- Full text of "Short Stories: A Magazine of Select Fiction"
- Character Sketches of Romance, Fiction and the Drama, Vol. 1 eBook
- Compare Another Film
As usual, she was dressed in black, with a crowd of rings on her lumpy fingers. It was obvious that the Baroness had been losing; her flabby face looked sullen; six five-franc pieces remained beside her, piled in a column. Presently Barrington caught her vague eyes. He bowed and smiled, and for a moment she glared at him intently.
Suddenly he saw her face brighten. Her hand shot out, seized a rake, and pushed two five-franc pieces on to number ten. And by some freak ten turned up. The Baroness's face grew beatific. She beamed across at Barrington. Is it not wonderful? I see you, I say to myself, Mr. Bon Ton—that is what I call you. Bon Ton becomes bon ten. I stake on ten and win. I like you. Barrington was amused, but her good humour seemed opportune. Moreover, he knew that she would abandon play for the night now that she had won.
Barrington constituted himself her cavalier, persuaded her into the restaurant, and fed her on sweet cakes and coffee. She was in excellent temper, like an old bear with a generous harvest of buns. They chatted, gossiped, removed to one of the lounges, and Barrington smoked cigarettes. He did not want to be too eager and obvious. You know that white car? He described the incident of the afternoon to her, facetiously, as though it were an immense joke and he was in a mood to be amusing. The Baroness listened like a placid cow. She did not betray any great interest. But really, Baroness, the Countess delighted me.
Full text of "Short Stories: A Magazine of Select Fiction"
I am going to follow up the adventure. A queer glint flashed momentarily into the old lady's eyes, and vanished just as swiftly. Her face remained expressionless; no one could have looked more stupid. Yes, I have seen her; she is handsome, but too thin, and I do not think she is married. You should never make love to unmarried women, my Barrington, it is too dangerous. It excites me. The thing is—to approach the lady. You see, I know nothing about her. She looked at him placidly, stupidly, with her heavy swollen eyes. No one would have imagined that a peculiarly cunning brain was on the alert behind that obese stolidity.
She was studying Barrington, summing him up, nor had he any idea that she had discovered that he might be useful. I believe she is from Borovia, that she is a widow. An old dragon, Madame Maclou, lives with her. She receives very few people, I am told. You are a young madman; you English are all mad.
Why not fly over her villa, fall into the grounds, and pretend yourself hurt? But it would be rather difficult in such a place to arrange how much one got hurt. I might present her with a corpse, and the affair would have no more interest for me. You will find a way, my friend; the English are both mad and persevering. I think I will go home. A full moon had risen, and far across the bay the pine-clad cape of St.
Pierre looked like the snout of some huge crocodile lying asleep upon the water. A motor-boat had rounded the headland of Monaco. It passed the Casino with its thousand lights, and held on eastwards towards St. The motor-boat had come from Nice. In the garden of the Villa Biron a woman was walking to and fro between hedges of Banksia roses. Palm trees and pines were outlined against the moon; a row of cypresses made a screen of ebony through which the moonlight poured upon a stretch of grass. The villa itself with its cream white walls looked like a great casket of ivory.
The Countess Glika seemed in a restless mood. She was wearing a coat of sables, and a scarf of some gauzy stuff about her hair. The moonlight was so strong that she could tell the time by the watch strapped to her wrist. She glanced at it repeatedly as though she were waiting for someone who was late. The night was very still, and the place where she was walking was not more than a hundred yards from the sea. There was hardly a ripple against the rocks where the stone pines almost overhung the water.
And suddenly a man appeared on the stretch of grass where the moonlight fell. He had come along a path through the pine woods, a path that led to the sea. For a moment he stood there in the moonlight, and then, moving to where the cypresses threw a deep shadow, he became lost in the gloom. The Countess walked down the path until she, too, was in the shadow of the cypresses.
A dim figure was waiting there, a figure that put its heels together and saluted. Monsieur has been unavoidably detained; he sends you passionate apologies. To-morrow or the day after he will drive over from Nice; he will dine with you. To-day it was not safe. But Anna Countess Glika returned to the house, walking slowly, with the air of one who had received grave news. It was she—the woman—who had faced real danger that day; he—the man—had disappointed her, made excuses.
Nor was it the first time that he had disappointed her. In bringing him into the world, Fate had intended him to take his place among the great ones of the earth, but Anna had doubted his greatness; sometimes she even doubted his courage. She entered the house, and, passing up a flight of marble stairs, crossed a broad gallery decorated in the style of Louis Quinze, and unlocked the door of a room with a key that she wore fastened to her waist by a gold curb.
The turn of a switch flooded the room with light. It was half boudoir, half library, a gem of a room, whose colour scheme was black, white, and old rose. The furniture was of ebony, inlaid with ivory; the walls white; the carpet, cushions, and hangings a soft rose. There were pink and white carnations everywhere, masses of them in black porcelain bowls and vases. Anna locked the door. A restlessness born of vague doubts was still upon her. She went to the ebony bureau, opened the flap, and pressed a spring that formed part of the ivory patterning of the inlay.
A shallow drawer shot forward. She took papers from it, a photograph, and a packet of letters. She sat down, glanced through the papers, read some of the letters, and then picked up the photo and studied it. It was the photo of a youngish man, round-headed, full-eyed, Germanic, with upturned, aggressive moustache, and an expression of forced arrogance. And yet, when analysed, especially by the subtle perceptions of a woman, the face was weak, for all its pride of caste. The mouth was sentimental and a little flabby, and those rather staring eyes: she had seen them fogged with fear.
And this was the man who loved her, who had sought her love in turn, passionately and with a kind of fury. This was the man upon whom she counted to lead her country towards an ideal that to her was sacred, inspired. She had not given herself to him, because she desired to keep the subtle chain of her fascination strong and unstrained. In her heart of hearts she knew that she did not love him, but when he would pledge himself, take that irrevocable step that should bind him to the great Slav country that she loved, then she had determined to sacrifice herself in turn, to offer up her womanhood on the altar of a great ideal.
Presently she sighed, and put the papers and the portrait back into the drawer. She was in a mood that mistrusted her own fate. She knew, too, what merciless and cunning influences were arrayed against her, all the secret and unprincipled diplomacy of a great state—treacherous, greedy, cruel. Had she possessed the gift of second sight, and been able to follow that boat westwards along the track of the moon, she would have had a further cause for doubt and unrest. For Captain Prague's launch did not repass the black headland of Monaco. It glided in nearer to the glitter of the casino, and, shooting into the harbour of Monaco, landed Prague at the western quay.
Prague told the men to wait. He went off with long strides along the quay, deigning to bend his military bearing into a civilian's slouch. He had turned up the collar of his overcoat, and pulled the brim of his hat down over his eyes. Prague made his way up the hill towards the casino, but its lure was not for him that night. The concierge was sitting reading a paper. The concierge watched him disappear up the stairs; he had seen this gentleman before, but he did not like him any the better for that. And one had to be careful at Monte Carlo. It was a strange place.
The Baroness's maid knew him as Herr Schmidt, and under that vague pseudonym he was admitted without demur. He found the old lady sitting by the radiator, and drinking cocoa and eating sweet cakes, in spite of the fact that she had dined and that Barrington had fed her a little more than an hour ago. Please open the door, my dear Schmidt. Ach—so that second room serves as a guard-room; no one can sneak in and listen while that door is open. Well, how is the Prince's heart?
Prague sat down opposite her. He had high cheek bones, and a big flaxen moustache, and his eyes were humorous and shrewd, and none too honest. I had presented a secret report.
And she—the Glika—told me she had been in danger. I shall have to get him severely lectured. We have no need of those clumsy methods. Besides, such an adventure might give her more sentimental influence over the Prince. She is clever and knows how to handle him. I had an idea to-night; an English fool gave it me.
He may prove of use, this Englishman, a young man who is for ever trying to get himself killed. The Glika has always been circumspect. If we can but get some mud to stick to her, monsieur will be disillusioned. They talked on for an hour before Prague bowed over the Baroness's fat hand, kissed it, and made his way back to the harbour. Jack Barrington scanned the papers next morning, but he could find nothing about the attack made on the Countess Glika's car on the Corniche road, but the fact did not surprise him.
The police did their best to prevent such affairs being noised abroad. The papers refrained from publishing accounts of them. Such unpleasant incidents did not advertise the French Riviera in a way that was desirable. No one had ever accused Jack Barrington of lack of enterprise. He had ordered his car to be outside the Hotel Glorieux at three o'clock. At a quarter-past three he was sounding his hooter outside the gates of the Villa Biron. The deaf lodge-keeper came rushing out. He appeared to have received very particular orders, for he unlocked the gates and flung them open without waiting to examine either the man or the car.
And Barrington was throwing away no opportunities. His machine went in with a rush, and he was out of sight round a corner of the winding drive before the lodge-keeper began to wonder whether he had made a mistake or not. Masses of palms, oranges, conifers, and eucalyptus trees sheltered the place; the mimosa was in bloom. There were camellias in pots ranged along below the wall of the terrace. He climbed out, and rang the bell. A manservant opened the door, a man with a discreet, stolid face and the look of a Russian.
He eyed Barrington intently. The man looked at the card, looked again at Barrington, and realised that he was English. For some reason or other the fact seemed to reassure him. Anna was in the blue saloon, a room that overlooked the garden, when the manservant brought her Barrington's card. She took the card from the salver, read it, and for a moment she hesitated.
