1839-1908 Ouida.

Wisdom, wit, and pathos : selected from the works of Ouida online

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work have you done, Anndmie ? Oh, all that ? all that ?



172 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

But there is enough for a week. You work too early and
too late, you dear Anne'mie."

" Nay, Be'be'e, when one has to get one's bread, that
cannot be. But I am afraid my eyes are failing. That
rose now, is it well done ? "

" Beautifully done. Would the Bae's take them if they
were not ? You know he is one that cuts every centime
in four pieces."

" Ah ! sharp enough, sharp enough that is true. But
I am always afraid of my eyes. I do not see the flags
out there so well as I used to do."

" Because the sun is so bright, Anne'mie ; that is all.
I myself, when I have been sitting all day in the Place
in the light, the flowers look pale to me. And you know
it is not age with me, Anne'mie ?"

The old woman and the young girl laughed together at
that droll idea.

"You have a merry heart, dear little one," said old
Anne'mie. "The saints keep it to you always."

" May I tidy the room a little ? "

" To be sure, dear, and thank you too. I have not
much time, you see ; and somehow my back aches badly
when I stoop."

"And it is so damp here for you, over all that water ! "
said Be'be'e, as she swept and dusted and set to rights the
tiny place, and put in a little broken pot a few sprays of
honeysuckle and rosemary that she had brought with her.
" It is so damp here. You should have come and lived
in my hut with me, Anne'mie, and sat out under the vine
all day, and looked after the chickens for me when I was
in the town. They are such mischievous little souls ; as
soon as my back is turned one or other is sure to push
through the roof, and get out amongst the flower-beds.
Will you never change your mind, and live with me,
Anne'mie? I am sure you would be happy, and the
starling says your name quite plain, and he is such a



TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES. 173

funny bird to talk to ; you never would tire of him. Will
you never come ? It is so bright there, and green and
sweet-smelling, and to think you never even have seen
it ! and the swans and all, it is a shame."

" No, dear," said old Anne'mie, eating her last bunch
of currants. "You have said so so often, and you are
good and mean it, that I know. But I could not leave
the water. It would kill me.

" Out of this window you know I saw my Jeannot's
brig go away away away till the masts were lost in
the mists. Going with iron to Norway ; the Fleur
d'Epine of this town, a good ship, and a sure, and he
her mate ; and as proud as might be, and with a little
blest Mary in lead round his throat.

" She was to be back in port in eight months bringing
timber. Eight months that brought Easter time.

" But she never came. Never, never, never, you know.

" I sat here watching them come and go, and my
child sickened and died, and the summer passed, and
the autumn, and all the while I looked looked looked ;
for the brigs are all much alike ; only his I always saw as
soon as she hove in sight because he tied a hank of flax
to her mizzen mast ; and when he was home safe and
sound I spun the hank into hose for him ; that was a
fancy of his, and for eleven voyages, one on another, he
had never missed to tie the flax nor I to spin the hose.

" But the hank of flax I never saw this time ; nor the
brave brig ; nor my good man with his sunny blue eyes.

" Only one day in winter, when the great blocks ot ice
were smashing hither and thither, a coaster came in and
brought tidings of how off in the Danish waters they had
come on a waterlogged brig, and had boarded her, and
had found her empty, and her hull riven in two, and her
crew all drowned and dead beyond any manner of doubt.
And on her stern there was her name painted white, the
Fleur d'Epine, of Brussels, as plain as name could be ;



174 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

and that was all we ever knew what evil had struck
her, or how they had perished, nobody ever told.

" Only the coaster brought that bit of beam away, with
the Fleur d'Epine writ clear upon it.

" But you see I never know my man is dead.

"Any day who can say? any of those ships may
bring him aboard of her, and he may leap out on the
wharf there, and come running up the stairs as he used
to do, and cry, in his merry voice, ' Anndmie, Anndmie,
here is more flax to spin, here is more hose to weave ! '
For that was always his homeward word ; no matter
whether he had had fair weather or foul, he always
knotted the flax to his mast-head.

" So you see, dear, I could not leave here. For what
if he came and found me away? He would say it was an
odd fashion of mourning for him.

"And I could not do without the window, you know.
I can watch all the brigs come in ; and I can smell the
shipping smell that I have loved all the days of my life ;
and I can see the lads heaving, and climbing, and furling,
and mending their bits of canvas, and hauling their flags
up and down.

