughts.  Thoughts are  divine, etc.  Thus it is obvious
that she was back  in the confines of her own religion which  time had  only
strengthened in  her absence, and was rapidly  acquiring the  intolerance of
     "I am growing up," she  thought, taking her taper at last. "I am losing
some illusions," she said,  shutting Queen Mary's book,  "perhaps to acquire
others," and she descended among the tombs where the bones of  her ancestors
     But even the bones  of  her ancestors, Sir Miles, Sir Gervase, and  the
rest, had  lost something  of their sanctity  since Rustum el Sadi had waved
his hand that night in the Asian mountains. Somehow the fact that only three
or  four hundred  years ago these skeletons had  been men with their way  to
make in the  world like any modern  upstart, and  that  they had made it  by
acquiring  houses  and offices, garters and ribbands, as  any other  upstart
does, while poets, perhaps, and men of great mind and breeding had preferred
the quietude  of  the  country, for which choice  they  paid the  penalty by
extreme  poverty, and now hawked broadsheets in  the Strand, or herded sheep
in the fields, filled her with remorse. She thought of the Egyptian pyramids
and  what  bones  lie beneath them  as she stood in the crypt; and the vast,
empty  hills which  lie above the Sea of Marmara seemed,  for the moment,  a
finer dwelling-place than this many-roomed mansion  in  which no bed  lacked
its quilt and no silver dish its silver cover.
     "I  am  growing up," she thought, taking  her taper.  "I  am losing  my
illusions, perhaps to acquire new ones," and she paced down the long gallery
to her bedroom. It was a disagreeable process, and a troublesome. But it was
interesting, amazingly, she thought, stretching her legs out to her log fire
(for no sailor  was  present), and she  reviewed, as if it were an avenue of
great edifices, the progress of her own self along her own past.
     How  she had loved sound when  she was a boy, and thought the volley of
tumultuous syllables  from the lips the finest of all poetry. Then  - it was
the effect of Sasha and her disillusionment perhaps - into this  high frenzy
was  let fall some black drop, which  turned her rhapsody into sluggishness.
Slowly there had opened within  her something intricate and  many-chambered,
which  one must  take  a torch  to  explore,  in prose  not verse;  and  she
remembered how  passionately she had studied that doctor at Norwich, Browne,
whose  book was at her hand there. She had formed here in solitude after her
affair with  Greene, or  tried to  form, for Heaven knows these  growths are
agelong  in  coming, a spirit capable of resistance. "I will write," she had
said, "what I enjoy writing"; and so had scratched  out  twenty-six volumes.
Yet still, for all her  travels and adventures  and  profound thinkings  and
turnings this way and that, she was only in process of fabrication. What the
future  might bring,  Heaven only  knew.  Change  was incessant, and  change
perhaps  would never cease.  High battlements of  thought, habits  that  had
seemed durable as stone, went down like shadows at the touch of another mind
and left a naked sky  and fresh stars twinkling in  it. Here she went to the
window, and in spite of the cold could not help unlatching it. She leant out
into the damp night air. She heard a fox bark in the woods, and the  clutter
of a pheasant trailing  through the branches. She heard the snow slither and
flop  from the roof  to the ground. "By my life," she exclaimed,  "this is a
thousand  times  better than Turkey.  Rustum," she  cried, as  if  she  were
arguing with the gipsy (and in this new power of bearing an argument in mind
and continuing it  with someone who  was not there to contradict  she showed
again the  development of her  soul),  "you were wrong. This is  better than
Turkey. Hair, pastry, tobacco - of  what odds and ends are  we  compounded,"
she said  (thinking of Queen Mary's prayer-book). "What a phantasmagoria the
mind is  and meeting-place of dissemblables! At  one  moment we  deplore our
birth and state and aspire  to  an  ascetic  exaltation;  the  next  we  are
overcome by the smell of some old garden path and weep to hear  the thrushes
sing." And  so bewildered as usual by the multitude of things which call for
explanation and  imprint their message without  leaving any hint as to their
meaning, she threw her cheroot out of the window and went to bed.
     Next  morning, in pursuance of these thoughts, she had  out her pen and
paper and started afresh upon  "The Oak Tree", for to have  ink and paper in
plenty when one has made do with berries  and margins is a delight not to be
conceived.  Thus she was now striking out a phrase in the depths of despair,
now in the heights  of ecstasy writing  one  in,  when a shadow darkened the
page. She hastily hid her manuscript.
     As her  window gave on  to the  most  central of the courts, as she had
given orders  that she would see no one, as she  knew no one and was herself
legally unknown, she was  first  surprised at the shadow, then  indignant at
it,  then  (when  she  looked  up  and saw  what  caused  it)  overcome with
merriment. For it was a familiar shadow, a grotesque  shadow, the shadow  of
no less a personage than the Archduchess Harriet Griselda of Finster-Aarhorn
and  Scand-op-Boom in  the Roumanian territory. She  was  loping across  the
court  in her old black riding-habit and mantle as before. Not a hair of her
head was changed.  This then was the woman who had chased her from  England!
This was the eyrie of that obscene vulture - this the fatal fowl herself! At
the thought that she had fled all the way to Turkey to avoid  her seductions
(now become excessively flat),  Orlando  laughed aloud. There was  something
inexpressibly  comic  in  the  sight.  She resembled, as Orlando had thought
before,  nothing so much as a monstrous  hare. She had the staring eyes, the
lank cheeks, the high headdress of that animal.  She  stopped now, much as a
hare sits erect in the  corn  when thinking itself unobserved, and stared at
Orlando, who stared back at her from the window. After they had  stared like
this for a certain time, there was nothing  for it but to  ask  her  in, and
soon the two ladies were exchanging compliments while the Archduchess struck
the snow from her mantle.
     "A plague  on women," said Orlando to herself, going to the cupboard to
fetch a  glass of wine, "they  never  leave  one  a  moment's peace. A  more
ferreting,  inquisiting,  busybodying set of people don't exist.  It was  to
escape this Maypole that I left England,  and  now"  -  here  she turned  to
present the Archduchess with the salver, and behold -  in her place stood  a
tall gentleman in  black. A heap of clothes lay in the fender. She was alone
with a man.
     Recalled thus suddenly  to a consciousness of  her  sex, which  she had
completely forgotten, and of his, which was now remote enough to  be equally
upsetting, Orlando felt seized with faintness.
     "La!" she cried, putting her hand to her side, "how you frighten me!"
     "Gentle  creature," cried the Archduchess, falling  on one  knee and at
the same  time pressing  a  cordial  to Orlando's lips,  "forgive me for the
deceit I have practised on you!"
     Orlando sipped the wine and the Archduke knelt and kissed her hand.
     In  short, they acted the  parts  of man and woman for ten minutes with
great vigour and then fell into natural  discourse. The Archduchess (but she
must in future be known  as the Archduke) told his story - that he was a man
and always  had been one; that he had seen a portrait of  Orlando and fallen
hopelessly in love with  him; that to compass  his ends, he had dressed as a
woman and lodged at the Baker's shop; that he was  desolated when he fled to
Turkey; that he had heard of her  change and hastened  to offer his services
(here  he  teed and heed intolerably). For to him, said  the Archduke Harry,
she was and  would  ever  be the Pink, the Pearl, the Perfection of her sex.
The three  p's would  have  been  more  persuasive  if  they  had  not  been
interspersed with tee-hees and haw-haws of the  strangest kind. "If  this is
love," said Orlando to herself, looking at the Archduke on the other side of
the fender, and  now from the woman's  point of  view,  "there  is something
highly ridiculous about it."
     Falling  on  his  knees, the  Archduke  Harry made  the most passionate
declaration of  his  suit. He told  her that  he had  something  like twenty
million ducats in  a strong box at his castle. He  had more acres  than  any
nobleman in England.  The shooting  was excellent:  he could  promise  her a
mixed bag of ptarmigan and grouse such as no English moor, or Scotch either,
could rival. True, the pheasants had suffered from the gape in his  absence,
and the does had slipped their young, but that could be put right, and would
be with her help when they lived in Roumania together.
     As he spoke, enormous tears formed in his rather prominent eyes and ran
down the sandy tracts of his long and lanky cheeks.
     That men cry as frequently and as  unreasonably as women, Orlando  knew
from her own  experience as a man; but  she was beginning to be  aware  that
women  should be shocked when men display emotion in their presence, and so,
shocked she was.
     The Archduke apologized.  He commanded himself sufficiently to say that
he would leave  her  now,  but would return on  the following  day  for  his
     That was a Tuesday.  He came on Wednesday; he came on Thursday; he came
on  Friday;  and he  came on  Saturday. It  is true that each  visit  began,
continued, or concluded with a declaration of love, but in between there was
much  room  for  silence.  They  sat  on  either side  of the  fireplace and
sometimes the  Archduke knocked over  the fire-irons and Orlando picked them
up again.  Then  the  Archduke  would bethink  him how he had shot an elk in
Sweden, and Orlando would ask, was it a very big elk, and the Archduke would
say  that it was not as big as  the reindeer  which  he shot in  Norway; and
Orlando would ask, had he ever shot a tiger, and the Archduke  would say  he
had shot  an albatross,  and Orlando would say (half hiding her yawn) was an
albatross as big as an elephant, and the Archduke would say - something very
sensible, no  doubt, but  Orlando heard it not,  for she was looking  at her
writing-table, out of the window, at the door. Upon which the Archduke would
say, "I  adore you", at the very same moment  that Orlando said  "Look, it's
beginning  to rain", at which they  were both much embarrassed,  and blushed
scarlet, and could  neither of them think what to say  next. Indeed, Orlando
was at her wit's end what to talk  about and had  she not bethought her of a
game called  Fly  Loo, at which great sums  of  money  can be lost with very
little expense of spirit, she would have had to marry him, she supposed; for
how else to get rid of him she knew not. By this device, however, and it was
a simple  one, needing only three lumps of sugar and a sufficiency of flies,
the embarrassment of conversation was overcome and the necessity of marriage
avoided. For now, the Archduke would bet her five hundred pounds to a tester
that a fly would settle on this lump and not  on that. Thus, they would have
occupation  for  a  whole morning  watching  the  flies (who were  naturally
sluggish  at this  season and often spent an hour  or so  circling round the
ceiling) until at length some fine blue-bottle made his choice and the match
was won. Many hundreds of pounds  changed hands  between  them at this game,
which the Archduke, who was a born  gambler, swore was every bit as  good as
horse racing, and vowed he could play at for ever. But Orlando soon began to
     "What's the good of being a fine young woman in the prime of life," she
asked,  "if I  have to pass  all my mornings watching  blue-bottles  with an
     She began to detest the sight of sugar;  flies made her dizzy. Some way
out of the difficulty there must be, she supposed, but she was still awkward
in the arts of her sex, and as she could no longer knock a man over the head
or  run him through the  body  with  a rapier, she could think of  no better
method  than this. She caught a blue-bottle, gently  pressed the life out of
it (it was half dead  already; or  her kindness for the dumb creatures would
not have permitted it) and secured it by a drop of gum  arabic to  a lump of
sugar. While the Archduke was gazing at the ceiling, she  deftly substituted
this lump for the one  she  had laid  her money on, and  crying  "Loo  Loo!"
declared that she had won her bet. Her reckoning was that the Archduke, with
all his knowledge of sport and  horseracing, would detect  the fraud and, as
to cheat at Loo  is the most  heinous of crimes, and men  have been banished
from the society of  mankind to that of apes in the tropics for ever because
of  it, she calculated  that  he  would be  manly enough to  refuse  to have
anything  further  to  do with  her. But she misjudged the simplicity of the
amiable nobleman. He was no nice judge of  flies. A dead  fly looked  to him
much the same as a living one.  She played the trick twenty times on him and
he paid her over 17,250 pounds (which is about 40,885 pounds 6 shillings and
8  pence of  our own money) before Orlando  cheated so grossly that even  he
could be deceived  no longer. When he realized the truth at  last, a painful
scene ensued.  The Archduke rose to his  full height. He  coloured  scarlet.
Tears rolled down his cheeks one by one. That she had won a fortune from him
was nothing - she was welcome to it; that she had deceived him was something
- it hurt  him to think her capable  of it; but  that she had cheated at Loo
was  everything.  To  love  a  woman  who  cheated at  play  was,  he  said,
impossible. Here he  broke  down  completely. Happily, he  said,  recovering
slightly,  there were no  witnesses. She  was, after  all, only a  woman, he
said. In short, he was preparing in the chivalry of his heart to forgive her
and had bent  to  ask her pardon for the violence of his language,  when she
cut the matter short, as he stooped his proud head, by dropping a small toad
between his skin and his shirt.
     In justice  to her,  it must be  said  that  she would  infinitely have
preferred a rapier. Toads  are clammy things to conceal about one's person a
whole  morning.  But  if  rapiers are  forbidden;  one must have recourse to
toads. Moreover toads and laughter between them sometimes do what cold steel
cannot. She laughed. The Archduke blushed. She laughed. The Archduke cursed.
She laughed. The Archduke slammed the door.
     "Heaven be praised!" cried Orlando still laughing. She heard  the sound
of chariot  wheels  driven  at a furious pace  down the courtyard. She heard
them rattle  along the road.  Fainter and  fainter the sound became.  Now it
faded away altogether.
     "I am alone," said Orlando, aloud since there was no one to hear.
     That silence is more profound after  noise still wants the confirmation
of science. But that loneliness is more apparent directly after one has been
made  love  to,  many  women  would take their  oath. As  the  sound  of the
Archduke's chariot wheels died away,  Orlando felt drawing further from  her
and further from her an Archduke (she did not mind that), a fortune (she did
not mind that), a title (she did not mind that), the safety and circumstance
of married life (she did not mind that), but  life she heard going from her,
and  a  lover.  "Life  and  a   lover,"  she  murmured;  and  going  to  her
writing-table she dipped her pen in the ink and wrote:
     "Life and a lover" - a  line  which did not scan and made no sense with
what went before - something about the  proper way of dipping sheep to avoid
the scab. Reading it over she blushed and repeated,
     "Life  and  a  lover."  Then  laying her  pen  aside she went into  her
bedroom, stood in front of  her mirror, and arranged  her  pearls  about her
neck. Then  since pearls do not show to advantage against a morning gown  of
sprigged cotton,  she changed to a dove grey taffeta; thence to one of peach
bloom;  thence  to  a  wine-coloured  brocade. Perhaps  a dash of powder was
needed, and if her hair were disposed - so - about her brow, it might become
her.  Then she  slipped her feet into pointed slippers, and  drew an emerald
ring upon her finger. "Now," she said when all was ready  and lit the silver
sconces on either side  of the mirror. What woman would not have kindled  to
see  what  Orlando  saw  then burning  in  the  snow  -  for all  about  the
looking-glass were snowy lawns, and she was like a fire, a burning bush, and
the candle flames about her head were silver leaves; or again, the glass was
green  water,  and she a  mermaid,  slung with pearls,  a siren  in  a cave,
singing  so  that  oarsmen  leant from their  boats  and  fell down, down to
embrace her; so dark, so bright, so hard, so soft, was she, so astonishingly
seductive that it was a thousand  pities that there was no one there to  put
it in plain English,  and  say outright, "Damn it, Madam, you are loveliness
incarnate,"  which  was  the truth. Even Orlando (who had no conceit of  her
person) knew it, for she smiled the involuntary smile which women smile when
their  own beauty, which seems not their own, forms like a drop falling or a
fountain rising and confronts them all of a sudden in the glass - this smile
she  smiled  and then  she listened for a moment  and heard only  the leaves
blowing and the sparrows twittering,  and then she sighed, "Life, a  lover,"
and  then she turned on her heel  with extraordinary  rapidity;  whipped her
pearls from her neck, stripped the  satins from her back, stood erect in the
neat black silk knickerbockers of  an ordinary nobleman, and rang  the bell.
When the  servant came,  she  told him  to  order a coach and six  to  be in
readiness instantly. She was summoned by urgent affairs to London. Within an
hour of the Archduke's departure, off she drove.
     And as she drove, we may seize the opportunity, since the landscape was
of a simple  English kind  which needs no description, to draw the  reader's
attention  more  particularly  than we could at the  moment  to one  or  two
remarks which have slipped in here and there in the course of the narrative.
For example, it may have been observed that Orlando hid her manuscripts when
interrupted. Next, that she looked  long and intently in the glass; and now,
as she  drove to London, one might notice her starting and suppressing a cry
when the horses  galloped  faster  than she liked.  Her  modesty as  to  her
writing, her vanity as to her person, her fears for her safety  all seems to
hint  that  what was  said a short time  ago about  there being no change in
Orlando  the  man and Orlando the woman, was ceasing to be altogether  true.
She  was becoming a little more  modest, as women  are, of her brains, and a
little more vain, as women are, of her person. Certain susceptibilities were
asserting themselves,  and  others were diminishing.  The change  of clothes
had, some  philosophers will say, much to  do  with it. Vain trifles as they
seem, clothes  have, they say, more important offices than merely to keep us
warm. They change  our  view of  the world and the world's view  of us.  For
example,  when Captain  Bartolus  saw  Orlando's  skirt, he  had  an  awning
stretched for her  immediately, pressed  her to take another slice of  beef,
and  invited her to go ashore  with him in the long-boat. These  compliments
would certainly not have been paid  her  had her skirts, instead of flowing,
been cut tight  to her legs in the fashion of breeches. And when we are paid
compliments, it  behoves  us  to make  some  return.  Orlando curtseyed; she
complied; she flattered  the good  man's humours  as she would not have done
had his neat breeches been  a woman's skirts, and his braided coat a woman's
satin  bodice. Thus, there is much to  support  the view that  it is clothes
that wear us and not we  them; we may make them  take  the mould  of  arm or
breast,  but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.
So,  having  now  worn skirts for a considerable time, a certain  change was
visible in Orlando, which is to be found if  the reader will  look at above,
even in her face. If we compare the picture of Orlando as a man with that of
Orlando as a woman we shall see that though both are undoubtedly one and the
same person, there are  certain changes. The man has  his hand free to seize
his sword, the woman must use hers to keep the satins from slipping from her
shoulders.  The man looks the world full in the face, as if it were made for
his uses and fashioned to his liking.  The woman takes a sidelong  glance at
it,  full  of subtlety, even  of  suspicion.  Had they both  worn  the  same
clothes, it is possible that their outlook might have been the same.
     That is the view of some philosophers and wise  ones, but on the whole,
we incline to another. The difference between the sexes is, happily,  one of
great profundity. Clothes are but a symbol of something hid deep beneath. It
was a change in Orlando herself that dictated her choice of  a woman's dress
and  of a  woman's sex.  And perhaps  in this she was only expressing rather
more openly  than  usual -  openness  indeed was the  soul  of her nature  -
something that happens to most people  without being thus plainly expressed.
For here again, we come  to a dilemma. Different though  the sexes are, they
intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes
place, and  often  it is only  the clothes  that  keep  the male  or  female
likeness, while underneath the sex is the very opposite of what it is above.
Of  the complications  and confusions  which thus  result everyone  has  had
experience; but  here we leave  the general  question  and note only the odd
effect it had in the particular case of Orlando herself.
     For it was this mixture in her of  man  and woman,  one being uppermost
and then  the other,  that often gave her  conduct an unexpected  turn.  The
curious of her own sex would argue, for example, if Orlando was a woman, how
did she never take more than ten minutes  to dress? And were not her clothes
chosen rather  at  random, and sometimes worn rather shabby?  And  then they
would say, still, she has none of the formality of a man, or a man's love of
power. She  is  excessively  tender-hearted.  She could not endure to  see a
donkey beaten or  a  kitten  drowned. Yet  again,  they  noted, she detested
household matters, was up at dawn and out among the fields in  summer before
the  sun had risen. No  farmer knew  more about the crops than she did.  She
could drink with the best and liked games of hazard. She rode well and drove
six horses at a gallop over London Bridge. Yet again, though bold and active
as a man, it was remarked that the sight of another in danger brought on the
most womanly palpitations. She would burst into tears on slight provocation.
She was unversed in  geography, found mathematics intolerable, and held some
caprices which are more common among women than men, as for instance that to
travel south is to travel  downhill. Whether,  then, Orlando was most man or
woman, it is  difficult to say and cannot now be  decided. For her coach was
now rattling on the cobbles. She had reached her home in the city. The steps
were being let down; the iron gates were being opened. She was entering  her
father's house at Blackfriars,  which though fashion was fast deserting that
end of the town,  was still a  pleasant, roomy mansion, with gardens running
down to the river, and a pleasant grove of nut trees to walk in.
     Here she took up  her lodging and began instantly to look about her for
what she had come in search of - that is to say, life and a lover. About the
first there might  be some doubt; the  second  she  found  without the least
difficulty two days  after her arrival. It  was a  Tuesday  that she came to
town. On Thursday she  went for a walk in the Mall, as was then the habit of
persons of quality. She had not made more than  a turn or  two of the avenue
before she  was observed by a little knot of vulgar people  who go there  to
spy upon their  betters. As she came past them,  a  common woman  carrying a
child at her breast stepped forward, peered familiarly into Orlando's  face,
and cried out, "Lawk upon us, if it ain't the Lady Orlando!"  Her companions
came  crowding round, and Orlando found herself in a moment the centre of  a
mob  of staring  citizens and tradesmen's wives, all eager to  gaze upon the
heroine  of the celebrated lawsuit. Such was  the  interest  that  the  case
excited in  the minds  of the  common  people. She might, indeed, have found
herself gravely discommoded by the pressure of the crowd - she had forgotten
that ladies are not supposed to walk in public places alone - had not a tall
gentleman at once stepped forward and offered her the protection of his arm.
It was  the  Archduke. She  was overcome  with  distress and  yet with  some
amusement at the sight. Not only had this magnanimous nobleman forgiven her,
but in order to show that he took her levity with the toad in good  part, he
had procured a jewel made in the shape of that reptile which he pressed upon
her with a repetition of his suit as he handed her to her coach.
     What with the crowd, what with the Duke, what with the jewel, she drove
home in the  vilest  temper imaginable. Was it impossible then to  go for  a
walk without being half-suffocated, presented with a toad  set in  emeralds,
and  asked in marriage  by an Archduke?  She took  a kinder view of the case
next day  when  she found on her breakfast table half a  dozen  billets from
some of the greatest ladies in the land - Lady Suffolk, Lady Salisbury, Lady
Chesterfield, Lady  Tavistock, and others  who reminded her  in the politest
manner of old alliances  between their families and her own, and desired the
honour of her acquaintance. Next  day,  which  was a Saturday, many of these
great ladies waited on her in person. On Tuesday, about  noon, their footmen
brought cards of invitation to various routs, dinners, and assemblies in the
near  future; so that  Orlando  was  launched  without  delay, and with some
splash and foam at that, upon the waters of London society.
     To give a truthful account of London  society at  that or indeed at any
other  time, is beyond the  powers of the  biographer or the historian. Only
those who have little need of the truth, and no  respect for it -  the poets
and the novelists -  can be trusted to do it, for this is one of  the  cases
where the truth  does not exist. Nothing exists. The whole thing is a miasma
- a mirage.  To make our meaning plain - Orlando could come home from one of
these  routs at three or four in  the morning  with cheeks like a  Christmas
tree  and eyes like stars. She  would untie a lace, pace the room a score of
times, untie  another  lace, stop, and  pace  the room again.  Often the sun
would be  blazing  over Southwark chimneys before she could persuade herself
to get into bed, and there she would lie, pitching and tossing, laughing and
sighing for  an hour or longer before she slept at  last. And  what  was all
this  stir  about?  Society. And what had  society  said or done  to throw a
reasonable lady into such an  excitement?  In plain language, nothing.  Rack
her memory as she would, next day Orlando could never remember a single word
to  magnify  into the  name something. Lord O.  had  been gallant.  Lord  A.
polite. The  Marquis of C. charming. Mr M.  amusing. But  when she tried  to
recollect in what their gallantry, politeness,  charm, or wit had consisted,
she was bound  to  suppose her  memory  at fault, for she  could  not name a
thing.  It  was the same always. Nothing remained over the next day, yet the
excitement of the  moment  was intense. Thus  we are forced to conclude that
society is  one  of those brews such as skilled housekeepers serve hot about
Christmas time, whose flavour depends upon the proper mixing and stirring of
a dozen different ingredients. Take one out,  and  it is in itself  insipid.
