THEOSOPHY

CARDIFF

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Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales

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Dreams and

Dream-Stories

by

Anna Kingsford

 

M.D. of Paris; President of the Hermetic Society:

Author of "The Perfect Way; or the finding of Christ."

 

Edited by Edward Maitland

 

 

 

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Published in New York by Scribner & Welford in 1889

 

“For He so giveth unto His Beloved in Sleep.”

Ps. cxxvii. (Marginal Reading, R.V. )

 

 

      

       CONTENTSPage

       PREFACE7

      Part 1 DREAMS

      1THE DOOMED TRAIN 15

      2THE WONDERFUL SPECTACLES  19

      3THE COUNCIL OF PERFECTION21

      4THE CITY OF BLOOD 22

      5THE BIRD AND THE CAT24

      6THE TREASURE IN THE LIGHTED HOUSE25

      7THE FOREST CATHEDRAL26

      8THE ENCHANTED WOMAN30

      9THE BANQUET OF THE GODS 38

      10THE DIFFICULT PATH 39

      11A LION IN THE WAY41

      12A DREAM OF DISEMBODIMENT41

      13THE PERFECT WAY WITH ANIMALS43

      14THE LABORATORY UNDERGROUND   44

      15THE OLD YOUNG MAN45

      16THE METEMPSYCHOSIS49

      17THE THREE KINGS51

      18THE ARMED GODDESS    54

      19THE GAME OF CARDS 56

      20THE PANIC-STRUCK PACK-HORSE59

      21THE HAUNTED INN 61

      22AN EASTERN APOLOGUE63

      23A HAUNTED HOUSE INDEED !64

      24THE SQUARE IN THE HAND 70

       DREAM VERSES

      1THROUGH THE AGES77

      2A FRAGMENT -1- 80

      3A FRAGMENT -2-80

      4SIGNS OF THE TIMES81

      5WITH THE GODS     81

      PART IIDREAM - STORIES

      1A VILLAGE OF SEERS85

      2STEEPSIDE; A GHOST STORY 116

      3BEYOND THE SUNSET 147

      4A TURN OF LUCK169

      5NOÉMI182

      6THE LITTLE OLD MAN'S STORY212

      7THE NIGHTSHADE242

      8ST GEORGE THE CHEVALIER270

 

 

                

 

 

PREFACE

 

 

[Written in 1886. Some of the experiences in this volume were subsequent to that

date. This publication is made in accordance with the author’s last wishes.

(Ed.)]

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[Page  7 ]

 

THE chronicles which I am about to present to the reader are not the result of

any conscious effort of the imagination. They are, as the title-page indicates,

records of dreams, occurring at intervals during the last ten years, and

transcribed, pretty nearly in the order of their occurrence, from my Diary.

Written down as soon as possible after awaking from the slumber during which

they presented themselves, these narratives, necessarily unstudied in style and

wanting in elegance of diction, have at least the merit of fresh and vivid

colour, for they were committed to paper at a moment when the effect and impress

of each successive vision were strong and forceful in the mind, and before the

illusion of reality conveyed by the scenes witnessed and the sounds heard in

sleep had had time to pass away.

 

 

I do not know whether these experiences of mine are unique. So far, I have not

yet met with any one in whom the dreaming faculty appears to be either so

strongly or so strangely developed as in myself. Most dreams, even when of

unusual vividness and lucidity, betray a want of coherence in their action, and

an incongruity of detail and dramatis persona that stamp

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[Page  8] them as the

product of incomplete and disjointed cerebral function. But the most remarkable

features of the experiences I am about to record are the methodical

consecutiveness of their sequences, and the intelligent purpose disclosed alike

in the events witnessed and in the words heard or read. Some of these last,

indeed, resemble, for point and profundity, the apologues of Eastern scriptures;

and, on more than one occasion, the scenery of the dream has accurately

portrayed characteristics of remote regions, city, forest and mountain, which in

this existence at least I have never beheld, nor, so far as I can remember, even

heard described, and yet, every feature of these unfamiliar climes has revealed

itself to my sleeping vision with a splendour of colouring and distinctness of

outline which made the waking life seem duller and less real by contrast. I know

of no parallel to this phenomenon unless in the pages of Bulwer Lytton's romance

entitled — The Pilgrims of the Rhine, in which is related the story of a German

student endowed with so marvellous a faculty of dreaming, that for him the

normal conditions of sleeping and waking became reversed, his true life was that

which he lived in his slumbers, and his hours of wake-fulness appeared to him as

so many uneventful and inactive intervals of arrest occurring in an existence of

intense and vivid interest which was wholly passed in the hypnotic state. Not

that to me there is any such inversion of natural conditions. On the contrary,

the priceless insights and illuminations I have acquired by means of my dreams

have gone far to elucidate for me many difficulties and enigmas of life, and

even of religion, which might otherwise have remained dark to me, and to throw

upon the events and vicissitudes of a career

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[Page  9] filled with bewildering

situations, a light which, like sunshine, has penetrated to the very causes and

springs of circumstance, and has given meaning and fitness to much in my life

that would else have appeared to me incoherent or inconsistent.

 

 

I have no theory to offer the reader in explanation of my faculty, — at least in

so far as its physiological aspect is concerned. Of course, having received a

medical education, I have speculated about the modus operandi of the phenomenon,

but my speculations are not of such a character as to entitle them to

presentation in the form even of an hypothesis. I am tolerably well acquainted

with most of the propositions regarding unconscious cerebration, which have been

put forward by men of science, but none of these propositions can, by any

process of reasonable expansion or modification, be made to fit my case.

Hysteria, to the multiform and manifold categories of which, medical experts are

wont to refer the majority of the abnormal experiences encountered by them, is

plainly inadequate to explain or account for mine. The singular coherence and

sustained dramatic unity observable in these dreams, as well as the poetic

beauty and tender subtlety of the instructions and suggestions conveyed in them

do not comport with the conditions characteristic of nervous disease. Moreover,

during the whole period covered by these dreams, I have been busily and almost

continuously engrossed with scientific and literary pursuits demanding accurate

judgment and complete self-possession and rectitude of mind. At the time when

many of the most vivid and remarkable visions occurred, I was following my

course as a student at the Paris Faculty of Medicine, preparing for

examinations, daily visiting hospital wards as dresser, and attending lectures.



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[Page  10] Later, when I had taken my degree, I was engaged in the duties of my

profession and in writing for the press on scientific subjects. Neither have I

ever taken opium, hashish or other dream-producing agent. A cup of tea or coffee

represents the extent of my indulgences in this direction. I mention these

details in order to guard against inferences which otherwise might be drawn as

to the genesis of my faculty.

 

 

With regard to the interpretation and application of particular dreams, I think

it best to say nothing. The majority are obviously allegorical, and although

obscure in parts, they are invariably harmonious, and tolerably clear in meaning

to persons acquainted with the method of Greek and Oriental myth. I shall not,

therefore, venture on any explanation of my own, but shall simply record the

dreams as they passed before me, and the impressions left upon my mind when I

awoke.

 

 

Unfortunately, in some instances, which are not, therefore, here transcribed, my

waking memory failed to recall accurately, or completely, certain discourses

heard or written words seen in the course of the vision, which in these cases

left but a fragmentary impression on the brain and baffled all waking endeavour

to recall their missing passages.

 

 

These imperfect experiences have not, however, been numerous; on the contrary,

it is a perpetual marvel to me to find with what ease and certainty I can, as a

rule, on recovering ordinary consciousness, recall the picture witnessed in my

sleep, and reproduce the words I have heard spoken or seen written.

 

 

Sometimes several interims of months occur during which none of these

exceptional visions visit me, but only ordinary dreams, incongruous and

insignificant

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[Page  11] after their kind. Observation, based on an experience of

considerable length, justifies me, I think, in saying that climate, altitude,

and electrical conditions are not without their influence in the production of

the cerebral state necessary to the exercise of the faculty I have described.

Dry air, high levels, and a crisp, calm, exhilarating atmosphere favour its

activity; while, on the other hand, moisture, proximity to rivers, cloudy skies,

and a depressing, heavy climate, will, for an indefinite period, suffice to

repress it altogether. It is not, therefore, surprising that the greater number

of these dreams, and, especially, the most vivid, detailed and idyllic, have

occurred to me while on the continent. At my own residence on the banks of the

Severn, in a humid, low-lying tract of country, I very seldom experience such

manifestations, and sometimes, after a prolonged sojourn at home, am tempted to

fancy that the dreaming gift has left me never to return. But the results of a

visit to Paris or to Switzerland always speedily reassure me; the necessary

magnetic or psychic tension never fails to reassert itself; and before many

weeks have elapsed my Diary is once more rich with the record of my nightly

visions.

 

 

Some of these phantasmagoria have furnished me with the framework, and even

details, of stories which from time to time I have contributed to various

magazines. A ghost story, [Steepside] published some years ago in a London

magazine, and much commented on because of its peculiarly weird and startling

character, had this origin; so had a fairy tale, [Beyond the Sunset] which

appeared in a Christmas Annual last year, and which has recently been re-issued

in German by the editor of a foreign periodical. Many of my more

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[Page  12]

serious contributions to literature have been similarly initiated; and, more

than once, fragments of poems, both in English and other languages, have been

heard or read by me in dreams. I regret much that I have not yet been able to

recover any one entire poem. My memory always failed before I could finish

writing out the lines, no matter how luminous and recent the impressions made by

them on my mind.[The poem entitled A Discourse on the Communion of Souls or the

Uses of love between Creature and Creature, Being a part of the Golden Book of

Venus which forms one of the appendices to The Perfect Way would be an exception

to this rule but that it was necessary for the dream to be repeated before the

whole poem could be recalled. (Ed)] However, even as regards verses, my

experience has been far richer and more successful than that of Coleridge, the

only product of whose faculty in this direction was the poetical fragment Kubla

Khan, and there was no scenic dreaming on the occasion, only the verses were

thus obtained; and I am not without hope that at some future time, under more

favourable conditions than those I now enjoy, the broken threads may be resumed

and these chapters of dream verse perfected and made complete.

 

 

It may, perhaps, be worthy of remark that by far the larger number of the dreams

set down in this volume, occurred towards dawn; sometimes even, after sunrise,

during a second sleep. A condition of fasting, united possibly, with some subtle

magnetic or other atmospheric state, seems therefore to be that most open to

impressions of the kind. And, in this connection, I think it right to add that

for the past fifteen years I have been an abstainer from flesh-meats; not a

Vegetarian, because during the whole of that period I have used such

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[Page  13]

animal produce as butter, cheese, eggs, and milk. That the influence of fasting

and of sober fare upon the perspicacity of the sleeping brain was known to the

ancients in times when dreams were far more highly esteemed than they now are,

appears evident from various passages in the records of theurgy and mysticism.

Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius Tyaneus, represents the latter as

informing King Phraotes that " the Oneiropolists, or Interpreters of Visions,

are wont never to interpret any vision till they have first inquired the time at

which it befell; for, if it were early, and of the morning sleep, they then

thought that they might make a good interpretation thereof (that is, that it

might be worth the interpreting), in that the soul was then fitted for

divination, and disincumbered. But if in the first sleep, or near midnight,

while the soul was as yet clouded and drowned in libations, they, being wise,

refused to give any interpretation. Moreover, the gods themselves are of this

opinion, and send their oracles only into abstinent minds. For the priests,

taking him who doth so consult, keep him one day from meat and three days from

wine, that he may in a clear soul receive the oracles." And again, lamblichus,

writing to Agathocles, says: — "There is nothing unworthy of belief in what you

have been told concerning the sacred sleep, and seeing by means of dreams. I

explain it thus: — The soul has a twofold life, a lower and a higher. In sleep

the soul is liberated from the constraint of the body, and enters, as an

emancipated being, on its divine life of intelligence. Then, as the noble

faculty which beholds objects that truly are — the objects in the world of

intelligence — stirs within, and awakens to its power, who can be astonished

that the mind which contains in itself the principles of

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[Page  14] all events,

should, in this its state of liberation, discern the future in those antecedent

principles which will constitute that future ? The nobler part of the mind is

thus united by abstraction to higher natures, and becomes a participant in the

wisdom and foreknowledge of the gods. . . . The night-time of the body is the

daytime of the soul."

 

 

But I have no desire to multiply citations, nor to vex the reader with

hypotheses inappropriate to the design of this little work. Having, therefore,

briefly recounted the facts and circumstances of my experience so far as they

are known to myself, I proceed, without further commentary, to unroll my chart

of dream-pictures, and leave them to tell their own tale.

 

A. B. K.

 

 

 

 

DREAMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

- 1 - THE DOOMED TRAIN

 

 

[This narrative was addressed to the friend particularly referred to in it. The

dream occurred near the close of 1876, and on the eve, therefore, of the

Russo-Turkish war, and was regarded by us both as having relation to a national

crisis, of a moral and spiritual character, our interest in which was so

profound as to be destined to dominate all our subsequent lives and work

(Author’s Note.)]

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[Page  15]

 

I WAS visited last night by a dream of so strange and vivid a kind that I feel

impelled to communicate it to you, not only to relieve my own mind of the

impression which the recollection of it causes me, but also to give you an

opportunity of finding the meaning, which I am still far too much shaken and

terrified to seek for myself.

 

 

It seemed to me that you and I were two of a vast company of men and women, upon

all of whom, with the exception of myself — for I was there voluntarily —

sentence of death had been passed. I was sensible of the knowledge — how

obtained I know not — that this terrible doom had been pronounced by the

official agents of some new reign of terror. Certain I was that none of the

party had really been guilty of any crime deserving of death; but that the

penalty had been incurred through

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[Page  16] their connection with some regime,

political, social or religious, which was doomed to utter destruction. It became

known among us that the sentence was about to be carried out on a colossal

scale; but we remained in absolute ignorance as to the place and method of the

intended execution. Thus far my dream gave me no intimation of the horrible

scene which next burst on me, — a scene which strained to their utmost tension

every sense of sight, hearing and touch, in a manner unprecedented in any dream

I have previously had.

 

 

It was night, dark and starless, and I found myself, together with the whole

company of doomed men and women who knew that they were soon to die, but not how

or where, in a railway train hurrying through the darkness to some unknown

destination. I sat in a carriage quite at the rear end of the train, in a corner

seat, and was leaning out of the open window, peering into the darkness, when,

suddenly, a voice, which seemed to speak out of the air, said to me in a low,

distinct, intense tone, the mere recollection of which makes me shudder, — "The

sentence is being carried out even now. You are all of you lost. Ahead of the

train is a frightful precipice of monstrous height, and at its base beats a

fathomless sea. The railway ends only with the abyss. Over that will the train

hurl itself into annihilation. THERE is NO ONE ON THE ENGINE !"

 

 

At this I sprang from my seat in horror, and looked round at the faces of the

persons in the carriage with me. No one of them had spoken, or had heard those

awful words. The lamplight from the dome of the carriage flickered oN the forms

about me. I looked from one to the other, but saw no sign of alarm given by any

of them. Then again the voice out of the

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[Page  17] air spoke to me, — "There is

but one way to be saved. You must leap out of the train !"

 

 

In frantic haste I pushed open the carriage door and stepped out on the

footboard. The train was going at a terrific pace, swaying to and fro as with

the passion of its speed; and the mighty wind of its passage beat my hair about

my face and tore at my garments.

 

 

Until this moment I had not thought of you, or even seemed conscious of your

presence in the train. Holding tightly on to the rail by the carriage door, I

began to creep along the footboard towards the engine, hoping to find a chance

of dropping safely down on the line. Hand over hand I passed along in this way

from one carriage to another; and as I did so I saw by the light within each

carriage that the passengers had no idea of the fate upon which they were being

hurried. At length, in one of the compartments, I saw you. "Come out!" I cried;

"come out! Save yourself! In another minute we shall be dashed to pieces !"

 

 

You rose instantly, wrenched open the door, and stood beside me outside on the

footboard. The rapidity at which we were going was now more fearful than ever.

The train rocked as it fled onwards. The wind shrieked as we were carried

through it. "Leap down", I cried to you; "save yourself! It is certain death to

stay here. Before us is an abyss; and there is no one on the engine!"

 

 

At this you turned your face full upon me with a look of intense earnestness,

and said, "No, we will not leap down. We will stop the train".

 

 

With these words you left me, and crept along the footboard towards the front of

the train. Full of half-angry anxiety at what seemed to me a Quixotic act, I

followed.

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[Page  18] In one of the carriages we passed I saw my mother and eldest

brother, unconscious as the rest. Presently we reached the last carriage, and

saw by the lurid light of the furnace that the voice had spoken truly, and that

there was no one on the engine.

 

 

You continued to move onwards. "Impossible! Impossible!" I cried; "it cannot be

done. O, pray, come away!"

 

 

Then you knelt upon the footboard, and said, — "You are right. It cannot be done

in that way; but we can save the train. Help me to get these irons asunder".

 

 

The engine was connected with the train by two great iron hooks and staples. By

a tremendous effort, in making which I almost lost my balance, we unhooked the

irons and detached the train; when, with a mighty leap as of some mad

supernatural monster, the engine sped on its way alone, shooting back as it went

a great flaming trail of sparks, and was lost in the darkness. We stood together

on the footboard, watching in silence the gradual slackening of the speed. When

at length the train had come to a standstill, we cried to the passengers, "Saved

! saved !" and then amid the confusion of opening the doors and descending and

eager talking, my dream ended, leaving me shattered and palpitating with the

horror of it.

 

LONDON, Nov. 1876

 

 

- 2 - THE WONDERFUL SPECTACLES

 

 

[From another letter to the friend mentioned in the note appended to the Doomed

Train. (Author’s Note)]

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[Page  19]

 

I was walking alone on the sea-shore. The day was singularly clear and sunny.

Inland lay the most beautiful landscape ever seen; and far off were ranges of

tall hills, the highest peaks of which were white with glittering snows. Along

the sands by the sea came towards me a man accoutred as a postman. He gave me a

letter. It was from you. It ran thus: —

 

"I have got hold of the earliest and most precious book extant. It was written

before the world began. The text is easy enough to read; but the notes, which

are very copious and numerous, are in such minute and obscure characters that I

cannot make them out. I want you to get for me the spectacles which Swedenborg

used to wear; not the smaller pair — those he gave to Hans Christian Andersen —

but the large pair, and these seem to have got mislaid. I think they are

Spinoza's make. You know he was an optical-glass maker by profession, and the

best we have ever had. See if you can get them for me."

 

When I looked up after reading this letter, I saw the postman hastening away

across the sands, and I cried out to him, " Stop ! how am I to send the answer ?

Will you not wait for it ?"

 

He looked round, stopped, and came back to me.

 

"I have the answer here," he said, tapping his letter-bag, " and I shall deliver

it immediately."

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[Page  20]

 

"How can you have the answer before I have written it?" I asked. "You are making

a mistake".

 

"No", he said. "In the city from which I come, the replies are all written at

the office, and sent out with the letters themselves. Your reply is in my bag".

 

"Let me see it", I said. He took another letter from his wallet and gave it to

me. I opened it, and read, in my own handwriting, this answer, addressed to

you:—

 

"The spectacles you want can be bought in London. But you will not be able to

use them at once, for they have not been worn for many years, and they sadly

want cleaning. This you will not be able to do yourself in London, because it is

too dark there to see well, and because your fingers are not small enough to

clean them properly. Bring them here to me, and I will do it for you."

 

I gave this letter back to the postman. He smiled and nodded at me; and I then

perceived to my astonishment that he wore a camels-hair tunic round his waist. I

had been on the point of addressing him — I know not why — as Hermes. But I now

saw that he must be John the Baptist; and in my fright at having spoken with so

great a saint, I awoke.[The dreamer knew nothing of Spinoza at this time, and

was quite unaware that he was an optician. Subsequent experience made it clear

that the spectacles in question were intended to represent her own remarkable

faculty of intuitional and interpretive perception (Ed)]

 

LONDON, Jan. 31, 1877.

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[Page  21]

 

 

- 3 - THE COUNSEL OF PERFECTION

 

 

I dreamed that I was in a large room, and there were in it seven persons, all

men, sitting at one long table; and each of them had before him a scroll, some

having books also; and all were grey-headed and bent with age save one, and this

was a youth of about twenty without hair on his face. One of the aged men, who

had his finger on a place in a book open before him, said:

 

"This spirit, who is of our order, writes in this book, — Be ye perfect,

therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect. How shall we understand this

word perfection ?" And another of the old men, looking up, answered, " It must

mean wisdom, for wisdom is the sum of perfection." And another old man said,

"That cannot be; for no creature can be wise as God is wise. Where is he among

us who could attain to such a state ? That which is part only, cannot comprehend

the whole. To bid a creature to be wise as God is wise would be mockery."

 

Then a fourth old man said: — " It must be Truth that is intended. For truth

only is perfection. "But he who sat next the last speaker answered, "Truth also

is partial; for where is he among us who shall be able to see as God sees?"

 

And the sixth said, " It must surely be Justice; for this is the whole of

righteousness." And the old man who had spoken first, answered him: — "Not so;

for justice comprehends vengeance, and it is written that vengeance is the

Lord's alone."

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[Page  22]

 

Then the young man stood up with an open book in his hand and said: —" I have

here another record of one who likewise heard these words. Let us see whether

his rendering of them can help us to the knowledge we seek." And he found a

place in the book and read aloud: —

 

"Be ye merciful, even as your Father is merciful."

 

And all of them closed their books and fixed their eyes upon me.

 

LONDON, April 9, 1877

 

 

 

- 4- THE CITY OF BLOOD

 

 

I dreamed that I was wandering along a narrow street of vast length, upon either

hand of which was an unbroken line of high straight houses, their walls and

doors resembling those of a prison. The atmosphere was dense and obscure, and

the time seemed that of twilight; in the narrow line of sky visible far overhead

between the two rows of house-roofs, I could not discern sun, moon, or stars, or

colour of any kind. All was grey, impenetrable, and dim. Under foot, between the

paving-stones of the street, grass was springing. Nowhere was the least sign of

life: the place seemed utterly deserted. I stood alone in the midst of profound

silence and desolation. Silence ? No! As I listened, there came to my ears from

all sides, dully at first and almost imperceptibly, a low creeping sound like

subdued moaning; a sound that never ceased, and that was so native to the place,

I had at first been unaware of it. But now I clearly gathered in the sound and

recognised it as expressive of the intensest physical suffering. Looking

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[Page 

23] steadfastly towards one of the houses from which the most distinct of these

sounds issued, I perceived a stream of blood slowly oozing out from beneath the

door and trickling down into the street, staining the tufts of grass red here

and there, as it wound its way towards me. I glanced up and saw that the glass

in the closed and barred windows of the house was flecked and splashed with the

same horrible dye.

 

"Some one has been murdered in this place !" I cried, and flew towards the door.

Then, for the first time, I perceived that the door had neither lock nor handle

on the outside, but could be opened only from within. It had, indeed, the form

and appearance of a door, but in every other respect it was solid and impassable

as the walls themselves. In vain I searched for bell or knocker, or for some

means of making entry into the house. I found only a scroll fastened with nails

upon a crossbeam over the door, and upon it I read the words: — This is the

Laboratory of a Vivisector. As I read, the wailing sound redoubled in intensity,

and a noise as of struggling made itself audible within, as though some new

victim had been added to the first. I beat madly against the door with my hands

and shrieked for help; but in vain. My dress was reddened with the blood upon

the door step. In horror I looked down upon it, then turned and fled. As I

passed along the street, the sounds around me grew and gathered volume,

formulating themselves into distinct cries and bursts of frenzied sobbing. Upon

the door of every house some scroll was attached, similar to that I had already

seen. Upon one was inscribed: — "Here is a husband murdering his wife:" upon

another: — "Here is a mother beating her child to death:" upon a third: "This is

a slaughter-house."

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[Page  24]

 

Every door was impassable; every window was barred. The idea of interference

from without was futile. Vainly I lifted my voice and cried for aid. The street

was desolate as a graveyard; the only thing that moved about me was the stealthy

blood that came creeping out from beneath the doors of these awful dwellings.

Wild with horror I fled along the street, seeking some outlet, the cries and

moans pursuing me as I ran. At length the street abruptly ended in a high dead

wall, the top of which was not discernible; it seemed, indeed, to be limitless

in height. Upon this wall was written in great black letters —There is no way

out.

 

Overwhelmed with despair and anguish, I fell upon the stones of the street,

repeating aloud — There is no way out.

 

HlNTON. Jan 1877

 

 

- 5- THE BIRD AND THE CAT

 

 

[This dream and the next occurred at a moment when it had almost been decided to

relax the rule of privacy until then observed in regard to our psychological

experiences, among other ways, by submitting them to some of the savants of the

Paris Faculté, — a project of which these dreams at once caused the abandonment.

This was not the only occasion on which a dream bore a twofold aspect, being a

warning or a prediction, according to the heed given to it. (ED.)]

 

I dreamt that I had a beautiful bird in a cage, and that the cage was placed on

a table in a room where there was a cat. I took the bird out of the cage and put

him on the table. Instantly the cat sprang upon

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[Page  25] him and seized him in

her mouth. I threw myself upon her and strove to wrest away her prey, loading

her with reproaches and bewailing the fate of my beautiful bird. Then suddenly

some one said to me, "You have only yourself to blame for this misfortune. While

the bird remained in his cage he was safe. Why should you have ' taken him out

before the eyes of the cat ? "

 

 

 

 

- 6- THE TREASURE IN THE LIGHTED HOUSE

 

 

A second time I dreamt, and saw a house built in the midst of a forest. It was

night, and all the rooms of the house were brilliantly illuminated by lamps. But

the strange thing was that the windows were without shutters, and reached to the

ground. In one of the rooms sat an old man counting money and jewels on a table

before him. I stood in the spirit beside him, and presently heard outside the

windows a sound of footsteps and of men's voices talking together in hushed

tones. Then a face peered in at the lighted room, and I became aware that there

were many persons assembled without in the darkness, watching the old man and

his treasure. He also heard them, and rose from his seat in alarm, clutching his

gold and gems and endeavouring to hide them. " Who are they ? " I asked him. He

answered, his face white with terror; "They are robbers and assassins. This

forest is their haunt. They will murder me, and seize my treasure". "If this be

so", said I, "why did you build your house in the midst of this forest, and why

are there no shutters to the windows ? Are you mad, or

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[Page  26] a fool, that

you do not know every one can see from without into your lighted rooms ? " He

looked at me with stupid despair. "I never thought of the shutters", said he.

 

 

As we stood talking, the robbers outside congregated in great numbers, and the

old man fled from the room with his treasure bags into another apartment. But

this also was brilliantly illuminated within, and the windows were shutterless.

The robbers followed his movements easily, and so pursued him from room to room

all round the house. Nowhere had he any shelter. Then came the sound of gouge

and mallet and saw, and I knew the assassins were breaking into the house, and

that before long, the owner would have met the death his folly had invited, and

his treasure would pass into the hands of the robbers.

 

PARIS, August 3, 1877.

 

 

- 7 - THE FOREST CATHEDRAL

 

 

I found myself — accompanied by a guide, a young man of Oriental aspect and

habit — passing through long vistas of trees which, as we advanced, continually

changed in character. Thus we threaded avenues of English oaks and elms, the

foliage of which gave way as we proceeded to that of warmer and moister climes,

and we saw overhead the hanging masses of broad-leaved palms, and enormous trees

whose names I do not know, spreading their fingered leaves over us like great

green hands in a manner that frightened me. Here also I saw

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[Page  27] huge

grasses which rose over my shoulders, and through which I had at times to beat

my way as through a sea; and ferns of colossal proportions; with every possible

variety and mode of tree-life and every conceivable shade of green, from the

faintest and clearest yellow to the densest blue-green. One wood in particular I

stopped to admire. It seemed as though every leaf of its trees were of gold, so

intensely yellow was the tint of the foliage.

 

In these forests and thickets were numerous shrines of gods such as the Hindus

worship. Every now and then we came upon them in open spaces. They were uncouth

and rudely painted; but they all were profusely adorned with gems, chiefly

turquoises, and they all had many arms and hands, in which they held lotus

flowers, sprays of palms, and coloured berries.

 

 

Passing by these strange figures, we came to a darker part of our course, where

the character of the trees changed and the air felt colder. I perceived that a

shadow had fallen on the way; and looking upwards I found we were passing

beneath a massive roof of dark indigo-coloured pines, which here and there were

positively black in their intensity and depth. Intermingled with them were firs,

whose great, straight stems were covered with lichen and mosses of beautiful

variety, and some looking strangely like green ice-crystals.

 

 

Presently we came to a little broken-down rude kind of chapel in the midst of

the wood. It was built of stone; and masses of stone, shapeless and moss-grown,

were lying scattered about on the ground around it. At a little rough-hewn altar

within it stood a Christian priest, blessing the elements. Overhead, the great

dark sprays of the larches and cone-laden firs swept its roof.

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[Page  28] I sat

down to rest on one of the stones, and looked upwards a while at the foliage.

Then turning my gaze again towards the earth, I saw a vast circle of stones,

moss-grown like that on which I sat, and ranged in a circle such as that of

Stonehenge. It occupied an open space in the midst of the forest; and the

grasses and climbing plants of the place had fastened on the crevices of the

stones.

 

 

One stone, larger and taller than the rest, stood at the junction of the circle,

in a place of honour, as though it had stood for a symbol of divinity. I looked

at my guide, and said, "Here, at least, is an idol whose semblance belongs to

another type than that of the Hindus." He smiled, and turning from me to the

Christian priest at the altar, said aloud, "Priest, why do your people receive

from sacerdotal hands the bread only, while you yourselves receive both bread

and wine?" And the priest answered, "We receive no more than they. Yes, though

under another form, the people are partakers with us of the sacred wine with its

particle. The blood is the life of the flesh, and of it the flesh is formed, and

without it the flesh could not consist. The communion is the same".

 

 

Then the young man my guide turned again to me and waved his hand towards the

stone before me. And as I looked the stone opened from its summit to its base;

and I saw that the strata within had the form of a tree: and that every minute

crystal of which it was formed, — particles so fine that grains of sand would

have been coarse in comparison with them, — and every atom composing its mass,

were stamped with this same tree-image, and bore the shape of the ice-crystals,

of the ferns and of the colossal palm-leaves I had seen. And my guide

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[Page  29]

said, "Before these stones were, the Tree of Life stood in the midst of the

Universe".

 

 

And again we passed on, leaving behind us the chapel and the circle of stones,

the pines and the firs: and as we went the foliage around us grew more and more

stunted and like that at home. We travelled quickly; but now and then, through

breaks and openings in the woods, I saw solitary oaks standing in the midst of

green spaces, and beneath them kings giving judgment to their peoples, and

magistrates administering laws.

 

 

At last we came to a forest of trees so enormous that they made me tremble, to

look at them. The hugeness of their stems gave them an unearthly appearance; for

they rose hundreds of feet from the ground before they burst out far, far above

us, into colossal masses of vast-leaved foliage. I cannot sufficiently convey

the impressions of awe with which the sight of these monster trees inspired me.

There seemed to me something pitiless and phantom-like in the severity of their

enormous bare trunks, stretching on without break or branch into the distance

overhead, and there at length giving birth to a sea of dark waving plumes, the

rustle of which reached my ears as the sound of tossing waves.

 

 

Passing beneath these vast trees we came to others of smaller growth, but still

of the same type, — straight-stemmed, with branching foliage at their summit.

Here we stood to rest, and as we paused I became aware that the trees around me

were losing their colour, and turning by imperceptible degrees into stone. In

nothing was their form or position altered; only a cold, grey hue overspread

them, and the intervening spaces between their stems became filled up, as though

by a cloud which gradually grew substantial. Presently I raised my eyes,

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[Page 

30] and lo ! overhead were the arches of a vast cathedral, spanning the sky and

hiding it from my sight. The tree stems had become tall columns of grey stone;

and their plumed tops, the carven architraves and branching spines of Gothic

sculpture. The incense rolled in great dense clouds to their outstretching arms,

and, breaking against them, hung in floating, fragrant wreaths about their

carven sprays. Looking downwards to the altar, I found it covered with flowers

and plants and garlands, in the midst of which stood a great golden crucifix,

and I turned to my guide wishing to question him, but he had disappeared, and I

could not find him. Then a vast crowd of worshippers surrounded me, a priest

before the altar raised the pyx and the patten in his hands. The people fell on

their knees, and bent their heads, as a great field of corn over which a strong

wind passes. I knelt with the rest, and adored with them in silence.

 

PARIS, July 1877

 

 

- 8- THE ENCHANTED WOMAN

 

 

 

 

[On the night previous to this dream, Mrs Kingsford was awoke by a bright light,

and beheld a hand holding out towards her a glass of foaming ale, the action

being accompanied by the words, spoken with strong emphasis, You must drink

this. It was not her usual beverage, but she occasionally yielded to pressure

and took it when at home. In consequence of the above prohibition she abstained

for that day, and on the following night received this vision, in order to fit

her for which the prohibition had apparently been imposed. It was originally

entitled a Vision of the World’s Fall, on the supposition that it represented

the loss of the Intuition, mystically called the Fall of the Woman, through the

sorceries of priestcraft. (Ed)]

 

 

The first consciousness which broke my sleep last night was one of floating, of

being carried swiftly by some invisible force through a vast space; then, of

being gently lowered; then of light, until, gradually, I found myself on

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[Page 

31] my feet in a broad noon-day brightness, and before me an open country.

Hills, hills, as far as the eye could reach, — hills with snow on their tops,

and mists around their gorges. This was the first thing I saw distinctly. Then,

casting my eyes towards the ground, I perceived that all about me lay huge

masses of grey material which, at first, I took for blocks of stone, having the

form of lions; but as I looked at them more intently, my sight grew clearer, and

I saw, to my horror, that they were really alive. A panic seized me, and I tried

to runaway; but on turning, I became suddenly aware that the whole country was

filled with these awful shapes; and the faces of those nearest to me were most

dreadful, for their eyes, and something in the expression, though not in the

form, of their faces, were human. I was absolutely alone in a terrible world

peopled with lions, too, of a monstrous kind. Recovering myself with an effort,

I resumed my flight, but, as I passed through the midst of this concourse of

monsters, it suddenly struck me that they were perfectly unconscious of my

presence. I even laid my hands, in passing, on the heads and manes of several,

but they gave no sign of seeing me or of knowing that I touched them. At last I

gained the threshold of a great pavilion, not, apparently, built by hands, but

formed by Nature. The walls were solid, yet they were composed of huge trees

standing close together, like columns; and

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[Page  32] the roof of the pavilion

was formed by their massive foliage, through which not a ray of outer light

penetrated. Such light as there was seemed nebulous, and appeared to rise out of

the ground. In the centre of this pavilion I stood alone, happy to have got

clear away from those terrible beasts and the gaze of their steadfast eyes.

 

 

As I stood there, I became conscious of the fact that the nebulous light of the

place was concentrating itself into a focus on the columned wall opposite to me.

It grew there, became intenser, and then spread, revealing, as it spread, a

series of moving pictures that appeared to be scenes actually enacted before me.

For the figures in the pictures were living, and they moved before my eyes,

though I heard neither word nor sound. And this is what I saw. First there came

a writing on the wall of the pavilion: —This is the History of our World. These

words, as I looked at them, appeared to sink into the wall as they had risen out

of it, and to yield place to the pictures which then began to come out in

succession, dimly at first, then strong and clear as actual scenes.

 

 

First I beheld a beautiful woman, with the sweetest face and most perfect form

conceivable. She was dwelling in a cave among the hills with her husband, and

he, too, was beautiful, more like an angel than a man. They seemed perfectly

happy together; and their dwelling was like Paradise. On every side was beauty,

sunlight, and repose. This picture sank into the wall as the writing had done.

And then came out another; the same man and woman driving together in a sleigh

drawn by reindeer over fields of ice; with all about them glaciers and snow, and

great mountains veiled in wreaths of

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[Page  33] slowly moving mist. The sleigh

went at a rapid pace, and its occupants talked gaily to each other, so far as I

could judge by their smiles and the movement of their lips. But, what caused me

much surprise was that they carried between them, and actually in their hands, a

glowing flame, the fervour of which I felt reflected from the picture upon my

own cheeks. The ice around shone with its brightness. The mists upon the snow

mountains caught its gleam. Yet, strong as were its light and heat, neither the

man nor the woman seemed to be burned or dazzled by it. This picture, too, the

beauty and brilliancy of which greatly impressed me, sank and disappeared as the

former.

 

 

Next, I saw a terrible looking man clad in an enchanter's robe, standing alone

upon an ice-crag. In the air above him, poised like a dragon-fly, was an evil

spirit, having a head and face like that of a human being. The rest of it

resembled the tail of a comet, and seemed made of a green fire, which flickered

in and out as though swayed by a wind. And as I looked, suddenly, through an

opening among the hills, I saw the sleigh pass, carrying the beautiful woman and

her husband; and in the same instant the enchanter also saw it, and his face

contracted, and the evil spirit lowered itself and came between me and him. Then

this picture sank and vanished.

 

 

I next beheld the same cave in the mountains which I had before seen, and the

beautiful couple together in it. Then a shadow darkened the door of the cave;

and the enchanter was there, asking admittance; cheerfully they bade, him enter,

and, as he came forward with his snake-like eyes fixed on the fair woman, I

understood that he wished to have her for his own, and was even then devising



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[Page  34] how to bear her away. And the spirit in the air beside him seemed busy

suggesting schemes to this end. Then this picture melted and became confused,

giving place for but a brief moment to another, in which I saw the enchanter

carrying the woman away in his arms, she struggling and lamenting, her long

bright hair streaming behind her. This scene passed from the wall as though a

wind had swept over it, and there rose up in its place a picture, which

impressed me with a more vivid sense of reality than all the rest.

 

 

It represented a market place, in the midst of which was a pile of faggots and a

stake, such as were used formerly for the burning of heretics and witches. The

market place, round which were rows of seats as though for a concourse of

spectators, yet appeared quite deserted. I saw only three living beings present,

— the beautiful woman, the enchanter, and the evil spirit. Nevertheless, I

thought that the seats were really occupied by invisible tenants, for every now

and then there seemed to be a stir in the atmosphere as of a great multitude;

and I had, moreover, a strange sense of facing many witnesses. The enchanter led

the woman to the stake, fastened her there with iron chains, lit the faggots

about her feet and withdrew to a short distance, where he stood with his arms

folded, looking on as the flames rose about her. I understood that she had

refused his love, and that in his fury he had denounced her as a sorceress. Then

in the fire, above the pile, I saw the evil spirit poising itself like a fly,

and rising and sinking and fluttering in the thick smoke. While I wondered what

this meant, the flames which had concealed the beautiful woman, parted in their

midst, and disclosed a sight so horrible and unexpected as to thrill me from



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[Page  35] head to foot, and curdle my blood. Chained to the stake there stood,

not the fair woman I had seen there a moment before, but a hideous monster, — a

woman still, but a woman with three heads, and three bodies linked in one. Each

of her long arms ended, not in a hand, but in a claw like that of a bird of

rapine. Her hair resembled the locks of the classic Medusa, and her faces were

inexpressibly loathsome. She seemed, with all her dreadful heads and limbs, to

writhe in the flames and yet not to be consumed by them. She gathered them in to

herself; her claws caught them and drew them down; her triple body appeared to

suck the fire into itself, as though a blast drove it. The sight appalled me. I

covered my face and dared look no more.

 

 

When at length I again turned my eyes upon the wall, the picture that had so

terrified me was gone, and instead of it, I saw the enchanter flying through the

world, pursued by the evil spirit and that dreadful woman. Through all the world

they seemed to go. The scenes changed with marvellous rapidity. Now the picture

glowed with the wealth and gorgeousness of the torrid zone; now the ice-fields

of the North rose into view; anon a pine-forest; then a wild sea-shore; but

always the same three flying figures; always the horrible three-formed harpy

pursuing the enchanter, and beside her the evil spirit with the dragon-fly

wings.

 

 

At last this succession of images ceased, and I beheld a desolate region, in the

midst of which sat the woman with the enchanter beside her, his head reposing in

her lap. Either the sight of her must have become familiar to him and, so, less

horrible, or she had subjugated him by some spell. At all events, they were

mated at last, and their offspring lay around them on the stony ground,

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[Page 

36] or moved to and fro. These were lions, — monsters with human faces, such as

I had seen in the beginning of my dream. Their jaws dripped blood; they paced

backwards and forwards, lashing their tails. Then too, this picture faded and

sank into the wall as the others had done. And through its melting outlines came

out again the words I had first seen: — This is the History of our World, only

they seemed to me in some way changed, but how, I cannot tell. The horror of the

whole thing was too strong upon me to let me dare look longer at the wall. And I

awoke, repeating to myself the question, " How could one woman become three ? "

 

HINTON, February 1877.

