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When the knell of my thirtieth birthday sounded, I suddenly realised, with a desolate feeling at the heart, that I was alone in the world. It was true I had many and good friends, and I was blessed with interests and occupations which I had often declared sufficient to satisfy any not too exacting human being.
The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book by Richard Le Gallienne
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Moreover, a small but sufficient competency was mine, allowing me reasonable comforts, and the luxuries of a small but choice library, and a small but choice garden. These heavenly blessings had seemed mere than enough for nearly five years, during which the good sister and I had kept house together, leading a life of tranquil happy days.
Friends and books and flowers! It was, we said, a good world, and I, simpleton,—pretty and dainty as Margaret was,—deemed it would go on forever. But, alas! one day came a Faust into our garden,—a good Faust, with no friend Mephistopheles,—and took Margaret from me. It is but a month since they were married, and the rice still lingers in the crevices of the pathway down to the quaint old iron-work gate.
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Yes! they have gone off to spend their honeymoon, and Margaret has written to me twice to say how happy they are together in the Hesperides. Dear happiness! Selfish, indeed, were he who would envy you one petal of that wonderful rose—Rosa Mundi—God has given you to gather. But, all the same, the reader will admit that it must be lonely for me, and not another sister left to take pity on me.
All somewhere happily settled down in the Fortunate Isles. Poor lonely old house! do you, too, miss the light step of your mistress? No longer shall her little silken figure flit up and down your quiet staircases, no more deck out your silent rooms with flowers, humming the while some happy little song.
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The little piano is dumb night after night, its candles unlighted, and there is no one to play Chopin to us now as the day dies, and the shadows stoop out of their corners to listen in vain. Old house, old house! We are alone, quite alone,—there is no mistake about that,— and the soul has gone out of both of us.
And as for the garden, there is no company there; that is loneliest of all. The very sunlight looks desolation, falling through the thickblossoming apple-trees as through the chinks and crevices of deserted Egyptian cities. While as for the books—well, never talk to me again about the companionship of books!
For just when one needs them most of all they seem suddenly to have grown dull and unsympathetic, not a word of comfort, not a charm anywhere in them to make us forget the slow-moving hours; whereas, when Margaret was here—but it is of no use to say any more! Everything was quite different when Margaret was here: that is enough. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book
Margaret has gone away to the Fortunate Isles. Of course she’ll come to see us now and again; but it won’t be the same thing. Yes! old echoing silent House of Joy that is Gone, we are quite alone. Now, what is to be done? As I once more got under way, my thoughts slowly loitered back to the theme which had been occupying them before I dropped asleep.
What was my working hypothesis of the Perfect Woman, towards whom I was thus leisurely strolling? She might be defined, I reflected, as The Woman Who Is Worthy Of Us; but the improbability which every healthily conceited young man must feel of ever finding such a one made the definition seem a little unserviceable.
Or, if you prefer, since we seem to be dealing with impossibles, we might turn about and more truly define her as The Woman of Whom We are Worthy, for who dare say that she exists? If, again, she were defined as the Woman our More Fortunate Friend Marries, her unapproachableness would rob the definition of any practical value. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book
Other generalisations proving equally unprofitable, I began scientifically to consider in detail the attributes of the supposititious paragon,—attributes of body and mind and heart. This was soon done; but again, as I thus conned all those virtues which I was to expect united in one unhappy woman, the result was still unsatisfying, for I began to perceive that it was really not perfection that I was in search of.
As I added virtue after virtue to the female monster in my mind, and the result remained still inanimate and unalluring, I realised that the lack I was conscious of was not any new perfection, but just one or two honest human imperfections. And this, try as I would, was just what I could not imagine.
For, if you reflect a moment, you will see that, while it is easy to choose what virtues we would have our wife possess, it is all but impossible to imagine those faults we would desire in her, which I think most lovers would admit add piquancy to the loved one, that fascinating wayward imperfection which paradoxically makes her perfect. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book
Faults in the abstract are each and all so uninviting, not to say alarming, but, associated with certain eyes and hair and tender little gowns, it is curious how they lose their terrors; and, as with vice in the poet’s image, we end by embracing what we began by dreading. You see the fault becomes a virtue when it is hers, the treason prospers; wherefore, no doubt, the impossibility of imagining it.
What particular fault will suit a particular unknown girl is obviously as difficult to determine as in what colours she will look her best. So, I say, I plied my brains in vain for that becoming fault. It was the same whether I considered her beauty, her heart, or her mind. A charming old Italian writer has laid down the canons of perfect feminine beauty with much nicety in a delicious discourse.
Which, as he delivered it in a sixteenth-century Florentine garden to an audience of beautiful and noble ladies, an audience not too large to be intimate and not too small to be embarrassing, it was his delightful good fortune and privilege to illustrate by pretty and sly references to the characteristic beauties of the several ladies seated like a ring of roses around him. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book
Thus he would refer to the shape of Madonna Lampiada’s sumptuous eyelids, and to her shell-like ears, to the correct length and shape of Madonna Amororrisca’s nose, to the lily tower of Madonna Verdespina’s throat; nor would the unabashed old Florentine shrink from calling attention to the unfairness of Madonna Selvaggia’s covering up her dainty bosom.
Just as he was about to discourse upon “those two hills of snow and of roses with two little crowns of fine rubies on their peaks.” How could a man lecture if his diagrams were going to behave like that! Then, feigning a tiff, he would close his manuscript, and all the ladies with their birdlike voices would beseech him with “Oh, no, Messer Firenzuola, please go on again; it’s SO charming!” while, as if by accident.
