The Last Man 2.0 – Introduction



I VISITED Naples on the 8th of December, 1818. My companion and I crossed the Bay, to visit the relics scattered on the shores of Baiae. The transparent, shining waters of the calm sea washed over seaweed covered fragments of old Roman villas, receiving chequered diamond tints from the sun-beams. Imagine water so clear, so blue, that Galatea herself might have skimmed over them, or better yet, Cleopatra might have chosen this path for her magic ship, deeming it more fitting than the Nile.

Although it was winter, the weather seemed more like early spring. Its friendly warmth inspired sensations of tranquility, causing travellers to linger, rather than leave the peaceful bays and radiant peninsulas of Baiae.

We visited the so called Elysian Fields and Avernus, and wandered through various ruined temples, baths, and ancient spots, until finally we entered gloomy caverns in our search for the cave of the Cumaean Sibyl. Our guides carried flaring red torches; the murky subterranean passages seemed eager to drink our light.

We passed a natural archway, leading to a second passageway, and asked if we could enter. Our guides answered by simply pointing to the reflection of their torches on the water that paved it, leaving us to form our own conclusion. They did add that it was a pity, for it led to the Sibyl’s Cave. Our curiosity led us to insist entering the passage. Surprisingly, it was not as difficult as we originally expected. We found a dry pathway and arrived at a large, dark cavern, which our guides assured us was the Sibyl’s Cave.

The cave itself was disappointing, but nonetheless we examined it, searching the blank, rocky walls for a trace of a celestial visitant. Clearly this was just another cavern, and not the home of an oracle. To one side there was a small opening. We asked our guide where it led.

“You can travel a short distance further, but few ever try.” replied our lead guide.

“I have to try,” said my companion turning to face me; “it could lead to the real cavern. What do you say?”

I agreed, but our guides protested. Rambling in their native Neapolitan dialect, (with which we were not very familiar), they told us that there were spectres, that the roof would fall in, that it was too narrow, and all that we would find would be a deep pit filled with water where we would surely drown. My friend ended the argument by taking the guide’s torch from him; we proceeded alone.

The passage, which was barely large enough for us quickly grew narrower and lower; we were almost bent over, yet still we continued on. After awhile we entered a wider space, and the low roof heightened; but, as we congratulated ourselves for pressing on, our torch was extinguished by a current of air, and we were left in utter darkness. We did not bring anything to relight the torch – our only choice was to turn back. We groped around the widened space to find the entrance, and after some time thought we had succeeded. This led to another passage which ascended. A dim ray shed a very doubtful twilight in the space. Our eyes grew accustomed to this dimness, and we saw that there was no direct path to lead us further, but that it was possible to climb one side of the cavern to a low arch at the top. With considerable difficulty we scrambled up, and came to another passage with still more illumination, leading to another climb.

After a series of these, we arrived at a wide cavern with an arched dome-like roof. An opening in the midst let in the light from the world above, but it was overgrown with branches and shrubs, which acted as a veil, giving a solemn religious hue to the cavern. It was spacious, and almost circular, with a raised seat of stone at one end. The only sign of life was the perfect snow-white skeleton of a goat, which had likely fallen headfirst while grazing above.

The rest of the cavern consisted of piles of leaves, fragments of bark, and a white filmy substance, resembling the inner part of unripe corn. Fatigued by our struggles we sat on the large rock, while the sounds of tinkling sheep-bells, and shouts of a far off shepherd-boy reached us from above.

“This is the Sibyl’s cave; these are oracle leaves.” my friend exclaimed. On further examination, we found that all the leaves, bark, and other substances contained writing. In itself this may not mean much, but what was peculiar was that these writings were in various languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics as old as the Pyramids, Aramaic, and others unknown to us. Stranger still, many were in modern languages such as English and Italian. It was hard to read in the dim light, but they seemed to contain detailed accounts of recent events. Modern names, dates, tales of happiness, woe, victory and defeat were all here in these thin, scant pages. This was certainly the Sibyl’s Cave, although not exactly as Virgil described it. This whole land had been ravaged by earthquakes and volcanoes; time had not been kind to this once proud land. The only reason these leaves were likely so well preserved was the accident which had closed the mouth of the cavern, and the swift-growing vegetation which had protected its sole opening from storms. We quickly chose a selection of leaves whose writing we could understand and then, content with our treasure, we began the difficult journey to rejoin our guides.

During our stay in Naples, we often returned to this cave, sometimes alone, each time adding to our collection. Since then, when I am not distracted by work or study, I have worked to decipher these sacred remains. Their meaning, wondrous and eloquent, has often repaid my toil, soothing me in sorrow, and exciting my imagination. My companion is now gone, and with him, some of the secrets of these leaves may also be lost to me.

Di mie tenere frondi altro lavoro
Credea mostrarte; e qual fero pianeta
Ne’ nvidio insieme, o mio nobil tesoro?

At first the writings of the oracle seemed scattered and unconnected. I worked to add links, and give these writings a consistent form, but I believe that I have found the true message shrouded by the weathered leaves of the Sibyl.

Perhaps another scholar would have given this story another form. The visions of the Sibyl have likely suffered distortion in my hands, but the only way to make them intelligible was through my interpretation.

My labours have filled long hours of solitude, and taken me out of a miserable world, to one glowing with imagination and power. Readers will surely ask how I could find solace in a narrative of misery and desolation. I confess, that while at times I have agonized, I still faithfully transcribed this tale from the leaves. Such is the mystery of human nature, that a story of excitement and imagination, disaster, and the ruinous passions of man, softened my sorrows and endless regrets.

To the reader of this work: an apology may be necessary. After all, only time will tell how accurately my imperfect work gave form and substance to the frail and attenuated Leaves of the Sibyl. It is still too early to know if this is indeed the story of the last man.

Continue to Chapter I

The Last Man 2.0 – Chapter I



I AM the native of a sea-surrounded nook; somehow this cloud-enshrouded, inconsiderable speck manages to outweigh far larger nations. It reminds me that the human mind was the creator of all that is great, and Nature herself is only our trusted servant.

England now visits my dreams as a vast and well-manned ship, which mastered the winds and rode proudly over the waves. In my childhood she was the universe to me. Plains and mountains stretched to the limits of my vision, speckled by the dwellings of my countrymen, becoming the Earth’s very centre. The rest of the world was simply a fable, out of mind and easily forgotten.

My fortunes have been an example of the power that mutability may possess over a man’s life. My father was one of those men who had the envied gifts of wit and imagination, and left his life to be guided by the winds, without adding reason as the rudder, or judgment as the pilot for the voyage. His background was obscure, but his meager inheritance was spent on luxury so that he might become an actor in high-society, where he was soon noticed. During his careless youth, he was adored by the wealthy, and even a youthful sovereign, who escaped from the arduous duties of kingly business to find constant amusement and exhilaration in his company. My father’s impulses perpetually led him into difficulties from which only his cleverness could release him. His accumulating pile of debts would have broken any other man, but he had a light spirit. While his company was desired at the tables of the rich, his negligence seemed forgivable, which only served to further boost his ego, and ultimately, his reckless ways.

This kind of popularity, like any other, is fleeting. His problems seemed to become increasingly difficult. During these times the king, out of affection, would come to his aide, and then kindly take his friend to task. My father always promised to make amends, but his craving for admiration, and an obsession with gambling, made his promises meaningless.

Despite his temperament, my father did have a peculiar sensibility. He soon felt his power in the brilliant circle diminish. The king married a scornful princess of Austria, who as queen of England, looked upon my father with contempt. Feeling that his fall was near, he decided to attempt to profit from his position in society one last time.

The king was a good man, but easily led, and had become a willing disciple of the queen. He was made to look with extreme distaste on my father’s foolishness. When they were together my father’s warm-hearted frankness, witty remarks and confiding demeanour were irresistible: but when they were apart, tales of his failings were planted into the king’s ear, and my father began to lose his influence. The queen would work to keep them apart, while presenting her accusations. The king finally decided that he would give his friend one last chance to redeem himself, or cast him off forever.

The king implored his friend to give up his ways, and to use his talents on a worthy cause, which he would support. My father then realized that he would do well to exchange his present pursuits for nobler duties. He gave the king a sincere promise, and in turn received a sum of money to pay his debts, to enable him to begin a new phase of his life. Although well intentioned, that very night he lost the entire sum at the gambling table.

Attempting to recover his initial losses, my father doubled the stakes, and in losing incurred a debt he was unable to pay. To ashamed to ask the king for help once again, he turned his back on London, and with poverty as his sole companion, he buried himself in solitude among the hills and lakes of Cumberland. His wit, fascinating manners, and social talents were long remembered and repeated from mouth to mouth. If you had asked where this companion of the noble had gone, you would simply hear that he was a lost man; the high-society that once adored him did not think to find him and offer help. The king lamented his absence; he loved to repeat his sayings, tell of their adventures, and praise his talents – but here ended his reminiscence.