 

 

- 9 - THE BANQUET OF THE GODS

 

 

I saw in my sleep a great table spread upon a beautiful mountain, the distant

peaks of which were covered with snow, and brilliant with a bright light. Around

the table reclined twelve persons, six male, six female, some of whom I

recognised at once, the others afterwards. Those whom I recognised at once were

Zeus, Hera, Pallas Athena, Phoebus Apollo, and Artemis. I knew them by the

symbols they wore. The table was covered with all kinds of fruit, of great size,

including nuts, almonds, and olives, with flat cakes of bread, and cups of gold

into which, before drinking, each divinity poured two sorts of liquid, one of

which was wine, the other water. As I was looking on, standing on a step a

little below the top of the flight which led to the table, I was startled by

seeing Hera suddenly fix her eyes on me and say,

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[Page  37] " What seest thou at

the lower end of the table ?" And I looked and answered, "I see two vacant

seats". Then she spoke again and said, " When you are able to eat of our food

and to drink of our cup, you also shall sit and feast with us." Scarcely had she

uttered these words, when Athena, who sat facing me, added, "When you are able

to eat of our food and to drink of our cup, then you shall know as you are

known". And immediately Artemis, whom I knew by the moon upon her head,

continued, " When you are able to eat of our food and to drink of our cup, all

things shall become pure to you, and ye shall be made virgins."

 

 

Then I said, "O Immortals, what is your food and your drink, and how does your

banquet differ from ours, seeing that we also eat no flesh, and blood has no

place in our repasts ? "

 

 

Then one of the Gods, whom at the time I did not know, but have since recognised

as Hermes, rose from the table, and coming to me put into my hands a branch of a

fig-tree bearing upon it ripe fruit, and said, "If you would be perfect, and

able to know and to do all things, quit the heresy of Prometheus. Let fire warm

and comfort you externally: it is heaven's gift. But do not wrest it from its

rightful purpose, as did that betrayer of your race, to fill the veins of

humanity with its contagion, and to consume your interior being with its breath.

All of you are men of clay, as was the image which Prometheus made. Ye are

nourished with stolen fire, and it consumes you. Of all the evil uses of

heaven's good gifts, none is so evil as the internal use of fire. For your hot

foods and drinks have consumed and dried up the magnetic power of your nerves,

sealed your senses, and cut short your lives. Now, you neither see nor hear;



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[Page  38] for the fire in your organs consumes your senses. Ye are all blind and

deaf, creatures of clay. We have sent you a book to read. Practise its precepts,

and your senses shall be opened."

 

 

Then, not yet recognising him, I said, "Tell me your name, Lord." At this he

laughed and answered, "I have been about you from the beginning. I am the white

cloud on the noon-day sky". "Do you, then", I asked, "desire the whole world to

abandon the use of fire in preparing food and drink ? "

 

 

Instead of answering my question, he said, "We show you the excellent way. Two

places only are vacant at our table. We have told you all that can be shown you

on the level on which yoU stand. But our perfect gifts, the fruits of the Tree

of Life, are beyond your reach now. We cannot give them to you until you are

purified and have come up higher. The conditions are GOD'S; the will is with

you."

 

 

These last words seemed to be repeated from the sky overhead, and again from

beneath my feet. And at the instant I fell, as if shot down like a meteor from a

vast height; and with the swiftness and shock of the fall I awoke.

 

HINTON, Sept. 1877.

 

 

[The book referred to was a volume entitled Fruit and Bread, which had been sent

anonymously on the previous morning. The fig-tree, which both with the Hebrews

and the Greeks was the type of intuitional perception, was a special symbol of

Hermes, called by the Hebrews Raphael. The plural used by the seer included

myself as the partner of her literary and other studies. The term virgin in its

mystical sense signifies a soul pure from admixture of matter. Editor]

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[Page  39]

 

 

- 10 - THE DIFFICULT PATH

 

 

 

Having fallen asleep last night while in a state of great perplexity about the

care and education of my daughter, I dreamt as follows.

 

 

I was walking with the child along the border of a high cliff, at the foot of

which was the sea. The path was exceedingly narrow, and on the inner side was

flanked by a line of rocks and stones. The outer side was so close to the edge

of the cliff that she was compelled to walk either before or behind me, or else

on the stones. And, as it was unsafe to let go her hand, it was on the stones

that she had to walk, much to her distress. I was in male attire, and carried a

staff in my hand. She wore skirts and had no staff; and every moment she

stumbled or her dress caught and was torn by some jutting crag or bramble. In

this way our progress was being continually interrupted and rendered almost

impossible, when suddenly we came upon a sharp declivity leading to a steep path

which wound down the side of the precipice to the beach below. Looking down, I

saw on the shore beneath the cliff a collection of fishermen's huts, and groups

of men and women on the shingle, mending nets, hauling up boats, and sorting

fish of various kinds. In the midst of the little village stood a great crucifix

of lead, so cast in a mould as to allow me from the elevated position I occupied

behind it, to see that though in front it looked solid, it was in reality

hollow. As I was noting this, a voice of some one close at hand suddenly

addressed me; and on turning my head I found

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[Page  40] standing before me a man

in the garb of a fisherman, who evidently had just scaled the steep path leading

from the beach. He stretched out his hand to take the child, saying he had come

to fetch her, for that in the path I was following there was room only for one.

"Let her come to us", he added; "she will do very well as a fisherman's

daughter". Being reluctant to part with her, and not perceiving then the

significance of his garb and vocation, I objected that the calling was a dirty

and unsavoury one, and would soil her hands and dress. Whereupon the man became

severe, and seemed to insist with a kind of authority upon my acceptance of his

proposition. The child, too, was taken with him, and was moreover anxious to

leave the rough and dangerous path; and she accordingly went to him of her own

will and, placing her hand in his, left me without any sign of regret, and I

went on my way alone. Then lifting my eyes to see whither my path led, I beheld

it winding along the edge of the cliff to an apparently endless distance, until,

as I gazed steadily on the extreme limit of my view, I saw the grey mist from

the sea here and there break and roll up into great masses of slow-drifting

cloud, in the intervals of which I caught the white gleam of sunlit snow. And

these intervals continually closed up to open again in fresh places higher up,

disclosing peak upon peak of a range of mountains of enormous altitude.[Always

the symbol of high mystical insight and spiritual attainment — Biblically called

the Hill of the Lord and Mount of God (Ed)]

 

 

By a curious coincidence, the very morning after this dream, a friend, who knew

of my perplexity, called to

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[Page  41] recommend a school in a certain convent as

one suitable for my child. There were, however, insuperable objections to the

scheme.

 

PARIS, Nov. 3, 1877

 

 

- 11 - A LION IN THE WAY

 

 

Owing to the many and great difficulties thrown in my way, I had been seriously

considering the advisability of withdrawing, if only for a time, from my course

of medical studies, when I received the following dream, which determined me to

persevere: —

 

 

I found myself on the same narrow, rugged, and precipitous path described in my

last dream, and confronted by a lion. Afraid to pass him I turned and fled. On

this the beast gave chase, when finding escape by flight hopeless, I turned and

boldly faced him. Whereupon the lion at once stopped and slunk to the side of

the path, and suffered me to pass unmolested, though I was so close to him that

I could not avoid touching him with my garments in passing.

 

[The prognostic was fully justified by the event. (Ed)]

 

Paris, Nov 15, 1877

 

 

 

 

 

 

- 12 - A DREAM OF DISEMBODIMENT

 

 

I dreamt that I was dead, and wanted to take form and appear to C, in order to

converse with him. And it was suggested by those about me — spirits like myself,

I suppose — that I might materialize myself through

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[Page  42] the medium of some

man whom they indicated to me. Coming to the place where he was, I was directed

to throw myself out forward towards him by an intense concentration of will;

which I accordingly tried to do, but without success, though the effort I made

was enormous. I can only compare it to the attempt made by a person unable to

swim, to fling himself off a platform into deep water. Do all I would, I could

not gather myself up for it; and although encouraged and stimulated, and assured

I had only to let myself go, my attempts were ineffectual. Even when I had

sufficiently collected and prepared myself in one part of my system, the other

part failed me.

 

 

At length it was suggested to me that I should find it easier if I first took on

me the form of the medium. This I at length succeeded in doing, and, to my

annoyance, so completely that I materialized myself into the shape not only of

his features, but of his clothing also. The effort requisite for this exhausted

me to the utmost, so that I was unable to keep up the apparition for more than a

few minutes, when I had no choice but to yield to the strain and let myself go

again, only in the opposite way. So I went out, and mounted like a sudden flame,

and saw myself for a moment like a thin streak of white mist rising in the air;

while the comfort and relief I experienced by regaining my light

spirit-condition, were indescribable. It was because I had, for want of skill,

de-materialized myself without sufficient deliberation, that I had thus rapidly

mounted in the air.

 

 

After an interval I dreamt that, wishing to see what A would do in case I

appeared to him after my death, I went to him as a spirit and called him by his

name. Upon hearing my voice he rose and went to the window

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[Page  43] and looked

out uneasily. On my going close to him and speaking in his ear, he was much

disturbed, and ran his hand through his hair and rubbed his head in a puzzled

and by no means pleased manner. At the third attempt to attract his attention he

rushed to the door and, calling for a glass, poured out some wine, which he

drank. On seeing this, and finding him inaccessible, I desisted, thinking it

must often happen to the departed to be distressed by the inability or

unwillingness of those they love to receive and recognize them.

 

Paris Jan 1878

 

 

 

- 13 - THE PERFECT WAY WITH ANIMALS

 

 

I saw in my sleep a cart-horse who, coming to me, conversed with me in what

seemed a perfectly simple and natural manner, for it caused me no surprise that

he should speak. And this is what he said: —

 

 

“Kindness to animals of the gentler orders is the very foundation of

civilization. For it is the cruelty and harshness of men towards the animals

under their protection which is the cause of the present low standard of

humanity itself. Brutal usage creates brutes; and the ranks of mankind are

constantly recruited from spirits already hardened and depraved by a long course

of ill-treatment. Nothing develops the spirit as much as sympathy. Nothing

cultivates, refines, and aids it in its progress towards perfection so much as

kind and gentle treatment. On the contrary, the brutal usage and want of

sympathy with which we meet at the hands of men,

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[Page  44] stunt our development

and reverse all the currents of our nature. We grow coarse with coarseness, vile

with reviling, and brutal with the brutality of those who surround us. And when

we pass out of this stage we enter on the next depraved and hardened, and with

the bent of our dispositions such that we are ready by our nature to do in our

turn that which has been done to us. The greater number of us, indeed know no

other or better way. For the spirit learns by experience and imitation, and

inclines necessarily to do those things which it has been in the habit of seeing

done. Humanity will never become perfected until this doctrine is understood and

received and made the rule of conduct.”

 

Paris, October 28, 1879

 

 

 

- 14 - THE LABORATORY UNDERGROUND

 

 

I dreamed that I found myself underground in a vault artificially lighted.

Tables were ranged along the walls of the vault, and upon these tables were

bound down the living bodies of half-dissected and mutilated animals. Scientific

experts were busy at work on their victims with scalpel, hot iron and forceps.

But, as I looked at the creatures lying bound before them, they no longer

appeared to be mere rabbits, or hounds, for in each I saw a human shape, the

shape of a man, with limbs and lineaments resembling those of their torturers,

hidden within the outward form. And when they led into the place an old worn-out

horse, crippled with age and long

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[Page  45] toil in the service of man, and

bound him down, and lacerated his flesh with their knives, I saw the human form

within him stir and writhe as though it were an unborn babe moving in its

mother’s womb. And I cried aloud — “Wretches! you are tormenting an unborn man!”

But they heard not, nor could they see what I saw. Then they brought in a white

rabbit, and thrust its eyes through with heated irons. And as I gazed, the

rabbit seemed to me like a tiny infant, with human face, and hands which

stretched themselves towards me in appeal, and lips which sought to cry for help

in human accents. And I could bear no more, but broke forth into a bitter rain

of tears, exclaiming - “O blind! blind” not to see that you torture a child, the

youngest of your own flesh and blood!”

 

 

And with that I woke, sobbing vehemently.

 

Paris, February 2, 1880

 

 

 

- 15 - THE OLD YOUNG MAN

 

 

I dreamed that I was in Rome with C., and a friend of his called on us there,

and asked leave to introduce to us a young man, a student of art, whose history

and condition were singular. They came together in the evening. In the room

where we sat was a kind of telephonic tube, through which, at intervals, a voice

spoke to me. When the young man entered, these words were spoken in my ear

through the tube: —

 

 

“You have made a good many diagnoses lately of

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[Page  46] cases of physical

disease; here is a curious and interesting type of spiritual pathology, the like

of which is rarely met with. Question this young man.”

 

 

Accordingly I did so, and drew from him that about a year ago he had been

seriously ill of Roman fever; but as he hesitated, and seemed unwilling to speak

on the subject, I questioned the friend. From him I learnt that the young man

had formerly been a very proficient pupil in one of the best-known studios in

Rome, but that a year ago he had suffered from a most terrible attack of

malaria, in consequence of his remaining in Rome to work after others had found

it necessary to go into the country, and that the malady had so affected the

nervous system that since his recovery he had been wholly unlike his former

self. His great aptitude for artistic work, from which so much had been

expected, seemed to have entirely left him; he was no longer master of his

pencil; his former faculty and promise of excellence had vanished. The physician

who had attended him during his illness affirmed that all this was readily

accounted for by the assumption that the malaria had affected the cerebral

centers, and in particular, the nerve-cells of the memory; that such

consequences of severe continuous fever were by no means uncommon, and might

last for an indefinite period. Meanwhile the young man was now, by slow and

painful application, doing his utmost to recover his lost power and skill.

Naturally the subject was distasteful to him, and he shrank from discussing it.

Here the voice again spoke to me through the tube, telling me to observe the

young man, and especially his face. On this I scanned his countenance with

attention, and remarked that it wore a singularly old look, — the look of a man

advanced in years and

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[Page  47] experience. But that I surmised to be a not

unusual effect of severe fever.

 

 

“How old do you suppose the patient to be?” asked the interrogative voice.

“About twenty years old, I suppose” said I.

“He is a year old,” rejoined the voice.

“A year! How can that be?”

 

 

“If you will not allow that he is only a year old, then you must admit that he

is sixty-five, for he is certainly either one or the other.”

 

 

This enigma so perplexed me, that I begged my invisible informant for the

solution of the difficulty, which was at once vouchsafed in the following terms:

 

 

“Here is the history of your patient. The youth who was the proficient and

gifted student, who astonished his masters, and gave such brilliant indications

of future greatness, is dead. The malaria killed him. But he had a father, who,

while alive, had loved his son as the apple of his eye, and whose whole being

and desire centered in the boy. This father died some six years ago, about the

age of sixty. After his death his devotion to the youth continued, and as a

spirit, he followed him everywhere, never quitting his side. So entirely was he

absorbed in the lad and in his career, that he made no advance in his own

spiritual life, nor, indeed was he fully aware of the fact that he had himself

quitted the earthly plane. For there are souls which, having been obtuse and

dull in their apprehension of spiritual things during their existence in the

flesh, and having neither hopes not aims beyond the body, are very slow to

realize the fact of their dissolution, and remain, therefore, chained to the

earth by earthly affections and interests, haunting the places or persons they

have most affected.

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[Page  48] But the young artist was not of this order.

Idealist and genius, he was already highly spiritualized and vitalized even upon

earth, and when death rent the bond between him and his body, he passed at once

from the atmosphere of carnal things into a loftier sphere. But at the moment of

his death, the phantom father was watching beside the son’s sick-bed, and filled

with agony at beholding the wreck of all the brilliant hopes he had cherished

for the boy, thought only of preserving the physical life of that dear body,

since the death of the outward form was still for him the death of all he had

loved. He would cling to it, preserve it, re-animate it at any cost. The spirit

had quitted it; it lay before him a corpse. What, then did the father do? With a

supreme effort of desire, ineffectual indeed to recall the departed ghost, but

potent in its reaction upon himself, he projected his own vitality into his

son’s dead body, re-animated it with his own soul, and thus effected the

resuscitation for which he had so ardently longed. So the body you now behold

is, indeed, the son’s body, the soul which animates it is that of the father.

And it is a year since this event occurred. Such is the real solution of the

problem, whose natural effects the physician attributes to the result of

disease. The spirit which now tenants this young man’s form had no knowledge of

art when he was so strangely reborn into the world, beyond the mere rudiments of

drawing which he had learned while watching his son at work during the previous

six years. What, therefore seems to the physician to be a painful recovery of

previous aptitude, is, in fact the imperfect endeavour of a novice entering a

new and unsuitable career.

 

 

“For the father the experience is by no means an unprofitable one. He would

certainly sooner or later, have

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[Page  49] resumed existence upon earth in the

flesh, and it is as well that his return should be under the actual

circumstances. The study of art upon which he has thus entered is likely to

prove to him an excellent means of spiritual education. By means of it his soul

may ascend as it has never yet done; while the habits of the body he now

possesses, trained as it is to refined and gentle modes of life, may do much to

accomplish the purgation and redemption of its new tenant. It is far better for

the father that this strange event should have occurred, than that he should

have remained an earth-bound phantom, unable to realize his own position, or to

rise above the affection which chained him to merely worldly things.”

 

 

PARIS, February 21, 1880

 

 

 

- 16 - THE METEMPSYCHOSIS

 

 

I was visited last night in my sleet by one whom I presently recognized as the

famous Adept and Mystic of the first century of our era, Apollonius of Tyana,

called the Pagan Christ. He was clad in a grey linen robe with a hood, like that

of a monk, and had a smooth, beardless face, and seemed to be between forty and

fifty years of age. He made himself known to me by asking if I had heard of his

lion. [This was a tame captive lion, in whom Apollonius is said to have

recognized the soul of the Egyptian King Amasis, who had lived 500 years

previously. The lion burst into tears at the recognition, and showed much

misery. (Author’s Note.) ] He commenced by speaking of Metempsychosis,

concerning which he informed

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[Page  50] me as follows: — “There are two streams

or currents, and upward and a downward one, by which souls are continually

passing and repassing as on a ladder. The carnivorous animals are souls

undergoing penance by being imprisoned for a time in such forms on account of

their misdeeds. Have you not heard the story of my lion?” I said yes, but that I

did not understand it, because I thought it impossible for a human soul to

suffer the degradation of returning into the body of a lower creature after once

attaining humanity. At this he laughed out, and said that the real degradation

was not in the penance but in the sin. “It is not by the penance, but by

incurring the need of the penance, that the soul is degraded. The man who

sullies his humanity by cruelty or lust, is already degraded thereby below

humanity; and the form which his soul assumes afterwards assumes is the mere

natural consequence of that degradation. He may again recover humanity, but only

by means of passing through another form than that of the carnivora. When you

were told [The reference is to an instruction received by her four years

previously, but in sleep, and not from Apollonius, though from a source no less

transcendental. (Ed.)] that certain creatures were redeemable or not redeemable,

the meaning was this: They who are redeemable may, on leaving their present

form, return directly into humanity. Their penance accomplished in that form,

and in it, therefore, they are redeemed. But they who are not redeemable, are

they whose sin has been too deep or too ingrained to suffer them to return until

they have passed through other lower forms. They are not redeemable therein, but

will be on ascending again. Others, altogether vile and past redemption, sink

continually lower and lower down the stream, until

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[Page  51] at length they burn

out. They shall neither be redeemed in the form they now occupy, nor in any

other.”

 

PARIS, May 11, 1880

 

 

*** [ Remembering, on being told this dream, that Eliphas Levi in his Haute

Magie, had described an interview with the phantom of Apollonius, which he had

evoked, I referred to the book, and found that he also saw him with a

smooth-shaven face, but wearing a shroud (linceul) (Ed.)]

 

 

 

- 17 - THE THREE KINGS

 

 

The time was drawing towards dawn in a wild and desolate region. And I stood

with my genius at the foot of a mountain the summit of which was hidden in mist.

At a few paces from me stood three persons, clad in splendid robes and wearing

crowns on their heads. Each personage carried a casket and a key: the three

caskets differed from one another, but the keys were all alike. And my genius

said to me, “These are the three kings of the East, and they journey hither over

the river that is dried up, to go up into the mountain of Sion and rebuild the

Temple of the Lord God.” Then I looked more closely at the three royalties, and

I saw that the one who stood nearest to me on the left hand was a man, and color

of his skin was dark like that of an Indian. And the second was in form like a

woman, and her complexion was fair: and the third had the wings of an Angel, and

carried a staff of gold. And I heard them say one to another, “Brother, what

hast thou in thy casket?” And the first answered, and the King who bore the

aspect of a woman, answered, " I am the carp. “I am the Stonelayer,

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[Page  52]

and I carry the implements of my craft; also a bundle of myrrh for thee and for

me.”I am the Carpenter, and I bear the instruments of my craft; also a box of

frankincense for thee and for me.” And the Angel-king answered, “I am the

Measurer, and I carry the secrets of the living God, and the rod of gold to

measure your work withal.” Then the first said, “Therefore let us go up into the

hill of the Lord and build the walls of Jerusalem. And they turned to ascend the

mountain. But they had not taken the first step when the king, whose name was

Stonelayer, said to him who was called the Carpenter, “Give me first the

implements of thy craft, and the plan of thy building, that I may know after

what sort thou buildest, and may fashion thereto my masonry.” And the other

asked him, “What buildest thou, brother?” And he answered, “I build the Outer

Court,” Then the Carpenter unlocked his casket and gave him a scroll written

over in silver, and a crystal rule, and a carpenter’s plane and a saw. And the

other took them and put them into his casket. Then the Carpenter said to the

Stonelayer, “Brother, give me also the plan of thy building, and the tools of

thy craft. For I build the Inner Place, and must needs fit my designing to thy

foundation.” But the other answered, “Nay, my brother, for I have promised the

laborers. Build thou alone. It is enough that I know thy secrets; ask not mine

of me.” And the Carpenter answered, “How then shall the Temple of the Lord be

built? Are we not of three Ages, and is the temple yet perfected?” Then the

Angel spoke, and said to the Stonelayer, “Fear not, brother: freely hast thou

received; freely give. For except thine elder brother had been first a

Stonelayer, he

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[Page  53] could not now be a Carpenter. Art thou not of Solomon,

and he of Christ? Therefore he hath already handled thy tools, and is of thy

craft. And I also, the Measurer, I know the work of both. But now is that time

when the end cometh, and that which hath been spoken in the ear in closets, the

same shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Then the first king unlocked his

casket, and gave to the Carpenter a scroll written in red, and a compass and a

trowel. But the Carpenter answered him: “It is enough. I have seen, and I

remember. For this is the writing King Solomon gave into my hands when I also

was a Stonelayer, and when thou wert of the company of them that labor. For I

also am thy Brother, and that thou knowest I know also.” Then the third king,

the Angel, spoke again and said, “Now is the knowledge perfected and the bond

fulfilled. For neither can the Stonelayer build alone, nor the Carpenter

construct apart. Therefore, until this day, is the Temple of the Lord unbuilt.

But now is the time come, and Salem shall have her habitation on the Hill of the

Lord.”

 

 

And there came down a mist from the mountain, and out of the mist a star. And my

Genius said, “Thou shalt yet see more on this wise.” But I saw then only the

mist, which filled the valley, and moistened my hair and my dress; and so I

awoke.

 

LONDON, April 30, 1882

 

 

[ For the full comprehension of the above dream, it is necessary to be

profoundly versed at once in the esoteric signification of the Scriptures and in

the mysteries of Freemasonry. It was the dreamer’s great regret that she neither

knew, nor could know, the latter, women being excluded from initiation. (Ed.)]



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[Page  54]

 

 

- 18 - THE ARMED GODDESS

 

 

I dreamed that I sat reading in my study, with books lying about all round me.

Suddenly a voice marvellously clear and silvery, called me by name. Starting up

and turning, I saw behind me a long vista of white marble columns, Greek in

architecture, flanking on either side a gallery of white marble. At the end of

this gallery stood a shape of exceeding brilliancy, the shape of a woman above

mortal height, clad from head to foot in shining mail armor. In her right hand

was a spear, on her left arm a shield. Her brow was hidden by a helmet, and the

aspect of her face was stern, severe even, I thought, I approached her, and as I

went, my body was lifted up from the earth, and I was aware of that strange

sensation of floating above the surface of the ground, which is so common with

me in sleep that at times I can scarce persuade myself after waking that it has

not been a real experience. When I alighted at the end of the long gallery

before the armed woman, she said to me:

 

 

“Take off the nightdress thou wearest.”

 

 

I looked at my attire and was about to answer — “This is not a nightdress,” when

she added, as though perceiving my thought: —

 

 

“The woman’s garb is a nightdress; it is a garment made to sleep in. The man’s

garb is the dress for the day. Look eastward!”

 

 

I raised my eyes and, behind the mail-clad shape, I saw the draw breaking,

blood-red, and with great clouds like

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[Page  55] pillars of smoke rolling up on

either side of the place where the sun was about to rise. But as yet the sun was

not visible. And as I looked, she cried aloud, and her voice rang through the

air like the clash of steel: —

 

 

“Listen!”

 

 

And she struck her spear on the marble pavement. At the same moment there came

from afar off, a confused sound of battle. Cries, and human voices in conflict,

and the stir as of a vast multitude, the distant clang of arms and a noise of

the galloping of many horses rushing furiously over the ground. And then, sudden

silence.

 

Again she smote the pavement, and again the sounds arose, nearer now, and more

tumultuous. Once more they ceased, and a third time she struck the marble with

her spear.

 

 

Then the noises arose all about and around the very spot where we stood, and the

clang of the arms was so close that it shook and thrilled the very columns

beside me. And the neighing and snorting of horses, and the thud of their

ponderous hoofs flying over the earth made, as it were, a wind in my ears, so

that it seemed as though a furious battle were raging all around us. But I could

see nothing. Only the sounds increased, and became so violent that they awoke

me, and even after waking I still seemed to catch the commotion of them in the

air. [This dream was shortly followed by Mrs Kingsford’s anti-vivisection

expedition to Switzerland, the fierce conflict of which amply fulfilled any

predictive significance it may have had.]

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[Page  56]

 

 

PARIS, February 15, 1883

 

 

- 19 - THE GAME OF CARDS

 

 

I dreamed I was playing at cards with three persons, the two opposed to me being

a man and a woman with hoods pulled over their heads, and cloaks covering their

persons. I did not particularly observe them. My partner was an old man without

hood or cloak, and there was about him this peculiarity, that he did not from

one minute to another appear to remain the same. Sometimes he looked like a very

young man, the features not appearing to change in order to produce this effect,

but an aspect of youth and even of mirth coming into the face as though the

features were lighted from within. Behind me stood a personage whom I could not

see, for his hand and arm only appeared, handing me a pack of cards. So far as I

discerned, it was a man’s figure, habited in black. Shortly after the dream

began, my partner addressed me, saying,

 

 

“Do you play by luck or by skill?”

 

 

I answered” “I play by luck chiefly; I don’t know how to play by skill. But I

have generally been lucky." In fact I had already, lying by me, several tricks I

had taken. He answered me: —

 

 

“To play by luck is to trust to without; to play by skill is to trust to within.

In this game, Within goes further than Without.”

 

 

“What are trumps?” I asked.

 

 

“Diamonds are trumps,” he answered.

 

 

I looked at the cards in my hand and said to him: — “I have more clubs than

anything else.”

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[Page  57]

 

At this he laughed, and seemed all at once quite a youth. “Clubs are strong

cards, after all,” he said. “Don’t despise the black suits. I have known some of

the best games ever played won by players holding more clubs than you have.”

 

 

I examined the cards and found something very odd about them. There were four

suits, diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades. But the picture cards in my hand

seemed different altogether from any I had ever seen before. One was queen of

Clubs, and her face altered as I looked at it. First it was dark, — almost

dusky, — with the imperial crown on the head; then it seemed quite fair, the

crown changing to a smaller one of English aspect, and the dress also

transforming itself. There was a queen of Hearts, too, in an antique peasant’s

gown, with brown hair, and presently this melted into a suit of armor which

shone as if reflecting fire-light in its burnished scales. The other cards

seemed alive likewise, even the ordinary ones, just like the court-cards. There

seemed to be pictures moving inside the emblems on their faces. The clubs in my

hand ran into higher figures than the spades; these came next in number, and

diamonds next. I had no picture-cards of diamonds, but I had the Ace. And this

was so bright I could not look at it. Except the two queens of Clubs and Hearts

I think I had no picture-cards in my hand, and very few red cards of any kind.

There were high figures in the spades. It was the personage behind my chair who

dealt the cards always. I said to my partner: — “It is difficult to play at all,

whether by luck or by skill, for I get such a bad hand dealt me each time.

 

 

“That is your fault,” he said. “Play your best with what you have, and next time

you will get better cards.”

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[Page  58]

 

“How can that be? I asked.

 

 

“Because after each game, the tricks you take are added to the bottom of the

pack which the dealer holds, and you get the honors you have taken up from the

table. Play well and take all you can. But you must put more head into it. You

trust too much to fortune. Don’t blame the dealer; he can’t see.”

 

 

“I shall lose this game,” I said presently, for the two persons playing against

us seemed to be taking up all the cards quickly, and the lead never came to my

turn.

 

 

“It is because you don’t count your points before putting down a card,” my

partner said. “If they play high numbers, you must play higher.”

 

 

“But they have all the trumps,” I said.

 

 

“No,” he answered, “you have the highest trump of all in your own hand. It is

the first and the last. You may take every card they have with that, for it is

the chief of the whole series. But you have spades too, and high ones.” (He

seemed to know what I had.)

 

 

“Diamonds are better than spades,” I answered. “And nearly all my cards are

black ones. Besides, I can’t count, it wants so much thinking. Can’t you come

over here and play for me?”

 

 

He shook his head, and I thought that again he laughed. “No,” he replied, “that

is against the law of the game. You must play for yourself. Think it out.”

 

 

He uttered these words very emphatically and with so strange an intonation that

they dissipated the rest of the dream, and I remember no more of it.

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[Page  59]

 

 

ATCHAM, Dec 7, 1883

 

 

 

- 20 - THE PANIC-STRUCK PACK-HORSE

 

 

Out of a veil of palpitating mist there arose before me in my sleep the image of

a colossal and precipitous cliff, standing sheer up against a sky of cloud and

sea-mist, the tops of the granite peaks being merged and hidden in the vapor. At

the foot of the precipice beat a wild sea, tossing and flecked with foam; and

out of the flying spray rose sharp splinters of granite, standing like

spearheads about the base of the sold rock. As I looked, something stirred far

off in the distance, like a fly crawling over the smooth crag. Fixing my gaze

upon it I became aware that there was at a great height above the sea, midway

between sky and water, a narrow unprotected footpath winding up and down

irregularly along the side of the mighty cliff; — a slender, sloping path,

horrible to look at, like a rope or a thread stretched midair, hanging between

heaven and the hungry foam. One by one, came towards me along this awful path a

procession of horses, drawing tall narrow carts filled with bales of

merchandise. The horses moved along the edge of the crag as though they clung to

it, their bodies aslant towards the wall of granite on their right, their legs

moving with the precision of creatures feeling and grasping every step. Like

deer they moved, — not like horses, — and as they advanced, the carts they drew

swayed behind them, and I thought every jolt would hurl them over the precipice.

Fascinated I watched, — I could not choose but watch. At length came a grey

horse, not drawing a cart, but carrying something on his back, — on a

pack-saddle apparently. Like the rest he

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[Page  60] came on stealthily, sniffing

every inch of the terrible way, until, just at the worst and giddiest point he

paused, hesitated, and seemed about to turn. I saw him back himself into a

crouching attitude against the wall of rock behind him, lowering his haunches,

and rearing his head in a strange manner. The idea flashed on me that he would

certainly turn, and then — what could happen? More horses were advancing, and

two beasts could not possibly pass each other on that narrow ledge! But I was

totally unprepared for the ghastly thing that actually did happen. The miserable

horse had been seized with the awful mountain-madness that sometimes overtakes

men on stupendous heights, — the madness of suicide. With a frightful scream,

that sounded partly like a cry of supreme desperation, partly like one of

furious and frenzied joy, the horse reared himself to his full height on the

horrible ledge, shook his head wildly, and leaped with a frantic spring into the

air, sheer over the precipice, and into the foam beneath. His eyes glared as he

shot into the void, a great dark living mass against the white mist. Was he

speared on those terrible shafts or rock below, or was his life dashed out in

horrible crimson splashes against the cliff-side? Or did he sink into the

reeling swirl of the foaming waters, and die more mercifully in their steel-dark

depths? I could not see. I saw only the flying form dart through the mist like

an arrow from a bow. I head only the appalling cry, like nothing earthly ever

heard before; and I woke in a panic, with hands tightly clasped, and my body

damp with moisture. It was but a dream — this awful picture; it was gone as an

image from a mirror, and I was awake and gazing only upon blank darkness.

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[Page 

61]

 

 

ATCHAM, Sept 15, 1884

 

 

 

- 21 - THE HAUNTED INN

 

 

I seemed in my vision to be on a long and wearisome journey, and to have arrived

at an Inn, in which I was offered shelter and rest. The apartment given me

consisted of a bedroom and parlor, communicating, and furnished in an antique

manner, everything in the rooms appearing to be worm-eaten, dusty and out of

date. The walls were bare and dingy; there was not a picture or an ornament in

the apartment. An extremely dim light prevailed in the scene; indeed, I do not

clearly remember, whether, with the exception of the fire and a night-lamp, the

rooms were illumined at all. I seated myself in a chair by the hearth; it was

late, and I thought only of rest. But, presently, I became aware of strange

things going on about me. On a table in a corner lay some papers and a pencil.

With a feeling of indescribable horror I saw this pencil assume an erect

position and begin of itself to write on the paper, precisely as though an

invisible hand held and guided it. At the same time, small detonations sounded

in different parts of the room; tiny bright sparks appeared, burst, and

immediately expired in smoke. The pencil having ceased to write, laid itself

gently down, and taking the paper in my hand I found on it a quantity of writing

which at first appeared to me to be in cipher, but I presently perceived that

the words composing as it were written backwards, from right to left, exactly as

one sees writing reflected on a looking glass. What was written made a

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[Page  62]

considerable impression on me at the time, but I cannot now recall it, I know,

however, that the dominant feeling I experienced was one of horror.

 

 

I called the owners of the inn and related to them what had taken place. They

received my statement with perfect equanimity, and told me that in their house

this was the normal state of things, of which, in fact, they were extremely

proud: and they ended by congratulating me as a visitor much favored by the

invisible agencies of the place.

 

 

“We call them our Lights,” they said.

 

 

“It is true,” I observed, “that I saw lights in the air about the room, but they

went out instantaneously, and left only smoke behind them. And why do they write

backwards? Who are They?”

 

 

As I asked this question, the pencil on the table rose again, and wrote thus on

the paper: —

 

 

“ksatonoD”

 

 

Again horror seized on me, and the air becoming full of smoke I found it

impossible to breathe. “Let me out!” I cried, “I am stifled here, — the air is

full of smoke!”

 

 

Outside, the people of the house answered, “you will lose your way; it is quite

dark, and we have no other rooms to let. And, besides, it is the same in all the

other apartments of the inn.”

 

 

“But the place is haunted!” I cried; and I pushed past them, and burst out of

the house.

 

 

Before the doorway stood a tall veiled figure, like translucent silver. A sense

of reverence overcame me. The night was balmy, and bright almost as day with

resplendent starlight. The stars seemed to lean out of heaven; they looked down

on me like living eyes, full of

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[Page  63] a strange immeasurable sympathy. I

crossed the threshold, and stood in the open plain, breathing with rapture and

relief the pure warm air of that delicious night. How restful, calm, and

glorious was the dark landscape, outlined in purple against the luminous sky !

And what a consciousness of vastness and immensity above and around me ! " Where

am I ? " I cried.

 

 

The silver figure stood beside me, and lifted its veil. It was Pallas Athena.

 

 "Under the Stars of the East", she answered me, " the true eternal Lights of

the World."

 

 

After I was awake, a text in the Gospels was vividly brought to my mind: —

"There was no room for them in the Inn." What is this Inn, I wondered, all the

rooms of which are haunted, and in which the Christ cannot be born ? And this

open country under the eastern night, — is it not the same in which they were "

abiding," to whom that Birth was first angelically announced ?

 

ATCHAM, Nov. 5, 1885.

 

 

*** [ The solution of the enigma was received subsequently in an instruction,

also imparted in sleep, in which it was said, " If Occultism were all, and held

the key of heaven, there would be no need of Christ."(ED.)]

 

 

 

- 22 - AN EASTERN APOLOGUE.

 

 

The following was read by me during sleep, in an old book printed in archaic

type. As with many other things similarly read by me, I do not know whether it

is to be found in any book: —

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[Page  64] "After Buddha had been ten years in

retirement, certain sages sent their disciples to him, asking him, —

' What dost thou claim to be, Gautama ?' "

 

Buddha answered them, ' I claim to be nothing.'

 

 

" Ten years afterwards they sent again to him, asking the same question, and

again Buddha answered: — ' I claim to be nothing.'

 

 

"Then after yet another ten years had passed, they sent a third time, asking, '

What dost thou claim to be, Gautama ?'

 

 

"And Buddha replied, ' I claim to be the utterance of the most high God.'

" Then they said to him: ' How is this, that hitherto thou hast proclaimed

thyself to be nothing, and now thou declarest thyself to be the very utterance

of God ?'

 

 

" Buddha answered: ' Either I am nothing, or I am the very utterance of God, for

between these two all is silence.'"

 

ATCHAM, March 5, 1885.

 

 

 

- 23 - A HAUNTED HOUSE INDEED

 

 

I dreamt that during a tour on the Continent with my friend C. we stayed in a

town wherein there was an ancient house of horrible reputation, concerning which

we received the following account. At the top of the house was a suite of rooms,

from which no one who entered at night ever again emerged. No corpse was ever

found; but it was said by some that the victims were absorbed bodily by the

walls; by others that there

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[Page  65] were in the rooms a number of pictures in

frames, one frame, however, containing a blank canvas, which had the dreadful

power, first, of fascinating the beholder, and next of drawing him towards it,

so that he was compelled to approach and gaze at it. Then, by the same hideous

enchantment, he was forced to touch it, and the touch was fatal. For the canvas

seized him as a devil-fish seizes its prey, and sucked him in, so that he

perished without leaving a trace of himself, or of the manner of his death. The

legend said further that if any person could succeed in passing a night in these

rooms and in resisting their deadly influence, the spell would for ever be

broken, and no one would thenceforth be sacrificed.

 

 

Hearing all this, and being somewhat of the knight-errant order, C. and I

determined to face the danger, and, if possible, deliver the town from the

enchantment. We were assured that the attempt would be vain, for that it had

already been many times made, and the Devils of the place were always

triumphant. They had the power, we were told, of hallucinating the senses of

their victims; we should be subjected to some illusion, and be fatally deceived.

Nevertheless, we were resolved to try what we could do, and in order to acquaint

ourselves with the scene of the ordeal, we visited the place in the daytime. It

was a gloomy-looking building, consisting of several vast rooms, filled with

lumber of old furniture, worm-eaten and decaying; scaffoldings, which seemed to

have been erected for the sake of making repairs and then left; the windows were

curtainless, the floors bare, and rats ran hither and thither among the rubbish

accumulated in the corners. Nothing could possibly look more desolate and

gruesome. We saw no pictures; but as we

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[Page  66] did not explore every part of

the rooms, they may have been there without our seeing them.

 

 

We were further informed by the people of the town that in order to visit the

rooms at night it was necessary to wear a special costume, and that without it

we should have no chance whatever of issuing from them alive. This costume was

of black and white, and each of us was to carry a black stave. So we put on this

attire, — which somewhat resembled the garb of an ecclesiastical order, — and

when the appointed time came, repaired to the haunted house, where, after

toiling up the great staircase in the darkness, we reached the door of the

haunted apartments to find it closed. But light was plainly visible beneath it,

and within was the sound of voices. This greatly surprised us; but after a short

conference we knocked. The door was presently opened by a servant, dressed as a

modern indoor footman usually is, who civilly asked us to walk in. On entering

we found the place altogether different from what we expected to find, and had

found on our daylight visit. It was brightly lighted, had decorated walls,

pretty ornaments, carpets, and every kind of modern garnishment, and, in short,

bore all the appearance of an ordinary well-appointed private flat. While we

stood in the corridor, astonished, a gentleman in evening dress advanced towards

us from one of the reception rooms. As he looked interrogatively at us, we

thought it best to explain the intrusion, adding that we presumed we had either

entered the wrong house, or stopped at the wrong apartment.

