Des Lewis - GESTALT REAL-TIME BOOK REVIEWS A FEARLESS FAITH IN FICTION — THE PASSION OF THE READING MOMENT CRYSTALLISED — Empirical literary critiques from 2008 as based on purchased books.
Continued from Part Three here: https://elizabethbowensite.wordpress.com/612-2/
TO BE CONTINUED IN TWO WEEKS
I think I must have been drunk or am generally confused whatever the cause — especially when I look back at the tail-end of where I left off on the previous page!
Ebenezer was of course never dead, and hopefully never will be as long as there are reading eyes to read!This is, as you know, the famous chapter where Mary whoremonger Mungummory tells him of bawdiness and her tale of maidenheads while poking fun at E’s own maidenhead!
I cannot spoil this plot more than I have already, so what if Ebenezer depends on a Lord Baltimore he has effectively never met to retain his Laureateship, amid complaints and recriminations against having been made to sleep in a corncrib all night as well as against Burlingame’s wiles and aliases and alliances, and his fling with E’s sister Anna, I impugn. Whatever the plot’s confusing ins and outs stemming from the channels of Barth’s imaginative wiles, I look forward to aubergines’ aliases, aka eggplants, that were the only real phenomenon that I remembered being in this book from fifty years ago! And they still have not turned up! Perhaps I imagined such eggplants all those years ago?Still, E does not imagine, I’m sure, the idyllic sight of his heritage house of Malden as he finally sees it upon approaching across water, not like Christ walking but on a sloop sailing!
Cross-referenced with the HOUSE of Leaves, perhaps significantly, here: https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/24625-2/#comment-15411
“To what evil state hath Malden sunk, to house such a circle of harpies!”
It seems apt, in view of the above cross-reference, that Ebenezer is now, at last, at this book’s HOUSE, humiliated at having been swindled out of it, afraid of his sister’s and father’s reactions when they find out, and suffering the indignity of being helped into the house, in his sorry state, by the erstwhile swine herdswoman. No congratulatory toast for him, I guess. And then potentially tricked into marriage to her, and the sudden arrival of another recurring HenryB-typical return into the action as such plot depths duly pan out… including E witnessing a card game that gives the reader pages of typical textual spaces and tricksinesses so characteristic of the arguably truant bookhouse elsewhere in Virginia! —
Not tobacco smoked, so far, but the druggy-angled bookhouse of a more modern age? Of a different Bonnyville?“…the fact is, at that very instant his chair rose from the floor, passed through the roof of Malden, and shot up into the opalescent sky. As for Maryland, it turned blue and flattened into an immense musical surface, which suavely slid northwestward under seagulls.”
31 & 32
An amazing co-vivid dream within Ebenezer as a premonition in 1960 of our times in 2021 — passages you MUST read about his surreal vision of the two mountains or Twin Peaks and the climbers there up.
“I shall make the piece a fiction! […] All my trials I’ll reconceive to suit the plot…”
Followed by E’s urge to pursue his Laureateship as ‘fiction’, thus solipstically for Barth presaging this very novel itself (“the sot-weed factor allegory” as these chapters have it) (!) on the road to also presaging the truant HOUSE of tobacco LEAVES, I seriously propound.All the while still carrying such maddeningly complicated plots of these bookhouses as the PAlimpseST of alternate FUTUREs. Leaving Malden, at the end of these chapters, by journeying to or is it from Cooke’s own Point, with the faces of HB, Anna and Joan Toast explicitly merging in the text as one face…?
PART III: MALDEN EARNED
1 & 2BEWARE SPOILERS
After dealings with that now wharf-rat called Spurdance, E meets another alias of HB! Who chats to E about his twin sister Anna being in Maryland and about her hankerings (not for himself, HB) but about her lust for her twin brother E!Much said, say, about Adam and Eve and Milton’s Satan and the earlier dream of Twin Peaks or Mountains as Anna’s breasts and much else on this topic that I can only convey as the greatest of all surprising literature by quoting it the whole of the second of these two chapters, painstakingly retyped below in the alternate world where I live, and now rescrabbled as follows under the double line (complete with E’s interpolatory ejaculations) … and I now understand why I showed this earlier:
“…your mother’s silver ring, that Anna gave you in the posthouse: did youknow she was wont to read the letters ANNE B as ANN and EB conjoined?Can a poet be blind to the meaning of that gift and of the manner of itsgiving?”
