Sunday, October 04, 2009

January 24 2009

It was a quiet morning, nothing out of the ordinary. The sun embraced the grass and trees around the mansion warmly. There was a dreamy mist in the air, cloaking the house and its three chimneys mysteriously. Birds sang their songs in rhythm with the slight breeze that had picked up from the sea.
Juliet stood silently on the balcony overlooking the water. She could feel the cold stone of the railing pressed against her skin through her thin dress. It was getting colder. The summer air was hurriedly vanishing. This cold, proud wind had come to take its place. The tree leaves seemed stiff with the chill as they were tossed dizzily to and fro, throwing their shadows upon the soft, green lawn. There was darkness on Juliet’s face as well. It was darker than the timid, flitting grass. Her dark eyes seemed to have sunken severely into her hardened brow. They burned with a silent, menacing force. It was not a warm and yielding passion in her face that morning; it was a determined and calculating one; the kind of passion that defeats nations, the kind of passion that kindles revolutions; the kind of passion that is discontentment, restlessness, and turmoil. She was not a woman today. She was a wounded creature. Now and then her brooding face would suddenly become flushed with overpowering emotion and her eyes would flash as they looked out to sea but her lips remained calm. She did not tremble. Her heart beat slow and firm. There was no fear about her, only a kind of impulsive wildness.
The blue sea raged. Its blue body curved and writhed against the strong wind, sweeping over it firmly. Arcs of blue and grey rose and fell amidst the white spray, finally meeting the sharp rocks of the shore with a deafening roar. The gulls shuddered in their crags. Only a few dared venture over the sea. They cried out as they shivered. In fact there was quite a storm brewing. The wind had picked up as if in reaction to the fury in the lady’s eyes.
Suddenly there was a step behind her. She did not hear it. She did not feel his large hand lightly touch her shoulder. She was caught up in her thoughts, in her own passion, in her own wilderness of pain and suffering. She was not waiting for him. Her heart had stopped listening for it; for his step on the stair, for his low voice, for his horse on the gravel below. She no longer heard him. No not at all. He had vanished from her mind. She had fought that battle. She had won. He was less than a dream, a ghost, a lost soul, a fleeting moment in time.
“The sea is angry today.” His voice was low and soft against the screaming wind. “She is drowning in her dark thoughts of revenge. She would do well to remember that she is still immortal. But some hero might rescue her yet. She is fortunate she is so beautiful.” She whirled around and let out a small cry. He stepped towards her resolutely. “She fools an ignorant man so well. The hero often wonders if he should rescue her. She might try to pull him down with her. She might want to drown him too.”
The terrible expression of both figures would have melted any ordinary soul in a moment. His eyes were cruel and pitiless, yet dreadfully calm. Her face had filled with a fiery anguish. She seemed to be breathing flames, like a dragon at the last moment of the battle, before the knight plunges his lance into her heart. For a moment it seemed they would rush at each other’s throats and kill each other. The space between them seemed to burn with a terrible energy, as if the two hearts would finally meet and explode in fire and smoke. The wind moaned and swept her hair up about her face.
For a moment he saw her again as she had been that day in the sun, so long ago. For a moment he felt his heart crushed against his ribs. He had not felt that...or anything for a long time. It was strange to remember that burning thing within him. He remembered his fear. He remembered his pain. He remembered his desire. To see her so beautiful and so alone in her rage was almost more than he could bear. And then the moment passed and suddenly his heart shuddered at such a thought. Never again would he relent to her power. She was the love he could never, should never have. She was the passionate frenzy that only destroyed a man. She was the unnatural infatuation, the seductress, the devouring desire. Behind that beauty was a craving that no human should have for another. She was like a predator seeking to consume its prey. Do not believe her lying eyes, he repeated to his burning heart.
"I've come to negotiate."
She laughed. Suddenly she turned towards the sea and lifted her frail body up onto the railing. She faced him, perched like a little bird, swinging her legs playfully with the breeze. For one moment her eyes softened and he felt a surge of warmth illuminate his doubting heart. Then, she threw her head back. Her white arms were outspread for an instant against the wind as if she would fly. She smiled calmly. There was more peace on her face than he had ever seen, even in sleep. She blew him a kiss and then…silently, deftly she vanished over the edge.