 

 

He laughed pleasantly at our tale, and said, "I don't know anything about

haunted rooms, and, in fact, don't believe in anything of the kind. As for these

rooms, they have for a long time been let for two or three nights

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[Page  67]

every week to our Society for the purpose of social reunion. We are members of a

musical and literary association, and are in the habit of holding conversaziones

in these rooms on certain evenings, during which we entertain ourselves with

dancing, singing, charades, and literary gossip. The rooms are spacious and

lofty, and exactly adapted to our requirements. As you are here, I may say, in

the name of the rest of the members, that we shall be happy if you will join

us." At this I glanced at our dresses in some confusion, which being observed by

the gentleman, he hastened to say: " You need be under no anxiety about your

appearance, for this is a costume night, and the greater number of our guests

are in travesty." As he spoke he threw open the door of a large drawing-room and

invited us in. On entering we found a company of men and women, well-dressed,

some in ordinary evening attire and some costumed. The room was brilliantly

lighted and beautifully furnished and decorated. At one end was a grand piano,

round which several persons were grouped; others were seated on ottomans taking

tea or coffee; and others strolled about, talking. Our host, who appeared to be

master of the ceremonies, introduced us to several persons, and we soon became

deeply interested in a conversation on literary subjects. So the evening wore on

pleasantly, but I never ceased to wonder how we could have mistaken the house or

the staircase after the precaution we had taken of visiting it in the daytime in

order to avoid the possibility of error.

 

 

Presently, being tired of conversation, I wandered away from the group with

which C. was still engaged, to look at the beautiful decorations of the great

salon, the walls of which were covered with artistic designs in

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[Page  68]

fresco. Between each couple of panels, the whole length of the salon, was a

beautiful painting, representing a landscape or a sea-piece. I passed from one

to the other, admiring each, till I had reached the extreme end, and was far

away from the rest of the company, where the lights were not so many or so

bright as in the centre. The last fresco in the series then caught my attention.

At first it appeared to me to be unfinished; and then I observed that there was

upon its background no picture at all, but only a background of merging tints

which seemed to change, and to be now sky, now sea, now green grass. This empty

picture had, moreover, an odd metallic colouring which fascinated me; and saying

to myself " Is there really any painting on it ? " I mechanically put out my

hand and touched it. On this I was instantly seized by a frightful sensation, a

shock that ran from the tips of my fingers to my brain, and steeped my whole

being. Simultaneously I was aware of an overwhelming sense of sucking and

dragging, which, from my hand and arm, and, as it were, through them, seemed to

possess and envelop my whole person. Face, hair, eyes, bosom, limbs, every

portion of my body was locked in an awful embrace which, like the vortex of a

whirlpool, drew me irresistibly towards the picture. I felt the hideous impulse

clinging over me and sucking me forwards into the wall. I strove in vain to

resist it. My efforts were more futile than the flutter of gossamer wings. And

then there rushed upon my mind the consciousness that all we had been told about

the haunted rooms was true; that a strong delusion had been cast over us; that

all this brilliant throng of modern ladies and gentlemen were fiends

masquerading, prepared beforehand for our coming; that all the beauty and

splendour of our surroundings were mere glamour; and

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[Page  69] that in reality

the rooms were those we had seen in the daytime, filled with lumber and rot and

vermin. As I realised all this, and was thrilled with the certainty of it, a

sudden access of strength came to me, and I was impelled, as a last desperate

effort, to turn my back on the awful fresco, and at least to save my face from

coming into contact with it and being glued to its surface. With a shriek of

anguish I wrenched myself round and fell prostrate on the ground, face

downwards, with my back to the wall, feeling as though the flesh had been torn

from my hand and arm. Whether I was saved or not I knew not. My whole being was

overpowered by the realisation of the deception to which I had succumbed. I had

looked for something so different, — darkness, vacant, deserted rooms, and

perhaps a tall, white, empty canvas in a frame, against which I should have been

on my guard. Who could have anticipated or suspected this cheerful welcome,

these entertaining literati, these innocent-looking frescoes ? Who could have

foreseen so deadly a horror in such a guise? Was I doomed? Should I, too, be

sucked in and absorbed, and perhaps C. after me, knowing nothing of my fate? I

had no voice; I could not warn him; all my force seemed to have been spent on

the single shriek I had uttered as I turned my back on the wall. I lay prone

upon the floor, and knew that I had swooned.

 

 

And thus, on seeking me, C. would doubtless have found me, lying insensible

among the rubbish, with the rooms restored to the condition in which we had seen

them by day, my success in withdrawing myself having dissolved the spell and

destroyed the enchantment. But as it was, I awoke from my swoon only to find

that I had been dreaming.

---------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------
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[Page  70]

 

 

- 24 - THE SQUARE IN THE HAND

 

 

The foregoing dream was almost immediately succeeded by another, in which I

dreamt that I was concerned in a very prominent way in a political struggle in

France for liberty and the people's rights. My part in this struggle was,

indeed, the leading one, but my friend C. had been drawn into it at my instance,

and was implicated in a secondary manner only. The government sought our arrest,

and, for a time, we evaded all attempts to take us, but at last we were

surprised and driven under escort in a private carriage to a military station,

where we were to be detained for examination. With us was arrested a man

popularly known as Fou, a poor weakling whom I much pitied. When we arrived at

the station which was our destination, Fou gave some trouble to the officials. I

think he fainted, but at all events his conveyance from the carriage to the

caserne needed the conjoined efforts of our escort, and some commotion was

caused by his appearance among the crowd assembled to see us. Clearly the crowd

was sympathetic with us and hostile to the military. I particularly noticed one

woman who pressed forward as Fou was being carried into the station, and who

loudly called on all present to note his feeble condition and the barbarity of

arresting a witless creature such as he. At that moment C. laid his hand on my

arm and whispered: "Now is our time; the guards are all occupied with Fou; we

are left alone for a minute; let us jump out of the carriage and run !" As he

said this

---------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------
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[Page  71] he opened the carriage door on the side opposite to the

caserne and alighted in the street. I instantly followed, and the people

favouring us, we pressed through them and fled at the top of our speed down the

road. As we ran I espied a pathway winding up a hill-side away from the town,

and cried, " Let us go up there; let us get away from the street!" C. answered,

"No, no; they would see us there immediately at that height, the path is too

conspicuous. Our best safety is to lose ourselves in the town. We may throw them

off our track by winding in and out of the streets." Just then a little child,

playing in the road, got in our way, and nearly threw us down as we ran. We had

to pause a moment to recover ourselves. " That child may have cost us our

lives," whispered C., breathlessly. A second afterwards we reached the bottom of

the street which branched off right and left. I hesitated a moment; then we both

turned to the right. As we did so — in the twinkling of an eye — we found

ourselves in the midst of a group of soldiers coming round the corner. I ran

straight into the arms of one of them, who the same instant knew me and seized

me by throat and waist with a grip of iron. This was a horrible moment! The iron

grasp was sudden and solid as the grip of a vice; the man's arm held my waist

like a bar of steel. " I arrest you !" he cried, and the soldiers immediately

closed round us. At once I realised the hopelessness of the situation, — the

utter futility of resistance. " Vous n’avez pas besoin de me tenir ainsi," I

said to the officer; "j’irai tranquillement." He loosened his hold and we were

then marched off to another military station, in a different part of the town

from that whence we had escaped. The man who had arrested me was a sergeant or

some officer

---------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------
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[Page  72] in petty command. He took me alone with him into the

guardroom, and placed before me on a wooden table some papers which he told me

to fill in and sign. Then he sat down opposite to me and I looked through the

papers. They were forms, with blanks left for descriptions specifying the name,

occupation, age, address and so forth of arrested persons. I signed these, and

pushing them across the table to the man, asked him what was to be done with us.

"You will be shot", he replied, quickly and decisively. "Both of us ? " I asked.

"Both", he replied. " But", said I, "my companion has done nothing to deserve

death. He was drawn into this struggle entirely by me. Consider, too, his

advanced age. His hair is white; he stoops, and, had it not been for the

difficulty with which he moves his limbs, both of us would probably be at this

moment in a place of safety. What can you gain by shooting an old man such as he

? " The officer was silent. He neither favoured nor discouraged me by his

manner. While I sat awaiting his reply, I glanced at the hand with which I had

just signed the papers, and a sudden idea flashed into my mind. "At least", I

said, "grant me one request. If my companion must die, let me die first." Now I

made this request for the following reason. In my right hand, the line of life

broke abruptly halfway in its length, indicating a sudden and violent death. But

the point at which it broke was terminated by a perfectly marked square,

extraordinarily clear-cut and distinct. Such a square, occurring at the end of a

broken line means rescue, salvation. I had long been aware of this strange

figuration in my hand, and had often wondered what it presaged. But now, as once

more I looked at it, it came upon me with sudden conviction that in some way I

was

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[Page  73] destined to be delivered from death at the last moment, and I

thought that if this be so it would be horrible should C. have been killed

first. If I were to be saved. I should certainly save him also, for my pardon

would involve the pardon of both, or my rescue the rescue of both. Therefore it

was important to provide for his safety until after my fate was decided. The

officer seemed to take this last request into more serious consideration than

the first. He said shortly: " I may be able to manage that for you," and then at

once rose and took up the papers I had signed. " When are we to be shot ? " I

asked him. "Tomorrow morning", he replied, as promptly as before. Then he went

out, turning the key of the guard-room upon me.

 

 

 

 

 

The dawn of the next day broke darkly. It was a terribly stormy day; great black

lurid thunderclouds lay piled along the horizon, and came up slowly and awfully

against the wind. I looked upon them with terror; they seemed so near the earth,

and so like living, watching things. They hung out of the sky, extending long

ghostly arms downwards, and their gloom and density seemed supernatural. The

soldiers took us out, our hands bound behind us, into a quadrangle at the back

of their barracks. The scene is sharply impressed on my mind. A palisade of two

sides of a square, made of wooden planks, ran round the quadrangle. Behind this

palisade, and pressed up close against it, was a mob of men and women — the

people of the town — come to see the execution. But their faces were

sympathetic; an unmistakable look of mingled grief and rage, not unmixed with

desperation — for they were a down-trodden folk — shone in the hundreds of eyes

turned towards us.

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[Page  74] I was the only woman among the condemned. C. was

there, and poor Fou, looking bewildered, and one or two other prisoners. On the

third and fourth sides of the quadrangle was a high wall, and in a certain place

was a niche partly enclosing the trunk of a tree, cut off at the top. An iron

ring was driven into the trunk midway, evidently for the purpose of securing

condemned persons for execution. I guessed it would be used for that now. In the

centre of the square piece of ground stood a file of soldiers, armed with

carbines, and an officer with a drawn sabre. The palisade was guarded by a row

of soldiers somewhat sparsely distributed, certainly not more than a dozen in

all. A Catholic priest in a black cassock walked beside me, and as we were

conducted into the enclosure, he turned to me and offered religious consolation.

I declined his ministrations, but asked him anxiously if he knew which of us was

to die first. You he replied; "the officer in charge of you said you wished it,

and he has been able to accede to your request." Even then I felt a singular joy

at hearing this, though I had no longer any expectation of release. Death was, I

thought, far too near at hand for that. Just then a soldier approached us, and

led me, bareheaded, to the tree trunk, where he placed me with my back against

it, and made fast my hands behind me with a rope to the iron ring. No bandage

was put over my eyes. I stood thus, facing the file of soldiers in the middle of

the quadrangle, and noticed that the officer with the drawn sabre placed himself

at the extremity of the line, composed of six men. In that supreme moment I also

noticed that their uniform was bright with steel accoutrements. Their helmets

were of steel, and their carbines, as they raised them and pointed them at me,



---------Cardiff Theosophical Society in Wales-------
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[Page  75] ready cocked, glittered in a fitful gleam of sunlight with the same

burnished metal. There was an instant's stillness and hush while the men took

aim; then I saw the officer raise his bared sabre as the signal to fire. It

flashed in the air; then, with a suddenness impossible to convey, the whole

quadrangle blazed with an awful light, — a light so vivid, so intense, so

blinding, so indescribable that everything was blotted out and devoured by it.

It crossed my brain with instantaneous conviction that this amazing glare was

the physical effect of being shot, and that the bullets had pierced my brain or

heart, and caused this frightful sense of all-pervading flame. Vaguely I

remembered having read or having been told that such was the result produced on

the nervous system of a victim to death from firearms. " It is over", I said, "

that was the bullets". But presently there forced itself on my dazed senses a

sound — a confusion of sounds — darkness succeeding the white flash — then

steadying itself into gloomy daylight; a tumult; a heap of stricken, tumbled men

lying stone-still before me; a fearful horror upon every living face; and then

... it all burst on me with distinct conviction. The storm which had been

gathering all the morning had culminated in its blackest and most electric point

immediately overhead. The file of soldiers appointed to shoot us stood exactly

under it. Sparkling with bright steel on head and breast and carbines, they

stood shoulder to shoulder, a complete lightning conductor, and at the end of

the chain they formed, their officer, at the critical moment, raised his

shining, naked blade towards the sky. Instantaneously heaven opened, and the

lightning fell, attracted by the burnished steel. From blade to carbine, from

helmet to breastplate it ran, smiting every man dead as he stood.

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[Page  76] They

fell like a row of ninepins, blackened in face and hand in an instant, — in the

twinkling of an eye. Dead. The electric flame licked the life out of seven men

in that second; not one moved a muscle or a finger again. Then followed a wild

scene. The crowd, stupefied for a minute by the thunderbolt and the horror of

the devastation it had wrought, presently recovered sense, and with a mighty

shout hurled itself against the palisade, burst it, leapt over it and swarmed

into the quadrangle, easily overpowering the unnerved guards. I was surrounded;

eager hands unbound mine; arms were thrown about me; the people roared, and

wept, and triumphed, and fell about me on their knees praising Heaven. I think

rain fell, my face was wet with drops, and my hair, — but I knew no more, for I

swooned and lay unconscious in the arms of the crowd. My rescue had indeed come,

and from the very Heavens!

 

ROME, April 12, 1887.

 

 

 

 

 

DREAM-VERSES

 

 

 

 

 

THROUGH THE AGES

 

 

WAKE, thou that sleepest! Soul, awake !

Thy light is come, arise and shine !

For darkness melts, and dawn divine

Doth from the holy Orient break;

 

Swift-darting down the shadowy ways

And misty deeps of unborn Time,

God's Light, God's Day, whose perfect prime

Is as the light of seven days.

 

 

Wake, prophet-soul, the time draws near,

The God who knows within thee stirs

And speaks, for His thou art, and Hers

Who bears the mystic shield and spear.

 

 

The hidden secrets of their shrine

Where thou, initiate, didst adore,

Their quickening finger shall restore

And make its glories newly thine.

 

 

A touch divine shall thrill thy brain,

Thy soul shall leap to life, and lo !

What she has known, again shall know;

What she has seen, shall see again;

 

 

The ancient Past through which she came,—

A cloud across a sunset sky,—

A cactus flower of scarlet dye,—

A bird with throat and wings of flame;—

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[Page  78]

 

A red wild roe, whose mountain bed

Nor ever hound or hunter knew,

Whose flying footprint dashed the dew

In nameless forests, long since dead.

 

 

And ever thus in ceaseless roll

The wheels of Destiny and Time

Through changing form and age and clime

Bear onward the undying Soul:

 

 

Till now a Sense, confused and dim,

Dawns in a shape of nobler mould,

Less beast, scarce human; uncontrolled,

With free fierce life in every limb;

 

 

A savage youth, in painted gear,

Foot fleeter than the summer wind;

Scant speech for scanty needs designed,

Content with sweetheart, spoil and spear:

 

 

And, passing thence, with burning breath,

A fiery Soul that knows no fear,

The arméd hosts of Odin hear

Her voice amid the ranks of death;

 

 

There, where the sounds of war are shrill,

And clarion shrieks, and battle roars,

Once more set free, she leaps and soars

A Soul of flame, aspiring still !

 

 

Till last, in fairer shape she stands

Where lotos-scented waters glide,

A Theban Priestess, dusky-eyed,

Barefooted on the golden sands;

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[Page  79]

 

Or, prostrate, in the Temple-halls,

When Spirits wake, and mortals sleep,

She hears what mighty Voices sweep

Like winds along the columned walls.

 

 

A Princess then beneath the palms

Which wave o'er Afric's burning plains,

The blood of Afric in thy veins,

A golden circlet on thine arms.

 

 

By sacred Ganges' sultry tide,

With dreamy gaze and claspéd hands

Thou walkst a Seeress in the lands

Where holy Buddha lived and died.

 

 

Anon, a sea-bleached mountain cave

Makes shelter for thee, grave and wan,

Thou solemn, solitary Man,

Who, nightly, by the star-lit wave

 

 

Invokest with illumined eyes

The steadfast Lords who rule and wait

Beyond the heavens and Time and fate.

Until the perfect Dawn shall rise,

 

 

And oracles, through ages dumb,

Shall wake, and holy forms shall shine

On mountain peaks in light divine,

When mortals bid God's kingdom come !

 

 

So turns the wheel of thy [keen] soul;

From birth to birth her ruling stars,

Swift Mercury and fiery Mars,

In ever changing orbits roll!

 

PARIS, May 1880.

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[Page  80]

 

 

FRAGMENT - 1 -

 

 

A jarring note, a chord amiss —

The music's sweeter after,

Like wrangling ended with a kiss,

Or tears, with silver laughter.

 

 

The high gods have no joys like these,

So sweet in human story;

No tempest rends their tranquil seas

Beyond the sunset glory.

 

 

The whirling wheels of Time and Fate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRAGMENT 2

 

 

 

[These are not properly dream-verses, having been suddenly presented to the

waking vision one day in Paris while gazing at the bright sky. (Ed)]

 

 

 

I thank Thee, Lord, who hast through devious ways

Led me to know Thy Praise,

And to this Wildernesse

Hast brought me out, Thine Israel to blesse.

 

 

If should faint with Thirst, or weary, sink,

To these my Soule is Drink,

To these the Majick Rod

Is Life, and mine is hid with Christ in God.

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[Page  81]

 

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

 

 

Eyes of the dawning in heaven ?

Sparks from the opening of hell ?

Gleams from the altar-lamps seven ?

Can you tell ?

 

 

Is it the glare of a fire ?

Is it the breaking of day ?

Birth-lights, or funeral pyre?

Who shall say ?

 

April 19, 1886.

 

 

WITH THE GODS

 

 

Sweet lengths of shore with sea between,

Sweet gleams of tender blue and green,

Sweet wind caressive and unseen,

Soft breathing from the deep;

 

 

What joy have I in all sweet things;

How clear and bright my spirit sings;

Rising aloft on mystic wings;

 While sense and body sleep.

 

 

In some such dream of grace and light,

My soul shall pass into the sight

Of the dear Gods who in the height

Of inward being dwell;

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[Page  82]

 

 

And joyful at Her perfect feet

Whom most of all I long to greet,

My soul shall lie in meadow sweet

All white with asphodel.

 

August 31, 1887 [Pages 83 - 85]

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART II

 

DREAM-STORIES

 

 

 

 

 

- 1 - A VILLAGE OF SEERS

 

A CHRISTMAS STORY

 

 

A DAY or two before Christmas, a few years since, I found myself compelled by

business to leave England for the Continent.

 

 

I am an American, junior partner in a London mercantile house having a large

Swiss connection; and a transaction — needless to specify here — required

immediate and personal supervision abroad, at a season of the year when I would

gladly have kept festival in London with my friends. But my journey was destined

to bring me an adventure of a very remarkable character, which made me full

amends for the loss of Christmas cheer at home.

 

 

I crossed the Channel at night from Dover to Calais. The passage was bleak and

snowy, and the passengers were very few. On board the steamboat I remarked one

traveller whose appearance and manner struck me as altogether unusual and

interesting, and I deemed it by no means a disagreeable circumstance that, on

arriving at Calais, this man entered the compartment of the railway carriage in

which I had already seated myself.

 

 

So far as the dim light permitted me a glimpse of the

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[Page  86] stranger's face,

I judged him to be about fifty years of age. The features were delicate and

refined in type, the eyes dark and deep-sunken, but full of intelligence and

thought, and the whole aspect of the man denoted good birth, a nature given to

study and meditation, and a life of much sorrowful experience.

 

 

Two other travellers occupied our carriage until Amiens was reached. They then

left us, and the interesting stranger and I remained alone together.

 

 

" A bitter night", I said to him, as I drew up the window, " and the worst of it

is yet to come ! The early hours of dawn are always the coldest".

 

 

" I suppose so," he answered in a grave voice. The voice impressed me as

strongly as the face; it was subdued and restrained, the voice of a man

undergoing great mental suffering.

 

 

" You will find Paris bleak at this season of the year", I continued, longing to

make him talk. " It was colder there last winter than in London."

 

 

" I do not stay in Paris," he replied, " save to breakfast."

 

 

"Indeed; that is my case. I am going on to Bâle."

 

 

" And I also", he said, " and further yet".

 

 

Then he turned his face to the window, and would say no more. My speculations

regarding him multipled with his taciturnity. I felt convinced that he was a man

with a romance, and a desire to know its nature became strong in me. We

breakfasted apart at Paris, but I watched him into his compartment for Bâle, and

sprang in after him. During the first part of our journey we slept; but, as we

neared the Swiss frontier, a spirit of wakefulness took hold of us, and fitful

sentences were exchanged. My companion, it appeared, intended to

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[Page  87] rest

but a single day at Bâle. He was bound for far-away Alpine regions, ordinarily

visited by tourists during the summer months only, and, one would think,

impassable at this season of the year.

 

 

" And you go alone ? " I asked him. " You will have no companions to join you?"

 

 

" I shall have guides", he answered, and relapsed into meditative silence.

 

 

Presently I ventured another question: "You go on business, perhaps — not on

pleasure ? "

 

 

He turned his melancholy eyes on mine. "Do I look as if I were travelling for

pleasure's sake ? " he asked gently.

 

 

I felt rebuked, and hastened to apologise. " Pardon me; I ought not to have said

that. But you interest me greatly, and I wish, if possible, to be of service to

you. If you are going into Alpine districts on business and alone, at this time

of the year — "

 

There I hesitated and paused. How could I tell him that he interested me so much

as to make me long to know the romance which, I felt convinced, attached to his

expedition ?

 

 

Perhaps he perceived what was in my mind, for he questioned me in his turn. "

And you — have you business in Bâle ? "

 

 

" Yes, and in other places. My accent may have told you my nationality. I travel

in the interests of the American firm, Fletcher Bros., Roy, & Co., whose London

house, no doubt, you know. But I need remain only twenty-four hours in Bâle.

Afterwards I go to Berne, then to Geneva. I must, however, wait for letters from

England after doing my business at Bâle, and I shall have some days free."

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[Page 

88]

 

"How many?"

 

 

" From the 21st to the 26th."

 

 

He was silent for a minute, meditating. Then he took from his travelling-bag a

porte-feullle, and from the porte-feuille a visiting-card, which he handed to

me.

 

 

" That is my name," he said briefly.

 

 

I took the hint, and returned the compliment in kind. On his card I read:

 

 

MR CHARLES DENIS ST AUBYN,

Grosvenor Square, London.

St Aubyn's Court, Shrewsbury.

 

 

And mine bore the legend:

 

 

MR FRANK ROY, Merchants' Club, W. C.

 

 

"Now that we are no longer unknown to each other," said I, " may I ask, without

committing an indiscretion, if I can use the free time at my disposal in your

interests ? "

 

 

"You are very good, Mr Roy. It is the characteristic of your nation to be

kind-hearted and readily interested in strangers." Was this sarcastic? I

wondered. Perhaps; but he said it quite courteously. " I am a solitary and

unfortunate man. Before I accept your kindness, will you permit me to tell you

the nature of the journey I am making? It is a strange one."

 

 

He spoke huskily, and with evident effort. I assented eagerly.

 

 

The following, recounted in broken sentences, and with many abrupt pauses, is

the story to which I listened:

 

 

Mr St Aubyn was a widower. His only child, a boy twelve years of age, had been

for a year past afflicted with loss of speech and hearing, the result of a

severe

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[Page  89] typhoid fever, from which he barely escaped with life. Last

summer, his father, following medical advice, brought him to Switzerland, in the

hope that Alpine air, change of scene, exercise, and the pleasure of the trip,

would restore him to his normal condition. One day father and son, led by a

guide, were ascending a mountain pathway, not ordinarily regarded as dangerous,

when the boy, stepping aside to view the snowy ranges above and around, slipped

on a treacherous fragment of half-detached rock, and went sliding into the

ravine beneath. The height of the fall was by no means great, and the level

ground on which the boy would necessarily alight was overgrown with soft herbage

and long grass, so that neither the father nor the guide at first conceived any

serious apprehensions for the safety of the boy's life or limbs. He might be

bruised, perhaps even a few cuts or a sprained wrist might disable him for a few

days, but they feared nothing worse than these. As quickly as the slippery

ground would permit, they descended the winding path leading to the meadow, but

when they reached it, the boy was nowhere to be seen. Hours passed in vain and

anxious quest; no track, no sound, no clue assisted the seekers, and the shouts

of the guide, if they reached, as doubtless they did, the spot where the lost

boy lay, fell on ears as dull and deadened as those of a corpse. Nor could the

boy, if crippled by his fall, and unable to show himself, give evidence of his

whereabouts by so much as a single cry. Both tongue and ears were sealed by

infirmity, and any low sound such as that he might have been able to utter would

have been rendered inaudible by the torrent rushing through the ravine hard by.

At nightfall the search was suspended, to be renewed before daybreak with fresh

assistance from the

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[Page  90] nearest village. Some of the new-comers spoke of a

cave on the slope of the meadow, into which the boy might have crept. This was

easily reached. It was apparently of but small extent; a few goats reposed in

it, but no trace of the child was discoverable. After some days spent in futile

endeavour, all hope was abandoned. The father returned to England to mourn his

lost boy, and another disaster was added to the annual list of casualties in the

Alps.

 

 

So far the story was sad enough, but hardly romantic. I clasped the hand of the

narrator, and assured him warmly of my sympathy, adding, with as little

appearance of curiosity as I could command: —

 

 

"And your object in coming back is only, then, to — to — be near the scene of

your great trouble ? "

 

 

"No, Mr Roy; that is not the motive of my journey. I do not believe either that

my boy's corpse lies concealed among the grasses of the plateau, or that it was

swept away, as has been suggested, by the mountain cataract. Neither hypothesis

seems to me tenable. The bed of the stream was followed and searched for miles;

and though, when he fell, he was carrying over his shoulder a flask and a thick

fur-lined cloak, — for we expected cold on the heights, and went provided

against it, — not a fragment of anything belonging to him was found. Had he

fallen into the torrent, it is impossible his clothing should not have become

detached from the body and caught by the innumerable rocks in the shallow parts

of the stream. But that is not all. I have another reason for the belief I

cherish." He leaned forward, and added in firmer and slower tones: " I am

convinced that my boy still lives, for — / have seen him"

 

 

" You have seen him !" I cried.

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[Page  91]

 

"Yes; again and again — in dreams. And always in the same way, and with the same

look. He stands before me, beckoning to me, and making signs that I should come

and help him. Not once or twice only, but many times, night after night I have

seen the same thing!"

 

 

Poor father! Poor desolate man! Not the first driven distraught by grief; not

the first deluded by the shadows of love and longing !

 

 

" You think I am deceived by hallucinations," he said, watching my face. " It is

you who are misled by the scientific idiots of the day, the wiseacres who teach

us to believe, whenever soul speaks to soul, that the highest and holiest

communion attainable by man is the product of physical disease! Forgive me the

energy of my words; but had you loved and lost your beloved — wife and child —

as I have done, you would comprehend the contempt and anger with which I regard

those modern teachers whose cold and ghastly doctrines give the lie, not only to

all human hopes and aspirations towards the higher life, but also to the

possibility of that very progress from lower to nobler forms which is the basis

of their own philosophy, and to the conception of which the idea of the soul and

of love are essential ! Evolution pre-supposes possible perfecting, and the

conscious adaptation of means to ends in order to attain it. And both the ideal

itself and the endeavour to reach it are incomprehensible without desire, which

is love, and whose seat is in the interior self, the living soul — the maker of

the outward form ! "

 

 

He was roused from his melancholy now, and spoke connectedly and with

enthusiasm. I was about to reassure him in regard to my own philosophical

convictions,

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[Page  92] the soundness of which he seemed to question, when his

voice sank again, and he added earnestly: —

 

 

" I tell you I have seen my boy, and that I know he lives, — not in any far-off

sphere beyond the grave, but here on earth, among living men ! Twice since his

loss I have returned from England to seek him, in obedience to the vision, but

in vain, and I have gone back home to dream the same dream. But — only last week

— I heard a wonderful story. It was told me by a friend who is a great

traveller, and who has but just returned from a lengthened tour in the south. I

met him at my club, by accident, as unthinking persons say. He told me that

there exists, buried away out of common sight and knowledge, in the bosom of the

Swiss Alps, a little village whose inhabitants possess, in varying degrees, a

marvellous and priceless faculty. Almost all the dwellers in this village are

mutually related, either bearing the same ancestral name, or being branches from

one original stock. The founder of this community was a blind man, who, by some

unexplained good fortune, acquired or became endowed with the psychic faculty

called second sight, or clairvoyance. This faculty, it appears, is now the

hereditary property of the whole village, more developed in the blind man's

immediate heirs than in his remoter relatives; but, strange to say, it is a

faculty which, for a reason connected with the history of its acquirement, they

enjoy only once a year, and that is on Christmas Eve. I know well," continued Mr

St Aubyn, "all you have it in your mind to say. Doubtless, you would hint to me

that the narrator of the tale was amusing himself with my credulity; or that

these Alpine villagers, if they exist, are not clairvoyants, but charlatans

trading on the

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[Page  93] folly of the curious, or even that the whole story is a

chimera of my own dreaming brain. I am willing that, if it please you, you

should accept any of these hypotheses. As for me, in my sorrow and despair, I am

resolved to leave no means untried to recover my boy; and it happens that the

village in question is not far from the scene of the disaster which deprived me

of him. A strange hope — a confidence even — grows in my heart as I approach the

end of my journey. I believe I am about to verify the truth of my friend's

story, and that, through the wonderful faculty possessed by these Alpine

peasants, the promise of my visions will be realized."

 

 

His voice broke again, he ceased speaking, and turned his face away from me. I

was greatly moved, and anxious to impress him with a belief in the sincerity of

my sympathy, and in my readiness to accept the truth of the tale he had

repeated.

 

 

"Do not think", I said with some warmth, " that I am disposed to make light of

what you tell me, strange though it sounds. Out in the West, where I come from,

I heard, when a boy, many a story at least as curious as yours. In our wild

country, odd things chance at times, and queer circumstances, they say, happen

in out of the way tracks in forest and prairie; — aye, and there are strange

creatures that haunt the bush, some tell, in places where no human foot is wont

to tread. So that nothing of this sort comes upon me with an air of newness, at

least! I mayn't quite trust it, as you do, but I am no scoffer. Look, now, Mr St

Aubyn, I have a proposal to make. You are alone, and purpose undertaking a

bitter and, it may be, a perilous journey in mountain ground at this season.

What say you to

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[Page  94] taking me along with you ? May be, I shall prove of

some use; and at any rate, your adventure and your story interest me greatly !"

 

 

I was quite tremulous with apprehension lest he should refuse my request, but he

did not. He looked earnestly and even fixedly at me for a minute, then silently

held out his hand and grasped mine with energy. It was a sealed compact. After

that we considered ourselves comrades, and continued our journey together.

 

 

Our day's rest at Bâle being over, and the business which concerned me there

transacted, we followed the route indicated by Mr St Aubyn, and on the evening

of the 22nd of December arrived at a little hill station, where we found a guide

who promised to conduct us the next morning to the village we sought. Sunrise

found us on our way, and a tramp of several weary hours, with occasional breaks

for rest and refreshment, brought us at last to the desired spot.

 

 

It was a quaint, picturesque little hamlet, embosomed in a mountain recess, a

sheltered oasis in the midst of a wind-swept, snow-covered region. The usual

Swiss trade of wood-carving appeared to be the principal occupation of the

community. The single narrow street was thronged with goats, whose jingling

many-toned bells made an incessant and agreeable symphony. Under the projecting

roofs of the log-built châlets bundles of dried herbs swung in the frosty air;

stacks of fir-wood, handy for use, were piled about the doorways, and here and

there we noticed a huge dog of the St Bernard breed, with solemn face, and

massive paws that left tracks like a lion's in the fresh-fallen snow. A rosy

afternoon-radiance glorified the surrounding mountains and warmed the aspect of

the little village as we entered it. It was not

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[Page  95] more than three

o'clock, yet already the sun drew near the hill-tops, and in a short space he

would sink behind them and leave the valleys immersed in twilight. Inn or

hostelry proper there was none in this out of the world recess, but the peasants

were right willing to entertain us, and the owner of the largest châlet in the

place speedily made ready the necessary board and lodging. Supper — of goat's

milk cheese, coarse bread, honey, and drink purporting to be coffee — being

concluded, the villagers began to drop in by twos and threes to have a look at

us; and presently, at the invitation of our host, we all drew our stools around

the pine-wood fire, and partook of a strange beverage served hot with sugar and

toast, tasting not unlike elderberry wine. Meanwhile my English friend, more

conversant than myself with the curiously mingled French and German patois of

the district, plunged into the narration of his trouble, and ended with a frank

and pathetic appeal to those present, that if there were any truth in the tale

he had heard regarding the annual clairvoyance of the villagers, they would

consent to use their powers in his service.

 

 

Probably they had never been so appealed to before. When my friend had finished

speaking, silence, broken only by a few half-audible whispers, fell on the

group. I began to fear that, after all, he had been either misinformed or

misunderstood, and was preparing to help him out with an explanation to the best

of my ability, when a man sitting in the chimney-corner rose and said that, if

we pleased, he would fetch the grandsons of the original seer, who would give us

the fullest information possible on the subject of our inquiry. This

announcement was encouraging, and we assented with joy. He left the châlet, and

shortly afterwards returned with two

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[Page  95] stalwart and intelligent-looking

men of about thirty and thirty-five respectively, accompanied by a couple of St

Bernards, the most magnificent dogs I had ever seen. I was reassured instantly,

for the faces of these two peasants were certainly not those of rogues or fools.

They advanced to the centre of the assembly, now numbering some twenty persons,

men and women, and were duly introduced to us by our host as Theodor and

Augustin Raoul. A wooden bench by the hearth was accorded them, the great dogs

couched at their feet, pipes were lit here and there among the circle; and the

scene, embellished by the ruddy glow of the flaming pine-logs, the unfamiliar

costume of the peasantry, the quaint furniture of the chalet-kitchen in which we

sat, and enhanced by the strange circumstances of our journey and the yet

stranger story now recounted by the two Raouls, became to my mind every moment

more romantic and unworld-like. But the intent and strained expression of St

Aubyn's features as he bent eagerly forward, hanging as if for life or death on

the words which the brothers poured forth, reminded me that, in one respect at

least, the spectacle before me presented a painful reality, and that for this

desolate and lonely man every word of the Christmas tale told that evening was

pregnant with import of the deepest and most serious kind. Here, in English

guise, is the legend of the Alpine seer, recounted with much gesticulation and

rugged dramatic force by his grandsons, the younger occasionally interpolating

details which the elder forgot, confirming the data, and echoing with a sonorous

interjection the exclamations of the listeners.

 

 

Augustin Franz Raoul, the grandfather of the men who addressed us, originally

differed in no respect, save that

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[Page  97] of blindness, from ordinary people.

One Christmas Eve, as the day drew towards twilight, and a driving storm of

frozen snow raged over the mountains, he, his dog Hans, and his mule were

fighting their way home up the pass in the teeth of the tempest. At a turn of

the road they came on a priest carrying the Viaticum to a dying man who

inhabited a solitary hut in the valley below. The priest was on foot, almost

spent with fatigue, and bewildered by the blinding snow which obscured the

pathway and grew every moment more impenetrable and harder to face. The whirling

flakes circled and danced before his sight, the winding path was well-nigh

obliterated, his brain grew dizzy and his feet unsteady, and he felt that

without assistance he should never reach his destination in safety. Blind Raoul,

though himself tired, and longing for shelter, listened with sympathy to the

priest's complaint, and answered, "Father, you know well I am hardly a pious son

of the Church; but if the penitent dying down yonder needs spiritual consolation

from her, Heaven forbid that I should not do my utmost to help you to him !

Sightless though I am, I know my way over these crags as no other man knows it,

and the snow-storm which bewilders your eyes so much cannot daze mine. Come,

mount my mule, Hans will go with us, and we three will take you to your

journey's end safe and sound."

 

 

" Son", answered the priest, "God will reward you for this act of charity. The

penitent to whom I go bears an evil reputation as a sorcerer, and we all know

his name well enough in these parts. He may have some crime on his conscience

which he desires to confess before death. But for your timely help I should not

be able to fight my way through this

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[Page  98] tempest to his door, and he would

certainly perish unshriven.”

 

 

The fury of the storm increased as darkness came on. Dense clouds of snow

obscured the whole landscape, and rendered sky and mountain alike

indistinguishable. Terror seized the priest; but for the blind man, to whose

sight day and night were indifferent, these horrors had no great danger. He and

his dumb friends plodded quietly and slowly on in the accustomed path, and at

length, close upon midnight, the valley was safely reached, and the priest

ushered into the presence of his penitent. What the dying sorcerer's confession

was the blind man never knew; but after it was over, and the Sacred Host had

passed his lips, Raoul was summoned to his bedside, where a strange and solemn

voice greeted him by name and thanked him for the service he had rendered.

 

 

"Friend", said the dying man, "you will never know how great a debt I owe you.

But before I pass out of the world, I would fain do somewhat towards repayment.

Sorcerer though I am by repute, I cannot give you that which, were it possible,

I would give with all my heart, the blessing of physical sight. But may God hear

the last earthly prayer of a dying penitent, and grant you a better gift and a

rarer one than even that of the sight of your outward eyes, by opening those of

your spirit ! And may the faculty of that interior vision be continued to you

and yours so long as ye use it in deeds of mercy and human kindness such as this

!"

 

 

The speaker laid his hand a moment on the blind man's forehead, and his lips

moved silently awhile, though Raoul saw it not. The priest and he remained to

the last with the penitent; and when the grey Christmas

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[Page  99] morning broke

over the whitened plain they left the little hut in which the corpse lay, to

apprise the dwellers in the valley hamlet of the death of the wizard, and to

arrange for his burial. And ever since that Christmas Eve, said the two Raouls,

their grandfather found himself when the sacred time came round again, year

after year, possessed of a new and extraordinary power, that of seeing with the

inward senses of the spirit whatever he desired to see, and this as plainly and

distinctly, miles distant, as at his own threshold. The power of interior vision

came upon him in sleep or in trance, precisely as with the prophets and sybils

of old, and in this condition, sometimes momentary only, whole scenes were

flashed before him, the faces of friends leagues away became visible, and he

seemed to touch their hands. At these times nothing was hidden from him; it was

necessary only that he should desire fervently to see any particular person or

place, and that the intent of the wish should be innocent, and he became

straightway clairvoyant. To the blind man, deprived in early childhood of

physical sight, this miraculous power was an inestimable consolation, and

Christmas Eve became to him a festival of illumination whose annual

reminiscences and anticipations brightened the whole round of the year. And when

at length he died, the faculty remained a family heritage, of which all his

descendants partook in some degree, his two grandsons, as his nearest kin,

possessing the gift in its completest development. And — most strange of all —

the two hounds which lay couched before us by the hearth, appeared to enjoy a

share of the sorcerer's benison ! These dogs, Fritz and Bruno, directly

descended from Hans, had often displayed strong evidence of lucidity, and under

its influence they had been known to

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[Page  100] act with acumen and sagacity

wholly beyond the reach of ordinary dogs. Their immediate sire, Glück, was the

property of a community of monks living fourteen miles distant in the Arblen

valley; and though the Raouls were not aware that he had yet distinguished

himself by any remarkable exploit of a clairvoyant character, he was commonly

credited with a goodly share of the family gift.

 

 

"And the mule ? " I asked thoughtlessly.

 

 

"The mule, monsieur", replied the younger Raoul, with a smile, "has been dead

many long years. Naturally he left no posterity."

 

 

Thus ended the tale, and for a brief space all remained silent, while many

glances stole furtively towards St Aubyn. He sat motionless, with bowed head and

folded arms, absorbed in thought.

