King Goshawk (37)

By: Eimar O'Duffy
September 8, 2014


The 1926 satirical sf novel King Goshawk and the Birds, by Irish playwright and novelist Eimar O’Duffy, is set in a future world devastated by progress. When King Goshawk, the supreme ruler among a caste of “king capitalists,” buys up all the wildflowers and songbirds, an aghast Dublin philosopher travels via the astral plane to Tír na nÓg. First the mythical Irish hero Cúchulainn, then his son Cuanduine, travel to Earth in order to combat the king capitalists. Thirty-five years before the hero of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, these well-meaning aliens discover that cultural forms and norms are the most effective barrier to social or economic revolution.

HILOBROW is pleased to serialize King Goshawk and the Birds, which has long been out of print, in its entirety. A new installment will appear each week.




Chapter 11: A Drama of Love and Hatred

Now amongst the other women who loved Cuanduine (and whom, for the appeal in their eyes, he kissed, and then forgot) there was one Eulalia, fifth and eighth wife of Lord Waterfall, the milk monopolist. In the bloom of her youth this noble dame had been engaged to Goshawk, then a rising young financier not yet of royal rank, who had wooed her with a promise that when he should have come into his kingdom he would give her all the humming birds in the world to trim her hats with; but later jilted her for the more advantageous hand of a sugar princess. Eulalia was deeply chagrined by this perfidious behaviour (as she deemed it) of her fiance, nor can history altogether acquit the royal lover of a certain inconsiderateness in the matter. For her humiliation the maiden sought balm in a breach of promise action, by which she netted forty thousand pounds; and for her revenge she went hunting for a husband fit to contend with Goshawk in the money-market. Such a one she found at last in Tompkins, son of the Leather King; but that princelet had none of the qualities that had made his noble sire what he was, and, after a short struggle, beaten, broken, and bankrupted, she divorced him for business inefficiency, being thus the first person to reap the benefits of the Matrimonial Causes (Amendment, Extension, and Consolidation) Act, which had just become law.

Thereafter Eulalia took many husbands with the same intent, whom one by one Goshawk smashed and she divorced. By each victory the power of the conqueror was increased, and lustre added to his name; until at last, coming into his full estate, he bestowed all the humming birds in the world upon Guzzelinda, his Queen, who henceforward never appeared in public without a hatful of them on her head, and had a cloak also made for herself out of their breast feathers, some fifteen thousand of the creatures perishing to the purpose. What a heartscald and torment was it for Eulalia to see her birthright thus dissipated; and what briny floods did rawly channel her cheeks as she made her plaint at even to the moon and stars.

But if any one think that the age of chivalry was dead at this time, let him mark what follows. As Eulalia sat thus at her window one night, there comes into her garden a troubadour, singing:

Lady, Lady, though your grief
Lighter were than aspen leaf,
Alone you could not bear it.
But, be it ne’er so heavy weighted,
As a nothing ’twill be rated
If with one true love you share it, Lady, Lady.

Eulalia hearkened to the song; and “Lo!” says she. “Let him who would gain my hand, fetch me but one humming bird from Goshawk’s forests.” ’Twas a behest at which a faintheart lover would have blenched, for the forest laws were stringent. But the lute-player was none other than the Count O’Conor de Valois-Stuart-Plantagenet, who had the blood of four royal lines in his veins, though no more than you or I in his pocket. A lady’s lightest breath to him was a command. Therefore, returning to his lodging, he furbishes up the old elephant gun with which his great-grandfather was wont to go a-hunting in the days when Africa was dark, and at once books his passage by the liner Stupendorificus (for there were still ocean liners at that time, though they were only used by the poorer sort of passengers). After a long and tedious journey of two days he comes in sight of the Statue of Efficiency (with a time-check in her hand, and the light of salesmanship about her brow) and, after submitting to a careful inspection of his lungs, liver, and bankbook (which last did only barely pass muster) he lands in America, the Great, the Renowned, the Progressive, the Uplifted, to whom all nations bow.

When U.S. first at Wealth’s command
Rose from the Red Man’s wild domain,
This was the audit of our land,
And spirits of Progress sung the strain:

Rule, Columbia! Columbia rules for sure!
Yankees never never never shall be poor.

Peoples without progressive itch
Must in their turn as bankrupts fall,
While ye shall flourish, great and rich,
The dread and envy of them all.

Rule, Columbia! Columbia rules for sure!
Yankees never never never shall be poor.

But let me not be swept, by this gush of loyalty, away from my matter. The gallant Count shogs it afoot to the Goshawk forests, where, ensconcing himself in ambush, he cuts up one of the elephant bullets into slugs with his pocket knife, and so awaits his prey. Soon he pricks his ears at the sound of humming, and in a moment, with a whirr of tiny wings, the glade is alive with the splendid midgets, darting hither and thither in joy. The blood of kings is at once afire: the hunting blood, the hawking blood, not yet tamed by generations of straitened respectability. The Count raises the elephant gun, and fires.

Bang! You may guess what execution was done among the birdlings; and hard now was the task of the sportsman to find one carcase of them fit to grace a lady’s hat. After a long search, however, he spied one that had been but stunned by the explosion, and was scarcely mutilated at all; but ere he could retrieve it the minions of Goshawk were upon him. Hup! Woosh! With the butt end of the elephant gun he dashes out the brains of one and the teeth of another, then backs up against a tree and stands at bay, ready to sell his life dearly. But there’s no spirit in these base-born churls. Even at the odds of seven to one, they dare not close with the desperate patrician, but, turning their asphyxiators on him at long range, they stretch him, purple-faced and panting, upon the sward.

Next day, having been expeditiously tried and sentenced, the unhappy cavalier was imprisoned in an iron cage, in which he was hung, like a second Wallace, from the walls of Castle Goshawk in the Adirondacks; in which predicament, exposed to the parching suns of summer, the bitter winds of winter, and the cameras of pressmen, he passed the remainder of his natural life. You may be sure that Goshawk did not fail to send a photograph of her champion to Eulalia, who, though she had forgotten all about him in the meanwhile, was thus stung to even fiercer rage for vengeance. To this end she remarried Lord Waterfall, her third husband, who had somewhat recovered in prosperity since her divorce of him. But alas, Milk, though never so well watered, was but a weak weapon against the power of Wheat, and Eulalia was already contemplating a fresh divorce when Cuanduine came to London.

She went as often as was fashionable to the hero’s lectures, and you may guess it pleased her well to hear him trounce King Goshawk. Moreover, she soon became enamoured of the handsome orator, and longed ardently to be his. Her Love thus marched with her Ambition, with Revenge in attendance: under whose triple prompting she accosted Cuanduine one day at a reception of Lady Cumbersome’s, craving that, as a humble admirer of his talents and sharer of his views, she might be accorded an interview some day when he should be at leisure.

“Madam,” said Cuanduine, “I have no leisure by day. Those who desire private converse with me must content themselves with the night hours.”

If the invitation sound bold to you, you may set it down to the hero’s innocence. And though she was fain to blush, it displeased Eulalia not a whit. Nay, as soon as she could spare the time, she went down to Richmond to Cuanduine’s house, choosing, as it happened, the very evening of his failure.



RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HILOBROW’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.

READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.

SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire.”

ORIGINAL FICTION: HILOBROW has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Flourish Klink’s Star Trek fanfic “Conference Comms” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Charlie Mitchell’s “Sentinels” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | John Holbo’s graphic novel On Beyond Zarathustra (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”