Mr. James Lark was considered a good man, a man of honorable character, of good taste, of respectable family. Mr. James Lark was a gracious host, a ferocious shooter, and a benevolent master. He was rich, on the young side, and had become rather famous of late in the county he had newly made his residence in. He had made quite a name for himself in London with his clever schemes of business and his devilish accuracy at predicting the economy. And now he had come to ---shire and decidedly bought the entire county. He was on all accounts an honest, intelligent, responsible man without a care in the world as far as the press was concerned. The people of his county too had no idea of his being anything but extravagantly content and admirably hardworking. For indeed he was the owner of a quarter of London and all the land they lived on and no one had heard of his being anything but generous and merciful, though a demanding and firm landlord too when the necessity arose. In short, James Lark had become the portrait of success, the pinnacle of good breeding, and the indubitable standard of just principles and etiquette.
The vast inhabitants of the county, and indeed much of London therefore, would be astonished, anxious, staggered, indeed put out of all sorts if they were to know what Mr. James Lark had chosen to occupy himself with one bright and early morning in May, only two months after his arrival in the county. The whole estate was in an uproar. Half the servants had run to hide in the pantry and the other half were employed in “dealing” with this utterly impossible and unforeseen state of affairs. Mr. James Lark was cooking himself breakfast. There was a crowd of maids and butlers attempting to dissuade Mr. Lark from this terrible endeavor. They pleaded and prodded, flattered and questioned but to no avail. Indeed Mr. Lark was not only cooking himself breakfast, but it was discovered he had chopped the wood for the fire, kindled the stove and set himself a table in the kitchen, of all places, where none but the stable boys and the maids ate. The cook herself was the most exceedingly flustered and vexed of all. She was a mixture of tears and terror. She did not know whether to scold or plead with the headstrong, rebellious ideas that her young master, one of the most powerful men in England, had somehow got into his head. Not only was it unheard of and unrefined for a man of his status to even set foot in his own kitchen, it was intolerably volatile and out of place. Not that he hadn’t a right to anything he had done but he simply shouldn’t. The boundary her dear master had crossed seemed at best to be a positively ferocious practical joke upon the whole system of society.
James Lark stood calmly at the warm stove in his kitchen, frying two beautifully white and yellow eggs. He sprinkled them with some garlic and mushrooms. There was a pot of tea boiling and two slices of toast in the oven. He had set his table and poured a cold glass of orange juice. He had found the butter and jams in the pantry and abandoned his eggs for a moment to stir the steaming pot of porridge he had just begun. He whistled to himself softly as he worked. His large hands were deft and precise. It was as if he had been cooking breakfast his whole life.
The first to discover him was one of the stable boys, Tommy. He had spent the night amongst the hay in the stables because one of the horses was very pregnant and expected to go into labor any day. He had been chosen to keep watch during the night. Of course the horse hadn’t given birth and instead had done a great deal of neighing and prancing all night, providing many a false alarm. Tommy’s shift was over at six and he had stumbled into the kitchen in a bewildered haze in hopes of a warm breakfast from the cook. She had not yet risen however and instead Tommy was fairly run over by his master who was racing around the kitchen like a madman before he realized who it was. Once the discovery was made, however, the bewildered Tommy did not quite comprehend the gravity of the situation. He starred at his master for a good five minutes like a man who had seen a ghost and then stumbled down the hall towards the servant’s quarters with the vague idea of alerting someone. When he reached them, however, he promptly fell fast asleep upon the first bed he passed.
Thus Mr. James Lark was not found out until a solid quarter of an hour later when a maid entered the kitchen to start up the oven and begin her usual chores. She was a quick and sensible girl and immediately notified the cook and the head butler of her discovery. They were far across the large mansion in the servant sitting room, having their own early breakfast and so the entire household awakened to the cook’s horrified cries and the butler’s loud assurances that all would be righted immediately as they made their way across the house to the kitchen.
Once they arrived, however, there was nothing to be done. Mr. Lark seemed merely amused at the tumult he had caused and firmly answered the tearful cook and the accusing butler that he was perfectly happy and in fact inclined to cook his own breakfast this fine morning and certainly the devil himself could not persuade him otherwise.
“But why?” cried the cook painfully. “What could have put this strange idea into your head? My goodness! Flour all over the place! Oh Mr. Lark and whatever will I tell all the servants? They love and respect you so but to see you in this humbling state! Oh sir, its as if you were dressed in rags and wallowing with the pigs and you such a fine and educated gentleman without a care in the world. Oh good sir, this is nonsense and wildness I tell you. Nothing good will come of it!” Mr. Lark began to show signs of vexation, as Mrs. Tuttle’s voice grew louder. She seemed to have no intention of stopping and the crowd of servants around him was rather bothersome.
He suddenly turned on her with a gentle look in his eye and exclaimed mysteriously, “I have found my way.” He smiled quietly to himself and turned back to his eggs, which were by now very well poached. He speedily dumped them onto a plate, grabbed his toast and a cup of tea and dashed out of the room. At this point the good cook was trembling with anguish and promptly burst into tears. She was a loyal, undemanding sort of woman who appreciated the place in life she had been given and expected others to do the same. Though her reasons were vague she felt sure that what was going on was simply not right and she now collapsed in disarray at the prospect of failure to right the situation.
“Never fear my dear Mrs. Tuttle,” the head butler seemed have finally found his voice. It was a dry one and not the kind that is prone to be soothing. “Mr. Lark will come to his senses. He is perhaps temporarily delusional but a doctor and a prescription or two can fix anything. Never fear Mrs. Tuttle!” He repeated. “We shall get to the bottom of this.” With this last remark the butler fixed a severe eye upon the door from which Mr. Lark had escaped. Mrs. Tuttle’s heart suddenly filled with fear as she gazed up at this man. The implication of his words was unclear but his tone frightened her enough.
“Alright, alright Mr. Bronson. That is quite enough. You talk as if he were a convict.” She clucked. Suddenly regaining her senses with the exit of Mr. Lark she turned on the servants menacingly. “It is so late in the morning! My goodness! Look at the place! It is in utter confusion! What are you all staring at? Get to work! This isn’t a circus you lazy mongrels!” The bodies around her suddenly began to move as if the devil was on their tails. The oven flared, pots and pans appeared, and the room was swept and tidied of the morning’s events with remarkable dexterity and speed. Mr. Bronson disappeared and Mrs. Tuttle began her usual duties, chastising and ordering the servants about with a flourish of new energy and poise.