A LAYMAN’S PANDECT OF GEMINOLOGYCOMPENDED BY HENRY BURLINGAME, COSMOPHILIST
Ebenezer’s mouth opened; his features contorted wondrously.
“Dear Heav’nly Father, Henry! What have you said?”
Burlingame turned his fist in his palm and frowned at the deck as hespoke. “Your sister is a driven and fragmented spirit, friend; the one halfof her soul yearns but to fuse itself with yours, whilst the other half recoilsat the thought. Tis neither love nor lust she feels for you, but a primeand massy urge to coalescence, which is deserving less of censure thanof awe. As Aristophanes maintained that male and female are displacedmoieties of an ancient whole, and wooing but their vain attempt atunion, so Anna, I long since concluded, repines willy-nilly for the darkidentity that twins share in the womb, and for the well-nigh fetal closenessof their childhood.”
“I shudder at the thought!” Ebenezer whispered.
“As well doth Anna so much so, that her fancy entertains it only indisguise yet no other thought than this impelled her to me in the summer-house! Twas quite in the middle of a fine May night; the night of yoursixteenth birthday, and though the time f or’t was some days past, a showerof meteors was flashing from Aquarius. I had lingered late outside to watchthese falling stars and plot their courses on a map of my own devising; soengrossed was I in the work that when Anna came up behind ”
“No more!” cried Ebenezer. “You took her maidenhead, God curse you,and there’s an end on’t!”
“Quite otherwise,” Burlingame replied. “We spent some hours discussingyou, that were asleep in your chamber. Anna likened you to Phosphor, themorning star, and herself to Hesper, the mortal star of evening, and whenI told her those twin stars were one and the same, and not a star at all butthe planet Venus, the several portents of this fact near made her swoon!The sap was risen in her, any man could see. We tarried long in the summer-house that night, and long on many a balmy night thereafter; yet always,I will swear’t, I pleased her in no wise save as your proxy.”
“I’God, and you think this argues to your credit?”
Burlingame smiled. “There are two facts you’ve yet to swallow, Eben.The first is that I love no part of the world, as you might have guessed, butthe entire parti-colored whole, with all her poles and contradictories. Coodeand Baltimore alike I am enamored of, whatever the twain might stand for;and you know already what various ground hath held my seed. For this samereason ‘twas never you I loved, nor yet your sister Anna, but the twain in-separably, and could lust for neither alone. Whence issues the second fact,which is, that de’il the times her blood waxed warm the while she spoke ofyou, and de’il the times I kissed her as the symbol for you both, and playedthe sad games of her invention, yet your sister is a virgin still for aughtof me!”
He laughed at Ebenezer’s shock and disbelief. “Aye, now, that wantssome chewing, doth it not? Think with what relish, as a child, she wouldplay Helen to your Paris, but ever call you Pollux by mistake! Recall thatday in Thames Street when you chided her for lack of suitors and as atease proposed me for the post ”
Ebenezer clutched his throat. “Marry!”
“Her reply,” Burlingame went on, “was that the search for beaux wasfruitless, inasmuch as the man she loved most had the bad judgment to beher twin! And reflect, in the light of what I’ve told you, on this matter ofyour mother’s silver ring, that Anna gave you in the posthouse: did youknow she was wont to read the letters ANNE B as ANN and EB conjoined?Can a poet be blind to the meaning of that gift and of the manner of itsgiving?”
“To contemplate it is to risk the loss of my supper/’ Ebenezer groaned,
“Yet I must own there is some sense in all you say ” His face hardened.
“Save that she’s still a maid! That’s too much!”
His friend shrugged. “Believe’t or no. Well find her anon, I pray, andyou may get a physician’s word for’t if you please.”
“But what you bragged of in the Cambridge tavern!”
“Many shuffle the cards that do not play. I could as easily have had atyou in Bill Mitchell’s barn, but the truth is, as I said before, ’tis not theone nor the other I crave, but the twain as one. Haply the day willcome when poor dear Anna’s secret lust will get the better of her reasonand your own likewise (which, deny’t as you may, is plain to me!) : if sucha day dawn, why then perchance I’ll come upon you sack a sack as didCatullus on the lovers, and like that nimble poet pin you to your work-nay, skewer you both like twin squabs on a spit!”