"And then who can say? the sea never took him, I
think I think I shall hear his voice before I die.

" For they do say that God is good."

Be'be'e sweeping very noiselessly, listened, and her eyes
grew wistful and wondering. She had heard the story a
thousand times ; always in different words, but always
the same little tale, and she knew how old Anne'mie was
deaf to all the bells that tolled the time, and blind to all
the whiteness of her hair, and all the wrinkles of her face,
and only thought of her sea-slain lover as he had been in
the days of her youth.



TWO LITTLE WOODEN SHOES. 175

YV7HEN we suffer very much ourselves, anything that
** smiles in the sun seems cruel a child, a bird, a
dragonfly nay, even a fluttering ribbon, or a spear-grass
that waves in the wind.



"D EBEE, whose religion was the sweetest and vaguest
^ mingling of Pagan and Christian myths, and whose
faith in fairies and in saints was exactly equal in strength
and in ignorance Be'be'e filled the delf pot anew care-
fully, then knelt down on the turf in that little green
corner, and prayed in devout hopeful childish good faith
to the awful unknown Powers who were to her only as
gentle guides and kindly playmates.

Was she too familiar with the Holy Mother ?

She was almost fearful that she was ; but then the
Holy Mother loved flowers so well, Be'be'e could not feel
aloof from her, nor be afraid.

" When one cuts the best blossoms for her, and tries to
be good, and never tells a lie," thought Be'be'e, " I am
quite sure, as she loves the lilies, that she will never alto-
gether forget me."



"FHE loveliest love is that which dreams high above all
storms, unsoiled by all burdens ; but, perhaps, the
strongest love is that which, whilst it adores, drags its
feet through mire, and burns its brow in heat for the thing
beloved.



TT is, perhaps, the most beautiful square in all Northern
* Europe, with its black timbers and gilded carvings,
and blazoned windows, and majestic scutcheons, and fan-
tastic pinnacles. This Be'be'e did not know, but she loved
it, and she sat resolutely in front of the Broodhuis, selling



176 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

her flowers, smiling, chatting, helping the old woman,
counting her little gains, eating her bit of bread at noon-
day like any other market girl ; but, at times, glancing
up to the stately towers and the blue sky, with a look on
her face that made the old tinker and cobbler whisper
together " What does she see there ? the dead people
or the angels?"

The truth was that even Be'be'e herself did not know
very surely what she saw something that was still nearer
to her than even this kindly crowd that loved her. That
was all she could have said had anybody asked her.

But none did.

No one wanted to hear what the dead said ; and for the
angels, the tinker and the cobbler were of opinion that
one had only too much of them sculptured about every-
where, and shining on all the casements in reverence
be it spoken of course.



FAME.

" HTHERE is no soul in them," he muttered, and he set
down his lamp and frowned ; a sullen mechanical
art made him angered like an insult to heaven ; and these
were soulless ; their drawing was fine, their anatomy fault-
less, their proportions and perspective excellent ; but there
all merit ended. They were worse than faulty they were
commonplace. There is no sin in Art so deadly as that.



LJ E had been only a poor lad, a coppersmith's son,
here in Munich ; one among many, and beaten
and cursed at home very often for mooning over folly
when others were hard at work. But he had minded
neither curse nor blow. He had always said to himself,
" I am a painter." Whilst camps were soaked with blood
and echoing only the trumpets of war, he had only seen
the sweet divine smile of Art. He had gone barefoot to
Italy for love of it, and had studied, and laboured, and
worshipped, and been full of the fever of great effort and
content with the sublime peace of conscious power. He
had believed in himself : it is much. But it is not all.
As years had slid away and the world of men would not
believe in him, this noble faith in himself grew a weary
and bitter thing. One shadow climbed the hills of the

M



178 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

long years with him and was always by his side : this
constant companion was Failure.

Fame is very capricious, but Failure is seldom incon-
stant. Where it once clings, there it tarries.



IT was a brilliant and gay day in Munich. It was the
beginning of a Bavarian summer, with the great
plain like a sea of grass with flowers for its foam, and
the distant Alps of Tyrol and Vorarlberg clearly seen in
warm, transparent, buoyant weather.

