Idalia/Volume 1/Chapter 7
THE BADGE OF THE SILVER IVY.
It was midnight and mid-winter in Paris, snow lying thick on the ground; dead lying thick in the Morgue; outcasts gnawing the bones dogs had left, and shivering on church-steps built by pious crowds, who glorified God and starved their brethren; aristocrates skimming over the ice, flashing their diamonds in the torchlight, warm in their swansdown and ermine; wretches who dared be both poor and honest, sleeping, famine-stricken, under bridge-arches, as such a twin-insult to a wise world deserved; philosophers, male and female, who were vile, and got gold, and joliment jouaient leurs mondes, drinking Cote and Rhine wines, and laughing at life from velvet couches. It was a bitter icy night, and the contrasts of a great city were at their widest and sharpest, as the chiffonnier searched in the snow for offal as treasure, and the Princess lost in the snow, as a mere bagatelle, wealth in an emerald that would have bought bread for a million; as a young child, half naked, sobbed, homeless, under the pitiless cold, and a State Messenger, mapped in furs, was rolled in his travelling carriage through the bright gaslit streets. The Royal Courier was lying, stretched nearly at length on his carriage-bed, while he dashed through the capital full speed, not losing a moment to get through to Persia.
There was plenty of time to sleep while the train tore through the night to Marseilles, and he raised himself on his arm and looked out at the old familiar, welcome streets of Paris; a mistress for every new-comer, a friend to every well-worn returning traveller, a syren ever fresh, ever dear, ever unrivalled. As he did so, the carriage was passing down the Rue Lepelletier and before the Opera, where the doors had just opened for one of those balls to which all Paris proper (or improper) flocks. The throng was great; the wheel of his carriage nearly locked in another, whose gas-lamps, flashing of the snow, lighted up the face of a woman within, with the azure of sapphires glancing above her brow. The Queen's Messenger started up from his carriage-couch and threw himself forward; his postboy saved the collision, his horses dashed on without a pause.
He flung himself back among his furs, with a fierce bitterness in his soul:
"Good God, again!—and there!"
The carriage whirled on, leaving the masked throngs to flock to the wild Rigolboche of the Opera.
That night under the glitter of a chandelier in the Hotel Mirabeau, before a fire which shed its warmth over the green velvet and walnut wood, the ormolu and silver, the mirrors and consoles of the chamber, two men sat smoking over claret and olives, having dined alone, by a miracle, in the midst of the laughing, dazzling, contagious gaieties of peopled Paris. In these days confederates meet over liqueurs and cigarettes, instead of in subterranean caverns; and conspirators plan their checkmates in a coffee-room, an opera-box, or a drive to an imperial stag-hunt, instead of by midnight, under masks, and with rapiers drawn.
One of the men was Victor Vane, the other that dashing Free Lance, that Monodist of the Sugared Violet, that political brigand of the Carpathian Pass, to whom the telegram had been addressed as to the Count Conrad Constantine Phaulcon: a man in physical beauty, physical prowess, talent, wit, and bearing, far the superior of the Englishman, yet whom the latter dominated and held in check, simply by that fine and priceless quality, which is colourless because inscrutable, and irresistible because prevoyant—Acumen. It crowns genius, and dethrones kings.
Socially, there was the same anomaly between them. Vane, of whose antecedents none knew very much (except that his mother had been a Venetian, wedded, but not of very fair fame, and his father a decayed English gentleman, chiefly resident in Naples, both of whom had been dead long ago), with no title, with no connections, with a somewhat notorious association with the ultra parties of Southern Europe, and with no particular quality of social distinction beyond his perfect breeding, his scientific whist, and his inimitable tact, was, nevertheless, seen at all courts save those of Vienna and the Vatican, and had made himself not only received, but welcomed in many of the best families and highest sets in all countries. Phaulcon, on the other hand, in whose veins ran blood of purest Hellenic breed, who could trace his chain of descent unbroken, who had a marvellous beauty, a marvellous grace, and a marvellous tact, with many other gifts of fortune and nature, was contraband of courts, had long since been exiled from "good society;" and was considered, rightly or wrongly, to belong to the Bohemian class of Free Lances, the Chevaliers d'Industrie of politics, the wild lawless Reiters of plot and counterplot, of liberalism and intrigue, who are the abomination of the English mind (which commonly understands not one whit about them), and are the arch disturbers of continental empires, where the people recognise at the bottom of all their schemes and crimes the germ and memory of one great, precious, living truth and treasure—liberty. At the core, both these men were as deeply dyed, and as utterly unscrupulous, the one as the other, the only difference being that the one was the more wilily dangerous, the other the more visibly lawless; both deserved equally to be out of the presence-chamber of princes and the pale of aristocratic cliques, yet Vane was accepted as a man of fashion by the most fastidious, Phaulcon was excluded by the least fastidious, as among the "equivocal." What made the difference?