The poet shuddered. “This is too much to assimilate, Henry: Coode ahero; my father in Maryland searching for Anna and leagued with the villainBaltimore; Anna herself yet virginal; and you, after all that hath transpiredyou wholly innocent and still my friend! And marry come up, you makematters no simpler when you declare my sister’s lust to be reciprocal! Sucha prurient notion hath never crossed my mind!”
Burlingame raised his eyebrows. “Then you quite deceived your servantsat St. Giles. Mrs. Twigg was wont to tell me ”
“She was a foul-fancied harridan!”
“Why, they even had a rhyme, the which ”
“I know their scurrilous rhyme, whatever it be,” Ebenezer said impa-tiently. “I have heard a dozen such, since I was small. Nor is your wickedimputation foreign to me, if you must know, albeit I’m not a little shockedto hear you share it. Poor Anna and I since birth have breathed in an air ofinnuendo, the which hath oft and oft caused us to blush and lower oureyes. Since I was ten our father’s household hath assumed the worst of us,for no other reason than that we were twins. Twas Anna’s ill luck herbody blossomed at an early age, and e’en her fondest girl friendse’en that same Meg Bromly who took your letters to her from ThamesStreet they all declared her ripening was my work and drove Anna to tearswith their whispering! All this, mind, on no grounds whate’er save ourtwinship, and the fact that unlike many brothers and sisters we never quar-reled, but preferred each other’s company to the concupiscent world’s! Icannot grasp it.”
“Then for all thy Cambridge learning,” Burlingame laughed, “thou’rtnot by half the scholar your sister is! When first I guessed her trouble, longere she saw’t herself, we launched a long and secret enquiry into the subjectof twins their place in legend, religion, -and the world. Twas my intent bythis investigation not so much to cure Anna’s itch which I was not at allpersuaded was an ailment as ’twas to understand it, to see it in’s perspectivein the tawdry history of the species, if we might, and so contrive the mostenlightened way to deal with it. I need not say my interest was as heartfeltas her own; her oft-sworn love for me, I could see clearly, was love for you,diverted and transmogrified by virtuous conscience. When she would runto me in the summer-house, ’twas as a jilted maiden runs to a convent andbecomes the bride of Christ, and I sorely feared, if her case were not soonphysicked, ‘twould bereave her altogether of her reason or else drive her tosome surrogate not so tender of her honor as was I.”
“For this reason I led her on,” Burlingame continued. “I declared mylove for her half in truth, you understand and together we explored themisty land of legends, both Christian and pagan; the stories brought backby mariners from far exotic places; and the literatures of classic and vulgartongues. Four years we studiedfrom your fourteenth to your eighteenthyear and all in secret. On the face oft our enquiry was beyond reproach,and I yearned for you to join us, but Anna would have none oft, thoughshe herself could not say why. i’faith, Eben, what a tireless scholar is yoursister!” He shook his head in reminiscent awe. “I could not find her volumesenough of voyage and travels, or heathen rites and practices: she wouldfall on ’em like a lioness on her prey, devour ’em in great bites, and thirstfor more! I’d wager my life on’t, at seventeen years she was the world’sforemost authority on the subject of twins, and is today.”
“And I knew naught oft?” Ebenezer shook his head and laugheduncomprehendingly. “But what was the fruit of all this secret labor? Whatis there to know of us twins, save that we were conceived in a singleswiving?”
“Why, that Gemini is your sign and springtime your season,” Burlingamereplied.
“It wants no scholarship to hit on that. Tis common knowledge.”
“As is the fact that springtime and Maytime in particular is the seasonof fertility and the year’s first thunderstorms.”
“Don’t teasel” the poet said irritably. “This day and night have beenmy life’s most miserable, and I am near dead from shock and want of sleep,to say naught of misery. If all your study ploughed up no lore save this,have done with’t and let us rest. ‘Tis all impertinence.”
