araminta, youngest daughter of the king of abyssinia, captivated all who encountered her as she made the grand tour of the continents. those few who were not enblinded by her celestial beauty, were astonished at the breadth of her learning, and the majesty of her wit. those gentlemen of fashion, who had dedicated their lives to the pursuit of love, declared her the new apogee of desirousness, and paragon of ethereality; and the more aged and learned were even more unanimous in their unmeasured praise of her preternatural sagacity.
withal, she shewed such excellent sense, and such exquisite modesty, that the most jaded gentlemen and jealous gentlewomen were irresistibly charmed, and no entertainment or bal masque, in the kingdoms and principalities through which she progressed, could hope of approbation, without the light of her presence.
it was on the night of the great bal masque of the king of adriatica, that her destiny was first entwined with that of ferdirondo, with whose name hers was to be linked forever in the annals of immortal love.
araminta had heard much of ferdirondo in the weeks preceding their first encounter. for as araminta, proceeding from the east, had left all behind her conquered by wit and beauty, so ferdirondo, from the west, had preserved civilization (for the nonce) by testing the edge of his good sword against the fiercest champions of the rebel and barbarian armies, cutting a most glorious swath which ended at the gates of the grateful capital of adriatica.
though ferdirondo himself was most eager to renew hostilities with the barbarians, his wise counselor, the venerable duke of w--------, felt that the army needed to regroup and rest for a night before retaking the field of battle, and ferdirondo most reluctantly agreed.
the king and citizens of adriatica had spared no expense in the festivities welcoming the hero, and ferdirondo, who had been bred to the court as well as the camp, evinced himself the epitome of graciousness, paying the most assiduous and gallant court to all those of his social equals who thronged to pay him homage.
araminta, in her brief time at the adriatic court, had found gathered around her the very cream of such beauty, gallantry , wit and sense as were to be found there. being of a naturally modest disposition, she had at first demurred at such attention, but realizing as she did that a too pronounced effort to deflect it would actually be the apotheosis of false pride, she had allowed herself to become the very cynosure of the court. such indeed had been her fate in each of the courts she had graced, and she took solace in the fact that she was only "passing through" and that the little sips of glory she was taking from the cup of fate, were in the words of the poet -
such jewels as the fairies found
gone before they touched the ground
but with the coming of ferdirondo, and the barbarians at the gates of adriatica, all was to change. the flutter of ribbons was to be exchanged for the storms of war, and the sighings of lovers for the thunder of cavalry and cannon.
the evening wore on. a few stars fell from the sky. gradually the brazen thundering of the barbarian camp imperceptibly died away. the stringings of the musicians grew softer. the balls of the jugglers reached a lower apogee with every toss. the dancers kept closer to walls, and many quitted the floor altogether. the good citizens who had surrounded the gracious ferdirondo, finding solace and courage for the coming day in his presence, returned to their barricaded mansions.
the circle of gallants and charmers surrounding araminta enveloped the circle of captains and lieutenants surrounding ferdirondo - and araminta and ferdirondo at last came face to face.
the sky was beginning to lighten. araminta laughed first, at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, and ferdirondo joined her immediately.
A newly rediscovered Sternwall -- even one of his translations -- is cause for celebration among all discerning literati. As Roland Barthes once said (in his surprisingly idiomatic English): "Bring it on."
By the way, this is the only time I have encountered the name Araminta other than in John Lennon's immortal A Spaniard in the Works: "Araminta Ditch was always larfing. She woof larf at these, larf
at thas. Always larfing she was..."
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