Down by the winding ways of the river there were
birch and beechen thickets in glory of leaf; big water-
lilies spread their white beauty against the old black
timbers of the water-mills ; and in the quaint, ancient
places of the old streets, under the gables and beams,
pots of basil, and strings of green pease, and baskets
of sweet-smelling gillyflowers and other fragrant old-
fashioned things, blossomed wherever there was a
breadth of blue sky over them or a maiden's hand
within ; whilst above the towers and steeples, above the
clanging bells of the Domkirche and the melon-shaped
crest of the Frauenkirche, and all the cupolas and spires
and minarets in which the city abounds, the pigeons
went whirling and wheeling from five at sunrise to seven
of sunset, flocks of grey and blue and black and white,
happy as only birds can be, and as only birds can be
when they are doves of Venice or of Munich, with all
the city's hearths and homes for their granaries, and
with the sun and the clouds for their royal estate.

In the wide, dull new town it was dusty and hot ; the
big squares were empty and garish-looking ; the blistering
frescoes on the buildings were gaudy and out of place ;
the porticoes and friezes were naked and staring, and
wanted all that belongs to them in Italy. All the deep,
intense shadows, the sultry air, the sense of immeasurable



FAME. 179

space and of unending light, the half-naked figures grace-
ful as a plume of maize, the vast projecting roofs, the
spouts of tossing water, the brown bare-foot straw-plaiter
passing in a broad path of sunshine, the old bronze lamp
above the painted shrine, the gateway framing the ethereal
landscape of amethystine horizons and silvery olive ways
they want all these, do these classic porticoes and pedi-
ments of Italy, and they seem to stare, conscious of a
discordance and a lack of harmony in the German air.
But in the old town there is beauty still ; in the timbered
house-fronts, in the barred and sculptured casements, in
the mighty gables, in the gilded and pictured signs, in
the sunburnt walls, in the grey churches, in the furriers'
stalls, in the toysellers' workshops, in the beetling for-
tresses, in the picturesque waysides, here is the old
Munich of the Minnesingers and master masons, of the
burghers and the bierschen, of the Schefflertanz, and of
the merry Christchild Fair. And old Munich keeps all
to itself, whether with winter snow on its eaves, or
summer leaves in its lattices ; and here the maidens still
wear coloured kerchiefs on their heads and clattering
shoes on their feet ; and here the students still look
like etchings for old ballads, with long hair on their
shoulders and grey cloaks worn jauntily ; and here
something of the odour and aspect of the Middle Ages
lingers as about an illuminated roll of vellum that has
lain long put away and forgotten in a desk, with faded
rose-leaves and a miniature that has no name.

The Munich of builder-king Ludwig is grand, no doubt,
and tedious and utterly out of place, with mountains of
marble and granite, and acres of canvas more or less
divine, and vast straight streets that make one weep
from weariness, and frescoed walls with nude women
that seem to shiver in the bitter Alpine winds ; it is
great, no doubt, but ponderously unlovely, like the bronze
Bavaria that looks over the plain, who can hold six men



i8o WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

in her head, but can never get fire in her eyes nor meaning
in her mouth clumsy Athenas-Artemis that she is.

New Munich, striving to be Athens or Rome, is mono-
tonous and tiresome, but old Munich is quaint and humble,
and historical and romancical, with its wooden pavements
under foot, and its clouds of doves above head ; indeed,
has so much beauty of its own, like any old painted
Missal or golden goblet of the moyen age, that it seems
incredible to think that any man could ever have had
the heart to send the hammers of masons against it, and
set up bald walls of plaster in its stead. Wandering in
old Munich there is not much of it left, alas ! is like
reading a black-letter ballad about Henry the Lion or
Kaiser Max ; it has sombre nooks and corners, bright
gleams of stained casements, bold oriels, and sculptured
shields, arcades and arches, towers and turrets, light and
shade, harmony and irregularity, all, in a word, that old
cities have, and old Teutonic cities beyond all others ;
and when the Metzgersprung is in full riot round the
Marienplatz, or on Corpus Christi day, when the King
and the Court and the Church, the guilds and the senate
and the magistracy, all go humbly through the flower-
strewn streets, it is easy to forget the present and to
think that one is still in the old days with the monks,
who gave their name to it, tranquil in their work-rooms
and the sound of battle all over the lands around them.