“On the contrary,” Burlingame declared. “So pertinent are our findings,,methinks you’d as well give o’er the search for Anna unless you hear ’em:’tis better to be lost than saved by the wrong Messiah.” His manner andtone grew serious. “You know that spring is the season of storms and fer-tility, but do you know, as doth your sister, that of all the things our rusticforebears feared, the three that most alarmed them were thunder, lightning,,and twins? Did you know thou’rt worshipped the whole world over, whetherby murther or by godhood, if not both? Through the reverence of the mostbenighted salvage runs this double thread of storms and fornication, andthe most enlightened sages have seen in you the embodiment of dualism,polarity, and compensation. Thou’rt the Heavenly Twins, the Sons ofThunder, the Dioscuri, the Boanerges; thou’rt the twin principles of maleand female, mortal and divine, good and evil, light and darkness. Your treeis the sacred oak, the thunder-tree; your flower is the twin-leaved mistletoe,seat of the oak tree’s life, whose twin white berries betoken the celestialsemen and are thus employed to rejuvenate the old, fructify the barren,and turn the shy maid’s fancies to lusty thoughts of love. Your bird is thered cock Chanticleer, singer of light and love. Your emblems are legion:twin circles represent you, whether suggested by the sun and moon, thewheels of the solar chariot, the two eggs laid by Leda, the nipples ofSolomon’s bride, the spectacles of Love and Knowledge, the testicles ofmaleness, or the staring eyes of God. Twin acorns represent you, both be-cause they are the thunder-tree’s seed and because their two parts fit likemale and female. Twin mountain peaks represent you, the breasts ofMother Nature; the Maypole and its ring are danced round in yourhonor. Your sacred letters are A, C, H, I, M, O, P, S, W, X, and Z ”
“I’Christ!” Ebenezer broke in. “Tis half the alphabet!”
“Each hath its separate import,” Burlingame explained, “yet all havecommon kinship with swiving, storms, and the double face of Nature. YourA, for example, is the prime and mightiest letter of the lot a god in itself,and worshipped by heathen the great world round. It represents the forkedcrotch of man, the source of seed, and also, by’s peak and by’s cross-line,the union of twain into one, that I’ll speak of anon. When you set two A’scheek by jowl you see the holy nippled paps of Mother Earth, as well asthe sign of the holy Asvins, the twin charioteers of Eastern lore. Your Cbetokens the crescent moon, that in turn is held to resemble man’s carnalsword, unsheathed and rising to the fray; two C’s entwined are the union ofHeaven and Earth, or Christ and his earthly church ”
“In Heaven’s name, Henry, what are these riddles thou’rt flooding mewith?”
“Anon, anon,” Burlingame said. “Your H portrays the same happy unionof two into one: ’tis the zodiac sign for Gemini; the bridge ‘twixt the twinpillars of light and dark, love and learning, or what have you; ’tis also theeighth letter, and inasmuch as 8 is the mystic mark of redemption (byvirtue of its copulating circles), ’tis no surprise that H is the emblem ofatonement the making of two into one.”
“Again this mystery of twos and ones!” the poet protested.
” ‘Tis no mystery when you know about I and O,” said Burlingame. “Inevery land and time folk have maintained that what we see as two are thefallen halves of some ancient onethat night and day, Heaven and Earth,or man and woman were long since severed by their sinful natures, andthat not till Kingdom Come will the fallen twain be a blessed one. Tisthis lies ‘neath the tale of Eve and Adam, and Plato’s fable, and the fall ofLucifer, and Heav’n knows how many other lovely lies; ’tis this the LordHimself refers to, in the second epistle of Pope Clement: He declares HisKingdom shall come When the two shell be one, and the outside as theinside, and the male with the female. Thus all men reverence the act offornication as portraying the fruitful union of opposites: the HeavenlyTwins embraced; the Two as One!”
“Your I and O are plainly then discovered,” Burlingame said with asmile: “the one is male, the other female; together they are the great godlo of Egypt, the ring on the maidens* merry Maypole, the acorn in its cup,the circumcised prepuce of the Jew, the genital letters P and Q and thesilver seal ring Anna slipped upon your finger in the posthouse!”
“As for the others, your M is the twin mountain breasts I spoke of; Sis the copulation of twin Cs face to face, and is sprung as well from thesacred Z; W the double-you, as M is the double-me W, I say 7 is a pair ofVs sack a sack: ’tis thus the sign of the Heavenly Twins of India, calledVritrahana, and the third part of the Druids’ invocation to their god, thewhole of which was I.O.W. X, like A and H, is the joining of Two intoOne, and as such hath been venerated since long ere the murther ofChrist; Z is the zigzag lightning flash of Zeus, or whatever god you please,and is ofttimes flanked, in ancient emblems, by the circles of the HeavenlyTwins ”
“Enough!” the poet cried. “This dizzies me! What is the message oft,and what hath it to do with Anna and me?”