Take  away  Lord O.,  Lord  A.,  Lord  C., or Mr  M. and separately  each is
nothing. Stir  them  all  together  and  they  combine to give  off the most
intoxicating   of   flavours,  the  most  seductive  of  scents.   Yet  this
intoxication,  this  seductiveness, entirely evade our analysis. At  one and
the same  time,  therefore,  society is everything  and society is  nothing.
Society is  the most  powerful concoction in the world and  society  has  no
existence whatsoever. Such  monsters  the  poets and the novelists alone can
deal  with;  with  such  something-nothings their  works  are stuffed out to
prodigious size; and to them with the best  will in the world we are content
to leave it.
     Following the  example of our predecessors, therefore, we will only say
that society in the  reign of Queen Anne was of unparalleled  brilliance. To
have the entry there was the aim of every  well-bred person. The graces were
supreme.  Fathers  instructed  their  sons,  mothers  their  daughters.   No
education was complete for either  sex which did not include the science  of
deportment, the  art of  bowing and  curtseying, the management of the sword
and the fan, the care  of the teeth, the conduct of the leg, the flexibility
of the knee, the proper methods  of  entering and  leaving the room, with  a
thousand etceteras, such  as will immediately suggest  themselves to anybody
who  has  himself been in society. Since Orlando had won the praise of Queen
Elizabeth for the way she handed a bowl  of rose water  as a boy, it must be
supposed  that  she was  sufficiently expert to pass muster. Yet it  is true
that  there was  an  absentmindedness about  her  which  sometimes  made her
clumsy; she was apt to think of poetry when she should have been thinking of
taffeta; her walk was a little too  much of a  stride for a  woman, perhaps,
and her gestures, being abrupt, might endanger a cup of tea on occasion.
     Whether  this  slight  disability  was  enough  to  counterbalance  the
splendour  of her bearing, or whether she inherited a drop  too much of that
black humour which ran in the veins of all her  race, certain it is that she
had not been in  the  world more than a score of times before she might have
been heard to ask herself, had  there been anybody but her spaniel Pippin to
hear her, "What the devil is the matter with me?" The occasion was  Tuesday,
the 16th of June 1712; she had just returned from a great  ball at Arlington
House; the dawn was in the sky,  and she  was pulling off her  stockings. "I
don't  care  if I never meet another soul as long as I live," cried Orlando,
bursting into tears. Lovers she had in plenty,  but  life, which  is,  after
all, of  some importance in its way, escaped her. "Is this," she asked - but
there was none to answer, "is this," she finished her sentence all the same,
"what  people  call  life?"  The spaniel raised  her  forepaw  in  token  of
sympathy. The  spaniel licked  Orlando with her tongue. Orlando stroked  the
spaniel with her hand. Orlando kissed the spaniel with her  lips. In  short,
there was the truest sympathy between them that can be between a dog and its
mistress,  and yet it cannot  be denied that  the dumbness  of  animals is a
great impediment to  the refinements  of intercourse. They wag their  tails;
they bow  the front  part of the body and elevate the hind;  they roll, they
jump, they paw, they whine, they bark,  they slobber, they have all sorts of
ceremonies and artifices of their own,  but the whole  thing is of no avail,
since speak they  cannot. Such was her quarrel, she thought, setting the dog
gently on to the floor, with the great people at Arlington House. They, too,
wag  their tails, bow,  roll, jump, paw, and  slobber, but talk they cannot.
"All these months that I've been  out in the world,"  said Orlando, pitching
one stocking across the room, "I've heard nothing but what Pippin might have
said. I'm cold. I'm  happy. I'm hungry.  I've  caught a mouse. I've buried a
bone. Please kiss my nose." And it was not enough.
     How, in so short a time, she had passed from intoxication to disgust we
will  only  seek to  explain by supposing that  this  mysterious composition
which we call society, is nothing absolutely good or bad in itself,  but has
a spirit in it, volatile but potent, which  either  makes you drunk when you
think it, as Orlando  thought it, delightful,  or gives you a headache  when
you think it, as Orlando thought it, repulsive.  That the faculty  of speech
has much to do with it either way, we take leave to doubt. Often a dumb hour
is  the  most  ravishing  of  all;  brilliant  wit  can  be  tedious  beyond
description. But to the poets we leave it, and so on with our story.
     Orlando threw  the  second  stocking after the first  and went  to  bed
dismally enough, determined that she would  forswear society  for ever.  But
again as it turned out, she was too hasty in  coming to her conclusions. For
the very next morning she woke to find, among the usual  cards of invitation
upon her table, one  from a  certain great  Lady, the Countess  of R. Having
determined overnight that she would never go into society again, we can only
explain Orlando's behaviour  - she  sent a messenger hot-foot to R. House to
say that she would attend her Ladyship with all  the pleasure in the world -
by the fact that she  was  still suffering from  the effect of three honeyed
words dropped into her ear  on  the deck of the "Enamoured Lady" by  Captain
Nicholas Benedict Bartolus  as they sailed down the Thames. Addison, Dryden,
Pope, he had said, pointing to the Cocoa Tree, and Addison, Dryden, Pope had
chimed in her head  like an  incantation ever  since. Who  can  credit  such
folly? but  so it  was.  All  her experience with Nick Greene had taught her
nothing. Such names still exercised  over her the most powerful fascination.
Something, perhaps, we must believe in, and as Orlando, we have said, had no
belief in the usual  divinities she bestowed her credulity upon  great men -
yet with a distinction. Admirals, soldiers, statesmen, moved her not at all.
But the very thought of a great writer stirred her to such a pitch of belief
that she almost  believed him to be invisible. Her instinct was a sound one.
One can only believe entirely, perhaps, in what one cannot see.  The  little
glimpse  she had  of these great  men  from the deck of the ship was of  the
nature  of a vision.  That the  cup  was china,  or the  gazette  paper, she
doubted. When Lord O. said one day that he  had dined with Dryden the  night
before,  she flatly disbelieved him.  Now, the Lady  R.'s reception room had
the reputation of  being the antechamber to  the presence room of genius; it
was  the place where men and women met to  swing censers  and chant hymns to
the bust  of  genius  in  a  niche in the wall.  Sometimes  the  God himself
vouchsafed  his  presence   for  a  moment.  Intellect  alone  admitted  the
suppliant, and nothing (so the report  ran)  was  said inside  that was  not
     It  was thus  with great trepidation that Orlando entered the room. She
found a company  already assembled in  a semicircle round the fire. Lady R.,
an oldish lady, of dark complexion, with a black lace  mantilla on her head,
was seated in a great arm-chair in the centre. Thus being somewhat deaf, she
could  control the conversation on both sides  of  her. On both sides of her
sat  men and women of the highest distinction. Every man,  it  was said, had
been  a  Prime  Minister  and  every  woman, it  was whispered, had been the
mistress  of a king. Certain  it is that all were brilliant,  and  all  were
famous. Orlando took her seat with a deep reverence in silence...After three
hours, she curtseyed profoundly and left.
     But  what,  the  reader may  ask with  some exasperation,  happened  in
between.  In three hours, such  a company must have said  the  wittiest, the
profoundest, the  most interesting  things  in the world. So it  would  seem
indeed. But the fact appears to  be that they said nothing. It is a  curious
characteristic which  they  share with all the most brilliant societies that
the world has seen. Old  Madame du Deffand  and her friends talked for fifty
years without stopping.  And  of  it all, what remains? Perhaps  three witty
sayings. So that we  are at liberty to suppose either that nothing was said,
or that nothing witty  was said, or that the fraction of three witty sayings
lasted eighteen thousand two hundred  and fifty nights, which does not leave
a liberal allowance of wit for any one of them.
     The truth would seem  to  be - if  we dare  use  such a word  in such a
connection - that  all these groups  of people lie under an enchantment. The
hostess is  our modern Sibyl. She  is a witch  who  lays her  guests under a
spell. In this house they think themselves happy; in that witty;  in a third
profound. It is all an illusion (which is  nothing against it, for illusions
are the most valuable and necessary of all  things, and  she who can  create
one is among the world's greatest benefactors), but as it  is notorious that
illusions are shattered by  conflict with reality, so  no real happiness, no
real wit, no real profundity are tolerated where the illusion prevails. This
serves to explain why Madame du Deffand said no more than three witty things
in  the course of fifty years. Had she said more, her circle would have been
destroyed. The  witticism, as it  left  her  lips, bowled  over the  current
conversation as a cannon ball lays low the violets and the daisies. When she
made  her   famous   "mot  de  Saint  Denis"  the  very  grass  was  singed.
Disillusionment  and desolation followed. Not a word was uttered. "Spare  us
another such, for Heaven's sake, Madame!" her friends cried with one accord.
And she  obeyed. For almost  seventeen years she  said nothing memorable and
all went well. The  beautiful counterpane  of illusion lay unbroken  on  her
circle as it  lay  unbroken on the circle of Lady R. The guests thought that
they  were  happy,  thought  that they  were witty, thought  that  they were
profound,  and, as they  thought this, other people thought  it  still  more
strongly; and so it got about that  nothing was more delightful than one  of
Lady  R.'s assemblies;  everyone envied  those who were admitted; those  who
were admitted  envied  themselves because  other people envied them;  and so
there seemed no end to it - except that which we have now to relate.
     For  about  the  third time  Orlando  went  there  a  certain  incident
occurred.  She was  still under the illusion that  she was listening  to the
most brilliant epigrams  in  the  world, though,  as a  matter of fact,  old
General C. was only saying, at some length, how the  gout had left his  left
leg and  gone to his right, while Mr L. interrupted when any proper name was
mentioned, "R.? Oh! I know Billy R. as well as I know myself. S.? My dearest
friend. T.? Stayed with him a fortnight in  Yorkshire" - which,  such is the
force of illusion, sounded like  the  wittiest  repartee, the most searching
comment  upon  human life,  and  kept the  company in a  roar; when the door
opened and a little gentleman entered whose name Orlando did not catch. Soon
a curiously disagreeable sensation came over her. To judge from their faces,
the rest began  to feel it as well. One gentleman said there was a  draught.
The  Marchioness  of  C. feared  a  cat must be under the sofa. It was as if
their eyes were being slowly opened after a  pleasant  dream and nothing met
them but a cheap wash-stand and a dirty counterpane. It was as  if the fumes
of some  delicious wine were  slowly leaving  them. Still the General talked
and still Mr L. remembered. But it became more and more apparent how red the
General's neck was, how bald  Mr  L.'s  head  was. As  for what  they said -
nothing more tedious and  trivial could be imagined.  Everybody fidgeted and
those who had fans yawned behind them. At last Lady R. rapped with hers upon
the arm of her great chair. Both gentlemen stopped talking.
     Then the little  gentleman said, He said  next, He said finally  (These
sayings are  too well known to require repetition, and besides, they are all
to be found in his published works.),
     Here, it cannot be denied,  was true wit, true wisdom, true profundity.
The company was thrown into complete dismay. One such saying was bad enough;
but  three, one after another, on the same evening! No society could survive
     "Mr Pope," said old Lady R. in a  voice trembling with sarcastic  fury,
"you are  pleased  to be  witty." Mr Pope flushed red. Nobody spoke  a word.
They sat  in dead silence  some twenty minutes. Then, one by one, they  rose
and slunk  from  the room.  That they would  ever  come  back  after such an
experience  was doubtful. Link-boys could be heard calling their coaches all
down  South Audley  Street. Doors were  slammed  and  carriages  drove  off.
Orlando found  herself near Mr Pope on the staircase. His lean and misshapen
frame was shaken by a variety  of emotions.  Darts of malice, rage, triumph,
wit, and terror  (he was shaking like a leaf) shot from his  eyes. He looked
like  some squat reptile set with a burning topaz in  its forehead.  At  the
same time, the  strangest tempest  of emotion seized now  upon the  luckless
Orlando. A  disillusionment  so  complete as that  inflicted not an hour ago
leaves the mind rocking from side to side. Everything appears ten times more
bare and  stark than before. It is a moment fraught with the  highest danger
for  the human spirit. Women turn nuns and men priests  in  such moments. In
such  moments,  rich men sign  away their  wealth;  and  happy men cut their
throats  with  carving knives. Orlando  would have  done  all willingly, but
there was a rasher  thing still for her to do, and this she did. She invited
Mr Pope to come home with her.
     For if it is rash  to walk into a  lion's den unarmed, rash to navigate
the Atlantic in a rowing boat,  rash to stand on one  foot on  the top of St
Paul's, it is  still  more  rash to  go home alone with a poet.  A  poet  is
Atlantic and  lion  in  one. While one drowns us  the other gnaws  us. If we
survive the teeth, we succumb to the waves. A man who can  destroy illusions
is both beast and flood. Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the
earth. Roll up that tender  air  and  the plant dies, the colour  fades. The
earth we walk on is a parched cinder.  It is marl we tread and fiery cobbles
scorch  our feet. By the truth we  are undone. Life is  a dream. 'Tis waking
that kills us. He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life - (and so on
for  six pages  if you  will, but  the style  is  tedious  and may  well  be
     On this showing, however, Orlando should have been a heap of cinders by
the time the chariot drew up at her house in Blackfriars. That she was still
flesh and  blood, though certainly exhausted, is entirely due  to a  fact to
which  we  drew attention earlier in the narrative. The less we see the more
we believe. Now the streets that lie between Mayfair and Blackfriars were at
that  time very imperfectly  lit. True, the lighting was a great improvement
upon that of the Elizabethan age. Then the benighted  traveller had to trust
to  the stars or  the  red flame of some night watchman to save him from the
gravel pits  at  Park  Lane  or  the oak woods  where swine  rootled  in the
Tottenham Court  Road. But even so it wanted much of our modern  efficiency.
Lamp-posts  lit with oil-lamps occurred every two hundred yards or  so,  but
between lay a considerable stretch of pitch  darkness. Thus for  ten minutes
Orlando and Mr Pope would be in blackness; and then for  about half a minute
again in the  light. A  very strange state of mind was thus bred in Orlando.
As the light  faded,  she began  to feel  steal over  her the most delicious
balm. "This  is  indeed  a very great honour for a young woman to be driving
with Mr Pope," she began to think, looking at the outline of his nose. "I am
the most blessed of my sex. Half  an inch from me - indeed, I feel the  knot
of his knee  ribbons pressing against my thigh - is the greatest wit in  Her
Majesty's dominions. Future ages will think of us with curiosity and envy me
with fury." Here came the lamp-post again. "What a foolish wretch I am!" she
thought. "There is no such thing as  fame and glory. Ages to come will never
cast a thought on me or on Mr Pope either. What's an `age', indeed? What are
`we'?" and their progress through Berkeley Square seemed the groping of  two
blind  ants,  momentarily  thrown  together  without interest or concern  in
common,  across a  blackened  desert.  She  shivered.  But  here  again  was
darkness.  Her  illusion revived.  "How  noble  his  brow  is," she  thought
(mistaking  a hump on a cushion  for  Mr  Pope's forehead  in the darkness).
"What a weight  of genius lives in it! What wit, wisdom,  and truth - what a
wealth of all those  jewels, indeed, for which  people are  ready  to barter
their lives! Yours  is the only light that burns for ever.  But for  you the
human pilgrimage would be performed in utter darkness"; (here the coach gave
a great lurch as it fell into a rut in  Park Lane) "without genius we should
be  upset and undone.  Most august, most  lucid  of beams,"  - thus  she was
apostrophizing the  hump on the cushion when they  drove beneath one of  the
street lamps in Berkeley Square and she realized  her mistake. Mr Pope had a
forehead no bigger than another man's. "Wretched man," she thought, "how you
have  deceived me!  I  took that hump for your forehead.  When  one sees you
plain, how ignoble, how despicable  you  are! Deformed and  weakly, there is
nothing to venerate in you, much to pity, most to despise."
     Again they were in  darkness and her anger became modified directly she
could see nothing but the poet's knees.
     "But it  is  I  that am  a wretch,"  she reflected,  once they were  in
complete obscurity again, "for base as you may be, am I not still  baser? It
is you who nourish and protect me,  you who  scare the wild beast,  frighten
the savage,  make me clothes  of  the silkworm's  wool,  and carpets of  the
sheep's. If I  want  to worship, have you  not provided me with  an image of
yourself and set it in the sky?  Are not  evidences of your care everywhere?
How humble, how grateful, how docile, should I not be, therefore?  Let it be
all my joy to serve, honour, and obey you."
     Here  they reached the big  lamp-post  at  the corner  of  what is  now
Piccadilly Circus. The light  blazed in her eyes, and she saw, besides  some
degraded creatures of her own  sex,  two wretched  pigmies on a stark desert
land. Both were naked, solitary, and  defenceless. The  one was powerless to
help the other. Each had enough to  do to look after itself. Looking Mr Pope
full in the face, "It is equally  vain," she thought, "for you to think  you
can  protect me,  or for me to think I  can worship you. The light  of truth
beats upon us  without shadow, and the light of truth is damnably unbecoming
to us both."
     All this time,  of course, they went on talking agreeably, as people of
birth and education use, about  the Queen's temper and  the Prime Minister's
gout, while the coach went from light to darkness down the Haymarket,  along
the  Strand,  up  Fleet  Street,  and  reached,  at  length,  her  house  in
Blackfriars. For some  time  the  dark  spaces between  the lamps  had  been
becoming brighter and the lamps themselves less bright - that is to say, the
sun  was rising, and it was in the equable but confused light of a  summer's
morning in which everything is seen but nothing is seen distinctly that they
alighted, Mr Pope handing Orlando  from  her carriage and Orlando curtseying
Mr Pope  to precede her into her mansion with the  most scrupulous attention
to the rites of the Graces.
     From  the foregoing  passage, however,  it must  not  be supposed  that
genius (but  the disease is now  stamped out in the  British Isles, the late
Lord  Tennyson, it  is said,  being the  last person to suffer from  it)  is
constantly  alight, for  then  we  should see everything  plain  and perhaps
should  be scorched  to  death  in  the  process. Rather  it  resembles  the
lighthouse in its working, which  sends one ray and then no more for a time;
save that genius is much more capricious in its manifestations and may flash
six or seven beams in quick succession  (as Mr Pope did that night) and then
lapse  into  darkness for a year or  for ever.  To  steer  by  its beams  is
therefore impossible, and when the dark spell is on them  men of genius are,
it is said, much like other people.
     It was happy  for Orlando,  though at first  disappointing,  that  this
should be so, for  she now  began to live much  in  the  company of  men  of
genius. Nor were they so different from the rest  of us  as  one might  have
supposed. Addison, Pope, Swift,  proved, she found, to  be fond of tea. They
liked arbours.  They  collected little bits of  coloured glass.  They adored
grottos. Rank  was not distasteful to them. Praise was delightful. They wore
plum-coloured  suits one day and grey another. Mr  Swift  had a fine malacca
cane. Mr Addison scented his  handkerchiefs. Mr Pope suffered with his head.
A piece  of  gossip  did  not  come  amiss.  Nor  were  they  without  their
jealousies. (We  are  jotting down a few  reflections that  came  to Orlando
higgledy-piggledy.) At first, she was annoyed with herself for noticing such
trifles, and kept a book in which to write down their memorable sayings, but
the page remained empty. All the same, her spirits  revived, and she took to
tearing up her cards of invitation to great parties; kept her evenings free;
began to look forward to Mr Pope's  visit, to Mr  Addison's, to Mr Swift's -
and so  on and so  on. If the reader will  here  refer to  the "Rape  of the
Lock",  to the  "Spectator",  to "Gulliver's Travels",  he  will  understand
precisely what these  mysterious words  may  mean.  Indeed,  biographers and
critics  might save themselves all their labours if readers would only  take
this advice. For when we read:
     Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's Law,
     Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw,
     Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade,
     Forget her Pray'rs or miss a Masquerade,
     Or lose her Heart, or Necklace, at a Ball
     - we know  as if we  heard him how  Mr Pope's tongue  flickered  like a
lizard's, how his eyes flashed, how his hand  trembled, how he loved, how he
lied, how he suffered. In  short,  every secret  of a  writer's soul,  every
experience  of his  life; every quality of  his mind is written large in his
works; yet we  require critics to explain the one and biographers to expound
the other. That time hangs  heavy on people's hands is the only  explanation
of the monstrous growth.
     So, now that we have read  a page  or two of the "Rape of the Lock", we
know  exactly why Orlando  was so much amused and so much  frightened and so
very bright-cheeked and bright-eyed that afternoon.
     Mrs Nelly then knocked at the door to say that Mr Addison waited on her
Ladyship. At this, Mr Pope  got  up with a  wry smile, made  his congee, and
limped off. In came  Mr Addison.  Let us, as  he takes his  seat,  read  the
following passage from the "Spectator":
     "I consider woman as a beautiful, romantic animal,  that may be adorned
with furs and feathers, pearls and diamonds, ores and silks.  The lynx shall
cast its skin at her feet to make her a tippet, the peacock, parrot and swan
shall pay contributions  to  her muff; the sea shall be searched for shells,
and  the  rocks for  gems,  and every part of  nature furnish out  its share
towards the  embellishment of a creature that is the most consummate work of
it. All this, I shall indulge them in, but as for the petticoat I  have been
speaking of, I neither can, nor will allow it."
     We  hold that  gentleman,  cocked hat  and all, in  the hollow,  of our
hands.  Look once more into the crystal. Is he not clear to the very wrinkle
in  his stocking? Does not every ripple  and  curve  of  his wit lie exposed
before us, and his benignity and his timidity and his  urbanity and the fact
that he would marry  a Countess and die very respectably  in the end? All is
clear. And when Mr Addison has said his say, there is a terrific  rap at the
door,  and Mr  Swift,  who  had these  arbitrary  ways with  him,  walks  in
unannounced.  One moment,  where is "Gulliver's Travels"? Here it is! Let us
read a passage from the voyage to the Houyhnhnms:
     "I enjoyed perfect Health of  Body and  Tranquillity of Mind; I did not
find the Treachery or Inconstancy of a Friend, nor the Injuries of  a secret
or open  Enemy.  I had no  occasion of  bribing,  flattering or pimping,  to
procure the Favour  of  any great Man or of  his Minion.  I wanted no  Fence
against Fraud  or Oppression; Here was neither Physician to destroy my Body,
nor Lawyer to ruin  my Fortune; No Informer to watch my Words, and  Actions,
or forge Accusations  against  me for  Hire: Here were no Gibers, Censurers,
Backbiters,  Pickpockets,  Highwaymen,   Housebreakers,  Attorneys,   Bawds,
Buffoons, Gamesters, Politicians, Wits, splenetick tedious Talkers..."
     But stop, stop your iron pelt of words, lest you flay us all alive, and
yourself too! Nothing can be plainer than that violent man. He  is so coarse
and yet so clean; so brutal, yet so  kind; scorns the whole world, yet talks
baby language to a girl, and will die, can we doubt it? in a madhouse.
     So Orlando poured out tea for them all; and sometimes, when the weather
was fine, she carried them down  to the country  with her, and  feasted them
royally in  the Round Parlour, which she had hung with their pictures all in
a  circle, so that Mr Pope could not say that Mr Addison came before him, or
the other way  about. They were  very witty, too  (but their wit  is  all in
their  books) and taught her the most important part  of style, which is the
natural run of  the voice in  speaking -  a quality which  none that has not
heard it can imitate, not Greene even, with all his skill; for it is born of
the air, and breaks like a  wave on the furniture, and rolls and fades away,
and is never to be  recaptured,  least of all  by those who  prick  up their
ears, half a century  later, and  try. They  taught her this,  merely by the
cadence of their voices in speech; so that her style changed  somewhat,  and
she wrote some very pleasant,  witty verses and characters  in prose. And so
she  lavished  her wine  on  them and  put bank-notes, which they  took very
kindly, beneath their plates at dinner, and accepted  their dedications, and
thought herself highly honoured by the exchange.
     Thus time ran  on, and Orlando  could  often be heard saying to herself
with an emphasis which might,  perhaps, make the hearer a little suspicious,
"Upon my  soul,  what a life this is!" (For she was still in  search of that
commodity.) But  circumstances soon forced her  to consider the matter  more
     One day she was  pouring out tea for Mr  Pope while, as anyone can tell
from the verses quoted above, he  sat very  bright-eyed, observant,  and all
crumpled up in a chair by her side.
