“To-morrow morning,” he whispered.
“I shall be down by daylight,” answered Emilia.
“You are in the shade—I cannot see you,” said he.
The door opened as Emilia was moving out of the line of shadow.
On the morrow Wilfrid was gone. No one had seen him go. Emilia, while she touched the keys of a muted piano softly in the morning quiet of the house, had heard the front-door close. At that hour one attributes every noise to the servants. She played on and waited patiently, till the housemaid expelled her into the dewy air.
The report from his bedchamber, telling the ladies of his absence, added that he had taken linen for a lengthened journey.
This curious retreat of my hero belongs to the order of things that are done ‘None know why;’ a curtain which drops conveniently upon either the bewilderment of the showman or the infirmities of the puppet.
I must own (though I need not be told what odium frowns on such a pretension to excess of cleverness) that I do know why. I know why, and, unfortunately for me, I have to tell what I know. If I do not tell, this narrative is so constituted that there will be no moral to it.
One who studies man in puppets (in which purpose lies the chief value of this amusing species), must think that we are degenerating rapidly. The puppet hero, for instance, is a changed being. We know what he was; but now he takes shelter in his wits. His organs affect his destiny. Careless of the fact that the hero’s achievement is to conquer nature, he seems rather to boast of his subservience to her.
Still, up to this day, the fixture of a nose upon the puppet-hero’s frontispiece has not been attempted. Some one does it at last. When the alternative came: “No nose to the hero, no moral to the tale;” could there be hesitation?
And I would warn our sentimentalists to admit the nose among the features proper to heroes, otherwise the race will become extinct. There is already an amount of dropping of the curtain that is positively wearisome, even to extremely refined persons, in order to save him from apparent misconduct. He will have to go altogether, unless we boldly figure him as other men. Manifestly the moment his career as a fairy prince was at end, he was on the high road to a nose. The beneficent Power that discriminated for him having vanished utterly, he was, like a bankrupt gentleman, obliged to do all the work for himself. This is nothing more than the tendency of the generations downward from the ideal.
The springs that moved Wilfrid upon the present occasion were simple. We will strip him of his heroic trappings for one fleeting instant, and show them.