Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/43

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notable match; Judy had been bridesmaid at the Harvard wedding. . . .

Perhaps it was because he was not entirely of the city nor entirely of the country that he wrote well of neither. The Woman Killed with Kindness . . . the Shoemaker’s Holiday . . . Mistress Montjoy’s babble again. . . . No, he never could equal either Heywood or Dekker in their chosen fields, he told himself. Once in an attempt to rewrite Three Ladies from London, he had essayed to paint the town and once, in Cardenna, the country. But he had failed; failed so lamentably that he gave over the blurred, confused, half-written things, the one to Heywood, the other to Fletcher. He himself liked to write of lands so far away, of times so long ago, or of countries and ages so entirely imagined that no critic could dispute his fancyings. Such a fantasy his new play was to be! If ever it came into existence at all . . . God, how tortured he was with its formlessness and vagueness! An island. Somewhere? No, nowhere. An island floating between sea and sky. An island as airy and gossamer as a cloud, as delicately imagined as a vision. And on it three beings. A maiden. A slim, pure, virgin thing, Mirandola? Mirala? Mironda? No, Miranda. Yes, that was it, Miranda. And an old man, a wiseacre, a sage—Prospero. An old man who had exorcised that island in a breath, could banish it in an eye-wink! “We are of such stuff as dreams are made of and our little life is rounded with a . . . sleep.” Already some of the lines were drifting into his head. And then for contrast with those two, unnamed as yet, unbodied—for, strain mind and soul as he would, he could not see him—an ugly, misshapen creature, hobgoblin, leprechaun, gargoyle. The whole thing should be a film of faery—a work to make the Night’s Dream seem of the earth and clodlike. The name was clear, A Summer’s Tale.

And that was all!

That had been all for three months. The island and the three people on it and the name, A Summer’s Tale. Perhaps it was too much of faery. At any rate, it hung impalpable, shapeless and colourless in the high, dry ether of his mind. Months, months, months, it had been since that fiery up-rushing torrent of the spirit had made precipitation. Nothing he had done would produce more. Not thinking until his