Victor would have told again, with his charming low laugh, that when quiet on his lips was always in his sunny eyes, which dazzled women and never met men fairly—"Acumen!"
"I cannot imagine how you could miss him!" he was saying now, breaking a macaroon, with a slight superb disdain in his tone, as of a man who never missed anything.
"How should I know?" cried Phaulcon, with petulant impatience. "We fired half a dozen balls at him, the man fell dead, never stirred, never breathed; who on the face of the earth could imagine he was going to get up again?"
"Carissimo," said Vane, with soft persuasion. "Why will you persist in that most deleterious habit of trusting to chance, and satisfying yourself with 'appearances' and with 'beliefs?' Nothing more fatal. Always make sure. Just a farewell plunge of an inch of steel into the aorta, and you are always certain."
The picture-like beauty of Phaulcon's face reddened with a momentary flush, and he tossed back his long hair.
"Parbleu! one is not an assassin?"
"Since when have you discovered that?"
The flush grew darker on Count Conrad's forehead; he moved restlessly under the irony, and drank down a draught of red fiery Roussillon without tasting it more than if it had been water. Then he laughed; the same careless musical laughter with which he had made the requiem over a violet—a laugh which belonged at once to the most careless and the most evil side of his character.
"Since sophism came in, which was with Monsieur Cain, when he asked, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' It was ingenious that reply; creditable to a beginner, without social advantages. 'An assassin!' Take the word boldly by the beard, and look at it. What is there objectionable?"
"Nothing—except to the assassinated."
"It has had an apotheosis ever since the world began," pursued Phaulcon, unheeding, in his bright vivacity. Who are celebrated in scripture? Judith, Samuel, David, Moses, Joab. Who is a patriot? Brutus. Who is an immortal? Harmodius and Aristogiton. Who is a philosopher? Cicero, while he murmurs 'Vixerunt!' after slaying Lentulus. Who is a hero? Marius, who nails the senators' heads to the rostrae. Who is a martyr? Charles who murders Strafford. What is religion? Christianity, that has burnt and slain millions. Who is a priest ? Calvin, who destroys Servetus; or Pole, who kills Latimer, which you like. Who is a saint? George of Cappadocia, who slaughters right and left. Who is a ruler? Sulla, who slays Ofella. Who is a queen? Christina, who stabs Monaldeschi; Catherine, who strangles Peter; Isabella, who slays Moors and Jews by the thousand. Murderers all! Assassination has always been deified; and before it is objected to, the world must change its creeds, its celebrities, and its chronicles. 'Monsieur, you are an assassin,' says an impolite world. 'Messieurs,' says the polite logician, 'I found my warrant in your Bible, and my precedent in your Brutus. What you deify in Aristogiton and Jael, you mustn't damn in Ankarstrom and me. Voila! What could the world say?"
"That you would outwit Belial with words, and beguile Beelzebub out of his kingdom with sophistry," laughed Vane, with a quiet lazy enjoyment. "Caro, caro! with such exquisite subtleties in speech, how is it that you are so uncertain in acts, so rash even occasionally, and so—just now and then—so weak?"
Phaulcon laughed too.
"Because, intellectually, I am quite a devil, but morally, perhaps, keep a pin's point of humanity still. I am ashamed of it, but what would you have? Achilles could be shot in the heel."
And there was the very slightest shadow of bitterness in the words, which showed that there was a "pin's point," too, of truth in them. Vane looked at him with his quiet amusement undisturbed.
"And your delicate susceptibilities will let you shoot a man but not stab him? What an artist's eyes for imperceptible shades of colour!"
And it was with that gentle mocking banter that he had killed—perseveringly and remorselessly killed—any lingering touches of nobler things, any stray instincts towards holier impulses, that he bad found in that unscrupulous, brilliant, lawless Free Lance, who laughed now with an evil glitter in his eyes, and a sense of ridicule and shame for the single impulse that had moved him with something true and human.