It was a mere vague impulse that decided her, one of those seemingly wayward decisions that often prove of extraordinary significance. It was said that many women had been in love with Barrington, perhaps because he never appeared to care whether he was with women or with men.
He was always at full gallop on some adventure; danger fascinated him; he loved a horse, or a car, or an aeroplane, the charge of a rhino, the thrill of some ticklish situation faced and tackled. Some women had said that he had no heart, that he was a big schoolboy playing games. But the one particular woman had never come his way as yet, the woman who could play a big game, and stake her all on the chance of triumph. Countess Glika had her back turned as Dmitri showed him into the blue saloon.
He did not realise that she was watching him in a mirror with an interest that might have been flattering. I am always being told that I am an impudent beast. That car of yours has been haunting me for a long time. That study in black and white kept passing me, and you know, as a rule, the blinds were down. I confess that I loitered one day on the pavement when your car stopped outside a shop. I wanted to see who would emerge. I have no doubt that she is charming, but——". Your dear friend was an anti-climax; she did not live up to my idea of mystery.
I was convinced that I had not seen the real woman who owned the car. I confess to having chased your car, and I confess to having opened the door in order to discover who was inside, Madame Maclou—or——" He paused, half apologetically. I don't think so. Somehow, I always seem to have been too busy. I have come across good comrades——". Really—I am not a conceited fool; I did not come here to try and see you just to call it a joke. I am not that sort of beast. It is queer—but I had to come. She, too, had grown serious. She knew something of men, but she had never met one quite like him.
And she believed every word he said. All this is very unusual—but I, for one, have led an unusual life. I do not feel it my duty to call Madame Maclou. But he was very English in that he diverged at once from any discussion of his own adventures. He attacked again in his frank, easy way, and she was not affected by the knowledge that she was being attacked. He had a kind of steel-bright courage that appealed to her; he reminded her of one or two notable English sailors whom she had met.
A woman—as a woman—had nothing to fear from such a man. He was not the fool to hint that he would like to be told her reason. She had been extravagantly magnanimous already. That was his impression. I wish you knew some of my friends, Lady Bland and Grace Fortescue and their set. They are the very best that we can show. She laughed at his freshness, she who had seen so much of the sad and problematic side of the great world.
An extraordinary melancholy descended on her when Jack Barrington had gone. It was as though he had taken the freshness of life away with him, and the blue saloon felt oppressive and exotic. She had to rally herself and to drive herself out into the garden where the cypresses were being bent by a crisp north wind; the sea was an intense blue and ridged with foam. It was absurd, this sudden plunge into depression. What did it mean, what did it suggest? That she was growing old and a little cynical, yet sensitive enough to be saddened by the strenuous enthusiasm of youth.
Good heavens! Had he over-stimulated her vitality, and was this the reaction? She had to confess that he had come like this north wind, whipping a deeper blue into the sea, filling the world with a sense of swift movement and of adventure. She remembered that monsieur would be with her in less than an hour. The thought left her cold, even repelled her. And she would have to be charming to him, to play up to his greatness, to remind herself that this thick-set man with the dull blue eyes and the weak mouth might be a maker of history. The mere glamour of his birth and power had fallen from him.
She knew him, studied him as a man. Jack Barrington and the Prince passed each other on the road, Barrington at the wheel of his own car, royalty muffled up in furs and looking at life with sulky eyes. The inevitable Prague accompanied his master, spruce, well-fleshed, cunning. He was a traitor to this royal romance, while pretending to be the obsequious servant. Monsieur was in the sulks.
He made no attempt to conceal the fact, and it is easy, when one is a person of singular importance, to vent one's temper impartially upon friends and subordinates. They were alone together in the blue saloon, and her first glance at him had warned her that he was in one of his sullen moods. How often had she to combat them, to put out all her brilliance and charm him into laughter! It was a dead, boorish weight, this temper of his, and he had never helped her to lift it; and to-day she felt an inclination to rebel, to refuse the labour of persuading a royal boor to behave as his own gentlemen were expected to behave.
For once she gave him no help, and, like a spoilt child, he felt the lack of it. He had traded on her desire to please him, to win him over to her visualising of the future. He started up and began to stamp about the room, setting his heels down heavily, a trick of his when he was angry. You must have everything, you must not be thwarted!
And I run no danger, eh, dangling after you, I, one of the best watched men in Europe? Was there ever a woman who was reasonable? She said nothing, and her silence was a prick of the goad to a bull. His short, thick neck reddened, his eyes began to glare. It is like sitting at a table with flowers and silver and the plates ready, but no food and no wine.
I am not going on living on airs and graces and the cut of a gown and just a glimpse of your white skin. You have got to give me more than that, Anna. Do you hear me? You have got to give me more than that. You women are all bargains, you cannot love. And you do not consider what I am risking for your sake, and you ask me to smell the scent on your handkerchief, admire your dress and the curve of your foot. I'm a man, Anna; I want realities before I give——". He threw himself on his knees and tried to seize her, but she was on the alert, and, slipping aside, rose and left him with open arms before an empty chair.
He looked rather ridiculous, but a prince is not taught to suspect that his dignity can suffer. I have given to you what I have given to no other man—a promise. But I have a right to name my terms. Why should I give you the most precious thing a woman possesses, just as I would give you a glass of wine? How often have we spoken of this? You know that I shall keep my word. He got up, and some of the anger had died out of him. He was a weakling, even in his physical passions, ever ready to pity himself, to demand sympathy, and to accuse her of withholding it.
You tantalise me with your prudery. As though I have not made sacrifices for your sake! She had thrown a characteristic audacity into her attitude towards him; she had often succeeded in playing upon his vanity. I had given myself to no man. And you—well, my friend, your romances have been legion. For your sake I have been living the life of a nun, nor have I ever taken your money. That is rare in a woman, is it not? You must not count me among them, my friend. I demand more from you—I demand the utmost. I am a new sort of woman to you, Friedrich; you have not met my like before. I stand at your level, even above you.
I do not stoop, I do not surrender. I treat as one proud nation treats with another. She managed to charm the sulks out of him, but all his boorishness returned when he found that Madame Maclou and Prague were to dine with them. He waved Prague out of the room, and most royally and pettishly refused to sit down while old Maclou remained.
She was as good as her word, and his high and mightiness fumed for a while, shocked and astonished. He withstood the soup, but the next course conquered him. He joined them; the dinner was exquisite, and he had all the greed of the Teuton. Warmed by champagne, he began to feel himself a rather fine and magnanimous fellow. He told droll stories rather feebly; and Prague indulged in dutiful laughter. And knowing herself as she did, she sat and wondered after he had gone whether she could face the ultimate sacrifice that might be required of her.
John Barrington had driven back to the Hotel Glorieux in a strangely serious mood. He had succeeded beyond his hopes, but the affair had suddenly refused to be bounded by the mere spirit of adventure. An irresponsible curiosity had come back chastened and silenced. He was more than a little ashamed of it, and he found that he had said things that he had never thought of saying when he had started out for the Villa Biron.
He had never met such a woman before. In an hour she had become the mysterious and central figure round which all the varied and cosmopolitan life of the place revolved. Perhaps it dawned on him that he had fallen in love with her, that he had been half in love with the imagined woman hidden in that elusive white landaulette.
He had been hunting a shadow. The shadow had materialised, and he was a little in awe of his own discovery. But one thing he never suspected: that this visit of his to the Villa Biron would be of any interest to such a person as the Baroness Bromberg. Yet a rather shabby gentleman in an ulster and a battered hat left a note at the Baroness's flat. It was written in cipher, and the Baroness smiled when she read what the shabby man had written:. Barrington was popular; he had a genius for getting other people to do things for him, perhaps because he knew how to ask.
He did not demand too much; he was not aggressive; and he had an air that suggested a delightful and flattering belief in the altruism of his victims. She's charming, but I believe she's awfully lonely. If you'll call on her I'll drive you over. The Countess Glika was a mystery, rather a problematical person.
Perhaps that was why all these good ladies consented to call on her. They went to explore the personality of this mysterious Eve, and being women of the world, they came back fascinated, and yet a little alarmed. As Grace Fortescue put it: "Jack Barrington always plunges for big risks. She's no ordinary woman.
I'm rather worried. The mistral was blowing one morning when Barrington drove over to the Villa Biron. The pine woods were making a great clamour, and on the hills the olives looked sad and grey, but the sea was an intense and strenuous blue, with foam flecking it and flashing in the sunlight. Dmitri smiled at Barrington.
He was very wise was Dmitri; he trusted the Englishman, but he did not trust Captain Prague. The tops of the pines were swaying overhead, but below in the shelter of their dark boles it was peaceful and very still. Masses of white heather were in bloom. The green boughs made a fretwork through which one saw the blue of the sky. The path opened suddenly and surprisingly into a kind of glade in the thick of the pine woods. It was like a great green bowl, two hundred yards long and a hundred yards wide, fenced in by the trees. Purple Apennine anemones bloomed in the grass. The sky was a blue awning stretched from the tops of the pines.
Barrington caught sight of a long cane chair and a white sunshade. She was lying there in the sun, a book on her lap, her eyes closed. He paused with the sunlight in his eyes, and perhaps he drew his breath more deeply. Then he went forward, came close to her, but she did not stir. She opened her eyes with a start and sat up, the red cushion that had been under her head falling to the ground. I should never have guessed there was a piece of grassland in the middle of these woods. I have brought a letter from Lady Bland.
