Peace at Lambeth Bridge (Rob Royal Spy Thillers Book 2)
It was instead a mixture of activity, hesitation and indolence, an assortment of dazzling Utopias, religious or philosophical aspirations, vague enthusiasms and dim intimations of renaissance in which a general weariness with the discords of the past was blended with ill-defined hopes for the future—a period, in short, not unlike the age in which Peregrinus or Apuleius lived.
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Material man longed for the bouquet of roses which would regenerate him at the hands of the lovely Isis; forever young, forever pure, the goddess would appear to us at night, filling us with shame for having wasted the hours of day. Worldly ambitions, however, meant little to our generation; the greedy scramble for honours and positions in which everyone was then engaged only served to distance us from all possible spheres of activity. Having been guided to these heights by our masters, we at last breathed the pure air of solitude, drinking ourselves into oblivion from the golden cup of fable, drunk with poetry and love love, alas, of vague shapes, of blue and rosy hues, of metaphysical phantoms.
Seen close, any real woman seemed too gross to our starry-eyed sensibilities. She had to appear a queen or goddess; above all, she had to be beyond reach. I felt myself alive in her, and she lived for me alone. Her every smile filled me with infinite bliss; each quaver of her voice, so gentle and yet so profoundly resonant, sent shivers of joy and love through me.
For me she was utter perfection, an answer to my every rapture, my every whim. When she was lit from below by the footlights, she was as lovely as the day; and when the lights dimmed, showing her off more naturally beneath the rays of the chandelier overhead, she was as pale as the night, her sole beauty shining forth from the dark like those divine Hours who stand out so distinctly from the brown backgrounds of the frescos at Herculaneum, stars on their brows.
For an entire year it had not even occurred to me to find out who or what she might really be; I was afraid to cloud the magic mirror that cast her image back to me.
No, this is certainly not a sage or seer. Nor is what follows particularly cerebral or, as we have come to understand the terms, modernist or post-modernist. The occasional slippages, elisions, lacunae. They have psychological heft.
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They are how minds, or at least this one, can work. Which does not, however, mean that we are into the disjunctions and fragmentation of The Waste Land , or the corrosive rhetorical scepticism of Robbe-Grillet. Having been accidentally reminded of an episode in his youth involving the peasant girl Sylvie and the well-born Antoinette, the narrator takes off impulsively to the village where, so far as he knows, the unwed Sylvie still lives.
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Beyond Louvres there is a lane lined with apple trees whose flowers I have often seen glimmer in the night like the stars above—it was a short cut to the outlying villages. While the coach is making its way up the hills, let us piece together the memories of the days when I often visited those parts. The coach arrives, a ball is going on, the maturer Sylvie, who now has a boyfriend, is there.
There are conversations. But no grand operatic passions and counter-passions, no contests, no closures. Or not exactly. And at one point he becomes pretty silly. Walking Sylvie home after the ball at Loisy, suddenly,. I threw myself at her feet; dissolving into tears, I confessed my irresoluteness, my sudden changes of heart; I mention the fatal spectre that was plagying my life. The festivities themselves are occasions for passing beyond the everyday, for an opening up of consciousness that is more than merely personal. The far off sound of drum and horn was drifting though the hamlets and woods; the young girls were weaving garlands and tying ribbons around bouquets, singing all the while.
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A heavy wagon, drawn by oxen, was receiving those offerings as it passed; and we, the children of these parts, were escorting it with our bows and arrows, imagining ourselves knights of old—unaware that we were merely repeating from age to age a Druidic festival that had survived all subsequent monarchies and forms of religion. And she beautifully sings, again as part of the ritual, an old sad ballad about the misfortunes of a princess who has been locked away in a tower by her father as a punishment for having fallen in love.
As she sang, the shadows came down from the great trees and she stood there alone, lit by the first rays of the moon, set apart from our attentive circle. When he rejoins Sylvie, she is crying and refuses to speak to him when he walks her home. The next day Adrienne returns to the convent where she is a boarder, and we, or do we?
Obliged to return to Paris to resume my studies, I carried a double image with me—of a tender friendship that had sadly gone awry and of a love at once impossible and ill-defined, a source of aching thought which no amounts of schoolroom philosophizing could allay. It was the sole figure of Adrienne that triumphed in the end—a mirage of glory and beauty whose company sweetened my hours of strenuous school work. The following year, during the holidays, I learned that this lovely girl whom I had scarcely glimpsed had been placed in a nunnery by her family.