     "Lord," she thought, as she raised the  sugar tongs, "how women in ages
to  come will  envy  me! And yet"  -  she  paused;  for Mr Pope  needed  her
attention. And yet -  let us finish her thought for her  - when anybody says
"How  future ages will envy  me", it is safe to say that they are  extremely
uneasy at  the  present moment. Was this life quite  so exciting,  quite  so
flattering, quite so  glorious as it sounds when the memoir writer  has done
his work upon it? For one thing, Orlando had  a  positive hatred of tea; for
another, the intellect, divine as  it is, and all-worshipful, has a habit of
lodging  in the most  seedy of carcases, and often, alas, acts the  cannibal
among the  other faculties so that  often,  where  the Mind  is biggest, the
Heart, the Senses, Magnanimity, Charity, Tolerance, Kindliness, and the rest
of them  scarcely have room to breathe. Then the  high opinion poets have of
themselves;  then the  low  one  they have of  others;  then  the  enmities,
injuries, envies,  and repartees in which they  are constantly engaged; then
the  volubility with  which  they impart them; then the  rapacity with which
they demand sympathy  for them; all this, one may whisper, lest the wits may
overhear us, makes pouring out  tea  a more precarious and, indeed,  arduous
occupation than is  generally allowed. Added to which (we whisper again lest
the women may  overhear us), there is a little secret  which men share among
them;  Lord Chesterfield whispered  it to his son with strict injunctions to
secrecy, "Women  are but  children of  a larger growth...A man of sense only
trifles with them, plays with them, humours and flatters them", which, since
children always  hear what they are not meant to,  and sometimes, even, grow
up,  may have somehow leaked out, so that the whole ceremony  of pouring out
tea is a curious  one. A woman knows very well that,  though a wit sends her
his poems, praises her judgment, solicits her criticism, and drinks her tea,
this  by  no  means  signifies that  he respects  her  opinions, admires her
understanding, or will refuse,  though the rapier is  denied him, to run her
through the body with  his pen.  All this, we say,  whisper it as low as  we
can, may have  leaked  out by now; so that even with the cream jug suspended
and the  sugar tongs distended the ladies  may fidget a  little, look out of
the  window a little, yawn a little, and so let the sugar fall with  a great
plop  - as Orlando  did  now - into  Mr Pope's tea. Never  was any mortal so
ready to suspect an insult or so  quick to avenge one as Mr  Pope. He turned
to Orlando and presented her instantly with the rough  draught of a  certain
famous  line  in  the  "Characters  of  Women". Much  polish  was afterwards
bestowed  on it, but even in the original it  was  striking enough.  Orlando
received it  with  a  curtsey. Mr Pope left her with a bow. Orlando, to cool
her cheeks,  for  really  she felt as  if  the little man  had  struck  her,
strolled in the nut grove at the bottom of the garden. Soon the cool breezes
did their work. To her amazement she found  that she was hugely  relieved to
find herself alone.  She watched the merry boatloads rowing up the river. No
doubt the sight  put her in  mind of one or two incidents  in her past life.
She sat  herself  down  in profound meditation beneath  a fine  willow tree.
There she sat till the stars  were in the  sky. Then she  rose,  turned, and
went into the house, where  she sought her bedroom and  locked the door. Now
she opened a cupboard in which hung still  many of the  clothes she had worn
as a young man of fashion, and from among them she chose a black velvet suit
richly trimmed with  Venetian lace.  It was a little out of fashion, indeed,
but it fitted her to perfection and dressed in it she looked the very figure
of a noble Lord. She took a turn or two before the mirror to  make sure that
her petticoats had not lost  her  the  freedom  of her legs,  and  then  let
herself secretly out of doors.
     It was  a fine night early in April. A myriad  stars mingling  with the
light of a sickle moon, which again was enforced by the street lamps, made a
light  infinitely becoming to the human  countenance and to the architecture
of Mr Wren. Everything appeared  in its  tenderest form,  yet,  just  as  it
seemed  on the point  of dissolution, some drop of silver  sharpened  it  to
animation.  Thus it was that talk  should be, thought Orlando (indulging  in
foolish reverie);  that society  should  be, that friendship should be, that
love  should be. For, Heaven knows why, just as we have lost faith  in human
intercourse some random collocation of barns and trees or a  haystack  and a
waggon presents us with  so perfect a symbol of what is unattainable that we
begin the search again.
     She  entered  Leicester  Square  as  she  made  these observations. The
buildings  had an airy yet formal symmetry not theirs  by day. The canopy of
the sky seemed most dexterously washed in to fill up the outline of roof and
chimney. A young woman who sat dejectedly with one arm drooping by her side,
the other reposing in her lap, on a  seat beneath a plane tree in the middle
of  the square seemed  the very figure of grace, simplicity, and desolation.
Orlando  swept  her hat off to her in the  manner  of a gallant  paying  his
addresses to a lady of fashion in a public place. The young woman raised her
head. It was of the most exquisite shapeliness. The young  woman  raised her
eyes.  Orlando  saw  them to  be of  a lustre such  as is sometimes seen  on
teapots  but rarely in a  human face.  Through  this  silver glaze the young
woman  looked  up  at  him  (for a  man he was to  her)  appealing,  hoping,
trembling, fearing. She rose; she accepted his arm. For - need we stress the
point? - she was of the tribe which nightly burnishes their  wares, and sets
them  in  order on the  common counter to wait the highest  bidder. She  led
Orlando to  the room in Gerrard Street which  was her lodging. To  feel  her
hanging lightly yet like a suppliant  on her arm, roused in Orlando  all the
feelings which become a man. She looked, she felt, she talked like one. Yet,
having  been  so  lately a woman  herself,  she  suspected that  the  girl's
timidity and her hesitating answers  and the very  fumbling  with the key in
the latch and the fold  of her cloak and the droop of her wrist were all put
on to gratify  her  masculinity. Upstairs they went, and the pains which the
poor  creature had been at to decorate  her room and hide the fact that  she
had no other deceived Orlando not a  moment. The deception roused her scorn;
the truth roused her  pity.  One thing  showing through the other  bred  the
oddest assortment  of feeling, so that she  did not know whether to laugh or
to cry. Meanwhile  Nell, as the  girl called herself, unbuttoned her gloves;
carefully  concealed the left-hand thumb, which  wanted  mending; then  drew
behind a  screen, where,  perhaps,  she  rouged  her  cheeks,  arranged  her
clothes, fixed a new  kerchief round her neck - all  the time  prattling  as
women do, to amuse her lover, though Orlando could have sworn, from the tone
of her voice, that her thoughts were elsewhere. When all was  ready, out she
came, prepared - but here Orlando could stand it no longer. In the strangest
torment of  anger,  merriment,  and pity  she  flung  off  all  disguise and
admitted herself a woman.
     At  this,  Nell burst into  such a roar of laughter as  might have been
heard across the way.
     "Well, my  dear," she said, when she had somewhat recovered, "I'm by no
means sorry to hear  it. For the plain Dunstable  of the matter is" (and  it
was remarkable how soon, on discovering that they were of the  same sex, her
manner changed  and she dropped  her plaintive, appealing  ways), "the plain
Dunstable of the matter is, that I'm not in the mood for the society  of the
other sex to-night. Indeed, I'm in the devil  of a  fix." Whereupon, drawing
up the fire and stirring a bowl of punch, she told Orlando  the  whole story
of her  life. Since it is Orlando's life that engages us at present, we need
not relate the adventures of the other  lady, but it is certain that Orlando
had never known the hours speed faster or more merrily, though Mistress Nell
had not a particle of wit about her, and when the name of Mr Pope came up in
talk  asked innocently if he  were connected with the perruque maker of that
name in Jermyn Street.  Yet,  to Orlando, such is the charm of ease  and the
seduction of beauty,  this poor girl's talk, larded though  it  was with the
commonest expressions of the street corners, tasted like wine after the fine
phrases she  had  been used to,  and she was  forced to  the conclusion that
there was  something in the sneer of Mr  Pope,  in the  condescension  of Mr
Addison, and in the secret of  Lord Chesterfield which took away her  relish
for  the society of  wits, deeply though she must continue to respect  their
     These poor creatures, she ascertained, for Nell brought Prue, and  Prue
Kitty, and Kitty Rose, had a society of their own of which  they now elected
her a member. Each would tell the  story of the  adventures which had landed
her in her present way of  life. Several were the natural daughters of earls
and one was a  good  deal nearer  than she  should have been to  the  King's
person.  None  was too  wretched or  too  poor  but  to  have some  ring  or
handkerchief in her  pocket  which  stood her in  lieu of  pedigree. So they
would  draw round the  punch-bowl  which  Orlando  made it  her  business to
furnish generously, and  many were the  fine  tales they  told and  many the
amusing observations they made, for it cannot be denied that when  women get
together - but hist - they are always careful to see that the doors are shut
and  that not a word of it gets into  print. All they desire is  -  but hist
again  - is  that not a man's  step  on the stair? All they desire, we  were
about to say when the gentleman took the very words out of our mouths. Women
have no desires,  says this  gentleman,  coming  into  Nell's parlour;  only
affectations. Without  desires (she has  served  him and  he  is gone) their
conversation  cannot be of  the slightest interest to  anyone.  "It  is well
known,"  says Mr S. W., "that when they lack the  stimulus of the other sex,
women  can find nothing to say  to each other.  When they are alone, they do
not talk, they scratch." And since they cannot  talk together and scratching
cannot continue  without  interruption  and it is well known (Mr  T.  R. has
proved it) "that women are incapable of any feeling  of affection for  their
own sex and  hold each  other in the greatest aversion", what can we suppose
that women do when they seek out each other's society?
     As that is not a  question that can engage the attention of  a sensible
man, let us, who  enjoy the immunity of all biographers and historians  from
any sex  whatever, pass it  over, and merely state  that  Orlando  professed
great enjoyment in the society of her own sex, and leave it to the gentlemen
to prove, as they are very fond of doing, that this is impossible.
     But to give  an exact and particular account of  Orlando's life at this
time becomes more and more out of the question. As we peer and grope  in the
ill-lit, ill-paved, ill-ventilated courtyards that lay about  Gerrard Street
and Drury  Lane at  that  time, we  seem now to catch sight of her and  then
again to lose it. The task is made still more difficult by the fact that she
found  it convenient  at this  time  to change frequently  from one  set  of
clothes to another. Thus she often  occurs in contemporary memoirs as "Lord"
So-and-so, who was in fact her cousin; her bounty is ascribed to him, and it
is he who  is said to have written the poems that were really hers. She had,
it  seems,  no difficulty  in sustaining the different  parts,  for  her sex
changed  far  more  frequently  than  those who have  worn only  one set  of
clothing can conceive; nor can  there be any doubt that she reaped a twofold
harvest by this device;  the  pleasures  of  life  were  increased  and  its
experiences multiplied.  For  the  probity of  breeches  she  exchanged  the
seductiveness of petticoats and enjoyed the love of both sexes equally.
     So  then one may  sketch her spending  her morning in  a China robe  of
ambiguous  gender among  her books; then receiving a client  or two (for she
had  many scores of suppliants) in the same garment;  then she  would take a
turn  in  the garden  and clip the nut trees - for which  knee-breeches were
convenient; then she would change  into a flowered taffeta which best suited
a drive to Richmond and a proposal of marriage from some great nobleman; and
so back again  to town, where she  would don a  snuff-coloured gown  like  a
lawyer's and visit the courts to hear how her  cases  were  doing, - for her
fortune was wasting hourly and the suits seemed no  nearer consummation than
they had been a hundred years  ago;  and so, finally, when night  came,  she
would more  often than not become  a  nobleman complete from head to toe and
walk the streets in search of adventure.
     Returning  from  some of  these junketings  - of which there were  many
stories told at the time, as, that  she fought a  duel, served on one of the
King's ships as a captain, was seen  to dance naked on  a  balcony, and fled
with a certain  lady  to the Low Countries where the lady's husband followed
them - but of the truth or otherwise of these stories, we express no opinion
- returning from whatever  her  occupation may have  been,  she made a point
sometimes of passing beneath the windows of a coffee house, where she  could
see the wits without being  seen,  and thus could fancy  from their gestures
what wise, witty, or spiteful things they were saying without hearing a word
of them; which was perhaps  an  advantage; and once she  stood half  an hour
watching three shadows on the blind drinking tea together in a house in Bolt
     Never was  any play so absorbing. She wanted  to cry out, Bravo! Bravo!
For, to  be sure, what  a fine drama it  was - what  a  page  torn from  the
thickest volume of human life! There was the little shadow with the  pouting
lips, fidgeting this way and that on his chair, uneasy, petulant, officious;
there  was  the bent female shadow, crooking a finger in the cup to feel how
deep the tea was, for she was blind; and there was the Roman-looking rolling
shadow in the big  armchair - he who twisted his fingers so oddly and jerked
his head from side to side and swallowed down the tea in such vast gulps. Dr
Johnson,  Mr Boswell, and Mrs Williams, -  those were the shadows' names. So
absorbed was she in the sight, that she forgot to think how other ages would
have envied her, though it seems probable  that on this occasion they would.
She was content to gaze and gaze. At length Mr Boswell rose. He saluted  the
old  woman  with  tart  asperity. But  with what humility did  he not  abase
himself before the  great Roman shadow, who now rose to its full  height and
rocking  somewhat as he stood there rolled out the most  magnificent phrases
that ever left human lips; so Orlando thought them, though she never heard a
word that any of the three shadows said as they sat there drinking tea.
     At  length  she came home one night  after one of these saunterings and
mounted to her bedroom. She took off her laced coat and stood there in shirt
and breeches looking out of  the window. There was something stirring in the
air which forbade her  to go to bed. A white haze lay over the town, for  it
was a frosty night  in midwinter and a  magnificent vista lay all round her.
She could see St  Paul's, the Tower,  Westminster Abbey, with all the spires
and domes of  the city churches, the  smooth bulk of  its banks, the opulent
and  ample curves of its  halls  and  meeting-places.  On the north rose the
smooth, shorn heights of Hampstead, and in  the west the streets and squares
of Mayfair  shone out  in  one clear radiance. Upon this  serene and orderly
prospect the stars looked down, glittering, positive, hard, from a cloudless
sky. In the extreme clearness of  the atmosphere the line of every roof, the
cowl of every chimney,  was perceptible;  even  the  cobbles in  the streets
showed distinct one from another, and Orlando could not help  comparing this
orderly scene with the  irregular  and huddled purlieus  which  had been the
city of London in  the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  Then, she remembered,  the
city,  if   such  one  could  call  it,  lay  crowded,  a  mere  huddle  and
conglomeration  of  houses,  under her  windows  at Blackfriars.  The  stars
reflected themselves in deep pits of stagnant water which lay in  the middle
of the  streets. A black shadow at the  corner  where the  wine shop used to
stand was,  as likely  as not,  the corpse  of  a  murdered  man.  She could
remember the cries of many a  one wounded in such night brawlings, when  she
was a little boy, held  to  the  diamond-paned  window in her  nurse's arms.
Troops of ruffians, men and women, unspeakably interlaced, lurched down  the
streets, trolling out  wild songs  with jewels flashing  in their ears,  and
knives gleaming in their fists. On  such  a night  as  this the  impermeable
tangle of the forests on Highgate and Hampstead  would be outlined, writhing
in contorted intricacy against the sky.  Here and there, on one of the hills
which rose above  London, was a stark gallows tree, with a corpse  nailed to
rot or  parch on  its cross; for danger and insecurity, lust  and  violence,
poetry and filth swarmed over  the  tortuous Elizabethan highways and buzzed
and stank - Orlando could remember even now the smell of them on a hot night
- in  the  little rooms and narrow pathways of the city. Now - she leant out
of  her window  - all was light, order,  and serenity. There  was  the faint
rattle  of a coach on the  cobbles.  She heard the far-away cry of the night
watchman - "Just  twelve o'clock  on a  frosty  morning". No sooner  had the
words left his  lips than the first stroke of midnight sounded. Orlando then
for  the  first time noticed a small cloud  gathered behind the  dome  of St
Paul's. As the strokes sounded, the cloud  increased, and she saw  it darken
and spread  with extraordinary speed. At  the same time  a light breeze rose
and  by the time  the sixth stroke of  midnight had struck  the whole of the
eastern sky was covered with an irregular moving darkness, though the sky to
the west and north stayed clear as ever. Then the cloud spread north. Height
upon height above the city  was engulfed  by it.  Only Mayfair, with all its
lights shining,  burnt more  brilliantly  than  ever by  contrast.  With the
eighth stroke, some hurrying tatters of cloud sprawled over Piccadilly. They
seemed to mass themselves and to advance with extraordinary rapidity towards
the  west end.  As  the ninth,  tenth, and  eleventh strokes struck,  a huge
blackness sprawled over the whole  of  London.  With  the twelfth stroke  of
midnight, the darkness was complete. A turbulent welter of cloud covered the
city.  All  was darkness;  all was doubt; all was  confusion. The Eighteenth
century was over; the Nineteenth century had begun.
     0x01 graphic

     The great cloud which hung, not only over London, but over the whole of
the British  Isles on  the  first day  of the nineteenth century stayed,  or
rather, did not stay,  for  it was buffeted  about constantly  by blustering
gales,  long enough to  have extraordinary consequences upon those who lived
beneath its shadow.  A  change seemed  to  have  come  over  the  climate of
England.  Rain  fell  frequently,  but only  in fitful  gusts, which were no
sooner over than they began again. The  sun shone, of course,  but it was so
girt about  with clouds  and the  air was so saturated with water,  that its
beams were discoloured and purples,  oranges, and reds  of a dull sort  took
the place of  the more positive landscapes  of the eighteenth century. Under
this  bruised and sullen canopy the green of the cabbages  was less intense,
and the white of the snow was muddied. But what was worse, damp now began to
make its way into every house  -  damp, which is the most  insidious  of all
enemies, for while the sun can be shut out by  blinds, and the frost roasted
by a hot fire, damp steals in while we sleep; damp is silent, imperceptible,
ubiquitous. Damp swells the wood, furs the kettle, rusts the iron,  rots the
stone. So gradual is the process, that it is not until we pick up some chest
of drawers, or coal scuttle, and  the  whole thing drops  to  pieces  in our
hands, that we suspect even that the disease is at work.
     Thus, stealthily and imperceptibly, none marking the exact day or  hour
of the change, the constitution  of England was  altered and nobody knew it.
Everywhere the  effects  were felt. The hardy country gentleman, who had sat
down gladly to  a meal  of ale and beef  in a  room designed, perhaps by the
brothers Adam, with classic dignity,  now felt chilly. Rugs appeared; beards
were grown; trousers  were fastened tight under  the instep. The chill which
he  felt in his legs the country gentleman  soon transferred  to  his house;
furniture was muffled; walls and tables were covered; nothing was left bare.
Then a  change of  diet became essential. The  muffin  was invented  and the
crumpet. Coffee  supplanted the after-dinner port,  and, as coffee  led to a
drawing-room  in  which to drink  it, and a drawing-room to glass cases, and
glass  cases to  artificial flowers, and artificial flowers to mantelpieces,
and mantelpieces to  pianofortes, and  pianofortes to  drawing-room ballads,
and drawing-room  ballads (skipping  a stage or  two) to innumerable  little
dogs,  mats, and  china ornaments, the home  -  which  had  become extremely
important - was completely altered.
     Outside the house  - it was another effect of  the damp  - ivy grew  in
unparalleled profusion. Houses that had been of bare stone were smothered in
greenery. No garden, however formal its original design, lacked a shrubbery,
a wilderness, a  maze. What light penetrated to the bedrooms where  children
were born was naturally of an obfusc green, and what light penetrated to the
drawing-rooms where grown men and women lived came through curtains of brown
and  purple plush.  But the  change did not stop at outward things. The damp
struck within. Men  felt the chill in their hearts; the damp in their minds.
In a desperate effort to snuggle their feelings into some sort of warmth one
subterfuge was tried after another. Love, birth, and death were all swaddled
in a  variety of fine phrases. The sexes drew further and further apart.  No
open conversation was tolerated. Evasions and  concealments  were sedulously
practised on both sides. And just as the ivy and the evergreen rioted in the
damp  earth outside, so did the same fertility show itself within.  The life
of the  average  woman  was  a  succession  of childbirths.  She  married at
nineteen and had fifteen or eighteen  children by  the time she  was thirty;
for twins abounded.  Thus the British Empire came into existence; and thus -
for there is  no stopping damp; it gets into  the inkpot as it gets into the
woodwork - sentences  swelled, adjectives multiplied,  lyrics  became epics,
and  little  trifles   that  had  been  essays  a  column   long  were   now
encyclopaedias in ten  or twenty volumes. But  Eusebius Chubb  shall  be our
witness  to the  effect this all  had  upon the mind of a  sensitive man who
could do nothing to stop it. There is  a  passage  towards  the end  of  his
memoirs  where he describes  how, after  writing thirty-five folio pages one
morning - all about nothing - he screwed the lid of  his inkpot and went for
a  turn in  his garden. Soon  he found  himself involved  in the  shrubbery.
Innumerable  leaves  creaked  and  glistened above  his head.  He  seemed to
himself "to crush the mould of a  million more under his feet". Thick  smoke
exuded  from a  damp bonfire at  the end of the garden. He reflected that no
fire on earth could ever hope  to consume  that vast vegetable  encumbrance.
Wherever  he  looked, vegetation  was  rampant.  Cucumbers "came scrolloping
across the grass to  his feet".  Giant cauliflowers towered deck above  deck
till they rivalled, to his disordered imagination, the elm trees themselves.
Hens laid incessantly eggs of no special tint. Then, remembering with a sigh
his own fecundity and his poor wife Jane, now in the throes of her fifteenth
confinement indoors,  how, he asked himself, could  he blame  the  fowls? He
looked  upwards  into  the  sky.  Did  not  heaven  itself,  or  that  great
frontispiece of heaven, which is the  sky, indicate the assent,  indeed, the
instigation of the heavenly hierarchy? For there, winter or summer, year  in
year  out,  the  clouds  turned  and  tumbled, like whales, he pondered,  or
elephants rather; but no, there was no escaping the simile which was pressed
upon him from a thousand airy  acres; the whole sky itself as it spread wide
above  the  British  Isles was  nothing  but  a vast  feather bed;  and  the
undistinguished fecundity  of the  garden, the bedroom and  the henroost was
copied there. He went indoors, wrote the passage quoted above, laid his head
in a gas oven, and when they found him later he was past revival.
     While this went on in every  part of  England, it was all very well for
Orlando to mew herself in her  house at  Blackfriars  and pretend  that  the
climate was  the same; that  one  could  still say what  one liked  and wear
knee-breeches  or  skirts as the  fancy took  one.  Even she, at length, was
forced  to acknowledge that times  were changed.  One afternoon in the early
part of the  century  she was driving  through St  James's Park in  her  old
panelled coach when one  of those sunbeams, which  occasionally,  though not
often, managed to come to earth, struggled through, marbling the clouds with
strange  prismatic  colours  as  it passed. Such  a sight  was  sufficiently
strange after the clear and uniform skies of the eighteenth century to cause
her to pull the  window down  and look at  it. The puce  and flamingo clouds
made  her  think  with  a  pleasurable anguish,  which  proves  that she was
insensibly  afflicted  with  the damp already, of  dolphins dying  in Ionian
seas.  But what was her surprise  when,  as it struck the earth, the sunbeam
seemed to call forth, or to light up, a pyramid, hecatomb, or trophy (for it
had something of a banquet-table air) -  a conglomeration at any rate of the
most heterogeneous  and  ill-assorted objects, piled higgledy-piggledy  in a
vast  mound where  the statue of  Queen Victoria now stands!  Draped about a
vast cross of  fretted  and floriated gold were  widow's  weeds  and  bridal
veils; hooked  on to other excrescences  were crystal palaces,  bassinettes,
military helmets,  memorial  wreaths,  trousers,  whiskers,  wedding  cakes,
cannon,  Christmas   trees,  telescopes,  extinct  monsters,  globes,  maps,
elephants,  and  mathematical  instruments  -  the  whole  supported like  a
gigantic coat of  arms on the right side  by  a  female  figure  clothed  in
flowing white;  on the left  by  a portly gentleman wearing a frock-coat and
sponge-bag trousers. The incongruity  of the objects, the association of the
fully clothed and the partly draped, the garishness of the different colours
and their plaid-like juxtapositions afflicted Orlando with the most profound
dismay. She had never, in all her life, seen  anything  at once so indecent,
so hideous, and so monumental.  It might, and indeed it  must be, the effect
of the sun on the  water-logged air; it would  vanish with the first  breeze
that  blew; but for all  that, it looked, as  she drove past, as if it  were
destined to endure for ever. Nothing, she felt, sinking back into the corner
of  her coach,  no wind, rain,  sun, or  thunder, could  ever demolish  that
garish erection.  Only the  noses would mottle and the  trumpets would rust;
but there  they  would  remain,  pointing  east,  west,  south,  and  north,
eternally.  She  looked  back as her coach swept up Constitution Hill.  Yes,
there it was, still beaming placidly in a light which - she pulled her watch
out of her  fob -  was, of course, the light of twelve o'clock mid-day. None
other  could be so prosaic, so matter-of-fact,  so impervious to any hint of
dawn or sunset, so seemingly calculated to last for ever. She was determined
not to look again.  Already  she felt the tides of her blood run sluggishly.