You must think me a strange, mysterious creature. I have been taught to trust no one, to look on everybody as a spy. He was frowning; he wanted her to move that sunshade, to give him a glimpse not only of her face, but of her inner life—the life that baffled him. It was the first time that he had used that name, and yet she could not accuse him of presumption. You might turn the world upside down, and I should believe you had some reason for it. You are unusual. You are like Dmitri; you do not ask selfish questions and insist on having them answered.
You are content to allow that other people may have to keep silence, that they can act honourably, without being talkative about it. Well, I will come to the ball. He was staring reflectively across the glade, with its smooth turf and its encircling wall of trees. Of course, it would be a little ticklish, but a high-powered machine would get out again all right. My Vampire would do it. You see, one would have to get off the ground quickly in order to clear the tree-tops. She watched his face, and its keenness and its virility delighted her. He was the man of action talking of what he knew.
Just enough. Have you ever been up? Don't forbid me; it's dangerous. I'm grateful. Now I must really be going. I have to lunch at Nice. This glade in the pine wood might be sheltered from the wind, but it was no secure refuge from Mother Bromberg's German spies. A fat man, ridiculous and yet effective, had advanced on his paunch, with a kind of swimming motion, through a mass of heather, and he had lain there all the while, within hearing of what these two had said. It seemed an absurd attitude for a mature member of a great nation, but Germany has always been ready to crawl anywhere on its belly, and to shiver in its shirt listening at keyholes, thorough even in the slime of its secret service.
And the Bromberg heard all about that meeting in the pine wood, the masked ball that was to be held at the Hotel Moscow, and the costumes of the two persons concerned. She was exultant, and bit her finger-nails more assiduously than usual. Prague was wired for. He came, and there was a great pow-wow.
That wretched Nietzsche never understood us; he thought us beasts. This affair must be handled sentimentally. You must look very sorrowful, my Schmidt, and—and very troubled. This must be Bavarian—soulful, moonlight and swan boats. He will ask you what is the matter; you will pretend to be surprised, you will appear embarrassed.
You will confess unwillingly that you have discovered something that concerns his heart and his honour. Prague went back to Nice, and in two days he had fallen into such a state of extreme melancholy that it forced itself upon monsieur's attention. It was the pander's abominable dullness that surprised and annoyed him. Prague did not laugh at his jokes, or tell those indecent and scandalous little tales of his.
Monsieur thought he had indigestion. Prague looked grieved, denied that he was ill in body, and hinted at soul sickness, spiritual qualms. He contrived to pique the Prince's curiosity, and in a little while Prague disburdened himself of his doubts and sorrows. Monsieur was not wholly unimpressed by Prague's sympathy, but the news threw him into a jealous rage. But I can provide you with a ticket. Barrington arrived early, shed a heavy coat, and stepped forth from the cloak-room as Icarus, winged with golden pinions, in a tunic of purple, his black mask fastened by a golden fillet.
And the part suited him; he had a lean and youthful symmetry that could show itself gracefully naked to the knee and shoulder. He walked like an athlete, and he was not self-conscious. He stood chatting to Grace Fortescue, who had come as Britannia, but though his tongue was busy his eyes and thoughts were elsewhere. The blanche rose among vegetables scatters a less powerful perfume than the red one; whilst in the mineral kingdom silver holds but the second place to gold, which imbibing the bright hues of its parent-sun, becomes the first and greatest of all metallic productions.
One may observe too, that yellow is the earliest colour to salute the rising year, the last to leave it: crocuses, primroses, and cowslips give the first earnest of resuscitating summer; while the lemon-coloured butterfly, whose name I have forgotten, ventures out, before any others of her kind can brave the parting breath of winter's last storms; stoutest to resist cold, and steadiest in her manner of flying.
The present season is yellow indeed, and nothing is to be seen now but sun-flowers and African marygolds around us; one bough besides, on every tree we pass— one bough at least is tinged with the golden hue; and if it does put one in mind of that presented to Proserpine, we may add the original line too, and say,. The sure-footed and docile mule, with which in England I was but little acquainted, here claims no small attention, from his superior size and beauty: the disagreeable noise they make so frequently, however, hinders one from wishing to ride them—it is not braying somehow, but worse; it is neighing out of tune.
I have put nothing down about eating since we arrived in Italy, where no wretched hut have I yet entered that does not afford soup, better than one often tastes in England even at magnificent tables. Game of all sorts—woodcocks in particular. Porporati, the so justly-famed engraver, produced upon his hospitable board, one of the pleasant days we passed with him, a couple so exceedingly large, that I hesitated, and looked again, to see whether they were really woodcocks, till the long bill convinced me.
The sheep here are all lean and dirty-looking, few in number too; but the better the soil the worse the mutton we know, and here is no land to throw away, where every inch turns to profit in the olive-yards, vines, or something of much higher value than letting out to feed sheep. The head-dress of the women in this drive through some of the northern states of Italy varied at every post; from the velvet cap, commonly a crimson one, worn by the girls in Savoia, to the Piedmontese plait round the bodkin at Turin, and the odd kind of white wrapper used in the exterior provinces of the Genoese dominions.
Uniformity of almost any sort gives a certain pleasure to the eye, and it seems an invariable rule in these countries that all the women of every district should dress just alike. It is the best way of making the men's task easy in judging which is handsomest; for taste so varies the human figure in France and England, that it is impossible to have an idea how many pretty faces and agreeable forms would lose and how many gain admirers in those nations, were a sudden edict to be published that all should dress exactly alike for a year.
Mean time, since we left Deffeins, no such delightful place by way of inn have we yet seen as here at Novi. My chief amusement at Alexandria was to look out upon the huddled marketplace, as a great dramatic writer of our day has called it; and who could help longing there for Zoffani's pencil to paint the lively scene?
- The Vale of Health;
- Wind Rider.
- GUSTAVS TRAVELS.
- Jorge from Argentina.
Passing the Po by moon-light near Casale exhibited an entertainment of a very different nature, not unmixed with ill-concealed fear indeed; though the contrivance of crossing it is not worse managed than a ferry at Kew or Richmond used to be before our bridges were built. Bridges over the rapid Po would, however, be truly ridiculous; when swelled by the mountain snows it tears down all before it in its fury, and inundates the country round.
The drive from Novi on to Genoa is so beautiful, so grand, so replete with imagery, that fancy itself can add little to its charms: yet, after every elegance and every ornament have been justly admired, from the cloud which veils the hill, to the wild shrubs which perfume the valley; from the precipices which alarm the imagination, to the tufts of wood which flatter and sooth it; the sea suddenly appearing at the end of the Bocchetta terminates our view, and takes from one even the hope of expressing our delight in words adequate to the things described.
Genoa la Superba stands proudly on the margin of a gulph crowded with ships, and resounding with voices, which never fail to animate a British hearer—the Tailor's shout, the mariner's call, swelled by successful commerce, or strengthened by newly-acquired fame. After a long journey by land, such scenes are peculiarly delightful; but description tangles, not communicates, the sensations imbibed upon the spot.
Character Sketches of Romance, Fiction and the Drama, Vol. 1 eBook
Here are so many things to describe! The Dorian palace is exceedingly fine; the Durazzo palace, for ought I know, is finer; and marble here seems like what one reads of silver in King Solomon's time, which, says the Scripture, " was nothing counted on in the days of Solomon " Casa Brignoli too is splendid and commodious; the terraces and gardens on the house-tops, and the fresco paintings outside, give one new ideas of human life; and exhibits a degree of luxury unthought-on in colder climates.
But here we live on green pease and figs the first day of November, while orange and lemon trees flaunt over the walls more common than pears in England. The Balbi mansion, filled with pictures, detained us from the churches filled with more. I have heard some of the Italians confess that Genoa even pretends to vie with Rome herself in ecclesiastical splendour. In devotion I should think she would be with difficulty outdone: the people drop down on their knees in the street, and crowd to the church doors while the benediction is pronouncing, with a zeal which one might hope would draw down stores of grace upon their heads.
Yet I hear from the inhabitants of other provinces, that they have a bad character among their neighbours, who love not the base Ligurian and accuse them of many immoralities. They tell one too of a disreputable saying here, how there are at Genoa men without honesty, women without modesty, a sea with no fish, and a wood with no birds. Birds, however, here certainly are by the million, and we have eaten fish since we came every day; but I am informed they are neither cheap nor plentiful, nor considered as excellent in their kinds.
Here is macaroni enough however! The streets of the town are much too narrow for beauty or convenience—impracticable to coaches, and so beset with beggars that it is dreadful. A chair is therefore, above all things, necessary to be carried in, even a dozen steps, if you are likely to feel shocked at having your knees suddenly clasped by a figure hardly human; who perhaps holding you forcibly for a minute, conjures you loudly, by the sacred wounds of our Lord Jesus Christ, to have compassion upon his ; shewing you at the same time such undeniable and horrid proofs of the anguish he is suffering, that one must be a monster to quit him unrelieved.
Such pathetic misery, such disgusting distress, did I never see before, as I have been witness to in this gaudy city—and that not occasionally or by accident, but all day long, and in such numbers that humanity shrinks from the description. Sure, charity is not the virtue that they pray for, when begging a blessing at the church-door.