To me, this half-dreamt memory explained everything. This vague, hopeless love I had conceived for an actress, this love which swept me up every evening when the curtain rose, only to release me when sleep finally descended, had its seem in the memory of Adrienne, a night-flower blooming in the pale effulgence of the moon, a phantom fair and rosy glding over the green grass half-bathed in white mist. This resemblance to a figure I had long forgotten was now taking shape with singular vividness; it was a pencil sketch smdged by time that was now turning into a painting, like those studies by the Old Masters that one has admire in some museum, only t discover their dazzling original somewhere else.
To be in love with a nun in the guise of an actor! It was not a throwback to the tragedies played at Saint-Cyr [the aristocratic military college]; it reached further back in time to the lyric drama initially imported into France during the reign of the Valois. What I saw performed was a mystery play from the days of old. The costumes which consisted of long robes, varied only in their colour—azure, hyacinth, dawn. The action took place among the angels, amidst the debris of the devastated earth.
Each voice sang in turn of the various splendours of this vanished world, and the angel of death spelled out the causes of its destruction. A spirit rose from the abyss, holding a flaming sword in its hand, and summoned the others to come and admire the glory of Christ, vanquisher of hell. The spirit was Adrienne, transfigured by her costume, as she already was by her vocation. The halo of gilt cardboard around her angelic head seemed to us, quite naturally, a circle of light; her voice had gained in power and range, its every birdlike warble embroidering the phrases of a stately recitative with the infinite filigree of Italian song.
The questioning in the next paragraph is not destructive. There is no implication in it of any inevitable collapsing back of the exalted into the everyday, or of the merely imagined, if that is what it is, being without value because unreal. The beauty is there, whether elicited by the event itself or by what, in recollection, the event had elicited as a natural enlargement of itself.
As I retrace these details, I tend to wonder if they are real or if I have dreamed them. A strange dwarf, wearng a Chinese cap, holding a bottle in one hand and a ring in the other, seemed to be inviting the archers to take their aim. The dwarf I believe was cut out of sheet-iron. This is, brilliantly, a psychological novel, not a philosophical one, even if philosophical extrapolations can be made from it about identity and perception and social structurings.
It is a part of the presesent, a shaping of consciousness in the present. One more quotation, then. On his way to visit Sylvie again, he walks, during a silent noon of summer perfection, along a forest road, and en route, arrives at. When I saw the glimmer of the lake through the branches of the willows and hazels, I recognized it as a spot to which my uncle had often taken me in the course of his walks: it was the Temple of Philosophy , an edifice its founder had not been fortunate enough to complete.
Its form is that of the temple of the Tiburtine sibyl and, still standing in the shelter of a group of pines, it displays the names of all the great thinkers from Montaigne and Descartes to Rousseau. This unfinished structure is now no more than a ruin gracefully entwined with ivy, its steps loosened by the invading bramble.
As a young child, it was here that I had witnessed ceremonies at which young girls clad in white were awarded prizes for academic excellence and good conduct. Where are the rose-bushes which once surrounded the hill? The eglantine and raspberry hide the last of them, now reverting to the wild.
As for the laurels, have they all been cut? No, these shrubs from fair Italy have simply perished under our misty skies. Yes, this temple is crumbling like so many others, and man, weary and forgetful will turn away from its threshold while nature, indifferent to all, reclaims the terrain that art tried to wrest from her; but the thirst for knowledge will live on forever, the spur of all vitality and all action! That final sentence is worthy of note.
Egypt and Greece farewell, and farewell Rome. I hold so lightly to all phenomena that they end by passing over me like gleams over a landscape, and are gone without leaving any impression. Thought is a kind of opium; it can intoxicate us, while still broad awake; it can make transparent the mountains and everything that exists. I mean, in places you laugh.
Well, I did. The seal seemed to be satisfied and proceeded to say Pappa and Mamma with a Northern accent whose intonations nonetheless did not interfere with intelligibility of the syllables. I thought you said he had been caught in Cape Verrrde! The ellipsis marks are in the text. Let me handle this, I virtually qualify as a member of the diplomatic corps. Over the course of my travels I have come face to face with kings, pashas and even padishahs.
Peace at Lambeth Bridge
I know how to deal with the authorities. I have just come back from Germany, where I traveled though ten sovereign states, including Hesse; even the Prussians never asked me for my passport. Here she is, accompanied by her lover, breaking into her parents strong-box with a kitchen shovel to get at the silverware that will finance their elopement.
She wanted to take more articles—such as bowls, chandeliers, and ewers. Somewhere beyond Moulins, a man who was in the coach—and who claimed to be a gentleman—began mumbling:. I believe I have the right to dress my wife any bloody way I choose. They arrived in Lyon that evening and stayed at the Red Hat Inn, where they sold their dishes for three hundred ecus. This certainly violates the spirit of the gospels, but that is neither here nor there.