Juliet is the “lady liberty” that arises from the bosom of wild revolutions like France. At the same time, she is often the symbol of the human heart and the good passions that arise from a knowledge and faith in the Good. James is America. He is the regular, unsuspecting man seeking liberty and interest and life. He used to be a stable boy in the courts of a wealthy landholder. Now, through a series of events, both lucky and hardworking, he has reached riches and freedom and yet something is missing. He deeply craves adventure and excitement. He is intelligent, rich, and bored. The ultimate answer to his dissatisfaction seems to be Juliet. However, his unrest at first begins to rear its head in his unconventional and at first mildly rebellious acts against society, class, and expectations of him. His unrest is nurtured instead of quieted, however, by his adventurous endeavors and his quest for freedom, peace, and adventure. Eventually, it culminates in his murder of Father Brown, his trial, conviction, and imprisonment. Because of his high status in society he is quietly let off a great deal of his sentence by the king. His murderous act is attributed to a crazed and impassioned mind after the alleged impurity of his sister Una. Una is the “guardian angel” of the story. Though her reputation is destroyed, she in fact remained faithful to the right cause and continues to be peaceful and kind of heart, even after her accusation. Father Brown is religion. Una is true faith. She is, perhaps, similar to Kierkegaard’s knight of faith. Father Brown is the corruption of religion and the example of the way people use it ruthlessly to their own advantage.
James will finally return from prison only to witness Juliet’s suicide and the squandering of his possessions by his untrustworthy clerk. In Una, however, he still finds hope. He moves to a small town with her and they each open simple businesses with the little money they have left. James finds peace, in the end, not in the loss of his possessions, however, or even the loss of the passionate Juliet. He finds peace in the truth of his sister and the hope of a life surrounded with the “love that surpasses understanding”. The love of God disguised? Plato? Sea of beauty? In the end I want to leave people with a desire for more beauty, more love, and more truth in their lives. They must see the hopelessness and corruption in this world, but at the same time catch glimpses of a terribly beautiful truth. They must catch glimpses of a love that can satisfy their souls and righteousness and justice that can defeat the evil of this world.


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