Meanwhile my father, although forgotten, could not forget his past life. The loss of luxury, pleasure, and admiration was devastating to him. He soon fell ill and was left to be nursed by the daughter of a poor cottager whose roof he lived under. She was lovely, gentle, and, above all, kind to him. Although he had fallen out of favour with the elite, he was still remarkable to the lowly cottage-girl. This led to an ill-fated marriage, of which I was the offspring.

Despite the tenderness of my mother, her husband still despised his life. Unaccustomed to work, he did not know how to support his family. Sometimes he thought of asking the king, but pride and shame stopped him. Before the situation became grave enough for him to seek out help, he died. Shortly before this catastrophe, he looked forward to the future, and contemplated the desolate situation in which his wife and children would be left. His last effort was a letter to the king, full of touching eloquence, and of occasional flashes of that brilliant spirit which was an integral part of him. He committed his widow and orphans to the friendship of his royal master, and felt that their prosperity was better assured in his death than in his life. This letter was entrusted to a nobleman, who, he did not doubt, would perform the duty of placing it in the king’s own hand.

He died in debt, and what little property he had was immediately seized by his creditors. My mother, penniless and burdened with two children, waited week after week, and month after month, in sickening expectation of a reply which never came. She had no experience beyond her father’s cottage; the mansion of a lord was the most she could conceive. During my father’s life, she had become familiar with the name of royalty and the courtly circle; but such things appeared to be vague and fantastical to her. If, somehow she could have found the courage to address the noble persons mentioned by her husband, how could she succeed where he had failed? She saw no escape from her sad existence of want and misery.

The situation of her orphan children was eerily familiar. Her own father had been an emigrant from another part of the country, and had died long since. Left with no family, they were outcasts, who were treated worse than the poorest of the poor.

The oldest of two children, I was five years old when my mother died. Memories of my mother imparting upon me knowledge of my father’s friends, in the hope that one day I might benefit, floated like an ethereal dream through my brain. I felt different, superior to my companions, because of these wondrous tales, although simply hearing the name of the king or his nobility caused me pain. My first real memories of myself are as an orphan among the valleys of Cumberland where I was in the service of a farmer as a shepherd. Such a life was not easy and its pains far exceeded its pleasures. There was freedom in it, a reckless loneliness; but as romantic as this was, it did not fulfill the desires of action and human sympathy that youth crave. Caring for my flock was not enough to tame my eager spirit; my free time was filled with temptations that led me into lawlessness. I found others like myself and formed them into a band, where I was their chief and captain. Our flocks spread over the pastures, while we schemed and executed mischievous pranks, making enemies out of the locals. I was the leader and protector of my comrades. While I endured punishment and pain in their defence with the spirit of a hero, I earned their praise and obedience.

My disposition became rugged, but firm; I inherited my father’s appetite for admiration and lack of self-control, making me daring and reckless. I was rough like the elements, and often compared myself to the animals I tended. I soon persuaded myself that it was in power only that I was inferior to the monarchs of the earth. Uneducated and pursued by a restless feeling of being denied my true station in society, I wandered among the hills of civilized England as savagely as the wolf founder of ancient Rome. My only law was that of the strongest, and my greatest virtue was that I would never submit.

As my mother lay dying, she entrusted me with the care of my sister. This is one duty I performed to the best of my ability, with all the zeal and affection of which I was capable. My sister was three years younger and the object of my careful love. Orphans in every sense of the word, we were poorest of the poor, and despised even among the unhonoured. While my determination gave me courage, my sister’s character was weaker, making our lowly station that much more difficult for her.

Like me, she inherited our father’s peculiar disposition. Her face was all expression; her eyes were not dark, but impenetrably deep with their intellectual glance, a true reflection of the soul. She was pale and fair, golden hair contrasting the living marble beneath. She had heaven in her heart and in her look, so that when you saw her you only thought of that within.

Although she was lovely and full of noble feeling, my poor Perdita (a fanciful name my sister had
received from her dying father), was not altogether saintly. If she had been nurtured, she might have been different; but unloved and neglected, she repaid kindness with distrust and silence. She expected hostility from everyone around her, and reacted accordingly. She wandered to the most desolate places in order to find loneliness. Often she passed whole hours walking up and down the paths of the woods, sitting beside a stream, creating fantasy worlds for herself, and onl returning to the dullness of her common life when absolutely necessary.

Poverty was a cloud that veiled her best qualities, and all that was good in her seemed to perish from a lack of affection. Unlike me, Perdita did not even have the advantage of remembering our parents; she clung to me as her only true friend, but her affection for a scoundrel did nothing to help her gain favour from others. Had she been born into a better family, she would have been the object of adoration. She was an intelligent girl and envy or cruelty were not in her nature; when she was happy her expression might have been that of a queen; her eyes were bright; her look fearless.

Despite our bond, my sister and I formed stark contrasts to each other. I always sought companionship and applause. Perdita was self-sufficient. Notwithstanding my lawless habits, I was quite sociable, while she was a recluse. My life was spent among tangible realities, hers was a dream. It could be said that I loved my enemies, as their excitement bestowed happiness upon me; Perdita almost disliked her friends, for they interfered with her day dreaming. All my feelings, my small triumphs, became bitter if I could not share them; Perdita, even in joy, fled to loneliness, and could go entire days without seeking companionship. She could love and dwell on tenderness in her heart, while her demeanour expressed the coldest reserve. Her feelings became sentiments, and she never spoke until she was absolutely certain of the analysis she carried out in her own mind. She could be as beautiful as the loveliest fruits and flowers or as dark and rugged as raked up soil.

She came to dwell in a cottage near the waters of the lake of Ulswater surrounded by the woods. I lived with a farmer whose house was built among the hills: a dark crag rose behind it, and facing the north, the snow lay in its crevices even during summer. Before dawn I led my flock on walks, and guarded them during the day. It was a life of toil where rain and cold were more frequent than sunshine. My trusty dog watched the sheep as I slipped away to find my comrades, where we would go on to our schemes. At noon we built our fire and cooked game stolen from the neighbouring reserves. After our meal came the tales of daring escapes, combats with dogs, and flight from would be captors. Our afternoons were filled with searching for stray lambs and eluding punishment for our misdeeds. After a long day or working in the fields, my flock went to its fold, and I to my sister.

My companions and I rarely escaped our mischief scot free. Our stolen game was often exchanged for blows and imprisonment. At the age of thirteen I spent a month in the county jail, and left with my morals unimproved; my hatred to my oppressors had increased tenfold. Bread and water could not tame my blood, solitary confinement could not inspire tranquility. I was angry, impatient and miserable. My only happiness was in scheming my revenge which I perfected in my forced solitude. When I was freed early in September, I never failed to provide for myself and my comrades. A harsh winter full of sharp frost and heavy snows tamed the animals, while keeping farmers by their firesides. Their laziness meant we got more game than we could eat, and our group;s bravado only increased.

As the years passed they only added a fresh love of freedom, and contempt for all that was not wild and untamed. At the age of sixteen I had shot up in appearance to that of a man, tall and athletic. I had became accustomed to the harshness of the elements. My skin was tanned by the sun; my step was firm with conscious power. I feared no man, and loved no one apart from Perdita. Looking back with wonder to who I was I see how utterly worthless I would have become if I had pursued my lawless career. My life was like that of an animal, and my mind was in danger of degenerating into that of a savage. My lifestyle consisted of crime and anarchy. I stood on the brink of manhood; passions, strong as the trees of a forest, had already taken root within me, and were about to overshadow the path of my life.

I lusted for ventures beyond my childish exploits, and I became infatuated with dreams of my future. I avoided my old comrades, and soon lost contact with them. They destined to fulfil their stations in life; as an outcast, with no family to lead or drive me forward, I paused. The old began to point at me like a criminal, the young made me feel like an outcast. I hated them, and soon began to hate myself. I clung to my ferocious habits, while despising them. I continued my war against civilization, all the while wanting to belong to it.

During this time all that I remembered was my mother telling me of my father’s former life. I examined the few relics I possessed belonging to him, which hinted of a greater life than could be found among the mountain cottages. My father had been connected with nobles, but subsequently had been an outcast. The name of the king – to whom my dying father had addressed his last prayers, only to have them ignored – was associated only with the ideas of malice, injustice, and resentment. I knew that I was born for something greater than I was – but greatness, at least to my distorted perceptions, was not necessarily goodness, and my wild thoughts were unchecked by moral considerations. Thus I stood upon a pinnacle while a sea of evil rolled at my feet. I was about to throw myself into it, and rush like a torrent over all obstructions to the object of my wishes – until a stranger influence came over the current of my fortunes, and changed their course to the gentle meanderings of a meadow-encircling streamlet.