But  what was more  peculiar a  blush,  vivid and  singular,  overspread her
cheeks as she  passed  Buckingham  Palace and her eyes  seemed forced  by  a
superior power down upon her  knees. Suddenly she  saw with a start that she
was wearing black breeches. She never  ceased blushing till she  had reached
her country house, which, considering the time it takes four horses to  trot
thirty miles, will be taken, we hope, as a signal proof of her chastity.
     Once there, she followed what had now become the most imperious need of
her nature and wrapped herself as well as she could  in a damask quilt which
she snatched from her bed.  She  explained to the Widow Bartholomew (who had
succeeded good old Grimsditch as housekeeper) that she felt chilly.
     "So do  we all, m'lady," said  the Widow, heaving a profound sigh. "The
walls is sweating," she said, with a  curious,  lugubrious complacency,  and
sure  enough,  she had  only to lay  her  hand on  the  oak panels  for  the
finger-prints to be marked there. The ivy had  grown so profusely  that many
windows were now sealed up. The kitchen was so dark that they could scarcely
tell a kettle from a cullender. A poor black cat had been mistaken for coals
and shovelled on the fire. Most of the maids were  already wearing three  or
four red-flannel petticoats, though the month was August.
     "But is  it true, m'lady," the good woman asked, hugging herself, while
the golden  crucifix heaved  on  her bosom,  "that the Queen, bless  her, is
wearing a what d'you call it, a?," the good woman hesitated and blushed.
     "A crinoline," Orlando helped her out with it (for the word had reached
Blackfriars).  Mrs  Bartholomew nodded. The tears  were already running down
her cheeks, but as she wept she smiled. For it  was pleasant  to  weep. Were
they  not all of them weak women - wearing crinolines the  better to conceal
the fact; the great fact;  the only  fact; but, nevertheless, the deplorable
fact;  which  every  modest woman did  her best to  deny  until  denial  was
impossible; the fact that she was about to bear a child - to bear fifteen or
twenty children indeed, so that most  of a  modest  woman's life  was spent,
after  all, in denying what,  on one day  at least  of every year, was  made
     "The muffins is  keepin'  'ot," said  Mrs  Bartholomew, mopping up  her
tears, "in the liberry."
     And wrapped in a damask bed quilt, to a dish of muffins Orlando now sat
     "The muffins is keepin' 'ot  in the liberry" - Orlando minced  out  the
horrid cockney phrase  in Mrs  Bartholomew's  refined cockney accents as she
drank - but no, she detested the mild fluid - her tea.  It was in this  very
room, she remembered,  that Queen Elizabeth had  stood astride the fireplace
with a  flagon of beer in her hand, which she suddenly dashed  on the  table
when  Lord   Burghley  tactlessly  used  the   imperative  instead  of   the
subjunctive. "Little  man, little  man," - Orlando could hear her  say - "is
`must' a word to  be  addressed to princes?" And down came the flagon on the
table: there was the mark of it still.
     But when Orlando leapt to  her feet, as the mere  thought of that great
Queen  commanded,  the bed quilt tripped her up, and she  fell  back in  her
arm-chair with a curse. Tomorrow she would have to buy  twenty yards or more
of black  bombazine,  she  supposed,  to make  a skirt. And  then  (here she
blushed), she would have to buy a crinoline, and  then (here she blushed)  a
bassinette, and then  another  crinoline,  and so on...The  blushes came and
went with the most exquisite iteration of modesty and  shame imaginable. One
might see the spirit of the age blowing, now hot, now cold, upon her cheeks.
And if the spirit of the age blew a  little unequally,  the crinoline  being
blushed for before the husband, her ambiguous position must excuse her (even
her sex was still in dispute) and the irregular life she had lived before.
     At length the colour on her cheeks resumed  its stability and it seemed
as  if the spirit of the age - if such  indeed it  were - lay dormant for  a
time. Then Orlando felt in the bosom of her  shirt as if for some  locket or
relic  of lost  affection, and drew out no such thing, but a  roll of paper,
sea-stained,  blood-stained,  travel-stained - the  manuscript of her  poem,
"The Oak Tree". She  had carried this about with her for so many years  now,
and in  such hazardous circumstances, that many of  the pages were  stained,
some were torn, while  the straits  she had been in  for writing  paper when
with  the gipsies, had forced her to  overscore  the margins and  cross  the
lines   till  the   manuscript  looked  like   a   piece   of  darning  most
conscientiously carried out. She turned back to the first page  and read the
date, 1586, written in her own  boyish  hand. She had been working at it for
close three hundred years  now.  It was time to make  an end. Meanwhile  she
began turning and dipping and reading and skipping and thinking as she read,
how  very little she had changed all these years. She had been a gloomy boy,
in love with death, as boys  are; and  then she had been amorous and florid;
and  then she had been sprightly and satirical; and sometimes she had  tried
prose and sometimes she had tried drama. Yet  through  all these changes she
had  remained,  she  reflected,  fundamentally  the  same. She had  the same
brooding meditative temper,  the same love  of  animals and nature, the same
passion for the country and the seasons.
     "After all," she thought, getting up  and going to the window, "nothing
has  changed. The house, the garden are precisely  as they were. Not a chair
has been moved, not  a  trinket sold.  There  are  the same walks, the  same
lawns, the same  trees, and the same  pool,  which, I dare say, has the same
carp  in it. True, Queen Victoria is  on the throne and not Queen Elizabeth,
but what difference..."
     No  sooner had the thought taken shape, than,  as if  to rebuke it, the
door  was  flung  wide  and  in  marched  Basket,  the  butler,  followed by
Bartholomew, the  housekeeper,  to clear  away  tea.  Orlando, who had  just
dipped her pen in the  ink, and was about to indite some reflection upon the
eternity of all  things,  was much  annoyed to be  impeded by a  blot, which
spread and meandered round  her pen. It was some infirmity of the quill, she
supposed;  it was split or dirty.  She  dipped it again. The blot increased.
She  tried to go on with what she was saying; no words came. Next she  began
to decorate  the blot with wings and whiskers, till it became a round-headed
monster, something  between  a  bat and a wombat. But as  for writing poetry
with  Basket and Bartholomew in the room, it was  impossible. No  sooner had
she said "Impossible" than, to her astonishment and alarm, the pen began  to
curve and caracole with the smoothest possible fluency. Her page was written
in the neatest sloping Italian hand with the most insipid verse she had ever
read in her life:
     I am myself but a vile link
     Amid life's weary chain,
     But I have spoken hallow'd words,
     Oh, do not say in vain!
     Will the young maiden, when her tears,
     Alone in moonlight shine,
     Tears for the absent and the loved,
     she wrote without a stop as Bartholomew  and Basket grunted and groaned
about the room, mending the fire, picking up the muffins.
     Again she dipped her pen and off it went:
     She was so changed, the soft carnation cloud
     Once mantling o'er her cheek like that which eve
     Hangs o'er the sky, glowing with roseate hue,
     Had faded into paleness, broken by
     Bright burning blushes, torches of the tomb,
     but here,  by an abrupt movement  she  spilt the  ink over the page and
blotted it from human sight she hoped for ever. She was all of a quiver, all
of a stew. Nothing  more repulsive  could  be imagined than to  feel the ink
flowing  thus in cascades of involuntary  inspiration. What had happened  to
her?  Was it the damp, was it  Bartholomew, was it Basket, what  was it? she
demanded. But the  room was empty. No one answered  her, unless the dripping
of the rain in the ivy could be taken for an answer.
     Meanwhile, she became conscious, as  she  stood at  the  window,  of an
extraordinary  tingling and vibration all over her, as if she were made of a
thousand wires upon which some breeze or errant fingers were playing scales.
Now her toes tingled;  now her marrow. She had the queerest sensations about
the thigh  bones.  Her hairs  seemed to erect themselves. Her arms  sang and
twanged as the telegraph wires would be singing and twanging in twenty years
or so. But all  this agitation seemed at length to concentrate in her hands;
and then in one hand, and  then in one finger of that hand, and then finally
to contract itself so that it made a ring of quivering sensibility about the
second finger of  the  left hand. And when she raised it to  see what caused
this  agitation, she  saw nothing  -  nothing but the vast  solitary emerald
which Queen  Elizabeth had given her. And was that not enough? she asked. It
was of  the  finest water.  It was worth  ten thousand pounds at  least. The
vibration seemed, in the oddest way (but remember we are  dealing with  some
of  the darkest manifestations of the  human soul)  to  say No, that is  not
enough; and, further, to assume a note  of interrogation, as though it  were
asking,  what did it mean, this hiatus, this strange oversight -  till  poor
Orlando felt  positively  ashamed  of the second  finger  of her  left  hand
without in the least knowing why. At this moment, Bartholomew came in to ask
which  dress she should lay out for dinner, and  Orlando,  whose senses were
much quickened, instantly  glanced at Bartholomew's left hand, and instantly
perceived  what she  had  never  noticed before -  a thick  ring  of  rather
jaundiced yellow circling the third finger where her own was bare.
     "Let  me look at your ring, Bartholomew," she said, stretching her hand
to take it.
     At this,  Bartholomew made as if she had been struck in the breast by a
rogue. She started back a pace or two,  clenched her hand and flung  it away
from her with a gesture that was noble in the  extreme. "No," she said, with
resolute dignity, her Ladyship might look if she pleased, but as  for taking
off her wedding ring, not the Archbishop nor the Pope  nor Queen Victoria on
her throne could force her to do that. Her Thomas had put it  on  her finger
twenty-five  years, six months, three weeks ago; she had slept in it; worked
in it; washed in it; prayed in it; and proposed to be buried in it. In fact,
Orlando understood her to say,  but her voice  was much broken with emotion;
that it was by the gleam on her wedding ring that she would be  assigned her
station  among the angels and its lustre would be tarnished for  ever if she
let it out of her keeping for a second.
     "Heaven help us," said Orlando, standing at the window and watching the
pigeons at their pranks, "what a world we live in! What a world to be sure!"
Its  complexities amazed her. It now seemed to her that the whole  world was
ringed with gold. She went in to dinner. Wedding rings abounded. She went to
church.  Wedding rings  were everywhere. She  drove out. Gold, or pinchbeck,
thin, thick, plain, smooth,  they glowed dully  on every  hand. Rings filled
the  jewellers' shops,  not  the flashing pastes  and  diamonds of Orlando's
recollection, but  simple bands without  a stone in them.  At the same time,
she began  to notice a new habit among the town people. In the old days, one
would  meet  a boy  trifling with a  girl under a hawthorn hedge  frequently
enough.  Orlando  had  flicked  many a  couple with the tip  of her whip and
laughed  and  passed on.  Now,  all that was  changed.  Couples  trudged and
plodded in the  middle of the road indissolubly linked together. The woman's
right hand was invariably passed through the man's left and her fingers were
firmly gripped by his. Often it was not till the  horses' noses were on them
that they  budged,  and then,  though  they moved it  was all  in one piece,
heavily, to the side of the road. Orlando could only  suppose that  some new
discovery  had  been  made about  the  race; that  they were  somehow  stuck
together, couple after couple, but who had  made  it and when, she could not
guess. It did not seem to be Nature. She looked at the doves and the rabbits
and the elk-hounds and she could not see that Nature had changed her ways or
mended them, since the time of Elizabeth at least. There was no indissoluble
alliance among  the brutes  that  she  could see. Could it be Queen Victoria
then,  or  Lord  Melbourne? Was  it  from  them that  the great discovery of
marriage proceeded? Yet the Queen, she pondered,  was  said  to  be fond  of
dogs, and Lord  Melbourne,  she had  heard, was said to be fond of women. It
was  strange  - it was distasteful; indeed,  there  was  something  in  this
indissolubility of bodies  which was repugnant to her  sense of decency  and
sanitation.  Her  ruminations, however, were accompanied by  such a tingling
and twanging of the afflicted finger that  she could scarcely keep her ideas
in  order. They were languishing and ogling like a housemaid's fancies. They
made her blush. There was nothing for it but  to buy one of those ugly bands
and wear it like the rest. This she  did, slipping it, overcome with  shame,
upon her  finger in the shadow of a curtain; but without avail. The tingling
persisted more violently,  more indignantly  than ever. She  did not sleep a
wink that night. Next  morning when she took up the pen to write, either she
could think of nothing, and  the  pen made one large lachrymose  blot  after
another, or it ambled off, more alarmingly still, into mellifluous fluencies
about early death and corruption, which were worse  than no thinking at all.
For it would seem  -  her case proved  it  -  that  we  write, not  with the
fingers, but with the whole person.  The nerve which controls the  pen winds
itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.
Though the  seat of her trouble seemed to  be the left hand, she could  feel
herself poisoned through  and through, and  was forced at length to consider
the   most  desperate  of  remedies,  which  was  to  yield  completely  and
submissively to the spirit of the age, and take a husband.
     That   this  was  much  against   her  natural   temperament  has  been
sufficiently made plain.  When the sound of the  Archduke's  chariot  wheels
died away, the cry that rose to her lips was "Life! A  Lover!"  not "Life! A
Husband!" and  it was  in  pursuit of this aim that she had gone to town and
run  about the world as has been shown in the previous  chapter. Such is the
indomitable  nature of the spirit of the age, however, that it  batters down
anyone  who tries  to make stand against it far  more effectually than those
who  bend  its  own  way. Orlando  had  inclined  herself naturally  to  the
Elizabethan  spirit,  to  the  Restoration  spirit,  to  the  spirit of  the
eighteenth century, and had in consequence scarcely been aware of the change
from one  age  to the other.  But the  spirit of the  nineteenth century was
antipathetic to her in the extreme, and thus it took her and  broke her, and
she was aware of her defeat at its hands as  she had never  been before. For
it  is probable that the human spirit has  its place in time assigned to it;
some are born of this  age, some of that; and now that  Orlando was  grown a
woman, a  year  or two  past thirty indeed, the  lines of her character were
fixed, and to bend them the wrong way was intolerable.
     So she stood mournfully at the drawing-room window  (Bartholomew had so
christened  the library) dragged down by the weight  of  the crinoline which
she had  submissively adopted.  It was heavier and more drab  than any dress
she had yet worn.  None had  ever so impeded her  movements. No longer could
she  stride through the  garden  with her dogs, or run  lightly  to the high
mound and fling  herself  beneath  the oak  tree. Her skirts  collected damp
leaves and straw. The plumed hat tossed on the  breeze. The thin shoes  were
quickly soaked and mud-caked. Her muscles had lost their pliancy. She became
nervous lest there should be robbers behind the wainscot and afraid, for the
first  time in her life,  of ghosts  in  the  corridors.  All  these  things
inclined her,  step  by step, to submit to  the new discovery, whether Queen
Victoria's  or another's,  that each man and each woman has another allotted
to it for life, whom it  supports, by whom it  is supported, till death them
do part. It would be a comfort, she felt, to lean;  to sit down; yes, to lie
down; never, never, never to get  up again. Thus did the  spirit  work  upon
her,  for  all  her past pride, and  as she came sloping  down the  scale of
emotion  to this lowly and unaccustomed lodging-place,  those  twangings and
tinglings which had been so captious and so interrogative modulated into the
sweetest melodies,  till  it seemed  as if angels were plucking harp-strings
with white fingers and her whole being was pervaded by a seraphic harmony.
     But  whom  could she  lean upon?  She  asked that question of the  wild
autumn winds. For it was now October, and wet as usual. Not the Archduke; he
had  married a very great lady and had hunted hares  in Roumania  these many
years  now; nor Mr  M.; he was become a Catholic; nor  the Marquis of C.; he
made sacks in Botany Bay; nor the Lord O.; he had long been food for fishes.
One way or another, all her old cronies were gone now, and the Nells and the
Kits of Drury  Lane,  much though she  favoured  them, scarcely did to  lean
     "Whom," she asked, casting her eyes upon the revolving clouds, clasping
her  hands  as she knelt on the  window-sill, and looking the very image  of
appealing womanhood  as  she did so, "can  I lean  upon?" Her  words  formed
themselves, her hands clasped themselves, involuntarily, just as her pen had
written of  its own accord. It was not Orlando who  spoke, but the spirit of
the age.  But whichever it was,  nobody answered it. The rooks were tumbling
pell-mell  among the violet clouds of autumn. The  rain  had stopped at last
and there  was an  iridescence  in the sky which  tempted her to put on  her
plumed hat and her little stringed shoes and stroll out before dinner.
     "Everyone  is  mated  except  myself,"  she   mused,   as  she  trailed
disconsolately across the courtyard. There were the rooks; Canute and Pippin
even - transitory as their alliances were, still each this evening seemed to
have a partner.  "Whereas, I, who  am mistress of it all,"  Orlando thought,
glancing as she passed  at the innumerable emblazoned  windows  of the hall,
"am single, am mateless, am alone."
     Such thoughts had never entered her head before. Now they bore her down
unescapably. Instead of thrusting the gate open,  she  tapped with  a gloved
hand  for the  porter to unfasten  it for her. One must lean on someone, she
thought, if it is only on a porter; and half wished to stay behind  and help
him to grill his chop on a bucket of fiery coals,  but  was too timid to ask
it. So  she  strayed  out  into  the  park  alone,  faltering  at first  and
apprehensive lest there might be poachers or gamekeepers or even errand-boys
to marvel that a great lady should walk alone.
     At  every step she glanced nervously lest  some  male  form  should  be
hiding behind a  furze bush or some savage cow be lowering its horns to toss
her. But there were only the rooks flaunting in the sky.  A steel-blue plume
from one of them fell among the heather. She loved wild birds' feathers. She
had used to collect them as a boy. She picked it up and stuck it in her hat.
The air blew  upon her  spirit  somewhat  and revived  it. As the rooks went
whirling and wheeling above her head and feather after feather fell gleaming
through the purplish  air, she followed them, her long cloak floating behind
her, over the moor, up the hill.  She had not walked  so far for years.  Six
feathers had  she  picked from the  grass and drawn  between her fingers and
pressed  to  her lips  to feel their smooth, glinting plumage, when she saw,
gleaming on the hill-side, a silver pool,  mysterious as the lake into which
Sir Bedivere flung the sword of Arthur. A single feather quivered in the air
and fell  into the middle of it. Then,  some strange  ecstasy came over her.
Some wild notion she had  of following the birds to the rim of the world and
flinging herself on the spongy  turf and there drinking forgetfulness, while
the  rooks' hoarse  laughter  sounded over  her. She quickened her pace; she
ran; she tripped; the tough heather roots flung her to the ground. Her ankle
was broken. She could not rise. But there she lay content. The scent  of the
bog myrtle and  the meadow-sweet  was  in  her nostrils. The  rooks'  hoarse
laughter was  in  her ears. "I have found my mate," she murmured. "It is the
moor. I am nature's bride,"  she whispered, giving herself in rapture to the
cold embraces of the grass  as she lay  folded in her cloak in the hollow by
the pool. "Here  will I lie. (A feather fell upon her brow.) I  have found a
greener laurel than the bay. My forehead will be cool always. These are wild
birds' feathers - the owl's,  the nightjar's. I shall  dream wild dreams. My
hands  shall wear  no wedding ring," she continued,  slipping  it  from  her
finger. "The roots shall twine about  them. Ah!"  she  sighed, pressing  her
head luxuriously on its spongy pillow, "I have sought happiness through many
ages and not found it; fame and missed it; love and not known it; life - and
behold,  death  is  better. I  have  known many  men  and  many women,"  she
continued; "none have I understood. It is better that I should lie  at peace
here with  only the sky above me - as  the gipsy told me years ago. That was
in Turkey." And she looked straight up into the marvellous  golden foam into
which the  clouds had churned themselves, and saw next moment a track in it,
and  camels passing in single file through the rocky desert  among clouds of
red  dust; and then, when the camels  had passed, there were only mountains,
very high and full of clefts and with pinnacles of rock, and she fancied she
heard goat bells ringing in their passes, and in their folds were fields  of
irises  and  gentian.  So  the  sky  changed  and  her  eyes slowly  lowered
themselves down and down  till they came to the rain-darkened  earth and saw
the great hump of  the South Downs, flowing in one wave along the coast; and
where the land parted, there  was the sea, the sea  with  ships passing; and
she fancied  she heard  a gun  far out at sea, and thought at first, "That's
the Armada,"  and then thought "No,  it's Nelson," and  then remembered  how
those  wars were over and the  ships were busy merchant ships; and the sails
on the winding river were  those of pleasure  boats.  She saw,  too,  cattle
sprinkled on the dark fields, sheep and cows, and she  saw the lights coming
here and there  in farm-house windows, and lanterns moving among  the cattle
as the shepherd went his rounds and the cowman; and then the lights went out
and the stars  rose and tangled themselves about  the  sky. Indeed,  she was
falling asleep with the  wet feathers on her face and her ear pressed to the
ground when  she heard, deep  within, some hammer on an anvil,  or  was it a
heart beating? Tick-tock,  tick-tock, so it hammered, so it beat, the anvil,
or the heart in the middle of the earth; until, as she listened, she thought
it changed  to the trot  of a  horse's  hoofs;  one, two, three,  four,  she
counted; then she heard a stumble; then, as  it came nearer  and nearer, she
could hear the crack of a twig and the suck of the wet bog in its hoofs. The
horse  was  almost on  her. She  sat  upright.  Towering  dark  against  the
yellow-slashed sky of dawn, with the  plovers rising and falling  about him,
she saw a man on horseback. He started. The horse stopped.
     "Madam," the man cried, leaping to the ground, "you're hurt!"
     "I'm dead, sir!" she replied.
     A few minutes later, they became engaged.
     The morning after, as they  sat at breakfast, he told her  his name. It
was Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, Esquire.
     "I knew it!" she said, for there was something romantic and chivalrous,
passionate, melancholy,  yet determined about him which went with the  wild,
dark-plumed name  -  a name which had, in her mind, the steel-blue  gleam of
rooks'  wings, the hoarse  laughter of their  caws, the  snake-like twisting
descent of their feathers in  a  silver  pool,  and a thousand other  things
which will be described presently.
     "Mine is Orlando," she said. He had guessed it.  For  if you see a ship
in  full  sail coming  with  the  sun  on  it  proudly  sweeping across  the
Mediterranean  from  the  South  Seas,  one  says  at  once,  "Orlando,"  he
     In fact, though their acquaintance had been so short, they had guessed,
as always  happens between  lovers, everything  of any importance about each
other in two seconds at the utmost, and it now remained only to fill in such
unimportant details as what they were called; where they lived; and  whether
they were beggars  or people of substance. He had a castle in the  Hebrides,
but it was ruined, he  told her. Gannets feasted in the banqueting hall.  He
had  been  a soldier and a sailor,  and had explored the East. He was on his
way now to  join his brig at Falmouth, but  the wind  had fallen and it  was
only  when the  gale blew from the South-west that he  could put out to sea.
Orlando looked hastily from the breakfast-room window at the gilt leopard on
the weather vane. Mercifully its  tail pointed due east and was  steady as a
rock. "Oh! Shel, don't leave me!" she cried. "I'm passionately in  love with
you,"  she  said.  No  sooner had the words  left  her mouth  than  an awful
suspicion rushed into both their minds simultaneously.
     "You're a woman, Shel!" she cried.
     "You're a man, Orlando!" he cried.