It was the Corpus Christi day in Munich now, and the
whole city, the new and the old, had hung itself with gar-
lands and draperies, with pictures and evergreens, with
flags and tapestries, and the grand procession had passed
to and from the church, and the archbishop had blessed
the people, and the king had bared his handsome head
to the sun and the Holy Ghost, and it was all over for
the year, and the people were all happy and satisfied and
sure that God was with them and their town ; especially
the people of the old quarters, who most loved and



FAME. 181

clung to these ceremonials and feasts ; good God-fearing
families, labouring hard, living honestly and wholesomely,
gay also in a quiet, mirthful, innocent fashion much such
people as their forefathers were before them, in days when
Gustavus Adolphus called their city the golden saddle on
the lean horse.

The lean horse, by which he meant the sterile plains,
which yield little except hay, looks rich with verdure in
the mellow afternoon light, when midsummer is come,
and the whole populace, men, women, and children, on
Sundays and feast-days pour out of the city gates eagerly
to their own little festivities under the cherry-trees of the
little blue and white coffee-houses along the course of
the river, when the beanflowers are in bloom. For out
of the old city you go easily beyond the walls to the
grey glacier water of " Isar rolling rapidly," not red with
blood now as after Hohenlinden, but brilliant and bois-
terous always, with washerwomen leaning over it with
bare arms, and dogs wading where rushes and dams
break the current, and the hay blowing breast-high
along the banks, and the students chasing the girls
through it, and every now and then upon the wind the
music of a guitar, light and dancing, or sad and slow,
according as goes the heart of the player that tunes it.
At this season Bavaria grows green, and all is fresh and
radiant. Outside the town all the country is a sheet of
cherry-blossom and of clover. Night and day, carts full
of merrymakers rattle out under the alders to the dancing
places amongst the pastures, or to the Sommerfrischen
of their country friends. Whoever has a kreuzer to spend
will have a draft of beer and a whiff of the lilac-scented
air, and the old will sit down and smoke their painted
pipes under the eaves of their favourite Gasthof, and the
young will roam with their best-loved maidens through
the shadows of the Anlagen, or still farther on under the
hi<rh beech-trees of Grosshesslohe.



tMOTHS.

'"THE ear has its ecstasy as have other senses.



A S there is love without dominion, so there is dominion
** without love.



YV7HEN Fame stands by us all alone, she is an angel
** clad in light and strength ; but when Love touches



her she drops her sword, and fades away, ghostlike
ashamed.



and



COCIETY only thought her unamiable. True, she
^ never said an unkind thing, or did one ; she never
hurt man or woman ; she was generous to a fault ; and
to aid even people she despised would give herself trouble
unending. But these are serious, simple qualities which
do not show much, and are soon forgotten by those who
benefit from them. Had she laughed more, danced more
taken more kindly to the fools and their follies, she might
have been acid of tongue and niggard of sympathy ; the
world would have thought her much more amiable.



MOTHS. 183

" TF she would only listen to me !" thought her mother,
* in the superior wisdom of her popular little life.
" If she would only kiss a few women in the morning,
and flirt with a few men in the evening, it would set
her all right with them in a month. It is no use doing
good to anybody ; they only hate you for it. You have
seen them in their straits ; it is like seeing them without
their wig or their teeth ; they never forgive it. But to be
pleasant, always to be pleasant, that is the thing. And
after all it costs nothing."



ATARRIAGE, as our world sees it, is simply a conve-
*** nience ; a somewhat clumsy contrivance to tide
over a social difficulty.



A SIN ! did the world know of such a thing? Hardly.
^^ Now and then, for sake of its traditions, the world
took some hapless boy, or some still yet unhappier woman,
and pilloried one of them, and drove them out under a
shower of stones, selecting them by caprice, persecuting
them without justice, slaying them because they were
friendless. But that was all. For the most part sin was
an obsolete thing, archaic and unheard of.



USIC is not a science, any more than poetry is. It
is a sublime instinct, like genius of all kinds.



/^HARITY in various guises is an intruder the poor
^- > see often ; but courtesy and delicacy are visitors
with which they are seldom honoured.



184 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF OVID A.

""THERE is no shame more bitter to endure than to
* despise oneself. It is harder to keep true to high
laws and pure instincts in modern society than it was in
the days of martyrdom.



/~\NE weeps for the death of children, but perhaps the
^-^ change of them into callous men and women is a
sadder change to see after all.



H



ONOUR is an old-world thing, but it smells sweet
to those in whose hand it is strong.



lives are tossed upon the stream of life like
* rose-leaves on a fast-running river, and the rose-
leaves are blamed if the river be too strong and too swift
for them and they perish. It is the fault of the rose-
leaves.