Continue to Chapter II

The Last Man 2.0 – Chapter II




I LIVED far from the busy haunts of men, and the rumour of wars or political changes rarely made it to our mountain abodes. England had been the scene of monumental struggles during my early boyhood and in 2073, the last of its kings, the ancient friend of my father, abdicated in compliance with the wishes of his people, thereby allowing a republic to be instituted. He received the title of Earl of Windsor along with Windsor Castle, while his family were also allotted significant estates. He died soon after, leaving two children: a son and a daughter.

The ex-queen, an Austrian princess, had long implored her husband to withstand the pressure to abdicate. She was arrogant and fearless. She cherished a love of power, and a bitter contempt for he who had given up a kingdom. For her children’s sake she agreed to remain, albeit without her royal status, as a member of the English republic. When she became a widow, she turned all her thoughts to educating her son Adrian, second Earl of Windsor, so as to accomplish her ambitious ends – that he may re-acquire his lost crown. Adrian was now fifteen years of age and addicted to his studies, where his learning and talents displayed wisdom beyond his years. Rumours soon began that he had already begun to thwart his mother’s political views, although this could not be confirmed as the Countess gave very few access to her son. Adrian was raised in solitude, and kept apart from natural companions of his age and rank. Some unknown factor now motivated his mother to send him from under her immediate tutelage, and we learned that he was
about to visit Cumberland. A thousand tales were spreading, although none were probably true. The only certainty was that the noble scion of the last regal house of England was among us.

There was a large estate with a mansion attached to it, belonging to this family, at Ulswater. It was attached to a large park that was laid out with great taste, and plentifully stocked with game. In the past I had often raided these preserves as the property was in a state of decay. When it was decided that the young Earl of Windsor would visit Cumberland, workmen swiftly arrived to restore the estate to its former glory. The home was restored to pristine splendour, and the park became guarded with unusual care.

I was immensely disturbed by this information. It roused my dormant hatred and gave rise to feelings of revenge. I could no longer concentrate on any form of work; all my plans were forgotten. The tug of war, I thought, was about to begin. Adrian would come triumphantly to the district to which my father had fled impoverished and broken-hearted. There he would find the ill-fated offspring, like miserable paupers. I was certain that if he were ever to meet Perdita and I, that he would treat us much in the same way that his father had treated ours – with disdain and neglect. He would be surrounded by servants and nobles. All of England praised his name and his coming, like a thunderstorm. If I ever came into contact with this entitled brat, I would let him know exactly how the sins of his father had caused my sister and I so much suffering.

With my mind fully occupied by these ideas, I stalked the abode of the young Earl. I watched the progress of the improvements, and watched as various articles of luxury brought directly from London were used to furnish his mansion. His mother the Ex-Queen was determined to surround her son with princely magnificence. I observed rich carpets and silken hangings, ornaments of gold, richly embossed metals, and all the other amenities given to the elite.Only that which was regal in splendour would surround the one of royal descent.

I looked at myself and realized that why should I be any different from Adrian? I blamed it on the lies, ingratitude, and abandonment of my father by the late king and his noble court. Doubtless, he was the focus of the kingdom’s wealth and nobility, had been taught to repeat my father’s name with disdain, and to scoff at my claims to protection. I thought that all this grandeur was but more glaring infamy, and that, by planting his golden woven flag beside my tarnished and tattered banner, he proclaimed not his superiority, but his corruption. Yet I envied him. His beautiful horses, his costly weapons, the praise and adoration heaped on him – all things that I believed to be rightfully mine and forcibly wrenched from me before my father’s fall from grace.

To make matters worse, Perdita, actually seemed to engage in the real world when she learned that the Earl of Windsor was about to arrive.

“The Earl’s arrival pleases you?” I observed, moodily.

“Indeed it does, Lionel,” she replied; “I quite long to see him; he is the descendant of our kings, the first noble of the land: every one admires and loves him, and they say that his rank means nothing to him; above all else he is generous, brave, and gracious.”

“You have learned a fanciful lesson, Perdita,” said I, “and you forget how we know of the Earl’s virtues; his generosity to us is manifest in our plenty, his bravery in the protection he affords us, his affability in the notice he takes of us. His rank is meaningless, you say? All of his virtues come from his rank; because he is rich, he is called generous; because he is powerful, he is brave; because he is well served, he is affable. Let all of England believe him to be thus – we know him – he is our enemy -our miserly, despicable, arrogant enemy; if he were gifted with one particle of the virtues you call his, he would do well by us. His father wounded my father – his father, unassailable on his throne, dared to despise he who stooped beneath himself, when he felt the need to associate with those royal ingrates. As their descendants we must be enemies also. He shall find that I can still feel the pain of my father; he shall learn to dread my revenge!”

A few days after he arrived. Every inhabitant of the most miserable cottage went forth to meet him. Even Perdita, in spite of my diatribe, crept near the highway, to observe this idol of all hearts. I, driven half mad, as I met party after party of the country people in their holiday best, descending the hills, escaped to their cloud-veiled summits, and looking on the sterile rocks about me, exclaimed – “They do not cry, long live the Earl!”. Only when night came, accompanied by drizzling rain and cold, would I return home for I knew that each cottage rang with the praises of Adrian. As I felt my limbs grow numb and chill, my pain served as food for my insane aversion. I felt triumphant in my misery, since it seemed to provide me an excuse for a deep hatred of my careless adversary. To me father and son were one and the same; I forgot that Adrian might be wholly unconscious of his father’s neglect of us. I was determined to confront him as I cried: “He shall hear of this! I will be avenged! I will not suffer like a dog! He shall know, beggar and friendless as I am, that I will not submit!”

Each day, each hour added to these exaggerated wrongs. His praises were so many cobra stings to my heart. If I saw him at a distance, riding a beautiful horse, my blood boiled with rage. The air seemed poisoned by his presence, and my own language became a vile jargon, since every phrase I heard was coupled with his name and honour. I longed to relieve my anger by some misdeed that should stir similar feelings in him. It was the height of his offenses, that he should cause in me such intolerable sensations, while not even acknowledging my existence.

It soon became known that Adrian took great delight in his regal sanctuary. He never hunted, but rather spent hours watching tribes of tame, lovely animals with which it was stocked, and ordered that their care be greater than ever. Here was my opportunity to attack, and I made use of it with all the brute defiance I could muster. I suggested the poaching of his regal lands to my few remaining comrades, who were the most determined and lawless of my crew, but they all shrunk from the peril. I was left to seek revenge by myself. At first my exploits went unnoticed so I quickly increased in daring. Footsteps on the dewy grass, torn shrubs, and marks of slaughter, at length betrayed me to the game-keepers. They began to keep better watch; I was taken, and sent to prison. I entered its gloomy walls in a fit of triumphant ecstasy: “He feels me now,” I cried, “and shall, again and again!” I passed but one day in confinement, in the evening I was liberated, as I was told, by the order of the Earl himself. He despises me, I thought; but he shall learn that I despise him, and hold in equal contempt his punishments and his clemency. On the second night after my release, I was again taken by the gamekeepers. Again I was imprisoned, and again released; and again, such was my determination, the fourth night found me in the forbidden park.

The gamekeepers were more enraged than their lord by my tenacity. They had received orders that if I were again taken, I should be brought directly to the Earl. His kindness made them expect leniency considering my crimes. One of them, who had been the leader among those who had seized me, decided to satisfy his own resentment before he handed me over to the higher powers.

The late setting of the moon, and the extreme caution I was obliged to use in this, my third expedition, consumed so much time, that a twinge of fear came over me when I saw dark night yield to twilight. I crept along by the fern, on my hands and knees, seeking the shadowy cover of the underwood, while the birds awoke with unwelcome song above, and the fresh morning wind, had me imagining footsteps at each turn. My heart beat quick as I approached the fences. A leap took me to the other side, where two keepers were waiting to ambush me: one knocked me down, and proceeded to whip me. I rose with a knife in my hands and made a lunge inflicting a deep wound in his hand. The yells of the wounded man and his comrade, which I answered with equal bitterness and fury, echoed through the vale. Morning continued to break, its celestial beauty out of place with our brutish fight. My enemy and I were still struggling, when the wounded man exclaimed, “The Earl!”

I sprang from the keeper’s herculean hold, panting from my efforts, casting furious glances at my persecutors. I placed my back to a tree, resolved to defend myself to the bitter end. My clothing was torn and stained with the blood of the man I had wounded. One hand grasped the dead birds – my hard-earned prey, the other held the knife. My hair was matted, my whole appearance was haggard and squalid. Tall and muscular as I was, I must have looked like the most vile thug that ever trod the earth.

The name of the Earl startled me, and caused all the indignant blood that warmed my heart to rush into my cheeks. I had never seen him before so I imagined a contemptuous youth, who if he decided I was worth his attention, would take me to task with all the arrogance of superiority. My reply was ready; a reproach calculated to sting his very heart.