"Madre di Christo! shot or steel, I would have given him either willingly enough when he outwitted us. Curse him! if ever we come across each other, it shall go worse with him for that trick."
"Oh no," interposed Victor, languidly. "No, certainly not; let him alone. Never kill save when there is necessity; besides, any row between him and you might draw attention to that little affair, and though we must make the sacrifice of those unpleasant trifles to la haute politique, it does not do for them to get wind. They do not dream we were in it. They have plenty of toy-terriers, and yapping puppies, and truffle-dogs with a good nose for a perquisite at the English Foreign Office, but they have no bloodhounds in the bureau—they can't track. A propos of tracking—I tell you who I wish were more completely pledged to us———"
"Lilmarc, of course. So do I, but he is caution itself; and I believe, on my faith, that a white wand at Vienna would buy up what little Magyar spirit there is in him. He is a fox, with the heart of an ape!"
Lilmarc was the Graf von Lilmarc, an Hungarian noble of splendid possessions, and of wavering allegiance—now to Austria, and now to his Fatherland. Vane trifled gravely with his olives.
"But Lilmarc has one weakness—women. Cannot the Countess Vassalis seduce him?"
Phaulcon gave a despairing shrug of his shoulders.
"There is no reliance on women! I don't know what has come to Idalia of late; she is not herself, and is oftener dead against us now than anything else. I have asked her to make play with Lilmarc; she might have him in her hands like wax in no time, but she will not; she is wayward, cold, haughty———"
"Perhaps she has taken a lover you know nothing about," said Victor, with a smile in his eyes. He liked bis Mend and confederate as well perhaps as any one in the world, but he liked better still tormenting him.
The blood flushed Phaulcon's forehead.
"If I thought that——" Then he laughed the melodious laugh which was in harmony with the reckless poetic grace of the man's beauty. "Oh, no! She only sees through us, and has found out that our sublime statue of Liberty has very clay feet. Moitie marbre et moitie boue, as Voltaire said of the Encyclopedie."
"Why do you let her see the clay feet, then?"
"Why? Idalia is not a woman that you can blind. You have not seen her."
"Unhappily, no! I have heard men rave of her, as they never raved of anything, I think; and I know how madly they have lost their heads for her—to our advantage. Miladi's loveliness has done more for the cause than half our intrigues. She is now at Naples?"
"She was; to-night she is in Paris."
"Yes; I thought you knew it? In half an hour I am going back to take her to the Opera ball, Lilmarc is sure to be there, and she must beguile him out of his reticence and caution if she can; there is not a better place for enticing Tannhauser into the Venusberg than en domino in an opera box, while all the world is going mad below."
"D'avance, I am jealous both of Lilmarc and you!" cried Vane, with that easy worldly serenity to which such a normal and barbaric passion as jealousy seems wholly antagonistic and impossible. "At last I shall see her, then—your beautiful Vassalis! Shall I come with you?"
"No; better come up to the box when Lilmarc is not there. If he saw you with her he might take might and cry off; if you have an ivy spray at your button-hole she will understand and admit you, whether I be there or not. Here!" With the words he opened a small, long bonbon-box he took from his coat, and tossed Vane one of the little sprays of silver ivy that it held—the badge which all those who would be recognised by Idalia, Countess Vassalis, must wear on their dominoes that night.
"Thanks," said Victor, as he slipped it in his waistcoat-pocket. "I shall be there by one o'clock at latest. Idalia—this wonderful Idalia!—how often I have missed her, how often I have longed to see her; the fairest conspirator in Europe!"
The Bal de l'Opera was brilliant, crowded, dizzy, mad with the very insouciant and reckless gaiety of the Prince who invented it, as though the spirit of Philippe d'Orleans still presided over the revelries. Dominoes here, dominoes there; gold spangles, silver spangles, rose and white, blue and amber, violet and grey, scarlet and black, mock jewels flashing like suns and glancing like stars, "debardeurs" and "grands bebes," Pierrots and Scaramouches, white shoulders and black masks, fluttering rosettes and dainty signal-roses, were all pell-mell in glittering tumult and contagious riot; and Vane in a domino of imperial blue, with the silver ivy spray fastened on his shoulder, made his way through the crowd, not dancing, not heeding much the invitations, mockeries, and whispers of a score of charming masks, but looking incessantly upward at the boxes.