One should not however speak unkindly of a people whose affectionate regard for our country shewed itself so clearly during the late war: a few days residence with the English consul here at his country seat gave me an opportunity of hearing many instances of the Republic's generous attachment to Great Britain, whose triumphs at Gibraltar over the united forces of France and Spain were honestly enjoyed by the friendly Genoese, who gave many proofs of their sincerity, more solid than those clamorous ones of huzzaing our minister about wherever he went, and crying Viva il General Eliott ; while many young gentlemen of high station offered themselves to go volunteers aboard our fleet, and were with difficulty restrained.
We have been shewed some beautiful villas belonging to the noblemen of this city, among which Lomellino's pleased me best; as the water there was so particularly beautiful, that he had generously left it at full liberty to roll unconducted, and murmur through his tasteful pleasure grounds, much in the manner of our lovely Leasowes; happily uniting with English simplicity, the glowing charms that result from an Italian sky. My eyes were so wearied with square edged basons of marble, and jets d'eaux, surrounded by water nymphs and dolphins, that I felt vast relief from Lomellino's garden, who, like me,.
Such felicity of situation I never saw till now, when one looks upon the painted front of this gay mansion, commanding from its fine balcony a rich and extensive view at once of the sea, the city, and the snow-topt mountains; while from the windows on the other side the house, one's eye sinks into groves of cedar, ilex, and orange trees, not apparently cultivated with incessant care, or placed in pots, artfully sunk under ground to conceal them from one's sight, but rising into height truly respectable.
The sea air, except in particular places where the land lies in some direction that counteracts its influence, is naturally inimical to timber; though the green coasts of Devonshire are finely fringed with wood; and here, at Lomellino's villa, in the Genoese state, I found two plane trees, of a size and serious dignity, that recalled to my mind the solemn oak before our duke of Dorset's seat at Knowle—and chesnuts, which would not disgrace the forests of America.
A family coming last night to visit at a house where I had the honour of being admitted as an intimate, gave me another proof of my present state of remoteness from English manners. The party consisted of an old nobleman, who could trace his genealogy unblemished up to one of the old Roman emperors, but whose fortune is now in a hopeless state of decay:—his lady, not inferior to himself in birth or haughtiness of air and carriage, but much impaired by age, ill health, and pecuniary distress; these had however no way lessened her ideas of her own dignity, or the respect of her cavalier servente and her son, who waited on her with an unremitted attention; presenting her their little dirty tin snuff-boxes upon one knee by turns; which ceremony the less surprised me, as having seen her train made of a dyed and watered lutestring, borne gravely after her up stairs by a footman, the express image of Edgar in the storm-scene of king Lear—who, as the fool says, " wisely reserv'd a blanket, else had we all been 'shamed.
Our conversation was meagre, but serious. There was music; and the door being left at jar, as we call it, I watched the wretched servant who staid in the antichamber, and found that he was listening in spight of sorrow and starving. With this slight sketch of national manners I finish my chapter, and proceed to the description of, or rather observations and reflections made during a winter's residence at. For we did not stay at Pavia to see any thing: it rained so, that no pleasure could have been obtained by the sight of a botanical garden; and as to the university, I have the promise of seeing it upon a future day, in company of some literary friends.
Truth to tell, our weather is suddenly become so wet, the roads so heavy with incessant rain, that king William's departure from his own foggy country, or his welcome to our gloomy one, where this month is melancholy even, to a proverb, could not have been clouded with a thicker atmosphere surely, than was mine to Milan upon the fourth day of dismal November, Italians, by what I can observe, suffer their minds to be much under the dominion of the sky; and attribute every change in their health, or even humour, as seriously to its influence, as if there were no nearer causes of alteration than the state of the air, and as if no doubt remained of its immediate power, though they are willing enough here to poison it with the scent of wood-ashes within doors, while fires in the grate seem to run rather low, and a brazier full of that pernicious stuff is substituted in its place, and driven under the table during dinner.
It is surprising how very elegant, not to say magnificent, those dinners are in gentlemen's or noblemen's houses; such numbers of dishes at once; not large joints, but infinite variety: and I think their cooking excellent. Fashion keeps most of the fine people out of town yet; we have therefore had leisure to establish our own household for the winter, and have done so as commodiously as if our habitation was fixed here for life.
This I am delighted with, as one may chance to gain that insight into every day behaviour, and common occurrences, which can alone be called knowing something of a country: counting churches, pictures, palaces, may be done by those who run from town to town, with no impression made but on their bones. I ought to learn that which before us lies in daily life, if proper use were made of my demi-naturalization; yet impediments to knowledge spring up round the very tree itself—for surely if there was much wrong, I would not tell it of those who seem inclined to find all right in me; nor can I think that a fame for minute observation, and skill to discern folly with a microscopic eye, is in any wise able to compensate for the corrosions of conscience, where such discoveries have been attained by breach of confidence, and treachery towards unguarded, because unsuspecting innocence of conduct.
We are always laughing at one another for running over none but the visible objects in every city, and for avoiding the conversation of the natives, except on general subjects of literature—returning home only to tell again what has already been told. By the candid inhabitants of Italian states, however, much honour is given to our British travellers, who, as they say, viaggiono con profitto [Travel for improvement] , and scarce ever fail to carry home with them from other nations, every thing which can benefit or adorn their own.
Candour, and a good humoured willingness to receive and reciprocate pleasure, seems indeed one of the standing virtues of Italy; I have as yet seen no fastidious contempt, or affected rejection of any thing for being what we call low ; and I have a notion there is much less of those distinctions at Milan than at London, where birth does so little for a man, that if he depends on that , and forbears other methods of distinguishing himself from his footman, he will stand a chance of being treated no better than him by the world.
Here a person's rank is ascertained, and his society settled, at his immediate entrance into life; a gentleman and lady will always be regarded as such, let what will be their behaviour. But my country-women would rather hear a little of our interieur , or, as we call it, fa mily management; which appears arranged in a manner totally new to me; who find the lady of every house as unacquainted with her own, and her husband's affairs, as I who apply to her for information.
The pay of these principal figures in the family, when at the highest rate, is fifteen pence English a day, out of which they find clothes and eating—for fifteen pence includes board-wages; and most of these fellows are married too, and have four or five children each. No odd sensation then, something like shame, such as we feel when too many dishes are taken empty from table, touches them at all; the common courses are eleven, and eleven small plates, and it is their sport and pleasure, if possible, to clear all away. A footman's wages is a shilling a day, like our common labourers, and paid him, as they are paid, every Saturday night.
His livery, mean time, changed at least twice a year , makes him as rich a man as the butler and valet—but when evening comes, it is the comicallest sight in the world to see them all go gravely home, and you may die in the night for want of help, though surrounded by showy attendants all day. Till the hour of departure, however, it is expected that two or three of them at least sit in the antichamber, as it is called, to answer the bell, which, if we confess the truth, is no light service or hardship; for the stairs, high and wide as those of Windsor palace, all stone too, run up from the door immediately to that apartment, which is very large, and very cold, with bricks to set their feet on only, and a brazier filled with warm wood ashes, to keep their fingers from freezing, which in summer they employ with cards, and seem but little inclined to lay them down when ladies pass through to the receiving room.
Of a thousand comical things in the same way, I will relate one:—Mr. Piozzi's valet was dressing my hair at Paris one morning, while some man sate at an opposite window of the same inn, singing and playing upon the violoncello: I had not observed the circumstance, but my perrucchiere's distress was evident; he writhed and twisted about like a man pinched with the cholic, and pulled a hundred queer faces: at last—What is the matter, Ercolani, said I, are you not well?
Compare Another Film
Mistress, replies the fellow, if that beast don't leave off soon, I shall run mad with rage, or else die; and so you'll see an honest Venetian lad killed by a French dog's howling. The phrase of mistress is here not confined to servants at all; gentlemen, when they address one, cry, mia padrona [My mistress] , mighty sweetly, and in a peculiarly pleasing tone.
Nothing, to speak truth, can exceed the agreeableness of a well-bred Italian's address when speaking to a lady, whom they alone know how to flatter, so as to retain her dignity, and not lose their own; respectful, yet tender; attentive, not officious; the politeness of a man of fashion here is true politeness, free from all affectation, and honestly expressive of what he really feels, a true value for the person spoken to, without the smallest desire of shining himself; equally removed from foppery on one side, or indifference on the other.
The manners of the men here are certainly pleasing to a very eminent degree, and in their conversation there is a mixture, not unfrequent too, of classical allusions, which strike one with a sort of literary pleasure I cannot easily describe. Yet is there no pedantry in their use of expressions, which with us would be laughable or liable to censure: but Roman notions here are not quite extinct; and even the house-maid, or donna di gros , as they call her, swears by Diana so comically, there is no telling.
They christen their boys Fabius , their daughters Claudia , very commonly. When they mention a thing known, as we say, to Tom o'Styles and John o'Nokes , they use the words, Tizio and Sempronio. A lady tells me, she was at a loss about the dance yesterday evening, because she had not been instructed in the programma ; and a gentleman, talking of the pleasures he enjoyed supping last night at a friend's house, exclaims, Eramo pur jeri sera in Appolline [G]! But here is enough of this—more of it, in their own pretty phrase, seccarebbe pur Nettunno [H].
It was long ago that Ausonius said of them more than I can say, and Mr. Addison has translated the lines in their praise better than I could have done. What I have said this moment will, however, account in some measure for a thing which he treats with infinite contempt, not unjustly perhaps; yet does it not deserve the ridicule handed down from his time by all who have touched the subject. All this does appear very absurdly superfluous to us ; but as I observed, they live nearer the original feats of paganism; many old customs are yet retained, and the names not lost among them, or laid up merely for literary purposes as in England.