 

 

One by one the members of the group around us rose, knocked the ashes from their

pipes, and with a few brief words quitted the châlet. In a few minutes there

remained only our host, the two Raouls, with their dogs, my friend, and myself.

Then St Aubyn found his voice. He too rose, and in slow tremulous tones,

addressing Theodor, asked, —

 

 

"You will have everything prepared for an expedition tomorrow, in case — you

should have anything to tell us?”

 

 

"All shall be in readiness, monsieur. Pierre (the host) will wake you by

sunrise, for with the dawn of Christmas Eve our lucid faculty returns to us, and

if we should have good news to give, the start ought to be made early. We may

have far to go, and the days are short.”

 

 

He whistled to the great hounds, wished us good-night,

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[Page  101] and the two

brothers left the house together, followed by Fritz and Bruno.

 

 

Pierre lighted a lantern, and mounting a ladder in the corner of the room,

invited us to accompany him. We clambered up this primitive staircase with some

difficulty, and presently found ourselves in a bed-chamber not less quaint and

picturesque than the kitchen below. Our beds were both prepared in this room,

round the walls of which were piled goat's-milk cheeses, dried herbs, sacks of

meal, and other winter provender.

 

 

Outside it was a star-lit night, clear, calm, and frosty, with brilliant promise

for the coming day. Long after I was in the land of dreams, I fancy St Aubyn lay

awake, following with restless eyes the stars in their courses, and wondering

whether from some far-off, unknown spot his lost boy might not be watching them

also.

 

 

Dawn, grey and misty, enwrapped the little village when I was startled from my

sleep by a noisy chorus of voices and a busy hurrying of footsteps. A moment

later some one, heavily booted, ascended the ladder leading to our bedroom, and

a ponderous knock resounded on our door. St Aubyn sprang from his bed, lifted

the latch, and admitted the younger Raoul, whose beaming eyes and excited manner

betrayed, before he spoke, the good tidings in store.

 

 

"We have seen him !" he cried, throwing up his hands triumphantly above his

head. " Both of us have seen your son, monsieur ! Not half an hour ago, just as

the dawn broke, we saw him in a vision, alive and well in a mountain cave,

separated from the valley by a broad torrent. An Angel of the good Lord has

ministered to him: it is a miracle! Courage, he will be restored to you. Dress

quickly, and come down to breakfast. Everything is ready for the expedition, and

there is no time to lose! "

 

 

These broken ejaculations were interrupted by the voice of the elder brother,

calling from the foot of the ladder:

 

 

"Make haste, messieurs, if you please. The valley we have seen in our dream is

fully twelve miles away, and to reach it we shall have to cut our way through

the snow. It is bad at this time of the year, and the passes may be blocked !

Come, Augustin !"

 

 

Everything was now hurry and commotion. All the village was astir; the

excitement became intense. From the window we saw men running eagerly towards

our châlet with pickaxes, ropes, hatchets, and other necessary adjuncts of

Alpine adventure. The two great hounds, with others of their breed, were

bounding joyfully about in the snow, and showing, I thought, by their

intelligent glances and impatient behaviour, that they already understood the

nature of the intended day's work.

 

 

At sunrise we sat down to a hearty meal, and amid the clamor of voices and

rattling of platters, the elder Raoul unfolded to us his plans for reaching the

valley, which both he and his brother had recognized as the higher level of the

Arblen, several thousand feet above our present altitude, and in mid-winter a

perilous place to visit.

 

 

"The spot is completely shut off from the valley by the cataract", said he, "and

last year a landslip blocked up the only route to it from the mountains. How the

child got there is a mystery !"

 

 

" We must cut our way over the Thurgau Pass", cried Augustin.

 

 

"That is just my idea. Quick now, if you have

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[Page  103] finished eating, call

Georges and Albert, and take the ropes with you ! "

 

 

Our little party was speedily equipped, and amid the lusty cheers of the men and

the sympathetic murmurs of the women, we passed swiftly through the little

snow-carpeted street and struck into the mountain path. We were six in number,

St Aubyn and myself, the two Raouls, and a couple of villagers carrying the

requisite implements of mountaineering, while the two dogs, Fritz and Bruno,

trotted on before us.

 

 

At the outset there was some rough ground to traverse, and considerable work to

be done with ropes and tools, for the slippery edges of the highland path

afforded scarce any foothold, and in some parts the difficulties appeared

well-nigh insurmountable. But every fresh obstacle overcome added a new zest to

our resolution, and, cheered by the reiterated cry of the two seers, "Courage,

messieurs ! Avançons! The worst will soon be passed !" we pushed forward with

right good will, and at length found ourselves on a broad rocky plateau.

 

 

All this time the two hounds had taken the lead, pioneering us with amazing

skill round precipitous corners, and springing from crag to crag over the icy

ravines with a daring and precision which curdled my blood to witness. It was a

relief to see them finally descend the narrow pass in safety, and halt beside us

panting and exultant. All around lay glittering reaches of untrodden snow,

blinding to look at, scintillant as diamond dust. We sat down to rest on some

scattered boulders, and gazed with wonder at the magnificent vistas of glowing

peaks towering above us, and the luminous expanse of purple gorge and valley,

with the white, roaring torrents

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[Page  104] below, over which wreaths of

foam-like filmy mist hovered and floated continually.

 

 

As I sat, lost in admiration, St Aubyn touched my arm, and silently pointed to

Theodor Raoul. He had risen, and now stood at the edge of the plateau

overhanging the lowland landscape, his head raised, his eyes wide-opened, his

whole appearance indicative of magnetic trance. While we looked he turned slowly

towards us, moved his hands to and fro with a gesture of uncertainty, as though

feeling his way in the dark, and spoke with a slow dreamy utterance:

 

 

"I see the lad sitting in the entrance of the cavern, looking out across the

valley, as though expecting some one. He is pallid and thin, and wears a

dark-coloured mantle — a large mantle — lined with sable fur."

 

 

St Aubyn sprang from his seat. True ! he exclaimed. " It is the mantle he was

carrying on his arm when he slipped over the pass ! O, thank God for that; it

may have saved his life!"

 

 

"The place in which I see your boy", continued the mountaineer, "is fully three

miles distant from the plateau on which we now stand. But I do not know how to

reach it. I cannot discern the track. I am at fault! " He moved his hands

impatiently to and fro, and cried in tones which manifested the disappointment

he felt: "I can see no more! the vision passes from me. I can discover nothing

but confused shapes merged in ever-increasing darkness !"

 

 

We gathered round him in some dismay, and St Aubyn urged the younger Raoul to

attempt an elucidation of the difficulty. But he too failed. The scene in the

cave appeared to him with perfect distinctness; but when he strove to trace the

path which should conduct

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[Page  105] us to it, profound darkness obliterated the

vision.

 

 

"It must be underground," he said, using the groping action we had already

observed on Theodor's part. " It is impossible to distinguish anything, save a

few vague outlines of rock. Now there is not a glimmer of light; all is profound

gloom !"

 

 

Suddenly, as we stood discussing the situation, one advising this, another that,

a sharp bark from one of the hounds startled us all, and immediately arrested

our consultation. It was Fritz who had thus interrupted the debate. He was

running excitedly to and fro, sniffing about the edge of the plateau, and every

now and then turning himself with an abrupt jerk, as if seeking something which

eluded him. Presently Bruno joined in this mysterious quest, and the next

moment, to our admiration and amazement, both dogs simultaneously lifted their

heads, their eyes illumined with intelligence and delight, and uttered a

prolonged and joyous cry that reverberated chorus-like from the mountain wall

behind us.

 

 

"They know ! They see ! They have the clue ! " cried the peasants, as the two

hounds leapt from the plateau down the steep declivity leading to the valley,

scattering the snow-drifts of the crevices pell-mell in their headlong career.

In frantic haste we resumed our loads, and hurried after our flying guides with

what speed we could. When the dogs had reached the next level, they paused and

waited, standing with uplifted heads and dripping tongues while we clambered

down the gorge to join them. Again they took the lead; but this time the way was

more intricate, and their progress slower. Single-file we followed them along a

narrow winding track of

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[Page  106] broken ground, over which every moment a tiny

torrent foamed and tumbled; and as we descended the air became less keen, the

snow rarer, and a few patches of gentian and hardy plants appeared on the craggy

sides of the mountain.

 

 

Suddenly a great agitation seized St Aubyn. "Look ! look!" he cried, clutching

me by the arm; " here, where we stand, is the very spot from which my boy fell!

And below yonder is the valley !"

 

 

Even as he uttered the words, the dogs halted and came towards us, looking

wistfully into St Aubyn's face, as though they fain would speak to him. We stood

still, and looked down into the green valley, green even in mid-winter, where a

score of goats were browsing in the sunshine. Here my friend would have

descended, but the Raouls bade him trust the leadership of the dogs.

 

 

" Follow them, monsieur", said Theodor, impressively; " they can see, and you

cannot. It is the good God that conducts them. Doubtless they have brought us to

this spot to show you they know it, and to inspire you with confidence in their

skill and guidance. See! they are advancing! On ! do not let us remain behind!

 

 

Thus urged, we hastened after our canine guides, who, impelled by the mysterious

influence of their strange faculty, were again pressing forward. This time the

track ascended. Soon we lost sight of the valley, and an hour's upward

scrambling over loose rocks and sharp crags brought us to a chasm, the two edges

of which were separated by a precipitous gulf some twenty feet across. This

chasm was probably about eight or nine hundred feet deep, and its sides were

straight and sheer as those of a well. Our ladders were in requisition,

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[Page  107] now, and with the aid of these and the ropes, all the members of our party,

human and canine, were safely landed on the opposite brink of the abyss.

 

 

We had covered about two miles of difficult ground beyond the chasm, when once

more, on the brow of a projecting eminence, the hounds halted for the last time,

and drew near St Aubyn, gazing up at him with eloquent exulting eyes, as though

they would have said, " He whom you seek is here ! "

 

 

It was a wild and desolate spot, strewn with tempest-torn branches, a spot

hidden from the sun by dense masses of pine foliage, and backed by sharp peaks

of granite. St Aubyn looked around him, trembling with emotion.

 

 

"Shout", cried one of the peasants; " shout, the boy may hear you ! "

 

 

"Alas", answered the father, "he cannot hear; you forget that my child is deaf

and dumb !"

 

 

At that instant, Theodor, who for a brief while had stood apart, abstracted and

silent, approached St Aubyn and grasped his hand.

 

 

"Shout!" repeated he, with the earnestness of a command; " call your boy by his

name ! "

 

 

St Aubyn looked at him with astonishment; then in a clear piercing voice obeyed.

 

 

"Charlie!" he cried; "Charlie, my boy ! where are you ? "

 

 

We stood around him in dread silence and expectancy, a group for a picture. St

Aubyn in the midst, with white quivering face and clasped hands, the two Raouls

on either side, listening intently, the dogs motionless and eager, their ears

erect, their hair bristling round their stretched throats. You might have heard

a pin drop on

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[Page  108] the rock at our feet, as we stood and waited after that

cry. A minute passed thus, and then there was heard from below, at a great

depth, a faint uncertain sound. One word only — uttered in the voice of a child,

tremulous, and intensely earnest: " Father ! "

 

 

St Aubyn fell on his knees. "My God ! my God !" he cried, sobbing; "it is my boy

! He is alive, and can hear and speak !"

 

 

With feverish haste we descended the crag, and speedily found ourselves on a

green sward, sheltered on three sides by high walls of cliff, and bounded on the

fourth, southward, by a rushing stream some thirty feet from shore to shore.

Beyond the stream was a wide expanse of pasture stretching down into the Arblen

valley.

 

 

Again St Aubyn shouted, and again the child-like cry replied, guiding us to a

narrow gorge or fissure in the cliff almost hidden under exuberant foliage. This

passage brought us to a turfy knoll, upon which opened a deep recess in the

mountain rock; a picturesque cavern, carpeted with moss, and showing, from some

ancient, half obliterated carvings which here and there adorned its walls, that

It had once served as a crypt or chapel, possibly in some time of ecclesiastical

persecution. At the mouth of this cave, with startled eyes and pallid parted

lips, stood a fair-haired lad, wrapped in the mantle described by the elder

Raoul. One instant only he stood there; the next he darted forward, and fell

with weeping and inarticulate cries into his father's embrace.

 

 

We paused, and waited aloof in silence, respecting the supreme joy and emotion

of a greeting so sacred as this. The dogs only, bursting into the cave, leapt

and

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[Page  109] gambolled about, venting their satisfaction in sonorous barks and

turbulent demonstrations of delight. But for them, as they seemed well to know,

this marvellous discovery would have never been achieved, and the drama which

now ended with so great happiness, might have terminated in a life-long tragedy.

 

 

Therefore we were not surprised to see St Aubyn, after the first transport of

the meeting, turn to the dogs, and clasping each huge rough head in turn, kiss

it fervently and with grateful tears.

 

 

It was their only guerdon for that day's priceless service: the dumb beasts that

love us do not work for gold !

 

 

And now came the history of the three long months which had elapsed since the

occurrence of the disaster which separated my friend from his little son.

 

 

Seated on the soft moss of the cavern floor, St Aubyn in the midst and the boy

beside him, we listened to the sequel of the strange tale recounted the

preceding evening by Theodor and Augustin Raoul. And first we learnt that until

the moment when his father's shout broke upon his ear that day, Charlie St Aubyn

had remained as insensible to sound and as mute of voice as he was when his

accident befell him. Even now that the powers of hearing and of speech were

restored, he articulated uncertainly and with great difficulty, leaving many

words unfinished, and helping out his phrases with gesticulations and signs, his

father suggesting and assisting as the narrative proceeded. Was it the strong

love in St Aubyn's cry that broke through the spell of disease and thrilled his

child's dulled nerves into life ? was it the shock of an emotion coming

unexpected and intense after all those dreary weeks of futile watchfulness ? or

was the miracle an effect of the same Divine grace which, by

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[Page  110] means of

a mysterious gift, had enabled us to track and to find this obscure and unknown

spot ?

 

 

It matters little; the spirit of man is master of all things, and the miracles

of love are myriad-fold. For, where love abounds and is pure, the spirit of man

is as the Spirit of God.

 

 

Little St Aubyn had been saved from death, and sustained during the past three

months by a creature dumb like himself: — a large dog exactly resembling Fritz

and Bruno. This dog, he gave us to understand, came from over the torrent,

indicating with a gesture the Arblen Valley; and, from the beginning of his

troubles, had been to him like a human friend. The fall from the hill-side had

not seriously injured, but only bruised and temporarily lamed the lad, and after

lying for a minute or two a little stunned and giddy, he rose and with some

difficulty made his way across the meadow slope on which he found himself,

expecting to meet his father descending the path. But he miscalculated its

direction, and speedily discovered he had lost his way. After waiting a long

time in great suspense, and seeing no one but a few goatherds at a distance,

whose attention he failed to attract, the pain of a twisted ankle, increased by

continual movement, compelled him to seek a night's shelter in the cave

subsequently visited by his father at the suggestion of the peasants who

assisted in the search. These peasants were not aware that the cave was but the

mouth of a vast and wandering labyrinth tunnelled, partly by nature and partly

by art, through the rocky heart of the mountain. A little before sunrise, on the

morning after his accident, the boy, examining with minute curiosity the

picturesque grotto in which he had passed the night, discovered in its darkest

corner a

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[Page  111] moss-covered stone behind which had accumulated a great

quantity of weeds, ivy, and loose rubbish. Boy-like, he fell to clearing away

these impedimenta and excavating the stone, until, after some industrious labour

thus expended, he dismantled behind and a little above it a narrow passage, into

which he crept, partly to satisfy his love of exploring, partly in the hope that

it might afford him an egress in the direction of the village. The aperture thus

exposed had not, in fact, escaped the eye of St Aubyn, when about an hour

afterwards the search for the lost boy was renewed. But one of his guides, after

a brief inspection, declared the recess into which it opened empty, and the

party, satisfied with his report, left the spot, little thinking that all their

labour had been lost by a too hasty examination. For, in fact, this narrow and

apparently limited passage gradually widened in its darkest part, and, as little

St Aubyn found, became by degrees a tolerably roomy corridor, in which he could

just manage to walk upright, and into which light from the outer world

penetrated dimly through artificial fissures hollowed out at intervals in the

rocky wall. Delighted at this discovery, but chilled by the vault-like coldness

of the place, the lad hastened back to fetch the fur mantle he had left in the

cave, threw it over his shoulders, and returned to continue his exploration. The

cavern gallery beguiled him with ever-new wonders at every step. Here rose a

subterranean spring, there a rudely carved gurgoyle grinned from the granite

roof; curious and intricate windings enticed his eager steps, while all the time

the death-like and horrible silence which might have deterred an ordinary child

from further advance, failed of its effect upon ears unable to distinguish

between the living sounds of the outer world and the stillness of a

sepulchre.

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[Page  112] Thus he groped and wandered, until he became aware that the

gloom of the corridor had gradually deepened, and that the tiny openings in the

rock were now far less frequent than at the outset. Even to his eyes, by this

time accustomed to obscurity, the darkness grew portentous, and at every step he

stumbled against some unseen projection, or bruised his hands in vain efforts to

discover a returning path. Too late he began to apprehend that he was nearly

lost in the heart of the mountain. Either the windings of the labyrinth were

hopelessly confusing, or some débris, dislodged by the unaccustomed concussion

of footsteps, had fallen from the roof and choked the passage behind him. The

account which the boy gave of his adventure, and of his vain and long-continued

efforts to retrace his way, made the latter hypothesis appear to us the more

acceptable, the noise occasioned by such a fall having of course passed unheeded

by him. In the end, thoroughly baffled and exhausted, the lad determined to work

on through the Cimmerian darkness in the hope of discovering a second terminus

on the further side of the mountain. This at length he did. A faint star-like

outlet finally presented itself to his delighted eyes; he groped painfully

towards it; gradually it widened and brightened, till at length he emerged from

the subterranean gulf which had so long imprisoned him into the mountain cave

wherein he had ever since remained. How long it had taken him to accomplish this

passage he could not guess, but from the sun's position it seemed to be about

noon when he again beheld day. He sat down, dazzled and fatigued, on the mossy

floor of the grotto, and watched the mountain torrent eddying and sweeping

furiously past in the gorge beneath his retreat. After

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[Page  113] a while he

slept, and awoke towards evening faint with hunger and bitterly regretting the

affliction which prevented him from attracting help.

 

 

Suddenly, to his great amaze, a huge tawny head appeared above the rocky edge of

the plateau, and in another moment a St Bernard hound clambered up the steep

bank and ran towards the cave. He was dripping wet, and carried, strapped across

his broad back, a double panier, the contents of which proved on inspection to

consist of three flasks of goat's milk, and some half-dozen rye loaves packed in

a tin box.

 

 

The friendly expression and intelligent demeanour of his visitor invited little

St Aubyn's confidence and reanimated his sinking heart. Delighted at such

evidence of human proximity, and eager for food, he drank of the goat's milk and

ate part of the bread, afterwards emptying his pockets of the few sous he

possessed and enclosing them with the remaining loaves in the tin case, hoping

that the sight of the coins would inform the dog's owners of the incident. The

creature went as he came, plunging into the deepest and least boisterous part of

the torrent, which he crossed by swimming, regained the opposite shore, and soon

disappeared from view.

 

 

But next day, at about the same hour, the dog reappeared alone, again bringing

milk and bread, of which again the lad partook, this time, however, having no

sous to deposit in the basket. And when, as on the previous day, his new friend

rose to depart, Charlie St Aubyn left the cave with him, clambered down the bank

with difficulty, and essayed to cross the torrent ford. But the depth and

rapidity of the current dismayed him, and with sinking heart the child returned

to his abode. Every day the same thing happened, and at length the strange

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[Page 

114] life became familiar to him, the trees, the birds, and the flowers became

his friends, and the great hound a mysterious protector whom he regarded with

reverent affection and trusted with entire confidence. At night he dreamed of

home, and constantly visited his father in visions, saying always the same

words, " Father, I am alive and well."

 

 

"And now", whispered the child, nestling closer in St Aubyn's embrace, " the

wonderful thing is that today, for the first and only time since I have been in

this cave, my dog has not come to me ! It looks, does it not, as if in some

strange and fairy-like way he really knew what was happening, and had known it

all along from the very beginning! O father ! can he be — do you think — can he

be an Angel in disguise? And, to be sure, I patted him, and thought he was only

a dog !"

 

 

As the boy, an awed expression in his lifted blue eyes, gave utterance to this

naïve idea, I glanced at St Aubyn's face, and saw that, though his lips smiled,

his eyes were grave and full of grateful wonder.

 

 

He turned towards the peasants grouped around us, and in their own language

recited to them the child's story. They listened intently, from time to time

exchanging among themselves intelligent glances and muttering interjections

expressive of astonishment. When the last word of the tale was spoken, the elder

Raoul, who stood at the entrance of the cave, gazing out over the sunlit valley

of the Arblen, removed his hat with a reverent gesture and crossed himself.

 

 

"God forgive us miserable sinners", he said humbly, "and pardon us our human

pride! The Angel of the Lord whom Augustin and I beheld in our vision,

ministering to the lad, is no other than the dog Glück who

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[Page  115] lives at

the monastery out yonder ! And while we men are lucid only once a year, he has

the seeing gift all the year round, and the good God showed him the lad in this

cave, when we, forsooth, should have looked for him in vain. I know that every

day Glück is sent from the monastery laden with food and drink to a poor widow

living up yonder over the ravine. She is infirm and bedridden, and her little

grand-daughter takes care of her. Doubtless the poor soul took the sous in the

basket to be the gift of the brothers, and, as her portion is not always the

same from day to day, but depends on what they can spare from the store set

apart for almsgiving, she would not notice the diminished cakes and milk, save

perhaps to grumble a little at the increase of the beggars who trespassed thus

on her pension."

 

 

There was silence among us for a moment, then St Aubyn's boy spoke.

 

 

"Father", he asked, tremulously, "shall I not see that good Glück again and tell

the monks how he saved me, and how Fritz and Bruno brought you here ?"

 

 

" Yes, my child", answered St Aubyn, rising, and drawing the boy's hand into his

own, "we will go and find Glück, who knows, no doubt, all that has passed today,

and is waiting for us at the monastery."

 

 

" We must ford the torrent," said Augustin; " the bridge was carried off by last

year's avalanche, but with six of us and the dogs it will be easy work."

 

 

 

Twilight was falling; and already the stars of Christmas Eve climbed the frosty

heavens and appeared above the snowy far-off peaks.

 

 

Filled with gratitude and wonder at all the strange events of the day we betook

ourselves to the ford, and by the help of ropes and stocks our whole party

landed

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[Page  116] safely on the valley side. Another half-hour brought us into

the warm glow of the monk's refectory fire, where, while supper was prepared,

the worthy brothers listened to a tale at least as marvellous as any legend in

their ecclesiastical repertory. I fancy they must have felt a pang of regret

that holy Mother Church would find it impossible to bestow upon Glück and his

two noble sons the dignity of canonization.

 

 

 

- 2 - STEEPSIDE

 

A GHOST STORY

 

 

THE strange things I am going to tell you, dear reader, did not occur, as such

things generally do, to my great-uncle, or to my second cousin, or even to my

grandfather, but to myself. It happened that a few years ago I received an

invitation from an old schoolfellow to spend Christmas week with him in his

country house on the borders of North Wales, and, as I was then a happy

bachelor, and had not seen my friend for a considerable time, I accepted the

invitation, and turned my back upon London on the appointed day with a light

heart and anticipations of the pleasantest description.

 

 

Leaving my City haunts by a morning train, I was landed early in the afternoon

at the nearest station to my friend's house, although in this case nearest was

indeed, as it proved, by no means near. When I reached the inn where I had

fondly expected to find " flys, omnibuses, and other vehicles obtainable on the

shortest notice," I was met by the landlady of the establishment,

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[Page  117]

who, with an apologetic curtsey and a deprecating smile, informed me that she

was extremely sorry to say her last conveyance had just started with a party,

and would not return until late at night. I looked at my watch; it was nearing

four. Seven miles, and I had a large travelling-bag to carry.

 

 

"Is it a good road from here to -----?" I asked the landlady.

 

 

"Oh yes, sir; very fair."

 

 

"Well", I said, "I think I'll walk it. The railway journey has rather numbed my

feet, and a sharp walk will certainly improve their temperature."

 

 

So I courageously lifted my bag and set out on the journey to my friend's house.

Ah, how little I guessed what was destined to befall me before I reached that

desired haven! I had gone, I suppose, about two miles when I descried behind me

a vast mass of dark, surging cloud driving up rapidly with the wind. I was in

open country, and there was evidently going to be a very heavy snowstorm.

Presently it began. At first I made up my mind not to heed it; but in about

twenty minutes after the commencement of the fall the snow became so thick and

so blinding, that it was absolutely impossible for me to find my way along a

road which was utterly new to me. Moreover, with the cloud came the twilight,

and a most disagreeably keen wind. The travelling-bag became unbearably heavy. I

shifted it from one hand to the other; I hung it over my shoulder; I put it

under my arm; I carried it in all sorts of ways, but none afforded me any

permanent relief. To add to my misfortune, I strongly suspected that I had

mistaken my way, for by this time the snow was so deep that the footpath was

altogether obliterated. In this predicament I

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[Page  118] looked out wistfully

across the whitened landscape for signs of an inn or habitation of some

description where I might put up for the night, and by good fortune (or was it

bad ?) I at last espied through the gathering gloom a solitary and not very

distant light twinkling from a lodge at the entrance of a private road. I fought

my way through the snow as quickly as possible, and, presenting myself at the

gate of the little cottage, rang the bell complacently, and flattered myself

that I had at length discovered a resting-place. An old man with grey hair

answered my summons. Him I acquainted with my misfortune, and to him I preferred

my request that I might be allowed a night's shelter in the lodge, or at least

the temporary privilege of drying myself and mes habillements at his fireside.

The old fellow admitted me cheerfully enough; but he seemed more than doubtful

as to the possibility of my passing the night beneath his roof. "Ye see, sir",

he said, "we've only one small room — me and the missis; and I don't well see

how we're to manage about you. All the same, sir, I wouldn't advise ye to go on

tonight, for if ye're bound for Mr ------'s, ye've come a deal out of your way,

and the storm's getting worse and worse every minute. We shall have a nasty

night of it, sir, and it'll be a deal too stiff for travelling on foot."

 

 

Here the wife, a hospitable-looking old woman, interposed.

 

 

"Willum, don't ye think as the gentleman might be put to sleep in the room up at

the House, where George slept last time he was here to see us ? His bed's there

still, ye know. It's a very good room, sir," she argued, addressing me; " and I

can give ye a pair of blankets in no time."

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[Page  119]

 

"But" said I, "the master of the house doesn't know me. I am a stranger here

altogether."

 

 

"Lor! bless ye, sir !" answered my host, " there ain't nobody in the place. The

house has been to let these ten years at least to my knowledge; for I've been

here eight, and the house and the lodge had both been empty no one knows how

long when I come, I rents this cottage of Mr Houghton, out yonder."

 

 

"Oh well", I rejoined, "if that is the case, and there is nobody's leave save

yours to ask, I'm willing enough to sleep at the house, and thank you too for

your kindness."

 

 

So it was arranged that I should pass the coming night within the walls of the

empty mansion; and, until it was time to retire thither, I amused and edified

myself by a friendly chat with the old man and his spouse, both of whom were

vastly communicative. At ten o'clock I and my host adjourned to the house, which

stood at a very short distance from the lodge. I carried my bag, and my

companion bore the blankets already referred to, a candle, and some firewood and

matches. The chamber to which he conducted me was comfortable enough, but by no

means profusely furnished. It contained a small truckle bedstead, two chairs,

and a washstand, but no attempt at pictures or ornaments of any description.

Evidently it was an impromptu bedroom.

 

 

My entertainer in a few minutes kindled a cheerful fire upon the old-fashioned

stone hearth. Then, after arranging my bed and placing my candle on the

mantelpiece, he wished me a respectful good-night and withdrew. When he was gone

I dragged one of the chairs towards the fireplace, and sat down to enjoy the

pleasant flicker of the blaze. I ruminated upon the occurrences of the

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[Page 

120] day, and the possible history of the old house, whose sole occupant I had

thus strangely become. Now, I am of an inquisitive turn of mind, and perhaps

less apt than most men to be troubled with that uncomfortable sensation which

those people who are its victims describe as nervousness, and those who are not,

as cowardice. Another in my place might have shrunk from doing what I presently

resolved to do, and that was to explore, before going to rest, at least some

part of this empty old house. Accordingly, I took up my candle and walked out

into the passage, leaving the door of my room widely open, so that the

fire-light streamed full into the entrance of the dark gallery, and served to

guide me on my way along it. When I had thus progressed for some twenty yards, I

was brought to a standstill by encountering a large red baize door, which

evidently shut off the wing in which my room was situated from the rest of the

mansion, and completely closed all egress from the corridor where I then stood.

I paused a moment or two in uncertainty, for the door was locked; but presently

my glance fell on an old rusty key hanging from a nail, likewise rusty, in a

niche of the wall. I abstracted this key from its resting-place, destroying as I

did so the residences of a dozen spiders, which, to judge from appearances,

seemed to have thrived excellently in the atmosphere of desolation which

surrounded them. It was some time before I could get the clumsy old lock to act

properly, or summon sufficient strength to turn the key; but at length

perseverance met with its proverbial reward, and the door moved slowly and

noisily on its hinges. Still bearing my candle, I went on my way into a second

corridor, which was literally carpeted with dust, the accumulation probably of

the ten years to which my host had referred.

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[Page  121]

 

All round was gloomy and silent as a sepulchre, save that every now and then the

loosened boards creaked beneath my tread, or some little misanthropical animal,

startled from his hermitage by the unwonted sound of my steps, hurried across

the passage, making as he went a tiny trail in the thick furry dust. Several

galleries branched off from the mainway like tributary streams, but I preferred

to steer my course down the central corridor, which finally conducted me to a

large antique-looking apartment with carved wainscot and curious old paintings

on the panelled walls. I put the candle upon a table which stood in the centre

of the room, and standing beside it, took a general survey. There was an old

mouldy-looking bookcase in one corner of the chamber, with some old mouldy books

packed closely together on a few of its shelves. This piece of furniture was

hollowed out, crescent-wise, at the base, and partially concealed a carved oaken

door, which had evidently in former times been the means of communication with

an adjoining apartment. Prompted by curiosity, I took down and opened a few of

the nearest books on the shelves before me. They proved to be some of the very

earliest volumes of the Spectator, — books of considerable interest to me, — and

in ten minutes I was quite absorbed in an article by one of our most noted

masters of literature. I drew one of the queer high-backed chairs scattered

about the room, towards the table, and sat down to enjoy a feast of reason and a

flow of soul. As I turned the mildewed page, something suddenly fell with a dull

flop upon the paper. It was a drop of blood ! I stared at it with a strange

sensation of mingled horror and astonishment. Could it have been upon the page

before I turned it ? No; it was wet and bright,

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[Page  122] and presented the

uneven, broken disc which drops of liquid always possess when they fall from a

considerable height. Besides I had heard and seen it fall. I put the book down

on the table and looked upward at the ceiling. There was nothing visible there

save the grey dirt of years. I looked closely at the hideous blotch, and saw it

rapidly soaking and widening its way into the paper, already softened with age.

As, of course, after this incident I was not inclined to continue my studies of

Addison and Steele, I shut the volume and replaced it on the shelves. Turning

back towards the table to take up my candle, my eyes rested upon a full-length

portrait immediately facing the bookcase. It was that of a young and handsome

woman with glossy black hair coiled round her head, but, I thought, with

something repulsive in the proud, stony face and shadowed eyes. I raised the

light above my head to get a better view of the painting. As I did this, it

seemed to me that the countenance of the figure changed, or rather that a Thing

came between me and it. It was a momentary distortion, as though a gust of wind

had passed across the portrait and disturbed the outline of the features; the

how and the why I know not but the face changed; nor shall I ever forget the

sudden horror of the look it assumed. It was like that face of phantom

ghastliness that we see sometimes in the delirium of fever, — the face that

meets us and turns upon us in the mazes of nightmare, with a look that wakes us

in the darkness, and drives the cold sweat out upon our forehead while we lie

still and hold our breath for fear. Man as I was, I shuddered convulsively from

head to foot, and fixed my eyes earnestly on the terrible portrait. In a minute

it was a mere picture again — an inanimate

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[Page  123] colored canvas — wearing

no expression upon its painted features save that which the artist had given to

it nearly a century ago. I thought then that the strange appearance I had

witnessed was probably the effect of the fitful candle-light, or an illusion of

my own vision; but now I believe otherwise. Seeing nothing further unusual in

the picture, I turned my back upon it, and made a few steps towards the door,

intending to quit this mysterious chamber of horrors, when a third and more

hideous phenomenon riveted me to the spot where I stood; for, as I looked

towards the oaken door in the corner, I became aware of something slowly

filtering from beneath it, and creeping towards me. O heaven ! I had not long to

look to know what that something was: — it was blood, — red, thick, stealthy !

On it came, winding its way in a frightful stream into the room, soddening the

rich carpet, and lying presently in a black pool at my feet. It had trickled in

from the adjoining chamber, that chamber the entrance to which was closed by the

bookcase. There were some great volumes on the ground before the door, — volumes

which I had noticed when I entered the room, on account of the thick dust with

which they were surrounded. They were lying now in a pool of stagnant blood. It

would be utterly impossible for me to attempt to describe my sensations at that

minute. I was not capable of feeling any distinct emotion. My brain seemed

oppressed, I could scarcely breathe — scarcely move. I watched the dreadful

stream oozing drowsily through the crevices of the mouldy, rotting woodwork —

bulging out in great beads like raindrops on the sides of the door — trickling

noiselessly down the knots of the carved oak. Still I stood and watched it, and

it crept on slowly, slowly, like a living thing,

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[Page  124] and growing as it

came, to my very feet. I cannot say how long I might have stood there,

fascinated by it, had not something suddenly occurred to startle me into my

senses again; for full upon the back of my right hand fell, with a sullen, heavy

sound, a second drop of blood. It stung and burnt my flesh like molten lead, and

the sharp, sudden pain it gave me shot up my arm and shoulder, and seemed in an

instant to mount into my brain and pervade my whole being. I turned and fled

from the terrible place with a shrill cry that rang through the empty corridors

and ghostly rooms like nothing human. I did not recognise it for my own voice,

so strange it was, — so totally unlike its accustomed sound; and now, when I

recall it, I am disposed to think it was surely not the cry of living mortal,

but of that unknown Thing that passed before the portrait, and that stood beside

me even then in the lonely room. Certain I am that the echoes of that cry had in

them something inexpressibly fiendish, and through the deathly gloom of the

mansion they came back, reverberated and repeated from a hundred invisible

corners and galleries. Now, I had to pass, on my return, a long, broad window

that lighted the principal staircase. This window had neither shutters nor

blind, and was composed of those small square panes that were in vogue a century

ago. As I went by it, I threw a hasty, appalled glance behind me, and distinctly

saw, even through the blurred and dirty glass, the figures of two women, one

pursuing the other over the thick white snow outside. In the rapid view I had of

them, I observed only that the first carried something in her hand that looked

like a pistol, and her long black hair streamed behind her, showing darkly

against the dead whiteness of the landscape. The arms of her pursuer

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[Page  125]

were outstretched, as though she were calling to her companion to stop; but

perfect as was the silence of the night, and close as the figures seemed to be,

I heard no sound of a voice. Next I came to a second and smaller window which

had been once boarded up, but with lapse of time the plank had loosened and

partly fallen, and here I paused a moment to look out. It still snowed slightly,

but there was a clear moon, sufficient to throw a ghastly light upon the outside

objects nearest to me. With the sleeve of my coat I rubbed away the dust and

cobwebs which overhung the glass, and peered out. The two women were still

hurrying onward, but the distance between them was considerably lessened. And

now for the first time a peculiarity about them struck me. It was this, that the

figures were not substantial; they flickered and waved precisely like flames, as

they ran. As I gazed at them the foremost turned her head to look at the woman

behind her, and as she did so, stumbled, fell, and disappeared. She seemed to

have suddenly dropped down a precipice, so quickly and so completely she

vanished. The other figure stopped, wrung its hands wildly, and presently turned

and fled in the direction of the park-gates, and was soon lost in the obscurity

of the distance. The sights I had just witnessed in the panelled chamber had not

been of a nature to inspire courage in any one, and I must candidly confess that

my knees actually shook and my teeth rattled as I left the window and darted up

the solitary passage to the baize door at the top of it. Would I had never

unlocked that door ! Would that the key had been lost, or that I had never set

foot in this abominable house! Hastily I refastened the door, hung up the rusty

key in its niche, and rushed into my own room, where I dropped into a chair with

a

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[Page  126] deadly faintness creeping over me. I looked at my hand, where the

clot of blood had fallen. It seemed to have burnt its way into my flesh, for it

no longer appeared on the surface, but, where it had been was a round, purple

mark, with an outer ring, like the scar of a burn. That scar is on my hand now,

and I suppose will be there all my life. I looked at my watch, which I had left

behind on the mantelpiece. It was five minutes past twelve. Should I go to bed?

I stirred the sinking fire into a blaze, and looked anxiously at my candle.

Neither fire nor candles, I perceived, would last much longer. Before long both

would be expended, and I should be in darkness. In darkness, and alone in that

house. The bare idea of a night passed in such solitude was terrible to me. I

tried to laugh at my fears, and reproached myself with weakness and cowardice. I

reverted to the stereotyped method of consolation under circumstances of this

description, and strove to persuade myself that, being guiltless, I had no cause

to fear the powers of evil. But in vain. Trembling from head to foot, I raked

together the smoldering embers in the stove for the last time, wrapped my

railway rug around me — for I dared not undress — and threw myself on the bed,

where I lay sleepless until the dawn. But oh, what I endured all those weary

hours no human creature can imagine. I watched the last sparks of the fire die

out, one by one, and heard the ashes slide and drop slowly upon the hearth. I

watched the flame of the candle flare up and sink again a dozen times, and then

at last expire, leaving me in utter darkness and silence. I fancied, ever and

anon, that I could distinguish the sound of phantom feet coming down the

corridor towards my room, and that the mysterious Presence I had encountered in

the

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[Page  127] paneled chamber stood at my bedside looking at me, or that a

stealthy hand touched mine. I felt the sweat upon my forehead, but I dared not

move to wipe it away. I thought of people whose hair had turned white through

terror in a few brief hours, and wondered what colour mine would be in the

morning. And when at last — at last — the first grey glimmer of that morning

peered through the window-blind, I hailed its appearance with much the same

emotions as, no doubt, a traveller fainting with thirst in a desert would

experience upon descrying a watery oasis in the midst of the burning sands. Long

before the sun arose, I leapt from my couch, and having made a hasty toilette, I

sallied out into the bleak, frosty air. It revived me at once, and brought new

courage into my heart. Looking at the whitened expanse of lawn where last night

I had seen the two women running, I could detect no sign of footmarks in the

snow. The whole lawn presented an unbroken surface of sparkling crystals. I

walked down the drive to the lodge. The old man, evidently an early bird, was in

the act of unbarring his door as I appeared.

 

 

"Halloa, sir, you're up betimes!" he exclaimed. "Will ye just step in now and

take somethin' ? My ole woman's agoin' to get out the breakfast. Slept well last

night, sir ? " he continued, as I entered the little parlour; "the bed is

rayther hard, I know; but, ye see, it does well enow for my son George when he's

up here, which isna often. Ye look tired like, this morning; didna get much rest

p'raps ? Ah ! now then, Bess, gi' us another plate here, ole gal."

 

 

I ate my breakfast in comparative silence, wondering to myself whether it would

be well to say anything to my host of my recent experiences, since he had

clearly

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[Page  128] no suspicions on the subject; and, anon, wishing I had

comported myself in that terrible house with as little curiosity as the son

George, who no doubt was content to stay where he was put at night, and was not

given to nocturnal excursions in empty mansions.

 

 

"Have you any idea", said I, at last, "whether there's any story connected with

that place where I slept last night ? I only ask", added I, with a feeble grin,

like the ghost of a smile that had been able-bodied once, "because I'm fond of

hearing stories, and because, as you know, there generally is a legend, or

something of that sort, related about old family mansions".

 

 

"Well, sir", answered the old man slowly, " I never heard nothin' but then, you

see, I never asked no questions. We came here eight years agone, and then no one

round remembered a tenant at the big house. It's been empty somewhere nigh

twenty years, I should say, — to my own knowledge more than ten, — and what's

more, nobody knows exactly who it belongs to: and there's been lawsuits about it

and all manner o' things, but nothin' ever came of them."