He did not see what he looked for; but he did see every now and then, till they had numbered more than a dozen, on an Ottoman, on a Knight of Malta, on a Pharaoh, on a Poissarde, on a black domino, on a scarlet, on a purple, on a violet, the little spray of ivy like his own, that had come out of Phaulcon's bonbon-box.
"Che, che, ch-e-e!" murmured Victor, with the southern expletive. "Miladi Idalia will have a large gathering. Is she as beautiful as they say?—one would think so, to judge by her power."
He got as much out of the press as he could, and moved on in silence, heeding nothing of the cancan d'enfer and chaine du diable dancing round him. He was not a man who cared for noisy dissipations; they had no sort of attraction for him; indeed, dissipation at all had not much, unless it were associated with the intricacies of intrigue. He cared for nothing that was not ruse; his own life was emphatically so; he had begun it with serious disadvantages: first of birth, which, though gentle on one side, was not distinguished; of fortunes which were very impoverished; of a world in which he had no place, and which had no want of him; of a temperament that was intensely ambitious, intensely dissatisfied, and intensely speculative. Despite all these drawbacks, by dint of tact and finesse, he had now, when he was but thirty, moved for many years in some of the best society of Europe; he lived expensively, though he was very poor; and he was deferred to, though no one could have said why they gave him such a preference. He had the spirit of the gambler, with the talent of the statesman, and he found the world one great gaming-table. He could not be a statesman in his own country; England will not accept as statesmen what she is pleased to term "adventurers," whereby she loses all men of genius, and gets only trained men of business: hence he had thrown himself, partly in pique, more in ambition, into the interests of a certain ultra political party abroad. Bred in Venetia, he hated Austria with a cold but very virulent hatred. Rash only in the height and unscrupulousness of his ambitious, he adopted politics—or, perhaps, to give them their true and naked name, conspiracies—as the scaling-ladder for his own advancement. If all the waters round him were lashed into a tempest, he knew so cautious and tried a swimmer as himself would have a fair chance to come uppermost while other men went down. He loved intrigue for mere intrigue's sake, and power for the simple pleasure of holding it. Serene, sunny, impassive, and even indifferent in bearing, and, indeed, in temperament, he could seize savagely, and hold pitilessly. In deceiving any one, Vane had no sort of scruple—it was only an artistic kind of exercise; but kill anybody, or provoke anybody, he would not think of doing—it was a barbaric, blundering style of warfare. He never went out of his way in wrath; but all the same, he never missed his way to revenge. He had a good deal of ice in his nature; but it was, perhaps, the most dangerous of ice—that which smiles in the sun, and breaks, to drop you into the grave. In the world of fashion, Victor was but a man of fashion—popular, very successful with women, an admirable tactician, and a guest who brought his own welcome everywhere by his easy social accomplishments, and his languid gentle temper, which had over and over again smoothed a quarrel, prevented an embarrassment, hushed a provocation unuttered, and arranged a misunderstanding before it grew to a rupture. In that world unseen, which revolves under the rose, be was very much more than this, and had a sway and a place of considerable influence in a society of politicians whose members are in all classes and orders, and whose network spreads more widely and finely beneath society than society dreams, stretching from Paris to Caucasus, and from the Quadrilateral to the Carpathians, in their restless scheming for the future, and their plans for the alteration of the map of Europe. It was not, however, of the French in Rome, the White Coats in Venice, the Muscovites in Warsaw, or the state of siege in Galicia, that he was thinking now, as he went through the wild, panting, crushed crowd of dancers at the French Opera; it was of something fairer, if equally dangerous—a woman.
"Is she there?" he asked a violet domino, who wore, like himself, the badge of silver ivy.
"No. Perhaps she will not come, after all!"
"Oh yes, she will."
"How do you know? Have you seen her?"
"No, I never saw her. But Conrad has been dining with me, and left me to go and fetch her."
The violet domino went on, without a word.
He's in love with her, too; he can't speak of her without a tremor in his voice; and by his voice he is nobody less than Prince Carlo himself," thought Vane, glancing back at his silver ivy, in apprehension lest it should be torn off or stolen in the press. "What can her power be? Ah, bah! What was that of the L'Enclos? Nobody knew, bat nobody resisted."