     Never was  there such a scene of protestation and demonstration as then
took place since the  world began. When it  was over  and they  were  seated
again she asked him, what was this talk  of  a South-west gale? Where was he
bound for?
     "For  the Horn," he said briefly, and  blushed. (For a man had to blush
as a woman  had, only at  rather different things.)  It was only  by dint of
great pressure on her side and the use of much intuition that  she  gathered
that  his life was spent in the most desperate and splendid of adventures  -
which is to voyage round Cape Horn in the  teeth of  a gale. Masts had  been
snapped off; sails torn to ribbons (she had to drag the admission from him).
Sometimes the ship had  sunk,  and he had been left  the only survivor on  a
raft with a biscuit.
     "It's  about all a  fellow  can do nowadays," he said  sheepishly,  and
helped himself to great  spoonfuls  of  strawberry jam. The vision which she
had thereupon of this boy (for he was little more) sucking  peppermints, for
which  he had a passion, while the masts snapped and the stars reeled and he
roared brief orders to cut this adrift, to heave that overboard, brought the
tears to her eyes, tears, she noted, of  a finer  flavour  than any  she had
cried before: "I  am a woman,"  she  thought,  "a real woman, at last."  She
thanked Bonthrop from the bottom of her heart for having given her this rare
and unexpected delight. Had she  not been lame  in the left foot, she  would
have sat upon his knee.
     "Shel, my darling,"  she began  again, "tell me..."  and so they talked
two hours or more, perhaps about Cape Horn, perhaps not, and really it would
profit little to write down what they said, for they knew each other so well
that  they  could  say  anything, which is  tantamount to saying nothing, or
saying such stupid, prosy things as how to cook an omelette, or where to buy
the  best  boots  in London, things which  have  no lustre taken  from their
setting,  yet  are  positively of amazing beauty within it.  For it has come
about,  by  the wise economy  of nature, that our  modern spirit can  almost
dispense  with language; the commonest  expressions do, since no expressions
do;  hence the most  ordinary conversation is often the most poetic, and the
most poetic  is precisely  that  which  cannot be written  down.  For  which
reasons we leave  a great  blank here, which  must be taken to indicate that
the space is filled to repletion.
     After some days more of this kind of talk,
     "Orlando, my dearest," Shel was beginning, when  there was  a scuffling
outside, and Basket the butler entered with the information that there was a
couple of Peelers downstairs with a warrant from the Queen.
     "Show 'em up," said Shelmerdine briefly, as if on his own quarter-deck,
taking up, by instinct, a stand with his  hands  behind him in  front of the
fireplace. Two  officers in bottlegreen  uniforms  with truncheons  at their
hips then entered the  room and stood at  attention. Formalities being over,
they  gave into Orlando's  own  hands,  as  their  commission  was, a  legal
document of some very impressive sort; judging by the blobs  of sealing wax,
the  ribbons, the oaths, and the  signatures, which  were all of the highest
     Orlando ran her eyes through it and then, using the first finger of her
right hand as pointer, read out the following facts as being most germane to
the matter.
     "The lawsuits are settled," she read out..."some in  my favour,  as for
example...others  not.  Turkish  marriage  annulled  (I  was  ambassador  in
Constantinople,  Shel,"  she explained)  "Children pronounced  illegitimate,
(they said I had  three  sons  by  Pepita, a  Spanish dancer). So they don't
inherit, which is  all to the good...Sex?  Ah! what about sex? My sex,"  she
read out  with some solemnity,  "is pronounced  indisputably, and beyond the
shadow of a doubt (what I was telling you a moment  ago, Shel?), female. The
estates which are now desequestrated in perpetuity  descend  and are  tailed
and  entailed upon  the heirs male  of my body, or in default of marriage" -
but here she grew impatient with  this legal verbiage, and said, "but  there
won't  be any default of marriage, nor of  heirs either, so the rest  can be
taken as  read."  Whereupon she  appended  her  own  signature  beneath Lord
Palmerston's and entered from that moment into the undisturbed possession of
her titles, her  house,  and her estate - which  was now so much shrunk, for
the  cost  of  the  lawsuits  had  been  prodigious,  that,  though she  was
infinitely noble again, she was also excessively poor.
     When the result of the  lawsuit was  made  known (and  rumour flew much
quicker than the telegraph which  has  supplanted  it), the whole  town  was
filled with rejoicings.
     [Horses were  put  into  carriages for the  sole purpose of being taken
out. Empty barouches and landaus  were trundled  up and down the High Street
incessantly. Addresses were read  from  the Bull. Replies were made from the
Stag. The town was  illuminated. Gold caskets  were securely sealed in glass
cases. Coins were well and  duly laid under stones. Hospitals  were founded.
Rat and  Sparrow  clubs were  inaugurated. Turkish women by the  dozen  were
burnt in effigy  in the market-place,  together with  scores of peasant boys
with  the label "I am  a  base Pretender",  lolling  from their mouths.  The
Queen's cream-coloured ponies were soon seen  trotting  up the avenue with a
command to Orlando to dine and  sleep at the Castle, that  very same  night.
Her table, as on a previous occasion, was snowed under with invitations from
the  Countess of  R., Lady Q., Lady Palmerston,  the Marchioness of P.,  Mrs
W.E. Gladstone and others, beseeching the pleasure of her company, reminding
her of  ancient alliances between their family and her own,  etc.] -  all of
which is properly enclosed in square brackets, as above, for the good reason
that  a  parenthesis it was  without any  importance in  Orlando's life. She
skipped it, to get on with the text. For when  the bonfires were blazing  in
the marketplace,  she was in the dark woods with Shelmerdine alone.  So fine
was the weather that  the trees stretched  their  branches motionless  above
them, and if a leaf fell, it fell, spotted red  and gold, so slowly that one
could watch it for half an  hour fluttering and falling till it came to rest
at last, on Orlando's foot.
     "Tell me, Mar," she would say (and here it must be explained, that when
she called him by the first syllable of his first name, she was in a dreamy,
amorous,  acquiescent mood, domestic, languid  a little, as if  spiced  logs
were burning, and it  was  evening, yet not time to dress, and a thought wet
perhaps outside, enough to make the leaves glisten, but a  nightingale might
be singing  even so among the azaleas, two or three dogs barking at  distant
farms, a cock crowing - all of which the reader should imagine in her voice)
- "Tell me, Mar," she would say, "about Cape Horn." Then  Shelmerdine  would
make a little model on the ground of the Cape with twigs and dead leaves and
an empty snail shell or two.
     "Here's the north," he would say. "There's the south. The wind's coming
from  hereabouts. Now the brig is sailing  due west;  we've just lowered the
top-boom  mizzen: and  so  you see - here, where this  bit  of grass is, she
enters  the current which you'll find marked - where's my map and compasses,
Bo'sun?  Ah!  thanks,  that'll  do,  where the snail  shell  is. The current
catches her on the starboard side, so we  must rig the  jib-boom or we shall
be  carried to the larboard, which  is where that beech  leaf is, -  for you
must understand my dear"  - and so he would  go on, and she would listen  to
every word; interpreting them rightly, so as to see, that is to say, without
his  having  to tell  her,  the  phosphorescence on the  waves; the  icicles
clanking in the shrouds; how he went to the top of the mast in a gale; there
reflected  on  the destiny  of man; came down again; had  a whisky and soda;
went on shore; was trapped by a black woman; repented; reasoned it out; read
Pascal; determined to write philosophy; bought  a monkey;  debated  the true
end of  life;  decided in favour  of Cape Horn,  and so on. All  this  and a
thousand  other things she understood him to  say, and so  when she replied,
Yes,  negresses  are  seductive,  aren't they? he having  told  her that the
supply of biscuits now gave out,  he was surprised and delighted to find how
well she had taken his meaning.
     "Are you  positive you  aren't a  man?" he would ask anxiously, and she
would echo,
     "Can it be possible you're not a woman?" and then they must  put  it to
the proof  without more ado. For each was so surprised  at the  quickness of
the  other's  sympathy,  and it  was to each  such a revelation that a woman
could be as tolerant  and free-spoken as  a man,  and a  man as strange  and
subtle as a woman, that they had to put the matter to the proof at once.
     And so they  would go  on  talking or rather, understanding,  which has
become the main art of  speech  in  an age when words  are growing daily  so
scanty in comparison with ideas that "the biscuits ran out" has to stand for
kissing a negress  in  the  dark  when  one has  just read Bishop Berkeley's
philosophy for the tenth time. (And from this it follows that only the  most
profound  masters of style can tell the truth,  and when  one meets a simple
one-syllable writer, one may conclude, without any  doubt at  all,  that the
poor man is lying.)
     So  they would  talk; and then, when her  feet were fairly covered with
spotted autumn leaves, Orlando would rise and stroll away  into the heart of
the  woods  in  solitude, leaving  Bonthrop  sitting there among  the  snail
shells, making models of Cape  Horn. "Bonthrop," she  would say,  "I'm off,"
and when she called him by his second name, "Bonthrop", it should signify to
the  reader that she was in a solitary mood, felt  them both as specks  on a
desert, was desirous only of meeting death by herself, for people die daily,
die at  dinner  tables,  or like this, out of doors in the autumn woods; and
with the bonfires blazing and Lady Palmerston or  Lady Derby  asking her out
every  night to  dinner,  the  desire  for death would overcome her, and  so
saying "Bonthrop", she  said in  effect, "I'm dead", and pushed her way as a
spirit might through the spectre-pale beech trees, and so oared herself deep
into solitude as if the  little flicker  of noise and movement were over and
she were free now to take her way - all of  which the  reader should hear in
her  voice when she said  "Bonthrop",  and  should also add,  the  better to
illumine the word,  that  for him too  the same  word signified, mystically,
separation and  isolation and the disembodied pacing the deck of his brig in
unfathomable seas.
     After some  hours of death, suddenly a  jay shrieked "Shelmerdine", and
stooping, she picked  up one  of those autumn crocuses which to some  people
signify that very word, and put it with the jay's feather that came tumbling
blue through the  beech woods, in her breast.  Then she called "Shelmerdine"
and  the word went  shooting this way and  that  way through the  woods  and
struck him where he sat, making models out of snail shells  in the grass. He
saw her,  and heard  her coming to him with the crocus and the jay's feather
in her  breast, and cried "Orlando", which meant  (and it must be remembered
that when bright  colours like blue and yellow  mix themselves in our  eyes,
some of it rubs off on our thoughts) first the bowing and swaying of bracken
as if  something  were  breaking through; which proved to  be a ship in full
sail, heaving and  tossing  a little dreamily, rather as if she  had a whole
year of summer days  to make  her voyage  in; and so the  ship  bears  down,
heaving this way, heaving  that way, nobly, indolently,  and  rides over the
crest of this wave and sinks into the  hollow of  that one, and so, suddenly
stands over you (who are in  a little cockle shell of  a boat, looking up at
her) with all her sails quivering, and then, behold, they drop all of a heap
on deck - as Orlando dropped now into the grass beside him.
     Eight or nine days had been spent thus, but on the tenth, which was the
26th of October, Orlando was lying in the bracken, while Shelmerdine recited
Shelley (whose entire works he had by heart), when a leaf which  had started
to fall slowly enough  from a treetop whipped briskly across Orlando's foot.
A second leaf followed and  then a third. Orlando shivered  and turned pale.
It was the wind.  Shelmerdine  - but it would be more proper now to call him
Bonthrop - leapt to his feet.
     "The wind!" he cried.
     Together  they ran  through  the woods, the wind plastering  them  with
leaves as they ran, to the great court and through it and the little courts,
frightened servants leaving their brooms and their saucepans to follow after
till they reached the Chapel,  and there a scattering  of lights was  lit as
fast  as  could be, one knocking over this bench, another  snuffing out that
taper. Bells  were rung. People were summoned. At length there was Mr Dupper
catching at the ends of his white  tie and asking where was the prayer book.
And they  thrust  Queen  Mary's  prayer  book in  his hands and he searched,
hastily fluttering the pages, and said, "Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine, and
Lady Orlando, kneel down"; and they knelt down, and now they were bright and
now  they were  dark  as  the  light  and  shadow came flying helter-skelter
through the painted windows; and among  the banging of innumerable doors and
a sound like brass pots beating,  the organ  sounded, its growl  coming loud
and faint  alternately, and Mr  Dupper, who was  grown a very old man, tried
now to raise his voice above  the uproar and could not be heard and then all
was quiet  for a moment,  and one word - it  might be "the jaws of  death" -
rang  out clear,  while all the estate servants kept pressing in  with rakes
and whips  still  in  their  hands to listen, and some sang loud and  others
prayed, and now a bird was dashed against the pane, and now there was a clap
of  thunder, so that no one heard the word  Obey spoken or saw, except as  a
golden  flash,  the  ring pass  from hand to  hand.  All  was  movement  and
confusion. And up they rose with the organ booming and the lightning playing
and the rain pouring,  and  the Lady Orlando, with  her ring on  her finger,
went out into the court in her thin dress and held the swinging stirrup, for
the horse was  bitted and  bridled and the foam was still on  his flank, for
her husband to mount,  which  he  did with  one bound, and the  horse  leapt
forward  and  Orlando,   standing  there,  cried   out  "Marmaduke  Bonthrop
Shelmerdine!" and he answered her "Orlando!" and the words went  dashing and
circling like wild hawks together among the belfries and higher  and higher,
further and further, faster and  faster they circled, till  they crashed and
fell in a shower of fragments to the ground; and she went in.
     0x01 graphic

     Orlando  went indoors.  It was  completely still. It was  very  silent.
There was the ink pot: there  was the pen;  there was  the manuscript of her
poem, broken off in the middle of a tribute to  eternity. She had been about
to say, when Basket and Bartholomew interrupted with the tea things, nothing
changes. And then, in the  space of three seconds and a half, everything had
changed - she had broken her ankle, fallen in love, married Shelmerdine.
     There was the wedding ring on her finger to  prove it. It was true that
she had put it there herself before she met Shelmerdine, but that had proved
worse  than  useless.  She  now  turned  the  ring  round  and  round,  with
superstitious reverence, taking care  lest it should slip past  the joint of
her finger.
     "The wedding ring has to be put on the third finger of the left  hand,"
she said, like a child cautiously repeating its lesson, "for it to be of any
use at all."
     She spoke  thus, aloud and rather more pompously than was her wont,  as
if  she  wished someone  whose good opinion  she  desired  to overhear  her.
Indeed, she had in  mind,  now  that she  was  at last able to  collect  her
thoughts, the effect  that her  behaviour would  have had upon the spirit of
the age. She was extremely anxious  to be informed whether the steps she had
taken  in the matter of getting  engaged to Shelmerdine and marrying him met
with  its approval. She was certainly  feeling more  herself. Her finger had
not tingled once, or nothing  to count,  since that night on the  moor. Yet,
she could  not deny that she had her  doubts.  She was married, true; but if
one's husband was always sailing round Cape  Horn,  was it  marriage? If one
liked him, was it marriage?  If one liked other people, was it marriage? And
finally, if  one  still  wished, more than anything  in the whole  world, to
write poetry, was it marriage? She had her doubts.
     But she would put it to the test. She looked at the ring. She looked at
the ink pot. Did she dare? No, she did not. But she must. No, she could not.
What should she do then? Faint, if possible. But she had  never felt  better
in her life.
     "Hang it all!" she cried, with a touch of her old spirit. "Here goes!"
     And she plunged her pen neck deep in the ink. To her enormous surprise,
there  was no explosion. She drew the nib out. It was wet, but not dripping.
She  wrote. The words were a little long  in coming, but come they did.  Ah!
but did they make sense? she wondered, a panic coming over her  lest the pen
might have been at some of its involuntary pranks again. She read,
     And then I came to a field where the springing grass
     Was dulled by the hanging cups of fritillaries,
     Sullen and foreign-looking, the snaky flower,
     Scarfed in dull purple, like Egyptian girls:
     As she wrote she felt some power (remember we are dealing with the most
obscure manifestations of  the human spirit) reading  over her shoulder, and
when she had written  "Egyptian girls", the  power told her to  stop. Grass,
the power seemed to say, going back with a  ruler such as governesses use to
the beginning, is all  right; the hanging cups  of fritillaries - admirable;
the  snaky  flower -  a  thought,  strong  from a lady's  pen,  perhaps, but
Wordsworth no  doubt, sanctions  it; but - girls? Are girls  necessary?  You
have a husband at the Cape, you say? Ah, well, that'll do.
     And so the spirit passed on.
     Orlando now performed in  spirit (for  all this took place in spirit) a
deep  obeisance to  the spirit of her age, such as - to compare great things
with small - a traveller, conscious  that he has a  bundle of cigars in  the
corner  of his suit case,  makes to the customs  officer who  has obligingly
made a scribble of  white chalk on the lid. For  she was  extremely doubtful
whether,  if  the spirit had examined the contents of her mind carefully, it
would  not have  found something highly contraband for which she would  have
had to pay the full fine. She had only escaped by the skin of her teeth. She
had just managed, by some dexterous deference to the spirit  of  the age, by
putting on a ring and finding a man on a moor, by loving nature and being no
satirist, cynic, or psychologist - any  one of which goods would  have  been
discovered at once - to pass its  examination successfully. And she heaved a
deep sigh of relief, as, indeed, well she might, for the transaction between
a writer and the spirit of the age is one of  infinite  delicacy, and upon a
nice  arrangement between the  two the whole  fortune  of his works depends.
Orlando had so ordered it that  she was in an  extremely happy position; she
need neither fight her  age, nor submit to  it; she was of it,  yet remained
herself. Now, therefore, she could write, and write she  did. She wrote. She
wrote. She wrote.
     It  was  now  November. After November, comes  December. Then  January,
February,  March,  and  April.  After  April comes May. June,  July,  August
follow. Next is September. Then October, and so, behold, here we are back at
November again, with a whole year accomplished.
     This method of writing biography, though it has its merits, is a little
bare, perhaps, and  the reader, if we go on  with it,  may complain  that he
could recite the calendar for  himself  and so save his pocket  whatever sum
the Hogarth Press may think proper to charge for this book. But what can the
biographer  do  when his  subject has put him in  the predicament into which
Orlando has now  put us? Life, it has been  agreed by everyone whose opinion
is worth consulting, is  the only  fit subject  for novelist or  biographer;
life,  the same authorities  have decided,  has nothing  whatever to do with
sitting still  in  a chair  and thinking. Thought and life are  as the poles
asunder. Therefore - since sitting in a chair and thinking is precisely what
Orlando  is doing now - there is nothing for it but to recite  the calendar,
tell one's beads, blow  one's nose, stir the fire, look  out of the  window,
until  she  has done. Orlando sat so still  that you  could have heard a pin
drop. Would, indeed, that a pin  had dropped! That would have been life of a
kind. Or if a butterfly had fluttered  through the window and settled on her
chair, one  could write about that.  Or suppose she had got up and  killed a
wasp.  Then, at once, we could out with our pens and  write. For there would
be blood  shed,  if only the blood of a wasp. Where there  is blood there is
life.  And  if  killing a wasp is the merest trifle compared  with killing a
man, still it is a fitter  subject for novelist or biographer than this mere
wool-gathering; this thinking; this sitting in a chair day in, day out, with
a cigarette and a sheet of paper and a pen and an ink pot. If only subjects,
we might complain (for our patience is wearing thin), had more consideration
for their biographers! What is more irritating than to see one's subject, on
whom one has lavished  so much time and trouble, slipping out of one's grasp
altogether and indulging - witness her  sighs and gasps, her  flushing,  her
palings, her eyes  now bright as  lamps, now haggard as dawns - what is more
humiliating than to see all this  dumb  show of  emotion and excitement gone
through before  our  eyes  when we know  that  what causes it -  thought and
imagination - are of no importance whatsoever?
     But Orlando was a  woman - Lord Palmerston had just proved it. And when
we  are writing the life of a woman, we may, it  is agreed, waive our demand
for action, and substitute love instead. Love, the poet has said, is woman's
whole  existence.  And if we look for a  moment  at Orlando  writing at  her
table,  we must  admit  that  never was there a woman more  fitted for  that
calling. Surely, since she is a woman, and a beautiful woman, and a woman in
the  prime  of life,  she  will soon  give over this pretence of writing and
thinking  and begin at least to think of a gamekeeper  (and  as long as  she
thinks  of a  man,  nobody objects to a woman thinking).  And then  she will
write  him  a little  note (and as long as she  writes  little  notes nobody
objects to a woman writing either) and make an assignation  for  Sunday dusk
and Sunday dusk will come; and the gamekeeper will whistle  under the window
- all of which is, of  course, the very stuff  of life and the only possible
subject  for fiction.  Surely Orlando must have  done one  of these  things?
Alas, - a  thousand times,  alas, Orlando did  none of them. Must it then be
admitted that Orlando was one of those monsters of iniquity who do not love?
She  was kind to dogs, faithful to  friends, generosity  itself  to  a dozen
starving poets, had a passion  for poetry. But  love - as the male novelists
define it - and who,  after all, speak with  greater authority - has nothing
whatever  to do  with kindness,  fidelity,  generosity, or  poetry. Love  is
slipping off one's petticoat and - But we all know what love is. Did Orlando
do  that? Truth  compels us to say no, she did not. If then,  the subject of
one's biography will neither love nor kill, but will only think and imagine,
we may conclude that he or she is no better than a corpse and so leave her.
     The only resource now left us is to look out  of the window. There were
sparrows; there were starlings; there were a number of doves, and one or two
rooks, all occupied after their fashion. One finds a worm,  another a snail.
One flutters to a branch, another  takes a little  run on  the  turf. Then a
servant crosses the courtyard, wearing a green baize apron. Presumably he is
engaged  on some  intrigue with one of  the maids in the pantry,  but as  no
visible proof is offered us, in the courtyard, we can but hope  for the best
and leave it.  Clouds  pass, thin or  thick, with some  disturbance  of  the
colour of  the grass beneath. The sun-dial registers  the hour in  its usual
cryptic way.  One's  mind begins tossing up a question or two, idly, vainly,
about this same life. Life, it sings, or  croons rather, like a  kettle on a
hob.  Life, life, what art thou? Light or darkness, the  baize apron of  the
under-footman or the shadow of the starling on the grass?
     Let  us go, then, exploring, this summer morning,  when all are adoring
the  plum blossom and the bee. And humming  and hawing,  let us  ask  of the
starling (who is  a more sociable bird than the lark) what  he may  think on
the  brink of  the dustbin,  whence he  picks  among the sticks  combings of
scullion's hair. What's  life, we ask, leaning  on  the farmyard gate; Life,
Life, Life! cries  the bird, as if he had heard, and knew precisely, what we
meant by this bothering prying habit of ours of asking questions indoors and
out and  peeping and  picking at daisies as the way is of writers  when they
don't  know what to say next. Then they come here, says the bird, and ask me
what life is; Life, Life, Life!
     We trudge on then by  the moor path, to the high  brow of the wine-blue
purple-dark hill, and fling ourselves down there, and  dream  there  and see
there a grasshopper, carting back to his home in the hollow, a straw. And he
says (if sawings like his  can be given  a name so sacred and tender) Life's
labour, or so we interpret the  whirr of his dust-choked gullet. And the ant
agrees and the bees, but  if we lie here long enough to ask  the moths, when
they come at  evening,  stealing among the  paler heather bells,  they  will
breathe in our ears such wild nonsense as one  hears from telegraph wires in
snow storms; tee hee, haw haw. Laughter, Laughter! the moths say.
     Having asked  then of man  and of bird  and the insects,  for fish, men
tell us, who have  lived  in  green caves, solitary for years  to  hear them
speak, never, never say, and so perhaps know what life is- having asked them
all and grown  no wiser, but only older and colder (for did we not pray once
in a way to wrap up in a book something so hard, so rare, one could swear it
was life's meaning?) back we must go  and say straight out to the reader who
waits a-tiptoe to hear what life is - alas, we don't know.
     At this moment, but only just in time to save the book from extinction,
Orlando  pushed away her chair, stretched her arms, dropped her pen, came to
the window, and exclaimed, "Done!"
     She  was almost felled to the ground  by  the extraordinary sight which
now met  her eyes. There was the garden and some  birds. The world was going
on as usual. All the time she was writing the world had continued.
     "And if I were dead, it would be just the same!" she exclaimed.