 

 

"Did no one ever tell you anything about its history", I asked, "or were you

never asked any questions about it until now ? "

 

 

"Not particularly as I remember", replied he musingly.

 

 

Then, after a moment's pause, he added more briskly, " Ay, ay, though, now I

come to think of it, there was a man up here more'n five months back, a

Frenchman, who came on purpose to see it and ask me one or two questions, but I

on'y jest told him nothin' as I've told you. He was a popish priest, and seemed

to take a sight of interest in the place somehow. I think if you want to know

about it, sir, you'd better go and see him; he's

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[Page  129] staying down here in

the village, about a mile and a half off, at the Crown Inn."

 

 

"And a queer old fellow he is", broke in my host's wife, who was clearing away

the breakfast; "no one knows where he comes from, 'cept as he's a Frenchman. I

see him about often, prowlin' along with his stick and his snuff-box, always

alone, and sometimes he nods at me and says 'good-morning' as I go by."

 

 

In consequence of this information I resolved to make my way immediately to the

old priest's dwelling, and having acquainted myself with the direction in which

the house lay, I took leave of my host, shouldered my bag once more, and set out

en route. The air was clear and sharp, and the crisp snow crackled pleasantly

under my Hessian boots as I strode along the country lanes. All traces of cloud

had totally disappeared from the sky, the sun looked cheerfully down on me, and

my morning's walk thoroughly refreshed and invigorated me. In due time I arrived

at the inn which had been named to me as the abode of the Rev. M. Pierre, — a

pretty homely little nest, with an antique gable and portico. Addressing myself

to the elderly woman who answered my summons at the house-door, I inquired if I

could see M. Pierre, and, in reply, received a civil invitation to "step inside

and wait". My suspense did not last long, for M. Pierre made his appearance very

promptly. He was a tall, thin individual with a fried-looking complexion, keen

sunken eyes, and sparse hair streaked with grey. He entered the room with a

courteous bow and inquiring look. Rising from the chair in which I had rested

myself by the fire, I advanced towards him and addressed him by name in my

suavest tones. He inclined his head and looked at me more inquiringly than

before. " I

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[Page  130] have taken the liberty to request an interview with you

this morning", continued I, " because I have been told that you may probably be

able to give me some information of which I am in search, with regard to an old

mansion in this part of the county, called Steepside, and in which I spent last

night."

 

 

Scarcely had I uttered these last words when the expression of the old priest's

face changed from one of courteous indifference to earnest interest.

 

 

"Do I understand you rightly, monsieur ?" he said. " You say you slept last

night in Steepside mansion ? "

 

 

"I did not say I slept there," I rejoined, with an emphasis; "I said I passed

the night there."

 

 

"Bien", said he dryly, "I comprehend. And you were not pleased with your night's

lodging. That is so, is it not, monsieur, — is it not ? " he repeated, eying my

face curiously, as though he were seeking to read the expression of my thoughts

there.

 

 

"You may be sure", said I, "that if something very peculiar had not occurred to

me in that house, I should not thus have troubled a gentleman to whom I am,

unhappily, a stranger."

 

 

He bowed slightly and then stood silent, contemplating me, and, as I think,

considering whether or not he should afford me the information I desired.

Presently, his scrutiny having apparently proved satisfactory, he withdrew his

eyes from my face, and seated himself beside me.

 

 

" Monsieur", said he, "before I begin to answer your inquiry, I will ask you to

tell me what you saw last night at Steepside."

 

 

He drew from his pocket a small, old-fashioned snuffbox and refreshed his little

yellow nose with a pinch of

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[Page  131] rappee, after which ceremonial he leaned

back at his ease, resting his chin in his hand and regarding me fixedly during

the whole of my strange recital. When I had finished speaking he sat silent a

few minutes, and then resumed, in his queer broken manner:

 

 

"What I am going to tell you I would not tell to any man who had not done what

you have done, and seen what you saw last night. Mon Dieu! it is strange you

should have been at that house last night of all nights in the year, the 22nd of

December!”

 

 

He seemed to make this reflection rather to himself than to me, and presently

continued, taking a small key from a pocket in his vest as he spoke:

 

"Do you understand French well, monsieur ? "

 

 

"Excellently well", returned I with alacrity; "a great part of my business

correspondence is conducted in French, and I speak and hear it every day of my

life."

 

 

He smiled pleasantly in reply, rose from his seat, and, unlocking with the key

he held a small drawer in a chest that stood beside the chimney-piece, took out

of it a roll of manuscript and a cigar.

 

 

"Monsieur" , said he, offering me the latter, "let me recommend this, if you

care to smoke so early in the day. I always prefer rappee, but you, doubtless,

have younger tastes."

 

 

Having thus provided for my comfort, the old priest reseated himself, unfolded

the manuscript, and, without further apology, read the following story in the

French language: —

 

 

Towards the latter part of the last century Steepside became the property of a

certain Sir Julian Lorrington. His family consisted only of his wife, Lady

Sarah, and

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[Page  132] their daughter Julia, a girl remarkable alike for her

beauty and her expectations.

 

 

For a long time Sir Julian had retained in his establishment an old French

maitre d'hôtel and his wife, who both died in the baronet's service, leaving one

child, Virginie, whom Lady Sarah, out of regard for the fidelity of her parents,

engaged to educate and protect.

 

 

In due time this orphan, brought up in the household of Sir Julian, became the

chosen companion of his heiress; and when the family took up their residence at

Steepside, Virginie Giraud, who had been associated in Julia's studies and

recreations from early childhood, was installed there as maid and confidant to

the hope of the house.

 

 

Not long after the settlement at Steepside, Sir Julian, in the summary fashion

of those days with regard to matrimonial affairs, announced his intention of

bestowing his daughter upon a certain Welsh squire of old ancestry and broad

acres. Sir Julian was a practical man, thoroughly incapable of regarding wedlock

in any other light than as a mere union of wealth and property, the owners of

which joined hands and lived together. This was the way in which he had married,

and it was the way in which he intended his daughter to marry; love and passion

were meaningless, if not vulgar words in his ears, and he conceived it

impossible they should be otherwise to his only child. As for Lady Sarah, she

was an unsympathetic creature, whose thoughts ran only on the ambition of seeing

Julia married to some gentleman of high position, and heading a fine

establishment with social success and distinction.

 

 

So it was not until all things relative to the contract had been duly arranged

between these amiable parents

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[Page  133] and their intended son-in-law, that the

bride elect was informed of the fortune in store for her.

 

 

But all the time that the lawyers had been preparing the marriage settlements, a

young penniless gentleman named Philip Brian had been finding out for himself

the way to Julia's heart, and these two had pledged their faith to each other

only a few days before Sir Julian and Lady Lorrington formally announced their

plans to their daughter. In consequence of her engagement with Philip, Julia

received their intelligence with indignation, and protested that no power on

earth should force her to act falsely to the young man whose promised wife she

had become. The expression of this determination was received by both parents

with high displeasure. Sir Julian indulged in a few angry oaths, and Lady Sarah

in a little select satire; Philip Brian was, of course, forbidden the house, all

letters and messages between the lovers were interdicted, and Julia was

commanded to comport herself like a dutiful and obedient heiress.

 

 

Now Virginie Giraud was the friend as well as the attendant of Sir Julian's

daughter, and it was Virginie therefore who, after the occurrence of this

outbreak, was despatched to Philip with a note of warning from his mistress.

Naturally the lover returned an answer by the same means, and from that hour

Virginie continued to act as agent between the two, carrying letters to and fro,

giving counsel and arranging meetings. Meanwhile the bridal day was fixed by the

parent Lorringtons, and elaborate preparations were made for a wedding festival

which should be the wonderment and admiration of the county. The breakfast room

was decorated with lavish splendour, the richest apparel bespoken for the bride,

and all the wealthy and titled relatives of both contracting

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[Page  134] families

were invited to the pageant. Nor were Philip and Julia idle. It was arranged

between them that, at eleven o'clock on the night of the day preceding the

intended wedding, the young man should present himself beneath Julia's window,

Virginie being on the watch and in readiness to accompany the flight of the

lovers. All three, under cover of the darkness, should then steal down the

avenue of the coach-drive and make their exit by the shrubbery gate, the key of

which Virginie already had in keeping. The appointed evening came, — the 22nd of

December. Snow lay deep upon the ground, and more threatened to fall before

dawn, but Philip had engaged to provide horses equal to any emergency of

weather, and the darkness of the night lent favour to the enterprise. Virginie's

behaviour all that day had somehow seemed unaccountable to her mistress. The

maid's face was pallid and wore a strange expression of anxiety and

apprehension. She winced and trembled when Julia's glance rested upon her, and

her hands quivered violently while she helped the latter to adjust her hood and

mantle as the hour of assignation approached. Endeavouring, however, to persuade

herself that this strange conduct arose from a feeling of excitement or

nervousness natural under the circumstances, Julia used a hundred kind words and

tender gestures to reassure and support her companion. But the more she consoled

or admonished, the more agitated Virginie became, and matters stood in this

condition when eleven o'clock arrived.

 

 

Julia waited at her chamber window, which was not above three feet from the

ground without, her hood and mantle donned, listening eagerly for the sound of

her lover's voice; and the French girl leant behind her

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[Page  135] against the

closed door, nervously tearing to fragments a piece of paper she had taken from

her pocket a minute ago. These torn atoms she flung upon the hearth, where a

bright fire was blazing, not observing that, meanwhile, Julia had opened the

window-casement. A gust of wind darting into the room from outside caught up a

fragment of the yet unconsumed paper and whirled it back from the flames to

Julia's feet. She glanced at it indifferently, but the sight of some characters

on it suddenly attracting her, she stooped and picked it up.

 

 

It bore her name written over and over several times, first in rather laboured

imitation of her own handwriting, then more successfully, and, lastly, in so

perfect a manner that even Julia herself was almost deceived into believing it

her genuine signature. Then followed several L's and J's, as though the copyist

had not considered those initials satisfactory counterparts of the original.

 

 

Julia wondered, but did not doubt; and as she tossed the fragment from her hand,

Virginie turned and perceived the action. Instantly a deep flush of crimson

overspread the maid's face; she darted suddenly forward, and uttered an

exclamation of alarm. Her cry was immediately succeeded by the sharp noise of a

pistol report beneath the window, and a heavy, muffled sound, as of the fall of

a body upon the snow-covered earth. Julia looked out in fear and surprise. The

leaping firelight from within the room streamed through the window, and, in the

heart of its vivid brightness, revealed the figure of a man lying motionless

upon the whitened ground, his face buried in the scattered snow, and his

outstretched hand grasping a pistol.

 

 

Julia leaped through the open casement with a wild shriek, and flung herself on

her knees beside him.

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[Page  136]

 

"Phil! Phil!" she said. " what have you done ? what has happened ? Speak to me!"

 

 

But the only response was a faint, low moan.

 

 

Philip Brian had shot himself!

 

 

In an agony of grief and horror Julia lifted his head upon her arm, and pressed

her hand to his heart. The movement recalled him to life for a few moments; he

opened his eyes, looked at her, and uttered a few broken words. She stooped and

listened eagerly.

 

 

The letter ! he gasped; " the letter you sent me ! O Julia, you have broken my

heart! How could you be false to me, and I loving you — trusting you — so wholly

! But at least I shall not live to see you wed the man you have chosen; I came

here tonight to die, since without you life would be intolerable. See what you

have done!"

 

 

Desperate and silent, she wound her arms around him, and pressed her lips to

his. A convulsive shudder seized him; his eyes rolled back, and with a sigh he

resigned himself to the death he had courted so madly. Death in the passion of a

last kiss !

 

 

Julia sat still, the corpse of her lover supported on her arm, and her hand

clasped in his, tearless and frigid as though she had been turned into stone by

some fearful spell. Half hidden in the bosom of his vest was a letter, the

broken seal of which bore her own monogram. She plucked it out of its

resting-place, and read it hastily by the flicker of the firelight. It was in

Lady Sarah's handwriting, and ran thus: —

 

 

"MY DEAR MR BRIAN, — Although, when last we parted, it was with the usual

understanding that tonight we should meet again; yet subsequent reflection, and



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[Page  137] the positive injunctions of my parents, have obliged me to decide

otherwise. You are to know, therefore, that, in obedience to the wishes of my

father and mother, I have promised to become the wife of the gentleman they have

chosen for me. All correspondence between us must therefore wholly cease, nor

must you longer suffer yourself to entertain a thought of me. It is hardly

necessary to add that I shall not expect to see you this evening; your own sense

of honour will, I am persuaded, be sufficient to restrain you from keeping an

appointment against my wishes. In concluding, I beg you will not attempt to

obtain any further explanation of my conduct; but rest assured that it is the

unalterable resolve of cool and earnest deliberation.

 

 

" For the last time I subscribe myself”.

 

JULIA LORRINGTON.

 

 

" Postscript. — In order to save you any doubt of my entire concurrence in my

mother's wishes, I sign and address this with my own hand, and Virginie, who

undertakes to deliver it, will add her personal testimony to the truth of these

statements, since she has witnessed the writing of the letter, and knows how

fully my consent has been given to all its expressions."

 

 

" With my own hand ! " Yes, surely; both signature and address were perfect

facsimiles of Julia's writing ! What wonder that Philip had been deceived into

believing her false ? Twice she read the letter from beginning to end; then she

laid her lover's corpse gently down on the snow, and stood up erect and silent,

her face more ghastly and death-like than the face of the dead beside her.

 

 

In a moment the whole shameful scheme had flashed

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[Page  138] upon her mind; —

Virginie's treachery and clever fraud; its connection with the torn fragment of

paper which Julia had seen only a few minutes before; the deliberate falsehood

of which Lady Sarah had been guilty; the bribery, by means of which she had

probably corrupted Virginie's fidelity; the cruel disappointment and suffering

of her lover; all these things pressed themselves upon her reeling brain, and

gave birth to the suggestions of madness.

 

 

Stooping down, she put her lithe hand upon the belt of the dead man. There was,

as she expected, a second pistol in it, the fellow of that with which he had

shot himself. It was loaded. Julia drew it out, wrapped her mantle round it, and

climbed noiselessly into her chamber through the still open window. Crossing the

room, she passed out into the corridor beyond, and went like a shadow, swift and

silent of foot, to the door of her father's study, — an apartment communicating,

by means of an oaken door, with the panelled chamber.

 

 

Virginie, from a dark recess in the wall of the house, had heard and noted all

that passed in the garden. She saw Julia open and read the letter; she caught

the expression of her face as she stooped for the pistol, and apprehending

something of what might follow, she crept through the window after her mistress

and pursued her up the dark passages. Here, crouching again into a recess in the

gallery outside the panelled room, she waited in terror for the next scene of

the tragedy.

 

 

Julia flung open the door of the study where her father sat writing at his

table, and, standing on the threshold in the full glare of the lamplight which

illumined the apartment, raised the pistol, cocked and aimed it. Sir Julian had

barely time to leap from his

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[Page  139] chair with a cry when she fired, and the

next instant he fell, struck by the bullet on the left temple, and expired at

his daughter's feet. At the report of the pistol and the sound of his fall, Lady

Sarah quitted her dressing-room and ran in disordered attire into the study,

where she beheld her husband lying dead and bloody upon the floor, and Julia

standing at the entrance of the panelled chamber, with the light of madness and

murder in her eyes. Not long she stood there, however, for, seeing Lady Sarah

enter, the distracted girl threw down the empty weapon, and flinging herself

upon her mother, grasped her throat with all the might of her frenzied being. Up

and down the room they wrestled together, two desperate women, one bent upon

murder, the other battling for her life, and neither uttered cry or groan, so

terribly earnest was the struggle. At length Lady Sarah's strength gave way; she

fell under her assailant's weight, her face black with suffocation, and her eyes

protruding from their swelling sockets. Julia redoubled her grip. She knelt upon

Lady Sarah's breast, and held her down with the force and resolution of a fiend,

though the blood burst from the ears of her victim and filmed her staring eyes;

nor did the pitiless fingers relax until the murderess knew her vengeance was

complete. Then she leapt to her feet, seized Philip's pistol from the floor,

and, with a wild, pealing shriek, fled forth along the gallery, down the

staircase, and out into the park, — out into the wind, and the driving snow, and

the cold, her uncoiled hair streaming in dishevelled masses down her shoulders,

and her dress of trailing satin daubed with stains of blood. Behind her ran

Virginie, well-nigh maddened herself with horror, vainly endeavouring to catch

or to stop the unhappy fugitive. But just as the

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[Page  140] latter reached the

brink of a high precipice at the boundary of the terraced lawn, from which the

mansion took its name of Steepside she turned to look at her pursuer, missed her

footing, and fell headlong over the low stone coping that bordered the slope

into the snow-drift at the bottom of the chasm.

 

 

Virginie ran to the spot and looked over. The steep was exceedingly high and

sudden; not a trace of Julia could be seen in the darkness below. Doubtless the

miserable heiress of the Lorringtons had found a grave in the bed of soft, deep

snow which surrounded its base.

 

 

Then, stricken through heart and brain with the curse of madness which had

already sent her mistress red-handed to death, Virginie Giraud fled across the

lawn — through the park-gates — out upon the bleak common beyond, and was gone.

 

 

The old priest laid aside the manuscript and took a fresh pinch of rappee from

the silver snuff-box.

 

 

"Monsieur", said he, with a polite inclination of his grey head, "I have had the

honour to read you the history you wished to hear".

 

 

"And I thank you most heartily for your kindness", returned I. "But may I,

without danger of seeming too inquisitive, ask you one question more?"

 

 

Seeing assent in his face, and a smile that anticipated my inquiry wrinkling the

corners of his mouth, I continued boldly, " Will you tell me, then, M. Pierre,

by what means you became possessed of this manuscript, and who wrote it ? "

 

 

"It is a natural question, monsieur", he answered after a short pause, "and I

have no good reason for withholding

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[Page  141] the reply, since every one who

was personally concerned in the tragedy has long been dead. You must know, then,

that in my younger days I was curé to a little parish of about two hundred souls

in the province of Berry. Many years ago there came to this village a strange

old woman of whom nobody in the place had the least knowledge. She took and

rented a small hovel on the borders of a wood about two miles from our church,

and, except on market days, when she came to the village for her weekly

provisions, none of my parishioners ever held any intercourse with her. She was

evidently insane, and although she did harm to nobody, yet she often caused

considerable alarm and wonderment by her eccentric behaviour. It is, as you must

know, often the case in intermittent mania that its victims are insane upon some

particular subject, some point upon which their frenzy always betrays itself, —

even when, with regard to other matters, they conduct themselves like ordinary

people. Now this old woman's weakness manifested itself in a wild and continual

desire to copy every written document she saw. If, on her market-day visits to

the village, any written notice upon the church-doors chanced to catch her eye

as she passed, she would immediately pause, draw out pencil and paper from her

pocket, and stand muttering to herself until she had closely transcribed the

whole of the placard, when she would quietly return the copy to her pocket and

go on her way.

 

"Thinking it my duty, as pastor of the village, to make myself acquainted with

this poor creature, who had thus become one of my flock, I went occasionally to

visit her, in the hope that I might possibly discover the cause of her strange

disorder (which I suspected had its origin in some calamity of her earlier

days), and so qualify myself

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[Page  142] to afford her the advice and comfort she

might need. During the first two or three visits I paid her I could elicit

nothing. She sat still as a statue, and watched me sullenly while I spoke to her

of the mysteries and consolations of our faith, exhorting her vainly to make

confession and obtain that peace of heart and mind which the sacrament of

penance could alone bestow. Well, it chanced that on the occasion of one of

these visits I took with me, besides my prayer-book, a small sheet of paper, on

which I had written a few passages of Scripture, such as I conjectured to be

most suited to her soul's necessity. I found her, as usual, moody and reserved,

until I drew from my missal the sheet of transcribed texts and put it into her

hand. In an instant her manner changed. The madness gleamed in her eyes, and she

began searching nervously for a pencil. 'I can do it!' she cried. 'My writing

was always like hers, for we learnt together when we were children. He will

never know I wrote it; we shall dupe him easily. Already I have practised her

signature many times — soon I shall be able to make it exactly like her own

hand. And I shall tell her, my lady, that he would have deceived her, that I

overheard him love-making to another girl — that I discovered his falsehood —

his baseness — and that he fled in his shame from the county. Yes, yes, we will

dupe them both.'

 

 

"In this fashion she chattered and muttered feverishly for some minutes, till I

grew alarmed, and taking her by the shoulders, tried to shake back the senses

into her distracted brain. ' What ails you, foolish old woman ?' cried I ' I am

not miladi; I am your parish pastor. Say your Pater Noster, or your Ave, and

drive Satan away.'

 

 

"I am not sure whether my words or the removal of

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[Page  143] the unlucky

manuscript recalled her wandering wits. At any rate, she speedily recovered,

and, after doing my best to soothe and calm her by leading her to speak on other

topics, I quitted the cottage reassured.

 

 

"Not long after this episode a neighbour called at my house one morning, and

told me that, having missed the old woman from the weekly market, and knowing

how regular she had always been in her attendance, he had gone to her dwelling

and found her lying sick and desiring to see me. Of course I immediately

prepared to comply with her request, providing myself in case I should find her

anxious for absolution and the viaticum. Directly I entered her hut, she

beckoned me to the bedside, and said in a low, hurried voice: —

 

 

" 'Father, I wish to confess to you at once, for I know I am going to die.'

 

 

"Perceiving that, for the present at least, she was perfectly sane, I willingly

complied with her request, and heard her slowly and painfully unburden her

miserable soul.

 

 

"Monsieur, if the story with which Virginie Giraud intrusted me had been told

only in her sacramental confession, I should not have been able to repeat it to

you. But, when the final words of peace had been spoken, she took a packet of

papers from beneath her pillow and placed it in my hands. ' Here, father,' she

said, ' is the substance of my history. When I am dead, you are free to make

what use of it you please. It may warn some, perhaps, from yielding to the great

temptation which overcame me.'

 

 

" ' The temptation of a bribe ? " said I, inquiringly. She turned her failing

sight towards my face and shook her head feebly.

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[Page  144]

 

" 'No bribe, father," she answered. ' Do you believe I would have done what I

did for mere coin? "

 

 

"I gave no reply, for her words were enigmatical to me, and I was loath to

harass with my curiosity a soul so near its departure as hers. So I leaned back

in my chair and sat silent, in the hope that, being wearied with her religious

exercises, she might be able to sleep a little. But, no doubt, my last question,

working in her disordered mind, awoke again the madness that had only slumbered

for a time. Suddenly she raised herself on her pillow, pressed her withered

hands to her head, and cried out wildly: —

 

 

" ' Money ! — money to me, who would have sold my own soul for one day of his

love! Ah! I could have flung it back in their faces! — fools that they were to

believe I cared for gold ! Philip ! Philip ! you were mad to think of the

heiress as a wife; it had been better for you had you cared to look on me — on

me who loved you so ! Then I should never have ruined you — never betrayed you

to Lady Sarah! But I could not forgive the hard words you gave me; I could not

forgive your love, for Julia ! Shall I ever go to paradise — to paradise where

the saints are ? Will they let me in there ? — will they suffer my soul among

them ? Or shall I never leave purgatory, but burn, and burn, and burn there

always uncleansed ? For, oh ! if all the past should come back to me a thousand

years hence, I should do the same thing again, Phil Brian, for love of you !'

 

 

"She started from the bed in her delirium; there came a rattling sound in her

throat — a sudden choking cry — and in a moment her breast and pillow and quilt

were deluged with a crimson stream ! In her paroxysm she had burst a

blood-vessel. I sprang forward to catch

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[Page  145] her as she fell prone upon

the brick floor; raised her in my arms, and gazed at her distorted features.

There was no breath from the reddened lips. Virginie Giraud was a corpse.

 

 

" Thus in her madness was told the secret of her life and her crime; a secret

she would not confess even to me in her sane moments. It was no greed of gold,

but despised and vindictive love that lay behind all the horrors she had

related. From my soul I pitied the poor dead wretch, for I dimly comprehended

what a hell her existence on earth had been.

 

 

"The written account of the Steepside tragedy with which she had intrusted me

furnished, in somewhat briefer language, the story I have just read to you, and

many of its more important details have subsequently been verified by me on

application to other sources, so that in that paper you have the testimony of an

eyewitness to the facts, as well as the support of legal evidence.

 

 

"Some forty years after Virginie's death, monsieur, family reasons obliged me to

seek temporary release from duty and come to England; and, finding that

circumstances would keep me in the country for some time, I came here and went

to see that house. But the tenant at the lodge could only tell me that Steepside

was empty then, and had been empty for years past; and I have discovered that,

since that horrible 22nd of December, it never had an occupant. Sir Julian, to

whom it belonged by purchase, left no immediate heirs, and his relatives

squabbled between themselves over the property, till one by one the disputing

parties died off, and now there is no one enterprising enough to resuscitate the

lawsuit."

 

 

Rising to take my leave of the genial old man, it

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[Page  146] occurred to me as

extremely probable that he might have been led to form some opinion worth

hearing with regard to the nature of the strange appearances at Steepside, and I

ventured accordingly to make the inquiry.

 

 

"If my views on the subject have any value or interest for you", said he, "you

are very welcome to know them. As a priest of the Catholic Church, I cannot

accept the popular notions about ghostly visitations. Such experiences as yours

in that ill-fated mansion are explicable to me only on the following hypothesis.

There is a Power greater than the powers of evil; a Will to which even demons

must submit. It is not inconsistent with Christian doctrine to suppose that, in

cases of such terrible crimes as that we have been discussing, the evil spirits

who prompted these crimes may, for a period more or less lengthy, be forced to

haunt the scene of their machinations, and re-enact there, in phantom show, the

horrors they once caused in reality. Naturally — or perhaps", said he, breaking

off with a little smile, " I ought rather to say super-naturally — these demons,

in order to manifest themselves, would be forced to resume some shape that would

identify them with the crime they had suggested; and, in such a case, what more

likely than that they should adopt the spectral forms of their human victims —

murdered and murderer, or otherwise — according to the nature of the wickedness

perpetrated ? This is but an amateur opinion, monsieur; I offer it as an

individual, not as a priest speaking on the part of the Church. But it may serve

to account for a real difficulty, and may be held without impiety. Of one thing

at least we may rest assured as Christian men; that the souls of the dead,

whether of saints or sinners, are in God's safe keeping, and walk the earth no

more."

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[Page  147]

 

Then I shook hands with M. Pierre, and we parted. And after that, reader, I went

to my friend's house, and spent my Christmas week right merrily.

 

 

Part 2------------------------------------------------------------

 

Dreams and

Dream-Stories

by

Anna Kingsford

 

Part 2 of 2

 

M.D. of Paris; President of the Hermetic Society:

Author of "The Perfect Way; or the finding of Christ."

 

 

Edited by Edward Maitland

 

 

Published in New York by Scribner & Welford in 1889

 

“For He so giveth unto His Beloved in Sleep.”

Ps. cxxvii. (Marginal Reading, R.V. )

 

 

      

       CONTENTSPage

       PREFACE7

      Part 1 DREAMS

      1THE DOOMED TRAIN 15

      2THE WONDERFUL SPECTACLES  19

      3THE COUNCIL OF PERFECTION21

      4THE CITY OF BLOOD 22

      5THE BIRD AND THE CAT24

      6THE TREASURE IN THE LIGHTED HOUSE25

      7THE FOREST CATHEDRAL26

      8THE ENCHANTED WOMAN30

      9THE BANQUET OF THE GODS 38

      10THE DIFFICULT PATH 39

      11A LION IN THE WAY41

      12A DREAM OF DISEMBODIMENT41

      13THE PERFECT WAY WITH ANIMALS43

      14THE LABORATORY UNDERGROUND   44

      15THE OLD YOUNG MAN45

      16THE METEMPSYCHOSIS49

      17THE THREE KINGS51

      18THE ARMED GODDESS    54

      19THE GAME OF CARDS 56

      20THE PANIC-STRUCK PACK-HORSE59

      21THE HAUNTED INN 61

      22AN EASTERN APOLOGUE63

      23A HAUNTED HOUSE INDEED !64

      24THE SQUARE IN THE HAND 70

       DREAM VERSES

      1THROUGH THE AGES77

      2A FRAGMENT -1- 80

      3A FRAGMENT -2-80

      4SIGNS OF THE TIMES81

      5WITH THE GODS     81

      PART IIDREAM - STORIES

      1A VILLAGE OF SEERS85

      2STEEPSIDE; A GHOST STORY 116

      3BEYOND THE SUNSET 147

      4A TURN OF LUCK169

      5NOÉMI182

      6THE LITTLE OLD MAN'S STORY212

      7THE NIGHTSHADE242

      8ST GEORGE THE CHEVALIER270

 

 

 

- 3 - BEYOND THE SUNSET

 

A FAIRY TALE FOR THE TIMES

 

 

Once upon a time there was a Princess. Now, this Princess dwelt in a far-off and

beautiful world beyond the sunset, and she had immortal youth and an ancestry of

glorious name. Very rich, too, she was, and the palace in which she lived was

made all of marble and alabaster and things precious and wonderful. But that

which was most wonderful about her was her exceeding beauty, — a beauty not like

that one sees in the world this side of the sunset. For the beauty of the

Princess was the bright-shining of a lovely spirit; her body was but the veil of

her soul that shone through all her perfect form as the radiance of the sun

shines through clear water. I cannot tell you how beautiful this Princess was,

nor can I describe the colour of her hair and her eyes, or the aspect of her

face. Many men have seen her and tried to give an account of her; but though I

have read several of these accounts, they differ so greatly from one another

that I should find it hard indeed to reproduce her picture from the records of

it which her lovers have left.

 

For all these men who have written about the Princess

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[Page  148] loved her;

none, indeed, could help it who ever looked on her face. And to some she has

seemed fair as the dawn, and to others dark as night; some have found her gay

and joyous as Allegro, and others sad and silent and sweet as Penseroso. But to

every lover she has seemed the essence and core of all beauty; the purest,

noblest, highest, and most regal being that he has found it possible to

conceive. I am not going to tell you about all the lovers of the Princess, for

that would take many volumes to rehearse, but only about three of them, because

these three were typical personages, and had very remarkable histories.

Like all the lovers of the Princess, these three men were travellers, coming

from a distant country to the land beyond the sunset on purpose to see the

beautiful lady of whom their fathers and grandfathers had told them; the lady

who never could outlive youth because she belonged to the race of the

everlasting Gods who ruled the earth in the old far-off Hellenic times.

I do not know how long these three men stayed in the country of the Princess;

but they stayed quite long enough to be very, very much in love with her, and

when at last they had to come away — for no man who is not dead can remain long

beyond the sunset — she gave to each of them a beautiful little bird, a tiny

living bird with a voice of sweetest music, that had been trained and tuned to

song by Phoebus Apollo himself. And I could no more describe to you the

sweetness of that song than I could describe the beauty of the Princess.

Then she told the travellers to be of brave heart and of valiant hope, because

there lay before them an ordeal demanding all their prowess, and after that the

prospect of a great reward. " Now," she said, " that you have

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[Page  149] learned

to love me, and to desire to have your dwelling here with me, you must go forth

to prove your knighthood. I am not inaccessible, but no man must think to win me

for his lady unless he first justify his fealty by noble service. The world to

which you now go is a world of mirage and of phantasms, which appear real only

to those who have never reached and seen this realm of mine on the heavenward

side of the sun. You will have to pass through ways beset by monstrous spectres,

over wastes where rage ferocious hydras, chimaeras, and strange dragons

breathing flame. You must journey past beautiful shadowy islets of the summer

sea, in whose fertile bays the cunning sirens sing; you must brave the mountain

robber, the goblins of the wilderness, and the ogre whose joy is to devour

living men. But fear nothing, for all these are but phantoms; nor do you need

any sword or spear to slay them, but only a loyal mind and an unswerving

purpose. Let not your vision be deceived, nor your heart beguiled; return to me

unscathed through all these many snares, and doubt not the worth and greatness

of the guerdon I shall give. Nor think you go unaided. With each of you I send a

guide and monitor; heed well his voice and follow where he leads."

2

 

Now, when the three travellers had received their presents, and had looked their

last upon the shining face of the donor, they went out of the palace and through

the golden gate of the wonderful city in which she dwelt, and so, once again,

they came into the land which lies this side of the sun.

Then their ordeal began; but, indeed, they saw no

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[Page  150] sirens or dragons

or gorgons, but only people like themselves going and coming along the highways.

Some of these people sauntered, some ran, some walked, alone and pensively,

others congregated in groups together and talked or laughed or shouted noisy

songs. Under the pleasant trees on the greensward were pavilions, beautifully

adorned; the sound of music issued from many of them, fair women danced there

under the new blossoming trees, tossing flowers into the air, and feasts were

spread, wine flowed, and jewels glittered. And the music and the dancing women

pleased the ear and eye of one of the three travellers, so that he turned aside

from his companions to listen and to look. Then presently a group of youths and

girls drew near and spoke to him. " It is our festival," they said; " we are

worshippers of Queen Beauty; come and feast with us. The moon of May is rising;

we shall dance all night in her beautiful soft beams." But he said, "I have just

returned from a country the beauty of which far surpasses that of anything one

can see here, and where there is a Princess so lovely and so stately that the

greatest Queen of all your world is not fit to be her tiring maid." Then they

said, " Where is that country of which you speak, and who is this wonderful

Princess ? " " It is the land beyond the sunset," he answered, " but the name of

the Princess no man knows until she herself tells it him. And she will tell it

only to the man whom she loves."

At that they laughed and made mirth among themselves. "Your land is the land of

dreams", they said; "we have heard all about it. Nothing there is real, and as

for your Princess she is a mere shadow, a vision of your own creation, and no

substantial being at all. The only real and true beauty is the beauty we see and

touch

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[Page  151] and hear; the beauty which sense reveals to us, and which is

present with us today." Then he answered, "I do not blame you at all, for you

have never seen my Princess. But I have seen her, and heard her speak, and some

day I hope to return to her. And when I came away she warned me that in this

country I should be beset by all manner of strange and monstrous spectres,

harpies, and sirens, eaters of men, whom I must bravely meet and overcome. I

pray you tell me in what part of your land these dangers lie, that I may be on

my guard against them."

Thereat they laughed the more, and answered him, "Oh, foolish traveller, your

head is certainly full of dreams ! There are no such things as sirens; all that

is an old Greek fable, a fairy tale with no meaning except for old Greeks and

modern babies ! You will never meet with any sirens or harpies, nor will you

ever see again the Princess of whom you talk, unless, indeed, in your dreams. It

is this country that is the only real one, there is nothing at all beyond the

sunset."

Now all this time the little bird which the Princess had given to him was

singing quite loudly under the folds of the traveler’s cloak. And he took it out

and showed it to the youths who spoke with him, and said, “This bird was given

me by the Princess whom you declare to be a myth. How could a myth give me this

living bird?” They answered, “You are surely a madman as well as a dreamer.

Doubtless the bird flew into your chamber while you slept, and your dreaming

fancy took advantage of the incident to frame this tale about the Princess and

her gift. It is often so in dreams. The consciousness perceives things as it

were through a cloud, and weaves fictions out of realities.”

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[Page  152]

 

Then he began to doubt, but still he held his ground, and said, “Yet hear how

sweetly it sings! No wild, untaught bird of earth could sing like that”. Whereat

they were vastly merry, and one cried, “Why, it is quite a common tweet-tweet!.

It is no more than the chirp of a vulgar, everyday thrush or linnet!” And

another, “Were I you, I would wring the bird’s neck; it must be a terrible

nuisance if it always makes such a noise!” And a third, “Let it fly, we cannot

hear ourselves speaking for its screaming!” Then the traveler began to feel

ashamed of his bird. “All that I say,” he thought, “appears to them foolish,

even the Princess’s gift is, in they eyes, a common chirping chaffinch. What if

indeed I have been dreaming; what if this, after all, should be the real world,

and the other a mere fantasy?”

The bird sang, “Away! away! or you will never see the Princess more! The real

world lied beyond the gates of the sunset!”

But when the traveler asked the youths what the bird sang, they answered that

they had only heard Tweet-tweet,” and Chirp-chirp. Then he was really angry, but

not with them, as you would perhaps have thought. No, he was angry with the

bird, and ashamed of it and of himself. And he threw it from him into the air,

and clapped his hands to drive it away; and all the youths and girls that stood

around him clapped theirs too. Sh-shsh, they cried, “be off, you are a

good-for-nothing hedge-finch, and may be thankful your neck has not been wrung

to punish you for making such a noise!”

So the bird flew away, away beyond the sunset, and I think it went back to the

Princess and told her all that had happened. And the traveler went, and danced

and

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[Page  153] sang and feasted to his heart’s content with the worshipers of

Queen Beauty, not knowing that he really had fallen among the sirens after all!

 

 

3

 

 

Meanwhile the two other travelers had gone on their way, for neither of them

cared about pleasure; one was a grave looking man who walked with his eyes on

the ground, looking curiously at every rock and shrub he passed by the wayside,

and often pausing to examine more closely a strange herb, or to pick to pieces a

flower; the other had a calm, sweet face, and he walked erect, his eyes lifted

towards the great mountains that lay far away before them.

By-and-by there came along the road towards the two travelers a company of men

carrying banners, on which were inscribed as mottoes - Knowledge is Freedom!.

Science knows no law but the law of Progress! Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!

Utility is Virtue. and a great many other fine phrases. Most of the persons who

marched first in this procession wore spectacles, and some were clad in

academical costumes. The greater number had gone past, when the grave-looking

traveler — he who had interested himself so much in the stones and foliage by

the wayside — courteously stopped one of the company and asked him what the

procession meant. “We are worshipers of Science,” answered the man whom he

addressed; “today we hold solemn rites in honor of our deity. Many orations will

be made by her high priests, and a great number of victims slain, — lambs, and

horses, and doves, and hinds, and all manner of animals. They will be put to

death with unspeakable

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[Page  154] torments, racked, and maimed, and burned, and

hewn asunder, all for the glory and gain of Science. And we shall shout with

enthusiasm as the blood flows over he altars, and the smoke ascends in her

praise.

“But all this is horrible”,said the grave man, with a gesture of avoidance; “it

sounds to me like a description of the orgies of savages, or of the pastimes of

madmen; it is unworthy of intelligent and sane men.” “On the contrary,” returned

his informant, “it is just because we are intelligent and sane that we take

delight in it. For it is by means of these sacrifices that our deity vouchsafes

her oracles. In the mangled corpses and entrails of these victims our augurs

find the knowledges we seek”. “And what knowledges are they?” asked the traveler

. “The knowledge of Nature’s secrets”, cried the votary of Science with kindling

eye, “the knowledge of life and death; the magic of the art of healing disease;

the solution of the riddle of the universe! All this we learn, all this we

perceive, in the dying throes of our victims. Does not this suffice? — is not

the end great enough to justify the means?”

Then, when the second of the travelers heard these words — he whose face had

been lifted as he walked — he drew nearer and answered: —

“No; it is greater to be just than to be learned. No man should wish to be

healed at the cost of another’s torment.” At which the stranger frowned, and

retorted impatiently, “You forget, methinks, that they whom we seek to heal are

men, and they who are tormented merely beasts. By these means we enrich and

endow humanity”. “Nay, I forgot not”, he answered gently, “buy he who would be

so healed is man no longer. By that wish and act he becomes lower than any

beast. Nor can humanity

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[Page  155] be enriched by that which beggars it of all

its wealth.” “Fine speeches, forsooth!” cried the worshiper of Science; “you are

a moralist, I find, and doubtless a very ignorant person! All this old-fashioned

talk of yours belongs to a past age. We have cast aside superstition, we have

swept away the old faiths. Our only guide is Reason, our only goal is

Knowledge!” “Alas!” returned the other, “it is not the higher but the lower

Reason which leads you, and the Knowledge you covet is not that of realities,

but of mere seemings. You do not know the real world. You are the dupes of a

Phantasm which you take for Substance.” With that he passed on, and the man of

Science was left in the company of the traveler who had first accosted him.

“What person is that?” asked the former, looking after the retreating figure of

him who had just spoken. “He is a poet”, returned the grave-faced traveler; “we

have both of us been beyond the sunset to see the lovely Princess who rules that

wonderful country, and we left it together on a journey to this world of yours.”

Beyond the sunset ! repeated the other incredulously. “That is the land of

shadows; when the world was younger they used to say the old Gods lived there”.

“Maybe they live there still,” said the traveler, “for the Princess is of their

kith and lineage”. “A pretty fable, indeed”, responded the scientific votary.

“But we know now that all that kind of thing is sheer nonsense, and worse, for

it is the basis of the effete old-world sentiment which forms the most

formidable obstacle to Progress, and which Science even yet finds it hard to

overthrow. But what is that strange singing I hear beneath your cloak?”

