STRAKER. [startled] Louisa!
MENDOZA. It is her name — Louisa — Louisa Straker —
STRAKER. [scrambling up on his knees most indignantly] Look here: Louisa Straker is my sister, see? Wot do you mean by gassin about her like this? Wot she got to do with you?
MENDOZA. A dramatic coincidence! You are Enry, her favorite brother!
STRAKER. Oo are you callin Enry? What call have you to take a liberty with my name or with hers? For two pins I'd punch your fat ed, so I would.
MENDOZA. [with grandiose calm] If I let you do it, will you promise to brag of it afterwards to her? She will be reminded of her Mendoza: that is all I desire.
TANNER. This is genuine devotion, Henry. You should respect it.
STRAKER. [fiercely] Funk, more likely.
MENDOZA. [springing to his feet] Funk! Young man: I come of a famous family of fighters; and as your sister well knows, you would have as much chance against me as a perambulator against your motor car.
STRAKER. [secretly daunted, but rising from his knees with an air of reckless pugnacity] I ain't afraid of you. With your Louisa! Louisa! Miss Straker is good enough for you, I should think.
MENDOZA. I wish you could persuade her to think so.
STRAKER. [exasperated] Here —
TANNER. [rising quickly and interposing] Oh come, Henry: even if you could fight the President you can't fight the whole League of the Sierra. Sit down again and be friendly. A cat may look at a king; and even a President of brigands may look at your sister. All this family pride is really very old fashioned.
STRAKER. [subdued, but grumbling] Let him look at her. But wot does he mean by makin out that she ever looked at im? [Reluctantly resuming his couch on the turf] Ear him talk, one ud think she was keepin company with him. [He turns his back on them and composes himself to sleep].
MENDOZA. [to Tanner, becoming more confidential as he finds himself virtually alone with a sympathetic listener in the still starlight of the mountains; for all the rest are asleep by this time] It was just so with her, sir. Her intellect reached forward into the twentieth century: her social prejudices and family affections reached back into the dark ages. Ah, sir, how the words of Shakespear seem to fit every crisis in our emotions!
I loved Louisa: 40,000 brothers
Could not with all their quantity of love
Make up my sum.
And so on. I forget the rest. Call it madness if you will — infatuation. I am an able man, a strong man: in ten years I should have owned a first-class hotel. I met her; and you see! I am a brigand, an outcast. Even Shakespear cannot do justice to what I feel for Louisa. Let me read you some lines that I have written about her myself. However slight their literary merit may be, they express what I feel better than any casual words can. [He produces a packet of hotel bills scrawled with manuscript, and kneels at the fire to decipher them, poking it with a stick to make it glow].
TANNER. [clapping him rudely on the shoulder] Put them in the fire, President.
MENDOZA. [startled] Eh?
TANNER. You are sacrificing your career to a monomania.
MENDOZA. I know it.
TANNER. No you don't. No man would commit such a crime against himself if he really knew what he was doing. How can you look round at these august hills, look up at this divine sky, taste this finely tempered air, and then talk like a literary hack on a second floor in Bloomsbury?
MENDOZA. [shaking his head] The Sierra is no better than Bloomsbury when once the novelty has worn off. Besides, these mountains make you dream of women — of women with magnificent hair.
TANNER. Of Louisa, in short. They will not make me dream of women, my friend: I am heartwhole.
MENDOZA. Do not boast until morning, sir. This is a strange country for dreams.
TANNER. Well, we shall see. Goodnight. [He lies down and composes himself to sleep].
Mendoza, with a sigh, follows his example; and for a few moments there is peace in the Sierra. Then Mendoza sits up suddenly and says pleadingly to Tanner —
MENDOZA. Just allow me to read a few lines before you go to sleep. I should really like your opinion of them.
TANNER. [drowsily] Go on. I am listening.
MENDOZA. I saw thee first in Whitsun week Louisa, Louisa —
TANNER. [roaring himself] My dear President, Louisa is a very pretty name; but it really doesn't rhyme well to Whitsun week.
MENDOZA. Of course not. Louisa is not the rhyme, but the refrain.
TANNER. [subsiding] Ah, the refrain. I beg your pardon. Go on.
MENDOZA. Perhaps you do not care for that one: I think you will like this better. [He recites, in rich soft tones, and to slow time]
Louisa, I love thee.
I love thee, Louisa.
Louisa, Louisa, Louisa, I love thee.
One name and one phrase make my music,
Louisa. Louisa, Louisa, Louisa, I love thee.
Mendoza thy lover,
Thy lover, Mendoza,
Mendoza adoringly lives for Louisa.
There's nothing but that in the world for Mendoza.
Louisa, Louisa, Mendoza adores thee.
[Affected] There is no merit in producing beautiful lines upon such a name. Louisa is an exquisite name, is it not?
TANNER. [all but asleep, responds with a faint groan].
O wert thou, Louisa,
The wife of Mendoza,
Mendoza's Louisa, Louisa Mendoza,
How blest were the life of Louisa's Mendoza!
How painless his longing of love for Louisa!
That is real poetry — from the heart — from the heart of hearts. Don't you think it will move her?
[Resignedly] Asleep, as usual. Doggrel to all the world; heavenly music to me! Idiot that I am to wear my heart on my sleeve! [He composes himself to sleep, murmuring] Louisa, I love thee; I love thee, Louisa; Louisa, Louisa, Louisa, I —
Straker snores; rolls over on his side; and relapses into sleep. Stillness settles on the Sierra; and the darkness deepens. The fire has again buried itself in white ash and ceased to glow. The peaks show unfathomably dark against the starry firmament; but now the stars dim and vanish; and the sky seems to steal away out of the universe. Instead of the Sierra there is nothing; omnipresent nothing. No sky, no peaks, no light, no sound, no time nor space, utter void. Then somewhere the beginning of a pallor, and with it a faint throbbing buzz as of a ghostly violoncello palpitating on the same note endlessly. A couple of ghostly violins presently take advantage of this bass
(a staff of music is supplied here)
and therewith the pallor reveals a man in the void, an incorporeal but visible man, seated, absurdly enough, on nothing. For a moment he raises his head as the music passes him by. Then, with a heavy sigh, he droops in utter dejection; and the violins, discouraged, retrace their melody in despair and at last give it up, extinguished by wailings from uncanny wind instruments, thus: —
It is all very odd. One recognizes the Mozartian strain; and on this hint, and by the aid of certain sparkles of violet light in the pallor, the man's costume explains itself as that of a Spanish nobleman of the XV-XVI century. Don Juan, of course; but where? why? how? Besides, in the brief lifting of his face, now hidden by his hat brim, there was a curious suggestion of Tanner. A more critical, fastidious, handsome face, paler and colder, without Tanner's impetuous credulity and enthusiasm, and without a touch of his modern plutocratic vulgarity, but still a resemblance, even an identity. The name too: Don Juan Tenorio, John Tanner. Where on earth — -or elsewhere — have we got to from the XX century and the Sierra?
Another pallor in the void, this time not violet, but a disagreeable smoky yellow. With it, the whisper of a ghostly clarionet turning this tune into infinite sadness:
(Here there is another musical staff.)
The yellowish pallor moves: there is an old crone wandering in the void, bent and toothless; draped, as well as one can guess, in the coarse brown frock of some religious order. She wanders and wanders in her slow hopeless way, much as a wasp flies in its rapid busy way, until she blunders against the thing she seeks: companionship. With a sob of relief the poor old creature clutches at the presence of the man and addresses him in her dry unlovely voice, which can still express pride and resolution as well as suffering.