“Why, naught in the world,” Burlingame responded, “save to show youhow deep in the marrow of man runs this fear and reverence for twins, andtheir connection with coitus and the weather. All over Africa the birth oftwins is followed by dances of the lewdest sort: sometimes ’tis thought toprove the mother an adultress, since husbands generally get one babe at atime; other folk think the mother hath been swived by the Holy Spirit, orthat the father hath an inordinate lingam. In sundry isles of the westernocean ’tis common for the salvages to throw coffee beans at the walls of ahouse where twins are born; they believe that otherwise one must die,inasmuch as twins break the laws of chastity while still embraced in theirmother’s womb! In divers lands no living twins can be found, for thereason that one is always slain at birth; but murthered or not, they areworshiped in every place, and have been since time out of mind. Theold Egyptians had their Taues and Taouis, the twins of Scrapeum atMemphis, as well as the sisters Tathautis and Taebis, the ibis-wardens ofThebes; in India reigned Yama and Yami, and the holy Asvins I spoke ofearlier, that drew the Heavenly Chariot; the Persians worshipped Ahrimanand Ormuz; the ancient myths of the Hebrews tell of Huz and Buz,Huppim and Muppim, Gog and Magog, and Bne and Baroq, to say naughtof Esau and Jacob, Cain and Abel or as the Mohammedans have it, Cainand Alcima and Abel and Jumella —”
“Ah!” Ebenezer exclaimed.
“Some held,” Burlingame went on, “that Lucifer and Michael weretwins, as are most gods of Light and Darkness; and for the selfsame causethe old Edessans of Mesopotamia, who erst had worshipped Monim andAziz, were wont to regard e’en Jesus and Judas as hatched from a single egg!”
“No more than that God and Satan themselves ”
“I don’t believe it!” Ebenezer protested.
“Tis not a question of your belief,” laughed Burlingame, “but of thefact that other wights think it true; ’tis but a retelling of the tale of Set andHorns, or Typhon and Osiris,, whom some Egyptians took for twins andothers merely for rivals. But I was coming to the Greeks . . .”
“You may pass o’er them,” sighed the poet. “I know of Castor andPollux, the sons of light and thunder, and as well of Helen and Clytemnes-tra, that were hatched with ’em from Leda’s eggs.”
“Then you must know too of Lynceus and Idas, that slew the Dioscuri;of Amphion and Zethus, that sacked and rebuilt Troy; of Heracles andIphikles, that are twins in this tale and half-brothers in that, and of Hesperand Phosphor, the morning and evening stars.”
“And now you’ll go to Rome, I’ll wager, and speak of Romulus andRemus?”
“Aye,” said Burlingame, “to say naught of Picumnus and Pilumnus, orMutumnus and Tutumnus. ‘Twas the great respect accorded these classictwins that carried them into the Christian Church, which had the goodsense to canonize ’em in lieu of fighting back. Hence the Greek and RomanCatholics pray to Saints Romolo and Remo, Saints Kastoulos and Poly-euctes, and e’en St. Dioscoros; the more superstitious amongst them go yetfarther and regard as twins Saints Crispin and Crispian, Florus and Laurus,Marcus and Marcellianus, Protasius and Gervasius —”
“A surfeit!” cried the poet. “There is a surfeit!”
‘You have not heard the best of all,” Burlingame insisted. “They willhold Saints John and James to be twins as well, and e’en Saints Jude andThomas, inasmuch as Thomas means ‘a twin/ Til not trouble you withTryphona and Tryphosa, that Paul salutes in’s Epistle to the Romans, butturn instead to the Aryan heroes Baltram and Sintram, or Cautes andCautopates, and the northern tales of Sieglinde and Siegmunde, theincestuous parents of Siegfried, or Baldur, the Norseman’s spirit of Light,and his enemy, dark Loki, that slew him with a branch of mistletoe!”
“Tis a hemisphere overridden with godly twins!” Ebenezer marveled.