     Such was the intensity of her feelings that she could even imagine that
she had suffered  dissolution,  and perhaps some faintness actually attacked
her. For a moment she stood looking at the  fair, indifferent spectacle with
staring eyes. At  length she was revived  in a singular way.  The manuscript
which reposed above  her heart began shuffling  and beating  as if it were a
living thing, and, what was  still odder, and showed how fine a sympathy was
between  them,  Orlando, by inclining  her  head, could make out what it was
that it was saying. It wanted  to be read. It must be  read. It would die in
her bosom if it  were not  read. For the first  time in her  life she turned
with violence  against nature. Elk-hounds and  rose bushes were about her in
profusion. But elk-hounds and  rose  bushes can none of  them read. It is  a
lamentable oversight  on  the part of Providence which had never  struck her
before. Human  beings  alone  are  thus  gifted.  Human  beings  had  become
necessary. She rang the bell. She ordered the carriage to take her to London
at once.
     "There's  just  time  to  catch  the  eleven forty five,  M'Lady," said
Basket. Orlando  had not yet realized the invention of the steam engine, but
such  was  her absorption  in  the  sufferings of a  being, who,  though not
herself, yet entirely depended on her, that she saw a railway train for  the
first  time, took her  seat in a railway carriage, and had  the rug arranged
about her knees without giving a thought to"that stupendous invention, which
had (the historians say) completely  changed the face of Europe  in the past
twenty  years"  (as, indeed, happens  much  more frequently than  historians
suppose). She noticed only  that it was extremely  smutty; rattled horribly;
and the  windows  stuck. Lost  in thought, she was  whirled  up to London in
something less than an hour and stood  on the platform at Charing Cross, not
knowing where to go.
     The old house at Blackfriars, where she had spent so many pleasant days
in the eighteenth century, was now sold, part to the Salvation Army, part to
an umbrella factory. She had bought  another  in Mayfair which was sanitary,
convenient, and in the heart of the fashionable world, but was it in Mayfair
that  her poem  would  be relieved  of its  desire?  Pray  God, she thought,
remembering the brightness  of  their ladyships' eyes  and  the  symmetry of
their lordship's legs, they haven't taken to reading there. For  that  would
be a thousand pities. Then there was Lady  R.'s. The same sort of talk would
be going on there still, she had no doubt. The gout might have  shifted from
the  General's left leg to his right, perhaps.  Mr L. might have stayed  ten
days with R. instead of T. Then Mr  Pope would come  in. Oh! but Mr Pope was
dead. Who were the wits now, she wondered - but that was not a question  one
could  put to a porter, and so she moved on. Her ears were now distracted by
the jingling of innumerable bells on the heads of innumerable horses. Fleets
of the strangest little boxes  on wheels were drawn up by  the pavement. She
walked out into the Strand. There the uproar was even worse. Vehicles of all
sizes,  drawn by blood horses  and  by dray  horses, conveying one  solitary
dowager  or  crowded  to  the  top by  whiskered  men  in  silk  hats,  were
inextricably mixed. Carriages,  carts, and omnibuses seemed  to her eyes, so
long  used  to the  look  of  a  plain  sheet  of  foolscap,  alarmingly  at
loggerheads; and to her ears, attuned to a pen scratching, the uproar of the
street  sounded  violently and  hideously  cacophonous.  Every  inch of  the
pavement was crowded. Streams of people, threading in and  out between their
own bodies  and the lurching and  lumbering traffic with incredible agility,
poured incessantly east and west. Along  the edge of the pavement stood men,
holding out trays of  toys,  and bawled.  At corners, women sat beside great
baskets of spring flowers and bawled. Boys running in and out of the horses'
noses,  holding  printed sheets  to  their  bodies,  bawled  too,  Disaster!
Disaster! At first Orlando supposed that she had  arrived at  some moment of
national crisis; but whether it was happy or tragic, she could not tell. She
looked anxiously at people's  faces.  But that confused her still more. Here
would come by a man sunk in despair, muttering to himself as if he knew some
terrible sorrow. Past him would nudge a fat, jolly-faced fellow, shouldering
his way along as if it were a festival  for  all the world. Indeed, she came
to the conclusion that there was neither rhyme nor reason in any of it. Each
man and each woman was bent on his own affairs. And where was she to go?
     She walked on without thinking, up one street and down another, by vast
windows piled with handbags, and mirrors, and dressing  gowns,  and flowers,
and fishing  rods,  and  luncheon  baskets; while  stuff of  every  hue  and
pattern, thickness  or  thinness, was  looped  and festooned  and  ballooned
across and across.  Sometimes she passed down avenues  of  sedate  mansions,
soberly numbered "one", "two", "three",  and so on right up  to two or three
hundred,  each the copy of  the other, with two  pillars and six steps and a
pair  of  curtains neatly drawn and family luncheons laid on tables,  and  a
parrot looking out of one window and a man servant out of another, until her
mind was dizzied with the monotony. Then she came to great open squares with
black  shiny, tightly buttoned statues of fat  men in  the  middle, and  war
horses prancing,  and  columns  rising  and  fountains falling  and  pigeons
fluttering.  So  she  walked and walked along pavements between houses until
she felt very hungry, and  something fluttering  above her heart rebuked her
with having forgotten all about it. It was her manuscript. "The Oak Tree".
     She  was  confounded  at  her own neglect. She stopped  dead where  she
stood. No coach  was in sight. The street, which was wide and  handsome, was
singularly  empty.  Only one elderly  gentleman was  approaching.  There was
something vaguely familiar  to her in his walk. As he came nearer, she  felt
certain  that she had met him at some time or other.  But where? Could it be
that this gentleman, so neat, so portly,  so prosperous, with a cane  in his
hand and a  flower  in his  button-hole, with a pink, plump face, and combed
white moustaches, could it be, Yes, by jove, it was! - her old, her very old
friend, Nick Greene!
     At the same time he looked at her; remembered her; recognized her. "The
Lady Orlando!" he cried, sweeping his silk hat almost in the dust.
     "Sir Nicholas!" she  exclaimed. For she  was made aware  intuitively by
something  in  his  bearing  that  the  scurrilous  penny-a-liner,  who  had
lampooned her and many another in the time of Queen Elizabeth, was now risen
in the world and become  certainly a Knight and doubtless a dozen other fine
things into the bargain.
     With  another bow, he acknowledged that  her conclusion was correct; he
was a Knight;  he was a Litt.D.; he  was a Professor. He was the author of a
score of  volumes. He was,  in short, the  most  influential critic  of  the
Victorian age.
     A violent tumult  of emotion besieged  her  at meeting  the man who had
caused  her,  years  ago, so  much pain. Could this be  the plaguy, restless
fellow who had burnt holes in her carpets, and toasted cheese in the Italian
fireplace and told such merry stories of Marlowe and the rest that  they had
seen the  sun rise nine nights out of ten? He was now sprucely dressed  in a
grey morning suit, had  a  pink flower in his  button-hole,  and grey  suede
gloves  to match. But even  as she marvelled, he made another bow, and asked
her whether she would honour him by lunching with him? The bow was a thought
overdone perhaps,  but the  imitation of  fine  breeding was creditable. She
followed  him,  wondering, into a  superb restaurant,  all red plush,  white
table-cloths, and  silver  cruets, as unlike as could  be the  old tavern or
coffee house with its  sanded floor,  its wooden benches, its bowls of punch
and chocolate, and its broadsheets and spittoons. He laid  his gloves neatly
on the table beside him. Still she could hardly believe that he was the same
man. His nails were clean; where they used to be an  inch long. His chin was
shaved; where a black beard used to sprout. He wore gold sleeve-links; where
his ragged linen used to dip  in the broth. It was not, indeed, until he had
ordered the wine, which he did with a care that reminded her of his taste in
Malmsey long ago, that she was convinced he was the same man. "Ah!" he said,
heaving a  little sigh, which was yet comfortable enough, "ah! my dear lady,
the  great days of literature are over. Marlowe, Shakespeare,  Ben  Jonson -
those were the giants. Dryden, Pope, Addison  - those  were the heroes. All,
all are dead now. And whom  have they left us? Tennyson, Browning, Carlyle!"
- he threw an immense amount  of scorn into his voice. "The truth of it is,"
he said, pouring himself a glass of wine, "that all our young writers are in
the pay of the booksellers. They turn out any trash that serves to pay their
tailor's bills. It is an age," he  said, helping himself  to hors-d'oeuvres,
"marked  by  precious conceits  and wild  experiments -  none  of  which the
Elizabethans would have tolerated for an instant."
     "No, my dear lady," he continued, passing  with approval  the turbot au
gratin, which  the  waiter exhibited for  his sanction, "the great  days are
over. We  live in degenerate times. We must  cherish  the past; honour those
writers -  there are still a few left of 'em -  who take antiquity for their
model  and  write, not for pay but - "  Here Orlando almost shouted "Glawr!"
Indeed she could have  sworn that she had heard him say the very same things
three hundred years ago. The names were different, of course, but the spirit
was the same.  Nick Greene had not changed, for all his knighthood. And yet,
some  change there was.  For while  he  ran on about taking Addison as one's
model (it had been Cicero once,  she thought) and lying in  bed of a morning
(which she was proud to think her pension  paid quarterly enabled him to do)
rolling the  best works of the best authors round and round on  one's tongue
for an hour, at least, before setting pen to paper, so that the vulgarity of
the present time and the deplorable condition of our native  tongue (he  had
lived long in America, she believed) might be purified - while he ran  on in
much the same way that Greene had  run  on three hundred  years ago, she had
time  to  ask herself,  how was  it  then that  he had changed? He had grown
plump; but he was  a man verging  on seventy. He had grown sleek: literature
had  been a prosperous  pursuit  evidently;  but  somehow the  old restless,
uneasy vivacity had  gone. His stories,  brilliant  as  they  were,  were no
longer  quite  so free and easy. He  mentioned, it is true, "my dear  friend
Pope" or "my illustrious friend Addison" every  other second, but he had  an
air of respectability about him  which was depressing, and he preferred,  it
seemed,  to  enlighten her about  the doings and  sayings of  her own  blood
relations rather than tell her, as he used to do, scandal about the poets.
     Orlando was unaccountably disappointed.  She had thought of  literature
all  these years  (her seclusion, her  rank, her sex must be  her excuse) as
something  wild  as  the wind, hot as fire,  swift as  lightning;  something
errant,  incalculable,  abrupt,  and  behold,  literature  was   an  elderly
gentleman in  a grey  suit  talking about duchesses.  The  violence  of  her
disillusionment was  such that some hook or  button fastening the upper part
of her dress burst open, and out upon the table fell "The Oak Tree", a poem.
     "A manuscript!" said Sir Nicholas,  putting on his gold pince-nez. "How
interesting, how excessively interesting! Permit me to look at it." And once
more,  after  an interval of some three hundred years,  Nicholas Greene took
Orlando's  poem  and, laying  it down among the coffee  cups and the liqueur
glasses, began to read it. But now  his verdict was very different from what
it  had been then. It  reminded him, he said as he turned over the pages, of
Addison's "Cato". It compared favourably with Thomson's "Seasons". There was
no  trace  in  it, he  was  thankful to say,  of  the modern spirit.  It was
composed with  a  regard to  truth, to nature,  to the dictates of the human
heart, which was rare indeed, in these days of unscrupulous eccentricity. It
must, of course, be published instantly.
     Really Orlando did not know what he meant.  She had always  carried her
manuscripts about with her in the bosom  of her dress. The  idea tickled Sir
Nicholas considerably.
     "But what about royalties?" he asked.
     Orlando's mind flew to Buckingham Palace and some  dusky potentates who
happened to be staying there.
     Sir Nicholas  was highly diverted. He explained that he was alluding to
the fact that  Messrs - (here  he mentioned a well-known firm of publishers)
would be delighted, if he  wrote them a line, to put the book on their list.
He could probably arrange for a royalty of  ten per cent on all copies up to
two thousand; after that it would be fifteen. As for the reviewers, he would
himself write a  line  to Mr  -,  who  was  the  most  influential;  then  a
compliment - say a little puff of her own poems - addressed  to  the wife of
the editor of  the  - never did any harm.  He  would call  -.  So he ran on.
Orlando  understood  nothing  of all this, and  from  old experience did not
altogether trust his good nature, but there was nothing for it but to submit
to what was evidently his wish and the fervent desire of the poem itself. So
Sir Nicholas made the blood-stained packet into a  neat parcel; flattened it
into his breast pocket, lest it should disturb the set of his coat; and with
many compliments on both sides, they parted.
     Orlando  walked up the  street. Now that  the poem was gone, -  and she
felt a bare place in  her breast where  she had been used to carry it -  she
had nothing to do but reflect  upon whatever  she liked  - the extraordinary
chances  it might be of the human lot.  Here she was in St James's Street; a
married  woman;  with a ring on her finger; where there  had been  a  coffee
house once there was now a  restaurant; it  was about half past three in the
afternoon; the sun was shining; there were three  pigeons; a mongrel terrier
dog; two hansom cabs and a barouche landau. What then, was Life? The thought
popped into her head violently, irrelevantly (unless old Greene were somehow
the cause of  it). And it  may be taken as a comment, adverse or favourable,
as  the reader chooses to consider it upon her  relations  with her  husband
(who was  at the  Horn), that whenever  anything popped violently  into  her
head,  she went straight  to the nearest telegraph office and  wired to him.
There  was  one,  as it happened,  close at hand.  "My God Shel," she wired;
"life literature  Greene toady" - here  she dropped into  a  cypher language
which they had invented between  them so that a whole spiritual state of the
utmost complexity  might be conveyed in a word  or two without the telegraph
clerk  being any  wiser, and  added  the words "Rattigan Glumphoboo",  which
summed  it up precisely.  For  not only had the events of the morning made a
deep  impression on her, but  it cannot have escaped the  reader's attention
that Orlando was growing up - which is not necessarily growing better -  and
"Rattigan  Glumphoboo" described a very complicated spiritual  state - which
if the reader puts  all his intelligence at  our service he may discover for
     There could be no answer to her telegram for some hours; indeed, it was
probable,  she thought,  glancing at the sky,  where the upper  clouds raced
swiftly past, that there was a gale at  Cape Horn, so that her husband would
be at the mast-head, as likely as  not, or cutting away some  tattered spar,
or even alone in a boat with a biscuit. And so, leaving the post office, she
turned to beguile herself into the next shop, which was a  shop so common in
our day that  it  needs  no  description, yet, to her eyes,  strange in  the
extreme; a shop where they sold books. All  her life long Orlando had  known
manuscripts;  she  had  held in her  hands  the rough  brown sheets on which
Spenser had written in his  little crabbed hand;  she had seen Shakespeare's
script and Milton's. She owned, indeed, a fair number of quartos and folios,
often with a sonnet in her  praise in them and sometimes a lock of hair. But
these innumerable  little volumes, bright,  identical,  ephemeral,  for they
seemed bound  in  cardboard  and  printed  on tissue  paper,  surprised  her
infinitely. The whole works of  Shakespeare cost  half a crown, and could be
put  in your  pocket. One could hardly read  them, indeed, the  print was so
small,  but it was a  marvel, none the less. "Works" - the  works  of  every
writer she had known or heard of  and many more stretched from end to end of
the long shelves. On tables and chairs, more "works" were piled and tumbled,
and these she saw, turning a page or two, were often works about other works
by Sir Nicholas and a score of others whom, in her  ignorance, she supposed,
since they were bound and printed, to be very great writers too. So she gave
an astounding  order to  the  bookseller  to  send  her  everything  of  any
importance in the shop and left.
     She  turned into Hyde  Park, which  she had known of  old (beneath that
cleft tree, she remembered, the Duke of Hamilton fell run through  the  body
by Lord Mohun), and her lips, which are often  to blame in the matter, began
framing the words of her telegram into a senseless singsong; life literature
Greene toady Rattigan Glumphoboo; so that several park keepers looked at her
with suspicion and were  only brought to a favourable opinion  of her sanity
by noticing  the pearl necklace which she wore. She had carried off a  sheaf
of papers and critical journals from the book shop, and at  length, flinging
herself  on  her  elbow beneath a tree, she spread these pages round her and
did her  best to fathom the noble art of  prose composition as these masters
practised it. For still the old credulity was alive in her; even the blurred
type of a weekly newspaper had some sanctity in her eyes. So she read, lying
on her elbow, an article by Sir Nicholas on the collected works of a man she
had  once known - John  Donne. But she had pitched herself, without  knowing
it, not far  from  the Serpentine. The barking of a thousand dogs sounded in
her ears. Carriage  wheels rushed  ceaselessly  in a circle.  Leaves  sighed
overhead. Now and again a braided skirt and a pair of tight scarlet trousers
crossed the grass within  a  few steps of her.  Once a gigantic rubber  ball
bounced on  the newspaper. Violets, oranges, reds,  and  blues broke through
the interstices of the leaves and sparkled in the emerald on her finger. She
read  a  sentence and  looked up at  the sky; she looked up at the  sky  and
looked down  at  the newspaper.  Life? Literature? One to  be made  into the
other? But how monstrously difficult!  For  - here came  by  a pair of tight
scarlet trousers  -  how would  Addison have put  that? Here  came  two dogs
dancing on their  hind legs. How would Lamb have described that? For reading
Sir Nicholas and his  friends (as she did in the intervals  of looking about
her), she somehow got the impression - here she rose and walked -  they made
one feel - it was an extremely uncomfortable feeling - one must never, never
say what one thought. (She  stood on the banks of  the Serpentine.  It was a
bronze colour; spider-thin boats were skimming from side to side.) They made
one  feel, she continued, that  one must always, always write like  somebody
else. (The  tears formed themselves in her  eyes.) For really, she  thought,
pushing a  little boat off  with her  toe,  I don't think  I could (here the
whole of Sir Nicholas' article came before  her as articles do,  ten minutes
after  they  are read,  with the look of his  room, his  head, his  cat, his
writing-table, and the time of  the day  thrown in), I don't think I  could,
she  continued, considering  the article  from this point of view, sit in  a
study, no, it's  not a study, it's a mouldy kind of  drawing-room,  all  day
long, and  talk to pretty  young men, and tell them little anecdotes,  which
they  mustn't  repeat,  about what Tupper said about  Smiles; and  then, she
continued, weeping bitterly,  they're all  so manly; and  then, I do  detest
Duchesses; and I  don't like  cake; and though I'm spiteful  enough, I could
never  learn  to be as  spiteful as  all that, so how can  I be a critic and
write  the  best  English  prose  of my time? Damn it  all!  she  exclaimed,
launching a  penny steamer so vigorously that  the poor  little boat  almost
sank in the bronze-coloured waves.
     Now, the truth is that when one has been in a state  of mind (as nurses
call  it) - and the  tears still stood in  Orlando's eyes - the thing one is
looking at becomes, not itself, but another thing, which is  bigger and much
more  important  and  yet remains  the  same  thing.  If  one  looks at  the
Serpentine in this  state of mind, the waves soon  become just as big as the
waves on  the Atlantic; the toy  boats become indistinguishable  from  ocean
liners. So Orlando mistook the toy boat for her husband's brig; and the wave
she had made with her toe for a mountain of water off Cape  Horn; and as she
watched  the toy boat climb the  ripple, she thought she saw Bonthrop's ship
climb up  and up a glassy wall; up and up it went, and a white  crest with a
thousand deaths in it arched  over  it; and  through the thousand deaths  it
went and  disappeared.  "It's sunk!" she cried out in  an  agony - and then,
behold, there it  was  again sailing along safe and sound among the ducks on
the other side of the Atlantic.
     "Ecstasy!" she cried. "Ecstasy! Where's the post office?" she wondered.
"For I must wire at once to Shel and tell him..." And  repeating "A toy boat
on  the  Serpentine",  and  "Ecstasy",  alternately, for  the thoughts  were
interchangeable and meant  exactly the same thing, she hurried towards  Park
     "A toy boat, a toy boat, a toy boat," she repeated, thus enforcing upon
herself the fact that  it is not articles by  Nick Greene on John  Donne nor
eight-hour bills nor covenants nor factory acts that matter; it's  something
useless, sudden, violent; something  that costs a life; red, blue, purple; a
spirit; a splash; like those hyacinths (she was passing a fine bed of them);
free from  taint,  dependence,  soilure of humanity or  care for one's kind;
something rash,  ridiculous,  like my  hyacinth,  husband I  mean, Bonthrop:
that's what it is -a toy boat on the Serpentine, ecstasy - it's ecstasy that
matters. Thus she spoke aloud, waiting for the carriages to pass at Stanhope
Gate, for the consequence of not  living with one's husband, except when the
wind is sunk,  is that one talks nonsense aloud  in Park Lane.  It  would no
doubt have been different had she lived all the year round with him as Queen
Victoria recommended. As it was the thought of him would come upon her in  a
flash. She found it absolutely necessary to speak to him  instantly. She did
not care in the least what  nonsense  it might make, or  what dislocation it
might inflict on the narrative. Nick Greene's article had plunged her in the
depths of despair; the toy boat had raised her to the heights of joy. So she
repeated: "Ecstasy, ecstasy", as she stood waiting to cross.
     But the traffic was heavy that  spring afternoon, and kept her standing
there,  repeating, ecstasy, ecstasy,  or a toy boat on the Serpentine, while
the wealth and power of  England sat, as if sculptured, in hat and cloak, in
four-in-hand, victoria and barouche  landau. It was as if a golden river had
coagulated and massed itself in  golden blocks across  Park Lane. The ladies
held card-cases  between their fingers; the gentlemen  balanced gold-mounted
canes between their knees. She stood there gazing, admiring, awe-struck. One
thought only  disturbed  her,  a thought familiar  to all  who  behold great
elephants,  or whales of an incredible magnitude, and that is: how do  these
leviathans  to whom obviously  stress,  change,  and activity are repugnant,
propagate  their  kind? Perhaps, Orlando  thought,  looking  at the stately,
still faces, their time of propagation is over;  this is  the fruit; this is
the consummation. What she now beheld was the triumph of an  age. Portly and
splendid  there  they  sat. But  now, the policeman let  fall  his hand; the
stream  became liquid; the massive conglomeration of splendid objects moved,
dispersed, and disappeared into Piccadilly.
     So she crossed Park Lane and went to her house in Curzon Street, where,
when the meadow-sweet blew there, she  could remember curlew calling and one
very old man with a gun.
     She could remember, she thought, stepping  across the threshold of  her
house, how Lord  Chesterfield  had said  - but  her memory was checked.  Her
discreet  eighteenth-century hall,  where  she  could see Lord  Chesterfield
putting his hat  down  here  and  his coat  down there  with  an elegance of
deportment  which it was a pleasure to  watch, was  now  completely littered
with  parcels. While she had  been sitting  in Hyde Park the  bookseller had
delivered her order, and the house was crammed - there were parcels slipping
down the staircase - with  the whole of Victorian literature done up in grey
paper  and neatly tied with string. She carried  as many of these packets as
she could  to her room,  ordered footmen to bring  the  others, and, rapidly
cutting innumerable strings, was soon surrounded by innumerable volumes.
     Accustomed to the little literatures of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and
eighteenth centuries, Orlando was appalled by the consequences of her order.
For, of course, to the Victorians themselves Victorian  literature meant not
merely four great names separate and distinct but  four great names sunk and
embedded in a  mass of  Alexander Smiths, Dixons, Blacks, Milmans,  Buckles,
Taines, Paynes, Tuppers, Jamesons -  all  vocal,  clamorous, prominent,  and
requiring as much attention  as anybody else. Orlando's  reverence for print
had a tough job set before it but drawing her chair to the window to get the
benefit of  what light might  filter between the high houses of Mayfair, she
tried to come to a conclusion.
     And now  it was clear  that there  are  only two  ways  of coming to  a
conclusion  upon  Victorian  literature  - one is to write it out  in  sixty
volumes octavo, the other  is to squeeze  it into six lines of the length of
this one.  Of the two  courses, economy, since time runs short, leads us  to
choose  the second; and so we  proceed. Orlando then came to  the conclusion
(opening  half-a-dozen  books)  that  it  was very odd  that there was not a
single dedication to a nobleman among  them; next (turning over a vast  pile
of memoirs)  that several of  these writers had family trees half as high as
her own; next, that it would be impolitic in the extreme to wrap a ten-pound
note round the sugar tongs when Miss Christina  Rossetti came to  tea;  next
(here were half-a-dozen invitations to celebrate centenaries by dining) that
literature since it  ate all these dinners must  be growing very  corpulent;
next (she was invited  to a score of lectures on the Influence  of this upon
that; the  Classical revival; the Romantic survival, and other titles of the
same engaging kind) that literature since it  listened to all these lectures
must  be growing  very dry; next (here she attended a  reception given by  a
peeress) that literature since it wore all those fur tippets must be growing
very respectable;  next  (here  she  visited  Carlyle's  sound-proof room at
Chelsea) that genius since it needed all this coddling  must be growing very
delicate; and so at last  she reached her final conclusion, which was of the
highest importance  but which, as  we have already much overpassed our limit
of six lines, we must omit.