They swear per Bacco perpetually in common discourse; and once I saw a gentleman in the heat of conversation blush at the recollection that he had said barba Fove , where he meant God Almighty. It is likewise unkind enough in Mr. Addison, perhaps unjust too, to speak with scorn of the libraries, or state of literature, at Milan.
The collection of books at Brera is prodigious, and has been lately much increased by the Pertusanian and Firmian libraries falling into it: a more magnificent repository for learning, a more comfortable situation for students, so complete and perfect a disposition of the books, will scarcely be found in any other city not professedly a university, I believe; and here are professors worthy of the highest literary stations, that do honour to learning herself. I will not indulge myself by naming any one, where all deserve the highest praise; and it is so difficult to restrain one's pen upon so favourite a subject, that I shall only name some rarities which particularly struck me, and avoid further temptations, where the sense of obligation, and the recollection of partial kindness, inspire an inclination to praises which appear tedious to those readers who could not enter into my feelings, and of course would scarcely excuse them.
Thirteen volumes of MS. Psalms, written with wonderful elegance and manual nicety, struck me as very curious: they were done by the Certosini monks lately eradicated, and with beautiful illuminations to almost every page. A Livy, printed here in , fresh and perfect; and a Pliny, of the Parma press, dated ; are extremely valuable. But the pleasure I received from observing that the learned librarian had not denied a place to Til lotson's works, was counteracted by finding Bolingbroke's philosophy upon the same shelf, and enjoying exactly the same reputation as to the truth of the doctrine contained in either; for both were English, and of course heretical.
But I must not live longer at Milan without mentioning the Duomo, first in all Europe of the Gothic race; whose solemn sadness and gloomy dignity make it a most magnificent cathedral; while the rich treasures it conceals below exceeded my belief or expectation. We came here just before the season of commemorating the virtues of the immortal Carlo Borromeo, to whose excellence all Italy bears testimony, and Milan most ; while the Lazaretto erected by him remains a standing monument of his piety, charity, and peculiar regard to this city, which he made his residence during the dreadful plague that so devasted it; tenderly giving to its helpless inhabitants the consolation of seeing their priest, provider, and protector, all united under one incomparable character, who fearless of death remained among them, and com forted their sorrows with his constant presence.
It would be endless to enumerate the schools, hospitals, infirmaries, erected by this surprising man. The peculiar excellence of his lazaretto, however, depends on each habitation being nicely separated from every other, so as to keep infection aloof; while uniformity of architecture is still preserved, being built in a regular quadrangle, with a chapel in the middle, and a fresh stream flowing round, so as to benefit every particular house, and keep out all necessity of connection between the sick.
I am become better acquainted with these matters, as this is the precise time when the immortal Carlo Borromeo's actions are rehearsed, and his praises celebrated, by people appointed in every church to preach his example and record his excellence. The chanting tone in which he spoke displeased me, however, who can be at last no competent judge of eloquence in any language but my own.
There is a national rhetoric in every country, dependant on national manners; and those gesticulations of body, or depressions of voice, which produce pity and commiseration in one place, may, without censure of the orator or of his hearers, excite contempt and oscitancy in another. The sentiments of the preacher I heard were just and vigorous; and if that suffices not to content a foreign ear, woe be to me, who now live among those to whom I am myself a foreigner; and who at best can but be expected to forgive, for the sake of the things said, that accent and manner with which I am obliged to express them.
By the indulgence of private friendship, I have now enjoyed the uncommon amusement of seeing a theatrical exhibition performed by friars in a convent for their own diversion, and that of some select friends. The monks of St. Victor had, it seems, obtained permission, this carnival, to represent a little odd sort of play, written by one of their community chiefly in the Milanese dialect, though the upper characters spoke Tuscan.
The subject of this drama was taken, naturally enough, from some events, real or fictitious, which were supposed to have happened in, the environs of Milan, about a hundred years ago, when the Torriani and Visconti families disputed for superiority. Its construction was compounded of comic and distressful scenes, of which the last gave me most delight; and much was I amazed, indeed, to feel my cheeks wet with tears at a friar's play, founded on ideas of parental tenderness.
The comic part, however, was intolerably gross; the jokes coarse, and incapable of diverting any but babies, or men who, by a kind of intellectual privation, contrive to perpetuate babyhood, in the vain hope of preferring innocence: nor could I shelter myself by saying how little I understood of the dialect it was written in, as the action was nothing less than equivocal; and in the burletta which was tacked to it by way of farce, I saw the soprano fingers who played the women's parts, and who see more of the world than these friars, blush for shame, two or three times, while the company, most of them grave ecclesiastics, applauded with rapturous delight.
The wearisome length of the whole would, however, have surfeited me, had the amusement been more eligible; but these dear monks do not get a holiday often, I trust; so in the manner of school-boys, or rather school-girls in England for our boys are soon above such stuff , they were never tired of this dull buffoonery, and kept us listening to it till one o'clock in the morning.
Victor brought it back to my remembrance. The brothers who remained unemployed, and clear from stage occupations, formed the orchestra; those that were left then without any immediate business upon their hands, chatted gaily with the company, producing plenty of refreshments; and I was really very angry with myself for feeling so cynically disposed, when every thing possible was done to please me.
Can one help however sighing, to think that the monastic life, so capable of being used for the noblest purposes, and originally suggested by the purest motives, should, from the vast diversity of orders, the increase of wealth and general corruption of mankind, degenerate into a state either of mental apathy, as among the sequestered monks, or of vicious luxury, as among the more free and open societies?
Yet must one still behold both with regret and indignation, that rage for innovation which delights to throw down places once the retreats of Piety and Learning—Piety, who fought in vain to wall and fortify herself against those seductions which since have sapped the venerable fabric that they feared to batter; and Learning, who first opened the eyes of men, that now ungratefully begin to turn them only on the defeats of their benefactress.
The Christmas functions here were showy, and I thought well-contrived; the public ones are what I speak of: but I was present lately at a private merrymaking, where all distinctions seemed pleasingly thrown down by a spirit of innocent gaiety. The Marquis's daughter mingled in country-dances with the apothecary's prentice, while her truly noble parents looked on with generous pleasure, and encouraged the mirth of the moment. Priests, ladies, gentlemen of the very first quality, romped with the girls of the house in high good-humour, and tripped it away without the incumbrance of petty pride, or the mean vanity of giving what they expressively call foggezzione , to those who were proud of their company and protection.
A new-married wench, whose little fortune of a hundred crowns had been given her by the subscription of many in the room, seemed as free with them all, as the most equal distribution of birth or riches could have made her: she laughed aloud, and rattled in the ears of the gentlemen; replied with sarcastic coarseness when they joked her, and apparently delighted to promote such conversation as they would not otherwise have tried at.
The ladies shouted for joy, encouraged the girl with less delicacy than desire of merriment, and promoted a general banishment of decorum; though I do believe with full as much or more purity of intention, than may be often met with in a polished circle at Paris itself. Such society, however, can please a stranger only as it is odd and as it is new; when ceremony ceases, hilarity is left in a state too natural not to offend people accustomed to scenes of high civilization; and I suppose few of us could return, after twenty-five years old, to the coarse comforts of a roll and treacle.
Another style of amusement, very different from this last, called us out, two or three days ago, to hear the famous Passione de Metastasio sung in St. Celso's church. The building is spacious, the architecture elegant, and the ornaments rich. A custom too was on this occasion omitted, which I dislike exceedingly; that of deforming the beautiful edifices dedicated to God's service with damask hangings and gold lace on the capitals of all the pillars upon days of gala, so very perversely, that the effect of proportion is lost to the eye, while the church conveys no idea to the mind but of a tattered theatre; and when the frippery decorations fade, nothing can exclude the recollection of an old clothes shop.
Celso was however left clear from these disgraceful ornaments: there assembled together a numerous and brilliant, if not an attentive audience; and St. Peter's part in the oratorio was sung by a soprano voice, with no appearance of peculiar propriety to be sure; but a satirical nobleman near me said, that "Nothing could possibly be more happily imagined, as the mutilation of poor St.
Peter was continuing daily, and in full force;" alluding to the Emperor's rough reformations: and he does not certainly spare the coat any more than Jack in our Tale of a Tub, when he is rending away the embroidery. Here, however, the parallel must end; for Jack, though zealous, was never accused of burning the lace, if I remember right, and putting the gold in his pocket. Somebody in company insisted that I should open the book—I did so, at the omen in the twelfth book of the Iliad, and read these words:. It is now time to talk a little of the theatre; and surely a receptacle so capacious to contain four thousand people, a place of entrance so commodious to receive them, a show so princely, so very magnificent to entertain them, must be sought in vain out of Italy.
An immense sideboard at the first lobby, lighted and furnished with luxurious and elegant plenty, as many people send for suppers to their box, and entertain a knot of friends there with infinite convenience and splendour. Can one wonder at the contempt shewn by foreigners when they see English women of fashion squeezed into holes lined with dirty torn red paper, and the walls of it covered with a wretched crimson fluff? The church was pulled down and the playhouse erected.
The Arch-duke lost a son that year; and the pious folks cried, "A judgment! Meantime it is a beautiful theatre to be sure; the finest fabric raised in modern days, I do believe, for the purposes of entertainment; but we must not be partial. All Marienburg coins carry the city's seal a mermaid holding a bag of money in one hand and a sword in the other on the obverse and the value and year of minting on the reverse.