"CVERY pretty woman should be a flirt, every clever
woman a politician ; the aim, the animus, the
intrigue, the rivalry which accompany each of these
pursuits make the salt without which the great dinner
were tasteless.



T N these old Austrian towns the churches are always
very reverent places ; dark and tranquil ; overladen,
indeed, with ornament and image, but too full of shadow
for these to much offend ; there is the scent of centuries
of incense ; the walls are yellow with the damp of ages.
Mountain suzerains and bold reiters, whose deeds are



MOTHS. 185

still sung of in twilight to the zither, deep beneath the
moss-grown pavement ; their shields and crowns are
worn flat to the stone they were embossed on by the
passing feet of generations of worshippers. High above
in the darkness there is always some colossal carved
Christs. Through the half-opened iron-studded door
there is always the smell of pinewood, the gleam of
water, the greenness of Alpine grass ; often, too, there is
the silvery falling of rain, and the fresh smell of it comes
through the church by whose black benches and dim
lamps there will be sure to be some old bent woman
praying.



""THE moths will eat all that fine delicate feeling away,
* little by little ; the moths of the world will eat the
unselfishness first, and then the innocence, and then the
honesty, and then the decency ; no one will see them
eating, no one will see the havoc being wrought, but little
by little the fine fabric will go, and in its place will be
dust. Ah, the pity of it ! The pity of it ! The webs
come out of the great weaver's loom lovely enough, but
the moths of the world eat them all.



C HE had five hundred dear friends, but this one she
^ was really fond of ; that is to say, she never said
anything bad of her, and only laughed at her good-
naturedly when she had left a room ; and this abstinence
is as strong a mark of sincerity now-a-days as dying for
another used to be in the old days of strong feeling and
the foolish expression of them.



r RATITUDE is such an unpleasant quality, you
know ; there is always a grudge behind it !



i86 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF OUIDA.



TTHE richest soil always bears the rankest mushrooms:
France is always bearing mushrooms.



POSITION, she thought, was the only thing that, like
~ old wine or oak furniture, improved with years.



TDOSITION is a pillory : sometimes they pelt one with
rose-leaves, and sometimes with rotten eggs, but one
is for ever in the pillory !



E are too afraid of death : that fear is the shame of
Christianity.



I_J E never could prevail on his vanity to break with
* her, lest men should think she had broken with
him.



CHE would go grandly to the guillotine, but she will
^ never understand her own times. She has dignity ;
we have not a scrap ; we have forgotten what it was like ;
we go into a passion at the amount of our bills ; we play
and never pay ; we smoke and we wrangle ; we laugh
loud, much too loud ; we inspire nothing unless, now
and then, a bad war or a disastrous speculation ; we live
showily, noisily, meanly, gaudily.



"DIG brains do not easily hold trifles . . . little packets
of starch that this world thinks are the staff of life.



MOTHS. 187

"DEHL, like a young girl, is prettiest in the morning.
Pehl is calm and sedate, and simple and decorous.
Pehl is like some tender, fair, wholesome yet patrician
beauty, like the pretty aristocratic Charlotte in Kaul-
bach's picture, who cuts the bread-and-butter, yet looks
a patrician. Pehl has nothing of the belle petite, like
her sister of Baden ; nothing of the titled cocadetta, like
her cousin of Monaco ; Pehl does not gamble or riot or
conduct herself madly in any way ; she is a little old-
fashioned still in a courtly way ; she has a little rusticity
still in her elegant manners ; she is like the noble dames
of the past ages, who were so high of rank and so proud
of habit, yet were not above the distilling-room and the
spinning-wheel ; who were quiet, serious, sweet, and smelt
of the rose-leaves with which they filled their big jars.



HTHE pity of modern Society is that all its habits make
* as effectual a disguise morally as our domino in
carnival does physically. Everybody looks just like
everybody else. Perhaps, as under the domino, so under
the appearance, there may be great nobility or great
deformity ; but all look alike. Were Socrates amongst
us, he would only look like a club bore ; and were there
Messalina, she would only look well look much like
our Duchesse Jeunne !



C HE did not know that from these swamps of flattery,
intrigue, envy, rivalry, and emulation there rises a



Online Library1839-1908 OuidaWisdom, wit, and pathos : selected from the works of Ouida → online text (page 13 of 39)