It was the bird which the traveler had received from

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[Page  156] the Princess. He

drew it forth, but did not say whose gift it was nor whence it came, because of

the contempt with which his companion had spoken of the mystic country and its

Rulers. Already he began to waver in his loyalty towards the Princess, and to

desire greatly the knowledges of which the stranger told him. For this traveler,

though he cared nothing for pleasure, or for the beauty of sensuous things, was

greatly taken by the wish to be wise; only he did not rightly know in what

wisdom consists. He thought it lay in the acquirement of facts, whereas really

it is the power by which facts are transcended.

“That is a foreign bird”, observed the scientific man, examining it carefully

through his spectacles, “and quite a curiosity. I do not remember having ever

seen one like it. The note, too, is peculiar. In some of its tones it reminds me

of a nightingale. No doubt it is the descendant of a developed species of a

nightingale, carefully selected and artificially bred from one generation to

another. Wonderful modifications of species may be obtained in this manner, as

experiments with fancy breeds of pigeons have amply proved. Permit me to examine

the bill more closely. Yes, yes — a nightingale certainly — and yet — indeed, I

ought not to decide in haste. I should greatly like to have the opinion of

Professor Effaress on the subject. But what noise is that yonder?”

For just then a terrible hubbub arose among a crowd of people congregated under

the portico of a large and magnificent building a little way from the place

where the scientific man and the intellectual traveler stood conversing. This

building, the facade of which was adorned all over with bas-reliefs of Liberty

and Progress, and modern elderly gentlemen in doctors’ gowns and

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[Page  157]

laurel wreaths, with rolls of paper and microscopes, was, in fact, a great

Scientific Institution, and into it the procession of learned personages whom

the travelers had met on their way had entered, followed by a great multitude of

admirers and enthusiasts. In this edifice the solemn rites which the votary of

Science had described were to be held, and a vast congregation filled its halls.

All at once, just as the sacrifices were about to begin, a solitary man arose in

the midst of the hushed assembly, and protested, as once of old, by the banks of

the far-away Ganges, Siddârtha Buddha had protested against the bloody offerings

of the priests of Indra. And much after the same manner as Buddha had spoken

this man spoke, of the high duty of manhood, of the splendor of justice, of the

certainty of retribution, and of the true meaning of Progress and Freedom, the

noblest reaches of which are spiritual, transcending all the baser and meaner

utilities of the physical nature. And when the high priests of Science, not like

the priests of Indra in older times, answered the prophet disdainfully and

without shame, that they knew nothing of any spiritual utilities, because they

believed in evolution and held man to be only a developed ape, with no more soul

than his ancestor, the stranger responded that he too was an Evolutionist, but

that he understood the doctrine quite differently from them, and more after the

fashion of the old teachers, — Pythagoras, Plato, Hermes and Buddha. And that

the living and incorruptible Spirit of God was in all things, whether ape or

man, whether beast or human, ay, and in the very flowers and grass of the field,

and in every element of all that is ignorantly thought to be dead and inert

matter. So that the soul of man, he said, is one of the soul that is in all

Nature,

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[Page  158] only that when man is truly human, in him alone the soul

becomes self-knowing and self-concentrated, the mirror of Heaven, and the focus

of the Divine Light. And he declared, moreover, that the spiritual evolution of

which he spoke was not so much promoted by intellectual knowledge as by moral

goodness; and that it was possible to be a very learned ape indeed, but in no

wise to deserve the name of man; and that inasmuch as any person was disposed to

sacrifice the higher to the lower reason, and to rank intellectual above

spiritual attainment, insomuch that person was still an ape and had not

developed humanity.

Now, the stranger who was brave enough to say all this was no other than the

traveler poet, and all the time he was speaking, the bird which the Princess had

given him lay hid in his bosom and sang to him, clear and sweet, Courage!

courage! these are the ogres and the dragons; fight the good fight; to be of

bold heart!” Nor was he astonished or dismayed when the assembly arose with

tumult and hooting, and violently thrust him out of the Scientific Institution

into the street. And that was the noise which the other traveler and his

companion had heard.

But when the greater part of the mob had returned into the building there was

left with the poet a little group of men and women whose hearts had been stirred

by his protest. And they said to him, “You have spoken well, sir, and have done

a noble thing. We are citizens of this place, and we will devote ourselves to

giving effect to your words. Doubt not that we shall succeed, though it may be

long first, for indeed we will work with a will.” Then the poet was glad,

because he had not spoken in vain, and he bade them good speed, and went on his



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[Page  159] way, but the scientific man, who was with the other traveler, heard

these last words, and became very angry. "Certainly", he said, “this foolish and

ignorant person who has just been turned out of the assembly must have insulted

our great leaders! What presumption! what insolence! No one knows what mischief

he may not have done by his silly talk! It is deplorable! But see, here comes

Professor Effaress, the very man I most wished to see. Professor, let me present

this gentleman. He is the owner of a rare and remarkable bird, on which we want

your opinion.

The Professor was a very great personage, and his coat was covered all over with

decorations and bits of colored ribbon, like those on a kit’s tail. Perhaps,

like a kit’s tail, they weighed and steadied him, and kept him from mounting too

high into the clouds. The Professor looked at the bird through his spectacles,

and nodded his head sagaciously. “I have seen this species before,” he said,

“though not often. It belongs to a very ancient family indeed, and I scarcely

thought that any specimen of it remained in the present day. Quite a museum

bird; and in excellent plumage too. Sir, I congratulate you.”

“You do not, then consider, Professor”, said the traveler, “that this bird has

about it anything transcendental - that it is - in fact - not altogether -

pardon me the expression - a terrestrial bird?” For he was afraid to say the

truth, that the bird really came from beyond the sunset.

The decorated personage was much amused. He laughed pleasantly and answered in

bland tones, “Oh dear, no; I recognize quite well the species to which it

belongs. An ancient species, as I have said, and one indeed that Science has

done her utmost to extirpate,

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[Page  160] purposely in part, because it is proved

to be a great devastator of the crops, and thus directly injurious to the

interests of mankind, and partly by accident, for it has a most remarkable

song-note, and scientific men have destroyed all the specimens they have been

able to procure, in the hope of discovering the mechanism by which the vocal

tones are produced. But, pardon me, are you a stranger in this city, sir?”

“I am”, responded the traveler, “and permit me to assure you that I take a

lively interest in the scientific and intellectual pursuits with which in this

place, I perceive, you are largely occupied.”

“We have a Brotherhood of Learning here, sir”, returned the Professor; “we are

all Progressionists. I trust you will remain with us and take part in our

assemblies.” But, as he said that, the fairy bird suddenly lifted up his song

and warned the traveler, crying in the language of the country beyond the

sunset, “Beware! beware! This is an ogre, he will kill you, and mix your bones

with his bread! Be warned in time, and fly; fly, if you cannot fight!”

“Dear me”, said the Professor, “what a very remarkable note! I am convinced that

the structure and disposition of this bird’s vocal organs must be unique.

Speaking for my scientific brethren, as well as for myself, I may say that we

should hold ourselves singularly indebted to you if you would permit us the

opportunity of adding so rare a specimen to our national collection. It would be

an acquisition, sir, I assure you, for which we would show ourselves profoundly

grateful. Indeed, I am sure that the Society to which I have the honor to belong

would readily admit to its Fellowship the donor of a treasure so inestimable.”

As he spoke, he fixed

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[Page  161] his eyes on the traveler, and bowed with much

ceremony and condescension. And the traveler thought what a fine thing it would

be to become a Professor, and be able to wear a great many bits of colored

ribbon, and to be immensely learned, and know all the faces of the universe.

And, after all, what was a little singing bird, and a fairy Princess, in whose

very existence the scientific gentlemen did not in the least believe, and who

was, perhaps, really the shadow of a dream? So he bowed in return, and said he

was greatly honored; and Professor Effaces took the bird and twisted its neck

gravely, and put the little corpse into his pocket. And so the divine and

beautiful song of the fairy minstrel was quenched, and instead of it I suppose

the traveler got a great deal of learning and many fine decorations on his coat.

But the spirit of the slain bird fled from that inhospitable city, and went back

to the Princess and told her what had befallen.

 

 

4

 

 

As for the poet, he went on his way alone into the open country, and saw the

peasants in the fields, reaping and gleaning and gathering fruit and corn, for

it was harvest time. And he passed through many hamlets and villages, and

sometimes he rested a night or two at an inn; and on Sundays he heard the parish

parson say prayers and preach in some quaint little Norman or Saxon church.

And at last he came to a brand-new town, where all the houses were Early

English, and all the people dressed like ancient Greeks, and all the manners

Renaissance, or,

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[Page  162] perhaps, Gothic. The poet thought they were Gothic,

and probably was right.

In this town the talk was mostly about Art, and many fine things were said in

regard to sweetness and light. Everybody claimed to be an artist of some kind,

whether painter, musician, novelist, dramatist, verse-maker, reciter, singer, or

what not. But although they seemed so greatly devoted to the Graces and the

Muses, it was but the images of the Parnassian Gods that they worshiped. For in

the purlieus of this fine town, horrible cruelties and abuses were committed,

yet none of the so-called poets lifted a cry of reform. Every morning, early,

before daybreak, there came through the streets long and sad processions and

meek-eyed oxen and bleating lambs, harried by brutal drovers, with shouts and

blows, — terrible processions of innocent creatures going to die under the

poleaxe and the knife in order to provide the pleasures of the table for dainty

votaries of sweetness and light. Before the fair faint dawn made rosy the

eastern sky over the houses, you might have heard on every side the heavy thud

of the poleaxe striking down the patient heifer on her knees, — the heifer whose

eyes are like the eyes of Heré, say the old Greek songbooks, that were read and

quoted all day in this town of Culture and Art.

And a little later, going down the by-ways of the town, you might have seen the

gutters running with fresh blood, and have met carts laden with gory hides, and

buckets filled with brains and blood, going to the factories and tan-yards.

Young lads spent all their days in the slaughter-houses, dealing violent deaths,

witnessing tragedies of carnage, hearing incessant plaintive cries, walking

about on clogs among pools of clotting or

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[Page  163] steamy blood, and breathing

the fumes of it. And scarce a mile away from the scene of all these loathsome

and degrading sights, sounds, and odors, you might have found fastidious and

courtly gentlemen, and ladies all belaced and bejewelled, sentimentalizing over

their aspic de foie gras, or their cotelettes à la jardinière.” or some other

euphemism for the dead flesh which could not, without pardonable breach of good

breeding, be called by its plain true name in their presence.

And when the poet reminded them of this truth, and spoke to them of the

demoralization to which, by their habits, they daily subjected many of their

fellow-men; when he drew for them graphic pictures of the slaughter-yard, and of

all the scenes of suffering and tyranny that led up to it and ensued from it,

they clapped their hands to their ears, and cried out that he was a shockingly

coarse person, and quite too horribly indelicate for refined society. Because,

indeed, they cared only about a surface and outside refinement, and not a whit

for that which is inward and profound. For beauty of being they had neither

desire nor power of reverence; all their enthusiasm was spent over forms and

words and appearances of beauty. In them the senses were quickened, but not the

heart, nor the reason. Therefore the spirit of the Reformer was not in them, but

the spirit of the Dilettante only.

And the poet was grieved and angry with them, because every true poet is a

Reformer; and he went forth and spoke aloud in their public places and rebuked

the dwellers in that town. But except a few curiosity hunters and some idle

folks who wanted higher wages and less work, and thought he might help them to

get what they wished for, nobody listened to him. But they went in crowds to see

a conjurer, and to hear a man who

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[Page  164] lectured on blue china, and another

who made them a long oration about intricate and obscure texts in a certain old

dramatic book. And I think that in those days, if it had not been for the sweet

and gracious song of the fairy bird which he carried about always in his bosom,

the poet would have become very heart-sick and desponding indeed. I do not quite

know what it was that the bird sang, but it was something about the certainty of

the advent of wisdom, and of the coming of the perfect day; and the burden of

the song was hope for all the nations of the earth. Because every beautiful and

wise thought that any man conceives is the heritage of the whole race of men,

and an earnest and fore-gleam of what all men will some day inviolably hold for

true. And forasmuch as poets are the advanced guard of the marching army of

humanity, therefore they are necessarily the first discoverers and proclaimers

of the new landscapes and ranges of Duties and Rights that rise out of the

horizon, point after point, and vista after vista, along the line of progress.

For the sonnet of the poet today is to furnish the key-note of the morrow’s

speech in Parliament, as that which yesterday was song is today the current

prose of the hustings, the pulpit, and the market. Wherefore, O poet, take heart

for the world; thou, in whose utterance speaks the inevitable Future; who art

thyself God’s prophecy and covenant of what the race at large shall one day be!

Sing thy songs, utter thine whole intent, recount thy vision; though today no

one heed thee, thou hast nevertheless spoken, and the spoken word is not lost.

Every true thought lives, because the Spirit of God is in it, and when the time

is ripe it will incarnate itself in action. Thou, thou art the creator, the man

of thought; thou art the pioneer of the ages!

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[Page  165]

 

Somewhat on this wise sang the fairy bird, and thereby the poet was comforted,

and took courage, and lifted up his voice and his apocalypse. And though few

people cared to hear, and many jeered, and some rebuked, he minded only that all

he should say might be well said, and as perfect and wise and worthy as he could

make it. And when he had finished his testimony, he went forth from the gates of

the town, and began once more to traverse the solitudes of moor and forest.

But now the winter had set in over the land, and the wastes were bleak, and the

trees stood like pallid ghosts, sheeted and shrouded in snow. And the north wind

moaned across the open country, and the traveler grew cold and weary. Then he

spoke to the bird and said, "Bird, when I and my companions set out on our

journey from the land beyond the sunset, the Princess promised us each a guide,

who should bring us back in safety if only we would faithfully heed his

monitions. Where then is this guide? for hitherto I have walked alone, and have

seen no leader.

And the bird answered, “O poet, I, whom thou bearest about in they bosom, and

that guide and monitor! I am thy director, thine angel, and thine inward light.

And to each of thy companions a like guide was vouchsafed, but the man of

appetite drove away his monitor, and the man of intellect did even worse, for he

gave over to death his friend and is better self. Gold against dross, the wisdom

of the Gods against the knowledges of men! But thou, poet, art the child of the

Gods, and thou alone shalt again behold with joy the land beyond the sunset, and

face of Her whose true servitor and knight thou art!”

 

Then the traveler was right glad, and his heart was

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[Page  166] lifted up, and as

he went he sang. But, for all that, the way grew steeper to his feet, and the

icy air colder to his face; and on every hand there were no longer meadows and

orchards full of laboring folk, but glittering snow-wreaths, and diamond bright

glaciers, shining hard and keen against the deeps of darkening space; and at

times the roar of a distant avalanche shook the atmosphere about him, and then

died away into the silence out of which the sound had come. Peak above peak of

crystal-white mountain ranges rose upon his sight, massive, and still, and

awful, terrible affirmations of the verity of the Ideal. For this world of

colossal heights and fathomless gulfs, of blinding snows, of primeval silence,

of infinite revelation, of splendid lights upon manifold summits of opal, topaz

,and sardony, all seemed to him the witness and visible manifestation of his

most secret and dreadful thoughts. He had seen these things in his visions, he

had shaped them in his hidden reveries, he had dared to believe that such a

region as this might be — nay, ought to be — if the universe were of Divine

making. And now it burst upon him, an apocalypse of giant glories, an empire of

absolute being, independent and careless of human presence, affirming itself

eternally to its own immeasurable solitudes.

“I have reached the top and pinnacle of life”, cried the poet; “this is the

world wherein all things are made!”

And now, indeed, save for the fairy bird, he trod his path alone. Now and then

great clouds of mist swept down from the heights, or rose from the icy gorges,

and wrapped him in their soft gray folds, hiding from his sight the glittering

expanse around him, and making him afraid. Or, at times, he beheld his own

shadow, a vast

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[Page  167] and portentous Self, projected on the nebulous air,

and looming in his pathway, a solitary monster threatening him with doom. Or yet

again, there arose before him, multiplied in bewildering eddies of fog-wreath, a

hundred spectral selves, each above, and behind the other, like images repeated

in reverberating mirrors - his own form, his own mien, his own garb and aspect -

appalling in their omnipresence, maddening in their grotesque immensity as the

goblins of a fever dream. But when first the traveler beheld this sight, and

shrank at it, feeling for his sword, the fairy bird at his breast sang to him,

“Fear not, this is the Chimaera of whom the Princess spoke. You have passed

unhurt the sirens, the ogres and the hydra-headed brood of plain and lowland;

now meet with courage this phantom of the heights. Even now thou standest on the

confines of the land beyond the sunset; these are the dwellers on the border,

the spectres who haunt the threshold of the farther world. They are but shadows

of thyself, reflections cast upon the mists of the abyss, phantoms painted on

the veil of the sanctuary. Out of the void they arise, the offspring of Unreason

and of the Hadean Night.”

Then a strong wind came down from the peaks of the mountain like the breathing

of a God, and it rent the clouds asunder, and scattered the fog-wreaths, and

blew the phantoms hither and thither like smoke; and like smoke they were

extinguished and spent against the crags of the pass. And after that the poet

cared no more for them, but went on his way with a bold heart, until he had left

behind and below him the clouds and mists of the ravines among the hills, and

stood on the topmost expanse of dazzling snow, and beheld once more the golden

gate of the Land that lies beyond the Sun.

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[Page  168]

 

But of his meeting with the Princess, and of the gladness and splendor of their

espousals, and of all the joy that he had, is not for me to tell, for these

things, which belong to the chronicles of that fairy country, no mortal hand in

words of human speech is in any wise able to relate. All that I certainly know

and can speak of with plainness is this, that he obtained the fulness of his

heart’s desire, and beyond all hope, or knowledge, or understanding of earth,

was blessed for evermore.

And now I have finished the story of a man who say and followed his Ideal, who

loved and prized it, and clave to it above and through all lesser mundane

things. Of a man whom the senses could not allure, nor the craving for

knowledge, nor the lust of power, nor the blast of spiritual vanity, shake from

his perfect rectitude and service. Of a man who, seeing the good and the

beautiful way, turned not aside from it, nor yielded a step to the enemy; in

whose soul the voice of the inward Divinity no rebuke, no derision, nor neglect

could quench; who chose his part and abode by it, seeing no reconciliation with

the world, not weakly repining because his faith in the Justice of God distanced

his sympathies of common men. Every poet has it in him to imagine, to

comprehend, and desire such a life as this, he who lives it canonizes his

genius, and, to the topmost manhood of the Seer, adds the Divinity of Heroism.



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[Page  169]

 

- 4 - A TURN OF LUCK

 

 

" Messieurs, faites votre jeu ! . . . Le jeu est fait! . . . Rien ne va plus ! .

. . Rouge gagne et la couleur ! . . . Rouge gagne, la couleur perd! . . . Rouge

perd et la couleur !. . . "

Such were the monotonous continually recurring sentences, always spoken in the

same impassive tones, to which I listened as I stood by the tables in the

gaming-rooms of Monte Carlo. Such are the sentences to which devotees of the

fickle goddess, Chance, listen hour after hour as the day wears itself out from

early morning to late evening in that beautiful, cruel, enchanting earthly

paradise, whose shores are washed by the bluest sea in the world, whose gardens

are dotted with globes of golden fruit, and plumed with feathery palms, and

where, as you wander in and out among the delicious shadowy foliage, you hear,

incessantly, the sound of guns, and may, now and then, catch sight of some

doomed creature with delicate white breast and broken wing, dropping, helpless

and bleeding, into the still dark waters below the cliff. A wicked place ! A

cruel place! Heartless, bitter, pitiless, inhuman ! And yet, so beautiful!

I stood, on this particular afternoon, just opposite a young man seated at one

of the rouge et noir tables. As my glance wandered from face to face among the

players, it was arrested by his, — a singularly pallid, thin, eager face; —

remarkably eager, even in such a place and in such company as this. He seemed

about twenty-five, but he had the bowed and shrunken look of an invalid,

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[Page 

170] and from time to time he coughed terribly, the ominous cough of a person

with lungs half consumed by tubercle. He had not the air of a man who gambles

for pleasure, nor, I thought, that of a spendthrift or a ne'er-do-weel ;

disease, not dissipation, had hollowed his cheeks and set his hands trembling,

and the unnatural light in his eyes was born of fever rather than of greed. He

played anxiously but not excitedly, seldom venturing on a heavy stake, and

watching the game with an intentness which no incident diverted. Suddenly I saw

a young girl make her way through the throng towards him. She was plainly

dressed, and had a sweet, sad face and eyes full of tenderness. She touched him

on the shoulder, stooped over him, and kissed him in the frankest, simplest

manner possible on the forehead. "Viens," she whispered, "je m'etouffe ici, il

fait si frais dehors; sortons." He did not answer; his eyes were on the cards.

Rouge perd, et la couleur, said the hard official voice.

 

With a sigh, he rose, coughed, passed his hand over his eyes, and took his

wife's arm. (I felt sure she was his wife.) They passed slowly through the rooms

together, and I lost sight of them. But not of his face — nor of hers. Sitting

by the fountain outside the gaming saloons half an hour afterwards, I fell to

musing about this strange couple. So young, — she scarcely more than a child,

and he so ill and wasted ! He had played with the manner of an old habitué, and

she seemed used to finding him at the tables and leading him away. I made up my

mind that I had stumbled on a romance, and resolved to hunt it down. At the

table d'hôte dinner in my hotel that evening I met a friend from Nice to whom I

confided my curiosity. "I know", said he, "the young people of whom you speak;

they are

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[Page  171] patients of Dr S. of Monaco, one of my most intimate

acquaintances. He told me their story". " They", I interpolated, — " is the

wife, then, also ill ? " My friend smiled a little. "Not ill exactly, perhaps",

he answered. " But you must have seen, — she will very shortly be a mother. And

she is very young and delicate". " Tell me their story", I said, " since you

know it. It is romantic, I am certain". " It is sad", he said, " and sadness

suffices, I suppose, to constitute romance. The young man's name is Georges

Saint-Cyr, and his family were poor relations of an aristocratic house. I say

were, because they are all dead, — his father, mother, and three sisters. The

father died of tubercle, so did his daughters; the son, you see, inherits the

same disease and will also die of it at no very distant time. Georges Saint-Cyr

never found anybody to take him up in life. He was quite a lad when he lost his

widowed mother, and his health was, even then, so bad and fitful that he could

never work. He tried his best; but what chef can afford to employ a youth who is

always sending in doctor's certificates to excuse his absence from his desk, and

breaking down with headache or swooning on the floor in office-hours ? He was

totally unfit to earn his living, and the little money he had would not suffice

to keep him decently. Moreover, in his delicate condition he positively needed

comforts which to other lads would have been superfluous. Still he managed to

struggle on for some five years, getting copying-work and what-not to do in his

own rooms, till he had contrived, by the time he was twenty-two, to save a

little money. His idea was to enter the medical profession and earn a livelihood

by writing for scientific journals, for he had wits and was not

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[Page  172]

without literary talent. He was lodging then in a cheap quarter of Paris not far

from the École de Médecine. Well, the poor boy passed his baccalaureat and

entered on his first year. He got through that pretty well, but then came the

hospital work; and then, once more he broke down. The rising at six o'clock on

bitter cold winter mornings, the going out into the bleak early air sometimes

thick with snow or sleet, the long attendance day after day in unwholesome wards

and foetid postmortem rooms; the afternoons spent over dissecting, — all these

things contributed to bring about a catastrophe. He fell sick and took to his

bed, and as he was quite alone in the world, his tutor, who was a kind-hearted

man, undertook to see him through his illness, both as physician and as friend.

And when, after a few weeks, Georges was able to get about again, the professor,

seeing how lonely the young man was, asked him to spend his Sundays and spare

evenings with himself and his family in their little apartment au cinquième of

the rue Cluny. For the professor was, of course, poor, working for five francs a

lesson to private pupils, and a much more modest sum for class lectures such as

those which Georges attended. But all this mattered nothing to Georges. He went

gladly the very next Sunday to Dr Le Noir's, and there he met the professor's

daughter — whom you have seen. She was only just seventeen, and prettier then

than she is now I doubt not, for her face is anxious and sorrowful now, and

anxiety and sorrow are not becoming. You don't wonder that the young student

fell in love with her. The father, engrossed in his work, did not see what was

going on, and so Pauline's heart was won before the mischief could be stopped.

The young people themselves went to him

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[Page  173] hand in hand one evening and

told him all about it. Madame Le Noir had long been dead, and the professor had

two sons studying medicine. His daughter was, perhaps, rather in his way; he

loved her much, but she was growing fast into womanhood, and he did not quite

know what to do with her. Saint-Cyr was well-born and he was clever. If only his

health were to take a turn for the better, all might go well. But then, if not ?

He looked at the young man's pale face and remembered what his stethoscope had

revealed. Still, in such an early stage these physical warnings often came to

nothing. Rest, and fresh air, and happiness, might set him up and make a healthy

man of him yet. So he gave a preliminary assent to the engagement, but forbade

the young people to consider the affair settled — for the present. He wanted to

see how Georges got on. It was early spring then. Hope and love and the April

sunshine agreed with the young man. He was much stronger by June, and did well

at the hospital and at his work. He had reached the end of his fin d'année

examinations; a year's respite was before him now before beginning to pass for

his doctorate. Le Noir thought that if he could pass the next winter in the

south of France he would be quite set up, and lost no time in imparting this

idea to Georges. But Georges was not just then in funds; his time had been

lately wholly taken up with his studies, and he had been unable to do any

literary hacking. When he told the professor that he could not afford to spend a

winter on the Riviera, Le Noir looked at him fixedly a minute or two and then

said: — ' Pauline's dot will be 10,000 francs. It comes to her from her mother.

With care that ought to keep you both till you have taken your doctorate and can

earn

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[Page  174] money for yourself. Will you marry Pauline this autumn and take

her with you to the south?' Well, you can fancy whether this proposal pleased

Georges or not. At first he refused, of course; he would not take Pauline's

money; it was her's; he would wait till he could earn money of his own. But the

professor was persuasive, and when he told his daughter of the discussion, she

went privately into her father's study where Georges sat, pretending to read

chemistry, and settled the matter. So the upshot of it was that late in October,

Pauline became Madame Saint-Cyr, and started with her husband for the Riviera.

"The winter turned out a bitter one. Bitter and wild and treacherous over the

whole of Europe. Snow where snow had not been seen time out of mind; biting

murderous winds that nothing could escape. My friend Dr S. says the Riviera is

not always kind to consumptives, even when at its best; and this particular

season saw it at its worst. Georges Saint-Cyr caught a violent chill one evening

at St Raphael, whither he and his wife had gone for the sake of the cheapness

rather than to any of the larger towns on the littoral; and in a very short time

his old malady was on him again, — the fever, the cough, the weakness, — in

short, a fresh poussée, as the doctors say. Pauline nursed him carefully till

March set in; then he recovered a little, but he was far from convalescent. She

wrote hopefully to her father; so did Georges; indeed both the young man and his

wife, ignorant of the hold which the disease had really got upon him, thought

things to be a great deal better than they actually were. But as days went on

and the cough continued, they made up their minds that St Raphael did not suit

Georges, and resolved to go on to Nice. March was already far

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[Page  175]

advanced; Nice would not be expensive now. So they went, but still Georges got

no better. He even began to get weaker; the cough tore him, he said, and he

leaned wearily on his wife's arm when they walked out together. Clearly he would

not be able to return to Paris and to work that spring. Pauline, too, was not

well, the long nursing had told on her, and she had, besides, her own ailments,

for already the prospect of motherhood had defined itself. She wrote to her

father that Georges was still poorly and that they should not return home till

May. But before the first ten days of of April had passed, something of the true

state of the case began to dawn on Saint-Cyr. ' I shall never again be strong

enough to work hard,' he said to himself, ' and I must work hard if I am to pass

my doctorate examinations. Meantime, all Pauline's dot will be spent. I may have

to wait months before I can do any consecutive work; perhaps, even, I shall be

unable to make a living by writing. I am unfit for any study. How can I get

money — and get it quickly — for her sake and for the child's ?'

"Then the thought of the tables at Monte Carlo flashed into his mind. Eight

thousand francs of Pauline's dot remained; too small a sum in itself to be of

any permanent use, but enough to serve as capital for speculation in rouge et

noir. With good luck such a sum might produce a fortune. The idea caught him and

fascinated his thoughts sleeping and waking. In his dreams he beheld piles of

gold shining beside him on the green cloth, and by day as he wandered feebly

along the Promenade des Anglais with Pauline he grew silent, feeding his sick

heart with this new fancy. One day he said to his wife: — ' Let us run over to

Monte Carlo and see the playing; it will amuse us; and the gardens are

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[Page 

176] lovely, You will be delighted with the place. Everybody says it is the most

beautiful spot on the Riviera.' So they went, and were charmed, but Georges did

not play that day. He stood by the tables and watched, while Pauline, too timid

to venture into the saloons, and a little afraid of le jeu, sat by the great

fountain in the garden outside the casino. Georges declared that evening as they

sat over their tea at Nice that he had taken a fancy for beautiful Monaco, and

that he would rather finish the month of April there than at Nice. Pauline

assented at once, and the next day they removed to the most modest lodgings they

could find within easy access of the gardens. Then; very warily and gently,

Saint-Cyr unfolded to Pauline his new-born hopes. She was terribly alarmed at

first and sobbed piteously. ' It is so wicked to gamble, Georges,' she said; — '

no blessing can follow such a plan as yours. And I dare not tell papa about it'.

'It would be wicked, no doubt,' said Georges, 'to play against one's friend or

one's neighbour, as they do in clubs and private circles, because in such cases

if one is lucky, someone else is beggared, and the money one puts in one's

pocket leaves the other players so much the poorer. But here it is quite another

thing. We play against a great firm, an administration, whom our individual

successes do not affect, and which makes a trade of the whole concern. Scruples

are out of place under such circumstances. Playing at Monte Carlo hurts nobody

but oneself, and is not nearly so reprehensible as the legitimate business that

goes on daily at the Bourse'. ' Still', faltered Pauline, 'such horrid persons

do play, — such men, — such women ! It is not respectable.' ' It is not

respectable for most people certainly,' he said, ' because other ways of earning

are

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[Page  177] open to them. The idle come here, the dissolute, the

good-for-nothings. I know all that. But we are quite differently placed; and

have no other means of getting money to live with. At those tables, Pauline, I

shall be working for you as sincerely and honestly as though I were buying up

shares or investing in foreign railroads. It is the name and tradition of the

thing that frightens you. Look it in the face and you will own that it is simply

. . . speculation'. ' Georges,' said Pauline, ' you know best. Do as you like

dear, I understand nothing, and you were always clever.'

"So Saint-Cyr had his way, and went to work accordingly, without loss of time, a

little shyly at first, not daring to venture on any considerable stake. So he

remained for a week at the roulette tables; because at the rouge et noir one can

only play with gold. The week came to an end and found him neither richer nor

poorer. Then he grew bolder and ventured into the deeper water. He played on

rouge et noir, with luck the first day or two, but after that fortune turned

dead against him. He said nothing of it to Pauline, who came every day into the

rooms at intervals to seek him and say a few words, sometimes leading him out

for air when he looked weary, or beguiling him away on pretence of her own need

for companionship or for a walk. No doubt the poor girl suffered much; anxiety,

loneliness, and a lingering shame which she could not suppress, paled her

cheeks, and made her thin and careworn. She dared not ask how things were going,

but her husband's silence and the increased sickliness of his aspect set her

heart beating heavily with dread. Alone in her room she must have wept much

during all this sad time, for my friend Dr S. says that when she made her first

call upon his

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[Page  178] services he noted the signs of tears upon her face, and

taxed her with the fact, getting from her the reply that she ' often cried.'

"Little by little, being a kind and sympathetic man, he drew from her the story

I have told you. Georges became his patient also, but was always reticent in

regard to le jeu. Dr S. tried to dissuade him from visiting the tables, on the

ground that the atmosphere in the saloons would prove poisonous to him and

perhaps even fatal. But although, in deference to this counsel, the young man

shortened somewhat the duration of his sittings, and spent more time under the

trees with Pauline, he did not by any means abandon his speculation, hoping

always, no doubt, as all losers hope, to see the luck turn and to take revenge

on Fortune."

"And the luck has not turned yet in Saint-Cyr's case, I suppose?" said I.

"No", answered my friend. "I fear things are going very ill with him and poor

Pauline's dot"

As he spoke he rose from the dinner-table, and we strolled out together upon the

moonlight terrace of the hotel. " In ten minutes," said I, " my train starts. I

am going back to Nice tonight. Despite all its loveliness, Monte Carlo is

hateful to me, and I do not care to sleep under its shadow. But before I go, I

have a favour to ask of you. Let me know the sequel of the story you have told

me tonight. I want to know how it ends — in triumph or in tragedy. Dr S. will

always be able to keep you informed whether you remain here or not. Write to me

as soon as there is anything to tell, and you will do me a signal kindness. You

see you are such an admirable raconteur that you have interested me irresistibly

in your subject and must pay the penalty of talent!"

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[Page  179]

 

He laughed, broke off the laugh in a sigh, then shook hands with me, and we

parted.

About two months later, after my return to England, I had from my friend the

following letter: —

"You have, I do not doubt, retained your interest in the fortunes of the two

young people who so much attracted you at the tables last April. Well, I have

just seen my friend Dr S. in Lyons, and he has related to me the saddest tale

you can imagine concerning Georges and Pauline. Here it is, just as he gave it,

and while it is fresh in my memory. It seems that all through the month of April

and well into May, Saint-Cyr's ill luck stuck to him. He lost daily, and at last

only a very slender remnant of his wife's money was left to play with. Week by

week, too, he grew more wasted and feeble, fading with his fading fortune. As

for Pauline, although she did not complain about herself, Dr S. saw reason to

feel much anxiety on her account. Grief and sickened hope and the wear of the

terrible life she and Georges were leading combined to break down her strength.

Phthisis, too, although not a contagious malady in the common sense of the term,

is apt to exercise on debilitated persons constantly exposed to the

companionship of its victims an extremely baleful effect, and to this danger

Pauline was daily and nightly subjected. She became feverish, a sensation of

unwonted languor took possession of her, and sleep, nevertheless, became almost

impossible. Georges, engrossed in his play, observed but little the

deterioration of his wife's health; or, perhaps, attributed it to her condition

and to nervousness in regard to her approaching trial. Things were in this

state, when, one day towards the close of May,

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[Page  180] Georges took his

customary seat at the rouge et noir table. The weather had suddenly become

extremely hot, and the crowd in the salles de jeu had considerably diminished.

Only serious and veteran habitués were left, staking their gold, for the most

part, with the coolness and resolution of long experience. Pauline remained in

her room, she felt too ill to rise, and attributed her indisposition to the

heat. Very sick at heart, Georges entered the gaming-rooms alone, and laid out

on the green cloth the last of his capital. Then occurred one of those strange

and complete reversions of luck that come to very few men. Georges won

continuously, without a break, throughout the entire day. After an hour or two

of steady success, he grew elated, and began to stake large sums, with a

recklessness that might have appalled others than the old stagers who sat beside

him. But his temerity brought golden returns, every stake reaped a fruitful

harvest, and louis d'or accumulated in tall piles at his elbow. Before the rooms

closed he had become a rich man, and had won back Pauline's dowry forty times

over. Men turned to look at him as he left the tables, his face white with

fatigue, his eyes burning like live coals, and his gait unsteady as a

drunkard's. Outside in the open air, everything appeared to him like a dream. He

could not collect his thoughts; his brain whirled; he had eaten nothing all day,

fearing to quit his place lest he should change his luck or lose some good coup,

and now extreme faintness overcame him. Stooping over the great basin of the

fountain in front of the Casino he bathed his face with his hands, and eagerly

drew in the cool evening breeze of the Mediterranean, just sweeping up sweet and

full of refreshment over the parched rock of Monte Carlo. Then he made his way



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[Page  181] home, climbed with toil the high narrow staircase, and entered the

little apartment he shared with Pauline. In the sitting room he paused a minute,

poured out a glass of wine and drank it at a draught, to give himself courage to

tell her his good news like a man. His hand turned the key of his bedroom; his

heart beat so wildly that its throbbing deafened him; he could not hear his own

voice as he cried: ' Pauline — darling ! — we are rich ! my luck has turned !' .

. . But then he stopped, stricken by a blow worse than the stroke of death.

Before him stood Dr S., and a woman whom he did not recognise, bending over the

bed upon which Pauline lay, pallid and still, with hands folded upon her breast.

Georges flung his porte-monnaie, stuffed with notes, upon the foot of the bed,

and sank down on his knees beside it, his eyes fixed upon his young wife's face.

Dr S. touched him upon the shoulder. ' Du courage, Saint-Cyr,' he whispered. '

She has gone . . . first.' The kindly words meant that the separation would not

be for long. The woman in charge by the couch of the dead girl wept aloud, but

there were no tears yet in the eyes of Georges. ' And the child ?' he asked at

length, vaguely comprehending what had happened. They lifted the sheet gently,

and showed him a little white corpse lying beside its mother. ' I am glad the

child is dead, too,' said Georges Saint-Cyr.

"He would not have her buried by the Mediterranean; — no — nor would he let the

corpse be taken home for burial. The desire for flight was upon him, and he said

he must carry his dead with him till he himself should die. That night he left

Monte Carlo for Rome, bearing with him those dear remains of wife and child; and

the good doctor seeing his desperation and full of pity for so

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[Page  182] vast a

woe, went with him. 'Perhaps', he told me, 'had I not gone, Georges would not

himself have reached Rome alive.' They travelled night and day, for the young

man would not rest an instant. His design was to have the body of his wife

burned in the crematorium of the Eternal City, and Dr S. was, fortunately, able

to obtain for him the fulfilment of his desire. Then Saint-Cyr enclosed the

ashes of his beloved in a little silver box, slung it about his neck and bade

his friend farewell. I asked the doctor where he went. Northward, he answered, '

but I did not ask his plans. He gave me no address; he had money in plenty, and

it matters little where he went, for death was in his face as he wrung my hand

at parting, and he cannot live to see the summer out.' "

That was the end of the letter. And for my part, with the sole exception of

Georges Saint-Cyr, I never heard of any man who became rich over the tables of

Monte Carlo.

 

 

- 5 - NOEMI; OR, THE SILVER RIBBON

 

 

 

I have often heard practising physicians and students of pathology assert that

no one ever died of a broken heart — that is, of course, in the popular sense of

the phrase. Rupture of the heart, such as that which killed the passionate

tyrant John of Muscovy, is a rare accident, and has no connection with the

mental trouble and strain implied in the common expression heart-breaking. I



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[Page  183] have, however, my own theory upon this question, — a theory founded

on some tolerably strong evidence which might serve more scientifically-minded

persons than myself as a text for a medical thesis; but, as for me, I am no

writer of theses, and had much ado to get honestly through the only production

of the sort which ever issued from my pen, my Thèse de Doctorat. For I studied

the divine art of Aesculapius at the École de Médicine of Paris, and it was

there, just before taking my degree, that I became involved in a singular little

history, the circumstances of which first led me to adopt my present views on

the subject alluded to in the opening words of this story.

It is now many years since I inhabited the students' quarter in the gay city,

and rented a couple of little rooms in an hotel meublé not far from the gardens

of the Luxembourg. Medical students are never rich, and I was no exception to

the rule, though, compared with many of my associates, my pecuniary position was

one of enviable affluence. I had a library of my own, I drank wine at a franc

the litre, and occasionally smoked cigars. My little apartment overlooked a wide

street busy with incessant traffic, and on warm evenings, after returning from

dinner at the restaurant round the corner, it was my habit to throw open my

window-casement and lean out to inhale the fresh cool air of the coming night,

and to watch the crowds of foot-passengers and vehicles going and coming like

swarms of ants along the paved street below.

On a certain lovely July evening towards the close of my student career, I took

up my favourite position as usual, luxuriating in the fumes of my cigarette and

in that sweetest of mental enjoyments, absolute idleness, earned at the cost of

hard and long-continued toil. The sun

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[Page  184] had but just gone down, the sky

was brilliant with pink lights and mellow tints of golden green blending with

the blue of the deep vault overhead, scores of swift-darting birds were wheeling

about in the still air, uttering sharp clear cries, as though calling one

another to rest. Below, women stood at their house-doors gossiping with their

neighbours; peals of laughter and the incessant chatter of feminine voices

mingled with the din of horses' hoofs on the hard road and with the never-ending

jingle of the harness-bells.