And he went on, humming to himself Scarron's quatrain:
"Elle avait au bout de ses manches,
Une paire de mains si blanchas:
Que je voudrais en verite,
En avoir ete soufflete!"
"Ah! there she is!"
The stifled exclamation fell on his ear, low spoken but impulsively passionate, as only a lover's entranced recognition is. He turned, and saw a mask in Venetian costume, to whose shoulder was also fastened the little badge of ivy,
"One of us! Who, I wonder? He, too, cannot speak of her without betraying himself," thought Victor, as he swung round quickly, and glanced over the boxes. In one of them he saw what he sought: with black laces and azure silks sweeping about her, caught here and there with sprays of silver ivy, a woman masked, who, leaning her arm on the front of the box, and her cheek upon her hand, gazed down into the tumult of colour and of movement that made up the ball below. Her face was unseen, but the lips, exquisite as the lips of a Greuze painting, had a certain proud weariness on them; and in the bright richness of her hair, in the elegance of her hand and arm, in the languor and grace of her attitude and her form, there were sufficient sureties of the beauty that would be seen if the black mask that veiled it were removed.
The Venetian domino looked at her long, then, with a stifled sigh, turned away.
"You have loved her?" whispered Vane.
The domino started, and glanced at the ivy branch on Victor's arm.
"To my cost," he said bitterly, as he plunged among the whiriing dancers, and was lost; in the spangled and riotous multitude.
His hearer smiled. A woman who owned a limitless power, and was unscrupulous, and without pity in its use, was, perhaps, the only woman he was capable of respecting. Cold as he was, and but little accessible to anything of passion, for which his blood ran too suavely and too tranquilly, he felt something of warm, eager curiosity sweep over him, and his pulse beat a shade quicker with a new expectation. He had long heard of this sorceress—he had never seen her; and he threaded his way with impatience through the Arlequins, Pierrots, masks, and costumes, till he reached the stairs, and mounted them lightly and rapidly towards the box, opened the door, and entered.
It was filled with dominoes, all decorated with the silver spray, and all bending towards her with eyes that told their admiration through their masks, and voices that murmured flatteries, homage, and wit—to an inattentive ear. She lifted her head, and turned slightly as the door unclosed; her eyes dwelt on him through her mask, noting the badge he wore. She bowed languidly.
And Victor Vane, all impassive diplomatist, all ruse man of the world though he was, felt a thrill run through him, and a hot breath seem to pass, sirocco-like, over his life, as he heard the nameless magic of that melodious lingering voice, and found himself, for the first time, in the presence of that Queen of the Silver Ivy, who was known as—Idalia.
Could Erceldoune have seen afar as Surrey saw his mistress, the magic glass would not have brought him such secure and happy peace as came with the vision of Geraldine. Late into the dawn as the night express plunged through the heart of France downward to where Marseilles lay beside the southern sea, through the cold clear night, the plains white with sheeted snow, the black and spectral woods, and the sleeping hamlets, with the pointed towers of chateaux and manoirs rising against the leaden clouds, behind him the City that Julian loved sparkled under a million lights; strangely altered since the days when Julian wrote in adoring phrase of the studious and tranquil retirement of his austere and beloved Lutetia. The bright tide of Parisian life was at its gayest in the first hours of the midwinter morning; and in one of its richest quarters an opera-supper was at the height of its wit and of its brilliancy. The guests had come from the Opera ball, the dominoes powdered with silver violets, gold bees, diamond clusters, and glittering stars, were tossed down on the couches with the Venetian masks; being no tinsel costumes of the Passage des Panoramas, hired for a night, but the silk and satin elegancies of a court costumier, for men who wore these trifles at the masked fetes of the Tuileries, in the Colonna palace in Carnival, and at the Veglione with noble masquers of Florence. The supper-room was a long and handsome chamber, hung with rose silk, flowered with silver, with crystal chandeliers flashing globes of light, and with a meal of the choicest extravagance on the table, about which half a dozen men and but one woman were gathered.
She—alone there at the head of her table, with her bouquet lying idly by her little army of deep claret-glasses, broad champagne goblets, and tiny spiral mousselines for liqueurs—was well worth a host of women less fair. Marie de Rohan,—when Buckingham and Holland and Lorraine, and all that glittered greatest at two Courts were at her feet, and even the Iron Cardinal, in the censure of his blackest enmity, could not wholly keep his eyes from being dazzled by the shine of the arch-intriguer's golden hair,—was not more beautiful than she. Many would have added, also, that the Duchesse de Chevreuse was not more dangerous.