His appearance shocked me. Before me stood a tall, slim, fair and gentle boy, with a countenance expressive of sensibility and refinement. The morning sunbeams tinged his silken hair with gold,
and spread light and glory over his beaming features. “What is this?” he cried. The men eagerly began their defence, but he pushed them aside saying, “Two of you against a mere lad?” He approached me: “Verney,” he cried, “Lionel Verney, this is how we meet for the first time? We were born to be friends to each other, and though fate has divided us, I hope that you will acknowledge the bond that we have inherited.”

As he spoke, his earnest eyes, fixed on me, seemed to read my very soul: my heart, savage and revengeful, felt the influence of sweet benevolence sink into it. His thrilling voice, like a sweet melody, awoke a mute echo within me, stirring to its depths the core of my being. I desired to reply, to acknowledge his goodness, accept his proffered friendship; but words, fitting words, were not afforded to the rough mountaineer. I would have held out my hand, but its guilty stain restrained me. Adrian took pity on my faltering mood: “Come with me,” he said, “I have much to say to you; surely you know who I am?”

“Yes,” I exclaimed, “I do believe that I now know you, and that you will pardon my mistakes – my crime.”

Adrian smiled gently; and after giving his orders to the gamekeepers, he came up to me, putting his arm around me as we walked together to the mansion.

It was not Adrian’s rank that subdued my heart of hearts, and laid my entire spirit prostrate before him. Nor was I alone in feeling that I intimately knew his perfections. His sensibility and kindness fascinated everyone. His energy, intelligence, and benevolence completed the conquest. Even at this early age, he was well read and imbued with higher reasoning. This spirit gave a tone of irresistible persuasion in his conversation with others, so that he seemed like an inspired musician, who struck with ease the harp of the mind, and from it produced a divine harmony. In person, he hardly appeared of this world. His slight frame was overwhelmed by the soul that dwelt within. He was all mind – a mind which could could tame a hungry lion with a smile, or convinced a legion of armed men to lay their weapons at his feet. Thus, convincing an enemy that they were now friends and that they should spend the day together was a simple feat.

At first he did not refer to the past, or to anything personal. He likely wanted to inspire me with confidence, and give me time to gather my scattered thoughts. We sat in his library, and he spoke of the old Greek sages, and of the power which they had acquired over the minds of men, through the force of love and wisdom – ideas I had never before conceived. As he spoke, I felt subordinate to him; and all my boasted pride and strength were subdued by his blue-eyes.

As evening came, he finally addressed the past. “I have a tale to relate,” he said, “and much explanation to give concerning the past; perhaps you can assist me. Do you remember your father? I never had the pleasure of knowing him, but his name is one of my earliest recollections. He stands written in my mind as gallant, amiable, and fascinating. His wit was apparent in the overflowing goodness of his heart, which he poured in such full measure on his friends, often leaving only a small remnant for himself.”

Encouraged by this tribute, I proceeded to answer his questions and to relate what I remembered of my father. He gave an account of the circumstances which led to the neglect of my father’s testamentary letter. When Adrian’s father, then king of England, felt his situation become more perilous, he wished for his dear friend, who might stand against the impetuous anger of his queen, and as a mediator between him and the parliament. From the time my father had left London, on the night of his fatal defeat at the gambling table, the king had received no reports concerning him. After several years, he strived to find him, but every trace was gone. With greater regret than ever, he clung to his memory, and asked his son if ever he should meet this valued friend, to bestow every assistance on his behalf, and to assure him that their friendship had survived.

Shortly before Adrian’s visit to Cumberland, an heir of the nobleman entrusted with my father’s letter delivered it into the young Earl’s hands. It had been found amongst a mass of old papers that had been cast aside, and was found solely by accident. Adrian read it with deep interest, and within it found the living spirit of a genius he had so often heard commemorated. He discovered the name of the spot where my father had retreated and ultimately died, and of his orphan children. Shortly after arriving at Ulswater, he began making inquiries concerning us, so that he could carry out the late King’s wishes.

The way in which he spoke of my father was gratifying to my soul. Respect, admiration and love – emotions that I had rarely experienced but that he inspired in me through his appeasing manner and generous warmth – had touched my rocky heart. As we parted in the evening he clasped my hand and said “we shall meet again tomorrow.” I took that kind hand and tried to answer, but a fervent “God bless you!” was all my frame of mind would allow.

I could not rest. I sought the hills and ran on, trying to master the struggling spirit within me through bodily fatigue. “This,” I thought, “is power! Not to be strong of limb, hard of heart, ferocious, and daring; but kind, compassionate and soft.” With a newfound intensity I cried, “Doubt me not, Adrian, for I also will become wise and good!” and then quite overcome, I wept aloud.

As this gust of passion left me, I felt more composed. I lay on the ground, and giving the reins to my thoughts, repassed in my mind my former life; and began, fold by fold, to unwind the many errors of my heart, and to discover how brutish, savage, and worthless I had been. However, I could not feel remorse for I was born anew. My soul threw off the burden of past sin, to commence a new life which would value innocence and love. Nothing harsh or rough remained that would subdue the soft feelings which this day had inspired. I was like a child lisping its devotions after its mother, and my plastic soul was remoulded by a master hand, which I neither desired nor was able to resist.

This was the beginning of my friendship with Adrian, and I must keep this day as the most fortunate of my life. As I entered that sacred boundary which divides the intellectual and moral nature of man from that which characterizes animals, I finally became a human being. My best feelings emerged as fitting responses to the generosity, wisdom, and kindness of my new friend. For his part, Adrian, with a noble goodness all his own, took infinite delight in bestowing to excess the treasures of his mind and fortune on the long-neglected son of his father’s friend.

After his abdication the late king had retreated from the sphere of politics, yet his domestic circle afforded him small content. The ex-queen had none of the virtues of domestic life, and those of courage and daring which she possessed were rendered null by the secession of her husband. She despised him, and did not care to conceal her sentiments. The king had, in compliance with her wishes cast off his old friends, but he had acquired no new ones under her guidance. In this absence of sympathy, he found refuge in his infant son, and the early development of talent and sensibility made Adrian worthy of his father’s confidence. He was never weary of listening to his father’s often repeated accounts of old times, in which my father had played a distinguished part. His keen remarks were repeated to the boy, and remembered by him; his wit, his fascinations, his very faults were hallowed by the regret of affection. His loss was sincerely felt. Even the queen’s dislike of this favoured companion was insufficient to deprive him of his Adrian’s admiration. As it related to my father the Queen was bitter, sarcastic, contemptuous – but as she bestowed her disapproval on his virtues and his errors, on his devoted friendship and his ill-bestowed loves, on his disinterestedness and his absurdity, on his social graces, and the facility with which he yielded to temptation. Her condemnation proved too heavy, and fell short of the mark, and did not prevent Adrian from imagining my father as the type that was gallant,charming, and fascinating. It was not strange therefore, that when he heard of the existence of the offspring of this celebrated person, he should have formed the plan of bestowing on them all the advantages his rank could afford. When he found me a vagabond shepherd of the hills, a poacher, an unenlightened savage, still his kindness did not fail. As Adrian felt that his father was to a degree guilty of neglecting us, and thus obligated to every possible reparation, he was pleased to say that under all my ruggedness there glimmered an elevation of spirit, which could be distinguished from mere animal courage. I inherited the demeanor of my father, which gave proof that all his virtues and talents had not died with him. These very traits had descended to me, and my noble young friend resolved they should not be lost for want of culture.

Acting upon this plan in our subsequent discussions, he led me to partake in that cultivation which graced his own intellect. Once my active mind seized upon this new idea, I fastened on it with intense desire. At first my objective was to rival the merits of my father, and render myself worthy of Adrian’s friendship. This gave way to curiosity and soon an earnest love of knowledge, which led me to pass days and nights reading and studying. I was already well acquainted with The natural world. But I was at once startled and enchanted by my sudden extension of vision, when the curtain, which had been drawn before the intellectual world, was withdrawn, and I saw the universe, not only as it presented itself to my outward senses, but as it had appeared to the wisest among men. Poetry and its creations, philosophy and its tenets, awoke the sleeping ideas in my mind, and gave me new ones.

I felt like the sailor who from the topmast first discovered the shore of America; and like him I hastened to tell my companions of my discoveries in unknown regions. But I was unable to excite in any other the same appetite for knowledge that existed in me. Even Perdita was unable to understand me. I had lived in what is generally called the world of reality, and I awakened to find that there was a deeper meaning in all I saw, beyond that which my eyes conveyed to me. The idealistic Perdita beheld this only as a new gloss on an old book, and her own was sufficiently inexhaustible to content her. She listened to me as she had done during the narration of my adventures, and sometimes took an interest in this type of information; but she did not, as I did, look on it as an integral part of her being. This I did not understand, because after obtaining this knowledge, I could no more forgo it than I could sacrifice air.