     Orlando, having  come to this  conclusion,  stood  looking  out of  the
window  for  a  considerable space of  time. For,  when anybody  comes  to a
conclusion it is as if they had tossed the ball over the net and  must  wait
for the unseen antagonist to return it to  them. What would be sent her next
from the colourless sky above Chesterfield House, she wondered? And with her
hands  clasped,  she  stood  for  a considerable  space  of time  wondering.
Suddenly  she started  - and here we could  only  wish that,  as on a former
occasion,  Purity,  Chastity,  and Modesty would  push  the  door  ajar  and
provide, at  least, a breathing space in which we could think how to wrap up
what now has to be told delicately, as a  biographer should.  But no! Having
thrown their white garment at the naked Orlando  and  seen it fall  short by
several inches,  these  ladies had given up  all  intercourse with her these
many years; and were now otherwise engaged. Is nothing then, going to happen
this pale  March  morning  to mitigate, to veil, to  cover, to  conceal,  to
shroud  this undeniable  event whatever it may be?  For  after  giving  that
sudden, violent start, Orlando -  but Heaven be praised, at this very moment
there  struck  up   outside   one  of  these  frail,  reedy,  fluty,  jerky,
old-fashioned  barrel-organs  which are still  sometimes played  by  Italian
organ-grinders  in back  streets.  Let  us  accept  the intervention, humble
though it is, as if it were the music of the spheres, and allow it, with all
its  gasps and groans, to  fill this  page with sound until the moment comes
when it is impossible to deny its coming; which the  footman has seen coming
and  the maid-servant; and the reader  will have  to  see too;  for  Orlando
herself is clearly unable to  ignore it any  longer  -  let the barrel-organ
sound and transport us on thought, which is no more than a little boat, when
music sounds, tossing on the waves; on thought,  which is, of all  carriers,
the most clumsy, the most  erratic, over the roof  tops and the back gardens
where washing is hanging to - what is this place? Do you recognize the Green
and in the middle  the steeple, and the gate  with a lion couchant on either
side? Oh  yes, it is Kew! Well,  Kew will do. So  here we are  at Kew, and I
will  show  you to-day (the  second  of March) under the  plum tree, a grape
hyacinth, and a crocus, and a bud, too, on  the almond tree; so that to walk
there is to  be thinking  of bulbs, hairy and red, thrust into the earth  in
October; flowering now; and to be dreaming of more than can rightly be said,
and to be taking from its case a cigarette or cigar even, and to be flinging
a cloak under (as the rhyme requires) an oak, and  there to sit, waiting the
kingfisher,  which,  it is said, was seen once to cross in  the evening from
bank to bank.
     Wait! Wait! The kingfisher comes; the kingfisher comes not.
     Behold,  meanwhile,  the factory chimneys and  their  smoke; behold the
city  clerks flashing by in their outrigger. Behold the  old lady taking her
dog for  a walk and the servant girl wearing  her new hat for the first time
not at  the  right  angle.  Behold  them all.  Though Heaven has  mercifully
decreed that the secrets of  all hearts are  hidden so that we  are lured on
for ever to suspect something, perhaps, that  does not exist;  still through
our cigarette  smoke, we see blaze up  and salute the splendid fulfilment of
natural desires for a hat, for a boat, for a rat in a ditch; as once one saw
blazing - such silly hops  and skips the mind  takes when it slops like this
all over the saucer and the  barrel-organ plays  - saw blazing  a  fire in a
field against minarets near Constantinople.
     Hail! natural  desire! Hail!  happiness! divine happiness! and pleasure
of all sorts, flowers and  wine, though one fades and the other intoxicates;
and half-crown tickets  out of  London on  Sundays, and  singing  in a  dark
chapel  hymns  about  death,  and  anything,  anything  that  interrupts and
confounds the tapping of  typewriters and  filing of  letters and forging of
links and chains, binding the Empire together. Hail even the crude, red bows
on shop girls' lips (as if Cupid, very clumsily, dipped his thumb in red ink
and scrawled a token in passing). Hail,  happiness! kingfisher flashing from
bank to bank, and all  fulfilment of natural desire,  whether it is what the
male novelist says  it is;  or prayer; or denial; hail!  in whatever form it
comes, and may there be more forms,  and stranger. For dark flows the stream
-  would it  were true, as  the rhyme hints "like a dream" - but  duller and
worser than  that is our usual lot; without dreams, but alive, smug, fluent,
habitual, under trees  whose shade of an olive green drowns the blue  of the
wing of the vanishing bird when he darts of a sudden from bank to bank.
     Hail, happiness, then, and after happiness, hail not those dreams which
bloat  the sharp image  as  spotted  mirrors do  the  face in  a country-inn
parlour;  dreams which splinter the whole and  tear us asunder and  wound us
and split  us apart in the night when we would  sleep;  but sleep, sleep, so
deep that all  shapes  are ground  to  dust of  infinite softness, water  of
dimness inscrutable, and there, folded, shrouded, like a mummy, like a moth,
prone let us lie on the sand at the bottom of sleep.
     But  wait! but wait! we are not  going, this time, visiting  the  blind
land. Blue, like a  match struck right  in the ball of the innermost eye, he
flies, burns,  bursts the seal of sleep; the kingfisher;  so that now floods
back refluent like a  tide, the red,  thick stream  of life again; bubbling,
dripping; and  we rise, and our  eyes (for how handy a rhyme  is to pass  us
safe over the awkward transition from  death to life) fall  on  -  (here the
barrel-organ stops playing abruptly).
     "It's a very fine boy, M'Lady," said Mrs  Banting, the midwife, putting
her first-born child into Orlando's arms. In  other words Orlando was safely
delivered of a son  on Thursday, March the  20th,  at three  o'clock  in the
     Once more Orlando stood at the window, but let the reader take courage;
nothing  of the  same  sort is going to happen to-day, which is not, by  any
means, the same day. No - for  if we look out of the window, as Orlando  was
doing at the moment, we  shall  see that Park Lane  itself has  considerably
changed. Indeed one might stand there  ten minutes or more, as Orlando stood
now, without seeing a single barouche landau. "Look at that!" she exclaimed,
some days later when an absurd truncated carriage  without  any horses began
to glide  about of its own accord. A carriage without any horses indeed! She
was called away just as she said that, but came back  again after a time and
had another look out of the window. It was odd sort of weather nowadays. The
sky itself, she  could not  help thinking, had changed. It was no longer  so
thick, so watery,  so prismatic now  that King Edward  - see, there  he was,
stepping out of his neat brougham to go and visit a certain lady  opposite -
had succeeded Queen Victoria. The clouds had shrunk to a thin gauze; the sky
seemed  made  of metal,  which in hot  weather tarnished  verdigris,  copper
colour or  orange  as  metal does in a  fog.  It was a little alarming- this
shrinkage. Everything seemed  to have shrunk. Driving past Buckingham Palace
last night, there  was  not a  trace of  that  vast  erection  which she had
thought everlasting; top hats, widows' weeds, trumpets, telescopes, wreaths,
all had  vanished and left not a stain,  not a puddle even, on the pavement.
But  it  was  now - after another interval she had  come  back again to  her
favourite station in the window - now, in the  evening, that the  change was
most remarkable. Look at the lights in the  houses! At a touch, a whole room
was lit; hundreds of rooms were lit;  and one was precisely the  same as the
other. One could see everything in the little square-shaped boxes; there was
no privacy; none of those lingering  shadows and odd corners that there used
to be; none of those women  in aprons carrying  wobbly  lamps which they put
down carefully on this table  and on that.  At a touch,  the whole room  was
bright.  And the  sky  was  bright  all  night long; and  the pavements were
bright; everything was bright. She  came  back again at mid-day. How  narrow
women have grown lately! They looked like stalks of corn, straight, shining,
identical.  And men's faces  were as  bare as the  palm of one's  hand.  The
dryness of the atmosphere brought out the colour in everything and seemed to
stiffen the muscles of the cheeks. It was harder  to cry now. Water was  hot
in two seconds. Ivy had perished or been scraped off houses. Vegetables were
less fertile; families  were  much  smaller. Curtains  and  covers had  been
frizzled  up  and  the walls  were bare  so  that new  brilliantly  coloured
pictures of  real  things like  streets,  umbrellas, apples,  were  hung  in
frames, or painted  upon the wood. There was something definite and distinct
about the  age, which reminded  her of the eighteenth  century, except  that
there  was  a distraction, a desperation  - as  she was  thinking this,  the
immensely  long  tunnel  in which  she  seemed to have  been travelling  for
hundreds  of years  widened;  the  light  poured  in;  her  thoughts  became
mysteriously tightened and  strung up as if a piano tuner had put his key in
her back  and stretched the nerves very taut; at the same time  her  hearing
quickened; she could hear every whisper and crackle  in the room so that the
clock ticking on the mantelpiece beat like a hammer. And so for some seconds
the light  went on  becoming brighter  and  brighter, and she saw everything
more and more clearly and the clock ticked louder and louder until there was
a terrific  explosion right in her  ear. Orlando  leapt as  if she  had been
violently struck on the head. Ten  times she was struck. In  fact it was ten
o'clock in the  morning. It was the eleventh of October. It was 1928. It was
the present moment.
     No one need wonder that Orlando started, pressed her hand to her heart,
and turned pale. For  what more terrifying revelation can there be than that
it is the present  moment? That we survive the shock at all is only possible
because the past shelters us on one side and the  future on another. But  we
have no time now for reflections; Orlando was terribly late already. She ran
downstairs, she jumped into her motorcar, she  pressed  the self-starter and
was off.  Vast blue blocks of building rose  into  the air; the red cowls of
chimneys  were spotted  irregularly  across  the  sky; the  road shone  like
silver-headed   nails;  omnibuses  bore  down  upon   her  with   sculptured
white-faced  drivers;  she  noticed  sponges,  bird-cages,  boxes  of  green
American cloth.  But she did not  allow these  sights to sink into  her mind
even the fraction of an inch as she crossed the narrow plank of the present,
lest she  should fall into the raging torrent beneath.  "Why don't you  look
where you're  going to?...Put your hand out, can't you?" - that  was all she
said sharply, as if the words  were jerked out of her. For  the streets were
immensely crowded;  people crossed  without looking where  they  were going.
People buzzed and  hummed round the  plate-glass  windows within  which  one
could see a glow of  red, a blaze of yellow, as  if they  were bees, Orlando
thought - but her thought that they  were bees was violently snipped off and
she  saw, regaining perspective with  one  flick of her  eye, that they were
bodies. "Why don't you look where you're going?" she snapped out.
     At  last,  however, she drew up at  Marshall & Snelgrove's and went
into the shop. Shade and scent enveloped her. The present fell from her like
drops of  scalding water. Light swayed up and down like  thin  stuffs puffed
out by a summer breeze. She took a list from her  bag and began reading in a
curious  stiff  voice  at first, as if she  were holding the words  -  boy's
boots,  bath  salts,  sardines  - under a tap of  many-coloured  water.  She
watched them change as  the light fell on them. Bath and boots became blunt,
obtuse;   sardines  serrated  itself  like  a  saw.  So  she  stood  in  the
ground-floor department of Messrs  Marshall & Snelgrove; looked this way
and that; snuffed this smell and that and thus wasted some seconds. Then she
got into  the lift, for the good reason that the  door stood  open; and  was
shot smoothly upwards. The very fabric of life now, she thought as she rose,
is  magic. In the eighteenth century we  knew how everything  was  done; but
here I rise through the air; I listen to voices in America; I see men flying
- but how  it's done I can't even  begin  to  wonder.  So my belief in magic
returns. Now the lift gave a  little jerk as  it stopped at the first floor;
and she had a vision  of innumerable  coloured stuffs flaunting in a  breeze
from which came distinct, strange smells; and each time the lift stopped and
flung its doors  open, there  was another slice of the world  displayed with
all  the smells of that world clinging to it. She was reminded  of the river
off  Wapping in  the  time  of Elizabeth,  where the treasure ships  and the
merchant ships used to anchor. How richly and curiously  they had smelt! How
well she  remembered the feel of rough  rubies  running  through her fingers
when she dabbled them in a  treasure sack!  And then  lying with  Sukey - or
whatever her name was - and having Cumberland's lantern flashed on them! The
Cumberlands had a house in Portland Place now and  she had lunched with them
the other day  and ventured a little joke with the old man about alms-houses
in the Sheen Road. He had winked.  But here as the lift could go  no higher,
she must get out  - Heaven knows into what  "department" as  they called it.
She stood still to consult her shopping  list, but was  blessed if she could
see,  as the list bade her, bath salts, or  boy's boots  anywhere about. And
indeed,  she was about to  descend again, without buying anything,  but  was
saved from that outrage by saying  aloud automatically the  last item on her
list; which happened to be "sheets for a double bed".
     "Sheets for  a double bed," she said to a man at  a counter  and,  by a
dispensation of Providence, it was  sheets that the man  at  that particular
counter  happened  to  sell.  For  Grimsditch,  no,  Grimsditch   was  dead;
Bartholomew, no, Bartholomew was  dead; Louise then - Louise had come to her
in  a great taking the other day, for she had found a  hole in the bottom of
the  sheet  in  the royal  bed.  Many kings  and  queens had  slept there  -
Elizabeth; James; Charles; George; Victoria; Edward; no wonder the sheet had
a hole  in it. But Louise was  positive she knew who had done it. It was the
Prince Consort.
     "Sale  bosch!"  she said  (for  there  had  been another war; this time
against the Germans).
     "Sheets for a double bed," Orlando repeated dreamily, for  a double bed
with a silver counterpane in a room fitted in a taste which she  now thought
perhaps a little vulgar - all in silver; but she  had  furnished it when she
had a passion for that metal.  While the man went to get sheets for a double
bed, she took  out a little looking-glass and  a powder puff. Women were not
nearly as roundabout in their ways, she thought, powdering herself with  the
greatest unconcern, as they had been when she herself first turned woman and
lay on the  deck of the "Enamoured Lady".  She gave her  nose the right tint
deliberately. She never  touched her  cheeks. Honestly,  though she  was now
thirty-six, she scarcely  looked a day older. She looked just as pouting, as
sulky, as  handsome, as rosy (like  a million-candled Christmas tree,  Sasha
had said)  as she  had done that day on the ice, when the  Thames was frozen
and they had gone skating -
     "The best Irish  linen, Ma'am," said the shopman, spreading the  sheets
on the counter, - and they had met an old woman picking up sticks. Here,  as
she was fingering the linen abstractedly, one of the swing-doors between the
departments opened and let through, perhaps from the fancy-goods department,
a whiff  of scent, waxen,  tinted as  if  from pink  candles, and  the scent
curved like a shell  round a figure -  was  it a  boy's or was it a girl's -
young, slender,  seductive - a girl,  by  God! furred, pearled,  in  Russian
trousers; but faithless, faithless!
     "Faithless!" cried Orlando (the man had gone)  and all the  shop seemed
to  pitch and  toss with yellow water and far off she saw  the masts  of the
Russian ship  standing out to sea,  and then, miraculously (perhaps the door
opened again) the conch which  the scent had made became a platform, a dais,
off  which  stepped  a  fat,  furred  woman,  marvellously  well  preserved,
seductive, diademed, a  Grand Duke's  mistress; she  who,  leaning over  the
banks  of  the Volga,  eating sandwiches, had  watched men  drown; and began
walking down the shop towards her.
     "Oh Sasha!" Orlando cried. Really, she was shocked that she should have
come to  this; she had  grown  so fat;  so lethargic; and she bowed her head
over the linen so that this apparition of a grey woman in fur, and a girl in
Russian trousers,  with  all these smells of wax candles, white flowers, and
old ships that it brought with it might pass behind her back unseen.
     "Any napkins, towels, dusters today, Ma'am?" the shopman persisted. And
it is  enormously  to the  credit  of the shopping  list, which  Orlando now
consulted, that  she was able  to reply with every appearance of  composure,
that there was  only  one thing in the world  she wanted  and  that was bath
salts; which was in another department.
     But descending in the lift again -  so insidious  is the  repetition of
any  scene - she was again sunk far  beneath the present moment; and thought
when the lift bumped on  the ground, that  she  heard a pot broken against a
river bank. As for finding the  right department, whatever  it might be, she
stood engrossed among  the  handbags,  deaf  to  the suggestions of  all the
polite, black, combed, sprightly shop assistants, who descending as they did
equally and some of them, perhaps, as proudly, even from  such depths of the
past as she did,  chose to  let down the impervious screen of the present so
that  today  they  appeared  shop assistants in  Marshall &  Snelgrove's
merely. Orlando stood there hesitating.  Through the great  glass doors  she
could see the traffic in Oxford  Street. Omnibus  seemed to pile itself upon
omnibus  and  then  to jerk  itself apart. So the ice blocks had pitched and
tossed that day on the Thames. An old  nobleman in  furred slippers had  sat
astride one of them.  There  he went  - she could see him now - calling down
maledictions upon the Irish rebels. He had sunk there, where her car stood.
     "Time has  passed over me,"  she  thought,  trying to  collect herself;
"this is the oncome of middle age. How strange it is! Nothing is  any longer
one thing. I take up a handbag and I think of an old bumboat woman frozen in
the ice. Someone lights a  pink candle and I see a girl in Russian trousers.
When I step out of doors - as I do now," here she stepped on to the pavement
of Oxford Street, "what is it that I taste? Little herbs. I hear goat bells.
I see mountains. Turkey? India? Persia?" Her eyes filled with tears.
     That Orlando had gone  a little too far  from the present moment  will,
perhaps, strike the reader who  sees  her  now  preparing  to get  into  her
motor-car with  her eyes full of tears and visions of Persian mountains. And
indeed, it cannot  be denied that the  most successful  practitioners of the
art  of  life,  often  unknown  people  by  the  way,  somehow  contrive  to
synchronize the sixty  or seventy different times which beat  simultaneously
in every normal human system so that when eleven strikes, all the rest chime
in unison, and the present  is neither  a violent  disruption nor completely
forgotten in  the past. Of them we can justly  say that they  live precisely
the  sixty-eight or seventy-two years allotted them on the tombstone. Of the
rest some we  know to be  dead though they walk  among us; some  are not yet
born though  they go through the forms of life; others are hundreds of years
old though  they call themselves thirty-six. The true length  of a  person's
life, whatever the "Dictionary of National Biography"  may say, is always  a
matter  of  dispute. For  it  is a  difficult  business - this time-keeping;
nothing more quickly disorders it than contact with any  of the arts; and it
may have been her love of poetry  that was to blame for  making Orlando lose
her  shopping list  and start home  without the sardines, the bath salts, or
the boots. Now as she stood with her hand on the door of her motor-car,  the
present  again struck  her  on  the head.  Eleven  times she  was  violently
     "Confound it  all!" she cried, for it is  a  great shock to the nervous
system, hearing a clock strike - so much  so that for some time now there is
nothing to be said  of her save that she frowned slightly, changed her gears
admirably, and cried out, as before, "Look where you're going!"  "Don't  you
know your own mind?" "Why didn't you say so then?" while the motor-car shot,
swung, squeezed, and slid, for she was an expert driver, down Regent Street,
down  Haymarket, down Northumberland Avenue, over Westminster Bridge, to the
left, straight on, to the right, straight on again...
     The Old Kent Road was very crowded on Thursday, the eleventh of October
1928. People  spilt off the  pavement. There were  women with shopping bags.
Children ran out. There were sales at drapers'  shops. Streets  widened  and
narrowed. Long vistas steadily  shrunk together.  Here was  a market. Here a
funeral. Here  a procession with banners upon  which was written "Ra  - Un",
but what else?  Meat was very red. Butchers stood  at the door. Women almost
had their heels sliced off. Amor Vin - that was over a porch. A woman looked
out of a bedroom window, profoundly contemplative, and very still. Applejohn
and Applebed, Undert - . Nothing could be seen whole  or read  from start to
finish.  What was seen  begun - like two friends starting to meet each other
across the street - was never seen ended. After twenty minutes  the body and
mind were like scraps of torn paper  tumbling from  a sack and,  indeed, the
process  of motoring fast out of London so much  resembles  the chopping  up
small of identity which precedes unconsciousness  and  perhaps  death itself
that it is an open  question  in  what sense Orlando  can  be  said  to have
existed at the present moment. Indeed we  should  have  given her over for a
person  entirely disassembled  were it  not that here, at  last,  one  green
screen  was held out on the right, against  which the  little  bits of paper
fell more slowly; and then another  was  held out  on  the left  so that one
could see the separate scraps now turning over by themselves in the air; and
then  green screens were  held continuously on either side, so that her mind
regained the illusion of holding things within itself and she saw a cottage,
a farmyard and four cows, all precisely life-size.
     When this  happened, Orlando heaved a  sigh of relief, lit a cigarette,
and puffed  for a minute or two in silence. Then she called hesitatingly, as
if the person she wanted might not be there, "Orlando?" For if there are (at
a venture) seventy-six different times all  ticking in the mind at once, how
many different people are there not  - Heaven  help us - all having lodgment
at one  time  or another  in the  human  spirit? Some  say  two thousand and
fifty-two. So that it is the most  usual thing  in the world for a person to
call, directly they are alone,  Orlando? (if that is one's  name) meaning by
that, Come, come! I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another.
Hence,  the  astonishing  changes we  see  in  our  friends. But  it  is not
altogether plain sailing, either, for  though one may  say, as  Orlando said
(being  out in  the  country  and needing another self  presumably) Orlando?
still the Orlando she needs may not come; these selves of which we are built
up, one  on top  of another, as  plates are piled  on a waiter's hand,  have
attachments elsewhere, sympathies, little constitutions and rights of  their
own, call them what you will (and for many of these things there is no name)
so that one will only come if  it  is raining, another in a room with  green
curtains, another when Mrs Jones is not there, another if you can promise it
a  glass  of  wine -  and so on;  for everybody  can multiply from  his  own
experience the different terms which his different selves have made with him
- and some are too wildly ridiculous to be mentioned in print at all.
     So Orlando,  at the turn by the barn, called "Orlando?"  with a note of
interrogation in her voice and waited. Orlando did not come.
     "All right then," Orlando said, with the good humour people practise on
these occasions; and tried another. For she had a great variety of selves to
call  upon,  far  more than  we  have  been able to find room for,  since  a
biography is  considered complete if  it merely  accounts for  six or  seven
selves, whereas a person may well have as many thousand. Choosing then, only
those selves we have found room for, Orlando may  now have called on the boy
who cut the nigger's head down; the boy who strung it  up again; the boy who
sat on the  hill; the boy who saw the poet; the boy who handed the Queen the
bowl  of rose water; or she may  have called  upon the young man who fell in
love with Sasha; or upon the  Courtier; or upon the Ambassador; or  upon the
Soldier; or upon the Traveller; or she may have wanted the  woman to come to
her; the Gipsy;  the Fine Lady; the Hermit; the girl in love with life;  the
Patroness  of Letters;  the  woman  who  called Mar (meaning  hot  baths and
evening fires) or Shelmerdine (meaning crocuses in autumn woods) or Bonthrop
(meaning  the death we die daily) or all three together  - which meant  more
things than we have space to write out - all were different and she may have
called upon any one of them.
     Perhaps;  but what appeared  certain (for we are now  in the  region of
"perhaps" and "appears") was that the one she  needed most kept  aloof,  for
she  was, to hear her talk, changing her selves as quickly as  she  drove  -
there  was  a  new  one  at  every  corner  -  as  happens  when,  for  some
unaccountable reason, the  conscious self,  which  is the uppermost, and has
the power to desire, wishes to be nothing but  one self. This  is what  some
people call the true self, and it is, they say, compact of all the selves we
have it  in us to be;  commanded and locked up by the  Captain self, the Key
self, which amalgamates and controls them all. Orlando was certainly seeking
this  self as the reader can judge  from  overhearing her talk as  she drove
(and  if  it is  rambling  talk,  disconnected, trivial, dull, and sometimes
unintelligible, it is the reader's fault  for listening to a lady talking to
herself; we only copy her words as she spoke them, adding  in brackets which
self in our opinion is speaking, but in this we may well be wrong).