That her form and her face were perfect, was not half nor a tithe of her resistless charm; it lay in still more than these, in every glance of her eyes, blue-black like the gazelle's, in every slight smile that crossed her proud lips, in all the sunlit lustre on her hair, in all the attitudes of her southern grace, in every movement, accent, and gesture of one who knew to its uttermost the spells of her power, and was used to have that power courted, flattered, and obeyed. Her loveliness was very great; but, great as it was, it was comparatively forgotten beside so much that was of still rarer fascination; the patrician ease, the silver wit, the languor and the laughter, the dignity and the nonchalance, the brilliance and the eloquence which turn by turn gave their changing sorcery to her. The innocence and fawn-like shyness of a young girl in her earnest spring may be charming in a pastoral, but in real life they are but awkward and tame beside the exquisite witchery, the polished insouciance, the careless disdain, the cultured fascination of a woman of the world. And these were hers in their utmost perfection; a woman of the world she was in the utmost meaning of the words, and all of victory, of power, and of beguilement that the world could give were added, to the beauty of Idalia, Countess Vassalis.
Men passing her in the open air gazed after her, and felt a sudden giddy worship for what they only saw one moment to lose the next; men who held themselves, by age or coldness, steeled to all the glamour of her sex, fell before her; a few low lingering words from her lips, a breath of fragrance from her laces, the disdain of her delicate scorn, the caress of her soft persuasion, the challenge of her haughty indifference, the sorcery of her sovereign smile—these at her will did with men as they would; intoxicated them, blinded them, wooed them, bound them, subdued their will, their honour, and their pride, fettered their senses, broke their peace, gave them heaven, gave them hell, won from them their closest secret, and drew them down into the darkest path. A power wide and fatal—power that she was said, and justly, to have used with little scruple. Who was she—what was she, this beautiful enchantress?
In one word she was—"Idalia."
Her supper-room, perfumed, mellowly lighted, the supper served without ostentation, yet in truth, as extravagantly as any Court banquet, with summer fruits though it was mid-winter, with wines Imperial palaces could not have eclipsed, with hookuh-tubes curled through the arms of the lounging chairs, and lazily floating, in their great bowls of rose-water, was sought with that eagerness for the entree which is only found when—for far different attractions—men seek either the salons of a Princess of the Ton or of an Empress of the Demi-Monde, the legitimate leader of the Aristocracies, or the yet more potent lawgiver, Anonyma. There was a cosmopolite gathering about her table; the Prince of Viana, a Neapolitan; the Count Phaulcon, a Greek; the Graf Ton Lilmarc, a Hungarian; the Marquis de Beltran and the Marechale d'Ivore, both of Paris; and one Englishman, Victor Vane. Here, at three o'clock in the morning, with the wine just flushing their thoughts with its warmth, and the scented smoke of the narghilis curling out in languid aerial clouds, they supped a la Regence with one of the fairest women of her time; and she—lying back, with her Titian-like draperies, floating out like the deep-hued plumage of some tropic bird, toying with her bouquet of rose japonicas, stooping her lips to the purple depths of her Rousillon or the light sparkles of her Moselle, giving her smile to one, her wit to another, letting the wine steal the caution from their speech and the fragrant vapour charm the secrets from their heart—knew that her beauty drew them down into its charm and chain, her creatures and her captives, and let the revelry flash on around her, brilliant as the aiglettes in the discarded dominoes; and, while they supped with her in the dawn of the Paris morning, weighed them each and all—at their worth.
Like the jewels that glistened above her fair forehead, they had no value in her eyes save this—what they were worth.
Yet, if ever there were on any face, there were in hers, a haughty power in the arch of the classic brows, a generous grace in the smile of the proud lips, a fearless dignity in the gaze of the long lustrous eyes: looking on her, he who should have had force to resist her beauty would have still said, "If this star have fallen from heaven, it is great still even in its fall."
The Lost Pleiad of fable may sink downwards through the darkness of an eternal night, and become one of the women of earth, earth-stained, earth debased; but the light of forgotten suns, the glory of forsaken worlds, will be upon her still. It might be so here.