We could both agree in loving Adrian: although she was still child-like and could not appreciate as I did the extent of his merits, or feel the same sympathy in his pursuits and opinions. I was always with him. There was a sensibility and kindness in his disposition, that gave a hallowed tone to our discussion. He was happy as a lark carolling from its heavenly tower, soaring in thought as an eagle, innocent as the mild-eyed dove. He could dispel the seriousness of Perdita, and subdue the torturous nature of my character. I looked to the restless desires and painful struggles of my past as a troubled dream, and felt myself changed as if I had metamorphosize into another form, whose fresh senses had altered the reflection of the apparent universe in the mirror of mind. But I was still the same in strength, in my craving for sympathy, and my yearning for challenge. My core virtues did not desert me; just as Urania spared the locks of Sampson, while he reposed at her feet weakened and humanized. Nor did Adrian instruct me only in the cold truths of history and philosophy. He taught me that they could subdue my own reckless and uncultured spirit, he opened my view to the living page of his own heart, and gave me an understanding his wondrous character.

The ex-queen of England had endeavoured to implant daring and ambitious designs in the mind of her son even during his infancy. She saw that he was endowed with genius and surpassing talent which she cultivated in hopes of furthering of her own goals. She encouraged his craving for knowledge and his impetuous courage; she even tolerated his tameless love of freedom, under the hope that this would, as is too often the case, lead to a passion for command. She intended to foster in him a sense of resentment towards those who had been instrumental in bringing about his father’s abdication, in the hopes that he might one day seek revenge and regain his lost throne. In this she did not succeed. The thought of a great and wise nation asserting its right to govern itself seemed just to him: in early days he became a nationalist. Still his mother did not despair. To the love of rule and arrogant pride of birth she added determined ambition, patience, and self-control. She devoted herself to the study of her son’s complex disposition. Through praise, discipline and encouragement, she tried to strike the fitting chords, and though the melody that followed her touch seemed discord to her, she built her hopes on his talents, and felt sure that she would at eventually win him over. While their differing philosophies put them at odds, the present banishment of Adrian arose from other causes.

The ex-queen also had a daughter, now twelve years of age (his fairy sister, as Adrian referred to her) a lovely, animated, little thing, all sensibility and truth. With her children, the noble widow resided at Windsor where she admitted no visitors, except her own partisans, travellers from her native Germany, and a few of the foreign ministers. Among these, and highly distinguished by her, was Prince Zaimi, ambassador to England from the free States of Greece, and his daughter, the young Princess Evadne, who passed much of her time at Windsor Castle. In the company of this sprightly and clever Greek girl, the Countess would relax her guard. Her views applied only to her own children, and Evadne was a plaything she could in no way fear. Her talents and vivacity became slight alleviations to the monotony of the Countess’s life.

Evadne was eighteen years of age, and although she spent much time at Windsor, where Adrian soon fell in love. Despite his youth he was tender of heart beyond the common nature of man, and truly understood love. It was strange to me, I who had never found love, to witness the devotion and faith of my friend. His life was swallowed up in the existence of his beloved, and his heart beat in unison with the pulsations that enlivened hers. This was the secret law of his life – he loved and was beloved. To him the universe was a dwelling to inhabit with his chosen one and no scheme or chain of events could grant him happiness or misery even though life was in reality a wilderness, a tiger-haunted jungle. In the midst of errors, in the depths of its savage recesses, there was a disentangled and flowery pathway, through which they might journey in safety and delight. Their track would be like the passage of the Red Sea, which they might traverse untouched, despite being surrounded by walls of impending destruction on either side.

Why must I record the hapless delusions of this peerless specimen of humanity? What is there in our nature that is forever urging us towards pain and misery? However we may be attuned to the reception of pleasurable emotion, we were made to suffer. Disappointment is the never-failing pilot of our life, and it ruthlessly carries us on to the shoals. Who was better positioned than this highly-gifted youth to love and be loved, and to reap unalienable joy from a blind passion? If his heart had slept but a few years longer, he might have been saved; but it awoke in its infancy; it had power, but no knowledge; and it was ruined, even as an early bud is killed in the frost.

I did not accuse Evadne or a wish to deceive her lover, but the first letter that I saw of hers convinced me that she did not love Adrian. It was written with elegance, and a great command of language that was likely beyond a foreigner. The handwriting was exquisitely beautiful, the very paper seemed being tasteful, even to one who was raised as a pauper. There was much kindness, gratitude, and sweetness in her expression – but no love. Evadne was two years older than Adrian, and who, at eighteen, ever loved one so much younger? I compared her placid notes with the burning ones of Adrian. His soul seemed to distil itself into the words he wrote. They breathed on the paper, bearing with them a portion his love, his life. The very act of writing used to exhaust him. When he was finished he would weep over the letters from the excess of emotion they awakened in his heart.

Adrian’s soul was painted in his face, and concealment or deceit were the extreme opposites of his frank nature. Evadne was adamant that the tale of their love should not be revealed to his mother; and after a while he conceded to her. It was a vain concession, his demeanour quickly betrayed his secret to the quick eyes of the ex-queen. With the same wary prudence that characterized her whole behaviour, she concealed her discovery, but hastened to remove her son from the presence of the attractive Greek. He was sent to Cumberland, but the plan of correspondence between the lovers, arranged by Evadne, was hidden from her. Thus Adrian’s absence, intended for the purpose of separation, united them more than ever. To me he spoke endlessly of his beloved. Her country, its ancient tales, its recent memorable struggles all made to partake in its glory and excellence. He agreed to depart because his mother commanded it, and because Evadne’s knew that any assertion of his resolve would be pointless. Perhaps there was also a lurking dislike to bind herself in front of the world to one whom she did not love – not love, at least, with that passionate enthusiasm which her heart told her she might one day feel towards another. He obeyed her injunctions, and decided to pass a year in exile in Cumberland.

The Last Man 2.0 – Chapter III

THE LAST MAN

CHAPTER III.

HAPPY were the months, weeks, and hours of Adrian’s year long exile. Friendship, hand in hand with admiration, tenderness and respect, built a grove of delight in my heart. Insatiable thirst for knowledge, and boundless affection for Adrian, combined to keep both my heart and mind occupied and content. No happiness is so true and unclouded as the overflowing delight of youth. In our boat, upon my native lake, beside the streams and the pale bordering poplars I tossed my crook aside and found a nobler flock to tend than silly sheep – a flock of newborn ideas. I studied and listened to Adrian; his discourse, whether it concerned his love or his theories for the improvement of man, entranced me. Sometimes my lawless mood would return, my love of peril, my resistance to authority, but only in his absence. Under the mild sway of his dear eyes, I was as obedient as a boy of five years old doing his mother’s bidding.

After his year with us, Adrian visited London, and came back full of plans for our future. You must begin life, he said: you are seventeen, and longer delay would render the necessary learning more and more difficult. He foresaw that his own life would be one of struggle, and that I would share his labours. To prepare me for this task, I would go abroad. He had procured for me the duty of private secretary to the Ambassador at Vienna, where I would begin my career under the best auspices. In two years, I would return to my country, with a name well known and a reputation already founded.

And Perdita? Perdita was to become the pupil, friend and surrogate younger sister of Evadne, while still maintaining her independence. How could we refuse the offers of our generous friend? In my heart of hearts, I made a vow to devote all the life, knowledge, and power which he had bestowed on me to him and his cause.

Thus I promised myself, as I journied towards my destination with roused expectation of the fulfilment of boyhood dreams of power and triumph. I knew the time had now arrived when childish occupations would be laid aside, and I would truly enter into life. Even in the Elysian fields, Virgil describes the souls of the happy as eager to drink of the wave which was to restore them to this mortal coil. The young are seldom in Elysium, for their desires outstrip all possibility, leaving them as poor as a beggar. We are told by the wisest philosophers of the dangers of the world, the deceits of men, and the treason of our own hearts, but nonetheless, we each cast off from our ports fearlessly and spread sail to attain the multitudinous streams of the sea of life. Few in youth’s prime dock their vessels on the golden sands to collect shells; instead they seek new adventures. But in the end, with shoddy rafts they make for shore, where they are wrecked as they reach it, or find some wave-beaten asylum, some desert strand, there they cast themselves and die unmourned.

A truce to philosophy! Life is before me, and I rush to possess it. Hope, glory, love, and blameless ambition are my guides, and my soul knows no dread. What has been, though sweet, is gone. The present is good only because it is about to change, and what comes is all my own. My eyes seem to penetrate the cloudy midnight of time, and to discern within the depths of its darkness, the fruition of all my soul’s desires.