     "What then? Who then?" she said. "Thirty-six; in a motor-car;  a woman.
Yes, but  a million other things as  well. A  snob am  I? The garter  in the
hall?  The  leopards? My ancestors?  Proud of them? Yes!  Greedy, luxurious,
vicious?  Am  I? (here a new self  came  in). Don't  care  a  damn  if I am.
Truthful?  I think  so. Generous? Oh, but that don't count (here a  new self
came in). Lying in bed of a morning listening to  the pigeons on fine linen;
silver dishes; wine; maids;  footmen.  Spoilt? Perhaps.  Too many things for
nothing. Hence my books  (here she mentioned fifty  classical titles;  which
represented,  so  we  think, the early romantic  works  that she  tore  up).
Facile, glib, romantic. But (here another self came in) a duffer, a fumbler.
More clumsy I couldn't be. And - and - (here she hesitated for a word and if
we suggest "Love" we may be wrong, but certainly she laughed and blushed and
then cried out ) - A toad set in  emeralds! Harry the Archduke! Blue-bottles
on the ceiling!  (here another self came in). But Nell, Kit, Sasha? (she was
sunk in  gloom: tears actually shaped themselves and she had long given over
crying). Trees, she said. (Here another self came in.) I love trees (she was
passing  a  clump) growing there a thousand years. And  barns  (she passed a
tumbledown barn  at the  edge of  the road). And  sheep dogs (here one  came
trotting  across the road. She  carefully avoided it).  And the  night.  But
people (here another self came in). People? (She repeated it as a question.)
I  don't know.  Chattering, spiteful, always telling lies. (Here  she turned
into  the High  Street  of  her  native town, which was crowded,  for it was
market  day,  with  farmers, and  shepherds,  and  old  women  with  hens in
baskets.) I  like peasants. I understand crops. But (here another  self came
skipping over  the top of her  mind like the beam  from a lighthouse). Fame!
(She laughed.) Fame!  Seven  editions. A prize. Photographs  in  the evening
papers (here she alluded to the "Oak Tree" and "The Burdett Coutts" Memorial
Prize which she had won; and we must snatch space to remark how discomposing
it  is for her  biographer  that this  culmination to  which the  whole book
moved, this peroration with which the book was to end, should be dashed from
us on  a laugh casually like this; but the truth is that  when we write of a
woman, everything is out of place - culminations and perorations; the accent
never  falls where  it  does with  a man). Fame!  she  repeated.  A poet - a
charlatan; both every morning as regularly as the post comes in. To dine, to
meet; to  meet,  to  dine; fame - fame!  (She had here to slow down to  pass
through the crowd of market people. But  no one noticed her. A porpoise in a
fishmonger's  shop attracted  far more attention than a  lady who had  won a
prize and  might,  had  she chosen, have  worn three  coronets one on top of
another on her brow.) Driving very slowly she now hummed as if it  were part
of  an old song, "With my guineas I'll buy flowering trees, flowering trees,
flowering trees and walk among my flowering trees and tell my sons what fame
is". So she hummed, and now all her words began to sag here and there like a
barbaric necklace of heavy beads. "And walk  among my  flowering trees," she
sang, accenting the words strongly, "and see the moon rise slow, the waggons
go..." Here she stopped short and looked ahead of her intently at the bonnet
of the car in profound meditation.
     "He  sat at Twitchett's table," she mused, "with a dirty  ruff on...Was
it old Mr Baker come to measure the timber? Or was it Sh-p-re? (for when  we
speak names we deeply reverence to ourselves we never speak them whole.) She
gazed  for  ten  minutes  ahead  of her, letting the  car come almost  to  a
     "Haunted!" she cried, suddenly pressing the accelerator. "Haunted! ever
since  I  was a child. There  flies the wild goose. It flies past the window
out  to  sea.  Up  I jumped  (she  gripped  the steering-wheel tighter)  and
stretched after it. But the goose flies too fast. I've seen it, here - there
- there - England, Persia, Italy. Always it flies fast out to sea and always
I fling after it words like nets (here she flung her hand out) which shrivel
as I've seen nets shrivel  drawn  on deck  with  only  sea-weed in them; and
sometimes there's an inch of silver - six  words - in the bottom of the net.
But never  the great fish who lives in  the coral groves." Here she bent her
head, pondering deeply.
     And it was at this moment, when  she had ceased  to call  "Orlando" and
was deep in thoughts of something else, that the Orlando whom she had called
came of its own accord; as was  proved by the change that now  came over her
(she had passed through the lodge gates and was entering the park).
     The whole of her darkened and settled, as when some foil whose addition
makes the round  and solidity  of a surface is added  to it, and the shallow
becomes deep  and  the near  distant;  and  all  is  contained  as  water is
contained by the  sides  of a well.  So  she was  now darkened, stilled, and
become,  with the  addition  of this  Orlando, what  is  called, rightly  or
wrongly, a single self, a real self. And she fell silent. For it is probable
that when people talk aloud, the selves (of which there may be more than two
thousand) are conscious of disseverment, and are trying to communicate,  but
when communication is established they fall silent.
     Masterfully, swiftly, she drove up  the curving drive  between the elms
and oaks through the falling turf of the park whose  fall was so gentle that
had it  been water it would have spread  the beach with a smooth green tide.
Planted  here and in  solemn groups were beech trees and oak trees. The deer
stepped among  them, one white  as snow, another with  its head on one side,
for some wire netting had caught in its  horns. All this,  the trees,  deer,
and  turf,  she observed with the  greatest satisfaction as  if her mind had
become  a fluid that flowed round things and enclosed them  completely. Next
minute she drew up in the courtyard where, for so many hundred years she had
come,  on horseback or  in  coach and six, with men riding  before or coming
after;  where  plumes  had tossed, torches flashed, and  the same  flowering
trees that let their leaves  drop now had shaken their blossoms. Now she was
alone.  The autumn  leaves were falling. The porter opened the great  gates.
"Morning, James," she said, "there're some things in the car. Will you bring
'em  in?" words of no beauty, interest, or significance themselves,  it will
be conceded,  but now so plumped out with meaning  that they fell  like ripe
nuts from a tree, and proved that when the  shrivelled  skin of the ordinary
is stuffed out with meaning it satisfies the senses amazingly. This was true
indeed of every  movement and action now, usual though they were; so that to
see Orlando change her  skirt for a pair of  whipcord  breeches  and leather
jacket, which  she  did in less than three  minutes, was to be ravished with
the  beauty  of movement as if  Madame Lopokova  were using her highest art.
Then she strode into the dining-room  where her  old  friends  Dryden, Pope,
Swift,  Addison regarded her demurely at first as who  should say Here's the
prize  winner! but  when  they reflected  that two hundred  guineas  was  in
question,  they  nodded their  heads approvingly. Two  hundred guineas, they
seemed to say; two hundred guineas are not to be sniffed at. She cut herself
a  slice of bread  and ham,  clapped  the  two  together  and began  to eat,
striding up and down the room, thus shedding her company habits in a second,
without thinking. After five or six such  turns, she tossed  off a glass  of
red Spanish wine, and, filling another which she carried in her hand, strode
down the long  corridor and  through a dozen  drawing-rooms and so  began  a
perambulation of the house,  attended  by  such elk-hounds and  spaniels  as
chose to follow her.
     This,  too, was all in the  day's  routine. As soon would she come home
and  leave her  own  grandmother without  a kiss as come back and leave  the
house unvisited.  She fancied that  the rooms brightened  as  she  came  in;
stirred,  opened their eyes as if they  had been dozing in her absence.  She
fancied, too, that,  hundreds and thousands of times as she had  seen  them,
they never looked the same twice, as if so long a  life as theirs had stored
in them a myriad moods which changed with  winter and summer, bright weather
and dark, and her own fortunes and the people's characters who visited them.
Polite, they always were to  strangers, but a  little  weary: with her, they
were entirely open and at their  ease. Why  not indeed?  They had known each
other for close on four centuries now. They had nothing to conceal. She knew
their  sorrows  and joys. She knew  what age  each part of them was and  its
little secrets - a  hidden drawer, a concealed cupboard, or some  deficiency
perhaps, such as a part made up, or added later.  They, too, knew her in all
her moods and changes. She had hidden nothing from them; had come to them as
boy and woman, crying and  dancing, brooding  and gay.  In this window-seat,
she had written her first verses; in that  chapel, she had been married. And
she would be buried here, she reflected, kneeling  on the window-sill in the
long gallery and sipping her Spanish wine. Though she could hardly fancy it,
the body of the heraldic leopard would be  making yellow pools  on the floor
the day they lowered her to lie among her ancestors. She, who believed in no
immortality, could not help feeling that her soul would come  and go forever
with the reds on the panels and the greens on the  sofa. For  the room - she
had  strolled  into the Ambassador's bedroom -  shone like  a shell that has
lain at  the  bottom of the sea  for centuries and has been crusted over and
painted  a  million tints by the water; it was rose  and yellow,  green  and
sand-coloured.  It  was frail  as a  shell,  as iridescent and as  empty. No
Ambassador would ever sleep there again. Ah, but she knew where the heart of
the house still  beat. Gently  opening a door, she stood on the threshold so
that  (as she fancied) the room could  not see  her and watched the tapestry
rising and falling  on the eternal  faint breeze  which never failed to move
it. Still  the hunter  rode; still Daphne flew. The heart  still  beat,  she
thought, however faintly, however far withdrawn; the frail indomitable heart
of the immense building.
     Now, calling her troop of dogs to her she passed down the gallery whose
floor  was  laid  with  whole oak trees sawn across. Rows of chairs with all
their velvets faded stood ranged against the wall holding their arms out for
Elizabeth, for  James, for  Shakespeare  it might be,  for Cecil, who  never
came. The sight made her gloomy. She unhooked the rope that fenced them off.
She sat on the Queen's chair; she opened  a  manuscript book  lying  on Lady
Betty's table; she  stirred her fingers in the aged rose leaves; she brushed
her short hair with King James' silver brushes: she bounced up and down upon
his  bed (but no King  would ever sleep  there  again, for all Louise's  new
sheets) and pressed her  cheek against the worn silver counterpane that  lay
upon it. But everywhere were  little lavender bags to keep the  moth out and
printed notices, "Please do not touch", which, though she had put them there
herself,  seemed to  rebuke her. The house was no  longer hers entirely, she
sighed. It belonged to time now; to history; was past  the touch and control
of the living. Never would beer be spilt here any more, she thought (she was
in the  bedroom that  had been  old  Nick Greene's), or holes  burnt in  the
carpet.  Never  two hundred  servants come  running  and brawling  down  the
corridors with  warming pans and great branches  for  the great  fireplaces.
Never would ale  be brewed and candles made and saddles  fashioned and stone
shaped in the workshops outside  the house.  Hammers and mallets were silent
now. Chairs and beds were empty; tankards of silver and gold  were locked in
glass cases. The great wings of silence beat up and down the empty house.
     So she sat at the end of the  gallery with her  dogs couched round her,
in Queen  Elizabeth's  hard  armchair. The gallery  stretched far away  to a
point where the light almost failed. It was as a tunnel bored deep  into the
past. As her eyes peered down it, she could see people laughing and talking;
the  great men she had known;  Dryden,  Swift,  and Pope; and  statesmen  in
colloquy; and  lovers dallying in the window-seats; and  people  eating  and
drinking at the long  tables; and the wood  smoke curling round  their heads
and  making them  sneeze  and  cough. Still  further  down, she saw sets  of
splendid dancers formed for the quadrille.  A fluty, frail, but nevertheless
stately music began  to  play.  An organ boomed. A coffin was borne into the
chapel.  A marriage procession came out of it. Armed  men with helmets  left
for the wars. They brought banners back from Flodden  and Poitiers and stuck
them on  the wall. The long gallery  filled itself thus, and  still  peering
further,  she  thought  she could  make out  at  the  very  end,  beyond the
Elizabethans and the  Tudors,  some one  older,  further, darker,  a  cowled
figure,  monastic,  severe, a monk, who went with his  hands clasped, and  a
book in them, murmuring -
     Like thunder, the stable clock struck four. Never did any earthquake so
demolish a whole town. The gallery and all its occupants fell to powder. Her
own face,  that had been dark and  sombre as  she  gazed, was lit as  by  an
explosion of gunpowder. In  this same light everything near her showed  with
extreme distinctness. She  saw two flies circling round and noticed the blue
sheen on their bodies;  she saw a knot  in the  wood where her foot was, and
her dog's ear twitching. At the same time, she heard a bough creaking in the
garden, a sheep coughing in the park, a swift screaming past the window. Her
own  body quivered and  tingled as if suddenly  stood naked in a hard frost.
Yet,  she kept, as she had  not done  when the  clock struck ten  in London,
complete  composure (for she  was now one and entire, and presented,  it may
be,  a  larger surface  to  the  shock  of  time).  She  rose,  but  without
precipitation, called  her dogs, and went firmly but with great alertness of
movement down the staircase and out into the garden. Here the shadows of the
plants were miraculously distinct. She noticed the separate grains of  earth
in the flower beds as if  she had a microscope stuck to her eye. She saw the
intricacy  of the  twigs of every tree. Each blade of grass was distinct and
the marking of veins and  petals. She saw Stubbs, the gardener, coming along
the  path,  and every button  on his gaiters was  visible; she saw Betty and
Prince, the cart horses, and never  had she marked so clearly the white star
on Betty's forehead, and the three long hairs that fell down below  the rest
on Prince's tail. Out  in  the  quadrangle the old grey  walls of  the house
looked like a scraped new photograph; she  heard the loud speaker condensing
on the terrace  a dance tune that people were listening to in the red velvet
opera house at Vienna.  Braced and strung up by  the present moment  she was
also  strangely afraid, as if  whenever the gulf of  time  gaped and  let  a
second through some unknown danger might come with it. The  tension  was too
relentless and  too  rigorous to  be endured long  without  discomfort.  She
walked  more  briskly than she  liked, as if  her  legs were  moved for her,
through the garden and out into the park.  Here  she  forced herself,  by  a
great  effort,  to  stop by the carpenter's shop, and  to stand  stock-still
watching  Joe  Stubbs  fashion a cart wheel. She  was standing with her  eye
fixed on his  hand when  the quarter  struck. It hurtled  through her like a
meteor, so  hot  that no  fingers  can  hold  it. She  saw  with  disgusting
vividness that the thumb  on Joe's right hand was without a finger  nail and
there was a raised saucer of pink flesh where the nail should have been. The
sight  was so  repulsive  that she  felt  faint for  a  moment,  but in that
moment's darkness, when  her  eyelids  flickered,  she  was relieved  of the
pressure of the present. There was something strange in  the shadow that the
flicker of her eyes cast, something which (as anyone can test for himself by
looking now at  the  sky) is  always absent from the  present -  whence  its
terror, its nondescript  character  - something  one trembles to pin through
the body  with a name and call beauty, for it  has no  body,  is as a shadow
without  substance  or quality  of  its  own,  yet has the  power  to change
whatever it adds itself to. This shadow  now, while she flickered her eye in
her faintness in the  carpenter's shop, stole out,  and attaching  itself to
the innumerable sights she had been receiving,  composed them into something
tolerable, comprehensible. Her  mind began  to toss like  the sea. Yes,  she
thought, heaving a deep sigh of relief, as she  turned from  the carpenter's
shop to climb the hill, I can begin  to live  again. I am by the Serpentine,
she  thought,  the little  boat is  climbing  through  the  white arch  of a
thousand deaths. I am about to understand...
     Those  were  her words, spoken quite distinctly, but we cannot  conceal
the fact that  she  was now a very indifferent witness to the truth  of what
was before her  and might easily have mistaken a sheep  for a cow, or an old
man called  Smith for one who  was called  Jones and was no relation  of his
whatever.  For  the shadow of  faintness which the thumb  without a nail had
cast had  deepened now, at the back of her brain (which is the part furthest
from  sight), into a pool  where things dwell in darkness  so deep that what
they are we scarcely know. She now  looked  down into  this  pool or sea  in
which everything  is  reflected  - and, indeed, some say that all  our  most
violent passions, and art and religion,  are the reflections which we see in
the dark hollow at  the back of the  head when the visible world is obscured
for  the  time.  She  looked  there   now,  long,  deeply,  profoundly,  and
immediately the  ferny path up the hill along  which she was walking  became
not entirely a path,  but partly  the  Serpentine; the  hawthorn bushes were
partly ladies and gentlemen sitting with card-cases and  gold-mounted canes;
the sheep  were partly tall  Mayfair houses; everything was partly something
else, as  if  her mind had  become a forest with glades  branching  here and
there; things  came nearer, and further, and mingled and  separated and made
the strangest  alliances and combinations in  an incessant chequer  of light
and  shade.  Except  when Canute,  the  elk-hound, chased  a rabbit  and  so
reminded  her  that  it  must  be  about half  past  four  -  it was  indeed
twenty-three minutes to six - she forgot the time.
     The ferny path led, with many turns and  windings, higher and higher to
the oak tree, which  stood on the top. The tree had  grown bigger, sturdier,
and more knotted since  she had known it, somewhere about the year 1588, but
it  was  still in the prime  of life. The little sharply frilled leaves were
still  fluttering thickly on its branches. Flinging herself  on  the ground,
she felt  the bones of the tree running out like ribs from a  spine this way
and that beneath her. She liked to think that she was riding the back of the
world. She liked  to attach herself to something  hard. As she flung herself
down a little square book bound in red  cloth fell  from  the  breast of her
leather jacket - her poem "The Oak Tree". "I should have  brought a trowel,"
she  reflected.  The earth  was so  shallow  over  the  roots that it seemed
doubtful if she could do  as she meant and bury the book  here. Besides, the
dogs would dig  it up. No luck  ever  attends these symbolical celebrations,
she thought. Perhaps it would be as  well then to do without them. She had a
little  speech on  the tip of her tongue which  she meant  to speak over the
book as she buried it. (It was a copy of the first edition, signed by author
and artist.) "I bury  this  as a  tribute," she  was going to have  said, "a
return to  the land of what the land has given me," but Lord! once one began
mouthing words aloud, how silly they sounded! She was reminded of old Greene
getting upon a  platform  the other day comparing her  with Milton (save for
his blindness)  and handing her a cheque for two  hundred guineas.  She  had
thought then, of the oak tree here on its hill,  and what has that got to do
with this, she had wondered?  What has praise  and  fame to do  with poetry?
What has seven  editions (the book had already gone into no less)  got to do
with the value of  it? Was not  writing poetry a secret transaction, a voice
answering a voice? So that all this chatter and praise and blame and meeting
people who admired one and meeting people who did  not admire one was as ill
suited as  could be to the thing  itself - a voice  answering a voice.  What
could  have  been  more  secret,  she  thought,  more  slow,  and  like  the
intercourse  of lovers,  than the stammering answer she had made  all  these
years  to the old crooning  song  of  the woods, and the farms and the brown
horses  standing at the  gate, neck to neck, and  the smithy and the kitchen
and the fields, so laboriously bearing wheat, turnips, grass, and the garden
blowing irises and fritillaries?
     So she let her book  lie unburied and  dishevelled  on the  ground, and
watched the vast view, varied like an ocean floor  this evening with the sun
lightening it  and the  shadows darkening  it.  There  was a  village with a
church tower among elm trees; a grey domed manor house in a park; a spark of
light burning on some  glass-house; a farmyard with  yellow corn stacks. The
fields  were marked with black tree clumps, and beyond the  fields stretched
long woodlands, and there was the gleam of a river, and then hills again. In
the far distance Snowdon's crags broke white among the  clouds; she saw  the
far Scottish hills  and the  wild tides that swirl  about  the Hebrides. She
listened for the sound of gun-firing out  at sea.  No - only  the wind blew.
There  was  no war to-day. Drake had gone; Nelson had gone. "And there," she
thought, letting  her eyes,  which had been looking at these far  distances,
drop  once more to the land  beneath  her, "was  my  land  once: that Castle
between the downs was mine; and all that moor running  almost to the sea was
mine." Here the landscape (it must have been some trick of the fading light)
shook itself, heaped  itself,  let  all this encumbrance of houses, castles,
and woods slide off its tent-shaped sides. The bare mountains of Turkey were
before her. It was blazing noon. She looked straight at the baked hill-side.
Goats  cropped  the sandy  tufts at her feet.  An  eagle  soared above.  The
raucous voice of old Rustum,  the gipsy, croaked  in her ears, "What is your
antiquity and your race,  and  your possessions  compared with this? What do
you need  with four hundred bedrooms and silver lids on all your dishes, and
housemaids dusting?"
     At this  moment some  church clock  chimed in the valley. The tent-like
landscape  collapsed and fell. The present showered  down upon her head once
more, but now that  the light was fading, gentlier than before, calling into
view nothing  detailed, nothing small, but only misty fields, cottages  with
lamps in them, the slumbering bulk of a wood, and a fan-shaped light pushing
the darkness before it along some lane.  Whether it had struck nine, ten, or
eleven, she  could not say.  Night  had come - night  that  she loved of all
times, night  in which the  reflections in  the dark pool of the mind  shine
more clearly than by day. It was not necessary to faint now in order to look
deep into the darkness where  things shape themselves and to see in the pool
of the mind now Shakespeare, now a girl in Russian trousers, now  a toy boat
on the  Serpentine, and then the  Atlantic itself, where  it storms in great
waves past Cape Horn.  She looked into the darkness. There was her husband's
brig, rising to the top of the wave! Up, it went,  and  up and up. The white
arch of a thousand deaths rose before it. Oh rash, oh ridiculous man, always
sailing, so uselessly, round Cape Horn in the teeth of a gale!  But the brig
was through the arch and out on the other side; it was safe at last!
     "Ecstasy!" she cried,  "ecstasy!"  And  then the wind  sank, the waters
grew calm; and she saw the waves rippling peacefully in the moonlight.
     "Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine!" she cried, standing by the oak tree.
     The beautiful, glittering name fell out  of the  sky like  a steel-blue
feather. She watched it fall, turning and twisting like a slow-falling arrow
that cleaves the deep air beautifully. He was  coming, as he always came, in
moments of dead  calm; when the  wave  rippled and the  spotted leaves  fell
slowly  over her foot in the  autumn woods; when the leopard  was still; the
moon was on the waters,  and nothing moved  in between sky and sea. Then  he
     All was still now. It was near midnight. The  moon rose slowly over the
weald. Its light raised a  phantom castle upon earth. There stood  the great
house with all its windows robed  in silver. Of  wall or substance there was
none. All was phantom. All was still.  All  was lit as for the  coming  of a
dead Queen.  Gazing below  her,  Orlando saw  dark  plumes  tossing  in  the
courtyard,  and torches flickering and shadows kneeling.  A  Queen once more
stepped from her chariot.
     "The house is at your  service, Ma'am,"  she  cried, curtseying deeply.
"Nothing has been changed. The dead Lord, my father, shall lead you in".
     As she  spoke, the first stroke of midnight sounded. The cold breeze of
the  present brushed her  face with  its  little breath of fear.  She looked
anxiously into the sky. It was dark with clouds now. The wind roared in  her
ears. But in the roar of the wind she heard the roar  of an aeroplane coming
nearer and nearer.
     "Here! Shel, here! she cried, baring her breast to the moon  (which now
showed bright) so that her  pearls glowed  like the eggs of  some vast  moon
spider.  The aeroplane  rushed out of the clouds and stood over her head. It
hovered  above  her. Her  pearls burnt like a  phosphorescent  flare  in the
     And as Shelmerdine, now grown a fine sea captain, hale, fresh-coloured,
and  alert, leapt to the ground, there sprang up over his head a single wild
     "It is the goose!" Orlando cried. "The wild goose..."
     And the  twelfth  stroke of  midnight sounded; the  twelfth  stroke  of
midnight, Thursday, the  eleventh of  October, Nineteen hundred  and  Twenty

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: 53, Last-modified: Fri, 20 Jan 2006 08:56:47 GMT