Madonna Selvaggia’s moonlike bosom would once more slip out its heavenly silver, perceiving which, Messer Firenzuola would open his manuscript again and proceed with his sweet learning. Happy Firenzuola! Oh, days that are no more! By selecting for his illustrations one feature from one lady and another from another, Messer Firenzuola builds up an ideal of the Beautiful Woman. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book
Which, were she to be possible, would probably be as faultily faultless as the Perfect Woman, were she possible. Moreover, much about the same time as Firenzuola was writing, Botticelli’s blonde, angular, retrousse women were breaking every one of that beauty-master’s canons, perfect in beauty none the less; and lovers then, and perhaps particularly now.
Have found the perfect beauty in faces to which Messer Firenzuola would have denied the name of face at all, by virtue of a quality which indeed he has tabulated, but which is far too elusive and undefinable, too spiritual for him truly to have understood,—a quality which nowadays we are tardily recognising as the first and last of all beauty.
Either of nature or art,—the supreme, truly divine, because materialistically unaccountable, quality of Charm! The joy with which he recovered it was pretty to behold, and the eagerness with which he ran through the leaves, to see that the violets and the primroses and a spray of meadowsweet, young love’s bookmarkers, were all in their right places, touched my heart. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book
He could not thank me enough; and as we stepped out to the inn, some three or four miles on the road, I elicited something of his story. He was a clerk in a city office, he said, but his dreams were not commercial. His one dream was to be a great poet, or a great writer of some sort, and this was one of his holidays.
As I looked at his sensitive young face, unmarred by pleasure and unscathed by sorrow, bathed daily, I surmised, in the may-dew of high philosophies—ah, so high! washed from within by a constant radiancy of pure thoughts, and from without by a constant basking in the shine of every beautiful and noble and tender thing,—I thought it not unlikely that he might fulfil his dream.
But, alas! as he talked on, with lighted face and chin in the air, how cruelly I realised how little I had fulfilled mine. And how hard it was to talk to him, without crushing some flower of his fancy or casting doubt upon his dreams. Oh, the gulf between twenty and thirty! I had never quite comprehended it before. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book Download
And how inexpressibly sad it was to hear him prattling on of the ideal life, of socialism, of Walt Whitman and what not,—all the dear old quackeries,—while I was already settling down comfortably to a conservative middle age. He had no hope that had not long been my despair, no aversion that I had not accepted among the more or less comfortable conditions of the universe.
He was all for nature and liberty, whereas I had now come to realise the charm of the artificial, and the social value of constraint. “Young man,” I cried in my heart, “what shall I do to inherit Eternal Youth?” The gulf between us was further revealed when, at length coming to our inn, we sat down to dinner.
To me it seemed the most natural thing in the world to call for the wine-list and consult his choice of wine; but, will you believe me, he asked to be allowed to drink water! And when he quoted the dear old stock nonsense out of Thoreau about being able to get intoxicated on a glass of water, I could have laughed and cried at the same time. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book Download
“Happy Boy!” I cried, “still able to turn water into wine by the divine power of your youth”; and then, turning to the waiter, I ordered a bottle of No. 37. “Wine is the only youth granted to middle age,” I continued,—”in vino juventus, one might say; and may you, my dear young friend, long remain so proudly independent of that great Elixir.
Though I confess that I have met no few young men under thirty who have been excellent critics of the wine-list.” As the water warmed him, he began to expand into further confidence, and then he told me the story of his Shelley, if a story it can be called. For, of course, it was simple enough.
And the reader has long since guessed that the reason why he wouldn’t lose his Shelley for the world was the usual simple reason. I listened to his rhapsodies of HER and HER and HER with an aching heart. How good it was to be young! No wonder men had so desperately sought the secret of Eternal Youth! Who would not be young for ever, for such dreams and such an appetite? The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book Download
Here of course was the very heaven-sent confidant for such an enterprise as mine. I told him all about my whim, just for the pleasure of watching his face light up with youth’s generous worship of all such fantastic nonsense. You should have seen his enthusiasm and heard all the things he said.
Why, to encounter such a whimsical fellow as myself in this unimaginative age was like meeting a fairy prince, or coming unexpectedly upon Don Quixote attacking the windmill. I offered him the post of Sancho Panza; and indeed what would he not give, he said, to leave all and follow me! But then I reminded him that he had already found his Golden Girl.
“Of course, I forgot,” he said, with I’m afraid something of a sigh. For you see he was barely twenty, and to have met your ideal so early in life is apt to rob the remainder of the journey of something of its zest. I bring down my stick upon the ground with a mighty ring of resolution, and the miracle is done. Who would take me for thirty now? The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book Free
From this moment I abjure pessimism and cynicism in all their forms, put from my mind all considerations of the complexities of human life, unravel all by a triumphant optimism which no statistics can abash or criticism dishearten. I likewise undertake to divest myself entirely of any sense of humour that may have developed within me during the baneful experiences of the last ten years.
And, in short, will consent for the future to be nothing that is not perfectly perfect and pure. These, I take it, are the fundamental conditions of being young again. And as for the Quest, it shall forthwith be undertaken in an entirely serious and highminded spirit. From this moment I am on the look-out for a really transcendental attachment.
No “bright-eyed bar-maids,” however “refined,” need apply. Ladies who are prodigal of their white petticoats are no longer fit company for me. Indeed I shall no longer look upon a petticoat, unless I am able first entirely to spiritualise it. It must first be disinfected of every earthly thought. The Quest of the Golden Girl PDF Book Free