During my journey I might dream, and with buoyant wings reach the summit of life’s high edifice. Now that I have arrived at its base, my pinions are furled, the mighty stairs are before me, and step by step I must ascend the wondrous temple. What door has opened before me?

Behold me in a new capacity – a diplomat. One among the pleasure-seeking society of a cheery city and a favourite of the Ambassador. With breathless amazement I entered all that was strange and admirable to a poor shepherd of Cumberland.

Soon, too soon, I entered the giddy whirl; forgetting my studious hours, and the companionship of Adrian. Passionate desire of sympathy, and ardent pursuit for a wished-for object still characterized me. The sight of beauty entranced me, and attractive manners in man or woman won my entire confidence. I called it rapture, when a smile made my heart beat and I felt lifeblood tingle in my frame, as I approached the idol which I worshipped. The mere flow of animal spirits was Paradise, and at night’s close I only desired a renewal of the intoxicating delusion. The dazzling light of ornamented rooms, and lovely forms arrayed in splendid dresses. The motions of a dance and the voluptuous tones of exquisite music cradled my senses in one delightful dream.

And is this not happiness? I appeal to preachers and sages: in the calm of their measured reveries, in the deep meditations which fill their hours, do they feel the ecstasy of a youthful novice? Can the calm beams of their heaven-seeking eyes equal the flashes of mingling passion which blind the neophyte? Can the influence of cold philosophy steep their soul in a joy equal to that of the apprentice?

But in truth, neither the lonely meditations of the hermit, nor the tumultuous raptures of the reveller, are capable of satisfying a man’s heart. From one we gather unquiet speculation, from the other satiety. The mind flags beneath the weight of thought, and sags in the heartless communion of those whose sole aim is amusement. There is no fruition in their vacant kindness, and sharp rocks lurk beneath the smiling ripples of these shallow waters.

Thus when disappointment, weariness, and solitude drove me back, I drew upon my heart to gather the joy of which it had become barren. My flagging spirits asked for something to speak to the affections; and not finding it, I sank. Thus, notwithstanding the thoughtless delight at its onset, the impression I have of my life at Vienna is melancholy. Goethe has said, that in youth we cannot be happy unless we love. I did not love, but I was devoured by a restless wish to be something to others. I became the victim of ingratitude and cold dallying – then I surrendered, and imagined that my discontent gave me a right to hate the world. I receded to solitude. I found refuge in my books, and my desire to once again enjoy Adrian’s company became a burning thirst.

At this period the exploits of one of my countrymen filled the world with admiration. Stories of his achievements, and speculation concerning his future actions, were the never-failing topics of the hour. I felt as if the praises which this darling of fame – this favourite of the masses – received were leaves torn from laurels destined for Adrian.

Lord Raymond was the sole remnant of a noble but impoverished family. From early youth he had considered his pedigree with complacency, and bitterly lamented his want of wealth. His first wish was glorification; and the means to the end were secondary considerations. He was arrogant, yet trembling to every demonstration of respect; ambitious, but too proud to show his aspirations; willing to achieve honour, yet an addict of pleasure. Life responded with an insult, real or imaginary, some disappointment to hard for his pride to bear. He writhed beneath an injury he was unable to satisfy; and he left England with a vow not to return, until his power could be felt.

He became an adventurer in the Greek wars. His reckless courage and sweeping genius brought him into notice. He became the darling hero of a rising people. Only his foreign birth, and the refusal to throw off his allegiance to England, prevented him from filling key offices in the state. While others ranked higher in title and ceremony, Lord Raymond held a station above and beyond all others. He led the Greek armies to victory; their triumphs were all his own. When he appeared, entire towns poured forth to meet him. New songs were created to celebrate his glory, valour, and benevolence.

A truce was struck between the Greeks and Turks. At the same time, Lord Raymond became the possessor of an immense fortune in England, allowing him to return, crowned with glory, to receive the honour and distinction previously denied him. His proud heart rebelled against this change. What was more valuable – power from wealth, or power earned on the battlefield? Regardless power was the aim of all his endeavours. On the battlefield or behind closed doors, his goal was the same – to attain the highest station in his own country.

This account filled me with curiosity. The events that followed his return to England, gave me anxious feelings. Among his other virtues, Lord Raymond was supremely handsome and admired by all. He was courteous and honey tongued – an adept in fascinating arts. Nothing would be beyond his reach in the busy English world. Only parts of Raymond’s story reached me for Adrian had ceased to write, and Perdita was a lazy correspondent. Rumours stated that Adrian had gone mad: that Lord Raymond was the favourite of the ex-queen, and her daughter’s destined husband. That he revived the claim of the house of Windsor to the crown, and that, in the event of Adrian’s incurable disorder and marriage with his sister, the brow of the ambitious Raymond might soon be encircled with the magic ring of regality.

Such a tale made a longer stay at Vienna, away from the friend of my youth, intolerable. Now I must fulfil my vow, to be at his side, and be his ally until death. Farewell to courtly pleasure, political intrigue and this maze of passion and folly. An irresistible voice drew me back to England. After an absence of two years I landed on its shores, fearful of what I would find. My first visit would be to my sister, who inhabited a small cottage gifted to her by Adrian, on the borders of Windsor Forest. From her I would learn the truth about our protector, why she had withdrawn from the protection of Princess Evadne, and learn as to the influence which Raymond exercised over the fortunes of my friend.

I had never before visited Windsor; the fertility and beauty of the country struck me with admiration, which increased as I approached the antique wood. The ruins of majestic oaks which had grown, flourished, and decayed over the centuries. Perdita’s humble dwelling was situated on the outskirts of the oldest portion. The cottage was shadowed by the venerable fathers of the forest, under which the deer came to graze.

The cottage, low-roofed and surrounded by flowers, had an air of elegance, and seemed to submit to the majesty of nature. As I stood at the entrance, I heard her voice, melodious as ever, which assured me of her wellbeing.

A moment more and Perdita appeared; she stood before me in the fresh bloom of youthful womanhood, different and yet the same as the mountain girl I had left. Her eyes could not be deeper than they were in childhood, nor her demeanour more expressive. When she smiled her face was embellished by sensibility, and her low, modulated voice seemed tuned by love. She was not tall, but her mountain life had given her grace as she raced across the hall to greet me. When we had parted, I held her tight with unrestrained warmth. We met again, with the same love, but now as adults on this drastically changed scene.

With calm thoughts we sat together, talking of the past and present. I alluded to the coldness of her letters, but soon she explained this. New feelings had arisen within her, which she was unable to express in writing to one whom she had only known in childhood. But in seeing each other again our bond was renewed as if we had never been apart. I detailed my sojourn abroad, and then asked her as to the changes that had taken place at home, the causes of Adrian’s absence, and her secluded life.

The tears in my sister’s eyes when I mentioned our friend seemed to vouch for the truth of the reports that had reached me. Was there indeed anarchy in the sublime universe of Adrian’s thoughts, did madness scatter the well-appointed legions, and was he no longer the lord of his own soul? Beloved friend, this sick world was no place for your gentle spirit. You delivered its governance to false humanity, which stripped it and laid bare its quivering life to the roughest winds. Have those gentle eyes,channels of the soul, lost their meaning? Does that voice no longer discourse?” Gushing tears I bear witness to my sympathy for this unimaginable ruin.

Perdita detailed the melancholy circumstances that led to this event.

The frank and unsuspicious mind of Adrian, gifted as it was by every natural grace, endowed with transcendant powers of intellect, unblemished by the shadow of defect, was devoted as ever to Evadne. He entrusted her with the treasures of his soul, his aspirations, and his plans for the betterment of mankind. As he matured, his theories acquired new resolve from the powers he felt arise within him. His love for Evadne became deep-rooted, as each day he became more certain that the path he pursued was full of difficulty, and that he must seek his reward, not for the applause or gratitude of his fellow people, but rather for his true love.

In solitude far from the haunts of men, he matured his views for the reform of the English government, and the improvement of the people. It would have been well if he had concealed his sentiments, until he had come into possession of the power which would secure their practical development. But he was impatient, frank of heart and fearless. Not only did he deny his mother’s schemes, he made public his intention of using his influence to diminish the power of the aristocracy, to effect a greater equalization of wealth and privilege, and to introduce a perfect system of nationalist government into England. At first his mother treated his theories as the wild ravings of inexperience. But they were so systematically arranged, and his arguments so well
supported, that although still incredulous, she began to fear him. She tried to reason with him, and finding him inflexible, learned to hate her own son.

Strangely, this hatred was infectious. His enthusiasm for creating equality, his contempt for the sacredness of authority and his recklessness were all at the antithesis of the usual routine of English life. The worldly feared him while the young and inexperienced did not understand his lofty moral views, and disliked him for being so radically different. Evadne thought he did well to assert his own will, but she wished that his message had been more intelligible to the multitude. She did not possess the spirit of a martyr, and did not wish to share the shame and defeat of a fallen patriot. She was aware of the purity of his motives, the generosity of his disposition, and his true and ardent attachment to her. She entertained a great affection for him. He repaid this spirit of kindness with the fondest gratitude, and made her the refuge of all his hopes.