The gold coin is called a Guilder, representing Marienburg's control by its guilds, and is equal to the Imperial Crown. For clarity's sake, the Directorate ties it to the standard counting system in the Empire, though patri- otic moneychangers claim it's the other way around. As a cosmopolitan city, Marienburg is accustomed to see- ing money from many different lands.
Most merchants and shops will take coins at their face value whatever their origin, though they will weigh them carefully. Still, there are always travellers foolish enough to insist on having their coins offi- cially changed at a counting house or goldsmith's shop. Wastelanders speak Reikspiel with a rapid and staccato ac- cent that easily identifies them from their Imperial cousins. The vowels are stretched and the sentences rise and fall in an almost sing-song fashion. More expressive than the Imperi- als, the Wastelanders talk a lot with their hands, frequently making jabbing gestures for emphasis.
At the same time, they won't waste words like a loquacious Tilean or Bretonnian. Marienburgers are famous for coming right to the point - point by point by point - and pointing a lot as they do. Notwithstanding their devotion to the god Haendryk's di- vine precept of "Make money fast", Wastelanders are gifted with a wry wit and a keen ability to poke holes in the posturings of stuffy visitors. This appreciation of the absurd includes them- selves: Marienburg has a lively theatre, and the arts of satire and farce are appreciated even by their victims.
All this has led more than one Imperial to dismiss Wastelanders as "flippant smart-arses". To which a Marienburger will just smile - all the way to the counting house. War, fire, floods, rats and even the cult of Manaan have all done their best to obscure the truth. What have come down to the present are little more than tall tales told in tap-rooms and educated guesses by Old World scholars poring over crum- bling manuscripts.
As long as it's a profitable place to be, then how it came to be here is of little concern to its average inhabitant. Still, almost any street urchin will gladly sell a visitor a map to Marius's secret treasure hoard, or showing the vault where the cult of Manaan hid their altar-pieces during the Bretonnian occupa- tion. Y et despite this layer of fabrication, some accurate facts are known about the city's early history.
According to sagas set down in writing centuries later, be- tween the departure of the Dwarfs and the coming of Man, the fens around the islands of what would become Marienburg came to be infested with Fimir. Recovering from their devas- tation at the end of the wars with the Skaven, the Fimir were slowly warping the land in their own gruesome vision. Un- checked, they would soon complete its transformation into a demon-plagued hell in the middle of the Old World. At the same time, far away in the northern forests of the Old World, the Juton tribe was at the brink of destruction at the hands of the far larger and seemingly invincible Teutognens, a warlike tribe that dominated all the others in the days be- fore the coming of Sigmar.
Faced with the choice of slavery, starvation or suicidal battle, their paramount chief, the semi- mythical Marius, persuaded his people to instead flee the For- est of Shadows and head west with all they could carry, in a great exodus. However they got there and for whatever reason they left, it's agreed that the Jutones were in the Wasteland by the year I.
There, all the tales state, they engaged in a fierce war with the Fimir, with neither side giving quarter, each bent on genocide. Around I. Dobbe Arend's saga, the oldest known with fragments dating from the sixth century, says that Marius met the Fimir queen in sin- gle combat and killed her on Slagveldsrots 'Battlefield Rock' , the old name for the island on which the Staadtholder's pal- ace sits.
He laid claim to the marsh and all the lands between "the forests and the seas" and founded his city on the Elven ruins of Sith Rionnasc'namishathir, proclaiming himself King of Jutonsryk 'Realm of the Jutones'. He saw fit to name the city for himself, and built his tower on Rykseiland 'Realm's Isle' , these days called Rijkers' Isle. The next several centuries are shrouded in obscurity. A col- umn in the crypts of the cathedral of Manaan bears carved names and accomplishments, some of which are still read- able. Though styled 'kings', they can have been little better than chiefs in these days, ruling a crude fishing village amongst the ruins.
Euricius Mariuszoon and the twin-tailed comet of his reign are mentioned. Then Gijsbert Mannelykheid of the dozen sons in the third century I. One can still see the artificial hills of old motte-and-bailey forts, some main- tained as places of refuge to this day. Small towns and villages were founded on the Tumble Downs, of which Aarnau is the largest and oldest.
None survived any of the few attempts made to settle the Bitter Moors, Almshoven being the last to die. After the first few centuries, these attempts at colonisation were half-hearted at best, a bone thrown to disaffected factions or young nobles who "wanted land, not fish! The next time the city enters history with any certainty is in the Chronicles of the Venerable Ottokar, an early Grand Theogonist of the cult of Sigmar. The unknown scribe records Ottokar's blessings on the efforts of Emperor Sigismund II "the Conqueror" to extend the domains of "the unity of Di- vine Sigmar".
While the Chronicle concentrates on wars to the south and east, it makes brief mention of a campaign against the "barbarians of the Reik's mouth" in the spring and sum- mer of Mustering a great army, Sigismund is said to have swept aside the resistance of the Jutones and received the submis- sion of their King, Bram.
The chronicler praises the wisdom and generosity of the Emperor, for "he nyther razed their Cytadel nor reduced them to chattel, but rather loved them as Prodygal Children, making theyr Kynge a Baron and Vassal of the Em- pire, and naming the new province 'Weysterland'. And so he shewed His Love for all the Children of Sigmar.
The Manaanspoort Sea was Marienburg's gold mine - its seemingly inexhaustible supply of fish provided a large surplus that was salted and exported to the growing towns and cities of the interior, while the King of Jutonsryk and, later, the Barons of Westerland enjoyed a monopoly on the production and export of salt. In fact, the salt trade was so profitable that the earliest Imperial laws against smuggling were devoted to it.
The penalty for salt-smuggling was imprisonment for life in the dungeons of the Baron. But bright gold often draws greedy eyes. Across the Sea of Claws the Norscan jarls saw the gathering wealth to the south and decided that taking it all at once would be more profit- able than trading for it with amber and furs. It was in I. In the library of the Temple of Verena, an ancient diary records the fear the Norscan raids inspired: "Merciful Shallya," pleaded the unknown writer, "spare us the fury of the Norscans! Not that the Marienburgers took it quietly.
From studying captured longboats they learned how to built their own open- ocean craft and tried time and again to fight the attackers on their own ground. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they didn't. When they didn't, the Barons would agree to some onerous tribute, usually gold, in return for peace - at least until the next time the jarls wanted more. When it did work, treaties would be signed that provided for trade instead of tribute, the Marienburgers always seeking to bind the Norscans with luxury imports they could obtain more easily than by risking lives in a war.
All this bound Marienburg's inhabitants more closely to the sea. With their new-found confidence, they explored the coasts of the Old World, making contact and trading with the cities and towns of Bretonnia, Estalia and Tilea. They even crossed the Sea of Claws to sign treaties of commerce with the ports of Albion, and ventured far to the south to bring back silks and spices from the distant lands of Araby and Ind.
At first, trade was run by the noble families of the Waste- land, who were traditionally close to their people and not above working side-by-side with their villeins. But, along with Imperial fashion, Imperial attitudes took hold among the Wasteland's nobles, who began to sniff at commerce and leave it to the common folk. It was an unwise move. The new merchants took up the slack with such gusto that successful trading houses soon be- gan to rival the nobles in terms of wealth, even becoming the creditors of those that had fallen on hard times.
By the Age of the Three Emperors, the influence of the middle class and its entrepreneurs had grown to the point that they could demand and get seats on the Baron's advisory council, the Stadsraad, which had formerly been restricted to the clergy and the nobility. They pointed to their role in or- ganising popular resistance against the Bretonnian occupiers while the Baron and his nobles were trapped within Rijker's. At first, Baron Roelandius van Buik refused absolutely: 'Admit commoners to governance and you might as well give Chaos the keys to the Old World!
Not rel- ishing the thought of moving back to the draughty castle on Rijker's, nor of being stuck there again with his dispossessed noble chums, Baron van Buik relented in return for a renego- tiation of the loans. The real turning-point in Marienburg's history came in I. While not obviously hostile, its alien de- sign prompted Baron Matteus van Hoogmans to despatch four ships of his own to make contact and discover the newcom- er's intent. Within a day caution had turned to joy as the clip- per Lughsoll-Siaisullainn - 'Jewel-gleam of Sunlight on Wavefoam' - sailed into Marienburg harbour with the four carracks as escort, firing their cannons in salute.
The Sea Elves had returned to their ancient port. Having the chance of a lifetime fall into his lap like a ripe apple, Baron van Hoogmans immediately opened negotiations with the Sea Elf Wavemaster, Sullandiel Fartrader. A team of negotiators comprising the Baron himself, the chief priest of Haendryk and the heads of the great merchant houses worked for two hard weeks with the captain and officers of the Lughsoll. The result was the Treaty of Amity and Commerce: "- Be it known among all peoples for all time: that the Merchant Houses of Westerland are named the exclu- sive agents of the Elfs of Ulthuan for all goods of the New World brought to the Old.
Crisis came to Marienburg, as it did for the entire world, during the Incursion of Chaos in I. Almost as soon as the war was over, Emperor Magnus was besieged by claims to the province and its vast wealth. The ruling families of both Talabecland and Nordland had reasonable claims, but liter- ally hundreds of petitions flooded the Imperial Palace from noble families across the Empire who sought the office. Law- yers and genealogists worked overtime to produce connec- tions to the House of van der Maacht, no matter how tenu- ous. More disquieting were the reports from spies that sev- eral of the Empire's electoral provinces had begun to secretly gather armies.