Burlingame smiled. “Yet it wants twin hemispheres to make a whole:when Anna and I turned our eyes to westward, we found in the relationsof the Spanish and English adventurers no less a profusion of HeavenlyTwins, revered by sundry salvages; and the logs of divers voyages to thePacific and Indian Oceans were no different. Methinks there is not a tribeupon the planet that hath not the like of the Boanerges! Old Cortez, whenhe raped the glorious Aztecs, found them worshiping Quetzalcoatl andTezcatlipoca, as their neighbors reverenced Hun-hun-ahpu and Vukubhun-ahpu. Pizarro and his cohorts, had they been curious enough to ask,would have found in the southern pantheon such twins as Pachakamakand Wichoma, Apocatequil and Piquerao, Tamendonaré and Arikuté, Karuand Rairu, Tiri and Karu, Keri and Kame. Why, I myself, enquiring hereand there among the Indians of these parts, have leamt from theAlgonkians that they reverence Menabozho and Chokanipok, and from theNaked Indians of the north that they pray to Juskeha and Tawiskara. Fromthe Jesuit missionaries I have learnt of a nation called the Zuni, thatworship Ahaiyuta and Matsailema; of another called Navaho, that worshipTobadizini and Nayenezkani; of another called Maidu, that worshipPemsanto and Onkoito; of another called Kwakiutl, that worship Kanigyilakand Nemokois; of another called Awikeno, that worship Mamasalanik andNoakaua all of them twins. Moreover, there is in far Japan a band of hairydwarfs that pray to the twins Shi-acha and Mo-acha, and amongst the godsof the southern ocean reign the great Si Adji Donda Hatahutan and histwin sister, Si Topi Radja Na Uasan . . .”
” ‘Tis your scheme to drive me mad!”
“Nay, that is their name, I swear’t: Si Adji Donda Hatahutan andhis ”
“No matter! No matter!” Ebenezer shook his head as though to jar hissenses into order. “You have proved to the very rocks and clouds that twin-worship is no great rarity in this earth!”
Burlingame nodded acknowledgment. “Sundry pairs of these twins areopposites and sworn enemiessuch as Satan and God, Ahriman and Ormuz,or Baldur and Loki and their fight portrays the struggle of Light withDarkness, the murther of Love by Knowledge, or what have you. Sundryothers represent the equivocal state of man, that is half angel and halfbeast: thus with Hesper and Phosphor, Zethus and Amphion,, Castorand Polydeuces, Iphikles and Heracles, or Judas and Jesus, the first of eachpair is mortal and the second divine. Still others are the gods of fornication,like Mutumnus and Tutumnus, or Picumnus and Pilumnus; if less thangods, they yet may be remembered for incestuous lust, like Cain and hisAlcima, and even be honored for swiving up a hero, as were Sieglinde andSiegmunde. How Anna loved the Siegfried tales!”
So heavy with revelations was the poet, he could only wave his handagainst this remark.
“Yet whether their bond be love or hate or death,” Burlingame con-cluded, “almost always their union is brilliance, totality,, apocalypse a thingto yearn and tremble for! Tis this union Anna desires with all her heart,howe’er her mind disguise it; ’tis this hath brought her halfway round theglobe to seek you out, and your father to fetch her home if he can find her.Tis this your own heart bends to, will-ye, nill-ye, as a flower to the light,to make you one and whole and nourished as ne’er since birth; or as aneedle to the lode, to direct you to the harbor of your destinyl And ’tis thisI yearn for too, and naught besides: I am Suitor of Totality, Embracer ofContradictories, Husband to all Creation, the Cosmic Lover! Henry Moreand Isaac Newton are my pimps and aides-de-chambre; I have known mygreat Bride part by splendrous part, and have made love to her disjectamembra, her sundry brilliant pieces; but I crave the Wholethe tenon inthe mortise, the jointure of polarities, the seamless universe whereof youtwain are token, in coito! I have no parentage to give me place and aimin Nature’s order: very well I am outside Her, and shall be Her lord andspouse!”
Burlingame was so aroused by his own rhetoric that at the end of thisspeech he was pacing and gesturing about the cabin, his voice raised to thepitch and volume of an Enthusiast’s; even had Ebenezer not been toodismayed for skepticism, he could scarcely have questioned his formertutor’s sincerity. But he was stunned, as well with recognition as with appall:he clutched his head and moaned.
Burlingame stopped before him, “Surely you’ll not deny your share ofguilt?”
The poet shook his head. Til not deny that the soul of man is deep andvarious as the reach of Heav’n,” he replied, “or that he hath in germthe sum of poles and possibilities. But I am stricken by what you say of me andAnna!”
“What have I said, but that thou’rt human?”
Ebenezer sighed. “’Tis quite enough.”
By this time the sun was bright in the eastern sky, and the Pilgrim stoodwell down the Bay for Point Lookout and St. Mary’s City; the other pas-sengers were awake and stirring about their quarters. At Burlingame’s sug-gestion they fastened their scarves and coats and went on deck, the betterto speak in private.