Around this time, Lord Raymond returned from Greece. Raymond was emphatically a man of the world. His passions were violent and often controlled him; he could not always square his conduct to his self-interest, but self-gratification was paramount to him. He looked on the structure of society as part of the machinery which supported the web on which his life was traced. The earth was spread out as highway for him, with the heavens as his canopy.

Adrian felt that he was part of a greater whole. He had an affinity not only to mankind, but all of nature. He felt his life mingle with the universe of existence. His soul was sympathy, and dedicated to the worship of beauty and excellence. As Adrian and Raymond came into contact, a spirit of loathing rose between them. Adrian despised the narrow views of the politician, and Raymond held in supreme contempt the benevolent visions of the philanthropist. The two could not be further opposed to each other.

The arrival of Raymond formed a storm that laid waste to the gardens of delight and sheltered paths which Adrian had built as a refuge from defeat and abuse. Raymond, a graceful soldier and the deliverer of Greece, was loved by Evadne. Overpowered by these feelings, she let herself be governed by this love which suddenly usurped the empire of her heart. She yielded to its influence, and Adrian’s love became distasteful to her. Evadne grew volatile and responded to his gentle conduct with repulsive coldness. At times his pathetic appeals made her relent, and for a while she was able to resume some kindness toward him. But these fluctuations shook Adrian to his core; he felt in every fibre of his being the dire storms of the universe attacking his fragile being.

Perdita, who lived with Evadne, saw the torture that Adrian endured. She loved Adrian as a kind older brother; someone to guide, protect, and instruct her, without the tyranny of parental authority. She adored his virtues, and with contempt and indignation she saw Evadne pile sorrow on him, although he had hardly wronged her. In his solitary despair Adrian would often seek my sister to express his misery, while fortitude and agony divided his mind. There was no place in him for Anger. With whom should he be angry? Not with Raymond, who did not even know of the misery he caused; not with Evadne – the poor, mistaken girl – Adrian grieved for her future destiny. A tear-blotted writing of his fell into Perdita’s hands:

“Life” – it began – “is not something romance writers describe; going through the measures of a dance, and after various evolutions arriving at a conclusion, when the dancers may sit down and repose. While there is life there is action and change. We go on, each thought linked to the one which was its parent, each act to a previous act. No joy or sorrow dies barren of progeny, which for ever generated and generating, weaves the chain that make our life:

Un dia llama a otro dia
y asi llama, y encadena
llanto a llanto, y pena a pena.

Disappointment is the guardian deity of human life; she sits at the threshold of unborn time, and marshals the events as they come forth. Once my heart sat lightly in my bosom; all the beauty of the world was doubly beautiful, irradiated by the sun-light shed from my own soul. Why are love and ruin for ever joined in this, our mortal dream? So that when we make our hearts a lair for that gently seeming beast, its companion enters with it, and pitilessly lays waste to what might have been a home, a shelter.”

Gradually his health was shaken by misery, and then his mind yielded to the same despair. He grew wild, ferocious, at times absorbed in speechless melancholy.

Suddenly Evadne left London for Paris; he followed, and met her as the vessel was about to sail. No one knows what happened that day, but Perdita had not seen Adrian since. He lived in seclusion, in parts unknown, attended only by persons selected by his mother.

What would become of my dear friend?

Update

I am writing this post to address the events that began to unfold a couple of days ago on twitter. What started as an expression of freedom of speech quickly became ugly, as one of our creators chose to cross a line. Let me be clear: I do not share their point of view.

For those that have been waiting for a more detailed statement, I can tell you that I cannot advocate for violence, and that my views are not always in line with those of our creators. They are all independent, and so I am not in a position to censor or control anyone. We are not Marvel or DC – we are a small outfit with 0 employees, that was really started because of my love of Comic Books.

For those that have been following, some very disturbing content was posted by James A. Bretney, one of our original creators. Like many of you, I did find many of these posts to be upsetting. This situation is beyond my control, and twitter has responded accordingly.

For those that can only see the negative here, consider that this same person has been a mentor to creators from diverse backgrounds, and gave many young up and coming female artists (who have gone on to do great work) some early breaks – when many others would not. This is where it can be difficult to reconcile a person that you know, from the type of person that many of you saw on twitter.

I realize that many have already passed judgement and boycotted us as a whole; that is certainly your right, and these comments are not meant to persuade you otherwise. At the same time, to simply say that I will immediately pull all of James’ work impacts more than just James. He is a writer, but also works with artists, cover artists, letterers, and more. These other creators, who have worked hard to create great stories, and who do not share his views, could be unjustly affected. Some of these people do depend on comics and their portfolios for ongoing work outside of Lucha Comics. Over the next few days and weeks, I will be consulting with my team to decide what the future of these works is.

I also believe that simply cutting someone off does not address the root problem, and effectively closes the door on any positive dialogue involving Mr. Rashim. He was gracious enough to post the following:

I communicated this personally to James, and he felt that this was a very honourable response from someone who he misjudged, and felt that he had to re-evaluate his opinions of Mr. Rashid. James also recognized the difficult situation created for our brand as a whole.

However, we do recognize the hurt that this incident has caused, and therefore, we will be putting James’ next two projects (currently co-authored with other creators, but which do not have artwork yet) on an indefinite production hold, until we can fully evaluate what has happened today. Any other projects that are not affiliated or connected to him will proceed as scheduled.

As I hope to continue dialogue with both Mr. Bretney and Mr. Rashid, my team of creators, and those closest to me, I will be posting further thoughts. Please keep in mind that I have been planning a family vacation for some time, and you will likely not hear much from me over the next couple of weeks. This does not mean that I do not care; I have tried to respond to tweets, E-mails, phone calls and text messages as much as possible. For the overwhelming majority of you that presented your concerns in a positive manner, I thank you.

I will take this time to reach out in greater detail to people involved, to get their feedback, and to work together to a solution.

Thank you.

Sincerely,
Rodolfo Martinez

1985: Chapter 2



Gregory was in the field again. Running with his sister, playing some game that he had long ago forgotten.  The world seemed to be in ruin; England was no longer how it seemed in his history books from school.  This did not seem like some majestic place fit for royalty; it had been torn apart by the munitions of war. The fighting seemed to never end, and when he and his sister were in bed, he could overhear his parents concern about the constant dwindling supply of food and other basic staples.  A few years later, his mother disappeared like so many others. He could not pinpoint the exact date (or even the exact date that he lived in now, you could never trust anything official, but he was confident that the year was now 1985). He only knew that one day he no longer had a mother.  After his father vanished in a similar manner, he stopped thinking about what happened to his parents; the disappearances became so common that it stopped being a mystery.

After the loss of his parents, Gregory thought that he had become emotionless. But when his sister was taken, he was full of rage.  He remembered fighting when they came to take her to the orphanage; why couldn’t they take him? When would he see her? When they wouldn’t tell him, he fought so hard that looking back, he couldn’t understand how they didn’t kill him. While he certainly received a good beating, the real damage was to his emotional well being.

Had he been a different type of person, he would have simply given in to the propaganda, and forgotten all about his beloved sister (some days it was hard to remember her name, let alone her face), but despite being an inner party member, buried in parades and slogans, community activities, and preparations for Hate Week, Gregory would never forget, or forgive what the party had taken from him. After his family was gone, a part of him longed to be made an unperson as well; forgotten, completely erased. But even in its early days, The Party understood the value of isolating people from each other, of breaking a man rather than simply killing him, and of course killing love for all things, except for Big Brother.


1985: Chapter 1



He could not believe how loudly the fools were chanting. Of course he was chanting too, but it was only to convince his comrades, the thought police, and anyone else that might be watching. He came to the Clover Leaf Cafe hoping to find a dissenter, but instead he found a group of broken idiots believing in a false idol. Their devotion went beyond belief; they loved Big Brother.

At this moment, Gregory was certain of two things: that at least one of these men had recently revolted, and that the Party never tolerated any dissension, no matter how small. Those that did not believe in the Party were not simply executed or erased, at least not immediately; first they had to be broken, reprogrammed to love Big Brother, and to believe that Oceania was at war with East Asia, and that it had always been at war with East Asia. It did not matter that as little as two weeks ago East Asia was Oceania’s only ally – The Party demanded complete obedience and anything it did or said must be gospel.

While the cruel officers of the aptly named Ministry of Love were experts in the torture and breaking of others, Gregory knew something that they did not: one that was freshly broken still carried hate for Big Brother in his heart. The human brain did not allow one to forget their enemies so quickly; in these circumstances love and hate are separated by very thin lines. He knew that at least one of these men could easily be swayed back to the Brotherhood, to revolution, and to hatred of Big Brother, just as easily as he had been broken. But he had to act fast.