Gazing lazily down into the street, my attention was suddenly arrested by the

singular appearance and behaviour of an odd-looking brown dog, which seemed to

be seeking someone among the hurrying crowds and rattling carts. Half-a-dozen

times he ran up the street and disappeared from view, only to retrace his steps,

each time with increasing agitation and eagerness of manner. I saw him cross the

street again and again, scan the faces of the passers-by, dash up the various

turnings and come panting back, his tongue, his tail drooping; one could even

fancy there were tears in his eyes. At length, exhausted or despairing, he

crossed the street for the last time and sat down on the doorstep of the house I

inhabited, the picture of grief and dismay. He was lost ! Now I had not served

my five years' apprenticeship to medical science in Paris without becoming

intimate with the horrible secrets of physiological laboratories. I knew that a

lost dog in Paris, if not handsome, and valuable to sell as a pet, runs a

terrible chance of falling directly or indirectly into the hands of vivisecting

professors, and dying a death of torture. He may be picked up by an employé

engaged in the search for fitting victims, and so handed over to immediate

martyrdom, or

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[Page  185] he may be hurried off to languish for weeks in that

horrible fourrière for lost dogs whose managers hang their wretched captives by

fifties every Tuesday, and liberally supply the demands of all the physiologists

who take the trouble to send to them for subjects. Knowing these things, and

perceiving that my concierge was absorbed in discussing scandal on the opposite

side of the street, I took advantage of her absence from her post to slip down

to the rez-de-chaussée, pounce on the unfortunate dog, whom I found seated

hopelessly at the entrance, and smuggle him upstairs into my rooms. There I

deposited him on the floor, patted him encouragingly, and gave him water and a

couple of sweet biscuits. But he was abjectly miserable, and though he drank a

little, would eat nothing. After taking two or three turns round the apartment

and sniffing suspiciously at the legs of the chairs and wainscot of the walls,

he returned to me where I stood with my back to the window watching him, looked

up in my face, wagged his tail feebly, and whined. I stooped again to caress

him, and, so doing, observed that he had, tied round his neck, and half-hidden

in his rough brown hair, a ribbon of silver tinsel, uncommon both in material

and design. I felt assured that the dog's owner must be a woman, and hastily

removed the ribbon, expecting to find embroidered upon it some such name as

Amélie or Léontine. But my examination proved futile, the silver ribbon afforded

me no clue to the antecedents of my canine waif. And indeed, as I stood

contemplating him in some perplexity, the conviction forced itself on my mind

that he was not exactly the kind of animal that Amélie or Léontine would be

likely to select for a pet. He was a poodle certainly, but of an ill-bred and

uncouth description

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[Page  186] and instead of being shaved to his centre, and

wearing frills round his paws, his coat had been suffered to grow in its natural

manner, — an indication either of neglect or of want of taste impossible in a

feminine proprietor. But his face was the most puzzling and at the same time the

most fascinating thing about him. It bore a more human expression than I had

ever before seen upon a dog's countenance, an expression of singular appeal and

childishness, so comic withal in its contrast with the rough hair, round eyes,

and long nose of the creature, that as I watched him an involuntary laugh

escaped me. "Certainly", I said to him, "you are a droll dog. One might do a

good deal with you in a travelling caravan! " As the evening wore on he became

more tranquil. Perhaps he began to have confidence in me and to believe that I

should restore him to his owner. At any rate, before we retired to rest he

prevailed on himself to eat some supper which I prepared for him, pausing every

now and then in his meal to lift his infantile face to mine and wag his tail in

a halfhearted manner, as though he said, "You see I am doing my best to trust

you, though you are a medical student!" Poor innocent beast! Well indeed for him

that he had not chanced to stop at the door of my neighbour and camarade, Paul

Bouchard, who had a passion for practical physiology, and with whom no amount of

animal suffering was of the smallest importance when weighed against the remote

chance of an insignificant discovery, which would be challenged and contradicted

as soon as announced by scores of his fellow-experimentalists. If torture were

indeed the true method of science, then would the vaunted tree of knowledge be

no other than the upas tree of oriental legend, beneath

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[Page  187] whose fatal

shadow lie hecatombs of miserable victims slain by its poisonous exhalations,

the odour of which is fraught with agony and death !

My poodle remained with me many days. No one appeared to claim him, and no

inquiries elicited the least information regarding him. La douceur of five

francs had soothed the natural indignation and resentment displayed by my

concierge at the first sight of my canine protégé; the restlessness and

suspicion he had evinced on making my acquaintance had subsided; and we were

getting on in a very comfortable and friendly manner together, when accident

threw in my way the clue I had laboriously but vainly sought. Returning one day

from a lecture, and being unusually pressed for time, I took a shorter cut

homeward than was my wont, and at the corner of a narrow and ill-smelling street

I came upon a little heterogeneous shop, in the windows of which were set out a

variety of faded and bizarre articles of millinery. Hanging from a front shelf

in a conspicuous position among the collection was a strip of the identical

silver ribbon which had encircled Pepin's throat — I called the dog Pepin — on

the night I rescued him from the streets. Without hesitation I entered the shop

and questioned a slatternly woman who sat behind the counter munching gruyere

cheese and garlic.

" Will you tell me, madame," said I with my most agreeable air, " whether you

recollect having sold any of that tinsel ribbon lately, and to whom?"

She was not likely to have much custom, I thought, and her clients would be

easily remembered.

"What's that to you?" was her retort, as she paused in her meal and stared at

me; " do you want to buy the rest of it?"

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[Page  188]

 

I took the hint immediately, and produced my purse. "With all the pleasure in

life," I said, "if you will do me the favour I ask."

She darted a keen look at me, laughed, pushed her cheese aside, and took the

ribbon from its place in the shop window.

"I sold half a mètre of it about three weeks ago," said she slowly, " to Noémi

Bergeron; you know her, perhaps? She's not been this way lately. There's a mètre

of it left; it's one franc twenty, monsieur."

"And where does Noémi Bergeron live ?" I asked, as she dropped the money into

her till.

" Well, she used to lodge at number ten in this street, with Maman Paquet. Maybe

she's gone. I've not seen either her or her dog this fortnight."

"A poodle dog," cried I eagerly, "with his coat unclipped, — a rough brown dog?"

"Yes, exactly. Ah, you know Noémi, — bien sûr!" And she leered at me, and

laughed again unpleasantly.

"I never saw her in my life," said I hotly; " but her dog has come astray to my

lodgings, and he had a piece of this ribbon of yours round his throat; nothing

more than that."

" Ah ? Well, she lives at number ten. Tenez, — there's Maman Paquet the other

side of the street; you'd better go and speak to her."

She pointed to a hideous old harridan standing on the opposite pavement, her

bare arms resting on her hips, and a greasy yellow kerchief twisted

turban-wiseround her head.

My heart sank. Noémi must be very poor, or very unfortunate, to live under the

same roof with such an old sorcière ! Nevertheless, I crossed the street, and

accosted the hag with a smile.

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[Page  189]

 

"Good-day, Maman Paquet. Can you tell me anything of your lodger, Noémi

Bergeron?"

"Hein?" She was deaf and surly. I repeated my question in a louder key. " I know

nothing of her," she answered, in a voice that sounded like the croak of a frog.

" She couldn't pay me her rent, and I told her to be off. Maybe she's drowned by

this."

"You turned her out?" I cried.

"Yes, turned her out," repeated the hag, with a savage oath. " It was her own

fault; she might have sold her beast of a poodle to pay me, and she wouldn't.

Why not, I should like to know, — she sold everything else she had!"

"And you can tell me nothing about her now, — you know no more than that ? "

"Nothing. Go and find her!" She muttered a curse, glared at me viciously, and

hobbled off. I had turned to depart in another direction, when a skinny hand

suddenly clutched my arm, and looking round, I found that Maman Paquet had

followed and overtaken me. " You know the girl," she squeaked, eyeing me

greedily, — "will you pay her rent? She owed me a month's lodging, seven

francs."

She looked so loathsome and horrible with her withered evil face so close to

mine that I gave a gesture of disgust and shook her off as though she had been a

toad.

"No", said I, quickening my steps; " she is a stranger to me, and my pockets are

empty".

Maman Paquet flung a curse after me, more foul and emphatic than the last, and

went her way blaspheming.

I returned home to Pépin saddened and disquieted. "So, after all", I said to

him, " your owner belongs to the fair sex! But, heaven! in what misery she and



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[Page  190] you must have lived! And yet you cried for her, Pépin!"

Not long after these incidents — three or four days at the latest — a party of

my fellow-students came to smoke with me, and as the shell always sounds of the

sea, our conversation naturally savoured of our professional pursuits. We

discussed our hospital chefs, their crotchets, their inventions, their medical

successes, their politics; we criticised new methods of operation, related

anecdotes of the theatre and consulting-room, and speculated on the chances of

men about to go up for examination. Then we touched on the subject of obscure

diseases, unusual mental conditions, prolonged delirium, and kindred topics. It

was at this point that one of us, Eugène Grellois, a house-surgeon at a

neighbouring hospital, remarked, —

"By the way, we have a curious case now in the women's ward of my service, a

pretty little Alsatian girl of eighteen or twenty. She was knocked down by a

cart about three weeks ago and was brought in with a fracture of the neck of the

left humerus, and two ribs broken. Well, there was perforation of the pleura,

traumatic pleurisy and fever, and her temperature went up as high as 41º-8. She

was delirious for three days, and talked incessantly; we had to put her in a

separate cabinet, so that the other patients might not be disturbed. I sat by

her bed for hours and listened. You never heard such odd things as she said. She

let me into the whole of her history that way. I don't think I should have cared

for it though, if she were not so wonderfully pretty ! "

"Was it a love story, Eugène? " asked Auguste Villemin, laughing.

"Not a bit of it; it was all about a dog who seemed

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[Page  191] to be her pet.

Such an extraordinary dog ! From what she said I gathered that he was a brown

poodle, that he could stand on his head, and walk on his hind paws, that he

followed her about wherever she went, that he carved in wood for illustrated

books and journals, that he wore a silver collar, that she was engaged to be

married to him when he had earned enough to keep house, and that his name was

Antoine !"

All his hearers laughed except myself. As for me, my heart bounded, my face

flushed, I was sensible of a keen sensation of pleasure in hearing Eugène

describe his patient as wonderfully pretty. I leapt from my chair, pointed to

Pépin, who lay dozing in a corner of the room, and exclaimed, —

" I will wager anything that the name of your Alsatian is Noémi Bergeron, and

that my dog there is Antoine himself!" And before any questions could be put I

proceeded to recount the circumstances with which my reader is already

acquainted. Of course Pépin was immediately summoned into the midst of the

circle we had formed round the open window to have his reputed accomplishments

tested as a criterion of his identity with Antoine. Amid bursts of laughter and

a clamour of encouragement and approbation, it was discovered that my canine

protégé possessed at least the first two of the qualifications imputed to him,

and could walk on his hind legs or stand on his head for periods apparently

unlimited.

In fact, so obedient and willing we found him, that when for the third time he

had inverted himself, no persuasion short of picking him up by his tail, a

proceeding which I deemed necessary to avert asphyxia, could induce him to

resume his normal position. But that

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[Page  192] which rendered the entertainment

specially fascinating and ludicrous was the inimitable and unbroken gravity of

Pépin's expression. No matter what his attitude, his eyes retained always the

solemnity one observes in the eyes of an infant to whom everything in the world

is serious and nothing grotesque.

"But now for the engraving on wood !" cried Jules Leuret, when we had exhausted

ourselves with laughing. "What a pity you have no implements of the art here,

Gervais!"

"That's Eugène's chaff!" I cried. "Noémi never said anything of the sort, I

warrant! "

"On my honour she did," said he, emphatically. " Come and see her tomorrow;

she's quite sane now, no fever left at all. She'll be delighted to hear that you

have her dog, and will tell you all about him, no doubt."

"After the chefs visit, then, and we'll breakfast together at noon."

"Agreed. Laughing makes one dry, mon ami; let me have some more of your wine. We

can't afford good wine like that, nous autres ! "

2

 

 

When the following morning arrived, I rose sooner than my wont: Eugène's service

was an early one, and by half-past ten o'clock he and I were alone in the wards

of his hospital. He led me to a bed in one of the little spaces partitioned off

from the common salle for the reception of special cases or refractory patients.

There, propped up on her pillows, her arm bandaged and supported by a cushion,

lay a young girl with fair braided hair and the sweetest face I had ever seen

out of a

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[Page  193] picture. Something in the childish and wistful look of her

deep eyes and serious mouth reminded me strangely of Pépin; it was Pépin's

plaintive expression refined and intensified by spiritual influence, a look such

as one might imagine on the face of some young novice, brought up in a convent

and innocent of all evil, — an ingénue untainted by the world and ignorant of

its ways. Could such a creature as this come out of the foul and sin-reeking

quartier I had visited four days ago, with its filthy houses, its fetid alleys,

its coarse blaspheming women and drunken men ? My mind misgave me: surely, after

all, this could not be Noémi Bergeron !

I put the question to her fearfully, for I dreaded to hear her deny it. She was

so beautiful; if she should say no I should be in despair.

A voice as sweet as the face answered me, with just a faint inflexion of

surprise in it, and as she spoke a slight blush suffused her cheeks and showed

the delicate transparency of her skin.

"Yes, that is my name. Does monsieur know me, then?"

In my turn I blushed, but with delight. No wonder Pépin had repined at

separation from so lovely a mistress !

"I went to your house to inquire for you the other day, mademoiselle," stammered

I, " for I think I have a dog which belongs to you. Have you not lost a brown

poodle with a ribbon like this round his throat?"

As I spoke I produced the tinsel ornament from my pocket, but before I finished

my last sentence she started forward with a joyous cry, and but for the timely

intervention of Eugène, who stood beside the bed, the injured

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[Page  194] arm

might have suffered seriously from the effects of her excitement.

"Ah!" she cried, weeping with joy; "my Bambin, my dear Bambin ! He is found

then, he is safe, and I shall see him again ! "

" Bambin !" repeated I, dubiously. "Monsieur Grellois thought that his name was

Antoine !"

The rosy colour deepened under her delicate cheeks and crept to the roots of her

braided hair.

"No", she replied in a lower tone, " monsieur is mistaken. My dog's name is

Bambin; we called him so because he is so like a baby. Don't you think him like

a baby, monsieur ? "

She looked wondrously like a baby herself, and I longed to tell her so; I could

not restrain my curiosity, her blushes were so enticing.

 

"And Antoine ? " persisted I.

"He is a friend of mine, monsieur; an engraver on wood, an artist."

Eugène and I exchanged glances. "And you and he are engaged to be married, is it

not so?"

Unconsciously I questioned her as I might have questioned a child. She hardly

seemed old enough to have the right over her own secrets.

"Yes, monsieur. But I do not know where he is; and I have looked for him so

long, ah, so long !"

"What, have you lost him too, then, as well as Bambin?"

She shook her head, and looked troubled.

 

"Tell me," said I, coaxing her, "perhaps I maybe able to find him also."

"We are Alsatians," said Noémi, with her eyelids

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[Page  195] drooping, doubtless

to hide the tears gathering behind them; "and we lived in the same village and

were betrothed. Antoine was very clever, and could cut pictures in wood

beautifully, — oh so beautifully, — and they sent him to Paris to be apprenticed

to a great house of business, and to learn engraving thoroughly. And I stayed at

home with my father, and Antoine used to write to me very often, and say how

well he was getting on, and how he had invented a new method of wood-carving,

and how rich he should be some day, and that we were to be married very soon.

And then my father died, quite suddenly, and I was all alone in the house. And

Antoine did not write; — week after week there was no letter, though I never

ceased writing to him. So I grew miserable and frightened, and I took Bambin —

Antoine gave me Bambin, and taught him all his tricks — and I came to Paris to

try and find him. I had a little money then, and besides, I can make lace, and I

thought it would not be long before Antoine and I got married. But he had left

the house of business for which he had worked, and they knew nothing of him at

his lodgings, and there were ever so many of my letters on the table in the

conciergerie unopened. So I could learn nothing, for no one knew where he had

gone, and little by little the money I had brought with me went in food for me

and Bambin. Then somebody told me that Maman Paquet had a room to let that was

cheap, and I went there and tried to live on my lace-making, always hoping that

Antoine would come to find me. But the air of the place was so horrible — oh, so

horrible after our village ! — and I got the fever, and fell sick, and could do

no work at all. And by degrees I sold all the things I had — my lace-pillow and

all — and when they were gone the old

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[Page  196] woman wanted me to sell Bambin,

because he was clever, and she was sure I could get a good price for him. But I

would rather have sold the heart out of my body, and so I told her. Then she was

angry, and turned us both out, Bambin and me, and we went wandering about all

day till at last I got very faint and tired, for I had been ill a long time,

monsieur, and we had nothing to eat, so that I lost my senses and fell in the

road all at once, and a cart went over me. Then the people picked me up, and

carried me here, but none of them knew Bambin, and I had fainted and could tell

them nothing. So they must have driven him away, thinking he was a strange dog,

and had no right to follow me. And when my senses came back I was in the

hospital, and Bambin was gone, and I thought I never would see him again."

She sank down on her pillow and drew a great sigh of relief. It had evidently

comforted her to tell her story to sympathetic listeners. Poor child! scant

sympathy could she have found in Maman Paquet's unwomanly breast and evil

associations. We were silent when she had finished, and in the silence we heard

through the open window the joyous song of the birds, and the hum of the bees

wandering blithely from flower to flower, laden with their sweets, — sounds that

never cease through all the long summer days. Alas ! how strange and sad a

contrast it is, — the eternal and exuberant gladness of Nature's soulless

children, — the universal inevitable misery of human lives !

Presently the religieuse who had the charge of the adjoining ward opened the

door softly and called Eugène.

"Monsieur, will you come to No. 7 for a moment? Her wound is bleeding again

badly."

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[Page  197]

 

He looked up, nodded, and rose from his seat.

"I must go for the present, Gervais", said he. " If you stay with our little

friend, don't let her disarrange her arm. The ribs are all right now, but the

humerus is a longer affair. Au revoir ! "

But I found Noémi too much excited and fatigued for further conversation; so,

promising to take every possible care of Bambin and to come again and see her

very soon, I withdrew to the adjoining ward and joined Eugene.

No need to say that both these promises were faithfully observed.

Throughout the whole of July and of the ensuing month Noémi remained an inmate

of the hospital, and it was not until the first two weeks of September were

spent that the fractured arm was consolidated and the mandate for dismissal

issued.

Two days before that fixed for her departure I went to pay her the last of my

customary visits, and found her sitting at the open window busily engaged in

weaving lace upon a new pillow, which she exhibited to me with childish glee.

"See, monsieur, what a beautiful present I have had ! " she cried, holding up

the cushion for me to examine. " It is much better than the old one I sold; only

look how prettily the bobbins on it are painted !"

I had never before beheld a lace pillow, and the curiosity which I displayed

fairly delighted Noémi.

"And who is your generous benefactor?" I asked, replacing the cushion in her

lap.

"Don't you know?" she asked in turn, opening her eyes wide with surprise. "I

thought he would have been sure to tell you. Why, it was that good Monsieur



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[Page  198] Grellois, to be sure ! He gave some money to the sister to buy it for

me."

Kind Eugène! He had very little money to live upon, and must, I know, have

economised considerably in order to purchase this gift for his little patient.

Still I was not jealous of his bounty, since for many days past I had been

greatly occupied with Noémi's future welfare, and had busied myself in secret

with certain schemes and arrangements the issue of which it remained only to

announce.

"So," said I, taking a chair beside her, " you are going to earn your living

again by making lace ? "

"To try" she answered with a sad emphasis.

"Lace-making does not pay well, then ? "

"Oh no, monsieur ! It cannot be done quickly, you see, — only a little piece

like this every day, working one's best, — and so much lace is made by machines

now !"

"But it cannot cost you much to live, Noémi ? "

"The eating and drinking is not much, monsieur; it is the rent; and all the

cheap lodgings are so dirty ! It is that which is the most terrible. I can't

bear to have ugly things about me and hideous faces, — like Maman Paquet's!"

She had the poet's instincts, this little Alsatian peasant. Most girls in her

case would have cared little for the unlovely surroundings, so long as food and

drink were plentiful.

"But supposing you had a nice room of your own, clean and comfortable, with an

iron bedstead like this one here, and chairs and a table, and two windows

looking out over the Luxembourg gardens, — and nothing to pay."

"Ah, monsieur!"

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[Page  199]

 

She dropped her pillow, and fixed her great brown eyes earnestly on my face.

"It is impossible", pursued I, reddening under her gaze, " for you to return to

the horrible quartier in which Maman Paquet lives. It is not fit for a young

girl; you would grow wicked and base like the people who live there, — or else

you would die, — and I think you would die, Noémi."

"But I have no money, monsieur."

"If you have no money, you have friends; a friend has given you your new pillow,

you know, and another friend, perhaps, may give you a room to live in."

Her eyelids drooped, her colour came and went quickly, I detected beneath her

bodice the convulsive movement of her heart. The agitation she betrayed

communicated itself to me; I rose from my chair and leaned against the

window-sill, so that my face might be no longer on a level with her eyes.

"I understand you, monsieur ! " she cried, and immediately burst into tears.

 

"Yes, Noémi", I said, "I see you understand me. There is really a room for you

such as I have described. In two days you will leave the hospital, but you are

not without a home. The woman of the house in which you will live is kind and

good, she knows all about you and Bambin, and has promised me to take care of

you. Your furniture is bought, your rent is paid, — you have nothing to do but

to go and take possession of the room. I hope you and Bambin will be happy

there."

She made me no reply in words, but bending forward over her pillow she took my

hand and timidly kissed it.

It would be hard to say which of us was the happier on the day which saw Noémi

installed in her new abode,

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[Page  200] — she, or I, or Bambin. Bambin's delight

was certainly the most demonstrative; he careered round and round the room

uttering joyous barks, returning at intervals in a panting and exhausted

condition to his pretty mistress to give and receive caresses which I own I felt

greatly disposed to envy him. I left my four-footed friend with some regret, for

he and I had been good companions during Noémi's sojourn at the hospital, and I

knew that my rooms would at first seem lonely without him. His fair owner, as

she bade me good-bye at the door of her new domicile, begged me to return often

and see them both, but hard as I found it to refuse the tempting request, I

summoned up resolution to tell her that it would be best for us to meet very

seldom indeed, perhaps only once or twice more, but that her landlady had my

name and address and would be able to give me tidings of her pretty often.

Her childlike nature and instincts were never more apparent than on this

occasion.

"What have I done, monsieur ?" she asked with a bewildered expression, her brown

eyes lifted pleadingly, and the corners of her mouth depressed. " I thought you

would like to come and see us. Bambin is so fond of you, too, — we shall both be

so sorry if you don't come."

As gently and as tenderly as I could, I tried to explain to her our mutual

position and the evil construction which others would be sure to place on any

friendship between us. But she only shook her head in a troubled way and sighed.

"I don't understand," she said, " but of course you know best. I used to hear

something like that at Maman Paquet's, about other girls, but I never understood

it.

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[Page  201] Only say that you are not angry with me, and let me hear about

you as often as you can."

I promised, smiling, and left her standing at the open door with Bambin tucked

under her arm, looking after me down the street and nodding her pretty golden

head.

Many days went by — I concentrated my mind upon my books, and devoted the whole

of my time and of my thoughts to preparation for my last two doctorate

examinations, contenting myself with only a few passing inquiries of Noémi's

landlady concerning the welfare of her lodger, and with the assurance that both

she and her dog were well and happy.

But one evening late in September, as I sat immersed in study, my ear caught the

sound of light girlish footsteps on the staircase leading to my rooms; then came

a momentary pause, a tap on the door, and the next minute Noémi herself, closely

followed by the faithful Bambin, burst upon my solitude.

"I have found him, monsieur !" she cried breathlessly. "I came at once to tell

you, — I knew you would be so glad !"

"What, — Antoine?" I asked, rising and laying my book aside.

"Yes; — Antoine ! I met him in the street. He was dressed like a gentleman; no

one would have known him except me ! He had no idea I was in Paris; he turned

quite white with the surprise of seeing me. And I told him what a search I had

made for him, and how miserable I had been, and how good you were to me, and

where I was living. And he is coming to see me this very evening ! Oh, I am so

happy !"

"You should have sent me word of this, Noémi," said

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[Page  202] I gravely. " You

ought not to have come here. It is very foolish ------ "

She interrupted me with an imploring gesture.

"Oh, yes, I know; I am so sorry ! But just at the moment I forgot. I longed to

tell you about Antoine, and everything else went out of my head. Don't be cross

with me !"

Could any one be angry with her? She was thoroughly innocent, and natural, as

innocence always is.

"My child, it is only of yourself I am thinking. Antoine will teach you to be

wiser by-and-by. Tell him to come and see me. I suppose you will be married soon

now, won't you?"

"Oh, yes, monsieur, very soon ? Antoine only wanted money, and he has plenty

now; he has a business of his own, and is a patron himself!"

"Well, Noémi, I am very glad. You must let me come to your wedding. I shall call

at your house tomorrow, and ask all about it; for no doubt Antoine will want you

to settle the arrangements at once. And now run home, for your own sake, my

child."

"Good-bye ! monsieur." She paused at the door and added shyly, "You will really

come tomorrow morning?"

" Yes, yes; before breakfast, Good-bye, Noémi."

3

 

 

At about ten on the ensuing day I repaired to Noémi's lodging, and found Madame

Jeannel, the landlady, on the look-out for me.

" Noémi told me you were coming", she said; " I will go and fetch her. Her

fiancé was here last night, and she has a great deal to tell you."

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[Page  203]

 

In two minutes she returned with my pretty friend, radiant as the sunlight with

happiness and renewed hope. Antoine loved her more than ever, she said, and he

had brought her a beautiful present, a silver cross, which she meant to wear on

her wedding-day, tied round her throat upon the bit of tinsel ribbon I had given

her, and which matched it exactly. And was the wedding-day fixed ? I asked. No,

not the precise day; Antoine had said nothing about it; but he had spoken much

of his love, and of the happiness in store for them both, and of the lovely

things he should give her. The day was nothing; that could be settled in a

minute at any time. Then she fetched me some lace she had made, and told me that

Antoine knew of a rich lady who would buy it, — a marquise, who doated on lace

of the sort, and who gave enormous sums for a few yards; and the money would do

for her dot, it would buy her wedding-dress, perhaps. So she prattled on, blithe

and ingenuous, the frank simplicity of her guileless soul reflected in the clear

depths of her eyes, as the light of heaven is mirrored in pure waters.

Days went by, and weeks, but Antoine never came to see me, and whenever I called

at Madame Jeannel's and asked for Noémi — which I ventured to do several times,

now that the good woman knew she was engaged to be married, and understood so

well our relations with each other — I always heard the same story, and always

received, on Antoine's behalf, the same vague excuses for the postponement of

the visit I had invited him to pay me. At one time, he bade Noémi tell me his

work was too pressing, and he could find no time to come; at another, that he

feared to disturb me, knowing I was very busy; and again, that he had been just

about to

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[Page  204] start when an important letter or an inopportune customer

had arrived and detained him. As for the wedding-day, he would never come to the

point about it, and Noémi, naturally shy of the subject, never pressed him. She

was quite happy and confident; Antoine loved her with all his heart, and told

her so every day. What more could she want ? He brought her lovely bunches of

red and white roses, little trinkets, sweetmeats, ribbons; indeed, he seemed

never to come empty-handed. She used to take walks with him when his day's work

was over, in the Luxembourg gardens, and once or twice they went out as far as

the Champs-Elysées. Oh, yes, Antoine loved her dearly, and she was very happy;

they should certainly be married before long. We were already in November, the

days were getting bleak and chill, I had to light my lamp early and close my

windows against the damp evening air. One afternoon, just as it was beginning to

grow dark, Madame Jeannel came to see me, looking very disturbed and anxious.

"Monsieur", she said, " a strange thing has happened which makes me so uneasy

that I cannot help coming to tell you of it, and to ask your opinion and advice.

Antoine came about half-an-hour ago and took Noémi out for a walk. Not ten

minutes after they had left the house, a lady whom I do not know came to my door

and asked if Mademoiselle Bergeron lived there. I said yes, but that she was

out. The strange lady stared hard at me and asked if she had gone out alone. I

told her no, she was with her fiancé, but that if any message could be left for

her I would be careful to give it directly she should return. Immediately the

lady seized me by the arm so tightly I almost screamed. She grew white, and then

red, then she seemed to find her voice, and

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[Page  205] asked me if she could

wait upstairs in Noémi's room till she came back. At first I said ' No', but she

would not take a refusal; she insisted upon waiting; and there she is, I could

not get her to leave the place."

Madame Jeannel stood opposite to me; I lifted my eyes, and met hers steadily.

When I had satisfied myself of her suspicions, I said in a low voice, —

"You have done rightly to fetch me. There is great trouble in store for our poor

child. I fear this woman may have a better right to Antoine than Noémi has."

"I am sure of it," responded Madame Jeannel. " If you could but have seen how

she looked ! Thank the good God she has come in time to save our Noémi from any

real harm !"

"It will blight the whole of her life", said I; "she is so innocent of evil, and

she loves him so much".

 

I took up my hat as I spoke, and followed Madame Jeannel downstairs and into the

street. When we reached her house, I left her in her own little parlour upon the

entresol, and with a resolute step but a heavy heart I went alone to confront

the strange woman in Noémi's room. Alas ! the worst that could happen had

already befallen. Noémi had returned from her walk during the absence of her

landlady, and I opened the door upon a terrible scene. My poor child stood

before me, with a white scared face, and heaving breast, upon which was pinned a

bunch of autumn violets, Antoine's last gift to her. Her slender figure, her

fair hair, her pallid complexion looked ghost-like in the uncertain twilight;

she seemed like a troubled spirit, beautiful and sorely distressed, but there

was no shame in her lovely face, nor any sense of guilt. Seeing me enter, she

uttered a cry of relief, and sprang forward as though to seek protection.

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[Page 

206]

 

"Speak to her, monsieur!" she exclaimed in a voice of piercing entreaty; "oh,

speak to her and ask her what it all means ! She says she is Antoine's wife !"

The strange woman whose back had been turned towards the door when I opened it,

looked round at the words, and her face met mine. She was a brunette, with sharp

black eyes and an inflexible mouth, a face which beside Noémi's seemed like a

dark cloud beside clear sunlight.

"Yes indeed !" she cried; and her voice was half choked with contending anger

and despair, "I am his wife; and what then is she ? I tracked him here. He is

always away from me now. I found a letter of hers signed with her name; she

writes to him as if she loved him ! See!"

She flung upon the table a crumpled scrap of paper, and suddenly burying her

face in her hands, burst into a torrent of passionate tears and sobs. Noémi

stood silent and watched her, terrified and wondering. I closed the door softly,

and approaching the unfortunate woman, laid my hand upon her shoulder.

"It is your husband who is alone to blame,"I whispered to her. "Do not revile

this innocent girl; she suffers quite as much as you do, — perhaps even more,

for she was betrothed to him years ago."

My grief for Noémi, and my resentment against Antoine made me imprudent; I spoke

unjustly, but the provocation was great.

"You take her part!" she cried, repelling me indignantly. "Innocent — she

innocent ? Bah ! She must have known he was married, for why else did he not

marry her ? Do you think me a child to be fooled by such a tale?"

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[Page  207]

 

"No", answered I sternly, looking away from her at Noémi. "You are not a child,

madame, but she is one ! Had she been a woman like yourself, your husband would

never have deceived her. She trusted him wholly."

With a gesture that was almost fierce in its pride, Antoine's wife turned her

back upon Noémi, and moved towards the door. " I thank my God", she said

solemnly, choking down her sobs, and bending her dark brows upon me, " that I

was never such an innocent as she is! I am not your dupe, monsieur, I know well

enough what you are, and what it is that constitutes your right to defend her.

The neighbours know her story; trust them for finding it out and repeating it.

This room belongs to you, monsieur; your money paid for everything in it, and

your innocent there no doubt is included in the bargain. Keep her to yourself

for the future; Antoine's foot shall never again be set in this wicked house!"

She opened the door with the last words, and vanished into the darkness without.

For a moment there was a deep silence, the voice which had just ceased seemed to

me to ring and echo around the dim, still room. The sense of a great shame was

upon me; I dared not lift my eyes to Noémi's face.

Suddenly a faint cry startled me. She stretched her arms towards me and fell on

her knees at my feet.

"O monsieur! Antoine is lost! My heart is dead !" Then she struck her breast

wildly with her clenched hand, and swooned upon the floor.

None of us ever saw Antoine again after that terrible evening. Whether he had

been most weak or most wicked we could not tell; but, for my part I always

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[Page 

208] believed that he had really loved Noémi, and that his marriage had been one

of worldly convenience, contracted, in an evil hour, for the sake of gain. His

wife was rich, Noémi was a beggar. As for her, poor child, she never uttered a

word of reproach against him; never a gesture of impatience, or an expression of

complaint betrayed her suffering. She had spent all her innocent life upon her

love, and with the love her life also went from her. Day after day she lay on

her bed like a flower crushed and fading slowly. There were no signs of organic

disease in her, there was no appreciable malady; her heart was broken, so said

Madame Jeannel, and more than that the wisest could not say. Bambin, dimly

comprehending that some great sorrow had befallen his dear mistress, lay always

at her feet, watching her with eyes full of tender and wistful affection,

refusing to leave her by night or by day. It must have comforted her somewhat to

see in him, at least, the evidence of one true and faithful love.

So white and spirituelle she grew as she lay there, day by day, so delicately

lovely, her deep lustrous eyes shining as with some inward light, and her hair

of gold surrounding her head like the aureole of a pictured saint, that at times

I fancied she was becoming de-materialised before our eyes; her spirit seemed as

it were to grow visible, as though in the intensity of its pure fire the mere

earthly body which had contained it were being re-absorbed and consumed.

Sometimes in the evenings her pulse quickened and her cheeks flushed with the

hectic touch of fever; — it was the only symptom of physical disorder I ever

detected in her; — but even that was slight, — the temperature of her system was

hardly affected by it.

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[Page  209]

 

So she lay, her body fading, day after day and hour after hour.

 

Madame Jeannel was deeply concerned, for she was a good woman, and could

sympathise with others in sorrow, but nothing that she could say or do seemed to

reach the senses of Noémi. Indeed, at times I fancied the poor child had no

longer eyes or ears for the world from which she was passing away so strangely;

she looked as though she were already beginning life in some other sphere and on

some other plane than ours, and could see and hear only sights and sounds of

which our material natures had no cognisance.

"C'est le chagrin, monsieur", said Madame Jeannel; "c'est comme ça que le

chagrin tue, — toujours."

 

Early in the third week of December I received my summons to pass the final

examination for the M.D. degree. The day was bitterly cold, a keen wind swept

the empty streets and drove the new-fallen snow into drift-heaps at every

corner. Along the boulevards booths and baraques for the sale of New Year's

gifts were already in course of erection, the shops were gay with bright

coloured bonbonnières. Children, merry with anticipations of good things

corning, pressed round the various tempting displays and noisily disputed their

respective merits. All the streets were filled with mirth and laughter .and

preparations for festivity, and close by, in her little lonely room, Noémi lay

dying of a broken heart !

I underwent my ordeal with success; yet as I quitted the examination-room and

descended into the quadrangle of the École, crowded with sauntering groups of

garrulous students, my spirit was heavy within me, and the expression of my face

could hardly have been that of a young man who has safely passed the Rubicon of



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[Page  210] scientific apprenticeship, and who sees the laurels and honours of

the world within his reach. The world? The very thought of its possible homage

repelled me, for I knew that its best successes and its loudest praise are

accorded to men whose hearts are of steel and whose lives are corrupt. I knew

that still, as of old, it slays the innocent and the ingenuous and stones the

pure of spirit.

Escaping somewhat impatiently from the congratulations of the friends and

colleagues whom I chanced to encounter in the quadrangle, I returned gloomily

home and found upon my table a twisted note in which was written this brief

message: —

" Pray, come at once, monsieur, she cannot live long now. I dare not leave her,

and she begs to see you.—

 

MARIE JEANNEL."

With a shaking hand I thrust the paper into my vest and hastened to obey its

summons. Never had the distance between my house and Noémi's been so long to

traverse; never had the stairs which led to her room seemed to me so many or so

steep. At length I gained the door; it stood ajar; I pushed it open and entered.

Madame Jeannel sat at the foot of the little white-draped bed; Bambin lay beside

his mistress; the only sound in the room was the crackling of the burning logs

on the hearth. As I entered, Madame Jeannel turned her head and looked at me;

her eyes were heavy with tears, and she spoke in tones that were hushed and

tremulous with the awe which the presence of death inspires.

 

"Monsieur, you come too late. She is dead." I sprang forward with a cry of

horror. "Dead?" I repeated, "Noémi dead?"

White and still she lay — a broken lily — beautiful and

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[Page  211] sweet even in

death; her eyes were closed lightly, and upon her lovely lips was the first

smile I had seen there since the day which had stricken her innocent life into

the dust. Her right hand rested on Bambin's head, in her left she held the piece

of silver ribbon I had given her, — the ribbon she had hoped to wear at her

wedding.

"They are for you," said Madame Jeannel softly. "She said you were fond of

Bambin, and he of you, and that you must take care of him and keep him with you

always. And as for the ribbon, — she wished you to take it for her sake, that it

might be a remembrance of her in time to come."

I fell on my knees beside the bed and wept aloud.

"Hush, hush !" whispered Madame Jeannel, bending over me; " it is best as it is,

she is gone to the angels of God."

Science has ceased to believe in angels, but in the faith of good women they

live still.

The chief work of the wise among us seems to me to consist in the destruction of

all the beautiful hopes and loves and beliefs of the earth; of all that since

the beginning of time till now has consoled, or purified, or brought peace to

the hearts of men. Some day, perhaps, in the long-distant future, the voice of

Nature may speak to us more clearly through the lips of a nobler and purer

system of science than any we now know, and we may learn that Matter is not all

in all, nor human love and desire given in vain; but that torn hearts may be

healed and ruined lives perfected in a higher spiritual existence, where, "

beyond these voices, there is peace."

Meanwhile Noémi's body rests in its quiet grave, and upon the faithful bosom

lies the silver cross which her lover gave her.

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[Page  212]

 

She was one of those who could endure all things for love's sake, but shame and

falsehood broke her steadfast heart. And it was the hand of her beloved which

dealt the blow of which she died!

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[Page  212]

 

 

 

 

 

- 6 - THE LITTLE OLD MAN'S STORY

 

 

" O love, I have loved you ! 

   O my soul, I have lost you ! "

 

— AURORA LEIGH.

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

"It is getting very dark now, and I have been sitting at my open bay window ever

since sundown. How fresh and sweet the evening air is, as it comes up from my

little flower garden below, laden with the fragrance of June roses and almond

blossom ! Ah, by the way, I will send over some more of those same roses to my

opposite neighbour tomorrow morning, — and there is a beautiful spray of white

jasmin nodding in at the casement now, and only waiting to be gathered for him.

Poor old man ! he must be very lonely and quiet, lying there day after day in

his dark little bed-chamber, with no companions save his books and his old

housekeeper. But then Dr Peyton is with him very often, and Dr Peyton is such a

dear kind soul that he makes every one cheerful ! I think they have drawn down

the blinds earlier than usual tonight at the little old gentleman's. Dr Peyton

says he always likes to sit up in his arm-chair when the day closes, and watch

the twilight gathering over the blue range of the Malvern hills in the distance,

and talk dreamy bits of poetry to himself the while, but this evening I noticed

the blinds were pulled down

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[Page  213] almost directly after sunset. And such a

lovely sunset as it was tonight! I never beheld anything more glorious ! What a

wondrous glamour of molten mellow light it threw over all the meadows and

cottage gardens! It seemed to me as though the gates of heaven itself were

unfolded to receive the returning sun into the golden land of the Hereafter!

Dear, dear, I shall get quite poetical in my old age ! This is not the first

time I have caught myself stumbling unawares on the confines of romance ! Miss

Lizzie, Miss Lizzie, you must not be fanciful ! Do you forget that you are an

old maid ! Yes, an old maid. Ah, well-a-day, 'tis a very happy, contented,

peaceful sound to me now; but twenty years ago, ------ Here comes dear old Dr

Peyton himself up my garden path! He does not seem to walk so blithely tonight

as usual, — surely nothing is the matter; I wish I could see his face, but it is

much too dark for that, so I'll go at once and let him in. Now I shall hear news

of my opposite neighbour ! Ah, I hope he is no worse, poor little old man ! "

Gentle reader, I shall not trouble you much in the story I am going to tell,

with any personal experiences of my own. But you may as well understand before

we proceed farther, that I — Miss Elizabeth Fairleigh — am a spinster on the

shady side of forty-five, that I and my two serving-maids occupy a tiny,

green-latticed, porticoed, one-storeyed cottage just outside a certain little

country town, and that Dr Peyton, the one medical man of the parish, is a

white-haired old gentleman of wondrous kindliness and goodness of heart, who was

Pythias to my father's Damon at college long, long ago, and who is now my best

friend and my most welcome and frequent visitor. And on the particular evening

in question, I had a special interest in his visit, for I wanted very much

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[Page 

214] to know what only he could tell me, — how matters fared with my neighbour

and his patient, the little old man who lay sick over the way.