“How is’t you know Anna to be in St. Mary’s? Why did she not comestraight to Maiden?”
“’Tis your man Bertrand’s fault,” Burlingame answered and, laughingat Ebenezer’s bewilderment and surprise, confessed that when he had dis-patched Bertrand from Captain Mitchell’s to St. Mary’s City back inSeptember, he had charged the valet not only to retrieve the Laureate’strunk but if possible to claim it in the guise of the Laureate himself, thebetter to throw John Coode off the scent while they made their way toMaiden. “To this end I rashly loaned him your commission ”
“My commission! Then ’tis true you stole it from me back in England!”
Burlingame shrugged. ” Twas I authored it, was’t not? Besides, would itnot have gone worse with you had Pound been certain of your identity?In any case, there was some peril in your man’s assignment, and ’twas mythought, if Coode should kill or kidnap him with the paper on his person,he might think you yourself were an impostor ‘twould have spun his com-pass for fair! Howbeit, he could not rest at fetching your trunk, it seems,but must parade St. Mary’s City as the Laureate and declare his post inevery inn and tavern.”
“Ah God, the vain and faithless wretch!”
Thus it was, Burlingame declared, that on reaching the port of St. Mary’ssome time ago, Anna had been given to think her brother was in the townand had disembarked in quest of him. “I myself heard naught of this untilold Andrew came to Captain Mitchell’s; he had leamt in London of mywhereabouts, and, like you, thinks Anna hath come to be my wife. But hebelieves thou’rt party to the scheme as well and are pimping us in somewise: when he learns the state of things at Maiden, today or tomorrow,he’ll assume you’ve fled with the twain of us to Pennsylvania, where flyall fugitives from responsibility the more readily, inasmuch as neitherAnna nor the false Laureate hath been seen or heard of since she landed.”He sucked in the corner of his mouth. ” ‘Twas my intent to stay withAndrew, disguised as Timothy Mitchell, the better to temper his wrathand learn his connection with Lord Baltimore; but so vain hath been mysearch for parentage in the world, and so much rancor hath that searchengendered, from the Jesuit Thomas Smith and others, ’twas no longer safeto play that role.”
Ebenezer asked what were his tutor’s present plans.
‘We’ll put ashore together at St. Mary’s,” Burlingame said. “You thenenquire in public places for news of Anna or Eben Cooke, and I shall searchalone for Coode.”
“At once? Is’t not more urgent to find my sister ere some harm befallher?”
“Tis but two paths to a single end,” replied Burlingame. “No manknows more than Coode of what transpires in Maryland, and for aught weknow he may have made prisoners of them both,”
“Besides which, if I can win his confidence, he may abet us in regainingyour estate. ‘Twill be a joy to him, after all, to hear the Laureate of Mary-land is his ally!” ^
“Nay, not so swiftly,” Ebenezer protested. “I may be disabused of myfaith in Baltimore, but I’ve sworn no oaths of loyalty to John Coode. Inany case, as you well know, I ne’er was Laureate and even had I been, I’dbe no longer. Look at this.” He drew the ledger from his coat and showedBurlingame the finished Marylandiad, which in view of its antipanegyrictone he had retitled The Sot-Weed Factor. “Call’t a clumsy piece if youwill,” he challenged. ” ‘Tis honest nonetheless, and may spare others mymisfortunes.”
“What’s full of heart may be bare of art” Burlingame asserted with in-terest, “and vice-versa.” He held the ledger open against the rail and readthe work closely several times while the Pilgrim ran down the Bay to PointLookout, where the Potomac River meets Chesapeake Bay. Although hemade no comments either favorable or unfavorable, when the time camefor them to transfer to the lighter for St. Mary’s City he insisted that thepoem be forwarded aboard the Pilgrim to Ben Bragg, at the Sign of theRaven in Paternoster Row.
“But he’ll destroy it!” exclaimed the poet. “D’you recall how I came bythis ledger back in March?”
“He’ll not destroy it,” Burlingame assured him. “Bragg is obliged to mein ways I shan’t describe.”
There was no time to ponder the proposal; with some misgivings Ebene-zer allowed his former tutor to entrust The Sot-Weed Factor to the bark’scaptain, who also refunded the balance of his fare to England, and thetwo men were ferried upriver to St. Mary’s City.
Post a comment