Gregory had been observing the cafe for some time. He had to be cautious, arriving and leaving from different paths, not being too routine a visitor, and making sure that it did not interfere with his Party duties – like the endless hikes, committee meetings, and his favourite, preparations for Hate Week. He had noticed a new face in the crowd; perhaps this was his best lead. But first, he had to learn more about this man. His name, where he lived, and most importantly, what led him to believe that he could fight against the Party itself?

Gregory’s position as an Inner Party member within the Ministry of Love allowed him access to a great deal of information, but he had to be careful not to raise any suspicions. No one was above the watchful eye of the Thought Police. Even those in the Inner Party could be taken away in the middle of the night, only to be forgotten by their comrades, lest they want to share the same fate. After all, the Party built its power on fear, paranoia and misinformation. Gregory knew that he had to be vigilant. He knew all too well what happened to dissenters who were taken away. The torture, the breaking, the reprogramming. Gregory knew that above all else, he must be patient. Overthrowing Big Brother would not happen overnight – if at all.

Azteq vs. The Prowler

Azteq vs. The Prowler by Lucha Comics

This is the official adaptation of Azteq vs The Prowler – an upcoming feature length film that revives the Lucha Libre genre and combines it with a slasher! Filming is underway in Dallas, so be sure to check in soon as wrestling stars Aski The Mayan Warrior, Mike Knox, Michael Tarver and more lend their talents to this awesome project!

A very limited amount of print copies are available, signed by writer Roberto Mercado – so be sure to get yours now!

10 Things That Our Kickstarter Campaign Taught Me

Late last year, we took a big leap and launched our first crowdfunding campaign via kickstarter. It was perhaps the most stressful experience I’ve had in the 2 years that Lucha Comics has existed, but it was definitely one of the most satisfying as well. From a slow start, to getting into Bleeding Cool, and (just barely) crossing the finish line, I figured I was long overdue in reflecting on what I believe was our largest accomplishment to date. For a publisher that was strictly digital to do an initial run of 350 copies of a full length graphic novel wasn’t easy, but thanks to some great people we made it. So, I would like to share the top 10 things that our campaign taught me.

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1. Not all crowdfunding platforms are created equal.

One of the first things I encountered was trying to decide if I would choose Indiegogo or kickstarter. It took a lot of research, and really trying to find a platform that best matched what I wanted to accomplish. I also researched other comic book projects, read blogs from other successful crowdfunders, and looked at how many friends I had on each. In the end, kickstarter beat Rocket Hub and other sites handily, but narrowily came out on top over Indiegogo.

2. Flexible funding may not be as great as it sounds.

Now that I had a platform, I really had to consider how I would fund my project: flexible funding (keep whatever you raise) or go the all or nothing route. In the end, I decided that I wanted to fund an entire project, and that I wanted my supporters to know that I was fully committed. All or nothing it was, and yes I almost regretted it – but now I don’t think I would ever do a flexible campaign.

3. Calculating your goal should be a well thought out exercise.

You really need to be careful here since you can’t adjust your campaign once it is live. I cannot stress enough how much thought and planning should go into this. Do not rush this part, because a) you don’t want to set a goal so high that you can’t possibly hit it or b) you may be stuck trying to deliver on something that you can’t afford, even if you fund to 100% or even 125%! Let’s start with point a):

Be optimistic, but realistic. It is far better to set an attainable goal and blow it out of the water then set something massive and barely make it or fall short. It looks far better to fund a $2,500 to 100% than fund a $25,000 project to 75%. Do not set yourself up for failure: if you ever want to do another kickstarter, you want your supporters to see that you are building on success and offering something that you can deliver on. Now, let’s tackle point b).

Once you know what you need to do and what you can reasonably raise, do not just ballpark your budget. Do some research, look at similar projects, and understand what you are promising to deliver. Many crowdfunding campaigns have pissed off some loyal people because they were unable to deliver. Sure, some of these might have been pure scams, but for the most part I feel that these failures to deliver were a result of poor research and planning. Here are a few tips that worked for my comic book project, The Kursk by Sasha Janowicz:

  • Have firm quotes for your book from at least reputable suppliers, and use the highest one as your goal
  • Factor in 10% for crowdfunding and payment processing fees
  • Have a contingency of at least 10%
  • Factor in the costs (if any) of not receiving your funds for 30-45 days from project close
  • And the one that almost got me: shipping

Shipping was a real killer here, because (unbeknownst to me) shipping costs are calculated towards your goal. Here is an example:

I set a goal of $3,000. My early bird reward was $10 + shipping. For this example we will assume someone ordering a reward in Canada at a rate of $5, so their total pledge would be $15. This means that their entire pledge (including the shipping fee) counts towards your goal. My project was broken down as follows:

$2,700 printing + contingency costs
$270 kickstarter fees
$250 Approximate shipping costs

Giving a total of $3,270. Since this was my first kickstarter, I wrongly assumed that shipping was extra and above and beyond the amount that I needed. Fortunately, my contingency covered my shipping costs, and in the future I will be sure to calculate this amount better.

I know this might sound confusing, or not a big deal, but for a small publisher that swore up and down to his partner that there was no way the kickstarter could possibly cost us anything out of pocket, it was a real concern. Basically, you need to guesstimate how many backers you will get, what your shipping costs will be, and add that to your goal. If this or any other point here still sounds confusing, please, please, please feel free to get in touch and I would be glad to elaborate.

4. Make the length of your campaign just right.

This was a bit tricky. Too short and you can fail; too long and people may lose interest and just not care. Personally, I like a 30 day campaign, regardless of the amount trying to be raised. If your goal seems huge, you likely don’t have a timing issue, you probably have a cost or you set a goal-so-massive-there-is-no-way-in-hell-that-you-are-going-to-hit-it-even-if-everyone-you-now-kicks-in-$10 issue.


5. You need some kind of video if this is your first campaign.

An image really isn’t enough. You need a cool video that not only describes your project, but also allows you to connect with the audience. It should be visual, but really get to the heart of why you are doing this and why you need help from backers. This also becomes something that is easy to share across social media. It doesn’t need to be Academy Award winning, but try and make something nice (even if you are terrible on camera like me as you can see below). Having a Mac (or a friend with one) certainly helps! Which leads me away from the technical points and towards the qualitative stuff that really made a difference…




6. People aren’t buying your book

Ok, so maybe a few are, but generally people weren’t buying my book, they were buying the chance to support me because they really believed in Lucha Comics. While this changed the marketing message, it really made the whole process more rewarding – someone actually cared about our brand.

Lucha Comics Logo

7. Now isn’t the time to be shy.

I hate to feel like I am bugging anyone, but with a short time frame to raise funds, you really need to promote the hell out of yourself. This is not the time to be shy; reach out to all facebook friends and followers, twitter, followers, friends, family etc. I would say that 75% of my time went to outreach, which is far different from blind promotion. Ask people to share your campaign with others without asking them to feel obligated to contribute. It’s a win-win for everyone. By the time I was done my campaign, everyone knew that I was a comic book publisher, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

8. You need to get in touch with influencers.

Fortunately Lucha has a track record in the digital space, so I was able to reach out to people at ComiXology, and my friend Ian Yarrington of ComicBooked.com to let them know what was going on. Taking my own advice from my point above, I went even further and decided to E-Mail Rich Johnston at Bleeding Cool, and guess what? They agreed to carry our story. These little bits help to give you credibility, and it is a nice confidence booster when someone agrees to help promote you when there are so many great projects out there to talk about.

9. Kickstarters can draw in new fans.

People that had never read a comic book or graphic novel before decided to put down some money for The Kursk because they saw it on kickstarter. I was really amazed at the first time readers, and the kind of attention that kickstarter can get you. Overall it was great to see readers that were not only new to Lucha, but also to the comic book industry.

10. Your fans are awesome people and they want you to succeed.

As invested as I was in my project, the fans really made it special. I was overwhelmed by the support we received, and how they wanted to get involved. Your fans are great, so make sure that you treat them well post-project. If someone puts down a pledge for your book, remember that they really want to see it happen.

This is probably one of the longest blogs I have ever written, and it could have easily been twice as long. If this came off like me bragging at all then I apologize because that was never my intent; I just wanted to reflect on a great experience that was only made possible by some great people who decided to take a gamble and show their support for us. Hopefully, this article can help someone else to experience the same.

nameless. #1

nameless. is a new fantasy series by Marcello Bondi and Chiara Carnovale. On a far-away world, a man with no name, no memory, and no mission sets out on a journey. Where will it take him, and what will it mean for this stranger, and those who cross him?

Get it now on:

The Kursk by Lucha Comics on ComiXology