Now this little old man bore the name of Mr Stephen Gray, and he was a bachelor,

so Dr Peyton said, a bachelor grown, from some cause unknown to my friend,

prematurely old, and wizened, and decrepit. It was long since he had first come

to reside in the small house opposite mine, and from the very day of his arrival

I had observed him with singular interest, and conjectured variously in my idle

moments about his probable history and circumstances. For many months after his

establishment over the way, this old gentleman used morning and evening to

perambulate the little country road which divided our respective dwellings,

supporting his feeble limbs with a venerable-looking staff, silver-headed like

himself; and on one occasion, when my flower garden happened to look especially

gay and inviting, he paused by the gate and gazed so wistfully at its beauties,

that I ventured to invite him in, and presented him, bashfully enough, with a

posy of my choicest rarities. After this unconventional introduction, many

little courtesies passed between us, other nosegays were culled from my small

parterre to adorn the little old gentleman's parlour, and more than once Miss

Elizabeth Fairleigh received and accepted an invitation to tea with Mr Stephen

Gray.

But by-and-by these invitations ceased, and my neighbour's pedestrian excursions

up and down our road became less and less frequent. Yet when I sent my maid, as

I often did, to inquire after his health, the answer returned alternated only

between two inflections, — Mr Gray was always either pretty well, or a little

better today. But presently I noticed that my friend Dr Peyton

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[Page  215] began

to pay visits at my opposite neighbour's, and of him I inquired concerning the

little old man's condition, and learned to my surprise and sorrow that his

health and strength were rapidly failing, and his life surely and irrecoverably

ebbing away. It might be many long months, Dr Peyton said, before the end, it

might be only a few weeks, but he had seen many such cases, and knew that no

human skill or tenderness had power to do more than to prolong the patient's

days upon earth by some brief space, and to make the weary hours of feebleness

and prostration as pleasant and calm as possible.

When Dr Peyton told me this, it was late autumn, and the little old gentleman

lived on in his weakness all through the snow-time and the dim bleak winter

days. But when the Spring came round once more, he rallied, and I used often to

see him sitting up in his arm-chair at the open window, arrayed in his

dressing-gown, and looking so cheerful and placid, that I could not forbear to

nod to him and smile hopefully, as I stood by my garden gate in the soft warm

sunshine, thinking that after all my opposite neighbour would soon be able to

take his daily walks, and have tea with me again in his cosy little parlour. But

when I spoke of this to Dr Peyton, he only shook his head incredulously, and

murmured something about the flame burning brighter for a little while before

going out altogether. So the old gentleman lingered on until June, and still

every time I sent to ask after his health returned the same old reply, — his

"kind regards to Miss Fairleigh, and he was a little better today." And thus

matters remained on that identical evening of which I first spoke, when I sat at

the bay window in my tiny drawing-room, and saw Dr Peyton coming so soberly up

the garden path.

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[Page  216]

 

Dr Peyton," said I, as I placed my most comfortable chair for him in the

prettiest corner of the bay, " you are the very person I have been longing to

see for the last half-hour ! I want to know how my neighbour Mr Gray is tonight.

I see his blinds are down, and I am afraid he may be worse. Have you been there

this evening ? "

I paused abruptly, for my old friend looked very gravely at me, and I thought as

his eyes rested for a moment on my face, that notwithstanding the twilight, I

could discern traces of recent tears in them.

"Lizzie", said he, very slowly, and his voice certainly trembled a little as he

spoke, " I don't think Mr Gray was ever so well in his life as he is tonight. I

have been with him for several hours. He is dead."

"Dead!" I echoed faintly, for I almost doubted whether my ears heard aright. "

My little old gentleman dead ? Oh, I am very, very grieved indeed ! I fancied he

was getting so much stronger !"

Dr Peyton smiled, one of his peculiar, sweet, grave smiles, such as I had often

seen on his kindly face at certain times and seasons when other men would not

have smiled at all.

"Lizzie", he answered, "there are some deaths so beautiful and so full of peace,

that no one ought to grieve about them, for they bring eternal rest after a life

that has been only bitter disquiet and heaviness. And such a death — aye, and

such a life — were Mr Gray's."

He spoke so certainly and so calmly, that I felt comforted for the little old

man's sake, and longed to know, — woman-like, I suppose, — what sad story of his

this had been, to which Dr Peyton's words seemed to point.

"Then he had a romance after all !" I cried, "and you knew of it! Poor old

gentleman ! I often wondered

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[Page  217] how he came to be so lonely. May you

tell me, as we sit here together ? I should so like to hear about it."

"Yes", said he, with that same peculiar smile, " I may tell you, for it is no

secret now. Indeed, I came here partly for that very purpose, because I know

well how much you were interested in your opposite neighbour, and how you used

to speculate about his antecedents and associations. But I have not known this

story long. He only told it me this evening; just an hour or two before he died.

Well, we all have our little romances, as you are pleased to call them ! "

"Yes, yes, all of us. Even I, unpretentious, plain Elizabeth Fairleigh, — but no

matter". I mind me, reader, that I promised not to talk of my own experiences.

Ah, there are no such phenomena in the world really, as commonplace lives, and

"commonplace persons!

"Poor little old man !" I sighed again. "Did he tell you his story then of his

own accord, or " — And I paused in some embarrassment, for I remembered that Dr

Peyton was a true gentleman, and possessed of far too much delicacy of feeling

to question anybody upon personal matters or private concerns. But either he did

not actually notice my hesitation, or perhaps understood the cause of it well

enough to prevent him from appearing to notice it, for he resumed at once, as

though no interruption to his discourse had taken place.

"When I went this afternoon to visit your neighbour, Lizzie, I perceived

immediately from the change in him that the end was not far off, though I did

not think it would come today. But he did. He was in bed when I entered his

room, and as soon as he saw me, he looked up and welcomed me with a pleasant

smile and said, 'Ah, Doctor, I am so glad you are come! I was just

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[Page  218]

going to send round for you ! Not that I think you can do me any more good upon

earth, for I know that tonight I shall go to my long rest. To my long rest.' He

lingered so strangely and so contentedly over these words, that I was singularly

touched, and I sat down by his bedside and took his thin white hand in mine. '

Doctor,' said he, presently, ' you have been very good and kind to me now for

more than ten months, and I have learned in that time to trust and esteem you as

though I had known you for many long years. There are no friends of mine near me

in the world now, for I am a lonely old man, and before I came here I lived

alone, and I have been lonely almost all my life. But I cannot die tonight

without telling you the story of my past, and of the days when I used to be

young, — very long ago now, — that you may understand why I die here alone, a

white-haired old bachelor; and that I may be comforted in my death by the

knowledge that I leave at least one friend upon earth to sympathise in my sorrow

and to bless me in my solitary grave. 'It is a long story, Doctor,' said the

little old man, ' but I feel stronger this afternoon than I have felt for weeks,

and I am quite sure I can tell it all from end to end. I have kept it many years

in my heart, a secret from every human soul; but now all is over with my sorrow

and with me for ever, and I care not who knows of it after I am gone.' Then

after a little pause he told me his story, while I sat beside him holding his

hand in mine, and I think I did not lose a word of all he said, for he spoke

very slowly and distinctly, and I listened with all my heart. Shall I tell it to

you, Lizzie ? It is not one of those stories that end happily, like the stories

we read in children's fairy books, nor is it exciting and sensational like the

modern popular

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[Page  219] novels. There are no dramatic situations in it, and no

passionate scenes of tragical love or remorse; 'tis a still, neutral-coloured,

dreamy bit of pathos, — the story of a lost life, — that it will make you sad

perhaps to hear, and maybe, a little graver than usual. Only that."

" Please tell it, Dr Peyton," I answered. " You know I have a special liking for

such sad histories. 'Tis one of my old-maidish eccentricities I suppose; but

somehow I always think sorrow more musical than mirth, and I love the quiet of

shadowy places better than the brilliant glow of the open landscape."

"You are right, Lizzie", he returned. "That is the feeling of the true poet in

all ages, and the most poetical lives are always those in which the melancholy

element predominates. Yet it is contrast that makes the beauty of things, and

doubtless we should not fully understand the sweetness of your grave harmonies,

nor the loveliness of your shadowy valleys, were all music grave and all places

shadowy. And inanimate nature is most assuredly the faithful type and mirror of

human life. But I must not waste our time any longer in such idle prologues as

these ! You shall hear the little old man's story at once, while it is still

fresh in my memory, though for the matter of that, I am not likely, I think, to

forget it very easily."

So Dr Peyton told it me as we sat together there in the growing darkness of the

warm summer night, and this, reader mine, is the story he told.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

 

 

Some forty years ago, there lived in one of the prettiest houses in Kensington,

a rich old wine-merchant, and his two only children. These young men, Stephen



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[Page  220] and Maurice Grey, were twins, whose mother had died at their birth,

and all through their infancy and childhood the old wine-merchant had been to

them as father and mother in one, and the brothers had grown up to manhood,

loving him and each other as dearly as heart could wish. Already Stephen, the

first-born of the twins, had become partner in his father's flourishing

business, and Maurice was preparing at a military college for service in the

army, which he was shortly to join, when a certain event occurred at Kensington,

trifling enough in itself, but in the sequel pregnant with bitter misfortune to

at least two human souls.

There came to reside in the house adjoining old Mr Gray's, an elderly widow lady

and her orphan niece, — Mrs Lamertine and Miss Adelaïs Cameron. They came there

principally for the sake of the latter, — a pale consumptive girl of eighteen,

whose delicate health and constitution it was thought might be considerably

benefited by the mild soft air of that particular neighbourhood. Soon after the

arrival of these ladies in their new abode, the old wine-merchant in his

courtesy and kindliness of heart saw fit to pay them a visit, and in due time

and form the visit was returned, and a friendly come-and-go understanding

established between the two houses. In this manner it happened that Stephen, the

elder son, by living always in his father's house, from which he was absent only

during the office-hours of the day, saw a great deal of Adelaïs Cameron, and

learnt before long to love her with all the depth and yearning that a young man

feels in his first rapturous adoration of a beautiful woman.

For a beautiful woman Adelaïs certainly was. Very fair to look upon was the

pale, transparent face, and the

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[Page  221] plentiful braided hair, golden and

soft almost as undyed silk, that wreathed about the lovely little head. Clear

and sweet too were the eyes whence the soul of Adelaïs looked forth, clear and

brown and sweet; so that people who beheld her fair countenance and heard her

musical voice for the first time, were fain to say in their hearts, " Such a

face and such a voice as these are not earthly things; Adelaïs Cameron is

already far on her road towards the land of the angels."

But at least Mrs Lamertine and her friendly neighbours the Grays could perceive

that the pale girl grew none the paler nor sicklier for her residence at

Kensington, and as days and weeks flew pleasantly by in the long autumn season,

the old lady talked more and more confidently of her niece's complete

restoration to health and youthful vigour. Then by-and-by Christmas drew round,

and with it Maurice Gray came home to his father's house for his last

vacation-time; Maurice, with his frank handsome face and curly hair, always so

cheerful, always so good-humoured, always so unconscious of his own

attractiveness, that wherever he went, everybody was sure to trust and to

idolise him. Ay, and to love him too sometimes, but not as Adelaïs Cameron did,

when her full womanly soul awoke first to the living intensity of passion, and

she found in him the one god at whose feet to cast all her new wealth of

tenderness and homage. Never before had Maurice Gray been so beloved, never

before had his own love been so desired and coveted by human soul. And now that

the greatest blessing of earth lay so ready to his grasp, Maurice neither

perceived the value of the gift, nor understood that it was offered to him. Such

was the position when Christmas Day arrived, and the widower begged that Mrs

Lamertine and her niece

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[Page  222] would do him the pleasure to dine in his

house and spend the evening there, that they might sing songs and play forfeits

together and keep up the ancient institutions of the time, as well as so tiny

and staid a party could manage to do; to which sociable invitation, the old

dame, nothing averse to pleasant fellowship at any season, readily consented.

But when Adelaïs Cameron entered Mr Gray's drawing-room that Christmas evening

with her soft white dress floating about her like a hazy cloud, and a single

bunch of snowdrops in the coils of her golden hair, Stephen's heart leapt in his

throat, and he said to himself that never until now had he known how exceeding

perfect and sweet was the beautiful woman whom he loved with so absorbing a

tenderness. Alas, that life should be at times such a terribly earnest game of

cross purposes, such an intensely bitter reality of mistakes and blunders !

Alas, that men and women can read so little of each other's heart, and yet can

comprehend so well the language of their own !                

All the evening, throughout the conversation and the forfeits and the

merry-making, Stephen Gray spoke and moved and thought only for Adelaï's, and

she for Stephen's twin brother. It was for Maurice that she sang, while Stephen

stood beside her at the piano, drinking in the tender passionate notes as though

they were sweet wine for which all his soul were athirst; it was at Maurice that

she smiled, while Stephen's eyes were on her face, and to Maurice that she

prattled and sported and made mirthful jests, while Stephen alone heeded all

that she said and did; for the younger brother was reflected in every purpose

and thought of hers, even as her own image lay mirrored continually in the heart

and thoughts of the elder.

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[Page  223]

 

But before the hour of parting came that night, Stephen drew Adelaï's aside from

the others as they sat laughing and talking over some long-winded story of the

old wine-merchant's experiences, and told her what she, in the blindness of her

own wild love, had never guessed nor dreamed of, — all the deep adoration and

worship of his soul. And when it was told, she said nothing for a few minutes,

but only stood motionless and surprised, without a blush or tremor or sigh, and

he, looking earnestly into her fair uplifted face, saw with unutterable pain

that there was no response there to the passionate yearning of his own.

"Adelaïs", said he, presently, "you do not love me?"

"Yes, yes, Stephen", she answered, softly; "as a brother, as a dear brother."

"No more?" he asked again.

She put her hand into his, and fixing the clear light of her brown eyes full

upon him: "Why", she said, hurriedly, " do you ask me this ? I cannot give you

more, I cannot love you as a husband. Let no one know what has passed between us

tonight; forget it yourself as I shall forget also, and we will always be

brother and sister all our lives."

Then she turned and glided away across the room into the warm bright glow of the

fireside, that lay brightest and warmest in the corner where Maurice sat; but

Stephen stood alone in the darkness and hid his face in his hands and groaned.

And after this there came a change over the fortunes of the two households. Day

by day Adelaï's faded and paled and saddened; none knew why. People said it was

the winter weather, and that when the spring-time came the girl would be herself

again, and grow brisker and stronger than ever. But

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[Page  224] when Maurice was

gone back to his college, to fulfil his last term there before leaving for

India, the only brother of Adelaïs came up from his home by the sea-side, on a

month's visit to his aunt and his sister at Kensington. He was a man of middle

age almost, this same Philip Cameron, tall and handsome and fair-spoken, so that

the old wine-merchant, who dearly loved good looks and courteous breeding, took

to him mightily from the first, and made much of his company on all occasions.

But as he stayed on from week to week at Mrs Lamertine's house, Philip saw that

the pale lips and cheeks of Adelaïs grew paler and thinner continually, that the

brown eyes greatened in the dark sockets, and that the fragile limbs weakened

and sharpened themselves more and more, as though some terrible blight, like the

curse of an old enchantment or of an evil eye, hung over the sweet girl,

withering and poisoning all the life and the youth in her veins.

She lay on a sofa one afternoon, leaning her golden head upon one of her pale

wan hands, and gazing dreamily through the open casement into the depths of the

broad April sky, over whose clear blue firmament the drifting clouds came and

went incessantly like white-sailed ships at sea. And Adelaïs thought of the sea

as she watched them, and longed in her heart to be away and down by the southern

coast where her brother had made his home, with the free salt breeze blowing in

her face, and the free happy waves beating the shore at her feet, and the

sea-fowl dipping their great strong wings in the leaping surge. Ah to be free, —

to be away, — perhaps then she might forget, forget and live down her old life,

and bury it somewhere out of sight in the sea-sand; — forget and grow blithe and

happy and strong

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[Page  225] once more, like the breeze and the waves and the

wild birds, who have no memory nor regret for the past, and no thought for any

joy, save the joy of their present being.

"Phil", she said, as her brother came softly into the room and sat beside her,

"take me back with you to the sea-side. I am weary of living always here in

Kensington. It is only London after all."

"My dearest", he answered, kindly, " if that is all you wish for, it shall

certainly be. But, Adelaïs, is there nothing more than this that troubles you ?

There is a shadow in your eyes and on your lips that used not to be there, and

all day long you sit by yourself and muse in silence; and you weep too at times,

Adelaïs, when you fancy none is by to see you. Tell me, sister mine, for the

sake of the love that is between us, and for the sake of our father and mother

who are dead, what cloud is this that overshadows you so?"

Long time he pressed and besought her, pleading by turns his power to help, and

her need of tenderness; but yet Adelaïs was afraid to speak, for the love that

was breaking her heart was unreturned. So the next day he found her alone again,

and prayed her to tell him her sorrow, that even if he could not help nor

comfort her, they might at least lament together. Then at last she bowed her

head upon his breast, and told him of Maurice, and of his near departure for

India, and of her own disregarded love; but not a word she said of Stephen,

because she had promised him to hold her peace. And when she had told her

brother all, she laid her arms about his neck and cried, weeping, " Now you know

everything that is in my heart, Phil; speak to me no more about it, but only

promise to take me away with

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[Page  226] you when you go, that I may the sooner

forget this place and all the sorrow and the pain I have suffered here.”

And Philip Cameron kissed her very tenderly, and answered, “Be at rest, sister,

you shall have your will.”

But when evening came, he went over to the house of the wine-merchant, and

questioned him about Maurice, whether he cared for Adelaïs or no, and whether he

had ever said a word to his father or brother of the matter.

“Ay, ay”, quoth the old gentleman, musingly, when Philip had ceased. “Tis like

enough if there be anything of the sort that the boys should talk of it between

them, for, God be thanked, they were always very fond of each other; yet I never

hear it spoken about. But then youth has little in common with age, and when

young men make confidences of this kind, it is to young men that they make them,

and not to grey-beards like me. But tell me, Cameron, for you know I must needs

divine something from all this; your sister loves my boy Maurice?”

“If you think so, sir” answered Philip, “you must keep her secret.”

“Cameron, Cameron,” cried the wine-merchant, “Adelaïs is failing and sickening

every day. Every day she grows whiter and sadder, and more silent. Don’t tell me

it’s for love of Maurice! It’s not possible such a woman as she is can love

anybody in vain! She’s an angel on earth, — your sister Adelaïs!”

Then because the old man was kindly and wise and white-headed, Philip told him

all that Adelaïs had said, and how he had promised to take her home with him,

and had come unknown to any one to ask before they went whether or not there was

any hope for her of the love on which she had so set her heart.

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[Page  227]

 

And when Philip was gone the old gentleman called his elder son, Stephen, and

asked him - but warily, lest he should betray Adelaïs - how Maurice bore himself

in Stephen’s presence when they were alone together and chanced to speak of her,

and if Stephen knew or guessed anything of what was in his mind towards her.

Then the young man understood for the first time all the blindness of his eyes

and the dullness of his heart; and the pain and desolation and the hopelessness

of his life that was to be, rose up before him, and he knew that from

thenceforth the glory and the light of it were put out for ever.

“Father”, he said, “I know nothing whatever of all this. Is it your wish then

that these two should marry?”

“It is my wish, Stephen, and the wish also of our friend Philip himself. Maurice

could not take him to India a sweeter or a worthier wife than Adelaïs Cameron.”

“And does she wish it too?” he asked again. “Tell me, father, for I have guessed

already.” He lifted his eyes to the old man’s face as he spoke, and perceived at

once the sudden confusion and surprise that his words had caused there, yet he

said no more, but waited still for a reply.

“My dear boy”, said the old gentleman at last, “if you have guessed anything,

that is enough; say no more about it, but let it rest with yourself. I have

never yet deceived either of my sons. But when Maurice comes home again you can

help us very much, for you can question him on the matter more naturally than I

could do, and no doubt he will tell you his mind about it, as you say he always

does about everything, but with me he might be reserved and bewildered perhaps.

Ask him, my boy, but keep your guesses to yourself.”

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[Page  228]

 

"Father," cried Stephen, pressing his hands together in agony as though his

heart were between them, and he would fain crush it into dust and destroy it for

ever; " tell me, if I am to do this, does Adelaï's love my brother?"

"If I tell you at all, boy", said the wine-merchant, " I shall tell you the

truth; can you hold your peace like a man of discretion ? "

"I have kept other secrets, father", he answered, "I can keep this".

Then his father told him.

Early in May, Adelaïs Cameron went to the Devonshire sea-coast with her brother

and her aunt, and they stayed there together a long while. But the accounts that

came from week to week to Kensington were none of the best, for Adelaïs had

borne the long journey but ill, and her strength did not return.

Then came the summer and the vacation-time, and Maurice Gray was home again,

full to the brim of schemes for his future life, and busy all day with head and

hands over his preparations for leaving England in the autumn. But when Stephen

talked to him of Adelaïs, and told him she was gone to the sea-side, Maurice

only laughed and answered lightly, that she was a sweet lovable girl, and that

he grieved to hear of her illness ; no doubt the southern breezes would bring

back the colour to her cheeks, and he should hear before he had been long gone

that she was quite well and strong again. At least he hoped so.

"Then, Maurice, you don't care to see her once more before you sail ? You don't

want to say good-bye ? "

"O well, if she's here, of course, but that's another thing; I wouldn't for

worlds have her come back to

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[Page  229] Kensington just to bid me good-bye. And

really you know, Steenie, I've too much to do just now to be running about and

saying farewells everywhere. The time that's left me now to be at home with you

and my father is none too long. What is Adelaïs Cameron to me, when all my world

is here ? "

" Maurice", said Stephen again, in a voice that sounded strained and hard, like

the voice of an old man trying to be young; "you're a dear affectionate fellow,

and as things are, perhaps this is all very well. But supposing Adelaïs loved

you, and my father and — and — everybody else you know, wished her to be your

wife, how would you feel towards her then ? Supposing, Maurice — only for the

sake of supposing, of course."

"What a strange fellow you are, Steenie! Why, supposing as you say, such a very

wild improbable circumstance were to occur, I should be heartily sorry for poor

Adelaïs ! Only imagine me with such a wife as she would make ! Why I wouldn't

have so transparent, white-skinned a beauty about my house all day for a mine of

gold! I should be seized with lunacy before long, through mere contemplation of

her very unearthliness, and be goaded into fancying her a picture, and hanging

her up framed and glazed over my drawing-room mantelpiece ! No, no, I'll leave

Miss Cameron for you, you're just her style, I take it; but as for me, I never

thought of marrying yet, Steenie, for I never yet had the luck or ill-luck to

fall in love, and certainly you'll allow that nobody ought to think of marriage

until he's really in love. So I'll wish you all success, old boy, and mind you

write and tell me how the wooing gets on ! "

O Maurice ! Maurice !

Then, by-and-by, the young officer sailed, and Adelaïs

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[Page  230] heard of his

going, and her heart died within her for greatness of sorrow and pain, yet still

she held her peace, and lived her life in patience.

And so for two whole years they kept her by the sea, hoping against hope, and

whispering those idle convictions that affection always suggests, about the

worst being over now, and the time of convalescence being always tedious and

unpromising. But in the third year, when the autumn days grew darker, and the

sun set redder in the sea, and people began to talk again of Christmas, Adelaïs

called her brother one evening and said: —

"Philip, I have been here very long, and I know that nothing more on earth can

ever make me well again now. You will not refuse me the last request I shall

make you, Phil? Take me back to the old house at Kensington, that I may see dear

old Mr Gray, and my friend Stephen, once more; and you, Phil, stay with me and

Auntie there until I die, for it wont be very long now, and I want to see you

near me to the last."

So they brought her back again to the old house, next door to the wine

merchant's, and they carried her over the threshold, because she was too weak to

walk now, and laid her on the old sofa in the old place by the window, for she

would have it, and Philip Cameron did her bidding in everything. And that same

evening, Stephen Gray came in to see her, and they met as old friends meet who

have been long parted, and sat and talked together until past sunset. But at

length Adelaïs asked him for news of Maurice, what he was doing, and how he was,

and when they heard from him last, and what he thought of India and of the new

life there, and his companions, and the climate, and the customs of the place;

for she never guessed that Stephen knew of her

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[Page  231] hopeless love. But

Stephen turned away his face and answered her briefly, that his brother was well

and prosperous, and wrote home constantly. How could he tell her that Maurice

had already found himself a rich handsome wife in India ?

 

CHAPTER 3

 

 

Soon after these things, old Mr Gray fell ill of a violent cold, which attacked

him suddenly one afternoon on his return from his office. It was Christmas

weather then, and the cold and the frost of the season were unusually keen, so

that the physician, whom Stephen called in to see his father, looked very grave

and dubious; and before many days of his patient's illness were past, he asked

the young man whether there were any brothers or sisters of his, whom the

merchant might wish to see. Stephen's heart beat fast when he heard the ominous

question, for he understood what tidings the grave tone and the strange inquiry

were meant to break to him, and knew well that the physician who spoke was one

of the wisest and most skilful in London. But he answered as calmly as he could,

and talked of Maurice, and of the boy's fondness for his father, and added, that

if there were really imminent danger, he should like his brother to be called

home, because he was sure Maurice would wish it; but that otherwise the voyage

was tedious and the need unimportant.

"Let him be sent for", said the physician. "There is just time."

So Stephen wrote to his brother, and bade him leave his wife with her parents in

India, and come home quickly, if he would see his father again, for the time was



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[Page  232] short, and in those days the only way open to Maurice was the long

circuitous sea-route.

Maurice arrived only three days before the old man's death. He had not left his

wife behind him, as Stephen suggested, for she loved her husband too dearly to

be parted from him, and Maurice brought her with him to his father's house.

From her place on the sofa by the window, Adelaïs Cameron looked wearily out,

watching for the coming of the one she loved most upon earth. And at last the

coach drew up at the old gentleman's gate, and she saw Maurice dismount from the

box-seat by the driver and open the coach door to hand out a handsome lady, with

dark hair and bright glowing eyes.

"Who is that?" she asked of the maid, who was arranging the tea-table beside

her.

"Don't you know, Miss ? " said the girl, surprised at the inquiry. " That's Mrs

Maurice, the rich young lady he married in India a year ago; I was told all

about it by the cook at Mr Gray's, ever-so-long ago."

But as the words were spoken, Stephen entered the room with a message for Philip

Cameron, and overheard both the question and the answer. Adelaïs turned towards

him and said, — "Stephen, you never told me that Maurice had a wife."

The next week they buried the old wine merchant very quietly and simply. Only

three mourners attended the funeral, — Stephen and Maurice and Philip Cameron;

but Adelaïs, looking down on them from her casement corner, as the coffin was

carried forth from the house, laid her golden head on her aunt's bosom and

cried, "Auntie, auntie, I never thought to live so long as this ! Why must those

always die who are needed most, while

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[Page  233] such as I live on from year to

year ? I fancied I had only a few weeks left me upon earth when we came back to

Kensington, and yet here I am still! "

Then after a little while the brothers parted once more; Maurice and his wife

went back to India, and Stephen was left alone, sole successor to his father's

business, and master of the old house. But Adelaïs Cameron still lived on, like

the shadow of her former self, fading in the sunset of her womanhood, the beauty

sapped out from her white death-like face, and the glitter of youth and the

sweetness of hope quenched for ever in the depths of her luminous eyes.

Then when the days of mourning were over, Stephen came again to Adelaïs, to

renew the wooing of old times; for he said to himself, "Now that Maurice is

married, and my father dead, she may pity me, seeing me so lone and desolate;

and I may comfort her for the past, and make her amends with my love, for the

pain and the bitterness that are gone by."

But when he knelt alone by the couch whereon Adelaïs lay, and held her white

blue-veined hands in his and told his errand, she turned her face from him and

wept sore, as women weep over the dead

"Adelaïs, O Adelaïs", he cried in his despair, "Why will you refuse me always ?

Don't you see my heart is breaking for love of you ? Come home with me and be my

wife at last!"

But she made answer very sadly and slowly: —

"Stephen, ought the living and the dead to wed with one another ? God forbid

that you in your youth and manhood should take to wife such a death-like thing

as I! Four years I have lain like this waiting for the messenger to fetch me

away, and now that at last he is

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[Page  234] near at hand, shall I array myself

in a bridal veil for a face-cloth, and trailing skirts of silk or satin for a

shroud ? Dear Stephen, don't talk to me any more about this, — we are brother

and sister still, — let nothing on earth break the sweetness of the bond between

us."

"Not so, Adelaïs", cried he, passionately; " you cannot, you must not die yet!

You do not know what love can do, you do not know that love is stronger than

death, and that where there is love like mine death dare not come ! There is

nothing in all the world that I will not do for your sake, nothing that I will

leave undone to save you, nothing that shall be too hard a condition for me to

perform, so that I may keep you with me still. Live, live my darling, my

beloved, and be my wife! Give me the right to take you with me, my sweet; let us

go together to Madeira, to Malta, to Sicily, where the land is full of life, and

the skies are warm, and the atmosphere clear and pure. There is health there,

Adelaïs, and youth, and air to breathe such as one cannot find in this dull,

misty, heavy northern climate, and there you will grow well again, and we will

think no more about death and sickness. O my darling, my darling, for God's sake

refuse me no longer !"

She laid her thin transparent palm wearily over her left side, and turned her

calm eyes on the passionate straining face beside her.

"There is that here," she said, pressing her wounded heart more tightly, "that I

know already for the touch of the messenger's hand. Already I count the time of

my sojourn here, not by weeks nor even by days, — the end has come so very, very

near at last. How do I know but that even now that messenger of whom I speak may

be standing in our presence, — even now, while you kneel

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[Page  235] here by my

side and talk to me of life and youth and health?"

"Adelaïs", pleaded the poor lover, hoarsely, "you deceive yourself, my darling!

Have you not often spoken before of dying, and yet have lived on ? O why should

you die now and break my heart outright ? "

"I feel a mist coming over me", she answered, "even as I speak with you now. I

hear a sound in my ears that is not of earth, the darkness gathers before my

face, the light quivers and fades, the night is closing about me very fast.

Stephen, Stephen, don't you see that I am dying?"

He bowed his head over the damp colourless brow, and whispered: " If it be so,

my beloved, be as my wife yet, and die in my arms."

But while he uttered the words there came a change over her, — a shadow into the

sweet eyes and a sudden spasm of pain across the white parted lips. Feebly and

uncertainly she put out her hands before her face, like one groping in the

darkness, her golden head drooped on his shoulder, and her breath came sharp and

thick, with the sound of approaching death. Stephen folded his arms about her

with a cry of agony, and pressed the poor quivering hands wildly to his bosom,

as though he would fain have held them there for ever.

"O God !" he groaned in his unutterable despair; " is there no hope, no

redemption, no retrieving of the past ? Is this the bitter end of all, and must

I lose my darling so ? O Adelaïs, Adelaïs, my beloved ! " But even as he spoke,

the gathering shadow broke softly over all her face, the sobbing, gasping breath

ceased in the stillness of the darkened room, the golden head fell lower, —

lower yet upon the desolate heart whose love had been so steadfast

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[Page  236]

and so true; and Stephen covered his face with the hands of the dead, and wept

such tears as men can only weep once in a lifetime, — tears that make brown

hairs grey and young men old.

Philip Cameron and his aunt did not stay long at Kensington. They gave up the

house to strangers, and went away to the Continent for awhile, where they

travelled about together, until the old lady grew tired of wandering, and

settled down with her maid in a little villa near Geneva; and after that,

Stephen heard no more of her nor of Philip. But Stephen himself stayed on in the

old house until he grew old too, for he loved the place where Adelaïs had lived,

and could not bear to leave it for another. And every evening when he came home

from his office, he would sit alone at the window of his study whence he could

see across the garden into the little chamber next door, the little

chintz-curtained old-fashioned chamber where she used to lie in her weakness

years and years ago, where they two had so often talked and read together, and

where she had died at last in his arms. But he never wept, thinking of these

things now, for he had grown into a little withered dried-up old man, and his

tears were dried up also, and instead of his passionate despair and

heartbreaking, had come the calm bitterness of eternal regret, and a still

voiceless longing for the time that every day drew nearer and nearer, and for

the coming of the messenger from the land that is very far off.

But when Maurice came home once more to settle in England with his handsome wife

and his children, rich and happy and prosperous, he would fain have taken some

new house in London to share with his twin brother, that they might live

together; but Stephen would

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[Page  237] not. Then when Maurice had reasoned and

talked with him a long time in vain, pleading by turns the love that had been

between them long ago, the loneliness of his brother's estate, and his own

desire that they should not separate now, he yielded the contest, and said

discontentedly, —

"Have your own way, Steenie, since you will make a solitary bachelor of

yourself, but at least give up your useless toiling at the wine-office. To what

end do you plod there every day, — you who are wifeless and childless, and have

no need of money for yourself? give me up this great house in which you live all

alone, like an owl in an oak-tree, and let me find you a cottage somewhere in

the neighbourhood, where I can often come and see you, and where you may spend

your days in happiness and comfort."

And the little old man shook his head and answered, " Nay, brother Maurice, but

I will go away from here to some country village where I am not known, for I

have toiled long and wearily all my lire, and I cannot rest in peace beside the

mill where I have ground down my life so many years. Do not trouble yourself

about me, Maurice, I shall find a home for myself."

Then they parted. Maurice and his family came to live in the big house at

Kensington, for they liked to be near London, and Stephen sold his father's

business to another merchant, and went away, Maurice knew not whither, to bury

himself and his lost life in some far-off village, until by-and-by the messenger

for whom he had waited and yearned so long should come also for him, " and the

day break and the shadows flee away."

Such, reader mine, is in substance the story that Dr Peyton told me. The words

in which he related it I

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[Page  238] cannot of course quite remember now, so I

have put it into words of my own, and here and there I have added somewhat to

the dialogue. But the facts and the pathos of the romance are not mine, nor his;

they are true, actual realities, such as no dressing of fiction can make more

poetical or complete in their sorrowful interest.

 

"It was a long history", said I, " for a dying man to tell".

"Yes"' answered he. "And several times it was evident enough from his

quick-drawn breath and sudden pauses, that the recital wearied and pained him.

But he was so set upon telling, and I, Lizzie, I confess, so much interested in

hearing it, that I did not absolutely hinder his fancy, but contented myself

with warning him from time to time not to overtask his strength. He always

answered me that he was quite strong, and liked to go on, for that it made him

happy even to talk once more about Adelaïs, and to tell me how beautiful and

sweet and patient she had been. It was close upon sunset when he ended his

story, and he begged me, that as his fashion was, he might be lifted out of bed

and carried to his arm-chair by the window, to look, as he said, for the last

time, at the going down of the sun. So I called the housekeeper, and we did what

he desired together, and opened the green Venetian blinds of the casement, which

had been closed all the afternoon because of the heat. You remember, Lizzie,

what a wonderfully bright and beautiful sunset it was this evening ? Well, as we

threw back the outer shutters, the radiant glory of the sky poured into the room

like a flood of transparent gold and almost dazzled us, so that I fancied the

sudden brilliancy would be too much for his feeble sight, and I leaned hastily

forward with the intention of partly reclosing the

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[Page  230] blinds. But he

signed to me to let them be, so I relinquished my design, and sent the

housekeeper downstairs to prepare him his tea, which I thought he might like to

take sitting up in his chair by the window. I had no idea — doctor though I am —

that his end was so near as it proved to be; for although certainly much

exhausted and agitated with the exertion of telling me his story, I did not then

perceive any immediate cause for apprehension. Still less did I understand that

he was then actually dying; on the contrary, I began to think that my first

impressions of his danger when I entered the room that afternoon had been

erroneous, and that the change I had observed in him might possibly be an

indication of temporary revival. At all events, I fancied the cup of tea which

was then being made ready, would be of great use in stimulating and refreshing

him after the weariness caused by his long talk, and I promised myself that if I

could only persuade him to silence for the rest of the evening, he would be none

the worse for the recent gratification of his whim. We sat some time by the open

window, watching the sun as it sank lower and lower into the golden-sheeted

west, and some unconnected speculations were straying through my mind about '

the sea of glass mingled with fire,' when the old man's words aroused me in the

midst of my dreaming, and the voice in which he spoke was so unusual and so soft

that it startled me.

" ' Doctor,' he said, ' I think I am dying.'

"I sprang from my seat and stood at his side in a moment, but before the

utterance had well passed from his lips, I perceived that it was no mere

invalid's fancy.

" ' Thirty-five years ago,' he continued, speaking still in that new unusual

voice, — 'thirty-five years ago this

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[Page  240] very selfsame day, my Adelaïs

died in my arms as the sun went down. Today, as the sun goes down, I shall die

also.'

"Surely" cried I, "this is a very singular incident! Does it not seem so to you

! This evening, then, was actually the anniversary of poor Miss Cameron's death

! How strange !"

"It certainly appeared so to me at first", he rejoined. "But when my mind

reverted to it afterwards, I thought it exceedingly probable that his own

knowledge of the fact had itself hastened his end, for he had no doubt been long

brooding over it, and maybe desired that his death should occur that particular

day and hour. In his enfeebled condition, such a desire would have great

physical effect; I have known several similar cases. But however that may have

been, I of course have no certain means of deciding. I have already told you,

that immediately on my entering his chamber in the afternoon, he expressed to me

his conviction that tonight he should go to his long rest, and in the certainty

of that conviction, related to me the story you have heard. But though it has

been the necessary lot of my calling to be present at so many death-beds, I

never before witnessed a calmer or a more peaceful end than Stephen Gray's. In

his changed face, in his watchful eyes, in every placid feature of his

countenance, I beheld the quiet anticipation of that long rest about which he

had spoken so contentedly an hour or two since.

"He took no further heed of me whatever, — I doubt if he was even aware of my

presence. Wearily he laid his head back upon the white pillows I had placed in

the arm-chair behind him, folded his hands together, and kept his eyes fixed

steadfastly, and — I thought — even

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[Page  241] reverently, upon the setting sun

that was now fast sinking like a globe of fire, towards the blue ridge of the

Malvern hills, and my heart beat violently as I saw it touch the topmost peak.

While I watched, there broke suddenly forth from between the low lines of sunset

cloud, a long ray of golden light, that fell full on the uplifted face of the

little old man. He did not turn his head, or shrink from its intense brightness,

but his lips moved, though the utterance of the words he spoke was so broken and

indistinct, that I stooped to hear them.

" ' Adelaïs, — O my lost darling, — my Adelaïs, — let me come to thee and be

beloved at last!'

"Then I looked again at the western sky, and saw that the sun had gone down."

Next morning I gathered my June roses and sweet jasmin, and took them over to

the house of the little old man. I went upstairs into the darkened chamber where

they had laid him, and bestowed the flowers reverently about the white-draped

bed. All the wrinkles were wiped out of his pallid face now, and he looked so

wondrously calm and peaceful, lying there with his closed eyelids and crossed

hands, in the unbroken silence of the room, that the tears of pity I thought I

should have wept at the sight never rose in my eyes; but instead, as I turned

away, there came to my memory certain closing lines of a most beautiful poem,

written not very long ago by a master-hand that surely held God's commission to

write. It is a dead hand now, but the written words remain, and the singer

herself has gone to the land of the Hereafter, where the souls of the poets

float for ever in the full light of their recovered Godhead, singing such songs

as mortal ear hath not yet heard, nor mortal heart

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[Page  242] conceived of. And

the poem of which I spoke, has this ending: —

" 'Jasper first,' I said, '

And second, sapphire; third, chalcedony;

The rest in order, — last, an amethyst.' "

 

 

- 7 - THE NIGHTSHADE

 

 

" But silence is most noble till the end."

 

— Atalanta in Calydon.

CHAPTER 1

 

 

Somebody, the other day, presented me with a bunch of crimson roses and purple

nightshade, tied together.

Roses and nightshade!

I thought the combination worthy of a poem !

For the rose, as all the world conceives, is the emblem of love; and the

nightshade typifies sile