Magnus saw the clanger: should any of the great noble families feel slighted, the resulting animosities could rekindle the civil wars he had so recently ended. It was late one spring night that Magnus received yet another deputation, not from an Imperial noble, but a committee representing the wealthiest merchants of Marienburg, bearing a proposal.
Their scheme was simple yet daring: rather than risk re- newed fighting by choosing one noble house over another, Magnus could refuse to appoint anyone and instead let Marienburg be governed by a directorate comprising the greatest of its Merchant Houses and temples. Business would go on as it always had - taxes would be collected, trade goods would flow into and out of the Empire, and Imperial peace and unity would be preserved.
The Emperor, according to legend, prayed hard for several days and nights. In the end, he agreed and declared the Barony ceased, renaming it the Province of Westerland and placing the merchants in charge. All seemed to be in order, and things ran so smoothly that subsequent Emperors came to take Marienburg for granted and largely forgot about it. Whether it was part of a grand plan on the part of Marienburg's plutocrats or simply a canny sense of the op- portunities that came their way, over the next century the Di- rectorate concentrated more and more power in their hands, loosening the ties that bound them to the Empire.
First, the Merchant Houses gained the right to arm and maintain large private militias, ostensibly to deal with the pirates of Reavers' Point. After the successful campaigns of , this right was made permanent and the Imperial garrison was withdrawn. Playing on that success, the Directorate offered to take over the maintenance and operations of the Imperial Second Fleet, which had been stationed in Marienburg for over a thousand years. The financially strapped Emperor Leopold was only too happy to agree, freeing the funds he needed to fight wars to the east and put down revolts at home.
Content to leave the defence of Westerland to its helpful burghers, Leopold swiftly disbanded the Second Fleet. Not surprisingly, its ships and sailors quickly found their way into the private forces of the Merchant Houses. Finally, the Directors appointed their own excise service in I. Every penny was neatly counted and tallied before it reached the Imperial Legation, while the Marienburg excise men proved themselves skilled at catching smugglers.
Some said at the time that the innocent people were framed when no real smugglers could be found, just to make things look good. A grateful government in Altdorf al- lowed the Imperial Excise Service in Marienburg to wither until it did little more than receive the Directorate's payments. The final break with the Empire came at the end of the reign of Emperor Dieter IV, last of the Unfahigers, who im- posed heavy taxes on beer and sausages to prosecute his in- vasion of the Border Princedoms.
In the chaos caused by re- volts against the taxes and Dieter's deposition in favour of Grand Prince Wilhelm of the Reikland, the Directorate seized the moment and had the Stadsraad declare Westerland's in- dependence. He sent three expeditions against Marienburg. All three were defeated, and the last resulted in the surrender of the Imperial Army at the so-called Battle of the Grootscher Marsh. This also revealed the ties between the Directorate and the Sea Elves, whose wizards were decisive in the final campaign. With threats on all sides, Wilhelm acceded to the inevitable and recognized the independence of what was now proudly calling itself the 'Wasteland'.
With the treaty of 20 Kaldezeit , Marienburg was free to chart its course in the world. Many tried to find an overland route through the mountains to Tilea, but Ores, bandits and bad weather make the risks too great. Riemanns convinced the grandees to finance two new ports along the Empire's bleak north coast and to pay for the build- ing of five trading ships for each. In return for letting Riemanns' newly chartered Societas Mercatoria Septentrionalis 'North- ern Mercantile Society' run the new ports, the rulers of each province would get a cut of the profits in taxes, and their mer- chants would get their goods to sea more quickly on ships bypassing Marienburg.
Visions of stealing the trade of the en- tire eastern Empire and Kislev danced in their heads. With musicians playing and priests laying blessings on the ships, their captains and crews set sail, full of confi- dence that the world's wealth was theirs for the taking. The dream lasted a year. Three ships never came back: one was rumoured to have struck out for the Great Southlands Gold Rush of The paved roads connecting the ports to Salzenmund, Wolfenburg and points beyond were never finished - without good roads and armed protection, few merchants were willing to risk trips through the forests when they could sell their goods to riverman bound for Marienburg.
Worst of all, Riemanns and his backers underestimated how far the Directorate would go to protect their business. Using their considerable personal fortunes, the Ten sold so low and bought so high that they lost money on every deal they made in the East for five years.
But their gambit worked: after a few years of declining traffic and almost no profits, the electors revoked the Soci- ety's charter. The ports were assigned minor nobles to gov- ern them and have since declined into obscure backwaters. Riemanns spent five years in a Salzenmund prison for incom- petence and, after his release, was never heard of again.
The sea wall, Vloedmuur, is built by the Dwarfs. Fortress is razed to the ground. Be- gins construction of Rijker's Isle fortress. Marienburg sacked for the first time. Cult of Manaan declares Olovald "not a god, a servant of Manaan". Cults are merged; history is rewritten to make Manaan the patron deity. Marienburg sacked and oc- cupied by army of Snorri Half-hand, who proclaims him- self Jarl of Vestland. Barons of Westerland hold out in Rijker's Isle. Westerland ignored by the rest of the Imperial Provinces. Defenceless Marienburg sacked for third time.
Five-year occupation ends when army un- der Grand Duke of Middenland approaches city. Occu- pation army severely harassed over five years by Marienburgers. Beginning of democratic gov- ernment in Marienburg. City sacked for the fourth and last time. Dark Ages spread as central authority collapses in the Empire for the next years. Marienburg signs treaty granting them exclusive trading rights with Sea Elves. Sea Elves return to a portion of Sith Rionnasc fortress. Paulus van der Maacht, last Baron of Westerland, dies in battle against Chaos.
An appointed Council drawn from the burghers of Marienburg is installed to govern the Im- perial province. Many Elves lynched before tempers are calmed. Battle of Grootscher Marsh deals decisive blow to Imperial designs. Vloedmuur de- fences are extended and the drainage system improved.
Dwarfen magic and engineering are used to control the flow of water through the various channels. Scores perish before the two sides agree to rescind the offending laws and limit strikes. Southlands Gold Rush begins. Marienburg Directorate denies bribing Elector-Counts.
We are neutral, but - Ob! Should her leaders overbalance one way or an- other, the whole act would collapse and she would be eaten alive by one or another of her powerful neighbours. So far, the Direc- torate has shown itself to be a master of the high wire. Marienburg lacks obvious sources of wealth: no gold or silver mines, no fertile farmlands, no sources of gems or timber. Fish alone do not make a great power, and in fact the city imports much of its food. What it does have, however, is position: Marienburg sits astride the only reliable access to the Old World's interior - the Reik and its tributaries.
Overland paths are too dangerous. The mountains have few good passes, and these, when not blocked by bad weather and landslides, are haunted by bandits, goblins and worse. And should these routes be open, there are still oner- ous taxes and levies. The risks are so high that it is cheaper to move a cargo of rare Estalian saffron from Magritta to Talabheim via Marienburg and the Reik than it is to go overland across Bretonnia and the Grey Mountains. Even for goods going to and coming from Kislev and the East, the river route through Marienburg is still the preferred one.
Erengrad is too distant for most, its harbour is choked with ice for nearly half the year, and the moods of the Sea of Claws make most captains happy to stop at the Reik's mouth. The occasional Chaos ship in the eastern seas is another incentive to stick to the rivers. The sporadic attempts by the rulers of Middenland, Nordland and Middenheim to compete with Marienburg by founding ports on the north coast have never met with any real success, and these towns languish almost unused and nearly forgotten. Marienburg has a choke-hold over the most important trade routes in the Old World, and that has made the city and its rulers very wealthy indeed.
The ten families that comprise most of the Directorate are not only rich through trade: in recent centuries they have become the bankers to the rest of the Old World. When the Tsar of Kislev, for example, wanted to raise an army to clear the goblinoids from the Belyevorota Pass, he had two choices: raise taxes or borrow the money.
Faced with the prospect of a peasant revolt, he instead floated a loan with the House of van de Kuypers large enough to pay for the entire campaign. The Directorate has never been shy about using the influence its wealth and position gives it. During the revolt against the Empire, it imposed a blockade on all traffic through the Reik's mouth.
Tremendous pressure from the Imperial middle classes and no- 22 bility to get trade moving again played a large part in Wilhelm Ill's decision to recognize Marienburg's independence. And the previous King of Bretonnia, Henri 'l'Unredi', found his ultima- tum to be toothless when, after he ordered the raising of an army to invade the Wasteland, he discovered that the Directorate had already hired all the available mercenaries.
Not that Marienburg relies solely on money to protect herself. Mercenaries, mostly from Tilea, Kislev and Norsca, supplement the city's watch and levies on the rare occasions that they have to take the field. The Great Houses have provided ships for the sup- pression of piracy and the protection of Marienburg's far-flung interests since the 24th century, manning them with well-trained marines who are, in truth, each family's private army.
Beyond that, the ships, marines and sailors of the Temple of Manaan and the Elf Quarter constitute an elite reserve for times of emergency. Outsiders may think the Marienburgers are soft from easy living, but behind the decadent face lie the teeth of sharks.
- Countess Glika and Other Stories!
- Warwick Deeping.
- Bad Case (The Clark County Series).
- C. The Statists.
