[He] came clipping lightly up the path, the face-guard of his helm thrust back, a fair and cheerful face revealed beneath.
I've decided to do something different for this next indulgent Beautiful People post. I have flagrantly disregarded all rules for a reasonable number of posts and am doing as many as I like and need. Last time I did two people, Ely Jacland and Periot Survance together. I am doing two again now, but instead of taking apart two characters, I am taking apart one with the mind of another. In this post I will be looking at Centurion of Darkling, and it will be Rupert de la Mare whose opinion on the fellow we will be asking. As Lewis prefaced his book The Screwtape Letters, please remember that not everything Rupert says may be true. This may give you a glimpse into both of them and will, hopefully, be refreshingly different from the normal mix of things.
Centurion of Darkling
1. When did you first meet Centurion?
I first met him when I was thirteen years old—he was then ten—at an open-air party my father held at Talus Perey. I was formally introduced to Centurion and expected—as adults are wont to expect of the younger generation—to ‘get on’ with Centurion from the outset. I did not. I remember a lanky, bony, open-faced whelp who, for all his coltish joints stuck out sharply at all points, had little backbone and too much smile: a gullible sort of boy who seemed hell-bent on annoying me without ever realizing he was doing so. It would have been better for us both if he had known what he was about: I might have put a fist between his eyes and that would have been the end of it, and the whelp would have been put in his place. But he tagged along more with my brother’s crowd than myself, which fact I have never determined if it annoyed me more or less than tagging after me might have done.
2. What was your initial impression of him?
A manless mother’s-boy with not an original thought in his brain.
3. Did your first opinion of him remain the same? Did it grow worse or did it improve upon closer acquaintance?
My annoyance has only grown as he and I have. At ten years old Centurion was a thoughtless, harmless boy; at twenty-two years he is old enough to pose a serious nuisance.
4. When was the last lengthy conversation that you had with Centurion, and what was it about?
Last Hare Moon, when the men of the Honours met to wrestle with the question of who would next be Overlord, he was one among many who tried to persuade me from the running. I make an effort to have private conversations with none of them, as I trust none of them—I believe the sentiment is reciprocated—but he did manage to pin me down awkwardly in the hall one afternoon and he asked me to tell him why I was so intent upon being nominated for Overlord. I asked him to put forward a more competent candidate and, as he fell silent with no answer—they none of them had an answer—I told him that was why and moved on. That is the lengthiest conversation I have had to endure with Centurion’s face in front of my own.
5. Is Centurion fairly gregarious or is he naturally withdrawn?
This is perhaps what I most despise about Centurion. He is all effusiveness to the point of being cloying. He is not abnormally talkative—if he were I might have quietly strangled him and put him out of all our misery—but the man fair oozes an ingratiating atmosphere like a little chanticleer who thinks the world is his run and all the hens in it. I have, until now, had only to dismiss him from my mind to save myself further annoyance; but now with Margaret, who does not know him, joining social circles I must keep my eye on him. He had better know that I am not above ordering chanticleer for supper.
6. Does your opinion of Centurion colour your impression of his appearance?
Would it not have been better had Centurion been thrown from a horse in his youth, which accident left him maimed! The lanky, smiling boy has grown into a tall but admittedly well-proportioned and handsome young man, marred only by the smile which should not be there as often as it is. Alas, we grow our boys to be handsome brutes and Centurion is no exception. A piece of wit, an ingratiating attitude, and a striking figure make for what turns the heads of women possessing rather less conviction. Unfortunately, Plenilune is lacking in women of conviction.
7. What might change your opinion of him, for good or bad?
I cannot conceive of my opinion being moved for good. Just about anyone can do a good turn once in a while without changing his spots. My opinion would be darkened to discover Centurion even less a man than I presupposed.
8. Opinions aside, do you think Centurion has any outstanding skills or qualities that you can’t help but admire?
His liver has colour, I will give him that: he is no coward. If he has aught else beneath his belt I do not know, but you can always count on finding him in the thick of conflict and, if I should find him dead, I can be sure there will be no holes in his back. He has a star-kissed luck with getting his own way—which some of us have to fight for otherwise, not having that smile—and he has, as I have never had, a natural deftness for sums. But he is wretched at chess.
9. Would you want him to cover your back in a tight place?
I think I should rather go to Hell, which is always at my back and a far more pleasant friend. I cannot imagine Centurion being close enough to me to be in a position to cover my back—had he more conviction I would imagine him being one to put a knife in it first. I have no illusions about where I lie in his heart; nor he, I think, about where he lies in mine.
10. If it came down to the wire and Centurion was in mortal danger, would you or would you not save him, perhaps to the loss of your own life?
No. People die, and there is nothing that can be done for that. That is the way of things. It would be more expedient for Plenilune that I live and even Centurion knows that to put oneself in mortal danger is to take one’s life in one’s hands. He, and he alone, is responsible for his life. I am not his keeper.
“A good morrow to you, my lady!” he said in a warm, husky voice which made her think of autumn nut-gathering. He looked to her feet and back to her face, eyebrows rampant under the embossed rim of his helm. “And sure I know all the pretty faces of Plenilune, but here is a fair one I have not seen—passing fair, I think. Is there a price on your face, stranger, that you hide it from the other girls and have not come out till now?”