- 12222 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - September Debuts.
- WILLIAM LE QUEUX.
But war costs money, and humiliating your opponents time and again makes them eager for revenge. Marienburg's govern- ment always prefers quiet diplomacy, making people see that the status quo is in their best interests. Combined with the occasional well-placed gift, this policy has been very effective.
Her rul- ers drool at the thought of controlling Marienburg's vast wealth, while the mere idea of gaining control over the Empire's trade is enough to make King Charles and his courtiers giddy with desire. Since the time of Guillaume Barbenoire over a thousand years ago, Bretonnian kings have claimed the Wasteland as their coun- try's "natural frontier". They danced for joy when Marienburg won its freedom, both for Emperor Wilhelm's humiliation and for the prospect of annexing the area later.
They're still waiting for the latter. In the meantime, the King spon- sors espionage and subversion in Marienburg both to bring her un- der Bretonnian influence and to foil Imperial attempts to regain control. Through 'Le Maitre de le Chambre Noire', the anonymous bureaucrat who heads King Charles's intelli- gence service, Bretonnia pays for "Our spies have subverted many of the Directors. It is only a matter of time before the city votes her submission to Our Royal Self and We control the Reik's mouth.
Then those fools in Altdorf shall bend the knee to us! But first, a game of croquet. Wild speculation among Marienburg gourmands has laid the recent murder of the popu- lar Halfling chef, Willy Greenbriar, at the feet of the Bretonnians, who may have thought he was an Imperial agent. He was found roasting in his own pan with an apple in his mouth and basted with raisin sauce. Raisin sauce is a favourite of King Charles. The ports of Bretonnia want to see Marienburg humbled too.
L'Anguille harbours an ancient rivalry verging on obsession: her royally appointed governors have long envied the favour shown to Marienburg by the Sea Elves - after all, was not the Great Tower built in their city? Though L'Anguillois merchants have tried to tell the governors that high tariffs drive ships to Marienburg, the Royal Position is that the Wastelanders have done it through bribes and other corruption. Rumour has it that L'Anguille's leaders are behind much of the piracy that afflicts Marienburg traffic.
On the other side of the guilder, the port of Brionne enjoys a brisk trade with Marienburg. True to its nickname of the 'Thieves' City', most of this trade is "under the counter" - smuggling of one sort or another. While publicly condemning Marienburg for un- fair trade practices, the Governor and leading merchants make handsome profits by laundering goods stolen from the ships of Marienburg's rivals by wrecking and piracy. It's an open secret in Brionne that some of Marienburg's merchant houses are active, if clandestine, sponsors of this practice.
There are even rumours that the Brionnese are go-betweens in the body-trade, their activi- ties hiding any evidence of the involvement of Marienburg's elite in the sale of sacrifices and slaves. Before each service the Grand Theogonist and his priests bow before the map and say a prayer that commits them to preserving the Empire's unity. And each time they say this prayer, they are reminded of their failure to keep their oath, for the map shows a province that no longer exists.
Westerland has become the Wasteland, the only province of the Empire to suc- cessfully break away and defy the Unity of Sigmar. The Imperial nobility acts as if Marienburg were still a part of the Empire. The Emperors have frequently claimed to be the pro- tectors of the Wasteland, though really they're only concerned that King Charles and his toadies do nothing more ambitious than upstage each other in tournaments.
The idea that the Oisillon "Treaty or not, Westerland is still an Imperial Province, albeit one in rebellion. While We could reclaim it at any time, We simply have more pressing matters at the moment. We advise Our Colleague of Bretonnia to forget his games of conquest and instead play croquet. The last time it happened, when an army under the Duc de L'Anguille seized Marienburg and occupied it, the resulting blockade throttled the Imperial economy and deepened the chaos of the Age of Three Emperors. Altdorf has made it clear that a Bretonnian invasion of the Wasteland would mean war with the Empire.
While Emperors have occasion- ally thought of reconquering the Wasteland, often at the urging of an aggressive Grand Theogonist, they've quickly put the idea aside as ridiculous. War would mean another blockade, and the mer- chant houses of Marienburg are often a source of loans for the Emperor when the electors refuse him more taxes. A failed at- tempt would only anger his creditors and weaken his position. Looked at rationally, the situation is not at all bad for the Em- pire.
The Directors are just as firm as Altdorf in keeping Bretonnia at bay, and are equally scrupulous in maintaining the free move- ment of trade along the Reik. Though taxes no longer flow to the Imperial coffers from Marienburg, excise revenues make up for the loss. Still, the Imperial intelligence services maintains several agents in Marienburg.
Their main mission is to foil the schemes of the Bretonnian 'Chambre Noire' and provide the Empire with in- formation about the Directorate's plans. Many of the Great Provinces of the Empire maintain their own relations with Marienburg, both commercial and diplomatic. The Elec- tors of Talabheim and Middenland have full consulates in Marienburg and almost all the others, at one time or another, have sought to raise money there.
Court gossips in several provincial capitals have clucked their tongues in pity over the foolishness of the Grand Prince of Ostland. It's rumoured that the recent large loan he obtained was secured with the deed to his cas- "It's plainer than that wart on your nose, Otto! The Wastelanders bribed someone at Court into banning Bretonnian brandy.
They can make far more by smuggling it in. Just like them to create a scarcity and then jack up the price. And all we can do is take it and smile politely. If the Wasteland is an acrobat on a tightrope, and if the Empire and Bretonnia are the jaws of death on either side, then the treaty with the High Elven Kingdom of Ulthuan is the balance pole that keeps her on the high wire. Few are willing to risk a war with the power of the Elves.
Not only must would-be conquerors worry about the Sea Elves and their marines and wizards, but what influence does Ulthuan have over the Wood Elves of the Loren and Laurelorn Forests? For years, this alliance has been the city's ace-in-the-hole, to be laid on the table in moments of crisis. When the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed in I. To the disgust of his nobles, King Pierre was satisfied merely to gather his army and make noises along the border. But no one outside the innermost circle of power in Marienburg knew about the secret protocols that bound the Elves to defend Marienburg against all attackers.
It became painfully clear, though, after the defeat of the Imperial Army of the Lower Reik when Count Zelt was forced to surrender his sword to a Sea Elf wizard before a combined force of Wastelander militia and Sea Elf Marines. Whatever their reasons, the High Elf Kingdom of Ulthuan has com- mitted itself to the defence of Marienburg. Marienburg gets solid benefits from its relationship with Ulthuan besides military protection.
The Treaty also secures her predomi- nant role in New World trade. As Old Worlders grew more confident sail- ing the deep ocean, they sent more and more ships to trade and raid the natives there. They also sent colonists, who would send goods back only on the ships of their own lands. While preaching free trade, the arrival of the Sea Elves gave Marienburg a golden opportunity to grab the most profitable busi- ness for themselves. The Elves have contacts in the New World that give them access to the most precious goods in quantities far higher than Old Worlders can find on their own, and these rari- ties can only be sold through Marienburg.
If a grandee of Bilbali wants the finest Lustrian sapphires for his lady's new necklace, then he has to send to the Wasteland for them. The relationship isn't at all one-sided. While Marienburg isn't required so far as anyone knows to give the Elves military aid, goods sent from Marienburg to the New World must travel on Sea Elf clippers. Given Marienburg's place as the commercial capital of the Old World and its near choke-hold over exports from the Empire and the East, Ulthuan has made a fabulous amount of money from the deal.
Their regular patrols of the sea lanes be- tween the two continents makes smuggling difficult, as does their habit of sinking all ships carrying contraband, seizing the goods, and then selling them through Marienburg. It also lets Ulthuan control all access to the New World. What they don't want the Old Worlders to find there is anyone's guess. There are political benefits for the High Elf Kingdom, too.
The re-establishment of Sith Rionnasc gives them a window onto the affairs of the Old World, letting them keep a close watch on devel- opments there. Though long separated from their kin in the Loren and Laurelorn forests, the High Elves, through the Sea Elf Exarch in Sith Rionnasc, have established themselves as patrons and pro- tectors of their continental cousins. When the Grand Duke of Middenland a few years ago began to gather troops to enforce his claim to the right to farm portions of Laurelorn, a quiet word from Sith Rionnasc was enough to put the matter to rest. Whether the Wood Elves appreciate this concern is another matter.
Rather than trying to dominate the trade on the Southern Sea itself, Marienburg lets Tilean ships and Tilean agents handle its goods, in the employ of the merchant houses. The Great Families of Marienburg and the ruling houses of the city states regularly exchange letters of credit to support their commercial activities.
True to its professed policy of neutrality, Marienburg shows no favouritism towards any of the Tilean realms, not even for its big- gest partners, Miragliano and Remas. The Directorate has, in fact, used its influence to moderate disputes between the cities to try 24 to prevent small clashes from becoming large wars.
A recent row over 'trade poaching' piracy between Remas and Luccini, for example, was recently soothed over by the 'carriage diplomacy' of Henryk von Kissingen, an expatriate Imperial who has put his considerable intellect at Marienburg's service. ESTALIA On the theory that 'the friend of my enemy had better be watched', the Estalian Kingdoms are cool towards Marienburg, irritated with the Wasteland for its closeness to their Tilean rivals and its near monopoly of the lucrative New World trade.
Bilbali in particular feels the pressure from its northern rival - its ships have often been victims of Brionnese piracy, and its rulers are certain that many of the stolen goods are destined for Marienburg.